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The Beetle 3 – still an unremarkable chick car


When I arrived on this planet, the original Volkswagen Beetle, the “People’s Car” commissioned by noted megalomaniac Adolf Hitler, was still relatively new. Small, tinny, yet relatively robust for its size, the little air-cooled, rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive car soldiered on for decades unchanged until its demise in 2003 after 65 years of production totaling more than 21 million units. Many examples of this “Type 1″ Beetle still survive and provide daily service for their owners.

From 1997 to 2011, the “New Beetle,” or the Beetle 2, was produced. It sold less well, totaling roughly 1.1 million units.

Since 2011, the “New Beetle,” or the Beetle 3, has been produced. Confusingly, the original New Beetle is now just called the Beetle, so that the New New Beetle could be called the New Beetle. VW calls it the A5, so named for the chassis number which it shares with the Jetta model.

I am driving a Beetle 3. I do not particularly like it.

It is fast, stable, and it handles predictably. The 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine revs high and produces a lot of torque for the six-speed automanual transmission. The instrumentation is clear and easy to read. The electronic controls are well-designed and easy to figure out, unlike Fiat or BMW Mini electronics. Those are all good things.

The bad things are mainly in the ergonomics of the car.

  • To lower the roofline yet still make the back seat usable, VW pushed the front seats and the dashboard forward toward the engine. This means that it is difficult to get in and out of the front seats, because the door hinge is in the way.
  • The shoulder belt is VERY far behind the front seat, making it difficult to reach.
  • The steering wheel sticks out more horizontally toward the driver, which means that VW had to design the steering wheel with a flat spot on the bottom so that would clear a human operator’s legs. It feels cumbersome and looks strange.
  • The interior door handles were designed for a German robot with Lego claw-hands; they are that clunky.
  • The rear hatch lid has no recesses to fit a human hand under it and lift it. It only unlocks for a few seconds before it locks again. This can make it difficult to open it. Probably Volkswagen knows that most Beetle owners never bother to put anything in the “cargo area” anyway. It’s fairly small.
  • The windows are frameless, meaning that the glass is not surrounded on its upper edge with the metal doorframe. Instead, the windows twitch up and down by themselves automatically, lowering themselves a few millimeters when you open the door so that the glass can untuck itself from the seal on the car roof, and then raising themselves again when you shut the door so they can form a seal with the roof again. I find the automated movement very annoying. But then, I rarely drive vehicles that do not have full-frame windows.

The Beetle 3 is a zippy little German econobox car, and if it weren’t for the legendary VW unreliability and expensive repairs, it might be a good choice for a young single woman. Which I am not.

Overall, it’s just another chick car. Unremarkable except for its distinctive shape. Which is not enough of a good reason to buy it.

How to survive as an author


I saw an interesting story that said that most authors in Britain make very little money.

  • The median income for authors (where 50 percent of authors make more, and 50 percent make less) is £10,432 ($15,577).
  • 42.3 percent of all the money earned by authors (it would be helpful to know what that total was, but of course the article does not say) was paid to authors earning more than £100,000 ($150,000) per year.
  • 7 percent of all the money earned by authors was earned by the 50 percent of authors who who fall in the below-median income bracket (<£10,432/year). That’s quite a lot of people splitting up 7 percent of the pie.

Now, I have learned the secret of how to make money at writing. And I am happy to share it with you for free.

The secret is, write what people are willing to pay for. That usually means, write about things that you don’t care about. Conversely, it also usually means, don’t write about things you DO care about. Because you’re simply wasting your time. And you’ll probably starve to death trying to earn money writing about things you care about.

Before you despair, know that there IS a sweet spot, where you can write about things that you care about, and people will be willing to pay for it. The best way to find that sweet spot is to write because you like to, not because you have to. Find a job to support you, and indulge in your writing habit in your spare time. Perhaps you will get lucky, and your writing will attract money. But if it doesn’t, then you still get to write in your spare time, and your job ensures that you still get to eat.

There. Isn’t that helpful? Free advice is worth every penny.

Another day, another death


Darling wife is depressed. Several people she knows have died in the past six months. Some of them were felled by disease, other simply by old age. But the drip, drip, drip of the tears of loss is taking its toll on darling wife.

