Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gas mileage woes

Recently I posted couple of photos and complained about the streets/highways we have around here. Of course, the price of gasoline is going up; and fluctuating as well. One day it is $2.95 a gallon and three days later it is $3.15. Nothing to many other countries but for this country clearly someone in the chain is making serious money. I'm expecting a Congressional investigation after they get tired of bothering baseball players.

It is very flat here, no hills to speak of, but most speed limits are 45 mph (traffic moving a bit faster) and there are stop lights every 1 to 3 miles. Now in a reasonable world, these lights would be coordinated so one could travel many miles on a main road without being stopped. Not so here! There are lots of local governments that have control over their own lights. Therefore, they aren't in sync and the driver gets to stop a lot.

This doesn't help mileage! Going from zero to 50 then back to zero every two miles for a twenty-five mile trip is wasteful; to put it mildly! I typically drive our pickup truck. It's a small one (for the breed) with only a 5.3 liter gasoline engine. It really gets pretty good mileage considering what it is and our local conditions. I have raised it's in-town miles per gallon from 15 to 18 (from 15l/100km to 13l/100km) by using a 2000 rpm limit. I just keep a light foot on the accelerator and it will shift at 2000. I keep up with most traffic using this technique. It's easy enough to pass me while I'm accelerating but only about ten percent of cars do. This country is known for it's non-adherence to the idea of the left lane is the fast lane. I do though, basically I never use the left lane because I know my acceleration will be too slow for those folks. Here's a picture from the driver's seat going over the Bay Bridge; you see 2000 rpm isn't too tough on my desire to move quickly. You might also manage to make out that the truck has 110,000 miles (175,000 km or so); about 40,000 of which were towing our 7,000 pound travel trailer. It's a very nice vehicle; American car manufacturers may be losing money hand over fist but they are building some pretty nice machines.

Have a good one!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Reading corner

Books I've been reading.

For the first time in quite a while I've been reading some non-fiction. A relative loaned me two books on submarines and I've enjoyed both. "Torpedo Junction" by Homer Hickam is the true story of the a little known part of WWII. In 1942 the German navy sent a few submarines to attack shipping off the US coast. They were successful beyond anyone's dreams. The US was doing nothing at all to protect shipping so the subs could just lie offshore and wait until a ship came between them and the lights on the shore. They could then easily see what kind of ship it was and torpedo it if it were big and important enough. It was an interesting story. The author talked to many survivors of the sinkings, ex-submariners in Germany and US Coast Guard sailors of the time. Very interesting and a fast read.

The second book was "Shadow Divers" by Robert Kurson. Another true story, this tells of two men who became obsessed by a sunken submarine they found while diving. It was clearly a German sub but no sub was known to be within several hundred miles of it's position. They spent several years and a bunch of money diving on the sub and researching the identity of the boat they had found. Added to the mystery was the danger of diving at the depths required to reach the sub. Another well researched true story about subs.

Finally, I got "The Club Dumas" by Arturo Perez-Reverte from the library. I found his books in the bookstore and thought it might be interesting. It's sort of a mystery and sort of a thriller. It is beautifully translated from Spanish by Sonia Soto. Reminds me somewhat of "The DiVinci Code" in that I can only follow about a tenth of the references without assistance.

Happy reading!

P.S. "The Club Dumas" turned out to be somewhat disappointing. The person responsible for the murders turns out insane at the end and there is no actual evidence of their responsibility. The motivations behind another character are completely unexplained; even their existance is glossed over. I'll try another of the author's books though because I did like his/his translator's use of language.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Misc. Foolishness

I was reading Wombat's http://limousinelife.blogspot.com/ the other day and he suggested that the average age in the Tampa area was 241. He's probably close. I get a kick out of folks like the ones in this photo. It's a new motorcycle club - Hell's Grandparents.

What are they thinking? First of all, motorcycling isn't generally an old person's sport. If either of these people dropped their bike, even in a parking lot, they'd need a crane to help them pick it up. Then, of course, there is the lack of helmets. The law in Florida says they aren't required and actually I prefer that it be left to the individual whether they wish to wear one or not. However, I also think it's pretty dumb not to wear one! These folks are riding on a heavily traveled road. Three lane in each direction and traffic moves between 50 and 60 mph (that's almost 100 kph) though the speed limit is 45. It's just not the place to take chances.

The second photo is of a new 'safety' feature our local government has purchased. It is a new kind of walk-don't walk sign that has a countdown timer to tell you when the light is going to change. This was taken a couple miles away from the previous photo but on the same road. Here the speeds are, if anything, a little higher than there. There are VERY few pedestrians in this area however I think the drivers really like the new signs. It gives them warning that they have to speed up to make the light! I don't think that was the intention but you know how these things work.

Drive safely until next time.

