Mildly Amusing Musings & Some Photographs

Posts tagged “mini

Let’s Have a Party! Wooooooo!

(C) Conn!

Pictured here is Wanda Jackson at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, NJ on August 25, 2012.

This is one of the first photos I edited with my new computer & Lightroom 4.  Phase One of Operation Conn! has begun.  My old pc decided he wasn’t going to connect with our new internet provider so I took him for a checkup.  Said checkup revealed that his capacitors were dying.  The technician said I may have a few more weeks without glitches or a few months.  His last upgrade was about 15 years ago & there was also no easy way to revamp his system to make way for the extra speed & power a new camera will require.  Despite knowing that a mac or at least a laptop would be more practical, I opted for a touchscreen desktop HP.  I waited nearly a week to disconnect my old pal, buy Lightroom, and hook up my new friend.  My old friend served me well & I still didn’t throw him out.  I left him just where he has been for the past 15 years & set up the new pc in front of him.

Prior to the upgrade, Photoshop Elements 5 was my editing program but I kept reading about Lightroom 4 & how great it was so I made sure it was my first purchase (especially when I heard Wanda was coming to town).  I meant to write immediately to document my return to the future (or at least the today) but, of course, I didn’t so now I am writing as a fly has landed on my screen & continues to mess with my typing & as I have 400 photos open in LR waiting to be edited.  400?!  That is insane.  I used to only be able to open about 20 at a time.  With a week of LR editing behind me now, I definitely do not hate it the way I did on first use.  I still dislike that simple terms like “open,” “save” & “close” are “import,” “export” & “delete” in LR.  I also dislike not being able to add text or multiple layers but I now have Elements 10 to take care of that.  I am fairly certain that all sounds pretty amateur to whomever is still reading & didn’t stop when I kept referring to my old pc as a him or didn’t stop at the mere mention of *GASP* editing photos on a pc!

What else is new?


I LOVE Gaslight Anthem’s new album, “Handwritten” & cannot stop listening to it. I am currently eating a Fruit Roll Up.  Despite not watching them, the Olympics did what they have done to me every fourth summer since I was little; they made me start swimming laps again.  I broke my second lawnmower of the summer & had to weedwhack the entire lawn.  I ordered new red boots for my Wonder Woman costume.  addicted to “Entourage” & watched the whole series in less than two weeks & have not stopped watching for over a month.   I do not blog often enough but did start an Instagram to also not keep up to date.

That is about all.  I am hoping Phase Two, buying a new camera, begins within the next few weeks.  I am definitely leaning toward the Canon 5D MkIII but the Nikon D800 is also an option.  I will have to weigh the cost of lenses & batteries for both.

Oh, that isn’t all!  I love Wanda Jackson.  She rocked my socks off.


Flava in Ya Ear – May 15, 2012

I just uploaded my pictures to ADAY.ORG for their worldwide photo project.  The goal was to capture your daily life in ten photos shot on May 15, 2012.  I worked that day but I also had to to take Big Papi to Mini to have his power steering replaced.

My loaner was a 2012 Mini Countryman.  I loved the color & the SiriusXM.  I didn’t have anyone with me to take advantage of the extra roomy backseats but they looked really nice.   There was a sunroof for the front & a moon roof for the rear but I still prefer the full convertible.

Most of the day was grey & rainy & my workload was so spread out that I didn’t have much time during work to shoot anything outside of my route.  Around noon, I decided to take advantage of the loaner Mini’s SiriusXM radio & I started shooting what I was listening to as well as a photo of what was outside at that time.  Syncing the photos to the radio photos was a task I would never complete in a timely fashion & I couldn’t find just ten that worked well for the project.   This made me miss SiriusXM & it also made me want a radio that displayed all the titles of what I listen to.  I suppose an iPod would work too but I liked the idea of selecting from 100+ stations that I didn’t control.  I did take a break from the radio for a little bit to re-take the “There’s A Law” shot I missed last time I had a loaner.

Subsequently, I tested some of the other CDs I had with me to see which would register the song titles.  Besides those few, here is what I listened to May 15 between 11:57am & 6:13pm when I returned the loaner.

I wound up not getting the power steering repaired because they saw my brakes & tires as a bigger safety issue & I just couldn’t afford both.  Big Papi & I are in a very abusive relationship.  Whenever something breaks, I feel like I should sell him & get something cheaper to fix but then I see him & drop his top & our love affair continues…

I really love my expensive, little buddy. His brakes, two tires, a belt and an oil change came to $1100.  The power steering & new related hoses will be in excess of $1500 but they said I can’t damage it anymore than it already is & I can continue to drive him without power steering.  K turns are now Super Triple W turns but otherwise I almost prefer the tighter steering & my arms really could use the workout.  Already the driving muscles I used to have from driving the Dart are coming back.  I wish the Dart would come back too.

