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Friday, July 29, 2011

footballing Lesson

It really was a great show of support on Thursday night. The stadium was full with supporters and they weren’t there to see their favourite English football team, but to give their best support to local talent. Once again, sports has done for Malaysia what probably nothing else has in the past few years, unite an entire nation in supporting a single entity that bears the responsibility of representing the country.

It was a very high profile matchup for Malaysia since they were drawn up against rivals Singapore. For some reason, even with a two goal deficit and Singapore still with a chance to score away goals after the first game, the confidence Malaysians had in defeating Singapore during the second leg was simply immense.

To some extent, the magnanimous support may have been due to recent political issues dragging the nation in tiresome negativity, resulting in the need of something people could sincerely support as Malaysians without having to be involved in politics. The match, described as a ‘causeway derby’ by an AFC article was the perfect tonic.
Watching the second leg, even only on television was amazing for me to see yellow all around the stadium and horns going off everywhere. There were definitely a number of ‘heart in your mouth’ moments and that I think added to the tension and to the reason you’d want to support your country. I personally felt that Kunalan, Khairul Fahmi, Safee Sali and Amirulhadi played well, but eventually the match ended a draw. Unfortunately, results don’t come when not everyone is at the very top of their game. 

Amirulhadi, Safee & Kunalan celebrate a goal during the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Looking back, I think the way the Malaysian team played their pre-qualifying matches (Pakistan, Chinese Taipei, Singapore) actually reflects where Malaysia is as a nation in some ways. Both the football team and the country as a whole are in a situation where much more is being expected, because there is no doubt over the potential to be a lot better than before. In the present, they can still achieve good results but moments of inconsistency and fickle mindedness lead to some shocking blunders that cause great disappointment.

There were several complains after the first leg against Singapore when Malaysia ended up trailing by a two goal deficit. There were calls for a line up change after just one game. However, as K Rajagopal put it, the team is being prepared to do well in the Asian Cup several years from now, not qualify for the World Cup today. He patiently stands by the team with confidence, keeping his faith in them as he strives continually to push them to another level, even if it won’t happen today.

I remember in 2006, Malaysians (including myself) were so disgusted with the national football team that we went so far as to support MyTeam, a bunch of locals assembled in just a couple of months, expecting them to whip the national representatives. K Rajagopal was also the coach of the national team then and he had probably more than half of the country rooting for the other team. He stuck to his job nonetheless and remains as resilient as he was five years ago in his work to produce a better national football team. I believe all of us now know that his hard efforts from years past are just beginning to bear its first fruits. 

There’s a lot to learn from all this. Today, everybody seems to have earned their degrees in criticism. It is too easy to complain, regardless if the arguments are right or wrong. As it continues, personal discontent grows to the point that the mind believes everything is hopeless and that nothing can be good enough. Critics and complainers are always aplenty. Evidently, there’s no need for more and that’s why Malaysia needs people that talk less and do more. People have to learn to be patient with work, not to expect success instantly, but gradually.

Malaysia is hardly a perfect country. Admittedly, there’s a lot left to be desired, but its not a reason for people to say you can’t make it in Malaysia unless you’ve got special favour. The grousers only need to look as far as the coach of the national football team and the Air Asia CEO for examples of people who just did what they did without moaning everyday on their road to greater heights. If they can make it, why not you?

Photo Credits & Sources:
Harian Metro

Saturday, July 23, 2011

oslo Terror

Without warning and without a clue, one of the lesser known nations in the international scene has become a severe victim of one of the most horrifying acts of terrorism. We all remember the Columbine High shootings as one of, if not the worst indiscriminate act of murder in an urban environment. Now, we have had two in one nation on the same day and initial reports indicate it may have been done by one man alone.

News reports say one bomb went off, while the police have intimated it could have been more and you wouldn’t count that out when you look at the devastation caused by a single, probably synchronised bomb explosion. In all honestly, although I’m not there personally, just the photos alone are really frightening. Norway is a peaceful country, and the people there probably don’t even know how to feel or think especially since something like this has never happened to them before. 

The effects of the bomb at government offices.

This is just one part of the city centre that was rocked by the bomb explosion and quite frankly, if someone had told you the building had been hit by a missile, you’d probably have believed it. It’s so surreal and the whole thing looks as if it came out of a scene from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. With video games, it seems pretty cool to be surrounded by war torn buildings, but being there in real life, the reality would be totally mind numbing. The psychological impact would be so much more than the artificial thrills of a video game.

