Gaming review

Game Review – Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Human Revolution is a long awaited prequel to the critically acclaimed Deus Ex, this is a worthy part of the series and definitely surpasses its previous games.

 Premise –

A stealth-based First Person Shooter based in a futuristic, technologically advanced world. Your character is surgically modified for extreme performance and caught between two powerful powerhouses.

The Best Bits –

  • The social enhancer perk gives you significant power to alter the outcomes of several scenarios by just talking. Hell, I wish I had that in real life!
  • The gameplay lets you choose your style from complete stealth to complete violence. It is possible to complete the game without killing anyone except in the boss fights.
  • Your character is vulnerable to bullets and can die almost immediately if caught in cross-fire. This is good because it makes it realistic at all playing levels – easy or hard.
  • A reasonably good, if not outstanding, storyline.
  • The stealth mechanism is outstanding.

 What could have been better –

  • The dark environment throughout the game makes you wonder at times if the developers forgot that the sun exists.
  • Even if you opt for a stealth based approach, there is no way around the bosses. You have to fight them.

 My takeaway  –

 It’s a definite wow.  It is a definite benchmark setter for upcoming stealth based games. 9/10.


Males and Beauty (an aberration in the animal kingdom)

Throughout the animal kingdom, male species are generally bigger and more beautiful. Male elephants have tusks; male lion have a mane (hair around the neck which makes the animal looks majestic), peacock have feathers. In birds the males are more colorful and attractive. However this link gets broken in Humans. We are more likely to associate females with beauty than a male.
What is interesting is that male is the dominating sex with a propensity for being polygamous. I am not being sexist, but the male is expected to be the breadwinner, take initiatives in wooing his spouse and take the lead in case of any dispute/show of physical strength. In any other species, with all these burdens, you would expect the males to be more attractive than their female counterparts. Yet that is not the case. An average female is also more concerned about her looks, dressing and manners/etiquettes than the average male. Does it not sound contradicting?
In almost all other species the members would like to advertise attaining puberty. In males these changes are actively being suppressed. They would shave off their facial hair (school kids would ape their father and do it even before it starts growing), cover their genitals (not that I would like a public display) and cover up their chest, arms & legs. Females on the other hand would wear garments that enhances & makes more prominent their breasts and hips. Are women pedophiles or am I missing something?
Hair tends to grow slowly and its color, texture & strength depend on the person’s mental & physical fitness at that time. Hence a waist long hair captures 2 year history of the person’s health, nutrition, age and reproductive fitness. But male are more likely to cut their hair short & wear caps, and hence blend themselves with those who don’t even have strong enough hair to grow it long.
Dancing is another way by which a person could advertise their agility, coordination, stamina, flexibility etc. Here again an average female is a better dancer.
All these contradictions make me doubt the fundamental hypothesis: : In a male dominated species, the male is very competitive and go overboard to advertise his superiority over the other contenders to his target partner.
Any clues? Are males so much domesticated through years of monogamy that they grow beer bellies, fart, puke and say all inappropriate words… all this to prove their partner (the feeble looking, yet dominating species) that no other female in their right mind will even think about them?
Other explanation could be that the rules of the game have changed. Females go overboard with their looks & beauty to attract the desirable men and keep them interested. Men are no longer wild beasts, who rely solely on their health & strength to provide for their family. Unlike animals, men rely more on eloquence, intellect and wealth rather than physical attributes to display their desirability & prominence. After all men are more likely to buy jewelry (or pay for it) for their partners. They would drive expensive cars, pay for the bills on the date, and use expensive gadgets, watches, specs & accessories.


Glamping (GLAmorous camPING)

Best gift to a loved one is time and undivided attention, but planning the weekend getaway is often too much of a task. Plus the time it takes to drive through traffic and pack the goods and last-minute cancellations often makes it a real drag.
Solution *glamping* (As per urban dictionary: “It’s like regular camping, but with nicer things than usual, being warmer and more comfortable”)
Why don’t you borrow the rooftop keys to your high-rise, set up a tent, possibly a barbecue, some torchlight/candlelight and surprise your family with a surprise evening together time. As a favor, please leave your phone/laptops behind.
It is just reinventing the tradition of picnics and rooftop parties (where bucket full of mangoes/fruits & milk were the only items in the menu).
Please find previous articles on:
1. necessary items to carry for a trek
2. campsite selection


