Mall Covidiots

The mall is where you get to see the worst of humanity, as I have previously noted here, here & here. These days, they are full of covidiots. On a recent trip to Ambience Mall, I decided to observe them in detail and discovered that there are different types.

The first type are the ones who wear a mask, but keep their noses out of the mask. Their aim is to fool casual observers into thinking that they are fully masked, but the joke is on you, as their respiratory tract is actually completely unobstructed. They can get away with this in 90% situations with minimal inconvenience of a mask on their face.

The second type are the ones who wear a mask on their chin. They don’t pretend to be complying with mask rules, but have a mask dangling from their chin just in case someone challenges them, when they can quickly move the mask up and cover their faces like nothing happened.

The third type are the boldest. They won’t wear a mask at all. They won’t even pretend to wear a mask, nor do they carry a mask in their hand. They are above all this pretentious bullshit. They roam around openly without a mask, just waiting for someone to challenge them, so that they can inform them who their uncle/father is.

The saddest part of all this? It took me less than 2 minutes of sitting stationary in the mall to take these photos.

Flipkart Sucks Balls

I almost never order anything from Flipkart, because, as the title says, Flipkart sucks balls. It sucks balls in so many ways that one blog post won’t do justice to its ball sucking. So, in this post, I will focus on their sucky logistics.

Recently, I needed to buy something that I couldn’t find in stock anywhere (including Brick and Mortar stores & Amazon). Having exhausted all options, I checked Flipkart & surprisingly they had one in stock. The delivery date was a week away, but I had no other option, so I bought one anyway.

To my surprise, they were quite fast shipping the item (from a place called Malur near Bengaluru). Within a few hours, the item was already packed and shipped.

Pretty strong start!

Could it be, that in the last few years, Flipkart has improved so much? Let’s see what happens next.

Soon enough, Flipkart showed its true colours. They waited 1 full day to ship the item out of Malur. The item then took 2 full days to reach Farukhnagar, which is a place near Gurgaon.

True Colours

One more full day to move the item the few kilometres between Farukhnagar & Gurgaon.

I can walk faster than this

Still, I think, the item has reached Gurgaon 2 days before the delivery date, so I should get it delivered the same or at least the next day. But it turns out, I am a fool for thinking that. The item just sits at this facility (doing nothing) for 2 more days before being sent out for delivery.

Just sitting there

Even on the last day, the package left for delivery at 10 in the morning and was actually delivered only by 8:00 PM.

Compared to other eTail services like Amazon or even regular courier services, Flipkart is just plain bad. I can see 3 possible reasons for such slow shipping

  1. They are living in some 1900s time loop when such slow shipping was acceptable.
  2. They lack the capability for faster shipping.
  3. They deliberately delay delivering the item early.

I doubt it is Point number 2 because I have used the worst courier services including this one and none of them were this bad. So, it must be the last reason, in which case, I don’t understand why they don’t try to monetise their faster shipping capabilities? I would have gladly paid extra to get my item delivered in 3 days instead of 7, but there’s no express shipping option either.

This experience proved to me, that after many years, Flipkart is still at the same level as services like Snapdeal and PayTM Mall. Absolute garbage!

A Pointer is not a Cursor

This is something that almost everyone these days gets wrong and infuriates me to no end.

This, below, is a Cursor. It is used on computers and smartphones to indicate where typed text will appear.

A cursor, not a pointer

This, below, is a pointer, or a mouse pointer. It is controlled by a mouse or any other pointing device and is used to interact with elements on the screen.

A pointer, not a cursor

Anyone who started using computers in the 90s or before would understand the difference. But most digital outlets and even reputable publications these days are run by Gen-Z people who don’t know the difference and almost always call the pointer a cursor. The impact is so much and widespread these days, that soon, the definitions of these items would permanently change and it would be millennials like me and Boomers before me who would be considered wrong.

My list of mobile handsets (updated)

I’ll go back in time now and make a list of all the mobile handsets I have owned till date. You may notice that the list is quite long.

