Thursday, January 27, 2011

Importance of that 1%

I have told this adage times to many people before. It's almost becoming redundant now. That way it matches the name of this blog.

Adjective and Noun.

The adage:
"It is often said that 99% of the genetic makeup in Humans and Apes is similar. It is that 1% that makes all the difference. Which side are you on?"

Science Articles
: Here, Here and Here. Though it is not scientifically proven and can be argued about the figure 99%, it has got very less to do with the adage as it stands true in its own sense. Research does agree that at least 95% of the genes are similar. Isn't that enough?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


It's Prose now, you went away and so did Poetry
It's Chaos now, you questioned me and my Sanctity
It's I now, you took away a major part of Me
It's Freedom now, you seized hope and set yourself Free

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


One Word
Plethora of feelings
But a curse inexplicable
Caught in an unrequited rhythm
Happiness, Anguish, Smiles, Pain, Memories, Present

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sitting below the stars
Below the darkened palms
A light of hope shapes in a glass
A hope of warmth in the night so far

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Game of Thrones by George R.R Martin : Review

There are writers and there are storytellers. George R.R Martin is a fantastic writer who excels at storytelling.

I recently completed reading A Game of Thrones, the first book from the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, by George R.R Martin (GRRM). I stumbled upon this book very late since this book was published in 1996. I guess I am still a newbie when it comes to fantasy books. Nevertheless, I would like to consider myself as a ‘maturing reader’. Yeah that sounds better!

A Game of Thrones (AGoT) is a fabulous and epic fantasy tale. It has all the ingredients that will make you keep reading, keep thinking and keep wondering about the stories and characters in the book. Keep in mind that it is a huge book. 800 pages in the first book itself. (There would be 7 books in the series, of which 4 are in the market and 5th is on its way.) However, each and every page is a pleasant read. (Pleasantness is highly subjective!)

Here are some of the things that make the book really really good:
  • Grey gritty characters – There are loads of these in the books. You keep wondering who are the good guys and who are the bad ones. You start trusting someone and suddenly an event happens that shatters this trust. Eventually you would know that you cannot trust anyone! As Cersei Lannister says, “In the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die.” And surely, the characters keep thrilling you with their antics, cunningness and dialogues. And yes, the bad guys are really bad and the not so bad ones need to work really hard to fight them.
(A warning for you – This book is not Harry Potter. In fact it is far far away from Harry Potter. It is dark, it is gory and the language used is crass at times. So as to say, it is a very realistic fantasy book!)
  • POV and Parallel story-lines – The story is in the form of Third person limited point of view. This makes the story even more interesting as we see the world from the character’s perspective. Though there are only 8 POV’s (Mainly Starks of Winterfell), each POV is very distinctive. Three Parallel story-lines take place, viz.
    • The fight for the control over the Iron Throne of Westeros and its Seven Kingdoms
    • The Night’s Watch and the Wall in the north of Westeros
    • The Dragon Princess in Exile somewhere on a land East of Westeros that is separated by a Sea.
  • Action – I don’t know how to describe this but GRRM describes the major events (and there are many of these throughout the book) in such a manner that you cannot help but stop, think and read the earlier passage again. It is brilliantly articulated. It’s fast and cuts like a knife. It also leaves you hungry for more.
Apart from these factors, many other factors make reading the book a pleasure. The old worlds, armoured Knights their tales of bravery, battles (some of the descriptions are ethereal), some stories that are told in the book (the story about how the Dragons came into the world, Dragons that were used in the war by the Targaryens, the children of the forests, the song about the King and the boar, and many more…). Surely, everyone will have his or her moments of reading-pleasure.

You will have your own favourite characters too. My favourite character from the book is Tyrion Lannister, who is truly unforgettable. His humour (sarcastic and cunning), his brilliant world play and his role in the story is splendid. There are several others who make a mark, but some will stay in your mind forever!

I was initially planning to take a break between the AGoT and the next of the series ‘A Clash of Kings’, but I am not sure after completing the book.

I really loved reading AGoT, and I hope the series turns out to be as good too.

Note: HBO is making an original TV series on AGoT that will be shown from April 2011. If you haven’t seen the videos yet, check them on the HBO Website. I sincerely hope they telecast it simultaneously in India.

