In Rafa we trust... no more

It's never easy being a Liverpool supporter these days. You could be on the top of the world high by beating the league champions one week and sank bottom low the next week by losing your 5th league match in 11 games thus effectively ending your title credentials for this season. Let's not even go near the part where I had to take the stick and jeers from rival team supporters for losing so many games already.
As always, some of Rafa Benitez's decisions yesterday was just as perplexing and mysterious as many of the greatest unexplained mystery of the universe such as UFOs, aliens and big foot. Tied one goal each and he withdrew the league's top scorer and the only player in the squad who looked like scoring. 2 - 1 down and he took off one of the most creative player on the field and replaces him with a relatively unknown youngster? It's as if he wanted so much for the team to lose instead!

Come to think of it, maybe that's exactly what he's trying to do. Get us regelated so that he can stick his middle finger to the owners one last time before he leaves. I've defended him and stood up with his antics for so long before but last night was the last straw. People may have called him a genius in the past but last night he acted like he was on crack. Heck, even people on crack made more sense than him yesterday. And what is this crap about cups and titles not being everything? IT IS EVERYTHING YOU IDIOT!!! If he's in charge of Chelsea, he'd been long gone by now. The only thing that's keeping him at Anfield right now is simply because the equally useless owners can't afford to pay him the 20 million compensation if they sack him now.

You could argue that the owners didn't give him the financial backing that he deserved but then how do you explain our defeats to Spurs, Villa, Sunderland and Fulham who have about the same or smaller transfer kitty than us? How do you explain why he keep playing flops like Voronin who couldn't score a goal even if the goal's mouth is 50 feet wide? Why did he kept taking off our best players on the pitch when the match is far from settled yet?

Last season we were 2 points away from being crowned champions. This season we'd be really lucky if we could snag a top 5 finish. And for a team with 18 league titles, 5 European cups and countless other domestic cups, that is simply not good enough. I don't care what happens to Benitez anymore after this. Nothing short of a sixth European Cup victory can bring back my faith on him after this. But I wouldn't put my life's savings on that to happen. I even dread to watch another Liverpool game after this.

Sorry-sorry Man United

That should wipe the smirk off the critics & Man U fan's faces ha ha!

Casa Riana Apartment

There will be a time in your life once you've settled down and started a family, sooner or later you will want to buy a house to call your own. That time has (hopefully) come for me and my family. Since we can't afford to buy our dream semi-d in Putrajaya yet, we'll have to settle for this small apartment in Taman Puncak Jalil near Seri Kembangan called Casa Riana.

This apartment used to be an abandoned project by Talam Corporation which I heard has a rather shabby record in properties development and notoriously famous for unfinished projects. But fortunately, it was taken over by another developer named IJM which has a shiny record as a properties developer.

The market price for one unit of this apartment is around RM120,000 but if you're lucky, it can go as low as RM110,000. The built up is approximately 830 square feet and it has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Amongst the amenities provided is a swimming pool, playground and 24 hour security. Oh did I mention it's for a 99 years leasehold?

After several phone calls to a few numbers, we finally get to visit the apartment and meet the real estate agent earlier this afternoon. They've already gotten a CF for this project and they expected to receive the keys in 2 weeks time. Too bad we didn't actually get to enter the house itself because the stairs were still locked yesterday. Still, from our initial visit we kinda liked this apartment already. It's affordable and it's about 8 minutes drive from my work place. Furthermore they're going to build a LRT station nearby sometime in the future and if we don't buy this house now, the price will surely shoot sky high in a few years time.

So it's settled then. Now it's only the small-small problem of getting the 5% deposit money. If only I can get an increment or pay rise from work, that would be really swell. But I'm not putting my hopes high on that. Guess I'll have to look for other means of making that extra money. Maybe I can sell nasi lemak or banana fritters after work. Hmm, that's an idea.

Read more here and here.