“Steer as we drove through town…”

Whenever I write something good about Big Papi, he breaks.  The day after I posted about his newly tweaked transmission, his windshield was struck by a pebble & cracked for the third time. The first time I paid $11oo to have Mini change it.  The last time, in October, I had someone come to my house & it was less than $300.  I will now wait until October 2014 when he needs another inspection.  In the meantime, on Thursday, my power steering stopped working.

I had been hearing a whirring noise & thought one of my belts was wet.  With the music turned up, I could barely notice it.  Then, the whirring stopped in the middle of a turn & the wheel didn’t turn with ease.  Our old Dart (that I miss terribly every single day & can be seen in several quick shots of “Summer of Sam” & “The Hurricane”) was manual steering but there’s something about a power steering failure that is much more difficult than manual steering 🙂  I called Mini because the manual (ha, different manual) didn’t say where the power steering fluid was.  The service manager directed me and, when I saw it was low, I said “So, I could just go to Autozone & get some?”  “NOOOO!  You have to get the right kind.  Find a BMW dealership.”  Fortunately, I was less than two miles from the nearest one.  So, when I work, I don’t give a crap what I look like.  I have work boots, a big oversized blue, dirty trench coat, a pink “Hilfiger” thermal shirt that my sister in law prompted my mom to buy for me at an outlet one Christmas, no makeup, unkempt hair… & I had to go into BMW with the fancies & their polo shirts.  I told the “valet” (his job is to direct people.  That is all he seemingly does –  tell people where to go for what they need) that I needed to buy transmission fluid for my Mini.  I held up the post-it note with what kind I needed.  15 minutes later he comes back & says, yeah I finally found our guy who works on Minis.  You need to go to the parts desk & get it.  The parts desk, which was not labeled, was 20 feet away.  My only issue with the wait is that I need to finish working & I need to get my gross, ugly self away from the ostentatiously beautiful BMW’s all around me.  She goes to get it & it is $45.  I laughed.  Part of me expected it to be $100 (because it retails for about $25 & they deserve to make a profit) & the other part of me was really hoping my bank card went through.   I then hit up their “free” Starbucks coffee machine.  I leave the coffee in the car & open the hood.  Immediately, I drop the power steering cap under the hood.  It Plinkos down, almost getting stuck near the hot engine before plummeting to a stop under the car.  Dead center.  Because the Mini is so low, I had to get completely on the ground to reach under.  At this point, I am laughing uncontrollably.  What else could happen?  I open the special German fluid & I guess it is really full (which it should be for $45) & I must have squeezed it because the green oil explodes all over me.  I poured it in, tried to wipe off the excess with the non-absorbent paper towels from the Starbucks bar & wiped a hand on my pants so I could go back inside & wash up.  All of this occurred in front of that gorgeous $92,000 automobile.  I have no desire to own a Louis Vitton purse or other wearable eccentricities but I will always have yearnings for beautiful convertibles.

The whirring continued after I added the fluid so I decided to do some quick research on Mini’s & power steering.  Hurray!  Power steering failure is just another of the premature mechanical failures common to the earlier, new Mini Coopers.  The fan eventually stopped completely, along with the power steering.  VERY long story short, my arms had a good workout for the rest of the day.  K turns became triple W turns – 8 maneuvers minimum.  The Mini service manager never called me back so I did some research & contemplated removing the pump myself to clean it but then saw that it may be the rack & got concerned that I would fuck it all up.  I also considered continuing to drive it anyway because my arms are really fat & need a workout BUT that too could cause a bigger problem so I left Big Papi at the repair shop up the street this morning.  I can only imagine what this will cost. I also need two new tires & brakes really soon & a new windshield for the PT Cruiser.  Oh cars.  They were so much easier to deal with when my dad was alive.  As the manager of a body shop, favors were more easily traded & there was far less of a chance that my service would be compromised by the fact that I am female.

In other news, and as a plea for a new dad, I fixed the lawn mower today.  It wouldn’t start so I came inside to see if I could troubleshoot it online.  In each of the three discussions I found, what started as people asking questions about how to get their mowers started ended in lectures for and against using hand powered push mowers.  I am all for not polluting the environment but people who are asking for help repairing their mowers are probably doing so in an attempt to not buy another mower.  So, how did I fix it?  I sprayed a dab of WD-40 on it (which certainly did nothing) & tipped it over to look at the blades (to see if something was stuck).  When I returned it to upright position, gas started pouring out of the primer button.  This must have moved the stale, sat all winter gas out of the way & it started.  I should probably make sure it isn’t still leaking.  That would be bad.

