Would You Buy A Car From The Same Car Dealer A Second Time (Part 2)

Part 1 led up to this point, and I’m sorry for the delay in getting this written. I’ve had some big changes in my life this week. I’ll post on those separately.


As I wondered whether the oil leak in my engine would be an easy fix or an excuse to trade the car in, as I wondered whether the car would cause me more problems later on, I also thought about my mechanic’s specific recommendation to go to Burn’s Hyundai. My wife and I talked about how we would work out the purchase of a car and decided to see what Burn’s would offer.


As we walked on the lot, we were met by Steve. At the time we were thinking about the Hyundai Santa Fe, but he suggested we go inside as it was cold. We told him what we had available, what we wanted in a car, and what kind of payments we were looking at. At this point the script was followed to the letter as he said "I have the perfect car for you." He took us to a 2003 Kia Sedona. It was nice, but I expected the normal procedure to be followed: we test drive the car, like it, decide to buy it, then find out with trade-in and unreasonable down payment much higher than we already said we could provide, the payments will be more than twice what we asked for. Then as we bargain back and forth, the monthly payment will come down $10 to $15 at a time.


That actually didn’t happen. After we drove the Sedona, we asked about the Santa Fe. The dealer said that if we wanted a $200 a month car payment, the Sedona was our best bet. Wow, that has never happened before! As we needed to get my Suzuki to trade in, we did test drive the Santa Fe. I thanked the dealer for that. I didn’t like the Santa Fe as much as I thought but without that test drive, I would have spent the rest of my life wondering if I might have liked it better.


The trade in went well. They were clear about the whole process, the financing worked out, and we drove the car home. Based on this experience, I would highly recommend Burn’s Hyundai to anyone looking for a car. If you need a car, new or used, and Marlton, New Jersey isn’t too far for you, check out Burn’s Hyundai on Route 70. They also have Pontiac and GMC.


Obviously, not everything about every dealer is perfect. I need to comment on the service department, which I did not find to be anywhere near as professional or competent as the sales department. During the test drive, about two traffic lights from the dealership, I noticed smoke coming up from the engine. It was a fairly clear smoke. None of the engine lights were on, and the temperature was normal, so I wasn’t really worried considering how close we were. The dealer took the car to service right away and his manager came out to assure us that everything would be taken care of. She showed us the service record. Three tires had been replaced, as well as the belts, hoses, battery and brakes. Apparently one of the clamps wasn’t put on right and anti-freeze spilled out onto the engine and burned up during the test drive. The issue was fixed.


I took the car to my mechanic, who wasn’t quite as thrilled that I bought a Kia as he would have been a new Hyundai, but I told him a new car just isn’t in our budget. We typically buy used cars that can be worked out to around a $200 a month payment. It’s what you have to do to get by on a single income. We also get a lot of furniture for free on Craig’s List. In any case, my mechanic found a few issues. The rear shocks needed to be replaced, a bolt under the car wasn’t screwed back in properly, the spare tire was bald and dry rotting, and some connectors in the engine weren’t properly mounted. Except for the spare tire there was nothing life threatening, but all of it shows a serious lack of professionalism and a lack of attention to detail and pride in the work of the service department. I’ve worked on equipment that could kill people if not properly maintained, so when I see attention to detail problems like this, it scares me. I don’t see how a dealership can sell a car without an adequate spare tire. That should have been part of the inspection prior to putting the car out on the lot to be sold. If the data port connector was left hanging rather than remounted on the battery where it belongs, what else didn’t this maintenance department screw back in properly? Also, remember that hose clamp that wasn’t put on properly that caused smoke to come out on the test drive? They put a new clamp on OVER it, rather than taking it off and replacing it. I can understand being busy and overworked, but add all of these details up and I start to think laziness and incompetence.


I brought these issues up and was told to bring the car in. The spare tire and rear shocks were replaced.


Like I said, if you need a car in Marlton, NJ, check out Burn’s Hyundai. Ask for Steve or Penny. The sales department is great, but the service department scares me. I might try to have any warranty work done at another dealer. I would buy another car from this one again.




