distingué

a blog that covers reviews, travel logs and research infos etcetera etcetera: mumtaz.blogspot.com

Speed Reading in the Age of Distractions

Research done at University of Gothenburg shows that reading skill drops with the increase of computer use in daily life. According to the researcher Monica Rosen:

“By comparing countries over time we can see a negative correlation between change in reading achievement and change in spare time computer habits which indicates that reading ability falls as leisure use of computers increases.”

Well, this is pretty much true but does not conclude that poor reading results in poor academic performance too. What is the purpose of reading? I believe it could be leisure, knowledge, academic achievement, self development, contribution to the benefits of human beings or like. If a better expressive media is available to achieve the same goals then why not go with the alternative media?

Dr. Enver Sajjad, a strong believer in exploiting electronic media, was an early covert. He wrote a lot in Urdu including research on literature, short stories, and fictions. In 1970s and 1980s he has contributed a lot in the form of short television plays. He says:

why keep writing short stories (afsaana) when a more expressive option is available as TV plays

The more recent example is Moosa Feroz: a 14-year old student from Phalia, a far-flung area of Punjab, who secured the first position in an online World Maths Day’s competition, held in Australia. At the age of 14 he is declared as an ambassador of maths.The main issue is not book reading vs other media options, I believe it is how you look at it and what choices you made for book reading or playing online games. It makes a lot of difference while playing maths games versus ordinary video games.

Keeping aside whether or not poor reading results in poor academic performance, reading speed is decreased over time due to a lot of distractions in the age of digital world; as a kid you have options to enjoy computer games, watch TV shows, play video games on various gaming consoles like Wii, PS3 and XBox etc. Furthermore, a transition is underway from paper books to eReaders and browser-based readers that leads to another set of distractions; ads, ereader glares, links to related information, and options to dig into deeper details of a certain word, incident or a place etc. We are living in the age of distractions and people are adapting themselves to the new circumstances and bad reading habits.
I r i s  R e a d i n g (IR) identifies three bad habits or causes of slow reading:

  • Fixation: special but unnecessary focus on each and every word
  • Regression: repeating parts of the text that is already read
  • Auditory Reassurance: silently pronouncing words while reading

IR recommends trying to go faster mentally as well as mechanically while reading. One can improve reading speed by treating words as symbols and reading them in clusters, reading with a pacer like hand or a pen, and assuming spaces and punctuation marks do not exist. For a better comprehension with speed reading, always slow down on first sentence and any highlighted text of each paragraph; fast read the remaining text. For technical readings a Multiple Review Process (MRP) could be very handing. MRP goes like this:

  1. Review the article by just reading headings, introduction and conclusion
  2. Read first sentence in each paragraph to get the bigger picture
  3. Read everything with speed reading skills
  4. Go back and make a final review of the text, take notes, and highlight main points; do not highlight main points in step 3 otherwise you will end up highlighted everything instead of just important points
  5. Recite and rewrite in your own words the notes taken in the final review; ask question and try to give answers based on what you read and learned
I believe by following multiple review process people can make significant improvement in their reading performance. You could become a good critic by just raising a few questions about the ideas represented in the article.

Reading performance is decreasing over time in the age of digital distractions. Although poor reading speed does not necessarily mean poor academic performance as well yet speed reading is a desirable thing; it can be improved by learning speed reading techniques and by following the multiple review process.

Authentication

Authentication is a process to conform the reality or genuinity of a certain act, attribute or entity.  Trust, authentication, and authorization are the essential elements of human relationships for centuries. Trust is something that can be exploited easily; the act of authentication is to ensure that no one can exploit the trust.

