How I Used Social Media to Buy a Car

Wow, my first post since moving to San Diego and it only took 52 days to do it! That’s pretty horrible, I must admit. Here I thought moving to a new city would inspire me to be more active in my photography and blogging. Nope. Turns out moving and starting a new job means you have next to no free time. When you do find yourself void of responsibilities, all you really want to do is relax with your iPad and new season of Nikita on Netflix. Perhaps I’m projecting a bit… Clearly I really love that show.

For all the years I lived in San Francisco I never owned a car. It just wasn’t necessary. I walked almost everywhere in that city, and loved it. It was a healthy way to get around and it allowed me a little time to myself. When I needed to go further than a say a mile, I’d take the Muni. And despite what many of the locals might say, we have a stellar mass transit system.

My apartment had a Walk Score of 98 and a Bike Score of 95. My office had a Walk Score of 92, a Transit Score of 100 and a Bike Score of 89. Basically I had the world, just steps away. San Diego, well it isn’t quite the same here. Continue reading

What a difference a year makes

This time last year I was driving a moving van halfway across the country. The days before were dedicated to packing up our home in Columbia, for the second time in a matter of months. The first packing up occurred May 2010 as I moved out of my precious District apartment in the Fredrick.

My beloved apartment in the Fredrick

My beloved apartment in the Fredrick

It was my first apartment without a roommate. Leaving that home and moving in with Ryan was an exciting time for me. We’d been living between two homes for three years. Ending my time at the place that brought me so much independence and growth was intense. Continue reading

Cash for Clunkers Return on Investment

Most of my family is pretty extreme right-wing, conservatives that seem to refuse to open their minds to reality.  I’m not someone that is extreme left or right.  I feel I’m center-left.  I vote for who I think is best for my country, no my party.

That being said, I get a few emails, every single day, from a family member illustrating their blind following of the talking heads of the right wing.  Sometimes it’s racist, sometimes it’s anti-healthcare, anti-environment, anti-human rights… it’s really upsetting for me.  I wonder how someone I love so much can be so against the things I believe in and against me.  I want to get married some day, most in my family think I should be able to marry but that gay marriage shouldn’t be legal.

Conflict much?

The latest email came in today regarding the Cash for Clunkers program.  Here’s how it went.

Subject: Did anyone do the math?

A vehicle at 15 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 800 gallons a year of gasoline.

A vehicle at 25 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 480 gallons a year.

So, the average “Cash for Clunkers” transaction will reduce US gasoline consumption by 320 gallons per year.

They claim 700,000 vehicles – so that’s 224 million gallons / year.

That equates to a bit over 5 million barrels of oil.

5 million barrels of oil is about ¼ of one day’s US consumption.

And, 5 million barrels of oil costs about $350 million dollars at $70/bbl.

So, we all contributed to spending $3 billion to save $350 million.

How good a deal was that ???

They’ll probably do a great job with health care though!!

I’m sure you’ve already figured out what’s wrong with this email.

  1. The return on investment is expected after and calculated only for a single year
  2. Cost of ownership for these new vehicles is not considered
  3. Constantly increasing cost of oil is ignored
  4. Longer life of these vehicles ignored
  5. Environmental benefit overlooked
  6. etc

So, in my response, I decided to calculate in some of these oversights.


Howdy! Hope all is well in Kerrville. School and work has me burning the wick from both ends but I think it will be worth it in the end.  Remind me again why I chose Physics as an elective?!  Probably should have rethought that one haha.

Anyways, I thought I’d go ahead and do the math for that email.  The original math is flawed, big time.  Here’s the real deal.

At crude’s highest,  June 2008, we were paying $126 per barrel.  October 2008, crude was at $68 barrel, after the election it dropped to $49, then into the low $30s before heading back up in the last months towards $72.

Over the last 18 months, the average price of crude has been $73.36 barrel.

73.36 * 5,333,333 barrels = $391,253,308.88

By rounding down 333,333 barrels, and ignoring the oil trends, the email is misleading by $41,000,000.

While that might seem like a drop in the bucket of $3,000,000, this price benefit lasts for over one year.  Cars from this program don’t stop working after one year.

