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Case design, opinions/advice wanted.

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Yahira

Member
Joined
Dec 10, 2007
Well once again I find myself building a new case.

I started out wanting to keep everything running nice and cool. I of course knew that I was going to go with a water setup for this but I didn't want to run into the problem of needing to start all over again once I exceeded the abilities of my current loop.

I came up with this little idea which I will admit contains some "over building". It has plenty of fans and plenty of rads (I hope).

Well as you can imagine during my process of thinking this out a few questions came up, that is why I am here.

I have no idea how to describe what it is I want to do with words so I broke out the copy of 3ds max and tossed together a basic model of what I am thinking.

This model will not accurately depict what the case will look like cosmetically and some of the sizes are a bit off but this should show you the placement of all of the items and show you what it is that I am trying to do.

Any help that you can give me is appreciated, I would also like to hear peoples opinions on this as well.

Well here it is: (click on the thumbnail for larger pic)







This is the case exterior. The "grilles" will not really look like that but it is a representation to show you guys where everything is. I know some things are missing but you guys know where all of the different things plug in at, no need for me to draw it all out.





Well here is a look at the inside. As you can see not everything is the perfect size (pumps for example).









Ok, the idea here is to separate the PSU, HDDs and rads from the MoBo and all attached items.

Also as you can see there are 3 rads. The ones that I will be using are the MCR-320s. I plan to put either 88CFM Yate Loons or 110CFM Skythe Slipstreams on them.

You don't see it in the pics but the HDDs will have a shroud around them to draw the air across the entire length of them and on out of the case. The PSU is below the HDDs.

Right now I am planning on 2 MCP-655 pumps. The first pump will push the water through the blocks and on to the second pump that will push it through the rads. Is this a sufficient amount of pumps?

The doors (case sides) will open in a "gull wing" style there by allowing the hoses to not be greatly effected when opening (it will also use the power of gravity to drain the loop when needed).

I will be using a T-line to fill but it is a threaded T-line that I will hook a res up to when filling and the pump should do the rest (standard res feeding the pump, pump filling the loop way of doing it).

I know that I should not need 3 rads but I want to be able to add what ever to my loop and not see any real difference in temperatures (meaning that if I upgrade to SLI/crossfire or decide to cool the NB or what ever else on the board with water I want the system to be able to handle it). This also goes to say that I want to loop to be able to handle OCing and what ever else may come put in the next couple of years or so as far as CPUs.

All fans will be a minimum of 88CFM and if they aren't 88CFM they will be 110CFM (except maybe the PSU fan).

I am not overly worried about the noise with this case but I will probably put fan controllers in there just to turn the fans down when the computer is sitting at idle over night. I am also not really worried about the size so much, it will be on casters so moving it will not be a big issue (it is 56cm wide, 43cm tall and 45cm long if I recall correctly). I am however considering making it a bit longer to give a pit more room to the PSU, it may also get a little taller if I need to add a second PSU to power the cooling system alone (something that I will need your advice on, no idea what sort of PSU it would take to reliably power this whole thing so I will probably end up going with 2). I could move the HDDs to the front to save on the need to make it taller if I do this.

Keep in mind that there are 6 fans up top that you can not see (on the Mobo side they will be exhaust, on the rad side they will either push air in or just not have any fans there and let the fans inside pull the air in). Looking at a total of 22+ fans so far but that may change a bit.

Case material will largely be wood and acrylic, the grilles will probably either be metal or some sort of fabric/wood combination, what ever I find that will work well and be ascetically pleasing (suggestions on this are welcome).

Well I guess that is it really.

Feel free to ask questions, give advice/opinions or just leave your thoughts. I am sure that I did not think of everything and that there is room for improvement in this.

Good day everyone.
 
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Yahira

Member
Joined
Dec 10, 2007
Thank you,

Yes, by no means is this idea completely original. I have seen other cases use separate "bays" in a similar fashion before.

I think my two biggest concerns at this point are the pumps and the PSU. I really don't know if the pumps will be able to handle that much restriction + the distance that they need to push the water. Keep in mind I am going for the ability to upgrade without worry. Meaning that sure the pumps may be able to handle it with only 2 or 3 water blocks in the loop but could they handle it if I wanted to toss another couple of blocks in?

