Sunday, December 09, 2007


"Relationship between two individuals should be like fish and water. Not like the relationship between fish and fisherman."

Powered by Qumana

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Warranty Direct - extended warranty

Extended warranty for automobiles seems to be next only to used cars business in terms of negative publicity. You can search on the web and you will so many people complaining and cursing extended warranty companies which did not pay legitimate claims by using some fine print or made it so difficult that the customer could not wait them to resolve the issue and went ahead and paid for the repairs and some flimsy companies even went belly up.

I had not really thought about extended warranty. However, soon after my previous car - 2002 Honda Accord V6- was out of warranty, my repair shop recommended that lower ball joints be replaced. I am not sure if it was really required or was simply ripped off. Since it was related to safety, I went ahead and had it replaced. Cost of the repair was around $500. That's when it really started sinking into me that even reliable Japanese cars can lead to costly repairs. What if transmission were to fail or engine or something other than routine parts such as brakes, bulbs, tires etc. It is one thing to plan for known wear and tear and totally a different thing to suddenly be hit with an expensive repair bill which can go up to a few thousand dollars in case engine or transmission rebuild.

In 2006, I researched for extended warranties. There are literally thousands of companies selling variety of auto warranties. It seems to me many are simply fronts to the same business entity based on their advertising pitch. Most of the extended warranties are exclusionary type. Unlike bumper to bumper warranty you get on a brand new car, these extended warranties specify in finest detail and finest print, what is covered and what is not covered. It looks like they want to sell you something so complicated that when time comes, they can give you a run from pillar to post with all that legal jargon. What do you do at that time? Fight with them or pay for the repairs and get moving.

After some research, Warranty Direct (www. stood out for several reasons. First they had many types of extended warranty plans. Each one clearly explained so that you can make a reasonable decision on what plan to buy. Easy quote process. Excellent web site. Variety of payment options and plans in case if it is important. One of the plans which covered most of the items was closest to bumper to bumper warranty. Exclusions were routine stuff like brakes, bulbs only. All other parts and repairs fully covered. No fine print and legal jumbo mumbo. Even the price was very reasonable. Like $1275 for 100, 000 miles or 8 years whichever came first. Seemed like less than dollar a day for 4 years coverage. Also impressive was the requirement for them to examine your car before they decided whether it made sense to sell the warranty. Fair enough. If you are serious about selling extended warranty and honest, you want to make sure the car you are going to cover is a fair deal for you and the customer. They waive this examination if you buy the extended warranty when your car is still in the factory warranty. Since my car was out of warranty for close to an year, I had to have this exam and they charge you extra for this. Like $90. They will send an expert mechanic who can come to wherever your car is, does a through check up, takes it for a ride (you can go with him) and then files a report. You will get a copy of the report. If your vehicle passes, you pay the quoted fee and your vehicle is covered under extended warranty.

Luckily there was no occasion for me to make any claims against my extended warranty. My car was in an accident recently and was totaled. Due to this, I remembered another positive point from Warranty Direct. They let you cancel extended warranty anytime and refund you pro-rata. Good feature. I was not sure how it was going to be to get my money back. I went to their web site, called the customer service line. Their rep gave me a fax number to fax my request for cancellation and refund. I did that and waited for a week or so. Then called them again and was told it would take up to 4 weeks. In less than 2 weeks, I see today they have promptly credited the refund to my credit card. No hassles. Refund seems reasonable. I was midway through the 4 year period and I got little more than half the money back. May be because I had not put much miles anyway. Not sure what formula they use. I am happy to get more than half as I go by time and not necessarily how close I was to 100,000 miles.

I can not really say what would have been the experience if I had to claim warranty services if something were to go wrong and I had to have it repaired. You can search Internet and you will find experiences of other car owners. I can certainly recommend them from the point of smooth business transaction and professionalism. Also, not many companies seem to offer the comprehensive plans they offer. Extended warranty comes with basic road side assistance, trip break coverage etc. Prices are reasonable. Seems like a ethical company in the industry which is marred by some many scandals and bogus companies. You can also transfer the warranty to the new owner for a small transaction fee. This should make it very attractive to prospective buyers if you want to sell your car.

If you want better extended warranty, it makes sense to buy the extended warranty from the manufacturer of your car. If you buy it from the dealer when you buy the car, chances are you will pay a steep mark up. But, there are several other dealers who have taken extended warranty seriously and sell the same factory extended warranty at much competitive price. For example, you can buy Toyota or Honda factory extended warranty from say Bernardi Warranty (also a dealer in MA). I have not yet purchased for my new Toyota Camry. But, prices seem very reasonable, extended warranty plans are good (from most comprehensive to very basic) and you can get repairs done by any factory dealer or other mechanic.

All said and done, I prefer "best warranty is one which you will never have to claim". It is more of peace of mind than anything else. Who wants to have the hassles of a broken car. Give me a car which runs well for a long time with least maintenance. Luckily for us, most of the cars these days are like that. May they get even better.

Powered by Qumana

Beware of M2Mags Rebate

You may come across an offer to subscribe to free magazines or get a $10 rebate when you shop online. You may want to consider, getting the mags instead of $10 rebate. When it comes cash rebate, this company M2Mags sucks big time. I have tried contacting them so many times after duly completing all the paperwork and they have never sent any rebate. Once I got an e-mail from someone who said she would look into it and then from there it seems to have gone into a black hole. In the past when I came across such magazine rebates (from some other company), I went for magazines and been getting the magazines without any problem. No wonder cash and kind are not the same.


Powered by Qumana

Results v/s Consequences

"Results are what we expect. Consequences are what we get."

Nice quote to differentiate between results and consequences.

Powered by Qumana

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Year is almost over

So, today is the first day of the last month of the year. You know, it always feels like year is ending at the end of August. Two long months July and August are over and year end is almost there.

Year end is always a good time prepare your end of the year report. Much like companies file their 10-K or whatever they file at the end of their financial year. We can look not only at your financial life but also other aspects of life and take a stock of the situation.

Financial - if you invest in individual stocks, how's your performance? Performance can be compared against benchmark such as S&P 500 index. As it has been verified historically, many active investors fail to match market performance over long time. So, if you are not faring at least as well as market, it may be time to shift back those hard earned money to passive modes of investing such as index funds, indexed ETFs are whatever and save of transaction costs. Most of the online stock brokers such as Scottrade make it easy to calculate your performance. Also, time to think about dumping all those money losing stocks and take the write offs on the tax return.

It is also time to re-balance your portfolio. Rule of thumb is to maintain a healthy ratio of funds invested in stocks and bonds. Rule is to subtract your age from 120. Maintain in stocks what equals (120  minus your age)diversified stocks and rest in a bonds. If you are 35, it means 85% in stocks and 15% in bonds. This gives a fairly aggressive portfolio which should appreciate at the rate of around 10% year over year over the long term. In last 5 years, this portfolio has delivered around 15%. Much better than any active trading can consistently perform.

You have to be careful how you re-balance in your non-retirement portfolio. Reason is when you try to balance in an active portfolio, you effectively sell appreciated assets and buy less appreciated assets. So, you will have to pay additional capital gains. One way to avoid is to leave the appreciated assets as such and defer any further investments in that area. Continue to buy bonds if bonds are in less ratio than ideal and stocks if they are in less of a ratio till that point optimum ratio is reached. That way ratio comes to required state in a few months. Then again you can start buying the mix of stocks and bonds in the ratio you desire. This works well if you invest on regular basis. It is best invest on monthly basis. Gives ample opportunities to re-balance all through the year based on your desired optimum mix.

Or you can choose on of those life cycle mutual funds which adjust your stocks-bond ratio based on your set retirement age. You can choose a lifecycle fund with retirement set to some year in the future. They automatically adjust such ratio based on the objective of the fund which takes less risk as the target year approaches.

Also, it is the time to organize all the paperwork. Look into aspects such as insurance, medical records, setting up appointments for medical check ups, wills, checking out if you have nominated appropriate beneficiaries etc.

Good luck and get ready to welcome new year with new hope. Things are going to get better. We can at least hope so!!!


Powered by Qumana

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dealing with Car Accident - Part 2

One important thing - always try to get a witness who can back up your side of the story of the accident. I know it is difficult as nobody wants to get into all that hassle. However, without a witness, it is going to be your story against the other driver's. In most cases, the insurance companies fail to attach fault completely one driver. They end up holding each driver at fault and you end up losing your deductible. Not sure if that affects your insurance premiums in the future.

