21st Century Dad
One Dad's Thoughts, Ideas, and Feelings.
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News, Notes, Links for 1 March 2009

March 1st, 2009 . by 21st Century Dad

Mom and dad bloggers can get away with disappearing for weeks at a time. I’m anxiously awaiting updates from some of my favorite moms and dads in the blogosphere. Where are you?!?!?!

21st Century Dad is moving in a new direction which is following the course correction my life has taken. I will continue to write about topics of interest to all dads in addition to garnering fellowship with divorced and separated dads. An article about time management is coming up very soon. I didn’t want to spring that on you in the midst of the CTRL-ALT-DEL stuff without an introduction.

Seitan Worshiper

Seitan Philly Cheesesteak

Seitan steak'n'cheese sandwich

As some of you know, I’ve been exploring vegetarianism and veganism lately. I made my own seitan for the first time last night. It’s incredibly fun and easy to make. An investment of just under $4 yields 3 pounds. How much meat can you buy for $4, or what kind of meat is available for $1.33/pound?

Seitan allows me to enjoy the gooey goodness of a “steak” and cheese sandwich. Thanks to Vegan Dad for the recipe.

My experimentation with tofu and now seitan will keep me busy in the kitchen for a long time. My mind is already racing with the possibilities.

Dad Blogs

Dad Blogs

My philosophy is to put more effort into fewer social media sites than spread myself too thin. You can stay very busy just working Facebook. Despite this, Dad Blogs has earned a bookmark in my browser.

As a social networking site, it has all the features you would want to use. My favorite feature of Dad Blogs is the Instant Chat. It’s like having our own private little Twitter.

Joe Schatz (you may know him as Joeprah) and Pete Janelle created this social networking site for dads and dad bloggers. It’s not a total sausage-fest. A few super-cool moms move the male/female ratio closer to that of any college with the word “Polytechnic” in its name.

You don’t need to have a blog to join.

New Friends

And now for some overdue link love. You may notice some of these as recent additions to the blogroll.

Money Smart Marriage – JW shares his insights on personal finance from a family point of view. Lots of good stuff here. Frugal date ideas aren’t just for husbands and wives. Dads paying child support feel the pinch too.

Open seven days a week. Closed Sundays. – Generation-X Christian woman, and a single mother of a wonderful little princess. I love her sense of humor. “I’m going to live forever or die trying!!!” HAHAHAH.  She also knows about proper care and maintenance of automobiles.

Savvy Stepmom – I thought back to when I was 24 and all the 24 year olds I’ve known since. Few are as savvy with money or as resourceful. This woman drives a car that doesn’t have a functioning reverse gear and gets by just fine.

The Broward County Transit Diet

Broward County Transit - Clean Air Hybrid

Clean Air Hybrid

The popular perception in South Florida is that a car is a necessity. I’ve been doing OK with the bus and my bike. I take full advantage of Google Maps and Google Transit to plan my outings. One day, I ran errands all day and made it to a 7pm movie downtown, all without a car. I’ve lost 10 pounds after losing 3000 lbs back in July. The crunchy green part of my heart sings whenever I see the “Clean Air Hybrid” buses that BCT operates. Their buses run on a biodiesel too.

The increased physical activity has also helped my overall mood too. I don’t want to think about where I’d be without exercise, good nutrition, and medication.

27 Days on One Tank of Gas

May 13th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad
Sport Utility Vehicle
Photo: SocialTechnologies.com

Crunchy on the Inside With a Soft Suburban Outer Coating” started its life as a lengthy and thoughtfully written article. I decided to split it up into smaller chunks over several weeks. The first installment came out on Earth Day. The mid-section of this article series has expanded due to the timing of events.

Maybe you employ every gas-saving tip out there, but there is more money to squeeze from other areas in our lives without suffering for it. Some tactics even improve the quality of life.

Finally Filling Up Again

The insidious “E” light came on today as I was driving home from work. I know this doesn’t mean “Get gas now or be stranded on the roadside!” but it always imparts a sense of urgency. Besides, I spotted a screaming bargain at $3.73/gallon (15 years ago in Europe or Japan, dozens of cars would be lined up at that gas station).

I made it 27 days between fill-ups. I paid $6 more at the pump this time.

