my cost of living

Starting last week, I began staying a little closer to work during the weeknights. I am renting a room for these 5 nights and the days following until I go back home on the weekends. I am doing this for several reasons:

  1. It’s expensive to live here. Everytime I drive my car to and from work, it’s costing me around $.50 a mile. I think the government reimburses you about $.40 a mile but I would imagine that driving in LA is more like $.50 or $.60 a mile. So, every little that I don’t have to drive is like a financial break. Gas prices are as high as almost $3 for a gallon (although, I just filled up for $2.65 yesterday at my favorite location). And then getting work done on my car could cost me hundreds of dollars. Delaying the inevitable is important for my personal finances and lifecycle of my car. The longer I can make this car last, the better it will be for me in the long run. So, instead of driving to work everyday, I will now be driving down once to my new place, parking for the week, and driving back home on Friday.
  2. I save a lot of time from being on the road. I woke up at 5am starting the 2nd week of work just to avoid traffic so that I could maximize the time I had for myself. Instead of being on the road for 2.25-3 hours a day, that cut it down to about 1.5-2.25 hours. Not a huge improvement, but enough to give me more minutes during my day to do more productive things.
  3. Doing both of these cuts down on the stress that I feel. I know that I will get stressed over these kinds of situations, but by doing what I’m doing, it helps my happiness level, which is always important for my productivity.

So, as I see it this is a good temporary situation to be in. However, let’s sorta break it down financially and see if this really is worth it.

Assuming that I drive to and from work everyday, it’s about 28 miles to and from work. So the amount of time it takes to leave my house to the time I get to my desk, and vice versa, can vary anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. So again, this means I’m on the road anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours a day. What a waste of time!

Since I get a free bus pass at work, this not only saves money but time. From the time I walk out my door to the time I get to my desk riding the bus is usually about 25-40 minutes each way. So I could spend anywhere from 50 minutes to 1.4 hours a day riding the bus. This is more than a 50% savings on my time that I spend in transit everyday. And while I’m on the bus, I theoretically could do other work or something else productive. But I’ll get to that in a second.

So now that you understand the time savings, let’s get back into the money issue. Let’s figure out what I’m paying (although I won’t use real numbers because I do not want to disclose my actual financial situation to everyone in the world).

Let’s say that I pay the average cost for a shared room situation in LA at about $700. This is the location that takes me generally the longest to get to and from work. Then, to save on gas, car maintenance costs and time, I go find another place to stay closer on the weeknights that costs me about the same at $600. So the total that I have to pay for living is $1,300 per month. Is that extra $600 a month going to offset the amount that I pay for gas and car maintenance every month? Definitely not. Here’s what it looks like.

280 miles a week to and from work
100+ miles travel to and from 2nd job plus social life (could easily vary)
380 miles
/24 miles – the average amount of miles I get per gallon
16 = amount of gallons I fill up per week
* $2.85 per gallon
$45.60 a week!
* 4
$182.4 a month

Wow, that’s just the amount I pay for gas every month. Then there’s car maintenance. However, instead of figuring out the cost of maintenance, let’s just use the other figure.

$.50-.60 per mile
* 380 miles a week
$190 – 228
* 4 weeks in a month

So as you can see, this is really adding up! Now let’s assume that this is all of my car costs. Now we need to factor in the time that I could use spending on other projects. Since I basically decreased the daily amount of time that I spend on the road, I gain about 7.5 hours – 1 hour (drive to and from the 2nd house) = 6 hours every week.

During the 6 hours, I could make anywhere from $25 – 50 an hour from my freelance work or client work. This is about $150 – 300 additional dollars I could make with this freetime!

Now let’s look at the other situation. Here’s what I spend in gas alone:

50 miles a week to and from house
100 miles to and from 2nd job plus social life
150 miles a week
/ 24 miles per gallon
6.25 gallons a week
* 4 weeks in a month
25 gallons a month
* $2.85 per gallon
$71.25 a month

Now for overall maintenance

$.50-$.60 per mile
150 miles per week
$75 – 90
* 4 a month

So here’s the final monthly breakdown as I see it.

Scenario #1:

$700 – rent at house #1
$912 – car maintenance costs
$150 – potential money I lose by wasting the time on the road
$1762 a month!

Scenario #2:

$700 – House #1
$600 – House #2
$360 – car maintenance costs
$1660 a month

Not much of a savings, but then again I still have that other potential $150 I could add

$1660 expenses
-$150 additional income to offset costs

Oh, and another expense that won’t exist anymore is garage fee!

