It's time for NaNoWriMo

Let me be clear upfront – No, I’m not writing a novel and that too 50,000 words in a month.

For those who are not aware, ‘NaNoWriMo‘ (National Novel Writing Month), an annual novel writing project that writers both professional and amateur set themselves a challenge of writing a 50,000 words novel – this happens every November. A total of fifty thousands words – an average of 1667 words per day!

As I said in the first line, I’m not signing up in their website for the challenge. Instead of writing a mammoth book, I’m setting up a smaller target of writing 10,000 words (an average of 333 words per day – which is still a big number for me) – individual posts varying in lengths of about 300 to 600 words per article.

Why am I doing this?
In short – just to get back into writing mode regularly. Well, I’m a notorious lazy fellow when it comes to writing – procrastination takes the front seat every time. I’ve a quite a long list of drafts saved with most of them just the titles written and few having a line or two. Sometimes when I try not to procrastinate and try to write, the mind goes blank. End result – a post just with a title or line or two written.

Plan for the month ahead:
I’ll sit for an hour or how much ever time it takes for me to write the daily quota of 333 words. Though I’m planning to write 10,000 words this month – I’ll publish only posts which I feel they are good to see the light and I’ll spare you from a lot of gibberish. Now that I’ve missed the first day, I’ll average it out in the coming days.

By end of this month, I’ll come up with a summary of how I progressed & other statistics. With 310 words gone with this post, another 9690 to go in the remaining 28 days. 🙂

The Strava Artists

The Big BikeI came across the above ride map on my Facebook timeline. A little bit of searching around I landed on the Strava activity of this mammoth ride done by David Taylor. Considering the planning, preparation, and the actual riding of 341 KMs – it is a commendable job done by David (link to the ride activity – http://www.strava.com/activities/197409492/).
While going through the comments on David’s activity, I came across few more artists who had tried to come up with interesting art via their rides. Below are few of them –
The Elephant by Joris Meijer – http://www.strava.com/activities/164861730/overview
elephant
Why did the chicken cross the road map by Bret Lobree — http://www.strava.com/activities/97090517
chicken
A self portrait by Dave Sundheim — http://www.strava.com/activities/151221419
portrait
A tribute to David Millar by a fan after Millar came back from a broken collarbone to win stage 12 of the Tour de France. — http://www.strava.com/activities/13312938
millar
Have you tried creating any art using with your bike? Or come across any interesting artwork by bikers?

Revamping the blog

After leaving the blog in slumber for a long time, I’m back here. The blog has got a new appearance and new URL too. Though I managed to import all the older blog posts (few of them might be missing some images too!), I might delete most of them in coming days. The reason being, many of those posts were written in haste just for the sake of writing something to keep the blog alive. And some of the posts doesn’t make sense (at least to me!). Though I’m back, I might go back to hibernation as I’ve done that quite often – I’m making a mental note to write at least once a month.
So see you around…

Review: Puma El Ray Future

I had a wonderful opportunity to own and try out the brand new Puma El Rey shoes. But as fate would have it, I received a pair of shoes size 9 instead of size 8.5 (claiming that 8.5 is not a standard size, but special shoes!!). I had no option but to give the shoes to a friend and here are my friend Viral’s words after wearing and using the shoes for few days –

New Puma Shoes are just in! And have to say they are amazing. Stylish, trendy and great to go with casual wear. These Puma shoes have a good style and great color combination, giving it a nice jazzy look. Black And Red combination, love it. Also they are a good fit for your feet. Wherever you go, people cant help but notice them, cause they have a different look which make them wanna look over and over again.

They are really comfortable to work with no matter what you use them for, be it walking, dancing, running and any other activity that comes to your mind. The inner soles in them have a cushion type feel which give your feet better support and comfort. Having a proper soles for steady support is a sure and given benefit for the ankle-rollers, and do believe me because I roll my ankles frequently. But not in these shoes.

What I like about these shoes?
They are smooth and comfortable, easy to wear, easy to handle, have amazing style and looks and also they look great on almost every kind of clothing.

