Category Archives for "Books & Reading"

The Black Hole War!

The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum MechanicsThe Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics by Leonard Susskind
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an awesome book on Black Holes. And about one of the greatest intellectual wars in the recent times. Though the core theme of the book is the information paradox pertaining to the Black Hole physics, the book covers the fundamentals of some of the fundamental sciences (esp. Quantum Mechanics, QCD, String Theory) that lead to a better understanding of what happens in and around black holes. There a good deal of explanation around what ‘Information’ is. I had heard Leonard Susskind on a few popular science documentaries. Not everyone can explain things well. But Susskind can. The book also led me to some interesting (and disturbing) stuff that we were never taught. Like, energy may not be conserved in general relativity!!!! We’ll, it is not that simple, but then, no one really understands 🙂

There have been some very recent developments around the Black Holes. So better read this book before the information becomes obsolete!

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“Simplicity is the best policy”. I had read it as a kid. Little did I know what does it exactly mean. As I grew up, I still didn’t appreciate this. However esp. in the last few years when technology has infested our lives, I am beginning to realize how cluttered and complicated everything is.

  • My average reading span for an article on the web had reduced to a few seconds. I had trouble reading beyond the article headline.
  • 3 years ago, I could watch a complete video on TED (which was usually less than 20 minutes. No more. I hardly have the patience to watch them now.
  • I often lost context due to the web sites trying to squeeze everything in the world on their pages.

Enters the Kindle which I won’t write about (for various reasons).

Enters Readability. It is a simple service which allows you to mark articles to be read later. Nothing great so far. But that is not just what it does. It has a cool reading mode, which just makes reading fun. Just install this extremely recommended Chrome readability extension and transform your reading experience on the web for ever. It not only simplifies everything, but also allows you with options to control the font sizes, width etc.

And there is more to it. It allows you to push those articles to Kindle so that you can read them at leisure. I just can’t explain what good this does to my reading experience. Even if Readability starts charging for this service, I would be happy to pay.

There are other services like Instapaper ,which is good as well. I prefer Readability over Instapaper simply because the former can handle images when converting the article for Kindle.

Don’t ask me about the digest feature not being there in Readability (for free). Read article by article. And delete article by article. We are talking about simplifying things. Digests do not really help.

Very few things in the world simplifies life, and Readability (and Kindle of course 😉 ) does.


Writer’s block!

I had heard about the writer’s block. Didn’t exactly know what it was. But once I started blogging I could make out. I thought that the block is due to shortage of ideas. One does not know what to write. May be doesn’t have enough in mind to express.

But it is exactly the opposite I guess. Everyday I can think of so many articles to write. But I am not able to do so. Getting time is of course an issue. But more than that it is the block. I just can’t start.

And now, this is seeping into my profession as well. Of late my job involves writing proposals, creating presentations etc. I am facing the same here as well. Someone has rightly said. Well begun is half done!

But there’s one area where this hasn’t impacted me so far. And that is email. I can respond to emails almost instantly, no matter how complicated the response might get. There’s a twist though. Starting an email is tougher than responding to email. Responding is easier as someone has already started.

Nevertheless, starting emails is a lot easier than documents or presentations. Now here’s the secret. I’ve started starting blog posts, proposals, presentations etc. as emails. It is helping me tremendously.

That doesn’t mean you would see lot many posts from me. But this is making my life a hell lot easier.

When I thought through it today, I realized that emails have become more natural to us. Probably this is why the block doesn’t exist there!


It isn’t over yet. Amazon just rocks!




Image Courtesy (Amazon)


It isn’t over yet! You may tend to feel that I am biased towards Amazon, but I have to write this. While I was still going gaga over the replacement of my Kindle, I never imagined what more could I expect. To be precise, I was facing this peculiar issue of Kindle getting restarted on it’s own and a faster than normal battery drain. I read on some forums that some people have faced this issue and strangely attribute this to the leather cover for Kindle (non-lighted).

I thought I was in the same boat and decided to call up Amazon customer care again.  In just about 5 minutes:

  • I was refunded the amount for the leather cover.
  • And Amazon offered a US$ 25 promo to purchase the lighted cover.
  • And Amazon offered to refund the customs and shipping costs incurred to get the new cover  shipped to India.
  • And they proved that they are really building “Earth’s most customer-centric company” as they claim.

The cover is already on its way and will possibly reach India before I am there.

What more could I write!


Amazon customer service – It doesn’t get better than this!

The Kindle!

The Kindle! (Image courtesy- Amazon)

I’ve just experienced what might be the best customer service in my life! It is definitely the best so far. The story goes like this. Eyeing an eReader for a long time, I had ordered a Kindle back in November. Since I one of my friends was travelling to India from the US, I got my Kindle delivered in the US. Once I laid my hands on it, it was definitely one of the most prized gadget I ever owned (yes, there are emotions involved).

The Kindle worked flawlessly for a couple of months and I kept reading on and on until that day! Yes, I was travelling to Riyadh and had put my Kindle inside my bag. When I took it out, I saw my screen frozen with some horizontal and vertical lines on it. That was it. My Kindle was broken. And my heart as well. I was in such a state of shock that I didn’t even bother to contact the customer care to get it repaired. Since the Kindle was damaged because of possible baggage mishandling, there was no way I could dream of a warranty claim.

After about a month, once I gathered myself, I simply called the Amazon customer care from India to check on the options of getting it repaired ( of course at my cost). It was like a routine call and little did I expect that it would turn out to be the best ever customer care experience I have witnessed to date (and possibly will ever witness). I explained my situation. And the executive on the other side listened to me patiently. Once I was done he said, let me see what I can do for you. And beyond that, it was like a charm. I can keep writing about it, but let me be precise for the readers:

  • Amazon offered me to *replace* my Kindle free of cost under warranty.
  • Amazon offered to ship my Kindle free (priority International shipping) to India (note that my Kindle was shipped to the US originally.)
  • Amazon agreed to bear the custom clearance formalities, custom duties etc.

As if the above was not enough, Amazon agreed to pay for the shipping charges incurred to ship my defective Kindle back to the US.

I have no words to appreciate this gesture. Kindle is by the the best eReader out there. I might have purchased a new one even if Amazon did not offer a free replacement. But they did. And I am a customer for life!

I have my new Kindle already with me. Amazon has not just replaced a piece of hardware. It has given back a lot more which I can’t even explain.

Thank you Amazon!


Update: I have stopped tracking this post. But it seems that Amazon is still amazing people with its customer friendliness! Here’s a more recent experience from one of my colleagues:

The Rare Case Of Replacing An Out Of Warranty & Broken Kindle (For Free)