Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Happy (Previous) Eid

Thanks to Almighty, this bruised nation was rewarded with Eid once again. Thanks to His blessing that He rewarded us with Ramadan and provided us opportunity to ask for forgiveness, to cure our souls and eliminate our sins. Thanks to Almighty that he granted the precious moments of Ramadan and Shawal 1st.

Happy almost previous Eid to the readers of this blog. Hopefully you enjoyed yourselves, met friends and relatives and had a good time. Or perhaps you enjoyed the time in my way, lying down on the bed in front of laptop staring at facebook, watching for technology news, downloading and watching new episodes of Star Trek Deep Space 9 and Stargate SG1 :-).

Well that's what I did today for the whole day, except 1 case when I left home to say Eid Mubarak to my teacher. I ate, drank, watched movies, read struggle of new technologies (just the skirmishes of HMTL5 with Silverlight, Flash etc and developers worrying about the future of proprietary technologies, pretty much cool topic :-D ;-)), and experimented my new laptop stand. Wanna have a look? See for yourself.
Laptop Stand

Laptop Stand

Laptop Stand

Laptop Stand

Laptop Stand

Laptop Stand
Well as you may have figured out. It is an old portrait (not a portrait it was an add from a medicine company pasted on a portrait like frame, I removed the add and used the frame). I attached a Rs 5 foota (wooden scale 1 foot long) with nail at one side of the frame to prevent laptop from sliding down (picture 3 for an unclear glimpse). And to make it look like a stand, I raise it using a box or a piece of wood (whatever is readily available) :-D. So here is what I've done on Eid.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Planning Your Career

As I've seen in short period of my life, there are two types of people in the world: the lucky and the not-so-lucky. The lucky ones are those who get an early breakthrough in their career. This boosts their career and they can fly on new horizons. The not-so-lucky ones are those who do not get an early breakthrough, or any breakthrough. So either they can become pessimist and stay where they are, or they can become hard workers and start to build up their career bit by bit and step by step.

I've seen the live examples during my MSc Applied Linguistics. Two lucky people were among my teachers. Sir Hafiz Fazl-e-Haq always fascinated me, so does Madam Rabia Yasmeen. Both were just MSc Applied Linguistics at the time when they got University job. So I considered them best examples as people who get breakthrough, and specially an early breakthrough in their career. Another example from the same university, GCUF, is my friend Sir Noor-ul-Qamar. He is a lecturer in English Department. He got his job when he just was completing his M Phil. And now he is a well settled person. I am also fascinated by him when I see my own career. Well, when I talk about my career, perhaps I was not able to get a breakthrough. For me, the maximum one can get as a MSc Applied Linguistics degree holder, is to get university job, specially public sector university. The teachers were required actually, but I couldn't apply for the job because of my incomplete thesis.

