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blacklabelreview: Music, Movie, Cars, Books, technology, fashion, Prom & Quincenera Dresses Reviews, Press Release
Wednesday, 29 March 2006
Immigration Issues: Homebuilding, Agricultural Work, Insulation and More
Topic: Immigration/Travel Issues

Illegal immigrants are found in all sectors of the national industry. From the high-tech industries to the agricultural industries, illegal immigrants can be found toiling to keep our economy going. According to the Pew research, they are mostly concentrated in construction, agriculture and cleaning jobs. They are taking jobs that Americans won't take. Even poor Americans and those who are on welfare stay away from these jobs. Who will harvest the beautiful, fresh nectarines, prunes, plums, peaches from the orchards of the San Joaquin Valley? Who will pick the tomatos from the large fields of Florida? Who will harvest the apples from the apple orchards of Washington State? Who will work on our homes as insulation workers? Who will work as agricultural workers? It is estimated that illegal workers make 5% of the U.S. labor force.

In the meantime, we are seeking to sell our houses built by the hands and sweat of immigrants. We are worried because there is a cool down. We see our neighbors who are trying to beat each other to place their homes on the market first. Everywhere you turn, you see a for sale sign. Houses are taking longer to sell. More worry sets in. The house has been on the market for many weeks. The agents have long stopped bringing interested customers. Yet, he or she is still in the picture because of the contract. The weather does not want to warm up yet. Everybody is waiting for Spring, the high season of home shopping. Home prices in the Central San Joaquin Valley are half the state median. That provides many families with incentives to relocate to the Greater Valley areas. From Sacramento and nearby cities to Fresno-Clovis areas, more and more new faces are buying homes. Farmers are selling out. The money is hot. They want to leave behind the unpredictability that comes with agriculture. They want to take the money investors and developers are rubbing on their face, a large sum per acre. There is reason to worry. Interest rates are going up. Prices of existing homes in some key communities are going down. And the number of building permits for residential housing in the Valley is going down. Many industry insiders are saying that it is time that prices settle down a bit.

Visit PromdressesQuinceneraBlogger ---------------------------------

Posted by Fashionista Shopping Analyst at 11:46 PM PST
Updated: Saturday, 1 April 2006 8:33 PM PST
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Tuesday, 28 March 2006
Olympus Camedia C-50 Zoom Digital Camera:
Topic: Electronics Gadgets

I have just solved one of the family's camera problems. No more complaints from my wife about not having access to my [Kodak] camera! I found this Olympus Camedia C-50 Zoom Digital Camera that I could not pass on. It was a great present idea for my wife. In fact, it's the right kind of camera she needed on the road. I knew for sure she would be attracted to this 5-megapixel resolution, stylish, all-metal frame camera. After using it on a few occasions, I personally have come to fall in love with some of its features. I like the fact that it comes with a battery charger which comes handy on the road. Besides, its rechargeable Lithium LI-10B battery can last a long time.

Another great Olympus camera is the Camedia C4000. Read about its features.

What are some of the attractive points of the C-50?

Right off the bat, I will admit that this camera, however small it be, comes equipped with lots of features that may not remind you of the great point-and-shoot feature found in most other cameras. That does not diminish it either. For the few occasions my wife let me use it, I will say that I have left in the default mode and just proceed to take my shots. I did not have to mess around with its menu structure and other parameters. While talking about the features of the C-50, it's worth noting that you can shoot in full auto, full manual, aperture, or shutter priority, or six program modes plus one user-defined mode.

I was amazed by the length of time I could shoot without having to recharge. The battery life was good for more than 2 and a half hours. I took about 325 shots.

The C-50 camera comes with the following features: *five-mode flash, *auto and manual white balance plus four presets, *auto and 80 to 320 ISO equivalency, *two-stop exposure compensation, *sharpening and brightness adjustments.

With 5 MP, you can expect the high quality of the images you shoot. This little camera has nothing to worry about its competitors ranging from the Konica KD-500Z and Canon PowersShot S45 in terms of image quality and feature set. For the small price I had to pay, I can say that the C-50 delivers on the images.

Other important features that can be found in the C-50 Zoom Digital Camera

Just take a deep look at the C-50 camera, you will notice that its zoom lens is protected with a sliding metal shutter that doubles as the power switch. Turn it around and you will find out that on its back is the well-known ten-position select/mode dial, a four-way jog button, and a Quick View button. As you press the Quick View button, you will be able to see the display of the last captured image. By pressing it twice, it will go between shooting and playback. I have fallen in love with the high-resolution 1.5-inch LCD viewfinder which is bright and sharp.

