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“Dear God, please give me…
Courage to speak,courage to fight
For honesty and goodness,justice and truth…”

So ran our morning assembly prayer at school.

Watching Malala’s interview yesterday on CNN, one is struck by her wit, erudition, heart warming answers… “Such a brave girl!!” -exclaimed Mum. Malala was accompanied by her father, eyes brimming with pride.

He called her the apple of his eye, his Noor (as they would say in Pashto). He said that it is better to die protesting than to live a hundred years in oppression. That’s when it struck me.

He was braver, far more courageous than his daughter. Think about it, many parents, given a situation faced like Malala’s would’ve simply stopped us from going to school. For fear of losing a dear daughter’s life. And destroying their own in the process.

We learn in our moral science text books to be courageous, brave and to speak out against injustice. We parrot it out in our prayers to Lord Hanuman ‘Liberate us from fear’ to our parents approval.

But in the real world we’re asked to suppress, ‘be smart’ about it. Do not question and bring trouble to your family. Think about others. Do not be foolishly idealistic. Oh that is a lost cause, that is how life is.

Like the other time a girl questioned the lockdown of bustling metropolis on the passing of a person on facebook.People heckled her family, made her and her family’s life hell. Of course bullets weren’t fired, no one was ‘injured’. Was this girl  not brave ? The reaction of many of the people (elders and my generation) were ‘Oh no she was stupid, she does not know how stupid she was. She does not know what it is to raise comments at such a ‘sensitive’ time. Why raise comments at all?!’

Or the time when an assault happens on a girl / if we protest with errant auto drivers – ‘You people are just asking for it! Why go pick a fight? Why risk the defacement of your face with acid?’ ‘ Why defend those girls while they’re being teased? Why not just look away?’

Expectantly, Malala is also not spared from the hullabaloo – “She doesn’t deserve it (the Nobel Peace prize) at all,” “What about thousands of children who are here, under the shadow of Taliban and risk their lives every day? Malala’s interviews overseas will not help girls here.”

Which is why more than Malala , I would salute her father. It takes courage to push your child to battle it out for justice, for right and for what people may call, a Quixotic cause. It is parents who must give us that boost, like an arrow fully drawn on a bowstring, and launch us into the world. Because we know we have their approval to do what is needed to be done, we can venture forth into the world.

With our heads held high.

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Ironical that my last post was a rant about the new G-Reader’s “non”-features.

On my 31st birthday, we were informed about the impending loss of our favorite Reader. The following 2 – 3 weeks were spent joining the loyalist ranks, ranting, liking and petitioning for a reversal of this decision.  Reading and nodding my head at the Twitter outrage ; about the how they were losing the content curators, the bees. But then the “Fates” at Mountain View remained firm.
Then began the search for the perfect replacement.Since acquiring the Nexus 4, been looking at versions that work well on desktop as well as on the smartphone.
Gravitated towards 2 services- Pulse and Feedly. NewsBlur was a no-no as reviews of their Android app weren’t striking + you had to pay = No way.

Pulse:

Initial days with the Nexus 4 were spent on a 2G network (since I was in a non-3G zone) – the Pulse  app was superior in its performance ; it synchronized feeds faster over a lower-grade network and I could view the 1st 5-6 unread items offline. It had the essential share-to-social-networks-email+save -for- later features.

The negatives ? Categorization allowed only 12 feeds / blogs per category;  like that was going to be enough ! Also, the film-strip outline, while being awesome on the phone, had a fuzzy-stretched out look on the web-app. Thirdly, once the initial import from G-reader was done, there was no sync between G-reader – Pulse afterwards; so whenever I switched to G-reader on the browser (considering the bad Pulse web-app), my Pulse-read posts were still marked un-read; new feeds added were not synced here.

Feedly:

feedly won over the Desktop-browser experience, with its clean interface, amazing social share features; loved the Pinterest share by just hovering over the image in the reader! Multiple article views, with the minimalistic “line-item” being my favorite. Share on facebook, twitter with a “buffer” option to schedule shares later. A view of the entire article without moving away from the web-app via the “Preview”.

