Friday, February 14, 2014

Love is in the air..

I have been using Grammarly’s grammar check for the past couple weeks because, let me face it, I frequently write  posts full of run-on sentences way longer than this one right here - sentences that might be perfect for confusing my readers, where they might go, “Huh? What is she trying to say? Guess her proof-reader took the day off today!” and, honestly, I love grammar (though cannot profess to be perfect, discovering its quirks across languages, learning its rules, and knowing when and how to use them is always fun for me).

I will continue using Grammarly for a few more days as I have been offered a free trial for one month to try it out. I will then post a review of the tool. After the first couple of uses, I realized that I need to use the ‘casual’ or ‘creative’ options while putting my posts through Grammarly’s proofreading.

The above section of my post, for example, scored a 75/100 (and a 78/100 when I ran it a second time? - see notes below), when I picked the paper type as ‘Academic’  while the ‘Casual’ paper type option gave me a score of 90/100. So guess which one I prefer?

Paper Type: General - run 1: I got a score of 75 with 3 issues and I wondered why since two of the issues pointed to the same thing - use of passive voice.

Paper Type: General - run 2: One of the 2 issues mentioned above just disappeared (with no changes to my text so looks like there are things that need to be worked on)
Paper Type: Casual

First thoughts: while it might be a better tool for people writing books or papers (business/technical/thesis) than for casual or creative writers, it has definitely taught me stuff and is fun to use. So, while I am still the final editor of my posts and I decide which mistakes are OK to be included in the post, it is good to know proof-reading tools such as this (and hopefully keep improving with time) exist.  The explanations provided for most of the issues it finds are informative.

Disclaimer: Before I decided to try using Grammarly, I had to confirm that the first email I got inviting me to try it out was real so I went on their website and wrote to support asking them to confirm the genuineness of the invitation for me. This peek into Grammarly as well as my upcoming review in a couple of weeks will both be sponsored posts by Grammarly but the opinions – completely my own.

It is that day of the year again. When hearts are everywhere – literally! Love is in the air (I love this phrase!) and I am singing in the rain! The kids had a Valentine's day party at school today, and I loved being a part of that party.
There is so much more I wanted to include in this post so I am sure this will get an update later tonight, but for now, as Valentine's Day dinners are being enjoyed in the western-most parts of the world, here is wishing everyone a Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Swoon-worthy or not?

The theme for Top Ten Tuesday this week over at The Broke and Bookish is books that make you swoon.

Per Bing, the definition of swoon is:
  • feel faint with joy: to be overwhelmed by happiness, excitement, adoration, or infatuation
  • fall in faint: to experience a sudden and usually brief loss of consciousness
  • rapture: a condition of overwhelming happiness, excitement, or infatuation
I have tons of books (and some other wish-would-be-books) that would fit into these categories.

  1. Historical romances by Julia Quinn(The Bridgertons), Stephanie Laurens(The Cynsters), Lisa Kleypas(The Hathaways), Eloisa James(The Essex Sisters), (and a few others too!)
  2. Books like 'Cutting for Stone' and 'A Suitable Boy' for just being what they are
  3. Cookbooks whose covers and photographs (and of course, the recipes) are swoon(drool)worthy, ones I have read like ‘Vegan Eats World’ or ‘Devnaa’s India’ and ones I want to read like ‘Messy Baker’
  4. Lola and the Boy Next Door (and more like this)
  5. Jane Austen/Thomas Hardy (granted, Hardy made me bawl but there were many swoon-worthy moments that made up for whole hours of tears)
  6. Gone with the Wind (and Scarlett too)
  7. The Night Circus for its own brand of magic that inspired me to write it's review in verse (and I have a few more that I would add here)
  8. Books about writing, language and books.
  9. Downton Abbey if rewritten into a book
  10. If movies like Roman Holiday get written into books, then I would be among the first to read them
For Teaser Tuesdays from 'The Vegan Cookbook', a drool-worthy photo:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Breezing through the memes of the week (again)..

Top ten books that made me cry is the topic this week over at The Broke and the Bookish.

  1. Black Beauty
  2. To Kill a Mocking Bird
  3. What Katy Did
  4. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  5. The Sari Shop
  6. The Mayor of Casterbridge
  7. One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  8. Wonder
  9. Last Man in the Tower/Lord of the Flies
  10. Short stories including - The Rose and the Nightingale, The Last Leaf
Teaser Tuesday:
My teaser today is from the book 'Made you Look' reviewed on my blog yesterday.