With this camera, you can also shoot videos at 320-by-240 or 160-by-120 at 15 fps, but the camera has no audio capability. At least, you can have a 16-second worth of movie.

Shutter speed 1/2-1/1000 sec

Weight .43 lb

Height 2.3 in
Width 3.9 in
Optical Zoom 3x
Digital Zoom 4x
Lens 35 mm equivalent

The C-50 camera comes bundled with a battery charger, wireless remote control, and a small 32 MB xD Picture Card memory card.
What are my closing thoughts?
If you want a sharp, small camera to take on the road with you, you should invest in the C-50. So far, my wife and I have loved it. ---------------------------------

Posted by Fashionista Shopping Analyst at 11:39 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006 11:43 PM PST
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The South Beach Diet
Topic: Book News

With the ongoing epidemics of obesity that our nation is going through, it's time that somebody, a renowned cardiologist who has seen the ravages of heart attacks, cholesterol and insulins step up to the plate. Step up, he did! Dr. Arthur Agatston is the right MD to bring us an easy-to-follow, no-nonsense book on dieting. It's not just one more book that comes on top of the hundreds of thousands diet books claiming to have the magic cure-all touch. Dr. Agatston was already known and liked among his peers. After all, he had developed a cardiac imaging device that helps predict future heart attacks. After seeing the misery and fumbles of his patients, he decided to help them with The South Beach Diet, a breakthrough book on dieting.

Why the South Beach Diet Title?

A glitzy title that is different from other diet books

For one thing, images sell a lot. If you have never been to Miami's South Beach, you may not know how profiles, great food from various ethnic cuisines, fashion, hard bodies mix together to create this exotic group of people who have no problems displaying their assets. South Beach is the place to people watch and get seen. It's the new Venice Beach in its heyday. This is not to diminish the continuing popularity of Venice Beach on this side of the country. As I am at it, I should mention Santa Monica Beach which is my favorite hangout. Any way, most of the people you see on South Beach count themselves as followers of this cardiologist, Dr. Arthur Agatston. The South Beach Diet is his way of saying to this group of "hotbods" to maintain their great physique. And to those who are his patients, he is saying, "come along, let me show you the way." What should you expect to get out of the South Beach Diet?

If you forget everything that is said and written about this book, just remember that this book is not a low-carb and low-fat one. The South Beach Diet rather teaches you to mix the right carbs and the right fats--that is to say--the good ones- with the bad carbs and bad fats. A clear example would be Dr Agatston's push to combine the good with the bad as found in dipping whole wheat bread into olive oil instead of using butter. After all, what contributes to the book's appeals and enthusiasm are its earthy and conversational tones. It's like one of these old family doctors' visits. There is nothing in the book that will scare anybody away. In the South Beach Diet, you will find lots of meal plans and simple recipes that you can easily apply to your own meal preparations.

After going through the book, I realized what some nutritionists and psychologists have long suspected. Making appeal to the dieter's cognitive realms will get things done faster. Dieting starts in the brain.

Furthermore, based on his expansive experience at Miami Beach's Mt Sinai Medical Center, Dr. Arthur Agatston has long realized that despite their popularity, the currently available diet programs were not meeting all of his patients' dieting needs. In some of them, he found dangerously high levels of blood sugar and cholesterol. He was touched by the non-stop recurring battles of his patients with the monster of weight gain.

The South Beach Diet's Proposed Solutions To Obesity

Get started. Get healthy by losing weight with the 3 phases mentioned in the book

Phase 1: Banish all your cravings. It's very restrictive, but hang in there. During phase 1, you will eat normal-size helpings of meat, chicken, turkey, fish, and shellfish. You will have plenty of vegetables, eggs, cheese and nuts. You'll have salads with real olive oil in the dressing. You will have three balanced meals a day. It will be up to you to eat to satisfy your hunger.

Stay away from these food items for the first 14 days:

Say no to bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, baked goods. No fruit. No candy, cake, cookies, ice cream or sugar. No beer or alcohol of any kind. Keep in mind that you will be able to consume them after phase 1. For a few seconds, I was thinking that a regular guy's meals and beverages were taken away!

Phase 2: Re-introducing Carbs: (great news!) Banished Foods Get back into your life while still on diet.

By now, you'll have noticed some weight loss largely due to the fact that you have limited some of the foods that caused old bad urges. They tended to make you gain and store fats. After losing up to 13 pounds in Phase 1 over a 14-day period, you will decide however long you want to say in phase 2 by the number of pounds you want to lose. Bear in mind that in this phase, you have been allowed to re-introduce either bread, pasta, rice or potatoes etc. It all depends on your taste.