Over the time, a single way of authentication becomes insufficient and multiple ways are evolved. Today a multi-factor authentication is required to verify the truth of a person. These factors include verification of:
  • something that a person knows like personal identification number, secret code, passphrase etc
  • something that a person owns like property, account number, ATM or credit card etc
  • something  that defines a person like hair/eye color, mark of identification, fingerprint and other biometrics etc.
  • something verified by a third person already known to the public e.g a document attested by a government officer etc. 
These factors have been proven over time and today are in use in the social world such as banking industry. Computing industry is also moving in the same direction to adapt similar multi-factor authentication methodologies. This is however in its early stage especially the security in distributed and networked computing technology such as cloud computing still has a long way to go. 
The computing industry, once started with username and password based authentication, is now moving toward two-factor authentication. For instance, Google 2-way and Duo:Security two-factor authentication; in both cases a user enters a username and password and then performs mutual authentication as an additional step. The second step normally involves a mobile device to manually authorize the remote service to accept the username and password. This is similar to a typical bank transaction; you send a check with your signature and banking officer verifies your signature and also calls you back on you cell phone to mutually verify yourself as well as the check amount as an additional security measure.
In a cloud computing environment multi-factor authentication is a good step forward but cloud has other security issues that cannot be addressed just with a sophisticated authentication methodology. The additional security issues include confidentially of data in the cloud, key management for data encryption, geographical location, and monitoring etc. 
Multi-factor authentication is a big step in the right direction in both social and digital worlds. However, multi-factor alone is not enough and emphasis needs to be put in other areas as well. A series of sophisticated social engineering attacks can break multiple layers of authentication. Digital world has solved various ancient problems but the security is among those yet to be solved.
Security is often merely an illusion, an illusion sometimes made even worse when gullibility, naïveté, or ignorance come into play; the human factor is truly security’s weakest factor (Kevin Mitnik).

Security is not a product, it’s a process (Bruce Schneider).

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former  (Einstien).  

RSA’12

Last week I visited RSA’12 to see whats going on in the area of digital security in a networked environment. I spent sometime in expo center and attended a couple of keynotes sessions

A lot of companies including FireEye, McCafee, Symantec, PaloAlto, EMC, Cisco, HP, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle showed up at RSA’12. Last year someone asked what Microsoft is doing at a security conference and the answer was in the form of another question that ‘what everyone else would have been doing here without Microsoft Windows‘. Oracle was also there with a solution for ‘SQL Injection’; someone may ask why Oracle, instead of fixing actual issues of their main product, is selling another product as a shield; anyway I guess it is the way it is. One of the popular companies was FireEye that participated with a robot to exhibit its hot product line of ‘Malware Protection Systems’.
FireEye Man at RSA’12
One of the famous hackers of 1990s Kevin Mitnik of Mitnik Securities was also there at RSA exhibition under FireMon’s booth. He was giving visitors his latest book, the New York Times best seller ‘Ghost in the Wires‘, with his signatures. Although I have already listened the audiobook but I collected ‘Ghost in the Wires‘ in its physical form with the author’s signature.


With author and his book Ghost in the Wires

The latest trend in RSA’12 is to protect Internet from malicious activities and to address security issues in the cloud. With the emergence of cloud computing, identity management, public key distribution, security information and event management (SEIM) are among popular topics. Addressing issues of single sign-on (SSO), authentication, authorization and confidentiality of contents is of paramount importance before moving toward cloud infrastructure. SEIM seems evolving but interpretability, lack of standards, customization and extensibility in data aggregation are a few areas that need attention.

In a keynote session Philippe Courlot (CEO Qualys) talked about urgent need for a more effective approach to security. I joined in the middle when speaker was advocating that cloud is more secure than traditional approaches. I guess he must have presented some facts in favor of his claim. Later McCafee CTO Stuart McLure gave a talk on ‘Securing the Unsecurable‘; his talk was an acknowledgement that we are facing a real security threat and that the current approaches to address it are not enough. He demonstrated a health device to depict how software vulnerabilities in health equipments could lead to death.

David Brooks, the New York Times columnist and author of The Social Animal, gave an inspiring talk about how we make decisions, how the subconscious mind drives our lives and why some succeed and others don’t. The Social Animal is on my reading wish list now. Overall, it is my understanding that  
the industry has realized it now that security is a serious problem and we need to address it properly and urgently

Enthymeme and Syllogisms

syllogism is a set of chained ‘IF THEN‘ statements in which the conclusion of one statement becomes premise of another statement. It is a basic building block of all rhetorical arguments. In its simple form a syllogism resembles with logical statements in mathematics:
If A equals B and B equals C then A equals C

“An enthymeme is what has the function of a proof or demonstration in the domain of public speech, since a demonstration is a kind of sullogismos and the enthymeme is said to be a sullogismos too.” (Aristotle)

“Enthymeme is an informally stated syllogism with an unstated assumption that must be true for the premises to lead to the conclusion. In an enthymeme, part of the argument is missing because it is assumed.” (Wikipedia)

The formal definitions of ‘what is enthymeme?’ might look a little complicated but Prof. Drout makes it clear by saying: can we at least agree that statement ABC is true and stop repeating ABC in every rhetorical argument? If we agree then ABC is an enthymeme here. For instance, can we at least agree that ‘all human beings are equal‘? if true then ‘all human beings are equal is an enthymeme for every rhetorical argument made in favor of human rights. For Drout, 
‘An enthymeme is the point of the argument where you lean forward, look the other person in the eye and say: “Can’t we at least agree that . . .” and then go on from there.’

