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If you don't know a lot about working on cars, it can feel overwhelming or confusing whenever it is time to take your vehicle in for repairs or maintenance.  There is a constant fear of not knowing if you are being ripped off in regards to price, whether or not certain work really needs to be done, and if they are caring for your property in a way you would like it to be treated.

Luckily, you don't have to be some ASE certified master technician to communicate effectively with your mechanic.  Instead, you just need to know a few simple tricks that help you understand your car, and convey the information you have effectively.  This will make your life less stressful, your mechanic's job much easier, and, hopefully, your wallet a bit more padded.

Make Sure "Your Guy" Checks Out

Lots of people have this stigma in their head that all mechanics are evil and crooked and out to steal your cash.  This really isn't true, and it perfectly describes a situation where a few bad apples spoil the bunch.  Check out Yelp and similar review websites where you can examine the ratings and comments from people in your area.

If you aren't going to a good mechanic, none of these tips will be of much use to you, so this first step is vital.  Don't just go down to "the place on 7th street" because some dude in a bar mentioned his cousin once took a car there.  Do your research, or else pay the price for laziness.

Learn to Troubleshoot

If you are noticing a weird sound or are experiencing a problem, but don't know anything about cars, there is still a LOT that you can do to help your mechanic diagnose the problem.  Why is this good for you?  Because every hour of shop labor dedicated to tracking down your issue is going to cost.  Keep in mind that many places will charge more than $100 per hour of labor.  This means it is definitely in your best interest to learn how to troubleshoot.

If you are hearing a noise, investigate it.  I'm not asking you to break out a toolbox.  Instead, break out a piece of paper and make up a "fact sheet".  Just write up some bullet points of what you have witnessed first hand.  Some questions you might answer include:

Does the noise get louder as you drive faster?

Do you hear the sound at idle in "Park" or only when in gear?

What part of the car is it coming from?  (under the hood, rear wheels, driver or passenger side, etc.)

Does it occur ONLY when the vehicle is doing a certain function (air conditioning on, while braking, while in reverse, etc.)

What kind of sound is it?  (clunking, squealing, clicking, etc.)

The absolute worst thing you can do as a customer is simply bring in the car and say "it makes a noise."  This information is useless to mechanics, so take some initiative, turn off the radio, and try and learn something.

Again, I'm not suggesting that you suddenly become some experienced Ferrari technician overnight.  But try and be helpful.  If you say "it makes a noise" there are 1000+ different potential problems that could be causing it.  If you learned for yourself that "it makes a screeching noise while braking" you just narrowed down the potential issues from 1000 to less than half a dozen.

Use the Magic of Google to Research Prices

Go back in time 30 years, and it was pretty hard to tell if you were getting a good deal on automotive work or not.  Nowadays with the internet, there is absolutely no reason that you should be confused as to what a repair will cost you, assuming you know the issue beforehand.

You can go to websites for any of the major parts stores (NAPA, AutoZone, Advance Auto Parts, O'Reilly, etc.) and find out what different parts cost for your specific vehicle.  In most repair instances, the parts are the cheapest thing you will buy, and shop labor rates are what will really get you, but still, this can give you an idea of what you're in for.

If you have an older car that has been out a few years, you might try Googling something along the lines of "[make] [model] [needed repair] replacement cost".  Often times individual car models will have online forums dedicated to them, and you will find past discussion threads about the prices of particular repairs, which will give you a decent idea of price.  Obviously this will differ depending on what part of the country you live in, so you can never expect this type of research to be spot-on.  However, you should have some semblance of a price.

Request a Quote

If a mechanic isn't willing to give you a quote on what a repair will cost, I would be very skeptical of them.

Don't get me wrong, I generally trust these people, and understand why some can be hesitant to answer the dreaded "what will this cost?" question.  I'm sure that day-in and day-out, for years on end, they deal with people holding them too exact price-quotes, and then throwing a fit when a $7 rubber hose also needed to be replaced.

However, despite all of this, I still do not believe in leaving your vehicle somewhere for a repair you don't know the cost of, at least until you have formed a relationship with the mechanic and know that they are fair.

Usually I will say something along the lines of "Can I get a price quote for [necessary repair].  I know little things can change you can't give an exact quote, but can you give me a rough estimate of the cost?"  This is a perfectly reasonable question to ask, and anyone not willing to help you answer it is probably not the type of person you want to hand over your money and your prized possession to.

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29 May 2015

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29 May 2015
Gasp! Using social media in the classroom has long been thought of as taboo. It opens up an extra door of communication and window into teachers and students personal lives. Having a Facebook connection with students has been strongly discouraged by school boards, principals and teachers a like BUT times have changed. Facebook is the number 1 social media tool and kids ages 13-18 are spending on average 6 hours a week on Facebook and that number is growing at a rapid rate. Facebook is where students are and just like in the actual classroom the tone, feel and vibe of the student teacher relationship is set by, you, the teacher.

Just to clarify I am not suggesting that teachers and students "friend" each other. As the teacher you should keep your personal Facebook page private and even consider bumping up the security on your personal Facebook page since you are about to make yourself more accessible to the students online. I am talking about creating a 'Fan Page' for your classroom and here is why:

1. To keep school and education top of mind for students, even in off hours.

Students ages 13-18 are accessing Facebook at an steadily increasing rate. If students

are on Facebook at least 6 hours a month, why wouldn't teachers try to occupy some of that time. Posts, updates, classroom photos, contests, extra credit. The possibilities are endless and need to be taken advantage off.

2. To offer:

extra credit, contests, updates, requirements, due dates, homework, upcoming classroom events...just to name a few of things you can post to keep students engaged.

