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. (-: