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Yearbook 05: April the Stargazer.

     Cosmology fascinates me, in fact my blog name derives from a very famous photo called the Pale Blue Dot, taken by the spacecraft Voyager 1. The photo shows earth as a little tiny blue dot surrounded by the vastness of space. Amazing how that little dot is where, as Carl Sagan put it: "Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives."

      Eversince the dawn of history, human beings had used the stars as a gateway of learning about the world - they noticed patterns and using that pattern our ancestors are able to tell where they are, sailors are able to tell their directions, and the nomads enable to predict the coming of seasons. This was long ago, in a time where the night is only lit by fire.

     I remember calling bollocks on all these constellation stuff until I learned about light pollution. Excessive artificial light especially in the large cities obscures all but the moon and the brightest of stars at night. I dream of one day to drift far away into the wilderness, where there is no light pollution and watch the stars like our ancestors do. Shenango Lake in Ontario, Canada is one place famous for stargazing, where it was told that during the night, one could take a boat to the middle of the lake, and if the lake is calm and collected the reflection from the sky makes it almost like you are floating in space surrounded by stars both above and below you. It sounds amazing.

    Distance. The sun holds all the worlds in the solar system with its gravity, to prevent the worlds from drifting away from its orbit. Our sun is relatively young when compared to the age of other stars in the universe, only 4.6 billion years young. Newborn stars are wrapped in blankets of gas and dust and only after 0.5 billion years will turn into so called adolescent stars, like those present in the constellation The Big Dipper. These numbers are staggering isn't it? And that is only scratching the surface of astrology, do you know that the massive planet Jupiter acts as the vacuum cleaner of the solar system? It is so massive that its gravitational pull is able to suck in all sorts of asteroids towards it, keeping the solar system clean.

    And me as a Muslim who believes in an omnipresent, omnipotence and omniscience God - it is just beyond human comprehension to imagine how great His powers are. He is watching me right now, while also watching a random asteroid or a random star being born several hundred light years away. Not to mention that He transcends time meaning that he is also watching the present, the future and the past all at the same time.

    These complexities of God makes for an interesting topic to dwell into, because much too often questions like these arise: If God is The Source of Peace (As-Salam), then why are there still many wars in this world? The Just (Al-Adil) but there are still crimes and poor people in the world? The Giver of All (Al-Wahab) yet why are there are many honest and hardworking people whom are poor?

     The motives of God are just not in the same spectrum of humanity's motive and morality. The story of Moses and Khidr in Surah A-Kahfi is an instance of this. His nature is not just confined to being The Loving One (Al-Wadud) and all morally white virtues, but also Al-Qahhar and Al-Mumit  which means the subduer, the destroyer and the One who brings death. Like most debates, there will be counter arguments, and we will provide a counter to that counter - but at one point in time these debates will just go in circles and turn into mindless arguments. I think the best thing that one can do is not to give examples, but lead by examples. 

To convey rather than expressing - that is what we all should do.

April The Stargazer.

Yearbook 05: April the Stargazer 6

April looks up -  towards the sea of stars above. 

Yearbook 05: April the Stargazer 3

When April turn on the lights, something precious are lost - the stars.

Yearbook 05: April the Stargazer 2

If only she could leave the ground and break through the clouds - but gravity holds her.

Yearbook 05: April the Stargazer 1

But maybe it is not just gravity, but bounded by life and all things around her as well.

Yearbook 05: April The Stargazer 7

In many ways, life is also a man's own little universe.

Yearbook 05: April The Stargazer 8

Tuned by the intricacies of all that is around us. We may never know who we are, but the journey is finding what we are not.

Yearbook 05: April The Stargazer 9

Writing allows us to save our thoughts and send them farther than space and time.

Yearbook 05: April The Stargazer 10

But space and time can make angry and violent things and turn them into something kind.

Yearbook 05: April the Stargazer 4

And kindness is something akin to a bright star, that shines the darkest of skies.

