2009: A personal retrospective

samuel-adams-coastal-wheat As is usual, I find myself sitting in front of a computer in the late evening. This evening is, of course, different than most. It is January 1, 2010, the first day of a new year, and the first day of a new decade. (In reality it is January 2, 2010, because it’s after midnight, but in my world the day doesn’t change until I go to sleep, which is often well after midnight.)

With an empty beer bottle in front of me, I find myself thinking back on the year that ended, and the highlights and lowlights it brought me…

  • Not changing jobs in the course of a calendar year for the first time since 2004.
    It’s hard to believe to most people, but it is true: 2009 was the first time in the past five years that I didn’t change jobs during the calendar year. As of today, I have been employed by the same company for 13 months. With 14 jobs in the past 18 years, averaging one year and three months per job, if past history repeats itself, I will be expected to change jobs this year. As they say in the financial world, past history is not a predictor of future results… but we’ll see what happens.
  • A new addition to the family: Jessica Emma DeMarzo!
    Brian-and-Jessica Born on February 20, 2009, Jessica is absolutely adorable, with the biggest cheeks on a baby that I’ve ever seen, and with blue eyes that are nothing short of astounding. For nearly four years, my older daughter, Alyssa, was our only child; in an instant, when Jessie arrived, everything changed. To experience again the wonderful experience of bringing a baby into the world, and to add to that the experience of seeing your own daughter become a sister (and a big sister at that) is nothing short of heart-stopping. Having had one child for quite some time, and now having two, I can tell you this: if you have the means and the opportunity, don’t have just one child, if not for yourself or your spouse, but for your children. It’s a lot of work, but the rewards are immeasurable.
  • Realizing the limits of what I can do.
    Sometime back when I was in my early 20s, my mother warned me of burning the candle at both ends. I’ve burned the candle at both ends ever since, and the burning has only gotten more intense as I’ve gotten older, with more demanding jobs and a family to care for. For the first time, I can honestly say that I think I’ve reached the limit of what I can do. Maybe it’s me getting older, maybe it’s the increasing demands that life puts on me, maybe it’s the increasing demands that I put on myself. Reaching the limit doesn’t mean I am going to stop pushing myself; instead, I’ll put a greater emphasis on prioritizing and focusing my energy most effectively, and I’ll take more time for myself every now and then to recharge the batteries.

The funny thing about reaching the limit of what you can do is that it doesn’t stop you from doing more. My plans for 2010:

  • Put the band back together. I’ve been an on-and-off musician throughout my adult life, and have been largely out of the music thing for nearly a decade. No longer; I’ve picked up the guitar and started tickling the ivories once again, and plan to be in a band that is ready to play gigs by the end of the year. I also plan on resuming the classical guitar lessons that I abandoned 17 years ago.
  • Finish rewriting CSFBL — really! For nearly four years I’ve been talking about and working (on-again, off-again) on rewriting my baseball game, CSFBL. It’s time to get it done, and this year, one way or another, it’s going to happen. I have some traction and a game plan, so for the first time, I can go into a new year with a feeling that the end of the rewrite journey is within my grasp. For the sake of the thousands of people who have stuck with the game for all these years, I had better deliver!
  • Getting involved in local politics. Those that know me personally know that this has been something in the back of my head for a long time. Late in 2009, I hooked up with some folks of the Libertarian Party, and I’m in the process of working with them to start a chapter in my home town. I’m still not convinced this is my final political resting place; though I am more Libertarian than Republican, I also have concerns about the limitations of a third political party in a two-party system. Still, I will be at the first meeting of the Staten Island Libertarian Party on January 6, 2010, and we’ll see where it takes us. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll see my name on a voting ballot? (I’d hope you’d consider voting for me!)
  • Clearing up the book back-log. I just got a Kindle, so I really have to start getting through the pile of books waiting to be read. If necessary I will cut out reading some magazines, at least temporarily. I’m sure the folks at Discover or Scientific American will understand, so long as it is temporary.

This is all very interesting to me, but who else cares? What does Joe Average care about my New Year retrospectives? Why do I write on this blog, anyway?