Google Wave: The future of email is here

Last week I was one of the lucky few million people to be invited to use Google Wave. What exactly is Google Wave? Google Wave is an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more. What did you say? Speak in English?
Okay-okay, after watching countless promotional videos, I can summarize Google Wave as live chat + email on steroids. You begin by creating a wave (sort of like a post) which can contain conversation with multiple persons in real time. You can also drag an drop photos, videos and maps onto the wave so that all your added friends can see the live update on that on the wave.
Needless to say, you'll have to use it yourself first to truly understand how Google Wave works. Watching the enclosed tutorial video also helps. It's a bit complicated at first but after using it for a while, you'll get used to it pretty quickly. Already, the tech world is abuzz with the potential of Google Wave. Some people even suggested that it might even replace email altogether in the future. Apart from chatting with your friends or colleagues, Google Wave should be really useful for live discussions, presentations, meetings, projects and many more .

Currently the Google Wave preview is by invitation only and the only way you can get to use the product is by being invited by a member (like me!). I've got like 5 more invites left, anyone interested?

Motorola Droid the next iPhone killer?

Let me just say it, I'm a big iPhone fan and I think it is the best phone ever made. Forget about Palm Pre any obscure Samsung or Nokia products, they don't even come close. That said, I do believe however, any Google's Android powered mobile phone will offer a real alternative and competition to the iPhone. In fact, analysts have already predicted that Android could be the second largest mobile phone OS with 14% of market share, behind Symbian (with 36%) and in front of iPhone OS (with 13%) by 2012.
Already, major mobile phone manufacturers like HTC, Sony Ericsson, LG, Samsung and even Dell are rolling out their respective impressive Android device such as HTC Hero/Magic, Sony Ericsson Xperia X3, Samsung I7500 and Dell Mini3i. Previous versions of Android like Cupcake and Donut are reported to be less responsive and slower in the performance department but all that is about to change with the upcoming Android 2.0 'Eclair' version release.
Boasting a powerful OMAP3430 processor, 5 megapixel camera, slideout QWERTY keyboard and touchscreen, the Motorola Droid also offers a slew of features that the iPhone lacks like multitasking, physical keyboard, interchangeable batteries and open development. Couple that with Android 2.0 and a body that is about a thin as the iPhone, the Droid phone sounds really promising indeed. The Motorola Droid is expected to be released in the US as early as next Thursday. Till then, check out the Droid new ad campaign below.

Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque Putrajaya

Last weekend I brought my family to visit the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin Mosque in Putrajaya.
This mosque just finished construction in August this year but it was already officiated by the King last month.
Like many people, I didn't know this mosque existed until my grandma told me about it yesterday. Apparently she got to know about the mosque from a documentary on TV and she insisted that we visit the place while she's in town.
The Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin mosque is the second mosque built in Putrajaya. Why anybody want to build a mosque just 2 kilometers apart is still a mystery to me. Maybe it's simply because they can.
Wouldn't it be nice if they can build a mosque here in crowded Seri Kembangan instead? Apart from the UPM mosque in Serdang, we don't have any other mosques to go to for our Friday prayers.
That said, building a mosque is never a bad thing and maybe they have their own reasons for doing so.
Although this mosque had already been officiated and open for public, I can see the place has quite some cleaning up to do. The floor is still rather dirty and the escalators are not working yet.
That said, I must say I like they way they design and build this mosque and I must commend the architect who came up with the mosque's plan. The whole building is quite cool even without any air-conditioning because the air and wind can blow straight from the wall-less corridors.
To get here, you can go straight to Precinct 2 near the Millennium Monument or you first drive pass the old Putrajaya mosque and go straight until you see the mosque on your right side.

Free antivirus software from Microsoft

Previously, I've been using Avira or AVG antivirus as my first choice for free antivirus software. But for some serious antivirus protection or virus removal, my preferred professional and paid antivirus software would be McAfee antivirus.
Although this might be old news already, new kid in the antivirus block and also the maker of virus infested Windows operating system had released their very own antivirus software called Microsoft Security Essentials. I think it's about time too. Who else would know their software better than Microsoft themselves, right?. The free Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus provides real-time protection for your PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Security Essentials also runs quietly and efficiently in the background so that you are free to use your Windows-based PC the way you want—without interruptions or long computer wait times.

