Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Photos and Photo Albums - Memories that last forever - aided by ZoomIn

Call me old school, but inspite of being a part of today's digital era, I still cannot replace that warm fuzzy feeling I get when flipping through a photo album in my hand.With every other service going online, this service of printing out photographs is also now available online. I have been using ZoomIn.com for about 3 years now and have been mighty satisfied with their print quality.

I would like to share a review of my experience with ZoomIn

ZoomIn offers a variety of photo printing solutions .
a) You can get your photos printed, like we used to do in the 90s. This is the basic service they offer. To do this, you upload your photographs to their site. These photographs can be organized into albums. Once uploaded and ready, you can order your prints from the site.

You can go for printing the entire album. Or select specific clicks within one album and order prints only for those.
You can even bump up the copies of prints for specific photos in an album - i.e. Say in a 20 image album of an event, you want extra copies of only that group photo that you took with everyone, you can do that too.
You can opt for one out 3 photo finishes - Matte, Glossy, Metallic.
Size options available are 4x6,5x7,6x6,6x8 (in inches) and so on. The largest photo print you can order is 16x20. If you are looking for a photo print bigger than that, you can look at the Poster printing service on ZoomIn. Otherwise for sizes bigger that 16x20, you will have to fall back to your nearby photo studio.
Other than this you can specify if you want a border on your print, if the photo can be cropped to fit the print size you are ordering or not, and if you are allowing any automatic color corrections for contrast or not.
Cost for minimum size is Rs.6 per print for 4x6(Smallest size) and  Rs. 525 for the largest size of 16x20.

b) Alternatively, you can opt for photo based products. Currently ZoomIn offers PhotoBooks, Photo Canvases, Posters, Calendars, Mugs, Magnets, and Framed Prints. I have ordered multiple photobooks, and posters from them in the last two years, and all of them have come out very well.

Latest item I ordered from them about two months ago was a ZigZag Mini Pocket album with photos from a recent family function. It is compact enough to keep in your handbag!

I have found ZoomIn to be very innovative with their product line, and there is always something new to look for in their product offering. Currently there is an offer going on for all photobooks ordered till December 20.

Over and above this, you can also get Rs100 off on your first order by using the code 'EclecticRant' when you signup for the first time!!

As the year draws to a close, I am sure many of you are recollecting memories from the year gone by, and I hope this post helps you to cherish your memories better!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Chennai Geetham

The recent rains and consequent flooding in Chennai last week drew out the citizens of this city in large numbers. Volunteers descended on the streets braving rains and knee to neck deep water to help each other out with large scale co-ordinations happening through social media websites like twitter and facebook.

Now that the flood waters have receded, people are still soaking in the camaraderie and brotherhood that came to the fore when disaster struck. People have done some very amazing  work, with some media celebrities leading the relief and rescue efforts.  This very nostalgic write up by Girish Mathrubootham, the Founder and  CEO of Freshdesk took me down my own memory lane. Those first days of discovering the new language while settling in PS Senior Secondary School, the days of cycling around in Mandaveli in the hot dusty afternoons, the long wait in the queue to get the monthly 'Paal card' in the aavin counter, the brisk walk down to school from Devanathan street, the sudden isolation and tranquility in the initial years in Pallikaranai, dealing with a bunch of over playful class mates in Sankara school, the drive down the state highway to college, and the sleek manoeuvres to overtake lorries and trucks on the same highway on the lowly Scooty Pep -- It was like my whole life was flashing in front of me.

I also was reminded of this odd song that my first boss had shared with me - There was this upcoming band called Prana(back in 2008) that had launched a new album called 'Mazhaithuli' and this one song from that album somehow was available for free. It is called the Chennai Geetham - an anthem of sorts for this city.

Fast forward to 2016, and that band is nowhere to be found on the interwebs, so sharing this song from my archives. All copyright belongs to the original creators of this song. I have posted this on Soundcloud because the band is nowhere to be found now, and Soundcloud just makes it convenient to share audio around.
Update - 12 December 2015
One of the members of the band Naushad Ali [@nashlib on twitter] reached out to me and shared the official youtube link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxpWNODu9E8

They also mentioned that the album 'Mazhaithuli' is available on iTunes - so do make sure to check out their music if you are on an Apple Device.

