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Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance


I had only been hearing a lot about this person named Elon Musk over the past few months. So I decided to know something about him myself and bought this book from a “CROSSWORD” store.

The book begins with an interrogative – “Do you think I am insane?”. As one goes through all the chapters, he/she can understand that Elon is undoubtedly an insane innovator. The first chapter begins with the description of Elon’s world which is nothing but the workplaces of two of his brainchildren – SpaceX and Tesla Motors. As I had mentioned in my earlier post, the author hits the notes straight from the first page. There are no unwanted stories and details which might deviate the reader from his/her perception of Elon.

The second chapter takes us quickly through Elon’s childhood in South Africa which had been reeling under the tough times of apartheid. Elon used to be a smart kid who had been constantly bullied by his classmates. But he managed to be glued to the library for longer hours without being carried away by other worldly affairs. It also talks about the small game programmed by Elon when he was just twelve. Also a few paragraphs about Elon’s family(especially his grand parents) give an insight as to from where Elon could have had his inspirations materialize.

In the third chapter, Elon flies off to Canada as it is considered as one of the possible gateways to get into the United States for higher studies. After spending two years in Canada, Elon hops off to the United States to make all his dreams come alive. It is from this point that the biographic book transforms itself into a fast paced novel from which any zombie can draw inspirations to achieve all impossible targets.

Elon’s first start-up turns out to be Zip2 which is nothing but a yellow pages kind of stuff. Zip2 was started at a time when the internet was slowly gaining its ground.Musk did most of the coding in Zip2’s services and his brother took care of its door-to-door sales operations. After seeing Zip2take off, Musk contemplated dirtying his hands through the dotcom bubble. He wanted to start an internet bank though the odds were mostly stacked against it owing to the absence of advanced security wrappers. Musk took that as a challenge and founded X.com by selling Zip2 to Compaq. He invested most of the money he obtained from Zip2 and stayed as the major shareholder of X.com. Elon devised more professional approaches to develop X.com by hand-picking design engineers and application developers. He also approached all the venture capitalists to raise funding for X.com.

Elon had a few innovative ideas to revolutionize banking and tried to bring all them to life through X.com. At the same time, a company called Confinity had been emerging in parallel and was trying to conquer the payment system through a service called Paypal which later became the brand name for other things to follow.While Paypal was struggling  with funds, the founders of both the companies decided for a merger post which Musk remained as the major shareholder. After the merger, both the companies had a lot of conflicts and found the going get tougher day by day. The end came out as the ouster of Musk as the CEO and X.com being re-branded as Paypal. While everyone expected Musk to either stay away from Paypal or battle it out against its founders, he stunned others by investing more and more in Paypal.

The 21st century brought with it a few innovative stuffs into the minds of Elon. The most prominent of them remains the strategy to revolutionize space travel by making it more affordable. Musk learnt everything about rockets and decided to venture into it.When he could not close the deal for cheaper rockets from Russia, he decided to make them on his own. This decision was indeed taken during his return flight to the USA and that remains one of the most critical aspects of Musk’s approach to anything – Either you make decisions smart and quick or you quit.

It was indeed a start from the scratch rocket science which was taking place inside SpaceX. The mission was not just to build cheaper rockets but go a mile further and revolutionize the concept of space travel which is something that everyone cannot think of. He wanted to build reusable rockets which would drop the payload into the orbit and again return to the earth with at most precision. Rockets did not come out easily and the struggles were numerous enough to exhaust anyone. Rockets had to be made in one place and then transferred to some other island for testing and launching. The number of failures were more than expected and Musk was running out of time and money to get something meaningful out of SpaceX.

Musk always had a fascination for electric cars and founded Tesla Motors to start manufacturing them. He hired a lot of talented people to make his dreams come true. Hundreds of lithium ion batteries were connected in parallel and produced the power required to run the vehicle. Though the technology had its own issues like heating and explosions, Musk kept pushing everyone to their limits to come up with a solution which would solve all the problems. Once the prototype was released to the media, expectations grew manifold. But Tesla Motors remained in the news channels for all the wrong reasons as it was continuously pegged by technical problems. The delivery dates were consistently missed and people started getting skeptical about the arrival of a flawless electric car.

As SpaceX and Tesla became the two eyes of Elon Musk, the pressure mounted like anything and Musk found it extremely painful to keep both the things going. But he remained confident and distributed his investments wisely into both of them and kept them running. Even during the most adverse times, Musk did not let money or other factors make one of his eyes blind. Success could be tasted only after many years of pain and struggle.

Here are a few interesting facts about the all electric cars of Tesla motors.

