Thursday, September 20, 2007

Three things...

These three topics could not be further apart:

Alicia Silverstone has an ad promoting vegetarianism. It was too provocative and was pulled from Comcast Cable in Houston. Was it the beef manufacturers, or the bible belters?

Blackwater USA has posted a classified ad (#18370, posted 9/19 )on a popular rowing website ( looking for personal trainers for Navy SEAL candidates.

And French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared that "France doesn't want war." LOL! With 600 years of French military history, I can see why.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cost Calculators

Here is a really simple tool for figuring petrol cost per mile, adjustible for the current price of gas. It puts me at about $0.15/mile at today's prices ($3.20) but was about $0.10/per mile at $2.00, which it was not so long ago.

As far as determining cost per mile, the IRS give $0.405/mile for tax purposes, so based on raw numbers, I am still (amazingly) ahead of that, but that is figuring in depreciation as well. When I figure depreciation (I paid $14,565 and dorve 73,396 miles, the car is now valued at near $3848) this comes to $0.146 per mile.

So, figuring that my average price put me somewhere around $0.12 per mile, the depreciation at $0.146 per mile and repairs at $0.158 per mile, total cost per mile is $0.424.

The AAA says that it costs $0.522 per mile. Here is a guy who says he did it for $0.375 driving 20,000 miles per year in his FoFo. I don't really trust his judgement too much because he has another post in which he says "I’ve always wanted a Toyota Camry V6 XLE!" Arrgh!

I guess that I have generally overlooked the obvious here. The key to the whole cost per mile problem is that as mileage goes up, cost per mile goes down. Time to start piling on the miles!!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fuel mileage

So, I've kept track of fuel consumption since my trip from Chula Vista to Princeton in March of 2003. On that trip I used 106.75 gallons and drove 2701.7 miles for an average of 25.878 mpg.
This picture was taken just before the start of that trip. And I took the picture because I thought prices were super-high!!! Since the start of that trip I've used 1,932.534 gallons of petrol. I've driven 42,786 miles in that time, earning a total of 22.139 mpg over that time.
Best one-tank total: 28.936 mpg
Worst one-tank total: 13.220 mpg I will not add up the total cost of the fuel, because I don't have all the receipts. And I don't want to know.
Maybe somebody could figure out what the average price of premium fuel was over that time frame, but it has gone up quite a bit. It used to be less that $40 per tank, now it pushes $50. An average of $42 per tank over the 130 or so tanks in this record would come to $5460 at roughly $2.62 per gallon.
Depending on the cost of gas and the mileage, it comes out between 10-14 cents per mile.
Maybe I should buy a Camry hybrid and, like a typical Camry owner, never make repairs. It would be much cheaper, and since it is a hybrid, I'd save scores of cash on fuel. Probably I'd just plug it in. Left lane, here I come!

Volvo Running Costs, breakdown (pun intended)

Here are the cost, broken into categories to spare you having to sift thru the vast data:

Planned Service (60K, 90K, 120K, 130K service): $3288.48
Unpanned Service (thermostat, rear main seal, A/C fix): $2389.19
Tires & Wheels (3 sets tires, one set wheels): $2146.69
Suspension repair/Upgrade: $1860.11
Oil Changes: $703.36
Accessories: (Roof Rails, Spare Key, Car Cover): $664.82
Mileage since I bought the car: 73,396
Cost per mile (excluding petrol & insurance): $0.1588

It might be cheaper to run a Ferrari!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Volvo Running Costs

A staggering $11662.28 over 68 months for an average of $171.50 each month.
I spent an hour making a table with each line item, but it *poof* and disappeared. Maybe I'll do it again later. Maybe not.
It was seen as a performance car for me, and some of the costs were modifications I made to enhance performance (air filter, brakes), some were to enhance its hauling capacity (heavy duty springs, shocks and struts). Some were repairs due to overuse or overestimating capabilities.
Several times I just got bent over by the shop.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This Old Car

Well, if the saablog's author can lament the 900, I feel able to do the same about the 855 T5. His car was bought about 15 months ago for $800 for a fun project. Mine was purchased in 2002 for $14,565 for tong-term transportation. The 1997 Volvo is now past its 10th birthday, and starting to show it. Today I waxed the roof and hood and discovered that the paint is not in the best of shape. It has several rock chips on the hood which need to be filled (I need to go the dealer and get some, since the container I had exploded in the golve box last year.) The roof is another story. It is covered, or maybe pitted, all over with black spots. Maybe other cars of mine have had blemishes like this, but it shows more on the Volvo since the car is white. The waxing I did today did nothing to solve the black-spot problem. It just put a shine over the top of them. I expect that I need to get some sort of semi-abrasive rubbing compound to get a bit deeper into the finish, and then get another wax job. But I would probably need to get a buffer to do it, since it would take some serious rubbing to get the paint back to good. The biggest problem is that I don't have a good place to do the work where I could plug in the buffer. I'm not really supposed to do it at work. Another thing the Volvo needs is new spark plugs, and probably fuel injectors. I'll have to check the service recommendations and look at the last time these things were done. The car has definitely lost a step.