The latest one was an acquaintance that darling wife knew through work. Acquaintance had been a heavy smoker for many years. Eventually she developed lung cancer, but her mechanic did not catch it, and it metastasized to her spine. Bone cancer is extremely painful. Her back hurt for more than a year before her mechanic finally diagnosed the cancer. By then it was far too late, and she had an estimated three months to live.

That was two months ago. She went into hospice last week, and stayed four days until she died, insensible from the many painkillers they were giving her.

Was her mechanic incompetent? Probably. Did it turn out all right in the end? Probably. Because I have seen several people whose cancer was caught early, and they suffered through years of chemotherapy and radiation only to die anyway. The treatment was often as bad as the disease, from what I saw. They suffered greatly most of the time. I would rather suffer a little and go quickly, than suffer roughly the same amount but extended over a longer period of time. And ultimately, it seems like a huge waste of time, effort and money to fight a terminal disease which will triumph over your best efforts to survive. Better to spend the time you have with the people you love, and save the money to give to them. After all, you won’t need it anymore.

Just enough time to say goodbye, is all I need. And perhaps not even that. It’s not like I have many people to say goodbye to. Will I see them on the other side? I don’t know. Numerous reports of Near Death Experiences indicate the presence of other planes of existence. You leave this one, you go to another. You will probably meet them again there, because energy is indestructible. But one thing that most NDE reports agree on is, at the moment you depart, you are suffused with a sense of relief. That things are all right, that everything will be okay, and that your cares and concerns really don’t matter at all anymore.

It’s that sense of relief that I look forward to most of all.

Mistaken for another


On a shuttlebus, two women said hello to me as if they knew me. My body’s phenotype was chosen for this mission on this planet because it is nondescript; it is good camouflage. So it’s not uncommon for me to be mistaken for other people.

I searched my memories but I did not know these people. But I was polite, and acted as if I remembered them. We had a nice chat about nothing in particular, during the short trip to our destination.

Darling wife asked me why I didn’t ask them how we supposedly knew each other. I replied that I didn’t care. If it pleased them to think that they knew me, I was happy to oblige. Darling wife thought my answer was strange. I thought it was strange that she would think it was strange. Why would I call attention to my camouflage by telling people that it was working? Better to let them think whatever they want to think.

Onward and upward.

Sick again


The place where I am working is an old stone mansion, set in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania. The doors are all the original wooden doors, with ridiculously small ornamental doorknobs.

In most buildings, I can touch the doors in such a way as to minimize contact with it, and minimize the transfer of disease-causing germs. But in this old mansion, I must make full contact with the doorknob with a tentacle, and twist and turn it while pushing until the door opens. It’s a great way to get more exposure to germs, and it has worked. Now I am sick. And I still have to work.


She saw several UFOs


I recently had a conversation with someone on the airplane. I think that is the first conversation I have had in four, perhaps five years. Airplane time is quiet time for me. I have to focus on shutting out the thoughts of all the people trapped in that metal tube with me, and it precludes conversation. Plus I always need to plan my escape in the event of a crash. But the woman next to me was terrified by the turbulence, and she needed someone to talk to. So I let her talk.

Apparently she needed to talk about Unidentified Flying Objects. She had seen some recently, and she had told some of her friends about them. Her friends told her she must have been mistaken, and it rankled her. I commiserated with her. Few things are more irritating than for someone to tell you that you didn’t see something, when that someone wasn’t there and has no idea what actually happened. So I listened to her experience, which she described in detail – she was a good observer. I validated her experience, telling her some of what is common UFO knowledge among humans, but not giving away any Imperial secrets.

She appreciated it the information. I think I was the first person who believed her story. I didn’t tell her why I believed her, because I didn’t want to frighten her. For her, acknowledgement was enough, so that’s what I gave her.

Will she investigate further? Probably not. Her quiet suburban life wouldn’t leave much room for the unknown. But at least she felt better about it.

There is always someone who is worse off than you


I forget who I was talking to, but it was a woman who was relating some issue that she had, and comparing it to another person she knew, who had a much more serious issue. She realized that her issue was not nearly so serious as she had thought, compared to her friend’s.

It reminded me of the aphorism “I wept because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” No matter how bad things get, there is always someone who is worse off than you.

I think people need to remember that at least once a week. So many people feel sorry for themselves. It would help if they were even slightly telepathic. It would put their pain in perspective very quickly.


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