Monday, June 21, 2010

I Hate ________

It seems that there is always something that comes up during the week that leads me into this line of thinking: "I hate (something)! How hard is it to (Blank) instead of passing the buck onto the next person?" I am genuinely conflicted on the matter.

When I was learning to drive, I would verbally question every jerk on the road who would cut people off or not let them merge or otherwise drive like an asshole. My father would grow angry with me and yell at me to stop asking why. In truth, asking why didn't really solve the matter at hand. 'If that person would just be more considerate, what a wonderful world this would be...' I would put this in the 'Nothing will change so get on with your life' category. There is nothing I can do to correct this problem, so I should just keep my blinders on and focus on the problems in front of me.

The other is a problem I encounter at work. If a contractor fails to do his homework, and they try to pass the problem to us (this is rare, we really do get to work with some excellent contractors) then we send it back and say that it is their problem. Basically, we don't pick up someone else's slack if we don't have to. I would put this in the 'you need to solve your own problems, buddy' category.

The conflict arises when someone else should be doing their own work, and try to pass the buck, and I know I can make the situation better by picking up where they left off. It's 'Nothing will change (i.e. the contractor isn't going to do what he is supposed to) so get on with your life (and make this work)' vs. the 'you (Mr. contractor) need to solve your own problems (even though they will affect the outcome of the built design).'

What to do?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Motivation

I was asked by my boss how much longer I thought I would continue to bike to work during the summer. It's Dallas. It's hot. Surely no one has the willpower to continue this 365 days a year.

WRONG!

I have two factors at work here that really help me to continue on in my commute. Regrettably, one has to do with topography. The first part is key: if I ride to work, I have committed myself to twice the effort by being required to ride back. If you only have to commit to a small portion up front, the latter part is determined for you already. The second factor, as mentioned, is topography and location.

Dallas is hot in the summer, but is tolerable in the morning. This makes committing to the morning ride a lot easier. Topographically speaking, my commute is generally downhill one way. There is a 60' vertical drop from the slab of my front porch to the front doors of my office building, so the ride in the morning is quicker and easier.

I fancy myself a smart person, but I am human and can be lulled into making stupid decisions. We have a tendancy not to think a situation through to it's completion, so I have leveraged this in my efforts to motivate myself. It's kind of like talking a scaredy cat (yours truly) into getting on a roller coaster. The hard part is getting them in line. Once they are buckled in, there is no turning back.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Reverse the Transportation Cash Flow with Cycling

When I started this blog, I was very excited about the prospect of using a robust public transportation system. This was something that Baton Rouge never had, and it was easy to identify as a way to save money and stress on the daily commute to work, and even to other locations. However, our location has changed somewhat and I have re-discovered the joy of cycling to get where I want to go.

Before public transportation, I would have to pay for parking either on a monthly basis or a daily basis. Parking on a monthly basis was something like $25-35, and to park daily for 20 days a month would cost $40 at a minimum (if I had to leave and come back, I would have to pay the fee again). Add to this the cost of gas to get there, and the miles that rob value from the vehicle, it was costing easily over $60 dollars a month just to drive a couple of miles.

This is where walking and public transit came in. Transit was purchased on a pre-tax basis and were partially subsidized by the company I am employed by. The cost was roughly $45 for a pass that was good for a month, including the weekends and holidays. Being pre-tax, the acutal cost to us was something less (though probably not much). The savings might have been small, but the peace of mind that came along with public transit turned this into a tremendous value.

In recent months, our government has tilted the equation in favor of cycling. If one abandons other transportation benefits in favor of a cyclist's commute, that person stands to actually MAKE money. If I ride to work at least 10 times in a month (roughly half the working days in a month) I can be reimbursed for legitimate bicycle commute expenses, including a commuting bicycle. So in a year, one now stands to make $240. I bought a commuter bike, and it is paid for, so now for the next three years I am 'reimbursed' for the expense which to us feels like making $20 a month for just commuting.

The only thing here is that this is a reimbursement, meaning that in the end, this will actually just eliminate the costs of commuting. However, breaking even beats sinking money into an object that has a sinking value.