So for a period of time (a month !) it was feedly / G-reader on the desktop browser and Pulse on the phone.

Then the switch to 3G happened. The feedly app (finally !) loaded  content in decent time (3-5 seconds);  mark all listed items as read with a simple right-left swipe.  Unlike Pulse, there was no restriction in # of items/ category , nor did it exclude any articles. Nice🙂

While feedly does not appear as a default RSS reader option on clicking the syndication icon, this is easily overcome if you have the feedly-Chrome web-app.

feedly-Chrome web-app in action

feedly-Chrome web-app in action (Click to view larger image)

As you can see in the above picture, a near-transparent feedly icon appears in a RSS-enabled web-page. On clicking, the top green bar indicates the # of subscribers to the feed via feedly; on clicking it, the feed is added into feedly’s subscription list.  Share options are available as well.

No major cribs except :

(1) Exhort feedly to enable the “reco by friends” feature for content discovery

(2) For the mobile / tablet apps, a more lighter version of the app would be great for view on 2G networks + pre-load , say , top 10 unread items in every category, so that if the network goes out for 15 minutes or so,  reading is not interrupted. The second feature is a take-away from Pulse of course !

Within 1.5 months, the switch is now definite and complete. The 1st web-app fired up every morning is now feedly.com

Sigh  G-reader😥

The New Google Reader

The G-Reader: Old vs New

Released on October 31, 2011 , my first reaction to the look – nice and non cluttery.

But then I discovered that a couple of features which made it such a cool tool, MISSING – just vanished.

The Google Reader team made a huge mistake removing the “Recommended by friends” feature.

More than the content on my “Home Page”, I used to surf the items reco’d by people I followed – as I discovered new blogs, newer content to consume. Since most of the blogs read by my friends were common, they curated the content via the Share and recommended feature – which saved most of my time, especially when you subscribe to one-blog-an-hour-monsters like Tech-crunch/ Mashable. Google had nailed the “social” aspect of reading, which they decimated in a single stroke without a warning. And now they have an “explore” tab, where “They” show you “their” recommendations based on what you’ve subscribed – ghastly!

The funny thing is, just when this feature was removed, you had the Washington Post Social Reader launched on facebook, which had a similar functionality though naughtier– it displayed ALL that you’d read, putting an embargo “certain posts” you would’ve wanted to read. So while the erstwhile Google Reader was beautiful in that aspect, Google chose to remove the “friend-share” – this  despite be-moaning it’s lack of foresight in the “social” phenomenon !

Yaay, I can now share my posts with specific friends on my G-circles. In their wish to promote “+”, they would, of course, ignore integration with other SNS* (unless the functionality was integrated within the blog) which would be an awesome feature. YouTube is cooler that way, as it allows you to do just that. Currently, G-reader-sharing on SNSs of my choice is a pain (yes, more than 2 clicks with a copy paste from the Address Bar, is a pain!).

I’d thought the blogosphere – outbursts on the new G-reader would bring some action on bringing the trusted feature back – but no, it’s  January 2012 and there have been no changes/updates.

Let’s wait and watch😐

*Social Networking Sites

Macro vs Micro

Blogging brought out a flow of thought, each post beautifully crafted in its flow, be it a single or multiple paragraphs. A lot of thought went into each post, illustrated with appropriate quotes, pictures, references.  Since that was the only avenue to express, many newbie bloggers chose the “hard thought” route. Me-self was one such blogger.

But with the rise of the micro-blogging phenomena, I’ve realized that I’m more a witness to a stream of single-line status updates/ link-share’s with a note on how much that article was “Beautiful!”, “Amazing”, “Crazy stuff”. My reaction to these was a simple click of the button with similar adjectives. So I find myself reacting (pushing the Share/re-tweet/Like-ing), than thinking about the post, researching and writing more about it. Is it the fear that I would lose out on the NEXT big twitter trend? That I need to put in a wisecrack, a précis comment for phenomenon that would trigger a reaction and not a thought? Many of my erstwhile blogger friends, now hooked onto twitter, do not post as often as they did earlier. An occasional post on pieces that have been written for newspapers, a few comments on the links discovered.

