Book Review - The Ramayana By R.K. Narayan

The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian EpicThe Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic by R.K. Narayan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is Narayan's narration of the famous Indian Epic, Ramayana. It follows Valmiki's script, instead of the Kamban, that I thought, I would expect from the South Indian author.

The introduction gives the details of the Ramanand Sagar's Television series and how India stood still when Ramayan was telecast on weekends. The story is well know, but the best part of this book are in the details.

I liked the chapter on Vali and Sugreeva, wherein the author does not mince words and shares about the ethical lapse of Rama. That was a difficult chapter in Ramayana. Rama tries to help Sugreeva to fight against his brother Vali. He kills Vali by hiding. Rama being a warrior, is supposed to fight straight, and being righteous person, who is supposed to not harm anyone unnecessarily, forgoes both in this episode. Vali questions him about this. And Rama rationalizes that Vali is not a sub-human, Monkey, but a higher form since he possesses the judgement skills of Right vs Wrong, and since Vali choose the Wrong approaches, when knowing what was Right, he had to meet with this fate. Also, by having killed by Rama, Vali is elevated to higher form in his death.

Other mistakes of Rama are explained as a consequence of Rama forgetting his inherent divinity, making mistakes as a human, and needed constant reminders from gods.

This book is action packed, has good stories, morals, stories of ethical dilemmas and is entertaining. The author does a very good job of maintaining balance of religious piety and story telling in this book.

Book Review: The Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy: Practical Tips for Staying Safe Online

The Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy: Practical Tips for Staying Safe OnlineThe Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy: Practical Tips for Staying Safe Online by Violet Blue
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a checklist book for the various steps that a person can take to stay secure and manage their privacy online. This is written for general populace, and does a good work to highlights of perils of getting hacked online, problems associated with online privacy. Author provides references to tools and mechanisms that can help person stay safe online.

Book Review - Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car — And How It Will Reshape Our World

Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car—And How It Will Reshape Our World by Lawrence D. Burns, Christopher Shulgan

Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car—And How It Will Reshape Our WorldAutonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car—And How It Will Reshape Our World by Lawrence D. Burns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book reminded me of "The Road Ahead" by Bill Gates. This is an impressive account on Self Driving Technology, that is about to come and consume us in the near future. The book is very well written. Initially, I had plenty of doubts on the author, Lawrence D Burn's style, thinking that he was one of the pure management type guys, looking at things in a disconnected way, trying to associate himself with changes brought about by others. I was proven wrong. I started appreciating his insights, his outlook towards this project, his commitments, and really understood where he was coming from when the author provided more context into his own up bringing and background. He provided the view from Detroit, that many following the self-driving space will miss, and it an important viewpoint to consider.

The book starts with the DARPA race, narrates the events, and stories of people who are shaping this story. GM, and Google play a very important role in the story. The book shines in presenting, well researching personal accounts from various actors like Red Whitaker, Chris Urmson, Sebastian Thrun, Larry Page, Antony Levandowski, Travis Kalanick, as well as many people from the top management in established car companies. It was good to get a first hand account on how people running established businesses think, and make decisions. It also shares the grit, and adventures of engineers who work to push the envelop of the possibilities. The book indirectly highlights the value/policy stances taken by companies such as Waymo, Tesla, and Uber pursuing self driving technology after giving the backround on the limitations of the technology, which were known to everyone developing it. It should be noted that as of 2019, Tesla and Uber have both been responsible for loss of lives with their pursuit of this adventure, and both have escaped consequences for their mistakes.

With all the events, book lays the solid ground for what is to come and expected in the next few years or decades for Autonomy. I will count this book as one of the good business books that I have read in recent years.

Science and Opinions

Most of us were attracted towards maths, science and programming because there was certain level of rigor, factual information that can be verified by repeating the experiment, equality based on understanding of these facts, and desire to elevate ourselves to the equal position of someone who had a better understanding of the facts that can obtained by ourselves repeating the experiment, understanding the concepts and thereby understanding the greater sum.

Soon, as adults, we run into the opinion territory. What is considered an opinion vs fact is a topic in itself. However, let us assume that opinion is different from mathematical fact.

When we run into opinion territory, the way the world works is, if a person has power over another, the person exercises that power. We often find this irrational, argue in the opinion territory and try to find out if facts can be established so that equality order can be restored.

Some scientist identify the opinion territory from science and choose to devote more of their energies to science, aligned with what brought them to this interest in the first place.

What is the proof that total number of subsets of a set is 2^n?

