Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tank 289 - 31 August 2K11 (Post Earthquake Tank 1)

So it turns out (surprise!) that my little episode of driving home the day of the earthquake as fast as I could last Tuesday, it was not the greatest thing for my fuel economy.
This morning I refueled yet again, against my better judgement, at the Fas Mart near my home. I enjoy spreading the fantastic rumor that this particular gas station is "home of the world's slowest gas pumps," but today the pump I was at seemed al most normal. Perhaps it was because I was the only one pumping gas at the time.
So I put in 11.269 gallons and only drove 406.1 miles, so my mileage for the tank was a crummy 36.04 miles per gallon, worst mileage since last April!
Doing some quick (and probably wrong) math, my hot-rodding earthquake trip home at unreasonable speeds accounted for about 8.3% of the total miles of this tank. This tank's fuel economy was about 4.5% lower than the average of my last 5 tanks of gas. So, extrapolating from these factual datas, if I continually drove the Corolla like a rabid bat out of the fiery pit of Hades itself, I can expect to achieve barely 25 miles per gallon. Or something like that.
So as of this tank, I am resuming my pattern of taking the slow lane and driving like your grandma to get great mileage. I kind of rather prefer the grandma style of driving, as it becomes clear that if you're one of the slower cars in the slow lane, there's rarely a slower car ahead of you so you can maintain your speed and not worry too much about switching lanes to find the fastest lane of traffic.
If I am in your way, excuse me! I am in the slow lane, what do you expect to find in the slow lane? If you were patient and curious, you might find that the slow lane typically keeps moving when the fast lanes speed up and slow down, accordion-style, as all the "I'm more important than you and will cut you off to get ahead of you" people cause followers to brake and accelerate randomly.
My putt-putting around at a consistent speed is helping my lane to flow more smoothly. Of this fact I am confident. If we all work together and consider traffic flow as a whole, we all can get there faster. Sadly, the few careless selfish boobs who bob and weave through traffic to get to their destinations 30 seconds faster are adding time to the rest of the drivers who try to follow the rules.
But this type of traffic theory is a difficult lesson to learn, and people don't want to listen to it. So the majority continues to suffer at the hands of a relative few ignorant fools.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Earthquake Stories - Part II

Probably one of the great stories to come out of the recent plague of earthquakes in Virginia came from my 75-year-old neighbor, Mrs. Yammers.

Mrs. Yammers told me her earthquake experience like this:

"I just left the house at about 1:50 to go to my doctor's appointment. When I was stopped at the red light on Route 3 by the Denny's, my car started wiggling. I thought it was something wrong with the car, so I revved the engine, and the car just started bumping up and down more.

"When the light turned green, the car stopped jumping and just drove like normal. I thought 'that was weird, I better get that checked out,' and went on to the doctor's office.

"When I got there, the office ladies were leaving and locking the doors! I got out and asked them what was going on, because I had an appointment, and they looked at me and said 'Mrs. Yammers, we had an earthquake! We've canceled all out appointments for the rest of the day and going home to check on everything!'

"And that's when I realized that it wasn't car trouble at the stoplight back then, it was an earthquake!

"But now I need to reschedule my doctor's appointment, but it's not a big deal because it was just a routine visit to my urologist!"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquake Report, Part 1

Yesterday I got home in less than 40 minutes!

Thankfully, one of our main bosses quickly concluded that the rest of the day was pretty much done, as everyone was busy reveling in this new shared earthquake experience and/or contacting friends and/or family to check in and compare notes.

So when the word came out that we could go home, I bolted! The kids were home by themselves and I didn't know if their mother would be coming home early, too, so I felt it was my best interest to get home as quickly as possible to help encourage calm amongst the kids. And if other organizations came to the same conclusion as my boss, it was likely that the entire afternoon rush hour would be unleashed at the same time.

(Turned out that public transportation fared worst, as overcrowded buses got stuck with the rest of the commuters, and trains were rolling along very slowly all afternoon as every inch of rail had to be investigated before being declared safe)

As I got on the interstate, traffic was not overwhelming, and I thought to myself that today, with the earthquake just happening and people all confused and concerned, any traffic enforcement police officers would probably be called away from their speed traps to help the general population.

