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In which Libosaurus channels her inner mechanic, part 2

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.

Darn you, tiny screwdriver!

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.

Catastrophe Cat has come to supervise. That's never a good sign.

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.

Time to pry out that instrument panel! This will no doubt end in tears and broken plastic...

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.

Holy crap, I got it out and no broken anything!

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.

My lovely assistant, helping with photographic proof that I did in fact replace my car stereo. Look how shiny!

Catastrophe Cat must thoroughly examine the project from her cardboard fortress before work may proceed.

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.

This is a highly advanced procedure, okay? Stop questioning me and my methods!

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.

In which Libosaurus channels her inner mechanic, part 1

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.


Catastrophe cat disapproves of my piss-poor prying technique.

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.


I swore I was going to buckle or crack this flimsy plastic, but as you can see I got it out in one piece. The only casualty is the blank cover which flew out and hit me in the forehead, but I can pop that back in.

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.

The Epic Bandsaw Adventure

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.

Brain spasm

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.

Well that didn’t work.

Scope creep has nothing on me.

So, you remember that shelving unit I was going to put in my closet with cloth drawers in it, that the drawers don’t fit in?  The one I was going to buy a second one of?  Yeah.  Um.  About that.

I actually made it to the hardware store and bought another shelving unit.  Then I went to Target to check out bins.  At that point it became very painful clear that there were absolutely NO bins that would A) fit  B) in reasonable colors that wouldn’t look awful and C) be sold in the quantity I would require.

Out of curiosity I went to the next aisle to look at the shelving units.  They had one that was perfect.  Made to fit the cloth boxes, and in the correct orientation.  CRAP!  So, after some hemming and hawing, I decided to buy three of those shelves, which will fit about the same space as the original two shelves.  The shelf that is currently being built, I took a wild guess and said it will probably fit, upright, in another part of my closet.  Maybe.

She's Mocking Me

I think she's mocking me.

For those of you playing the home game, that makes six cabinets I’ve bought now, one which is halfway assembled, two I’m returning.  The three that are actually going to serve as my shelf – which you might remember was the original project – are sitting in boxes, mocking me with their cold cardboard stares.

I have two shelves to return and none of the things I bought are going to the places where I was planning to put them.  I forgot all about stacking wood with a friend who was coming over.  I gave in to scope creep twice.  I started yet another project, editing video of me putting together the shelves.  The shelf I had been assembling is going to go somewhere that will require me to rearrange my closet for it to fit.  It is now 8PM, and I’m updating my blog and eating dinner instead of finishing any of the things that need doing.  Bad Ideas?  Ohhhhhh yes.

The Closet Of Madness, Act I | The Closet of Madness, Act II | The Closet of Madness, Act III: The incomprehensible conclusion

The project is going sideways. Already.

I got distracted.   Moments after hitting ‘Post’, a tuna fish sandwich magically appeared in my lap, as prepared by my glorious enabler of a husband.  He asked if I wanted one and I forgot that I’d said yes.

I have successfully accomplished eating a tuna fish sandwich without getting distracted.  GO ME!

Now what was I doing?  Oh yeah, my closets.

I managed to gather my manic need to do All of the things, and ambled out to the car to procure my supplies.  Because I am easily distracted, and also because I really want to blog about this, I stopped to take pictures.  Look!  Pictures!

All my supplies, at least til I go buy more.

A bucket.  On my head.

I got distracted while bringing in the dust pan I bought, and had to take a picture with it on my head.

You know what would be good planning?  Reading the box to find out what tools I need, before I take out all of the stuff from the box and get started.  I announced to my personal live-in enabler that I was going to do that, and then promptly got distracted by the NEED to go measure the closet to see how many shelves I can fit.

The closet is 90 inches.  That means I can fit two of these great shelving units, which means I’m probably going to go buy another one.

Also, it has become apparent that i was not thinking too clearly about how this shelving unit was going to work on its side instead of upright.  The shelves aren’t going to just stand for being shoved in and propped up, they’ll flop and wobble all over.  I’m pretty sure that’s not what shelves are supposed to do.  I’m probably going to have to nail them in place to keep them together.  I have a brad nailer, so yay!  An excuse to play with more power tools.

This project is already getting complicated.

I never did end up fetching tools – after unpacking the whole box and reading the instructions I decided I couldn’t be bothered to fetch tools and made my enabler go get them for me.

During construction I ran into a few other snags.  Shockingly.  Like the fact that the cloth bins don’t actually fit inside.  Guess I’m going to have to buy some smaller ones.

So, off to the store I go, again!  The plan is to buy one more shelving unit, and new cloth bins.  I actually got measurements for the bins this time.  And some safety glasses to wear while I use the brad nailer.  I’m pretty sure I don’t need any other things.  I’m returning the shelf brackets, having given up on my original (simple) plan of hanging the shelf.  I’m bringing the enabler, so maybe that will keep me from any additional scope creep.

Previous: The project’s innocent start | Next: Doomy doom doom doom.

But where do bad ideas come from?

Watching this video, I can only come to two conclusions:

1) We are totally incubators of ideas stuffed full of half formed hunches. And we surround ourselves with people who drop other ideas all the time.

2) Oh hey, I should make drawing my hobby again some time soon.

Those are the right messages to take away, right?

Welcome to the jungle of our minds.

When you have an idea, you can hold it close.  Wrap it up in brown paper, and save it to pull out on special occasions.  Show it off like a baseball trophy.  “This is my one great idea I once had,” you could tell people.

But when you are us?  That’s not really an option.  Ideas are more like a hurricane, flooding our basement and forcing us into action, until we have the leak half-patched and most of the water mopped up, just to make it look nice.  And then the next storm comes along, and needs attention.  Half baked schemes come to semi-fruition, and then languish, abandoned, discarded.

We are the implementers of bad ideas, the half-mad scientists, the tinkerers.  We enact our projects because we must, lest the pressure fill us to bursting.  We leave a trail not of destruction, but of creation.

What on earth are we up to today?