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Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Part IV

Previous: Introduction, Part I, II, and III

I used the time between the order and the time I picked up the overnight shipment at my local FedEx Office to make sure I had everything I needed. One thing I made sure to pick up was a pair of 8″ needle-nose pliers. What for? To double check all the little rotary fittings around what was left of the loop and ensure everything was going to be nice and tight. Now you can’t go too tight on those, but you can definitely give it a couple more turns, helping to make sure everything is snug and won’t leak.

The overnight order had the EK SLI bridge and three 40mm Bitspower extension fittings. As soon as I got it home, I went right to work on the loop, starting with the SLI bridge. Once the SLI bridge was put together and the graphics cards installed back into the system, I put a single compression fitting on the intake of the SLI bridge and set to tube it up to the pump.

That’s where one of the 40mm extension fittings comes in.

I changed the section of the loop coming from the pump with regard to the T-fitting. Coming straight out of the pump went to the Bitspower valve, while the 90-degree turn went up through the 40mm fitting and into a 90-degree single rotary. The 90-degree rotary tubed into the single compression fitting on the SLI bridge. I measured that to within a couple millimeters and it came out pretty spot on.

The other two 40mm extension fittings linked up to another 90-degree single rotary that was fed from the outlet on the radiator. It dropped down into the reservoir so the reservoir is part of the loop as I had always intended.

Once everything was tubed up and all the fittings double, triple and quadruple checked, it was time for another leak test.

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And I think I should mention that my cat was certainly interested in what was going on, once he started hearing the water flowing through the loop and remaining so.

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Yes, this leak test went smoothly, thankfully. And to ensure it remained such, I left the loop running for several hours before draining it and filling it back up and continuing the leak test – recall from Part 3 that I said that not only should have a drain in your loop – something continually asserted by Singularity Computers – but it should be tested as well. That’s why I did the leak testing with plain distilled water. For the duration of the leak test, the distilled water was not going to be in contact with the components anywhere near long enough to cause harm, and at under $1 per gallon for the water versus $12 for a 150mL concentrate for the coolant, doing a leak and drain test with the water just made sense.

But as the leak tests were occurring late into the night, I would have to save the coolant for the next day.

And getting home from work that Wednesday night, knowing what I would be finishing up when I got home – it made for an interesting day. I was eager to get underway and get this finished up.

As the loop had been sitting all night very nearly completely empty, my first task was to flush it again with new distilled water and drain it. While the loop was running with the fresh distilled water, I took the chance to finish out any wiring that needed it such that when the loop was drained, all I needed to do was plug the pump into the power supply for the computer and let it go.

For the coolant, I poured about half the bottle into a pint mason jar and splash mixed it with distilled water. Using a syringe, I filled the reservoir with the coolant, and did the same routine as before with the distilled water. Only this time it was definitely for real. For the next round, I used the last of the coolant and more distilled water. I didn’t really mix everything all that well because I knew the concentration would equalize within the loop as the coolant flowed through.

And after everything was filled and as much of the air out as I could manage and maneuver on my own, I disconnected the pump from the external power supply and connected it to the power supply inside the case. The moment of truth. I closed up the back of the case and plugged up everything external the way it needed.

Several days of work culminating in one press of the button on her Corsair 750D case. It gave me a sense of awe and an enormous sense of relief at the same time watching everything come to life.

After letting it just sit running idle for about an hour, I put it through a couple stress tests for initial benchmarking.

Running Prime95 small FFT, the CPU struggled to make 52C, which is an improvement over the ThermalTake. Running the Valley Benchmark on the GTX 660 SLI pair, the temperature never went above 50C and stayed around 45C on both cards for much of the test, maybe topping out at 46C or 47C. So those were significant improvements in temperatures over the stock cooler – and that is what I was after.

One thing to note, with the SLI serial bridge I used, there was a stubborn bubble under the plug that just did not want to go away and took several days to finally disappear. The same with a bubble in the fitting coming out of the CPU.

But because the loop has only been running for a couple weeks, and I have two graphics cards plus the CPU all on a single 360mm radiator, currently we’re not doing any overclocking. All of that will come later when I get a 240mm radiator to put in the floor of her case, which will require some extra fittings and a slight redesign of the loop, but that will come several months down the road, probably about the time I look at replicating my success in my own computer, hopefully minus the monumental failure I talked about in the previous part.

The computer has been running steadily since that initial press of the power button. All the air is out of the loop – no bubbles at all in any of the tubing – and the system appears stable. My wife has been able to run her games on it without issue and everything is staying nice and cool.

So that concludes this retrospective on my attempt at a custom water loop, so I’ll leave you with some pictures of the build. Enjoy!

drain

graphics_cards

graphics_to_cpu

radiator

radiator_fittings

And now with the green CCFL case lights turned on.

radiator_fittings_light

 

light1

Since many often ask those who’ve built water cooling loops what parts and fittings were used, here’s a complete parts list:

Components: Loop components:

  • Phobya DC12-400 pump
  • Bitspower Z-Multi 150 reservoir
  • EK-FC660 full-cover water block (x 2)
  • EK-FC Bridge DUAL Serial 3-Slot CSQ – Plexi
  • AlphaCool NexXxoS XP3 Light-Plexi
  • AlphaCool NexXxoS XT45 360mm radiator

Fans:

  • Corsair SP120 High Performance (x 4)
  • Corsair AF120 Quiet

Note: Corsair Obsidian 750D comes with 3x140mm fans

Tubing: Watts 1/2″ x 3/4″ PVC tubing

Accessory: Bitspower X-Station I (green)

Fittings: Note: All fittings to connect tubing are for 1/2″x3/4″From pump:

  • Alphacool G1/4″ male-to-male rotary extender
  • XS-PC G1/4″ 3-way fitting

Drain from 3-way:

  • Alphacool G1/4″ male-to-male rotary extender
  • Bitspower Valve (silver sparkle)
  • Monsoon stop fitting (Black chrome)

Graphics cards from 3-way:

  • Bitspower 40mm extender (silver sparkle)
  • Alphacool 90-degree single-rotary
  • Swiftech compression fitting

Graphics cards to CPU:

  • Swiftech 15mm extension fitting
  • Alphacool 45-degree single-rotary
  • Swiftech compression fitting

CPU to radiator:

  • Alphacool 45-degree single-rotary
  • Alphacool 90-degree single-rotary
  • Swiftech 15mm extension (x 2)

Radiator to reservoir:

  • Swiftech 15mm extension (x2)
  • Alphacool 90-degree single-rotary (x2)
  • Bitspower 40mm extender (silver sparkle) (x 2)
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Kraken G10

Let’s have a look at the NZXT Kraken G10.

black-swatch370x370

You’ll likely recognize the cooling solution if you’ve read my article introducing the water cooling loop that I built out in my wife’s computer, as it’s the one that came straight from her system.

