Friday, October 28, 2016

Tip For: Tracking Gas Mileage

I recently had what I thought might be a good idea to track your gas mileage, and thought, "Hey, why not share." Firstly, I do not regularly track things like this, though I am a strange cookie in that I have saved nearly all of my gas receipts over the years thinking that maybe one day I would like to sit down and add up all the gallons and dollars and see how much was spent and used over the lifetime of the vehicle (at least up to that point) but will I ever actually do that? Probably not. Will I keep saving the receipts anyway? You betcha. Strange cookie, right here.

I've done some light testing and figuring to get a rough idea the kind of gas mileage my car gets, but more as a "I just like to know everything I can about my car" kind of factoid rather than an actual measurement to judge my car by or to try to find methods to improve its number. I think I might have forgotten what its number was anyway at this point, but I want to say I put it in the 25-30 mpg range, I think 26 was my average. A lot of that though is due to the fact I live in Texas and with the jobs I've had and relatives living many miles away, there's a lot of highway driving. For most cars that's a fuel-saving plus, but for my car it turns out it isn't because it's only a 5-speed so to do the speed limits (and maybe a bit higher) my RPM tend to stay considerably high for long periods of time.
Fun fact before I move on: When I moved my car out to Hawaii, I thought it would get better gas mileage due to the slower highway and roadway speeds there. I also thought that with the elevation changes, even though I would have to climb hills, I figured I could coast down the other side and maybe that would grant me a net gain in mileage. Usually the highway speed limit is only 55mph there, with 60 being the highest I ever saw. And my commute to work was mostly on roads with a 35 speed limit. However, it got much worse mileage. I eventually attributed this to the ridiculous traffic, which in my opinion was worse in general than it is in Dallas (I'm convinced there are more considerate drivers in Honolulu however). With my car being a manual, stop and go traffic means revving many many times only to ease the clutch out enough to travel about seven feet before stopping again. As for the hills, I figure that the traffic played a role in that as well, as I would often times have to brake on downhills. I think that constant revving yet not getting anywhere, plus the fact that you traverse some mountains there, resulted in the worse fuel mileage.

That might have been a large buildup to a rather small observation, heh.

Every time I get gas, in addition to saving the receipt, I make a mental note of the cost and the number of gallons. I usually don't remember for very long, but as I pull away, I do a quick calculation of how my last tank of gas performed. I especially like when the number of gallons I pump is in the 12 gallon range, because my car's fuel tank holds 18 gallons. So I can quickly see that I still had a third of a tank left, having used two-thirds (yes, I'm one of those people who fill up when the gauge reads around a quarter). That's actually what lead me to realize my little epiphany. When I did, I noticed that my gauge was way closer to 1/4 than 1/3, yet I pumped 12 gallons. Meaning, my gauge was wrong. However, if your fuel gauge is going to be wrong, you want it to be wrong that way and not the other way around... this way makes you get gas before you need it instead of running out, wondering what happened.

The idea that struck me from this, was that one could pump gas at certain marks on their fuel gauge, like one-half or one-third, and note the number of gallons that equates too. If I did this, I would even take pictures of the fuel gauge and the pump readout or receipt. I would also do it at all points of the gauge, not just the more obvious marks. My theory is that fuel gauges tend to "fall off" below the halfway point, as it seems like my gauge always consumes more after that mark. If I were to note the gallons and gauge point regularly, especially with pictures, I could get an excellent idea of how many gallons I truly have left at any given gauge reference point. It would also allow me to see if the gauge is at least consistent in its inaccuracy. I'm positive it would be, but if it somehow isn't, that would probably be really good to know. It would also be cool to know when exactly the gas light comes on.

Things I have realized might make this a moot point:
  • Most newer cars have a digital readout telling you the estimated mileage remaining. My car is a 2005 however :D.
  • I think it's already widely accepted that fuel gauges "increase consumption" past halfway, at least nobody I've talked to about my findings sounded surprised. I bet my fuel gauge is spot-on in the upper half of the spectrum, but starts to alter after that. They might even be designed to do that to help prevent people from running out, especially those daredevils that know their car will still run below "E".
  • This might already be a common practice when tracking fuel mileage. I suppose when I've calculated mine before, I simply did the math and that was that. Matching it up to the fuel gauge just seemed like a smart idea to me that I hadn't thought to do before!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tip For: Losing Hair in Your Twenties

I have always hated getting haircuts.  In fact, I've always kinda hated my hair... I didn't think it looked good "just short", or spiked with gel as was the fad in my day, or buzzed off, or - when I got older - long.  It just never quite looked cool in my opinion.

