Dear son, you are seven today.

It is now officially an annual ritual – my open/public letter to my son on his birthday. I wrote the first one when he turned 4. I followed it up with one when he turned 5. Then one for his sixth birthday. Without much ado, here is my annual birthday letter to you, boy_who_will_always_be_my_little_one.

Dear little guy
Let us get this out of the way first and foremost. You are never too old to be kissed on your cheeks by your dad or mom. In public too. You have not protested. Yet. But I see the signs. You dare not. Not now. Not ever.

Now onto the main letter.

This past year was pretty eventful. A whole bunch of key milestones. Your first trip to the Principal’s office happened. Taking after Dad in that department, I must say. At one point, I considered maintaining an extra set of pens and notebooks in the Principal’s office. There is a teeny weeny bit of pride in seeing you follow my footsteps. But I dare not say that in public, ever again.

You lost your first couple of teeth last year. Your mom chides me that your tooth fairy is too generous. Here is what I told her. I didn’t have one. Mine was the maid in our house who gave me a cup of water and some sugar for the blood. I wanted your memories to be less colorful and more memory worthy. And so you had a rich tooth fairy who decided to be generous with you.

You inherited the one gene your mom and I didn’t want you to inherit- wearing glasses at a fairly early age. You hated the prospect of it but have surprisingly adapted quickly and I am thankful for that. With your penchant for math and science and now the glasses, you do risk the prospect of getting the “Nerd” tag. I really hope you figure out a way to deal with it at school. By the way, the glasses make you look much more like me than ever, or so they say. Your mother disagrees, of course.

Your imagination is a joy to behold, if only you have the patience to put pen on paper. We are all waiting in anticipation for the day you realize the pleasure in writing and enthrall us with your words. It will come someday. Soon, I hope. Basket!

 

Basketball seems to be a thing for you now. And that is pretty awesome. Hope this doesn’t go the way of soccer. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll have better luck than me with the height gene.

For the longest time in your life now (12 months and counting), you have aspired to be a marine biologist. I really hope we take good care of the environment for you until you are ready to take care of it. I think you will do a smashing job if you choose to do it.

Your mother and I are old fashioned when it comes to reading and learning. We would prefer that you learn to read paper books (yes, I know, I know) and write with pen and paper. As much as our house is littered with laptops and tablets, we strongly believe that the right way to learn is through books and human interaction. So, if we do not allow you to have any more tablet time than the school work demands, forgive us. We think that is what is right for you and we are not willing to change our minds on this one. You will thank us later.

Then there is your music. As much as I love your willingness to sing everyday, in the car, in your bed, in the kitchen, on the phone to your grandparents, at our friends, at concerts, and yes, very much so in the bathroom, there is something I love even more. And that is your interest in listening to good Carnatic music. For your vocal chords may or may not be your friend, but the ability to listen and enjoy music is a habit that will take you far and wide in your life. It is the biggest gift my parents gave me and if there is one thing I ever hope to pass on, this would be it. So listen on!

Last but not the least, with every passing year, your mother and I are holding on to the threads of your childhood, not wanting to let them fly away from us. You have a wonderful life ahead of you. And we cannot wait to see you show the world what you are capable of. But to us, you will always be the little guy who snuggles up on weekend mornings and is willing to, in private of course, indulge us with as many kisses we want to give and receive from you. 

As the clock ticks twelve and you are officially seven years old, I wish you everything you desire and much much more. You zoom on. We are with you, always.

Happy Birthday!

Appa

P.S: More than half of your best friends (as of this evening, subject to change tomorrow morning) are girls. Yet another good gene, my boy. Yet another good gene.

P.P.S: If T.M.Krishna is reading this, I hope he will soon make a trip to the Bay Area for a concert. I promised my little guy that I will take him to his concert and convince him to sing “Manavyalakin” and “Mamava Pattabhi”.

Dear son, you are six today.

It is now officially an annual ritual – my open/public letter to my son on his birthday. I wrote the first one when he turned 4. I followed it up with one when he turned 5. Today, the 29th of March, my medium guy turns 6. Here is my letter to you, my little man.