  • The cars are completely controlled by software. Any issue could be resolved by allowing automatic updates of the software.
  • They employed a technique called regenerative braking which sends electricity back to the battery when brakes are applied.
  • The cars could be charged in any of the SolarCity’s(one more company founded by the cousins of Elon Musk) solar-powered charging stations for free. Batteries can also be replaced at these charging stations.
  • The charging mechanism can also be scheduled for a particular timing at which the electricity rates are cheaper.
  • The cars have a giant touch screen to automate all the functionalities.
  • The door handles pop out only when required. The cars have falcon wing doors which do not occupy any space when opened.
  • While other car dealers minted money through maintenance, Tesla motors literally promised zero maintenance.
  • With these, Tesla motors remains as an energy company as well as a technology company.

The final chapter gives an insight into the unified field theory of Elon Musk. It talks about the arrival of SolarCity, an organization founded by Musk’s cousins. Musk also invested a lot into solar city and wanted the clean energy concept to be applied at all the homes. The company went about installing solar panels at all the houses. The batteries for the solar panels are manufactured at the Tesla motors while the SolarCity powers the charging stations for the cars of Tesla motors.

Musk is a relentless technologist who always aimed to shape the future of the earth through his innovations. He has that never-giveup-attitude backed by the energy to make something without any compromises. He is still working on making a mission to the Mars so that people can holiday there. The next decade is expecting a few dramatic things to unfold in the field of space travel and they seem very much possible with Elon Musk.

 

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Crossword revisited – for Elon Musk


I just happened to step into a newly opened mall near my house and located a “CROSSWORD” store inside. I was spot on to set my foot inside that as I was doing it nearly after five years. I used to be a regular visitor to the “CROSSWORD” stores during the first half of this decade and tried to grab some book or the other almost every month. I had even been a part of a few book launches that used to happen at the “CROSSWORD” stores.

Somehow, the fascination started fading over a period of time and I literally stopped reading anything over the past one year. Even during the previous few years, I restricted myself to a few Tamil classics which were provided by my wife who was working at a corporate library chain.

Come 2016, the eagerness to pursue the age old habit of reading something just sprung out from somewhere and thrust me into a bookstore. I had even lost in touch with the updates in the field of literature and failed to connect myself to any of the recent books. It was at this time that I started hearing a lot about this person who has been in the news for his tremendous achievements in the fields of automotive and space research- Elon Musk.

More than reading books, I too had this special liking for the fresh scent that came out from the pages of a new book. This managed to keep me away from all the gadgets which support reading in numerous better ways.The moment I stepped into the store, I laid my hands on all the shelves and smelled all the books.

Finally, I managed to get this book written by the author Ashlee Vance.Though there are numerous books on Elon Musk out in the market, this book stands out for the exemplary penning by Ashlee Vance. There are no dragging stories and exaggerations on Elon Musk. It is not very verbose and seems too straight forward. Also the stories keep moving forward at a rapid pace and keep the reader motivated as well. Overall, the book is a good read after a long time. A separate note on this book will definitely follow later.

Hectic Hibernation(Part 5)


The loan is sanctioned and all you have to do is get a letter from the builder as to how much of the remaining 80% has to be disbursed now. In case of ready-to-occupy houses, the entire 80% needs to be given in one shot. Otherwise, the amount would be handed over in parts until the house is registered. Once the construction is almost over and the builder and the buyer are  ready for registration, a completion certificate should be given to the bank. On this certificate, the bank would disburse the final portion of the remaining loan amount in the form of a demand draft, the photocopy of which is required for the registration.

Getting the house  registered is again not as easy as it seems to be. The registration charges will vary depending on the total value of the house which is shown in the records.On top of this, stamp duty also has to be paid.

Then comes the most interesting and puzzling part which is referred to as the “legal charges” by the builder. Most of the builders mandate that this amount be paid in cash to them. It can be assumed that this money covers the charges for the lawyer and other bribes to be paid in the registration department. Ideally, this should be named as “illegal charges”. But, the conclusion remains the fact that it has to be paid from your pocket.

The output of the registration process in Bangalore is known as the sale deed which is a mere 10-15 page document on A4 sheets which do not give any feel that you are the proud owner of the property. Even then, the bank people would be eagerly awaiting that in order to place it on their records. You would be getting the original copy of the final demand draft in return for that sale deed. You are required to give that to the builder in order to close the tiresome process out.

 

Hectic Hibernation ( Part 4 )


You are now ready with the 20% of the value of your house. As I had mentioned earlier, this amount would definitely span over multiple cheque leaves and would occupy most of the space on the builder’s table. You are now ready to go for the agreement with the builder.

The agreement is nothing but a mere formality which has most of the clauses in favor of the builder . There would be a few lines here and there mentioning your name. Apart from that, you cannot find anything entertaining or pleasing in that entire document. Once the signatures are done from both the parties, it would be time to visit the bank.