Maybe that's why I've always dreaded getting haircuts so much.  I was a pretty mild kid, so the sitting still part didn't really bother me, so I don't really know why I hated it so when I was little but I did - so I always asked to just keep getting a "chili bowl".  I rocked that look for years.  And years.

Then I started doing the whole gel thing, mostly spiking some short hair, but never really felt like that fit me either - I have a big forehead, and I was too critical on myself because of it.  This was probably junior high through high school, then when I got a little older, out of high school, I just kinda stopped getting it cut for awhile, and let it grow out.  I kinda liked that except it felt kinda weird having to own a brush suddenly, and I still didn't really think the look fit me... but I did get some backlash when I decided to go ahead and cut it back off, so I thought "meh, maybe this is my best option" and grew it back out a second time.  And then it started to happen...

I first noticed it in the shower.  I would have a few long strands of hair on my hands.  I ignored it for awhile, knowing that "Hey, hair falls out, then it regrows.  That's just how it works."  Deep down though I thought it looked like too much, and I got kinda nervous about it.  I was in my very early twenties, probably right at 21 or maybe 22.  Sure enough, my hairline had already begun receding... as if I didn't already lack enough confidence in talking to girls.

I'm in my upper twenties now, and I look very similar to my blood uncle, who has had the same thing going on for as long as I can remember.  My family has always commented on how much I look like him, but now it's really uncanny.  I've gone with short hair since then, and even started doing buzz cuts just to be done with it because if you have any amount of hair that you can control how it looks due to its length, you will likely care too much to just leave it alone.  So my solution:  buzz it all off, it is what it is!

I think that's the proper approach when dealing with this sort of thing.  Ultimately, I realize how fortunate I am not to have any serious diseases or chronic pain of any sort or anything like that... it is simply cosmetic, which, doesn't matter.  I do believe that, but it doesn't mean it's not hard to have confidence with the ladies.

Be that as it may, I would also like to point out that I know of at least three - count 'em, 3 - other guys roughly my age that have a similar situation going on, so I know I'm not alone at least... and hopefully if any other guys with this dilemma happen to cross this writing, they'll know they aren't either. It is what it is, buzz it!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Tip For: Registering Your Car in Hawaii When It's Not In Your Name / Register Someone Else's Car

