Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A full week of Aidilfitri traveling

This post is just an expansion of the one I put up previously. I cannot recall having traveled this much in the first week of Hari Raya Aidilfitri. My eldest son was home for his 3-week term break which coincided nicely with the hari raya holidays. Since his flight back was on Friday last week, our trip to KL and beyond was actually more of a necessity than by design. No doubt, the opportunity was taken to visit relatives along the way.

By rotation, this year's first day of Aidilfitri should have been spent at my wife's kampung in Mersing because last year we were in Singapore. We were however in Singapore again this year because the 1st of Syawal fell on a Sunday, meaning the next day would still be a public holiday. This meant that we could take advantage of another day of free parking (parking on non-free days in Singapore can burn a hole in your pocket) plus a full day to visit relatives.

Oldstock's family in Bukit Batok, Singapore

The third and fourth days were spent at my wife's kampung in Mersing, where I get to see my ailing father-in-law for a short while. My wife's side of the family is large. She has twelve brothers and sisters, and understandably, not all can make it back to the kampung. We got to meet eight of them this time, not a bad count.

On the way back from Mersing to Johor Bahru, we stopped at a sister-in-law's house in Kota Tinggi. On Thursday afternoon, we drove out of JB to head out to Kuala Lumpur but we made two stops along the way. The first was to meet a brother-in-law at Tangkak in Muar. The next stop was at Semenyih in Selangor where I visited my uncle (my mom's youngest brother).

The next morning, we sent Along to the airport at KLIA for his flight back to Jordan. At KLIA, I met an old friend who was my senior while studying at Sheffield in the UK. He was also sending his son off back to Jordan. It turns out that my friend's son is studying at the same university as Along and is one year his senior. How's that for coincidence.

At KLIA sending the eldest son back to school

After seeing Along off, we then sent Angah back to his hostel at UiTM Shah Alam. Although he was due to check back in by Sunday, Angah wanted to return early so that he can have some quiet time to catch up on his studies. He has exams to face the following week.

From Shah Alam, we drove on the Guthrie Expressway to head north to Tanjung Malim where another brother-in-law is holding an open house reception. Before actually heading to the reception, we stopped by his kebun on the upstream stretch of Sungai Bernam. My youngest son couldn't resist having a quick dip in clear running water of the river. As Adik is having fun splashing in the river, I strolled around the area to experiment taking macro photoshots of nature. Oh how I wish to have a dSLR in my hands right now.

A dip in the cool waters of Sungai Bernam

A trip to Tanjung Malim is not considered complete if we do not make a stop to eat something at the Garden Seafood Restaurant, notwithstanding the fact that we are going for an open-house reception later. Our dish of choice is the Sweet and Spicy Prawns that is eaten together with the home-made dumpling bread.

Restoran Garden Seafood (Halal) at Tanjung Malim

Sweet and spicy prawns with dumpling

After the light dinner at Garden Restaurant, we made our way to my brother-in-law's kampung house on his wife's side of the family. There we met the latest addition to our family, our 4-month old grandnephew named Kamarull Suhail. The pic below is Suhail in the arms of his mother.

The following day, we made visits to another three houses in the Klang Valley before heading back to Johor Bahru. A full and packed programme of visiting relatives and friends over seven days. Exhausting but fulfilling too. Unlikely to be repeated in the coming years.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Then and now...

It has been quite a hectic week of Aidilfitri celebrations for us this year. The past seven days were filled with near non-stop traveling... and also eating. The cycle of movement can be summarised in a single line as follows : JB -> Singapore -> JB -> Mersing -> Kota Tinggi -> JB -> Tangkak -> Semenyih -> KL -> KLIA -> Shah Alam -> Tanjung Malim -> KL -> JB.

We just returned home late last night, so today shall be strictly spent for rest and recuperation. I'll post the story and photos of our Hari Raya a bit later (if it is not too stale by then). Today's entry is just a brief look at how my three aces have grown. The two pics shown below are of my three sons taken at Aidilfitri at the same location (in front of my parents' home) but after a span of 12 years.

Photo 1 : Three Aces, Aidilfitri 1997

The first pic is a blurry scan of a photograph taken in 1997. Along (left) was 8 years-old, Angah (right) was 6, and Adik (middle) was 2.