-$90 a month for garage fee

. . . wow. So, this means that per month, all I’m really saving is about $342. Or to put it in another perspective, that’s $4104 a year. That’s a huge chunk of change, people.

Hurricane Katrina

The Destruction of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans

Extensive information on Hurricane Katrina.

I’m sure that anyone who reads this probably won’t get this until Monday morning or afternoon, but if you do get this in time, this is really fascinating.

CBS station WWL based in New Orleans is streamcasting a live news feed to track the hurricane destruction and news (and coverage has been continual for days). It’s very interesting watching the live broadcast as this hurricane makes landfall. In fact, since the hurricane is so strong and powerful, they closed the French Quarter site in New Orleans and are now broadcasting from Baton Rouge at LSU. I also see that sister station KHOU in Houston is helping with the streamcast.

It’s amazing how far along technology has come along, but I also realize that there’s still so much more to come. For instance, cell phone communications in the New Orleans area are extremely difficult to get good reception. Text messaging supposedly worked a lot better. If the hurricane blows down these towers, no more reception. And it could also affect the landlines as well. That’s pretty scary.

It seems that this storm is going to completely ravage the southeast side of Louisana. Can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow morning.

Edit 8/30/05: The news coverage for this hurricane devistation has been amazing. Not only are there are a lot of new media personnel in New Orleans, but there are bloggers covering it, NASA has released photos of the view from satellites, and there are so many other ways to get news! In fact, I’m watching WWL as I type this from the Internet!

In case you haven’t followed what’s happened, the levees have broken in New Orleans and the French Quarter and most of downtown is completely drenched up to about 3 feet or more of water. Supposedly, once the water receeds, they will only allow people back into the city to collect belongings but then have to leave for a month! I cannot even IMAGINE what they would be like if that happens to be true, which I now find out it is true.

High resolution photos of Katrina from space

They have declared Martial Law in the city as well. Martial Law is usually declared in areas that have no rule at all, such as war zones. The reason they declared this is because there’s so much looting going on that it’s almost like living in a war zone. Most of this looting occured last night and will probably be the same tonight when people are less likely to get caught.

One of the most dangerous aspects of being stuck with all of this water is the disease, snakes, gators, urine, vomit, and sewage that is mixed. This makes it not only unsafe but potentially deadly. And water levels continue to rise while the Corp of Engineers tries to plug the broken levees.

Does the city of New Orleans actually recover from something like this? Or should the people of this city just call it as it is and find another place to live?

2pm – Not too long ago, a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans was proclaimed. This means anyone who is still in New Orleans, which at this point is hundreds or thousands of people, will be forced from their homes and dwellings and forced to go elsewhere. I wonder how many people are going to try to stay behind?

8/31 8:30am – Since yesterday, flood waters never receeded and in fact kept rising. There are still possibly hundreds or thousands of people who need to be rescued. And now, they plan to transfer around 23,000 people from the Superdome to the Houston Astrodome. I have no idea how this is going to happen since almost all roads to New Orleans are closed!

It’s so weird how close to “home” this has happened. The fact that I went there a little over two months ago makes this even more real to me. Most of downtown New Orleans is fresh in my mind. I am here thousands of miles away and I still can feel everything as though it happened here.

I have donated to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) today and I urge anyone who reads this to do the same with UMCOR or the Red Cross. I believe this is the least I could do in the name of humanity.
I URGE you to do the SAME!

WWL has kept a blog about ongoing news throughout the last 24 hours or so.

Another really awesome use of technology has been the forums on both WWL and Craigslist. So many people have posted on both of these sites asking for help to find loved ones and missing people.

9/1 9:30pm – I’m starting to get Google hits because people want to know more about New Orleans hurricane information.

Hurricane Katrina photos from USA Today
Photos from downtown New Orleans
Flickr photos of Hurricane Katrina

Houston has a huge task on their hand with the thousands of homeless who are staying in Houston. I hope they can handle it.

as I state the obvious . . .

Aren is a big fat nerd.

Google Talk

Google talk
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Let’s chat!

Pat Robertson should not be considered Christian

I realize that I’ve had very little posts about religion and I tend to intentionally avoid it. It’s not something I feel like I ever need to discuss because it’s so personal to so many people. Those who read this website are of all different faiths, some of little faith, and others of no faith, each of which I am very happy to know. I don’t think it’s important for me to preach since we are all at different places with our spiritual lives. However, I must make a short commentary on something that recently happened. In fact, I’m sure you’ll hear about it in the news for a few more days, maybe even weeks.

