Month: January 2009

Life: Assorted

1. My new stream of books has started to arrive – the first one being Spiritual Capital by Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall, bought at the price of £0.90 (+£2.75 for postage) from Amazon.co.uk.

Spiritual Capital

Spiritual Capital

I am thinking of putting this book on the top of my priority list – along with my ongoing study on exegesis.I was tempted to buy this one after reading Jonathon Porritt’s Capitalism as if the World Matters – he mentioned quite a number of time about this book – I guess it is worth buying (is there any book that is not worth buying, anyway?) I’ve started reading Women Who Run with the Wolves and think that it is extraordinarily beautiful. I think I should really make a list on what to read first.

I am still waiting for another two books from Amazon:

A Short Course in Intellectual Self-defense: Find Your Inner Chomsky”
Normand Baillargeon; Paperback; £6.59 

“The Communist Manifesto: Complete with Seven Rarely Published Prefaces”
Karl Marx; Paperback; £3.00

I promise that this will be the last time I indulge in such a shopping spree – 13 books in one month (that includes Twilight series my sister begged me to buy for her).

2. I’m beginning my practical bits of my research – Carbon Footprinting of Ready-Made Meals, so you can expect more ramblings on carbon footprint, food system, greenhouse gases and all. My timetable for next semester says that I will only have two weeks intensive lectures (as usual) – so it means most of the time I should discipline myself, wake up early and do research. My sleeping hours is disastrously abnormal – so I’ve decided to sign up for weekly sessions of environmental and conservation voluntary works with Tree for Cities and Lancashire Wild Trust.

Listen, I am a firm believer of the saying: ‘The busier you are, the more efficient you will be with your time’. 

3. I have also signed up for Mandarin classes. At last. Sigh. I’ve been planning to do this since my first year and here I am, on my final year, final semester – trying to cross out a few more items in my to-do list. I’ve checked back the list I made in my first year- on what I planned to do during my 4 years here – and it seems that I did not manage to do some of them out of my laziness. The opportunity was there, I was just being a lazybum not to grab it. Need examples? The uncrossed items include  bungee-jumping, martial art class, and programming.

Here’s a thought for any first years overseas student reading this entry: Think about what you want to do with your life abroad. Four years ain’t enough for everything, but surely more than enough just to spend studying. 

Love Stories: A Delusion

I am not romantic. I am convinced that I am not.

That’s why I think that the author of this article seems to write what is in my head for a long time.

Media is seriously affecting the way we see the world – and perceive things.

Urghh.. We really need some sort of intellectual defence course.

Source

7 things I learned from rom-coms

 

Some recent research from the boffins over at the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh has suggested that rom-coms ‘spoil your love life’, misleading the movie-going public by providing inaccurate representations of love and relationships that make everyone’s real life partners seem, well pretty dull in comparison.

To prove this theory the ‘study’ observed 100 student volunteers comparing their reactions to watching rom-coms like  Serendipity,The Runaway Bride and Love Actually, to the reactions of another hundred poor souls who were given a David Lynch drama to watch. Obviously, 100 of the volunteers came out of the experiment confused, bewildered and questioning reality,  while the others had a newfound appreciation for Lynch. But it got me to thinking:  As the type of person who is easily led by the media, the chances are a large proportion of my understanding of romance has come from the twists and turns of these fine educational films.  I thought I’d delve back into some of the syrupy seat fillers that Hollywood drips into cinemas every year to find out just what I’ve learned:

 

1: The girl of my dreams is probably American –Show me a Richard Curtis rom-com and I’ll show you an English actor bumbling his way into a relationship with a coy American miss (Four Weddings and a FuneralNotting Hill). Good to see our special relationship extending to members of the fairer sex, but there is a limited pool of U.S visitors to our shores each year so the odds aren’t good. Furthermore, what happens if I do hook up with a travelling yank? Where will we live? Where will our kids grow up? Will she get a Visa? All practical considerations, conveniently sidestepped by the promoters of transatlantic love-ins.

2: Women fake it – Alongside Sixth Sense and The Planet of the Apes (it was earth all along by the way) this is one of the biggest cinematic reveals in history and one which even M Night Shyamalan couldn’t cook up. Women fake it apparently (When Harry Met Sally). Yes I hope Meg’s husband knows because judging by her performance in this admittedly decent movie, she’s been lying to him for years.

