scary fact of the day

November 2, 2011

I used to complain about public transit being doubly cost ineffective.  The fees charged to riders didn’t do much to support the cost of running the buses, but the fees were still more expensive than the equivalent gasoline cost, assuming a rider had a car that has pretty standard fuel efficiency.

Guess what?  My commute is now cheaper if I take the bus, even if I were to pay full fare instead of using my employer-sponsored bus pass.

Here’s the math.  These calculations assume I paid $3.39/gallon in gas (the price I last paid at the pump), and that I was getting 31 mpg (my usual mileage in my ’96 Camry).

  • Driving, my commute is 30.9 miles each way.  That’s 2 x (30.9 miles x $3.39 per gallon ÷ 31 mpg), a total cost of $6.76 every day.
  • Using the park-and-ride, I drive 6.4 miles from my house to the bus station.  I walk or bike from the stop to my office.  That’s 2 x ($2.50 in bus fare + 6.4 miles x $3.39 per gallon ÷ 31 mpg), a total cost of $6.40 every day.
  • Because my employer pays for my bus pass, the park-and-ride’s actual cost to me is $1.40 every day.
  • Or, because I like working in differences, riding the bus saves me $5.36 every single day.  That’s $26.80 a week, or $107.20 every month.  Over the course of the six months this job lasts (ah, grant funded positions), riding the bus has the potential to save me almost $650.
  • Even if I carpooled with one other person (I drove every other day), and even if I assume I didn’t have to drive out of my way at all to do so, riding the bus would still be almost $3 cheaper per day.  Insanity.

Yay simple math.  I was inspired to take a break from reading lots of transportation statistics and cost-benefit fact sheets and run the numbers (my new job is doing some education and outreach for a clean transportation group, so I’m spending a lot of time familiarizing myself with our existing literature).  Perhaps I’ll be back later with the more complex emissions comparison, if I feel inspired.


confidence, you elusive thing you

October 21, 2011

You know how sometimes you’re absolutely and utterly terrified of doing something, because you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re afraid you’ll get completely shot down by your peers and/or superiors?  And you put it off and put it off and keep putting it off until it’s not just terrifying, but seems like the scariest single thing in your life?

Okay, maybe it’s just me.

But then you actually just grit your teeth and look away and hit “SEND” on the email doing this scary thing?  And you sweat and sweat and sweat …

… until the answer comes back: “Yes!  Please!  Do write lots and lots for us and we will pay you money!  We love you and miss you and want your byline in our paper!  I’ve attached a contract so we’ll be ready to go!”

Yeah, so now I feel silly.  But mostly just awesome.

I was absolutely terrified of trying to get my bearings as a freelance and putting myself out there for the first time, but some excellent advice I got from one of the ex-staff writers at the regional paper combined with the confidence boost of having people welcome me wholeheartedly at a writing conference made me finally just suck it up and do it.  And now I’m feeling pretty glad I did.

It’s been a good week.  Except I’m getting sick and the start date for my new job got pushed back again, but other than that, a good week.


networking is easy, if you do something crazy

October 16, 2011

Hello internet!  I’ve been largely absent because I’ve been off doing things like living out of suitcases in family’s houses, (finally) getting a sweet place and moving in, getting a job, and, oh yeah, getting married.  And now I’m in MST (yes, not MDT, because these people are silly and want to screw with my east-coast body clock) at a writing conference.

But just for you, internet, I skipped the first session this morning, slept in, and am now enjoying a delicious breakfast at a very crowded coffee shop and bakery, enjoying a cappuccino and a biscuit with veggie gravy.  At least, you can pretend it was just for you and not for my sanity if it makes you feel special.

My leisurely breakfast experience this morning actually prompted this post.  You see, I was interrupted (politely) by some folks attending my conference, who wanted to introduce themselves and tell me how much they enjoyed my talk the other night.  My entire conference experience so far, it turns out, is full of moments like this.

Why?  Because my talk was insane.  I was one of only ten people (out of hundreds who write and talk for a living) who signed up for this crazy session on Friday evening.  The premise?  You have exactly five minutes to give your schpiel about whatever you like related to the theme of the conference … but you must use 20 slides, which will auto-advance every 15 seconds whether you’re ready or not.  It is the 50 meter hurdles of public speaking.

And apparently, I rocked it.  I picked a very silly personal story, which was a) suited to the format, and b) strange enough to be memorable.  And I was full of migraine meds and had only had short airplane naps in the 20 hours before I spoke, so I was thoroughly goofy and excitable.

I mostly signed up to do this just because I smelled a challenge (speaking to people who get paid to write and speak? in the craziest format ever? yeah, I’m in), and I thought it would be fun.  It was lots of fun indeed.

But the best part is that it’s made my life ever so much easier.  I’m a terrible networker, always losing my nerve when I want to go introduce myself to people.  Now that half the conference knows my weird story, half the conference is coming up randomly to tell me they enjoyed it, how weird it was, and, perhaps most importantly, to introduce themselves.  People may remember only one totally useless fact about me (that I’m allergic to hamburgers), but they remember me.  And that is absolutely everything in this field.