Phase 3: A Diet For Life

By now, you will have been feeling so great about yourself. Your friends, family members and co-workers will have congratulated you on conquering your personal urges. You will become a new "hardbod." You will be glad of your new status. You will be glad to change your wardrobe. You'll be able to do things you'd never dreamed of. It comes without any pain that you want to apply these dieting techniques to your life for ever.

As you have discovered the key and secret to modifying your physical attributes, you will have let your mind control the matter.

Congratulations to you! You have conquered yourself! Just know that you have just added many happy and healthy years to your heart.

Good carbs (vegetable, fruit, grains, olive and granola oils, salmon, tuna) to you and your family!

Consume the following in phase 2: fruits, berries, some bread, pasta, whole wheat bread with selected carbs.

Posted by Fashionista Shopping Analyst at 11:31 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006 11:33 PM PST
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Nissan Murano
Topic: Hot Car & Autorecalls

Nissan has a way of giving the American consumers what they want. The automotive company's engineers have hit it big with this year's Nissan Murano. On the freeways as well as in cities all over America, the SUV is a real head-turner. I can clearly remember the winks and hellos that were coming from other drivers in a hip section of the Central Valley where I took it for my test driving. This crossover SUV is a giant beast on the road. In fact, it is a much superior vehicle that is enhanced in all ways possible. The Murano was introduced in 2003 to great consumer reviews. The 2004 Murano comes with a 245-hp, 3.5-liter, dohc V6 which allows great acceleration. This SUV is also the first North American application of Nissan's advanced Xtronic continuously Variable Transmission.

During my test-driving, the SUV responded to all my commands with great satisfaction. In fact, it is what I have come to expect from it. It was not only responsive, but also quiet, functional and comfortable. As a parent, I was looking at the space that it comes with. Parents always need to either shop or carry strollers and you name it. It provides a smooth drive on the freeway. What I like about the vehicle is its distinction. It does not resemble any of the clones that have been rolling out of manufacturing companies lately. If Nissan wanted to make an impression on the psyche of the American buyer, I can say that the company has greatly succeeded.

What are some of the key features of this SUV?

Great acceleration and handling

Let's look at what hits your eyes first. There is no doubt that this vehicle has the best sculpted exterior I have ever seen. It goes well with the Nissan's "sculpture in motion" theme. Looking at the SUV leads you to realize its three-dimensional fee. But wait until you get inside to see the equipment it sports. In addition, it's worth noting that the Murano has borrowed a few things from the very popular Nissan Altima. Think about the FF-L, front engine, front-drive, platform. What the FF-L does is that it pushes the wheels out to the corners. This results in a much longer wheelbase. Take a look at its grille and D-pillar and you'll feel that you are standing in front of a car that conjures high quality and value.

Most young guys enjoy the contemporary looks

Nissan zones in on this important feature by equipping the Murano with standard 18-inch wheels and tires, advanced vertical stack headlights with xenon bulbs. So much more can be written about the exterior of this superb SUV. Just like most parents and buyers, I was more interested in its interior. I have enjoyed the clear visibility and storage compartments that most Nissan vehicles are equipped with. The Murano is not an exception to the rules. It has great storage and cargo capacity while allowing first class seating from two to 5 passengers. Yes, it does have great luggage space too. The rear cargo area has enough space to accommodate suitcases and other cargo.

Safety features

Having been an owner of the Nissan Quest for sometime, I can share with you that the company places neat safety features in its vehicles. The Murano has a two-tiered lockable center console storage box with room to hold a purse, a laptop computer and other materials. It comes fully loaded with many safety gadgets such as the dual-stage supplemental front airbags with seat belt sensors, front-seat side-impact supplemental airbags and fron and rear seat curtain side-impact supplemental airbags, Zone Body Construction with front and rear crumple zones that throw away the crash energy from the passenger compartment. Now all of thse nifty features are designed to protect you.

My final words

The Murano is a great vehicle it price is not an issue. If you intend to spend a major part of your time behind the wheels, they'd better be the Murano's. Everything on the vehicle appears to be effortless. A smooth ride is a guarantee.

Posted by Fashionista Shopping Analyst at 11:26 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006 11:34 PM PST
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The Big Charbroil Starts The Grilling Season!
Topic: home&garden

The Spring and Summer rituals are with us once again. Daylight Savings time. The birds are chirping and nesting. The heat waves are striking us. They make us think about the heat assaults of the upcoming Summer months. The kids want to stay out longer to enjoy the daylight. The neighbors have already started to dust and clean their garage. A few houses down the block, smoke is rising in the back yards and the kids are blasting their music some heavy metal while joking with their buddies.

