Thursday, April 9, 2009

Faded Fast and Furious 4

Movie Review

How is the movie? Well.. It depends on your answer to the question- what do you look for in a movie? If you want to re- experience original Fast and Furious, get floored by the gripping action scenes, enjoy a great script then this movie is not meant for you. On the other hand if you are a ‘vroom’ person and take pleasure in average action scenes, without the support of a well written story then it might hold your interest.

Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) set out to catch hold of same culprit Braga (John Oritz) for different reasons. Dom is ex-con and fugitive while Brian plays the role of an FBI agent. Letty played by Michelle Rodriguez is both ally and girl friend to Dom. Mia(Jordana Brewster) Dom’s sister pairs up with Brian in the movie. Basically same cast plays same characters as was shown in the first F&F. After the initial tiff both Dom and Brian team up to get to Braga. This chase includes drugs coming across the borders of US and Mexico, money, revenge and FBI. Story has been accessorized with exotic locations of L.A, desserts of Mexico, fast paced cars and spectacular stunts. Despite that, the chase doesn’t bring a full-on entertainment to the audiences.

Opening scene is the most engaging part of the movie, where Dom and Letty, along with their Latin fellows successfully hijack an Oil truck in Dominican Republic. Rest of the movie, however has failed to live up to the expectations. There are some uplifting points in the movie though; Punch lines by Vin Diesel at various points do help you keep going, peppy background music, and then there is Jordana Brewster who looks demure throughout the movie.

Vin Disel has done justice to his character. Paul Walker is convincing as an undercover FBI agent. Michelle Rodriguez followers would be disappointed as she doesn’t have much screen time. Jordana too hasn’t got enough scenes to demonstrate her acting skills.

Movie has got all that it takes to make a hit but Justin Linn (Director of the movie) has not been able to put them together very effectively.

On the whole If you’d be content watching a movie with some flashy car chases, custom modified cars (with GPS this time) and same old cast with same old story, you might consider giving Fast and Furious 4 a try!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Move on..

Search tips for Rental Apartments in the USA

Every tenant goes through this phase when his lease period is about to get over and it’s time to move into a new apartment. Undoubtedly, apartment hunt is time consuming, confusing and stressful but at the end it’s worth it!

Before you hit the road and get on with your search, do read on. Based on my own experience, I have listed some points below to help you make a wise decision.

1. Search time- Generally you are aware of the lease duration and date when it gets over. Be on the look out for the apartment at least one and half month prior to your move out date. Utilize that time to do a research on your preferred communities and draw out a comparison analysis. Basic parameters could be community name, rent, location, available dates, and convenience from your work place. Below are a few websites that would be useful to you:

2. Search areas– You need to have clarity on the areas where you would prefer to stay. This is important because the rent amount would vary from one area to another. After you finalize that you would be able to fix a slab for the rent. Besides, vicinity of the apartment with your work place would be an important factor in your search.

3. The Neighborhood- Start visiting communities in the shortlisted areas. This would give you an idea on the community, their exact location and most importantly the neighbourhood. Watch out for some important factors like proximity with the shopping areas, public transportation, safety levels of that area and distance from the main road or freeway/highway.
4. The Community- At the community level, some of the points which you should consider are: How old is the community as there could be mold or termites issues if it’s very old. What is the turn around time of the management, incase of any maintenance related problem? Whether the community is pet friendly or not? Some communities do not allow pet which could be a setback for you incase you have a pet.

5. Apartment location- Generally leasing executives show the model apartment or the apartment similar to the one in question. Don’t get carried away by the looks of model apartment. They are well decorated and strategically chosen to portray the best picture possible, in front of the prospective tenants. If the actual apartment is not available, inquire about the location of the apartment(s) available. You would get an idea on surrounding of the apartment, like distance from the parking area, mail box or leasing office. Moreover, it would help you if you are very particular about directions. You would know which direction your bedroom be facing. You could also visualize the view form windows or patio and see if that’s in sync with your preferences.