3: I’ll meet her when I least expect it –The love of my life is out there, but meeting her isn’t going to be that easy. You see it’s all down to chance. She may be on the tube (Sliding Doors) or sparks may fly when we go to try on the same pair of gloves (Serendipity);but its almost certainly not going to be as simple as going down the pub and buying her a drink. But wait a minute, this doesn’t sound right at all. I mean have you tried meeting people on tube? It’s incredibly difficult to engage in a bout of flirtatious eye contact when your face is buried deep in the armpit of a City boy’s suit. Worse, as I gaze forlornly as we’re shuttled between stations she’ll probably think I’m crazy and report me to the police before we’re even halfway round the Circle line.

4: Chances are she’s seeing someone else – The message is coming through loud and clear if you believe in what the rom-coms are shovelling. The girl of your dreams is out there, but I’m afraid she’s seeing someone else, someone who is wholly unsuitable; she just doesn’t know it yet. And she’ll probably be the last to know (around 20 minutes before the end of the film normally). So in the absence of Cupid I’m going to have to move things along myself, engaging in the sort of emotional espionage that would get me onto Jeremy Kyle.. It’s the poor sap she’s left I feel sorry for, as rom-coms rarely show us the impact that the messy break-up of an engagement or long-term relationship can have. But she’s making the right choice isn’t she? I mean the other guy sneezes a lot (Sleepless in Seattle) or simply wasn’t Tom Hanks (You’ve got Mail) both of which are of course perfectly valid reasons to break up a functional relationship on a whim. The problem is though, that I’m not Tom Hanks and what happens if he just turns up out of the blue one day, how am I supposed to trust that my newfound paramour won’t just run off into the sunset, leaving me to tell not only our friends but also the novelty Mexican band I’d booked for our wedding. Thoughtless harpy!

5: Our friends will be heavily involved in the process – Yes if you’re a bloke with a geeky, sickeningly loved up, or just plain right disgusting best mate; chances are he’s going to be heavily involved in the process of meeting your future wife. And in return for his actions your wingman will cop off with one of the bridesmaids at your wedding, usually your love interest’s best friend who will either be a complete prude or hilariously slutty.

6: I’ll probably have to breach airport security at some point, or at the very least run a bit – You see if there’s one thing I’ve learnt above all else from watching rom-coms down the years it’s that you don’t tell women what you really think unless you get it wrong, or, boo-hoo, you get your feelings hurt. That is unless you’re Mel Gibson in which case, get this, you hilariously already know what they’re thinking and, better than that, have stumbled upon the secret to telepathy which could change human existence as we know it.

You see whilst we may have just met the woman whom we hope to spend the rest of our lives with; we’re genetically made up to be stubborn ignorant fools who wont tell said woman how we feel until she’s got sick of us and decided to move on. Only at this point will we spring into action, ready to throw together an elaborate show of affection at a moment’s notice in a bid to convince her of our true feelings.

So say goodbye airport security (Love Actually) and hello to some loud playing Peter Gabriel (Say Anything) because at times like these only an over the top display of affection will cover up your weeks, nay months of inactivity and emotional failing.

 

7: Absolutely nothing about relationships – Rom-coms have their place, if only to convince those of us cynics that there is someone bearable enough to spend the rest of our lives with out there and their just waiting to have our coffee scald them when we’re next on the tube. But what they neglect to tell you in all of the doe-eyed montage of the act of falling in love, is anything substantial about everyday relationships. Time and time again, once our lovebirds get together the credits roll, leaving us smugly satisfied, safe in the knowledge that our protagonists are going to live happily ever after. But in real life, the credits never roll and maybe if we saw more movies with Hugh and Julia arguing about whose turn it is to do the hoovering, or Meg yelling at Tom for watching the football again, our hopes might be a bit more realistic.

By the way, here’s Hanee’s favourite film. Hehe.


As If the World Matters

(This is considered cheating I supposed, since I haven’t finish reading the book (my excuse: I started to read the 2005 edition from the library just to be given the revised 2007 edition by the module leader) when I was to write this review and submit it for marking, but here it is. Wish me luck for my exam tomorrow)

 

The Book
The Book

 

 

 

 

The title itself, probably due to my limited English, is intriguing, heightening my curiosity. It is, by all means, a book classified in the category of ‘environment’ and from my background knowledge I know that to a certain extent capitalism as an economic system is one of the villain when it comes to environmental issues – but the title still does not give me a clear idea on what the author, Jonathon Porritt actually wanted to put forward in his book.