What I don’t like about the shoes?
The outer soles could use some work both in ways of color and structure. The color of the soles seems to hinder with the presentation of the rest of the part. Structurally, They feel a little too high.

So overall, I think the Puma shoes are a good value for money kind of shoes satisfying every possible need you may demand from it, be it being funky, be it being comfy or be it being sturdy. You name it. Good work Puma, love the shoes.

Own a El Rey Future and win a trip to Spain. This review is a part of the product review program at BlogAdda.com

Book: Salvation of a Saint

Book: The Krishna Key
Title: Salvation of a Saint
Author: Keigo Higashino
Pages: 372

I have read/watched quite a few thrillers and murder mysteries. And almost all of them revolves around ‘whodunnit’, but ‘Salvation of a Saint’ comes with a different plot searching for how and why the murder happened. When I read the excerpt of the book ‘Salvation of a Saint’, the blurb made it clear that who committed the murder. By clearly declaring the murderer (though not directly) by end of first chapter, it a quite a challenge to keep the reader glued to the book for the rest of the 370 pages.

Salvation of a Saint is mystery book by the author Keigo Higashino who is a well known mystery writer in Japan. Orginal book is in Japanese titled ‘Seijo no Kyusai‘ and translated to English by Alexander O. Smith. The story starts with the death of Yoshitaka Mashiba, and revolves around his wife Ayane, Detective Kusanagi who is smitten by Ayane even though she is the prime suspect, Detective Utsumi, the young energetic female detective and physics professor Manabu Yukawa (Detective Galileo, as he is referred by the folks at the police department). With Ayane the prime suspect having an ironclad alibi,the police are left with no other clues and staring at a blank wall.

The story unwinds with clues coming out of the closet one by one, but only to hit a road block after while. Take one step forward, then two steps back – that’s how the story revolves. The tussle between Detective Kusanagi who is falling for Ayane and his junior partner Detective Utsumi makes an interesting read with both of them trying to enforce their way of investigation – with Kusanagi not willing accept Ayane as a suspect and Utsumi in a totally opposite direction with her valid logical points. Being watching/reading mysteries and thrillers recently, I tried my part of deducing the mystery, but managed only a part of it and the main part of why and how was beyond my thinking.

The book comes out with a lot of expectations set by Higashino’s previous book ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’. Looking at the comments from readers who have read ‘Salvation of a Saint’ after reading ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’, the ‘Salvation…’ doesn’t live up to the expectations – the high level of expectations the previous book set. Though ‘Salvation of a Saint’ is an interesting book plenty of twists and turns hidden every other corner, I would suggest reading ‘Salvation…’ first and then pick up ‘Devotion…’ if you do not want to be disappointed. And along with Higashino, credit should be given to Alexander Smith as well for his wonderful work of translation. Never once I got a feeling that I was reading a translated work.

Do you like mystery? Go get a copy.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

50 hours with Indica Vista D90

Few days ago I had the opportunity to try the newly launched Tata Indica Vista D90, Tata Motors’ new product in the Indica series. Thanks to Blogadda and Tata Motors, I had the ZX variant of the car with me for 3 days (around 50 hours – from Thursday late noon to Saturday evening) and drove around 600KMs. Here is my opinion about the car.

Coming from the Indica line of descent, there is not much difference in the design from the outside. One has to look twice to confirm if it’s the new D90 or the old Vista. Contrasting roof and dual colour alloy wheels caught my eye. Once you get in, it feels as if you are in a completely different car. Tata has done a good job by providing Manza like interiors including DIS (Driver Information System) which provides live feedback about distance that can be covered with remaining fuel and also fuel economy based on current speed.

Few of the new features included are seat hight adjustment for the driver, electric mirror adjustment, bluetooth connectivity for phones, music & phone controls on the steering wheel, plenty of leg room in the rear, 40:60 split seat. The car comes with airbags in the front for both driver and co-driver and ABS. Now coming the main part – this car has some brute power packed inside. I was told that the car can reach 100kmph from idle in 15 seconds. Though I didn’t try that, I could feel how the car responded. It’s not just the power, maneuvering the car at high speeds was very easy.

