2016 Reading Challenge – Progress so far

As 2016 started I set out with a goal – read 24 books in this year. That’s about two a month – not that a difficult goal to achieve. Main reason for me to set this goal was to get back to regular reading. There were times I used to read more than two books in a week. But just similar to cycling and running goals for the year, this one too fell flat on it’s face. Nine months gone, here I’m with only 6 books read. That is way too short of my initial goal. With three months left I’m lowering the bar to 10 – that leaves me another 4 books to read in ninety odd days. Below is the list of the books I have read so far.

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As the name says ‘Rakshas’ is a thriller by Piyush Jha set in Mumbai about a serial killer. Himalaya Bound by Michael Benanav takes us into the unknown nomadic life of Van Gujjars in Uttarakhand. ನನ್ನ ತಮ್ಮ ಶಂಕರ (Nanna Tamma Shankara) is a biography of Shankar Nag, a well known Kannada film actor, director & screenwriter by his elder brother Anant Nag (another legend in the Kannada film industry).

Celebrate the games, Play Bold

20th September 2014, that was the day I ran my first race. A 10 KMs run on the banks of river Kaveri. It had been only couple of months 2 years ago I had started running regularly. I wanted to check how much I have progressed. On that overcast Saturday morning I set out to run the longest distance I had ever attempted. When I returned home triumphantly with a gleaming medal around my neck, my little niece was more happy than me seeing that medal. "Did you win? Were you first?" pat came the questions from here. It was a bigger task to explain to her about preparation and participation than worrying about winning or losing. When I saw Virat Kohli featured in the 'Made of Bold' video by Royal Challenge Sports Drink, I couldn't help but think about my efforts and preparation I put in for my first ever 10K I ran two years ago.

playbold

Those efforts are no where when we compare to these amazing guys who represent India at international level. The 'Made of Bold' video is an ode to these wonderful athletes, their bold spirit and attitude. In a cricket crazy country like India, it is not easy to be a sportsman in other sports. We have athletes participating in many events – Gymnastics, Rowing, Boxing, Wrestling and not to forget Field Hockey (in attempt to bring back the glory days). Defying all the odds, sweating out day in and day out, with a never give-up attitude, they have already created history in qualifying to the event. It was not an easy path for each of them – their daily struggle narrate bold stories. A marathoner from a small tribal village in Kerala up against the mighty Kenyans and Ethiopians, a gymnast who has the credit of being the one only five in the world to perform the deadliest vaults in Gymnastics, a rower from a draft stricken village from Maharashtra – the stories are endless.

Many of our athletes have come very close to winning a medal for our country in the past and there will be many more gritting it out. As we wait in anticipation of winning medals for out country, you guys have already won our hearts. Here is a big cheer for you guys – go out there and play bold.

#PlayBOLD

A Day Out with Indiblogger and Flipkart

The day started a bit early than the previous few Saturdays. An early morning ride took me to Manfo Mist resort near Bannerugatta where I was one of the 100+ bloggers to be there to experience #FlipkartOutdoors. When I got to know about the #FlipkartOutdoors IndiBlogger Meet by Shrinidhi, I was grinning like a kid who got hold of a bowl of candies. If you ever have a glance at my wishlist, the top of the list goes like this – a GPS watch for my running & cycling, an action camera to capture all my antiques during cycling & trekking and a wireless bluetooth headphone to keep me company during my long distance running. The list goes on with more and more items that are linked to outdoor activities. After ogling for ages at these products on online portals many times, it was a perfect chance to try them out and experience these products.

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Polaroid Cube posing as a monkey

Post breakfast arranged at the resort, all the bloggers were divided into 7 groups, so that it will be easy for us to visit each of the stalls to have a glimpse of the products that were on display & experience them. The brands present that day were Garmin, Sony Action Cam, Samsung, Altec Lansing, Polaroid Cube, Coleman and Red Chief shoes. As a team we moved from one stall to another, experiencing the products. Our first stop was at Coleman camping and outdoor gears. A wide range of products were on display – tents, coolers, folding chairs, compass, hydration bottles and many more. I made a mental note to place an order for a set of stretch cords or the bungee cords – that come in handy to pack my bag during my cycling adventures. And guess what? I won the same product as part of one of the team activity.

