Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

March 21, 2021

The Frozen Crown (Warrior Witch 01) by Greta Kelly

Filed under: Reviews-Fantasy — Suramya @ 11:39 PM

The Frozen Crown
by Greta Kelly


A princess with a powerful and dangerous secret must find a way to save her country from ruthless invaders in this exciting debut fantasy, the first novel in a thrilling duology packed with heroism, treachery, magic, and war.

Askia became heir to the Frozen Crown of Seravesh because of her devotion to her people. But her realm is facing a threat she cannot defeat by sheer will alone. The mad emperor of the Roven Empire has unleashed a horde of invading soldiers to enslave her lands. For months, her warriors have waged a valiant, stealth battle, yet they cannot stop the enemy’s advancement. Running out of time, she sets sail for sun-drenched Vishir, the neighboring land to the south, to seek help from its ruler, Emperor Armaan.

A young woman raised in army camps, Askia is ill-equipped to navigate Vishir’s labyrinthine political games. Her every move sinks her deeper into court intrigues which bewilder and repel her, leaving her vulnerable not only to enemies gathering at Vishir’s gates, but to those behind the palace walls.

And in this glittering court, where secrets are worth more than gold, Askia fears that one false step will expose her true nature. For Askia is a witch gifted with magical abilities—knowledge that could destroy not only her life but her people. As her adversaries draw closer, Askia is forced to make an impossible choice—and no matter what she decides, it may not be enough to prevent Seravesh’s fall.

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Rating: (4.5/5)


This is the first book by the author, and I loved it. The book starts of with the Princess Askia approaching the Vishir empire for help against the invaders who have taken over her kingdom. At first you only get brief glimpses of why she is asking for help but over the course of the story more details are revealed. It is very easy to get this wrong and I have read books in the past where the reader is dropped into the middle of the story but not given much details and they were very confusing. It is difficult to do this in a way that keeps the reader’s attention without giving all the details up front and Kelly grace pulled it off brilliantly.

The characters in the book are detailed, with a lot of grey. There are no easy answers and the character’s motivations actually make sense. They make decisions based on duty, love and quest for power. The best part is that there is no clear demarcation of the good guys and bad guys (except for Radovan who is the invader). Folks who you thought were the bad guys help the main character against Radovan and people who you thought would help hinder her. There is no right answer on how to resolve the issues and the characters take decisions that are not perfect but actually make sense instead of making bad decisions for no reason to advance the plot.

I would have liked the book to go into a bit more detail on the magical structure in this universe and how it works but enough details were given to make sure we are not confused/lost.

I have a feeling that the motivations of Radovan will be explored in more detail in the next book as it was just hinted at in this one. I for one can’t wait for the next book to be released.

March 20, 2021

Watched Justice League Zack Snyder’s cut

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:33 PM

The Justice League Snyder’s cut came out earlier this week, I was initially on the fence about watching the movie as I had really disliked the original Justice League, but then the reviews came out and I saw that most people really liked the movie, so I decided to give the movie a shot. When I started watching I wasn’t aware that the new movie was over 4 hours long which is ridiculously long for a movie, even Hindi movies are shorter and usually max out at 3 hours long.

However, in this case the 4 hours was worth it and I loved the movie. It felt more like an extended mini-series than a movie, especially with the chapters in the movie. The new movie made a lot more sense watching it and the scenes flowed into each other rather than stand alone shots that were stuck together for some reason. Each of the characters was given a proper storyline in this version and that made a whole lot of difference in how the movie played out. I still don’t like the Flash in the movies as opposed to the TV series but he was less annoying this time around than the previous version.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

There are a lot of changes, cut scenes, new scenes in this version and you can check out The 45 biggest differences between ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ and the 2017 theatrical version, if you are interested (There are spoilers here. Obviously. )

The one downside of the 4 hour movie was that I couldn’t see the full movie in one sitting. I mean I could have, but I needed to study for my exams so that forced me to take breaks. That also contributed in making the movie seem like an mini-series rather than a feature film.

The epilogue of the movie was a bit confusing, but I feel that might have been setting up the stage for future movies. Let’s see… After this release I can honestly say that I am looking forward to the next iteration in this universe which wasn’t the case so far. I mean Aquaman and the Wonder Woman movies were good, but then we had Wonder Woman 1984 which was pretty bad. So I wasn’t that excited about the next movie in the series, but that has changed a bit after this movie.

