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Smart Green Civilizations: Indus Valley
Smart Green Civilizations: Indus Valley
by Benita Sen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $10.25
4 used & new from $4.54

2.0 out of 5 stars Kid-friendly introduction, but marred by selective omissions. Also leaves out the truly spectacular achievements of the people, February 22, 2014
One-line review: Parents are advised to read out and share this book with children, but are also forewarned that they will need to spend considerable time in correcting the several errors - of commission and omission - in the book.

Longer review: The Indus Valley Civilization, more accurately known as the Indus Valley Saraswati Civilization, was the largest and most advanced ancient civilization that existed. This short illustrated book does a good job of introducing the reader - children - to this civilization. It tells us that the Indus people were the first to develop the concept of urban town planning, and were the first to trade with the world. The generous availability of wells meant that people were never far away from access to clean water. Children will like the simple and full-colour illustrations in this book, and the easy style of writing. At the bottom of each page is a short line that has a lesson on environmentalism.

However, this book also falls into the trap of sticking with discredited falsehoods for the sake of political correctness. A few examples will suffice. While the book briefly touches upon the discovery of the pashupati Shiva at the site, it fails to mention that the Indus Valley civilization was the birthplace of Hinduism, and that most likely the Rig Veda was written during the heydays of this civilization.

The book does not mention that more than one-third of all sites of the civilization have been unearthed near the banks of the now dried up Saraswati River. Any book, even one for children, that leaves out this fact does its credibility little good. Evidence pointing to the existence of this river, long suspected on the basis of literary, archaeological, and scientific facts, has opened up a valuable new chapter in the understanding of the roots of Indian civilization. This book owed it to its children audience to have brought this up.

Perhaps the most egregious act of political correctness is when the book mentions the Aryan Invasion Theory as one that enjoys mainstream acceptability. Worse, there is an entire two-page illustration with hordes of these mythical "Aryan" invaders massed outside an Indus Valley settlement. The Aryan Invasion theory has long been discredited, and even Western and Communist historians have had to, albeit grudgingly, abandon the Aryan Invasion Theory. This theory today has as much credibility as the Flat Earth theory. For this book to include it as a plausible explanation for the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization is a shocking act of negligence, ignorance, or worse.


The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide
The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide
by Gary Jonathan Bass
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.79
75 used & new from $9.50

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bikini of a book. Lays bare an ugly passage in American diplomacy, but the true horrors of the genocide remain unclear., December 8, 2013
The forced exodus of ten million Bangladeshis in 1971 - ninety percent of whom were Hindu, the genocide of an estimated three million Bangladeshis, and the rape of close to half a million women - were all small prices that Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon willingly paid in exchange of opening bilateral ties with China, and in the process getting their names enshrined as statesmen. Henry Kissinger would go on to win a Nobel Peace Prize - a more damning indictment of the farce that is the Nobel Prize would be hard to find. Archer Blood, consul general and the "ranking diplomat of the United States in East Pakistan", would protest in the strongest possible diplomatic terms the atrocities perpetrated by the Pakistan army on the citizenry of East Pakistan. He would be ordered to "request home leave and transfer back to the State Department - in other words, unceremoniously sacked" - just one step short of being fired - spend the next decade in a desk job - hiding from an omnipotent Kissinger, his career finished for all practical purposes.

Gary Bass' book, "The Blood Telegram", lays out in threadbare detail the machinations that went on in the White House during those crucial months in 1971. The language of the conversations between Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger would at times make a drunken street gang brawl look gentlemanly by comparison. India's embrace of a so-called Non-Aligned Movement - championed by her first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and sustained by his daughter Smt Indira Gandhi, would come a complete cropper when India beseeched these countries for support - material or otherwise. Lessons that could have been learned in that fateful year of 1971 were not learned.

Where this splendid book - deeply researched, methodically organized, and lucidly written - fails however is when it leaves out the true horror of the genocide that took place in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). While it can be argued that it is not this book's place or purpose to document it, a true perspective of the tragedy that unfolded that fateful year cannot be fully comprehended without forcing oneself to confront the horror of that genocide and ethnic cleansing.

