Be my neighbor! (206.4)

The big house at the corner a block up from mine, which sold three years ago when the owner moved south to take care of her sick parents, is for sale again!

It's a five-bedroom, three-bath property, set up as a three-bedroom, two-bath main house with an attached two-bedroom, one-bath apartment. There are lots of houses in this neighborhood with apartments, and it's probably a great way to afford a bit more house than you'd otherwise be able to.

I don't think there was any particular reason I didn't buy a house with a rental apartment when I bought my house. Not sure Dennis asked if it was something I wanted or if it just never came up. It's probably nice not to have to worry about maintaining someone else's home as well as your own, not to mention dealing with finding tenants, chasing rent payments, and so on.

Anyway, if you want a house on a bus route in a great neighborhood with trails nearby, either because you need five bedrooms or because you're happy to rent out an apartment, take a look. I can certainly imagine someone buying the house, living in the smaller apartment, and renting out the big part of the house, too.


Lots of driving this weekend (203.8)

I think today was just the second time I randomly got a Lyft or Uber passenger I know! First time was one of my first few rides. This one was a local casual friend who I wouldn't swear I've met in person before.

Lots of happy celebrating people to drive around this weekend, including graduating students and their friends and families. One graduate's dad enjoyed reminiscing about watering holes of the early '80s, some of which were still around when I got here.

Couple of random nice people, too. Last night's late-night rides after I got back from the amazing Sophistafunk show in Syracuse were mostly pretty repetitive, looping between Collegetown and a couple of fraternities. Last one was dropping off some recent alums, back for friends' graduation, waaaaay out in Danby at their AirBnB. There were a few people staying at pretty random places I was picking them up or dropping them off at. A lot of last-minute scrambling, since Cornell had announced so recently that guests would be allowed at Commencement this weekend.

Even got to listen to some of one of the five separate ceremonies this weekend, thanks to one of the passenger groups, who were watching the video on their phone when they got in. The ceremonies were all pretty abbreviated this weekend, which I'm sure was especially welcome due to the chilly, rainy weather. Far better than nothing!

That last trip to Danby last night got me home at 2:45am, so I ended up sleeping pretty late this morning! Glad I did that batch last night, though, since it left me with just eight trips to do today if I wanted to hit Uber's "quest" target of 20 for the long weekend to get an $80 bonus. Wasn't hard to do those eight this afternoon. Score! Between all the Uber driving and the $80 bonus, I've got $308.72 coming. Another $30.79 from two rides with Lyft. That'll come in very handy this week.

Not that surprising, I guess, that a few of the groups of students weren't wearing masks. One group was really friendly and apologetic about it. I'm fully vaccinated, they said they were and almost certainly were telling the truth, and there's negligible remaining risk there. Ridesharing and public transit are two of the handful of scenarios where fully vaccinated people still have to wear masks, and the apps remind you of this regularly, but it didn't seem worth flagging them for it. If I were personally worried about my safety, I know I could decline the trip without a ding on my acceptance rate.

Unlike last week, more than just one passenger tipped this week. Several tips of $2-5. Just a couple of the groups of students, but almost everyone else, including the Friday afternoon Lyft passenger who had me pick him up, stop at the gas station to buy some stuff, drive to a friend's place in another town to drop stuff off, and then drive him back home, and this afternoon's friendly one who takes Uber to and from Kinney Drugs, hoping each leg will be closer to $10 than to $30. It didn't occur to me until I'd dropped off the latter, but both of them could probably save money by trying Instacart!

There were two Uber quest options, $80 for that twenty rides or $115 for thirty. After I hit the twenty, it teased me with the $115 bonus for ten more, but tapping for details confirmed my guess that that was $115 total, i.e. another $35, not another $115. Decided not to bother. Need some relaxation with the pups, too.

Our neighbor, the potato (205)

Penny and Carter and Apollo the yellow lab puppy neighbor all sat and stared at each other for a few minutes while Apollo's person and I chatted this morning! He was a teeny potato when we first saw him, and he's now a beautiful little man!

He's nervous about meeting dogs, so he didn't want to come any closer, and as they headed back to their door, Carter started jumping, which won't make it any easier! He calmed down quickly, at least.

We'll let them see each other from a distance a few more times until they become familiar faces, and maybe let them sniff each other eventually. Carter is no longer quite as anxious around Ernie, another neighbor we've known since he was a puppy. He always looks to see if Ernie's in the yard, which he often is -- I think they have a doggie door! But he doesn't seem anxious about it except when Ernie has another dog visiting.

Hard to pass up a hundred bucks... (205)

I almost went with "204.99" for today's weight, since that's what the scale sent to my phone, but c'mon. It's 205. I gained 2.2 pounds yesterday! We'll blame Taco Tuesday.

