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Toshi's thread

dan-o

Turbo Monkey
Jun 30, 2004
5,055
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I'd trick that LC out as a lux trail rig.
small lift, FU bumpers etc.

It'd be perfect for getting the family to the backcountry and given your short commute not really impact DD use.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
I figure I'll wait on bumpers and sliders until I inadvertently damage the stock parts. Slee Offroad and ARB will still exist in the future, I assume. For now it's as capable as I'm courageous, minus the tiny dent I put in one running board last weekend.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
Relevant to my past musing about LED taillights in this thread (noting that both the Land Cruiser and LEAF have 'em):

http://chemlinks.beloit.edu/BlueLight/pages/hp/an1155-3.pdf

Robert Schumacher, Delphi’s director of advanced engineering, [stated the following]: “Our research shows that between 37% and 74% of rear-end collisions are preventable by early warning systems.... Just 0.5 seconds [500 ms] in early warning would reduce rear-end collisions by 60%.” Two UMTRI studies conclude that LED signals provide a braking response time advantage between 170 and 200 ms under favorable lighting conditions and up to 300 ms under adverse lighting conditions (e.g., viewing at a distance with high-intensity illumination on the lamp surface). Note that a 200 ms improvement in braking response time is equivalent to a 19.1 feet reduction in stopping distance at a speed of 65 MPH.
Key figure:

 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
Also, the Land Cruiser threw a code this morning. Hmph. I'm going to assume it's another loose gas cap code, so retightened the cap and will continue on my merry way. I'll look into it next week if it hasn't cleared itself after N miles driven.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
we've had a Fiat 500L rental ... The 500L is weird. Good power, slightly balky transmission, horrible interior materials, great roomy feel, oddly distant windshield, tiny pillars. It'll be interesting to see how the related Jeep Renegade turns out.
Video released today of the Renegade reveals good approach angle, sure, but an utter lack of articulation only paralleled by the Land Rover Evoque.

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+ToshiClark/posts/f2ZPdHjnTKn

It's as if ad types and magazine writers have no clue what articulation actually is, and are instead impressed by it lifting its wheel like a puppy lifting its leg...

Update: inlining photos now that I'm on a big computer







 
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Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
Video released today of the Renegade reveals good approach angle, sure, but an utter lack of articulation only paralleled by the Land Rover Evoque.
Numbers: 8.7" of articulation cited by Allpar's Renegade page: http://www.allpar.com/SUVs/jeep/renegade.html

For context, the bloated Series 200/current Land Cruiser has 240 mm rear wheel travel, or 480 mm in articulation in Allpar's terms, as best as I can decipher. That's just shy of 19", non-metric types. Source for this: http://toyotamedia.iconicweb.com/mediasite/attachments/Landcruiser_fulltxt_E_tcm317-729291.pdf
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
On the other hand, articulation is truly relevant to my life only when I go out of my way to make it so, and a perky little Renegade would probably get 50+% better gas mileage ferrying me to work. It's just galling to see such bullshit from Jeep, who actually have an "articulation" page on their Trail Rated mini site:

http://www.jeep.com/trailrated/articulation.html
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
Also, the Land Cruiser threw a code this morning. Hmph. I'm going to assume it's another loose gas cap code, so retightened the cap and will continue on my merry way. I'll look into it next week if it hasn't cleared itself after N miles driven.
CEL is still lit. I ordered a cheap WiFi OBD2 dongle from amazon that'll hopefully work with one of the myriad of OBD2 iPhone/iPad apps to allow me to read and clear the code.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
CEL is still lit. I ordered a cheap WiFi OBD2 dongle from amazon that'll hopefully work with one of the myriad of OBD2 iPhone/iPad apps to allow me to read and clear the code.
Still a P0456 code: evaporative system leak of less than 0.020" (very small). I cleared it and already tightened the gas cap the other day. When I go in for my next oil change I'll have the independent shop* techs take a gander but it doesn't sound like a big thing: gas cap, hoses, or charcoal filter is what I read.

* said independent shop only works on Toyota, Subaru, and Honda vehicles. Picky lot, them.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
Code hasn't sprung up again since clearing. Score.

In other news, these data confirmed what I already knew, that people in cars are jerks: http://www.apnewsarchive.com/2014/Survey-finds-most-people-aware-of-dangers-of-texting-and-driving,-yet-many-do-it-anyway/id-f0a3c833e38340e9a14ebee412b6fc37

This, plus the fact that in standard time it's dark by 5:15, and driving by a fire truck and ambulance tending to a cyclist hit by a car, cements that I shall not be bike commuting on regular work days during the winter. On academic days, when I can cheat on my hours on both ends, I might make a go at it, or not.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
We visited the model home again [in mid-September], father in law in tow, and found out some very welcome news: due to slow sales the builder cut the non-negotiable per master developer covenant base price by $45,000! That plus not checking a few option boxes would cut the net price $65-95k, and that in turn makes the finances totally doable [...].