The most popular cars from the Cash for Clunkers program were Toyota and Honda cars.  These cars have an expected life expectancy of over 200,000 miles and a cost-of-ownership that sits significantly lower than the most popular cars turned in.  Ford trucks, Jeeps and Chevrolet SUVs and Pickups, which have a significantly shorter life expectancy.

Using the average distance traveled per year format the email, we can figure how long these cars should be on the road, and thus calculate the long term costs.

Using the 18 month average of oil, ignoring inflation, depletion of oil reserves and the lower cost of ownership, here’s how it works out.

200,000 / 12,000 = 16.667 years of use

16.667 * $391,253,308.88 = $6,520,888,481.33

We have more than doubled our money.

Looking at the attached graph, the idea that crude would stay at its current value is comical.

Cost of a Barrel of Gas from 1946 to 2008

Since 1972, crude has gone up over 2441%

Again, ignoring the fact that oil goes up in price every year, on average, by quite a bit, we still more than double our money back.

So yeah, making back the money in one year is ridiculous and I haven’t heard a single person behind the Cash for Clunkers program claim in a single year $3billion would be recouped.

But over 16 years, we’ll double it.  In just over 7.5 years, if crude oil doesn’t go up in price, contrary to historical data, we would pay off this program, dollar for dollar.

And then, there’s the environmental benefits.  Not only do these cars use less gas, they put out fewer emissions.  The Honda and Toyota cars, which made of the vast majority of Cash for Clunkers cars are Zero or Partial Zero vehicles.  The amount of emissions released is substantially lower.

I’d have to spend a good bit of time to calculate the total, speculative return on investment for this program.  I would have to include a reliable futures for the price of oil, calculate the cost of ownership for the cars new and old and compare the life expectancy of these new cars to the ones they replaced.  However, this information would only INCREASE the measured effectiveness of the program.

So, yes, someone did do the math and the original math was terribly misleading.



If anyone wants to do the stats on this and give me the true numbers of return on investment over 16 years (the life of the car) including cost of ownership and likely oil futures, I’d love to forward it on.

It sure felt good to get all that off my chest, though responding to these emails all the time is tiring. Do you find yourself doing the same thing with your family?
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Look Ma, No Wheels!


Originally uploaded by justex07

So, I get a call at 3:30 Wednesday morning from the University Police. Officer Rod Stewart (I kid you not) is on the phone.

“Is this Justin Scott?”
Yes it is.
“Do you own a 1998 Silver Honda Accord?”
Yes I do.
“You need to come down to the Hitt Street Parking Garage, it appears someone has stolen all of your wheels.”
Ugh, vandalized again? I’ll be right down.

My friend Scott, who was crashing on my couch, went down with me to investigate the damage.

They took my tires, my rims and in turn bent my rotors. It’s a big hot mess and the sixth time it has happened since I have moved back to Columbia. At this point I think nothing can surprise me. My car will get the windows knocked out, my doors will be knocked in my basketballs, my door handles will be ripped off, my stuff will get stolen out of it, my bike will be stolen from my apartment, my clothes will be destroyed by deviants in the laundry room, my transmission will go out and so will the brand new one two days into its life.

These are just things I accept now. It’s ok, shit is going to happen and it is going to happen to me, but it no longer gets me down. It is more of something that has become a comical nuance to my life.

I am Justin and I am perpetually screwed.

Fuckity Fuck

Labor Day weekend was proving to be really awesome. Had fun hanging out with my friends, working, having a three day weekend… and then shit happened.

Some one felt the need to throw a football sized rock through my window causing damage to the interior of the car and obviously destroying the window. Oh, and they stole my 30gb iPod Video and my UltimateEars ifi5 Pro headphones.

Did you know insurance doesn’t cover stolen items from your car?  True story.  Beyond “permanent installations”, you are fucked just like me.

What a Week…

The last several days have been full of ups and downs.  So much stress, I think I aged a few years in just these days!

It all started when the Budget moving truck we rented didn’t work out.  The office was supposed to close at 6:00 but when we called at 4:45, they had already left the office.  We had a $150 deposit on the truck and didn’t want to lose it but if we waited until the next day to pick it up, we would be one day behind schedule.

