Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Mahabharata and The Godfather

With this one post I may end up offending both the Mahabharata and The Godfather fans.

Let us start with The Godfather, one of the best Hollywood movies and loved by many with the same passion as Sholay is by Indians. In The Godfather there is a scene when Sollozzo, a mafia boss, wants Don Vito Corleone's political and police connections to extend to his proposed drugs business. The Don refuses, saying it is "a little dangerous." Sollozzo offers to have the Tattaglias guarantee the Don's security, at which point Sonny Coreleone, the Don's hot-headed son interjects. The Don shuts him with a cold stare. The meeting ends and Sollozzo leaves, after which the Don addresses his son [emphasis mine]:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Strand Book Stall Sale, July 2013

Valuing Waning Nostalgia

The Strand Book Stall sale used to be a much bigger, better attended, and eagerly expected event than it is now. People's reading habits have not decreased. Online bookstores have proliferated that offer books at 20%, 30%, 40% off and even greater discounts. This is of course great news to both the casual reader and the bibliophile - so no complaints there. The flip side of this trend has been the slow decline of traditional bookstores like the Strand Book Stall. Crossword and Odyssey continue to hurt. Crossword is trying to find new niches by opening small stores inside stores like Shopper's Stop.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno, by Dan Brown

"An Annotated Frommer's Guide"
2 stars

Robert Langdon is in a race to read us the entire text of Frommer's "Eight Nights in Rome, Venice, and Florence", and tell us everything we wished and not about Dante's Inferno. Robert Langdon is back, and the tall and handsome professor has to use his knowledge of symbology, yet, yet, yet again, to try and save the world from the diabolical plans of a now-dead billionaire who believes too many humans overpopulate the planet and therefore the only way to prevent the extinction of the human species is by, get this, killing them off, or at least most of them.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

WebEx 2002 - Sands of Silicon Valley

Companies on the sands of Silicon Valley: Webex
This is another from the several photos I took while in the Bay Area in the summer of 2002. WebEx was started in 1996, and acquired by Cisco in 1997 2007 in a multi-billion dollar deal. Cisco has continued to preserve the separate brand identity of WebEx, and has allowed WebEx to grow into a leader in web conferencing, despite the presence of several competitors.

© 2002, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mahabharata Quotes - Shalya Parva

Quotes from the Shalya Parva

Shalya, the maternal uncle (Madri's brother) to the Pandavas, took over command of the eviscerated Kaurava army after the death of Karna. He remained commander for not even a full day, and was "slain by Dharmaraja at midday." [9.1] and while the war was over for all practical purposes on the eighteenth day, Shalya Parva continues beyond the eighteenth day and into the nineteenth, and ends only with the duel between Duryodhana and Bhima.

Idiots on Roads - 13

Roads are so scarce in Bangalore that it is ok to use the pavement as a road. Thus goes the philosophy of these four two-wheeler riders. Look closely and you will see a cross-section of society on these two-wheelers. An IT employee for sure, a lady on a scooter, two gentlemen transporting some material. In short, the abuse of the pavement has been completely internalized by people.

No registration plates. No temporary plates. No dealer tag either. No fear of the law either.

© 2013, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Nageshwar Jyotirling, Dwarka, Gujarat

On our trip to Gujarat a couple of years back, we knew we would not be able to cover even half the spots we wanted to. Making it a mad dash from one place to the other was not exactly our goal either. Therefore we decided to cover the southern coast of the state of Gujarat, which meant starting from Bhavnagar, where some of our extended family is. We landed at Ahmedabad and took the road to Bhavnagar. Enroute we stopped at the Harappan town of Lothal. There we got a personal guided tour from a dock owner at the shipbreaking port of Alang. From there we got on the road, and made a dash to Dwarka, passing the oil refinery town of Jamnagar. From there we drove down to Sasan Gir, the last preserve of the Asiatic lion. While in Dwarka we also stopped by the Nageshwara Jyotirlinga, one of the twelve jyotirlinga shrines mentioned in the Shiv Purana (see Wikipedia excerpt below).

Waiting for the Biblioburro

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, Illustrations by John Parra

Inspiring short story.
When Ana, the little girl, has time to her own, she spends it with her libro - her book, her only book, a book gifted to little Ana by the only teacher in their village, who has since moved away. One day a man - a librarian - with two donkeys (burros), Alfa and Beto, carrying books, visits Ana's village. Ana has all the books she can carry. When will the bibliotecario on the burro, the Biblioburro, return? Ana can't wait.
This endearing short story is inspired by a real-life biblioburro the author met - Luis Soriano Bohorquez, in Columbia, who delivers books to children in remote villages on his two donkeys.

5 stars
(Amazon US / UK / CAKindle US / UK / CAFlipkart, Powell's, Indie Books)

ISBN: 9781582463537 (hardcover)
9781582463988 (gibraltar library binding)

Kindle Excerpt:

© 2013, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Joy of X - Steven Strogatz

Image credit,

The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity by Steven Strogatz  

5 stars
One-line review: X Marks The Spot. Spot On!!

Short review: This short book, over the short space of 250 pages, covers thirty different topics, grouped into six sections, and is lucid, simple, and yet engaging enough to make you want to learn, re-learn math. Even better, if this book makes you want to bring across the magic of math to children, yours or any, then that is surely worth something, isn't it? The book's success lies in the fact that it successfully treads the middle path between the two extremes that many other books tend to fall into - either picking one topic and getting so technical as to lose the reader somewhere between page 10 and 15, or so unsure of the reader's interest in math as to not talk about math itself and get bogged down with the personalities of math.

Friday, July 5, 2013

HBR - Uses and Abuses of Influence

The Uses (and Abuses) of Influence

From the July-August 2013 issue of the Harvard Business Review comes an "interview with Robert Cialdini by Sarah Cliffe". At least for the time being, the full article is available on the HBR site here, and not behind a subscriber paywall.