A Book A Week Challenge – Week 12

A working theoretical physicist with particle physics and cosmology as a domain of expertise giving a talk would be the most interesting session you could ever attend.

What if, the topic that they chose is the one which is very close to your heart – the beginning of this universe and the reason what made it shape it into the current form.

Top it up with accreting concepts of sociology, philosophy, cosmology, chemistry and at times just simple physics.

Bind it into one comprehensive 363 pages book – what you experience can be referred to as ‘Intellectual Orgasm’.

If I could ever get an opportunity one day to meet Lisa Randall, I would stand up, clap and take my hat off to bow. No one had influenced me so much in the recent years as much Lisa Randall did. Like many people who admire someone, I read through her interviews, articles and talks as many as I can in whatever spare time I got after reading the book (and work).

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Book #: 12

Title: “Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs- The astounding interconnectedness of the Universe” by Lisa Randall.

Pages: 363

The terminologies related to cosmology could often be intimidating when you take them simply on their face value. Take a step into a mystic universe, Lisa Randall makes these terms agonizingly simple. It would make you feel scared to admit to yourself that you understood the concept so easily – basic understanding of the terms and a bit logical connection between these fundamentals can lead you to derive something path breaking. Of course, to prove it scientifically, you would need the strength of physical evidence but, theoretical conclusions can be made that could be proven with the advancements of technology.

“Science concerns those ideas that at least in principle we can verify or rule out through experiments and observations. Philosophy, to a scientist, at least concerns questions we will never reliably answer”

AS SIMPLE AS IT AND AS PRECISE TO THE DOT.

The premise of the book is very straight forward – What is Dark Matter and how was it indirectly responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs. The book takes a lot of detours – only to make your journey even more beautiful.

The book is broadly divided into three sections:

  1. The development of the Universe
  2. An Active Solar System and
  3. Deciphering Dark Matter’s identity.

I would present examples to depict how brilliant the writing was, which proposes some of the brilliant conclusions to explain the causes of effects that we are experiencing today:

Scientific:

“Since matter and antimatter (same mass but opposite charge) together carry no charge, charge conservation and Einstein’s famous formula E=Mc2 tell us that matter can meet up with antimatter to disappear into pure energy- which also has no charge” If that is the case, then why do we have matter stuck around until today, “this is because matter dominates over antimatter – matter- antimatter asymmetry”

The origin of the asymmetry remains one of the important unsolved problems in cosmology.

Analogies:

“The redshift is the shift in the frequency of the light that a receding object emits, which, like the lowering of the pitch of an ambulance’s siren when it’s racing away, tells how quickly something moves from a source of light or sound”

Any book that would be considered brilliant would push for more intimidating questions, the answers for which is the pursuit of this life of yours.

Even though the book takes its own time to put together all the fundamentals, these are essentials that you need to be understand to appreciate the one giant potential conspiracy on what caused the extinction of dinosaurs.

As someone suggested ‘we are all only minuscule dust in this grandeur universe’, this one helps to put things in perspective and Lisa Randall contributes herself to the argument with this statement:

“Why should we have perfect senses that can directly perceive everything? The big lesson of physics over the centuries is how much is hidden from our view. From this perspective, the question is really why the stuff we do know about should constitute as much of the energy density of the Universe as it does”

That puts you right back in the spot of your own realization of this universe.

I am planning to spend some more time to pick one or two sentence descriptions of some fundamentals described in this book (hopefully that is not considered as copyright concern) which would help some of us who encounter time crunch to read books ( the irony of it).

It is such a shame that such brilliant simple explanations about our universe don’t make it our physics textbooks as much as it should.