Enthymeme is very important for any real argument but it is very hard to find one. For instance, ‘Democracy is the best form of government‘ is an enthymeme in civilized world but apparently this is not the case in various Arab and third world countries. That means advocates of democracy still have to work hard to find a shared assumption as an enthymeme to prove ‘democracy is the best form of government true, before making it an enthymeme for further arguments.

For Drout, a very complex syllogism (logical argument) can be developed based on just a few rules.
  • Identity: A = A, H = H, a human equals an other human
  • If -> Then: is a reasoning or inference based on some ‘if then‘ statement. IF ‘all human beings are equals‘ THEN ‘each and everyone has the right to live a healthy life and have basic education‘ … and this may lead to each state should evolve as a welfare state rather than a security state’. This is an example of a complex political reasoning; lets not go there and stick with Drout’s simple example: 

IF its raining THEN sky is cloudy (TRUE)

  • Inversion: is adding a NOT on both sides of a logical statement; and the inverse of a true statement may not always true. 

IF ‘its NOT raining’ THEN ‘sky is NOT cloudy’ (FALSE)

  • Converse: is changing the order (directionality) of an IF-THEN statement. Similar to inversion, converse of a true statement may not true all the time. For instance, it could be false most of the time by saying: 

IF sky is cloudy THEN its raining. (FALSE)

So directionality of a logical statement is very important and a converse statement may not be true all the time

  • Contrapositive: is applying both inversion and conversion to a true statement, and a contrapositive statement is always true. e.g. 

IF the sky is NOT cloudy THEN its NOT raining (TRUE)

This kind of rules underlies all of the logical arguments; start at one step and try to chain things together with emerging conclusions of each syllogism. 

Structures of Effective Arguments

This is a continuation of my review ‘The Art of Persuasion‘; a lecture series by Prof. Drout. He talks about five possible structures that can be used for an effective argument depending on the situation and topic. These five structures are as follows:

  1. Five-Paragraph Essay
  2. Sermon
  3. Inverted Pyramid
  4. Delayed Lede 
  5. Delayed Lede with Kicker

Five-Paragraph Essay
A five-paragraph essay is the most common form of formal arguments. It is composed of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

  • The introduction includes a thesis statement and tells the audiences why they should read or listen. 
  • The body part makes three big points each in a separate paragraph. 
  • The final conclusion gives a big picture of the essay; why it is important that your audience should accept your arguments 

This structure is mostly used in thesis and research articles. The five-paragraphs essay can be extrapolated to five-sections, five-chapters or five-telegraphs depending on the requirements. The bigger rhetoric point that Prof. Drout makes is:

When you use this structure, you communicate seriousness: It is the standard form of an academic essay, and people respond to it. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and it follows the “rule of three,” which is simply that people like things grouped into threes and they can remember them more easily.

Sermon
A sermon is the thoroughly tested and polished form of effective arguments that has evolved over centuries.  It is composed of six-parts; an introduction, a protheme, an explanation of protheme, a real world story, moral of the story, and conclusion. The introduction is same as introduction in the five-paragraph essay. A protheme is a text from Bible, constitution, Quran, or Hadith that supports the thesis made in the first part. The final part is also similar to the five-paragraph’s conclusion but it can include blessing, prayers, slogans etc as well.

Inverted Pyramid
This is designed to organize all related facts of a story in the order of their importance. This format starts with answering the five Ws and  and H questions i.e. who, what , where, when, why and how. Mostly the news stories falls under this category. The audiences start reading the story and stop at any time depending on how much they want to know or interested in the topic.

Delayed Lede 
This is same as inverted pyramid but the answers to five Ws and an Hs do not come right in the beginning. The story starts with an illustrative introduction like a scene description and then answers of five Ws and an H are evolved.

