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Changing the time August 23, 2010

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Posted by Peter 30 March 2010


A summer evening. Will we enjoy them more if we change our time? Photo by WhiteGoldWielder/flickr

Last Sunday, in the early hours of the morning, a whole hour disappeared. It was the beginning of summer time. Every year, at the end of March, we (more…)


Crime and Punishment August 23, 2010

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Crime and Punishment

Posted by Peter 11 March 2010


James Bulger

Some of you have e-mailed me to say that you would like more podcasts about life and politics in Britain. The subject of the podcast today is a difficult and serious one. It is about a small boy who was murdered 17 years ago. The murder and what happened afterwards are still very controversial and arouse strong emotions in this country.

In February 1993, James Bulger was nearly 3 years old. He lived in Bootle, which is a town north of Liverpool in the north-west of England. One day he went shopping with his mother Denise. She went into a butcher’s shop to buy some meat. James stayed outside. When Denise returned a few minutes later, James was gone.

Some children found James’s body on ground beside a railway line a few days later. He had been beaten to death with bricks, stones and an iron bar. Whoever had killed him then placed James’s body on the railway line, so that it would look as if he had been killed by a train.

There were CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras in the shopping centre where James had disappeared. The police found pictures of James. He was holding the hand of an older boy or a young man. Together with another boy, they were leaving the shopping centre. The police published the photos in the press, and a member of the public was able to identify the people who had taken James. They were two 10-year old boys, called Robert Thompson and Jon Venables. The police arrested them, and they were later found guilty of the murder of James Bulger.

The story was headline news for many weeks. The whole country was horrified, both by the mindless murder of a small child, and also by the fact that the killers were themselves children. In Liverpool, feelings ran particularly high and the families of the two 10-year old killers were forced to go into hiding.


Robert Thompson and Jon Venables

After the trial, Jon and Robert spent 8 years in secure children’s homes, where they received an education. Then, when they were 18 years old, they were let out, but with strict conditions about where they could live and what they could do. They were given new identities (new names etc), to protect them from the media and from people who might want to kill them. Was this the right punishment for them?

James’s mother, Denise, describes Jon and Robert as pure evil. She says that they have never been sorry for what they did, and that the justice system let them off lightly. She, and many others, think that it was wrong to release the two young men so soon; they should have been sent to prison for many years when they were 18. At one point, indeed, the government tried to have Jon and Robert kept in prison at least until they were aged 25, but the courts said that the government had no power to interfere.

Now the case is back in the news. A few weeks ago, the police arrested Jon Venables and he is now in prison. The government have refused to say why, but the press have reported that it is connected with pornographic images of children. Immediately, the old controversy started again. Many people say, “I told you so. It was a mistake ever to release Jon and Robert. They are dangerous and ought to be in prison for many years. And it was a mistake too to give them new identities. People should know who they are and what they have done.”

What does this tell us about the sort of country which Britain is? We send a lot of people to prison – in fact, we have more people in prison in relation to population than anywhere else in Europe. But we still do not feel safe. Sometimes it seems that crime is a national obsession. At the same time, we know that many prisoners, when they leave prison, go back to a life of crime. A government minister once remarked that prison is an expensive way of making bad people worse. A recent survey showed that most people agree that it is important to help people who have committed crimes to re-organise their lives,to stop using drugs,to get an education and a job. But cases like the murder of James Bulger create a very strong emotional reaction, and this make rational discussion of how best to deal with crime and criminals much more difficult.

There are some new phrasal verbs in this podcast. I have posted a separate grammar and vocabulary note about them.


Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) Sermon on welcoming the month of Ramadhan July 29, 2010

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O People! The month of Allah (Ramadhan) has approached you with His mercy and blessings. This is the month that is the best of all months in the estimation of Allah. Its days are the best among the days; its nights are the best among the nights. Its hours are the best among the hours.