13 Feb 08 - Found these statistics from 2001 - the most recent I could find in the USA Today newspaper.

The metro areas are ranked by the number of traffic deaths per 100,000 residents in 2000.

1. Orlando 18.8
2. Tampa-St. Petersburg 17.6
3. West Palm Beach 16.6
4. Austin 15.8
5. Las Vegas 15.4
6. Phoenix 15.2
7. Memphis 14.7
8. Jacksonville 14.6
9. Fort Lauderdale 14.5
10. Kansas City 14.2

Sources: The Road Information Program, NHTSA

The article suggested several reasons for the number of Florida cities in this list. They included elderly drivers and the number of visitors. There was no information about motorcyclists. I would include the fact that many Florida cities have a large number of high speed streets. In New York you might get hit by a cab but it'll only be going 30 mph not 60.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

It's Over! And a new beginning.

Whew! Having a party is fun but stressful even when you do whatever you can to make it easier. This one was fine. Lots of talk, a little impromptu dancing, eating and drinking; all the usual stuff. I think everyone had a good time. Much to my chagrin I've got a little hang over this morning. Maybe I can blame it on the cigarette smoke. LOL No, Don, don't you think it might be the booze? Hmmm, gotta consider that. The Pinot Grigio was flowing pretty freely, to the point that I lost track of the number of bottles I opened. Guess we have to do our share to prop up the euro. And the scotch I was drinking would help the pound. At least the food was from the US. Well, anyway, now we can go to our friend's parties guilt free.

While we were busy with the party, life went on. We now have a new second cousin twice removed (or whatever) born last night. As an indicator of the quality of life in this country at this time, the child was born out of wedlock so the mother's parent's insurance would cover the birth. I don't really give a *$%& and I know the parents will love and care for their child; indeed, they will probably marry now. But I think it's pretty sad that choices like that have to be made. If you choose not to marry but still wish to have children, that's fine. I respect that. But to restrain yourself from marrying prior to your child's birth for economic reasons is really sad. Having said that, the parents are very young and may decide that they do not wish to marry now that the impetus is gone.

Life in the fast lane, huh. Have a good one.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Quiet Week

It's pretty quiet around here these days. In our neighborhood there are four or five families who ocassionally give parties. It's our turn so we are having a party for 12 - 16 people Saturday afternoon. It will be fun, we, especially my wife, just doesn't like doing it. We know it is our turn, we know it will be fine, we know everyone will have fun but still, it's a struggle. It is just getting through it. Next week will be better.

Weather isn't helping any. Its been warm but now it's cooling off when we will have people over. Our house isn't big enough for 15; we need the outside areas. Oh well, maybe they will leave earlier!

BTW - we are still eating away on the leftovers! We just finished off the chicken rice tonight. That was one big doorstop! Tasty but next time I've got to put in less rice. LOL Leave it to me to screw up something simple.

More next week. Have a good weekend.

Monday, February 04, 2008


The fridge is full of leftovers and I thought I'd share with you all. Wish I could in actual fact too!

A week or so ago Cinn at dancingangelcafe.blogspot.com gave a chicken & rice recipe. I had a little more than 2 pounds (a kilo give or take) of chicken thighs in the freezer and thought it sounded like a great use for them. I tried making it but put in way too much rice. So I added some more chicken and ended up with this mess. It tastes ok but you could make a nice doorstop out of it if you let it dry just a bit.

There's a pork loin roast. We cook it with garlic & herbs then the leftovers get eaten just for snacks. I should probably learn to make something more substantial but it doesn't usually last long enough.

There is some Cajun Roast left from last night. A guy named Justin Wilson used to have a cajun cooking show on public tv. He was actually a Safety Engineer for some public utility but he had the show and wrote a couple of looseleaf books that we found. This is a favorite from one of them. You salt & pepper a chuck roast then cut 4 or 5 slits in each side. You insert a piece of garlic, green onion & pepper in each slit. (We use a jalapeno.) Then you toss it in a cooking bag with potatoes, carrots, onion, mushrooms & wine. In about 3 hours you have a lovely piece of meat. The vegies don't do all that well though; sometime I'm going to try leaving them out but I haven't gotten there yet. I'm sure they add a lot to the gravy though so maybe I should just not serve them. Hmmm, decisions, decisions.

Gotta go. It's "fasting blood test day" so it's nothing but water until we get the test done. Now there is a motivator to get moving! Have a good one.

Almost forgot! Watched the Giants win the Superbowl last night then found this link. Hope it works this year.


Friday, February 01, 2008


I just read about this:


You can now use google to check out the sky above your head! Want to see a constellation? Did you hear that a planet is close to earth this week? They say it's all there. I've got to download this thing and check it out. Wow!

It's fluff, of course, but if it motivates a few children to become astronomers or astronauts; that's a good thing. It's better than watching tv.