Nearly a year ago, I alluded to an Epic Undertaking of Stupidity, the likes of which entire multi-cultural pantheons of gods, goddesses, demons, and false idols alike had never seen.
This Epic Undertaking was to involve me, a metric ass-ton of wood, and a smattering of sharp objects, power tools, and possibly even a chain saw.
This Epic Undertaking screamed “BAD IDEA!” from atop the highest peak of the mountain of Idiocy. And yet, with equal gusto, I bellowed back “SIGN ME UP!” just as any self-respecting individual with the word “Spazz” in their name ought to do.
And now, at long last, the Epic Undertaking of Stupidity has begun.
My previous Profoundly Nerdy Academic Undertaking ended prematurely, but thankfully resulted in a Profoundly Nerdy and Very Well Paying Day Job that now acts as an enabler to my increasingly terrible (read: awesome) ideas. In other words, I quit grad school and got a real job, and now I can afford to buy a metric ass-ton of basswood.
So I did.
And it weighs a bazillion pounds.
(Note to self: carousel horses are REALLY HEAVY.)
I also managed to successfully scale up my first sketch from notebook size to real-life carousel size. My clever little self bogarted a projector in one of the conference rooms after hours and traced the drawing onto an enormous sheet of paper.
The next step is to rough out the head with my bandsaw (see previous entry on the Epic Bandsaw Adventure, featuring Libosaurus) and composite the wood into a block that is roughly the size of a small horse’s head.
Stay tuned for more installments of Happy Fun Adventure Time with your host T-Spazz! If you want to check out the highlight reel, tune in to picycle.wordpress.com. But if you prefer the behind-the-scenes bloopers, don’t touch that dial: We got all the Bad Ideas you could ever need, right here.
Sitting in a coffee shop with my co-conspirator T-Spazz. I’ve never been to an open mic night before, and we haven’t even been here an hour, yet I’m sitting here about to buy a cheap ukulele on my cell phone.
I might have a problem.
I don’t really know how to rate the importance of the items required to work on a car, but I imagine that no matter what scale you use, tools rank fairly high. Proper tools, sure, that sounds great. Tools adequate to do the job, also great! Any tools, really.
Tools were an issue from the get-go on day two of my great automotive adventure.
As you may recall, we left off with removing the center console trim and then intrepidly taking a break. Spirits were high, the success rate higher, and I had far too much confidence to go ruining it with continuing the project. It was crucial that I remain overconfident in my meager skills for an evening. “Why yes,” my intolerable air of smugness seemed to say. “Yes I CAN remove all the bits of trim from around my shifter and cupholder. That’s right, all THREE of them. And the two corresponding screws!”
The first thing to do on Day Two was to remove the two screws that hold the instrument panel in place. “No problem,” the thought flitted bravely through my impulsive skull. “I have a screwdriver.”
That was a stupid thought.
Thanks to space constraints and the tight angle of approach, my normal phillips screwdriver just couldn’t get purchase on the screw head. I knew just enough to not keep trying and strip the screw, so I abandoned that tool and toddled back inside for a short, stubby one.
Unsurprisingly, that didn’t help. The screwdriver was shorter, but not quite shorter enough. It still didn’t fit in the space available at the angle required. Why would a screwdriver be the right tool to remove screws? That’s madness.
Now, I could have removed the rest of the center console and made this easier, but I didn’t want to take that route. I’m a clever gal with a vast tool collection at my disposal, I was certain I could handle this. The screws have hex heads, which meant a ratcheting socket wrench would work perfectly, giving me a nice 90 degree angle so I’m not bumping the center console anymore. Easy peasy! Back down to the basement, fetch BOTH bags of appropriately sized socket drivers, just in case it is metric not SAE.
Not only was it SAE, I eyeballed the size of the driver spot on, first time. 5/16 fit exactly spot on. Of course, this renewed the palpable air of smugness, which is a surefire way to invite disaster.
And it did. The handle for the wrench was only sized for larger sockets. The little bitty socket I needed to use wouldn’t fit the handle, and I couldn’t find the other handle that I know must exist… somewhere. CRAP. Back downstairs we go to get a regular old wrench, because at this point that is the only tool in my possession that will manage to get a grip on this sucker.