This is a month in which he has invited you. You have been, in this month, selected as the recipients of the honors of Allah, the Merciful. In this holy month, when you breathe, it has the Sawab/thawab (heavenly reward) of ‘Tasbeeh’ (the praise of Allah on rosary beads), and your sleep has the thawab of worship.

Your good deeds are accepted in this month. So are your invocations. Therefore, you must invoke your Lord, in right earnest, with hearts that are free from sins and evils, that Allah may bless you, observe fast, in this month, and recite the Holy Quran.

Verily! The person who may not receive the mercy and benevolence of Allah in this month must be very unfortunate having an end as bad (in the Hereafter). While fasting, remember the hunger and thirst of tomorrow in Qiyamat. Give alms to the poor and the needy. Pay respects to your elders.

Have pity on those younger than you and be kind towards your relatives and kinsmen. Guard your tongues against unworthy words, and your eyes from such scenes that are not worth seeing (forbidden) and your ears from such sounds that should not be heard by you.

Be kind to orphans so that when your children become orphans they also may be treated with kindness. Do invoke that Allah may forgive your sins. Do raise your hands at the time of Salat (Prayers), as it is the best time for asking His mercy. When we invoke at such times, we are answered by Him, when we call Him, He responds, and when we ask for anything, it is accepted by Him.

O People! You have made your conscience the slave of your desires; make it free by invoking Him for Istighfar (repentance/forgiveness). Your back is breaking under the heavy load of your sins, so prostrate before Him for long intervals and make it lighter.

Do understand fully well that Allah has promised in the name of His Majesty and Honor that He will not take to task such people who fast and offer Salat in this month and perform ‘sajda’ (prostration), and will guard their bodies against the Fire of Hell on the Day of Judgment.

O People! If anybody amongst you arranges for the Iftar (food for the ending of the fast) of any believer, then Allah will give him a reward as if he has set free a slave. He will forgive his minor sins.

Then the companions of Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “But everybody amongst us does not have the means to do so?”

Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) told them: – Keep yourself away from the Fire of Hell, by inviting for ‘Iftar’, though it may consist of only half a date or simply with water if you have nothing else. O People! Anybody who may cultivate good manners in this month will walk over the ‘Siraat’ (Bridge) in ‘Qiyamat’, though his feet may be shaking.

Anybody who in this month may take light work from his servants (male or female), Allah will make easy his accounting on the Day of Judgment.

Anybody who does not tease others in this month, Allah will keep him safe from His wrath in Qiyamat. Anybody, who respects and treats an orphan with kindness in this month, Allah shall look at him with dignity in Qiyamat. Anybody who treats well his kinsmen, in this month, Allah will bestow His mercy on him in Qiyamat, while anybody who maltreats his kinsmen in this month, Allah will keep him away from His mercy, in Qiyamat.

Salat and salamWhoever offers ‘Sunnat’ (Recommended) prayers in this month, Allah will give him a certificate of freedom from Hell. Whosoever offers one ‘Wajib’ Salat in this month, for him the Angels will write the rewards of 70 such prayers, which were offered by him in any other months.

Whosoever recites repeatedly ‘Salat and salam (Salawat)’ on me, Allah will keep the scales of his deeds heavy, when in Qiyamat the scales of others will be tending towards lightness.

Whosoever recites in this month only one ‘Ayat’ (verse of the Holy Quran), he will be rewarded in a manner as if he had recited the full Holy Quran in the other months.

O People! The Gates of Paradise remain opened in this month. Do invoke that the gates may not be closed on you, while the Gates of Hell are closed. Do invoke that these gates may never be opened. During this month Shaitan (Satan) is imprisoned so ask your Lord not to let him have power over you.

source: http://www.ezsoftech.com/ramadan/ramadan00.asp

7 Keuntungan Membaca July 28, 2010

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7 Keuntungan Membaca

David Efendi, LaPSI PP IPM

Pertama, kita mesti percaya bahwa membaca adalah kunci untuk membuka gerbang ilmu kesemestaan. Seentara buku adalah jendela dunia yang terhampar luasnya. Dnengan demikian kita menimani ayat Allah tentang seruan Iqro’, perintah membaca yang terdapat dalam salah satu ayat al Quran surat al Alaq yang berbunyi: “Bacalah dengan mengagungkan nama tuhanmu yang telah menciptakanmu…” . Banyak ilmuwan baik dari kalangan muslim maupun non muslim memuji kehadiaran ayat ini dan dianggap sebagai ayat pertama yang meletakkan sendi-sendi seradaban melalaui sebuah perintah agung: BACALAH!.

