Book: King of Ayodhya by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-6)

“… When he had the rakshasha’s feet at his own waist level, Hanuman shoved them upwards with all his might; then, when Kumbhakarna was fully inverted and thrashing about desperately, he pushed downwards, literally shoving the rakshasha’s head down towards the bottom of the ocean.”

— Chapter 16, Kaand 4, King of Ayodhya

That was an excerpt from the fight scene between Hanuman and Kumbhakarna.

Cover King of Ayodhya

Title King of Ayodhya
Series Volume-6 of the 8 volume Ramayana series
Author Ashok Banker

NOTE: Please read the comments on the whole series here , as the reviewer’s opinions on the series are expressed there.

The Story in Book-6

The high-level storyline in this book:

Hanuman returns to join Rama’s army at the site of the bridge construction (after inflicting huge damage to Lanka). Just when the army is about to cross the sea over the bridge, Varuna, the lord of the ocean, is beckoned by Ravana to unleash a storm and a tsunami. The storm-cum-tsunami destroys the bridge and kills and injures many of vanars and bears, even before they begin the journey to Lanka. They eventually do cross the sea (in an interesting way)  to reach Lanka.

Ravana, using sorcery once again, creates a huge earthquake to inflict further damages and also instill a sense of utter fear in Rama’s army.

The physical fighting starts and there are many evolving strategies, changing tactics, small battles won and lost, many vanars, bears and rakshashas killed. Eventually, Rama’s army wins, Ravana and his main generals are killed. Vibhisena is crowned the king of Lanka.
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The O-O-O Syndrome

Often, when I send emails to my colleague Ooonuj, I get a O-O-O (Out of Office) message with text like:

-Out of Office-

Hi –

I am travelling to Hongkong, Malaysia, and China and will be out of office till 1st December 2013.
I will have no access to my India handphone number. I shall respond to your mail, albeit a bit late.

In case of urgent matters which require immediate attention, please call / text me
@ +86 13602696490 or Contact VVSS ( vvss@emaildomain.com) on the following numbers:
Tel: 91-22- 421666xx / 2880 73xx /  2880 73xx / 2880 73xx

Regds

Ooonuj Anar

[Digression: I personally avoid setting any O-O-O messages. I normally am able to read my messages with a gap of no more than 6-7 hours. Also, I do not think I do anything is so time critical. And mainly I am afraid that my autoresponder with battle with Ooonuj’s autoresponder and rapidly choke the cyberspace in endless exchange of OOO messages :-)]

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Book: Bridge of Rama by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-5)

“Hanuman’s last jump took him so high, nobody could see where he went. He rose up into the air, passed through the now shredded cloudbank, and rose still higher, higher until he could not longer be seen. Several moments passed………

And then, with one final mighty burst of strength, he leaped again….”

— Chapter 12, Kaand 2, Bridge of Rama

That is Hanuman, making his leap to Lanka, and to wreak havoc there.

Cover Bridge of Rama

Title Bridge of Rama
Series Volume-5 of the 8 volume Ramayana series
Author Ashok Banker

NOTE: Please read the comments on the whole series here , as the reviewer’s opinions on the series are expressed there.

The Story in Book-5

The high-level storyline in this part of the series:

Sita is held captive and as a hostage by Ravana in Lanka. Rama and Lakshman are planning to cross over to Lanka (from the mainland) to rescue Sita. Hanuman collects a huge army of vanars (from different tribes and sub-species), along with groups of sloth bears (rksas) for the conquest.

To the cross the sea, the army of vanars and bears start building a bridge using stones, wood, mud, and sand. All this while Ravana is also making preparations to face Rama and his army, and Sita is tormented by various rakshashis.

Hanuman discovers that he has super-powers bestowed to him as a result of the unique circumstances of his birth. Rama sends Hanuman to Lanka, as a last ditch effort at retriving Sita without having to wage a war and avoid death and destruction that would come in its wake.
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Book: Made To Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

The messages from this book have ‘stuck’ to me over seven years. I remember this book very well and have been implicitly and explicitly guided by concepts that I learnt when I read the book long ago.

The authors have managed to implement what they are trying to teach :-)!

The full title of the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck – makes the intent of the authors very clear. It is about conveying ideas and messages more effectively to achieve whatever you are trying to achieve Anyway, here is a passage from the Introduction of the book:

“We wrote this book to help you make your ideas stick. By ‘stick’, we mean that your ideas are understood and remembered, and have a lasting impact – they change your audience’s opinions and behavior.”

 — Introduction: What Sticks? – Made to Stick

Details of Made to Stick

Made to Stick Book Cover
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck

Authors: Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Publishing Date: 2007

Publisher: Arrow Books

Formats Available In: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Available at: Amazon.com, Amazon.in.
This book is an entertaining, practical guide to effective communication. Extremely well-written, it uses the principles that are proposed in the book for effectively making ideas stick with the audience. It continues with the idea of ‘stickiness’ earlier popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point.

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A Visit to Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta, Karnataka

Himavad is a hilltop with a temple. It is also supposed to be very cold (compared to the rest of the region) – people have seen icicles in the temple.

The hilltop is located inside the Bandipur forest area. Is is around 80-84 km from Mysore, and around 17 km from Gundlupete, off the Mysore – Ooty highway.

We (Swapna and I) drove from Mysore to Nanjangud and from there we continued towards Gundlupete. Just before we entered Gundlupete, we took a break at a Cafe Coffee Day (they have clean toilets :-)). From Gundlupet we continued towards Bandipur sanctuary. Around 5-6 km from Gundlupete, we turned right under an arch at a village (there was also a signboard with “Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta” written on it).