The iPhone X holds the record of the longest used mobile handset by me (almost 3 years)

  1. Reliance LG RD2030 (CDMA) – My first phone.
  2. Nokia 3530 – My first color phone
  3. Samsung C100
  4. Samsung X100
  5. Nokia 1100 (Had a torch)
  6. Some Nokia Reliance Phone I don’t remember
  7. Nokia N-Gage QD
  8. Nokia 3510i
  9. O2 Xphone II
  10. Motorola C350
  11. Nokia 6100
  12. O2 X2
  13. O2 Xphone II
  14. Nokia E50
  15. Nokia E50
  16. Sony Ericsson J1ooi
  17. Nokia N73 ME
  18. Nokia E51
  19. LG KS-20
  20. Nokia E51
  21. Nokia E52
  22. Nokia E63
  23. Nokia E7-00
  24. Nokia Lumia 900
  25. Nokia Lumia 720
  26. Nokia Lumia 925
  27. Nokia Lumia 920
  28. Nokia Lumia 830
  29. Microsoft Lumia 950XL
  30. Apple iPhone 7 Plus
  31. Apple iPhone X
  32. Apple iPhone Xs
  33. Apple iPhone X
  34. Apple iPhone 12 Pro

I hate haircuts

For as long as I remember, I have hated haircuts. People who know me would think that I like letting my hair grow out, but that’s not true. I just hate the process of getting a haircut. If there was a device that would cut my hair exactly the same every few weeks, I would buy it in an instant and never go to a barber again.

Not me

I hate haircuts so much, I would rather look like a shaggy hobo than go to a barber.

I hate haircuts so much, I have actually shaved my head at home at least 10 times in as many years to avoid going to a barber for the next few months.

Why? Simply because

  1. I cannot stand the small talk. I have been to many-many different barbers over the years and they all seem to by infected by the same disease of yapping. They just can’t stop making small talk while they do the deed.
  2. Every single barber will try to push extra services on you. Some comment that your face looks dry and you can use a deep face something. Some comment that you have dandruff and your scalp needs steam treatment. However, the most common push in India is for a head/face massage. Why I would want my barber to rub his hands all over my head and face is beyond me. I am sure some people enjoy such things, however, I don’t. When you refuse these services, they look at you, judging you for being a horrible human being.

I would rather pay them extra just to shut up and leave me alone and do what they are told. The only barbers who don’t bother you with this crap are in high end salons, which is where I prefer to go (infrequently) now.

FASTag is a failure

A few years ago, the government introduced an ambitious project called FASTag-Electronic toll collection. On paper, this was a great initiative & long overdue – a simple RFID sticker affixed to your car windshield that sensors at toll collection centers on highways will automatically scan. The appropriate toll would then be deducted from your linked prepaid wallet. To make things even better, this prepaid wallet wouldn’t be maintained by FASTag, but by a few partner companies (Like ICICI Bank, PayTM, Airtel, HDFC Bank among many others). You can order your FASTag from any of the partners, stick it on your windshield by yourself and maintain appropriate balance in your wallet before passing a toll plaza.

Not Easy at all. PC: FASTag.org

This would ease congestion at toll collection centers because people wouldn’t need to fish for change, wait for balance, interact with a human etc. They only need to slow down at the toll center and the boom barrier opens automatically to let you through. Why would anyone not want to use this method as opposed to fishing for cash? A perfect arrangement, right?

Wrong. Indians being Indians made sure not to let a positive thing succeed.

I have been using FASTag for many months, but it was on a recent trip to Agra that I realised that this initiative has been a complete failure.

  1. Most highways still don’t accept FASTag. 7 out of 8 toll plazas on my trip to Agra didn’t accept FASTag. These were all on Western Peripheral Expressway & Yamuna Expressway.
  2. People have sworn not to use it. Typical Indian mentality is doing the opposite of what you are told to do, and in this case, the people did exactly that. People have sworn not to use FASTag and they have kept their promise.
  3. The government has been too lenient in enforcing its use.

