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When I get time, I read or listen to music. If any is left, I blog!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A Matter Of Faith

'Faith' to me, is a hard nut to crack! The following two narratives from 'Aithihyamala' will bear me out. Incidentally this collection of true stories by Kottarathil Sankunni, exemplifies Kerala's gifts to humanity like Ayurveda, Astrology, Magic, Martial Arts, Temple architecture etc.

In one story, a servant asks his master, a Brahmin: ''Who does God look like?'' Pointing to a buffalo, the master quips: ''Like him. Worship as I do, and you will see Him''. The servant does so. And God appears before him in the form of a buffalo. The Brahmin refuses to believe, but when convinced, realises how powerful true faith is.

The second narrative is about Alathur Nambi, a descendant of one of the eight families, Dhanwanthari the god of medicine blessed with knowledge of Ayurveda. Nambi's prescription of snake oil offends a Brahmin suffering from a severe skin disease: ''How could you ask a chaste Brahmin to drink snake oil?'' Disgusted, he walks away to a nearby temple, and falls asleep. That night, he dreams of a remedy in 'Sandhya vandanam', the ritual of chanting mantras and sipping water at dawn, noon, and dusk. He starts performing it in the river behind the temple. Within days, he is cured. When told about this miracle, Nambi accompanies the Brahmin to the temple. There, he spots the carcass of a python entangled on a fallen tree, and fat from it dripping into the river. By sipping this water, the Brahmin was unknowingly consuming the medicine that Nambi had prescribed!

Be it science or faith (Click here to read more), here are two great quotes to mull over: 

'Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.' 
- Martin Luther King Jr.
Have faith in the Lord but use sulphur for the itch. 
- Anonymous

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

3 Easy Steps To Free E-Books

Two challenges a book lover often faces are, 'What to read next?', and 'Where to get it from?' Those familiar with online searching / shopping may not find it so daunting as it sounds. Click here to read more.

In contrast, the world of E-books differs in many aspects. But that is no reason to keep anyone away.  Once the changes in traditional book publishing and selling consequent to digitization are understood, the haze and hesitation begin to lift.  A reader can migrate from P-Books to E-Books, just as effortlessly as how a talented writer self-publishes his/her works these days. Thousands of titles in every imaginable genre are available here, often for a fraction of a Dollar or even free of cost.  Many among them could satisfy the reader in you, and at least a few would make it to bestseller lists eventually. Check it out here.

If you wish to enter this new world, the first thing to know is about E-Readers and E-Book formats. Generally any Tablet, Smartphone or PC (Desktop/Laptop) can double up as an E-Reader, so long as it has the ability to read common E-Book formats like Kindle, EPub, Mobi, PDF, RTF etc.  But dedicated E-Readers like Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite or Fire, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo E-Reader, Sony eReader and iPad have a clear edge in making reading far more comfortable and pleasurable.  

With its ever-growing collection of E-Books and excellent range of E-Readers, Amazon is the market leader.  Yet, its vast publishing platform could confuse a new entrant.  The easy way out is to signup at websites that send out mail alerts of Amazon's offers everyday.  These bring you the titles of your preferred genre, and live links to take you to the corresponding webpage at Amazon, where you can choose to download the book and read it at your convenience. Three of my favourites are:

1)  BookBub    
2)  Booksends     
3)  ManyBooks    

They are not affiliated with Amazon. To my knowledge, they also do not spam you.  Signing up is easy.  You can also update your preferences any time.

Another site that I frequent is Smashwords. Unlike the above, Smashwords is a global distributor of E-Books.  Your choice is not limited to Amazon. You can search for E-Books, read them online by creating a private library, download them in various formats, or even mail them in MOBI formats to your Kindle email address.

Go ahead. Try them.  Happy reading  

'No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time 
for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.'
                                                                                                             Confucius

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Thrilled To Bits

My journey of last six months through the world of books was delightful.  I found the Mystery / Suspense / Thriller genre buzzing every day with new titles.  I also discovered many a talented author worthy of merit and mention.  

