left to my own devices

December 4th, 2010 | Uncategorized

I arrived home last night from my trip to Rochester to find that the power had been out for 48 hours. It hadn’t come back on by this morning. After cooking breakfast on the woodstove and fetching in water from the brook to flush the toilet, I couldn’t quite relax into the silent and technology-free day that stretched ahead of me. Instead of reading or drawing, I became completely obsessed with figuring out how to harness our handy emergency crankable flashlight/radio (available at Holly’s store! excellent holiday gift for the apocalyptically inclined!) to the bicycle trainer which was already set up in the living room.

In Rochester on Thursday, Holly and I went to the High Falls Visitor Center and saw this cool exhibit of old machines—triphammers and lathes and flour mills—that were powered by the 90 foot waterfalls on the Genesee River.

Surely there was some way similar way that I could transmit the power of my bike. I found a dowel, and drilled a hole in it—using a hand-powered auger intended for tapping maple trees. Then I put a long nail through that, and stuck it through a convenient slot in the bottom of the pedal. The nail could rotate freely in the hole I’d made in the dowel. Then I wired the dowel to the crank handle. The tricky part was to make the dowel the exact same length as the pedal crank, and then to make sure the centers of each crank were at the same height.

I hadn’t allowed quite enough room for my bike shoe, though, so when I actually put my foot on the pedal, the whole thing kinda fell apart. Fortunately the electricity came back on at that point, or I would probably still be fussing with it. With a few refinements, I think it could actually work!

52 Responses to “left to my own devices”

  1. ksbel6 says:

    Of course it would eventually work!

  2. Darkgoonos says:

    Looks cool!

  3. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    It is amazing what you come up with to avoid writing, despite what you said in your last post! I still think it would work, but maybe you should try it barefooted.

  4. khatgrrl says:

    All of the engineers at RIT seem to have had a strong influence on you!

  5. Alex K says:

    You tool-using… oh, you ANIMAL, you. Grrrrr.

    Busted pipes? Or had Holly been there to keep the home fires literally burning?

  6. Alex K says:

    So, no.

    A properly attentive second reading identifies that Holly was in Rochester too. Busted pipes, I fear.

  7. hairball_of_hope says:

    @khatgrrl (#4)

    I was thinking the same thing about the influence of RIT engineers on AB.

    It also reminded me of a sign I once saw above someone’s desk. Written in a multicolored crayon scrawl font was the following:

    Last week I couldn’t spell engennir.
    Now I are one.

    After reading the specs on the windup radio/flashlight/cellphone charger on Holly’s website, I wondered why AB went to all the trouble of trying to hook the exercise bike to it. The radio comes with a 12VDC car charger adapter. I know AB has at least one vehicle available (perhaps two, if Holly has one). Assuming one vehicle has at least half a tank of fuel, that radio could be recharged via the vehicle 12 volt adapter until at least next spring without any trouble at all.

    Sounds like work avoidance to me. Or more properly, drawing avoidance. It was a lot of work to rig the exerciser to the radio. Also, I wondered about the manual auger thing. AB and Holly don’t have at least one battery-powered cordless drill between them? Don’t all dykes have tools? I must be living in that alternate universe of DWTTWOF (Dykes With Tools To Watch Out For).

    Lastly, those of you who were whispering in the ear of the Great Goddess In The Sky got your wish. There IS Boomerang Karma at work in the world.


    (… goes back to munching on potato latkes …)

  8. okay, jeez, for all you close readers:

    1. Our pipes did not burst, but our water supply depends on a pump which is powered by electricity. (how I’d love to have a hand-powered backup!)

    2. Yes, I could have powered up the flashlight/radio with the car, but Holly took my car to work because hers doesn’t have snow tires. I guess I could have used her car…but honestly, I’ve lost the adapter thingamajig.

    3. Yes, Holly has a cordless drill but it’s at work.

  9. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Alex K (#5,6)

    Probably not busted pipes, but an electric pump for the well water. No electricity = no water pressure.

