Thursday, June 27, 2019

Paperback version of Autobiography of an Indian Software Techie and Spiritual Aspirant – Part 1 released on Pothi.com; Updated ebook versions too

Finally, after a lot of twists and turns, the paperback version of my part autobiography titled, "Autobiography of an Indian Software Techie and Spiritual Aspirant – Part 1" has been released on Pothi.com on 27th June 2019. I thank all readers who contributed their thoughts, suggestions and constructive criticism for the cover page. I also thank all readers who read part or whole of the ebook which had been released earlier, and provided me their valuable feedback (see https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/p/feedback-on-my-book-autobiography-of.html for feedback). All these inputs certainly helped in improving and stabilizing the paperback book and paved the way for this paperback book release.

The sale page on Pothi.com is: https://pothi.com/pothi/book/ravi-s-iyer-autobiography-indian-software-techie-and-spiritual-aspirant-%E2%80%93-part-1.

The paperback book is 298 pages of A5 size inner content with Grayscale images. The cover is colour and the binding is Softcover.

Price: Rs. 265 + shipping on the Pothi.com web store (minimum price that is acceptable to Pothi.com).

Given below are some pics of the book delivery I got from Pothi.com on 26th June 2019. The current book has the same cover page but its inner content has some small text changes. I have checked that the preview shows the text changes correctly and am confident that orders for the book now will deliver decent copies with proper content. I have ordered one copy today (of updated and released book having the small text changes). It will take a week to 10 days for me to get the ordered copy.

[To open pic in larger resolution, right-click on pic followed by open link (NOT image) in new tab/window. In new tab/window you may have to click on pic to zoom in.]





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I have also updated the ebook versions with slightly improved cover page (different from Pothi.com paperback cover page) and small text changes in inner content. Given below is the current ebook cover page:



For more on ebook versions please visit: Autobiography of an Indian Software Techie and Spiritual Aspirant – Part 1: Ebook free download and printed copy links, https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/p/autobiography-of-indian-software-techie.html.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Latest cover of part autobio (A5 size) test print; Have ordered book copy with this cover from Pothi.com

Given below are the contents of my recent Facebook post created on 19th June 2019:  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2520016038214958&set=a.1616532491896655&type=3&theater

Here's a pic of a test print of the latest front cover part of my part autobio paperback book, on glossy paper using Brother inkjet colour printer in a Puttaparthi shop (A5 image printed on A4 glossy sheet):

[To open pic in larger resolution, right-click on pic followed by open link (NOT image) in new tab/window. In new tab/window you may have to click on pic to zoom in.]



One feedback I got on this pic is that there are too many things fighting for attention on this pic. As I thought about it, I think the feedback is correct.

Now I think the bird pic dominates over the three pics of me in the cover page. I wanted to use a bright pic as the earlier cover pic which is OK on ebook, prints in a rather dull way on paperback. I had got feedback on earlier cover as printed in paperback that it appears dull and that I should have something bright instead which will capture attention.

But I think now this pic is too loud.

Hmm. More work to do ... more learning about cover page design.

Update: I think that paperback book cover page is a place for me to express myself to readers (and people who may just give a quick look at it) via a picture, like I express myself to readers through inner content text (and some pics) in the book.

So while this paperback book cover page is taking a lot of time and I am making a lot of mistakes, I am learning about how to express myself better through the paperback cover page. So this is a good journey that I am on even if it is sucking away my time like nobody's business!

Ebook cover page is also a place for expressing myself but that is easier as there is no printing on paper coming into play that changes shades and looks different from how it looks on computer (LCD) monitor.
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Update on 20th Jun. 2019:

After viewing all the comments here, noting the Likes, discussions I had on the matter with quite a few people yesterday evening in (outside ashram) Puttaparthi and a lot of thinking on it, I decided to go ahead with the cover page as is. I informed Pothi.com about it today around 9.30 AM by mail. A little after 10 AM, Pothi.com sent me the successfully updated (after review) message. Around 11.30 AM I placed an order for the updated book (with the cover page shown in this post). I expect to get the paperback copy in a week to 10 days.

Given below is my analysis of the matter in points.

1. The point conveyed by the constructive criticism about bird being large and competing with other parts of cover page pic is well taken. I mean, it is a valid point. I thank the person who provided that constructive criticism.

2. I have limited skills in using graphics design tools. Recently I have got some exposure to some image manipulation features in GIMP (free software as against Adobe Photoshop which is not free and which I do not use). Other than GIMP I use Microsoft Paint and sometimes a little bit of Paint 3D. I tried to create a smaller bird and reflection pic, and then paste that into the background of blue water. The result shows that it is patchwork. I am sure more experienced people would be able to make the bird smaller in the blue water background without any appearance of patchwork. But I do not have that ability as of now.

3. For paperback book, most people felt the cover page overall to be attractive & good. They did not have much of an issue with the bird being big and its red legs sticking out of pics of me! The typical issue was with the passport authority marks on my first two pics which appears as dots when looked at casually but when carefully viewed get revealed as Passport authority letters. While I could use GIMP to remove those Passport Authority letters from the two pics, I felt that it is appropriate to leave them there in the interests of authenticity.

4. Some felt that the other cover pic (hills and water of greyish colour) on paperback book is dull and strongly preferred the blue water and bird background cover pic.

So for the paperback book I have gone ahead with the big bird and blue water background cover pic, despite it having the issues raised by the constructive criticism. Later on, say after a few months, if there is lot of negative feedback about the paperback cover page, I will explore changing it.

For the ebook however, this constructive criticism feedback has been very helpful in making me decide that I will retain the hills and greyish colour water pic for ebook cover page.

I once again thank the person for her very valuable constructive criticism which forced me to look at the matter more in-depth.

Another thing I would like to mention is that I paid only Rs. 30 for the colour printout shown in this post (done yesterday late morning). The glossy sheet on which it was printed was not very thick but that was fine for my purposes. It was printed using Brother Inkjet printer by Venkateshwara Offset Press located at Chitravathi Road (Down). Its timings are 10.30 AM to 1.30 PM.

I am told that the rate for colour inkjet printout varies with the content printed. I was given the impression that for my cover page print the standard rate in most Puttaparthi shops would be around Rs.50.

If the glossy sheet is thicker then the price may be higher. BTW for an earlier colour printout I got from a Puttaparthi shop on day-before-yesterday late evening when some of the printing shops were closed, I was charged significantly higher but the glossy sheet was thicker. I don't have any hard feelings about it as the person was very co-operative in understanding my needs and I was able to save valuable time by getting the print in the late evening itself. His shop was also large and well organized with lot of room for customers to comfortably discuss their needs with him.

Here's a pic of that earlier colour printout:


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The feedback and my response is provided here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2519451924938036&set=a.1616532491896655. [Only my part of the exchange is available on my previous blog post: https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2019/06/white-streaks-in-some-pics-problem.html.]


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

White streaks in some pics problem resolved in Pothi.com recent delivery of part autobio book; Cover page has readability issues and so changing it

Last updated on 20th June 2019

On 18th June 2019 morning, I received two copies of my part autobio book (one as replacement for white streaks paperback copy, and another as my last order).

The good news is that the white streaks in printing of some pics problem that was there in previous delivery (see https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2019/05/got-part-autobio-paperback-with-some.html) has got fixed. None of the pics in the inner content of these two copies have a white streaks problem.

The not-so-good news is that while the new cover page with blue background is more noticeable than the earlier one with grey background (in front cover), there is a readability problem with black foreground text on blue.

Given below are pics of the latest copy (or one of the two latest copies, to be precise) and previous copy (delivered to me in end May) kept side-by-side, with latest copy to the left of the previous copy. The order of pics is front cover, spine and back cover.

[To open pic in larger resolution, right-click on pic followed by open link (NOT image) in new tab/window. In new tab/window you may have to click on pic to zoom in.]







White foreground text on blue background is easily readable as one can see from how author name is much more readable than book title in front cover of latest copy.

To solve the issue, I have taken two key steps:
a) Adopted black background colour instead of background pic, along with white foreground text colour, for back cover page and spine as was the case with previous copy.

b) Used background pic only for front cover page and positioned the text and flamingo bird on it in such a way that there is no overlap between them. Changed book title and subtitle text foreground colour to white. I think this solves the readability problem.

I also modified the Not-for-profit box so as to have yellow foreground text directly on image and removed the earlier black box.

The proposed full cover pic (back cover + spine + front cover) is shown below.



It took around three weeks totally, from around end May to 18th June for first the white streaks problem in prints of some pics to be investigated, understood and resolved, and then the new paperback book copy with new cover to be printed and delivered to me. I wanted to save time for checking out the above mentioned cover. So I decided to print the new part which is only the front cover page part using colour printer shop(s) in Puttaparthi.

