Monday, November 30, 2009

Planning 6 Speeches in December

I am 6 speeches away from receiving my ACS recognition. All the planning is bearing fruit. Thus far, I have received okays for 3 speaking slots and I am waiting for 3 more confirmations, which I expect to be forthcoming. It's a great feeling!
It's about time I also give due emphasis on recruiting more members for HICT Toastmasters – in fact, this afternoon, I had talked about Toastmasters to two students but I recognize we have to do more. Lorna meanwhile is spearheading a membership drive for KL Advanced Toastmasters, and likewise, I am giving her a hand.

“They (i.e. the Reds) lacked any fluency – ’sometimes good possession, sometimes not so good’ was Rafael Benitez's description, they continue to field a Steven Gerrard who looks a mere footballing mortal and their defense looked a few seconds away from calamity in a hairy first 45 minutes”. This is how Ian Herbert of UK’s The Independent described the game yesterday. Yes, as I have already admitted yesterday, we were very extremely lucky!

And early this morning, Malaysian time, Premier League leaders Chelsea left Arsenal's title challenge reeling by beating the Gunners 3-0 to increase the gap to 11 points on their London rivals. The Blues again showed their power was superior to Arsenal's panache. Sigh!

At least, Celtic didn’t disappoint. Celtic returned to the top of the Scottish Premier League following a comfortable 3-1 win over St Mirren. The first goal came from Scott McDonald's shot that went in off of St. Mirren's Chris Innes (39). The second came when Aiden McGeady laid on a pass for Georgios Samaras to side-foot into the net with a simple finish (42). Michael Higdon pulled one back for Saints (45) but McDonald restored Celtic's two-goal advantage when he volleyed home, courtesy of a McGeady cross (61).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bling Bling Malacca

I went to Malacca yesterday. It has been awhile since I returned to my hometown. Much has changed – in fact, the town was busy and congested, day and night, and the roads choked with unbroken traffic, no matter in which part of town you are. Believe me, the gridlock was as bad as KL – to me, it was worse because Malacca roads are narrow and close. Perhaps it was the long weekend (3 days because Friday was a public holiday) or the school holidays or both – but driving in this town was quite unpleasant; my nerves constantly on edge. Also, I didn’t quite like what I saw in Malacca. I had this distressing feeling that Malacca is racing to be an urban concrete jungle, to become a tourist mecca, to shed its old world charm and put on a new showy skin of ostentatious gaudiness that slowly and surely will disrobe this historic town of its age-old character into something that is flashy and loud. I am not happy about this transformation – it’s gross and it's ugly.

Anyway, the original purpose of my trip to Malacca was to attend the Malacca Toastmasters meeting. No speechmaking for me at this meeting, though I gamely took on the role of a grammarian. Bill and Sandra were smartly dressed in suit-and-tie, and the rest of us were in our smart casuals. I didn’t bring a tie and so the locals kindly lent me one – just so that I was appropriately dressed! There were altogether six of us who made the trip to Malacca: Bill, Rohijas, Lorna, Sandra (actually it is Sandrasegaran), Lay Kun, and myself. A great meeting we all had!

Tonight, Liverpool faced Everton in a must-win match; they could ill-afford to lose or even draw. And phew, they did win 2-0 against a hard-working but luckless Everton.

Mascherano scored an early opener after a wayward shot bounced in from 30 yards following a deflection off Everton's Joseph Yobo (12). And the second goal came from a simple Dirk Kuyt tap-in after Tim Howard palmed Albert Riera's shot into his path (80).
Yes, we were extremely lucky to win!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Company Called BrewDog

A November 26 posting on BBC NewsEntertainment headlined a statement by Robin Antin, founder of girl group Pussycat Dolls that said that there "is no truth" to the rumors that the American girl group had split up; that they are ‘still together’. Likewise, the Pussycat Balls are also still together – it’s just that they have taken a hiatus from performing. Aren't us all celebrities the same? We need a break.
A Scottish brewery, BrewDog of Fraserburgh has launched what it described as the world's strongest beer – Tactical Nuclear Penguin (what a mouthful of a name for a beer!), with a 32% alcohol content. Managing director James Watt said a limited supply of Tactical Nuclear Penguin would be sold for £30 each. He said: "This beer is about pushing the boundaries, it is about taking innovation in beer to a whole new level."

