Review: A final course in Grammar and Composition

A final course in Grammar and Composition
A final course in Grammar and Composition by P. C. Wren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is very difficult to be judgmental about this book. Generations of Indians learnt their grammar from this book (take what you will from that statement:) ) There were two versions of this particular book and I remember I used to have the green cover one. Plus I think there was a middle course in Red. For a lot of us who studied in the late 80s and 90s this was the go-to book for grammar. Since one could get full marks in grammar and since getting marks was the most important part of our study process we really lapped up this book from end to end.

I had a quick look at the book and find it still relevant especially the parts defining the structure of the language. I guess the fundamentals of grammar will never change.

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Review: Modern Digital Electronics

Modern Digital Electronics
Modern Digital Electronics by R. P. Jain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As textbooks go it gets the work done.

Logic circuits basics as well as some advanced material around Logic Design is represented in a succinct manner. I found it a very dry book for what I think is a very interesting subject. However it does put in all the required information one would need to understand this subject (and more importantly, pass the exam :))

Not sure if it is dated now, but I am sure that better reference books and material are accessible now which was not the case when I went through this course around 15 years ago.

My only advice to the students who would be reading this book today, in case this book feels too dry do check other books or study material online. Logic circuits is an interesting as well as a fundamental subject of computer engineering and it is best not to judge the subject based on just one book.

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Review: Cours de Langue et de Civilisation Françaises I

Cours de Langue et de Civilisation Françaises I
Cours de Langue et de Civilisation Françaises I by G.Mauger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my textbook for my French course in High School. A very well written book it is deceptively thin for the amount of material in it. It starts off at a gentle curve but within no time its difficulty increases exponentially. However due to a conversational style of teaching the language, at times as dialogues between people in a certain context and at times as essays about various places or events, it is a engaging read.

However this book alone will not be useful for a non French speaking student. This book will have to be complemented with a good French-English dictionary, as well as a competent instructor (without an instructor the book can feel daunting after 1/3 of the way through). The instructor is particularly important if the student wants to learn how to speak the language too.

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Review: Elementary Engineering Drawing [Plane and Solid Geometry]

Elementary Engineering Drawing [Plane and Solid Geometry]
Elementary Engineering Drawing [Plane and Solid Geometry] by N. D. Bhatt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the prescribed text book for our Engineering course (Mumbai University) A no frills, straight to the core book, on a cursory glance it looks like a very dry text book. However this is a one of the better test books I have personally read. It takes a bit of effort at first, especially when learning projection of points and lines. However if the student keeps on it, it very soon becomes your bible. Without this book I would never have loved Engineering Drawing the way I do.

My favourite section is drawing as well as in the book has to do with Isometric Projections. I heartily recommend the exercise in this chapter, espectially exercise number 28 on page 403 of this particular edition. Great fun.

Caveat:
This review was relevant for when I did Engineering (late 90’s) and as a general reference book. I am not sure if it is still prescribed for the current curriculum

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Thank you Uncle Pai

One of the giants of the Indian comic industry, Anant Pai, died on 24th February 2011. As would be expected this made news all over India and abroad and fans all over were deeply saddened. I too did the obligatory RIP tweet. However the news seemed to have affected me only at a superficial level. Just the sad feeling one has when any well known and well liked personality passes on. I wondered why this was? After all for a comic buff like me Uncle Pai’s journey was nothing short of a labour of love, surely worthy of a stronger reaction. From setting up the iconic framework of Amar Chitra Katha to being the beloved uncle of ‘Uncle Pai says’ in Tinkle he had put forth a visible body of work which could, but be, respected, revered even. Still I seemed to have got jaded, world-weary.

One reason could be that in the recent past I had started finding faults in a lot of his/ACK’s approach. I guess it is like a child growing up and learning that his father is not really the Superman he thought he was. For one in the Amar Chitra Katha stories pertaining to the political arena the stories, on hindsight, were not always that balanced. To make it palatable to young minds assumptions and choices were made which I did not completely agree too. Then there was the aspect that the graphic medium had moved ahead abroad but Amar Chitra Katha seemed to still be stuck in a time wrap. And so on and so forth.

