As a man who has owned 4 Honda's, I would never have guessed I'd one day own three Volkswagens. I certainly would never have guessed that two would be turbo diesels... It's only going to look more like a VW ad next weekend when my dad arrives in his Jetta TDI Sportwagen.

2006 Red Jetta TDI, 2014 Black Beetle Convertible TDI, 2006 Tan Jetta 2.5

Claire is home today studying for midterms but will likely take a late morning class at Hampshire Hills. She also drove her younger sibs to school this morning.

I went to 7:30 Mass and picked up a huge bag of cough drops & a hot pumpkin spice coffee on the way back to the house. That post nasal drip tickle in the back of my throat that started two weeks ago today just will not let go. I'm going to be working from home today, debugging what could literally be called a corner case. I'm making sure we handle the 8 corners of cubemap textures correctly in the newest generation GPU. (i.e. something you can buy in about two years)

Abby has band practice after school, but hopefully when she gets home we can all go out for dinner before Claire has to get back to college. Tomorrow morning she'll head with her cross country team to a meet at Lake Placid, NY. Sounds like it should be a lot of fun.

AuthorScott Bilik

Over on Google+ some friends in my circles participate in what we call Thankful Thursday. The tradition goes back further than the recent meme of Throwback Thursday. In this meme you're supposed to name at least three things that you're thankful for this week.

With all that I've been through this past year, I usually try to go for far more than three. So let's see...

  1. Surprise! Claire is coming home tonight. I figured since her cross country team was going to Lake Placid this weekend (road trip!!), she'd just stay at the college tonight. But no, she'll spend a day enjoying the quiet, preparing for midterms, and doing her laundry. Perhaps I'll work from home tomorrow so that we can enjoy a father-daughter lunch together. We haven't done that in a few months.
  2. I had a brief break from teaching CCD this week. I only had to focus on RCIA. And next week I only have to focus on CCD. No RCIA.
  3. All the main things for my car -- town registration, insurance, Vet plates, and state inspection -- are behind me. I'm still hoping to get a vanity plate notice soon, but for now she's legal enough.
  4. Timothy is about 2/3's through his new Rick Riordan novel. When he's into a story, no tome seems too intimidating to him.
  5. Today is my sister and brother-in-law's 25 anniversary. They got married a little over two months after Michelle and I did. I'll admit that it was a bit bittersweet remembering that I had an "empty" 25th anniversary two months ago. Thanks to Teh Bookface I relived pictures from those early days. Man! What kids we all were back in 1989!
  6. I finished my latest audiobook on the drive home this afternoon. Most folks don't expect a practicing Catholic to listen to an extended work on skepticism, reasoning skills, logic fallacies, etc. but I'm an engineer too. Worse yet, I'm a Verification Engineer. In our domain we assume that if something hasn't been tested, it doesn't work. Don't bother hoping it might.
  7. Yesterday the lawn crew came by and the cleaning ladies did too. By noon yesterday the household looked nice inside and out! Today I ordered autumn cleanup for after most of the leaves are down.
  8. This Saturday is the Youth Mass and there will be an event for them afterwards too.
  9. Timothy is up and running again -- thanks to some replacement uSD cards -- on his new Raspberry Pi Model B+. And in geeky fashion, he experimented with putting RISC OS on it.
  10. Had a good lunch with my Spiritual Director yesterday.
  11. The ability to receive the Eucharist every morning this week.

Here's hopin' for as good a week next week...

AuthorScott Bilik

Sorry that it's been a several days. A few days ago I did get most of a post written up. This is going to sound a bit like a computer neophyte, but then something I did wiped out the post before I had bothered to save a draft. I'm still getting used to Squarespace.

So tonight I thought I'd give my thoughts on my 2014 VW Beetle Convertible TDI now that I've been driving it for a week and as someone who drove a 2006 VW Jetta TDI for the past 8+ years.