Would You Buy From The Same Car Dealer A Second Time? (part 1)

Since my post on Friday about finding that my car had been running with no oil, a few things have changed in my life. When my mechanic recommended a specific car dealer, it got my mind running. Car dealers are not normally businesses that you hear high recommendations of. Normally, when speaking of car dealers, a high compliment could be "they didn’t screw me too badly." When my mechanic, Tim, told me to go to Burn’s Hyundai, and that he had sent more than 200 of his customers there, I got interested.


I started asking myself how many other car dealers I would tell somebody to go to, and if I would ever go back to another car dealer again myself. I got my first car from Red McComb’s Used Cars in San Antonio, Tx in 1992. I was a senior in high school. I had already quit my Kentucky Fried Chicken job so I had a few weeks off before leaving for boot camp, and I suddenly HAD to have a Mazda truck. My mom knew somebody at this dealership so we went there to see what was available. I bought a 1990 Mazda B2200 and drove it for 3 years. The experience was good, but probably because we knew somebody.


Next, I went to Westcott Mazda in National City, California, in June of 1995. National City has a string of car dealers known as the "Mile of Cars", literally right outside of the Naval Station. I wanted to buy a 1995 Mazda Protege. I was 21 and just found out that I made E-5. (It didn’t occur to me that it would take 6 months for my pay to increase accordingly.) I made a big mistake going to Westcott Mazda, by myself, on a Friday night. I told the dealer that I wanted the Protege but could only do payments around $200 a month and if he couldn’t do it, then I’d just have to save up and come back later. He assured me all along that it wouldn’t be a problem. After I signed away my truck and completed all of the paperwork, I sat down in finance only to be told that my payments would be $350. I told them I couldn’t afford that. The bastard (pardon my language, but I’m going somewhere) actually told me that I would have a nice car and my credit qualifies me. I told him I wouldn’t be able to afford gas and insurance with those payments, and the dealer assured me all along that we could do $200 a month payments. He said the dealer was crazy, and I must be too for assuming I could get that car for $200 a month, and said again that I would have a nice car. Like that would do me any good if I couldn’t afford to drive it. We looked around for used cars and found a 1993 MX3. I drove that car for the next 10 years until the gas pump went out. The moonroof seal was also going and rain was leaking into the car. Since I had an extra car at that point, I let the Mazda sit too long and it molded out so we gave it away. There’s no way I would EVER go back to Westcott Mazda, although they did screw me into a decent and reliable car. They also somehow miscalculated the payoff on my truck, and I had to scrounge up $300 the next week to cover that. I guess the dealer’s finance department took my estimated figure "I think I owe about $1800 on the truck" and ran with it, rather than call the credit union which was actually located right there in San Diego to ask for a payoff, which I thought was standard practice anyway.


Since I drove the Mazda for 10 years, I didn’t buy another car until after I was married. I tried a few times to trade it in on a Saturn or a Subaru, but the financing never worked out just right. Once I paid it off, I got used to living without a car payment.


I went to Cherry Hill Subaru twice. The first time should have been enough, but I did go back two years later. The first time I looked at a 2000 Subaru Impreza. It was a nice car. For some reason the dealer was trying to push me into a 5 year lease with 12,000 miles a year. The dealer herself was new, and the sales manager was taking care of everything. She was tough. If the fabled Amazon warriors had a Psy-ops component, this woman would have been their head trainer. I was dating my wife at the time (we got engaged the next morning, actually) and we took her car. I try not to take the car that I’m planning to trade in to the dealer. I don’t know why, but Cherry Hill Subaru really wanted to put me in that lease. They were going to give me $4000 for the Mazda, sight unseen, when the KBB was only about $2000. The sales manager kept asking me what part of the deal I wasn’t comfortable with, and I kept saying "the part where I have to take the deal right now." She kept telling me "Well, all of our banks change on Monday, so we won’t have the same deals then." Normally that line means they’re lying, but who has time to verify those kind of claims? It took a lot of work to pry ourselves out of there, but we did leave and I kept the Mazda. I got 4 more years out of it.


