Thursday, 31 December 2009

Terengganu trip... in pictures

I have a special affinity for the east-coast of Peninsular Malaysia. I spent my upper secondary school years at a boarding school in Kuantan. During my working years very much later, I was based in Dungun, Terengganu for two years, to handle a construction project.

Whenever possible, I would try to spend my holiday time there. This time around, the trip has a double purpose because we accompanied a rombongan pertunangan of our nephew who got engaged to a sweet lass from Kuantan.

The engagement ceremony was on the day after Christmas. We then took off to Kuala Terengganu the following day. It was quite a satisfying holiday. KT was surprisingly basked in sunshine the whole time we were there. I would like to describe more about our trip but time is a bit short (office stuff has caught up with me). I'll just let pictures do the talking...

Muzium Negeri Terengganu

Masjid Kristal as viewed from the other side of the river

The newly-built Bazar Warisan, less popular than the old Kedai Payang across the road

The latest batik designs on sale

Tasty serunding daging bought from a stall in Pasar Payang

Resort on Pulau Duyong, where the rich Monsoon Cuppers stay

Pok Long's stall at Kg. Ketapang is equipped with the latest in Information & Communication Technology

Enjoying tea-time with the tasty udang, sotong and ikan celup tepung

The latest tourist attraction in KT, a must-visit site for engineers

Pantai Teluk Lipat in Dungun

The filling in the satar and otak-otak at Che Wan's stall in Kuala Kemaman has become `ciput'. The ones sold at Tg. Lumpur in Kuantan are better.

Pantai Teluk Mak Nik in Kemaman... otherwise glamourously translated as Monica Bay

And this signboard confirms it...

Happy New Year to all friends and readers. May 2010 be filled with joy and prosperity. See you all next year.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Dinner in Kuantan

Just a brief update on our east coast trip. We are in Kuantan since Friday and plan to drive up to Kuala Trengganu later this afternoon.

It has been seafood dinners for the past two evenings. The first was at Restoran Timur that I got to know of through a Facebook contact. Last night we had dinner at the popular New Horizon Garden Restaurant that I first read in mamasita's blog.

The following are some pics. Full story after we get back...

Oldstock and his 2nd son at Restoran Timur

We had steamed fish, squids in dried chilli and butter prawns

Cousins, at the entrance of New Horizon Garden

Thai-style deep-fried fish as part of a 6 dish package

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Selamat Hari Natal

I once asked my lecturer at Aston College in Wrexham, how he celebrates his Christmas. Nothing much, he said. Just a nice Christmas dinner with family and some friends then maybe sit around the fireplace and enjoy booze and small talk. Christmas nowadays is too hyped-up, too commercialised. People talk more of Santa Claus than of Jesus Christ...

That's almost 30 years ago. I guess if he says the same thing today, he'd probably still be right. Well... whatever it is, I'm going to enjoy my break and do a bit of east-coast traveling. Merry Christmas to all friends and readers who celebrate this occasion. Stay cool, keep warm and take care.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Coincidence and Probability

When I posted about Emila's 2010 Illustrated Calendar a few weeks ago, blogger Wan Lili of Suddenly, Heta! commented that she shares the same birthday as me. I was pleasantly surprised and noted that the chances of that to happen is quite low because this blog of mine doesn't really have that big a following.

Lili's comment reminded me of a programme I saw on The Discovery Channel some months back, about the probability of finding two persons within a group of people who share the same birthday. This problem is also known as the Birthday Paradox and there are quite a number of articles about it available on the internet. The different articles describe the problem in different ways but perhaps the simplest way that I can put it is as follows :

What is the minimum number of people needed within a group so that the odds of finding any two who have the same birthday becomes 50%?

Even for those of us who are mathematically inclined, the initial assumption we arrive at is that it must be a large number. There are 365 days in a year (ignoring leap years for simplicity)... and for 100% probability (i.e. a sure thing), we need 365+1=366 persons. Therefore, for an even chance of finding two people with the same birthday, the number is 50% of 366 or 183 persons.

This answer is wrong. Probability theory shows that we only need to gather 23 persons for the odds to become even (i.e. 50:50 chance). Now how can this be? I don't want to bore you with the mathematical analysis of this problem but you can read the links I've included below for detailed explanations.

This phenomenon is not actually a paradox in the logical sense of the word but it seems so to most people because the mathematical truth contradicts natural intuition. The human brain thinks of progression and extrapolation generally in linear terms and gets confused when some things expand on an exponential basis.

In the second reference article below, Robert Matthews and Fiona Stones carried out a study to test this theory by looking at football matches. In a football match, you can find 23 people i.e. 11 players from each team and the referee. If there are 10 such matches, then probability theory says that we should be able to find birthday pairs in 5 of them (50:50 chance). Matthews and Stones did their analysis on 10 Premier League fixtures played in 19 April 1997. It involved them checking the birthdays of 220 players and 10 referees. Sure enough, they found that there are coincident birthdays in 6 of the matches. In fact, they found two pairs in 2 of the fixtures.