So we get that sometimes we are not so lucky, or we miss some chances to get something. How to rectify any such error? Well, in my limited experience and knowledge I've seen that you've to build your career step by step. It is a 10 years plan actually which starts after you get your graduation/ masters degree. This plan, as I see it, can be build considering following points.
  • As a first step you look for a job. At this time your priority is not to get a handsome salary, but you look for 'a job', which can give you the right to be called a professional. In language teaching field, you will get the kinds of jobs as I mentioned earlier. As a trainee teacher, a school teacher, a private college teacher, you do not seek for handsome salary, but here your purpose is to seek knowledge to survive in market. You seek the ways to move in a professional environment. This experience gaining helps you in your future work.
  • As second step you seek for a better job. Here the questions come what is the better job and WHEN? The choice of 'what' is totally person dependent because some people are comfortable with teaching, others are not so they may pursue for other fields and start from zero again. 'When' is a crucial thing to answer. Because your first job is very important for you to teach youself professionalism. But at the same time not all first jobs are so generous to offer you good income. So you've to move along. This move along can be tricky and context dependent (see for pragmatics here folks ;-) ). A few things should be kept in mind in this regard:
    • You are being offered by a more prestigious organisation with a more suitable salary package.
    • You think that you've gained as much as you could from your current institute.
    • You think that you've spent reasonable time in the institution.
    • You think that you wouldn't be able to survive in this institution any more (this can be due to some unfortunate reason)
    • You think that you should concentrate on further studies instead of the job.
  • Today's professional world offers you no generosity but 'cut throat' competition. If you are best, you'll survive otherwise you'll be left behind by the natural selection process. So you need to improve yourself constantly. In teaching you should be aware of latest techniques of teaching, use of technology and other gadgets which keep on emerging every day. Along with it, you need to improve intellectually as well. Being a teacher does not mean you've stopped learning yourself. You learn even when you are teaching in class. But that's 'learn to teach', what I want to focus here is to continue your regular studies. Masters degree is nothing today. Hundreds of universities across this country produce thousands of masters degree holders every year. So you are no exception. For improvement, to be exceptional, to be better, you will have to pursue for higher studies. When I see for myself, I have a plan for PhD and Post Doctorate (if possible) in next 5 to 10 years. You should also plan for yourself that what you want to get more along with your masters/ graduation degree.
  • Reflection and Hope are two elements which are crucial for career advancement. You should, after a reasonable period of time e.g. 1 year, reflect on your previous time, sit and think about it. What have you gained, what have you lost and where did you overestimate about yourself. Hope is something which keeps you alive, and urges you to move forward. Never let the hope die. Because time is meant to change. Today if something is unfavourable, it wouldn't be so for long. In past 1 year, I always hoped for the best, that I would be no longer in that miserable school. (That's a different story how 1 year teaching in school benefited me and on what cost). But I never let the hope die. I had an urge that after some time I'll move forward. And to remind myself of this, I thought myself as water in a pond, which if stays long in the pond will grow algae in it. So I constantly reminded myself that if I stayed there for long, I'll rot and corrupt myself, because I've never seen myself as a school teacher. At least what I can bear for myself is a university lecturer. But to get this goal, I've to struggle and work hard, measure each and every step, move forward bit by bit, be patient, and keep on getting expertise in terms of education and experience of the field. Then with the Grace of Almighty, soon enough I'll see myself on the desired goal. And perhaps I wouldn't stop there as well, and will set new goals for myself.
So folks keep on moving, never stop and never let the hope die, plan well, be positive and patient, and keep my company ;-). You'll keep hearing such babbling from me in future as well. And your comments are absolutely desired. Correct me if I am wrong at some point, suggest a better way and add in, if I forgot something. What I said was just my experience, maybe you've something better to share.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What to do after a linguistics degree

I’ve been tempted to write something for youngsters who have just completed their degree in linguistics from GCUF and now angry from the whole world about their fate.

There are some problems, no one has denied that. For example linguistics graduates (MSC Applied Linguistics) cannot apply for PCS Lecturers seats. The problem is because PCS only considers MA English in this regard. The solution is to change the name of the degree as BZU Multan, Islamia University Bahawalpur and UMT Lahore did. They have these programs for longer time as compared to GCUF, their students faced the problem and they have made appropriate changes to compensate. As per my knowledge the same is going to happen in GCUF. The degree name would be changed to MA English (Specialization in Linguistics). There would be a few basic courses of literature as well, to give a general idea of English literature to language students.

But the changes are being made as of 2011. The masters program started in 2007 with first batch in 2009, so there are three batches out with degrees. They are at a loss this way. But solution is there, only that it would take some time, and some effort. We, the old students from Applied Linguistics with MSc degrees are going to apply for PCS. We know that we’ll be refused. Then we’ll go to Supreme Court filing a Writ Petition. This way we would request the court to: instruct the university to change the degree name for old students; instruct PCS to allow us the right of application.

