On being a one-armed coder

To pay the rent while looking for a job in programming, I took a job washing cars. It’s easy work and I’m good at it, but on the third day I broke my elbow.


It happened at bike polo that night. After colliding with 2 guys in a scrum and hitting the ground pretty hard, the pain in my elbow kept getting worse instead of better. After 20 minutes I was shaking uncontrollably. A visitor from Texas, Dominic, kindly escorted me to the emergency room, where he got to enjoy the beauty of Canadian healthcare.

So now my left arm is splinted up and I get to enjoy a month at half speed.

Splint selfie
Splint selfie

Some stuff I’m grateful for:

  1. I was wearing my helmet for a change. I hit my head quite hard. 
  2. The break is not very bad – the bone is still aligned properly.
  3. It was my left arm.
  4. I sold my motorbike 3 weeks ago and replaced it with an automatic station wagon with power steering. Nice timing!
  5. My boss wants me back washing cars when I’m better, though I had only been at the job 3 days.
  6. I now have another month or so to continue working on projects and looking for a job in my field, with a decent enough labor job waiting if it doesn’t work out.
  7. The bike shop boys are perfectly happy to have me hanging around being useless.

Some stuff that really sucks:

  1. The good attitude ends right here. Seriously, this is bs. I’m sick with a cold and can’t even do something like swim or ride bikes to distract myself. I’m at home laptopping, which also sucks. Typing one handed is straining a bunch of different muscles, and the cold fuzziness make it tough to concentrate. I’m miserable. 
  2. This post was going to be a lot more interesting, but long-form typing is way too annoying right now.

How I’m adapting:

Button down shirts. One-handed egg-cracking. Letting the roommate handle dishes. Cmd-c and -v even more than usual. Showers aren’t happening – saran wrapped baths maybe every other day. Coffee is done by boiling on the stove instead of using the French press. Drinking endless water in the hope that it’ll magically cure me. Reading some reference material that I’ve never gotten around to before. Finishing up some contract data entry work. Making a website using CakePHP for practice and maybe profit. Tomorrow, hanging out at the bike shop for one-handed tube patching and customer greeting.

Being sick and unemployed just isn’t a good enough excuse for idleness. There’s a ton of stuff I can do to be useful to my friends and improve myself, so I’m slowly, painfully, miserably doing it. But yeah, for the record, I freaking hate this. Never break your elbow.

Repairing an 87 Toyota Tercel Window

I got this wagon last week. It’s rad. Come for a ride in it and I’ll bore you to death talking about the fuel efficiency (I’m excited). One small problem though, the passenger side window didn’t work.

When I bought it the guy basically told me never to touch it. Obviously I forgot this warning immediately, but it wasn’t a problem since I sit on the driver’s side. But as soon as I had a passenger in it, which didn’t take long, their first instinct was to roll down the window. Hot June, you know. It stayed stuck in position, then fell into the door when someone slammed it. Fortunately the glass wasn’t damaged, but it was stuck real good. In BC where it’s like living in an aquarium for most of the year, it’s a problem. Here’s how I fixed it.


  • Big Philips head
  • Small Philips head
  • Tire lever
  • Degreaser
  • Rag
  • Greaser

The door does not need to be removed from the hinges for this. The main thing we’re going to do is clean the regulator and the rails.

What Do

With thanks to Speed Hero for advice. First step is to remove the door card. There is a screw in door opener cup, one in the door closer cup, and one underneath the armrest. They are all Philips. The one under the armrest is pretty tough.

That’s what it looks like when you start, and that’s how it ought to look when you’re done.

Screws out, cups out, armrest off, carefullly! It’s a million years old so don’t break it.

armrest removed

Bits and stuff
Bits and stuff

handle cup removedarmrest screw

Get that screw also. Remove the regulator handle, (that’s the thing you turn to roll the window up and down). There’s a C-clip holding it on. Get a tiny screwdriver and pry it off, with your hand in the way to catch it because it will go flying all over the place. If it lands in the grass you’ll never find it again.

handle removed


After the screws are removed, the door card is held on only by plastic buttons. Start at the bottom corner and work your way around, making sure to wrap two fingers around each button as you pull it out. You don’t want to be the jerk that rips a 30 year old cardboard door card.

door card back
The white bits around the edge are the buttons.

This is the vapor barrier. If you’re really lucky, you’re the first person ever to take this door apart, and you’ll get to cut away the vapor barrier. Its purpose is to prevent the windows from getting foggy from moisture inside of the door. Tape it back on afterward if you think it’s worth the effort.

vapor barrier

vapor barrier 2

Is this a lot of redundant pictures? Yes. Cause it is easy to take things apart, and tougher to put stuff back together. This is what it looked like when it was together, and I definitely referred to these pictures while reassembling it.

Oh, and keep your screws safe. Important.
Oh, and keep your screws safe. Important.

card and barrier removedThis is annoying, because we have to work through holes in the door.

Through the big one in the lower center you can see the regulator, and through the two on the left side, see the rail. Both of these need to be cleaned as best as you can. After cleaning the regulator, grease it with bearing grease.

Roll it up and down a few times to check the teeth of the gear wheel as well, shown in the triangular hole, top center. Clean those too. Replace them if they’re worn and you’re also a rich mofo who can afford these things.

cleaning supplies

This’ll do for cleaning supplies. Also a toothbrush helps, I stole my roommates’ but you can buy one or whatever.

And then there’s nothing to do but wiggle the window up so it’s sitting on the regulator and snug within the rail on either side of the door. I didn’t notice there were two rails until after I had already gotten the window into it, so it isn’t that tough. Roll the window up and down a couple times to make sure it moves smoothly and it’s going to stay fixed. Then reassemble by reversing the process, and clean the glass after everything is done.

Multiple people told me this was going to be an annoying PITA job that would take all afternoon and tons of swearing, but it honestly wasn’t that tough. Like an hour tops. So good luck.



Don’t forget to leave a callback number, so the next guy knows who to blame.