First Batch Results and a Trilogy of Errors

Well enough time has passed that I can finally give my critique of my first all grain brew. At least I can say I have one all grain brew under my belt.

Unfortunately this post is lacking in pictures, I didn’t end up taking a ton of pictures this time. There wasn’t that much different from my first post on all grain brewing, if you want more pictures, check out my previous post here.

Amber Ale Final Results

First, a couple of figures from the recipe versus what I ended up with:

Measurable Recipe My Batch
Pre-boil Gravity* 1.048 1.050
Original Gravity 1.055 1.040
Final Gravity 1.012 1.004
Alcohol Percentage 5.64% 4.73%

*The pre-boil gravity is the gravity of the wort just prior to the boiling of the wort. I’m a little suspect of the number I got, since I believe the number needs to be measured when the wort is closer to ~65 Farenheit. Also, this number shouldn’t be this high when the wort is at a higher temperature.

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Amber Ale in Secondary Fermentation

So the amber ale I brewed ended up with an original gravity that is 0.010 lower than what the recipe calls for. We can see that there was alcohol production considering the difference in the final gravity and the original gravity. At least alcohol was I got alcohol.

Looking at the final gravity of the amber ale, the consistency is close to that of water! (water has a specific gravity of 1.000). I can taste the hoppiness in the beer, and there is an amber look to the beer. Unfortunately, what I ended up with is what could be described as hoppy alcoholic water. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

What I’m thinking happened is that I rushed the sparging process. I added water to the grain bed in the batch volumes indicated on beersmith, however I think the water didn’t sit in between batches for a long enough time, leaving lots of precious sugars behind.

Oh well, I’m drinking it anyways, because, well, it’s my first all grain beer. To me, it’s still drinkable. I think of it as a very light amber ale. Perhaps this will teach me a lesson, my penance for being impatient in the sparging process. Oh, woe is me!!

German Pilsner

For my second batch, I decided to try something a little different than what I’m used to. I picked a German Pilsner for this recipe, it’s supposed to be a little lighter and crisper. The end color ended up being a little darker than I was hoping for, but it’s all a learning process.

The brew day was nothing short of trying. Through all the issues I had during the day, I was pretty convinced this would be the first batch I spoil or infect. We’ll see what happens.

First Mishap – Expired Propane Tank

The first thing that got my day going was when I went to refill my propane tanks, I discovered one of the tanks was expired. So much for buying a half full propane tank at a garage sale. No biggie, the bar-be-Que I got with it works, that’s the important thing. Also I already had one brand new propane tank, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

Second Mishap – The Water is Yellow!

Once I got my brew day going, I noticed that once I got my strike water close to mash temperature, the water was yellow! Not entirely sure what happened, the main pot I used last time only held water I heated for mashing and for sparging. I thought I’d cleaned it out. Turns out I hadn’t…

Minor setback, I cleaned out my pot very thoroughly with SOS pads and got it nice and clean. On my second try, the water was crystal clear. Lesson learned, clean out the pot even if it only had water in it…

Third Mishap – It’s Windy Outside…

Another issue I encountered was the fact that it was fairly breezy outside. The flame on my burners kept getting blown out. It was a minor irritation, I had to keep re-igniting them.

The mashing itself when pretty well, not much can go wrong when grains and water need to sit for an hour. I tested the mash with iodine after about an hour and ten minutes and it was ready for sparging.

Fourth Mishap – Problematic Sparge Arm Attachments

For this brew I attempted to fly sparge versus batch sparging. This involved using my nifty sparge arm I made myself and alluded to at the end of my last blog post. Basically, I didn’t have a solid attachment to the hose barb on the sparge water pot and while I was sparging, the hose kept slipping off, causing the copper pipe to land on top of the grain bed. So much for not disturbing the grain bed during sparging…

On the plus side, the sparge arm worked. I tried to take a picture, but there’s a wooden board I had covering it to kind keep some of the steam from escaping and to keep the sparge arm in place. You can sorta see how high the water stayed above the grain bed, the recommendation was about 1-2″.

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Sparge Arm Working Away

Fifth Mishap – Boilovers!

Once I finished the sparging, I got to boiling my wort. I stop paying attention for a little bit, and before I knew it I heard sizzling on one of my burners…yep, I had a nice boilover. Boy it sucks cleaning that sticky mess up.

The best part is, not only did it happen once, it happened TWICE. You’d think I’d learn from the first one, evidently not…

The End Result

After the boil, a lot more wort evaporated than I had anticipated so I only ended up with 4.5 gallons versus 5. I found that when I measured my original gravity following chilling, I was actually a lot closer to the original gravity than my first batch. This is good news! While the fly sparging took a lot more time, I think I captured a lot more sugars.

Basically I ended up with the following:

Measurable Recipe My Batch
Pre-boil Gravity* 1.052 1.042
Original Gravity 1.056 1.052

So looking at the numbers, I’m in a closer range to the recipe. I think if I’d let the wort cool a bit more I’d be pretty darn close.

Upcoming Posts

We’ll see how much more I plan to write about in the next little bit. I have been superbly delinquent in my plans to better understand and implement microcontrollers to my brewing process. At this point, I’m all talk and no action.

Eventually I’d like to talk a little more about some DIY projects I have in mind with woodworking, I’ve got some extra lumber kicking around that I’d like to use for some practical storage purposes.

Thanks for reading!

The All Grain Brew Setup and Long Overdue Updates

Now that my courses for the winter semester are finally complete, I now have at least the summer to dedicate to my wonderful hobby of homebrewing. Oh man, does it feel good to be done for the semester!

On a separate note, I have been thinking that considering my blog is called “My Broken Skateboard” I really haven’t provided enough writing, videos, or photos in relation to actually breaking skateboards. Does this mean I’m intentionally going to break some skateboards and take videos? Of course not! That being said, my skateboarding media could use a boost on the site, so I’m hoping future posts will incorporate my passion – skateboarding!

Now, back to business.

3 Tier Gravity Feed Stand

Like any of my projects, I like to try and build a CAD model before building. I always like to get a sense of what I’m building before I start, so naturally it’s nice to have some drawings and some plans.

I found myself getting rather frustrated with AutoCAD Fusion 360 as I was trying to make a 3D model of my brew stand. Considering a lot of my previous plans use Google Sketchup, I’m going to abandon my attempts at using Fusion 360 and start over using sketchup more exclusively. It’s what I used in the past to build the 3D models and drawings of my grind box. Plus, it seems like there’s a better community for downloading 3D models of pre-existing objects. In my case, I’d be grabbing models of a propane tank, 10 gallon Igloo cooler, and some stock pots. In the event I can’t find them, I’ll approximate the shape and dimensions considering them as basic cylinders.

Below is some CAD images of the 3 tier stand. My actual stand didn’t turn out quite as I’d expected, I made a few mistakes that I’ve made before.

3 tier gravity feed rig w equipment.jpg

Side View 3 tier.JPG

Once I had the plans done, I got to work and got it done. Below is the end result, it functions, even if it doesn’t look exactly like the model.

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One of the things I really need to start doing is accounting for screw and bolt lengths between my wood sections. I changed the orientation of the bottom section so I could attach the 2 x 4 pieces of lumber using screws. Even with screws, you need a screw length of 3.5 inches to joint 2 pieces of lumber together.

