Tuesday, May 31, 2011

First Trip to USA – Tips and Things To Bring

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Here is a consolidated list of things from what my friends suggested me to bring when I was flying here for the first time in 2006. Feel free to Pick and Choose as required for the duration of your trip.This should make it easy for you while you settle down and get to know the stores and brands.

Get your IDL(International Drivers License). This will not only help you drive while you wait to get your driver’s license but also might get you an exempt from the driving exam.Be very careful with your passport and visa during the travel.Have multiple copies of the address and telephone numbers of the place you are visiting or going to live.

Things to remember

I. Costumes

1. Long Leather Jacket
2. Sweater.
3. Leather Gloves and cap.

Depends on whether you land on the chilly east coast or silicon west coast.East Coast  has severe winters/snow where as the west and south are not that bad.

4. Get some thick shirts.
5. Shoes 2 Pairs (1 for office ), 1 Pair of sandals,1Pair of home slippers.
6. Pijamas n t-shirts 5-6 Pairs.
7. Under garments at least 10-15 Pairs.
8. Office wear at least 5-6 Pairs.
9. Socks Black color at least 8-10 Pairs(for office)
10. Shaving set.
11. Nivea Body Lotion.


12. Tablets - Headache,Motions,Pain Relief.

Except a few over the counter drugs like Advil,Tylenol most of the medication here require a doctor’s prescription.

13. If you wear glasses get 2 pairs of glasses .Glasses are costly here.


Go to a dentist and get everything fixed especially the root canals,too much wisdom teeth and crowns.Its expensive and also difficult to get dental appointments here.


14. Get good quality suitcases as the ground staff neither respect nor fear them:).


15. Coming to cooking:

         1. Pressure cooker, 2 utensils,1 plate,1glass.2 pair of spoons.
         2. Any spices which you want in your food.
         3. Pickles - get 2 varieties
         4. Write down all recipes which you cook daily.


16. Get the software you have/need.
17. Books related to your subject.
19. If you have office bag get.

Don't Smuggle

Do not bring anything made from meat,not even pickles.When you arrive inform the customs officer what you have. They are going to the check the suitcases anyhow. Do not bring meat pickles. If you are bringing groundnuts have them roasted if not they will be taken in to custody:).

Enter the Dragon

At the port of entry usually there will be two lines .One for the permanent residents and US citizens and the other for the Visa Holders. Have your passport and file with all the documents ready as you approach the Immigration Officer.Wait for your turn behind the yellow line. Wish him with a smile and answer the questions if any to the point confidently.

Feel free to add to the list and also send me an email and I will send the list of things you can bring for me:).Happy Journey!

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Auto Insurance

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Along with your driver’s license and vehicle registration, it is mandatory to have auto insurance when you drive. There are several insurance companies competing to make your job easier. You can get the quote online or through an agent. I find getting it through an agent to be hassle free but online option is not a bad either.

What you need to know - Few terms you should understand before you talk to an insurance agent.

Bodily Injury Liability: Bodily Injury coverage is required by most states. It provides coverage for any injuries you cause to someone else.

Property Damage Liability: This is another coverage type that will be required by most states. It covers any damage you cause to someone’s property.

Personal Injury Protection: PIP provides for the treatment of injuries to the driver and passengers of the policyholder’s car.

Collision Coverage: Collision is typically an optional auto policy component that covers any damage to your car that’s the result of a collision.

Comprehensive Coverage: This coverage will protect you in case of any damage to your car that didn’t involve a collision. This includes theft, fire, and vandalism.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage: This offers you protection if you’re injured in a collision with a driver who’s either uninsured or insufficiently insured.

Rental Reimbursement Coverage: This is a fairly common rider that will cover you if you need to rent a vehicle to replace yours if it’s damaged or stolen.

Towing and Labor Coverage: This covers your out-of-pocket costs in case of a flat tire or if your car breaks down.

Gap Auto Insurance Coverage: A gap insurance add-on will pay out the difference between the actual cash value of your car and whatever amount is left on your auto loan if your car is totaled in an accident.

As you can see some of these are optional .As your vehicle grows old it is better to get the add-ons like Towing and Labor Coverage etc for a nominal increase in premiums.

What they need to know

The criteria used by the insurance companies to calculate your premiums vary from Gender,Age,Driving history, Marital status, Vehicle classification to your Credit ratings and if your  car has a Anti Theft Alarm.