The next dilemma which most of the buyers face lies with the choice of the banks. Although private banks can process the loans at a lightning speed and offer them within a few days, people are still apprehensive about the charges they collect post the shipment of the loan.Nationalized banks would always remain as the best bet with the consumers as they are more transparent with the process. They would also be more strict with respect to the documentation and verification related formalities which is indeed good for the end consumers. Even though their processing takes more time,  the end result might prove better in the long run.

It is needless to say that you have to submit ‘n’number of documents to get the loan processed. They may vary from anything as silly as your school certificates to your pay slips. You cannot be done with this if you have submitted everything mentioned in the checklist. The banks might ask for more supporting documents if they are not satisfied with the existing ones. Getting a satisfactory response from the bank manager is as tough as getting one from your manager.

Once your loan is processed, you should be physically fit to sign over a thousand times in order to get the loan amount. Of course, you have to pledge everything and get the loan in return. Apart from the loan, you would be required to take an insurance of the property you are buying and a security cover for the loan as well. Previously, the banks used to sell the property through auctions in case the buyer has defaulted. At present, the banks don’t want to keep anything on their heads. So they make the buyer take an extra cover for the loan which would take care of the repayment in case of any defaults or other unexpected events.

(To be continued…)

 

Happy New Year


Let me first wish everyone a very happy new year. The formal year end post was intentionally not written. Not only that, there was not much written over the past one year. Having said that, I did not read a single book during the whole of last year. That sums up the degree of laziness I had developed over the last 365 days.

Somehow I did not feel guilty about this. May be life just goes on sans this space. As usual, I don’t have any resolutions for this year as well. The bucket list is overflowing and I don’t want to get drowned in it. Let us see how things unfold over the next few months. As of now, for everyone, have a wonderful year ahead.

Hectic hibernation ( Part 3)


To read the first part of this post, click here.
To read the second part of this post, click here.

Once you are ready with the advance payment to the flat, the next step is to set up an appointment with the builder and inform him that you are going to book the flat. And he will be the happiest person in the world having found a sheep at last. You would be getting the project related documents in exchange for your initial payment.

One of the most common questions which every buyer has is whether the land has “A Khatha” or “B Khatha”.(“A Khatha” means that the property is regularized with respect to a few parameters like DC conversion, taxes etc. If the property is categorized as “A Khatha”, most of the banks are likely to fund the project. Otherwise, the banks might reject the loan applications). Even though the answer would be “A Khatha”, you are still advised to go for a legal opinion on the project.

You can collect the project related documents and approach any lawyer to get the documents verified. And more importantly, you have to get some time frame for this process and inform the builder that you would come back to him after the legal verification is complete. And you have to make sure that the builder would return your initial payment if the legal opinion turns out to be negative. Although most of the builders swallow that amount either in parts or in full, a few people would give it back.

It will not be exaggerating to say that you would be biting your nails and waiting for the legal opinion as you would do awaiting your exam results. This is because of the only fact that you liked that house and you wanted to put an end to the house search process.

You also have to remember that you are not free during this period. You have to arrange for the remaining portion of the twenty percent. Eighty percent of the people are likely to get this portion from their parents, in-laws, friends and other known and unknown sources. While you wish that this portion at least would remain interest free, things might not go as expected. Finally one might end up getting a personal loan from the bank for this amount.

(To be continued…)

Hectic hibernation ( Part Two)


To read the first part of this post, click here.

Finding a home that suits your expectations is one thing. One might feel that this is the toughest part. But the reality is booking the home which you have found would be tougher than what you usually think of. Even I backed off twice owing to the fact that time and other factors were not good enough to help me buy a home. I just had to console myself that there are ‘n’ number of apartments in Bangalore which are still out there in the market.

You find a house and you are not done with that. Only after getting a house, you would have a look at your bank balance. Even though pre-approved loans would be on the cards, 20% down payment has to be made by the buyer. And it so happens that the 20% amount would always come somewhere nearer to 10 lakhs. And then you realize that 20% is not a small portion to be shelled out easily to the builder to book the flat.

When you are booking any apartment, you are supposed to give at least 1 lakh as advance. Once you are done with that, time will hold your neck like anything and you will have to run every nook and corner to fetch the remaining amount in that 20%. Most of the builders give only 10-15 days time period for you to come back. A majority of them will not even return your 1 lakh if you back off later.

The vicious cycle revolves around you like this – You will be given the documents to verify the legal issues related to the building only on payment of 1 lakh. Then it’s up to you to approach any lawyer and verify the documents related to the building. Based on the legal opinion, you will either go ahead or back off. It is also impossible to get a legal opinion which would be 100% satisfactory to the buyer. All apartments would have some deviation or the other and that word would keep ringing alarm bells with the buyer.

