Sunday, September 30, 2012

car or no car?

Let's look at the trips that I've taken this year.  Through the end of September I have used my car ~60 days, of which I really *needed* to drive ~20.

Days where a car was legitimately useful: ~20
5 days during ski season for night skiing after work
3 days during ski season for going skiing on non-work days
9 days due to friends in town
3 trip to some place in the boonies
1 trip for buying large items

Days of low value car trips: ~35
20 days for the sake of moving the car or fixing the car (no car, no need to do this)
5 days due to being nice and volunteering to drive (no car, can't)
3 days due to long work days (bus, or just leave!)
2 days due to picking up friends from the airpor (light rail)
1 days due to laziness
1 day due to being sick
1 day due to other reasons1 days to pick up free stuff

Now let's look at how much these trips cost me.  Looking at my costs so far this year, I project owning a car costs me about $1600/year
$120/year registration fees
$360/year insurance
~$160/year in tolls for gratuitously moving my car to/from work
~$130/year in parking tickets (for when I forget to move the car...  still cheaper than $1200/year for a spot in my building's garage)
~$300/year in maintenance
~$500/year in gas

By owning my own car, I have some flexibility to use my car whenever I want (assuming my car is in the right place), but I also need to do a large number of trips just for the sake of keeping my car functioning and avoiding parking tickets.  Owning a car costs me about $1600 a year.  Using a Zip car would cost me about the same amount of money.

Since costs are comparable, it comes down to ease.

Doing the Zip car would mean I would need to reserve a car in advance. I wonder how that would work for ski trips. It would probably be a bit more annoying when skiing, but not too much worse considering how nowadays I need to make sure my car isn't in the garage at work.  Perhaps it might even be easier!

On the flip side, I'll make less unnecessary trips, which means less time in traffic and more reading/sleeping.  It also means I don't have to worry about doing maintenance on my car, which would free up a few days on my weekends each year.  I think this balances out the days where I could have used to car for an easier commute for those long days in the office.

Overall, it's a wash.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


My philosophy on tipping...  excerpted from some comments made on Facebook.

General tipping policy:
Great service: 20-30% (fuzzy math)
Decent service: 20%
Passable service: 15-18%

Bad service: 5-10%
Criminally bad service: 0% or less (this has happened twice - once at Hard Rock Hollywood, FL; again at El Gaucho in Bellevue)

Bonus points if I was a pain in the butt or if the items on the bill are really cheap. Servers at cheap restaurants work just as hard as those in fancier places but get the shaft from this deal. Additional bonus if I'm a regular (generally repaid in the occasional free beer).

In response to the policy of tipping more at fancy places:
Servers at nice places already get the bonus built in because the food is expensive. There is no way the guy who brings out a $30 plate should deserves $5 tip while the guy who serves me a $6 dish deserves $1. They probably both deserve about $2.

El Gaucho earned $0 because she never got me my drink (among other reasons). After watching the bartender fill the drink order, I watched my drink wait at the bar for 5 minutes. Then I walked over, asked if it was for my table (it was), and picked it up myself.

Additional clarifications - defining "criminally bad" and some more tipping philosophy
I give people the benefit of the doubt. Criminally bad is when it's clear that the bad service is from willful incompetence, not accidental incompetence. Like manslaughter vs. murder. "Manslaughter" would get a 5-10% tip, murder gets nothing.

Somehow, this also helps even out income for good servers. A good server who's overwhelmed on a busy shift would commit "manslaughter", but still be compensated for suffering through the hellish shift because of the volume. A good server could also have an OK night when it's slow by delivering excellent service to fewer people. A server who doesn't do the basics like take and deliver orders (e.g. El Gaucho server) should not be a server and shouldn't be encouraged to continue in the trade.