Pretty much clean and simple solution eh? Everything perfect and smooth. But that’s not the case. Firstly do not expect that you’ll be granted whatsoever you want. Secondly do not expect that you will get a job in PCS even if you have got the permission to apply. There are less than 250 seats from all over Punjab and thousands of degree holders are waiting for an opportunity. So only the best and fortunate will be selected. Now there are two ways:
  • Sit down and start grumbling about the conspiracies, injustice, misguidance done to you by the world, the seniors, the university, the department and the teachers.
  • Start building your career by gaining experience and getting what you lack at this moment. So if you want to grumble the floor is open start is right now, if you want second option stay with me.
As a linguistics graduate your plus point is that you know how to teach English. You are not merely having a degree in literature which teaches you old English Drama, Novel, Poetry. It does not teach you “how to teach”. But you have to figure it out yourself. So use this plus point, don’t degrade yourself and start building your career. Let me start with myself. I never expected to be a super hero after getting highest grades in masters. I know life does not yield so easily, you have to be so lucky to gain such a favor. So in the meantime select an alternative path for yourself and start acting on it.
  1. Create your CV. A simple 1 pager which would tell what is your qualification and areas of specialisation. I’ve a few samples, drop your email in comments or through Contact Me page, and I’ll forward you the CV samples.
  2. Get copies of all of your documents. Attach them to 1 copy of CV and make bundles.
  3. Drop in all good institutions of your city. At this moment your target can be Beacon House, The City, Little Angels, The Educators, Lahore Grammar School, and for colleges almost every private college. And be quick because the session is going to start and they need teachers.
  4. If you get a job this would teach you how to behave in professional environment, deal with parents, deal with students and you’ll get experience.
  5. There is a program for Trainee Teachers in Govt. Colleges. Several of your seniors has been benefited from it. It gives you a reasonable salary as well as experience of teaching at college level. Aisha Chouhdary (BS 2006-10) worked in this position at a govt. college, Sadaf Maqsoof from MSC 2008-10 i.e. my class fellow, worked at a govt. college in her city. From MSc 2009-11 Berg-e-Hina is selected as a trainee teacher at a govt. college in her city, Tahir Imran from BS 2007-11 has been selected in Govt. College of Commerce Faisalabad (he informed me today). And Mudasir, one of my class fellows, secured a similar job at Govt. College Samanabad. But don’t be so excited, the opportunity is over for this year. The interviews held on 19 August, 2011. Like you, I got this news after 4 days and regretted not applying for a college trainee teacher job. But never mind, better luck next time (next year actually). Keep an eye on the newspapers in this regard.
  6. Make a habit to read news papers and find job adds. Make a habit to apply for jobs.
  7. You want to pursue for CSS, and regretting not having read literature in your masters degree? MA English Literature course is available in market, buy books and start reading works of Shakespeare, Novels and Poetry so you may have some idea of literature. Remember reading is a habit, good books always provide you something. So start reading while you have sometime before getting a job. And who knows while reading the books casually, you decide to go for another MA i.e. MA English. Personally I would like to have a Post Graduate Diploma in English Literature in next years of my life so that I can compensate for not reading literature. But it does not mean I do not read now. I read but my taste is a bit different. I like to read Fantasy and Science Fiction and so far have listened audio books of Harry Potter, Wheel of Time, Codex Alera. Roughly they make 30 books.
  8. Be in touch in HEC and see for any foreign scholarships.
  9. Pursue for M Phil in Applied Linguistics if you want to go forward for University Jobs. I’ve a similar plan as well.
  10. And thank ALLAH for what he has granted you. See what you have now, see around yourself to realize how you are blessed. Even you existence is a blessing. Its you who can make your life heaven or hell. By fretting you’ll make your life hell and nothing would change around your. By Thanking ALLAH you will be obliging for what HE has given you. It will create a positive attitude and give you strength to move forward.
May ALLAH bless us all.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How to make your blog SEO UN-friendly

  1. Use a theme which is unreadable by occasional reader of your blog. Use a colour combination that is impossible to read e.g. Dark Blue over a Dark Background.
  2. Never place a navigation pane on your blog. It may help the user to jump from post to post and browse your blog easily.
  3. Never add social sharing buttons. They might help increase your blog traffic by socializing.
  4. Never submit your blog to any search engine.
  5. Write your posts in یل بللڑ (Yall balallar) words i.e. obscure and if possible non English words, that reader may not understand what the hell you wanna say.
  6. Your blog title must not tell what your blog is about.
  7. Your post title should have least connection to post content.
  8. Write your posts in long single shot mode with no paragraph breaks. This way your reader will not be able to dive into your post and understand what you wanna say.
  9. Disallow comments, trackbacks and pingbacks. They can harm your blog by increase the traffic and by creating user interaction.
  10. Never mention your blog URL when commenting on other blogs.
  11. Never try to socialize with other bloggers. Do not attend blog summits. Instead stay home, cheer and relax.
  12. Never submit your blog address to a blog directory and a feed aggregator. It might increase your blog traffic.
  13. Never add an About page.
  14. Never add a Contact Me page.
  15. Never answer emails from users if they fortunately find your email ID.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Misguided Attitude of our Students about Professional Life

He blames me of misguiding him. He thinks that his degree is a piece of s**t, wastage of money and time, killer of the hopes of his parents. And for this he blames me, because as a senior I motivated them to continue their career in linguistics, because I told them that linguistics was going to have a bright future. So he blames me for all that. But you, the reader, be just, and tell me. Was I wrong doing so? But first of all let me explain in detail so you may understand what do I mean when I say “he blames me”.

I was one of the lost children of my nation who didn't know where to go, what to do, what is the career, how to move in life, how to plan for future, what would be the consequences of studying science, arts or commerce. I studied science in matric because “intelligent” students were supposed to study science. It was in fashion, and as I was unfortunately considered an “intelligent” student I opted for science. Thank God there were no further choices in science, it was just Biology, Chemistry, Physics with Maths as compulsory subject. I studied and got good marks, 79% actually.