The Real Cost of Gas

Gas prices are an easy target. The per-unit cost has gone up significantly, but what impact does it really have on our budgets? Let’s examine a hypothetical (and realistic) scenario here:

The Almost-Good Old Days

  • $3.00/gallon
  • 25 mile round-trip commute.
  • 25 MPG


  • $3.73/gallon
  • 25 mile round-trip commute.
  • 25 MPG

To keep this simple, we’re isolating the cost of commuting to work. I’m Asian and I got bad grades in math all through school. Let’s keep this simple, OK? Based on the assumptions outlined above, we have a fuel cost of $15/week in the past. At the higher price, we have a weekly fuel cost of $18.65. We’re talking about $3.65. Can you find $3.65 worth of fat in your weekly expenditures? Yes, the percentage of increase is gruesome, but what is our total expenditure increase over the medium and long term? Oh, and BTW, you can trust these figures. I’m not that bad at math.

Think Outside the Pump

I’m not making light of the budget stretching that’s going on. I also recognize that many people have longer commutes or less fuel-efficient vehicles than the scenario outlined above.

I get my share of “woe-is-me.” There’s a teenager living here. If a solution to your problem is within reach, the last thing I want to hear is whining. Enlist your creativity (or mine) and find the money you’re throwing away.

  • Chances are, in a 2-car household, one car gets used more. Drive the one that gets better mileage more.
  • One can of soda per day represents $10/month. Drink water instead.
  • Attention smokers. Cut out 3 cigarettes a day and there’s your $15/month.
  • Do I really have to talk about the oft-vilified Starbucks Latte again? Dunkin’ Donuts coffee costs less and tastes better.
  • Visit my buddies Frugal Dad and Mike.
  • Ride your bike instead of driving.
  • Take the bus.
  • Buy stuff on Amazon instead of driving to the mall.
  • Stay home and read my blog.

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21 Days And Counting on the Same Tank of Gas

May 6th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

Public TransitThe last time I filled up my tank was April 15th. It was so long ago, I had to dig in my bank statement to find out. I spent $37.02. That tank of gas would cost me $43 $45 today. That’s why I have been riding my bike and using public transit.

I admit, my results are skewed. I was without the full-time employment portion of my income strategy for 2 weeks. My current gig gets me out the door at a reasonable hour and guarantees that I can leave work promptly at the “official” end of office hours.

I’m pretty handy with the most of the Adobe Creative Suite (hint hint hint to anyone looking for freelance graphic designers). PDFs of the bus timetables and maps can be easily sliced up, organized in iPhoto, and imported to my iPod. An essential piece of public transit warrior gear can become even more useful.

Reducing one’s reliance on an expensive resource is always a smart move. Commuting by car would represent a monthly fuel cost of $64. That’s not inclusive of the total cost of driving or the personal driving that I do. I am clearly coming out ahead by riding the bus. Reducing my gas consumption to 1 tank of gas per month is a realistic goal. Taking the bus to work costs me $40/month.

Driving less also translates into higher resale or trade-in value on my car when it’s time to phase it out.

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Crunchy on the Inside – Driving Habits

April 29th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

UPDATE 29 April 2008: After some reflection, Renee and I realized one car sat in the driveway for 2 days, and another is almost through day 4. Last night, I went to the post office, picked up some small items at Walgreens, and did some grocery shopping all on the bike.

I started this series on Earth Day last week. This is installment #2 of “Crunchy on the Inside With a Soft Suburban Outer Coating.”

Your Navigator on a Suburban Expedition

Sport Utility Vehicle

Photo: Murray Barnes

Living in the suburbs almost requires a car. Public transit spread thinner and eventually disappears as you venture further from the downtown area. This is painfully obvious in South Florida. The infrastructure was built without public transit in mind. However, I do my best to use public transit and ride my bicycle whenever I can. Two bus lines stop within a short walk from my front door. Others are accessible via transfer, a longer walk or bike ride.

Fortunately, we live in a neighborhood where a few local stores and restaurants are within walking distance. Even more businesses are within biking distance. I feel the guilt when I drive to places I could walk or bike to.

One of my top criteria for an automobile is fuel economy. I wanted a hybrid, but I just didn’t have the budget for one. If you do the math, the savings aren’t significant. You won’t recoup the difference in price at the pump over the life of the vehicle, even as prices go up.

You can’t win. The hybrid will get you halfway from New York to Boston before a Hummer gets you around the block. A conventional car may burn more fuel, but what happens to the toxic chemicals in the batteries when these cars make it to the junk yard?