Inspirations, passions & motivations.
1. Y'know when I first mapped my yearbook project, I was so sure that my April entry would be filled with pictures of my then planned trip to the White Dessert, to complement this entry's stargazing theme. But as luck would have it, my camera broke down so those plans falter.
2. The beach and rock photos were taken in Mersa Matrouh, which was hands down the most beautiful beach that I had ever been too. The color of the sea there was so stunning, like a rainbow only that all 7 colors were different hues of blue.
3. Listen to the instrumental Moon by Sleeping At Last. 
4. I lost my by then very long draft of my London travelogue as such I kind off stopped blogging for a month. It's hard to get the motivation to rewrite all those details man.
5. The "red dot" in my blog refers to a camera brand named Leica. Leicas are not cheap, one camera costs RM25,000 and a lens made by them can be more than RM30,000. So in this entry readers will know the 2 inspirations for my blog name.
6.I highly recommend watching the documentary series Cosmos hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I could listen to him talk for days without stop - he has such an awesome voice. This series is a sequel sort to a series of the same name hosted by Carl Sagan more than 2 decades ago. The first episode of this new series has a very touching tribute by Neil to Carl Sagan who had a very large influence in his life.

The Greek Parthenon + The Olympus Twelve.

     I would like to be the first to say that I love Greek mythology. The stories of Heracles, Jason the rivalry between Hector and Achilles just to name a few are all stories that helped shape my imagination over the years. Hector and Achilles battles are perfectly reimagined in Dan Simmon's novel titled Ilium, a book which I recommend everyone to read. Don't read the sequel Olympos though because it is so underwhelming. I finished reading Ilium twice, that is how good it is.

     The ancient Greeks accepted these myths as part of their history. They used these lores to explain natural phenomenon, cultural activities, living habits - and to ascend the reputation of their leaders by linking their lineage to those of heroes and immortals in these stories.

     Long before the age of heroes was the Golden Age led by the Titans, descendants of the Primordials. In this age, humans and Titans lived together in harmony, the humans need not to work as everything was provided to them, from protection to entertainment to food. However, a Titan named Prometheus defies the other Titans and decided to give fire to humanity - which enabled humans to progress into a civilisation. This act, amongst a few others, sets into motion an upheaval by the younger immortals named the Olympians, lead by Zeus.

     The Titans of Cronus, Rhea, Oceanus, Tethys, Hyperion, Theia, Coeus, Phoebe, Mnemosyne, Themis, Crius and Iapetus were overthrown by Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Athena, Demeter, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Hermes, Aphrodite, Hephaestus & Hestia. Prometheus was tormented for eternity due to his offence. The 12 Olympians then became the rulers with Zeus up top. This new age was known as the Silver age. Eventually there came a time where these deities and mortals mingled freely, and wars were aplenty. This was known as the Bronze age where men were hardened and tough, like a bronze, where war and battles were their sole purpose of life. Then came the Heroics age, where inspiring and sometimes tragic heroes came to be. These heroes are not divine, rather they are mere mortals with superhuman abilities. It was told that eventually Prometheus was freed by the hero Heracles, bringing the story full circle. Then, the immortals and heroes eventually left the earth, leading to the Iron Age where brother fight with brother, might makes right and bad men uses lies to be thought good.

     Tolkien borrows this concept in his writing as well. The Lord of the Ring and The Hobbit for instance, occurs during The Third Age. You'd be surprised to read just how detailed the histories of Middle Age are - those stories are just two from the many tales from the world that he had created.

     The Parthenon is a shrine dedicated to Athena Parthenos, daughter of Zeus, and one of the 12 Olympians. It was built nearly 2500 years ago by ancient architects Ictinus and Callicrates. The sculptures were done and led by Phidias. Phidias also sculpts the statue of Zeus at Olympia, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Parthenon is one of the symbols of western civilisation. 

British Museum Parthenon - 08

For the life of me I thought that the Greeks and the Romans are one and the same. After all most of their myths, art and architecture overlaps. For example Zeus and Heracles are called Jupiter and Hercules in Roman mythos respectively. The Parthenon looks like it can exist during the same period as The Colosseum. Turns out the Romans came and conquered Greece hundreds of years after the death of Alexander the Great - the Greek's greatest conqueror. Assimilation of both cultures came to be when Greek was absorbed into the Roman Empire. 

The Colosseum was built roughly 500 years after completion of the Parthenon so the Roman came to rise after the Greek.

British Museum Parthenon - 09

The parthenon was built during the leadership of Pericles, arguably the most acclaimed Greek leader of his era. He led Athens via democracy. Demos = people, whereas kratos = power. Thus democracy (Demos+Kratos) = people power. 

Pericles wanted to built the Parthenon and via people power, the people wanted it as well. Since it was built on democracy and subsequently public money, the expenditures for building it was made public since the people had the right to know. It costs about 12,000 kg worth of silver.

British Museum Parthenon - 06

These Greek artifacts are displayed here in the British Museum, . I could seriously spend a whole day here in the museum and not be bored. Everyone visiting London should visit this place. Entrance is free of charge.

