Books 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008
The Toronto public library system is a network of 60 libraries. The Lillian H. Smith library near our University in Chinatown has an excellent book collection. I am a avid book reader . These are the books i have read for 2008:

The Origin of the Young God: Kalidasa's Kumarasambhava (Paperback)
by Hank Heifetz (Translator)

One of the best classics. I still dont know how i stumbled upon it. Fortunately, it was available here.Many Tamilians may not be aware of this Kalidasa's Magnum opus.
Very small book with only 192 pages but the poems were FIRST CLASS. Its as good as our love classics like Ahanaanooru.

The Interior Landscape: Love Poems from a Classical Tamil Anthology, 1967
Translated by A.K.Ramanujam

Selected poems from Kurunthokai. Most poems were very short. Until now, this is the BEST set of poems i have ever read in my life. In spite of 1500 years difference,i can very clearly relate to the feelings of the protagonists in each poem.

Pillars of earth by Ken Follett

One day while i was browsing through the fiction category, the librarian asked politely if i need any help. I told about my search for history novels and she introduced me to another librarian who was well verse in this subject. While discussing with him,i asked his suggestion for novels on old english history with fiction interwined and he prescribed this one.
It was excellent.

Everything's eventual: A collection of 14 short stories
by Stephen King

1408 an adaptation from this anthology was released as a a film in 2007. I am not much into Stephen King. To be frank,i had seen only one movie based on his novel, the dreamcatchers. I have never read any novel. After seeing it in DVD, i wanted to see why people make such as fuss about this novel. WEll, it was fantastic. All the stories were excellent and my particular favorite was Riding the bullet followed by
The Man in the Black Suit. After this, i saw movies like IT and The mist, both were excellent thrillers. 1408, the movie sucked compared to the short story with the ending different.

Duma Key
by Stephen King

Finished it in one week, with 100 odd pages each day as i had to get this book from 1 week loan section. Average.

The Tommyknockers
by Stephen King


Trading places:the East India company & Asia

by Anthony Farrigton
A small book with lots of illustrations,it gives a concise history with many tidbits which were very new to me. Especially, it spanned the Dutch east indies and how there was an international settlement with merchants doing business from all parts of the world including Tamilians and how initially the british had nothing worthy in their hand to trade!!! TRUE..

The Winter Queen
by Boris Akunin

I keep hearing of Akunin and his Erast Fandorin series. As i am die hard fanatic of European royalty history especially the 19th century Russia, i was curious to know more. I decided to go for his first novel as a test. I loved it. He has a peculiar sense of humour. The translation did not dilute the excitement of the original. Actually,i never realised it was a translation at all...Fandorin may not be your cool action hero but he is intelligent like Holmes.

Imperial Legend: The Mysterious Disappearance of Tsar Alexander I by Alexis S. Troubetzkoy

While surfing the web randomly as usual googling for Imperial Russia history,i came across a tidbit of Emperor Alexander's mystery death. This piqued my interest and while further googling i got so many interesting results that i went berserk. Immediatley,i put this book on reserve. This book is very interesting in that, it also had the FULL history of Alexander's life especially the relationship with his father, mad emperor PAUL.
So many juicy trivia about the Russian imperial family....

Good book but only for those guys really into imperial russian history.

by Alan moore

Average. If u have seen KEanu Reeve's Constantine, then you will know how much diffeerent is he from the real constantine in Hellblazer. Reeves was the WORST choice to play this role. Alan moore's constantine is darker.

by Frank Miller

My alltime Personal favotite movie after Badboys2.
Who can forget MArv and Nancy and Miho and JAckieboy?

Vol:1 The Hard Goodbye
Mickey Rourke was cooler than the original comics Marv. In comics, he is REAL ugly and violent whereas Rourke was a lovable rascal. Jessica Alba was SEXIER than the nude comics nancy!!

