Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ranger Tank #3 - Because I Could

Refueled again this morning at the same Wawa as the last two times, but at a different pump. Gas was $3.349/gallon, and I bought 13.036 gallons after driving 332.0 miles. So my mileage for this tank was 25.47 mpg.

When I am driving to work, I notice a sign on the side of the road END MEASURED MILE. Sadly, I don't recall ever seeing the BEGIN MEASURED MILE sign. Well, I saw the END MEASURED MILE sign yesterday and when I got to the interstate, I thought I'd follow those mile markers and see how the Ranger's odometer matched up.

So I looked at th eodometer at a mile marker, and after one mile on the interstate, the odometer moved 0.95 miles.

So if this is in fact true, when I go 95 miles on the odometer, I actually have gone 100 miles. It's a 5% difference. If my odometer is 5% short, and I'm actually going 5% more miles than I think I am going, then my mileage should go up 5% as well, so I'm possibly getting over 26.5 mpg.

Maybe some day I'll get the odometer and speedometer calibrated. Probably not, because I'm cheap.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ranger Tank 2: The Second One

I refueled this morning in the rain at the same Wawa and same pump I used last time.

I stopped before the fuel gauge got down to one quarter tank, because last time I put in more gas than the owner's manual said was possible and I was just barely below a quarter tank. So I ended up with 13.979 gallons on 355.1 miles, for a fuel economy of 25.40 mpg.

So on two tanks on the Ranger, I am averaging 24.96 mpg, and on the four tanks in the minivan when I drove that, I averaged 24.05 mpg.

The minivan was much faster and more powerful and got almost as good mileage. Probably this is the difference between 1995 truck engineering and 2008 minivan engineering.

But such is life. This is what I have done and now I am living with it.

In a couple of years, one child will go off to college, followed by the others two years later, so in four years everything will be changing again. Probably the car situation will shift around as well. In the meantime I am enjoying the Ranger.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ranger Tank "#1:" I Thought It Would Be Better

So I added gas to the Groovy Ranger this morning. The good news is I went 406.0 miles and there wasn't a low fuel light to be lit at all. The bad news is that the owner's manual says the tank is 16.5 gallons and I put in 16.558 gallons of gas!

The double bad news is that means I got only 24.52 miles per gallon.

The triple bad news is that I mostly was driving conservatively, and only had hard acceleration about 4 or 5 times.

The quadruple bad news is that when the pump stopped, I heard a splash and saw a little puddle underneath the filler nozzle area, and there wasn't any gas dripping off the side of the truck so I am a confused mess!

So now there's a baseline measurement on the mileage of the old Ford Ranger. It's about half a mile per gallon better than the 4 tanks of minivan gas from the time I drove the minivan to work. I was expecting better. I suppose I can do better.

I've got to stop trying to go 70 on the interstate. This poor little truck was giving its all to go that fast. And it's not the most aerodynamic thing out there.

Still, this is about a 32% decrease in mileage over the Mighty Corolla. Or, a 32% increase in my gasoline cost.

On the other hand, we made an easy trip to the dump, with a convenience factor there... But it will take regular trips to the dump in order for the value to make up for the difference in gas cost.

But now that we have the little Ford Ranger, it's in the fleet and who knows what will happen in a few years when the kids are out in colleges? Probably one of them will take the minivan, which will open up a slot in the garage, and my experience buying and selling on craigslist was so fun that I'm comfortable buying a used economy commuter from there in the future.

In the meantime, we will live with the Groovy Ranger, accept the negatives, and take advantage of the positives...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Mighty Corolla was Sold; Hail the Groovy Ranger!

About three weeks ago I sold the Mighty Corolla to a Fairfax County Sheriff's deputy for $3500. It had 153000 miles on it. Carmax said it would pay me $3000 for it, so getting $3500 was a pleasant enough bonus. He paid me with 34 hundred dollar bills and two fifties.

