Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Three Months with the Panasonic GH3

So, it's been about three months since I ordered and received the Panasonic DMC-GH3.  It was a huge gamble at the time, and I've questioned my decision almost every day.

Since my recent background is with Four-Thirds--Olympus E-1 and E-5 bodies--it made sense to buy something that was somewhat compatible and somewhat familiar.  The Olympus E-M5 had the viewfinder and the capabilities.  It was also a familiar shape since I spent several years with an OM-1N body.  That history suggested to me that the E-M5 would be slippery at best with Four-Thirds lenses.  The GH3 had a good-sized grip and a form not unlike the E-5, but from the positioning of most everything, the GH3 was meant to appeal to Canon users.

What's good:

  • Image quality, up to ISO 3200
  • Body build
  • Flexibility
  • Video
  • External controls
  • Battery life
  • Electronic Viewfinder
  • Easily updated firmware
  • Lens adapters

What's not so good:

  • Comes configured as a consumer camera
  • Variable Auto White Balance between frames
  • SD Card door opens easily and there is only one slot
  • Rear horizontal dial (and aperture) is changed too easily
  • micro Four-Thirds lenses
  • Using the electronic Viewfinder with glasses or sunglasses

I'm finally starting to feel really comfortable with it and I'm getting acceptable photos.  I would say that they're all outstanding but it's not quite that good.  The variable white balance between frames could be an advantage but it's not.  Panasonic have come a long way in their default colour but it still needs tuning.  I'm also feeling that the sharpness isn't always there, but it looks fine with the Four-Thirds lenses.

It feels like a photographer's camera body but it doesn't exactly act like one.  I finally found the Auto Review setting, which was playing havoc with the viewfinder.  Almost magically, I was able to follow the action without the viewfinder.  Since I've changed the setting, the display is minimally delayed.  However, there is also the manual focus assist/pinpoint focus.  This magnifies the image, so that you can focus tiny details.  Unfortunately, this gets in the way of sports photography.  When runners are coming toward me, I need to focus on them quickly.  Yes, I use manual focus during cross country and track meets.  No matter how good auto focus is (Nikon, Canon, whatever), I still need a precision that doesn't seem to exist, except by my hand.

Also, in this case, I need zoom lenses.  I zoom and manually focus at the same time.  The 35-100mm f/2.8 I've got is a good lens, but it's overpriced.  If it's equal to Canon's 70-200mm f/2.8, I'd be surprised but that was Panasonic's goal.  I just don't see a US$1500 lens there, no matter how much R&D it took to reduce a 77mm filter size to 58mm.  Olympus' ZD 50-200mm is a much better lens, and it's less expensive.  The trouble is--the 35-100mm is the best telephoto zoom lens for micro Four-Thirds.  Other factors like a laggy continuous auto focus complicate sports photography.  Hopefully, these problems do not affect video work.

I'm pleased with the image quality up to ISO 3200, where it outshines my E-5 quite a bit, especially since I limit the E-5 to ISO 1600.  Anything above ISO 3200 with the GH3 should be a shot you needed regardless of image quality and not a preferred choice.  Judging from DPReview's comparisons, I think it's ahead of most dSLRs in detail up to ISO 3200, up through US$1500.  However, the Olympus E-M5 is extracting a bit more detail from what is apparently the same sensor.  Perhaps, the Nikon D600 should have been my choice but it's very much an economy camera (US$800 difference from the D800 isn't enough.) for those who have been chanting "Full Frame" as the fix for everything.  It's much a D7000 (not a D7100) for the 135 format lusting.  (I picked up a D600 today for the first time and it felt overly heavy.  I expect the D800 to be heavy, but not so much the D600.)  My research shows me that the D7100 is a better camera body and the 1.5x telephoto boost wouldn't hurt.

I really like the GH3's external controls but grrrrrr, the horizontal dial on the back is too easily turned, and then, so is my aperture changed.  The SD Card door is easily opened but thankfully, the card is held in place until you press it inward to engage the spring mechanism to release it.  However, there is only one card slot, so it seems that Panasonic was thinking consumer-ish when they designed the camera, and the same with the battery grip.

