Sunday, January 31, 2010

All You Need is Love

I am crafting my speech for the Club-level International Speech Contest. It hasn’t been easy but now, ideas are slowly but steadily taking shape. I just hope that this’ll be a great speech. But time is running short. And I have to practice and practice and practice. But doubts assail me. Is my speech good enough? Is there a message? Is the message meaningful? Can I write a better speech? Fortunately, I remembered what Shakespeare said: "Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt".

This December 07, 2009 video clip was sent to me by Elizabeth Ong yesterday, and it’s about spreading the message of love across 156 countries. Enjoy…

Sex After Dinner?

I thought it was to be a quiet Sunday until I burst out laughing and sniggering and chuckling. I had come across this page in a Sunday paper that made me roll in the aisles. Some Malaysians can be so retarded. “We will check restaurants that offer candle-light dinners, as these often lead to possible sexual activities in budget hotels”. This comes from JAIS director, Mohamed Khusrin Munawi who says that Valentine’s Day is not for Muslims (Sunday Star, January 31, 2010, p N44). If we can buy this argument, then we should enact a law that lights must come on during movie screenings, in cars travelling at night, and any ‘dimly-lit’ place that can be an excuse for couples to initiate sordid sexual liaisons. Better still, we should beef up his JAIS budget, so that he can employ more enforcement officers – perhaps we can have another law that requires all couples intending to have quiet dinners and other similar trysts, to be compelled to invite a JAIS officer to sit in, just to make sure no illicit activity occurs. And for good measure, let’s not confine this to only couples – any group for that matter. After all, hasn’t he heard of group sex?

And as for Valentine’s Day, especially since this day contains vestiges of both Christian (Note the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred) and ancient Roman tradition – to protect our Asian values, we should be brave enough to ban the celebration of Valentine’s Day. I say: Close all flower shops on that day, prohibit the selling of chocolates, outlaw candle-lit dinners, and anything related to Valentine’s Day. If the police can haul away candle-lit protestors with impunity, what is to stop them from doing the same to candle-lit diners? In this beloved country of ours, Malaysia Boleh wad!


Photos courtesy of http://pray-for-malaysia.blogspot.com/2008_09_01_archive.html, posted September 28, 2008.

Celtic earned three points when they defeated Hamilton 1-0. The Bhoys had toiled to break down stubborn, if unadventurous, opponents, with little goalmouth action to excite the fans. Certainly, it was a hard slog for the visitors, who rarely found any passing fluency on a badly rutted pitch. The breakthrough only came when Morten Rasmussen, on as a replacement, managed to turn sharply and shoot low into the net after a strong run from Ki Sung-Yueng (67). We still have a lot of catching up to do!


And at Anfield, Dirk Kuyt put Liverpool ahead following a knock back from midfielder Alberto Aquilani (37). Then Liverpool went 2-0 up when Emiliano Insua’s 25-yard shot took a huge deflection off Bolton’s Kevin Davies for a 70th minute own-goal. A good result against Bolton Wanderers but we are still entrenched in position No. 5 and this is just not good enough!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Financial Dire Straits

There has been a number of reports questioning why Malaysia experienced capital outflows in 2009 that were far larger than many countries, and it was deemed especially puzzling because Malaysia has a large current account surplus. Today’s The Star (pp SBW 20-21) highlighted this "Capital dilemma" concern, especially on this disquieting issue that if the country's capital outflows persist, it couold leave a dent in Malaysia's investment prospects.

Bank Negara governor Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz responded like a true politician – she said a lot of things that actually did not tell us anything: “The strong reserves position, the well developed financial system and the resilience of the banking sector allowed Malaysia to absorb this volatility in our stride. At all times, liquidity remained ample… Given the uncertainty in the global financial markets, capital flows are likely to remain volatile. What is important is having the capacity to absorb this increased volatility without having disruptions to the domestic financial system”.

Zeti’s answers were standard responses that didn’t quite allay my fears nor put to rest my concerns. Firstly, I subscribe to this view that inflows must always be greater than outflows. But studying 3 countries' FDI flows (2006-2008) – Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, we will have the heebie-jeebies. Why? Just look at our outflows!!!!



Secondly, an important question comes to mind – whether the capital outflows represent capital flight or normal flows? I worry a lot if it is the former because that can mean that we are in financial trouble.

I located this report written sometime ago and I thought it is relevant in expanding our understanding of this issue of ‘capital flows’: “Capital flight is defined here as the outflow of resident capital from a country in response to economic and political risk in the domestic economy. The loss of capital through capital flight has implications for the future growth prospects of the country. Capital is already scarce in many of the countries which are believed to experience capital flight and, as a natural corollary, it is assumed that if the funds are held at home they can be utilized to reduce the level of external indebtedness and the inherent liquidity constraints in bridging the foreign-exchange gap. The loss of capital through capital flight also erodes the domestic tax base in developing countries and has adverse implications for the distribution of income. It is feared that the flight of capital from developing countries may send a signal to foreign private investors about the risks involved and lead to a decline in, or even cessation of, private capital flow.”
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Zeti also provided the following information: "As at Jan 15, 2010 the international reserves of Bank Negara are at RM331.4bil (equivalent to US$96.7bil). This reserves position is sufficient to finance 9.5 months of retained imports and is 4.1 times of the short-term external debt. The reserves level is sufficient to deal with volatile capital flows" (p SBW21).

Duh! This does not mean anything. After all, it is generally accepted that central banks should avoid building up excessive international reserves, since overvaluation also causes capital to move out in anticipation of depreciation. Capital controls won’t work either, except perhaps for the short-term only. Besides, such a train of thought is unlikely to gain traction in today's more liberal environment. The only solution seems to be for the government to tackle the roots of economic and political instability. But we seemed to be caught in a time-warp.

A troubled ruling party, an untested opposition, a stalled economy, a politicized judiciary, a resort to racial discourse – Malaysia's polity is moving farther away from the progressive governance it needs, says Bridget Welsh (an assistant professor in Southeast Asian studies at Johns Hopkins University) in an article published on July 22, 2008 (Source: Webpage http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/malaysia-s-political-quagmire, accessed January 30, 2010).
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Doesn’t this national predicament still holds true even today? We are trapped in this quagmire that we don’t seem to be able to escape from.
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And the truth of the matter is that the government of the day will not act. This instability that is being referred to is due to corruption, economic mismanagement, political patronage and the list of national ills goes on. Our only hope is a change in government.

Friday, January 29, 2010

GAB






Yesterday afternoon, a study group visited Guinness Anchor Berhad (GAB), and this party of 11 came away from this sojourn emphatically educated and enormously enlightened. We learned about hops, and barley, and yeast and water. Did you know that water comprises more than 90 percent of beer? Duh! It was all very educational, and we gained invaluable insights into a company that is 'probably the most promising beer company in this part of the world' (at least, this is my impression). Nope, they didn’t make me say this, but probably, this claim is true. Of course, we quenched our afternoon thirst by cooling off at The Tavern with a free flow of ice-cold beer! I had Kilkenny and Heineken. We didn’t dare to decline their overtures to sample their company’s products because that would be so impolite. We couldn’t disappoint our gracious hosts now, could we? I am now a proud GAB supporter!

I also attended the Metro Toastmasters Club meeting yesterday evening, and I took on the role of a Grammarian. Of course, there were other illustrious Toastmaster guests: DTMs Francis Ng, and Geoff Andrews and not forgetting, Area Governor P3 CC CL Eu Choi San. I made some remarks previously about timekeeping – and I am happy to report that this meeting started on time – which is more than I can say for many other Clubs. Good job, Metro!

Football is disappointing these days! We are not winning games. In their most recent matches, Celtic lost and Arsenal drew blanks. These results can be costly.

Celtic saw Marc-Antoine Fortune continuing his fine scoring form by heading Paul Caddis's corner home for an early Celtic lead (5). Hibernian equalized through unmarked Anthony Stokes, heading past Artur Boruc from close range (26). And as Ian Murray and Chris Hogg held the Hibs defense intact, Stokes broke up the park and Danny Galbraith snatched a dramatic last-gasp winner for Hibernian (90+2) – yes, Celtic lost to Hibernian 1-2, and in the process, inflicting a blow to Celtic’s title ambitions.

Arsenal twice hit the woodwork as they were held to a goalless draw by Aston Villa and missed the chance to return to the top of the Premier League.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Dancing Lion




My DIBS students put on a roaring lion dance performance at HICT late morning, and it was clangorous, strident, and thundering. Other students were energized as classes came to a standstill. A pre-CNY activity to promote loudness and needless to say, enough to wake the dead.
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Our HICT Toastmasters Club meeting was on today, and we were still tardy with our timekeeping. If we could only be more disciplined… The one consolation is that Alan Tan, our Sergeant-at-Arms was punctual because he knows how I feel about this issue. Hopefully, the others can follow this good practice. By the way, we started eleven minutes late. While visiting Toastmaster Lorna Fisher was grateful that we gave her a 20-minute (!) speaking slot, we too are grateful since her presence helped us too – she gamely took on the role of General Evaluator. I was again multi-tasking – I was the Toastmaster-of-the-Evening, and Evaluators for both Mathew and Lorna. Believe me, juggling is never easy. Anyway, eleven members came and not including six guests. A good crowd today.

And in the EPL match early this morning, Liverpool was a disappointment. Against struggling Wolverhampton, we could only produce a goalless draw. A wasted outcome, a wasted match. The devil of inconsistency returned to haunt us.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

UK Economy Emerges from Recession

This morning, Samuel Fo from Stamford College Toastmasters Club phoned to request me to be his evaluator because he had planned to present his CC speech this evening. I consented and there I was, making my maiden visit to this Club. Their members are very much like our HICT Toastmasters Club members, i.e. they are mostly students. It was great to see ‘senior’ Toastmasters like ACG Stephen Fernando and AG Ahmad Fikri attending this meeting to lend much-needed support and precious encouragement. There were many China students who had joined Toastmasters as well as those who were on the verge of signing up as members. I found this to be very enlivening because they were earnest in wanting to work on their English and learn speaking and presentation skills. It was an entirely new experience for me at this club – unlike my other club visits – and it was good that Stephen issued timely reminders to us to speak slowly, so that these students could understand us.

In fact, I was already thinking aloud that HICT Toastmasters could perhaps collaborate with the club to hold a joint-meeting in February. That’ll be fabulous, I am sure! And I promptly texted Mike Cheang.

Oh yes, guess whom did I meet at Stamford College too? My SNHU student, Lucas Ng who was also giving his CC speech at this club this evening. I was visibly impressed with his speaking skills! I honestly didn’t know he could speak so well!

I had previously written some scary stories about UK’s deep recession. But today, BBC News reported that the UK economy has left recession, after figures showed the economy grew by 0.1% in the last three months of 2009. For everyone’s information, the UK's had been the last major economy still in recession. One remaining question: Is the recession finally over?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ladies Club

I went to the Crystal Toastmasters Club meeting with no expectations other than to just listen to good speeches and perhaps participate in the Table Topics session – the latter as practice for the Club contest that I intend to participate next month. Still, at the last moment, I was invited to evaluate Ng Siew Tho who is doing her CC manual for the second time – to earn her Club points – and it was a pleasure to hear her speak because she has really done well. Needless to say, in the Table Topics period – I went on stage and spoke on the CNY-themed topic, i.e. “reunion dinner”, and was again voted the Best Table Topic Speaker. For your info, this club is for ladies only!


In the SPL match between Celtic and St. Johnstone, the former whipped the latter 4-1. But it was the Saints who took a lead when Liam Craig scored from the penalty spot after Steven Milne was felled (12). Then Marc-Antoine Fortune scored twice (64, 81), followed by a Georgios Samaras’ volleyed goal (77) and a sublime Paddy McCourt drive (86) allowed Celtic to decisively overwhelm 10-man St. Johnstone.

But down south, Stoke glided through to the FA Cup fifth round by defeating Arsenal 3-1. Stoke’s Ricardo Fuller headed home Rory Delap's long throw inside two minutes but the Gunners equalized when Denilson's low drive went in via a deflection (42). Fuller became a hero again when he headed in Mamady Sidibe's cross (78) and then Dean Whitehead slotted home a third to seal the win (86).

It was no more than Stoke deserved as they produced the better moments in a scrappy match, although it was not until the final quarter that they could exert their authority against a virtual Arsenal youth team. Well, Arsenal is now out of the FA Cup competition! I suspect Arsene Wenger wants to focus on the EPL and he is being single-minded about it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

In God's Name

I was browsing through Patrick Teoh’s blog “Niamah” and stumbled upon this January 17 posting of a lilting song “Katakanlah” that is pregnant with purposeful meaning, music and lyrics by Amirah Ali (www.myspace.com/amirahali). She explained: “I am saddened and angered by the recent happenings in my country, Malaysia. I would like to share with you this song that I wrote. We are all ONE and so is GOD”.


Katakanlah
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Hari ke hari ku cari
Tapiku tidak pasti
Seribu malam ku mimpi
Tapi ku belum fahami
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Chorus
Adakahkanku namaku
Adakahkanku kulitku
Ugamaku dan bangsaku
Tradisiku, negaraku
Akalku, buatanku, niatku
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Oh Ya Allah
Katakanlah
Ya Allah
Katakanlah
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Hari ke hari ku pandang
Tayangan hias bumi
Seribu malam ku kira
Bintang-bintang menawan hati
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Chorus
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Seluruh dunia di dalam
Sebutir tanah pasir
Kecil-kecilan hidupan
Merangkumi semua angkasa
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Chorus
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Jauh di dalam lautan
Rahsia anak ikan
Pusaka lama disimpan
Cantik lagi bahaya
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Chorus
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English Translation by U-En:
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TELL ME
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Each passing day I seek,
And yet I am unsure.
For a thousand nights I dream
And still my doubt endures.
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Am I but a name?
Mere colour of my skin?
Am I just my faith, beholden to my race?
Am I tradition, blood of a nation?
Am I thought, an act, intention?
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Oh God
Tell me
Oh God
Tell me
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Each passing day I gaze
Upon this ornamented world.
For a thousand nights I count
The stars that bind my heart.
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All the world contained
Within a grain of sand,
Life's merest whisper
Encompasses the firmament.
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Deep beneath the tide,
Secrets still abide.
An ancient heritage endures,
Perilous and ever fair.

Brilliant, isn’t it? But the point is that if we believe in God, surely this God belongs to ALL of humanity? If we defend this God as ours – exclusively ours – this means, we are saying that our God does exclude other peoples. If this is so, then what is the meaning of God’s message to humankind? I just don’t get it – who are we to claim God as ours? To claim is “to demand, ask for, or take as one's own or one's due”. And who are we to make this claim? We forget we are just puny living organisms surviving a fragile existence of inconsequence; that we are mere mortals eking out a delicate life of insignificance. Enough of this quarrel over the A-word! How petty! How trivial! How superficial! How stupid!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mahathir's Conspiracy Theory



Photos courtesy of http://www.themovieinsider.com/photos/11010/avatar/

Photo courtesy of http://john.purplestateofmind.com/?cat=555

Mahathir Mohamad has decided he wants to be the buffoon, the jester, the clown. He came up with a conspiracy theory on the 9/11 attacks – claiming that the US staged the attack on the World Trade Center in New York, and comparing this to James Cameron’s brilliantly-conceived sci-fi movie ‘Avatar’. He had insisted: “If they can make Avatar they can make anything” (Webpage http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/1/21/nation/5516554&sec=nation, posted January 21, 2010). I laughed so hard that I threw up my dinner and this afternoon’s lunch!