Cherry Hill Subaru’s "mixed test loop" was a joke. You took a right turn onto a highly congested part of New Jersey Route 70 where you have enough room, if the car has a particularly powerful engine, to accelerate up to 35 miles per hour before taking a right into a housing area. Then you can stomp the gas to get the car up to the residential speed limit of 25 before jamming the breaks for a stop sign. A couple of twists and turns later, you come out on a major road at a busy intersection, take a right onto 70, then right back into the dealership. What a joke. If the car you are test driving is a stick shift, chances are you wouldn’t get to third gear on this test loop.


We went back to Cherry Hill Subaru in 2002. My in-laws loaned us their 1995 Ford Windstar for a trip to see my parents in Texas. They let us use it for a couple of weeks after the trip as well. At that point, we had my 1993 Mazda MX3 and my wife had a 1991 Ford Escort. Both were decent cars, but owning a house with two subcompacts was tough. If we went to BJ’s, it seemed that one of us had to sit on the curb with half the stuff while the other ran home. I’m obviously exaggerating, but we often had to borrow a truck when we ran to Home Depot. Now that we have kids, whenever I hear somebody start in with comments about how everybody should drive sub-compact hybrids, I always ask them "Let me guess, you’re single and live in an apartment?" They always respond with "How did you know?" You don’t have to watch a lot of House episodes to gain that level of insight. Just have two kids and a Sam’s Club membership.


After driving that Windstar for a couple of weeks, we really came to appreciate it and I wanted one. We got something in the mail from Cherry Hill Subaru promising a toolkit of some kind just for coming in. We figured, what the heck? You can never have enough toolkits. Long story short, we ended up buying a 1999 Windstar. Here is where the screwing really took effect: when we got home, my wife was poking around on their website and found the exact same car listed for $2000 less than we paid. I printed the page and ran outside and sure enough, the VIN numbers matched. I brought this up to the dealer, and was told "a third party manages our website, and we’re not responsible for them posting incorrect prices." The windshield had a crack. When I asked them to fix it, I was told "we have to guarantee state inspection. Get it inspected, and when it fails, we have to fix it." I took the car to inspection and ASKED to be failed, only to be told "I can’t fail it for that little ding." Go figure. New Jersey state inspections have failed me for some of the stupidest reasons, but the one time I ask them to fail me so I can get the dealer to fix something, they won’t. The windshield crack finally spilt straight across on a cold day, costing me more than $300 to replace.


I was happy to hear that Cherry Hill Subaru went out of business. I should have marked the date on my calendar so I can have a drink once a year in celebration.


My in-laws gave us the 1995 Windstar, and at this point we had 4 cars between the two of us. That was weird. The 1999 was starting to de
velop some problems. The power steering was going, one of the rear vent windows was stuck open, one of the power windows didn’t work, and I think the transmission was failing. What can I say; it was a Ford. Some of them seem to come from the factory that way. It was the first and the last Ford I will purposely buy. Then the head gasket on the 1995 blew. Every 3.8 liter V-6 engine Ford made in 1995 blew a head gasket, but because ours was such low mileage (as of this writing in Feb 2008, it’s only 88,000 miles), the gasket didn’t blow until 2004, 2 years out of recall. We ended up putting out $4500 for a remanufactured engine. My wife liked the 1995 Windstar better, so we put the money out to fix it but realized that we should get rid of the 1999 before it started to cost us money. We traded it in on a 2001 Kia Sportage at Woodbury Nissan. The experience was positive, and at one point I would have bought another car from Woodbury Nissan until this day happened. That one bone-headed salesman ruined it for me and I’m not going back there.


We traded the Sportage in on a 2001 Suzuki Grand Vitara XL-7, which I was writing about previously. We bought it from Mall Suzuki. The experience wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. They drove a hard sell but also worked it out within our requirements. Nothing about it would make me go back, but on the other hand nothing would keep me away if they had a car I was particularly interested in.


This post is getting long, so I’ll continue in another. There is no sense in detracting from the story with all of the background.




