Monday, January 26, 2009

Skunks smell like coffee

Having been essentially away from blogging for over a year, I'm starting back slowly. Bare with me as I post the occasional offbeat thought as well as reporting on the fluctuations of local gasoline prices.

Anyhow, being as I live in a quiet town in a semi-rural county, I either run across the standard fare of roadkill (deer, skunks, squirrels, coyotes) or, on a more frequent basis, sniff what many describe as the stench of skunk.

What you may also notice is that often roadkill skunks don't smell like, well, skunks until days later. I'm guessing that's because the two glands that carry the chemicals that create the odor only breakdown and decompose days after death. At that point, the chemicals combine and create the offensive odor.

Maybe, I'm odd, but I no longer find the odor that skunks produce as a defense mechanism as offensive. I've taken the opposite stance. Being a big coffee drinker and having once worked various coffeehouses in Los Angeles, I think skunks smell like coffee beans or ground coffee. Seriously. I'm rather sure getting sprayed by a skunk or having a pet get spray is none to pleasant as having to experience the smell up close to far different from the experience of smelling it through your car vents or in small quantities through the air.

And in my constant effort of annoying a friend of mine by teaching her kids adult-annoying quotes or nonsense words, I've taught them that "skunks smell like COFFEE!!"

So the next time you smell skunk odor, take a minute to think. Does it really smell bad because we've been conditioned to think it smells bad or does it really smell like stepping into Starbucks?

Monday, July 14, 2008

JTS... to leave Castle Oaks

Here's an interesting little tidbit from the last few weeks that has seemingly not made it into any press yet. It appears that JTS Communities, Inc., the housing developer behind the current Castle Oaks development in Ione, is in the process of selling all of its Castle Oaks development to an investor. Assets would include the lots, unsold homes, and information center on the corner of Fairway and Castle Oaks drive.

As of now, JTS is aggressively marketing the remaining finished homes with a "Foreclosure Pricing" campaign and has also place the model home for sale.

The last estimate by the sales staff of JTS was a lot inventory of at least 10 years, up from an original estimate of 5-7 years back in 2005. Obviously the housing slowdown has severely impacted the amount of homes sold and thus the timeline of lot consumption, estimated to be 700+ lots.

It is not known if the sale of assets would include Amador County land outside of Castle Oaks that is part of the JTS land portfolio.

This is not the first time a developer for Castle Oaks has left the development. JTS is the second developer after the original developer filed for bankruptcy after building 215 single-family homes. The original 1989 development agreement called for 670 single-family and 360 multi-family homes.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Quiznos Tagline: MMMM... Toasty! (+1M)

While watching TV this weekend, a Quiznos Sub commercial came on. Their commercials nowadays are rather bland, I miss the days of the signing hairballs. Anyway, at the end of the current spots, the voice over always says the Quiznos tagline: MMMMM... Toasty! So what's the problem here? Umm, there are only 4 M's on their logo. I mean seriously, if every commercial says MMMMM, then print MMMMM, not MMMM. Are they paying by the letter here? Toddlers watching Baby Einstein could probably figure there's a missing M.

For those not in the know, the Martin Agency created SpongMonkeys for Quiznos around 2003. The SpongMonkeys were scary looking, played guitar, and sang badly. It was great!

Amador County Gas Prices 10/21

First, here are the numbers as of 10/18/2007...

Safeway (Martell) - $3.05
Mirastar WalMart (Martell) - $3.05
Shell (Martell) - $3.25
Chevron (Martell) - $3.29
Folsom Average - $3.11

And the chart...

So, here are the trends since the last gas price posting at the end of July. Prices in both Amador County and Folsom has been in relative lockstep, with prices dipping to their lowest levels around 8/27, then spiking to the highest levels since about mid-June. Most of this is already known considering most of you fill-up gas on a weekly basis.

Here are some items of note. Safeway has gone on the record saying they would always be a penny below the competition, meaning Mirastar/Safeway. This statement has generally held true to form since Safewway opening in late 2006. An anomaly occurred on approximately 9/15 when Mirastar stayed at $2.67 and Safeway jumped to $2.89. This "inversion" continued until 9/19, at which point the two retailers have mirrored each other's price moves.

Another interesting note is that around 8/6, all four of the Martell gas stations were within 10 cents of each other, then widening to 30 cents by 9/12, then pricing within a 20-25 cent range from then to the present.