When I encountered a college first time in my life, and got prospectus again I was confused to select. My friend, actually best friend at that time, was opting for science and per-engineering (Physics, Chemistry, Maths). So I opted for science as well as per-engineering. Science because I had started thinking myself “intelligent” and per-engineering because my friend was also opting for it. That's another story that our sections were separate, we just met in the morning we were coming to college or in afternoon while going home on bicycles. My performance was rather poor in intermediate and I only managed to get 62% something marks.

Two years passed like two minutes and again I was standing there, thinking what to do next. I was not “intelligent” as I used to be. I had financial issues in front of me. My friends moved to engineering, telecommunication, repeating intermediate examination to get good marks and so to get admission in engineering university. I was left behind, thinking what to do. Then someone told me opt commerce subjects in graduation. And I did. I'd never studied commerce in my life. There were subject choice available in intermediate named Intermediate in Commerce (I. Com.) but as I had studied science, there was a little problem for me. But I got it as a challenge. I worked a bit harder, and tried to get good marks in Bachelors of Commerce (B. Com.) part 1, 62% actually. I found in this period that accounts, commerce, business, economics were not that difficult as they looked like. In second part, however, I couldn't maintain my percentage and finally I could barely secure 60% i.e. first division.

I was thinking myself to be a teacher somewhere in some college, teaching commerce. So my intention was to pursue for M. Com. (thank God I was a little bit clear about my career after 20 years of my life). But this was not the case with fate. My fate led me to Linguistics. It was really ironic for me when I was informed that I couldn't get admission in M. Com. at Govt. College University, Faisalabad. The Commerce Department had conducted test plus interview. I passed test, and they failed me in interview with 0 mark. If they had given me 1 mark, I was in. But I couldn't get admission because there was someone else who had a giant behind himself endorsing him for admission. So I, a refused Shakir, turned to Allama Iqbal Open University for MBA, and started looking for jobs. What kind of Jobs? Job was to get a home tuition, to teach in an academy, to work with someone as a computer assistant.

I did these jobs for a few months. As mentioned earlier, I was working as a computer assistant with someone. And here happened the most ironic twist of my life. The people I was working with as assistant (now my teachers) convinced me to leave commerce and study linguistics. OHH MY GOD :-@. Can someone has such a twisted educational path as I have? But I accepted that and 3rd time in my life changed my field Science > Commerce > Linguistics. So I worked for them in the morning, and took classes in the evening. It was not a regular program, just a post graduate diploma in which I was granted admission on continuous insistence of the teachers I was working with. Other member of the Department of English, including the head weren't convinced that I could be allowed to study English Language Teaching. But I did it, I got admission, I completed the degree.

Here, before coming to this degree, for the first time in my life, I was crystal clear. I knew where I've to go. I had a path in front of me. I knew that there was not going back. I had burned my boats. I was now a linguistics learner for whole of my life. My job was to teach English, research on Urdu and Punjabi and translate (as I later became). I had started a 10 year plan for my life. Because PGD was not enough, so after PGD, I went for MSc in 2008. In the mean time, thanks to a very kind person, Talmeez, as I mentioned above, I started working as translator. With the passage of time I got better, my interests developed in corpus linguistics, computer assisted linguistic research, computer assisted language teaching, research on Urdu and Punjabi. And now I am here, after one year of my masters, seeking to get admission in M Phil, working as a translator, having worked as a teacher for 1 year, looking forward to PhD.

And now, today, he says to me that I betrayed him. He thinks his education is just a piece of s**t and I am one of the responsibles. But how he can blame me for all this? Hadn't he a mind in his head? Couldn't he think of a better way at the time of admission? The reality is that he was like me, like one of thousands of students who are left behind, because they are not “intelligent” so they can't study science and can't be doctors or engineers. So they move to arts, they complete BA, then they move to specific areas of arts, Sociology, Psychology, Islamic Studies, Business, and English (to include now Linguistics as well) etc. They don't know where to got, they just follow others, sometimes they seek some department to get admission in because their marks are not enough for merit in certain other departments. We faced this dilemma for last several years in Applied Linguistics Department. Students who came here for admission had lowest grades, no idea to move where to, seeking for some magic degree which could give them employment. We as old students motivated them, told them about the benefits they could get after becoming a linguist, ones who convinced took admission and got degree. And now one of them blames me. Is he right doing this?

Sir Asim used to tell that Winners have place in linguistics not Loosers. So I ask them all, are they winners? Are they having something in them? Any spark? Good grades? Abilities? Motivation? Courage? Patience? If they don't have all this, then they should blame all of the world which is against them.

