November 2006 Monthly Archive
Posted by Cap in Stop Buying Crap!
on November 20, 2006 | 31 Comments
They’re just like milk — except for the color, taste, and uh, combustibility level. Some people love them, some people hate them. Their prices vary depending on region — and if you’re in Hawaii, they’re both ridiculously expensive.
There will always be people that will swear by a certain brand of gasoline. You probably know of a certain person that will only buy gas from Shell, and will drive that extra three miles to get to his favorite Shell station.
FACT: 99% of gasoline in the United States of America is of good quality.
Many gasolines, no matter the brand of the station, may come from the same source, refined at the same refinery, distributed through the same pipeline, and stored at the same storage terminals.
So what makes brand ABC gasoline different than brand XYZ?
The additives in the gasoline.
The funky part is that all gasoline in the United States contains additives in order to meet federal standards set by the EPA. Yes, even the ones at no-name stations.
Brand name additives are, of course, different than those in generic gasoline. Claims of special formulated additives prowess varies from one company to another, with some claiming to clean a specific engine part better, while others claiming to help your car produce less harmful byproducts to the environment.
There is no doubt that there is a difference between these additives, but just how much of a difference do these additives make?
Before you consider that question, let’s take a look at how gasoline is distributed, to better understand how additives fit into the grand scheme of things.
Just Where Does Our Gasoline Come From?
Hundreds of millions of years ago, ancient organic matters are compressed and heated through geological timescale, blah blah, viola — oil fields deep beneath the earth. People snoop around, find these oil fields, drill and pump them, then bingo — crude oil.
1. Crude oil is imported from abroad or produced domestically. They are transported to the refineries to be refined into various products, one of which is gasoline.
2. Gasoline is then sent from the refinery storage to bulk storage terminals via tankers, barge, or a common pipeline. In the common pipeline scenario, batches of gasoline are not physically separated, thus mixing of these products from different refineries occur.
- Yes, gasoline from a Shell refinery may mix with gasoline from a Mobil refinery.
- Yes, sometimes you’ll be buying Shell refined gas, at a Mobil station.
3. Gasoline is stored at bulk storage terminals across the country, which usually serves various different companies. At these terminals the gasoline are then loaded into the tanker trucks. It is at this point that additives are added into the truck’s tank, differentiating one brand of gasoline to another.
- Tanker heading to a Shell station? Load up the gasoline, and then pour in the Shell additives into the tanker. Bam. Shell gas. Tanker heading to a Chevron station? Load up the gasoline from the same terminal; add in the Chevron additives into the tanker. Ding ding. Chevron gas.
- Just how much of these additives are added into the tank? The amount varies, but for some it’s a quart of additives for an 8,000 gallon tank.
Huh? A quart of additives in an 8,000 gallon tank? That’s all the difference?
Eh? The difference from one brand to the other happens in the tanker truck, right before it reaches the gas station?
How effective these brand name patented additives formula work will always be up to debate, but here are a few things you should consider:
- A station’s tank quality, the tanker truck it contracts, the consistency of its many suppliers to maintain the quality in the chain of distribution affects the quality of the gasoline more so than the additives themselves.
- Consumer Report attempted to test the differences between brand of gasoline in relation to acceleration and fuel economy, but scrapped the test because the little differences found were no more so than the differences found from other factors such as air temperature and humidity level.
What about the Grades of Gasoline?
Ah, now here’s something a bit more definitive than drops of additives in gallons of gas. There is a difference between premium (91 octane) gas and regular (87 octane) gas — BUT, not because “premium” gas is a “better” gas.
Grades of gasoline are base on octane rating, which in a nut shell, measures the resistance of gasoline to premature combustion, aka engine knocking. (Going kaboom before it should go kaboom by a spark plug).
The grades available are usually regular 87, medium 89, and premium 91.
Which of these grades should you use? Well, the answer can be easily found in your car’s owner manual (and sometimes around the gas cap area).
FACT: Using higher grade “premium” gasoline on a car designed to run with regular 87 gasoline is a waste of money.
