Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tank 177 - 17 December 2008

So I refueled yesterday in the anticipation of needing a full tank of
gas this morning, as I was planning on carpooling and my passenger does
not like it when I joke about her needing to get out and push if we run
out of gas.

But the carpool did not work out, so I refueled at just 395.6 miles with
10.270 gallons, making for fuel economy of 38.52. This is a bit
inflated, I expect, since the pump at the Wawa was not cooperating. It
clicked off easily when I set the little clicker to automatically fill
so I could empty the trash from my car doors. So I had to stand there
and hold the pump nozzle with a gentle squeeze so as to not make it shut
off all the time. So I stopped at the first click after 10 gallons and
called it full.

There is some neat events happening on the "time to get home" front, but
I think I addressed my speedy 2008 earlier.

Oh, well. They can't all be pearls.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Trips Home in 2008: Almost 8 Minutes Faster

In addition to tracking my fuel economy, I have taken to documenting the
length of time it takes me to get home every afternoon. Since February
2007, I have tracked close to 400 trips home. It's been helpful, as
trends indicate that certain days take less time than others.

I can say with mild confidence that Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays
will take me about 52 to 54 minutes to drive home, with Tuesday being
most consistent at 52 minutes and a 9.39 standard deviation.

Thursdays and Fridays, however, tend to take at least ten minutes longer
to get home, and with more variation between times. Thursdays average
63 minutes to get home, and Fridays average 77 minutes to get home from
work, a full 25 minutes more than most Mondays and Tuesdays.

But since I have been carpooling this year, my average time has dropped
from 62.52 minutes in 2007 to 54.57 minutes this year. I think this is
because I tend to drive faster and more aggressively when driving Sandra
home, and she tends to drive a bit quicker than me just normally.

Still, it's a little depressing to realize that so far in 2008 I have
spent close to 7 full days driving home in my car.

Friday, December 12, 2008

New Tank, but the Data's in the Car! How long will the car companies last?

I refueled yesterday afternoon but forgot the notepad this morning. I
got like 10.8 gallons and went about 408 miles or something. If those
numbers are close to right, my mileage was 37.78 mpg for the tank. I'll
straighten this out next week.

Meanwhile, I am waking up to hear that our congress did not approve the
"bailout" for the American car manufacturers. (on a side note, the
first "bailout" was turned into a "rescue plan" after the election, and
this remained a "bailout" the whole time. We should have seen this
coming...)

Apparently, if the news is to be trusted, it failed because the
automobile workers union did not agree to a pay cut. Since the workers
did not want to accept a pay cut, it now looks like one, two, or maybe
all of the "big three" will go into bankruptcy, and many many people
will lose jobs as a result.

So my initial call is that I suppose these union workers are assuming
THEY won't get fired. But if the companies go out of business, won't
they ALL lose their jobs?

This may be a significant case study in MBA as well as psychology
courses in the future. The group had a chance to save all of themselves
if they agreed to take a pay cut. I guess each individual thought he or
she would not be a casualty during layoffs, so they voted down the pay
cuts, thinking they'd stay while the guys next to them would get the
axe. Because of this choice, now they all seem to be in danger of
losing not only their jobs, but all the support workers who make parts
and sell the cars might lose work as well.

This is just amazing. Most everyone knows times are tough and the
country is in poor economic times. But isn't a pay cut better than no
pay at all?

One can shout "fairness" at how irresponsible banks are being bailed
out-- er, "rescued"-- as the workers in the trenches are being hung out
to dry. But I think banks are canning people, and some (not all, I
imagine) CEOs are losing pay and benefits as well.

Is it fair that the automobile workers union voted not to take a pay
cut? We shall see...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Will the inauguration be televised?

There is all sorts of talk on the radio, TV and newspapers here about
how bad traffic will be, how overloaded the Metro will be, how many
people there will be, how much drinking there will be, and generally
what a mass of people there will be for the inauguration on 20 January
2009.

With all the talk of record numbers of people showing up in Washington
to "witness history," I am starting to think that this event will not be
on TV.

Why else would perhaps millions of people show up in the middle of
winter to stand in a huge expanse of grass with virtually no hope of
seeing the person they are travelling to see? I, for one, do not want
to drive, walk, stand, wait, and freeze, without the possibility of an
umbrella because they are banned from the area, just to NOT be able to
clearly see or hear as our new President gets sworn into office.

Certainly this event won't be televised. Why else would otherwise
normal people subject themselves to what potentially could be a day full
of inconvenience, waiting around, and porta-potties?

It's a shame, really. I'd rather have seen close-up pictures on the TV
of the events. That way I'd be able to watch the parade, see the
motorcade, see the ceremony, watch (and clearly hear) Obama's first
speech as President, and also see coverage of all the balls and gala
parties that evening. But apparently none of this will be televised.

I guess I'll have to hear the stories of people who go there. I can
hear them now: "I was standing there on the mall for HOURS, and then my
view of the big screed was blocked by some woman with a big hat, and I
couldn't hear anything Obama said on the loudspeakers because everyone
was talking and cheering, and then someone peed right next to me, and
then it took me, no lie, six more hours just to get back to where I
parked my car!?

I sure hope some TV channel gets permission to send at least one camera
there so it can be broadcast on TV. I bet that channel that shows the
inauguration would get a LOT of people watching it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I am Sorry, but...

I have just about had my fill of Oprah Winfrey.

First, she was a happy story of a woman who pulled herself up by her own
bootstraps and became a success. Then she became an even bigger success
and her show developed an enormous following.

People say her book club has helped improve the education and literacy
of lots of people as well.

But recently I have been observing that it's either her way or no way.
Like she's secretly proclaimed herself to be better than everyone else
and that the whole world should just fall down and cheer her every move
and comment. I am sorry, but I do not see her as the Queen of the
World.

I think it's great that Obama was elected President and all, but the day
after the election, she comes out with a big victory party on her TV
show? That was a bit over the top. Her enthusiasm over the election of
Obama made me feel like she has no respect for the current President.
This might be wrong, but I don't remember her having a post-election
breakdown at any other time in the past.

And today she's apparently having a "Mary Tyler Moore Reunion" on her
show, and the promo is a great shot of her leading a group hug. I don't
know what other members of the Mary Tyler Moore show will be there,
because it was a tearful Oprah in the middle of the shot. If I remember
correctly, Oprah was not part of that show, so I don't see why she ought
to be the center of a reunion hug like that.

And what's with her picture on each and every cover of her "O" magazine?


I am on Oprah Overload.

Please, I am sure there are doctors, chefs, and psychotherapists out
there that are just as good, if not better, as those people she trots
out on her show, but people are falling over themselves to hear the
thoughts from these people who Oprah has declared the best for us.

Yes, Oprah Winfrey has a wildly successful show. No, she should not use
that platform to push all her thoughts and ideas upon us. And no, she
should not rewrite herself into history as a cast member of the Mary
Tyler Moore Show.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tank 175 - 1 December 2008

With gas prices going back down, I have noticed the re-emergence of SUVs
and large pickup trucks back on the road.

How quickly we forget.

I am encouraged that our new President is still talking about the
importance of higher fuel economy standards and wise usage of the
resources we have. He said that gas prices have gone down, but they
will go up again and when that happens we had better be better prepared
for it. So at least we all can be happy that Obama is planning for this
still.

Anyway, this last tank served me with 36.52 miles per gallon. I
refueled at just 368.4 miles on the tank, as it was my turn to drive the
carpool and S. doesn't like it when I joke about her needing to get out
and push if I run out of gas.

I'm pretty sure I called this tank as going to have lower fuel economy
because my last tank was so high-- I am growing more certain that
different pumps at different gas stations shut off at different levels
of full.

Luckily, I maintain a running 5-tank fuel economy average to help offset
this type of error. And also my yearly averages will mitigate this
pumping error as well.

I am a little sad that my fuel economy average for this year is lower
than last year's average, but I must be happy because thanks to my
carpooling, I have driven about 1,200 fewer miles and refueled fewer
times as well. So the impact of the "historical high gas prices" has
been reduced thanks to the carpool.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tank 174 - 17 November 2007 (Better Late than Never)

Tank 174 was notable because I paid $1.699 per gallon for it. The last
time it was that low was February 25, 2005. Yes, 2005! I went 420.3
miles on 10.600 gallons of gas, revealing a fuel economy of 39.65 miles
per gallon. Normally I freak out in excitement at a number this high,
but my excitement today is tempered by the fact that it was at yet
another different gas station, and I strongly suspect that different gas
stations have different automatic stopping points for their pumps.

I expect to see a lower fuel economy number with this tank, which ought
to even out this nice high number.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Feelings about the mighty Corolla

The more I sit and think about things, the more I am convincing myself
that I must make sure my family buys "American cars" from here on out.
Shortly after we bought the Corolla, I learned of Toyota's desire to
lobby AGAINST raising fuel economy standards so as to keep it's "halo
effect" of being a car company that has good mileage. That ticked me
off. That, and all these "American car companies" are not doing well.
I think we need to support them with our dollars.

People argue that Toyota and other Japanese and foreign car companies
have American headquarters and employ Americans, but hey, so do the
American car companies. And the foreign car companies probably have
foreign headquarters as well.

Some days I feel so embarrassed driving my Corolla that I just want to
stop by Carmax and trade it for a Chevy Cobalt or something. But the
way they mark up cars and such, I'd get one with more miles on it. But
if I was real about my feelings, that would not stop me.

I saw a used Cadillac on the side of the road, looking about as nice as
our father's, for $3,000. I'm pretty sure the Corolla is worth more
than that...

We might trade the Corolla for an American commuter car, and maybe just
buy a third car for Courtney to drive around town in the daytimes while
the kids are at school, and keep the minivan for weekends or times we
all go out as a family. That minivan gets about 17 miles per gallon if
we're lucky around town. And the dumb trip computer reports inflated
figures like 18.5 to make us feel better, but it LIES!!

