Logic is Variable

an argument starts here

Net result

Given the rapid growth in the field of computing, one expects that there will be greater interaction between people and the Internet in future. And the netizens now have mixed feelings for the future of Internet revolution; Whereas some may not use this facility ever, for some the boundaries between real and digital life are already blurring.

Speedier bandwidth is becoming common (using 56Kbps modems and telephone lines seem painfully slow now) and everyone is expected to have real-time link to everyone. Once this happens, “the concept of who is online and who is offline will melt away,” says Bradley Horowitz, Yahoo’s director of media and desktop search.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 11:00 AM, links to this post

Nanga Parbat

Nanga Parbat – naked mountain - is the ninth highest peak (8125 meters) in the world and second highest in Pakistan situated on the western tip of great Himalayan, in norther Pakistan. It is also known as Killer Mountain because of the difficulties of reaching the summit. Its face in the south called the Rupal Face rises over 5000 meters from the valley floor to the summit. After a German climber Hurman Bhul scaled it in 1953, many climbers have stepped on the majestic peak including Nazir Sabir of Pakistan. Many have lost their lives in this pursuit too..

I have always been eager to visit mountains that lead me to join one expedition to Nanga Parbat as a local facilitator. I met leader of the expedition Adrian Burgees - a blonde foreign national with muscular, lean and tall disposition in the Ministry of Tourism Islamabad and instantly liked him. I was responsible to see that every thing goes smooth. Later, I was introduced to all other members of the expedition and together we tied up details for journey, rations, transportation and purchase of additional climbing gears.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:27 AM, , links to this post

Going back to nature

This article appeared in Pakistan Armed Forces' Monthly Magazine Hilal (Urdu section) in July 2011 issue.Read more »

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 7:11 PM, , links to this post

Socially yours

In the first place, why do I register at different Websites on the Internet, and you should too? To stay tapped in what is happening in the cyber world and also what is not and to do some more things. Internet users want to access Websites to browse, posts their own randdom or focused thoughts in weblogs, subscribe to a couple of USENET newsgroups of interest, avail of required services on offer, posts resume on a job or may be bio on matrimonial services sites, shops online or simply use Web based email services. What all users have to do is register and cough up some personal information in the process. Not a big deal!

Big deal is that personal information spread fast on the Internet. Result: email Inbox privacy that is one of today's most sensitive and intricate issues affecting nearly everyone – individuals, businesses and Internet systems alike. Clued-up users who are in know of the matters want to protect their email inboxes though beginners or those who have lots of free time on hand usually do not care until later. Majority of the Websites first ask users to register and give some personally identifiable information including email address so that they can reach out potential customers and people with particular interests. "Over 90 percent Websites ask visitors to register," as per an estimate, for those 'great benefits' -- full use of the Website, membership to certain services or communities, subscription to newsletters and alerts and more.

On the Internet, there are so many novel ways to harvest email addresses and other personal information; sometime automatically without the knowledge or consent of users through cookies (elements of data that a Website can send to browsers, which may then store it on systems. Browsers can be set to receive a cookie, or otherwise), bugs built in some software or other more offensive ways. A report says "the use of concealed bugs to collect information about online visitors has proliferated dramatically in recent years."

Some time it happens that a surfers search for any specific information they need and when click the most probable looking link in the search results, instead of opening the Webpage containing required information, they are confronted with multi step online registration form to complete before they can get onto what they want. But the simplest and 'legal' way to collect information is through voluntary registration. In the process users are required to provide their identity information -- name, street address, telephone number, email, gender, interest areas, birthday, profession and employment status, purchasing capacities and income.

Bakir Ahmad, a student in America pointed out to an interesting old case on the Internet to prove what length Websites can go to collect personal information: "Those who are using the Internet since late 1990s may remember when a company offered that it will be giving free personal computers to 10,000 people who gave detailed personal information. A question was (and is) that how can a demographic that does not own a computer and presumably is not online, be a target for e-marketing? The answer even then was that savvy surfers will not give personal information online for free computers." But what business could do to know the users? E-marketers zeal to collect personal information is the same if it has not aggravated more.

What do the businesses do with the personal information? "Undifferentiated market segment today global market is worth next to nothing from marketing point of view. Therefore businesses collect demographic and personal information to prepare their marketing strategies and improve promotional efforts," says marketing expert Dr. Ahsan Malik, "that allows businesses to analyze site usage and provide products, services and features that most likely meet targeted segment's demand, and to customize service to make users' online experience as per users' expectations and to send marketing or promotional materials through emails and or targeted banners."