British Museum Parthenon - 07

A replica of the Parthenon on dispay. A year after the Parthenon was completed, the Greek goes to war with the Spartans. The Spartans won, and the parthenon was converted into an army barrack. The place had also been converted to a mosque during the time of the Ottoman empire. 

British Museum Parthenon - 02

The parthenon was built during the leadership of Pericles, arguably the most acclaimed Greek leader of his era. He led Athens via democracy. Demos = people, whereas kratos = power. Thus democracy (demos+kratos) = people power. 

Pericles wanted to rebuilt the Parthenon and via people power, the people wanted it as well. Since it was built on democracy and subsequently public money, the expenditures for building it was made public since the people had the right to know. It costs about 12,000 kg worth of silver. The building was completed in 9 years.

British Museum Parthenon - 04

Duveen Gallery, British Museum. Many Greek myths are kind of weird when you read about it. For example, Athena was born from Zeus's forehead. Zeus had a terrible headache and to relieve it, Ares, another of the 12 Olympians cleaved Zeus's head with his axe. Athena leaped out from his head.

British Museum Parthenon - 03

And of course, a common theme in Greek mythology is also the downfall of corrupted leaders. Uranus, the personification the the sky itself, was toppled by his son, the Titan Cronus, which in turn was toppled by the Olympian Zeus, son of Cronus and Lord of the Sky and Thunder.

British Museum Parthenon - 05

The Elgin Marbles designed by Phidias. In the carvings, mere mortals were depicted to be standing alongside the immortal Olympians. It also depicts mortals with morality of justice over injustice and civilisation beating the barbarians.

British Museum Parthenon - 10

The original Parthenon sits atop Acropolis in Athens. It was nice to visit and see artifacts of a once grand civilisation, and witness with my own eyes a ruin we needlessly destroyed. 

Inspirations, passions & motivations.
1. I got a bit carried away with explaining the Greek myths didn't I? It is a fascinating topic I must say.
2. Do watch the excellent documentary Secrets of the Parthenon. Much of the info on the building came from this documentary. At the end of the day, like the pyramid you would ask yourself - "How did these ancient people built these things?"
3. Olympos XII from the Digimon series had some wicked design for the Olympians.. But they use the Roman names for the members so Zeus are called Jupiter, Poseidon as Neptune, Athena as Minerva and so on.
4. I must say my love for Greek mythology rekindled when I read Ilium by Dan Simmons several years ago. It is a recreation of the Trojan War from Homer's Iliad. It eventually becomes a crazy story and an amalgam of an uneducated post apocalyptic human society, the adventure of the only man on Earth left capable of reading, the rivalry between  Hector and Achilles, the literature loving robots from Jupiter, Martians who somehow became Greek deities with quantum powers and a sprinkle of Shakespeare particularly The Tempest. And all these crazy elements somehow make sense in this world that he had created.
5. Immortals by Tarsem Singh is not good, both visually and narratively. A shame because his previous film The Fall is a visual feast.

Yearbook 04: March & Red.

     My answer differs every time I was asked what my favourite color is. The truth is my favourite color is red. I have met someone who said that his favourite color is vermillion. What color is vermillion anyway.

     One thing that I love to do in my spare time is listening to podcasts. I listen to Colt's excellent AOW, Sanderson's Writing Excuses and the amazing Good Job Brain almost weekly. Dan Carlin's Hardcore History is good too in small doses - his coverage of Genghis Khan is amazing.  
Good Job Brain's podcast on colors was an interesting listen and frankly the main inspiration for this month's yearbook entry.  Perception of color occurs when light hits a certain object, and depending on the object it will selectively block some colors whereas it will reflect others - the reflected ones being what we can see with our own naked eye.

     It is all very confusing really. Interestingly, there's a famous French painter named Claude Monet, whose able to see colors beyond what the human eyes can normally see. This happened after he had done surgery to remove the cataract in his right eye. The lens of his right eye was removed and he gained something akin to an ultraviolet vision.

     It was said that blue looks bluer to him, orange looks oranger and so on. The color of his paintings after the operation looks quite bizarre to be honest. That is Monet and his perception of colors.

     Sometimes we also perceive things, colors I mean -  differently after we gain more knowledge. Do you know there's real color named Islamic Green? Rose is more purple than red? They use a substance called Nigrosin to create black colored inks and dyes for clothes because pure black is hard to be replicated? Perception and knowledge goes hand in hand.

     And now I know vermillion is a shade of red you smart aleck.