In my case, I say I was very fortunate. One gentleman who saw the accident happening, waited for me to complete all the formalities, walked over to me and provided his contact information and told me that he would be available if I ever needed his witness statement. Very nice of him. Are there such people still in this world? I was left wondering. With his witness, I am hoping that I will be able to have other driver admit fault and thus not lose my deductible. Let's see. Insurance companies are still working on that.

After you have taken care of the car and have it towed away, come home and begin the insurance work. Insurance companies have 1-800 number for 24 hour claim services. Before calling them, note down important details. Call insurance company and file your claim. You will get a claim number. Hang on to it.

Open a new manila folder and it is going to be your 'the file' for accident related paperwork till all is settled. If you want, make a copy and have a copy folder also. All paperwork goes in here. Every time you make a call or receive a call from insurance company or any other related communication, throw that into the file. Every time you get a call, make a note on plain sheet of paper with date, time, person, summary of the call and drop it into the file. Arrange the papers by date for easy reference.

Normally when you call to file the claim, if you have car rental substitution on your policy, insurance company will set you up with the rental car from a company that they work with. Normally they work with Enterprise Rent A Car which maintains locations all over. With Enterprise Rent A Car, you need not have to far to rent a car. Enterprise Rent A car also comes and picks you up, gives you a rental car and you are all set.

It appears rental car agencies would like to get their share of the pie by giving you a car that costs slightly more than than your rental limit. If your rental limit is like 30 dollars a day, they normally have only cars which cost 2-3 dollars more than that. Ask them to give you a car which is less or equal to your rental limit. If not, take the car but ask them to call you once they get a car which is within your rental dollars limit. If you are okay paying extra, then it is fine.

One thing that you want to make sure is about where to get your car repaired. You have right to get it repaired wherever you want although the insurance company may recommend a shop which is one of their pre-approved. For minor damages, anyone is fine. But, if you have serious damage, you want to go to a body shop which works on cars similar to yours. Call your car dealer and ask for a recommendation. Normally, car dealers send cars to a third party body shop with which they deal exclusively. If you do your homework and know such a body shop in advance, it is actually a good idea to have your car towed that place in the first place. In anyway, you should plan to get your car to the desired body shop at the earliest.

Getting your car to the desired body shop, you have to be careful. Because the insurance companies are required to provide one tow per accident. So if you have already used that to have your car towed elsewhere, you need to either use your AAA tow or pay up from your pocket if you want it towed elsewhere. In my case, I had used AAA first time, so the insurance company had no problem to tow my car the body shop of my choice. It again involves few more phone calls. You need to first call the body shop where your car was originally towed to and ask them to release the car. Secondly you need to call the body shop of your choice and ask them to tow it to their shop. They may require you to sign some forms which releases them of their liability. It's pain but you can do most with fax or phone or just driver over to the shop and finish it off. Once you give them the necessary paper work, they will work with the other tow shop and get your car. Then let the insurance company know where the car is for them to do the inspection. Do it promptly and quickly as insurance companies naturally want to avoid storage charges body shops charge. Insurance companies want to make sure that if the car is at a body shop, it better be being worked. If your car is totaled, they would like to remove it from the body shop at the earliest and move it to junk yard which charge much lesser storage fee, it seems like.

From here on, things get less hectic. Insurance company sends their people to inspect your car and you will get to hear from them soon. Since my car was declared total loss, I can not write about the repair experience. Not at least for this accident. Total loss from insurance company's stand point is that they do not believe that car can be repaired to its original condition within reasonable limits. They use their data to determine if it is worth for 'them' to repair your car. Your opinion does not count. So, they offer you a choice. Either you can take a check and give up the car. Or you will still get a check and also your car and it's your responsibility to do whatever you wish with your car. For most people, it makes sense to give up the car and take the check for the entire amount than taking on the headache of getting the damaged car, getting the salvage cert later, lesser check etc. For severe front end collisions, if the insurance company says your car is a total loss, it makes sense to give up the car. It is too much headache and waste of time to deal with the car which insurance company has chosen to write off.

Once you decide how to proceed, the insurance company moves the car out of the body shop and your car is gone for good. There is one more opportunity to take anything you may have left it in the car. If you are in doubt, go to the body shop immediately, take out any thing you forgot and then release the car. I never got to see my car after the day of the accident. That's why I said in the previous post that you may not see the car again.

After a few days the insurance company adjuster will call you with the amount they have come up with for your total loss. Just listen to them and do not make any commitment to agree to the amount. Prior to that you need to work out the price you are willing to accept. First find the fair blue book value for your car. Most the blue books, let you adjust for miles, color, locations etc. Once you get the blue book value, add your tax and registration fees. This is the price you may have to pay to get a comparable car. Also remember to add any items such LoJack, new tires any fancy accessories etc. Always remember that your price should be adequate to 'buy' a comparable car. If you just look at the blue book value, you will be pleasantly surprised that insurance company gave you a better than expected deal. So, you need to make sure that you added accessories, tires if new and most importantly taxes. Develop a range with upper and lower limits you are willing to accept from the insurance company for your total loss. In my case, what insurance company offered was close to my lower limit and close 1000 dollars less than my upper limit. I asked them pay my upper limit. We negotiated and they agreed to give me 600 hundred more. The adjuster normally has discretionary power to go up to 500-600 dollars without requiring any additional authorization. They want to close your case quickly. So, it makes sense to work it quickly and take the best offer. If your first offer was too low, you may have to take the negotiation to the full level. Insurance companies do a good job of compiling and sharing with you all the data they used to come up with the price for your car. If you want to battle it out, make sure your data and calculations are in order.

There is more too dealing with car accident. I will write more in part 3.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dealing with car accident

They say there is a first time to everything. So is to an auto accident too. Recently I was in a car accident  and capturing some lessons learnt here. Hopefully nobody ever needs it. Last thing you want to be in is a messy car accident and not certainly a fatal one. May the force be with us all :) But, still if one ever has the unfortunate experience my lessons may be of some use. For many of us dealing with accident, paper work, insurance, police etc. is alien. It may help to arm ourselves with as much information as possible.

Accidents where somebody has hit your car and has run away are easy to deal with. They may not be easy on your wallet but the complexity of the process is simple. You file a claim, get it repaired, pay your deductible and insurance company pays the rest. It is considered as a no fault accident and your insurance premiums do not (should not) go up. This is assuming you have comprehensive insurance. If you do not, you will have to pay for the repairs yourself. Also, if your deductibles are high and the cost of the repair is less than that, it may make sense not to file a claim at all. Every time you file a claim, it is recorded and available to people through agencies.

Many people (including me before researching on the Internet) think that if you get your car repaired, that's the end of the story. Is it? Have you ever given a thought to what happens to resale value of your car after you have claimed insurance and the fact is public via numerous vehicle history verification agencies. When you go to sell a car after few years, the prospective buyer will offer less than what he may have offered for a similar car with no accidents. This is where the concept of 'diminished value claim'. In theory, it seems, insurance company not only fix our vehicle but also pay us additionally for the 'diminished value' due to an accident. This is applicable any time you get your vehicle damages repaired. Does not matter your fault or other person's fault. However, there is a lot of legality involved. If you search on the Internet for 'diminished value claim', you will find all the details. This varies from state to state, situation to situation etc. It is not something you can expect to get easily. But, we should remember that value of the vehicle is lowered due to accident. If you do not manage to get this rare insurance compensation, you can always right off the diminished value in your tax returns.

Now, let's see the insurance process when you are involved in an accident with another vehicle.

In my case, it so happened that I was going straight, had green light, a person attempted to make a left turn in front of me, BANG, we crashed like a T right at the intersection (Sepulveda Boulevard and Washington Place in West LA). Big BANG. My car won't drive due to severe damage to the front. His is damaged on the side but moves.

Take a moment or two to collect yourself. Don't just open the door and come out. Especially in this situation when the accident has happened right at the intersection. First step, turn on the emergency flashers. Check for injuries. Only if you are ok, move your limbs slowly. Muscle injuries may not show outside but sudden movements can trigger them. If safe, get out and walk to the nearest safe area like safe side of the street. Forget the car. It's damaged, your are ok, that's what counts. Your flashers are on and other motorists will exercise caution. How many time we have not gone around such accident scenes. This what I did.

