December 31, 2005

My (late) Simoqin review

Simoqin Prophecies cover

Read this and this first… Mine’s going to be really short.

This really is a funny book. If you’re a fan of SFF, you won’t be able to stop laughing while you read it.

I loved the parody of all things people are too inclined to take seriously. There are different kinds of humour—this book is the kind that makes you smirk in a knowing, superior manner. It’s a sort of inside joke that bibliophiles appreciate.

The plot’s OK-ish. The ending didn’t seem to fit well with the book. Minor annoyances these, don’t really spoil the fun of reading the book.

Obligatory quotes follow.

The Vertical Sea had been created long, long ago, when magic was young and wild in the world. Some well-meaning prophet, as the legend goes, had tried to part the seas to let his people cross southwards from Elaken to unknown lands across the southern seas. The immensely powerful charm he had used had worked beyond his wildest expectations. Unfortunately, however, he had been pointing his staff in the wrong direction. He had created a vast passage, not southwards to the unknown world but right across the world in a great circle…

‘I have heard of the sword of Raka, of course, but do you think that this is the best possible sword for Simoqin’s Hero? I mean, it doesn’t even have a name. And magic swords should have names.’
‘In the east, we do not name our swords—we consider it silly.’

Obligatory year-end’s list

Some books I really liked reading this year, in the order I read them:

  • Heroes Die
  • Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town
  • Of Human Bondage
  • An Artist of the Floating World
  • Blade of Tyshalle
  • Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  • Foucault’s Pendulum
  • The Simoqin Prophecies
  • Shogun

Actually these are only in the last 7 months or so, had not been keeping track of stuff I read before that. I’ve got a pathetic memory—I remember which books I’ve read, but can’t remember when or where.

Huh, so I guess I’ll just have to log other stuff too—movies I’ve seen and the such.

I’m too lazy to go through a year’s worth of archives and list out all the good posts. Listing the comments would be even more tedious. So will not do that.

Can’t really think of other stuff to list—a first for me. Hey, just realized I’m not as much as pedant I thought I was. The year-end was actually useful, I’m shocked.

C’ya next year, or later today if I get really bored and start posting again.

December 28, 2005

I’ve reddit.

Reddit is my new favourite source of linksnews. Seems easier to keep track of new stuff via reddit compared to a lot of other sites I’ve used. del.icio.us popular was useful for a while, but not so much now. I still keep visiting over there, but not as compulsively as before.

Both sites serve different purposes to me. Delicious is a way to keep track of links I like, and to discover new pages—but only when I’m searching for something in particular. But mainly to store and manage my personal hoard of links.

Reddit helps me stay up-to-date on current going-ons; and the links that show up on the home page are surprisingly suited to my taste. It has a simple system for moderation, just tell it whether you like an item or don’t. Whatever people like turns up on the front page, and anything dumb is modded down to oblivion.

Also, there’s a recommendations engine that works on-and-off. As you keep voting for stories, you’re training a filter, which gives you personalized news. Have found a lot of good stuff in the last few days via reddit, hence the evangelism.

December 24, 2005

The Dirk Gently series

Just read & by DNA. Yes, I ordered them off Sify. No I’m not gonna blog about each and every book purchase. Just saying that I got most of what I was planning to, that’s all. Most, not all. Seems simpler to write about books after I’ve read them, instead of before.

Dirk Gently is a holistic detective, and believes in “the fundamental interconnectedness of all things”. Only DNA could come up with him, and no one can write it better.

The first book deals with the fate of mankind, with time travel, with the start of time itself, and with Samuel Taylor Coleridge (poet). Note: need to read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubala Khan later.

The next book deals with an Act of God. More specifically, an Act by a specific God. Yes, the Gods do walk amongst us. It takes us to Valhalla and back. And so on.

Can’t find a fault actually with the books, so have been obsessing about what to write. Somehow need to read them again, just to clear my head and form a coherent opinion. But haven’t got the time, there’s so much to read. Will probably start re-reading some of the stuff I’ve speed-read when college starts again.

Will just quote stuff for now, maybe I’ll re-do the post later on.

From Dirk Gently:

“The Electric Monk was a labour saving device, like a dishwasher or a video recorder. Dishwashers washed tedious dishes for you, thus saving you the bother of washing them yourself, video recorders watched tedious television for you, thus saving you the bother of looking at it yourself; Electric Monks believed things for you, thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe.”

