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Rent v Own (a car for a work trip)

UPDATE: I added some analysis taking into the pollution impact as a follow up to this post.


My job takes me to exotic locales and far off destinations, giving me the chance to leave behind the tedium of the Twin Cities for something like Madison, WI.  Naturally, I always look forward to the hours of driving accompanying these adventures, especially when said adventure is a day long meeting.  In this case, my itinerary was:

  • Monday – drive there, have dinner meeting
  • Tuesday – have day long meeting, drive back

Unfortunately the logistics didn’t allow a bus or carpool to be feasible (which always bums me out a bit).  Typically, I’d just use my own car without a second thought, but when the organizer suggested I rent one, it seemed as good an opportunity as any to over-think something.  And it’s one of those comparisons that I knew wouldn’t likely show any massive difference, but I was still curious to figure out.  Plus I have precedent for doing this sort of thing.*  I mean, sure, using my car is easier, probably cheaper, and it’s been customized to my use over the years.  On the other hand, renting a car is swankier (in the “not driving a pile of crap” sense), likely more fuel efficient, and saves wear and tear on my car.  I went with renting for reasons to be explained below (post-spoiler spoiler alert), but the Focus was nearly the exact same color as my Camry.**  Which pretty much meant they had to be compared.  So let the battle begin!

No photoshop awards were won during the making of this image.

No photoshop awards were won during the making of this image.

For this comparison, we’re going to try and stick to everyone’s favorite metric: dollars.  This makes the primary question; will I save enough in gas to offset the cost of the rental.  The round trip runs about 540 miles.  The EPA says my ’97 Toyota Camry XLE should get mileage of 17/24/19 mpg (those number being city/highway/combined mpg).  I’ve driven to Madison with my car in the past… I actually get about 27 mpg.  Gas was running about $3.70 at the time of this trip.  So 540 miles at 27 mpg costing $3.70 per gallon gives me a fuel cost of $74.

The EPA says the ’13 Ford focus should get 27/38/31 mpg.  I got 42.5.

trip details


Same calculation with this, significantly better fuel economy, means the rental car’s fuel costs are $47.  Also, sidenote, 500+ miles on a 12 gallon gas tank… WHAT?!***

So the rental saved me $27 in fuel cost.  Big whoop you might say, and reasonably so when you factor in the final rental cost of $45/day for two days.  The $90 rental minus $27 saved on fuel means I foolishly spent $63.

A year ago I managed to get my annual miles driven with my car down to 7500.  Aside from this being on the order of 4000 less than the average American (thank you city living, public transit, and the Twin Cities bring bike friendliness), it also means my insurance company let me get into their low mileage program, which shaves $50 off my payment every 6 months.  It just so happens that 2013 has been a rather crummy spring, and I’ve been driving a bit more and biking a bit less than typical.  So I was getting dangerously close to going over my 3750 miles for the current 6 month period.  Avoiding these 540 miles was key to keep me below that.  Which means I should credit some, if not all, of that $50 to this rental.

$90 minus $27 in fuel savings minus $50 in insurance savings puts me at $13 for the net cost of the rental.  This worked for me since the ride is smoother, the sound system is better, and I finally got to mess around with my phone using the Focus’s bluetooth capabilities.  Reduced agony**** during almost 10 hours of driving… worth $13.

Plus, when it all comes down to it, reimbursement for this meeting was done based on mileage at the Federal reimbursement rate, currently at $0.565 per mile.  So anything less than $305 was a win.

Overall, gas savings alone clearly wasn’t going to make renting a car the smart choice in this case, and my savings for another reason really made the difference.  Of course, something as simple as if I actually got the EPA estimated 19 combined mpg for my car would alone boost the fuel savings up to almost $60.  So poor fuel economy plus slightly  higher gas prices or a slightly lower daily rate on the Focus could easily make a rental the smart choice, without the need for ancillary savings.