Yes, I've thought about this a bit. (-:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

fantasy 2012

Yellow Bellies Starting Lineup:
QB: Cam Newton (1)
RB: Michael Turner (4)
RB: Rashad Jennings (11)
WR: Percy Harvin (3)
WR: Miles Austin (6)
TE: Rob Gronkowski* (2)

K: Stephen Gostokowski (10)

DEF: SF (7)

Matt Schaub (9)
BenJarvus Green-Ellis* (5)
Lance Moore (13)
Justin Blackmon (8)
Doug Baldwin* (14)
Brent Celek (12)

*From Yellow Bellies 2011
(round drafted)

Saturday, August 04, 2012


After driving around quite a bit the last few weeks, I noticed some things with my car the warranted an inspection.  Notably, I heard some occasional squealing from the right side when braking and the occasional knock on rough roads coming from the suspension.

What I expected to discover:
I expected to find one of my rear calipers frozen and dead.  It's happened before.
I also expected to find some worn out bushing on the suspension on one of the wheels

What I actually discovered:
The rear brakes were functional and were wearing quite evenly.  Sweet.
The rear right rotor was warped by about 0.7mm.  The rotor has 90k miles on it, so I guess that's OK.  Nothing urgent.
One of the bushings on the rear left is cracked, but since I drive 3k miles a year, I don't really care (yet).
The rear left upper arm's seal is cracked. Since I don't drive much, I'll just wait for it to crack before replacing it.  I last replaced this 56k miles ago in 2006.  Lifetime warranty from AutoZone.
The front right brake was wearing uneven, but due to a misaligned shim that was getting in the way.  The caliper was still functioning smoothly.  Yay!
The front left caliper was a little stiff due to corrosion of the bolt.  Looks like it's time for the caliper bracket to be replaced.  I believe this is one of the few original brake parts still on the car.  206k miles, and it's due for a $40 replacement part.
The front right drive shaft bearing seal has started leaking gunk all over the place and needs to be replaced soon.  This was last replaced 26k miles ago and replacing it was a pain in the ass.

I expected to have to do quite a bit of work on the brake calipers, but it ended up being an easy job of just replacing the pads, at least for today.  I have a few other things to queue up for another weekend:
  1. *Regularly scheduled oil change
  2. Regularly scheduled coolant change and radiator cap
  3. *Front left caliper bracket
  4. *Front right driveshaft
  5. *Return front calipers
  6. Regularly scheduled brake fluid flush (although technically, it's scheduled for next year based on mileage)
*Things to do at the store.  Yes, this blog sometimes doubles as a shopping list.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

browsing a-z

The crystal ball of autocomplete tells all...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

i remember when gmail was good

Google made themselves famous by being great at search and creating fast spartan interfaces that get the job done quickly.  How much that last statement sounds true to you probably depends on how old you are, but those are some of the reasons I've been a loyal Gmail user since way way waaaaaaay back when the service first launched.

If you can't tell from the heading, my opinion has changed.  I'm now constantly having "WTF moments."  Generally it's been the fact that Gmail is now ridiculously slow.  Back when I was accessing e-mail with a dial up 14.4kbps modem (I don't think there was Internet e-mail till then), I'd recall having to wait for e-mails to load and send, but that seems fast to Gmail today.  I often find myself counting 1... 2... 3... 4... 5... 6... 7... as I wait for messages to load, returning to my inbox, and sending messages.  I'm pretty sure dial up was faster.  Plus with dialup I could see progress as each 8-bit character was received and displayed on my screen.  Now I only get to see Gmail claim to send my message "in the background" as I attempt to do something else in the foreground (it never works).

Anyway...  I'm rambling.  I'm really here to walk through my most recent shitty Gmail experience.  I wanted to check when my parents are coming to visit and what times their flights were.  Here goes:

  1. Search Gmail for "betsy seattle"
    Makes sense.  A full page of results, but mostly chatter about other topics.  The most recent travel itineraries are a series of trips I took to Cleveland in the summer of 2011.  FAIL.
  2. Look in my "Mom" folder
    I know Gmail search sucks, so I abandon it hoping I can find it through my labels/folders.  I go look.  There is too much stuff in here for me to find. FAIL.
  3. Search "seattle" in my "Mom" folder
    I see many itineraries for trips I have taken in the past to visit my parents.  I do not see the one I am looking for.
  4. Search "july" in my "Mom" folder
    I get two conversations.  Neither is what I am looking for. FAIL.
  5. Go to Outlook and hope that I left myself some clues in my calendar
    This should be a sign of failure since if I had this info I wouldn't be doing the search in the first place.  Somehow I see that I marked the arriving flight as flight 5451.  I didn't note down their departing flight, however, so I still needed to find the itinerary.  I didn't note the airline, which doesn't help.
  6. Search "5451"
    If I search the exact flight number, I should get the itinerary, right?  WRONG.  Zero results. FAIL.
  7. Search "5451" in all mail items including deleted mail
    In case I deleted it.  Nothing.  FAIL.
  8. Guess they are flying United.  Search "united cleveland"
    This should got get me anything special.  However, I see a bunch of new items.  I open one and see a flight to Seattle.  I think I have a winner!  Wait...  that's one for me flying back to Seattle, not my parents.  I keep looking down the list and see an e-mail from my dad about a schedule change. I open it.  I WIN! Here's a few things the e-mail contained:
    • Forwarded by my dad to my mom, Betsy, using her Gmail address.  She is in my address book under her name.
    • Contains the string "Seattle/Tacoma" twice.  Basically, my first search should have worked, although you could argue that you shouldn't expect a very shitty search engine to find "Seattle" in "Seattle/Tacoma" or "betsy" in her e-mail address that contains that string.  If you think this is what to expect from Google, then you're saying that Google is a very shitty search engine.  It really makes me wonder.
    • Has dates in the ddMMM YYYY format (e.g., 09JUN 1969).  I wouldn't expect a mediocre search engine to find july.  I expect a good search engine to.  I think we've already found that Gmail's search is shit.
    • Contains the string "5451".  I expect even a shitty search engine to find "5451" when my query is "5451".  WTF is wrong with you, Google?  At this point you don't even make it to the "shitty search engine" standard.
    • Contains "Cleveland" three times
    • Contains "United" 13 times
Next time, I'll remember that if I want to find something in Gmail, instead of searching for unique terms, I should search for really common terms that I expect to find multiple times and then manually go through many many emails to find what I am looking for.

Note that all this is happening with an inbox that is 9% full with 9,797 messages.  It's not as if I'm challenging Gmail to search through an insane number of messages.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

bike to do list update

An update on the "to do" list that I posted last August:

  • Bike to/from work
  • Bike to the beach (Discovery Park)
  • Bike to a hike (Discovery Park)
  • Bike camping (Lopez Island)
  • Take a ferry (to the San Juans)
  • Bike to a gas station (Chevron at NE 65th St and 35th Ave NE)
  • Bike to Vancouver
  • Bike across the border (Canada)
  • Bike to the duty free store
  • Carry some beer across town to a party
  • Carry some dim sum across town for a party
  • Bike to dim sum
  • Bike through an airport (Renton)
  • Bike to catch a flight (Seatac to JFK)
  • Bike to Sears (Overlake)
  • Bike on a highway (Barnet Hwy in Burnaby, BC)
  • Bike across a floating bridge (I-90)
  • Bike across an extradosed bridge (Golden Ear Bridge)
  • Bike 116 miles in a day (RSVP Day 1)
  • Bike the North Interurban Trail
  • Bike the South Interurban Trail
  • Bike all of the Burke Gilman Trail
  • Bike the Sammamish River Trail
  • Bike around Lake Sammamish
  • Bike through Duvall and Carnation
  • Bike to Fu Man Dumpling House (I think I did this...  I've definitely biked around there)
  • Get some fried chicken on the way home from work (I now do this regularly)
  • Cedar River Trail (meh)
  • Bike across a suspension bridge (Tacoma Narrows Bridge)
  • Go over 50mph (50.2 mph)
  • Bike the western side of the Puget Sound (RAPsody?)

To do:
  • Bike to a "real" hike (planned Mt. Si hike on June 30)
  • Bike to Mount Si (planned Mt. Si hike on June 30)
  • Bike to hike Mount Si (planned Mt. Si hike on June 30)
  • Bike across the Lions Gate Bridge (planned for August)
  • Bike to bike camping (planned for August 11)
  • Bike to an auto parts store
  • Bike to Target
  • Bike to dump off antifreeze at the hazardous waste site
  • Bike while carrying all my ski gear
  • Bike to go skiing???
  • Green River Trail
  • Sound to Mountains trail
  • Bike to hike Mount Pilchuck (or something else along that highway)
  • Bike to West Seattle
  • Do the Chilly Hilly
  • Bike across the Cascades

Friday, April 06, 2012

compared to the average american

Sorry my chart doesn't follow the same format. I made mine first.

