Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Bid Manager's Handbook

    Author:        David Nickson
    Published:   2003;
    Publisher:   Gower Publishing Limited.
    Hardcover:  208 pages;
    Buy From Amazon

This book provides the know-how to increase the probability of winning a bid.
The primary goal of this book is to enable the reader to make best use of the time available and work effectively to produce a high-quality bid with the smallest amount of hassle. 
The book is well written and deals effectively with all the three magic ingredients of a successful Bid initiative - People, Practices and Content.
A must read for anyone who has to write, manage or contribute to a bid for a new or repeat business ! 
To read an extended summary of this book please visit my business blog.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Grand Design

Author:         Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow
Published:   2010
Publisher:    Bantam Press
Hardcover: 208  pages

This  book is a sort of sequel to Stephen Hawking's classic best seller A Brief History of Time. This time the renowned physicist Hawking teams up with another famous physicist and author Leonard Mlodinow. The book attempts to unanswered questions in "A Brief History of Time".
Questions like - Why is there a universe--why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why are the laws of nature are what they are? Did the universe need a designer and creator?

The authors explain how as per quantum theory there are multiple instances of universe existing simultaneously. Also these universes have not just one but every possible history. 
They question the conventional concept of an objective reality and propose a "model-dependent" theory of reality. 

The book describes how the laws of  the universe we live in are extraordinarily finely tuned to create an environment conducive  to our existence, and shows why quantum theory predicts the multiverse--the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature. 

The authors then conclude that  M-Theory which explains  the laws governing the multiverse, is the only viable candidate for a complete "theory of everything." 

I have read many books which attempt to demystify the esoteric areas of modern physics and cosmology. But I must admit that I am yet to get a complete hang of the subject. Either I am incapable of digesting the stuff or the inherent nature of the subject itself is not amenable to easy explanation. Whatever the case may be, my experience with  this book was no different. 

Initial few pages were quite easy to grasp but things starts getting confusing as I approached the half-way-mark. However it is perhaps better than many of the other books I have read in this genre. Small doses of humor sprinkled and lavish illustrations in myriad colors provide much needed relief to the readers.

Overall a good book to read . I rate it 3.5 in the scale of 5.
Some readers with higher IQ than me may enjoy it much more than I did !
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hymns of the Gurus

Author:         Guru Nanak Dev and other Sikh Gurus
Translator:   Khushwant Singh
Published:   2003
Publisher:    Penguin Books, India
Hardcover: 250  pages

This book presents a selection of hymns of the Sikh Gurus  from the holy scripture Guru Granth Sahib and couple of other sacred books.
The introductory chapter provides brief life-sketches of the Sikh Gurus, explains the fundamental tenets of Sikhism and gives an overview of the contents of the sacred text Guru Granth Sahib.
Hymns of Guru Nanak Dev  accounts for almost two-thirds of this book. They include Japji the most important prayer of the Sikhs and Bara Maha which is believed to be the last of Guru Nanak Dev's composition. The other six  Gurus whose hymns have been included in this selection are Guru Angad Dev, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh.
All the verses in this selection bring forth the essence of Sikh philosophy viz; unity, simplicity, equality and surrender to God.
These verses are translations of the original verses in Punjabi, Old Hindi, Persian. What is surprising is that the translator Khushwant Singh is a self-confessed agnostic. Yet he is able to successfully get into the psyche of a pious devotee and pen down beautiful and moving translations close to the original verses.
This book is a very good introduction to Sikh religious literature . A must read for pious, spiritually inclined readers.

A Sample Verse from the book:
(Original verse by Guru Nanak: Jog na khintha, jog na dandey, jog na bhasam chadhaeeai )

Religion lieth not in the patched coat the Yogi wears
Not in the staff he bears
Nor in the ashes on his body.
Religion lieth not in rings in the ears,
Not in a shaven head,
Nor in the blowing of conch shells.
If thou must the path of true religion see,
Among the world’s impurities, be of impurities free.

Not by talk can you achieve union
He who sees all mankind as equals
Can be deemed to be a yogi.

Religion lieth not in visiting tombs
Nor in visiting places where they burn the dead
Not in sitting entranced in contemplation
Nor in wandering in the countryside or foreign lands
Nor in bathing at places of pilgrimage.
If thou must the path of true religion see,
Among the world’s impurities, be of impurities free.

When a man meets the true guru
His doubts are dispelled
And his mind ceases its wanderings;
Drops of nectar pour down on him like rain.
His ears catch strains of sahaj's celestial music
And his mind is lit up with knowledge divine.
If thou must the path of true religion see,
Among the world’s impurities, be of impurities free.

Sayeth Nanak, if though must be a real yogi,
Be in the world but be dead to its tinsel values.
When the lute strikes notes without being touched
Know then that thou hast conquered fear.
If thou must the path of true religion see,
Among the world’s impurities, be of impurities free.

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    Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    The Wikipedia Revolution

    Author:         Andrew Lih
    Published:   2009
    Publisher:    Aurum Press Ltd.
    Paperback: 272  pages

    I will be extremely surprised if I come across a netizen who has not heard about Wikipedia. Over the last decade rarely there has been a day when I had surfed the net but not read a Wikipedia article.
    To inform the uninitiated (and I hope there are none), Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia which is written and maintained by volunteers across the globe. It is accessible to any internet user without any access restrictions. Anyone can create, modify or delete its articles according to their whims and fancies. Sounds scary ! How can one trust the information provided by such a chaotic and anarchical encyclopedia ?  Yet over the years Wikipedia has become the world's first source of information on any topic on the earth.
    How did this miracle happen ? This book reveals all this.
    It begins with the story of how Wikipedia had its origins in Nupedia an online yet conventionally managed encyclopedia. It then goes on to describe how Ward Cunningham's invention of Wiki technology rejuvenated the stagnant Nupedia and transformed it into Wikipedia as we know today. However the  technology behind the scene is just one aspect of Wikipedia.The book is also a story about  the community of unpaid and mostly unidentified volunteers who tirelessly worked and continue to work to make Wikipedia a successful venture.
    Author Andrew Lih, himself such a volunteer provides an excellent insider's view of how this global community works. He deals with topics like what motivates these volunteers; what are their values; how they collaborate; how a self-organizing and self-governing structure gets set up in the community; how they ensure the quality and neutrality of the articles which gets published; how they deal with issues like articles getting vandalized, difference of opinion between the editors, censorship. There is also a chapter which describes the crises and controversies Wikipedia has been subjected to.
    Wikipedia is truly international. Articles in English comprise only about 20 % of over 20 million articles in 284 languages. This book also tells us the story of  Spanish, Japanese, German, Chinese, Serbian, Kazakh and African Wikipedias and discusses the technological and cultural challenges encountered during their evolution.
    The book has a Foreword by Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia who conveys that "...Wikipedia is not about technology, it's about people. It's about leaving things open-ended, it's about trusting people, it's about encouraging people to do good."
    The the last section Afterword is literally written collaboratively in a true Wikipedian spirit by the members of the community. It is intended to provide an honest contemplation of what is the road ahead for Wikipedia.

    An interesting and fascinating story of world's greatest encyclopedia !
    Recommended for all internet users.

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