“I’m a loner, Dottie, a rebel…”

On November 22, my beloved Big Papi was rear ended.  Four & a half months later, the insurance company & direct repair shop (who will remain nameless until a later post) finally arranged for me to take him to Mini myself to get his backup sensors & trunk latch fixed properly.  I was told by the insurance company that “inconveniences are to be expected when you’re in an accident,” but this has been a total nightmare.  Luckily, a trunk light that constantly turns the interior lights on & off is “not a safety hazard that prevents you from driving.”

Big Papi is a 2005 Mini Cooper convertible.   He has some pretty big issues with his CVT transmission.  Every 10,000 miles, he needs to have it adjusted.  Unfortunately, due to poor timing & being poor, I let it get to the point where he could barely drive 45mph.  Shifting into the manual mode, I could sometimes get up to higher speeds but downshifting was a 50/50 chance of a jolting trip to 6000+RPM.   This leads to the only positive experience of the car accident – I was forced to take Big Papi to Mini of Monmouth.  Since they opened, I had wanted to give them a try but it is often more important for me to be editing when I am not working & I could get by driving 45mph most of the time.

I was a little worried that Mini of Monmouth would not be as great as Princeton Mini.   I thought maybe Mini stopped trying now that so many non-waving, boring people were driving Mini Coopers.  Even their advertising is not as fun.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the staff at Mini of Monmouth was equally awesome.  I dropped my car off around 9:30 & received a call less than four hours later to say that Big Papi was ready.  Part of me was a little disappointed because I wanted to test the 2012, take nice pictures of it & write a review.   Because I was working, the nice pictures didn’t really happen & I didn’t get to experience the Mini at night, but here are some mostly cosmetic notes on my six hour drive.

I loved the fun paint on the loaner & was really glad that the Countryman body has not become the only body style.  I think it looks like a Subaru & lacks the charm of the regular Mini Cooper.

I love the orange eyeballs in the headlight eyes & the second set of eyes in the parking lights.

Super cute tail lights too.

I want one of these.   Overall, I approve of the exterior.

The seat controls are still lacking a bit.  I hate that the back adjustment faces the center console.  It is really inconvenient to get your hand in there without jamming your knuckles.  Maybe the non-base models have power seat controls?

The windows have a power down & power up which would be a decent feature if it wasn’t quite so difficult to get it to stay about 3/4 open.   Also, while the location of the cup holders is a bit better than the 2006, there really isn’t much room for a big drink still.  Anything taller than this would have made it really difficult to operate the windows.  There is another cup holder behind the center console but I learned that it isn’t good for cans.   Also, the side/door pockets don’t have as much room as the 2006.  I could barely fit a few CDs in it.  (Yeah, sorry, I don’t have an iPod.)

Ahhhhh, a defroster that doesn’t require super-loud high power defrosting only.  In theory, since I didn’t actually need a defroster today, this is a huge improvement over the 2006.

The round key & push button start took a little getting used to.  When I first tried to start it, I had no idea I needed to put my foot on the brake so I sat there basically turning the radio on & off.  This criticism is for all car manufacturers who have opted to alter the wasn’t-broken-don’t-need-to-fix-it standard turnkey ignition.  Who decided that the motion of turning a key was just too much work?  Instead of letting your designers gadget up something like that, how about working on the mechanical aspects & improving fuel efficiency?  Oh never mind, I saw “Who Killed the Electric Car?”  It is much more important to have a key that doesn’t need to be in the ignition (Audi) or a car that parks itself (Lexus).  If you can’t park your car, you shouldn’t be driving.

On to the slightly less cosmetic…  I didn’t have nearly enough time on the highway but I made the most of my 2.8 miles of speeding.  If the police ask, this was photoshopped.   I was only trying to catch up with the car that passed me.  I like the large speedometer & the 2012’s ability to kick some ass quickly but found the gas indicator a little distracting.

I nearly failed to mention that I hate the new turn signal/directional.  It doesn’t stay clicked in position until you turn or turn it off yourself after a lane change.  It was very hard to figure out if it was on.  Turn signals too were fine the way they were.