Enjoy -

Changes in the course of my life

I was reading this post by Vijay Varadan about how he closed down his game development studio about less than a month ago, and how he is dealing with giving up something he held very close to his heart.

Which brought me back to, well, myself. Since the time I joined school as a 3 year old kid, I have always been working on or towards something. The workaholic DNA inherited from both my parents meant that even during the summer holidays during school/college, after the minimum obligatory lazing around, you would find me pottering around with some hobby or the other, if not anything else.

For a soul like one described above, it is a very crushing feeling to wake up to deal with a routine that looks like this -> No office, no class. Just wake up, cook your food, clean up your surroundings, take rest and get back to sleep in the night. But, I did, I took the leap and quit my job at Jombay in early May due to climbing health issues being the top reason for the decision. My funda was simple - from my persistent visits to the doctor's clinic, I realized I dont have eternity to live my dreams and ideals and that Life is Short. Yes, we read it day in and day out, but it strikes you like a lightning when it happens in real life. Dont worry reader, I dont have any terminal disease or cancer or something, it is my thyroid gland that has landed me into this state of introspection.

So that's it. I quit the one thing that I was doing reasonably well among a lot of my endeavours. It is going to be 4 months now, and I realised these things about myself --

1) I am very bad at selling anything that I have created or belongs to me. Sales is  very tough art and people working in sales should be treated with absolute respect.
2) Programming a computer day in and day out has made me friendlier with machines than people, in short I had forgotten what it was to be a human being. To sense what is going on around you. To trust the being in front of your eyes, and just ask a question.

I also went back to my drawing board to see what else was there that defined me, that could still be pursued while attending to health matters and the answer was clear. How many times I had mentioned this in my 'About Me' introductions, but I had gone blank when push came to shove. Sanskrit. Yes, I am now pursuing an MA in Sanskrit at Pune University followed by a study of linguistics.

I haven't written any code since May this year, not that I dont want to, but just that I want to take a break. And anyway, my mind is so wired around programming now that even though I dont type out the code on a screen, my mind keeps working out algorithms one way or the other, so this break is only for the hands and eyes. I have stepped up blogging(more to record experiences), outdoor activity, photography and this thing called hanging around with friends just like that for sheer fun, basically anything that will revive the human in me.

The Mister, as always, has handholded me through this entire decision, and now enjoys unparalleled attention, now that gadgets have been given a secondary state in my life.

So that is about it, I am now a programmer on a sabbatical who is pursuing an MA in Sanskrit.

Visit to Sangam Mahuli and Nana Phadnis Wada

I have been living in Pune for 4 years now. But I haven't travelled to nearby places much. Last week I had the chance to take a quick outing to a few places around Wai and Satara. 

It was a day trip where we left at 9.30 from Pune. We visited Sangam Mahuli, Dholya Ganpati and Dakshin Kashi Vishweshwar temple in Wai and Nana Phadnis Wada at Menawali, and were back in Pune by 5. We spent some time just soaking in the serenity of the place at Sangam Mahuli on the banks of the Krishna River.

Here are some brief photos from the trip 

Sangam Mahuli Shiva Temple

Side view of Same temple

View of the river stream near Sangam Mahuli Shiva temple.
There are many temples along this bank within a short radius.

The back entrance of Nana Phadnis Wada leading to the Ghat.
This is a famous location, and preferred as a film shooting location.

View of the Ghat behind Nana Phadnis Wada

You can read a detailed blogpost about these locations here 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

#BlogReview - ChayaChitrakar

Conversations. I love them. Be it serious and structured or random and free-wheeling. I feel that is the best way to bond with people and make friends with them. And many times, some of the best ideas come during such exercises. 