Vol:2 A dame to kill for

This is gonna be in the Sin city 2. Ava - the manipulative and nymphomaniac bitch would have suited Angelina Jolie. But, grapevine is that she didint take the role. I dunno who can do better justice than her to this role?
posted by Maridass Balasubramanian at 2:16 PM, | 1 comments

Sioux Falls,SD - Falls Park on Night

Friday, December 22, 2006
The Falls Park was decorated/illuminated specially for christmas. Here are some of the shots taken in my good old SONY Cybershot 7.2 MegaPixels.
I dunno whether
1. Camera is damn good. or
2. I am a good photographer. or
3. Location/Lighting is excellent..

But, whatever it maybe, these are finest photos i had taken..
In spite of the severe cold,its nice to see people flocking to the park to appreciate the illumination. There were kids too enjoying the christmas spirit..

***** click all photos for Hi-res imgaes *********

posted by Maridass Balasubramanian at 7:23 PM, | 0 comments

Book Review: The Boxer Rebellion

Monday, December 18, 2006
The Boxer Rebellion: The Dramatic Story of China's War on Foreigners That Shook the World in the Summer of 1900



19th century China was decaying fast after the failed opium war. European nations are fighting for trade concessinons and looting china. Also, there was rivalry between these countries for carving out china. Indeed, so deep was the rivalry that Japan and Russia fought a major war in 1905 as a consequence to whom Manchuria (NE china) belongs. In this situation, a new group of peasants waged a revolt against european imperialism and christian missionary works. They are called Boxers because they are like a cult who propound martial arts as a means of spirituality therby making people think them as a sort of sports club!! The chinese royalty of Manchu dynasty gives them support and thereby plunging the whole country into war. The european legation (sort of embassy for each country) inside the walled Peking city was under siege by these forces. On the wake of the terrible assauult, ALL the imperialist nations (including Russia and Japan) fought under a single commander for the first time and for the last time the world will ever see. Of course, they won hehhe
Very interesting read..

As a Far eastern history enthusiast, especially on the 1894-1950 Sino-Japanese relation with respect to Manchuria or ruling manchu dynasty, i eagerly devoured this book. Although, it is meant for lay men and definitely NOT an academic/scholarly piece, the coverage was still very extensive. But, it had one major drawback.It didnt delve in deep on what happend to Boxers in detail.Also, Why it started suddenly?

I loved this book for its many interesting trivia. It had many juicy stuff like the sexual life of some of the charcters including the Emperess Dowager herself (around 65 of age!). For more details, check the book "Decadent Mandchoue" written by a british of the same period who was the empress' lover in bed.

One thing the author reiterates.. British/American soldiers were professional and did thier duty well. French and other europeans were pathetically unprofessional. Russians were ferocious,undisciplined but gave good results. JAPANESE WERE THE BEST.PROVED THIER COUNTRY'S PRIDE IN MILITARY TECH. Germans were thirsting for revenge.

But, together these troops went for relieving the siege of all thier legations (embassies) stranded inside the walled city of Peking. With all the cruelty, the besieged foriegners withstood the Boxer's assault for 55 days and came out victorious..
Do you want to know who were the first to enter the city breaking the siege?
SIKH REGIMENT, followed by the Rajput regiment of our the British Army... We Indians are brave and noble.
Also, do you wnat to know who pillaged/looted/raped the city most..
RUSSIANS --- cossacks heheheh
French- Worst of all europeans.. Even the sikh soldiers commented them as the "sweeper caste of europe"..
Japanese were very clever that instead of looting the house, they diplomatically took hold of the area having the treasury therby getting silver/gold from the Govt. directly..
Americans were the only power to insist on less war damage penalty and even suggested using the money IN FULL for the education of chinese in US while the Germans were very brutal and wanted a maximum war indemnity.
I highly recommend this book for history buffs.
see amazon for more reviews...

