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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Ironwood Poacher: Almost there…

The cover is complete. Compliments to the software and design people at CreateSpace for a setup that allows a novice to make such an appropriate cover layout. Waiting for final page proofs before releasing it for publication. In the meantime, here’s a copy of the blurb that will accompany the book on the Amazon page. Too long at 150 words? I agree. Only the first 6 lines will show on the sales page, with an option to expand to the entire description. All comments and feedback welcome.

The old adage says: if you stand at New York’s Times Square long enough, the whole world will walk by. A short story deals with a tiny slice of life on a local scale but can, like a hologram, contain the big picture or illustrate universal themes. These ten stories have backgrounds that range from India to small-town America to Italy and even, in the case of Enigma, to outer space.
In December 2012, a violent incident on the outskirts of Delhi traumatized a nation and triggered an outpouring of soul searching. A young woman and her male companion were attacked in a bus. The man was beaten with a metal bar and left incapacitated while the girl was brutally raped and then seriously injured in a frenzy of bloodlust as an aftermath of lust. The case attracted wide media attention and struck a chord in the hearts of millions of urban middle class who were shocked that such a thing could happen to one of their own kind. When the girl died of her injuries thirteen days later, there was an outpouring of grief and violence nation-wide. The mass protests and agitation in urban centers throughout the country were an expression of anger and disbelief that the nation that nurtured Gandhi and non-violence could harbor individuals like these. Far more egregious is the petty tyranny of low-level officials in rural areas and the title story in this collection is a reflection of that.
The European Union is an unprecedented, brave and bold experiment by thirty-odd countries venturing into uncharted territory. Many economists have predicted that the experiment is doomed, and there is no shortage of possible reasons for failure. The Flood is a parable on the need for common myths to weld communities together.
Cassie is a child’s memory of adult marital stress in small-town America, while the two following stories Maestro Ladrini’s Villa and Heavy Duty are simple love stories, set in Italy and India respectively. In addition to India having an Italian-born queen (Sonia Gandhi), both countries have this in common. They are populated by hot-blooded, voluble and demonstrative peoples.
The Orbs of Celeris is the story of a dreamer, a Don Quixote who tilts, not at windmills, but at established mores. Ironically, the lance in this tale is a windmill.
There is some magic in the story of the eccentric Mrs. Macawley. It’s an author’s privilege to dissemble the truth that is stranger than fiction, and it is for the reader to decide what is truth and what is fiction in the story.
What if history repeats itself? Conception is a story of events leading to the second coming, or parousia, in the 21st century.
The Voyager I space probe apparently left the solar system sometime in August 2012, the first man-made object to do so. Around 150,000 people worldwide have reportedly volunteered to take a one-way trip to Mars, the theme of Enigma.
In A Night at the Taj Mahal a sixteen year old boy tries to find a shortcut to a University education and the secure employment that presumably comes with it.


Kopi Luwak: Essence of Civet Cat

Kopi Luwak is apparently the best coffee in the world. It’s also the most expensive. Passing by an upscale coffee shop in Hong Kong recently where the variety was on offer, this blogger decided to splurge and order a cup to try and decide whether the Asian civet cat’s gastric juices (where the coffee beans first ferment before being excreted, cleaned and roasted) live up to their reputation.

The brand was obviously not in high demand, because the order caused a bit of a flap at the counter and then I was told the coffee would take around ten minutes to prepare, although there was not a civet cat in sight. The coffee, when it finally arrived, was  served in a round-bottomed flask held on a stand with a clamp, a smaller version of flasks used in chemistry labs the world over. See the recent Economist article below for more about how and where the coffee is produced.


Unsurprisingly, to this untutored palate the coffee tasted thin and weak, so for the best coffee in the world, visit just about any coffee house in Vienna. Equally good, and tied for first place is South Indian filter coffee, particularly in Mysore, where one can order a 2 by 3 (2 cups served for 3 customers), a 2 by four, or any other desired fraction.

Political skulduggery uncovered…

Here is a 5-minute video on a change in US parliamentary procedure that has caused much of the world a lot of grief, not simply in the US. For some reason, it was impossible to share on Facebook and Linked In using the normal share button, so I had to cut and paste this URL. Here is the video in case you haven’t seen it already…

Transportation: Electric Past, Electric Future

In the first decade of the twentieth century, there were literally hundreds of companies trying to make automobiles. And because there was no firm definition of what a car should look like, or what kind of engine it should have, those companies offered a bewildering variety of vehicles, including steamers and battery-powered cars. The victory of the gasoline-powered engine was not a foregone conclusion. Thomas Edison, for instance, had designed a battery-powered vehicle and in 1899 one sage had offered the prediction that “the whole of the United States will be sprinkled with electric charging stations.” At one point, a third of all the cars on US roads were electric powered.
From: The Wisdom of Crowds: why the many are smarter than the few, by James Surowiecki, Abacus, 2005

Time for a return to the future?

See also this interesting weblink at

Viennese delights in Singapore

Came across these culinary delights in a beautifully showcased bakery counter. Not sure if they are available in Vienna. Mahlzeit!photo 2

photo 1

Superstorm Phailin: Breaking down bureaucracy, unleashing corporate philanthropy.

38 deaths in the aftermath of Super Cyclone Phailin is 38 deaths too many but, when all the other numbers are compared, can be seen as a success story in the annals of disaster management. Here is a tally. Wind speeds of up to 250 kilometers per hour on a storm-battered coastline that had lost much of its natural defences as a result of the ravages of earlier storms, from which the coastline had not yet recovered; the evacuation of nearly a million people from the affected areas in the 48 hours preceding the storm; the accurate meteorologic forecasts consistently made available by central and local government authorities of where and when the storm was most likely to strike; and the hundreds of temporary shelters set up in schools, temples and other safe buildings upto ten kilometers inland at the most vulnerable locations.

Compare the figures from 1999, when a similar superstorm killed more than 10,000 people in this same area. In 1967, the death toll was much worse, presumed to number over a hundred thousand, but no accurate counts were possible since the worst affected areas were cut off from relief services for weeks. The 1967 storm drove fishing boats several kilometers inland in places, destroying every settlement along the way, as well as most of the trees, killing all the birds in the area as well as the people.

Disaster relief has come a long way and government officials were able to be effective because they were relieved from the shackles of bureaucracy in a burst of enlightened administrative decision-making on the part of the state government of Odisha.

Global giant Google demonstrated the power of individual freedom and initiative as a team of volunteers spontaneously coalesced to form a disaster mitigation group at its offices around the world, and on the ground in the affected state, providing and updating crowd-sourced information on the location of local emergency services, storm shelters and a people-finder mobile network. The software is open source, meaning that it is available free to any other developer at a crisis point anywhere in the world. The website also created a map of volunteers offering shelter in the affected area.

Gardens by the Bay

During a visit to Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay Complex, one sees a stunning sculpture by British artist Marc Quinn. A giant white baby that seems to float over a grassy knoll. In reality, this marvellous feat of engineering is a 7-ton bronze. The Complex is well worth a visit, not least because of two giant crystal-like domes that provide isolated environments for high altitude rain-forest plant species and for dry land succulents including giant baobabs and


diverse cactus varieties. Over a hundred hectares in area, and comprising three gardens, includes the two glass encased conservatories, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. A grove of Supertrees between 25 and 50 meters high are artful recreations of the role played by rain forest giants in harvesting rainwater, synthesizing sunlight and recycling nutrients.

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Having spent a few hours wandering the two domes and the gardens over the weekend, I highly recommend reserving a day for a visit to the complex if you should happen to visit Singapore.