Then there is the PSU. The PSU would need to handle running everything if I went with a single PSU. That means up to 2 GFX cards, the normal on board stuff even while OCing, the fans (and not just the case fans but the memory, NB, possible Vreg and so on, in short add another 4 smaller fans onto what is already there, and 4 HDDs. It would also need to run these things with stability in mind, I don't want a bunch of power drops and such going on.

However given reality I doubt I will find many PSUs that can handle all of that alone, I am currently thinking about getting a 850-900 watt PSU for the board/GFX cards and HDDs to run on and a 600 watt PSU for the cooling system (running all of the fans and the pumps, may put the HDDs on this PSU too but not sure).

The only reason why the HDDs are at the back is because I wanted the air to cool them and be pulled strait out of the case.

I may make it a little longer and a little taller to allow me to slim it down a bit. This would also bring the rad that is farthest back into a spot where it is sitting in front of the PSU/s. I may also move the 4 fans in front of the Mobo over a little bit to be more directly in front of it and even possibly add 2 more fans there to give the whole board even coverage of incoming air.

I was also thinking that 2 fans on the bottom blowing air strait up on the GFX card/s might not be a bad idea but I am still undecided as if it would make any sort of real difference given the air that should be moving over the entire board from the fans on the side of the case.

One thing is for sure at this point, this will be physically the largest case that I have ever built. It should prove to be fun. I just hope that I (with the help of all of you) will be able to get the "kinks" worked out well enough before it reaches build time.
 

voigts

Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Location
Tennessee
It is nice to see someone else who is looking to make their own case! You can take a look at my current build thread and see what I'm almost finished with.

First off, you don't need a second 600w PSU just for watercooling. Those pumps use 24w ea at 12v, and most fans use maybe 1/2w or so. So for you watercooling and fans you are only looking at maybe 65w, probably less. I would take a look at http://extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.jsp to get an idea of what your power requirements would be.

Secondly, two pumps are PLENTY to go through 3 rads and blocks. If you want a better estimate, look at martinm210's flow calculator on XS.

I would get away from using 3D max and use google sketchup instead as you can find accurate models of a MB, blocks, etc. A good components collection is at http://scc.jezmckean.com/. This will help you be a lot more accurate when measuring everything out. If you know 3D max well then Sketchup shouldn't be hard to figure out.

The grills are going to be hard to make out of wood or acrylic. It can be done, but you are talking about a ton of tedious work to get them right. And it is hard to do so without being too restrictive on airflow. I have used black fiberglass mosquito mesh successfully on a number of occasions ($5 at Lowes). It is going to be hard to use cloth on that large of an area that is going to hold up but be non-restrictive to airflow.

As for the design, I have a few suggestions. What if you moved both pumps into the rad side of the chamber running them in serial, kept the PSU where it is, and moved the HDs over to the side with the MB? You don't need to split up the pumps for them to work well. In a closed loop, they will work just as well plumbed in serial near each other as they will plumbed in serial on opposite side of the case. This way most of your tubing and power wiring would be hidden on one side. Since the MCR rads don't have a drain in the bottom, you could also mount the rads sideways instead of up and down so that you could put drain Ts near the bottom. As they are, you aren't going to be able to drain them without tipping the case completely over on its side, which could be a pain.

You could also move the DVD drive down to the bottom instead of at the top as it is blocking a lot of your access to the internals where it is. It is also a lot easier mounting it to the bottom than top, and then using the same side pieces used to mount the DVD to mount the HDs to also.

And as for the gull wing thing, you will find it a lot easier to be able to just completely remove the side panels rather than having them hang there. They will be in your way without a doubt.

You will probably want to make some kind of hardwood frame and use thin plywood for the panels to keep the weight down. If you use solid wood for the entire thing, it is going to weigh a ton. If you do this you also can apply some kind of router edging to the frame if you want to. I would stay away from using MDF as it is heavy and can't be stained like wood can.

This should be an fun project. One thing for sure, take the time to think about exactly where you are going to run your wiring and plumbing as you design this. It will save you a lot of headache.
 
