Friday, April 28, 2006

Getting quotes

I have been getting some email quotes from dealers in southern california for a honda civic lx model. The so called internet prices themselves vary a lot. I don't know what's up with the dealers. Why can't they all agree on some nice price? Why should they make this negotiable? I guess car is such a basic need in this country that they know people will do whatever it takes to come up with a better deal. It will help to know if somebody bought a Honda LX model in the recent past and how much they paid for it.

I am very tempted to buy a Honda Accord Hybrid (supposedly used and less than a year old), but it costs around $30K. that's way over my budget. The car looks clean and has very few miles on it. It's a powerful V6 car. But I wish it was at least 5K cheaper. 30K is a turn off.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Razor ads

Why do they show a cleanly shaven man shaving with the razor in the razor ads? If I am already so nicely shaven, why would I need a razor? Of course my shave will be smooth with the bluntest of blades after I am shaven!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Insurance Company's apology

What a miracle! My insurance company called me later and they told me that they wholeheartedly agree with me and my calculations and decided to mail me one more check for the difference of about $600! That kind of made my day. Now I feel that it is a fair deal. I don't think I could have negotiated much had that error not been there. Thank God I took some time yesterday to do the calculations (the arithmetic mean ;)). So in my words, last evening was worth $600. Not bad at all!

Insurance companies and their calculations

My car has definitely been undervalued. I received a report from my insurance company. They seem to have compared 48 different toyota corollas that were sold in the vicinity and have tried to estimate the arithmetic mean of the various selling prices. Only, they seem to have inserted the arithmetic mean the other company has come up with. There is a difference of more than $500. I have only been dealing with my company to run the case for me. I never authorized the other company to evaluate the car and estimate how much it would cost to make up for the total loss. 21st Century Insurance (the other company) seems to have evaluated the cost of the car even before Ameriprise (mine). They have compared some 57 other vehicles that were sold in the recent past and have come up with a number that differs from what Ameriprise has come up with. Only the difference is $500. These insurance comapanies are a big big scam and I am pretty sure they collaborate with each other to ultimately screw you. Nobody really cares if your car is a total loss or not. They are out there to make some money at your expense. I don't know why the hell we all pay insurance if the service is so poor. I guess it could be a lot worse. So may be I shouldn't complain. It's the time that I have to spend on all these things that frustrates me. I have talked to my agent, but I am not sure whether she is going to help me. She is probably going to come back to me and tell me that they won't do anything about it. I should have just hired a lawyer right at the beginning, but as I have mentioned several times, I don't have the time to deal with one more variable - the lawyer. I haven't had any experience. I guess, I have become a loser in the end.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Lord of War

 an amazing movie. Sometimes, actually most of the times, I get deeply touched by a movie. This movie is one of those. The movie is about illegal arms trade and this man called Yuri Orlov (played by Nicholas Cage). The movie offers so much information. At least a lot of what I didn't know earlier. What impressed me the most (or what caught my attention) in this movie is its portrayal of west Africa and its violence stricken countries and the dictatorship that's happening over there. Pretty much every one roams around with a machine gun. I also learnt a decent deal about AK-47. I always used to wonder why it is so popular and what it is all about and I finally managed to get to know. It's apparently a 9 pound gun invented by a Russian Soldier called Kalashnikov. 47 stands for model of 1947. It is such a reliable weapon that it works when filled with mud or sand and doesn't over heat or jam. It is one of Russia's biggest exports after the Cold War. There are apparently 550 million firearms in the world, good for about one person out of every twelve that inhabit this planet. AK-47 has penetrated all corners of the world.

One of the pleasant surprises in this movie is its usage of Bombay's Theme Music composed by AR Rahman! Our man is going places, definitely. His name appears in the end credits as well. Another highlight is the overall music itself, composed by this Brazilian composer called Antonio Pinto. He has truly managed to compose a moving theme "Lord of War". It starts with the guitar and slowly moves on to employ the whole orchestra with a very graceful piano. He has basically proved himself :) I wish I was the one who composed this piece.

