Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Emails can be a fun read

"E " by Matt Beaumont
Rating: 4/5
Final recommendation: a good read

Being in IT industry, if there’s one thing which I know how to do is to send Emails. Infact all of my colleagues will agree to this. I cannot imagine a world without email and yet I could’ve never dreamt a novel based on it. But then again that’s the reason I’m where I’m and Matt Beaumont is where he is.
When I started this novel I was little sceptic. Its easy to have a conceptual novel but tougher to carry it off. But from the moment I started it til I finished it I was spellbound. There were so many characters I thought I knew. The office politics (esp the use of CC, BCC and attachements) is just real. We all have witnessed this rat race. But somehow it never seemed so hilarious.
It is set in advertising agency which is trying to land Coca-Cola campaign. In background, office politics is at its funniest best. Everyone trying to save their own job and land the higher position. Colleagues gossiping, leaking news, spying and even cat-fight makes it an interesting read. My favorite bit was CEO accidentally copying all his mails to another region’s CEO who would send advice in return.
Do give it a shot to take breaks from all heavy readings...

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Hindi-Bindi Club: A Nice Surprise

"The Hindi-Bindi Club " by Monica Pradhan .
Rating: 3.5/5
Final recommendation: a good read

To be frank, the only reason I had bought this book was that it looked light hearted enough to be read in Hot afternoon and to be forgotten later on. And was I in for a surprise. Unlike other Indian Authors, Monica Pradhan doesn't try to find her roots. her characters are well settled and confident in their Indian-American Identities. of course, they have issues (Or how else we will have this book) and Generation Gaps but somehow, they are not over-cooked here.

The main character Kiran is a successful physican, born to Indian immigrants in USA. She married a Rock Musician against her parents wishes and divorced him after finding him in bed with another woman. Her parents didn't approve of this marriage. However, after being treated for breast cancer, Mother has learned to see things from daughter's perspective as well. Her struggle is keeping her family together esp after her husband still can't forgive their daughter. Kiran is now trying to accept her parent's ways and agreed for semi-arranged marriage which means posting her profile to matrimonials sites and meeting prospective grooms.

Other characters are Kiran's childhood friends - Preity and Rani. Both happily married to Americans. While one is haunted by a childhood love she lost due to religion, other struggles to keep her creativity going. Their mothers - Saroj and Uma form the Hindi-Bindi Club along with Kiran's mother Meenal. These 3 women are long settled in US with their husbands and have raised kids. And now they are facing their own demons. One is having an affair and other is still hurt over being boycotted from her family in India for marrying an Irish-American.

Monica has captured the constant struggle between mothers and daughters in a beautiful form. From understanding the other's point of view to giving up to gain approval or simply accepting the other the way they are, We all have felt like that at one point or another.

Book is not just about generation gaps or cultural differences, it also touches on religion, partitions and Indian Recipes. Yes, you heard it right, at the end of each chapter, there's a recipe. Mouth watering dishes and quite good instructions.

I love Monica's writing style. It's in narrative form, Chapters by these 6 characters and so beautifully intertwined. It keeps you engaged til you finish it.

Of course, I felt end was bit cliched. But what the heck, you can't have it all. And sometimes, world does deserve Happy Endings.

Disclaimer: This review has already been posted on my personal blog. Also, opinions expressed here are mine, no offense meant to anyone :)

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Google Story

Over last few weeks, I read 'The Google Story', yeah its an old title but Google is still hot I guess. Its very well written and reads like a fiction. I personally do not know much about David A. Wise, author of this book but a quick google search yields good results and after reading 2 minutes, it comes out that he has done big things to write home about.

You can read more about him at http://www.thegooglestory.com/about.html

Google Story is about Google (Wow, really) and its founders viz. Sergey and Larry. It starts with these two folks being at Stanford as part of their Phd program and tracks them till 2005. This reads like pulp because of Google. Its so difficult to imagine what kind of growth they had and what kind of things they keep on doing. From a $80 IPO to > $500 share price and from a garage in Menlo park to the swanky Mountain View Googleplex, the book talks about it all.

By now, it would be redundant to say that one must read this. Its easier to read, simple day-to-day english, a little over 300 pages and talks about heroes. Some of the incidents like

".......... Larry and Sergey while flying to some place took a detour mid-air to meet AOL Europe chief so that they do not lose the deal to Yahoo...." or "...... in Google every one gets to spend 20 % of time on their pet projects, 1 day every week since in universities Profs get that....." and so many more of these.

It tracks each and every move of these two people and what they have gone through to get funds and how they were so reluctant to hire a CEO. Many wont know but the very idea of 'Page Rank' is based upon the concept of 'Paper Citations'. When you write a new paper, you mention a list of 'Citations' at the end, these are essentially other publications which you referred and in a way a method to Rank these papers. A paper which gets cited many times seems like a hightly rated paper. Larry used that to classify information.

Before he came up with that the two dominant search engines were

1. Altavista
2. Yahoo

Altavista was using the crawling approach where spiders would crawl the websites and index the pages. Yahoo on the other hand was using a more conservative but highly effective method of manually adding sites through directories. Both worked till web started to explode and it was getting more and more difficult to either crawl it well or cover it all through directories. Even if you are able to cover a decent portion, the results were not relevant.

Using Page Rank, Google ranks web pages depending upon how they are referred to. For example, this blog will be seen as much more trustworthy and relevant review if its on a higher PR site say Hindustantimes or some book review site. This is the core of PR but over time, this has been evolved and currently it uses thousands of variables to rate the relevancy.

One big thing which this book scores high is access to information. It reads like as if Vise was following these two people over years. And its so lucid and at times you would feel like listening to Page and Brin. I read the revised edition but still its about 2 years old. 2 years back Google was darling of town and everyone hated MS. Now no one is interested in MS (post hate stage) but there is a large lobby who has started to not-like (Pre Hate stage) Google, whether its issues of Privacy or monoply or because of their ever growing size and clout. Vise would do good if he writes another one on Google soon.