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Yahira

Member
Joined
Dec 10, 2007
It is nice to see someone else who is looking to make their own case! You can take a look at my current build thread and see what I'm almost finished with.

First off, you don't need a second 600w PSU just for watercooling. Those pumps use 24w ea at 12v, and most fans use maybe 1/2w or so. So for you watercooling and fans you are only looking at maybe 65w, probably less. I would take a look at http://extreme.outervision.com/psucalculatorlite.jsp to get an idea of what your power requirements would be.

Secondly, two pumps are PLENTY to go through 3 rads and blocks. If you want a better estimate, look at martinm210's flow calculator on XS.

I would get away from using 3D max and use google sketchup instead as you can find accurate models of a MB, blocks, etc. A good components collection is at http://scc.jezmckean.com/. This will help you be a lot more accurate when measuring everything out. If you know 3D max well then Sketchup shouldn't be hard to figure out.

The grills are going to be hard to make out of wood or acrylic. It can be done, but you are talking about a ton of tedious work to get them right. And it is hard to do so without being too restrictive on airflow. I have used black fiberglass mosquito mesh successfully on a number of occasions ($5 at Lowes). It is going to be hard to use cloth on that large of an area that is going to hold up but be non-restrictive to airflow.

As for the design, I have a few suggestions. What if you moved both pumps into the rad side of the chamber running them in serial, kept the PSU where it is, and moved the HDs over to the side with the MB? You don't need to split up the pumps for them to work well. In a closed loop, they will work just as well plumbed in serial near each other as they will plumbed in serial on opposite side of the case. This way most of your tubing and power wiring would be hidden on one side. Since the MCR rads don't have a drain in the bottom, you could also mount the rads sideways instead of up and down so that you could put drain Ts near the bottom. As they are, you aren't going to be able to drain them without tipping the case completely over on its side, which could be a pain.

You could also move the DVD drive down to the bottom instead of at the top as it is blocking a lot of your access to the internals where it is. It is also a lot easier mounting it to the bottom than top, and then using the same side pieces used to mount the DVD to mount the HDs to also.

And as for the gull wing thing, you will find it a lot easier to be able to just completely remove the side panels rather than having them hang there. They will be in your way without a doubt.

You will probably want to make some kind of hardwood frame and use thin plywood for the panels to keep the weight down. If you use solid wood for the entire thing, it is going to weigh a ton. If you do this you also can apply some kind of router edging to the frame if you want to. I would stay away from using MDF as it is heavy and can't be stained like wood can.

This should be an fun project. One thing for sure, take the time to think about exactly where you are going to run your wiring and plumbing as you design this. It will save you a lot of headache.

A lot of good ideas and information here, thank you.

Yes, I have been building my own cases for years now, this one is different because of the size and layout. Up until this point I have pretty much stuck to ATX full tower designs. The last case that I bought was back in 2002 or 2003 (with the exception of my wifes computer but she bought the whole thing "off the shelf").

Thank you for the PSU information, that eased a good bit of worry for me.

As well with the pump information.

I did not know about sketchup, I will give that a try. Oh, don't over estimate my skills in max, I am not great at using it when compared to many others out there but I do know my way around well enough (I started using it to model objects for some game mods years ago). Just don't take what you see up there as an example of my "skills" with max, as I said, I tossed that together, I know that it doesn't look all that great.

For the grills I was thinking of using a wood frame (think something like a picture frame) and a material like black window screen or mosquito netting, I should have probably specified that a bit better originally. I tried the all wooden grill thing once, I understand what you mean. I will never make that mistake again.

Good idea with moving both pumps to one side.

I could move the HDDs, if nothing else it would mean that I do not need to buy as long SATA cables but it would also mean added length needed from the PSUs cables to reach them, I will have to play with some measurements to make a final decision on their placement.

Putting the rads on their side might work better. If keeping with the "gull wing" door design on that side though they would be easily drained simply by opening the door (case side). I have thought about how much the door opening in such a fashion would get in the way so I looked around a bit and then talked to a friend of mine who works with things similar to this quite a lot (he makes cabinets, furniture and those sorts of things) and he said that if I wanted to keep the gull wing design it would be best to make it so the door can open 180 degrees and have a way to hold it there. This should give complete access to the interior without having to do any extra reaching around or fighting with the door. Right now I am going with an idea to have the door open 180 degrees and use a small chain hook that will be attached to the back of the case (out of sight normally).

