Random Ramblings

#136 : M – Magnetic Levitation

  My first brush with MagLev or Magnetic Levitation was during my 12th standard. That concept was not a part of my syllabus, but our physics tuition teacher saw it fit to educate us as to how bullet trains work. MagLev then came back to haunt me during my engineering coursework. No doubt, it is an interesting topic, but if the person teaching it does nothing but just name dropping, it would obviously lead to boredom.

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Magnetic levitation, maglev, or magnetic suspension is a method by which an object is suspended with no support other than magnetic fields. Magnetic force is used to counteract the effects of the gravitational acceleration and any other accelerations.

The two primary issues involved in magnetic levitation are lifting forces: providing an upward force sufficient to counteract gravity, and stability: ensuring that the system does not spontaneously slide or flip into a configuration where the lift is neutralized.

Reminds me of the levitation charm from Harry Potter. This one reference I can’t help but make here. Wingardium Leviosa! boom! you can levitate a damn train or whatever you want. Just that you can try that with humans. How I wish I could levitate things as I walk, that would make a lot of things easier (but errr……………… on the hindsight, it would cause traffic up there and would possibly interfere with choppers and planes?)

The practical uses of Magentic Levitation include  maglev trains, contactless melting, and magnetic bearings. Here is a little video of  Maglev explained.

This is one interesting concept from physics. Do read and watch the video!

Random Ramblings

#135 : L – Love Triangle

Love triangle is probably the age old formula to bring about a conflict instantly.  This post is all about how to steer clear of love triangles. Romance and love is a genre which is not my strong point. Before I wrote the outline of my first published short story, I went about researching as to how to write a romance tale. I wanted to experiment. So here is what I picked up before writing a romance.

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So the typical formula for a love triangle is this – A sweet, beautiful girl falls in love with two great guys at the same time. They guys are more or less of the same type with one major difference distinguishing them. The second guy, more often than not, turns out to be the safer and practical choice. This character is always either the best friend or neighbor or brother’s friend. The heroine ends up wrecking her mind and then finally picks the second guy, ditching the first one.

Isn’t that one predictable line? So, here are few pointers which I took from the same MIT eDX course work I had mentioned earlier.

  1. The female character never falls in love with both the male characters from the same time. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is the best example of this. Elizabeth Bennett has a crush on Wickham for a while. After she learns his true character her feelings subside, and it is only then that her heart begins to turn towards Darcy.
  2. At the hindsight, not both men are good options initially. It’s just a matter of whom the character loves more. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series would be the best example of it. One is a vampire, other is a werewolf. Both the characters have enough flaws associated with their supernatural state. The choice was not about who was a better choice. It was about whom she liked more.
  3. The heroine ought to be decisive and should have the conviction about her choices. It’s maddening when the female characters goes back and forth between her choices and can’t really make up her mind. Again Bella from twilight would be the best example. This exactly why a lot of people(me included) don’t like the series.

One thing I understood was this – If the story still looked after removing the love triangle, then the love triangle is not worth it and needs re-thinking. Playing with insecurities and emotions can probably make the love triangle better.

I’ve not read enough romances to analyze and comment on this particular type of plotline. Even the Jane Austen reference was from the movie version. That book is next on my TBR!

Do read and share your thoughts!

Random Ramblings

#134 : K – Khanna, Twinkle

It’s a little surprising that she has quickly become one of my favorite writers. I religiously read her columns these days given that it makes much more sense than the headlines on the first page. May be, TOI should boot her columns to the first page to make their news sound much more sensible. Or even better, they should recruit her to writer their news for them may be?

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Twinkle Khanna is an interior designer, newspaper columnist, film producer, author, and former film actress. Her first book Mrs Funnybones sold over one hundred thousand copies making her India’s highest-selling female writer of 2015. Her second book, The Legend Of Lakshmi Prasad, published by Juggernaut Books that has been at No 2 on Amazon since its release. This book has also been garnering rave reviews.

Her sense of humor and wit is unparalleled. Her first book, is a collection of incidents from her life. It captures the  life of the modern Indian woman—a woman who organizes dinner each evening, even as she goes to work all day, who runs her own life but has to listen to her Mummyji, who worries about her weight and the state of the country.

It’s kind of funny to read the wife of a star hero writing about things as mundane as food and woes about school projects. She was a lousy actor, but she has turned out to be a writer who can hold a steady audience.

The second book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad and other stories, is a collection of stories on various serious social issues. While the first book was a breezy read, the second one highlighted her writing and storytelling skills. Though the narration was just above being average, the stories were well written and kept the interest alive.

Do you enjoy her columns? Drop by, read and do comment!

Random Ramblings

#133 : J – Joule Heating

Yet again another Physics concept made memorable by a teacher. We had basic physics as a part of our engineering course work for first two semesters. A new lecturer had joined us back then. It was his first day in class and he promptly wrote down the syllabus on the board and made sure we copied it down too. Days went by when he would do nothing but ask us to study from the text book and repeat writing the syllabus on the board. Initially, we presumed him to be one of these strict type of professors only to realize he was the opposite. I still remember him talking about Joule Thompson effect. He kind of spent a whole month just dropping by those two terms and other random stuff. He used to call us out and ask us to explain things, his accent and the way he pronounced names would be the highlight of the whole class. We found that extremely funny and often made fun of him. Amidst all this fun, for some odd reason, my brain associated him with this concept.

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Joule heating, also known as ohmic heating and resistive heating, is the process by which the passage of an electric current through a conductor produces heat.

The most general and fundamental formula for Joule heating is:

{\displaystyle P=(V_{A}-V_{B})I}

P is the power (energy per unit time) converted from electrical energy to thermal energy,
I is the current traveling through the resistor or other element,

The explanation of this formula

(Energy dissipated per unit time) = (Energy dissipated per charge passing through resistor) × (Charge passing through resistor per unit time)

When Ohm’s law is also applicable, the formula can be written in other equivalent forms:

P=IV=I^2R=V^2/R

where R is the resistance.

We kind of spent two years of our coursework playing about with this formula.

So the practical applications of Joule heating effect is fusing electric circuits. A short piece of metal, inserted in a circuit, which melts when excessive current flows through it and thus breaks the circuit. It thus protects appliances. The material of a fuse generally has a low melting point and high conductivity.

Common domestic applications are the electric iron, bread toaster, electric kettle, heater, etc.

Electric heating is also used in producing light, as in an incandescent bulb. Here, the filament is made of a resistor that retains as much of the heat generated as possible. Then it can get very hot and emit light. It must not melt at the high temperature. Usually, tungsten is used for the bulb filament, as it has a high melting point (6116oF) and is a strong metal. A small amount of the power used by the filament appears as radiated light, but most of it appears as heat.

Random Ramblings

#132 : Boxed Indulgences!

My Instagram feed is filled with beautiful pictures of books and other book related merchandise. These pictures often have me digging deep and wishing I owned them. Just then, the blogger club I am a part of sent out feelers to members as them if they were interested in reviewing a book box. Being a total bookworm, I jumped to the chance. Sadly, I wasn’t selected by the company sponsoring the box. That’s when I decided to dig deeper and find out about book boxes. All my friends from the bibliophile community seem to be subscribing to one box or the other!

In India, the concept of such book boxes is just catching up. Surprisingly, the beauty boxes have always been around, while, book boxes were rarity and a bit over priced.

So what is this book box? I’d call it a gift from you to self to satiate that thirst to read new books and feel better doing so. Imagine receiving a surprise book along with merchandise related to it. It certainly is going to make you feel better.

A book box is typically priced between INR 599 to INR 1800 per month with offers on subscription for 3 or 6 months. These boxes are typically contain one or two books, depending upon the package fitting one particular theme. They also contain merchandise in the form of tote bags, chocolates, coffee sachets. Candle, figurines, book marks, scarves and what not! Typically, when you sign up, the service provider asks you to fill up a form which collects data on your reading taste and preferences. Most of these book boxes are themed. Also, there are customized boxes available if you are looking to gift.

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I had the chance to catch up with Ms.Papiya Banerjee who runs Books and Beyond with her partner Pankaj. I  first saw pictures of their Harry Potter themed box which they sent out this month when a friend posted pictures of it on Facebook. I dug deeper and stalked them on Instagram only to find out a treasure trove of beautiful pictures of boxes they sent out so far.  She tells me that her team has sent out about 200 boxes just this month.

Curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to know what went into assembling a box. Ms.Banerjee says she first interacts with her the people who signs up and gets to know them. They are friends first, customers later. Having had a successful career in the Human Resources, she says it’s her job to know people. A lot of research goes on into the theme and the book of the month.They receive promo materials and review copies from various publishers which help them pick the theme and the book.  They mostly pick hardcovers or imported paperbacks for their books. Their priority is to deliver premium quality good which would be worth every penny paid. Apparently, they tried doing a budget box and got a lukewarm response. Evidently, their premium boxes sell like hot cakes! Dream life for a true bibliophile isn’t it?

Here is a little list of various book boxes available in our country (Not an extensive list!)

  1. Books and Beyond – They send out premium book boxes with top class merchandise. Their boxes are prices at INR1499 for a month to INR 3600 for 3 months.
  2. Kaffeinated Konversations – These people send out books of relatively unknown Indian/African writers along with goodies. Their subscription boxes range from INR 800 per month to INR10080 per year.
  3. The Bibliobox – They offer books with Unusual themes and cater for children too.
  4. Story Trunk – They send out themed book boxed and their July theme is pirates.
  5. The Big Book Box– These people have a book return policy. Their plans are named after variants of Coffee and are priced between INR 999 to INR 2999.
  6. Fiction Crate –  These people offer the lowest plan. INR 499 for a book and a Tee.