Now the interesting thing about the PNY video card is it’s a GTX 770 processor on a GTX 680 reference board – this’ll make it easy to find a full-cover water block if I build out a full custom loop. But this also made it easy to find out what I needed with regard to the heatsinks. To get an idea of what I’d need, I found a picture of the video card with the stock cooler removed courtesy of EK’s cooling configurator. It was pretty easy to discern what would need heatsinks courtesy of the installation guide – unfortunately the R22 inductors can’t receive heatsinks because of their height under the G10.

Now for the Kraken G10, the heatsinks need to be short, but it’s better having something than nothing, especially on the VRMs as those can really get warm. So I found several heatsinks on Performance-PCs.com that were 6mm, but wide enough to cover what was needed:

  • 34mm square x 4mm tall (x 2) for the VRMs next to the R22 inductors
  • 20mm square x 6mm tall for the VRMs toward the top of the card

With the 92mm fan blowing directly onto these, the VRMs should stay nice and cool – unfortunately I don’t have any real way of confirming for certain. NZXT has said with regard to the Kraken G10 that the VRMs and memory don’t need heatsinks because the water cooling against the GPU should ensure that everything else stays cooler as well under the 92mm fan. Except various tests have shown that to not hold true, especially when Radeon cards are discussed.

For my card, the additional heatsinks were not necessary.

Under the PNY’s cooler are several heatsinks over the memory and VRMs. I did not see those in any picture of the card that I found, but it was great to find because it meant that I didn’t need the heatsinks I bought. Unfortunately I’m also out about $20 because the company from where I purchased them won’t accept returns for unneeded hardware.

Installing the Kraken G10 to the card was relatively straightforward, though finding a mount point for the radiator in my case was interesting – ultimately I mounted it to the bottom with it pulling in air from beneath the case. I recently acquired an NZXT Grid for plugging in all the fans in my system (I have a Corsair H60 plus the case fans plugged into it). The only downside is the fans on the ThermalTake cooler are loud… I’ll have to rectify that at some time with some Corsair SP120s, methinks.

kraken1

kraken2

So how about the temperatures?

At idle it’s about 27C as I’m writing this. That’s between 5C and 10C less than where it was idling with the PNY stock cooler. Under load running Valley Benchmark, the card could easily get near 80C, and when playing Bioshock Infinite, it could climb above 80C with the stock cooler. With the Kraken G10 and the ThermalTake cooler running the Valley Benchmark on its highest settings, it reached 42C and I think touched 43C. Running MSI Kombustor’s GPU burn-in test on benchmark with everything turned up, it got up to 49C within the time before it was cut off. And with Bioshock Infinite, it made it to about 47C.

So that’s certainly significantly better than before with the stock cooler.

But like water cooling, this is not something to just do. You need to plan it out what you’re going to do, just not nearly to the same degree, as all you really need to figure out in advance is where you’re going to mount the radiator for the all-in-one. You might also need a fan hub like the NZXT Grid or Bitspower X-Station to ensure you can plug up everything you need. Some fan extension cables should be in order as well to help get clean cable runs.

You also need to know whether the Kraken G10 will even work with your card, so check the compatibility chart to see. If you want an idea of whether your card is "reference", go to EK’s Cooling Configurator and that should be able to tell you. If a full-cover water block is available, that’s a good sign. As for whether the G10 will work with your video card, about all I can really tell you is to check the reviews. You should also be able to determine then if you need additional heatsinks for VRMs and memory chips.

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Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Part III

Previous: Introduction, Part I and Part II

Ah Saturday. It’s typically my day for getting stuff done as my wife sleeps off her overnight shift at work. And that day’s errands started with a trip to Home Depot and Microcenter. At Home Depot, I bought the M3 screws I needed to mount the radiator to the case and some additional tubing that I didn’t actually need in the end – but I’m hanging on to it anyway because I know I’ll need it eventually. Following that was a trip to Microcenter where I bought some additional fittings along with a couple PCI-e power extension cables – the power cables coming off my wife’s power supply would fit, but they did look a little ugly and I wanted to dress things up a little.

After getting home, I continued work on the loop, starting with the graphics cards. I knew that before I could really get a full idea of what would be involved, I needed to see how the graphics cards would look with the water blocks and sitting in the computer.

The water block installation actually went fairly quick and uneventful.

gtx660_waterblock

One thing that helped is the groove in the underside of the block for the T-line of capacitors and inductors (picture below). To line that up, I worked to align the graphics card to the water block, not the water block to the graphics card. By that I mean I had the water block laying on the table with the contact plate facing up, then positioned the card over that. It was just a matter of getting the capacitors and inductors into the groove, and that had me pretty spot on with the screw hole alignment.

ek-fc660-gtx---nickel_front_800

Plus as the graphics card was lighter than the water block, it was much easier lining up the graphics card to the block than the other way around, and I recommend doing that for installing the water block where possible as it’s just much easier.

And just as under the CPU block, I used Innovation Cooling‘s IC Diamond compound on the water blocks.