Engineering- Assumptions Can Change Everything

I had an incident with my car yesterday that perfectly illustrated how assumptions can change everything. In engineering, business, mechanics, and many other fields, all data cannot be known so assumptions are often made based on available data. During a case study for one of my final classes at the University of Phoenix, my learning team was involved in designing an information system for a company based on a case study. We decided to use Microsoft Dynamics as a solution. During my part of the weekly paper, I wrote that our team "assumes that this company has a trained and capable IT staff." That information was not present in the case study, yet the development of our business case would have changed if we also had to provide a lot of training, hiring, or even provide the ongoing support ourselves.


Lately my car has been giving off a rattle when I drive. It’s been going on for a few weeks and steadily getting worse. By the time I got to work yesterday, it sounded like a diesel. I’m not aware of Suzuki selling a diesel crossover SUV, and I’m sure the regular gas I’ve been putting in would have killed it. I finally got worried and called Tim, my mechanic. I’ve been taking my cars to Tim for six years now. It’s great having a trustworthy mechanic within walking distance of my house.


Tim listened to my engine. My car is a 2001 with 106000 miles on it. Tim’s first suggestion was to take it to a specific Hyundai dealer and buy a Santa Fe. Tim wasn’t being cavalier at all. Based on the observable evidence and an assumption I’ll get to, he figured I had a valve job that is not worth doing on a car with my mileage.


Then the assumption came into play and he pulled out my dipstick. It was dry. That changed everything. I’ve been driving my car without oil. Ouch. I guess I should have checked that. I’ve never noticed an oil leak. Tim and I both assumed that I had oil in my car. It took 5 quarts to fill back up, and the rattle started going away.


On the assumption that I had oil in my engine, the prognosis was very bad. Adding oil began to fix the problem, but now we’re left with the question of why all the oil had gone out of my engine in just 4000 miles. I know I’m a little late but my wife tells me money is tight so I was waiting for yesterday’s paycheck to do an oil change. I know I should be able to get 4000-5000 miles out of a car without the oil running dry.


I know the common saying goes "When you assume, you make an ass out of U and ME." That is a wise proverb, yet not always accurate. We make assumptions every day. We probably couldn’t make the simplest decision without making an assumption. But like in a business case, make sure those assumptions are based on as much available information as possible. Make the assumptions bridge a gap between information that you actually have. Be ready to change your assumptions with new information.


Now we wait until Monday when Tim can search for the oil leak. The final assumption I will make in this blog post is that since Tim did my last oil change, it was done right and my oil is leaving my engine another way.




Career Advancement- Move up or move out?

Have you ever reached a point in a job where you feel that you’ve done about all that you can and it’s time to either move up or move on? Have you ever found yourself in a position for which there really is no place to move up to, so you’re left with the obvious conclusion that you have to move on?


A year ago, I wrote a post on this blog regarding my annual performance review. This past week, I had my performance review for 2007. It went about the same. Everybody got a 3. Period. When I got my Bachelor’s degree, I asked my manager to see if the company would do something for me. The company’s official response is "We hired you to do this job. A Bachelor’s degree in IT has nothing to do with this job." Honestly, I don’t believe they bothered to look at the curriculum that I took. In any case, that pretty much defines my new short-term goals for me.


I’ve had two jobs in the last nine years. On both interviews, I asked if the company had a healthy "promote from within" policy. I asked if the company was a suitable environment to plan for a long term career. It turns out that I was asking the wrong question. I should have asked "Does THIS position have a logical and reasonable career path?" Obviously, they’ll tell me that they like to promote people from within, but I tend to end up in dead end positions anyway. I’m getting tired of that. Most companies seem to think a career is one of two things: find one job and do it for 40 years, or find a new job every 3-5 years. I’m not happy with either option. I would love to find a company within which I can expect to grow and rise. I’m tired of having to start over with a zero vacation balance, and I’m tired of having to make sure my family’s doctors take the new insurance.