Given growing privacy concerns and every one's disliks to unsolicited commercial emails (a.k.a. spam), Websites now give various options on the online registration forms but more often users fail to pay attention to obsecure clauses discussing how their personal information including email address will be used. Majority of the Internet users do not read the privacy policies, terms of service and disclaimers of Websites while registreing there in a hurry and just proceeded to hit on "I agree" button without going through legal looking lengthy documents. Or users do not pay attention to consequecses while opting in or out by checking boxes that authorize the Websites to send emails or worst still share their email addresses with third parties. She Zaman says, "this approach means spam me, I asked for it."

Opt-in approach means that user explicitly agree, upfront, to have their personal information used in a specified manner and or share it with others when such use or disclosure to third parties is related to the purpose for which the information was collected. And opt-out is to withhold information from the mass lists; "it is a statement by users that they are not willing to receive sales and marketing communications."

The proclamation like "we will not sell, share, or rent this information to others" is not sufficient. There out to be simple and standard criteria for an opt-out schemes to provide effective protection. This so far is lacking. The proclamation like "we will not sell, share, or rent this information to others" is not sufficient. There out to be simple and standard criteria for an opt-out schemes to provide effective protection. This so far is lacking. While writing this, I signed for Gmail account and took the trouble of going through Google's terms of use. Part of it reads, "As a condition to using the Service, you agree to the terms of the Gmail Privacy Policy as it may be updated from time to time. Google understands that privacy is important to you. You do, however, agree that Google may monitor, edit or disclose your personal information, including the content of your emails, if required to do so in order to comply with any valid legal process or governmental request (such as a search warrant, subpoena, statute, or court order), or as otherwise provided in these Terms of Use and the Gmail Privacy Policy. Personal information collected by Google may be stored and processed in the United States or any other country in which Google Inc. or its agents maintain facilities. By using Gmail, you consent to any such transfer of information outside of your country." What is more, "As consideration for using the Service, you agree and understand that Google will display ads and other information adjacent to and related to the content of your email."

Some of the sites provide users with the opportunity to alter their registred information so that they no longer receive unwanted email communications. The provisions of changing profile or preferences are usually hard to find particularly for less tech savvy users. Some Internet users who have experienced say that changing preferences have little effect on the amount of commercial emails received, because once an email address is out, there is little anyone can do about it. "I tried changing my email addresses on couple of sites, and now I am getting emailes on old as well as new address," says Sher Zaman, a techie. Does this make the Internet a public bulletin board where any thing revealed is every one's business?

The users should be careful how and where to register. That is the only choice that remains with the users, I think.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 11:57 AM, , links to this post

You geek!

This article appeared in monthly Spider.tm

The Internet is not only changing our outlook to life and work but is also going to change male female ratio in workforce giving female population more choices to work. But what has female work choices to do with geeking. Plenty!

First, let us see the origin of term geek and establish why geek girls and not the geek boys. Tom Ziegler researched the origin and changing usage of the term geek and quoted this in geek.com feature, "It appears that "geek" outstrips "nerd" by almost 400 years! Seems Mr. Alexander Barclay back in England wrote the following in 1570: He is a foole, a sotte, and a geke also which choseth ... the worst [way] and most of ieoperdie [jeopardy]. Why, old Willy used it in Twelfth Night, Scene I, as Malvolio says to Olivia: Why have you suffer'd me to be imprison'd, kept in a dark house, visited by the Priest, And made the most notorious gecke and gull That e're invention play'd on?

Word geek is derived from geck or gek or geke. In its original meaning, "geek referred to a foolish, inept, or clumsy, single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept or a carnival performer whose show consists of bizarre acts, such as biting the head off a live chicken." As per MS Word 2000 UK Dictionary geek is a synonym of nerd, weed and bore. Eric Raymond describes "computer geek" as "one who eats (computer) bugs for a living." But that was in the past.

All these definitions and meanings are outdated. "It was during dot com boom (1999-2000) that the usage of the term changed to positive," wrote Tom Ziegler. Geek after steady transition now refers to keen and expert users of personal computers and the Internet, in an upbeat sense, notwithstanding the gender.

