some car notes

by dichroic in daily updates

These are mostly for my own reference.

The single most important criteria is that I want to buy a car that’s fun to drive – I want something that will make me want to drive in it, lure me behind the wheel. I want a car I can love. Of the cars I’ve owned or leased, I’ve loved two (Toyota Tacoma, Toyota MR2 Spyder, tolerated one Ford Escort GT), and been bored to the point of annoyance with one (Honda Civic – beige). I want it to look cool and interesting, hug curvy roads, be small enough to be easy to park or swing down narrow roads.

More practically, I want good fuel efficiency (lets out a Mustang), enough range to go to the lake house (lets out any electric car but a Tesla), a functional back seat (lets out a Miata). I have money saved and plan to pay cash, not finance, but while I could swing lower-end luxury cars, something like a Porsche is out of my range. I really want a nav system and a moonroof and Sirius radio; I’d prefer to have leather seats, a rearview camera (for backing up – not needed with a small car so much, but they make backing in so much easier!) and probably all wheel drive – last year we didn’t really have a winter but I think we do get some ice most years. Once we turn in the Ford Edge I drive (which I dislike), our only other vehicle will be an F-350 (very big truck) and there are times you just don’t want to take it.

So here are my notes so far, mostly for my own reference, with plusses and minuses. I may update this as I get more data.

Mercedes-Benz CLA250
+ Holds the road like nobody’s business – Really, this one had great
+ Solid luxury inside and out – This was the only one that actually looked a bit like a luxury car.
+ Lots of gadgets – Hey, I’m an engineer. This car has cool stuff.
+ Round air vents – I find they’re better at putting the air where I want it)
– Not intuitive – bells and whistles are a bit obtrusive. Needs some
getting used to.

Audi A3 or S3
+ Logical intuitive controls – everything is right where you expect it to be
+ Clean modern look to instrument panel
+ Lots of power, if I get the S3. If I get the A3, it’s still pretty decent – on a par with the BMW and Mercedes.
+ Tiny turning radius – I think it handled well, though I need to try it
again after trying the MB for a while.
+ Round vents again
– Boring exterior – if you didn’t see the Audi rings you’d think it was a Honda Civic.

BMW M228i (Haven’t driven it yet, only sat in it, so I don’t have much data.)
+ It’s a 2-door, though 4-seater (I want to be able to have rear
passengers, but I don’t have them often).
+/- More cluttered instrument panel than Audi, more intuitive than Mercedes.
– Not impressed with dealer – The first time I went I was ignored, the second time the salesguy was arrogant and a bit of a jerk.

Mazda 3
+ Half the price for all the features – Ted worked out that if I buy this and put only half the money I save into our house payment, we could pay it off – and thus retire – a few years sooner.
+ Speedometer on heads-up display (that’s just cool :-)
+ Best looking of all the cars so far.
– Smaller sunroof than the others
– Armrest doesn’t move far enough forward – when I scoot the seat up to
where I can reach the pedals, the armrest doesn’t come far enough forward to reach my elbow.
– No all-wheel drive option.

I should probably visit Volkswagen too. I think the CC is bigger than I want, but the current Beetle has a lot of power and a lot of options including all the features I want – and does fit my wish to drive something interesting and quirky.

Suggestions and opinions cheerfully entertained.


by dichroic in daily updates

Look what I have!

It’s just ’til tonight, though. The local dealer loans them out for a day as a sort of extended test drive.

Currently the cars I’m considering are this one (well, not THIS one as it’s missing a couple of the options I’d like to have, like a back-up camera) which is an all-wheel drive CLA250 (baby Benz); the “sport” version of the same car, which has the same engine but has front-wheel drive – better fuel efficiency but without the traction of 4WD, in case we get icy roads in winter; the Audi S3; or maybe the Audi A3. I test-drive an S3 and loved it, but I need to try out the A3 – who knows, I might love it as much and if so, it’s cheaper than the S3. I also need to get Ted to try the Audis; he did get to drive the Mercedes yesterday. I’d be the most frequent driver of anything I buy but I do want to make sure it’s comfortable for him as well, as he’s more likely to drive when we’re together. What I really liked about the S3 was that it seemed to fit around me perfectly; I’m not sure how that would work for someone nearly a foot taller.

forgot to say (knitting summary)

by dichroic in knitting

12 projects completed this year so far – socks, shawls, a cardigan, and so on. I have two on the needles at present – a summer-weight pullover I really ought to try to finish before it gets too cold, and a cowl for Mom (plenty of time, since I need to have it done by December.

When these are done, I hope to do a Howlcat (cowl/hat hybrid) for my nephew, fix the gloves I made for Ted (the fingers are too short) and possibly make a Dr. Who tie for my brother – the only thing stopping me from that last one is having to buy all the right colors. I don’t have enough odds and ends in proper Whovian colors all in the same weight of yarn! But I’d need so little of each one that it’s hardly worth buying them. Still, it wouldn’t be that pricy if I bought from Knitpicks.

