Category Archives: Odds ‘n’ Ends

The “D” Agenda

Elizabeth Taylor 1932 - 2011

If we ever bothered to stop and reflect upon life for a moment, we probably would agree that there are far more important things in the world than having: an artifact of a house; fame; a swanky car (or a fleet of them); an in-season wardrobe; absolute power; and a bottom-less pit of money. Elizabeth Taylor, Muammar Gaddafi, Steve Jobs, Amy Winehouse, John Paul Getty III and Peter Falk, who all  passed away during 2011, had some of these trappings of success. But death knows no status.

Some of us think that the mark of success is material wealth. How many cars do you have? How many homes do you have? What kind of social circles do you move in? What private schools do your children attend? Do children of other high net worth individuals attend this school?  It really is an endless list.

Oftentimes, we fall helplessly in love – sometimes to the point of obsession – with the public persona of celebrities we know very little about. For instance, despite his laudable musical accomplishments and his global public fascination, Michael Jackson, like the rest of us, had his own personal problems.  As he couldn’t sleep naturally,  he was happy to pay a doctor $150,000 a month to help him achieve something that really should be natural and free.

Muammar Gaddafi 1942 - 2011

Some of us relish power. For whatever reason, we think we are the best person to eradicate the ills of the society we live in. But history has proved that in some instances, no sooner than ordinary power is attained, the pursuit of tyrannical power sometimes becomes an obsession.

Times change and so do sentiments. Even our own individual experiences would have taught us that nothing in life is permanent. It’s no state secret that the late Muammar Gaddafi wasn’t always the enemy of the West or disliked by his people. However, when he eventually lost his 42-year tight grip on Libya, even his material trappings couldn’t avert his sad and gruesome end.

Most of us have an inherent  dislike of death. But while this post isn’t meant to be an ode to death, or a dream-killer, it is a reminder that money, fame and other trappings of success aren’t everything.  There are more important things in life and thankfully they are free: good health, happiness, family, cuddles, trust, friends, children, relationships, God, air, water, sleep, fond memories and unconditional love, to name but a few.

May the souls of those mentioned in this post rest blissfully. Long life and good health to the rest of us.

Facebook Vanity

Morning has broken. You are ready to face the world with renewed  vigour –  surely today has to be better than yesterday on the productivity front. You settle down to breakfast, and in between mouthfuls you fire up the Facebook application on your smart phone.

“Let’s see if there’s anything creative on Facebook aside from the usual literary quotations everyone seems to be posting these days,” you say to yourself.

Facebook finally loads up and voilà! you have lost another five friends. Your friend tally has gone down from 999 yesterday to 994. Cupping your face in both hands you let out a sigh. Getting your friend tally up to 2000 is proving a lot more difficult than you ever anticipated and you are beginning to take this knock back quite personal. Vanitas, your “real life friend,” has already reached the Facebook friend limit of 5000 friends. Better still, she recently set up a Facebook fan page to accommodate the army of friends still trickling in.

You feel so dejected.  It doesn’t really matter to you that Vanitas doesn’t even know or communicate with the vast majority of her Facebook friends. As far as she’s concerned, Facebook friends aren’t like “real life friends.” You really don’t need to know them or network with them, you simply collect them like one would collect shoes or handbags. After all, having an army of Facebook friends does wonders for ones online credibility.

Get a grip of yourself buddy! People may “unfriend” you on Facebook for a variety of reasons. They may have decided that the friendship wasn’t worth maintaining or they may have shut down their account altogether.  Believe me, some people will even “unfriend” you simply because of your friendship with someone they aren’t  comfortable with (for instance, their ex partner).  Big deal? Vanity upon vanity equates to compounded vanity.

The advent of Facebook mirrors that of the mobile phone. Before its evolution, we didn’t think we needed it. But now that we have it, we almost cannot live without it. We even sometimes wonder how we ever coped without it in the first place.

Unless you use it to promote your business, Facebook and other social networks shouldn’t be taken too seriously. So what if your Facebook friend tally isn’t rapidly moving north? What’s this got to do with the price of crude oil?

You’re so vain, I bet you think this post is about you…………………

Can Parents Really Save Their Children From a Life of Self-Destruct?

Since the untimely passing of the recording artist Amy Winehouse, and then the London riots, I have thought a lot about parenting. As a parent myself, I can’t stop wondering whether parents can really save their children from a life of self-destruct.

Regardless of what the social services in the UK and other industrialised countries say, I don’t  agree that children belong to the state. Surely parents should be responsible for molding their children into the decent and law-abiding citizens they want them to become. Now let’s be clear about it, parenting is certainly no bed of roses. And those who delegate their parenting responsibilities to the state or to the streets, for that matter, will have a very hefty price to pay further down the line.

Oftentimes, parents of well-behaved children, and those who aren’t even parents, are quick off the mark to criticize parents of seemingly ungovernable children. While some parents are simply detached, reckless or even irresponsible, others may have genuine difficulties with parenting. But how does this blame culture help parents who really do need help in this area?

But there’s more to it. A bit of luck also comes into the equation. It is not uncommon for some parents to have done all the right things to raise their children, but yet, self-destruction eventually strikes. I am sure we all remember a certain American, female, six-time Grammy award-winning singer, who, despite her religious upbringing and squeaky clean image in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, was later plagued with drug abuse allegations.