There are many good things and a few bad things.  I haven't gone through everything because I've been too focused on photographing sports.  I think the GH3 is a winner for Panasonic, and I think it's a definite threat to Canon, who seem to be attacked from all sides lately.  I'm sure that Olympus is interested in a similar camera body but they're concerned about being too focused with any product.  They want a broader appeal.  To me, micro Four-Thirds continues to improve and in a few years, there will probably be a select few dSLRs on the market, simply because mirror-less bodies have become so good, no matter the camera maker.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Native writers: please learn English!

Dear speakers and writers native to English: Please learn your language!

There is a whole section of the language begging for your acquaintance and it's called intransitive mode.

Too many times, I see items like:

  • Phone launches in 11 countries
  • Items are copying

It usually has to do with computers, mobile devices, or cameras but isn't restricted to those.  We know what's meant but the English is incorrect.  Transitive mode relies on a subject performing an action.  However, in the cases I've used, "Phone" and "Items" are objects, not subjects.
  • The Phone is being launched in 11 countries
  • Items are being copied

Perhaps, the difference seems too subtle for most people, but the difference is a matter of being correct versus being incorrect.


The forced use a a noun as an adjective

  • woman doctor

I see this one used even by skilled journalists, and they must know that it's incorrect.  They'd be talking about a female doctor, as opposed to a male doctor.  There are adjectives for almost any noun, especially nouns such as "woman" that have been around as long as the language has.

The use of contractions

  • There's problems with the structure.
  • Its stewing in it's own juices.

Please remember that the apostrophe (') is used to denote missing letters.  Do you say "There is problems with the structure."?  If you do, you should hear the singular-plural disconnect in the combination.  "There are problems with the structure." is correct; therefore, "There're problems with the structure." would be correct, even though it looks odd.

"It's" and "its" present interesting problems because once you learn the forms incorrectly, they're difficult to forget.  I've even seen people use "its'", which isn't a word or a contraction at all.  "Its" is possessive and "it's" is a contract for "it is".  Just remember to say "it is" every time you write "it's" and if it doesn't sound correct, it probably is not.

Then and than

This is a newer problem that people have recently created.  How they've done it, I don't know.  "Then" is a time-based conjunction.  "Than" is part of a comparison.

Go, come, give, take

These words are vague issues and scholars debate them far too often.  I find my use of multiple languages to define the issues simply.

  • If you're there, someone or something can come to you.
  • If you're not there, you can go to them.

  • If you're in possession of the object, you can give it to someone.
  • If someone else possesses it, you can take the object from them.

While English is not simple by any means, it could be much easier to understand if instructors would apply clearer ways of explaining it, rather than using "time-honored" methods.  I see no reason why anyone who only uses English shouldn't at least be a "B" student in the language.  Precise use of language can avoid conflicts by avoiding vague wording.  Not many people want to sound like a professor but you shouldn't want to sound like a 5 year old, either.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Yelp, update listings already, instead of sending snarky e-mails (better now!)

I find Yelp to be a good resource, especially when listings are up-to-date.  However, the company gets paid by advertising, and may not care how listings look if those companies don't advertise.

In this town, Richmond, IN 47374, where I'm currently stuck, a number of businesses closed last year, or in general, several years ago but getting Yelp to acknowledge that is problematic.  I finally posted a photo of the Domino's store with spray-painted graffiti on the building to make the point.  I've posted real estate signs at times but they ignore them.

I was searching for Jungle Jim's in the Fairfield/Cincinnati area and noticed a duplicate.  When I returned home, I filed a duplicate listing alert, and received a thankful but snarky e-mail about it:

MAY 22, 2013  |  05:35AM UTC
We love hearing from you, whether you're sharing an awesome idea or have a problem to report. We want to make sure your Yelp experience is great, and we're looking forward to doing what we can to help! For now, we just wanted to let you know that we've received your email. One of our agents will take a look and respond to your inquiry, typically within 5 business days.

Please do not send multiple emails about the same issue. This will slow down our ability to respond. If you've written in to request a simple listing update and we agree with the change, we will most likely make the change live without getting back to you.

-The Yelp Support Team

Original Message:


Same location, but the city should be Fairfield.

