Read the Printed Word!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fifth and the last part of 'Books, Books and books..'.

Regimental soldiers' always looked down upon 'book worms', yet the Schools of Instructions in the Services like to project an image of Scholar-Warriors. There is a nice promotional video clip on the subject and it is even available on the you tube

But God knows that you cannot do much profound thinking with a 2 kg steel helmet on your head and as an infantry soldier soldier you are more concerned about the well being of your knees than your head.

Be that as it may, Schools of Instruction like National Defence Academy, Army War College, National Defence College , and College of Defence Management boast of great libraries. These institutions get massive budgetary allotments for library and the funds are well utilized to build up quality collections on Political Science, Geopolitics , Defence Startegy, Counter-Insurgency and Counter-Terrorism. And of course , there would be an equally good collection on Psychology, Philosophy, Sociology and Self improvement.

At Armoured Corps Centere and School, I literally feasted on the history of Tank battles, by Liddel hart, Guderian, and Manstein. The effect of this reading on my grades was adverse if any; after all wide reading and army grades don't go together.

To sum up I have always been impressed with army libraries and my stay in a cantonment has always been enriched by regular visits to these libraries. It is not just the books, but the ambiance, as well. They are clean, well maintained and are surrounded by vast open spaces and plenty of greenery.
Here is a picture of St Peter's Anglican Church, at Fort William , Kolkata, built in 1784 in the Gothic style. It is presently the Eastern Command Command Library . The biblical saga narrated in the medium of stained glass is one of the finest in the country.

Today, I am glad that I chose to settle down at Mhow, with three good libraries in a radius of 2 km .

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Books Books and Books - IV : Regimental officers don’t read, they are soldiers first !

My first place of posting was Mizoram. In field area, units usually stock up the kind of books best read when you are 'soldiering'. We too had such a collection in our officers mess library and there were officers whose only favourite author was ‘anonymous’

We moved to Lucknow shortly where we had the Central Command Library. But it was meant for the oldies. Young officers , at least in those days were expected to be seen only in the sports fields or the training area. After all, unlike cadets, the officers did not even have an academic curriculum to worry about. Yes, the promotion exams were there, but they could be cleared through a combination of ‘kunji’ , smartness and timely support from helpful invigilators. Ostensibly to inculcate the habit of reading, the higher headquarters used to demand monthly submission of book reviews by every officer. As the report date neared, my stock value increased as I could pick up the nearest respectable looking book (can’t write about anonymous , you see) , flip through a few pages and produce an ' okay' review. But, I must say, there were guys who could write a review even without a look at the book; mind you those were 'netless’ days. When I was senior enough to groom young officers , I used to give them a long list of books to read, on their arrival in the unit and today I can say , everyone of them has benefited from that.

So by and large I read whatever was available in the regimental libraries. Sometimes when co-located with higher headquarters you had a wider choice of reading. Most of these libraries had a big chunk of collection on military science, then popular authors like, Arther Hailey, Sydney Shelden, John Gresham, Irving Wallace, Leon Uris, Robin Cook, Wilbur Smith, Robert Ludlum, Ken Follet, and Frederik Forsyth . There were certain books generally found in most regimental libraries ; biographies of military leaders, books by John Masters, Manohar Malgaonkar, and of course books on second world war. Barring the books on military science, it looks like a typical bookstore at a railway Station or Airport. Well life in Army is indeed like a palace on wheels; even the books we read conform to the idea.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why do people put up with Microsoft Windows ? and internet explorer ?

Every time I see a user struggle with Windows and IE, I am deeply hurt to see so much avoidable pain in the computer world. Most of the time it is for some troubleshooting that I am forced to see the 'blue screen" (Microsoft windows). Windows badly needs an antivirus software and between the antivirus and the virus( Microsoft windows) the users are taken for a ride. There are series of messages telling the users why they cannot do something or why they cannot access a site or open a particular file.

What really irks me is that the users actually seem to be thankful that the ' virus' and antivirus are working overtime to save the user; then they wax eloquent on the virtues of antivirus software and a propriety operating system. They don't believe me when I say that I have been using an Open source software for operating system and I have never had to use an antivirus for the past six years and that I have never had to reformat the disk or need any 'janitor software' to take care of registry and junk files.

Microsoft is a past master in making virtue out of a weakness. A case in point is its inefficient way of storing files, which causes fragmentation of files. So you have a defragmentation utility doing a weekly or monthly maintenance. It displays a nice colourful screen showing microsoft working hard to organize your disk; but then who messed it up in the first place? Linux doesn't clutter up the disk so you do not need a defragmentation utility and it is as simple as that.