Do You Ever Notice?

It is almost couple of years ago when I walked into First Floor to join Engineering Department and saw a setting of cubicles where bunch of nerds sat on their desks with their eyes glued to their laptop screens. I got a good feeling about it as that seemed to be a typical engineering environment where these guys were busy doing some high tech stuff and I was going to be a part of it. It took me a few months to get to familiarize myself with my new colleagues and the First Floor.

What have we got here?
We have got in the middle, around ten rows of cubicles, each one of them is accommodating at least two people. I always wonder how cool it would be to knock all the cubicles down and put student desks with broad arm where everybody can put their laptop and nag about the teacher who never shows up. At the right most corner there is a big room which has been labeled conference room, which almost never is vacant and God knows what goes on in there. Someone pastes a weekly schedule for this room on the glass door and then there is scribbling on it which makes it hard to understand what is happening there. I have a bright idea to turn that room into entertainment center so that people who really want to change from bitching mode to don’t care mode can go and forget about the rest of the world. Fortunately, we have turned an executive office to a second conference room without much regard to pigeon holes we have got on the rest of the floor. This room however can be found vacant if IT department is not holding lengthy week long socializing cum training sessions.

Who Need Them?

We have couple of executive offices where we have confined some division heads just so that they can shield themselves from the rest of the populace. More than often you can find the doors to these offices closed which makes other people wonder may be their job is not so important. Well these are big guys anyways, the hardship is always for poor guys, meager engineers who really have to show their strong emotions before somebody notices them,

err huh, who are you?
Oh an engineer, sorry mate we don’t care much about the engineers here.

We have got on this floor really good engineers and mid level managers, whose tolerance level has skyrocketed just because our HR doesn’t give a damn about our workplace. These guys keep themselves calm always thinking about positive things that can happen in the future; and the future might be few light years away. They have developed an impeccable level of tolerance and live in their cozy surroundings without ever thinking about it. Every now and then somebody will resign and leave and they will only know when there is a goodbye email arriving in their inbox. They’ll think hard to figure out who the guy is, but cannot recall seeing him on this floor. His goodbye email would be very emotional but heck; he’s leaving and it is supposed to be like that, and the life goes on.

We quite often see new people coming and camping on this floor, but almost never we like to welcome them; not just because we hate to see new engineers but because these people sometimes leave before we have a proper introduction. And exactly why do these people leave? We have no idea about that, but it may have something to do with the situation of the toilets. Management was very generous to allocate two toilets for around, I don’t know how many people? May be hundreds; and keeping in mind this ratio you might be able to see some people walking around with their pants wet, which may or may not be disgusting to others. Yet we are so considerate that we squeeze in a few internees too. Well I am not offended by the presence of internees, but rather the idea of these internees spending their summer in nice and cool environment which can become humid just because of our generous toilet situation.

Beside engineers and managers we have a tea room, few tea boys, an air-conditioning unit, few security guards, pool car drivers, few coordinators, a photocopy machine and photocopy operator, water cooler, printers, chairs, telephone sets; analog and IP ones, a secretive RF Planning room, fans hanging from the pillars, a map titled Roaming Launched, few of our female colleagues, some plants, trophies and shields. What we don’t have is an intelligent compass which can point to a direction where we all should be heading.

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin is the capital of and largest city in Ireland, near the midpoint of Ireland’s east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey and at the center of the Dublin Region. Founded as a center of Viking settlement, the city has been Ireland’s capital since medieval times.

Getting Around
Local buses, run by Dublin Bus, are frequent and cheap . Bus stops are green with a sign indicating the bus numbers that stop there.Fares start at E0.75 for a short hop within the city (up to three stages), and the exact amount must be paid in coins to the driver on boarding the bus. The driver can only give change in the form of a ticket, which can be redeemed at the Dublin Bus office on O’Connell Street. An excellent bus map of the city is available free of charge from Dublin Bus or the tourist office.
If you plan to stay in Dublin for more than 24 hours and you intend to travel around the city a lot, you should consider buying a Rambler ticket, valid for one (E4.50), three, five or seven (E16.50) consecutive days on all Dublin Bus scheduled services including the Airlink bus

Taxis were deregulated in Dublin in 2002. There are now far more cabs available, but this does not seem to have resulted in fare reductions. Taxi ranks in the city center are situated at O’Connell Street Upper, St Stephen’s Green, Aston Quay and College Green as well as at Busáras and the railway stations.

Dublin’s light railway system, the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) links the coastal suburbs with the city centre. It is useful for short hops between the north and the south of the city and for transport to hotels and places of interest in some suburban areas.