Here, have a peek at the year to date:

The two on the bottom right are actually from last year. COme to think of it, I’ve been going to Dutch Brothers with my coworkers more often, so I ought to whip myself up a sleeve to go around a coffee cup like the ones in “Pairacoozies” (made as gifts).

family – lots of family

by dichroic in daily updates

Phew. Back to normal.

A week ago last Friday we drove down south to Ted’s family reunion. We actually left Thursday night and stayed at the lake house – it’s just about halfway and we hadn’t been there for a month (he had bronchitis the weekend we would have gone). That gave us a chance to get some rowing in but also to water the plants – it’s been such a dry year that not only the blueberries (which we planted, and water whenever we’re there) but also the wild blackberries have had a very small crop this year. The Japanese maple we put in last year is brown around the leaves’ edges, but hopefully it will survive.

The reunion went well; it included Ted’s grandfather (who is about 93) and almost all of his descendents. We got to meet a couple of the littler ones for the first time, including a tiny girl only ten days old. So that was fun. That was only on Saturday afternoon; the rest of the time we were hanging out with Ted’s parents and his brother and family, who were also visiting. My Evil SIL was on good behavior the entire weekend; I’m pretty sure she still isn’t all that fond of the rest of us but was polite and pleasnt to be around whenever she was around. She had a bad cough, recovering from bronchitis (or something) or her own, which gave her a good excuse to get away and go lie down away from everyone, and to skip the reunion gathering itself. That seems to me to be about the best way to deal with people whom you dislike but the rest of your family want to spend time with, so I think she did well. Unfortunately the parents in-law have been so badly hurt by her over the years that they tend to assume the worst interpretation of anything she says or does – for instance, not wanting your kids to have a memento of an event *could* possibly be more about not wanting to bring home clutter than about wanting your kids to forget the people they were with, though admittedly he could have handled that better even under the best interpretation. In addition, I have to give her credit for raising some excellent kids. The BIL seems to be their main carer, but still, the kids were perfectly happy to be with or snuggle up to their mom, so I think she has to get a share of the credit too. They were a delight to have around – even when they were tired, they just retreated and nestled up to their parents instead of being cranky, and they were fun to play with most of the time. And I’ll be shocked if the younger one doesn’t end up an engineer like Aunt Dichroic and Uncle Ted, or some sort of maker.

We got home Monday and had a few hours to prep before picking up Mom at the airport and beginning her visit. We covered a lot of the state this week! Tuesday was a sternwheeler “cruise” on the Columbia Gorge up by Cascade Locks. Mom decided she wanted to try kayaking, so Wednesday I worked a half day, took Mom to Powells, then we headed down to the lake. We had a couple of goriously relaxing days down there; I got in a row Thursday morning before taking her out in a tandem kayak. One good thing, she has no false pride – she doesn’t mind admitting she’s tired or something is hard. So she’d paddle with me and I’d coach her a bit (because putting in your paddle flat instead of perpendicular to the surface is not going to get you anywhere!), then she’d stop and rest and I’d keep paddling. Because she wasn’t trying to overpower the stroke it was actually easier to go straight(ish) with her than with others I’ve shared a kayak with. She was exhausted after that excursion, but I think it was the novelty – Friday morning she came out of her bedroom already in a bathing suit, annoucing she was going kayaking again. So I took her out again, and that time she paddled much more of the time but seemed a lot less tired afterward (we didn’t go as far, though).

We’d made a reservation beforehand, so after driving bck up to Portland with enough time to rest before dinner, we went out to the Chart House, which has a nice view over the city. The sad part is that due to assorted forest fires and maybe some dust, even from there we couldn’t see Mount Hood. She never did see it, though we were in lots of places where you’d normally have a beautiful view of the mountain.

Saturday we did a lot of walking – first was the Saturday Market. We’d talked about doing a tour of the Shaghai Tunnels, but apparently you need reservations and I didn’t want to be locked into a schedule, and also the reviews were very mixed. It sounds liek you get a lot of well-told stories (that may not be true anyway) but only see a couple of basements. So instead, at Mom’s request, we stopped off at the zoo on the way home. We hadn’t been there before anyway, and it’s a decent zoo, though we’ve had sort of a hard time appreciating zoos since going to South Africa in 2009 (see below). Sunday we went to the coast. Astoria Column is in wraps, being redone, but the views are almost as good from the base. From there we went to see Lewis and Clark’s winter fort, then out to Fort Stevens for a view for the mouth of the Columbia. The water was much calmer than last time we were there; we’d been telling Mom stories of dramatic surf throwing froth up above the seawalls, but it wasn’t like that this time.