In today’s modern fuel-injected vehicles, engines are designed to be use with specific octane rating, usually correlating an engine’s compression level to the grade of gas (higher compression level, higher octane grade).
If you car is engineered to run with an octane rating of 87, using 91 will result in no real benefit. In some instances, you may even accumulate un-burnt fuel into your emission system, which can end up collected into your catalytic converter — eventually stressing the system.
On the flip side, if your car is designed to use octane 91 gasoline, you definitely should fill the car up with 91 octane. If you happen to pump 87 or 89 into your car — don’t worry, it’s not blowing up — the onboard computer will generally dial back your engine’s performance to prevent knocking. In some cases (such as the Lexus RX 330), a car’s owner manual may even specify that you can either use 87 or 91 octane, with 87 for economy and 91 for performance.
If you have pumped 91 octane into your regular car that’s designed for 87 octane and felt an “increase” in performance, it may simply be a placebo effect — or there may be something wrong with your engine that requires a higher grade of octane.
The next time you see a teenager pumping “premium” gas into his “performance” Civic (when it’s obvious that his engine isn’t turbo nor swapped), be a friendly (& nosy) gas-pump neighbor and inform him on his wasteful spending.
If the kid informs you that he doesn’t care because he’s using his mom’s credit card to pay for the gas, you may promptly consider the alternative of battery and assault.
Summary for Lazy Readers That Hates Post with Poor Grammar
The fact of the matter is, differences between brands are less important than difference between a station dealer’s quality control with the gasoline it provides. Your best bet is to frequent a quality, reasonably priced station with a consistent supplier.
Most of us already have a station we prefer, if the price and convenience factor is right for you, and if your car is purring along fine — there is little reason to change.
But if you’re the type to drive that extra mile, or spend that extra dollar for the brand you love — try a tank or two of other cheaper branded stations, you may be pleasantly surprised.
Finally, if you haven’t done it already, pump the grade of gasoline your car’s owner manual specify and your wallet and engine will thank you.
Various Gasoline Tidbits for Savvy Consumers:
- Gasoline is not the same type of commodity across the country. The volatility of gasoline in Los Angeles during winter will be vastly different than those of gasoline sold in Boston during winter time.
- Different states and region have different regulations and standards concerning the quality of gasoline. Some urban area may require gasoline that are formulated to produce lower emission.
- In rare instances, an unlucky consumer may get a bad batch of gas. It is more likely that the problem came about due to the individual station than a particular brand, as many layers of quality control checks are in placed before gasoline reaches the bulk storage terminals.
Related Links and Post:
Posted by Cap in Even More Ramblings
on November 17, 2006 | 22 Comments
I just saw some one of the stupidest crap in the world ever.
If you didn’t know (or didn’t care), the PlayStation 3 was released to the public today. Turned on the morning news today and what did I see? Videos of people trampling over each other for a chance to blow $500 to $600.
The entire thing is made even more stupid because some of these stores only had as little as 10 units available. The fact these morons pushing over each other, punching and kicking their way to the raffle stand — didn’t even bother verifying the quantity available for their local store — baffles the mind even more.
Give me a fucking break. As if waiting a
month or two couple of months for a unit is going to make your life a living hell.
Posted by Cap in Woops, Bought Crap
on November 15, 2006 | 10 Comments
Been really busy lately so I have been resorting to Jack in the Box for dinner.
I think I’m now dying? Sure feels like it.
At least I get 3% back for using my newly converted Chase Freedom card. That’ll pay for the future heart transplant. Woot!
Posted by Cap in Personal Finance
on November 14, 2006 | 7 Comments
Federal Regulation D – aka Federal Limit on Electronic Transfer
This bugger limits the number of electronic transaction on savings and money market accounts to six transfers per month per account.
What qualifies as an electronic transfer?
- Online, overdraft, telephone and preauthorized transfers
- Checks clearing each month from any savings or money market account.
- Faxes, ACH Debits, money market checks.
Basically, most type of transactions where you are not present. You can still make unlimited number of transfer through these methods:
- Mail, ATM, and good old in-person visit to the branch
A regulation to keep in mind when you money money to and from your savings account, especially those utilizing high-yield online savings account. In many instances, it’s not a physical limit; thus, you may actually exceed the six transfer limit unintentionally and have your account suspended or closed.