On a telecast of The 700 Club last night, the right-winged, radical so-called (tel)evangelist Pat Robertson made a very casual comment about how the US should assassinate the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. I am aware that Chavez has been extremely outspoken against the US and many of Bush’s policies. But, I do not believe that Robertson can clearly call himself a Christian and speak these words of hate.

Do not take this as a defense against Chavez, however, he certainly has the right to say whatever he wants. Robertson’s statements of hate should be used as an example of how a Christian should not behave. And this is not even nearly the first time he’s said something so extreme. According to the Associated Press, Roberton has also attacked other political issues such as feminism, saying it “encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft…” and couple other radical ideas. I’m sure I could put at least 10 or 20 other statements on here, but you get the point.

I am completely for freedom of speech, and as far as I’m concerned he should be allowed to say whatever he wants. But, in doing so, he should not claim to be a practicing Christian. I think his extremist views often conflict with the teachings of Christianity and, well, most religions. He’s doing a great job of stirring controversy, but he’s doing it from the wrong platform in my opinion. His mix of religion and politics is such a thin line and he often crosses the two in a negative way.

I think it’s important for people of faith to speak out against this kind of situation. People such as Pat Robertson should not represent those of the Christian faith because it is these actions that help feed the fire of negative feelings so many agnostic, atheist, and other people feel about Christianity, well, religion in general. It’s sad to see that these people misrepresent the beliefs of so many religious people.

On the Streets of San Francisco

Remember when I said I was having fun in San Francisco last month? Well, there’s more to the story. A lot more.


free, useful software

I don’t recommend all of this software, but this website displays links to many different free and many great software apps that are very useful. If you see something you want but aren’t sure if it’s worth it or you’re not sure how to use it, feel free to bug me about it.

Google Maps hacks

Great link for all the best hacks integrated with Google Maps.

late night

It’s 9:30pm.

I am still working.

I’ve been up since 5am.

That’s 5am this morning to now, and we’re not done.

This means now only have I surpassed overtime but I’m making double time money.

I love double time money!

I am not upset about being here late, I’m irked that I have to drive so far to get back home only to go to bed right away when I get back. And about the fact that I won’t be able to sleep in. I choose not to be in bad traffic, so I have no choice but to wake up at 5am.

My paycheck in a month is going to make up for this lack of sleep and long hours.

out in the cold

As I make my way to the gym every morning, there are a variety of buildings and people I usually see as I leave my car in the garage to entering the doors. And most of these people are homeless.

If you’ve ever been to Santa Monica, one of the hot spots to hang out is called the Third Street Promenade. For those who don’t know what this is, it’s similar to both 16th Street in Denver and Pearl Street in Boulder, or like the Riverwalk in San Antonio minus the river. Basically, it’s like an outdoor mall with restaurants and shops that take up about five blocks, starting with a huge indoor mall on one end.

Every Wednesday, there is usually a Famer’s Market in the middle of this mall. And no, all of you Texans, I’m not talking about a side road that cuts from one freeway to the next. We’re talking a real market where area farmers drive to sell their produce directly to the customer, bypassing the supermarket middleman. It’s amazing how many people show up and buy their food fresh at one of these markets.

I digress.

Along the street of the promenade are many black, metel benches in which to sit. And every morning, these benches are regularly populated with homeless people sleeping and waiting for the impending day to start. Sometimes they’re congregated in certain areas, already awake and ready to panhandle their way into food, booze or drugs.

During the day, these folks are all over the place, trying to catch the passerby’s eye to request help or spare some money. As do most people, I am not one to pay attention to these people, but it’s not to say I don’t see them or realize they are there. And you know, it doesn’t get easier facing homeless people in one place versus another. Pearl Street in Boulder has a very similar homeless population, although most of those people are hippys. Same with all the cities in Texas I have ever dwelled. These people are everywhere.

But I am always curious to know, how do people end up this way? How do they continue to, day after day, live such a unhappy, dreadful life? They smell bad. They look dirty. They are often sad or bitter. And yet, they have given up all hope for a better life.

Sometimes the Samaritan in me wants to go up to one of them, take them to eat a meal and learn about their life. Most of me wants to just ignore them and hope they go away and leave me alone. It’s such a taboo.