Tuesday, April 29, 2008


On the PS3 manual as well as on the manual of its six-axis controller, there is a warning which basically cautions you that while you are playing, if your hands begin to hurt, eyes begin to itch and turn red, if you feel dizzy, start vomiting, have blurry vision, begin to think that Mariah Carey's music doesn't suck or experience similar bizarre symptoms, to immediately place the controller down or, if your hands have formed a claw-like grip around it, to immediately summon a loved one or an emergency first responder of your choice and request them to pry it out with a plier or a similar tool.

And stop playing the PS3 till such a time as these symptoms disappear.

When I read this particular instruction, my first reaction was, "Really? Do people actually get so addicted to video games that it actually turns into a health issue?"

I had this amused reaction well before this weekend when heavy uncontrolled PS3 gaming was something that happened to other people and thus, was something to be ridiculed. And then, this weekend, Call of Duty 4 released 4 new maps and declared that all weekend long, players would earn double the experience while playing online.

About this experience business. Each time you play COD4 online, you gain XP or experience points that allow you to rise in rank. You start as a private, moving on to sergeant, captain, lieutenant, general and finally, at rank 55, you become a commander. As your rank increases, you get better weapons, upgrades for your existing weapons, camouflages, etc. XP is the currency of online COD4 play.

On friday night, I downloaded the new maps and that was the beginning of my dark XP-addled journey to hell. Honestly, I cannot remember what I did all weekend that did not involve holding a PS3 controller or a beer can. I do remember that I started out with rank 41 and by the time the weekend was over, I was 51. I was a 4 star General. Although I didn't vomit or have blurry vision and despite my continuing hatred of all things Mariah Carey, my eyes did blossom forth into a variety of multicolored hues. It is only today morning that they went back to being boring white.

But fuck your eyes, get a PS3 anyways.

Friday, April 18, 2008

One Month later

Having owned the PS3 for a month, I have discovered the following.

I appear to be what is known as a PS3fanboy. Although this term is derogatory in nature when applied by members of the general public towards PS3fanboys, when applied by PS3fanboys towards each other, it is a symbol of the brotherhood created through a common goal of defending our 400 dollar investments into PS3 consoles against the enemy of wallet regret.

The code of the PS3fanboys declares, in no uncertain terms that it behooves me to prowl the interwebtubenets and the various forums contained within in search of postings by rival XBox360fanboys and, in the event of encountering a single word against the PS3, spoken, breathed or thought even, return the favor by hurling a generous amount of choice invective against the XBox 360. Various talking points and items of polemic have been made available for my use such as the fact that the XBox cannot and will not ever have the requisite firepower necessary for the really great forthcoming next-generation state-of-the-art games to call it a home, that the XBox 360 is already so far behind the times that the XBox 720 is rumored to be in the works, that the PS3 has won the HD format war nya nya nya nya nya nya and that 2008 is the year for the PS3 to finally break through due to the release of some huge-ass games that will be exclusively available on the PS3. And my personal favorite : XBoxes have a 16% failure rate whereas the PS3 has a 1% failure rate. So there.

I can say with a fair amount of confidence that playing Call of Duty 4 online is more addictive than crack cocaine. And if that is not the case, then goddamn, I've got to try this crack cocaine shit.

n00b tube : Apparently, this is a grenade launcher attachment for a gun used by online n00bs playing Call of Duty 4 for firing grenades at opponents. It is called a n00b tube because it allows a player to inflict maximum amount of damage while exposing his ass to a minimum amount of danger, thus making it compatible with n00b philosophy. The code of the PS3fanboys and also the XBox360fanboys states that using a n00b tube should be frowned upon, discouraged and vilified. It is perhaps the one single thing that unites these two warring nerd factions. I am glad to report that I have coasted through my n00b stage without so much as giving a passing glance to a n00b tube. For this, I deserve special credit which I will now give myself and accept it on my own behalf.

And that is what I've learnt in my one month of PS3 ownership.

Medical announcement of the day

It's probably a bit late to call it breaking news, but here it is. This goes out to all men. Offered without comment.

Woo-freaking-hoo. I mean, achoo. I have a bad cold.

Okay, no comment, starting NOW.

By the way, the article is from 2003, so I don't know if there's been any new research that contradicts the findings in that one. I am guessing not. Research doesn't carry itself out and I am sure the team did not have a lot of time in the period between 2003 and 2008 to do it.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Perkiomen Railroad

This one's for me so feel free to look away and count blue cars, photograph coconut trees, eat sunflower seeds or whatever it is you do when someone asks you to look away.

I found this amazing website on the Perkiomen branch of the Reading Railroad. This is the long abandoned railroad line on which the current Perkiomen Trail (one of my favorite biking trails) was built upon. This guy, who calls himself a ferro-equinologist (a railroad archaeologist), appears to have traveled over and retraced the entire route of the original railroad line which is no longer there, houses, weeds, the trail and the 21st century having crept up over it. He even created a mapelogue of it, just like I partially did. This ferro-equinologying stuff, by the way, is something that I've often dreamt of doing, and probably will do sometime in the near future.