It’s a great feeling to receive a surprise book in the form of a literary care package! Makes ideal gifts for bibliophiles.

On the flip side, these boxes are a bit pricey and at times don’t really solve the purpose. What if you don’t like the book that they send? It’s just a gamble right? Moreover, the cost dynamics seem to be a bit murky. If I were to buy a book, I’d buy it on a sale. That’s how we are wired to act. If I were to buy merchandise related to books, that would also been purchased after much research and cost comparison. This would effectively bring down the overall cost I would incur. However, that surprise element wouldn’t be there and at times, all the money spent is worth that feeling of being surprised and happy!

It would be great if there were book boxes in India who also inspire writing. (There is one available from San Francisco). Most often than not, these goodies in the form of bookmarks or magnets end up being sent to thrash after years. A notebook or a pen or a writing prompt will make a last impression.

Hope to pick out a book box soon and write a review of it! After all, a gift from me to me, especially if it is after ages, is indeed special!

Drop in your comments please!

 

Random Ramblings

#131 : I – Internal Conflict

Self doubt is something which is natural to every human being. Exploiting that to take forward the story is a neat trick. If you got the character arc right, you possibly would have a flaw in your hand. Exploiting that flaw to bring about the conflict would lead to progress or probably a plot twist in the story.

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I had attended a workshop on writing organized by a leading daily. In the exercise, the instructor asked us to take up a real life incident and asked us to write it verbatim. Then she asked us to fictionalize it.  She asked us to use the very character of the first story to fictionalize it. Here are few tips she gave,

  1.  Flaws, fears, secrets and morals – All go hand in hand. If you design the morals, it is easy to play around with flaws, fears and secrets.
  2. The character should be able to realize the flaw but shouldn’t initially be equipped to resolve it.
  3. Usage of external forces to resolve the conflict is one way to do.
  4. The hard route however is to equip the character, build plot lines such that the characters learns how to over come the flaws with minimal support from other character.

To a novice like me, that was brain buzzing information. I needed a character to relate with.  Thankfully, just after that workshop, I read “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I’m not sure if Atticus Finch is the right example for flaw. He is one character who treats everyone as equals. He doesn’t differentiate racially and treats his kids like adults. He has never had to rethink is position on his morals even when he is assigned the task of defending a black man. His major flaw that I understood was his insecurity in raising is kids. Every single time some one challenges him about his ideologies of raising children, he takes up the bait and tries to defend himself. That’s probably the only flaw in such a character with moral compass very intact.

Re-reading Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner gave me a new perspective of things.  I realized when the character is in early stage of development, it is easier to bring in a conflict. He is initially guilty that he let his friend to be exploited. Then he goes on to feeling betrayed when he learns about the secret that his father has hidden from him so long. Finally, he atones and redeems himself by taking his nephew to the states for education. That’s one full perfect cycle of internal conflict and development.

Drop in your thoughts and suggestions about Internal conflicts!

Random Ramblings

#130 : H – Hardy, Thomas

Back in school, our library and the librarian believed in stocking up books which were classics instead of books which were a rage among teenagers back then. Slowly, books like Harry potter and Agatha Christie started showing up. We had a library hour and would receive periodicals to read during the hour. Then we were given exactly 2 minutes to pick a book and get back to our place as per the roll call. We would have one or maximum two weeks to return it. That was my first brush with Thomas Hardy – Tess of the D’Ubervilles. I had a principle to not return books until I had finished reading them. This book was the only exception.

The hunt is over...

When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D’Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her ‘cousin’ Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future.

Tess’s character right from the start was hapless, helpless, foolish and plain stupid. There is just a fine line of difference between being courageous and being stupid. Tess was plain stupid. Alec was a man of arrogance and almost always had his way. The characterization was totally unbalanced. Imagine the plight of a 16 year old who studied in an all girls school reading this book. I had to stop reading before it left a wrong impression on me. Years after, I had picked up this book again recently and finished reading it. Anger would be only emotion. The writer sounded so chauvinistic. On hindsight, may be that is what he intended. After all, this is a book from the 19th century when women were looked up as no more than mere visual entertainment. Imagine being constantly pursued by a guy who first insults you, then tries to make amends by convincing you to marry him.  I’m thankful that I didn’t finish reading that book back then. I wouldn’t probably know to be angry with the writer back then. But, now I do know why! However, one thing hasn’t changed since then. The woman is always blamed for the rape and eventually, she herself ends up in a state of mind where she feels that she is to fault. Civilization hasn’t evolved much, hasn’t it?