It is no more demeaning in any sense. Gleaning through the use of term in IT publications and online material I have mirrored a new definition for a female geek by changing and removing ill suited parts and disregarding anecdotes, humorous stories, photographs and cartoons still found on the World Wide Web and in some IT journals. Geek girls are simply skilled females with a purpose. They are comfortable, having no computer or Internet phobia or gender consideration while using them. They may be going for career in any of the fields related to IT or merely using them for communication or entertainment. They find work satisfaction and motivations achieving and creating any thing online.

This, in any sense, is not a gender fight nor is the intention to address gender equality and rights issues. The intent here is to see why female population is less represented in computer fields and how they can be brought at the acceptable level basing on the merit. A woman pilot is called pilot and not a girl pilot, female driving a car is called driver and not a woman driver and girl cook is called cook not a girl cook. Why limit computing skills to gender? Yet another unfounded stereotype! It is not understood as to how the term geek girl has come up instead of simply a geek in the first instance. IT environment, computers or for that matter other machines are neutral. They cannot ascertain genders of the users. Moreover, IT should be taken as a tool that needs to be adapted rather than redefining the terms of gender. Any one keen about use of computer technologies should be described as geek and not necessarily geek girl or a geek boy. Ideally, there should not be any gender bias when it comes to assigning role and status to girls working in IT?

Wide gap very much exists in head counts when it comes to notable role models like computer science teachers or computer engineers or those using computers and the Internet for communication and but it is not due to technology aversions or any computer phobias. How the female can achieve the skill level that shows in workplaces and normal life? The answer to this question has its roots in social, cultural, historic and economic factors. Parents here buy computers for boys. Girls still use their "brothers' computers" when they have finished. Girls simply cannot use services in cyber cafes due to ill repute those public places have earned. Ironically, the developers write gaming and other software targeting male users. Generally speaking, more websites are of the interest for male as compared to other half of the population. Parental endorsement, opportunities and the Web contents set the attitude of female. All this has to change if the female population is to be taken along in this much hyped information revolution.

Despite the constraints and chauvinism of the sort, there are already female who have a strong interest in the field (call then geeks if you must). They are as good geeks as their male counterparts. More than just a career or a meaningful interest, geeking is becoming a way of life for girls; even cool. "It's chic to be geek..." But here one has to look beyond the stereotypical profiles of women in our society to find them. The male female ratio in undergraduate and postgraduate level courses in IT institutions is improving. Girls pursuing business degrees (MPAs, MBAs) are also taking more IT courses to further their computer skills. But female will be seen in high profile positions in corporate Pakistan and in native IT hubs when this breed joins the workforce and when corporate Pakistan starts realizing their presence as beneficial in many ways.

Faiza, an MBA from Karachi University who runs his father's Gas Filling Station and carries a laptop says, "In this day and age geek is a geek whether girl or a boy. The term refers to computer skills and fascination and not the femininity or masculinity. It is not at all a negative term and no one should feel insulted by it, rather it is a descriptive word."

Perceptions are changing and girls in our society are now more willing to work harder to achieve goals and face the greater demands of hard work; they need it. Most are able to exercise choices and are combining values, which are at once traditional and modern, taking along family and career. Now one can see marked trend towards working, creativity, and personal fulfillment in females. "More and more girls are seeing their future into IT and a positive attitude towards using information and communication technologies to their advantage is developing," says teacher in the University of the Punjab Dr. Shahida Jehan.

The changing attitude is preparing a corps of girls skilled in IT changing as the computers are growing to be more commonplace in our society and women and young girls see their male family members achieving more and more things online. Let the word geek spread.

Tags: Men, Women, Technology,

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:00 AM, , links to this post

Chillianwala chase

To-ing and fro-ing, at time zigzagging, in Punjab introduces to wonders and legions of what may be called middle ground of cultural fusion of the present Punjab. The area is gold mine for history seekers, spiritual and curious travelers. You may find much more than what you hear or read. It pays to get out into the countryside and talk to ordinary people. People of the area are eager to help – on their own expense - when you ask any body. One finds volunteer 'guides' who were forth coming with wealth of information.