I have done one successful test on 18th Jun evening of printing a slightly different version of above front cover part of full cover, on glossy paper using an Epson inkjet colour printer in a Puttaparthi shop. The readability problem is not there in this printout. So, in all probability, the next book print with above full cover page will also not have any readability problems.

I need to do one more test tomorrow (19th Jun) with perhaps another Puttaparthi colour printer shop as I have since made the modification of removing the black box background of the Not-for-profit text segment. Note that the above full cover pic is the latest version.

I will share pics of these colour printing output sheets done using Puttaparthi colour printer shops, in the near future.

==============================

Given below are comments on my Facebook post-pic, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2519451924938036&set=pcb.2519452141604681&type=3&theater, associated with this post.

In response to a comment, I wrote (slightly edited):
--Name-snipped-- - Firstly, I thank you for your constructive criticism. As a former software developer, designer, reviewer of software code & design & architecture, and consultant giving consultancy advice on these areas for a livelihood, I have learned the value of constructive advice. In the software development field, constructive criticism helps catch flaws which if not caught early on might result in great damage later on and associated cost in correcting the damage. So constructive criticism is something my former profession has trained me to value highly.

So I thank you very much for your knowledgeable views as you are a graphics designer. Please don't apologize for it in any way. Instead you are always welcome to offer constructive criticism on any of my posts/pics.

I will study your comments in-depth and then provide my response.
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I wrote (slightly edited):
--Name-snipped-- I will provide my response in multiple comments here:

I like the hills & water cover. It also captures a part of my Puttaparthi walking life as it is of Enumulapalli (also called Yenumulapalli) small lake when it had water from the rains. The ebook version has this cover. See here: https://pothi.com/pothi/book/ebook-ravi-s-iyer-autobiography-indian-software-techie-and-spiritual-aspirant-%E2%80%93-part-1.
...
But when the same cover is used for the printed paperback, the printed cover uses darker shades than what the pic shows. I cannot control the printer using darker shades part and have to instead factor that in, in my paper cover choice & design. The printed paperback cover using the hills and water pic, makes the book look somewhat greyish and dull. In comparison the ebook using the same cover pic does **not** appear dull.

I showed this printed book cover to a few people in (outside ashram) Puttaparthi. One suggestion I got was that the cover should be brighter. Another point I noted is that under dull lighting environment, the book cover does not catch the eye. So I felt that the suggestion to make the cover brighter is a good one.

The background pic of what seems to be flamingo birds in a blue water background is an eye catching one. It was taken by my sister's family & relatives in a safari trip they made to Tanzania. Here is the original pic: [pic omitted].
...
So I thought: let me use this bright pic for the cover. It ran into some issues of the colour of the bird coming in the way of text (title/sub-title) readability. To cut a long story short the current version resolves those problems by moving the text and flamingo apart.

Now the pic is bright even in the test print that I did. Here's a pic of a test print of the front cover part on glossy paper using Brother inkjet colour printer in a Puttaparthi shop (A5 image printed on A4 glossy sheet):
...
Hmm. The pic is not being accepted by Facebook here. I don't know what's the issue here. I was able to put up the pic as a separate post here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2520016038214958&set=a.1616532491896655
...
But I get your point of the big bird pic fighting for attention with my pics. And yes, the bird's red foot coming out of two of my pics looks a bit weird. I had not noticed that earlier.

As I think about it, I am getting convinced that what may be the main thrust of your argument which is that the big bird pic is dominating over my pics, is a valid one.

The suggestion from you to consider making the bird smaller seems to make sense.

Looks like I will have to do more work on this!

The background pic is too loud! Hmm.
...
--Name-snipped--

I discussed the matter with quite a few people and also did a lot of thinking on it. I have given below the outcome of it in points.

1. Your point about bird being large and competing with other parts of cover page pic is well taken. I mean, it is a valid point.

2. I have limited skills in using graphics design tools. Recently I have got some exposure to some image manipulation features in GIMP (free software as against Adobe Photoshop which is not free and which I do not use). Other than GIMP I use Microsoft Paint and sometimes a little bit of Paint 3D. I tried to create a smaller bird and reflection pic, and then paste that into the background of blue water. The result shows that it is patchwork. I am sure more experienced people would be able to make the bird smaller in the blue water background without any appearance of patchwork. But I do not have that ability as of now.

3. For paperback book, most people I spoke to, felt the cover page overall to be attractive & good. They did not have much of an issue with the bird being big and its red legs sticking out of pics of me! The typical issue was with the passport authority marks on my first two pics which appears as dots when looked at casually but when carefully viewed get revealed as Passport authority letters. While I could use GIMP to remove those Passport Authority letters from the two pics, I felt that it is appropriate to leave them there in the interests of authenticity.

4. Some felt that the other cover pic (hills and water of greyish colour) on paperback book is dull and strongly preferred the blue water and bird background cover pic.

Given all of the above, I think that for paperback book I will go ahead with the big bird and blue water background cover pic, despite it having the issues you mentioned. Later on, say after a few months, if there is lot of negative feedback about the paperback cover page, I will explore changing it.

For the ebook however, your feedback has been very helpful in making me decide that I will retain the hills and greyish colour water pic for ebook cover page.

Thanks once again for your very valuable feedback which forced me to look at the matter more in-depth.
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--Name-snipped--. BTW I am self-publishing the same book but in 6 in. x 9 in. size (262 pages) with another self-publishing platform-company in India called Notion Press. It got put on sale today though I have not yet ordered and checked a copy (I will order it shortly).

This cover page uses only blue water background without the bird - this is how I submitted it a few days ago. But I have used the background for spine and back cover page too. It is only after I receive the printed copy that I will know whether there are readability issues for black foreground text on blue.

You can see the front-cover page on the sale page here: https://notionpress.com/read/autobiography-of-an-indian-software-techie-and-spiritual-aspirant-part-1
...
Here's the full cover page in Notion Press book: [pic omitted]
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In response to a comment, I wrote (slightly edited):
--Name-snipped--

Thanks again for your valuable opinion.

I think these suggestions are with respect to the Notion Press (6 in. x 9 in. paperback) cover page given above (note that one of my earlier comments explains why for the Pothi. com A5 size paperback book, I currently plan to go with the blue water and bird cover).

So wrt Notion Press cover above, here is my response to your helpful input:
a) You wrote "blue will hold the white and its more fresh". It has been a recent learning for me that black type on blue while quite readable on monitor is not so readable in printed book. This Notion Press cover was done prior to that learning. I ordered the Notion Press copy yesterday night just to see how it will be in actual print. The key reviewer at Notion Press had felt that black on blue and orange on blue will be OK (readable) and that's why I used that colour.

In print if it does not look so good, I will discuss it with the key reviewer in Notion Press and suggest white on blue instead of black or orange on blue.

Noted your view that title (heading) colour (reddish-brown) is good. Maybe I will retain that if the printed book cover also shows the title well.

b) Noted your suggestion about author name and place. Will think about it.

c) The black box: This came from a lack of tools and tools-related knowledge. I am skipping the background explanation. But now I have a solution which allows me to avoid that black box.

So in the next iteration for the Notion Press cover page, I will only have yellow text on the image. Why yellow? Well, this is my "Not-for-Profit and Free reuse" stamp-like thing. It is different from other cover page content. So I felt a yellow coloured smaller font message would be appropriate. Note that the Pothi.com cover (blue water with bird) has the yellow text message without the black box.

Thanks again --Name-snipped-- for your valuable views.
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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Using a size template in GIMP for paperback cover creation

This post is based on a rough note prepared as reference for me for cover creation in 6 in. x 9 in. paperback books I publish using self-publishing platform --name-snip--.

I thought of putting up this post publicly as I think it may be useful to some others. I have --name-snipped-- the name of the concerned self-publishing platform to avoid any sensitivity.

Note that Pothi.com (another self-publishing platform I use) cover creator works well for Pothi.com books. Further Pothi.com wrote me (which I shared publicly here  https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/2019/06/pothicom-is-great-self-publishing.html) that they have no objections to the output file of their Cover Creator tool being used elsewhere (provided all the cover content is mine).

I ran into problems on using --name-snip-- cover creator. So there may be situations where I may need to either create/modify a cover to be submitted to --name-snip-- (perhaps created using Pothi.com cover creator tool) using tools like GIMP and Paint.

I had to modify the iami book (my Who am I? I am I ... book) cover for A5 size used in Pothi.com to 6 in x 9 in size used for --name-snip-- books. That had to be done using tools like Paint and GIMP. This note tries to capture some learnings I had from that effort (and slightly more).

The process is imperfect. The context of this note is a paperback book I am additionally publishing using --name-snip-- in 6 in. x 9 in. size with 112 pages inner content, which was first published using Pothi.com in A5 size with 123 pages inner content.

