Friday, January 18, 2013

Two room problem

I had a problem.

I fractured my foot last month, on 6th December, and now am walking with crutches. I have largely recovered now, but one excruciating problem I face is having no free arms while going from room to room. That means I cannot bring food to the table from the kitchen, nor carry used plates, glasses, etc. to the kitchen. However, those problems were easy to solve: just eat in the kitchen and drink from reusable bottles.

The real problem was carrying my work around. I sit in the living room (which is large, airy and has a nice window) and lie down in my bedroom (which is a little cloistered but comfortable and snug). I had to constantly pack my work laptop in my backpack and carry it from one place to another since I like to work at both places. This annoyed me to no end, until I found a solution.

The solution was simple: use two laptops. I keep my personal laptop in the bedroom, work laptop in the living room and travelled light between the two places. Work related things are synced using Google Apps and git while my personal things were synced using Dropbox.

On top of that, I use my phone to make calls, and my Kindle (which also fits in my pockets) to read. So I don't have to carry anything in my hands.

I had got my PC as a present from one of my uncles in 1998. Then I stuck with it (replacing it part by part) for the next decade (!) before I got my first laptop in 2008. And that was a luxury. It has only been  5 years since and the computing power I have in my life has increased about 5 folds. I am suddenly living the first-world technophilic life.

When did that happen?

2012: Books

Read surprisingly few of those this year and did not keep up my implicit promise of reviewing all of them. Though few in number, they made up in the quality. It is hard to pick the best one from among the likes of Museum of InnocenceFlowers For AlgernonThe Long Earth and The Glass Bead Game.

The Museum of Innocence was a behemoth, taking me through vicissitudes of Kemal Bey, and has to be noted for the massive closure it brought me by its very last line. However, that does not make a book good, it just makes it worth while; the quality of the book was in its calmness.

Flowers for Algernon was a book which hit deep. The subject matter and the plot lies very close to my heart. However, before it became a novel, it was a short story and the slightly sketchy characters and slightly incomplete threads end up showing in the book. Also, though the perspective of Charlie Gordon accentuates the book's poignancy, it at times makes it difficult to enjoy the story as a whole.

The Long Earth was more a treatise on evolution, humanism, politics and life. However, it contained just enough surprises, emotions, and nuclear bombs to keep it from becoming a little drab like The Glass Bead Game. Joshua and Lobsang, an unlikely team, ended up becoming the one of the best partners I have ever encountered in fiction, reminding me of Rupert Birkin and Gerald Circh from D. H. Lawrence's classic Women in love. Another USP of this book was that it was co-written by Terry Pratchett and plays with the inchoate boundary between "hard" Sci-Fi and Fantasy. This is the book which game me the latest name of my laptop: EarthWestOne, and now I am eagerly awaiting the sequel: The Long War. I cannot wait to meet First Person Singular, Mark Trine, and the next iteration of Lobsang.

But, the book which stole the show for me was Seabiscuit: An American Legend. This book made my heart race and was far better than most works of fiction I have read when it came to suspense, character development, story, crescendo, feints, and climax. However, don't read the epilogue in the same siting as the rest of the book.

Karna: Part One

Another interesting and special book I read last year was Karna, the debut novel of my friend Kartik Kaipa. It is based on the great Indian epic: Mahabharata. The characters are the same, the events are the same, the story is the same, the setting is the same and even the super-natural elements are the same. What change is the narration and some relatively minor details. Contrary to the usual pious tone reserved for the religious epic, Kartik makes the story take a more down to earth, and at times blasphemous, mien. His narration is sharp, at times humorous, and honest to the point of making one's bones ache. There is a point where he even breaks character to say some words about equality between women and men and Indian culture.

The story is well researched, with enough accuracy to allow him to bend the details his way. The protagonist of the story, Karna, has seen his ascension and is about to set on his journey as this book ends. I am eagerly awaiting the next two books planned in the series.