First, wecome to the site!
Thanks! Much appreciate the welcome and feedback.
I've been winging it on equipment, and so purchase #2 is a digital and calibrating dial thermometer. The strike temp is calculated well enough yet I'm thinking I could be a good 10 degrees off based on common yet different dial thermometers. I'll add a false bottom based on whatever scrap stainless steel I can get a hold of.
What's happened is that as I give homebrew away, a person here or there can pick up on the less than full flavor across the tongue. I see who gives me feedback (good or bad), and then I'll keep giving those people bottles when new batches are ready. The surprise has been bumping into a BJCP Judge who was insistent that my "everyday" steamed pilsner would do well in competitions, hence signing up and checking out the upcoming schedule (it's 6%, Wyeast 2124, 39 ibu w/ saaz, dry-hopped w/ organic whole-hop cascade).
I feel like AHA is a step up for me, but learning I don't necessarily need complex recipes to compete. We'll see! :-)