To extend slightly on this subject, the theory also says that we need only 57 people for the probability of any two people with coincident birthdays to become 99%. In other words, if there is a gathering of around 60 persons, I'm willing to bet that I can find at least one pair that share the same birthday.

Graph from Wikipedia, showing the approximate probability of at least two people sharing the same birthday amongst a certain number of people

I did a bit of my own analysis on this matter using the birthdays of my Facebook friends. I compared their birthdays against the sequence of when we became friends. The result is pretty close to the theory. The 24th person who became my FB friend shares the same birthday with the 9th person. I did not have to wait long for the second pair. The 28th FB friend has the same birthday as the 22nd friend.

I was about to do the same analysis on the extended family on my wife's side (parents, siblings, in-laws, nephews, nieces etc.) but then realised that the same-birthday occurrence is found even earlier. My father-in-law (the no. 1 guy) has the same birthday as his youngest son (the 15th family member).

To use the conclusion of the Matthews & Stones research, coincidences really are “out there”, as probability theory predicts, if we take the trouble to look.

References :

1. Birthday Problem - Wikipedia
2. Coincidences : the truth is out there

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Last weekend

This post is a bit outdated. I've been meaning to upload the pics much earlier but I was under the weather for the past few days. Just posting something so that this blog is not neglected for too long.

We were in Singapore last Sunday to attend the wedding reception of the niece of an old friend and classmate. I have not met this friend for more than twenty years and it was nice to be meeting him again and catching up on old stories.

In Malay wedding ceremonies, the procession of the bride and groom is normally accompanied by a kompang group. In this instance however, the family opted for a kuda kepang troupe. First time that I've seen this and it does make an interesting difference.

Later that evening, I decided to take a drive down Orchard Road just to have a look at the Christmas lights. It has been quite some time since I was last in the area and the changes are quite surprising. The beautiful lights gave photographers ample chance to practice their night photography skills. Makes me wish to get my hands on a DSLR soon...

To all muslim friends and readers, selamat menyambut tahun hijrah yang baru.

Thursday, 10 December 2009


She was sitting across him in the cosy restaurant of a 5-star hotel. Her hands were twisting the teacup on its saucer, a clear sign of edginess.

`You’ve not finished your dessert,’ he says, looking at the half-eaten apple pie on the small plate on the table.

`I am not actually hungry,’ she responds. He just nods, sips his coffee and looks at her in silence. It is obvious that she wants to say something but probably finding it hard to know where to begin. The restaurant is practically quite now, with most of the lunch crowd already gone.

She takes a deep breath and then asks, `Why are you leaving?’

`It is time to do so,’ he answers with a subtle shrug of the shoulders.

`There must be more reasons than that?’

`Yes, there are I guess… but it won’t make a difference for you to know.’

`Uh-huh… who am I to be asking you these things, right?’, she rhetorically asks in a resigned tone.

He does not give an answer... because he knows there isn’t a correct one.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Four Fridays on a trot

If you make your living in the state of Selangor, you would be enjoying public holidays on the next 4 consecutive Fridays :

1. 11 December 2009 (Friday) - Sultan of Selangor's Birthday
2. 18 December 2009 (Friday) - Awal Muharram
3. 25 December 2009 (Friday) - Christmas Day
4. 01 January 2010 (Friday) - New Year's Day

That's four long weekends on a trot. You could use the time to go for a mini-break, to catch up on some reading, send your young son for his berkhatan ritual, attend wedding invitations or perhaps organize one of your own...

I bet the TGIF restaurant chain is really looking forward to this.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

A good look at books

One of the things I loved about living in KL a few years back is the ability to browse for hours at the Kinokuniya bookstore in KLCC. While I don't actually buy that many new books, spending time flipping through pages of published text and photos is something that I quite like to do. For the buying part of it, I would normally go to the discount bookstore at Ampang Point. Additionally, warehouse book sales are events that I try not to miss.

In Johor Bahru, the only bookstore with a sizeable spread of books is Harris at Jusco Tebrau City. Harris is part of the Popular Book Store group.

This week, Popular Book Store organised a book fair at Danga City Mall and today is the last day. We made our way to the fair this afternoon and picked up a few books that were sold at significant discounts. My wife and I selected 3 books each while my son picked up 2 . I actually wanted to get a few more but I doubt I have the time to read all of them soon. There are still some books that I bought at a Times warehouse sale in PJ three years ago that remain in packing boxes.

All my choices are fiction. Two recent and one old. I had also wanted to get a Charles Dickens classic to re-read but while other titles from Dickens were available, The Tale Of Two Cities was not.

Of the recent books, one is called The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid. I got to know of this book through blogger Dr Wati who posted about it last month. At only RM19.90 less 20% discount, it is a steal.