Some people have a legitimate need for a large automobile. What grosses me out are the people who drive SUVs and full-sized pickup trucks as status symbols. Their sheer size requires more resources to build, maintain, and outfit with humongous tires. Ever notice that no one in a full size pickup truck drives like an old lady? How badly do you need to beat me to the red light? Do you really need to get there first? Bad driving habits burn even more fuel.

Improving Fuel Economy

Is this still linkbait or is the topic played out? Gas prices show no signs of returning to sane levels. Just do a Google search and you’ll find tons of great tips. My number one tip is to just drive less. Every day I take the bus is one more day I can put off filling up the tank.

Mike at FromMike.com is doing the “60 MPH challenge.” As you increase speed, your fuel economy goes down. At speeds in excess of 60 MPH, it drops off precipitously. I commend Mike for his efforts. It can’t be easy in a car like his. If I had a Dodge Charger, I’d be tempted to be heavy on the foot too

We’re Still Not All That Crunchy

How are we “not quite crunchy” in the car department? One of our vehicles is a 2000 Mitsubishi Montero Sport. Yes, it’s a big honkin’ SUV. I was surprised to find out how well it does considering the size of the vehicle. We’re averaging about 18-20mpg overall. Our other car (a Pontiac Vibe) does noticeably better at 25-28mpg overall. We do a great deal of suburban driving. On our recent roadtrip to Daytona Beach, we fared much better.

We all know that idling the engine burns fuel. South Florida is a brutal place to live if you don’t have air conditioning. If we’re running errands on the go, one parent and the baby stay in the car with the engine running. Why go through the ordeal of unbuckling the baby from the child seat only to strap her back in 5 minutes later?

Further Reading

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Riding My Bike To Save Money

April 25th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad
Riding My Bike To Save Money
Illustration by Elliott Kim

I live in a neighborhood that allows me to accomplish errands on bicycle and has good access to public transit. It is something I have done intermittently in the past, but have recently stepped up my efforts. Even if gas prices weren’t where they are now, I would still look for opportunities to walk, ride my bike, or take public transit.

I have a spotty record as a crunchy eco-warrior, but I do what I can. In the days leading up to and since Earth Day, I have taken advantage of several opportunities to run some errands on my bicycle.

Frugal Dad is now a bicycle commuter. I did it a few times a week. I find it silly to get in my car for anything less than 2 miles away, unless I’m hauling a large volume of stuff. Some of the easy things I’m able to do on my bike include:

  • Picking up small items at the store
  • Go to the post office
  • Prescription drop off and pickup
  • Go to the library
  • Pick up movie rentals at Blockbuster

There are times when we do need to run out to the store for just one item. These are the times when a bike ride is ideal. It does take a little longer, but you’re supposed to be fitting exercise into your day, right? Why not double-dip and accomplish both tasks?

When I maintained a gym membership, I found one close to home. I biked the 4 miles each way. The 30 minutes it takes to ride my bike to and from the gym was my cardio workout. If I drove, that was 20 minutes that I was accomplishing nothing toward my fitness goals. I combined part of my workout and travel to and from the gym. This is a case where the slower form of transportation saves time.

It’s not easy to be a bicyclist in South Florida. The suburban landscape is on a scale more appropriate for cars. Anything smaller than a Ford Taurus is invisible to most drivers. Drivers here are bad about yielding to pedestrians and cyclists. If motorists aren’t watching out for you, then you need to take care of yourself on the road:

  • Wear a helmet (I know, I need to take my own advice).
  • DO NOT listen to an MP3 player while cycling. If you absorb only one piece of information from this article, make it this one point. Your ears are like another set of eyes. If you are riding in the street, you are technically operating a motor vehicle and bound by the same laws as automobile operators. Listening to headphones is expressly forbidden while operating a motor vehicle in many, if not all states.
  • If you ride in the evening, you must have a headlight for the front and a light on the back. Check with the laws in your state or municipality. I know it’s the law in Florida.
  • Wear light colored clothing. You’re only slightly less invisible. You get bonus points for wearing a reflective vest and a safety blinker.
  • Do not let items hang from the handlebars. If you are doing your grocery shopping on bike, invest in a set of panniers and a cargo rack.
  • Ensure your bicycle is in good working order. Inspect it before every trip.

There are downsides to cycling too, but the benefits are realized quickly, sometimes instantly. I feel great knowing that I’m taking care of myself and our planet.

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