I'll get underwritten for a mortgage in late winter, wait out the developer opening up the swath of (comparatively) big lots that we desire and then sign a contract whenever that happens (spring to summer?), and then rent our current house for a whole extra year.
Above update was in late September. Since then the lead sales rep (of 2 on site) for New Town Builders has been canned, no doubt due to the same slow sales that led to the unprecedented price cut. We visited the model home yet again today and found out some more lot specifics from the non-fired, remaining sales rep.

It's still undefined technically, but it looks as if the block containing the solitary lot that we want will open up for sales around February. This works well with my own financial plans: I'm going to take a penalty-free Roth disbursement Jan 1, as that'll be 5 years after I rolled over some traditional IRA money to Roth at my then-very-low-as-a-resident marginal tax rate. That Roth money will let me wipe out all existing consumer debt and have enough left over ideally above the monthly budget for the earnest money that the builder will want to secure the lot.

More on the lot itself: It sits in a block of about 12 on a curved street that isn't a through street. It'd be 3 blocks away from the semi-major east-west road that connects to the north-south road that my hospital is on, for easy commute action to work. The whole block of lots is designed such that only one house model (of 4 in this builder's particular series) can be built on each lot, so as to ensure that there are no identical houses side by side.

The particular lot is in the middle of the curved swath, and is 6,332 sq. ft. For Stapleton that's a positively huge lot (and we'll have to pay a "lot premium" to get it). The other lots in this block range from 3,800 to 7,500 sq. ft. There are two adjacent lots that are bigger, but they are already slated to have different models on them, models that we don't like as much due to the layout or other reasons.

The builder will want earnest money at time of signing a contract in order to actually secure the lot, so it's now my job to have said money ready to go Feb 1. Problem is that I'm not entirely sure what's required. What they want is $10,000 + 10% of "design center options", and kitchen upgrades and crap like that clearly fall under that design center category. I'm not sure whether structural options (finished basement, garage expansion, a/c) count, on the other hand and 10% of those options is a lot more money. Either way it'll turn out to be fine, but there's still a lot up in the air until I get that cleared up.


Update: everything is considered a design center option. $18k earnest money is what I figure.

Update 2: I'm now trying to figure out what the $25k for the Zero Energy option actually buys, and whether it'd be cheaper to do after the fact, especially with the Federal solar credit. All models, even without the option, have 9.5" thick walls so I'm trying to figure exactly where that money would go. Here's how it stands with all the boxes ticked:

http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/11/f5/hiawinner_newtown_100213.pdf

Update 3: I have gathered that the changes in past years for the option included going from ~12 to 16 SEER AC unit, and 92 to 96% efficiency gas furnace. I'm still awaiting what the current changes are, especially regarding solar sizing and ownership (who gets the tax credit on new construction?). The AC and furnace changes would only net perhaps $200 per year per this calculator...

http://www.lennox.com/resources/energycalculator.asp
 
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Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
Update 2: I'm now trying to figure out what the $25k for the Zero Energy option actually buys, and whether it'd be cheaper to do after the fact, especially with the Federal solar credit. All models, even without the option, have 9.5" thick walls so I'm trying to figure exactly where that money would go. Here's how it stands with all the boxes ticked:

http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/11/f5/hiawinner_newtown_100213.pdf

Update 3: I have gathered that the changes in past years for the option included going from ~12 to 16 SEER AC unit, and 92 to 96% efficiency gas furnace. I'm still awaiting what the current changes are, especially regarding solar sizing and ownership (who gets the tax credit on new construction?). The AC and furnace changes would only net perhaps $200 per year per this calculator...

http://www.lennox.com/resources/energycalculator.asp
Here's the very non-specific info I got from the rep:

The Zero Energy package includes

·Large array of Solar ( Configured by Solar City to fit the Hale )

·97% High efficiency furnace

·18 SEER heat pump ( which replace the AC but also servers to heat the and cool the house )

·Double panned[sic] [windows] with Argon Filled Gas

·A 2nd tank less water heater (if you finish the basement)
I still lack enough info. Implicit in this vs the earlier energy.gov pdf I linked is that they've switched to a heat pump (but retain a gas furnace). "Large" solar array is really a meaningless statement, though, and the base specs pre-Zero Energy are still murky.

If the base specs include double paned windows, a 90% efficiency furnace, and 12 SEER AC but no solar I'd probably spring for the Zero Energy package.

If the base specs are as above but with solar (leased? and no doubt smaller--I'm guessing 3 vs 9 kW) then I think saving $25k and doing more solar on my own later would be better.


Update: Per the energy.gov PDF the base Solaris II has 2.75 kW solar, while the Zero Energy package ups that to 9.5 kW. The since-fired rep I spoke to implied that the base panels were on a 20 year lease while the Zero Energy package panels are owned.

I also found out that Colorado has a state mortgage incentive that's tied to the HERS score of the house. (HERS 100 is a to-code modern house. HERS 1 implies 99% less energy use.) The Zero Energy package should kick the house to below HERS 10, which would net me an $8k incentive.

Therefore, if AC isn't needed separately and I get that full $8k, the Zero Energy package would have a net cost of $13k. At that price, for nearly 10 kW of solar, it's a definite go in my book.
 