And that, kids, is your lesson for today.

you didnt ask

* exhibit 1, exhibit 2

** Except, fittingly, a more lively shade of maroon/red

*** Side-side-note, in all honestly, it’s probably a little sad that I’m impressed by this when 40+ mpg should really at least be the norm these days.  Our cars were supposed to fly by now.  Or at least hover.

**** Though the seats in the Focus are either made for someone skinnier than me or someone fatter… or maybe someone shorter*****?  I just can’t tell, but I did not like them.

***** I’m 6’2″.******

******Inception foot-notation.


5 Reasons To Still Be Overjoyed that MN Legalized Gay Marriage

Just so we’re on the same page here (and recognizing the limitations of the written word, especially in blog form), I wanted to clarify that the points made in my recent post, 5 Reasons To Not Be Overjoyed that MN Legalized Gay Marriage, have counter points.  Oh man do they have counter points.  But with all the unleashed fervor with the bill’s passage into law, I was at least trying to put into words what was keeping me from slathering on the rainbow body paint and streaking through downtown St Paul.

But thanks to my friends’ response on facebook (some responding with said fervor I was lacking), it’s worth pointing out the equally measured responses to the points I made and why these were really no reason to not be happy.

  1. It’s common sense, except…
    • A lot of things seem like common sense but not wholly embraced by the weird system we have constructed and labeled “civilization”.  If anything, the law’s passage is an indicator that things are going the right way, in my opinion.  It suggests the things I value have and are being broadly agreed upon and supported, and thus have reached a point where we need to codify them.  And this is arguably better than the inverse of having a law established to which society and values run counter.
  2. It needed to be “legalized”, except…
    • While the connotation of the word “legalize” is a bit peculiar these days, there’s a fundamental reason gay marriage needs to be; the government can’t do anything unless explicitly authorized to do so by it’s laws.  So even if it was just a matter of lack of foresight, a law needed to be passed for this.
  3. Potential, pending conservative backlash, except…
    • I like saving and preserving things, but in doing so, those things tend to lose their meaning.  Such with political capital.  Why work hard toward a message of equality if you’re not going to hunker down and seriously push for it as some point?  As my friend pointed out, this issue is relevant and now is as good a time as any to spend some of that capital.  And while the next election is a midterm, which tends to shift conservative in MN, a significant portion of the campaign by those in favor of the law was to show the nonpartisan nature of their base.  Which means that perhaps it’s cynical to think this new standard of acceptance isn’t embraced by conservatives.
  4. This law doesn’t mean anything, except…
    • This is the real world.  A friend of mine was readily able to point out that there are 1,138 benefits, rights and protections on the  basis of marital status in federal law (clearly there’s a reason we’re friends).  So once you get beyond the somewhat naive “the opinion of others doesn’t matter” position, then it readily becomes clear that it does mean a lot to the couples it empowers.
  5. Something about God, except…
    • This one was really just silly.  As a friend pointed out, a fair part of legalizing same sex marriage is “a victory for decency over theocracy”.  It’s really just nice to see segments of religion not being able to overcome the separation that’s intended between church and state.

Ultimately, to what I deem as silly for having taken this long, others are naturally just breathing a sigh of relief and celebrating.

5 Reasons To Not Be Overjoyed that MN Legalized Gay Marriage

Today, on May 14th, Minnesota is about to become the 12th US state to legalize gay marriage.  That’s a pretty big deal and, I think, a win and point of pride for my state.  But I’m seeing countless pictures of those smiling, hugging, on the verge of tears and find myself less celebratory.

First, let me preface this reemphasizing that I am happy MN made this step forward.  It’s just that, if I was smart*, I’d start a firm specializing in measured responses, devil’s advocating, and general “wet blanket”-ing services.  I do this sort of thing with the consistency of high-precision manufacturing facilities and celestial body movement.  I do it, and I do it well.

So, here, for your consideration, are reasons that might give you pause.  Why should you not be overjoyed by today’s bill being signed into law?

