Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Grand Experience- Las Vegas & Grand Canyon

Last weekend was the final tour to Las Vegas and The Grand Canyon with my parents before they head out to the east coast next week. We managed to make the quickest 2 day trip to Vegas and GC. We took a 1 hour and 30 minute flight from San Jose to Vegas on Friday morning and checked into The Imperial Palace hotel on the casino strip area in Vegas. Afterwards, we walked to most of the nearby casions such as Cesar's Palace, Parisian, Aladin's place, Bellagio, The Mirage and the Flamingo. My parents who had already been exposed to the slot machine in Reno, tried their luck on the Vegas arena and won $5. But, we did lose a lot more than we had planned to play with.

Every time i visit Vegas, its a reveletion to me, the newness of the casinos, the interiors of the shopping malls and forum shops and the crazy crowd around you which makes you feel how far away from reality you are. Although i had warned my folks that the people in Vegas were a lot different from the cultured, quiet lot in the Silicon Valley, nevertheless, they were in for a shock. But, overall doing a Vegas trip once in a way, especially for those who come from another country shows them a very different side of US. Lastly, a piece of advice to all those planning a Vegas trip in June- the heat was indeed untolerable, going upto a 110, even if Chennaites are used to that sort of temperature, the blind direct heat of the desert in Vegas makes you think twice about travelling at this time of the year.

Our second day started with a day trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona with stops at the Hoover dam, Kingman canyon and a few native Indian stores on the way. This was a tiring 5 hours up and down day trip to the GC from Vegas, but ended up being a worthwhile one. I loved the native indian jewellery, esp, the colored stones and sterling silver sets.

We spent about 2-3 hours at the South rim of the Grand Canyon and absolutely loved the beauty and color of the canyon. We walked for a while from the Mather point to the conservatory and rode the canyon shuttle bus to the canyon village shops and Bright Angel lodge.

Our bus tour to the Canyon was through a Chinese owned tour company that we've used for all the tours and trips to take my folks around and for a reasonable fee of $89 per person we were provided breakfast and lunch along with a great tour guide who knew the right places to stop.

A wonderful experience and a trip that i will remember for a long time inspite of the tedious journey.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Weekend Getaway- Lake Tahoe & Reno

Last weekend, we made a road trip to Lake Tahoe and Reno. On a sunny Saturday morning, we loaded our car with a bag full of food- idlis, tomato chutney, capsicum rice, potato curry, curd rice and snacks. Carnatic music CDs from India, ipod and the camera went in next and we started our 4 hour trip to Lake Tahoe. Since my parents were accompanying us and i wanted to horne my freeway driving skills, special K let me sit behind the steering wheel and took charge of the audio controls.

After a brief stop for a breakfast of idlis and hot coffee at Starbucks, we made it to Lake Tahoe at noon. This is my first trip to the lake and i was awed by the size of the lake, it seemed to stretch forever, as long as the eyes could see and was a shining blue. We played in the water for a while, ate lunch and drove to the local beaches.

Later around 3 pm, we drove to our hotel in Reno, checked in our bags and walked around the downtown area where the casinos are located. The streets outside had a cheap and poor appearance, though once one enters a casino, its all very different. Cigarette smoke, perfurmes, food odours etc. inside the casino make you aware that there are no windows inside. We played ths slot machine and won and lost some money, $20 investment for all 4 of us.

My mom was taboo to playing with any more hard earned $$$ and so we ended up going back to our lousy hotel room to eat rotis and sabji that we had brought from home. On Sunday morning, we drove back to the newly opened Southern Spice restaurant on El Camino Real in Mountain View for a father's day brunch and got home afterwards.

Recommendation- Visit Lake Tahoe during the summer for a nice day trip and probably spend a night there. Reno isn't worth a visit.

More about casinos on my next blog after my coming weekend trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Adjusting Time

A Consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, and sends you a bill for it.

Recently, a conversation at work on how each of us had our time set differently on our watches prompted me to blog on this.