It’s not that I haven’t tried to stay with this company. I have tried very hard. A friend of mine works for the government in Washington D.C. He had a contract with my current company and a couple of Systems Analyst positions opened up. He submitted my resume to the program manager and things looked really good for me. I was obviously qualified for the position but one thing got in the way: for some reason, this program manager was TOO BUSY TO HIRE SOMEBODY FOR AN OPEN POSITION. My friend, as the customer, was demanding that somebody be hired because the open position was affecting his operations, but this guy was too busy. I kept being told that they were interested in me, but I never got a call. Eventually, the position was filled by another contractor. In the meantime, my personal requirements have changed to the point where I need to stay in south Jersey, as painful as that admission might be.


I’ve tried to move within my current organization. In 2006, an employee of another company that works on the same task as I do left. I applied for his position. I was told that it would be a conflict of interest to hire me to another company within the task, but I could help out. My company has several people on that effort. I ran into a problem though: that effort works in another office, on another network. There was no desk available for me, my company would not buy me another computer to use in that office even if there was a desk, and I couldn’t get VPN access to the network to access from my current cubicle. I had a lot of fun helping out and I got an award for my help with a cash incentive, but after that I gave up. I could only help with testing but could do little with the documentation and preparation that led up to testing because I can’t get on the network and carrying files back and forth an a USB stick was highly inefficient. I eventually gave up even though I really enjoyed that work and would love to have moved over to that task.


I tried last year to move to our Systems Engineering group. I talked to the manager in September while I was finishing my final class at the University of Phoenix. I was told once again that he was very interested in me, and would check with our Department Head and my current supervisor and would get back to me by the 1st of November. It is currently February 15, and I haven’t heard anything. I see him in passing. Another guy from my group has been moved over there, but I haven’t even been given the courtesy of "no". I think something is seriously wrong with a company when a manager is too darn busy to hire people, but I also see this as a serious lack of integrity and professionalism. When a manager-level employee says "I will get back to you by a certain date," should you not be able to depend on a response by that date?


What is all of this leading up to? Well, let’s just say I’m waiting for a phone call. I’ve been in this position for more than three years. I’ve done all I can. Obviously, there is always something to learn, but for the most part I’m ready to move up or move on. I doubt anyone from my current company reads this blog, but I’ll leave things vague. Let’s just say that I’m waiting for a phone call from somebody who is both interested in my experience and has enough integrity to "get back by". I have also come to the conclusion that just like my previous company, when I asked this one during my job interview if they have a healthy career program, they lied to me when they said yes. I used to joke when I was in the Navy that my Navy recruiter never lied to me. I said that he left out a lot of details, but never lied to me. In this case, I’m starting to think I’ve been lied to. I’ve tried in three ways to make a career move within my company, and hit a brick wall all three times. I work in a wonderful office with wonderful people, and I truly appreciate the freedom and flexibility I’ve enjoyed in this position. I am able to set my own schedule. When my son Caleb stuck his hand in the car door as it was closing and I had to meet my wife in the emergency room, I literally just got up and walked out. I came back a couple of hours later and worked late that night. I didn’t tell anybody and nobody asked. That kind of flexibility is priceless, but when job satisfaction isn’t very high and there is NO POSSIBILITY OF ADVANCEMENT, that kind of flexibility doesn’t go very far. It definitely doesn’t pay the student loans for the degree that apparently has nothing to do with the position. Looking back, I took this position based on two very short term immediate goals. I needed to:



  1. Make enough money to allow my wife to stay home and raise the children





  1. Get out of my previous organization as quickly as possible.


I also hoped to move into a position from which I could expect a long and fruitful career, but the entire subject of this post is why this position did not meet that goal. It did meet the other two though.


Someday I may write about my previous organization and the turns that were taken that led to my decision to leave. I was hired in 1999 for what was originally a fun and fascinating technical job that over the course of 5 years changed to the point of being intolerable. A coworker of mine took a job in Iraq to get out of there. I’ll leave the story hanging there for now.