The other guy too had pulled over in the middle of the cross road and his vehicle was in the median. Median seemed OK to meet and exchange information with him as it was not a busy street. It is better to move to some other safe area and not the median even if it is an isolated stretch.

Be extra careful if the accident happens in the night. Lack of light only adds to confused state we are already in.

Information exchange is critical. It is easy to forget important things at such moments of confusion. You need to get his name, license number, vehicle registration number, address, insurance policy number, phone number. Normally the other person writes it for you. But, make sure to verify against their documents such as license, insurance policy etc. Even a good person can make honest mistakes while copying it down. Lesson learnt - make a template. Fill up your information on one side and leave rest blank. Take a few printouts and keep it handy in the car. Should an accident ever occur. You hand over one to the other driver and have him fill out one for you. Saves confusion and missed information. Remember to update the template if your information ever changes.

Address is very important. Other driver's insurance company will mail you some paperwork. In my case, I had made the mistake of jotting down my information on the back of my office business card and giving it to him. Mail was sent to office the address from where we had moved recently. Luckily mail got forwarded and I got it. Probably after a good number of days as it was in the mailbox which we hardly check. Who gets mails at work?

So, do all that you can to get the information correctly and clearly.

Police reports are optional in many cases when there is no crime or injury. I called anyway. In cities like LA, looks like these kinds of accidents are so common that they hardly care. Once they confirm, no one is hurt, they take their sweet time. A good cop came after good 20 mins or so. He moved my injured car which was still there at the intersection. He had to put it in neutral and push. I could have done it only if it had occurred to me. Such is the state of confusion. Anyway, it was probably a good thing that I did not exert myself. Who knows what pain it would have kicked in?

Ask the officer to give his card. They carry a generic cop card for the given city. They normally jot down their ID and hand it over to you. Since the cop said no report was necessary, I do not know what I could have done with his card. Even if I were to call him later, would he remember one of the several such accidents he may get to see? So, if the cop says no need to file a report, take his word. You can still go and file one at your local police station.

Now comes the next step. Where to send the car to? If you have AAA or any such membership, call them for a tow truck. Expect to wait anywhere from 30 minutes or longer. No time in my 10 years of AAA membership, help has come before 20 mins. Ideally, you should know where to send your car to. If not, do not worry, let the tow truck guy take it where he normally takes it. Just make sure it is within in 10 miles or so. Not for anything other than being close to your place so that you don't need to spend time to go there if you have to. Also, if you are not a premium member, AAA has limits on how far they tow for free.

Before you say temporary good bye to your damaged car, you must absolutely make sure to empty your car completely. Completely of all that you care about. This is where keeping stuff organized comes handy. Luckily for me, I normally keep a suitcase kind of bag in the trunk where all emergency stuff like flashlights, air compressor, GPS etc. etc. are there. So, it was that way easy to empty the car. Still I had to make sure that I checked out all glove boxes, numerous places these days cars make space to stow everything. It is very important not to forget your most important documents such as vehicle registration, insurance, owner's manual, CDs, coins, maps etc. etc. Take whatever time necessary to empty the car cleanly and completely. As you will see later, you may not get to see the car again as it happened in my case. Having to empty in a short time should be enough motivation to keep our stuff organized in the car. I can't imagine what I would have done if I had kept my car like the car of some of my friends which look like their houses. So much stuff. Even if your car is disorganized, thrown in a couple of trash bags in the trunk. If you ever have to empty, you can just throw your stuff into the trash bag and you are ok.

Do this before you car is lifted on to the tow truck. Once it is on the flat bed, it is difficult to lower it again and they don't let you climb on it and you will have to rely on the tow truck driver to empty it for you. He may forget some stuff. Mistake I had made. But, it was still ok. He lowered the flat bed  and I could reach out most of the places. Where I could not, I specifically asked him to empty this or that glove compartment and made sure that I had all stuff taken out. Only thing I now remember I forgot was the apartment parking card which was hung on the mirror.

Your probably need a ride as well. If your place is near by, tow truck driver will give you a ride home before proceeding to dump your car. If you are far away, you may need to make arrangements on your own. If you are in a totally alien area, check with the cop when he comes. If nothing comes to mind, call 911. I know people who have done that and have been connected to nearest rental car place or taxi or whatever.

Tow truck driver should give you a receipt. The receipt should have the address and phone number where you can expect to find the vehicle. Make sure you ask for the contact person. Some of these facilities are very large and have probably hundreds of cars towed from several places. In such cases, you may have to run from pillar to post without a contact person's name. If possible, get the tow truck driver's name and his phone number.

After making sure that all your stuff has been taken out of car and you have the valid result, say good bye to your car. It's fate is unknown at this time.

What is the next step? Hopefully in the next post.....


Powered by Qumana

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Flickr - SUCKS

Flickr (, photo sharing web site's new policy to allow only last 200 photos for viewing really SUCKs. Now with free membership there is upload limit and also restriction on how many photos you can view at any given time. To make things worse they do not make it possible to download pics posted on our accounts in bulk. What is Flickr thinking? Lose its members. I do not believe there is any shortage of web sites which let users store unlimited number of pictures.

As I said, once you post your pics on Flickr, saving them back to your hard disk can be a task as there is no way to download more than one pic at a time from Flickr web site. Luckily some good soul has made available a neat utility called FlickrDown and you can batch download all pics from your flickr account. It let's you authorize right from Flickrdown user interface.

This is it. I am going to take my pics elsewhere once I finish downloading all my pics to my hard drive. Done with flickr. Down with flickr.

Check out other picture sharing web site and may be Flickr will learn its lesson when users leave in drones.


Powered by Qumana

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Privacy Guard

Privacy Guard - provides identity theft protection related services. You can check your credit scores, what creditors know about you, set up various processes to safe guard your identity etc.

I became their member for a short while. While buying something from Staples, they offered free trial membership and a $10 cash back for trying the services. What the heck? I thought and signed up. As usual made sure that I cancelled the membership before the trial period ended. However, for whatever strange reasons, they had not mailed me the rebate form. Here I was with cancelled membership and unable to claim my $10 rebate. Called their customer service line and inquired. The first rep tried to brush me off saying I was not eligible for $10 rebate as I had cancelled my membership. Asked to speak to her supervisor and she did confirm that $10 rebate was for trying the program and being active member was not necessary. Then began the pursuit to get the money. Took several e-mails and phone calls to have them mail me the rebate form. They e-mailed the starter kit which had all forms except the rebate form. What do you say? Convenient amnesia. Hate such tactics. Few more e-mails and they faxed me the rebate form. Filled it and sent it back. I had no hope that they would pay up without requiring another prolonged e-mail or phone pursuit. But, surprisingly, got the check for $10 after 4 weeks. Good. At least they were good to keep up their word although it should not have been this complicated. Moral of the story is same - patience and perseverance. $10 is not the point here. Why do they make it so difficult for people to collect what is due to them? Do they think people like that? This is a typical example of 'penny wise. pound foolish.'

So, if you are tempted by such offers when you shop online, make sure you are willing to spend time and energy to recover that. Many times it is simply not worth your time.


Powered by Qumana

2008 Camry Hybrid

2008 Camry Hybrid. Great mid size sedan. I test drove Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid and liked Camry the best and bought it. Did not want to try Nissan Altima as they  sell it only in 8 states.

After having driven 2002 Honda Accord V6, I do miss the power of a powerful V6. But, you do have to give up some power to get great mileage that hybrids deliver. Camry hybrid does a decent job in terms of power. Great handling. Much smoother steering than old accord which was good but very taught.

I am yet to try out all the features but first impression after driving 60 miles is very positive. Very roomy car. Seats and leg space are really good. Controls are good. Basic sound system is good. Although miss the 6 CD player. You can upgrade to premium sound system, navigation etc. if you are willing to shell 3000 bucks or more.

Trunk space is small due to the space consumed by hybrid battery. Cloth seats are ok. You can buy  leather package.

Certainly beats Prius and Civic in most categories except mileage. They may get 8-10 miles more per gallon. Prius is too small. Visibility is poor especially while backing up. Civic is ok but handling seemed too taught.

Hybrid system comes with 8 years or 100,000 miles warranty more than adequate. Even extended warranties do not cover more than that.

