Sunday, March 30, 2008

Man's Best Friend

Last night I heard our neighbor's hound dog howling in the cool darkness of spring. As I heard his aging whine, I smiled. We haven't heard as much of him through the winter because the poor old dog has spent most of it inside. Now he can spend more time outside again.

I've wondered about the high strung sort of people who get upset at other people's pets if they even sniff in the wrong direction. To me the sound of barking dogs is part of the urban human experience. It tells me that all of us, human and dog (and I suppose cats too even though they don't make as much noise), are all part of the same large pack. We depend on each other for survival, friendship, and happiness.

The dog has been one of the earliest animals our ancestors domesticated. After thousands of years, its clear that they are worth keeping, drooling, barking, and shedding included. Rather than get upset by the noisy four legged creatures, enjoy their presence. They love us unconditionally, despite all of our own faults and things we do that annoy them. Let's cut the dogs around us some slack too. Lets be best friends.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wor of mighty

Out ssshshsh

Ball a ttack

it,s the Super heros!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Saving Gas and Turning Heads Doing It.

Wouldn't it be nice to drive one of these?

Its a Carver and was invented by a Dutch company. The American version will be called the Venture One and will come in hybrid or all electric versions. And here's a news clip showing it in action.

An electric motorcycle with an airbag! Sweet!

PS - I got 49.6 mpg on my last tank of gas! I'm this close to passing the 50 mpg mark in a Saturn the EPA rates at 33.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Life is a Highway... Part 3.5 or Something

This week I began hypermiling in my 1998 Saturn SL2. It is yet another spinoff of my interest in reducing fuel costs and finding alternative energy transportation. I decided to try it after reading an article in Reader's Digest at my mom's house last Sunday.

The results of my first try was a whopping 46.27 mpg in a car the EPA estimates at 33 mpg highway! I did this in heavy rush hour freeway traffic with frequent slow pockets, occasional stop and go, and freeway speeds.

Wayne Gerdes coined the term recently but the techniques have been used by some in the lean times of World War II and the oil crisis in the 1970s.

How does hypermiling work? It begins by understanding that the EPA (actually the manufacturer of the vehicle in most cases) runs a bunch of tests that "simulate" what the "average" driver will do in city streets and on the freeway. The tests include stops and starts and high speed driving with the AC on and off. Hypermilers throw out all of the "average" driver habits.

Hard acceleration wastes gas. Hard braking wastes gas. Driving faster than the speed limit wastes gas. Aerodynamic drag increases by the square of your velocity and as a function of your aerodynamic drag coefficient (based on shape of the car). Most cars are at their most efficient somewhere in the 45-55 mph range. Most drivers try to go at 70 or 75 these days.

You can then add in other tricks such as giving extra space to the car in front of you and coasting when everyone else starts braking. Stopping further back at a stop light on a hill so you can coast-start when the light turns green. There are all kinds of little tricks. A good resource for hypermilers is

The cool thing about hypermiling is that you don't have to "DO" anything to your car other than treat it more gently. Your brakes and engine will last longer. And it won't take you that much longer to get there than you think. Despite driving slower, I don't really add more than about 5 or 10 minutes on a 33.5 mile trip.

Now if I only lived closer to work...

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Smart Fortwo Test Drive

Last week, while getting onto I-15 at 5th South in Bountiful, an adorable little blue car from Europe passed me. I was delighted to see the Smart car finally had finally arrived in America (not counting grey market imports).

I looked up the car online and discovered that they had a dealership in Lindon. We had to pick up our son in Orem anyway so my wife and I swung by and gave it a test drive.

First impressions? Tiny on the outside and roomy on the inside. There is plenty of room for tall and big people. When the dealership lady gave me my turn to drive it, I had to scoot the driver seat IN to reach the pedals (I really do have the family short legs)!

How does it ride? It feels like a normal car. You forget that there is only a few more feet of car in front or behind you. It accelerates and corners nicely at city speeds (never took it on the freeway) and the specs indicate that it can go 0-60 in 12 seconds with a top speed of 90mph. It didn't feel underpowered in the driving I took it through.

The shifting was certainly something else. The transmission is an automated manual transmission (or as I call it automanualmatic). You can drive it in automatic mode or manual mode. In manual mode, you can shift it up or down from either the shift lever between the seats or from the two finger paddles on the steering column. It is a clutchless transmission so there is no third pedal to press. You simply ease up on the gas momentarily and pull gently on the paddles or use the more traditional gear shift lever. It was certainly new to me.

So is it worth it? It depends. The base model costs about 12,000 and the deluxe convertable model is about 16,000. You get 40mpg but it needs premium gasoline. If you want a cute sporty car for less than a Mini-Cooper then this car will certainly by a fun second or third car. As a commuter vehicle it can get the job done with pretty good mileage and parking should be easy to find. It comes with driver and passenger front and side airbags and meets Europes 4 star crash ratings and the USA's 3 star crash ratings. Despite its size it is safe enough.

Is it for me? I'm going to have to say that although I loved driving it, I'm going to pass. For a car its size, it should be getting (but does not get) closer to 45-50 mpg, at least, and I would rather be able to put regular unleaded into it to reduce the cost. If I wanted an economical two seater, I could look for things like a used Mazda Miata or if going for the fuel angle, a used Honda Insight (70 mpg). My current car gets almost the same mileage (32-35 mpg) as the Smart Fortwo in 4 cylinders and 5 passengers. In a few years I wouldn't mind getting a used one to play with unless the Tata Nano makes it to America and keeps the projected $2,500 price tag.

I really hope to see more of these on the roads because we do need to get over our nothing but an SUV mindset. I also hope to see other manufacturers building cars in this class. Drive safe everybody!