Everything I’ve written in this blog has a target audience.

  • The tech articles are intended for the tech audience, in hope that I spare them some of the pain that I’ve experienced.
  • The opinion articles are intended to give people a perspective which, hopefully, they feel is thoughtful and worthy of consideration.
  • The personal articles are written in part for my friends and family (though few actually read them)… but mostly for my children. I hope that some day they can read this and learn things about their father that I forgot to tell them, or that I had forgotten altogether.

In the end, this blog is the best legacy I have to my children. It is about me, what I’ve experienced in life, what I’ve learned; this blog is here for me to share the many different sides of me, the “Sides of DeMarzo”… and anyone who knows a little Spanish will know that “de marzo” translates to “of march” – hence, the “sides of march.”

So thanks to all those who have the patience to sit through my maximum verbosity. I hope you learn something about yourself through my experiences. In any event, a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year to all, and to all a good night!

A brief history of an amateur musician, Part III: Assorted Recordings and Dirt Man’s King

This is the third in a series of posts about my past life as an amateur musician. Other posts include A brief history of an amateur musician, Part I: The Early Years, and A brief history of an amateur musician, Part II: The Hardcore Years and Kulturkampf.

Both during and after my time with the hardcore punk band Kulturkampf, I spent a fair amount of time writing music. In the beginning, both the lyrics and music were woefully amateurish. However, I was maturing quickly as a musician, studying classical guitar under Ed Brown, and maturing quickly as a young adult; as a result, the music I wrote quickly improved.

The Home Recordings

As is common with me, most of the songs I wrote were never completed. What few I did finish writing, I recorded in my makeshift home studio, playing guitar, bass guitar, and keyboards; scripting simple drum tracks (on an Alesis HR-16 drum machine); and recording it on a TASCAM Portastudio 4-track recorder.

The songs I wrote reflected my taste in music at the time: a blend of hard rock of the 70s and 80s, progressive rock, and heavy metal. I wrote songs out of inspiration; as a result, they were reflective and often melancholy, usually written from the perspective of someone looking to the past rather than the future.

Unfortunately, none of these recordings survived over the years. Then again, I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to share them with you if they had! What did survive, however, is some sheet music and lyrics, but nothing that makes any sense to me today.

Dirt Man’s King

In college, I teamed up with guitarist/singer Bart Cambria. He had just finished writing and recording a six-song demo with his band. We played one gig doing those tunes; I played rhythm guitar and keyboards and sang background vocals. The songs were in the heavy metal/progressive rock genre, and were decent, but Bart and I soon moved into a new direction.

Scott Mesorana, the drummer and creative force behind Kulturkampf, wrote the lyrics to three songs of a “concept album” and handed them off to Bart, who in turn shared them with me. The lyrics were good, and told the story of a reluctant prophet and leader of men. It was up to me and Bart to come up with the music.

The initial musical inspiration came one afternoon, when Bart and I wrote the basic chord progressions to the first two songs. Back in my home studio, I hashed out more details to the arrangement, adding drum tracks and keyboards. It wasn’t long before we had written all three songs, including a musical interlude between the first and second song. We began rehearsing the songs with a bass player and drummer, and the following winter we recorded the songs in a professional recording studio in Manhattan.

Sadly, the story of those songs ended soon thereafter. For whatever reason, we stopped playing together, the songs forever relegated to the dust bin of my basement. Thankfully, I held on to the recordings, and recently copied them to MP3 format. With no further fanfare, I present to you the music of what came to be known as Dirt Man’s King (when you hear the lyrics, you’ll know why).

dirtmansking Playlist:
Dirt Man’s King
World of Wonder (instrumental)
The Fools
The Great and Secret Show

Words by Scott Mesorana
Music by Bart Cambria and Brian DeMarzo

Download MP3 (17:04, 15.6 MB)

What happened next for me? It was the end of the line for me trying to write original music. Instead, I started playing other people’s songs, and before long was in a band again. Over a hundred shows later… but that’s a story for the next blog post.

