Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tank 308 - 27 February 2K12 (The High Price of High Mileage)

Yesterday on my way home I refueled at the Sheetz in Central Park. I had driven the Mighty Corolla 413.1 miles and used up 10.768 gallons of gas, making for a mileage of 38.36 miles per gallon. This raised my average mileage for the year to 38.33 mpg, currently an all-time high!

Gas was $3.579 per gallon at the Sheetz store, the highest since last May. This is notable because people FREAK OUT over gas prices.

Last year I did some math to determine the actual additional cost of the "expensive gas" over the price of "regular priced gas" and concluded that in the worst case scenario, being my 65-mile round trip commute in a gas-guzzling SUV and driving like a maniac, my additional cost per week for gas would be about $10.00

I suppose it's happy for me that I have the ability to absorb a perceived increase of $10 per week in gasoline cost, but I must be in a minority here, because people absolutely GO NUTS when gas prices go higher than some arbitrary price that we feel is against our natural rights as Americans.

What I don't get is how so many people talk up the price of gas but don't change anything in their lives as a result.

I mean, do car salesmen hold loaded guns to peoples' heads to force them into buying crap-mileage SUVs? Why do so many people feel it's necessary to drive a huge pickup truck alone to and from the office job where they shuffle papers? Why dothese people in sports cars speed up with such enthusiasm just to slam on the brakes when they get to the next light?

Are people generally just that short-sighted that they don't consider such things?

A car gets you from here to there. I don't understand why anyone would spend more than absolutely necessary to achieve that goal. I am surrounded in traffic by Hummers, F-250s, Lexuses, Acuras, and BMWs. And we're all stuck there together. My ride cost me $15,000 and gets 38 miles per gallon. And I am moving just as fast as those people in their $50,000 gas guzzlers with huge engines.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Good Weekend with Long Rides to Catch Up!

I rode my bike for close to five hours over the weekend, and am now only about 10 hours behind, which puts me back on my estimated schedule and on track for meeting my goal of riding my bike for more time than I am commuting in my car this year!

More later!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Snow + Laziness = 12.65 Hours Down (But Still Not Out!)

Well, last Friday I got a nice longish ride in as part of my "healthy wellness' at work. Unfortunately, it was Friday afternoon traffic, which took up most of the same amount of time, so that was a wash.

Then the weekend happened and I only got out for two rides of about an hour each. There was yard work to be done on Saturday, I don't remember what happened on Sunday, and then yesterday was snowy (but it mostly melted as the day wen ton) and we drove to visit a relative in the hospital, and that took up much of the day. And one child had a dentist appointment. So I could only eke out another hour ride.

Happily, the rides were fairly fast, I mean my average speed was above average, so that was nice. However, I have no real frame of reference as to what constitutes a fast average speed, other than my own previous ride data, which in itself isn't a great benchmark because most every ride is of different lengths over different coursed in different weather conditions.

More concerning is how my analysis of January's data (predicting a 7-hour deficit each month) may end up being a bad underestimate. There are six more commuting days in the month, and I have less than an hour and a half to give up in order to maintain the draft schedule that I sort of established.

Six commutes, three days off. It's probable (but not likely) that I can manage a 2-hour ride each of those days off to help make up for the about 1.75 hours of commuting I'll likely do for the six days of commuting. But still I'l be coming up short. I will probably be able to do 2 or 3 "healthy wellness rides" during these days as well.

I can sense that if I continue to get boiled up in the number crunching that this whole effrot will shift from a "fun contest with myself" to a toiling downer of a mission. I will do my best to keep that from happening. This is supposed to be fun!

I blame the weather. Things will get better when the weather improves.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Expensive Gas Helps Us All! (Tank 307 - 17 February 2K12)

Refueled this morning at the Fas mart near my house, which is a huge surprise, I know.

The Mighty Corolla had gone 431.3 miles, and I put in 11.346 gallons of gas, making for a fuel economy of 38.01 miles per gallon for this tank.

Gas was $3.499 per gallon.

