Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pending updates!! - Episode One

Been a long time since i last updated the blog... not because there was nothing to update but because there was no internet connectivity available :(

But the last few days have been eventful! So lets begin - -

21st November : I received my SSN, exactly 2 weeks after applying for it, guess I was lucky to have not faced any delays or trouble in getting the SSN.
This was also the day before the long Thanksgiving weekend began and the day when I was to shift from 199 to 207! That evening was probably the most tiring in my entire life... picking all those heavy items and transferring them to the new apartment, with no one to help, almost took the life out of me!

22nd November : For the first time in my life, I prepared lunch!! Rice, Dal and Bhendi fry... the bhendi fry was nice and oily :) It took me the whole morning and a bit of the afternoon too to get my lunch ready!! Have to work up on my speed at chopping and frying, i guess!
I also assembled the drawers finally... got some pictures while doing it too! It was a lot of fun, making your own furniture! All the boards are chopped to the right size, screws of every shape and size provided, all one has to do is deduce which screw goes where and then twist :D Did that for the rest of the afternoon after lunch and then finally had it ready by evening... stuffed it with all my stuff and admired my work-of-art for some time after that....

23rd November : Did nothing special really this day... actually got quite bored in the morning. In the evening though, i went to Target with Sarika and did some shopping... picked up a cute cuddly brown dog as my birthday gift and named him 'Chantu' (pronounced 'Shantu' like in French ;)

24th November : This was a fruitful day... I visited the nearest public library, again with Sarika, and got my membership done! Now i wouldnt have to bother about getting bored... i will have all the books i can handle to read :) The library is free and not too bad either... will keep me happy for a long time! Later in the evening, I visited Vons and picked up a cake for my birthday... not a cake but just a slice of it. It felt odd buying a cake for my own birthday and there was also not going to be a big party with many people so got a small one.... I really miss my family :(

25th November : A day before my birthday and i am all alone in my 2-bedroom apartment with no telephone, no internet! It probably cannot get worse than this :( I try to keep busy by making some chocolate pudding (which by the way turned out real good) and trying my hand at some more cooking, but this time i try something less time-consuming - an omlette.

So this was how I spent my Thanksgiving weekend, all in all, eventful four days!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Words of Wisdom

When you get to the end of you rope, tie a knot, hang on and swing!
- Leo Buscaglia

Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.
- Unknown

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
- Kurt Vonnagut

Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option
- Anonymous

Sunday, November 18, 2007

grocery shopping and me!

This week is turning out to be a week of 'firsts'! Yesterday I went shopping for groceries for the first time EVER in my entire life, I actually checked whether the apples are fresh, the bhendi looks good(though did not know what to look for in a bhendi!) and also bought a loooot of house-hold items. Another first was cash deposit in a bank... had to deposit the rent in my room-mates bank because of some nonsensical setup she has and therefore first had to withdraw close to $1200 dollars from the BofA ATM then go to US Bank and deposit it!

Yesterday evening was a fun-filled evening with tow major events: shopping and dining
The evening began with a visit to Costco(a BIG warehouse) where everything is sold wholesale(read, cheap but only in bulk) where we bought tissues and milk. Nothing jazzy about the shop and nothing small about it too! Everything comes in XXL sizes, right from chips packets to double container oil jars to huge packs of tissues! Did not like that shop too much but its good for essentials shopping for a family.
Next stop was North Park Produce, its a place where we get grocery and masala and the kind. Not too big and quite boring actually... just a fancy 'Santosh ki dukaan' :) This is where I had my first experience of buying groceries!
Later we went to the US Bank and finished off the deposit work... much to my relief, because my room-mate was bugging me off with her constant reminders!
Last stop for the day was Walmart where I did most of the shopping, right from trash cans to a microwave! Ran up quite a huge bill to but then most of the things are not perishable and a necessity too!
Shopping done, returned home, stored all the stuff in the hall and ran off to the dinner party...
The dinner party, hosted by the kind soul who drops and picks me up from office every day, was just getting started and after some light discussion we got on to playing dumb-charades... after a long time, I had so much fun, laughing and screaming, I almost lost my voice for the evening :) The dinner was also too good... luchi ghugni and paneer bhuji and jeera rice... yummy! I really feel now that it only is a matter of some initiative and there is no reason why i cannot cook like that and have some good food! Chatted for quite some time after dinner about getting a new car, the insurance, the furniture etc etc and I felt overwhelmed with all the work! But then i had a ferrero rocher and i was feeling good again :)
So this is how my Saturday ended and today, Sunday, I plan to sort out all my financial details and also get some office work done....

