Okay, so the tale so far: I often need to haul sheets of plywood / foam insulation / large tires / other stuff. And I’m beating my poor Jeep Wrangler to death driving it 40 miles a day to work and back, those giant 35″ tires cost around $300 *apiece* installed and there’s five of’em on that Jeep (I do 5-tire rotation because otherwise the 4-wheel-drive locker system won’t work right if I have to use the spare on the trail). And I often take long trips that don’t need the capabilities of the Jeep that I’d prefer to do in a more comfortable and more economical manner. My Jeep actually is fairly comfortable for a Jeep, thanks to the soft long-travel suspension, but it still is quite loud and due to the aerodynamics of a barn guzzles gas anytime I go faster than 55mph. (As in, going through West Texas at the 80mph speed limit, I was lucky to get 13mpg).

So, looking at pickup trucks: The modern V6 pickup trucks from Chrysler and GM are not penalty boxes. With close to 300 horsepower and a torque curve as flat as Manhattan, they can haul plywood just fine. But they still have ridiculously bad aerodynamics, with huge (unnecessary) grills and way high off the ground. They’re rated at 16/22mpg (for the RAM) and 17/22mpg (for the Chevrolet), or roughly the same as my Jeep originally was. And an extended cab model won’t haul a 4×8 sheet of plywood without having the tailgate down, and is several feet longer than the minivan. Driving those in Bay area traffic would be pretty cumbersome and the bed would be unused 99% of the time.

So looking at the Chrysler minivan: it’s roughly the same length as my old Chevrolet S-10 pickup, and about 6 inches wider. A bit cumbersome in Bay area traffic but doable. Flopping the seats down will hold a few sheets of plywood, drywall, or foamboard without a problem. Or a book case. Or a dresser, albeit a tall one would need to be wedged in. Or any other furniture I might want to move, as long as it fit in the roughly 8x4x4 cargo area. Not a refrigerator, I could fit it on its side, but refrigerators aren’t happy about that, the oil tends to run out of their compressors into the coils and causes problems, but I can run down the street and rent a U-Haul for that. When not hauling things, pull the seats back up out of the floor wells and it will haul half the office to an outing, unlike the unused bed of the pickup truck.

For long distance travel its far superior aerodynamics mean 25+mpg on the highway. Due to not having giant tires and a huge solid axle and leaf springs, it rides much better than a pickup truck. The tires are significantly cheaper, roughly $80 apiece for decent-quality tires rather than $200 apiece. It’s cheaper, period, being roughly $5,000 cheaper for a very luxurious setup compared to the pickup truck.

What I give up compared to the truck: Towing capacity (max towing capacity is 3500 pounds). But who needs to tow when you have so much cargo space? High clearance / offroad ability. But I have the Jeep for that. Might feel a bit suburban soccer mom. But I have the Jeep with its giant mud-terrain tires if I get overly confused about my gender.

All in all, given the realities of living in a city and what I want to do with it (haul bikes and camping gear to local area parks, commute, shop, haul various stuff, make *long* trips on pavement, haul half the office to eat, etc.), the minivan seems more practical. And Chrysler’s running one of their 0% financing deals right now… hmm…

Drunk clown

The War On Drugs, “Red Eyes”, off their new album Lost in the Dream. America’s Not Got Talent, it seems.

- Badtux the Music Penguin

The Shuttle to Nowhere

Mountain View’s transit station is overwhelmed by employer shuttles. There are 57 different employee shuttles that are meeting the trains during rush hour. A half dozen of those shuttles pass within a block of my place of employment. I get to ride exactly none — zero — of those shuttles. The huge employers funding those shuttles view them as an employee perk to use to lure employees from other employers, not as a means of removing automobiles from the road.

Having finally recognized that there simply isn’t room for 57 different employee shuttles to queue up at the downtown transit station, the employers are trying to put together a means of combining shuttles so that you don’t have two employers next door to each other having dueling shuttles. I have a suggestion for them. Why don’t they instead fund a single service that could run those shuttles, and allow anybody to ride the shuttle to remove more automobiles from the road so that their employees who do drive to work can get to work more easily? In order to prevent charges of the shuttle service giving preference to one employer’s employees over another, we could have the cities that these employers are based in combine together and create an entity to run the shuttles. We could call this entity something nifty to let everybody know exactly what it does. Like, say, Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority.

Naw, that’d make too much sense. Can’t happen. In the meantime, we have all these private buses abusing the parking areas at the transit station, in fact are illegally blocking the VTA buses that are supposed to be stopping there by parking in the areas reserved for VTA buses (including blocking the shuttles that the VTA *does* run, one of which happens to stop at Google, so why does Google have their own bus stopping there at the station again?), and otherwise abusing public property for their private gain. And nobody seems to think there’s anything wrong with that other than the fact that it makes traffic bad. Yay, Libertopia. By duplicating public infrastructure rather than improving public infrastructure, you Libertopians have managed to actually make things *worse* than before you started your little experiment in Libertarian bus service!

- Badtux the Head-shakin’ Penguin

Too much whiskey

Lera Lynn, “Whiskey”, off her 2011 album Have You Met Lera Lynn?. No, I haven’t. But I wouldn’t mind meeting her.

- Badtux the Music Penguin

Working late

Didn’t get home until late and had chores to do. Tax day, y’know. See y’all tomorrow.

- Badtux the Busy Penguin

Loving water

The Greencards, “Black Black Water”, off their recent album Sweetheart of the Sun.

- Badtux the Music Penguin

A tax day reminder

Federal taxes from all sources in 2012 accounted for 15.8% of GDP. To find a time in American history when Federal taxes were lower than these past three years, you have to go to before WW2.

Individual income taxes last year were 7.3% of GDP. That is slightly below historical averages. What is most striking about looking at those historical averages, however, is who is not paying taxes. Corporate income taxes have plunged from 4.5% of GDP in 1955 to 1.6% of GDP last year. Excise taxes, levied on things like oil and timber, have plunged from 2.5% of GDP to 0.5% of GDP.

I am leaving state taxes out of all this for the moment, but they don’t change the bottom line: The United States is not a high tax state. The only nations in the OECD that have lower taxes than the United States are those paradises Mexico and Turkey. Which surely are wonderful economic powerhouses where people are flocking to live because those low taxes have created so many opportunities, right? Right?!

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin


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