I was in the market for a hybrid cars only. I have hated paying anything more than $1.50 for a gallon of gas. Where are the times of 1998 when the lowest price I had paid was 89 cents a gallon. These days with my old car giving 18 miles a gallon in city, it used feel criminal to go for a drive. Hopefully, with promised 35 mpg of Camry, I hopefully won't feel that guilty.

Things I feel bad about is all the tax and other incentives for hybrid cars are gone. Tax benefits are gone. California benefits such as HOV lane access, free parking etc. are also gone. Too bad.

Price I paid was 22,900 after $500 rebate. No options at all. Basic options such power seats, cruise control are all standard. Would have like leather but it comes only when you upgrade to UT or UP packages which includes premium sound system, navigation, stability control etc.


Powered by Qumana

Friday, November 16, 2007

Toyota Scion of Hollywood - good toyota dealer

Car buying is one of the most stressful experiences. It does not have to be. But, for whatever reasons, it has become one. Why can't all dealers adopt a practice that Saturn adopted. No haggle price. If you sell the car at the sticker price to all customers, no body will haggle. Anyway, that is not the case. Hence,we have to haggle.

I recently bought a 2008 Toyota Camry Hybrid from Toyota Scion of Hollywood, California. It has been a good experience. They are still to install LoJack. I do not see anything going wrong there. Other than that open item, transaction was really smooth one.

I used 'get free quotes' feature from to invite quotes from a few dealers. This dealership was one of the dealerships which replied. No dealer replied with reasonable quotes. Most had no price quotes at all. All they did was to send one of their standard e-mails asking you to come and see the cars. One dealer cut and pasted MSRP. Why don't they understand that MSRP is available from many Internet sites and no customer is going to pay that price.

Randolph Villamil, the salesman at this dealership, was prompt and responsive. He sent first e-mail. Then called me. I set up the appointment. The salesman was there when I went to the dealership. He organized for the test drives of two cars I was interested in - Prius and Camry. It took a couple of e-mails from me to have him send me the proper quote. But, it was not too much of a time. May be he had to identify the car that he wanted to sell first, my color preferences etc.

I e-mailed him back with my offer which was a few hundred dollars less. Fair price calculated using valuable resources at He agreed to my offer and confirmed. I went to the dealership the same evening and finished the paperwork. The process took at most an hour.The finance person who did the paperwork was also quick and fast. He did offer usual stuff such as extended warranty, service plan etc. I had done my research and had found that most of such stuff is marked up quite a bit at dealerships. I declined all such extras and there was no pressure at all. Good thing.

Next day, I went and picked up my car. Randolph had readied the car promptly. He answered any questions I had. He told he would arrange for the LoJack guy to contact me to set up an appointment to install LoJack and that was it. One of the best car buying experiences. Best among the three experiences in last 10 years. Bargaining if any was a few e-mails.

So far positive experience with this dealership. Randolph, the salesman, seemed like a simple straight forward guy. No pressure tactics. Spends time to answer questions. Over all a nice guy.

I recommend this dealership and Randolph Villamil for buyers of Toyota in Los Angeles area.


Powered by Qumana

Car buying tips is a very good resource if you are in the market to buy a new or used car.

Despite all the hype about Internet having made it easy to buy the car, auto dealers do not seem to have learnt one lesson. That is they make it so difficult to buy the car. This web site arms with you all the necessary information and puts you in the commanding position. With this info, you are sure to be confident and negotiate a great deal. Specially work out the true price of the car you have in mind using the spreadsheet template given. Using that you can work out some sample scenarios and develop a bargaining range. You will know your upper and lower bounds and will not become victim of the pressure sales tactics. Most infamous among them is to force you sell the car and options you do not need.

Fantastic resource. If you can spend time, read everything at the site and try to absorb as much information as possible. If not, at the least, work the spreadsheet out and have the prices ready.

Don't feel obligated to show your spreadsheet and calculations to the dealer while negotiating. They try to intimidate you and challenge you to come up with data for your calculations. Rebut saying that you are there to buy a car and not explain your position. Good dealers do not insist and bad ones are not the ones from whom you would want to buy the car anyway.

Watch out for one thing. The price you offer may be accepted by the dealer without anything. If this happens, do not blame yourself that you may have quoted a very high prices and became sucker. Chances are low if you have worked out the spreadsheet and checked your numbers carefully. Dealers when the hear the right price do not argue much. They may be surprised that you are offering a fair deal and do not want to drag it too long because they can be selling more cars during that time.

With the help from this site, I bought a new car (2008 Camry Hybrid) for a just few hundred dollars above the invoice price. Dealer made a fair profit. I do not mind that. I was happy because I did not have to haggle over the price. I e-mailed the dealer after I came back from the test drive. He gave his price. I offered my price from the spreadsheet. He replied confirming the price. End of the story., Kelly blue book etc. do a good job of providing invoice price, destination charge etc. what they do not tell you is about a hidden incentive called 'factory hold back' which is similar to mail-in rebate that the dealers get back from the car manufacturers. Hence, their price will be lower than the invoice price quoted on such site. Destination charge, dealer fees etc. are better left as such as you are not going to beat dealers in such as they have to have some basis remain standard for customers. Your data points are invoice price, factory hold back and discretionary profit (3% to 5%) you would like to offer.

Happy car buying!!!


Powered by Qumana

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Undiscovered Country: Exploring the Promise of Death by Eknath Easwaran

One more elegant spiritual masterpiece by spiritual master Sri Eknath Easwaran.

In this book Sri Easwaran explores one of the certain things in life - the death. As they say the other certain thing is tax. There are IRS manuals to help us understand taxes :) To understand death, in a way it is better understood, this is the book.

Easwaran demystifies the subject of death and helps removes dislike or fear or myriad of other negative emotions we may have about this certainty in life. Death is inevitable. How can one overcome physical death and prepare oneself for the journey beyond death? This book explores them using day to day incidents and examples.

Even if we do not care about death, one or the other time in life, most of us have a glimpse of it much before the real death comes to us. After such an experience, it is normal for many to wonder about death. It may be for a moment or for years. That is one of  the times to pick up this book and reflect on the wisdom from someone who spent years preparing for death. In that preparation he led a purposeful life. Sri Easwaran, many thanks to you.


Powered by Qumana

Saturday, November 03, 2007 - I have bought stuff from this Internet retailer for some time. From time to time, I come across good deals here. They offer free shipping on most stuff. Despite the fact they charge tax (due to location I suppose), prices are attractive many times. Recently I bought a 750 GB external hard drive from here. They had advertised that it carried a $40 mail-in rebate. Recently I received the rebate. But, rebate amount was for $30. I was surprised. May be I was wrong I thought and referred back to the paperwork I retain. No doubt. Sure it was for $40. Then began the process to recover $10. First contacted the manufacturer of the drive Cavalry Storage. They got back saying that the rebate was indeed for $30 and had made a mistake and I should take it up with them. I forwarded the entire e-mail thread to customer support and asked them how they were going to reimburse for me $10. After few days came a boiler plate reply. "Rebates are administered by the manufacturer. Please take it up with them." Hello!!! I had already done that. Did you even read the e-mail thread I forwarded to you? Sheesh! I hate to think that customer rep did not even read and understand my complaint. OK. It took another e-mail or two to explain further. No response for a while. Then I sent one final e-mail in which I clearly told that if I did not receive the missing $10 in two weeks, I would take it up with Better Business Bureau or whatever I felt appropriate. Hmmm... no response for another 10 days. Then comes a reply that they were going to reimburse me for that $10. I admit that it was a clerical mistake they did in advertising $30 rebate as $40. But, as a business, you will make it up to your customers as soon as they complain regarding your mistake. Why make them wait and threaten you with all this? Can't you save all this aggravation for yourself and the customer? It really baffles me that businesses like to bet that customer forget or do not follow up. Not with me you bad fellows. Anyway, I do want to commend whoever finally saw the usefulness of reimbursing me and making me a reasonably satisfied customer. They deserve kudos for that. So, lesson here is never give up. Takes time. Every time we give up with these business, it only makes them continue do same with other customers. More such experience, they get bolder. There are two more dead beat businesses that still owe me $10 each. Not much hopeful about them though. Let's see for some more time. They are going to have my complaints against them at BBB soon. Customers pay and expect to get the complete deal. It would be good if businesses take note of this and conduct their businesses properly.