“Iqro”: Bacalah, demikian setiap insan diperintahkan oleh sang penguasa Semesta. Dan kita ditutntut untuk mencoba memaknai dan melaksanakan serta mengambil hikmah dari perintah tersebut. Membaca seperti apa yang diperintahkan? Rasanya bukan sekedar perintah membaca biasa? Sebagai anak muda pasti kita membutuhkan jawabannya? Iya kan?

Seorang mufasir terkemuka, Quraish Shihab dalam tafsir Al Misbah mengartikan iqro secara istimewa yaitu kegiatan aktif yang meliputi membaca teks, membaca realitas, memahami, meneliti/riset. Jadi, makna iqro itu teramat luasnya sehingga meliputi dimensi tekstual(buku) dan kesemestaan(jagat alam). Kecerdasan yang hendak dibangun oleh tuhan bukanlah kecerdasan mental, otak, spritual, namun kecerdasan emosional yang berdimensi semesta, lingkungan adalah hal yang penting sehingga manusia bisa memahami gerak-gerik dan fenomena alam. Artinya membaca di sini itu diwarnai dengan semangat daya pikir yang total-menyeluruh, mengingat, menganalisa dan bakan membayangkan sebuah langkah untuk mengatasi sebuah permasalahan. Berbagai bencana alam yang terjadi di negeri ini adalah menuntut refleksi kita, sejauh mana kita mampu bersahabat dan membaca nalar alam yang mempunyai “the power of nature”.Baiklah saya mensarikan dari sebuah lembaga training terkemuka, EXPERD, tentang berita penting: 7 keuntungan Membaca alam semesta (Eilan Rachman dan Sylvina Savitri ):

  1. Mengusir keraguan, kecemasan, dan kesedihan.
  2. Menebalkan keimanan, karena sesungguhnya bacaan pelajaran yang paling besar, peringatan yang paling agung, pencegahan kemungkaran yang paling efesien, dan perintah yang paling bijak.
  3. Melemaskan lidah dan menghiasi diri dengan kefasihan berbicara
  4. Mengembangkan wawasan berfikir dan memperbaiki persepsi.
  5. Mengambil manfaat dari pengalaman orang lain
  6. Menelaah berbagai kebudayaan yang menumbuhkan kesadaran akan perannya dalam kehidupan.
  7. Menjaga kalbu dari kekacauan, dan memelihara waktu dari ke sia-siaan.

Luar biasa manfaat membaca itu kalau kita mau melakukannya. Kalau tidak ya bagaimana mungkin bisa memproleh manfaat dari sebuah tradisi “agung” yang bernama membaca. Apabila kita membicarakan membaca dalam arti membaca teks maka ini akan dikaitkan dengan sikap intelktualitas kita. Sikap intelektual sangat berkaitan dengan bacaan yang dikonsumsi sehar-hari sehingga ada yang mengatakan bahwa : “you are what you read!!” dan kadar itelektualitas itu juga cukup dipengaruhi oleh cara membaca. Ada orang yang yang membaca sambil berimajinasi, mengambil intisari, menggarisbawahi, bahkan ada yang membaca daftar isinya saja, lalu dilajutkan yang .enarik untuk dibaca dan sebagainya dan sebagainya.

