About Readers' Paradise
Engineering Safer Cars
When we went to buy a small car, we found the salesmen too eager to sell us a car without airbags as that would translate to less price. It was the same with other car dealers as well. The dealers also had less stock of the top model (the only one with air bags) of the car that we considered because people would choose a lower priced and unfortunately a less safe car - "lower" models which were cheaper. The situation is sadder because the government too does not make safety in cars an important objective. I wish Indians would take inspiration from their European counterparts and work at making cars and roads better and safer. In the article as you look at the stories of car crashes, and the subsequent follow up on why the accidents happened, you might have a change in perspective on how good engineers think and how better designs can be created.
Legacies of Einstein and Lenin
Einstein's legacy is his scientific papers. However, something that tells us that Einstein was human would be his material possessions - especially the ones that he valued. But Einstein wasn't materialistic - he was a simple fellow who lived with few things and left fewer things behind. One thing that belonged to Einstein and which is highly valued is his smoking pipe. Einstein would regard his pipe as something that would help him think well. Even after the doctor told him to quit smoking, he would still hold an empty pipe and chew at it.
The Making of a Scrabble Champ
When we advise students that they will have to memorize high frequency SAT/GRE words for the respective examinations, it does not go down well with a few who are uncomfortable with memorizing. However, if you haven't encountered most of the four to five thousand commonly tested words, you will be in trouble during the exam. Scrabble, a (word) board game, requires that a top player memorize at least two hundred thousand words (meanings are not required) from the Scrabble dictionary. There is more than just knowing words - you must form high score words with good anagramming skills. Skill and experience play a big role. Then, there are genes - if you born with some specialized cognitive abilities, you will have an advantage over your opponent.
Extreme Success Calls for Extreme Measures
It feels good to be successful; however, for most people it may not be consistent. Therefore, people who are repeatedly successful are worshiped for being so. People wish to emulate these great people: to study the factors that lead to their success - repeated success and then try to apply those "ideas" to their own lives. But are those ideas actually doable by everyone? Can success in a field mean success in other areas of that individual's life as well? What does it take to achieve such an awe-inspiring success?
The Power of Family Companies
New businesses/entrpreneurs look for trustworthiness and sincerity in the people they hire or collaborate with - apart from skills. Family firms need that too. This author argues that family companies and capitalism go hand in hand and are not mutually exclusive. He talks about the importance of these firms in the making of modern capitalism. One of my favourite chocolates is manufactured by a family firm - Ferero Rocher. The author defines family firms not only as those that comprise only family members but also as those companies (founder-owned businesses) such as Google and Facebook that are not made of only family members. Besides discussing public firms versus family firms, this writer also discusses the issues that family companies face or why these companies will become the dominant force in the near future.
Stories of a pencil enthusiast
I like writing with pencils and ink pens - I think I like writing more than typing. Nevertheless I end up typing more than writing with a hand-held tool such as a pencil or a pen. With pencils, I love the ones that give dark bold writing without the lead being too hard. This author also loved those kind of pencils - so much so that even after people had moved to mechanical pencils in which you could insert thin graphite leads, she wanted only those original pencils with a thick dark graphite core. Her search for excellent pencils (since she is a copywriter) is a journey in which she learns more about humble pencils and encounters amusing or interesting situations.
The Commentator who knows when to pause
In this part of the world, we don't have fans of cricket, we have fanatics. This is a cricket-crazy subcontinent. Out here, when important matches happen, the country drops whatever essential is happening and watches cricket. A good commentator can make even a boring game interesting. Here's a piece about a great cricket commentator whose silence also speaks volumes.
What Women Want
A woman not wanting marriage or children is considered unnatural and is stigmatized even today. When early feminist crusaders went against this basic premise that marriage and children are the prime necessities for women, they were stepping into uncharted territories. Two books explore these (feminism) issues. The article is a critique of these two books. It talks about understanding a few challenges but not having clear solutions so far.
Readers' Paradise - January 2015
Readers' Paradise - February 2015
Readers' Paradise - March 2015
I want to read
I get tempted by books. I want to buy them. Once in a while, I end up buying a few. I am excited about them too. Then, perhaps, I read a chapter or two. I even carry a book or two when I travel (but peeking through the window, watching people, sleeping, or checking my phone every few minutes distract me often). And then, the book is somehow squeezed into my already full bookshelf. Trust me, I really want to read the books I picked up. Trust me, I am still excited about them. But, they are still in my bookshelf!
Distraction: Obesity of the Mind
I had a letter pad in which a small comic character holds an ice-cream cone loaded with around 10 scoops of colourful ice-cream and the caption at the bottom of the page read: " Too much of a good thing is wonderful". Food engineers make food look and taste great by manipulating what goes into making a food. We don't listen to our already full stomachs because that food taste overwhelms all our senses and we push our elastic tummy bag to the extreme. In the same way, advertisements have flooded our world so much that we are constantly distracted by the bright colours and lights, and catchy captions. I know people who are addicted to games such as candy crush and scrabble. I have been addicted to them at some point of time too. I am so scared of picking them again because I will leave everything important to play "just one more game". There is so much seeking our attention that it all leads to obesity of the mind. The book review highlights how real experiences are sidelined by manufactured ones and how it is important to understand these and find solutions.
Enhancing the Eating Experience
I know lots of people who are passionate about good food. Our taste buds though major contributors are not the only ones that tells us the flavours of good food. Rather, the flavours can be influenced by feel, sound, and colour. The way an eating place is lit up or the kind of music being played there can even fool food experts. The food obviously has to be good. But, the other senses can convert that good into excellent. Here's how:
Psychiatry was not so evolved earlier. The blame for children suffering mental disorders was directly put on parents or mothering. And, parents took the guilt to their grave. When shocks were given to "cure" patients, the already traumatized family wasn't counselled about what was going on and how to deal with it. The famous rock and roll artist Lou Reed underwent such a painful treatment in his teenage years. His sister opens up about the suffering endured by the family
Losing sight, Gaining insights
While barely a teenager, I was on a holiday at my father's home where one of my aunts (a young one) fished a bowl of coins and asked me to check the value of those coins as her vision was blurry. My aunt wasn't exactly blind - she still wears spectacles but without her glasses she finds it difficult to see. It was scary then to realize that she wasn't able to read numbers engraved in such large fonts. It still bothers me when I see people with vision issues. If it is scary being blind or having severe vision issues, imagine what happens when one slowly but surely goes blind after years of being sighted? How do they adjust and adapt to progressive vision loss? Here's a perspective:
Gramophone: The future of broadcasting in the past
A nicely kept old gramophone can add character to one's room. Many many decades ago, it was a musician's prefect instrument for recording and playing. With time, technology of choice changes. Today's article was written in 1931 by an artist who had met greats such as Edison and who narrates the merits of a Gramophone. He also talks about why a gramophone recording is superior to playing through a radio.
When our immunity makes us miserable
While out on a walk at night, my spouse and I found a cute cat who snuggled up to my spouse and brushed against his legs. In a few minutes, my spouse began to get red itchy spots on his arms and legs. He was having an allergic reaction. He ran home and took a bath. Thankfully, that took care of the problem. An allergic reaction occurs when the body encounters an element it recognizes as foreign and threatening. The body then goes into an attack frenzy producing chemicals that can lead to swollen lips, hives, fever, vomiting, diarrhoea or even anaphylactic shock. It is our own immunity turning against the body. Cure options are available but understanding allergies better could bring more effective treatments. We now know how allergies happen but we are not sure about the why part of it.