I really think I got my money's worth with my last car. I've driven it nearly 160K miles now, and she still gets me between 50-55 mpg when I commute with her into the office. I'm also a fan of stick shift/manual transmission cars and for now the only hybrid with a manual is the Honda CR-Z. I'll admit that as a former Honda CRX Si driver, the CR-Z was a tempting throwback to my newlywed days.

If my memory serves correctly, the Jetta had three, maybe four, mechanic-worthy malfunctions that were outside the norm. First early in its life (~30K miles) VW replaced the transmission at no cost to me. It was mainly the inconvenience of driving a rental for a couple of days, but hey: new transmission for zero dollars!

Second about a year ago the keylock on the steering column failed and wouldn't accept my key. That was just weird! I rented a car for several days while a brand new lock mechanism adapted to my existing key set was created, shipped, and quickly installed.

The third was a coolant leak that occurred about a month ago. That was odd because it was coolant that VW sends to the EGR valve for reasons I'm not sure of.

The possible fourth was a problem with the trunk lid latch mechanism. Since my car was rear ended by a Ford Explorer about a year prior to that, I'm not sure how to place that blame. Would it still have happened to a "virgin" trunk? I don't know.

So overall for a car with 8½+ years of heavy driving, I enjoyed her economy, her German handling, the amenities (i.e. heated leather seats, sunroof, etc.), the smooth shifting. I could go on. Having come from a solid Honda family, it faired better than I'd feared. I bought the 100K warrantee on that car and never used it because nothing happened between 40K and 100K.

Last Sunday Claire Bear took over the TDI Jetta and drove it up to college. The gas Jetta she had been driving now awaits Abby to finish her prep for her license. I've spent the past week driving this new car. We haven't settled on a name but Timothy suggested "Shadow". A friend suggested "Onyx". The car is "damn it's dirty again" shiny black. No metalic finish. Just shiny, finger print showing black. The kind that looks great when it's clean, but ... well perhaps I should stock up on car wash coupon books.

The car feels just as nimble and a bit more so. The 2006 Jetta TDI was 100hp/177 ft-lbs torque. The Beetle TDI is up at 140hp/236 ft-lbs torque. A nice bump in performance over those 8+ years. Because of the added weight of a convertible Beetle (adding about 250 pounds vs the hatchback), both cars weigh roughly the same 3300 lbs.

The Bluetooth capabilities of the audio system work very well, especially in conjunction with the steering wheel controls. Dial up your favorite music source on your phone (in my case Google Play Music, but it could be Pandora, Rdio, Spotify, whatever...) and the volume and track are easily controlled at the steering wheel with track info shown on the head unit. The car also has the option to use the sound system for phone calls, but I prefer Bluetooth headsets for their superior sound quality and more importantly noise cancellation ability. Luckily my phone had no problem pairing to both and separating the audio streams: phone to headset, entertainment audio to the car.

The steering is familiar to me and the gear shifting is very smooth. And now I have a sixth gear! A surprise to me was that VW did not make the ratios closer to each other as far as I can tell. I only use sixth when I'm really near the speed limit on the highway and holding a steady state.

Operation of the convertible top is trivial. It is one button simple. The system handles the latching and unlatching, folding and unfolding, and the four windows. I'm told the top is three layers of material thick and if so, it shows because the car is very quiet when the top is up. Certainly quieter than my Jetta.

In addition to the top I've had the chance to use the optional wind deflector with the car. It makes a tremendous difference in top down motoring around. It removes a majority of the buffeting and turbulence when in place. The downside is that you can't use the back seats because of the way it's mounted when in use. Luckily it takes only a minute or two to stow in the trunk if needed. And if you're putting it away for a long stretch, as I will be in a few weeks, VW has a special holder mounted to the top of the trunk to store it up and out of the way.