As for the hundred bucks, I was driving home from dropping off some stuff at a friend's place in Fall Creek early this afternoon when my phone lit up with a notification from the Uber Driver app. $100 extra if I drive three times this week. I had reactivated both Uber and Lyft since I'd heard there was a shortage of drivers in the area, and lots of people have been complaining they couldn't reliably get a ride.

I had a 2pm meeting and wanted to make lunch first, so I didn't do it then, but after the meeting... why not?! One of the advantages of a salaried job where I sometimes have to get work done on evenings or weekends is that taking a break for something like this feels pretty reasonable.

Ended up doing three rides in quick succession. One chatty student heading back to campus from Community Corners, a pair of students heading to their apartment from Target, and a patient heading home from a doctor's appointment.

That last one told me she was really glad I turned driver mode back on after the second ride, even though I'd set it to stop driving when I picked them up. She'd been waiting an hour at the doctor's office outside of town, and they had closed in the meantime. Yikes. I knew there was a shortage of drivers, but that's a long wait.

That ride was long enough in time and distance that it earned north of $17, when the other two were $4 and change and $6 and change. My first ride had canceled when I was halfway there, so I also got a $3 and change cancellation fee. $32 and change, plus a $100 bonus. Not a bad hour-and-a-half, give or take.

I've generally enjoyed driving for Lyft more than Uber in the past, but I really like the way the Uber Driver app has evolved. Among other things, it shows a heat map overlaid on top of the map map when surge pricing is in effect, showing where demand is highest. If I head in those directions, and if I'm offered a ride, I'll earn extra. Last week's sole Lyft ride showed no such feature, but it might also not have been in effect at that time.

The strange thing is that none of the four rides gave me a tip, between last week's Lyft ride and today's three Uber rides. I certainly didn't get a tip for all rides in the past, but four in a row with no tip is weird. Hope it's not the new normal. I won't keep driving for long if I'm getting just four or six bucks a shot. Not a bad hourly rate if you count just the time with the passenger in the car, but when you factor in the time to get to them and the time to get home, suddenly it's not worth it.

Dreaming of driving? To a beagle? (203.0)

I know I've dreamt of driving before, but I'm pretty sure I'd never before last night (well, early this morning) dreamed of driving for Lyft. I meant to post about this this morning, so before I completely forget, I figure I should share it.

This wasn't just dreaming about Lyft driving.

This was Lyft driving where the assignment was to drive over to a large store to meet a beagle and pet the beagle.

So, yeah, this also wasn't just dreaming about driving, but about dogs! No idea why a beagle in particular, but I'm sure that's the kind of dog I was heading to see. Maybe it was Anabel.

I haven't done any Lyft or Uber driving in over a year, but I do know drivers have been hard to come by during the pandemic. Now that I'm fully vaccinated, maybe I should do a little more driving. I certainly have loads of spare miles on my lease mileage limit.

Lyft and Uber drivers are required by law to accept rides with service animals, but I've never had a passenger with a service animal in my car. I know I wouldn't be able to pet it anyway.

Fully vaccinated! (201.5)

I didn't really mark the occasion, but I've now been officially "fully vaccinated" for over a week. Over two weeks, by some measures. Officially you're considered "fully vaccinated" two weeks following your final dose of vaccine, but apparently that's for Moderna. For Pfizer, you really only need one week, but the proverbial "they" decided that rather than confuse the message, and make people wonder if they had to wait one week or two, they'd just tell everyone two weeks.

I'm celebrating by visiting my family this weekend! It'll be the first time I've seen any of them in person, as opposed to on Zoom, since my mom's birthday last January. This time it's my dad's birthday on Monday, and we're having a little gathering on Sunday to celebrate. Lots of hugs! And maybe still masks when we're near each other. We'll see.

I'm not worried for myself -- it's not hard to figure out from my social media, though I don't really talk about it outwardly all that much, that I've been eating indoors with other people a couple of yards away just about weekly for the whole time. My parents are both around 80, though, and each already has health issues, and while I'll gladly deliver hugs, I also want to be careful what else I deliver.

A friend is taking care of the dogs while I'm away, and hopefully she'll be careful with Mavis, who really shouldn't be out of her crate when either of the other dogs isn't secured. I've done my best to make it clear.

Credit card surcharges for hotel stays? Not reasonable. (202.5)

I just read a travel column on rogue Marriott properties levying credit card surcharges against company policy.

Apparently, the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort had been charging a 2% credit card surcharge, and after Marriott said they would put a stop to it, it became a 1% surcharge. Matthew points out that under Florida law, the hotel can legally do this. There were some bans on credit card surcharges several years ago, and then "cash discounts" were allowed instead, but apparently the distinction was ruled a first amendment violation.