As for me, there wouldn't be any Spring and Summer without the joy of grilling and open-air cooking or B-B-Q-centered get-togethers. It's the time of the year when I get to use various grills as the men of my church, work and club tend to throw a barbecue almost every other week-end. Any occasion is good enough to throw a party. We are not counting normal occurring events such as birthday parties.

What makes me think that this Big Easy All-in-One is one of the best grills out there

Just this past week-end, I had the opportunity of using this Char-Broil at one of my buddies' house. After officiating at a local Field & Track meet, we decided to have a small party in the back yard of his new residence. The plan was for me to take pictures of the back before he starts transforming it. He also wanted to give me a demo of his woodworking skills. He had a project he was working for one of his clients. After taking the pictures, it was time for us to eat lunch. The chicken and patties had been out of the freezer for a long time. His wife called him to go pick up one of the kids who did not want to stay with the grandparents any longer. It was my opportunity to prepare lunch. Using this Char-Broil was a blast. After connecting the propane tank, I made sure to read the directions as to which way to open and close the thank. It was not brain surgery at all. The arrows were there to guide me. As by a measure of precaution, I made sure to turn the cap all the way until I could not turn it any longer. That was to open it. I lifted up my head and looked at the front area of the grill. I turned the button to the start area and press on the push button igniter. In a matter of seconds, I heard the roaring of the flame. I increased it to High. Then, I turned to the next button on the right to make sure that both burners were one. I wanted to wait until the grill/smoker heats up. I kept my eyes on the temperature gauge to wait for the needle to set right in the middle. In the meantime, I was busy turning my chicken meat, hot links and beef paddies in the bowls. Lunch was just around the corner. After about 4 minutes, I grabbed the handle to open the cast aluminum to check the heat. Since the grill/smoker was in the path of wind, there was a sudden escalation of fire and smoke. I quickly moved to turn down the heat. Managing all this fire was important. By then, I was ready to throw a few pieces of meat onto the grill. The hot links followed. The fat from the chicken was causing the fire to jump. Besides the wind gust was too hard to bear. I had to find a protected area to hide the grill.

How easy is it to grill on this Char-broil?

No need to wait for a long time to prepare lunch! Both men and women can use it with great satisfaction. I found the side burner to be very useful in that other items can be prepared. Depending on where you are grilling, placing an empty can of soda will collect all the juice from the meat. This Char-Broil offers decent space to place big bowls.

Cleaning was a breeze. With a wire brush, I proceeded to clean the grill before entering the house. It took me about 10 minutes to clean the whole grill. Anybody can use this grill without any complication. Before leaving, I made sure to turn it off and closing the liquid propane thank. For more safety, the tank comes with a retainer. I will tell you that depending the size of the tank, it may not fit. That's what I realized with the model that I have at my own residence. After exchanging it at Wal-Mart, the new tank fits in the hole but the retainer did not fit.

Do I recommend this Char-Broil?

If you are looking for a decent grill/smoker that will get your job done, I'll encourage you to purchase this one. If you are cooking at any event and see this brand, I'll advise you to select it.

All in all, this is a great purchase.

Posted by Fashionista Shopping Analyst at 11:23 PM PST
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Thermos Grill2Go Fire+Ice
Topic: Hot Real Estate Shopping

The Mixture of Fire and Ice Made Possible by the Thermos� Grill2Go

This is a great gas grill for anybody who likes barbecuing on the beach, at campgrounds and parties. How about finding your own little corner of the soccer or football fields to start grilling while cheering for your team? With the Thermos� Grill2Go, all of these things are possible. Right by you, you will have access to two most precious commodities: A nicely burger and a cold one. That's what a few friends of mine did a few weeks ago when we went hiking the Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. After our climb was over, we came down to commune and enjoy some great food together. Besides the other ice chests that most of us brought, the hike organizer brought his Thermos Grill2Go to showcase and prepare some meals for us. No other burgers have tasted this good! It must be the idea of eating in the wilderness which was our base camp. Yes, we were also hungry, but nothing tasted better than these grilled pieces of chicken and beef paddies.

What to know about the Thermos Grill2Go Fire+Ice:

Here is what you'll get if you decide to purchase one of these neat machines: 3 Years (Aluminized Top and Bottom , Stainless Steel Burner), 1 Year (Cooler and Lift Mechanism), 1 Year Limited All Other Parts. In addition, you'll get lots of B-B-Q joy from this gas grill. The cooking surface is non-stick grate/griddle. The burner is stainless. What you need to remember is that the cooking area is 310

A few things to keep in mind when shopping for a grill:

The cooking area consists of length versus width of the primary cooking area and the warning rack. You have to decide whether you want to grill a meal for a small family of two or three or prepare an extended family feast. The cooking areas can range from 310 sq. in. to 896

How about the cooking surface? The grills have either porcelain wire, porcelain cast iron or stainless cooking surfaces. As in this thermos Grill2Go, you'll be happy to know that best cooking performance comes from a grill with either a porcelain cast iron or stainless cooking surface.

Furthermore, when it comes to the burners, you will realize that the best grills have either stainless cast iron or cast brass burners which usually give outstanding cooking performance. If you should purchase a grill with cast brass burners, you'll find out that they offer lifetime warranties.

BTU: The higher the BTU, the better searing you'll get

Well, let's quickly add that in the absence of elemental conditions, this thermos will give a pretty consistent searing of your meals. BTU is the abbreviated form of British Thermal Unit which is a measurement of how much heat your grill will generate. If you want to get into higher BTUs, you may want to look at the 53,000 BTU Char-Broil Keepers of the Flame Commercial series, 36,000 BTU Weber, 40,000 +12,000 BTU side burner Brinkman etc.

Final thoughts

As a portable system, the Thermos Grill2Go is a very decent gas grill which will keep your burger hot and beverages cold at the same time.

Posted by Fashionista Shopping Analyst at 11:14 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006 11:16 PM PST
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2004, 2005, 2006 Nissan Titan: Nissan Armada Platform
Topic: Hot Car & Autorecalls

Do you want to go for the XE, SE or LE? Whichever type you choose, you can only be a happy truck owner. Consider the following: Four (4) real doors in a car-like truck which comes with all the sturdiness and roughness of any truck on the road!

Are you wondering about whether you should trade in your current vehicle to be able to afford this new Nissan Titan Crew? Are you on the market for a new vehicle? Whatever your reasons to look at this great truck, once you've read this review, you may not hesitate to purchase one. I have long been a fan of the Nissan vehicles. Part of my loyalty to this brand comes from my childhood years. The Datsun brand was folded into Nissan. And I continue to like Nissan cars. When my wife bought her van a few years ago, I was there to cheer her on. If we could wait a few years, I would be more than willing to put that money toward a this all-new V-8 engine Titan. While we are still satisfied with the performance of our Nissan Quest, we may be asking whether the time to trade it in is just around the corner. So, it did not bother me to go car-testing this past week-end. My eyes converged on gray 2004 Titan parked right in front of the local dealership. After doing the essential walking around and asking a few questions, it was time for my wife, kids and me to explore the secrets of this great piece of moving technology.

What are some of the features that attracted me to this workhorse truck?

Specs and Features: This 4-door 4WD full-size crew cab can seat 6 passengers easily. It can tow 9,400 pounds, way more than most half-ton extended or crew cab can. (The competitors can't stand this heat right here!) It can haul up to 1,850 pounds. this 5-foot, 7-inch truck bed has a to-die-for tie-down system that provides comfort, flexibility as well as convenience in hauling cargo. You don't have to worry about your products, cargo being squeezed to the point of destruction.

This crew cab has an all-new V-8 engine with aluminum cylinder heads and block. Keep in mind that it's a 5.6 liter engine which can produce 305 horsepower and 379 lbs.-ft of torque. The truck sits high above the ground. Take it off-road and you will realize how easy it is on practically all types of terrain. What else does it come equipped with? Its five-speed automatic transmission is geared toward heavy-duty truck use and towing.

Gas-guzzler or what?

One of my main concerns had to do with its fuel economy. It's always the issue with a V-8 engine. I was somewhat relieved to find out that the crew cab does 14 mpg in the city and 18 on the highway. Actually, this is better than I expected for such a powerful truck. Who does not feel concerned by the recent high costs of gas. It's unfortunate that these vehicles are known to be gas-guzzlers. More and more, such vehicle types as the GMC Yukon XL, Yukon XI Denali and Chevrolet Suburban, F 150 are becoming very common on the road. We have to tell the truth about this vehicle here.

All throughout my testing, what I enjoyed the most was the smoothness and acceleration of the truck. The handling and performance were what I expected. As I am keen on safety features, I quickly checked them out in the booklet. The list of safety features is pretty long. It has front seat side-impact and curtain supplemental airbags with adjustable upper anchors. My wife quickly pointed to the LATCH child seat anchor system. My kids were kept busy by the movie they wanted to watch on the DVD Mobile Theatre System with fold-down 7-inch monitor and 350-watt 10-speaker Rockford Fosgage-powered sound system.

