Wednesday, May 31, 2017

#573 : Z - Zeigler Nichols Tuning

Z finally and I thought I will never make it. Thanks to a bunch of good souls including my husband for helping me make it. I'm in no mood to write about the actual concept of Zeigler Nichlos Tuning.

If you are curious this is what it means - The Ziegler-Nichols rule is a heuristic PID tuning rule that attempts to produce good values for the three PID gain parameters.

I'm sure you wouldn't have understood what P or I or D means unless you've slogged hard to complete your engineering degree just like me.

I learnt this topic the hardest way possible. Back in college we were made to write numerous tests. If you had failed in a subject you would require to attend special class after college hours. Being the average third bench student that I was, I managed to scrape through all the subjects, except for Engineering Graphics. Drawing was, is, will, never be my thing. One other subject I terribly regretted failing was Control Systems. I had failed in one of the mid semester test by half a mark. The Professor flat out refused that half a mark and ensured that I attended the special class. This very topic was the reason I lost that half a mark!

Now you know why I am in no mood to write about this topic  in technical terms.

If you are still curious about this topic, buy me a library, then I might consider teaching you all about it.

#AtoZChallenge done and dusted.

#572 : Y - Yousafzai, Malala

For a change, this is post is about a writer whose book has been on my To read list for quite sometime now. This youngest noble prize awardee has piqued my interest after I watched her interacting with Emma Watson.

A little about Malala,

Yousafzai was born in Mingora, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Her family came to run a chain of schools in the region. Considering Jinnah and Benazir Bhutto as her role-models, she was particularly inspired by her father's thoughts and humanitarian work. In early 2009, when she was 11–12, she wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC Urdu detailing her life during the Taliban occupation of Swat. The following summer, journalist Adam B. Ellick made a New York Times documentary about her life as the Pakistani military intervened in the region. She rose in prominence, giving interviews in print and on television, and she was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize by activist Desmond Tutu.

On the afternoon of 9 October 2012, Yousafzai was injured after a Taliban gunman attempted to murder her. Yousafzai remained unconscious, in critical condition at the Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology, but later her condition improved enough for her to be sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK.

When I first read about Malala, there was just one thing which kept bother me. This is girl was gifted enough and had the means to be treated. What of the other girls? What of the other people whom Taliban attacked. Undoubtedly, she is a fighter and a survivor. Had it been some other girl from a poor economic background who would have footed her bills? Sadly, that's the unjust way of life.

Do watch the video here -

#571 : X - X-Ray

If you are wondering how the heck is an X-Ray related to an engineer like me, hold that thought. We had one paper in our course work dedicated to studying medical instruments. X-Ray, ECG,EEG,EKG, you name it, we've read it. It's one subject which was supposed to be interesting, but fell flatter than a flat tyre.

So what is X-Ray? A device used to check if you have any broken bones. That's a rather crude form of putting it.

X-Ray is basically an electromagnetic radiation with wavelength shorter than the UV Rays (Ultra Violet? Sun? Radiation? Rings a bell I hope).

Fun fact : X-Ray was discovered by  Wilhelm Röntgen. Poor fellow was all lost and confused and couldn't figure out what the heck these rays were. So he named them X-Ray where X signified the unknown. Oh and this doesn't have any connection to the X we were often tortured to find in our math subjects.

As mentioned earlier, the X-Ray is used to check for broken bones and stuff. The thing is, our bones contains a lot of calcium. The calcium absorbs X-Rays well. This reduces the amount of X-rays reaching the detector in the shadow of the bones, making them clearly visible on the radiograph.

However, these rays used for diagnostic purpose are harmful for the body and induce cancer when dosed in large amount.

There are plenty of other uses of X-Rays including industrial applications, crystallography, astronomy and microscopy.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

#570 : W - War

This is one topic I dreaded writing the most. I've not read  much of war based books baring a couple of books. In general this is what I learnt.

1. Graphic and Gory - Some people like reading all the graphic details of a war casualty.  While others prefer a much toned down version. Describing a war in a very graphic manner would help the reader visualize things as they happened. For some people, it may trigger unwanted unpleasant memories. Thus, moderation is the key.

2. Of World War II - Most of the war stories written have World War II as the setting. There is a lot of scope for story line manoeuvre as the Nazis tortured the Jews in many innovative ways. In fact I had to steer clear off such books to ensure my head was intact. Unless you have the gut to read about such human cruelty, is recommended not to pick such books.

3. Time Line Switch - Time line switch is one literary device which can be used to plot a war story. It is easier to make an aged character remember their past. Example of a typical story line would be an aged character searching for a long lost artifact or a close relative. A La Titanic.

4. The Kashmir Angle - I've read a couple of books based on the Kashmir conflict. The most memorable read would be Our Moon Has Blood Clots. The story involves a sadly memorable incident when Kashmiri Pandits fled their homes in fear of being attacked. this is one interesting yet sad thread of story line to be used.

