Looking Back, Moving Forward: July & August 2013

July: one of my favorite months, and an especially beautiful time to be in the Bay Area.
August: summer's last call before classes start up again!


What I'm listening to:

 The Personal Finance Project

Not a lot of action on the professional blog this month: only a single post on the US Government Thrift Savings Plan.  In the background, I spent some of my writing time creating this blog and learning more about how to customize a Google Custom Search Engine.  I learned a little more HTML and took the first few steps in a major reorganization of my financial articles and references.  I also began drafting articles on Index Investing, Fiduciary Standard, Asset Allocation, and Taxes.

I devoted far more time than usual to one-on-one consulting and coaching this month.  This was made much more organized and less memory-intensive by two spreadsheets I built: one for tracking and planning my financial consulting efforts, and another for keeping track of the index mutual funds I reference most often.  I welcomed several more friends, acquaintances, and perfect strangers to the personal finance discussion, and I hope they're learning as much from me as I am from their situations.

For my own part, I performed a quarterly portfolio rebalance and bought into an international emerging markets index fund.  I've also added a small LendingClub Peer to Peer lending allocation to my automatic investment schedule.  50%+ savings rate?  No problem!

The Cooking And Food Fermentation Project

I created a spreadsheet for keeping track of my recipes, which has been helpful for alleviating 'I'm hungry but I don't know what to cook' syndrome.  My recipe requests were answered with a small book of family recipes, which I'm still in the process of sorting through.  If you have a favorite family recipe (preferably vegetarian), send it my way!

The American Amber Ale that Melanie and I brewed had a strong showing at the Department of Chemistry's first annual homebrew competition.  As expected, we were one of maybe two 'normal' beers in the dozen entries, and it was nice to have something simple and true-to-style to round out the eclectic offerings.  We have an American Pale Ale in the primary fermenter and ready to bottle at any time, and I hope to brew a batch of something new — a summer wheat ale, perhaps? — in the coming month.

No new food fermentations started this month, unless you count adding the last of the buttermilk to some spoiling milk to extend its usable life for buttermilk pancakes and breads.  The kimchi I started two months ago is continuing to develop, and I've been enjoying it as a side to rice and noodle dishes.  Kimchi fried rice?  Kimchi soup?  Lots of possibilities with this one.

I finally perfected my cast iron reseasoning technique.  Glassy-smooth surface on the first try!  Cook eggs and pancakes without butter!

The Information Technology Project

I successfully installed Android 4.2 onto an older first-generation Kindle Fire tablet, and I'm very happy with the results; the device is responsive enough for a pretty solid user experience, and every app I've tried so far appears to work fine.  Later this week, I'll post a guide to rooting and installing custom ROMs and a spreadsheet of interesting Android apps.

Still no cell phone!  It's been 18 months and I couldn't be happier.  At $40 a month for a smartphone plan (even assuming no cost for the device itself), I've now saved $720 — enough for four months of cooking, bars, and restaurants at my current spend rate.

The DIY Electronics Project

Major progress this month!  I tore apart and desoldered the interesting components on two TVs, a computer monitor, and a microwave, and I have a huge CRT TV and a bunch of burned-out power supplies on (the) deck.  From the components, I've built several 555 timer IC–driven flyback setups for throwing sparks, including a plasma speaker and a plasma globe.

I ordered a crimper and crimping kit so that the next computer power supply I convert to a lab bench supply will be as professional as possible, with very minimal soldering required.  Jameco is having a major sale this month, which is good — I need to invest in a gigantic spool of low-gauge wire, some high-voltage terminal blocks, and the IRFP250 MOSFETS I need to throw together a zero-volt-switching Mazzilli driver.  Very soon, I should have everything I need to construct my first room-temperature atmospheric plasma generator.  It's only a matter of time before I commit to building a couple different varieties of the Tesla coil (spark gap, vacuum tube, solid-state)

The microwave transformer, while easily the most dangerous component one can salvage from a consumer electronics device, has so much interesting potential:

  • powering a magnetron for a high-energy radio-frequency (HERF) gun
  • putting in series with a massive inductor or resistor for a current-limited supply
  • knocking out the magnetic shunts for improved current throughput
  • winding a low-gauge, low-turn secondary for running a DIY spot welder

Very tempted to pick up a Fluke electronics multimeter, and an oscilloscope would be nice...

A Most Awesome August

I set some annual goals every year, but a year is a very long time.  Stealing a page from Kyle's recent post, here are my immediate goals for August:

  1. Brew at least one beer
  2. Attempt and document at least five new recipes
  3. Hike/run/walk at least 60 miles
  4. Post at least five major articles on And Higher Still
  5. Post at least ten minor articles on this blog
  6. Finish 'The Ten Day MBA' and 'The Personal MBA'; write up my impressions
  7. Submit a Jameco order in time for the summer sale
  8. Successfully complete a computer PSU → lab supply conversion
  9. Finish desoldering the equipment I'm salvaging and dispose as e-waste
  10. Attempt to generate a room-temperature atmospheric plasma
  11. Start personal finance discussions with at least three more people
Better get to work!

the Anti-Brandon