Quote: Work less, accomplish more

From Productivity501.com:

Personally, I am not interested in working more.  I am very interested in accomplishing more.  Trying to accomplish more just by working more is the brute force “assembly line” method. It doesn’t scale.  Eventually, you will reach a point where you can’t do any more without having harmful side effects.

Honorable mention to Mark Shead’s comment on that statement:

There are a lot of things in business (and government) that could be simplified if people would simply ask “what would happen if we just stopped doing this?”

Thinking of that, I wonder what would happen if I just stopped writing on my blog? Hmm…

The waiting is the hardest part

waiting-room-hell Being the father of a 4-year old has reminded me of the difficulty we all have with the concept of waiting. It’s hard enough for adults; it’s nearly impossible for kids.

In their defense, kids have the deck stacked against them. Patience is learned; some kids take a long time to learn it, and some never do. Kids have a poor concept of time, and of time differences. Worst of all, kids often seek instant gratification, the yang to waiting’s yin.

The actions of kids, and the language of their parents, has come to reflect the difficulty of waiting. Consider the following quotes, which every parent can relate to:

As adults, waiting doesn’t get easier. We spend an incredible amount of time waiting. We wait for doctors, traffic signals, and commercials to end. We wait for friends and family to arrive, and then wait for them to leave. We wait for good news and for bad news, then wait for our problems to get better (or our good luck to run out).

Waiting is everywhere, and it’s hard.

Fortunately for me, I’ve learned two valuable lessons to making waiting easier. My fortune is now your fortune, as I’m going to share those lessons with you — and I promise not to make you wait.

Lesson 1: One step closer…

crying-baby When my daughter was an infant, I had the dubious job of the 3AM feedings. On any given night, I didn’t know how long it would take her to fall asleep after drinking her bottle. It could be five minutes or 95 minutes.

The process of getting her to sleep involved me walking in what I eventually called “the circuit”: a circular path through my kitchen, dining room, and living room. I would talk softly to her along the way, and rock her gently in my arms. I was a lumbering, shuffling mass, barely able to lift my ridiculous slippers off the floor. One benefit: the hardwood and ceramic tile would have a polished look every morning, at least along the circuit.

How did I get through these sometimes long nights? With each walk through the circuit, I reminded myself: “That is one step closer to the last step.” Of course, I didn’t know how many more times I’d walk the circuit, but I did know that it was one less time.

Summary of lesson 1: Remember that every moment you wait is one moment closer to when you can stop waiting. Waiting is, as a result, a self-healing action; the longer you wait, the less time remaining that you have to wait. Be relieved as each moment passes; it is one step closer to where you’d rather be.

Lesson 2: Enjoy it!

cashier I often think of the teenage kid working at a fast-food joint. He is miserable; he hates his job, the smell of the cooking oil, the whole experience. He could care less about his job or his co-workers. All he cares about is his paycheck – it’s not much, but at least it’s something.

Every day, that kid gets to work and can’t wait to get home. Sure, he can heed lesson 1, and remind himself (as optimistically as he can) that each moment is a moment closer to going home, but he is still miserable.

The opposite of that is a lady I worked with at Republic National Bank. I don’t recall her name; she was a secretary to someone of importance, whose name I also forget. What I do remember is that, whenever I saw her and asked, “How are you?” she gave the same answer:

“Never better.”

What’s the difference between those two people? Granted, the secretary may have a better work environment than the fast food cashier, but for all I knew, she hated her boss, was appalled by the stuffiness of the office, and thought her job was meaningless and irrelevant, a total waste of time.

The difference between them was that she was happy, because she made the effort to enjoy what she was doing, to make the most of the effort.

How does this correlate to waiting? I will provide two examples.

  1. When waiting for the bus/train/airplane/doctor/psychologist/next cashier/parole officer/whatever, don’t fret about the waiting. Instead, read a magazine, daydream, hum a song, people-watch, or strike a conversation with a total stranger. You’re there; there’s not much you can do about it; so make the most of it.
  2. Remember that we’re all waiting for something; we’re all experiencing the same frustrations. Our reasons may be totally different, but we’re in the same boat. Instead of losing your patience, smile about it, curl your eyebrows, and remember lesson #1.