The books that I've bought today would probably cover my reading appetite for the next two months. After that, I'll be on the look-out for other book sales or maybe even find an excuse to make a trip to Ampang Point.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Spam comments

In the early days of starting this blog, I enabled the `word verification' (captcha) control for submission of comments. I later decided to do away with this step to make it easier for my readers to drop me a line while still maintaining some control by way of moderation.

The absence of this control meant that spam comments can access my blog. Initially, these meaningless comments from god knows where are sporadic. It wasn't much of a hassle to delete them manually. Of late however, the frequency of such comments have become more regular and it is becoming tedious for me to reject them each time I log on. An example of the crap that I get is copied below... this one apparently from Japan :

困っています。 said...

I am now enabling the captcha feature again (at least in the short term) to see if such spam can be prevented. Sorry to inconvenience my readers on this. Let's see if these jerks can leave my blog alone so that we can return to the norm.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Slaughter and Sacrifice

Surah No. 108 in The Holy Qur'an
Al Kauthar (Abundance)

1. To thee have We granted the Fount (Of Abundance).
2. Therefore to thy Lord turn in Prayer and Sacrifice.
3. For he who hateth thee He will be cut off (from Future Hope).

Translation by Yusuf Ali.

The Aidiladha celebrations this year was merrier than normal because of the ibadah korban that we held within the compound of our family home in Mersing. It is the first time our family has organised a Qurbani (sacrifice of animals) of this scale. It is my first time being involved in the slaughter of cows because all my previous experience in korban involved sheep or goats.

But before I go into detail of our Hari Raya Haji celebrations, just a brief revision on this ibadah of Qurbani. The sacrifice of animals in Islam is the slaughter of permissible animals in the name of Allah on the 10th, 11th or 12th of Zulhijjah in the Islamic calendar. The aim of sacrifice, like all other fundamentals of Islam, is to imbibe piety and self righteousness. It also promotes the spirit of sacrifice for a right cause. To explain its purpose, God says in the Qur’an : “It is not their meat, nor their blood, that reaches God, It is their piety that reaches God”: (22:37).

The permissible animals referred to are domesticated quadrupeds, meaning goats, rams, cows or camels. For the larger animals (cows and camels), it is permitted for the single animal to be shared by up to seven persons. The meat from the sacrificed animal shall be distributed equally to three groups of people : one-third for the poor and needy, one-third for friends and relatives (including non-Muslims) and the final third for the sacrifice-giver's own consumption.

Blogger Zendra has posted an informative write-up on the historical perspective of animal sacrifice in Islam as extracted from the Islamic Voice website -> Re-inventing Zendra.

Our majlis korban this year involved the slaughter of three cows, meaning the participation of twenty-one family members that spanned 4 generations. Heading the list is the patriarch of the family, my father-in-law Haji Md Amin Bin Abdul Karim who is 95-years old. The youngest participant is a 6-month old great-grandson named Qhamarull Suhayl Bin Suhainizam.

My son Angah, giving some soothing words to the first candidate

Cow no. 2 was the largest one

The third cow, giving its handler Sopi, a tough time

The organisation of the slaughter and meat-distribution was headed by our uncle who we fondly call Pak Anjang. The first cow went under the knife at around 10.30 am, after Aidiladha prayers. In terms of size, it was the smallest of the three. It was quite tame and could be led to the slaughter pit quite easily. The second cow was the largest. The third cow put up the most resistance. It took us almost half an hour of roping and pulling before the animal could be subdued. Seeing this spirited fight, some of us joked that the animal reflected the stubbornness of its owners :-)

The slaughter process was done by the time of Friday noon prayers but the more complex process of skinning and cutting the meat resumed after the prayer break. On the whole, the part meant for distribution to the poor came to about 70kg. The beef was cut and packed into 1kg portions and sent to needy households in Kampung Sri Pantai, Mersing. The portion meant for individual consumption actually works out to only about 4.8% of the total meat obtained from each cow (one-seventh part of one-third of whole cow).

Separating skin from meat

Chopping the bones into smaller pieces for the soup

Almost no part of the cow was wasted. Some neighbours wanted the heads while the feet were booked well in advance. The ribs which still had slivers of meat stuck on them, were chopped into smaller pieces and were cooked into a soup in a very large pot. The soup and some bread (french loaves) were then brought to the mosque for consumption by the congregation after Isyak prayers.

Having a hot bowl of beef soup with bread after a hard day's work was like heaven, especially in a large gathering of family members. I probably had 3 or 4 bowls that night.

The next morning, when the pot has cooled down, you can see blobs of solidified fat floating on the surface of the soup. Crap, I thought. Some of those things are probably clogging up my blood veins by now. Better watch my meat consumption for the rest of the week... or perhaps I should resume my weekly swimming sessions to burn off the fat.

More pics can be seen at my Facebook profile -> Fadhil Isma