20081231

Goddess: A New Years Eve Event

I realized that I can create other events like Swap-O-Rama-Rama that can be shared through the Creative Commons. Here's a new event I've created, one that can be used as an ecological teaching tool. Through experiential play guests are walked through each element in a way that helps them to reunite with the natural world. The intent is that this reunion leads to greater care for the planet, a kind of care that comes not from cerebral understanding but from experience. I'll post the components so they can be shared soon. Meanwhile here's the lead in text.

You are invited on a journey through the Alam Al Mithal (the imagination of the world) - a matrix of dream and myth where the elements are the hormones of the imagination. In the ways that the Socratic philosopher and hierophant Empedocles prescribes in the hermetic science of alchemy we will burn off and blow away what no longer serves our greatest good and breathe, eat and drink in our best wishes for a new year. Celebrate with our guide Gaia, who promises a reunion with our very home - the earth -leaving all aware that as surely as we inhabit nature, nature inhabits us.

Lithium Battery Packs


Lithium Battery Packs
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
After repairing my iBook laptop battery I was left with 6 lithium-ion cells. I wired these up in series and parallel for a 11V power supply good for up to 2600mAh. Tonight I will see how these "dead cells" perform as I am using them to illuminate my EL Wire sports coat.

Goddess

Im coming out of event production retirement and producing a new years eve event here in T or C, an alchemical experiential event that explores the 5 elements: earth, water, fire, air, either. Here's a goddess I made for the occasion out of scraps and bits of things from our local thrift shops.

20081230

Utopia


Utopia
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Ryan and Mandy's bike tour of sustainable communities made it into our local Truth or Consequences newspaper. Since Mandy was out of town for this particular event I was asked to fill in for her.
Utopia Story (pg2)

20081229

Video: iBook Battery Repack

Our recent get together of friends led me to a epiphany about laptop batteries. They are all messed up! One friend asked me about her laptop battery which could barely hold a charge. Then another, then another. I didn't manage to fix any of their laptops while they were here, but we took some apart to see what was going on inside. After our friends left I searched around for replacement cells and picked some up from ebay. Now with ten minutes of time and $30 of replacement cells I can repack a battery. This video shows the process. I should mention that lithium ion batteries do have the potential to burst into flames although I've not seen anything more than a little sparking :). Now my little ibook which could hold a charge for 10 minutes lasts over four hours!

The Collapse - The Renaissance in Disguise

I've been articulating my thoughts on the collapse by writing papers that explore the view that we're entering the next renaissance. The intro is posted here. The complete paper is available as a (PDF)

As we slide deeper into what is being called the 'greater depression' I suggest we consider that this collapse is the renaissance in disguise. Temptations to savor what was: scarcity, materialism, separation, will only detain our escape from a lifeless world. Our task is transcendence as each of the areas of decay (economy, war, materialism, environmental destruction) contain beautiful qualities waiting to emerge in better form. As the default world falls away we are offered paradise, abundance and the rediscovery of our humanity, if we are able to escape the pitfalls that captured us when we made the world that’s now slipping away.

It is tempting to ask ourselves “what can I do to fix this mess?” And the question has merit. Each of us, as a differentiated part of the unified whole, has something to offer, something no other can. But the statement also reflects a mode of thinking that outlived its usefulness, one that begs for new understanding. It suggests that humanity is at the top of the totem pole. Our collective ego is responsible for the creation of Dunya (an arabic word for the world made by man and placed on top of the world as it is). To live in ‘multiplicity in unity’ one must detach from the notion than any species controls the totality or that man is the all knowing in the domain of life. It is a time for listening not just to one another but also to all the forms of life as they reveal their contributions and gifts and invite us into new healthier and more vibrant relationships. Without this fundamental shift in thinking we might be likely to set in a slightly better world than the one that’s dying now.