1) --name-snip-- provides a template guide PDF document (as part of a zip file). Crucially that does not provide spine size. So this cannot be used as-is as an exact template in GIMP or Paint to create/modify a cover.

2) However the PDF document can be imported into GIMP where the sizes stated in the PDF seem to match with how GIMP shows it. The spine left black area border and right black area border seem to be 0.06 inches (perhaps it is 0.125/2 i.e. 0.0625 inches) in size, in comparison to the left and right black area border of back page and front page which are 0.125 inches in size. Note that there is an additional 0.125 inch on the left and right extremes of cover page.

In other words:
a) First from left black border area width is 0.25 inches
b) Second from left black border area width (just before spine inner area) is slightly less than 0.19 inches (perhaps it is 0.125 + 0.0625 i.e. 0.1875 inches)
c) Third from left black border area width (just after spine inner area) seems to be slightly less than 0.19 inches (perhaps it is 0.125 + 0.0625 i.e. 0.1875 inches)
d) Fourth from left black border area width is 0.25 inches

An issue is that the PPI is 100 for the converted from PDF image in GIMP. Change this to 300 (see 'Additional useful stuff' section below for how to do it). Pothi.com insists on minimum of 300 DPI (I think PPI is closely related to DPI) for images in paperback book content, including paperback cover page.

3) A solution to make the --name-snip-- provided template an exact template for a particular book cover, is to modify the template by adjusting/modifying the inner spine width (and width alone) in the template to estimated spine size based on number of pages in the book and thickness of paper used. Now this may not be an exact spine width calculation for the book printed by --name-snip-- but may be good enough for at least the initial version of cover design. --name-snip-- does not seem to have a page providing us the spine width calculation. But I think this web page calculator can be used: https://www.gutenberg.com.mt/spine-width-calculator

These are the calculations for the 6 in. x 9 in. iami book:

Paper Weight: 70 GSM
Paper Volume: Uncoated
Page Extent: 112
Cover: Paperback
Result (Spine width): 6 mm

6 mm is 0.236 inches

I don't know if Uncoated is the right selection for cream paper which is what I have selected for iami book on --name-snip--. But I think Uncoated will give a reasonably close to actual figure and so can be used for at least first version of cover design.

I wonder if --name-snip-- will provide spine width over email for these criteria (112 pages of cream 70 GSM paper).

4) The spine inner width in the --name-snip-- template image (imported from pdf) seems to be 0.42 inches. So the template image's spine width has to be reduced from 0.42 to 0.236 (or 0.24) inches.

5) GIMP process for selecting right part of book template image and moving it to the left to reduce spine size in it:

a) The left spine border area gets over at 7.29 inches or perhaps 7.2875 inches. So the right spine border area should start at 7.2875 + 0.236 = 7.5235
b) Choose Tools -> Selection Tools -> Rectangle Select. This changes mouse pointer to Rectangle select icon.
c) Have a selection area of front cover page and associated border area and little more.
d) Right click in selected area and choose Select->Float
e) Use left mouse cursor to position left edge of selected area at 7.52 (in original template it is at around 7.7 (or slightly more like 7.71). Note that one can expand the zoom to 800% and so achieve precision move to 7.52 using left cursor.
f) To finalize the move, Choose Layer->Anchor Layer.

6) One can add a pic as an overlay onto the template by opening the pic in a separate GIMP window, copying it, and then pasting it onto the template.

To scale the pasted pic (have not figured out how to enforce proportional scaling to prevent distortion): Right-Click and then choose Tools -> Transform Tools -> Scale.

Enter key is supposed to commit the scaling operation. I additionally would choose Rectangle Select and check that the scale icon in cursor goes off.

Layer -> Anchor Layer commits the transformation

Right-Click and then choose Tools -> Transform Tools -> Move ... for moving a selection.

As earlier, Layer -> Anchor Layer commits the transformation.

7) The pasted pic is added as a layer on top of the template layer. To see whether the cover pic is following the template guidelines, one needs to make one of these layers transparent.

Layer -> Stack -> Raise Layer/Lower Layer ... commands allows one to raise/lower layers.

I am not sure if this is the proper procedure but this has worked for me so far. Have pasted pic layer as the top layer. Then right-Click on pasted pic followed by choosing Layer -> Transparency -> Color to Alpha command. This brings up a dialog. On choosing OK in the dialog without making any changes, one will now see the template outline along with the pasted pic.

Right-Click on pic followed by Layer->Transparency->Remove Alpha Channel command removes the transparent behaviour and one gets back to earlier situation of pasted pic layer covering (obscuring) template layer below.

8) Save command saves the .xcf file.

9) To have only the cover image without the outer guidance lines and measurements, first make a copy of .xcf file. Open the copy .xcf file (in GIMP), and select only the cover image. Right click and choose Image -> Crop to Selection command.

10) Export As command creates jpg, pdf and other format output files. To have a pdf/jpg file output of cover pic, ensure that cover pic layer is in the foreground, using Layer -> Stack -> Raise Layer/Lower Layer ... commands. Ensure that transparancy is off and that the foreground layer has only the cover pic without outer measurement and other information. Now use Export As command. Don't change the default options in the Export dialog except for the output file format (jpg or pdf or ...).
=====================

Additional useful stuff

A1) Sometimes in GIMP the DPI/PPI of a pic is shown as 100 when the same pic's DPI is shown as 300 in Paint. And the size of the pic is 3 times larger in GIMP than in Paint. To fix this issue in GIMP, choose Image->Scale Image command. Change the PPI (shown as 72 at times) to 300 for both X & Y resolution. In the dialog itself once you tab out of the PPI field with 300 value, the Width and Height fields value gets reduced appropriately. [In my particular case to 12.737 in. width x 9.25 in. height.] Press Scale in the dialog to make the changes.

A variation is when PPI is 100 but size in inches is correct (e.g. template PDF converted to image in GIMP). Changing PPI (x & y) to 300 reduces the width and height by 3. But if now the width and height are restored to previous values, the PPI does not change automatically. So the dialog will now have the original width & height and new 300 value for PPI (x & y). Press Scale in the dialog to make the changes.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Microsoft Print to PDF on Word 2007 does not support 6 in. x 9 in. size and does not support Grayscale PDF printing; Foxit Reader PDF Printer solves the problems.

Recently I had to provide a book inner contents PDF file of 6 in. x 9 in. size to a self-publisher website.

I used to use Microsoft Print to PDF on Word 2007 to produce my PDF printouts as that does not compress 300 DPI images. An around 22 MB Word document with 300 DPI images produces an around 40 MB PDF file with Microsoft Print to PDF and the PDF document on zooming the images in it shows good quality images.

In contrast Save As PDF for Word 2007, creates an around 5 MB PDF file for the same around 22 MB Word document! But on zooming the images in the PDF and comparing with Print to PDF created PDF file, one can easily see that the Save As PDF generated PDF's image quality is poorer than Microsoft Print to PDF image quality.

The problem for the 6 in. x 9 in. size PDF was that Microsoft Print to PDF did not provide that size as a choice in its Properties->Advanced dialog. It had standard sizes like A4, A5 and Letter but not 6x9 in. So I could not generate the PDF using Microsoft Print to PDF. Therefore I used Save As PDF which saves it as a 6x9 in. PDF file but compresses the images thereby losing out on image print quality.

The solution was to use Foxit Reader PDF Printer instead of Microsoft Print to PDF. The Foxit Reader PDF Printer provides 6x9 selection corresponding to 6 in. x 9 in. size for output PDF file. If the 6x9 in selection is not available in the Windows installation, one can add it through Control Panel -> Settings. I am not getting into details of that addition as I think that info. can be easily obtained from the Internet.

Another issue with Microsoft Print to PDF is that it does not give an option to print a grayscale PDF. So even if I took the precautions to use black text colour and grayscale images in the Microsoft Word 2007 document, the output PDF is viewed as a colour PDF, I think, and which requires conversion to grayscale by self-publisher websites (for inner content that is NOT colour) and which comes into play on submission of PDF.

Foxit Reader PDF Printer provides a setting of printing the PDF as color, gray or black & white. It also has a default Image Resolution of 600 (which I presume means that it will only compress images greater than 600 DPI to 600 DPI in the PDF). The 600 value is safe for my images which are 300 DPI.

I checked the image quality in the output PDF file (which is around 72 MB in size for an around 22 MB Word document) and found it to be good. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Pothi.com is a great self-publishing platform that encourages and helps newbie authors & self-publishers and is very fair to them

I had a recent exchange with Pothi.com on me exploring the possibility of self-publishing my part auto bio book with another self-publisher in India, in addition to Pothi.com. I was very happy to see their clear and unambiguous responses that confirmed their not having objections to my self-publishing with others (as the agreements are non-exclusive) and they also confirmed that I can use the output of their cover creator tool for books that are published elsewhere (not on Pothi.com)!

They were OK with me sharing the exchange with them publicly here. I felt that will help some newbie authors & self-publishers and perhaps some oldies too! The exchange is given below in a slightly edited manner:

I (Ravi) wrote to Pothi.com on 12th June 2019 afternoon, as follows (slightly edited):

Hi,

This is with respect to my book, "Autobiography of an Indian Software Techie and Spiritual Aspirant – Part 1", https://pothi.com/pothi/book/ravi-s-iyer-autobiography-indian-software-techie-and-spiritual-aspirant-%E2%80%93-part-1, which I am self-publishing (now it is private till the book gets finalized at which time I will make it public) with Pothi.com in non-exclusive arrangement. This book is of A5 size and has 297 pages of inner content.

I felt it appropriate to inform you folks (Pothi.com folks) that I am also in the process of printing the same book, "Autobiography of an Indian Software Techie and Spiritual Aspirant – Part 1", but in 6 in. x 9 in. size and of 262 pages (inner content) with another self-publishing platform (--snip--) in non-exclusive arrangement. I felt it appropriate to inform you of this. Do let me know if you have any issues with this in general.

Another point is that I have used Pothi.com's Cover Page Designer to create the 6 in. x 9 in. cover page (minor alteration to A5 size cover page that I had created earlier using Pothi.com's Cover Page designer). I carefully went through the Cover Page design form as well as Pothi.com FAQs to check that there is no restriction on output of Pothi.com Cover Page design tool being used elsewhere by me. Note that all the images and text in the Cover Page are owned by me. Further note that the Pothi.com logo is NOT present in my cover page (to reduce legal exposure to Pothi.com for my book).

However, on ethical grounds if you folks at Pothi.com feel that I should NOT use Pothi.com's Cover Page design tool's output pdf file for the cover page for the 6 in. x 9 in. size version of the (same) book that I am in the process of self-publishing using --snip--, do let me know. In that case, I think I will recreate the same 6 in. x 9 in. cover page (or almost the same) using --snip-- cover page design tool.

I would like to be respectful to, and be an ethical user/customer of, both Pothi (Pothi.com) and --snip--. Before finalizing the self-publication with --snip--, I will be informing --snip-- of my book, "Autobiography of an Indian Software Techie and Spiritual Aspirant – Part 1", in A5 size form (297 pages), being in the final stages of self-publication by Pothi.com. So far, I have not had any email interactions with --snip-- on this book and so I will wait for the right time to inform them of it and check that they have no objection.

Do let me know if you have any issues with me using both Pothi.com and --snip-- to self-publish the same book of mine but in different sizes.

Thanks & Regards

Ravi S. Iyer
--Rest of email signature snipped--
----

Pothi.com folks responded in a short time (slightly over half an hour) and I responded back a couple of hours later. The exchange is given below with my responses given inline:

Hi,

Thank you for writing to us.

Publishing through Pothi.com is a non-exclusive arrangement, and you are free to publish your book through other platforms or publishing houses at the same time.

[Ravi: Thanks for the confirmation.]

However, please note that we cannot speak for any other publishing house, and you will need to confirm that any other platform or publishing house is also non-exclusive in this fashion.

[Ravi: Yes, it is my responsibility to ensure that with any other publishing house (like --snip--).]

Our cover creator tool is free for general use, and there are no restrictions on it with regards to where the cover generated from it should be used.

[Ravi: Great! That's a great service to self-publishing authors like me.]

We hope this helps. Please let us know if you have further queries.

[Ravi: It sure helps a great deal! Thanks a ton! You folks are wonderful partners especially for newbie self-publisher authors like me. May God bless you folks OR, for those of you who do not believe in God, best wishes to you folks.]


Regards,
Pothi.com Team
----

The header part of my response is given below (the inline comments have already been mentioned above):

Thank you so much for your prompt and ****clear**** response. No ambiguity! No confusion! That's what I really appreciate of Pothi.com.

--- end of email exchange between me and Pothi.com--

Ravi: BTW the paperback print of my part autobio at Pothi.com had got stuck for some time to understand why some of the images had printed with some white streaks. That analysis is over now. So the next print has been initiated today (12th June). In a week to ten days I should have the new printed copy which has a new (and bright) cover page. I will then check the cover page and images in the inner contents. If they are OK, I will go to the next step of making the paperback book copy publicly available on Pothi.com (as of now it is private and accessible only to me and Pothi.com).

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Referral: Nice message from Stuart Broad on Yuvaraj Singh's retirement; International cricket has brought friendship ...

Readers may want to see my recent post on another blog: Nice message from Stuart Broad on Yuvaraj Singh's retirement; International cricket has brought friendship and respect among cricket lovers from various countries, https://ravisiyermisc.blogspot.com/2019/06/nice-message-from-stuart-broad-on.html.

Referral: Nazi Germany's conquest of large parts of continental Europe from Sept. 1939 to end 1941; Later reversals and eventual surrender ...

Readers may want to see my recent post on another blog: Nazi Germany's conquest of large parts of continental Europe from Sept. 1939 to end 1941; Later reversals and eventual surrender in May 1945; Pray that such wars never happen again, https://ravisiyermisc.blogspot.com/2019/06/nazi-germanys-conquest-of-large-parts.html.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Cambridge International (schools) adds origin, practices and teachings of Sathya Sai Int. Org., as part of syllabus of Hinduism for 16 to 19 yr olds

Cambridge International (schools NOT University of Cambridge) adds origin, practices and teachings of Sathya Sai International Organization (and ISKCON) as part of AS & A Level syllabus for Hinduism

From https://www.cambridgeinternational.org/about-us/what-we-do/, "Cambridge programmes and qualifications set the global standard for international education. They are created by subject experts, rooted in academic rigour and reflect the latest educational research."

It states that it has a four stage Cambridge Pathway, https://www.cambridgeinternational.org/programmes-and-qualifications/, for students aged 5 to 19. Its AS & A level syllabus is for 16 to 19 year old students.

It claims that each year a million Cambridge learners utilize this education from Cambridge International. It claims that more than 10,000 schools are part of their learning community and that they operate in 160 countries across North America, Latin America, UK & Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East & North Africa, South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia & Pacific.

I don't think University of Cambridge, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Cambridge, is directly/closely linked with Cambridge International, even if they have some tie-ups.

Cambridge International (schools) AS & A Level syllabus for Hinduism for "examination in November 2021, 2022 and 2023" has included origin, practices and teachings of Sathya Sai International Organization (and ISKCON) as part of the syllabus.

The inclusion is for New Religious Movements part of Paper titled "Hinduism in Contemporary Society" and can be seen on Pages 22 & 23 (24 & 25 in PDF) of the document here: https://www.cambridgeinternational.org/Images/521992-2021-2023-syllabus.pdf.

I have given below the relevant extract from that document:

4.2 New Religious Movements

Content

• Two new movements within Hinduism, including origins, practices and key teachings of these new movements:
– International society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON)
– Sathya Sai International Organisation.

• Practices of ISKCON including:
– bhakti
– living in communities
– sankirtana (chanting of holy names)
– the ‘four regulative principles’
– preaching
– Food for Life project.

• Practices of Sathya Sai International Organisation including:
– living out the recognition of the divine within
– virtues of Sathya (truth), dharma (right conduct), shanti (peace), prema (love), and ahimsa (nonviolence)
– japam (recitation of the name of God)
– dhyaanam (meditation)
– bhajan (congregational singing)
– seva (selfless service).

• Teachings of ISKCON including:
– the achievement of moksha through bhakti yoga
– the belief in Vishnu/Krishna as supreme and personal deity
– parampara (succession of authority)
– the Bhagavad Gita and Shrimad Bhagavatum as sources of scriptural authority
– the spiritual equality of women.

• Teachings of Sathya Sai International Organisation including:
– Sathya Sai Baba as the reincarnation of Shirdhi Sai Baba and as an avatar
– the Oneness of God
– the unity of all religions
– the equality of all regardless of gender, ‘caste’ or religion
– the centrality of love
– the rejection of the term ‘Hindu’
– the importance of self development and spiritual understanding.

• The concept of proselytisation in relation to these new movements.

• Reasons for the popularity of new religious movements.

• The relationship between Hindu traditions and new religious movements; the extent to which these new movements can be considered Hindu.

• The influence of new religious movements on non-Hindu perceptions of Hinduism.

• The significance of new religious movements for contemporary Hinduism.

--- end extract from cambridgeinternational.org ---

Ravi: I am so happy to see this! I need to understand the syllabus in depth (if I get it and get the time to study it) before I can make an in-depth comment on the above. I mean, I wonder what exactly the term 'Hindu' being rejected means. I would also like to know the exact meaning of ahimsa that they use in the syllabus and whether violence in self-defense against aggression is permitted in that meaning/interpretation of 'ahimsa'.

But overall, this has made my day!

I am sure this will give great happiness to Bhagavan as I think that what was really, really dear to him was the teaching of spiritual values as covered under "Teachings of Sathya Sai International Organisation".

And the teaching of SSIO of "Sathya Sai Baba as the reincarnation of Shirdhi Sai Baba and as an avatar" entering into Cambridge International Hinduism syllabus is just wonderful! Jai Sai Ram!

My congratulations to all those in SSIO (Sathya Sai International Organization) who contributed to this milestone happening.

[I thank cambridgeinternational.org and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extract from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Some oldie and modern Hindi film songs & few English songs which promote and celebrate sexual attraction between male and female, and which I am happy to promote

Last updated on 9th June 2019

[Associated Facebook post of mine: https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2507982792751616]

I put up this post to express my support for sexual relationship between an adult man and an adult woman (heterosexual relationship) and for marriage as an institution between an adult man and an adult woman.  It is heterosexual relationship (man & woman) that has sustained human society over centuries and millennia. So I am fully supportive of heterosexual relationship as I think that is vital for healthy society.

I am not comfortable in promoting same-sex (gay/lesbian) relationship or same-sex (gay/lesbian) marriage. But neither am I willing to be critical of same-sex (gay/lesbian) relationship and/or marriage in countries where they are legal. I am ***NOT*** a homophobe, https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/homophobe. I respect the legal rights of gay/lesbian citizens in countries where that is legal.

I prefer to stay silent on gay/lesbian sex relationship and/or marriage in countries where that is deemed illegal. I am ***NOT*** an activist for gay/lesbian sex relationship and/or marriage.

The Indian legal status on this matter as per this wiki page, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_India, is as follows (extract(s) from wiki page are given):

Sexual activity between people of the same gender is legal. Although same-sex couples are not legally recognized currently by any form, performing a symbolic same-sex marriage is not prohibited under Indian law either.[5] On 6 September 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalised homosexuality by declaring Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional.[1] Homosexuality was never illegal or a criminal offence in ancient Indian and traditional codes but was criminalised by the British during their rule in India.

...
[Wiki References]
1. Mahapatra, Dhananjay; Choudhary, Amit Anand (7 September 2018). "SC decriminalises Section 377, calls 2013 ruling 'arbitrary and retrograde'", https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/sc-decriminalises-section-377-calls-2013-ruling-arbitrary-and-retrograde/articleshow/65712063.cms. The Times of India.

5. "In a first, Gurgaon court recognizes lesbian marriage - Times of India", http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/In-a-first-Gurgaon-court-recognizes-lesbian-marriage/articleshow/9401421.cms. The Times of India. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
--- end wiki extracts ---
----------

Tum Agar Saath Dene Ka Vada Karo (Hamraaz), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXICci7VtbU, 4 min. 19 secs. The film was released in 1967.
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Tum Agar Saath Dena Ka Vada Karo sung by an orchestra in 2016 (almost half a century after the film release) in Mumbai: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUNroXE39d4
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Pyar Deewana Hota Hai - Kati Patang (1970) - has an additional philosophical angle to it about the perils of romantic love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lslZptXok8o
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Unse Mili Nazar | Jhuk Gaya Aasman (1968), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5i160jmz6JI
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A remix version of Unse mili nazar in 2018 (50 years later!), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Sgh8_avILk
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Yeh Shaam Mastani from Kati Patang (1970), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sZg4EUB3IM
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Awesome live rendition of the Yeh Shaam Mastani song perhaps in the 2010s by an Abhijeet Bhattacharya and music group, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnLSJKKXZh8
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Awesome celebration of the power of sexual attraction between male and female by Michael Jackson and Britney Spears singing and dancing (pop) 'The way you make me feel' live in 2001 in Madison Square Garden in New York City: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrTC3FHE8No
----

The short version official video of 'The way you make me feel', https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzZ_urpj4As, (song released in 1987).
----

Perhaps since 2000s, Hindi film (Bollywood) songs got close to Western love songs territory. Here's a blockbuster hit song, "Sheila ki Jawani" from the 2010 movie "Tees Maar Khan" with Katrina Kaif dancing her way to fame (the song's lyrics are a mix of Hindi and English; English sub-titles are also provided): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTmF2v59CtI.
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'Crazy Kiya Re' is another big hit song from the 2000s. It is from 2006 movie Dhoom 2. The dancer is Aishwarya Rai. This song is also a Hindi-English mix song. The video has English sub-titles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2Bh68GTUOU
----

Let me end with Madonna's Material Girl released in 1984, which perhaps is her most famous song. Official video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p-lDYPR2P8
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===============================================================

Given below are some comment(s) from related FB post of mine,  https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2508518146031414 :

In response to a comment, I wrote:
I abhor and condemn violence against those who are gay/lesbian. Violence in this matter is a terrible, terrible thing. Tolerance is the key thing. If some people really dislike gays/lesbians they can avoid them but they should never act violently towards them or approve of such violence towards them.
----

In response to a comment, I wrote (slightly edited):
--Name-snipped-- Thank you for expressing your frank and well articulated views.

If I were playing an individual guy role like I was prior to Sathya Sai Mahasamadhi in April 2011, I think I would largely have a similar view to what you have expressed in the first three paragraphs of what you wrote. Essentially I would have had a liberal, live-and-let-live attitude to gays/lesbians.

I started blogging on spirituality from Sept. 2011 under a pen name and from Aug. 2013 I started my main blog on my own name, https://ravisiyer.blogspot.com/, on spirituality, religion and on my humble understanding of Sathya Sai teachings, and experiences of devotees including me of Sathya Sai (mainly physical form level).

As I got some level of readership and interactions from few of such readers on my blog and later on Facebook (from sometime in 2015), I slowly started realizing that I have to go beyond my own individual life and get an understanding of larger community life. The views I expressed on my blog were influencing some readers and so I had to blog in a responsible way bearing in mind not only my individual well-being but also a larger community well-being.

I realized that since I got established as a software development professional, I have led a financially reasonably comfortable life as compared to the lives of many other Indians and also many people from other countries in the world. Life can be a real grind for many Indians. Religion for them is a major, major source of guidance to handle the grind in life. They look up to religious leaders for norms to follow in community life. I think this is true in India (where religious believers constitute high 90s percentage of the total populace) for the major religions practiced in India: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism.

As a social media writer, my influence is very, very tiny in comparison to the influence of any religious leader of any medium sized mutt/temple/mosque/church/ashram in India. In other words, I am just a nobody when it comes to the larger religious community picture in India.

I recognize this ***inescapable*** reality of life in India, which I think is similar in countries where there is high percentage of religious believers (say above 80 to 90% of total populace).

So when I write on such sensitive topics I factor in these ***inescapable*** realities of life (major/dominant role played by religious leaders in community life).

Recently, I went through a great learning experience with regard to my views on gay/lesbian sex relationships and gay/lesbian marriage which I had expressed in private to a contact based in a Muslim majority South East Asian country. Now this contact is of Hindu faith but seems to have grown up and now works in this Muslim majority country. I think that the person's mind is influenced by the Muslim conservative view on this sensitive topic of gays & lesbians.

The person seemed to have formed a view that my mind is full of garbage because I expressed my quite tolerant view (though not a promoter view) of gay/lesbian sex relationship and marriage, where that is legal (as I want to avoid wading into the issue in countries where it is deemed illegal).

Perhaps the person is a homophobe. Perhaps the person feels that I have no right to be a writer on spirituality & religion as I ***do not condemn*** gays & lesbians.

It was quite a shock for me to know how strongly the person felt about my views. It was as if I was being excommunicated by that person because I was tolerant of gays & lesbians. Mind you this person is not a Muslim but a Hindu living in a Muslim majority country.

That led me to express my views on gays/lesbians publicly - express my stand publicly. [Prior to these public writings in past week or so, I don't think I have publicly written on this topic in detail or expressed a public stand].

I also requested those who are very offended (different from polite disagreement) by my stand to unfriend/unfollow me, as I felt that the gap then between our views is too much. For such cases, it would be best for them and for me to not interact. The contact chose to cut off interactions with me and I think at least partly it is my stand on gays/lesbians that has led to that decision. I am happy with the outcome as I think that is best for both that contact and me.

Note that there are other Hindu contacts/social media friends from Muslim majority countries who seem to be OK with my public stand on gays/lesbians. So one should not generalize on this matter based on the single contact who chose to cut off interactions with me.

It was also important for me to express the larger community aspect of my view on gays/lesbians which is strongly influenced by my life in rural India. And that is that I do not promote gays/lesbians but I promote heterosexual relationships, and that I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman (which is a stand that some gays/lesbians will, I am quite sure, disagree with). And that it is heterosexual marriages that have sustained humanity over centuries & millennia.

Now, --name-snipped--, you may disagree with the part of my view given above. In particular you may disagree with me on the "I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman". And that's fine by me. I mean, we can agree to disagree on this.

And I think our disagreement on this may be based on the different community environments that we live in now. You now live in the USA (and perhaps have lived for many years) in an area that I think is largely liberal in its views on this gay/lesbian issue. I live (and have lived over the past 16 years) in a conservative rural town and rural district in India. I can't see my district (Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh) people, irrespective of whether they are Hindu, Muslim or Christian (major communities in this district) accept even openly gay people (who express their love openly on the streets), let alone gay marriage, in at least the next decade or two. Closet gays, on the other hand, I think are tolerated, and I have not read of any violence on any such closet gays.
----

I wrote:
Just so that we know the reality of homophobia not only in conservative countries but also in some parts of the world that are viewed as liberal & tolerant towards homosexuality:

Here's a report of a recent homophobic attack in London: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/06/07/europe/homophobic-attack-london-intl-scli-gbr/index.html.

The CNN report said there were 2800 reports of homophobic attacks in UK in 2018.

I condemn such violent homophobic attacks in countries where homosexuality is accepted as legal. I choose to stay silent on the topic of homophobia in countries where homosexuality is viewed as illegal as that can be a dangerous topic to get involved in. Note that as per certain schools of Islamic jurisprudence, homosexuals are to be punished by death though that is not implemented nowadays, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_in_Islam.
----

In response to a comment, I wrote:
"If you think you are an influencer, all the more reason to communicate, educate and liberate the minds of your followers from ignorance and lead them to peace." - I think what you may view as liberation and what I view as liberation may differ. I think we need to focus more on tolerance of different viewpoints rather than "education" which many times is a subtle form of imposing one's view considered as superior on another. I prefer not to get into any such imposition of views, whether liberal or conservative. I share my view and leave it that. No "education". But in my views, I try to bear in mind not only my individual well-being but also the community well-being with respect to the community that I live in.
----

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Miscellaneous Facebook posts & comments in June 2019

When author of post or comment is not mentioned, it should be assumed that it is me (Ravi S. Iyer).

Update: To save time, I am usually not providing my FB post links but only contents. I am also not hyperlinking links. So readers will have to copy-paste links from this post onto a browser link box and then browse to that link.


I am working, in snatches of time here and there, on a post on an awesome dance performance by a small girl with most of the audio for the dance coming from parts of the Sathyam Shivam Sundaram song. As I played that song on youtube, youtube showed this Western Sufi group singing that song. I enjoyed this rendition. Thought I should share it right away.

Satyam Shivam Sundaram by Sufi Soul Sangeet, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOMpZ5eFKhA, 6 min. 5 secs, published in 2017

============================
Violence against one lone Muslim (on allegation of being a thief) by many Hindus in the name of Shri Ram, as has been reported in the media about the tragic incident in Jharkhand (see https://indianexpress.com/article/india/jharkhand-lynching-assault-case-tabrez-ansari-police-hindutva-muslim-5797963/) has to be condemned. The life of Shri Ram was a noble one where he protected the good and the weak. So I approve of this cartoon. https://www.cartoonistsatish.com/not-in-my-name/

An update: Just saw part of a video of a news channel interviewing the tragic victim Tabrez Ansari's relatives about action taken so far. While the relatives seem satisfied that justice is being done (around 11 people have been arrested as per that video), some of what the relative said about the mob lynching was too much for me to bear (and so I am not sharing the video). I pray to Allah to shower His Grace on Tabrez Ansari (he died in prison or when he was in the hospital) and give courage and strength to Tabrez Ansari's relatives to bear this horrific pain. ... Hopefully the govt. will arrange for decent compensation to be given to the widow of Tabrez Ansari, as she seems to have been completely dependent on Tabrez Ansari for livelihood.

Note that this area is said to have some Naxalite related attacks too, and so this area seems to be a rough area with police presence not being strong.
=====================================

In https://www.facebook.com/terry.reiskennedy/posts/10220008069410866 I wrote (slightly edited):
--Name-snipped-- - I am glad to see that you are seeking further information on this. I don't have any information. But I followed this event then on international TV channels. Fukushima was a Level 7 nuclear disaster (only Chernobyl matches that), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster.

I did not hear or see any reference to Sathya Sai in the coverage of Fukushima that I saw on TV or in the print media that I read then. I think we need to be very careful in promoting the view put forward in this post so long as we do not find names of people who say that they heard Swami say that.

If somebody who was physically close to Swami heard Swami say that, and is wiling to be named - then great. If not, then I think such a claim has the potential to cause embarrassment. In particular I think official Japan Sai organization view on this should be taken into consideration.

I repeat, Fukushima disaster is on the highest level of nuclear disaster levels (of IAEA). This was a major, major disaster which ***terrified*** many then as to how big the nuclear fallout could be. It ranks with Chernobyl! And Chernobyl was very, very, very bad.
-----

I wrote (slightly edited):
--Name-snipped-- - Sairam sir! Thank you so much for commenting on this post with your understanding of the matter. If Sanathana Sarathi or any official Prasanthi Nilayam orgn. published Fukushima nuclear disaster matter and Swami saying something about Him helping to reduce the damage, in their magazines/website, then that becomes a powerful source. ... Also your statement, sir, "The main reasons i am posting about Swamy Leelas is it is very much known fact that these days faith in Swamy is getting diliuted and devotees are looking for alternatives." is very helpful and I do appreciate this work that you are doing.

Perhaps Japan Sai orgn. should be contacted and their view should be taken on this matter. Thanks. Jai Sai Ram!
-----

I wrote (slightly edited):
--Name-snipped-- There is no doubt that we are very fortunate to have experienced the love, spiritual wisdom, grace and glory of Sathya Sai Avatar. Thank you for the blessings sir! Jai Sai Ram!

-----
I wrote (slightly edited):
Perhaps I should say something more here. I don't think what Shri --Name-snipped-- has said with respect to Fukushima nuclear disaster and Swami role in containing the damage, can currently be accepted as verified truth. I mean, we don't have a clear source.

Some folks including Shri Ranganath have conveyed that as the truth - I saw some other person putting up the same/similar matter on Facebook. 

I think they have the freedom to express their views. Note that some persons claim to have special, perhaps paranormal, insight into such matters.

I respect the right of Shri Bellur K. Ranganath to write these posts on Facebook based on what he is convinced is the truth, even if he is not in a position to share authentic sources for that.

It is up to readers whether they would like to accept that as fact or not. As I said earlier, I don't think it can be accepted as fact, as of now. But that's my personal view. Others may hold different views.
-----

I wrote (slightly edited):

I should also say that I think --name-snipped-- was also right in seeking to know the source of the info. (about Fukushima disaster and Swami saying that he had contained the damage).
...
IMHO, we have to be aware that such a claim could be embarrassing if shared widely on our Facebook community as verified truth. ... But Shri --name-snipped-- states that he has read it in print even though he cannot locate the source of that now. Given that statement from him, I think that he cannot be faulted for putting up the post. But neither can those who are not wiling to accept it as verified truth (me being one of them and perhaps --name-snipped-- being another) be faulted.
----

I wrote (slightly edited):
--Name-snipped-- - Shri --name-snipped-- quoted Swami as having said, "To save humanity I have to interfere and put an end to this threat. This effort may cause danger to my life. But there is no other alternative". That is what makes it a big, big claim.

The analysis in the book you mentioned seems to be different. No quotes of Swami in this context.

I doubt whether Shri --name-snipped-- was referring to an analysis like what seems to be in the book you mentioned. I think he was referring to reading the Swami quote in print somewhere (with that somewhere being presumed to be a noted source/medium of Sai literature like Sanathana Sarathi).
----

I wrote (slightly edited):
This article, https://www.speakingtree.in/blog/narendra-modi-as-pm-sai-baba-prediction, is an example of a Swami quote (in 2004 about Modi becoming PM in future) shared by an alumnus who was personally serving Swami then, on Twitter (in 2014 when Modi first became PM). I view this as the truth and have even put up a blog post on it. The alumnus (Arun) is well known in alumni circles and so it comes across as a truthful report of what Swami said to Arun.

On the Fukushima disaster we do not have anything like that. It is really in the air. And note that in March 2011, if Swami did say that, in all probability the close servitors of Swami then (mostly alumni) would know of it, as Swami's words then could not be understood easily. So some close servitor would have heard it/understood it. If that person's name is known (like in Arun case above), it becomes easy to cross-check for those in (or in touch with) alumni circles (I am no longer in touch with alumni circles but many others on FB are).
----

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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2517442885138940

I saw the related video of the preacher (also detective) on this link, http://tnholler.com/2019/06/knox-county-sheriffs-detective-wants-lgbt-people-executed/, that's shared by the NYT article.