Now the way I had actually planned the loop was to use 90-degree fittings between the two cards, not any kind of SLI bridge or Bitspower Crystal Link.

gtx660_fittings

gtx660_installed

Yeah it looks ugly, but I was still kind of going for function over form here, and this was relatively easy to put together. And when I had everything in place, it made putting together the rest of the loop relatively easy – even though it still took several more hours. One thing I had planned from the outset was a drainage system for the loop, comprised of a Bitspower valve on a T-fitting between the pump and the graphics cards.

And from the pump to the graphics cards, the line went through the T-fitting to a 45-degree fitting tubed up to the 90-degree fitting on the graphics card water block. And the outlet from the reservoir went down into the top of the reservoir.

After that was the leak test and padding down everything with paper towels just in case there is a problem.

Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the initial leak test, so I’ll just have to describe it. First, I didn’t mix up any coolant. I used only distilled water for the leak test: the water was only 90 cents per gallon at my local Wal-Mart, while the coolant was $12 for 150mL concentrate. Plus I could always go get more water if I needed it, while I’d have to wait for an order of the concentrate to arrive, even if I overnighted it.

So for building a loop, if you’re new to this like I was, use distilled water to do your initial leak test. Not only will you be testing for leaks, but it’ll give you a chance to test your drainage system as well – provided you actually installed one into your loop. And part of testing your loop should be doing a test drain on it as well.

So how did the leak test go? Umm… not good.

For one, I forgot to double-check all of the fittings before I started, and the fittings on the graphics cards had come loose, leading to a major leak. Rather than tighten the fittings, though, I decided to just pull it apart. The extent of the leak meant the cards need to come out anyway so they could be dried off and left to sit for a complete dry.

And instead of planning to reassemble the graphics cards fittings the way I initially ran them, I decided to do what I should’ve done in the first place and order the EK SLI bridge. I probably could’ve made the fittings work, making sure to use a pair of needle-nose pliers to ensure they were tight, but in the end it also wouldn’t really have looked all that great. So I ordered the 3-slot dual SLI bridge, serial instead of parallel.

As this would change the way the pump is tubed into the graphics cards, I also ordered a couple spacer fittings to redesign how that was tubed up. There were problems with how the tubing was run from the pump to the graphics card as well that resulted in a small leak. So all of this was certainly for the better.

The new order was overnighted from Performance-PCs. It shipped out the following Monday, which gave everything plenty of time to dry out before I picked up the package Tuesday night from my local FedEx Office.

Next: Part IV

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Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Part II

Previous: Introduction and Part I

Let’s continue where I left off, with mounting the water block to the CPU.

mainboard

mainboard_installed

After this point, I mounted the mainboard back into the case and turned my attention to the radiator and mounting the Corsair SP120 fans to it. The fans come with three rings: red, blue and white. As the light kit in her computer is green, I decided to change the rings on the fins to the white rings. As the fans will be mounted in a push configuration, the rings will be visible on the radiator, and the red or blue rings I don’t think would’ve really looked right.

radiator

As you can tell by the picture, I initially intended to mount the radiator with the inlet and outlet to the rear of the case, as that is what most builds do from what I’ve seen. Actually, come to think of it, I don’t recall a build that doesn’t do that. The fans were mounted such that the fan cables would’ve been going behind the mainboard tray, for those who aren’t familiar with water cooling builds.

And as you might be able to discern from the picture, the case is upside down on the table. That was intentional as it gave me the best way to see how the radiator would look without having to try to hold it in place. Plus, the radiator didn’t come with any short screws for mounting the radiator to the case, the radiator has M3 threads, and I didn’t have any short M3 screws sitting around either, so it was kind of out of necessity. Needless to say, Home Depot was on my list of places to go the next morning.

So the time came to start actually planning the tubing routing. Initially I wanted to go from the graphics cards to the CPU block, then to the radiator, and I mounted fittings with that configuration being the intention.

fittings

Now I chose this configuration to have the water coming out of the pump and going through all of the water blocks before traveling through the radiator.

And as the picture shows, the 90-degree fitting on a 15mm spacer coming out of the CPU block going into a 45-degree fitting also on a 15mm spacer into the radiator seems to offer near perfect alignment. Except, recall what I said in the introduction about the tubing I’m using being stiff. This close of a gap would’ve been difficult to tube up after mounting the radiator to the case, even with the case upside down.

fittings_zommed

So I decided on an alternate configuration – one that, as I said, I almost never see.

reverse

I had the inlet and outlet for the radiator pushed into the 5 1/4″ drive bay. This allowed me to use longer lengths of tubing with a 45-degree single-rotary fitting off the outlet on the CPU water block. Both the inlet and outlet on the radiator are 90-degree single-rotary fittings on 30mm spacers – actually 2x15mm spacers – to ensure clearance over the fans. And the fitting on the CPU block’s inlet is a flush compression fitting – note the CPU block I selected cannot fit two 1/2″x3/4″ flush compression fittings as both the inlet and outlet.

Now I’m aware this does mean that two hoses are interfering with the air flow around the radiator, but I went for the setup that I knew was going to be the easiest to make given the materials I had. Perhaps if I was using less stiff tubing (provided I was willing to spend several dollars a foot for it) then I could’ve gone with a different configuration that would’ve allowed more airflow around the radiator. But one of the fans was going to be blocked by the 5 1/4″ drive bay regardless and this configuration was easier to install.

Is there a better way to do this? Absolutely. After all I could’ve used rigid tubing for this whole thing.

And that is where I left things for the night. The next morning I picked up with my trip to Home Depot to acquire some M3 screws along with more tubing – I wasn’t sure if what I had left of the initial 10′ coil would suffice, but I was able to re-use many of the longer pieces I’d cut off from it. That was followed by a trip to Microcenter to get some more fittings I thought I would need – in the end, I only needed a couple of them and was able to return the rest.

So that is where I’ll leave this segment. The next part will pick up with installing the water blocks onto the graphics cards, which would give me a better idea of how to plan the loop.

Next: Part III

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Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Part I

Previous: Introduction

Before constructing a loop, it’s typically recommended to rinse out all of the components you will be using – the water blocks, radiators, pump and reservoir – with distilled water. While it’s good to rinse out everything, it’s only necessary to rinse out the radiators. And if you Google around, you’ll find a lot of interesting ways to go about doing that – dilute acid mixtures, the “shake and drain” method, and so on.