Of course all of these things are in addition to the sunroof leak (previous post). I have ordered a new weatherstrip seal to hopefully fix the leak problem. That is not a project I'm looking forward to.
I just saw a commercial for the new MB C-Class. I like the looks of that! But if any new cars are in the future it will likely be somthing more economical (but likely still something German.) I'm thinking that long-term maybe Katie and I will get a small two-seater for in the city (maybe Smartcar, maybe something sportier like a Miata, S2000 or Boxster) and then something bigger (wagon or hatchback) to put all of our toys onto or into. But that is still a year or two away. It doesn't make too much sense to me to get something else without a garage to put it in to keep it nice, anyway.
Some mileage notations:
February 2002: 59,147 (Seattle)
Mar 29, 2002: 63,130 (Princeton)
Oct 29, 2002: 71,309 (Princeton)
Oct 27, 2003: 83,283 (Princeton)
Mar. 26, 2004: 90,610(Chula Vista)
Sept 16, 2004: 103,371 (Princeton)
Mar. 27, 2005: 110, 925 (Renton)
Sept. 6, 2005: 118,043 (Renton)
Apr 3, 2006: 125, 568 (Madison)
Sept 10, 2006: 128,439 (Madison)
Mar 29, 2007: 131, 089 (Madison)
Sept. 3, 2007: 133,346 (Madison)
I definitely don't drive the Sprotswagon as much as I used to. Maybe that is why I feel more like spending money on bikes than on the Volvo. Also, since I don't use it as often, I feel like I neglect the car, and am unsure of what maintenance it needs regularly.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

German Town Scraps Street Signs

Time to lay on the horn and stab the gas!! Anarchy rules on the streets. Crazy Germans. I guess the Dutch tried it too. I don't think it would make much difference in Madison, since nobody seems to obey street signs anyway.
As an aside, I can now blog in Hindi: एरिक'एस फ़ोन ब्लोग हस चंगेद तो एरंदोम्ब्लाठेर!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

From Russia with Love

*in best Russian accent* "You have the mother of all bombs? Ha ha ha, I now build the father of all bombs, four times bigger than zis mother bomb... " And all this just after Russia resumes the long range bomber sorties. Well, now maybe they won't have to carry nukes. Well, at least Russia has a stable government. But wait...

In other happy news from Russia, President Putin dissolved the government today. He then named an obscure cabinet official "loyal technocrat Viktor Zubkov" to be the next prime minister, and Putin's likely successor at the end of his term. I have my doubts he'll go away so quietly. My bet is Putin's hand gets tired from flapping the gums of his puppet. But then again, we saw how jacked Putin is, so maybe he won't get tired.

Finally, the love part of the posintg. The governor of a Russian province has urged his citizens to take the day off and have sex in order to have babies born in nine months on Russia's National Day and increase the overall Russian population.

So in summary, Russia has a new big bomb, has resumed long-range bomber runs, had it's government dissolved by a power-hungry ex-KGB man (at least GW hasn't tried that yet, although I'm sure he has pondered it) and is trying to increase its population. All this not long after the ex-KGB spy poisoning and the resulting diplomatic fallout with the UK. Russia is definitely stepping up their global presence and global show-of-force, and Putin is trying to recapture much of the power that Russia lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In order to be seen as a major player in world politics, Putin feels it is necessary to rattle his sword a little bit and show the world that Russia still means business. Now with its state-controlled oil business, Russia has the funds to finance the military machine that sunk the USSR.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Swimming in Volvos

Oohhh. Looks like I will have some work to do on the 855. The more it rains, the more it gets wet in the car due to the sunroof. I'll need to check the drains, and make sure they are not clogged, but I believe the culprit to be rust on the metal frame which supports the sunroof glass. This allows water to seep between the glass and the frame. If unmolested, the water then will either stay put and drip into an area feeding the drain, or the sun will come out tnd the water will evaporate. However, if I move the car (specifically, turn the car) the water spills out of a channel in the metal frame and onto one or the other of the front seats--it depends on the direction of the turn. It does not yet drip onto the headliner and does not drip into the interior of the car when the car is not in motion.
The fix seems to involve removing the glass from the sunroof, separating the metal from the glass, removing the rust and repainting the frame, sticking the metal and glass back together again, and then re-installing the glass and fine-tuning its position once in place. Details here:

Emmy winning Video

Featuring Music Superstar Justin Timberlake:

Too funny to pass up

Ahh, the joy of the corporate blog...
The coments are hilarious to this blog posting...