Photo 2 : Three Aces, Aidilfitri 2009

The second pic was taken last week. The boys are standing in the same order as they did before. Angah is now taller than his elder brother.

Along has flown back to Jordan on Friday and we sent Angah back to his UiTM hostel the same afternoon. How time flies...

Friday, 18 September 2009

Salam Aidilfitri 1430 Hijrah

Ayam kampung dalam raga,
Jadi korban hidangan raya,
Buat semua sahabat blogger,
Mohon ampun maaf dari saya.

Salam Aidilfitri dari Oldstock dan famili

To all friends and readers who have dropped by with the warm wishes, I wish the same to all of you too. Enjoy the holidays, watch what you eat and have fun.

It may be a while before I get back online, so I thought this would be an appropriate time to present the third part of my (still-in-progress) short story.

To read the opening part, click here -> Part1
To read the second part, click here -> Part 2


A Bingo Straight To The Heart (Part 3)

Although I had often seen Joe together with Aida around campus, that was the first time I was introduced to him. Joe looks like most other overseas Malaysian male students; dressed in faded jeans, army surplus jacket and sporting long hair that reached the shoulders. In fact, his hair is longer than Aida’s. Except for the jeans, Aida’s look is a direct contrast to her friend. She is a petite girl who likes to keep her hair neat and short, almost tomboyish. Her cheerful personality is the opposite to his soft-spoken demeanour but they seem to get along pretty well. We see them together so often that we consider Joe to be Aida’s boyfriend. I like Aida a lot, so a friend of hers is also a friend of mine.

Our weekly Scrabble session is quite well known amongst the female Malaysian students in Sheffield. Usually there would be six or seven of us who want to play. Since a maximum of four can play in any one round, we would draw lots for the first round with the loser of that first round giving way to a new player. The loser will also end up making tea or preparing refreshments for the rest of us, thus the added incentive of trying not to finish last. Anita and I would normally finish tops with Lin or Nooraini most often coming in third. Aida and the other juniors are the regular tea makers. Although she speaks fluent English, Aida seems to have a problem with vocabulary. But that did not stop her from continuing to play and enjoy the game, such was her positive spirit. Our sessions would often last till late at night and sometimes even to the wee hours of morning. About the only time that we do not play is when most of us have something else to do like catching a movie or the like, and about four weeks before term exams.

That day, Noor offers to sit out the first round while Joe declined to play. He says that he’ll be happy just watching.

Lin started the round with a five-letter word (PLATE) for a reasonable opening score of 20 points. Next was Aida and then Anita. I had drawn a lousy rack, five vowels and two consonants, and could only start with meagre score of 9. Lin, the joker in our group, poked fun at me. Feeling slightly embarrassed with a male guest present, I stole a glance at Joe, who is sitting just behind his classmate.

For her next move, Aida was excited as she has spotted a possible `hook’ to the first word `PLATE’. She was in the process of putting down her tiles to make `MARCH’, with the `R’ hooking onto the end of `PLATE’, hence making two words in a single move. Just before she finish arranging her tiles, Joe suddenly quipped, “Hang on! You can make a better word than that.” He then looked around at us and asked, “I hope you guys don’t mind me helping Aida a bit.”

“It’s okay with me,” I said. Having seen her finish last so often, I’m not against Aida getting some help once in a while. Anita and Lin did not seem to mind either.

Joe softly discussed his option with his girlfriend, whose face suddenly lit up and cried, “Yes!”. She then rearranged the tiles she had put down plus the remainder on her rack to come up with the word `CHARMED’. She had just played what we call a Bingo in the game of Scrabble, which is a play of seven letters or more in a single move for a bonus of 50 points. The `D’ is now hooked to the first word that Lin made, to come up with `PLATED’, hence earning her more points. She ended up scoring a whopping 79 points on that single move alone.

It was the first time Aida has played a bingo, and her overwhelming delight was obvious for all to see. She was punching clenched fists in the air with glee and crying out, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”. It took a while for her to calm down. It felt good for me too, to see she has achieved something, even though with a little help. She thanked Joe profusely and with both hands, suddenly pinched Joe on both his cheeks as if he was a baby. “I could marry you for this!” she said. Joe’s reaction to all this was a simple kindly smile. I couldn’t help but smile a little myself.

As it turned out, luck was not with me in that opening round. I continued to draw terrible combinations of letters and, for the first time, finished the game in last position. For the first time too, Aida finished tops. The once unthinkable situation of me making tea for the group became a reality.