At some point I’ll need to figure out a better way to join lumber using glue and clamps, or biscuit joints.

Once it was all ready, I tested my equipment to make sure the cooler sealed and the burners worked.

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Burner’s working!

Now with the 3 tier stand and all the equipment, I’m ready to rock on my first all grain brew!

My First All Grain Brew

I decided to choose an amber ale as amber ales are somewhat symbolic in my life. The first beer I ever brewed with the help of my dad back home was an amber ale, it was also the first time I learned fermentation produces C02, and that the gas needs to exit the container somehow. This is how I learned how much of a sticky mess beer makes when it blows the top off a sealed container!

A few more terms crop up with all grain brewing. Since we are brewing straight from the grains, we have a grain bill. This is like a bill of materials, but contains the grains used in the mash.

Since there are more steps involved in all grain brewing, the process can become really finicky and complicated depending on what kind of beer you want to make. Luckily, we live in the software age, where a generous soul has taken a lot of the complexity out of the process. The program BeerSmith has already proven to be immensely valuable in laying out the steps for an all grain brew day. Basically you take your recipe, enter the volume of wart you want to produce, along with the amounts of grain, the type of equipment you’re using, and the type of sparge method, and it punches out a nice looking recipe. I’m still on the trial version for another week, but there’s no question I’ll be buying this. For $27.95, it’s more than worth it.

Here is the recipe that I went with. It includes the grain bill and the type of hops I used. Amber Ale Recipe

Since this was my first all grain brew, I chose to go with batch sparging. Basically it means after my mash, I add a defined amount of water to the grains and drain the liquid out. This is known as rinsing the grain bed. I do this in 4 stages, which in the end gives me my pre-boil wort volume. For a much more detailed explanation of the sparging methods, check out this link.

The best part of all, my buddies joined me to partake in the fun! Of course, learning about making beer’s a whole lot easier when there’s beer to be enjoyed!

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First I needed to boil my strike water. This is done on the top tier of my brew stand with the pot that’s got a thermometer and a spigot. The strike water has to be at a specific temperature as it sets the temperature of the mash. Mash temperatures basically define the characteristic and the flavors of the beer. My recipe called for mash temperature of 156 F. Based on the temperature drop of the grains once the water’s added, my strike water needed to be 168 F.

DSC_0032.jpg
Strike water added

Next, the all important step of adding the grains to the cooler. It doesn’t look like much, but there’s a lot of joy in seeing what will eventually be a lovely amber ale.

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Ready to mash

After about 45 minutes, the mashing was complete. I tested this using tincture of iodine. You take a bit of the wort and add some of the iodine. If the iodine disappears, the starch to sugar conversion is compete and the mashing is complete. Something I discovered was that spilling iodine on yourself makes for a very difficult mess to clean up.

 

Now we get to the sparging part.

I didn’t quite understand this part because the steps that the software punched out indicated that my batch volumes needed to be done ~0.25 gal for the first batch, then 2.26 gallons for the second and third batches. I didn’t exactly understand why this was the case. I heated up the 4.75 gallons of water to 168 F and sparged as per the instructions. I did the following:

  1. Once the mash was complete, I drained the wort from the mash as quickly as possible. This was the first “batch” of liquid.
  2. Once the liquid was drained, ~0.25 gallons of water at 168f was added. The grain bed was stirred up and left to rest for about 5 minutes. This is the second “batch”. After 5 minutes, it was drained into the boil pot.
  3. Repeating the above process, I added ~2.25 gallons at 168 F for the third and fourth batches.

After sparging, I ended up with a pre-boil volume that was ~7 gallons.

Now that we’ve got our wort, the process is exactly the same as extract brewing. Bring the wort to a boil, add boil hops at the beginning and aroma hops at the end, cool, add to the fermenter, add yeast, a voila! Wort is on it’s way to becoming beer.

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Wort Boil

 

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My Amber Ale Fermenting Away!

The only downside of all grain brewing is there is a lot more prep work and clean up with the added equipment. Plus the mashing and sparging processes add at least another hour and a half to the process. It turns brewing into a full day adventure.

 

Planned Upgrade – Sparge Arm

Since my pre-boil gravity was lower than predicted as per the recipe, I decided to try and improve the process by fly sparging. The reason a low specific gravity is an issue is that it means I didn’t extract as much sugar as I could from the grains during sparging. To extract more sugars, I will change up the sparging process to fly sparging. It takes quite a bit longer, but it (supposedly) yields better results.

In order to fly sparge, I need a sparge arm to distribute water across the grain bed. If you just dump water in front a hose, you end up creating a channel in the grain bed which causes the water to drain unevenly through the grain bed. I decided to make my own sparge arm. A sparge arm is basically a piece of equipment that sprinkles the water evenly over the grain bed.

One of this nice things about this project is I got to learn how to solder copper pipe. It’s surprisingly easy.

DSC_0101
Everything needed to make a sparge arm
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Copper Cut to Size
DSC_0104
Copper drilled out.
Soldering Copper.JPG
Soldering copper! I learned something today.
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My first copper solder joint.

The Finished Sparge Arm

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Sparge Arm Testing

I’ll report back on how it works, hopefully it doesn’t disturb the grain bed.

Other Updates

Being the wonderfully thrifty person I am, I managed to pass by a garage sale where they were selling a BBQ grill and a propane tank for $25! Considering an empty tank will run ~$30, I think I did pretty well. I also continue to discover the usefulness of my truck.

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Another Example of the Value of My Truck 🙂
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BBQ season is in!

My Next Posts

For my future posts, I’ll provide updates for fly sparging versus batch sparging. Also, I have a lot of projects to tackle this summer, including creating some storage containers for my tools, building a skateboard rail, and getting creative with integrating electronics into my homebrewing.

Thanks for reading!

All Work and No Play Make James Go Crazy

Once again, I’ve let far too much time lapse from the last time I wrote a blog post. I had hoped to keep my updates a little more frequent, however life as always has made it very difficult to just sit a write a post. I’ve discovered that two engineering masters courses and full time work means there’s very little time left for hobbies. It’s tough managing my time, but I’ll get through.

Trying to be as concise as possible, I will admit these last couple of months have been a bit trying. Between getting stressed out by school, by work, and by the constant bombardment of news that encompasses the USA’s newly elected President, it’s been hard to find peace sometimes. What I’ve found is that I’ve had to work at accepting the things I cannot control and calming myself down when I’m stressed out. Deep breathing has been a great source for those times when life in general becomes overwhelming.

But enough of that, I don’t need to dictate in detail my feelings, despite how interesting and exciting they are.

What am I here to talk about today? Skateboarding, beer, and electronics! (Yes, I’m just that cool 🙂 )

Skateboarding

We’re finally turning the bend where there should be some consistently nice weather. We had some not too bad weather a little while back, but it’s been so inconsistent. Once school ends in April, skateboarding awaits!

I plan to build a nice rail to complement the grind box I built for myself last summer. I made a lovely round bar rail in AutoCAD Fusion.

I’ve been thinking about how I would build this and I’m looking to keep it as simple as possible. So while the rail shown below uses round pipe, I’m likely going to end up using square pipe instead to make the welding process a little easier.

Now I just need to find someone with a welder…

Grind Rail Rendered.jpg

Grind Rail side view.jpg

Homebrewing

On the homebrew front, I really haven’t has as much time to brew as I did going into the holidays. Only a couple of weeks ago did I get a Belgian White and another IPA going.