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How To Master A Book

I recently read Mortimer Adler’s "How To Read A Book." The book pretty much changed my life. I’ve always been an avid reader, but I thought that the only way to read a book is to start with page 1 and read all the way through to the end. I also follow the habit most of us were taught as children to internally verbalize each word, so I can only read as fast as I can "talk" to myself.


One of the first ideas I learned from this book (actually, from a couple of books I read which recommended "How To Read A Book") is that every book does not deserves the same level of  reading. Every book you read does not deserve to be read word by word and page by page. I wish I had known this when I read Kevin Trudeau’s books a couple of years ago. Don’t get me wrong; he has a lot of good information, but if you took out all of the "I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore" lines, you’d be left with two chapters. Had I known the lessons "How To Read A Book" gives back then, I could have torn through both books rapidly and moved on to something else.


Another idea I got from the book that could be valuable to society is that a reader should reach a level of understanding of the subject matter of the book before providing criticism. We seriously need to teach that lesson in our schools. For an example of what I mean by criticizing a work without reading to a proper understanding, see this post. Philosopher and professor and author J. P. Moreland wrote a paper called "How Evangelicals Became Overcommitted to the Bible and What can be Done About It." The paper was presented at a meeting of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. It was a paper written by scholars for scholars. Much of the criticism that I have read about the paper doesn’t seem to take into account any more than the title. I’m not here to open up another debate on this subject or point any fingers; I’m just using this as an example of my point.


I’ve been meaning to create an outline or cheat sheet of "How To Read A Book", but other things seem to be more important each week since I got the idea. In the meantime, I’ve read several books and although I’ve learned many interesting concepts and absorbed new ideas, I haven’t felt like I’ve mastered any of these books. I’ve even unearthed some of the books I read last year to attempt to sift through them for mastery.


Greg Koukl from Stand To Reason released his latest "Solid Ground" newsletter, which turned out to be exactly what I needed. Titled "How To Read Less More", this newsletter provides a process similar to "How To Read A Book." I’ve been slowly following this process as I read through James Emery White’s "The Prayer God Longs For." As a very short book, this one seems ideal for learning to apply the process presented by Greg Koukl before I attempt to take on something more challenging like "The Complete Works of Josephus" or "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."


How To Read A Book The Prayer God Longs For


If you’re interested in learning how to master a book, check out the 4 page newsletter. A Summary of the process proposed is as follows:





  • Get a sense of the book in 10-20 minutes.

  • Read jacket copy, contents, skim preface & introduction, read conclusion (last 3 pages) and skim the index. Note publisher and date of publication

  • Quickly read through the entire book at the rate of 2-3 seconds per page.

  • Determine if you want to read the book more thoroughly, give it away, or file it for future reference.





  • Skim the entire book at a slower rate (4-10 seconds per page), breaking the book in as you go.

  • Look for structure, outline, key facts, and concepts.

  • Write a quick summary for the book in pencil on the title page.





  • Preview each chapter again before you read it to get the structure (4-10 seconds per page).

  • Read each word at the fastest comfortable speed using a pointer so you don’t wander, hesitate, regress, or lose your place. Mark the margin, but don’t underline the text.

  • Write a 1-4 sentence summary in pencil at the beginning of the chapter. This serves as a quick overview of the contents of the chapter.

  • Sketch a quick outline or recall pattern.


Postview Immediately



  • Re-read the chapter quickly, focusing on marked sections, interacting with the text.

  • Refine your 1-4 sentence summary at the beginning of the chapter, if necessary.

  • Review at regular intervals, looking over recall patterns and summary materials.


I may print a few copies of the sidebar from the newsletter and make bookmarks out of them.


As I said, I’ve been working through this with a small book to get the feel for the process. I have found some positives and negatives. For instance, I do enjoy reading casually, but this is a highly active process. Even with a short book, I find it hard to keep up with this process in between my kids jumping on me or other interruptions. Most books that I read these days must be read in between family interruptions. The chapter summary helps me to remember what the author said, but when I’m halfway through writing my summary and get a "Daddy, I want a sippy with juice", I can often forget what exactly I meant to write for my summary when I get back to the book. OK, I can sometimes put off the sippy, but when one of my kids throws a choo-choo at the other’s head, I sort of have to drop the book immediately to dispense comfort and discipline.