In today's world of high-end luxury accessories, a wristwatch worn by almost everybody has become a vital sign of identity and fashion. Be it an old watch passed on through generations in the family or a luxury watch, every watch is totally unique. A watch is viewed not only as a basic essentiality but also considered to be a symbol of status or a personality identifier.

These days wearing a watch is not so much about telling the time anymore, since you have the time all around you, in the form of ipods, flashy mobile phones, in the car, on your computer and at work. Its all about expressing your self, depicting that you have arrived.

So, what is it in our watches that make us tick?

For those of us who have our watches adjusted to run faster- I am one of those folks who always has my watch, alarm clock, home clock adjusted 10-15 minutes ahead of the regular time. I guess this allows me the extra time to stop my alarm and sleep for a few more minutes and yet not be late for work. It also helps me feel that the day is moving faster, lunch time comes quickly and the time to go home is also there fast. All in all, it affords me to be lazy without costing a great deal. There is a widespread misconception that people who have their watches run faster are extremely active and fast paced, while the truth is the opposite.

For those of us who have our watches adjusted to run slower- I guess these are the folks who think that punctuality isn't their cup of tea. You perhaps feel that the entire notion of "time" is an evil plot to put shackles on a free spirit. So, what if i go a couple of minutes late for a team meeting, i could show them my watch and tell them that this is the time i have on my watch and so here i am, even if it means protecting myself. I guess these would be the folks who would like their day to drag by longer, so that they can have all the extra time possible.

Finally, for those folks who have their watches run on the regular, correct time- Well, you are the rigid ones who value your time as well as others time and lead an efficient life managing your tasks within a given time frame.

Would be interested to hear your thoughts on this kind of time keeping.......

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Thoughts on First Year Anniversary on the Job

"If" by Rudyard Kipling

"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired of waiting....
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And-which is more- you'll be a Man my Son."

06/06/06- It is not my wedding anniversary, but this date marks my first year of work in a full-time position. After grad school and internships, volunteer work etc., its indeed a nice feeling that i have completed a year in my current role. I was greeted by a bunch of flowers and a token of appreciation gift left on my desk by my boss when i opened the door to my office this morning.

Just thought that i could share and express some of my experiences in the past year.

For most part, i can say that my first year on the job has been a breeze. Being in HR and handling a team of 50 employees requires some skill and a lot of it can be attributed to the friendly and mentor kind of support that i have from my supervisor. Also, i have a majority of folks in my group who are nice and don't cause unnecessary problems, except for a few of them without whom my job would have been less challenging and interesting. Negotiation and conflict resolution skills cannot be acquired without those "troublemakers".

Also, there is an emotional piece that is tied up with working in a non-technical field. The pay scale for support staff in most organizations doesn't compare to what its technical folks earn. Just picture this scenario: You are offered a HR or Finance Analyst entry-mid level position with an organization. And let's assume that they offer you an annual base salary of $60,000. You are probably satisfied that you have you are off to a good start in your first position. And then your friend or roomate gets a job at the same company as an engineer and gets an offer for an annual salary of $70,000. What is your reaction? You are upset and start thinking negative thoughts. "He/She can't speak good English, has a terrible accent, can't write gramatically correct sentences, etc." Pause for a minute and tell yourself that an engineer doesn't need those skills that a HR or Finance person needs. But, times are changing and HR is being viewed more than just a corner for idle chit chat, it is looked upon as a strategic business partner to add value to the company.

I can hear my supervisor's words run through my mind as i type this- She keeps reminding me that life/career is a marathon and a good start can and will make a difference. Her exact words to me- "You must remember that you probably have to work for another 35 years. So, even if that is a sobering thought, why do you let what someone earns in 2006 bother you so? After all, when you hang up your shoes, it could be 2040. So, don't let the first few years of employment fox you, instead keep work hard and play hard."

Finally, my mom who used to be a working woman and I often have this arguement. She keeps telling me that as a woman one needs to decide whether they want a job or a career. "Having a job is to earn money and gain economic independence. Taking it up as a career is to pursue personal and professional goals." Ultimately, it all boils down to having a good work-life balance which we all need.