Archive for 2011

[2011-09-21] “Blink”

“Blink” is a book by Malcom Gladwell on rapid cognition, that is, our ability and tendency to take decisions and form opinions in the blink of an eye, without taking the time needed to fully evaluate the matter at hand using all the available evidence. We are usually not conscious of such behavior and cannot normally explain it, if forced to do so. This “thin-slicing” (as the author calls it) helps us a lot in our lives, but we need to be aware of its disadvantages and work towards turning it into an advantage.

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[2011-09-05] Mauritius

A couple of holidays declared in the middle of last week afforded one of those rare opportunities where you apply for just three days' leave and end up with a nine-day vacation. We spent most of this vacation on the beautiful island of Mauritius. Clean beaches with white sand next to a turquoise-blue sea - what more does one need for a perfect vacation? Nothing much, it turns out.

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[2011-08-26] “Liar’s Poker”

Liar’s Poker is a book by Michael Lewis that describes his time during the late 1980s at Salomon Brothers, a Wall Street investment bank. It also tells the story of the firm itself, especially its hits (with mortgage bonds) and misses (with junk bonds), as it rose to become a mighty power in the financial markets and subsequently fell into disgrace from that position. The book provides an interesting look into the mad, testosterone-filled world of financial traders as it was during a crucial turning point for Wall Street.

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[2011-08-15] “Khushwant Singh Selects Best Indian Short Stories (Volume 2)”

“Khushwant Singh Selects Best Indian Short Stories (Volume 2)” is the second part of a collection of short stories written by various Indian authors and selected by Khushwant Singh. I was looking forward to reading this volume after having read the first volume. Most of the stories in the first volume were of a good quality and I had hoped the same for this volume - unfortunately for me this volume is quite disappointing and the stories vary wildly in quality.

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[2011-08-15] Just Books

A few years ago, I had complained about the lack of a well-stocked and accessible library in Bangalore. To a certain extent this complaint has been addressed since by the quick rise of Just Books in the city. Just Books has a rapidly-growing chain of lending libraries here in Bangalore (and in some other cities in India). The collection of books is decent enough and the lending-rates fair enough for this to be an attractive option for most book-lovers in the city.

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[2011-06-30] “Beautiful Thing”

“Beautiful Thing” is a poignant book by Sonia Faleiro on the lives of bar-dancers in Mumbai, based on research done by the author over a period of five years. The book tells the story of Leela, a beautiful nineteen year old girl who works as a dancer in a dance-bar in Mumbai called “Night Lovers”. It traces her life as a much-exploited young teenager from Meerut who manages to escape from her home only to become a bar-dancer in Mumbai. There she earns good money, achieves independence and is fussed over by a steady stream of men.

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[2011-06-04] “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” is a book by John Perkins describing his work as a purported economist for a large engineering firm (MAIN) that allegedly colluded with politicians and other such firms to spread America's hegemony as an economic super-power. This was done in part by convincing corrupt political leaders in poor countries to take on onerous loans from the World Bank and other such institutions in the name of development and extracting concessions for the business of American companies in such countries when their loans became difficult to service for them.

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[2011-05-09] “Following Fish”

“Following Fish” by Samanth Subramanian is one of those rare English books published from India that are not banal attempts at aping the success of the last block-buster book or lame attempts at becoming a “published author”. It is a travelogue and a food-guide that is very well-written and has also been very well-received, hopefully encouraging others to write good non-fiction books of their own.

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[2011-04-25] “Peter Colaco’s Bangalore”

Peter Colaco’s Bangalore” is little book containing several light essays and entertaining anecdotes about Bangalore by Peter Colaco. The book is richly illustrated with water-color sketches by Paul Fernandes (who has created great posters like “Bang, Bang, Bangalore” and the “Shine Boards” series). The book contains “a century of tales from City and Cantonment”, told many a time using the stories of members of the P. G. D’Souza clan, of which the author represents the third generation.

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[2011-04-17] “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information”

“The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” is Edward Tufte's classic book on the principles behind creating effective data graphics. This is the area where graphic design and statistics meet to present a lot of information in a manner that readily provides viewers valuable insights, without them having to wade through and analyze a swarm of numbers. Charts, graphs and other visualizations of data fall into this category. With the vast amount of data created these days, effective analyses of these data using statistics and digestible presentation of these analyses using graphics become very important.

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[2011-04-05] “Benaami”

I picked up “Benaami”, a debut novel by Anish Sarkar, despite having read a brutal review by Rrishi Raote in Business Standard because the author happens to be a friend of a good friend. There are many positive reviews of the book for sure (e.g. this one or this one), but I'm afraid I'll have to side with Rrishi on this one.

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[2011-03-26] “Superfreakonomics”

Superfreakonomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner is a sequel to their successful book Freakonomics. Like that book, this one too uses some of the principles from economics to answer a number of questions pertaining to our lives. If you enjoyed that book, this book is more of the same, though much less interesting in my honest opinion. Of course, this could well be due to the number of books that have been published since the original book came out and that explore very similar topics.

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[2011-03-03] “The Ode Less Travelled”

“The Ode Less Travelled” by Stephen Fry is a book that attempts to teach you how to write poetry. He introduces the reader to variations of metre, rhyme and form in poetry and tries to dispel the myth that in poetry these days “anything goes”. Even if you never plan to write poetry, this is a good book to read as it illustrates the various techniques and constraints that poets work with and will very likely make you appreciate poetry more. If you do write poetry, or plan to, this is an indispensible book.

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[2011-02-07] Monitor Woes

I decided to finally replace the ageing CRT monitor of my desktop PC, after having repeatedly put it off over the last few years. This CRT monitor, a 17" Samsung Samtron 75E, had served me remarkably well for over 11 years. When its display started to blur and intermittently turn yellow (cured by a hard whack on its side), despite a couple of repairs that seemed to initially fix the issues, I knew it was time to say good-bye to it. Since it is nearly impossible to buy a CRT monitor these days, I set out to buy an LCD monitor. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be an affordable LCD monitor good enough to replace my old CRT monitor and I had to ultimately settle for a less-than-perfect replacement LCD monitor.

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[2011-01-06] “Khushwant Singh Selects Best Indian Short Stories (Volume 1)”

As its name implies, “Khushwant Singh Selects Best Indian Short Stories (Volume 1)” is the first part of a collection of short stories written by various Indian authors and selected by Khushwant Singh, an eminent writer and a former editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India. These stories were originally published in English, Hindi, Urdu and other regional Indian languages and have been translated into English where necessary for inclusion in this book. Most of the stories collected here are fairly short and are fairly good, making this book an ideal read for short and long breaks alike.

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[2011-01-05] Year-End Breaks

Towards the end of the year 2010, Anusha and I went for a couple of day-trips to places near Bangalore. The first trip was to Balmuri and Yedmuri falls, along with a visit to Brindavan Gardens. The second trip was to Belur and Haalebidu along with Shravanabelagola. While we drove to the former set of destinations ourselves, we opted for a KSTDC bus-tour for the latter.

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