So what does this all mean? It continues to appear that both Shell and Chevron have completely abandoned the notion of pricing their gas close to Mirastar and Safeway. While Shell/Chevron price within 15-25 cents of the Folsom average which is slightly below the quoted 10% more than Amador County residents have historically paid for gas compared to Sacramento folks, Safeway/Mirastar continue to price below the Sacramento prices.

Also to note, while Mirastar prices are comparable to Safeway's, Mirastar is consistently empty while the Safeway station is jammed packed. As they say in real estate, it's location, location, location.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Update 4 - Amador County Gas Prices 7/27

Ok, I'm going to start by apologizing to my readers (0, if you exclude the blog readers coming here to read Casey's Earth Mission blog) for having not put up a new post on gas prices in Amador County for 3 months. The good news is that I have kept up with the price changes and have them saved in Excel. So, going off memory from last night's updates, here is the gas price update.

For nearly a month, the Shell and Chevron gas stations at the intersection of Ridge Road and Hwy 49 have been at a price stalemate. Both stations locked their prices at $3.19 even while the Safeway, Mirastar (Wal-Mart), and the Folsom average price have dropped. Did both stations finally tire of keeping up with the low priced gas leaders in Amador County?

Three months ago, these were the price percentage differences:
"...there is only a 16 cent difference, which equates to a 4.5% difference, which is far below the 10% difference historically quoted by locals. Across the street at the Shell station, the difference is even smaller, 4 cents or 1.2% difference."

As of 7/26, the Shell station on Ridge finally ended stalemate and lowered the price to $3.15, with Chevron at $3.19, Safeway at $3.04, Mirastar at $3.09, and the Folsom average at approximately $2.94. With those numbers in hand, the percentage difference between Chevron and Folsom is 7.9%, and between Shell and Folsom is 6.7%.

So, again, the question is: Why have the gas stations in Amador County (Chevron and Shell, in particular) stopped pricing within earshot of Safeway's prices? Is the rack price of gasoline for Amador County Chevron and Shell stations significantly higher than the Chevron and Shell gas stations in Folsom which are pricing in the $2.90s?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Casey Serin has fled to Australia?

It appears to Casey Serin of IamFacingForeclosure fame has up and left his wife and fled to Australia. Details are at Exurbannation.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Update 3 - 4/29 Sutter Hill Gas Prices

So, it's been almost two months since my last update on gas prices around Sutter Hill (Amador County) compared to the Sacramento Valley (specifically Folsom). This doesn't mean that I haven't been collecting pricing information over this period of time. First, let me post the latest updated chart. You'll notice the prices have bunched up, but I'll discuss that in a moment.

As of 4/27, prices are as follows: Safeway - $3.33, Mirastar - $3.33, Shell - $3.39, Chevron - $3.51, Folsom average - $3.35.

Notice anything interesting? The lower prices that both Safeway and Mirastar (Wal-Mart) had since the beginning of the year over the Folsom average price has evaporated. For the year, Folsom's average prices have been as high as 17 cents over Safeway's prices to a few cents above or below zero nowadays. What does this mean? Well, since the other Sutter Hill gas stations (Chevron and Shell) have pegged their prices an x amount over Safeway in order to maintain their market share, this movement up of Folsom average prices has consequently closed the gap between the Sutter Hill gas stations and Folsom gas stations.

From the last gas update post on March 9th, the Chevron in Sutter Hill was priced 7.2% higher than the average pump price in Folsom. The Safeway-effect was already underway at that point. As of today, there is only a 16 cent difference, which equates to a 4.5% difference, which is far below the 10% difference historically quoted by locals. Across the street at the Shell station, the difference is even smaller, 4 cents or 1.2% difference.

The Safeway-effect has changed the gas price landscape in Amador County, with prices within 5% (high-end) and equal to prices in Folsom. The change was only made possible by the introduction of Safeway gas in the mix, sparking a kind of pricing "war" in which the beneficiaries have been the residents in the area.

In the next installment of the gas price update, I will attempt to add to the chart the daily RBOB quotes. RBOB stands for "reformulated gasoline blendstock for oxygen blending" and is specific for delivery at New York Harbor. I'm not sure how to do this properly since there are many different RBOB contracts with monthly delivery/expiration dates. It will probably be easiest to pull the price for the spot month contracts, or contracts set to deliver in the current month. While the RBOB is for gasoline on the East Coast and Gulf regions, it does provide us with a consistent baseline of gasoline price before additives are put in by specific brands (Chevron's Techron, for instance) at the truck rack.