Bob Stuart

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since Aug 31, 2014
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Recent posts by Bob Stuart

Fifteen months after Permies started, I had to leave a beautiful island that had been discovered by the rich.  I was looking for a roof with better 'net access, and found it just a block from the middle of a small town with hardware stores, etc.  This was just as Facebonk ruined most of the listservs, so my "electronic cottage" wound up in the boondocks of popular culture as well as location.  I've been looking at off-grid options ever since, but the locals who try it are as badly off as tenants back home, living at the mercy of their neighbours because of zoning laws, etc.  I always want to build something that pushes the envelope, and does not fit existing regulations.   I had almost bought a farm big enough for many people, but even the one old friend who came to look at the area left, due to the redneck majority.  I had good hopes of finding an heir through Permies, but even that has fizzled .  Old farmhouses are still falling into ruin around here due to amalgamation, but the area is definitely one of the better choices in a changing climate.  
I'm in a cold climate, but last December was a major heat wave, so I can't post an average temperature.  I'm still running the original gas furnace while I explore the options.  I'd like to try a wood stove with a pressurized firebox.  It would be a solid-fuel gas turbine, with the efficiency proportional to the heat resistance of the exhaust turbine, as usual.  To get just a bit of electricity as a by-product of heating only low pressures and common materials would be needed.
To get me to build a rocket mass heater instead, you'd have to show some theory about how other wood heaters waste so much.  That big new chart is lovely, but lacks that bit for credibility.  I think it would also be a lot easier to read with a couple more rows and columns of labels, so there's always one of each on screen as I scroll around.
1 month ago
The hardware catalogs all list the weight that casters are designed for.  If you want to run them near max, you need either a very flat, stiff floor, or a bit of flex in the mountings, so that they always share the load.  Large casters are available, but you might want to consider wheels salvaged from road vehicles as a cheaper option.
5 months ago
Blowing things up with firecrackers.  Playing with matches.  Water fights.  Hula Hoops.  Lawn Darts.  Jumping bicycles off ramps, preferably with cardboard and spokes making "motor noise."  Riding various livestock.  Digging to China.  Hydraulic engineering.  Climbing a pine tree until it bends, and then getting it swinging to get to the next tree, and seeing how many you can traverse.  Making crude vehicles from junk such as a baby carriage.  Exploring construction sites. Jumping off cliffs to land on max-slope sand. Swimming, diving, skim-boarding, etc.  Sand castles.  Ghost stories.  Returning pop bottles for candy, all at one store.  Reading forbidden literature, such as MAD magazine.  Fixing things.  Exploring garbage and junk, and up-cycling some of it.  Complaining that there's nothing to do.  
My friend Chief Kitpou grew up where everyone knew that to grow up strong and fit, a boy had to rub the dust from butterfly wings on his chest.  They chased those butterflies for hours, but it sure worked.  
10 months ago
I did this in Saskatchewan 16 years ago, and the technology is better now.  I was not functioning very well, either, being in shock from needing to move.  However, FWIW, I first attended a music festival, where I met a bookseller at his booth who later provided office facilities for my search.  Then I looked up my one local friend for some general advice on provincial customs, etc.  Then I drove around rather aimlessly for a month, only avoiding areas with oil rigs.  I really should have had a GPS recorder on my camera, and drawn a line on my map each evening.  I should also have talked to a lot more people.  I found one very small house with a lake view for very cheap, but the land was very flat, and the nearest store was miles away, but over a dozen unknown neighbours were close.  It had a For Sale sign on it, easy to notice when cruising a tiny, dying town.
Then, I noticed that all the artists were in the Thickwood Hills, and having a studio tour.  I took advantage of that to see one guy's underground house, and found a kindred spirit.  I camped there for another month, looking locally and checking out his contacts.  Driving around, I made a list of six places of interest, and then the fun began.  Places that had been for sale for years suddenly sold.  There was one real gem that I dropped because the neighbour's best friend wanted it, and had not heard it had come available because his dad hid the messages.  As it turned out, none of the people I thought might join me there would have, so it would have been lonely.  
Then, through a long series of coincidences, I heard about a bargain house in a small town with stores, and decided to try it out for the coming winter, at least.  I'm still there, still looking at off-grid options, and still hearing about lots of places I'd never have found from a car.  If I were young and inclined to do it again, I'd seriously consider going by bicycle, to do a finer-grained search and meet more people.  Google maps are also a tremendous boon for finding trees and water.  
1 year ago