Summary of lesson 2: Make the most of it, no matter how miserable it may seem, and remember it’s not permanent. Waiting isn’t all that bad when you think of the positives.

It’s about what you’re waiting for

think-positive In the end, remember that waiting is the price you pay for something worth waiting for. If your doctor is worth waiting for, then wait; if he isn’t, find a new doctor. The same goes for all things in life: traveling, friends, family, lovers. If it’s worth having, if it’s worth keeping, than it’s worth waiting for.

That doesn’t mean waiting isn’t hard. Sometimes, it’s the hardest part. It’s up to you to make the most of it.


The title of this post is taken from the Tom Petty song, The Waiting. (Listen to it on LuLu.com.) I won’t link to the lyrics, since most lyric sites are riddled with advertisements, but I’ll share some snippets below; you can search Google for the full lyrics.

The waiting is the hardest part…

Don’t let it kill you baby, don’t let it get to you
Don’t let it kill you baby, don’t let it get to you

Thanks to Mr. Petty for giving me a title to this article, and thanks to the person who gave me the inspiration to write it!

A brief history of an amateur musician, Part II: The Hardcore Years and Kulturkampf

This is the second in a series of posts about my past life as an amateur musician. Other posts include A brief history of an amateur musician, Part I: The Early Years, and A brief history of an amateur musician, Part III: Assorted Recordings and Dirt Man’s King.

The musical experiment that was Overnight Delivery would survive no longer than two rehearsal sessions. From its shattered dreams would arise a new band: Kültürkampf(footnote 1).

The driving force behind Kulturkampf was the same two behind Overnight Delivery: drummer Scott (“Scotty Stapes”) and bassist Vito (“Vito Smegma”). I tagged along on guitar (“Brian Kampf”), having nothing much else to do with my time. John was replaced on vocals with Mike (“Mike Edge”), a decent musician in his own right who had a coarse singing style that fit our music well.

Kulturkampf gained quite a following of fans who became affectionately known as the Kulturkrew. After a few months of rehearsals, we went into the studio to record our first demo tape: Demo 1989. Fortunately, my long-time friend Jim D. (more on him soon) kept a copy, and gave it to me a few years back, so I can share this music experience with you!

Recorded in June and July of 1989, Kulturkampf’s first demo featured six songs. These songs are available in MP3 format for you to download and enjoy. I’ve also scanned the cassette tape sleeve for your reading enjoyment. (Sorry about the poor quality; we made this on a pretty low budget.) Links follow.

For those wondering what the cover art is, it’s actually a picture taken from an advertisement for an automatic pool vacuum. The caption in the original ad was, “Put down your hand vacuums.” Yes, the people in the picture are holding pool vacuums! No doubt they had their own culture struggle to deal with, and we were behind them all the way.

For about a year, Kulturkampf was going strong, with two notable highlights.

  • We played one show, in a desanctified church in Snug Harbor, Staten Island. It was a “battle of the bands” sort of night, and we were the only real hardcore band there. There were two bouncers, who gave up trying to keep order when we played our handful of songs. By the time our set was done, the Kulturkrew was in control of the arena, standing on stage with us, shaking down church pews in ways they were not designed to be shaken down. We left with our sanity intact, and after the show one of the bouncers said, “Great show, but your fans are nuts!” Don’t believe me? Ask my friend Jim (he who saved our demo tape all these years) – he was there, along with three friends, who no doubt experienced shock and awe for the first time.
  • A good friend of mine at the time, Jim B. (I had lots of friends named Jim), went to school at Seton Hall University. (He lasted about one semester, but that’s a story for him to tell.) During his time there, he became friends with some people who worked at the college radio station, WSOU, which at the time was the only radio station in New York City that played heavy metal and hard rock music. One night, Kulturkamph’s “I Hate You” was played on air. It was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life – to hear my music played on the radio! It was only once, but from that day on, I could always say my music was heard on the radio. It was a great moment; too bad the song was only 2 1/2 minutes.

