On being an engineer 

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This little story appeared in The Atlantic in an article entitled ‘Programmers: Stop calling yourself engineers’ by Ian Bogost.

In Canada, many civil engineers wear an iron ring symbolizing the ethical commitment their profession undertakes. The ring is proffered in a ceremony called the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer, in which an oath penned by Rudyard Kipling is recited. It reads, in part, “My Time I will not refuse; my Thought I will not grudge; my Care I will not deny toward the honour, use, stability and perfection of any works to which I may be called to set my hand.” (The U.S. Order of the Engineer offers a similar but less poetic rendition of the oath and the ring.)

A persistent legend holds that the rings are forged from steel reclaimed from the Quebec Bridge, which collapsed catastrophically upon construction in 1907, killing dozens of workers. Though false, the myth still holds up allegorically. Even if it doesn’t embody it, the Iron Ring’s steel represents the Quebec Bridge, and every other. Engineers bear a burden to the public, and their specific expertise as designers and builders of bridges or buildings—or software—emanates from that responsibility. Only after answering this calling does an engineer build anything, whether bridges or buildings or software.

The full article in The Atlantic

Ideas to challenge the youth

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For many years now I have been involved in a youth ministry, that seeks to proclaim the truth about Jesus and to make disciples of all. In many cases, the easiest step is to get a student to make a decision for Christ. The difficult part is to make a disciple of the student. It is a long, most times a life-long task, with most of  us having little inclination or patience and almost no skill in discipling. I myself do not have any typical youth leader gifts, but time and again God has confirmed my calling to be involved in youth ministry. So, this is my quest on ideas to build up the faith life of students. These ideas are only a supplement to the basics of Bible study, prayer, fasting, evangelism, fellowship etc that a christian needs to practice on a regular basis. These are just ideas that may help a  student to learn/grow more in interesting ways. This will be a post that will be continually updated when I get new ideas.

  1. Write essays to learn how to defend their faith – Many  students have faith based conversations with their friends. Many times, they are at a loss to defend their faith or don’t know what stands to take on a particular issue as a Christian. Of course, one can read many Christian publications or blogs to see how more mature christians take a stand and we can align ourselves to a take that we feel closest to. But, the re are evergreen topics that transcend any generational barriers – like homosexuality, abortion, etc. Questions on these topics might be faced by every christian student who attend a university or a school. How do we prepare them? I think one relevant way is to ask them to write essays. Like a school assignment, they would have to do research strictly from the Bible, (supporting quotes, viewpoints are allowed, but,) the main argument should be Bible based. They can do this individually or in groups. I think is a fun way, to make the students delve into the Bible and also build up a foundation of their belief. It is no longer a Youth pastor preaching to them, but they looking through the Bible to discover the truth. This will hopefully make them more willing to obey the Word of God. Do remember to ask the students to hand in their essays in order to see if they are walking along the right path. Here is a site I found that has many essay topics we can ask the students to undertake. Essay Topics by EliteWritings

What shall it be?

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​About a week ago, our Pastor preached on growing and producing the fruit of the Spirit. He took care to remind us that the nine attributes of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control were not the various fruits of the Spirit, but nine attributes that made up the fruit of the Spirit (singular). Which also meant that none were optional; we need to grow in every attribute to produce a healthy and acceptable fruit.

What is remarkable is not that we are to exhibit these qualities in non conducive circumstances, but that we are never to weary but keep on exhibiting them till we finish the race marked out for us.

Let us examine a few. Love – to love my boss when she’s good to me and to love her in the same manner when she’s not. Patience or long suffering – to not be provoked by my neighbour, to forgive every time and have no remembrance of the wrong. And to exhibit all this with the same vigour and the same intensity, every day, day after day.

J Oswald Sanders calls this the fruit in character – in the inward life. He also talks about the fruit in service – outward ministry. He reminds us that fruit bearing, a mark of true discipleship, however is not automatic; it is optional. “If it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Does our life as disciples set apart time to growing (spiritually) in order to bear this fruit that lasts? What activities, what investment are we doing today to produce the kind of fruit that will enjoy this blessing-  “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” That is a radical, life changing, world changing promise.


Which shall it be, little corn of wheat?
Do you choose to live as a golden seed,
Or die alone in an earthern bed
For the hungry world in need?

Will you save your life from the cold and the rain,
Or give it back to the furrowed field
That soon the reaper’ s hands may come
And gather the harvest yield?

Which shall it be, O soul of mine?
Will you love your life for a few short years,
Or give it all for the Master’s sake
And the cry of the world through tears?