Our students need to realise the world is not a bed of roses. They think that every thing would be just fine once they get the degree. The employer will be standing at front door of their house requesting them to honour him by joining his organisation. This is not a Utopia, an ideal world. This is real life with all cold bitter harsh realities of life. You have to struggle, you have to be a winner, if you are not, you have no place here. I would suggest my juniors do not expect miracles for themselves. 1400 years ago Angels have stopped coming to this world to create miracles, now we are on our own. You should have faith in Allah, thankfulness for what He has given you, and courage to struggle patiently. This is not the end, this is beginning of a new degree, Masters in Life. Here you will learn for all of your life, you will get good grades only if you are capable. And remember in the tests of life, there is least chance of cheating. May Allah be with you all.

Monday, August 22, 2011

SEO or Spam Generation?

I've never been able to agree with SEO strategies the 'experts' use to promote websites. Perhaps I am not even a person who can talk about it due to lack on knowledge. But in last 5 years, being online I've heard, read and seen a few things about it. You have to build links and back links. You do it by providing your link to website directories, forums, by commenting on different blogs etc. You write articles about something and publish them in article directories with carefully adding you own website link as well. And what does people do? They go to a blog, "its very good" paste their link and run away. I hate such comments. They write rubbish content, non standard language in the name of article writing, insert a link and put in an article directory which is already full of such crap. When a user will go to Google to search a query, he will come across such directory articles on the topic he was searching. But what is the worth of such topic? Same things said in a different way, to avoid search engine plagiarism detection, sub standard language and content which is produced by someone at $1 per article, what can someone expect from it? So the user disappoints because the article is not helpful, rather it embraces him. I always hated such search results who come to my screen while searching useful content. The webmasters are creating spam, loading internet with tonnes of unnecessary, crap, spam data and there are websites who are happy to store it, show it in their showcase, and there are search engines who are happy to dive again and again in this pool of stenchy water to pull out this crap again and again. What are we collecting in the name of information? How much of today's Tera Byte data is useful and not the regeneration of same old crap, repetition of same thoughts again and again, a mixture of 10 similar articles in 1? I really wonder.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

How to Add Google Authorship Markup in Blogger Posts

Noumaan shared a good information about blog authorship and all the stuff behind it. According to google's Webmaster Central Blog, they are going to add this link relation to Blogger and Youtube content in future automatically. Until then, instead of waiting do this simple tweak and you are on your posts with your google plus profile link as author link.
1. Copy this link to Notepad
<a href="" rel="author">Muhammad Shakir Aziz</a>
2. Replace the name with your name, and link with your G+ profile link.
3. Go to you Layout tab of Blogger.
4. Go to address bar. Replace blogger.g? part of the link with html?. Refresh the page, you are at html edit tab of old Blogger interface.
5. Check Expand Widgets check box.
6. Search for this line <span class='post-timestamp'>
7. Add the hyperlink for author created by you after this line. You can add "Posted by" before the link as well, without quotes.
8. And to make it perfect go to Page Elements tab, click Edit on Post Widget and uncheck "Posted by" check box.
9. You should be able to see you Google+ profile link instead of blogger profile link as your authorship link.
Enjoy until Google adds automatic linking to your G+ profile.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Getting Money

A few years back it was a great achievement for me was to get a few hundred rupees. I can remember myself teaching a student a home tuition for Rs 400. I had to travel almost half an hour on cycle to reach there and had to provide 1 hour. Once that was a great achievement for me. Then the life changed a bit, I taught in academies, typical tuition academies of our cities. I worked as a computer assistant and so on. It was 2007, perhaps when I met Talmeez. Talmeez is a great person, he works as a translator and while on a visit to Faisalabad he especially came to meet me. We had a talk for a while, he wondered how extra smart I was :-) (rather he was concerned that I am so weak physically as compared to my age, but that's what I always have been so I didn't worry on his comments). He encouraged me to do something for my livelihood along with education. He gave me idea to work as a Translator from English to Urdu, and Punjabi. At first, as I always do, I didn't take the idea seriously. I was busy in my self created busyness, doing nothing but busy. Then after in a few months I started exploring options how to work as a translator, the websites, the marketing options, the companies. I created a CV of mine (really poor one at that time) and started sending it to job posters (which allowed of course direct contact). And in a few months I started getting jobs. And now I earn, not regularly, but whenever it is possible to grab a translation project, I have reasonable money in my hand which usually goes to my MSc, M Phil etc fees. But I am happy. Allah provides me with Rizq this way, and I am thankful to Him. And now in mid 2011 when I am going to leave private school job, I'll consider blogging, specially for linguistics, to be my part time profession along with translation.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Layman's Reaction on HP Killing WebOS

The news is pretty much old that HP is going to kill WebOS based devices. They acquired WebOS from Palm sometime ago and put a considerable effort behind the OS. There were a few devices like TouchPad out there and users were going to consider these devices. But now they are going to cut off any development in this regard, infact they want to focus on software business. If HP is going to leave hardware business, it means that perhaps in future we will not be able to get good laptops from HP, printers and other devices made by HP etc. I am a bit concerned about it. I like HP and its products and considered them reliable. Recently I've bought an HP Probook 4530s. I prefer to use printers made by HP. This is a bit shocking for me that the company is leaving the market. Its true that it would take a long time to gather the scattered business, and the wrap up the things. But it seems that I am not gonna like it. It seems to me that my laptop is alone in the universe, only one of its kind. Or perhaps it won't have any "children" as there would be no new models of laptop PCs. Well, these were thoughts of a crazy mind thinking wildly in the closing hours of fasting :-D. It might be the case that they are going to continue their laptop business and only wrapping up WebOS kind of stuff. This post is just a reaction written after watching so many news headings crying about HP Kills WebOS etc.

Private Schools

I am a teacher by profession but this is unfortunate that I've to teach in a private school of my city. I as fascinated by the name of this school exactly 1 year back from now. I, as a fresh graduate, needed a job and was almost dancing with joy when I was offered "internship" at this school. We, a group of 5 students, joined them as internees at a handsome amount (Rs 9000 was considered by us as a handsome amount being a trainee at that time). But the charm vanished just after a few months. We were time and again refused for any increase in pay. The environment was helpful in training but the disgrace and a kind of humiliation, undue pressure exerted on the employees was unbearable. Now after one year, we are only two there. And I am also planning to leave this school to concentrate on M Phil Applied Linguistics plus work as a freelance translator.
I admit that I've learnt a lot from there. I was trained from a raw teacher to a professional, I learnt how to deal with parents, how to contain my anger while teaching, how to teach effectively, but still I do not feel comfortable there. There is an air of mistrust. The junior staff is burdened with extra work while seniors sit and relax. The organization is always suspicious that this person is going to run away. They do not want to pay, so there is no incentive for hard working. The old crows, the teachers who are working there for several years are the only things which can survive in that environment, new staff usually runs away after one year, as I am now planning to go away.
Perhaps same is the situation with every private organization. But I've learnt one thing that these private schools are money making factories. The teachers working there are labourers in colourful clothes. And the product the produce is half Pakistani half English O/A level graduates who feel it very hard to integrate with traditional educational system of Pakistan when they have to pass entry tests for MBBS or UET (engineering). They are the children of factory owners, and their Faisalabad lies around Canal Road, D Ground, Madina Town, Peoples Colony and other posh areas of the city.
Well, the post is diverting from the topic. My aim was to write about the atrocities of these private employers who are sucking blood from the veins of nation on the name of education.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Google Acquires Motrola: Whats Next?

Well the news is pretty much old now that Google is acquiring Motorola. Big deal, yeah that's a big deal. But it was expected. 
Since the arrival of rivals like Facebook, the search giant is expanding its business horizon to other fields. It has been a long time when Google introduced Android, the once very celebrated 'open source' mobile operating system. I wondered at the time, how Google is going to monetize Android. Then we saw things like Android Market and other products based on Android which are money making machines for Google (not to mention mobile adds from Google on Android based gadgets).
But Android was not going well. Microsoft as always, jumped in the way and they started to ask the mobile phone manufacturers to pay on each sold device as they thought Android was infringing their copy rights and patents. This was not the case only. Apparently Apple, MS and other big dudes tried to undercut Google by buying patents from other companies. As Google accused them of being unfair. Well, this is a long story as MS clarified the statement and bla bla bla. The point here to mention is that Google was not having a solid ground regarding Android. The hardware manufacturers i.e. the smart phone makers were having trouble with legal status of Android, they had to pay MS etc on each device they sold and Google was unable to help them in this regard. Google was lacking mobile patents to support its claims in mobile market. And the biggest dispute was Oracle sued Google over Android. Folks can you imagine what a mess was created around Google and Android? And to add to the fire even Motorola was going to start war with other Android phone manufacturers over patent issues, see yourself.
So you can see the idea was good: create a mobile OS and promote it, earn money through selling Apps, Games, Adds, Services. But the mess which was created as a bi-product was creating serious hindrances for the search giant. And now the answer comes. Google is now acquiring Motorola. Possible outcomes? Well it is too early to say rather speculate about this but this is for sure that
  • Android is going to be an official OS with a phone manufacturer behind it.
  • Android is going to have patent support owned by Motorola.
  • Apple and Microsoft are not going to like it.
  • Google is going to have more focus on Tablets which will not be liked by Apple, HP and other Tab makers.
  • Microsoft Windows Phone 7 is going to have tough time. Perhaps they will try to acquire already troubled old mobile maker Nokia, who is in deal with them to make Windows Phone 7 based smart phones.
  • And last but not the least, the game is on. Other rivals will not sit calmly and watch Google grow. Its going to be hot out their folks, Wait and watch the battle of giants.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