What is funnier: The fact that there are corporations paying somebody to bolg, or the fact that there are so many people who are taking the time to bash the company?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Goin' to the Races!!!

So Katie, Kevin and I went to the local bullring racetrack on Firday night. Madison International Speedway is a 1/3-mile paved track, with a 1/4-mile smaller track running around the inside. I was drawn in by the prospect of "Trailer Races" and the fact that it was "Tribute to America" night right here in the middle of the US of A.

Well, they had all sorts of racing on tap for the thousands of spectators drawn to the buggy, smoky racetrack set in the middle of rolling farmland. Qualifying was underway when we arrived for the Wisconsin Challenge Series Late Models, which are kind of like NASCAR cars, but cheaper and slower. The qualifying gave each car 3 laps around the track, and the top qualifier had an average lap time of 101.something MPH. So we had that to look forward to.

So after the invocation ("Thank you lord Jesus for letting us live in the US of A, the best country in the world...") (it was Tribute to America night, after all) and the National Anthem (Complete with Fireworks) we were treated to the "heats" of some of the lesser events, all running around the very short track.

The first cars out were the INEX Bandoleros. These looked like they should have Shriners with their fezes coming out, but they were mildly entertaining to watch. The class was for kids under 14 or something, and there was some okay driving (and one good crash). Then came the INEX Legends, then the hilarious Roto-Rooter Bandits, and finally the Hobby Stocks.

The Bandits need to have roll cages and racing harnesses, an $850 claim value, and no suspension modifications. "Any American or foreign made 1980 to 1996, front wheel drive
standard production automobile offered with a three or four cylinder EFI engine allowed.
Wheelbase maximum is 104 inches. No Honda CRX, convertibles, T-tops, two seat,
sports cars allowed. All wheel steer cars and special manufactured cars allowed only
with prior approval
Claim Rule: The track may purchase any car for $850.00 after any event. The amount
is for the complete car except for safety equipment. If the winning driver refuses the
claim, he loses all prize money and points for that race meet and the car is barred from
further competition. Claimed cars may be disposed of by auction or by any method at the
track’s discretion.

The Hobby Stock is even better: "Any American OEM full body rear wheel drive passenger car, 1964 or newer, full frame or unibody. Frame must match body. Minimum 107.5 inch wheelbase, maximum one inch difference from side to side."

The Bandits and Hobby stocks were very similar, except that the hobby stocks were big RWD American cars, and the Bandits were smaller FWD American and import cars. They were definitely DIY (do-it-yourself) projects that people could get into for about the same price as getting something cheap to autocross (although you can't drive these on the road). Both the hobby stocks and bandits were really beat up. It looked like the cars and drivers were trying to love up to some scene from Dukes of Hazzard. Lots of rubbin', lots of mangled body work!

Anyway, we stayed through the heats and finals of these four classes, ( they ran the four classes, took a break, and then ran them all again) but then it was late and there were a lot of mosquitos, so we left before the main event (100 laps) and before the highly-anticipated trailer race.

Kevin said he'd only go again if somebody paid for his ticket and bought him a couple of beers. I'd go again just for the heck of it. It was a good time!

My Camera didn't take good pictures, so I've taken some from the internet...

Friday, September 7, 2007

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Odds & Ends

I don't really have too much to say on any one thing, so there will be a collection of not-really-connected ideas and items I've come across.

At the cottage over the weekend, we came up with several questions that needed answers and there was no internet to find the answers, so now that we're home, here they are:

How do you make Soy Milk? (scroll way down for recipie)

How much water do fully loaded barges draw? (thanks to Kevin L for that)

Next, I thought I had won the netherlands postal code lottery, but when I googled the bank information, I found out that somebody was trying to scam me... I guess there is no such thing as a free lunch...

Last week Todd sent me a map of his bike-thru-Norway. Wow, that looks like a long way!
Finally, plans are afoot to buy a European beach house in ten years. If you have any experience buying houses on beaches in Europe, please let me know. Italy, France or Spain are the most likely spots at this time, although I won't completely rule out Greece, Croatia or Macedonia.