Though you lose your life it will spring anew
From the tomb where it once was sealed,
And a wealth of golden sheaves shall stand
In the Master’s harvest field.

-Ruth Gibbs Swall

Chocolate Pecan cake for Easter

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A recent unexpected visit from a dear friend of mine and the lovely time had we together as she waited to catch her plane reminded me of the cosy home and conversations that I bring to the few people who do drop by at this cooking misfit’s home. I realised that some comfort food would add so much to the cosy chit chat in the midst of the wearying and difficult times we are in. Although any sort of main course is usually a disaster, my desserts and cakes have been usually well received. And that’s when I decided, I would invest in an electric oven, and hone my baking skills.

Well, Easter was approaching and I was thinking what could I add to the stupendous layout my parents would prepare for Easter. And that’s when I saw this as an opportunity to start on the baking: The awesome chocloate cake recipe on La Tartine Gourmande

I have been following the blog La Tartine Gourmande for a few years now, primarily because of her awesome food photography. I know I can never be as good, but it’s always good to remain inspired. Chocolate cake is a favourite, and when I saw this, I decided this would be my contribution to my parents Easter spread, even though it had ambitious, exotic ingredients like pecan nuts and millet.

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So, off I went to the local Nature’s Basket to collect all the ingredients. Though it’s a gluten free recipe, there’s no one in the family who’s allergic to wheat. But, I went ahead with this because I was excited at seeing a chocolate cake and excited at trying out a recipe of someone who I’d been following for so long. The pecan nuts and the baking chocolates at Natures Basket are quite expensive, which means I make a mental note to stick to simpler and cheaper ingredients for any further baking forays. The recipe asks for dark chocolate (70% cocoa), and I remembered getting some Lindt dark chocolates for the family many Christmases ago. The orange flavoured dark chocolate was marked down by 50%  and I heaped them on. It was only when I distributed them among the aunts and uncles and cousins that I too took a bite, and realised how extremely bitter they were for the typical Indian palette. So, I took the middle road this time and opted for 55% cocoa. There was pure vanilla extract available, but with the pecans and the chocolates taking me over budget, I decided that the (very expensive) vanilla extract would be a present for my parents on my next trip home. This time, I’d have to make do with vanilla essence. I couldn’t find any blonde cane sugar (although, there was plenty of cane sugar around) or muscovado sugar and decided that this cake was going to be made with regular sugar and realised the that percentage of “exotic” in this recipe was rapidly declining with all these substitutions. I wound up the shopping with some millet (whole) and a few chocolates for my parents.

 

Raw materials

Easter was resplendent with the Chicken biriyani that Dad made and the phone calls from dear ones across the globe. Since cake baking and other random food experimentation  is not uncommon at home, I get all the remaining ingredients at home. So, the large eggs, unsalted butter, baking powder, cream, vanilla essence and of course regular sugar were all at home, with all the baking tools I could ever need. Milky Mist is something my mother has discovered in the local supermarket. I’ll have to see if there’s an equivalent when I get back to Mumbai.

Now, I’d left all the ingredients out at room temperature for about an hour. But, the chocolate was still a little stiff. So, I had to first microwave the chocolate separately on HIGH for about 2 minutes (I stopped and checked after a minute) and then added the butter to this and microwaved for another 30 seconds. I added the vanilla essence to this and kept it aside.

Now comes the part that made this cake almost a disaster. Whole millet is slightly bigger than mustard seeds and a little smaller than coriander seeds. And the little grinder, try as it might, couldn’t make a fine powder of the millet. The grinding was coarse, at best, which probably means that some of the bigger particles actually remained undercooked. Then came the pecan nuts, which ground easily, but the grinding caused the mixture to extrude oil and the powdered pecan formed ungainly clumps. The baking flour was replaced in half by the millet and in half by the pecan nuts, not a bad idea when there’s a necessity, but I’m sticking to flour the next time around.

Cake batter

 

The rest was standard operating procedure, though, I still wonder I if beat the eggs to the correct consistency. I beat the yellows, till they slightly turned a lighter yellow; and the whites till it resembled whipped cream. I folded in everything and mixed the batter with my hands. The batter smelled and tasted nice, but I could feel the coarseness of the millet flour and dreaded that the cake wouldn’t be all that I had expected. We pre-heated the oven, probably a bit too long and set the bake time to 30 minutes. I had expected the lovely baking smell to come wafting into the living room, and to take a peek then. This being summer, we had the AC on and the door to the living room closed, and no warning wafting smells. At 25 minutes, we rushed to the kitchen, wrinkling our noses at the overdone smell and checked the cake. It was slightly dry and I think it did not rise at all. My heart sank and I told the dear friend of my disaster. She’s a food aficionado and consoled me that millet flour is very heavy and needs a lot of baking powder for it to rise. Another reason why I’m sticking to baking flour.

