Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Sunday Tweet War

Normally I never go for an argument with strangers, not in real life, never in cyberspace, especially about politics. Because it never changes a thing, other than generate lot of negativity. Today was an exception. I was doing my regular twitter rounds when I reached the timeline of Indian National Congress. For one of their tweets, I replied.

INC tweet:
#TheIndiaTheyInherited - Due to pro-poor UPA policies
More homes turn to PDS; wheat off-take triples since 2005

My reply:
@INCIndia real progress is when common man has disposable income not depending sudsidized food supply

After minutes of posting that I got this reply from Mr Nikhil which started this conversation:

Nikhil: till then? Should we leave poor dieing without food n shelter? We must appreciate good work done by UPA in last 25 yrs

Me: We are a free nation from 65 years. Why still there are poor dying? Till when this will continue? The only way out is to give poor a fishing rod once and for all, instead of a daily supply of fish.

Nikhil: yes, agreed with this too. For the same reason Rojgaar yojna n mnrega by UPA. We must appreciate Manmohan and his team

Me: Any yearly  study done how this scheme has benefitted economy? Or was that another handout? Is there an upgradation in skills of the people in this yojana?

Nikhil: People got jobs, spending power increased, so increased demands, to fulfill demands, more supply, thus more jobs.

Me: a link pls.

Nikhil: UPAs reforms n policies are always inclusive and conducive to kickstart the sluggish economy. Hats off to Manmohan.

Me: Why economy is still sluggish and not kick started yet?

Nikhil: Good schemes take time to flourish n reach the people. Many people opposed the computers and IT initially.

Me: How many years? 10 not enough? Then y INC criticising the new govt which is month old?

Nikhil: Instead of bluntly blaming, we should analyze the challenges n conditions before 65 years to realize INCs contribution

Me: I am not blaming. Look the election results.

Nikhil: agreed with this too. Thanks to Nehru for making India truly democratic. So we should respect the mandate.
We must respect mandates in 65y, MMS got 2nd term. IG was PM for 15y, JLN was PM for 17y. Why? They performed well.

Me: So we can conclude that UPA II was a failure as the result was disastrous. PM who performed well got repeat mandate. (Ur words). UPA2 did not get another term. Bcos of non performance.

Nikhil: Good to see that you come down from 65y to UPA2. Not at all disastrous, but few things mishandled. Corruption n Anna.

Me: was using ur logic n assuming the govts that got repeated mandates did well. few mishandling cost you an election?

Nikhil: UPA1,2 performed tremendously well but failed to project their achievements. They should learn Modi style of marketing

Me: So now u r not respecting mandate. U accuse people where manipulated?

Nikhil: Lets give some time n wish bestluck to Modiji. Lets hope he continue on the path defined by Manmohan Singh.

Me: Let's do it. I hope he doesn't repeat the grave mistakes of previous govts.

Nikhil: Not manipulated but Modiji succeeded in projecting that last 65yrs were disastrous due to Congress. Which is not true.

Me: So who were responsible?

Nikhil: Obviously UPA, but not everything was as disastrous like Modiji projected during his campaign. UPA should introspect.

Me: Supposing Modi has projected a 100% disaster rule by UPA, how much of a disaster it actually was?

Conversation continues.... Will update later.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Killing Jesus by Bill O' Reilly and Martin Dugard

Bill O’ Reilly and Martin Dugard had written two other books- Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln, both best sellers, before writing Killing Jesus. I wanted to read them, as the concept sounded good. But now, after reading Killing Jesus, I don’t want to waste time on them. No, it’s not that Killing Jesus is a bad book. I will come to that later, anyhow. Killing Jesus is a book that tries to unveil the mysteries behind the crucification of Jesus. It is supposed to be a historical recounting of the events that culminated in the crucification and eventual death (as per authors) of the Son of God (as per Bible).

The book starts with giving the readers an account of Rome and their times. It discusses the last days of Julius Ceaser and the ascend of Augustus Ceaser eventually. Then the narrative move to Jerusalem and describes the political and religious climate there and how the local rulers and priests have masterminded strategies to align themselves in favor of ruling Rome. John, the Baptizer arrives next and after that only the story of Jesus Christ starts. The book then follows Jesus preaching, gathering followers one by one, challenging religious authorities and cleansing the temple. When his activities start disturbing them, priests conspire and execute him with the help of Roman authorities.

I had told in first para that this book is not bad. Killing Jesus is written fabulously. It has every requirement of a page turner- intrigue, great plot, and superb descriptions of the times, a multi-dimensional tormented hero and lot of things happening every moment. I could not put this one down.  My issue is the authors’ claim that this is a historical account of the life of Jesus, while actually the book is more of a historical drama. A historical book and a historical novel are poles apart. In a book of history there will be account of events, details of the times and analysis of happenings.

Killing Jesus seriously misses out on the third thing. The writers just present the data available to them chronologically and try to milk the dramatic turn of events. Their claim that this book has revelations on the tale of Jesus is totally wrong. It was the same story that I knew from the time I read the New Testament for first time. It does not deviate much from Gospels, only some chronological rearrangement is done. Also all the supernatural occurrences are removed and the eventual resurrection is mentioned in a passing, to align with the concept of a historical version of events. Therefore here Jesus does not perform any miracles.

