Saturday, October 04, 2008

Are you on Facebook? And is it ruining your life?

I hardly check my Facebook and just keep hanging there for a virtual presence without much purpose. Anyway, thanks for those who have linked and requested as my 'friends', appreciate the gesture and will stay friends.

For those unfamiliar with this Internet phenomenon, Facebook is a website that allows users to set up a free personal web space where they can provide a little sketch of their life. They put together a profile page outlining their favourite TV shows, books and quotes with little blurbs about themselves explaining where they work or go to school, pictures, blogs and personalized message boards known as 'walls.'

Facebook and other social networks like My Space have truly redefined how we communicate and what constitutes community. On the one hand, it's fascinating to be a part of something so global and so immediate. The minute something occurs, there's a Facebook page on it. On the other hand, cyberspace is a fake reality and sometimes creates false connections. There's a reason we didn't stay in touch with all our old high school friends…

When Facebook was launched by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 while attending Harvard University as a sophomore, it was designed as a way for college students to connect with each other. Users created a personal page and were able to accept or send out electronic 'friend' requests for people to be included in their networks. People who were 'friends' were able to keep tabs on people in their network, send messages and even connect with friends of friends. It was like an exclusive club, since it was open only to those with certain email addresses.

But as Facebook's popularity soared, its founders sought to expand its audience. In 2005, it allowed high school students to sign on. But it was the 2006 decision to open it up to the general public that drew howls from its original audience and now facebook is the largest social networking with more than 100 million facebookers and has made Zuckerberg a young billionaire.

At the end of the day, Facebook is not a social activity, although it may be construed as such. Facebook means sitting at home alone in front of my laptop, reading about and staring at all the people I know, always separated by real time and virtual distance.

But in the face of that pervasive isolation and loneliness, I'm always just a click away from seeing my "friends"--the people who thought enough about me to confirm the fact that I knew them. They're all sitting there--a gallery of smiling faces arranged alphabetically that always make me feel better, even though that really shouldn't be the case.

Some have had enough of Facebook....

Why Vijay Singh is not king in the USA

Such have been Vijay Singh's amazing achievements,
especially after turning 40, he certainly deserves more respect.

I have personally been witness to one of Vijay's biggest faux pas – in Malaysia where he was playing the national open some years back. Having spent his formative years there, a local journalist asked him if he had any plans to give something back to Malaysian golf, like setting up an academy.

There was nothing controversial about Vijay Singh winning the FedEx Cup this year, and the whopping bonus cheque of $10 million (Dh36.7m) that comes along with it, but trust the American media to invent something ludicrous even in a performance which deserves nothing but plaudits.

This time, they chose to pan the big Fijian for not talking to the media after his final round at the BMW Championship, the third of the four playoff events of the FedEx Cup.After winning the first two playoff tournaments, Vijay did not have the best of finish at BMW, and with a couple of players in with a chance to deny him a cakewalk that he finally had at the Tour Championship, he was packing his bags and ready to leave the venue.

Nothing wrong in that, you would say. Only the winners of tournaments on the PGA Tour are required to give mandatory press conferences on Sundays. But that's not the way American media, or quite a few among them, thinks.

So, Vijay Singh was branded everything from being "classless", to "insufferable", to "shameless".

If he is all that, it is only because he is a non-American, who is beating most American golfers most of the time.

And Vijay is not an isolated case of the American media's total apathy to foreign stars on their soil. Take Roger Federer for instance. For more than five years of whipping everyone who is anyone in tennis, and after winning five US Open titles in as many years, all he has to show is one lousy cover of Sports Illustrated, regarded by many as the final word in sports magazines. That cover actually came after this year's Wimbledon, hides half his face, and it is more a tribute to his epic final against Rafael Nadal, rather than to the man himself.

Or, take South African Rory Sabatini. He became the "Bad Boy" for the American media after he decided not to wait for American Ben Crane, one of the slowest players ever to play the Royal & Ancient game, and walked off to the next tee! Considering that most Tour players, and the media, have often pointed out to pace of play being one of the biggest problems on the PGA Tour, Rory should have been made a hero that day.

But then, Rory did something far worse. He actually had the temerity to say in public that Tiger Woods was beatable. This was much before he walked off from Tiger's Target World Challenge in 2007 without finishing and without even informing his host – an act that deserved criticism.

But for saying that Woods is beatable, he was ripped apart by the American media. To be honest, I am yet to come across a professional golfer, who does not believe he can beat Woods in a tournament, or a tennis player who doesn't think he can take on Nadal on clay, or a bowler who has admitted he can never get through Sachin Tendulkar's defences. If you don't believe you can beat your rivals and win, why bother to play?

Coming back to Vijay, his biggest problems are that he is extremely strong-willed, not very diplomatic, brutally frank, and he wears his heart on his sleeve.