Whatever be the reasons the result was that I just did not feel the impact of the news of his death. Did not
feel it, that is, until I chanced upon this wonderful tribute to Uncle Pai by Manoj Vijayan.
The denizens of heaven happy to welcome back their storyteller

What a beautiful panel, a fitting tribute indeed. Just one glance at this picture and the dams broke in my mind. I missed the great man, I really did. I have never met him, would most probably would never have, but he shaped me in more ways than one. He taught me through stories, stories of good and bad, of religion, of myth and fantasy. And he did it in a very balanced manner. One did not learn religious intolerance from his books, only a glimpse into the richness present in every religion.
One did not always learn depths of a tale while reading his books, but it did give a starting point for your curiosity. Even in the political stories that I was deriding, he was more balanced than I gave him credit for. I knew about Rash Behari Bose and Jayprakash Narayan from his books alone. Never saw those names in my history books. Many has been a time when I have showed off my knowledge gleaned from his stories. Of particular fiendish fun has been the incidents when I have defeated some older orthodox pain-in-the-ass relatives over points about Indian mythology. All these incidents and experiences came back to me in a flash on seeing the picture. Thank you Uncle Pai. A lot of what I am is thanks to you.

A heartfelt thanks to Manoj too, for reminding me of my debt to Uncle Pai. As so beautifully rendered by Manoj, I am sure the gods are happy they have their storyteller back. I guess it is power of the medium that a simple picture could be such a powerful stimulus for me. Very befitting the man who leveraged this medium so successfully to spread knowledge of our tales, our past.

Many Thanks Uncle Pai, Rest In Peace.

*Image used with kind permission from Manoj Vijayan. Find him at covrdesign and inkbugdesign
*Thanks to the RTs by @thecomicproject and @raggedtag as a result of which I chanced onto Manoj’s tribute.

Google makes it impossible to not code for Android

Diametrically opposite to the closed market of iPhone apps Google is making it even more easy to code for the Android. You have an idea for an app, then make it – this seems to be Google’s motto. In addition to the open SDK that they already had they have gone ahead and released an “App Inventor” for Android (albeit in beta). In Google’s own words –

To use App Inventor, you do not need to be a developer. App Inventor requires NO programming knowledge. This is because instead of writing code, you visually design the way the app looks and use blocks to specify the app’s behavior.

One clear section of the community to benefit would be schools. It would be amazing to see what can be done by imaginative students and teachers without the need of any esoteric programming 🙂

Will it dilute the app space of Android? You betcha! But I do not consider the people so dumb that a company has to decide for them. I am pretty sure that in no time curation and review sites will be up for Android apps and the better ones will float to the top.

For now here’s a tip of the hat to Google for a wonderful idea and best wishes that it takes off.

P.S: Looks Google had the idea for this project as long back as an year. Hopefully it will not take as long to move out of the beta stage 🙂

Quarter Finals Predictions – World Cup 2010

Netherlands – Brazil

 

This is as per my prediction and am hoping this will be afun game. Reason I say ‘hope’ is because I am concerned aboutBrazil. Specifically I hope they do not become defensive and foul all over theplace. I think Netherlands is a very good team but it can be defeated by Brazilif they play aggressive, open and keep possession. My vote is for Brazil towin. So no changes in my voting there.

 

Uruguay – Ghana

 

This did not go according to my earlier plan. Uruguay sailedthrough but Ghana defeated USA. Well deserved win by Ghana so that’scool, but the question is whether they can defeat Uruguay too. In my opinionUruguay is not the greatest team but they are smooth operators and are peakingright now. If they continue their momentum and get ahead Ghana will find itdifficult to survive. I expect Uruguay to win this one.

 

Argentina – Germany

 

What a match-up! I foolishly bet on England in the lastround. Still enjoyed the way Germany thrashed them. This match will be epic andI believe the onus will be on Argentina to win this one. It is imperative thatthey play positively and try to win in normal time. If the match goes topenalties things will not look rosy for Messi. I will stick to my earlier votefor Argentina.

 

Paraguay – Spain

 

Again made a silly bet on Portugal. Again thoroughly enjoyedthe well deserved thrashing they gave Portugal. Ronaldo should get “Themost inconsequential captain of the tournament” award. Looking at the waySpain played, and the way Paraguay scraped through I think I will have tochange my vote and go for Spain winning this one. I am actually egging them onto win as Argentina – Spain will be another fantastic match-up

 

Overall the round of 16 was fun. Here’s to thequarterfinals. May it be worthy of a world cup