I should note that my good buddy was “assisting” me by providing company and entertainment, and accompanying me on all of these trips to the basement and back. He was an incredibly good sport about it, and didn’t even mock me for my failure at tools.
The wrench worked a treat, although I only had enough room to turn it about 5 degrees each time. It took a while, but I got both screws loose enough to unscrew them with my fingers.
While I wasn’t watching the time, I estimate that this was at least 45 minutes to remove two screws. Car 1, libosaurus 0.
After that, it was relatively smooth sailing. Prying out the instrument panel was absolutely no trouble at all, it came out easily and with no casualties, plastic or otherwise.
A little bit of instruction reading, unscrewing, tugging, prying, instruction re-reading, aligning, re-re-reading, reassembling, and viola! New radio and trim installed into the panel. The only setback was my unreasonable fear of yanking off the AC control knobs, which I’m now over.
Soldering the wiring harness was awesomely fun, once I was reminded of how to solder properly. All the wires were matched up, soldered, and heat shrink tubing applied. That last was entertaining; we don’t have an appropriately sized heat gun, so I held the wires over the flame of a candle to shrink the tubing. It felt very old fashioned, like I was melting tallow over a candle or something equally non-mechanical.
So here I was, my wiring harness fully assembled, my stereo assembled. It was time to battle those damned screws again. Out to the car, insert the instrument panel into the space, and…. cursing ensues.
I’d somehow managed to not notice that I’d put the stereo bracket in upside-down, so it didn’t fit. That’s okay, not a huge setback. Take it apart, turn it around, screw it all together, and bob’s-your-uncle, its ready to go.
All things considered, this project could have gone far, far worse. I completed it in two days, with a minimum of screw-ups. I didn’t have to run out to buy anything unforeseen. My mishaps were all understandable from lack of experience. I even watched an instructional video and read the instructions when I was at a loss, instead of just forging blindly ahead. My car is now equipped with a new stereo!
…Now my only battle is trying not to buy another new one, as it turns out the controls on the one I bought actually suck. Alas! At least I now know it is a breeze to install one.
My vehicle is equipped with only the most outdated, antiquated of technologies for the auditory soothing of the senses, its capacity limited to radio waves and audio CDs. It might as well only be able to play Edison Cylinders, or have a Victrola mounted to the dash. Get with the times, 8 year old motorized contraption! Lasers are not cool enough to be The Future™ anymore.
To upgrade my poor old car from Junky Jalopy to Music Machine, I bought me a brand spanking new stereo with USB input, direct iPod/Pad/Phone control, and a spiffy multicolored display. Its purdy. The bracket and wiring harness arrived in the mail today, which means its time to start installation!
I’ve never done any work on my own car. Once, I replaced the headlights all on my own, and that was a Big Deal that I was very proud of. Even making it to the auto parts store to acquire bulbs was an accomplishment. I’ve never seen my car naked, stripped of its greasy, crumb-coated, coffee-stained trim. And yet I am embarking on a project which will involve removing the center console trim AND the entire instrument console from the center of the dash.
Destruction, not construction, has always been my area of expertise. But for this I would need finesse, patience, a firm yet gentle touch, and a careful following of procedure. None of these are my strong suits; my tool of choice is a sledgehammer or Sawzall and I don’t have the patience to read instructions fully. Or at all.
But I’m confident that I can do this just fine. Know why?
I watched a youtube video on how to do it.
I’m pretty sure the video skips some steps in the removal process, and at the end the stereo is magically back in place. In the glorious tradition of Chilton Auto Repair Manuals, the implication seems to be that Installation is the Reverse of Removal. Also, I only watched the video once. But I’m still pretty sure I can handle this.
My favorite part of the video is where the guy very confidently said: “I know it sounds like I’m breaking my car but don’t worry – its supposed to sound like that. And hey, if you mess it up, this trim piece is probably only like $10 anyways, don’t worry about it.”
Right on, man. Right on.
