Prof Noam Chomsky

Prof. Noam Chomsky is a leading linguistic scientist and a longtime professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His 1957 book Syntactic Structures outlined his theories of transformational generative grammar and made him a prominent and controversial figure in the field. Chomsky is also known as a political activist suspicious of big media, big business and big government. His books include Manufacturing Consent (1988) and Propaganda and the Public Mind (2001). He is sometimes compared with another scholarly activist, Bertrand Russell.

Story of Alcohol

Alcohol plays a pivotal role in the history of human civilization. True or not? I don’t know. But what is true is it has been used to preserve food, ceremonial purposes, kind of currency in medieval England. That what I found recently in one of the sociology book that I read.

Alcohol beverages were first drunk after humans abandoned their hunter-gatherer lifestyle and started farming. Probably coincidental, it started as a fortuitous accident when grapes or other fruit that were collected for eating fermented in their storage containers. While the liquid produced by fermenting plant matter would have been decidedly beneficial, the art of producing alcoholic beverages spread rapidly.

Historically, beer and wine were both produced in Egypt at least 4000 BC while rice wine was produced in China 9000 years ago. Beer was the main beverage among the Babylonians, who lived in present-day Iraq.

Alcohol is absorbed directly into the blood stream through the stomach and small intestine. reaching the brain within a few minutes. Although it acts as a stimulant i.e it reduce inhibition and relax people, alcohol is also a depressant that slows down the central nervous system and brain function. The combined suppression and stimulation slows down the brain’s response rate.

I have seen my colleagues while in Japan after drinking ‘sake’ which is Japanase-made alcohol, developed euphoria, talkativeness and heighten self-confidence, to the extend that she spoke much more than the Chairman who host our dinner. If she just add a few glass more, she surely will develop disorientation, slurred speech and memory loss.

Muslim are prohibited from drinking alcohol for the same reasons. Qur’an outlines that it is the intoxication, which makes one forgetful of God and prayer, which is harmful. Over the years, the list of intoxicating substances has come to include more modern street drugs and the like. Wallaualam.

Commercial Fraud During Raya?

A friend posted information on trick played by hypermarket with regard to cheap sale. Perpetrators are giant in the field of merchandising and selling household products. Yet, they are selfish lots who cheat on poor customers. Capitalism has it’s own caveat, so to speak. On the other hand, consumers have very important role to play. Shop until you drop shouldn’t be the motto for this Raya! Shoppers must learn to identify their needs, write down list of items to buy, compare prices and bargain if the shop permit them to do so. Dining out in hotels during Ramadhan can be done occasionally but not regularly. Even if you can pay the price, in many instances, I notice, restaurants are packed and overcrowded with hungry eaters waiting turn to break the fast.

Something we haven’t thought much about is how to deal with the issue of commercial frud at individual level. I think, first and foremost is about controlling your lust (or nafs) for everything luxury. Easier said than done! Second, is, info must be available, everywhere, from the web to the shopping mall. Third, strong and proactive consumer association must creates public awareness especially near the time when people go out for their shopping spree. Fourth, active and responsible member of the public must highlight any fraud and help others who have become the victim of those selfish capitalist and last but not least, Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affair must mobilize it’s men to the ground, check those places and bring them to justice.

Finally, let remind our ourselves to go back to the basic i.e, Islam prohibits any kind of squandering or extravagant act.
Selamat Berpuasa.

Why So Many Social & Mental Illnesses During Ramadhan?

Why so many case of relapses during Ramadhan? Why so many infants being murdered during Ramadhan? Well, no one can answer those questions properly without undertaking a proper study.

1. It seems that in Ramadhan, the Malaysian press is more sensitive to highlight social issues more than political and economic issues as the headline. The press understands the sensitivity of Malaysian public who become more ‘religious’ so to speak, at this time of the month. The scope perhaps will highlight more public attention and workable reaction from the authority.

2. The relative of mental patients are reluctant to take initiative to bring the patients to hospital simply because they are busy with the routine during Ramadhan.

3. The patients for simple reason do not take medication during the fasting month. As a result, relapse is inevitable.

4. As your sleep-wake cycle is disturbed, you tend to become gloomy and somehow jeopardize your judgment esp. those people who are vulnerable to psychiatric disorders.

5. To some patients, the joy of celebrating Ramadhan with lots of religious inputs create ‘entry life events’ that precipitate relapse. It has been shown in many studies, that, welcoming event even by simply counting the number of days could be stressful to some patients. That explains why relapse of illness seems to occur during general election, at time of economic and political crisis and disaster. In part, it’s very much depend on how someone evaluate or appraise the situation.