So listen up, people who are as bad at networking as me: next time you go to a conference, find a way to do something weird and memorable.  Fill your talk or poster with little oddities.  Wear an awesome hat.  Sign up to do something weird.  It’s a bit nervewracking to put yourself out that way, but it’s only doing it for a short time.  For me, that’s way easier than the constant stress of “am I meeting enough people? should I go talk to that person over there? ohgodwhatdoIdoIhavetobetalking!”


dear verizon, kindly go to hell

September 24, 2011

The fun just doesn’t end!

My phone broke last night.  Really, it broke last August, but it wasn’t non-functional broken, just really-hard-to-read-the-screen-and-I-have-to-guess-the-rightmost-quarter-of-text-messages-from-context broken.  Now it is non-functional broken.

So today, I went shopping for a replacement phone.  I checked a few things to make sure I wouldn’t have to buy directly from Verizon (because they can go fuck themselves — I am not letting them directly make more than the contractually obligated amount of money off of me at this point).  I did a bit of research into my most expedient and cheapest options, and I decided to go to the non-Verizon cell phone store to get a phone advertised at $80.  Not cheap, but whatever, it was quick.

Guess what?  Verizon wins again.  The $80 phone was a prepaid phone — I knew this going in — but even though Verizon will support this phone on both prepaid and contract plans, these $80 phones don’t work with contract plans.  As in, Verizon refuses to let you carry it on a contract plan, just like they’ll refuse to give you service on a smart phone (even an unlocked one without a contract) unless you buy a data plan.

As in, Verizon has found yet another way to fuck me over.  The same damn phone with a serial number that permits a contract plan costs $250.  Unless I buy a new contract — then it’s “free.”  Yeah, free with the cost of suffering through three more years of your bullshit instead of just one.

This defies all normal human logic.  If someone buys the $80 phone, likes it, likes Verizon (because they’re insane or something) and wants to move to a contract, then they have to buy another of the same phone.  What a fucking waste.  But obviously, it makes Verizon lots of cash, or they wouldn’t do something so ridiculous.

I hate Verizon with the fiery passion of ten thousand suns.  It’s made so much worse by the fact that all of their customer service people are really damn nice.  They fuck you over ever so politely.  It’s like someone confessing to murder while smiling and eating a lollipop.

I am beginning to very seriously weigh the costs of just getting out of my contract earlier and getting a new carrier.




i’m shopping for insurance

September 23, 2011

This is going predictably badly.  My current coverage expires on October 1, so I’m up against a serious deadline here, though I’ve been doing this for a month.  The partner, incidentally, has no coverage whatsoever right now, so I’m shopping for him too (since I’m the resident insurance expert).

So far, one company completely denied me (but not the partner — they actually offered him a significant discount), and the other one has offered a joint policy that costs as much as rent.  Of course, more than 4/5 of that premium is attributable to my part of the policy.

Oddly enough, I think this is all happening because I started getting migraines after the car wreck two years ago.  Even though I’ve only had one doctor’s visit (and no new prescriptions) for migraines in the past year.

Grrr.  Last time I did this whole insurance business, I paid the smoker’s rate (I guess asthma is kind of like smoking, if you’re an insurer).  This rate they want me to pay now is twice that.

Fuck insurance companies.



a question

September 15, 2011

Does “networking” ever stop feeling skeezy?

I feel so icky every time I throw myself at someone just to make sure I get on their radar.  I feel at least half again as icky, too, every time I ask a contact for an introduction to someone.  Especially via email, when the words stare back at me and sit there in my “sent mail” folder.

But, I need a job, so commence the icking!


not my usual disaster

August 26, 2011

It’s shaping up to be a fun week here on the east coast, between earthquakes and hurricanes and millions of people whining about earthquakes and hurricanes.  And mostly, the rest of the country (especially those used to dealing with one or the other natural disaster) just laughs.  I’m guilty myself of mocking New York for freaking the hell out about a hurricane.

But then I thought about it, and maybe New York has a point.  A storm that’s old hat here — ‘oh, a few days without power?  quit your whining, at least you don’t have an electric well pump going out’ — could be incredibly dangerous in a place where supplies are already shipped in from so far away, and nearly all roads in and out are low-lying.  I mean, mostly it looks like it won’t be as big a deal now that my state is taking some of the punch out of Hurricane Irene, but a real live hurricane in a densely populated coastal city is still a real reason to worry.

Hope it’s not so bad, New Yorkers — I may not have much sympathy, having involuntarily weathered a week plus without running water or electricity fifteen years ago trapped in by half the pines in the forest, and being slightly in the path of this one myself — but I do understand.

Incidentally, everyone laughing about the earthquake might ought to reconsider.  I had lunch today with a few folks from a community less than five miles from the earthquake’s epicenter (near Louisa and Mineral, Virginia).  They’re coping with tons of damage.  Most masonry-built structures are seriously damaged, and one building will probably have to be torn down entirely.  Several floors buckled, and lots of plumbing is damaged.  Everything that was on a shelf is now on the floor, and broken.  Insurance, of course, is useless, because it doesn’t cover earthquakes.

So maybe you should think about it before you laugh too hard at our little earthquake, west coast.  It may have just rattled the windows at my house, and shaken up a boring day in New York, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a real disaster for someone.

And I’d better get this posted before our power goes out.  It’s already flickered once.  Be safe, everyone.