But by targeting the US as the theatrical perpetrator of this self-inflicted act that is more show biz than terrorism – and further suggesting that this “performance” was orchestrated as an excuse to mount attacks on the Muslim world, he could pose some problems for Prime Minister Najib Razak in the latter’s efforts to develop better ties with Washington. Although I don’t think this is important, much less serious – still we successfully managed to capture the world’s attention because we have painted ourselves in the goofy colors of loony idiocy.

The poor man must have taken leave of his senses – that’s what happens when you suffer from bouts of delusional disorder. The person with delusional disorder typically does not appear obviously odd, strange or peculiar during periods of active illness. Yet the person might make unusual choices in day-to-day life because of the delusional beliefs (Source:
www.minddisorders.com/Br-Del/Delusional-disorder.html, accessed January 23, 2010). Sigh… since he is our former Prime Minister – we should help him. Perhaps his condition is better served by sending him to Hollywood so that he can become a script writer.

I am thinking. Maybe, just maybe he might also be thinking that the arson attacks on Malaysian houses of worship were staged by the Americans? I say, let’s blame it on the CIA! Let’s make them our bogeyman – so Malaysians can blame the Americans for all our problems. It’s not Najib’s fault we are in this mess today! The Yanks are so clever, so manipulative. And who knows, Dr. M may, one day, even divulge that Najib is actually a US-created avatar who was delivered to us in order that he can mess up our country, big-time!

But let’s put everything in the proper perspective. We must not forget Mahathir Mohamad’s legacy when he was our beloved 4th Prime Minister! Remember well his many prodigious contributions!

These were amply highlighted in Muaz Omar’s article “You are the problem, Dr M” – you may read the entire write-up on webpage http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/opinion/muazomar/50305-you-are-the-problem-dr-m, posted January 21, 2010:

“His economic policies have shown failure and the spillover effects are felt up until today, with the country now lagging to even compete with minnows back in the 1970’s like Indonesia, Thailand and even Vietnam.

He built a coterie of cronies that sucked the wealth and resources of the country to the point that it was unbearable for the economy.

His leadership was an absolute nightmare, none more so than the devilish treatment of his once anointed successor, Anwar Ibrahim, who was stripped, beaten and jailed in 1998.

He has created a political monster in UMNO that gobbles up everything in its path and rules the country according to their whims and fancies”.

I trust our dear Dr. Mahathir Mohamad will not forget to take his medication before he goes to bed tonight… Otherwise, who knows, what else he might dream up that is just as outlandish!

Division B Evaluation Workshop

There was a Division B Evaluation Workshop that I attended this afternoon at the Uptown Damansara, Petaling Jaya – at the kind invitation of Helen. The three presenters were DTMs Leong Oi Wah, LeAnn Tang and Dominic Joseph. What I love most was the two winning speeches from TI that they showed because the speakers gave me ideas for my upcoming club contests. And of course, getting LeAnn and Dominic is a special treat because they made the workshop a fun yet learning experience. My only beef is that we don’t start on time – the workshop started 15 minutes late.

The Star today broke the news that the inquest into the death of political aide Teoh Beng Hock was once again sidetracked when the Coroner’s court granted more time for submissions for a contempt of court application. Coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas fixed February 01 to hear the contempt application filed by Teoh’s brother Meng Kee against a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officer (i.e. Raub Ghani) because the latter had lodged a police report against Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand (p N18).

The 'Ayah' Story

This story that is now being widely told best illustrates the 5-letter issue that is bedevilling us:
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A man came home from work and his children ran to him and called out ‘Ayah! Ayah!’.

His neighbor got very upset and said to him, “Can you please tell your children not to call you ‘Ayah’?”

The man asked, “Why?”

The neighbor retorted, “Because my children call me ’Ayah’ too. They might get confused and mistake you to be their father.”