“Even the sceptical mind must be prepared to accept the unacceptable when there is no alternative. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.”

And from The Long Dark…:

“It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the phrase, ‘as pretty as an airport.’ Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly. Some attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of a special effort.”

“The reason why so many sects hang around airports looking for converts: they know that people there are at their most vulnerable and perplexed, and ready to accept any kind of guidance.”

“It was his subconscious which told him this—that infuriating part of a person’s brain which never responds to interrogation, merely gives little meaningful nudges and then sits humming quietly to itself, saying nothing.”

Ciao, I’m off reading Shōgun.

December 21, 2005

Searching stats redux

OK, Google’s made by day by adding trends to Personalized Search. I was thinking about scraping together the stats manually for a few days.

Without further ado, some nice graphs for y’all to look at.

First off, monthly stats. Nothing particularly illuminating over here.

Now, when you get down to daily searches, things get a little more illuminating. It’s got a nice rhythm, and here’s proof that I don’t like Mondays.

Things get even more interesting in the hourly stats. For the life of me, I can’t figure out the dip in searches from 5 to 7 pm. Must be my sleeping after coming back from college or something.

Oh, and BTW, the search total’s up to 3461.

December 18, 2005

Score!

So I went around to pick up a few books yesterday…

At Strand:

Then though that I’d better check whether the streets are as good as they used to be. Due to a stupid law, the book-lover’s paradise at Fort had turned into a pathetic mockery of its former self. Hey, don’t mind the heavy-handed prose, I’m still pissed at those bastards.

The place’s still pretty barren, but there was one guy there who had a great collection of books. So I bought:

Whew. Carrying all those books is hard on the hands, especially if you’re still feeling a little weak from all the medication you’ve taken (just in case). A few of those were really hefty.

The Shakespeare book was a real find—a traditional red-leather bound edition that’s practically in pristine condition. And with come colour illustrations! Only for 250 bucks! Gotta calm down! It’s all in the original verse, no translations. More fun really, have read most of the ‘abridged’ versions of the plays anyway. You just don’t let a book like this pass by.

I’ve wanted to get my hands on The Historian for some time; it’s considered a classic already. A friend’s read it, and loved it.

Aristotle is bound to be boring as hell, but I wanted to give it a try. After reading Heller’s Picture This, and Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainece, I’ve got to read Aristotle.

The Joyce book was also a nice find. I liked Dubliners, and if I like this one too, I just may gather my courage to give Ulysses another shot.

Shōgun was just a lucky find—I hadn’t heard of the book before and just picked it up on impulse as I really liked the last book I read about Japanese culture. After googling it, I couldn’t be happier with my choice.

I’ve read Rice, but I didn’t own any of her books. And I really liked the first three books of The Vampire Chronicles. The rest not so much…

The guy also had Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul—which I passed up as it was a hard-bound edition for which he was asking 300 bucks, and I was fresh out of money. Also, I thought at the moment that I’d have to read Dirk Gently first, but now I realize that it was a sweet deal. I’m gonna buy those two books anyway, and now I’ll end up spending more money on a crappy paper-back.

Plus I forgot the order of Thomas Harris’ books; though it was Red Dragon, Hannibal and then Silence of the Lambs. Crap, now I’ll have to wait till I complete the set before reading—I won’t have the patience otherwise.

Didn’t post anything yesterday as was busy reading Simoqin (a whole different story, expect a post if I’m up to it). Now to decide what to buy online—I hadn’t expected to get anything cheaply this time (read second-hand), so I saved up a lot more. More good stuff, I’m sure.

Should probably stop writing now, just finding links for all those books will take me half-an-hour.

December 15, 2005

Over for now.

The 7th semester’s officially ended. Only one more to go, and then it’s time to see whether spending all this money on engineering was of any use.

Today’s last exam was terrible. I just hope that I reach 40 (the passing marks) somehow, but really am not to optimistic this time. The paper was quite easy really, I just didn’t do well.

I’ve been sick for the last three days. It started with a minor throat infection and today it’s a full-blown attack on my body by those damn germs. I’m dead-tired after taking some antibiotics, and I’ve got a head-ache that makes me want to scream. It’s like thousands of tiny screw-drivers are slowing turning my brain to mush. It’s not painful, nothing can be really painful after you’ve been to the dentist a few times. No, it’s persistent, that’s what it is.

From the moment I’ve woken up today till right at this moment, it’s been the same. The same pain at the same places. You just can’t ignore it.