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Sony Action Camera

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Garmin’s Vivofit

Next stop was at Altec Lansing – while everyone was busy with checking the waterproof speakers, I found one of those in my wish list – the Bluetooth Active Earbuds Headphones. I tried them on, they fit in very nicely and didn’t come out even after jumping up & down & swaying my head wildly. Unfortunately I couldn’t test the sound quality as the earbuds were not charged. From the speakers we moved to Red Chief shoes. We had a wide range of all-purpose shoes in front of us. A quick demo of the shoes, we moved to Sony stall. Since one product per team was handed over to try out for the next half day – I volunteered to try the Sony Action Cam with a head-mount. I did manage to perform a crash test of the Sony Action Cam during the artificial wall climbing. It fell down from a height of about 15 feet & successfully cleared the crash test with flying colours.

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Our next pit stop was at Polaroid Cube – a small & cute action camera. This one is a mini cube sized camera with very limited controls. Checkout Shrinidhi’s comparison & review of the Action Cameras. I spent a relatively short time at the Samsung Gear stall as I’m not that fan of smart watches. But to compensate that I spent quite a lot of time with the Garmin GPS watches. Most of those time was again spent with a Forerunner 920XT and a Fenix 3 in each hand – kind of making up my mind on which one to buy. After the demos, we explored the resort to complete the assigned activities – Water Zorbing, Artificial wall climb (I did win Flipkart gift voucher for successfully climbing the wall, Yay!), Zip line, Land Zorbing, Rope ladder climb and more. Post lunch, we were regrouped into smaller teams for a game of Paint Ball. It was a day well spent with wonderful people & bloggers around.

Tata Sky+ launches 'Transfer'

When I saw the TV commercial of the new ‘Tata Sky+ Transfer’, I couldn’t help but check more features of the latest offer. Being a Tata Sky subscriber for more than four years (I’ve the Tata Sky HD+ connection), I wanted to check what more they have on offer. To say it in one line – Tata Sky+ Transfer is a Personal Video Recorder along with additional features of streaming and transferring the recorded content to your smart phones/tablets for offline watching.

Let’s have a detailed look of what’s on offer:

  • Buy a new box – existing customers have to buy a new box for the transfer feature – existing HD box do not support Transfer
  • Comes with 500GB disk space to record TV shows
  • No hassles of cables – Wireless data transfer via Wifi
  • Tata Sky Mobile app has to be installed on the smartphones/tablets to transfer/stream content
  • Supports both Android and iOS based devices
  • A maximum of 2 devices can be setup to transfer data from the box
  • Either stream the recorded content or transfer the content to devices for offline watching
  • No hassles of your phone running out of memory as transferred content gets deleted automatically after 48 hours
  • You can pause, forward & rewind the videos like you are watching any video on your device
  • No limit on the number of times the video can be viewed
  • 1080i high definition picture quality
  • 16:9 Wide aspect ratio
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports – one on the rear and the other on ride side
  • Ethernet port
  • Option to record TV program series
  • Video on demand

Few observations that are not on the positive side:

  • There is no support for Windowos devices yet
  • Though the picture quality is 1080i on the TV, when transferred onto the devices it’ll only be 444 x 224
  • The Transfer box has to process the video before it can be transferred. This preparation is a real time process – that means if you want to copy a one hour program, you need to wait for one hour. But the transfer time is fairly quick – a 30 minutes video should be copied in 5-6 minutes time based on availability the Wifi bandwidth
  • The app on your device has to be running during the duration of transfer – minimizing or closing the app will cancel the transfer
  • Though auto delete feature is good to maintain device memory, in case if you forget watching a video you’ve to transfer the data again

Overall the new Tata Sky+ Transfer feature is an interesting one. You don’t have to be in the house in front of your TV to catch your favourite TV show. I would use my daily commute time to work to catch up all my TV shows or movies instead. If you are someone who is shift from a regular cable connection to a Direct to Home connection, check the Tata Sky+ Transfer box once.

To answer your questions check the FAQ page on Tata Sky website

Kill the odour with 'AmbiPur Air Effects'

Monsoon, one of the most loved seasons, evokes a wide variety of emotions and memories. As I sip a hot cup of coffee, the mind runs in reverse going into a journey full of memories. The very recent cycling trip in Western ghats, those motorbike rides in the rain to Goa and Coorg few years ago, getting drenched & coming back home from school to listen to wonderful sahsranama from mom. Just when I float with memories, I am abruptly brought back to present. It is almost like a war cry – someone runs upstairs to get back all the washed clothes and any rice/grains spread out in the Sun, another one rushes to close the windows. Within no time the entire house is decorated with half-dried clothes. With all the doors and windows shut (thanks to the rain and cold), the wet clothes start their magic. The pungent smell which keep revolving within the four walls is good enough to make every one run out of the house. This is one of the less enjoyable magic of monsoon that repeats every year. As an added bonus we have an inclusion of my baby daughter this year which increases the laundry size many-fold. Thanks to Blogadda, I am better prepared this year to wage a war with the help of Ambi Pur Air Effects (Blossom & Breeze)’. That means no more embarrassments when the guests arrive.