Watt added that a beer such as Tactical Nuclear Penguin should be drunk in "spirit sized measures". In fact, a warning on the label states: "This is an extremely strong beer; it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance. In exactly the same manner that you would enjoy a fine whisky, a Frank Zappa album or a visit from a friendly yet anxious ghost." (Webpage, posted November 26, 2009). Beer lovers, this is the beer to knock you out! Anybody out there in the UK can buy me a bottle?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

IEM Toastmasters

This evening, I made my maiden visit to IEM Toastmasters Club – IEM of course refers to the Institute of Engineers Malaysia. I had met Ir. Ismail Omar at a MIMPJ meeting some time back, and he had invited me to visit his Club – and today, I finally did take up his offer. I used this opportunity to give speech No. 4, which is assignment # 1: The Folk Tale from the Storytelling manual. It is titled “The Mousedeer and the Farmer” and my evaluator was Area Governor C2 Suresh Yegambaram. His feedback was generally excellent, compliments like “I really did well”; “how entertained the audience was”; “natural body movements” and so on. However, he also did mention that I could improve on my pitch (more variation in my voice). General Evaluator, SKL Walia described me as a pukka storyteller (‘pukka’ is word of the day, meaning ‘absolute first class and genuine’), but she felt that I was a wee bit forward in my positioning – which is of course a fairly common remark that I used to hear before! Well, personally, I must admit that I did rather well, and the majority of the audience must have agreed since I was voted The Best Project Speaker from a line-up of 5 speakers. And I also took on the role of the Ah Counter.

The other thing I got from this evening’s meeting was that DTM Walia has indeed emboldened me. She told us that it took her exactly one year to progress from Competent Communicator to Distinguished Toastmaster (this is really an amazing feat!), and she told us point-blank: If she could do it, so can we! I am impressed. I am inspired. I am energized.

Oh yes, one of the Toastmasters I met this evening was Jean Lee, who happens to be David's daughter. By the way, David Lee is the HOD of Engineering & IT programs at HICT. Yes, it is a small world, after all.
I had already forgotten about it but fortunately, I received a timely phone call from Bill Sim who reminded me of the Malacca sojourn with a select group of KL Advanced toastmasters this Saturday. We are going to have a Joint Meeting with the Malacca Toastmasters Club, which is Bill's previous club before he moved to KL.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Seven Speakers

The HICT Toastmasters meeting was held today – it’ll be Wednesdays from now on – and as expected, I took on multiple roles. I was the evaluator for Mike (his tenth and last CC speech by the way); as well as being the grammarian and the timer. I don’t really mind because these are brownie points to be earned toward my Competent Leader qualification.

There were a total of 7 speakers – Mike, Alan, Nicholas, Wai How, Mathew, Shireen and Mehala. I am very heartened to see my fellow members making their speeches, particularly Shireen and Mathew who are finally making headway past the halfway mark. Hopefully, they will make their speeches in our last meeting of the year, i.e. December 30, 2009 as a further indication of advancement.

HICT @ Fraser

Just so, HICT students know – the issue of HICT moving to KL (i.e. Fraser Technology Park) is already seeing lively discussion in the HELP University College Facebook.

As one HICT student explained in his blog, HICT is relocating to KL because “only Klang people studying there (meaning, HICT @ Klang) is not untung enough!!!” (Weblog, posted November 24, 2009). I am not sure if he realizes it, but it is so very true!

Liverpool limp out of the Champions League despite a 1-0 victory over Debrecen as Fiorentina beat Lyon in the other Group E match to seal a place in the last 16. Perhaps, given our injury list, this is the best possible outcome – the Reds can now focus on the EPL. It is time to start winning matches. After all, if we can decisively beat Man U, why cannot we triumph in the EPL?!?!

Arsenal sealed their passage into the last 16 of the Champions League in convincing fashion with a comfortable 2-0 win against Standard Liege. Arsene Wenger's side needed only a point to seal qualification for the knockout phase for a seventh consecutive season – but they never looked in serious danger of clinching anything less than three as they dominated the Belgians for long periods. Samir Nasri took advantage of Landry Mulemo's slip to put the Gunners ahead after 35 minutes and Denilson struck a spectacular, swerving second from 30 yards in first-half injury time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Made-in-Klang TV Commercials

My Diploma in Business students did a project to produce TV commercials as part of their Advertising & Promotion course. There were six commercials in all and I must admit that they did well if I examined from aspects of both concept and creativity. A first class effort.

I wasn’t supposed to give a speech today but when one of the speakers withdrew at the eleventh hour, an opportunity in the form of a speaking slot came about. Of course, I grabbed it. I must thank May Yong for pulling out (I am just being cheeky!) and Kay Wong for putting down my name. And so, I gave a speech titled “How To Stay Slim”, which is assignment # 3: “Make Them Laugh” from The Entertaining Speaker manual. I had very little preparation but I gave my all. My evaluator, ACS CL Chrristine Ngiam had declared that my speech was entertaining and fun, and that I had delivered it effortlessly and with natural confidence. In other words, I had met my speech objectives and indeed I had passed with flying colors. If there was any ‘flaw’, it has to be my arm-swinging and she found it distracting. I wasn’t aware and furthermore, I don't think my speech was very impressive – still it was okay, I guess. I am finally making real progress with my ACS-level speeches, and I am really hoping that I can complete them before year-end.

Monday, November 23, 2009

HICT Toastmasters Exco 2009/2010

Finally, HICT Toastmasters had their Installation Nite today, and we are honored to have Area Governor C3, Allan Gan to grace this occasion, despite his hectic schedule. Although the 2009/2010 Exco have already assumed their roles, it became official today. All twelve members faithfully attended – a good sign. Thanks to Shireen for organizing this at short notice.