But one of the more interesting methods of preparing the radiator came from a video I saw on YouTube:

So that got me thinking. I didn’t need something as large as what he used, which is a whole-house water filter. So I looked at under-sink water filters instead. We’re still talking a decent expense, but with the right fittings, I could use the pump and reservoir to set up a makeshift loop to get distilled water flowing through the radiator and flushing it out.

Water filter: 3M Filtrete 3US-AS01

The tubing that comes with the water filter is 1/4″ ID, 3/8″ OD. Talk about some thin tubing. And it’s also very rigid, so finding some more flexible tubing might be worth your while. But Bitspower makes fittings that will work with this tubing, and I managed to find a couple at my local Microcenter – actually they had only two in stock when I bought them, so I got lucky on that mark.

Before flushing the radiator, the filter still needs to be primed. And you need to prime it with distilled water, not tap water. So I built a small loop to run from the pump to the filter back to the reservoir, which fed directly to the pump. I let this run for about 15 minutes.

primingloop

Then came the loop to flush the radiator. In building the loop, I used a length of 1/2″x3/4″ tubing to run from the pump to the radiator. The fitting that in the previous loop ran from the pump to the filter now feeds out of the radiator. The purpose of this, as the above video shows, is to filter out the crap and gunk in the radiator that results from the manufacturing fitting. And it’s a much easier – okay, lazier – way of getting that gunk out.

flushradiator

I let this loop run for actually several hours while I tore apart my wife’s machine to get the mainboard out and prepare her CPU for the new water block. Now because of how little resistance the loop provides, there was a lot of cavitation in the reservoir, meaning there was no way to get all the air out of the loop. Had I used a small bucket as the “reservoir”, there probably wouldn’t have been nearly as much cavitation and air churning in the reservoir, so I later put a small towel under the pump so it wasn’t making nearly as much noise.

As I said, I let this loop run while I tore apart the computer and got the mainboard and graphics cards out of the machine and turned my attention to mounting the water block to the CPU.

Recall from the introduction that her CPU cooler was previously the ThermalTake Water 2.0 Performer. The ThermalTake CPU coolers have a bracket for under the mainboard, and that bracket has an adhesive foam on it that sticks to the mainboard. Needless to say, that was a pain to try to remove, as it required going slow and steady to separate the bracket from the mainboard. And I didn’t exactly get it all off there, but I’m not concerned as it’s not exactly in view. I actually debated on just cutting the bloody thing instead of messing with the adhesive foam.

Once the bracket was off, I got the mounting screws through the holes on the mainboard.

mountingscrews

And mounted the CPU cooler to the CPU. For the thermal compound, I didn’t use what came with the CPU block. My go-to thermal compound has been Innovation Cooling‘s IC Diamond compound. It’s worked quite well for me in the past and I see no reason to think it won’t work well here.

cpucooler

And that’s where I’ll leave this iteration. In the next part, I’ll discuss the start of building out the loop, mounting the radiator and figuring out what fittings to use.

Next: Part II

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Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Introduction

After tons of research and drooling over water-cooled builds I’d seen on YouTube, I came up with the bright idea to build a full custom water cooling loop in my wife’s computer.

Part of the concern is the fact the graphics cards she was running (details below on initial setup) ran hotter than I was comfortable under load. An option I was exploring to alleviate that concern is the Kraken G10 by NZXT, which allows you to mount certain all-in-one CPU liquid coolers to graphics cards, provided you have one of the right type. It also has a bracket for a fan to actively cool everything else on the card – since the CPU cooler will be mounted only onto the GPU – but reports indicate you may need heatsinks for the memory and voltage regulator modules (VRMs) on the card.

So before getting further, here’s what I started with:

With the ThermalTake cooler, her CPU was staying nice and cool – never getting much above the mid-50s (that’s Celsius) under typical load. And it was significantly quieter and less annoying than the stock cooler that comes with the AMD chip – we could only stand it for a couple days after initially building her system before I started researching other options.

But the graphics cards would regularly get into the 70s and 80s under load. While there was space and potential mount points to make use of Kraken G10s, only the GPUs on the board would be cooled, and I’d have to find other options to cool the VRMs and memory – and my research was not coming up with anything useful for the GTX 660 reference board. But the other complication was simply the fact it would’ve been three all-in-one CPU coolers in the same case. Finding mount points for all of them would’ve been interesting in the 750D. If she had, say, the 650D or another comparable mid-tower ATX case, then things probably would’ve been a little easier, but no guarantees on that mark.

So I started looking at custom water cooling loops. What initially started pushing me in that direction was running across YouTube tech commentator JayzTwoCents, which got my feet wet on the idea of water cooling after initially considering it. From there I found Singularity Computers and the build logs he has posted, and I think that set my mind toward doing that. So after tons of research, I started buying parts to build out the custom loop, starting with the easy stuff:

On the GPU water blocks, EK was pretty much the only option available for the GTX 660. I couldn’t find anyone else making a full-cover block for that card. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as EK is the company I’d seen continually recommended for water blocks for graphics cards. The only company I’d seen recommended close to as much as EK is XS-PC, but, again, they didn’t have a full-cover block that would fit her cards.

And at the time I bought them, the only company I could find distributing it in the US was out of stock, so I had to order it from EK… who is in Slovenia. And then, not long after the order arrived, the US distributor had it in stock – had I been able to order it from the US supplier, I would’ve been able to save $30 on shipping. On the plus side, it was shipped via UPS 3-day, and it was literally 3 days to deliver: I ordered it on a Friday from EK in Slovenia, and it arrived for pickup in Kansas City the following Monday. Had I ordered it from the US supplier, it likely would’ve been later in the week when it arrived unless I paid extra for a 3-day or quicker option.

