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"Last" Friday Five

By Tim Butler | Posted at 7:27 PM

...there are Passengers and there are Drivers.

Of Diesels and Other Things Volkswagen

By Tim Butler | Posted at 11:03 PM

I've been casually looking at cars for quite some time, figuring if something worked out, it'd be better to bite the bullet at my convenience rather than when I was desperate and had to take just anything. My goal was to find something more fuel efficient than the Jeep Grand Cherokee I had been driving. It was running OK, but making a few noises, dropping in fuel economy (at trade-in, it was down to less than 15 MPG) and, not being mechanically inclined, it seemed best to trade it in while it would provide some value.

I looked at a few different cars. The new 2007 Jeep Compass was intriguing, but disappointing; one I looked at cost more than a 2006 Liberty ($19k) despite having manual windows (though the sticker did note that this nearly two and quad-zeroes car did have an A/C). Given that it isn't off road capable, I'm not sure why the model I looked at was so pricey. It is also rather ugly, losing much of the charm of the typical Jeep. It's cheaper cousin and heir to the Neon's job, the Dodge Caliber, looks nicer and was nicely equipped for about three thousand less. It was tempting and not at all unpleasant. I think “Dr. Z,” as current Chrysler Group promotions refer to DaimlerChrysler's Dr. Dieter Zetsche, has given the Star-marquees a touch of German engineering that is really nice, although not as nice as a pure German car.

Drivers Wanted. I'm a Volkswagen man, so I was strongly leaning toward some kind of VW. Primarily it was between a Jetta and a New Beetle. When my parents were looking for a car this spring, I managed to coax my dad into looking inside a 2006 Passat, and despite his dislike of Volkswagens, he saw how nice it was in comparison to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. It begs to be compared more to the likes of this, only for thousands less. Obviously, then, I really admire the Passat, but it was more than I wanted to spend, and I really don't need that large of vehicle. I did end up test driving a left over demonstrator of the 2005 Passat which was dramatically reduced in price, but I opted against that (in part because of how much I think the all new 2006 model is improved).

The Beetle has been floating through my mind as a car I've wanted to own since the Concept 1 awed everyone in 1994. Call me odd; while most kids dream of getting some kind of muscle car when they finally got their licenses, I dreamed of a Bug. Having grown up riding around in my mother's bright orange 1971 Super Beetle, I am thoroughly a Beetle fan, and (unlike most of my peers) not just from hearing about them: I experienced the real thing. The world's best selling car (ignoring the Corolla which is really a bunch of different cars that have carried the same name) is truly an amazing thing and a pleasure to ride in; although my mother's VW was wrecked probably a decade ago and has been patiently waiting its slow restoration since then, I did not forget.

Nevertheless, I did seriously consider the Jetta. It's a bit more expensive than a Beetle, but better at hauling more than two passengers and features some of the extra bells and whistles of the Passat. I test drove one after I drove a New Beetle, but while it is an amazing car, everything good about Beetles came to mind and won out over the next few days. Volkswagen's 2006 literature calls the New Beetle a “peace pod on wheels” and a “force of good,” and those are good descriptions. Many cars get the attention of people, the Beetle just quietly makes everyone smile. There's something to be said for being in a car that seems to have built in rose colored glasses. Perhaps it is like Steve Job's RDF (Reality Distortion Field).

The Diesel Dilemma. Having settled on the “force of good,” I next had to decide about diesel. One dealer in town had several Beetle's with Volkswagen's amazing TDI diesel technology. If you judge diesels by the old 1980's American diesels, you are getting the wrong picture. The TDI is a turbocharged, finely tuned machine that gives 44 MPG on the highway and provides very good acceleration without making a racket. While its horsepower looks meager (100 versus the gas engine's 150), more torque makes up for the difference. The problem is that people really want these puppies. While I wanted to put my money where my mouth is and support what I think is the best alternative fuel option, I couldn't justify the cost. The TDI only costs $1,200 more than the 2.5L 5-cylinder that comes standard in the Beetle or Jetta, but unlike the 2.5 models, dealers won't negotiate on the TDI. So while you can get a 2.5L for invoice price, you pay the higher sticker price for the diesel. I had figured that at a $1,200 difference, a TDI would pay for itself in two years, but when the difference shot up to almost $3,000, the fuel economy no longer was worth paying for.