I am shocked to see the level of homophobia in this preacher in Tennessee, USA. He says so openly in his sermon that homosexuals should be put to death.

Hmm. Somehow I did not expect to see such a preacher video in the USA in 2019. I guess I was naive about the level of homophobia that is there in some quarters of even USA society.

I unequivocally condemn this preacher's horrific hatred towards homosexuals where he demands the death penalty for them going by literal interpretation of scripture.

BTW I am NOT gay/homosexual. Further, I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I support sexual relations between man and woman rather than homosexual relations. But I am tolerant towards gay/homosexuals especially when the law of the land is tolerant towards them. And I abhor homophobia of the sort that this USA preacher-cum-detective has shown in this sermon.

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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2516423235240905

USA Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and her husband sing Hare Krishna (song) in festival in New York City, (singing is from around 3 min. 30 secs) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GRNXTSwVVY, 16 min. 28 secs, published on 8th June 2019

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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2516039418612620

"Each of us... must rededicate ourselves to serving the common good... Our individual fates are linked, our futures intertwined. And if we act in that knowledge and in that spirit, together, as the Bible says, we can move mountains." –Jimmy Carter. https://twitter.com/museumofBible/status/1139708103207919617

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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2513180412231854

I am shocked that this happened in Scotland. I mean, this is not an isolated incident. It is years & years of abuse. And the 'satanic parties' fueled by drink (alcohol, one presumes) is just absolutely horrifying in a church managed institution.

I have happy memories of interactions with a few young Scottish (Glasgow) people in the 1980s in Brussels, Belgium. Essentially, they were fun loving but good people. So I would never have believed that such things could happen in a church institution in Scotland. But this seems to be based on witness testimony to a Scottish govt. child abuse inquiry that the BBC has reported. So I think there must be at least some truth to the report.

'He [Mr. Sharp who seems to be now based in Glasgow] left the home aged 16 without "any memory other than continually being abused".' ... 'It was then that he found out he had a family, but he did not settle and became dependent on drugs and alcohol.'

The Scottish govt. should ensure that justice is served to Mr. Sharp. My God! What a waste of a life that was entrusted to the Church to raise in a proper way! What a betrayal!

The Scottish govt. should ensure that no staff, whether priests or lay people, in church institution run homes in Scotland, dare to commit child sexual abuse in the future. That they are associated with the church should not give them any leniency whatsoever! Child sexual abuse by church institution staff is a horrific and disgusting mockery of the life & teachings of Lord Jesus Christ!

Thanks to Terry Reis Kennedy for sharing this report.

[Shared link: Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry: Boys raped by priests at 'satanic parties',   https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-48559590]

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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2506886376194591

I felt it appropriate to inform my Facebook readers that --name-snipped-- has unfriended me. I think that is best for her and for me, at least as of now. I wish her well in her spiritual path.

I request that no comments be made on this post as I think some comments may lead to the matter getting emotionally inflamed which I want to avoid. I will be deleting any comments that are made on this post - after Swami Mahasamadhi in April 2011 I have seen and been through just too much emotional upheaval in my circle of friends in Sathya Sai fraternity and so I want to go the extra mile to prevent this particular matter from getting emotionally inflamed.

I repeat that I wish --name-snipped-- well in her spiritual path.

Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavantu
Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavantu
Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavantu

Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi

Jai Sai Ram!
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On an FB post about Russill Paul's chant videos (e.g. Russill Paul - Rudram, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiS8SQGbE9g)

I wrote: Interesting! Great voice for the Vedic chants and his pronunciation seems to be excellent. The background music adds pleasantness. .... Need to also mention that Vedic puritans may prefer the raw chants without background music. ... But I liked it.

BTW I come from a Sama Veda family background though I personally never learned Sama Veda chanting and only participated in the rituals that priests would conduct.

If you have not heard traditional Sama Veda chants here is one example (interested folks can just view it for a few minutes as it is a longish video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSLnr3_gkVA
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Here is some traditional Yajur Veda chants by Pandits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iS7PUIZfu_w, 9 min 39 secs.
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Here's a nice Sama Veda chanting session by pandits. Note that after the initial prayer they chant the first verse of the Veda (Rig Veda) - Agnimeele Purohitam - in what seems to be Sama Veda chant style. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZ8CLL6ucy4
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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2506531522896743

Dadar railway station is an important railway station (and connects commuters from Central & Western Railway) in Mumbai. It serves as a station for both suburban (local) trains and long-distance trains.

I have memories of Dadar area and its railway station that stretch over most of the first four decades of my life!

So I was very happy to see these pics of Sathya Sai orgn. blood donation camp at Dadar, with some of the pics showing Dadar railway station with volunteers holding placards inviting people to donate blood.

[Shared Link: https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipO2xNVQ4nmrsaqvmuxaccMd11LFZYGDRGRQM9T0fEJn-oXNW-Xry4QTsQ7286MHGA?key=VHZmd1pGNkdpYnZjVlVPcHFrN0hjd1dVcWtmVkln]

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https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2506325209584041

Less than 2 min video. I am glad to see sitting CM of Andhra Pradesh, who is of the Christian faith, pay respects in this nice manner to a Hindu spiritual head. Note that this post was shared on the AP CM's Facebook Timeline.

Please note that I have a PUBLICLY POLITICALLY NEUTRAL role in these social media posts. I am not a supporter of any particular political party. I am only expressing my support and appreciation for some actions of the duly elected Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh which is the state where I live in now and have been living in for over 16 years.

https://www.facebook.com/ysjagan/videos/906574103011380/

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Given below are some comments of mine (slightly edited) in early June 2019 on some FB post-thread:

I support --name-snipped-- and --name-snipped-- and others here on the need to call out --name-snipped--'s behaviour in our Facebook community so as to warn others to be careful in their dealings with him. There was a period when --name-snipped-- and I interacted heavily on combating Muddenahalli group spiritual fraud  perhaps in 2015 & 2016. I also have to acknowledge that --name-snipped--'s aggression against MDH then was helpful to our cause as MDH group were very powerful then on social media and used all kinds of pressure including bullying on Facebook to try to silence those of us who were active in exposing MDH group fraud.

Later things turned sour between --name-snipped-- and me. And once they turned sour, I saw a nasty side of --name-snipped-- which was now targeting me. Based on --name-snipped-- and me having worked together on social media in the past, I tried to tolerate --name-snipped--'s nastiness towards me for some time by protesting against it but not going to the extent of unfriending him.

As it got worse, I decided to unfriend him. Later, he used cuss words against me (on --name-snipped--'s post which --name-snipped-- later deleted) and rather than demonstrating to him that I can use cuss words as well as he can, I chose the more spiritually appropriate step of blocking him which essentially made his words about me on Facebook go out of my sight.

The reason why I have shared the above is that I felt I need to say this, to contribute my bit in publicly calling out his bad behaviour which may help some innocent people on Facebook to handle his bad behaviour in a better way.

Having said that, I think we need to cool down things between --name-snipped-- and --name-snipped--.

I think we all have our flaws. I certainly do.

I think opinions have been expressed freely here between --name-snipped-- and --name-snipped--. Perhaps now is the time to cool it and let time do the introspection, acceptance of one's mistakes and eventual healing and improvement. It is not easy to accept that one is at fault in a public Facebook conversation and that applies to me too - I am just a struggling spiritual aspirant with my fair share of human flaws.

My prayers to our beloved and revered Lord, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, that things cool down now, and let time do the healing.
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In response to a comment, I wrote:
--name-snipped-- - Enjoy your chai (tea). I will make a cup of chai for myself now and enjoy it too.
Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavantu
Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavantu
Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavantu
Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi
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I wrote:
Praying for peace ... Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi, while sipping and enjoying my chai!
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My view on cyber bullying on Facebook and how to handle it

This post is based on a recent comment of mine on Facebook.

Cyber bullying is bad. If someone indulges in it and then genuinely repents for his/her bad behaviour and is willing to stay away from it in future, then its different. Such people should be given a second chance.

But if they are habitual cyber bullies and use cyber bullying as a way to dominate others when things don't go their way, then I think it is best to stay away from such habitual cyber bullies.

Very unfortunately, the Internet seems to inflame the ugly cyber bullying side in some people as they know that they will typically not have to suffer consequences for it even if they are doing it in their real name, like they would if they indulged in bullying in their regular workplace.

Facebook is quite poor at punishing such behaviour and expects the persons impacted to handle it themselves by blocking the offenders. I find that rather disappointing of Facebook. But then maybe they don't want to play ethical policeman of cyber bullies and have much more serious things to worry about (like people who try to create damage in real life after talking about it in Facebook).

