Economy of Cars – Cost Per Mile

I go through a lot of cars…  I buy them cheap.  Drive them till they die, or I flip them for a profit (flip as in sell, not flip as in roll over).

For cars I don’t flip I like to think of the expense as cost per mile.  Here are 4 examples.

The Beater  – I bought a ’96 Geo Prizm about 4 years ago from a friend.  It cost $300.  It was over-heating, and I dropped about $1500 in parts to essentially refurbish the engine (all new belts and hoses, water pump, head gasket, head job, radiator, etc…  Everything but the bottom end.).  So far, I’ve gotten about 60k miles out of it.  That means I’ve spent $1800 on it, and gotten 60k miles.  That makes for a cost of about $0.03 / mi.  Then you add gas, which due to high gas prices, and bad gas mileage comes out to about $0.13 / mi.  For a total of $0.16 / mi.  That doesn’t include some regular maintenance (tires, and a few minor repairs) since the purchase of the car.

The New Car – Lets say you buy a new car, and drive it for 100k miles and then trade it in.  A 2016 Honda Accord starts at $22k, but you’re probably going to get some options (like power locks, etc…) and drop closer to $30k after taxes, title, fees, etc…  You get 100k miles from it, and when you trade it in, you get $5k for it (I don’t think anyone gets $5k on trade-in for a car with 100k miles, but we’ll be generous).  That makes the cost (without gas) $0.25 / mi.  Add in gas, at 35mpg ($0.08 / mi @ $3/g) and you are at: $0.33 / mi.

The Middle Ground – I have a friend who just bought a 2009 Toyota Yaris.  Total cost was about $8k.  The car has 70k miles.  The Toyota Yaris is a true economy car.  They last FOREVER.  He should get 200k additional miles out of it if he does regular oil-changes, etc…  And the only expensive repair he should have, is a clutch somewhere in there.  So, he gets 200k miles for $9k (assuming it will need a clutch).  That means he will end up paying  about $0.045 / mi without gas.  The Yaris easily gets 35mpg, and most of his driving is highway where he could get as high as 40mpg.  So, we’ll do $0.08 / mi just like the Accord.  Which comes out to $0.125 / mi.   Not too shabby.  Especially since 100k mi plus will be deductible for work.  Which at $0.55/mi comes out to $55k in tax deductions.

Fun Cars – I really like fun cars.  I’ve had 2 pure sports cars, an MR2, and an RX7.  Both were AWESOME, and it’s been a long time since I’ve had a fun car.  I recently found out about a really awesome, economical car.  The Hyundai Genesis…  Hyundai’s have come A LONG way in quality in the last decade.  You should be able to get 180k+ from a well maintained Hyundai.  The Slightly older Genesis Coupe comes with a 3.8l V6 that makes 300HP!!!  You can get one for about $10k with less then 100k miles if you shop around.  That means about $0.10 / mi.  Less then half the cost of the Accord per mile.  And twice the cost per mile of the Yaris before gas.  But 10x more FUN per mile :)

So, the next time you want to buy a car, do some quick math and figure out if it makes sense.

Disclaimer: No, I didn’t take into account regular maintenance, tires, brakes, fluids, etc…  But these costs are fairly regular.  In general, they get more expensive the bigger the car.  So, if you want to include these in your calculation, I would just add 20% to 40% to the gas cost per mile (bigger cars get worse mileage, just the way it is).


Do The Work – My Review

Do The Work is a masterful work by and for the Bi-Polar ADD artist in us all.  The author (Steven Pressfield) describes the 3 phases of any dream / project.  The Beginning, The Middle, and The End.  He encourages / tells us to start before you are ready (and I am, I’m not really ready to write this review, but I’m taking his advice).  Then, when we approach the middle, He has the courage to declare something we all fear to believe.  That Yes, the universe is stacked against us, and there will be LOTS of resistance in the middle, you just have to keep going.  I read a book a few years ago and the whole message of the book was. “If you believe, the universe will work for your good, and you can do anything.”  Which is total BS.  (Can you believe, one of the reviewers was Hillary Clinton, and she praised it? (there was some sarcasm in that last sentence)).  There is some truth to that concept, but it totally ignores the angry monsters of resistance that are doing everything possible to pull you back down to earth. Pressfield briefly touches on the powers of the universe to help you to your goal, but instead of emphasizing them, paints them as a source of assistance to someone giving it their all.  Like the fans spread across a marathon cheering you on, and telling you you can do it even though you are certain your lungs will explode if you don’t stop now.  He then talks about the Fear of the End.  And how you need to “just do it”, and finish the thing.  “A Damn the torpedoes, we’re going to finish this thing.”.  He wraps up the book with a few pages congratulating us for finishing, welcoming us to the exclusive club of people who did it, even if we didn’t get the results we wanted, we did it.