However after reading you idea about placing the rads on their side it occures to me that I may be able to make the side open toward the bottom (ummm, similar to an oven door I guess). I think that this just might work out better in the end. Either way I go the door on the rad side must remain attached to the case for the tubing connections. I will probably go with a removable side on the Mobo side of the case though.

I need the DVD drive at the top because the case will be sitting on the floor, it is more so I can access it while sitting in my office chair then anything. It shouldn't be blocking anything because the case does not really open on top like I have it in the pics, that was only done to show you guys everything together and also because moving the sides away would have been a lot more work. The case will actually open on the side so the DVD drive will be in a similar position that it is in a normal case.

I touched on the gull wing thing a bit, I will go removable side on the Mobo side of the case but the other side it must remain attached in some fashion for the tubes, I will probably move away from the gull wing design and have it open toward the bottom (door opens from the top and lays down on the floor). It isn't "ideal" but I should not have to access that side of the case a great deal anyway (mostly only to drain the loop for what ever reason or if I need to get to the PSU and if the HDDs stay on that side). Anyway, it may be an inconvenience but it is necessary.

As for the case materials. As I said, I am not as concerned with size or weight so much. It will be on wheels so moving it around a little will be easy enough, I doubt I will have to lift it much at all but even then it would need to weigh a good bit to be a problem (part of my job is moving heavy things, I doubt this will weigh nearly as much as what I deal with at work).

Anyway, yes the frame will be solid wood. Meaning that the top, bottom, front ,and back will be solid wood. The center divider could be any number of things, I may go with a thinner panel there, however at this point it is also by design going to bring a good deal of rigidity to the case so may end up being solid wood too. The wood won't be as thick as what the model leads one to believe. The sides will probably be acrylic framed in wood (think picture frame or window frame). Also a good bit of wood will end up being removed for the grills. I am expecting this thing to be quite heavy though.

I plan to measure all of my wire lengths and tubing lengths and working out all of the routing ahead of time. Before I ever build the case I should have every measurement done and a full model put together (much better then the one here) using all of the actual measurements from the items used. I have learned from experience that it is important to work all of that out ahead of time.

Thank you for the advice and keep it coming. Help from an experienced case builder is always welcome.
 

voigts

Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Location
Tennessee
Moving the hard drives will lengthen the cables needed a bit, but not by that much. As you said, it will however allow you to use really short SATA cables which is nice. I ordered SATA power end plugs from performance-pcs and made my own power cable that feeds all of my hard drives and DVD drive with just one cable. Doing that was worth ever cent as it really cut down on the SATA power cable clutter. I have one straight, neat cable feeding them all. I would highly recommend doing the same.

Can you put up something that has the sides angled down the way you are planning them to open? I am having a hard time visualizing the way that you are talking about them opening.

Even if weight is a non-issue, I would still recommend against MDF board. I realize you didn't mention you are going to use it, but please don't go through the trouble of making a nice wood case only to have to paint it.

I used 3/4" poplar on my current build and it has really worked well. On yours, you would have to glue boards together to get the width that you are after as even poplar only comes in 12" width (which is really 11 1/4"). Oak and select white pine (knot free) only come in 10" widths (actually 9 1/4") at Lowes and Home Depot.

I used 3/16" acrylic for the MB tray instead of wood as acrylic is just so much sturdier and doesn't warp. It works very well to use behind the MB. You may want to consider using that for the center divider.

Having the DVD drive on top of the hard drives will work fine if the access is from the side and not from the top as pictured. I thought you were opening it up from the top.

Google sketchup takes a bit to get the hang of, but once you figure out the quirks, it is really an amazing program, especially now that it is for free. The biggest quirk is that sometimes depending on the angle of view you have to type in your measurements to get them right. You also have to use inference points in order to get lines and shapes in the correct places. It is so easy to get corners where you think the lines are meeting only to find that they really don't.
 