posted by Maridass Balasubramanian at 3:46 PM, | 0 comments

Review: Fredrick Forsyth's - THE AFGHAN

Friday, December 08, 2006
As usual on wednesday,i was in library checking out for some graphic novels of Frank Miller.couldnt find any and i ended up taking JRR Tolkien's THE HOBBIT in animation. As i was returning for check-out,Annie pointed out the arrival of a new FF novel. As i was not expecting any new release,i was not much enthusiastic. To my surprise,it was brand new.I cursed myself that i am not upto date nowadays..without hesitation,i took and started reading on wednesday night.I finished it on a full stretch.
I have only mixed reaction for the novel.
Story is simple - Al Qaeda (AQ) is attempting a BIG strike on US. Intelligence agencies dunno where or how it is gonna happen. They infiltrate british SAS agent Martin (Remember "Fist of god"?) who happens look like an afghan and speak partial Pashto..He infiltrates by impersonating a real taliban Izmat Khan who is under interrogation in Guantanmo Bay high security prison. Martin does this successfully by getting inside pakistan by escaping his captors in afghanistan after being repartrated from US. By hard trekking, he reaaches quetta and by Taliban sympathisers there he gets into the high command of AQ in UAE (Ras al Khaimah). He finds out that the strike may happen by a ship attack and tips the agencies. Meanwhile, the real izmat khan escapes from the maximum security prison near Seatle when a freak accident happens due to a war plane crashing on his prison (Major HOLE in the novel) and a subsequent hunt and his death. Martin becomes a crew of a renegade hijacked Tanker and in last 30 pages we come to know that AQ plans to make a Fuel-air gas mixture from a sabotaged LPG tanker to cause an inferno for miles therby destroying the G-8 summit of world leaders on a nearby ocean liner QE2/..It was sooo dumb!!Of course,Martin becomes a martyr thwarting it.

The book can be divided clearly into 2 parts. First shows a moderrn history of How AQ and Taliban were formed, their operations, about their leaders and how they got into trouble. It is told via Izmat Khan with an young martin helping save his life twice.. there are too many coincidences in this book and since this is just a fantasy fiction, no need to elaborate it.

Second Part is how Martin infiltrates AQ high command and get stuck into the HIT project.

As u can see, first part is vvv interesting. Second part has too many incidents happening by chance and hard to believe. The climax is tooo short and lets u down..
There are many loopholes in the novel.

MAIN and No.1 Osama bin Laden (OBL) is NO FOOL to entrust a BIG operation in the hands of a just escaped from a US prison Taliban. Man, this guy is planning this attack for years with men selectedvery carefully. also, this Taliban (Martin) doesnt have any special skill to assist in the attack. Then why the hell is attached to the project?

No.2 Accidental crash of the F-15 fighter on Izmat Khan's Cell..

Plus Points..
Typical of Forsyth, many incidents happen simulataneosly in all parts of the world. Intersting to find the recruits of AQ hit team from PAkistan, afghanistan, Indonesia, UAE, Philippines , chechens, Uzbeks, Tajiks, africans and even INDIA..particularly KERALA.

He throws in as usual the juicy details of war machines, intelligence departments and espionage incidents.

1. I got new insight how the Talibans rioted in the Qualai Jangi prison killing the CIA nterrogator (bare hands/legs!!!).
2. How 19,000 belgian passports are reported stolen and being used for illegal purposes which is a headache to all intel agencies.
3.What is al-isra and what it means to its belivers. i found it same for both christians and muslims.
4. during the russianexpedition in afghanistan, the helicopter gunship used for attacking Afghans is HIND!!!

5. International trading via shipping and the list of countries list used for malpractices..
6.Predator UAV RQ-1 Drone from General Atomics armed with Hellfire missiles. How these drones can be used for eavesdropping, photographing and track ur movemnets 48 hours continuosuly when it flies 4 miles above us without being heard/seen...How americans attcked a AQ operative in middleeast watching it live in a BIG Plasma TV in FLorida..what a technology!!!

7. Defintion for Smuggling

He learned that there was always someone with something to sell, and prepared to sell it cheap.
And there was someone else,somewhere,prepared to buy that something and pay more. Between the two stood the institution called customs. Faisal bin selim made himself prosperous by smuggling...