So what things have bugged me (pun intended) about this Beetle?? First and foremost, rear visibility when the top is up is much lower than the ol' Jetta. And worse yet there is no backup camera as one sees in most well trimmed cars these days. It seems so obvious. VW ... please just put a sensor over the license plate and route the video to the sound system head unit display. Bam, you've avoided a bunch of potential problems.

Second is the push button start. I'll get used to it eventually, but to me push button start is a solution in search of a problem. For nearly thirty years I've pulled out my keys, stuck them into the column, and turned. Never have I said, "damn, there's got to be a better way" about ignition.

Third is that due to it being a two door, the distance to the seat belt is significantly further over your shoulder when you're trying to put the seat belt on. You really have to twist around to grab it! I think that many two-doors have similar issues.

A factor that I predict will be annoying soon is the TPMS (tire pressure management system). We have that on the van too. It's becoming almost a standard. Yes, TPMS is nice in that it helps you be aware of a low tire. But when they fail, and they do fail when their batteries run out, they are expensive buggers to get fixed/replaced. I'm not sure the theoretical fuel savings will be enough to cover the cost of replacing the TPMS sensors. And in my case, I like to keep a second set of rims with snow tires for easy swapping. TPMS adds an expensive wrinkle to that.

Overall I'm quite happy with the purchase. I'm sure there's a bit of post-purchase rationalization/choice-supportive bias involved, but I've tried to be honest regarding the things that do annoy me. When I was a new driver (mid-1985) I was tempted to get a used VW Beetle but instead a year later I got a MG convertible in shiny lacquer black. I enjoyed driving with the open air whenever possible but it was: a) noisy as hell with the top up and b) as unreliable as small British cars are stereotyped to be. This car feels like a blend of both things I was drawn to as a young driver. Hopefully I can add to it the efficiency and reliability I had with my previous VW TDI. I'm blessed to still have the 2010 Honda Odyssey for those times I still need to haul the Bilik clan around, but 90+% of the time it's just me driving solo.

AuthorScott Bilik
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Good morning!! Ready to start another work week? Up here each one gets a bit chillier and the leaves get more colorful. We skirted near the freezing point in the morning hours, but it should get into the upper 60's later today.

It was a full weekend for everyone. Claire had another race on Saturday morning, this time in Hopkinton. She did well among the girls running on Saturday. Meanwhile Abby had a band competition Saturday afternoon up in Maine. The boys and I went to Hampshire Hills in the morning followed by a road trip to my bank to get a check written for my car.

Beetle Convertible with the TDI engine and a six speed manual

That's right. Saturday evening, amid fairly solid rain, I picked up a new commuter car. Tim and I got a lift to Keene from a good friend at the parish and drove it back home a couple of hours later after we handled all of the formalities. Tim was in heaven browsing around at the dealership, seeing all of the top of the line Passats, GTIs, etc. on the showroom floor.

Sunday most of us went to morning Mass followed by breakfast. Most of my day was taken up with laundry, grocery shopping, gutter cleaning and catching the previous night's episode of Doctor Who. I'm not sure whether to rant at how angry I felt about the Doctor in that episode or be happy at the subtle Pro-Life theme underlying it. Granted it was a new alien life, but for modern media that's progress.

Luckily I did get a little time to put the top down and take the kids for one "joy ride" just before dinner. 'Twas a brisk drive though at only 50°F. I'm glad I could share my first open air riding experiences with them. Once I was done cleaning up dinner, I helped Claire prepare for her return to school in my red car and then studied for this week's CCD and RCIA.

This morning was pretty typical. I got the ever so cheerful kids up to start another week of school while preparing a roast for tonight's dinner. At least I could cheer them up with some hot cider and donuts. I then went to the morning Eucharist service at St. Pats. I listening to more of my audio book and enjoyed a Samoa flavored coffee on the commute into the office. I have more debug to do today, as usual. In fact that's one of the vanity plates I had considered: DEBUG. I still think I'll go with ADRENO. If all goes well I hope to catch a late afternoon Step class at Hampshire Hills.

AuthorScott Bilik
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