Yesterday, I used $1850 of that cash to buy a 1995 Ford Ranger, as shown in the nearby picture. It has a 4 cylinder motor, 5 speed manual transmission, and apparently an old smell of faint cigarette smoke (I can't smell anything, but my nose doesn't work as well as some of the women I am married to). It allegedly has a new clutch and timing belt and spark plug wires. The tires look good. It runs pretty good, too. The AC is not entirely working but seems to put out cool air about half the time. There's a junction in the exhaust pipe where a gasket is rotted out so under all but the mildest acceleration it sounds loud and obnoxious.

The Ranger still had the original window sticker that claimed 28 mpg highway. I refueled on my way home last night and reset the trip meter, so in a week or so I'll have my first piece of data to see how well this truck has held up.

We made the switch because we foresee the need to move large piles of mulch, dirt, rocks, and lumber in the near future. In a couple years we'll be taking kids to college. In the fall we'll have a third driver. Yes, much of this can be accomplished with the world's fastest minivan, but it's a pain to remove and re-install the heavy, awkward seats in the middle. Plus it makes a mess in the inside of the minivan. So somehow I convinced the family that this was a smart course of action.

Fun fact: this is the first vehicle in my married life that my wife specifically instructed me to leave her name off the title and registration.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Land of the Free - As Long As You Agree With Popular Opinion

The news reports on activities the producers and directors think are noteworthy to report. Usually those items are unusual or different in some way, because otherwise it would not be news, it would just be ordinary events.

So the news generally doesn't report on bland daily activities. It reports things that generally happen to relatively few people but are so fantastic in nature it's obvious that the general public would want to know about it. Bank robberies, muggings, fires, thefts, crashes, strange achievements, and such. So the news, packed with so many interesting items, feeds our brains with these things so we begin to think that these uncommon occurrences are actually more prevalent in society than they actually are.

Then we lock our doors. We get security systems. We wonder what odd things we can do to get on the news, because obviously there's so much going on to everybody that there must be something we do that's newsworthy.

But the news reports on minority issues that affect a small subset of our population. We think it applies to us and it gets reported in such a way that we think that it could have happened to us, so we should be alert.

(This affects me to such extreme that one night I left the garage door open all night and the car doors unlocked and when I opened the door the next morning and saw straight outside and not the closed garage door, well I had a moment of chilling fear tingle up my spine followed by a wash of relief that the whole family wasn't raped and pillaged and murdered and killed overnight.)

And here we are, watching the news, thinking all of it in some way directly affects our lives. Our favorite TV and movie actors share their opinions about some of it, too. They support some things and oppose other things. And the news reports these famous opinions as if they are facts. The news cycle continues, and over the course of a few short months or years, the constant reporting of these uncommon activities and the vocal support or opposition of them by people we enjoy being entertained by, well, turns out that we start thinking that the opinions of these famous people are actual reflections of society in general.

So we think to ourselves, wow, my opinion must be so out of touch with the rest of the general public. Something is wrong with me that I don't see things the same way as these reporters and people I see on the TV and hear on the radio. Well, those people must know more than me, because why else would they be so rich and famous if they weren't more capable and knowledgeable than me?

Slowly, we find that our opinions and thoughts that are contrary to what the news reports as common and right, those opinions must be bad.

And when some personality on the edge of popular opinion opens up and says something to question this, perhaps the same way you may question things if you had the chance, well the media piles on this poor individual as an intolerant bigot racist who lives in the dark ages. He gets fined and suspended by his boss and the rest of the TV and radio people point to him as the worst kind of person. So you think to yourself, wow, I better keep my mouth shut, look what happened to that guy.

Yes, you still may have your opinion, and it still may be different than what the talking heads on the TV are reporting as common enlightened knowledge. But you had better not share it with anyone or else you will be seen as a hate and fear-filled ignoramus impeding the progress of the enlightened ones.

Remember, these enlightened ones are remarkably few in number. They have large soapboxes to stand on and are influential because we loved them in that movie where they pretended to be that character we love. Clearly their beliefs are more important than mine. Clearly those who disagree are wrong. Just look at what happened to those people who spoke up against the popular opinion. If such bad things happened to them (and they are FAMOUS!), imagine what terrible things could happen to us if we talk about our skepticism of what's going on? There would be no hope for us.