Delayed Lede with Ticker
Same as previous one but story ends with a big answer or a remark that ties things up neatly. I think most of the suspense stories, fictions, novels falls in this category. Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi’s (احمد ندیم قاسمی) short Urdu story AalaaN (افسانہ: عالاں) is a perfect example of the Delayed Lede with Ticker structure.

Redirect to …

The Art of Persuasion

A way with words is a series of lectures by Prof. Michael Drout on the subject of rhetoric; the art of persuasion with effective speaking and writing. Prof. Drout’s powerful presentation makes a dull and boring topic very interesting and fun. In an audiobook his lecture delivery is so vigorous that it makes you feel as if you are watching him performing in front of you. He examines the types of rhetoric and their effects, history of rhetoric, structure of arguments, and artifacts of a language.  
A rhetoric in general is considered as something bad, manipulative, or overblown but according to Prof. Drout rhetoric can actually be defined positively as: 

‘how to do things with words; the art of using words to change the social world.’

According to Aristotle:
‘rhetoric is defined as the ability to see what is possibly persuasive in every given case, and a rhetorician as someone who is always able to see what is persuasive.

This is referred to as “Speech-Act Theory“. A speech can be categorized as:

  • Performative speech delivers a piece of information along with some decisions or actions to change the current state of social world e.g. an umpire declares a player ‘you’re out!‘ or a minister pronounces a couple ‘man and wife‘. Some statements like ‘I promise …‘ and ‘I bet …‘ can be considered as performative as well.
  • Nonperformative speech delivers a piece of straightforward information to whoever is listening and that’s all
The performative speeches have the power to change the world but there must be well defined social circumstances, customs, or laws laid down as prerequisites that actually make it possible, otherwise performative act won’t happen. 

The “performative” statement “You’re out!” is not performative when anyone other than an umpire, a socially authorized and conventionally empowered figure, yells it.

Although I believe in the rhetoric power but Prof. Drout’s initial examples i.e. ‘You’re out’ or ‘I pronounce man and wife‘ are not convincing; ‘you’re out’ can be replaced with a red light signal and ‘I pronounce man and wife’ can easily be replaced with a signature on a marriage certificate. Also such kind of utterances have to follow some social norms otherwise they don’t work. I would say this is not a rhetoric power; here social world changes because of the powerful social customs and not because of someones utterances.

However, there are lots of other examples which actually have changed the world, not only social world but physical world as well. For instance, Martin Luther King Jr.’s 

I Have a Dream” 

 speech and Winston Churchill’s 

“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”

are really as great rhetorically as they are thought to be. I can say Jinnah’s speeches during movement for independence fall in the same category. Bahadur Yar Jung was one of the great rhetoricians of twentieth century; his speeches contributed a lot in mobilizing people for the movement of independence. For instance, on December 26, 1943, he delivered a very convincing speech in the All India Muslim League, in the end he says:
لوگو! وھ فیصلے جو جوش کے عالم میں دوسروں کی تقلید میں کر دیے جاتے میں  بسا اوقات آنی اور اسی لیے فانی ھوتے ہیں۔ آج ہمیں ان کی ضرورت نہیں ھے جو شجرِ ملت پر پھول بن کر چمکنا چاھتے ہیں۔ یا پھل بن کر کام و دہن کو شیریں کرنا چاہتے ھوں۔ آج ہمیں ان کی ضرورت ھے جو کھاد بن کر زمیں میں جذب ھوتے ہیں اور جڑوں کو مضبوط کرتے ہیں۔ جو مٹی اور پانی میں مل کر رنگین پھول پیدا کرتے ہیں۔ جو خود فنا ھوتے ہیں اور پھلوں میں لذت و شیرینی پیدا کرتے ہیں۔ ہمیں ان کی ضرورت نہیں جو کاخ و ایوان کے نقش و نگار بن کر نگاہ نظارھ باز کو خیرھ کرنا چاہتے ہوں. بلکہ ہم ان بنیاد کے پتھروں کو چاہتے ہیں جو ہمیشہ کیلیے زمیں میں دفن ہو کر استحکامِ عمارت کی ضمانت دے سکتے ہوں۔ 
‘People! Decisions made under pressure or in haste do not last for long. Today we are not in need of a tree that blooms like a flower or in need of fruit that tastes sweet to our mouths. Instead, we are in the need of fine manure that dissolves in the soil and strengthens the roots. That will unite with the water and soil to produce beautiful flowers. That will destroy itself but will leave its scent and taste in the flowers. We are at present not in need of beautiful scenery that looks good to the eyes, but what we need are foundation stones that will bury themselves in the soil to make the building standing on them strong.’
Likewise, Allama Iqbal’s revolutionary poems provide a great source of persuasion:
دیارِ  عشق  میں  اپنا مقام پیدا  کر — نیا زمانہ ھے نیے صبح شام پیدا کر
خدا اگر دلِ فطرت شناس دے تجھ کو —  سکوتِ  لالہ  و گل  سے  کلام  پیدا کر
!میرا طریق  امیری  نہیں  فقیری  ھے —  خودی نہ بیچ غریبی میں نام پیدا کر 
 ……….
ھو تیرے بیاباں کی ھوا تجھ  کو  گوارا — اس دشت سے بہتر ھے نہ دلی نہ بخارا
جس سمت میں چاہے صفت سیلِ رواں چل —  وادی یہ ھماری ھے وھ  صحرا بھی ھمارا
غیرت ھے بڑی چیز جہانِ تگ و دو میں —  پہناتی  ھے  درویش  کو  تاجِ  سرِدارا 
 اخلاصِ عمل مانگ نیاگانِ کہن سے —  شاہانِ چہ  عجب گر بنوازند گدارا
……….
تو رہ نورد شوق ہے ، منزل نہ کر قبول
لیلیٰ بھی ہم نشیں ہو تو محمل نہ کر قبول
اے جوئے آب بڑھ کے ہو دریائے تند و تیز
ساحل تجھے عطا ہو تو ساحل نہ کر قبول