The need for transcendence: War is an act of fear that stems from our feeling separate from the whole. We cannot love what we do not know. The true nature of the universe is unified and interconnected – loving of all it's parts. Our debt- based economy evidences our feeling of lack and scarcity, yet the universe is actually abundant. Materialism and consumerism demonstrate our stagnancy yet the universe is emergent and creative. Environmental destruction is a symptom of our isolation from the rest of life on earth. The totality is unified and interdependent.

To continue reading... click here for full paper (pdf)

20081228

Ultrasonic Grease Cleaning

I tried to run a simple side by side test of treating waste vegetable oil with a 20kHz tone. One bottle had a pair of headphones submerged the other did not. I was using a pair of motorcycle batteries to supply power for two small 35W magnet heaters to help reduce the viscosity of the veggie oil. Unfortunately the batteries ran out of power before reaching critical temperature 132F. I will have to repeat this test again to get a better idea if the 20kHz has any effect on grease separation.

Finding a Homestead


Finding a Homestead
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I put together another 20 minute podcast discussing the issue of "How to Find a Homestead". We discuss what kind of community and resources might be important. If you plan on dropping out or are just considering a move you might appreciate some of our thoughts. Let us know what you think is important in a homestead.

20081226

Ouch Hernia!

One part of being a builder is injuries. I haven't nipped off a finger yet (fingers crossed). But this week I managed to bust a hernia. Holy suck! I'm gimping around hoping that by some feat of magic it'll pop back in. I guess I'll have to go under the knife if it doesn't. More lost days of work. Suck suck suck. For the next few days I'll be napping with my kitty.

20081224

EV Battery Hacking


EV Battery Hacking
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
As I slowly build up my battery collection from trading dead ones with the auto shops for not-so-dead ones I have begun to actually fix things. My little electric vehicle now has a pair of gel batteries wired in parallel to work with the rest of the flooded lead acid batteries. I am slowly trying to remove all the flooded lead acid batteries from this vehicle and replace them with gels. I have had to change the charge controller to a gel setting in order to avoid hurting the gels. The car is performing very well. I drove it all over town and still am reading a 95% charge.
Making Battery Cables

20081223

Rocket Stove

Tristan and Libby show off their extremely functional and straight forward rocket stove.

Glowing Goddess


Glowing Goddess
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Here is our glowing goddess 55 gallon barrel drum with a light bulb inside. Thanks to our homestead crew for completing this so quickly.

Denim Donation


Denim Donation
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Ryanne donated some jeans to our waste veggie oil filtration cause. We use denim as a first pass filter before storing any of our grease in 55 gallon drums. She wrote a little note on the pants about how much she loved these jeans. Unfortunately she loved them so much that we will have to use this denim for cubie to cubie filtration. There are too many holes for putting the pants in a 55 gallon drum and tie'ing off the legs.

20081222

Santa chimney

After seeing Libby and Tristens demo of their home made rocket stove Ryanne got inspired, ran off to the thrift shop and returned with a variety of Xmas tins. She hacked them into a rocket stove.... Pretty cool.

Living rooms love the living

Our group of homesteaders gave presentations on their work in the world. I couldn't help but notice how much my living room loved all the warmth of this community.

Bamboo ride

Ryan scored some bamboo from my scrap pile and using dead bike inner tubes framed out a new roof for his recumbent bike.

Plasma Barrel


Plasma Barrel
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Asher did a great job of finishing the burn barrel for our towns New Years party. He is seen here welding the hands on for a 3D effect.

Tandem


Tandem
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I took Ryan and Mandys dual recumbant bike for a spin. Ryan had been assembling the bamboo canopy and doing various bike repairs the last few days a our place.

Light Repair


Light Repair
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our outdoor light fell off the house this morning. Since Wendy was helping Gavio sew up his pants he offered to help improve and repair the light mount. We now have a much stronger good looking lamp mount and Gavio has a pair of bell bottoms.