Newspapers today reported that the second post mortem on the exhumed remains of former political aide Teoh Beng Hock was carried out at the Sg Buloh Hospital yesterday. UK’s Dr Peter Vanezis and Thailand’s Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand observed the procedure. Vanezis was brought in by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) while Pornthip by the Selangor government. The coroner had ordered a second post mortem following shocking revelations from the photos of the first autopsy by Pornthip during the inquest.
Lawyer and Puchong MP Gobind Singh who is representing Teoh's family, said the findings will be handed over to the coroner and be revealed when the inquest resumes on Dec 09. We hope for the truth. We hope for justice. We remain hopeful.

Sublime Shisha

Another cool product: a sisha or hookah. "Smoking a shisha is nothing like smoking a cigarette," somebody once said. "Cigarettes are for nervous people, competitive people, people on the run," this person said. "When you smoke shisha, you have time to think. It teaches you patience and tolerance, and gives you an appreciation of good company. Shisha smokers have a much more balanced approach to life than cigarette smokers." Whatever. In any case, I like the apple flavor best.

Barry Robson scored a 72nd-minute penalty to put Celtic ahead. Dundee United replied through a Jon Daly header (83). And to add to Celtic’s misery, as the match approached full-time, a last-minute header by Darren Dodds (90) gave Dundee United their first victory over Celtic since August 1999. It would seem that all my fave teams have experienced very frustrating and trying times over the weekend: Liverpool having drawn 2-2 with Manchester City; Arsenal lost 0-1 to Sunderland; and Celtic lost 1-2 to Dundee United. Sigh! What a screwed-up weekend.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cool Crucifix

This is one cool product. Designer Michiel Cornelissen laser-sintered stainless-steel crucifix has screwdriver bits cut into each tip, turning it into a screwdriver that repels vampires. I saw this on, posted November 20, 2009!

Liverpool and Manchester City fought out a 2-2 draw at Anfield. The game sparked to life with four second-half goals after a first 45 minutes that was a monument to mediocrity. It could have been Liverpool’s victory had Lucas Leiva not wasted a glorious chance deep into stoppage time when he rose unmarked to meet Steven Gerrard's corner, only to head wide. It was another day of deep frustration for the Reds.

As for Arsenal, it was a game they could have won but didn’t. Darren Bent scored the winner as Sunderland became the first team not to concede against Arsenal this season, when he slotted in the rebound after his header came back to him off Frazier Campbell. Luck was with the Black Cats – and so, they won 1-0.

For the Gunners the result will be damaging as title rivals Chelsea won, while Manchester United moved up to second place, three points above Arsenal, after beating Everton in Saturday's late kick-off. To win the EPL crown, you need consistency, and this match showed that the Gunners lack in that department.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Indexes and Rankings

I am in the education industry. Therefore, university rankings are fairly common. Year in and year out, university rankings are being published; we should be familiar with UK’s The Guardian and The Times, and the U.S. News and World Report with their ranking statistics. These rankings serve to facilitate the college/university search process – they assist prospective students in identifying and shortlisting potential destination colleges and universities. More importantly, it lends prestige to those tertiary institutions that excelled.

Even so, there are critics who denounced these rankings by insisting that they are misleading and that they say nothing or very little about whether students are actually learning at particular colleges or universities.

Irrespective of our own position on this matter, rankings are here to stay. In fact, when I examined the latest rankings of UK universities, I cannot help but check out my university’s standing (i.e. University of Strathclyde, where I did my undergraduate study). The Guardian ranking of UK Universities 2009 put this university at position # 29. And The Times’ Good University Guide 2010 listed this same university at position # 37 among UK universities. I guess this gives me a good feeling that my university is a top-flight university.

Anyway, rankings are not just for universities. I had already reported on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which measures the perceived level of public-sector corruption in 180 countries and territories around the world. The CPI is a "survey of surveys", based on 13 different expert and business surveys, and as we all know by now, Malaysia has plummeted to position # 56 and Singapore is sitting smugly at position # 3.
There is also the World Economic Forum’s 2009-2010 Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), where Singapore is in position # 3 (# 5 in 2008-2009) and Malaysia is in position # 24 (# 21 in 2008-2009).

And today, I came across FutureBrand’s 2009 Country Brand Index (CBI), which assesses 102 countries across 29 image attributes and seven measures of brand strength. FutureBrand has rallied around the idea that countries have the potential to become some of the world’s strongest brands, rivaling Nike, Sony and IBM. Hmm, interesting, right?

So, how did Malaysia perform? Malaysia is ranked the ninth best country brand in Asia Pacific, classifying it as a "second-tier nation in the region developing into a strong brand", and again, it was clearly behind fourth ranked Singapore. Also, Malaysia does not make the top ten country brands list in being an ‘Easiest place to do business' and ‘Ideal for business' while neighbor Singapore ranked first and second in the respective categories. Notice that I did not even refer to the world rankings – just Asia-Pacific. For everybody’s info, Singapore did not also make it to the Top 10.