Check 21 – aka Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act
Enacted in Oct 28 of 2003 and went into affect on Oct 28 of 2004 , this semi-complicated bugger allows recipient of paper check (banks) to create a digital version, eliminating the need for the recipient to keep the actual paper check. The whole point was to create a more efficient check truncation.
How does it affect you?
- Most of you already know this. You won’t be able to get your original paper checks back because your banks aren’t keeping them anymore.
- Contrary to what some banks claim, checks you write will generally clear faster than before. The funny part is that banks aren’t required to speed up the time they make funds available in your account from the checks you deposited. Thus, don’t write checks unless the funds are already in your account.
- If you need to have checks back, you can request substitute checks from your bank for a fee. You should shop around to find a reasonable fee on substitute checks.
- In the case of an error where a check was paid twice or with an incorrect amount, you can request a “recredit” to your account within 10 days and receive a refund of up to $2,500.
If you don’t write a lot of checks, Check 21 probably hasn’t affected you much. If you still write a lot of check for various amounts to numerous payees, you really should examine your bank’s Check 21 process, and request substitute checks for the added protection in case of error.
EFT Act – aka Electronic Funds Transfer Act
Implemented way back in 1978 (and in my opinion requiring some amendment), this law establishes the rights and liabilities of consumer, as well as the responsibilities of all participants in EFT activities (financial institutions).
What falls under electronic fund transfer?
- ATM and POS (point of sale) transactions (debit/check card at grocery store).
- Preauthorized and telephone transfers.
What happens when there is an error?
- You must report the error no later than 60 days from the date of the statement containing the error (write or call).
- The financial institution must promptly investigate the error and resolve it in 45 days. Errors involving new accounts, POS and foreign transactions may take up to 90 days.
- If it takes longer than 10 days for the investigation to resolve, the financial institution must recredit the amount in question while it finishes its investigation.
- The financial institution must report the result of the investigation to you and correct the error (make the recredit final) or in the case when there is no error, explain to you in writing and inform you of any amount deducted from the recredit.
Lost or Theft of ATM/Debit Card?
- Your loss is limited to $50 if you notify the financial institution within 2 business days.
- Loss may be up to $500 if you don’t notify the institution within 2 business days.
- If loss is not reported within 60 business days, the liability could be unlimited (eek).
Your liability under federal law for the use of your ATM or debit card depends on how quickly you report the loss — an often mention difference between debit and credit cards.
For credit cards, under the Fair Credit Billing Act, yourmaximum liability for unauthorized charge is $50. If you report the card lost before its used, you cannot be held responsible for any unauthorized charges. To add, if the loss involves your credit card number but not the actual card itself, you have no liability for unauthorized use.
On the flip side, debit/check cards generally have additional protection with them from the bank that issue them (e.g., Bank of America’s Zero Liability Protection), or the zero liability that comes with a VISA and MasterCard check card. Of course, credit cards usually have these additional protection too (even if they don’t need them).
Related Links and Resources:
Posted by Cap in Totally Crap
on November 12, 2006 | 5 Comments
Got this in an email ten years ago, thanks Mr.X! (sorry couldn’t find the email)
- Three-piece Aquarium Tank
- Dual-Filter System With Pump
- LED-Light System (zomg!)
- Two Nine-inch Artificial Plants
- New way to find out how much your poo stinks.
All for $450. Sweet.
Posted by Cap in Miscellaneous
on November 12, 2006 | 4 Comments
Cleaning out the bookmarks today and realized that I never mentioned the very funny arch-nemesis blog: The Impulsive Buy.
Next time I’m in Hawaii, I’m going to punch him in the face — as soon as I can find him.
And uh, as soon as I save up the money to fly there.
Posted by Cap in Stop Buying Crap!
on November 10, 2006 | 3 Comments
Stop Buying Crap #9 | #10 | #11 | #12 | #13 | #14 | #15 | #16 | #17 | #18 | #19
More Caffeine and Mysterious Crap Than You Can Shake a Stick At
With more than 500 new energy drinks launching this year alone, the energy drink industry is reaching a $3.4 billion-a-year status thanks to millions of young
douches people across the nation — supposedly 7.6 million of us.