And this is how I am realizing that we are all free to say whatever we want, as long as it doesn't oppose what our news reporters and celebrities support.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Some Things I Have Noticed In Books

During my commute to and from work, I usually listen to "books on tape," although they are actually on CD, which I borrow from the local library network. It's generally more entertaining than classic rock radio (which is great, but they're not really making any new classic rock tunes, so there's a fair amount of repetition. But our new car has satellite radio and the classic rock station there plays a wide variety, but I'm not allowed to drive that car and we're probably going to let the subscription lapse and not pay for it.), or talk radio of any sort (it just gets you all riled up and stressed out over whatever the topic of the day is), or news radio.

So I listen to lots of books. I liked Steve Martin's autobiography, I disliked Roger Ebert's autobiography. I liked the Harry Potter books, I disliked the Maze Runner books. I liked Moby Dick and am currently enjoying 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. I liked Frankenstein and Dracula. I liked the Hunger Games and Ender's Game and most of the Dune books.

Recently I have noticed that in many novels, periodically a character will go on a long speech about a particular topic that's not entirely relevant to the narrative, but sometimes interesting to know. There are great examples of this in Moby Dick, as pages and pages are devoted to describing every part of the whale and the various uses of each part. While interesting to know, it just sort of slows down the whaling action and search for the great white whale.

I'm wondering if it's these "throwaway parts" of the novels that are the author's true intention and message. Did Melville draw us in with the promise of sea action so he could explain to us the inner workings of the whaling industry? Did Verne want to educate us about all the various classifications of sea life in 20,000 Leagues? Did Collins want to explain to us that not all boy/girl friendships have to be romantic or physical?

Maybe I am reading into this too much, but in my history of reading books and watching movies, it's becoming clear that the author/director wants to express something more to us than just the basic plot. Perhaps the layering of themes makes the narrative more enjoyable, or perhaps the writers are using the medium to get their viewpoints out there for the public to consume, in a subtle manner to further their own viewpoints.

On the other hand, Orson Scott Card wrote Ender's Game specifically towards a younger audience, but didn't overtly push any of his beliefs on the reader. Sadly, the general public went nuts talking about his personal views when the movie came out and a minor firestorm ensued.

So I guess I just contradicted my whole assertion that writers use their novels to advance their own agendas. Oh, well.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

If divorce is a sin, and being gay is a sin, why do we greet one with sadness and the other with celebration?

Somebody posted a picture/story on the facebook where (allegedly) a pastor was preaching that being gay was a sin, and the congregation agreed with a chorus of "amens." Then th epastor said that you know what else is a sin? Divorce. And the same congregation got entirely quiet.

The point of the story, I suppose, was to point out that we all sin, and we shouldn't judge each other based on perceived sins.

What I don't understand is that in most cases, news of a couple divorcing is greeted with muted feelings and "ooh, that stinks for them. What about the children?" Whereas when news of someone coming out as gay is celebrated and welcomed by all the open-minded (except for people who have different views) people as great news of critical importance that must be shared and discussed and accepted and embraced.

So on one hand, there seems to be tepid agreement that divorce and homosexuality are not part of God's plan. It seems that, when pressed, people will admit that being gay probably misses God's mark. Yes, there are the arguments that Jesus never came out and said "gay is not the way," but there are other words, deeds, and actions that indicate that that lifestyle is not completely in accordance with God's law. And yes, the commandment to love one another trumps everything, but not to the point of ignoring and condoning blatant sin.

And so we return to the disappointment associated with the news of hearing that a couple divorces, contrasted with the enthusiasm of the bravery when one comes out as being gay. If both are sins, how can one be welcomed with open arms and the other be quietly accepted with a sad shaking of one's head?

We still love the divorced family, just as we love the openly gay people. At the end of the day, we here are not the final judge of any of it. We accept the divorced ones, we accept the gay ones. Oh, but we can't counsel the gay ones as we counsel those going through divorce, because the gay ones were born that way. And if you're born that way, you get special acceptance and dispensation for your sins.

Sorry to waste your time :-\

Tank 385 Already!

So I put in more gas to the Mighty Corolla this morning, and it worked out to be 36.94 mpg for the tank.

