New Car Envy

In my house, we now have 3 drivers and 2 cars. Of course Dad’s Taxi (my 2003 Highlander) has been hijacked by my teenage daughter who won’t drive a mommy mobile (Our other car our 199 Honda Oddessy with almost 200K in miles ) to/from college. She has to have “Cool car” to take to college.

I remember when I was growing up in the ancient days (that’s what I call the early 80’s) i would have settled for any car to get me from college to/from home. I can still hear my Dad’s voice echoing in my ears –> “NO, you cannot use my Dodge Dart to go to school, it’s to valuable to be driven by a reckless driver like you”.  Of course my Dad’s car just stayed on the strets of NYC while I bought my awesome Plymouth Duster which cost $1K so I could get from/to College. Boy did I feel like I was lucky to have such a cool car! BTW, the image I got above is exactly the car I drove!

Today’s kids, need to have not just functional transportation but “cool” transportation to/from college. I guess it’s my own fault for allowing the hijacking to take place, but sometimes Dad’s just end up getting the short end of the stick. Fortunately, Dad’s offie is only a few miles away from home so now he has to rely on his own taxi service to drop him off and pick him up from work. Yes, Dad’s taxi is now commuting to/from work in his own Taxi! How much fun is that..

Since my wife will be starting a new job next week, we are now scrambling trying to buy a new car and that is a whole different ordeal. How much to spend, buy or lease, new or certified used, blah, blah..

Personally,  if I’m desperate for a new car, I’d go for the functional model (Toyota, Honda),  but in my house, the rules for car buying stray towards the luxary instead of the functional.  From what I saw today in the exhaustive search for a car, the luxary models will win every time! Even my younger daughter, gravitates to the convertibles, as soon as she walks into the dealerships and says, we should buy one!.

So today, we went from one end of the functional spectrum (Toyota Hybrid – Prius) to the luxary models (Audi and BMW). You can guess where we will end up when we eventually pull the trigger on the buy.

Here’s a couple of things I learned today:

  • Use a car buying guide or If you have AAA, use their car buying service to get the best deal. This will reduce the haggling and help you to avoid the bait and switch tactics most dealers use when you go to buy a car
  • Have  budget in mind and don’t stray from it. Yes you should be flexible, but if you budget $20K, don’t even look at cars that are $30K and above!
  • Decide on the specific brand and model you want and whether you are looking for convenience or just luxary.. You know my opinion on this. If I were well off, I’m sure I’d be getting luxary without any hesitation.
  • Use the Internet to do your research on the car you want.  Never walk into the dealer cold and without any research in your hands.
  • Just say no, when you know that what you want and what you can afford clash.. This is where my wife and I clash constantly. You can guess who gets their way on this topic.
  • If you don’t want the glamour of the dealership and the bells and whistles of new car guarantees, use the internet buy off the rack by using services like carsense.
  • Before you shell out any cash for a car, make sure you get the Car Fax. The Car Fax will tell you the history of the car!

I don’t know what we will end up doing to get out of the logjam of 3 drivers and 2 cars, but I do know that for the forseeable future (or until I strike gold),  you will find Dad’s taxi driving around Middletown, NJ  in a 1999 Honda Oddessy with almost  200K!

 

 

Jeopardy and Watson Computer

I’m sure you have heard by now the Jeopardy competition between the IBM supercomputer Watson and the two Jeopardy champions which the IBM supercomputer won handily.  The IBM super computer handily beat Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter (certified Jeopardy Champions) by over $50K in prize money.

My questions for you is this: Can this supercomputer take jobs away from humans? Can this computer supplant or replace the humans that helped to load it with information and answers? Will the scientists and programmers that built this computer be replaced in the future by computers like “Watson”?

This article seems to think that this is going to happen. I just don’t buy it.

Human know how and ability will surely outlast a computer..

What do you think?

New Sidebar Links

I added a couple of new sidebar links to a few sites that are longtime favorites of mine:

  • Tech Crunch – Excellent site for Technology news for a variety of technology news
  • Clark Howard – Clark is seen daily on CNN. He offers podcasts, RSS feeds for many different topics for a variety of consumer topics. Clark’s advice has been a favorite of Dad’s Taxi for a long time.

Enjoy

Valentines Day – Commercial Holiday

So tomorrow is Valentines Day.. One of the most over commercialized “holiday” of the year. Now don’t get me wrong.. I love my family (almost 99.99%) of the time and do little thing through out the year to show my love.