Stash away your PAN card

A friend of my mine was robbed by his flat-mate. That guy with whom he was sharing his apartment simply walked away with his phone and emptied his ATM cards.
A detailed account of the incident can be found here.
After being pick-pocketed of 2 phones, I have realized that most thieves find that most valuable item on the target is the phone. By habit people keep track of their wallet bearing back-pocket, but in reality it contains only a few hundred bucks. While a high end phone is worth INR 30-40k. (More after the current Congress govt. has rendered INR worthless)
However this thief was ingenious. Few interesting points this incident raised were:
1. Although he clearly had access to the laptop. He resists the temptation to flick it. Clearly proving that like TV refrigerators laptops are too cumbersome to move in the black market.
2. PAN card: A PAN card is like the social security number and has all the information needed for any banking transaction. You quote your PAN number, address, date of birth and mobile number and you get keys to Fort Knox. Together they have all the information needed to change your banking passwords and max out your cards.
3. In India where people lack identity proofs, PAN is being extensively used by bulk of the people as identity proofs. If you don’t believe me, wait at the airport security. Every second Indian flashes out their PAN card as identity proof. Net result that they end up carrying this card in their wallet always. Making it easier for thieves to get access to your PAN number and date of birth (2 most frequently asked security questions by most banks)
4. Popular wisdom teaches that one should not carry a lot of cash because they would lose more. But with multiple credit cards & debit cards most targets become walking Lakpati (rich marks). In 10 minutes through multiple swiping & ATM withdrawals one cost lose their bank balance & get the credit cards maxed out.
Remedy: Limit your losses!
1. Don’t carry your PAN card around. If you have a driver’s license use it.
2. Don’t buy a flashy high end phone. And if you do, have at least simple password to safeguard the thief from accessing your personal/private photographs.
3. Keep 2 ATM cards. One for your savings and lock that one in a safe place and the second for your monthly expense which you carry around as everyday plastic & petty cash needs
4. Don’t carry multiple cards or credit cards with huge credit limits.

Gaming review

Game Review – Companies of Heroes 2

CoH2 is a long awaited sequence to the universally acclaimed Company of Heroes. It tried to combine the good points of the original game and better graphics with the lesser romanticized saga of the Second World War.
Premise –
A World War II themed real-time strategy game. It features the struggle on the Eastern Front.
The Best Bits –

  • True sight system is new and I hope similar systems are used in any upcoming strategy games.
  • The focus on the Soviets in WWII is a welcome change from the usual, done-to-death western front.
  • The sound effects give a feel of good research being done on the aural part.

What could have been better –

  • The thought to inculcate the best bits from the original game into this game essentially ended up making CoH2 more like a big DLC with slightly improved graphics.
  • The overall visual effects achieved do not feel worth the computer resources needed to play at a reasonable graphic setting.
  • The story and the characters are a big letdown.

My takeaway –
For people who have played and loved the original game, this is not how you want to see a sequel. If you are new to the series, you may give it a try. 5/10.


Useless e-commerce comparisions

Backdrop: My wife was nagging me to iron the pile of clothes for the past few days and finally I gave in. Well to be honest… nobody was surprised if the iron broke in 2 pieces halfway during the excruciating manual labor process.
Anyways here I am 10pm on a friday evening surfing the net to find a replacement.
“I was looking for: Steam iron which is compatible to a 5A plug point and has a 2+m cord. Heavier the weight, more I would prefer it.”
I am surfing all the top online stores (flipkart, ebay, pepperfry & cromaretail). I must say that each and every one had published a 1 page long description of each of the 100+ different irons they were carrying, yet none of these store had the information I was looking for. Instead they would bombard me with more products than I could compare, various discounts, coupons, cashback schemes that would confuse me.
I bought my phone (Nokia Lumnia) in flipkart a month ago. Since this was a high value purchase of a fashion accessory: I went to a store, selected the best match (product, feature, price range, color, look, feel, size etc.) then compared online for the best price. I was OK to wait for 2 days for delivery because the discount was worth it. for a 1,000/- steam iron, I am unlikely going to do that.
Essentially I see steam irons as a commodity. As long as it is from a good brand, there is not much value add in spending hours doing the research about it. I wanted to shop online because of the promise of convenience that it offers and also to save me the time and energy to go to a physical store for this undifferentiated product.
Maybe you feel it is a rant…. but its a voice of a customer who is willing to pay a premium if a store could save him a trip to the store.

