Houston

Amogh is one year old!, Trip to India & the economy!

Yes, over a month since I posted. Has been crazy lately. The US economy is totally down & its my first recession after entering my professional career.

Well the tech slowdown in 2001 too effected me any many in my age group and it was pretty bad. Almost our entire class lost an year due to the 2001 slowdown.

This time around the situation is quite bad compared to the previous slowdown, and USA is officially in recession. The major difference this time is that its not just the IT industry thats hit, but almost all sectors are hit badly. Specially the housing & the financial market here in the US. And in today’s world, everything is interconnected. So, people from all walks of life are impacted one way or the other.

On the work side, many projects are being axes or postponed, budgets are being slashed and people are more and more cautious when it comes to spending money. For now, I have enough work lined up for the coming months. Must see how it turns out.

In other news, Amogh, my son turned One on feb 8th. Time fly’s by so fast!

Like mentioned in my previous post, both Amogh and Chitra are back in India. … and I could not miss Amogh’s 1st birthday. So, I flew all the way back to India for a week! :) and it was worth it!  The special thing about the trip was, it was a surprise trip!. Only Chitra knew that I would be flying. So, it was fun to see the reaction of every one who saw me there on his birthday!

….even for Amogh, the day I landed, it took a while for him to realize  that it was his father who had suddenly disappeared from the scene sometime back. And then, after a few minutes, he knew it was his dad :) … and clearly seemed to be very happy that day.

The Trip was quite hectic — 30 hrs of travel one way — 1 week in Mangalore & again 30 hrs of travel back to Houston!. So for around 2 to 3 weeks, my biological clock was totally out of sync due to jet lag/timezone changes! But it was worth it.

Its a pleasure to see Amogh these days. He now walks and virtually runs all around very comfortably. …and has now started to climb the stairs. He blabbers in his own baby language! ….. and has become very naughty! :)

If all goes well, Chitra & Amogh should be here soon — may be in a week or two. Waiting for thier arrival !

Ike and us…

Ike

Its over a week and a half now since we faced Hurricane Ike. Well, for my readers from India….Hurricane is nothing but Cyclone, as its known in India.

So, how did it all go ?

It was a major storm, and the first and worst we ever faced. Hurricane Ike hit Galveston as a strong category 2 hurricane with wind speeds of up to 110 mph (~178 kmph!).  Galveston is the coastal area which took the direct hit. Within Houston, which is around 55 miles away from Galveston, the wind speeds were around 90 to 100 mph. The Eye of the hurricane passed directly over Houston downtown (city center).

We live in the Houston Suburb called Katy which is on the west end of Houston. Luckily for us, we were on the clean side of the hurricane, but we did get winds of up to 80 to 85 mph! Its not just the wind, its wind and rain like you have never seen before. The sound of the wind is awful & scary!

I really appreciate the city of Houston for the way they handled this unfortunate event. They were very well prepared for this hurricane (after the lessons they learn’t from Rita and Katrina). They ordered evacuation of areas that were really needed (unlike whole of Houston during Rita — which lead to major problems on the evacuation routes). The city Mayor Bill White and Judge Ed Emmett did a commendable job. I can’t imagine our city corporators and politicians back in India doing such a amazing job.

Ike was a very big hurricane in terms of size (around 400 miles in diameter), with the eye being around 50 miles wide. Ike made landfall at Galveston Island at around 2.10 AM on 13th September (Saturday morning). And due to its size, we felt the winds pickup in Katy area around 6 hrs prior to landfall. (more…)

Driving in USA with Indian Driving License

One of the most asked question I get to hear is, “Can I drive in USA with my Indian Driving License?

Driving in US with Indian Driving License

Well, the answer is, “It depends on the state that you would drive in”. All most all states in US allow you to drive with your Indian License for a period of one year. After that, you need to get a US drivers license. However, if you become a resident of the state, then you need to get a US license within a months time.

One more thing that I get asked is about “International Drivers Permit”. Well, to be frank, its quite useless if your Indian Driving License is written in English. The permit basically tells that you have the license to drive back in India in English. So, its the License thats important and not the Permit. In fact, in some states, International Drivers Permit is not even recognized. So, don’t bother getting it. In any case, your Indian Driving License must be valid and active. (more…)

Newer Car – 2005 Toyota Camry LE

My 1998 Toyota Camry was doing great, but I always wanted to get a newer car, and finally got one this week. Ever since I have driven Camry, I have kind of become a big fan of it. So…got this 2005 Toyota Camry LE from an Craigslist Ad. (btw, craigslist rocks! its just amazing!).