From the above, we can conclude that our country has a long, long way to go before we can consider ourselves to be a top-tier country. Najib, rather than champion 1Malaysia, you should focus on getting our country to climb out of the big, deep and messy hole that we have found ourselves in. We don’t need to look far – just benchmark ourselves against tiny Singapore will do – and we will know what we must do. Sloganeering is all very well, but more than ever, we need you to act, and not just mouth words. Don’t we always hear that famously fashionable refrain, Malaysia Boleh? Let’s do it, Najib!

Friday, November 20, 2009

If I Were a Chinese

This evening, I attended my second MIHRM Toastmasters meeting, where I did my second speech assignment, "Resources for Entertainment" from The Entertaining Speaker manual. The title of my speech was “Keeping It Simple”. My evaluator was LQ Kuah, who later described my speech as “very entertaining, which kept the audience laughing”. Personally, I thought I did only so-so and I know I could have done better! Needless to say, I was adjudged “Best Speaker” for this evening, and I earned a ribbon and a surprise gift. Additionally, I took on the role of the “Ah Counter” – a first time for me. It was an equally important task because I have to also work towards my “Competent Leader” qualification. A great meeting overall.

Yesterday’s The Star carried a Muhyiddin Yassin remark that was graceless as it was disparaging. That remark: “If I were a Chinese, I would also not support the MCA” (p N4) was uncalled for. It should be an affront to all MCA members, but then again, they are so caught up in their own stupid internal conflicts that they didn’t know what hit them. This is what I would call “friendly fire” from a so-called BN ally. Tsk, tsk, Muhyiddin, you just rubbed salt into a gaping wound! Ouch!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cold Beers

Men who drink alcohol every day see a nearly one-third average reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease, according to a long-term study among Spanish men published in Heart, a British Medical Association journal on Thursday, November 19, 2009.

The research unfolded over a decade among more than 41,000 men and women aged between 29 and 69, who were assessed for their health and lifestyle as part of a European probe into cancer.
For those classified as former drinkers, the risk was 10 percent lower; for those drinking little (0.5 grams of alcohol per day), the risk was 35 percent; for moderate drinkers (five-30 grams per day), the risk was 54 percent lower; and for high (30-90 grams per day) and very high drinkers (more than 90 grams per day) it was halved.

By way of comparison, a 285ml glass of heavy beer containing 4.9 percent of alcohol amounts to 11 grams, while a 180ml glass of wine with 12 percent alcohol has 17.06 grams.

Women also benefitted from alcohol intake, but the effects were not statistically significant, possibly due to lower numbers of "coronary events" in that group.

The paper sheds light on the situation in Spain, which is the world’s third largest producer of beer and wine and has the sixth highest per capita consumption of alcohol. But it also has one of the lowest death rates from coronary heart disease in the world.
Please excuse me but I am going out now for a cold beer or two. No, make it plenty of cold beers. The above is true – you can check it out at webpage, accessed today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Forget Not...

My Diploma in Business (DIBS) students are organizing ‘Forget Not Christmas’ in December; the ticket is priced at RM10. And SNHU students have been invited to put up a performance. Well…?

Newspapers this morning have reported that Malaysia’s ranking on the corruption perception index (CPI) has declined – backsliding to 56th position this year from 47th last year, out of 180 countries surveyed. (e.g. The Sun, p 1; The Star, p 12; New Straits Times, p 10; and The Malay Mail, with a pathetic 2-line mention on page 9).

We do not need to read Transparency International’s press release posted November 17 to know that “when essential institutions are weak or non-existent, corruption spirals out of control and the plundering of public resources feeds insecurity and impunity. Corruption also makes normal a seeping loss of trust in the very institutions and nascent governments charged with ensuring survival and stability”.

Turning to Asia, TI noted that the global financial crisis and political transformation in many Asian countries last year “exposed fundamental weaknesses in both the financial and political systems and demonstrated the failures in policy, regulations, oversight, and enforcement mechanisms”. These factors contributed to a drop in the scores of 13 countries, and a reduction in the number of nations that scored above 5 in this year’s index.

When we examine Malaysia’s own performance, we see how pervasive and widespread corruption is – hence it is not surprising to see the decline in Malaysia’s score from 5.1 to 4.5. Who will cleanse this country of this abomination that is spreading like cancer in our much-maligned society? Who has the political will to exorcise the demons of corruption from our midst? Dare we summon our individual and collective courage? Shall we do battle to defeat this nefarious enemy called corruption? Do you still have faith in BN?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Handsome Threesome

Waleed kindly surrendered this photo taken at the recent HICT Convocation and Awards Presentation Ceremony – it shows (from left) Martin Sarfaraz (colleague and friend), Paul LeBlanc (President SNHU) and Victor Ong. A handsome threesome, don't you think?