But here's the catch. Microsoft Security Essentials requires a PC running genuine Windows software. If you own a non-genuine Windows copy on your PC, don't even think about it. This software will run a genuine validation process first before installation and if you are silly enough to run this on a pirated copy of Windows you'll be rewarded with the dreaded WGA notification on your desktop. Oh and one more thing, Microsoft Security Essentials only run on Windows XP and above.

Head on to their official website to download one.

End of the semester

Before you know it, yesterday was my last class for this semester already. One down, seven hundred more to go. Well actually seven semester but it does feels like 700. When I first came to class, I thought we're going to sit in a large and spacious lecture halls with plenty of seats and air-conditioning. Instead all 27 of us were cramped into a small class room with not enough tables for everyone. But I didn't complain (much). I came here to study and get my diploma not to lounge around. If I wanted a comfortable seat, I'd stayed at home.
My lecturers and classmates were a mix of many colourful characters. They come from various different background and places. Since I am really a shy type of person, I didn't talk to people much. In fact if you know me long enough you'd know that I'm a rather reserved and quiet person (unless it involve girls he he!). Only later during the end of the semester that I finally get to know my new friends better. My male friends we all friendly and really warm though some of them are real slackers. Some didn't do their assignments properly and others were even absent from their tests. Skipping classes is quite the norm for others. What's the point of paying nearly over 1.2K per semester if you don't take your studies seriously, skipping class and eventually drop out of the course?

We have 4 lecturers/learning facilitators this semester, one for each subject. Mrs Z taught us Information Skills, the core subject in our programme. She happens to be the program coordinator too so she pretty much handles everything, intake, registration, lecturers, modules and other activities. Her knowledge in is is second to none, at least around here in UiTM. That said, I still find her lectures hard to comprehend sometimes. Maybe it's the way she presents herself or maybe I didn't concentrate enough. Anyway I like her because she gave the least assignment (1 only!) and she didn't bother if we don't visit her online forum much (maybe because she never does it herself anyway).

Mr A teaches us an Islamic subject for this semester. Although he's very knowledgeable in his subject, I find some of his views quite troubling indeed. According to him, smoking is okay, wearing lipstick will void your fasting, Malaysia is a secular state, he hates Dr. M to his guts, ISA is cool and necessary, though he didn't agree with many of the policies implemented by the government regarding Islam and yet he didn't support the opposition cause. He's like a walking contradiction and his face reminds me of the comic actor Abon. He also gave us a lots of homework at our online forum and he expects us to answer all of them immediately within his given time (usually a week). Whoever have time to do that?

Mrs N1 teaches our only English subject for this semester. I don't mean to sound cocky but I dohope to excel in this particular subject at least. I mean filling in the blanks with the correct word shouldn't be that hard right? Still I had to be careful not to be too overconfident with this one.

Mrs N2 teaches another Information Skills subject. She's been a librarian most of her working life. She worked in a dozen libraries from the smallest to the national library and also corporate ones and she's like the expert system in this field. She's already retired from UiTM but she agreed to come back to teach us one last time after Mrs Z asked her to. Just last month she got hired to work at Bank Negara, the national central bank. However, she also gave us the most assignments - 4 to be exact. Still I enjoyed her class tremendously and it's a pity she won't be teaching us anymore after this.

So no more classes after this but we will be sitting for our final exam in a couple of week's time. the earliest on the 28th. The thing is 3 out of 4 of my papers are held on weekdays. Hmm, what should I do? Take 3-4 hours of time off or apply for 3 days leave? Decisions-decisions.

Corruption by any other name stinks just as bad

Corruption is corruption, there are no two ways about it. You cannot minimise the crime by hiding it under some other labels such as 'money politics'. Neither can you make it disappear by simply declaring that the offince "is not an offence under the law". Everybody knows there are to sets of law in this country. One for UMNO and BN members/cronies and another for the rest of us.