Along with you vehicle VIN, Plate Number and Your license number you need to provide them with any past traffic violations or accident information. If you do not have the exact dates put in approximate dates. The providers pull the exact data from respective agencies using the details you provided. When you are buying your auto insurance for the first time the premiums are usually higher. One way to escape these high premiums is to buy the insurance for a few months and then switch to another provider. Most of the providers give you a discount when you sign up for home renters insurance or another kind of insurance along with your auto.When you call them don’t forget to ask for discounts.

They calculate the premium for six months while you have the option to pay monthly or pay in full and get the balance back if you cancel out.

911 - I am Hit, I am Hit

I hear that you are a safe driver and you follow the rules. But not everyone is at a given point in time. When accidents happen, do not panic. Call 911 - Even if the other party gives his insurance information right away and agrees or asserts that he was at fault. I have heard several incidents where they go home and change their story completely. And then you will end up playing the villain and paying the bills both yours and his. It’s rare for insurance premiums to sky rocket once you get your first speeding ticket. But if you were at fault in an accident there will be a hike in your premiums. They should be back to normal once you go without any accidents for the next one or two years. Otherwise switch to a different provider.

Where is my money?

Providers work with certain auto repair shops in your area directly. You can get their details either from the provider’s website or by calling the customer care. They will either pay the repair shop or will send you a check in case your car was totaled. If it was totaled in an accident ,they give you the depreciated price for your vehicle which usually is not bad.

Eyes All Over

Never Hit and Run. It is a very serious crime .Even if you hit their bumper and are sure nothing happened. There are eyes which you can’t see(Cameras ,Other People,Your Conscious etc).If it is in a parking lot and if the other party is not in the car, leave a note with your number and insurance information.


Although most of the companies remind you when you are due for a renewal recommend you to keep reminders and get it renewed before it expires. Never run out of insurance. It is not only illegal but it will be difficult for you to get coverage later. Very few companies will cover you charging high premiums.

Car Rentals

You can choose to have you covered on your rentals by paying a little more on the premiums. This is not a bad option if you are a FT (Frequent Traveler).Always keep the registration, insurance in the dash board and drivers license in your wallet and the wallet in your pocket/bag. Drive Safe!

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Friday, May 20, 2011

The guy who married his GPS

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Abhimanyu or as his frieds call him Abhi is a 5 foot 4 inch tall(he thinks so) decent looking guy. He recently finished his masters in electrical engineering from UPenn and works as a Game Developer in Newark,Delaware.As a kid he hated chocolates and ate chalk pieces and now he loves long drives but hates technology. So he is a close friend of Google Maps and no relative to IPhones.Everytime he drives to Jersey he ends up in Time Square and on his way back he ends up half way to the White House. Misses destinations just by a few 100 miles. He strictly used to follow his three step KBC (Indian Version of the Millionaire) philosophy in this order.
50-50 - If you miss an exit, takes the next one and instead of heading back like everyone else just keeps going and you will reach your destination sooner or later.
Ask the Audience - People at the Gas Stations and Service Areas.
Phone a friend - And finally call our friends who have nothing to do on weekends and desperately waiting for our phone call to get on to the internet and navigate us out from where we are to where we should be.
But never become a slave to the technology.
It is this philosophy and determination that helped him conquer the remotest places on the east coast which were tough to find on Google maps. Things were very similar on the personal front as he rejected a few and many have rejected him during the wedding date and interview process. Some failed at the technical (Girl) and some in the HR (Girls Family) with both face to face and telephonic interviews. His requirements were simple(He thinks so).
1) If i speak rashly in anger she should not complain.
2) If i drank too much she can warn me but should never ask to quit.
3) She should be good at singing and should sing all my favorite songs.
4) When i am watching TV she should not switch the channels.
While some felt those were crazy requirements, some felt he was. Colleagues gossiped - "He was soft outside and psycho inside”. Having enough of Abhi and not wanting him to bug them on the weekends for directions, Kelly one of his colleagues gifted him her old GPS on his thirty first birthday. He rarely missed an exit and never visited New York or Washington DC again and everyone was relieved.
As months passed by, with confidence on one beautiful sunny day Abhi drove his friends visiting from Texas to Niagara Falls. Racing through the scenic locations as the American Falls was closing in they were all excited to see the falls for the first time.Abhi hit the brakes so hard that Jay sitting in the back seat came flying in between the two front seats and crashed on to the dashboard so hard that all the six Disks in the CD player ejected one after the other.Infront of them was a huge wall and the GPS proclaimed - "You Have Arrived". Embarrased, Abhi had to fall back to the phone a fiend option. He later got to know that the maps on his used GPS were not up to date and got them updated. On the other hand he received a confirmation from the wedding vendors association that the last ship has just left and he need not worry about the interviews and getting married anymore.
A year faded by in desperation - Late night after a very long work day and a frustrating phone call with parents Abhi switched on his GPS and was amazed to find the "Take Me Home" option. Relieved he hit the button and cruised through. After an hour he realized that it is taking more than the usual which is fifteen minutes to reach home. It was taking him to Kelly’s house and not his as he never updated the home address nor is the GPS Artificially Intelligent. Cursing himself he applied the brakes and made a immediate U turn .After half a mile he could see light coming in the opposite direction. Strangely the cars on the other side of the road were driving in the same direction as Abhi.As he drove a little further the light grew bigger. And within a few seconds shocked and stunned he pulled on to the emergency lane as a truck honking in the opposite direction missed him by inches. The U turn he made was an exit out of the highway and he was heading against the traffic. Petrified,he stayed on the shoulder for the next one hour and that near death experience triggered some life changing thoughts on his mind. He slowly reached home and ordered for the best of the Voice Enabled GPS in the market.
1) As he fell in love with its female voice-On his command, it used to take him where ever he wants and never complained. It knew the speed limits on every highway and used to warn him when he is over the limit.
2) Using its inbuilt Blood Alcohol Content Analyzer it  used Abhis breath to check and warn if he is over drunk.
Abhi named her Angelina. He was furious if someone referred to it as 'it' and not as her or Angelina.
3) As she used to play all the songs from his favorite playlist in the car, he carried her to his desk and made her watch him coding.
4)At home he used to make her sit next to him on the couch while watching TV and talk all night as she never asked him to change the channel.
Soon he was convinced that she meets all his soul-mate criteria. On a rainy afternoon he took her to her favorite restaurant and after an intimate chat, with great difficulty he proposed her. And like with everything else she dint say no.
Rejoiced he called his parents and informed them that he is getting married to Angelina. They thought that it was some American at work. That weekend he flew to Vegas with his bride and got married. After his royal bachelor party, it took his friends months and family years to get out of the hangover .But they were happy as they knew no human would fit in to his requirements.
Abhi and Angi lived happily ever after!