Last year, I concluded that $3.50 a gallon was a good price that caused enough idiot drivers to drive less erratically, which reduced the number of people weaving in and out of traffic, which reduced the number of people who got cut off and had to tap on the brakes in knee-jerk-reaction to being cut off by the jackrabbit who just has to get ahead of whoever is in front of him, which reduced the accordion effect of the following cars each slowing down a tiny little bit more as a result, which helped the average speed of us all, and the general traffic flow to increase.

I made a chart and everything that indicated that my average drive home times went down by about ten minutes when gas prices went over about $3.50 per gallon. It was great.

But as with all things, I stopped updating it since I had proven my point. And also since gas prices went back down and nobody cared any more and went back to their selfish death-defying Tony Stewart wannabe driving styles.

Happily, gas is getting expensive again, and I can look forward to generally smoother commutes home for the near future, as some of the fools who zip and dash through traffic alone in their 15-mile-per-gallon SUVs start thinking about how to spend less money on gasoline and start to drive more sensibly.

In about six months, my office will be moving to a new location closer to my home, and much of this mayhem will be removed from my daily commuting life. My hope is that gas prices remain high until that time, and stay that way for a long time afterwards.

In the meantime, I'll update my gas price/commute time home chart to confirm my argument that higher gas prices and faster commutes home go hand in hand!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Online Training, Yeah!

Part of my job requires something not unlike "continuous learning requirements." I need to have 80 hours of continuous learning training every two years.

For a while, the timer was reset the moment you reached the 80 hours, so if you met the 80 hour requirement in just one year, then the clock reset and you had two new years to achieve 80 more training hours.

I quickly learned that you only must achieve 79 hours and then wait until the very last moment to get a small learning credit when you were at about the 23rd month of the two year cycle, in order to maximize the length of time between your painful continuous learning expereinces.

Because most of the time you have taskers, projects, meetings and general paper shuffling to do at the office (at least in my office), this training seems like just an added nuisance, particularly since we all mostly know how to do our jobs already.

Well, it turns out that my two years expires at the end of May, and I still needed 30 hours of continuous learning training. So I signed up for a class that will give me 34 hours of training. Hooray! Problem solved!

Bigger problem: this is a long, long, LONG online course! Like 40 separate topics! Not including the Introduction and Summary briefs! Each topic with like 20 slides to read! And FOUR tests! And I have to be done with it by April 4th!

Oh, The Joy!

So I ran the numbers and if I can crack through about 3.25 of them each day, I'll be done just on time. I imagine this will eat up 1.5 hours per day if I can remain focused on it for that long each morning.

But then, I think I'll be safe for another year and a half before I have to worry about this again.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Songs To Play At My Funeral, Part 1

Sometimes, you hear a song and think to yourself, "that's a great song," and each time you listen to it, you like it even more and discover that you like it for several different reasons.

Sometimes, you think about your own funeral, and what you'd like it to be like. And you tell people "I want to be cremated," "I want a closed casket at my funeral," or "bury me sideways," but these sort of comments either get tossed away as casual, meaningless asides, or are met with responses such as "oh, that's morbid, let's talk about something else," or "what do you mean, 'bury you sideways'?"

Well, I've had lengthy discussions with myself on both of these topics in recent weeks, and thought it would be best to lay down a mandate about songs that I have decided that I like so much that they'd be suitable for listening to and reflecting upon at my own funeral. Then it occurred to me that in the modern era of the facebook and personal blogging, that I'd probably be able to document these wishes in such a way that there would be an historical and lasting record of these wishes.

As I've considered this, I wondered to myself about how many songs would be appropriate to play during a funeral service. Probably three would be quite enough, as four would seem one too many. Currently, there are only two that I believe I like enough and say the sort of message I think I'd like to leave upon my departure. So I will reveal these two songs here, and my reasons why I think my captive funeral audience should be forced to listen to them.

So here we go. Unless I indicate otherwise in the future, these are two songs I want played at my funeral.

Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind about one or both of these songs in the event I get older and it turns out that I decide these songs are crap (which I don't believe will happen), or if a newer song comes along that I have not yet heard that is just so good it should be added as my third song or replace one of my first two.