Before I found out my car was ready, I was listening to NPR so I didn’t realize the radio displayed the song titles.  I love that.  If I knew it was there, I would have put on “There’s a Law” so that there’d be some irony in breaking the law.  By the way, I was listening to The Disciplines.  You should too.  I don’t think this stereo was as good as the Harman-Kardon though.  At loud volumes, there was quite a bit of distortion.  At times, I felt a little like the people I make fun of for having a stereo so bass-y that it shakes the plastic aftermarket body kit.  I also dislike that the radio buttons aren’t numbered & there was no quick way to switch between a CD & the radio.

None of these cosmetic issues I had outweighed the fact that it was indeed fun to drive.  Add in the nice people at Ray Catena Mini of Monmouth & I found myself falling back in love with the Mini Cooper brand.  When I picked up Big Papi, I was happy to see that they gave him a bath.  Also, I can now back up without beeping, open & close my trunk without lights coming on AND, the best part, drive over 45mph!  Separate from the insurance company’s bill, I had them adjust the transmission.  My buddy is back!!!!  Now, when people ask me how I like my Mini, I can once again tell them just good things.

This is the radio I love AND the super cool plastic window/lock overlay that they should reissue because mine is cracked.  I prefer that new climate control though.

A very big thanks to Steve at Mini of Monmouth.  I’ll be back for an oil change soon.

Big Papi – The end of my love affair with my Mini?

I wrote this in February after having the Mini serviced.  I forgot to post it apparently.  Ooops.

My dad was the manager of a body shop.  He worked there for 44 years 8am-5pm, staying later & working weekends on his own restorations.  The first restoration I remember was the 1941 Dodge.  We met Cousin Brucie & The Duprees in that car.  I thought that was a big deal.  The next one was one of my favorites, a 1957 Nash Metropolitan

 followed by my “Blue Hawaii” MG. 

From there, the cars got smaller & stranger – BMW Isettas, a King Midget, a Messerschmitt, et. al.   When he got sick, he liquidated his collection to pay his medical bills.  He also took some of the cash to buy a Mini.  In October of 2005, he bought an ’05 Mini Cooper convertible.  When he died, my family convinced me that he had bought it with me in mind.  It took a few months, but I eventually caved in & began driving it regularly, leaving my ailing Sebring on the sidelines.  Fresh off a trip to the World Baseball Classic, I named him Big Papi.  

Once I got over my fear of breaking him, I dreamt of driving him to exotic places, cruising Route 66 with the top down, taking part in an entire Mini Takes the States Tour… Ahhh,a new car… Based on my previous habits of driving already worn cars into the ground, I figured I had a good 100,000 worry free miles.  Such was not the case.  Every 10,000 miles, I have had to have the CVT transmission reset because it doesn’t kick into the next gear.  When it happens, I feel like I am in “Speed.”      I can drive up to 48mph or over 65mph.  Anything in between comes really close to the redline.  This wasn’t as much of a problem when I was under warranty but I’m at 70K miles now.  The increased RPMs make the engine hotter causing me to have the thermostat replaced in October.   Long story short, I was told that the demise of my transmission is imminent & my best bet would be to trade him in.  For what?  I don’t want any part of a different Mini.  I have never not had a convertible, but a bigger vehicle would be better for hauling band equipment since mom’s PT Cuiser has surpassed 80,000 miles.  A car payment would severely impede on my desires to get a new video camera & upgrade other equipment.   AND, this says nothing of the fact that Big Papi represents all of the blood, sweat & tears that were the cars that were sold for so much less than they were worth in order to buy him.  Do I take my chances & keep driving him, hoping that the transmission won’t leave me stranded somewhere?  Or do I take him to some shady dealership where they will give me $5000?  Mini Cooper, I am so disappointed that you were not even remotely serious when you said “Let’s Motor.”  For $25,000, I would expect a car to last longer than 70,000 miles.  There are almost 29 pages of similar & worse complaints on consumer affairs & it is quite obvious that almost every one of them is from someone who loves their Mini as much if not more than I do.  I am sad.  I am also going to have to deal with my brother saying “I told you so” because he told me last year that I would not be able to afford the maintenance.

So, I just surpassed 78,000 miles & I feel the transmission starting to slip again but we had a really great day yesterday.  We drove back roads of NJ that I never knew existed.  Long stretches of tree canopied, narrow, sloping roads and long straight paths bordered by farms.   Top down, good music playing…  The hot sun made cool by the breezes… THAT’s driving 🙂

Driving into spring…

I would much rather sit and mess around with pictures or watch a movie than take the time to update this so here are some Jan/Feb driving shots mixed with some fixed shots from “the shore.” 

I had a terrible headache the other night & didn’t feel like doing much so I decided to play with some pictures.  This started off as a black & white photo.  I was originally going to just paint color onto the sign. Then, I wanted to paint the car.  Then, I got lost in my head & wound up with this.  I wish my license plate really was a pair of lips.