Then the man told his neighbour, are you not ashamed to say that your children do not know who is their 'Ayah'.

So you are saying by using the word 'Ayah' ,your children will call me ayah too without knowing who is their father?

The neighbour said yes,only my children should use the word 'Ayah'.
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The man said, then there is something wrong in what you are teaching your children. They are not sure and do not know who their 'Ayah' is!!

Stop It!

If you have read Marina Mahathir’s Musings in The Star (January 20, 2010, p N43) – you can almost hear her give a big sigh of relief. Thank goodness, the arson attacks on houses of worship did not escalate into gratuitous acts of open violence because “many ordinary folks reached out to each other in peace.” More interestingly, she pointed the finger of blame on “our” leaders for their sonorous silence (“after the first church” – the Metro Tabernacle – “was attacked... not only did our leaders take more than 24 hours to visit the site of the attack but they also issued no call to cancel demos for propriety’s sake”) and also their devoted zeal to play to the gallery (“nothing could have been so blatant in catering to an unruly crowd than the [leaders’] permission to hold demos against a court decision”). It is therefore, fortunate that the Malaysian majority refused to kowtow to the brazen demagoguery of these rabble-rousing politicians. Otherwise, we may end up like the sheep that Adolf Hitler wanted us to become – recall his quote that Marina reminded us: “What luck for rulers that men do not think?”

Let us hope that we all stop playing with fire – it will consume us if we are not careful.

Friday, January 22, 2010

MAICSA Toastmasters Club

Thursday evening saw me at The Boulevard in MidValley attending the MAICSA International Speech & Table Topic Contest. There were 6 and 5 participants respectively. Generally, the speeches were of average quality although we must congratulate the speakers for their guts to go on stage and compete. All of them wore hearts of oak and they did carry them with pride. The subject matter of this International Speech contest ranged from the interesting “What if our mind is wrongly wired?” and “hiccups” to the mundane “Role-Play” and “What is your limit?” to the thought-provoking “To be or not to be compassionate” and “If there’s a will, there is a way. No gain, no pain”. Taufik Salleh emerged as the Champion in this speech category by spooning us a large dosage of humor with a speech which bore the longest ever title! And the Table Topic contest had a “daydream-and-nightmare” proposition in which Kenneth Foo romped home victorious. I personally thought Mah Li Chen did better, but the judges thought otherwise. Anyway, this competition was superbly organized and praise should go to Wong Siew Tan as the Organizing Chair. I benefited in no small way because by listening to these speeches – I could gain insight into the chosen topics as well as having the opportunity to size up my prospective competition. I was really looking for inspiration although I am still not sure if I have found it!

I am participating in this contest, that's why – and so I do need to begin my preparation like a bat out of hell!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

In Praise of Passion

I spied this headline in yesterday’s The Star Metro Classifieds page this morning – it said “Re-ignite Your Passion”. I didn’t read the article – but the headline set me thinking. As I ponder about this semester’s posse of lecturers teaching the SNHU program, I find this statement to be very true. The feedback I have been receiving from my students indicated that we have lecturers who are delivering content but without the oomph. Granted, we have chosen teaching as our vocation; we want to be committed and intense – but it is never easy to consistently portray earnestness and enthusiasm all the time. We are just as likely to surrender to disinterest and indifference. And I should know because after 6 hours of teaching every day – I too feel drained, mentally and physically. Yes, it is that easy to slip into a state of comatose teaching – we become lifeless machines expelling words that reconstruct into knowledge-laden facts in non-stop salvos. In other words, we become passionless. We teach but do our students really learn? And do we care enough whether they do? As this article by Christian Chua advises: “Change your attitude”. Easier said than done, I‘d say! Still, we must endeavor to put passion into everything we do. Yes, passion is everything! Passion, a word I believe in.