  1. It’s common sense
    • There’s a law in Colorado that says it’s illegal to fire a catapult at a building (or person for that matter)*.  To this we say, “Duh”.  If there was a movement, a campaign, and a rally to get those words on the books, we have some serious, serious problems in this country.  Allowing two people that love each other and want to commit to each other to be recognized by the state – a non-religious, public entity designed to enable our innate freedoms and promote our welfare – causes me to give the exact same response.
  2. It needed to be “legalized”
    • Because this is, more or less, similar to the situation where a stoner that wants easier access to pot. (/sarcasm)  Drawing from my sentiment in #1, the connotation that this needed to be “legalized” is kind of depressing.
  3. Potential, pending conservative backlash
    • We all loved the Tea Party right?  Or maybe I meant to say “love”… they’re still around I suppose.  Regardless, they’re an example of the backlash effect.  I’m honestly a bit worried.  There’s a handful of other middling policy reforms going on (I’m most closely following energy policy, and the results of this legislative session are probably going to be “meh” at best).  We need progressive, forward thinking legislators and leaders in place if we’re going to continue making incremental improvements in areas like energy, education, housing, farming, transportation, etc.  We have representatives who voted in favor of legalizing gay marriage from districts that voted 60% in favor of the amendment to ban it in 2012.  Those in favor of today’s law are more metro vs rural, more young vs old.  Both of these suggest it’ll be less of a political hot button issue going forward.  But this will rally those against the law, and they’ll lash out indiscriminately where they can.  And a resulting backlash against progressive stances in the coming elections could mean our step forward today will be followed by backpedaling in the future.
    • [Edit] Additionally, and equally concerning, is that if this issue was the key driver getting progressive minded folks out to vote, MN could swing more conservative in future elections if the recent, liberal voting base simply becomes complacent.
  4. This law doesn’t mean anything
    • At least to me.  I’ve been to a wedding between two men already, in Minnesota.  It wasn’t any less real, any less significant because a piece of paper was lacking.  It was kind of annoying and at least a bit demeaning to them and their loved ones.  But to me, to our friends, to their family, to pretty much whomever really matters; they are already married.
  5. Something about God
    • We covet things left and right (money, possessions, or whatever the Jones’ have), pillage the planet, sleep around, and use His name in vain all. the. time.  Now we’ve gone and enabled something which the bible is against… kind of… at least in a few spots when it’s not promoting love, compassion, and effectively being it’s own counterpoint.  I’m honestly grasping a bit for this one.

So, in case you slept too well last night, the nice day is a bit too sunny, or you’re too looking forward to celebrating tonight and this weekend… I just want to say, you’re welcome.


Of course, there are counterpoints to these…


*In defense of my being smart, this post is definitely easier to write than what would undoubtedly be a much longer list of reasons to be overjoyed.

**Aspen municipal code Sec. 15.04.210


My preemptive response to my friends’ weather related posts this week

spring is coming

24 Days of Ham or “Hamcember into Hamuary”

On December 20, 2011, I came home from work to find an 8.59 lb Honeybaked® ham sitting in my entryway, courtesy of my employer’s board of directors.  After removing it from the styrofoam shipping cooler and removing the chilling gel pack, I shoved it in my freezer.  Per the instructions, it could be kept frozen for 45 days, should be thawed for 2 days in the refrigerator,* and should then be consumed within 6 days.  I’m not much for hosting.  Also, in the middle of winter, I just inherently disregard my freezer.  So two weeks later, on January 3, 2012, an ice cream jonesing brought me face to face with my meat-bounty and the realization I really was on my own to consume it.  On the plus side, the instructions clearly stated it was pre-cooked and ready to eat.  So it was simply a matter of thawing and doing so.

ham questThe following is the log from this endeavor.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012 – Placed ham in the refrigerator.  That was easy.

