Sunday, August 28, 2011

Like Sheep To The Slaughterhouse

If you have a Blackberry, iPhone or other smartphone, or belong to social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, it would be fair to assume that at some point or other you've been asked to forward a message for a cause of some sort or another.
Sometimes it's a charity drive for a kid with cancer, or someone needing a rare blood type, or bone marrow transplant. At other time's it's to highlight the shortcomings of individuals or business's.

While the advancement of technology has made it as easy as hitting the 'resend' or 'retweet' button to further a cause, how many of us have taken the time out to think of the repercussions of that simple click?

Being active on so many social media platforms has exposed me to some of the pitfalls of this "sofa activist" society we live in.
For some reason most offenders seem to be Blackberry users utilizing the BB Messenger platform as their soap-box.
I've had URGENT requests to help in the search of a rare blood group, something I take personally because I myself am such a rare blood group (AB+). Only 6% of people on earth are AB+. The people behind these broadcast messages turned out to be hoaxsters, and the message was of course a fraud.
I've had requests asking me to forward a broadcast message to at least 10 people on my contact list in the ridiculously laughable belief that AOL or Time Warner or some other conglomerate is going to pay money for each message forwarded. Really people. This scam is as old as the Nigerian 419 scam, yet some moron's continuously fall for it.
Do you know why the Nigerian 419 scam is the most profitable scam in the world?
Because the Nigerians very early on realized that there is always one idiot out there who will fall for it, and all they need is that one idiot. Believe it or not, there are hundreds of idiots falling for this scam every single month, all over the world. The fact that it's been the most widely reported by governments worldwide has not affected it's success one iota.

Now scams aside, the real issue I have with people sitting in the comfort of their homes eating NikNaks while  on their sofa's and forwarding these messages is that nobody is taking the time to verify anything!
Here's why this is so dangerous.
Earlier today I got a Blackberry Message saying "Please forward to all your contacts."
The message was about a reknowned tyre dealer who was accused of not allowing his staff the day off for religious holidays. The tone of the message and the content basically asked all who read it to boycott the company and never have any further dealings with them. Moreover, the sender clearly asks that this message be forwarded to as many people as possible until the word got to the owners of the business.

Less than an hour later I received an update from the sender, saying that the company had responded and the accusations were now assumed to be false.

How much of collateral damage to the business, it's brand and it's image was done in that hour?
How many people who willingly and blindly forwarded that initial message feel any remorse after learning that they had just forwarded a falsehood?
An untruth once spoken gets carried by the wind and can never be taken back.
Do these armchair activists realize that they are affecting peoples livelihoods and good names by their simple click of a single message?

Surely there must be a level of responsibility we apply to what we send to others as the truth, our truth, even if that truth turns out to be a lie? Rumor's have brought down nations and Presidents. How naive must we be to assume that a rumor cannot tarnish an innocent man going about his business, or a company not guilty of the accusations levelled against it by armchair activists?

I really am annoyed by people who prescribe to this type of despicable activity. They are no better than the arsonist or thief who burns down or steals from a business.

I've broadcast a message on my Blackberry telling all my contacts that if I receive any messages from them asking me to forward an unverified statement, I shall summarily delete them.

Remove their audience and you remove their soap-box.

On Friendship

"Let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit."
-- Kahil Gibran.
Some time back I wrote about my views on Friendship and how it's been moulded like cheese over the years. In the post which can be found here , I mentioned the friendships I've had over the years and how nothing irks me more than investing your time, energy and efforts into someone you think you share a common bond with, only to be betrayed later on. It's almost like a silent death of the soul within.

So it comes as no big surprise that I don't subscribe to this whole notion of 'Best Friend'.

Having said that, I've recently had the divine pleasure of making the acquaintance of some amazing people who have such great energies about them, you can't help but ask yourself why it is that you never met them sooner.

I thought about this for a while and soon realised that we are all surrounded by amazing people, but because we're so focussed on those few negative people in our lives, we quite simply cannot see the roses through the fog.
Sometime's we hold on to people in our lives who drain our positivity like hungry leeches either because we hope that they will change for the better, or because we just don't know how to walk away. Neither of these options do us any good. It's like that growth underneath your armpit. You know that it's in your best interest to remove it, but you either hope that it will go away or simply ignore it in the hope that it will not bother you.

My Top 5 Tips to recognise when you're in a toxic friendship
* Does it feel more like a competition than a friendship, where you find yourself constantly competing to see who's better?
* Do you sense some falseness when you're congratulated on an achievement?
* Do you overlook the little things which really annoy you about them?
* Do they speak of loyalty while act in deceit?
* Lastly, when you're away from them for long enough, do you feel a sense of calmness & relief?