Monday, May 29, 2017

#569 : V - Verne, Jules

It was the year 2002. It was my second year at the new school. I had begun to mingle well and made friends. I  was just another ordinary girl with average grades. The only thing people would really remember me was for my hair. I had cut it into a bob and it spread out densely like a tree's canvas. I was ridiculed and compared with a then popular god man. It wasn't upsetting really, I had a reputation for having particularly thick skin. That's when I won a competition conducted annually by my school. I don't remember which now though. The prize was a Jules Verne book - Around the world in eighty days. An abridged simple version. I still have it safely locked away in my book shelf at mum's place. As expected, I finished reading the book in one sitting.

VJules Verne.jpg

Jules Verne was a popular French writer and novelist whose works were influential on literary avant-garde and  surrealism. In fact, he is one the most widely misunderstood writer in my opinion for his books have been translated and abridged heavily. A clear case of loss in translation perhaps.

Realisation dawned upon me upon reading a translated version of his other famous work - Journey to the centre of the earth. The version of around the world in eighty days I read (and own), was obviously meant for children and teenagers probably. This book has a very pleasant memory attached to it. Does it matter if it not the original work. Absolutely not! Oh and I never managed to finish reading Journey to the centre of the Earth. Clearly not my type of a book!

#568 : U - Upstream Processing

A day's break did no good for me. Sunday just whizzed by and I'm running a temperature since Saturday. I'm back at work today and there seems to be no improvement on the temperature part. Does that matter? Absolutely not. Well, I can't hit the bed just after dinner can I? So writing seemed to be a good option.

Upstream processing is a rather interesting topic. It's interesting to note that there is a technique called upstream processing in the field of bio-sciences. Since I have no connection whatsoever with biology as a subject (I've always hated studying that boring subject), this upstream processing is related to Petroleum. Petroleum has fast become our life. Can you imagine a life without petrol and subsequently vehicles and stuff. Of course, we do have electricity, but coal is not going be around forever.


The oil and gas sector is broadly divided into Upstream, Midstream and Downstream Processing. The upstream processing mainly consists of search and exploration of underwater crude oil and natural gas fields, drilling exploratory wells, and subsequently drilling and operating the wells that recover and bring the crude oil and/or raw natural gas to the surface. Then there is fracking which can also be broadly classified as Upstream processing. Fracking is the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc. so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas.

In simple terms, you drill the earth to bring out oil, gas and process it into a whole range of products which help you get through the day. I'm sure there is alarm bells ringing on your head if this process is safe. Of course one, how long can you drill? How many places can you drill away? There would come a point where there would no more oil to drill away, but that day is far. Far enough for us.

It is interesting to note that this industry records the largest number of Mergers and Acquisitions. As expected, a lot of money flows in and out of this industry. Drilling in the middle of the sea after all, can be very expensive.

How is upstream processing connected to me? I work for a company that does automation for upstream processing plants.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

#567 : T - Thriller

My favorite genre. Racy plot, blasting bombs, espionage and what not related to a thriller - totally my thing. In fact, I devoured thrillers so much so that my mum decided to put her foot down for the fear of me becoming a psychopath. I never even turned my head to the romance section until I was 22. Thriller all the way. However, there came a time I got naturally bored of thrillers. It was the same old formula - get something stolen or drop a bomb or kill an important person and get it all solved. That's when I realized I needed to diversify. I started reading proper prose and romance too. Moreover, I realized I had to pick writers diversely when it came to thriller. I had stuck predominantly to American and British writers with the exception of Stieg Larsson. This post is not about the thriller I liked, but observations from the books I've read. I literally had to scramble for examples! I can't seem to pick!


Here are my observations about a thriller and a mystery.

  1. The timing sense. That's the major difference. In a mystery, the plot almost always begins with the crime being committed or the crime is down within a few chapters. In a pure thriller, the crime is probably done towards the end or there are a series of small crimes eventually leading to big ones.

  2. In the mystery, the protagonist tries to solve the case at hand - be it a murder or a theft. In a thriller, the protagonist prevents the crime from happening. The most popular example would be Dan Brown's Angels and Demons where in there is a theft but there is a larger consequence at hand. So the protagonist works towards solving it and prevent the catastrophe.

  3. In a thriller, the pacing needs to be fast. The best example would be any of Jeffery Deaver's books. My personal favorite would be The Bone collector. That plot is all bam bam bam boom boom boom. The stark opposition would be Agatha Christie's books in general. My personal favorite would be the sparkling cyanide featuring colonel Race. The story unfolds thread by thread. One has to savor it piece by piece.

That's the major difference I have noted! Recommendation for a good thriller welcome! 

Friday, May 26, 2017

#566 : S - Safety Systems

Never ever have I had the slightest inkling that I would write about my mundane day to day work. I work with a company that does automation and safety systems for industries. Given that my line of work is not as popular as the IT field, I'm at loss for words when people keep asking me as to what I do for a living. I've tried and failed miserably at trying to make people understand what I do to earn my bread. Well, giving it another shot!

