Monday, February 17, 2014

Can We Have Our Balls Back, Please? - Julian Norridge

"Can We Have Our Balls Back, Please?" is the highly entertaining story of how the British invented sport as we know it today (and then almost forgot how to play it.)

Long before Drake refused to interrupt his game of bowls when the Armada was sighted, the British have had a passionate relationship with sport. 
Julian Norridge goes through the stories of fourteen major sports from cricket to boxing to football, from their very beginning and throughout the British Isles, whether it's Welsh inventor and tobacco enthusiast Major Walter Clopton Wingfield coming up with a game that could use those new fangled rubber balls (modern tennis) or the Scots inventing the golf club - 500 years after the game.
But this is far more than a book about sport, it takes a very funny, very British look at our popular history, mythology and most importantly the highly eccentric figures that made it.
It chronicles the constant battle between fair play and gambling; between advances in the game and plain cheating (such as turning up with a cricket bat wider than the wicket).
Can We Have Our Balls Back Please? proves that there is an awful lot to be proud of in our (British) history and where that strange feeling of superiority really comes from. It shows why we (Britishers) get just so excited when we take on any other nation in any sporting event and are so disappointed when we lose...
[Source: Inner jacket cover of the book ]

 My Comments
A very informative and entertaining read.
Recommended for all sports lovers.

Book Excerpts
Table of Contents, Introduction, Chapter 1- Boxing.


Friday, February 14, 2014

The Mind of the Guru by Rajiv Mehrotra

In The Mind of the Guru, Rajiv Mehrotra presents dialogues with several contemporary sages and masters who have illumined the minds of millions around the world. 
Ranged here are gurus as diverse as B. K. S. Iyengar, who brought yoga from the world of the esoteric to our living rooms; Swami Ramdev, who has democratized yoga via television; and Mata Amritanandamayi, whose mere presence invokes an overwhelming awareness of love. 
There is Deepak Chopra discussing a quantum healing of mind and body,
Sogyal Rinpoche encouraging us to look at death so that we might live a better life and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar reaffirming each person’s right and access to happiness. 
And there is the unique and contrary voice of U. G. Krishnamurti telling us that all talk of transformation is poppycock. 
There are no grand narratives or final solutions, only guides who can show the way to the light within.
 Here you learn from voices as diverse as that of Thich Nhat Hanh, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Baba Amte and Stanislav Grof. 
Underlying the dialogues is their wisdom on how we can make ourselves unhappy – and guidance on how we can turn our lives around to achieve happiness.
[Source: Publisher's website : Hay House India  ]

My Comments:
An interesting compilation of spiritual conversations between the author and several contemporary personalities regarded as gurus. Covers a wide  thoughts and views expressed by  the gurus featured in this book.

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Table of Contents

The Wheel of Dhar­ma

  • Ocean of Wis­dom (His Ho­li­ness the Dalai Lama)
  • Through the Mir­ror of Death (So­gyal Rin­poche)
  • Being and In­ter­be­ing (Thich Nhat Hanh)
  • The Truth be­yond Thought (S. N. Goen­ka)

The Mind and the Body

  • Light on Bliss (B. K. S. Iyen­gar)
  • The Bal­ance of Mind, Body and Spir­it (T. V. K. De­sikachar)
  • The Truth Is a Jour­ney (Deep­ak Chopra)
  • The Yogi on Tele­vi­sion (Swami Ramdev)

The Play of the Di­vine

  • The Sci­ence of the Di­vine (Swami Ran­ganathanan­da)
  • With Kriya to Anan­da (Swami Kriyanan­da),
  • The Em­brace of Di­vine Love (Mata Am­ri­tanan­damayi)
  • The Art of Liv­ing (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)
  • Trans­form­ing the Human Heart (Sis­ter Jayan­ti)