On the CPU block, I was mixed in what to select as there are quite a few options available. I ultimately decided on AlphaCool thanks to a video I saw from JayzTwoCents reviewing the CPU block I ultimately purchased. Most of the fittings I ultimately used in this build were AlphaCool fittings, again thanks to JayzTwoCents, along with some fittings from Bitspower and Swiftech – the latter courtesy of my local Microcenter. And the radiator I chose also because of a JayzTwoCents review.

For the tubing I went with 1/2″x3/4″ tubing I found at my local Home Depot. It’s stiffer than other tubing that I’d seen recommended, but it was also about 70 cents a foot, instead of several dollars a foot for other options I’d seen online. Plus it’s available just down the road from where I live. Yeah I know I’ll probably have to replace it at the same time I replace the coolant, but that’s not a huge deal for me, as soft tubing typically needs to be periodically replaced anyway. That’s just the nature of it.

And at the price I paid, I could replace it three times in a year and still come out ahead cost-wise over other options I’ve seen available!

Speaking of coolant, only one name was in mind for that: Mayhems. Specifically, Mayhems XT-1 Clear. Initially I was looking at the X1 coolant, but the XT-1′s biodegradability (90% over 10 days, compared to 85% over 30 days for the X1) and extremely low toxicity won me over.

So that wraps up this introduction. In the next part, I’ll talk about preparing the components and starting to build out the loop, including tearing down my wife’s computer.

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It’s not an "anti-college" debate

Let’s start with a simple question: if I recommend that you buy a PC over a Mac, am I anti-Mac? I think a lot of us would probably say No, especially if the context of that question includes a small discussion of your needs. Personally I have recommended Macs to people over PCs, but that was after asking numerous questions leading up to that recommendation.

So if I recommend a high school graduate pursue an apprenticeship over going to college, am I anti-college? For some reason, it seems many would say Yes. Anyone have a clue as to how the hell that fallacy came about?

For one, I am a college graduate. I have a Bachelor’s degree in business administration, plus an Associate’s degree in computer programming, and I’m putting serious consideration toward going back to community college to get a paralegal degree – for those curious, a paralegal is to a lawyer what a nurse is to a doctor. So to say I’m anti-college would be incorrect.

But at the same time, to say that everyone should go to college is also not correct. Yet the idea persists, and the most recent incarnation of it I’ve seen is Mandi Woodruff’s article on Yahoo Finance called "Is the anti-college debate over?"

Let’s get the fallacy out of the way: it’s not an "anti-college" debate. Instead it’s about asking the serious question of whether a high school graduate could spend 4 years of their life in a better way. There are people without even high school diplomas who are making more money than those with college and graduate degrees. It’s all about finding the right ideas and running with them. To support the idea the debate is essentially over, Woodruff references a recent Pew Research Center article that shows:

  • Median full-time earnings for college graduates is 45,500 (approximately $22/hr full time) per annum compared to 28,000 ($13.50/hr full time) for a diploma
  • Unemployment rate among high school graduates is a little over 3x the unemployment rate for college graduates
  • Poverty rate among high school graduates is 3.75x higher than among college graduates

Some pretty striking numbers. But does that mean that if everyone goes to and graduates from college, that the unemployment rate will be below the rate for Q4 20001? No! Instead as more people shift to being college graduates, the unemployment and poverty numbers for college graduates will go up. Because the college degree won’t keep you out of poverty and won’t keep you off the unemployment line, plain and simple. The degree is no guarantee of success.

And that is what the "anti-college" debate is all about. As such, the "anti-college" debate is not over.

Arrogantly, Woodruff opens her article saying, "Say what you will about rising tuition, student loan bubbles and the merits of early entrepreneurship but, as with global warming and human evolution, you simply can’t ignore the facts."

We’re not ignoring the facts. Fact: the numbers paint a clear picture that a good way to advance your earnings potential is by getting a college degree.

Fact: A college degree is not the only way to do that. But the "pro-college" side of the debate keeps presuming that to be the case. The "anti-college" side acknowledges that reality, along with the reality that not everyone who starts college finishes – over 1 in 4 college students drop out after 1 year or less, and over 2 in 5 students at 4-year college drop out. And not everyone with a college degree will make more than those with a high school diploma – there are plenty of examples of people without college degrees making a comfortable living.

Plus the degree doesn’t determine your earnings potential. It’s all about what you do with the knowledge that degree is to represent.

The bigger problem is that most do not follow their passions, so what they earn when they start their careers is all they earn throughout their careers, or not significantly higher than that, when you take their future earnings and adjust for inflation. They also probably do not take the opportunities to better themselves, to make themselves more valuable to their employers and to other employers in their area.

Employers know they need to pay their college-graduated employees more than their community college graduates and high school-only graduates because college graduates tend to be saddled with significantly higher amounts of debt compared to 2-year graduates. According to American Student Assistance, four-year college students are almost twice as likely to borrow money than community college students, and more than twice as likely to borrow as students who pursue professional degrees or certificates, with about 1 in 10 college graduates having over $40,000 in student loan debt by the time they graduate. According to CNN Money, the average new graduate in 2012 had over $29,000 in debt. At an interest rate of 4% across 10 years, that debt will cost them about $3,600 per year until paid off. If that debt is refinanced to a 30 year loan (something many borrowers stupidly do), then you’re looking at about $1,700 per year for 30 years at 4% interest.

They will also be saddled with other living expenses and take on other debt in the form of car purchases and credit cards to buy things they will need when starting out on their own. All of that eats into their salaries and saps their discretionary income. In other words, higher earnings does not necessarily translate into higher standards of living, an assumption so many people tend to make.

And if the borrower falls behind on that student loan debt, it cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, meaning it will follow the borrower until it is paid in full.

Employers are paying higher for college graduates knowing their employees will have loans to pay off, and it’s better to pay an employee enough to cover what they expect living expenses to be than to have employees who can barely make ends meet. Sure they may be paying the employee more than what they might actually be worth to the company, but the company makes up for that by providing only cost-of-living adjustments to future salaries unless the employee can demonstrate additional value in some other way, thus warranting higher than just mere inflation adjustments to their salaries.