We can all salute Liverpool’s character after their 2-0 defeat of Tottenham put them back in contention for a top-four finish. This deserved win puts the Reds only a point behind fourth-placed Spurs despite a floundering campaign so far. Even Rafa Benitez acknowledged that "the key to the win was the character of the side...”. As for me, I believe in the Reds! I believe we can be at the top!
Insofar as the game is concerned, Dirk Kuyt proved the match winner, opening the scoring after six minutes and then wrapping up three points for us with a twice-taken penalty (90+3) after Sebastian Bassong had flattened Liverpool substitute David Ngog in the area.


And in the other EPL match, Arsenal came from behind to beat Bolton and leapfrogged Chelsea to the top of the table. The Wanderers had a great start when Gary Cahill volleyed Bolton in front (7) and Matthew Taylor scored from the penalty spot after a foul by Denilson (28). Still the fighting Gunners kept the pressure and they were finally rewarded when Tomas Rosicky struck from 18 yards (43) and Cesc Fabregas slid home a controversial equalizer (52), William Gallas having injured Mark Davies in the build-up. Thomas Vermaelen hit the third with his left foot (65) before Andrey Arshavin scored after linking up with Eduardo (85).

Hooray! A double dose of good news!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Course Blogs

We have developed a couple of blogs exclusively for SNHU courses that I am teaching this semester – their purpose is to serve as learning platforms for my students to study outside of the classroom. It's not something sophisticated but it is a start – and it will surely help students in their learning. Course blogs that presently exist include OL421, MKT337, MKT345, and MKT113. You may check out http://snhumalaysiaol421.blogspot.com to see what one of these course blogs look like. Good job, Victor!
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Celtic booked their spot in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup with a narrow 1-0 away win over First Division Morton.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Burj Dubai



Fireworks to mark the 828-meter (2,716.5 ft) Burj Dubai inauguration on the evening of January 04, 2010. As you take in the sights of this spectacular display – you wouldn’t believe that Dubai was mired in a financial quagmire, would you? Still, these photos, courtesy of Owais Kazi, are just beautiful!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Brilliant Judgment

This evening, I was at the KL Advanced Toastmasters Club meeting where I took on two roles: as a grammarian and as an evaluator for Sally Cheah. It was also a delight to have Helen give a speech at the club, and as I had expected, she did marvellously well. Sally too. As for me, I refrained from taking part in speechmaking, but I still won the Best Evaluator award.
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High Court judge Lau Bee Lan’s controversial ‘Allah’ ruling that rocked the nation over who had rights to the term cited that the Home Minister and government’s actions had been illegal, unconstitutional, irrational and had failed to satisfy that it was a threat to national security. She also wrote about the apparent conflict in the matter between the Federal Constitution and the various state enactments apart from claims by Muslim groups that the matter cannot be taken to a civil court.

The judge released the written grounds of her December 31 judgment late on Friday while the increasingly acrimonious public debate over who has the right to use the word “Allah” continues to rage on.

The Malaysian Insider obtained a copy of her 57-page judgment (Webpage http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/malaysia/49845-four-reasons-for-controversial-allah-ruling, posted January 17, 2010) where the judge lays out the reasons and the laws behind her oral pronouncement. In fact, I have not read so brilliant a judgment as this. It is very heartening to know that we still have quality judges as her, producing detailed and insightful reasoning. In any case, I must urge everyone to read this said article because we will all learn something from this well-written judgment. There is no value in pontificating something like what most BN politicians are wont to do because they have this remarkable ineptitude to confront issues, without supporting their positions with cold hard facts. But Lau Bee Lan is something else: a real gem!

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Arsenal continued with its fine run when it defeated a committed Bolton 2-0. The Gunners took the lead through captain Cesc Fabregas (28) but were then forced to repel long periods of pressure from the home side before Fran Merida's 78th minute goal sealed the victory.

This win ensured Arsenal remain three points behind leaders Chelsea and two behind second-place Manchester United, having played a game less than the champions.