The momentum of the last decade set by Brad Thor, Dan Brown, David Baldacci, Harlan Coben, Lee Child, Steve Berry and the likes seemed unabated.  Also discernible was the growing popularity of E-books among both budding writers and bored readers. It convinced me that reading in one form or another continued to be an inalienable part of our lives. 

The names you see below are some of the thriller writers who impressed me, and made me check out their other titles.  If you are also searching for new reads, this list would come in handy. 

In the meantime, let me have your feedback please.  I am planning a follow-up of this post shortly.

Chester D Campbell
Greg McKenzie Mystery series:-   Secret of the Scroll;   Designed to Kill;   Deadly Illusions;   The Marathon Murders;   A Sporting Murder

Nashville PI Sid Chance series:-   The Surest Poison;   The Good, the Bad and the Murderous

Post Cold War Political Thriller Trilogy:-   Beware the Jabberwock;   The Poksu Conspiracy;   Overture to Disaster   

Chuck Driskell
The Diaries (2013);   To The Lions (2013);   Doppelgänger;   Lahn's Edge;   Demon's Bluff

John Eidemak
Love and The Power;   Sincere Deceit;   Goodbye Morality;   Bluff;   Invisible Lives 

Ken Oder
The Closing

M D Grayson
Danny Logan mystery series:-   Isabel's Run;   Angel Dance;   No Way to Die;   Mona Lisa Eyes;   Blue Molly

Michael C Grumley
Breakthrough;   Amid the Shadows;   Evan After;   LEAP

Rob Carnell
Nuclear Surprise

'Thriller writers...   They massage our dreams and magnify our nightmares.  If we need enemies, then we will always need writers of fiction to encode our fears and fantasies.'
                                                                                                             - Daniel Easterman

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Pinch To Zoom

Can you enlarge an image on your mobile phone's touchscreen by pinching it?  If pinching is squeezing together two of your fingertips, you certainly cannot.  It will only shrink what has already been made larger. 

When I bought my first touchscreen mobile, I tried to 'pinch zoom' an image.  Nothing happened.  But when I 'unpinched' sliding my fingertips apart, the image zoomed in.  And when I pinched, it returned to the original size.  That made me wonder, why the feature was not named, 'pinch to shrink' or 'spread to zoom', or merely 'pinch-in / pinch-out'? 

Apple was the one to pioneer this technique. Once the patent issues were sorted out, competitors jumped in, turning mobile phone displays into playgrounds, where you could walk, run, slide, and tap with your fingers to engage your phone.  

Plagued by slowdowns and stagnation, the industry is now forcing us to keep our 'fingers crossed', and wait for a new set of gimmicks. Among them are the '3D Air-Touch' (gesturing with fingers), 'Cortana' (personal digital assistant), and Voice user interfaces like  'Siri' and 'Google Now'.  

Wink, whistle, wave...!  Romantic is mobile phone technology, even if it makes us look 'quixotic'! Isn't it?

As Max Frisch, Swiss playwright and novelist said:
   'Technology has the knack of so arranging the world 
that we don't have to experience it.'
                                                - Max Frisch

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Politics Of Pretensions

It started out as a passion. Spurred on by the awe-inspiring sacrifices of a few, it became an obsession to many.  Those flocking to make capital out of its success, turned it into a matter of fashion. Today, the movement is lost in a quagmire of pretensions.

Guess who I am talking about!

***
'Pretension of governance' claimed another casualty in the recent election. To all and sundry, the reasons were amply clear! Yet, its leaders continue to wag their tongues like magic wands, as if to wish away the dread and disappointment.

Do they expect the setback to be a set-up for a comeback?

***

The prime time screens of some of our TV news channels resemble stamp albums. Shuffling the obtrusive panellists around is an anchor in one channel who keeps putting his foot in every mouth including his own! Recently, citing the lowest and highest ages of the ministry as 38 and 74, he stated: The average age of the cabinet in that case, must lie somewhere between!

I never knew it. Did you?

   'The only good in pretending is the fun 
we get out of fooling ourselves that we fool somebody.'
Booth Tarkington

Monday, 21 April 2014

The Silence Of The Lambs

A smile and hug to my 100,000th guest! And thanks to an earlier visitor for nudging me to post this update.