Did you know that in Malaysia, there are always two sets of rules – one for the ordinary folks (like you and me) and another for the elite. E.g. Motorcyclists must wear safety helmets but our Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is permitted to openly flout the law. Only in 1Malaysia lah!

This photo was taken from The Star, November 13, 2009.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Penang Career & Postgraduate Fair

Last weekend saw me in Penang attending the Penang Career & Postgraduate Fair at PISA. It was great to discover that one of the 4 event partners was Toastmasters International, and they had members drawn from Division S and Division N to promote what else, Toastmasters International. A good initiative. It was indeed a pleasure to have met Eleanor Ooi, Area Governor as well as Immediate Past President of Voices Toastmasters and other fellow members from GREAT2B Toastmasters, Sg. Ara Toastmasters and Penang Advanced Toastmasters.

It has been quite some time since I last went to Penang and I was looking forward to trying the famed hawker fare, but alas, the evening downpours made it almost impossible to do that. What a shame really but at least this Penang sojourn served as a nice 3-day break from Klang.

Oh by the way, in Penang, I was introduced to Dr. Zaleha Aziz from the Center for Postgraduate Studies, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, and she lit a small but steady flame of interest within me regarding doing a Ph.D. If I ever become interested in pursuing a doctorate study at a local university, it has to be either Universiti Malaysia Sabah or Universiti Sains Malaysia. Well, let's see if I will consider doing it in 2010...
This evening, I was at the KL Advanced Toastmasters meeting – regrettably my intention to do my assignment speech was thwarted because of an administrative oversight. Sigh, what a bummer. In any case, there were no assignment speeches and instead, there was a marathon Table Topics session featuring 8 speakers. I was the Table Topics evaluator, save for my turn when I was evaluated by Lucky (who described me as a ‘dramatic speaker’). Balloting was done to find the Best Table Topic Speaker, but we ended with 3 speakers with an equal number of votes – so we had to organize a run off to determine the winner. The three finalists were Chase Lee, Lorna Fisher and ahem, Victor Ong. Lorna eventually got the most votes and won. An atypical meeting altogether but it was still interesting nevertheless.

One advice I took away was this timely reminder that we should not neglect our Competent Leader (CL) tasks. I guess it’s never too late to commit to complete my CL before April 01, 2010.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Today is World Kindness Day

November 13 is World Kindness Day! Join people around the world on this day and commit random acts of kindness! The World Kindness Movement has been growing quickly since 1996 when it was born out of a series of international conferences held in Japan. So, tell me – what are you going to do today? What act of kindness will you do?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Killing Song

Finally, this evening, I started the first of 10 speeches to qualify for the next level, i.e. Advanced Communicator Silver. At the D’Utama Advanced Toastmasters Club, I did a speech titled “The Killing Song” – speech assignment # 1 from The Entertaining Speaker manual. My evaluator was Area B1 Governor, Julian Gan, and he has generously described me as an entertaining speaker. He remarked that I am a stylish presenter, rendering vivid language and self-deprecating humor. In fact, he went on to add that should he has the opportunity to attend any of my classes, he is sure to thoroughly enjoy them. He is after all, a student at UNITAR. Sigh, I don’t think I am that deserving of such compliments because I don’t think my speech was all that great. Anyway, the immediate past District Governor, Joseph Gomez also commended me on my voice and my delivery, and he particularly liked my closing.

On the economic front, Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) executive director Dr. Mohamad Ariff had yesterday, highlighted that the Malaysian economy faces a bumpy road in its recovery from the fourth quarter of 2009. To quote him, “The road ahead is bumpy due to ongoing financial deleveraging, weak consumer and business sentiments and volatile commodity prices”. And interestingly, in support of my lukewarm attitude toward the 2010 Budget, he had also added, “Most of the 2010 Budget measures are below the expectations of MIER. Notably, there are no rigorous tax reforms or concrete measures to cut budget deficit”. This remark was made against the backdrop of the Malaysian 2010 Budget & Tax Planning Conference in Kuala Lumpur (The Sun, November 12, 2009, p 3).

Rafa Benitez continues to be in the limelight – after all, we are talking about Liverpool’s worrisome predicament here – although some would even describe this as deteriorating rather than worrisome – so, everyone (I mean, the many of us who support the Reds) is noticeably concerned. But today’s The Sun carried this headline on its back page, “Under-pressure Rafa upbeat”. And the Liverpool manager added, “People keep discussing our bad run, but previously we won six on the trot and we - some would even describe it as deteriorathave BEATEN (my emphasis!) Manchester United. It is a question of keeping going”. Yes, we must keep going. Keep believing. Keep the faith.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Apple Pies

At this evening’s MIMPJ Toastmasters meeting, I was the General Evaluator. It was, as expected, an outstanding meeting and I am delighted to be there. Certainly, I have enjoyed it tremendously. On a lighter note, I will remember this meeting because they served delectable McDonald's apple pies! Yummy!