Dearest dude

So you are a year older and a bit wiser. Maybe a little too much for our convenience but we will let that pass. You are starting to ask too many questions. Some of them quite complicated and a few of them uncomfortably so. Give us some time and we will catch up. Until then, let the dictionaries and encyclopedias be your friend.

Reading books

I love that you are hooked on math and science. Attaboy! I say. As much as your mother wanted you to be a creative type completely unlike the two of us, your DNA refuses to cooperate. The older you grow, the more obvious it gets that you are going to be into math and science. Like everyone else in the family. Now that we understand that part, would you be so kind enough to consider thinking about building the next great thing. I am not looking for a $19 billion buyout. Something in the millions would be fine too. If you agree, I am willing to start saving towards your rent in SFO. You will most likely need that.

Last year, we had talked about girls. Yes, the same girls. You now have your doppelgänger who happens to be a girl. We are thrilled about it. Not so much about you following her instructions to a T and getting into trouble, but all the other parts including your newfound appreciation (as you clearly put it, not love) for pink and peach. The perspective is all good. Just one note of caution. As much as you like your friend, never, never ever call her your most favorite girl in the world. Not in front of your mom. Rule No 0: The mother is always the favorite girl, lady, women in the world. Never changes. Until you get married and then, the “if…then” clause kicks in. 

V art

We have kept technology away from you as much as possible. Sometimes we wish there could be a balance but not as yet. This birthday, we got you a Chromebook so you have all the right tools at the right time. It is a great device to learn cool things. And the occasional Angry Birds.

Your continued love for music is fantastic. I love the fact that we can listen to good Carnatic music together. While you continue to love Balamurali Krishna’s singing, your newfound admiration for Abhishek Raghuram (and his Viribhoni) is admirable. As is your liking for the Sikkil Gurucharan and Anil Srinivasan combo. I hope to get you to meet one or all of them someday. Remember, these guys put in a lot of effort to get where they are. It is not just talent. So, there is no point in expecting music to come to you naturally. You have to put in the effort. Yes, I am talking about your complaints over repeated practice. Gotta do it. No way around it.

I love, love the fact that you run to hug me when I drop you off at school. In front of your BFF, no less. I know this is a fleeting experience that will soon disappear. Until then, I will cherish every one of those tight hugs.

The Medium Guy

Your mother and I so desperately wish to freeze things in time. As much as we would love for you to eat your food yourself without taking the entire day and clean yourself up properly, we oh so desperately miss the little guy who was knee high and wobbling around in his diapers, and babbling incessantly. We miss that little one so much and as you grow older, even more so.

We love it when you speak in Tamizh. But it is starting to get rarer and rarer. Please, please speak the language a little more like you used to. For our sake. It feels like honey in our ears when we hear it. No hyperbole whatsoever.

I am thrilled that you are not scared of lizards in the garden. I am not gung-ho about you wanting to go and touch them. But not being scared is nice. If only your mother saw our side of things. 

Finally, to me, the greatest part of my day is when I put you to bed and watch you go to sleep. Nothing, absolutely nothing feels purer and awesomer than that. In that moment, the Universe just feels right.

Happy birthday, my would-be paleontologist who also happens to be a would-be geologist.

Signed,

Appa.

P.S: Too early to be asking questions about the reproductive system from your encyclopedia. End of conversation. Finito.

Book Review: Mr.Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore

One of my goals for this year is to get back to reading more fiction. Over the past few years, I have been doing a lot more non-fiction and magazine type content that fiction. This year, I have targeted atleast 5 works of fiction. I am doing pretty well with the goal. I just wrapped up my third book for the year- one that I enjoyed quite a bit. Here is my brief review of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

penumbra

My Amazon books page flashed this book for quite a while since its release in Fall of 2012. Reviews were gushing to say the least. I meant to read it but never got to it until very recently. I started the book with absolutely no expectations. I did not know if it was going to be an adventure or a homage to books or a really funny poignant story. By the end I realised, it was all of it. The book is an adventure at one level and a gorgeously crafted love story to books in another. At the same time, it is at times nerdy and funny and hits a bunch of really good notes about the Silicon Valley techie lifestyle.

