Kindling in new times

As much as I love to read, I love buying books in advance more. If I read about a book online (Flavorwire and Buzzfeed), or receive a recommendation from a friend, I end up buying the book for a later read. It reached a point that I had used up all my shelves, racks and cupboard space for books. There were thinly veiled threats from the mother to do something nasty to the overflowing books.

Even after giving away some of my books, I still had many books left. Having read ebooks before, the transition seemed to be the natural conclusion. For a brief amount of time I did use my laptop for it, but long runs made it hard on the eye. It seemed that I would either have to cut down on the books future-me would purchase. A post by The Sister and another by a dear friend, made me smack my head real hard. A Kindle E-reader was the solution to all my woes.

While it was a simple solution, I tried to wait for some time to check if I realllllly wanted to buy one. The want to buy one persisted, but I would find some excuse or another to not end up with one. I even passed through 2 sales on Amazon without a purchase. When the year end was near, and the final sale was on, I couldn’t let the opportunity sleep. 2014 ended with the purchase of a Kindle Paperwhite and a beautiful brown cover

mykindle
My Kindle Paperwhite
Kindle with cover closed
Kindle with the cover closed

The cover flips open to also become a stand so that I don’t have to hold the kindle when I am reading. The strap goes on the reverse, and gives the option to slide my hand in it and hold should I want to.

Propped up
Propped up

This is going to be so much fun.

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Dear Bindu kun & Pixie

Dear Bindu kun,

I wrote a letter to you some time ago, because I had a brand new fountain pen and ink flowed from it so smoothly that I couldn’t help but write. Now that I am doing this blog challenge, I cannot help but write this as well.

We met as fellow members of a book group which I was inducted in to by my lovely sister after I had sent her a book. There are so many ways it could have not happened. It could have been a different book, or sent a different time, or perhaps she could have graduated to a Kindle sooner, or might have missed out her morning tea that day, but certain set of events took place in the right order, with the right people for me to have found you.

I have said this before, and I will say it again that I am in awe of you. How you are able to manage work, a family, consuming books with that voracious appetite of yours, and cook is beyond me at times. Particularly when I struggle with something like making Maggi on certain work days. While we are on the topic of food, the pictures of your weekend kitchen are just not fair. Nuh uh. How do you expect us to sit on this side of the screen, and look at all the delicious cakes you bake, and stews you simmer? The only silver lining is that we don’t have it as tough as your immediate neighbors who even have to manage with sounds and aroma of the food being prepared. Well boo-hooo for them.

Do you know that you’re the person who’ sent me the most number of books? I liked the irony of you having sent American Gods and Religion for Atheists together 😛 . Oh and the cake and cookies you sent around new year’s were absolutely yum. One of the few rare moments that my friends or colleagues were explicitly forbidden (and I saw to it) from having even a single bite of the load. I had it all for myself. My precious.

When we do meet, I am looking forward to your cooking the most. I want to take in the sights and sounds of you getting about to making food. I have always believed that cooking for someone, is converting your thoughts and feelings for them into something physical, and then sharing it with them. I am sure I would end up licking something shamelessly 😀

Thank you for the food, the books, and the friendship.
Love,

Count Santulan

 

 

Dear Pixie,

For someone who got so involved in naming a rat snake that liked to say hi to the sister of mine, you don’t like the crawlies so much. But they’re so cute, no? Scuttling towards you just to say hi or hug you 😛 . Ok, I will digress from this topic lest you get tempted to want to punch me. Not that you don’t have reasons already 😀

Someday, when I have saved enough money to, I would like to make a trip to your place. I would like to sleep in at your place at least once, so that I can wake up early and kick you awake, or just yank off the covers if I am feeling kind. On second thoughts, I might prod you with a stick instead so that you didn’t kick me when I do wake you up. Or we can let you sleep in peace if you’re willing to bribe me by making Akki roti and hot rasam. Yeah, that should work out real well 😀

You’re another person who’s like family but we haven’t met in the flesh yet. Had we been in the same city, I would be eating a number of meals at your place. Or call in with ice cream at impromptu times, because ice cream.  Then you would tell me off on how so much ice cream is not good for me, and would end up eating half of it so that I don’t have to eat all of it. Such a generous soul you are 😛

But seriously, you’re the person who genuinely cares about people in your life in a manner that is not over bearing, and makes one feel warm from the inside. When you do get here, I can dump a bunch of books at your place for you to read. Personal recommendations from my personal collection, that I think you’d like to read.