What else should be noted in the truck?

Remote keyless entry, remote down windows, tilt steering column, speed-sensitive wipers, front captain chair, six cup holders and bottle holders.

It's a great truck that you'll be proud to show to your friends. ----------------------------------------- is where you can read my journal or weblog updated daily!

Posted by Fashionista Shopping Analyst at 11:09 PM PST
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Costco Tire Center
Topic: Hot Car & Autorecalls

I had been shopping around for a new car. I thought it would be a good idea to check the Costco Auto program. My wife concurred. After all, her sister and in-laws, their friends and she have been members of this organization for a very long time. Why not trust a firm that makes shopping so easy for one's family? We do receive the Costco Auto magazine every month. We keep looking for the best deals we can find. After various contacts with the local dealerships, we decided to compare their offerings with the price offered by the Costco program. In the meantime, we continued to do our homework. That's a recommendation that nobody should take lightly. We found out that the Costco price is summarized as the dealer invoice plus $500. Now, if you are dealing with a crooked dealer, you may expect some other fees. We were interested in a 2004 Nissan Maxima SE. After using the Nissan Quest without any problems, we became stuck on the brand. Why not buy another Nissan after all? However, even with the Costco's reputation of valuing its customers, a shopper should always be on his/her guard. The following is my experience with the Costco Auto shop and tire and service department.

After deciding to postpone the purchase of the car, we decided to change all four tires on the Honda. The store was running a deal on the Michelin, BF Goodrich and Bridgestone tires. We bought the 4 new tires for close to $400.00, signed the papers, turned in our keys and waited about 3 hours before returning to the store to pick up the car. As we were leaving the car, there were no mentions of dings, scratches and dents on the car. In fact, we left the car with any of the dents and scratches we later found. Beware of the following: Whether you agree there are dents on your car or not, you'd have to agree with their observation to start with. When and if they do it in your absence, that's like a shot in the back. Costco is more interested in covering their back than providing you with satisfaction and customer care. That I'll find out later.

Before going back to the Costco Tire section, we called them to make sure that the installation was complete. We were thinking that a two-hour timeframe was enough time for them to mount the tire. We were wrong. It was a Saturday after a major holiday. Every Costco member showed up to get their work done. We had to wait 1 more hour. When it was time to retrieve the car, my wife dropped me off. I waited a few minutes before the employee could print the paperwork and hand me my keys. While I was talking to him, my wife waited for me by my Honda. That's when she discovered the fresh dents, scratches and dings on the rear of the car. I informed the employee of my wife's findings. He accompanied me to the parking lot where the car was parked. My wife, the employee and I noticed that the car was not properly parked (meaning between the lot). The employee who completed the installation of the tires did not park the car properly. That opened the door to anybody who wanted to park close to my car to put the dents, dings and scratches there. Bear in my mind up to this point, Costco was supposed to be responsible for my car. For up to 4 hours, they were in complete possession of the vehicle!

Costco is not willing to take responsibility for the damage What can a small guy do to a giant we can't live without?

The Costco clerk asked me whether I wanted to file a claim. I followed him to the Tire section. He asked me for a copy of my receipt which did not have any mentions of dents, scratches and dings. He disappeared for what seemed to be a good 15 minutes to make copies of my receipt. When he came back, I noticed the presence of dents, dings and scratches on the form. The words must have been typewritten because some of the letters were on top of the remark words in the pre-existing empty box. When the clerk finally said that these dings were observed by the tire-mounting employee, I said I did not believe him. I expressed to him my dissatisfaction. I bid him farewell knowing that he did his best to protect his company. After all, the damage was caused during his shift. By the time I made it back to my car, my wife had already gone home to get our camera. She took some shots of the car in the position it was parked by the Costco employee.

The clerk gave me a claim form to fill out. When I was close to completing it, he realized it was the wrong form. He apologized and gave me the right one. Here I was filling out a new form. Unwilling to give me the name of the "Costco Wholesale Liability Insurance," he told me somebody would call me. An employee from the insurance company did give me a call and left me this 1-800-409-1099 ext. 15 . After a few days later, I called Josh Judge back at the same number. He was all defensive. He was covering the back of his company. He wanted to have proof. I could either e-mail him some pictures or send him the film pics via snail mail. Once the pictures were developed, we mailed them to him. In the meantime, we were communicating via e-mail. For a few weeks, I did not hear anything from Josh Judge. So I sent an e-mail to to find out what was up. In case I was not available, I gave him my wife's number. For a number of days, neither my wife nor I heard from him. I told my wife to call him. All I wanted was for them to accept responsibility for the damage their employee caused to my car. They could pay to have it painted!

