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.

The Unintended Chinese Racism

In my last job, I had to travel a lot, and very frequently to China. All in all, I travelled to China 8 times, multiple times each year.

Although my Chinese hosts and colleagues have been the most hospitable people I have met, I couldn’t help but notice the unnatural (to me) behaviour of many Chinese people on the streets whom I didn’t know.

A bit of background – most Chinese do not have much facial or body hair. This is not racist, just a fact. Chinese men with proper beards are very uncommon, mostly because they genetically can’t grow beards. I not only have a full beard, I also have a shock of (mostly) unkempt hair, which makes my appearance definitely non-Chinese.

Chinese men playing Mahjong. PC Uncycloedia

The first time I landed at China was at Xiamen., which is a cosmopolitan city with a lot of travellers and foreigners. Not till my second trip to China, when I left Shanghai Pudong airport to go to the railway station at Hongqiao, did I notice something odd: 2 old men openly pointing at me, smiling and discussing my appearance. I gave them a polite nod, smiled and went on my way.

Fast forward a few more trips later and I am leaving my hotel at Changzhou to take a walk around my favourite Xintiandi park. I hope there aren’t too many people there because I know what will happen.

  • The old men will openly point at me and comment at my appearance (among themselves)
  • The young kids will stare. Some will burst into tears, while others would keep staring without blinking till I am no longer in their line of sight. Their parents will hurriedly tell them not to stare.

The only people who don’t exhibit this kind of behaviour is young people between 18-40.

First timers to China will classify this is blatant racism. I, however, feel that this “racism” is borne more from ignorance and curiosity rather than bad intent, like in the west. I have had an old government official in Australia tell me openly that he didn’t like my face. I have had people ignore me openly at Vienna when I asked them for directions. This kind of racism is borne from ill will and hate.

I wouldn’t classify the Chinese behaviour in the same category. I believe most of them don’t know any better. Most of these people have never seen a full bearded man and it is genuine shock that they are experiencing.

The Chinese are a self contained people who don’t have as much exposure to western media (partly by choice, partly by force) as people from other countries. Also, these incidents are more frequent in the smaller (by Chinese standards) cities than bigger and more cosmopolitan cities. It is understandable that many will find my appearance odd and unnatural.

Overall, I can say that these incidents have not dampened my love for China and my desire to travel there again, in the near future.

Our first home

For the first 17 years of my life, I lived with my parents. When I went off to college, for the first time to a different city (Nagpur), things changed a bit. I started living with some seniors at a rented apartment. I was living without parents, but I was still living at someone else’s home. When these seniors passed out, I lived for a few months at the college hostel, which was, again, a different experience.

When the toilets at the hostel turned into shit-geysers, I knew I had to leave. I started looking for a new place to stay at and a roommate to stay with. The excitement was palpable; this was the first time in my life I would stay at a place of my own choosing with people I chose to stay with.

Eventually, I found a roommate in the form of a creature known as Whoreko and a nice, independent place to stay at Verma Layout.

The time spent in this new place were one of the most blissful years of my life. We had our own place, we could come and go as we pleased, we setup our stuff the way we wanted and we both had our own rooms. In short, we had our own place and we were masters of this little area. We even had our own terrace, where we perched in the evenings and threw water on Halud when he came to visit us.

We both had a computer of our own and we connected them using a LAN cable for multiplayer gaming and file sharing. We listened to our own choice of music (Which, thankfully, matched) in the mornings when getting ready for college and in the evenings, well into the night.

Our First Home
My Room

Once, we even setup a fireplace in our kitchen sink by burning old clothes, books etc. Flames were leaking out of the kitchen ventilator and the neighbours gathered around to watch. Everyone dispersed when we threw a pressurised deodorant can into the fire and it exploded, rattling doors and windows nearby.

Kitchen, forever charred by the fire

The place was at an awesome location. T-Point hostel and Shankar Nagar chowk were nearby, so was a Cafe Coffee Day and Ambazari lake.

After Whoreko, roommates came & went, but I will forever remember and cherish the time I spent staying at this house, our first home.

Below are some of my earlier posts about this place

Improbable things

I couldn’t sleep last night and my mind kept drifting between various improbable things that have happened in my life over the years.

