Chad Perrin: SOB

15 April 2008

Penguicon, CFP, DEFCON, and travel costs

Filed under: Geek — apotheon @ 10:02


As I mentioned elsewhere, I’m going to Penguicon this year. In fact, I’m leaving home tomorrow — road trip. The SigO is coming with me, of course. I have no idea whether I’ll have much opportunity to write anything at SOB from there, or whether I’ll have much to write about it when I get back, but I fully intend to have fun while I’m there.

I’ll be passing through Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana on the way. I don’t know of any readers of SOB in those states, but if you’re out there, perhaps you could offer suggestions for paths to take to make the trip easier or warnings about the behavior of the police and other undesirables in your home territory.


In the latter half of May, I hope to be able to make it to the Conference of Computer Freedom and Privacy. There’s just one small problem: between taxes and other expenses, I’m probably a little too tapped out to cover the cost. I’m kinda casting about for someone to road trip it with me to reduce expenses (alas, it looks like the SigO won’t make it to this one). If I make it, though, I’m pretty much positive that I’ll have stuff to write about it — if not here, then at ITSEC.


The least likely of the three is DEFCON. It depends on the SigO being able to get time off (kinda unlikely — but maybe) and having the money for both of us to make the trip. Luckily, someone in Vegas that the SigO knows (and that I sorta know) has offered crash space while we’re there — which should cover about half the expense, namely eliminating the hotel expense — and another couple we know in town might want to road trip it with us (which could help eliminate a significant chunk of expense as well). Time will tell.


I’m frankly stunned at how friggin’ expensive it has gotten to fly anywhere. Completely aside from the horrible experience of flying now, with the TSA doing its best to make flying a harrowing, unendurable experience, the cost of round-trip tickets has gotten to be such that two people going across the country and renting a car on the other end is more expensive than driving a lot of the time — even counting the skyrocketing price of gasoline. It’s insane.

I wonder how long it’ll be before the combination of price and annoyance has forced every potential customer out of the airlines’ market except those who essentially have no other option.


  1. “I wonder how long it’ll be before the combination of price and annoyance has forced every potential customer out of the airlines’ market except those who essentially have no other option.”

    I’ve observed the same. What’s really sad about it, is that driving has become rediculously expense and it is still cheaper. Between by car insurance, car payment, maintenance, gas, etc., I spend about $550/month to own a vehicle. Divided by the number of trips I take a month (I work from home, so I leave the house a bit more than every other day), I am spending roughly $27.50 for each round trip I take. Which is a massive drain on my finances, when you think about it. If I hadn’t moved this week, I could have gotten away with dumping the car, walking to the food store nearly daily, and renting a car or taking a taxi when absolutely needed. Personal, full-sized gas-powered automobiles are just about the least efficient form of transportation (both in terms of environmental impact and financial cost) out there. Yet somehow, air travel is suddenly significantly more expensive.

    Additionally, air travel is heavily subsidized by the government (compare the “landing fees” at airports to the cost of maintaining one), and despite that, even with inflated prices, airlines seem to spend about 1/4 of their lifetime in bankruptcy, and seem to always be behind in making the repairs, maintenance, and replacement of equipment (the planes, mostly) to be safe. It really is a strange industry. Nearly every time you see a low-cost carrier make inroads, they manage to implode one way or the other. Very few airlines have gone from “mid tier” to “top tier” carriers, yet over the years, the number of “top tier” carriers has been creamed by bankruptcy and M/A action.

    As far as I can tell, the only companies operating large fleets of aircraft at a regular, sustainable, profit are FedEx, UPS, and other cargo carriers. And if you look at how much they would charge to move a box with a 5’10”, 175 lb. cargo in it (even from a UPS terminal at the airport to another terminal for pickup), it would be substantially more than what an airline charges, and UPS doesn’t even offer in-flight peanuts or a beverage. It makes me wonder if airlines will ever find the “magic formula” to pay their people well, keep their fleets up-to-date, sell tickets at a reasonable price that makes it attractive to fly, and make a real profit at the same time.

    Something important to note here, there is one group for whom it still makes financial sense to fly: business travellers. In the last few years, the federal reimbursement rate for driving has skyrocketed from around 30 cents/mile a few years ago to a whopping 50+ cents/mile. I have to periodically travel to northern Virginia now for work, from central South Carolina. It is about 490 miles. At 50 cents/mile, it is about the same to pay for a cheap round trip ticket from the local airport as it is to pay the 50 cents/mile. The only reason why driving is cheaper is (as you point out as well) factoring in renting a car at the other end, and paying for parking my car at the Columbia airport (which is a bargain at $8/day). I am sure that if the trip was a bit longer (say, the NJ/NY area, or Ohio), the cost of flying would be less than what they need to reimburse me for driving.

    Of course, the federal reimbursement rate is merely a guesstimate of the direct and indirect costs; the gas for me on that trip is under $100 round trip, but it does put me 1/3 of the way to an oil change, so figure $15 in easily measured maintenance costs, and an unknown amount in less easily measured costs (wear/tear on the mechanicals of the car, tire wear, etc.).

    Just some interesting, off topic thoughts sparked by your mention of that.


    Comment by Justin James — 15 April 2008 @ 11:26

  2. Road trip from Colorado to Vegas would be fun. Stephen King’s The Stand comes to mind. I used to road trip Sacramento to Denver, and the drive up I-70 is pretty nice.

    Yes, air travel, which was once only mildly annoying, is now a major hurdle on every trip. Somebody needs to invent a transporter (but I’ll wait until after the beta to try it out).

    Comment by SterlingCamden — 15 April 2008 @ 11:54

  3. Somebody needs to invent a transporter (but I’ll wait until after the beta to try it out).

    I’m not much into beta-testing, anyway, unless I created it myself.

    No more commentary from me at the moment — I have to go do some more preparation for the trip.

    Comment by apotheon — 15 April 2008 @ 12:35

  4. It is insane. Gas in my hick town is up to around $3.30/gal for regular. My dad says gas prices were like this in the ’70s. Freaking insane, especially considering all the alternatives that we have now. Solar isn’t the most efficient, but tie it in with a standard plugin electric/hydrogen and I think you’d really have something that would be acceptable to consumers without putting the car industry out of business. The oil industry, OTOH, well they’re do for being taken down a few notches.

    Sterling, as far as the transporter goes, I read a few years back that some folks in one of the Californian universities had managed to transport a photon of light and were going to move on to a tomato plant (not sure why they chose that particular plant, but whatever). I’ll have to google for that original article again and share it with ya.

    Comment by Joseph A Nagy Jr — 15 April 2008 @ 01:37

  5. With the cost of fuel it is expensive to go anywhere. Vacation is now nothing more than a quick drive from home.

    Comment by Rostyslav — 23 April 2008 @ 10:47

  6. We saw gas for $3.79 per gallon (for the “regular unleaded” so-called “cheap” gas) on the way home yesterday. Insanity.

    Comment by apotheon — 23 April 2008 @ 01:06

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License