A rhetorician may not be able to convince everyone under all circumstances but according to Aristotle (Aristotle’s Rhetoric @ Stanford): 

‘An rhetorician is in a situation similar to that of the physician: the latter has a complete grasp of his art only if he neglects nothing that might heal his patient, though he is not able to heal every patient. Similarly, the rhetorician has a complete grasp of his method, if he discovers the available means of persuasion, though he is not able to convince everybody.’

A performative statement can have three possible effects:

Locutionary is a straightforward effect of a statement; you say something and listener understands it as it is. e.g ‘that large rock is sitting on my footis a locutionary statement

Illocutionary is an effect of a statement that is a little more than its literal meanings. For example, by saying ‘a large rock is sitting on my foot‘ you’re not only informing but also requesting for help and encouraging your listener to remove the rock. So it is something you make your listener believe in doing something based on your locution

Perlocutionary effect is basically a side-effect of locutionary act. You actually persuade your listener. ‘That large rock is sitting on my footis not just a piece of information for your listener; if your listener tries to help you and removes the rock from your foot that is a perlocutionary effect

Prof. Drout also gives an overview of history of rhetoric starting from Socrates era and comes all the way down to Clinton era. He said, 
“People have been using rhetorics since the first caveman tried to convince a friend to come with him on a mammoth hunt, but our systematic thinking about rhetoric comes from ancient Greece. The word “rhetor” means “orator” or “teacher,” and the art of rhetoric was taught in ancient Greece for public purposes: convincing and inspiring one’s peers so that they would take courses of action you believed to be wise.”
Rhetoric can be used negatively as well to convince people about bad or untrue things. This is true not only in todays politics but it has been happening since ancient times. Sophists, for instance, used to give speeches to please general public in Socrates timeframe. According to Socrates, the Sophists were just telling their audiences what they wanted to hear, not really convincing them of things that were true. Furthermore, Prof. Drout talks about Cassandra:
“In ancient Greek literature, Cassandra tricked the god Apollo into giving her the gift of prophesy. But as a punishment, Apollo cursed Cassandra to be right always but never to have anyone believe her. Cassandra thus exemplifies the rhetorically deficient person: She knows what is right, but she is unable to convince anyone to do anything about it. You do not want to be a Cassandra, and if you do not have rhetorically effective communication, you very well might be.”
Rhetorics cannot be effective without knowing your audiences who interprets your arguments; for instance, if you are writing a research thesis or talking to defend it then your audiences are professors and critics from the same domain.

‘Audiences are the “interpretive communities,” that judge whether or not something is true or not, the people who have to be convinced by the rhetoric. The complexity of those interpretive communities, and the difficulty of figuring out how they make their judgments, is the problem of audience.’