What was written above, with the exception of minor edits, has been sitting for a couple of weeks. I have not gotten back to the book I was reading since. I’ve had a few reasons, like a huge stage of magazines that has piled up over the years that I’ve attempted to plow through. All told though, I find this method to be a little too challenging for my current stage of life. In order to follow this format properly, a lot of discipline and dedicated reading time is required. I’m simply not able to follow it in a few minutes at a time at home. I may have to make some modifications. I like the idea of "mastering" a book, so I’ll keep working on it. If you don’t have small children or if you can dedicate yourself to following a process like this, let me know how it works out.




House Gets An iPhone

I missed this episode. I probably have it downloaded somewhere, but I haven’t watched it yet. I’ve actually had about two or three dreams that I had an iPhone, including one just this past Monday morning. I don’t know how scary to consider it when I start dreaming about a specific consumer electronics device. Should I start charging Apple product placement fees for my dreams? To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never dreamed about my video iPod or my iPaq 6945.


I got the House clip from Fake Steve Jobs.

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Microsoft Makes 44.6 Billion Bid for Yahoo

Microsoft Makes 44.6 Billion Bid for Yahoo

This is an interesting development. I’ve been hearing for years that Microsoft was considering buying Yahoo!. I always thought it was nothing more than a silly tech rumor pushed around on slow news days.

I’m not quite sure what this could mean for "us." I do use quite a few Microsoft products, and I use two Yahoo! products. Actually, the one Yahoo! product, Yahoo! Mail, I’m looking forward to seeing some improvements. I know that I get a lot less spam with MSN mail than Yahoo! Mail. I’ve often wondered what the point to Yahoo! Mail is. I get so much spam in that account I often wonder if Yahoo! sends the spam itself. I’ve seen people set up brand new Yahoo! accounts and been buried in spam in under an hour.

On the other hand, I’m worried about Yahoo! Messenger. I use the service through the open-source client Pidgin, and it works flawlessly for me. MSN Messenger, on the other hand, I’ve been forced to discontinue. I was getting way too many spam chat requests. I had the same problem on ICQ. I don’t get that on Yahoo! Messenger or AOL Instant Messenger, so I leave those services running as much as possible.

Yahoo! Search works about the same as Microsoft’s search, that is to say, I’ll continue to use Google. If I’m looking for something on Microsoft’s web site, I’ve found it to be much faster to use Google than Microsoft’s own search engine. I read many blog posts a day through Google Reader about alternative search engines, but to be honest, I see no reason other than principle not to use Google. Microsoft and Yahoo! both have search engines that appear substandard in regular use.

One fear that I have is that we will have fewer choices in the marketplace. Market oligopolies are rarely a good thing (look at the telecommunications industry). Obviously, only time will tell. I don’t have a strong opinion either way, as I doubt Microsoft could screw up Yahoo! any more than Yahoo! could.

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Is There A Design Flaw in the Fisher-Price SmartCycle?

Our children were given a Fisher-Price SmartCycle for Christmas (or the generic, unmentionable Solstice Holiday for those of you who go into epileptic fits at the mere mention of the word "Christmas".) It seems to be a decent enough game system and the kids really enjoy it (and fight over it.) We have come across one minor point that I believe might be a design flaw. For some reason, the right pedal keeps stripping. I will not place this post in my "Hall of shame" category because I can say that Fisher-Price’s customer service has been nothing short of stellar, except that they seem to use the same shipping methods that the University of Phoenix used to send me my degree: they appear to pay extra so that delivery of replacement parts can take up to two and a half weeks.


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Other than that, as I said, the kids love playing with the SmartCycle. They fight over it constantly. Customer service has been exceptional. When the first pedal stripped, Fisher-Price sent my wife a replacement. When that replacement didn’t arrive within two weeks, they sent another replacement. Now, they are going to replace the entire unit.


If anybody else is having similar problems with the SmartCycle, let me know in the comments.



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