When there are issues with the land titles, there is no point in buying the flat on a disputed ground. In most of the cases, it so happens that the builder has constructed the apartment on a clean ground, but the original plan would have undergone a few modifications. Deviations come in many forms and however trivial they may be, the buyer will suffer a lot because of that.

Sometimes the builder ends up constructing “n+1” floors when he has approvals for only ‘n’ floors. The balconies of a few houses might protrude beyond the compound walls. The parking area and the elevator might not be in accordance with the guidelines issued by the fire department . As each buyer gets some share of the common area as well, each deviation becomes a part of his super built-up area.

The best and the worst part is the fact that no one would have problems in availing a bank loan even if there are deviations. That makes it a lot more easier for the builders to carry on with the deviations. As I have mentioned it by the term “vicious cycle”, banks cannot even grant a single housing loan if they have to approve the loans for buildings only with zero deviations. And all builders construct buildings according to their own guidelines. It is just left to the buyer to suffer at a later point of time.
(To be continued…)


A short break and I am back. As the title sums it up all, the hibernation was indeed hectic. I am writing this come-back post as I definitely owe some explanation which is nothing but one of the most common problems faced by many Bangaloreans.

Let me first share some good news and then navigate to the problem part. My search for a new house came to an end at the beginning of this year with me finding a space which somehow met my expectations. It has been 2 years since I started searching for a new house to buy and it was just going on and on.

If the home suits your budget, the design might not satisfy you and vice versa. Sometimes, both might fall in place, but the house might not appear spacious enough to accommodate a big family of 2 people. If everything appears good, your instinct will doubt the credibility or reputation of the builder. And somehow all the factors continue to block you from buying a house and you will end up staying in a rented house.

Come January, your company will ask for rent receipts duly signed by the owner along with a mandate that the tenant should produce the owner’s PAN card number. Even though the owner and his/her spouse are working in multi-national companies, your mind has to accept the fact that the owner owns only a house and not a PAN card. If not for you, you have to buy a house somehow in order to escape from these process oriented owners.

I was no different with respect to this cycle and somehow I wanted to put a full stop to this process as the deadline with the sixth owner was getting nearer. Yes he would be increasing the rent in another 2 months and I had to take a decision soon. A typical Saturday afternoon roam through one of the narrow streets of Bangalore took me to an apartment which I never thought would become my permanent address .
( To be continued…)

Aram by Jayamohan


I completed this book way back in 2013, but I am able to write about this only in 2015. This happened to be my first experience with Jayamohan’s work. I had heard a lot about him and his contributions to the field of literature. Frankly speaking, I had never heard of this title before. I was watching an interview of Kamalhasan in one of the Tamil channels and he just mentioned about this book during his conversation. This was where I got to know about this book.

I had no idea about the genre in which this masterpiece fell into. I just got it and started the journey through the collection of short stories. One cannot help but proceed slowly with this book. One must have a lot of patience to pay attention to all the intricate details which Jayamohan has mentioned.

Each short story is relatively long and the variety provided by the author is just unimaginable. One cannot find any correlation between the individual stories. Each story is set in the backdrop of different zones and time periods. The stories also talk about the different problems which were dominant in the society for quite some time during the olden days. The author has not failed to talk about the most important issues like the caste system which was prevalent in the South and the issues faced by the animals in forests due to human intervention.

As one proceeds, he/she can easily understand the source from where Bala drew the inspiration for his movies. Yes. It is undoubtedly Jayamohan who has remained the source of inspiration for Bala’s movies. Even the movie “Naan Kadavul” is inspired by one of Jayamohan’s novels named “Ezham Ulagam”.

In short, Aram is one such masterpiece which would be loved by any avid Tamil reader. The story which I liked the most is “Yaanai Doctor” in which the author mentions the transcript of his interview with a famous veterinarian Dr.Krishnamurthy who explains teh problems faced by elephants. There are n number of other short ones which are also equally good. Overall, it is a must read by anyone who loves to digest a good Tamil book.


Finally I managed to catch hold of this book after a lot of struggles. I would categorize this one as one of the breeziest of books which contained a set of short stories. And who would not enjoy the book if it talks about one’s own native place. I could easily connect myself to a lot of things which were mentioned as part of the short stories as I had lived in Srirangam for a couple of years.

As the title says, the book contains a good number of short stories which are based on the incidents that happened during the author’s childhood days in Srirangam.Don’t get misled by the word “Devathaigal” in the title. The stories are not constrained to women characters alone.

A few stories have a good amount of humor and a few others could be classified as a bit serious. The author has also not failed to express the emotions of the main characters in certain stories. Some of the stories which I liked the most are the ones which talked about a cricket match and the “Almost a Genius” one. The cricket match story could fascinate anyone who was used to playing gully cricket during his childhood days.

I must say that Sujatha has lived up to the expectations in this book. The different characters and the scenarios described would definitely live in our memory for quite some time.