Thank you for sending me pictures of the creepy crawlies that you meet on your walks (and in turn creeping out your husband in the process). I promise to treat you to puffs and patisseries when we meet.

Love,

Hrishi

 

 

Written for the 30 Days 30 Letters prompt: A letter to someone you wish you could meet. Other bloggers can add their links to the linky below:


 

Dear Gigi

Dear Gigi,

Before I get down to saying anything else, I must thank you for sending me a copy ‘Of Marriageable Age’. I had spent years looking for it, but was not able to find a copy of it. You cannot imagine the joy opening your package brought me, when I finally held the book in my hands. I haven’t gotten around to re-reading it yet, just like I have not read Hedgehog yet, but I will do so in due time and have full joy in doing so. The fact that chocolates came along made time stop for a moment.

Sometimes it is funny, how facebook affects people. In this case, brought us together via common friends. While we are yet to meet in person, we have spoken so much that it would seem we’ve met so many times before, probably over coffee. You’d love that 😀 . For some reason, it seems so very natural to have developed this level of comfort with you.

You’re such a widely read person, and I understand that I am not the first person to tell you that, and will not be the last. I have a fondness for people who love to read, people who get absorbed in worlds that are not their own, and live the lives of others. It sort of makes you appreciate the things in life you wouldn’t otherwise.  Maybe someday I will get to read what you write. Not write in the book sense of manner, but scribbling and meanderings. They offer a much more insight into what goes in the mind of the writer, or so I think.

Some day, I imagine we will meet over pancakes, with some blueberries maybe. We could follow that up with a visit to the city museum. Remember the pictures that you had shared with me? It has such wonderful sights, and how the light plays with the carvings, shadows and stone playing with each other. I would definitely like to visit your favourite book store, and pick out a book for you. A nice hardback preferably. A book bought without any prior reading upon, except what the cover offers and the wonder of what the pages bring forth.

Perhaps when we meet, it will be like meeting an old friend after a long time. Maybe we will not just be internet friends.

Love,

H

 

Written for the 30 days 30 letters prompt: Your favorite internet friend. Others can add their links to the linky below:

Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour Bookstore

I had ordered Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour Bookstore based on a recommendation I found on Flavorwire. Written by Robin Sloan, this is his first book.

Recession has caused Clay Jannon, a web designer to be out of a paying job. He finds work at Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour book store, run by the titular man. When being screened for the job, Penumbra asks him, “What do you seek in these shelves?” The answer to that will unfold the secret to immortality, which a secret order has been looking for, over the last 500 years. An answer that possibly cannot be found without using the technology and tools at our disposal today.

Clay works the night shift as a clerk at the book store. The customers for the books are few. However there exists a shelves of books at the back of the bookstore (called the Wayback List), which seem to not have been published anywhere else. These books attract a weird base of customers, who from time to time issue the books for their own perusal. While told no to open the books, curiosity gets the better of him, and Clay realizes that these books contain coded text. But Clay doesn’t limit himself to pen and paper like these customers do, and uses his computer to crack the code.
In this process he meets Kat, who works at Google. She dresses in the same tee with a ‘Bam’ on it, is an expert at data visualization, wants to be a Project Manager at work, and is thrilled by the idea of Singularity (where technology and humans become one, a point beyond which we cannot even fathom what lies ahead). Enlisting the help of Kat and a childhood friend Neel Shah (who is start up owner that deals with computer generated 3D human bodies, but predominantly breasts), they approach Penumbra with the solution.

Instead of being mad, he is glad that they cracked it to the point of being impressed at their use of modern technology with ease. Penumbra however, disappears the next day. Worried, they form a team (A wizard, a warrior and a rogue) and trace him to New York. They find a symbol similar to the one outside his bookstore at the entrance of the building, which Penumbra tells them is a front for the secret order called the Unbroken Spine. Their objective is to search for the secrets to immortality, clues to which have been left in yet another coded text written by the founder of the order (aptly named as the Founder’s Puzzle).