Don't get me wrong. Small businesses with razor-thin margins are legitimately being crushed by credit card fees, often 2.5-3% and 30¢ per transaction, especially on small transactions like a cup of coffee where cash makes more sense. That $2 cup of coffee isn't making anyone any money if you pay for it with a credit card. That’s where I see credit card surcharges as reasonable, as long as they’re clearly stated in advance.

I even feel for gas stations, which in many if not most cases are small local businesses who don't enjoy the deep pockets of the oil company whose logo they've paid a franchise fee to show. Those mom-and-pop gas stations are only getting ten cents per gallon of the $2.89 we're paying while the big gas distributor companies, oil companies, and state tax agencies split almost all of the rest. Guess which portion the credit card costs come out of. Yup, the small shop owner's 10 cents, not the distributor's buck or the oil company's buck. I hate the high cost of a tank of gas, even as I've used far less gas this past year than any before, but it's not the local gas station's fault.

There's a local restaurant that's started saying the menu price reflects a cash discount, and there's a 4% higher charge if you're paying by card. At first, they were letting guests know about that only when the check arrived, and that's just not fair. The unpleasant surprise leaves a bad taste in people's mouths after a good meal. I'm sure some server tips suffered as a direct result. Yes, a small restaurant with slim margins is affected by those credit card transaction fees, and wanting to pass them along is understandable, as long as the business is up front about it.

But a hotel? They can’t possibly expect people are paying in cash for their several-hundred-dollar or even several-thousand-dollar stays, and a credit card surcharge (or the inverse of a cash discount, it doesn’t matter how you phrase it) on a hotel stay is not reasonable. Of course some guests will hand over a wad of cash or write a check, but that's not what the vast majority -- probably damn near 100% -- of guests is doing. They probably figure business travelers won't care, or even wealthier vacationers who'll casually pick a Westin resort might not miss the difference, but families who've saved up for a splurge should not be faced with the last-minute discovery that they're being charged a couple percent more than they thought they were.

I like the idea from one commenter on Matthew's blog post. Hotel springs a credit card surcharge or "cash discount" on you at the last minute? Go to the bank and get your $800 hotel bill in pennies and give them those. Without the wrappers.

So long to Stevie (201.9)

A Facebook post from a person I've never met about the passing of a dog I've never met hit me harder than I expected this afternoon. I've been thinking a lot about Miss August Moon lately. Auggie was such a good piglet.

I told Stevie that Auggie was looking forward to playing with him on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, and asked him to tell her that I love her. The simple reply, "i will tell her, tho she already knows," made me cry this afternoon -- and it just did again.

Eleven years ago, thanks to Kat, Auggie got her first new lease on life. Four years ago, when we were looking for a new home for her, she informed us she'd found it. One year and a month ago, we learned she had metastatic lung cancer and she decided she wasn't done. A year ago, we had a couple of weeks of happy, bouncy piglet ahead of us.

She did know. All of them know. Even Mavis, who wags her tail and cuddles at every opportunity, as I try and probably fail to hide the frustration and exasperation over a situation that's 100% not her fault.


Still feeling fine about 40 hours after my second Pfizer shot, but I was pretty zonked last night, went to bed early, and slept for about nine hours!

I took yesterday off just in case, and managed to get done a couple of the things I had planned. A friend who seemed interested in Mavis ghosted us on a doggy playdate, and she seems to have been offline since Thursday afternoon. Hope she’s OK.

Also hit the last of the Foodnet Mac & Cheese Crawl entries I’m going to get to, with a little drama for each. Some of the eateries make it really hard to participate!


Plexiglass and clipboards! (200.0)

Interesting observation from bill_schubert that he wishes he'd bought stock in clipboards. "Things we really need in a pandemic: Plexiglass and clipboards." He had just gotten back from a vaccination site where there must've been at least a couple thousand clipboards in use.

I wish the signs at the vaccination site I visited last week hadn't been so adamant about no photography or video recording (right up to the point you were asked to point your phone camera at a QR code to submit a survey) so I could take a more casual look around the site after the fact. Now I'm even more curious how a TV station got permission to shoot in there during what looked like a pretty busy stretch. Surely they didn't get permission from each of the hundreds of people in there at the time.

Maybe I'll ask if I can get some photos for news coverage purposes on my second visit in two weeks.

There were a lot more laptops than clipboards at the Syracuse site from my recollection, as everyone seemed to be looking up or entering patient info on laptops. Definitely lots more clipboard action at the flu vaccine clinics on campus in the past, since there's generally no preregistration for those and everyone's asked to fill out forms while waiting in line. Stacks of clipboards and pens and multipart forms, and at least last year, someone sanitizing the ones that had just been used before they were handed to the next patient.
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