However, even if you know your audiences, still you have to follow certain norms. For example while writing a research thesis although you know your audience, still you have to follow the thesis format; you cannot just write a letter to your professor and remind him about your past achievements. This specific format, required for presentation, is referred to as discourse conventions.

‘the amount of information that a speaker or writer needs to communicate are governed by Discourse Conventions. Discourse here means the flow of words, and those conventions are the rules that have arisen around different discourses.’

It is very important to know your audiences and their discourse conventions; know all the buzz words, acronyms, and basic point of view of the audience about the topic of your speech or writing. In case of writing in a journal, first understand the journal format and convention before submitting your article.

More importantly, talk about what your audience wants to listen not what you want to tell them. If you are a scientist, your audiences are curious about your findings, discoveries, and inventions. On the other hand if you are a politician your audiences are interested in what you can do for them and their community. Some successful writers use the trick of imagining an individual audience for everything they write, for example, if your grandma can understand your writings then everyone in the community would understand. If you think your grandma needs an explanation then explain it right away. 

“The performative aspect of writing and speaking is that successful writers are able to change their audiences by the ways in which they fictionalize them. So not only you have to know your audience but you have to make your audience.”

 The art of rhetorics goes on and covers much more; the lectures are very informative and enlightening. As a dynamic speaker Prof. Drout includes a lot of stuff one should learn in school. He makes his listeners interested and engaged in the topic. He dissects famous speeches and reveals secrets of their effectiveness. I think everyone who is interested in public speaking and writing, technical or otherwise, should register.

Letting Go

In her work The Power of our Spoken Words Louise L. Hay describes how our talks, selection of words, and the use of grammer can shape our life. How, the way we orally and socially interact with each other in real life, severely harms ones life or it really makes ones life. The main focus of her book is that the use of words in our talk can be much more dangerous for ourself as compared to those whom we talk to. To avoid this situation, we need to improve our thought process; get rid of poverty thoughts and grasp power thoughts. Live a happy life by forgiving those who may have harmed you and by spreading joy and beatitude to everyone. Regarding forgiveness the author says: 
“Not forgiving someone else does not harm them in the slightest but it plays a havoc with us because the issues are not their the issues are ours.”

If someone harm you it is most likely because of some valid excuse, you may not be aware of, and forgiving right away could save you from a possible embarrassment that could happen later on in future. In this regards the author comes up with an interesting analogy:   
“If you’re walking down the street and somebody bumps in to you and you whip around showing you’re very angry and say how dare they do that and then you see that person is blind; the understanding that you have instantly dissolves that anger.” 

Likewise, we should not curse ourself about anything; we should be caring about others as well as ourself; lets not make our life rigid and miserable by any mean. We won’t live a regretful life if we accept our mistakes with a positive affirmation and forgive instantly the mistakes made by others. This is important for a better future. In authors words:
“When we won’t forgive and we won’t let go what we are really doing is binding ourself to the past and when you stuck in past you cannot live in present time and if you cannot live in present time then how you are gonna create a glorious future?”

For a better future we need to make affirmations; an affirmation is clearly spelling out what we really want to have in our life or what we really want to eliminate from our life. Once we have an affirmation then lets  not compromise for less; lets make sure we get what we really want. It should be a matter of self esteem for us; the author comes up with a cosmic kitchen analogy:
“If you are in the restaurant and they bring the wrong order out that its not what you ordered; now if you have self esteem you will send it back if not you will eat it.” 

 Interesting! isn’t it?

Some more interesting quotable quotes about let go I found on the Internet:

In life, theres many things that we have to learn to let go. We have to let go of situations, things, memories, people and even ourselves. Its easy to form an attachment to people and things. When you ve formed an attachment to people and things, it can be a very painful experience and feeling when you realized that its time to let go. Even the mere thought of not having that person or thing in your life just squeezes your heart in pain. However, there are times where you or that person has changed to the extent that its necessary to let go of the relationship or friendship, so that each of you can fulfill your life path. 

Letting go of your past and memories are also extremely hard. Even though old memories can be tormenting, yet you might hold on to the past and refuse to move forward. However, by refusing to let go of the painful past, it ll serve as a roadblock to love.

Letting go of your old self and the process of letting the new you emerge can be one of the scariest experiences in your life. But by leaving behind your old self and taking a leap of faith into the unknown, it might just reveal what you are truly capable of becoming.