Perhaps, I sent another report a year ago, maybe two years ago but if they would make the changes, there wouldn't be a problem, would there?  If I'm sending multiple reports within a couple of years, how can I be slowing down their ability to respond?  These multiple listings remains the same today.
In a different example, I went to a camera store in the Dayton, OH area.  The Click Camera stores were bought in 2006 by Dodd Camera, and the names of all stores were changed in 2008 to Dodd Camera.  It's 2013!  There is a photo of the store front with the Dodd Camera sign, but has the listing changed?  No, of course not.
Mind, if they're a year or two behind in processing changes, they need to find a better method because they're hurting the people who use Yelp, and possibly hurting their advertisers.

Yelp is better for me than the other such review sites, even with a huge grain of salt.  It's just rather frustrating.  If the regional managers are doing the advertising sales, reviews, and updating listings, I feel sorry for them.

Update: No news is no news.  I was at a small diner the other day wondering why it had no reviews.  Did my review at home and didn't see that on the mobile app.  I did a search and I got 2 listings: one listing with 4 reviews and the listing I used, which still didn't show a review from the outside.  I thought about sending a duplicate report and finally, I left it alone.  Whatever happens, happens, right?  If the company can't handle their data, it's not my fault.  All I know is that when I do database development, I don't have duplicates because the database won't allow it.

Update: 2013.06.15: The Yelp area manager for my area apparently refuses to acknowledge me now.   I had made a suggestion to another one and she replied quickly and graciously, but when I asked her something about updates, she has gone silent.  Perhaps, they're just busy.

This was odd.  I added a truck stop restaurant, which is trying to make its presence known.  They have a few sandwiches and some homestyle cooking, and they call themselves Stop 1 Cafe.  Suddenly, instead of the categories being pizza and sandwiches (as I added them), which they do.  The category was changed to Cafe, which they really aren't.

I was reading about the new version of the iOS version of the Yelp app, which I feel is quite good (as long as the data is good).  It's improved a lot since I started using it in November 2011 and the company should be proud of the progress.  However, I was reading comments and someone mentioned the problem of getting up-to-date data, mentioning Foursquare.  I haven't used Foursquare, but my impression was that Yelp encompasses more functionality with tips and reviews.  Check-ins and deals are something but do I really care about being a Mayor or Baron or whatever?  Why do a check-in alone?  I tried that with the Checkpoints app way back before I saw a Yelp app.

Anyway, I hope that they'll improve the difficult parts because I'd really like to use what they have.

Update 2013.10.04: They're sending much more polite messages about updates that they have or have not performed.  Could it be that this blog entry got them thinking?  I hope so because all I'm doing is trying to help them, listed businesses, and people using Yelp.   Why is that not a good thing for everyone?

I'm a bit surprised that this latest update.  I tried to update the hours of an orchard.  Considering I took a photo of the board with the hours on it, I thought that this would be enough.  They supposedly could not confirm it, even though I mentioned the photo and the hours are quite clear in the photo.  At least, the message was worded politely.  I sent the change one more time with a note explaining the hours.  They could not confirm.  I added a tip with the hours.  :-D  Perhaps, they're reading this blog entry because they have updated the listing with the hours.

Update 2014.02.21: Updates seem to happen within hours of my changes now.  I had one message that not all of the changes could be implemented, yet it seemed that they were.  I didn't document each change, but there could have been something minor that didn't make it.  However, the overwhelming attitude has changed greatly, and is positive.  Of course, it's always interesting to see a listing that's so wrong and people complain about it, but don't bother to change anything.  When I went to a camera shop the other day, they had moved and the listing hadn't been changed.  I changed it with the help of one of the sales people because the area traffic was so painfully troublesome.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thank you, readers!

I want to thank everyone who takes time to read what I write.  While these are my observations and opinions, I hope that they help someone else to make great decisions and skip some of the same searching I did.

I crossed 5000 a few days ago, and I'm at 5325 (5491 not quite six days later!!  Almost 1 month later with 6218, and 7900 about 2 months later) views as of now.  Those are quite a few views for a blog that isn't advertised at all.

In the grand scheme of life, this blog might not mean much but it has been my hope that it helps people in good, smaller ways.

I was outraged at how much the shopping networks were charging for their crappy accessories added to a good tablet, so I wrote about it.  Quite a few people have read that entry--it's been read over 700 times.