6. Inside the apartment - Be very vigilant towards what is there inside the apartment. Some of the stuff that you should watch out for in the first visit would be:

a) Appliances- Appliances would look stained and shabby if they have not been replaced for a long time. Old appliances could be problematic. Because of their functional problem you end up using them for a long time leading to more utility bills.

b) Fitting and plumbing – Do check out the bathroom and kitchen of the apartment, where water usage is high. Such areas are more prone to plumbing leaks. Most probable problems could be loose fittings, water leakage from joints, water blockage etc. Any such problem raises a question on the construction quality and management efficiency of the community.

c) Laundry: Mostly there are washer and dryer unit in the apartments. Again do watch out for the usability of the same. If there is none, check out the common laundry area. Clean and well -maintained laundry room means that the community is well taken care of the by the management. Besides, it indicates that you would be sharing the laundry room with responsible and sensible neighbors.

7. Reviews of the community: Feedback time - See what others have to say about the apartment which you have liked and shortlisted. Some of the websites that you could visit are:

Since it’s the unhappy or dissatisfied tenants who write reviews, so you would not get an accurate picture but really good apartments would always rank high over the rest of the ones. Please ignore the most extreme comments about apartments. Safest bet is to explore your network and get a real feedback from your friends and peers who have already been staying or have stayed in the same community.

Finally, it’s good to have multiple choices at the time of making final decision so that you would be able to prioritize your requirements and hence come to a conclusion which works the best for you.

These are some of the obvious factors; however there is another factor too- Your instinct! You would have immediate affinity for some places you visit. That my friend, is the final green signal for you to proceed. Of course you need to critically judge your decision based on the factors mentioned above. So, all the best with your search operation and happy staying!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What's cooking?

Well right from the beginning, I had vowed to myself not to enter the kitchen. So much so that I had declared that I would not have a kitchen in my house. This thought was assuring to me because in such a case I won’t be expected to cook even at the time of needs.

Cut to today- While I am writing this blog, at the same time planning for today’s menu. By planning I mean I would be the main chef as well. I had never thought that I would ever cook on a regular basis and handle the entire show all by self. To my surprise I am enjoying every bit of it. I feel disappointed too when some thing which I cook doesn’t turn up well.

It’s been two months since I have entered the world of cooking and have enjoyed some compliments from my hubby and friends. I am just wondering if those compliments were genuine enough or just to please me. Never mind, I would continue to cook :). Infact now I am thinking to take next leap in the cooking journey. Experiment with the existing recipies and learn new recipies. Oh no don’t worry by now I know what could be really poisonous in taste. I swear I have no intention to torture my guinea pigs with extreme vague experiments.

I know for sure my friends would find this news hard to stomach and would not believe me until they see a live demo of my cooking. Hmm we will see when it comes to that situation, but for time I gotta go and prepare palak paneer, rajma chawal, and halwa for lunch!

The USA Charisma

It is definitely an overawing experience for any Indian, when one lands in the USA for the first time. A completely different atmosphere awaits you there. As against one’s perception, it is home not only to white and black Americans, but also to a lot of foreigners from Canada, China, Cuba, India, Korea, Mexico, Philippines etc. All of them have got different reasons to be attracted to this country. While some of them come to fulfill their dreams of higher studies, quite a few of them come to be a part of progressive working culture. Well, the remaining lot comes here to accompany their family members. Behind all these superficial reasons, every one out here is with a mission to earn more money and lead a better living style. According to the US Census Bureau's 2007 American Community Survey, there were 38 M foreign born( immigrants) in the United States, which represents 12.6 percent of the total US population. These numbers explain the charisma of USA loud and clear.

Once here, you cannot help noticing a stark difference between the two countries. All traffic signals work efficiently, less or no traffic jam, change your perception for traveling by road. You get to feast your eyes with beautiful sights of nature on the either of the puddle–free, wide roads. Tall trees, ice clad mountains and wooden homes. Here houses or apartments are mostly hut shaped, so that ice doesn’t stay on the top for a long time. Remember those childhood drawings, when you used to paint your dream homes with vibrant colors.

Reckless driving is a complete NO-NO, unlike what they show in Hollywood movies. Residents over here drive very carefully. They strictly follow the rules, in the fear of getting caught from the cops. One has to pay dearly once a ticket has been issued. Nonetheless, driving over here is worth an experience. Talk about experience; Pedestrians/Bikers have got the similar story to tell. They are even more protected by the law over here. Though there are dedicated biker lanes and cross walks for pedestrians but still, person behind the wheel has to yield to such people in any given situation. Incase of any collision too, mostly the car driver would be held guilty. Dedicated walk signals, road rules favoring pedestrians, wide spread roads, pollution free air; Combine all this on a bright pleasant day walk -what more you could have asked for!

Life is not that a fairytale here. Undoubtedly you have all the luxuries in life; still you don’t have all your friends and family here with you. Staying away from them for a while make you realise how important role they play in your life. Despite all the mechanical help and automated system, you still need human companionship to share your happiness and sorrows. Time zone difference too doesn't help either.
Come to think of it, there are so many joys which however, small used to make a big difference in our lives. Where else in the world would you get the authentic bhelpuri, sevpuri and vada pav. Doesn’t your mouth start watering on just the mention of these evening time snacks? Those walk with your childhood buddies used to be loaded with information about the latest in neighborhood. Information which your friend would fill you up with. You still wonder about his sources though! Even at work, almost every month there are public holidays on account of some festival or any national day. Those days are fun, in fact more than the weekends. Enjoying late breakfast, surfing TV channel carelessly and while you do so, you would come across one of your favourite movie which you would have watched at least 50 times in past. Nonetheless a good time pass! A heavy meal at the lunch hour followed by a long nap, were very important hours of the day. Such days would end up on a resolution to utilize next holiday in the best possible way. Oh man, so many memories. Is some body being nostalgic?

Coming back to the real world, yeah you won’t find such small pleasures of life here. What you would get over here is a better, improved and advanced world to live a progressive and fun filled life. Better Infrastructure was just one of the examples, which I think distinguishes USA from India or from any country in the world for that matter. Besides, there would be so many other factors which add to the magnetic effect of this country. I am beginning to realize the reasons but I have not reached a stage where I can pen them down in the form concrete thoughts. While I do that, I am also eagerly waiting to treat myself with the summer season of the year. From what ever I have heard of and read about this season, is the most beautiful part of the year. I really want to savor the pleasure of those ‘wow moments’, here in the USA.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

One fine day

Nothing unusual about that day. Office clock chimed 10 ‘clock when I stepped into my office. After a chit chat with the receptionist, I turned to my seat to start my day. Wait, I had not had my morning cuppa tea yet. Conversation with the next seat neighbors went on till I sipped the last drop of tea. I was definitely having one of those blessed days as my boss was out for a meeting. Such a lost opportunity if mice won’t play when the cat was out. We had enough topics to talk about. Right from cricket to politics to current affairs to weekend plans to latest movies. List was endless. Coming back to work; finally I glared at my laptop screen. First things first- e-mails. Forward button was inevitable on some funny mails. Then came official mails. As usual I forwarded some mails to my subordinates. This is called delegation of work, making me a smart manager. Thankfully, there were no mails crying for immediate attention. Another indication that I was gonna have a nice day at work. That’s the best part of working in the service industry. You are at peace if your client is not bothered. Finally I was left with a few tasks which I had to deal with. Anyway I had the entire day to myself, thinking that I started browsing. There was a couple of websites saved in my favorite folder which I generally looked through when I had free time on hand. Effectively every day!

Boss arrived as I was getting done with internet surfing. Looks on his face indicated that he had not had a good time in the meeting or alternatively he had a rough time with his wife. Well let’s assume the previous case. What was the best way not to have a spill over effect on me? Yeah I was informed about the closure of an old project costing the company a lot of efforts, meant a lot of money. I got all the updates from my team and entered my boss’s cabin to give him good news. I managed to get some brownie points from my boss. Besides, I wanted to discuss some new projects. Fixed up a time with him for the next day and I was done with first half of the day!

I really look forward to the lunch hour- A fun hour of the day when no body disturbs you because lunch time was ‘Do not disturb’ hour, virtually though. Lunch hour was incomplete without a walk in the office premises, along with a deadly combination of tea and smoke to give it a final finishing touch.

I was about to go on to a long phone call with my best friend when phone on my extension rang cruelly. A desperate call from my client, who was expecting an assignment delivery by lunch time but he hadn’t received it yet. Naturally I had a reason to be mad at my team, working on that project as I had to hear from the client. There started my bad day! We definitely had a problem. The final file got corrupted as there was a virus in the system. Unfortunately, backup of the last version was not saved. I, all by myself had attended the meeting where client had mentioned all the changes. Though I had explained those to Raima( my subordinate) but yesterday was her last day at work. By force, but I had to sit with the team to explain the changes all over again. But wait, client needed an explanation for the delay. In most of the cases that kind of situation ranked least on our excuses list. We used it when we were running short on our creative ideas to escape work. Day was getting from bad to worse.

After a long conversation with the client I finally managed to convince him that the work would be done at the end of the day. What the hell! I called up my cousin to tell him that I won’t be able to make for his b’day bash. In the studio designer and writer team was already steaming on the deadlines, I had committed. I, in red costume was thrown in front of two wild bulls in a closed arena. Anyway I got to handle the situation and woo them for a drinking session in the evening.

There I was pulling my hair out, listening to the ‘creative solutions' (read as un-acceptable to client) on my meeting notes. I was trying to find a mid way out between the client’s expectations and team’s reaction to it. The episode lasted for like five hours, including loo and smoke brakes. Finally we were done with all the corrections. It was close to what client had expected. I conveniently ignored the looks on my teammates, as it was getting late! I rechecked the whole assignment for the final QC. It was 9.30 pm by the time I got out of the studio.

I e -mailed the assignment to the client and called him up to inform that we had finally made it. Well, remaining exciting part of the day was my favorite TV program which I was hoping to watch after I reach home. As usual it didn’t turn out to be the way I had had planned. Client requested me to wait until I got a green signal from him. Another nail in the coffin! It was 10.30 PM and I was still in the office. I ordered pizza for dinner, still waiting to hear from the client!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It’s about money honey

It’s recession to an extent but who doesn’t wish for some more ‘unexpected’ money. Only if there could be a way to hit a goldmine.. Hmm sounds like a fairy tale but could be true!! You, however don’t have to pack your bags, hit the road, head for a directionless journey, encounter villainous creatures and at the end rack your brains to crack the final code before you get to see sparkling and brilliant stones.

Here is the key to a fortune in today’s times - The website by NAUPA (National association of Unclaimed Property Administrators) is a database of governmental unclaimed property records. This website allows you to have an access to the database of unclaimed accounts with different financial institutes. All you have to do is key-in your name. Incase your name matches with the database, you need to recognize if any of the names mentioned is the ‘real’ you. If that is so, lucky you!! A few of the website visitors were showered with $$ worth ranging from 200- 1400.

Unclaimed property is one of the original consumer protection programs that actively find owners of lost and forgotten assets. Unclaimed property refers to the accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity with the owner for one year or a longer period. Typically each state has a treasurer body whose responsibility is to safeguard the property until it is claimed by the owner. After realizing that you are the actual heir of any unclaimed property ( in any form ) you file the claim. Once the claim has been filed, it’s your state’s duty to get you back your money.

Till now there is no centralized database on how unclaimed government assets may be obtained. Each individual federal agency maintains its own records. There are, however some of the database where you could locate your unclaimed money: is a good beginning point for your search. Currently there are 44 states in the USA, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rice which contribute with their database of unclaimed property. Every month more states get added to make the website database more comprehensive.

I put a random name on the website- Dorathy Williams, and yeah there were more than 200 results to this name. Phew! There is so much in a name. I too tried my luck with my name. Well it seems none of my uncles/aunts left any fortune for me ;).