So the onus falls on us users of Facebook. I think unfriending and blocking habitual cyberbullies is a good solution.
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Associated Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2506300692919826
==============================

In response to a comment on Facebook about Facebook AI bots to handle bullies possibility, I wrote:
I watched a lot of the Congressional hearings where Mark Zuckerberg testified on behalf of Facebook. I don't recall hearing anything about bullying! I mean, there were far bigger issues that were being discussed in that public hearing. ... I don't know enough about AI bots to know how effective they would be in detecting bullying behaviour accurately. But even if that can be done, I think Facebook will hesitate to implement it as if the AI bot identifies powerful people (e.g. elected US representatives) as having written bullying posts, Facebook will be made to pay for that!

Further, perhaps some level of bullying may be acceptable as Free Speech in USA! So there could be a lawsuit against Facebook that they are blocking free speech, if they deploy such an AI bot!

In the Congressional hearings, Zuckerberg was put on the spot by some Congressmen (perhaps some Congresswomen too, but I don't recall that) as being biased against some political views and so blocking those views. I think they were giving a message to him that you better not block such political views from USA citizens on Facebook or else we will haul you up on the charge of restricting/blocking freedom of speech. Zuckerberg was super-polite to them and tried to assure them that Facebook will look into those incidents Congressmen talked about and that Facebook will stay politically neutral.

Physical violence threat was where, IIRC, there was unanimity among Congressmen and Congresswomen and Zuckerberg that that should be called out and blocked. But anything lesser than that perhaps may get viewed as free speech in the USA protected by the First Amendment of the USA Constitution.
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In response to comment that Facebook is already using AI bots to delete (abusive) posts in some scenarios, I wrote (slightly edited):

Got some time to do some digging up. From How Facebook uses artificial intelligence to take down abusive posts, https://www.cnet.com/news/heres-how-facebook-uses-artificial-intelligence-to-take-down-abusive-posts-f8/, dated May 2, 2018, "The bottom line is that automated AI tools help mainly in seven areas: nudity, graphic violence, terrorist content, hate speech, spam, fake accounts and suicide prevention."
...
"Something like hate speech is harder to police solely with AI because there are often different intents behind that speech. It can be sarcastic or self-referential, or it may try to raise awareness about hate speech."
--- end small extracts ---

Ravi: The question is whether bullying of the kind we are talking about will be viewed as hate speech even after their AI technology gets better. I doubt it. ... Some of the comments that get put up on the Internet are horrifyingly vicious but which may not cross the line of threatening violence. I think that's what would be viewed as hate speech.
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Monday, June 3, 2019

My stand as a social media writer of acceptance of same-sex marriage persons in countries where its legal, as normal people; Social media friends who are very offended may please unfriend/unfollow me

Last updated on 5th June 2019

Recently the grandson of Singapore's founder Lee Kuan Yew, Li Huanwu got married to his gay partner, https://www.nst.com.my/world/2019/05/491408/singapore-founding-father-lee-kuan-yews-gay-grandson-ties-knot-south-africa in South Africa. Note that homosexual sex is illegal in Singapore as per this report.

Also note that Malaysia which is the close neighbour to Singapore, seems to have a similar law at least for its Muslim Malay citizens, making gay sexual relations illegal. Famously, Malaysia had jailed its former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim with the charge (and conviction) of sodomy (gay sex), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anwar_Ibrahim_sodomy_trials.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anwar_Ibrahim_sodomy_trials#Royal_pardon, Anwar Ibrahim suffered a miscarriage of justice (which I understand to mean that he was NOT guilty of the sodomy charges) and was given a full royal pardon on 16 May 2018, by Malaysia's king, Sultan Muhammad V.

Now I have personally come to terms with gay sexual choice in some parts of the world where it is legal. Apple's boss, Tim Cook, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Cook, is gay.

A top Hindu academic scholar, Prof. Diana Eck, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana_L._Eck, of Harvard University, USA, is openly lesbian. It took me a while to handle Prof. Eck being gay (lesbian) as she has written **awesome** books on Hinduism. But I got around to accepting it eventually as her personal sexual choice, and keeping that distinct from her academic scholarship on Hinduism and comparative religion. I continue to have ***great respect*** for Prof. Diana Eck for her academic scholarship on Hinduism (I have not read much of her comparative religion scholarship work).

As a social media writer on spirituality & religion, I am not comfortable in promoting gay/same-sex marriage, as I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman (I am sorry if that offends some readers but I felt it important to state my view on this clearly). But neither am I willing to be critical of gay marriage in countries where gay (same-sex) marriage is legal, like in USA (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage_in_the_United_States).

I respect the gay marriage choice of same-sex married couples in countries where that is legal. And so I respect the gay marriage choice of Li Huanwu, the grandson of Lee Kuan Yew, founder of Singapore. In particular, I do not consider him to have any mental disorder nor do I consider him to be weird, just like I do not consider Prof. Diana Eck or Mr. Tim Cook as having any mental disorder or being weird.

In fact, I was very happy to see the Ambani family accompany Tim Cook to the famous Siddhi Vinayak temple in Mumbai for darshan of Siddhi Vinayak in May 2016 (Tim Cook visits Ganesha temple, https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/tim-cook-visits-ganesha-temple/238584.html).

But I get the impression that some social media friend(s) of mine are rather intolerant (to put it mildly) of gay/lesbian sex/marriage anywhere in the world. They may have a lot of discomfort with my stand.

So I felt it appropriate to put up this post. I request those social media friends/followers of mine who are very uncomfortable with my acceptance of gay/lesbian people in countries where that's legal, as normal people (and NOT as weirdos or people with some mental defects) to please unfriend/unfollow me. Note that my social media friends are free to disagree with my view - we can continue to be friends who politely disagree on this. But those who are very uncomfortable (I think those who are very intolerant of gay/lesbian people, may think my views are all garbage) with my stand should unfriend/unfollow me. I think that will be best for such social media friends/followers of mine, and for me. Thanks.
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Given below are some comment(s) from my Facebook post,  https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/2504756589740903, associated with this post:

In response to a comment, I wrote (slightly edited):

Thank you for your polite disagreement and for continuing to be my friend. I have noted your view. I just don't know enough to form a view whether same-sex relationship is natural or unnatural (I believe there are conflicting views on this). But, of course, for most of history of human society, same-sex behaviour was not encouraged. Further, it is heterosexual relationship (man & woman) that has sustained human society over centuries and millennia. So I am fully supportive of heterosexual relationship as I think that is vital for healthy society. And I do ***not*** promote gay/lesbian sexual relationships but I am tolerant towards it being practiced by others when it is permitted under law. I am ***not*** a homophobe, https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/homophobe.

I am glad to know that you emphasize that rights as citizens of gays/lesbians should be protected. ... Note that these rights vary from country to country. ... I think such acceptance of (legal) rights of gay/lesbian citizens is a healthy attitude and a law-abiding attitude.
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In response to a comment, I wrote (slightly edited):
Thanks for your interesting view, --name-snipped--. I agree with large parts of it.

About the laws part: This topic is a super-sensitive topic, especially in conservative societies/communities. I give a lot of value to "Sangha Neethi" (morally/ethically acceptable behaviour in a community) in such sensitive matters. And "Sangha Neethi" in democratic countries, and also in some non-democratic countries, is usually reflected in such sensitive areas through laws enacted by elected representatives which are vetted by the judiciary. So I give a lot of value to laws in this sensitive matter as I consider them to be reflective of the Sangha Neethi of the state and/or country, or at least the majoritarian view of the state/country.

Another reason I stress on the law aspect for this super-sensitive topic, is that in some countries gay sex may be punished by death as per their laws though they may not implement that death penalty in all such cases (or may implement it very, very rarely)!!! I mean, this is really, really serious stuff for people living in some countries. I repeat, the penalty can be death as per law and not limited to just some prison term. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_penalty_for_homosexuality for more info.

In such serious matters, I prefer to go the extra mile in my stand so as to stay within the law of the land that applies to various individuals.
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In response to a comment, I wrote (slightly edited):
I am not in a position nor am I interested to be an activist for gay rights in such countries or even in any other country. So I am not saying anything about what should be done for gays in countries where they are persecuted either only on paper or in reality.

I am limiting my stand to apply to gays in countries where their rights are legally protected to some extent or to the full extent.

My silence about gays in countries where gay sex is illegal does not mean that I expect them to follow the law of the land.

If others like you would like to be an activist, say via social media writings, for gay rights in such countries, I certainly will not object. I will simply be neutral and not get involved in such activism. However, I think it is appropriate for me to add a word of caution that getting involved in activism for gay rights in countries where it is illegal, may invite unwanted attention from those in power in those countries and right-wing religious groups in those countries.
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