Here is the perfect description of what science needs to accomplish as described by Maria Popova for New York Times in her review of this book:

“Science, after all, isn’t merely about advancing information — it’s about advancing understanding. Its task is to disentangle the opinions and the claims from the facts in the service of truth. But beyond the “what” of truth, successful science writing tells a complete story of the “how” — the methodical marvel building up to the “why” — and Randall does just that. “

A Book A Week Challenge – Week 11

I have a confession to make before I share my thoughts on the book that I just finished reading. I wouldn’t have picked up this book on any given day (except for that day when it all started). I was randomly browsing through a few articles on internet and this article  from BBC on Autism and workplace popped up from somewhere. This really got me going to into reading a bit about Autism and about how Neurons behave in order to maintain our so called ‘mental balance’. That was when I decided to pick a book that gives a detailed account of Autism and how others try to peep into their brain.

That was how I ended up picking ‘Neuro Tribes’ by Steve Silberman.

Six days and many tempestuous stories later, here I am trying to share my thoughts on the book and the big question it addresses.

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Book #: 11

Title: Neuro Tribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to think smarter about people who think differently by Steve Silberman

Pages: 544.

Often ignored but the most important credit of this book should go to it’s title. It was brilliantly phrased title giving the reader complete sense of what to come when you flip through that cover- a long but detailed, focused account on how a second person perceives an individual with autistic. Going to back the article from BBC, it tells you how much the world had changed in the way we treat them but to know how we go there, you got to read through these 544 pages.

Even the best of scholars tend to be cautious to describe someone as ‘different’ – but the societies earlier didn’t deal with them so cautiously. They were sent to rehabilitation centers, almost used as guinea-pigs for so called ‘anti-psychotic’ drugs and were made victims of nugatory shock treatments. But, thanks to Mr. Asperger and Mr. Leo Kanner who took that giant leap to put the efforts to not just recognize the problem but to have tried to address them.

Steve Silberman, a journalist himself, did exactly what needs to be done when writing an account as emotional as this. He just focused on the intrinsic emotion that the individuals and families go through leaving out the clichéd drama. The language used was exactly from those research dissertations- straight, sharp, focused and detailed attention.

By the time you reach the closing phases of this book, you would realize how beautiful it is in it’s natural form. No added flavors. Steve made sure that he stuck to the point describing the history of autism and how today’s evolved itself into accepting it with no or minimal inhibitions.

The book talk about how the movie Rain Man was made and about Emergencequoted as the first book that was ever written by an autistic individual. As you read through the book, you encounter many more references which point to the most recent research on autism.

Someone can defend by saying the world had much bigger problems to deal about back then than trying to understand others- The World Wars and the cholera apocalypse that taught the entire world a huge lesson. But that is where the beauty of evolution lies.

Instead of drafting my own words, I would leave it to Oliver Sacks to share his opinion with us. I totally agree with every word he had written in his short and simple Foreword.

Excerpt from the Foreword:

“NeuroTribes is a sweeping and penetrating history of all this (changing attitudes), presented with a rare sympathy and sensitivity. It is fascinating reading; it will change how you think of autism, and it belongs alongside the works of Temple Grandin and Clara Claiborne Park, on the bookshelf of anyone interested in autism and the workings of the human brain”

Yes, Mr. Oliver, I totally agree with you. This is a book that deserves to be read and more importantly to be understood. It totally changes our perspective on not only how we think smartly about autistic people but also every single person you meet.

After all, aren’t we all from that single unified tribe separated by our epidermis but connected through our neurons.

The Beginner’s Guide to 2016 Formula 1 Season

Even for those among us who always wanted to sit back and lead a calm and hassle free life, there would be some point of life  (even for a flash second) where in we craved for speed and mad rush. For others, who enjoyed a rough, on-the-go lifestyle, auto sport might be the first choice preference.

When we talk of auto sports, it could not get any bigger and better than Formula 1. And the new season is almost on us, with just three days to go before that chequered flag waves off in Australia.

The number of terms or glossary or rules that you were hit with whenever you read that article related to Formula 1, could make it intimidating, even for some core followers of the sport. There are few interesting things that you need to be aware of before the race cars hits those Melbourne tracks.

The Beginner’s Guide to 2016 Formula 1 Season includes five key aspects: Tracks, Teams, Points, Tyres and New Qualification Rules. For the rest of information, you will get a hold of them on the go as the season unfolds itself.

So, Let’s Go:

1. Tracks: 

“I love racing so we always welcome more racing. But, it is going to be grueling this season” Lewis Hamilton, the current champion, said during a candid chat for Mercedes’s YouTube Channel.

Yes. It is going one to be the longest Formula 1 season ever with 21 races, starting off with Australian Grand Prix on 18th March 2016 and signing off with Abu Dhabi on 27th November 2016. The previous highest for number of races in a single season was 20 races during 2012 season, which gave Sebastian Vettel, his third world championship. This time Lewis Hamilton is looking for his third consecutive world championship.

Here is the schedule for all the 21 races:

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2. Teams: 

11 teams take part in this season of Formula 1 with Haas-Ferrari being the new inclusion from the previous season. This would essentially mean that the number of drivers participating in this edition increase to 22 from 20.

This season will also witness a change in team name for Marussia to Manor Racing with completely new faces in their cockpits. It would also witness Lotus F1 being dismantled and renewed as Renault F1 with a new personnel.

Here is how the teams look like for 2016 F1 season:

F1 Teams.jpg

Last two years had witnessed an enormous growth and non intimidating emergence of Mercedes. This season,however, is expected to be a much closer contest between Mercedes and Ferrari. If the testing was anything to go by, Ferrari made a clear progress with their renewed version of cars.

3) Points:

There is no change in the points system in the recent years. The winner gets 25 points and the last position that could win at least one is number 10. Below that, you do not get any points.

Here is how the points table looks like, by position:

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During the 2015 season, Lewis Hamilton finished off with an aggregate of 381 points followed by his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, who accumulated 322 points. Excluding Marussia, Marcus Ericsson of Sauber could only post 9 points in total.

4) Tyres:

The dependency on rules for number of tyre sets that each driver could opt for had been reduced over the years. The number of tyre sets that a driver could opt to remains at 13. But, each driver is given a choice pick the ratio of the type of tyres, he would need eight weeks in advance. Pirelli expects this could promote heavy pre-race strategies, given the advantages that one version of tyres offer over others.

The tyres are categorized into: Medium, soft and super-soft depending on the types of compounds included. Of the 13 tyre sets which are allocated to a driver, three of them would be nominated by the tyre maker Pirelli.

Here is the tyre combination chosen by each driver ahead of Australian Grand Prix:

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Mercedes, Haas and Sauber are the only teams in which the team drivers opted for a different choice of tyre ratios. Depending on how they utilize these change sets and the progress they make, we are looking at a potentially great post season data analysis.

5) New Qualification Rules:

New qualification rules can be considered as one of the most revolutionary changes that is being introduced during this season. The organizing committee FIA approved of these new changes in qualification on March 4th, just 15 days ahead of the first race.

There were concerns raised by multiple parties about the new rules but there is some sense of renewed anticipation as to how this effect the race altogether.  It can be regarded as the single most rule shift in scoring system after 107% rule.

Here is how the new qualification rules shape up:

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So, that is it.

You now have enough knowledge to keep track of what would occur in the current Formula 1 new season.

Let’s expect this would a great racing season with grueling schedule and all those uncertainties lurking around.

Heavy Midtable fight expected in EAST Conference

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We are almost into that phase of 2016-17 Regular season for NBA with most of the teams aware of their to-dos in order to make it to the play offs. With the introduction of new qualification criteria, wherein any 8 teams in a particular conference, irrespective of their division, can make it to the Play Offs. Only key criteria that needs to be met is the ‘Win %’ followed by a series of tie breaks.

As the table stands, the eight teams with the highest Win % (also accounted for tiebreaks) in EAST conference are:

Cleveland Cavaliers [Win: 71.9% | Remaining: H-8, A-10, Total: 18]

Toronto Raptors [Win: 68.8% | Remaining: H-8. A-10, Total: 18]

Boston Celtics [Win: 59.1% | Remaining: H-7, A-9, Total: 16]

Miami Heat [Win: 57.6% | Remaining: H-8, A-8, Total: 16]

Charlotte Hornets [Win: 56.9% | Remaining: H-7, A-10, Total: 17]

Atlanta Hawks [Win: 56.1% | Remaining: H-9, A-7, Total: 16]

Indiana Pacers [Win: 53.8% | Remaining: H-11, A-6, Total: 17]

Detroit Pistons [Win: 51.5% | Remaining: H-11, A-5, Total: 16]

In order to predict the teams that could finally make it to the Play-Offs and the expected positions at which they could potentially finish off at the end of regular season, I used the differential of success between the teams that contest.