I'm starting the month of September with so many great opportunities ahead of me, and surrounded by some amazing people. One of my dearest friends said to me the other day ,"Kaloo, I'm ready to quit my job. It just feels like it's draining me." My response was to wish her a job that she has the passion and drive to enjoy each morning.

Life's too short to spend it doing the mundane, and just going through the motions.

Go out there and be great. It's within each one of us.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Working Toward The Dream

Some time back on this blog, I wrote about my ideal career and how I am slowly pursuing that dream. I think I even uploaded a pic of what my dream office desk would look like. Wait hang on, here it is!

I started with trading shares many years back, and did a few courses on trading the stock market. Just before I left to live in Dubai, I got involved in trading warrants and CFD's. Very early on I realized that unless I educated myself on these very volatile instruments, I would have to resort to selling my arse on the nearest street corner if I didn't want to go completely broke!

So I did. (Educating myself, not selling my arse ;) )
I began with a few courses initially, and really stepped it up a gear over the last few years. The next frontier was the one I decided to leave for last, until I was completely adapt at trading. Besides, the Forex markets have wiped out more traders than any other traded instrument known to man!

They say that fate leads him who will, and him who won't they drag.
Throughout my time trading shares, warrants and CFD's, I had come across many fellow traders whom I thought would become lifelong friends with a common passion. Unfortunately that passion soon died as each one of them burnt their fingers on the markets in one way or another.
So it was a complete surprise when late one night, someone I had never met but happened to be a Facebook friend of mine, updated his status about how the markets were performing.

I immediately contacted him, hoping against hope that he was a regular trader, and it turned out that he was.
We got to chatting and soon realized that we had a common friend in Joburg, who was also getting started in Forex. There was a company based in Cape Town who was looking at starting a Joburg footprint, and I was invited to the introductory session.

I went in completely skeptical ... something which didn't go unnoticed by the guys doing the presentation. Having had at least 8 years of experience in trading, I knew what the pitfalls were.
To cut a long story short, by the end of the evening I was more than just a little impressed.

I did some homework about the company running the Forex course and was satisfied that these guys knew what they were doing. The guy who started the company is mentioned in several reputable finance magazines and is even featured in a book about successful traders. So I joined and signed up for the course.

Imagine my surprise when Day1 saw me sitting at the same table with some of the banking industries big-shots. I knew I was in good company.

The course went splendidly well and my experience allowed me to grasp the technical aspects rather quickly.
So well in fact that at the end of the course, my friend Shafi and I were called aside and given a proposal. Not the kind that leads to church bells and cake, and ultimately giving half your wealth away while cursing all women. Instead it was the kind that left us both gobsmacked in a good way.

We were offered the opportunity to head up the company's footprint in Joburg!
The journey begins later next month, and I am extremely excited and proud to be given the opportunity.
I foresee great things, but mostly I foresee the realization of that dream.

Watch this space :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Art Of Listening

It really is an art, you know.
I grew up with a special kind of love for a good debate. Irrespective of topic, it's the one time when my skills of persuasion really shine through. If I've learned anything about debating in all the years that I've had the opportunity to be involved in one, it's that the best and most effective of debaters are those who listen more than they speak.

This is a fact. Allowing our opponents to ramble on also allows them to ramble into a wall, and a good debater will seize that opportunity to close his argument.

I watched two people on Twitter engage each other earlier today on a political issue, and it was the purest lesson on human weakness. I've always respected them both for their strong opinions, and their passion in expressing those opinions irrespective of opposing views. However, today the debate got so intense that they allowed their ego's to overshadow what could have been an amazing learning experience.
Suddenly you realize that the strong facade portrayed on Twitter masks a very weak and insecure character behind those tweets in reality.
I suppose this is true of most anybody on Twitter, myself included. I just wish people wouldn't allow themselves to lose control of their emotions on a social networking platform as easily as some obviously do.
Remember Nonhle Thema ?

These are some of the things I have learned and cherished over time:
* Never allow anger to be the driver of your tongue.
* Raise your argument, not your voice.
* Always maintain your composure.
* Even when opinions differ, mutual respect must never be negotiable.
* There are times when your silence makes a stronger argument than your words ever could.

* God gave you two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak.

I guess these words are apt not only in the debating arena, but also in everyday life.
As guys we like to think that we are good listeners, but are we really?

