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!

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

Thanksgiving, Beer Brewing, and a bit of DIY

Thanksgiving in Texas

Even though it’s been some time since Thanksgiving, I found myself in Dallas during Thanksgiving (or the day before Black Friday, depending on what’s more important). Despite the fact that I got sick the night before, I found my first experience in the Lone Star State quite enjoyable.

I’m guessing to no one’s surprise, everything is over the top in Texas. While I didn’t get a chance to experience everything that’s “bigger in Texas”, I did get a chance to enjoy the new James Bond film Spectre the way I want to experience all movies on the big screen in the future.

Like a lot of places in Dallas, typically ordinary venues can be quite extravagant. Take for example your typical driving range. Nothing too exciting, right? Well, it can be quite the event in Dallas. We stopped at the Top Golf facility just to see what it was like. It’s by far one of the most lavish driving ranges I’d been to. How could you go wrong with a restaurant, a bar, and electronic chips in golf balls all in the same place? Sadly, we only checked out the facility and the amenities. Even though the stalls were heated it was quite chilly outside, so we chose not to play. If (AKA when) I go back to Dallas, I’ll be hitting some golf balls at this high tech driving range.

When I went to see Spectre, I saw it at the iPic Theatre. While watching a movie on the big screen is always a good time, watching a movie on the big screen in a plush recliner with a blanket, a nice pint of beer and an appetizer (or main course, if you desire) is the best way to watch a movie. I really wish I was watching the upcoming Star Wars that way. While it can be a bit pricey, it’s well worth the additional cost in my opinion.

My mom (bottom right), Aunt (bottom left), my sister (top right) and me (top left) getting comfy for Spectre.
My mom (bottom right), Aunt (bottom left), my sister (top right) and me (top left) getting comfy for Spectre.
That pint of beer was mighty delicious.
That pint of beer was mighty delicious.

All in all, Texas is quite the place. I didn’t get to experience everything it has to offer since I was only there for 3 days, but I look forward to heading back in the future.

Upcoming Brews

My beer supply has been (not surprisingly) diminishing. Prior to Thanksgiving I hadn’t been able to brew much, since I’ve been back I’ve upped my soon to be ready supply. So what’s on tap?

Almond Joy Porter

This one was a bit of a nuisance since the recipe called for orange peel and coriander during the boil. Transferring the wort to the primary fermenter was a mess, since the pulpy remainder of coriander, orange peel, and hops kept clogging up the siphon hose. Also the fermentation called for hazelnut flavor, which I added to the primary and shredded almond, which I put in a grain bag and added to the secondary. It’s in bottles and should be ready in the new year.

Almond Joy Porter in Secondary
Almond Joy Porter in Secondary (The bag contains coconut)

Belgium White

The Belgium white taught me a valuable lesson: If I’m pouring malt extract into the brew pot, take it off the heat. I’m not sure how I didn’t figure this out before, but I scorched the malt extract. As least I learned how to clean a scorched pot. 1 part water, 1 part vinegar, and a lot of elbow grease.

A Nicely Scorched Pot
A nicely scorched pot. Guess where the burners were?
All Clean!
All Clean!

The scorching might give the ale a bit of a different flavor, though I can market it as a “toasty” flavor. I have yet to see if this completely throws off the flavor of the beer. If so, lesson learned. The real test will be not making the same mistake twice.

Detroit Steam Pale Ale

This one was a pale ale and I enlisted the help of a friend to assist me in brewing this batch. A helping hand makes things go a lot quicker and it makes it a lot more fun. Right now it’s primary fermentation, I’ll be transferring it to secondary very soon.

Differing Specific Gravities
Differing specific gravity of the water and the wort.

I got the chance to try out my new hop spider, which I’ll take about in the upcoming section.

A Bit of DIY

The Hop Spider

After my experience with the pulpy mess making my almond joy porter, I discovered that some home brewers use what’s called a “hop spider”. This is basically a mesh bag that allows the hops and additional ingredients to break apart and absorb into the wort while keeping them contained in the bag. It keeps the pulp at bay. Some purists may argue that you lose some flavor, though for now I’ll go for less clean up.

It was pretty easy to put together. The parts list is below.

  • PVC Pipe Reducer (I used a 4″ to 3″)
  • Worm gear clamp
  • 3 stainless steel carriage bolts, nuts, and washers
  • Paint straining bag
Everything needed for a Hop Spider
Everything needed for a Hop Spider

I picked everything up at home depot. All that’s required is drilling holes through the PVC reducer to fit the carriage bolts through. The only tool needed is an electric drill. Once I put it together, I tried it out while making the Detroit Steam Pale Ale recipe. It worked like a charm!

Hop Spider in Action
Hop Spider in Action

It held back the hoppy pulp that’s created after the hops break apart during the boil. It made transferring the wort into the primary fermentation vessel a heck of a lot easier, considering that it didn’t clog the siphon hose.

Garage Floor Containment Mat

In an effort to keep my garage floor somewhat dry during the winter, I decided to put a garage floor mat together. There are garage floor mats you can purchase for +$300, whereas I figured I would make my own. It’s not the best solution by any means, but I figured it’s a good temporary system for holding any melting snow and water at bay that falls off my truck in my garage. At least then just maybe I can keep the other side dry for some workshop space.

I used the following for the mat:

  • Large Tarp (20′ x 30′ tarp from Home Depot)
  • 2″ x 4″ lumber
  • Staples

There should be enough of a lip to keep the water at bay. The materials themselves were about $60, so if it turns out to be an utter failure, well at least I learned a few things along the way.

The Frame:

I used 9′ sections of 2″ x 4″ lumber to make the frame. I left ~2″ between the two side sections so that the mat can be sorta folded to contain the water should I try to drain it during the spring when the snow starts melting.

Frame of the Garage Mat
Frame of the Garage Mat

I laid the tarp underneath and lined up the tarp with the lower right corner. I left some of the tarp hanging over the side so I could roll it over the 2″ x 4″ and staple it into place. I put staples into the frames at about 1′ apart.

Tarp Laid Out
Tarp Laid Out

I cut the tarp to size and stapled it to the frame. There was a good amount of extra tarp left over, which I would discover I needed later on.

Flipped Over and Stapled
Flipped Over and Stapled
It Fits my Truck
My Truck Fits!

I learned a few lessons the hard way. The first one is that I should have assembled it right side up. I assembled it upside down, then tried to flip it over by myself. That was a really bad idea. The corners of the tarp ripped during the process of flipping it over. I ended up doing some patch work with the tarp I removed. I cut some sections of the leftover tarp and stapled them over the sections that ripped. I also got some silicone caulk and sealed around the sections that were ripped. I did some sealing around the rear and left side edges since the water tends to flow that way. We’ll see how it works for the time being, it ended up being a bit of a hacked up DIY. Knowing what I know now, I think I could make another that looks a bit cleaner in the future. But I only have plans to keep it for short term, so it doesn’t have to last forever.

The Near Future

I’m hoping to get back into my Beaglebone Black as I’ve got some ideas for projects in the near future. I keep telling myself I’m going to get better at using sensors for controls based projects. The timelapse project is still on my mind. The temperature logger I put together was going to be used for beer brewing, however I never got around to getting myself a better soldering iron or making myself a decent work station for electronics projects.

I also plan to build a keezer! For those who don’t know, this is a chest freezer that’s converted into a refrigerator to hold kegs and a CO2 tank. Here’s an example of what I’d like to do. I’ve discovered that even though kegging might be a bit more costly initially, it saves a lot of time considering there’s no bottling to do. The perfect at home draft beer system.

I’ve got lots of ideas for the New Years. I’m starting my Masters in January, so it looks like life is about to get really busy!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Looking into the Future: The Pursuit of Cheap Speed

In my previous post, I had eluded to the difficult pursuit of cheap speed. (Read it here.)

Briefly stated, it’s really challenging to get high performance on a budget. For the most part, if you want a fast car, plan on forking out some money for it.

So What Am I Trying to Do?

I’m trying to figure out a way to get a “fun to drive” car at a relatively low price. While this is difficult, it’s not necessarily impossible.

Basically, you build your own car. This can also be considered the “kit car” approach, however in my case, I’m not looking to make a replica of a Ferrari, or Lamborghini, or any kind of high performance car out there. The amount it would cost to make a comparable replica of one of these cars, you’re almost better just to buy an actual brand name car and save the time putting it together.

The real trade off is the monumental amount of time you will spend building and customizing the car. For a lot of people, the amount of time spent building this kind of car is not worth the difference in terms of buying a car that already performs to your hearts desire.

Note: If you’re looking for very high performance in terms of top speed, very high horsepower, and sub 3 second 0-60 mph times, a great alternative to a $300,000 Lamborghini is the Factory Five GTM. While it’s technically a kit car, sourcing some high performance Chevrolet Corvette Drivetrain Parts and using a donor Corvette C5 can get you a Supercar that costs less than $100,000. But I digress, that’s not the point of the discussion.

What I would like to Build?

After a lot of research, my plan is to try and take on building a kit car that is commonly known on the internet as the “Locost 7”. This is a design that’s based on the Lotus 7 designed by Colin Chapman back in 1957 as a basic, lightweight race car. It was designed to race on the Formula 2 circuit. As always, there’s way more info on the original Lotus 7 here.

1970 Lotus 7

The reason I’m looking into this car is it’s relatively simple design. It was designed to be a basic sports car, one that hardly packs any weight. When looking at performance, if you can’t increase your engine performance, you can decrease your weight.

A “Locost 7” is a replica design of the Lotus 7, jokingly named “Lo cost” because it can be built for a relatively small amount of money. Many people have managed to build these for well under $10,000. A book by Ron Champion is called “Build Your Own Sports Car For As Little As £250 and Race it!“. The main premise of the book is finding a suitable donor car and selling the components you don’t use from your donor to offset the project car. I think £250 in today’s terms is unrealistic. By the sounds of it he’s coming out with an updated version that sets the limit at £1,000. While this sounds challenging, it seems a little bit more realistic.

The frame is a simple space frame made of steel square tube, which is relatively cheap. Then if you can pull a lot of the parts out of an inexpensive donor car, the overall cost becomes fairly reasonable. From the LocostUSA forum, most builders indicate that their costs can be from about $5,000 to $9,000, depending on how you source your parts. If you can keep the design as basic as possible, you can end up with a fun car to drive that is fairly unique.

The Plan

A few things need to happen before this project goes forward:

I need more workshop space.

Typically a project like this requires a garage that can house not only the kit car as it’s being built, but also the donor car being used. This means at least a two car garage is required. As much as I’d like to start right away, I simply don’t have the space.

I need more tools.

To take on a project like this you need a serious assortment of tools to complete the build. Tools are a key part and like so many things in life, you get what you pay for. If you want good tools that don’t wear out, you’re going to have to pay higher prices. I have yet to build any kind of major tool collection. Tools = $$$.

I need more workshop skills.

While I’ve turned a couple of wrenches in my life, a project like this requires a lot of workshop skills. A lot of people who didn’t have much for workshop skills have completed these kinds of projects and treated the project as a learning experience, building the skills as they go. I’m certainly ok with that approach, I just need to budget for the inevitable set backs from making mistakes from not having the best workshop skill set.

I need to figure out exactly what I want.

If I start something like this, I want to have a good vision of at least what I want the end result to be. I understand there are always inevitable changes that occur throughout a project like this, but I still want a good vision of the end result so I’m not changing what I’m working on halfway through. A lack of vision is usually a recipe for failure, since you end up abandoning a project when you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve.

I need to set a financial target.

With projects like these, the sky’s the limit in terms of how much you choose to throw into this project. There are a lot of costs to consider however.

  • Donor Car Cost
  • Performance Part Costs
  • Tool Costs
  • Costs of hiring an expert for certain jobs
  • Time (not necessarily financial, but there are convoluted ways of arguing that your time is worth money…)

Of course, all these amounts differ depending on what the end result is. There are a number of questions that need to be answered:

  • When do I want this completed?
  • How well do I want the car to perform?
    • What kind of specs do I want to have?
    • How do I plan to use this car? (Race or just have fun?)
  • How much time am I willing to put in to completing it?

The Conclusion

Overall, I know this is something I want to do in the future, however for the time being there’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered. I don’t foresee myself starting the actual building for quite a while since it’s likely going to be a while before I have the dough to start. In the meantime, I can get a better sense of what I want. This will make it easier to figure out a timeline and an approximate cost of the project.

Sports Cars: What Does Your Money Really Get You?

Cheap speed. Rarely often do you hear these two words go together in the automotive world. I could go on as to the many reasons as to why this is, however the short answer is simply that more power means more money.

Performance Cars Today

Today there’s an unprecedented offering of sports cars to anyone wanting something with a bit more pep than your average car. You can spend anywhere from $1,000 for a used sports car to upwards of $3 million for that ultra-high performance ultra-luxury machine. There’s something for everyone.

Who wouldn’t love this $4 million Lamborghini Veneno Roadster in their driveway?

Typically the motivations for buying sports cars vary from person to person, but I’ve found the predominant factors people look at when purchasing a sports car (in my opinion) are as follows:

  • Performance and Feel
    • 0-60 mph acceleration
    • top speed
    • handling
  • Luxury and Appearance
  • Exclusivity

Typically, sports cars are not practical, fuel economy friendly, or inexpensive. This means you typically have a smaller subset of people willing to fork out the money for a sports car. Remember, everyone has their reasons and I’m not claiming to be an absolute authority on why people buy cars.

For me, if I was to purchase a sports car, it’s purely for it’s performance. It’s not because it’s luxurious and happens to have these performance characteristics, it’s because it performs like a race car. So when I look at sports cars, I look for the best performance I can get for the price. While brand plays some part, my argument is for a sports car that doesn’t break the bank. What breaks the bank is subjective. $30,000 is a lot of money to me, however to others that’s a pittance. There’s multiple ways of looking at this, however for sake of argument I’m only looking at a couple of factors which I’ll indicate below.

Examining Sports Car Performance

When you examine the kinds of sports cars out there, you can see a few trends that emerge. Of the cars I’ve looked at, it’s pretty evident I’ve picked a number of cars I will most likely never be able to afford, but it’s more to illustrate the point between speed and cost.

Model Price
1998 Chevrolet Malibu $         15,670.00
2015 Ford Mustang GT $         32,000.00
2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS $         33,355.00
2014 Dodge Challenger SRT8 $         44,685.00
2016 Shelby GT350R $         63,000.00
2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 $         83,000.00
2014 BMW M6 $       118,195.00
2014 Lamborghini Huracan $       240,745.00
2014 Ferrari F458 Speciale $       291,744.00
2015 Lamborghini Aventador $       441,600.00
2012 Gumpert Apollo $       550,000.00
2012 Pagani Huayra $   1,400,000.00
2014 Koenigsegg Agera R $   1,520,000.00
2012 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse $   1,819,961.00
2015 Ferrari FXX K $   2,369,180.00

Note: These are not absolute prices, it’s based on a quick search of Google. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there.

As you can see, I’ve tried to pick an assortment of sports cars. I know the Malibu is not a sports car by any means, I just wanted to illustrate where it fits in the performance spectrum, just to show how far off my old car was from any semblance of performance. Also you can see my bias towards Italian Sports cars.

I put down a bunch of data to show a few different points in relation to the sports cars listed above. The main points I’m going to focus on are performance based, including 0-60 MPH times and top speed. If you really want to scrutinize racing attributes, there’s also cornering abilities, such as how many g’s it can pull in a turn, handling, 1/4 mile times, etc… I’m trying to keep it somewhat simple.

Brace yourself, graphs are ahead.

Most of the following graphs are pretty trivial, however lets look at a few. Remember when looking at these is that they are meant more than anything to show general trends and relationships between different parameters, they are not meant to be absolute numbers.

Top Speed of Given Sports Cars
Top Speed of Given Sports Cars
Horsepower of Given Cars
Horsepower of Given Cars
0-60 MPH Times for Given Cars
Curb Weight of Given Cars
Curb Weight of Given Cars

These all show three pretty trivial facts. More money means higher top speed, higher horsepower, lower 0-60 MPH times, and (in general) lower curb weights.

Deeper Analysis

While these are one way of looking at it, I feel like performance parameters can be scrutinized a bit more. For example, when considering the engineering aspects of a performance car, how can acceleration times be decreased? If two engines are the same size, the engine that has less weight to propel into motion is going to reach 60 MPH faster than the engine with more weight. Try going from a standstill to 35 mph on a beefy downhill mountain bike versus a lightweight road bike. Same principle with an engine.

A good way of looking at efficient performance is to look at the weight of the sports car as a ratio to the engine horsepower. I like looking at this metric the most, because this is where you can start to uncover bargains in performance. You can tell how much weight an engine has to move on a per unit horsepower basis. Lower is obviously better.

Weight to Power Ratios for Given Cars
Weight to Power Ratios for Given Cars

Clearly, we see the same conclusion. More money equals lower power to weight ratios. One interesting point comes up though. As you can see, the 2015 Corvette Z06 has a power to weight ratio of 5.4 LBS/HP, whereas the close by Lamborghini Huracan has a power to weight ratio of 5.2 LBS/HP. The Lamborghini Huracan costs $240,745, whereas the base Z06 starts at $83,000. You get (close to) Lamborghini Performance in a Corvette at almost 1/3rd the price!

Another place we can look is at the dollar amount per horsepower of performance. Here, you get a good look at the dollar value per horsepower. It tells the same story as we’ve been seeing, higher priced cars means you pay a premium for each horse.

$/Horsepower of Given Cars
$/Horsepower of Given Cars

Again, the interesting thing to see is that the Corvette shows the same conclusion we saw before. For comparable performance, it’s almost a 1/3rd the price!

The main thing I want to start looking at is the cost versus our performance characteristics.

Cost Vs. 0-60 MPH Times for Given Cars
Cost Vs. Top Speed
Cost Vs. Top Speed

These both show that essential in the performance world, after about $100,000, you’re incremental performance gains are fairly minimal. After the $100,000 mark, you’re essential paying for the design, luxury, and exclusivity.

Remember, this is my take on it. I haven’t done an exhaustive analysis of all sports cars out there, nor have I looked at the multiple performance parameters that should be assessed when looking at sports cars.

In the end, it all comes down to what you choose to look at and what you consider important

You can see that I only chose to look at top speed and engine horsepower. I didn’t analyze a number of sports car dynamics (e.g. corner abilities), quality and manufacturing volumes of components on cars, component materials, etc… For example, the 2015 Mustang GT has a lower price point than a Ferrari FXX K, however they made over 87,000 Mustangs, whereas they’re only making 32 Ferrari FXX K’s. The Mustang is a working man’s sports car, whereas the Ferrari FXX K is a car for the super elite, a place most of us will likely never make it to. There are two completely different markets. Different markets drive different engineering decisions when it comes to cars, such as manufacturing volumes, design complexities, manufacturing approaches, and product line lifetimes. Hence, the Mustang GT starts at around $30,000, the Ferrari FXX K starts at above $2,000,000.

Where is this all going?

From my last post, I had alluded to a new project I’m doing research on at the moment. While I had been looking for some kind of sports car to have some fun with, I ended up buying a truck instead, which has temporarily put the kibosh on any other major expense. Funny how new cars have a tendency to do that.

What am I looking for?

After the exhaustive analysis done above, I’ve figured out a few things.

  1. I want something that goes fast. That being said, do I need it to go up to 200 MPH? No. My focus is on acceleration.
  2. I will never be able to justify +$100,000 on a car. Considering you can get a Corvette Z06 that accelerates from 0-60 MPH in under three seconds for less than $100,000, I can’t justify spending more than that.
  3. To be honest, I struggle to justify spending more than $30,000 on a car that’s practical as a daily driver. A sports car performs and that’s about it. Is it practical? I would argue no, but that’s my point of view.

So accepting that I want to go fast but don’t want to spend a lot of money, where does that leave me?

Here’s where I introduce the Lotus 7.

Check out my next post as to how I plan to get past the cheap speed dilemma. I’m arguing cheap speed exists, even if I’m choosing to make it more complicated than it needs to be.