You have to applaud Rafa Benitez’s self-belief. He is adamant, even defiant in insisting that “we can still win title” (The Sun, November 11, 2009, p 32). As I have said, Liverpool is sure living dangerously, but we must believe the Reds can still pull the rabbit out of the hat. We must have faith. It’s worth remembering all things are possible for those who believe. Didn’t St Thomas Aquinas once said, “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible”. We know what the Reds are capable of, we know what they can do.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Big Move

The news is finally out! HICT Klang will soon become HICT at Fraser’s when we begin our move to a new home some time in 2010. We can then expect a bright new beginning…

In the evening, I went to the Taman Indrahana Toastmasters meeting where I played the role of evaluator for DTM LeAnn Tang, who is doing her second round of speeches. If I may add, today's speech evaluations were topnotch, every single one of them. I am now regularly attending their club meetings because I am immensely enjoying myself – honest, there is genuine warmth and affection amongst the members, that one feels completely at ease. People here are not pretentious and one can just sit back and revel in the fellowship. Great Club!

Liverpool F.C. loves to live dangerously. The Reds dominated long periods of the game and laid siege to the Birmingham goal but they just couldn’t produce the finishing. Torres wasn’t fielded, that’s why. David Ngog put the Reds ahead when he smashed in a far-post volley (13) but Birmingham's Christian Benitez leveled when he nodded in a well-worked set piece (26). And then Cameron Jerome's 30-yard strike shocked the Reds (45+3) before Gerrard's equalizer (71) – he scored from the spot to make it 2-2 after Ngog had appeared to dive over a Lee Carsley tackle – which even Rafa Benitez did not think was a penalty. Still, a result that could not help the Reds very much since we are 11 points adrift from table-topping Chelsea. Sigh, their wretched run of poor form continues.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Maldivian Criticism

Remember the Maldivian underwater stunt? Search my October 18 posting, if you don’t. Well, this caper will soon be forgotten, if it is not already forgotten – after all, what is one country even if it is drowning? But staying in the public domain is still necessary if only to highlight the plight of the people inhabiting a string of sinking islands.

Anyway, the president of the Maldives has strongly criticized the world's rich countries for doing too little to stem climate change. Mohamed Nasheed said there was so little money offered to vulnerable nations that it was like arriving at an earthquake with a dustpan and brush (as reported in BBC News today). He is certainly graphic when describing the dire predicament faced by the Maldives and other threatened countries (i.e. African countries endangered by desertification, mountain ones whose glaciers are melting, large Asian ones affected by floods and typhoons, and other small islands like itself). This was an outspoken attack on the G8 rich countries by the leader of a country so low that rising sea levels threaten to submerge most or all of it by 2100. The Maldives stands about 2.1 meters (7 feet) above sea level. As if other governments really care about the fate of these countries, beyond making some sympathetic noises. Mohamed Nasheed is so naïve but then, we can’t really blame him – what is he to do?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

PJ Hilton Reunion

I attended a reunion dinner of my UEL students at Paya Serai Coffeehouse, PJ Hilton this evening. Everyone was there, save for Edwin who was working. It was certainly nice to see all of them again. Two of them changed jobs and one is already pursuing her MBA. Other than the great company, I am compelled to add here that the food is mediocre and the service is wretched. And to think this is a Hilton hotel.

Bottom-of-the-table Falkirk was in great form to share six goals in a thrilling tussle with Scottish Premier League leaders Celtic, producing a thrilling 3-3 draw. Falkirk’s Robert Olejnik made a double-save to keep out Aiden McGeady's penalty before Gary Caldwell headed Celtic in front (55). Scott Arfield replied from the penalty spot (61) and Pedro Moutinho volleyed Falkirk into a surprise lead (64). Scott McDonald came off the bench to restore Celtic's lead with a brace (72, 79) but Mark Stewart hit the leveler (83).

In the EPL, Arsenal whipped Wolverhampton 4-1 with another fine attacking display. The Gunners were a touch fortunate with their opener as Ronald Zubar turned a Cesc Fabregas corner into his own goal (28). Again, Eduardo's chip went in off Jody Craddock's head to make it a second own goal (36) before Robin van Persie's exquisite touch set up Fabregas to score a classy third (45+1). Andrey Arshavin struck with a low shot from the edge of the area (66) before Craddock headed in a late consolation on behalf of Wolves (89). For Arsenal, this victory is another sign that they can mount a real challenge for the title this season.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Awesome Video

Arun added the first picture of She-Hulk on the Pussycat Ballz group page in Facebook. And the second is the Marvel version. If you ask me, I prefer the former! I just love it!

Anyway, still on the same subject – For those who still can’t get enough of this spectacular dance group The Pussycat Balls, here is a YouTube clip to let you watch again and again… Only for the avid and diehard fans! Like me! As Edric Ho puts it: “this video is F***ING AWESOME!!!!!!” Well, that’s one way of putting it! Anyway, I cannot agree more!