March & Red - 3

This cute little backyard is called Neal's Yard, situated somewhere in Covent Garden, London. The pastel colors used on the walls are a sight to behold.

Neal's Yard.

The walls are painted with pastel colors. Pastel colors are usually low in saturation giving it a natural milky and tranquil look. To describe pastel color best, imagine adding any color with white.

March & Red - 8

This burgundy colored food container caught my eye. The salad too, has a nice combination of color to it. Lime + chartreuse + lime green. Taken at Johnny's Restaurant, somewhere in Johor Bharu. My sister loves this place.

March & Red - 5

I love learning and knowing the names of all these different colors. They sound unique and very romantic if I may say so myself. This wallet for example, is colored bistre.

March & Red - 6

This ABC must not taste as nice as it was if it wasn't this colorful. Taken somewhere in Pintu Geng, Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Most probably the best ABC I ever had. The ice cream's color is a shade of purple called muave.

March & Red - 7

This Kampfer Amazing wouldn't look amazing if it wasn't painted ultramarine. In the anime though, its color was more towards midnight blue.

Speaking of blue, those blue skies that we often can see during the summer is colored Azure. Azure is also the national color of Italy.

Kelantan lawan sabah FA cup 2014

A cluster of Red Warriors watching a football game. Kelantan won 2-1 against Sabah when this photo was taken.

March & Red - 2

The iconic red bus of London. Taken when I had a nice evening walk on Tower Bridge.

March & Red - 1

A red bus stopping due to the traffic light being red, nearby a red telephone booth, with a girl in red taking a picture of it. 


Inspirations, passions & motivations.
1. The theme for this entry is percepetion of things. To be honest there's no hidden meaning at all with the title name March & Red. I was originally going the call the entry "Colors" but it just doesn't fit all the other yearbook titles that I had written so far.
2. My most listened song this month is by a band named RED, titled Pieces. It is a very slow song but I donno, the song just clicks with me somehow.
3.  Speaking of red, I must've replayed that Taylor Swift's a couple dozens of time. Many agree that All Too Well is one of her most best song ever.
4. I finished watching the documentary Class of 92 last week. I've got to say from the documentary, David Beckham is the most charming and friendly and hardworking and lovable and romantic and elegant and classy guy ever. And Paul Scholes accent is near indecipherable.
5. Naruto's new development seems to borrow heavily from The Tale of Princess Kaguya.
6. The London travelogue is being written slowly and with care. I've got more than 4000 pictures from the trip and I've got a hard time choosing which ones to show.

Rich mosque, poor mosque.

When I was little, I love to gaze at buildings - finished or otherwise. Abah oftentimes would bring me to nearby construction sites to see the trucks, bulldozers and excavators do their own thing. I was obsessed with these sort of things that my parents thought that I would be an architect growing up.

Live oftentimes take a different course of course, but even till now, I just love looking at buildings just to see their architecture, design and frame work.

Now a mosque is one structure that has so much variety in design that I can't help but take pictures of it every now and then. But that begs the question, how are these buildings managed? How come some mosques be crowded whilst others deserted? Many more questions come to mind but one thing is for sure - people simply do not know what the place really is.

Rich Mosque, poor mosque - 19

This was taken inside the Steel Mosque in Putrajaya. I have to say that this is one of the most beautiful mosque in the world.

Another one which amazed me was Shah Alam's mosque. I was surprised at how big this place really is. Infact calling it big is an understatement. The place is massive. It can hold up to 24,000 people at a time in its enormous prayer hall.


These impressive mosques are symbols, not to boast - but to illustrate and establish that Islam is in fact the country's main religion.

Rich Mosque, poor mosque - 14

But the mosque is a very enigmatic place when you think about it. In Malaysia atleast. Outside from being a place of worship, what else is there to do? Is there any reason to go there at all? 

For such a serene and calmful place it is quite an intimidating place to enter, which is oxymoronic.

Rich Mosque, poor mosque - 21

In a way it is also ironic because we have such romantic expectations for the place as well. 

Tingkat 21

There are too many variables and scenarios that we have to factor to.

Rich Mosque, poor mosque - 16

The mosque near my place in Johor Bharu for example, can be considered one that is well managed enough that it can support itself. Income wise they are stable enough to start their own businesses which includes a grocery shop, locker services, their own dialysis centre among others.

Rich Mosque, poor mosque - 17

From my limited observation there are more than 300 people performing Subuh prayer there everyday. Of course it doesn't cover even 1/20th of the mosque's capaciy but you know what, that is still an impressive number of people.

