Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Tag from Soul Speaks and Some Random Stuff

 If the name Udacity does not ring a bell, we can try Stanford and go from there. I have never doubted the awesomeness of Stanford University (Ivy League of the US West) except for the equally awesome tuition fee. Now that I am getting a chance to enjoy a little of that awesomeness for free it is all good from here. When I heard about this free online University on NPR which goes by the name 'Udacity' I took a quick shine to it. I evangelized it to anyone willing to listen. Then it occurred to me that I should put my money (time in my case) where my mouth is and so here I am being a student at my own leisure in a wonderful learning environment of top notch quality. I know that my takeaway from an experience can be quite different from someone else's from the same set of events but still think this is a unique event for anyone to take part in.

Apparently Sebastian Thrun who is a Stanford educator as well as a Google executive loved the overwhelming worldwide response to a free online computer course he offered through Stanford. So he decided to spin the idea into a start up with the help of like minded world class educators. He has made it a reality and the teaching method from these stalwarts are so basic, down to earth and top notch that only a fool will ignore them. Despite the simple nature of the lessons, it is not easy to get back into being a student even when grading is pretty benevolent and there are no risks involved. The whole thing is free. Remember? I am on unit 5 of this elementary first course and I have to say I enjoy it much in the little time I have for it after dispatching kid activities, work and home duties. It reminds me why I loved being a student and makes me want to go and live in a University campus forever. Udacity is offering many free courses and you don't really need any programming experience to join up for this course although I found that having a decent smattering of programming background helped me to go on with the class without giving up as a first step. If you'd like to bring out that student in you or if you are just looking for something simple to play with, this will fit right in. There is only one thing to watch out for. It can become addictive and like all those books waiting to be read, it could mark the start of another craving to take all those courses offered for free by this quality team.

I will understand if by now you want to throw in your towel and say "I don't know what she is talking about...". Before that happens, let us move onto more immediate things like the tag from soul speaks that I should have done earlier.. Thanks soul speaks, who speaks beautifully from the soul in her blog.

The Tag
1. You must post the rules.

2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post & then create 11 new questions
   to ask the people you’ve tagged.

3. Tag 11 people and link to them on your post.

4. Let them know you’ve tagged them!

So here are the 11 questions that soul speaks has tagged me with

1.) If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
    for everyone in the world to have the exact amount of love, power and money they need
    and not a penny more or less.

2.) What was your favorite childhood television program?
    can i simply say doordarshan? :-)

3.) Have / had any celebrity crushes ?
    most recently? arjun rampal!! i think the face is rather intelligent despite the looker label.

4.) If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?

    i just read about the Akshardham in delhi.
    embarassed to say i didn't know of its existence before and would like to visit. pictures look awesome!

5.) Name 1 thing you miss about being a child.

    asking mom "what's for dinner?" with the knowledge that something made of
    farm fresh ingredients will be ready for me instead of being on the other end
    with a bunch of mostly processed food to offer.

6.) Name the one comic/book character that you loved the most and why?

    mandrake for his magical powers and diana palmer walker (mrs. phantom for the uninitiated) for her     courage and beauty.

7.) What is the one thing that you are dying to try but haven’t had a chance to do so yet ?

    skydiving. the husband won't allow it. maybe when the kids r in college?

8.) Do you have a role model – someone you want to emulate? Whom do you admire the most?

    my maternal grandfather. one of a kind guy who i deem a classic. will be fine in any generation.

9.) What do others make of you?

    an enigma? just kidding but i liked how it sounded:-)

10.) Have you ever gotten into a fight or punched someone ?

     no. er.... maybe a little when the brothers egged on for a rare fight between me and my sweet sister?

11.) For Girls – If you woke up tomorrow to find out you are Brad Pitt, what would be
     the first thing you’d say upon looking in the mirror???

     how soon can i change back??????? nothing against the poor guy.
     i am happy being me warts and all..

Rules Check:
1. you know the rules as laid out at the top.
2. in the same lazy tradition of this tag, i am not changing the already great questions:-)
3. I tag anyone who spends their time reading my self serving posts in deep appreciation of the said act.
4. This post lets you know that you should take this up

Can't let it go without a book : Just read After The Prophet : The Epic Story Of The Shia-Sunny Split in Islam  by Leslie Hazleton. One of the many books on display in our Library. Since it was non-fiction I thought I may not last through it. But I underestimated Leslie Hazleton. Hazleton wrote the book in the same Arabic tradition of telling history through stories remembered without bending or limiting it. Just telling it like it is and traced back to an eyewitness account. Beautifully written and informative! She has given the most source credit to historian al-Tabari from the time of the fabled Caliph Harun-al-Rashid (i remember some comics featuring this Caliph and of course one thousand and one nights). Finished this gripping saga  in almost one sitting. I will be looking for other books by the same author. Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mary sounds promising for the next pick.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Nora Ephron's "I Remember Nothing" and 2 more books

I didn't know that Nora Ephron had written the screenplays for "When Harry Met Sally" & "Sleepless In Seattle" when I spotted her book on the shelves of a bookstore. The title words "I Remember Nothing", with "Nothing" put on a sticky pad proved quite interesting. I was glad to have found a copy in our library. It was not what I thought it was, but the book was engaging except for a few pages here and there that didn't make much sense. Ephron is essentially claiming not knowing much of anything lately, even what she is writing in the book! Well then we can't blame her for anything in it either. Curiously, I was OK with this premise! Now I know why my son loves the Pseudonymous Bosch book series so much.Who doesn't want to know a secret? Ephron's book starts off in a similar vein except instead of knowing a secret she claims no  knowledge at all:-) I fell for it. It has many chapters, each not necessarily related to the other.In the book Nora talks about life in general and things that happened before and happening now in an endearingly elderly yet sharp narrative.A short, fast read for when you want a quick non-fiction fix. Liked Nora's digs on e-mails and other social media interactions. Also loved how she incorporated some cooking elements into the book. I'll be trying the bread and butter pudding recipe of her deceased  friend Ruthie with whom Nora used to compete for the potluck dessert assignment during their annual Christmas get-togethers.

A Spot of Bother By Mark Haddon
Mark Haddon became well known with 'The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night Time' and this book is written in similar wry tones that characterizes his prose. Instead of the woes of a misunderstood autistic teenager, he has opted to give voice to a retired man in this book. George thinks he has a grave illness but not sure what to do about it.  So he goes into silent panic which makes his actions quite confusing to those around him. I can't say I liked this as much as "curious Incident..." but it still has some teeth in it for a decent read.

A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore
Helen Dunmore's book was picked for the first ever Orange Prize in 1996 and it is no surprise. Cathy is the narrator who lost her mother and eventually her father when she was still young. All she has left was her brother and her reticent Grandfather who happened to have come from nowhere to the place where Cathy was born. This rootlessness could partly be attributed to the eventual making of Cathy. She is so sweet and accepting that the various events in her life fall into place without so much as a raised eyebrow from her part. Instead you will nod your head while fervently hoping that no one you know should be that accepting or gullible. Helen Dunmore's mastery in story telling is evident in every single page. Skillfully set scenes through Cathy's narration takes the reader into her life without much ado and therein lies the strength of this book and its merit. That it ends on a happy note redeemed me greatly from prolonged misery. Sweet understanding Cathy deserves all the happiness she can get.Read here for some Amazon reviews.