For the ganache

 

We let the cake cool for a day and I prepared the chocolate ganache, which gave me an opportunity to look it up on Wikipedia and completely demystify this very exotic sounding word. This was by far my favourite part. The measurements for this was way too much for the cake I made. We can probably stick to 100 gms of dark chocolate and proportionately reduce the cream as well. I didn’t powder the sugar, as it would melt while heating the cream. I had left the chocolate outside overnight, so the though it looks stiff in the picture, it quickly mixed when the hot cream was poured over it. The ganache tasted overwhelmingly of the chocolate. Maybe I could try for 70% cocoa for the ganache to reduce the sweetness and bring in a slightly different flavour.

 

Final outcome

The top of the cake was decorated with the warm chocolate ganache and kept in the fridge to set the pretty pattern. After lunch, we served the cake with butterscotch ice cream in order to offset the dryness of the cake. It wasn’t a bad combination. Later on, I started stealing slices directly from the fridge, though the recipe says the cake should be eaten at room temperature. The cold cake was actually delicious. I had a lot ganache left over. So, I cut slices, slapped on the ganache and transformed what I truly thought was a disaster, into probably my first original exotic cake recipe. Thank you, La Tartine Gourmande!

NB: Picture of Lindt chocolate is sourced from the Internet

Welcome to the World of Theatre

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Language, music and a sense of community are some of the most universal things known to mankind, common across every culture and age, since the beginning of time. Bring them all together and you get the world of theatre. Can we think back on how many times we’ve started a speech with “Friends, Romans, countrymen”, or wanted to the change the ending of Romeo and Juliet or wished we could meet a chocolate cream soldier? The love of theatre, the drama, the characters is, I think at least a little bit there, in each of us. Even if all we know about theatre is how to spell William Shakespeare.

And that’s why, when I received an intriguing company email about a theatre workshop on May 2nd, I jumped at the chance to go learn more about theatre. A few of us inquisitive folks got together that day at one of our offices and we were introduced to Silky from the Ashima Theatre Group, and also Mayank, a colleague and a passionate theatre enthusiast, who also co-owned Ashima .And here started the journey of a bunch of strangers to bring to life a Theatre Club for the world to behold.

Playing the memory games

Playing the memory games

Unlike me, some of the folks there had worked seriously in dramas at least in their colleges, and some were still very actively involved in the life of theatre. But, as we all were to slowly learn, being an actor on stage takes a lot more than a strong voice or the lack of stage fright. One of the most important and obvious tool we need, is that of memory.The workshop had an interesting approach for us to learn and remember these various tools. To teach us the necessity of memory we played a couple of games, where we had to remember the name of everyone who had come to the workshop. It wasn’t easy; as I remember that we had 3 Amits that day and had quite a crazy time remembering who was who. But, it surely drove home the point that memorizing lines is no easy task. And that theatre requires, along with undying passion, a whole lot of hard work as well.

Talking about the nava rasas

Talking about the nava rasas

Then we learned that all of theatre, all of acting has in essence 9 basic emotions or ‘rasas’ and every other mood or emotion can be built on these or a combination of these. We were then promptly organised into groups and asked to come up with a plot and perform based on the rasa that we’d been assigned.It was an exhilarating experience, with most of us ad libbing our way through a skeleton plot. We sat in awe, as we saw group after group come and perform, sometimes wondering if we could have done a scene better, but mostly excited about taking our baby steps in Drishya. Of course, we were all lacking polish to some degree or another, but most of us knew that this was just the beginning and we’d be coming back for more.

The groups hatching their plots

The groups hatching their plots

PS:Please note that all pictures were taken by members of our club and can be used only in matters related to the club.

2014 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 390 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Design experiments with a Word Cloud of John 15 – Part 1

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I still haven’t gotten round to reading up on typography. In order to make things easier and have some preset typography, I created a Word cloud using the amazing site Wordle. It allows to you to choose your colour set, create the cloud with the words going vertically or horizontally or as a mix. And then, for editing I made use of another amazing site – PicMonkey.

I still haven’t finished going through their entire collection. Hope you enjoy Part 1.

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