Wednesday, June 25, 2008

PASYALAN: Hollywood

If you think that Hollywood Walk of Fame's bronze-rimmed stars won't be enough to satisfy your appetite for star-sighting, maybe seeing the real kind will.

On a recent trip to see this famous landmark, we shared an escalator ride with Amaury Nolasco (that's Sucre to you, Prison Break watchers) as we came in from the Hollywood and Highland parking structure.

Although there's never a guarantee that you'll be seeing stars in this popular tourist spot, you can be sure that you can literally step in their footsteps. In front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood Ave., you can measure the hand and footprints of mega-celebs like Will Smith, the Harry Potter stars, and Tom Cruise against yours. Morgan Freeman's was most impressive to me.

For souvenir photos, you can pose with the street performers dressed as your favorite movie and TV characters. Caution: you do have to pay at least $1 per photo with these mascots, and some of them can be pushy so prepare for the hard-sell.

Other paid activities include taking the Hollywood bus tours, or if you want to avoid the harsh summer sun, you can buy a ticket for a tour of the Kodak Theater and have your Oscar moment indoors. Outside, for free, you can have your picture taken on the steps where celebrities walk on their way to the theater during Oscar ceremonies.

Don't miss the chance to pose against the Hollywood sign background. Best spots to see the giant iconic sign would be on the California Pizza Kitchen patio on the ground floor, or at the second floor hallway overlooking the fountain.

If you're flush with sightseeing money, you can also go to the Hollywood Wax Museum and Ripley's "Believe it or Not" Museum (a bit creepy for my scaredy-cat taste), or see Wicked in the Pantages theater while you're in the area.

There are souvenirs and shops galore in the Hollywood and Highland (H&H) mall so there are plenty of opportunities to choose a memento to remember your Hollywood visit by.

TIP: To save on parking costs, park inside the Hollywood and Highland parking structure and have your ticket validated by buying water or cookie from any shop that offers validation (almost every shop in the H&H mall does). If you're coming from Hollywood Ave., make a right on Highland and enter the structure on your left. It's a big parking lot so don't forget where you parked!

Validated Parking: $2
Entrance Fee to H&H: None
Kodak Theater tour: Adults $15/kids under 3 Free

FilipinOnline's PASYALAN features fun places to go. I'll include tips to save and where to get the most bang for buck. Write me if you have a Pasyalan to recommend. Don't forget to include pics and enjoyment tips for our kababayans!

[topmost photo from wikipedia]

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Receiving Social Security Benefits
Through Debit Cards

If you or someone you know are receiving Social Security benefits (including SSI), instead of waiting for your paper checks, you can get them monthly through a MasterCard debit card service called Direct Express. The government has made this service available to discourage the use of paper checks which are costly for both the government and the recipients who pay about $6 each time they cash their checks at cash-checking stores. Also, with this service, you don't have to worry about lost or stolen mail or postal delays.

Applying for a card is free, and you also get one free ATM withdrawal per month. Cardholders can also get free cash back with purchases at retail locations, or free cash withdrawals through bank or credit union tellers.

ATM owner surcharges may apply at ATMs outside the Direct Express network. After the first free withdrawal, you will be charged 90 cents per transaction thereafter.
For more info, go to this government website. To apply online, click here, and to sign up by mail, click here.
*Ignore the "Click on..." sign on the photo. That link won't work for this blog.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"My employer doesn't pay me overtime dahil exempt employee daw ako. What does this mean?"

Employees who get overtime pay and whose time worked are recorded as mandated by the Fair Labor Standards Act (a federal law that protects overtime rights, among others) regulations are considered non-exempt. Employees who have an exempt FLSA regulations status are not covered by the overtime and record-keeping requirements of the Act. The Department of Labor considers all employees subject to overtime and minimum wage requirements unless their positions have been specifically determined to be exempt.

Binabayaran ka ba ng not less than $455 per week (or $23,660 annually), or if you work in a computer-work category, at least $27.63 per hour? The salary criteria is one of the things that determine if you are exempt, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Exemption is also based on an evaluation of the employee's duties and responsibilities, which may offer an exemption if you are in executive, administrative, professional, or in certain computer-related occupations. Read this comprehensive webpage that details the exempt-employee qualifications.

When I was new in the U.S., unfortunately, I had a boss who placed me and others in this exempt category presumably so that we won't get paid overtime, which, of course, she required on a regular basis. What a rhymes-with-witch. Ultimately, companies that employ people like her lose out because employees who wise up to such backhanded tactics leave the company, or if they can't, they become so frustrated that they turn in lackluster work.

Unfortunately, there are people like my former boss working among us. One of whom might be your boss. BUT don't jump into conclusions until you've reviewed if you really are an exempt employee. First of all, sinabihan ka ba that you are an exempt employee when you started? Usually, we sign a job descriptions page when we start a new job.

All criteria (including salary & job description) for the specified exemption must be met simultaneously to qualify for the exemption. If your job doesn't fit the criteria and you're still not getting overtime pay, maybe you can let your HR manager know that you know the rule. If nothing happens and you want to get more information, here's the Department of Labor contact info: 1-866-487-9243 or go to their website. Good luck!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Low-Cost Auto Insurance For Californians

With gas prices getting higher and higher, anything that could save motorists hard-earned money is a great thing.

If you live in California, here's a way to get low-cost auto insurance.

California's Low Cost Automobile Insurance Program provides liability insurance coverage (if you're a new U.S. driver, click this to get info on why you need liability insurance) to qualified applicants for less than $400 a year, depending on which county you live. Halimbawa, if you live in L.A. County, the rate is $350, but if you live in Imperial County, the rate is only $208. San Diego is $265, while Riverside is $243. Here's the list of rates. NOTE: A 25% Surcharge is added to the base rate for unmarried, male drivers ages 19-24.

Do you qualify? You are if you:

1.) Meet low-income requirements (1 person = $26,000, 2 persons = $35,000, 4 persons = $53,000, 8 persons = $89,000)

2.) Meet the good driver standard (no more than one at-fault property damage only accident or more than one point for moving violation in the past three years)

3.) Have not had an at fault accident involving bodily injury or death in the past 3 years.

4.) Are at least 19 years old

5.) Have been continuously licensed to drive for the past three years

6.) Have a vehicle valued at less than the $20,000

How do you sign up?
Go to their website and/or call the CLCA hotline at: 1-866-602-8861.

[picture: CLCA website]