Powered by Qumana

Tuesday, October 30, 2007 - good e-retailer for electronic gadgets. Can find some good deals from time here. I recently found a free (after mail-in rebate) pen drive here. Found the deal from 1 GB Fugitsu pen drive for $13 (free after mail in rebate). They processed the order promptly. The drive worked fine. I filled mail-in rebate and received the promised rebate after around 10 weeks. I am glad about having received the rebate. E-mail customer service quality is questionable. I did not receive replies to 2-3 e-mail inquiries I sent regarding mail-in rebate. No toll free number. When I called to inquire about the mail-in rebate, got a person who promptly provided the status on the mail-in rebate. Mail-in rebate arrived within the time he said it would arrive. That was good. has my vote based on this experience. I hope they can be more prompt with e-mail inquiries.


Powered by Qumana

Sunday, October 28, 2007


"Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality." - Clifton Fadiman

Good one!


Powered by Qumana

Verbal contract

"A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on." - Samuel Goldwyn

Let alone serious matters that require written contract, most of the stuff is better written down. Always have it that way. How do you like? Written down.

First when you write down anything, it gives more clarity. It opens up several unanswered questions which may require additional discussion.

One best advice I got was to reserve 30 mins prior and after a meeting. First 30 mins is to think and jot down your ideas for the meeting. Second 30 mins is to write down all that happened in the meeting. This is especially important for the meetings that you have called. If there is not a 30 mins time slot before or after the meeting due to your calendar being full, immediately allocate 30 mins in that day itself at the earliest.

You may be better off jotting down notes in your note book and expand it on your computer. Computer and keyboard do not lend themselves very well for quick writing with all sort of short hands and symbols. Divide the sheet in to 3 parts. Left one part serves as margin, right two parts for note. Write down in short phrases and sentences. Put marks for action items, decisions, follow ups etc. Expand on your computer using the notations.

This has proved to be one of the best  things to make most of discussions and meetings.


Powered by Qumana

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Truly important things

There is a simple litmus test to find out what is really important to us in our lives. This simple test and the data it generates can really pinpoint to our priorities even if our conscious mind fails to identify them.

Test is simple. Just track where and how you spend your wealth, health and time. Those are your priorities in life and they are what really matter to you. This realization may come as a rude shock. Once the shock subsides, if you are someone who can reflect on the data from this test, you also know how to go after what you really want.

Take time. What do you spend time on? Mostly on work? So, whether you like or not, work has taken hold of your life. It is a different matter if you are proportionately successful at work or not. There is no direct correlation between effort and success. Right effort applied in right way will produce success.

Take money. Where is your money going? If most your money is going to maintain your day to day life, then no point in worrying why you are not able to build wealth. For your subconscious, building wealth is not a priority although externally it may seem so.

How do we change our priorities? Just change how you spend your health, wealth and time. Want to get ahead in your profession? Devote health, wealth, time on those pursuits. Shell out money to get advanced education. Spend week ends taking courses. At least by channeling your resources on priorities that matter you, you will have the satisfaction of having done your best. Despite this you do not succeed, your priority was not right in the grand scheme of things although you may find it wrong. We always find things we do not understand utterly wrong. Grand scheme of things are beyond our understanding for a long time to come.

If family is your priority then health, wealth and time go there. If this results in less than expected progress in professional life, so be it.

Bottom line is not knowing our priorities correctly, we grope in the dark. We keep doing things which have no relation to our "so called' priorities and wonder why we are not achieving what we want. In reality, we are not spending resources on them at all.

Borrowed insight from one of Brian Tracy's books, I think.


Powered by Qumana

Thank you

"If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is "thank you," that would suffice." - Meister Eckhart

Absolutely correct. However, "thank you" has become so routine that many times even when we really mean it, people may not care much. So, in order to get most out of saying 'thank you', always make it a habit to specify precisely what you are saying 'thank you' for. That will go a long way in making the receiver very happy and appreciate your thoughtfulness. Otherwise, it is going to sound like another bland 'thank you' or 'how you doing?'

If you seriously examine, our daily courtesies all have become too routine to have any real value. Most of them seem to be asked or said out of some requirement or conversation starters. But, we can become little creative and bring back some meaning into such conversation openers. If you know a person, remember to ask about something that matters to them. Of course, you have to open with 'How you doing?'. But, do not have to stop there. For example, a coworker had told something about a sick relative a while back. So, I chose to ask about the relative after the routine 'how you doing?'. What a difference it made?

In today's world of mad rushing, we sometimes feel that we may be wasting other's time by enraging in such talk. Far from the truth. Like it or not, everybody is interested in them and in things that matter to them. Even if they are killing themselves at work, it is a means to some end for which they are killing themselves in much bigger way. Find out what that end is and try to ask a little about that and you would make his or her day. There need not be any ulterior motives behind your questions. It may be just as simple as strengthening relationship. Ultimately relationships and the capital you have invested in them is what going to be of any use. Rest all as they say 'extra'.


Powered by Qumana

The End of Sorrow: The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living, Volume I (The Bhagavad Gita for Living, Vol. 1) by Eknath Easwaran

This book is an interpretation of Bhagavad Gita, great Indian spiritual classic. This is the first volume of three volumes. This volume covers first 6 chapters of 18 chapters that are there in the Bhagavad Gita.

For many people, Bhagavad Gita may come across as a set of verses which do not make much sense. There is certainly a need for scholarly interpretation for common people like us to understand this classic. Many great scholars have attempted to interpret this classic with a sole view that the extraordinary wisdom hidden in Bhagavad Gita became available to common people. However, the need of the hour is to be able to interpret timeless wisdom in a way that is applicable to current life conditions. Bhagavad Gita which must have been first developed thousands of years ago if read in verbatim may not make much sense to people of today.

That's the void Sri Easwaran fills in this three volume commentary of Bhagavad Gita. Easwaran has very nicely developed these volumes. Having been trained in English and Sanskrit and more importantly having the benefit of spending his life time in the 20th century, he is the best position to help us understand and gain from the wisdom of Bhagavad Gita. It is one thing to be able to give a scholarly commentary. It is altogether a different thing to be able to describe the gist of Gita from self experience. Easwaran being one of the great spiritual master is able to drive home the point effectively because he is no mere a scholar full of intellectual hot air but someone who spent more than 50 plus years of his fruitful life practicing the spirituality.

If you have been wanting to know more about Bhagavad Gita, this is the set of books you want to try reading. The book is organized in short essays which take one verse at a time and Easwaran comments on each verse using day to day parables, anecdotes and how the particular verse applies to our lives today. What we can learn from it. What we can take out of that verse and apply to our lives today.  No wonder this books has been considered one of the best books on Bhagavad Gita and has been translated to more than 20 languages.

The more information about Easwaran, his spiritual foundation and life can be found at www.

This is a life changing book. Life changing for good. So, pick it up and immerse yourself in it and see your life change for good.


Powered by Qumana

Saturday, October 20, 2007

REITs - Alternative to direct real estate investing

Investing in real estate is probably one of the best investments one can make. As long as mankind exists, there is always a need for place to have a shelter above one's head. Space on this earth is limited. So, technically, it is one commodity which is going to be always in demand. It is also a hard investment. It does not evaporate like companies such as Enron which showed profit days before their demise.

Historically, as you can find many books on popular finance, real estate has not performed as well stock market in the long rage. Say 20+ years. But, it is still an attractive investment that is tangible which can be passed on to the future generations. One of the reasons why real estate has not done as well as stocks may be due to the fact that managing real estate can be quite tiresome. Paper work is extensive. In some countries, risk involved in real estate investments can be very high due to unscrupulous people and no easy legal recourse if you are cheated and so on. By any means, investing and managing real estate is far more difficult than managing a stock portfolio.

So, isn't there a way to invest in real estate without much hassle? One option is Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT). REITs are companies which own real estate properties such apartments, commercial real estate and so on. They sell shares of their stock and public can buy them. REITs also have some special regulations by which they are required to distribute majority of their earnings to share holders in the form of dividends. High dividends also make them very attractive to people who want regular cash inflow.

