Changing Priorities

Once again I’ve gotten off schedule with my regular posts. That being said, a lot has happened in the last little while.

The Car Hunt

I had been on the hunt for a mid 1970s Corvette back in September. I had looked at a couple of potential candidates, however I found that of the ones I looked at, there were a couple issues that I couldn’t get past. My biggest issue was the fact that there was more rust that I was prepared to put up with. One of the things I discovered is that when ads say “no rust” that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no rust on the car. People have different interpretations of what “no rust” means. The truth is with cars that are 40 years old, there’s bound to be some rust somewhere on the car. You just have to know how much rust you’re prepared to put up with.

I did a lot of scrutinizing over the cars that were in my price range, but based on the research I’d done, I didn’t find any that matched my expectations. I understood that it was going to take a while to find the right one, but based on my expertise at working with cars and previous restoration experience (which was essentially none) I didn’t find the car that fit my expectations.

My Daily Driver

The car I’d been using for my daily driver had started to give me issues a couple weeks back just before I went to Toronto for the weekend. I got a low coolant indicator on my dashboard. One of the things that concerned me was that I wasn’t seeing any indication of a coolant leak underneath the car. After some research I checked my rear tailpipe and had confirmed that I had a leaking head gasket. There was white wisps of smoke coming out of the exhaust, indicating that coolant was leaking through the gasket. Bad news.

After more research, I discovered that fixing a head gasket wasn’t something I could easily do myself and that it was likely to run ~$1,000 to fix. Maybe if I got multiple quotes I might have been able to get a slightly better price, but everyone I talked to had told me it was an expensive repair.

Sadly, my car was running on borrowed time. The exhaust and muffler needed to be replaced which was going to be about $200 in parts, the head gasket needed to be replaced, which was going to run about $1,000, and the climate system wasn’t working. After 15 minutes of running the AC I would lose all airflow. I wasn’t able to find a root cause as to the climate system, which meant this could have turned into a costly repair. I had already put enough money into replacing the brake calipers and rotors, replacing two wheel bearings, and replacing the rear struts. Considering the car itself wasn’t worth that much, it was starting to ramp up in maintenance costs. It was going to start costing more money than it was worth.

Next Steps

As much as I wanted to get the Corvette, I knew that I needed to get a daily driver. My car was running on borrowed time and I wasn’t sure how long it would be before other things started to break down. I also was in the unfortunate position of not being able to sell the car since I’d imported it into the US. It would have cost more money to get it to the standard required to sell it than I could have sold it for, so there was no point in trying to sell it.

So what were my options?

  1. Fork out the money to fix up my daily driver
  2. Buy a used vehicle.
  3. Buy a new vehicle.

Take a wild guess at which one I chose…

I picked the option I never thought I’d do…I opted to buy a new vehicle.

The Malibu before Mother Waddles picked her up. I was sad to see her go :(
The Malibu before Mother Waddles picked her up. I was sad to see her go 😦

Serious Contemplation

Many would argue that the purchase of a new car is a bad choice. There are so many arguments for and against purchasing a new vehicle and I’m not going to get into them here. All you have to do is search Google and you can find countless articles that can convince you one way or the other.

The thing I looked as is that I nee to build credit history in the US. Ever since I’ve gotten here, I’ve found that my lack of credit history has made things such as banking and obtaining credit incredibly difficult. My rational is that if I going to be here for a while, I may as well build the credit history by financing a new car. I realize that there are many other ways to build credit history as well, yet this was a personal decision, and being that I was now a part of the auto industry, I wanted to get a sense of what a new car really felt like.

Now that the Corvette was sadly going to be off the table for some time, I asked myself what I was really after. The Corvette had the allure of being the cool classic sports car with the big powerful motor. My plan had been to make it go fast. So if that was no longer an option, what was the next logical choice? Considering I work at Ford, the choice was pretty obvious…

She’s calling my name… (image source: huntleyvoice.com/2015-mustang-gt)

The 2015 Mustang GT is a beautiful car. The 5.0 L engine puts out 435 HP and 400 Ft-Lbs of torque, which would have made for a wickedly fun ride. It looked good and would have been so much fun to drive. I had seriously contemplated buying this car.