While malt extract brewing has been going well and I’ve got a good feel for it, I’ve got the itch to start upgrading my equipment and going towards all grain brewing. All grain is about as close to making beer from scratch as it gets. Only step after that would be to start a farm and grow my own ingredients!

The All Grain Brewing Process

All grain brewing really doesn’t add many more steps to the brewing process. Right now, I do the following:

  1. Steep grains in hot water.
  2. Add malt extract to the water and bring to a boil
  3. Add hops a boil for an hour (add more hops at end if necessary)
  4. Cool wort
  5. Add yeast
  6. Let it ferment
  7. Carbonate and enjoy!

All grain brewing modifies the first two steps. With my current process the malt extract is already prepared, so there’s not much flexibility in terms of changing the characteristics of the wort. All grain brewing basically modifies the first two steps of the process, you in a sense create the wort by adding hot water to crushed grains and letting it sit for a while (this is called “mashing”). The liquid is then drained off, and hot water is then run through the grain bed to rinse it (called “lautering”). The wort is then boiled. After that it’s the same as Malt extract brewing.

What’s required in all grain in the beginning is the drain hot water into the grains. The vessel that holds the grains is called the “mash tun”. A lot of people use gravity to move liquid from one vessel to another, so one of my ideas is to build a 3 tier stand similar to what’s shown below. Considering it’s all wood, I figured it would make a great gravity feed system.

3 tier brew stand.jpg
Source: http://www.homebrewtalk.com (See attached link)

Source: www.homebrewtalk.com

I have a lot of plans for modifying my boil pots, modifying coolers to make a mash tun, and possibly a few side projects, such as making a counter flow chiller for cooling my wort faster.

Before I get into all grain brewing, I want to have the equipment to make sure my first day goes as smoothly as possible. I will likely have a slew of posts for all the little modifications I plan to make to my kettles prior to my first all grain brew. I’ve got the following planned:

  • Kettle additions
    • Site glass installation
    • Weldless Ball Valve
    • Temperature Gauge
  • Making my own Mash Tun
    • Fun Instrumentation
      • Level sensors for fly sparging
      • Temperature Probes for Mash temperature measurement
      • Wort re-circulation pump
  • 3 tier brewing system (woodworking project)
  • Counter-flow wort chiller

Electronics (and More Homebrewing)

As always, the world of electronics continues to peak my interest, despite the fact that I constantly get overwhelmed by electronics once I really start trying to map what I’d like to achieve with how to accomplish my end goal.

I have a couple ideas for some projects that I could apply to my homebrewing. Right now, most of them involve applying multiple temperature sensors to the homebrewing process to track temperatures throughout the process. This becomes more critical in all grain brewing since the temperature of the mash will define the characteristic of the beer. Mash temperatures influence the body of the beer, along with the fermentable sugars you get out of the grains.

Plus, going forward, I’d like to start logging more of what I did during the brewing process, and temperatures are a large part of the end result of the beer.

Oddly enough, it seems like most of my project ideas inherently turn into some kind of control system problem. The kind of control I want to have for whatever system I’m looking at  eventually lends itself to some kind complex control system (think P.I.D control. If you don’t know what that is, take a look here.)

Take for instance the grain rinsing process in all grain brewing. In a nutshell, it’s pulling the fermentable sugars and starches out of the grains. At the beginning of the mashing process, you add a certain amount of water at a given temperature to the grains and you let it sit for a given amount of time. Once that’s over, the wort has to be drained from the mash tun into the boil kettle. This is called “sparging”.

There’s a few different methods to capture the sugar and starches from the mash. One method involves adding the water in batches (also called “batch sparging”). You take a given about of water, add it to the mash tun all at the same time after the mashing is complete, then drain it all at once into the boil kettle. You add the water and drain in “batches” until you have enough wort in the boil kettle.

Another method is adding the water in a controlled process and matching the outflow of the water at the bottom to the inflow of water on top (this is also called “fly sparging”). Basically you try to match the inflow of the hot water to the outflow of the wort at the bottom.

In an ideal world, there’s a perfect height (we call it “X” in my illustration below) where the height of the water will not change in the mash tun with respect to the inflow of water and outflow of wort. Now if we think about this for a second, the outflow of wort is in a sense, a function of “X”. There is an idealized mathematical relation between the speed of the outflow at the bottom of the vessel versus the height of the water call Torricelli’s law.

Note that in reality, we can’t really rely on Torricelli’s law, because we have a whole bunch of other stuff going on. The ability for the water to travel through the grain bed and out the bottom is going to highly fluctuate depending on the grain bed density, porosity, and distribution of grains in the mash tun.

Without trying to model this as a mathematical system,  I’ve made a ghetto illustration with paint to show the process. In reality, we need a control system to match the inflow of water to the outflow of the wort. We want to get as close to height “X” as possible without deviating too much.

Using a given height “X” from the top of the grain bed, we can measure the upper and lower changes in height and modify our “Flow in” while keeping the “Flow out” constant.  We can accomplish this by measuring the height of the water on the grain bed with a level sensor, then adjust the water flow in until we get close to the set point.

Level Control.jpg

On further investigation, there are many other simpler ways to accomplish this. There’s mechanical devices out there that already attempt to accomplish this, and then there’s most other people who spend more time doing things rather than thinking about doing them.

For my first all grain batch, I’m better just to adjust the inflow and outflow valves accordingly. As much fun as it would be to automate certain aspects of the process, it’s not worth the investment in time until I figure out how to do all grain brewing from start to finish.  Then I can think of nifty contraptions later on.

Going Forward

For now, I have my classes to finish, which is likely to hinder my ability to make new posts in the next month or so. Ideally in the beginning of May, my plan is to get an all grain brewing system up and running and document the fun of my first all grain brew! I have yet to decide what kind of beer I plan on making, but that’s part of the fun!

Thanks for reading!

Personal Finance Resources

So in an effort to try and think of how to talk about the many topics that encompass personal finance, I’ve found it difficult as to where to really start.

The truth is there are so many resources already out there dedicated to helping people making make the best financial decisions, whether it’s buying versus renting a home, the best way to pay off student debt, whether to buy new versus a used car, the best stock investing strategies, or just general savings tips and strategies.

So what I’ve decided to do instead is put down a few resources people can check to start if they want help in certain areas. I could spend my time re-hashing what’s already been said, but I don’t see that as a productive use of your time when I don’t have the experience to talk to a lot of the issues. While I consider myself fairly knowledgeable in personal finance, there’s still a lot I have to learn.

So I’ll go with a few resources I use for my personal finance. There’s a vast wealth of information out there, so it’s not the only areas I go to. Hopefully this is a starter on places to look.

The Easiest Resource – Google.com

I realize this might seem pretty intuitive, but if you’d rather do your own hunting, this is the place to start. Got a question about the stock market? Google “how to invest in the stock market?” and you’ve got a wealth of good information.

General Personal Finance

Kiplingerhttp://www.kiplinger.com/

I recently got a subscription to Kiplinger magazine and it’s been a great general resource for personal finance. It’s routinely rated as a great go-to resource for general personal finance topics. There’s also plenty of topics you can read for free on their website in regards to investing, retirement planning, debt management, and savings. This is a great all encompassing resource for general personal finance.