Seorang yang cerdas membaca perlu mampu membaca buku dengan menghadirkan konteks dan lingkungan yang mengelilinginya. Terhadap sebuah tulisan pembaca perlu hadir, menyerap, menyimpulkan, mengulang/review, dan juga memperjelas.

Selamat membaca alam semesta!!

Homesickness July 21, 2010

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Self-help Leaflets on Common Problems


What is homesickness?

Most people will have felt homesick at some time in their lives, perhaps when they were younger, and it is easy to forget just how overwhelming it can be.

Beginning life at university naturally generates both excitement and anxiety about the move, academic work, meeting new people. For some, this apprehension is quickly overcome as they adapt to a new environment; for others the transition takes longer and sometimes emerges as homesickness where there is a preoccupation with home-focused thoughts. There is a yearning for and grieving over the loss of what is familiar and secure: most often it is about the loss of people – family and friends – but it is also about the loss of places and routines, and the realisation that family life continues without you.

Those who experience homesickness might notice an increase in depressed feelings, anxiety, obsessive thoughts and minor physical ailments. Homesickness can often be distinguished from depression in this way – in depression sufferers find both university and home awful, whereas in homesickness university can feel awful while home may be seen in rose-tinted hues.

Some students will start by being mildly depressed and anxious several weeks before leaving home, in anticipation of the impending change. Others will be fine initially, and then to their surprise find themselves feeling homesick later in the academic year, perhaps after the Christmas break, or even at the start of their second academic year. But commonly it is the first few days or weeks after arriving at university which are the most difficult.

Students are not immune just because they have successfully experienced leaving home before. Vulnerability to feeling homesick is affected by:

  • the distance from home
  • a sense of anticlimax at finally arriving at university after working towards it for so long
  • whether the student was responsible for the decision to come to university
  • unhappiness due to expectations of university not being met
  • “job strain” – i.e. work overload and low control over it
  • whether family members at home are well and happy
  • contrast in lifestyle.

Those who are homesick often feel they have no control over their environment, and that they are not identified with it or committed to the university or their place in it.

Transition to University

There are two tasks involved in starting at university:

  1. leaving familiar things, people and places,
  2. adapting to new things, people and places.

Individuals have different levels of tolerance to change and have learned different ways of coping with new situations. But what can make transition so hard? In a familiar place people generally feel accepted and secure, and are therefore able to function and meet challenges successfully. Away from the familiar, they are without their usual sources of support, and in unfamiliar surroundings their tried and tested methods of coping and working are challenged; “failure” looms large and self esteem and confidence drops. Tasks which would normally have been taken in one’s stride, can suddenly seem quite a challenge, or even feel impossible.

What might help?

  1. Talk to someone. If you haven’t yet made friends here, then try a tutor, supervisor, chaplain, nurse or counsellor.
  2. Keep in good contact with the people you have left behind; arrange a time to go back to see them, perhaps after a few weeks. But also give yourself time within the university to begin to get involved here. Don’t let looking back actually hinder moving forward.
  3. Encourage friends and family to come and see you in your new setting.
  4. Remember that many other people will be sharing similar feelings, although you may assume that they are doing fine! (You can’t read their minds – just as they can’t read yours!)
  5. You are allowed to feel sad and homesick! You are also allowed to enjoy yourself – it isn’t being disloyal to those you miss!
  6. Be realistic about what to expect from student life and from yourself. Establish a balance between work and leisure: you are NOT expected to work ALL the time – you would soon burn out. On the other hand, if you don’t put in enough time on work, you can very quickly get behind, which only adds to the stresses!
  7. If work is proving too difficult, can you improve your study skills or your organisation of time and work so that you gain satisfaction from what you do? There may be people in your College or Department or the Student Union who can help in this area, such as your Tutor, Supervisor or the Welfare Officer
  8. Remember to get enough food and sleep! These affect us emotionally as well as physically.
  9. Make contacts and friends through shared activities such as sport or other interests. There are so many clubs and societies within the university and city, that you are very likely to find something that suits your particular interests. At the start of the academic year many new people will be joining – you are unlikely to be the only new person.
  10. Give yourself time to adjust: you don’t have to get everything right straight away. Nor do you have to rush into making major decisions about staying or leaving.
  11. Check out that you do really want to be at this university, in this college, studying this subject, at this time. Most people come through times of homesickness and go on to do well and enjoy their time at university. But for some it can be right to leave and take another direction. Those who do leave mostly find another course or university with which they are happy, perhaps after taking a year out. But if you are thinking along these lines, you need to take expert advice about the academic, career and financial implications. Speak to your tutor, the University Career Service and your LEA.
  12. If you stop being able to do normal social and academic things, seek professional help either from your doctor or the counselling service. Don’t wait until the problems have grown impossibly large!