Finally, as Bandura theorized, the more confident people feel about responding skillfully to the varying demands of the situation, the harder they will try to overcome the problem and the the longer they will persist at it. So it is about self-efficacy. Could it be that despite the fact that to many, Ramadhan enhance their self-efficacy but to some, it weaken their self-efficacy?

You decide…

Why Fasting?

A week of fasting. My kids wake up at wee hours, just binge in the food  with the eyes close. The youngest has to be reminded to say aloud the prayer [or niat] while closing her eyes for the second round of early morning’s nap.

While doctors remind their patients to the physical advantages of fasting, Islamic scholars too remind us on the spiritual benefit of fasting from the Islamic perspective.

But since fasting is an ibadah, it must be construed that the physical benefits shouldn’t be the primary purpose of fasting to the believers.

Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. God intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful .

[al-Baqarah 2:185] Translation: Yusuf Ali.

1. Ramadan is the month when Quran was sent as a guide to mandkind.

2. Ramadan is the month when the order is crystal clear for Muslim to fast.

3. Ramadan is the month to glorify God.

Those can be done by prayers, tadarus, restraint our nafs to the minimum and to my mind, finally, to be grateful of what have been bestowed upon us to these days. Wallahualam.

Concept Car

New Proton’s concept car, EMAS “Eco Mobility Advance Solution” was shown at Geneva International Motor Show couple of months ago.  Malaysians should be proud of ourselves..


Scientist: Award & Conspiracy

Neuroscientist honored by White House

University of Southern California (USC) neuroscientist Roberta Diaz Brinton is among 13 winners of the 2010 Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second highest civilian honor. Brinton is being honored for her contributions to science and technology education. For the past 19 years she has directed the USC STAR Program, which educates Los Angeles students and their teachers about science and provides hands-on research opportunities in labs at USC.

Brinton’s own laboratory studies the neural mechanisms of cognition and how they’re affected by aging and neurodegenerative disease. In particular, she’s received recognition, including being featured in a recent article in The New York Times Magazine, for her work on the potentially neuroprotective effects of estrogen in women who take hormone therapy after menopause.
Stem Cell Pioneer Yamanaka bags another Prize

TOKYO—The hot streak of stem cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University in Japan and the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco, California, continues. The Inamori Foundation announced today he is the winner of this year’s Kyoto Prize in the category of advanced technology. Since his discovery in 2007 of a way to reprogram human adult cells to behave like embryonic stem cells without the controversial use of embryos, Yamanaka has won at least 10 major international awards, including two that often presage Nobel recognition: the Robert Koch Prize in 2008, and the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award in 2009.

The Kyoto Prize for lifetime achievement in basic sciences goes to László Lovász of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest for wide-ranging advances in mathematics and computer science. William Kentridge, a visual artist from Johannesburg, South Africa, has taken the arts and philosophy prize. Each winner will receive $550,000 at a ceremony on 10 November in Kyoto.
Conspiracy Theory?

Who killed Masoud Alimohammadi, the Iranian physicist who was blown up outside his apartment in Teheran on 12 January by a remote-controlled motorcycle bomb? Emerging details of the professor’s scientific and political life have strengthened the accusation by opponents of Iran’s regime that the murder was sponsored by pro-government forces and not by foreign intelligence agencies, as Iranian authorities claim.

It has already been reported that Alimohammadi, a theoretical particle physicist at the University of Tehran, was one of 240 academics at the institution who had declared their support for Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main opponent of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in last year’s election.

On 5 January, just a week before he was killed, Alimohammadi gave a talk before a student gathering at his university’s physics department in which he encouraged students to press on with the reformist movement without descending into chaos. Expressing disillusionment with Iran’s current state of affairs, Alimohammadi recounted his political activism from 3 decades ago when he participated in the Islamic revolution.

Ali Nayeri, an Iranian-born physicist at Chapman University in Orange, California, who was a freshman at Sharif University in the late ’80s when Alimohammadi was earning a Ph.D. from that institution. Alimohammadi starts the talk by noting that fear of reprisals had kept many on campus from attending the event. “I, too, was instructed not to come,” he says, according to a translation.

Nayeri says he and many students he has talked to at the University of Tehran believe that Alimohammadi paid a price for his activism. “His killing was masterminded by the Islamic Republic,” Nayeri alleges. “The message to academics is: ‘Don’t meddle in the political sphere.’ ”

A look at Alimohammadi’s history reveals a man who went from radical Islamist roots to becoming a moderate and a reformist.