Himavad Image-1Within a km of getting off the highway, we hit vast open spaces (see the first photo on the left). In front of us were the hills on which Himavad is located, on the left was the Bandipur sanctuary. On the right were open farmlands without any buildings. The border of the Bandipur area was fenced (it looked like an electrified fence, so don’t go too near it).

After driving some more distance (3 km) , we came to the foot of the hills and a gated check-post manned by the Forest Department. We paid Rs 50/= as an entry fee for the car (there is no entry fee for people or cameras, only for vehicles). We were told to be back in 1.5 hours at the gate – the entry ticket was valid for 1.5 hours only.

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Henlon’s Razor: Sound Principle for Processing Interpersonal Interactions

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Here is the statement, attributed to Robert J. Henlon:

  • "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity".

Though the origin is not too clear, there are others who have been credited with similar statements/ quotes. Here are a few of them.

Science Fiction author Robert A. Heinlein in his short story Logic of Empire:

  • “You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in The Sorrows of Young Werther:

  • “…misunderstandings and neglect create more confusion in this world than trickery and malice. At any rate, the last two are certainly much less frequent.”

Jane West’s The Loyalists states something similar in a more sincere (less cynical/ insulting) manner:

  • “Let us not attribute to malice and cruelty what may be referred to less criminal motives. Do we not often afflict others undesignedly, and, from mere carelessness, neglect to relieve distress?”

All of the above can be applied to actions, situations, and interactions that cause inconvenience, hurt and pain, for many reasons:

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Book Series: Song of Ice and Fire Series by George RR Martin

This series is an exceptionally well-written, addictive, and brutal epic fantasy set in an imaginary world based on medieval England/ Europe. It is less of a fantasy and more of a political thriller – some say that it is loosely based on the War of the Roses in England in the years 1455-1485.

The first of the series (A Game of Thrones) was published in 1996 and the series has 5 books (often sold in 7 paperbacks) already published. The sixth and the seventh (whose titles are announced) will be eventually published. Each book of the series has been a bestseller and there are a huge number of fans waiting for the next two books.

The epic has also been converted into a HBO serial. Some video games, based on the series have also become very popular.

Here are the images of the covers of these books:Song of Ice and Fire Series Cover Images

The High-Level Story

The story is set in a fictional world, and most action takes place in two continents – Westros and Essos.

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Financial Instruments with Musical Properties (like ‘tenor’)

Once in a while, I invest in bonds, fixed deposits, and mutual funds.

Though I normally do not read the verbiage (I read just the salient features), I have noticed in the last few years, a new term creeping into the jargon – ‘tenor’. At first I dismissed it as one of the typos (attributable to the printer’s devil – a special devil that haunted every print shop, performing mischief such as inverting type, misspelling words or removing entire lines of completed type).

For the benefit of those who have not noticed the use of the word ‘tenor’ in financial jargon, you can see examples by searching for “loan tenor” or “bond tenor” or “deposit tenor”.  The usage seems widespread – all across the world.

And the usage denotes some kind of duration, or term, or period, or tenure (could tenor be just a distortion of tenure with origins in poor spelling used in combination with spell-check/ auto-correction?)

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Occam’s Razor for Design of Systems and Processes

Occam’s (or Ockham’s) razor is a principle attributed to the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham (does this profession  still exist? I am yet to meet a “logician” :-)).

Occam’s razor states that “one should minimize the assumptions to the minimum necessary to solve any problem”. It is a minimalistic principle (often called principle of parsimony) and can be used as a heuristic while doing scientific modelling and building theories.

Though the principle has been found in the writings of earlier medieval philosophers, William of Occam has been credited with it because he was its most prolific proponent.

Occam is attributed to have said something like “Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate” (as expected, he did not say these things in any modern language :-))- which means “plurality must never be posited without necessity” [if this was how people promoting simplicity spoke, I really don’t want to know how others spoke]

Various versions/ derivations of the Occam’s razor include:

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Book: Armies of Hanuman by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-4)

“The mortal (Rama) stood on the sloping mound, unmindful of the rain and damp, his two constant companions standing to either side. Bow lowered but strung and ready, arrows fitted to the cord. Even the relentless rain had not unravelled his matted locks, bound tightly above his head in the spiralling bun of a forest exile.”

— Chapter 1, Kaand 1, Armies of Hanuman

That is the start of this book, where Rama, Sita and Lakshman wait to battle the last bunch of rakshasas in the Jansthana forest.

Cover Armies of Hanuman

Title Armies of Hanuman
Series Volume-4 of the 8 volume Ramayana series
Author Ashok Banker

NOTE: Please read the comments on the whole series here , as the reviewer’s opinions on the series are expressed there.

The Story in Book-4

The high-level storyline in this part of the series:

Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana are towards the tail-end of their thirteen year exile. Together with a rag-tag bunch of ex-outlaws and other exiles, they wage a final battale and manage to get the forest of Janasthana rid of all remaining rakshasas. They return to Chitrakut to spend the rest of the days of their exile and start preparing for their return to Ayodhya.

In Lanka, Mandodari, as a caretaker ruler, manages to get some order. However, with Suphanaka’s help, Ravana is liberated from limbo and takes charge of rebuilding Lanka according to his own vision. Towards the later part of the book, Ravana abducts Sita on his Pushpak vimana, using trickery, asura sorcery and brute force.
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