My dad and I found the last U-Haul in town large enough for my stuff but not too big, it was an additional $200 to the price of the Budget but it was available.  So we pick it up and drive to my grandmother’s rental property to pick up a dinning table, side tables and coffee table.  Off to my parents house to pick up a couch and chair for my uncle, then to my uncle’s for my couch, my bed, my night stand and to move a dresser to my brother’s new place.

When we got there in the early morning Saturday, we realized that the movers we had in place to move the furniture out of the second floor apartment of my uncle, were not showing.  So my dad and I moved it all.  Then we went to my brother’s to drop off the dresser and then to my parents new house.

We needed the furniture dolly that my dad loaned my brother… who loaned it out to a friend of his who loaned it out to his cousin.  Yikes.  So we have this 55″ HDTV that weighs 276lbs to carry now, instead of roll, onto the U-Haul.  We load the TV, some granite counter tops, some shelving, boxes of CD’s and DVD’s, my refrigerator, chairs, this that and the other, packed full and then start our drive.

Since we got such a late start with the rental truck fiasco, we were forced to drive from Houston to Columbia with no stops.  My dad and I split up the driving, he did the first half, i did the last half.  I had driven the last half a dozen or so times and he had driven the first half several times, so that worked out nicely.

We did get a nice stop for dinner but that was pretty much it!

We got to Columbia at around 6:30am and crashed at my old apartment.  I couldn’t sleep at that point so I watched some TV and relaxed a bit.  Met the movers at my new apartment and helped them unpack it.  They did a great job, but charged us for an extra 45 minutes!  That was upsetting, and expensive.  But everything fit.

We ran to my old apartment, loaded up a bunch of stuff into the U-Haul and drove it to the new place, started unpacking and wrote down things we needed to fix at the new place.  The bathroom needed new shower stuff, all the light fixtures needed to be replaced, new ceiling fan, new air conditioner, new power outlets, new kitchen countertop/cabinets…  We had a lot of work in store for us.

We worked through fathers’ day until 12:30 AM on monday, and four hours later I was driving my dad to MoExpress to go to the airport.

The next day I worked, unpacked boxes but had an OK day.  The DSL was installed and it didn’t work, my gas didn’t work and my car needed to be picked up.

Most of my “friends” wouldn’t lift a finger to help, though I have to give huge thanks to Dave, Brenden, Ryan, Brandon and Nicole.  Dave helped almost on accident and then was the hero who drove me to MoExpress today.  Brenden SAVED me by driving me around town  yesterday and Ryan took charge to help me put my apartment together.  Brandon took two car loads of stuff from my old place to my new one, thanks!

See, the day after I picked up my car from the autobody place, where they didn’t actually repair my car as quoted… it broke down.  Nicole, a friend from work gave me a ride to work, only two minutes late, and just the day before had driven me to the autobody place to pick up the car from the U-Haul place when I dropped off my truck.  She was an absolute gem.

So, the car breaks down, my gas is turned on in the wrong apartment, my DSL is broken, after paying $85 to get it installed, my drains aren’t working, my shower still isn’t fixed, the light in my kitchen shorted out my electrical in my apartment, my computer is running with only 1-2% of available processor (no idea why that as going on), my other apartment was supposed to be moved out by yesterday at 5:00 for my sublease, I fuck up my knee hard core… and it seems everything I touch gets cursed.  My computer at work overheats (104 degrees Celsius which is about 40 too high) and our hot water tap catches on fire.  But I have a good time at work, really enjoyed it.

This was such a stressful week, everything I tried to do, backfired at me, nothing went smoothly and so many of the people who I have called friends, boyfriends, etc, wouldn’t even attempt at helping me.  The help came from people who I am realizing are true friends.  I would have done any of these things for any of my friends yet, only a few came through for me.  Thanks so much guys, you really saved me.  Ryan, Nicole, Dave, Brandon and Brenden, thanks so much.

I made it to my flight and am writing this as we approach Indianapolis.  I hope to have a great time visiting Klipsch and hope some wonderful things might come from it.  After this it is back to Columbia for a few days, then to Washington DC and New York City.  Then back in town for a week and a half and then to California and then Chicago and then finally back to Columbia for good… unless I go to Nashville and South Carolina!

Maybe I can finally get some sleep once this is all over.  I love my new apartment, it’s going to be so awesome once I get it totally set up.

Ciao my loves.