The joy of reading works of fiction is that it transports you to a different world. A good book can be that door to a remarkable experience that at once affects and changes the reader. The world of books is in an age of transformation. Ebooks are starting to significantly outsell print books and our attention spans are getting shorter as we consume more byte size content and not as much of long form and books. Mr.Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore feels immediate in that context. It talks of an era of printed works and the coming generation of electronic content and consumption. Without belittling either, it makes a case for harmonious coexistence. As someone who reads in print and digital, it resonated greatly with me.

The book is by no means perfect. There are definitely things that could have been better. There is a sense of adventure that never culminates in the big reveal. The protagonist is well flushed out. The rest of them weave in and out and would merit more of character development. And yes, I would love to know a lot more about Mr.Penumbra which the author smartly realized and followed up with a Kindle Single.

All that said and done, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. I could not bear the thought of the book ending and would love to read up a sequel if the author ever chooses to write one. If you live in South Bay, the San Jose Public Library system featured this book in their reading list and flooded their member libraries with copies. Or you could always choose to pick up a copy for the Kindle here.

Book Review: The Circle by Dave Eggers

I read quite a few books and very rarely write about any of them. But “The Circle” by Dave Eggers is an exception. This book has been much discussed and debated since its release in October. Dave Eggers has crafted a fairly intriguing dystopian tale that is set in a not so distant future. I found the book an overly simplistic yet engaging read and would recommend it for anyone looking for an interesting page turner cum thriller cum science fiction book. Here is why.

The Circle by Dave Eggers
The Circle by Dave Eggers

The Circle is a corporation not unlike any of your current tech behemoths. It is part Google, part Facebook, a tiny sliver Apple and Twitter and a shade most startups in the Valley. The company it resembles most though is Google. It is pretty hard to imagine Google not being the major inspiration for the author. The Circle is a monopolistic tech giant that is pushing the boundary of social engagement. The protagonist, Mae is an idealistic engineer who lands at its doorstep, hungry and desperate for a challenge. The Circle offers all that and so much more.

The Circle is as much a story of Mae as it is of so many thousands of us who are socially engaged via online social mediums. It is about the sharing generation. It is about breaking the walls of what we know to be privacy. And in the process, discover what it really means. Without going into the plot, I can tell you that if you enjoy Facebook or Twitter or Google Plus, this book will definitely give you a pause. A moment to think where we are possibly heading. I say possibly because the book makes a lot of assumptions that could, may and probably will never happen. But if it does and there is definitely one such possibility, what the world may come to is what the book really talks about.

Here is where the book fails. It does not take into account the complexities of our online existence. It defines privacy in hollow terms that for the sake of the author’s arguments sounds meaningless. It defines internet as much more a scourge than an enabler. It simplifies life to be clear cut set of private and shareable experiences.

For all its simplistic assumptions and generic characters, the book offers a brief period of thought and retrospection. It makes us think what our online lives are and should be and how much of that defines who we are and not the other way around. It gives us food for thought and maybe in rare cases, action. And to wrap such a thought in a fairly engaging piece of fiction is a credit to the author. You may disagree with it in the end or agree in parts, but you will definitely spend a few minutes pondering the future it envisions. And for that, I recommend that you give the book a try.

Do you define your online self or does your online self define you?

Presenting my first book – Mahabharata for Kids

I am incredibly proud to announce to the world, my first book – “Mahabharata for Kids“. The book has been in the works for the last few months and was formally released at a function in my high school during my recent trip to India. The print version is now available to ship worldwide. Details on how to request your copy are here. The iOS version is available on the iBookStore. The Kindle version is available on the Amazon Kindle Store.

About the Book

The book was borne out of a simple desire- to introduce the great Indian epic, Mahabharata to my five year old. I searched all over the place to find a version that would be clean, simple and easy to read. No luck. So I thought of creating a one off book for him. I would write it, print it on my computer and staple it together. After a few drafts, I realized there was something here that could be used not just by my son but by so many other parents and their kids. My father, a prolific writer, who has published over 25 books on Hinduism was a good source to tap into and explore the viability of the project.

