Extempore and Networking

Hello, all you lovely people.

Weird title? No – it isn’t.

I’m glad I could find some time to pen a few lines. This time it was almost like an epiphany. Like all other epiphanies I’ve had before, this one proved an eye-opener once again. What’s the title got to do with this, you ask? Hold on – all good things come to the man/woman who waits.

Extempore is not just an activity you engaged in, in school or college. It’s a real-life situation and could prove a nightmare if you do not handle it with care. Let us tear this apart. Let us begin with defining the word.

Before that, here’s how to pronounce ‘extempore’ – a word that’s widely mispronounced.

Cambridge Dictionary:

Chambers dictionary:

Google dictionary:

Now that we have got the definition out of the way, let us take a look at its implications. As mentioned earlier, this is not just a word to be defined, it is a situation we may have to live and thereby overcome sometimes. Or should I say many a time? I guess the latter is more befitting.

This is not a new concept or situation. We all have been through this many times – just that we may not have known what it is called. The only reason we need to talk about it is that this will help you recover from such situations easily if not majestically. The problem gets compounded if one also suffers from stage fright a.k.a. Glossophobia.

Glossophobia + Extempore = Catastrophe

While people smartly take care of Glossophobia, an extempore situation may sometimes be shoved down our throats, making it difficult to recover unhurt. However, from my experience, I can vouch for the fact that Glossophobia can be cured. I suffered from it once, as a schoolboy. Today, I teach an entire class of sophomores and have a reasonable (if not magnanimous) following. I would shudder even at the thought or reading from a textbook (from my desk), let alone speaking extempore taking the centre stage. I’ve come a long way – is all I can say for now. However, the journey was not at all easy. On the contrary, I have suffered many a fiasco. The bottom line is – now I’m at peace.

Now let us move on to the next word in the title – Networking.

In my honest opinion, rarely is anyone born with guts of steel and the resultant mind-blowing confidence. We are all born the same – scared of many things. Situations change us – some make us, some break us. However, one of the many things that help overcome an extempore speaking situation is general knowledge. A little knowledge of various topics never hurt. In such critical situations, it can prove a life-saver. They say, birds of a feather flock together. This is not an automatic process – even the birds need to FIND other birds of similar plumage for flocking. In the same way, find people with similar interests and network with them regularly.

Similar interests don’t matter. It depends on the kind of information or knowledge you seek. E.g. if I need to need to sharpen my knowledge of legal terms, I would try to be in the company of lawyers. If photography interests me (and I’ve just discovered that), I would hang out with photographers. If I don’t know any, I would get somebody to introduce me to one so that I can network with them. There’s a biblical phrase I strongly believe in – “Ask, and thou shall receive”. Although I do not subscribe to the theosophical context of the phrase, I do, to the social context.

I maintain – not all knowledge is gleaned from books. Some can be achieved through social networking too. There is a fine line that one needs to watch out when gaining knowledge through social networking. Gone are the days of virtue, days when speaking the truth was important, days when lying was a sin. Since lies, falsehood, treachery etc. are rampant – choose your network wisely. It’s not that books can’t go wrong – after all, it’s people like us that wrote those books too. There’s a difference though, the older the books – the closer to the truth they are.

All in all, read, discuss intelligent topics, watch meaningful videos (and not trashy newspapers or channels that boast of nation-building while secretly abiding by the diktats of their political masters), network with people who matter. All this only goes a long way in alleviating the problem (of monstrous proportions to some) of Glossophobia, thereby helping you with extempore speech.

Start preparing early and when the situation presents itself, just grab it by the… err (clearing my throat) … collar. The next time someone hands over the mic to you, just do what Nike has been asking you to do since I don’t know when … JUST DO IT.

Bye for now.

Ma L’amore No

Malena (2000)

For the clueless lot, this is the name of an eponymous track sung by Lina Termini, an Italian singer-actor. It was included in the 2000 Italian movie Malena. That is when I heard it for the first time. The movie is based on the WWII era (1939-45), especially when Italy entered WWII. Oh, WWII means 2nd World War (just in case you were still scratching your head). As IMDB succinctly describes the movie, “Amidst the war climate, a teenage boy discovering himself becomes love-stricken by Malena, a beautiful woman living in a small, narrow-minded Italian town.”

WWII

One thing that fascinated me was that this movie fulfils my near-psychotic nostalgia. Somehow, I love things from the past when things were (seemingly) easy and simple. At least, that’s what it looks like, to me. I sometimes yearn to get teleported to that ‘simple’ era. When reality slaps me hard in the face, I do wake up and smell the coffee. The other thing about the movie – regarding the title – Ma L’amore No (But Love No) is the haunting melody of that song.