Do something good for someone who cannot thank you..jpg

In a very crude sense this what I do - We have factories which manufacture stuff ranging from Petrol to Paper to what not. That's like a lot of complicated of machinery which needs to be operated with utmost care and attention. Thus, having high human involvement to operate such things would result in a unsafe condition. That's where we come in. We design and put in place a technology which would enable the person operating it to do so from a distance and without much error. This technology that we put in place is loosely termed as control systems. Then there are scenario when the factory in question has the probability of facing an accident. Haven't we all heard of blasts and stuff. My work is to develop a system which would mitigate such risks. We put in place a Safety Instrumented System (SIS) in place where in a combination of hardware and software is responsible for ensuring that the factory doesn't go up in flames or things don't burst.

What do you do when there is a fire? You pour water or sand or extinguish it. What do you do when a pipe is leaking and looks like it's about to burst, you turn off the supply tap to the pipe. That's exactly what is done even in a factory. Just that, the system is much sophisticated with instruments to sense fire or smoke or gas leak. The water pouring or shutting off mechanism is automated to ensure there is no room for error. That's where my work comes into play. That automation part of the above sentence. We program taps ( Valves, pumps etc etc) to turn off or to open off under certain conditions so as to ensure mitigation of risk. We program hooters and flashers to alert people in case of an emergency like a gas leak or a smoke outburst or a fire. How do we do that?

That's exactly where the conversation stops. I can't explain in layman terms and one can't possibly understand what I am talking unless they know the subject. Lost in translation perhaps!

PS. If you are my colleague or if you have worked with an automation company, please forgive me. I just trivialised all our hard work. It had to be done *rolls eyes*

Thursday, May 25, 2017

#565 : R - Rowling, Joanne

One topic/post I didn't want to write. For someone who has never shied away from proclaiming my wonder and love for this particular writer, this feeling of not wanting to write seems a bit new. There was a time when I had plenty of fellow "Potter heads" to discuss things theories, but then we all grew up. That innocence, that feeling of mutual inclusion faded away. Elitism started to creep in. Thus I started to distance myself from that crowd. I didn't belong. I didn't want to belong. Not to a crowd which taunts others for not having read Harry Potter or for not getting that yet another Potter reference they used. As a matter of fact, I thought it was just me who was feeling this, turns out not. During a random conversation with a writer of friend of mine, he casually mentioned that I wasn't a Potter-head. I was perplexed. To him, being a Potter -head means dropping a Harry Potter reference and not coming out of that world. Is that what JK Rowling taught us in first place? I ask that question to myself today.

Sunset chaser.jpg

By penning down Harry's character, JKR taught us how to be level headed and not discriminate. Harry is just another average boy with average skills born under extraordinary circumstances. She taught us, it is okay to be average as long as one knows the true meaning of loyalty, friendship and unconditional love. By penning down the character of Hermione, she taught us that being studious is okay. You may be mocked for it, but it shouldn't deter you from doing what you do the best. By penning down Ron's character, she taught us being goofy is okay, what matters most is the sense of loyalty and integrity. Luna Lovegood - The perfect example of an outcast. Yet she goes on being just herself and doesn't put up and act to belong. Rubeus Hagrid - That man is innocence personified. He is the perfect example of why one ought to have a big heart.

I know I'm kicking up a hornet's nest. If you feel angry upon reading the first paragraph, I'm sorry, I'm not responsible for it. I'm not generalising, this is just a first hand account of what I've experienced.

Dear Rowling, I sincerely apologise on behalf of people who have failed you in the name of being pure fans! You taught us better.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

#564 : Q - Questions

One word we hate hearing for the fear of unleashing the unknown - The word Question. Having questions is a fool proof technique to ensure progression of plot. Here is a summary of what I picked up from the MIT eDX course ware.


  1. Every book needs a big question. This is often the reason to entice a reader to pick up the book and keep it going. If it's a mystery, it's either who committed the murder or who is the thief. If it's romance, will the protagonist find true love. If it is a fantasy, will the protagonist set to achieve what he wanted to. The big question is the driving force of any book. To leave the question unanswered is a choice, but to not have a question at all in place is a near blunder.

  2. The smaller questions for the sub plots. This is to complement and increase the momentum of the story. These questions, however, shouldn't deviate from the bigger question. One example I could associate with was from the book, "The A.B.C. Murders" by Agatha Christie. There was a killer on loose, no doubt, but why was he murdering people alphabetically. The killer leaves letters to Hercule Poirot (the detective). For someone who is meticulous, the killer misspells his Poirot's name in one letter. Why does he do so?

  3. Unanswered questions - The cliffhanger! I don't think I need to elaborate on this one. "Why did Kattapa kill Baahubali?" - The best ever example of ensuring  that people return to the story to find the answer. As a matter of fact, this particular type of plot of the most difficult one to execute perfectly. You have to drop hints to ensure that the reader doesn't stop reading, yet you shouldn't give away the answer. Doesn't that need a lot planning? It is easier to change track and forget the big question in first place - As a rookie, that's what I dread the most!

Read! Comment! Share!

PS. Don't ask me questions. As Kamal from Panchathanthiram says, asking question is very easy, try answering them!

#563 : P - Pressure Transmitters

One of my favourite topics from the whole list. Two years of my engineering course was spent studying all sorts of instruments including these interesting devices called pressure transmitters.