Suicide bombers also fall into this category. More often than not, those who blow themselves up in the name of martyrdom were not raised that way by their parents. Even at a local community level, I am sure many of us know of parents to whom fate has dealt a hard hand in this way.

So how do we address this? Personally, I don’t believe that there is a prescriptive holy grail parenting formula which guarantees that children will turn out right .  Of course it would be nice if there was. Additionally, I don’t believe that children from wealthy nations are less likely to self-destruct. According to a 2007 UNICEF child well-being study, the UK was the worse place in the industrialised world, to raise a child. The world’s richest country, the U.S., was the second worse place to raise a child.

I do, however, believe that there are things we can do, as parents, to tip the scales in our favour and then hope for the best. Things like spending more time with our children, listening to them, setting ground rules at home, and instilling in them, at an early age, a sense of pride, duty and responsibility.

“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.” – C. Everett Koop

Happy parenting !!!!!!

Valentine, My Valentine

Valentine’s Day is fast upon us and men are expected, as usual, to spend more than women on flowers, gifts, cards and other related sundries. According to the National Geographic, a total of $14.7b was spent on  Valentine’s Day, in the US in 2009, and approximately $14.1b in 2010. Significant figures no doubt.

Over the years, Valentine’s Day has evolved from being a celebration of love for couples, to a celebration of love for all relationships. The video posted below (from History.com) shows the origins of Valentine’s Day.

If you observe it, have a great Valentine’s Day. If  you don’t,  have  a great week ahead.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Mitigating My Facebook Risk Exposure

Following two recent hacking attempts on my Facebook account, I have decided to take the necessary steps to protect my personal information and limit my potential risk exposure in the event that my account eventually crumbles under the assault.

Despite Facebook’s “duty of care” to its users,  we ( the users ) are  ultimately responsible for safeguarding  our own personal information. If we delegate this responsibility to Facebook, we do so at our own peril.

Being victim of a Facebook account hack can be a daunting experience. Some users have complained about the irretrievable loss of their entire information and contacts. Others have complained about their Facebook status being updated with explicit sexual prose. A few even mentioned noticing strange new friends on their Facebook friends list.

Contrary to what some people think, you really do not need to be computer savvy to protect your personal information on Facebook. Basically, it is a matter of applying common wisdom and enabling some of Facebook’s in-built controls. Following the two attempts on my Facebook account, I decided to step up my privacy controls to minimise my potential exposure.

My Personal Information: I have always been cautious about my personal information on Facebook.  As a result, my profile has just enough personal information for those who know me to find me on Facebook. I do not offer and share information about my relationship status, details of children, political views, mobile and home phone numbers and employment history. Some Facebook users list themselves as married to “X” ( their partner’s name) and also give names and ages of their children.  Of course, to each his own.  Personally, I am  simply not comfortable sharing this level of information on Facebook.

My Privacy Settings: historically, my personal information    has been visible to “friends of friends.” I have now changed this so that only friends can view this information.  Talking of friends, there are friends and there are Facebook friends. I recently came across a post on the internet where a Facebook user was asking for information to help him hack into a friend’s  Facebook account. Crikey indeed!

Public Search: in July 2010, the profile pages of 100 million Facebook pages was leaked on a torrent site as these users had not made their profiles invisible to search engines. Mine would have been one of the 100 million Facebook pages, although I have now made my profile invisible to search engines.

Pictures: I only have a handful of pictures in my Facebook album – clean pictures, I hasten to add. If you keep compromising pictures on Facebook, you may be in for a rude awakening. My personal concern is with pictures that I am tagged in, posted by others.  As a rule, I always untag pictures I am tagged in. But it is a shame that Facebook does not have a security feature which allows us to stop others  from tagging us in the first place.  Nonetheless, I have now revised my privacy setting so that I alone can view pictures that I am tagged in.

Applications: I currently have 37 third-party applications associated with my account.  The risk associated with using these applications is that my personal information now leaves the confines of the Facebook platform and becomes accessible to application designers and God knows who else on the Internet.

Given the privacy concerns of third-party applications, I am currently reviewing all my applications with the aim of reducing this number considerably.  As an added security measure, I have also edited my privacy settings so that third-party applications used by my friends can no longer access my personal  information.

Who Are My Facebook Friends? As a general rule, I only befriend those I know, albeit, remotely in some cases. For me it is more about quality than quantity.

Sometime in 2008 it was identified that 40% of Facebook profiles were fake. At the time, it was thought that these fake accounts were set up by spammers, various malware and virus writers. I am sure  fake Facebook accounts are also used by:  paedophiles;  unfaithful spouses;  suspecting spouses; gangsters;  pranksters; stalkers; debt collectors; and private investigators etc.  So what am I saying? Beware of cyberspace frenemies !

Something else I have done to limit any Facebook exposure is to install the Firefox browser, which  has  anti-phishing capabilities compared to my previous browser.

If you would like to step up your Facebook security / privacy settings and are not sure how to go about it, “Your All in One Guide to Facebook Security and Privacy” provides clear and detailed steps on how to do it.

Take care while in the Facebook jungle. Minimal information is best and do not interact with strangers.  Let’s hear from you about your Facebook privacy experiences.