The Squid Zone

The ramblings of a giant squid...

So you’re mad at the government, the police, the system…

… how does ripping up your town make it better?

Irrespective of what any person may think about the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decision, what positive outcome can be expected from ripping up your own community and setting it ablaze?

Not that I agree, but I can understand something like “march on city hall.”  I can see why an angry mob might have gone after, say, a police station or a court house.  I don’t understand how figuratively shitting in your own corn flakes improves your situation.

I guess that by their very nature, mobs aren’t rational, but these riots show them to be stupid as well.  The same thing happened on a larger scale in Los Angeles after the Rodney King incident, and again, the people who were hurt by the rioting were the very same people complaining about being hurt by The System ™.

Gas is cheaper across town?

This is a rewrite of an old article that was lost, but it bears repeating (and it’s been 8 years since the old article anyway).

We see all the time articles about where to get the cheapest gas.  Plenty of people will drive all over Hell’s half-acre to save a few pennies on gasoline… or so they think.

It may surprise you to learn that, in general, it’s not really worth driving out of your way to buy cheap gas unless the price difference is truly huge, and through the magic of mathematics, this can be shown.

Starting conditions

I’ll consider 4 cars in this article:  2014 Nissan Rogue, 2014 Ford Focus, 2014 Toyota Prius, 2015 Dodge Caravan.  I’ll be using stats/numbers from Edmunds.com.

The rated city gas mileage, and fuel tank size for these vehicles is:

  • Rogue: 23 MPG, 15.9 gal (US) / 10.2 l/100km, 60.4 l
  • Focus: 26 MPG, 12.4 gal (US) / 9.0 l/100km, 47.1 l
  • Prius: 53 MPG, 9.5 gal (US) / 4.4 l/100km, 36.1 l
  • Caravan: 17 MPG, 20.0 gal (US) / 13.8 l/100km, 76.0 l

With a gas price hovering around $1.10 per litre, you can calculate how much it costs to drive 1 km in any of those vehicles:

  • Rogue: 0.10 l for 11 cents
  • Focus: 0.09 l for 9.9 cents
  • Prius: 0.04 l for 4.4 cents
  • Caravan: 0.14 l for 15.4 cents

Now most people fill up around 1/4 of a tank, so that means for each of these vehicles, you’re buying (more or less) a known amount of fuel:

  • Rogue: 45.3 l
  • Focus: 35.3 l
  • Prius: 27.1 l
  • Caravan: 57.0 l

This, in turn, means that for every $0.01 per litre lowering in price, you save the listed amount of cents in the total purchase.  It also means you can calculate the maximum distance to drive to buy cheap gas before you’re simply wasting money.

The Math

Assuming you have to drive to the gas station and back to where you started, that effectively cuts the distance you can drive to the gas station in half (x there and x back).  So if you are buying 3/4 of a tank of gas with those vehicles, the following calculation results:

  • Rogue: 45.3 l = $0.453 savings at 11 cents per km = about 4 km round trip
  • Focus: 35.3 l = $0.353 savings at 9 cents per km = a bit less than 4 km round trip
  • Prius: 27.1 l = $0.271 savings at 4.4 cents per km = a bit over 6 km round trip
  • Caravan: 57.0 l = $0.57 savings at 14 cents per km = a bit over 4 km round trip

In short, you get about 2 km distance to the gas station for every cent per litre cheaper just to break even, so you need to come in under that distance to actually save money, not counting your time and effort involved.

In my neighbourhood, that means buying gas at the cheapest gas station, but it also means not actually driving very far outside of my local area.

Here’s a good example of false economy… I might be inclined to buy gas at Costco – they’re usually about $0.05/l cheaper, but the nearest Costco station is about 7.7 km from my house (according to Google Maps) for a round trip of 15.4 km, versus the nearest gas station (Quickie, 1.7 km = 3.4 km round trip).  The difference (12 km) is paid for in gas I have to spend to get the savings.