He's also discovered and photographed various hard-to-notice artifacts of the original railway line that are still standing on or near the trail, such as old rails, rusty signs, signals, old stations, coal feeder trestles, etc. What's funny is that I have often passed and spotted many of these structures on the trail and always wondered about them.

Here's something else he's done on the website. He has some old pictures of the railroad line and based on those, he tries to figure out the locations of the train stations (long gone) in the current landscape. For example, here's a portion of the trail I was biking this saturday. It's in a village called Salford. He has this old black and white picture of the station in the village and a new current picture of the location, and matching the buildings in the background, he figured out where the station building used to stand. This is all very interesting stuff for me, a huge fan and a frequent user of this trail and also a certified railroad lunatic.

Probably not that interesting for you, though. Look at you, all wrapped up in your sunflower seeds and coconut trees.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Winter is gone and it is time for farmers like me to start planning for the growing season. As you might remember I have a brand new deck to do my farming on and the previous owners of my townhouse kindly left their flower pots scattered all over the place in various states of neglect. I'm not a farmer, I lied. This will be my first foray into agriculture.

This year I am planning to grow my own food. Towards that end, I took the first steps yesterday. It was a warm day and when I had to turn on the AC in my car for the first time in seven months, I realized that it was spring and time to begin planting. So I went home, took a fork from the drawer, moved the dirt around in one of the flowerpots and filled it up with coriander seeds. I also watered it. Soon, I hope the seeds will wake up with a boner, have sex with their neighboring seed and give birth to seedlings which, in turn, will grow up to be at least 99 cents worth of cilantro.

I am starting out with cilantro because I have a lot of cilantro experience. Back in India, I used to grow cilantro in our garden and I had a lot of success. Lesser success was achieved with plants like lady finger (okra) and beans. I remember harvesting one okra pod and one green bean at a time and giving it to my mother to cook for dinner, basking in the warm glow that comes to men who've managed to put food on the table for their family.

So I am starting out with cilantro and I hope to move up to mint, maybe a green chilli here and there. In a mad fit of optimism, I purchased a packet of tomato seeds two years ago and it still lies unopened. Perhaps this will be its year of emancipation. And with a little bit of help from the grocery in the form of onions, hopefully this year my family will be well supplied with salsa.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Skippack Trail

Biking began last weekend. This is an annotated mapelogue™ of my bike ride with zambezi on the Skippack-Perkiomen Trail.

View Larger Map

Monday, April 07, 2008

Fusen Gum

I don't know if anyone remembers this stuff called Fusen gum we used to get in India during the 80s when we were kids. Maybe you still get it, I don't know. But I had totally forgotten about it. The other day I was in this Korean supergrocery and I saw this packet of Chinese looking gum on the counter and I said why the heck not and bought it. And when I opened the package and saw the words "Fusen Gum", it was like someone had lit a bulb in my brain after leaving the gas on. My mind exploded. And the memories rushed in.

Fusen Gum was this expensive bubble gum, costing about 1.50 rupees when the average gum used to cost 50 paise. But it was fucking worth it. For one, there was a rumor that this gum never lost its taste, no matter how long you chewed on it. And I think it was true. Secondly, it was soft gum, even luxuriously so. It did not harden during 10th hour chewage like most other gums. Also, it did not taste like every other gum either. It was kind of fruity without being effeminate. Thirdly, this bubble gum compensated in performance what it lacked in size. You could blow some amazing bubbles that would cover your entire face. Fourthly, these bubbles never stuck to your skin and hair. And fifthly, the back of the wrapper was a tattoo applicator so with a little bit of spit, you could give yourself a temporary tattoo. This tattoo even smelt great. I'm telling you, this thing was way ahead of its time.

I feel that in order to do adequate justice to the glory of this gum, it is imperative that I link to this random guy I found on the webtubes who appears to have penned a loving tribute to the Fusen Gum which includes a detailed step by step fully illustrated tutorial for beginners on how to enjoy this gum.

Friday, April 04, 2008


The 2008 wiffleball season officially kicked off yesterday in my company. Before you bombard me with emails (assuming you hire a private investigator to find out my email address, but you didn't have to do that, you could just have asked me) saying "uh...wiffle what?", rest assured that I am already on the case. I asked my colleague to explain wiffleball to me in immigrant terms. He replied, "It is baseball, but with a plastic bat and a ball with holes." And to make doubly sure that I understood, without a hint of of irony, added, "It's like cricket but not so fucking weird".

Wiffleball games are played on weekdays during the lunch hour between two teams comprising of company employees who still retain adequate control of their motor faculties and hand-to-eye coordination since these are basic prerequisites for playing wiffleball. This narrows it down to four people. Lets call these people Me, Irritating Guy, Bagel Guy and Russian Guy.

