Americans are Obsessed with Cars

Americans indeed seem to be weirdly obsessed with cars.

Americans obsessed with cars
An American “Truck”, PC: Hotcars

Agreed, most of my knowledge about America comes from movies, but I have visited USA once. I noticed this obsession for the first time when visiting Palo Alto. The guy I was meeting said he drove to his hometown airport in his car and parked it at the airport. At San Francisco airport, he rented out another car and came to work. When I asked him why he needed his own car while travelling, he looked at me as if I am crazy. Car Rental is a huge industry in USA. Later, I realized that most Americans really don’t believe in walking or public transportation.

To say that an average American’s life revolves around their car is an understatement.

For most of the world, a car serves a utilitarian purpose. People use cars to get from point A to point B in relative comfort. Americans however, love their cars. Like American food, most American cars are also supersized. Average engine sizes are all above 2.5l and “real men” drive cars with >4.0l engines. In many families, everyone has their own car. Some families have more than 1 car per-member.

Americans eat food in their cars, watch movies in cars & sometimes sleep in their cars. In fact most Americans (if I were to believe movies) even lost their virginities in the back seat of a car. I have even seen homeless people who cannot afford food, driving cars. The birthday gift for most kids turning 18, is a car. Unlike Europe, in America, you can be old enough to drive a car, but not old enough to drink alcohol. Crazy, right?

Not to mention Pickup trucks. Why do Americans even need “trucks”? What is it that the regular Americans have to carry on a daily basis that the rest of the world doesn’t?

Many Americans love buying old cars and restoring them. I don’t think this is as common a hobby in the rest of the world as it is in America. In spite of being so passionate about cars, most Americans can’t even drive cars with manual transmissions.

Most of the developing world cannot afford cars. European cars are very utilitarian. So why are Americans so obsessed with cars?

Reminds me of the Fear Factory cover of Gary Numan’s cars, which I saw a decade ago in Test Drive 6

Indian Quirks

Below is a collection of Indian quirks; things only us Indians do (As far as I know). Some are funny, some intriguing, some pure evil.

  1. Calling food with meat “non-veg“. This is strange because we don’t call poor people “non-rich” or dry stuff “non-wet”.
  2. Calling USB drives as “Pen Drives”. Come on, it doesn’t even look like a Pen.
  3. Using terms “lakh” and “crore” officially to refer to 100,000 or 10,000,000.
  4. Men spitting in the urinal while peeing.
  5. Disrespecting all animals, except one.
  6. Asking for “extra gravy” and “extra pieces” when getting food packed from restaurant. Later complaining that the quantity has gone down since last time.
  7. People calling cousins “brothers” & “sisters”.
  8. Having “Pure veg” restaurants.
  9. Calling unrelated people “uncles” & “aunties”.
  10. Hating on China & the Chinese while being surrounded by & using cheap Chinese products.
  11. Stock trading at work.
  12. Not considering Onions and Garlic as vegetarian food.
  13. Having the cheapest Telecom service in the world and still complaining/cribbing about bills.
  14. Preferring to ask random strangers for directions than using GPS on the phone.
  15. Children staying with their parents and/or siblings even after growing up and getting married.
  16. Harassing Indians in the service industry, like waiters, flight attendants etc.
  17. The swear word to insult sisters (Behenchod) is more popular than the swear words to insult mothers (Machod, Madarchod). Maybe because Patriarchal Indian men are more protective of their sisters.
  18. Considering sex a taboo while being the birthplace of Kama Sutra & having the second largest population in the world.
  19. Worshipping movie stars.
Indian Quirks
Not like any Pen I have seen, PC: B&H Photo VIdeo

Some More

Some Indian quirks that I have also experienced to some extent with other nationalities

  1. Worshipping white men and salivating for white women (Most asians)
  2. People’s existence being dependent on WhatsApp (Or some similar messaging app)
  3. Obsession with a male heir (Most asians)
  4. Huge focus on studies and forcing children to become Doctors or Engineers (Most asians)
  5. Dowry
  6. Obsession with leaving the country for a Caucasian country (Many Asians)
  7. Parents being dependent on their children when they get old (Many Asians)
  8. Forced arranged marriages.

