Tuesday, December 30, 2008

For My Uncle

While going through some personal stuff, I found a very familiar-looking Hunchback of Notre Dame notebook which contained several short stories I wrote as a child when I was in England and many other childhood scribbles. But I wanted to post this short story because this was how I got the notebook in the first place. This is dedicated to my uncle, Pak Ndak.


Thursday 24th October.

A wonderful evening

When we came home from school, Aishah found that she had a new Postman Pat Lunchbox. And then, Ayah gave us each a halloween sweet on stick. After that, Ummi said, "And this is the best of all." And she took out a packet that had 3 'renda hair bobble'. They were very nice. After we've prayed and eaten, we said 'thank you' and ate our halloween sweets. They were ever so delicious! And then Ummi and Ayah went out for parents' evening. We played tunnels with Pak Ndak and then he said, "I've got a surprise for you." He went to the corridor and came back with three Hunchback of Notre Dame stationary set. There was a ruler, rubber, pencil sharpener, pencil case and book in each of the pack. We said, "Thank you." When Ummi and Ayah came home, we showed them what Pak Ndak gave us.


Unfortunately, I didn't write the year I wrote this, but it was the time my uncle came to visit us in England. He was studying in Medina at that time. I remember we had great fun playing with him and showing him our favourite places. Do you still remember this Pak Ndak? ;)

Toys Galore

While packing up the stuff to bring to our new house, my sisters and I discovered a whole cabinet devoted to our toys back in England. Well! My uncle predicted that I wouldn't finish packing my books because I'll simply pick up a book and start reading halfway through packing...his prediction didn't come true since I asked my Ummi to pack the books for me. But it sort of came true while I was packing the toys...we just had to play with them before packing them into boxes. Here are some pictures of the Barbie furniture I previously described in my Barbie post:

Barbie's armchair, writing table, closet, dresser

Barbie in the bathoom

Barbie in the gym

Barbie and her twin babies

Other doll houses belonging to my youngest sister Sumayyah. Only the boot (on the leftmost) came from England.

The Lego set was also something we played a lot of back then. It really brought out the imaginative side in us as we built two storey houses, designed bedrooms, living rooms and various other things. The picture below is a sample of a living room:

See the two Lego people? They're sitting on armchairs/single sofa. The thing in the middle is a fireplace with a clock on the mantel. There's also a fire burning away (the black lego is the firewood, the yellow lego on top of it is the fire) and two lights on each side of the clock. The thing in the middle of the room is the coffee table, complete with a flower in the middle. The yellow legos on the door and windows are the lights, and of course, there's a garden outside the living room. Pretty creative for a 9 year old and a 7 year old.

It brought back some really happy childhood memories. Who knew that playing with your old stuff can leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside? ;)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I am feeling incredibly LAZY at the moment. I've been reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for two days, and I've almost read three quarters of it already. I've almost completed the review for the first four books, but I was too lazy to finish it. I'm walking around feeling as if I'm in the magical world...minus the wand and the ability to perform any magic, of course. Kak Ilah has lent me five of her novels which I can't wait to start - but I have to finish Harry Potter first...I haven't read HP for one semester, which is quite long for me. So, I guess it's back to the sofa with a HP book and some snacks to munch on. Hope I won't be like this boy in the cartoon. LOL. See ya later folks!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Harry Potter

I haven't done any book review for the last few days because I was busy helping my mother pack our stuff to move to our new house. Among the books I've finished reading are the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (plus various other books which I'll review later). When I was in England, my friend Khadija had already told me about Harry Potter, but it wasn't until after I'd watched the first HP movie did I feel attracted to Harry Potter. I begged my parents to buy me the books (at that time, there were only the first four HP books published), which they did and gave me as a present for getting good results for my PMR. As soon as I read the first page of HP and the Philosopher's Stone, I immediately fell in love with the story (love at first sight!) and knew that the books were going to be way, way beter than the movies.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone tells of a boy named Harry Potter who had to live with his relatives, the Dursleys, after his parents were killed in a car crash. Later, when he receives an offer letter from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he finds out that he is actually a wizard and that his parents were killed by a very powerful Dark Wizard, Lord Voldemort. In this book, Harry faces Lord Voldemort for the first time (second, actually, if you count the time Voldemort tried to kill when he was still a baby) when Lord Voldemort tries to seek the Philosopher's Stone which can give him immortality.

Since I've read HP 1 to HP 7, I can see the difference in Harry's personality in each of the books. In this book, JK Rowling did a good job of portraying Harry as a young, naive and innocent 11-year-old wizard who (sometimes) makes immature decisions, afraid to confide in adults (such as his Headmaster Albus Dumbledore) while trying to get used to his identity as a wizard.

Harry enters his second year at Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. In this book, Harry faces the heir of Slytherin who has opened the Chamber of Secrets. I don't like this book much because there was a part where everybody avoided talking to Harry because they suspected he was the heir of Slytherin. Only when Harry's best friend Hermione is attacked do they change their minds. Another reason I don't like this book much is the way Harry and his other best friend, Ron Weasley arrived at Hogwarts (by flying Mr. Weasley's Ford Anglia) because they started the new term with a whole lot of trouble due to their bad decision-making. But never mind...they're still immature here. But I loved the part where Harry fought the Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets...considering the fact that he's only 12 years old.