Mahabharata for kids
Mahabharata for kids

One thing was still missing. With young kids, plain text never works. I needed good art. And I didn’t want to be treading on copyright issues. Thankfully my father had a solution. He suggested that we use the wonderful artist who had illustrated much of my father’s books to do exclusive art for my book. Once the artist Murugesan agreed and started doing his magic, things started coming together pretty quickly. The book rolled out of the press the day after I landed in India and we launched it the next week. Since then, we have already sold over 500 copies of the book.

The Causes

All proceeds from the sale of this book will be sent to my dad’s charity, Sri Ranganatha Charities which will use it to support very many good causes ranging from kids education to supporting food, clothing, and education expenses for handicapped schools to providing eye surgery for blind kids. Through my dad’s 25+ publications, the charity has collected and disbursed over Rs.20 lakhs ($30,000) in the last 15 years. This book will further that effort.

I request you, the reader of the post to consider buying the book for yourself, friends, and family and also to spread the word about it on social networks. Every single dollar goes towards charity. I decided to bear the entire publishing cost so that the charity gets all proceeds from sales of the book.

Who should buy?

The book is ideal for kids from 5-8. Most of the words in the book are simple to read. The only areas where early readers will need help from the parent is when they get to read and pronounce the long Indian names in the book which was unavoidable.

The print version features grayscale line art which can also be used as coloring pages by kids. Alternately, the line art is available for download on the official website. Parents can download individual drawings, print and use them for coloring.

The digital version of the book will contain colored versions of the line drawings. The iOS version of the book is being reviewed by Apple as I type and will hopefully be available in the next day or two. The Kindle version is in works and I am hoping to launch that in a week or so.

The book makes for a great gift to the budding reader and also for return gifts for birthday parties and such. Every single dollar goes to charity. So please spread the word on the book.

Connecting and Interacting

One of the challenges with a complex epic like Mahabharata is to interpret the story in a way that children understand and enjoy. To that effect, I have created a Facebook page for parents to engage in conversations related to the book, the story and other topics. Please Like the page so you can get updates for new posts and such.

I am also blogging my experiences with creating, publishing and spreading the word on the book on the official website for the book.

Your support for this project and the underlying causes are most appreciated.

Four shades of an epic: The Mahabharata experiment (Part 1)

During the holidays, I revisited my bookshelf and realized that I owned multiple copies of the great Indian epic, “Mahabharata“. I was looking for some reads for my vacation and it struck me that I could reread the epic in a way I have never done before- multiple versions at the same time. One such expirement would give me not just one but multiple interpretations of the epic which I am so fond of.

As a voracious reader, my childhood and teenage was filled with stories of warriors and demons. Of kshatriyas and battles. Of right and wrong. And if there was a single book that encapsulated everything, it was Mahabharata. The other Indian epic, “Ramayana” was something that never captured my interest quite the way Mahabharata did and the reasoning is obvious. Ramayana was about the most perfect of men, Rama who could do almost no wrong (Sita‘s trial by fire being the exception). It was about love, domestication, devotion and the triumph of good over evil. It was all black and white. The only few interesting elements of Ramayana are all in the conflicted and complex characters of Ravana and Mandodhari. In contrast, Mahabharata has tons of action, and a tad less emotion. I was mesmerized by the plethora of astras weilded by the warriors, something that carries my fancy even today. And then there was the TV show.

B.R.Chopra’s magnum opus that ran and ran on Indian television back in the late 80s. Everyone watched it. Sunday mornings was dead silent as houses were glued into the show for the time it ran. While it is tacky and amateurish by today’s standards, it was a massive production then and for a 10 year old like me, well worth the 45 minutes.

Over the years, I have often times picked up C.Rajagopalachari‘s version of Mahabharata [print][pdf] as a reasonably quick but mentally challenging read because Rajaji brings so much to the table. While he does look at things in black and white, there is a lot of intellectual food that he delivers with his version. Never fails to thrill and inspire.

rajaji mahabharata

I have also read the popular comic book writer Anant Pai’s version for Amar Chitra Katha which I own as a three volume omnibus. ACK is interesting because the art is compelling and the content is complete but the text can be stark in its approach to black and white.

ack mahabharata

I recently picked up Ramesh Menon‘s version of the Mahabharata which is available as a set of two or a collected single ebook on the Kindle store. Ramesh Menon brings color to the story- sometimes putting adults to shame. He does not hold his imagination back and there are times when the reader isnt sure if he is reading the Mahabharata or a Harlequin romance novel. It makes for a very colorful interpretation and vivid retelling of the epic.

ramesh menon mahabharata

And then there is historian and noted Indian mythology writer, Devdutt Pattanaik‘s version titled “Jaya” which is a very nicely illustrated and relatively short version of the story.

dev pattanaik mahabharata

Which brings me to my current experiment. I am doing a parallel reading experiment with the above mentioned versions of the Mahabharata. What this means is that on my Kindle, I am consuming Ramesh Menon’s version while I am reading the same section in Rajaji’s, Dev Pattanaik’s and Anant Pai’s versions. Its a tricky affair to say the least but it makes for a remarkable experience as I am reading interpretations from writers of varying statures and written during different era’s. Rajaji’s version hit the press in 1950 while Dev Patnaik and Ramesh Menon completed theirs in the last 5 years. Anand Pai’s version has been in print atleast for the last 20 years if not more. And the books reflect that. Rajaji’s words and take is simple and dharmic. Ramesh Menon, as I mentioned earlier has updated Mahabharata for today’s soap opera viewer. And the overall take on the epic varies dramatically in some sections.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to wrap up this project and offer a couple of blog posts that capture my experiences in this process. Hope you are in for the ride. While at it, it would be awesome if some of you want to do something similar and share your experiences.

 

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth: Great book for kids

Our family is a big fan of the work of Pixar artist, Sanjay Patel. I wrote about his work in an earlier blog post where I strongly recommended his two books, Hindu Deities and Ramayana: Divine Loophole. In addition to these two books, he has also created a journal composed of his art and a wonderful art poster book with gorgeous large size illustrations of Indian Gods and Goddesses. His latest book titled Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth was announced in Spring when I promptly preordered it. The book shipped last week and I am happy to say, it lived up to all our expectations. Read on for a full review of the book.

Ganesha's sweet tooth

Ganesha’s Sweet tooth is a very loosely based origin story of how Ganesha came to be the scribe for Mahabharata. For this effort, Sanjay Patel has partnered with Emily Haynes. If you have experienced Sanjay’s art through any of his previous works, you will find yourself happy to see that he continues to be at the top of his game. To me, every page was a standout but the two I would like to point out are one of Ganesha playing cricket and the other of a two page layout of Mahabharata- no words, just a  cornucopia of images from different parts of the epic. They convey at once the grandiosity of the epic and the talent of the artist who managed to cram all that mattered in two pages. It has to be experienced to be believed.

Jawbreaker

The story itself is simple and imaginative. It ties two stories from Indian mythology pretty neatly. But it is the style and the art that really matters. One standout element in this book given that it is an original story is the way it makes kids relate. This is pretty important if the author is interested in making a connection with the reader or the one the story is being read to. When I read the story to my son who only knew of Ganesha, his love for laddoos and hi mouse, there was so much he could relate to or identify with. And that is when the author wins. And as a parent, I wanted that connection established to ensure that my son will want to read the book over and over again. It would also someday serve as my segue to the far more complex and challenging Mahabharata.

Ganesha's sweet tooth

I am a happy customer and more importantly a happy father. And when a book with an Indian storyline without blood and action and with dollops of love and humor arrive in a colorful eye-popping package, what more can I ask for?

You can order the book in printed form or Kindle version here.

 

NurtureShock: A strongly recommended read for parents and parents-to-be

I have spent the last few weeks reading and absorbing an excellent book, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. I recommend this book strongly to parents of kids of all ages. It opens our minds to some interesting research on child psychology and challenges us to not just follow conventional wisdom on a bunch of child rearing topics but experiment with newer scientific approaches. As Dr.Medina points out in “Brain Rules for Baby” (another highly recommended book), parental instincts are not always right and sometimes there is more to being a parent than you would think.