– Suramya

March 19, 2021

Growing mouse embryos In a Mechanical Womb

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 7:00 AM

Scientists from Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel,have achieved a major milestone in the research on pregnancy and how it works. For the first time, they were able to take fertilized eggs from the oviducts of female mice just after fertilization (Day 0 of development) and had grown them in the artificial uterus for 11 days. The gestation period of mice is 20 days so in human terms it would be about 5 months of pregnancy.

The mouse embryos looked perfectly normal. All their organs were developing as expected, along with their limbs and circulatory and nervous systems. Their tiny hearts were beating at a normal 170 beats per minute.

The major problem the scientists are now facing is how to get enough nutrients to the embryo so that they can survive post the 11 day mark. As by then the embryo has a placenta and a yolk sack, but the nutrient solution that fed them through diffusion is no longer sufficient without a blood supply.

This is a really cool break through, and once the problem of getting nutrients post 11 days is solved we can expect similar experiments with mammal and then human embryo’s. The medical advantages of this technique are vast, it will allow doctors to monitor the fetus for abnormalities and correct them if required. Another advantage would be to allow couples to have a child without having to bear the child naturally which would enable folks with busy lives or those who work in dangerous environments (think armed forces) to have kids without going through a surrogate mother. Transgender couples or same-sex couples will also benefit from this technology as they would be able to have a child which wasn’t physically possible for them before.

Finally, coming to the Sci-Fi angle.. we have long talked about spaceships and it is a common trope that frozen embryo’s are sent into space to populate a distant planet with a limited no of adults to pilot the ship. Having a human gestate all the embryo’s would not be feasible but a mechanical womb would solve this problem and give us a way to travel to the stars. A few days ago I was reading about this push to have a vault established on the moon with frozen sperm and eggs to be used in case of a global catastrophe to repopulate the planet. Till now it would not work without human wombs but if we can get the mechanical womb to work with a reasonable success rate then having a seed vault on the moon suddenly becomes feasible.

Obviously, there is a lot more work required before we are at a stage where humans are born from a mechanical womb but this is an important step in that journey.

Check out the paper published in Nature for more technical details on the achievement.

Thanks to Scientists Grow Mouse Embryos In a Mechanical Womb for the initial story.

– Suramya

March 18, 2021

Should you Text before calling someone?

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 8:49 AM

I saw this article over on, that talked about how You should Text Before Calling someone. According to the article:

That’s why—barring some exceptions—you should try sending a text prior to calling someone on the phone. Even if it seems like an indirect route for getting someone to pay attention, it’ll likely help your relationship with them over the long run.

Nothing screams “I demand you dedicate time to me” like an impromptu phone call. Even in this time of isolation, people are still busy, with a constant stream of digital notifications and Zoom meeting reminders vying for their attention. A phone call insinuates an immediate demand for another person’s time; a text message nudges the ball along just a little bit, using a polite suggestion to talk more when you get the chance.

I thought about this for a while, and for the most part I disagree with this. There are certain scenario’s where I would text someone before calling but those are usually when I know the person is super busy and I need to make sure I am not interrupting anything. (Think calling my manager for a question or someone senior who is very busy). Another scenario when I almost always text before calling is when the other person has a young child. Believe me, you don’t want to be the one who woke up a toddler who finally went to sleep after ages of effort.

Other than that, I just call people when I need to get in touch with them. If they are busy or unable to take a call then they can (and do) reject the call or don’t answer and then I just wait for them to call back. I follow the same pattern for when people call me. One rule that I do follow is that I rarely call people after 8pm unless it is urgent or we agreed to have a call post 8pm. This is because I was taught that it is not nice to disturb people after that time unless it is an emergency. Jani makes fun of me sometimes about this but I still find it hard to call folks after 8. I rarely call them before 10am either, but that is mostly because I am sleeping and don’t wake up before that time ;).

For me Text messages are good when I need an answer that can wait, however if I need to talk to someone I will call them without first prefacing with a text message. That is just wasted effort. I know there are a lot of people who don’t feel the same and maybe it is a generational thing as I see my parents generation and most folks in my age-group calling without texting first. Some of the younger folks I work with have the tendency of only texting, or texting and then calling.

There is no right or wrong way of looking at this, but I personally am comfortable with how I approach it and so far no one has complained about it so I am good :).

What do you think?

– Suramya

March 14, 2021

ACT Fibernet: Very happy with their service and support team

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:58 PM

In the past I have often posted about bad service or problems I have had with various companies so I thought I should also post about companies when I am happy with their services. This is because not everyone does it and then only the negative news is posted. Today I will talk about ACT Fibernet who I have been using as my primary internet provider for almost 3 years now. I have been very happy with their services and for the most part their network has been stable and I get the speeds that I am supposed to get. (I frequently check this because that wasn’t the case with Airtel).