3. Show students one way Facebook can be used aside from socializing with friends.

Every business is on Facebook because that is where people are. Getting students familiar with the idea that Facebook can be a tool and to show them how to effectively use Facebook outside of the normal socializing setting.

4. Show students how to act responsible while online.

There are ever increasing stories about employees getting fired or never hired in the first place because of things they have posted on their Facebook. Social media is allowing us have further reaching connections but that also means we are putting our personal lives out on display. Employers looking at resumes have looked up potential employees on Facebook. It is important especially as students get older and start entering the work force that they know how to secure their private page or at least act responibly online. Take this Facebook Classroom as an opportunity to show students what an authentic but still professional Facebook relationship looks like.

5. Inspire students (current and past).

This one is simple instead of even friending students after they have left your classroom or the education system create a separate fan page for that and post things that will continue to inspire students beyond a high-school education.Students will have hundreds of tidbits pop up on their Newsfeed every day. If just one of your inspirational or positive messages reminds them of the focus and drive it takes to succeed then its all worth it.

6. Parent participation.

A Facebook Classroom would open the classroom to parents too. For parents that want to stay involved they would also have the option to 'Like' your Page and then your updates would pop on their news-feed too. So when you post something like 'Don't forget to get your permission slip for the Zoo field-trip signed and turned in by Thursday' that won't only remind the students but also some of the parents.

The Taboo of social media and the teacher student relationship is heading quickly out the door. Facebook is only 6 years old and I don't think we have begun to see how integrated Facebook will become. The generation that adapted to Facebook in college has graduated, is getting married and having kids. Facebook will only continue to grow as this generation grows and a Facebook Classroom will help you as a teacher to stay connected and on the cutting edge of education and social media as a tool.

If you want more information on exactly how to set up and Facebook Classroom page just leave a comment.

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29 May 2015
A painting by the iconic abstract artist sold for a record $179,365,000 at an auction Monday in New York, a Christie's spokesperson said.

The 1955 canvas, "Les femmes d'Alger (Version "O")," sets a new bar for the contemporary art market. Previously, the most expensive art work sold at auction was Francis Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucian Freud," which went for $142 million in 2013.

Christie's, the auction house that handled the sale, had expected the Picasso to fetch $140 million.

The seller, who bought the painting privately for an undisclosed amount, remains anonymous. The painting was last sold at auction for $31.9 million in 1997.

Related: The art market is 'shady,' says Dr. Doom

Picasso's most famous works are in high demand and few remain in private hands. In 2013, billionaire hedge fund manager Steven Cohen bought Picasso's "Le Reve" from hotel magnate Steve Wynn for $155 million in a private sale.


The Picasso is the centerpiece of a blockbuster sale of contemporary art on Monday and Wednesday. All told, up to $2.5 billion worth of art is expected to be sold, according to Philip Hoffman, chief executive of the Fine Art Fund Group, a global art investment house.

Related: Wealthy investors flock to art market funds

"Les Femmes d'Alger," which translates to "The Women of Algiers," is considered a masterpiece of contemporary art. It features nude courtesans, a common theme for Picasso, and is painted in his signature cubist style.

Picasso, who died in 1973, painted it as an homage to his friend and rival, Henri Matisse, the famous French impressionist.

Related: Investors spend millions at London art fair

Related: Is there a bubble in the art market?

Related: Gallery to showcase art from UK's most violent prisoner

CNNMoney (New York) May 11, 2015: 11:04 PM ET

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29 May 2015


with a Twist®, the largest paint-and-sip franchise in the U.S., this

week reached the milestone of hosting 2 million customers. Combined,

this equates to guests sipping on at least 400,000 bottles of wine

during classes, and their paintings covering nearly 100 football fields.

Painting with a Twist has reached this landmark in only five years,

averaging about 19,000 customers each week in that span. Currently,

Painting with a Twist boasts more than 150 franchises in 25 states and

is the largest and fastest-growing paint-and-sip franchise in the

country. The brand has experienced 23 percent same-studio sales growth

year-over-year and plans to open 100 new studios in the next year.

"This is a really exciting time in our company's history - we are

expanding across the country, entering new markets and painting with 2

million guests," said Painting with a Twist Co-Founder Cathy Deano.

"When we started franchising in 2009, we had no idea that we would

become the 'new night out,' for people everywhere. We are proud to share

this milestone and our successes with our dedicated franchisees, their

creative and hardworking artist instructors and of course with our loyal


At Painting with a Twist, guests come together to experience a unique

'getaway' that includes friends, paint and the option to BYOB. Led by

local art instructors, guests paint on bare 16" by 20" canvases using

paint and brushes provided by the studio. There are more than 4,000

original pieces of copyrighted artwork, ranging from landscapes,

abstracts and cityscapes, to creative renderings of animals, iconic

buildings and florals, which have all been conceptualized and produced

by Painting with a Twist art instructors.

To learn more about Painting with a Twist, visit:

About Painting with a Twist®

Painting with a Twist, based in Mandeville, Louisiana is the leading

paint-and-sip franchise with more than 150 franchises in 25 states.

Founded in 2007 by Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney, Painting with a Twist

began franchising in 2009 and provides customers with paint, a canvas

and brushes that lead to a fun evening with friends and a finished piece

of art. The company maintains a strong focus on giving back to the local

community, and by the end of 2014, Painting with a Twist will have

donated more than $1 million through their charity arm, Painting with a

Purpose. As the fastest-growing franchise in the industry, Painting with

a Twist was ranked the top Paint and Sip franchise as part of the 2014 Entrepreneur

magazine annual Franchise 500 edition. For more information

about Painting with a Twist's franchise opportunity, visit

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28 May 2015

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