Jeremy VanGelder wrote:I like Bob's idea. I wonder if you could put the spool on a ratchet system so that when the wind dies down your kite gets pulled in, but the load stays where it is?

I think the ratchet would go on the wheels to hold a load part way up.  This might be a worthwhile gadget if the winds are quite fickle.  Around here, I'd lose about one or two loads a week with the spill and back-down system.  It would still run with partial loads, spilling at the lower reservoir to match reduced wind.  The trickiest bit currently seems to be a reliable way to keep the kite doing figure eights.  Maybe plain circles are easier, with a single string and a swivel in it to keep it from twisting.  Instead of pure string control, an autopilot with some servos and trim tabs might make life easier to keep flying as well as pulling.  
1 year ago
Mechanical energy has no trouble boiling water when I use it to cool a dull drill bit.  A dull cannon-boring tool was used to first establish that heat is a form of energy, not an element.  
1 year ago
Water is 800 times denser than air, but many of the same shapes work very well in either medium.
Water is usually moving slowly and predictably. Tidal currents in narrows can be great.  Wind can go so fast it wrecks your stuff.  The aquatic equivalent is ice.  
If you build wind catchers for low wind speeds, they have to be big, and able to fold for high wind protection.  Power goes up as the square of speed, so it really pays to store power from windy days, and collect when it is as fast as possible.  A kite can be flown lower on the windiest days.  
In air, a kite needs constant management to avoid the ground.  In water, a kite really comes into its own.  It can fly from a cheap mooring instead of an expensive foundation.  It can fly down to avoid shipping.  It can fly or float up for maintenance.  It easily changes direction for tides.
Water and electricity require expensive separation, so I'd be interested in just pumping water to the shore, either for a reservoir directly, or at high pressure to run a hydraulic motor.  
1 year ago
I forgot to mention the kites being used for short-stroke power extraction.  They lose most of their potential in the kite string going slack and taut.  Long hauls make the most sense, and inclined roads work well with that.  
Also, when it comes to the generation of electricity, the little pelton wheels are tempting, and the efficiencies of the big ones are impressive, but the small ones suffer from the square-cube law, with more of the water being stuck in boundary layers.  Adding nozzles around a wheel does nothing to improve that ratio.  I'd look at small positive-displacement pumps used as motors.  The diaphragm types seem to be both efficient and trouble-free.  
1 year ago
This general field is AWE - Airborne Wind Energy.  I think it makes a tremendous amount of sense, because a kite can cheaply get up to altitudes much higher wind speeds.  I have followed developments for years, and it seems that the big trouble with putting the generator in the air is the weight of a conductive kite string.  If the generator is on the ground, it can reel the kite in and out.  Something like a windsurfer's kite is flown in figure eight patterns to pull strongly as the string unwinds, and then flown straight up to easily get reeled back in.
Given that what we really want is power on demand, what I'd like to try, or inspire (I'm old) is to use a kite to haul tanks of water up a hill to an upper reservoir, and produce hydropower as usual.  It is not hard to get a kite to self-launch from a pole, If the wind died during a haul, first some water would spill to make the load easier.  If the tank cart wound up down at the lower reservoir without enough wind to get going at all, the spring-loaded reel would bring the kite down before it hit the trees.  When the wind picks up, it all starts going again.  
There are, of course, many variations on how the water can be arranged according to local conditions, and many scales of capacity, from small tanks on available pneumatic tires, perhaps guided up a track by following a taut rope, to light rail, to regular tank cars.  Flatlanders might create an underground cavern by hydraulic mining, and run buckets up and down.
1 year ago