This wouldn’t be a Bad Idea without the maximum possible number of poorly thought out impulsive acts and distractions. So an hour before my work day was even over, I skipped out to go begin the process, fetched (some of) my tools, and headed out to the car. Yup, playing hooky to go work on my car. Bad. I then got distracted by the disturbingly filthy windshield that I’ve put off cleaning for 2 weeks now, and just had to take care of that first. WHAT?! Don’t look at me like that, it was mandatory. For serious.
My memories of the video were already fading to dim, dusty reel-too-reel silent films, the mustachioed villain cackling maniacally as he prods at the unseen metal tabs that hold the trim in place. Despite this, I managed to rig up my 3-in-one painter’s tool with tape just like in the video, and jumped in.
Amazingly, the first trim piece came out without an issue. The second piece put up a little more of a fight, and I ended up gouging the plastic. Luckily, on the inside where it cant be seen – no cosmetic damage, and shockingly no structural damage either.
At this point my cat, who had previously been sitting on the hood watching the whole ordeal with her usual air of detached interest, decided she had better come investigate more thoroughly.
The third piece – which was pretty much the whole center console – came out easily as well, with a lot of tugging and twisting and worrying bending of the plastic.
This tiny amount of success bolstered my confidence enough that it was time for a much needed break; the project has been abandoned at its very early stages in a state of disarray until I have enough time to do the stereo replacement in one fell swoop. The next step involves removing the switch for the hazard lights, which apparently renders the car undriveable. I’m not quite crazy enough to do that until I don’t need the car for a few days.
Interviewer Jim: Welcome back! With me today we have T-Spazz of the Bad Idea Newsletter, to explain her relative silence for the past two months. Welcome, T-Spazz!
T-Spazz: Thanks, Jim, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Jim: So T… Can I call you T?
T-Spazz: Sure thing, Jimbo.
Jim: OK. So nearly two months have passed, and you haven’t posted anything on the Bad Idea Newsletter blog. Does that mean you haven’t had any bad ideas in nearly two months?
T-Spazz: Oh, heavens no, Jimbo-lina. For me, a day without a bad idea is like a day without sunshine. Not only would that suck a lot, but it would also mean that the world ended. And now that I think about it, that would suck, too.
Jim: OK… so what *have* you been up to?
T-Spazz: Well, Jimbo-licious, a lot of things. I’d say the highlights have been playing a kick-ass show in Albany with my band, drawing some badass horses for my carousel, and carving my first bird out of butternut wood.
Jim: Sounds like quite a productive two months!
T-Spazz: Oh yes. I’ve been quite busy.
Jim: So does this mean an end to the ridiculous, half-executed bad ideas that plagued the fall?
T-Spazz: Not at all, J-Blow. I’d say the low-lights of the past two months include making a dress that didn’t fit at all, knitting a sweater that was too small, followed by completely ripping it out, re-writing the pattern and starting again, and spending the entire first week of the New Year sleeping for 16 hours a day.
Jim: Well that sounds more like the T-Spazz we all know and love! *laughs*
T-Spazz: It sure does, Jim-Bop-a-Wow-Wow, it sure does.
Jim: Well thanks so much for dropping in to share your exploits of the past few months with us! We hope to hear from you more regularly in the coming months.
T-Spazz: Abso-friggin’-lutely, Ja-Na-Na-Na.
Jim: T-Spazz, everyone!
Those of you who know me are aware of my “day job” – my Bruce Wayne identity, if you will – and are aware that it is profoundly nerdy. And often involves wearing black plastic-rimmed glasses.
Happily, we are on break for Thanksgiving for the next week and a half, because both of my Monday classes were cancelled, and I was able to postpone a Tuesday meeting until the following week. This means I have eight whole days to do whatever I want!
Which of course means catching up work that I put off over the semester, and also on things that have piled up at home in my absence.
So I made a nice neat list of things I wanted to accomplish, and placed them in priority order (ah, the joys of OneNote).
Is CLEAN ALL THE THINGS! on that list? Nope! Am I doing it anyway? Youbetcha!