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Yahira

Member
Joined
Dec 10, 2007
Don't worry, I wasn't planning to use MDF in any way. I am to big of a fan of using the woods natural beauty (meaning staining/varnishing wood instead of painting it).

Before I make my final decision on what exact wood I will go with I will do some checking on current prices and what sizes I can get in the local area. I will mostly be looking for something that looks nice, for me pine is just a little too "plain".

I like your suggestion of using acrylic for the divider, I was planning to use it for the mobo tray anyway (I never liked the idea of wood for this because of its tendency to expand/contract. I don't know if it would or not but I have never wanted to take the chance that it could damage the mobo). Using acrylic there will give me the rigidity that I need but also save some time and material while building. It will also mean that I need to do just that much better of a job in my wire and tube management.

I am thinking about running some of the longer cables on the under side of the case to help hide them better. An example of this could be running the 12v for the PCIe from the PSU through the bottom of the case, over to the other side and back up through the bottom and follow the edge of the mobo up until you reach the GFX card then follow the line strait out into the plug. If done right the wire should barely be noticeable. The reason why I am considering this is because it is looking to be difficult to find a PSU that has wires long enough to work in this case and keeping with the good wire management that I would like so I may end up just using extenders or rewireing the PSU to what length I need.

Yeah, as soon as I have enough time I will make some renders with the doors/sides opening the way that I am talking about. I will try to get to it tonight but I am also going to be spending some time with my wife so it wont be until after she goes to sleep. It shouldn't take to long though, if she isn't planning to be ready soon I may be able to get it done before she is expecting me.
 
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Yahira

Member
Joined
Dec 10, 2007
Ok, here are some renders of the sides opening for you voigts. They aren't pretty but they get the idea across. Also take note, I noticed that I have the rads backwards now, the inlets for the rads should be right in front of the pumps not on the PSU side.








I also tried the HDDs under the the DVD drive but they are just to close to the GFX card/s. I could turn them sideways and maybe have enough room though, I will mess around with it a bit more and see what I can come up with. However that will be a bit later, the wife will be ready in a few minutes so I need to be going.

looks nice have you thought about using oak it is kinda pricey but it is nice.

I have thought about it, haven't considered it much though, at this point I am thinking about either cherry or something close to it.
 

voigts

Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Location
Tennessee
Using acrylic there will give me the rigidity that I need but also save some time and material while building.

I am thinking about running some of the longer cables on the under side of the case to help hide them better. An example of this could be running the 12v for the PCIe from the PSU through the bottom of the case, over to the other side and back up through the bottom and follow the edge of the mobo up until you reach the GFX card then follow the line strait out into the plug. If done right the wire should barely be noticeable. The reason why I am considering this is because it is looking to be difficult to find a PSU that has wires long enough to work in this case and keeping with the good wire management that I would like so I may end up just using extenders or rewireing the PSU to what length I need.

...I am also going to be spending some time with my wife so it wont be until after she goes to sleep. It shouldn't take to long though, if she isn't planning to be ready soon I may be able to get it done before she is expecting me.

Smart man. Spending time with the wife is a good idea and sure goes a long way towards keeping a happy marriage. My wife has been very patient with me working on my current build as it has taken a lot of time to do. If only I didn't need to sleep, I could get a lot done...

If you are using solid wood sides, rigidity isn't going to be an issue at all. I agree with you about preferring acrylic for the MB tray as wood can move and warp a bit over time far more easily than acrylic. If you use an acrylic divider, you don't have to use clear acrylic. You can always either order smoked acrylic (USplastics was by far the cheapest for me here) or just paint clear acrylic if you don't want it to be see-thru.

On the MB note, performance-pcs has removable Lian Li motherboard trays with back panels (look under case parts, mods, and DIY/replacement accy parts) that work very well. The back panel just rivets to the MB tray. This made it easy to just place a piece of acrylic under the metal MB tray, trace the mounting screw holes for the MB and for the holes for the PCI panel covers, remove the metal MB tray, and rivet the metal back panel to the acrylic MB tray that I made. You can probably just use the metal MB tray with the metal back panel as one piece, but in my case, since my MB tray isn't attached at the top or screwed into anything on the back, I opted to just go ahead and actually make the tray itself out of acrylic.