We shall see. But currently it appears "team McKane" is on board with
the plan. I must work on Courtney to limit her feelings to American
cars. I think I'm going to be one of those NASCAR loving USA guys from
here on out...

Tank 173 - Cheapest Gas since February 2007!

So I refueled this morning and got 37.57 miles per gallon, which is okay
and all, but I paid $1.989 per gallon at the Wawa near Friendly's on
route 3. Then I looked back to see when was the last time I paid less
than two dollars a gallon, and it was last February 5, 2007, when I paid
$1.939 per gallon. It has been over two dollars for over 20 months.

And apparently there is a BP gas station near my house that offers an
additional discount per gallon when you spend over a certain amount on
groceries at our local Ukrop's grocery store. I heard that gas station
is less than two dollars a gallon as well, but I don't have one of those
credit-card-sized Ukrop's bonus cards to swipe. But my wife does, and
she will or I will go over there at some point to fill up the green
minivan.

This was my 33rd tank of gas this year. Last year, my 33rd tank was
refueled in September, so I am refilling less often this year. That's
nice.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tank 172 - 31 October 2008

This is some treat-- I paid SIXTY TWO CENTS LESS PER GALLON this tank
than last!

Apparently, the BJ's near my place of work sells gas. So I went there
and waited in a line to fill up, which I haven't done in a very long
time. But gas there was $2.199 per gallon. Ten days ago I paid $2.819
per gallon.

Not too shabby.

I went 427.2 miles on 10.990 gallons, making for fuel economy of 38.87
miles per gallon.

It's been a while since I looked at my historical numbers, and I am
surprised to report that fuel economy for 2008 is lagging behind the
average fuel economy from 2007, 37.42 vs. 37.87. But I still have two
months to see if I can raise that average for 2008 up a bit. Last year,
I had four refills in November and December. I don't expect that'll be
enough to make much of a change for the rest of 2008, but we shall see.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tank 171 - 21 October 2008

410.4 miles on 10.665 gallons = 38.48 miles per gallon.

This is pretty good, and my last five tanks have averaged 37.31 mpg.

It had been just 7 days since the last tank, which is quicker than
average. My average days between tanks had been slowly increasing due
to my carpooling, but I recently have been doing that less than I would
like, due to life getting in the way of coordinating driving times...

Since gas prices have eased up a bit, I think I am noticing more
aggressive drivers on the roads again. It's most likely just in my
head, but it seems that more people are back to driving with the lead
foot and cinderblock brakes.

I don't understand why some people just always want to speed up to
tailgate right behind the next car, or speed over to the red light. And
I laugh when I catch up at the light, or at the tail end of the same
traffic.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tank 170 - 14 October 2008

Today I filled up my gas tank at the slowest gas pump on the planet. I
mean, if I didn't keep track of my mileage so retentively, I'd have
stopped and left with 1/4 tank full. I'd rather pay ten more cents a
gallon than stand there and. Wait. For. The. Pump. To. Move. Another.
Tenth. Of. A. gallon.

When it was all over, I had gone 397.8 miles on "10.400 gallons." I use
the term loosely this time because I figured it was filling up so slowly
that the first click plus a small extra squeeze would be enough. So my
fuel economy of 38.25 may be slightly inflated due to my impatience.

I have spent about $180 more on gas so far this year, or about $6.00
more per tank. This is a little misleading because I have also driven
about 1800 fewer miles over the same period as well, which translates
into about 4.5 tanks or about an additional $170.00 or so.

Still, worst case would be an additional $12.00 more per tank in 2008
for an equivalent number of gas tank fillups.

That's about $12.00 per week. With all the hullabaloo over gas prices
just killing the American family, if $12.00 a week is pushing people
into financial ruin, then maybe these American families ought to
reconsider their priorities.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tank 169 - 2 October 2008

Another tank, another 36.50 miles per gallon. I refueled last October
3, and on that day last year it was my 34th tank of gas. This year on
the 2nd, it was my 29th tank of gas. I had driven about 1800 more miles
at this pint last year, yet spent almost $200.00 less on gas.

So to summarize, I have driven less this year and spent more on gas to
do it.

What a breakthrough discovery.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Recent Tanks and Other Updates

Oh, I am having a rough time updating this with my economy numbers. I
think last time we left off, I had just returned from back surgery and
was appalled at the 28.78 mpg on tank 164, but was happy it took 26 days
to achieve that.

Since then, I have refueled a couple times.

Tank 165, on 2 September provided me with 35.53 miles per gallon, and
most recently on 11 September I filled up with 10.753 gallons after
going 400.9 miles, making for a more respectable 39.35 miles per gallon.

What is odd is that this last tank, where I got 39.35 mpg, I was
consciously driving much faster than I ordinarily drive.

I do not believe that driving 75 and 80 miles per hour is more fuel
efficient. So I fall back on my theory that different gas pumps shut
off at different levels of full, and this explains why some tanks are
more fuel efficient than others.

With a small gas tank such as mine, a little difference of half a gallon
can have a notable difference on fuel economy.

Pair this belief with my recent pattern of getting gas at stations all
up and down the Interstate, and the wild variations almost make sense
here.

So here we are in September. Last September around this time, I has
pumped 32 tanks of gas into the Corolla, had driven 12,557 miles, and
had spent $826.94. This year I have pumped in just 26 tanks of gas,
driven 10,473.2 miles, and spent $934.63 on gas.

I attribute my fewer miles driven to two things: first, my lack of a
66-mile commute for about three weeks due to my back surgery, and
second, my carpooling arrangement where I am driven to work by my
coworker a couple days per week.

Still, with the gas prices spiked significantly from last year, I have
spent over $100 more on gas so far this year, or about $4.00 more per
tank. Which really isn't that much in the scheme of things.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

28.78 Miles Per Gallon- A New Low!

Well, tank 164 took 26 days to use up. In that 26 days, the car went
345.1 miles and was refueled with 11.992 gallons (at $3.339 per gallon),
making for a crappy fuel economy of 28.78 miles per gallon.

This is my worst fuel economy number of all time, and the most gasoline
I have ever pumped into that car.

But, it raised my "days between tanks" average to 10.71 days between
refills. It was also my 24th tank of gas this year. In 2007, the 24th
tank of gas happened on July 16, more than a month sooner than this
year.

Granted, I did not have back surgery that laid me up for 2 and a half
weeks, but still, I must celebrate good things where I can.

Monday, August 25, 2008

No Gas in August So Far!!

I have had back surgery, so have been not going to work for the last two
and a half weeks. So the Mighty Corolla was mostly limited to small
in-town jaunts during this time. I'll refuel on my way home today, and
expect a small number when the economy is calculated.

The low fuel light came on this morning at 303.0 miles. This is really
early for this light to come on. Actually, this will be a good test of
the "town" mileage claim on the sticker, as most of my miles are due to
commuting on the highway.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tank 162 - 22 July 2008

Refueled this morning at Valero #9, paying $3.899 per gallon. I got
11.890 gallons, the most ever put in my tank, after going 424.9 miles.
Fuel Economy was poor at 35.74 miles per gallon. I argue that it has
been very hot and my AC has been working overtime, although last year at
this time I had been averaging 37 and 39 miles per gallon.

However, my 22nd tank in 2007 came on June 25, and this year my 22nd
tank came on July 22, almost a month later in the year. I have also
gone about 300 fewer miles over the same amount of time, a reduction I
attribute directly to my carpooling. We don't carpool as much as we'd
like, but every day one of us hitches a ride is a little less gasoline
used to get us to work.

I have slacked on my charting and historical graphs, so I don't have
much more to share.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tank 161 - 11 July 2008

I only went 375.8 miles on this tank. I probably could have made it to
and from work today before refueling, but decided to refuel this morning
instead, in the event we use the Mighty Corolla over the weekend we
won't have to worry about running around on a low tank.

Filled up with 10.501 gallons at Valero pump #1, making for mileage of
"only" 35.79 miles per gallon. This is by far my worst mileage of the
year. But I did go 14 days between full-ups, partially due to the July
4th holiday. And we also used the minivan for a trip over the July 4th
holiday, so gas was used up.

An interesting note is that the gas at the Valero I was at this morning
was $3.849 per gallon, and the Woodbridge Costco (which used to have the
cheapest gas) was charging $3.889 per gallon.

Apologies for having a dull blog.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Random Drug Testing in PGA

Two weeks ago when Tiger "the human biceps" Woods announced he was going
to have knee surgery and be out of golf until next year, I posted a
comment on USAToday.com that the PGA was shortly going to announce
random drug testing for all golfers.

Surprisingly, today the PGA Tour announces drug testing will begin this
month. And Tiger Woods is "conveniently" out of commission recovering
from knee surgery.

Michael Jordan "retired" from basketball just weeks before he was going
to get suspended by the NBA for something, like gambling or something.
After an appropriate amount of time, almost exactly the amount of time
he was to be suspended, he came back triumphantly and played for the
Washington Wizards.

Is Tiger Woods doing the same thing to avoid the humiliation of a
positive drug test? Hopefully not, but I can't help but wonder...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tank 160 - 27 June 2008

This morning I refueled at the Valero right near my house. It appears
to be the cheapest gas I can access. $3.839 per gallon this morning.
The Costco near my work, which is usually cheaper than the
Fredericksburg Costco (although I can't confirm this since I left Costco
over the "improved milk jug" disaster), was $3.929 per gallon.

This tank took me 417.9 miles, and filled up with 11.228 gallons, making
for a fuel economy number of 37.22 miles per gallon. Had I stopped
after the first click at 10.810 gallons, my fuel economy would have been
38.66 mpg. I believe this is where the different shutoff sensitivities
of different gas pumps comes into play. We'll see how true this is on
my next take, if it's back in the high 38s., then my theory gains more
support.

On June 25 of last year, I had driven 8,267.5 miles on 22 tanks of gas.
June 27 of this year, I have gone 8,148.6 miles on 20 tanks of gas. I
was hoping there would be a larger difference here, seeing on how I have
been carpooling for about a month or two now. Maybe this is partially
due to the Mighty Corolla getting more weekend use instead of the gas
guzzling minivan.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm guilty of this...

The 3,000 Mile Oil Change Myth

By Bill Siuru, Greencar.com

According to a recent study by the California Integrated Waste
Management Board, 73 percent of California drivers change their oil more
frequently than required. This same scenario no doubt repeats itself
across the country. Besides wasting money, this translates into
unnecessary consumption of $100-a-barrel oil, much of it imported.


Using 2005 data, the Board estimates that Californians alone generate
about 153.5 million gallons of waste oil annually, of which only about
60 percent is recycled. Used motor oil poses the greatest environmental
risk of all automotive fluids because it is insoluble, persistent, and
contains heavy metal and toxic chemicals. One gallon of used oil can
foul the taste of one million gallons of water.

It's been a misconception for years that engine oil should be changed
every 3000 miles, even though most auto manufacturers now recommend oil
changes at 5,000, 7,000, or even 10,000 mile intervals under normal
driving conditions.


Greatly improved oils, including synthetic oils, coupled with better
engines mean longer spans between oil changes without harming an engine.
The 3000 mile interval is a carryover from days when engines used
single-grade, non-detergent oils.


For several years, automakers like General Motors
<http://autos.yahoo.com/gmc/> , BMW <http://autos.yahoo.com/bmw/> , and
Mercedes-Benz <http://autos.yahoo.com/mercedes_benz/> have installed
computerized systems that alert drivers via an instrument panel light
when it's time to change oil. As an example, the General Motor Oil Life
System (GMOLS) analyzes the engine temperature, rpms, vehicle speeds,
and other driving conditions to calculate the rate of engine oil
degradation. Then, software calculates when the oil needs to be changed.
Other systems work similarly.


Because of the many external conditions and parameters that have to be
taken into account, calculating the precise maximum service interval
using mathematical models alone is difficult. Now, Daimler AG has
developed a more direct and precise way to monitor oil quality directly
on board a vehicle.


Daimler uses a special sensor integrated into the oil circuit to monitor
engine oil directly. Oil doesn't wear out, but rather dirt and
impurities cause oil to lose its ability to lubricate properly,
dictating the need for a change. Daimler uses the oil's "permittivity,"
that is, the ability to polarize in response to the electric field. If
the engine oil is contaminated by water or soot particles, it polarizes
to a greater extent and its permittivity increases.


To evaluate the quality of the oil, permittivity is measured by applying
an AC potential between the interior and exterior pipes of an oil-filled
sensor to determine how well the oil transmits the applied electric
field.


Because not all impurities can be measured with sufficient precision via
the electric field method, Daimler also measures the oil's viscosity to
detect any fuel that may have seeped into the oil. Daimler researchers
measure viscosity while the vehicle is in motion by observing the oil's
side-to-side motion in the oil sump. The slower the oil moves, the
higher its viscosity. This movement is registered by a sensor and the
viscosity is calculated on this basis.


A single sensor, along with the information already monitored by
on-board computers, is sufficient to determine the various parameters of
the engine oil. Daimler will likely use the technology first on its
commercial vehicles. Here, large oil reservoirs mean larger quantities
of oil can be saved. Plus, a predicted 25 percent increase between
service intervals and reduced downtime will be of interest to fleets,
and thus justify the added cost of installation.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Star Wars Questions

For Father's Day I watched all six Star Wars movies in chronological
order, I - VI. And there are three questions that occurred to me:

1) If Jedis can move heavy things using only the Force, why don't they
use the Force to move themselves around and fly?

2) In Attack of the Clones, Count Dooku piled up Anakin and Obi Wan, and
starts dropping a heavy object on them. Yoda, rather than moving those
two out of the way, holds the heavy thing up and moves it so it falls
next to them and not on top of them. What's up with that?

3) When Padme tells Anakin she's pregnant, he JUST GOT DONE saying "I
was gone for so long, I didn't think I'd ever return." How the heck did
Padme get pregnant when her secret husband was gone for so so long?

I also noticed some neat things, like Palpatine likes to say "leave us"
a lot. And most of the major light saber duels in episodes I, II, and
III have parallel duels in episodes IV, V, and VI, where characters duel
in similar shaped rooms and follow similar patterns.

Also, the opening scroll in Return of the Jedi ended with a string of
three periods like this... I think the other five movies' opening
scrolls ended with strings of FOUR periods, like this....

Overall, it was a great day and an accomplishment I don't think I'll be
able to repeat for a long time.

Tank 159 - 16 June 2008

Refueled today at Sam's Club and paid $3.979 per gallon. The gas
station right near my house that I always think is expensive was
charging $3.799 per gallon. Apparently the station near my house is
really among the cheaper gas stations around. So my 11.308 gallons at
Sam's Club cost me about $1.98 more than if I just bought gas right near
my house. I'm going to have to notice this stuff more. A difference of
that magnitude will add up over time.

So I went 431.8 miles on that 11.308 gallons, making for fuel economy of
38.19 miles per gallon. I went 11 days between fillups.

So far in 2008, I have refueled 19 times. At this point in 2007 I had
refueled 21 times. And traveled more than a hundred miles farther. But
spent $140 less money.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Blood Donor Card

I have been donating blood semi-regularly since about 1996. After
several years, I finally received a true-real donor card that I have
been using to track my blood pressure each time I donated blood since
2004 - 17 times since 2004. I almost donated blood the maximum number
of times you could do so (every two months) in 2007.

My donor card is now filled up with pieces of information. I had
requested a replacement at least three times and had not gotten one, so
yesterday I fired off an email to five people at my local Red Cross
office, including the area director. It read as follows:

Mr. XXXXXX,

I have donated blood seven times since January 2007, and more than
seventeen times since I received my first donor card in 2004 (Donor ID
W1860 637979D). Donating blood is a good thing to do, and your group
at the Southpoint Parkway is a great group to deal with.

However, the last three times I have donated blood, I had requested a
new plastic donor card so I can continue to track my donation dates and
blood pressure readings. Each time I requested a new donor card, I was
told one would be in the mail and I should receive it before my next
blood donation date. Each time, no new blood donor card arrived in the
mail.

I am now eligible to donate blood again, and I really want to do so.
But I am growing more concerned that your organization cannot produce a
new blood donor card after three requests. This inability to
efficiently replace an item as simple as a donor card is very
discouraging to me.

There are many advertisements and pleas for blood donors. I am a
willing blood donor in need of a new donor card. My current card is
filled up and there is no more space to track the dates when I donated
blood.

Please let me know what you can do to expedite this request. I believe
the donor cards come from a location that is not under your control, but
the apparent inability of the Red Cross to fulfill this simple request
is making me reconsider my dedication to regularly donating blood.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to your positive response, and
a new blood donor card

Kenny McKane, O-negative

# # #

Later on in the day, I received this response:

Mr. McKane,
Thank you for sharing your concern. I will follow up to see what the
status of your new card is and let you know what I find out. Typically
new cards take 8 to 10 weeks as they come from a central location.
However it looks like you have requested a new card the last three times
you donated which certainly fits within that 8 t 10 week window.

We appreciate your dedication to this life saving mission.

I'll be in touch soon.

XXXXXXX XXXXXX
Senior Account Manger, Mid Atlantic Blood Region
(540)7XX-XX21


# # #

I got the idea to send off a mass email from Reader's Digest. It
appears to be working, and I hope to get a replacement card soon.

What bothers me, and I did not put this in my letter, is that it seems
to me that if the Red Cross can't replace a donor card, what is it doing
with my blood? I like to think it's being used immediately and
effectively, but my experience in getting a replacement donor card has
me worried.

I will still donate blood, as it's a good thing to do. I tell people I
do it just for the free T-shirts and snacks, but really, it doesn't hurt
that much and it can really help out people in need. Just yesterday I
heard on the radio that donating blood helps reduce something bad in
your blood related to iron or something, which ought to help improve
your health!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tank 158 - 5 June 2008

So I refueled at Wawa on Thursday afternoon on my way home, just in case
the Mighty Corolla would be called in to extended service over the
weekend. It was not, but better safe than sorry. Gas was $3.809 per
gallon, and I bought 11.588 gallons of it. After travelling 438.7
miles, it made for fuel economy of 37.86 mpg, lower than the 40 I got
last tank, and actually 0.3 mpg less than my average fuel economy for
2008 so far. But I went 14 days between tanks, which is more than four
days longer than normal.

Last June 5, I had gone 7,430.2 miles, and this June 5 I had gone
7,298.9 miles. Perhaps the carpooling is now showing dividends. I have
spent $124.87 more on gas over the same period of months this year over
last year, or about 26% more for gasoline.

I also had the pleasure this weekend to spend $70.12 to fill up the
green minivan with just over 18 gallons of gas. The minivan's trip
computer indicated 19.4 miles per gallon, but quick math showed 18.76
instead. Luckily, the minivan only refuels every two or three weeks. I
really don't keep track of it, but I should.

I noticed Wawa has a rather large sticker on the pump saying "this gas
may include up to 10% ethanol." I don't know how I missed it before.
So my theory that 100% gas will give me better mileage than 10% ethanol
gas still remains to be tested. Perhaps if I get enough inspiration, I
will Google if any nearby gas stations sell 100% gas anymore.

Finally, this is the first tank in the Mighty Corolla that the price of
gas took me below 10 miles per dollar of gas. The last tank took me
9.94 miles for each dollar of replacement gasoline. Another way to look
at it is 10.1 cents per mile.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Near end of tank update - 5 June 2008

Due to the long Memorial Day weekend, and a couple days sharing a ride
with my coworker, It looks like I'll be going at least 14 days on this
tank of gas before refueling. This carpooling (if that's what you can
call it with just two people) is saving gas, but I am uncomfortable
saying that it's saving money, as it truly is just slowing down the rate
of expense.