    Assuming the pipes are not running in an uninsulated crawl space, it would take more than two days for them to freeze solid and burst with the current weather in Burlington VT area (22 – 32 deg F/-6 – 0 deg C).

    AB might want to take a cue from Mo, a real apocalyptically-inclined character. The magic items? Battery backup. 12VDC inverter. If I were AB, I’d have a car battery (or maybe a couple of them) hooked up to a 12VDC inverter for the well pump. That would take care of the toilet. Perhaps a generator for multi-day outages. And at least one UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) for the technology.

    During the 2003 blackout in NYC, I kept my laptop charged via a 12VDC car inverter and my very large UPS. Not fun schlepping the 50lb (23kg) UPS up/down the stairs to the car (I only charged it once), but the laptop was no problem. It also gave me a chance to spend a few hours in airconditioning while everything charged up (the blackout was in August).

    Now I have three very large UPSes (and a fourth that needs batteries, if I ever get around to buying them), and lots of LED lights, so I’d be set for a long time without power, at least technology-wise.

    Dialup internet still works without power, and of course I can tether via cell phone. Not sure how long Verizon’s cell phone towers work on battery. During the 2003 blackout, I had AT&T cell service, and it went dead immediately, no battery backup on their cell towers at all. T-mobile worked ok, my boss had no trouble sending me e-mails and calling me on the landline. Not sure about Sprint, they’ve done major upgrades on their towers for 4G service in the past year.

    I have to admit, it does seem a bit odd at first to read AB’s post about not being able to draw without electricity (electric pencil, perhaps?), unless you know that she uses a Wacom tablet and a Mac to draw some of her work. India ink bottles, nibs, and pencils are endangered species.

    (… goes back to surveying her apocalypse preparation …)

  10. BobH says:

    I’m pretty sure that’s how the Professor got started on Gilligan’s Island, little buddy.

  11. NLC says:

    Concerning running a water pump:
    I certainly don’t know the details of AB’s system, but I would certainly not want to run the water pump at our house (which I assume is somewhat similar) from a battery. The current-requirements are enormous.

    For example, we have a pretty hefty generator for emergency power (a standard requirements here in rural Vermont where a couple of day-long-or-more power outages is pretty common fare for a winter). When living off the generator, our choices are 1] run the water pump or 2] run everything else in the house. There’s just not enough juice to do both.

    As far as power drills: I do a fair amount of (hobbyist) woodworking, and much prefer using a hand-powered brace (probably similar to the one AB has for tree-tapping. Actually, I don’t own any power tools.) Aside from the obvious advantage during power-outages, you can easily buy a half-dozen good, used braces for the price of even a cheap power-drill. (For example, if I’m doing a standard round-the-house job, then with extra braces I can avoid all that changing of bits — one brace for each sized drill bit, one with a screw-driving bit, one with a countersink. All in all much faster –not to mention quieter.)

  12. Ian says:

    I wonder if there’s a way to charge up a large battery from your bike trainer? However, you’d charge it up from the rear wheel rather than the bike crankshaft/pedal.

    I would suggest putting a little water wheel in the stream that runs through your garden to generate ‘leccie, but alas, it freezes in the winter.

  13. ksbel6 says:

    JFYI…Had that been an idea that went into my brain, it would have been much more about the “can I accomplish this task” than it would have been about the “is this actually the best way to charge up the radio” part. I do love my cordless drill though (and all of its bits). Part of the fun in using it, is changing the bits…hey, need a nice tiny hole there, no problem…hey, need to put in a Robertson (square) head screw, no problem…hey, need to put in a Phillips (cross) head screw, no problem…drilling is just so much fun.

  14. hairball_of_hope says:

    @NLC (#11)

    Out of curiosity, what are the current requirements for a water pump? I assume it doesn’t run continuously, but only turns on when a tap is opened or a toilet is flushed (via pressure sensor switch).

    Car batteries deliver a lot of current (think about cold cranking power required to start a car in winter). A few batteries in parallel hooked up to a large 12VDC inverter might be enough for a water pump. You probably wouldn’t want to use the shower with this setup, but it would be fine for toilet flushing, hand washing, and providing potable water for cooking and drinking.