What really wow’d me and prompted this post is that they frequently upgrade your plan to a faster speed without charging extra and without you asking for it. I got an email recently telling me that my plan had been auto upgraded to a 400Mbps plan with an Unlimited monthly FUP from the existing 300Mbps plan. All I had to do was log out from the portal and log back in (or just restart the router). I did that and immediately I had the faster speed available. This is the second time in the past year that I have been upgraded (last one was from 250Mbps to 300).

Another thing I really like about them is their support (once you get through to them) are perfectly willing to have their technical team call you if you have questions they can’t answer. I recently wanted details about their static IP option and the guy on support didn’t have the answer, within 4 hours I got a call from their technical team who answered all the questions I had and then helped me register a static IP. There have been multiple such cases when I have reached out with technical questions. The same is not the case with my other connection (and I will post about it in another blog post) where I have had people insist to me that the information I am asking for does not exist and they refuse to connect me to their technical team.

One slight quibble I have is that they don’t have a 24×7 support line but other than that things are great and I highly recommend them to others.

– Suramya

March 12, 2021

Jolene (Elemental Masters 15) by Mercedes Lackey

Filed under: Reviews-Fantasy — Suramya @ 6:47 AM

Jolene (Elemental Masters 15)
by Mercedes Lackey


The beloved Elemental Masters series moves to America for the first time in a rich retelling of The Queen of the Copper Mountain, set against the backdrop of Tennessee coal country.

Anna May Jones is the daughter of a coal miner, but a sickly constitution has kept her confined to the house for most of her life. Hoping to improve her daughter’s health—and lessen the burden on their family—Anna’s mother sends her to live with her Aunt Jinny, a witchy-woman and an Elemental Master, in a holler outside of Ducktown.

As she settles into her new life, Anna learns new skills at Aunt Jinny’s side and discovers that she, too, has a gift for Elemental magic that Jinny calls “the Glory”. She also receives lessons from a mysterious and bewitching woman named Jolene, who assures her that, with time, Anna could become even more powerful than her aunt.

But with Anna’s increasing power comes increasing notice. Billie McDaran, the foreman of the Ducktown mine, begins to take an interest in Anna and her abilities—even though Anna has already fallen in love with a young man with a talent for stonecarving.

If she wants to preserve the life she has come to love, Anna must use her newfound powers to oppose the foreman and protect those around her.

Buy From:

Rating: (5/5)


Mercedes Lackey is one of my all time favorite authors and I usually buy her books immediately when they are released but for some reason I missed the launch of this book. Thankfully I realized my mistake a few days ago and immediately set about rectifying it.

This is the 15th book in her Elemental Masters series and there are very few authors who can keep the stories interesting after so many entries in the series. The book is a standalone book and can be read even if you haven’t read any of the other books in the series, but the story will be much richer if you have read the other books in the series as there are subtle references to other books and organizations that would mean a lot more to someone who has read the other books.

The book is based in the America’s and is a retelling of The Queen of the Copper Mountain which is a Russian fairy tale who is the patroness of miners, the protector and owner of hidden underground riches, who can either permit or prevent the mining of stones and metals in certain places. What I really like about these stories is that it introduces you to folktales & stories from other parts of the world. After I read the book, I immediately did a little research on the folktale and found it to be fascinating.

The storyline is quite simple but the way it is told keeps you engrossed till the very end. I really liked how she made serious effort to depict how cruel a life of a miner was in the late 1800’s. The story also touches on the Trail of tears and the civil war but that is mostly tangential to the story. Her calling magic as glory was a bit distracting at first and it was surprising that none of the standard elementary creatures such as salamanders etc make any appearance. Although, we do have references to the Native American magic and creatures from their folklore do make an appearance. There is enough references to real events and folklore to make the story interesting and get people interested in learning more about them. I personally have gone on researching spree’s after reading one of the books in the series to get more details about some of the stuff that she mentions in the book.

Overall a great book, I highly recommend it.

March 7, 2021

Syncing data between my machines and phones using syncthing

I have talked about how my Backup strategy has evolved over the years. I am quite happy with the setup I explained in my previous post except for one minor point. I still had to manually sync the data from my laptop, Jani’s laptop and my phone to my desktop manually. Once it is there on the desktop the various backup processes make sure that it is backed up and secure. The issue is that I still had to manually sync the data between the devices.