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Monday, May 16, 2011

DUI: Dont Drink and Drive - You can't afford it

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Nags phone rang at 4 O Clock in the morning.He was in no mood to answer.It rang again but the same result.Roopa not wanting the kids to be disturbed, picked it up with frustration when it rang for the 5th time.It was Rajan and his words were not clear.She woke up Nags and handed over the phone.Rajan in his trembling voice said that he is calling from the chicago jail.Shocked Nags kicked roopa and when she kicked him back he was sure that it was not a dream.

Rajans wife is due for their second baby in a month and that night he and his friends had their weekly get together at their regular hangout place downtown.He had one extra drink than his usual quota.But on his way back he could not walk the line.The officers handcuffed him,put him in the back seat and it all happened so quick that by the time he could realize he was behind the bars next to other criminals.Over the Limit Under Arrest!

Blood alcohol content or BAC is most commonly used as a metric of intoxication for legal or medical purposes.The legal limits might vary from state to state and mostly included as a part of your license exam.Here is a BAC Calculator that estimates you BAC depending on your size and drinks.

You can injure/kill yourself ,your family members or someone who has nothing to do with you or your social life.Even if you and we were lucky and you were put behind bars before something like that happens,it will haunt you for the rest of your life on every back ground check from employment to education and immigration.

In developed countries like USA where finding/drinking liquor is easier and cheaper than other necessities the chances of DUI are comparitively higher.Rajan has spent eight thousand dollars so far towards fines and lawyer fees and it is just the beginning.If you dont drink you are an inspiration , if you do you can be one by quitting and if you can't , my friend take a cab or call a friend but don't Drive Under The Influence - You Cant Afford It.

In a nutshell, alcohol ruins one physically, morally, intellectually and economically.M.K.Gandhi.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

బలే నవాబు - ఒక్క ఐడియా అందరి జీవితాల్ని మార్చేసింది

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సింహపురి మహా నగరం, కోవూరు మండలం - 1993 లో వో బలే రోజు...