Sometimes I find myself at the supermarket picking up milk, bread and toilet roll, because that's what I think I heard the missus say I should remember to buy.
Then I get home and realize she's on holiday in Durban and never really asked me to bring anything back at all.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

That's NOT Ayoba MTN!

The next call center agent to tell me my call is important to them is going to get a swift kick in the nuts!
Admittedly they would first need to answer the phone, and since the new favorite past-time of every call center is never to answer phones, I'm guessing that kick to the nuts is going to be on hold for a while.

Here's the thing that really annoys me.
You call a service provider, in my case today it was MTN, to speak to a person.
An actual living, breathing, eating, sleeping person.
And all you get is that annoying cow who keeps telling you to press digits on your phone for more options!



Seriously, words could not describe how much I hate her. She sounds like the same woman on every single automated call center system. I swear I've heard her voice on MTN, VODACOM and TELKOM. I'm sure she's the same cow who announces that your order is ready at Chicken Licken too.
If I ever meet her, I'm jamming a pitch-fork into her ovaries and twisting it like a spaghetti fork to make sure she never procreates.

If anyone from a call center is reading this, please could you send this message on to the rest of your vile crew and inform them that Al-Qaeda has identified all call center automated systems as being a tool of the infidel, and any company that uses the line "Your call is important to us" and promptly puts you on hold or asks you to key in digits while never getting an actual person to answer the damn call will in future be regarded as bomb-worthy.
I have this on good authority. Don't say you haven't been warned!

Seriously though, how difficult can it be?
I call with a problem. You pick up the phone. We talk. Problem solved.

Not with MTN though.
They want you to dance through hoops and listen to every menu on their system since the first cellphone was invented, and let's be honest here... nobody gives a rat's hairy arse about the items on the menu.
When was the last time you listened to an entire menu when calling your mobile service provider and went "Hey wow! They offer that service? Awesome! Let's press 7 and see what it's all about!"

We don't give a flying fanny about your 1700 additional service's MTN.
Don't tell me what's Ayoba.
Ayoba is when you answer my damn call.
Ayoba is when I get to speak to a person with a heartbeat.
Ayoba is keeping my call under 5 minutes and getting it sorted out in under that time.
What's NOT Ayoba is treating your customers as just another number.

I'm making a list of service providers who think it's OK to keep their customers on call center loops without actually getting a person to deal with their problems.
Next time any of those companies call me to tell say they haven't received my last payment, I'm telling them "Your call is important to me. Press 5 for accounts. Press 9 for more options."

Let's see how they like that.

Speaking of call center loops.... (where they simply have you holding on forever pressing random numbers for even more random menus without ever picking the damn phone up so you can speak to somebody who eats and poops and knows the difference).... I'm wiling to bet my left testicle that there's a guy in the MTN call center loop who's been holding on with his Nokia 5110 since 1997 wanting to know what an sms is.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Travel. See The World. Come To London. It's A Riot!

For 4 days of August, London was at war.
A war nobody could have predicted, with an outcome nobody could ever imagine.
London was at war with itself, and I have read at least 5 different reasons on each of these four days. As the smoke subsides and the tensions settle, I doubt anybody is any closer to an answer as to why.

At first there were wild guesses that this was planned by organized gangs. The next day there were links to a young man named Mark Duggan, shot by police while unarmed. The uprising was blamed on the youth showing their frustration at the way police have been handling a few cases of late.
On the third day I saw an interview by the BBC of a West Indian man now residing in London. The video on YouTube was never again played by the BBC, and upon watching it is clear to see why.
A young and angry unemployed lower and middle class, venting their frustrations at the system. It made sense. It was a credible reason for a popular uprising.

Then came the arrests, court cases and convictions.
Suddenly the face of the perpetrator had changed from a young, angry, unemployed youth to that of a middle-class, employed and reasonably stable young man or woman. One offender was even studying for a law degree, and didn't want his criminal record to affect his future!
After 4 days of SkyNews and BBC, I couldn't help but ask myself where Emma Hurd was in all of this ruckus?
Remember her?
This is one of her more famous YouTube video's as seen on SkyNews, questioning whether South Africa was really ready to host such an important event as the FIFA Soccer World Cup. Of course she went on during the run-up to the eventually successful event drumming up support for her view that we were not ready. At least not by her standards.
London will be hosting the Olympics very soon. I can't help but wonder what Emma Hurd's opinion is regarding London being ready to host the Olympics, in light of these recent riots.

Do I believe London is ready? Absolutely.
But that doesn't stop me from pointing out the obvious to the vast number of naysayers who were so quick to point out our shortcomings. 