So congrats to UMNO and BN for Bagan Pinang. They people have spoken. And the general consensus is, corruption is okay for the folks of Bagan Pinang. 5000+ majority, wow they really love money down there. Hope you all will enjoy the fruits of your labour, here on earth and the hereafter. If I were you, I'd be really ashamed to look at my children in their eyes and say I voted a corrupt criminal into power.

As for PAS and PR supporters, don't be too downhearted. 7 wins out of 9 is not that bad. Bagan Pinang is their stronghold anyway. It's a setback, not a disaster. Time to regroup and do some soul searching on our weaknesses.

Oldtown White Coffee now halal?

Oldtown White Coffee is a homegrown Malaysian kopitiam styled cafe that make some really delicious local delicacies such as a variety of noodles, rice dishes and of course their famous white coffee and other beverages. I tried eating there myself, twice before I stopped going altogether since I'm doubtful of their halal status.
Which is a pity because I do think Oldtown serves some really good local dishes. They've got over than 130 outlets around the country and their business is really booming and if they'd wanted to get a simple halal certification, I don't think that would be any problem on their part, if they wanted to. But the problem is they never bothered, up until now so I had no choice but to avoid their outlet altogether.
That said whenever I walk pass an Oldtown White Coffee outlet, I still try to look for any halal logo inside or outside of their premise in the hope that maybe they would finally wizened up and get their food certified halal. But I just couldn't find any, up until today that is. Today I found a little halal logo on one of their banner outside the store. Does this mean I can enjoy their range of delicious menus without any more doubts? Can I now not frown upon my fellow Muslims who patronize their outlets without a care in the world?

Apparently no, not so fast. Yes I did saw that little halal logo on their banner but upon further inspection on their official website, I still see that questionable Nissin sausage egg noodle on sale at their restaurant. Now last time I check, Nissin instant noodle is labelled as non-halal at all hypermarket that I visited. Maybe there are more than one Nissin noodles sold out there in the market perhaps? I doubt it. A simple Google search will show you that those type of noodles are usually served at non-halal restaurants and food outlets.
Besides, if Oldtown White Coffee did get a halal certification they should have put them halal logo prominently and make them highly visible at all their stores and also their advertisements. At their website the only glimpse of halal certification is this one line that said "we also carry the HACCP and HALAL certification, making White Coffee a beverage that can be enjoyed by all". I see halal beverage but not halal food.

So would I rush to any Oldtown White Coffee outlet anytime soon? Unfortunately the answer is still a resounding no.

Looks like Oldtown White Coffee is certified halal after all. At least some of them which displays the halal certification from the Islamic Food Research Centre Asia (IFRCA). IFRCA is like JAKIM certification but they cover other Asian countries as well. You can check out the list of Oldtown White Coffee outlets (and other restaurants as well) who have obtained their halal certification from IFRCA here.
If you're still in doubt, make sure you look for this logo and certification whenever you enter one of their outlets. I hope this will put this Oldtown White Coffee confusion to rest.

Our chicken pox story

Chicken pox is a highly contagious illness caused by the evil varicella zoster virus. It usually starts with skin rash appearing in two or three waves, mainly on the body and also the hands and becoming itchy raw pockmarks, small open sores which eventually heal without scarring for the most part. Chicken pox is spread easily through coughs or sneezes of ill individuals, or through direct contact with secretions from the rash on the skin of the patient.

Our chicken pox story started when our 1.5 years old daughter got infected with it from somebody (most likely another kid) at her nursery. Chicken pox is a highly contagious disease and you have a good chance of contracting the virus just by being in the same room with the carrier for a prolonged period of time. At first we were cursing the inconsiderate parent who brought their chicken pox infected kid at the nursery. Then after our kids got the illness as well, we found out there's only so much emergency leave and M.Cs you can take to look after your child. You'd have to start working again some time. So they probably had no choice in the end.
At first we thought we could handle and treat Mia at home. We gave Mia her medications and rub her with much calamine lotion day after day. After 4 days the pockmarks showed no sign of receding and what's even worrying, Mia started to loose her appetite and her temperature is alarmingly high. She became very passive and she didn't have much sleep at night. On the 5th day, we decided to take her to a hospital for further inspection. In the end the doctor advised for Mia to be warded because she was dehydrated and really weak after eating so little. Admitting her to the hospital is probably the best thing we did for her. Mia was under the good care of the doctor and the nurses and she made quite a quick recovery.