ABC Wednesday Letter D – The letter D brought to mind the game ‘Dumb Charades’ – the name used in India for the more popular name Charades! Dumb in this context is used in its original meaning – 'lacking of speech' or the acceptable meaning - speech-impaired. I also learned how the word’s original meaning has been eclipsed by the more offensive meaning today. It stems from the German word ‘dumm’ that means stupid; as more immigrants came to the United States, this meaning replaced the other for the word 'dumb'. How languages influence each other in a melting pot of a ocean shouldn’t surprise, yet I learn new things every day.
Going back to my D post for the week – this game does not require much, and is perfect for a rainy day (which we are finally seeing a few of here in Cali). How much we can convey without speaking becomes painfully obvious when we try to play this game and the benefit – loads of laughter, using unused skills and brain cells trying to guess the gestures, and yes, building team spirit.  And, as I build a list of games to be played this time on ABC Wednesday’s 14th journey through the alphabet, I am learning too (and now I know what I need to do for my DD’s birthday party coming up soon – she wants to have it at home with a slew of games for her friends).

Theme Thursday – Thirsty – California is definitely that – thirsty – and we will take every little drop, every drizzle that comes our way. The last couple of days have finally seen a few mild showers (much needed ones) and it is wonderful. Our umbrellas finally see the light (well, not really) of day and they are overjoyed. They are feeling good – up in the air!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Magic Mondays - The Magic of Ads..

Advertising - Merriam Webster defines it thus: a noun that means: published or broadcast advertisements; the business of creating advertisements. The full definition is also given:
1:  the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements
2:  advertisements
3:  the business of preparing advertisements for publication or broadcast

Advertising - the word's earliest use is recorded as far back as 1751 (per MW's definition page here) but advertising dates back way farther than that. Cave drawings, anyone? I am sure that homo sapiens were selling wares using these drawings on cave walls (indoor malls are historic!). I can just imagine that mall - a large (or smaller sized) cave - lit with the flare of strategically placed wood fires and stores setup with wares for sale. Whether or not the cave drawings served such a purpose, we have certainly come a long way from that to the $4 million price tag for a 30 second spot during the Super Bowl.

So what was your favorite ad? We loved the Doritos time machine ad - full points for cuteness and a box (not cuteness in the box though!) - you can see it here. As I was going through the ads, I found out this ad was actually a fan-made ad for a budget of $200 and won a 'Crash the SuperBowl' contest sponsored by Doritos. 

Advertising held a different lure for me as a kid - I loved the jingles and knew them all by heart (though I do not recall asking my parents to actually buy things I saw in ads - well, in my case, if I had a book, I was happy) - and I loved writing; so advertising, mass communications, journalism were all fields I dreamed of pursuing for a career. Though I did not really end up in a career like that, I did find my way here to this blog to pursue my love of the written word, of rules of the language, of the stories behind each word I read too!

Talking about advertising makes my book review today very relevant.
The book: 
Made You LookHow Advertising Works and Why You Should Know
Shari Graydon; illustrated by Michelle Lamoreaux
Annick Press Ltd.

Book Description: The kids' survival guide to advertising, revised and updated for the digital age.
Ads are everywhere these days: they are trying to be your friend on Facebook, popping up in the background of your video game, and even messaging your phone when you walk by a store. More than ever before, kids are the prime target of these marketing messages. But they also have more power than ever to fight back.
For ten years, Made You Look has been an essential self-defense kit for anyone trying to make sense of the complex world of advertising. Now fully revised and with a fresh new look, the book has been updated to reflect the modern ad landscape, from digital tracking and cookies to social media, viral videos, and reality television. From the earliest roots of advertising to the undercover marketers of the 21st century, this revealing book shows kids where ads come from, how they work, and why it matters.

My thoughts: If you ever need an Advertising 101 for kids (for anyone, actually), this will definitely help.  This book is a treasure trove of information, trivia, and of advertising tricks too! How the Mad Men of Madison Ave get your attention, and how you are buying something you did not really need before you know it is explained in this book.
For example, did you know -The name soap operas came about when soap companies started sponsoring radio dramas in the early days of the radio.

Advertising has changed over the ages - from names of the royalty on ancient temple walls to cookies on our laptops; from convincing people that products made in factories were as good as those made at home to getting people to buy things they might (not) need in the future.
This book is an updated version of the original book and includes more relevant information for today's world. A look into the history of advertising, into how it impacts us, and how we can control its impact - all this is explained in simple terms in this book. With cartoons that speak to the intended audience, and clear and humorous text that is also informative, this book will surely appeal to all.

