Typical Timeline for a New PIO (Minor)

Here is an actual timeline for a New PIO (Minor) done through Travisa Outsourcing for a case that falls under Indian Consulate at New York City. This is just for reference as individual case times may differ. However if there are no issues with the paperwork and approval, this is probably how long(2-weeks) it would take.

Date/Time Action
01/30/2013 10:59pm EST Service order form completed online
02/04/2013 11:20am EST PIO application arrived in the mail at Travisa Outsourcing. Please allow Travisa Outsourcing up to 7 business days before the application status changes. Note that your application will undergo several steps before the status is updated.
02/04/2013 11:21am EST Application assigned for processing
02/05/2013 9:43am EST Application assigned for processing
02/05/2013 9:47am EST Additional documents have been received. It may take several days before further action is displayed.
02/05/2013 1:59pm EST Order form and supporting documents received, payment processed
02/05/2013 4:13pm EST Documents prepared to go to Embassy.
02/06/2013 8:30am EST Documents dispatched from Travisa Outsourcing Office to Consulate
02/06/2013 12:57pm EST Documents received by Consulate
02/11/2013 2:00pm EST Pending approval of the Government of India
02/13/2013 10:52am EST Outsourcing office has verified the PIO is processed correctly. Waiting for mail courier pick up and is likely to be mailed out tomorrow.
02/13/2013 11:36am EST Passport mailed out. Please note that the tracking information may not be active for up to 1 business day.

Couple of suggestions/Comments:

  • Don’t put any staples/clips, just put the papers in order as per the instructions on the website (https://indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com/pio/homepage).
  • You need 4 passport size pics in total. You may choose to paste two of them on the application forms or send all 4, Travisa Outsourcing will stick them before submitting the papers to the consulate. This was confirmed with their customer service. I pasted mine on the application and sent 2 additional.
  • I chose to use the prepaid Fed-ex service provided by Travisa as part of the initial order. It costs $24 each way but takes the hassle of sending a prepaid Fedex enevelope etc out of the process and you can focus on getting the application paperwork done.

Good Luck!!!

Getting the Most Out of Your 1-Day New York Pass

Recently we visited New York City over the weekend. Since we planned to do most of the Manhattan sightseeing on Saturday, we decided to buy 1-Day New York Pass (not New York City Pass) for $80 per person to save some money.

Now based on the their website you have to pick up the passes somewhere around Times Square and since we did not want to start our day with Times Square, I did a little bit of research on the web and found that New York Sky Ride at the Empire State building also sells New York Pass. And since generally there are no online discounts on 1-day passes, Empire State seemed like a perfect place to start our day. Now one of the key decisions we made was to stay in Manhattan and NOT to do the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island cruise using the  New York Pass, as that almost eats up half of your day and all of your energy and only cost $13 if you pay out of pocket. Here is sequence we followed and covered 6 paid attractions(All covered by New York Pass) without being rushed or dead tired.

  1. NY Skyride + Empire State Observatory ($41+$24): Bought the New York Pass at NY Sky Ride box office around 9:00 AM (Enter using the 33rd st entrance go to level 2), Redeemed it for NY Skyride right there and then bought the Empire State building tickets at their box office. After I had both the tickets started with NY Sky ride and then straight from there for the Empire State observatory. Enjoyed the 30 min NY skyride and avoided almost 70% of the waiting time in the line by entering into the observatory line directly from the NY sky ride.
  2. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum ($39): Took a cab and went to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum around 10:30 and got out of there by 12:00 pm
  3. Times Square(Daytime): Afterwards we grabbed few pizza slices and hung out on Times Sq while enjoying the New York Pizza.
  4. Central Park: Went to central park after lunch and relaxed/snoozed for a bit before heading to Intrepid Museum.
  5. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum ($24): Checked out the Submarine and the warship museum for an hour and 30 minutes.
  6. Circle Line 30-minute Beast Speedboat ride ($24): Walked up 4 blocks and took a 30 minutes beast(speed-boat) ride with party music and a 45mph speed. The boat takes you right in front of the Stature of Liberty and allows you to click pictures. This is the best location to click pictures with the statue, as you can’t get the full statue in the camera once you are under the stature at the Island. Got a great view of downtown skyline while enjoying the fast boat ride.
  7. Top of the Rock ($25): Around 7:30 pm we went up the Rockefeller center and enjoyed the evening/night view of New York. It was simply awesome.
  8. Times Square(Nighttime):For 15 bucks took a rickshaw ride from Rockefeller to Times Square. Enjoyed the nighttime square for full 2 hours before heading back to our hotel.