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, everyone in the wizarding world and the muggle (people who don't have magic) world are on the alert for a high-profile murderer, Sirius Black, who has managed to escape from Azkaban, the wizard prison. Extra precautions are taken to protect Harry since Black is believed to be trying to capture Harry and bring him to Lord Voldemort. Halfway through the story, however, Harry and his friends learn that Black is Harry's deceased parents' best friend...not only was he the best man at his parents' wedding, but they also appointed Black to be Harry's godfather and guardian should anything happen to them. Harry and his friends also learn that Sirius Black was framed by another old friend, Peter Pettigrew, so they have to save Black from the Dementors (the Azkaban guards). The method used by Harry and Hermione to save Sirius Black in here is really ingenious. Although its kinda disappointing that they weren't able to clear Sirius' name and prove his innocence, there's a reason for it all in one of the later books.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is my favourite book of the first four books. There's a lot more magic in this book, not to mention a number of useful spells which I wish were real (eg, Accio! No need to keep getting up to fetch that something you've left somewhere). In this book, Harry is chosen as one of the school champions in the Triwizard Tournament...but the mystery is, Harry does not even fulfill the age limit required to enter the tournament! So who submitted his name as a participant?? After successfully performing all three tasks, Harry and Cedric Diggory, another Hogwarts champion, tie for the first place and grabbed hold of the Triwizard Cup at the same time. To their surprise, the Cup is a Portkey (which is an object that can transport you to the designated place when touched) and it transported them both to an empty graveyard, the place where Lord Voldemort has chosen to resurrect himself. My favourite part in this book is the Priori Incantatem chapter, the part where Harry duels with Voldemort. The first death in the HP series also occurred in this book with the death of Cedric Diggory. When Harry returns to Hogwarts, he told Dumbledore that Lord Voldemort has returned. Unfortunately, the Minister of Magic at that time, Cornelius Fudge, did not believe in Harry's story.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the Ministry of Magic is trying very hard to deny rumours that Lord Voldemort is back by using the Daily Prophet to portray Harry and Dumbledore as crazy, etc. The Order of the Phoenix is an Order established during the time Lord Voldemort was still in power (Harry's parents were among the members of the Order before they were murdered). The Order was re-established to start planning various strategies to overcome Voldemort. One of their tasks in this book is to guard "something" in the Department of Mysteries in the Ministry from Voldemort. Towards the end of the book, Harry sees his godfather Sirius Black being tortured by Lord Voldemort via his scar, which somehow connects him to Lord Voldemort. So he rallies his friends and they all fly on Thestrals to the Ministry to try and save Sirius. However, it turned out that the vision was merely a trick to attract Harry to the Ministry, because Lord Voldemort wanted Harry to take a prophecy regarding Harry and him. A battle ensued between Harry & his friends and the Death Eaters. The other members of the Order turned up just in time to help them fight the Death Eaters. Unfortunately though, Sirius was killed in the fight. Sirius' death was a big blow to Harry, because he had now lost the man he looked upon as his parent. One good thing that came out of the fight at the Ministry is that the Minister and several other wizards turned up just in time to see Lord Voldemort before he disappeared, so now they have to accept the fact that Lord Voldemort is really back.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince starts by describing the deaths and terror faced by the people as Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters start killing Muggles and Muggle-borns. In this book, Harry takes private lessons with Professor Dumbledore - together, they go back into the memories of certain people to learn about Voldemort's childhood as they attempt to understand him. Along the way, they learn that Voldemort had created seven Horcruxes which are hidden in different hiding places to prevent him from dying. Harry follows Dumbledore to a certain cave by the sea to destroy one of the Horcruxes, but when they return to Hogwarts, they discover that it had been attacked by a group of Death Eaters. Dumbledore dies in this book, leaving Harry with the basic knowledge of what he has to do in the future to overcome Lord Voldemort. I can still cry each time I read the part describing Dumbledore's funeral, because Harry is now all alone - his parents, his godfather and now his headmaster have left him in their efforts to protect him from Voldemort.

I almost didn't want to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, because this is the last book in the series and that there will be no more Harry after this. But of course, I had to start reading the minute I bought the book. In this book, Harry sets out with his friends to find and destroy the seven Horcruxes created by Voldemort. The ultimate battle then takes place between Harry's side and Voldemort's side. I loved reading the battle part - it seems so much cooler and riskier to battle using magic instead of firing canons of dropping nuclear bombs on the enemy. Thankfully, JK Rowling created a "19 years later" chapter which lets her readers know what happened 19 years later. I don't think I'd be fully-satisfied otherwise.

JK Rowling has an exceptional style of writing regardless when she is describing sceneries or when she's playing with her characters' emotions. She is also quite witty and manages to keep her readers laughing (or crying) at all the appropriate moments besides keeping her readers hooked and wanting to keep turning the page to find out what happens next. Each time I re-read a HP book, especially the last one, I really appreciate the little details written in the earlier books which then play their own role in the end. And to be honest, I don't watch the HP movies anymore because the movie plots are too different from the actual books, so I don't see how they're going to portray the Horcruxes part and stuff. There are too many important details left out...but then again, movie-makers only have a couple of hours to cram in around 600 - 700 pages.

I have repeated all HP books countless of times...and if a new HP book was coming out, I'd read all the previous HP books and surf the HP websites in anticipation of the new book. Oh, the thrill of it! Too bad there are no more HP books coming out though. However, there are other HP-related books such as the newly-published The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which is a fairy tale book mentioned in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Even though HP is now over, all I have to do is open the cover of the first HP book to make him alive again. (Sorry if that sounded cheesy.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Last Sunday, I watched Barbie & the Diamond Castle on TV3 with my youngest sister. Needless to say, it was a great movie (especially if you're a Barbie lover) with the theme of friendship. Its mainly about two best friends, Liana (the pronounciation is like Rihanna) and Alexa who share a love of singing. Of course, somewhere along the way the strength of their friendship is tested. You can read the full review here.