As for the political ramifications, I must admit I had more than just a little giggle at Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinajad's advice to Downing Street when he advised that they exercise restraint in dealing with the rioters. This was clearly a man who wouldn't miss an opportunity for a dig at the West. Remember it was David Cameron who had previously advised Iran to exercise restraint in dealing with unrest.
Next came 'Mad Bob' Robert Mugabe's quip when he said "London, sort out your mess before you come to Africa to try and sort ours out."
It seems in this crazy day and age, even crackpot dictators have a sense of humor.

There was talk of calling in the British Army to help the police fight the battles on the street.
Interesting that, since the British Army is currently pillaging in Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else oil can be stolen. Had these riots continued for longer than a week, one wonder's whether NATO would have been called in to bomb London in order to save the civilians. We all know what a great job of it they're currently doing in Syria.

I guess if these riots have proved anything, it's that the champions of freedom and bastions of democracy have more problems in their own backyards than the countries they're currently trying to liberate through bombardment.
Britain is burning while trying to tell the rest of the world how to live by it's 'high moral standards'.
America is bankrupt and continues to crumble while trying to teach the world about 'democracy'.
All the while, the world continues to spin on it's axis and goodness prevails in ever diminishing pockets of society.

Aluta continua.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Family Tree Project

Last weekend I began a project I've been meaning to do for quite some time. I finally got down to starting the family tree.
I always knew the project would present it's own unique challenges, since some of the elders in my family took the 'Smarties' approach to monogamy. Basically, the more you have in the bag, the more colorful it makes your candy collection.
At one point in my research on a particular great great grand uncle, I had to stop and ask my Gran "Was he the only guy in town, or did he have chocolate flavoured earlobes?"
Three and four wives seems to have been pretty common back then.
Hugh Hefner has nothing on my ancestors. Clearly.

Having said that, it's been one of the most exciting and interesting projects I have ever undertaken.
I decided to spend my Saturday with my Gran (my mom's mom) to help me further in my quest for The Holy Grail. I'm still not sure what my Holy Grail is, but I imagine it would be finding out that somewhere along the lineage I am actually related to Kahlil Gibran or Ceasar. Either of those would thrill me to no end.

What I did find out was that my great great grandfather was Scottish, and that his daughter (my Grans mom) was named Annie Hogarth. Now there's something I never knew, and undoubtably would never have known had I not started this project. I would have spent my entire life never having known that I have Scottish blood running through these veins, and quite frankly this makes my random stumbling over pieces of furniture a lot easier to understand.

Next week I intend spending with my Grandfather to get some more details on his lineage. I've already been warned to take along more than one pen and at least 2 notebooks, as it could get very complicated.
This is my Grandfather who has four wives at the last count.

If there's one thing I have learned from the compilation of this family tree, it's that the world is a lot smaller than we would like to think. We really are all one big happy family, for the most part.

Now if only someone could get this message across to all those politicians & presidents so bent on war.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You Say The Tweetest Things

I always knew that I have lots to say on any given day. Some may even call me opiniated. Yes, I have an opinion and I'm not afraid to voice it. I'm like Donkey in Shrek. I have layers. Like an onion. I make people cry. Like donkeys. Yes, I have an opinion that's full of layers and makes people cry like donkeys.

So when Twitter came along, it seemed like the perfect marriage. My opinions, and a platform to voice them. Now I'm not one of those people that get thrilled by follower counts on Twitter. On my blog, yes. Because reading the blog means you had to take the effort to click a link and actually want to read something I've written in more than 140 characters.
On Twitter, I'm pretty much in-your-face with constant random tweets that you can only get away from if you unfollow me. Clearly there's around 850 people who think I'm worth following on Twitter.

Imagine my surprise when I started hearing my Tweets mentioned on my favourite radio station, 5FM!
It started with Gareth Cliff early one morning, and then Grant and Anele, and then Sasha Martinengo who I ended up speaking to on air, and finally DJ Fresh who's now mentioned me a few times on his slot.

You know people liked what you said on Twitter when they retweet it so often, you end up becoming a Trending Topic. That happened today.
I got a message from a follower saying "Dude! @kaloo5 is a Trending Topic . Bloody well done!"

Today I got an interesting message from one of my Twitter followers who demanded, yes demanded to know why I haven't yet done stand-up comedy.
Honestly, it's something I would totally enjoy and I'm pretty sure I'd be a half-decent comedian, but I'm also sure I'm not very adapt at dodging tomato's. Not just yet.

Until then, my friends and followers will just have to put up with me on Facebook and Twitter @kaloo5

Happy tweeting!