As the name implies, these instruments are used to measure the pressure of gasses or liquids. In a crude sense, a pressure transmitter encases a sensor for pressure measurement and a transmitter to transmit the values. There are over 50 types of pressure transmitters. In fact, in certain level measurement applications, pressure is the actual measured parameter.

Why do we need to measure pressure in first place? Think of the most common application. You have a pump filling a tank. Without any measurement in place you need to probably keep looking at the tank to know if it's full. Now imagine the tank is a bit far off from the pump and there is a pipeline running. Imagine having to run around and check if the tank is full or if the motor is pumping. This can be solved by putting a level transmitter on the tank and a pressure transmitter at the outlet of the pump. These devices, when interfaced with computers (in a real crude sense) lets you know if all things are going fine. One step further, one can use this to operate the pump!

Here is a picture of one part of a pressure transmitter.


That blue head that you see houses the circuitry needed to measure and transmit the values. The steel base below actually measures the pressure.

This is just a very crude primer of what a pressure transmitter is. I wanted to make sure that this write up was in complete layman terms so that people can get a vague sense of Instrumentation - The study of instruments (primarily used in factories). Going in depth, would simply result in boredom if you can't really appreciate it!

PS. Pritika, if you are reading this. Husband fellow of mine wanted me to write about you for "P". I would have probably written pages and pages worth essay. You my friend, you are worth it totally :-D

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

#562 : O - Outlines

Plot outlines - My favourite task to do. The one task I excel at! I love planning things in general and I prefer to be organised. Every time I sit down to write a story, I normally thrown in few words in the name of an outline. However, at one point, I felt I should probably let creativity flow instead of planning and restricting things. That's when I stumbled about script writing. Writing a novel and writing a script are two very different things. However, I've come to learn that writing a script can improve your sense of setting and character formation. I tried my hand at a script writing course from edX only to leave it midway due to lack of time.


Here are the two important things I picked up,

  1. There are three  major areas which could be thought out before writing so as to get a clear picture. Starting Incident,Crisis and Resolution. That's a very broad way of grouping a series of incidents. Is it necessary to maintain this structure? Absolutely not. Creative freedom gives you the warrant skipping of any part!

  2. Scene outline. This is helpful if you are in a rut or are suffering from a serious case of writers block. This is activity might be boring, but it does the trick to come out of that rut.

Here is a surprising example from my favourite writer. Prior to the usage of Excel sheets, thing were done on a paper and pen. Here is a JK Rowling's plot sheet which she shared on social media. One can learn a thing or two from that!


How do you plan your story? Do drop by your comments. This can really help aspiring writers like me!

#561 : N - Neelakantan, Anand

He is probably the most talked about writer in the town barring Arundhati Roy. After all, collaborating and writing a prequel to the epic Baahubali is probably not an easy feat to do. The director himself has done a lot of planning. Adapting to his plans is almost like restricting the creative freedom.

To all students,.jpg

Anand Neelakantan is an Engineering graduate from Government Engineering College, Kerala. He has been working with Indian Oil Corporation since 1999 and has also been involved actively in drawing cartoons apart from writing novels. His first novel - Asura : The Tale of Vanquished was published in 2012 and went on to become a bestseller. The story is essentially Ramayana retold from the perspective of Raavana. His second and third book - Ajaya : The Roll of Dice and Ajaya : The Rise of Kaali are based on Mahabaratha re-told from Duryodhana's perspective.

My copy of Asura, still sits on my shelf waiting to be read. I managed to read just about a couple of chapter before putting it down. It is probably one of the most controversial versions of Ramayana I might have read.  With such a prejudice to boot, I took up reading Ajaya. Surprisingly, I finished both the book within a couple of weeks. Re-telling a tale from a negative character's perspective is not easy.  In fact, the very definition of negative kind of changes. As the title suggests, this book is the book of the underdog - Mahabharata, from "ajaya's" or Suyodhana's (As the writer prefers to call his protagonist who is otherwise known as "Dhuryodhana") perspective. Suyodhana is portrayed as a kind hearted and naive fool who listens to his heart over his mind. To someone who grew up listening to Mahabharata from a learned scholar who has done extensive research in prose and poetry in Tamil language - My grandfather, reading this book is nothing short of blasphemy. I can almost imagine him writhing and turning in his grave for such was the narration. In fact, the narration consumed me so much that I began doubting if I really knew Mahabharata and if Suyodhana was just another human with normal shades of grey that all humans posses.

I truly appreciate the nerve of the writer in portraying Lord Krishna as a devil of sorts or an anti-hero consumed by sense of caste discrimination. I wonder how the writer managed to escape the wrath of folks from ISCKON, the organisation dedicated to propagate Lord Krishna's teaching.

The writer has apparently intends to question the very definition of "Dharma". This concept might sound familiar to readers' who have read Amish Tripati's Shiva Trilogy wherein Amish tries to question the very definition of "Evil". Lets just say this writer wasn't as successful as Amish was for me.

This writer has committed the same blunder as original narrator of Mahabharata - the mistake of glorifying their protagonist.This writer has simply glorified Suyodhana to an extent that even people who hate him (People like me) would start loving him.

But then, is it even possible to narrate Mahabharata without picking sides.