So what do I think about it?  Is the book true?  Does it work?  I would say absolutely yes.  I have been on projects where the whole team was devoted and sacrificed everything to make it happen, because they wanted to.  I have also been on teams where the boss forced everyone to behave in a similar way, making everyone miserable.  I’ve dove head long into things that if I had stopped to think about I would have talked myself out of.  I have enjoyed all of those experiences and learned a great deal, and accomplished incredible things in very short time periods.

At the same time.  I think there is a mental and emotional cost associated with the kind of dedication to work his book could be interpreted as trying to motivate.  Blind dedication, 20 hour work days, and never stopping to rest is why half of Manhattan is on Crack/Speed.  Yes, you can get tremendous things accomplished by just working non-stop.  However, how long can you keep this up?  Is it possible to work for a dream 20 hours a day for a life time?  I would say sure, if you want to go crazy.  How about 8 hours a day 5 day a week?  Easy.  How about 12 hours a day 6 days a week?  I would say yes, you can do that as long as you stop and take a break when you need to.  I also think the emotional and mental toll is less the more you believe in what you are doing.  I think the more you believe in what you are doing, the more energy you get back from the results you achieve.

He also talks about a pattern of Work, and then Reflect, and then Work, and then reflect, just don’t try to work and reflect at the same time.  I think this has been a big road block for my personal performance.  I always reflect when I work, and if I see any problems I halt until I figure them out. He is advocating don’t worry  or fret about the time you may loose making mistakes, or going down the wrong path.  You will learn from it anyways.  Just do the work, and then reflect and make changes if necessary.  I can attest to this.  I have started projects, even half way completed projects, and only as I finished great milestones did I realize I had made some errors in my initial design, and had I not done the wrong thing I wouldn’t have known how to do it right.

So, what am I going to do?  I am going to search more for something I believe in, find that thing, and then pour myself into it in ways I haven’t for a long long time.

Making a USB OTG cable for the Nabi Tab / Dream

Nabi has their own proprietary usb plug for many of their tablets.  I ordered a Nabi big tab 20″ for a display at work, but I needed to connect some usb peripherals to it.  I assumed it had a standard usb micro port so I didn’t order an out of stock Nabi USB OTG adapter.  Doah…  USB OTG is really simple.  There is a 5th pin, and when it is tied to ground, the device knows it should be a USB host instead of client.  (aka, when that pin is tied to ground, you can plug usb things into it, instead of plugging it into another computer).

Here is my instructable if you need one of these yourself.


Easily Download General Conference Talks

The LDS Church recently changed their website, and it is more difficult to download talks now.  I wrote this quick User Script (I recommend the Chrome plugin “Custom JavaScript” to use it.).

Here is the code, just paste this into the box after you install Custom JavaScript and click on the blue “cjs” in your toolbar.  Then click save.  Now, any page with an audio file that can be downloaded will have a “Download” link added to the nav at the top.  right click, choose Save As, and violla!

     '<li class="pf-joshua__menu"><h3 class="pf-joshua__menu__heading"><a href="' + jQuery(this).attr('src') + '">Download</a></h3></li>'

God is Evil because he let’s bad things happen??

Recently I heard one of my favorite YouTube stars go on a rant about how there is no God.  His argument was that people die of starvation in Africa and thus God either has no power to stop it or chooses not to stop it and is evil himself because he chooses not to.  His argument makes several presumptions.  One of which is that there is no possibility that he has the power, wants to act, but chooses not to for good reasons.

Religion is a very touchy topic which frequently brings on flaming, and a heated debate.  I do not wish to incite such a thing, not am I trying to convert anyone.  Rather, I am trying to explain a very difficult subject in such a way that people who are confused by it, or believe something because it is the only thing they have heard that makes since, etc…  may have a new perspective to consider.

