Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A new project: Well that didn't work

A while ago I tried using Kickstarter to fund a project I was considering.  I have an older 1960's home that needs a lot of updates.  At the time I was looking at doing a full Air Conditioning system and I was considering using to purchase my  Unico equipment and do the majority of the install myself.  For a lot of reasons including the fact that I only had one person kickstart the project that failed and I wound up hiring the project done by a local company.  This is where the story gets interesting.

I wound up choosing a middle bid of 4 companies.  The low end bidder was offering a Goodman compressor which at the time I was nervous about.  The high end price was using all high end equipment, but was double the price of the low end.  The middle end bid was using Trane equipment and promised to not use wall space to run the High Velocity vents for the lower level.  The price was double what the equipment would have cost me, and the majority of that was labor.  I was told the project would take a week.

At the end of the first day of work the majority of vents were pulled into place.  This was supposed to be the time consuming task.  The team came out the next day and installed a few pieces in the attic.  My electrician came by and installed everything they needed electrically to finish the project.  At that point everything stalled for a week.  They would come by and make a few adjustments then leave.  Reasons varied from they were missing equipment (they weren't.  I found it for them in my garage where they left it) to workers were sick (looked fine the day before and the next day).  So my install wound up taking a month and a half.  The final product is a mixed bag as they damaged a lot of drywall in the process.  Some done as part of the install, not disclosed at the beginning as a possibility but was in the contract so that's on me, and some caused when the worker stepped through my ceiling.  They were responsible for the patch and did a terrible job.  They also drilled through walls carelessly almost damaging clothing in my closet and sawing through my hardwood floor accidentally just past the trim in one spot then tried to pin the damage on the install of a wooden banister.

The Air Conditioning works, and after having a great dry wall contractor out to repair the damage I'm mostly past the project.  I've used various review sites to spread this tale and warn others away from this company, but that's not what this is about.  My lessons learned here in regards to the Kickstarter are two fold.

1)  Don't use Kickstarter for a continuing project:
What I was thinking of doing, and might pick up the project again on a smaller scale is a poor fit for Kickstarter.  As a continuing project something like Patreon is a much better fit.  Kickstarter is better for getting a product off the ground as a one time cash infusion.

2)  Start the project before asking for support:
Have something to show before you try to get support.  Many podcasts use Patreon for funding.  Most of which were already in existence.

3)  A bad contractor experience gets you a DIY greenlight:
My wife was worried about me tackling the AC project.  After seeing how badly contractors handled the install I've got a greenlight for a future project.  I'm definitely starting small however.  I might kick this off with my bathroom remodel coming up this year.  That I already have the products for and won't require financial support to kick the project off.

Anyway welcome back to 1g1k.  In years past I've only updated this site when I had something to get off my chest or hammer out once instead of sending out multiple times.  This year my goal is to write a few articles a month at least.

Soylent: Because why not?

I'm not sure about you, but my facebook feed and youtube ads have been focused lately around either Soylent or Wise food stores.  I'm not sure why.  Perhaps my search history on the history of personal computers in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras has pegged me as a paranoid survivalist type.  While I have little interest in dry food stores in case our new comb-over-in-chief winds up causing world war 3 I had been considering trying out Soylent.

So far it's going well.  Before I get into details let me illuminate how I found out about this product.  Despite the recent ad push on Facebook, and the fairly cool ads for their breakfast product "Coffiest" I heard about their powdered product from a friend in September.  He was using it while at work and had enjoyed the product so far.  The Soylent powder product was developed by a software guy in California and it shows as he includes version numbers on the product.  Each update gets a new minor revision.  My friend came in under version 1.5 and loved it, but dropped off when 1.6 came out citing it as being too sweet.  I decided to order the product in early October and wound up having to wait until Christmas for version 1.7.  Apparently enough people complained about the change that they had to reformulate the product.

A number of people like me will automatically flash to the movie "Soylent Green".  The creator acknowledges he did name his product to take advantage of this, but also in part because his initial formula was based on what the movie's product claimed to be made out of (Soy and Lentils).  The formula has been changed to address people's complaints and issues.  The version I'm reviewing here is again 1.7.