Chillianwala is a historic village that played an important role in the history of the South Asia. It was a battle ground where British and Sikh forces fought one of the decisive battles in the history of the Subcontinent in 1849. The quiet village has not changed much since then. Only slowly old agricultural methods are changing and tractors and wheat threshers are seen in please of bull driven ploughs. Painted double story houses are coming up where used to be conventional mud houses. Land is excellent with record carrying capacity and the display of seasonal crop is very powerful.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 12:51 PM, , links to this post

Pakistan Slide Show

Pakistan Slide Show

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 11:20 AM, , links to this post


The Northern Areas of Pakistan are called Bam-i-Dunya. As graphic in names they are foreboding in majesty, the Himalaya translate as "the abode of the snows", The Karakoram, the "black gravel mountains", and the Hindu Kush, "the Paariyaatra Parvat". Adventurous trekkers from all over the world congregate here to trek for pleasure and to test their personal endurance.

The word trek has a history and different meanings. Walking in jungle or even along the road is also a trekking of its kind. For the purpose of this article, let us assume that trekking means walking up the mountains. Depending on the altitude, treks fall in various categories from easy to hard. Any trekker who knows it dreams to tread on unique mountain mass in Pakistan. In addition, some mountaineers also come here to train and acclimatize for more serious climbs, rock repelling and other forms of mountain exploration. Here is why.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:34 AM, , links to this post

Dolls of the World


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 1:00 PM, , links to this post

Thatta Kedona Internet Radio

This article appeared in Footloose, the daily News.

Internet Radio Village in Thatta Ghulamka Dheroka is aimed to provide information and all that the villagers need

“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Internet Radio Village Thatta (District Okara) calling you. I am Farooq Ahmed, in charge of village NGO Anjuman-e-Falah-e-Aama. We are starting our 2009 test transmissions. In 2010, we will start our Urdu transmissions for local agricultural community and English for others, Sarfraz will be our folk singer, Interviews videos will be aired in audios,” was the first announcement from Internet Radio Station TV Thatta Village that started test transmission in October 2009. The regular transmission form Internet Radio Station TV Thatta Village will start in February 2010.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:26 AM, , links to this post

Living with peacocks

This is outside my office at Lahore School!


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:21 AM, , links to this post

Happy birthday Dr. Senta Siller

On the occasion of the 77th birthday of Dr. Siller Siller,  on my own behalf and on the behalf of all all friends of  dolls, I take this opportunity to thank her heartily for her exemplary and untiring efforts towards the cause.

Happy Birthday to Dr. Senta Maria Anna Siller – the honorable Mother of Dolls who is recipient of Floriade (the Netherlands), Gestaltetes Spielgut (Creative Toys – German Toys Industry), Bundesverdienstkreuz (highest civil order of merit of the Federal Republic of Germany) and many more honors.
On this occasion, we, all friends of Thatt Kedona dolls,  recommend Dr. Senta Maria Anna Siller for Pakistan President's Award for Pride of Performance.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 12:06 AM, , links to this post

Education, Inequalities, and Freedom

Education, Inequalities, and Freedom, is an extension of critical educational discourse in Pakistan. It underscores the role of education as a powerful socio-political phenomenon that is linked with power, politics, hegemony, resistance, and freedom. The book suggests that how education, which is believed to be a tool of emancipation, is in fact involved in further widening the socioeconomic gaps in the society. The book calls for a major shift in the concept of knowledge, pedagogical practices, and assessment norms prevalent in our schools. To tackle the enormous challenge of social change, schools need to reposition themselves by making use of other social institutions and linking their pedagogies to non-formal and informal sources of knowledge. The book is divided into nine thematic parts which include Education and Politics; Inequalities and Stratifications; Education and Development; Teachers, Control, and Freedom; Language and Power; Politics of Educational Reforms; Education and Hegemony; Myths and Slogans; and Exploring Alternatives.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 10:57 AM, , links to this post

On Silk Road

Until the Karakoram Highway — connecting Abbottabad with Kashgar via Gilgit and Hunza — came near completion in the mid-1980s, no one knew that the Silk Road ran through Pakistan. With the great highroad ready and with lorries plying its nearly seven hundred kilometre-length, suddenly someone upped and told us that this was the fabled Silk Road. And we, the Great Unwashed of this land, gobbled it up hook, line and stinker (pun intended).