I've also managed to finish reading his latest work, The rise of Sivagami. Sivagami was the most powerful character from Baahubali movie series. Naturally, her backstory would interest a lot of people. This story was a bit of shocker. One can't possibly imagine the strong, powerful and perfect Sivagami from the movie, to be like the character portrayed in the book. However, the writer has perfectly maintained the crux of all characters. Especially of that of Kattapa's. Wonder what the writer has in store!

Do let me know your thoughts!

#560 : M - Magnetic Levitation

  My first brush with MagLev or Magnetic Levitation was during my 12th standard. That concept was not a part of my syllabus, but our physics tuition teacher saw it fit to educate us as to how bullet trains work. MagLev then came back to haunt me during my engineering coursework. No doubt, it is an interesting topic, but if the person teaching it does nothing but just name dropping, it would obviously lead to boredom.


Magnetic levitation, maglev, or magnetic suspension is a method by which an object is suspended with no support other than magnetic fields. Magnetic force is used to counteract the effects of the gravitational acceleration and any other accelerations.

The two primary issues involved in magnetic levitation are lifting forces: providing an upward force sufficient to counteract gravity, and stability: ensuring that the system does not spontaneously slide or flip into a configuration where the lift is neutralized.

Reminds me of the levitation charm from Harry Potter. This one reference I can't help but make here. Wingardium Leviosa! boom! you can levitate a damn train or whatever you want. Just that you can try that with humans. How I wish I could levitate things as I walk, that would make a lot of things easier (but errr.................. on the hindsight, it would cause traffic up there and would possibly interfere with choppers and planes?)

The practical uses of Magentic Levitation include  maglev trains, contactless melting, and magnetic bearings. Here is a little video of  Maglev explained.

This is one interesting concept from physics. Do read and watch the video!

Monday, May 22, 2017

#559 : L - Love Triangle

Love triangle is probably the age old formula to bring about a conflict instantly.  This post is all about how to steer clear of love triangles. Romance and love is a genre which is not my strong point. Before I wrote the outline of my first published short story, I went about researching as to how to write a romance tale. I wanted to experiment. So here is what I picked up before writing a romance.


So the typical formula for a love triangle is this - A sweet, beautiful girl falls in love with two great guys at the same time. They guys are more or less of the same type with one major difference distinguishing them. The second guy, more often than not, turns out to be the safer and practical choice. This character is always either the best friend or neighbor or brother's friend. The heroine ends up wrecking her mind and then finally picks the second guy, ditching the first one.

Isn't that one predictable line? So, here are few pointers which I took from the same MIT eDX course work I had mentioned earlier.

  1. The female character never falls in love with both the male characters from the same time. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is the best example of this. Elizabeth Bennett has a crush on Wickham for a while. After she learns his true character her feelings subside, and it is only then that her heart begins to turn towards Darcy.

  2. At the hindsight, not both men are good options initially. It's just a matter of whom the character loves more. Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series would be the best example of it. One is a vampire, other is a werewolf. Both the characters have enough flaws associated with their supernatural state. The choice was not about who was a better choice. It was about whom she liked more.

  3. The heroine ought to be decisive and should have the conviction about her choices. It's maddening when the female characters goes back and forth between her choices and can't really make up her mind. Again Bella from twilight would be the best example. This exactly why a lot of people(me included) don't like the series.

One thing I understood was this - If the story still looked after removing the love triangle, then the love triangle is not worth it and needs re-thinking. Playing with insecurities and emotions can probably make the love triangle better.

I've not read enough romances to analyze and comment on this particular type of plotline. Even the Jane Austen reference was from the movie version. That book is next on my TBR!

Do read and share your thoughts!

#558 : K - Khanna, Twinkle

It's a little surprising that she has quickly become one of my favorite writers. I religiously read her columns these days given that it makes much more sense than the headlines on the first page. May be, TOI should boot her columns to the first page to make their news sound much more sensible. Or even better, they should recruit her to writer their news for them may be?


Twinkle Khanna is an interior designer, newspaper columnist, film producer, author, and former film actress. Her first book Mrs Funnybones sold over one hundred thousand copies making her India's highest-selling female writer of 2015. Her second book, The Legend Of Lakshmi Prasad, published by Juggernaut Books that has been at No 2 on Amazon since its release. This book has also been garnering rave reviews.

Her sense of humor and wit is unparalleled. Her first book, is a collection of incidents from her life. It captures the  life of the modern Indian woman—a woman who organizes dinner each evening, even as she goes to work all day, who runs her own life but has to listen to her Mummyji, who worries about her weight and the state of the country.

It's kind of funny to read the wife of a star hero writing about things as mundane as food and woes about school projects. She was a lousy actor, but she has turned out to be a writer who can hold a steady audience.

The second book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad and other stories, is a collection of stories on various serious social issues. While the first book was a breezy read, the second one highlighted her writing and storytelling skills. Though the narration was just above being average, the stories were well written and kept the interest alive.

Do you enjoy her columns? Drop by, read and do comment!