The Know­er and the Known

  • Trans­form­ing Con­scious­ness (Acharya Ma­hapragya)
  • Spir­i­tu­al Ter­ror­ism (U.G. Kr­ish­na­mur­ti)
  • The Seer and the Seek­er (Pir Vi­lay­at In­ay­at Khan)
  • In the Foot­steps of the Prophet (Maulana Wahidud­din Khan)
  • Ev­ery­thing is Con­scious­ness (Radha Burnier)
  • The End of Knowl­edge (Swami Parthasarathy)
  • The Way of the Stars (K. N. Rao)
  • Psy­chi­a­try and the Spir­it (Stanislav Grof)

The Ethics of En­gage­ment

  • Re­store Jus­tice, Seek Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion (Desmond Tutu)
  • Char­i­ty De­stroys, Work Builds (Baba Amte)
  • Cel­e­brate Di­ver­si­ty (The Aga Khan)
  • The Mod­ern Guru (Sad­hgu­ru Jaggi Va­sudev)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Intelligent Web by Gautam Shroff

  • Describes cutting edge developments in the power and possibilities of the Web
  • Explains how Google and other leading companies have developed ever smarter searching and advert placement
  • Shows how 'Web intelligence' is emerging from increasingly smart algorithms that can sift, select, aggregate, and weigh up relevant information
  • Explains the principles of logic and computer science behind these apparently intelligent procedures
  • Considers possible similarities with how the human brain handles data
  • Looks at new applications such as self-driving cars
As we use the Web for social networking, shopping, and news, we leave a personal trail. 
These days, linger over a Web page selling lamps, and they will turn up at the advertising margins as you move around the Internet, reminding you, tempting you to make that purchase. Search engines such as Google can now look deep into the data on the Web to pull out instances of the words you are looking for.
And there are pages that collect and assess information to give you a snapshot of changing political opinion. 
These are just basic examples of the growth of "Web intelligence", as increasingly sophisticated algorithms operate on the vast and growing amount of data on the Web, sifting, selecting, comparing, aggregating, correcting; following simple but powerful rules to decide what matters. 
While original optimism for Artificial Intelligence declined, this new kind of machine intelligence is emerging as the Web grows ever larger and more interconnected.
Gautam Shroff takes us on a journey through the computer science of search, natural language, text mining, machine learning, swarm computing, and semantic reasoning, from Watson to self-driving cars. 

This machine intelligence may even mimic at a basic level what happens in the brain.

Readership: Popular science and mathematics readers interested in computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as students of these courses.
[Source: Oxford University Press website.]
 My Comments
I completed an online course "Web Intelligence and Big Data" taught by the author a few months back. This book was released towards the ending of the course and I bought a Kindle edition to understand the topics better.
Gautam Shroff has taken a very logical and systematic approach to explain the fascinating area of Web Intelligence.
While the topics in this book are really interesting, the verbose explanations given by the author on many of the concepts were quite confusing. More illustrations would have helped. The book has just about half-a-dozen pictures, which for a content of 300 odd pages on technical topics is quite less.
It will take another reading of the book for me to fully grasp the explanations.
But overall this book is quite a good introduction to Web Intelligence, though not a very light read.


Goodreads Rating - 4.2 out of 5 ( 5 Ratings)


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Monday, February 10, 2014

The Art of India by Nigel Cawthorne

Book Synopsis  (inside cover description) 
The diverse art of the Indian subcontinent spans many centuries and a variety of styles.  
The Art of India is an account of the major movements that have influenced and affected the face of India since ancient times. 
The book covers Hindu art from the temples and literature of one of the world's oldest religions, the rise of sculpture and monumental art from the Mauryan Dynasty, Buddhist shrines and Janism, the Mughals, and Islamic art. 
With a collection of more than sixty spectacular pictures, The Art of India illustrates the major works, whether expressed in paint, clay, wood, metal, stone, or brick, that characterize the art of one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
 My Comments
A  light-weight (90 odd pages) coffee table book with several full-page pictures. A fairly good introduction to the art of India.

Goodreads Rating - 4.17 out of 5 ( 6 Ratings)