When I was trying to decide my next camera body, it took a lot of time to come to a decision, and many people have read about that.  I also try to cut through the specifications and the reviews bias to help you make better decisions.  Am I biased?  Perhaps.  I'm currently happy with products from certain brands (in no certain order):

  • Apple computers but my iPhone is a 50-50.  It can be a pain.
  • Canon printers, but I wouldn't want their photographic equipment
  • Western Digital hard drives
  • OtherWorld Computing for Mac accessories and especially my SSD
  • Oakley sunglasses
  • Kona bicycles
  • Sennheiser, Yamaha, Infinity, and yes, even select Bose (901 series VI) audio equipment
  • Volkswagen cars but I would have been okay with Mazda, Subaru, or possibly Suzuki
  • UCC milk coffee and teas
  • Wawa iced tea and other items in southeastern Pennsylvania and Florida
  • Turkey Hill iced tea and ice cream
  • Olympus cameras and lenses, although Panasonic is working for me too, Nikon would be good
  • Otterbox phone cases, though Ballistic looks a good bet
  • DirecTV because it's never a pain
  • Nong Shim for their awesome ramen
  • Phase One Capture One 7 Pro photo software

I appreciate Yelp for the reviews, all taken with a massive grain of salt, as well as Travel Advisor.  Oh, have you been interested in Angie's List?  It's a paid subscription.  Companies can't advertise there but do you get good reviews, really?  Anyone can cheat.

There are so many rip-offs in the world.  I don't want to pay for them, and you shouldn't either, so if I see them, I'll write about them.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Olympus, Fuji, and Style

I am one of the few people, it seems, who believes that the output from the camera has more importance than the way it looks to other people while I'm using it.

A few years ago, a friend in Singapore was telling me how great the new Sony dSLRs (new from Minolta at the time) looked and how he just had to have one.  I commented that they weren't very good technically and that Minolta was always a mediocre brand and it seemed that Sony was aspiring to mediocrity lately, so they fit.

It didn't matter--the camera body looked great to him.  He later bought the thing and, as he wasn't expecting much, it didn't disappoint.

More recently, when Olympus brought out the new Pen and OM-D series, they took bit styling cues from their film-laden past.  The film Pen series was quite popular and the OM series of SLRs was extremely popular, even with professionals.  I noticed a change in the forums I visited.  Suddenly, people were worried about cases and straps and the colour of the lenses that they bought more than they were worried about the photos.  Odd, that.

I suppose it's different coming from one box, a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, and feeding it rather large film with small hands, looking through the viewfinder at an upside-down image and learning to compose a shot with thought.  Then, I had a Polaroid instant camera of some sort that took Type 88, 107, or 108 film (The Convertible, I believe) and I had control over the exposure.  My dad's heavy Polaroid Land Camera actually had the numeric exposure values that you could choose.  I'd be comfortable with those now, but the plastic Polaroid camera had it set to a medium setting and you could twist the dial in the light or dark direction.  I could never remember which did what, so I rarely messed with it.  The inbuilt light meter really didn't help much, but I suppose it kept me from ruining all 8 prints in the pack.

All this time, I was concerned with getting the shot right.  I walked forward and I walked backward.  I leaned and I would sometimes lie on my back in order to get the shot.  I was never concerned about how the camera (or I) looked.

So, I was also recalling people who would buy a dSLR because they wanted to look "professional", whatever that is.  They didn't know how to work it and they only had the kit lens and their photos weren't very good, but they felt no ridicule in using the camera completely on automatic settings because they looked professional.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Olympus' latest micro Four-Thirds camera, the E-P5 harkens (ha! I never have used that word) to a simpler time and the Olympus Pen F half-frame 135 format camera.  It has some good upgrades like the 1/8000th of a second shutter speed through better mechanicals and less time for shutter power saving to boost the performance.  It bodes well for the end of the year announcement of a professional body to replace the E-5.  This may or may not be a mirror-less body with some sort of modular lens mount that will allow both Four-Thirds and micro Four-Thirds lenses to be used.  (Update 2013.12.11: How reality can smack you when you've read too many rumors!  Rather than a modular camera body, the E-M1 is a micro Four-Thirds body than requires an adapter to use Four-Thirds lenses.)

In any case, the announcement seemed slanted more toward accessories with new leather half-cases and wood grips.  They even had a country club theme to the announcement venue.  Seriously odd, that.  However, people worried about image more than image quality might aspire to being seen as someone who should be recognised for whatever reason.