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Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
Sundry updates to earlier trains of thought:

I think I will be able to accomplish all my financial goals, contrary to my earlier dire predictions that something must give. The first-overwhelming picture is becoming more clear with a few months under my belt. There will be no Teslas in the next decade but we won't be scrounging for change. I really am excited about the house we plan to build.

On the car front, my mind has been still, signaling both that I have better things to worry about and that the current setup is working. Jessica has been in the Land Cruiser all this snowy, frigid week, and it has been good +/- a presumed very slow leak. I have been doing fine in the LEAF on my short, flat commute, even without snow tires due to the car's leased nature. Fitting both cars in the garage still isn't easy, but I don't think I've done irreparable damage to either car, yet.

On the academic front, I have about four papers that could potentially be published this winter, and I've gotten these papers ready despite having done a reasonable job keeping work and home time separate (except for last night's MATLAB session). I'm learning how to work with collaborators more effectively instead of just shouldering the burden, and this process of stepping back and letting others do the work will be the key to getting the big publication numbers I need for promotion. I still think I can make full professor in the next 10 years without neglecting my family, and I think academics will be better for me mentally/fulfillment-wise long term than private practice. This UC Denver thing is working out for me, in other words, and I think Jessica is adjusting well, too.

The final bit that I was obsessing about earlier this year was a commuter bike. In the winter this seems like a quaint concept, even though there still remain a few bike commuters (!) here and there. I don't think I'll do anything other than ride my 29er in occasionally next year, and once we move in to the built house I'll be a bit further away on more inhospitable roads so probably will ride in even less. Priorities change, but for now getting back home after work as quickly as possible to see my family trumps the health benefits of riding. Also, that a good portion of the commute from the current rental house to the hospital is on gravel kind of kills all the commuter bike ideas I'd floated before.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671


2014 Nissan Rogue SL

Pros:

- $25 test drive offer (for any Nissan, not just this model) via the local dealer
- compact and low, feeling more like a station wagon with a slightly higher h-point than a (an?) SUV
- Around View Monitor is nice
- nicely trimmed
- cool sales guy, demonstrating the reality of the US economy: has a Masters in music earned in Russia, yet at age 40 is working as an all-commission sales guy to support his wife and three kids
Cons:

- feels quite small inside, especially in interior width: one can tell it's based off of a small car platform
- CVT reliability worries me, although it's the V6 + CVT combinations that have exploded
- not such a compelling value proposition compared to, say, an Outback
Verdict: if one wants a small AWD CUV with the Around View Monitor system this is the only game in town, but I'm not sold.



2015 Ford Transit Connect Wagon XLT

Pros:

- $50 test drive offer, specifically for driving the Transit Connect
- super huge greenhouse and low cowl: visibility nerd approved
- high-ish roof makes for good headroom even in the semi-vestigial third row, and up front there's a small-airliner-like storage bin up above the sun visors
- EcoBoost option, although not on the LWB models, iirc
- feels smaller than a normal minivan from behind the wheel, more like a Focus that's been puffed up with air until it's 1.25x scale
Cons:

- tiny backup camera on this non-MFT XLT along with generally Focus-level plastic trim all about
- windshield is quite literally 3 feet away, and even the rear view mirror is a stretch
- doesn't feel "nice" in general, exacerbated by a four banger that sounds every bit like a four banger
- not that much cheaper than "real minivans", and certainly not any better in turning circle
- smaller outer dimensions means there's very poor cargo volume behind the third row when it's up
Verdict: Certainly would be easier to fit in a small garage than a 200+" minivan, but otherwise the Odyssey and its ilk clearly outclass this strange vehicle.
 
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Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
(This also means that I should morally choose electric air heating/water heating even though NG will probably continue to be half the price of electric for the next few decades. Choosing NG would be subsidizing my lifestyle on the backs of the poor schmoes who happen to live over US and Canadian shale beds.)
As one of those schmoes whose access to my property/mineral rights has been on lockdown due to the politics and hypocrisy of fossil fuel guzzling NIMBYs for going on 7 years now, I must state your viewpoint is refreshing indeed.
Returning to the above thought, it looks like the net zero house we're planning on building will have both a heat pump and a natural gas furnace, go figure. Especially given the 9.x kW of solar that will be on the roof, using the heat pump exclusively until it can no longer keep up will be in the cards.

:thumb:
 
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Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
On the car front, my mind has been still, signaling both that I have better things to worry about and that the current setup is working. Jessica has been in the Land Cruiser all this snowy, frigid week, and it has been good +/- a presumed very slow leak. I have been doing fine in the LEAF on my short, flat commute, even without snow tires due to the car's leased nature. Fitting both cars in the garage still isn't easy, but I don't think I've done irreparable damage to either car, yet.
Mental ceasefire is now over, as evidenced by my latest test driving. (One can't blame me entirely--the manufacturers offering up $75 motivated me, too. I am still at the point where I'll trade an hour for $75.)

Both Jessica and I have acknowledged that a minivan, specifically its sliding doors, would be a good thing. She still is wary about their size and their conventional powertrains, and I'm not super enthused about the two sub-minivan options (Transit Connect and Mazda5). I also have come to the conclusion that finances will be ok, at least once I get my first annual bonus in October 2015.