The book is geared towards preteens and teenagers, though adults will also find a lot to learn and enjoy in the book. It also has useful discussion points, questions, and ‘try-this-at-home’ exercises for classrooms or groups. The author also includes useful resources, and reference notes for all the information included in the book.

Rating: B+
Reading Level: 12 years and above (references to advertising more geared towards adults/older children)

 “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” - Wayne Dyer

Disclaimer: Thanks to Netgalley for a e-copy of this book. The opinions here are my own and not influenced by the publisher/author/or NetGalley.

Linking this book to What are you Reading? From Picture Books to YA at Teach Mentor Texts and

What are you reading? @Book Journey
This book also goes towards challenges. Linking them soon. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

World of Words Wednesday - Games People Play and many more words

At the start of this year, I planned to write every day, a little something – be it a review, a poem, or just a random rant or musing – and then I go and read an article someone has written that is simply beautiful. Reading that single post is an experience in itself – as if I stepped through a magical portal to my own 'wordly' wonderland. 
That leaves me wondering, oftentimes, should I continue writing a little something every day or strive for that magical piece every once-in-a-while? And then I read another book, write down my thoughts for it and out comes a review. I look at my favorite memes, am thrilled about the current theme, and there – another post. Oh well, that day will come too.. until then, I will keep doing what I always do
That brings me to another thought -I did not really write every day this month!  So, I am once again taking the best way out - through the week in a whole lot of posts today. 

ABC Wednesday is a meme I have come to enjoy working on and the community is wonderful. As round 14 of ABC started a couple of weeks ago, I picked a theme to go with this time - 'Games People Play'. I missed posting for last week's letter B, but here it is today along with this week's C.

B – One of the first I thought of was bingo. We called it by a different name in India – housie. The name is different but the thrill of the game – the same! I was not lucky at it and remember excitedly strking off all numbers save one in a matter of minutes, and then wait for that one last number to be called for the win – most often, it never came! The aunty who was the housie caller, used to drag out the suspense till everyone was at the edge of their seats, and finally say something like ‘You and me, 23’ for the number 23.  For more fun housie/bingo slang, check here. Here is an image of a typical housie card (courtesy: wikipedia). A lot of ways to win, a lot of fun for everyone!

C – Chess, checkers, cricket – I thought of all these games for the letter of the week over at ABC Wednesday . Then a thought struck me (almost a pun because of the game I finally chose) – how about carrom? Carromis a beloved childhood game of hands whitened with boric acid powder, of intense moments of play, of making sure you and your opponent are playing nice (no sleight of hand to drop a coin into the hole!!), of making sure the queen is yours, and of pure striking fun.  Now, we are playing it with our kids here in the US, teaching them our childhood joys. And reveling in it.(image from wikipedia)
C also stands for Connexio – a new board game that we started playing with recently (thanks to Chronicle Books for sending me the game to try out and review). I will be posting a more detailed review of the game in another post but this is just a preview.
A game where you can really work your imagination - to make connections between seemingly unrelated things. Playing with my kids really gives me a way different perspective on things and connections between them. This is now a treasured game at home and more details to follow soon.

For Wondrous Words Wednesday:
I am currently hooked onto White Collar -  a TV show a friend suggested (when I mentioned we are fans of the show 'Monk'). I love the show and aside from the show itself, I am also getting a whole lot of interesting quotes that appear throughout the show (google search returns a whole lot of lists for White Collar quotes!) as well as new words. Here are a few from the show:

  1. recidivism: relapsing into crime: the tendency to relapse into a previous undesirable type of behavior, especially crime
  2. flimflam: 1. Nonsense; humbug.; 2. A deception; a swindle.
  3. foment: cause trouble: to cause or stir up trouble or rebellion
Book Review for today:
Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock – I devoured these books as a little girl and they were among my favorite series. I always longed go off solving mysteries on my own. I even made up a few mysteries where none existed in our sleepy-in-the-middle-of-somewhere-out-there town.  I borrowed an edition from the library to read it recently and though I enjoyed the read, I felt something was lacking. When I looked up online, I realized that the editions I probably read as a kid were the original versions and the one I am reading now is a condensed (though not enriched) version. It seems to be stripped of originality a little. But I still love Nancy Drew mysteries though I can safely say I much prefer the original versions now.

This goes towards my reading challenges too! Yay!