However, for an understanding into the variables - human, diplomatic, political, personal - that went into the making of the United States' foreign policy towards the Indian subcontinent in 1971, this book is an invaluable aid.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 9, 2014 4:01 PM PDT


Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana
Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enrichening, but not as spectacularly successful as 'Jaya', December 1, 2013
Devdutt draws upon a vast store of retellings and regional narrations of the Ramayana over the last two thousand years, blends them into the story, and adds notes at the end of each chapter, identifying these regional narrations and interspersing these with his commentary.

As readers would have found out in Devdutt's "Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata", there are innumerable factoids that enrichen reading experience. The same is the case with "Sita". Not many may know that Lakshman also went through a trial of fire! This happened when they - Ram, Sita, and Lakshman - were spending their period of exile in the forest. Indra decided to test Lakshman's fidelity, and sent an apsara - Indrakamini - to test him. When Lakshman would not be swayed, she left some strands of hair that "clung to Lakshman's clothes of bark." Later when Sita spotted those hairs and remarked in jest, "Looks like you found yourself a wife," Lakshman "jumped into the fire around which they sat" and emerged unscathed. This episode comes from the Baiga Ramayana from Central India.

Devdutt has an "approximate and highly speculative" chronology of the different Ramayanas, starting with, of course, Valmiki's Ramayana - penned sometime in the 2nd century BCE, and is followed by Vyasa's Ramopakhyana in the Mahabharata (1st century CE). Bhasa's Sanskrit play "Pratima-nataka" comes in the 2nd century CE, Kalidasa's Sanskrit Raghuvamsa in the 5th century CE. Kamban's Tamil Iramavataram dates to the 12th century CE, followed some four centuries later by Tulsidas's Avadhi Ram-charit-manas, and so on.

On the whole, people will find Devdutt's "Sita" a tremendously illuminating read. Having said that, there are also a few, albeit minor, faults with the book.

First, with the bibliography.
Perusing the bibliography at the end, I was somewhat surprised to find that Arshia Sattar's abridged translation ("The Ramayana"), or Robert Goldman's unabridged translation ("The Ramayana of Valmiki: An Epic of Ancient India, Volume 1: Balakanda") do not find a place. Nor does the Critical Edition put out by the Oriental Institute at M.S. University in Baroda.

It is from the Kashmiri Ramayana, Devdutt informs us, (on page 87) that "Dashratha weeps so much that he becomes blind." However, in Arshia Sattar's abridged and edited translation, Dashratha's blindness is part of the main Ramayana (her source for the translation was the Critical Edition of the Valmiki Ramayana prepared by the Oriental Institute at M.S. University, Baroda) - "Kausalya, touch me. My eyes which followed Rama have not yet returned to me!" [page 155 of Arshia Sattar's translation]

The second quibble is with the dialogue.
The dialogues of the principal characters are - almost without exception, stilted and forced, and it's impossible to tell one character from the other. A surfeit of philosophy suffuses, almost suffocates, the dialogues.
Sample this fairly lifeless, but representative, metronomic passage:
"Tell her that I will be happy only if she returns to Ayodhya. But to return as queen she has to prove her chastity publicly before the people of Ayodhya...
...
They heard Sita say, 'The earth accepts all seeds with love. She bears the judgment of her children with love. If I have been as true as the earth in my love for Ram then may the earth split open and take me within.'" [pg 304]

In a balanced analysis, Devdutt's "Sita" is a massively informative book, short enough and organized into short chapters to make it an easy read. Look past the somewhat monotonous dialog and it is a rewarding experience.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 24, 2014 12:45 AM PST


Blue Microphones NESSIE Adaptive USB Condenser Microphone, Cardioid
Blue Microphones NESSIE Adaptive USB Condenser Microphone, Cardioid
Price: $67.60
43 used & new from $58.90

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much better than regular headset microphones, November 21, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have been using a GN2000 headset with a microphone for use in calls as well as for any recording requirements. Using the Nesie microphone was my first experience with a standalone mic, and am reasonably impressed with the improvement in the voice quality recorded. The base of the mic is heavy, which helps keep it stable, while the rest is mostly plastic. I don't particularly care either way for the plastic. One big benefit of this mic is the reduction in the breathing noise - a bane of recordings that I then have to filter out, mostly with middling results.

I haven't used any voice recognition software, so cannot say how much better, if at all, this microphone would be. If I try that out, I will update my review.

So far I am satisfied with this mic, especially given my infrequent recording requirements.