I can’t think straight when confronted with stuff like this. I barely wrote 60-70 marks worth in the exam, and that too not too well. The cat’s out of the bag, nothing more I can do now.

What my down-turn of health does affect right now is my enjoyment of time alone. I’m home-alone till the 20th at least, but if I get worse I don’t know how I’ll cope. I was supposed to go to Strand and pick up some books. Will go tomorrow if I feel up to it.

December 13, 2005

Bengaluru

OK, so let’s recap. Bombay turned to Mumbai. Calcutta to Kolkota. Madras to Chennai. And now Bangalore’s gonna be Bengaluru

I don’t have anything against ‘re-discovering your roots’ and ‘throwing-off imperial shackles’. But I do think that the powers that be can find much more productive uses of their time.

One consolation though—I can’t wait to hear some foreigner pronounce the name. I myself can barely pronounce it properly. And imagine people being “Bengalurud” (or should it be Bengaluru’d?)… Try saying that five times quickly, without taking a breath.

December 12, 2005

Starting off this round.

You know, I should stop all my book-related postings. No one’s interested in hearing about each and every book I buy. But it seems that I just can’t stop talking about my books.

OK, so a couple of months ago I ordered some books off Firstandsecond.com. Shopping online is a sort of mixed experience; you really get to choose what you buy. Put me in a real book shop and I just freeze looking at all the books I’ve not heard about. Online I can select exactly what I want.

On the other hand, buying stuff online can be a pain, especially if you don’t have a credit card. I should get one soon, the nice folks at HDFC keep bugging me with a call every week telling me I’ve been pre-approved for some super-duper gold/silver/platinum card. No amount of my swearing at them seems to make ’em stop.

Plus there’s the small thing about books you buy not being in stock—really annoying. And customer service is an oxymoron.

Enough small talk, lets get to the details. I ordered the following (linking to the Amazon page where I can find a link to the exact book):

I got the first four books today; the fifth is “Unavailable in primary warehouse, being procured from secondary warehouse”; which is their way of saying that they can’t find the damn book. I’ve had a lot of trouble getting this book, and by god I’m gonna get my hands on it some way or another!

The experience of shopping at Firstandsecond.com was almost the same as shopping at Sify. I’m just gonna buy from where the books are cheaper, and Sify seems to be slightly cheaper at present. Also, I get to use their nifty tie-in with HDFC in order to make payments directly online, instead of sending a cheque which is too much work.

December 10, 2005

Book season!

It’s near the end of the exams, and I want me books!

Already ordered a couple at Strand:

Am getting the Bradbury book real cheap—250 bucks when the list price is 700. And I’ve heard nothing buy good things about The Simoqin Prophecies.

And have been deliberating on buying some of these ones from Sify:

  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
  • The Long Dark Tea-time Of The Soul by Douglas Adams
  • Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
  • More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
  • Lest Darkness Fall & Bring The Light by David Drake & L. Sprague de Camp
  • The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Of course this is just the preliminary short-list; and already I’m way over my budget. As you can see, I’m on a sort-of SciFi/Fantasy spree, and that includes checking out the classics in the genré.

Am open to any suggestion you can throw my way. I need to limit my spending this time around to 2000 bucks, so I’ve gotta make many tough decisions.

December 09, 2005

A short intermission

Four exams done with, only one to go. My next subject’s Mobile Computing—and I can’t think of any other subject that’s made an interesting topic as dull as one has. Seems I’ll just clear all the papers I’ve given so far (hopefully); there’s nothing more I can do now about it anyway.

I’ve got a 6-day break before the exam; so it’s four days of fun at least. A sort of mini-break, just before the ‘actual’ break. These are going to be some of the last times I’ll be relatively careless, so I’m planning to spend all these days in a sort of lazy squalor. Ya, that’s the plan.

And to top it all of, my folks are going for a 5-day trip out-of-Mumbai to some religious-place-I-forget-the-name-of, just as I finish my exams. Alone time! The best kind of time there is.

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December 05, 2005

Book stats

I’ve been keeping track of my reading for some time; using a Backpack page to list all the books I’ve read recently. This does not include re-reads.

From June 2005 to November 2005, I’ve read 37 books.

Monthly breakdown is:

  • June: 4 books
  • July: 6 books
  • August: 12 books
  • September: 4 books
  • October: 6 books
  • November: 5 books

The more the merrier.