Shopping
Where Dublin excels in the shopping stakes is in locally crafted goodies from woolly jumpers to hand-woven rugs, and from gorgeous pots to elegant furniture, glass, jewelery and fashions. Beautiful, covetable items from all over Ireland are sold in Dublin through dedicated sales shops and in the big craft stores on Nassau Street.

The two main shopping areas are based around Grafton Street and Henry Street. Each has a distinctly different tone: Grafton Street is definitely the more upmarket of the two, with a number of quality boutiques among the high-street chains; Henry Street is a little seedy in places, but has an excellent street market and good shops in the adjoining arcades.

Tours and Attractions
An excellent way to get an insight into the city is to join one of the many specialist guided bus or walking tours doing the rounds of Dublin’s familiar and not-so-familiar sites of historical and cultural interest. These usually run daily and can be joined at the starting point, although it is wise to book ahead for some of the more unusual walking tours, as they may not run if there isn’t enough interest.

Dublin Bus operates the hop-on, hop-off Dublin City Tour, with open-top buses running every 10 minutes between 0930 and 1700 and every 30 minutes from 1700 to 1830, starting at McDonalds on O’Connell Bridge. The complete tour takes over an hour and visits 16 sights around the city, with guided commentary provided by the bus driver. The bus ticket (E10 adult, E5 child under 14) includes discounts at each of the sights and is valid for a day.

Click here to see some photos I have taken on my trip to Dublin.

The Kaghan Valley

The Kaghan Valley
The Kaghan Valley is located in Northern Pakistan northeast of Hazara, NWFP. It’s one of the valleys that are relatively easy to reach from Rawalpindi / Islamabad. The mountain scenery, the dales, lakes, water-falls, streams and glaciers are the main reason to come here. The Valley extends for 155 km rising from an elevation of 2,134 meters to its highest point, the Babusar Pass, at 4,145 meters. Further north from from Babusar Pass, a jeep track leads to Chilas, which is now on Karakoram Highway (the road that connects Islamabad to Xinjiang province of China via Gilgit, Hunza and Khunjerab Pass). Before Karakoram Highway was opened in 1978, the only road access to Gilgit was through Kaghan Valley.

Naran is the best base for treks and walks in the valley. There are some options for accommodation here and some restaurants. Naran is best reached by jeep from Balakot some 200 km north of Rawalpindi / Islamabad. The best time to visit Kaghan is in summer months (May to September). From the middle of July up to the end of September, the road beyond Naran, snow-bound throughout the winter, is open right up to Babusar Pass. Movement may be restricted during the monsoon season due to heavy rains and landslides.

A Visit to Kaghan Valley will leave you enchanted by the spectacular beauty of its Mountains, Glaciers and Lush Greenery. Kaghan Valley includes Naran, Kaghan, Shogran and its surrounding areas. The way to Kaghan valley starts with two hour drive to Abbottabad. At Abbottabad you can refresh yourself with a cup of tea before driving to Mansehra, Balakot and onwards to Kawai. Kawai onwards is a steep climb to the Shogran plateau which offers a splendid view of a fabulous array of mountains, amid pine trees and lush green meadows.

Most of the tourists especially come to visit lake Lake Saiful Maluk lying 10,600 feet above sea level with its natural tranquility in the foot hills of Himalayas. Saiful Maluk is one of the most beautiful lakes of the world. To sit beside the lake is to be in the fairy world. Camping at Saiful Maluk is an experience of life time. You can find nice and comfortable hotel accomodation at Shogran and after a day’s rest consider moving on to Sri Paya. But be prepared for the extra bumpy ride. You can also plan a hiking trip to Sri Paia from Shogran. It will take around two and half hour to reach at peaks of Sri Paia. (In local language, Sri means Lake, Paia means Peak) Once you reach Sri Paia the discomfort of the journey is forgotten as you find yourself surrounded by a spectacular view of the Makra Hills and the Malika Parbat peak. Malka Parbat in english means “Queen of Mountains”.

The next stop Khanian offers the best Trout Fish one can taste in the north. The dazzling greens of Dana Meadows and the slippery glaciers at tarmac, on the way to Naran, are quite an experience. Malka Parbat, can be best approached by hiking or driving 10 KM from Naran to the legendary Saiful Maluk nesting in the shadows of The Malka Parbat. On a clear day, you can behold the majesty of the Malka Parbat’s peaks reflected in the lake’s deep blue icy waters. The road from Mansehra to Naran is excellently built. The workers of Frontier Works Organization are always busy in repairing the road and clearing the way of eroded mountains to ensure smooth flow of traffic. Naran is one of most popular tourist spots of Pakistan at distance of 160 KM from Abbottabad. Travelers from Pakistan as well as many foreign countries rush in summer to the lush green valley surrounded by snowy mountains.

Click Here to see more photos.