Oral-B Precision Black 7000 Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush 1 Count
Oral-B Precision Black 7000 Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush 1 Count

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong brushing action with lots of gizmos that may not be useful to all, November 18, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Oral-B Precision Black 7000 Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush was a very pleasant surprise. The toothbrush comes with several brush heads and a bluetooth enabled monitor that makes brushing my teeth an easy and mechanical task. The heads come with a normal cleaner, a deep cleaner, tongue cleaner and even a polisher. The monitor tells me which quadrant of your mouth to brush when and for how long and whether you are applying too much pressure. The brush is powerful and even after brushing for 3 minutes does not lose its intensity. I am extremely satisfied with this brush and would recommend it to anyone.


Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
by B. Krishna
Edition: Paperback
2 used & new from $44.95

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His stupendous achievements dwarfed only by the apathy of an ungrateful polity and dishonest historians., November 10, 2013
Unless we learn the path we took and who led us down the path, we can never truly hope to correct course and tread towards a brighter future. Blind hero-worship of flawed frauds and idolatry of insidious ideologies cannot ever be the basis of writing history. That is hagiography. This short book on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the iron man of India, is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding what was, what happened, and why we are here. If we today breathe in a united and independent India, we have one person - Sardar Patel - to thank more than anyone else.

The backbone of Gandhiji's Satyagraha would pour his blood into a newly independent India to breathe life into a nation gasping from the treacherous and repeated back-stabbings by a departing colonial power. For the Sardar to succeed, at each step he had to fight not only a scheming Lord Mountbatten, but also a vacillating Prime Minister in Pandit Nehru. When Lord Mountbatten wanted India to refer every single dispute with the princely states to the United Nations, appealing to Pandit Nehru's egoistical want to get appreciation from the west, it was Sardar Patel who put his foot down and ensured that these disputes were resolved internally, and quickly.

Sardar Patel worked tirelessly to cajole, threaten, persuade, and out-maneuver hundreds of princely states into acceding to the Indian Union. The one state where he was overruled by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was Kashmir, when in December 1948 the state was taken out of the charge of Sardar Patel and placed "under the charge of Goplalswami Ayyangar." The one state where Lord Mountbatten and Panditji kept arguing for patience led to the avoidable deaths of over twenty thousand people and innumerable crimes against humanity was in the state of Hyderabad.

When the British sought to inject chaos into a nascent independent nation by proposing the dissolution of the Indian Civil Service, Sardar Patel would turn that into an advantage.

What is not much known is that Mahatma Gandhi had Sardar Patel to be the nation's first Prime Minister.

Or that Sardar Patel had argued for a free market economy.

Or that Sardar Patel had warned of the grave danger that Chinese communism posed to India's external security.

This short book, while starting somewhat abruptly, provides a lucid account of those fateful years when India's fate as a coherent nation lurched in the balance.

If Indians live in a free state today, Indians have Sardar Patel to thank more than any other person.


Sardar Vallabhbahi Patel
Sardar Vallabhbahi Patel
by Balraj Krishna
Edition: Paperback
3 used & new from $11.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His stupendous achievements dwarfed only by the apathy of an ungrateful polity and dishonest historians., November 10, 2013
Unless we learn the path we took and who led us down the path, we can never truly hope to correct course and tread towards a brighter future. Blind hero-worship of flawed frauds and idolatry of insidious ideologies cannot ever be the basis of writing history. That is hagiography. This short book on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the iron man of India, is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding what was, what happened, and why we are here. If we today breathe in a united and independent India, we have one person - Sardar Patel - to thank more than anyone else.

The backbone of Gandhiji's Satyagraha would pour his blood into a newly independent India to breathe life into a nation gasping from the treacherous and repeated back-stabbings by a departing colonial power. For the Sardar to succeed, at each step he had to fight not only a scheming Lord Mountbatten, but also a vacillating Prime Minister in Pandit Nehru. When Lord Mountbatten wanted India to refer every single dispute with the princely states to the United Nations, appealing to Pandit Nehru's egoistical want to get appreciation from the west, it was Sardar Patel who put his foot down and ensured that these disputes were resolved internally, and quickly.