The success % at Home and Away are considered as a proxy for the strength of teams’ during their Home and Away games. This strength of the teams is compared to the opposition teams’ strength and the result is predicted.

As it turns out, the below table indicates current win % at home and away for all the 15 teams in EAST conference along with avg. estimated strength of the opposition teams they encounter in the remaining matches. 2.png

No change in the Eight Teams:

 Based on the predicted results, there would not be any difference in the teams that could make it to the Play Offs but expect to witness very tight tussle in mid-table between Indiana, Atlanta and Miami.

Cleveland Cavaliers could end up at the pivotal position in the EAST conference even though they could potentially face a setback in away games. They have a possibility of winning all games at home but could only win potentially 40% of games away. The more they could pull off these away games, the easier would be for them to buffer for Toronto’s upsurge.

Toronto Raptors could finish at the second position with a minimal difference from Cleveland. They need to play 10 games away from home and every game they play away would be crucial to bridge the gap between themselves and Cleveland.

Expect a really tight race for the Top position in EAST conference.

The bottom two teams that could make it to the Play Offs rather easily are: Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons.

But, the very interesting contest in the EAST conference comes from the mid-table, where Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat fighting desperate to move as many positions up as possible.

Predicted Table:

Here is the predicted table at which EAST conference end up:

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A Book A Week Challenge – Week 10

Here we are 10 weeks since I started ‘A Book A Week Challenge’, I am able accomplish a small milestone of reading ten books. It is an occasion to celebrate for me personally because of the fact that no week was skipped in between. I would probably want to reward myself with a weeklong break. But, reading is now more of a habit than a hobby. So, I should keep going.

Stephen J. Dubner and Seven Levitt did it first (in the order of my reading) in their best-selling book ‘Freakonomics’, Randall Munroe in all his three books and Malcolm Gladwell, himself did it in all of his previous books. I am talking about ‘Hypothesis driven books’ (if there was ever a term used like this). But, the objective of these books is pretty clear. There are multiple hypotheses proposed with a single underlying theme and different chapters in the book were allocated to support or reject these hypotheses.

You just have to sit back and read through the analysis or cases to take your personal stance either for or against the hypothesis the author is trying to propose. The more hypothesis you agree with, the effective is the writing.

Malcolm Gladwell in his latest book ‘David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and The Art of Battling Giants’ proposes some of brilliant hypotheses but not as much convincing cases.

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Week #:10

Title: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and The Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Pages: 275

As once said by a famous film maker “The regular normal stories are boring to me. I always look out for those exceptions from the rule or those misfits who make stories really interesting” Malcolm Gladwell would have agreed with him so much as to write a whole book fitting that theme.

‘David and Goliath’ has a single point agenda to prove how wrong we were so far on our judgmental perceptions on how we look at Giants and Underdogs. More often than not, we support “The Giant” because they have the skill, potential and strength to handle crisis. But, there would always be some part of us who would wish for “that surprise” upset from Underdogs, not because we know they have big heart but to satisfy our own self egos.

There is a quote from the movie which I saw recently “People sympathize with the deer and hope that it would escape that chase from tiger. It is not because we feel for the deer. But, because we cannot do anything about the tiger and its failure gives that false satisfaction”

Malcolm Gladwell takes a counter stance and suggests the Giants receive those setbacks due to our misclassified definition of ‘Advantages’ vs. ‘Disadvantages’.

Like all his previous books and highly criticized previous book ‘Outliers’, Malcolm Gladwell takes real life examples and scenarios to make his case for the proposed hypotheses. But, the style of writing has now gone stale and you exactly get what you expect or sometimes even less from the book taking the excitement out of your reading.

Three points and Nine chapters to explain two basic fundamentals – How we misunderstand ‘advantage’ and why those with inherent ‘disadvantage’ make it big in their careers.

Here is my interpretation or learning from the chapters in this book:

David-vs-Goliath.jpgINTRODUCTION- Goliath

The theme of the book: “The strong ones are not as strong as we believe they are and the weaker ones are not as weak as we think”

PART ONE – The Advantages of Disadvantage (And the disadvantages of advantage)

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CHAPTER ONE – Vivek Randive (Software engineer turned basketball coach)

Hypothesis/Question: The high press defense from ‘short’ teams forces errors on ‘tall’ teams

CHAPTER TWO- Teresa De Barito (Principal of a Middle School)

Hypothesis/Question: What is the right class strength for effective academic learning experience?

CHAPTER THREE- Caroline Sacks (College Student)

Hypothesis/Question: “Big Pond- Small Fish vs. Small Pond- Big Fish”

PART TWO – The Theory of Desirable Difficulty

famous_people_with_dyslexia.jpgCHAPTER FOUR- David Bowies (Lawyer)

Hypothesis/Question: Dyslexia as a child makes you a great learner or a successful individual?

CHAPTER FIVE- Emil “Jay” Freireich (Scientist)

Hypothesis/Question: Lack of parent support as child makes you ready for the bad world

CHAPTER SIX- Wyatt Walker (Baptist Minister)

Hypothesis/Question: Can an event as simple as a photograph change the course of whole history?

PART THREE- The Limits of Power

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CHAPTER SEVEN- Rosemary Lawlor (Beloved Wife)

Hypothesis/Question: Is conditional discipline a good or a bad strategy?

CHAPTER EIGHT- Wilma Derksen (Happy Mother)

Hypothesis/Question: Does accomplishments drive your power? Or is forgiveness the biggest power?

CHAPTER NINE- Andre Trocme (Pastor)

Hypothesis/Question: It never really dawned upon us if helping Jews was a crime at all. Shouldn’t there be universal acceptance.

 

Having read three of his previous books, ‘The Tipping Point’, ‘Blink’ and ‘Outlier’, I was so looking forward to this book. But, Malcolm Gladwell’s writing gets bit stale and occasionally unconvincing. He had some brilliant hypothesis to be tested but they were not efficiently backed by the case studies. There were more instances that you contradict than agree which makes a strong case against loving this book.

Reading Recommendation: Chapter summaries should be sufficient.

Warriors chasing the Big Dream

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20 long years since Chicago Bulls broke the record for most wins in a regular NBA season in 1995-96, Golden State Warriors is almost on the verge of chasing that Big Dream. The closest any team came in all these years was Chicago Bulls themselves, who almost broke their own record in 1996-97 season with 69 wins.

Ever since the team had changed themselves into ‘Golden State Warriors’, they won the championship only twice. Once in 1975 and the other in 2015. Warriors finished their previous season at 67-15 (81.7% win) and this time they carry the extra burden of expectations to win the league along with that big dream of recording most wins in a single NBA season.

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The Best ‘Curry’ ever:

They were just outstanding so far. They got one of the best players (or ‘almost’ a modern day legend) in the form of Stephen Curry, who contributed to 30.37% of team points so far. Klay Thompson (21.84%) and Draymond Green’s (13.55%) contribution could not be overlooked at all. Even in the absence of Stephen Curry, who missed out only on three instances or during those rare off days at office, these two players took that responsibility on themselves.

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The Tricky Phase:

Even though things look so bright for Warriors to break the record, they are entering into one of the trickiest phases of this season.

They have 19 games left to play and they need to register 16 wins, turns out to be approx. 84% success, a 6% less success rate than they currently stand at.

Of the 19 games that they play, they have 3 games left against San Antonio Spurs, which is the second best team in terms of success % so far this season. Spurs have registered 84.4% success with 54-10. Even though, Warriors have swept them with a huge 30 point difference win last time they played, two games away from home could be a bit tricky. Spurs is the only team that enjoys 100% record at home other than Warriors.

So, the biggest opponent that could hinder Warriors chances is San Antonio Spurs.

Northwest Division was a division that offered Warriors the least happy trips so far. They enjoy only 85% of success rate against these teams, which is second lowest after Central Division. With Central division games done with, Northwest Division would be a division Warriors would be cautious about.

The next game that Warriors play is against Portland Blazers, which is only team that had beaten Warriors in the Second game of duals after Detroit Pistons. Warriors now have a huge burden on their back to come back from a loss.

The Last Game Syndrome:

Having won first 24 games in the season, everyone waited eagerly to see where the first loss comes from for Warriors. It finally came after 24 games from Milwaukee Bucks. It didn’t take long for them to recover from the shocker as they returned back the favor in a week days’ time.

But, the last games that Warriors played against the teams had ‘relatively’ poorer performances. This is also one aspect that could make things tricky for them.

First game success percentage recorded was 93% (27-2), but the last game success (so far) stands at only 81.25%.

IMG_20160310_184430.jpgMay be fatigue or may be confidence or may be injuries could play a huge part in deciding these big games for Warriors.

Could they achieve the record for most wins?

How long can Curry go on in this injury stuck phase?

We can only wait and watch.

Games Remaining (Warriors % Win so far):

3 Games- San Antonio Spurs (100%)

2 Games- Memphis (100%), Dallas (50%), Portland (50%) and Minnesota (100%)

1 Game- Phoenix (100%), Utah (100%), Los Angeles Clippers (100%), New Orleans (100%), Washington (100%), Boston (100%), New York (100%) and Philadelphia (100%)

 

A Book A Week Challenge – Week 9

Having a pet was never one of those things that I would have even considered until the day I picked up this memoir novel by Helen Macdonald. Of all the those options for pets, Goshawk definitely didn’t cross my mind ever before.

It would only be a lie if I said that after reading ‘H for Hawk’, I have decided to have a pet for myself. But, this reading gave me a totally different perspective on training or petting animals. Picking dogs, cats, hamsters or rabbits might have helped me to understand the nuances, because I knew tons of people around me who have them as pets – but Goshawks, never heard.

Probably that could even be the reason why I had to put a conscious effort towards getting into the skin of Helen Macdonald.

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Book #: 9

Title: ‘H is for Hawk‘ by Helen Macdonald

Pages: 288

It is not just a memoir of one generation who is willing to take up that effort to train the hawks, it moves down the memory lane into the childhood of her father who loved photography. Suddenly, he is gone and she had to live with that fact.

Isn’t trust that should be mutually earned?

Humans and hawks probably didn’t blend as much in the history but hawks were not a bad choice for having to be a franchise names. Hunters were used as synonymous to Hawks, in all those scenarios.

But, here we are: two different species, trying to make peace out of their grief struck lives.

It’s only the connection that matters now.

As she narrates the first time she meets the hawk:

“My heart jumps sideways. She is a conjuring trick. A reptile. A fallen angel. A griffon from the pages of an illuminated bestiary. Something bright and distant, like gold falling through water.” 

Even though I haven’t read T.H. White’s “The Goshawk”, I could read through the structure of this book, how much that a book could be an influence. Probably, someday in the near future someone will quote “H is for Hawk” with the same admiration.

The beginning was tough like it would be every time you venture out into the zone you haven’t experienced before. But, sometimes it could as well be the best moment when you took that leap.

I took that to read “H is for Hawk”

Henry Macdonald took that.

Mabel (Goshawk) took that too.

In the closing chapters, it was no longer Macdonald who was living with goshawk, it’s everyone of us as individuals. It was no longer the narration of someone who you never met before. It was about your experience, your joy of having a pet, feeding it, training it, emotionally connecting it and living in exactly the same world.

If you already have a pet, you might have experienced a bit of it. But, if you haven’t had a pet, read this one to give you a reason.