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

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,

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
<> , BMW <> , and
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

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:


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

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

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.

Senior Account Manger, Mid Atlantic Blood Region

# # #

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, 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

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!