Monday, June 14, 2010

Three Changes to Save Big on Gas

Three Changes to Save Big on Gas
Tim Gamble

Change the way you maintain your vehicle. Instead of thinking about vehicle maintenance as a chore that is easily put off, look forward to it as an opportunity to save big money. Here are some things you should be doing on a regular basis, being sure to check your owner's manual for the manufacturer's recommendations for your specific vehicle:

  1. Make sure your tires are properly inflated (check weekly).
  2. Check tire rotation & balance (every six months).
  3. Change oil & oil filter (typically every 3000 - 5000 miles).
  4. Change the air filter (yearly or as needed).
  5. Service the fuel injection system (yearly or according to owner's manual).
  6. Change the fuel filter (yearly or as needed).
  7. Get a tune-up (yearly or according to owner's manual).
  8. Service transmission (yearly or according to owner's manual).
  9. Replace faulty emissions components and oxygen sensor (as needed).
  10. Have front end aligned (as needed).

Change the way you drive. Be more peaceful and relaxed in your driving style, confident that doing so will save you lots of money. Fast and aggressive driving results in significantly lowered gas mileage. Also, the less weight and wind resistance you drive with, the better your gas mileage will be. Here are some tips:

  1. Leave early enough so that you don't have to rush to get where you are going.
  2. Don't speed. Drive at least five mph under the speed limit & never exceed 55 mph.
  3. Use cruise control whenever possible.
  4. Drive evenly. Avoid jack-rabbit starts & sudden stops. Don't weave in & out of traffic.
  5. Whenever possible, don't accelerate uphill and coast downhill.
  6. Avoid rush-hour traffic whenever possible to avoid time idling.
  7. Cut off the engine whenever you will be stopped for at least a minute.
  8. Clean out the trunk. Less weight means better gas mileage.
  9. Remove rooftop carriers. Less wind resistance means better gas mileage.
  10. Generally speaking, use the air conditioner only for highway driving (over 45 mph with few stops) and roll your windows down when driving around town (under 45 mph with lots of stops).

Change why you drive. Don't think about driving as a wonderful convenience, instead look on it as a means of last resort. Enjoy the fact that whenever you don't drive, you are saving lots of money. Driving less is simply the best way to conserve gas. Here are some tips for driving less:

  1. Avoid driving whenever possible. Instead walk, bike, or take a bus or train.
  2. Join or start a car pool to work, or consider telecommuting if it is possible for your job.
  3. Share a ride with a neighbor to the market, church or school.
  4. Don't fall for society's obsession with being constantly "on the go." There is nothing wrong with staying at home, and your kids don't have to be enrolled in organized activities every day of the week.
  5. Learn to get much of your entertainment at home. Start a family game night. Get together with the neighbors for a weekend cookout or a video night.
  6. Plan ahead and combine errands so that you make fewer trips.
  7. Use lists & stock up on items you frequently use so that you don't have to make a special trip just to pick up something you forgot or unexpectedly ran out of.
  8. Long commute? Consider getting a job closer to home or moving closer to work.

Of all the tips listed here, the most effective is to simply drive less. The next best is driving less aggressively and much slower.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Conspiracy Theory Rant

Anyone who has spent any amount of time surfing the Internet knows that there is no shortage of conspiracy theories out there. You can find websites, articles, books, YouTube clips, and individuals "exposing" all sorts of conspiracies - from the JFK assassination to 9-11, from Area 51 to the Committee of 300, from the Illuminati to the Tri-Lateral Commission and everything in between.

The moon landings were faked, the Earth is hollow with a Master Race living inside, the Jews control the world banking system, AIDS is a CIA plot, those trails of airplane exhaust are really secret government experiments, Procter & Gamble promotes Satanism, Bush/Cheney are going to reinstate the draft after the 2004 election, Bush is going to declare martial law instead of turning power over to Obama.

Ooopps! Those last two didn't come true despite the many claims floating around the Internet prior to the elections. Oh well, being proved wrong never bothered a good conspiracy theorist.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - 99.8% of the conspiracy theories floating around the Internet are pure BS. And the other .2% are wildly exaggerated.

Why am I so dismissive of conspiracy theories?

1- Too many people know about them. Want to know about the Committee of 300? Or the Illuminati? Or the Jews evil manipulation of the world's banking system? There are lots of people with websites, books, videos, and articles that will "expose" the deep, dark, secret conspiracies. Sorry, but it just isn't much of a secret if it is so easy to find out about.

2- People expose them for years and years. If these secret (but apparently well-known) organizations are really doing such dangerous, dastardly deeds behind closed doors, and someone managed to somehow find out about them and tried to expose them, they wouldn't last very long.

The CIA or whatever appropriate "secret police force" would shut them up long before their books, articles and websites were published. The fact that there are individuals who openly, and for decades in some cases, "expose" these conspiracies, and live to tell about it, is pretty much proof that there is nothing to them.

3- Hundreds, if not thousands, of ordinary people would have to be in on most of these conspiracies for them to actually work. Believe the moon landings were hoaxed? Think for a moment about who all would have to be in on the conspiracy - the astronauts, NASA officials, scientists and technicians, politicians and government employees, set designers, lighting crew, photographers and so forth. Even accountants and bookkeepers handling the financing of the conspiracy would have to know something was up. It would take a hell of a lot more than just a handful of people to pull it off, and the more people involved, the less likely a conspiracy is to be successful.

4- Gives too much credit to the Government and Politicians. To successfully carry out these conspiracies, our politicians and government officials must be extremely smart and extremely competent. I don't know about you, but when I look at the government I generally see incompetence, not brilliant masterminds.

Besides, I am a member of the Illuminant and the Committee of 300, so I know what is really going on. Believe me, all you conspiracy theorists out there - you are not even close to guessing the truth. Bawhahaha...

Okay, for the sake of clarity, let me emphasize that the previous paragraph was a joke (or was it?). But it does bring up...

5- If there are any real conspiracies out there, we wouldn't know about it. And we certainly wouldn't be able to read about it on the Internet.

Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

1- It is a great cottage industry. Lots of people push conspiracy theories for a living - writing books, magazine articles, newsletters, collecting speaking fees, hosting radio shows, websites and so forth. It is a great way for some to make a buck.

2- It makes you special. Knowing the "truth" that most others don't know makes you more special, smarter, and less naive than the ignorant masses. At least in your eyes. In reality, it probably makes your friends, family and co-workers make fun of you behind your back.

3- It validates your hatred. So you hate Jews, Bush, America, Capitalism, the Pope or whatever. Believing in conspiracy theories gives you an excuse for your hatred. It is not that you are an angry, hateful, bitter person, or a bigot or a racist or something else bad. Instead, it is that you know the "truth" about the object of your hatred, therefore you don't have to feel bad about being a hater.

4- It is fun! Some conspiracy theories can be fun to believe in - alien autopsies, Area 51, and so on. Some have been turned into entertaining movies, such as National Treasure (conspiracies surrounding the free masons) and The Da Vinci Code (religious conspiracies surrounding the Holy Grail).

A Kernel of Truth

Most really good conspiracies theories do contain a kernel of truth. JFK really was assassinated. The Tri-Lateral Commission really does exist (you can write to them and they will send you a nice brochure, which is really odd behavior for such an evil secret organization. Yes, I have written them and they did send me a brochure and some other literature). Because of this, most conspiracy believers I've encountered will hold fast to that kernel and refuse to believe in reason no matter how much proof they are given. You cannot reason with someone who is unreasonable, which is why I tend to not argue conspiracy theories with people.

If this essay has upset you, please send me your name and address. I will be glad to send some special black helicopters your way to help cheer you up...