We hope that some of these suggestions will prove useful. There are many things you can do to help yourself, but don’t hesitate in seeking out the help of others. Homesickness is not unusual – and it can be conquered!

source: http://www.counselling.cam.ac.uk/hsick.htm


Homesickness is a normal response to separation from people, places and things that give you a sense of belonging. Most people experience homesickness at some point in their lives. It is experienced if you move to a new town, start a new job, go away to college or study abroad. People who have never experienced homesickness before may suddenly feel overwhelmed and somehow inadequate. It is important to know that homesickness is normal, you are not inadequate, it does pass, and there are some things you can do which may help you get through some of those sad and lonely feelings. For example, it may be helpful to:

  • Admit that you are homesick. Much of what you know and find comforting is back home. Homesickness is a natural response to this sense of loss. Dr. Will S. Keim notes that you may go through stages of grieving, similar to Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ Five Stages of Grieving. At first you may feel shock and denial, then anger, then bargaining (“I’ll give it another week and then I’m leaving”), depression, and finally acceptance. This is a process of letting go of the past and taking up a new direction in life.
    Talk about it with a family member or friend who has had a similar experience. Seek out other people who may be having the same experience right now. (If you are a freshman in college, you can be assured there are others who are feeling similarly.) It takes strength to accept the fact that something is bothering you and to confront it.
  • Bring familiar items from home to your new location. Photos, plants, even stuffed animals help to give one a sense of continuity and ease the shock of a new environment.
    Decide whether the best policy for you is to have frequent contact with home (because contact makes you feel better), or little contact (because contact makes you feel worse).
    Familiarize yourself with your new surroundings. Walk around. You will feel more in control if you know where buildings, classes, services , etc. are located.
  • Invite people to explore your new surroundings with you. Making friends is a big step in alleviating homesickness.
    Establish a routine as soon as possible. The fuller your days are, the less time you will have to feel homesick or lonely.
    Examine your expectations. We’d all like to be popular, out-going, well-adjusted .but we’re not. Don’t let setting your goals too high or being perfectionistic create more trouble for you. Remember you are learning. Laugh at your mistakes.
  • Seek new opportunities. Seek out activities you are interested in where you might meet people that you would like. Remember there are other people out there experiencing the same feelings that your are.
  • Write family and friends. This can help you feel connected. It is also comforting to receive mail and know that you are missed. You may want to keep a journal as well. This can be a good way to get your feelings out rather than just ruminating about them.
  • Do Something! Don’t wait for homesickness to go away by itself. Trying to ignore it only increases the chances that it will resurface as fatigue, a cold, or a headache. If you feel none of your efforts are working, seek professional help. If you are on campus, the Counseling Center offers services at no extra charge (x5109). If you are studying abroad, contact your advisor for recommendations.

The Loyola College Counseling Center offers free counseling and referral service to Loyola students. Just call 617-5109 for an appointment or for further information.
Adapted from U of Dayton, U of London, and Dr. Will S. Keim websites.

source: http://www.loyola.edu/campuslife/healthservices/counselingcenter/hmsick.html

Power point downloaded here: http://www.pserie.psu.edu/student/counseling/pdf/homesick.pdf#search=%27college%20home%20sick%27