Sunday, September 03, 2006

Conquering Mount Kinabalu - finally!

Having stayed for more than a decade in this part of the world, one thing which I desperately wanted to do is climb the highest peak in south-east Asia. On 28th August 06, I finally stepped on Mount Kinabalu peak :). (More photos)

However, before I say about the great time I had, I will highlight few things which any of you who is planning to climb the peak should know.

The trek from the gate of Kinabalu national Park (which encompasses Mount Kinabalu Peak also) is divided into 3 major milestones:
  • Tampohon gate : It is the starting point of the gate.
    • Trekkers generally start in the morning from this point (1020am in our case).
  • Resthouse (6 km from the starting point): It is the resting place in the middle of the trek, where climbers take rest in the middle of the trek.
    • Trekkers reach this point at about 5-530 pm, have dinner and sleep for 5 or 6 hours before start climbing at 2 to 230 in the morning.
    • The temperature is generally 9 degree celsius here, so please carry some warm clothings with you.
  • Mount Kinabalu Peak (2.72 km from the resthouse) : This is the final destination.
    • You reach at about 6am, stay for 20-30 minutes and start climbing down.
    • Most of the trek while climbing is done in the night so that you can catch the sunrise just when you reach the top.
    • Low's peak is the highest point and an ideal place to catch the sunrise (4095.2m).
  • Before you plan for the climb, do not try to call any of the Rest houses (like Laban Rata, Waras Hut etc. ), you will never get it. They are all booked by tour packages. Best choice is to take tour packages. Here are the two I strongly recommend: Pinganchorage and Cuti.
  • Going up is tiring but going down is hurtful. Please ignore the comments by some climbers that you do not need to train for it. You should be fit and I personally will recommend to start jogging on a weekly basis few months before the climb.
  • While climbing down the trek, because of your and bag's weight, you will be applying lots of pressure on your knees. As a result, your knees will start aching after about 2 hours of trek and soon the time will come when you will have to hold the hand-rails on the side of the trek path. You will have to decide carefully which is the next rock you will have to step on, because if you don't, there are high chances you will trip down. You will start realizing the importance of even a small stone, which you had been kicking around though out your life :).
  • MAKE SURE, you get Laban Rata resthouse - because it has heaters inside. If you get any other resthouse, it will be freezing cold inside and you will not get proper sleep, which may ruin your next day climb.
  • Carry small water bottles, because you will be able to fill them at 7 stations along the way. Also carry small padlock to lock your bags while you leave them in the resthouses when you climb to the peak. There have been incidences of bags being stolen there. Dinner and breakfast at Laban Rata was good and filling.
  • Most of the time you will not be able to see world's largest flower, Rafflesia. However, you will be able to see a few Pitcher plants and mountain squirrels.
However, overall the trip was great and besides the beautiful views on the way, it is interesting to see how forest vegetation changes from the starting point all the way to the peak. I have never seen such a beautiful night sky and never seen so many stars as I did on the night climb to the peak. When we climb in the night, we cannot see the surrounding, but once we reach the top and slowly the sun light starts to fill our surroundings, it is almost a surreal and indescribable view.

Other sites for more Mount Kinabalu info: 1, 2, 3

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Meeting the man

I met Michael Dell today, when he came to Singapore. I sketched his portrait and got a chance to meet and interact him while presenting him the portrait. He seemed like a "down-to-earth" guy and still very interactive during the conversation.

Although he seemed a bit baffled by the gift that I gave him (Computer Engineers and artists dont go together well!), but he appreciated it with many many thanks. I hope he brought back pleasant memories of Dell Singapore with this gift. More photos here.

I appreciate him for his strong leadership and impressive business skills, he is just 41 years old and he has already grown the company over USD 50 billion. Most of the growth was made in the last decade, growing from merely USD 5 billion to USD 50 billion. Dell using the direct model, ie: no retailers in between the company and customers, adds extra profit to the company. This model also provides quick and better feedback on customer needs, thus allowing Dell to provide better customized customer products and services.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Is $100 laptop project flawed?

Recently there was a lot of news about $100 laptop developed by a Professor in MIT.

However recently there has been negative views about its success, as CNET News site says:

"The real reason that this won't be successful is a misunderstanding of the history of technology. They are looking to introduce a nonstandard, untested platform...which they will only sell to governments," he said. "The decision to buy will be made by politicians who are elected every five years, and politicians generally don't take the decision to risk their political future on nonstandard technology."


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Satanic Verses & The Da Vinci Code - any similarities?

After watching the movie The Da Vinci code, I felt that the uproar this movie created, reminded me of Sulman Rushdie's Satanic verses.

Although very young at the time of the book's release in 1988, I remember that it caused global outrage especially in the Muslim world. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa for the death of Salman Rushdie and it grabbed the headlines for years to come.

