Friday, 14 May 2010

Loves Music, Loves to Dance – book review

This is the second book that I have read by Mary Higgins Clark. I like her style of writing. The novelty in this book is that the killer is introduced right in the beginning and he/she talks about how the whole killing act started and what he/she plans to do next. Of course, the killer's identity is revealed only in the end although you can guess somewhere in the middle of the book who the killer is.

The story is about a couple of women (Erin and Darcy) wanting to help a friend who is doing research on the dangers of answering personal ads. They decide to answer the ads to contribute to the research. Erin goes missing and is found killed.

Darcy is the one who had suggested that they help their friend and also have some harmless fun meeting interesting people. She is driven by guilt and is determined to find the killer. Darcy discovers that Erin is one of many such victims. There is the usual whole bunch of suspects cleverly woven into the story based on the clues found and the common pattern in all the linked murders - someone who knew three of the victims, someone who loves to dance, someone who is good at sketching etc etc. The author maintains the suspense quite well although like I wrote earlier, if you are a thriller novel fan like me, you can pretty much guess who the killer is. You know the deal - the one who is portrayed as the most trustworthy of the many characters usually turns out to be the killer. I won’t spoil the fun for you all. All in all, a good read.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Wonder

• If the proverbial six degrees of separation can be validated using social networking sites like Facebook. It should be easy to pick two random profiles in Facebook and see how many links it takes to connect them.
• Why the government didn’t choose the underground metro option in Bangalore given the recent statement by the transport minister that tunnels are cheaper than underpasses and bridges. This would have possibly avoided cutting down of the few trees that are left, avoided litigation from property owners whose property had to be acquired to build the metro, avoided disruption of businesses during the construction phase and would have avoided the narrow roads from becoming narrower.
• If admen deliberately make ads that irritate you so that they stick in your mind more than the interesting ones. I don’t know about you all but I don’t remember the products for the good ads. But, I definitely remember the product for the irritating ones – Saffola Arise and the latest Nirma ad top my current hate list.
• If any sport continues to be a true “sport” after all the controversies surrounding most of the sports like match fixing, sledging and using drugs to enhance performance. Given all this, when someone is asked to “be a sport” should that be taken as an encouragement to take things in a positive spirit or to be devious?
• Why Hindi moviemakers don’t take a leaf out of their English counterparts who make such diverse and thought provoking movies. Why do we always stick to romance, comedy, horror or the latest trend of movies with a “in your face” message.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Careers and hobbies

I was one of those kids who didn’t think too much about career while studying. Things just happened. I completed my 12th and for a majority of Indians, there are two popular choices - medicine or engineering. Hospitals and diseases give me the fright and it was a no-brainer for me to opt for engineering. I graduated at a time when software industry was booming and happened to get picked up by a well known software company. So, like most of the city dwelling Indians, I started my software career and continue to work in the IT industry.

If things just happen to you and you like what is happening, you are lucky. I am not one of those lucky people. My job is just that – a job. And, now that I am a lot more mature, I think about what profession I would have possibly enjoyed. A couple of careers that I envy – writers, hosts of travel shows, restaurateurs, food critics, movie critics, book reviewers.

But, grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I happened to read an article recently by a movie critic about his work. He writes that he has stopped watching movies for the pure fun of it. When he watches a movie, it is to look at the screenplay, editing, acting and the many aspects that go into a movie that will help him give a meaningful critique. Put like that, it looked to me like any other job. Another writer whose newspaper articles I enjoy wrote recently in her articles about the infamous “writers block” and how this has seriously affected her career. All this makes me wonder – when a hobby turns into a profession, does it stop being fun?

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Outliers – book review

Outliers (Author: Malcolm Gladwell) is one of the very few applied psychology books of its genre that I liked. Over the past few years, my taste in books has changed. My initial love for detective novels and suspense thriller genre made way for fantasy and romance books for a while. I have also read a lot of self help, management and economics books.

I borrowed this book from a friend of mine with a lot of trepidation as I am now extremely wary of some of these business books. Some of the books I read recently that left a very bad after taste in my mouth are The World is flat, Tipping Point, 7 habits of Highly Effective People. I find them quite boring after the first 50 pages as I get the sense that the author is trying very hard to make a 200-300 page book out of what is merely a maximum of 50 page research paper. The stories and examples the authors give to substantiate their reasoning get quite tiring and repetitive after sometime. Either that or the book gets into a “preaching” mode which puts me off even more.

Anyway, getting back to Outliers, this book was a refreshing change. It is based on the simple theme that it is not just hard work or super brains and intelligence that separates highly successful people from the others. It is a mix of circumstances, environment, opportunities and also “luck” that makes one person a success while the lives of the rest of us are nothing to remember by. The author looks into the unique circumstances that have led to the success of some of the famous software personalities like Bill Gates, soccer players, musicians like Beatles and Mozart. He believes that it is not what they are like that matters but where they are from that truly makes the difference.

If you are like me, and if you go to work every day not because you enjoy the intellectual stimulation or challenge that your job offers but because of the paycheck that you get at the end of the month and to some extent because you can socialize and meet new people and if like me, you are always thinking of quitting the said job to do something worthwhile and interesting in life that impacts the lives of others in a positive way, this book is a true inspiration. At the end of the book, I was left feeling a lot of hope that there might still be some unique circumstances that might one day make me famousJ. I didn’t feel that much of a loser and my life didn’t feel that wasted either. I consoled myself that I am smart and I am also more hardworking than some of the people I have encountered in my life. It is just the lack of a unique set of circumstances and opportunities that is to blame for my mediocre work life.