When Mia got into the hospital, it was the last week of the fasting month. Fortunately she was discharged 3 days before Raya. Although her chicken pock scars is clearly visible on her skin, at least we get to celebrate Raya in our hometown and not the hospital! And so we thought that was the end of our chicken pox story. Unfortunately that wasn't all of it.

Apparently both my wife and I haven't got infected with the virus before all our lives. And like many other Malaysians out there, we didn't get our chicken pox vaccine shot. We never thought we'd be infected with the virus so we touched and treated our Mia without a care in the world. Well, what do you expect? Leave her in a quarantine room at the hospital? On Hari Raya eve my wife started to show signs of a chicken pox infection. Tiny little red rashes and some part of her body, particularly the upper torso. On the second day of Raya it was all but confirmed that my wife had chicken pox too.

Although I tried to distance myself from her like avoiding any contact and sleeping separately, it wasn't really good enough in the end. To my horror, on the 3rd day of Raya I saw the same dreaded tiny red rashes all over my body. Unless you had been vaccinated or you caught the disease earlier on, there's no escaping them especially if your immediate family member catches one. Of course the extreme option is to live under separate roofs for a couple of weeks until the virus neutralizes. But you know that's virtually impossible (and heartless not to mention).

So I got the chicken pox virus too. And soon enough Adam contracted the virus also. Whether from Linda or me or even Mia, it didn't matter really. It's inevitable. Words cannot describe the suffering I went through. My skin was like super itchy yet I can't scratch or touch them lest it will make them worse. I had a fever and a terrible headache and it was so bad I couldn't even sleep at night once.
If it was bad for me, imagine what Adam had to go through. At least for me, I can control myself and suffer in silence. Adam on the other hand just couldn't stop scratching his body and as a result, the rash and pockmarks spread even quicker and covers a lot more areas of his skin. Like Mia, we decided to refer Adam to a hospital and requested that he be admitted there for his own sake.

The painful part of our chicken pox illness started from day two until a week later. The fourth and fifth day was particularly painful when the virus attack was at their best. The best thing to do once you suspect yourself being infected with chicken pox is to quickly see a doctor. The first 48 hours is crucial because if you take antiviral drugs and antibiotics it will help to ease the pain and contain the virus much quicker.

Believe it or not, calamine lotion won't do much good against the evil varicella virus. What it can do is help soothe and cool down your skin so that you won't feel like scratching much. I read somewhere on the Internet that the leaves from the semambu plant (calamus scipionum) can also help to reduce the itchiness though I don't see much difference with Mia when we covered her body with them. If you ask me, the best way to treat your children is to admit them into a hospital. They'll be under the good care of the doctors and nurses and they'll recover much faster there. For adults like me, apart from the antiviral medicines, nothing beats a liberal dose of paracetamols and painkillers.

We were told of a lot a lot of don't an do's while infected with chicken pox. Cannot eat chicken, greasy food, sea food, soy sauce, coconut juice, must avoid rain water, cannot support Man U or Chelsea and a plethora of others. I can't say much about most of the above but I did feel extra itchy after I accidentally had some sea food.

The first 5 days was the worst part and I only feel slightly better after the first week. There's nothing much you can do when infected with chicken pox apart from taking your medication regularly and keeping your hygiene. You should be healed after two weeks or so. After that you should drink some coconut juice so that your pockmarks heal more quickly. Also remember to avoid any physical contact with anyone within 2-3 weeks of being infected with the virus. Even after 2 weeks they are still infectious as my wife found out the hard way after getting the infected from Mia.