Therefore, plan the latest:

- keep the Land Cruiser indefinitely, +/- rock sliders depending on how many other creases I put in the running boards, with me learning to mentally deal with its unfrugal nature as a good training exercise

- buy used RAV4 EV shortly before LEAF lease ends August 2015, have it shipped from California, and have this be Jessica's day to day ride. My frugal side approves of this as it'd be a used ~$30k vehicle with a $6k Colorado rebate and running costs lost in the noise. It'd be almost as cheap as a LEAF but much bigger, faster, and with 50%+ more range, and it'll be definitely possible to get one used as they're starting to pop up on Autotrader regularly.

- await Fiat-Chrysler actually shipping their promised PHEV Town and Country, and pick one up when it arrives, no doubt a year or two later than its promised late 2015 arrival date: let's say 2017 to reflect the sad reality of PHEV/EV vaporware

- PHEV minivan would become Jessica's, RAV4 EV would become my commuter, and the at this point 10 year old Land Cruiser would be demoted to street parking, serving as a snowy day commuter and ski shuttle (as by that point I should have a bit more time and money alike for that folly)
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
Two mini reviews today, one of CarMax, the other of a non-maxi CUV.

CarMax

Despite knowing of its existence for many years I'd never set foot in one, largely due to their sporadic distribution throughout the US. Here in Denver there are two in/just outside of town, with a few more in relatively close cities. I visited the 104th St one, near Thornton.

Pros:

- huge, clean, well lit, and withpolite staff
- solo test drive without a raised eyebrow
- MaxCare quote printed out by sales guy, even though it wasn't for the exact vehicle I test drove--this info is not easily available online, perhaps deliberately
- free coffee/hot chocolate
- well maintained website
- possible to transfer vehicles between any stores, ranging in cost from $0-1000 or so
Cons:

- neither location is particularly convenient to me given the reality of Denver traffic, but it's next to other big dealers, at least
- hot chocolate came out of machine scalding hot
- no haggle prices both a plus and minus, so haggling enthusiasts may get a worse deal here
Verdict: Not posh and cosseting like a well run Lexus dealership, CarMax is instead bright, sterile, and cheery. All in all a very good test drive experience, and given their cheap extended warranties they might end up being a decent financial proposition, too.



2009 Toyota RAV4 V6 Limited

Pros:

- feels like a car, and a small one at that in terms of h-point and width
- good visibility, good power, and sane ergonomics
- lots of room in rear seat once I figured out how to slide it backwards, with a decent cargo hold with a low load height as well
- "diff lock" button for sticky situations
Cons:

- V6 was coarser than I expected, but perhaps I'm just spoiled by my intrinsically balanced V8, and this particular 100k mile example had a bit of whine from the transmission
- plastics throughout feel cheap, with other cheap touches such as on or off only seat heaters
- this model on the lot had no backup camera and no navi, further adding to the cheap feeling
- only marginal headroom front and rear with the sunroof, but most normal humans will be fine and it'd be better sans sunroof in any case
- rear barn door
Verdict: Before I figured out the rear seat sliding trick I was ready to write it off as too small. As it is, it's palpably bigger in passenger and cargo volume than our LEAF, and my wife probably would like that it really does feel like a car with a big forehead. I think a RAV4 EV based off of its platform could work, though, and my perception of its smallness probably just reflects that my Land Cruiser is my new normal.
 
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Especially given the 9.x kW of solar that should will be on the roof, using the heat pump exclusively until it can no longer keep up will be in the cards.

:thumb:
That's the rational & fiscally prudent way to handle it. And since I find that the morals of choosing your energy sources are more than a bit convoluted, I would submit it's the responsible way as well.

In other news, and since you mentioned winter tires a while back, I recently put some Hakka R2SUV's in stock size on the (formerly idle OE wheels of the) 4runner TE. As they are my first set of proper winter tires, I have no real basis for comparison, but the first trip through a couple inches of icy slush has confirmed to me it was a worthwhile decision.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
I am envious of your Hakka R2s. I shall pick up two sets next winter, one for my Land Cruiser assuming I don't go crazy in the interim and sell it, and one for whatever replaces the LEAF.

All my money this winter is dedicated to cc debt payoff before the interest rates go from 0 to 1x.xx%, and thereafter to saving up for closing costs and a down payment on a house. No snow tires to play with, no skiing locally let alone elsewhere, but at least I will take some vacations in the spring...
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
This Tow Plow setup is pretty sweet:


I think YouTube has me pegged as a 5 year old boy based off of my browsing history.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
I've been reading a lot from two blogs lately: www.whitecoatinvestor.com and www.mrmoneymustache.com

Two different philosophies, yet both on the same side of spectrum far away than the usual American Consumer mentality.

My summary of WCI is that he wants physicians to save 15-20%, live far below their means until debt is paid off (and doctors in particular have high student loan debt, a unique issue shared with dentists but not many other groups), and thereafter live sanely but generously. Living under one's means as a specialized physician (as opposed to, say, a plain jane pediatrician) is still living pretty nicely by most standards.

