May 14th, 2010

#2070: Carpe diem!

...and did I!

Got up, had a leftover gyro, and hit the driveway. I tore the freakin' dashboard right out of that Escort with a CHAIN SAW AND FIBERGLASSED A CUSTOM DASH FULL OF SUBWOOFERS!!!!!!!!!

Okay, no I didn't. What I did in fact do was to remove the stereo and HVAC controls, and then got the instrument cluster out so I could replace the bulbs.

I spent something like $60 on bulbs because I bought three two-packs of LED bulbs, at $12 each, for the instrument lights. I'm tired of having half the dashboard dark. I also replaced all the other bulbs with regular incandescent bulbs. I tardily realized that I should have replaced the turn indicator bulbs with LED bulbs instead, but that was after I had the cluster back in. F it.

As usual the manual was f-ing wrong. It says to unscrew the bolts holding the cluster in, then to pull the cluster forward, unplug the electrical connectors, and then disconnect the speedometer cable. That may work if you're a robot made from mimetic polyalloy or some kind of shape-shifter, but I could not get the instrument cluster far enough forward that I could get at anything on its back side.

I had to disconnect the speedo cable from the transmission. Naturally it would not come out of the VSS; and in fact while I was pulling on it and trying to shove the clip aside with a screwdriver the goddamned housing came right out of the ferrule. Argh.

It's kind of like today's Dilbert. the cluster out, bought bulbs, replaced them, reassembled dashboard. Pulled the VSS from the transmission and then, after I had it in my hand, of course the ferrule came right out of the thing without a problem. Rather than buy a new speedo cable I reamed out the end of the ferrule and shaved some plastic off the housing, and reintroduced them to each other. Reinstalled VSS. *sigh*

The last remaining thing is the HVAC controls and the stereo. The cable which controls the temperature setting is held in place with a clamp, which broke off and disappeared. The pivot for the lever which selects the output of the blower also broke off and disappeared. So I grabbed the HVAC control panel I ganked from the green car; its temperature cable mount is also broken, but I'm attempting to fix it with plastic epoxy and JB Weld.

I haven't gotten to the stereo yet.

* * *

I tried playing Portal yesterday. I was trying to reconfigure the keyboard controls to something that made more sense to me, and my computer abruptly shut itself off.

No warning, no nothing; screen went dark and I asked, "WTF just happened?"

It booted up normally and I played WoW for hours, so it wasn't heat loading or anything weird. It had something to do with the software.

* * *

Remember that Mazda stealership which charged a mentally handicapped woman $63,000 for a $25,000 car and said "we made a bit of money" on the deal? Mazda gave 'em the hidey ho.

Good for you, Mazda!

* * *

"These 'Turbo Tips' are...designed to change your exhaust note from 'four-banger' to 'four-banger-with-some-crap-in-the-pipe'." And they're stupid.

* * *

You can't do it unless you plug into the OBD port, which is good, because plenty of people who have the know-how will do it just because they can.

* * *



* * *

The USSR and China were on the same side, but they didn't seem to know that. In fact, war between them would be inevitable even if they did cooperate at first, because "there can be only one" Politburo in charge of everything. Even if a combined Sino-Russian supercommunism had formed, it would have split once the rest of the world had been conquered.

Richard Nixon told the USSR that the US would not stand idly by, but attack the USSR. To be honest, I don't think that was a wise move, but then again Richard Nixon was not exactly a Reagan conservative, either.

"WHAT?!?" You explode. Surprising, isn't it? Nixon is the man who gave us the EPA and OSHA, for Christ's sake. What more proof do you need?

* * *

There are signs that China's economy is faltering, and this is very, very bad news. Right now the only thing propping up our economy is China's willingness to buy our debt. Do I need to eludicate on why it's bad if China can't do that? Again?

I thought not. Y'all are smart enough to connect the dots. Anyway I've been over all that stuff before.

* * *

People with H-1B visas work cheaper than citizens do. You can pay a guy from India less and get the same work from him as from an American with the same training.
The yearly quota of 65,000 H-1B visas is usually filled on April 1 of every year, which is the date the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services begins accepting applications for the new yearly allotment.

So far only about 13,500 such requests have been received, an indication of how bad the job market is (or how good the jobless recovery, if you follow establishment economists).

Of one thing you can be sure: There are a lot more than 13,500 unemployed, average but adequate American workers who'd jump at the opportunities being "outsourced."
* * * shows us how Eric Holder has lied about the Arizona immigration law.

* * *

XKCD today is awesome:

* * *

The otoo-san-boushi in real life:

funny pictures of cats with captions

#2071: The LED bulbs will have to come out

Why? Because with all five of them working perfectly, my dashboard is half-lit. It looks like ass. The light is a pleasant amber and if it was lighting the whole thing it would be a thing of beauty; but I want my entire instrument cluster lit up, not just part of it. That was kind of the point of this entire exercise in the first place.