#557 : J - Joule Heating

Yet again another Physics concept made memorable by a teacher. We had basic physics as a part of our engineering course work for first two semesters. A new lecturer had joined us back then. It was his first day in class and he promptly wrote down the syllabus on the board and made sure we copied it down too. Days went by when he would do nothing but ask us to study from the text book and repeat writing the syllabus on the board. Initially, we presumed him to be one of these strict type of professors only to realize he was the opposite. I still remember him talking about Joule Thompson effect. He kind of spent a whole month just dropping by those two terms and other random stuff. He used to call us out and ask us to explain things, his accent and the way he pronounced names would be the highlight of the whole class. We found that extremely funny and often made fun of him. Amidst all this fun, for some odd reason, my brain associated him with this concept.


Joule heating, also known as ohmic heating and resistive heating, is the process by which the passage of an electric current through a conductor produces heat.

The most general and fundamental formula for Joule heating is:

{\displaystyle P=(V_{A}-V_{B})I}

P is the power (energy per unit time) converted from electrical energy to thermal energy,
I is the current traveling through the resistor or other element,

The explanation of this formula

(Energy dissipated per unit time) = (Energy dissipated per charge passing through resistor) × (Charge passing through resistor per unit time)

When Ohm's law is also applicable, the formula can be written in other equivalent forms:


where R is the resistance.

We kind of spent two years of our coursework playing about with this formula.

So the practical applications of Joule heating effect is fusing electric circuits. A short piece of metal, inserted in a circuit, which melts when excessive current flows through it and thus breaks the circuit. It thus protects appliances. The material of a fuse generally has a low melting point and high conductivity.

Common domestic applications are the electric iron, bread toaster, electric kettle, heater, etc.

Electric heating is also used in producing light, as in an incandescent bulb. Here, the filament is made of a resistor that retains as much of the heat generated as possible. Then it can get very hot and emit light. It must not melt at the high temperature. Usually, tungsten is used for the bulb filament, as it has a high melting point (6116oF) and is a strong metal. A small amount of the power used by the filament appears as radiated light, but most of it appears as heat.

#556 : Boxed Indulgences!

My Instagram feed is filled with beautiful pictures of books and other book related merchandise. These pictures often have me digging deep and wishing I owned them. Just then, the blogger club I am a part of sent out feelers to members as them if they were interested in reviewing a book box. Being a total bookworm, I jumped to the chance. Sadly, I wasn't selected by the company sponsoring the box. That's when I decided to dig deeper and find out about book boxes. All my friends from the bibliophile community seem to be subscribing to one box or the other!

In India, the concept of such book boxes is just catching up. Surprisingly, the beauty boxes have always been around, while, book boxes were rarity and a bit over priced.

So what is this book box? I'd call it a gift from you to self to satiate that thirst to read new books and feel better doing so. Imagine receiving a surprise book along with merchandise related to it. It certainly is going to make you feel better.

A book box is typically priced between INR 599 to INR 1800 per month with offers on subscription for 3 or 6 months. These boxes are typically contain one or two books, depending upon the package fitting one particular theme. They also contain merchandise in the form of tote bags, chocolates, coffee sachets. Candle, figurines, book marks, scarves and what not! Typically, when you sign up, the service provider asks you to fill up a form which collects data on your reading taste and preferences. Most of these book boxes are themed. Also, there are customized boxes available if you are looking to gift.


I had the chance to catch up with Ms.Papiya Banerjee who runs Books and Beyond with her partner Pankaj. I  first saw pictures of their Harry Potter themed box which they sent out this month when a friend posted pictures of it on Facebook. I dug deeper and stalked them on Instagram only to find out a treasure trove of beautiful pictures of boxes they sent out so far.  She tells me that her team has sent out about 200 boxes just this month.

Curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to know what went into assembling a box. Ms.Banerjee says she first interacts with her the people who signs up and gets to know them. They are friends first, customers later. Having had a successful career in the Human Resources, she says it's her job to know people. A lot of research goes on into the theme and the book of the month.They receive promo materials and review copies from various publishers which help them pick the theme and the book.  They mostly pick hardcovers or imported paperbacks for their books. Their priority is to deliver premium quality good which would be worth every penny paid. Apparently, they tried doing a budget box and got a lukewarm response. Evidently, their premium boxes sell like hot cakes! Dream life for a true bibliophile isn't it?

Here is a little list of various book boxes available in our country (Not an extensive list!)

  1. Books and Beyond - They send out premium book boxes with top class merchandise. Their boxes are prices at INR1499 for a month to INR 3600 for 3 months.

  2. Kaffeinated Konversations - These people send out books of relatively unknown Indian/African writers along with goodies. Their subscription boxes range from INR 800 per month to INR10080 per year.

  3. The Bibliobox - They offer books with Unusual themes and cater for children too.

  4. Story Trunk - They send out themed book boxed and their July theme is pirates.

  5. The Big Book Box- These people have a book return policy. Their plans are named after variants of Coffee and are priced between INR 999 to INR 2999.

  6. Fiction Crate -  These people offer the lowest plan. INR 499 for a book and a Tee.

It's a great feeling to receive a surprise book in the form of a literary care package! Makes ideal gifts for bibliophiles.