My summary of MMM, on the other hand, is that he's much more militant. He admits to overanalysis of every life choice, as do I as evidenced by my sundry posts here, only his metrics of optimization weight frugality very, very highly. (He does make a distinction between clean-strangers'-plates-at-restaurants cheapness and mere frugality, mind you.) He espouses savings rates of 50-75% (!) and early retirement via cutting expenses down to, in his family's case, $30k/yr not inclusive of sunk costs into a paid-for house. He also seems motivated by ideology much more than WCI--witness rants against wasteful huge SUVs, etc. whereas WCI has a boat and SUV, both bought used.

There's good advice found in the posts on both blogs. I think the biggest differences between them are explained by their audience, and I fit WCI's audience much more than that of MMM. Since medical training forced such an effectively late start to my career and entailed such a specialized skill set I plan on working in my field for a long time. I'll save 20+% gross pretax and live within the means of what's left, but I'll hire contractors instead of DIYing everything as my time is now valuable. I'll refrain from that Lexus LS that gave me the no doubt illusory and temporary feeling of pleasure when I test drove it, but I won't sell my used Land Cruiser and don a hair shirt while riding a cargo bike to the local co-op, either.

In other words, I'd like to emulate WCI instead while remaining cognizant of MMM's message that luxuries make one beholden and addicted to them.
 
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Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
MMM has posted on car safety, as have I, go figure. He cites NHTSA data showing differences in safety between different vehicle classes on the order of 50%, and then based off of a 1/100M vehicle miles driven mortality rate cheekily concludes that he'd gain an expected extra 1.5 months to his life by driving a Tahoe versus his Scion xA.

My data, as summarized in these two threads, suggest the difference in safety between the safest and least safest classes of vehicles is more on the order of 100-200%, although the data for individual vehicles are very noisy since driver demographics is a huge, uncontrolled variable.

Where his analysis goes awry, IMO, is that he only talks about mortality. As I have seen myself in my professional career, there's a whole spectrum of morbidity resulting from car wrecks short of frank mortality. Per Wikipedia there are about 33k traffic fatalities each year in the US as opposed to 2.2M (!) injuries, of which I'll make the conservative assumption that only ~10-15% are serious, rendering, say, 200-300k serious injuries per year (or 1/10M miles driven, scaling his uncited 1/100M miles driven fatalities stat).

New math with 15k miles/year, which is closer to the national norm: 1/10M vehicle miles driven chance of serious injury ==> 0.15% per year chance of being seriously injured while driving a car. To derive the chance of injury over 60 years one can use the following formula analogous to his: 100% - (100 - X%)^60, where X is the % per year chance of serious injury.

0.15% chance of serious injury per year as our baseline case ==> 9% lifetime chance of serious injury.
0.45% chance of serious injury per year, as in a car 200% worse than baseline ==> nearly 24% lifetime chance of serious injury.

I'd argue that there's a much more compelling case to drive a large vehicle based off of these numbers than he admits in his post. There is a veritable cascade of assumptions underlying my math (as with his), yet with IMO reasonable assumptions I find that the risk can be seen to be far from negligible as he claims.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
Next MMM post to dissect: his choice of a high deductible health plan with a $237/month total premium. Annual deductible on this pre-ACA non-HSA eligible plan is $10k individual/$20k family yearly, and he compares it to the apparently unsubsidized $1,218/month (!) low deductible plan that he was eligible for through his wife's former part-time job. When comparing those two plans I see why he picked the one he did, and I'd do the same after running the math, albeit after I was done with kids as was the case with his life situation after the one.

For me, the math is equally clear in the other direction, IMO, because my generous state employer subsidizes the vast majority of my family's health insurance premiums. As posted here I pay $195/month pre-tax while my employer kicks in $1,210, and this for a plan with a $250/750 individual/family deductible. I put $1k/year in a pre-tax FSA to cover this deductible + inevitable co-pays.

The high-deductible HSA-eligible plan option through my employer would cost me $19/month pre-tax with my employer again kicking in that same $1,210, with the deductibles rising to $1.5k/3k for in-network care (out of network care being a wild west situation with both plans). Even for in network coverage there's co-insurance after the deductible, namely 15% on inpatient care, physician fees, and inpatient prescriptions. Due to those strategically chosen deductibles, I'd then be eligible for an HSA instead of a FSA, into which I could drop $6,450 per year for my family pre-tax.

For this upcoming year we're going to have a lot of expenses, namely due to Thing 2's arrival. Even if all goes smoothly this'll probably be a $10k bill. With my current plan I'd be on the hook for $195 * 12 monthly premiums + $750 deductible, all of which would be from pre-tax money: $3,090. With the high deductible plan I'd be out $19 * 12 monthly premiums + $3k deductible + ($10k - $3k) * 15% coinsurance, or $4,278. I think I picked the right plan.

Once we decide that no more kid-births are in our future then I may switch to the high deductible plan so as to use the HSA as yet another tax-deferred hole in which to stash money (in addition to the 401(a), 403(b), 457(b) pre-tax and backdoor Roth IRA post-tax options available to me), but the incentive to do that is limited, as alluded to in my MMM vs WCI post above, since I'm already going to be putting enough to meet my retirement goals via these mechanisms.

