15 January - 20 February 2004

At the top of the list for this letter is a report on my web site project. I have been spending a lot of time, about 20 - 30 hours a week, doing the revamping or learning how to do the revamping. I completed the reformatting of Letters from Bulgaria, Letters from Reno - 1999 and the first four Letters from Japan and then didn't like what I had done. The pages with just text on them were "OK" but not really what I wanted. The bigger problem came when I tried to incorporate the pictures that I have on the site now into the reformatted Letters. To accomplish this I spent about two weeks trying to teach myself how to do tables in HTML and got two of the pages, with pictures, to look "kind of OK" - but was not happy with the results. I then spent another week trying to learn how to write HTML with CSS to give me the "style" that I wanted for the pages. I finally put together the page format that this letter is using and the Photo Pages have a similar appearance. The pages are written using HTML and linked to a CSS "style' sheet. What this allows me to do is control the background, paragraph indentations and font appearance of all the pages by making a change only on the CSS sheet. Very slick! However, most of the really slick stuff that you can do with CSS is a problem for many of the older browsers that people are now using. Therefore I have used it in a very limited way at this time. I have completed the reformatting of all the letters on my site to this new format. The next steps are to redesign the Letter Index Page as a Site Map and develop a new Home Page. I have also upgraded my laptop with an additional 128MG of RAM and can now connect a photo scanner to it. Once I learn how to use it, I'll get all my pictures scanned onto the site and then linked to the appropriate Letters and viewable as a photo album if desired. The project has kind of taken on a life of its' own and has become much larger than I originally planned. If you "surf" the site you can see my progress, or lack thereof, and I welcome your comments. Please, if you find any link that isn't working it would help me a lot if you tell me what page had the problem.

The teardrop trailer project is moving along but very slowly. It has taken 10 weeks to get the wheels. It seems that it takes longer to get a set of 2 than it does a set of 4. However, I have finally received them and have mounted tires on them. I am now planning on delivering them to the builder on March 6th. I am anticipating that the build will then also move along very slowly if my experience with the builder so far is any indication. He is very slow in responding to any e-mail correspondence. Maybe I shouldn't say he is slow; he doesn't respond at all, his wife does and she is slow. I'll tell you more about the trailer and my trip to make the wheel delivery in my next letter.

The other pending project, modified taillights for Cousin MINI, is becoming a mini series. I have received an e-mail about once a month since October that says that they are almost ready or will be ready soon or some other encouraging words. However, they are NOT ready and I hesitate to even guess when they might be. The builder of those is also a "telephone person" rather than an e-mail user so he has given me a lot of practice in waiting for information. This should help me a lot in dealing with the trailer build process. Maybe I'll have more information by the time I write my next letter.

At the urging of the MINI owner that has replaced 6 of them, I contacted the MINI USA Customer Relations guy that he has been talking to about cracked windscreens. It turns out that the contact is actually with BMW North America and not MINI USA. He differs from MINI USA also by providing straightforward responses versus "feel good" replies. Even though they are more straightforward that doesn't mean the replies have any greater value to them. He said that there would be a "higher tensile strength" windscreen available in mid-February and that didn't happen. In one of his replies, he also asked me to send him pictures of my windscreen. I don't have a digital camera but got a fellow here at work to take some pictures with his. He did some very close-up shots to show the tiny pit, as well as the crack, and each picture was about 2MG in size. Therefore, when I tried to attach them to an e-mail with my laptop at home they would not attach and I had to use the office computer on Sunday to get them attached and sent. I can only assume that the BMW rep got them, I haven't heard a word since I sent them. I'm to contact him again prior to my taking the car in for service, at that time the dealer will make a determination if the windscreen is covered under warranty or not. That won't be until sometime in March or April and I'll be reporting on the outcome of the visit. I'm of the opinion now that warranty replacement will be denied. There is growing owner dissatisfaction, and anger, regarding how MINI/BMW is handling the windscreen-cracking problem. Maybe by April they will change their position and actually try to correct the problem versus deny that there is one.