I suppose that really falls into the category of Good Idea, as it really needs to get done, but it certainly isn’t what I planned to do today. Or probably for the rest of the weekend (or at least until I get bored). But I’m going to run with it anyway.
And as a quick update to an earlier post, the picture scanning is still in progress… although I didn’t get everything done in time to use my Groupon (despite a desperate attempt at 11:37pm on the night it expired to get an album thrown together). But we discovered that, while the awesome value of $100 for $35 expired on that date, we still get to use the original $35 we spent on the Groupon in the first place. So I didn’t feel too horrible about having it expire, because at least it wasn’t a total waste of money. I still have about 120-ish pictures left to scan, then I have to organize them, make up an album, and get it printed… but it will happen. Eventually. After I CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!
Tonight, T-Spazz and I embarked on an adventure of infinitely awesome magnitude.
It started, as most such adventures will, with The Bad Idea. The implementation requires a certain level of commitment, financial as well as spiritual. Having already acquired via modern means, aka the internet, most of the small tools, safety gear and material supplies necessary to embark on our digit-endangering plan, it was time to really buckle down and plunk down some serious cash on a rusty old piece of second hand large, dangerous machinery.
In other words, we bought a bandsaw.
Actually, T-Spazz bought it, I just facilitated. T-Spazz did all of the shady back alley craigslist dealings, coming out the winner after a ferocious bandsaw underbidding price war and picking one up for half price. I was her bandsaw butch, there to look all menacing in my Carhartt shirt so we didn’t get stabbed or slowly chopped into bits on a bandsaw or whatever, and carry heavy things.
And so we piled into her car for a road trip to pick up her illicit woodworking tools from parts unknown.
After a surprisingly uneventful, for us, drive out, we found the address and knocked on the door. Our first bump in the road came in the form of a confused Turkish couple, who had no idea why we were at their door. Uh oh.
By repeating the word “bandsaw” about twelve times, we got the point across that we were, in fact, here to purchase their bandsaw that they were, in fact, selling via the internet. We were then paraded through the house and into the basement.
This is where my part really came through. I shined in that moment. I am proud to say that we were not, in fact, murdered and hacked to bits in that basement. I take full credit for our continued survival in the face of buying stuff from strangers from craigslist.
We came through victorious, and purchased the heck out of that band saw! We even made sure it worked first. Of course, it was missing the safety key, which the seller hadn’t mentioned, so it was off to Sears to buy a new one. And hey, while we’re already there, why not get a new less-rusty finer-toothed blade as well. Scope of project growing? Oh yes, Bad Ideas all around.
After failing to find a bandsaw blade that struck our fancy but succeeding in buying a safety key in cheerful happy “don’t chop your fingers off” Sears safety yellow, hunger struck like a vicious stomach weasel and took our evening on yet another new course.
Chinese food is pretty innocuous, but it did mean we didn’t arrive home until 9PM, from a task that should have had us back by 7 at the latest. Also, it came with free tea, which as we discussed, makes it seem so innocent. Free tea seems like it should contain very low levels of caffeine. This is not true. This is so far from the truth that it is laughable, and yet both T-Spazz and myself fall prey to the misconception. Between the two of us, we finished the whole pot, which was not a bad idea but a terrible one.
Quote of the night:
“I bet they’ve seen people who can’t math before.”
“yes but I bet they weren’t PhDs in Engineering.”
T-Spazz is now setting up the safety gear and large blocks of wood on my dining room table. It is going to be quite an evening.
I see a facebook post with crocheted pokemon dolls.
Random neurons fire.
I suddenly have the NEED to make crochet amigurumi of the bubble bobble dinosaurs. NEEEEEED.
T-Spazz will be providing me with yarn from her massive stockpile that she never should have told me about. Yarn is my drug. I feel like Scrooge McDuck, if he was a kitten and had a silo full of yarn instead of coins.
I have every size crochet hook somewhere buried in my craftastrophe upstairs.
This could totally happen.
Now, I have always thought amigurumi were silly and pointless. But now, suddenly, I cannot live a day longer without enacting a grandiose scheme to make some.