I don't know what it is about Barbie that makes me still attracted to watch her movies...perhaps its the excellent graphic used in the movies, or the prettiness of Barbie and her friends (not to mention their outfits and the sceneries!). Or maybe its because I played with Barbie dolls when I was a little girl, so she reminds me of my happy and carefree childhood.
Back in England, my parents bought me and my sisters several Barbie dolls, a great big doll house which was even taller than us, plus some furniture to decorate the doll house with. The doll house had four levels - the ground floor consisted of a kitchen (which had a kitchen cabinet) and a bathroom (which had a toilet, a sink+mirror and a bathtub with a shower curtain). The first floor was the sitting room (which had a chair that could recline complete with footrest, a writing table table+chair and a side table), the second floor was the bedroom (2 single beds, 2 closets, 1 dresser. We even had the accessories such as shoes and clothes, pillows and covers and little hairbrushes and handmirrors). The topmost floor was a rooftop balcony for the dolls to hang out in the evenings. My sisters and I had a blast arranging and re-arranging the furnitures, changing the dolls' outfits and acting them out in various scenes. It's pretty funny recalling it all, but I wouldn't mind admitting that right now, the child in me is crying out for me to grab my youngest sister's doll and start playing with it. Just going to Toys R Us to ogle at the latest Barbie collection is enough, seeing as its not really worth spending my money on it. But of course, the more matured Me is saying...Grow Up!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

High School Blues

My sister Yusraa is now in her second week of SPM. Looking at her studying, doing her homework, rushing off to tuitions and extra classes prior to the exams, I wonder how I managed to get through it all back when I was in high school. Waking up at 5.45am to catch the school bus...which was hard to do considering the fact that I stayed up late to finish my homework. Coming home at around 4pm (due to the extremely long route taken by the school bus) and catching a few winks before rushing off to tuition. Extra classes and tuitions during the holidays. Trying to cram in two years' worth of knowledge in the form of 11 subjects (luckily it was only 11 in my time) in the last few months before the actual exam. Shudder.

But there are some happy moments though...gossiping on the school bus with friends, taking the rare opportunity of hanging out at KOMTAR or Prangin Mall on the way home from extra classes, and of course, meeting friends from other schools at tuition...some of whom I am still in touch with. I even finished high school successfully. So what's so bad about high school then?? Nothing much...but given the chance, I don't think I want to go through it again. University life is way happier. So far anyway.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oh. My. God.

Okay, so I was watching some videoclips at Youtube with my youngest sister when I decided to check my gmail. I saw that someone by the name of Phillipa had dropped a comment, and my heart started to beat a little faster. Could it be...?? No, why would she?? I opened the email, screamed, and refreshed my blog. Screamed again. Yes!! It's her!!

"Her" would be Phillipa Ashley, the author of Wish You Were Here which I have just reviewed. Oh my god, I am still (pleasantly) shocked, stunned and definitely thrilled that she dropped me a comment, let alone the fact that she noticed that someone did a review of her book. I would like to extend my gratitude and a million thank-yous to Ms. Phillipa Ashley for making a reader happy. I know I probably sound like a demented and desperate fan, but I don't care. Nothing can spoil my day today! :-D

Updated Later:

A million thanks to Ms. Phillipa Ashley for putting the link to my blog review in her blog. Need I mention again how thrilled I am?? ;-)

Burn your Calories while doing Housework

I've read about this years ago in one issue of Reader's Digest, but I've only just remembered it while doing the housework today. Believe it or not, you can actually burn your calories while doing the housework! The following calorie calculations are based on a person weighing 160 pounds (72.6 kg) who participates in any of the following activities for 30 minutes:

  • Cooking dinner : 60 calories

  • Making a bed : 94 calories

  • Dusting : 120 calories

  • Watering outdoor plants : 120 calories

  • Washing the dishes: 144 calories

  • Washing the windows : 144 calories

  • Grocery shopping : 190 calories

  • Ironing clothes : 190 calories

  • Playing with the kids : 192 calories

  • Vacuuming : 196 calories

I only listed the activities which we're more likely to do everyday, but if you'd like to find out more, just click here and here. Okay, now let's work out how much calories you've burnt in terms of food:

  • 1 Starbucks cappuccino = 150 calories = 50 minutes cycling

  • 1 jam doughnut = 250 calories = 30 minutes swimming
  • 1 medium sized portion of chips = 270 calories = 40 minutes salsa dancing

  • 1 croissant = 275 calories = 75 minutes housework

Hmm...I do hope I haven't put anyone off eating by this post...and there's no need to be calorie-obssessed if your body mass index is just fine. But I highly recommend this method to anyone who's been trying to lose weight unsuccessfully either by starving themselves, trying out different kinds of diets or exercising like crazy, because not only do you get a cleaner and tidier house, but you can also stay fit at the same time. So, people...start cleaning your house now!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wish You Were Here

I wish I had someone to say that to, but no, I don't. Not yet anyway. *wink wink*. That's the title of the book which I started at 8.35 am this morning, and finished in the afternoon. Mind you, I vacuumed the whole house in between that too, so I didn't just spend the whole morning lolling about on the couch with the book and some snacks.

Wish You Were Here is a contemporary romance novel written by Phillipa Ashley. I don't know why I'm in the mood for this category lately...perhaps they're easy to read and don't involve too much emotion, except the usual sigh of happiness+romance at the end of it. This book is about Elizabeth Allen, who was proposed to by Jack Thornfield at Corsica, after which he walked out on her for eight years without any explanation (which is a very cold-hearted thing to do, in my opinion). So eight years later, Beth applies for a post as the Product Manager at a travel company, the Big Outdoors, without knowing that Jack is the CEO of the company. Naturally, it wasn't easy for either of them to work together but they managed to get along professionally eventually. After working together for a few months, Beth soon finds out the reason Jack left her. And she also discovers the important fact that they both still have feelings for each other. But the question is, does she/can she still accept him??? Jeng jeng jeng...

It says on the front cover that this book is "the perfect holiday read: sun, sea and star-crossed lovers", to which I absolutely agree. Since I read this book on the couch in the living room, I could only content myself with imagining the scenic waterfalls, the lush nature trails and whatever holiday destination is described in here. However, I love this book because not only does it have a happy ending, but the guy in it is soooo perfect!! And actually, that's one of the major cons of reading this kind of books...when you read about the heroine and her handsome, macho, sexy, rich CEO boyfriend, your mind can't help going into fantasy mode and wishing that one of these days you'll find yourself a guy like that too. Haha...and I'm already getting carried away here. I know, I know...iman (faith) should come first. But it doesn't hurt to dream, right? *wink wink*

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thanks for the Memories

I haven't read any good story books lately due to assignments and exams. Well, I actually managed to finish two library novels during the exam period, but the first book I read after the exams was Thanks for the Memories, a best seller book by Cecelia Ahern. For those of you who don't already know, she's one of New York Times' bestselling authors for her previous novel, PS, I Love You, which has also been adapted into a movie (and whose review I have yet to post).

