“The Elephant Paradigm” by Gurcharan Das is a collection of essays by the author based on his columns in The Times Of India and other newspapers. Published in 2002, it examines how India has changed after the economic liberalization of 1991, as well as other reforms like those in telecommunications, education, and local government. It then ponders how the country can really make progress on economic and other fronts to become a truly developed country. (Disclosure: After the first 100 or so pages, I mostly skimmed through the rest of the pages as I found the book a bit dull – more on that below – so take this “review” with a pinch of salt.)
Archive for 2018
[2018-12-31] “The Elephant Paradigm”
[2018-12-30] “The Name Of The Rose”
“The Name Of The Rose” is on the surface a medieval murder-mystery novel by Umberto Eco (translated into English by William Weaver). When you read it, you realize that it is also expounds on history, theology, philosophy, logic, politics, etc. all the while having an entertaining plot. It provides a nice insight into monastic life in 14th century Europe and the struggles between the church, the state, and the sundry factions of Christianity fighting with each other for dominance at the time. It was also made into a (not so successful) movie of the same name in 1986 featuring Sean Connery.
[2018-12-28] “What The Dormouse Said”
“What The Dormouse Said” by John Markoff is an intruiging account of how the milieu of the counterculture movement in the San Francisco Bay Area of the 1960s shaped the evolution of the modern personal computer. In particular, it explores the effect of psychedelic drugs like LSD, anti-war protests, and the culture of sharing on the pioneers of this area of computing. In parts poignant, insightful, and funny, this book is a worthy complement to the two other great books on the history of personal computers — “Fire In The Valley” by Paul Freiberger & Mike Swaine, and “Hackers” by Steven Levy.
[2018-12-26] “Tamil Pulp Fiction: Volume 2”
“Tamil Pulp Fiction: Volume 2” is the second in the “Blaft Anthology Of Tamil Pulp Fiction” series of anthologies published by Blaft. I had read Volume 1 earlier in the year — this volume is fairly similar, except for having longer stories. Similar to the first volume, the stories in this volume have been selected and translated by Pritham K. Chakravarthy (and have been edited by Rakesh Khanna). Once again, it includes cover-art from various Tamil pulp-fiction books as well as short biographical notes on each of the featured authors. However, this volume didn’t quite work for me and was a disappointment on the whole.
[2018-11-10] “The Upstarts”
“The Upstarts” is a book by Brad Stone on the start-ups Airbnb and Uber, chronicling their foundation, growth, and travails till October 2016. Both start-ups have disrupted deeply-regulated industries around the world (hotels and taxis, respectively), grown spectacularly since their foundation, seen unprecedented investment and heady valuations, inspired several copycat companies that have not managed to overthrow them yet, and have faced heated opposition from both local governments and the entrenched incumbents wherever they launched. They are thus very similar to each other, even having been founded around the same time, and it therefore makes sense to study them together as is done in this book by a seasoned journalist.
[2018-07-24] ICFPC 2018
I took part in ICFPC 2018 this year to continue what has now become a tradition for me, though one that is not observed as regularly as I would like to. The task this year was similar to 3D Printing a set of objects based on models representing the respective objects, while minimizing the overall cost. A solution for the problem of printing such an object would emit instructions for one or more “nanobots” to create the object by creating matter in a three-dimensional matrix of voxels. It was fun to watch these nanobots assemble such objects in my model-viewer, though it would definitely have been more fun to actually come up with a decent solution as well for this problem in the given time.
[2018-01-15] “Tamil Pulp Fiction: Volume 1”
“The Blaft Anthology Of Tamil Pulp Fiction” is the first in what turned out to be a series of anthologies published by Blaft, comprising short stories and excerpts from short novels, originally in Tamil, and considered to be “pulp fiction” by the literati. The first volume has been selected and translated by Pritham K. Chakravarthy (and edited by Rakesh Khanna). Its intent is best summarized by the first sentence of the translator’s note, which claims that it is “an attempt to claim the status of ‘literature’ for a huge body of writing that has rarely if ever made it into an academic library, despite having been produced for nearly a century”.