    Of course, you could buy a second generator, dedicated exclusively to the water pump.

    One of the nicer things about living in Manhattan is there are no utility poles, everything is underground. Thus, it’s exceedingly rare to lose power, telephone, cable service due to weather. Trains are underground too, which means there are few problems getting around Manhattan during storms, it’s getting in and out of Manhattan that can be a problem. I don’t miss the weather-related power outages and travel disruptions of suburbia one bit.

    (… goes back to singing the theme song from “Green Acres” …)

  15. Simon says:

    I do what Ian suggests – I’ve converted a bike trainer (actually a turbo trainer bike stand) to generate electricity, and either run a PA system, lights etc of it (4 bikes run a whole band), or can just charge a 12v battery, gentting 4-5A out fo gentle pedalling. If at my website pedalpa.org.uk, but please delete this if considered spam. See also the links on that site for similar info. I think pedal-a-watt in the us will sell you a stand, but for about ten times the cost of making one…

    Old style bike light dynamos can also be used to charge stuff as you cycle along – phones, radios etc…

  16. Andrew B says:

    Alison, I can empathize with this. I get very antsy during extended power outages. Even when I know everything is as under control as possible and there’s nothing to do but wait, I have a very hard time concentrating on anything else. We really do incorporate technology (meaning electric lights as much as computers) into our expectations of life.

    Hoh, 14, the pump moves water into a roughly 15-20 gallon pressure tank which holds it at about 50 psi. The household plumbing draws from the pressure tank. When the pressure drops sufficiently, the pump comes on and brings the tank back up to pressure. The pump runs for several minutes at a time — the exact duration depends on how the specific system is configured and how fast the well is. (Some wells will supply water as fast as the pump can extract it. Others supply only a relative trickle.) The point is that the pump is supplying many gallons at a time — it doesn’t just kick on to fill your 1.5-gallon high-efficiency toilet reservoir each time you flush.

  17. bean says:

    i used to live in a large metropolis, and on every corner, if you looked up one or two storeys, you could see spandexed women running on treadmills, bouncing on cross trainers, or pedaling stationary bikes. i often wondered what percent of the city’s energy needs could be harnessed and met in this way. seemed a waste of good caloric energy not to.

  18. NLC says:

    Concerning the NY Subway system (and the general context of this thread):

    One of my favorite books of the past few years has been Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us.

    Unfortunately, the book was present in the media (e.g. Discovery Channel specials, etc) as a kind of “post-apocalypse” fantasy (think “I am Legend” without the stars.)

    But the book was quite a bit more thoughtful than this and contained a lot of good information. In particular, a main thread of the book was how much energy is required just to maintain the system we have (let alone adding to it).

    A wonderful example was his description of the NY subway system. There were two details that I wasn’t aware of. First, most of the subway was built relatively late in the game. As a result, most of the subway was built below most of the city’s sewage and water lines.

    Second, when Manhattan Island was originally settled there were something like 40+ major streams flowing on the island. All of those streams –or at least the water they contain– is still there and needs to be constantly dealt with.

    The net result is that an enormous amount of water needs to be constantly pumped up and out of the subways.

    Or, to phrase this another way, if all electrical power were to be shut off, the entire Manhattan subway system would be flooded (to the roof) in about 48 hrs.

  19. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Andrew B (#16)

    Thanks. I assumed there was a holding tank and a pressure sensor switch, but had no idea of the specs. This is actually a pretty good use for lead-acid battery backup, the chemistry of these batteries allows for large intermittent bursts of current draw (e.g. cranking an engine, powering a water pump), followed by long rest periods for the battery to recover. I’d have to know the actual current draw of the pump (not just the rated power from the spec plate), plus the pump cycle duration/frequency (i.e. how often does the pump kick in, and for how long) to size the batteries and inverter appropriately.

    During non-use periods, the batteries can be kept on an AC low-powered trickle charger with a timer. During a power outage, they can be recharged via a vehicle. You’d need some good jumper cables for this, or better still (and safer), the arc-proof yellow DC connectors that are used for industrial forklift equipment, welding rigs, UPSes, etc.

