Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cotton Balls Vaseline and Fed Liquidity

I'm from the Jack Daniel's school of economics. That is, give me a couple shots of Jack and I'll tell you my thoughts about the economy. The key to my thought process is obtuse linking of examples (stay with me here).

Cotton Balls as Tinder

We hosted a cub scout meeting a couple weekends ago, and as host I decided to have a show and tell session to demonstrate the use of flint and steel and cotton balls as tinder to start a fire.

Adding Vaseline (a petroleum product) to the cotton ball creates a long lasting tinder. It is cheap, light-weight, water-resistant and lasts a long time. The cotton acts like a wick for the Vaseline, holding the flame while allowing the Vaseline to change from solid, to liquid to vapor, then burn. (Hey, that's all you get -- I'm an Jack Daniel's Economist. If you what physics come back at closing time).

Here are links to the starters and to a couple videos showing how this all works.

Conducting basic research in the internet is always a unique journey of discovery. While watching video number 4300 or so, an interesting question came up:

What is the optimum about of Vaseline to add to a cotton ball?  

The test:
  1. Take a plain 100% cotton ball and light it (record the burn time).
  2. Add increasing amounts of Vaseline to the cotton ball and record the burn time.
    (Change the ratio of tinder/fuel from 0% to ~99%).
  3. Determine optimum amount of Vaseline to add to get the longest burn time.
Internet video #4300 - Revelation

Can you light 100% pure Vaseline?  No, not with a flint and steel, not with a match, not with a cigarette lighter... it just melts.

Economic Link - Cotton Balls, Vaseline, and Fed Liquidity

Where is all of the Fed Liquidity?

Quantitative Easing, billions and billions and trillions of dollars, has only generated a couple percent GDP growth. The entire point of QE was to provide liquidity - to support the balance sheets of the banks and stimulate economic growth. So what happened?

Super-saturated cotton balls (economic capability) and Vaseline (pent up liquidity).

In our previous experiment we showed that a cotton ball loaded with Vaseline will burn longer than a clean cotton ball. Too much Vaseline and it will not burn at all. It has to be a lot too much, but you can try it yourself.

Maybe the Fed has created a situation where they have provided so much liquidity (Vaseline) that the economy (cotton ball) simply can't function.

PhD, Jack Daniel's School of Economic Stuff.   

Sunday, November 9, 2014

2014 BMW 328i 1500 Mile Review

We finally named the new BMW 328i.

Elle as in Elle Driver from Kill Bill.

The 2011 xDrive was Alex Forrest - a tempting, slightly wild seductress. Catherine Tramell (Basic Instinct) and Matilda Ratched (One Flew Over the Cockoo's Nest) were high on the list. 
We'll get to the reason for our selection a bit later. 
Click for larger image.

Previous Posts: 

2014 BMW 328i 1500 Mile Review

The Good

The fuel economy is phenomenal - up from Alex's 30 months average of 20.6 to nearly 26 mpg. On Friday we did a loop from Round Rock to Anderson (College Station) and back -- over 30 mpg. Acceleration is solid, turns are a bit soft, but well controlled, and braking is excellent. She pulls with gusto from the line, and a hard press on the accelerator will always deliver a bit more. I was worried about all of the shifting (horrific in Eco mode, tolerable in Comfort mode), but in Sport mode, Elle was in the right gear most of the time.     

The Bad

The only way to have fun is to drive in Sport mode or Manual, and to drive well over the speed limit. Not that I haven't tried, but Elle performs under normal conditions without complaint. It's almost tragic - her good manners (cool professionalism) belie her skill. 

The Ugly

The double-tap to turn off the accessories does not work well. ECO-mode makes politicians happy, but I can't imaging anyone else liking this feature.  The Auto-Stop Start (or AS/S) is rough on the restart. 

