Monday, September 03, 2018

Uber sucks!

I don't know about you, but my experience with Uber has been very rocky. Here are some incidents:
  • Several times, Uber drivers didn't turn the AC on despite the ride class requiring it. The excuse was that no one runs AC, otherwise they don't save any money. 
  • Several times, a ride is confirmed, the driver is coming my way and starts spinning around the world in a trajectory that can't be explained. I'm standing there waiting for the guy to show up. I often set up a pick up on a road and walk there to make it easier for the driver - that way, he/she doesn't have to navigate the pickup point. I get what I deserve for being courteous. Day before yesterday, I decided to use the motor bike service since I was traveling alone and light. The guy starts coming towards my place, I leave the house and walk to the pick up point. I check Uber and I see that he has overshot and gone. He keeps going a long long way. That wasn't an overshot by mistake. He was taking care of some personal chores or whatever. Why the hell did he take my ride until he was ready to take it? I called him, no reply. I can't stand around on the road waiting for him. I texted him to kindly cancel the ride as he was clearly going around town while I was waiting. I got charged for the cancelation. The same thing happened once earlier when an auto driver couldn't find the front gate of FAST University in Faisal Town, while I was standing out in the heat. I asked him to forget it and took my own car, instead. I got charged for cancelation. This is criminal.
  • Once we had a car break down. By the driver's reaction, it was clear that this wasn't the first time. He was used to it and tried the tested way of waiting for a while and trying to start the car again. We stood in the heat and hailed another Uber. That guy couldn't find us for about 20 minutes. We were standing at a busy market center in DHA on the main road! The driver apparently wasn't familiar with the smart phone and navigation. We called him twice and gave him verbal directions until he was able to rescue us.
I visited their website and there isn't even a decent portal to lodge a complaint at. Just a bunch of FAQs explaining to me that I am wrong. All these times, I took pity on the drivers and didn't give them poor ratings. I guess I should have. Until the day before yesterday, I was reluctant to hail Uber. Now, I have decided that I wouldn't. Either I'll drive my own car or I'll take a rickshaw from the roadside.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Deja vu?

Maybe I shouldn't call it Deja Vu. Maybe I should call it Karam. I don't know. Not sure.

Anyway, people used to bash Microsoft for its monopoly and how it allegedly had backdoors and was exploiting users. Then, there was an anti-trust motion that resulted in Microsoft being asked to divorce Internet Explorer from Microsoft Windows OS.

Today, I read this news item. What do you know? Google, the defender of the people from the giants, itself a giant now is in the same chair. The EU has fined Google for pre-loading Google software on Android phones.

What should I call this?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

And this year's theme is.....

I drove a bit in Lahore this eid and traveled to Sialkot. This year's eid theme seemed to be "firearms". Everywhere I went, boys were on the streets playing with toy guns of all shapes and sizes. I wonder what relevance firearms have with eid celebrations. Maybe the reason is that since adults do aerial firing in celebration, kids also follow suit. But are the parents asleep or does this make perfect sense to them? Why aren't the kids playing regular sports? Oh, sorry, there are no playgrounds left in most of the country. I am intrigued as to how this choice of toys becomes uniform across cities, though. Is there like a great big Facebook group of all Pakistani kids who post there and agree to play with firearms this eid?

Friday, May 18, 2018

A response to "Education-employment link"