Eventually, Scott went off to college, Mike lost interest, and Kulturkampf faded away. We had one attempt at a resurrection, when Scott returned from school during winter break and we recorded our second demo, with a new singer, in January 1990. The production quality was much greater, and there were new songs; unfortunately, I don’t have a copy of that demo tape to share with you(footnote 2). Needless to say, nothing happened after that, and Kulturkampf, for me at least, became a faded memory.

Despite this, the legend of Kulturkampf lives on, and the band has a MySpace page! Apparently, Scott (the drummer and creative genius behind it all) has preserved some nuggets from some twenty years ago. Head on over to http://www.myspace.com/kulturkrew for more, including some rare pictures of me in my much younger days. (No clues as to which one I am in the picture.)

For me, Kulturkampf was not the end of my music career. One of the folks I met during my time with Kulturkampf was Bart Cambria, who I would eventually team up with to write and record some music that was much different… but more on that next time.


1 Yes, the name Kulturkampf is clearly of German origin, and yes, because we were a hardcore punk band, we were occasionally mislabeled as a bunch of white power skinheads. Sure, we had our Doc Martens and flight jackets, and our music had some Oi! influences, but we all had hair (myself, quite a curly bundle of it), and none of us believed in white power. We liked the music, and were more concerned with having fun and drinking beer. The word kulturkampf translates roughly to “culture struggle” and refers to German Chancellor Otto von Bismark’s movement to secularize Germany and wrestle political control away from the Roman Catholic Church. (It didn’t work out as planned, as most political initiatives don’t.)

2 Scott and Vito, I know you’re out there somewhere… If you have a copy of the second Kulturkampf demo tape, get in touch with me!

Reflections on Father’s Day

There’s an old saying: “Any man can be a father, but it takes a special person to be a dad.”

I never thought much about being a father, or much about whether my own father was a father or a dad, until I was an adult. Once you’re an adult, you have the wisdom to see your father for what he is and was, and what he does and has done for you and your family, over the years.

Reflections on my father

In many ways, my father was the classic baby-boom father: tough, family-focused, hard-working, intolerant of laziness. Though he has softened over the years, to say he could be a hard man is a bit of an understatement. He has his own mind on things, and arguing with him is an exercise in futility. In most cases, in his eyes, he’s right. That’s it, end of story.

I used to joke that there was only one thing I was afraid of: my father. (It’s not exactly a joke!)

My Dad (Tom), Alyssa, and me There’s other sides of my father, though. His generosity knows no bounds, not just to his family, but to anyone that he respects. If you’re sick, he wants to make you chicken soup. If you’re not sick, he wants to make you ravioli and fried meatballs. (He’s a damn good cook, too.) He does more to keep my family close than anyone, and he does a heck of a good job at it, especially when you consider he’s divorced, remarried, and has four sons.

My father is the type of guy who would level his backyard and put up a 20’ wooden playground if he thought his granddaughters would like it, just so they can enjoy it when they came to visit. In fact, he did just that. And yes, his granddaughters (three, no boys yet) love it. Well, one is only four months old, but she’ll undoubtedly love it like the rest.

Despite everything my father has said to me, despite all the lessons he has tried to teach me, the most important thing I learned from him is the one thing he probably never realized he was teaching. He taught me that you judge the character of a man by his actions, not his words. My father is a man of action. He does not sit by as the world revolves around him; rather, he moves such that he makes the world revolve with him. Through his own life, he has taught me that you are what you do. He does what he says he will do, and you better do the same, else you will feel his wrath. He is a man of his word, a man of incredible honor and integrity, a man who has, through his actions, influenced the lives of more people than he realizes.

I should only hope to be such a man as my father, my dad.

But wait – I am a father! Am I doing enough to be a dad, too?

Reflections on myself as a father

Just over four years ago, my first child, Alyssa, was born. Moments after birth, as I was holding her in my hands, crying like a baby myself, she peed on me. I’ll never forget it; it was wonderful. Alyssa, now four years old, also thinks it was wonderful, and she loves telling the story about how she peed on daddy.