I've had so many problems getting this done, I figured I'd write about it in case it might be useful information for someone else.  So first, here's the quick list of things you will need to register a car in Hawaii that is not in your name:
  1. Bill of Lading - Very important, you will need this to do every other step in getting your car legal in Hawaii.  If you ship a car here, the BoL documents it, and you should receive this when you pick up your car from a port.
  2. No-Fault Insurance - According to some paperwork my shipping company gave me when I picked up my car, your car insurance from the mainland may be valid in Hawaii, but you're still required to have a "Hawaii No-Fault Insurance Card".  You'll need to call your car insurance company to let them know you moved and shipped your car here to find out what's required, and then receive the Hawaii Insurance Card in the mail (You must obtain the watermarked original document from your insurance company, you can't just print one off or anything).  For the record, my insurance here is costing me 20% more than it did in Texas.
  3. Safety Check - Known as an "Inspection" in most other states where it's required, Hawaii's Safety Check is pretty straightforward - you're gonna need good tires and windshield wipers and all of your lights working properly of course.  They are pretty strict on the safety aspects of the car though.  For example, my car initially failed because the tint on the rear window was bubbly due to age/sun.  I had to remove or replace the tint before my car could pass. Also they are strict on the darkness of the tint, and will check your car.  My car has stock tint on it and barely passes, so if you have any darker tint that you did yourself, it probably won't pass here. Surprisingly though, there isn't a smog/emissions test at all; however if your car is puffing smoke out of the tailpipe or something, I doubt it will pass.  NOTE: After you get insurance, this safety check is the second step.  If your car passes, you will get a temporary document stating your car actually failed, but is due to registration.  You have 30 days to then take all of your paperwork to a DMV and get the car registered.  If not, you have to do the Safety Check over again.  I've been to two places, and it was $20 for the check plus $5 to check the window tint.  After you get registered, you'll bring your car back to where you got the Safety Check, and they will give you a sticker to be placed on the right rear of your vehicle (Google Hawaii Safety Check images to see examples).  It's good for a year.
  4. Previous Registration - You will need the most recent registration from your former state in order to register the car in Hawaii.
  5. Power of Attorney - If the car is not legally in your name, you will need a Power of Attorney form signed by the registered owner and then notarized by a notary public.  If the car is not going to be transferred into your name, you will need a specific or general power of attorney which states that the car owner is allowing you the power to register their car in the State of Hawaii.  Be sure the owner of the car includes the vehicle's VIN on the form, do not be vague.
    UPDATE: I was told conflicting information at the DMV I went to.  At first, they gave me a pink Power of Attorney, called a Buyer Power of Attorney, which I mailed off, had signed and notarized by the car owner, and mailed back.  But when I took it back up there, a different employee told me that one wasn't right, and that I needed the Specific or General PoA that I mentioned here.  So again, mailed/signed/notarized/returned.  When I took THAT one, yet another employee told me the last one was mistaken, and I did in fact need the pink Buyer PoA.  She showed me where on the Buyer PoA it states the legal business about registering a car in a different state that is not in your name.  I told her I already tried that one so I did have it, just not on me as I was told it wouldn't work.  So I returned home to get it, but when I got back, I got a different employee once again.  She acted like the Specific PoA was the correct one, and used that one to (finally) process my registration.  So NOTE: you will probably need a Specific PoA, or maybe a pink Buyer PoA.  You can get a Buyer PoA from the DMV, but we had to use outside sources to print off a Specific PoA.
  6. Lienholder's Name and Address - If there is a lien on the car, i.e. the car is not paid off from a bank loan, be aware that you'll need the name and address of that bank.
  7. YOU MUST PAY WITH CASH OR CHECK AT THE DMV!  I cannot confirm this for all DMVs, but the one I went to was cash/check only; no debit or credit cards.  To be safe I'd advise having one of those payment options ready.  NOTE: Car registration in Hawaii is pricey, between $280-$300 for mid-size sedans, and expect more for trucks and SUVs.
That concludes the quick list unless I'm forgetting something, but I think that's it:  Bill of lading, insurance, safety check, previous state's registration, and if you're in my shoes trying to register someone else's car, a power of attorney which includes the VIN and gives you permission to register it here, and the bank's name and address if there's a loan still being paid off by the owner.

My story, for those who may be curious, is I have a car that my stepdad paid for using a bank loan from his bank; so I pay him and he pays back his bank.  So as far as I'm concerned, it is my car.  Nobody else drives it, nobody else pays for the insurance, gas, maintenance etc, I do.  Unfortunately, it legally-speaking is not my car, it's his with a lien from his bank.  I either did not consider this fact before I had it shipped here, or I was naive enough to think it wouldn't be a big deal.   Regardless, I've been back and forth several times to a DMV here as well as a service center for safety checks and maintenance to get the safety check (I needed four new tires, and had to remove the tint as I mentioned).  At the DMV, first I was turned away because I noticed a sign saying "Cash/Check Only".  I had planned on using a credit card, because registration in Hawaii is expensive - it's going to cost right under $300 for a year for my mid-size sedan.  It cost me $60 a year in Texas.  Not to mention I never had any problems passing inspection there, even with smog checks.  The next time I was turned away because she realized the car wasn't in my name.  So she said I needed a power of attorney, and gave me one which I then mailed back to my stepdad, had it signed, notarized, and returned.  Took that up there, and was turned away again because it was an incorrect power of attorney form.  Turns out she gave me a "Buyer's" power of attorney, so they asked if I had the title.  Well, the bank still has the title!  In Texas!  If I could afford to buy the car outright, I would have done so before now.  She couldn't even tell me where to get the correct PoA, much less give me the right one.  My stepdad found one online though, printed, signed, notarized, mailed.  I took that up there, and was amazingly turned away again, because he failed to put the vehicle's VIN on the form.  I had noticed that myself, and wondered but really didn't want to have to wait to get him to sign/notarize/mail me another one or to mail this one back.  Sure enough though, they said it wouldn't work.  So he mailed me a third PoA, which finally worked in getting Hawaii license plates on my car.

By the way, in the process of all of that happening, I had to get two safety checks because the first one's 30 days ran out thanks to all the hiccups and work schedule.  I also got a parking violation ticket because the DMV nearest me has a terrible parking lot which is always full, and a no parking zone right outside of it.  It's only a $35 ticket, but I contested it and LOST, so I still had to pay that haha.  Hawaii does not mess around when it comes to vehicles... not complaining though, at least I'm here!