SAPCC # 40 – Traffic AKA – Why the auto industry is failing (PT 1)

My best friend & I used to play a game called “mine.”  When we were driving around, we would point out the nicest cars on the road and claim them as ours by shouting “mine.”  She usually opted for Mercedes & BMW while I tended to call the convertibles.  The real fight was over the finer convertibles.  This may have been a little over ten years ago when we were first hitting the road.  We don’t drive together much anymore but even if we did, I do not think we could play this game, and not because we have outgrown it, but because America changed how it purchases automobiles.   Remember when the Neon came out?  The roads were flooded with them but where are they now?  Today, I am intersecting my traffic shots with my commentary on what went wrong with the American auto industry.


Yes, I enhanced the dullness on today’s highways by lowering the contrast but I probably did not even have to.  Pleasant shades of metallic slate, torrid taupe, blazing black, witty white… BORING!   My father could tell you what kind of car was approaching just by seeing the shape of its headlights or tail lights (as long as the car was made before 1988 or so).  There is such little difference in cars today and there is such a great abundance of newer cars.  Like most products, cars seem to be disposable.  “Our lease is up… Time to get a new one.”  How many crappy looking older cars do you see on the road?  Not nearly as many as there used to be.  The supermarket near my boyfriend’s house is on theborder of Newark.  Even those of you outside of NJ might know that Newark is not the wealthiest area.  The parking lot is full of new cars though.  How does the working poor afford these cars?  How did America succumb to the “keeping up with the Joneses?”  Is it the car makers’ fault for not making quality products or is it their fault for “No money down, no payments for a year, no interest?”  I will be polite & attribute some of this to cars being manufactured in a more rust retardant manner with higher quality paints that do not flake or wear as easily.  However, look at the above shot.  Would you shout “mine” at any of those cars?  There is one slightly older Mercedes three cars in from the left.  I might call that one but even the Mercedes in front of me gets lost in a sea of sameness.   When the Lincoln Navigator came out, it was the first SUV that I my have called and that was only because of the chrome-esque gill on front.  The same holds true for the Dodge Ram pickup.  Both had big powerful grills that have since been streamlined.   Where are the creative auto makers?  The futuristic cars of the 50’s were more “modern” in appearance than the ones today. 

I have found a few exceptions to the yawn fest of today’s cars. (These are archived shots from various dates)


I love this PT Cruiser.  It is the first “new” car my family ever purchased.  Even we fell victim to the “buy new” craze, I suppose.  This car has been to Florida four times, Tennessee, Texas, Canada… He gets around.  He can fit an entire drumset, an amp, three guitars & two or three people.  Besides his practicality, he has a retro appeal.  I think my dad wanted this because it was an affordable, practical approximation of a hot rod.  However, it never really caught on.  I think Chrysler dropped the ball when they didn’t market this to surfers and young people.  I offered them a commercial idea involving Snowball 37 but they replied by saying that the marketing was handled by an outside firm. Hmmm… big mistake, Chrysler.


Ahhh…. Big Papi.  He was the second new car my family purchased.  I love Big Papi but I still want to paint him pink.  Also, he is a 2005 but the newer models are sleeker.  I hope Mini does not continue on that trend or future models will be just as indistinguishable as the array of  Toyotas & Hondas. 


Oh, the Challenger.  Once again, Chrysler has appealled to my love of old cars.  I cannot see this car on the road and not let out a giant “GRRRRRR.”  However, once again, Chrysler dropped the ball in marketing.  The Challenger costs less than a Corvette & is way cooler.   Where is that commercial?  Also, it is not completely fuel inefficient.  I bet it is fun to drive too. 

The new Camaro is also cool but I do not see them anywhere (except in “Transformers”).   I am also digging the new Edge.  I like the wrap around window, but I have only seen the commercial.  I may take that back when I see it in person. 

(End of archive photos)

I have preached enough for today.  Here are some more traffic shots.


Oops, that is why I cannot shoot at F22 – dust in the lens or inside.  Oops. 


Above & below – on our way to Brooklyn for a Snowball 37 show.  Luckily, I had the “traffic” assignment to keep me from getting angry about the wait.  Technically, the traffic wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  PS I see a Mini in that sea of doldrums above.


My personal favorite is the one below.  The “traffic” in this shot is on the left side headed south for the weekend, but it was the clouds that attracted me.  Most of my driving shots are of the scenes around me and not other cars.  There isn’t much on the road worth shooting. 


See other SAPCCers who got stuck in traffic: