Sunday, December 29, 2013

Making following up on emails much easier

I was faced with a problem very often. I send an email to someone who needs to respond to me about something. That someone does not respond. I have moved on to other things. A few days later, when I need the information that I was supposed to receive, I remember that I never got a response!

This happened so frequently that I was desperate to look for a solution to this problem. A friend recommended Sanebox. With this, all you need to do is cc or bcc something like and you're done! If, within a day, you don't receive a response to the email, Sanebox reminds you by sending you an email.

And the '1day' needn't be just that. You could do things like 1week, 4hours and many other such time periods. You can also set it to remind you on a particular date and time.

This is so cool!

There is a trial version you can sign up for which is free and after that, if you like the service, you can sign up for the full version - available at between $3.25 to $24.92 per month for various amounts of emails.

I pay about $7 a month and have found this to be a really handy tool. I use this all the time!

Another feature that could be useful to some is the concept of "Sane Later" which is a folder you move any email (and the tool learns as you do this and automatically starts moving) to that is not important at the moment and can be seen later. In this age when we are all flooded with tons of email, this can be a very useful feature.

This feature however works only with IMAP and not with POP, which I use now.

These days, we're all grappling with an email overdose. Small tools like this really go a long way in making us more productive and making sure we're doing things that are important and not missing out on stuff that really needs to get done.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Modi's blog: why nothing much changes

So we're led to believe that Narendra Modi was 'shaken to the core' by the 2002 riots. This contrasts sharply with the widely held belief that Modi had sanctioned the police inaction in the aftermath of the Godhra incident. Modi is supposed to have asked the police to let the people vent their anger. Modi, apparently is denying this.

My right wing family and friends should actually be disappointed by this blog. If they believe him, that is. What they liked about Modi was that he did not mince words, that he spoke his mind on issues especially pertaining to minority appeasement and that he unabashedly represented the right wing in this country.

Whenever I discuss Modi with this group of friends and relatives, I always take deep umbrage to their support for how Modi allowed the 2002 riots to happen. My argument is that sure, you can support Modi because of his decisiveness, his strong persona, his no-nonsense attitude and his having the gumption to do what he thinks right as opposed to the current 'dead-duck setup' we have in the name of a government in New Delhi. But you cannot support what happened in Gujarat in 2002. Every man is a shade of grey rather than being fully black and white. So, while you could support Modi's governance model, you cannot say that what happened in Gujarat in 2002 is right!

Now, if one were to believe that what Modi has blogged about has genuinely come from the heart (and I honestly doubt this), even Modi does not support what happened then! Why then are his ardent fans supporting this? Or do they also concede, albeit in hushed tones, that Modi does not genuinely believe this. It is merely an attempt at becoming more acceptable to a larger section of the population? If this is the case, then that takes away a major plus from Modi - that of him always speaking his mind.

However, they are all so mesmerised by Modi that they will continue to support him, no matter what!

This brings me to those belonging to the left wing among my family and friends. They continue to hate Modi. This blog hasn't changed anything at all. Some argue that he hasn't apologised for 2002. That, I can guarantee wouldn't have helped either. It would have been construed as affected. I am sure no one believes a word of the anguish he claims to have felt during those times. Their hate for Modi is so complete that nothing, absolutely nothing is going to change that.

What is annoying about the non-BJP political class is the way they have arrogated to themselves, the position of being the voice of the minorities. Each of them speak on behalf of the 'desh ki janta' and claim that the people have not forgiven Modi for 2002. The truth, I am afraid, is not so clear cut. Most people have actually moved on. Though they did not like what happened in 2002, they realise that Modi might actually provide a better administration than the current regime. Blog or no blog.

The Congress and its heir-apparent are so thoroughly confused on what to do and how to react that they have now become a joke. The way Rahul Gandhi ducked a journalist's question on Modi's blog was humorous to say the least. All he does these days is to backtrack on the Congress' official stated position on various issues.

The choice before me in 2014 is not a very happy one. No clear cut answers. No clear cut winners. And this makes the possible outcome only more frightening.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cracking the whole wheat bread recipe

Ever since I have got my bread maker, I have been making different kinds of bread. One problem however was 100% whole wheat bread. I never got it right. All recipes in the recipe book that came with the bread maker worked really well. Except the whole wheat one. The recipe with half whole wheat and half maida (refined flour) also worked quite well. But for me the holy grain, oops grail, was whole wheat. We have it dinned into our heads by everyone around us that whole wheat is good, maida is bad!

One of the ingredients in the recipe from the recipe book was brown sugar. I had gone to Q Mart and found two types of brown sugar. One was light brown, the other dark brown. I picked the light one. The internet revealed that there are many more types of brown sugar and I was not really sure if that was the problem! In the US, UK and other countries, they have a wide variety of ingredients that are not available in India. I needed to research a lot to figure out the different types of flour, the different types of sugar and more!

This recipe resulted in some very dense, not at all light and fluffy bread. I tried some variations of that recipe - changed the quantity of water, the yeast, added some butter. To no avail.

I scoured the internet to find that whole wheat bread rose better and came out light and fluffy by the addition of gluten. Obviously gluten was not available in stores in India! I found Bob's Red Mill on the internet which seemed to be a good place to buy such stuff. I sent the link to a cousin who was coming to India late November and had her buy some and bring it when she came.

Yesterday, I finally got some time to try the whole wheat bread. All I did was to use the same recipe in the book - with two changes compared to what I had done the first time - use the darker version of the brown sugar and two table spoons of gluten.

I kept a close eye on the bread maker. The first kneading cycle. The first rise. The second kneading cycle. The second rise. Then the final baking cycle. The bread did look promising inside! It rose very well. When the three hours and forty minutes were completed, I took the loaf out with some trepidation. Would all the research and effort still be in vain?

Thankfully not! The bread was delicious! Here's a pic:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dialysis in Wonderland

Thanks Bill Peckham for posting this! I can't imagine this was in 1979. I'd give an arm and a leg to be able to do this today!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Juggling a right wing family and a left wing friends list

Last night, I was at my cousin's house. My extended family had gathered there in preparation for cousin Nishant's wedding. Someone mentioned that the exit polls predicted a BJP victory in the four states that went to vote for their assemblies recently. There was excitement all around. Someone switched on the television to watch Arnab Goswami analyse the poll of exit polls. There was cheering, laughing and unbridled joy on almost every face in the house.

All the excitement eventually and expectedly, led to next year's General Elections and discussions about who would win. The consensus all around was that Modi would win and win big-time! Never mind if the JD(U), the Biju Janata Dal, the Trinamool Congress and the National Conference, the four groups that supported the BJP the last time it formed the Government would not touch the BJP with a barge poll this time. But excitement and reason do not play well together, you see!

My family has always been unabashedly right wing. They now support Narendra Modi to the hilt. One of my uncles made a grand announcement that should Narendra Modi win the election, he would throw a big party for all!

I honestly believe that my uncle's money is safe, for now at least. I do not see how the BJP is going to be able to form the Government in 2014. Without support from the major allies barring the Shiv Sena, the Akali Dal and most probably the AIADMK, there is no way they are going to go anywhere close to the magic number of 272.

On the other hand, many of my friends (on Facebook at least) are strongly left wing. They abhor the Modi brand of politics, they can never forgive him for the Gujarat riots, they in fact hated the BJP even before the Modi phenomenon. During the last General Election, I decided to vote for the BJP and posted it on my FB wall. I was torn apart by my friends! I almost felt guilty for posting that! Even today, the minority among my friends who are Modi fans get a lot of flak for posting anything pro-Modi.

The trouble however is, what is the alternate to Modi? Rahul Gandhi? There is so much fun made of him and his speeches that anyone who has any online presence must surely be embarrassed to be supporting him.

After two terms in power, I would think it highly unlikely that the Congress would return to power. The large-scale corruption, the image of a meek, lame-duck Prime Minister and the lack of any tall leader who can inspire the people will work strongly against it.

This brings us to the worst part of the situation. The prospect of a third front Government led by someone like Mulayam Singh or Mayawati. This would be my worst nightmare come true. I might actually just decide to secede a la Arundhati Roy.

A week, they say is a long time in politics. We have 4-5 months to go before the next election. Let's hope things change and we do not have to feel embarrassed of our next Government.