... to be continued.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

A noisy celebration

If you live in a Malay kampung like I do, you would have definitely felt (or rather, heard) the celebratory atmosphere in welcoming the Hari Raya. I am talking about children (and sometimes adults too) who light up fireworks and firecrackers after the breaking of fast.

Every night you can hear the whizzes, pops, bangs and booms of various types of firecrackers. Some of these things give such loud explosive noises that even set off car alarms. It surprises me sometimes that Malays can be playing more fireworks than Chinese. Mengalahkan orang Tionghua sambut tahun baru.

Call me a spoilsport, but I don't really approve this main mercun activity. I don't mind the sparklers but the noisy ones are a pain in the butt. At least, there is an underlying cultural reason when our Chinese friends light up firecrackers. For us Malays, what reason is there... except just for pure fun? Every year during Ramadan, I would wait for news of the first fireworks casualty. More often than not, it would be a young boy from a kampung on the east coast. Stories of missing fingers and burnt hands, mostly.

The selling of firecrackers is supposed to be illegal but I see a few vendors openly trade their stuff at the Ramadan bazaars. The array is quite mind-boggling and come in fancy names and sizes. They sell Thunder Cap rockets, Dragon Eggs, Super Pop, Mini grenades, Starburst, Flying spinners and whatever else have you.

I have never bought any for my children but that did not stop my youngest son from buying them on his own. Last year, he set aside some of his pocket money to secretly buy some firecrackers from his friends. He brought the firecrackers along when we balik kampung at my in-laws home in Mersing. Since there would be other cousins who would be playing the firecrackers, it would be difficult for me to object.

One afternoon, on the third day of hari raya I think, he came into the house to ask my sister-in-law for some minyak gamat (ointment) to apply on a cut on his palm. He told his mother that he got the cut from a fall while playing at the rear compund of the house. I wasn't shown the injury directly but looking at it from distance, I suspected my son was not telling the truth. But I did not press the matter because there were many other relatives around.

The next day, his wound did not get any better and overall he looked a bit feverish. My wife started to worry and wanted me to bring my son to the hospital. I asked my son what really happened. At first he stuck to his story of getting the cut from a fall but then, one of the younger cousins spilled the beans by telling that my son got hurt when a firecracker exploded in his hand before he could throw it away.

I grilled my son on this and he broke down in tears, admitting his fault. I was angry with him, not because he got injured but because he lied. As punishment, I confiscated the rest of his fireworks stock and withheld his raya angpow.

My wife and I then took him to the hospital for treatment. The Hospital Assistant who did the dressing, asked my son how big the firecracker that exploded was. My son replied that it was the size of a small marble.

In jest, the HA responded, `Alaa... kecik aje tu. Lain kali main yang besar terus. Biar power habis!'

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Meme : Save Yvonne's Sight

If there is a wonder of technology that can be put to good use, it is the spread of information on good charitable causes. The link of blogosphere friends has led me to the story of one spirited young lady named Yvonne Foong, who is living and fighting with neurofibromatosis. She is carrying out her own fund-raising effort to help pay for the cost of her treatment.

I first spotted this meme on Kak Teh's blog. With the speed of light, I now see other bloggers on my blogroll (mamasita, Pat and Dr Sam) participating too. It was Andrea who tagged me on this one.

Yvonne Foong, 22, has neurofibromatosis type II, which has severely affected her sight and hearing due to tumours in the brain and spine. She is scheduled for an operation between 1 and 4 December 2009. The cost of surgery is USD44,000 or RM154,770, and the cost of staying in hospital for two weeks is USD915 or RM3,219.

She has raised about RM54k (latest figure on her website as of today) of this and is hoping to raise the rest by republishing her book I'm Not Sick; I'm Just a Bit Unwell in English and Chinese. The books are now available in Malaysian bookshops and from her web store. She is also selling T-shirts at bazaars and via her web store. You can read about her surgery and donate to her fund here.

You can also help by sending on this meme.

If you do, please follow these meme rules:

1. Create a blog entry titled "Meme: Save Yvonne's Sight"

2. List three things you love to see. Add in the picture of Yvonne's book cover. The URL is

3. End with the line, "Yvonne Foong is in danger of losing her eyesight thanks to neurofibromatosis (NF). Please find out how you can help her by visiting her blog at

4. Tag 5 blog friends. Be sure to copy the rules, OK?

5. If you have a Facebook account, please check out Ellen's new invention, a "feme" pronounced FEEM, a meme designed for Facebook here. And if you want to blog about NF, that would be great too!