Arsenal could move a point above United on Wednesday when they play Bolton again in a league game rearranged after it was postponed due to the recent cold spell.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sheila Wong

For those of us who know this Toastmaster, Sheila Wong, we are proud that she has been featured in today’s New Sunday Times (p R3) in a piece “ABC of good grooming” – and promoting her latest book “Yes, You Can Look Slimmer”. A talented lady, this image guru has already written two books – it’s about time, I start on mine!

I read columnist Azmi Anshar’s article in the New Straits Times (January 16, 2010, p 4) where he had admitted that “peninsular Muslims are sorely split over who ‘owns’ Allah”. Irrespective of our own personal position on this issue, I have to agree with him that “the genie is out of the bottle and cannot be manipulated or controlled to return inside. It is out there haunting all Malaysians and there is no recompense of the horrendous damage done. Perhaps the singularities that will protect Malaysia from further impairment of its celebrated construct is the immutable clarity of compromise, concession, bargaining and negotiation that has stitched all Malaysians together since 1963 through all social, cultural and political battles. Now that this demand is foisted: who will boldly make the conciliatory move?” Yep, shouldn’t Najib, the promoter of 1 Malaysia take this first step? Dare he? Will he?
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And in the SPL, Falkirk took an early lead and held on to earn a well-deserved point against Celtic in a 1-1 draw. Carl Finnigan shook off a strong challenge from Celtic’s Darren O’Dea to shoot past Boruc on 19 minutes. Celtic replied five minutes before the interval when Georgios Samaras thundered in a low drive.

Malacca Wedding


Yesterday, I travelled to Malacca for Lay Kun’s wedding. Of the 50 plus tables at the Ping Ming Primary School Hall in Jalan Tun Sri Lanang, I was told that 19 tables were reserved for Toastmasters! It resembled a mini-Toastmaster convention – complete with Humor Master, timer, speeches and evaluations. There were the familiar faces from D’ Utama Advanced Toastmasters Club (Foong, Bernard, Amy, Siew Peng, Nancy, Yip, Chee Wah), and other Clubs (LeAnn, Gina, Francis Ng, Yeoh Cheng Lim, Bill, Lorna, Sandra, Sharmini, Zaharah, amongst others) as well as Toastmasters I had not have the opportunity to meet before – they were not only from Malacca and KL, but also from Seremban, Kuantan, Penang, and even Sabah. This was an unusual but nonetheless entertaining wedding dinner. Well, what did you expect when two Toastmasters tied the knot, right?
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I took a couple of snapshots of Malacca – I am always nostalgic about this place; after all, it is my hometown.

As Stoke manager Tony Pulis described this EPL match between his team and Liverpool, it was a scrappy game. Still, the Reds scored first when Sotirios Kyrgiakos bundled home from close-range, after a fumble by Stoke’s Thomas Sorensen (57). But late pressure from Stoke resulted in a last-minute corner which their Higginbotham headed back across goal for the unmarked Huth to tap home (90). In my mind, the 1-1 draw was not a fair result. Liverpool should have decisively won.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More December 30 Photos

Classes are in full swing this week and I am down to teach 30.0 hours a week, which translates to 6.0 hours per day. This is a heavy workload but does anybody care?

In the evening, I was at the D’Utama Advanced Toastmasters Club and I was slated to be the evaluator for Ivan Ho. I was rather critical today – not only for Ivan but even for Siew Peng (I made my remarks during the Open Evaluation). I thought there were many areas that needed improvement, and I highlighted them all. Even the Toastmaster-of-the Evening went over the top. I could sense a towering level of energy and commitment birthing from her, but I could also see her succumbing to a state of soaring excitability that became somewhat overbearing. She seemed to have taken over this meeting, and monopolized the proceedings, so much so that she took “center-stage”. This was one of those rare occasions when I felt letdown by the diminished quality of the meeting.

And a second batch of photos of the December 30 Toastmasters meeting in Klang:





















In the FA Cup third round replay, Liverpool squandered a one-goal lead to lose 2-1 to Reading after extra time – which means, the Reds will exit the FA Cup in ignominious fashion. A sad day for us.