The story is about Justin Hitchcock, a professor of Arts and Architecture, who decided to overcome his fear of needles and donate his blood (it was also because he wanted a date with the pretty doctor) in Ireland. In another part of Ireland, Joyce Conway had a traumatic accident and had to have a blood transfusion. Since her accident, she finds that not only has her eating habits changed (from being a vegetarian to a non-vegetarian), but she can also speak Italian and Latin besides knowing a lot about old heritage buildings. She also has dreams of people and places which she doesn't know, although they all seem familiar to her in a way. At first, she thought she was going crazy because of the stress she's feeling, but after several incidents, she discovers that the changes are due to the blood transfusion - her blood donor was Justin Hitchcock, and that somehow, his eating habits, knowledge, interests and even memories have been passed to her.

I really like the story...there are many moments of sadness, but it also has its hilarious moments, not to mention many moral values. Cecelia Ahern is one the few authors who write using the present tense, which is probably why you feel as if you're really "in the moment" when reading. What's most intriguing, however, is the fact that there actually are cases of heart transplant patients who acquire their donor's skills, tastes, etc after the transplant. Although I'm not sure exactly if there are also similar cases involving blood transfusion. From the psychological perspective, more research could be done to find out if blood transfusions and heart transplants can influence the patient's behaviour and mental processes. Hmm...have to keep that in mind if I want to do a research someday.

So how does the story end?? Ooohh...the ending is just so, so sweet. Read it yourself!

Monday, November 10, 2008

In the Dark of Night

Recently, a friend and I couldn’t seem to sleep, so we just hung out in the corridor chatting about various stuff. I then glanced at the sky and commented on how dark the sky was tonight. My friend said that the moon isn’t showing herself tonight, which led us to remember the bits of science taught to us during primary school – the one about how the earth spins on its axis for 24 hrs (1 day), and how one complete orbit around the sun takes 365 days (1 year).

Then I remembered a lesson I learnt in my Arabic class which discussed verses 3 – 10 of Surah Yunus in the Holy Qur’an. Verse 5 mentions that Allah created the sun and the moon to move in its own orbit so that we (as the slaves of Allah) will know how to count the months and the years. So my Ustaz told us that the Roman calendar (tahun Masihi) is based on the sun and consists of 365 days a year, while the Hijriyah calendar is based on the moon and has 354 days in a year. That means that if we follow the Hijriyah calendar, we’d actually be older than we are now since it has fewer days in a year compared to the Roman calendar. Slight shudder there.

Another fascinating thing which my Ustaz pointed out to us in Verse 5 is the way Allah described the sun and the moon - Allah has created the sun to radiate and the moon to glow. However, I find that the Malay translation of that particular verse is more apt and easier to understand, believe it or not. Dia-lah yang menjadikan matahari bersinar dan bulan bercahaya. The significance of Allah’s usage of the word dhiya’ (which means ‘to radiate’) in describing the sun is because the sun emits light – bersinar. On the other hand, the word nuur is used to describe the moon because nuur means cahaya. In this case, the word cahaya means ‘light’, but in the sense that when the moon catches the light from the sun, it shines because it is reflecting the light from the sun. Of course, you will recall from your primary school science that this is because the moon doesn’t emit or radiate its own light – rather, it reflects the light from the sun (and thus, bulan bercahaya).

The shining sun

The glowing moon

It’s really beautiful and amazing actually the way Allah has paired and suited the perfect adjectives to describe His creations. Even I had to refer to a number of dictionaries and Qur’anic translations while writing this post. But then again, it shows that although we human beings are gifted with ‘aqal (mind), our knowledge will never, ever surpass Allah’s knowledge, unless He wills it to happen.

**Please correct me if there are any mistakes...Thank you.

It's Over!

Alhamdulillah, my exams are finally over and done with. Of course, now that its actually over, I can't help wishing that I spent more time studying instead of sleeping, eating and whatever it is students generally do when they should be studying. And once you've actually started studying, you start to realize that the subject is actually pretty interesting. Then you wonder why on earth didn't you start studying earlier?? You then vow to not study last minute anymore next semester, but you end up going through the same thing again. But never mind...the best thing - and the only thing to do now - is to make du'a to Allah that my results will turn out okay. Sigh.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I'm Still Here..!

First of all, I'm so sorry for not updating my blog in like, 21 and a half years as kindly reminded by my old friend. It's just that I was sick for a whole week during Raya, so I didn't even have the urge to go online, much less find the energy to update my blog. This Raya was quite an uneventful one for my family actually. Sigh...never mind, trials and tribulations are a part of life.

It's now the middle of the final exam season at IIUM (another valid reason to not update my blog), and I've only got one paper left - Islam & Psychology, which pretty tough to score. After that, I'm going home to enjoy my almost-six-weeks-of-vacation!! During which I will update my blog, insha Allah. Exams do not deter me from reading novels!

So anyway...please pray for my exams. Hope all of you have fun doing whatever it is you're doing.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ramadhan Challenge

Recently, I had the opportunity to join the Friday prayers at the IIUM mosque for the second time in my (almost) three years here. I don't know about other mosques in other universities (or anywhere else in Malaysia), but I love the fact that there are many females who join the Friday prayers here. Most of them are international students of course, but there are also a couple of Malay girls who go. And another thing that makes IIUM unique is the fact that the sermon (khutbah) is either in Arabic or English. It so happened that on that particular Friday, the sermon was in Arabic. I tried my utmost best to understand the sermon based on my rather pitiful Arabic vocabulary, and there were a couple of things which I understood.