Three things I love to see :

1. A big plate of juicy lambchops...

2. A tall cool glass of air bandung soda...

3. Two, no make that three, slices of delicious blueberry cheesecake...

Oops! I can't be serious about the three things I've listed above... it must be the fasting that's influencing my choice.

I am not tagging anybody, so if any of my readers would like to participate, please feel free to copy the meme and spread the good word.

Yvonne Foong is in danger of losing her eyesight thanks to neurofibromatosis (NF). Please find out how you can help her by visiting her website that I've linked above.

Life is short but wonderful. Do something good. I have already placed an order for a copy of her book.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

This year's zakat story

Headnote : For last year's zakat story, click -> here.

The state of Johor has, for the first time, implemented a two-tier rate for zakat fitrah this year. For those of us who consume the normal grade of rice, the fitrah is fixed at RM5.00. For others who eat the higher grades, the rate is RM7.50 per person. Last year, the zakat fitrah in Johor was RM6.50.

In my posting last year, I reproduced a table from the PM's Department, showing the different fitrah rates for all the states in Malaysia. The same website does not have a new table for this year, so I had to google and read various sources to come up with a table of my own.

It is interesting to note that some states have increased their rates while some have made a reduction. While Johor has decided on a two tier rate for this year compared to the single rate of last year, Perlis has gone the other way. Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan, which had relatively low rates last year, have now made upward revisions to be more in line with the national average.

As a comparison, Singapore's fitrah rates are S$4.50 / S$6.50 per person, the same as the previous year. In that country, you can pay your fitrah by phone service if you so choose. You simply express your intention (niat) and then dial a 1900- number.

I am sure the learned people at Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) has studied this process in detail before deciding that it is an acceptable practice. While I admit that technology is meant for us to be more efficient, paying zakat by way of a telepoll service is stretching it a bit too far. It removes the interaction between the contributor and the amil or collector, to the extent of making it so impersonal. I understand that Kedah has launched a similar method using SMS.

On the other hand, I applaud MUIS for publishing in Singapore's Malay daily paper, a detailed breakdown of the amount of zakat (fitrah and harta) collected for the year and how this collection was distributed. Their total distribution for last year is about S$18.5 million.

Majlis Agama Islam Johor provides similar information about zakat collection and distribution in their website. Last year, MAIJ collected RM100.7 million.

I am trying to compile some data about zakat in the other states but only a few publish the statistics in their website. In fact, some do not have websites at all. For those who have, the display of zakat information shows a fair degree of professionalism and transparency. MAIDAM Terengganu's website for example, has zakat collection data broken down to district level.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Dua cerita berbuka puasa

Saya sebenarnya tidak ada apa sangat hendak diceritakan dalam blog ini. Cuma bila sudah beberapa hari tidak membuat entri baru, terasa ketinggalan pula. Jadi, mahu tak mahu, saya ceritakanlah juga tentang pengalaman berbuka puasa kami sekeluarga beberapa hari yang lepas... walaupun saya tahu cerita pasal berbuka ni dah terlalu biasa dan tidak menarik lagi untuk dibaca.

Namun begitu, untuk mengujudkan sedikit perbezaan dari norma penulisan saya sebelum ini, catatan blog kali ini ditulis dalam Bahasa Melayu. Saya pinjam ide dari kawan baik Versedanggerik.

Shah Alam : Khamis 3hb Sep 2009

Saya mengambil cuti pada hari tersebut kerana hendak ke KLIA bagi menjemput anak sulung kami yang pulang bercuti selama tiga minggu. Sudah dua tahun Along belajar di Timur Tengah. Tahun lepas dia balik juga, cuma terpaksa balik ke sana sebelum Hari Raya. Tahun ini dapatlah dia beraya bersama kami.

Terlanjur kami berada di Kuala Lumpur, kami singgah di Shah Alam untuk mengajak anak kedua kami yang belajar di UiTM untuk berbuka puasa bersama. Buat pertama kali tahun ini, kehadiran ahli berbuka puasa kami sekeluarga cukup sepenuhnya. Kesempatan juga diambil untuk mengajak seorang anak saudara bernama Farhana yang baru masuk Management & Science University di Shah Alam untuk turut serta.