I'm not intending this to be a morbid reminder of the ever present macabre spectre (nice, two consecutive words that end in -re!) of death that imminently hovers over us all the time, but as I said before, I really intend this as a selection of songs I want played at my funeral, and this post to serve as guide future generations as to my wishes and desires.

The first song I'd like played at my funeral is Strollin' On The Water by Bryan Duncan, the lyrics to which can be found here. He wrote this song in 1998, apparently, and it was played on the radio kind of regularly for a while. When I looked for a video of it on YouTube, I was a little disappointed that the images I had created in my mind didn't match the contents of the video, so I quickly whipped up a picture montage of places I've seen and linked to that video for when you listen to the song. Unfortunately, I didn't include that many pictures of water, so I'll post one of those pictures here for your water-strolling-fantasy demands.

"Take courage, it is I, don't be afraid." I frequently lose sight of the big picture, and this song seems to express the need to remember what's important and to know where your "strength comes from."

High over every care, sinking no longer, let me rise above the high tide. I can do it, I can do it. I know that you said "follow me..."

Every time I hear it, my mood improves. The message is positive and encouraging. It tells the listener that everything will be okay and that we are not alone no matter what the circumstances are or how terrible we may feel.

Keep your eyes up when you feel you're sinking and all that stuff. It makes me feel better, so I figure if you're sitting at my funeral you'll need a happy song to gently console you in my absence.

Okay, so it seems like a typical, middle-of-the-road, comforting reflective sensitive song that of course seems at home in a funeral situation. Oh, you don't like it? Well, it's my funeral and you'll listen to what I tell you to listen to!

But wait, there's more! My second song is much  more recent, from 2010. It's OK GO's This Too Shall Pass, the lyrics to which can be found here. Another version of a video for this song was wildly popular because it was one long take of a wildly intricate Rube-Goldberg machine that culminated in shooting the four band members with paint-filled balloons.

The video I linked to is a different version of the song, recorded with the Notre Dame marching band. OK GO gave this version away as a free download, so I listened to it a lot on my little ipod shuffle, and it turned out that the lyrics made me feel good, had a good message suitable for sharing at a funeral service, and the whole marching band vibe just added to the majesty and fun of the song.

The main and repeated theme of the song is that you can't keep letting it get you down, so let it go, this too shall pass. So often we keep hold of the hurts, slights, and offenses inflicted upon us, and it's just not worth it. So just let it go, man! You can't stop those kids from dancing, don't blame them for doing it just because you can't or don't want to!

An added visual bonus is how some of the marching band is dressed up in the Ghillie Suits:

So there you go, the two songs that you ought to play at my funeral, with the underatanding that future posts may add a third, or change one or both of the current choices.

The only things that can undermine my otherwise perfect plan to have my final wishes carried out are: 1) the links die, 2) the Internet ceases to exist, 3) I change my mind and update this list, 4) this message won't be searched for upon my untimely demise, or 5) you'll just ignore it anyway as the ramblings of a misguided and mentally deranged fool.

But since you're reading this now, you will have already read about the two songs I feel everybody should listen to, so I suppose my final wishes have performed their intended purpose. How about that? It's kind of like the Internet already hosted my funeral and it was exactly the way I intended it to be.

So thank you for your indulgence, but this doesn't absolve you from your responsibility of actually attending my funeral. Indeed, now you are expected to sing along, too.

And also, bury me sideways.

Tank 306 - 10 Feb 2K12 (And a Bike vs. Car Update!)

Added more gas to the Mighty Corolla last Friday, and then promptly forgot to calculate the mileage and report it until today. Which is okay, because it was one of those generally forgettable tanks of gas: 410.2 miles, 10.979 gallons, 37.36 miles per gallon.

So it was the shortest distance I've gone on a tank this year, the worst mileage on a tank this year, and the shortest length of time (5 days) between tanks.

I think that last tank (and so far this tank, too) I've been driving a little faster than normal and not seeking opportunities to drive behind large trucks.

So my mileage doesn't appear to be looking like it's going to break any all-time records for fuel economy.
On the bright side, it is making my commutes a couple three minutes faster each way each day. And the traffic gurus have been kind such that there has been just one day so far this year with unbearably unnaturally heavy traffic slowness.