Another good reason to not go the high deductible/HSA route is that billing becomes more of a car-buying haggling game, with unsuspecting sometimes being charged a "cash price" that is many multiples of the negotiated-down insurance reimbursement rate...
(above quoted to basically elide it while preserving it and its links)


Update: I was wrong about the last point above: HDHP allows one to buy services at the insurance-negotiated rate. I also didn't take into account that HSA contributions are truly assets that carry forward, and the tax deduction I'd get from said HSA contribution (and the PPO/HDHP premiums). Hopefully more correct math is below:

Here's an overview of my available plans (left column is current, second from right is proposed): http://www.cu.edu/employee-services/medical-plan-comparison . Below are two rough sketches of what they'd cost me (assuming family enrolled in plan, 33% marginal rate).

Current low-deductible PPO plan:

- employer subsidy $1,210/month
- my contribution $195/month
- family deductible $750, and then basically everything covered at 100% except for co-pays after that
- FSA option, which I fund at $1,000/year
Net cost for PPO option is between -$1,568 and -$2,235/year depending on if use services or if I fund the FSA. These net costs take into account my reduced tax bill by virtue of premiums and FSA money all being pre-tax.

Proposed HDHP + HSA:

- employer subsidy $1,210/month
- my contribution $19/month
- family deductible $3,000, with 15% co-insurance after that until a $6,000 out of pocket maximum
- HSA eligible, which I would fund at the maximum $6,450/year
Net cost has a much wider possible range. I'm going to not count the HSA contribution as a cost since it rolls over from year to year and is truly an asset.

If I used no services except for 100% covered preventative care and well visits for the kids then net cost would be +$8,351: I'd save well more in taxes than I'd pay in premiums plus would gain $6,450 of assets in the untouched HSA.

If we had some expensive hospital stay (like this year's maternity care + birth) then the worst case would be +$2,351: Almost all of the HSA assets would be wiped out by the out of pocket maximum, but I'd still benefit from the big tax deduction and low premiums.

Hmm. Can my math be correct? Looks to me like I should do the HDHP + HSA and stick with it regardless of whether we opt for kid #3 down the road.

Note that if we use out of network providers for some boneheaded reason then the HDHP out of pocket maximum becomes $12k, at which point one can fall behind the PPO plan (net -$3,650), but for all other scenarios it gains me money.
 
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dump

Turbo Monkey
Oct 12, 2001
5,434
231
Holy crap. One of the things I love about living Canada (as compared to the US) is not having to worry about healthcare. You pay for it through (relatively) higher taxes, but then It's always there and it works. Supplemental health insurance is a perk of my wife's job and gives us things like dental and coverage at private clinics. This reminds me that I still have a US HSA with some $$$. I should cash it out and do something productive with the funds.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
The U.S. paradox is that those with higher paying jobs often get more generous employer health insurance premium subsidies, as with me vs MMM.

For me, the difference between a 33 + 4% federal and state marginal tax rate (in Colorado) far outweighs the $2k insurance premiums I pay yearly, given that in BC my rates would be 29 + 17%! (And that assumes compensation would be identical)
 

dump

Turbo Monkey
Oct 12, 2001
5,434
231
Ha yes, but surely the difference in tax rates accounts for more than healthcare. You also didn't include the amount your employer pays.

The way I see it is that things even out more or less. Canada sometimes feels more expensive when compared to the US but also more balanced and equitable.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
More fun with MATLAB/a sneak peak at the (simple but not done before I did it) premise in one of my latest papers, soon to be submitted:


The shaded area represents the area to the left of the mean - 1.28 x the corrected standard deviation... which == 10% by the definition of a normal distribution. This has significance for determining whether an adrenal nodule is an adenoma or not.

This simple insight might prove to be the most-cited paper I write during my career, I predict... (and it still won't be cited all that much. Radiology is insular, and this isn't some new blockbuster drug's clinical trial or the like.)
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671


This shifter's ergonomics looks to be absolutely horrible, and even if it turns out be ok to use it just looks bad. This is from Acura's new 9 speed/V6 combo on the TLX, stock photo clearly.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
I posted earlier elsewhere (here, too?) regarding Future Advisor, but decided to not use them for several reasons, the most pressing of which is that they don't handle Vanguard accounts.

Today I return with musing regarding another robo advisor, Betterment, which handles Vanguard and offers some other intriguing potential benefits mainly for taxable investment accounts. I had heard of them before, but came across them again while randomly going through MMM posts: he raved about them in one post from last month [1] and was raked over the coals by his commenters amusingly, for violating his earlier published maxim about learning new shit instead of paying others. Paying others in this case is a 0.15% annual fee for accounts $100k and larger (0.25% for $50-100k, 0.35% for accounts below that).

Anyway, Betterment's big draw to me is its TLH+ tax loss harvesting algorithm. I glossed over their their white paper [2] and was impressed by what I could grok. It seems to me that this would be a good option for me to use, on a taxable investment account by definition, as I'll be in a high marginal tax rate bracket for the remainder of my career, which maximizes the arbitrage between income and long term capital gains.