Fortunately, the khatib repeated the sermon in English, and it turned out that he was talking about how Ramadhan is a month of good deeds, good behaviour, etc. But the challenge is: Can maintain carrying out the good deeds and good behaviour even when Ramadhan is over?? Since Ramadhan is a month of training, lets hope that we will apply and continue to practice all these good stuff even after Ramadhan.

On another note, we are now entering the last ten days of Ramadhan. How time flies! I think it's a big challenge today to accomplish our daily tasks, yet still try to perform tarawih prayers and other types of ibadah. But we should be grateful that we have it easier than the Prophet and his Companions who fought in the Battle of Badr while fasting. Or to take a more modern example, at least we have sufficient food (regardless whether the food is tasty or not...heh heh) for iftar and sahur compared to our other unfortunate Muslim brothers and sisters in Iraq and so on.

So lets try our best to increase our ibadah activities...and may Allah bless us all.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Happy Ramadhan!

I know it's kinda late to wish Happy Ramadhan to my fellow Muslims, but at least the first week of fasting isn't over yet. Alhamdulillah, I got the chance to fast at home with my family these first few days since IIUM "kindly" gave us 5 days of midsem break - which is over tomorrow. Sigh.

It seems that we've just celebrated Hari Raya & Raya Haji, but all of a sudden it's Ramadhan again. I'm sure that most of us are already thinking about and planning for Hari Raya (myself included), such as what to wear, what kuih raya to order, etc. But to be able to celebrate Hari Raya happily, we have to first complete the fasting month. Because that's what Hari Raya is all about anyway...a day of victory for the Muslims who have successfully completed 30 days of fasting.

To me, Ramadhan is also a month of jihad - jihad with our own self (Nafs). Since all the Syaitans have been chained up by Allah, the only thing that can still whisper bad things to us is our own nafs. Like one lecturer always said, it all comes back to the soul factor. If your soul is good, it will motivate you to do good things, insha Allah. Check out this hadeeth:

Al-Bukhaari & Muslim narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“When Ramadaan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened, the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained up.”

As mentioned in the hadeeth, all the gates of Paradise are open to us in Ramadhan. If we do 1 good deed, Allah will reward us with 10 good deeds. But if we do 1 bad deed, Allah will only punish us with 1 sin. There...isn't Allah the Most Merciful?

So let's all step up our efforts and increase our 'ibadah this month...may this Ramadhan be better than the last for all of us, and may Allah accept all our deeds and 'ibadah, insha Allah.

Happy fasting to everyone!

**If there are any incorrect facts, please let me know.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bz, bz, bzzz!

Oh my God, I have been extremely busy these past few weeks. Even though I'm only taking 15.5 credit hours, the workload is by far the heaviest compared to the previous semesters. Whoever said taking Human Sciences is "easy" can get lost. I mean, a simple article review for a level 1 subject is already a lot of work in itself - we have to find the correct and original article using the online database (which is not very easy since there are like, millions of articles and you're only given the author's name and half of the title), then review and relate the article to the various underlying psychological concepts. And being IIUM, we also have to relate it to Islam. Its interesting if you have plenty of time to do it, but when you have other articles waiting to be reviewed...sigh.

The coolest assignment is probably for my Abnormal class. We watch movies related to psychology and answer the various questions given by the lecturer for individual assignments. Who'd have thought that there were so many psych movies out there? Hannibal, Silence of the Lambs, Benny & Joon (starring Johnny Depp) and Girl Interrupted (starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie) are just a few. We even have to do a group presentation on a movie...of course, we have to diagnose the character's psychological disorder first and stuff. Here's a list of psych movies for those who are interested.

Another pretty cool assignment is for my Public Relations class. We have to choose any organization as our client and prepare a comprehensive PR proposal for them, plus add some recommendations on how to solve the client's problems or improve its current state. And the client has to be a real, factual client, so we have to collect some background info on them. My lecturer suggested reading the newspapers to see which companies are currently facing any problems, but I can't seem to find the right company yet. Any suggestions, anyone?

Of course, there are other assignments such as a major research proposal and test administering assignment. But I guess that's student life...better enjoy it while we can. And at least our daily activities vary from day to day. Have you ever thought about animals and what they do during the day? Let's take bees as an example. For those who have seen the Bee movie, I'm sure you can understand. They do the same thing every single day. Imagine doing the same thing every single day of your life until the day you die??? Shudder. So we should be grateful to Allah for creating us as human beings...and I should probably stop groaning and sighing and listing all my assignments and actually start doing them.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


So today I attended my first Abnormal Psychology class. A fellow classmate predicted that our lecturer would be short, fat and bald...but boy, he was totally the opposite of those! Dr. RK's tall, not-so-fat figure, greying hair and sense of humour gave me the impression of somebody's grandfather. Or the type of old-timers who like to spin yarns to the young tourists.

He is the first lecturer who did not brief us on course contents, etc for the first class. Instead, he proceeded to tell us his entire life story, starting when he was born in Thailand up till the moment he stood in our class. And I'm not kidding either. But of course, he did not simply tell his story to entertain us...there must be some value or moral in it. Relating his advices to his story, he told us that that there is no point in being angry with people to the extent of doing something you don't like. For example, my lecturer didn't like Agriculture; but he majored in it just to prove to certain people that he had it in him to excel in that field. And he did succeed, but then he found that he wasn't happy with what he was doing. Hence the second piece of advice - when doing something, make sure you do it for yourself. And you have to decide what it is that you want to do, because if you really do it, then the chances of succeeding is higher. And need I mention that he kept us laughing during the entire time?