So the abnormally "short commutes" have helped the bike v. commute chart remain at about the same 44/56 split favoring the commute (for now). I'm still about ten hours behind on the bike riding, which is about on the track I tentatively figured out a couple weeks ago (where the deficit grows by about 7 hours per month, and 1.5 months so far in the year ought to be about 7x1.5 or 10.5 hours by now, which it will likely be when I get home tonight because it's Valentine's Day today and good luck going for a bike ride with a house full of women at home today, but this is a leap year and so we're not actually halfway through the month this time but it's a three-day weekend followed by a three-day week and a second three-day weekend so there's more days off to ride the bike next week, too!).

Yesterday I went out for a "healthy wellness" ride at work, but started later than hoped and just got in 45 minutes of riding. Since it was a weird start time I took a weird route and still had fun. One of the traffic lights turned green for me just as I got to it, and more than one busy driver stopped extra long at a stop sign and waved me through. So that was nice, too.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Do I Count It As Commuting Time?

After work today, I'm not going home. I'm driving the other way to meet my cousin Dave and we're going to a concert. Then I'll drive home from there after it's over.

If it was an ordinary day, I'd track my time as I drove home for my effort of trying to ride my bike more than commute in my car. But I'm not going straight home.

Should I count any part of my way home tonight towards the time I'm tracking as "commuting time?"

I can see it both ways. Since I commuted to work this morning, clearly I must go home at some point, and whenever that time happens to be, I am travelling home.

But I'm not going home FROM WORK, I'm going home from a concert, and that's different.

This issue probably won't come up too many times during the year, but I'd hate for the end total numbers be so close that such a decision could haunt the records.

On Monday, I left work early to pick up the kids from the dentist. I counted that time because the dentise is close to home, and I went there straight from work at a time that could almost be argued as an early rush hour stage.

Today's concert, I'm not so sure. Maybe because it's going to be dark when I drive home.

I think I'll just use my average commute home time as a plug-in for today. I'm going home tonight, and if I wasn't going to the concert, I'd have a commute home. Yeah, that's what I'll do.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Super Happy Surprise Monday Ride of Fun!

Yesterday I left work early to meet two daughters at the dentist office to take them home. My wife had taken them there and would go back to her work for a late afternoon appointment. The whole dentisting part was done by the time I got there, so we were home shortly after 3:00 pm.

After settling in at home, I realized that it was still light out, and it was a nice day. So I made the kids promise to be good and I went out on a fun ride around the nearby neighborhoods, and made a point to go on Chewning Lane, a half-mile downhill dead end with a speed bump about halfway through. It's fun to go down, but a pretty long hill to go back up, but you get to bunny hop over the speed bump, so it all evens out.

So I managed a 71-minute ride, and that almost matched my 80 minutes of commuting for the day.

But when I got home, it turned out that the girls were not quite as good as they promised. They had not finished their homework. But one could argue that I was not a good father because I abandoned them for more than an hour and missed out on what might have been quality bonding time together. I didn't even invite any of them to join me for a fun bike ride.

But today is another day, and we can maybe make up for it this afternoon.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tank 305 - 5 February 2K12

Refueled Sunday afternoon at the Fas Mart near my home, after driving the Mighty Corolla 447.2 miles. I put in 11.688 gallons of gas, making for a fuel economy of 38.26 miles per gallon for the tank.

I was impressed by this number, because the weekend before I had driven over 40 miles worth of short in-town drives to and from grocery stores and such, and I was expecting much worse mileage.

So that's nice.

The weather forecast for the weekend had predicted lots and lots of rain, but it ended up being night time rain. I managed a nice but different kind of bike ride on Saturday morning, about 24 miles, as I incorporated a stop at the library to pick up DVDs and a book they were holding for me.

I didn't plan on a Sunday morning pre-church ride, as it was supposed to be raining. But when Sunday morning came, it was just wet on the ground and a very very light mist was falling. But by the time I realized this, there wasn't much time to go out for a ride. So I skipped yesterday.

And I'll probably skip my "healthy wellness exercise ride" today, as I will leave work early to escort the children to the dentist. So the beginning of February is not helping close (or even maintain) the gap between bike riding and car commuting.