The guy who acts as Charles Taylor (Liberian President) was quite amazing as well. I think he is called Eamonn Walker and became popular after acting in some HBO series. His English is quite funny. He has done a great job and is very sarcastic at times. He says "welcome to democracy" in a very funny way ;)

Nicholas Cage is good as usual. His movies are generally watchable. This one is a nice thriller. He becomes so hardened by his experiences that he eventually returns back to illegal arms dealing even after losing his wife, brother, his family and everything. He says he doesn't do it for the money, but only because he is good at it! It is well worth a watch. I am now listening to the theme music of the movie from my ipod. Here are some more pictures.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Car Search

So it's been decided that I have to get another car. I am not entirely sure of going for a used car. So we looked around for new cars today. I test drove the Honda Accord and the Civic. The 2006 Civic model looks pretty good. It also drives pretty good. It is distinctly small though, at least on the inside. But that's not too much of a deterrent towards buying it. It is pretty comfortable. I would almost hit the roof if I sit inside it. It has many things and features. It doesn't have a cassette player though, which means that our newly bought cassette adapter is a waste. Well, we didn't think we would get into an accident and total our car. So, we would mostly go with a 2006 Honda civic I think, from the way it stands now. Honda Accord is a great car too. It is very silent and I really loved the color. The suspensions are pretty good and you don't feel much if you are inside it. Civic is a little noisy, just like corolla. But Civic is definitely better than a Corolla IMHO. corolla is not stable on freeways. It's an ok car, enough to get by, but nothing more.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Beach Potluck party

Tomorrow we have a beach potluck party. It's for celebrating the success of the indian event we had. We don't know what we'll be taking. I have lots of work to do as usual and have to look around for a car also. I don't know how I am going to manage all these. I can only pray at this point.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Title Transfer

I am supposed to mail the signed title, with the accurate odometer reading to the insurance company. I am not separately detaching the pink slip. I am going to let them take care of it. I have to send it by overnight priority mail or something like that. You have to sign the document at 1a and 1b if there are more than one registered owners of the car, otherwise, just sign it in 1a. Then under penalty of perjury blah blah, you date and sign it at one more place. I double checked it and I don't think it requires any more signatures. I'll probably go during lunch time and finish this off. I have been given 30 days from today to find a car and hold the same insurance. Otherwise, they'll cancel it and I'll have to start all over again. Which means that I can probably drive another car with the same insurance until then. I don't know for how long I'll get the rental car. I have to ask the other company. For now, I have my friend's extra car. It's doing a good job. What do you think of Honda Civic for the next car? Or Honda Accord?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Car let go

My car has been officially declared a total loss. That's pretty bad. Today, I went ahead and signed the release forms so that the body shop may hand it over to the towing company arranged by my insurance company. The car looks pretty bad and I seem to have originally underestimated the damages. They have tore down the trunk and dumped it on to the back seat already. It looks ugly with a lot of dust and like an orphan car. That was a little hard for me to take, considering that it was in perfect condition 10 days back. Well, the car did start ;) I left all the spare keys, the owners manual in the glove compartment. I took some parting away pictures. My car's fate had to end like this. It'll now go to to a salvage yard in North Hollywood where some random people are going to auction the several good parts left in my car. The front side of the car looks good. There should have been no engine damage. The rear is screwed. The seats look good and it is a luxury edition - so the interior looks good. The seats have been partially spoiled because they have dumped all the bumper, trunk parts, broken indicators, etc on the back seats. I had to reach out for some of my personal belongings. The car is with the other cars that have been badly damaged.

It must be a lot of work to fix that car, I can imagine. The preliminary estimate only is ten thousand dollars. Now I have to look for a new car. I think I'll mostly go with a new car. I may choose Honda this time. There is a small desire to go for a luxury car, but I am not sure if it will be worth it. I have to ask people. Have to decide quickly.