Yesterday we had to work, so Mom got to relax and try out the pool at our housing complex, then we had dinner and took her to the airport. It was a good visit overall. There were some annoyances; I think Mom is getting forgetful, she has the worst sense of direction of anyone I know (I have taken to simply steering her where she needs to go), she can’t see things that are right in front of her (though her actual vision is fine – she’s just not used to anything but cities and people, and also not used to being observant in new environments) and she’s fairly clueless about the fact that Philadelphia is not the center of the universe. On the other hand, she’s the nicest person you could ever meet, and has a much better heart than I do. But Monday night was the first time in a week and a half we had in our house on our own and it sure was nice. It would have been even nicer if I hadn’t had to plunge into a 1.5 day workshop that reqruied me to get to work at 6AM!

About Africa: we may be going back next year! Ted’s parents asked us a couple of years ago to plan a trip for their 50th anniversary, next year. We hadn’t been workig on that because he’d spent the time trying to get an answer from his brother about whether theyd be willing to go on the trip, in which case we’d have had to plan something kid-friendly and not to inconvenient for them. Looks like they can’t go, so we mentioned some options to the parents-in-law – Africa, a Galapagos cruise, the trans-Canadian train, etc. THey were hesitant about Africa due to general nervousness and the length of the trip, but seem to be talking themselves into it. Yay! After spending most of our vacation this year on assorted reunions, I am determined to spend next year’s on adventures – granted this trip would involve family too, but we’d be doing something that is pure fun so having them along would just be a bonus.

weekend to dye for (sorry!)

by dichroic in daily updates, knitting

That was a pretty good weekend. I erged a total of 20.5 km (13 Saturday, 7.5 Sunday). On Saturday after erging we headed up to Scappoose, Oregon to Blue Moon Fiber Arts, where they were having their annual barn sale and, more to the point, dyeing workshop. I keep trying to persuade Ted to learn some kind of fiber craft, because I think he needs a hobby that can be done indoors in bad weather and that he can do in our townhouse – when we go down to the lake house he seems to have no trouble finding endless things to potter over – the house, the landscaping, the boats – but in the townhouse where we spend most of our time he’s only got his computer and the TV to relax with. Anyway, he said a while back that he had no interest in knitting or crochet but might find dyeing more interesting, so once I heard this workshop was coming up, I signed us up.

We planned to each dye two skeins; I ended up asking to dye one extra, because I couldn’t decide on colors. It was interesting to see the differences between our approaches; I kept mine to colors I’d like knitting and eventually wearing, whereas he was going more for just interesting things to do with dye. I started with Socks That Rock Mediumweight and dyed it purple that had some red and blue and a touch of gold mixed in to add interest, then did semisolids in red and turquoise (Cool Sock and STR Mediumweight again, respectively). The turquoise was beautifully saturated; unfortunately the red faded to a pale rusty shade, where I was hoping for rosy red. Either their reddish dyes were less saturated (the purple faded a bit too) or I just used too much water in some of my dying, that ended up even diluting the areas where I’d squirted undiluted dye straight on. Or possibly the Cool Sock yarn I was using just didn’t absorb color as well.) For Ted’s first skein, I suggest that he do something in colors his mom would like, that I could knit up as socks for her. For his first skein he dyed it in a gradient from turquoise at one end of the loop shading to dark blue at the other end. On his second skein he dyed some BFL fingering weight in shades of dark blue that shaded to forest green and then neon green. I’m looking forward to knitting all of these! Though I have no idea yet what they’re going to become, other than mostly socks and maybe a shawl or two.

dye job

On Sunday (after erging, of course) we got our hair cut, and then in the afternoon headed out to Ardiri Winery. Every year they put out a Pinor Noir that’s a blend between their California and Oregon vineyards, and they let members vote on which blend to bottle. I voted, but I can’t say I was all that fond of any of them – but I’ve never really tasted wine before it’s bottled, and I’m sure this will improve as it ages.

Beachglass cardigan

by dichroic in knitting

I got someone at knitting group to take a couple more photos for me. Ted is an excellent photographer – except of people. The local yarn store owner’s pretty daughter has been doing so much modeling lately for other peoples’ patterns that I suppose it’s not surprising she’s developed an eye for good knitting photos!

So here, have another couple piccies:


And one more picture, because this is one of those knitted objects whe the knitting is very simple and the yarn does all the work. I think it’s gorgeous, but I don’t get the credit for that (except for choosing a pattern that let the colors breathe. Just look:



by dichroic in daily updates, knitting

(FO = Finished Object, in knitterspeak.) Here’s a thing I haven’t posted for a while; I’ve mentioned my knitting, but haven’t posted any pictures or been too specific.