NurtureShock is based on the premise that much of everything we do with our kids is built on assumedly proven methodologies and techniques when some or many of them are either completely off base or somewhat incorrect. It doesnt offer solutions to problems- that would make it no different than any other advise doling book and would really disappoint me. It instead makes us aware of a lot of child psychological research and neuroscientific studies on the matter and challenges us to open up to newer possibilities and a newer form of thinking. It tells us what science shows as working and what it shows as not really conducive. I walked in to the book as a sceptic and walked out informed and willing to challenge my own status quo in bringing up my 4 year old. Some of the ideas put forth in the book seem to work for me in the few weeks I have spent trying it on my son.

NurtureShock

The book takes up a bunch of important topics, each one given a chapter of its own. The authors disemminate myths and assumed problem solving techiques on the matter and then outline what current research and scientific studies have to say on it. It then gives the parent some broad stroke ideas of how to approach the problem with the new knowledge. The topics covered in the book are as follows.

  • How praising a child might not always be the best approach to help them get better and smarter.
  • The value of sleep for kids of all ages, even teens and how lost sleep can adversely affect their daily routine and overall growth.
  • How and more importantly, when to talk about race to kids.
  • Why do kids lie and how parents can avoid making it any worse.
  • Conventional wisdom of how to raise a smart kid and how and why it might not be valid.
  • Why siblings don’t always result in understanding and sharing children and why single kids are not all that screwed up as it is popularly thought to be.
  • Why do teens rebel and how to gently handle the situation.
  • Can kids learn self-control and how can parents help in the effort.
  • Some early signs and socialogical traits of an aggresive child and why it might not be what you think.
  • Why do different kids develop at a different pace and how does parental communication with an infant and Baby Einstein DVDs make a difference.

Along the way, every major and minor worry that keeps parents up at night from teenage sex to peer pressure and from TV’s impact on kids to resolution of conflicts gets its fair share of attention. I found myself questioning my own handling of situations and making minor but potentially significant adjustments in how I deal with them moving forward. By no means is this a Bible for parenting. There is no such thing as a Bible for parenting as every parent is so well aware of. Parenting challenges are unique to the parents and their child. But there is more commonality in a lot of the problems parents face in bringing up a child in today’s complicated world that it makes sense to read a book like this. All this book does is give you a better perspective as a parent on what you are facing and what to expect. It also gives you a comforting feeling that not only are you not alone but there are solutions to problems as long as you are willing to put effort into understanding the root cause.

As an final note, I am not a big fan of psychology books. But this one is a great read that I can’t recommend it highly enough (some of you have already heard me wax poetic about it). If you have a local library, look for it. I am sure they have copies you can borrow. Or like me, you can buy it on the Kindle or as a physical book.

Facebook for kids- Exciting or scary?

As you probably are aware, rumor mills are speculating that Facebook is preparing to open up its service to kids under 13. There was an excellent bit on this on NPR on Sunday <link not easily searchable> and I am sharing some things I heard in that news piece and my thoughts on the matter.

Facebook

Background

Under Children Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), Facebook and such online services are significantly restricted if not fully banned for kids under 13. There is an interesting book on the topic called Talking Back to Facebookthat was featured on NPR a week ago. It brings up interesting questions on the impact of Facebook on our lives with a specific focus on its impact on kids.

What it means to Facebook

Facebook (of the much maligned IPO fame) is working hard to identify new revenue streams to propel its growth to justify its high valuation. While its subscriber base continues to grow, it is slowing down because much of America is on Facebook already. It is turning to a segment that has not yet been officially mined – kids under 13. Under COPPA, Facebook is not technically available for kids under 13. It makes excellent business sense for Facebook and could become potentially lucrative and well-received if done right. But it is not without significant risks and attention. But the reward definitely outweighs the risks. If Facebook can execute on a good plan to deliver the service officially to kids under 13, they could unlock a potential goldmine that will give them great subscriber growth for years to come.

The risks

Why is it challenging for Facebook to deliver such a service to under 13 kids?. To put it simply, display ads, subscriptions and stalking. The bulk of Facebook’s revenue comes from targeted ads you see on the right side corner of your Facebook page. These ads are tailored based on the user’s friends lists, pages they visit in and out of Facebook (tracked via the OpenGraph system), their Likes and so on. These ads are algorithm driven solutions that will generate ads based on the aforementioned variables. Some or many of these ads may and will not be suitable for kids. So Facebook has to implement a sophisticated system that prevents such ads from getting displayed on the pages and feeds of under 13 kids. In addition, ads need to be categorized based on target audience to allow for Facebook to then manage what gets delivered to kids and what doesn’t.

Kids should also be prevented from subscribing to feeds that can potentially contain objectionable content. This is easier said that done. What is traditionally a safe feed could be polluted by one non kid-friendly post that will cause the whole pack of cards to collapse. Managing subscriptions on a post by post basis is a huge task, if at all possible.

Finally, online social networks are huge magnets for sexual predators and pedophiles. If Facebook opens up its service to under 13 kids, securing kids from such people will be a massive challenge. While parents will have to play a very strong role in managing who their kids friend and subscribe to, unwanted people will manage to fall through the safety net. All it takes is one bad episode and things will get extremely political and nasty for Facebook.

Parental Role

One of the interesting tidbits from the NPR news article was that parents of kids under 13 are active in setting up accounts for their kids. They see value in their kids having a social network of their own. They also think they can manage their friend circle effectively. This is something of a revelation given how paranoid parents are with the security of their young kids. So Facebook might only be making what is already happening unofficially, official. But therein lies the problem. Making it official only makes it open to lawsuits if things were to go wrong. But with things staying unofficial, Facebook is not responsible for parents taking the onus and setting up their kids accounts.

For now, Facebook is content having a page describing all that it does to ensure your privacy as a Facebook user, and specifically as a parent interested in the privacy of his or her children.

There may be real value in kids having an online social network. The question for parents to answer is if it is worth the risk?.

 

 

Fifty Shades Freed: Book Review

See my review of Fifty Shades of Grey here and Fifty Shades Darker here.

I finally finished the Fifty Shades Trilogy. It was one of those things. I read the first one because of all the buzz surrounding it. I read the second because the first was not half as bad and left me dangling in the end. I read the third, well, because it was the end of the trilogy. Who ever reads the first two parts of a trilogy and not the third?

Read on for a review of the third book. Very minor spoilers ahead.

As I mentioned in my review of the second book, there was a semblance of a plot introduced towards the end of the tale. Ana and Christian are happy with each other, so much so that they decide to take their relationship a step further.

The third one picks up soon after. Things are hunky dory and Ana and Christian have indeed taken the next big step. There is a lot of sex at this point- so much so that I have a theory on how E L James wrote the third book. Here it goes.

1. Identify all the places two rich people can make out.

2. Identify all forms of kinkery (the author’s word, not mine) that can be written about within the bounds of decency. Imagine written Playboy and not Hustler.

3. Plug in some minimal sentiment and confusion to fill the few pages between bouts of kinky sex. Most often it concerns the odd ways of Fifty.

4. Every once in a while, throw in a plot line or wrap up one from the first two books. The plot line resolutions are quick, simple and minimally invasive to the kinky sex as described in points 1,2 and 3.

5. Lather, rinse and repeat.

fifty shades freed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book is not really bad but it tends to start dragging pretty quickly. Midway through the book, I realized I had not read one new twist in the tale. Not one new important character introduced. Not one major event. Things are sedentary almost for a good two thirds of the book.

Towards the last third of the tale, a final plot development is introduced and is taken straight to conclusion. It definitely speeds things up in what is otherwise a pretty slow book. The action starts and ends in the same breath. There is quite a bit of drama, something I don’t usually enjoy much and didn’t here too.

Overall the book is not as climactic as one would expect for a trilogy but it has its small share of stuff towards the very end. It should go down well with the purveyors of romance, passion and a wee bit drama. It may start off erotic for folks interested in that kind of fiction but will devolve into repetitive versions of the same act.

With the announced movie deal with Universal pictures, I am curious to see how they can milk it for a big franchise worth of money given the bomb they reportedly paid for its rights.

And one last note on the supposed mommy porn tag this trilogy carries, thanks to the NY Times. There is a lot of sex alright. But it is between the same two people throughout the entire trilogy. At some point, it just is boring.

Get the ebook here.

Preorder the print book here.