It may be expensive to buy individual REITs. That's where mutual funds which specialize in REIT stocks come into picture. They are like regular mutual funds but focused only on REITs. There may also be ETFs which specialize in REITs. There are index mutual funds which track the entire REIT market. They are one of the best for people who want invest for long term and would like to have a real estate component in their portfolio. Vanguard offers a good choice of REIT index funds.

REITs have done very well during the last real estate boom. Even after real estate bust, they are doing reasonably well.


Powered by Qumana

Friday, October 12, 2007

Summer and Winter

"If you don't allow God to be your summer guest, he won't be there during the winter." - Swami Yukteshwar (Teacher of Paramahamsa Yogananda)

From the book 'Autobiography of a Yogi'.

Summer here means prime time of our life. Winter mean terminal years of life. If we do not become God conscious early, it will be difficult to develop that during later years. If not impossible, it will be difficult. I think that's why they say - belief in God is the beginning of wisdom.

More about Paramahamsa Yogananda at -

Powered by Qumana

Paper or Plastic?

Recently, I was admiring a friend of mine who is employed as "Senior Vice President" in a investment bank. I told him I was impressed that he has reached such a high position at relatively young age. I did not understand how come he still did a very technical job and did not have responsibility that normally went with such a title. He burst into laughter and explained me the story behind titles in certain industries using a joke. The joke goes like this.

A super market  worker came home one evening and proudly announced to his wife that he has just been made Vice President of Grocery Bags. Wife was very happy. Next day she called the super market and asked if she could speak to the Vice President of grocery bags. Voice on the other end quipped - "Paper or Plastic, Ma'am?"

So it seems in banking people start at Assistant vice president then become vice presidents and then senior VP and so on. So it is like a principal software engineer or software development manager or something of a similar title in our industry. People with gold always make golden rules. These banking guys are like that. Regardless, title sounds too good. Especially a great pick up like and a conversation carrier in cocktail parties where cock and bull stories run amuck. So, it becomes easier to move in such crowd using these fancy titles.


Powered by Qumana

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Usefulness of quotations

Some people asked me why I so much like to write about quotations from famous people.

There are several reasons. Let me explain one of the reasons with an apt quotation itself.

"The dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant sees more than the giant himself."

The giants(famous and great people) have left a large "virtual" shoulders for dwarfs like us to stand on and attempt to see at least a fraction of what they saw or understood in a hard way. When things have been made so simple for us, why not make best use of them?

Quotations also help me drive home the point very well. By constantly adding useful quotations to my repertoire, I tend to become more effective when the situation calls for it. Quotations help me understand a concept better than I would have if I simply read or reflected on a concept.

Another usefulness of quotations is the chain reaction they produce. I learn about people from their quotations. If I like a quotation from a person, I look for more from that person and chances are I find some more excellent quotations from the person or the persons referred to by that person and so on. My sphere expands.

Quotations pack so much insight so tightly in a few words. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I would add that a quotation is worth a thousand sermons.


Powered by Qumana

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Useful insights

Recently I met a friend after a long time. We talked about lot of things. Here are some tid-bits of wisdom that came out of this conversation. Before I forget them, writing them up here.

1) Worry, stress causing you sleeplessness - I think most of us have those nights when some worry or stress does not let us sleep. It varies from person to person and kind of situations they are in. Here is one of the best ways to do something about that is causing you worry to death and not get sleep. Wake up. Write down all your worries and they try to go to sleep. Just write it down. OK, it does require some action. That is the key. Doing something about anything is the way to go about it. If you are not able to sleep even after writing down all your worries, take one worry at a time and analyze it. Once again, analyze on the paper. Make mind-map which helps clarify the worry. Bottom line, anyway you are tossing and turning with all that churning going on your mind. Why not use that time to do something about the worry? I am pretty sure this is going to help reduce the worry quite a bit.

2) Savor the experience of every situation - One of the reasons why this friend of mine is very successful at a fairly young age is his willingness to get into any situation just for the experience of it. He says - many times he has to take up responsibilities or do work he would not have liked to do under normal circumstances. But, there is no way not to do it. So, he just gets into them without worrying about the actual tasks. He gets into them to just experience them. I asked how do you manage to get into such situations time and again because it might be becoming boring after a few time. He has a solution for that too. Make the experience different by trying to do things differently.

3) Meetings - Many people in corporate world think meetings as necessary bane of working life. We hate them but also know that when we have to get something done, meetings are invariably required. Sometimes, people who we need for a meeting routinely do not show up. What we do? Keep getting frustrated? First, do everything you can do to get a reputation that you are a master meeting organizer. That means you take your meetings seriously and conduct them to get maximum out of them. Despite all your efforts if your meetings are not being attended. Do what you think is the best. If something blows up, let it be. Sometimes, it takes a big blast for people to take notice. Nothing is going to be that serious to kill your career. Hmm...this is one piece of advice, I do not know how to implement. But, the guy giving this advice is running a large unit of a very large company.So, it probably has some value in it.

4) Have belief that things that are helping you carry through your current situations will help you carry through all future situations also.

5) In the grand scheme of things, all your worries and problems of today look like minor blots if any. So, do not worry. What worried you a month ago or an year ago is not likely worrying you today. So, probably what is worrying you today is not likely to be of worry after a month or year. Why worry  now when you are not going to worry about them later? OK, I remember this from Dale Carnegie's book. But, this a true jewel and I  do not mind everyone I meet repeats it at least once.

6) Work less, achieve more. This seems like a contradiction. However in knowledge industry, it is all about thinking and planning. Higher you go in the organization, you will have more people to do it for you. What they expect you to do is to pave way for the people under you to do the things. So your job become predominantly thinking. Sometime you can think better when you are away from the confines of your office. My friend in office only for 8 or less than 8 hours. Does not sit before his computer all the time. Carries blackberry but not a slave to it. But, he spends tonnes of time thinking deeply about issues that need his attention. As he thinks, he commits his thoughts to paper. His most hi tech gadget - you may be surprise -  a notebook and a pen. I opened his notebook and was impressed. It is full of idea, thoughts and plans. All he does is as thoughts come up, he just jots them down. He  also has devised a way of short hand which uses his custom notations liberally. This saves his time. I asked him if writing thoughts does not reduce the speed of thinking or if he does not lose continuity of thoughts. He said that is the very reason. Thinking should be slowed down to produce quality thoughts. Without slow thinking, what mind produces are mainly junk thoughts. Writing one thought at a time helps the mind think through completely. What an insight? Work smart and not work hard.

These are some bits of wisdom from someone who I think has achieved quite a bit pretty early in life.

Ads by                                                                                                                                                Powered by Qumana

Monday, October 01, 2007


"Money is not the key to happiness. If you have money, you can buy the key."

From a recent issue of Readers' Digest humor special issue.

Powered by Qumana

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Indian constitution....

Read the following statement attributed to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar somewhere.

"Hindus have always needed someone from so-called backward caste to write their important epics. When it was time for Ramayana, it was Valmiki who was a hunter by caste. When it was time for Mahabharata, it was Vyasa who was a fisherman by caste. When it came to writing our constitution, it had to be me." B.R. Ambedkar belonged to one of the so-called lower castes and had contempt for caste system of Hinduism. He later converted to Buddhism as a protest to concept of castes in Hinduism.

It would be interesting to learn more about the circumstances under which he may have made above comments. Without the context, the above comments can be interpreted in variety of ways some of which may not go well with majority of Indians.


Powered by Qumana

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Freedom of speech

"Remember that as you have freedom of speech, other have freedom for their sentiments too." Not exactly the original quote was said. But, meaning is same. In our zeal to exercise our freedom of speech, if  we do not care for other people's sentiments, chances are our freedom is no good.

Sometimes people take the saying -"trying to please everyone is sure recipe for failure"- too far. They get the meaning wrong. Note that the saying says that if we try to please everyone we fail. Trying to please is totally different than not hurting other people's feelings. As long as we do not hurt other people's feelings, we can still avoid failure. It is not required to hurt feelings to not to please some. Just not hurt. That's all.

Some people think sugar coating is bad. They think it amounts to being hypocritical. What is hypocrisy? Being or doing what we are not and what we do not want to do is hypocrisy. Is hurting other people's feelings our true nature? Is our real-self so stupid as to hurt itself? If we realize that you and I are not we but one, then we realize if we hurt others, we are hurting ourselves too. We are all from the same indivisible unity. We are all cut from the same fabric. So, do not assume being frank, being straight forward means requiring to hurt other people's feelings.

