Monday, September 28, 2009

R.R. does not mean Ranch Road

The US Ashram of Art of Living is located in an isolated but very serene location. It is located so isolated that no cell phone reception is available there. The address is supposedly 7802 Ranch Road 1051 Uvalde, TX 78802 USA. But we are citizens of the 21st century and would like it all abbreviated, so we used to specify 7802 R.R.1051 Uvalde, TX 78802 USA.

I couldn't get Google maps to find me the Ashram location and neither did Yahoo maps but Yahoo suggested an alternate address called 7802 FM 1051 Uvalde, TX 78802 USA (which it said was in its database) . I decided to give that a shot and to my surprise the location was in and around the Ashram. When I tried the same address on Google maps, not surprisingly the result was same as yahoo.

There were 2 questions, how come Google can't find the location and why is yahoo looking for FM 1051 instead of RR 1051. A friend of mine went to the extent saying that Google maps aren't always accurate and it has been wrong some times. But my experience and tens of others suggested that Google maps can't be wrong (not in US).

After some research I found Google and yahoo both give the right place if we type in Ranch Road instead of R.R. Turns out abbreviation R.R. stands for Rural Road and not Ranch Road.

Now the question of why FM, Shankara facility which shares space at the ashram has registered its address as 7802 FM 1051 Uvalde, TX 78801 USA and some how have mapped GPS location to some place near the Ashram and hence both yahoo and Google were working for FM 1051 and taking some where near the vicinity of the Ashram.

So, the official address for the ashram is 7802 Ranch Road 1051 Uvalde, TX 78802 USA, don't try to abbreviate any thing for it might take you to a wrong location.

I just re-checked again, Google still has problem with zip code of 78802 and would only work for 78801 but yahoo works with either of the zip codes. So, if you want to use Google or Yahoo for directions leave out the zip code.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A note to Self

A note to self, because as always unless documented the lessons will be forgotten with time.

Last weekend I was part of a team of people volunteering at the Art of Living US ashram. We were helping with the transportation of people and luggage for the navaratri course. Our team lead had made bookings for the vans/cars and all we had to do was pick passengers up and drop them off at the Ashram.

There are certain things I felt that we could have handled better or lessons learned.

  • We need more support from local people of Texas (Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston)
  • People are more comfortable driving mini vans than 15 seat vans, and from my experience minivans can hold more luggage for their size
    When there are N people coming from out of town, be prepared to provide transportation to all the N people and their 2 luggage (1 check in and 1 carry on)
  • Even if we need to book an extra van/car, to be picked up the same day please use websites like orbitz instead of calling individual rental agencies
  • Ask people to assemble at 1 spot for ex: Terminal 1 Baggage claim number 2. (SA airport has a link between the 2 terminals)
    People who are driving the vans, instead of circling terminals, park the vans/cars in short term parking and take the N number of people you think you can transport with you.
  • One more note for people driving, make sure you submit the tax exempt form before picking the van/car
  • Co-ordinate with people who will be driving by themselves to the course and see if you can arrange rides for the people who need ride
    It is always a good idea for the coordinator to be at the airport
  • Email people who need rides and ask them for their cell phone numbers (not their office and not their land line numbers)

Friday, September 18, 2009


Long time ago when I was looking to buy a new car, I was looking at VW Passat (my present car), Honda Accord and Nissan Maxima. In the end I bought VW in spite all the bad comments most of my friends (Indian) gave. 7 and half years later, no regrets, it is for sure one of the most wonderful cars I have driven. It is very reliable and drives really well; in short I love my blue Passat.

Most of my Indian friends were opposing my choice because they were stuck in the concept that VW’s are not reliable and the maintenance is very expensive, when I pushed for specifics all I got was “7 or 8 years later you need t o change timing belt and that it is expensive”.

The reason for this blog is to quote my experience of the VW and counter some of the concepts my friends had (or still have).

After 7 and half years of owning the car, I can say it is very reliable. I won’t think twice before making a long drive in the VW. It has a more rigorous maintenance schedule and the service cost is usually 20 to 30% higher than Japanese makes. The biggest problem I have faced are the CV boots which keeps ripping off every couple of years and cost $300 to replace each time. The car needs a bit higher end tires, which reduces road noise and gives good road grip but doesn’t last longer than 3-4 years. The expense of maintenance is not the timing belt replacement but fixing the leaks and replacing the gaskets (rubber parts). The other ware and tare are the brakes which are made of a softer material and they give the comfort but again don’t last too long. One big problem of either VW or BMW or Audi is the limited number of dealers in Austin. Even sad is that the in town VW dealer is so pathetic that I drive 25-30miles to a dealer out of town. I am sure I wouldn’t have had this problem if I had gone with Honda, Toyota or Nissan.

To conclude cost of maintaining a VW is 20 to 30% more expensive than a Camry or Accord and at least in my case it is as reliable as either of them

In the end I love my car and would keep it for a while to come.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Srishti-The creation

Austin was entertained by the group Srishti-The creation on Sunday afternoon. It was a combination of classical and contemporary dance program organized by our own Asha of Austin. The dance was performed by six artists, each of them performed so well it was impossible to pick your favorite. Their facial expressions, the music, the colorful dress they wore, the dance and the co-ordination between the artists when all of them were on the stage was a true treat to all the senses. For a $15 ticket they entertained us way more than my wildest imagination. The second half of the show where they performed the Krishna-Bhaktimala, I can't put words to do justice to their performance. We all were (most of us) entertained for over 2 hours. It was truly a delightful, vibrant and great performance.

The dance was great but the attendance to the show was dismal, for over 250 odd tickets sold there were less than 50 people including kids, for the vibrant Indian community we boast of in Austin, it was truly a shame on Austin. We Austinites claim to be living in live music capital of the world and we can't make 2hrs of time to visit on a Sunday afternoon to attend a live dance show.
First of all don't we have faith in the US consulate that they would give visa to deserving artists and only great ones can tour the country?. For sake of argument, let’s say we don't believe, next in line are our friends in Asha, don't we have faith in them. Haven't we witnessed their earlier programs and enjoyed them.
Coming to the people who would say we bought tickets for charity, you donate money for charity and you buy tickets because you want to attend the event, you want to honor the artist. Yesterday the artists gave beyond their 100% and we in the audience should have done at the least 50% effort and showed up to the event. If it were on a weekday or the traffic in the city sucked then it would have been acceptable, but folks we live in Austin and on a Sunday afternoon around 3:30PM possibility of a traffic problem is highly unlikely.

Last but the craziest excuse will be, "it was first week of NFL", folks the DVR’s and TiVo's aren't just for soaps they can record these also.

The icing on the cake was when some one supposedly mentioned "you could have gotten better artists", again I am lost for words to reply to that person.

In the end, it was a memorable evening spent and truly a shame on Austin Indian community for not showing up in numbers to encourage the artists. If Rajima were there she would have said "this is true poverty".