The Bottom Line

The 2014 BMW 328i is Elle, cold, efficient, professional. She is not the super hot, sultry Catherine, or the super-controlling Nurse Ratched. Deep down inside you know she is trouble. 
“It's the first villain [Elle Driver] that I've played in a movie that has absolutely no vulnerability and no innocence, nothing whatsoever that is like-able about her, other than she's so bad. All the other Deadly Vipers have some empathetic quality: O-Ren Ishii has this horrible past, [Vernita Green] just wants to be a mom, the Bride has been abused, but my character is just bad all the way through, there's nothing to like about her, and you're going to hate her so much.”
Daryl Hannah (on Elle Driver) from the Kill Bill Wiki. 

The first road trip: Hwy 79, 6, 30, 21, 77, 112 - none of them posed the slightest challenge. Next weekend, a run to Stephenville (183, 281, maybe back on 36).

I just know that one day I'm going to do something, and Elle is going to pluck out my eye.

[Update 11/11]: We took an unexpected run to Cabela's - from Round Rock to Buda via Toll 130. The toll road has a speed limit of 80, so I anticipated some exciting driving. Well, not so much. I would actually slow down behind a truck, down to 65-70 MPH, then pass them. But, it was decidedly effortless (sigh). Elle was loafing along, just over 2000 RPM. I finally turned on the cruise control - which is a HUGE improvement over the '11 version. 


Friday, October 17, 2014

2014 BMW 328i First 500 Miles

2014 BMW 328i First 500 Miles

The Good

My previous BMW 328ix (Alex) averaged just under 21 MPG over 27,000 miles. Not bad for an xDrive used for a boring commute from Woodinville, WA to Redmond, WA. Alex didn't get a lot of freeway miles, so performance was pretty solid. 

The new 2014 BMW 328 has averaged out at 24.5 MPG. I have been hot-rodding a bit, and Texas roads speeds are much higher (even in town). Gas prices in Round Rock (Austin, TX) have been under $3.00 for awhile and this morning they dropped below $2.70/gal for regular. The 17% increase in fuel economy is pretty nice.

Review: The First 100 Miles
Review: 2011 328i xDrive aka Alex

Driving in Sport Mode is amazing.  

We took a short freeway run on IH-35 and the ride was scary. Scary, in that the BMW felt like it was doing 45... when we were (a bit) north of 70 MPH.

One of Alex's attributes was that she was not much fun to drive at 25 MPG, especially in parking lots and in crowded neighborhoods. At freeway speeds she was great, and at Texas Toll Road speeds (85 MPH) she was a joy to drive. Once the new plates arrive we're going to drive to San Antonio, and see if the new car can fly.

The Bad

ECO-Mode is still icky, although it is growing on me. Now that morning and evening temperatures have fallen, the reduced air-conditioning in ECO-Mode is more tolerable. Acceleration is non-existent, gear shifts are frequent, and the ride is econo-car. But, picking up the kids at school and driving through the neighborhood doesn't require more than a Corolla, and ECO-Mode effectively renders the 328i into a Corolla.

The Ugly AS/S

Texas uses flashing yellow lights to allow left turns. Roll out, pick your spot, accelerate, and you're on your way. The Auto-Start/Stop (AS/S) complicates this process alot. In addition to the calculation of on-coming car speed, and my ability to move through the turn, I now have to factor in AS/S. I've already worked on strategies to defeat it (shift to Sport mode, never come to a complete stop, lift the foot slightly off the brake). AS/S is very aggressive in ECO-Mode, so the calculation of Corolla like acceleration needs to be added to the momentary AS/S restart.

The Bottom Line

I denied the idea that  the new Turbo-4 couldn't compete with the inline-6.  I was angry that BMW would tinker with the engines, suspension, and drive characteristics that made Alex such a great ride. I struggled with keeping Alex... for days, trying to find a way to justify the purchase of an all-wheel drive 20MPG sedan in Texas.  

[Wikipedia Article]: K├╝bler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief, is a series of emotional stages experienced when faced with impending death or death of someone. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

I'm finally coming out of depression, and into a reluctant acceptance that the new BMW (still unnamed) is a very different car, and is a good car.

Not a great car, yet... but you never forget your first.


P.S. Elle Driver, from Kill Bill is currently at the top of the list, although the lobotomizing Matilda Ratched, RN is still in the hunt (Maybe Elle in Sport mode and Matilda in Eco-Mode)?