Good old days

Since the first time I heard it, I’ve (almost) always been transported back to the ‘40s or even the ‘30s. in an eerie coincidence, my grandfather was a teenager then. Now, where did he come into the picture? All in good time. To know the reference to this emotion, one needs to read ‘Long time ago…The village Doctor’. His romance with his wife was legendary. No – not the mushy type portrayed in the movies. He was the ‘40s convent educated, yet Indian man with little to no regard for mushy romance. You read it right – romance, wife. What started with dating, ended only at his funeral (not even at her grave – she died a few years before he did).

Old Couple

In the twilight of their lives, the couple would sit at the veranda, looking into nothingness, speaking just a few words here and there, yet speaking volumes even with their silence. Now that’s what I call the ultimate romance – words not required. Wait a minute – what’s this blog about? Geriatric romance? Not quite. I’m getting to the point. By the way, I call it a geriatric romance because by the time I could realize their emotions, they were already septuagenarians and hence a geriatric couple.

Now let me join the dots – the hauntingly melodious song and the geriatric romance. Now, whenever I hear the song, I imagine them waltzing to that tune in the same era the movie depicts – the ‘40s. That is when they would have been in the prime of their youth. I know this sounds crazy – a quaint couple from Kerala would seem like a far cry from the erstwhile Italian lifestyle. There is still some logic to it – she was an Anglo-Indian and waltz or some form of ballroom dancing would not be new/strange to her. He went to a convent school and hence would not be ignorant about it too. It makes perfect sense to me. Even till their old age, as mentioned above – I imagine their ‘silent’ conversations with the song playing in the background on an imaginary record player. Well, ‘imagine’ would be an incorrect term – these are thoughts that flash across my mind whenever I hear the song with my eyes closed. Such was the influence the melody had on my psyche.

His old dispensary, his belongings, his romance – they all bear a trademark of a bygone era – something that sadly remains confined to the annals of history. I would be the last of my generation to have borne a silent testimony to it. The next generation is way too fast and lacks the attention span that I had as a kid. I know, this song, the melody, the romance, the nostalgia etc. will subside with me. I write this so the next generation (if they read it, that is) can understand what romance meant in the ‘40s and how it lost its glory somewhere down the timeline.

There is more I could say about that barely two-minute song and its immense impact on my psyche – but I doubt if the readers would have the energy left to endure it. So, given my readers’ well-being, I stop right here. You can thank me later.

Bye for now!!!

Reference:

Why I adopted Linuxfx

Linuxfx Installation

I make no bones about the fact that I’m a Linux-o-phile (I’ve just made that word up, don’t look up the internet). I’m that child with a fascination for the moon. Well, this is not the first time I’ve dabbled in the Linux waters – it’s the first time I’m penning down my experience though. The best part about all this ‘dabbling’ business is that Linux offers a LIVE CD option – where you can test/experience the OS without installing it. If you’re not impressed, reboot your computer – you’re back to Windows.

My first brush with Linux was when I was a newbie netsurfer (if you know what that means) in 1997-98. I’ve forgotten the name of the distro – but all I remember is that it came with KDE (K Desktop Environment). It was love-at-first-sight. But my issues had just started. I’d fallen in love with an OS I didn’t fully understand (familiar territory?). Then, I didn’t realize that the internet can be used for ‘learning’ too 😉. Good luck with wondering (and judging me for) what I did with the internet, if not for learning.

My first brush passed off like a girl I saw once, somewhere and then never again, for a long time. But my then-dormant flames for Linux were rekindled when I worked as a showroom salesman in Nagpur. My boss entrusted the sales for some Compaq computers that came pre-loaded with Linux (Ubuntu, I guess). While he asked me to install a pirated copy of Windows 98, I stuck to Linux. That’s where I learnt about XMMS. XMMS was to Linux what Winamp was (and still is) to Windows.

Cut to 2011 – when I got married and discovered that my wife is a ‘Linux-only’ person. When I gifted her a laptop for the first time – it came pre-loaded with Ubuntu (an extremely popular Linux distro) – I offered to clean-install Windows. To my utter surprise, she refused. That’s when I realized that she’s totally into Linux and calls out Windows for all its inconsistencies. I’ve never looked back since.

Linuxfx:

For starters, Linuxfx is distro (short for ‘distribution’ a.k.a. flavour) of Linux aimed at all those who want to test the waters with Linux. This distro makes the Windows users feel at home with the oh-so-familiar look and feel (almost) of Windows 8 or 10. The developers have gone to great lengths to provide first-time users, a near-Windows experience. One look at the screens (I’ve posted them too) and you’ll be amazed at how much the developers are bending it like Beckham – just to make you comfortable and your experience, a memorable one.

Linuxfx Desktop

They’ve retained the Windows desktop screen. This isn’t where the similarities begin, though. It starts at the welcome/login screen (where you need to login to your account).

Login/Lock screen
Login/Lock screen

Just imagine seeing this screen when Linuxfx boots up. Nothing new to a seasoned Windows user. Right? Right!!!