The symbol for the Unbroken Spine
The symbol for the Unbroken Spine

 

They determine to now solve this puzzle which the Unbroken Spine have failed to do for 500 years in spite of having used some brilliant mathematicians and cryptographers.

The book is an easy read. As a narrator, Clay describes his world in detail. His thoughts and observations are interesting. Take his description of his girlfriend Kat:

“…is a Googler. So, she really is a genius. Also, one of her teeth is chipped in a cute way.”

When she wears the same tee shirt when she meets him the next day, he thinks that “(a) she slept in it, (b) she owns several identical t-shirts, or (c) she’s a cartoon character — all of which are appealing alternatives.”

There are more layers to the book than just the decoding of this text. There is an underlying current about the transition from old to new, from traditional methods to new found. This is exemplified in the form of books and e-readers. There is a time when even Penumbra wonders in awe at the Kindle and other e-readers, as to how volumes and shelves of books condense into one hand held device.

I have only two grievances with the book. The primary one, as with most books that I have loved is that the book feels too small. I want more of it, where the story arcs are longer and drawn out. This is something, I wouldn’t hold against the author. He does the story justice in 300 pages. The second grievance is that the adventure feels too easy. It’s not that it has not been described well, or isn’t intriguing and involving; it’s just that when the characters face obstacles, they are able to overcome them with some stroke of luck, or a specific skillset/resource one of their friends has.

The book is a treasure trove for book lovers. There are many wonderful lines that would make readers smile with joy, probably a reflection of Sloan’s own love for reading. I will leave you with some such lines.

 

“Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines — it’s hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.”

“I’ve never listened to an audiobook before, and I have to say it’s a totally different experience. When you read a book, the story definitely takes place in your head. When you listen, it seems to happen in a little cloud all around it, like a fuzzy knit cap pulled down over your eyes”

“…this is exactly the kind of store that makes you want to buy a book about a teenage wizard. This is the kind of store that makes you want to be a teenage wizard.”

“Some of them are working very hard indeed. “What are they doing?” “My boy!” he said, eyebrows raised. As if nothing could be more obvious. “They are reading!”

“A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.”

“He asked <…> Rosemary, why do you love books so much?
And I said, Well, I don’t know <…> I suppose I love them because they’re quiet, and I can take them to the park.”

Front cover of Mr. Penumbra's 24 hour Bookstore
Front cover of Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour Bookstore

Fun and Love

I have been to two high schools for my studies. While I spent lesser time in it, St. Gregorios has been responsible for some of my most memorable experiences, and wonderful learnings. I imagine that this is the speech that I have been invited to speak over there.

 

This is a very interesting feeling, to be on this side of the stage and speaking on the microphone. I have been nudged more than once by a friend when I had dozed off in one such speeches, and called out when a friend saw me eating chocolates or chewing gum. What are friends for, if not to occasionally get you into trouble?

I was asked before being invited back here, to speak on the path of life. Of course non one needed to have gone through the trouble of inviting me. One can never be invited back home, we just walk back in its comforting presence. What better manner to talk about the path of life than to speak through the memories that I cherish of this place, some similar to what you will end up with as well.

One of my most memorable craft classes was the one involving masks and puppets. As the class assignment all of us had to prepare a mask or puppet each. There were no compulsions as to what we had to interpret or portray, or which craft skill we had to use. One would think that in itself the act of mask making would be fun enough, we were told that the kindergarten classes would be grading us. The final class would involve us putting up a team effort to enact stories with our masks and puppets for the KG kids.

The whole idea behind our work changed, and it was as fun for us as the KG kids when the acts were being performed. I don’t remember who was more excited on the final day, the KG kids who were having enjoying the show, or us who were having a wonderful time putting on the act for them. What I am trying to tell here is that if you have to do something, you put in more effort if it is fun, and you enjoy it.

Of all the classes we had, I think the one that I ended up loving the most was Library. I know, library doesn’t have a set curriculum, or something specific to learn like we have in other subjects. But library gave me something that many classes cannot compare to. It gave me the love of reading. While it was never forced that we had to issue a book more than the once per week Library class, a bunch of us ended up issuing books much often. Reading was always encouraged for us. We were taught how to write reviews, and there was pride in one’s review being displayed on the library notice board for others to read.