On the flip side, these boxes are a bit pricey and at times don't really solve the purpose. What if you don't like the book that they send? It's just a gamble right? Moreover, the cost dynamics seem to be a bit murky. If I were to buy a book, I'd buy it on a sale. That's how we are wired to act. If I were to buy merchandise related to books, that would also been purchased after much research and cost comparison. This would effectively bring down the overall cost I would incur. However, that surprise element wouldn't be there and at times, all the money spent is worth that feeling of being surprised and happy!

It would be great if there were book boxes in India who also inspire writing. (There is one available from San Francisco). Most often than not, these goodies in the form of bookmarks or magnets end up being sent to thrash after years. A notebook or a pen or a writing prompt will make a last impression.

Hope to pick out a book box soon and write a review of it! After all, a gift from me to me, especially if it is after ages, is indeed special!

Drop in your comments please!


#555 : I - Internal Conflict

Self doubt is something which is natural to every human being. Exploiting that to take forward the story is a neat trick. If you got the character arc right, you possibly would have a flaw in your hand. Exploiting that flaw to bring about the conflict would lead to progress or probably a plot twist in the story.

You'realwayswith me

I had attended a workshop on writing organized by a leading daily. In the exercise, the instructor asked us to take up a real life incident and asked us to write it verbatim. Then she asked us to fictionalize it.  She asked us to use the very character of the first story to fictionalize it. Here are few tips she gave,

  1.  Flaws, fears, secrets and morals - All go hand in hand. If you design the morals, it is easy to play around with flaws, fears and secrets.

  2. The character should be able to realize the flaw but shouldn't initially be equipped to resolve it.

  3. Usage of external forces to resolve the conflict is one way to do.

  4. The hard route however is to equip the character, build plot lines such that the characters learns how to over come the flaws with minimal support from other character.

To a novice like me, that was brain buzzing information. I needed a character to relate with.  Thankfully, just after that workshop, I read "To Kill a Mockingbird". I'm not sure if Atticus Finch is the right example for flaw. He is one character who treats everyone as equals. He doesn't differentiate racially and treats his kids like adults. He has never had to rethink is position on his morals even when he is assigned the task of defending a black man. His major flaw that I understood was his insecurity in raising is kids. Every single time some one challenges him about his ideologies of raising children, he takes up the bait and tries to defend himself. That's probably the only flaw in such a character with moral compass very intact.

Re-reading Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner gave me a new perspective of things.  I realized when the character is in early stage of development, it is easier to bring in a conflict. He is initially guilty that he let his friend to be exploited. Then he goes on to feeling betrayed when he learns about the secret that his father has hidden from him so long. Finally, he atones and redeems himself by taking his nephew to the states for education. That's one full perfect cycle of internal conflict and development.

Drop in your thoughts and suggestions about Internal conflicts!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

#554 : H - Hardy, Thomas

Back in school, our library and the librarian believed in stocking up books which were classics instead of books which were a rage among teenagers back then. Slowly, books like Harry potter and Agatha Christie started showing up. We had a library hour and would receive periodicals to read during the hour. Then we were given exactly 2 minutes to pick a book and get back to our place as per the roll call. We would have one or maximum two weeks to return it. That was my first brush with Thomas Hardy - Tess of the D'Ubervilles. I had a principle to not return books until I had finished reading them. This book was the only exception.

The hunt is over...

When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her 'cousin' Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future.

Tess's character right from the start was hapless, helpless, foolish and plain stupid. There is just a fine line of difference between being courageous and being stupid. Tess was plain stupid. Alec was a man of arrogance and almost always had his way. The characterization was totally unbalanced. Imagine the plight of a 16 year old who studied in an all girls school reading this book. I had to stop reading before it left a wrong impression on me. Years after, I had picked up this book again recently and finished reading it. Anger would be only emotion. The writer sounded so chauvinistic. On hindsight, may be that is what he intended. After all, this is a book from the 19th century when women were looked up as no more than mere visual entertainment. Imagine being constantly pursued by a guy who first insults you, then tries to make amends by convincing you to marry him.  I'm thankful that I didn't finish reading that book back then. I wouldn't probably know to be angry with the writer back then. But, now I do know why! However, one thing hasn't changed since then. The woman is always blamed for the rape and eventually, she herself ends up in a state of mind where she feels that she is to fault. Civilization hasn't evolved much, hasn't it?


#553 : G - Gaussian Curve

One topic of physics which I vividly remember. Back when I was in class 12, we didn't have a stable physics teacher in our school. The subject was as cursed as Defence Against Dark Arts was from Harry Potter. No teacher lasted more than 3 months. I had to take up tuition to cope up with the subject.  A retired professor from a very reputed art college taught the subject in a dingy government school. He was a small man with an expanding middle. He was explaining Gaussian curve. In the enthusiasm of teaching, he went a bit beyond the syllabus and showed us 2-D curve. I couldn't help but note the similarity between his physique and the curve. In fact, that's how I managed to remember that complex topic. Every other time, this topic came up, I would burst out laughing. It took all the self control a 16 year old could muster to prevent laughing every time I saw him. Somehow, that diagram and his structure seemed way to funny to me back then. Looking back today, I wondered, if only I had paid proper attention to his enthusiastic teaching I would have possibly become an astronaut. Sigh!