Betterment can manage one's tax-deferred funds, too, with the idea that such unified management will allow both for rebalancing across one's entire portfolio and that their algorithm will automatically avoid violation of the Wash Sale Rule. Having Betterment manage tax-deferred accounts doesn't make sense to me for several reasons:

1) I can avoid the Wash Sale Rule simply by holding and continuing to buy target date funds in my tax-deferred accounts [3]
2) My overall holdings will probably be reasonably close in composition to those in a target date fund, so minor discrepancies won't affect outcome that much
3) Strategy 1 as above will save me that 0.15% fee on what could turn out to be a large chunk of tax-deferred funds given the ~$75k yearly tax-deferred pot [4] in which I can piss, er, contribute to
4) I don't want to roll over my tax-deferred accounts into a Betterment (traditional) IRA because that'd totally screw up backdoor Roth conversions due to the pro rata rule [5]

Anyway, this is a topic largely of academic interest to me as the next year will see the vast majority of my supra-expenses money go towards a down payment for a house. When I do have enough money floating around to warrant a taxable investment account ($50 or $100k, with money in standard Vanguard index funds before then) then I plan on the following:

1) Keep tax-deferred retirement accounts as is, continuing to hold and buy target date funds
2) Convert that $50 or $100k chunk of money from a standard Vanguard taxable account to one managed by Betterment
3) Use Betterment to manage said taxable investment account
4) Set up at least biweekly automatic deposits/buys as per their model so as to maximize the number of transactions, which in turn maximizes their algorithm's chances to accomplish effective tax loss harvesting

I like plans, and now I have one for the post-retirement plan monies I anticipate. :D Taxable accounts seemed a mystery to me before, and for me 0.15% seems reasonable as I'd be a set it and forget it type investor (with limited tax loss harvesting in particular) otherwise.

References:

[1] http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2014/11/04/why-i-put-my-last-100000-into-betterment/
[2] https://www.betterment.com/resources/research/tax-loss-harvesting-white-paper/
[3] http://support.betterment.com/customer/portal/articles/1595496-how-do-i-safely-use-tlh-if-i-have-external-accounts-
[4] ~$75k: 401(a) @ ~$40-42k, 403(b) @ $17.5-18k, 457(b) @ $17.5-18k, all limits of which are independent
[5] http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2012/01/23/the-backdoor-roth-ira-advanced-version/
 

Westy

the teste
Nov 22, 2002
36,265
3,000
Sleazattle
More fun with MATLAB/a sneak peak at the (simple but not done before I did it) premise in one of my latest papers, soon to be submitted:


The shaded area represents the area to the left of the mean - 1.28 x the corrected standard deviation... which == 10% by the definition of a normal distribution. This has significance for determining whether an adrenal nodule is an adenoma or not.

This simple insight might prove to be the most-cited paper I write during my career, I predict... (and it still won't be cited all that much. Radiology is insular, and this isn't some new blockbuster drug's clinical trial or the like.)

So is the point to automate the identification of adenomas or just provide some statistical guidance when the radiologist thinks "maybe, maybe not"?
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
New criteria for calling it a benign adenoma. This method is more sensitive than the usual method that relies only on mean attenuation and is basically equally sensitive and much easier to actually do than histogram analysis, which has been described and was part of my inspiration but is not widely used due to inconvenience.

In the histogram method one calls a nodule an adenoma if 10% of pixels lie below 0 HU. One can see that my mean - 1.28 * corrected s.d. simple algorithm is the extension of that based off of the assumption that the distribution is normal, which I tested as below.

In order to test my new method I had to test it against the existing methods, of course. I did that in MATLAB as well:



Bottom right is a histogram of the raw data, which in theory corresponds to the dashed line on the plot a few posts up. I tested the raw data as in that histogram against a generated normal distribution, and the stats came back that the vast majority are indeed indistinguishable from Gaussian, which in turn lets my theory work. The predictive part uses the corrected normal distribution, with the correction necessary due to widely varying numbers of photons thrown at patients depending on slice thickness, current, etc.

If anyone wants to see a bit more about the background and this project's theory, here's a presentation about it that I'm going to give back at UW later this month: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2WDoaJQHlYIUzVIdW5aSXc3cnc/view?usp=sharing

Without a knowledge of the field my unannotated slides will be a bit hard to decipher, I imagine, but that's how I roll: good PowerPoint practice with few words to let me talk and explain things instead of having a wall of text for bored attendees to read.
 
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Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
100% less meltdown as compared to last year, but getting her to both look at the camera and smile simultaneously remains a challenge:



I'm much happier with the carousel shots:





 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671


Route choice 1 above (from planned new house's plot to work). 6.2 miles or so, limited by the accuracy of my manually plotting each turn. Apart from the bit at the end on hospital roads, the vast majority of this route is not shared with cars, with most of it dirt/gravel on the Sand Creek Greenway, to boot. I estimate this will take me 40-45 minutes inclusive of waiting at two stop lights.



Route choice 2. While more roads and houses exist than at the time of the satellite data above, there's still lots of error in there due to me free handing where roads are planned to exist. Over 60% on paved roads, shared with cars. Probably a fair bit faster.

