Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Pain King

As I got to work yesterday, my pain from the "tree watering incident"
remaind excrutiating.

I called the chiropractor my wife goes to see, because I knew he'd see
me immediately. He did and he took X-rays of my back. So he looked at
them with me, and one of the bottom ones he said "look there, see how
there's a nice gap between all the other spinal bones but there's not
one right here? (he pointed at the bones right behind where my belt
would be) There ought to be a space there. There's probably some
things being pinched in there that's causing your pain. Maybe a disc
bulging or something. You're too young to have this happen to you. I
hope it's nothing too bad."

Then he cracked my back, and I hollered out "OOOOOOMPH!" and
"OOOOOOOOHHHHH!"

It felt maybe 10% better for about 30 minutes.

What if there really was something pinched in there and his violent
cracking could have messed it up even more? I am very concerned about
future appointments with this guy, if there are any.

But I have X rays I think I can borrow to take to a "real doctor" I am
scheduled to see tomorrow afternoon.

Probably the best thing to do right now is to gently exercise the area,
stretch my back a little bit, and increase the efforts a little each day
to get back to normal.

Until then, I walk like an old man. Even the pregnant woman at work is
walking faster than me!

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Thousand Bites from a Thousand Tiny Snakes

Over the weekend I hurt my back while watering a tree. Bent on down to pick up the hose and SNAP! a huge sharp shot of pain at the small of my back.

I immediately fell to the ground and was literally moved to tears as I tried to stand back up ten minutes later.

For some reason, I thought it would go away. Here on Monday morning it has not and I am preparing to call a chiropractor to see if I can be seen today.

I have a negative predisposition about chiropractors, as my dad's a doctor and he has convinced me that they are all quacks. However, my wife goes to one and she says he really helps her out.

My experience with regular doctors is that it takes several days if not weeks to get just an initial appointment. This chiropractor can see my wife without an appointment, and is usually done within 20 minutes.

So I will try to see this guy today. I cannot wait several days to a week for satisfaction.

Every step unleashes a small but sharp piercing pain into my lower back right where I awlays thought the spine would be. Standing up is a big challenge. there's even a dull pulsating pain as I sit in place.

Saturday night my wife let me take some of her heavy-duty pain meds (rhymes with Dercocet) and other than make me sleepy and dizzy, it did not dull the pain.

Skipped church do to this immobilizing pain.

I need this to get fixed one way or another.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Low Fuel Light Taunts Me

The other day as I was driving home, I was watching for the "low fuel
warning" light to turn on in my dashboard. I have been trying to note
the distance traveled when the light turns on, to give me an initial
indication of what my fuel economy might be.

Usually the light turns on and stays on. But two weeks ago, it turned
on and remained on as I drove home, but the next day it was off for a
while as I drove around town. Naturally, my suspicions were raised and
questions filled my head.

Is this a new phenomenon brought on by the increasing age of my car?

Has this always happened and I just never noticed?

What mileage mark is correct to use in my notes of when the light turns
on?

I decided that the mileage when the light lit and stayed on permanently
would be the standard reading. I chose this because the fuel gauge, and
this the low fuel indicator light, varies according to the slope of the
hill I am driving on. Up a hill = tank appears emptier, down a hill =
tank appears fuller.

So that afternoon, the LFI (low fuel indicator) lit up at 398.6 miles.
I thought that was pretty good. The light went off, but I did not note
the mileage as traffic was heavy. Then it came on again at 400.5 miles,
and off again at 401.8 miles. I never realized my trip home was so
hilly!

The LFI lit again at 405.1 miles, and incredibly turned off again at
406.5 miles. Obviously, I was getting excited. The light stayed off
for five more miles before turning on for good at 411.7 miles.

I made it home and filled up the next morning to discover this tank had
served me well, providing greater than 39 miles per gallon.

My goal before the end of the year is to have two tanks in a row with
better than 40 mpg.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

http://www.lazymanandmoney.com/

I stumbled across this website after seeing its name at another blog
that talked about good health. There are toons of financial advice
blogs out there (this is not one of them), and the lazy man seems up my
alley.

On the main page, there's an article about women's hair. I can relate
to this because, while my wife cuts my hair for free, I can not cut
hers. She must go our and drop a pile of cash every six weeks. I am
glad to see I am not alone with this concern.

It seems the lazy man, although I don't know how old he is, has a
similar personality as I do, and I have just added him to my
"favorites." He has a tracker of his current net worth, which I assume
is correct and updated, as he is keeping his true identity secret. I
haven't learned how he tracks this net worth, but mine may be close, if
we both include homes, rental properties and such. Perhaps I'll learn
this soon.

If I figure it out, I'll ad a link to his website near the bottom of the
right hand column of this here blog.

You could do worse than checking out http://www.lazymanandmoney.com/.

Gas Tank Statistics Chart I Made

I have done a bit of research and think this might be a little more readable summary of my gas tank statistics since the Mighty Corolla was bought in 2004:

Tank 124 - 26 July 2007


Filled up at the Fredericksburg Costco this morning with 10.943 gallons
of gas, at $2.639 per gallon.

I traveled 427.0 miles on this tank, which made for fuel economy of
39.02 mpg this tank, nicely above average for the year.

Reasons for such an increase in fuel economy:

1) average commute home time over the last week and a half has been
under 60 minutes. For my last tank, my trip home averaged about 74
minutes. More time idling in traffic = worse fuel economy.

2) Increased awareness of traffic ahead of me, and taking my foot off
the gas when I see brake lights ahead in the distance so my car
naturally coasts slower to match the speed of those cars without the
need for the brake. More coasting = better fuel economy.
This tank was my 25th tank of the year. I have spent $627.87 on gas
this year on my first 25 tanks. So I looked back at 2006, and the first
25 tanks in '06 cost me $627.46, practically the same!

I made this chart to show relationships among the first 25 tanks from
the last three years:






I posted it as a picture, but it looks bad. I'll work on improving the appearance of future charts...

Obviously, the big thing that jumps out is my gas expense for the first
25 tanks leaped from under $500 to over $600 over the course of one
year, an increase of over 20%.

There are other interesting relationships I will address in the future.
In the meantime, I continue to drive frugally in the Mighty Corolla.



Wednesday, July 25, 2007

http://plunkbiggio.blogspot.com/

Target's retiring after this season. Plunkbiggio wrote a poignant post
today about how the remaining games are even more important. Just 62
more games, with reduced playing time away from home, to get hit three
more times to break the record.

There's some degree of urgency.

No one else seems to notice. It's all "ooh, 3000 hits" and "aah, more
doubles than Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron" and "wow, only member of the 3000
hit/600 double club" and "OMG! 20 seasons with the same team!" and "Holy
djoy, he supports the Sunshine Kids!"

And this historic record he is on the verge of shattering, a record that
has stood for over one hundred years, is utterly ignored.

You Get What You Pay For

So I whip by the Wawa for the free air on my way home, and find the
machine to be broken. The air compressor pumps, but there are ao many
leaks between it and the end of the hose that more air leaked out of my
tire than got put in. I think I actually lost air on the first tire, so
I gave up and went home.

Luckily, there's a Wawa near my home, so I stopped there, also. This
free air station was in great shape and accurately inflated and checked
the pressure in all my tires.

Lesson learned: check the free air machine to make sure it'll work
before putting the thing near your tires!

My handy dandy meter confirmed that all four tires remained near 40 psi
since June 1, so my fuel economy variations should be blamed on other
forces, such as driving in stop-and-go traffic in town and on my way
home from work.

Things look good this tank. I'll hopefully make it well past 400 miles
before the near empty light comes on, and probably get to about 430
miles this tank before I fill it up tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Checking the Tire Air

It has been more than six weeks since I pumped up my tires to 40 psi.
The tank right after I did it, I saw my fuel economy increase 1.5 mpg,
but since then it was the same as average, for the most part.

I wonder if that "spike" in fuel economy was due to wishful thinking or
if it was actually better for that one tank, and my tires went back down
to a "recommended" pressure of 34 psi.

There is a Wawa sort of on my way home from work. Wawa has free air.
The day I pumped it to 40 psi I actually paid 75 cents at the gas
station to use that air.

I think Exxon has free air, too, but there isn't an Exxon nearby that's
on my way home from work.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Off to the Ballgame with Kids in Tow

Yesterday we went to RFK stadium in Washington, DC to see the Nationals play the Astros. Seven of us (two dads and five daughters) made the 56-mile trip in just over an hour, with the trip computer recording average fuel economy of 23.8 mpg.


On the trip home, we found out too late that the Interstate had been shut down for hours due to a hazardous material spill. While it was "all clear" by the time we left the game, we still needed three hours to get home, lowering the trip computer's fuel economy number to a pitiful 20.4.


Sitting in idling traffic absolutely ruins your fuel economy.


On the plus side, we had a super time. Not only did the Nats win, we got to see Craig Biggio play an at-bat for the Astros, and outside the stadium we saw Teddy Roosevelt! He let us take a picture with one of our homemade signs:

So overall it was a really good day for all involved.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Tank 123 - 16 July 2007

Filled up at the Fredericksburg Costco this morning with 10.896 gallons
of gas, at $2.729 per gallon.

I went 409.7 miles, which made for fuel economy of 37.60 mpg this tank,
which is a little bit above average for the year.

My mileage likely took a big hit on my commute home last Friday (Friday
the Thirteenth!). That trip home took 110 minutes, which was 35 minutes
longer than my average Friday home commute time, and almost double what
my average time is to get home in general.

There was lots of stop and go and "idle speed" driving. For about 8
minutes and just more than half a mile, I was able to have the engine
turned off and just coast slowly down the hill along with the traffic.

I think I could regularly achieve fuel economy averaging 40 mpg or more
if I was able to just use my car to drive TO work and not drive it home.

So far in 2007, I have spent $598.99 on gas. Last year at this time, I
had spent $656.61 on gas. Even with all the news on high gas prices, my
gas cost more last year, so far...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Is this thing on?

It has occurred to me that perhaps the reason that nobody reads this
(and I mean nobody, I checked!) is because of the relative infrequency
of updated posts. Since the main point of this blog is to report my
fuel economy, that means one update every 8 days or so.

This does not bode well for those who crave daily updates from their
regular Internet destinations.

So what can I do to attract the audience I apparently desire with so
much intensity?

Daily notes with no apparent content won't do it.

I used to cc: all my notes to my brother to another blog until he
discovered it several months later. He at least thinks my regular notes
are entertaining.

Perhaps observations from my daily commute? But most people have a
commute, so this will not be news to them, other than perhaps I
experience something they have already seen and it conjures up a fond
memory.

My point is, although nobody reads this blog, I will try to inject some
entertaining bits between the fuel economy posts.

If not entertaining, than hopefully diverting, or distracting, maybe...

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Tank 122 - 5 July 2007

Made it to the Woodbridge Costco this morning, and considered driving
around the parking lot once to push my miles this tank to over 400, but
did not as I realized how dumb that idea was.

So I went 399.9 miles this tank, and pumped in 10.775 gallons (at
$2.619/gallon), making for 37.11 mpg. This is slightly lower than my
overall mileage for 2007 (which currently is 37.13 mpg).

The mighty Corolla is being used for more trips around town on
weeknights and on the weekends, which lowers average fuel economy.
Also, my trips home have been taking longer, and as my recent "minivan
commute" taught me, stop and go traffic really, really messes up your
mileage.

Interestingly, gas was about 6 cents per gallon less than this time last
year. With all the talk about gas prices, I thought they'd be higher.

I must not complain, however, as gas was $2.999 and $3.099 over my
weekend trip to New York. Central and Northern Virginia must be a good
place to be if you want gas that's cheaper than most.