Getting Rid of stuff

You know the feeling of guilt you experience when you see that guitar gathering dust? Or the expensive camera that you don’t use anymore? I discovered some time ago that the only way to overcome this guilt is by getting rid of stuff. The KonMari method suggests getting rid of stuff which doesn’t bring you joy anymore & I follow this method in day-to-day life.

My Gadget Boxes

Below are some examples of stuff I have gotten rid of, in the last many years:

  1. I used to have a cupboard bursting with clothes, as my parents and in-laws kept gifting some every year. Yet, I noticed that I would only wear the same 4/5 T-Shirts and 2 pairs of jeans over and over again. One day I dumped all the clothes I didn’t wear (At least 30 shirts & T-Shirts, formal trousers) and gave them to our ironing guy. It felt so good to have a simplified wardrobe. I continue to maintain a sparse wardrobe till date.
  2. I sold my second Motorcycle because I just didn’t ride it anymore.
  3. Got rid of my bench-press and weights as I gave up exercising at home.
  4. I digitized and got rid of all old photo albums.
  5. Got rid of all the gadget boxes that had piled up over the years
  6. Got rid of my electric guitar because I couldn’t be bothered with setting the equipment up and plugging everything in anymore.
  7. I got rid of my 5.1 surround sound system as I didn’t use it much and the cables were a nightmare to maintain. Instead, I switched to Bluetooth speakers in different rooms.
  8. I sold my Gaming PC as it took up too much space. Instead, I switched to an Xbox for gaming and a Surface Pro 3 for computing.
  9. Sold the Surface Pro 3 as all I did on it was photo editing and got myself an iPad Pro.
  10. I sold my DSLR camera and lenses after pursuing photography for many years, because I lost the passion. Part of the reasoning was that phone cameras were now good enough for 90% cases.
  11. Handed down my iPad Pro to my daughter because I didn’t need it for photo editing anymore.
  12. Regularly donate my daughter’s old toys and stuff when she’s not at home. She doesn’t even notice.

I continue to follow the ethos of getting rid of stuff I don’t use anymore. This keeps my mind at ease and stops feelings of guilt of owning something I don’t use. The only things I can’t get rid of are my books, however old they may be.

Eyesight Chronicles Part 3: LASIK

I had thought about getting LASIK many times throughout my life, but never followed through. By 2016, when I couldn’t wear my contact lenses anymore, I decided to finally take the plunge.

I went to my favourite hospital and consulted an Ophthalmologist. She explained to me the process in detail. I had a Pentacam test which showed that my corneal thickness was in the risky zone. However, the Ophthalmology director gave the go ahead for waveform guided LASIK. I also needed a retina test which involved dilating my pupils and shining a very bright light into my eyes. The most difficult part was not wearing my contact lenses for 3 weeks. This was so that my eyes would go back to their original shape and provide the most accurate correction readings for LASIK.

During this waiting time I also contracted Blepharitis which delayed the surgery further. However, on 13 Dec 2016, the day finally came to get operated on.

I went to the hospital excited like mad, armed with money donated by my mother. They took one final set of measurements and started putting anaesthesia drops in my eyes every few minutes. Soon my eyes were numb and they took me to the procedure room.

The process itself was uncomfortable but not painful. They use speculums to keep your eyes propped open and ask you to look straight. Then they use a suction ring to keep your eye straight. This step feels like enormous pressure on the eye but is not painful. Your vision goes all wonky. Then a Femtosecond laser creates a flap on your cornea. The eyesight at this point becomes blurry. When they lift the flap, you can see only a bright light.

At this stage, another excimer laser re-models and corrects your cornea as per the requirements. You can smell something burning (your cornea). Then the surgeon restores the flap, flattens it and wets the eye. The entire process is repeated for the other eye.

LASIK, PC: Wikipedia

The entire process only takes 15/20 minutes and after that you can get up straight away. Your vision is still blurry and you cannot look at lights. My wife helped me go home where I immediately went into a dark room. Even a small sliver of light from the corner of the curtains was excruciatingly painful. I spent the entire day moping in darkness, not being able to do much except listen to music.