Me, Alyssa, and JessicaEarlier this year, my second child, Jessica, was born. She didn’t pee on me in the delivery room. Rather, she waited two months later, when she got me during a sleepover night – the phrase we use for Friday nights when we watch a movie in the basement with sleeping bags and popcorn. Alyssa also thinks this story is wonderful, and she loves telling the story about how Jessie peed on daddy.

But how am I doing as a father? I know I try hard to be the best father I can be to my kids. I always remind myself that the image my daughters have of their future boyfriends will be based on the image they have of me. I have to set the bar pretty damn high if I want to keep my sanity in ten years, so I’d better work hard now!

The best judge of how I am doing is my own father, my own dad. In a card he gave to me, maybe a year or so ago, he wrote (and I am paraphrasing from memory): “I never thought I’d see a man who was as dedicated to his kids as I am to mine. I was wrong.

Thanks, dad, that’s the best thing you could have ever said to me. Happy Father’s Day!

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove… but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”

Forest E. Witcraft, American Scholar, Teacher and Scout Leader, 1894-1967

Wanted: Talented .Net Web/Windows developer

My current employer is looking for a solid .Net/C# developer with experience programming web sites (ASP.Net, MVC, AJAX, JavaScript, etc.) and Windows applications (WinForms, WPF, etc.). If you’re interested in working for a great company located in downtown Manhattan, shoot me an email with your resume.

Check out the craigslist posting for more details.

A brief history of an amateur musician, Part I: The Early Years and Overnight Delivery

This is the first in a series of posts about my past life as an amateur musician. Other posts include A brief history of an amateur musician, Part II: The Hardcore Years and Kulturkampf and A brief history of an amateur musician, Part III: Assorted Recordings and Dirt Man’s King..

Something not everyone knows about me is that, prior to being a computer professional (sometimes hard to identify based on recent blog posts!), I was a musician. This blog post (and others to come soon) is a brief history of that part of my career, for the hordes who could care less. (I know you’re out there!)

The Early Years

I started playing guitar at 15 years old, teaching myself songs by Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, and Metallica. When I started college, I studied (among other things) classical guitar , and under the tutelage of Ed Brown (a fantastic instructor and person), I honed a rather impressive repertoire of talent. After four years of studying (and about 2,000 hours of guitar playing), I was probably as good as some of the music majors (even though I wasn’t officially even a music minor).

During those four years, I didn’t just cut my teeth playing pieces by Heitor Villa-Lobos and Leo Brouwer; I continued to play popular music, wrote my own music, performed in bands, and recorded music.

Overnight Delivery

uspsThe first official “band” I was in was a rag-tag assemblage of four people: myself, playing guitar; Vito, playing bass guitar, an instrument he never played before in his life; Scott, playing drums, an instrument he knew only for a few months; and John, a giant of a man, who never sang in front of a microphone before (at least, not that I know of).

Together, we recorded a handful of songs thrown together by Scott and others. The band’s name was Overnight Delivery (OD). All the songs were about the U.S. mail. Consider the lyrics of one song:

I like the stamp, I love the fucking taste.
I lick the envelope, get pleasure from the paste.
I write my name, don’t forget the ZIP.
To see that box is such a worthy trip.

Intriguing stuff to say the least. The music was hardcore punk, as seen from CBGB; think of bands like Sick of It All and Murphy’s Law. The best song of the bunch (all six of them) was Brown Shirts, a mosh-pit inciting anthem that takes on the great social conflict between the USPS and the UPS.

One fine day we’ll rise up and put the brown shirts in their place.
No man from the UPS will ever show his face.
One fine day the blue and grey will emerge a master race!

Mosh pitObviously, this was all a fun joke. We recorded our six songs over two 2-hour jam sessions (things take time when most people have little to no musical talent, this writer excluded!) using a $19 cassette recorder. Ten of our “demo tapes” were sold at the local music store, Our Music Center.

In a stroke of irony, about three years after OD, we met a guy who moved to our neighborhood from out of town. He asked us what the music scene was like, and if we ever heard of a band called Overnight Delivery. Apparently, he was in town a few years back, bought one of our demo tapes, and liked it. Proof that there is someone with no ear for music born every minute. (Either that, or we grossly miscalculated the potential of OD.)