The Paper Chase

These days, everybody is chasing after some kind of a paper qualification – look at the jobs ads: if you wanna get a good job, you need to obtain a degree first. So that’s why in Malaysia and elsewhere – getting a degree is first on the agenda once you leave school. Or if you didn’t go to college after high school because you have to go to work – then you will endeavor to enroll into a degree program sometime during your working life. Yes, these days, a degree is that important. For those studying at HICT, or at any HELP institutions, they are very fortunate because they are assured of a sound and dare-I-say-it, excellent education. I should know since I lecture at HICT, and I am really good!

But there are also those who want a degree but are not prepared to work for it – the sort of people who think they can buy anything as long as they can afford it! Therefore, this innovative (and of course, very profitable) business venture we derisively call “degree mills” came into being to cater to this segment of the market. A degree mill offers a credential purely in exchange for payment and nothing else. In Malaysia, things are of course never so obvious. Local education providers pretend to organize classes and get students to submit some work before they are presented their scrolls in glittering graduation ceremonies in swanky hotels. I can still recall some of these degree mills: Preston University, Dublin Metropolitan University, St. Clements University, St. Regis University and Wesleyan International University. And there are also education providers who had the audacity to offer degrees from “real” and genuine Universities – e.g. Brookes Business School, Singapore had advertised: “Get a degree from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in just one year, for as little as $12,000.” The only trouble is, the degree is fake!

Anyway, my point about degree mills is that just about anybody can qualify for these degrees! Even non-humans! And so I read with a great deal of comic amusement this posting on yesterday: “Skeptics who believe that a university is actually a diploma mill often prove their point by enrolling their cats in the university's program and seeing whether the cat can get a degree." Two examples: Colby Nolan is a house cat that was awarded an MBA degree (with a 3.5 GPA) in 2004 by Trinity Southern University, a Dallas, Texas-based diploma mill, sparking a fraud lawsuit by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office. Ben Goldacre, a UK-based science journalist, obtained a diploma in nutrition from the American Association of Nutritional Consultants for his dead cat, Henrietta, while investigating allegations about fake qualifications.

So the next time you come across a cat – please treat this feline with proper respect. For all you know, it might be a very learned cat with a college degree!

The Singing Dr. Paul Chan

I was actually supposed to be heading to a MIHRM Toastmasters meeting this evening, where I had planned to make my first project speech for the Advanced Communicator Silver qualification – but alas, I had to forgo this, to attend a HELP University College event. It was a Talk and Dinner function for about 200 graduate students, staff and Corporate friends. The talk ”The Context of Education for the 21st Century: Leading from the Future” was delivered by Dr. Paul Chan. I genuinely found the talk extremely interesting and I am really glad I came because I learned so much – especially when he made references to black swan, swarm intelligence, flash mobs, and so on, and even described blue ocean strategy as “blue ocean (s)tragedy”, which I thought was very clever indeed. I can relate to all of these because of my own personal interest in this subject matter. And just when you thought nothing else can beat this engaging lecture, Dr. Paul Chan outdid himself by belting out a Beatles number “A Hard Day’s Night” – a vocal tour de force, even Paul McCartney would grudgingly agree – during the post-dinner karaoke session. Wow! Indeed one helluva HELP talent!

Again, mixed results for Wednesday’s matches.

Liverpool conceded a 90th-minute goal as they draw 1-1 at Lyon to leave their Champions League hopes hanging in the balance. If only they had held on to their lead for just one more minute… Liverpool is luckless.

Cesc Fabregas scored a brace as Arsenal cruised to a 4-1 victory over AZ Alkmaar to all but secure their qualification from the Champions League group stages. The Spaniard kick-started an impressive home win with a low shot that crept in from 20 yards (25) and Samir Nasri made it two after a typically flowing move (43). Fabregas's second came from Andrey Arshavin's through-ball (52), and Abou Diaby finished off a counter-attack (72) to give the Gunners their fourth goal. The opposing team fired a late consolation (82), but Arsenal rarely looked troubled anyway.

The Gunners have been clearly underestimated, but they are showing themselves to be very capable of winning matches – which explains why they should not be discounted to win trophies! This might just be their season!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

No Dating

The International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) has been declared a “No dating” zone – if we are to believe one news report that appeared last week or is it, this week? And Malaysians are likely to think this is just plain drivel. But the banner that showed up at their Gombak campus is even more hilarious. It read: “IIUM is an Islamic territory. No dating. Allah is watching us.”

Whatever it is, an IIUM undergraduate (unidentified) claimed that the university authorities did not put up the banner. “It was put up by Maaruf Club in conjunction with the Campus Dakwah Project during Ramadhan,” the Daily quoted him as saying (Webpage, accessed November 04, 2009). Well, you know how people are! Just because you tell them not to, does not mean they will be obedient!