It was my chance to open it up and go for a record! At some points on my way home, the speed limit was eclipsed by substantial amounts. A fantastically smooth ride home. Fastest trip home since February of this year, and in my top five quickest trips home ever.

(My actual fastest trip home was 35 minutes, and that happened one winter day when a blizzard was going on and nobody went to work except for me and a few other hearty souls, and by the afternoon, the sun was out and the roads were clear and empty.)

I arrived to a still-standing home. The worst damage was not the attached picture (indeed, this picture was stolen from a friend who stole it from someone else), but my small collection of empty Pringles cans in the basement tool room that had fallen over and landed on the floor.

It was neat that so many people felt the earthquake, yet so little relative damage was done and as far as I know, nobody was killed or died as a result.

Watching the news, I was happy to see the reporters showing piles of stopped cars and standing pedestrians, while bicyclists fluidly weaved through it all and were able to maneuver themselves swiftly, efficiently, and silently. But they cyclists must have been invisible to the reporters, as not a single one noted how the cyclists were able to move almost freely through the field of vehicles and bikeless people.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tank 288 - 23 August 2K11 - Whatever Happened to Windshield Wiper Refills?

This morning, I managed to avoid the Fas Mart near my home and instead refueled at what apparently is the world's second slowest gas pump at a Wawa on the other side of the Interstate. I chose this Wawa because 1) it wasn't the Fas Mart, and 2) going there would only cost me time at one stoplight and not 2, as the other Wawa (less than 1/2 mile away from this one) would have done, seeing on how it was on the other side of the road.

So this tank I only went 405.3 miles, with 10.687 gallons of gas, made for a mileage number of 37.92 miles per gallon. Not too shabby, and it brought my average for the year up to37.85 miles per gallon, a mere 0.02 miles per gallon lower than my highest annual mpg average that was achieved in 2007.

Of more concern for me today is that yesterday I went to the auto parts store and bought one low-beam headlight, or "lamp" as they say, probably because they can charge more for "lamps" instead of "light bulbs." While I was there, I remembered that my windshield wipers were showing signs of age, leaving more streaks than clear areas on the windshield.

So I walk over to the windshield wiper section and, as usual, am overwhelmed at the variety and types of wipers. And costs! There was a brand of windshield wiper there that was $49.99 for a single wiper blade arm! Needless to say, I concluded that safety is not my top priority and I quickly concluded that the $10 option was more thanm suitable for my needs.

As I was driving home, I remembered my purchase experience and didn't recall seeing just wiper refills on display, only the wipers with the whole metal arm apparatus attached. Seems like such a waste to replace the whole lever part when just the rupper wiper part is worn out.

When I was younger, I remember being able to buy just the rubber blade parts and slide them into the existing arm frames. But yesterday's trip to the auto parts store, I don't remember seeing just the rubber wiper blades. So I wonder now if this is some sort of scheme that the manufacturers thought up to get a little more profits from the gullible consumers such as myself? Are the plain old rubber blades kept in the magic world behind the counter, where only the chosen can tread?

Also a sad revelation from yesterday's trip to the car parts store is that I apparently have decided that my car is now too old to care about. I only replaced one windshield wiper, and one headlight lamp bulb. Screw symmetry. I hardly look over to the passenger side of the windshield anyway.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tank 287 - 15 August 2K11 (Convenience Trumped Price, But I Got Free Air Anyway)

Yesterday I refueled at the home of the world's slowest gas pumps near my home. Again. For the third time. Back-to-back-to-back. Consecutively. In a row.

This time, I had driven that Corolla 450.8 miles, and put in 11.706 gallons of 10% Ethanol-enhanced unleaded gasoline product, making for a fuel economy of 38.51 miles per gallon for this tank. That was nice, because I made extra special care to drive dainty-like and not mash down on the gas pedal. Indeed, I only hammered it down just the one time on this tank.

The gas at this station was nine cents more per gallon than at the Wawa I was planning on refueling at. The plan was to go to the Wawa and get refueled and check the air in my tires at the "free air" station that all Wawas have. But as I rolled into the Wawa, it was a busy parking lot filled with cars at every pump with several cars waiting around to pounce on an open pump.