All of that debt needs to be paid back, and that hits the discretionary spending for the borrowers. That is why the economy is still being sluggish in its "recovery". When you have a mountain of debt to pay back – whether due to borrowing, collections, judgments, garnishments or foreclosures – it takes away from spending in other areas, meaning you have less to spend overall, and less money circulates within the economy to keep it going. You cut back to make ends meet, meaning less revenue for businesses, and the problem just cascades from there.

So why is the poverty rate for high school graduates higher than college graduates? To pursue higher-earning jobs, you obviously need the skills and education to qualify for those positions. College is not the only way to obtain them. I was learning what I needed to know before I stepped foot in a classroom, and my self-training has given me more than my classroom training ever did.

Beyond this, in today’s economy, college graduates are going after the jobs high school graduates tended to pursue. According to ProCon.org, 1 in 3 college graduates had a job requiring little more than a high school diploma in 2012, while 1 in 2 college graduates in 2011 had no job or were working only part time. Obviously this is going to put a squeeze on those with only a high school diploma, as fewer jobs requiring the skills of a college graduate means those grads – with their large debt loads – seek other employment, displacing those with lesser educations. This also limits the earning potential of the college graduate, both in the short and long term.

Further, of who the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls the 30 fastest growing jobs, only 12 require a Bachelor’s or better. There’s also a growing "skills gap" in the United States. It is estimated that approaching 1 in 2 job openings in the US are for "middle skill" jobs like construction, plumbing and electrical work. There isn’t enough labor to fill those jobs, though, so there is plenty of potential for people to take on an apprenticeship and earn a middle-class income in the process because of demand for those jobs and the services they provide. Even a trade school would do the trick for significantly less than the cost of a 4-year degree while still having nearly the same earning potential.

A generation ago, apprenticeships and trade schools along with the military taught people skills that could make them a living. And it tended to be better education because you tended to be taught through hard experience as well. That’s not exactly true today, but with the growing skills gap in the US, it needs to become true again.

All of this will play into the advice that should be given to high school students. It may be more beneficial for the student to take on an apprenticeship and learn a trade than to go to college, depending on what they think they want to do with the rest of their life, assuming their desires are realistic. Other students may be better served going to college and getting a 4 year degree.

Either way, there are jobs to be filled but not enough people who can fill them, and that is the problem that needs to be corrected. But touting the statistics on 4 year degrees isn’t going to improve an economy that is still dependent on the laws of supply and demand.

  1. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for September through December 2000 was 3.9% []
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Recognizing the obvious

Let’s start with something that should be quite obvious:

Marriage is a union, to be sure, but it’s a union that should liberate, not incarcerate. Real love shouldn’t limit a person’s potential, it should expand it.

Seth Adam Smith is at it again:

I’m sure it may come as a shock to some people, but I let my wife go. It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, but it was the right thing for the both of us.

He’s not talking about divorce, of course. Let’s get real. Instead it seems he’s finally realized something that should’ve been quite obvious to him for quite a long while: different people are different. He even goes so far as to admit that he and his wife are near polar opposites. In the midst of the poetic allegory of his article, he derives a point of view from either Ever After or Fiddler on the Roof (though he attributes the quote to his wife): "A fish may love a bird, but where would they live?"

And from this he comes up with the idea of a birdbath:

The bird bath is a symbol for our middle ground—the place where we come together—but it’s also the place from which we feel comfortable to let each other go. To "let go" of someone is to love them enough to let them fly or swim away (or to be themselves) and yet trust that they will always come back.

Sounds very poetic and romantic, doesn’t it? That old "let him/her go, and if it was meant to be, they’ll come back to you". Has he been watching Serendipity on repeat? Now given that movie stars Kate Beckinsale, I wouldn’t blame him, but… moving on…

Real love tells me to let Kim fly and trust that she’ll always come back. I have to let her go so she can chase her dreams, pursue her education, and develop her talents. Additionally, I have to let go of my fears that she might fly away and never come back. If the fish were to clip the bird’s wings, he would risk trimming her dreams and smothering her altogether.

Let’s rewind, shall we? In response to your previous article called "Marriage Isn’t For You" (my rebuttal here), you elaborated on the situation to NBC Today:

As Smith explained to TODAY.com, he began to struggle as Kim became ever more dedicated to her graduate studies in theater, which led the couple to relocate to Florida. Feeling isolated, Smith said he began to push Kim away.

Looking back, Smith knows his behavior was defensive, but he couldn’t help it when the tension culminated in an argument. Smith had been expecting this “ticking time bomb,” anticipating a blowout with Kim mustering just as much anger and frustration as he felt.

And now you’re talking about letting your wife "fly away" and hoping she’ll always be coming back home to you. Okay either you’ve got your mind filled with poetic allegory that you write down simply because it sounds good – hey I play on words myself as well, it’s why I have a blog – or you truly are delusional.

All of your poetic allegory can be boiled down to one sentence: Recognize each other’s differences and communicate with each other in how to work those differences, as well as your similarities, toward something workable for a sustainable and, hopefully, stable future. But then that’s not poetic is it? Or obscure for that matter.

Here’s the thing every couple needs to learn at some point, preferably long before wedding rings enter the picture: you each will want to do your own separate things. It’s a common point of advice for couples that you each have your own separate hobbies, things you like to do apart from each other, even… taking separate vacations (gasp!). But at the same time, whatever activities or hobbies you take on should not be to the detriment of your relationship and life together. If one person loves to travel, but you don’t have the money to do it, compromises have to be made.

Your wife is pursuing graduate studies in theater. You are pursuing swimming. Now what you need to do is find out how both of you can make your separate passions workable toward a mutual goal of a life together. It doesn’t take a birdbath analogy to recognize that, nor to express it. The analogy is poetic, I’ll admit, but wholly unnecessary.

So instead of "letting them go", what you actually need to be doing is being an active, but realistic source of encouragement. Familiarize yourself with what your wife is pursuing, and encourage your wife to become familiar with what you pursue. You needn’t share passions, but being familiar will allow you to be encouraging and understanding at the same time. At the same time, you need to be an ear for your wife when she wants to unload, and vice versa. This is where having a basic understanding of her passions and pursuits will be of great importance and assistance.