This is a phenomenon restricted, as I said, perhaps only to the newest entrants to the Blogsphere. Who started writing too close to the twitter- era. The Old timers would still remain writers I guess. I believe Super-Bloggers (like a Vir Sanghvi / Seth Godin) do not allow the information overload to overwhelm them. They would perhaps switch off their smartphones, sip a cup of coffee, muse and start typing away.

I wonder how the scene would be in a few more years.

Add on: An article from Mashable posted today on being “un-plugged” Matrix fashion🙂 http://mashable.com/2012/01/03/block-internet-distractions-apps/

April 2, 2011 - Photo by Ritam Banerjee/Getty Images AsiaPac

Never been much of a cricket fan. Understanding and vocabulary of the sport would be at a slightly higher level than the “gilli-danda” Lagaan team. And never cared to ask either. Silly point, mid-on/off bla bla. The scandals, the money, the undue attention of a 1 billion nation on a single sport and for a team that was as unpredictable as ours further put me off. It did not help that whenever I watched, we just lost!

April 2 2011 changed a part of the above. The air of India was charged up, with prayers, good wishes. The recorded national anthem teared and goosebumped me up. One cannot but be swayed by the emotions of so many people around you!

The odds were stacked against us – statistically. A chase for a total above 250 on home ground. It did not help that though I had my back to the televsion – Tendulkar got out pretty tamely! With that I decided to revert to the superstitious strategy of NOT watching or updating myself on the match till it was done. Amazing, the number of serendipitious actions that resulted in a wicket/ or a boundary. Some friends crossed their legs throught. Some sat on the same chair. Some refused to relieve themselves. Crazy as it felt later on, we were all unified in our thoughts – C’MON INDIA LET’S GET THAT CUP!

“6 runs and 11 balls remaining..!!” yelled one from the living room. Ok Beena. No peeking. We aren’t giving a chance to them Lankans. A small burst of fire-crackers. A few minutes later a collective shout from all sides. And I finally switched over to watch the winning innings.

One of those few moments in life when you experience magic…

It was supreme team effort yes. But one couldn’t help noticing Mahindra Singh Dhoni’s demeanour. His acknowledgement of the questions that could’ve been asked if they’d lost. His belief in his team. The way he stepped up the order to handle the pressure. God, how did he handle the pressure? His humbleness in allowing his team-mates to hog the central frame of the “Champions” pic. Excitement in the eyes, but the body language composed. How does he do it? This is Bhagvad Gita stuff! B-schools just get his appointment for your Leadership course!

Respect.

The Social Network

Where it all began – Erica dumps Mark Scribbling the “Most Popular” Algorithm

Being on Facebook as a part of my Marketing Research, this one was a must watch!

The partial bio-pic (I say partial as they say the portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg is in a more negative light than the actual person) of the conversations, events that lead to the inception of the idea of Facebook, the creation of a website that currently garners view-time of 7 hrs in a month and whose membership is increasing, with a count of 500 million to date.

The chain of events leading to Facebook, it seems, was born out of a howcanagirldumpme-bruised ego, coding in drunken stupor, overnight. His “face-smash” caught the attention of the Winklevoss bro’s (refer W-twins) who were thinking of a Harvard connect – a mini facebook concept. While Mark liked the concept, he expanded the idea around it and created facebook without bothering to inform the W-twins. Jealous of his only friend Eduardo Saverin’s acceptance into an exclusive group in Harvard, he exploits his finances and contacts to popularize the website. Charismatic Napster founder, Sean Parker, uses his contacts to get plum-VC contacts to pump in funds to facebook, putting Saverin in the back-foot. Mark chooses to betray his friend where it hurts most, liquidating Saverin’s share of stock from 30% to a mere 0.03%. The W-twins and Saverin sue Mark Zuckerberg and get settlement . End of plot.