Ham status – 8.59 lbs remaining, triple wrapped as delivered (foil inner layer, plastic outer layer, and insulating foil bag).  Styrofoam shipping cooler and gel pack set aside for future re-use.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 – Grabbing a beverage before heading to bed early, I saw the ham.  It stared back, confident in its ability to continue existing.  I removed the insulating foil bag just to have some sense of progress.

Ham status – 8.59 lbs remaining, double wrapped (foil inner layer, plastic outer layer).  Assumed partially thawed, no actual visual change.

Thursday, January 5, 2012 – Felt a bit crummy all day.  Moved ham to counter after work and opened packaging.  I am greeted with my first moment of optimism; the ham appears pre-sliced.  Upon further investigation, instructions indicate this is “spiral-slicing” and that it has no less than 4 benefits over other means of ham preparation.  I stare at the ham for approximately five minutes figuring out what exactly is “spiral” regarding said slicing.  Another ten pass as I ponder whether I’m impressed by this.  I settle on a keen indifference as I remove the first few slices, re-wrap and return the near-full ham to refrigerator, and consume removed slices.

Ham status – 8.4 lbs. approx. remaining, opened but still effectively whole in packaging.  Thawed.  Delicious.

Friday, January 6, 2012 – Suffering from what has become clearly a sinus infection, I opt to stay home after a quick call to the doctor and trip to the pharmacy.  For breakfast, more sleep trumps ham.  For lunch, I settle on staring into space over a bowl of chicken noodle soup wondering if the ham could fit in my sinuses… especially considering it feels like one is already in there.  For dinner, already rallying, I engage the ham.

I move the near-full ham to the counter.  Plastic and foil layers are discarded as ham lands solidly on a cutting board.  Instructions indicate, with diagrams, a three step process for carving three “lobes” from the bone for serving/storage.  These were ignored in favor of the “caveman approach,” using bare hands to pull lobes apart at ‘natural muscles lines’.  A knife was utilized for meat remaining near bone and to remove a fourth, undisclosed lobe that wasn’t “spiral-sliced” at all.  Had I been fortunate to receive a portion of some uber-pig, the next stage of Sus evolution, having developed a mysterious bonus muscle?  Was this the result of a “size matters” society that’s driven pig farmers to join professional wrestlers and baseball players in experimenting with muscle enhancers?  I didn’t dwell.

hogysseyWith multiple, large pyrex contains full of ham, all that remained on the cutting board was a reasonably large bone.  I paused, wishing I knew how to make stock or some means to cure/preserve it into a sort of off-putting shrine to my hog-yssey**.  It went into the trash.***  What couldn’t fit in storage containers became dinner.  A salad (or small collection of random vegetables from my fridge, which no one else would probably define as a salad) was added to the meal.

Ham status – 7.1 lbs. approx. remaining****, divided into three storage containers.  Still delicious.  Out of curiosity, I warmed some in the microwave.  “A few seconds per slice should be sufficient” per the instructions resulted in a slice of slightly less cold ham.  10 seconds resulted in a slice that was unevenly warmed.  15 seconds resulted in slice that was tough and tasted like plain, non-honey-baked ham.  60 second produced a visually unappealing ham-jerky that soundly laid that curiosity to bed.  The microwave was not considered again.

Saturday, January 7, 2012 – Woke up feeling better.  Considered crediting the power of ham.  Decided it was probably the antibiotics.  For breakfast, a few slices of ham, one egg, toast, and tea.  Heating slices in a pan proved to work quite well.  Spent morning gathering my resolve, considered cleaning.  Nothing makes your place seem dirtier/messier than having been sick.  For lunch, a few slices of ham, crackers and hummus, milk.  Stayed in for the evening, cleaned.  Something about the perceived layer of the illness lingering about, reminding you of feeling crummy.  For dinner, ham.

Ham status – 5.6 lbs. approx. remaining, two storage containers left.  Still tasty.  A bit surprised at finishing one of the containers, even if it was the smallest.  Mildly concerned after reading nutrition information during dinner.  Made a mental note to get to the gym as soon as health allows.