Since I drive a Rogue, I’ve got the potential to save $2.26 by going to Costco, but I’ll spend $1.32 to do it.  I come out to $0.94 to the good by going to Costco, but I’ve blown about 30-60 minutes of my time to do it depending on traffic (yeah, it’s a bit of a nightmare where I live) and the line at the pump.  Since I fill up twice a month, I can waste up to 2 hours of my time each month for a saving of less than $2.  Most people, if offered $1.88 for an hour or two of their time would laugh.  Nevertheless, there’s a potential saving of almost $24 per year.  In my estimation, that’s just not worth it.  I’m happy to pay the extra cents for the convenience.

If one happens to be going that way anyway (i.e. need to buy gas and you’re passing a selection of stations) it makes sense to choose the cheapest one, but I can’t really see how it’s worth it to drive very far out of your way unless the gas is super, awesomely cheaper.

By way of comparison, the second closest gas station to my home is 5.6 km round trip, so it’s barely worth going to that station over the closest one…

Interestingly the Prius hybrid (because it sips gas) and the guzzling mini-van (because it has a huge tank so you’ll be buying lots of gas) offer the best opportunities for driving far and wide to seek cheap gas.  With the little Ford Focus, you simply can’t buy as much gas to realize the savings.

A Physics Lesson For Pedestrians

This article was originally published by me in October 2011, but as I’ve been digging through old stuff looking for some gems from what I can salvage of the old site, this looked like it was worth bringing forward into 2014.

You can follow updates on the more hilarious/sad aspects of this topic at I don’t move out of the way for people walking with their head down.

Here’s a little lesson in physics. Bear with me, there is a point to this.

I am a large person. Blessed with some Nordic genes, I am 189 cm tall and tip the scale around 111 kg. I walk, due to long legs and general impatience, at about 6 km/h (1.7 m/s)over short distances… like coming out of the Subway with my lunch and heading back to work.

In motion, therefore, I have a kinetic energy of 0.5mv2, or 154 joules.

If you’re a more usual-sized person… say, an average woman (65 kg) walking down the street, at an average speed (4 km/h, 1.1 m/s) with your head phones on and head down so you can’t really see where you’re going, you have kinetic energy of about 40 joules.

So when you thud into me because you didn’t see me come around the corner because you weren’t looking where you were walking and couldn’t hear anything because you had headphones on, I feel an effect of slightly slowing my movement, while you experience what is roughly the equivalent of a light jog into a brick wall…

… and I don’t feel sorry for you.

Granted, the chauvinist in me feels a little twinge when a woman gets flattened in this way. It’s all I can do to resist bursting out laughing when some man, beetling along with his head down, gets flattened, however. Mostly, I just wish that people took more responsibility for watching where they’re going. I do my damndest not to run into people, but there’s only so much I can do when people are wandering around deaf and not looking where they are going.

In my whole life, I’ve only ever lost one encounter – I was walking with my head down and ran into someone substantially bigger than me. That was a lesson I never forgot. If you don’t want to land on your arse, I suggest you learn the same lesson: Pay attention to what’s around you.

So what happened?

The Squid Zone has, for a number of years, run in the Amazon cloud.  It is an instance in a pool of (presumably virtual) servers.  Without getting into the obscene technical details, this affords a nice web-based interface to control most aspects of the server, and I can log in with a terminal session to do the hands-on administration that needs to be done.

Because I had a lot of data, years of stuff, I used to make bi-weekly copies of the image, and keep the previous backup.  Each time I made an image, I’d restore it to check that it worked.

Finally in … March 2013 I think it was, I logged in to do the usual maintenance.  I made an image, shut down the server, and loaded the image.  It crapped out hard.  No problem, I have the known-working image from a couple weeks ago, thought I.

So I loaded that image, and it crapped out.

Fuuuuuuuuuu

Yeah.

Unable to load either image, all was lost.  Poof!  7 years of blog gone into the ether.  That’s all it took.  At that point, I had to decide to continue fresh, or give it up, and I gave it up: I wanted the break.

Time has marched on, and I want to be back at it again.  Also, I have a different strategy for preserving my content now :)

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