The blue dot on both maps is where I currently live, which is clearly much closer...

The choice between these routes isn't clear to me:

The first takes me on this other-worldly look at the underside of Denver's infrastructure. Parts of it smell like sewage. There's no traffic save for the odd person walking their dog or jogging along.

The second has me dicing it up with cars, and Havana St runs right by the jail immediately after a train crossing, which in itself adds a possible delay. While it goes by industrial areas, I think the sewage aroma would be much less.

Either way, I'm planning on riding to work as much as I can, purely pedal powered. I know it is better for my health to ride: what holds me back is my craving for the comfort and ease of the car. Comfort or health? I know what I should choose.

As long as there's not snow or ice on the ground (and as long as it's not a night when I have evening rehearsal far north) I really have no excuse but my own laziness. With either route I'd get back by 6 pm most days, handily in time to eat dinner with my family. I'll have to start wearing real riding gear and changing clothes at work, but again that's just a choice to leave the house with 10 more minutes to spare.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
The blue dot on both maps is where I currently live, which is clearly much closer...
Current 2.5 mile walk in the park (could be shorter but I head north, out of my way, to join the greenway):

 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
One thing about Stapleton that had confused me is that there are clearly (even to this day) airport remnants found both south of I-70, where we rent, and north of I-70, where we plan to build. (Yes, I know that the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge that'll basically be in my back yard is a remediated Superfund cleanup site. I'm ok with that.)

Anyway, the answer to this riddle is that I-70 went under Stapleton Airport's runways!



Via ColoradoDOT.info





Above two via a thread on airliners.net: http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/general_aviation/read.main/3692715/

Here's a cool aerial shot of the airport's layout, found via this page, and supposedly by the USGS: http://www.airfields-freeman.com/CO/Airfields_CO_Denver_NE.htm#stapelton



This shot is oriented with north at the top of the image. I-70 runs right to the left about a third of the way down the image, with the tunnel still in place at this point (note dozens of airplanes at the terminal at the bottom left). I-270 heads northwest at the top left.

I live now about 1/4 from the right/east-most end of the southernmost runway. Our planned lot is about 1/10th of the image from its top/north end, just west of where the west of the two north-south runways projected (north of its northern terminus).

One can understand from these photos why the surrounding areas in Aurora (see dense neighborhood in bottom right of the above photo) were crappy. It must have been insanely loud! Even though Aurora is found to the south and east, Stapleton as it currently has been reformed is a part of Denver proper, as is a swath of land heading east and northeast all the way out to the modern Denver International Airport. I heard that this is so that Denver can reap the taxes from the airport. It being this way, plus neighborhood choice schools, are why Stapleton has good public schools, so I won't complain.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
Left for dinner tonight and in pulling out of the garage saw my 29er's rear tire was solidly flat. Front tire was also well on its way there. I pumped the front back up and replaced the rear tube after pulling at least four palpable thorns out of the tire.

Welcome to Colorado riding, I guess. I think a switch to some sort of touring tire with thorn protection is in order.
 

Westy

the teste
Nov 22, 2002
36,265
3,000
Sleazattle
Left for dinner tonight and in pulling out of the garage saw my 29er's rear tire was solidly flat. Front tire was also well on its way there. I pumped the front back up and replaced the rear tube after pulling at least four palpable thorns out of the tire.

Welcome to Colorado riding, I guess. I think a switch to some sort of touring tire with thorn protection is in order.
Put Stan's or some other kind of sealant into the tube.
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
I have a small cache of tubes with non-removable cores, unfortunately. (I do have some Stan's sealant and an injector lying around from my now-aborted-and-largely-sold-off 26" trailbike build, at least.)

My current 2.5 mile commute is very easy, flat-wise: a few blocks of paved roads and a mile or so of gravel and dirt. It's the longer off-road route 1 option when we eventually move that'll kill my tube budget, which will probably prompt me to go with a monstrosity like this:



That blue bit in the carcass is rubber. Heavy but reputedly quite effective, and I'm not planning on any dedicated trail riding anyway...
 

Toshi

Harbinger of Doom
Oct 23, 2001
25,873
1,671
I finally got the tubes to stay inflated. I think this week I've thrown out two tubes, one hand pump (bad Presta side head), and five tube patches of which three just didn't want to stay air-tight. In place are two new non-removable core tubes from my still-stocked stash.

I'm not sure if I ever even used that hand pump, a Blackburn Mammoth, on either side. I've reverted to using my trusty old Blackburn non-Mammoth hand pump that dates back to middle school: I know that one works, which is ultimately much more important than stroke volume.



Anyway, with both tires finally holding air I rode in again this morning in the above weather. Head was fine with a ear wrap thing, hands were fine in relatively thin but fuzzy Goretex riding gloves, and torso was fine in a thin fleece + a sadly non-breathable shell over it.

My legs were freezing, though, rendering this trip not worth it in my mind. Time to bust out the thermal tights and Goretex pants: a little less discomfort would tilt the balance back to the "this is a good idea" side of things since everything else is nice (no traffic on the dirt paths, destination essentially in sight, chance to work up a bit of a sweat).