Yesterday was the first day that one of us had to unexpectedly stay late
and thus slow the other one down. But we had talked about this
probability earlier and when I notified my home of the delay, it was all
okay. I expect it'll be a rare occurrence and so far the carpooling is
working out okay.

The carpooling hasn't been going on quite long enough to see a
difference in miles travelled during the year, or tanks up to this point
in time. Indeed, hitching a ride with Sandra twice a week saves me
about 125 miles of driving, or 500 miles in a month, or 6,000 miles in a
year. And that's the best case scenario without any sick days or
vacations. But, every day one of us rides with the other is a day one
of us does not have to use about $10 worth of gas!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Father's Day Plans

This Father's Day, I am planning on watching all six Star Wars movies in
order. According to imdb.com, my DVD versions will last 13 hours and 25
minutes, but I think that includes the closing credits. However, that
time will likely be used for potty breaks , snack preparation, and DVD
changing.

I'm going to have to start it before church at 7:00 a.m. for The Phantom
Menace, and then shotgun the rest immediately after church, starting
about 11:30. That will have me done around 10:36 p.m.

My wife and kids are all on board with this idea. The main rule is that
we're watching the movies, not visiting or socializing, so silence will
be in order. Also, food will need to be quick and easy to snack on
during the movies. My wife even suggested I invite other dads to come
for the showings.

I think I will invite other dad friends to see the movies. Since one
can figure out how long the movies are, it can be planned when each will
be starting so my friend(s) can come at the starting time for the movie
of choice.

If this is successful, it may become an annual event, like our annual
viewing of Independence Day on July Fourth!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tank 157 - 22 May 2008

Refueled at Wawa last Thursday afternoon, getting 11.367 gallons after
going 458.8 miles, making for an alleged fuel economy of 40.36. This is
notable because it is the absolute farthest I have ever gone on a single
tank of gas.

The Wawa did not have a sticker on the pump that said its gas has 10%
ethanol in it, so I must believe that it was 100% gasoline with no
ethanol. This leads me to believe that this Wawa tank ought to give me
a touch better fuel economy, all other factors remaining equal, as
ethanol has less power than gasoline, or so I have heard.

However, since I share my ride a couple days a week now, I feel
compelled to drive a little bit faster than I normally would: 70 instead
of 65. However, there was that one time when we were going to VA Beach
and I just drove as fast as I could, going about 75 most of the way, and
my mileage was still really good, so perhaps there will not be as large
a dip. Either way, by hitching a ride with Sandra twice a week, I am
stretching each tank of gas much farther as I save over 60 miles each
time I don't have to drive to work.

This last tank was also the most I have ever spent on one tank of gas:
$43.18, or $3.799 per gallon. I am glad it's still under fifty dollars,
as some of my friends have spent over $75 to fill their tanks. Our
minivan also is expensive to refill, but luckily that only gets refilled
every three weeks or so.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

End of tank update - 22 May 2008

Well, my low fuel light came on at 431.7 miles yesterday on my way home,
which is the longest I have ever driven before it came on (since I
started tracking this statistic on 6 June 2007). As we neared the exit,
I pumped my foot on and off the gas to try making the car fit and start
and buck, but it did not do that too much, but enough to make my
passenger think we were really out of gas. I warned her earlier that if
we ran out of gas, she'd have to push. I also assured her we would not
run out of gas, and explained in detail how confident I was, but still
the threat loomed and she was a bit frightened for a few seconds.

The car has now gone about 455 miles, also the farthest I have ever gone
on a tank of gas. I will likely refuel this afternoon on my way home
from the K-Mart parking lot, in the event the Mighty Corolla is called
to service over the long weekend. I'll post mileage numbers on Tuesday
when I get back to work.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tank Update - 423 miles and no low fuel light

I think I'll be able to make it all the way home tonight without running
out of gas. If I can do that, it'll be the farthest I have ever gone on
a tank of gas. My current record is 454.9 miles, and if I can get home
without refueling, I should be a little more miles than that. I have
made a conscious effort to coast more down hills, look farther ahead at
traffic and coast when I see it stopped ahead of me, and accelerate
slower and steadier.

Will this pay off when I refuel? That is hard to say. My theory is
that different gas pumps shut off at different times, so if I go to a
pump that shuts off really early, my mileage will be through the roof!
I will most likely not refuel at the exact pump I got this tank at,
since it was the Woodbridge Sam's Club and I'll be in Fredericksburg
when it'll be time to refuel.

This fuel economy game shall remain a mystery. But I think that over
the long run, the average mileage of 36.72 mpg for the life of my car,
and 38.00 mpg for 2008, is about right.

An interesting note of trivia is that in 2007, my average refill was
10.519 gallons, and for my first 16 tanks in 2008, my average refill is
also 10.519 gallons. That's sort of neat to have the numbers match out
to the thousandth like that.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Adventures in Lawnmowing

Last weekend I mowed my lawn in wavy lines. Normally I don't do that,
but I figured what the heck and instead of straightening up the curve
around the mulched trees, I kept it going all the way across the yard.
It was a pretty design when I was finished.

Sadly, all the weaving back and forth I think wore out one of the rear
wheels to the point I'll have to replace it. All the pivoting and
swerving over the past 5 years has slowly chipped away small parts of
the back wheel where it spins on the axle, and my fun on Saturday broke
off enough pieces that the wheel wobbles very badly. There was one
point during the day that the rear wheel was just sliding across the
grass rather than rolling.

But since we bought this lawnmower, we have just bought the standard
maintenance items, such as blades, spark plugs, oil, and air filters, so
this is a small cost for repair. The mower is about 6 years old and
otherwise has operated fine.

The wavy lines in the back yard are still visible, and I think I may do
it like that again in the future. Conventional wisdom says you
shouldn't mow your grass in the same pattern each time, so that the
grass does not fall into a growing habit. The weeds and clover in my
grass pretty much render this advice unnecessary, but the change of
mowing patterns is a nice change of pace as well.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tank 156 - 13 May 2008

So the Costco gas gravy train has come to an apparent screeching halt.
I tried getting gas there today and was declined! I guess Costco
figured out that I quit in a huff over their crappy new milk cartons and
shut me off for good.

So I went to the Sam's Club gas station instead. It was five cents more
per gallon at $3.649, but we have established that the money I saved by
joining BJ's instead of Costco is equivalent to the five cents per
gallon less at Costco over the course of a year. And when you factor in
that I can use my Disney Rewards Visa at Sam's and other gas stations,
the decision to leave Costco still remains a good one.

I am, however, a little sad that I no longer can enjoy my little scam of
getting Costco gas whilst not being a member.

Anyway, 416.8 miles on 11.229 gallons made for a rather disappointing
mileage number of 37.12 miles per gallon. This lowered my average fuel
economy for 2008 to an even 38.00 mpg.

This tank cost me $40.97, which is more than a dollar more than I have
ever had to spend on a tank of gas. Luckily, I am carpooling now
(except for this week as Sandra's on travel), so I will be driving less
if it all works out.

Last May 14, I had spent $380.65 on 16 tanks of gas. This May 13, I
have spent $518.46 on 16 tanks of gas, that is $137.81 more than the
similar time last year, about 36% more for the cost of gas, or $8.61
more per tank, or about $0.80 more per gallon of gas.

If I continue carpooling and hitch a ride two days a week, the 40%
reduction in gas usage will be about equivalent to the increases in gas
price. This is notable, and perhaps will inspire others to do the same.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Refuel? Probably Tomorrow

The new carpool plan has helped me go more than twelve days without
refueling the Mighty Corolla. This is nice, seeing on how gas
apparently is quite expensive. I am happy to be doing something more
about it other than drive like a grandma to get better mileage.

So far in 2008 I have refueled on average every 9.27 days. By hitching
a ride twice a week, this in effect reduces my gas consumption by 40%,
provided we can stick with the plan over time. Gas has not gone up 40%
in price since last year (yet!), so I may end up seeing an end result of
less money spent on gas this year.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Carpooling May Reduce Posts

Well, I am in week 2 of the carpool with my friendly coworker Sandra.
The plus side is that, if we keep to our proposed schedule of each
giving the other a ride to work twice a week, my gas consumption will be
reduced about 40%. The minus side is that that means I will refuel less
frequently and thus have less data to post.

So far, the carpooling isn't that hard. I wake up about 10 minutes
earlier in order to get to the meeting point (about 1.2 miles from my
house) on time, and other than that, commute times are so far about the
same. Only less stress on the days I don't drive.

Another downside is I am not able to listen to my books on the CDs as
much so far. Perhaps that will change in the future. But I think the
notable and dramatic dip in my gas usage makes up for it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New Tank - 30 April 2008

Finally refueled again at the Fredericksburg Costco yesterday evening.
Squoze in 11.024 gallons after zipping 434.3 miles, making for a fuel
economy number of 39.40 miles per gallon. This is notable, because
normally, the fuel economy when I refuel at Fredericksburg the tank
after I refueled at Woodbridge, my mileage suffers. This time, it
remained above 39 miles per gallon.

The spreadsheet I use to track these things is unavailable to me at this
time. It's on a "private drive" in a different location at work, and
that connection has been lost for the last couple of weeks. So I
continue to track the data on paper and hope that the connection is
restored soon so I can go back to checking out historical data and
trends.

I have started carpooling with a coworker who lives nearby in
Fredericksburg. On the days she drives, I will get picked up at the
K-Mart parking lot that is about 1.5 miles from my house. On warm clear
days, I believe I should be able to ride my bike there to prevent any
need of even starting up the car (It's not actually my bike, I'm just
holding on to it for a friend who has storage problems).

Quick rough estimates lead me to believe that saving one trip a week of
me driving saves about $7.50 to $8.00 worth of gas for me, and probably
closer to $11.00 or more for my coworker. Doing this once a week for an
entire year will keep me from spending over $350.00 in gas, assuming gas
prices stay at this level. If we share driving 4 days a week, that'd
save my car two trips a week and double that spending reduction.