But the curiosity induced by the title works well in making sure that I finish this book, maintaining the same level of excitement throughout the process as it is actually proposing a new model of capitalism, which he claims can bring about sustainability that we are all aiming for – a term he defined as the capacity for continuance into the long term future. Reluctantly everyone must admit that in working towards this destination, we are limited to work within the realms of capitalism. And here the author proposes a model, a brand new capitalism which works ‘as if the world matters’, as opposed to the current capitalism which goes on ‘as if the world does not matter’.

If there is another reason why I could not stop reading this book, it would be the incredibly smooth flow of arguments and foundation-laying. In convincing readers that remodelling capitalism is not an option anymore, Porritt starts by emphasising that climate change is already here eventually with a rock solid proof that it is more than a nightmare, and successfully convinces, at least me, that the current pace of tackling this issue is unbelievably slow.

And the sluggishness of the pace is something strange, despite so many alarming news on how climate change affect our lives – and Porritt suggests a very good reason for this. It is the technocrats, scientists, environmentalists – the learned among the society who fail to persuade the society into believing that changes are desirable rather than just something necessary, and win their hearts and minds into taking action. Desirable, is the keyword, as he says:

“If anything is going to make sustainable development genuinely desirable to very large numbers of people in such a compelling way that they come to embrace the necessity for change, it must surely be the possibility that sustainable development could change their lives by putting personal wellbeing and happiness at the very heart of its offer to citizens.” 

The changes that the author put forward, the modelling of the ‘capitalism as if the world matters’ is ultimately reconciling sustainable development (SD) and capitalism – with some modifications on the economic system and SD itself, of course. As the current model is just incapable of accommodating SD, with all natural capital being liquidified at a rate like never before and the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor, the challenge would be for SD to be reframed. Rather than giving the notion that moving towards sustainability is just something that will not work with the basic idea of profit-making in capitalism, Porritts stresses, it should be more about new opportunities in wealth making – serving well the self-interested nature of human but with some responsibility involved. Serious political steps will never be taken unless such changes are taken, as all countries are more concern with growth and if only SD can allow growth to occur that it will be accepted.

I have no problem accepting this whole new idea of capitalism, though earlier the basic assumption that there is no other option but to work within capitalism sounds rather pessimistic to me, but Porritt at the end goes on saying, to my agreement:

“If, as a politically active environmentalist or campaigner for social justice, one’s answer to the question is that they are, indeed, mutually exclusive (that capitalism, in whichever manifestation, is in its very essence inherently unsustainable), then one’s only morally consistent response is to devote one’s political activities to the overthrow of capitalism”.

Well, I’d say that total change is the best way, but still, this is definitely a book to be read by policy-makers, politicians, business leaders and environmental campaigners alike – for there are lessons to be learnt.

The biggest lesson I get?

To live on this planet as if I intended to go on living here forever – that is sustainable development.

In 345 pages of this book, probably you will find yours somewhere.

Malaysians in Guantanamo

Seriously, I do not know (and strangely, didn’t occur to me) that there are Malaysians detained in Guantanamo Bay until I read this news report by The Malaysian Insider

 

Malaysia seeks return of 2 citizens in Guantanamo

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 — Malaysia offered today to take back two citizens who are prominent terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison after President Barack Obama ordered the closure of the facility.

Prime Minister Ahmad Ahmad Badawi said the Malaysian government is seeking permission for its police officers to meet the two men for the first time since their transfer in September 2006 from secret CIA prisons to the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay for trials.

“If possible, we’d like to bring both of them home” so that they can be held in Malaysian custody if necessary, Malaysia’s national news agency, Bernama, quoted Abdullah as telling reporters during a visit to Dubai.

An estimated 245 men are being held at the US naval base in Cuba, most of whom have been detained for years without being charged with a crime. Among the issues the Obama administration has to resolve is where to put those detainees — whether back in their home countries or at other federal detention centres.

The two Malaysians — Mohd Farik Bin Amin, better known as Zubair, and Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep, also known as Lillie — are so-called high-value detainees at Guantanamo.

They were captured separately in Thailand in 2003 and have undergone US military hearings to affirm their status as “enemy combatants” eligible for military trials.

Mohd Farik allegedly helped the Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah’s operational planner case targets for potential attacks. He is believed to have been tapped to be a suicide operative for an al-Qaida attack on Los Angeles.

Mohammed Nazir allegedly helped transfer funds from al-Qaida to Jemaah Islamiyah, some of which was used for operational expenses in a 2003 car bombing at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia that killed 12 people.

Abdullah today lauded Obama’s decision to shut the Guantanamo facility within a year, saying Malaysia “is happy because he has fulfilled his promise.”

It was not immediately clear if Abdullah’s comments indicated that Malaysian authorities might detain Mohd Farik and Mohammed Nazir under a law that allows for indefinite detention without trial of people regarded as security threats. Aides travelling with Abdullah and Foreign Ministry officials could not immediately be contacted. — AP

Oh my. Maybe nobody make a fuss about these two guys before, because if he did, probably some people will shout at his face saying: What about those in Kamunting?

Sigh. Nobody cares, really, because the same principle of  ‘guilty even before proven guilty, just because I suspect that you are guilty’ is practised actively in Malaysia. 

Strange people indeed.

A Cocktail of Things

1. It is amazing how simple things can brighten up a bad and gloomy day. The day before yesterday, the day I sat for my first exam this semester was a terrible day. I started the day rather optimistically : bright pink scarf with purple baju kurung, a sunny day and ultimately, I thought I was strategically well-prepared for the exam. But it turned out badly – but the brightly-coloured costumes really helped. I managed to wear a smile throughout that disastrous two hours, and headed for a medium cup of cappucino at Costa Coffee.

A good book and a cup of cappucino. I call that a heavenly pair.

A good book and a cup of cappucino. I call that a heavenly pair.

Well, I blamed the hormonal imbalance due to the monthly PMS that I found myself on the verge of crying which was unusual, and also craving for a conversation with a stranger. Well, I resisted the tempation and sticked to the book I was supposed to read for the book exam.

But a bad day turned good at the moment I read the email from my supervisor, unexpectedly, on my book review I submitted before Christmas (she finally found time to read it, it seems):

Dear Afni,

Good luck with your book exam next week.

Many thanks for the book review – it is very good! I really enjoyed reading it. I think you should publish it – when we meet next time, we should discuss this.

Please note that I am not marking the book reviews, so this has nothing to do with the mark you will get for the review – another examiner will mark it.

That really made my day, easing up my pain. Lucky that I have a female supervisor who made an effort to send her supervisee an email at 2230 hour just to say this.

2. I didn’t manage to sleep on that night. I was disturbed, rather terribly. I attended a session with Moazzam Begg, Sami al Haj (both are ex-Guantanamo detainees) and Chris Arendt (former Guantamo guard) and upon reaching home I started reading more about them and Guantanamo. I ended up thinking a lot abot Prisoner 650– a female detainee. A ghost detainee. Moazzam mentioned about having to listen to her screaming all night long and was haunted by that. Yvonne Ridley, upon listening to the story was also haunted.

And now it is me who could not stop thinking about her.

By the way, the event was fullhouse. 500 people trying to fit in a lecture hall designed for 300. Full of young people. Amazing.

jan2009-0031

3. I was on my way back from teaching Quran when I stopped to withdraw some money, just to find that my quarterly allowance came in a bit earlier. That was fine – I still managed to control myself and spent two hours at the University Place reading but I could not resist the temptation to cross the Oxford Road to Blackwell’s. Unfortunately none of the books was attractive enough – that I headed to Waterstone’s at Arndale to satisfy my sudden urge for books.

  Oh, well. I have just started to feel guilty. Now that I am in my bedroom, I have just realised that I actually bought 6 books this month only: Indeks Al Quran, Muhammad s.a.w, and Bunga Kebahagiaan (the last two was authored by Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat) earlier this month, tafsir al Qurtubi (which costs me £35) last week – and now another two books!

Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and I am a Cat by Soseki Natsume.

Women Who Run with the Wolves

Women Who Run with the Wolves

I am a Cat

I am a Cat

 I have to admit that the second book was bought because I am currently missing my cat back home, this one:

I am a big lazy cat

I am a big lazy cat

Am I supposed to feel guilty? The way I’ve been brought up by my parents teaches me that books and food are of equal importance. But buying 6 books which I know I would not read any time soon (except for the tafsir of course) seems to be pretty excessive.