In all using New York 1-Day pass for $80 did $177 worth sightseeing. Next day we did the WTC and Statue of Liberty cruise to wrap up the trip. In all the New York Pass turned out to be a pretty good deal. The key thing to buy and start the day at Empire State building and to avoid statue of liberty using the pass .

Hope this helps you plan your trip, in case you are short on time and money!!

 

Baby Eczema: What finally worked?

After our 3 month old baby was diagnosed with eczema, we came back from the doctors office with a Rx Hydro-cortisone (steroid) ointment and a lot of anxiety. After this issue sunk in a little bit and reading scores of web content about the long term ill-effects of using steroids, we finally decided to do our own research and try different products in a bid to ditch the steroid and control the eczema in a more sustainable way. I am attempting to list the research we had done and products we tried before we found a solution that worked for us. You can skip right to the section “So What Finally Worked…” if you are not interested in the next section.

How did we get there…

  1. First of all, to alleviate some of those jitters you get when your baby get diagnosed with eczema, let me tell you the fact that I am more convinced of now than when I heard it the first time, that eczema is an immune system response to some external trigger and since baby’s immune system is still developing most babies do outgrow it. So, lets be clear, in most cases babies do outgrow it. This way its much different than the adult eczema. Now the thing that everybody needs is to find a solution to control it until the baby outgrows it. Since every baby and their immune system is different, the key thing is to identify what are the triggers and how to control or avoid them.
  2. After if learned about it, first thing we did was to talk with in our friends circle and see if any of their babies had eczema, dry skin or similar condition and what they did and what they didn’t. One thing that was consistently popping out was that the skin should stay well moisturized at all times.
  3. In the initial days to minimize the itching with a non-steroid based cream we tried aveeno anti itch cream. Although it did help to control the milder flare-ups but we had to resort to the cortisone when it got worse. Based on some friends suggestions we used Hydrolatum to moisturize the whole body but felt it was too greasy and caused heat rashes at times, it did work as far as keeping it moisturized for few hours after the bath.
  4. We heard about Theraplex from one of our friends who successfully fought a severe case of eczema with that treatment. When we tried that on the skin it was too sticky, almost wax like consistency and ended up flaring up the eczema. That’s when we realized that baby eczema is much different than adults and one solution does not suit everybody
  5. After researching the web for home remedies, lot of people talked about oatmeal+olive oil bath and at least just the oatmeal bath was re-affirmed while chatting with one of the friends who were able to control their kids occasional dry skin issues with that. After we decided to give the oatmeal+olive oil bath a try, it did flare up again. Since we had tried jojoba oil and emu oil on the baby and ended up with flare-ups we blamed it on the olive oil and just tried the oatmeal bath. And good news it did work in calming the skin and we had a great few hours after the bath. But as the time passed the skin started drying up and it started to flare up again. So we gave the plain oatmeal bath again and it controlled the situation again. So one thing got confirmed that our baby’s skin didn’t like any kind of oil and oatmeal bath seemed to help. However it is almost impractical to give a baby bath every 4 hours, its just not sustainable. So we started our quest for a moisturizer  that suits his body and keeps the skin moisturized in between baths.
  6. By this time going through score of internet pages I came to know about National Eczema Association. I started going through their highest rated products and since we had already tried Theraplex, we decided to give exederm a try. It had a yogurt like consistency and boasted that didn’t have any irritants, but it didn’t seem to keep the skin moisturized, so does not solve the problem. So we resorted back to our not so perfect Oatmeal Bath and Haydrolatum combination.
  7. I heard good things about Cetaphil products and decided to give their regular moisturizing cream a try. When I walked into the store for buying that I saw another product from Cetaphil, Cetaphil® RESTORADERM® Skin Restoring Moisturizer . Since the product claimed to specifically developed for Atopic Dermatitis(Fancy name for eczema)  and tested on baby skin, I ended up buying that. And here we got our daily moisturizing solution. After three days of Oatmeal Bath followed up with a whole body Cetaphil Restoraderm Moisterizer, the eczema was completely under control and the baby skin felt like never before. He is now 5 months old and we are maintaining once a day oatmeal bath followed up by Cetaphil® RESTORADERM® Skin Restoring Moisturizer and so far its under control and has not flared up ever since.
  8. So in this process we learned that heat and oils were the triggers for our baby’s eczema, so we avoid using products containing oils and  keet the baby cool and comfortable.

So What Finally Worked…

Oatmeal Bath + Cetaphil® RESTORADERM® Moisturizer

  • Buy the regular whole oats from your grocery store, yeah the same one that you can also put hot water and eat.
  • Grind them fine in a blender/food processor.
  • Mix lukewarm water to get a pancake batter like consistency.
  • Apply it on baby’s body and back of the head, be careful not get it into eyes and ears.
  • Since oatmeal paste tend to dry up pretty fast you have to keep moving wet hands over the body to keep it moist. Let it be this way for 15-20 minutes.
  • Keep the room/bathroom temperature a little warmer (we had around 80°F) than the usually you have during the baby bath, since the baby’s body is wet and gonna be in the air for 15-20 minutes.
  • Be careful holding the baby as the body gets pretty slippery after applying this oatmeal paste.
  • After 15-20 minutes rinse off the body with plain water(water temperature same what you user for normal baby bath).
  • Pat dry and apply the Cetaphil Restoraderm moisturizer while the body is still moist to trap that moisture.
  • Also we used the Bumbo Seat to make the baby sit since he was only 4 months old and wasn’t able to sit without support.
  • Oatmeal bath can be given by soaking the body in a tub filled with water mixed with the oatmeal powder.  I wouldn’t recommend it since its a little too dangerous to keep the baby’s body submerged like that and their bodies are still not accustomed to buoyancy. May be a good trick for adults.

I am not sure if this write-up is gonna help everybody, but I would be happy if it gives you some pointers about how to go about tackling this nasty thing known as Eczema…Good Luck!

Credit Card Denied?

Recently, I applied for a Chase Freedom Credit Card to avail a promotion of $300 sign-up bonus and their 5% bonus cash-back in quarterly rotating categories. Got a letter few days later declining my application with the reason “Balance on existing credit cards is too High.”

I realized that I had a 0% balance transfer on one of my other cards which was running my existing debt too high against the total credit available. I called up chase at 888-245-0625  and spoke to a credit analyst. I explained him the reason for the balance being too high and requested to re-consider my application. Voilà: I got approved with a $4000 credit limit.

So in short, if you applied for a new chase credit card and got declined, don’t give up, try the number above to re-consider your application. Sometimes talking in person makes the creditor more comfortable to extend the credit. Since they already hit your credit report once, its not gonna do any further damage.

So in short, if you applied for a chase credit card, keep these phone numbers handy.

  • Automated application status check : 800-432-3117
  • To speak to a credit analyst : 888-245-0625 (If you are declined, you can call this number to re-consider)

I am sure most other banks have some way of getting in touch with a real person. Might be a good idea to get in touch to get your card approved, if declined by the online application process.

 

 

MySQL: Learn by Examples

Often times we need reference to a real working example to understand the actual technical documentation. Just trying to put together useful SQL queries that are working and tested against MySQL 5.0 database.

Update part of the column value that matches the given String

column value (pre-update): Apt # 1234

update <tablename> set <column>=replace(<column>, '#' , 'No.') where <condition>;

column value (post-update): Apt No. 1234

Renewing Indian Passport at New York

Couple of months back I had to renew my Indian passport. Since this was my first time renewing a passport I did some research online. Got a lot of useful, although sometimes confusing information. Just sharing what I went through, may be it helps some other first timer like me.

Although they had an option of renewing it through the mail, but being a first time I was a little skeptical about that. So I ended up going to New York and submitted the documents at the counter chose to receive it through express mail. I received the new passport in 7 days via USPS.

Based on my experience and what I saw there during my wait time, I felt that the consulate people are in general helpful and efficient. As long as you follow the instruction on their website, it goes pretty smoothly.

I followed the instructions given at the consulate website(see the link below). Nothing other than what they had mentioned on the website was needed.

http://indiacgny.org/php/showContent.php?linkid=225&partid=223&sub=sub3

List of documents(passport renewal):

  • Printed and signed online application form.
  • Original Passport(Keep the I-94 card with you, if you have one).
  • Three passport size photographs(see the specs at the link above)
  • Noterized copy of passport pages including the stamped visa page and I-94.
  • Certified check of $40(see the detail on the website). I paid cash at the counter.
  • Self addressed and stamped USPS express mail envelope.
  • Proof of residence of the applicant. Notarized copy of any of one the following: copy of your lease, utility bill, Bank account statement or driver’s license. I submitted my electricity bill.
  • Copy of completed Nationality Status Verification Form from the website.

If you are applying through mail, notarize all copies of the originals you send. Also, its always advisable to include the USPS express mail envelope instead of the priority mail, that way the passport can be tracked on its way back.

 

Early bird?

Based on my internet research, I got there at the consulate(opens at 9:30 am) at 8:45 am  on a Monday to dodge the rush. There were already 15 people ahead of me at that time. I was out of the consulate by 10:15 am. However, when I was getting out there was nobody waiting outside, so I felt that even if I had gotten there around 9:30-10:00 am, it would have work out just fine, barring any seasonal rush.

Backpacks?

Don’t fall for the horror stories about no backpack allowed etc. You can carry a regular backpack inside, after the security person goes through it at the entrance. I had seen some people carrying laptops as well.

 

Chow mein

Ingredients

  • Hakka Noodles (2 packets)
  • Spring onions finely chopped – 3/4
  • Garlic – 3/4 cloves
  • Green chilies  – 2/3
  • Red Onion – 1 (long thin cut)
  • Carrot, Beans, Cabbage, Capsicum – 1 cup each (long thin cut)
  • Dark soy sauce, Vinegar, Salt, Olive oil and Black Pepper

Noodle Preparation

  • Add Oil (Olive oil) + salt in boiling water
  • Add noodles and mix. Noodles shouldn’t be over cooked.
  • Strain it and run cold water through the strainer. Immediately after straining put olive oil on it so the noodles don’t stick.

Veggies Preparation

  • Put some oil in pan on high heat and keep the heat high through out the process.
  • Put garlic until it turns brown.
  • Add and saute white spring onions for 30 secs.
  • Add Green chilies.
  • Add and saute Red Onion for 30 secs.
  • Add Salt + Pepper + ½ Tea spoon Vinegar + ½ Tea spoon Dark soy sauce while sauteing (each for 30 seconds) the veggies in the following order.
  • Carrot,  Beans, Cabbage and Capsicum.
  • Add noodles in the end and saute for another 30 seconds.

Twist:

If you want to add eggs then prepare scrambled eggs in separate pan and add after the veggies.

Veggie Stir Fry(Thai Style)

Preparation time 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • Two Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic finely chopped.
  • One Red Onion
  • One big Red bell pepper
  • Green Beans
  • One Zucchini
  • One cup cubes of Firm Tofu
  • Some Roasted Peanuts
  • Stir Fry Sauce
  • One Tablespoon Dark Soy Sauce
  • One Teaspoon White Vinegar
  • Red Chili Paste according to your taste
  • Salt
  • Some Chopped Basil

 

Procedure

  • Heat oil in a pan and add Garlic.
  • When the garlic gets brown, add chopped onions and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add Chili paste
  • Then add Green Beans and sauté for two minutes.
  • Add Zucchini and sauté for three to four minutes
  • Add vinegar and soy sauce with Red bell pepper and sauté for another 2 minutes
  • In the end put Stir fry sauce, Peanuts, Tofu and Basil.
  • Give a good stir and serve it hot with white or brown rice

Notes

Veggies are suppose to be medium cooked. You can add your choice of vegetables. I love Zucchini and Tofu in this recipe. Basil gives a nice flavor to it. You can skip it if you don’t like Basil.

If you don’t have Stir fry sauce at home then you can also add Ketchup. I use Trader Ming’s General Tsao stir fry sauce available at Trader Joe’s. You might find it at other stores as well.

Vinegar is optional. Use dark soy sauce to get that dark brown texture, I personally prefer mushroom flavored dark soy sauce.

 

Password Protecting Your Pages with htaccess

Simple steps to password protect your pages with htaccess

Step-1: Make sure that “mod_rewrite”  extension of apache is enabled. If it’s already enabled, skip this step.

Step-2: Create a “.htaccess” file in the web root  folder. If “.htaccess” file is already exists, skip this step also.

Step-3: Add following code to the “.htaccess” file.

AuthUserFile /folder path of password file/.htpasswd
AuthType Basic
AuthName “My Secret Folder”
Require valid-user

.htpasswd is the file where the encrypted password is stored.

Step-4: Go to the location of password file and type the following command

htpasswd -c .htpasswd username

.htpasswd is the name of the password file.

 

Now the folder is protected using .htaccess.

To protect any specific file modify step-3 as follows.

<Files "mypage.html">
  AuthUserFile /folder path of password file/.htpasswd
  AuthType Basic
  AuthName "My Secret Folder"
  Require valid-user
</Files>

 

MOIL IPO: Allotment/Listing updates

Update (12/03/2010): MOIL shares to be listed on December 15

—————————————————————————————————————————-

Market Consensus: Subscribe

Company: Manganese Ore India Ltd

Price band: Rs 340-375 (Retail/MOIL employees 5% discount)

Open: Nov 26, 2010-Dec 01, 2010

Min lot size: 17

Max bid amount (Retail): Rs. 200,000 (First IPO to take advantage of the increased retail limit)

Total Issue Size: Rs 1,238 crore

Expected Listing: December 13-17, 2010

Expected listing gains: 15%-40%

Pros:

  • High demand
  • Largest producer of Manganese ore
  • Expected overseas acquisition
  • Huge cash reserve, debt free company, robust financials

Cons:

  • Reliance on few large customers
  • Government inefficiencies
  • 7 out of 10 mines are underground that involve inherent risks and have higher cost of production than open cast mines

Research Links:

The Way I See It