A casual glance of energy drink ingredients will yield the following:
- More Unregulated Crap
Not a big deal to 20-something males, the targeted audience for energy drink makers.
Caffeine overdose requiring numerous call to poison control center across the nation? Shrug. Mixing energy drink with alcohol because it’s always a good idea to mix a stimulant with a depressants? Awesome.
Sure, a good night of sleep will always beat out a can of energy drink, but then again, “energy” is probably not what energy drink aficionado are after.
If the two sentences of poor sarcasm above doesn’t stop you from buying these crap, think of the ridiculous price. $2.00 a can? That’s two and a half boxes of Cap N’ Crunch on sale!
What a rip off.
Posted by Cap in Credit Related
, Personal Finance
on November 6, 2006 | 10 Comments
Sorry people. This is not 1992. There is absolutely no excuse to pay your credit card bill late these days — especially since you have about a gazillion different methods to pay.
If you have paid a credit card bill late before, you need to stop the BS right now and fix this extremely easy problem. Can’t afford to pay the entire bill? Fine. At least pay the minimum on time.
Besides the stupid late fees (that you might be able to get rid of), paying your bills late too many times will affect your credit history and score significantly. This may potentially cost you thousands of dollars later on in interest when it comes time to get an auto or mortgage loan.
Here’s information taken from a previous post on things you can do to avoid paying your credit card late:
Online Payment Saves The Day
Just about every major credit card issuer allows online payment. Your credit card doesn’t provide one and you tend to pay late? Ditch them. Seriously, get a new one. I’m not saying it’s a requirement, but if having a card with online payment can stop you from paying your bills late, then the money saved will be well worth it.
Many online payments also allows you to schedule your payment, automatically. That means you can set your bills to be paid on a certain day, via a certain amount. Best bet for late payers? Set it to the minimum amount due, on the day that you know you’ll have funds in your checking account. Or, set it to a fixed amount if you have a balance currently. Better yet, set it to pay-in-full monthly.
Too lazy to setup an online account for your credit card? It will only take you a couple minutes to setup. The time you spend on this now will save you plenty more time in the future. Even if you don’t pay your bills late, you should sign up for an online account. The conveniences and accessibility will amaze you. If you’re careful with your password, and be proactive about distinguishing fake emails, security for your online account should be the last of your worries. Trust me, the benefits outweigh the low risk.
Changing Due Date To Fit Your Busy Lifestyle
Don’t want to sign up for an online account? Want to do this the hard way? Fine. Did you know that most major credit card issuers will allow you to change your bill due date? This means, you don’t have to worry about writing out different checks to different card issuers on different days. Call up your credit card company and check if they’ll let you change your due date to a more flexible date.
Quite a few issuers also allows you to set your due date while you apply for your credit card, so keep that in mind the next time you open up another credit card account. Match the date along with your other bills, or set it after you receive your paycheck, plenty of options.
Pay By Phone To Save Your Butt
Today IS the last day and you totally forgot to pay your bill? Many card issuers also allows you to pay by phone, but make sure there aren’t fees associated with it before you use it. Pay by phone is indeed the last minute option. Last week, I totally forgot about a bill due for my Bank of America VISA. While I was busy hating myself (again), I realized I could pay by phone. Flip the card around, call the 1-800 number on the back, punch in my checking account information, specify the amount, and I’m done. Once again, modern day convenience beats out modern day laziness.
Try Changing Your Attitude A Bit
As mentioned, there are many reasons why a person pay their bill late. I don’t want to get on a hypocrite lecturing rampage, but it’s in my opinion that if you adjust your mental outlook a bit, things will be a lot easier. You shouldn’t require a $117 late fee to make you think twice about paying late, just like how people shouldn’t buckle up just because of some lame threat (click it or ticket)—you should do it because it’s the right thing to do. If you’re starting to pay late frequently, ask yourself why. It’s worth it.
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