(source: NPR)

Given that the typical American saves next to nothing, that isn't really a fair comparison. All my figures "should" be doubled - "should" being in quotes because they really shouldn't be doubled except for comparison purposes.

Proportionally, I spend about the same as the typical American on housing and food - the two biggest items.

The biggest differences:
  • Education (+29pt): I spend about 10x on education (32%, although averaged out throughout my life, it's probably not so bad.
  • Travel (+10pt): I spent 10% on travel. It looks like typical people don't travel at all?
  • Entertainment (+2pt): The big difference is that my main entertainment cost is skiing, whereas most people enjoy movies, TV, etc.
  • Transportation (-8pt): The typical American spent 14% on transport. I spent 6%. Breaking that down further, my car expenses were 4%, compared to 12.6% for the typical American. That's a pretty huge difference.
  • Healthcare (-6pt): I had a "Cadillac" health insurance plan so I basically spent zero instead of 6%.
  • Housing (-2pt): Surprisingly, despite living in a city that's believed to have a higher cost of living, my housing costs aren't too crazy.
  • Utilities (-1pt): Yay for low electricity rates in Seattle!~
  • Other (-16pt): For some reason this data only sums up to 84%. Where the other 16% goes? I have no idea.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

spending habits

Thursday, March 22, 2012

bike wish list

I'm kind of sort of looking to replace my Giant OCR1. Why? Because it has a carbon fork.

Here are my favored frames: Soma Smoothie, Bianchi Volpe, and maybe something by Gunnar or Serotta if something pops up. I do love my Surly Cross-Check, but I'm also looking to save a pound if I can do it for free.

The rest would be my now standard setup:
Standard Crank (53/39)
Shimano XTR RD-M750 SGS rear derailleur
11-34 rear cassette
700x25/28/32 tires depending if it's my wet or dry bike

Thursday, March 01, 2012

wolfie says hi

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

letter to the senator


Thanks for the canned response. Let me reiterate my point. I agree that freight is important and we do need to continue to make investments necessary so we can properly maintain our deteriorating network of roads, bridges, etc. No one wants a repeat of what happened in Minnesota nor do we like interruptions like the South Park Bridge.

But, as I stated in my original correspondence, I am most concerned about the elimination/restructuring of funding for transit. By transit, I mean BUSES, SUBWAYS, etc. It seems like with the current bill we fund roads but forget about how transit makes our road investments more efficient.

Let me illustrate my point with an example that's near and dear to those who make the ~250k trips (WSDOT annual traffic report numbers via across Lake Washington each day. I'm sure you're familiar with the SR-520 floating bridge. It has four lanes and is an essential artery for commuters. During peak times, it serves ~7000 vehicles per hour (2010 data from WSDOT). That's essentially full capacity for the lanes in both directions with each lane carrying 1750 vehicles per hour. Of these 7000 vehicles, there are six 545 buses in each direction carrying about 80-100 people each (yes, I've been counting). That's about 1100 cars/voters off the road because of the 545. Add in the other buses (167, 242, 243, 250, 252, 255, 260, 265, 268, 271, 277, 280, 311, 424, 540, 542, 555, 556, 982, 986) and you have at least another 40 buses (assuming a needlessly conservative one bus an hour at peak) carrying another 600 riders (using another needlessly conservative 15 riders per bus).

All this leads to the conclusion that if we cut back bus funding, as proposed in the transportation bill, we'll need to build another lane of bridge in both directions. It'll likely cost a couple billion dollars (ignoring the fact that we would need the state to purchase addition ROW in uber-wealthy areas by Medina and Montlake). This isn't likely to happen. Rather, it's more likely that both SR-520 and I-90 will be backed up causing both voters and truck drivers alike to become really angry.

Alternatively, YOU, Maria Cantwell, as our elected Senator, could help make sure we continue to get our $324 million in federal transit funding.