I was waiting for him to ask if anybody wanted to ask him anything. This is because in his introductory slide, he wrote "Assoc. Prof & Clinical Psychologist" beneath his name (you may recall that clinical psychology is among the many careers I am thinking of). So as soon as he asked the customary "Any questions?", I immediately raised my hand and asked if he was a practicing clinical psychologist (to which he said was a very good question). He said yes, he has a practice in IIUM (and somewhere else which I can't remember). He is also a consultant for the National Heart Institute (Institut Jantung Negara, IJN) - they call him to do a psychological assessment on a patient before the patient is operated on. This really, really attracted me. I was so excited to get a practicing clinical psych to teach us, because he can share his experiences when teaching us in class. Plus, I can ask him anything should I want to pursue this career.

Alhamdulillah, I have been lucky to get great lecturers so far. However, there is one lecturer this semester who is, umm...rather slow in teaching. But never mind. Looks like we'll just have to adapt to her style. And try not to fall asleep at the same time.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New Semester

It's that time of the year again for us university students - the beginning of the new semester. It might be a bit more exciting for the new students (new place, new friends, etc) or for the temporarily-separated lovers, but for most of us (old) students, its the same old, same old...the packing of bags and lugging them back to campus with heavy hearts, and wondering what exactly did I do during my holidays?? Other than the usual eating, sleeping, eating, surfing the Net, sleeping and eating of course. Although I admit I am one of the ones guilty for doing the mentioned activities, I did help my parents out with the house chores.

The first week of semester is a rush of adding/dropping subjects and making sure your class schedule is just perfect (seeing as you'll have to live with it for one whole sem) in between going to classes. And as is customary for the first week of the first semester, the first few classes are spent with the usual briefing of the course contents and course assessment by the lecturers.

This morning I attended my first Islam and Psychology class, taught by Dr. A who is more well-known for his strictness in marking. A friend had already warned me about him, saying that her CGPA dropped because of the low grade she achieved for that particular course. So I entered the class feeling a wee bit nervous and apprehensive of this really strict lecturer. But when he started briefing us, I found that he has a very good sense of humour (not to mention good English) and managed to turn a what should be boring task into something more interesting to listen to.

Of course, there were several values inserted amid his funny briefing. He was reminding us not to copy each other (in other words, DO NOT CHEAT!) during the mid-semester exam, and especially not to tell the other section the exam questions (since the other section will be sitting for their exam later than us) because life is all about tests. Even the Prophet Adam a.s. was tested by Allah, even though he is the first human being on this earth.

And he encouraged us to think critically in class, which is something that Malay schools in general don't really make students do. But the best part was when he encouraged us to not be shy if we want to ask questions or share our opinion in class. He said that that is the negative aspect of the Malay culture, where we are expected to be senyap and sopan (quiet and polite). So if that hinders us in speaking up, "just forget that you are a Malay and act more like an international student who is never shy to speak up". I was quite impressed by that line, actually. Although I was a bit embarrassed on behalf of the Malays, especially since a foreigner friend was sitting beside me. Nevertheless, I am more determined than ever to score his subject and prove my friend wrong (Amin).

My Research Methodology lecturer, Dr. S, advised us to come to class with an open mind and an open heart, because those are among the important factors which will help us learn and absorb new knowledge. It is also important to have a positive mindset (actually, this is also a psychological concept). I mean, if you come to class feeling that Oh God, this subject is so hard, I'm so gonna fail, it won't exactly help you pass that subject.

She also stressed on the importance of punctuality. According to her, "punctuality is critical because it shows the kind of person you are, what kind of person you'll become, and what kind of person you'll raise when you become parents". Ooppss. That statement kinda hit me because I've been late to class a couple of times (but then, who hasn't been late at least once in their life...right?). And the part about raising someone when you become parents is kinda freaky too. Erm...I don't think I'm gonna go into parenting right now.

So, all things said, here's to a fruitful semester to me and every university student out there!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Paradise City

I've just finished another favourite novel - Paradise City by Lorenzo Carcaterra.

This book is just so full of action, street shoot-outs and thick New York accents. Of course, it was written by another of New York Times' bestselling author, who was also the writer/producer of the TV series Law & Order. His other bestselling novel is Sleepers, which was then adapted into a movie.

Paradise City is about an Italian cop, Giancarlo Lo Manto whose father was shot to death by the Camorra, a gangster mob similar to the Mafia in Italy, when he was just 15 years old. His mother then moved him and his sister to Naples, Italy where he soon discovered that the Camorra was just as active as in Naples as they were in New York. He became a cop so that he could avenge his father's death by bringing down the Camorra.

Gian is not the average cop - when he was initially assigned to the street patrol unit, he made friends with the homeless, hookers and pickpockets. He bent the law to suit his needs and soon built a vast network of information. His street eyes would drop him info on the latest (drug) drop spot or any Camorra-related crime which he would then act upon, putting big dents and causing big losses to the Camorra organization.

The current Camorra don, Pete Rossi, is getting angrier and frustrated with Gian, so he hatches a plan to finish Gian off once and for all. When Gian's niece goes missing in New York City, Gian cancels a much-needed vacation in Capri and arranges for a temporary assignment with the New York Police Department. He is partnered with Jennifer Fabini, a gifted officer with her own personal problems. Although Gian isn't the type to work with partners, he soon develops a respect for Jennifer as she is fearless and knows how to use her cop instincts. Together, they find out that the disappearance of Gian's niece is actually a kidnap plan to use her as a bait to lure Gian back to New York - permanently. In the end, Gian will have to face up to his number one enemy...but there are many twists and surprises along the way, including a dash of romance.