Money Sensehttp://www.moneysense.ca/

This one is for my Canadian friends. It’s a great resource for everything personal finance relating to Canada. This one is similar to Kiplinger, however it differs as it only focuses on personal finance topics and how they relate to Canada, so for instance any topics on mortgages or taxes will be with respect to Canadian rules and regulations.

For example: They’re reference RRSPs, not IRAs. They’ll reference TFSAs, not Roth IRAs. Then tax rules are with respect to the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency), not the IRS.

Investing Books

The Intelligent Investor – Benjamin Graham

This is one of the best resources for value investing you can find in paperback. Warren Buffet has indicated that this has been one of the best resources he’s used to build his financial empire. The book uses case studies that focus on companies that are considered value stocks, which is basically another way of saying getting the best bang for your buck in terms of purchasing stocks. One of the main takeaways is to look at the price to earnings ratio (I.e. take the price of the stock and divide it by the “earnings per share” to get the price to earnings, or P.E. ratio). This lets you see how many dollars are you paying per dollar of earnings in the company?

There’s obviously a lot more than just the P.E. ratio, but the book gives a great subset of signs to look for. It’s a very old book, but new versions have updated examples that show where value investing would have paid off. (Remember, past performance is no guarantee of future returns.)

Stock investing for Dummies – Paul Mladjenovic

I read a Canadian version of this book a while back, but like any “For Dummies” book, they are a great resource for beginners. They provide a wealth of information for places to start, and don’t necessarily need to be read in a sequential fashion.

Here’s a link to a quick cheat sheet if you’re looking for a quick look at some tips for stock investing.

Financial Calculators

Bank Ratehttp://www.bankrate.com/

I’ve found as I do my endless research on what an affordable mortgage would be for me, Bank Rate provides a great easy to use mortgage calculator that lets you quickly see what your expected payment would be based on rates around your region. They also have other calculators for things such as automotive loans, student loans, credit cards, and personal loans.

General Finance Questions/Knowledgebase

Investopediahttp://www.investopedia.com/

I’ve found Investopedia to be a great resource for any general questions or financial terms I don’t understand.

For example: You can buy stocks and options on the stock market. What is a stock? What is an option? Investopedia will give you a great breakdown of both and put it in terms that make it understandable a what each actually is and the pros and cons of both.

The Takeaway

I hope this at least provides a start to finding some places to look for information if you’re interested in personal finance or investment. I’m a bit disappointed I didn’t follow through on my plan to start providing financial articles, but it’s an area where I believe there are many resources out there and many people that are better equipped to answer questions than I can.

In the future I hope to provide information on topics I feel I’m a little more knowledgeable on. While I’d like to think I have a good grasp on personal finance, I’ll let the expert resources answer your inquiries. 🙂

Hope you enjoyed the post. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

The Next Focus Point: Money!

Ever since I’ve built my Keezer, I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from doing anything that this blog was really meant to detail. Other than some other beer batches (2 wheat beers, an IPA and an Oktoberfest) I haven’t done much in terms of electronics, photography, or other projects. My summer has been occupied by work, a couple vacations and the insatiable need to get outside. So anything electronics related has taken a back seat. Also, now that school has started back up, I see my free down going further down the tubes. Sadly, my Arduino and Beaglebone Black will be gathering dust 😦

Lately however, I’ve been focusing on money. The truth is that I’m a budget-aholic (I’m pretty sure this word doesn’t exist). I’ve spent copious amounts of time trying to plan my monthly finances, forecast my expenses for upcoming months, and plan my overall financial status for the future based on my current circumstances. I have quite the detailed spreadsheets I use for determining my forecasted expenses and income. What’s nice about forecasting to such detail is that it lets me understand what my ability to save and invest is.

Some of the next big milestones in my financial future include purchasing a home, building a car, building a large garage/man cave and quite possibly building a kick ass home theater. By kick ass, I mean theatre style, little to no ambient light, 12 ft screen, and massive speakers that make the house shake. Try to imagine the full immersive experience of Master and Commander, feeling the rumble as the sound of the cannon balls from the Acheron hit the Surprise in the opening battle of the movie. At least it sounds cool today, give it a month and I’ll convince myself the cost is too much.

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Who wouldn’t want something like this in the basement?? (Source)

As fun as it sounds to talk about these things, I begin to die inside as I pencil out realistically how much these things are likely to cost. One of my other interests in life is building an investment portfolio. I’ve starting one and I’ve done ok, but everything I’ve read indicates that starting early and being disciplined with investing is the best strategy to building a secure portfolio that will build it’s value over time. Time can be your best friend or your worst enemy, because the later you start to build a portfolio, the less time you have to grow it. Even just with savings, it’s been shown time and time again that the earlier you start saving, the more you gain from compounding interest rates.

So therein lies the dilemma that is James Lindeman. I have quite the imagination in terms of projects to take on, but I’m kept at bay because of my desire to maintain financial security. This usually means my desire to save and reduce my outstanding debt puts the kibosh on lavish purchases and large projects.

There’s a lot of debate as to what’s a good purchase versus what’s a bad purchase. There’s also a lot of debate as to the best way to go about planning your financial future. There’s multiple ways of doing it, it really depends on the person and what’s important to them.

For the next couple of months, I’m going to be focusing on a number of topics that I’ve been thinking about lately. This ranges from buying a house, investing in the stock market, types of investing, budgeting, debt payoff, savings, and many other things. While a lot of it may be common knowledge, I want to at least get some of my ideas. Considering my next couple of months will likely not include any large purchases, it’ll be my main focus point.

Thanks for reading!

The Keezer Build: Pt 2

It took me long enough to finally get to writing up the second part of my keezer build. What the hell was the holdup? Well, it was a number of things, laziness, life getting in the way, spending time outside versus on the computer…take your pick. I’ve got an excuse for why it took so long.

In my last post (found here) I started off with the Keezer build and gave a general overview of how I build my keezer. I left off having finished the PVC tubing circulation system. There wasn’t a whole lot more after that. It was surprising how easy it was after that to get the keezer up and running.

Placing the Collar

Once the collar was all stained and ready to go, I slid it overtop of the keezer. While I thought I had everything aligned nicely, I noticed there was a slight gap at one of the corners where the wood interface met the top of the freezer. Even though I put some weatherstripping on the bottom of the collar for a better seal against the freezer, there was still a gap. In retrospect, I should have been a bit more careful in my alignments.

 

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Collar Fitted with Taps in Place

 

After doing a bit of reading online as to the best way to seal the collar, I got some clear silicone caulk, then lined the inside edge of the interface where the collar met the freezer top. Once it dried a couple hours later, I checked the seal with the small fan that would go on top of the reducer of the air circulation piping. The seal was great!

 

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Corners and Edges Sealed with Silicone Caulk

 

Test Fitting

I had to test fit the kegs and the CO2 tank along with the reducer to make sure everything fit. Luckily, it looked like everything was going to fit nicely. I was a little disappointed I wouldn’t be getting 4 kegs in, but I think I can do with 3.

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Even with only 2 kegs, a 3rd wasn’t going to be an issue 🙂

Insulation

Prior to adding the insulation, I mounted the manifold to the back of the collar so I could cut my insulating pieces to size.