By the way, I see you are up for re-election this November. Taking a strong stand on this would mean something to us. Last I checked, there are more regular voters in Washington than people who worked in the freight/shipping industry. I think we all want the same thing, but you could really tailor your message and your proposed solution differently. Less cars on the road mean more space for trucks. We all win.

And for reference, a image that I think makes it seem more real:

A picture says a thousand words. Some of those words might say that for each peak hour 545 taken off the road because of budget cuts, there's an additional 800' of cars parked bumper to bumper on 520 during rush hour (or since the toll started, 800' of cars parked on I-90 surrounding a trapped truck driver wondering if this backup would jeopardize his shipment, his job, and the jobs of thousands of others in the industry trying to compete with the Panama Canal).

Paul Ip

On Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 11:38 AM, <> wrote:

Dear Mr. Ip,

Thank you for contacting me regarding reauthorization of federal surface transportation programs. I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue.

Efficient transportation systems are critically important to Washingtonians. In our state, we need to preserve and renew our existing surface transportation infrastructure, improve freight mobility, increase transit opportunities for commuters statewide, update the nation's largest commuter ferry system, replace bridges that have surpassed their usable lifespan, and make numerous upgrades to enhance safety for motorists. In addition to adding capacity to our road systems, we must enhance the transportation choices for commuters where that is feasible. We must also improve traffic systems using new technologies that help achieve greater efficiency and allow us to yield more capacity from the systems that we already have.

As you may know, Congress reauthorizes federal surface transportation programs every few years. This reauthorization sets funding levels for a variety of surface transportation programs including new highway construction, infrastructure repairs, public transit projects, high-speed passenger rail programs, and many others. The most recent reauthorization, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) was passed in 2005 and expired in September of 2009. However, Congress passed a series of short-term extensions of the reauthorization, with the most recent extension lasting through March 31, 2012. Four Senate committees have been working on new legislation to reauthorize surface transportation programs. The bill is now being considered, with amendments, on the Senate floor. I am hopeful a permanent reauthorization will pass the Senate and will keep your views in mind as the Senate considers the details of the surface transportation reauthorization legislation.

You may also be interested to learn I introduced the FREIGHT Act (S. 371) on February 16, 2011. If enacted, this legislation would establish the nation's first strategic plan for freight and would identify bottlenecks to reduce delays and increase reliability. More than one million jobs in our state are in freight-dependent industries. In 2010, over 533 million tons of freight moved in Washington and by 2040, that number is expected to grow by up to 86 percent. The FREIGHT Act would help Washington state grow its robust trade economy by making investments to modernize and improve the efficiency of Washington's intermodal freight network, which includes ports, freight railways, air cargo infrastructure, highways, and pipelines. It would reduce national freight transportation-related carbon dioxide levels by 40 percent by 2030 and reduce the impact of transportation-related air, water, and noise pollution on the ecosystem and local communities.

In addition, the FREIGHT Act would create a new competitive grant program for freight-specific infrastructure projects, such as port infrastructure improvements, freight rail capacity expansion projects, and highway projects that improve access to freight facilities. A new Office of Freight Planning and Development would be created within the Department of Transportation that would coordinate efforts to improve the efficiency and operation of all modes of the national freight transportation system. On December 14, 2011, the Senate Commerce Committee approved, by a voice vote, an amendment I introduced to include provisions of the FREIGHT Act in surface transportation reauthorization legislation.

Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts. You may also be interested in signing up for periodic updates for Washington State residents. If you are interested in subscribing to this update, please visit my website at Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.

Maria Cantwell
United States Senator

Sunday, February 12, 2012

bike death

Here's a list of various (often popular) bike set ups that I think would cause death. IMHO, there's quite a common tradeoff between weight/efficiency and catastrophic equipment failure that would lead to death.

Carbon fork

Fancy boy cyclist would think: It costs a lot more and saves a WHOLE POUND! Awesome!