Screw Cutter


Screw Cutter
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Jay is helping me crack open a dead mac battery by using a dremmel to cut a phillips head into the weird variety of screws Apple uses. We ended up not repairing any laptop batteries, but we did learn a lot.

Unbelievable Meal


Unbelievable Meal
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our friend Gavio put together a unbelievable meal of contributed items with the help of several hard working assistants. I would name the items, but each dish was so unique and special trying to explain them from memory would not do them justice.

Say Cheese


Say Cheese
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Tristan and Libby gave an excellent talk on making cheese. We were able to sample some of their delicious cheese curd that they quickly put together for us.

Pedicab


Pedicab
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Asher Is seen here riding around on Luke's pedicab that is made out of slotted square tubing.

Cast Iron


Cast Iron
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We heard about a yard sale happening a few doors down from us this morning. I walked over with a small group and scored 5 cast iron skillets for $10. Ryanne helped me shine them up using a angle grinder fitted with a metal brush.

20081220

Male Sewing Frenzy


Male Sewing Frenzy
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Luke made a iPod case from a bike tube, Asher modified a shirt to have extended sleeves, Gavio has a new pair of bell bottoms, and Ryan repaired his bike seat. Clothes were exchanged and hacked. Another successful home style swap-o-rama-rama.

20081219

Welding Class Success


Welding Class Success
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We managed to get the lid cut off a barrel and weld a old tire rim onto the bottom of the drum. You can't get enough footage of all this.

Battery Welder


Battery Welder
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
It doesn't take much to be a professional battery welder. Three beat down 12V batteries, two pairs of jumper cables, and a pound of 6011 1/16th rods make for a good time. Luke Iseman was seen here welding some rebar scraps as we test out our system.

Welding Class


Welding Class
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We began our welding class today. A 55 gallon steel drum and a tire rim were to be transformed into a decorative burn barrel. In the beginning everyone kept a safe distance, but this would soon change.

20081218

The Dead Battery Trade


The Dead Battery Trade
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I was really psyched this afternoon when my dead battery pyramid scheme actually worked. Here is how I swapped a few 10 year old totally dead car batteries for 3 year old gel based units that are in good shape.

1. Collect dead batteries from friends and neighbors.

2. Go to your local autoshop and ask if you can swap them their dead cores for your dead cores.

3. Use a multimeter to test the batteries at the autoshop. Anything with a 12.4V or higher is worth taking as is. A lower voltage means you need to crack open cells to measure specific gravity and individual cell voltage.

Melting Components


Melting Components
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I've been doing some bread board prototyping for a microcontroller based battery desulfator unit. At this point I am heating up a inductor or the mosfet both of which are BAD. I think my pulse is inverted so I'm working on fixing that today.

20081217

The Suitcase in the Toolshed

We have a pretty large crew of homesteaders coming through our humble town this weekend. Wendy and I made some efforts to cleanup our toolshed in order to avoid embarrassing ourselves. I strongly recommend anyone who is building up their tool collection consider this simple suitcase system that we picked up on. Just buy old samsonite style suitcases at yard sales and thrift stores. This makes for one neatly contained enclosure that can store a tool and all its accessories. We use suitcases for the following:

- drills
- sanders
- framing saws
- screws
- ratchets
- angle grinder
- hog ring gun
- sawzaw

20081216

Another Bad Idea that Worked

We have been cleaning up our construction site this week. Todays notable event was moving the 60 gallon air compressor which we have been dragging around the yard for over 1.5 years. I used some moving straps and tied them to the back of our electric vehicle and it actually worked. I was able to drag the air compressor over 75'.

20081215

AVR based desulfator (schematic)

I certainly took my time putting this one together. This is a desulfator based on Alastair Couper's original design. I made a few changes.

1. AVR microcontroller instead of a 555 timer for PWM
2. Built in thermistors to prevent the board from overheating
3. TTL serial out for ZigBee transceiver
4. BCD LED display for battery voltage (0-79V)

What I hope to achieve with this circuit is a way to remotely monitor battery arrays as they are desulfating. This could greatly reduce the amount of labor required to recondition flooded lead acid batteries.