And come to think of it, God will become so busy and preoccupied with this all-important trivial pursuit – He will have no time to focus on the other more important things (e.g. abject poverty, environmental degradation, the killing of innocents on the battlefield and elsewhere). Dating must have scored very high on His list of transgressions!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Food for Thought

UMNO statesman Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has been vocal in expressing his views on the state of affairs in Malaysia. When he said today that “Malaysia has lost its way” – it is time for all politicians of all stripes to sit up, pay attention and reflect on what we must all do, to give back our country, a real sense of purpose (Webpage, posted November 02, 2009).

And his other remarks are just as meaningful: “What we need now is the rise of an empowered public. Democracy in Malaysia is fragile so long as public opinion remains weak. Our hope for a more democratic future depends on our ability to build a strong public opinion. It’s good news when a vigorous body of public opinion, aided by information and communication technologies, is in making on the Internet. I myself rely on it through my blog. If not for my blog, what I say would scarcely get out in the mainstream media” (Webpage, posted October 16, 2009).

I don’t need to state my comments here because I wholeheartedly share Tengku’s sentiments.
I attended the KL Advanced Toastmasters Club meeting this evening and I took part in the Table Topics session as well as played the role of Evaluator for Lorna Fisher who's doing "The Entertaining Speaker" manual – in fact, I am about to embark on this same manual and I will follow her lead! Let me repeat here that Toastmastering is fun!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Graduation Ceremonies

Yesterday was HICT’s 2009 Convocation & Awards Presentation Ceremony, to use its long title. This graduation ceremony held at the Holiday Villa in Subang Jaya saw my Diploma in Business and SNHU students walk the stage, to receive their hard-earned and well-deserved scrolls. And of course, Dr. Paul LeBlanc, SNHU President graced the occasion, and made it even more memorable. It was a special occasion for me too because this is the first cohort of graduating students who directly came under my tutelage – so I know every one of them personally. Andrew Chan made his valedictorian speech – but it was what I would call, a safe speech; it lacked punch, zing, oomph, or whatever you may want to call it. Dr. Paul LeBlanc’s commencement speech was something else – it was a speech straight from the heart. In fact, as he spoke of his own personal experience through the journey of Life, I am reminded of a quote by Winston Churchill: “Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts”.

Also, some of my ‘other’ students were also graduating at PWTC – earning their Bachelor degrees from the University of East London on the same day. Congratulations to Eileen, Mas, Kelvin, Edwin, Serena, Cherie, Karen, Esther and the others! You worked hard and you deserve the accolades!

Some mixed news from the football scene yesterday.

Celtic answered criticism of their home form with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premier League match. Aiden McGeady's strike from a tight angle started the goals (13). The second came from Georgios Samaras as he bulleted a header from Andreas Hinkel's cross (32). And finally, substitute Niall McGinn contributed the third (78) – his first goal for Celtic.

Again, Liverpool (groan!) lost! It was a 1-1 draw when Benitez pulled Torres out of the game, and thereafter, Liverpool crumbled. The end-result was 1-3 in Fulham’s favor. I didn’t think that was a wise decision and we paid dearly for it. "It is always hard to take defeat, especially when we were in such control," said Benitez. "We now have to keep calm and think about the next game, but we have many injuries." Yea, yea but we lost.

Arsenal emphatically swept aside claims from Tottenham that they were ready to challenge the supremacy of their north London rivals with a convincing 3-0 victory at the Emirates. Tottenham's cause was undone by two dreadful mistakes by Ledley King, so often the mainstay of the Tottenham defense, that let Arsenal take a two-goal advantage. First King was caught flat-footed as he let Van Persie nip ahead of him at the near post for the opening goal (42). Then he missed both the ball and Fabregas with an ungainly attempt at a tackle seconds after the restart that allowed the Arsenal captain to poke the ball between his legs before scoring (43). "That was scandalous really," Redknapp had said. To complete a miserable hat-trick for King, he was also guilty of failing to deal with another low cross that allowed Van Persie to score his second goal (60).

Pussycat Balls

This 7-member dance troupe made the audience go wild on Friday evening – never had such scenes been witnessed in Klang, a town known for its somber seriousness and staid composure. After their special one-time appearance, Klang will not be known just for bak kut teh, but for the Pussycat Balls. October 30 was an evening of raunchy bedlam, of wicked pandemonium. I swear – it’s as if the town was rocked by a 7-magnitude earthquake! No one can ever be the same again after this – and thankfully, there were no casualties. No one has reported that their pulses stopped and their hearts came to a grinding halt – well, at least, not permanently. All of us in the HICT auditorium will remember this evening for the rest of our lives because the racy images of these 7 ‘gals’ will forever be etched in our memories! That’s how super-duper the dancers were and how earth-shattering their dance performance was!

I have been told there were not a few from among the gallery who were turned on. You have to see them in person in order to experience the same turn-on that the showgoers encountered. How do we describe these red-hot ‘dolls’? Perhaps these nine adjectives can try to nail it down: alluring, bewitching, flirtatious, inviting, naughty, provocative, titillating, ravishing, sexy.

An awesome performance on the wild side of Jalan Meru, Klang!