A list of 100 books everyone must read

The BBC, a few years ago, came out with a massive list of one hundred books everyone must read before they die, and I decided to read all the books on that list I have not yet read. One could think of this as a project, but to me it is more of a journey. But then I saw Harry Potter in third place and realised I was better off looking for a different list that was more to my taste. (Yes, I am a big fan of LOTR.)

Personally, though, I like to think of it as nourishment and it makes sense to pick the nourishments you like, so I turned to The Guardian. Sure enough, they had two lists: one made in 2003 and another updated only three months ago. I picked the latter, and started re–organising them for my convenience and started reading today with number 20: Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. So the project — shall we all agree to simply call it an expedition? — begins today. Now.

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iPhone 6S — two weeks later

A little over two weeks ago I bought an iPhone 6S. Coming from a 6 Plus (for reasons outlined below) I found the device to be wonderful, but not without a couple of complaints.

This time I bought a space grey 6S (not the Plus edition). Having used it as my main mobile device in my regular environment, with my usual above–average to heave use, there are a lot of things I find similar to the 6 with one key difference — this device will probably last longer as an old model than an iPhone 6 would, I would bet at least till iOS 12, and this longer shelf life in the future means better performance now, and that really is what it all comes down to. In any case, let us try to keep this review as brief as possible.

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Thoughts on Spectre — this should open a new world for the Bond franchise

Perhaps I am late to the party, but Spectre only released this week where I live and, naturally, I watched it on the first day. It is James Bond after all. In short, I loved the film, but I decided it was worth taking a moment to pen some extended thoughts here.

Spectre is the twenty–fourth film in the Bond franchise, this time not based on Ian Fleming’s book but stemming from a screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan and Jez Butterworth — Pruvis and Wade are regular Bond writers who returned to edit Logan’s original script. Before we go ahead, first of all, this is not strictly a review. And there are spoilers.

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Why I love footnotes

“When thumbing a book” says Hugh Harrington, in the Journal of the American revolution, “and contemplating a purchase, I thumb from the back.” He is looking for an index, preferably, and footnotes or endnotes, most definitely. In fact, he goes so far as to say he will replace the book on its shelf for the sole reason of there being no footnotes.1

Fiction or not, footnotes have a special place in literature — and a practical one too. But I happen to like them on the web for reasons of my own.

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  1. It might be apt to mention that he is talking of non–fiction (historic?) literature, not just any book.

Dear The Hindu, it’s the 21st century

It is a pity that the only newspaper I trust (and read) in India, The Hindu, is notoriously difficult to consume in any but the most ancient format. Being made available in digital media is not an empty trend and need not divert from good journalism. It also need not — and should not — be second to it. And as our style of news consumption evolves, it will (as sad as this truth may be) take more than good journalism to stay relavant.

In this age the news and the medium we consume it in go hand-in-hand, and this fine newspaper seems to be letting things slip. Take The New York Times for example, coming from another old news house — over a quarter of a century older than The Hindu — which has arguably the best digital presence today. And it’s journalistic standards have not dropped in making a move from broadsheet to phones, tablets and PCs. It is, after all, the 21st century, and The Hindu must buck up.

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Demystifying Apple iOS location services

iPhones come with a number of location options. On the one hand they make privacy easy: turning on or off a feature is a breeze, and it offers considerably granular control over how it gathers and handles location data.

Moving a step further, however, the problem becomes that almost none of these features is clearly explained, making it hard to decide exactly what we will be giving up in turning off a feature or gaining by keeping it on.

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Chris Erskine’s millennial pledge, re–written for everyone

Last week, LA Times humour columnist, Chris Erskine — whose humour nobody seems to get — wrote a piece titled, “From one millennial to others, take this pledge”. It was a typical, internet–style list post sprinkled with some humour, and laced with a lot of stereotyping and patronising. And the internet did not take kindly to it.

Aside from the fact that list posts like Mr Erskine’s have little business being published in a print newspaper, the article managed to garner attention from a lot of people, including one of my favourite publications, The Guardian. And in spite of the backlash it received, the article did carry some pledges worth considering.

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Five things reviewing an app negatively has taught me

A few weeks ago I reviewed some of the best manual finance apps on the App Store. Emile Bennett’s Pennies was one of the apps which were part of that review. Soon after publishing my thoughts, Emile Bennett got in touch with me to share his feelings regarding what he called my scathing review of Pennies.

On second look, he was right. I immediately wrote back to him (rather defensively) that my thoughts were undoubtedly valid, but I conceded that I had perhaps been a little unconstrained in putting them forth. It ended up looking like a harsher review of his app than I intended and because I personally loved the app, (the least I could do was that) I eventually took down the review.

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Review — VSCO 4.4.1 for iOS and Android

Around three years ago, a new photography app hit the App Store. Called VSCo Cam, the app came from Visual Supply Company, makers of film emulation presets for Lightroom, ACR, Aperture etc. It was never meant to compete against Instagram, but that is how a lot of people saw it. (Some probably still call it the anti–Instagram.)

Today, with the recently released 4.4.1 version and renamed simply VSCO, the app stands as arguably the best filter for iPhone, but is really a full–powered editing suite and manual camera. Most use it in conjunction with all their mobile photography needs, not merely as an Instagram competitor. And with nearly a hundred million uses, #vscocam is Instagram’s most popular hashtag today. Competitor Snapseed has four million,  Afterlight has three.

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Fantastical 2 — iPhone calendar and reminders done right

If you can lay your hands on any Apple iPhone — from the first generation iPhone 2G to the current iPhone 6S — you will immediately notice that the device has always come bundled with a Calendar app.

As a statement of our paperless lives and the forefront of technology, the fact that calendars still come bundled with our smartphones is proof enough of the key role they play in our lives. Consider further the fact that a digital calendar is merely a faithful replica of our offline paper planner. A calendar is the best tool to plan your day and your week with, and coupled with a reminders app, it is the only time management solution you will ever need. And they are simple enough to use, yet some use them ineffectively.

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The Joy of Missing Out

I had never really made the connection before this, but Sherlock Holmes practices a form of the so–called Joy of Missing Out. I’ll come to that in a moment; first we need to understand what JoMO is and, parenthetically, what FoMO is.

The Fear of Missing Out, or FoMO, was added to the Oxford English dictionary in August of 2013. It is defined as anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website. I think we can do away with that last clause: FoMO is not restricted to social media alone and is as rampant offline as it is on the web.

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Bad move, Amazon

Amazon is, first of all, a retail marketplace. Market equality dictates that the platform selling products does not align itself with any of its sellers so as not to cause a bias in sales and unfavourably impact other sellers. This, at the least, is an ethical question.

The same has rarely been spoken about platforms taking a stance against its selling clientele. What if the platform itself wishes to sell a product that would compete with its sellers? Is it right to intentionally harm, or even block, sellers? What happens to market competition and antitrust laws?

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Ad-blockers are a good thing

The concept of the web being free comes with strings attached. Although most websites are free to read, their owners need to pay for storage space and servers (besides various licenses), and storages and servers and networks run on electricity. In order to keep website content free to read, these expenditures are met indirectly.

Broadly, there are mainly two things that pay for the web: advertisements and paywalls. Bots track your usage via your browser and tell advertisors what you like so they can show you ads you are most likely to click on. Websites act as platforms to show these ads, possibly coax you into clicking on them and exploring advertised products or content, and make money in turn.

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Photographic sharpness: an obsession

I somehow came across an article by Connor McClure where he talked about how far too many people blindly use VSCO filters to process their photographs and call it a day. What he said about VSCO is true (and is something I strongly believe in myself) — they are a convenience, and not much more than trends; and trends pass on. McClure says it best: “They are trendsetters, and I don’t believe in latching too tightly on to trends.”

In addition to filters in general (not to target VSCO, whose filters I use rarely, but do use nonetheless) there is another misdirection I feel we ought to address in today’s photography scene: mindless obsession over sharpness.

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Mountain roads: photo book in print, available on Amazon

Earlier this month I wrote about my new photo book, a simple 7″x7″ paperback featuring a collection of 25 carefully handpicked black and white photographs, revolving around the theme of mountains.

I do not quite remember where I read this, but someone advocated printing out your photographs — at least select ones — even in the digital era, because printed photographs have their own charm and heightened value (even if the latter is only in our minds).

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