I will figure out what I’m going to do with them later, like if I actually complete the project.
So one of my biggest Bad Ideas is still in its infancy but making some creeping progress, so I will reveal its nature right here, right now.
But first, a story.
Part of this Big Bad Idea involves learning woodcarving. To get started on this, I need access to a band saw. Since no one I’ve asked so far has one, I decided to call my dad to see if he or my grandfather had one.
Me: I have a random question for you…
Dad: OK, shoot.
Me: Do we have a band saw?
Dad: No… Pa (my grandfather) used to have one (he was a builder), but he sold it years ago. Why?
Me: Well… me and some friends want to build a carousel, and I need to learn to carve wood.
Dad: Ooh, that’s a great idea! Yeah, a band saw would be the best for that, since you’ll probably be cutting pieces… what, about 2 inches thick?
Note the distinct lack of “Uh, carousel?” “Shouldn’t you be studying?” or just plain ol’ “WTF?” Nope… apparently it’s a “great idea.”
Dad: So how big are you planning to make it?
Me: So we thought we’d start with a small one, just four figures.
Dad: Like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?
Me: Um… yes, actually… exactly like that.
Me: Actually the idea came to me while I was at Burning Man, so we might make it an Art Car and mount the carousel on a pickup truck once we’ve removed the bed.
Dad: Ooh, that sounds really neat! I’d love to help if there’s anything I can do…
So there you have it.
The company I am starting to further this endeavor is called Picycle, and will soon have its own blog going at picycle.wordpress.com. Feel free to follow me over there as well.
Every so often, something good will come out of a Bad Idea. Or at least it seems good. For certain definitions of “good,” which are, of course, usually bad.
Nearly two years ago, I impulsively responded to the Craigslist ad of an electronic band looking for a female singer. I’d never really sang before (other than the occasional foray into my own “band,” which sounded pretty terrible and hardly counts), and certainly had never taken any voice lessons. Nonetheless, I threw caution to the wind, and figured nothing bad could possibly come of it, since if I sucked, they’d probably just ignore me. No harm, no foul.
A few rounds of black-box-style auditions later, I somehow got the job. The “band” turned out to be one very sweet, kinda geeky guy, who possessed talent and stage fright in equal (fairly significant) amounts.
After two years of various obstacles and diversions (as it turns out, he is one of us, which is probably part of why we get along so well despite usually wanting to strangle each other), we are finally about to complete a full-length album. We also performed live for the first time ever last week, opening for another band that was also very nice and kinda geeky (but which actually had three guys in it).
Since I likewise possess talent and stage fright in approximately equal (although slightly less significant) amounts, the performance pretty much consisted of him hiding behind a laptop and keyboard, and me clinging to the microphone with some kind of death grip, except without as much style as, say, Beth Gibbons of Portishead manages when clinging to the microphone as though if she were to let go, the weight of her pain would cause her to dissolve into a puddle of emotional turmoil on the floor next to her fallen cigarette ashes.
But alas, I submit photographic proof of yet another Bad Idea at least partially executed:
Since my primary objective since childhood has been to play music at all available opportunities, I’m pretty proud of this one. I’ll be even more proud once the damn album is done.
And best(?!) of all, we get to do it again in a few weeks, as we’ll be playing in Albany in early December. Huzzah.
As an aside, our manager told me they had nearly a hundred people respond to that initial ad on Craigslist looking for a singer. How I ended up being “the one” with absolutely zero training or experience is still beyond me, especially in a city with so many professional and wannabe-professional alternative-style singers due to the close proximity of certain musically-oriented colleges.
But I’ve taken a whopping eight singing lessons since then, from a really excellent teacher (who actually used to sing for my bandmate’s other band), which helped immensely. I’ve also been told I sound like a cross between Natalie Merchant and Sarah McLachlin, which I take as a huge compliment, because they’re both fabulous (and gorgeous). Except when Master P uses too much pitch correction. Then I sound like the bastard child of Cher and T-Pain, which is much less complimentary (and I think I’ll skip the gold grills and thong-with-fishnets combo).