"When we are good to others, we are best to ourselves." - this is a golden saying to remember. There is a easy way to avoid harsh words. Just ask three progressively blocking question for every word that we would like to utter. 1) Is what I am going to say true? 2)Is what I am going to say kind? 3) Is what I am going to say necessary? If the word does not meet any of the above criteria, just cut it out and stay shut. Lincoln said -"if you keep quiet, people may think you are stupid. If you open your mouth, you leave them with no doubt."

Nice guys(&gals) do not come last. They come first in the long race. Think of long term and imagine the good will your will accumulate by being nice to people and returning kindness for rudeness. Over the time, your goodwill will be so much so that you can get even complex of complex tasks without much hassles as everyone is on your side.


Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Read once. Listen many times.

Do you like certain books which you read  over and over again?

If we enjoy reading some books over and over again, it may be a good idea to record when you read them. It is easy to do so with a pocket digital recorder which records in WMV or MP3 formats. You can then listen to them on your MP3 player.

I can not read some books as many times as I would like to do. This because reading requires far more attention and energy than watching a movie or listening to a recording. I can listen while driving or working out or killing time on a long flight. I can read for say 30 minutes. But, I can listen for hours at a time. It is true that we do not comprehend as well as when we do reading. It may be ok if we are listening for second or third time. We would have comprehended enough when we read for the first time and subsequent listening will help fill some missing points.

With this in mind, I recently started recording my readings every time I picked up some of my favorite books for reading. It has worked out well. I make sure I add enough details about the section of the book I am reading at the beginning of the recording for easy identification. I also organize my recording by chapters so that it gives nice structure to store on the media.


Ads by

Powered by Qumana

First Impression

" First impressions is the last impression."

"You do not get a second chance to make first impression."

These sayings pack a lot of insight. We can get more out of these sayings if we think about how it applies to judge others and be judged by others.

There are only so many 'smart' people who know first impression can be extremely deceiving. They are the only ones who can get even an average worker produce superior results. Most of us belong to the category of 'dumb' people who base some of the most important judgments based on first impression. Read somewhere that most of us judge people within 3 seconds of the first impression they make on us. How wrong such decisions can be?

Since world is full of people who are going to judge us by first impression, we should make every attempt to make a good first impression. Different people prefer different first impressions. It depends on their own background and how their life has been up to that point. As long as we try to make a good first impression which is line with commonly accepted social norms, we are doing our best. If there is some weirdo, who bases his premature judgment based on some weird norms, hell with him or her.

Now, we have to look at the other aspect. That is how we judge people. If we want to move towards that small population of people who do not judge entirely based on first impression, we must not attach way too much importance to the first impression. This especially true when we are trying to judge people with far less experience, education and exposure.  Imagine a situation when a rank and file employee is meeting a CEO. Don't expect the employee to be little awkward due the situation he or she is in? In such cases, if the CEO is dumb enough to judge the person based on first impression, I worry about the company having such a CEO.

We must suspend our judgment of people who matter for as long as possible. One of the smartest thing we can do about any judgment is to defer it as long as possible. This does not mean we should procrastinate the judgment or decision. What is recommended is that we should set a deadline for a judgment. Till that time comes, we should not even think about the actual decision or judgment to be made. What we should during that time is to doing best due diligence possible. Collect data, analyze data and use  final few moments to make the decision.

People naturally make better first impressions as they get varied experiences in life. A person who goes to a new country for the first time is going to be center of fun and ridicule occasionally till he or she learns about the customs and rules of the new country. So is the new employee of a company. So, if we believe that people are who really matter and people who work with us or work for us are the ones who really determine our success, we should defer our judgment of people for a long time and give them every benefit of doubt as long as circumstances permit.

Deferring immediate judgment is a skill we can all learn. We just need to practice and practice for a long time each time learning from the mistakes of our premature judgment.

As a person who is going to be judged by many people during the course of our life, all we have to do is to try our best to make the best first impression possible and hope that majority of the people who judge us belong that small category of smart people and leave rest of the God. If we are judged wrongly based on some criteria for 'correct' first impression, let's not make the same mistake of judging other person's judgment as misjudgment. Learn from other person's mistake and vow not make similar misjudgment if we are faced with similar situation in the future.


Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Friday, September 28, 2007


"There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness." - Josh Billings

Revenge may be rather a strong word here. Transformation may be more adequate in the place of revenge. I guess since revenge goes well with forgiveness, it is used here. But, this quote is a jewel indeed.

When we 'completely' forgive someone for something they did, real or imaginary, the transformation, we produce in the person is hard to miss. First it transforms you too for better. Your heart grows bigger and allows more space to forgive others. It slowly but surely fires up something in the person forgiven to realize his mistake and get closer to you. Was it not your objective in the first place? To win over the person to your side?

So, it can be aptly said - forgive and feast on the  fruits of forgiveness.


Ads by

Powered by Qumana


"Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom." - Hannah Arendt

You may be thinking about forgiving others. But, we may be good at forgiving others. Are we equally good at forgiving ourselves? I guess not. If we were so good about forgiving ourselves for our mistakes and learn from them, we would have achieved 10 times of what we may have achieved today.

We do everything other than forgiving ourselves when we realize we do something wrong. We brood. We regret. We break heads over something stupid we did. But, admitting our mistake, taking necessary action and ultimately forgiving ourselves seems to be the last thing we do.

When we do not forgive ourselves, we hesitate to take action. It is like - 'burnt child dreads the fire.' Yes, it is true that child should dread the fire but if the child never learns about the fire, it can put fire to any good use.

So, take time to forgive yourself. Realize your mistake, make amends, seek forgiveness, easily forgive others and move on. Avoid making same mistakes. But, even if you end up making similar mistake, do not get disheartened. It takes many shots before you hit the bulls eye. That does not mean all the shots that missed the mark were useless. They were all part of the practice. As they say 'life is the biggest do-it-yourself project.'


Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Self confidence

"Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do. Because then they will act." - Jack Welch

If a manager fails to do anything else but follows this advice from great Jack Welch, he can easily become one of the best managers.

The above saying goes well with another saying - "I rather be looked over than over looked."

The essence behind both sayings is that without affirmation from someone we trust, it is very natural for ordinary mortals to feel diffident about our chosen path from time to time. There does come a time after a long time when we do not need affirmation from anyone on our chosen path. But till then people we look up to like parents, managers and bosses can do a great deal good to us and themselves by catching us doing something right and not just when we do something wrong.

When people do something we did not want or expect them to do, it is very easy to catch them doing that as it stands like black blot on a white shirt. However, when the person does something we expected, we take it for granted and do not make any effort to positively affirm the person's act.

Without positive affirmation, many people will take one step forward and waste twice the amount of time to make sure that they are in deed correct. Does it not make sense for others to proactively let people know that what they did or doing is correct and they should continue with that. With such positive affirmation, I will stop to watch my steps, say, once in every 10 steps and not after every step.


Ads by

Powered by Qumana

Saturday, September 22, 2007 - this is a site which offers discounts at several stores. Depending on your needs and habits, you may find it useful. There is another interesting aspect to this site. You will normally come across a pitch to join this site when you shop online. At the end of your online purchase, many times they offer you to join this site. They normally offer 1 or 2 months free to become member of this site. Then they charge something like $15 a month. Depending on which site refers you, you may get interesting rewards for trying out In my case,I was referred to after buying air tickets at They promised 15% discount on Orbitz's purchase. Sounded like a great deal. So, I signed up. Anyway, first two months of trial membership were free. Although you may have to spend some time and effort to get the actual reward. First is supposed to send you the rebate form which you have to fill out and send back. I had to call them to have it sent. Interestingly they sent a wrong form which would allowed me to claim lesser reward. What shall we call that? Honest mistake. May be. Another 2 phone calls and they sent the right reward form. Then on it was smooth. Rebate for $75 arrived after a few weeks. Good deal it was to get $75 off of $500 air tickets. Most of these rewards bank on the fact that people are simply diligent enough to claim such rewards because of required paper work and follow up. But, if you are up to the snuff, rewards like this galore on the net. Some things to keep in mind. First, always maintain scrupulous records in the form of e-mails, phone call logs etc. Make sure to ask for id number and names of people you may speak on the phone. Be prompt with correspondence. Be relentless with follow up. Always ask to speak to supervisor if the person on the phone does not provide right information or gives you a run around. With enough patience and diligence, you can get the reward check ultimately.