Saturday, November 17, 2007

driving on the freeway!!

Just got back from my first driving lesson :) Was a lot of fun and work too... so many rules to abide by, so many speed limits to be aware of! I did a good job, i think but do need to take at least one more lesson before I am confident enough to rent a car. The freeway experience was also good though i should remember to maintain speed at all times... got honked at once on the freeway!
There are few more things that i should be careful about:
1. quick acceleration at signals, especially when getting onto the freeway (got honked at one more time here while getting on to the freeway!)
2. left/right indicators only 1-1/2 houses before the turn... NOT before that!
3. while taking a right turn, get onto the bike lane only 100 feet or less before the turn.
4. while turning or changing lanes, slow down, look in the mirror, indicator, look over your shoulder and then turn/change lanes
So its decided now that I got to take another lesson and then go on for the driving test but before that there are a couple of things i have to check out:
1. receipts for the driving lessons
2. drop and pick-up for the written test
3. written test possible without SSN?
Ok so thats that then... good start to the weekend but have some office work to complete as well :( its beginning to get hectic now! Will be going grocery shopping today and also have to buy some essentials before moving into the new apartment... and also have a dinner to attend in the evening!

Friday, November 16, 2007

another first!

Just a small note on how I saw another first... someone breaking the signal!!
Not such a big deal in India but I was shocked to see someone jumping the red signal here... here where people stop at a 'STOP' sign painted on the road on an empty road with no one in sight door-door tak! Was suprised indeed and may i add, it also made me feel that people here too are falliable and not automatons driving :)

PS: the Friday dinner invite that was expected did not come :( but another one on Saturday came up! And I am not complaining :D

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Today I got my first dollar paycheck :D Nothing fancy and certainly not substantial.. it just got credited to my account and I received a mail with the salary information, details of which i am yet to understand! But it was a happy feeling :)
Was very relieved to get the money in my Bofa account because that meant that i could pay of all the outstanding bills and also withdraw money without paying any additional surcharge...
Today also went to the local grocery store(mall, actually... and this is a first too!) VONS is the name of the store and its a grocery chain... really liked the place. I am beginning to feel that given some time I will actually start enjoying my stay here :) Withdrawing cash from the ATM here was another first today...
Have also signed up for the driving class this Saturday so that is something to look forward to this weekend. And yes, the dinner invite.... had said 'no' the last friday so wondering if i will be re-invited this weekend, keeping my fingers crossed... really want to meet Kim's wife and also have the gift to give!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

first bus trip!

Today was an eventful day! Just back from my first ever bus trip in the US of A! Had gone to Fashion Valley for some shopping, bought a box of chocolates for the dinner invite (that i might or might not get) and also two formal tops.... but thats not all, this day also taught me many lessons that i ought to remember!
1. bus travel is not intimidating if you know where to get up and down :)
2. My 'माल' (not hindi, but english!) room-mate can be a big pain in the a**, though pretty much stuck with her for the next two months will try and move out of her company asap!
3. when somebody is giving you a lot of gyan and generally bitching, the best way is to ask 'do u want me to do something?' else pretty soon the guns are going to be drawn on you!
4. Shopping in malls here is pretty confusing and boring especially if you dont have good company, there are just too many things and none of your choice and budget.

Ok enough of the lessons now... i visited a lot of high-profile brand stores today like Gucci, Carolina Herrera, Gap, Guess, Bloomingdale, Saks Fifth Avenue and the regulars like Macys, JCPenny and Ann Taylor but nothing really caught my eye and finally ended up buying from a shop named 'Express'!

All in all, it wasnt a bad day at all... i just miss the enjoyment and fun, actually its being a long time since i had a good laugh with friends :(

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A list of movies I watched - weekly update

I have been watching so many movies online that i feel i should put that in here as well... So here goes:
Week 1(10/29-11/04): Johnny Gaddar, Jab We Met
Week 2(11/05-11/11): Laga Chunari me Daag, Dhol, Chak de India, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd
Week 3(11/12-11/18): The Bee Movie, American Gangster, Om Shanti Om, Sawariya
Week 4(11/19-11/25): 15th Park Avenue
Week 5(11/26-12/02): Love Actually
Week 6(12/03-12/09): Matrix Reloaded, Matrix Revolutions, Dhan dhan dhan GOAL, Ella Enchanted, Aaja Nachle(Madhuri's comeback movie and i totally liked it!)
Week 7(12/10-12/16): Khoya Khoya Chand (boring!), Dus Kahaniyaan (not bad at all)
Here is an article I read on about dealing with car dealers:

To help you take the driver's seat in the buying experience, first learn to play the game, and you might even end up doing some smooth talking of your own.

Ready, Set, Go!

1. "I'm ready to buy now."

This is an admission of weakness and an invitation for the dealer to throw out a price that's slightly below the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) to see if you'll take the bait. It shows that you're too eager and willing to consider an offer, and it also gives salespeople the advantage by allowing them to talk you up as opposed to you talking them down. But by adding some very precise parameters, you'll sound confident and strong from the start.

"Don't let them know that you're ready to buy without being very particular. If you're ready, say that you'll buy, but only under these particular conditions," says Gentile.

There are two schools on negotiating. Going into the process, Gentile reminds consumers to be wary of the dealer cost. Consumer Reports has something called wholesale price, which is the normal dealer invoice price minus all relevant rebates and incentives. Similarly, most longstanding price-information services advise buyers to research the dealer invoice, along with any relevant incentives, then make a lowball offer that's maybe just a few hundred dollars above invoice. The dealer will follow your figure with a counteroffer that then allows you to go back and forth until there is a compromise.

Conversely, a second school believes that making the first offer puts the buyer in a weak position. "When you make an offer on a car, you're digging yourself into a hole," says James "Spike" Bragg, a consumer advocate and founder of Fighting Chance, an information service for new-car buyers. "That offer will be as good as it gets. There's so much today in 'under the radar' sales incentives to dealers, you don't want to limit yourself."

According to Bragg, many of the dealer incentives today are awarded on a dealer-by-dealer basis, often handed out for meeting sales targets. Because of this, you can't pin down these incentives on a particular vehicle, and you never know which dealership might be able to provide the better price at a given time.

Bragg's method involves faxing quote requests from several different dealerships and asking them for their best bottom-line price on a particular model. His clients sometimes manage to negotiate prices well below invoice, even considering all published incentives. In this day of increased under-the-radar incentives, this method doesn't limit you to a bottom line and certainly has its merits if you're willing to put in the effort.

On you can pursue both options. On each of our Reviews pages there is a link to detailed MSRP and invoice pricing. Also, if you go to our "Buy a Car" section, you can select a model, configure it how you like and then request a free dealer price quote.

Monthly Payment

2. "I can afford this much per month."

"Don't tell the dealer what you're willing to pay per month. This is the biggest mistake a shopper can make. Often the dealer will focus on a monthly payment scheme, insisting you are receiving a great deal, but at the end of the day you won't really know what you paid, advises Gentile.

If the dealer can get a number out of you, a common trick is to ask if you can squeeze out a slightly higher monthly payment, then raise the bottom-line price accordingly by hundreds or even thousands. Avoid this by insisting that you focus only on the purchase price. Walk away if the salesperson only wants to talk in monthly payments. Trade-in


3. "Yes, I have a trade-in."

Don't tell salespeople you have a trade-in until a final transaction price is set. If you do and the deal hasn't been made yet, they may try to distract you with the "great" deal they're giving you on your trade-in as they skimp on the real deal. And if you catch that, they may try writing your trade-up for less.

"You'll see games being played — they'll play one off on the other," Gentile says. Once you've decided on a sale price, then you can see what they'll give you for your old car.

Cash-Only Please

4. "I'm only buying the car with cash."