Fuji has been busy too, with their X-series of rangefinder cameras.  They even have a zoom lens.  If you remember how to use a rangefinder, you might remember making guesstimates of distance for focusing.  You had to take time to plan each shot.  It was a wonderful process that people are re-learning.  Considering that Fuji was having a terrible time with auto focus on their early releases, I'm sure that people were learning a lot about manual focus and taking time.  I had a chance to handle the Fuji X10 yesterday and it seems a fine piece of work.  It was next to a Canon Powershot G1X and I have no doubt that the X10 was better in most every way.  It wasn't enough for me to put money into it, though.  Given that I've seen Panasonic's GX1 body for sale for US$199 recently, why not spend less and be compatible with lenses I already have?

Given the dearth of lenses, many people have bought simple adapters and learned to use lenses from the deep, dark past when auto exposure and auto focus had not been available.  Two rather beloved (and expensive for the mirror-less cameras) lenses come from Cosina/Voigtländer and feature no electronic connection at all but the very lovely f/0.95 maximum aperture.  It's amusing that people will reject a camera body because of the auto focus speed but will use a very, very manual lens.  They must take the time to learn what works.  Maybe, they even work the numbers in their mind.  The thought of thoughtful photography and composition is wonderful.  Instead of the "professional" pointing at something and holding the shutter release for seconds, we have someone setting up a tripod, walking to and fro, moving the tripod, setting the distance, working out the aperture, and finally after minutes of work, taking the photo.  It's progress!

Update 2013.12.11: With some of the Fuji bodies succeeded with faster processors and newer sensors, FujiFilm keeps showing us the alternative viewpoint of how a digital rangefinder could be done.  I don't particularly care about the style, one way or the other, but the processing speed is better than adequate now, and the image quality is far better than average.  Still, I'm not that patient.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera vs Panasonic GH3 vs Nikon D7100

Additionally, I wrote this blog entry because I felt a lot of people were confused about the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera's intent.

I think this is a question on the minds of many people: What's best for video at around US$1000?

  • Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera
  • Panasonic GH3
  • Nikon D7100

The question is more complicated, though.  Do you want to be a film maker or just make videos?

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera should be great for the film maker in training, as well as those already in the business.  However, it is not a stills camera.  You can extract a still frame from your video files but it's just not a camera body for stills photography.  The sensor is optimized for great video capture but it's a bit small for stills, especially given that it's using micro Four-Thirds lenses including those lovely Carl Zeiss Cine lenses up to US$20,000 each.

If you're still with me, you probably don't want to invest in cine lenses or make films.

Your video choice is easy from here: the Panasonic GH3 is much better at video than the D7100.  The GH3 is likely as good as the Canon 5DMkIII but even if it's not, you can buy almost 3 GH3 bodies for the price of a Canon 5DMkIII.

I wouldn't say that the available lenses for micro Four-Thirds are amazing (except for the very high priced fixed focal length lenses), I would say that they work very well for video.  What's more, you can use Four-Thirds lenses, Leica M lenses, Leica R lenses, and more with adapters.  You'll find the Olympus ZD 7-14mm f/4.0, ZD 14-35mm f/2.0, 35-100mm f/2.0, and 90-250mm f/2.8 some of the best lenses--ever.

Given that the video and film industry grew bits and pieces to make the Panasonic GH2 body work for them, it's amazing to see them adapt to the GH3.

As for the Nikon D7100--it's the finest APS-C sized sensor-based camera body out there right now for stills.  It's up-to-date in 2013 with some great pieces from the D300s but with a great sensor and missing an anti-aliasing/low pass filter for better sharpness at the risk of moiré (like mwah-ray, American English speakers) patterns.  Professional raw development software should help you lessen any moiré which might intrude into your photos.  In many ways, the D7100 is better than the budget D600, which is also closely based on the D7000 but without the bits from the D300s.  Sure, the FX size (135 format) sensor is bigger but the D600 is a budget camera body.  Plus, because of the sensor size, that 70-200mm is just 70-200mm but you get that extra boost in the D7100 as it becomes an effective 105-300mm lens.  The only real drawback you'll see is in the buffer size.  When they increased the pixel count, they should have used a buffer size that was much bigger.  Giving it most of the D300s' pieces but leaving the buffer size too small was not the greatest idea, especially without a D400.