So why did I hesitate?

Because in my mind, the reason you purchase a car like this is to go FAST. You buy a Mustang GT for the performance. The thing I thought about then, is “where am I going to use this performance?” Honestly I’d probably use it to accelerate from 0-45 MPH very quickly, then list along feeling somewhat dissatisfied everywhere I go. Also, since I tend to base the majority of my thinking on Murphy’s law, I figured any time I really did push the performance of this car, I was likely to get caught. Last thing I needed after getting a new car is getting taxed due to my happily heavy foot.

Basically, if I was going to get a Mustang, I wanted to drive it, yet the problem was is I wasn’t likely going to use it for it’s intended purpose. Considering this was going to be a $30,000 daily driver, I figured I wouldn’t be super thrilled at taking it out in the snow and the rain, nor was I going to have the fun I wanted. So I ruled the Mustang out early.

After all this, I learned that all I really want is something I can go fast in without worrying about the consequences, also known as “cheap speed”.

So what were the other options?

Down to the Final Two.

While I likely wasn’t going to have the performance monster I wanted, I figured it would still be fun to have a stick shift. The next option was the Ford Focus ST.

Courtesy of Prettycarz.com

Again, another sporty option with a standard transmission. This would have been a fun car to drive, without quite the price tag of the Mustang (or so I thought). This made it down to the two cars I was looking into.

However once I started looking more into this car, I started to realize that it wasn’t going to be quite the performer I wanted. It would have been a fun car to drive, but I found that the price of the few remaining 2015’s were only about $4,000 less than the Mustang. With this small of a price difference, I may as well go with the Mustang. While it would have been fun as well, it was lacking in a few features and I found the insurance was going to be more expensive than the other vehicle I was looking at.

What did I end up getting?

Considering the incentives that were available for the last of the 2015s, the lower insurance cost, and my planned usage for the future, what could I have possibly got?

My New F150. No regrets so far :)
My New F150. No regrets so far 🙂

2015-10-27 17.54.46

Yes, I ended up going with a truck. I will admit the decision process seems a bit odd considering my wants and desires, but this ended up being the vehicle I wanted. There were terrific incentives and I got an A-plan price considering I already work at Ford, so I managed to do pretty well with the price I got.

She’s got some juice in her as well. I got the 2.7 Liter EcoBoost option, and it accelerates quite nicely. It’s only a 2WD, but I figured I didn’t need the 4X4. Others would argue 4X4 is essential if you’re getting a truck, but I don’t plan on doing much off road driving. The additional equipment required for 4×4 would have driven up the cost of the truck above what I was prepared to pay.

So in the last couples of months, I’ve changed my mind over and over about what I’ve wanted to get in terms of a vehicle. While a year ago I never would have found myself saying “I’m buying a new vehicle”, I proved myself wrong my doing just that a week and a half ago.

What about my desire for cheap speed?

In the next post, I’ll detail my plans for cheap speed going forward. There won’t be anything immediate on the horizon, but in the mean time there’s lots of possibilities to research out there.

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Corvettes, Beer, Microcontrollers, and Future Plans

Once again, I’ve gotten out of stride with my posts. Last weekend was a rather busy weekend for me as I looked over a number of possible C3 Corvettes for sale. While there were some very nice Corvettes I looked at, I found that each one just had some flaws that I wasn’t prepared to deal with.

Classic Car Hunt

The Mid 70’s Corvettes were a very interesting time for the Corvette, because they went away from the all chrome trim that was found on most cars in the late sixties to early seventies. Also, the power specs started to go way down with the required addition of emissions equipment. Performance-wise, the mid seventies Corvettes were rather pathetic (the “high performance” option only made 225 hp in 1979) but GM made a ton of these cars (they made over 53,000 Corvettes in 1979). The way I look at it, these cars can be picked up at a pretty good price for a classic. I’m not too concerned about the originality, so I have no problem putting on some high performance modifications to give the car a bit more power than the factory specs. I still want the car to look and sound original, but if it’s modified under the hood, that’s fine with me.