The next morning was beautiful. When I opened my eyes, I could immediately notice that I could see clearly without any aids. I took a cab to the doctor and had my first post-op check up. She inspected the flap, gave me medicines and sent me home. At this point, my vision was not perfect, but it kept on improving over the next few weeks and months. I would still see Halos and blurriness around light sources at night for many months.

Eyesight before and after LASIK
Vision Log before and after LASIK

Reading and using the computer for the first few weeks put a lot of strain on my eyes but temporary reading glasses helped with that. I developed a habit to check my vision regularly by closing one eye at a time while driving and trying to read the license number of a car ahead of me.

Slowly but surely, my vision improved and thankfully, now I have 6/6 vision in both eyes without any visual aids. Now waiting for Presbyopia to strike me in the next few years and add a fourth installment to this series.

My Worst Purchases-Riverside 120 Bicycle

Continuing with my series, the next entry in the list is the BTWIN Riverside 120 bicycle.

BTWIN Riverside 120
BTWIN Riverside 120 Bicycle, PC: Decathlon

So I was newly out of quarantine in Thailand and had started going to work. The first few weeks, I went by Grab Bike, after which I started looking for a more permanent mode of commute. I noticed that many Europeans in our office commuted by Bicycle. After 2 weeks in quarantine, I was also missing some exercise. At that moment, I decided that I would also buy and commute by Bicycle. How naïve I was!

So one day after work I went to the closest Decathlon looked at a few bikes and got the Riverside 120. I also got a helmet, cycling shorts & some other paraphernalia. This was my first bike with a gear shifter, something I had dreamed of when I was young. Giddy with excitement, I left the warehouse, riding a bicycle after at least 2 decades. On the way home, I accidentally took a wrong turn and rode 6km instead of 3.5km home. By the time I got home, my legs were shaking and I was drenched in sweat.

Still, the next morning I was excited to go to work on Bicycle for the first time. I packed my work clothes in my bag, put on my cycling shorts and left for work. The ride was actually exhilarating, but the last few meters going 2 flights up the parking ramp almost killed me. At work, I changed into my office clothes and got to work. But even after cooling down, I couldn’t stop feeling dirty and disgusting/sticky. I thought about it, but surely I couldn’t take a shower after getting to work. And another one after getting home in the evenings.

By the second day, I started having serious doubts about my purchase. But I had spent some chunk of money on the bicycle, so I kept at it. For a few more days.

Last ride on the Riverside 120
Last Ride

When I came to know that my neighbour was selling his motorcycle (that I already had my eyes on), I knew that the Bicycle had to go.

So within a month of buying the bicycle, I advertised it for sale and luckily managed to sell it within a few days. Eventually, I think the following factors contributed to all this:

  1. I hated changing clothes once I got to work and once again before leaving
  2. Felt dirty not taking a shower after my ride to work.
  3. I am lazy.
  4. Had to take a shower after coming back home.
  5. I am lazy.
  6. Every minor bump on the road was transmitted as a shock through my ass, spine to my entire skeleton.

Lazada sucks balls

Lazada sucks balls even worse than Flipkart does. It is one of the reasons I miss Amazon so much.

Lazada is one of the leading eTailers in Thailand and in South-East Asia. There are other options here, too, like Shopee, but they suck balls just as hard. Shopee doesn’t even have an app for app store regions set outside Thailand so I don’t use it at all. But in this post, let’s look at Lazada.

As soon as you open the app, you are greeted with a fullscreen advertisement that you can’t dismiss immediately.

Lazada Sucks balls
Greeted with a Fullscreen Ad

Once you get past the obnoxious advertisement, you go to the main screen of the app. Notice how 70% of the interface is actually just ads?

Lazada Sucks balls
Interface full of Advertisements

Not only is the interface full of advertisements, everything uses bright, garish colours. Its as if the designers targeted the app at school kids. Lazada sucks so hard, the interface is also full of useless notifications at the bottom.

Once you try to order something, you cannot see the estimated delivery date on the item page. You need to add the item to cart and make it all the way to the checkout page before you can see when it can be delivered.

Even when you get through all the cringe and actually order something from these bastards, your ordeal is not over. You sit and wonder why the item you order has not shipped yet. It is because once you order the item and even pay for it, you still have to sort through hundreds of messages in the spam section, find a message like below and “confirm” your order. When I paid money for the item, was it not confirmation enough for you pricks?