We, or our bureaucracy, have spent sixty-four very diligent years creating a huge body of lies, lies and lies that now passes for history. (No wonder with such industry occupying us, nothing else of any consequence ever got done in this sorry land.) The Karakoram Highway being known as the Silk Road is another one of those many nuggets of official mendacity.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 6:03 PM, , links to this post

How to Start and Manage Non-Governmental Organizations

NGOs represent an alternative to the constructed organizational entities. They are flexible and can react faster to the changes. This is the theory as seen in anthropological and ethnological aspects. In our local context and in the face of rampant corruptions rooted deep in governmental organization, we hear so many debates about NGOs and their work. What is more, some segments in our society are totally against NGOs and their good work. Problem is that those who oppose the mere presence of NGOs might not even understand what are NGOs, how they work and fill the void left by the state or how much NGOs can influence for the collective good of the society.

It is in this milieu that Javed Sajjad Ahmad – a veteran social scholar – has brought How to Start and Manage Non-Governmental Organizations. The author has answered many thorny questions about NGOs that can help all stakeholders. “The book is a guide, a ready reference, or a step-by-step manual to launch and nurture an NGO. Existing NGOs, large or small, will find information in the book that they can use to raise funds, hone their organizational skills or learn how to manage growing pains. It is probably the first of its kind book being published in Pakistan, that meets a felt need of the voluntary sector, at a critical juncture, says Professor (Dr.) M. Nizamuddin, renowned antropologist and the Vice Chancellor University of Gujrat.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 10:50 PM, , links to this post

Abbottabad to PMA Kakul

Located north of Islamabad, Abbottabad town is surrounded by lofty peaks and pine scented air. Among Pakistan's towns and cities, Abbottabad -- small, neat and clean in a spacious valley -- is a rarity. Apart from being famous for its educational institutions and Pakistan Military Academy, Abbottabad also serves as the gateway to some most stunning sites in Pakistan. While other hill stations are deserted during winter this place has visitors due to its bracing weather all year around. The town has beautiful gardens and tall, tree lined roads: splendid stretches of turf with plenty of room for polo, football, hockey and golf.

At 1,250 meters above sea level, Abbottabad lies below the lush pines of the Murree Hills. The importance of the town has been diminished a little after the completion of Karakorum highways because, in the past, the only track available to reach Karakorum was through Babusar pass, which could only be approached through Abbottabad. In spite of this development, it continues to be a transit town for those who want to venture to northern areas of Pakistan. Abbottabad is the junction point from where one can go to places like Hunza, Gilgit, Skardu and Indus Kohistan of the Karakorum Range. One can also reach Swat, Dir and Chitral of the Hindukush Range or can approach to Naran, Lake Saif-ul-Muluk, Shogran and Babusar Pass of the Himalayan Range. Neelum, Lipa and Jhelum Valleys are also connected through Abbottabad. It is where the hills start.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:33 AM, , links to this post

Khyber Pass Railway

Owais Mughal

It is 8:00 a.m. on a sunny Sunday at Peshawar cantonment. The Steam locomotive number 2216, which was built in 1916 by Kitson and Company of Leeds, UK is all set to start on yet another journey. The driver and fireman give one final inspection to the engine vitals and with a long whistle the number 2216 coupled to a tourist train pulls out of the station. Today the destination is Landi Kotal via Khyber Pass.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 12:35 PM, , links to this post

Beauty of Kashmir

Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, is known worldwide for its natural beauty and atmospheric serenity. Here I am going to explain some of the beauties that I remember from my to-ing and fro-ing in the area in the past. The beauty of the Azad Kashmir landscape lies in the light, unlike any other tourist mountain region in Pakistan including the northern areas. Fiercer, stronger, and sharper light silhouettes the mountain resort and scattered houses on slopes in ever-changing patterns against the skyline. The sunlight plays with the green nooks and crags of the Kashmir landscape, tossing out long shadows that ripple across the green gorges, sometimes through tall pine and fir trees. It turns the hills from opal in the morning to sapphire to gold to silver and finally to dross before descending swiftly in a bright red ball in the evening.

It is the light of sculptors, not painters, who love the soft diaphanous hues and tones. Out of that light comes the great image of green hills and the long, clean lines of the spurs separating craggy countryside from the plains. In the background of photogenic natural settings, Kashmir weather proves fickle, switching from sunshine to downpour and again to sunshine in minutes. The rain that falls over the land and blots out the sun can be seen in the red, grey, and brown layers in the cliffs that plunge dramatically into the horizon.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 2:25 PM, , links to this post

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