So what's this Gaussian Curve all about?

"In mathematics, a Gaussian function, often simply referred to as a Gaussian, is a function of the form:

f\left(x\right)=ae^{-{\frac {(x-b)^{2}}{2c^{2}}}}
for arbitrary real constants a, b and c. It is named after the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss.

The graph of a Gaussian is a characteristic symmetric "bell curve" shape. The parameter a is the height of the curve's peak, b is the position of the center of the peak and c (the standard deviation, sometimes called the Gaussian RMS width) controls the width of the "bell". "

The Gaussian equation is widely used in image processing and in solving heat equations in mathematics.

Studying something as complex as this, one needs an entertaining methodology to remember things. I had the right image to remember this concept!

#552 : F - Fielding, Hannah

I couldn't make up my mind if I wanted to write about Ken Follet or Hannah Fielding for "F". I found Hannah's work more interesting than Follet's work. Follet's work predominantly are financial thrillers while, Hannah's work is much of a romantic thriller.

forks high (1)

About the writer

Hannah Fielding is an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: writing full time at her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breath-taking views of the Mediterranean.

To date, Hannah has published five novels: Burning Embers, ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’, set in Kenya; the award-winning Echoes of Love, ‘an epic love story that is beautifully told’ set in Italy; and the Andalucian Nights trilogy (Indiscretion, Masquerade and Legacy), set in sultry Spain.

My interaction with this writer began a couple of years ago when she sent her book, The Echoes of Love. The richness of the cover left me dumbstruck. It looked so beautiful and the very smell of the book left me dizzy. The story was equally enthralling and rich. The characters were intense and were well developed.  All her books have a magical element involved in them. The highlight of all her works would be the characterization. She would begin with a basic sketch and add layers and layers neatly to give a complete picture. In the age of cringe worthy and tasteless romance books, her books are a refreshing change. Call me old fashioned, but the feeling of reading a story with strong female character courted properly the alpha male character cannot be matched at all by these instant romance stories.

Do read my reviews of her books

  1. Burning Embers

  2. The Echoes of Love

  3. Indiscretion

Do give her books a try for they are totally worth it!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

#551 : E - Energy Balance

The world functions in this very concept of science. Energy can neither be created nor be destroyed, it can only be transformed from one form to another. This one fundamental law of physics which works on a spiritual level too.

My first brush with Energy Balance, popularly called the first law of thermodynamics was in class 9.  It was a rather interesting concept to learn back then. Again, during my coursework in Engineering, we had a subject which purely dealt with concepts of thermodynamics including the energy balance. The most common application of first law of thermodynamics is the melting of an ice cube. When an ice cube is added to another liquid, the cube melts but the chillness is transferred to the liquid into to which it is dropped into. The energy here is transferred from the ice cube to the liquid into which it is destroyed.

My first practical exposure to an application of Energy balance was when I was working on correcting the air to fuel ratio of a steam boiler.  Like every other engineering student, I was under the assumption that these laws weren't going to be of any use and wouldn't really matter once you are into a job. However, these very laws came back to haunt me during that project. I had to collaborate with a highly qualified person who was the energy head of that particular client site I was working in. He started off from this very law and ended up asking us to collate months worth data into a pattern which would explain the problem they were facing. I thanked my stars that I had paid enough attention to bring the data into a chart adhering to the law and come up with a solution.  All the energy I spent on working on a solution was transferred into pages and pages of extensive notes. Talk about energy transfer! So much for assuming that these laws weren't of any practical use!

#550 : D - Dialogue Writing

Communication is the key to winning it all. Talking and writing about a person talking are two entirely different things or so I learnt lately. When you are in conversation in person, you tend to employ gestures, modulate pitching and tones to convey the message. Your whole body along with your mind transpires to get across the message in a perfect way. In spite of such rich transfer of information, there at times when such in person communications are interpreted in a wrong manner. Imagine the difficulty of having to write a conversation without having various rich information transferring tools at disposal.


When I started out writing the first chapter of the book I'm working on, I had to plan in detail before attempting to write a conversation. I picked up some pointers by going through writing material available on MIT eDX MOOC.

  1. Knowing the goal of the conversation is very important.  Normally, a conversation would either narrate a backstory or some kind of an emotion, primarily attachment/detachment, or it would be used to convey some critical information.

  2. If the dialogue scripted doesn't fit into the above mentioned categories, it is more often than not, a simple filler. Such fillers may be crucial at times or aren't simply needed at all.  You ought to either have a good judgement of the flow or a good editor who won't hesitate to chop of unnecessary fillers.

  3. Using dialogue to repeat what the reader already knows from the narrative is a blunder. Instead, dialogues can be effectively used to build new elements or explain relationships, or develop complex emotions.

In a attempt to understand dialogue writing a bit, my friend recommended that I go through scripts of movies, especially that of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. I read a part of the script before watching the movie. The movie was a tad too violent for my taste.  One that apparent was the script writer had obviously done his job extremely well. The actors were mere puppets to the screenplay. Black comedy is not a genre suitable for all!

What are your thoughts on dialogue writing!