In the book, Salman Rushdie mentions about several dreams of one of the characters, and one of the dreams is about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In the book, the Prophet spoke some particular verses of Quran, also called Satanic Verses, to Meccans which allowed the worship of Meccan trio goddesses. As the book says, he did it to win support of the pagans in Mecca. Later he renounced these verses blaming them to be the work of Satan which caused him to err in his speech. All this is part of the book.

Let's look at the historical aspect of the Satanic verses.
In Surah An-Najm of Quran, verses 19-23 read as:

53:19. Have you then considered the Lat and the Uzza,
53:20. And Manat, the third, the last?
53:21. What! for you the males and for Him the females!
53:22. This indeed is an unjust division!
53:23. They are naught but names which you have named, you and your fathers; Allah has not sent for them any authority. They follow naught but conjecture and the low desires which (their) souls incline to; and certainly the guidance has come to them from their Lord.

According to 2 Islamic historians, at-Tabari and Ibn Sa'd, during prayer, Prophet Muhammad was reciting the above verses. However, after reciting verse 20, he recited "These are the high-flying ones, whose intercession is to be hoped for!" thus giving permission to worship the three goddesses. This slip of tongue was due to interference from Satan. This site details more about this incident and mentions that the historians themselves claim that they "transmitted the story as it was transmitted to them" and "al-Tabari has simply refused accountability by avoiding the task of historical criticism". This incident is not mentioned in any canonical Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim Ahadith. Karen Armstrong also gives a detailed description about this incident in her book Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet.

Either way, if this incident is true or not, it proves nothing other than the prophets are just humans and can be tempted by Satan, just like Adam was tempted to eat from the Tree of Eternity. It is further supported in Quran in the following verse:

Never did We send a messenger or a prophet before thee, but, when he framed a desire, Satan threw some (vanity) into his desire: but Allah will cancel anything (vain) that Satan throws in, and Allah will confirm (and establish) His Signs: for Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom. (22:52)

What Salman Rushdie did was used this incident as part of his fictional story and instigated anger among muslims, perhaps to gain publicity in the West?

Similarly in the book The Da Vinci Code, Priory of Sion secret group is mentioned. Its members are the descendents of Jesus (pbuh) with his "supposed" marriage with Mary Magdalene. However, there is no proof of this group and has been proved hoax many times. Even the association of Jesus (pbuh) with Mary Magdalene has no firm authenticity. What Dan Brown did was that he borrowed these ideas, which are speculations more than facts, and used them to create a fictional story.

Just like Salman Rushdie used speculative ideas against Prophet Muhammad, Dan Brown used speculative ideas against Jesus Christ (pbuh). Just like Satanic verses angered muslims, The Da Vinci code instigated anger among Christians. Just like Satanic Verses denigrated the person of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), The Da Vinci Code denigrated the person of Jesus Christ (pbuh).

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hang on for Internet Office!

Google spreadsheet is another tool to help in Google's move to rule the Net. Already loaded with tools like Google Page Creator and Google Notebook, Google is bringing the desktop tools to Internet.

What you can do on MS Office, you can do it on the Internet: Advantages - no special installation needed, Free of cost and you can use any Internet Browser - Do you want more?.

Find out more about the Google spreadsheet here.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tackling Extremism - Doha Debates

Found this good debate on BBC which had penalists like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Professor John Esposito and Diana Buttu.

Here it is (Press Play button below):

If the video does not work, the link is here.

The details of video says:
The issue of how to combat extremism and improve relations between the West and Muslim world was the topic of the second Doha Debates ... all » Special on February 28th, 2006. The event was part of the Doha meeting of the United Nations’ Alliance of Civilizations. Four guest speakers, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Professor John Esposito and Diana Buttu, answered questions from the student audience.

Fake paper detector

Lot of us have heard of some MIT students who wrote a computer programme to generate scientific papers. Their fake paper was even accepted at "The 6th Annual North American Symposium on Methodologies, Theory, and Information".

Recently researchers at the Indiana University School of Informatics have come up with an Inauthentic Paper Detector to foil it. You can try some testing on the system here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Wrong guy interviewed on BBC

BBC mistakenly interviewed the wrong guy. He was wrongly identified at the reception for another person and was asked to sit for a live interview.

Here is his video:

He bacame an overnite celebrity, so much so he has his own website.

Unfortunately the 15-minutes of fame may come to an end as he may be deported back for overstaying his tourist visa.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Da Vinci code - whats the fuss?

