Noodler’s Blue Ghost is a “bulletproof” invisible ink. Once it is dry, it is nearly permanent, meant to be impervious to water and bleach. It glows under a black light, which makes for what I think is a really interesting ink. Maybe not extremely practical, but lots of fun. Typical uses include writing letters to little kids who are excited to read “secret messages”. Other suggested uses include watermarks, password lists, and private annotation on documents.

Originally, I used Blue Ghost in my Lamy Vista F nib with Z24 converter. I previously put an ink not meant for fountain pens in it, and I think there is some residual particulates stuck in the section. I learned three things here:

  1. make sure to only use fountain pen inks in fountain pens.
  2. Notes written with Blue Ghost are quite legible using a Lamy F nib (which is fairly broad for its demarcation).
  3. Consider having a dedicated pen for this ink.

So, I decided to order an inexpensive Pilot Penmanship with EF nib from JetPens. Some people say Blue Ghost does better with a broader nib, so I was interested to see how it performed.

Blue Ghost is actually decently legible in a dark room with a black light using the very extra-fine Penmanship. However, something slightly broader like the Lamy F nib is plenty wide to easily read this ink.

All in all, I don’t use this ink often, but it is lots of fun to use and show off. People that normally are not excited about pens get excited with this ink.

This is my way-ahead-of-time research and analysis on what my next vehicle should be. It basically come down to Volkswagen GTI vs. TDI.

When I was in high school, I learned to drive on my mom’s 1999 Volkswagen Jetta Wolfsburg Edition. It had a manual transmission, which I originally hated, especially at that stoplight at the top of an incline. Over time, I learned to love driving that car, and even in stop-and-go traffic, it wasn’t a nuisance. It would have been my car, but it died a few months before I started college.

Instead, my dad kindly gave me his 1999 Toyota Avalon XL. It’s brown inside and out, nice and roomy for when I transport friends, and achieves the North American sedan average of about 21 MPG. It’s a nice reliable car, but it is at a stage in its life when it demands things to be repaired and replaced — like struts and window regulator assemblies. Nevertheless, I want to keep it for several more years to avoid monthly car payments.

Meanwhile, the plan is to save for a healthy down payment on a new car; even better, I would love to save up the full cost of a car. Here are some things I’m considering:

  • would love to drive a VW again
  • I want an improvement in gas mileage
  • must be 4 doors
  • I miss driving a manual
  • long-term maintenance costs

Volkswagen, really?

‘Be careful with Volkswagens,’ my friends tell me. ‘They look nice and handle well, but they are unreliable.’ In my experience, though, this is not the case. The first issue we had with our ’99 Jetta was well after 100,000 miles — a reservoir cracked. Afterward, we had one or two issues with sensors and the driver’s side power window. Finally, around 199,000 miles, the clutch went out. Overall, I’d say the beloved Jetta fared well.

Fuel Mileage

Honestly, almost anything available today is an improvement over 21 MPG. At least, there are more options available with better fuel mileage. However, the Volkswagen GTI is not one of them. It is EPA rated to achieve 21 city MPG and 31 highway MPG. But technically (okay, maybe just if I rationalize), that is an improvement because it offers much better performance than my Avalon.

I have no interest in hybrids, but I’m open to the VW Golf TDI. It is EPA rated at 30 city MPG and 42 highway MPG. However, TDI-owning webizens say that once the diesel engine is broken in around 15,000 miles, it achieves somewhere around 50 MPG with mixed driving. Thus, a single tank offers a range closing in on 700 miles. Volkswagen claims that a pair of “mileage experts” achieved 84 MPG in a Passat TDI that was EPA rated for 43 MPG. Even though diesel fuel in the United States is more expensive than regular unleaded, the fuel cost per mile ends up being less than my Avalon.

Four Doors

I don’t have a family of my own, but I do regularly offer rides to friends. This is so often the case that a two-door car won’t cut it. Both the GTI and TDI are offered in a four door configuration. They’re compacts, and my friends won’t have ample legroom in the backseat, but maybe it is time Americans got used to smaller cars.

Transmission

I ended up loving to drive manual, and I regularly say I miss it while driving my slushbox Avalon. However, I primarily drive in a city, under which circumstances an automatic transmission is usually considered the smart choice. What to do, what to do?

It turns out that Volkswagen offers two transmissions on their Golfs: 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG (direct shift gearbox) automatic transmission. The 4-door TDI adds Tiptronic and Sport mode to the DSG transmission at all trim levels. The DSG offers superior shifting — many reports even considering it superior to a professional driver with a manual transmission. Sport mode, according to Wikipedia, causes the transmission to upshift at higher revolutions and maximizes engine braking. In the end, I can probably live with a DSG + Tiptronic transmission. This adds about $1,100 to the cost of the vehicle.

Maintenance

Oil changes are necessary every 10,000 miles, but it appears that they are simple enough to do yourself, as long as you have the right oil, which appears to run around $8 per liter.

If you choose the DSG transmission, fluid changes must be done every 40,000 miles and run anywhere from $250 to $400. 

My Personal Conclusion

Moving from a Toyota Avalon from over 10 years ago, either VW would be a marked improvement. However, I am strongly in favor of a 4-door Golf TDI with DSG transmission. I am still undecided on whether to stay at the standard trim level or spring for the Tech package.

There’s a great amount of convenience associated with buying online. No lines, greater selection, no driving around from store to store, hoping to find what is inevitably out of stock.

But sometimes, it means waiting for something for days and days – unless, of course, you choose to pay crazy next-day shipping prices (or maybe cough up $80 a year for Amazon Prime). Then, finding something locally is so much better. It seems, though, that finding whatever you’re looking for in local stores is difficult.

The latest example of this, for me, was after my decision to purchase a Sodastream Crystal. This particular model is the next most expensive Sodastream after the Penguin, which is exclusive to Williams-Sonoma and prone to breaking. Neither it, nor the glass carafes it uses, were available at any of the retail locations that offer Sodastream products in my city (including Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, and Walmart).

I tried to buy locally, and I couldn’t. Retail chains are concerned about the viability of their physical locations, yet their inventory is sorely lacking. So I went to Amazon, of whom everyone is afraid. And there’s no sign of this stopping.