1979 Corvette (Courtesy of Hemmings Blog: http://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2012/11/02/petersen-to-pay-tribute-to-the-corvette-for-its-60th-anniversary/)

That being said, there are a lot of Corvettes out there to look at, and there are a lot that have hidden flaws that can become problematic very quickly. As with most cars that are 40 years old, rust is the biggest enemy. Corvettes had a steel frame which makes rust prevalent in these cars. Fixing rust can be one of the biggest expenses to owning a classic car. For my current scenario, I’d rather pay more up front and have a car with a decent frame than pay less for a car that needs more work. In all of my research on buying a classic, everyone has told me to save my money and buy the car that’s already at the point that I want it to be at, since it will cost a lot more money if I buy a car that’s cheaper but requires work to be done.

While I’m hoping to get a Corvette before the winter comes, I’m not going to jump on something just for the sake of getting a classic. I have a very specific idea about what I want. So my research continues as I look for my 1974-1979 Corvette.

Home Brew

In the world of beer, I just finished bottling my Dunkel Rye batch. I tried a sample during bottling and while it tastes like a German beer, I find it’s lacking the body that I was hoping for. What I’m discovering is I’m trying to make a beer that’s got a full body. I’m not looking for something as heavy as Guiness, but something that’s got a body similar to a Killian’s Red Ale. I haven’t decided what my next batch of beer is going to be yet, but it’s going to be something likely a bit lighter. I’ve made two dark beers, and I’d like to try a light beer. I’ll have more updates on how the Dunkel turns out in about 2 weeks when it’s done carbonating.

Siphoning Action
Siphoning Action
No Leaking This Time
No Leaking This Time
A Sample (No, it's not Scotch Wiskey)
A Sample (No, it’s not whiskey)
Replenished my Beer Supply Just in Time!
Replenished my Beer Supply Just in Time! (Second Row is Batch #2)

Beaglebone Black (Nerding Out)

I’ve been spending a lot of time preparing for my next challenge with the Beaglebone Black (BBB). While I haven’t made leaps and bounds towards my time-lapse rig, I’ve found I’ve been working a lot on just developing my understand of what the BBB can do. While it’s pretty basic in the world of embedded electronics, I managed to develop a temperature logging program that runs when the BBB is initially powered on. This is very nice in the sense that you don’t have to SSH into the BBB to get the program working. I can simply plug the power supply in when I’m ready to start logging temperatures and it will log them on a frequency that’s specified in the program. I found out how to start a program on boot from the following site. I’ve discovered that Adafruit is a great resource for learning about how to use the BBB. (The lesson for logging temperatures can be found here.) I added an LED into my circuit so that once the program was running, I could tell if the temperatures were being logged. It’s a green light thank blinks every time a data point is measured.

Temperature Logger with Green LED
Temperature Logger with Green LED (Arduino doesn’t do anything, it’s just for show)
Temperature Plot from Beaglebone Black Data Logger
Temperature Plot from Beaglebone Black Data Logger

As a test, I ran the program over the period just under 4 minutes. It’s just in my den and you can see I brought the temperature up a bit at the beginning, then it comes back to the temperature that’s in the room. As you can see, it’s a bit chilly in my house right now!

I had planned to run a test overnight to see the temperature change, however I made a mistake in my coding. When the program executes, it creates a file with only one name and overwrites any data that was previously on the file. So after I had set up the program, I let it run overnight and collect the data. I had to shut off the BBB and plug it into my ethernet cord to SSH in and get the data (It was in a different room than my internet router). I had forgotten that the program would run on boot, so when it rebooted, it wrote over the file I had created the night before and erased all the data I had collected! Sometimes you have to learn the hard way…

This is a pretty primitive way of logging temperature. There are other things I need to work out. For example, I’d like to work a button switch in that lets me start and stop the data logging process so I’m not relying on stopping Linux processes through the terminal.