Sunday, January 8, 2012 – Breakfast, ham.  Lunch, ham.  Dinner, ham.

Ham status – 3.7 lbs. approx. remaining.

Monday, January 9, 2012– Quick nibble of ham before heading into work.  Something seems off when there is no ham as part of my lunch.  It feels incomplete.  Ham for dinner.  Cheese, crackers, and ham snack later in the evening.

Ham status – 2.2 lbs. approx. remaining, one storage container to go.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 – Another quick nibble of ham in the morning.  Brought a small portion to work as part of lunch.  Dinner, ham.

Ham status – 1 lbs. approx. remaining.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 – Running late, I bring some ham for lunch.  For dinner, a lack of ham feels like a culinary vacation.  How things change over just a few days.  The guilt of knowing I’ve reached the “best by” date results in a small ham snack before bed.  I dream of gliding through warm, slightly sweet, salt water.

Ham status – 0.3 lbs approx. remaining.

Thursday, January 12, 2012 – Slice of ham before work, the remainder for dinner.  Either the Honeybaked hamologists are really good at their job or any novelty of ham has been taken out back behind the barn.  I chew and swallow the last bites without fanfare.  I feel like one might upon reaching the peak of Everest only to find any vista ruined by fog… and that they’ve built a convenience store to sell tiny mountain souvenirs and salted snacks.

Ham status – Done and gone.  The only evidence that the ham ever existed is now the film on my plates in the dish washer.  I click the “heavy wash” button as I walk out of the room.

Denouement – Ham is a tasty, life sustaining consumable.  However, like many of such things, it should likely be enjoyed in moderation.  It’s hard to say if this experience contributed to my going vegetarian later in 2012.  At the very least, this story’s moral is one of perseverance, the strength of the human heart (in the face of what was certainly a significant amount of sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat), and a reminder that many hands (and mouths) make light work… so if you’re ever faced with a slab of meat larger than your head, invite over some friends for heaven’s sake.

Also, I’m going to go to my deathbed pronouncing “denouement” as dee-now-ment, irregardless of how you feel about it.

*Yeah, that’s an Oxford comma.  You better enjoy it, too.  It won’t be the last one.
**Yeah, I just typed that.  No apologies.
***For the record, making stock is super easy and this was a point of minor failure.  6 months later and I would have probably given my compost worms a shot at disposing of it, but by then I was a vegetarian, so that’s neither here nor there.
**** No, I did not eat over a pound of ham for dinner.  The discarded bone was half a pound.

(The) Office business

Catching up on my Hulu queue and couldn’t help but picturing this during an episode of The Office:

haha business jim halpert

In reference to:

Vocab Lesson: Akimbo

About a month ago I read some random post online about words you probably don’t know but whose meaning is very common.  Like the little plastic bit on the end of shoe laces that makes them easy to get through holes and keeps them from fraying.  It was one of those by chance, “random walk on the internet” moments when you just take a few extra clicks through interesting links after being sent somewhere by what a friend shared on Facebook.

The first word on this list was “akimbo” and, after reading the definition, my brain instantly formulated a very specific image to associate with this work, which I found humorous, and I smirked.

A week after this, I was reading a book and twice the author used the word “akimbo.”  I was a bit surprised since I have no recollection of having ever heard the word before reading the aforementioned post.  “What a fortuitous coincidence” I thought to myself, and I again smirked (this time both at the mental image that popped up again and at the smug satisfaction of know what a relatively obscure word meant).

Fast forward another week, and a friend of mine just casually used the word during conversation.  Once is an instance, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern.  Clearly “akimbo” is making its play to be 2013’s word of the year or something.  Maybe some rapper used it recently;

Got her back to my place, such an easy bimbo.
Caught me textin’ ‘nother ho, stepped back, akimbo.
Naw baby, only you, under this stick, gets to limbo.

Who knows why it’s popping up.  Regardless, I thought I’d share my mental image and add a wrinkle to your brain.

a akimbo kimbo slice

You’re welcome.

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