Gaming review

Game Review – Alan Wake

I have been an avid gamer since well, forever. I have put in enough game-hours to make a good judgment about any game and thought I could jot down my views on some of the games I have played. That being said, I will try to make this concise since there are many detailed walkthroughs, tips and tricks available on the net. We begin with Alan Wake.


A psychological horror first person shooter. Preternatural elements are involved and you play the titular character, who comes to a seemingly idyllic town.

The Best Bits

  • The story and narration mix – An above average story coupled with good narration makes a compelling reason to play. The ending also differed from what I expected.
  • Fantastic music – The songs taken for the game make a fabulous collection, my favorite being ‘The Poet and the Muse’ and ‘Haunted’. I can listen to the former on a loop for hours.
  • The fact that light is used as an actual weapon is a novel idea.
  • The scene where you fight on an old rock concert stage. ‘Children of the Elder Gods’ blasting in the background and you whaling your opponents for a change.
  • The TV show in a dream sequence utilized a video of the actual people on which the characters were modeled.

What could have been better –

  • The DLCs were a comparative let down. After such a good story, it seems the effort put in them was low.
  • The collectibles did not impact the gameplay in anyway, so going after them just to reach a game achievement didn’t seem worthwhile at times.

My takeaway –

A definite recommend. I loved playing it and was genuinely scared at times. 8.5/10.


The brand called ME!

Some unscrupulous salesperson would promise anything to the client to close the deal. They sometimes make promises and give assurances that are unfulfilled, but who cares. In most companies there is a complete disconnect between the guys who markets/promotes the product, sell it, deliver the service, maintain it and take the feedback. Everybody is given a target which is impossible to meet and the guys who live on commission often live paycheck to paycheck.
However do all this justify the shortcuts people take to close the deal? Giving false assurances to business associates is often the preferred Band-Aid used to postpone the inevitable anger and escalations, but does it solve anything?
What I have often seen is that it only tarnishes your credibility and the value of your words and assessments. The world is increasingly becoming connected and everything is being archived & recorded. Your honesty, promptness and straight forward lying of facts, no matter how bad, will only add to your credibility. After all a timely warning will give your associates ample time to take alternative measures and do damage control… rather for waiting for a miracle.
You might change your company in a couple of years, but the world will always remember your face. Your deceit today might not save the situation, but will surely damage your reputation.


Smartphones: death sentence to everything else

A wife was granted 4 wishes from a genie and she asked for:
– I want my husband to have eyes only for me
– I wanted to be the only one in his life
– I want him to sleep always with me by his side
– I want him to be with me first thing in the morning and take me everywhere.
To her surprise, the genie converted her into a smart phone.
Jokes apart smart phones are consuming an increasingly large share of its user’s time. What’s more disturbing is the increasingly large number of interruptions that it cause which probably kills any scope of meaningful dialogue. A smartphone with integrated email, calls, text and social media has become a gateway to all digital communications. But does that mean we ignore the person sitting right next to us?
Just ask yourself, how many times have you seen your discussion cut shot because of a telephone ring/beep? How many times have you taken the pains to approach someone only to find that playing games/answering to emails/text takes precedence over your conversations? I am not only talking about office, but important family conversations. My wife bugs me saying I might as well have married the phone…. But what she says has merits.
another interesting article by xkcd


Diaper choices

I usually bought diapers from the nearby store which offered very limited collection. So I used to check for the baby’s weight and I got 3 choices (Huggies, Pampers and poko-pants). I then used to check for the price per diaper and picked one that fitted by budget. On a friend’s recommendation, I went to D-Mart (‎) just to discover that there are more than 30 different diaper makes in the store. Even the popular brands like huggies & pampers have 3-4 different variants. Not to mention the different pack sizes & combo offers. There was so much choice that a simple 10 second job of picking the diaper took me good 20 minutes. End of it I was wondering when did all this choice and time for selection stopped being productive?
What was more troubling that unlike cars/tvs or white goods there was no chart as to what features does each diaper has, under what condition which option is better. International brands does not even give a comparison between its variants nor they keep the price points so far apart that the consumers know that this is economy, this is popular and this is premium product.
For those non-parents who are still wondering what this musing is all about: A diaper is a considerable expense that will inflate your weekly grocery bill like crazy (since you need 4-6 of them daily). Also you need one that does not leak or spill (for obvious reasons) and one that can stay dry for long durations esp. overnights. After all you would not like your kid to be surrounded by shit and feel discomfortable.