Ambi Pur Air Effects - Blossom and Breeze
Ambi Pur Air Effects – Blossom and Breeze

Right below the fragrance label, there is this bold black words which says ‘Eliminates Odours and Freshens the Air’. The ‘Blossoms and Breeze’ does exactly the same. The air freshener very mild and pleasant. Spray it few times around the room, wait for few seconds for the freshener to spread around. Within seconds the entire room will be filled with pleasant smell and the few sprays is enough for the fragrance to linger around for two to three hours. We have had used other room fresheners earlier, but almost all of them were either too artificial or too strong. But the Ambi Pur air effects comes with natural smell and feels as if the room is spread out with natural flowers all around. I had gone out when this air freshener was used first time at my home. When I got back in I thought there was a fresh bouquet only to be proved wrong that it was the Blossoms & Breeze. Overall it is a very good air freshener at an affordable price. Most likely this Blossom and Breeze can is going to be a permanent air freshener at my home (unless I get hooked up with other fragrances by Ambi Pur Air effects).

Note: I am blogging for #SmellyToSmiley activity at BlogAdda.com in association with Ambi Pur

Beware! Sitemeter is injecting ads into your blog

Do you have Sitemeter on your blog to keep track of the visitors? If yes, time for you to get rid of it immediately. It is redirecting your visitors to ads without your permission.

Back then when I was on Blogspot, there was no in-built analytics available to capture the visitor information. After trying out couple of site counters I settled with Sitemeter. As I moved from Blogspot to WordPress, I decided to retain the Sitemeter so as to keep count of total visitors and page loads. After the migration I started using WordPress Stats and then the Jetpack plugin along with Sitemeter. As on old habit I go through my blog stats once in a while just to check how my blogs are faring. And on one of those days where I was going through the blog stats, I observed that there was a higher number of outgoing link hits for the same domain – vindicosuite.com. My initial impression was that it might be from one of the comments left out by my visitors. But as the days went past, the number of hits kept on going up and every time the complete URL was different. Enough information to raise suspicion and I resorted to Google. It didn’t take much time to find out that Sitemeter is redirecting the visitors via ad pages (Sources here and here).

sitemeterI’m running Sitemeter counter on my blog. What should I do?
I would recommend you to remove the complete code which you have placed on the blog template. If you are on WordPress, use Jetpack instead and for Blogspot you’ve got in built stats information.

Book: Ramayana, The Game of Life – Shattered Dreams

Ramayana, The Game of Life – Shattered Dreams by Shubh Vilas
Ramayana, The Game of Life – Shattered Dreams by Shubh Vilas

Recently I got hold of the book ‘Ramayana, The Game of Life – Shattered Dreams’ by Shubh Vilas. ‘Shattered Dreams’ is the second book in the ‘Ramayana The Game of Life’ series, after ‘Rise of the Sun Prince’. The epic Ramayana never seizes to amaze me every time I read, listen to the stories or watch it in a video format. Different styles of narrating the stories, from different point of views, the sub-plots and sub stories – I can reread, listen again or watch it again any number of times. So with that curiosity of finding something new, I decided to read ‘Shattered Dreams’ even though I had not read the first part.

‘Shattered Dreams’, the title of the book gives a bit of hint of the part of Ramayana covered in this book. Shattering everyone’s dreams except two (Manthara and Kaikeyi) in Ayodhya, the book is an emotional journey. The book starts with Dasharatha deciding to crown his eldest son Rama as the next king as he feels unfit to rule the kingdom because of his old-age. The first chapter describes about Dasharatha’s announcement of coronation of Rama and eventual celebrations and preparations. The second chapter deviates from the happening place of Ayodhya to Ravana, talking about his growth in terms of power and defeating the kings wide & far. The next subsequent chapters come back to Ayodhya where the world turns upside down. With Manthara’s evil plan succeeding, emotions change from happy & fun to dark & sad. This second book concludes with Rama going deep into Dandakaranya along with Seeta and Lakshmana, after turning away Bharata and rest of the family to reconsider his decision of exile.

Shattered Dreams is not like a regular novel which can be finished in one go. As the story progresses, there are many sub-stories with hidden messages in them. Plus the footnotes gives a detailed explanation on different life lessons which we can incorporate on our daily life. Shubha Vilas has done a commendable job in terms of this gem of an information.

Do I recommend this book to others? It depends on who the reader is. If you are someone who is reading Ramayana for the first time or would like to read it as regular novel in one go, then I don’t recommend this book for you. You will feel the narration a bit slow and stretched, with lots of details in each and every scene. But if you have read or know Ramayana and would like to take away something new and/or want to practice it, this book is for you. Treat this book as a daily dose of medication, take in bit by bit and enjoy the tidbits.