M Phil Applied Linguistics

I've the prospectus in my hands and the title says "2011 GCUF Prospectus". I am having this booklet in my hands and my soul is wandering around those moments which I've spent in this university millennia ago. Yes it seems I was there in another life. The days of MSc Applied Linguistics, the last and forever prevailing moments, I cannot forget them. At that time, 1 year back from now, I'd tried to write something. I'd tried to mourn on the loss, but I failed. I could not gather words, as if though my words had become meaningless. I was unable to say what I wanted to say. So considering myself a desert struck by drought with no single drop of water, I'd abandoned the effort to produce something. And now after 1 year, when I am supposed to be more wise, more practical, more mature and more professional, I am becoming saddened on the loss of my good old days. Sadness prevails in me, it adds to my feelings drop by drop and I feel myself a container filled with it. And when I move in my good old days, when I re-picture those moments, the parties, the joyness, the classes and even the hardest times of final examination I can feel this sadness within the deepest corners of my bones. I wonder why this is now, when I am supposed to be more stronger and ignorant of such things, why I feel it now. When nothing is left behind. The air itself has become a stranger to me, the place where I had sit for 2 years, my classroom, has made other friends, other ones like me who succeeded me on that same corner chair of last row. I wonder why I feel this now, when I am going to sit there again, perhaps on that same chair and bench and same classroom. Perhaps this is because now I wouldn't be able to laugh out loud, the parties wouldn't be that enjoyable, maturity would hinder with joy and innocence, torments of time and tension will dance in my head, the god of money will bend my attentions. Perhaps I wouldn't be that old shakir this time, I would be more selfish, more swollen in my ego and I. Perhaps I would be more like a prisoner behind the walls of my own self.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How to Transcribe a Spoken Text for ICE

It was our second semester as MSc Applied Linguistics, when we were assigned to collect video/audio recordings from Internet or record our own, and then transcribe them. This project was a hell lot of difficult and some of my class fellows were so angry due to the difficulty level. The details were simple: You were assigned a topic e.g. Lectures, Speeches, TV News, Radio News; Record your specific genre or take it from; Listen and Transcribe it; and Tag it with appropriate tags.
Well the process is not difficult. The time which it takes to complete all this annoys people. Transcription is one of the most time consuming jobs of the world. Normally 1 minute of spoken recording can take upto 6 to 7 minutes for writing it. So you can see for 1 hour of spoken recording one will have to spend upto 7 hours of listening and typing it. This is not that simple, it is not just that you play it and start typing. You will always have to stop the recording again and again, sometimes it would be because your typing speed will not match with that of speaking speed of the speakers, other times you may not get the clear idea what the speaker is saying so you'll have to replay the audio to concentrate on it and get what the speaker is trying to say, still other times you'll have to stop and think how to write down uhmms, errrs, overlaps etc. The situation gets worst when it comes to Talk Shows, Telephonic or Live Conversations, Lectures, Question Answer Sessions. Remember the more the speakers, the more the distractions and more time consumption on transcription. We considered those people lucky ones who got Speeches, TV News, Radio News etc. Because all these genres are spoken by one person, and secondly they are usually scripted i.e. the spoken material is written in front of the speaker so s/he has to speak it out only. But in spontaneous talks like Talk Shows this is not the case. There are more speakers, there are overlappings i.e. two people start speaking at same time, there are errrrs, hmmmmmms and other unnecessary sounds which the speaker utter. But we cannot ignore these sounds. We can understand two people speaking at same time in spoken audio, but when it comes to transcription we have to devise a method to show that these particular sentences or words were uttered by both of the speakers at same time i.e. overlapping. Here we have to use Tags to show this phenomenon. Now either we can devise our own tags or we can use tags which are devised by someone else. Since as students we work for the completion of International Corpus of English i.e. ICE Pakistan Component, we have to use their devised method of Tagging. The tagging scheme is available here.
Now what should be done here? It is simple you'll have to go through all of this document. Because you are going to listen and transcribe your spoken recordings not me. So if you do not understand it, it wouldn't work. I can only provide an example by transcribing a few lines of a video from Youtube.
<$A> is by the federal government
<$B> Ok uhmm <}><->I've<=>I've jsut lit literally about half a minute Mr. Babar. Let me just ask you this question that is come uhm from Asif who is watching from Canada....
 I've just covered first 12 seconds of the above video and it took me 5 minutes to cover all the things, to WRITE DOWN what these people were performing as a routine speaking activity. The video starts with an unclear word. I had to replay it several times when I couldn't get exactly I put "is by" by my own guess and put tags around it. You can see in first line the tags , they show that the words were not intelligible. Of course I've consulted the ICE Manual (link provided above) for this tag. Even before this tag you can see the <$A> tag, which shows the first speaker. And this tag I have also got after going through the manual which says that every speaker's utterance should be started on a new line marked with speaker identity i.e. first speaker would be A, second would be B and so on. And you can see there involve two speakers in first 12 seconds and I've shown both separately with their utterances on new line with <$A>, <$B> tags. And then you may be able to see that the hostess says 'uhmm' after saying 'Ok', we cannot ignore it while transcribing. Because these hesitations and uhmms can be helpful in Discourse Analysis of this transcribed text. So I had to write this nonsense and apparently meaningless utterance. And then there is 'I've I've' with these weird looking tags <}><->I've<=>I've. They show actually repetition, and of course again I had to search in ICE Manual for tags of Repetition and I got these. So I pasted them and added the repeated words according to the example given there in the manual. And this way it goes on. You listen, you type it. When you see overlapping, repetition, hesitation, uhms you mark it, when you do not understand a spoken word you replay it, and in the mean time you consult the manual as well for every new phenomenon you encounter so you can record it properly. Now you may understand why it is very difficult to transcribe a text, and why it is necessary to TAG it. But as you practice you will be more faster and accurate, you'll consume less time.
Hopefully this small effort will help. Ask me in the comments of this post if you are still unable to get what I wanted to say, or if you want details of some specific area.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Drinking Water in Faisalabad