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Manifold in place (I took this after the build was complete, realizing I’d forgotten to take the picture)

I made cut outs for the faucets along the inside of the front face. I started placing strips of aluminum tape over the corners and the top side of the collar to seal the interface between the insulation and the wood. I had thought about covering all the insulation with aluminum tape, but figured it was more effort than necessary. 99% of the time the lid is closed.

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Once I had all the cutouts for the faucet bars and the manifold in the back, I sealed the bottom each with silicone caulk to prevent any air from escaping. It seems to have worked pretty well.

Setting up Air Circulation

I initially had a few issues trying to figure out how I was going to mount the fan to the pipe reducer at the top, however, after thinking about it, I figured I would use the silicone caulk to hold it in place.

One thing I noticed with just the basic computer fan is that it didn’t move as much air as I wanted. After doing some investigation between axial fans versus centrifugal fans, I decided to purchase a centrifugal fan and mount it to the reducer instead of the axial fan. I used the silicone caulk to seal the fan and reducer interface.

There’s a lot more engineering behind selecting blower fans along with the air filtration systems, such as the draft angle of the reducer to the pump, the pressure differential in a compressor fan to move the ideal amount of air, pressure loses due to bends in the air movement system, and so on and so forth. My approach was pretty basic: take the compressor fan wires, hook them up to the correct wires on a 12 V wall wort power supply (an old phone charger) and then plug it in. So far, it works pretty well moving the cold air. Plus, it moves the cold air horizontally towards the taps versus upwards right into the lid.

 

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Centrifugal Fan Wired up and Ready to Go

 

Finishing Touches

What I noticed with the CO2 tank with the double body regulator on it is that it’s very prone to tipping. With a full CO2 tank it’s not much of an issue, but as it gets empty, it becomes a problem. My fix for this was to use a chain, 2 carabiners, and two eyelet screws. With the eyelet screws in the collar, the chain retains the CO2 tank at the neck to prevent it from tipping.

 

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A Good Retaining Solution for ~$3

Then there were the last few little things to do before I prepped my first keg. With the manifold added prior to the insulation, I mounted the temperature controller at the back of the collar behind everything, so that it looked clean from the front.

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Temperature Controller Mounted and Ready for Action.

 

The temperature controller probe was placed in a cup of water. I had read it was a more accurate way of measuring liquid temperature versus measuring the air temperature. I placed it next to the small dehumidifier in the space underneath the CO2 regulators.

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Temperature Probe and the Dehumidifier on the Compressor Hump

Then there was attaching all the hoses to the barbs and making sure all the connections were sealed. I did this by mixing some dish soap in a spray bottle and squirted at all the connections while the system was pressurized. If any bubbles showed up at the connections, I knew there was an issue.

Hooking up the System

The way I hooked up the system was I plugged the temperature controller into the wall, then plugged the power bar into the temperature controller. The power bar had the fan plugged into it, so this way the fan only turns on when the freezer is cycled on. It’s a noisy fan, so I didn’t want it running all the time.

Prepping my First Beer

Once I checked all the connections and fixed any leaks, it was time for my first beer to be kegged! I ran some beer line cleaner through the hoses a couple of times to ensure the that the hose lines were clean, then I cleaned the keg with some dish detergent. There’s better cleaners out there, but it was a brand new keg that I’d already cleaned an sanitized.

My first keg was a force carbonation test to see how well force carbonating worked.  I followed the process detailed on homebrewing.org. (Click the link to see it).

The Finished Keezer

It’s finally finished! My keezer is finished and producing lovely carbonated beers!

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Inside All set up (I only have  beer on at the moment. More to come 🙂 )

 

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The Keezer. Finished at Last.

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Producing Wonderful Draft Beer

Future Upgrades

There’s always more things I can do to tweak and improve my keezer. A few things I had thought about include the following:

  • Adding a dolly to the bottom to move the keezer around.
  • Making custom tap handles.
  • Adding a drip tray under the faucets.
  • Incorporating some nifty electronics, such as a scale or load cell to determine the amount of beer remaining in each keg.

But that’s my keezer build. If you have any questions, leave a comment!

The Keezer Build: Pt. 1

It took me long enough, but it’s high time I wrote up my keezer build. I seemed to to a lot of talking about it, but finally it’s time to at least write up a general “how I did it”. I built my keezer in a similar fashion to the keezer that’s detailed on Homebrew Academy. It’s your best source of information if you’re looking for specifics on building a keezer.

It’s easy to drive yourself mental with the options you have when it comes to kegging your beer. I’ve discovered there’s no shortage to how much control you can have over your homebrewed beverages. For my keezer, I wanted to be able to do the following:

  • Serve three different types of beer
  • Carbonate a keg while serving with other kegs.
  • Keep the construction relatively simple.

After much debate in terms of whether I build a collar versus building a more elegant bar style keezer with the coffin box on top, I decided in the end to do a collar style build. This build is already a step past what I’m used to and considering I’m making a draft system for the first time, the collar style build is the easiest way to go.

Planning

One thing I find is that I try to plan things to the n’th degree. I like to know exactly what I’m getting into when I take on projects like these, since ones like these tend to come with a price tag. With a general idea for keg sizes and the dimensions of some freezers I had in mind, I made a 3D model in Google Sketchup to see what my collar build would look like in terms of dimensions.

Isometric View
Isometric view of Keezer
Overview of Keg placement
Better Idea of Spacing Between Kegs
Pipe System
View of PVC Network for Air Movement

This gave me a good sense of realistically how many kegs I was going to be able to fit in. I had tried to convince myself that possibly I could fit all four kegs on the bottom, but it was going to be really tight. Basically, I had to accept that I was likely only going to be able to fit three on the bottom and maybe a low profile or 2.5 gallon keg on the compressor hump.

Since I’m a neurotic engineer, I try to estimate my costs as accurately as possible, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from the wisdom of others would take on projects and document them on the web, it’s that no matter how hard you try, you’re always going to spend more than you think. Taking this into account, I made an initial bill of materials, then multiplied the total cost by 1.2. Not surprisingly, I spent more than this. That being said, the actual cost was relatively close to the 1.2 multiplier on the estimated cost. I was only over by about $50. Good lessons to remember for the future.

With a digital representation of the keezer, it was time to jump into the real build.

Getting the Materials

To build a keezer, you need the main ingredient: a freezer. You’ve got a number of options, there’s usually a good number of people looking to get rid of freezers on craigslist, however I have a $100 gift card to Lowes and they had the size of freezer I was looking for. In the end, I picked up a Idlyis 7.1 Cu-ft freezer for $109 after the gift card.

I had struggled to find exact dimensions of the insides of freezers online. One good way to easily determine how many kegs will fit in a freezer is take some cardboard and cut out circles the size of the keg diameter. Then, go to Lowes, or Home Depot, and put them in the bottom on the freezer. This quickly tells you how much space the kegs are going to take up in the freezer you’re looking to buy. The image below shows using the templates on the floor models at Lowes.

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Keg Cardboard Templates in Idylis 7.1 CU Freezer

 

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Loaded and Ready to Go

Considering now I had a freezer and two kegs, I was committed at this point. I took a trip down to the local homebrewing store Adventures in Homebrewing. It’s wonderful living so close to Adventures in Homebrewing, the team there is incredibly knowledgeable and helped direct me to everything I needed for the keezer build.

Below is a rough bill of materials. Since I bought some tools for the first time while doing this, my costs were a little bit out of whack, but below is a fairly good review of how much the Keezer cost.