Before I start into my rebuttal to his statement.  I have to try to explain my perspective.  First, I am Mormon.  Some of the doctrines we believe are critical to understanding our perspective.  I’m a pretty open minded guy, and as I continually consider the entire body of Mormon Doctrine as I know it, and weigh it against my own experiences and what I see in the world.  I haven’t found anything yet that doesn’t “fit” with what we call “The Doctrine of Christ”.

The first thing to consider is that in the dialog of God vs. No God our position is neither prove-able, nor un-prove-able to other people.  This is because one of the doctrines is that “ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6).

With the preamble out of the way.  On to the meat of my thoughts.

Mormons believe in the Plan of Salvation.  Which is:  We lived before we were born.  We didn’t live as amorphous ethereal conglomerates of fluffy stuff that God conjured up on a whim.  Rather, we believe that we are literal children of Heavenly Parents (yeah I know, it is different, but given a study of the bible, with this perspective, I think you can see how this position is tenable, and within the realm of possibility).  What do children do?  They grow up to be like their parents.  Now think about that for a second.  What is it like to grow up and be like God?  When people hear this, they frequently imagine things like the Greeks, and their belief in a Soap Operaish Dysfuntional collection of all powerful beings.  I can a-test, that is NOT what Mormon’s believe in.  I don’t believe you could even call Mormon’s Poly-Theistic.  We don’t worship multiple gods / deities.  We worship a single being.  While he has many words which you can use to represent him, the word we most commonly use is “Heavenly Father”.

So, let’s put ourselves in his position for a minute.  Your children are growing up, over a period of millennia / eternities.  One day they could achieve a position where they are heir to all you have.  Where you share all that you have with them.  How do you determine who has the discipline and patience to be trusted not to obliterate planets in a temper tantrum?

We believe that this Earth Life answers that question.  It is a time where with limited knowledge, and opposition in abundance we are tested to see what we will do.  When we feel the gentle subtle pulls of conscience to do what is right will we heed them, or will we ignore them?  Will we seek out those things that feel good, not in a temporal immediate sense, such as pleasure, and immediate gain, but rather, those less tangible things that are the subtle fruits of a life full of service to others.  The almost imperceptible tugs at our hearts.

To achieve this, it necessitates that this life has no obvious signs.  No giant billboards that float in the air, and glow with power we don’t understand, that say “God is Real, and He Loves You.”  However, to aid those that are seeking after good things, God does provide small crumbs, clues and hints that point the way.  Things that when looked at closely, just don’t quite make sense until you frame it within the “Plan of Salvation”.  That is why, (un-named YouTube star), God allows people to suffer, he allows evil to occur, because if he didn’t, it would not fit this Plan of Salvation, it would make all the suffering of the world, vain and pointless.  It would make this test, an invalid experience.  It’s not because he is impotent, nor because he is impassioned about his children.  Rather, similar to letting our own children fall and stumble so that they can learn, he has to let his children, and thus at times, the majority of the human race fall and stumble to make the test valid.  He cares, he cares deeply, however because of the laws he is bound to, and because of his love for his children he cannot act.  One of my favorite scriptures is Moses 7:28 – This verse comes after the great evil of the world is show to Enoch, specifically in the time immediately before Noah.  “And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?”

This explanation of why bad things happen to good and innocent people can be especially hard to accept for those who have had great evil perpetrated upon them.  There are other doctrines which comfort those which I didn’t touch on.

I, believe these things are true.  I do my best to make choices based upon these things and to do what’s right from my understanding.  Many members of the Mormon faith say things like “I know”, not just “I believe” because they have had this witness.  No, they most likely haven’t had the veil parted and seen God face to face.  But they have seen things, felt things, and experienced things to such a degree they can say with honesty “I know”.  I believ I can say with honestly that I know what I have written here is true.

While I’m expecting a cascade of comments such as “What about children in China?”  and “What about people who never heard about him?” and “I once knew a Mormon who did such and such…”  Most of these questions have good answers, but they aren’t one sentence answers, some of them aren’t even one page answers, but there are answers for most of them.  And if you really want to know the answer, and aren’t just shouting back in my face I may write up an answer, or point you to a good answer, there are lot of good answers on, and  If you recognize and feel those gentle tugs at your heart I mentioned earlier, I would encourage you to go learn more, and consider a new explanation for the source of those feelings.



The American People’s obsession with Crap.

Recently, the outside blower motor on our heat pump started to go bad.  It made a horrible noise on startup, and upon inspection, the bearings were going out.  I replaced it with the help of my good friend Bill McCain and afterwards cracked it open in the shop to see what went wrong.  I was expecting worn bearings, but I was ASTONISHED at what I found.

