Are your kids safe when they hit a Swimming Pool ?

A few years back, while reading ‘Freakonomics’, I learnt that swimming pools are more dangerous than guns, when it comes to children. In the context of ‘United States of America’, where one can buy a gun as simply as one can buy a loaf of bread in India, and no dearth of publicly accessible pools, it was probably a great find. Something which every parent must watch-out for. In India, we can not go out and buy a gun from the corner store but that still doesn’t take anything away from the dangers which a swimming pool exposes us to, especially kids.

I have been wanting to share this for a while but better late than never. So yesterday when I got an email from Laura of Asylum, on whether I would be interested in getting some safety tips around this, I thought that it is time to write a small post on it.

First, a few words about my inspiration of this post viz. Steven Levit. When I read the book, I tremendously like the pace of the book, very lucidly written and more of actual events, incidents, a lot of data and very little of words-of-wisdom (or Gyan, as we call it here).

For this particular case, here are some figures for you to ponder.
“In 1997 alone (the last year for which data are available), 742 children under the age of 10 drowned in the United States last year alone. Approximately 550 of those drownings — about 75 percent of the total — occurred in residential swimming pools. According to the most recent statistics, there are about six million residential pools, meaning that one young child drowns annually for every 11,000 pools.

About 175 children under the age of 10 died in 1998 as a result of guns. About two-thirds of those deaths were homicides. There are an estimated 200 million guns in the United States. Doing the math, there is roughly one child killed by guns for every one million guns.”

And here is the link of complete story – http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2001/07/27/levittpoolsvsguns/

Incase you want to buy this book, and read it in more detail then please click on this cover. It is a very interesting read.

Freakonomics
Continue reading Are your kids safe when they hit a Swimming Pool ?

Shantaram By Gregory David Roberts – Book Review (5/5)

The big tome was gifted to my wife by someone about 3 years back. I think it came in 2005 and I finally picked it up from the top shelf of my wall clinging shelf-mesh-cum-library last month. Its 900+ pages and I am not a big fan of such heavy books, being a lazy reader I often take few life-times to finish one but of all the gambles I have taken in picking fat books (including ‘Zen and the art..’) I have been always able to finish.

So I finished this a while back and waited for couple of weeks to settle my oozed-out wonder-stuck eyes, gives some rest to my often-excited lower left pump and sort of let-it-sink before I attempt to write a quick review. Often the initial excitement dies down to a more informed insight and time makes you better.

My overall rating for the book is 5/5, after a long time. The last one I guess was ‘The Kite Runner’. Here’s a short scoop

Its based on Robert’s own life in Mumbai, an Australian fugitive who is on a run and finds Mumbai interesting enough to hang-on. Its not an auto-biography but its a fact based fiction , now that sounds like a lawyer-lingo. Well, the protagonist is the author himself and he goes through his life in Mumbai as an expat, as a slum-dweller, as a mafia and finally finding himself amid Mujahideens. The plot is brilliant and characters are juicy and full and David ensures that the narration is engaging, novel but at the same time full with thrill.

The book is a Philosophical fiction by someone who takes us into those areas where a bulk of us have no access viz. Jhoparpatthis (slums), Black Markets / Mafia, Jails, Drugs and what not. Its a great read for academic purposes since it deals with today’s world and while it would have its own share of writer’s creativity , the details around Arthur Road Jail, Durgs, Cold Turkey are something which doesn’t look far from reality. And mind you, the book is not about the main character, Lindsay aka Lin Baba aka Lin Bhai but it gives equal justice to all the others and doesn’t make it into a self soul-search saga. Too many things happen all the time and all the characters go through a lot of transformations, in the end it almost reads like a suspense thriller where you would want to know, what would happen now.

There is a plan to make a movie where Johnny Depp is going to play the lead role, directed by Mira. The latest plan for release is 2011. For more than few times, I felt like doing a movie playing Lin and after some deliberation with myself, I settled for Nazeer.

Here’s the wiki link and there is also a official website here.

Shantaram is the 2nd of a quartret which David has planned but I dont think other 3 ever made it or made it so far.

The book is also greatly recommended for folks who are looking beyond thrilling-engaging-edgy reads, some of the lines are exceptional.

I know with 900+ pages, it may sound thick but read it for ‘Character Building’ and one which you would enjoy unlike the traditional ‘Character Building’ activities. If you read the book, I would be delighted to read your views about the book in the comments section. I am hoping that if you chose to read this after my recommendation, I didn’t let you down.

I just finished ‘Outliers’ by Malcom Gladwell and that review should happen shortly.

"Imagining India" – By Nandan Nilekani – Quick Review

If you are a subscriber of Outlook, that now iconic weekly news magazine, then you would know that you get a mini-book kind of thing every few weeks. A very good concept from the point of readers since now they can taste the book and then decide whether they want to buy or not , as well as from the stand point of Author, since now at least they have a bigger chance to reach more people.

The last book-excerpt which I got was for Nandan Nilekani’s book, titled “Imagining India”.

The book reads like an essay and talks about various issues around development, IT, policies, population and likes. Since this booklet is of a size of a mini-book (5 inches BY 5 inches), its not the complete book but it has 100 odd pages so I would think that it has good enough to introduce you to what the real book would carry.

I think ‘Imagining..’ borrows heavily from the works of other people and they tries to distill that information with his own opinions in a essay or factual kind of way. There are interesting things which you learn like ‘Population Dividend’. Essentially a concept where large population is not a bane but a boon. This concept is not Nandan’s but he has incorporated this in great detail by including the works of lots of economists, with due credit given at multiple places.

In another chapter it talks about various programs which Government of India is pursuing in the areas of land reforms, BPL subsidies, information dissemination , electronification of rural India. Again most of the text is not his but a great collection and a good amount of hard work must have gone to research this.

The book is not very easy to read since its neither a story, nor a travel log, not even a piece of opinion. The closet this book reminds me is ‘India ‘ which Publications Division, Ministry of I & B, used to publish every year. That book was like a bible to all IAS aspirants and it used to have all the information about government policies, all the data and likewise. I am also not sure whether you would want to keep this book as a reference material because its not a reference material book.

I was talking to someone the other day and I found out that the famous title of Thomas Friedman books was actually Nandan’s line, viz. ‘The World is Flat’. There is a mention of Thomas at few places in the booklet.

The byline of the title is “Ideas for the new century” and that would make one expect that the book would talk about clear, crisp, implementable ideas. In the booklet, Nandan touches upon the need of having a common identifier for all Indian Citizens. He informs that there is a PAN no for all Tax Payers, there is a Voter Id card for all 18+ registered voters, there is a ration card for BPL folks and then there are Passport IDs, Driving License Nos and so on. Though the need for having a common ID is well felt and people understand that we would get benefit from it, Nandan fails to address the need through a simple idea.

All in all, I would think that one should probably wait for another book from Nandan.

iWoz – Autobiography of Steve Wozniak – Book Review

I picked this book from Khan Market about a month back and from the cover, its a easy decision since this book is about Steve Wozniak who created first computer or so the cover claims.

It was a easy and quick read since its been written in first person and has tons of events. Even though there is a co-author, it doesn’t appear like ghost-written book. The style of expressions is very frank, fluid and on the face. It starts with Steve growing up as a child, getting influence and impressed by his Engineer Dad, doing pranks and all that.

Later he meets Steve Jobs, and Apple is formed. As a co-founder of such a impressive and change-leading organization, probably you would start to have great expectations and you would keep discounting the author for the so much I-I-I kind of statements in the beginning but as the book matures, it seemed to me that if Woz would not have met Steve Jobs, he would have been another hard working bright engineer. And somehow the book doesn’t focus much on that. A better part of the book covers the time when Steve was designing Apple 1 and later Apple 2, the computer which sort of introduced computing to home users.

He was instrumental in starting Apple and till the point it created Apple II computer and after that he was getting disconnected and later moved out (though he was still on payroll). Later Steve started another company called CL9 (Cloud Nine) and they wanted to create a ‘Universal Remote’ and that didn’t work. He had three marriages, first two didn’t work too well. Finally he spent lot of time teaching kids.

For one thing, this book doesn’t sound like a piece of inspiration. Rather it might piss you off as you read claims after claims of being first in lot many things. Its a good read and one should read it for the facts and to get Steve’s side of story. But beyond that, its just another book.

India in slow motion – By Mark Tully – Review

I recently read a book by Mark Tully, its called ‘India in Slow Motion’. This is the first time I have read anything by Mark Tully, the famous BBC man and I am very impressed by the narration.

The book is about ‘Poor Governance’ and talks about social/political/cultural issues around governance. To me the book also sounded like a travel book and I picked a lesson or two in detailing things from Mark and am gradually applying them in my recent travel stories at Ghumakkar . There are about 14-16 chapters with chapter talking about a issue ranging from Carpet makers in Mirzapur to Gujrat rain harvesting solutions to Cyberabad and so on.

Mark and his partner Gilly have traveled extensively to capture the story at grass roots, the real reason behind the poor governance and even though it may appear that it would be a tough and a boring read, its not. Probably because the narration is super, the detailing amazing and most importantly its a real experience book and not a gyan by someone.

What greatly impressed me was this non-judgmental style of writing. Mark comes out as a great man of tact as writing against a particular government or person could get one into a problem but he handles it with so much of tact that its sounds convincing, true but yet very much un-biased.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know about India. Its also a great read from travel point of view.

I have just picked up ‘City of Djins’ by William Dalyrymple and I hope to finish that in next 2 odd months. Yeah I am a very slow reader 🙂