Update: The D600/D610 are available are based on the D7000, which was sufficient but not good at video, and certainly no better than the D7100.   Equally, the Canon 70D and below have been updated but they're only really competition for the Nikon D7100 and below.  The Panasonic GH3 would easily be a better choice, especially with the articulated rear display and multiple file formats and bit rates, as would the "hacked" firmware version of the GH2.

Update 2014.03.21: This situation hasn't changed completely.  The Pocket Cinema Camera had a rough start but seems to be fine now.  The D7100 is still available without change, but the GH3 is being replaced with the GH4.  Does 4K video change the argument between buying the Pocket Cinema Camera and the GH4?  Yes.  US$1699.99 vs US$999.99 gets you 4K and 4K Cinema video in a powerful package made for almost any use considered.  Panasonic even added motion picture industry-related terminology to the GH4 menus, courtesy of the AG-AF100/AF105.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Adobe, what are you thinking?

I'm cynical, okay?

Adobe's announcement about the end of Creative Suite tells me just one thing: Adobe want more money.

They can put a spin on anything but they have a habit of not fixing their products.  They add features but they don't fix long-standing issues.  It's rather obvious with the Flash runtime that they aren't doing things correctly because there seems to be a new security issue almost every week.  They dress it up by saying "performance enhancements" but they know the truth and are unwilling or unable to tear things apart and make them work correctly.  They're like Apple or Microsoft, but worse.

Of course, there really aren't modern alternatives to Photoshop.  Live Picture was good and so was PhotoStyler/xRes but they're gone.  You could call Corel's Photo Paint an alternative, but it would be difficult to take it any more seriously than The GIMP.

I'm seriously considering getting involved in The GIMP.  The last time I tried it was painful and problematic, much like many open source-based tools.  If it could work as smoothly as a commercial tool, people might take it seriously, but it has to work on the creator's desktop (as a native tool, not as a well-yeah-i-know-but-it-works kind of software), as well as that of the print house's desktop.  That's a huge trick.

I've become so disenchanted with Adobe, and their decisions, that I'm barely a customer now.  That said, I picked up a copy of Photoshop Elements 11 (based on Photoshop CS5, apparently), just to have something a bit more modern than my Photoshop CS3, which probably isn't happy on Mac OS X 10.8.x.  (If that seems a crazy switch, I'll still have Photoshop CS3 on an older machine and I don't need Lab Color and I'm not sure who needs it these days.)

Update 2013.11.14: Adobe continue to send me e-mails, telling me that they've sweetened the deal, or they've got an alternative deal with just Photoshop and Lighroom, but if I don't need Lightroom and barely need Photoshop, what good is it to me?

I wonder how many others can get by without support for newer features.  I suspect it would be the majority.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Three Months with diesel

It's been about three months since I got my 2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI, after abandoning my 1999 Golf GLS.  The change has been huge, and yet, not so much.

I'm getting about 10 miles per gallon more
The car is faster and more powerful
The suspension is more sophisticated and the 17 inch tires add to that
No more sunroof/moonroof/whatever
The automatic transmission is annoying/no it's not
The radio, touchscreen or not, isn't that great

I'm averaging almost 38 mpg, which is about 10 more than the 1999 Golf could do in its 13 year old state.  I've seen a maximum 47.6 mpg (more recently a very quick 49.2 and 49.8) indicated by the trip computer.  I've started on a 50 mile trip and found that I gain range by the halfway point.  That is offset by the problem of finding the diesel fuel pump at the filling station, as I might burn fuel looking for it.

Road Trip is awesome software

I've actually seen 49.2 mpg momentarily

My dear 1999 Golf GLS had a maximum horsepower of 115, I believe.  The TDI has 140 hp, if I remember correctly, and 236 pound-feet of torque, so it's much more powerful.  It seems to me that my 1990 Corrado had 158 HP and just more than that number (164?) in torque in a 1.8 litre engine.  This engine feels as though it could pull stumps or the space shuttle.  When I first start it and it's cold, it reminds me a little that it's a diesel-powered engine with a little more clank than the usual four cylinder.  In almost any situation, you'd never know.

The least fun I have is finding the diesel pump.  At one filling station, it was around the back in the dark.  At another, there was the diesel pump for cars and the diesel pump for trucks and the nozzle size was very different.  I know because I spent about three times longer filling the tank.  Many times, the station has diesel fuel but they don't have the pump marked.  It's been about 30 years since VW brought their first diesel-powered vehicle to the U.S.A. to join Mercedes-Benz.  Isn't it time filling stations took things more seriously?  One company sells E-85 and that is prominently displayed while you have to search for the diesel pump.