Irritating Guy is so named due to him being a non-stop irritant in my otherwise contented professional life. Here he is, bugging me to use the fake wax phone in my office to make a phone call to my boss. Here he is, preying on my not-unlimited stock of chewing gum. And here he is asking me questions to which there can be no possible answers. There are other undocumented, yet equally egregious irritants attached to his persona such as his frequent sneezing "Achoooo" which is unfailingly followed by a long-drawn-out "Aaaaah" which brings up unnecessary visions of various bodily fluids exiting his various bodily orifices. And then, his worst trait, which is the act of being startled each time anyone enters his cubicle and speaks to him, the manifestation of which takes the form of a yell "WOAAH....Woooaah...woooaah......wo....you startled me". So let's just call him Irritating Guy and be done with it.

Bagel Guy is so named because there was a time when Bagel Guy, out of his good nature and curiously, of his own free will, used to bring us a bagful of bagels and cream cheese on fridays. After buying a house, having two babies and adopting a dog, he gradually ceased to engage in this admirable practice. But we still call him Bagel Guy in order to shame him, remind him of his previous philanthropy, hoping that the pressure of this honorary title will encourage him to resume bagel delivery operations.

Russian Guy is an enigma. He is Russian and hence the name. He is rumored to pledge allegiance to the Russian mafia, which, in turn, is rumored to exist. Russian Guy is good looking and an avid skier. He is the heart-throb of numerous ladies and especially well-beloved in upstate New York, specifically the Finger Lakes region. Russian Guy eats a lot of bananas at work.

So these were the chief wiffleball participants. Two teams were formed and assumed playing positions on the field. The wiffleball triangle was our parking lot, which is bounded by our office building on one side and two creeks on two sides. To my disgust, I was paired with Irritating Guy, which meant that today would not be my chance to finally vent out years of pent-up hostility towards Irritating Guy by hurling a plastic ball with holes at him. But hey, there would always be tomorrow.

My team pitched first. I decided to pitch, being fairly confident in my pitching abilities. In India, I used to be a crafty fast bowler in cricket, having a long run-up, a vigorous tossing action and when the batsman was quaking in fear, I would throw his timing off-kilter with an extremely slow ball. That was my technique and I stuck to it, every ball, every game.

I used the same time-tested technique to try and dispatch my wiffleball opponents. I don't know if my colleagues had made a trip to the local library and studied archival footage of my old cricket games but they all appeared to be pretty well-equipped to deal with my crafty balls. I got dispatched mercilessly. Two runs were scored in the first inning before I got them all out.

Irritating Guy batted first for our team. He appeared to have lost control over his limbs which appeared to be swinging erratically and without purpose. He got out after a mere two pitches, both of which resulted in direct hits on air. I walked in, quietly confident. Bagel Guy was the pitcher. After studying Bagel Guy's pitching, I was positively sure that I could do a lot of damage. And my confidence turned out to be well-justified. I made contact on the very first ball. I hit it hard and it went out of the stadium. I moved to second base with a double. Now, as you know, baseball is a funny game in that once you have a hit and you move on to the next base, you lose the bat and it is now up to the next batter to make something of your previous hit. In my case, since the next batter was Irritating Guy, that had virtually no chance of happening. Irritating Guy made good on his promise to do nothing by doing nothing. He hit air again a couple of times and the inning ended with no runs being scored.

Russian Guy started in the second inning. During his previous stint, Russian Guy had assumed a conventional batting stance with two hands on the bat, but had found it severely lacking. This time around, Russian Guy decided to throw convention to the wind and modified his stance. He held the bat in one hand like a club, more in the manner of someone who would not be averse to hitting the pitcher, were the ball to be out of range. Irritating Guy, who was pitching, seemed somewhat terror-struck. He pitched wildly, hitting tree branches, shrubbery and ants. When he pitched more accurately, Irritating Guy didn't fare any better. He got dispatched worse than me and suddenly I didn't feel so bad. Five runs were scored, making it 7-0 before the inning ended. We needed eight runs to win.

Irritating Guy batted first. Surprisingly, he did a good job of scoring a hit and putting me in batting position. This was my chance to make India proud.

Unfortunately, Russian Guy, who was pitching, had a craftier ball than mine. His technique was to make the ball appear slow and lethargic and it would waft up to you and you would be having a casual conversation with it and then suddenly, it was in your face and whizzing by, leaving you saying "where... what?"

To make a long story short, I hit air. It was embarassing. So much so that I did it twice. I was out. And then, I did it again during my next at-bat. Russian Guy owned me completely. We lost the game. Russia 1, India 0. I was ashamed for bringing wiffleball disgrace to my motherland.

Well, both teams get friday off in order to allow us to recuperate and enjoy what the rest of this city has to offer. The season continues on monday. I hope to practice hard through the weekend. Unless of course Irritating Guy turns out to be my opponent on monday. I am fairly confident of beating his ass blindfolded and drunk.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


I learnt today that the stock market in the US will be diving along its nose in the next three days. I heard this from a reliable source. Some Indian guy who was sitting in the table next to mine in the restaurant. He looked like a stockbroker because he had hair parted in the middle even though he was bald. That takes a devil-may care attitude which embodies a typical stockbroker. Perhaps you should heed his advice and start selling off your portfolio starting today afternoon like he was and no, I don't want any stocks. But don't do it all at once. We do not want the market to collapse. At least, not yet. I will let you know when it is the proper time. The tandoori chicken was delicious.