I just read this article in Dawn - Education-employment link. It is a very interesting article, but not an alarming one - at least to me, it isn't.
Well, first of all, look around you and tell me a field in which we are excelling. Positive ones, only, please. There is no excellence in crime and other negative enterprise. You could call it inverse-excellence.
Every professional comes from amongst us - the society. Failure in every field is reflective of the incompetence, ignorance, selfishness and most importantly dishonesty. Personally, I can live with an honest but incompetent person - if I could find one, that is. So, why should I blame the bureaucrats for the recent power outage? They are but a reflection of us all.
But let's talk about education - the "industry" that I am in. Universities are not producing quality graduates, right? That is a no-brainer. There are few quality graduates out there, in every field. And these guys are there no thanks to the universities that they graduated from. They were either hugely gifted or guided by someone with a clue, who mostly happens to be a family friend and not a faculty member.
There are well-meaning faculty members in our universities, but they are frustrated with the declining quality of the student intake. So, the colleges are to blame, then? Wait a minute! Who even goes to college nowadays? Oh, the academies, then! Hmmm. Many students who make it into some of the top universities in Pakistan don't make it because they are among the best. They go to academies which provide pools of questions whose answers are to be crammed to succeed at the entry tests. No wonder, clueless people will make it into some of our top universities. Then, what output do you expect from the university?
Trace the thread backwards, further. The schools. Have you looked at their state? Private, public, both. Pathetic overall, if you ask me. I particularly hate the ones with the high fees who claim to be giving quality education, but I know exactly what they are giving.
Back in the days when we had gems in our society, it was because we had quality teachers in schools. Individuals who were great human beings, first. Even if they didn't teach a kid how to find the highest common factor, they taught him what mattered. Through the "go buy a liter of milk and drop it at my home" to the punishment, it was all well-intended. I am not saying that you start doing this now and everything will be better again. No, it doesn't work that way. Copy-pasting is the worst thing you can do. It was the teacher's mind that was deciding what needs to be done now and what results it will produce years later. You can't copy-paste that. Wisdom is a slow and painful process.
Let's pause and think who ends up in the teaching process in our schools and, for the most part, in our universities. That's right, those who couldn't get a "real job". Guys like me, they are these rejects and outcasts. Why do you expect us to do a miracle, then? At schools, the situation is even worse. The place where we need better people, we hire the ones with no experience, no clue and even low grades.
I interviewed people for a private school over a number of years. We found people with M. Phils in English who couldn't translate a simple sentence into English. And these people were hired to be teachers and even principals at really high salaries by Government schools.
A lot of emphasis is being paid on higher education in Pakistan, but I think that by the time a student enters university, it is too late. Emphasis on higher education is necessary, but a greater level of emphasis must be paid on the primary and secondary education. That way, even if someone doesn't continue onto higher education, you would have better citizens.
Also, the argument of, we need engineers/scientists and not social science/humanities graduates is bogus. The root of all our problems are in our society, which can't be fixed by science or engineering. You need good social science and humanities people to fix that. And what people do we admit to those programs? The ones whose grades are too low for any other program. From amongst these, you will have future teachers and the cycle will continue.
So, there, I've told you what needs to be done to fix our society, our education-employment link etc. What I can't tell you though, is how to do it. I'm not a social scientist, I'm a computer engineer.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Change, we wouldn't

