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This book has been on my To-Read list for quite sometime. Finally, I got the e-book and started reading it on my trusty iPad. I was looking for an easy read to take me a step closer to my reading target for 2015. This book was the perfect match.

Book: #GIRLBOSS

Author: Sophia Amrouso (@sophia_amoruso) is the founder and owner of Nasty Gal, which sells clothing, shoes and accessories for young women.

My Observations: The very first introduction to Sophia is through the book’s cover page as she’s on it 🙂 As a model, she has some unique features and exudes a strong personality. This is proven true as you read the book which contains her life’s story. Choosing a book name with # in its title is an intelligent choice. Whenever the book’s name is mentioned, it becomes a hashtag!

The book combines Sophia’s story with the story of Nasty Gal Vintage as both are intertwined. There are 11 chapters and an intro section which contains the chronology of Sophia’s life to-date. The intro gives a quick background of the overall story which prepares the reader for the intricate details contained in the following chapters. The chapters are:

  1. So you want to be a #GIRLBOSS
  2. How I became a #GIRLBOSS
  3. Shitty jobs saved my life
  4. Shoplifting (and hitchhiking) saved my life
  5. Money looks better on the bank than on your feet
  6. Hocus-pocus: The power of magical thinking
  7. I am the antifashion
  8. On hiring, staying employed, and firing
  9. Taking care of (your) business
  10. Creativity in everything
  11. The chances

So who is a #GIRLBOSS? According to Sophia, “A #GIRLBOSS is someone who’s in charge of her own life. She gets what she wants because she works for it. As a #GIRLBOSS, you can take control and accept responsibility.” And why is Sophia telling her story? In her own words, “to remind you that the straight and narrow is not the only path to success.

Every chapter of this book starts with an interesting sketch and a quotation highlighting the key message from that chapter. I especially loved the sketches. The narrative is honest – to the point of being shockingly honest at times. Through the initial few chapters, I felt as if Sophia would turn out to be a nuisance and a self-projecting person. I was wrong. She is straightforward and open, with a no-nonsense attitude. This may, sometimes, come out as being full of oneself but it isn’t that at all. It’s just her being who she is. She doesn’t hide anything. From her lack of interest in the routine jobs to her shoplifting and hitchhiking, she shares her experiences not to boast but just to give a true picture of her life and how these experiences have shaped her and her business. She is what you would call ‘street smart’. She also had a natural entrepreneurial streak and used it to her advantage. Her life story and the story of Nasty Gal Vintage are both interesting stories. After the initial shock or discomfort, I started liking Sophia’s candid prose. Her style is conversational (my favorite style). She avoids jargon and shares the lessons she learned as a businessperson (especially as a #GIRLBOSS). She openly shares her missteps and the lessons she learned on the way.

Sophia is an introvert with a strong personality. This personality is reflected not only in her brand but also in her book. By the time you reach the end of the book, you feel as if you’ve been through the whole journey with Sophia. As if she is sitting with you narrating her life story to you over a cup of coffee/tea.

Some of the things that I highlighted are:

  • The message that “you don’t get what you don’t ask for.” As an introvert, I can relate to this. I have taught myself to ask for things whenever there’s an opportunity. The worst case scenario: you will get ‘no’ for an answer without losing much; the best case scenario: you will get ‘yes’ for an answer with lots to gain. Worth giving a try!
  • The concept of sigils: This is something I need to explore more. According to Sophia, Sigils are abstract words or symbols you create and embed with your wishes.
  • Jason Fried‘s book Rework. I always like it when an author references another author for something useful. Sophia refers to Jason’s advice that ‘one of the smartest investments a business can make is in hiring great writers.‘ Ain’t that true! This book is now in my To-Read list.
  • Her discussion about introverts and extroverts, and what motivates them.
  • Her advice that it’s all about the silhouettes! This is great advice for all the women who happen to have a waste, hips and thighs (i.e. everyone except barbie dolls and their lookalikes ;)).