Here are a few other examples to drive my point home.

Now, the journey was not so smooth – I’ll be honest. Firstly, I learnt I need to use ETCHER to create the boot disk. Now that never worked for me. I learnt that RUFUS (what I always use) would not work. On the contrary – it did – a tweak was in order. I had to change the boot type from UEFI (used to boot Windows 8 onwards) to Legacy (for Windows 7 or older). Once that stage crossed, the rest of the installation was a walk in the park.

Just like other popular Linux distros with a Cinnamon (full-feature) desktop environment, Linuxfx comes pre-loaded with a host of commonly used programs:

  • WINE (a compatibility layer that lets you run Windows programs in Linux)
  • Only Office
  • WX Desktop
  • Windows® 10 theme
  • AnyDesk (remote desktop administration tool)

Some tech specs for the Linux fraternity:

Base operating system Ubuntu 20.04 LTS / Linuxfx 10 LTS
Graphical interface (DM) Cinnamon 4.6 + Linuxfx WX Desktop
Kernel 5.7.15
Office Suite OnlyOffice 5.6
Workgroup networks SAMBA
Active Directory PowerBroker (PBIS) / CID
.Exe / .msi compatibility Wine 5 (Linuxfx Version)
Theme for Windows® 10 b00merang GPL Windows® 10 Theme pack
Windows® 10 Tools Linuxfx WX Desktop system tools

Here’s something from the horse’s mouth (https://Windowsfx.org):

Here are some advantages of using Windowsfx on your computer:

  • Fast, very fast: Windowsfx can work very well on computers with only two cores (dual-core processors) and only 2GB of RAM.
  • Safe and stable: The base of Windowsfx is Linux, which by definition already tends to be stabler. Viruses and Malware developed for Windows® will not be a problem for Windowsfx, as they are different platforms, these malicious programs cannot run on Windowsfx.
  • Applications for Windows® and Linux: Windowsfx will give you access to a vast collection of applications. In addition to the apps you are used to, you will have access to a new store, with thousands of free apps, just a click away.

I could go on (and you would be clueless about what I am trying to say). Long story short – it comes to you as a complete package. Unless you are persnickety about your choice of apps, you are good to go with what Linuxfx offers you. I doubt if a regular user would need anything more (I mean installing programs).

(Power users – excuse my ignorance. I could learn a thing or two from you, sir/ma’am)

The trial phase went on fine; that is when I decided to go all the way in – I installed Linuxfx. The rest is history. Any regular Windows user could easily mistake my laptop for a Windows 8 or 10 based laptop.

There is something the developers did to make Windows users all the more comfortable – they retained the legendary Windows lag. If the OS went any faster, Windows users could easily find out it is not Windows OS.

If anyone of you out there would like to taste this already tasty flavour of Linux, contact me. I have been there, done that and would be glad to assist you.

Till then, Ciao!!!

Disclaimer:

The author is not a Certified Linux Professional. The information provided and view expressed here are solely based on the author’s own experiece. The screenshots were taken on the author’s Acer E5-575G laptop. Try/use Linuxfx or any other Linux distro at your discretion. The author disclaims all responsibity toward the consequences of your actions.

Indonesia and the Ring of Fire

Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia

Indonesia - Volcanoes
Indonesia – Volcanoes

This is a spin-off of my earlier blog: Towering Infernos. I did some drilling-down into Indonesia, the archipelago country with the highest number of volcanoes. At present, the nation has 149 volcanoes – some active, some dormant and some extinct. While the number of extinct volcanoes is few and far between, the number of active lava-spewing monsters is alarmingly high. Add to it, the fact that some of these mischief-mongers are still actively spewing lava.

Mount Tambora
Mount Tambora

The primary reason for such alarming volcanic activity in Indonesia is because it sits tightly along what’s called the Pacific Ring of Fire. This is an area in the Pacific Ocean where most earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have been happening since aeons. It is said that the naughty boys in Indonesia (Mt. Merapi, Kelud etc.) are the most active volcanoes known to mankind, at least on our planets. Wait – so you did not know there are extra-terrestrial volcanoes? Well… there are. More about that later – or maybe in another blog.

Here are some stats for you to chew on:

Submarine volcanoes:

Name

Elevation (m.) Elevation (ft.)

Submarine 1922

-5,000 -16,404

Yersey

-3,800

-12,467

Emperor of China

-2,850

-9,350

Nieuwerkerk

-2,285

-7,497

Banua Wuhu -5

-16

Calderas:

Name

Elevation (m.) Elevation (ft.)

Bratan

2,276 7,467

Ranau

1,881

6,171

Sekincau Belirang

1,719

5,640

Batur

1,717

5,633

Sempu 1,549

5,082

Complex Volcanoes:

Name

Elevation (m.) Elevation (ft.)