4. I am contemplating on a few choices I have after graduating. I realised that I am not ready for the real world, but I know opting to further my study just because I am not ready for a life with greater responsibility is just plain silly. It would be an escapism. Oh man. I am gonna be 24 in two months and things seem to be so uncertain. I hate this pahse where you cannot expect where you are going to after one year. Just like the phase I was in when I was in my fifth form, thinking and trying to imagine where I’d be in June 2003. And when I was in Banting trying to figure out where I’d be in September 2005 and now I don’t have an idea where I’d be January next year, if I am still alive that is.

Life can be so uncertain, and it is not an adjective I like at all.

Till then, see you.

Book Exam

I do love this module. I really do. You choose a book, read and digest it, and sit an exam on it.

But it is kind of depressing (yet I know that it is helpful) that the module leader gives so much detail like this:


I’d remind you that the exam will have three sections: A – Generic questions about the book and reading as concepts (20 marks); B – Generic questions to be answered in relation to your specific book (30 marks); and C – Specific questions on your book (40 marks).  (The other 10 marks come from your book reviews.)

With respect to part A, this will draw on the lecture presented by John Blunden-Ellis, for which the PowerPoint presentation is available on Blackboard.  I would remind you that its broad subjects covered:

Nature of the book
Nature and importance of reading
Contrast between reading books and reading the internet
Engineers and reading

So the question(s) for part A are likely to reflect these themes.  To help you reflect on them, in additional to the PPT presentation, the following websites may be helpful (being fully aware of the irony of directing you towards websites – oh well – needs must!):

http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i04/04b01001.htm

http://www.useit.com/alertbox/reading_pattern.html

http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=01331593

http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-047148492X.html

http://www.computer.org/portal/site/computer/menuitem.5d61c1d591162e4b0ef1bd108bcd45f3/index.jsp?&pName=computer_level1_article&TheCat=1010&path=computer/homepage/1105&file=bookseng.xml&xsl=article.xsl

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/apr/12/featuresreviews.guardianreview21

Part B will focus on structural and literary aspects of books, answered in relation to your particular book.

The exam will be 2 hours, corresponding to 90 marks, hence 1.333 minutes per mark, giving 27 minutes for part A, 40 minutes for part B and 53 minutes for part C.  Hence a 10 mark question should be able to be read, assimilated, reflected on and answered within 13 minutes!  You’ll need to be quite quick and efficient – the exam will largely test the extent to which you have already contemplated your book and books in general, not the extent to which you can begin that process within the exam itself.  But in marking it, we’ll be aware of the time constraint.  Also, mostly there will be sufficient choice to allow you to focus on the elements that particularly interested you – but this means that you’ll have to skim through and make your choices quite quickly and efficiently as well.

Once again, I’d remind you that an awareness of the wider context of your book will be necessary to get a first class mark, e.g. global environmental, economic, technological or political developments since the book was written, recent events within the chemical industry (e.g. chemical industry accidents), as well as thinking about your book in the context of the structure and content of your undergraduate education.  More generally, a first class mark is obtained through communicating well reasoned insights, critical understanding and synthesis of complex ideas, with a high first obtained by adding to this authority, perspective and lucidity.

However, the main thing is that if you actually take the opportunity to enjoy the learning that this book module is giving you, then that enjoyment will pervade and enhance your answers.  Conversely, if your answers communicate that you don’t like the subject of chemical engineering, then we may have to conclude that you probably don’t deserve a first class mark!  Seems reasonable to me!

Hope this helps, hope you do enjoy this, and hope you find that the exam gives you a pleasant opportunity to convey your learning.

I cannot agree with the underlined statement. What if someone did some soul-searching and found out that chemical engineering is not for him due to its ‘money drives everything nature?’ That is discrimination – like everyone has to love chemical engineering.

By the way, I still do love chemical engineering despite me whining much about it (outside this blog) and even thought of changing my course in my first year. It just flows smoothly with my logic – I am on for environmental issues, despite the industry being one of the biggest culprits but after all, it is where changes need to be made – and that is the job for chemical engineers with some tree-hugging instinct and awareness.

So that’s my stand for now, hopefully I won’t subcosciously write something ‘against’ chemical engineering this Monday.

And perhaps, I need to figure out on how to write something intelligent about nature and books, and those topics listed above. I mean, I can write, but most often that not my style of writing is inclined towards something informal, smart-casual as my friend described it – I tend to screw up at formal writing! Too much blog-writing I guess.

Or, maybe I should just blurt it out in my natural way. At least I am honest.

Hopefully there is an extra mark for that.