August 19, 2022

Deputy Matt & Others Who Serve

The individual voices and opinions of some first responders

Popular Beta-Mechanics


As a kid growing up and we would visit my maternal grandparents, there were always issues of Popular Mechanics on the coffee table.  You see, my grandfather was a machinist for Aerojet Rocketdyne.  He helped build the engines the powered the spacecraft that put man on the moon.  Additionally, he was very much a true DIY guy, and a lifelong tinkerer.  There was no project he wouldn’t attempt to tackle, from working on cars to building furniture, and he was always looking for ways to improve things.   I remember thumbing through the issues of Popular Mechanics I found at his house, and being in awe of all the cool projects they outlined, their descriptions of the science and engineering behind new inventions, or cars, or aircraft, or spacecraft.  The magazine covered a vast array of topics, and it encouraged the reader to attempt things, to be hands on, to be a do-it-yourselfer.

A gun cabinet my grandfather made in the late 1940's which I'm proud to own.
A gun cabinet my grandfather made in the late 1940’s which I’m proud to own.

Early in my adulthood, I too subscribed to the magazine and it was very much like the magazine I recalled from my youth.  You see, other than the different career path I followed, I am very much like my grandfather.  I love working on cars, firearms, tackling any home improvement project I (or the wife) can dream up, I really enjoy woodworking and I am a tinkerer just like my grandfather was, so it only made sense for me to get the same magazine that inspired me as a kid.

As my life evolved, especially later with marriage and kids, my interests and the amount of free time I had changed, and my subscription to Popular Mechanics ran out long ago.  However, some recent home improvement projects reinvigorated my both my interest in woodworking and my inner tinkerer, so I decided to again subscribe to the same magazine that had inspired me so many times long ago.  I filled out the subscription online and when given the option for just the print magazine, or for $1 more, I could also get the digital version, it was a no-brainer.

Subscription completed, I navigated the website and opened up the digital edition of the Dec/Jan 2017 issue.  I perused the index and settled on what would be the first article I read in my brand new subscription… and then…

“Oh my gawd, what did I just read?”

“Did I subscribe to the wrong magazine?”

“Is this a joke, or satire?  Is this Popular Mechanics own special version of The Onion?  Is it April 1st?”

You see, the article I chose to read, the very first article in the magazine that has inspired so many people to be the quintessential DIY’er, was titled “(Don’t) DIY – The Jobs Better Left to Professionals.”  The title had attracted me because I assumed it was going to be filled with horrendously complicated projects that, even though the author was recommending the reader not attempt, I figured they would have been done by the average Joe.  Why did I expect that?  Because that is what this magazine was always filled with in the past.

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What I read on the other hand was the dumbest pile of trash I could possibly imagine.  As I read it, I pictured the author as the most whiny, beta-male, skinny jean wearing hipster…  think pajama boy.  I not only could not believe what I was reading, but the fact that Popular Mechanics was the source was absolutely mind boggling!

The following is the list of the projects that they are telling their readers NOT to do themselves:

  • Oil Change – you know, on your car, a routine simple oil change.  The most basic of automotive basics, a 10-15 minute job.
  • Battery Replacement – no, not the battery in your factory sealed, waterproof smartphone, but the battery in your car.  You know, the one held in by a clamp (usually 2 bolts) and two battery cables.  A job that with the correct wrenches takes 5 minutes.
  • New Spark Plugs – again, a simple job on most cars.  On my ’02 WRX (the most difficult car I’ve ever changed plugs on) where there was minimal clearance between the boxer engine and the body, it was still not that difficult and doing the job myself saved not only time, but more importantly, a significant chunk of change.
  • Car Wash – okay, now I know this guy has to be screwing with me.

But wait, where is the punch line?  Please, someone, tell me this is a joke?

Nope, this was a legit article telling the reader not to do the simplest of DIY tasks imaginable, and for reasons such as “you will get dirty oil on your hands,” “the battery hold down bolts are tiny and hard to reach,” “spark plugs are hard to reach and you might be a moron and put them in wrong,” and lastly, “you might miss a spot and leave water spots on your car.”

Holy cow.  I cannot believe this is the same publication that I once marveled at.  I cannot believe I just paid good money for this worthless combination of paper and digital words…

Disappointed beyond belief!

Maybe they need to change the name of the magazine…
(UPDATE:  Yes, I did cancel my subscription before I even received the first issue)