This motor DIDN’T HAVE ANY BEARINGS.  Instead, it had sleeves / bushings, and this crappy oil soaked felt that had disintegrated around them.  Upon further research, I found out that none of the smaller HVAC blower motors have real bearings in them!  This article here: has a good explanation of why.  There is no demand for them, because no one wants to pay extra for them!

User Jraef posted:

“I used to work for a company that as a side line, represented a mfr of muffin fans for enclosure cooling. They offered “maintenance free” fans and they offered ball bearing versions, which cost about 50% more. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, bought the ball bearing fans. 5 years at that company, their sales of ball bearing fans was zero. The mfr was angry about it because they made more profit on the ball bearing fans and wanted our salesmen to push for the upgrade since they were made in the USA and the others were brand-labeled cheap imports from Asia. Didn’t matter, nobody wanted to pay extra for them.

That company eventually sold out to an Asian competitor and the US production was shuttered. So what I am saying is, we (as consumers) get what we collectively ask for.”

And he has hit the nail on the head.  We, collectively, don’t want to pay extra for better quality.  That is also why Walmart is putting small businesses out of business.  If we didn’t flock to their stores and buy their low-priced items, the smaller stores wouldn’t have disappeared.

To make it sound better, sleeves are advertised as “bearings”, and real bearings are marketed as “ball bearings”.  (Or needle bearings, etc…).

Old PCs are Treasure Troves for Makers

I recently got 2 old PCs (Windows XP Era) from work.  They were throwing them out, and I grabbed them.  I really just wanted the power supplies, but as I took them apart, I realized just how much useful stuff they have inside

Lets start with the power supply.  35A-50A @ 5v…  You could charge A LOT of USB devices at once with that.  You could also use the 12v side to power things made for cars.  Such as: Car Stereos, A Car Amplifier, CB Radio, Ham Radio, LED Lights, Headlights for a super bright work light.  Hobby RC Battery Chargers.  You could even put in a current limiting resistor and use it to charge your car battery…

Then you have the CPU heat sync.  That is a match made in heaven for one of those flat super high-power LEDs you can get from ebay…  You could also carefully cut it into pieces, and use it for TO-220 heat syncs.

The CPU Fan, and optional Case Fan could be turned into a small working hover craft.

The hard drive contains a few super strong Neodymium magnets.  A brush-less motor, and usually a small solenoid.  Not to mention the case is made of solid aluminum that you can melt down to cast your own stuff.

The CD-ROM drive can be turned into a 3D printer if you have a few of them.  If it’s a dvd burner you can use the laser diodes to make a low power laser cutter.

If it’s old enough to have a floppy drive, there is another stepper motor for you.

The metal case provides some sheet metal you could use to bend your own enclosures if you get a brake.  You can make a shelf out of it (even I’ll admit that’s kind of ghetto…)

The old IDE and Floppy cables make great connectors to breakout the GPIO header on a Rasp Pi or other SOC computers.

Some computers have a tiny speaker attached to the motherboard pins for that annoying BIOS diagnostic beep on boot.  Others have a larger speaker in the front grill.

From the motherboard, you could de-solder the usb connectors for the aforementioned device charger.  The audio ports could also be used to connect a portable device into the car amp you’re powering from the power supply as well.

If you were really adventurous, you could use the onboard DVI and HDMI connectors to make your own HDMI to DVI adapter. Here is a schematic to get you started.

And all the other random bits are great for a day at the range :)


Upgrading A Windows Machine To a Smaller SSD using dd.

There are so many articles on migrating to a large magnetic drive to a smaller ssd drive.  I’ve tried a number of tools in the past, and all have worked.  But recently I’ve tried using some old-school methods.  dd is a tool that has been around for ages, it lets you take an in file / stream, and write it to an out file / stream.  So, for example, lets say you have two identical hard disks, you want to copy everything from one to another, say the source drive is /dev/sda, and the destination is /dev/sdb,  you can just do “dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb”.  It is a pretty powerful, but basic tool.  so it won’t provide any indication it’s doing anything.  And, if you accidentally mix up the if and of parameters, you have just destroyed data :)

But! What if you can’t get both drives into the computer at the same time?  I have a laptop I wanted to upgrade from a 500gb hdd to a 120gb ssd.  But, I didn’t have what I needed to connect both drives at the same time, but, I have a linux server on our home network.  Shrinking a drive is easy now days.  You can boot up a linux live usb stick, and use ntfs re-size to shrink the partition so the data is all at the beginning of the disk.