For two months I hadn't been blogging, because I found nothing compelling to write about! Exceptions if any, were knowingly left untouched. There was a reason.

You all have heard of 'road rage', right? A few might have even had a taste of it. Sadly, however careful, composed and compassionate you are at the wheels, there are occasions when you are challenged, provoked and abused by another driver. Grin, bear, ignore..., but what would you do if he gets out of his vehicle and lunges out in rage?

This trend is spreading, on the roads as well as in other spheres of our lives, fuelled by deficits of courtesy, tolerance and graciousness! In the media including weblogs too, if a piece of writing contradicts one's wily intent or design, the author can be a target.

On several occasions in the last few weeks, fed up with the grotesquely comic performances and wicked presentations of some of our politicians, I wanted to pen my thoughts. The abysmal levels to which some of them could stoop, and the sheer purposelessness of inviting them to do so, forced me to stay put.

Perfect is the freedom of expression, so long as we agree not to disagree! The price for safe voyage in a democracy!

   'Freedom of speech gives you the right to stay silent.'
Neil Gaiman

Friday, 28 February 2014

No Place To Hide

  • A convicted politician puts up a board in front of his house: 'Here resides a thief punished for looting the exchequer'!
  • A rapist wears an irremovable bracelet that warns what he is capable of!
  • An offender who disturbs his neighbours with loud music at night, undergoes the same ordeal in an enclosed room!
  • For rudely and repeatedly interrupting the court proceedings, a defendant's mouth is sealed with duct tape!
  • An environmental rights activist guilty of arson, gets prison term with a rider: Read Mary C Wood’s 'Nature’s Trust', and Malcolm Gladwell's 'David and Goliath' in prison!
These are just a few instances of how Judges in the West, particularly the USA are venturing beyond conventional jurisprudence to dole out innovative punishments. Its scope may be limited to first time offenders of non-violent crimes (theft, burglary), or victimless crimes (gambling, possession of drugs), or white collar crimes (cheating, bribe taking). But the public humiliation the convict faces is far more degrading and disciplining than a prison term.

Call them 'alternative', 'reformatory', 'public shaming', or 'Scarlet Letter' sentences. The perception is that apart from being effective deterrents against criminal intents, they also shield first time offenders from hardened criminals in prison.

Think of a situation where the offenders do not get to enjoy ill-gotten wealth! Where they are treated as social pariahs for the rest of their lives! Where they don't ride back on the society's forgetfulness into public life?

What do you think? Would such punishments work in India? Remember we are talking about first time offenders of non-violent crimes.    

   'It's the bitterest of all,
To wear the yoke of one's own wrongdoing.'
- George Eliot

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

It Costs A Lot To Live Today!

The election in India to the 16th Lok Sabha, House of the people or the lower house of Parliament, is due in April/May this year. With just three months to go for what is universally described 'the world’s largest democratic exercise', here are some thoughts:

The pre-election political scene is thick with allegations and counter allegations. Mudslinging is a daily routine. The past is being reinvented to justify the present. If you are an apolitical observer, you will wonder if this is an attempt to deflect public attention away from real issues.

In the ongoing campaigns, not once has a debate been held on issues of public relevance or significance. Until now, there hasn't been an expression of any serious intent to solve the numerous problems the nation is facing. No plan or programme worth its value has been presented to help visualise what life would be like in the next five or ten years.

As the people battle it out against all odds, the adverse effects of a failing economy are beginning to catch up. Owning a house is beyond the common man's reach now. Education and health-care cost a fortune. Electricity and water charges are unreasonably exorbitant. Cooking gas and automobile fuel give jitters. It costs a lot to live today!

Yet, there is hope that real issues would be debated and remedial actions initiated. If anyone seeking to become an elected representative still has difficulties in identifying the many concerns, here is a ready list. Even if a third of these are addressed sincerely and honestly in the next five years, India would well be on its way to become a super power.

Here is a snapshot of the prevailing issues:
.

If you find anything missing, let us add...

   'Democracy is the only system that persists in asking 
the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be.'
- Sydney J. Harris