So I drove up to the free air station and figured (hoped is a better word) things would calm down in the few minutes it would take to check the tire air.

I got out of the car and took off all four valve caps, because in my experience, the air pump doesn't stay on long enough for you to remove the valve caps and also put air in all four tires. Then I got the hose ready, pressed the start button and hurried into action. It was like a NASCAR pit stop the way I was whipping the air hose all around the four corners of the car to add air to all four tires.

The funny part happened as I was adding the air. Just as I started filling up the first tire, a guy drove up and parked his car directly behind the Corolla, and he got out and started talking on his cell phone. He stood there near the air pump at the back of my car and talked on his cell phone as the compressor was noisily running. The way he parked, I wouldn't be able to back out of the parking spot, and there was a curb in front of the Corolla and a grassy median I couldn't drive on, too. So I was concerned about that, but since my mission was to fill up all four tires on one cycle of the air compressor, I didn't have time to investigate the whole situation.

I got the air pressure in the last tire just the way I wanted it, and right then the compressor shut off. Success!

Then I went and coiled the air hose back up on the side of the air station, and as I went to twist on the valve caps, this guy puts his phone back in his pocket and moves swiftly past me to get to that air hose. I'm trying to finish up my valve caps here, and this guy's like taking the air hose to start filling up his tires already! And the odd part is that the hose isn't nearly long enough to get to his front tires the way he had boxed me in with his parking job!

So I stand up slowly and look at him with the "evil eye." He stops short, because he's shorter than me and I was looking down upon him since he was unnaturally close to me, and asks "you finish with pump?"

I reply, "Yeah, and I'd like to drive out of here but I can't because YOU ARE BLOCKING ME IN!"

It is only at this moment that he looks at the situation and realizes how foolish he was in parking where he did. So he puts the hose down and goes into his car to back it up and free me and the Corolla from our trapped position. I finish up and put the three remaining valve caps on the tires and make my way to back out of the spot and get out of there. The guy gave me about six inches of free space as I was backing up. Luckily, I'm a very excellent driver. More likely, it's just that the Corolla is small.

Meanwhile, the status at the gas pumps has gotten worse. Still no free pumps and even more cars waiting for other people to finish up. So I admit defeat and attempt to leave the parking lot, only to get almost trapped in by a smart guy who thought he'd be sneaky and drive on the wrong side of the road and over an arrow pointing the opposite direction to get around behind the pumps. Only problem is that I was right there in his way. So he stops and "waves me through," so I am compelled to compound his idiocracy and drive on the wrong side of the parking lot as well, putting the Corolla in grave danger of a slow speed collision from one of any number of other cars that were actually following the markings on the parking lot.

Happily, I escaped and with little additional fanfare I traveled about half a mile to the aforementioned Fas Mart nearer to my home, where the gas runs slow and the prices run nine cents more per gallon. But it was worth it because I didn't have to sit in that Wawa parking lot waiting for a pump to free up for me to pounce upon.

Plus, I got free air from the Wawa and didn't even get any gas to pay for it!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Four Birthdays in Two days.

It appears we survived the annual Birthday Weekend of Fun! With my wife and twin #1 going on the VA Beach parasailing trip, I thought they'd be all birthday-ed out and ready to celebrate the Bacon's birthday on Saturday and just twin #2's on Sunday. Boy was I wrong. I couldn't have been more wronger.

Woke up yesterday and made omelets for all those who wanted them - twin #1 and wife. Cleaned up the dishes. Got yelled at for not buying a "Paul's Cake" for wife, although (and she clearly forgot) we were thawing some of "Paul's Cake" remaining from the baptism spectacle of 2 weeks ago. Like the wedding cake top you save for a year and eat later? Like that...

Went to church and that was fun. Came home. Plan was twin #2 would pick lunch destination and twin #1 would pick dinner location and we'd all love it and not whine. So twin #2 tells me to drive to "Longhorn steakhouse" and we go there and everybody whines. I do my best "WTF?" face and drive to this craptacular Fr*nch themed restaurant called "Mimi's Cafe." Feelings feel better and we eat breakfast and lunch foods.