As per the Indian mythology, do you know how the peacock got those colourful feathers? From whom & why? Read the book to get to know about it. 🙂

Note: This review is a part of the Book Review Program by BlogAdda.

Interested in reading my take on few more books? Click here to read them.

The Strava Artists II

Little did I know I was bumping into a tip of iceberg when I wrote about the Strava artists couple of months ago. Tip of the iceberg, that’s what I can say my earlier post is. I realized I’ve hit a jackpot when Bret Lobree shared a whole lot of Strava art. Here you go, bring you a second set of Strava artists.
Space Invader by Jeremy Thorsness (http://www.strava.com/segments/6467914)

Space Invader
Space Invader

7-11 by Bret Lobree (http://www.strava.com/activities/66408041 – created on July 11th)
7-11
7-11

One more by Bret Lobree – Nyan Cat (http://www.strava.com/activities/99770600)
Nyan Cat
Nyan Cat

This is how Chris Phipps wishes Happy Halloween (http://www.strava.com/activities/92459614)
Happy Halloween
Happy Halloween

And Bret responds with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the dead) (http://www.strava.com/activities/92569030)
Day of the dead
Day of the dead

And finally a cup cake by Bret (http://www.strava.com/activities/96028009)
Cup cake
Cup cake

Finally it will be unfair if I don’t mention above Bret here. He is the current San Francisco Strava Ambassador and if that doesn’t make you rise your eyebrow, he has ridden on all the roads, I repeat *ALL* the roads of San Fransisco city! Checkout his Tumblr page detailing his rides – http://rideallofsf.tumblr.com.
There were a lot more Strava art, but I decided to pick only better ones. Do you have done any artwork on two-wheels? Or have any plans to do one? Give me a shout. 🙂

Prajavani uses a photo without permission

Update 6 (Final – 25-Nov 12:30PM): Finally I’ve received a cheque from The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd. Amount mentioned in the cheque is very nominal – probably that’s the amount they pay for regular contributions. Happy with how this incident went & thanks everyone for all the help and support.

Update 5 (9-Nov 04:00PM): As committed, Prajavani has printed a correction in today’s weekly supplement saying the photographer’s name was missed out in last week’s article. Image here.

Update 4 (3-Nov 10:00PM): Based on the phone discussions, I realised the weekly supplement in charge has not seen my FB posts & tweets – though Prajavani was tagged in both the places. I sent him a detailed mail with links to FB, twitter & this post mentioning that “I’ll keep updating this post with the updates based on the progress until the issue is brought to a logical closure.”

Update 3 (3-Nov 12:30PM): Managed to reach the person in charge on 3rd attempt. Even before I could complete my story, he apologized for not seeking permission. He has offered to send me a compensation for the photo – I didn’t discuss/ask the amount, probably a nominal royalty paid. As for the correction in next week’s article about mentioning the credits – he mentioned he has to check with the editor, no commitment on this.

Update 2 (3-Nov 11:50AM): I left a comment on the online article mentioning that photo has been used without my consent. And now I see that the comment is promptly deleted by the admin! Way to go Prajavani!

Update 1 (3-Nov 11:00AM): Tried reaching the person in charge of the weekly supplement. First attempt at 10:40AM – line busy. Second attempt at 11AM – he is not available at his desk. I’ve given my contact number to the person who received the call explaining the situation.

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Yesterday’s daily routine of flipping through the news paper was delayed to the evening as I was out of town for couple of days & returned only in the evening. When I moved to the Sunday supplement of Prajavani, an article (specifically a photo in that article) caught my attention – a statue of Nandi at the top of Shivagange hill. I opened my blog post which I had written in Jun 2006 with few photos – my hunch was correct. I spent the next 20 minutes to compare both the photos to be certain that it indeed was my photo. The photo used in the column ‘Mareyali hyanga’ (ಮರೆಯಲಿ ಹ್ಯಾಂಗ) written by Pavitra Shetty was mine.

With no contacts on how to proceed, I shared this information on my Facebook page & also on twitter, and I’ve got contact details of the weekly supplement’s person in charge. I’m planning to call them sometime later today to discuss on this matter.

What am I expecting from them:
* Compensation for the photo that was used without my permission
* A correction in next week’s article – mentioning the photo credits

Photo of the weekly supplement:
Prajavani - photo used without permission
Screen-grab of the Prajavani’s article:
Prajavani
Screenshot from my travel blog – click on the image to go to the page:
payaniga