Car dealers make a significant chunk of added profit when they sell you financing. If you don't at least leave the dealer with the possibility that he or she might sell you financing, you simply won't be getting the best deal. Bragg recommends saying something like "I haven't really thought that through yet. Maybe we'll see what you have after we agree on a price."

But be truly noncommittal with financing, even though it's a good idea to line up tentative financing with your lender before you go car shopping.

Still Debating

5. "I'm not sure…which model do you think I need?"

If you're this undecided, you may end up driving away in a vehicle you neither wanted nor needed. Do the research in advance, and make your first shopping trip a short one. Use this opportunity to gather information and take your spec vehicle for a short test drive. If your uncertainty is apparent, you may end up buying the model with the most add-on equipment, the highest sticker price and, of course, the most profit for the dealer. Before you go shopping, narrow your choices down to three or four vehicles that fit your needs.

My Dream Car

6. "Oh, I've wanted one of these all my life."

As soon as you've lost yourself in the dreamy vision of that gleaming convertible, the salesperson has you hooked, and your chances of getting a great deal are over. "Don't get caught heavy breathing," says Bragg. "Certainly don't admit to your spouse — with the salesman listening in the backseat — that you're in love with the car." Here's where you need to have a communication plan. Try to sound objective and rational. Point out some pros and cons and be observant and calm. Just don't say that you have to have this car.

What Everyone Wants

7. "I'll take whatever the popular options are."

Don't ever ask for the "popular options" especially on a luxury model that already comes loaded. It's an open invitation for overpriced dealer add-ons such as interior protectant, window etching or undercoating. They're all things you can come back for later. Instead, go through the equipment list at home after your first visit to the dealership and then decide exactly what you need.

Lowest You Can Go

8. "What's the lowest price you can give me?"

Most likely, this question won't be taken seriously, and you will be met with a predictable performance. The salesperson will wince, maybe talk to the manager, fiddle with numbers and eventually come back with a price that probably isn't a very good deal for you. But there may be so much apparent effort in this performance that you'll be pressured into settling for that final number. Don't. To avoid this, make an informed and reasonable low offer, then wait for a counteroffer. Don't be afraid of silence. Conversely, don't be surprised if there's even a little drama.

Doing The Math

9. "Sure, I'll look at the numbers with you."

Perhaps quite early in your visit, the salesperson will most likely make an offer to "just go look at the numbers." Dealers do this when they sense you're undecided, but they want to be in the position of control. Getting you in the office makes it harder for you to back out. Wait until you can call the shots of what you want at what price.

The Haggle Factor

10. "I think you can do a lot better than that."

Never scold or accuse the salespeople. Be polite. Compliment them, and show respect. You'll never get the best price if you talk down to them. At least for the moment, you want them to be your friends. Let the scene play out, but leave when the deal's not good enough by quietly suggesting that the competition across town might be more willing to work with you.

Another weekend is here!

Today is my third Saturday in the US of A, i remember the first when I had just landed and the second when i was doing.... nothing :) and now the third when i am getting ready to study for the written test for the driver's license.... Now is a good time since it seems that getting a driver's license is a long term plan and then getting a car would take another month... whew! lots of work ahead!

Lets see now, what were the highlights last week??!! Nothing much really other than the fact that i finally submitted my application for the SSN (details to follow!) and also got all my cards-Ecount, BOFA and AMEX all in the same day! Was also invited by Kim for dinner on Friday but turned it down coz i didn't have anything to gift them.... will pick up something when i got out tomorrow, planning to go to Fashion Valley and do some shopping... And also booked a new apartment here at Bernardo Hills itself... its a 2BHK and will be just two of us... works out to be a little expensive but at least there will be some peace of mind and more importantly, some privacy! Will be moving out sometime during the Thanksgiving weekend!

The trip to the SSN office was one long bore! I guess, all the governmental agencies of the world follow the same set of rules... it was just like in any Indian govt office, long queues, bored officials taking their own sweet time moving around, frustrated people waiting for hours on end... including me! Had to wait for two long hours before my number was finally called out and the task was done in less than 5 minutes!! and here i was, thinking that in the US of A everything happens in a jiffy, i guess somethings never change!