కబీర్ దాసు గారి పద్యాలను - కల్ కరే సో ఆజ్ కర్  అంటూ ఫాలో అవుతూ,రెపటి జిందగీ ఆజ్ హి జియో అనే సూత్రంతో - హుందాగా ,దర్జా గా కనిపిస్తూ అందరినీ సలామా లేకుం అంటూ సరదాగా పలకరిస్తూ ,ప్రతి రోజు రంజాన్ పండుగలా బలేగా గడిపేస్తుంటారు అబ్దుల్లా నవాబు గారు.జహాపనా ఇంట్లో వారిని వీదిలో వారిని ఎప్పటి కప్పుడు బలే ఐడియాలతో ఆస్చర్య పరుస్తూ వుండేవారు. వో సారి వున్నటుండి ఎం.ఎల్.ఆ ఎలక్షన్లలో నిలబడ్డారు.ఏది చేసినా కిక్ సంగతి ఎమో గాని చెక్కు మటుకు బారి గానే వుండేది.ఏనుగు గుర్తుకే మీ వోటు అని వూరుకోకుండా ,ప్రచారానికి వో సర్కస్ ఏనుగుని నెల రోజులకు అద్దెకు తెచ్చి మరీ ఊరంతా తిప్పేసారు.ఎలెక్షన్లలో గెలవకపోయినా నవాబు గారికి ఊరిలో పలుకుబడి బాగా పెరిగిపోయింది.

మరో సారి అలానే బేటీ నిక్కా కి రెహ్మాన్ ఆర్కెస్ట్రా పక్కా అనే బలే ఐడియాతో సంచలనం స్రుష్టించాడు.మొత్తానికి రెహ్మాన్ రాలేకపోయినా శివ మణి మేల వాయిద్యాలతో అతిదులను అనంద పరిచాడు.

ఇలాంటి ఐడియాలు పదే పదే రావటానికి ఆయనకు వున్న ఒకే ఒక ధైర్యం అయన కోట.అది కలిసొచిందని కొందరంటే ,కబ్జా చేస్తే వచ్చిందని చాల మంది అనేవారు.ఏది అయితే ఏమి అది వో ప్రభుత్వ బ్యాంకుకి అద్దెకు ఇచ్చారు. నెల నెలా అద్దెతో పాటు నవాబు గారి పలుకు బడి చూసి ,వద్దంటున్నా వినకుండా వెంటబడి మరి లోన్లు బానె ఇచ్చేవారు బ్యాంకు వారు.మరి లోన్లు కి గ్యరెంటియ్యో - తమ పొలాల తో పాటుగా గవర్నమెంటు స్తలాలన్ని ,ఆస్తులన్ని మొహమాటం లేకుండా బలే చూపించే వారు నవాబు గారు.

విషయం తెలిసిన బ్యాంకు మేనేజర్ పోలిస్ కంప్లైంటు ఇస్తే తన వుద్యోగానికే ముప్పని,ఏమి చెయ్యాలో తోచక చివరకు ఊరి పెద్ద బుచ్చి రెడ్డి ని ఆశ్రయించడంతో నవాబు గారిని పిలవ నంపారు.

బుచ్చి రెడ్డి: ఏంటయ్యా ఇది,ఊరిలో పెద్ద మనిషివి నీకు ఇది ఏమన్నా బావుందా

బలే నవాబు: ఆప్ కో కౌన్ బోలా మై పెద మనిషి బోల్కే

బుచ్చి రెడ్డి: అయినా అన్ని ఆస్తులుండీ అప్పు ఎందుకు చేశావ్ అయ్యా
బలే నవాబు: ఆస్తులు క్య మీ?,ఆప్కే పాస్ పూర గలత్ ఇంఫర్మేషన్ వుందీ

వూరి పెద్ద కల్లజోడు కోసం వెతుకు తూండ గానే విషయం అర్దమయిన నవాబు ఒక బలే ఐడియా వచ్చింది.వెంటనే అక్కడ నుంచి మాయం అయ్యాడు.
 బుచ్చి రెడ్డి అనుచరులు నవాబు కోసం వెతగగా , ఆకరుగా నవాబుని పెట్రొల్ బంకు దగ్గర చూసారని ,ఇంటికి కూడ రాలేదని తెలుసుకున్నారు.పరువు పోతుందని ఊరు వదిలి వెల్లిపొయాడెమో అని వూరుకున్నారు.

మరుసటి రోజు షాక్కు గురయిన బ్యాంకు మెనేజర్ ఉరుక్కుంటూ వచ్చి తడబడుతూ చెప్తే కాని ఊరి పెద్దకు తెలియలేదు బారి అగ్ని ప్రమాదం లో బ్యాంకు పూర్తిగా తగలబడిపోయిందని.ఒక్క కాగితం ముక్క కూడా మిగల లేదన్న వార్త విని తెల్లబొయ్యాడు బుచ్చి రెడ్డి.

నవాబు సహెబా మజాకా...పెత్రొల్ - కాస్త కారుకి మిగతా బ్యాంకుకి.