My wife returned on Sunday night and one of my friends was kind enough to offer me a ride to the airport that day to pick her up. The weekend was spent working in full swing. I slept only at 1 AM on Sunday night ;) I still have a lot more work to do, with the distraction of car stuff. I have a beach party to attend this weekend, in celebration of the success of our music event. My wife seems to have had a decent trip to the east coast. She has taken some nice pictures. She has now been to places I've not been to ;)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Car returned

I mean the rental car - I felt that I should probably return it today to avoid incurring charges. None of the two insurance companies wants to take up responsibility for the rental car and that kind of scares me. I'll have to get a ride from one of my colleagues tomorrow morning. For the weekend, I have no idea as to how I am going to manage. I'll have to pick up my wife from the airport on Sunday evening. I'm listening to one of my compositions as I type this. I feel that I could do a better job. I guess I have to quieten my soul in order to come up with better compositions. I can't afford to be as stressed out as I am right now - what I mean by stress is that my mind is preoccupied, not necessarily with anxiety. I have to focus some energy on work and that doesn't allow me to be free, which is what you need to express yourself through music. Anyways, let me think of some other tunes.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Accident/Insurance/Car Damage Update 4:40PM

I got a call from my insurance company - the collision evaluation specialist or somebody - she said that my car is tending towards a TOTAL LOSS!!! She said that the damage is severe and everything has been shifted towards the front in the car. Their priliminary estimate on the repair costs and everything is $10,000. She said that it is likely to go up once they start opening up the car to figure out there is any internal damage. Considering that the car is probably worth much more than $10,000, I am not really sure how this is going to be settled. I haven't heard much from the other insurance company. My agent seems like a forthcoming guy and says that I am 0% responsible. I want to hear this from the other insurance agent. I need to get paid for the rental car. I am thinking of returning the car this evening, but I don't know what I'll do for tomorrow. May be I should just keep the car for one more day and see how things work. I'll lose another $20 towards it. The other insurance agent told me that right now, I'll be responsible for fixing any damage related expenses, including the rental car. They haven't spoken to their insurer, so they won't commit to anything yet.

Well, this poses a whole new problem in my hands at a time when I don't even have a slot to call my brother or pay my bills. That's how busy I am - I would have mentioned this in my previous posts as well. My friend says that total loss is actually a better deal in terms of money because they'll pay you a good sum. I just don't know how much that will be and until I know, I'm going to be paranoid. I'll keep this blog updated as to what happens.

Tax problem

I received a notification from the franchise tax board saying that my tax was filed incorrectly! This was one more added tension amongst the existing things. I called up my tax preparer and she said that she had filed it correctly only. She will protest the case next week since this is tax week and everyone should have filed taxes by the end of this week. Day after tomorrow is April 14th, Tamil New Year's day and I really hope it brings me a lot of peace and clarity! Chandramukhi was released almost one year back and apparently is still running in one theatre in Chennai, thanks to Superstar's charisma.

Last night I realized that we had forgotten to pay the phone bill for the last month! There was a combined bill for this month along with the late fees. On top of this my wife left on a short trip to the east coast last night. So I am on my own for a few days. She comes back on Sunday night. Until then, I have Memoirs of a Geisha to entertain me. Fun with Dick and Jane DVD was released yesterday and I should try to check it out. Jim Carrey never stops to entertain :)

Accident Update

Not much. The other insurance company finally called me and collected a verbal statement. I am not sure she recorded it because she is supposed to tell me if she was going to. My insurance company adjuster did take a recorded statement from me. He stands by the fact that ball is in my court and it is a cut and dry case of rear end. So do a lot of people. But the way the other insurance agent spoke to me indicated that she is not fully convinced that it is their insurer's fault. My adjuster tells me that the damage is pretty bad and he has sent it to the department where they assess whether it is a total or not. My God, I really hope it is not a total. Otherwise, I'll have to spend time looking for a car and what not. It's a big pain in the a**. I'll lose so much time in all that and in this country, you can't afford not to have a car. Otherwise, life may come to a stand still.