I used dd and ssh together to pipe the output of dd to a file on the server.  i.e.  “dd if=/dev/sda bs=1048 count=(some large number) | ssh joey@fs1 dd of=/data_brick2/laptop.img”  that’s it.  That easy.  Then, I swapped out the drives (while the laptop was running, you can do that safely with sata) and ran “ssh joey@fs1 dd if=/data_brick2/laptop.img | dd of=/dev/sda”

I didn’t dump the whole 500gb to the server, rather, using the bs, and count parameters, you can control how much data dd dumps.  I knew I had about 100gb of data on the drive, and since Ir an ntsf resize, it was all at the beginning, so I set the bs (block size) to 10k or so (1024 * 10), and then set the count to 1024*1024*1024*105/(1024 * 10).  Then, I used iftop to monitor the network traffic between the server and my laptop and could tell when the job was done.

Once the data was on the new ssd drive, you have to use parted or fdisk to change the partition size to be legal.  See, ntfs resize doesn’t actually change the partition size, it just moves all the data for the file system to the beginning of the partition, and resizes the file-system.  So the boot record that dd copied over says the partition was 500gb in size.  But, now it’s on a 120gb ssd.  Parted has an easy to use resize command.  I did that, it resized the partition, but it didn’t resize the file system…

So, the next step is to boot back into windows, run the disk partition tool, and you should be able to expand the partition by a few mb…  When you do this, Windows also resizes the file system at the same time, and Viola!  Now you have access to all the space on the SSD, everything is good, and you didn’t have to download or install anything.

If you’ve never used dd before, give it a try next time.  Just be 100% absolutely sure that you have if and of correct, and you know which drive is where so that you don’t loose any data.



OpenSCAD for Notepad++

The OpenSCAD editor leaves some things to be desired.  OpenSCAD isn’t supposed to be an IDE, it’s a really awesome scripting language to generate 3d and 2d models.  And I think they threw the editor in there to make it easier for people to get started.

Notepad++ for windows has a pretty sophisticated syntax styler, and someone out there has an xml file you can import for Notepad++ but it only looks good if you use black for your background by default, and they had a lot of the key words seperated.  It just wasn’t for me.

I took theirs (it’s on thingiverse, but I don’t want to put the URL here because I don’t want to improve their SEO, since I think this one is far far better :) ), changed some colors, added a few things, and this is the result.

To use it, click here: and then click on “Download ZIP” and extract it to your desktop (or where ever).  Then open NotePad++ -> Language -> User Defined -> Import…  and select the file.  VIOLA!

Independant Contractors almost always get the short end of the stick in Contracts…

(RANT) As a small business owner frequently working with larger clients I frequently get asked to sign contracts. What I have discovered as my legal proficiency has increased is that attorney’s usually write contracts that protect their clients interests only, and not the other party. i.e. We don’t employ legal counsel yet, and so the client’s attorney always writes the contracts. So the contracts we get are almost always un-fair to us and we have to go back to the client and point out where the contract isn’t what we verbally agreed to, which isn’t the clients fault, it’s their attorney doing their job.

Some of the things we frequently see is for them to have power to terminate the agreement whenever they want with notice but we cannot. Or, the most recent one, had an attachment which if we had signed, would have assigned to them all property rights to anything we delivered to them (which, since we use a framework, and all the solutions we deliver include the framework, would have given them property rights to our entire framework).

We also frequently get contracts that say the work we do for them is a “work-made-for-hire” which is pointless for a contract to say. Because… The Copy Right Act of 1976 defines what a “work-made-for-hire” is and because of the way the act is written, a contract cannot re-define what a “work-made-for-hire” is. (i.e. A Duck is a Duck regardless of what you call it). And according to law, the author of a work has the copyright unless they assign it to somebody else, or the author created the work as a “work-made-for-hire”.  So the wording is in there to scare contractors into thinking because the client paid for the work, the client owns rights to id, which is never the case, unless certain things are met. See: for more details, and here: for a publication from the US Copyright Office.

So…  Read contracts carefully, because unless your attorney wrote it, or there are laws to protect you, you are going to get screwed.