Cardano, making the improbable, improbable
Cardano, making the improbable, improbable

Things that shouldn’t have happened (because, probability), but did. Some examples of these improbable things are:

  1. Once, when I was very young, I hadn’t completed my homework. While going to sleep, I kept wishing for fever or some other illness to befall me, so that I don’t have to go to school the next day. Sure enough, next day, I had fever in the morning and didn’t have to go to school, possibly avoiding a solid beating.
  2. The time I was returning home (in Nagpur) while drunk, riding my bike. I couldn’t spot the high tension electricity cable hanging in the middle of the road and my bike (along with me) was lifted 10 feet into the air. I fell on the road and my bike fell on top of me, all while electric sparks were shooting from the pole, the cable and my bike. That scene immediately sobered up my friends and me and we are all still in awe how I survived that incident.
  3. The time when I passed my engineering final exams because of a fluke. I have already blogged about it once, so won’t add details here.
  4. The time when I was hired at Aricent (now Altran). I lived at Kolkata with my parents. Aricent was holding a hiring drive in Kolkata and I went there just because I had nothing else to do. Somehow, I was selected in the interview and hired a few weeks later. The fact that
    • Aricent staff came to Kolkata for the hiring drive (Never happened before, never happened again)
    • I turned up and was selected
    • Got the right job (at that point of my career)
    • At the right location (I was already aspiring to move to Gurgaon) still boggles my mind.
  5. When I stayed at Kolkata, I used to watch a TV show called “Indian Rendezvous”. There was a part in the episode about Delhi which shows a balloon competition with a balloon sponsored by BT and I dreamed of moving to Delhi one day and working for BT. Years later, this would come true.
  6. How I was lucky enough to have the perfect child exactly like the one I wanted (I might be biased for this one).
  7. I had a friend “J” in college who introduced me to the song “Father & Son” by Cat Stevens. We used to listen to this song at his room very often. Years later, I was listening to this song on my own, when “J” called me and told me his father has died earlier that day.

Makes you wonder how probability isn’t always perfect and such things slip through its laws from time to time.

Home Garden – Slash Pine

The Slash Pine, also called Longleaf Pitch Pine is a fast-growing evergreen conifer which is found in swamps. Here’s a good website with more information about this plant.

Slash Pine
My Slash Pine

This plant consists of drooping branches and thin hair-like leaves, which turn brown after winters and then fall off.

I keep this plant in partial sunlight all the time.

The Slash Pine requires no maintenance at all.

I water it between once a week during peak winters and thrice a week during peak summers.

I fertilise it every 2 months or when it shows signs of growth.

Here’re some good tools which will help you with your gardening.

My Worst Purchases-Airtel Internet TV

Continuing with my series, the next entry in the list is Airtel Internet TV DTH set top box.

Airtel Internet TV Set Top Box
Airtel Internet TV Set Top Box

I used to have a regular Airtel DTH connection at my place; the non-smart ones where the Set Top Box connects to an external satellite dish antenna and you watch TV. One day the set top box straight up and died so I contacted Airtel for a replacement. They told me that they have an offer where if I pay a years’ worth of subscription fee at once, they will upgrade me to the new Airtel Internet TV set top box. The set top box was supposed to combine the best of DTH TV viewing and App based streaming along with:

  • 1G Ethernet and WiFi connectivity
  • 4K output with 4K Netflix capability (Along with Prime, Hotstar etc.)
  • Voice activated remote with touch sensitive surface
  • Internet enabled programme guide
  • DVR capabilities with storage on external USB devices

I bought it mostly for 4K Netflix capabilities. I was sceptical about getting it because it ran Android TV (Fagdroid), but decided to keep an open mind and give it a try.

It would be safe to say that this was the worst product (across all categories) I ever bought in my life & realised it the same day. Android TV (Fagdroid) is the worst OS ever to power any gadget in the world, period. Some of the complaints that I faced (On day 1) were:

  • Slow as fuck interface (Even with things like quad-core Qualcomm processor etc.). I blame this part entirely on the Android TV (Fagdroid) OS. Even changing channels took 2-3 seconds.
  • Apps crashing all the time. Even the TV app which showed content from satellite crashed regularly with no apparent triggers.
  • The smart Bluetooth remote control froze from time-to-time. The only way to recover it was to remove the batteries and insert them back again.
  • Doing a factory reset was not a straight forward job. After the reset, half of the channels would disappear and would require going into settings and entering some satellite related parameters manually.
  • Advertisements showing up randomly on the UI & also a perpetual, huge Airtel Logo on the corner of the screen
  • Software updates would fix some issues and introduce others.

After tolerating this for a few months, I had had enough & even with 8/9 months of subscription remaining, I threw it in the trash. When I asked Airtel to move me back to the old (non-smart) set top box, they told me that was no longer possible. Eventually, this brought to an end the era of DTH in my house forever & I moved to streaming services permanently; also cementing my resolve to never buy anything Android (Fagdroid) powered ever again.

Signs you live in a Bengali Household

The Bengali household is a unique thing, unlike any other household in the world (That I know of). The following symptoms indicate that you live in, or are a part of a typical Bengali Household. (Observed from cousins and extended family). People from Kolkata may be able to relate.