8.Island of Labuan - Labuan chnaged hands and in 1964 came under Malaysia. It has no economy within its 50 square mile oval territory. So, it created one. with a status of international offshore financial centre, no-tax free port, flag of convenience (anybody can get her flag for their ship for money) and smuggling mecca, Labuan has attraced many dubious cleientel. It has many SHIP PIRATES..

9. Two Kerala AQ operatives capture a venezuelan LPG tanker for terrorism.

10.Lockheed-Martin HERCULES AC-130 Gunship (HElicopter). It is designed to locate, target and kill an opponent in ground from 20,000 feet. it is 72 million dollars worth of bad news.
The crew chose the GAU-12/U Gautling gun. This horror fires 1800 rounds per minute, and each round is a 25mm slug, one of which will pull a human body apart. So intense is the fire of the rotating five barrel gun that if used on a football field for 30 seconds, nothing much bigger than a mouse would be left alive. And that mouse will die of shock..

10..Barrett "LIGHT FIFTY" combat rifle, a monster thats ends a bullet like a human forefinger over a mile with enough speed times weight to cause a human body to explode .
11. Difference between Atomic Bomb and LPG bomb

With an A-bomb, the damage come sin 4 ways.
1. The flash is so searingly bright it can cauterize the cornea of a watcher unless he has black-lens shields. (Cooling glasses)
2. Then comes the heat which is so bad that it causes everything in its path to self-incinerate.
3. The shockwave knocks down building miles away.
4. Radiation causes cancer and birth defects.
with LPG explosion, its ONLLY HEAT.
Its so hot that steel melts and run like honey and concrete crumbles to dust.
LPG is heavier than air. So, when transported it is kept under pressure as liquid (hence the name liquefied pertoleum gas).So, LPG tankers have double hulled skins.

As a scientist,i loved all the new technologies he describes.
But,in spite of all this, the plot is dumb and hence the novel fails when compared to his ALl other previous novels..
Looking forward for a better entertainer next time Mr.Forsyth..

posted by Maridass Balasubramanian at 10:05 AM, | 0 comments

Indian Association Get-together

Saturday, October 28, 2006

IAOS - Indian Association of Siouxland arranged a get together in SF. See the word Siouxland NOT means literally counties around SF including Minnesota,Iowa,Nebraska and ofcourse SD. They had invited an Indian Orchestra group from Minneapolis. Mostly university students of Minneapolis and software prefoessionals - all in their twenties. Entry was for 15$ with snacks provided. It was a dull affair. The group were amateurs and the audience was unenthusiaistic although the auditorium was full..As my baby was in the orgnizing comittee,i was cajoled/dragged to it. Most of the songs were Hindi with 2 tamil and one telugu. Not surprisingly, the telugu song from Pokiri was welcomed with whistles/claps. A Marathi girl (see Pic) sang Jean's "Kannodu kanbadellam thalaivaa" song with pure carnatic background and tamil accent perfect. Really,i appreciate her effort. In contrast, a tamil girl from the audience rendered "kannalane" from Bombay horribly. During the end, children were lifted to the stage and their performance/dance to the song was sweettt. Everyhing was over by 7:15 Pm and i was back to home by 8 PM.
posted by Maridass Balasubramanian at 9:52 PM, | 0 comments

First snow in Sioux Falls

Wednesday, October 18, 2006
My apartment balcony. 8 AM..

************ Click all images to get Hi-Res photos ********

The green lawn was carpeted by fine layer of snow.
The swimming pool shown in the middle was closed long back in september.

Soon people will rent the private garage in the building basement for 50$ per month lease.

I was shaking out of control by the time i was snapping the third. The rest were rendered useless for the same reason.

To put more color in this dull winter,i tried to add more color in my blog interface.
Is the red and oriental fonts make it snazzy??

posted by Maridass Balasubramanian at 10:17 PM, | 0 comments


Thursday, May 11, 2006
Hurrhaaaah - i got my paper published in Macromolecular Research

What do i get?
Maris ordered Mexican Tortilla with chicken especially for me...(As a coauthor i fished out 7.5$ for my share:-))

posted by Maridass Balasubramanian at 9:17 PM, | 0 comments