But alas, in today's world, Conversation is a lost art, and that is what attracts me to the world of blogging. There is a wide network of people who are happy to share their thoughts and looking forward to hear your own. Here is a blog that I regularly visit - It is called 'ChayaChitrakar' - It has a really simple funda - every post is a set of 3 images around a topic or a theme, with a short comment about it in 3 languages - English, Hindi and Italian. The blog author, a medical doctor from Assam, posts pictures of such wide range of things, and yet not to heavy on the mind, it is always refreshing to go through his posts. I always look forward to reading his posts each and every time. 

Humour - A Way of Life

That Humor can be a way of life, was a revelation for me. And I was introduced to this refreshing new world order by none other than our very own R K Narayan.

Back in the days of my early teenage years, I used to (still do) harbour very strong feelings for using all things 'Indian' or 'Swadeshi' - when our school history lessons about the British Raj and the freedom struggle were getting freshly imprinted on my mind. I even used to insist to my mother to get me atleast two sets of dresses in Khadi material every year. In the rush of such high-spiritedness, one day, I darted into the school library to pick up atleast one english book, as per my teacher's mandate.  Wandering aimlessly, I kept scanning through the book titles one after the other, when my eyes stopped on the word 'Mahatma' - "Waiting for the Mahatma" said the book title. Relieved to have found some book to do with Mahatma, I rushed off to get it entered in the library register, not bothering to check the author, or the summary of the book, or if it was fiction at all in the first place. That week's 'Library book reading for the week' assignment introduced me to the fact that even Indian authors could write really good quality fiction. As I turned page after page in this book, I not only grew addicted to the storyline, but also to the style of writing in which the whole story was laced with humour inspite of handling an out and out love story set in the era of India's freedom struggle, and yet not diluting the plot one bit.

That was the beginning of my attachment to R K Narayan and his stories set in Malgudi and surroundings. As I read more and more of his books, I realised that looking at the situation with a humourous view point made it easier to deal with life and made life all the more enjoyable. 

I am yet to complete reading all the works of R K Narayan, but the bug of writing and the bug to find something to laugh about even in the most complicated situations has bitten me forever. And reading his books taught me to appreciate the likes of George Orwell, as well.

If I ever become a writer, I would like to be in the league of R K Narayan.

Image Credit - Penguin Books, India

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pune Photography Lovers Group - November Photowalk

Last Sunday, the good folks in Pune Photography Lovers (Group exists on Facebook) had mutually agreed to do a photowalk at Sinhagad Fort. I was also there along with the rest of the group. This is a very nice and helpful community of photographers, and it was a great learning experience about how to attempt Sunrise photography. Here is one picture from my collection of clicks that day -

For more pictures, take a look at this album on Facebook - It is a public album, you should be able to view it without necessarily logging in.

We went up to the entrance of the fort, and took a short hike to a spot where one could click without hindrance from man-made structures. It was a great experience to have the early morning winter wind blow on your face while you attempt to capture Nature in all its glory.

Looking forward to more outings with this group.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Vairagrahana Budhdhi - An Eclipse of Enmity

This article is one of a series of articles that record my notes and observations from the Valmiki Ramayana as part of the “Read Ramayana” Project.  This article is a short note on a trivial yet amusing use of language. 

These days it is not so uncommon to see people around us, and often ourselves, letting out that impulsive burst of anger and/or irritation when faced with an unpleasant situation.  One common example for this would be a drive on today's roads, irrespective of whether we are driving or are getting driven by someone else. Other examples include little things like getting pushed around while in a queue to serious life changing events caused due to factors out of our control.  Whatever be the case, in today's life and lifestyle, not a single day goes where we dont have those feelings of annoyance and dislike.  And when we happen to recount these situations and the people who may have caused them, we end up referring to them as “fool”, “irritating fellow”, “pain in the neck”, etc.  

As I was filing through the pages of the Balakaanda, I realised that similar situations have occurred in the lives of our ancestors, inspite of differing/dissimilar lifestyles.  So how do you think Valmiki would react when he faced something that was really unpleasant for him? Lets find out -- 

While standing on the banks of the Tamasa River, before the Ramayana was to be written, Rishi Valmiki saw two Krouncha birds happily playing with each other; when suddenly one of them  was killed by a hunter.  Inspite of being a sage i.e. a Rishi (one who has attained a certain control over one's mind and senses), this killing of the Krouncha bird affected him so much, that he, almost instantaneously, came up with a unique word to qualify the hunter. He describes the hunter as  
i.e. one whose mind has caught an eclipse, so to say, that too an eclipse of such enmity that the hunter so deftly killed the Krouncha bird. 

Paapaatmnaa krutam kashtam vairagrahanabudhdhinaa | 
Yastaadrusham charuravam kroucham hanyadakaaranaath ||” 
Kanda 1 Sarga 2 Shloka 28 

What an expression that is  - An eclipse of Enmity on the intellect – and this verse was uttered by him in the spur of the moment, it was not a well revised piece of poetry that he 'chose' to write.  A humble salute to Rishi Valmiki for this – if he could come up with such a refined expression even for a spurt of anger anddisgust, imagine the output when he would sit and ruminate and write his thoughts out! And indeed, what an epic the Ramayana has turned out to be.  In fact, it was this shloka (that bubbled in Rishi Valmiki's mind)  that led him to actually pen the epic that is Ramayana. 

Interesting, isn't it?

Image credit : - https://journalofapilgrim.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/eclipse.jpg

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Back from a forced hiatus

This blog and the blog author were on a forced hiatus due to connectivity issues.

And now we are back.
Sharing a nice video useful for photography enthusiasts. It lists out 18 lenses that are useful for Canon Camera users - both full frame and crop frame.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Postcrossing Round Up #8

I have been on a roller coaster the two to three weeks on all fronts, and have been shuttling between Chennai and Pune like anything.  So this Friday, when I finally came back home, a bonanza of postcards were waiting for me.

Here is the latest haul -

Picture of Mock Orange Flower from Belarus

Multiple views from Copenhagen, Denmark

Views from Magdeburg, Germany

Card from Zelenograd, Russia

Harry Potter Postcard from Canada

Sparrenburg Castle, Bielefeld, Germany

Chinatown, Singapore

The first official postcrossing card I got from India - Dilwara Temple, Mount Aby

Multiple View card from Germany

This is 4th or 5th card I am getting from Lapland

That's it for now!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Indiblogger Pune Meet and Greet August 2015

Initiated by fellow Pune Blogger Kaustav Sen, a self organised meetup was scheduled for yesterday evening at 11, East Street Cafe, in Camp Pune. And it was a nice meeting where I met some very interesting bloggers. Conversations flowed over a pitcher of Peach Ice Tea, and some snacks.

About the fellow Bloggers

Tara Nair, Vikram Karve, Kaustav Sen, Vibhuti Bhandarkar, Rutuja Joshi, Shubhashree Patra, and Aziz were some of the attendees at the event. Tara, Vikram, Rutuja, Vibhuti are creative writers and their blogs are about fiction, mostly. Kaustav is a photoblogger. And true to the agenda mentioned on the event page, the conversations were free flowing and we discussed a lot of things under the sun, from differences between blogger.com and wordpress.com to Vikram's most thrilling experience during his time in the Navy when they actually sailed through the eye of a cyclone. While I have been surfing the blogosphere reasonably actively for sometime now, I was meeting these guys for the first time, and I am glad I could make it to the Meet and Greet event yesterday.

About the Cafe - 11 East Street Cafe
11 East Street Cafe is on, well, East Street, Camp. The cafe is themed like a high street in London, lined with mock shops along both walls of the entire length of the cafe, with the front of the iconic London Bus jutting out at the entrance of the cafe. The menu is a delight for people who eat meat, and the cafe serves alcohol as well. Good ambience and good food, this cafe is an ideal place for merry chitchat. You can find more details about the Cafe in this Zomato link

Here are some photos from yesterday's event

Illustration - An afternoon without electronic gadgets? Child's play?

I was playing with some of the kids in my society/colony and using some of the pictures clicked during that time, I created this illustration of how, in this modern day, a child's afternoon would be if there would be absolutely no gadgets around?

Here take a look - 

So how do you keep your children weaned away from gadgets? I would definitely like to know!

Postcrossing Round Up #6

This week I received a total of one postcard, and this one was from HongKong.

How was your weekend?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Postcrossing Round Up #5

Here is this week's round up of my Postcrossing cards -
This came from Delft, Holland

This is from Riga, the capital of Latvia

This is from Russia. Below is the same picture with a vintage photographic effect that I added on my own :)

This is a picture of Mohawk river-barge canal from the US of A

This is the picture of the Town Hall of Coruche, a quaint town near Lisbon, Portugal

This one is from Dusseldorf, Germany

So that's it for this week folks! How was your weekend?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Survey of Bloggers in India - A report

About a month or so ago, I participated in a survey that was conducted by Echovme. It was a survey to understand the behaviour of bloggers in India in the online realm - if and how they promote their blog, what is the awareness and application of search engine optimisation techniques, what kind of content do Indian bloggers dish out and things like that.

And the results of that survey is out. Echovme has put out a nice infographic along with a written report about the data that they gleaned from the above survey. With permission from Echovme, I am sharing the infographic below. Here is the link to the detailed write-up - http://www.soravjain.com/survey-indian-bloggers-report-endorse-brands-wordpress

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Postcrossing Round Up #4

This week in Postcrossing, I received 3 postcards with some very beautiful stamps, here are the pictures

This one is from Germany - multiview of Rhineland

This is from Switzerland - a view of Lake Lucern

These are the stamps that I got on the card from Russia

These were on the card from Switzerland

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Can you do better than working from home?

I was blog-hopping last night when I came across this article by noted blogger from Indian blogosphere - Shailaja Vishwanath's blog - Diary of a Doting Mom: 5 Tips for Working from Home
And this set me thinking. I have worked from home for a significant part of my work career, and although I dont have children to take care of yet, home management responsibilities are no less irrespective of whether you have a child at home or not.

So I could totally identify with the points mentioned in the post above. And if you can earn your bread from the cozy confines of your home without a compromise to your commitment to home responsibilities, what better would you need in life? While all this seems rosy, every person who works from home, also realises that many a times, whether you like it or not and even if you dont want to do so, you end up switching context in your mind between work and home far too many times than you would like, and work on either one side suffers simply because you cant concentrate enough.

So what do you do in such situations? Can you do better than working from home? So far there was not much of an alternative for such cases. But with technology touching every aspect of life today, could there be an option for you, atleast for those specific days, where you just need those 2 or 3 hours where you can totally zone out of home mode and push out your deliverables? Enter BreathingRoom.

BreathingRoom is a service that enables you to avail of workspaces around your locality by the hour. They aggregate and tie up with organizations who are willing to let you use their space for a fee at a nominal cost. Using a simple, light and easy-to-use mobile app, BreathingRoom helps you find places at locations of your choice, with the USP being that you can pick spaces based on the amenities you want - Whiteboard/No whiteboard, wifi/No wifi, Food/No food, etc.  Payment is seamless, and your booking is done within 5 minutes of starting to look for a place. And all venues are verified and screened before they find their way into the listing you see, so there is very little gap in the experience that is mentioned on the listing and what you get on the ground.

The icing on the cake of this service is that there are certain listings that BreathingRoom calls as OpenSpaces - the bookings for such spaces do not cost you anything. Just check the availability, fix your time slot, confirm and done!

I had tried out this service twice - Once at an OpenSpace at One-O-Eight Cafe in Koregaon Park, Pune, and another a FeaturedSpace at DooThings, Viman Nagar, Pune. Both experiences were a breeze, and really productive, I got done with writing my Ramayana articles on both occassions.

Go try out a BreathingRoom today, for those times when you need to do better than working from home!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Design Made Easy by @Canva

Today's era is one where one needs to straddle multiple boats at the same time, and having a design sense in every little thing you do makes a lot of difference in your output.  While this is true, learning and working with the various visual design tools that are available out there (and I am specifically talking about tools like Inkscape, Photoshop, CorelDraw, Illustrator and the likes) is an area of study and an area of work in itself.