Go home, neighbor kids come to visit and kids play nicely most afternoon as Courtney and I watch this movie called "Brothers." It had Jake Gyllenhall, Natalie "Queen Amidala" Portman and Tobey "Spider-Man" Maguire in it and was super dramatic filled with drama and was good. And the kids started making a cake. Like we didn't have enough already with the Bacon's cookie cake she made Saturday and the thawing "Paul's Cake" but whatever. Due to lack of supervision, cake batter was more like bread dough consistency. Wife says forget it for now kids, twin #1 wants to go to FUN LAND!

But twin #1 only wanted to go there by herself to play skee-ball and ride the go-karts. And turned out all the family plus the neighbor kids ("A" and "B," who are all around good kids) all went and went nuts. Twin #2 crashed her go kart. Kids played all sorts of video games. Some skee-ball was played. It was like a casino for kids. 2.5 hours later they all wanted to stay. But it was 7:30 and nobody realized they were hungry yet. We dragged them out of there, dumped off the neighbor kids and the Bacon at home and the three birthday girls and I went out to Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant for dinner.

During dinner there was an horrific thunderstorm. We talked about how the weekend was going, and wife had the brilliant idea that next year, everyone should agree to celebrate their birthdays a month apart- July 14, August 14, and September 14. I could not sit for that and informed them that this great idea was not only agreed to last year, it was put somewhat into action this year, as (I won't name names) this year, two of them went out to a VA Beach vacation/birthday parasailing adventure earlier in the week, and yet here we all were, celebrating their birthdays on their real birthday anyway, even though they went away for 2 days for a birthday trip that the remaining birthday girl did not go on so she could have her birthday on her real birthday. With this in mind, all discussions of switching birthdays to alternative dates was tabled until a later date.

Food came and we ate, happily receiving three free scoops of birthday ice cream dessert, and returned home at 9:00, where wife, undeterred by feelings of tiredness and singularly focused upon extracting every last drop of birthday happiness to be had, whips out the bread dough cake batter and commences baking it so that this morning a new mess can be made while home made frosting can be prepared. And also two more cake layers. Because like I said, we don't have enough cake.

And when I get home today, there will be about six additional screaming 10- and 11-year old girls in my home for twin #2's birthday party/sleepover. I expect to experience about 5 hours of total mayhem and carnage as more presents are unwrapped, more cake is eaten, and more games are played. It's supposed to rain, so my hopes for some outside playtime are diminished. Happily, I'll probably be out the door tomorrow morning before the party girls wake up and go home.

Then we'll have a day or two off until the the Bacon's birthday sleepover party is happening on Wednesday or Thursday. So we'll have a day or two to clean everything up, vacuum the carpets and prepare for the onslaught of a small pile of 13-year-old girls who will do almost the same thing to the house and our sensibilities!

August is a great month!

Monday, August 8, 2011

More Experience to Reinforce Negative Stereotype of "Men" Who Drive BMW 3-series!

Indeed, it's no secret that I believe there's no man worth knowing who drives a BMW 3-series. I almost believe that BMW dealers are required to administer an "arrogant prick" test to everyone who tries to buy one, and men can only be approved for purchase of a 3-series "Beamer" if they score high enough.

(Women who drive 3-series BMWs appear to not be associated with the arrogant prick-iness, and can be otherwise perfectly normal and nice people)

Witness my experience from last weekend as I was portaging 2/3 of my children from the Old Navy parking lot out to the road so we could advance to BJ's Wholesale Club. As we moved at the normal parking lot speed through the parking aisle, I saw the easily-identifiable back end of a BMW 3-series (easily identifiable due to the many, many observations of the back ends of BMW 3-series as they swerve, dart, and otherwise aggressively overcompensate for themselves in the midst of heavy traffic).

"Look up there, kids," I said, "this is why you need to be extra careful in parking lots, because that car up there has its brake lights on, like the guy just started up the car. I can tell it's a BMW, so the guy's probably going to just pull right out of that spot without looking."

And sure enough, all this happened as I got right up to the BMW. His back-up lights turned on and immediately the car started backing swiftly out of the spot. Being the incredibly talented and situationally aware worse-than-average driver that I am, I had my right hand perched on the powerful Sienna's horn button and I laid it on him!