This was not a mail-in rebate. But, even in the case of mail-in rebates, experience if more or less the same. Staples stood out for its better practices regarding mail-in rebates. Refreshingly, they automatically do the paper work for your mail in rebate. As soon as you buy any article with a mail-in rebate, they set up an account at their rewards' web site. That's it. There is nothing more to do. No rebate form or UPC bar code to mail and worry that it may get lost in the mail. After a few weeks, check arrives. I do not understand why other retailers can not do this. As everyone understands, businesses use mail-in rebate to improve their cash flow temporarily and to get free working capital. 4-6 weeks that they hold to your money is like loan without interest for them. I have no objection to that at all. Even after that, why make customers go thru the hassle of making copies of receipts, sending UPC bar code from the package, give run around before mailing the check etc. You promised to reward, just do that after you have held the money without interest for certain time. Staples deserves to be praised for its ethical and customer friendly practice of processing rebates without unnecessary paperwork. If other retailers do the same, they can hope to get better responses. Many retailers probably do not realize. But, the fact is many customers find mail in rebates a big turn off because the paper work involved to get a small amount back is simply not worth many times. So, they shop elsewhere. If the same people come to know that getting rewards is not that bad, they will happily buy and wait for their rebates. Staple should actually give publicity to its nice practice. Otherwise, people may shy away from Staples too.


Powered by Qumana

Caller ID feature on phones .....

If you take a telephone instrument from the US to India, most likely caller id feature does not work when the telephone set is plugged to Indian phone outlet. The caller id systems in India and US are different. Phones bought in Asian countries normally work in India. However, there is a way to work around the problem. There is a gadget called caller id converter which helps caller id systems to interoperate. Search for "EX-220" on Google and you can find where to buy such caller id converter.


Powered by Qumana

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Kuala Lumpur Airport

Recently I transited thru Kuala Lumpur airport enroute to Bangalore from Los Angeles. I liked the airport quite a lot for several reasons and thought write a few lines about Kuala Lumpur airport.

Singapore's Changi airport and Hon Kong airport were the best airports I had seen before I got to see Kuala Lumpur airport. I put KUL airport also in the same league. No doubt there. One of the finest airports I have seen anywhere. Beats lousy airports in LA and Boston (two airports in the US that I mostly use) hands down.

One of the best things I liked about KUL airport is that they have a nice hotel well within the airport premises. Since the hotel is right within the airport, you do not need to go thru customs etc. This way you do not have to worry about transit visas which are not available on arrival  to Indian passport holders anyway. This hotel came as a real savior as I had close 10 hours of lay over for my flight to Bangalore from Kuala Lumpur.

You can make bookings at this hotel from KUL airport site. Search for KUL airport and under services you will find "Airside Hotel" and you can use web form to make a booking and they will confirm the booking within 24 hours. You can also book shower rooms if you do not need to rent a room if your lay over is not that long.

Rooms in Airside hotel are comparable to what we see in budget hotels like Holiday Inn or Comfort Inn etc. Rates are pretty good. They rent in hours. First minimum duration is 6 hours. Then they rent in every 2 hour increments and up  to 10 hours at the max (I think). Rent for first 6 hours comes to about $35. It's a great deal. Shower facilities are much cheaper.

The hotel directly over looks good portion of the airport. The view of planes landing and taking off is great from many rooms. One can really relax gazing across the airport. Rooms in the hotel have basics like TV, Coffee Maker etc.

KUL airport also has very nice restaurants. All sorts of food are available at pretty reasonable fares. Duty free shopping also looked pretty attractive although I did not check for prices or shop anything out there.

One drawback, like in many other airports, is total absence of electric power outlets. There are hardly any. I do not really understand what is the deal with all these international airport. In this area US airports are pretty good. Lot of power outlets can be found in LA and Boston airports etc.

Airport and the hotel also have free Wi-fi. Great deal. In US most of the airports really suck with one having to buy services from T-Mobile etc. which is a $6 minimum from carriers like T-Mobile. It really beats what is stopping airlines from offering such simple service. Probably Las Vegas, NV and Manchester, NH are probably some of the very few airports in the US which provide free wireless Internet service.

I certainly recommend KUL to anyone traveling from the US west coast. It's great place and offers great deals.

I certainly recommend prior reservations as rooms tend to fill fast as most of the people going to Bangalore, Chennai etc. tend to take rooms here.


Powered by Qumana

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

This time I would like to review and write about my impressions about online travel portal which seems to specialize in good deals for people traveling from US to India.


1) Great web site. Very user friendly. Easy to find information. Fast searches.

2) Multiple ways to contact sales rep. Call them or chat with them online. Response times are pretty fast. I preferred chat to make the actual booking as it is easier to provide all the information correctly and also helps to record your chat transcript on your computer.

3) Prices are indeed competitive. Found the best deal among other Internet portals such as or etc.

4) Prompt delivery of tickets where applicable. Most of the tickets are e-tickets so there is nothing to receive. In my case, they had to send paper tickets which they did by FedEx.

5) Tickets seemed fine. Checked out confirmed and did not have any problems.


1) At least, I did not get any confirmation e-mail after the tickets were mailed. Since they had said it would take anywhere up to 10 days to send the tickets, I did not worry much. But, when tickets did not come after 7-8 days, I called them to find that tickets were already mailed and received by somebody in my apartment office. This was certainly worrying as it was risky to a leave a package unclaimed for 3-4 days after it was received. It would have been ideal if they were to e-mail me with tracking number. After being used to such practices by other e-tailers, this was a rude shock. The customer support rep was helpful and gave me the tracking number and the name of the person who had signed for receipt. I hope this was an isolated incident and also a rare one. It was rare because somehow the notice FedEx leaves when they deliver the package to the rental office was also missing or lost after it was stuck on the mailbox.

2) Meal preference was not correctly recorded. I had not remembered to mention "Asian Vegetarian" and had just asked for "vegetarian". I expect a travel portal specializing in travel to India to take some initiative to ask and educate customers on different vegetarian options and not all vegetarian meals are created equal and many vegetarian meals contain white meat and fish. They did not do anything and merely recorded my preference although I had meant pure vegetarian meal. Malaysia Airlines on which I was booked was able to provide me with vegetarian meal although it was a bit of a scramble and frustrating to them as well.

Other than these minor inconveniences, it was a very smooth transaction and price was a great deal. Cheapest fare I got in 10 years.

Unless something goes wrong on the return, I am glad to give this business a solid thumbs up.


Powered by Qumana

Monday, September 03, 2007

Kingfisher Airlines

Flew in Kingfisher Airlines for the first time yesterday for home trip from Bangalore to Hubli.

Great airlines. Lived up to the hype created when it was launched. Provides nice service for the cost of discount airlines.

Check in was very efficient. In addition to counters at the airport, normally you may bump into hand-held gadget carrying assistant who can issue boarding card even before you get to the counter. Great time saver if you do not have anything to check in. Baggage screening which is the responsibility of respective airlines in India is managed very efficiently with a large crew of people who efficiently get you bag in and out fast.

Service and aircraft are really good. More or less on time although my flight was delayed by 15 mains. Baggage was delivered promptly at the destination. An assistant at Hubli even stopped by to make sure I got my baggage. May be because I was there longer than anyone as my bag was probably the first one to be checked in and it took long time to come up. That's impressive that they notice such small things and ask customers if they can help.

Food was good. Very nicely delivered. Some small stuff like pens etc. are given in a nice Kingfisher pouch. Personnel are dressed in very smart and attractive red and white outfit. That's is surely an eye catcher.

Overall a great experience for my first domestic flight using Kingfisher. Online booking was also very smooth from their web site.

Slightly pricier than Deccan Airlines which is truly a budget carrier. But, Deccan does not provide any food and probably allows only 15 kgs of check in. So, what you save probably goes away in buying the food or paying excess baggage if you are traveling from abroad with at least 44 kgs allowed by international carriers.

Fly the good times is their slogan. Lives up to that.


Powered by Qumana

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hunter being hunted

Watch this video -

This amateur video beats many professionally made wild life videos.

Watch the entire video. Every minute the things change in ways you can least expect.

I think nothing other 'hunter being hunted' can be better title for this video.


Powered by Qumana