    A zillion years ago in my industrial process control days, we had a power outage thanks to a local power company substation fire. Building emergency lighting is only designed to work for about 30 minutes or so. Our two-way radios depended on a radio repeater, which was dead. We drove a couple of forklifts to strategic locations in the building, rigged some welding cables with the appropriate connectors to the forklift batteries, and powered up the repeater and some emergency lights. Boy did I love my Navy techs, especially the submariners. Those guys could make anything work. My Air Force techs were great at precision work, but the Navy guys were the go-to folks when something really bad happened and we needed a creative solution to make things right.

  20. DaneGreat says:

    NLC – that image of the subways just provided me with Nightmare Fuel for the next…six years.

  21. Ian says:

    On a lighter note, I just made a DISCOVERY! During my first all-in, no-holds-barred Christmas shopping in capitalism land I popped into the refuge of my local feminist bookshop News from Nowhere.

    I found a second-hand copy of a new (to me) collection of radical lesbian feminist cartoons called Visibly Vera by Cath Jackson, published by The Womans Press in 1986.

    I’d not heard of Visibly Vera before as I was going through puberty at that point in time (TMI?), but I wondered if Pam I or Marj might remember Cath Jackson’s cartoons.

  22. NLC says:

    Just to add a note to HOH’s description of the use car batteries as backup:

    As I’m sure she knows, but just to make it explicit in case anyone wanted to experiment along these lines, this all needs to be done in a thoroughly ventilated area (preferably outdoors).

    Hydrogen gas is a significant byproduct of charging a standard car battery. Trapping this stuff in an enclosed area could lead to more serious problems to content with than a brief power outage. 😉

  23. hairball_of_hope says:

    @NLC (#22)

    Exactly right. It’s also why I suggested the arc-proof connectors instead of clamping jumper cables (spark hazard could ignite hydrogen gas).

    The ventilation advice applies to all lead-acid battery charging. If you’re charging up your car battery, your off-road vehicle, whatever, VENT THE GAS. Don’t ever smoke, use a lighter or match, or have open flame in the vicinity of lead-acid batteries.

    Also, NEVER EVER complete the charging circuit by clamping directly on a battery terminal. That could make the hydrogen, battery, and all that sulfuric acid explode in your face. I am always horrified when I see how ignorant people are when jumping cars.

    FYI, correct order for attaching/detaching jumper cables between two cars:

    1) Position cars so they are NOT touching

    (When attaching/detaching cables, make sure the clamps never touch each other)

    2) Connect positive (RED) clamp to DEAD battery (+) positive terminal

    3) Connect positive (RED) clamp to LIVE battery (+) positive terminal

    4) Connect negative (BLACK) clamp to LIVE battery (-) negative terminal

    5) Connect negative (BLACK) clamp to unpainted metal part of engine or chassis on dead car (GROUND). DO NOT CLAMP TO NEGATIVE TERMINAL ON DEAD BATTERY. Make sure the cable won’t get caught in belt or fan when the engine starts.

    6) Start the live car, rev the engine to about 1500-2000 RPM for a few minutes.

    7) Try to start the dead car. When it starts, remove the cables in the reverse order:

    DEAD car negative (BLACK)
    LIVE car negative (BLACK)
    LIVE car positive (RED)
    DEAD car positive (RED)

    Back to the water pump battery backup discussion…

    While car batteries or other wet cells are the least expensive for this type of application, I’d probably go with sealed lead-acid gel cells, they are much safer to handle and use. SLAs are used in UPSes and emergency lighting applications, and in other situations where you wouldn’t want the risk of liquid electrolyte (sulfuric acid) spilling or leaching out (e.g. on a vehicle that might tip over). In an SLA gel cell, the electrolyte is in gel form, and poses a much lower probability of escaping from the battery.