Updates: I came across this post discussing GRRM's writing as compared to Steven Erikson's style. He has described GRRM's style in a very detailed and articulate manner that at times is too critical, but is pretty much right.

Another post about GRRM's writing.

A positive review in this post.

Read another well written (though long) critical post on AGoT. Gosh there are so many of them!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Using Microsoft Word to check for Passive Voice

As a writer in the Technical Writing domain, one of the major rules that you look for is writing in Active voice. This fact is drilled down to the core of every Technical Writer. Of course there are instances where Passive voice is a must (test yourself by asking this!), but over all the voice has to be active since the words should help the user to perform certain actions.

There are several tools that you generally would like to use to check for passive voice. Relying on editors is one of them! But if you want to check it before it goes to the editor's desk and avoid the rebuke, simple tools that Microsoft® Word offers can help. You just need to activate the Style checker in Word, and it will do the work for you.

Use these steps to activate the Style checker in Microsoft Word 2007:
  1. Open Microsoft Word and click on the Office Button.
  2. Click on Word Options.
  3. In the Word Options window, click on Proofing.
  4. In the When correcting spelling and grammar area, click on Settings.
  5. In the Grammar Settings window look for the Writing Style field and select Grammar & Style. Click OK to save the settings.
After applying the Grammar and Style settings, Microsoft Word will highlight your passive sentences like this:
PS: A lot of you might be using this already, but am sure there are a lot of folks who want a simple tool to check for passive voice. Why not use Microsoft Word for starters?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cactus :: A Story

"Get up don't be such a lazy bone. Even last week I had told you to accompany me for the vegetable shopping and just by chance you escaped since you were unwell. You are a grown up now and you have to accompany me today."

She woke up alarmingly from her beautiful dream of lipsticks, make-ups, boys from college and dates. After all, 16 is an age when college is a synonym for freedom along with experimentation. She was upset with her Mom, as always.

"Mom, why do you scream at me so much? It is Sunday and not just another holiday. Let me sleep a bit more. I need to get rid of these pimples soon."

"You are just 16 and have already started to behave like your Dad. Annoying, stubborn and majorly spoilt."

She had heard this before as well. Her Mom loved to use this comparison with Dad. It did work initially, but now it was overused to the extent that she became immune. She hated her Dad. He was so busy with himself and behind earning money that he didn't give time to Mother. And Mother vented her anger on her.

"Mom, I need to relax a bit. Only then I can prepare myself to go for the Math class."

"Class, no class. If you don't come for shopping with me today I will not give you money for your beauty parlour sessions."

She was in a fix. Oh, she really wanted to prepare herself for this little Orange Juice date that she was looking forward to with this cute boy from her class. She had to go. She shook all her groggy pink cobwebs and started to get ready to go with her mother for vegetable shopping.

The ride till the vegetable market was nice and comfortable. She just sat besides her mother who drove the car. She looked around for cosmetic shops and cute boys. She sighed whenever she saw either.

At the market, her Mom hassled over the price of each and every vegetable.

"Bobby, I buy vegetables from you every week. Why have you increased the price by 1 rupee today?"

She was zonked. Mom is arguing for one rupee. What will happen to all this list of cosmetics that she had prepared. She waded through the remaining shopping with this dreadful thought in her mind.

After the shopping, Mom drove her back. Mom also denied her an ice-cream.

"Your Dad is home for lunch today. Don't you know how particular he is about our family lunch on Sunday's?"

"But Mom, it will take just a minute for me to go out and pick up the ice-cream. I will eat it on our way back, in the car."


Back at home, her Mom called the watchman named Senegis and loaded him with 2 heavy bags of vegetables. Mom then gave a little bag of fruits to her.

"Carry this to our place."

"But Mom, why can't Senegis carry it?"

"Do as I say you lazy bum."

She lazily took that little bag and started climbing up. She always took the stairs. She wanted to be in shape. And fifth floor is not too high at that age. But she did miss the mirrors in the lift. On the fourth floor the bag grazed a serpent-like thorny cactus that was outside one of the doors. The plastic got stuck in the thorns and the bag was torn. The fruits were all over the floor.

"Why does this always happen to me?"

Her shout was heard from inside the door and the neighbour opened the door. A pimply boy of her age was at the door.

"Can I help you with these fruits?"

"Why are you asking me, can't you just help me?"