HR Policies

Sick Days Policy
We will no longer accept a doctor’s statement as proof of sickness.
If you are able to go to the doctor, you are able to come to work.

Casual Leave Policy
Each employee will receive 104 personal days a year. They are called Saturday and Sunday.

Toilet Use Policy
Entirely too much time is being spent in the toilet. There is now a strict three-minute time limit in the stalls.
At the end of the three minutes, an alarm will sound, the toilet paper roll will retract, the stall door will open and a picture will be taken.
After your second offense, your picture will be posted on the company bulletin board under the “Chronic Offenders Category”.
Anyone caught smiling in the picture will be sectioned under the company’s mental health policy!
You are allowed to use the rest room only thrice a day and you have to swipe in and out from the toilet doors also.

E Mail Policy
Don’t read junk, forwarded and cc’ed emails.

Thank you for your loyalty to our company.
We are here to provide a positive employment experience. Therefore,
All questions, comments, concerns, complaints, frustrations, irritations, aggravations, insinuations, allegations, accusations, contemplations, consternation and input should be directed elsewhere.

The Management.

Murree and Suburbs

I (Kashif Ali, Manager GPRS) solemnly declare that I went to Nathia Galli last week with my family.
I thought I will share my experience with you as some of you are planning to visit this areas in your dreams.

What to See?

Galliats around Mari , don’t confuse it with Murree (Nathia Galli, Donga Galli, Ayubia, Bhurban etc) are excellent to visit. These are easy to commute, roads are nice and there are many hotels. Nathia Galli & Ayubia (Recommended, 25 KM from Muri or Murree) are excellent for natural views. Lash or Lush or whatever green jungles, beautiful hills, full of monkeys and birds, and relatively less crowded compared to Muri or Murree, so only go if you are newly married (any of you planning 2nd or 3rd marriage?) or are with extended family (avoid in-laws!). Highly recommended visit.

PC Bhurban hotel (5 KM from Muri or Murree) is a must, even if you don’t stay there. It will keep you (especially kids) busy for one day. There are good attractions in it namely swimming pool, bowling alley, Amphitheatre (Roman Architecture open air theater) as we don’t care about islamic Architecture anymore, play land for kids, theme gardens, tracking path, shopping etc. Entry fee is RS 300 per person, which can be reclaimed against food bill. Their Hi Tea is good value for money (approx Rs 500 per person, kids under 5 go free, time 4.30 to 6.30pm, go around 5.30 and you can save on dinner). Link to PC Bhurban http://www.pchotels.com/pchb/index.htm

Ayubia to Donga Gali Pipeline Track (in Ayubia National Park, Built in 1930, 8200 feet high, Distance 4 KM. This is a beautiful walking track (it is straight, no climbing or mountaineering). Views are stunning. Just do a part if can not complete. Small children can walk, babies need carrying and the rest can sit on their ass and watch.

There are 3 chair lifts around Muri or Murree (Ayubia, Patriata & Pindni Point). All are a bit difficult (but not impossible) to manage with small kids. I have personally done Ayubia one with two small kids & elderly mother. Views are nice at the top and there is a park there too. Ayubia is near Nathia Galli (hence can be combined with it) so you can have a combo, Patriata is 25 KM from Muri or Murree in opposite direction. Main Muri or Murree especially Mall Road is very crowded.

Hotel & Accommodation

For accommodation, highly recommended is PC Bhurban (very expensive though, Rs 10,000 per night for double bed). 2nd choice could be PTDC motel (link below). Double room is around RS 3500. It is government owned, relatively clean & comfortable according to their own standards (I have not stayed in it though). Their food is very good. PTDC motel is located in Ayubia. Check PTDC Motels  http://www.tourism.gov.pk/

Otherwise you can go to the area early in the day and bargain any cleaner hotel there. Before committing always visit the room, especially check the bed (sit on it & smell it) and see the bath room. Because weather there is damp and cold hence bed mattresses and carpets start smelling bad. My recommendation is to go for a really good hotel. This is money well spent. You don’t want to be uncomfortable with your family on vacations.

Weather

Weather is a bit cold & rainy there. So take warm clothing. Avoid weekend with 14th August. It is going to be very crowded. Sunny Bank (chowk) is a hub for Muri or Murree, Pindi, Bhurban, Nathia Galli and Muzaffarabad roads. It really gets chocked with traffic (I spent one hour in car on Friday evening). So avoid weekends if possible.

Food

Best use mineral water (easily available there, in fact all amenities are easily available). Take vomiting (motion / travel sickness) tablets with you. For food, just be vigilant & eat what is freshly made. If you are used to Lahori restaurants, you will cope easily. Food is not bad (at least it is comparable to Lahore). Full of Fats, Spices, and what nots