But you also need to have the courage to tell your wife when her pursuits are harming your relationship. This, as I mentioned in my earlier article, requires communication. It requires you being honest with each other. I’m not entirely sure if you’re at that point. Instead it sounds like you’re trying to rationalize away something by using hindsight and deriving a birdbath.

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An amendment to support

Normally I’m not one for amending the Constitution of the United States, and I highly scrutinize any calls to amend the Constitution. But Daylight Saving Time has me in a little bit of a pro-amendment kick right now.

Under Article I, Section 8, one of the enumerated powers of Congress is to “fix the Standard of Weights and Measures”. This includes the standards around time and how it is tracked and measured. As such, I think we need to amend the Constitution to limit this power:

The power to fix the Standard of Weights and Measures shall not be construed as to allow the adjustment of the day’s hours without the consent of three-fourths of the States. The standard of hours that exists on the first of January of the year following the enactment of this amendment shall persist until overridden under the terms of this amendment.

In other words, make non-DST the default, and if Congress and the President want daylight saving time, they’ve got to take the issue up with the States first. Or we could even take it one step further and put it up for a national referendum.

The idea behind this is simple: daylight saving time is disruptive, and studies have shown little benefit and actually a bit of disruption. It benefits some industries while negatively affecting others. The chance of heart attack actually increases in the days following the spring transition but does not have a corresponding equal reduction in the days following the autumn transition. The goals of reducing energy usage are no longer met by the transition due to major changes in energy usage across the country and the world, and there are disruptions in productivity following each transition as well

So this is one area where I would fully back amending the Constitution, to remove from Congress the power to enact or re-enact daylight saving time without the States consenting or even the direct consent of the People through national referendum.

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Body autonomy

Matt,

It seems you got ahead of yourself when writing your response to "Rachel". I’m not going to address the flawed hypothetical presented as it is a severely flawed hypothetical when trying to support the idea of abortion, but the rest of your ideas attacking the very idea of body autonomy go a bit off the mark. You make five points to attack the idea of body autonomy, so let’s get right into this.

According to bodily autonomy, a mother could not be judged harshly for smoking, drinking, doing coke, and going skydiving (hopefully not all in the same day) while 6 months pregnant. If you really believe that a woman’s body is autonomous — that she has absolute jurisdiction over it — then you must defend a mother who does things that could seriously harm her unborn child, even if she hasn’t chosen to abort it. This is not a slippery slope argument; this is a reasonable and inevitable application of your principle.

Aside from "doing coke", there is no law that says a woman cannot smoke, drink or go skydiving while pregnant – even all in the same day if she so desires. It certainly would be very bad judgment for a woman who is 6 months pregnant to do any or all of those things, but I am aware of no law that forbids such activities.

But I do not have to support or defend any woman who demonstrably places her unborn child in harm. If I see a woman smoking, drinking, doing coke and/or skydiving, regardless of whether she is pregnant, I certainly can and likely will judge the wisdom of her decisions and actions. I’m sure when Kari Byron was playing with guns on MythBusters while in her third trimester, there were people screaming at the screen and writing nasty letters to the Discovery Channel about it. Taking into account the fact she was wearing a bullet-resistant vest around her abdomen and the fact there were safety officers there at the time this was happening, was her decision to participate in that particular "myth" – they were testing the idea of curving bullets – a wise decision? Even with as vehemently pro-gun as I am, I’m still inclined to say no.

Am I inconsistent in my application of body autonomy? No.

The fact that what she did was all perfectly allowable under the law does not mean she is immune from having her actions scrutinized by others. But what allows me to scrutinize and judge her actions while still being consistent with the idea of body autonomy is simply that I wasn’t calling for Kari to be arrested or face some other reprisal because of her actions. Now if in swinging around that 1911 she unintentionally shot or injured someone on site, or even herself, then the circumstances have changed.

There are all kinds of things that individuals do that are unwise even if legal. A person’s actions being legal does not make those actions immune from scrutiny.

I support decriminalizing drugs, and in some cases I support full-out legalization. And to support that, I cite the idea of body autonomy – if a person wants to smoke pot or snort coke, who am I to say they cannot as opposed to should not. I can point to all kinds of things showing why a person should not smoke pot or snort coke. And I can say to someone "you shouldn’t do that". But the moment I say they cannot do something is where the burden falls on me to justify forcefully stopping them from doing such, or subjecting them to any kind of reprisal for their actions.

But under your logic here, Matt, you seem to think that those of us who support legalizing drugs must also be willing to do the drugs we want legalized. Sorry but that’s not how it works. That’s like saying a woman calling for legalizing prostitution should also be willing to engage in prostitution. Uh, no.

And from there we can see the rest of your arguments against body autonomy break down.

I’m throwing this in here because most pro-aborts will not (vocally) defend abortion at 8 or 9 months. But — if bodily autonomy is your claim — you must. Is a woman’s body less autonomous when she’s been pregnant for 35 weeks? There is no way around it: bodily autonomy means that it is moral to kill a fully formed baby, at seven months, or eight months, or nine months.

It is the pro-lifer that argues, albeit implicitly, that a woman has zero body autonomy while she is pregnant, and that any claim to body autonomy is abrogated for agential claims of body autonomy for the fetus. I’ve gotten into arguments where it has been argued – despite tons of evidence (and dead women) to the contrary – that there is no such thing as a medical condition that is caused or exacerbated by an active pregnancy that places the mother’s life in danger. Worse are those that acknowledge such conditions, but still say the carrying mother must not abort the pregnancy to save her own life.

I can still support the idea of body autonomy while being against what you’ve said.

Aborting a pregnancy is to remove the fetus from the mother. In the 8th or 9th month, this tends to be called "inducing labor". In the first trimester and early second trimester, the process itself is… not kind, to say the least, but it is still the basic general idea, and that has been the general idea for the last 5,000 years it has been practiced. That is the general idea when a woman swallows down a pill or potion with the intent of getting her body to eject the fetus – in case you’re curious, yes you can find articles describing how to do that online.