He smiled and helped her and saw her running away to her floor on top. He was still there. Smiling slightly.

"Oh, What a pretty girl!"

He was afraid as soon as he uttered that. He hoped his Mom wasn't nearby to hear his exclamation. Still smiling he saw that a big, red, shiny apple had hidden itself behind the thorny cactus plant.

He picked it up and was about to go and give it to the girl when he heard his Mom come to the door. He knew she was going to shout.

"Adam, how many times have I told you to stop wasting time while cleaning your room."

"But Mom, I was just helping Eve."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lost in the past, castes and sentiments?

Following the Pune Statue Fiasco, there have been recent news to change the name of the historic Maharashtrian city of Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar. (Interestingly there is another Aurangabad city in Bihar.)

As DNA reports here, there are three plans that the Sena-BJP coalition (the party that rules the civic body in Aurangabad) wishes to execute:
  • rename Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar
  • rename the local Chikalthana airport as Raje Sambhaji Bhosale airport
  • shift the controversial statue of Dadoji Konddev from Pune to a place near the Shivaji museum in Aurangabad.
Though this is good respite for the poor statue that has become a symbol of caste politics, renaming cities just because our history tells us that a city cannot be named after a tyrant is just not the deal! This way we will keep naming, renaming and eventually muddling history and future to create a chaos for the future generations.

Bombay to Mumbai, VT to CST, Madras to Chennai, Bangalore to Bengaluru and so on. Yeah meanwhile, we keep calling our Abhishek > Abby, Manish > Monty et al, very dotingly. (For other nicknames, please check the amazing birthday flex billboards that are displayed by the local politicians and 'Youth parties'.) Politics hasn't sunk to grass roots where it should have. Well, you may say that I do have high hopes.

Overall, I am not sure what we should exactly feel about the whole issue. Since it is repeated so much, so often, the initial utter disgust gave way to anger that has fizzed out over time and left us totally apathetic. That's the state we live in.


Moving on.

Heard of Huckleberry Finn? Yeah the misunderstood but lovable little boy who is Tom Sawyer's friend. One of the finest characters created by the immensely talented and one of my all time favourite writers Mark Twain. Huck's character makes us smile with painful tears at times. Simple, yet reaching the depths of emotion.

Just today I read that the latest copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is modified to remove all instances of the 'N' word. (Here is the NYT link and the USA Today link.) Here is an extract from USA Today that i really liked:

The word (which this newspaper does not print) appears 219 times. In its place, Twain scholar Alan Gribben of Auburn University is substituting "slave."

In the book, the word is not at all used as a derogatory word. It was a colloquial custom back then that was overridden and now it is no longer in use. These days only N's are allowed to call other N's as N's. Look at all the rap songs!

What I feel is, if the country that proclaims itself to be an epitome of democracy censors classical literature so, a hard-lined Indian would surely feel that the censorship in India is right. Well, it is not. It won't stop people from using words / phrases in the open or in the closet or in the universe of their minds! You can't stop people from thinking (Unless you talking about The Matrix, maybe).

That also reminds me of the horrendously funny censoring that is done in the movie subtitles on the English Movie channels over here. I am sure you must have experienced it and laughed about it too! So, if I call you stupid next time, it is up to you to know what I really mean!

On that note, let me sign off this post with a heave of sigh knowing that I have already procured my unadulterated copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn! Oh wait, but there is Internet that can also fetch me a copy of the banned Satanic Verses!

As we say on Twitter: #Facepalm.

Update: A nice article on Pune's political games Pune’s endless identity wars.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ushering the New Year - II

This comic is dedicated to all you 'Web' addicts! (Seems like too much the Internet in these posts!)

(Image courtesy:
(Click on the comic strip to see a larger image)

Ushering the New Year

I hope that there would be a series of posts with this title for at least a week or two to come, since a couple of things happened in 2010 that would be good to share.

One of the hallmarks of 2010 was my revisit to Twitter which I have posted here. I would have liked to post about why I hang out so much on Twitter and all in this post as well, but I have posted it here too.

I would like you to read this wonderful post title 'My Twitter year' by one of the much liked person on Twitter: sidvee. Those of you who avidly follow ESPN Cricinfo, would know him and his love for the game of Cricket.

On that note. (And some more to come!) Wish you a very Happy New Year!