Sebagai menjamu Angah yang selama in berbuka di kafeteria asramanya, saya cuba mencari kedai makan yang menyelerakan. Saya sebenarnya tidak berapa tahu sangat tentang kedai-kedai makan yang sedap di Shah Alam tetapi saya pernah mendengar bahawa ada banyak restoran di kawasan Seksyen 13. Pada mulanya, saya hendak cuba makan di Fiescanto Cafe (pemilik cafe ini pernah menghantar saya emel tentang masakan kacang pol) tetapi kedainya tutup pula. Kami meninjau beberapa restoran lain dan akhirnya membuat keputusan untuk berbuka di sebuah restoran makanan laut bernama Shuhaida Seafood Restaurant.

Restoran ini agak besar juga dan mempunyai hiasan dalaman yang kemas dan selesa. Juadah berbuka kami terdiri dari set menu tujuh jenis hidangan yang dimasak ala `Chinese-style'. Semua lauknya siap dihidang beberapa minit sebelum masuk waktu berbuka. Dalam keadaan perut yang lapar, sudah tentunya apa yang dihidangkan nampak enak belaka. Namun begitu, setelah merasa semua masakan tersebut, yang boleh saya puji hanya masakan ikan sahaja. Rasa lauk yang lain agak biasa... orang putih kata `average only'.

Along dan Adik

Farhana dan Angah

Setelah berbuka, saya menghantar Angah dan Farhana balik ke kampus masing-masing. Kami kemudian bertolak balik ke Johor Bahru malam itu juga.

Singapura : Sabtu dan Ahad 5hb - 6hb Sep 2009

Pada hujung minggu yang lalu, kami sekeluarga telah ke rumah orangtua saya di Singapura. Sebenarnya, adik bongsu saya menjemput kami berbuka di rumahnya pada petang Sabtu. Lagipun, saja nak bawa Along berjumpa dengan Atok dan Nenek dia.

Adik saya memasak mee bandung untuk juadah buka. Sedap juga rasanya sehingga terlupa saya untuk mengambil foto.

Keesokan harinya, sebagaimana biasa, kami mengambil peluang untuk ke Mustafa Centre untuk menghabiskan stok simpanan dolar Singapura kami. Adalah berbelanja sedikit... tak habis pun duit Singapore kami itu. Dan juga sebagaimana biasa, selepas membeli belah di Mustafa Centre, kami menuju pula ke Beach Road untuk membeli sup tulang merah yang dibungkus untuk di bawa balik. Sepuluh sing dolar untuk sepuluh ketul... lebih murah dari yang dijual di JB.

Sup tulang merah Beach Road

Petang itu, emak saya memasak mee siam kuah, antara masakan kegemaran saya (sebenarnya, tiada masakan emak kita yang kita tidak gemar, kan?). Dicampur dengan bubur lambuk masjid dan sup tulang merah tadi, maka penuhlah meja dapur emak saya dengan juadah berbuka puasa.

Oleh kerana masalah kolesterol, saya cuma ambil dua ketul tulang kambing. Anak bongsu saya tukang bereskan yang lain.

Sekian, cerita saya yang tidak seberapa ini. Saya rasa lepas ni saya tak tulis tentang buka puasa dah. Kita tunggu cerita hari raya pula...

Thursday, 3 September 2009

No hints, just say it!

I'm taking a break from preparing a powerpoint presentation for tomorrow's meeting. Here's an interlude that I remember getting in an email some time back but rediscovered just now.

The Men’s Rules

We always hear "the rules" from the female side. Now here are the rules from the male side. These are our rules! Please note ... these are all numbered '1' ON PURPOSE!

1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

1. Shopping is NOT a sport. And no, we are never going to think of it that way.

1. Crying is blackmail.

1. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!

1. Yes, and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1. A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 days.

1. If you won't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't expect us to act like soap opera guys.

1. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways, and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

1. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

1. Christopher Columbus did not need directions and neither do we.

1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

1. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine. Really.

1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as football, the shotgun formation, or monster trucks.

1. You have enough clothes.

1. You have too many shoes.

1. I am in shape. Round is a shape.

Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight, but did you know men really don't mind that, it's like camping.