USA

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…)

Nearing Parenthood and other updates!

Well, its been a long time since I wrote here. Its the first post of 2008!!! Hope all of you had a great new year.

Well, all is good at our end. Baby is due pretty soon, and both me and Chitra are geared up for the big event! The official due date is 21-Feb-2008, but anything + or – 2 weeks is considered as a ‘term’ baby.

It has been kind of hectic the past month or so… shopping for baby stuff, childbirth classes, baby shower(s) :) …. and so on. Well, the child-birth classes were pretty informative and helpful. Things like these are unheard of in India. In a way its good, and in some ways, its bad – as-in they give too much of information! Well, shopping for baby stuff is another story …. All in all, its been hectic and fun so far :)

Life would go for a spin for sure, pretty soon – for the good!!

Well, I also realized that I am not really finding time to play with the Wii that I bought a few months back.

Wii

So, decided to put it up for sale on eBay. Its a amazing game system, but I don’t really see myself sitting and playing given where I am in my life! :). So, if you are interested, bid for it! BTW, its still hard to find Wii’s here in the US! This thing still has very high demand!

Also, up for grabs on eBay is my Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 USM Lens! I would be upgrading to a new lens pretty soon (Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM)

On the work front, I am still working for the same project that I was in. The work load is decent. Not too bad.

Well, the next couple of months would be exciting! :) More updates as and when I get time!

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…)

Cellphones in USA & India

If you are an Indian and have come to the US recently, you will be ‘shocked’ to see how closed and primitive the US cell phone market is! Well, except for the iPhone which is by no means primitive — but its ‘locked’ to the not-so-popular AT&T network.

Imagine getting charged for receiving SMS messages! Its really a sad story out here. There is no easy way for an average person to buy a phone of his or her choice without signing up for a contract. And the contact is normally 2 years! Which means, you must be a subscriber of that cell phone provider for the period of the contract at an agreed upon price. The average cost of plan such plans – around 40$ to 45$ a month (data plans would cost extra!), which is way to expensive compared to India!!! And if you want to switch to an other network, you need to cancel you current contract by paying an “early termination fee”. (more…)

Toledo Bend, Zwolle & Natchitoches – Louisiana

Here are some snaps from the Labor day long weekend trip (Sep 1st – Sep 3rd). We had been to a place called Zwolle. Well, it sounds like a African name, but its a very small place in Louisiana. To be more precise, we went to the Toledo Bend lake area and stayed at one of the resorts (Wildwood Resorts) on the banks of the lake.

This place is on the border of Texas and Louisiana. Actually, the Toledo Bend lake is formed due to a Dam which is built across the Sabine River. This river kind of forms the border between Texas and Louisiana! The lake itself is pretty big, and I read on one of the websites that its the largest man made lake in the South (of USA).

Here are some snaps……..

Fishing Pier at Wildwood Resort - Toledo Bend
Fishing Pier at Wildwood Resort – Toledo Bend

Fishing Pier at Wildwood Resort - Toledo Bend
Fishing Pier at Wildwood Resort – Toledo Bend

(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!!

Las Vegas – The Strip

This is Part 3 of a three part series of our trip to Las Vegas.

Links to Part 1 and 2 can be found here :

The next 2 days, we spent at the Las Vegas Strip – Going from one Casino to other :)…. It was fun.

Life of Las Vegas is centered around one road popularly called “The Strip“. Almost all the Casinos are on The Strip! Majority of these properties on The Strip are owned by MGM Mirage or Harrahs entertainment!

Check out the Snaps of the Hotels and Casinos …..

This is where we stayed! – Monte Carlo.
Monte Carlo at Las Vegas
Monte Carlo at Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Newyork Newyork – Hotel & Casino… There is a huge roller coaster around this Hotel.
Newyork Newyork at Las Vegas
Newyork Newyork at Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Newyork Newyork at Las Vegas
Newyork Newyork at Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Statue of Liberty at  Newyork Newyork - Las Vegas
Statue of Liberty at Newyork Newyork – Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Casino Royale - Las Vegas
Casino Royale – Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

MGM Grand Lion at Las Vegas
MGM Grand Lion at Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Las Vegas Convention Center
Las Vegas Convention Center – Click to Zoom

Stratosphere and Public transit system at Las Vegas
Stratosphere and Public transit system at Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

One of the Casinos in Las Vegas
One of the Casinos in Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

The famous Stratosphere – the tallest structure in Vegas!
Stratosphere at Las Vegas
Stratosphere at Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

And this is a ride on top of the tallest building… and we did sit on this one. Was an Amazing experience!! :)
Big Shot - Ride on top of Stratosphere - Las Vegas
Big Shot – Ride on top of Stratosphere – Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

One more Thriller Ride on Top of Stratosphere - Las Vegas
One more Thriller Ride on Top of Stratosphere – Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

The Las Vegas Strip as seen from top of Stratosphere
The Las Vegas Strip as seen from top of Stratosphere – Click to Zoom

Circus Circus as seen from top of Stratosphere
Circus Circus as seen from top of Stratosphere – Click to Zoom

Harrahs - Las Vegas
Harrahs – Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Buck and Winne at Harrahs Casino - Las Vegas
Buck and Winne at Harrahs Casino – Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Venice in Las Vegas! – Venetian – Mind blowing stuff!
Ceiling Inside Venetian - Las Vegas
Ceiling Inside Venetian – Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Inside Venetian - Las Vegas
Inside Venetian – Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Gondola Rides inside Venetian - Las Vegas
Gondola Rides inside Venetian – Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Treasure Island - Las Vegas
Treasure Island – Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Wynn - Las Vegas
Wynn – Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Mandalay Bay at Las Vegas
Mandalay Bay at Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Monte Carlo at Las Vegas
Monte Carlo at Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Effiel Tower in Las Vegas…
Effiel Tower at Paris - Las Vegas
Effiel Tower at Paris – Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Luxor at Las Vegas
Luxor at Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Bellagio at Las Vegas
Bellagio at Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

Bellagio Fountains - Las Vegas
Bellagio Fountains – Las Vegas – Click to Zoom

We did not gamble much – since we did not know much about how to play – but it was fun!….

Vegas Trip – Grand Canyon

This is Part 2 of a three part series of our trip to Las Vegas. Links to Part 1 and 3 can be found here :

As planned on Day 2 of our trip, we headed to the Grand Canyon. For the uninitiated, Grand Canyon is a natural wonder located in Arizona.

Grand Canyon is around 5 hrs drive from Las Vegas, NV. So, we started early in the morning at around 5.30 AM. We decided to go to the south rim of the grand canyon since the north rim was closed and we could not find much information on the west rim (nor we had time to be adventurous)

Lake Mead from a Distance
Lake Mead from a Distance – Click to Zoom

The drive was pretty cool. Its flat land. Desert. The roads are straight and you can see miles of straight road ahead of you! … it was a great experience to drive ! :). We reached Grand Canyon at around 10.30 AM.

Here are some snaps ….

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

Cliff at Grand Canyon
Cliff at Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

At the Grand Canyon South rim, there are buses which take you to different View points along the Rim of the canyon. And they are free (i.e, the cost is included in your entrance fee to the National Park)

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

Pathway to one of the view points at  Grand Canyon
Pathway to one of the view points at Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

You can see the Colorado River (which carved the Grand Canyon!!) in the snaps below…
Grand Canyon
Colorado River at Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

Colorado River at Grand Canyon
Colorado River at Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

Colorado River at Grand Canyon
Colorado River at Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

Grand Canyon and Colorado River
Grand Canyon and Colorado River – Click to Zoom

More snaps…
Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

Desert View – you can see the desert at the distance…
Desert View at Grand Canyon
Desert View at Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

River Again – Zoomed in …
Colorado River at Grand Canyon
Colorado River at Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

Cliff at Grand Canyon
Cliff at Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

A Guy sitting on the Rim at Grand Canyon….
A Guy sitting on the Rim at Grand Canyon
A Guy sitting on the Rim at Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

A couple enjoying the (cold) sunset at Grand Canyon…
A Couple enjoying the Sunset at Grand Canyon
A Couple enjoying the Sunset at Grand Canyon – Click to Zoom

Well, by 5 PM, it was pretty dark, and all of a sudden, it became very cold!
We started to head back to Vegas at around 6 PM. We reached back our Hotel at Las Vegas by around 10 PM.

More on Vegas trip in the next post….