    With any form of lead-acid battery, hydrogen gas is produced as a byproduct of the charging cycle. It needs to be vented safely, away from potential spark and ignition sources. Also, face shields, neoprene gloves, and splash-proof aprons are de rigueur for handling lead-acid batteries. Keep some baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) handy to neutralize acid spills on the floor or yourself, but never, ever dump baking soda on a battery.

    A final caveat… if you have no idea about electricity, don’t know amps from ohms from volts from watts, this is not a do-it-yourself project for you. Buy your favorite engineer or electrician a meal and get her/him to calculate the electrical load and rig this up for you.

  24. NLC says:

    Andrew B answered most of the questions, but as to actual specs:

    Unfortunately, a quick file-cabinet search didn’t turn up anything about the water-pump itself. But working from the other end of the equation, the generator has a peak output of 3.6 kWatts. (But since I’m in charge of the Cheeseburger Soup for tonight’s supper –and I’m too lazy– I haven’t worked through the actual numbers here…)

    But in any case, just doing this experimentally, I don’t know what it should handle. But I do know that if we’re running many other things in the house (say, more than a couple/few table lamps), and we turn on the water pump, we’ve had the generator will go into auto-shutdown.

    (Also, perhaps it’s possible that the generator could drive the water pump once it got over its initial start-up surge, but, well, there you are.)

  25. hairball_of_hope says:

    @NLC (#24)

    Generator specs are often advertised using the same shady math that audio dealers use for sound systems, they talk about peak instead of RMS (root-mean-square) power. In addition, in the slippery world of generator and UPS specs, they use VA (volt-amps) and watts interchangeably (they assume power factor = 1), and that is never the case in the real world, only in physics-land. Also, assume all numbers were rounded upward to make the product look more impressive.

    Take the peak power rating and multiply by 1 div square root 2 (0.707) to get RMS power.

    3.6kW is 3600 watts peak x 0.707 = 2545.584 watts RMS

    Let’s round down the RMS number to 2500 W to make the math simple.

    Power (watts) = voltage (volts) x current (amps)

    2500 watts = 125 volts x 20 amps

    Now technically, this formula is only true for DC power. For AC power, the number on the left side of the equation is really VA (volt-amps). You’d have to multiply by the PF (power factor) of the devices being supplied to calculate the actual power in watts. Typical PF is 0.6 – 0.7 for most real-world devices.

    Worst-case PF of 0.6, especially since the water pump is an inductive load that would have a low PF:

    2500 VA x 0.6 PF = 1500 watts (actual)

    1500 watts = 125 volts x 12 amps

    Best case PF of 0.7:

    2500 VA x 0.7 PF = 1750 watts (actual)

    1750 watts = 125 volts x 14 amps

    So, your so-called 3.6kW generator is really outputting about 1.5-1.7kW RMS, and about 12-14 amps.

    Now let’s talk about the motor driving the water pump. It’s probably a split-phase motor, maybe 1/8 HP. Inrush current (the current draw required to start the motor rotating) for this type of motor is typically 5-7 times the full load (running) current.

    Let’s say the full load current is 2 amps. That means the inrush current required to start the motor rotating is somewhere between 10 and 14 amps, right around the limit of your generator.

    If you have a few table lamps and perhaps your refrigerator on the generator, you’ve just exceeded the specs on your generator and it goes into autoshutdown.

    Get a separate generator for the water pump (or a larger generator to handle everything), and you’ll be set.

    (… goes back to her geeky existence …)

  26. ksbel6 says:

    @hoh (#25) That was the sexiest thing I have read in a long time.

    Off topic: My daughter got me the coolest glow in the dark Batman belt buckle for Christmas. We exchanged just one gift yesterday because one of her presents from me was a really cool fleece travel jacket with 24 pockets and because it is supposed to be really cold this week I wanted her to have it.

  27. hairball_of_hope says:

    @ksbel6 (#26)

    Sexy? Must have been the square root. Imagine if I had mentioned sine wave and phase, or tried to explain resistive vs. inductive loads. Your significant other would be scraping you up off the floor right about now.

    A couple of things came to mind after typing my response last night.