I just love the way Gian goes about the New York streets to find out the latest happening or info from his insiders. He also utilizes his street sense and cop instincts, and is always on the alert whenever a couple of shooters are hiding out, waiting to shoot him down. The climax of this book is definitely the last shoot-out which takes place in the middle of the street in broad daylight, involving 4 top shooters, Gian, Jennifer, and the surprising appearance of Pete Rossi.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On Psychos, Psychics and Psychologists

I am a psychology major at IIUM. Prior to this, I was a Sc. Math major since IIUM Matric until the 1st sem of my 1st year at the Gombak main campus. But then the Science Kulliyyah moved to the Kuantan campus, which is new, barren, has incomplete facilities, out-of-the-way, hard to go shopping or anywhere else due to the lack of public transport (unless, of course, you're one of those lucky students who have a car). In short, the Kuantan campus is just not my type of place because there are only three Kulliyyahs there (Medicine, Pharmacy and Science), so just imagine how BORING it will be meeting the same people everyday. Plus it's too quiet...I go crazy in quiet places. Ehh...I know quiet places are supposed to be good environments to study in, but each to his own I guess. Oh, and did I mention that it will be too far for me to go home?? Kuantan-Penang is like, 7 hours I think by bus. Shudder. Check out this picture below. That's IIUM Kuantan for you.

So that's why I decided to change courses. Haha...okay, I'm lying. I also changed courses because I can't stand Math anymore...which is kinda surprising considering the fact that my grandpa Wan is a great math teacher. Heh heh. High School math and Matric math are still tolerable...but majoring in math is insane! Unless you're a fan of math, I'm sure you'd agree. I mean, Algebra used to be a tiny chapter in the text book, but it's now a whole subject. Urgh.

So why change to Psychology?? To tell you the truth, I never knew much about Psychology, Sociology, Mass Comm...basically the arts sector. This is because Malaysians are quite narrow-minded when it comes to the career fields (another disadvantage of the Malaysian education system?). Here, the only "top" courses are Medic, Engineering, Law, and Economics. Try telling someone you take something other than those four courses, and they'll go "Ohh. I see.", like it's not really great and perhaps you're not really that clever to take those top courses. I know this because I was once in the Science field (and I got good results for my SPM), so once upon a time, I was one of those who looked down (just a bit, though) on these art courses. But since I'm now an art student, I've been trying to expose more of these courses to my juniors. And I have to say, their surprise and interest really encourage me.

In foreign countries such as the US, UK and Australia, the arts sector is well-established and is even considered as one of the "top" courses. In fact, the people there will probably say "Wow! I see!" (instead of the "Ohh. I see." you get here) if you tell them you're a psych major. And if I'm not mistaken, psychology is a science subject in certain countries. Among the courses offered in the arts sector other than Psychology are Mass Communication (my minor), Political Science, History, Sociology and Languages. Since I had to take an Introductory subject on each course (except the language), I have been more open-minded towards these courses because they are all useful in their own ways. I mean, if nobody took History, who'd be left to document the history in making?

But no offense to the doctors, engineers, lawyers and accountants out there...you guys are still a big contribution to the world. Luckily though, my family has an interesting mixture of careers - my sister is a Dentistry student, my Ummi's a lecturer, and there are several engineers including my Ayah (I guess you have to have a few of those), a few uncles are in the Syari'ah field (and now have successful careers...not just becoming an ustaz), a pilot, a Cabinet Minister's assistant, and my youngest Aunt is now into Culinary Arts. That's really interesting. Perhaps we can leave the Raya cooking to her and she'll whip up a few gourmet dishes.

Actually, I'm going to talk mainly about Psychology. I chose it because its about the human behaviour, which is something we all do and observe other people doing - unconsciously. Before I go further, I'd like to point out the difference between a psychic and a psychologist as I've noticed that some people are confused between the two terms. A psychic is someone who uses extra-sensory perception (ESP) to perceive things which are hidden from the normal human senses (eg; predicting the future); whereas a psychologist tries to understand why a person acts the way they do and the role these actions play in a person's social behaviour.

Other than studying people's behaviour, psychologists also study a person's cognition (thinking), emotion, perception, personality and interpersonal relationships. Which is why I really like it, because i've always liked observing people (but then again, who doesn't?).

Learning about a person's personality is really cool because you learn about a person's traits & characteristics which make him unique.From there, you can describe a person, explain his behaviour and can even predict his future behaviour. Most companies nowadays rely on personality assessment tests to help them find a suitable candidate for their company. Crime detectives do a case study on their suspects in order to study their profile and behaviour, like the case study done on the serial killer Ted Bundy.

For those of you who are interested in just the human part of biology, but don't want to torture themselves by doing medic should go into Psychology (please click here to learn more about the daily tortures which medic students have to go through. I find this blog interesting, funny yet so true). The neuropsychology branch combines neuroscience and psychology and relates the brain to behaviours. I also had to take a Physiological Psychology subject, and when I compared it to the Physio that my medic friends were taking, they were basically the same stuff. Except the psych students' exams are easier than the medic atudents'. Heh heh. But you still need to memorize facts and theories for exams, so I think the Engineering and Math students are luckier in that aspect. All they have to do is know/understand the formula and just apply it.

Psychology has a very good career prospect...at least in the US. Here, its just "Ohh...so you can be a counsellor!!" like its the most exciting thing to do in the world. Roll eyes. I just hate it when someone says that to me. C'mon la, there're many other careers like clinical psychologist, forensic psychologist, health psychologist, neuro psychologist, engineering psychologist, sports psychologist...please click here or here for more info. Or else, its "Haha...hope you don't become a psycho like your patients!" Argh...! For your info, people, its the psychiatrists who have a bigger chance of becoming psychos as they will be the ones who will actually treat the mental-disorder patients. Psychologists in the abnormal psychology area study the nature of psychopatholgy (the study of mental illness or mental distress) and its causes, which is then applied in clinical psychology to treat patients with psychological disorders. Examples of psychological disorders are anxiety disorders (eg; a specific phobia), psychotic disorders (eg; Schizophrenia) and even personality disorders (Please click here for more info).

In this ever-developing world, I would say that the demand for psychologists and psychiatrists are quite high seeing as the number of people who are on the verge of going crazy because of stress is always increasing.