Not more than a few hours later, on an island where the some of the country’s youth were for a camp, a man turns up and starts shooting anybody and everybody he can. He didn’t turn up with the objective of getting a ransom or kidnapping a special person. Right now, nobody really knows why he did it. All we know is that this man took a ferry almost a mile away from the mainland to open fire on teenagers, where some were as young as thirteen.

A BBC news article online says that the man was armed with a handgun, a shotgun and an automatic weapon of some sort. In addition to that, after the incident, police even found explosives on the island. Murder in itself is already inexcusable, but the fact this man went to such lengths to kill defenceless human beings, teenagers at that is pure terrorism. Despicable, absolutely despicable.

It hurts to read that this man really went after all these people on the island. The camp goers were really helpless in that situation. Where can you run to on an island? Even those who jumped off the island and tried to swim away to safety became the man’s targets. Bodies have been found on the shore, and if I’m not mistaken, on the water as well.

So far, its publically known that 87 people have died from this incident. Seven from the bomb blast and eighty from the shooting. We still don’t even know how many more people are being hospitalised or still missing in the aftermath of this shocking act of terror. If you think that 87 is a small number, as I’ve said before, the value of one life is priceless. No amount of money can buy you back one life. So now, if you really want to calculate, tell me what’s the answer to priceless multiplied by 87?

Norwegians will arrive at the question of what happens next, in the same way that the Japanese experienced not too long ago. The country is surely shaken and in fear because of such an unexpected and devastating event. Many will look to how this man will be punished and rightfully so. Still, my heart and mind goes more towards those who have been directly affected, through the lost of loved ones and those who fear for their lives, no longer feeling safe in their own country. 

I believe that justice must be served and this man who murdered children will face the consequences of his actions. More than that however, I hope that those in Oslo and Norway as whole, will experience restoration emotionally and spiritually so that they can move on from this cowardly act to induce terror within their society. At the end of it, what happens to that terrorist hardly matters as much as the response of Norwegians to restore and preserve the well being and livelihood of their nation. God bless Norway.

Photo Credits & Sources:
RIA Novosti

Monday, July 18, 2011

info-social Security

In the past years, most of the shocking international news headlines were usually along the lines of terrorism, economic downfalls and natural disasters. All of them are quite physical or at least visible in nature. The effects were easily seen, with people being displaced by war and tsunamis or the increasing number of poor people and riots in nations where the younger generation of adults are deprived of economic benefits.

In just the last month or so however, a less obvious, a less visible threat has been shown to the world, although not for the first time, but more than it has in recent years. Breaches of information security through the internet and communication networks have stolen the headlines. The first, was probably Anonymous, who did enough to get its name on international news, with its effects reaching as far as Malaysia. Hacking became a buzzword for a while and has found its cotinuity with News of the World convicted of hacking phones in the UK.

It reminds me of how fragile information security is on the internet. Most of us, including myself trust the security of information like our e-mails to the service providers, let it be Google, Microsoft or what have you. We trust our phone service providers that our conversations wouldn’t be hacked into occasionally by mischievous stalkers and the like. The thing is, how do we really know we're protected? Quite frankly, I think we all know the answer to that question, and that is, we don’t know. If the internet is so secure, how is it that hackers can gain access to corporate databases that are probably a lot more secure than the hard disks of our personal machines?

It is impossible to be fully protected on the internet. The saying, ‘if there’s a will, there’s a way,’ fully applies to obtaining information on the internet. If someone wants to hack you and they’re good enough, they can do it, no question. The end game then is how much damaging information can somebody find out about you on the internet?

Just this blog alone, which I open to anybody who wishes to read it, to some extent is a wealth of information for somebody who might want to make a dossier on me for whatever reason. Have you ever published content on blogs or social networking applications that may cause damage to your reputation or enable legal action against you? Its a good question to ask yourself.

A false sense of security arises when we feel there’re real ways to protect ourselves though security settings or options provided by the blogging, photo sharing or social networking platforms we use. To me at least, a simple fact remains, that is, once you’ve put something up on the internet, its there ‘permanently’. I’ll explain this.

Once we’ve uploaded a picture, a status update or blog entry on the web and we then delete it, who’s to say it hasn’t already been copied by the system you’re using or by somebody else? Those who have deleted social network accounts who then re-join at a later time would know their old contacts list is recommended to them straight away.

Some people restrict access of status updates on social networks, but forget that once a friend comments on that status, pretty much everyone else on that friend’s contact list can see that same update. Authors of private blogs claim self-only access, but if they wanted to document private information (which is already a questionable action to begin with), why would they even put it on the web in the first place?

