Event: Talk at Eurocon – Trends in Indian Fantasy/SF

Pinch me. I’m giving a talk at Eurocon.

I’m writing this in a train, looking out at a blur of a rainy French day. On my way to Amiens from Paris. Amiens is a small town in France, where Jules Verne was born. A town where this year’s Eurocon 2018 will be held this weekend, Europe’s biggest convention for science fiction and fantasy. I’m heading there to speak about Indian fantasy and science fiction and my work. The amazing titles that are coming out of my country, the debut authors who are experimenting with a desire to read more Indian speculative fiction.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog. There is a reason. (And this should’ve been another blog, but frankly I’ve become just too busy to write blogs. Hoping that would change soon).

Earlier this year, I said bye to my home for 10 years, Bangalore and moved house and husband to Zurich. It was in the middle of February and for a month, the only things I saw outside my window were cats and snow. I also met a lot of Swiss officials for the various paperworks it takes for two people to move in their 30s. (Yet. Another. Blog)

It gave me a lot of time to reflect and work. And travel. Quietly, without social media. It’s freeing, by the way, to have a hiatus from the online world. You should try it.

I managed to set up new home, finish my third novel in Anantya Tantrist series (another blog on that too. Soon. I promise), wrote a 20 page comic about Anantya, with a fantastic artist and three short stories which are going to come up in various anthologies around the world. I also travelled two continents, to a lot of cities and attended lectures in ETH in Zurich and MIT in Boston.

As I said, there’s a lot happening so I won’t write many blogs. Or maybe I will, because there’s so much I have to share! Well, I’m talking to a bunch of Europeans at the Eurocon. Telling them stories I bring with me to their country. Our stories. Wish me luck, peeps! I’ll tell you later how it all went.

Meanwhile, leaving you with a fantastic illustration done for Eurocon. See you soon.

 

 

Shifting? Get help from a smartphone

Shifting to a new city comes with its own set of hassles. You have to find a place to stay, haggle with apartment owners, disclose personal information like whether you eat meat, stay out late, and how much you earn. Then there’s Wi-Fi, air conditioning, cable TV and other services to take care of. And that’s just the beginning. From getting furniture to figuring out food and modes of transport while handling work in a new city, the process can bog you down completely. We list a few apps that can help ease the transition.

Find a place to stay

Do you eat meat? Are you married? How long do you plan to stay? Save yourself these and other probing questions by simply renting an apartment from an online home rental company like Nestaway (Android, iOS; Nestaway.com). Search a place, visit it, pay a token amount to book it and move in. The house is furnished, with a ready kitchen, appliances and Wi-Fi, so you just need to carry your suitcases. Nestaway is available in Bengaluru, Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR), Hyderabad, Pune and Mumbai. Grabhouse (Android, iOS; Grabhouse.com), a Quickr company, provides services in these areas as well as Kolkata and Chennai. It offers what they call cocoons, aesthetically done apartments. Bengaluru also has the option of RentMyStay (Android; Rentmystay.com), which rents out furnished flats on a daily or weekly basis, for up to 11 months. Continue reading “Shifting? Get help from a smartphone”

How to rock disappearing status updates

Disappearing status updates are the new thing to do over on Facebook and Instagram. Even Whatsapp makes sure they stand out. We give you some tips on how to use the disappearing status update on all three social networks.

Why you should do disappearing acts

First made popular by the Snapchat app, disappearing status messages are all about instant emotions—what you’re feeling, seeing or experiencing—expressed through a combination of pictures, videos, GIFs and illustrations, with a 24-hour expiry time. Social networks such as Facebook and Instagram highlight such status updates to make them stand out from the regular ones that you see on your timeline. Messaging platform WhatsApp has a dedicated column in the app, while Instagram and Facebook show the Stories updates in the row along the top, highlighted with a red circle around profile pictures. Using it means your profile becomes top-of-recall on someone’s timeline. It is perhaps a good way of gaining followers.

Tell a story

It could be the story of how your day is going, where you are working, what you’re attending, seeing, eating, or just anything funny. The best status messages push users to see more updates. Play with posts to tell a story about something. Pictures or videos of a concert or sports event, behind-the-scenes at a party, tutorials on a skill set you know best, or a series of genuine personal questions to which your followers can respond privately.