I think: Say theoretically I hit a pothole while going down a hill (theoretically Pine St.)... does the carbon fork fail? If it does, the front of the bike crumples and I fly face first into the pavement ahead of me at full speed. If I'm (un)lucky the pointy shards of the carbon fork may impale me on the way down, either taking me out of my misery or adding to it. No thanks, but I do not need nor want your fancy carbon fork. I'll take the cheapo steel fork that would just bend if something terrible like this were to happen.

700c x 23 tyres

Fancy boy cyclist would think: Wow, these skinny tires weight 10g less and have less rolling resistance! I must have these!

I think: Failure scenario 1: 25mm tires can easily be gobbled up by the seams between concrete slabs, like those on the downhill on Pine St or along Airport Way. 700 x 25 tires are already bad enough, but 23mm is even worse. The best case scenario is what happened to my "wide" 25mm on Airport Way and it just damaged my tire. Cost: $24. The more likely scenario is that you get thrown off your bike at full speed, smash into the pavement, and then get run over by the car that was next to you. Ouch! Cost: Way more than $24.

Fixed Gear Bikes

Fancy boy cyclist would think: I am a cool hipster! Look at me and my minimal bike!

I think: You live in Seattle. There are hills. You can't go down hills because you can't pedal fast enough. You can't go up hills because you aren't strong enough. You are an idiot.

Fixed Gear Bikes with No Brakes

Fancy boy cyclist would think: I am a cool hipster! Look at me and my minimal bike!

I think: You live in Seattle. There are hills. You can't go down hills because you can't pedal fast enough. You can't go up hills because you aren't strong enough. Some of these bikes don't have brakes so the only way to stop is to slow down the pedaling and rely on the rear wheel to bring you to a stop. This is like engine braking on trucks or downshifting to slow down in your car. There are two problems here. First, I wonder how easy it is to control the amount of braking this way. Second, under the best of circumstances, braking with only the rear wheel is very ineffective. Just like a car, most of the braking power is applied to the front. The harder you brake, the less weight on the rear wheel. For a hard stop, almost all of the braking is done by the front wheel and the rear wheel may be lifted off the ground. In this setup there is no front. The best bet is to lock up the rear wheel and keep sliding for a very long time. At least you will look like a cool hipster when you are doing it.

Monday, January 23, 2012


This is a work e-mail turned blog post. Why? Because I'm irked.


I just went diving into my Gmail spam folder looking for an email I’ve been expecting. I didn’t find it, but I did find that many of the 60 messages were false positives. Honestly, I’m a little irked.

Definitely not Spam (10 of 60)

2 were from a chatty political org where I do read and respond to maybe 10% of the emails sent

3 from another chatty political org where I open and read about 80+% of the emails sent

1 from a non-profit whose e-mails I often read (they don’t send that many)

1 from a web tracking company whose e-mails I read ~20% of the time (they don’t send that many)

1 from another web tracking company whose e-mails I read ~20% of the time (they don’t send that many)

1 from an chatty org I’m a member of that I already tell Gmail to automatically archive. It’s correctly labeled, but in spam nonetheless.

1 mileage statement from an airline that I already have a filter to automatically label (but not skip my inbox)

Greymail (8 of 60)

6 were from Canon – emails that I don’t read and can’ unsubscribe to. Classic greymail.

2 from Adobe

what i've been reading

I'm not linkifying these. Give those search engines money! Ha!

Online, daily:
  • Seattle Times

Online, regularly:
  • The Big Picture
  • The Onion

  • The Atlantic
  • The Economist
  • Yale Alumni Magazine
  • Cascade Courier

Thursday, January 19, 2012

bicycle benefits

This is really a "note to self." Apparently there is a discount program at that I should have been taking advantage of the past few years. I could be getting:
  • 1/2 off classic chocolate bars at Theo
  • 10% at Auto Battery
  • 2 for 1 admission at Central Cinema
  • A free t-shirt at evo
Those are only the places that I go to with some regularity. I could also have been rocking it at these other spots I hit up periodically:
  • $1 off beer at Arabica Lounge
  • A free topping at Bluebird (maybe I should finally go there)
  • 15% off at Liberty
  • 10% off at Louisa's Cafe
  • Something at Pie (what that something is? they don't say)
In other words, I could have saved an extra $30 or so over the course of a year. Nothing to cry over, but that's extra play money.