I hesitate to say I'll be "saving money" by carpooling because most
likely that cash will be frittered away elsewhere. The only way I'd
actually save that money is if I consciously take $8.00 a week and put
it in a piggy bank or hidden location. Most likely I will spend that
unspent money at woot.com for something, or somewhere else.

The unknown variable is how my coworker and I will handle the time where
we're stuck in the car together. Today is day 2, and we're still in the
"isn't this fun?" stage. Time will tell, but I think we'll both agree
that the prevention of spending hundreds of dollars over the course of a
year will be worth it.

Oh, yeah, the lessened environmental impact and "being green" and blah
blah as well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Green Minivan Trip Computer of Deception!

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to refuel the green
minivan yesterday, which I really wanted to do because I secretly put in
the two ounces of acetone that allegedly was going to increase the fuel
economy by TEN MILES PER GALLON.

Sadly, it appears there has been little to no effect.

The trip computer indicated fuel evonomy of 17.7 miles per gallon, which
is a shade higher than the 17.6 mpg the computer showed last time.
However, when I took the time to crunch the numbers (259.9 miles on
15.390 gallons), the tank gave us just 16.89 miles per gallon.

All of this was around town mileage, and it took us twelve days to go
that far.

This makes me wonder if those trip computers on Priuses are really
accurate. If my minivan's computer is off by 5%, then conceivably a
Prius that is off by the same amount will not be delivering 41 miles per
gallon, but 39, which is about what I can achieve on my regular old (yet
Mighty) Corolla.

I am curious to know if other car trip computers are wrong by so much.

On another front, I was once again able to use the pumps at Costco.
Although I cancelled my membership, the gas pumps still let me use them.

Friday, April 18, 2008

No Membership, But Costco Gas Anyway!

Refueled this morning at the Woodbridge Costco, which is notable because
I canceled my Costco membership earlier in the week, and my Costco
American Express card still worked.

However, my data tracking spreadsheet is not working, so all I can say
is that my last tank provided me with 418.5 miles. I put in 10.532
gallons, making for a fuel economy of 39.74 miles per gallon.

As you know, I had put in one ounce of acetone this tank. I refueled at
the Woodbridge Costco, which I suspect has the automatic shutoff feature
set at a higher sensitivity setting, so that less fuel is put in the
tank than otherwise ought to go in, which artificially inflates my fuel
economy numbers. I did not bring the acetone bottle with me, so I could
not add two ounces for this new tank.

In short, my higher fuel economy on this last tank may be due to the
fact I refueled at the Woodbridge Costco just as much as it may be due
to the acetone I placed in the last tank.

I am totally excited that my I was still able to get Costco gasoline, as
it was three cents per gallon cheaper than a nearby gas station. But I
will still start looking for gas stations that serve 100% gas rather
than the gas/ethanol blend that Costco delivers (10% ethanol per the
pump sticker this morning).

A few days worth of in-town driving were done on this tank, so the
increased fuel economy was a moderate surprise. If my next tank shows a
big dip in mileage, say down to 36 mpg, then my idea that the Woodbridge
Costco gas pumps are more sensitive will stand. If it's higher, like
37.5 ot 38, then perhaps the acetone theory has some merit.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

No More Costco Gas... Probably

Well, Yesterday I cancelled our family membership to our local Costco,
almost entirely because of their new milk jugs. The new rectangular
jugs are quite unfriendly to the casual user, and although they save
Costco ten cents per gallon, they cause about a dollar worth of
aggravation. One should not have to live with drippy, hard to pour milk
containers.

So I got $100 cash back from Costco as my membership refund, promised
I'd come back when they go back to the better milk jugs, and took that
cash across the street to BJ's Wholesale club.

BJ's does not sell gasoline, but the membership was $20 less for the
otherwise same benefits. Costco gas is about 5 cents less than the
Fas-Mart nearby, so it will take about 400 gallons of gas to cost me
that extra $20 it costs to be a member of Costco. That is about a
year's worth of gas for the Mighty Corolla.

But the happiness of not buying those awful square milk jugs is totally
worth more.

Also, BJ's will reimburse me 2% of the amount I charge there on my
credit card (Costco did this as well). In addition, I can use my Disney
Visa card, which gives me 1% of all purchases towards Disney-related
stuff. So in a way, this BJ's membership will help me out more than
Costco did.

I will now likely be buying gas from a variety of different sources. I
hope to find a regular gas station that does not have a 15%-ethanol
mixture, to see if my mileage increases like everyone says it should.

I am getting near the end of my final Costco gas tank, that also has one
ounce of Acetone in it, so the next several tanks ought to be
interesting.

The green minivan also is working through its tank that has two ounces
of acetone in it, and so far, the trip computer indicates no real change
in fuel economy. But to its defense, I think the prior tank had one
highway trip on it that bumped the fuel economy higher than it
ordinarily would have been.

One loose end that I will test soon is that my friendly coworker has had
a lapsed Costco membership for a long time, but she reports still being
able to buy gas from Costco. I'll probably test that at some point.
That would be kind of nice, since Costco gas is still less than most
other places. But if there's a competitor that does not have the 15%
ethanol mix that Costco has, and my fuel economy is better on a 100% gas
tank, then a competitor would still be better.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Down In Flames Together

So yesterday evening I had the opportunity to be driving the green
minivan as I took three kids to baseball practice. The gas tank was
getting low, and I decided to refuel on the way home. The trip computer
indicated an average fuel economy of 18.9 miles per gallon for the tank
of gas. This includes a trip to Washington, DC, to see the cherry
blossoms, so about 100 of the 320 miles of the tank were highway miles.
This is sort of unusual. Most of the time, the trip computer shows
about 17.6 miles per gallon over the life of a tank, as we generally use
the green minivan to make short trips around town.

I recall reading that the acetone trick sees greater results in bigger
engines that drive around town. Since the Mighty Corolla had not shown
any ill-effects from the one ounce of acetone added to its last tank, I
jumped on this unexpected opportunity to perform a blind test with the
minivan,

"This is my chance!" I thought. Upon arriving home, after putting in
over 16 gallons of gas into the minivan's tank at Costco, I poured a
little more than 2 ounces of acetone into the tank, and followed it up
with a little trickle of gas from our lawnmower gas can to wash it down.

My wife does not know of this experiment, so it will be quite
interesting to see if the new tank of gas provides any difference in
fuel economy. This tank might give me my own proof that this either
works or does not work to increase fuel economy. I have read stories
that it does work, and stories that it does not work. Some time this
month, I expect to have some news to report that will add to one side of
these arguments.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tank 153 - 8 April 2008

This morning I did something as I refueled my gas tank. Before I put in
the nozzle, I poured two tablespoons of Acetone into my gas tank, then
filled it up with 10.553 gallons of unleaded gas at the Fredericksburg
Costco. I had gone 398.1 miles on the tank, making for an average fuel
economy of 37.72 miles per gallon, which is about average. Nothing
spectacular. Gas cost $3.189 per gallon.

So what's up with the Acetone? Well, I read an article and saw a news
report that adding two tablespoons of acetone to each tank of gas could
drastically improve your fuel economy. Apparently, acetone is the
primary ingredient in nail polish remover. But lots of nail polish
removers have other things in them, so you can't use them. I found a
store brand nail polish remover that was labeled "100% acetone," and
although there were two ingredients listed on the label, I bought it
anyway and am hoping for the best.

I think this bottle of acetone was $3.50. I really ought to have
figured out now many ounces were in the bottle. Two tablespoons turns
out to be one ounce, to the effect is one ounce of acetone per tank of
gas. Say it's a 12 ounce bottle, and we're adding about 29 cents worth
of acetone to every $33.00 tank of gas.

And one ounce is I believe 1/128th of a gallon. Over a 10.5 gallon
tank, that means I am adding less than one one-thousandth of this
acetone contaminant to my tank. So if maybe one or two percent of the
store brand acetone is something terrible, like perfume or sand, it
seems to me that the overall amount in the entire volume of gasoline is
negligible.

After noodling all this out here, I am skeptical that the addition of
something to my gas tank that represents less than one tenth of one
percent of the tank's volume can have any affect on my fuel economy.
But the news reported said his mileage went from 24 to 34, or something
crazy like that, so we will learn this together within the upcoming
days.

However, acetone is allegedly pretty bad for lots of things, like the
paint on your car (it is nail polish remover, after all), and also
rubber things like supply lines (and apparently some cars have rubber
tubes connecting some things that gas passes through), and O-rings.
Again, in this small proportion, I am not *too* worried about corrosion
over the course of this one test tank. I put the acetone in first and
then pumped the gas, so the additive was washed down into and mixed with
the tank contents pretty good right from the start.

This is the first time I have done something like this to my car. I
wonder if it will work!

Monday, April 7, 2008

THUNDERSTRUCK!

Somebody in my office has the AC/DC song "Thunderstruck" as the ringtone
for his or her cell phone. Periodically during the week I am sitting in
my cube, minding my own business, and suddenly the flying guitar intro
to THUNDERSTRUCK comes soaring through the voluminous cavern that is my
office space.

And then I start humming the tune for most of the remainder of the day.
Also I vocalize the "ahh-ahh-ahh-ahhhhhh-ahhuhhhahhhhhh-ahhahhahh" part
as I walk around.

I wonder if my friendly coworkers can here my grunting like this.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Brake Pedal - I Don't Think It Is Your Friend

Yesterday night I drove my daughter and her friend to play practice. It
was rainy and wet with lots of twisty turns in the road on the back way
I took to the school. I did a lot of short accelerations and short
brakings as the turns came and hills went in order to maintain an
adequate flow of traffic.

As I was doing this, I was cringing in terror at how I was totally
torpedoing my fuel economy for this tank. Luckily, I had been able to
"hitch rides" three trips this week by drafting (but not too closely!)
behind tractor trailers and one day a tour bus.

When you drive, you press the gas pedal and make that engine work hard
to get your two-ton vehicle up to the speed you want it to be going.
That's a lot of inertia and kinetic energy that gets created there.
Once you're up to speed, it takes relatively little fuel to maintain
that speed. This is why it's so important to maintain speed. Every
time you slow down, you must use your engine to work hard to regain that
lost momentum. Going down hills is good for gaining speed, going up
hills is the opposite.

I like being stuck in heavy traffic going down hills. I can turn off
the motor and coast for a long time. Once I coasted for five minutes
with the motor off, but I digress.

When you're driving in traffic, consider what the cars ahead of you are
doing. If they are clearly going slower than you, make every effort to
ease up on the gas and let your speed decrease gradually so that you
match their speed before you reach their rear bumpers.

If you press that brake pedal, you lose all that kinetic energy and
momentum your engine worked so hard to create. Unless you're driving
one of those hybrids, of course, but for the sake of argument you're
losing that energy.

In order to get that speed back, you will press that gas pedal again,
using more gas to regain the speed you wanted to be going at before you
had to put on the brake. It's sort of like losing money with each tap
of the brakes.

Think of such things next time you're out there in traffic.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Tank 152 - 1 April 2008, No Foolin'

Refueled at the Fredericksburg Costco yesterday on my way home instead
of waiting until this morning to do it, as the Mighty Corolla was
scheduled to carry two little ones to play practice and I didn't want
the low fuel light to add any concern to the trip.

Ended up going 423.3 miles on 10.874 gallons of gas, for a mileage
number of 38.93 mpg. This looks good on the surface, but last tank gave
me 36.20 mpg, so it sort of evens out.

Over my first twelve tanks of 2008 I have spent $370.75, comapred with
$264.12 over the first twelve tanks of gas in 2007. This is about 40%
more in gasoline cost.

My fuel economy for the first twelve tanks is up as well, but not nearly
40%, only about 3.98%. So more money comes out of pocket on gas.

Everyone who drives is probably facing a similar increase in gas prices.


Let's say I am averaging 37 miles per gallon (which I am not, I am
averaging better mileage of 37.83, but that's harder to use for
calculation purposes), and those folks who drive pickup trucks, SUVs or
minivans average half that, or 18.5 miles per gallon (which I think is
reasonable given the way I see some of these drivers move on the
highway). That would mean they are spending roughly twice as much on
gasoline as I am.

That's over $700 on gas alone for basically the first three months of
the year. Close to $3,000 for the year if prices remain about the same
for the rest of the year.

If regular people made sure they had their tires pumped up properly, and
looked ahead and coasted a little more instead of accellerated to the
pile of stopped cars a quarter mile ahead, I am sure they could squeeze
out an extra 2 or 3 miles per gallon out of those SUVs, which would save
roughly 80 gallons over the course of a year, or about $240!

Would you make a small lifestyle change in order to not have to spend
$240?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Customer is Always Right?

This past Friday we (the family) went to Washington DC to check out the
cherry blossoms and see some of the sights in the Smithsonian museums.
The blossoms were pretty and we took lots of pictures. One of the
highlights was walking through the one ten-billionth scale model of our
solar system. It's always neat to see the Sun scaled down to the size
of a baseball and then the planets similarly scaled down to the size of
grains of sand in some cases, relatively spaced away from the sun. The
exhibit is outside and merhaps a half mile long.

Anyway, we stopped at one point for ice creams from one of the street
vendors. The nice lady used a calculator to add up the cost, and the
total came out to be $11.85. I handed her a $20 bill and waited for my
change. After a few seconds of working the calculator, she announced my
change would be $9.85.

This did not sound right to me, as I expected $8.15 back ($20.00 minus
$11.85 equals $8.15 in change for me). So I told her she was giving me
too much change back. The vendor looked confused and ran it through her
calculator a second time. She got a total ice cream cost of $11.85, and
told me I paid with a $20 bill, pressed some buttons and her calculator
again said my change was supposed to be $9.85.

I told her this was impossible and that I really needed just $8.15 back.

The vendor insisted she should give me $9.85 back. I told her that I'd
be happy to take it, but she'd be giving me too much change. She looked
even more confused.

By now, the small line behind me was getting anxious. The woman right
behind me sarcastically said "okay, Honest Abe..." But I knew I would
be getting too much change back and told her that my ice cream cost
close to twelve dollars, and since I paid with twenty dollars I should
get about eight dollars back, not $9.85, which is closer to ten dollars.

So the vendor gave me what I wanted, which was $8.15.

We walked away and the kids started unwrapping their ice creams. When
we got about 30 feet away, the vendor shouted out that she figured out
her mistake and that I was right with my change calculation.

Even though the woman behind me thought I was nuts to turn down
erroneous change in my favor, it was the right thing to do. I know I
wouldn't have just walked away if I was accidentally given too little
change.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hybrid-Driving Smoker - Smell the Irony

I suspect that in most places, people buy hybrid gas/electric cars in
order to save fuel and help reduce negative environmental impacts
associated with driving cars. In Northern Virginia, single hybrid
drivers (who bought their hybrid cars prior to 2006, I think) can also
drive in the High-Occupancy-Vehicle lanes without the required three
occupants.

There's an ongoing debate in the letters to the editor sections of many
newspapers arguing the smartness of this rule, as some people believe
hybrids don't get super mileage when driving on uncrowded HOV lanes, and
that hybrids would better help save the environment if they were stuck
running on batteries in the regular lanes.

"Saving the environment" seems a bit of a stretch to me, as in reality
the cars are just emitting less bad gases than some other cars, so I'd
say hybrids are more like "less damaging to the environment." But that
wouldn't sell as many cars, I guess.

So as I was stuck in traffic this morning, three miles behind a road
closure, in a stretch of gawkers waiting for their turn to single-file
past the opened carcass of a Nissan Z car that flipped over in the
middle of the road, I was behind a Honda Civic hybrid. After a few
minutes I noticed he was smoking one of those small cigars with a
plastic tip. Several minutes later, I saw him toss the butt out his
window onto the highway.

I was pretty sure this guy was going to toss the butt out his window.
Most of the smoking drivers I see end up tossing the cigarette butts out
the windows, but this one seemed more ironic, since he was driving a
hybrid vehicle. On one hand, he's driving a fuel-efficient marvel to
help reduce his environmental impact, but on the other hand he tosses
out the plastic-tipped cigar butt, carelessly placing a permanent
reminder of his habit out there in asphalt-covered nature.

Cigarette butts are another big peeve of mine. Particularly in heavy
traffic when the second hand smoke finds ways to invade my own personal
car's atmosphere.

Seeing this made me lean more towards the side that supports the lifting
of the "HOV exemption." Irresponsible smokers who toss out cigarette
butts don't deserve to take advantage of the HOV loophole created by the
purchase of a hybrid vehicle.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Oddfellows Tank 151 - 24 March

Refueled this morning at the Fredericksburg Costco pump #1, with 11.713
gallons. After going 424.0 miles on this tank, made for mileage of
36.20 miles per gallon, which is pretty good but not as great as other
recent tanks.

I suspect the fuel economy suffered because two days last week took me
much longer than normal to get home, so I idled in traffic for much
longer than usual.

There are more frequent news stories about gasoline and how it's
affecting people's driving habits. Truckers across the country are
slowing down from 75 to 65 and less, in efforts to conserve diesel fuel.
This action no doubt will have some affect upon car travelers,
particularly on two-lane Interstates where smaller faster cars might
pile up behind the big rigs as they await their turns to pass.

Likewise, reports of gas demand going down up to 1% might be because
people in general are driving slower to achieve better fuel economy. I
believe this is because gas prices are still pretty high. I believe
that public demand will say "well gas demand is going down, so gas
prices should go down, too!" So gas prices will dip a bit, relatively
speaking, and most people will go right back to their old habits of
zooming around, peeling out, and weaving through traffic just to slam on
the brakes later on. And gas prices will go up again.

It seems to be like last time (early post 9/11), people got used to gas
at $2.00 a gallon and reverted to driving like loonies, except now
people are accepting gas at $3.00 a gallon and still driving like
loonies.

So I wonder at what price people will stop accepting it and permanently
modify their driving habits. $4.00 a gallon? $5.00? $6.50?

I hope that this spring, people will look at their driving habits and
take note of travel times driving their normal way vs. a more sane way,
and note that driving in a fuel-aware manner gives you mugh grater fuel
economy, less stress, and adds but seconds, perhaps a minute or two, to
the ultimate trip time.

If we all look at such things and work together in politeness, we can
get better mileage and get to our destinations in a quick, friendly
manner.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Homeward Bound Commuting Times


(click for larger picture)

For well over the past year, I have been documenting the time I leave
work and the time I get home. I started doing this when I got fed up
with the apparent randomness of traffic patterns. It seemed one day I
got home fast, the next it took me well over an hour. I couldn't see
any pattern and was frustrated.

So I decided to stsrt actually tracking the time it took me to get home
each day to see if I could find any pattern to the madness. I'm happy
to report that there is indeed some generalities that can be gleaned
from all this great data.

I can tell you that it's easiest to go home on Tuesdays. My trips home
on Tuesdays average 53 minutes: shortest trip was 39 minutes (ironically
it was during an ice storm), and the longest Tuesday trip was 71
minutes. I have a chart that I'll try to add soon, as it's pretty
descriptive.

For six months, the worst day to drive home was actually Thursday by a
wide margin, but over the past year, Friday has established itself as
the worst traffic day to go home. Luckily, I only work every other
Friday, so I miss it half the time. This is probably also why Thursday
held the title of "worst traffic day" for a while.

My average trip home on Friday is 77 minutes, fully 24 minutes longer
than on Tuesdays. Not only that, the range of travel times is very
wide: shortest trip was 43 minutes, longest trip 113 minutes.

This infomration is good for me to have, because I can now resign myself
to a trip home of about a certain length of time. If I know I need to
be home at a certain time, I can leave at an appropriate time to get
there.