Rich Mosque, poor mosque - 08

But sadly not many mosques are brilliantly managed like that. And some even with a brilliant management team, cannot do well enough simple because they lack the resources needed.

Rich Mosque, poor mosque - 09

Take this mosque for example. I stopped by here when I was on my way to Besut. It was Friday.

Rich Mosque, poor mosque - 12

Transparencies like this is very refreshing to see because every donator has the right to know where their money are being spent on. I'm hoping more mosques would follow suit with this.

Rich Mosque, poor mosque - 11

Inside the mosque. Filled with locals, and several dozens foreign workers. The mosque looks very nice, very clean, well managed and you know as soon as you entered it that the place is a hub for the villagers.

kolah Air1

After the prayer I went to the toilet and sadly, out of I think 6 toilets there, only 1 was usable. The toilet was clean,  but there were broken pipes, disfigured doors etc that need to be repaired.

Rich Mosque, poor mosque - 13

Another glance at the notice board and you know that it is not because the mosque's management doesn't want to repair it - they simply don't have the money for it. Look at the picture and you can see on average, they collect about RM1000 a month. 

Take into consideration that they need to pay the bills and other various things, and there must not be much money left to spent. 

Masjid Penarik 1

The mosque near my place as a comparison, can get donations up to RM4000 per week. Add that with their business branches and they can get more than RM20,000  a month. 

You can see for yourself just how active the mosque is. The surplus in money can be used to call guest speakers regularly to attract the locals. As much as we hate to admit it, money does play a huge role.

High Building London.

Eleven thousand kilometres away from Terengganu and the weather was chilly. The city is surrounded by huge and modern buildings.

High Building London 2.

London is a city with the highest amount of millionaire per population. It is followed by Tokyo and Singapore.

Autumn London

This huge opportunity attracts people all over the world from all walks of life. And in circumstances like these, the mosque is the natural hub that Muslims should look for if they were to settle down here.

The Walkway.1

The park was filled with people from all walks of life. Some are having a picnic, some are reading newspapers, many are jogging.

Rich Mosque, poor mosque - 05

Near the park is a mosque, the largest one in London in fact. It can hold up to 5000 people at a time.

Rich Mosque, poor mosque - 06

The name of the place is Regent Mosque. Construction cost of this mosque is 6.5 million pound. Amazing isn't it?

London Mosque

It is not only used for prayers, but there's also a library, conference halls, amongst others to accommodate local Muslims. Surely the mosque has a solid financil security to realise all these. 

The mosque was not yet opened when I got here, so unfortunately I missed the opportunity to go inside.

Shop near London Mosque 2

You can expect to see various Muslim related shops nearby as well. 

Shop near London Mosque 1

I bought 2 whole chicken and 2 kilos of rice here if memory serves me correctly.

Rich Mosque, poor mosque - 02

But of course like the scenario before, there are also small and humble mosques to be considered. Like this one at Gants Hill for example. Do note that they call it a masjid, not a mosque.

Masjid Gants Hill 2

The place is very small, but it was filled with people every single time I was here. Not just middle aged men, but the younger ones as well.

There's one thing that my father said that stuck out to me. To paraphrase it, he said no matter how we view the arabs, one good thing about them is they know how to develop and flourish the muslim community. They do not sit still and be silent about it. This is something that I think we should take note of.

Masjid Gants Hill 1

You can see here that there are classes arranged everyday - from fiqh to arabic courses to reading the Quran and Hadiths.

Rich Mosque, poor mosque - 03

Honestly I think we should try to somehow and someway contribute to our local mosques. And try to develop a sense of dedication to it. After all how can we love something that we don't even know?

Inspirations, passions & motivations.
1. It is nice to have all my roommates back. I think everyone in the house realises that this will be our last year together so there's an increasing amount of activity that we do together. I love it.
2. I had been wanting to write this topic since last year. The inspiration came when I had a talk with my father when I asked him "where does the money from the surau goes to?" He explained that it was used to pay the muezzin, the bills, the invited speakers, etc - something that should be obvious but did not occur to me before. And that made me realise how every mosque are managed and being attended by different types of people so I think that it is an interesting topic to write about.
3. Aren't We All Running by 65daysofstatic is an instrumental that everyone should hear.
4. Have a listen to Guide Me All The Way. Maher Zain's best song in my opinion.
5. I'll start my London travelogue next. There will be many and I mean many pictures in the upcoming entries.