This book is for anyone interested in running their business, especially those who are working on their startup ventures. Female entrepreneurs or bosses will also find some useful tips. In the book, Sophia learns from her experiences, and you learn with her. All in all, a good read!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.0

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Without doubt, The Fifth Mountain is my most favorite book of all time! And, the best one from Paulo Coelho. This is the 4th time that I’ve read this book. Actually, to-date, I’ve read it a total of 3.5 times. This book NEVER fails to inspire me. I’ve read it at various points in my life. From the time I was trying to find my own path to the time when I struggled on my chosen path, all the way to the current time when I am continuing with my journey. Elijah‘s story has been an inspiration, and has helped me make sense of my life experiences. I love the fact that even though he’s a prophet, he still faces doubt and confusion, and questions his own beliefs. As a young prophet, he goes through the divine training and comes a full circle at the end. This human characteristic makes him my favorite character of all times. The story and the writing is simple. The book’s title cover, format, size, and fonts help the reader move with the flow of the story. I have so many lines and, at times, multiple paragraphs marked in this book. It’s one of those books that you hold on to.. for reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading!

I had thought about listing down my favorite quotes from this book. However, there’s just too many of them to put here. At some places, I’ve marked multiple consecutive paragraphs! If I list all of them, I’ll actually have to put nearly the whole book here!

Anyway, here are a few of the quotes:

  1. ELIJAH REMEMBERED. She had come to ask him to make some trays. While Elijah was doing as she asked, he heard her say that her work was a way of expressing the presence of God. “From the way you make the trays, I can see that you have the same feeling,” she had continued. “Because you smile as you work.”
  2. Everything in life demands training.” “Even being a prophet?” “Even to understand angels. We so want to talk with them that we don’t listen to what they’re saying. It’s not easy to listen: in our prayers we always try to say where we have erred, and what we should like to happen to us. But the Lord already knows all of this, and sometimes asks us only to hear what the Universe is telling us. And to be patient.”
  3. “Even if it comes to pass, I have doubted myself. I am no longer worthy of my task,” answered Elijah. “Every man hath the right to doubt his task, and to forsake it from time to time; but what he must not do is forget it. Whoever doubteth not himself is unworthy–for in his unquestioning belief in his ability, he commiteth the sin of pride. Blessed are they who go through moments of indecision.”
  4. “The Lord needeth thee to rebuild Israel,” said the angel. “Thou wilt tread thy land when thou hast learned to rebuild.”
Prophet Elijah in the Desert

Prophet Elijah in the Desert

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Before writing something about the book, some background about how this book entered my life. In Jul 2013, I attended the PMI Leadership Institute Meeting – Asia Pacific (PMI LIM-AP) in Singapore. As always the LIM proved to be an exciting and inspiring event. The keynote address at the LIM was delivered by David Lim.

David LimDavid Lim is a Singaporean mountaineer and motivational speaker who led the first Singapore Mount Everest Expedition in 1998. His keynote address was about leadership lessons from Mount Everest. Yes, it was quite an insightful keynote! He also gave all the participants a complimentary copy of his book titled ‘How Leaders Lead: 71 lessons in leading yourself and others‘. He was gracious enough to sign my copy of the book! 🙂 Soon after I returned from the LIM, I started reading this book and found it an easy read.

David has successfully distilled the leadership lessons learned as a mountaineer. The book is divided into 6 sections:

  1. Leadership
  2. Goal Setting & Vision
  3. Self Leadership
  4. Resilience & Change
  5. Teamwork
  6. Life Balance & Ethics

Each section contains a selection of blog/magazine articles written by David. At the beginning of each article, a picture/cartoon is also included. I always like this approach as these visual aids depict the core message of the article in an effective way. The arrangement of material is clear, logical, and easy to follow. The language is simple and David’s style is conversational. This maybe due to the fact that most of the articles were originally blogposts. I also like the fonts used as they help make the material easy to read. Short & independent articles make it easy even for the busy readers to manage reading some parts of the book every day.

Somehow, the article that made me stop and reflect the most was the one about Internal Programming. It helped me gain perspective on a few things related to my professional life, especially David’s comment about ‘towards’ vs. ‘away’ mindset. The article that I liked was about Resilience Awareness. The notion of sustainable optimism, adversity quotient, and three components to human capacity (i.e. required, existing, accessed) was new to me. David makes another thought-provoking statement about Teamwork being an individual skill (rather than a group skill)! Many articles have food for thought and references to relevant research work. David also makes references about useful tools such as Work Preference Profiling Tool (from Team Management System) and Team Performance Profile which encourage the reader to find out more about them.

From among the 6 sections, my most favorite was the one about Life Balance & Ethics. Following articles from this section made me think about life, in general.

  • Having a Sense of Being
  • The Importance of Doing Absolutely Nothing
  • The Whys and Whats of Life

What could be improved?