Material/Component Cost
2 x 6 Lumber  $          5.83
Beer Line (15 ft, 3/16″ thick)  $           13.13
Beer Line Disconnect (x 3)  $           15.87
Beer Shanks (4-1/8″, SS)  $           79.47
Carbonating Beer Line  $           16.42
Castors  $           11.51
CO2 Tank (10 lb) – Reconditioned Tank and Fill  $           90.10
Computer Case Fan  $             5.17
Computer Scroll Fan  $             7.09
De-Humidifier  $           31.75
Double Body Regulator  $         105.99
Fasteners  $           11.26
Faucets (Perlick, 630SS)  $         114.48
Freezer  $         109.88
Gas Ball Locks (x3)  $           15.87
Gas Line (12 ft, 9/16″)  $           10.05
Gas Manifold  $           41.33
Hose Clamps  $           11.72
Insulation  $             5.81
Miscellaneous  $           17.30
Oak Trim  $           31.86
PVC  $           18.54
Shelving  $             5.24
Swivel Nuts (1/4″)  $           12.69
Tail Piece Assembly (x 3)  $           15.87
Taps Handles (x 3)  $           12.69
Temperature Controller  $           61.42
Wall Wart  $             5.30
Weatherstrip  $             3.47
Wire Connectors  $             2.52
Grand Total  $         889.61

The above doesn’t account for the fact that I needed some extra tools and materials as well. If you don’t do much woodworking, you’re probably going to need a good palm sander, along with a wood stain and a varnish. My total cost after materials ended up being about $100 more than what’s listed above.

There’s places you can save money, like finding a freezer on craigslist for less than $50 if you really look around, or by going with chrome material instead of stainless steel. The double body regulator is a big cost, if you don’t mind carbonating a keg then serving it separately, you can save about $45 going with a single regulator. Depending on what you want, you can probably do this a little bit cheaper. I wanted to be able to carbonate and serve at the same time, the double body regulator lets you split off two separate pressures, so I can have a high one for carbonating, and a low one for serving.

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My Trip to Adventures in Homebrewing

Building the Collar

The first steps involved getting the collar built. Removing the lid is a bit of a challenge because the hinges on the back are spring loaded, so I had to be careful when taking the screws out. Once they were out, I measured the top of the open freezer and cut the 2 x 6 lumber to create the base of the collar. I used basic screws to hold the collar together.

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Then, I reinstalled the lid onto the back of the collar, since I wasn’t going to be putting any oak trim on the back. If you really wanted to go basic, you could stop here with the collar, seal the insides, and drill faucet holes. However, the nice thing about the oak trim is that it creates a glove for the keezer that gives it a nice polished look when combined with the staining.

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Oak Trim Installed

Using brass nuts and screws, I fastened the oak trim to the 2 x 6s. The oak trim hangs about 2 inches below the bottom of the collar and lines up with the top of the 2 x 6 interface with the lid.

One of the issues I ran into is that I discovered after I attached the oak trim was the the front face had a crack that ran right though the center. This irritated me as oak trim is not exactly cheap. Oh well, first hangup. No biggie, back to home depot more oak.

There was a silver lining because I used the cracked piece as a template for mounting my beer shanks. I used the cracked piece to determine the size of spade bit I needed to use (I think it was 7/8″, though I forgot to take down the size I used!) & I got a chance to see what the taps would look like on the trim. I also used the cracked trim piece as a template when I made the mistake of using a spade bit for the beer shanks that was a little bit too small. As I said, the cracked piece ended up working out pretty well 🙂

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Silver Linings Cracked Trim
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Test Fitting the Faucets

Once I got a new piece of oak trim, I drilled the holes and attached the taps to test the fit. So far pretty good!

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Test Fit of Faucets.

Staining the Collar

The whole reason I got the oak is that I wanted the outside to be stained. I like the stained look of oak, so I ended up getting a cherry red stain and glossy urethane finish. This took about a week to do, since I did 3 coats of stain and 4 coats of urethane.

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Staining the Collar
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Urethane Coat Drying

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I like the red color, and I didn’t want to go too dark with the stain as I wasn’t planning on doing anything to the fridge. I had originally thought of painting it black, but it’s something I can do in the future if I really want to.

Air Movement

While the collar was being stained, I built the network of PVC tubes that would move the air. In retrospect, doing the PVC tubes is overkill, but I wanted to go the extra mile. If I really want to I can always remove it later.

I wasn’t able to find the exact PVC tube sections I had in my sketchup model. So I improvised and made the PVC network a little more curved with a few extra 90 degree elbows and a four way connection.

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Cutting the PVC

In the end, I think it turned out alright. The PVC size I use was 1-1/2″, but the truth is you can use any size you want, you just have to make sure to account for the keg height change with respect to putting the PVC in the bottom. So if you use 2″ PVC tube, the top of the keg will be 2″ closer to the top (plus a little bit if you put something over the PVC). If you’re collar height was based on the keg sitting on the floor, the lid might not close!

Once the PVC sections were cut and fitted together, I tested out how the fan would sit on top of the reducer section right at the top of the PVC network.

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PVC Network All Assembled

For the wiring the sits on top of the pipe network, I found some cheap wire shelving at home depot. I used a dremel to cut out the sections of the shelving to fit above the pipe network. It was a cheap solution, but it worked great!

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Shelving Sections Cut to Shape
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The Shelving Fits Perfectly!

One thing I noticed (which I’ll discuss in part 2) is that the fan hardly moved any air at all. For the time being, it worked as a good surrogate part to place everything so it fit.

For Part 2

In the next post, I’ll go through some of the smaller details as I finish up the build, such as insulating, routing hoses, and sealing, along with plans for the future. I’ve got two beers finishing up fermentation, so I hope to be enjoying some nice draft out of the keezer soon!

More to come soon!

Online Dating: My Experience

Online Dating

So another not so secret aspect of my life is my dating life. You’d think it was secret, because to be honest, it’s been pretty much non-existent for the last couple of years.

I’ve put in some work to try and correct this, but I haven’t put in the necessary work. It’s like doing anything in life, if you want to be good at something, you have to figure out what works and what doesn’t and learn from your mistakes. Not to paraphrase the most generic and irritating statement in corporate America, but you have to work smarter, not harder. While I completely agree that this is the most ineffective statement you can hear from your boss at a 9-5 job, there’s a little bit of truth to this statement. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a bit counterproductive. If you need comic relief from the 9-5 grind, look here.

When it comes to my dating life, it’s been challenging just getting a foot in the door. Back in 2013 I worked in Northern Alberta doing shift work for a construction company. My shift was 10 days on, 4 days off. This meant that I only got 8 days of every month where I was back in civilization.

Long story short, I tried online dating. I tried the free ones, OKCupid and Plenty of Fish. Delving into online dating is not the easiest thing, I felt incredibly self conscious. I’m effectively trying to sell myself as a potential match for someone over cyberspace. It’s a marketing exercise for romance.

In short, doing the free online dating options churned out very little in terms of actually meeting people. I found the time invested in it didn’t produce the results I was hoping for.

Then my circumstances changed. Lo and behold, I find myself engulfed in civilization 24/7! I’m in a steady job working a 9-5 schedule, new city, a chance to try again. Perfect! Now things will turn around…right?