The rear suspension is finally independent.  I can understand that VW cannot put their most sophisticated equipment on the cheaper cars.  The 1985 and 1986 (Golf) GTIs felt as though they were going off the road at all times.  They just weren't all that secure.  The 1990 Corrado felt as though the planet could explode and it would still have sure footing.  The 1999 Golf GLS was about 70% of the Corrado.  This Golf TDI is 120% of the Corrado.

I have on numerous occasions found myself 20-30 miles per hour higher than expected--on smaller roads.  The car can't change the laws of physics but it certainly understands them really, really well.  Between the suspension improvements and the quiet power, it feels like a university athlete--powerful, yet sophisticated.

As it's become warmer in spring, I've wanted to open the sunroof to vent some of the hot air, and of course, I can't because this car doesn't have a sunroof.  I should be glad since the last one had a problem with the drains not draining correctly.  That only happened after I got a notice of a court case and received some changed maintenance documents from VW.  It was interesting to see water coming out of the ceiling trim.  Still, I liked having an opening.

If the automatic transmission doesn't have multiple personality disorder, I don't know what else it could be.  It seems to enjoy making the engine growl at 1100 rpm, but on heading down a hill with the brakes, it wants to downshift, so that the engine speed is over 3000 rpm suddenly.  Sport mode waits much longer to shift up and seems more consistent.  The Tiptronic control seems to lag in contrast to the paddles behind the steering wheel but DSG doesn't seem so direct as they would lead you to believe.  Planning is required.  (This is my first automatic transmission-burdened car, so I wasn't sure what to expect even though I've driven many cars with automatic transmissions.)

The first thing I want to replace in any car is the radio.  They can put all the premium electronics in there and they still make it a pain to use.  I still regret giving up my Nakamichi cassette deck/FM stereo when I traded my 1986 VW (Golf) GTI.  Today's electronics are better but the rather expensive amplifier was buttery smooth.

VW's latest effort has a touchscreen.  This one has Sirius XM satellite radio, but no navigation system.  I've listened to the satellite radio about 30 minutes total.  It seemed okay, but there was nothing compelling that I found.  When I got an iPod, I imported my music as 256 Kbps mp3 files.  It seemed a reasonable compromise between clarity and space.  My previous Alpine car stereo had an mp3 decoder, so I could take those files with me on disc.  That unit also had a dynamic range enhancer/restorer, which made the music sound better than the rather flat way it sometimes sounds on CD.

This factory-installed radio has nothing like that.  It reads the discs and plays them but they sound as flat as the Bluetooth-transmitted music.  It's not that the sound isn't accurate, but it's not exciting.  Yes, the stereo has an iPod interface but because my iPod is an iPhone, the cable and Bluetooth interfaces collide.  It must communicate with the phone for hands-free communications.  However, if I select the iPod cable, I don't seem to have much control over the music and it plays it alphabetically.  So, I use a car charger, wait for Bluetooth, and select my music on the iPhone.  It's not hidden but it gives me what I want.

What's more is that I have a good supply of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean music.  Both the trip computer and the stereo have Chinese, for whatever reason, but it's so limited that it shows very few characters.  Why they selected some of the available languages for either interface is beyond me, especially considering that the car was being sent to the U.S.A. where people barely know English.  I'd be thrilled if it worked in Japanese, but I don't know of people who use Čeština for instance, a Slavic language for Czechia.

What's particularly scary is that the car I bought it 1999 lasted me into 2013.  If this car is still with me that long, it will be about late 2027 then.  I suspect that the hybrid vehicles will be quite different, as the batteries will have to be made of ecologically-sensitive materials by then.  Will gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles exist?

I don't mean to sound like an advertisement but I can't imagine being happier with another car.  The price was high enough that I finally jumped the US$20,000 hurdle that's been holding me back.  VW has helped in the regard.  They still produce some of the least expensive cars that don't ask you to add tires or doors.  Of course, since the 2012 Golf TDI was a last year's model and it was a demonstrator, it came with a healthy discount.  I still can't imagine driving something for US$30,000 or more and I've seen a couple Ferrari models lately, along with a Bentley somethingorother, which were slightly more than US$30,000.