Lazada Sucks Balls
Have to confirm, lol

Once the item ships, you have to manually check the status to see where it has reached. This is because as soon as you install the app, you have to turn off all notifications from it, lest the spam notifications take over your life.

All the spam notifications lead to the “messages” section of the app. The app clearly has an identity crisis and cannot decide whether it wants to be a shopping app or a messenger.

The “messages” section is a quagmire of spam, as expected.

If they are using any AI/ML/targeting for the spam that the app is full of, I can’t see it, because nothing here is relevant to me or remotely close to what I would ever want to buy.

I wonder why these eTailers think it is OK to bombard someone with spam so aggressively when they are already trying to spend their money on your platform to buy something. I can’t wait to go back to India and start using Amazon again.

What is my Hometown?

When I was making a Facebook account recently, it asked me what my Hometown was. I thought about it for a while, but didn’t have an answer. Looks like I have had such a nomadic life, I don’t have a Hometown.

Here’s a list:

1985-1985Bhubaneshwar, Odisha<1 year
1985-1985Kolkata, West Bengal <1 year
1986-1989Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh~3 years
1989-1990Dhani, Madhya Pradesh~1 year
1990-1990Dewas, Madhya Pradesh <1 year
1990-1994Indore, Madhya Pradesh~4 years
1994-1997New Delhi, Delhi~3 years
1997-1998Durgapur, West Bengal~1 year
1998-2002Panchkula, Haryana~4 years
2002-2007Nagpur, Maharashtra~5 years
2007-2008Kolkata, West Bengal~1 year
2008-2021Gurgaon, Haryana~13 years
2021-CurrentBangkok, Thailand
Nomadic Lifestyle
Not my hometown
Sucks, indeed

This list just covers the cities I have lived in. Even within these cities, I have sometimes lived in up to 3 different places. What is my Hometown, then?

Bhubaneshwar, because I was born there, but lived only a few months?

Kolkata, because that’s where my parents are from, but lived only a year?

Gurgaon, where I lived the longest and have my own place but don’t ever plan to return to?

Thankfully, I am off Facebook, so don’t have to answer this question anymore.

Eyesight Chronicles Part 2: Contact Lenses

One fine day, me and my roommate Whoreko decided that we had had enough of eyeglasses and we would wear contact lenses from then on. We were in second year of college then and funds were short, so we went to an optometrist at Dharampeth and asked for the cheapest contact lenses they had. He gave us 1-year hard lenses and taught us how to put them on and take them out. Happily, we were on our way, with tears streaming down our faces from discomfort.

To say that these contact lenses were uncomfortable would be an understatement. They were uncomfortable all the time & dried up after a few hours. While riding motorcycles, they would shift from the wind and the eyes would turn red. Eventually, me and Whoreko both stopped wearing them altogether and went back to our shitty glasses.

contact lenses
Not my eye, PC: Signature Eye Care

Try as I may, I couldn’t adjust to life with glasses again & was miserable all the time. Eventually, when I was visiting my parents in Kolkata, my mother took pity on me and took me to GKB Opticals at Gariahat. The optometrist was very kind and patient with me and explained to me that the cheap contacts were not meant for extended use. She also explained to me that I have Astigmatism and the cheap contacts don’t address that. She prescribed me with monthly disposable toric soft contact lenses. They were very comfortable and provided me with perfect 6/6 vision. I could wear them for extended periods of time with no discomfort.

These lenses changed my life and were probably the most significant upgrade to my lifestyle ever. For the first time ever, I had perfect vision with incredible comfort. I was incredibly happy and looked forward to waking up in the mornings to put on my lenses. The only times I had issues were when dust got into my eye(s) while riding my motorcycle. I occasionally wore them for upwards of 36 hours straight & slept in them with only minor dryness.

However, like all good things, it didn’t last long. After 13/14 years of using them, I started to experience more and more frequent spells of dryness & discomfort in my eyes. I went to my optometrist but he was of little help, just stating the obvious. Eventually, it became so bad that I couldn’t wear contact lenses at all.

I decided that I couldn’t go back to wearing glasses again and would need a permanent surgical resolution yo my Myopia.

A note on Religion & God

As an atheist, I do not believe in God & I believe that religion is the the biggest handicap for humanity. I believe religion is preventing humans from reaching full potential and living in peace with each other.

Some recent news articles highlight this:

These are just some recent news articles I came across in the last few weeks, actual examples are many more. Most wars & conflicts in history have been because of religion (or women). Each religion preaches that theirs is the only true god and that people following all other gods are fools. How can religions co-exist peacefully with each other when the basic tenet of each religion is that all other religions are fake?

Religion is also a very powerful tool and a weapon. We have already seen many countries elect incompetent assholes as their leaders because of religious manipulation.

On the other hand, I do believe that religion serves a purpose other than handicap for humans. Research has proven that people who believe in God are happier on average than atheists. I can understand and agree with this research. If I believed that an imaginary being in the sky would automatically solve all my problems, I would be less stressed in life, too. Maybe belief in God evolved as an anti-stress and anti-anxiety mechanism in Humans? It is a good way to offload your worries on something else.

I just wish all this did not involve waging war on fellow humans.

I Love Optical Disc Drives

For as long as I remember, I have loved and have been fascinated by Optical Disc Drives. There’s something about the spinning disc, the red laser and the up/down pulsating & sideways shifting of the lens that I love.

Below is my story with Optical Disc Drives.

Audio/Video CD Era

My first Optical Disc Drive was a Sony Portable CD player like this.

My First Optical Disc Drive
Sony Discman

It read Audio CDs at a measly 1X speed and had no error correction cache. This meant if I shook the player too hard, the audio skipped. Still, coming from a cassette walkman, the audio quality was mind blowing. There was also something calming and therapeutic looking at the spinning disc through the little window while pristine sound entered my ears through the earphones. One of my first audio CDs was Disney’s Modern Classics which I bought from Jwala Heri market.

My second CD Player was an Aiwa music system with 3 CD changer and VCD capabilities.

Aiwa 3CD changer, PC: Puget Sound Estate Auctions

It was amazing to watch the CD changer tray come out and the system change the CDs from the top translucent window. You could also copy CDs to cassettes to play in the car later. I remember watching all the Rocky movies on it without having to switch from Disc 1 to Disc 2 manually.

I remember switching to an AIWA portable CD player when I went off to college. Compared to the Sony, it read discs at a blazing 3X speed and had an error correction cache. This meant that shakes were not a problem anymore.

My second Optical Disc Drive
Aiwa CD Player, PC: Amazon

I would quite often listen to CDs with the top door open, overriding the detection switch with some rolled up paper. It was fascinating to see the CD spin at high speed, the player cache the audio and then the spinning stop. All the while the audio continued to play. I would also stop the spinning CD on purpose using my finger to test the caching.

Computer Era

When I got my first computer, it came with a Samsung 48x CD drive.

Samsung 48X Max, PC: Telecommander

The first CD I put into this was the shitty soundtrack of this shitty movie (I don’t remember why). It was fascinating to see the green LED on front flash as the CD was being read. I wanted to copy the tracks to my hard drive, so I went into explorer, copied the (1 byte) .cda files to my desktop and was amazed that it was all done within a second. Later I found out this wasn’t the correct way to copy audio CDs and you actually had to “rip” them.

During this time I also found out that there was a second “audio” cable from the CD players to the sound card. Although you could bypass this using software which played Audio CDs digitally. I also got into a habit of disposing off old CDs by throwing them at the ceiling fan and watching them shatter into hundreds of pieces.

All my friends had the fancy Creative CD drive, though. This drive was notorious for having a very high failure rate. When my Samsung drive died, my father had it replaced with the “AudioExcel” version of the drive which was more reliable. It came with many buttons on the front and a remote control. Especially fun was the “Turbo” button which toggled the drive between 36X and 52X speeds.

Creative Infra 52X (Not AudioExcel), PC: Baber

Eventually, I moved on to Combo drives (DVD reader and CD writer), DVD writers and then the cloud/streaming era but my fascination for Optical Disc Drives never faded.

I still have an external HP DVD writer but nothing to plug it into.

Earth bound misfit, I