I remember the discussions we had, students and teachers together. Discussions about the book we had last read, what we thought of it, and the recommendations to the next book. At the height of it, we were issuing books every second day, using the lunch time to change our books from the library. The books would get devoured in the bus on the way back home. Home was no different. Once home work and studies were done with, and dinner eaten; I would be in the bedroom propped with the latest book that I had had issued. Hours could go away on such nights and on holidays to the extent that a person like me would have to be called twice to the lunch table.

I remember when we had been to Bangalore for an inter-school competition, and were on the way back to our accommodation from the event site. We were playing a Harry Potter quiz, and Principal ma’am commented that had we put in half as much effort in our course studies, we would have all been scoring more than 90%.

The idea over here is to find something that you love. The moment you start loving something, you forget the amount of effort you put into things. All that will matter is doing it. Fun and love. These are the two things that I believe you must have, in your path of life.

 

 

Post written as a guest author for the team of Project 365. The prompt was to “You’ve been asked to speak at your high school alma mater — about the path of life. (Whoa.) Draft the speech.”

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Written for day 6 of the A-Z challenge 2014.

Reading

There are advantages of having friends who share your passion for reading and among other things you never run out of goodgreat things to read. Today one such friend Ritu shared an article on facebook (which she was kind enough to tag me in).  It is “Which kind of book reader are you?” by the Atlantic Wire. The article goes on to describe different types of readers and their reading habits. Are you the one who will purchase books and then end up with a backlog or are the one who has them only to display them? And so on…  What about me, do you ask? (Well you are reading this, and should you continue to read this entry I gather you are interested in it.)
I have picked up books for various reasons. Quite a few of these books are in my cupboard because Landmark (the book store) is exceedingly close to my apartment. So every few days I find myself strolling in to the store because I ran out of stationery supplies, or need something for work, or am drawn to the large number of books there.  If there is a sale I pick up some of the books I have been wanting to read and since there’s a neat deal I stock them in my cupboard. Sometimes it is because I visit the store out of boredom or habit, and flipping through the books I find something that amuses or touches me. Then of course there are the recommendations from friends.
This has lead to a huge backlog of reading for me. Books that have been read for only a few pages before they were put on the table and then inside the dark forbidding chambers of my cupboard because I got busy with something, or found something else to read. Evil, I know. This is not just fiction but books on engineering and science that I picked up because I enjoyed reading about the subject, some management books that I refer when work gets boring and philosophy for my desire to study more upon it.
Right now I am reading ‘Krishna Key’ because I got it for review (yeay) from Blogadda.com. Since I am to post a review on it for receiving said book, ‘Fifty shades darker’ has been put on hold along (because I enjoyed reading ‘Fifty shades of Grey’, and wanted to continue the story). There is also ‘The Toyota Way’ which I am reading to learn different approaches that I can use at work. There is ‘God is not Great’ lying on the table as well which I had picked for light reading (and mom got scandalized).
Then there are a select few unique books that have not been completed for particular reasons. I received ‘The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest’ as a gift from Ishaan Lalit, and I read the first three chapters before I felt that there was too much a back story being referred to. Wikipedia enlightened me with the fact that since it is book 3 of a trilogy I got the feeling of missing the story. Although I thought the story would be revealed in detailed flashbacks, I have kept it aside for after I finish its chronological predecessors. There is ‘Love, Loss and Acceptance’ by Shail Di which I am keeping aside for reading when I can do its verses justice.  And finally there is Thermodynamics because I can’t wrap my head around the change in heat of the room when an air conditioner is turned on while a draft exists on the other side of the room. The AC is on, it is cooler, I am thankful, please get lost. Maybe It has also to do with the idea that I flunked the subject the first time I took it in college.
And before signing off for this, I would like to tell you about this little thing I have. I just love caressing and smelling books. Sometimes I pick up books and ruffle through the pages and smell the air as the pages flip by. The rustling noise and the sight of the pages go by is just so wonderful. I don’t do it all my books, but one day the mood strikes to do so and it always manages to make me sigh.