He desperately needs someone who can give him a thorough course in public relations – much in the same way as his personal trainer Jeffrey Fronk has ensured regular workouts to infuse the physique of a 25-year-old in the body of a 45-year-old.

I have personally been witness to one of Vijay's biggest faux pas – in Malaysia where he was playing the national open some years back. Having spent his formative years there, a local journalist asked him if he had any plans to give something back to Malaysian golf, like setting up an academy.

Anybody else in Vijay's place would have said something in the line of: "Yes. That's a distinct possibility in future". Not Vijay. He said: "Not really. I have not thought about it. I am only concentrating on my golf at the moment.

"Thankfully, the tournament was not in America, and he was not facing American journalists.

Is Vijay insufferable? I have met numerous Asian golfers who just can't stop praising him for how he makes them feel comfortable when they head out to tournaments in the US. He seeks them out for practice rounds, and imparts the knowledge of the courses he has gained with years of hard work.

And I am sure the various charities he supports, like the St Jude Hospital for Children, have a similar opinion.Is Vijay a bad role model? Someone who grew up poor – and that too in a country like Fiji, where the average rich man's annual income is perhaps less than the average poor man in America – and went on to become what he is today, can hardly be called a bad role model.

And the only magic formula that helped him to the top is his legendary work ethics, which includes more than 10 hours of hard work at the gym and driving range on his off days. And Vijay is definitely not a bad golfer.

He is the only player to have won the Order of Merit on the PGA Tour ahead of Tiger Woods – not once, but twice, and even a third time this year, even though Woods hardly played a full season – since 1998. He has now won 22 titles after turning 40, and has three majors to show against his name.

The American media got their Superman in the form of Woods. Now they needed a villain like Lex Luthor. Vijay Singh happened to be the softest target for them.

By Joy Chakravarty

Malaysia's Islamic Financial Sector in the UAE News Today

Amid continuing turmoil in global credit markets, Islamic finance is going from strength to strength with the rise of Sharia investment, and analyses the challenges ahead.
With the credit crunch and markets in the West tightening their belts, more and more attention is becoming focused on the Middle East as a source of potential revenue and growth.
And with a host of Sharia-compliant products on offer, both local and international finance houses are scrambling to secure their slice of a lucrative market.

Islamic finance has grown by between 15 and 20% in each of the past three years, and since the inception of modern Islamic banking, the number and reach of Islamic financial institutions worldwide has risen from one institution in one country in 1975, to more than 300 institutions operating in more than 75 countries today.
Although Islamic banks are concentrated in the Middle East and southeast Asia, they are also niche players in Europe and the US. Islamic banking assets and assets under management now exceed US$1.7 trillion, and the Islamic finance sector is expected to reach US$2.7 trillion by 2010.

Malaysia, Dubai 'should develop Islamic finance'
By Babu Das Augustine, Banking Editor Published: October 03, 2008, 23:41
Dubai The Malaysian Islamic financial sector is seen as one of the most progressive and attractive in the world given the numerous incentives planned and further liberation in the coming years.
Over the past decade, the international financial community has taken note of Malaysia's strategic direction in developing and nurturing Islamic banking and finance. The strategies are being implemented through clear and deliberate policies spelt out in both the Financial Sector Master Plan as well as the Capital Market Master Plan.
Currently, Malaysia is the largest Islamic banking and financial services market in the world that has the critical mass of diversified players - Islamic banks, investment banks, takaful companies, development financial institutions, savings institutions, fund management companies, stock brokers and unit trusts.


Malaysian Islamic insurer to expand in Mena region
ReutersPublished: October 03, 2008, 22:23
Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Islamic insurer Takaful Ikhlas is in talks to sell its products in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), its chief executive was quoted as saying.


Fourth Raya (3 October 08) in Al-Ain

Raya is in the air with our 'Airforce' brothers in Al- Ain 'palace'.

Al Ain (Arabic: العين, transliteration: al-ʿayn, literally The Spring) is the fourth largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With a population of 614,180 (2008 estimate), Al Ain is dubbed the Garden City of the UAE. It is located in Abu Dhabi, directly adjacent to the border with Oman. The freeways connecting Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and Dubai form a geographic triangle in the center of the country, each city roughly 150 kilometers from the other two.

Al Ain is actually a city of so many roundabouts that we may get lost to follow all the roundabouts to nowhere or return to where we begin.

Our annual trip to Al Ain is in Syawal since 2004 and this year we visited our Singaporean and Malaysian Muslims on the 4th day of Raya.

11 vehicles with about 40 Dubai-based Malaysians convoyed to Al- Ain this year. It took about 1 hour drive from Dubai Outlet Mall to Dr. Jaafar's villa.

It is more special this year because we have 38 senior Malaysians working with the UAE Airforce. 18 of them celebrated Raya in Al Ain and they seemed so excited to meet us.


Before leaving Al Ain, we had another rumah terbuka at Wan Nasrun's house.