Search engines like Google even allow access to certain deleted web pages through the use of cached pages. Even deleted images from web pages can still appear as a thumbnail through a search via Google Images, another form of cached information. People who have been affected by such things have never succeded in deleting every compromising video or photo of themselves on the web, because its impossible. It’d be as difficult as counting sand, a never ending process you wouldn’t have enough time for anyway.

Sometimes we get ‘lucky’ with deleting compromising information from our own blogs or social networks, just before anybody else sees or cares enough about it. However, some are not so fortunate. The threat of information security is not new to Malaysia, and recent hacks by the Anonymous movement into Malaysian websites aren't even good examples. Malaysians would know news from years past of women that have been blackmailed by ex-lovers due to sex videos that they had threatened to circulate on the internet. That’s something a lot more serious, and something very real.

At the end of it, you can only be compromised as much as you tell. There are some things that are meant to be shared, and some things that aren’t, especially on the internet. Wisdom is required, and that’s why the saying, ‘Be careful with what you say,’ really is timeless. We don’t have to be paranoid and close every internet social network account, but it helps not to be ignorant and to be careful with how we do use the internet. So to anyone who reads, just be careful out there, all right? =)

Saturday, July 02, 2011

addressing Change

Not too long ago, I watched a recorded video of Datuk Shamsul Azhar Abbas, PETRONAS president making his address at the annual town hall event, where he’d spoke in front of most if not all PETRONAS executives working in and around KLCC.

He started by saying that the results of a nationwide survey regarding change indicated that Malaysians need it to be repeated approximately 11 times before it gets accepted. Welcome to the national mentality of Malaysia. With ever changing global scenarios facing the oil & gas industry and all business at large, changes happen all the time and adjusting to isn’t something everybody does well all the time. With PETRONAS comprising mostly of Malaysians, it is an area of concern. 

With the period of easy oil discoveries over, a lot more technologies and money is needed now to drill for oil. Its a big challenge for all oil majors, and these external pressures are forcing PETRONAS to be more efficient than it is right now.

Although many Malaysians won’t be aware, PETRONAS is truly at a crossroads of its history. It is now facing a time where transforming from good to great is not  something desirable, but absolutely necessary if it is to remain relevant, especially with Malaysian resources not at its richest anymore. Just to explain, local oil production is indeed slowing down and while there are initiatives such as Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR), the very mention of those words tell you that future long term prospects isn’t too bright for Malaysia.

PETRONAS is being forced to be a lot fiercer in competing with companies like Shell, CNPC, ExxonMobil, Sinopec, Gazprom and the like. In recent times it has aggressively pursued assets overseas, winning bids for areas in Iraq and recently buying over a Canadian company for its interest in shale gas. Expanding globally is a big part of future plans, yet carefully selective, as it doesn’t have a bottomless pit of money it can throw at every opportunity. PETRONAS needs to grow outwards, but even making one mistake while doing so would be very painful.

That is why remaining at current standards is not enough. The president was quite firm in his address, saying that there are underachievers in the company that have been pulling down the performances of exceptional achievers and these people will be removed. No nonsense allowed.

Operational effectiveness is just one part of the picture though. Within the next ten years, approximately 50% of petro-technical professionals are due to exit the workforce. We all know that’s a lot of people, and the talent war will surely intensify beyond what we know it to be right now. The importance of attracting talent and retaining will definitely increase, and so making PETRONAS a place where the best want to work as one of the top priorities. That’s one of the reasons that PETRONAS upped entry level salaries for executives in recent years.

Many young people have entered PETRONAS in recent times and the president observed a phenomenon where older seniors are reluctant to guide these youth, fearing being replaced by them someday. He noted the need for a change of mentality to accept mentoring as a responsibility and duty to the company. He advised for the older people to avoid from being overbearing and to be more nurturing. All these statements just go to show that even now PETRONAS is going through a transition of passing bigger responsibilities to its younger employees.

Bringing it all back down to earth, just reading through what I’ve typed in this entry so far, I’m beginning to see that I’m really a part of all this. I only need to look as far as my own department to see that my manager and maybe even my senior manager will be due for retirement within the next ten to fifteen years.

It makes me wonder for a bit where and what I’ll be when that happens. What I know is that I want to be part of a successful change for Malaysia’s Fortune 500 representative. I’m inspired and part of it is due to a president whom you can see just through his speech that he’s a no nonsense kind of person and he really means serious business. Here’s to disproving the sceptics and gunning for the best.