For my laptop, I used Unison to manually check for changes and then sync them over which works great but I had to ensure that the sync happened in the correct direction. For Jani’s laptop I mounted my drive on her computer over ssh using these steps and then running robocopy to copy the files over. This worked intermittently well. For some reason the system would refuse to overwrite changed files randomly with permission denied errors even when the permission was set to 777. The only way to fix was to delete all the files on my computer and then do a fresh sync. This worked, but was not userfriendly and required me to manually kick off a backup which I did infrequently. My phone on the other hand was backed up manually to my computer using sftp. This was very crumbersome and I really disliked having to do it.

I have in the past looked into various technologies that allow multiple devices to sync data with each other. Unfortunately, all of them required an external connection with a copy of the data being stored in the cloud. Since that was a show-stopper for me, I never got around to setting up my systems to automatically sync with each other. Then a few weeks ago, I came across this great article on how to create A Simple, Delay-Tolerant, Offline-Capable Mesh Network with Syncthing (+ optional NNCP). In the article John talked about Syncthing, which allowed him to create a local serverless, peer-to-peer, open source alternative to Dropbox that allowed his machines sync directly with each other without a server. In other words a perfect fit for what I wanted and needed to do. So I spent a little bit of time researching syncthing and then decided to take the plunge and setup my laptop and desktop to sync with each other. Before starting the setup I backed up all my data so that in case something went wrong I still had a backup. Thankfully nothing did, but it is always good to have a backup.

Syncthing’s installation is pretty simple for all major operating systems, except for iPhones which are not supported. In Debian, installation just required the following steps

  • Run the following commands to add the “stable” channel to your APT sources:
  • echo "deb syncthing stable" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/syncthing.list
    curl -s | sudo apt-key add -
  • Once you have added it, run the following command to install syncthing
  • sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install syncthing

    Once the software is installed execute the syncthing binary. On my computer it is installed in /usr/bin/syncthing. Once the software starts, it will start the web interface automatically. There is also a Desktop application, but I prefer the web-ui. Instructions on how to configure the folders and nodes are available at the Getting Started Guide over on the project website so I am not going to repeat them here. Basically, you need to define the nodes and connect them to each other, if the devices are not added on both sites then the folders will not sync.

    The software has a cool feature of discovery, which makes it easy to add devices on a given node. As soon as you connect to the same network they detect each other and give you the option of connecting both. After the devices are connected, you configure the folder you want to sync and select the devices you want it synced with. The best part is as soon as you configure one node, the other nodes will get a message stating that Node 1 is attempting to share a folder with them. Clicking on accept, allows you to configure the folder path etc on the node and that’s it. The system will detect the files which need to get synced over and will copy them quickly. You can configure the sync to be bi-directional or one way. Most of the folders in my setup are set as that, the only exception are Jani’s files which is a one-way sync because I know that I am not going to modify the files on the server.

    Below is what the setup looks on my desktop, as you can see I am syncing data from 3 different computers/phones to it and the sync’s are really fast. I have copied files over to the folder on one computer and within minutes (depending on the size) they were replicated on the other computers/phone.

    My Syncthing setup

    I have the android client running on my phone as well, and it instantly syncs any new photos etc from my phone to the desktop. All I need to do is connect to the same LAN network (can be over wired or wireless) and the devices connect and sync automagically. There is an option to do so even over the WAN using relay server but since I didn’t want that I disabled it in the setup.

    Now all my data is synced to the desktop machine without me having to worry about anything or manually copying files around. Check it out if you want to sync your devices without using an external server.

    – Suramya

March 6, 2021

How Facebook lies in notifications to get you to interact with it

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 9:58 PM

As some of you know, I don’t usually check Facebook very often. I recently logged in to FB after a while and while I was browsing, I got a little pop up on the bottom left corner of the screen telling me that someone had shared a photo in a group that I follow 6 mins ago. So I clicked on the pop-up and it took me to the group. There I immediately noticed that the post that Facebook had told me about had actually been made 5 hours ago. I had noticed this in the past in my notifications but never had a pop-up about it before.

This basically shows how much Facebook’s algorithms and UX trick you into engaging more on the site and stay there, by showing a message about a new post 6 mins ago they made me click over to check it out. However, this was posted over 5 hours ago and I might have already seen it. This is not a one time event, looking at my notifications, I see this happening very frequently…

Screen shot of the notification and the actual post. Note the time in each.

Are others seeing this as well? At least with Twitter, I don’t see a message that someone has just tweeted something and then find out that that was sent hours ago. This along with all the other nonsense that Facebook is doing is why I don’t use it very often. I am on it mostly because others are there and they share pics etc from our trips & travels on it. I am planning to do a full download of my entire Facebook account activity so that I have a record of it. I don’t think I will delete my account as of yet, but this is bordering on pushing me into deactivating the account.

– Suramya

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