The one toll plaza on my trip which did accept FASTag was backed up for at least 1km, and that too in the FASTag exclusive lane. It was evident that people were not using FASTag. I decided to note what the 10 cars ahead of me did while passings the toll (There’re electronic displays showing toll status).

  • Only 1/10 cars ahead of mine used FASTag.
  • 7/10 cars ahead of mine had FASTags, but insufficient balance. They all paid cash. I believe this is because by law all new cars are mandated to be delivered with a FASTag and these cars had one but the drivers never bothered to add balance to their accounts.
  • 2/10 cars ahead of mine didn’t have any FASTag.

The fact that even when cars come preinstalled with FASTag people don’t bother to use it shows me what a failure this has been. On top of it, the government seems to have backtracked on its claims that people who enter FASTag lanes without one will be penalised or charged double. The toll collector sitting in the FASTag lane booth didn’t even expect anyone to use a FASTag, he was quite casually taking cash from people and returning them change.

Why anyone would chose to use cash when there’s a much simpler and convenient alternative boggles my mind. It is a testament to how stubborn we Indians are and refuse to do something new even at the cost of convenience.

Beer, my friend

I have a long relationship with beer and our relationship has evolved over all these years.

A mug of “Child” beer

I clearly remember my first beer (or any alcoholic beverage for that matter) which was at Orchid Lake resort next to the pristine Umiam Lake in Meghalaya. I was around 12 years old at that time & was going to Shillong with my uncle and his friend for the day from Guwahati & had stopped at that resort for lunch. My uncle and his friend ordered beer for themselves and offered me some. My first reaction was that it was bitter. I obviously kept that information to myself & commented that it was very tasty so as to not embarrass myself as less of a “man” in the presence of 2 adults.

I had beer a few more times with that uncle over the next few years but didn’t enjoy any of it.

When I went off to college at Nagpur, I was suddenly exposed to a whole plethora of alcoholic beverages. Beer was reserved for those hot summer days when we didn’t have electricity or had an exam the following day & didn’t want to get too drunk.

I remember one evening when Sood Sahib was feeling a bit low. I suggested that we drink some beer & his spirits lifted immediately. We bought beers from a store and some policemen tried stopping us on the way, but we somehow escaped, got soaked in the rain, reached home, dried up and enjoyed our beers.

Sood Sahib Enjoying and Appreciating Beer

I also remembering going to Urvashi with Neeraj after our gym sessions to drink beer with Tandoori chicken to aid our workout recovery. Beer also accompanied our jam sessions on numerous occasions.

My first major incident with beer was when I bought what I thought was “Haywards 5000” from a seedy store in Nagpur, went home and drank it alone. My roommate came home from college later to find me passed out with my head shaved. Later, when I regained consciousness, he also reported some strange behaviour from me but I would refrain from going too deep into those details. Later everything explained itself when we saw that the beer I had was actually a “Haryana 5000”.

When I moved to Gurgaon, I was exposed to a new world of freshly brewed beer also known as “artisanal beer” or “craft beer”. We used to go to Rockman’s Beer Island at Ambience Mall very frequently to drink fresh brewed beer poured out for us from taps.

We used to order barrels of this stuff and get hopelessly drunk. I remember one incident when we went to Beer Island with Soniel’s German colleagues, everyone got sloshed on beer and they ran away without paying for anything and we were stuck with the bill.

Beer plus Laser

Another incident with beer I remember is when I had something called “Beer Buster” at an office party. It was beer mixed with Tabasco sauce and I had litres of it. When I came back home, I couldn’t sleep because the Tabasco was burning in my chest and stomach all night.

Neeraj at Beer island

One of my best beer experiences was during my Beer trip to Bengaluru. We went to a place called Biergarten which was a huge open air pub surrounded by beautiful palm trees. The weather and the colour of the sky were unlike anything in Gurgaon. Even the washrooms had a killer view.