As for the PSU wires, you aren't going to need really long wires the way you have the PSU positioned. I just bought a Corsair PSU and the wires are made for a full size tower case, so they are longer than any other PSU I have had. I haven't had to extend anything.

I would nix the idea of running wires under the case. That will look really sloppy from any outside view. You can run wires in the case through the middle divider and make them look neat with no problem. Just sleeve them and run them in straight lines. For instance, with the PCIE you mentioned, you can simply drill a hole (you can even use grommets if you want to) and run the wire parallel with the edge of the VC. I thought that having neat wiring was the reason for putting the PSU on the opposite side from the MB. That way you can just tie up and shove your excess wiring there by the PSU.

Really, how far you go with wiring management depends on whether you use solid wood sides or acrylic. Acrylic looks a whole lot better so that you can show off the internals, but does take more work. Your model doesn't have acrylic panels.

Especially given that you rad panel is going to lower down, you need to move the hard drives under the DVD. If the DVD drive fits, the hard drives should fit. You are going to have to use a good bit of excess tubing to allow the rad side panel to lower like that, and it is going to be tough to do that and have the HDs in there. If the only panel that goes down on the rad side is the rad panel, how are you going to drain them? They need to be upright with a drain on the lowest barb in order for them to drain, and how are you going to reach a drain with the rad side panel up?

I hope you don't take my posts as being critical. Your ideas are really very good. I just know that it helped a lot to get ideas from other perspectives as I have been building mine, so I'm trying to bounce ideas your way. The end result has come out far better as a result than it would have just working on it by myself.
 
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Yahira

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Dec 10, 2007
Once again, good info.

The sides will be acrylic (even though they don't look like it in the model). I don't mind the see through aspect at all for the center divider so I will probably just stick with clear acrylic.

As for PSU wires, I think I will be fine with the normal wire lengths with no need to extend. I am keeping that possibility open just in case it is needed but I should be fine. So far I am looking at the ABS Tagan BZ800 or BZ900 for my PSU and based on cable measurements it should be fine (a bit extra in most areas in fact).

Yeah the "under the case" idea didn't live long once I started looking at the model and doing some measurements anyway. It would require to much extra length from the cables to justify and would do no better then just running them inside the case as far as looks.

The rads in the model are in there "backwards" now, the nozzles should be facing the pumps and not over near the HDDs. Draining the loop will be taken care of without opening the case. A drain line that is at the lowest point in the loop will exit the back of the case. Draining will consist of unscrewing the fill port in the top and then unscrewing the drain plug. Sounds odd when you first hear about it but I just used such a system on a friend of mines case that I built a few months back and it works rather well.

Also as for the tubing on the rads, it will be copper along with most of the other tubing inside the case. The exception to this is the fill line (a T-line) so that I can see how full it is, the lines on the pumps to dampen vibration and also because the MCP655 does not have threaded barbs, and the lines going to and from the lines because they will need to be flexible so that the door can open.

I know, most people don't use copper because it is difficult to work with and all that, well I have used it in two cases now (my own and that same one for my friend) and found that I like it a good deal more then PVC or other more traditional types of tubing. It is a smaller OD (so looks a little nicer in the case), can be curved while taking up less space (because there is no worry of kinks or such forming later), it will not "slip off" of a barb (it is screwed in), and stays put when you put it in a place. It does take a good deal more to work with and "get right" but I have the tools, I have the time (if not I wouldn't be building my own case) and I have worked with metal pipe/tubing enough to be comfortable with using it. In the end I think it is just worth the extra effort both ascetically and practically. (As a note with this, I noticed during my last run with copper tubing it seemed as though it is less restrictive because I made no curves in it that would be any "tighter" then the 2 45s commonly used in peoples loops, the difference is that this was all still one piece of tubing, however the difference is probably rather small, just a thought though).

I don't think your posts are critical in any way, you are being quite helpful actually. This is exactly what I was looking for when posting about this on the forums. I am stepping a little bit outside of my normal way of case building here and it is nice to get someone else's perspective and input on things. I look forward to reading more of what you have to say, it is making me think of some of these things in a way that I did not before and helping me greatly.