Features that I liked:
* Powerful engine and its response
* Easy maneuvering
* Ignition key ring which glows in the dark – this helps in finding the keyhole easily.
* Seat height adjustment for the driver – total win
* Spacious – comfortable enough for 5 people and pretty good leg room too.
* DIS – a good feature as it is better than the analog fuel indicator.
* 40:60 split seats – quick and very easy to fold and access the boot.

And now the negative part:
* Can we have a new look, please?
* Where do I keep my water bottle? There is no bottle holder.
* Amnesia – the car doesn’t remember my selection in music player and trip meter. Every time the car is started, they get reset to FM and odometer choices respectively.
* Tray where one can keep coins/mobile phones gets obstructed by the Hand brake lever. If the hand brake is not applied, it is a struggle to take the phone from the tray.
* (Possibly this was an issue with the car I was given), the moment I step on the accelerator, I could feel the feedback on the gear lever almost vibrating like a phone. It used to reduce a bit once I moved to top gears.

All in all, the Vista D90 is a good package with plenty of positive points along with few negative ones. Thank you Blogadd and Tata Motors for giving me the opportunity to test drive this car. Wish you good all the best!

Note: The review was done as part of Blogadda’s Product Reviews Program.

Book: The Krishna Key

Book: The Krishna Key
Title: The Krishna Key
Author: Ashwin Sanghi
Pages: 464

“The Krishna key” is a thriller (or should I say mythological thriller?) Ashwin Sanghi’s third book. After writing two books ‘The Rozabel Line (a theological thriller) and ‘Chanakya’s Chant’ (a political thriller), the third one digs into Hindu mythology taking us back to the times of Mahabharatha. The book is about a race between two groups/teams (the good and the evil) who want to get to that one prized possession left behind Lord Krishna. The race goes on in a very quick pace trying to bridge the gap between the current day and the times of Krishna five thousand years ago.

Being someone who has intersts in Hindu mythology and plus it had been a long time I had read a thriller, I got ‘The Krishna Key’ at the right time. The book starts off with a cold blooded murder. This results in a series of chain reactions starting with the arrest of one of the protagonist Ravi Mohan Saini. With the help of the small clue Saini got from his friend, he sets off ti uncover the truth. Travelling around to the historical places from drowned city of Dwaraka, Somnathpur, Kurukshetra, Mount Kailas and many more places, searching something which was left behind Lord Krishna. One should really appreciate Ashwin Sanghi for his background work that he has done before writing this book. (The references & acknowledgements section which is 11 pages long is evident to that). Few things which I like about the book were how Ashwin Sanghi goes on to describe simple things with the help of mathematics. He also goes on saying that Mohammad Gazni is infact a descendant of Krisha. But while reading this book through out I was reminded of Dan Brown’s work, probably because the way the story was plotted?

Like a book has its set of positive points, it also come with quite a few of negative ones –

  • I was surprised that ‘Karna’ was spelt as ‘Karana’ through out the book. I thought he is pronounced/written that way in Hindi speaking reagion. But Google and also discussions with couple of Hindi speaking friends I was told that it’s not!
  • Too many protagonists, or should I say almost all of them?
  • There was no crypticness in the clue sent to Saini from Varshney. I was able to decipher the message with in 2 minutes (not the complete answer, but the message), where as the lead characters took so much time!
  • Very less conversations. They were more of monologues, where in you get a three page long answer for a just one line question.
  • Everyone is know or interested/excited about history. Even the police who are supposed to arrest and take Saini back to the station forget their work and starts listening to the story told by him.
  • Too much of details. For example, Radhika’s chanting of ‘Hari’. I felt that could have been avoided or used not so frequently.

If you ask for my opinion, I would say go read the book if you are interested in Hindu mythology. Or else leave the book for now and wait for someone to make a movie out of this book with slight changes to the screenplay.

PS: This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.

30 day challenge

Running a marathon is one of the many things which I have in bucket list. Long distance running got added to the list years ago and stayed there without any action. After plenty of procrastination, I managed to buy a pair of running shoes to start training. But I took an year to take out the shoes out of the closet. This June I made up my mind and came out with a plan to be able to run 10KM run through a 8 week training. So I started a 3 day running program, complementing with couple of days of cycling. Two weeks down the line, it turned into a twice week run, then to a once a week and finally ‘run when in mood’. Three months gone and running 10KM at a stretch is still a distance reach. To come out of this irregularities and laziness, I am setting myself a 30 day challenge – of either running or cycling on every day of September.
Why 30 day challenge? According to observations by Maxwell Maltz mentioned in his book ‘Psycho-Cybernetics’, it takes 21 days to cultivate a habit. So instead of stopping at 21 days, I am rounding it off to a month and set it as a challenge.
To increase my fitness level, I am setting myself a goal of either running 2.5KMs in a day or cycling 15KMs. Though these numbers look small, I don’t want to stretch too much since I’ll be working out every day of the month.
And in addition, I am also planning to have September as ‘lift free month’. My house is in first floor and there is no lift – that’s out of the scenario. And my desk in office is in third floor – though I take the stairs consciously most of the times when alone. But I use the lift when in a hurry or when I am with a group. For the next one month, it is going to be consciously avoiding the lift!
I will be back at the end of the month with how I fared on this challenge 🙂

Book: In the Hot Unconscious

In the Hot Unconscious
Title: In the Hot Unconscious
Author: Charles Foster
Publishers: Tranquebar
Pages: 215

There are books that get you hooked before you finish first couple of pages. And there are others that don’t, but changes the first impression gradually if you keep reading. I place this book ‘In the Hot Unconscious’ by Charles Foster in the second category. I was reluctant to continue reading the book even before reaching first page – right at the paragraph where Charles Foster mentions this book as a religious book! (personally I keep away from this genre of books). But I wanted to continue for two  particular reasons, one to get back to my reading routine and second, a more important one – I wanted to read about India from the eyes of a foreigner. Glad I did not put down the book. Along his journey across India, Charles Foster takes the readers along with him as he narrates his experiences and perceptions about India.

When it comes to penning down the thoughts and travels, Charles Foster has his own league. With a different style of writing and interesting choice of words, it took me some time to get adjusted to his writing. Here is an example describing an evening – ‘Up by the rock, in the evening, big furry bees like whirring mice with knittting-needle probosces, dipped into the flowers in the unbrowsed places’. With these words Foster effortlessly takes the reader like riding a wave from red lanes of Kodangallur to a tea shop along Nepal border to southern tip Kanyakumari. There were quite a few times where I couldn’t stop myself to go back and read those sentances again & again. There were also few times where I had to dig into dictionary. Along with the choice of words what caught interested me more in the book was the conversations, be it with Jagjit, the cheese loathing Sikh at Nainital or Kamalesh at the Nepal border. Each conversation more intriguing, confusing and contemplating than the previous ones (barring couple of cliched ones).

Charles Foster’s epilogue comes back to where the journey started, to Kodangallur, a small town in Thrissur district of Kerala. Through out the book, I was in a constant level of confusion probably because the author doesn’t come to any conclusions as if leaving that part to the readers. There were few moments where I was lost in time and couldn’t relate to the timeline of the author’s story. Just as Foster mentions in the preface, ‘This is a tale of my own confusion. The plot is simple enough. I went to India, and then came back. It is also an attempt to see whether or not confusion matters’ – there was no attempt to tackle the confusion.

If you ask for my opinion, I won’t list the book under ‘must read’ list. But in case if you get hold of the book, there is no harm in reading just to enjoy a unique style of writing.

PS: This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.

PPS: Slightly unrelated to context in the book, there is a statement which goes like “India’s a theatre of cruel slapstick”. Couldn’t agree more looking at current affairs in our country.