Biergarten, Bengaluru

Not until the lockdown, when I was forced to stay without any beer for months did I learn the true value of beer (among other things). When the lockdown did open and I rushed to the nearest beer shop to buy some, I decided that I would start treating beer with more respect from then on. Yes, I would savour my beer more and learn to enjoy it.

I started drinking beer slowly, appreciating the textures and flavours and enjoying the taste rather than aiming to get hopelessly drunk.

First Craft Beer after Unlock

When I drink alone at home, I never drink more than 1 or 2 cans at a time and I make sure I enjoy every sip. When drinking out with friends (rare), all these rules go out of the window, though.

3 cheers to beer and here’s to many more years of friendship.

The Lockdown finally got me running

The first few weeks of the lockdown felt awesome. No need to go to work & lot of time freed up from the daily commute. I spent most of this time drinking and lying around. However, eventually the lying around became quite tiring physically.

Things were so bad, I went through most days with less than 200 steps. The less I moved, the more tired I felt. Eventually, I was always tired and even getting out of the bed seemed a huge challenge. I knew I needed some exercise. I tried Darebee’s daily workout for a few days, but I didn’t find it motivating and couldn’t sustain it long enough. What I needed was to go out and run, but with the lockdown, that was out of the question.

By the end of the lockdown, I was so eager to go out and run that when we were allowed to go out, I started running immediately and fortunately, was able to maintain the habit over many months.

My energy levels came back up, I felt much better after the workouts, I could focus more at work and I slept better. I also started watching my diet and limiting what I eat on weekdays.

Some other quantifiable gains over these 3 months of daily running

  • Weight came down from 70.4kgs to 64.5kgs
  • Body fat % came down from 14.5 to 11.7
  • VO2 Max went up from 39.3 to 46.8
  • Resting heart rate went down from 65 to 55

It’s not that I am fanatic about running. Since I can spare only 15-20 minutes daily between meetings, I run only 2km each time. But I do this with consistent pace and do it regularly without skipping days. Whenever I feel like skipping a day, I think about how lucky I am to be able to go out at all.

Schedule

I hope I am able to keep up the cadence, at least till the air quality here goes to shit, like it does each year and going out becomes impossible.

I miss my PSP

And I hate the fact that there’s no true sequel. No, the Nintendo Switch doesn’t count, because the type of games that were available on a PSP and the types of games available on a switch have no comparison.

Sony Playstation Portable. PC: Wikipedia
Sony PSP. PC: Wikipedia

I bought the PSP in 2008 as a gift for my 23rd birthday from Palika Bazaar, during a trip to Delhi. It was the second gaming device that I owned, after the Nintendo Gameboy Advance. It was the PSP-3000 with homebrew OS, capable of running pirated games from ISO files stored on the Memory Stick Pro II Duo. It could output the display to a TV at 720p, too.

Unlike the Gameboy Advance (& currently the Switch), the PSP had serious games, directly ported from the PS2 and PS3 versions. It could play multiple versions of Need for Speed, there were a few flight simulator games and it also had most Grand Theft Auto games.

I remember playing PS exclusives like Patapon & Flow. I also remember returning home from my night shift job at Aricent and playing Resistance: Retribution for 30 minutes everyday, before going to sleep in the wee hours of the morning. My friend KK used it to play God of War on my PSP at work.

Eventually my wife lost it.

The games on the Switch (which is portrayed as the successor to the PSP) belong to a different category. Insanely fun to play, but not serious console games like PSP. Especially, without a single GTA title, I refuse to accept the Switch as a PSP successor and buy it.

I think the demise of PSP type of devices stems from the shift of portable gaming towards cellphones. Why invest in a portable gaming console when you have a powerful processor and chipset right in your phone? Somehow, I can’t bring myself to gaming on my phone.

I hope Sony one day releases a successor to the PSP, or at least a cloud gaming service which has Sony exclusive titles.

Earth bound misfit, I