A couple of weeks ago I was so certain that I was going to sell the Mighty Corolla to Carmax that I only put in 4 gallons. It was the first time I have not put in a full tank at the gas station. But, I didn't sell the car to Carmax and a few days later put in a full tank and here we are.

Last year we moved to a new (to us) house. This year, we are adding another licensed driver to the family (darn birthdays!). It is becoming apparent that our future will involve more mulch and trees and rocks and things to maintain the new (to us) yard, and while the minivan can accommodate such things, it is a pain to remove the center-row chairs to make more space in the back, and it's also a pain to clean it all up inside afterwards.

My wife had decided that this fall the new-licensed driver shall inherit the world's fastest minivan, our 2008 Toyota Sienna, and she (my wife) will acquire a new vehicle that has all the comfort and convenience of the minivan but isn't a minivan. So she bought a GMC Terrain, a small SUV with a smaller engine that gets better fuel economy. Indeed, as the minivan struggles to achieve 20 mpg per tank, this Terrain is likely to get 25-28 mpg over the same roads, an increase of at least 25% in fuel economy.

I have "decided" to use this opportunity to replace the Mighty Corolla with a small pickup truck, like a Ford Ranger. It appears I may be able to sell the Corolla for enough money that I can buy a similarly old Ranger with the proceeds. Or get an old beater and leave money in my pocket. The 4-cylinder Ranger can get up to 28 mpg highway. The Corolla was advertised 32 highway, which I was easily able to beat, so it's probable that I could get about 30 mpg in a Ranger, which stil is almost a 20% decrease in my own mileage. And since I drive a lot more than my wife does, it's likely our consumption will increase. But if I remain timid of confrontation and selling and buying a car, I might stick with the Corolla for a while longer.

So the mileage experiment of the Mighty Corolla may be nearing its end. Or maybe not. We'll see what happens in th enext few weeks and months.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Partial List of Other Things Jesus Didn't Talk About So They Must Be Okay, Too

1) Speeding
2) Identity theft
3) Internet pornography
4) Junk mail
5) Under-tipping your waitress
5b) Over-tipping your waitress
6) Cannibalism
7) Skipping school
8) Sleeping at work
9) Abuse of the 911 system
10) Bulimia
11) Cutting
12) Playground bullying
13) Crush films
14) Twerking
15) Fur coats
16) Cheating at sports
17) Universal health care
Just because Jesus didn't have anything to say on a certain topic doesn't make it okay, and it definitely doesn't mean that He endorses it.
Jesus loved all people, that's true. He also rebuked sinners and told them to sin no more, showing that it is possible to love the sinner but hate the sin. Unfortunately, many people today seem to have forgotten this part, as they immediately marginalize anybody who tries to make that point, marking them as intolerant bigots.
If you have the ability to do something, that doesn't mean you absolutely should and must do it. And it doesn't mean that you can put other people down who disagree with it.
There's no calm discussion about anything any more. People immediately take it to intensity level 100% and demonize their opponents that disagree. How is that right? Oh, it's because Jesus didn't have anything to say about it. My bad...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tank 382 - The Electric Boogaloo

So this last tank I got 37.44 mpg, but mostly I wanted to send along the attached picture.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Re: A buddy of mine picked his nose and had no where to put it, so he put it back in his nose

Things are getting worse. In the last couple of weeks, several websites I go to have informed me that I need to change my password. And I can no longer use the same general family of passwords that I have used in the past. Typically, my passwords have been a version of a certain set of numbers/words, with "1234" added to the end in the event that it needs to meet some length requirement. But now different websites are implementing new and different password requirements.
"It can't look like your username or real name" (so the letters McK are out of the game)
"It must use a special character but no more than one special character"
"It must use two or more special characters plus a number that is not in your phone number or date of birth"
"It must be 15 or more characters long!"
Oh, man this is just getting to be too much for me to handle. I can't remember all this stuff any more!
And the stupid website I go to to check my pay stub, that password is only good for like 60 days and then I need to change it again! And it can't be similar to any of my last FIFTEEN passwords! Just to look at my little pay stub on the internet!
And in order to change it, I have to answer like SIX security questions. Luckily, I made the answer to all the security questions "givl this djoy!" so I con't have to remember the name of the first street I lived on (what" the first street I lived on? Do they mean Stafford Road? Because I don't remember the name of the actual first street I lived on! HOW WILL I ANSWER THIS QUESTION IF I MYSELF DON'T EVEN KNOW THE ANSWER?)
It's not even like I have a life that's so excitong or lucritive that somebody else would even want to steal my identity!
Can you imagine the lurking thief, browsing identities, trying to pick the perfect one to steal. "Oh, look at this guy, what a catch! Government job, sensible car, rarely-viewed blog, bifocals. Now THERE'S someone who is living the type of life I want to steal!"
I don't know if it's worth it any more...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tanks 380 and 381- A Really Neat Coincidence