Future Plans

My plan for the future is to use the temperature logger to see what the fermentation temperatures of my beer are. Right now I don’t have much control over it, but sometime in the future I’d like to add fermentation temperatures to my brewing experiences to see if manipulating the temperature they’re brewed in makes a significant difference. The only time I know it would make a difference is when brewing a lager versus an ale, since lagers require much lower fermentation temperatures. Logging the temperature gives me a chance to try and see what my beer fermentation temperatures are.

Fermentation Temperature Logger Sketch
Fermentation Temperature Logger Sketch

Once I get a little better at putting BBB scripts together, I’ll start showing the code I used for my programs. Since it’s a mish-mash of code that’s not commented at the moment, it doesn’t look very pretty and probably wouldn’t make much sense to someone looking to do something similar.

More to come!

A Short Update

Well, there’s not a whole lot new in the world of James, other than a few minor things.

Beer Brewing

I just recently transferred my Dunkelweiss-like beer into the secondary fermenter. I left it in the primary fermenter for two weeks instead of 1, I don’t anticipate this to cause any issues with the outcome of the final beer, but we’ll see what happens.

I tried my bottled Irish Hills Ale, and at least I can say it tastes like beer. It does have a hoppy finish, the body isn’t too bad, but I think I was hoping for something with a bit more body to the beer. It’s a bit lighter than I expected, but it’s a good beer for the first run. I can at least say I’ve got a drinkable beer and I’m happy about that! 🙂

Beaglebone Black

I’ve been working my way through the book “Exploring Beaglebone” by Derek Molloy. It’s a great book that provides a lot of information of the Beaglebone Black (BBB) microcontroller. I’m trying to work my way through the book in a sequential fashion since I want to understand not just how to put circuits together, but how the Beaglebone architecture works.

What I’ve been working through this last month is just learning how to run the Linux command line. The BBB comes pre-loaded with the Debian operating system, which means in order to use the BBB, you have to understand a bit about the Linux command line. From what I’ve read, you can connect your BBB to a computer monitor, add a keyboard and mouse and run a Linux operating system like Ubuntu off it, just like an ordinary computer! This is pretty incredible since the BBB is the size of a credit card.

Learning the command line is rather challenging since the book presents all these new terms that make a non-savvy Linux user like myself scratch their head. There’s a lot to learn and it will take a long time to fully understand the Linux operating system.

Photography

Sadly, I still find myself using the “Auto” function of my new DSLR for the majority of the time. I can say that I’m getting a little better at knowing when to use longer exposure times and different shutter settings to create different photos. I was in Toronto last weekend and managed to get some good photos of Niagara falls and downtown Toronto. You can see the album here.

I’m hoping once I get a little better grasp on the BBB to get my time-lapse project somewhat underway. I’ve been slacking in this department.

Classic Car Hunt

Since I’ve decided that I want a classic car, I’ve been mostly trolling Craigslist for that new classic to hopefully enter my garage soon. There’s lots of options out there, but I have a feeling I’ll find myself with a 1974 – 1979 Corvette.

One of the things I’ve found is that it’s a bit challenging for me to jump right in and start looking into classic cars. So much scrutinizing is needed when looking at a classic car and while I’ve decided that I’m going to get one, I know it’s not a quick process. Sure, if you really wanted to you could go out and buy one today in good shape if money is no object, but when you’re on a budget, finding the best car you can for your budget is a time consuming process. There’s so many things to think about. What kind of classic do I want? What are the main issues with these particular models? How easy is maintenance? How easy is it to find parts? How much will certain parts cost? When looking at cars, what red flags should I be aware of? How original is the car?

A lot of these questions come down to figuring out a few things, like how involved you plan to be with owning a classic, how much you want to spend time doing repairs (I’ve been told no matter how much you spend, classic cars will ALWAYS need repairs) and how much money and work you want to put into it.

I’ve started looking, though it’s going to be a long process. For now, I know I want a black, blue, or silver Corvette (though not the 78 silver anniversary two tone silver, I personally don’t love the two colors), model years 1974 – 1979 with a standard transmission (though the transmission isn’t a deal breaker, I could do auto if the right car came along). We’ll see what happens