Sardar Patel worked tirelessly to cajole, threaten, persuade, and out-maneuver hundreds of princely states into acceding to the Indian Union. The one state where he was overruled by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was Kashmir, when in December 1948 the state was taken out of the charge of Sardar Patel and placed "under the charge of Goplalswami Ayyangar." The one state where Lord Mountbatten and Panditji kept arguing for patience led to the avoidable deaths of over twenty thousand people and innumerable crimes against humanity was in the state of Hyderabad.

When the British sought to inject chaos into a nascent independent nation by proposing the dissolution of the Indian Civil Service, Sardar Patel would turn that into an advantage.

What is not much known is that Mahatma Gandhi had Sardar Patel to be the nation's first Prime Minister.

Or that Sardar Patel had argued for a free market economy.

Or that Sardar Patel had warned of the grave danger that Chinese communism posed to India's external security.

This short book, while starting somewhat abruptly, provides a lucid account of those fateful years when India's fate as a coherent nation lurched in the balance.

If Indians live in a free state today, Indians have Sardar Patel to thank more than any other person.


India's Bismarck/Sardar Vallabhai Patel
India's Bismarck/Sardar Vallabhai Patel
by B. Krishna
Edition: Paperback
8 used & new from $50.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His stupendous achievements dwarfed only by the apathy of an ungrateful polity and dishonest historians., November 10, 2013
Unless we learn the path we took and who led us down the path, we can never truly hope to correct course and tread towards a brighter future. Blind hero-worship of flawed frauds and idolatry of insidious ideologies cannot ever be the basis of writing history. That is hagiography. This short book on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the iron man of India, is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding what was, what happened, and why we are here. If we today breathe in a united and independent India, we have one person - Sardar Patel - to thank more than anyone else.

The backbone of Gandhiji's Satyagraha would pour his blood into a newly independent India to breathe life into a nation gasping from the treacherous and repeated back-stabbings by a departing colonial power. For the Sardar to succeed, at each step he had to fight not only a scheming Lord Mountbatten, but also a vacillating Prime Minister in Pandit Nehru. When Lord Mountbatten wanted India to refer every single dispute with the princely states to the United Nations, appealing to Pandit Nehru's egoistical want to get appreciation from the west, it was Sardar Patel who put his foot down and ensured that these disputes were resolved internally, and quickly.

Sardar Patel worked tirelessly to cajole, threaten, persuade, and out-maneuver hundreds of princely states into acceding to the Indian Union. The one state where he was overruled by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was Kashmir, when in December 1948 the state was taken out of the charge of Sardar Patel and placed "under the charge of Goplalswami Ayyangar." The one state where Lord Mountbatten and Panditji kept arguing for patience led to the avoidable deaths of over twenty thousand people and innumerable crimes against humanity was in the state of Hyderabad.

When the British sought to inject chaos into a nascent independent nation by proposing the dissolution of the Indian Civil Service, Sardar Patel would turn that into an advantage.

What is not much known is that Mahatma Gandhi had Sardar Patel to be the nation's first Prime Minister.

Or that Sardar Patel had argued for a free market economy.

Or that Sardar Patel had warned of the grave danger that Chinese communism posed to India's external security.

This short book, while starting somewhat abruptly, provides a lucid account of those fateful years when India's fate as a coherent nation lurched in the balance.

If Indians live in a free state today, Indians have Sardar Patel to thank more than any other person.


Doctor Sleep: A Novel
Doctor Sleep: A Novel
by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.57
285 used & new from $2.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but can't match the sheer claustrophobic terror of the original., October 20, 2013
This review is from: Doctor Sleep: A Novel (Hardcover)
One of the most anticipated sequels in recent times, Stephen King's "Doctor Sleep", a sequel to "The Shining" thirty years in the making, is one good yarn - better if read on its own merits. If compared with the iconic "The Shining", it will fall short. This one does not match the sheer claustrophobic terror of the original.

Dan Torrance, the boy with the double-edged gift of the "shining" - that allowed him to look into people's minds as well as into the future, though somewhat hazily, had escaped from the Overlook Hotel with his mother, and with help from the Overlook's chef, Dick (Richard) Hallorann. More than twenty years later, Dan had turned out to be what he had never wanted to become - a peripatetic and a near-confirmed alcoholic, one short step away from the abyss from which he knew he could never return. After yet another episode of drinking, he gets on a bus and finds his way to a small town named Frazier, where he decides to stay a while, tending to Teenytown Railway - the the small town's miniature train - during its summer tourist season, and working at the local hospice otherwise. At the hospice he becomes known as Doctor Sleep, for his ability to ease the last moments of the terminally ill. At around the same time that Dan moves to the town, in a nearby town, Abby is born, a few months before Sep 11 2001. It seems that little Abra has the gift of the shining - a super strong power, in much the same manner as Dan Torrance, perhaps stronger. To complete the triangle, there is the True Knot, a roving band of people, always on the move in their RV trailers, never staying in one place for long, and, unknown to others, human at one point in time, but now humanoid vampires. They live on the "steam" of the young - the young who also happen to have the "shining". A prolonged, painful death of these "shining" youth "purifies" the steam, and the potency of the "steam" is the elixir of life for the True Knot. Abra, by the time she is about to enter her teenage years, catches the attention of the leader of this gang - Rose, and from there on it is a battle between Rose, Dan, and Abra.

Going by some of Stephen King's other novels, like "The Stand", "It", and "Under The Dome" - all of which clocked in at near or over a thousand pages, this one is practically emaciated by comparison - less than six hundred pages. The plot moves at a fast clip, and with none of the detours that mark some of his longer novels. King's mastery over plot and pacing are ever evident here. The first hundred odd pages stand out for their ability to make your skin crawl on the one hand, and the painfully vivid portrayal of Dan Torrance's encounter with his personal, alcoholic abyss on the other. King seems to be drawing on a tortured well of personal experiences here.

There is also a very "The Sixth Sense" scene at the beginning that in some ways is even more creepy than young Cole's night-time encounter in the movie.

"He woke up needing to pee. Outside, a strong wind was blowing. It was warm -- in Florida it almost always was -- but he did not like that sound, and supposed he never would. It reminded him of the Overlook, where the defective boiler had been the very least of the dangers. ... Danny left the little room next to his mother's and crossed the hall. The wind gusted and a dying palm tree beside the building clattered its leaves. The sound was skeletal. They always left the bathroom door open when no one was using the shower or the toilet, because the lock was broken. Tonight the door was closed."
Almost every Stephen King novel I have read has its share of memorable quotes. If "The Shining" had an impossibly vivid line like, "Hallorann's testicles turned into two small wrinkled sacs filled with shaved ice", Doctor Sleep has a somewhat more commonplace one-liner like, "I ain't got any relatives. Unless you count the ex, and if I was on fire she wouldn't piss on me to put me out" - which still brings a guffaw.

King is however, unable to carry on at that level, and the remainder of the book is replete with metaphorically the kitchen sink thrown in by way of plot hooks - a sign of King's tentativeness perhaps and his need to make this a worthy sequel. Several throwbacks to The Shining are present in, but seem forced for the most part, including a somewhat hackneyed revelation of a filial link between two characters, a quasi-resurrection of dead characters, and a good, old Western style spectral shootout at the site of the Overlook hotel.

"Doctor Sleep" is a satisfying and fast-paced read, but falls short when compared and contrasted with "The Shining". Copious references and somewhat contrived plot hooks to the "The Shining" don't help.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 30, 2013 9:33 PM PDT


Jabra SPORT+ Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headphones - Retail Packaging - Black and Yellow
Jabra SPORT+ Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Headphones - Retail Packaging - Black and Yellow
Price: $57.31
39 used & new from $43.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Sound's ok, but just does not fit properly enough., October 16, 2013
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I received the bluetooth headphones with all the components in working order. The instructions for charging and using the device were simple and self-explanatory. I was very excited to test this product as I had been looking for a set of headphones that would stay in my ear for prolonged periods of workout. Music is very important to break the monotony during long exercise sessions.

I tried the headphones for a couple of weeks but sadly decided to go back to my old wired headphones. My main complaint was that the earpiece, which is supposed to fit in snugly behind my ear, never did. Despite several attempts, the frustration of having to adjust the headphones so that they would not fall off was just too much. My other complaint was that the volume button was a little hard to access and would push the headphone out of position every time I pushed the volume button. The third issue was the rubber connector between the 2 headphones. Given the high friction between the rubber and clothing, the headphones would once again move out of my ear every time I turned my head and the rubber connector caught my shirt.


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