I have known "by heart" that total number of the subsets of a set of n number is \(2^n\) I was struggling to find an intuitive explanation, and two answers helped me to understand it.

For each element, you have two choices: either you put it in your subset, or you don't; and these choices are all independent.


Bruno Joyal (, What is the proof that the total number of subsets of a set is $2^n$?, URL (version: 2013-10-31):

Another was this table that represented the sets as binary, to denote 0 as an absence of the element and 1 as presence of the element.

That can help us understand that the total number of subsets of set of n is \(2^n\)

2018 in Books

In 2018, I read 19 books that I have kept track via GoodReads. The app shares fancy page that gives interesting details about my reading in 2018. Here is my Year In Books page.

These were some notable books that I had read.

  • Lauren Ipsum - A Story about Computer Science and Other Improbable Things by Carlos Bueno
  • Apache Mesos Essentials by Darmesh Kakadia
  • Beyond the Door by Philip K Dick
  • Manga Guide to Linear Algebra by Shin Takahashi
  • Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • Chaos: Making of a new science by James Gleick
  • Yummy Sourashtra Recipe Book by my parents
  • Astrophysics for people in a hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • The Mysterious affairs at Styles by Agatha Christie
  • The Hackers Diet by John Walker
  • Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold
  • The Best we could do by Thi Bui
  • I am Home, the potraits of immigrant teenagers by Erica McConnell, Rachel Neumann and Thi Bui
  • The Myth of a strong leader: Political leadership in the modern age by Archie Brown
  • Stranger in a strange land by Robert Heinlein

I have organized the reviews of these under the blog tag books-read-in-2018.

Book Review: Stranger In a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange LandStranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, what a book. It goes into multiple topics like being human, politics, religion, love, sex, community, spirituality, entrepreneurship, money, influence, negotiation, strategy and "understanding" of it all.

This gave a new word "grok" to English speaking people, which roughly means to "understand thoroughly" and becoming one with the concept.

One interesting thing about this science fiction is, it combined the real world concepts of business, stocks, politics, and ownership with imaginary situation where humans have already traveled to mars and there human of raised by martian among us. The details covering the rise of Mike to the status of a godman, and formation of his communion was fun read.

Just imagine how close is this quote "Thou art god, I am god. All that groks is god.” by Valentine Michael Smith to Sanskrit Verse "Tat Tvam Asi".

The character Jubal Harshaw, attributes that one can explain away everything by holding on solipsism, and pantheism.

I was impressed with Robert Heinlein covering so many topics. I really enjoyed it.

Book Review: The Myth of the Strong Leader - Political Leadership in the Modern Age

The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern AgeThe Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age by Archie Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book covers a great deal on political leadership and helps the reader to understand the political landscape of multiple nations. The crux of this, it is not a strong leader that brings a net positive change, but a leader who is flexible, who understands the situation well, goes into the details, establishes that the processes, and follows it through that will bring the net positive change. The way, the different leaders have accomplished is quite varied, and depends on the situation and the time.

This book introduces some amazing real life characters like, Adolfo Suárez of spain who transformed the country to Democracy from the previously established monarchy in a peaceful manner. It also shares how Deng Xioping is the person behind the economic advancement of China from 1970 onward. It shares the perspective on how Fidel Castro overthrew the dictatorship in his country, and how lived by his principles, and did not accumulate any wealth for himself.

One thing that struck with me, when this book was written, Obama was the president of USA, and even then, the system in place in USA was such that, no one particular person was ultimately responsible everything in the government. It has been understood that answer for "who controls the whitehouse of USA", seems " no one knows". This is not a snarky comment, but a statement that workings of the government in USA is very complex, and there are multiple forces in effect at any time, including political parties, supporters, lobbyists, and corporations with interests, and it will be too much to give credit and put focus on a single person.

This book covers lot. It covers Britain, USA, Europe, South America, South Africa, China, Russia, touches upon New-Zealand, India and other nations. The author explores how various leaders in these countries have shaped the political landscapes of these places for better.

Book Review: I am Home portraits of immigrant teenagers

I am Home portraits of immigrant teenagersI am Home portraits of immigrant teenagers by Erica McConnell, Rachel Neumann and Thi Bui
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Memorable book. It covers the stories of teenagers various different parts of the world like Keren, Eritrea, San Salvador, Huehuetenango, and lots of places around the world, who are now studying in Oakland International High School, and share what they think, when they think of "Home".
Book does a very good job of portraying the diversity that exists in OIHS.

My Model

I was thinking about this model while I was introspecting. I decided to capture it, so that I can share this idea.