So far I'm enjoying my experience using Soylent.  I decided to try this product out as a meal while I'm at work.  Where my office is located I have a number of food choices available to me ranging from quick service (Panda Express, various pizza shops both chain and family owned, etc), fast food (McD, Taco Bell, Wendy's, etc), sit down (Chili's, Applebees, Friday's, etc).  Honestly I'm tired of all of these options.  There were days where I'd sit at my desk hungry because nothing sounded good.  I experimented with keeping a stock of frozen meals at the office.  That didn't last long as the flavor was bland at best and microwaved meals had a texture I couldn't stand more than once in a great while.  Finally I tried bringing in leftovers, and after the third time leaving them in the fridge at home I decided to try something else.

So I received my order of Soylent just before Christmas and tried it out when I got back to work.  I've set up my pitcher at work and one pouch (which is supposed to be one days worth over 4 meals) has lasted me two days (Breakfast & Lunch).  As such I'm getting about two and a half weeks worth of usage per one weeks purchase.  I'm now on my second week of this diet and so far I'm enjoying it.  I have a meal as soon as I arrive at the office, and another about mid day.  I start to feel hungry again as I get ready to leave.  Sometimes I'll have a "half meal" serving (a meal being defined as a 500cal, or two scoop serving) as I leave and I'm good until I get home and then I have a normal meal at home.

Cost of eating out per day was topping $15 a day.  Usually leaving my home I'd grab breakfast on the way in ($5ish) and then lunch at mid day ($10ish).  On top of that the questionable nutrition value of these foods left me feeling heavy most of the day.  Even salad's were leaving me feeling like I had just eaten a fried chicken box.

Soylent is costing me $2 per meal.  As such I'm paying on average between $4-5 per day.  After each meal I'm no longer hungry, and I don't feel heavy or sluggish.  I've not had a day where I've used strictly Soylent, and truthfully I'm not intending to.  As such I can't relate the experience as to how it is living off of this strictly.  I can say that so far I'm loving it as an alternative to fast food options.

This product is not being sold as a weight loss solution.  In fact the market that they want to tackle is medical food replacements for those who cannot have regular food (coma patients, etc).  As such there is very little garbage diet fluff involved on their page.  Personally I can attest I have lost some weight.  Of course considering my diet previously had been McDonalds / Taco Bell for breakfast and throw a dart at a board of generic american food for lunch.  Dinner is usually cooked at home.  Shifting away from that would almost guarantee some form of weight loss.     I'm sure that if I stopped using Soylent and went back to my old diet I would rebound instantly.  The thing is I have no intention to go back.  I didn't start this with weight loss in mind.  I started because I'm tired of my local food options near work.  Occasionally I'll probably go out for lunch.  I like this because it gives me an option.

The biggest question I had for my friend when he told me about this product is "What does it taste like?".  The website just says "neutral flavor" and I find that description both accurate and infuriating.  The most accurate way to describe the taste would probably cause people to run from the product.  Think about how pancake batter smells in the bowl.  If you're honest it smells great, but if you've ever tasted uncooked pancake batter you know it tastes awful and completely unlike how it smells.  Soylent's flavor can be best described as tasting like how raw pancake batter smells.  It's rather pleasant and after a week straight of using it I can say it's not something you'll tire of.

If you're considering trying this out let me give you a few tips.  They give you a large tumbler for making up a pouch for one day's meals, and a scoop for measuring out a half meal portion.  No matter how you're going to use this do yourself a favor and get a tall blender bottle of some sort.

The reasoning is that the powder is not unlike protein powder in consistency and the better it's mixed the better your experience will be.  The giant tumbler they give you does not make mixing easy.  You wind up with sludge at the bottom of the container.  The other unfortunate issue is that the daily package of Soylent powder does not pour easily into the tumbler.  For my usage I keep the blender bottle at my desk with the scoop.  It makes mixing easy and clean. That and if I decide to have lunch out I don't have mixed product in the fridge that I'll have to throw out.

For my usage so far I'm enjoying the product.  I'm not going to say this will be the only product I use.  I might try some of the DIY Soylent products you can find here:
It's an interesting solution to the question "What's for lunch?".