As for me...I haven't exactly decided yet what I want to be. I'm thinking about child psychology, which deals with dyslexic kids, autistic kids and so on. It would be nice to make a difference in these kids' lives. If I wanted a career for the money, I'd be better off doing industrial/organizational psychology. But my parents always taught us that when we do something, make sure we do it for Islam...not just for the money or worldly status. You know what? I've got like, 2 more years to decide. Hopefully this coming new semester will help me choose the right career. If not, maybe next sem. Or the next sem after that.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Okay, the Shopaholic series is definitely one of my most favourite series. The first Shopaholic book I bought (subsidised by my darling Ayah, of course. Hehe) was Shopaholic & Sister. I was going home to Penang by flight with Ayah because he was gonna teach me where to go the next time I fly back on my own. As we passed by a book shop, Ayah told me to go inside and buy myself a book. Well! I hurried inside and browsed the bookshelves for something interesting, fun, yet different. I don't know what made me pick Shopaholic & Sister...maybe because the design of the cover was cute and funky, and maybe it was because it was a New York Times bestseller. I have a weakness for reading/buying New York Times bestsellers because they're always very, very good. So I started reading it...and I completely fell in love with it. I promoted it to my sis Aishah who also loved it, and I bugged Yusraa to read it. She's now totally hooked on it too.

So what is the book about that got us so into it? It's written by Sophie Kinsella about Becky Brandon nee Bloomwood and her shopping addiction. She's a shopaholic who's always up-to-date with the latest fashion and accessories in the British edition of Vogue. And of course, the clothes that she buys are not the clothes in a typical store, but designer clothes and accessories. Becky loves shoes, and has a whole cabinet just for them. There are rows of Jimmy Choos and LK Bennetts, and her shoes are arranged according to colour and type. Among the designer labels mentioned in the Shopaholic books are Armani, Dior, Chanel, Prada, DKNY, Vera Wang, Yves St. Laurent, and LK Bennett. So you can pretty much guess how much she has to pay for her wardrobe. I checked out LK Bennett (which has really fab shoes!) because Becky seems to like LK Bennett, and a pair of high-heeled sandal like this:

costs £189.00. That's a discount price for their summer sale, but the original price was £349.00. Just for a pair of shoes. So Becky's credit card bills are usually red bills and she has to ask for an overdraft because she sometimes "overbudgets" and can't pay the bills off. Although I won't mind admitting that if I had all the money in the world, I'd buy Armani clothes, Prada handbags and LK Bennett shoes too. But the best thing is that Becky will always solve her own problems and gets herself out of the mess she's created in the most creative ways.

In Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Becky gets married to Luke James Brandon who owns a PR company in London and New York and is very rich. He's also a handsome, funny and romantic guy who's very patient with Becky. Except when she gets him into trouble too, which is when he loses his temper with her. Becky has a hard time choosing between a fairy-tale wedding at the New York Plaza planned by one of New York's top wedding planners, or a traditional wedding at home planned by her beloved parents.

It's a totally different scene in Shopaholic & Baby because this time, Becky is shopping for herself and her baby. So it's a whole new world of gynaecologists, shopping for prams and bassinets, Baby Dior milk bottles and Petit Bateau rompers. Check these pictures out:

(Anyone interested in checking out some really cute baby and toddlers' stuff can click here.)

Of course, the problem came when Becky discovered that her A-list obstetrecian was her husband Luke's ex-girlfriend. To be honest, the Shopaholic series are not really suitable for those who easily follow what other people do, because people like that will definitely buy designer things like Becky. The best thing to do when reading this book is to remind yourself that you live in the real world with other worthwhile things to buy instead of designer clothes. Unless, of course, you have a rich husband who's willing to spend a few thousand ringgit on you. Haha. Dream on.

A Little Digging...

Hmm...I was going through the thousands of pictures in the My Pictures folder of our family PC, and I found this picture:

This picture was taken 2 years ago when I was on holiday. I had nothing to do, so I spent some time tidying the bookshelf. Of course, the bookshelf is now a total mess because the newly added books keep piling up till we've ran out of space. The bottom most and middle shelves are filled with the Enid Blyton books while the 1st shelf is filled with the Sweet Valley series and the Babysitters' Club. This bookshelf consists of the rather "childish" books.

Here's another picture which I found (on the right). This bookshelf consists of the "adult-ish" books like the Little House series, Harry Potter, Sidney Sheldon, the Da Vinci Code, etc. There are several differences now...the Harry Potter series are complete, and there's all the Shopaholic and Nicholas Sparks books too.

There are three books on the left, bottom most row which caught my eye - the Linda Craig series. My first Linda Craig book was given to me by my dear uncle Pak Ndak when he came to England and stayed with us. Actually, he gave me the book before he returned to Malaysia, I think. Here are a few (rather bad, unfortunately) pictures of the book:

The Linda Craig Mysteries are about Linda Craig and her older brother Bob who live on a ranch with their grandparents. They solve horse-related mysteries with their friends Kathy Hamilton and Larry Spencer. I really liked this book because I gained a new insight on horses and the land of Mexico (seeing as I've never been to Mexico and I don't know how to ride horses). And I never knew that there were many horse crimes too. Thanks Pak Ndak! I've always liked mysteries, so you bought just the right book! :-D I bought another Linda Craig, but I couldn't locate the last set. Too bad.

Of course, now I'm having several flashbacks of the time Pak Ndak stayed with us in England. We took him hiking at Beacon Hill, we took him to our school, and goodness knows where else (which means I don't really remember where else. Haha.) But the best part was the games that he played with us in the evenings at home. One game that my sisters and I remember until now is the one where Pak Ndak lies face down on the carpet in the living room while me and my sisters would step all over his back and "massage" it. Luckily we weren't that heavy back then. Hehe. We really enjoyed his visit because apart from him, the only relatives who visited us back then were my grandparents on Ayah's side and Ayah's uncle & aunt who live in Singapore. We had a great time with them too and went sightseeing in London. Sigh.
“A good book is the best of friends, the same today and forever.”
- Martin Tupper