The accident happened during the night - at 9:45PM and I wasn't clearly able to tell how bad the damage was. There was reasonable amount of damage - the trunk was broken open, the exhaust pipe was hanging down on the road, the back side was smashed and was hitting against the back tires and the damage propagated till the back door. The engine should be fine, I think. That guy must have been travelling at 40-50 miles an hour easily. One could say that from the damage. Let's see what's going to happen to my car! The other insurance company's adjuster will call me in a day to figure out and get some details about my injury. There are no bleeding injuries per se, but may be a minor soft tissue injury. I had a stiff neck during the weekend and the pain is on and off and I have lost sleep over this thing, not to mention valuable work time. Hope things work out in my favour. I am thinking of returning the rental car today because I am not yet sure who is going to pay for all this. I don't want to incur the charge. i am going to get the receipts and save them for reimbursement later. God, there is so much work to do.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


The accident that I met with on Friday (4/7/06) is troubling me. I don't have my car - it is at some body shop. It is taking way too much time to figure things out. My insurance agent somewhat answers my phone. His answering rate is about 50%. I have been trying to get in touch with the other insurance company - 21st century and they have been avoiding my call, seems like. I have left messages and tried to talk to few different people, but I have been unable to get an estimate on the damage and to see whether they will pay for my rental car. I have already rented the car without anyone authorizing it, but this state of ambiguity is killing me. I think I have to learn a lesson from all this - dealing with ambiguity is very stressful. If I were to become an entrepreneur or a director tomorrow, I'll have to deal with many more of these. May be I can use some experience when I get there. Also, things seem totally out of control and that means that my life is moving pretty fast. But it doesn't really help the present situation.

My wife is also leaving for a short trip. I'll be left alone without much help I guess. There is so much work to do that I am unable to afford anytime for all these accident issues, but at the same time I am unable to fully concentrate either. I don't know whether my car is going to be totalled or not. If they do total it, I do hope to get a great deal. I really don't want to be screwed, especially because I am not at fault. I am trying to get some information from websites.

I don't have rental car coverage with me with my insurance. Thereby they won't cover for the rental car and my agent says that he can't make the other insurance company do anything either. I don't understand this part. Why can't he do that. I thought that's why he is being paid for. He is not being aggressive enough. He works only until 5pm. After that what am I supposed to do. I rented the car on Monday morning and it is running at the rate of $20 per day. I can't afford this rental car if it falls on my shoulders in the end. It can easily touch more than $100 per week, it doesn't matter if I drive it or not. I can possibly use my motorcycle, but I can't carry my laptop in it freely. I can seek help, but it is a hassle and I do want some compensation for being inconvenienced.

The other driver hasn't been forthcoming with his information either. I need to fill out the SR1 form and file it with DMV. I have filled it out to the best of my knowledge and I haven't really mailed it out yet. I have to do so within 10 days, otherwise my license could be suspended though there is no fault on my part. Secondly, the car will now go on record as an accident car and I am afraid that it may deter potential buyers of the car at a future date. I don't really plan to keep this car for its life - I need to dispose it at some point or the other. Now that seems like an unfair thing if they don't really compensate for the potential loss in the value of the car because of this accident record. All these are unwanted challenges in life. On top of all this, I really don't know if the body shop is a reliable one. The towing company kept it at the body shop on Friday itself and I didn't have much say in it. Yeah, I can ask my neighbour about it since he runs a auto shop. I would assume he has a fair idea about it. He could also tell me about whether I am at fault or the other driver is at fault.

In California, it is virtually the other driver's fault if he rear ends you. It just means that he wasn't giving enough distance between his car and yours. No matter what happens to you, he is not supposed to hit you if you stop. that's what I read on some websites and heard from most of my friends. Oh no, the rental car still remains a question and I really hope things work out for me. I have major reviews lined up already at work and I need to concentrate.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The show is done!