    To really know how much current is being drawn by the water pump, NLC would need an ammeter, and would have to measure the current draw on pump startup and during runtime.

    Unlike the series ammeter hookup some of us did in third semester college physics lab (which would require a digital multimeter, appropriate leads, and a gaggle of safety precautions), in the real world we use an inductive pickup gizmo called an ampclamp that simply encircles the power cord on a device and measures the current flowing via the magnetic field induced in a conductor when current is flowing. The ampclamp can be either a standalone measuring device or a item that plugs into the aforementioned digital multimeter (DMM).

    An ampclamp is a pretty standard part of any electrician’s toolkit, but it has limited utility for normal people. *

    What IS useful for normal people is the ability to figure out how much power an electrical appliance consumes, and perhaps how much it costs to run that item.

    A few years ago, a really easy-to-use device to do just that came on the market. It’s called “Kill-A-Watt” and comes in various models, which run from about $20-$50, available at Amazon, Newegg, J&R, and probably any decently-stocked hardware store. You plug the appliance into the KAW, then plug the KAW into the wall (or an extension cord, to prevent all those weird crawling-under-the-furniture incidents that will send you in search of the nearest chiropractor).

    The KAW displays the watts, volts, amps, and kWh usage of the appliance on an LCD display as it is in use. Fancier versions of the KAW can calculate the price of the power consumed (you input your local utility pricing), and I think it can store readings.

    The basic KAW is good enough for most folks, and it’s come down in price (it used to be about $40) such that it will make a neat holiday gift for the eco-minded and frugal-minded folks in your life. I bought one as a Xmas gift for some friends a few years ago, and they loved it.

    In NLC’s application, he could use the KAW to figure out how much current each appliance, light, whatever, is using, and then figure out what combinations will bork his generator into autoshutdown.

    * I don’t qualify as normal, of course. That’s why I know via an ampclamp that my old HP LaserJet II printer drew 8 amps when printing. I kept that printer in use for many years despite its energy-inefficiency because the toner cartridges were so cheap, and because the cat loved to sleep on the nice warm printer, the output tray of which was sized perfectly for him. Electricity cost isn’t the only factor to consider when to paring one’s budget.

    (… goes back to emitting those exciting nerd pheromones …)

  28. Mentor says:

    [Concerning AB’s recent trip to RIT: If you go to the original link announcing the talk (or [Click Here]) and scroll down to the bottom of the page, you’ll find a slide show with a couple dozen photos presumably taken while AB was on stage during her talk. –Mentor]

  29. khatgrrl says:

    Thanks Mentor!

  30. Dan_nyc says:

    I love this. Never you were a fellow cyclist.

  31. Alex K says:

    @HOH / 25, 27, passim —

    Competence is hella sexy. Intelligence AND competence, so very much more so.

    You scare me, a bit. But I like you. Think moth : flame.

  32. Kate L says:

    I’m having a trust issue with my 54-pound-harrier hound. I’ll give her one of those chew bones, and if she isn’t hungry she’ll want to go out in back to bury it for safekeeping. But if I wait around outside for her to bury the bone, she’ll just stand there looking at me until I go back inside. I’ll peek out through the curtains and see her then carefully select a spot to bury it. I think she’s afraid that if I know where she buried it, I’ll run out when she’s not paying attention, and dig it up myself! What should I do to rebuild trust between me and that fur ball with teeth?

  33. Marj says:

    Ian #21: Vera the Visible Lesbian! Yes, I remember – what a find.

  34. Kate L, ask ksbel6 to loan you the cloak of invisibility. Oh, wait, harrier hounds have excellent olfactory abilities, don’t they — she’d still know you were in the yard. Okay, then, ask Janeway to convert your yard into a holodeck.

    I’m on pain meds tonight, can you tell?

  35. Ian says:

    @Kate L(32): Nothing. It’s just a dog thang. Would you tell anyone where your emergency stash of [insert vice of choice here] was? I know I wouldn’t.

  36. Renee S. says:

    @ Ian

    I think most of us keep it in our sock drawer.