All in all, a must Read. 5/5

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Imperial Woman - Pearl S. Buck

Imperial Woman is a biographical story of Tzu Hsi (or Cixi), the last empress of China, written by Pearl S Buck. Tzu Hsi's claim to fame is that, she was a fierce, efficient, intelligent and a very controversial empress.

The story starts when Tzu Hsi is a child. Orchid is her childhood name. She is the daughter of a low-ranking Manchu official of Yehonala clan. As was the practice then, a set of young girls are chosen out of who, a wife and some cocubines are picked for the Emporer. Orchid and her cousin, Sakota are both picked as expected and go to stay in the Forbidden City - never to return. While Sakota is given a the rank of the Emporer's primary wife because, her elder sister was at a high rank, Orchid (now known as Yehonala) earns a high rank. To be noticed, she makes an effort to stand out. She bribes the enuches and is good to the Dowager Empress (Emporer's mother).

While Sakota gives birth to a girl, Yehonala gives birth to a boy and rises to the position of the "Fortunate Mother", the mother of the heir. Thru sheer guile and ambition, she continues to be the favorite of the Emporer. Pity is the only emotion she has for the sickly and weak Emporer. Her love is always for her kinsman - Jung Lu, to who she was betrothed. Jung Lu is a guard at the gates of Forbidden City.

Yehenola reads history, learns affairs of the state, painting and poetry. She takes interest in matters of state and the Emporer is soon dependent on her for most decisions. She learns to trust no one but only those closest to her. After the death of the Emporer, though She and Sakota together rise to the position of Regents, Yehenola is the de facto ruler. Yehenola gets the Title of Tzu Hsi (or Cixi, The empress of the eastern palaces) and Sakota gets the title of Tzu An ( or Cian,The empress of the western palaces)

There are rumors that her son is born thru Jung Lu. Her life and her son's life are in danger. The nation is under attack. She has to protect herself, her son and the Empire. With the demands of countries like France, England and Russia increasing, with the missionaries converting Chinese into Christians, with the number of rebels from within the nation increasing, there is unrest all around.

Tzu Hsi learns and grows as a ruler gaining the trust of her subjects. People call her "The old Budhha" - thus rising her to the position of God. In a time of great change and cultural upheaval in China, she is a relic of the past - always resisting change. The Boxer Rebellion marks the beginning of the end of Tzu Hsi.

The book is all lucid prose - it flows thru the story of Tzu Hsi, thru the death of her son, her crowning a nephew to be the next Emporer and when he fails, taking the throne back for herself. She grows old and begins to accept change as she realizes, she has no other way to retain her empire.

This book provides a good insight into a critical phase of Chinese History. After having read it, I'm tempted to visit the Forbidden city. The book is worth hunting for.

(Also Posted at: http://hotcupofcoffee.wordpress.com/2007/06/29/imperial-woman/)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

The book emphasises the value of financial intelligence and the significance of money in our life. It explains how to make your money work hard for you instead of you working hard for money.
Some really interesting concepts are explored in the book. The most interesting ones were the distinction in working to learn and working to earn and the one between assets and liabilities. How the fear of money makes us react to situations rather than confront and think. Money makes us fall in a trap. More money, and the emotion of joy and desire and greed takes over, and people tend to react, instead of think.

The book beautifully expalins the small little ways in which you can come out of this trap and make yourself financially secure and sound. Exploring opportunities which are just around but you never thought of taking..
For me the book, opened up a thought on a value system "Money". A lot of people don't want to admit that money can be a value, but it is. In the age in which we live, we must instill this value of value for money in ourselves and generations following. Running away rather than being aware makes us fall more into the rat race and the trap around.

Catch the story and lets share the takeaways...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It happened in India - By Kishore Biyani

It happened in India is a candid and close book by Kishore Biyani, the king of retail as often called by lot many with every growing day. This book which is sort of a young biography of Kishore is co-authored by Dipayan Baishya.

Kishore or KB as often referred to in the whole book starts with the Big Bazaar story esp the 'Sabse Sasta Din' campaign of 26 January 2006 and it reads like one hell of a fiction.

Read the whole story at


Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Hard-bound World...

Ever wondered why with such an expanse of land waiting to be tread and felt, we choose the shelter of two hard-bound covers occupying a few square-inch of the earth? No.. it has nothing to do with laziness! Hamlet once said " I can bound in a nutshell and still consider myself the king of the Universe". Do we consider ourselves the I-know-all in the limits of a page?
Any regular reader would differ out-rightly to the thought, an so do I.
As an Indian I was well-versed with my nations struggle for Independence and it's struggle for interdependence post-Independence. Yet, it was not my history book that connected me to struggles beyond those defined by those permeable borders. We all read about communism in history alongwith the political history of different nations. Honestly, I hardly know anyone who cares much after reading the chronologicaly narrated synopsis of an event. When I came across European writers like Turgnev, Dostoevesky and Kundera, however, my definitions and chronology changed. Somehow I did care what they went through n the side of the world.
The novels may be fiction stories, but instead of focussing on changes in the imaginary border-lines, they concentrate on how human lives and emotions were affected and developed through events. It is knowing that human-side that makes you care about an event in history and not how the presidents name changed from one after another.
Just a few pages thick and I get to familiarise myself with the psyche of new people and the development of places hitherto unfamiliar. Even if visited personallly, I doubt if a location can be appreciated any better than by taking a peek into its past time-zones & wondering what all it has witnessed just by being there.
Thats enough in favour of the Word, but incase you wish to evade the tag of a 'lazy reader"... just walk & read !