The grammatical and spelling errors (along with punctuation issues at some places). I found it difficult to read many articles due to these issues. Small issue, perhaps, but one that negatively affects the flow of reading. I hope a revised edition with an improved proofreading is in the pipelines.

My rating

3.5 out of 5 (especially for the references to many areas worth exploring in detail)

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A confession: A few weeks ago, I went to Liberty Books searching for some good books and asked is any new books from Paulo Coelho were available. The salesperson showed me Inspirations, telling me it was a collection of exercpts from books. I looked at the book and misunderstood it to be a collection of excerpts from Coelho’s books. I returned the book to the salesperson as I already have Coelho’s books. Little did I know that I was destined to read this book!

A few days later, I was meeting with my friends over lunch. I was a bit delayed, picking the movie tickets on my way to the food court where we were supposed to meet. When I finally joined my friends, a surprise was waiting for me. Yes, one of my friends, a fellow book-lover, had bought books for me and our other friends. For me, she had bought Paulo Coelho’s Inspirations! What is more interesting is that she bought it from the same bookshop where I had decided not to buy this book! My friend told me that the book contained selections from Classic Literature, as compiled by Coelho. Well, that was a relief!

I have nearly finished reading the book. Well, most of it. Here are my views about what I have read so far:

Organization: The selected material is organized in 4 sections – Water, Earth, Air & Fire. The book has an introduction by Coelho where he explains the process behind his selection and organization of the material included in this book. Each section also contains an introduction by Coelho relating the material with the section title. I found this an interesting and unique way of selecting and organizing the gems from Classic Literature.

Reading: You can read this book sequentially, by sections, or at random. I usually find it difficult to read English books that require sequential reading (e.g. novels, etc). My personal choice is to read short stories or collection of short articles/excerpts. That is why I enjoyed reading this book. I could skip the excerpts that I did not like or did not feel like reading at a particular time.

Selections: Inspirations provides a good introduction to Classic Literature. I had not read any of the classics included in this book (except for Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet). Not even the story of The Ugly Duckling (I do know the story but have not read the actual story)! So, it was much fun reading the selections from these books and getting introduced to the classic literature.

Another good thing is the diversity of material ranging from children’s literature, to fiction, to poetry, to excerpts from religious scriptures. This makes Inspirations a collection of inspirational material from the Global Classic Literature and not just English Classic Literature.

Selections that inspired me the most

  1. De Profundis by Oscar Wilde: The selected text is not included in the earlier version of De Profundis (as available online).
  2. The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges: Fascinating text. Insanely brilliant!

Selections that made me stop and think

  1. The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen
  2. The Prince by Nicolò Machiavelli
  3. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Selections which I did not read (for one reason or another)

  1. Eichmann and the Holocaust by Hannah Arendt
  2. The Song of Wandering Aengus by W. B. Yeats
  3. Selections from religious scriptures / other poetry, mostly collected under the Fire section: I’d rather read them in my own language since they’re in poetry form.

Selections whose inclusion I’m still wondering about

  1. The Prince by Nicolò Machiavelli: Not sure if it inspired me. It did, however, make me think.
  2. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence: Too explicit for my taste.

I still have to finish the selection from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, which is the last text in this book.

I recommend this book to all Coelho fans, teachers looking for good introductory books about Classic Literature, people interested in Classic Literature, people looking for unexplored gems from world literature, and everyone looking for inspiration in life. A good gift for book-lovers, in general!

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Atrium Mall & Cinemas (Karachi, Pakistan)

Atrium Mall & Cinemas (Karachi, Pakistan)

I had been hoping for a 3D cinema in Pakistan for so long, all the while thinking it impossible. So you can imagine my surprise when a friend told me about the recent opening of a 3D cinema in my city! Yes, Karachiites can now enjoy movies in digital 3D at the newly-opened Atrium Cinemas. Naturally, we made plans to visit this cinema ASAP.

Following are my observations based on the 2D and 3D movies I have watched at Atrium Cinemas in Jan 2011.

Bookings: The first challenge was to find the contact information for the cinema. An initial google search took me to some posts about the opening ceremony. One such post contained the link to Atrium Cinemas’ official website, and voila! I could see the movie schedule and also found the contact info. I would’ve preferred an online booking option but it’s not activated yet.

The booking officer (on phone) was polite and helpful. After the initial reservation, you have to pick your tickets from the on-site booking office. We picked our tickets hours before the showtime so that we could come just before the movie started, instead of reaching there 45 minutes in advance. Yes, the box office closes 30 minutes before the showtime (at least for now).