6 months later, I found myself in more or less the same place. Nothing was happening in terms of dating. So what are my options?

Lets try online dating again! It didn’t work before, but lets try something different. Perhaps there’s too many people who aren’t serious about dating using the free service, maybe a paid service will invite people more intent on finding a relationship.

After researching all possible non-free options to the n-th degree, I decided to give match.com a try. After all, it had a large online presence, it has a layout that allows you to sell yourself effectively and the price wasn’t outrageous compared to the other paid online dating services.

Well, after culminating a lovely profile that detailed myself, my interests, what I was looking for, and some attempts at nice looking photos, I was set. It’s me and my insecurities, but I can’t stand taking photos. I’m never happy with the expression on my face or the pose I’m taking, or some factor of the photo.

Anyways, back on topic. Before I go much further, I’m realistic about what online dating results are usually like. Finding romance online is by no means guaranteed. You don’t just put up a profile and expect the messages to come pouring in from the women. Nor do you expect every woman you message to send you a message back. The inherent nature on online dating turns into a numbers game.

Being an engineer, I naturally want to quantify everything. What’s my returned message ratio? What’s my date percentage of women who messaged me back? What’s my time invested versus date output? How many views do I get based on my photo set? I had actually thought of doing an analytics project that tracked everything, my profile pictures, my message lengths, my compatibility scores, pretty much everything that could be quantified.

Don’t worry, I came to my senses. This is a ridiculous and time consuming way to approach this. The time investment in developing a system for doing this kind of analysis is probably better suited to a master’s student in computer science and data analytics.

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Source: xkcd.com/314/

My Experience with Match.com

Once I got going and started sending messages, I found it took a lot of sent out messages before I got messages back. I found that the majority of the women I talked to, the response eventually petered out. This was usually to a difference in interests, or communication styles, or even just response times.

I found conversations petered out pretty quickly if all I got back what a short one sentence answer that barely answered the original questions I asked without an additional question to continue the conversation. I don’t need an essay or your life story in the second message I get back from you, but it certainly helps the conversation going if there can be at least questions coming from both sides.

There were the cases where I thought I had some good back and fourth messages with some women, and then out of the blue they just completely stopped responding.  Now I get it, I’m not the only person they’re talking to, I’m not going to be completely compatible with every single person I meet, nor am I going to connect with every person I have a conversation with. It just felt a little disheartening to feel like there was the possibility of meeting someone in person, only to get absolutely no response when I asked if they wanted to meet when you think it’s a positive direction in the communication. Also, I get it, it’s really hard for people just to say “no, I’m not interested.” As much as I would love people to be this direct, I know how hard this is. I’m not going to pretend I can do this myself.

The Results

Long story short, I tried a lot of different things and basically found that varying the parameters that were within my control on the system didn’t lead to drastically different results. After 6 months, I basically ended up messaging over 200 people, and met 2 people in person. The rate of return on time invested was not to my liking.

One date was actually not too bad, one was a dud, and there was the potential for a 3rd date, however I got a lovely text saying “I’m not ready for a relationship, I got pressured into joining match.com by my friends, but I’m more focused on other things.” This had been after three attempts to try and meet up. While I did appreciate the honesty, it left me disappointed and further cemented my thoughts towards online dating. There are many other possible reasons for this response. I leave you to use your imagination.

After 6 months, there was an option to renew my membership. My decision was a resounding no. I’ve just found online dating in general hasn’t worked for me and for now I’m not prepared to dump more financial resources into online dating.

My choices to not renew are NOT due to Match.com. The services, website layout, and communication systems provided by Match.com worked quite well in terms of functionality.

That being said, I did figure out a few things should I ever choose to throw more money into the system.

  • Short messages as intros are the most effective for getting a response. You don’t need to craft an insanely complicated message as an intro, but you do need to say more than just “Hey”.
  • Don’t waste time messaging back and fourth after 3-4 messages, try to meet in person. If you’re lucky enough to receive a response and you’ve gotten a dialogue going and things seem good, it’s only more time wasted on cyberspace to continue a long and draw out back and fourth conversation.
  • There’s no point in trying to convince yourself that you’d work with someone who has a different lifestyle than you. If you only work out twice a week, like dogs, and live off beer, spaghetti, and pulled pork, then a vegetarian who diets hardcore, works out religiously, and has a cat is not likely going to look at you and say “I really want to meet this person!” (I’m not saying my diet is this bad, I’m saying be honest about your lifestyle)

This is more directed towards women on Match.com, but I’m sorry, you need to vary your intro a bit. (Part of my rant, sorry, I have to go here.)

“I’m adventurous, I like exploring new places and getting out and about. I work really hard, I’m very career oriented and I love what I do! I’m looking for a man who enjoys going out, but also enjoys relaxing on a Friday night eating pizza and binging on Netflix. He has his life together, knows exactly his direction in life, and is funny.” (While not necessarily expressed, he’s also got a 6 pack, is over 6 feet tall, and is uber confident and charismatic.)

In short, online dating has not worked for me. Before I keep going, I recognize there’s a million things I can do differently to improve my experience. I could accept my insecurities about myself and stop caring what other people think. I can accept the fact that online dating is inherently a numbers game. I can accept that online dating is a marketing exercise, and much like marketing, the right resources and tools will generate better results. For example, I could have invested in the “profile makeover” that Match.com offers. I could have invested in the “top spot” options that Match.com offers to increase visibility. I could quit complaining about my woes and meet some people in the real world. The latter seems like the most feasible option.

All and all, this was my experience with online dating. Perhaps my perceptions will change depending on where I’m at with my life, but my current experiences with it have so far not been favorable.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Here’s a funny comic as a reward.

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I don’t normally do rant like posts, but I felt like getting this one out. I’ll be honest, if you’re reading this you could probably find a million things to pick apart with the logic I present.  I know lots of people have had a lot of success with online dating, leading to marriages and life long happiness, especially using the services I’ve named in this post. This is a personal review of my experience to date purely for entertainment purposes.

 

Looking Ahead

Once again, I’ve let my blogging lapse due to the trials and tribulations of a busy life. It has been far too long since my last post. Other than being able to say I’m 1 class closer to getting my master’s degree, not too much is new. …only 7 more courses to go…

If there’s anything I’ve discovered in the last four months, it’s that as a mechanical engineer, I certainly did not get the background necessary during my undergraduate degree to fully understand all of the content involved in signal processing. While the course is meant to be a signal processing course in the context of being for mechanical engineers (AKA “For Dummies”) I found that to really understand the significance and theory behind concepts such as Discrete Fourier Analysis, Fast Fourier Transforms, Short Time Fourier Transforms, or Wavelet Transforms, a background in higher level mathematics, complex algebra and mathematical functions is really helpful.

What I struggled with in the course is the deeper understanding of what’s really happening with some of the concepts. Take for example the concept of convolution. This is the basis behind the short time Fourier Transform, because the mathematical definition of the short time Fourier Transform is understanding that in order to get a closer look at a signal time segment, we “convolute” the window function times the complex exponential with the original signal to get a windowed segment of a signal. This allows us to see the frequency contents of a smaller section and we can see how the signal contents change over time.