Costco only cares about its own profits, sends customers to hell! It offers customer service to get into our pockets

The company's reps will chase you around to get you to sign up with them. They'll give you incentives until they get you. Once that happens, they forget about you. If you think I didn't like the company all along, please read my other review. The company's practices tend to wake us up, consumers. How many of us are in the same situation? Yes, you can return any merchandise with no hassle. You can shop as much as you can pay. But the way its reps are treating the small guys likes us, consumers is not right.

Josh Judge examined the pictures and called my wife. "I will not pay you anything," he said to her.

The car you buy from them may be damaged during service! You're on your own! At your own RISK!

David went against Goliath. This small fish that I am can't go against Costco! I need help from you, readers and consumers!

Let's band together, Costco consumers, so that arrogance does not triumph. Let's get together to make Costco do the right thing! Paying for my car to get a fresh layer of paint would not put a dent into their coffers.

Please e-mail or call Josh Judge to help a small guy like me! I only have the morale of my story and my words to correct a wrong.

Just ask me for help the next time you get wronged! I'll be there for you!

Please help, help, help! A Big Fish Wants To Swallow Me! That's a rip-off! ========================================================

PSST! I don't like this specific experience with Costco Tire Center. I do like Costco as a shopping experience.

Posted by Fashionista Shopping Analyst at 11:02 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006 11:04 PM PST
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2005 Toyota Avalon
Topic: Hot Car & Autorecalls

One of the pillars of Toyota's success has been to respond to the needs of the market. When Toyota fans and owners make suggestions in the surveys, Toyota engineers listen and take their advice into the drawing board. Based on the 2004 Toyota Avalon, one could say that one of the company's flagship cars needed some redesigning touches. That's what you are going to find in the 2005 Toyota Avalon.

2005 Toyota Avalon is a great car to drive

I spent about 3 hours with a Toyota Avalon, the Touring model a few days. The following review is the fruit of my observation. What I found out was a four-door sedan that will turn heads on the freeway. Here's a list of things you should remember when you venture out into this car lot to take a spin:

1. The 2005 Toyota Avalon is very powerful: Toyota has greatly improved the sedan's engine. Instead of equipping it with a Camry engine, the new Avalon spots a brand new 3.5-liter V-6 engine which is actually used in the latest Toyota 4Runner SUV, Tacoma and Tundra pickups. On the highway, I had a quick response. It sounded like a car that young car enthusiasts (guys who like to tweak their car) would want to drive and cruise in. There's no doubt that it will appeal greatly to the leading young professionals and even the younger crowd.

2. The 2005 Avalon is sportier: It has the first dual-exhaust system on any U.S. Toyota sedan. Well, let's just clarify for our readers that there's one pipe that runs back most of the way. Then, it splits into two pipes close to the rear of the car, giving you the impression that it is a dual pipe. Gee, how many people will take the time to look under the car? Toyota will get away with this with many consumers. No wonder that the car comes in four models. It has the Touring model, XL, XLS and Limited. The Touring model is step up the base model. That's why we said earlier that most young guys and gals will be attracted to the sportier models.

The Touring model has fake aluminum instead of fake wood trim inside. It has fake texture too. If you want to spend on a model with lots of bells and whistles, you may want to consider the Limited. It's very elegant and fancy. It is a luxury car with perforated leather upholstery and seat-ventilation fans. It comes with a smart key that lets you unlock and start the car if you are carrying the key fob. In terms of security, you will be able to rest in peace. Considering that thieves usually target Toyotas, this one will be a definite no-touch car. The thieves will have to pass on this one.

2005 Avalon: Bigger, bolder and longer There's no doubt that you will first notice the length of the Avalon. The 2005 sedan is 5 inches longer than the 2004 it replaces. Some industry insiders and car fans are taking to calling the ordinary person's limo. It offers 41 inches of rear legroom. That's enough legroom to accommodate any 6 or 7 footer. If you take into account what most mid-size sedans are giving out, 36 to 38 inches, you'll soon realize that the 2005 Avalon is in a league of its own. Small cars like the Civic offer 32 inches. Talking about space, you can slide the front seats of the Avalon all the way back. You won't have to feel sorry for the passengers sitting right behind you. Toyota has done a good job of starting with larger foundation on which to put the latest Avalon. It offers lots of interior space.