So how do these two realities co-exist and as a product designer and/or content creator how do you deal with delivering quality visual design content while at the same time focussing on your core competence, and not spending too much time learning the nitty gritties of  visual design tools?

It is for this purpose that (for a while now) I have been using this web based tool called Canva a lot.  In short, Canva helps those people who have a sense of visual design, but are not literate with the knobs and buttons that true blue visual design tools offer. And the folks behind Canva have come with a reasonably powerful yet easy to use browser based tool, that I was surprised myself when I started using it. And trust me, for all this that I have said here, Canva is super easy to use.

If you would like to read a detailed post about how things work in this tool - You can read this article titled "Any Body Can Design" by Darshan Gajara - It has enough details for you to get a good understanding of various things that you can do with Canva.

Now Canva is coming with a version of their product called "Canva for Work" and you can sign up here if you want to get early access to this version of their product.

Try it out! Happy Designing!

Postcrossing Round Up #3

This is a late post, as the week is almost over with today being Sunday, but nevertheless I received 1 postcard this week from Finland.

Here is the picture of the card -

This is a picture of a brown bear, which is the national animal of Finland.

This postcard has a very beautiful peacock styled stamp. Here is the picture of the stamp on the card -

And some of the cards going out this week were -

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Postcrossing Round Up #2

Hello Everyone!

Postcrossing-wise, this week was a very interesting week! I received three postcards - 2 from Germany and 1 from USA. And the two postcards from Germany coincidentally had 2 successive Postcard IDs - DE-4311253 and DE-4311252

For postcrossers, getting successive numbers or special sequence numbers are considered a special bonus, but most people get these numbers while sending postcards, but for a change I got sequential numbers in postcards I received! :)

This week's postcrossing round up!

What have you been up to? :)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Postcrossing Round Up #1

There is this website called www.postcrossing.com - It is a postcard exchange project that invites everyone to send and receive postcards from random places in the world. In effect, it lets you travel the world from the cozy confines of your home! How cool is that!

I had joined this in 2012, with the goal of making new friends. I used to be active, but had fallen out of it due to varying work and home priorities.  But now I am back on the postcrossing circuit, and will post a round up of my travels around the world :D

As I said, I have recently gotten back into the circuit, so this Round Up features one post card.
This was sent by a fellow Postcrosser, who was celebrating his 500th Postcard. And the card was stamped with a special cancellation stamp. Here are the pictures

Are you a Postcrosser from India? Join the group on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/groups/indianpostcrossing/ :)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Toastmasters club of Pune East - 77th Meeting

I have been tracking multiple things in the last couple of months, and in my pursuit of happy-ness(just joking :)), I landed up at the Toastmaster's club of Pune East this last Sunday.  For the uninititated, here is what Toastmasters Club is all about

Toastmasters International (TI) is a nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills.
The theme of the meeting was 'Journey'. The prepared speeches went off very well. One of the speakers gave a mouth watering speech about how to make Sambhar, leaving the audience hungry for more. Abhinav Garule, the Toastmaster of the day(the person who conducts the entire meeting) made us do some voice warm up exercises which proved to have a dual benefit of warming up the voice, and loosening up the mind and helped everyone settle in.
In the second half of the meeting, we had a 'Round Robin' session where there was freewheeling flow of sentences and ideas, thanks to Tarun, who facilitated a Sentence Builder game and a 'If you were a' game. The Sentence Builder game is where you have to start your sentence with the same word that the person before you finished with. Here there are no restrictions regarding what you should speak about, the sentences can be around random topics; the restriction is on time, you get 15 seconds to say whatever you want.  The 'If your were a' game is where you challenge the person after you to complete and elaboratIe upon  the sentence 'If you were a _______' in fifteen seconds. I was challenged to complete 'If I were a windmill'. This part of the meeting was very very enjoyable.

On the whole it was some quality edutainment on a rainy Sunday morning!

I find the Toastmasters program to be an interesting format to learn new things, and overcome those mental walls at the same time.

Here are some pictures from the event