  37. ksbel6 says:

    @Kate L, et al…yeah, but mine is in a sock in my sock drawer. No one will find it there.

    Does C.H.U.D. mean anything to any of you? Maggie is not allowed to play…

  38. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Renee (#36)

    The sock drawer wouldn’t work for my vice. Chocolate melts.

    (… goes back to wondering how her vices became so tame over the decades …)

  39. My sock drawer is out of reach. Mine is now in my “remote control bag” hanging from the rail of my hospital bed.

  40. And no, HoH, I do not need a back-up car battery attached to it. 😉

  41. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Maggie (#40)

    Now it’s *my* turn to laugh so hard that I cough.


    (… goes back to wondering if Maggie’s remote control bag also has a supply of grade B maple syrup …)

  42. The maple syrup jar (in the shape of a leaf) is on the shelf behind the bags. No joke. Between the catnip-flavored bubbles and the special no-water shampoo.

  43. Pam I. says:

    @ Ian #21, not only do I remember Visibly Vera, Cath Jackson was a friend of mine in the 80’s (70s? – it’s all a blur) – we were both on London Lesbian Line together. She did the cartoons for a photo exhibition I co-authored, Millions Like Us (ie lesbians). The printed copy got lost on a train somewhere, but I still have the negs.

  44. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Maggie (#42)

    I knew you weren’t joking about the catnip bubbles, I saw them in the ThinkGeek catalog which arrived in the mail the other day. Dogs shouldn’t feel neglected… ThinkGeek sells bacon bubbles for them.

    Humans shouldn’t feel left out of the fun either, there are lots of bacon and caffeinated items in the catalog, including one that would go well with this crowd, caffeinated maple-bacon lollipops, made with Vermont maple syrup and Bacon Salt.


    (… yeah, that was my usual shameless plug for ThinkGeek, whose profits support the free and open source software movement via their Geeknet sibling Sourceforge …)

  45. ksbel6 says:

    What? No takers on C.H.U.D.? Alright then, I’m not telling.

  46. hairball_of_hope says:

    @ksbel6 (#46)

    Mole people. They really do exist, just not the radioactive kind from the film. (And there are no alligators in the sewers, either.)


  47. Ian says:

    @Pam I(43): Somehow I thought you might know Cath Jackson! A friend of mine was a radical lesbian feminist in London in the late 70s and early 80s and she knew (of) you – you were in a photography co-op or something with a friend of hers. I’d mentioned to her that there were Brits who commented on this blog and she asked me who they were! It’s a small world after all …

    A quick ‘gurgle’ tells me that The Women’s Press is still going – http://www.the-womens-press.com/

  48. ksbel6 says:

    @hoh: Thanks for playing. When I was a freshman in high school, my algebra teacher’s room had an east window, and I had that class 1st hour. It was a fairly dark building, but that one window would grab the sunlight just perfectly in Feb. and he would throw the blinds open and yell, “Mole People!” as we all had to cover our eyes because it was so bright. That was so much more fun than algebra.

  49. Pam I. says:

    @ Ian #47, ok who’s our friend in common?
    /\ Contact via my blog if she’s shy.

  50. Ian says:

    @Pam I(49): Oh, it’s a woman called Sarah from Blackburn who then had short black/dark brown hair. She didn’t think you’d remember her though. Her friends included women called Martine, Christine and Sarah M. Those are the ones I know about!

  51. Jana C.H. says:

    The Times Atlas of the World! Yes! It is beautiful. I love it.

    But even more beautiful (and expensive) is the larger Comprehensive Times Atlas of the World, which goes beyond beautiful into exquisite, and fills me with waves of cartographic joy.

    Long time no see.

    Jana C.H.
    Saith Stephen King: Harry Potter is all about confronting fears, finding inner strength, and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.

  52. a geeky fan says:

    Getting back to your original idea of rigging a bicycle trainer to generate electricity, it’s actually quite practical. The creators of Sustainable Sound have been through a few development cycles and refined their system so it is not that hard to build – you could make your own rig out of a trashed exercise bike and a generator like the ones they use. Have fun!