I have set up my spreadsheet to figure the standard deviation as well,
which I think means that on Tuesdays, the standard deviation is 7.25
minutes, I can be about 70% certain that I'll get home in 53 minutes,
give or take 7.25 minutes.

Knowing I'll be in traffic for about a certain length of time on a
particular day of the week helps reduce my stress level about needing to
get home faster.

Well, this is a tiny picture, I'll try to make them bigger in the future.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mid-Tank Update

So yesterday I was fortunate to piggyback behind a large 18-wheeler both
on my way to work and the way back home again, mostly. However, my fuel
guage is at halfway and I have gone just about 220 miles - less than the
250 that usually indicates a good tank of fuel economy.

In addition to tracking my fuel economy, I also track the time it takes
me to get home each day of the week. I've been doing it for the past
year and have found fairly predictable results. I may start dharing
that information as well, as it's sort of interesting.

Monday, March 17, 2008

60 Pieces?

I have a can of Eclipse peppermint gum in my cube at work. It
advertises 60 pieces inside. It also recommends a serving size of 2
pieces, so I take 2 at a time. As far as I know, I am the only one who
takes gum out of this can, as it's behind a door and not publicly
visible.

Today I took out 2 pieces, and just one piece remains inside. So I
wonder, did I get 59 pieces, or 61? Or did someone take an odd number
when I was out of my cube? And if someone took an odd number of gum
pieces, what else has been taken from my cube without my knowledge?

I hope I don't get to the point of tracking my gum consumption. That
might just be overkill.

I took the minivan into work this morning. We rented a lawn aerator on
Friday and I returned it to the rental store today on my way into work.
I filled up the van with gas first, and that tank told me it got 18.6
mpg, but when I actually did the math, it turned out to be even worse,
at 17.93 miles per gallon. Granted, mostly in town miles, but still
it's pretty poor.

The trip computer now reads a bit over 25 mpg for my 34 mile trip to
work on the new tank. Likely it's a little worse than that.

I am sure happy I don't drive this van every day. It uses a LOT more
gas than the mighty Corolla.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tank 150 - 13 March 2008

Also the tenth tank of the year, it's fitting under the circumstances to
do some quick comparisons to the first ten tanks of 2007 to see what's
changed.

First of all, this recent tank delivered 38.17 mpg, going 414 miles on
10.845 gallons of gas. Now to the awesome comparisons:

For the first ten tanks of each year:

2007- 101.099 gallons for 3638.3 miles, 35.99 mpg average
2008- 102.386 gallons for 3886.4 miles, 37.96 mpg average, about 5.5%
higher fuel economy

2007- $210.10 spent on gas, average of $2.07/gallon
2008- $300.88 spent on gas, average of $2.94/gallon, about a 42%
increase!

So my increased fuel economy is more than offset by the added fuel
expense.

I feel badly for those who drive big fast cars, trucks and SUVs. My
additional cost of gas works out to about $9.00 a tank, or about $9.00 a
week. I imagine in a car that gets 15-20 mpg it would be north of $20 a
week difference, which is a very noticeable pinch!

On the bright side, both yesterday and today my morning commute has been
much saner. This morning, it appeared that most cars were going between
65 and 70, rather than 70+ miles per hour.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Change in Driving Habits?

This week has had two separate news reports about the increasing price
of gasoline. One reported an increase of nine cents per gallon over the
last two weeks, and the other reported something similar, like a nickel
in the last week.

As I drove to work today, I noticed fewer people passing me, and a
definite line of people like me in the slow lane going about 65 miles
per hour.

Of course, this was offset by a handful of people who used the other two
lanes to totally weave in and out of other cars to fly ahead of
everyone.

Still, this morning I noticed that it appeared some people, at least,
were indeed changing their driving habits to get more miles per gallon.
I also noticed that most of these vehicles were pickup trucks and SUVs,
and the cars that darted in and out of traffic were small 4-door sedans.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Readers Digest Article on Hypermilers

So I was happy to see the new Readers Digest resting on my coffee table
when I got home yesterday, and the cover advertised an article on how to
get great mileage.

What made me unhappy was that it was a reprint of an article I read
online a couple months ago about a true hypermiler who drives unusually
and can achieve fuel economies of over 100 miles per gallon.

While I applaud that ability, I am concerned that the casual reader may
see that as too extreme to even be tried, and thus miss out on the
simple ways to improve fuel economy that are easy for everyone to do.

Not everyone wants to take an offramp at 50 miles per hour, and I don't
see the point in coasting around a parking lot just to avoid idling in a
stopped car; I mean, what's the point in getting 50 miles per gallon if
you're just coasting around a parking lot?

Likewise, I don't think it's wise to put yourself in physical danger by
driving significantly under or, in some cases, over the general speeds
of other cars in traffic. The fuel you personally save is more than
wasted by other traffic avoiding you by braking, swerving, and
accelerating ahead of you.

But things like keeping your tires pumped up, looking ahead at the
traffic in the distance, and driving with the proverbial egg between
your right foot and the gas pedal are easy ways to becoem a more
conscientious driver and more of a fuel saver.

I agree that using the brake is ultimately a waste of gasoline, but you
must balance your need to arrive at your destination with your desire to
save fuel. This balance point id different for everyone, but we all
must take other people into consideration as well. If you are going 55
miles per hour on the highway in rush hour, and the speed limit is
actually 65 and there's a line of cars formed behind you, the gas you
save is just being wasted by the bottleneck of cars as they brake to
slow to your speed and then accelerate hard to pass you.

So I believe in at least going the speed limit.

If that's too rough, look for a tractor trailer to safely draft behind--
not too close that you can't see around it, of course...

But I am encouraged that Readers Digest had this article. Hopefully it
will cause more people to think, and realize that they have the power to
make a small change in driving habits that will have a large effect on
fuel consumption.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Tank 149 - 6 March 2008

Refueled this morning at the Fredericksburg Costco, the store with the
worst milk jugs in the world.

All the "right side" pumps were willed except one, so I refueled at pump
#11 rather than pump #1 as I normally do.

Travelled 436.0 miles on 11.347 gallons, making for a respectable 38.42
miles per gallon. My low fuel light came on for good at 407.3 miles, so
I was able to go more than 28 miles after the light went on.

At $3.049 per gallon, this is the second highest cost per gallon of gas
I have ever paid for the Mighty Corolla. I paid $3.109 per gallon one
time last May. So far, the average price of gas in 2008 is about 40
cents more per gallon than the 2007 annual average.

I hope that increasing gas prices will cause more people to drive with
more sanity and perception. If you look ahead, you can coast to slow
down rather than slam on the brakes and waste all your momentum.

It's not too hard to slightly modify your driving habits, but see a
noticeable increase in your fuel economy.

I showed that in 2007, gas prices were higher, but my fuel economy
increased enough to pretty much exactly offset the additional cost per
gallon. It looks like 2008 will not be as fortuitous of a year for me,
but I predict that many other people can see this effect by accelerating
more gently, coasting more often on highways, and generally being more
alert of traffic conditions around them this year.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Low Fuel Light Came On Twice But Went Back Off Both Times

On my way into work this morning, the low fuel light indeed lit twice
and went out again.

I'm a little surprised that it came on so early, 386.0 miles, as the
fuel gauge still showed more than empty, less than 1/4 tank. But given
my recent economy results, nothing surprises me, I guess.

Perhaps the Fredericksburg pump I used just shut off WAY differently
than the other ones I normally use, which caused the seemingly good
mileage for driving like a looney.

Regardless, I shall drive home on the remaining fumes and refuel on
Thursday morning.

It's possible that I will cancel my Costco membership soon and start
buying gas at Wawa instead. Costco recently changed their milk jugs and
they are so bad that I can't see myself willingly buying them for much
longer. They have a safety seal that my kids can't remove, the cap
doesn't want to screw on or off right, it drips most every time your
pour milk out of it, and glub glubs when it's freshly opened, also
causing unnecessary splashing.

When I complained to the customer service desk, the girl there answered
me in short, frustrated manner, and appeared to not care about my
concerns.

Yes, my days as a loyal Costco member may be numbered...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Tanks 147 and 148 - 25 and 27 February 2008.

I am shocked (SHOCKED!) to report that I had two tanks in which I drove
totally differently but got surprisingly similar mileage!

I refueled the night before our trip to the funeral at Virginia Beach
and was a bit disappointed that over 290.8 miles I only achieved 35.92
miles per gallon. I expected better, as this was to/from work miles and
I drove about the same I normally did-- like an old grandma.

For our funeral trip, I drove pretty fast, breaking the speed limit most
of the way, 75-80 miles per hour. I didn't try too hard to draft behind
any big trucks or anything either, and after 324.3 miles, achieved
better mileage of 36.56 mpg.

I absolutely don't know what to think about this.

This flies in the face of what I thought was true.

I drove faster, yet achieved better mileage than the previous tank.

Granted, 36.56 mpg is less than my overall fuel economy of 36.72, and
lower than my 2008 average of 37.78, but still, it should not have been
better than a previous tank in which I just drove to and from work?

I have no explanation for this, and am unsure if I will now drive faster
as a result.

And I certianly don't want another funeral trip to see if these numbers
match on another road trip like that.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Road Trip for a Funeral

Most likely we will be taking the Mighty Corolla this afternoon to a
funeral for our friend Andi. Andi died last week after a year and a
half of fighting cancer. Please keep her husband Peter and their two
children in your thoughts and prayers as they make it through this
difficult change.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tank 146 - 19 February 2008

Filled up this morning at Woodbridge Costco pump #1 with 10.596 gallons
after going 406.4 miles, making for average fuel economy of 38.35 mpg
for this tank. The only real notable thing about this tank is that I
refueled at the Woodbridge Costco rather than the Fredericksburg Costco,
which sort of helps me to advance my "conspiracy theory" that the
Woodbridge pumps shut off earlier than the Fredericksburg pumps.

However, if this theory is true, that would mean that my fuel economy
was actually worse than advertised for this tank, as I would have gotten
relatively more gasoline had I used the Fredericksburg pumps. Alas, I
shall never know for sure. If I refuel again in Fredericksburg and my
mileage is revealed to be 35 or 36, this helps confirm my suspicions.
Or it confirms that I just drove like a maniac because I knew my mileage
would be low anyway.

But overall the averages should work out in the long run.

The sticker on my car said highway economy would be 35 mpg (I think), so
I consistently beat that.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Tank 145 - 8 February 2008

This morning I filled up at the Fredericksburg Costco, again, with
10.489 gallons at $2.819 per gallon. I went 422.4 miles on this tank,
making for an average fuel economy of 40.27 mpg, which is pretty good
for February.

As I drove past the Woodbridge Costco, I saw gasoline there was $2.759
per gallon. But there was a tanker truck that appeared to be refilling
the underground tanks at the time, and I heard you shouldn't refuel when
the underground tanks are being refilled, as more sediments and such
could make it into your tank. But over the course of 10 gallons, the
cost difference would have been about seventy cents, which adds up over
time, but for today I must not worry about it.

This last tank helped my fuel economy for 2008 to avarage over 38 miles
per gallon, about 0.4 mpg better than 2007's overall fuel economy. But
it's still early.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Check Those Tires

I changed the oil in the Mighty Corolla over the weekend, and also
checked the tire pressure as I was waiting for the oil to drain. Good
thing I did, because all four tires needed a little more air.

Although it was probably related to the cold temperatures outside, wach
tire registered below 30 PSI, so I pumped them up to closer to 40.

It was near the beginning of a new tank, so Iwas interested to see how
this would affect fuel economy for this tank. I've had pretty good
mileage recently, so I was clearly surprised that my tires were a bit
underinflated.

I am pushing 375 miles on this tank so far, and the needle is still
comfortable above the area where the low fuel light turns on. Indeed, I
noticed that I was at 260 miles as the needle passed the halfway mark of
the tank.

This was a great reminder that fuel economy really is affected by low
tire pressure. Particularly in the winter cold, as the air compacts a
bit, be sure to check that tire pressure and make adjustments as
necessary, and you'll see benefits in your fuel economy.

I did this with our minivan a short while ago, and my wife reported
better mileage on her trip computer, as well as better handling and
acceleration.

It only takes a few minutes, and many gas stations still offer free air
(Exxon and Wawa come to mind).

Now, if Costco offered free air, that'd really help me out!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tank 144 - 30 January

Refueled this morning at the Fredericksburg Costco, with 10.437 gallons
after going 396.6 miles. This resulted in an average fuel economy of
38.16 mpg for the tank.

I am pleased with this number because twice on trips home on this tank,
I really flew, relatively speaking, at speeds approaching 75 miles per
hour. Of course, these speeds were as I safely trailed behind tractor
trailers to utilize their drafts to improve my fuel economy.

Gas cost $2.829 per gallon, which is apparently below the national
average. Fredericksburg, for some reason, has cheaper gas than average.
This makes me feel sorry for those areas that pay more than the national
average, but I'm honestly not going to go out of my way to pay more than
I need to just to make myself feel better about my area's cheap gas.

I still haven't gotten a distance home number, which would allow me to
estimate my average speed on these trips home I also track with some
degree of retentiveness. If/when I do that, I'll be able to expand my
coverage to include "trip home times," which is information that has
really come in handy and has reduced some of my stress levels associated
with driving home.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I'm In the SLOW Lane, Going the Speed Limit or Otherwise Keeping Up With Traffic. WHERE SHOULD I GO?

This morning was odd. Not so much because there was unusually heavy
traffic, but because of how some people chose to handle it.

I drove in today as I normally do, hanging out in the slow lane,
watching ahead to see how fast those cars are going, and staying a
reasonable distance behind them so I wouldn't have any unnecessary
reason to slam on the brakes.

I-95 is three lanes wide for my entire commute. When I camp out in the
slow lane, that leaves two other lanes for traffic that wants to go
faster than me.

As it turned out, I pretty much was keeping pace with the middle lane,
as there were many other cars going my way this morning. However, there
were three drivers who obviously thought that my role as being in the
slow lane with 100 feet of open space between me and the car ahead of me
(not an unreasonable distance considering we were all going 60-65 mph)
meant I ought to have been accelerating to close the gap ahead of me.

Three times a car (I am not exaggerating) swooped in behind me, crawled
up right close to my rear bumper, flashed its headlights, and then
swooped away into the middle or fast lane again, just to get stuck again
in traffic that was pretty much going the same speed that I was.

I'm sorry, but I don't underatand how people can expect the SLOW LANE to
move any faster than the other two lanes in traffic.

People, please just pick a lane and stick with it. We'll all be safer
and you will find you will get there in a reasonable time with much less
stress.

Please try to keep your sanity as you're out there driving, folks!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monitors in Headrests at 6:30 in the morning?

I have noticed three or four times over the past few weeks a strange
sight on my way to work in the morning.

There's a large SUV, like a Ford Expedition or Lincoln Navigator, that
has little TV monitors in the back of four of its headrests. I can
clearly see them all showing some sort of show as it goes past me in the
darkness. In addition, this vehicle has some sort of navigation system
attached to the windshield with a suction cup.

So I see this thing go past and wonder if in fact there are four other
people in the SUV who are watching a show at such the early hour. My
inclination is that this is a single driver who is showing off his fancy
expensive toys in his car.

If this is the case, and he's alone but trying to impress all these
strangers as he drives to work, I feel sorry for him. Not only is he
doing the exact opposite of impressing me, he is also making driving
conditions more hazardous for the rest of us by distracting us with the
various flashing colors and brightnesses of the TV monitors.

I also wonder how much these flashing lights affect his driving ability,
adding glare to the inside of his windows and affecting his ability to
clearly see outside his vehicle.

Also, I am certain that his engine is using a little bit more gas to
provide the power to these TV screens so that he can try to impress
these strangers. And in a Navigator or Expedition, you need to try to
conserve fuel as much as you can, and that's definitely not by driving
fast with 4 TVs on in headrests you can't even see!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fog Lights? More like Laser Beams!

It's usually dark when I drive to work. I take the interstate, and lots
of my fellow commuters join me every morning. We are all going in the
same direction at the approximate same speed. The road is smooth and
the path is predictable. We all know where we are going.

Why, oh why, then, to so many people absolutely insist on having their
fog lights turned on as well as their headlights? Seeing those fog
lights in the rear and side view mirrors is quite annoying, as the fog
lights are aimed such that they are reflected directly into my eyes. I
can only assume this is the case for other drivers as well, as I have
experienced this not only in the Mighty Corolla but also in the minivan.

It's not foggy out, so there's no need to shine these obnoxious lights
into the cars ahead.

I have driven with the fog lights on, and with them off, and the fog
lights really don't impress me as enhancing my visibility of the road.
And when you're on the interstate, it's pretty clear where you are
going, so it's not like you need any assistance seeing where you're
going to go. There's plenty of cars ahead to show you where the road is
leading.

There really is no apparent reason to have your fog lights on while you
are driving in rush hour commuting traffic.

Fog lights are annoying in this way. I can only conclude that people
who drive with their fog lights on as well as their headlights are doing
this to purposefully piss off everyone else ahead of them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tank 143 - 22 January 2008

It was 26 degrees at the Fredericksburg Costco this morning, as I
refueled the Mighty Corolla with 11.333 gallons of gas. This tank took
me 429.7 miles, which means that even in the cold weather the car
managed a respectable 37.92 miles per gallon.

Last January at about this time, my fuel economy was less than 34 miles
per gallon, but there's no way of telling whether the cold weather had
anything to do with it, as the temperature reading is a relatively new
data item.

Fuel economy in 2008 has been consistent over the first three tanks.
This is a little surprising, as my driving habits have drifted towards
inconsistency and higher speeds at times. Gas is more expensive, but
there's not much of a choice on that, unless I change jobs to a closer
to home job.

But I don't worry about that, as I like my job and don't mind too much
the commute, particularly now that I have discovered books on CD to
listen to as I drive to and from work.

There's nothing really that I can do to change traffic, so might as well
go with it and enjoy the time I'm in it. Books on CD are much better
than the radio, in my opinion.

One thing I also track is the length of time it takes me to get home
each day. Tuesdays average about 20 minutes less time to get home than
Fridays, I have gleaned from about one year of tracking this
information.

But that's for another time, and another blog...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

People are using less gas?

A news report this morning said people appear to be driving slower due
to consistently high gas prices averaging $3.07 per gallon.

They may be driving slower, but I still see them accelerating just as
hard as usual.

People, hard acceleration saps your mileage even worse than driving
fast! Please think about the next time you start off from a stop sign
or stop light: what's up ahead? If it's another stop sign or traffic
signal, or more cars up there, are you really going to get to your
destination faster if you speed up to ride those peoples' bumpers?

Gentle, sane driving tactics will help improve your fuel economy, and
also reduce the amount of wear and tear on your car.

And it never hurt anyone to be a little polite out there on the roads,
either.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

First Two Tanks of 2008

I have actually refueled twice this year and forgot to enter the first
tank's information until now.

Tank 1: 37.50 mpg
Tank 2: 37.55 mpg

This is interesting to me because this secon dtank I was driving much
faster than I normally do on my way home, at times hitting 75 miles per
hour in light traffic. I also did a fair amount of "in town" driving of
short distances, and had more than one hard acceleration opportunity.

I was expecting my fuel economy to suffer accordingly, but it did not
appear to.

So far in 2008, I have gone 764.5 miles on 20.373 gallons of gas, making
for an average fuel economy of 37.52 miles per gallon. This compared
favorably to the first two tanks of 2007, where fuel economy was about
36.65 mpg. However, at this point in 2007 I was not tracking air
temperature at fill-up time, but as you know, I don't believe in the
"hot gas" theory.

However, I do believe my fuel economy is lower when it's very cold or
very warm outside, due to the additional warm-up time needed in the
cold, and the use of air conditioning during warm weather.