Stand up and walk out of your history. Let go.

رفاقتیں  کبھی   زنجیرِ   پا   نہیں   ھوتیں
نا چل سکو تو بچھڑ جاو دوستوں کی طرح

Reading, eReading and Listening

Reading a book is an act that does not require a physical paper-book anymore; now there are different media options to read, listen, and/or watch a book. This blog gives a general overview of paper books, electronic books, and audiobooks.

Many years ago I used to conceit books readable in dark without lights turned on or bothering others sleeping around. A floating book with glowing text that could turn pages automatically with a small gesture of an eye; or a small stationary window in the space with text moving like a ticker. Things have been improved and various innovative multimedia technologies have been emerged; now, beside paper books, we have options to read ebooks, listen audiobooks, and watch movies that are developed based on the published literature.

Paper books and ebooks fall under the same category that is a kind of reading material whereas audiobooks are significantly different and can be categorized as listening material. A majority of people believes that reading a paper book is the most natural phenomenon as compared to other options. However, Prof. Drout explains this approach in his work “The Way with Words: Writing, Rhetoric, and the Art of Persuasion” and describes speaking and listening as the most natural phenomenon. For Drout, reading is a pretty recent thing compared with listening; for instance, speeches and sermons have been evolving for ages. 

I have been using all of the reading options recently therefore I guess its good time to summarize them here.

Reading a physical paper book lets you enjoy the true meaning of words and real essence of sentences. You can analyze the way words are used and the context in which sentences are crafted. It allows you to easily repeat and memorize things, ideas, and situations. You can take notes or highlight paragraphs you like more; later you can revisit them anytime and read highlighted parts again. Furthermore, there is nothing better than reading a paper book of your favorite author while relaxing in the couch or trying to sleep while signing off the day.

On the other hand, today in the digital age, there are many ebook readers available with various options to improve your reading experience. For instance, you can change text size, style and color, page texture, background light and tone that is more soothing for your eyes. Moreover, in seconds you can download books of your choice and carry hundreds of them with you in a single ebook-reader while traveling across the globe or trying to save space at your home. Gone are the days when you had to visit book stores or explore library catalogs to find a book; now you can search books online and download with a single click or a tap of your finger. Some people believe that ebooks are greener than paper books but I am not sure if that is actually true.

The third option, that is Audiobooks, provides awesome experience for speed readers and good listeners. While ebooks are good to save space audiobooks are great to save time as well. You can listen audiobooks while driving, walking, running around or working out in a Gym. A good narrator can let you emotionally experience the situation that authors want their readers to be in. Likewise, a chopping, strained, monotonic or incomprehensible narration can ruin the real essence of a book.

In short, all three categories has their advantages and disadvantages: paper books provide classic reading experience; after reading you can share them with others as well. eBooks provide enhanced reading experience but sharing may not be an option here. For lectures, sermons, documentaries and informational reads, audiobooks are you friends. The future books are going to provide all options i.e. reading, listing and watching. For instance, authors can deliver lectures, provide related reading materials and demonstrate their ideas in a single book.

Tailpiece:
On Jan 31, 2012 US novelist Jonathan Franzen writes on ebooks and declares that ebooks are damaging the society. In his words:

“The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it’s pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now.”

“Maybe nobody will care about printed books 50 years from now, but I do. When I read a book, I’m handling a specific object in a specific time and place. The fact that when I take the book off the shelf it still says the same thing – that’s reassuring.”

I think he is right!  The fact that when I take the book off the shelf it still says the same thing – that’s reassuring.”

Humen Achievements

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power; we have guided missiles and misguided men (Martin Luther King Jr.). Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance but to do what lies clearly at hand (Thomas Carlyle). Allama Iqbal says:

ڈھونڈنے والا ستاروں کی گزرگاہوں کا
اپنے افکار کی دنیا میں سفر کر نہ سکا
اپنی حکمت کے خم و پیچ میں الجھا ایسا
اٰ ج تک فیصلہ نفع و ضرر کر نہ سکا
جس نے سورج کی شعاعوں کو قید کیا
ذندگی کی شب تاریک سحر کر نہ سکا
The one who discovered hidden truth of universe
could not acquiesce his own resolves
He entangled in the mesh of his own thoughts
and failed to determine the pros and cons of life
He conquered the solar system and radiant energy
but could not survive in the dusk of life till dawn
; – )
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