Features of the new(er) car…

  • 4 Door – Grey color as you see from the pic below.. :)
  • Automatic Transmission.
  • only 39, 500 miles on it when I bought it.
  • clean title and carfax history.
  • Power window, power locks (with remote!!!! – which i missed in my old camry), power seats!
  • CD player + Radio ..but no mp3 player :(
  • Relatively new!
  • And got it at a pretty good rate!

2005 Toyota Camry LE Front View
2005 Toyota Camry LE – Front View

2005 Toyota Camry LE Side View
2005 Toyota Camry LE – Side View

2005 Toyota Camry LE Front View
2005 Toyota Camry LE – Front View

2005 Toyota Camry LE Rear View
2005 Toyota Camry LE – Rear View

2005 Toyota Camry LE Rear Side View
2005 Toyota Camry LE – Rear Side View

And exactly one week later, i sold my old 1998 Toyota Camry LE on craigslist!!

Beginning to Settle down in Houston

Yes, it has been a long time since I posted. I think more the two weeks! I think I have never blogged soo infrequently !!. And the reason for the same is ………… yes, you guessed it right……. work.

The past three weeks have been very very hectic. Kind of in meetings all day long. There have been days were I was in meeting for the entire day with a 45 mins lunch break. And then, during non office hours, I need to catch up with my mails, do some documentation stuff, co-ordinate with the team back in India and…. setup my home. We did have a long weekend in between(Sep 3-5), but we were at home, setting up things. Bought quite a lot of stuff for our house, and it took quite a lot of time and effort to assemble and setup things.

Well, Houston as such is a much bigger place compared to Kingsport. Lot of places to go around, but so far, I haven’t got a chance to do much of exploring around, except for Walmarts and Targets around :).

The weather at Houston is pretty decent. Its not as hot as I expected. Or, may be I am lucky to totally avoid the Houston summer. The weather is comparable to the weather at Mangalore, my home town. And…………..no hurricanes too so far! (touch-wood!!)

Extremely sorry to all the people who have left comments on other posts. I was just not able to reply. Will try to catch up with it soon.

Hello Houston

Finally said bye bye to Kingsport yesterday. There are somethings that you never forget in your life. And my stay at Kingsport is one among them. It was my first city in the US, calm and peaceful with very scenic surroundings.

I also got a chance to interact with some really great bunch of people, both at work and otherwise. They were always ready to help, very friendly and full of fun!

My next assignment starts on Monday i.e, 21st of August at Houston for our client (BP). I would be back working on web-based stuff, which I love!. For the last 6 months, I was in more of VB.net and VB6 kind of environment. It was good. Anything to do with computers/Internet is fun for me :).

But, above all, now I get to stay with my wife. So, now we can finally get rid of long Skype/gTalk calls.

On the work front, I am all set for the next challenge!

The Houston Trip

The weekend passed by with a blink of an eye. This was by far the most memorable weekend in US. This was my second visit to a big city in US. The first one was Charlotte (around 2 weeks back). But the city of Houston is much bigger then Charlotte.

Almost everything went on as planned and I am writing this on an Airplane heading back to Kingsport. I started off on Friday evening from Kingsport at around 5 PM, and since there are no direct flights from Kingsport to Houston, I had to take a flight via Atlanta. The flight was pretty much on time, and I didn’t have too much of time with me to explore the Atlanta airport. Reached Houston at around 8.15 PM CST, pretty much on time.

We had made an online reservation couple of days back for a rental car for the weekend from National car rental. We had actually booked for a Compact car to go around. But when we went to pick up the car from National on Saturday, they told us that they did not have a compact car with them to offer us …. and guess what? … they upgraded it to a SUV  for free. Jeep – Grand Cherokee. Wow… Both of us (me and Chitra) were thrilled!! Well … this was my first (major) driving, and what a vehicle to drive. It was almost brand new, with just 1750 Miles on it, and it rocked.

Rental Jeep
The rental Jeep that we got! – (Click to Zoom)

So, at around 9 AM on Saturday morning, we started our journey to the NASA Space center. Driving through the big city traffic thought a maze of flyovers and exits was a good experience and was much easier that I had actually thought. My wife had done all the homework of getting routes and maps to reach NASA. We reached NASA space center at around 9.40 AM. We had to wait for a couple of mins for the Space Center to open up, but that was not a problem.

NASA
Space center entrance – (Click to Zoom)

The NASA space center is a must see if you are to Houston, especially if you are interested in space, science and technology.