But again, what you’re saying is that arguing for body autonomy means I cannot personally hold views against certain things. And that is certainly not the case.

You say that our bodies cannot be ‘used’ without our ‘consent.’ Why should this apply only to pregnancy and organ donations?

It doesn’t. The fact one person is arguing from body autonomy in the context of abortion doesn’t mean abortion is the only context for the body autonomy argument. As an example, how would you feel about laws compelling blood donation, with the forced extraction of your blood being the penalty for noncompliance? You’d probably be rather appalled at such an idea.

Same if a legislator somewhere were to introduce a law calling for guys to donate sperm on a periodic basis, with forced extraction as a penalty for noncompliance.

An argument for absolute bodily autonomy means that it can’t be illegal, or considered immoral, for a parent to decline to do any of these things, so long as their decision was made in the name of bodily autonomy.

And a parent actually can decline to do any of those things at any time. It is not any single instance of any of those things that draws the ire of the government, but a pattern that can be demonstrated to exist, at which point we call it neglect, abuse, abandonment, or any combination therein. While it might seem appalling for a parent to decline to provide care to their child, it is not uncommon. Every parent does it, even if you don’t realize it, or you delegate the task of providing care to someone else. If you’ve ever said to your spouse after they get home from work "He’s all yours now", congratulations, you’ve decided to not provide care to your child and instead delegate, or rather conscribe someone else.

And when a pattern does develop and can be demonstrated, there are procedures that exist for ensuring the child is removed from such a home and placed with people who are able and willing to provide the proper care.

But here’s something you’ll likely find appalling: the relationship of the child to the parent does not automatically entitle the child to the fruits of the parent’s labors. Thanks to several hundred million years of evolution, biologically we are wired in such a fashion, to care for the children born to us. But that does not automatically mean your child is entitled to what you can provide. But then given you said being married entitles you to every iota of respect from your wife, I guess I can’t entirely fault you for making that kind of fallacy.

Instead what we recognize is two things: the biological parent is immediately charged with the care of the child unless it is demonstrated they are unfit to do so, and such a charge carries with it certain duties and responsibilities that must be carried out. This is why I commonly say that parents do not actually have "parental rights", rights that exist simply by virtue of being a parent with a child to whom you are charged with providing care. Instead parents have duties and responsibilities and a fair amount of latitude in carrying them out.

If I can ‘do what I want with my body,’ then it becomes very difficult to launch a salient moral or legal attack against a man who chooses to sit in a playground in front of children and pleasure his own body.

That is utter bullshit, Matt. You seem to think that one person’s claim to body autonomy automatically nullifies everyone else’s claims to any rights whatsoever. If a person does do such a thing, everyone else who is around can certainly drive that person away. To say that the man’s claim to body autonomy means everyone else must leave him be and just put up with him is absolutely atrocious.

That’s like saying that I can sit on a park bench shooting up crack in front of schoolchildren and no one can do or say anything about it. Even if shooting up crack were entirely legal under the law, that does not mean everyone must put up with me doing it. And if I choose to park it on a bench in front of children to do so, others can choose to intervene in that matter, doing everything short of what could be considered assault to get me to leave.

You also forget the fact that society and common law recognize what is called necessitation. Self-defense falls under this. In criminal law, the claim of necessitation on the part of the defendant to a criminal charge means the defendant believed it was reasonably necessary to break one law to prevent or end the commission of a greater harm. Body autonomy does not mean you have the right to harm others, and harm comes in forms other than just physical harm.

After all, you seem to think body autonomy means I can snort up a huge loogie onto a sidewalk, while in likely every jurisdiction in the US doing that will get you, at the least, a citation from a law enforcement officer if you’re caught. Can I claim body autonomy as I sneeze and cough wildly around others? No. It’s rude at best, contagious in the intermediate, fatally so at the worst. Same with the loogie left on the sidewalk.

Once we’ve considered every complexity and nuance, we can rightly say that our bodies are autonomous in some ways, and in some circumstances, but not in others. We cannot say that they are absolutely autonomous, and I find it hard to believe that anyone truly thinks that.

Last I checked, the concept of autonomy does not come with conditions. We have long recognized that a person should be able to do as they please, so long as in so doing they do not demonstrably harm others – which is what makes your idea that body autonomy means you can masturbate in public without consequence all the more appalling.

If my body is autonomous, my person must be autonomous, and if my person is autonomous, then my very existence is autonomous, and if my very existence is autonomous, then it is simply unacceptable and (by your logic) immoral for anyone to expect me to do anything for anyone at any point for any reason.

I think you’ve overlooked the big difference between expecting you to do something for someone else and forcing you to do such. It is immoral and unacceptable to force you to do something against your will. You recently argued on your blog that "Business owners should have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason", and I wholly agree with that stance. But when a person walks into an establishment, there is an expectation of service, but to force the proprietor to provide that service against their will is immoral.

It is not immoral to expect you to do something. It becomes a whole other matter when I say you must do something, and an even greater matter still when I attempt to force you to do it.

If you concede that we ought to be expected or even required to do certain things, then you are placing limits on our bodily autonomy. If you place limits on our bodily autonomy, then you are admitting that limits can be placed on our bodily autonomy.

To say that someone can expect something of me is not placing limits on my autonomy. Whether my actions or the results of my actions meet, exceed or fall short of someone’s expectations is not up to me, especially since expectations can change on the fly. But what about being required to do something? Well if you agree to do something, then that is an implicit requirement, but it is a requirement you voluntarily brought on yourself. And your failure to act as you have agreed can likely result in what is called a tort injury – and the response to most tort injuries isn’t to force you to do something, but to merely compensate the other for your not doing what you promised.

It is when requirements are made of you without you having any opportunity to examine those requirements and either assent or object to them that is problematic.

As such the only reasonable limitation – if you can really call it that – on a person’s autonomy is simply that you cannot harm others. Any additional limitations to your autonomy that you voluntarily take upon yourself is entirely your concern and not anyone else’s.

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