Thanksgiving weekend is round the corner but I have no plans as of now... looks like I will be here... planning to take some driving classes if they remain open and my SSN is done by then! Had many options like going to Chicago to Dada or to Pittsburgh to friends or even to New York to Pishi but none worked out coz for one its working out to be quite expensive and right now with so many expenses coming up, i really should not be splurging! and also the flight timings are such that i would end up spending almost a day and half in traveling to-and-fro... totally not worth it! So right now I am here waiting for something interesting to come up!

Monday, November 5, 2007

first weekend in US of A

The first weekend just went by as I had planned for a lot of things... first, a trip to LA (which then got cancelled) then a trip to the local stores for some grocery and shopping but then even that got cancelled and at the end of the day the colleague's son's bday was what i attended...
It was a good experience, saw a lot of south-indian women decked up in their best... it felt like Durga Puja and not just a kid's bday party!!
Met a Maharashtrian couple and chatted with the lady... also met my colleagues' pretty wives, almost felt like i was in 'Beauty and the Beast!' :D
Sunday was spent lazing around the house and watching a couple of movies... Johnny Gaddar and Jab We Met... the first movie was good and the second was bad... thats my review!
Probably next weekend I will go around a bit... need to shop for new clothes!

Friday, November 2, 2007

first taste of independence!! - the series

The first week at office is officialy over and now I have a weekend to look forward to and though nothing really special happened, here is the chronicle for posterity sake:
DAY 1 - Dada drops me off and while I wait for someone to come accompany me, VB drives in and drops me off at the gate where KA is waiting with a big smile on his face! I am introduced to everyone in the team and also to the managers like GR, YK, Ranga and also to S and Randy. By the time I am settled in, its time for lunch and VB asks me for lunch and we go off to an Indian restaurant 'Delhi (something)' accompanied by KA. Soon its time to pack up and I leave.
DAY 2 - Today is the day for 'application status report' meeting where in AS (the new acting-PM) presents the info abt all the applications while people responsible for each app gives the detailed updates. I see a lot of new faces and am shocked when AS asks me to give the updates on a particular application... After the meeting, I find out that AM, Matt, David (all app mangers) were the new faces and I gave my first report to them even without knowing it!!
DAY 3 - Got in touch with SR some other guys from GST and with their help got an idea about the various forms to be filled and submitted. Also went to the canteen with Santosh and chatted for quite some time and he told me about his LA trip on the coming weekend and whether I wanted to join in... i was all excited and ofcourse I said yes!
DAY 4 - Nothing much happened today other than that I faxed across all the documents and also opened up a BOFA account. the only thing pending is to get the SSN done...
DAY 5 - The week finally ends... got an invite to attend S's son's second bday on Saturday and also got my sony badge....
The evenings have been interesting with varied preparations of sambhar and the little ww that i have had to witness... I swear the food did not have half the spice that the war of words did! :D

Thursday, November 1, 2007

first taste of independence!! - the series

As the day dawned, I was ready to... get back to sleep again :) Felt could sleep for another two days atleast! But Dada forced me up and after having breakfast, we left for shopping (that actually was the only reason I agreed to get up in the first place!). We went to the malls in Escondido (Macy's, Sears, JCPenny) and while I was suprised by the sheer size of the malls, I really was enjoying it a lot! Almost bought a top from New York and Co but then decided to check out the other shops before making a purchase and landed up at Anna Taylor Loft.... the saleslady there was really nice and she did a great job at getting me to buy a pair of good fitting trousers and a blood red top! Later we went to a shoe store but then since nothing really caught my eye, we left soon enough. By then it was already 5 and it was time to visit the apartment which was to be my home, for now!
My first impression was well.... this looks like a refugee camp!! Firstly there were 5 girls already sharing the apartment which as far as i knew was home to only 2 other girls and on top of it all the girls were married and south-indian!! What luck! will these south-indians never leave me alone?!! Nyways seeing the condition of the house and the space crunch, Dada got into overdrive and we drove off to Target to pick up a lot of essential (as per Dada) household items! I had fun.. it seemed like the American lifestyle that i had always thought of having :) And then we dropped off the stuff at the apartment and got back to the hotel... Day 2 was coming to an end and I was getting mentally ready for joining office the next day....