Do I really need to have one over commercialized made up holiday to splurge on flowers (which will die), and candy (which will cause diabetes and tooth decay)?

Absolutely!

Yesterday,  I was driving my taxi in the my neck of the woods (Monmouth County, NJ) area and did some shopping in celebration of this annual celebration of love. Of course being frugal the way I am, I’m always looking to save a buck in the process.  Many will call Dad’s Taxi cheap, but hey, I’ve been called a lot worse names.

So I stopped at my local Dollar Tree store and bought some goodies for my wife and kids. Of course, many will smirk at my choice of stores, but did you know that the richest people in Monmouth County has put a minimum of 3 to 4  dollar stores in a proximity of 6 to 7 miles on the shoppers highway Highway 35 that runs through Monmouth County.

Yet I digress.  Stay on task Dad.. I know you can do it..

As I’m perusing the Valentine’s day section, I saw so many goodies that I wish I had for myself. This was  bargain hunter’s dream.. Greeting cards 2/$1, stuffed animals, balloons, artifial roses (which won’t die!), and so much more.. I had reached nirvana of bargain hunting for Valentine’s Day 2011!

I picked up enough goodies to make my kids happy and all for less than $15! whoo hoo!

Of course, this does not preclude my trip to the local florist in my neighborhood Shoprite to pick up some daisies and  tulips for my better half on Valentine’s day! This selection being what I know my will prevent me from being told my rose selection would not pass the mustard in my house.

So back to our regularly scheduled Dad’s taxi..

Many, many lunar moons ago (this year of course being the year of the rabbit), Dad happened to get engaged on Valentine’s day. I guess those were the days when Dad was much more of a romantic and less cynical (and sarcastic) in his daily disposition and outlook on life.  Thus the true meaning of Valentine’s day doe have some significance in my life.

So I took a leap and I gave my kids, their sugary rush early yesterday and of course my little one,  has already (almost) finished her “I love You” chocolate Bar in less than one day!

To think about it, I guess we all need to have some level of  day like Valentine’s day to make us reflect on the ones in our life that are most important to us. Yet I seem to do that every day of the year. I don’t need to follow the masses on this artificial holiday to do this.

Oh wait.. yet my actions contradict my thoughts right? Oh well, that’s why Dad’s Taxi goes round and round..

So how do you celebrate Valentine’s day? Does it hold any historical significance to you? Tell me and perhaps I’ll become less cynical in the long term!

TTYL!

Dad..

Tri-Valley University Scam in California

I was just reading the local publication of News India-Times when  I came across a scam that I wanted to talk about.

Tri-Valley University based in Pleasanton, California, had committed immigration fraud with over $4M in illegal tuitions over the past 2 years. With over 95% of their students coming for higher education from India!  Homeland Secuirity approved Tri-Valley University”  in 2009 and over 2 years had over 1,5000 registered “students”.

In reality, Tri-Valley University was just a pyramid scheme to bring in a majority of their students from Andra Pradesh, India with referral fees and discounts to provide educational visas for students. Of coursed these visas were nothing but  scam to bring students from India via immigration fraud.  Now of course many of the students were not aware of this massive immigration fraud, but wouldn’t you be suspicious if you came to the US for learning and all you saw was a building with minimal educational surroundings and were asked to stay in an apartment with other students?

These students that caem here took their TOEFL and passed their interviews at the US consulate after providing the necessary documents! This is based on an anonymous student who went to Tri-Valley. Now these students will rely on the empathy of the US government, pro-bono cases taken on by large law companies and representation by the various Indian associations in the US to represent the students facing deportation.

This kind of scam really is terrible, because now these students are being deported when they were just part of the scam  that Tri-Valley University concocted to make over $4M dollars over 2 years!

Now that the “University” is shut down, these students  who are either being detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), have had their passports taken away or are under monitoring via ankle bracelet.

Let me ask you this question. What should be done with these students? Should they be sent back to India or should they be given the opportunity to find legitimate institutions to pursue their education? Keep in mind, a majority of these students come from poor villages in India.

What do you think? Should these students be allowed to stay in the US or should they be deported?

Updated on 2/22:

There’s a movement in California to get support to these students of the now shuttered Tri-Valley University to get admissions in real universities so they don’t get sent back. What do you think of this?

I of course have my opinion. How can these students be considered “pawns” of this scam? Didn’t they realize that they were being scammed when they came to the US and saw this “college” which was just sham?

Many kids from India and their parents struggle to send their kids to America to study, these kids just because they were defrauded do they deserve to be allowed to stay? What do you think?