To make your scars disappear, rub your skin with a lot of vitamin E cream on them or apply a specific scar treating ointment such as Mederma. So far both of them worked wonders on my scar. My face used to look like the surface of the moon but now they looked more like I just had a mild acne breakout.

If you can afford to spend 300 ringgit on chicken pox vaccine, take it especially for you children. Else, you can only pray that you don't get them from anyone.

A tale of three hospitals

The first time my kid is warded at a hospital was when my son Adam Farihin had pneumonia and a lung infection around January this year. He was admitted into Pantai Medical Centre hospital in Kuala Lumpur. We had quite a pleasant experience at PMC. The nurse and staff there were really professional and the doctors knew what they were doing. The facilities were also top class and the 5 times a day meal was simply superb. They had cable TV and also a playground and activities room specially built for young patients like Adam. It was so good that even Adam didn't mind going back to the hospital again any time for any reason.
Last month I brought my kids to two different hospitals due to chicken pox. First my 1.5 year old daughter contracted the virus from some kid at her nursery. Initially we thought we could just care for Mia at home but after a few days her temperature reached alarming heights and she was so weak and quiet we just had to take her to a hospital for further inspection.
So we brought her to the KPJ Kajang Specialist hospital where she was eventually admitted for dehydration and her high temperature. Unlike PMC, KPJ Kajang Specialist is much closer to home and there's plenty of free parking space around the hospital. The paediatrician was just as professional too and Dr Mahani is really good with children. My only complaint was, KPJ Kajang provided a rather basic facilities and we didn't get any toiletries or complimentary gifts unlike PMC. The meal was below expectation too. In another word, KPJ is quite cheap compared to PMC.

Like Adam, Mia was warded at KPJ Kajang for five days although being a fasting month it was slightly more challenging for both Linda and me. Lucky for us Mia was discharged exactly 2 days before our Hari Raya break. Unlucky for us though, 5 days later it was Adam's turn to have chicken pox when he got infected with the disease too.

As with Mia, Adam also had a really high temperature and even worse, he just couldn't stop scratching his pox marks. It was so bad that in the end we literally asked the doctor to admit Adam. They are 2 panel hospitals in Kota Bharu then. One is Kota Bharu Medical Centre and the other is KPJ Perdana Specialist hospital. We chose the latter since it was recommended by a relative whose been there before.

Like all our previous experience with hospitals, the screening process took an exceptionally long time. Since chicken pox is highly contagious, Adam had to be placed in an isolated single bed room where the room's rate is slightly higher than the regular 2 or 4 bedded rooms. The good thing is, KPJ Perdana hospital in Kota Bharu charged a much cheaper rates than their Selangor counterpart.
In term of facilities, I had to say the KPJ Perdana hospital in Kota Bharu is the least satisfactory of all the hospitals I've been to. While we took Adam to the diagnostic room, a cat casually entered the room and I had to physically remove that animal. Not to mention there's rubbish strewn on the floor. Appalling by any hospital's standard. Adam's single bed room was okay with a clean bed, 32" LCD TV and hot water in the shower although we would have preferred that the cleaner clean the room more often. We stayed there for 3 and half days and they only changed the sheets once.

At PMC, the nurses gently fed Adam with food and medication themselves. At both KPJ hospitals, Linda had to do all the hard work. The nurses only came to hand over the medicines. Also the food here was either tasteless or downright horrible (from my observation). If I had to stay at any hospital, I would dread to stay and eat at this one.

Despite all those shortcomings, the doctor who treated Adam was really caring and gentle. He readily admitted that the hospital is indeed understaffed and they are running on a rather tight budget. But the most important thing is, Adam was in good hands, the nurses and the doctor took a really good care of Adam. In fact he made quite a fast recovery compared to Mia after being admitted to that hospital.

Of all the hospitals we've been to so far I must say Pantai Medical Centre is the best followed by KPJ Kajang Specialist and then KPJ Perdana Specialist in Kota Bharu. If any of our family member had to stay at a hospital again (I hope not!), we'd definitely choose to stay at any Pantai hospital branch.