Inside the Space Shuttle Cockpit
Controls Inside the Space Shuttle Cockpit – (Click to Zoom)

Inside the Space Shuttle Cockpit - Top
Controls Inside the Space Shuttle Cockpit – Top – (Click to Zoom)

Capsule
Some Capsule – (Click to Zoom)

Lunar Vehicle
Lunar Vehicle – (Click to Zoom)

Skylab mockup
Skylab mockup – (Click to Zoom)

They showed us a couple of movies and then there was a Tram tour of the NASA facility at Houston. They showed us the Historic Mission control center, from where more then 100 space missions were controlled. They have preserved it with all the original equipments. i.e., we are talking about the equipments that were present in the 1960s and 70s timeframe.

The Historic Mission Control Center
The Historic Mission Control Center – (Click to Zoom)

After that, they took us to the current Mission control center. Actually there are two; one is for the space shuttle program, and the other one for the International space station program. And, since there is no Shuttle in orbit as of now, there were no people at the Shuttle mission control center. But we did see people working at the International space station Mission control center. Live. Real people. Real stuff! And everything is just state of the art!

Space Shuttle Mission Control Center
Space Shuttle Mission Control Center – (Click to Zoom)

ISS Mission Control Center
International Space Station Mission Control Center – (Click to Zoom)

From NASA space center we travel to a place near by called Kemah Board Walk. It’s a recreation center in the Galveston bay area. And that was too good. This place has a mini amusement park, and lot of fun. Both of us enjoyed it thoroughly.

Kemah Tower
Kemah Tower – (Click to Zoom)

From the top of the tower
From the top of the tower – (Click to Zoom)

Kemah Area
Kemah Area – (Click to Zoom)

Kemah Parking
Kemah Parking – (Click to Zoom)

We specially enjoyed the “Beast” speed boat ride. It’s a super speed boat which can carry around 60 people, and it cruises at full speeds splashing water all over. In fact, many of the passengers sitting at the rear end of the boat get fully wet!

Boat Ride
Boat Ride (not the one we rode on… this one is a slow moving boat)- (Click to Zoom)

Sunset
Sunset – (Click to Zoom)

It was 6.30 PM by now, and we were already late. Actually, we had decided to have a dinner/get together with Chitra’s lovely & very helpful friends at a restaurant called London Sizzler on Hilcroft Ave. And we had a map with us showing how to go from our house to this place. But we did not know exactly where this place was. The map showed us the end point, but it wasn’t detailed enough. And the end result was, we were going round and round the same area to find the restaurant. And to make it worse, we did not have any contact numbers with us. (I know its stupid… but that’s precisely what Murphy’s Law states!) After around 45 mins of searching, going round and round, we managed to find the place. It was like so close but still far. We knew it was just somewhere round the corner, but just could not locate it.…. and by this time, all the people had already come and were waiting for us, and were worried too!

It was a major relief for us as well as all others to see each other 

The food at the restaurant was good, but the company was better. We had a nice time chatting. The best part was the surprise at the end………:) A birthday cake! Yes… my birthday is just around the corner… March 7th.

My Birthday Cake
My Birthday Cake – (Click to Zoom)

Was a wonderful evening! On the way back home from the restaurant to home, we made sure that we had numbers of all the people with us, and that we knew the route properly. Reached home safely at around 11.45 PMish.

Today morning we went out again, but this time to a shopping mall called “Galleria“. It’s a pretty big mall. We spend some 2 hours in the mall, had some food, went around etc. There is a huge Ice skating ring in the mall, but we weren’t adventurous enough to try it out (also, the timings for public staking did not fit our schedule).

We started back home at around 11: 30 AM. Returned our rental SUV back to Nationals at around 1 PM. Athul & Saki (Chitra’s friends) were kind enough to drop me back to the IAH airport. And that too on a Merc!! Wow!…

My return flight to Kingsport is via Cincinnati and it started of a bit late. I.e., by around 30 mins. But I have a 1.5 hr stop over at Cincinnati, which should take care of the delay!

All in all, a great weekend!

Update : Also I would say I am lucky to have some great friends at Kingsport!. Sugatha dropped me all the way to the Airport on Friday, and Andy picked me up on the way back!.. Had dinner at Andy’s house on saturday night. Thank you guys!

Houston, can you hear me?

“Houston, can you hear me?
Ground control, can you feel me?
Need permission to land”

– from Robbie Williams › Rock Dj

I would be off to Houston this weekend to meet my Wife who has been there for nearly 3 months now. Would be flying today evening i.e, Friday evening, and would be back Sunday night at Kingsport.

We plan to visit the NASA space center at Houston and some other places around…. …again, its just a plan. Lets see how it goes. Will try to get some snaps and post it here in the next couple of days! :)

And..Because there is no direct flight between Kingsport and Houston, its going to be a long journey!