The LEDs don't have any kind of diffuser on them, so they light whatever is right in front of them and nothing else. These bulbs will work perfectly for just about everything else in the instrument cluster except the instrument illumination sockets.

Growl, snarl. Argh etc.

Of the six that I have, two will go into the turn signal sockets. One will go into the "Check Engine" socket. One will go into the upshift light socket.

One will go back into the package with the remaining bulb, and that package will be returned. At least I managed not to destroy one package of the damn things while extracting the bulbs.

On the plus side, I now know how to disconnect the instrument cluster without destroying the speedometer cable: I'll just pull the VSS out of the transmission. That'll give me all the slack I need.

Still, it's annoying and frustrating to have to do all this shit again.


I went to put the HVAC control panel back in; I had it in the dashboard and bolted down before I realized that the cables had to run over the heater ducts, not under. In the process of pulling it out to reposition the cables, I broke the hold-down for the mode select cable right off the damn thing.

I yelled "FUCK!" and punched the dashboard several times. It's been a long time since I've been that frustrated.

So I took a trip to the hardware store and got some epoxy putty.

The plastic weld epoxy I used to secure the temperature control cable was sufficient to bond the broken part back in place, but I wanted to reinforce it. Also, the temperature control cable had slipped right out of the epoxy, so I decided to make a new cable mount and secure it with a screw clamp, the way Ford originally secured it.

There are two problems with the way Ford made this control unit. First, it's made of cheap-ass plastic; it's designed to be assembled and never touched again, and it's only durable enough to last five or so years before breaking. Second, it's made flimsy: the mode control cable mount is a hollow box with one side missing, in which the post for the screw is set.

Of course, the guys who designed the car had to meet certain weight targets, which is why there's so much weight-shaving stupidity in this thing--such as cheap, thin plastic in a part which is going to see a lot of shoving and pushing in extremes of temperature. (Such as the stupid steering lock bolts, the ones which have breakaway heads.)

Come to think of it, there's a third problem: it's wider than the hole it goes into, so you have to put the right corner in first and then rotate it into position while guiding the cables in and making the necessary connections to the electrical system.

I'm hoping that packing these stupid weak cable mounts full of epoxy putty will fix the problem and let me adjust the heater controls without having to get out of the car and reach under the damn dashboard.

...I've used this stuff before to effect exactly this kind of repair. The green '95 Escort had an arm rest which was loose due to a ruined screw hole; I removed it, packed the socket full of epoxy putty and let it harden, then drilled an appropriate-sized hole. I bolted it to the door and it was never a problem again.

Of course, the plastic used to form visible interior parts is superior to the crap they made the HVAC control frame out of, so we'll see how this does.

* * *

As for the stereo, I removed the CD drive from it, dusted it out as best I could with canned air, and reassembled it. I'm hoping that reseating the mechanism will help.

I used to have to do that for people all the time: their computer would act up one way or another, so I'd go out there and run diagnostics, then take it apart and put it back together. Sometimes that alone would fix it. I don't know how many times I explained the concept of "thermal creep" to people, but it was a lot.

This concept also let me score used CD-ROM drives for nothing, from time to time. Someone's CD-ROM drive would stop working, so I'd go replace it. I'd take the dead drive with me, and leave it in my car; after work, when I got home, I'd take the thing apart and reassemble it. Two times out of three that would fix the drive.

Here's why I didn't do that for the customer: even at the time, IDE CD-ROM drives were cheap. It cost the customer $70 an hour for me to be on-site, and it usually took me an hour to disassemble, clean, and reassemble the drive at home. Add diagnostics and the trip charge, and they'd be looking at $150-$180 for me to their old CD-ROM drive back in; and for all I knew it might fail again. And if it failed again, it would cost them $105 more plus the price of a new drive to fix the problem. They would not be happy with me. (Would you?) Otherwise it was $105 plus whatever the going rate for an OEM CD-ROM drive was in the mid-90s, which wasn't all that damn much. (I think our cost was about $50.) And if the R&R trick didn't fix the drive they'd be out $70 and still have to replace the drive.

Just replacing the drive was $105 plus the drive. Cheaper, no? And if that drive failed, then it was a warranty issue.

I'm not putting the stereo back in until I get the repaired HVAC panel in. You have to have the stereo out to get at the damn cables. Argh etc.

* * *

Because of the heavy rains the other night, the back yard is a swamp. I dragged some branches to the street for Mom, and the ground squelched as I walked on it, even on the "east 40" which is higher than the immediate back yard. So I won't be mowing for another couple of days.

I do have to plant a campsis tree tomorrow; so I've got several chores lined up:
plant tree
finish HVAC control replacement & reinstall stereo
tighten Escort spoiler (or find out why it's rattling and take measures to stop it)
buy acorn nuts and install rear reflector strip
re-arrange dash bulbs (ARGH!)
go crazy
Anyway, it's a ton of stuff.