Have some fun

There’s a reason why disappearing status messages offer mixed media. Continue reading “How to rock disappearing status updates”

7 signs that you are addicted to social media

Feel you are addicted to social media? Here are the signs to look out for and what you can do about it.

Notifications are taking over your life

Brr. Boing. Beep. Your phone keeps calling, blinking, beckoning you, and you oblige again and again, while you’re studying, working, eating, dating or sleeping. It’s stressful and you have Fomo (fear of missing out) attacks in the middle of the night, when you wake up to check yet another beep. A study, conducted by a team of professors from the University of Southern California, US, in January 2016 and published in the journal Psychology Reports: Disability & Trauma, looked at people’s brains while they surfed social media and found that they responded to notifications much faster than they did to traffic signals. Ofir Turel, the professor who led the study, rated the need to check almost as high as cocaine addiction. 

Change it: “We speculate that addictive behaviour in this case stems from low motivation to control the behaviour,” Turel said in a press release. Try switching off all push notifications on social media apps. Head to Settings>Notifications>Off for each application. This way, you will have to make the effort to open an app to see the notifications.

The 11th Like makes your day

Getting more than expected likes on Instagram and Facebook can give you a high—and you may feel depressed if the response is tepid. According to a report by Britain’s National Health Service, released in September, social media posts are responsible for a spike in depression and anxiety in a quarter of women aged 16-24. Continue reading “7 signs that you are addicted to social media”

Report a bribe or file an RTI – All through your phone

If you wish to be involved with the process of your government, as any citizen should, you do not necessarily need to wait for the UMANG app. There are already many apps that allow you to ask questions, offer suggestions and get involved in government initiatives. Till the government comes out with UMANG, we suggest a few other apps you can try.

Participate in policymaking

Are you very vocal about government policies? If yes, head to MyGov (free on Google Play, Mygov.in), an online portal of the Union government where different departments seek suggestions and advice. Over the last year, the site saw discussion on ideas such as simultaneous elections and open data use licence and invited suggestions on a draft policy note on value capture finance. It also allows you to take part in logo-making and design competitions. If you want the Prime Minister to talk about an issue on his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ show, you can give your ideas on this site. So just log in and air your ideas.

Since its launch, the app has seen more than 500,000 downloads, though it is a bit slow to load and hasn’t been updated since 2015. The website offers the best experience.

File an RTI

Continue reading “Report a bribe or file an RTI – All through your phone”

The 8 best translation apps for travellers

What are the best translation apps for travellers? When Douglas Adams invented the Babel Fish, “a small, yellow, leech-like odd thing” that would help you instantly understand anything said in any language in the whole wide universe, in The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, little did he know that 39 years after the radio comedy was first broadcast, such technology would actually  exist. New devices and updated translator apps are making it easier to understand a foreign language and are much simpler than “plugging in a fish into your ear”. Though the technology of machine translation still needs the wrinkles ironed out, it’s fun to try out some of these apps and devices when you’re travelling. Here’s a list of some of them. However, do expect errors and misunderstandings—up to 40%, in fact.

WayGo 

Heading to China, Korea or Japan and want an app to read the signboards and menus for you? WayGo fills this need by giving you the English translation for street signs, menus or anything that you point your smartphone camera at. All this without the use of the Internet.

Free for 10 translations per day and a one-time payment of Rs418 for the Pro version. Available in Google Play and App Store. Waygoapp.com.

iTranslate voice  

iTranslate Voice 3 translates conversation between two people using smartphones. So if you’re speaking to someone in Spain, you hear English, and the other person hears you speak Spanish. The feature, called AirTranslate, needs two people talking on two iOS devices. Last updated in December, the app also offers text-to-speech, offline and text translation in 40 languages.

$6.99 (around Rs480) in Google Play and App store. Itranslatevoice.com.

SayHi 

Talk into your iOS devices and hear what you’ve said in a different language. SayHi is designed for instant communication. You can have a conversation with anyone without switching languages, even type rather than speak. The app works for around 40 languages, including Arabic, French, Italian, English and Spanish.

Free in App Store. Sayhitranslate.com. 


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Make time travel with time-lapse video apps

A sunset crunched in 3 seconds. A party shortened to a few minutes. Time-lapse videos used to be a pain to shoot but now with smarter apps they’re as simple as, well, taking a selfie. Here are a few apps to turn you into a video pro.