Mark’s character portrayal is similar to “Big Bang Theory”s Sheldon Cooper – both are obsessed with the field they are in, consider the quest for knowledge to be infinitely superior to monetary advantages, have a cocky know-it-all attitude, a tendency to show off their extended English vocabulary. Jealousy plays a role in destroying a genuine relationship. But he shows guilt and a touch of remorse, when Sean Parker taunts Saverin, and when later into the night Parker gets himself into a police-drug-bust; then you see a spark of emotion- absent in him throughout the movie.

The humor is smart, the direction slick. The cool start-up culture, with its “jacked-in” coders, work hard party harder is showcased really well here. Loved the idea of recruiting coders through the tequila shot-stop-code-shot method ! It is a culture that states brilliance is at its creative best when the subject is in a high – we’ve seen that in Swordfish; the IITians I’ve come across partied harder into the night before a toughie quiz.

Some people!

Picture sources: onlinemovieshut.com, cheri-movie.com

Dumbeldore’s Will The quest for cheating Death
 The lovely Doe Patronus

Being an avid fan of the HP series, managed to plonk get ourselves into the 1st “night” show of the movie release. And what a ride!

The movie sticks pretty much to the book, trimming off parts which are really trivial. Except for Harry’s 17th Birthday present piece!  The main plot revolves around Harry, his quest to find and destroy the Horcruxes which keep Voldemort alive, with the support of Ron and Hermione. The difference between this book and the rest of the books is the setting. While others were in the safety and shelter of Hogwarts, with Dumbeldore’s (shall refer to him as D in the post) death in the 6th series, the school becomes vulnerable. As Harry tries to come to terms with the task left to him by his mentor, he realizes how little he knew about him. Anger at D, frustration and in constant danger, the limits of friendship of the trio is severely tested. Death, injury and disappearance of dear friends haunt them. It is a period that forces them to make decisions even adults would find difficult to make, emerging as true members of the brave Gryffindor house. Needling through the plot is the discovery of the Deathly Hallows, 3 in number, giving the possessor mastery over Death.

Moving at a good pace, the uncovering of mystery after mystery is well done. While people might argue that the camping scenes were a slight drag, the time given was just right – gave sufficient buildup to the “Eureka” moments and Ron’s defection. The initial chase scene from the Dudley’s to the safe house was not as well-executed as the book-description- confusing actually! The special effects are awesome – Patronuses and Dementors in action are the best! Among the actors, Rupert Grint playing Ron Weasley bested Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) in his portrayal of a loyal, but jealous-of-a-possible-Harry-Hermione-affair friend. Emma Watson’s Hermione is torn between staying with a friend versus declaring her affection for Ron, an act that is managed very well! Voldemort isn’t as menacing as the book makes him out to be :| Have felt that ever since the Goblet-of-Fire movie release. He just does not give me the creeps :| Guess the slit-eyes cant convey the look-that-chills-the-bones😐

Being a huge book with a number of sub-plots, there was a necessity to split the movie to stay true to the essence of the written novel. The split was well judged-Dobby’s saddeningly brave death, saving his friends; with Voldemort acquiring the Elder wand by desecrating D’s resting place.

To quote from knoxnews’s Teen review of the movie:

“For a generation of kids like us who are now entering the real world along with our three heroes, this is our story. Because when you look past the captivating magic and scenery, the essence of Harry Potter lies in the fact that the characters are so real, and this film does a perfect job of reminding us of that foundation of humanity before we are swept up into the riveting battle of good vs. evil that will at last end this adored series.”

And you end up trying a few spells as well – Expecto Patronum! Obliviate! Accio Key/Hair brush! Stupefy! Expelleramus!  Reducto!Lumos!

Wish I was a Magical Muggle 😐

Pictures source: www.harrypotter.com

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