Seat Selection: You can choose your seats (depending on the availability of the seats) at the booking office. The cinema layout is displayed on a monitor for you to select your seats. This is a big plus!

Location: The cinema is located in the Atrium Mall which is centrally located in Saddar. What’s more important for me is that it’s hardly 15 minutes’ drive from my home! 🙂

Transportation: Atrium Mall is easily accessible through public transportation. Buses, Taxis, Rickshaws, Private Cars – all options are available.

Valet Parking: @Rs. 50/- (approx. USD 0.6) per car. Major plus especially since it can be a bit difficult to find safe parking space in Saddar.

Accessibility: It may be difficult to reach the main gate of the mall if you need wheelchair access. The cinema is located at the 3rd floor (top floor) and is reachable through stairs, escalators and spacious elevators. I am not sure how easily accessible the buttons in the elevator are though for someone in a wheelchair. Still, if you use a wheelchair and are accompanied by another guest, it should be OK. I also didn’t see the wheelchair ramp nor any special space within the cinema for people with special needs.

Ambiance: Superb ambiance. Colorful, modern, clean, spacious. Since the cinema is hardly a month old, it’s in a spic-n-span condition, which makes the ambiance inviting for the visitors.

Food Options: A good variety of food and beverages are available from the counter outside the Cinemas.

Beverages: Tea, coffee, soft drinks, mineral water, etc.

Food: Chips, 3 types of popcorns, nachos, sandwiches, cookies, etc.

There’s also a KFC and Arizona Grill outlet outside the mall.

2D Cinemas (Cinemas ‘A’ & ‘B’): I’ve tried cinema B (176 seats) to watch the movie No One Killed Jessica. The picture and sound quality was great. But the best thing for me was the seat! Boy oh boy, was I in heaven! The seats were super comfortable, tall with a headrest (so you don’t get tired watching a long movie), and spacious. You can even sit in your chair with your legs crossed and up on the seat without any problem. The space between the rows is quite wide and you don’t have to move or stand up to let others pass.

3D Cinema (Cinema ‘D’): We watched the movie Gulliver’s Travels and enjoyed it in 3D! The 3D cinema (312 seats) is larger than the 2D one. The picture quality was also good and clear. I look forward to watching The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as I believe the magical characters of Narnia would really come alive in 3D.

3D Glasses: The reusable 3D glasses provided by Atrium Cinemas are manufactured by MasterImage (Korea). These 3D glasses are quite comfortable, better than the huge ones at the IMAX in Sydney. The 3D glasses in Sydney were too big, didn’t fit well (resulting in a headache), and had to be returned after the movie.

Audience: The Atrium Mall is not completely operational yet. Many shops are still being fitted by respective shop owners (Nike, etc). We went for the afternoon shows on weekdays and there were still some people at the cinemas. I would expect more people in the late evening/night/weekend shows. By the looks of it, the mall will be fully operational in 2 to 3 months which would mean more people visiting these cinemas.

Amenities: The washrooms were neat, clean and with proper fittings. A cleaner was also on duty at the washroom. The best thing: proper rooms, instead of the much-hated cubicles, to ensure your privacy. A hanger installed at the wall/washroom doors is needed though – especially for females who carry handbags or wear a dupatta, and for the men who might want to hang their jackets/coats.

Security: Electronic Scanner Gates are installed at the main gate of the mall and outside the cinemas on the 3rd floor. Security guards are also present at the scanner gates.

Safety: I didn’t pay attention to the emergency exit routes /signs, so can’t comment on that. However, there are separate entrances for entering and exiting each cinema.

Prices:

2D Movies: PKR 200/- (approx. USD 2.3)

3D Movies: PKR 500/- (approx. USD 5.8) + PKR 150/- (approx. USD 1.7) for the reusable 3D glasses

Value-for-Money: I found the 2D and 3D experience well worth the money. The food and beverages may be a bit at the expensive side but that is expected.

Overall Assessment: All in all, a good place for clean, family entertainment.

Rating: 4 stars (for now); May be revised based on further information from future visits.

Censorship: The Indian movie No One Killed Jessica was censored. However, there was one uncensored kissing scene inGulliver’s Travel. I’d assume that most of the times the controversial/sensitive scenes will be censored so that family audiences, especially conservative ones, feel comfortable watching the movies at this cinema.

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