Having tried to deal with a dealer farther away that had TDI's, I returned to my local dealer, which I really like and ended up with my car. (If you live in the area and go to buy a VW, Hyundai, Isuzu or Suzuki, ask for Kip Rodgers and tell him Tim Butler sent you — Kip likes to play the negotiating game, but he's also a pleasure to deal with and very, very helpful.) I've always liked beige interiors (as well as the Gecko Green exterior) and the decision on my Bug was aided by the fact that the one other Beetle they had included the sizably more expensive leather package as opposed to leatherette. I liked both Beetles at St. Charles VW better than the configurations at the aforesaid other dealer.

So that's the story of my Bug, which like any New Beetle should, has been given a name. “June Bug.” (it was made in June.) So far, I absolutely love it. I really admire the German engineering that VW puts into all of their cars, from the low end Rabbit (a.k.a. Golf for those of you across the pond, $14,990) through the absolutely stunning Phaeton, which I have had a chance to sit in (starts at $66,700). I could easily be a VW salesman, having admired Ferdinand Porsche's legacy since I was a little boy. There is a different feel to driving and riding in a German car; it rides smoothly, but you “feel one” with the road. It may not be for everyone, but I love it.

By the way, if you connect this post's title to my first post about car buying, you'll notice you will get most of Volkswagen's slogan. Yes, being the devious guy that I am, I included a hint in the title of my post that asked for guesses of what I bought. On the road of life there are passengers and there are drivers. Drivers wanted.

.5 More...

By Tim Butler | Posted at 12:17 AM

As long as I'm giving a play by play countdown (which is only really useful in as much as it allows all of you out in blogville to know I'm still alive despite my quiteness): I turned in my last paper today. It was a small little project I wrote in dramatic form.

That was 40% of the final exam for the class tomorrow. The remaining 60% will actually occur tomorrow. Let's see if I can survive that! ;)

Assuming I do, I have some work to do. I've delayed some publishing on OFB for lack of time, and a few other web projects have been sorely needing some TLC. Hopefully in the coming days. Oh, and church is getting ready to move its offices over into the new renovated area, which means I need to get wi-fi and such configured to cover as much space as possible using three routers — hopefully before Christmas. :mrgreen:


By Tim Butler | Posted at 11:34 PM

Several of my friends have pointed out that today, 12/13/14, is the last day during this century in which we will have a date that is made up of sequential numbers. A date may be entirely arbitrary in the grand scheme of things, yet it makes me rather melancholy thinking that most of us will not see another day that has one of the interesting numerical patterns in it that have shown up throughout the year during the first thirteen years of the new millennium.

Enjoy 12/13/14 while it lasts!


By Tim Butler | Posted at 12:49 AM

One hundred twenty-six years ago, the most influential theologian of the twentieth century was born. Yes, as one of my colleagues put it, May 10 is “Happy Barth-day.” In the spirit of celebrating, I wanted to share the following excerpt from Barth's preface to the English edition of der Romerbrief:

No one can, of course, bring out the meaning of a text (_auslegen_) without at the same time adding something to it (_einlegen_). Moreover, no interpreter is rid of the danger of in fact adding more than he extracts. I neither was nor am free from this danger. And yet I should be altogether misunderstood if my readers refuse to credit me with the honesty of, at any rate intending to ex-plain the text.

Frequently Barth has been denied that credit, unfortunately, and that has meant a lot of the good correctives Barth offers concerning the modern Church have been missed by many parts of that Church. Paying attention to Barth's own care for the meaning of Scripture would help assure many of Barth's “opponents” that there might be more to the Swiss theologian than they wish to admit.

1500: Reflections on Time

By Tim Butler | Posted at 4:55 PM

This is post 1,500 here on asisaid. In another month, asisaid will turn eight years old, indicating I have spent 30.4% of my life blogging. Year wise, that is — I have not spent thirty percent of my life entering blog entires! While I may not be the most prolific blogger, somehow 1,500 posts and eight years feels like it indicates I am one in the blogosphere for the long haul.