There have been lots of protests across the world against Da Vinci code. Even muslim clerics have been participating in the protests. As a muslim, I feel the movie has denigrated the person of Jesus Christ (pbuh), however, it has brought up a positive message too. The movie suggests 2 main points - that Jesus (peace be upon him) married Mary Magdalene and he was not the son of God. It has brought the Islamic message across the masses that Jesus (peace be upon him) is not the Son of God - a message Islam has been preaching for the last 14 centuries. Here are some verses from Quran:

It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, "Be", and it is. (019.035)

O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not "Trinity" : desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. (004.171)

In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary. Say: "Who then hath the least power against Allah, if His will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all every - one that is on the earth? For to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He createth what He pleaseth. For Allah hath power over all things." (005.017)

Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth! (005.075)

They say: "Allah hath begotten a son" :Glory be to Him.-Nay, to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth: everything renders worship to Him. ( 002.116)

According to christian doctrine, Jesus (peace be upon him) did not marry anyone. Quran does not say anything about his marriage, so either case should be fine to muslims.

Besides the movie, there are already many groups among christianity which do not believe in his divinity like Unitarians. No muslim is a muslim if he does not believe in Jesus (Peace be upon him). According to muslims, he was one of the mightiest messengers of God, but not His son.

Like the violent protests of muslims against the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) - which I totally oppose - muslims should show patience. It is Allah who makes Truth clear from falsehood, not us.

Soon will We show them our Signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. Is it not enough that thy Lord doth witness all things? (041.053)

AJAX - some helpful sites

I was searching the Net to find online tutorials for AJAX. Here are some that can be helpful for all those looking for info on AJAX... I feel this is a powerful technology which truly enhances the web experience.
Alex Bosworth's Weblog: Ajax Mistakes
Ajax Examples - Ajax Patterns
Edit-in-Place with Ajax (for My Notes)
Rico - web 2.0 javascript
AJAX Books and Resources
AJAX Magazine

Praises for the People of the Book (Jews/Christians) in Quran

Unlike the claim we often see and hear in the media that hatred towards Jews and Christians is rooted in Quran, I tried to compile the verses in Quran which are always "missed" by them. There are at least 10 places in Quran, where it praises them and consider some of them as righteous and they will go to Paradise. Here are some of them...


YUSUFALI: And there are, certainly, among the People of the Book, those who believe in Allah, in the revelation to you, and in the revelation to them, bowing in humility to Allah: They will not sell the Signs of Allah for a miserable gain! For them is a reward with their Lord, and Allah is swift in account


YUSUFALI: Among the People of the Book are some who, if entrusted with a hoard of gold, will (readily) pay it back; others, who, if entrusted with a single silver coin, will not repay it unless thou constantly stoodest demanding, because, they say, "there is no call on us (to keep faith) with these ignorant (Pagans)." but they tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it.


YUSUFALI: Not all of them are alike: Of the People of the Book are a portion that stand (For the right): They rehearse the Signs of Allah all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration.


YUSUFALI: They believe in Allah and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten (in emulation) in (all) good works: They are in the ranks of the righteous.


YUSUFALI: In most of their secret talks there is no good: But if one exhorts to a deed of charity or sjustice or conciliation between men, (Secrecy is permissible): To him who does this, seeking the good pleasure of Allah, We shall soon give a reward of the highest (value).


YUSUFALI: But those among them who are well-grounded in knowledge, and the believers, believe in what hath been revealed to thee and what was revealed before thee: And (especially) those who establish regular prayer and practise regular charity and believe in Allah and in the Last Day: To them shall We soon give a great reward.


YUSUFALI: Allah did aforetime take a covenant from the Children of Israel, and we appointed twelve captains among them. And Allah said: "I am with you: if ye (but) establish regular prayers, practise regular charity, believe in my messengers, honour and assist them, and loan to Allah a beautiful loan, verily I will wipe out from you your evils, and admit you to gardens with rivers flowing beneath; but if any of you, after this, resisteth faith, he hath truly wandered from the path or rectitude."

Allah asks the prophet to forgive Jews during his time.


YUSUFALI: But because of their breach of their covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard; they change the words from their (right) places and forget a good part of the message that was sent them, nor wilt thou cease to find them- barring a few - ever bent on (new) deceits: but forgive them, and overlook (their misdeeds): for Allah loveth those who are kind.


YUSUFALI: Those who believe (in the Qur'an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.


YUSUFALI: Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, "We are Christians": because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant.


YUSUFALI: And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth: they pray: "Our Lord! we believe; write us down among the witnesses.


YUSUFALI: "What cause can we have not to believe in Allah and the truth which has come to us, seeing that we long for our Lord to admit us to the company of the righteous?"


YUSUFALI: And for this their prayer hath Allah rewarded them with gardens, with rivers flowing underneath,- their eternal home. Such is the recompense of those who do good.


YUSUFALI: As to those who hold fast by the Book(Torah and Gospel) and establish regular prayer,- never shall We suffer the reward of the righteous to perish.

Islamic Arts Society

I have had interest in Arts since childhood. Just joined the society which also keeps a blog on I want to learn about Arabic calligraphy and hope I will get good updates from this site.