Friday, August 22, 2008

Olympic Goals

Quote of the week:
'We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.' - Oscar Wilde

Office for Rent Immediately:
As we have recently moved all our staff to the glass-enclosed cage that we call our head office, we have an entire fully furnished, gorgeous office for rent in a Medical Building at the corner of Sheppard Ave. and McCowan. The rent is minimal and the salient features of the space - such as the beautiful windows, the spacious Board-Room, the Corner offices, the nice faux mahogany furniture are enough to motivate your employees to work long hours while being paid whatever little you grudgingly give them. As a sweetener, there is even a nice, clean and neat private washroom that we will throw in for free. As this is a Professional Building (not just any building mind you, this one has achieved professional status through years of just sitting there), it would be most suitable for a growing real estate, accountancy or legal practice. You can visit the space and see the endless possibilities that this new location presents for your business by clicking
here or calling Mr. Azeez at (416) 412 3999 ext. 115.

Commentary of the week:

Torching the Olympics (but not literally):

As the world's athletes gather in Beijing and China showcases the organizational abilities the state has gained after many years of central planning even minute details of people's lives, many of us are watching the Olympics with a mixture of awe and regret. Awe because we realize that the athletes are indeed talented and regrets because of course if we had spent all our waking hours either running, walking or swimming from point A to B, or throwing oddly shaped objects here, there and everywhere, we would not be sitting in front of a computer right now thinking about finance. Someone would probably sponsor our clothes, our sunglasses, our shoes, our nail polish (if you are into that kind of thing) and our trip to China where we would put on a good show and forever call ourselves Olympians.

But alas, regrets of such kind do not get us far, and keep us away from the issue at hand - which is, how much money, really, do we have to spend on relatively frivolous pursuits in order to be entertained, when we could actually solve some of the world's problems? For example, while the ability to run from point A to point B quickly might have been useful in an age without bicycles, or is perhaps useful in situations where the neighbourhood's mad dog is chasing you at the tail end of your weeknight jog - is it really a humungous achievement to be able to do it in 9.63 seconds rather than in 9.64? Of course, this question may be envy disguised as profundity from someone who would probably not make it to point B if he was asked to actually run at all, but I hope you see that there is a valid point somewhere in there.

The other thing about the Olympics (other than the triviality of the events) is that they take attention and resources away from genuine problems. We have a finite amount of attention that we can bring to bear on issues and every time we begin to lose focus, we end up just a little further off the straight and narrow path that we perhaps should be following. For example, as we worry about whether the world record for the number of medals to a single contestant will or has been broken, there have quite possibly been gross human rights violations committed in Iraq and Georgia, preparations have been made for war against Iran and worst of all, the ravages of disease in parts of Africa that remain underserved with health care workers has devastated quite a few families. Of course, all this is happening just outside the horizon of our attention while we provide non-stop coverage to events as applicable to our daily lives as the 'discus throw' and the 'pole vault' - as if we were all just about to throw our briefcases from one end of the parking lot to where our car is parked, or as if we were about to pole vault into our 7th floor office through the windows instead of taking the coffin-like elevator like reasonable people. Suffice it to say that the whole system of our priorities seems to be a bit off-kilter sometimes and every four years, the Olympics reminds us of not how far we have come as humanity, but how little we have really changed from the warring tribes we were centuries ago.

Nevertheless, lest you think I am trying to put a damper on this global celebration, I assure you that I am not. I just think we should get a bit of a grip, because it is not as if it's the World Cup. Also, one notices that the Olympics and the constant entertainment that we and our impressionable children are force-fed, really takes us away from being present in the lives of our neighbours and families and reduces our conversations to how fast someone we have never met, who probably spends 17 hours a day running, can get from point A to point B. It would still be okay if watching the Olympics motivated us to actually get up off the couch that is strategically placed in front of the big screen and made us try out whether we are still able to run the 100M in less than 12 without having a coronary, but how often does watching other people huffing and puffing on TV motivate one to do that?

Upcoming Events:

Barzakh Cemetery Services, a charitable, non-profit organization led by Muslim women, is hosting an event to discuss family financial matters from a Muslim perspective at 3:00 pm on the 23rd of August at the Northwood Community Centre, 15 Clubhouse Court, located here. The event is designed to address issues such as Wills, Taxes and the way to approach the complete financial planning process - so it may be worthwhile for you to attend. Sh. Yusuf Badat from the IFT will speak about the importance of Wills and the technicalities of Inheritance Laws, followed by Br. Ahmad Abdullah who will speak about the impact of Taxes during life and also at someone's passing. As for moi, usually one is invited to speak about Islamic Finance, but this presentation will IA be about Financial Planning in general and some of the challenges involved for us as Muslims. I have been told that one of the severest problems within the Muslim community is not really the lack of wealth, but the lack of financial sophistication - so this event should go some way towards addressing this critical issue. Lastly, as this is an educational presentation and we are just helping BCS, you will not need to write Ittihad a cheque at the end. You might still want to support BCS as a community organization however, so please don't leave your chequebook at home altogether. As seating is limited, please RSVP by replying to this email.


Finance News:

1. The Economist that built his reputation by analyzing the market for used cars in a novel and extremely insightful way brings his intellect to bear on financial services (let us not hold his stint at the IMF against him) ... read more here

2. Conditions at Fannie and Freddie continue to worsen, making lenders twitchy about loaning out money for homes, making home-buyers twitchy about buying homes and thereby playing havoc with home prices even in Canada ... read more here

3. How Bank and Investment firm losses lead to changes in management ... read more here

4. Another ticking time bomb in the Real Estate market ... read more here

Economic News:

1. Russia saves up some of its Oil money for darker days ... read more here

2. Sovereign Wealth Funds cutting exposure to US$ (hat-tip to Mansoor Ullah) ... read more here

3. Food inflation in the UK goes to 10% ... read more here

Islamic / Middle East / Emerging Markets:

1. Credit crisis wary investors turning to Islamic Finance (hat-tip to Imtiyaz Ahmed) ... read more here

Interesting but not all Finance:

1. The entrepreneur behind the cream in your Tim Horton's coffee. This is what you call a self-made man ... read more here

2. Meeting etiquette at work ... read more here

3. Succession planning advice for small business-owners ... read more here

4. Example of creative, peaceful resistance to aggression ... read more here

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