Don’t worry if absolutely none of the above made sense (in fact I sure some savvy engineer with a strong signal processing background could call me out on this. Please be kind 🙂 ) All I was trying to get at is while I can talk to it at a basic level, I still really don’t have a good understanding of what “convolution” in a mathematical sense is. There’s many, many resources online which will try to break down in layman’s terms what it is, but right now, while I can implement what I’ve learned into a nice Matlab script that will punch out a beautiful looking spectrogram of the frequency contents of a signal, I still struggle to understand the mathematics behind some of the concepts (I will say Daubechies wavelets made my head explode in this sense). In short, a couple higher level math courses would have been really helpful.

So now that I have a few months with a bit of extra time, what’s the plan?

During the last month, I built myself a nice little subfloor in the garage of the place I’m renting. What I found this last winter is that the absence of having a good place to skateboard was one of the few things that makes me really crabby and disgruntled in general. Since my garage doesn’t have the smoothest surface, I decided to build a little subfloor to skateboard on.

While I had planned on doing a write up on it, it’s actually really quite simple. You take a bunch of 2 x 4s, some OSB sheets, masonite sheets, and a whole crap load of screws, and basically build a frame from the 2x4s. Then you lay the OSB sheets on top, and then masonite on top of that.

I probably didn’t need nearly as much lumber as I used, but it’s nice and sturdy. It’s not perfect, you can tell where the 2 x 4 sections are separated as it creates a bit of a hump in the masonite. That being said, it works pretty well for my purposes.

Garage Skate Pad
Sketchup Rendering
Garage Skate Pad 2
Sketchup Rendering
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Building Phase
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It’s Finished! There’s space for my truck and for skateboarding.

The nice thing with this setup is now I have no excuse not to do some kind of skateboarding. Even if it’s only a couple of kick flips or 360 flips for 20 minutes at the end of the work day, I have a place to go. I’ve discovered that sometimes at the end of the work day, I either need something else to focus on or just some way to get rid of some of the pent up energy I get from sitting at a desk all day.

Upcoming Projects

As I’ve constantly referred to in the past, I still do have plans to make my homebrew draft system (or “Keezer” as it’s referred to in the homebrew community). What I’m struggling with at the moment is figuring out exactly what I want. While I have a pretty good idea of the quantity of kegs, types of faucets, CO2 tank size, etc… I’m trying to figure out what kind of overall design I want. One style is the “collar” design, which is pretty easy to implement. You remove the freezer lid, take some 2 x 4 or 2 x 8 wood and create a square collar in between the lid and freezer, then drill holes to mount the faucets on the collar. An example is shown below.

Collar Keezer – Source: http://www.homebrewtalk.com

The other style is known as a “coffin” keezer. In my opinion, this style looks a lot more refined and more like a bar setup, however it does come with some challenges. One is that you have to take a bunch more steps to ensure you have a low temperature difference between where the taps are and the bottom of the freezer. If you have a higher temperature at the taps than in the freezer, you end up with a lot of foam when you pour your beer. This equates to lost beer (not cool!). This usually means you need to insulate the coffin box really well and you need to wire a fan to move some air through the bottom of the freezer up to the coffin box to keep it cold.

Coffin Keezer with 3 Taps – Source: http://www.homebrewtalk.com

Also, I know if I went this route, I’d want it to look polished and refined, more like a bar setup. This would probably mean more money put into materials to make it nice and a lot more construction work to make it look nice. If I’m going to go to all the trouble to construct a coffin style keezer, I want it to look nice as well.

So while that’s coming up at some point, I want to hash out exactly what I want to do with it before I start putting it together, as I don’t want to be changing my mind after I’ve started down a specific direction.

As per usual, it’s a balance figuring out what to do next as I only have so much money to work with. While I have a pretty good idea of what the keezer is going to cost, I am constantly trying to get over the fact that it costs a decent amount of money and jump in.  We’re not talking thousands of dollars, but enough to stop and think. The usual questions of “maybe this money could be better used elsewhere” come up. Maybe I should buy the TV first while it’s on sale at Bestbuy. Maybe I should focus on paying off my truck. Maybe I should get a Tonneau cover for my truck. Maybe I should invest in the stock market.

What I constantly forget is that material possessions are not the basis for happiness. Money, possessions, and wealth do not equal happiness. So while it will cost some money up front for the keezer project, it’s the planning and execution that’s the fun part. Plus I know the end result will grant me many a good pint.

Photography, Electronics, and the rest of my life.

My photography has taken a bit of a back seat in the last couple of months. At some point I hope to get that back up and running as I still want to work on my time lapse rig that I spoke to in previous posts. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done anything with my Beaglebone Black, so if I look into that again, I’ll probably be starting from the beginning while I refresh my memory on how to program it and make it work.

Going Forward

As I go forward, I probably will find that it takes me longer than normal to get my projects up and running. I only have 4 months until classes start up again, so my goal is to make the best use of my time since once school starts, the posts will stop.

A Long Overdue Update

It’s hard to believe the last time I created a blog post was Thanksgiving of 2015. That was almost 3 months ago! I have been super delinquent about getting any kind of blog posts since then. A lot’s happened in the last three months.

Beer Brewing

Just before Christmas break, I put my American Pale ale into the secondary fermentation vessel and bottled the Belgian White that was in secondary.

Unfortunately I didn’t use enough priming sugar for the Belgian white when I bottled as it failed to fully carbonate. It tastes great considering I scorched the wart when I cooked it and there’s hardly any head formation. It’s certainly a recipe I’ll try again, but next time I’ll use more priming sugar and I’ll be a bit more careful with the malt.

The American Pale ale has been sitting in secondary since December, so it’s ready to bottle. At some point I’ll get to it, I’ve been rather busy since the start of the new year.

Eventually I plan on making a keezer so I can keg my beer instead of bottling it. It’s a bit of an added expense, but kegging beer will be way easier than  bottling and using priming sugar. I’ll have a bit more control over the carbonation.

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These Kegs Need Beer in Them!

Christmas

Christmas was a blur, it’s hard to believe it passed by so quickly. That being said, I got in a few days of much needed snowboarding.

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Beautiful Day at Sunshine Village

 

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The Canadian Rockies

I saw lots of family and friends back home but like always, the break wasn’t long enough, and soon enough I found myself back in Detroit for the new year.

2016 and Going Forward

This year I started my Master’s in Mechanical Engineering at Wayne State. Right now I’m only doing one course, however with school in the evening on top of working during the day, life has gotten busy.

Unfortunately for the next couple of months I’m going to be busy, school takes up a significant amount of time aside from  work, so my free time has been significantly reduced.

Ideally once this semester is over, I’ll have a bit more time to get back into some of my hobbies over the summer. A few things I want to work on:

  • Keezer – Converter chest freezer for serving kegged beer
  • Grind Rail – Small flat bar rail for skateboarding. I’ve been thinking about learning to weld for some time, so this rail would be a good starting point.
  • Skateboarding – With it being winter and all, this has taken a back seat. Looking forward to doing a lot more once summer is back!

Other Ideas

In the past, I had done a blog on investing and managing money, however I lost the motivation to continue on as I didn’t really have a good focus for the blog. Since I stopped doing that blog a couple years back, I feel like I’ve done a few things that might be of value to the internet.

I’m hoping to throw some posts in here and there about money management and finances. I realize there’s already a lot of literature about money and finances, but at the same time, I feel like it doesn’t hurt to throw out a few ideas for money management.

All in all, 2016 has been busy to say the least. More to come in the future!