Well, it turned out to be yet another amazing show on Saturday. Two shows in fact, back to back. One matinee and one evening. We managed to satisfy both audiences. I was more satisfied with the 2nd show than the 1st one 'cause our volume settings were mixed up on the first show. We managed to assemble all the equipment in less than half hour for the 2nd show which is unheard of. Kudos to my team for helping me out on that. Prior to that, we always took no less than 3 hours to assemble and connect all the cables to the instruments and the mics. Our tempo was a little faster than the original song, but that's ok. Faster is better. Most of the rehearsals we were doing it slowly and it wasn't turning out all that well. The song choices were much better this time - at least that's what I heard from most people. I finally managed to take Rahman on stage - something that others have never attempted before. They were all skeptical in the beginning, but I was courageous enough to start this and end it nicely. I am kind of glad about it. We would have rehearsed for more than two months and went through a lot of difficulties - mostly scheduling the rehearsals at a time that was convenient to everyone.

It is a pain to carry my bigger keyboard, but the last few reherasals, we did it somehow. It paid off man. the drummer got a lot of compliments. So did the singers. I am glad that I was able to help them reach their best. I stressed a lot on quality and it just showed. I need more feedback on how things went. I'll ask around.

The unfortunate thing was that I met with an accident on Friday, the day prior to the show. Coincidentally, last year also, before the same show, my car hydroplaned on the freeway and I lost control. I don't know whether nature is trying to tell me something here, but I need to watch out on the days before this show! My car was pretty badly damaged and is in a body shop now and I am talking to the insurance agents to figure out what works the best. I really hope it is not totalled. The car was doing its job, though it could have been better. It is only two years old though. I am now renting a car and am unable to find out whether this will be reimbursed. Ideally it should be because somebody came and hit me from behind - rear ended in other terms. But I can't afford to lose any work time calling people and figuring out how to deal with the situation. My friend couldn't come for the show from LA - not that he had the tickets, but he would have liked it.

My friend's brother was there and he was totally taken by pleasant surprises. The dance numbers were also pretty good, although I thought there were too many of them. They gave us only 25 minutes to perform on the whole and we cracked it. People in my team were complimenting me on the performance of the show. We all went for an after event party after the show was over at one of the participants' place somewhere in clairemont. They had a huge 3-5 bedroom house shared by 5 people and had it all set up for drinks, smoke and chilling out. I was there for more than an hour and had fun and returned home. My wife had to leave after watching the first show since she didn't have the ticket for the 2nd show. Poor her, she fell asleep by the time I reached. On Sunday, I spent the day working and watching "Walk the Line". I liked the movie and it was great to know both Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon had sung all the songs that come in the movie! That's quite amazing.

The other guys returned the equipment to guitar trader on my behalf since I didn't have a car. they were so nice. We rented shure mics, impedance converters for keyboards with a stereo output, bunch of xlr to xlr cables, xlr to 1/4 inch cables, 1/4 to 1/4 inch cables, stereo cables, mono cables, drum mics, four speakers - cerwin wega pair and peavey pair to serve as audience speakers and monitor speakers. We also rented a couple of cymbals for the drummer, a floor tom, instrumental mics, a nice 18 channel mixer (actually 16 channel, but had two pairs of stereo inputs extra), an echo processor, several mic stands. I should remember this for next year's show.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Top Gear

The music event preparations are going at full swing. On friday, I got out a little early from work and went to guitar trader to rent some music equipment for saturday's dress rehearsal with a couple of other friends/group members. I should say that people are very helpful in general. We rented a whole bunch of cables - XLR to XLR, 1/4 inch to XLR and all kinds of combinations thereof. This process itself took about 1 hour and 15 minutes. We then transferred all the stuff to this guy's house close to the auditorium. We planned on getting to the auditorium at 7AM the next day to set up the various things. I had originally underestimated the time it would take to set up the mixers, speakers and the amps and the mics.

I came back home and didn't do much useful - oh yeah, I rehearsed the songs for myself on my keyboard. The next day, I had requested an event volunteer to come and help me take my keyboard to the audi. Originally I had requested him to come at 7:30AM, but since we later planned to get there earlier, I requested him to come at 6:45AM. I gave him the directions and he seemed quite comfortable with the area and gave me an impression that he will find it with ease. But of course, he got lost the next morning and came to my place only at 7:10AM or so. After having asked certain other key participants to come at 7:30AM, I kind of felt bad to reach there late. More importantly, we had great difficulty in fitting my keyboard in the volunteer's car - that was a big bummer. We somehow squeezed it in after some 10 minutes of effort. Few other people were there - I should say they were kind to have come so early - and they were already setting up the instruments and the speakers. I went there to help. From then on, it took us a full three hours to set everything up - and that too only partially.