నవాబు గారి కోట సంగతి అంతారా ఒకటి కాదు రెండు కాదు ఆరు ఇన్సూరన్స్ కంపెనీలలో ప్రీమియం కట్టి వున్నారు బలే నవాబు .నవాబు గారి పున్యమంటూ బ్యంకును పునర్ నిర్మించి పేపర్ల బదులు కంపుటర్లు ఎర్పాటు చేసింది ప్రభుత్వం.

ఇలా నవాబు గారి ఐడియాలు చలా మంది జీవితాల్ని మార్చేసాయి.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Renting a Home in USA - Alpha Meets Beta

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For any given reason mostly work related while you relocate here are some tips that will help you find your new home.

Is Alpha smarter than a 5th grader?

 The first thing our Marketing/HR representative wanted us to know when we landed here is - where all the 50 states fall(roughly:) on the map and the important cities in the USA.Google to the rescue.Type in your new work location and it will bring all that you need and that you don't in and around that area.Gather first hand information about the new location from friends/relatives who already live there or the guy who interviewed you.And some 2nd hand information from your network - The Internet.

Sharing is not just an option anymore for Alpha

You will not be able to rent/lease on your day one in the country, as the rental people will run a background check and will reject you.Not because you are a criminal or that you ran crazy across the busy interstate but because you don't have the magic wand AKA credit score.Whether you are renting or buying a house,loaning for a car ,applying for a credit card or even getting married:) you need a good credit score.It usually takes an year for you to get there.Until then you will have to find a partner who has a good credit score and who had already rented or owns a house and is looking for a roommate.

Operation Beta

For Desis - sulekha.com is "The One" and craigslist etc are not bad options either.Location,Transportation and Rent are a few important things to consider while looking for an apartment.If you work downtown or if you don't have a car make sure there is a train/bus station close by using google maps etc.

Beta ,this is Alpha do you copy?

Make sure you visit the place and talk to your partner/would-be roomie.Whether you are finding a life partner or room partner Internet/photos/telephone conversations are far from real.While there is not much you can do with people and their volatile minds , you can atleast be sure that there are no bugs/roaches.When you are there in person ask as many questions as you can and gather all the information you need to make a decision.Even if you are sharing an apartment with someone , try to get on to the lease by paying a nominal fee.And pay the rent once in a while using your credit/debit card or check.This will help boost your credit score which as i said is magically(weirdly) important in the paradise nation.

Alpha - Army of one

If you are in a position to lease/rent on your own, look out for the move-in specials.Most of the properties run move in specials once in a while.They might offer you a free first month and half off of the 2nd months rent etc.They even offer a referral amount to your friend if he is already living in the property.Visit sites likerent.com which send you a 100 dollar gift card just for filling in a simple survey while giving you useful info.Depending on the duration of the lease that you sign your rent will vary.

There might be a 50 to 200 dollar difference in a months rent between a 6 month and a one year lease.So if you think you are going to live in the area for long its beneficial to sign a one year lease.If you are not so sure, it is better to sign a six month lease.Because your savings on the rent are not worth the lease break fee.There might be additional one time or yearly fee for the swimming pool ,gym,tennis courts etc.They charge a months rent in advance as a security deposit.They will use this amount later for any paint/carpet/other damage/work once you leave and will mail you a check for the rest.

Weapons Ready - Alpha is going in Over  

While you can stretch a little packing and moving, there are packers and movers services which will set you free.They are worth the price as you grow older , both age and money wise:).

Internet ,phone and cable are a few necessities that you have to work out in advance so that they can set you up as soon as you move in.Comcast and Verizon are two of the leading providers and they usually bundle up those three services.Thanks to the competition they are available in most of the locations and at competitive prices.Talk to the different providers as they do bargain/give you nice deals.

While you hop from one address to another and busy working on updating your address on your bank accounts etc you can use the USPS(United States Postal Service) mail forwarding service for a nominal fee.

Mission accomplished Over and In

As soon as you move in make sure everything is ok .From carpet to the heater,from oven to the shower - write down the list of things you notice are broken and hand it over in the rental office and you will not be blamed or charged of the security deposit when you leave.Once you settle down if you see any issues complain and get them fixed right away.

If you do not have enough time before you can do all the research using the info above and the WWW and if you are in one of those situations where your new client wants you to start right away - look for a cheap/decent motel close to work which will be your home until you find one.The extended stays normally come with a kitchen which are not a bad option for a temporary stay.

Happy renting your Home Sweet Home - Over and Out!

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