Sunday, April 28, 2013

Buzz off, Suckers!

Today's summer time helpful hint comes from my co-workers who enjoy lazing outdoors after work.  They say you can keep mosquitoes from biting by surrounding yourself with lemongrass. 

No one seems to know why this works. My guess is that, after hungry mosquitoes take a hit of that lemony plant, those little buggers aren't biting anything with a puckered proboscis.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

7-years of my driving as a chart

Early in the last decade, my life became blessed by that truly life-changing experience: a bitter and costly divorce. To survive, I tracked every penny as I worked to take care of my family.

Part of my penny-pinching strategies involved obsessively recording my gas receipts. I did this because some of my job includes tracking trends and data analysis. Since my Hyundai Tiburon crossed the 100,000-mile warranty mark, I wanted to catch and prepare for any upcoming mechanical failures.

Also, and truth is, I'm a math geek. There. I admitted it. Feel better?

I would record each ticket into a spreadsheet: the cost per gallon, my miles driven since last fill up, the amount of the gas purchase. The spreadsheet would then calculate the cost per mile, my miles per gallon, and trend lines about the data.

So now, after retiring my faithful Tiburon at 325,000 miles, I have almost 8 years of recordings. Today, I had one last look at the data I've collected. It's interesting because of the historical reporting of gas prices in my neck of the woods.

For some silly reason I thought I would share this with you. Perhaps I can do some good for anyone with insomnia. You can click on the charts for a bigger, better view. Oh joy!

The miles per gallon chart shows the average for each month. This is all of the miles driven for that month divided by the total gallons I put into the car.

One of the first troublesome trends the chart told me about was when my miles per gallon dropped dramatically as you can see. Turned out that my car's speed sensor was acting erratic. I didn't have to replace it immediately because I was testing various GPS systems for my company and relied on the speed reported by those units. This bought me a few months to put money together for the repair that October 2006.

This lengthy chart shows my cost per mile and the average price per gallon for each month. You can see on we had that ridiculous gas price bubble in 2007. And you can see how prices change seasonally.

And being the geek that I am I like to try and find correlations between groups of numbers. In this graph I'm comparing my cost per mile to my cost per gallon. That slope of the trend line in the midst of all those points gives you an approximate idea of my miles per gallon.

And so, there you have it - I drove a car a lot miles, put gas in it, and lived to tell about it.  Are you still awake?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Free College Courses

I don't mean that someone has jailed college courses and we need to free them. No, most college classes are out in the open and readily available. "Readily" being an old English word meaning "more money than you have".

I think that's what it means. What do I know. I can't afford to go back to college and learn otherwise.

That's way I'm happy to report what I've found: Several big-name institutes of higher ed-u-ma-cation offer free courses. But, since you are smarter than I am, you already know about Sorry, I'm riding the short bus of the Internet, so it takes me a little while longer to catch-up.

In any case, I'm signed up to take a course on "Rhetorical Composing" given by Ohio State University. So if you read my subsequent posts and begin to feel persuaded to do something besides sleeping, well, my short bus is getting a little longer. Prutty soon, I might be able to type without wearing my helmet. But don't expect miracles.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Forgive me, Old Friend.

We've been together for over 12 years. I thought - I hoped - that we would go further. But age wears on all things - our bodies, our minds, our relationships.

You probably don't know how excited I was in early September of 2001 when we first got together. I know you won't understand how important you were in all of my adventures since then. And you will never feel the depth and pain of my regret when we parted company this past Saturday.

I have no misgivings for the time and money I spent to care for you - especially these past few months. But I can no longer depend upon you. You've let me down one too many times.

After 325,500 miles, you served your purpose. If I were a rich man, I could have kept you restored in an immortal glory. Of course, if I were a rich man, your successor would not have been a cheap replacement.

I never understood how anyone could love a 2-ton hunk of metal and plastic and oil. But then you came into my life. Thank you, my dear, inanimate friend, my motoring companion of the road. Thank you for keeping me alive and safe and employed.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Solving Gardening Problems

These warm days of Spring make you think you can do anything. I thought I would plant a garden. So I started with something easy: runner beans.

Big mistake.

If you don't keep your eye on them, those beans will dash off. Then you have to spend much of the day hunting them down. It doesn't help with noisy neighbors accusing you of bean stalking. I would use a gun to keep my green creations under control, but this town has restrictions on bean shoots.

So now, I have to raised another plant to keep my runner beans in check. I thought about using dog roses, but they're too easily excited by the cat tails. So I'm going with a more domesticate version: the collie flower.