Hyperlapse

If you’re an Instagram workhorse, Hyperlapse is the app for you to capture a speedball video. The app smoothens hand-held videos using a fantastic image-stabilization software that uses data from your phone’s gyroscope to measure and remove frames that are shaky. Run, walk, jump, fall, drive and take a video and get a cinematic feel without lugging around a selfie stick or a tripod. All you need to do is hold the phone camera up, shoot a video, choose how fast you want it to go (it can speed up your videos up to 12 times)and upload. The only downside of the app is that it is available only on iPhones.

Free on iPhone and iPad. Hyperlapse.instagram.com

Microsoft Hyperlapse

One of the few apps to create timelapse on Windows Phone, the Microsoft Hyperlapse Mobile comes with a simple, easy-to-use interface. It offers 32x speed, so you can crunch hours of videos into a few minutes. And you’re not limited to just the app. You can import any video, taken anywhere and speedball them up. What we also loved is that it can record 1080p videos. That’s pro- quality video for free and just right to be seen on the biggest screen in your home. This app can also stabilize videos, though that happens only if you choose 1x speed.

Free on Windows Phone and Android. Research.microsoft.com

Framelapse

Build by Noida-based computer engineer Nishant Singh as part of his project in the last year of his B.Tech course, the app comes loaded with features to take a hyper video. You can adjust the frame interval, speed, zoom, autofocus, adjust white balance, choose the front or back camera, set video resolution and take a video in landscape or portrait. You can also set up a video duration to stop recording automatically. So just place it in a corner of a party and let it do all the work while you mingle. The Pro version, which costs $2.99 (around Rs204), has added advance functions like sleep mode that reduces battery drain while recording and customization of the length of the video, exposure and frame interval.

Free on Android. Neximolabs.com


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6 gadgets to replace your old-fashioned switches

Dim the lights, set the mood and prepare for sparkles that you can control with your voice or a smart device. There are lights that help you sleep, lights that act like burglar alarms and fairy lights that twinkle in rainbow colours. We tell you of the best gadgets out there that can help you say goodbye to old-fashioned switches.

iDevices socket

The Socket Wi-Fi-enabled light-bulb adaptor enables you to control any standard light bulb remotely. You can change the illumination power using voice commands on your smartwatch or phone. You can design a custom lighting schedule, convert the bulb into a night light or control the ambience of the room. It works with the iDevices app, iPhone’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistants.

$59.95 (around Rs.4,000, shipping extra); idevicesinc.com. Continue reading “6 gadgets to replace your old-fashioned switches”

Seven quick and nutritious breakfast fixes

Looking for a recipe of a perfect breakfast? Most traditional Indian meals, like poha, upma and idli, are high in starch and calories, which is great if you need a shot of energy— but what you also need is a healthy dose of protein to keep you going for the day. Choose what Madhuri Ruia, founder of Integym, Mumbai, and a Mint columnist calls “first-class proteins”. “Egg white, paneer, chicken or fish ensures balance in blood sugar and insulin levels,” she says. And when it comes to carbohydrates, adds Ruia, “opt for grains like oats, muesli, nachni (finger millet), bajra rotior multigrain roti, which give you energy but keep you feeling full for longer”.

The body needs essential nutrients like calcium, iron and vitamin B, as well as protein and fibre in the morning, says Shikha Sharma, founder and managing director of Nutri-Health, a Delhi-based wellness clinic. She says an ideal breakfast should be split into three parts: “One-third should be carbohydrates, another third should be filled with proteins and the remaining portion should be fruits and vegetables.”

It is also good to add variety to your plate. “It’s like exercise. If you keep doing the same set of exercises again and again, your body stops responding,” says Mumbai-based sports nutritionist Deepshikha Agarwal. A variation will ensure you don’t get bored—and that you consume different types of vitamins and minerals.

Agarwal suggests choosing between idli-sambhar with fruit, milk with cornflakes, vegetable poha, pancake with a milkshake, or a vegetable omelette with a bran muffin and orange juice.

7 RECIPES THAT ARE EASY TO MAKE

Continue reading “Seven quick and nutritious breakfast fixes”

Your smartphone is a memory machine

Here are some apps to help you remember everything—from billion-dollar ideas to baby-diaper changes