Unfortunately for you, dear reader, no known copies of these recordings exist, so I can’t share the songs with you. (Rumor has it that bassist Vito has a copy, though this has never been confirmed, and he may be saving it for a future Sotheby’s auction.) Oddly, a Google search turned up a potential source for official OD memorabilia: Smoke & Mirrors is apparently the work of Scott (“Scotty Stapes”), drummer of OD (and future bands to be discussed). I’ll leave it to you to hunt further.

Alas, OD would not disappear entirely. KThree of its members – Vito, who eventually learned to play bass, Scott (who turned out to be a pretty good drummer), and myself went on to form another hardcore punk band, Kulturkampf. This one didn’t just sell demo tapes, they were on the radio. For that story, you’ll have to wait for next time.

Don’t overpay for wooden spoons

While idly browsing through Buy.com’s web site today, I came across a “hot deal” for a wooden spoon.

Buy.com's $22 wooden spoon (shipping included)

$16.40 for a wooden spoon? You’ve got to be kidding! Tack on shipping and it’s nearly $23. Do people really pay that much for a wooden spoon? Sure, it’s a Paderno wooden spoon (I guess that means something), but really now… Just do a Froogle search and find a perfectly good 18” wooden spoon made of beechwood for $2.59. Even better, buy a dozen of those beechwood spoons for $1.99 each (plus shipping, of course).

Consider your options:

  1. Spend $23 and have one wooden spoon for yourself.
  2. Spend $33 and have one wooden spoon for yourself and one wooden spoon for 11 friends.

Don’t insult grandma and buy an overpriced wooden spoon. She wouldn’t be happy.

MTA raises fares 50% and reduces fares to 1975 prices!

It seems the bureaucrats in Albany have decided that the most expedient fix to the MTA’s billion-dollar budget woes is to defer the problem to the future. No surprise there, of course. Even the New York Times is aghast.

crashed-subway In the end, a standard non-reduced fare is likely going up to $2.25, up from $2.00. Plans which Albany scrapped included some which looked for a more substantial fare increase, up to $2.50.

Let’s face it – running one of the largest transit operations is expensive. Is $2.25 too much to pay? How about $2.50? $3.00? What if I told you that the MTA can raise the fare by 50% (to $3.00), and you’ll still be paying no more for a ride on the subway than you did in 1975? Would you believe me?

In historical context, we can look at subway fares in New York City in the past and compare them to today. To make the pennies of 100 years ago equate to dollars today, we have to adjust historical numbers.

Year MTA Single-Fare Ride
(historic amount)
Fare, 2008 dollars
(inflation-adjusted)
1904 $0.05 $1.18
1948 $0.10 $0.88
1953 $0.15 $1.19
1966 $0.20 $1.31
1970 $0.30 $1.65
1972 $0.35 $1.78
1975 $0.50 $1.98
1980 $0.60 $1.55
1981 $0.75 $1.75
1984 $0.90 $1.84
1986 $1.00 $1.94
1990 $1.15 $1.87
1992 $1.25 $1.90
1995 $1.50 $2.10
2003 $2.00 $2.34

It’s pretty clear that there’s a trend: public transportation is becoming more expensive: the proposed fare of $2.25  is quite a bit higher than the inflation-adjusted fare of old.

However, this analysis skips one important fact: Today, most riders do not pay the full fare. Thanks to bulk pricing and the unlimited-ride MetroCard, only 2.1% of riders pay the full fare. In fact, according to the Independent Budget Office (New York City’s internal watchdog), the average fair paid on MTA transit systems which run at the $2.00 single-ride far is about $1.30.

The $2.00 fare – or $2.25, or $2.50 – is a false reality, much like the sticker price on a new car. The actual fare is much lower, thanks to the discounts that most people get. A $3.00 fare today would result in an effective cost of about $1.95 per ride – the same price you paid in 1975, when factoring in the discounts and inflation.

Oh, and at $3.00 (er, $1.95) per ride, you would also eliminate a new payroll tax and new fees on driver’s licenses and taxi fares. Sign me up for higher fares!