And of course, the man driving this 3-series stopped suddenly to let me pass on and continue my trip down the parking lot. Probably he spent a few minutes in deep concentration trying to figure out how to blame his arrogant prick-iness on me, but then lost his stream of thought and continued on with his day, confident in his bought superiority and status he thinks a 3-series can give.

So to review:

1) All men who drive BMW 3-series continue to be aggressive arrogant pricks,
2) BMW dealers continue to be great at funneling such quality individuals to the 3-series,
3) The 2008 Toyota Sienna SE is the greatest minivan ever,
4) As long as it's completely clear that I care less about my car than you do, I win at these little games of "parking lot chicken," no matter what I am driving.

An odd thing about the whole BMW situation is that drivers of 5- and 7- series don't seem to fit into any category, they're just as apt to be nice as they are to be turds. It's mostly the 3-series that is guaranteed to be owned by men who are suck holes. But the SUV variants of the BMW are almost as bad as the 3-series.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tank 286 - 4 August 2K11: Hey, it was convenient!

Refueled yet again at the Fas Mart near my house, "home of the world's slowest gas pumps." I also discovered that it's also the home of the pumps you can't set to just pump while you clean the windows and remove the trash from your door pockets.

It remains the home of the pumps that can't tell when you're done entering your 5-digit ZIP code.

And sometimes when it rains, the shelter's so small that the rain drips across the hood of your car.

And it seems about half the pumps are gone or out of order.

But, hey, IT'S CONVENIENTLY LOCATED NEAR MY HOUSE!

Anyway, The cool thing about this tank when compared to last tank is that I went 447.5 miles, which is one mile more than last tank. I refueled with 11.763 gallons, which is 0.005 less gallons than last time. So my mileage was 38.04 miles per gallon, which is 0.1 miles per gallon more than last tank.

I'm mildly excited at my fuel economy for this tank. On at least three occasions I totally floored the gas pedal to accelerate with as much enthusiasm and aggression as the 140-horsepower economy car could muster in order to get around (if you can believe it) drivers who were either driving slower than me or weaving around in their lanes in a way that made me nervous. I figured those moments of anger and frustration would have ruined my overall mileage.

Perhaps with this next tank, I'll be able to remain calm the entire time and control my impulses to mash down the gas pedal and/or drive aggressively just to slam on the brakes a little farther down the road. Yes, perhaps this next tank will be 40 miles per gallon or more! Probably not, because I have poor self-control, but one can dream!

This tank put me at 10,303.5 miles for the year. Last year I had gone 11,812.1 miles. But last year I had that 5-week class that I drove like 200 miles each day to get to and back from, so it's not a good comparison really.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Special Thanks to Nobody Special

A few days ago I got a special performance incentive check in the mail from G0ogle Ad5ense for $116.

Yes, after more than four years of blogging, my advertising revenue due to people cl1cking on my sp0nsored ads had finally reached the magic number of $100 in revenue, and that triggered the process for G0ogle to send me payment for my years of continuous effort and "work."

Over the past years, my most success has been in the last months, with my wildly successful rant against the horrible Delta Touch Faucet (still sucks!), and my disappointment that Ikea hasn't jumped on "the Girl with the Dragon tattoo" bandwagon and started carrying Billy's Pan Pizzas in their Swedish Grocery section. Thanks to you, my post is on the first page of results if you G0ogle "Billy's Pan Pizza" and "Ikea" together.

So to all of you who were in no way not unencouraged to avoid clicking on the sp0nsored ads, there's no need to thank you or avoid expressions of appreciation for your lack of noneffort and support. Without any of you, none of this wouldn't have not happened, exactly.

And I can't say for sure that my intentions are to keep asking or not asking you to look at or not avoid clicking on any or all of the sp0nsored ads on this blog, seeing on how this additional income that may or may not be generated by such inactivity of unclicking on no ads is something that I might or might not welcome on a more or less irregular basis.

So in the future, I continue to be humbled and awed at your continued support and/or nonsupport of my generally innocuous posts concerning my gas mileage and infrequent other adventures.