Sealing the Big Steal Gate

Wendy and I spent the better part of three days cleaning up our large cargo gates. We hung the sheet metal last year then just walked away do nothing to seal them up. Now that the gates have had a year to oxidize we had plenty of sanding to do. We sealed parts of the inner panels with acrylic paint and the rest with a clear rustoleum now the gates have a high gloss rust free look.
Removing the Rust Inside the Steel Gates

20081214

Grease (Podcast)


Grease (Podcast)
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Download Podcast

Wendy and I have been listening to a great deal of podcasts as we work outside each day. It inspired us to resume our Holy Scrap podcast recordings. We have recently put together a 30 minute episode about our experience with "Chance" which is our 1984 Mercedes 300TD that has been converted to run on Waste Veggie Oil. The podcast also includes a 15 minute interview with Andy Reitz who is one of the founders of GreenVans which rents out grease out vehicles to bands who are touring the country.
Filling Up Rent Green Vand Download Podcast

20081213

Dread Lock Maintenance


Dread Lock Maintenance
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I get asked all the time "how do you make your hair do that". Well the truth of the matter is I don't do anything besides wash my hair with Dr. Bronners and rain water 3-4 times a week. Every few months wendy will do a bit of maintenance to separate my dreads. The best tip I can offer is that she uses a piece of string and ties each dread lock near the base of my skull. The helps the dreads stay separate and greatly approves the overall appearance. You can see between these two photos what a large difference there is after only one hour of maintenance.
Dread Lock Maintenance (After)

20lb Ding-A-Ling


20lb Ding-A-Ling
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We did a little welding this morning in order to assemble our new 20 pound door bell. It is sounds like a really loud cowbell. I'm pretty sure we stole this one from Brad Lancaster.

20081212

Doorbell (Step 1)


Doorbell (Step 1)
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy has wanted a gong like doorbell for sometime now. We scored a old oxygen tank last month and today we finally got around to hacking the bottom off and making a chain ringer.

No Shit!


No Shit!
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
A small dog has been relieving himself in front of our gate. Wendy made a cute little sign and picked up our furry friends gifts.

20081211

Scrapper


Scrapper
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
The scrap market has collapsed. We visited our friend Jason who lives about 10 miles south of us. He was telling us how he used to get $216 a ton for scrap steel and now is lucky to get $40. We helped him out by loading up our truck with a old 55 gallon drum and lots of angle and flat bar steel. Mish's blog also mentioned today how aluminum has dropped from $0.80 a pound to $0.40 along with cardboard that went from $135 a ton down to $35. Even plastic bottles have changed from $0.25 a pound to $0.02.

20081210

Painted Niche Gate

Wendy spent most of the day cleaning up and painting our front gate. First she gave the angle iron a good sanding, then sealed it up with some rustoleum product, and finished it off with a coat of paint over the corrugated steel from our shipping container doors.

20081209

Pole Removal


Pole Removal
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Hooray! Yet another eye sore has been removed from our property. This time it was a telephone pole in our parking lot. Wendy cut a deal with the city manager to get it out of here. Looks like we can now park five vehicles. The downside is that I need to get out there with a sledge hammer and break off another 3 feet of curb.

20081208

Let the Desulfation Begin

Finally! After a few rounds with the maker of the inexpensive $37 desulfator kit I finally have two working 12V lead acid battery desulfators. My neighborhood electric vehicle has two batteries which are performing badly. At the moment I'm testing one battery which was working great two weeks ago and now has a voltage of 10.6V. I found that two cells have a specific gravity of zero. I will retest the specific gravity in each cell tomorrow and see if there is any change. This battery should be able to entirely desulfate itself within 10 days. Hopefully I will be able to repair lots and lots of batteries with these desulfators.