So far this year, I have completed the following. I will include links to Ravelry for all projects – no membership is required to see them. Info is there on yarn, patterns, and how long each project took me to complete. I have photos of everything in Ravelry, but some of them aren’t really very good, so I won’t include those here.

  • Aisling vest
  • Branching Path cowl
  • Pinot wine cozy – this one is my own pattern
  • Follow Your Arrow shawl – This one was from Ysolda Teague’s second mystery knit along, where there are two options for each of five “clues” – meaning you get a new section of the pattern once a week for 5 weeks, but there are two choices each time, so there are 32 different ways the shawl can be knit up – more, if you include more than one color. THe thing I dislike about knit-alongs is the idea of ending up with the same item as everyone else, so this is a good way for me to do one.
  • arrow

  • Char gloves – for Ted. THese were a pain to knit and I’m going to need to pull out the ends of the fingers and redo them to make them longer. Blah.
  • Gradient Infuscation – for Mechaieh. I wish I did have a better picture of this one, because it came out beautifully in the gradient yarn that shaded from teal to violet, but unfortunately I forgot to take a picture after blocking and before shipping.
  • Green Sprout – baby hat for a gestating coworker. My own pattern.
  • Wildwood Utility socks – knitting while hiking doesn’t actually work out all that well, it turns out. But the socks came out nicely in the end.
  • wildwood

  • Colorsparks socks – these turned out to be harder to knit than I expected; the patten wasn’t very complex, but the problem was that I had to look to see where I was in the stitch pattern, not once but on each separate section of every row. Annoying. I do think the pattern shows off the variegated yarn well, though.
  • colorsparks

  • Beachglass cardi: FInished Saturday, blocked yesterday, looking forward to wearing it tomorrow. I love the way the colors came out, and it’s gorgeously soft – perfect for wearing in summer over a tank top.
  • beachglass

    I have another pair of socks on the needles (literally – knitting two at a time), but I need to start something else because I have some upcoming travel that I’ll need a knitting project for, but I’ve just finished the heel on these and don’t have too much further to go.

reunions out the kazoo!

by dichroic in daily updates

I do think five reunions in one year is a bit much. We had the one from Ted’s college friends in November in New Orleans; the one from my high school in January in Philadelphia; the one from my dad’s family in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago; the one from Ted’s dad’s family in southern Oregon in a couple weeks; and now we’ve been invited to one from Ted’s mom’s family in DC in September. I don’t think we’re going to be able to get to that one! Too bad, because we’d be seeing the cousins we really like. (The cousins I really like on my side were at my family’s reunions, but the people there basically broke down to my immediate family; three sisters and their family; and one other aunt. So I got plenty of time to talk to the aunt, whom I also like a lot, but of course the three sisters were mostly interested in spending time together. Oh well.)

award processes are hard even when they work well

by dichroic in books

Very glad I don’t have to vote for this year’s World Fantasy Awards! Here’s the Best Novels slate:


  • Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor (Tor Books)
  • Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs (Broadway Books/Jo Fletcher Books)
  • David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks (Random House/Sceptre UK)
  • Jeff VanderMeer, Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux Originals)
  • Jo Walton, My Real Children (Tor Books US/Corsair UK)

I’ve only read two of those, the first and last, but I’m damned if I could choose between them!

non-minimal packing

by dichroic in daily updates, travel

I thought I was doing well because everything fit in my backpack but Rebeccmeister’s packing list for her trip to Seattle now has me thinking that, as usual, I’ve probably overpacked for my four days in Philadelphia. At present, I have

knit dress
3 t-shirts (blue sleeveless, black ballet-neck, I forget what else)
knit skirt
jean shorts
sari silk skirt
shorts and top to work out in
bathing suit
one pair shoes (I will wear sneakers on the plane)
plus my knitting, Kindle, iPad, phone, chargers, etc

I wasn’t going to bring the sari skirt, but it arrived a couple days ago and is just too cool *not* to bring. As it can be a skirt, top, or even shawl, maybe I can ditch one t-shirt and either the skirt or shorts. I wish I could have the cardigan I’m knitting done and ready to wear, because it would be just right for this trip, but it still needs sleeves and edging. I could take it as my knitting project, but I have a pair of socks started that are much smaller to pack.

I’m really, really not good at minimal packing – part of that is just that I like clothes, like having options, and don’t like wearing the same thing for multiple days. I don’t feel freer when I have less stuff – I just feel constrained by my stuff’s limitations. I still need to put my purse and electronics into my pack, but I don’t think it will be overstuffed. Also, Ted’s decided to check a suitcase, because he wants to bring the good (SLR) camera instead of just using iPhones. So I can put my toiletries in there and not have to worry about digging them out for airport security, and there’s room for my shoes and probably a bunch of my other stuff too, if I don’t feel like carrying it.