Faisalabad is considered third biggest city of Pakistan according to population. In last 10 to 15 years its population has grown rapidly. People from surrounding cities, towns and villages have moved to the city and lots of surrounding villages and towns are also now a part of the city Faisalabad. Like Lahore, we have a canal passing through the heart of city called Rakh Branch. It enters from east and passing through the city leaves the city on western side. Like Clifton area of Karachi, the area around the Canal is considered to be the most elite area of the city. There are several old colonies and towns like Peoples Colony and Madina Town, and now there are lots of new colonies being constructed on the outer edges of the city along the Canal.
The city has an environment of industrialization. Labour from all over Punjab comes here to work in Textile Mills. Before the construction of mills and factories, the area and land was used for agriculture. Faisalabad is not an area which receive lots of rain, so the canal was and is used for irrigation. The underground water is not drinkable in most areas of city. Only the areas near canal, where canal water has seeped into earth, have drinkable water. So the areas near canal are kind of elite areas of Faisalabad. But with the passage of time as the water level is dropping, old undrinkable water is showing its face now. The old towns like Mansoorabad which once had sweet drinkable water from underground, now the water cannot be drunk from these areas. Water and Sewerage Authority is not providing drinkable water in most areas near canal for last 5 years or so. Due to this, the Can Mafia has taken over the city. People, especially Pathans, have come to city and they supply water in blue colour cans previously used as textile chemical containers. They load these cans on carts and Qingqee Loaders and supply water to virtually every place in the city, especially 3 to 4 kilometer far areas now totally depend on these water suppliers. To fulfill the needs of these suppliers, people have bored and installed heavy tubewell motors along the Canal right from Mansoorabad to Nisar Colony. These heavy motors suck drinkable water from underground a few meters away from canal. And I am thinking how much time we have when the water near the Canal will also become undrinkable? What would we do then? Would we start drinking Canal water directly?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

New Laptop, New Profession and New Academic Year

After struggling for more than a year finally I've got a new laptop for my personal and professional use. The HP ProBook 4530s Core i5 is just what I wanted. The 500 GB Hard Disk, 1 GB Redeon graphics card and Windows 7 64bit makes it a sexy choice. Although I am a bit disappointed with quite low native resolution of the LED screen but it would for me. And screen shots will be uploaded some other day ;-).
I am leaving school finally and they'll be notified about my departure in next 3 months. Now I want to focus on online jobs. I am working as a Community Manger for Netlog's Urdu version. I am working as a translator as well, and now I'll concentrate on English blogging as well. The things are going to be online from now on.
This year has become another transition year for me. After 1 year of absence and working as a mule for money, I am going to resume my studies in M Phil. And I am hoping to perform same way as I was doing in MSc Applied Linguistics. And I am concentrating to get some research papers published. This last thing is a bit tricky because I had to complete this task last month but as I had no mode, I couldn't complete it.
So this was on my mind. :-)