This seems like a good segue into a subject I have been thinking about: the progression of time and the subjective “feel” of time's wing chariot flapping forward. It must be something to do with the experiencing of longer and longer periods of time that slowly makes the distance between one time and another seem shorter. I find it hard to believe, for example, that 2004 was six years ago already.

I was thinking back to 2004 a few weeks ago when how long ago it really was jarred me for a moment. I tried to imagine myself in 2004 thinking six years back, back to 1998. Ninety Eight, or any of the 90's for that matter, seemed exponentially farther back if I thought about something related to them in 2004 than 2004 seems now. It is almost as if some mysterious threshold occurred that year that made every year after it seem more similar to me than those in the past ever seemed.

It is not that the last six years have been monotonous to me, there have been some significant peaks and valleys in the last 72 months. In that time, I switched majors from MIS to English Literature (cementing myself as a literature guy), graduated college, started and progressed three quarters of the way through seminary, made many friends, loss touch with others, mourned the loss of family members, been forced out of a church, joined a wonderful new church, gotten published in a number of venues, switch computing architectures twice and operating system families once and a whole host of other things, good, bad and ugly. In many ways, they have been the years I have most clearly sensed God's leading and also the years I have most questioned if I am on the right track for fear of having missed a turn.

Conventional wisdom says that time moves faster as one grows older. But, why is that? I wonder if it has something to do with changes in the way one makes progress as one ages. In 1998 I likely would not have thought or been able to do everything I did in 2004. On the other hand, while I have the benefit of more years under my belt now than I did in 2004, very few things I am doing today seem like things I could not have done in 2004. Unlike the difference between 1998 and 2004, it seems to me that most of what I would approach differently if I had 2004 to do over again are the sorts of things one would do differently simply because one has seen the completion of events, not so much that I have an entirely different perspective.

If anything, the things I am doing now are things that I thought a lot about doing back in 2004 when I made the big switch and threw out the “safety” plan of MIS as a permanent career if the whole seminary thing did not happen.

I digress. As I think about it and try to reconstruct my mind as it existed in 2004 and 1998, I think my theory makes sense. It makes sense that the difference between 14 and 20 is greater than 20 and 26. If this theory is right, I wonder: in another two years, for example, will looking back eight years seem as brief as looking back six does now? That is, will the period of time that does not seem all that long ago have the same beginning point, now enveloping eight years rather than six?

That would, perhaps, explain the sensation that time not only seems to go faster as one grows older, but that it does so in an accelerated fashion.

The way we as human beings recognize the progression of time fascinates me. I do not have any grand conclusions on the subject — not yet anyway. Maybe when asisaid turns sixty eight I can offer something concrete.


By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:28 AM

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

—T.S. Eliot


By Tim Butler | Posted at 12:39 AM

Well, I am back from a short trip to the Ozarks, which was absolutely lovely. Just too short. I always find I am not ready to return home from there.

In any case, my absence from my blog the last few days marked the end of fifty-one days of continuous posting on my blog. As far as I know, that is the longest continuous span of posting I have ever achieved and certainly the longest in recent years, when my posting here has been rather sporadic.

I wanted to do that for two reasons. First, I think the discipline of daily posting makes one think creatively about what can be posted and avoid turning a blog into a place for only highly polished pieces seemingly better fit to an online publication (like OFB). Second, after seeing a number of my favorite blogs from years past essentially dry up, I wanted to shore up my own commitment to the medium of blogging.

While the continuous posting has been broken, I am going to try to keep up daily posting more often in the future. I think its a habit that is actually constructive.

76 Trombones

By Tim Butler | Posted at 9:41 PM

A Beautiful Day

By Tim Butler | Posted at 11:05 PM

This song just kept coming to mind today, and then my iPod played it when it was shuffling for me tonight.

My Offering

If You made me like the grass that is green
Growing tall and covering the hills above me
Maybe I would pray for sunshine and a little rain
To fall now and then to make me lovely
I could be a place where sheep could graze
Or barefoot feet could play
And I would grow and grow and hope You'd bend down low
To hear me sing my offering

Open up the heavens, open up the sky
All of Your creation wants to testify
I have a song, so let the earth sing along
'Cause I just want to praise You

—Nichole Nordeman

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