Bengali Household
Typical Bengali Family, PC: SBS AU
Signs that you live in a Bengali Household
  1. As far as your parents are concerned, you stopped growing when you were 6 & they still treat you like you are 6 years old.
  2. Your mother still tries to feed you forcibly with her own hands if you’re taking too much time finishing your meal.
  3. You have a unique, hard-to-spell name and you know very few other people with the same name
  4. Your parents have a photo of Rabindranath Tagore and/or topless photos Ramkrishna (and his wife) on their walls.
  5. You have a silly nickname that you can never divulge to your non-Bengali friends.
  6. Your parents have any/all of the below at their home
    • Boroline (Thick layer applied on the lips)
    • Digene/Gelusil (For acidity after eating fried food)
    • Cremaffin (Or any laxative, because Bengali diet is poor in dietary fibre)
    • Misri
    • Silbatta
    • Boti (A chopping knife doesn’t belong in a Bengali kitchen)
    • Kasundi
  7. You call and inform your parents every time you leave home to go somewhere and every time you reach back home safely.
  8. You keep your parents informed about every meal you had everyday.
  9. If you live outside Kolkata (or West Bengal), your mother constantly worries about whether you’re getting good quality fish to eat. (Without good river fish, a Bengali loses most, if not all his powers)
  10. You complain to your parents about every minor ailment that befalls you, including headaches, scratches etc. and you mother asks you to apply Boroline on your wound.
  11. Your parents call anyone who is not a Bengali “non-Bengali” or “Hindustani”.
  12. A football match between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal stirs up feverish arguments in your household.

Rains in Gurgaon

I love rains, and have written about it many times before. My favourite type of rain is one which goes on for hours & it makes me nostalgic & pensive. Unfortunately, in Gurgaon, such rain is rare; it almost never rains for more than an hour at stretch. (Which is good in a sense, because of the waterlogging that follows soon).

Rains

I love the sound of rain the background and I love how the rain drops stick to the windows.

Rains in Gurgaon
Rain Drops on Windows

Don’t you love the sight of raindrops clinging to leaves?

Even the Air Quality has improved drastically.

Air Quality

Unfortunately, the rain has already stopped by the time I finished writing this post and soon, it will be hot and humid.

My Worst Purchases-Microsoft Lumia 950XL

Continuing with my series, the next entry in the list is the Microsoft Lumia 950XL, which was my 29th phone.

Microsoft Lumia 950XL, Dead on Arrival
Microsoft Lumia 950XL, Dead on Arrival

I was super-excited to buy this phone since the day it was announced by Microsoft. In the months leading up to the actual launch, I used to send my family members to the Microsoft Store at Ambience mall every Sunday (one-by-one) to ask about the phone’s launch date. I even had a Google search alert setup which sent me emails as soon as any news article were published about this phone. Although this phone was great on paper (Great hardware, huge display, excellent camera), this phone was my 7th Windows Phone overall and by the time this phone launched, Windows 10 Mobile was all but dead.

I remember the day this phone launched; I had just started a new job that week. I immediately dropped everything I was doing and went to Ambience mall to buy it (For ₹55,000; of course, I had pre-booked the phone months ago). The store employees told I was the first person in North India to get my hands on this phone. At that time I thought I was special. In hindsight, it is clear now, I was one of the few fools in North India to buy a Windows Mobile (at the tail end of 2015).

Within months, Microsoft announced the death of Windows 10 for mobiles. Within weeks after that, app developers abandoned the platform. There was still a small community online of loyal fans but we were more and more reliant on 3rd party apps for basic services. Uber, specifically, was a huge pain point. There was no easy way to search for destinations, you had to zoom out on the map, zoom in to where you thought you wanted to go and mark the location manually.

I also remember claiming some of the phone’s cost from my company (There was a company BYOD policy) and my manager laughing at me that I spent such a huge amount for such a phone.

Slowly and painfully, over the next year, the number of useable 1st party apps dwindled to almost zero and I eventually made the jump to Apple’s (Walled) Garden putting an end to my Lumia misery. If I could do things over, I should have bought an iPhone for the same amount and prevented myself from a year of misery.

Home Garden – Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree, also called Norfolk Island Pine is an evergreen multi-layered pine native to Norfolk Island. Here’s a good website with more information about this plant.

Christmas Tree
My Christmas Tree

I have had this tree for 8/9 years now. It was quite small when I inherited it from my parents (They moved to another city) but its growth has accelerated since I moved it to a bigger pot.

I keep this plant in partial sunlight all the time.

The Christmas Tree requires very little maintenance. The only maintenance I do is, I cut off 1 layer of branches from the bottom every year, which promotes growth at the top layers. With proper manure, this tree grow 1/2 layers on top every year. It is good to rotate the pot (and the tree) by 90 degrees every month, so that any slant developing because of sunlight direction gets corrected.

Top Layer

During Christmas, we bring it indoors for a week and the family has fun decorating its branches with ornaments. Just make sure to remove the ornaments after a few days, or that area will stop growing leaves.

I water it between once a week during peak winters and thrice a week during peak summers.

I fertilise it every 2 months or when it shows signs of growth.

Here’re some good tools which will help you with your gardening.

Earth bound misfit, I