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Suspending the gas tax

There has been some recent talk about suspending the roughly 18 cent federal gas tax. The basics are that Clinton and McCain think it is a great idea, while Obama is totally against the idea.

I was skeptical from the start of the idea, as it seemed like the perfect scenario of an election year posturing that will not help the general public at all. Reminds me a lot of the tax rebate check I should be getting in the mail any day now (how can you have a rebate when the government is way in the red this year? I can’t figure that one out). Not to mention the thought of losing millions of dollars in federal highway funds (which go anywhere from building new highways to repairing them) and the thousands of workers who’s jobs would be threatened since no money = no construction projects.

Jabberwonk.com has an online calculator that you can punch in your numbers and figure out how much gas tax you will really save over the course of the 15-week gas tax suspension.

For me, 15-weeks of driving should equal out to roughly 3,000 miles of driving. I am assuming I will get 24 mpg.

To put it simple, my gas tax savings would be exactly $23.00.

I side with Obama on this one. Stupidest idea I have heard in awhile. A classic case of a politican’s (in this case, McCain and Clinton) election year promises that are not even close to being a good idea in reality. I much rather my $23 go towards fixing a red list bridge or fixing a pot hole.

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Public transportation

With the rising gas prices (+15 cents in the last week alone, up to $3.47 a gallon today), I was wondering how much I was spending to commute to work every day.

Unfortunately I work in Concord, which is 32 mile round-trip commute a day and there is roughly $1.50 worth of tolls. As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as a commuter rail or bus between Manchester and Concord.

That means right I pay nearly $6 each day (assuming 24 mpg for my car) for the privilege of working in Concord, about $30 a week, $120 a month, or roughly $1500 a year (I subtracted 2 weeks of vacation time from this total). That isn’t counting wear/tear on my car either.

Ouch!

So now my wife and I are really trying to cut down on gas usage. I pick up anything we need at the grochery store on my way home from work and try to do our errands there. The past two weekends, we avoided driving around as much as possible and stayed home. We have also cut down on going out to eat. I am going to avoid turning on the air conditioner this year as much as possible and use fans. Yet it seems prices for such important things like food are going up nearly as quickly as gas. When will it end?

Makes me wish we had a well developed public transportation system in New Hampshire. So far there has been rumblings about commuter rail and  commuter buses, but I am guessing that is years away from happening. The environmental benefits would be great, there would be a lot less wear/tear on cars, and the roads will be safer (less cars = less accidents).

If prices continue to go up, I think my next step will be to see if I can trade my car in for good mileage sedan. That should help a bit.

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No more technology debt…

As of today, I have no debt related to technology. My HDTV has officially been paid off. My computer equipment (Macbook, printer, router, etc.) and PS3 have been paid off for awhile.

Spending on technology is a weakness of mine. Give how quickly technology depreciates, it is something really hard to keep in check. I hope I can stretch the Macbook’s life to last another 2 years, especially since I replaced the hard drive recently. I just bought a new printer recently, so that should last awhile. The PS3 should not need replacement for at least 4-5 years if I can help it.

The last bit of technology I may need/need to replace in the near future is my wireless router. I currently have a Linksys WRT54G running the DD-WRT firmware. The router itself is almost 4-years old and works great. However, I am being very paranoid about backing up my Macbook. I have come to the conclusion that unless I fully automate the process and do not have to rely on plugging in my external USB hard drive, I will not have up-to-date backups of my Macbook. This bothers me big time.

I think buying a 1TB Time Capsule will be a very sound investment. Then I can use Time Machine to automatically back up my Macbook every hour wirelessly, without having to worry about plugging in a hard drive. Storage won’t be an issue, by the time the 1TB fills up consistantly, there will probably be USB hard drives I can plug into Time Capsule at least twice that size. Not to mention, my wife doesn’t have to worry about doing anything to have backups.

Time Capsule does not solve the off-site backup issue, but it resolves the up-to-date backup that is immediately available issue.