Iyang-Argapura

3,088 10,131

Talakmau

2,919 9,577

Marapi

2,891

9,485

Peuet Sague 2,801

9,190

Dieng 2,565

8,415

Stratovolcanoes:

Name

Elevation (m.) Elevation (ft.)

Kerinci

3,800 12,467

Rinjani

3,726 12,224
Semeru 3,676

12,060

Slamet 3,432

11,260

Sumbing 3,371

11,060

Mt. Merapi is tagged as the most active volcano, globally speaking. Is it active, it is a stratovolcano, and has been erupting since 1548, not continuously though. This volcano is flanked by the busy Yogyakarta city that houses nearly 2.5 million citizens. Another tag this volcano has is ‘Decade Volcano‘.

Some of the notorious volcanoes in Indonesia are Krakatoa (or Krakatau) (I’ll get back to you with a full blog on this monster of a volcano), Toba and Tambora.

Anak Krakatoa
Anak Krakatoa

Krakatoa erupted with all its fury in 1883 (26th or 27th August). This was a ‘suicidal’ explosion since the explosion wiped 2/3rd of the island off the map of the world. Secondly, it was one of the loudest sounds ever heard. The explosion was heard almost 3000 miles (approx. 5000 km) away. That’s as good as 1/8th of the earth’s circumference. From the volcanic ejecta of Krakatau, rose Anak Krakatau (meaning ‘child of Krakatau). Those who are wondering where the photos of Krakatoa went – just a reminder – the volcano went suicidal in 1883. No photographer dared to paddle a canoe upto such a violent place just to get a photo op. Hence, no photos.

Lake Toba
Lake Toba

Toba (better known as Lake Toba) is famous (or shall I say infamous) for a ‘supervolcanic’ eruption that dates back to 75,000 years ago. It caused six years of Volcanic Winter which simply means a drop in temperature as a result of excessive volcanic ash in the atmosphere. To be precise, the destructive effects of this explosion went up to the stratosphere. For those who heard this for the first time – it is the atmospheric layer/zone in which planes fly. A regular aircraft flies at an altitude of just about 39,000 ft. while the debris from this explosion went all the way up to 1,64,042 ft. (that’s 3 times higher).

Mt. Tambora
Mt. Tambora

Now for the badass – Tambora. In 1815, this bad boy caused crop failures of epidemic proportions. This led to 1816 being labelled as The Year Without A Summer.

Banua Wuhu
Banua Wuhu

VEI:

Whenever we talk about volcanic eruptions – we also need to talk about how its destructive power is measured/described. That’s why we need to talk VEI or Volcanic Explosivity Index. The rankings range from 0 to 8 where 0 denotes the weakest and 8 denotes the strongest/most violent/destructive explosions. Just so you know, there haven’t been any VEI8 explosions in the last 50,000 years.

The bad boy Tambora scored a 7 (VEI7) and Krakatau managed just a 3 (VEI3). Now you do the math – at VEI3, 1/8th of the earth’s circumference could hear the explosion. What do think will happen if there’s a VEI8 explosion. I’m guessing, Martians will report ‘disturbance’ from Earth.

Volcanic Explosivity Index
Volcanic Explosivity Index

I started by providing a teaser on ‘Ring of Fire’. Now, Indonesia is not the only country in that ring. Other countries include the likes of Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Russia, United States etc. The only reason I’m fixated on Indonesia is because this county alone has 149 volcanoes spread across such a small area (19,04,569 sq. km.). In essence, each volcano occupies about 12,697 sq. km. which is equivalent of 180 states of Tripura each having one volcano.

Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia
Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia

All this is what (IMHO) makes Indonesia a marvelous country. One that lives at the edge – at almost all times. One that has a never-say-die attitude even in the presence of such geographical monstrosities. One with cost of living that goes easy on an Indian’s pockets. One that offers excellent conversion to the Indian Rupee (1 INR = 204.50 IDR or to have 1 पेटी in IDR, I just need a 500-rupees note). One that offers Visa on Arrival to Indians. Once that shares a lot of cultural similarities with India. So, did someone just ask me if I was planning a move to Indonesia? Well, I won’t say no. I’ve handled a rock-solid marriage for 8 years 5 months 26 days (as of today). You think these volcanoes can scare me? They haven’t met my wife yet.

So, see you soon (if I’m alive – she can read English too, you see?)

Reference:

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Krakatoa

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Lake_Toba

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/List_of_volcanoes_in_Indonesia

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Mount_Tambora

Disclaimer: This blog post is just an attempt at unveiling the volcanic activity in the archipelago nation. This post in no way suggests that Indonesia is a dangerous/uninhabitable/inhospitable country or allude to anything remotely related to that thought. The author personally admires seismic activity in the area and is even open to the idea of moving to Indonesia.