It was easily past 10:15AM, when we guys thought we were somewhat ready to get rolling with our practice. The keyboards used some impedance converters to drive the mixer. One of our group members is very good at setting up the mixer and the amp. They take major interest in setting everything up. They identified some bad cables and problems and made a mental note of it so that we may go and tell the guitar trader people about it and get some quality cables later on. The speakers were kind of not fitting properly on the speaker stands. We got four speakers - two to be used as monitor speakers and two for the audience. According to the guitar trader guy who rented us all this stuff, the smaller pair of the two pairs of speakers we got was supposed to boom louder. So we thought we'll keep that for the audience and turn in the other two speakers towards us, the participants. Some of the instrumental mics, which supposedly have a wider range were causing a lot of feedback. One of the amplifier cables was kind of loose and required a person to hold it up in a particular position, if we desire any sound output.

There was a big ocean of cables running on the ground. Myself and the guitarist were towards the right of the stage as the audience sees it. The other two keyboardists were towards the left. The drummer wanted to be in the middle and he was going to be the loudest - I let him be there, but warned him that he may have to shift to the left because he was hiding the screen. And that precisely happened - the organizers had to request him to move towards the left for the final two rehearsals so that they may project some good stuff on the screen. The guitarist took some time to tune the guitar, which I thought could have happened a little earlier. We lost some time on that. But he is my good buddy, so no complaints ;) The drummer also rented a couple of cymbals to add some nice effects. I think he went a little overboard in using those ;) No major problems again. These guys are all very receptive and are fully open to suggestions. That's why I like working with them. Most people in my group are receptive, except for a couple. I have to come to embrace the fact that I'll always have such people to deal with, so there is no real point in fretting about it or giving up. The show has to go on because my reputation is rolled up in it. Most people appreciate the efforts we all are putting into this.

Some people are consistently late - that thing bothers me a little. The very idea of making ten other people wait for one person should really bother that person. And yet, such people do exist - that is again something that we have to live with. I guess I can't complain too much about that, because it was not really the bottle neck. I really had to speed up the connection and the mixer settings towards the end because it was getting really late and I wanted to have a decent practice session before we geared up for the actual event.

We started and I requested that somebody time it. We started at 10:25AM and were done with the four songs only at 11AM. That was 10 minutes over our time budget, but it also included a 5 minute set up time between two songs. No excuses, we still have to stick to the time limit. We really speeded up our tempo on two of our songs. We should try to stick to the original tempo. One song is consistently not coming out well - we have to work on that. It was 12:45PM when we thought we could afford a lunch break. We did that - we went to the adjacent food court and were done only 5-10 minutes past 1PM - the dress rehearsal's official start time. I felt bad for coming in late myself by 10 minutes, but I did inform the organizers and much to my delight he told me that he himself was late. But one of our participants was very late - that person came in only at 1:45AM, but explained to me that it was because of a bad headache. It wasn't such a big deal as I thought it would be because the thing was anyway getting delayed because they were preparing the slides. Overall, no complaints.

Then we started our stuff and did a pretty decent job, except in one song. I think both the singers went off pitch and it seemed like I started the interludes on a different pitch. It was not noticed by many, but to the trained ears it made a lot of difference. I wasn't happy with that. The fourth one was a big hit. We have to maintain that kind of a standard, though it could have been improved. People said that the song selections were much better than last time - ofcourse, :) We got another feedback saying that the instruments were louder than vocals. Some of us thought it was a better thing 'cause we can mask out the voices haha...but yeah, we have to fix that. There is still a lot of work required. More importantly, people should really remember to do things and not forget them. Anyways, let me get back to my work. We returned all the equipment later yesterday and avoided a trip today. By then, all of us were pretty exhausted and burnt out that we didn't feel like a rehearsal. It is a big time and physical commitment from everyone.