As a college student in the ’80s, he was actively involved in the cultural revolution that followed the overthrow of the monarchy in 1979, serving on a university committee that worked on physics education. He became the first Iranian student to receive a Ph.D. in physics from an Iranian university.

Nayeri says he saw Alimohammadi for the first time during a campus visit by the Nobelist Abdus Salam to officially inaugurate the Ph.D. program that Alimohammadi was enrolled in. Sporting a full beard, the young graduate student looked very much the pious Muslim that many say he was, Nayeri says. At the ceremony, a senior Iranian physicist touted Alimohammadi and the three other students who made up the inaugural class as proof that Iran could produce the next Salam.

Nayeri says his last meeting with Alimohammadi—in 1995 at a conference in Port Anzali—offers an insight into the man’s love for his country. Nayeri told Alimohammadi, then a researcher at the Institute for Studies in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics, about his plans to go abroad for graduate studies. Alimohammadi listened quietly, without expression, puffing on a cigarette. Nayeri finally asked him why he hadn’t moved to the West to pursue a scientific career. “He said—because we wanted to show that it was possible to stay in Iran and produce world class papers,” Nayeri recalls.

[Whether the view here is true or just a propaganda to blame some quarters, you judge]

(Courtesy: Science)

Michael J Fox and Parkinsonism

I’d still remember in the 80s, I used to sit down in front of TV set watching my favorite sitcom, Family Ties which starred Michael J Fox as a confident, young, brilliant yet funny youngster named Alex Keaton. When my daughter showed me the recently published Reader Digest portraying the picture of the actor and the story on his recipe for happiness, I’d just can’t say any word.

Michael J Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson (s0mething that I know for years) but his coping skills were fantastic. He talked about his wife, Tracy Pollan, his kids, his willingness to accept the fate and even took opportunity to advice others on ways to achieve happiness.

We, who believe in Islam may called it qaza & qadar that many finally succumb to accepting the illness.

He didn’t call it ‘struggle’ but he settled down by accepting it with positive attitude and gratitude to God, perhaps. It is rare for someone with chronic illness to come to a stage when he would come forward to advocate others on how to help themselves living with the illness. Many would just feel depressed and wanted to be left alone.

Tips on Conducting a Brainstorming Group Session

There is a right way and a wrong way to run a brainstorm or ideation meeting. A little preparation pays dividends. It is very important to separate the two phases of the meeting. The first part of the meeting is idea generation when you use divergent thinking. The second part is idea selection when you use convergent thinking. Here are my top tips for a meeting that will produce great ideas:

Before the meeting

Choose a diverse group. Six to ten people is ideal. If at all possible bring in some provocative outsiders to challenge the conventional thinking in your team.

Appoint a facilitator. Ideally the facilitator should be external to the group. They can use different techniques to manage the process. The manager is often a poor choice for this role as they cannot stop themselves shaping the content.

Meet off-site. Getting away from the office somehow helps to break conventional thinking. Unusual locations are good. I have run ideation meetings in a zoo, a museum, an art gallery and a castle.

Idea generation using divergent thinking

Suspend judgment. No one is allowed to criticize or even discuss an idea.  As ideas are expressed they are simply recorded. This can be done on post-its, lap-tops or flip charts but no fault-finding or comments are allowed to slow the process of idea flow.

Go for quantity. Quantity leads to quality in brainstorms so don’t stop until you have a large number of ideas – typically 60 to 100 or more.

Go beyond reason. Wild ideas are useful because they challenge boundaries and provoke other fresh ideas. It is easier to tame a wild idea than to inject something radical into a bland one.

Ride on other people’s Ideas. When one person suggests a creative concept others should chip in with extensions, developments and specific ways to make it happen. Piggyback on each other’s notions.

Displace people out of routine thinking. There are many good techniques to do this – some of my favorites are Random Word, Similes, Pass the Parcel or SCAMPER.

Idea selection using convergent thinking

Set criteria. Make an initial sift of the ideas using some broad criteria agreed with the group. For example we want ideas that will please customers, increase awareness and can be implemented in the next 12 months.

Discuss the short list. When you are down to say 10 or 12 good ideas then discuss them constructively. Sometimes there is a clear consensus as to which are the best. Sometimes you might want to vote to see which are the most popular. Whittle the list down to a handful of really good ideas.

Assign actions. Start the ball rolling by assigning follow-up actions for the best ideas. Add them to your to do list and make sure they are expedited. The brainstorm is worthwhile only if it delivers actions.

You should run regular brainstorm meetings with your team. They should be fun and motivational for people. They can deliver the ideas and innovations you need to transform your organization.

(Courtesy: Paul Sloan – The Innovative Leader. Publisher: Kogan Page)