Other details to keep in mind:

The Touring model starts at $29,140. The Limited starts at $34,080. In terms of safety, it has bags and bets, front-seat, side-impact bags; side-curtain air bags for front and back seats; driver's knee air bag; anti-lock brakes with brake-force distribution. This Avalon was manufactured at Georgetown, Ky.


Here are two sources that are worth mentioning below:

To get more info, visit You don't have to take my words for it. Toyota is the source and ultimate authority in terms of information on all its vehicles.

Posted by Fashionista Shopping Analyst at 10:54 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006 10:56 PM PST
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Catamaran Resort Hotel
Topic: Immigration/Travel Issues

If you are looking for a convenient location to vacation with your family in San Diego, CA, Catamaran Resort Hotel may be the place for you. The following review consists of my observations of the amenities I like during my recent spring break.

For less than $1000, you can spend up to three days in San Diego, visit major tourist centers, parks, and stroll on the beach and bay. That's what I found out when I decided to take my wife and kids to the Catamaran Resort Hotel. After checking out its amenities on the web (, we decided to reserve a non-smoking suite. We took that route because we did not want to compete with the large crowds of spring breakers and international tourists who descend on the premises of this hotel almost every year. Thanks to its many years in the hotel business, this resort is known and popular with people from almost all over the world.

We were not disappointed too much when we got to the hotel. The first thing you will notice at the entrance of the hotel is the natural ecology. The hotel's landscaping is inviting and made more attractive with the variety of mature palm trees that dot every corner. Among some of the major plants, my wife and kids were attracted to the varieties of birds of paradise. Right at the entrance, you will find all these miniature palms that you would wish to have at your own house. In fact, this trip was also part of our research because we were going to have that tropical theme in the landscaping of our house. Then, you will notice the huge fountain that is right by the front desk area. If you park in the front, the hotel's concierges will want to park it for you for some fees. If you don't want, they may ask you to park in a farther area and return to the front desk area. Open your eyes, stand up and tell them you don't want to budge. You can tell them that you are parking there for a few seconds to take care of some matters with the front desk.

If your kids like birds, they will find some parrots right outside the front desk area. Then, they will find lots of ducks that make the shady grounds of the hotel their home. Most kids will feel tempted to go to them and chase them. Tell them not to do so. If the hotel employees see them, they'll ask them to stop and give them some lessons on animal habitat. "Please stop chasing the ducks. This is their home. How would you like to be chased out of your home?" they'll say to the kids.

Once you have taken care of your hotel issues, gotten the key and signed some paperwork, you are on your way to your hotel room. It could be located in these one-story or two-story buildings located close to the skycraper. We were on the 6th floor. We had the view of the bay. The ocean is at walking distance from the hotel. Parking is hard to find at the beach. So it's better for you to park at the hotel and just walk to the beach. Parking is great. The hotel has a three-story parking building which can fit most vehicles. Be careful when you exit the hotel. Oncoming vehicles come very fast. Bushes and trees may prevent you from seeing each one of them.

Since we were hungry when we got to the hotel, we decided to have our lunch be home-delivered from the Atoll which is located right at the hotel. Just tell them to add it to your card if you don't want to bother. Depending on what you order, you should get your foods within 1 hour or so. The wheat bread burger that I received was the best burger I had ever eaten. My wife and kids concurred. We all stepped outside to eat while facing the bay. We were already looking at our schedule. That night, we were going to go on a cruise to another hotel by taking the Bahia Belle.

The first afternoon, we decided to take the kids to Balboa and Belmont Parks. Which kids don't like rides? They got to ride the Big Dipper at Belmont Park. It was a crowded area when we got there by 3 PM. All the bikers and spring breakers were showing their stuff on the beach. It was truly a rite of passage for many young men and women. They were free to do as they saw fit. Nobody to worry about. Mom and pop were not there to tell them anything. Balboa park has all these museums and huge buildings with a pristine landscape. On the premises of this park, you'll find a fountain which the kids will love. There's also a tropical nursery which attracts many tourists.

As in our case, we decided to go to Sea World the second day of our trip. (More reviews will come on this one.) The third day, we decided to go to Wild Animal Park which is located at about 45-50 minutes away from the park. Don't worry. The hotel will give you directions to most attraction sites.

During our stay, we witnessed two weddings. While we were eating dinner outside at the Atoll by the bay, we saw the weddings being performed. The hotel can accommodate such events right on the wide open space near the sandy beach.

We had a blast. We would like to go back to the hotel next time. Maybe we will choose a different location to vacation.

Posted by Fashionista Shopping Analyst at 10:50 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006 10:57 PM PST
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