Would you try to count the average number of times you lie during a day? For those who don't know how, count your number of lies for a week and then divide by seven. My guess is that the answer will be significantly higher than zero. Actually, my guess is different, but I'll reveal that later.
We lie, lie, lie, all the time. It's not just the fruit seller telling you that he is giving you A-grade merchandise, whereas actually it is B-grade being sold on a higher price. It's not just the chicken seller who falsely accuses others of clever tricks to explain why he's charging a higher price. It's not just the clothes seller who claims his merchandise to be A-grade export quality or imported stuff, when it is not. It's me and you, as well. If you disagree, perhaps you should take another look at your definition of a "lie".
For example, calling an animal to come to you pretending to have food in your palm, while your hand is empty is a lie. For example, telling your child that you'll buy them a toy tomorrow, which you certainly don't intend to, is a lie. For example, telling your boss that you couldn't come to work because of being sick while you were just being lazy, is a lie. For example, when you tell the traffic cop that the light was green when you passed it after being stopped for skipping a red light, is a lie.
No lie is too small. Big and small are relative terms. As I note earlier, the definition of lie is relative. The problem is, that if you accept little lies, your threshold of small creeps up slowly. What you earlier considered a big lie, becomes a small one. But, what's wrong with that?
Most of us are worried that we are ruled by crooks. I'm not talking about the present regime or the previous one, or the next one. Some portion of society is unhappy because of that reason at all times. Most of us are worried about the corrupt bureaucracy. I hate to generalize, there are good politicians and there are good bureaucrats, but let's admit that the average case is pretty bad. It comes as no surprise to me, because these guys are from amongst us. They're not aliens or foreigners. So, how can we expect them to be different. And lying, being the root of all evil..., can you do the math?
To those who are expecting a great change, through a regime change following the next elections: wake up! If you have a country full of liars, except for few, what are the odds of electing a few hundred nice, clean men? In other words, if you have a box full of black balls, with one or two white balls, what is the probability that you pick a few hundred white balls?
And to everyone, let's just stop complaining about corrupt this and corrupt that. We have no right to do that. Once a thief tried to rob a house at night and injured himself over a knife lying on the floor. He sued the home owners for negligence that caused him harm. Does that make any sense? No? Then, how can we, liars, complaint about others lying about ending load shedding in 6 months or changing the fate of the nation in one year and so on. Just zip it!
The regime only robs me a limited number of times a day when I purchase over-taxed stuff. All of the common folks around me continuously rob me by being unfair - by skipping a queue, or skipping a red light, or passing me on the left hand side or showing no respect for the lanes on the road. Shouldn't I hate you all more than I hate the government?
To get meaningful change, we must first change ourselves. Respect others, be truthful in speech and in action, be fair and honest. Only then, do we have a little bit of hope of change.
Now, onto the average number of lies you tell. When you ask a liar to tell the number of lies he has told, what do you expect in reply? A lie! So, I bet, for most of you, the answer will be quite close to 0.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Rules don't apply

Yesterday, at around 6 pm, I was going grocery shopping with my family. We were exiting WAPDA Town, Lahore when a Suzuki Moron (read Mehran) approached in the fast lane, on the wrong side of the road. The road had two lanes, I was in the fast lane, but I couldn't immediately switch lanes because there were cars approaching from behind us in the left lane. I waited patiently. Meanwhile, the old man driving the Suzuki Moron on the wrong side started angrily waving his arm out of the window to let him pass.
When traffic allowed, I switched to the left lane and pulled up next to his car. I pointed out that he was on the wrong side of the road, to which he replied that the house on my left was his house and that's where he was going. I pointed out that he had to drive on the correct side of the road, make a U-turn and then reach his home. He gave a great reply to that. He said, "this is WAPDA Town, these rules don't apply here." We had a hearty laugh.
In fact, rules don't apply anywhere in Pakistan. I have seen loaded trucks driving up the exit ramp onto Lahore Ring Road, amongst many amusing displays of complete disrespect for the law and safety. When we believe that rules don't apply to us, what justification do we have to expect, for instance, politicians to be fair and non-corrupt? 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The beginning of a journey

Alhamdulillah, yesterday, February 12, 2016, I finally defended my PhD thesis successfully. I am grateful to Dr. Zartash and Dr. Ihsan for sparing time for rehearsals and feedback during the entire last week.  Also, Dr. Tariq Jadoon was there in the mock presentation and gave excellent feedback. A special thanks to my sincere friend Kamran Nishat for being there throughout the last week or so. He lent a great and invaluable helping hand. He was there with excellent suggestions just as he has been throughout my PhD studies at LUMS. Irteza was also there with encouragement in the tough last week. A special thanks to Zeeshan Rana, Akeel Faridee, Umar Suleman and Fahad Javed for being there to attend the defense presentation.
I will write more details about it later. One might think that this is the end. In fact, it is a beginning. Conference of this degree symbolizes an expression of confidence in my ability to do independent research. It is not a farewell, but a welcoming ceremony to the club. Hopefully, a spectacular journey of discovery lies ahead. I pray that Allah may help me in that journey more than He has during my PhD, in particular, and in the rest of my life in general.
One last reflection in this post is that I did not feel "that moment" to be one of pride. It was more of a humbling one. In fact, my entire PhD experience has been a humbling one because it made me realize not how much I have learnt, but that there is a vast amount of things that I do not know.