Maybe I will set aside $10 a week until I save up enough to buy one…

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Toronto is for real

After this series against the Toronto Blue Jays, I agree that they are a contender in the AL East and are going to be major pests this season for the Red Sox. I am also glad to say they are going to be major pests for the Yankees too.

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Daring Fireball on Firefox 3 vs. Safari 3

Daring Fireball makes some interesting points on Firefox 3 vs. Safari 3 on Macs.

I continue to struggle picking between the two browers. I love the integration Safari has with OS X (Keychain, Dictionary lookup, searching for bookmarks, etc.). Given that I will be getting an iPhone at the end of the year, this integration is important. Safari 3.1 continues to improve compatibility with web sites, almost to the point where I do not have to worry about it anymore.

Yet I keep getting drawn back to Firefox. I always have had a soft spot for Firefox, given that I was one of the first people to try it out back in the Phoenix nightly-build days. Extensions are important. Built-in support for web-based RSS readers is a big feature for me. The new awesome bar has really changed my perspective on bookmarks and I hope Safari adds something similar in the future. Firefox 3 is also very close to fitting in as a Mac application, it isn’t completely there, but is close.

I did resolve one Safari issue I have always had. Single-window support for tabs is now possible. That was a big issue for me that essentially erases Firefox’s advantage in tabbed browsing.

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Wish I had known this sooner

I just found the instructions for automating a WordPress upgrade via Subversion.

This sounds really neat. I think I am going to try it. I know manage three different WordPress sites and finding even that low number is a pain to upgrade easily when new versions come out. This method sounds like it can take a lot of that pain out of the way. Especially as I add more WordPress sites to my maintain list.

What I would really like is figure out how to automate this with AppleScript & Shell Script so I can just double-click an icon, type in what version to upgrade to, and have the whole thing done with no intervention.

Sounds like a good little project to learn UNIX shell commands. For all of my computer knowledge, I know next to nothing about UNIX and shell commands. Might as well start now and expand my knowledge. I will share my experience with this on here in the near future.

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Debt snowball in full effect

I just sent in the payment that will officially pay off my HDTV two years early (I had no interest until 2010 on it). Why pay off something I have no interest on for two more years? Because I am following the Debt Snowball method of reducing debt. It is completely right too: tackling the smallest debts first allows for some really quick/easy wins that add up extremely quickly. Plus it is simply awesome to delete a company from my bill pay list! So far we have been able to payoff/close three credit card accounts completely and pay off one of my wife’s college loans.

Next up is paying off my last credit card with a balance. It still has about $1300 on it due to a car repair bill I am still paying from nearly a year ago (before my wife and I had an emergency fund, plus before the debt snowball started). With the debt snowball, I think I can get it paid off in ~8 months assuming I have no major unexpected bills come up, get a little overtime here and there, and reducing expenses where possible. I think I am going to try calling Comcast and see if I can threaten to switch to satellite over their video quality problems…maybe they will lower their monthly rate for a few months.

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The Pursuit of Wireless

I dislike wires with a passion. They take up space, never look neat (well, at least when I am involved in hooking them up), and in most cases completely unnecessary. Especially for home use, there is few times when you really do need to grab that Ethernet cable.

With the recent purchase of my HP Photosmart C7280, I was able to completely remove the 7-port USB hub I had previously attached to my Macbook. That hub at the time had my USB hard drive, iPod sync cable, and digital camera cable plugged in, since I would only need to plug 1 USB cord into my laptop.

Now I neatly wrapped up my iPod and digital camera cables, so they take up little space and put them into my drawer. When needed, I take them out and plug them into my laptop. What the concept!

I leave my USB hard drive unplugged from my Macbook and try to plug it in whenever I am at my desk using the Macbook. That will automatically kick off a Time Machine backup. This is not ideal (I have to remember to plug it in for a backup to start), but it will do until I can afford a Time Capsule.

So right now, the only cords that remain plugged in 100% of time when I am at my home desk are the Macbook power cord and the speaker cable. So in the end, the amount of “wire clutter” (for lack of a better term) has been greatly reduced on my desk, but not completely. I need that Time Capsule to finish the process of moving “wireless.” Anyone want to buy it for me? 😉