So I refilled the Mighty Corolla twice since I last updated here, and my mileage continues to suck, only being around 35 mpg, but that's okay because there's only so much I can do about it and 35 mpg is still higher than the estimated highway mileage and I spend probably half my driving now around town, so I got that going for me.

The cool thing that I notices is that this last tank stopped when I had pumped in 11.336 gallons of gas. Three tanks ago, less than 20 days ago, this exact same thing happened, where the pump stopped also at 11.336 gallons.

So two tanks of gas each stopping at exactly 11.336 gallons of gas. That's got to be pretty rare. I mean, there has only been one time in 381 tanks of gas where it stopped at a round dollar amount, and that's just out to the nearest penny. This is going out to the thousandth of a gallon. And I got two matching tanks of gas out to the thousandth of a gallon in less than a month.

So that's kind of neat...

Friday, March 7, 2014

Tank 379 - 27 February 2014 - I'm a Lazy Blogger

I refilled the gas tank of the Mighty Corolla last week but forgot about it until now. The notable part, I guess, was that I drove 433.6 miles on 11.948 gallons. That is the farthest I'd gone and most gas I put in a tank in well over a year.

That is all.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Tank 376 - 30 January 2014. Everything is Meaningless

So I refueled the Mighty Corolla yeaterday on my way home. It had been 10 days since the last fill-up. I didn't post about that, either.

My little notebook I keep this information in is getting worn out. The flip-open cover is now completely torn off of the spiral wire binding. It's being held on by a few layers of tape. This little notepad has the record of every tank of gas since the first one, pumped on December 1, 2004.

So this means that in about ten months, I will have had this car for ten years. That will be about 24% of my life, and about 38% of my driving career. Easily the longest time I've ever owned a single car.

For a long time I wondered why survey responders would say they'd buy the same car over again. Surely they'd have complaints with their current cars, either cosmetic, convenience, or performance related. I have thought for years that I'd like a smaller/zippier/better fuel economy car. But close to ten years into ownership of the Mighty Corolla, it's done fine. It's not the peppiest or most luxurious, and one of the speakers buzzes when the bass it turned up, but it does the job and it's been paid for.

So I guess, sure, I'd buy another Corolla. It does what a car is supposed to do. It can go as fast as the other cars on the interstate, and it can be stuck in traffic congestion just like those fancier cars. So I don't see much of a point now to seek a faster/fancier/plusher car. The car is a way to get me places. I don't see it as a destination in itself. What's the point in getting a car that's nicer than your house? You spend more time at home or work, usually, than you do in your car. Why spend more than you have to on a car that takes you places?

After you're done with the car, it's not worth that much to anyone else, and I'd rather use my money on something else. A $14,000 Corolla over 10 years is (MATH!) $1,400 a year, or about $117 a month. A $35,000 fancypantsmobile over the same time frame is (MORE MATH!) about $292 a month. For the difference of $175 a month, that's a lot of pizza and beer. Or shoes. Or pants.

Oh, and I'm averaging 35.02 mpg so far this year...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tanks 373 and 374 - Welcome to 2014

So I refueled twice so far in 2014, and the mileage is merely mediocre, averaging 34.22 mpg for the two tanks.

Over the break I had the front struts replaced. The Mighty Corolla just turned 149,000 miles. Nothing much else to report.