So finally what we have here is a version of New Testament, a well written one that mix and match the happenings in different Gospels and devoid of any supernatural occurrences. Also with an overlong prelude that involves Roman history which is included especially to sow the seeds of hate in reader’s mind.  And I don’t want to mention factual errors and Biblical inaccuracies, the details of which can be obtained from the experts’ mouth directly if you do a google search.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Non-Stop Thrills from Liam Neeson

Before watching Non-Stop, the latest of the action flicks starring aged Liam Neeson that Hollywood is regularly churning out recently, I had seen enough bad reviews for it. One reason why critics panned the movie was due to its similarities with previous Liam Neeson movies- Taken and others. Other than that, it is the usual issues with action movies, not having enough logic binding the plot, silly characterization and such.  As I don’t have any issues with generic movies and I don’t expect any Oscar worthy qualities from action movies, I jumped in to watch it.

Non-Stop has Liam Neeson as an alcoholic, but good-intentioned Air Marshal, who gets a message in his phone, which has a secured network, during his flight that if an obscene amount is not transferred to a bank account, every 20 minutes one person will die. Soon he realizes that the threat is real when people start dying around him in that interval. His fellow passengers infer that he himself is the culprit as circumstantial evidences point towards him. Even on ground he is implicated as the bank account to which money has to be transferred is in his name. Neeson has to find out the actual culprit, diffuse a ticking time bomb, save the plane and prevent any more killings and all these confronting a horde of irate passengers.  

I loved the movie. It starts with a good concept and builds on it. Thrills are pretty good. After a long time I am watching an action movie that does not entirely depend on elaborate set pieces made by computer generated effects. The biggest draw is Liam Neeson, who looks his part and executes it brilliantly. His acting was integral in making me forget or overlook the inconsistencies spread throughout the entire film. Julianne Moore as a fellow suspect and potential romantic interest ably supports him. Other characters do not rise above B movie level as they are not given any scope for that. The climax was a bit of a letdown for me. It was satisfying while watching, but later when I thought about it, it felt lousy. I would say it was somewhere in between Con Air and Speed2: Cruise Control.

Watch Non-Stop for an earnest and very talented Liam Neeson and also for good thrills.  It is good entertainment.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Book Review: Why Do Buses Come in Threes?

What is the best way to divide a cake equally between two kids, without any disputes?

Make one kid to divide the cake into two and other one to choose the piece that he wants. That way the first kid knows the cakes are cut equally and second kid is sure he has the biggest piece.

Simple, isn’t it? What if the cake has to be divided between more than two kids? What if the cake is of a complex shape? What if instead of cakes, resources has to be divided, between corporations or nations? “Why Do Buses Come in Threes? “is a book by Rob Eastaway and Jeremy Wyndham that assures us there are ways to do it. This book tries to find mathematics in our everyday life. Math is one of the least favorite subjects of most of the students and many feel a study of math does not affect their life in any way. But the writers assert that math is in fact the building block of our lives, influencing our every movement and every action.

The title of each chapter is a question like the title of the book. Like, “Why are showers always too hot or cold?” The writers then go on to explain fundamental principles based on mathematics to solve them. Almost all the branches of maths- algebra, trigonometry, geometry, logic, probability- you name it appears in it in ways that we never thought possible. By the end of this book we get a good perspective about Fibonacci numbers, problem solving, scheduling projects, betting, surveys, superstitions and much more.

Credit has to go to the writers for detailing complex math fundamentals in a way that can be understood by even high school students. The light humorous way of explaining makes it all the more enjoyable. The book compels the reader to think and find patterns and make connections of events that puzzle us in our daily lives using mathematics. The last chapter contains certain tricks using maths that can make kids more interested in numbers. I would recommend this book as a must read for students of maths and adults alike. It is a must read.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Book Review: Holy War by Mike Bond

War is a human situation that started with the beginning of our race. At any point of time there is a war waging on one or the other part of our planet, bringing destruction and endless sufferings to millions of people- soldiers and civilians alike. If it causes such irreversible damages, why not stop engaging in it? Why not give peace a chance?  There are many antiwar thoughts going on in the world, coming out as literature, movements, as artwork and in many other forms. But war continues, unstopping, as a reality. In his brilliant novel Holy War, Mike Bond tries to answer these questions and more.

Neill is an American journalist, staying in London, with a family life on the verge of collapse. Need for money makes him to take up an assignment for MI6, getting Lebanese Hezbollah leader Mohammad interviewed in war torn Beirut city. The catch is that in order to get the money, Neill has to wear a GPS chip in his body revealing Mohammad’s position to Neill’s employers. Mohammad is the charismatic Hezbollah leader who is slowly warming up to the idea of everlasting peace between warring factions in the city. Rosa is a Palestinian woman who can go to any length for exacting revenge on Israel. Andre is the brother of a French Para soldier who dies in a suicide attack. He wants Mohammad, who he feels is responsible, to die and with the intention of killing Mohammad enters Beirut defying his seniors. The novel deals with their intermingling paths and the quest for an elusive peace.

Holy War is a stunning book. Mike Bond succeeds in taking the reader to the places were real war happens through the strength of his writing. The violence and underlying tension that builds up throughout this novel is enough to knock the sense out of the reader. On the top of that, it involves some intriguing characters, three dimensional and real. All the characters are written in such a way that, reader always feels there is much more to them than what meet the eyes. Through them the writer makes a statement of strong impact that condemns mutual destruction for the purpose of ego-boosting. Also commendable is the fact that, he never takes sides and maintains a balance between characters that make them more believable and the writing more authentic. It succeeds in making the reader think deep into themselves and come to a conclusion about the folly of war without doing any preaching.

Holy War is a must read book, that can stimulate our mind and soul. Don’t hop in for any cheap thrills, try it for the introspection mode that this book can put your mind into. Expect lot of explicit violence and sex.