Thursday, June 19, 2014

Junkk Social - Too rare, not very well done:( Sorry!

The recent 'Your Green Future' Event we were part of, was a wake up call.

In two days a lot of folk swung by, checked out the ideas, liked what they saw, took a card... and came back home to sign up to the site.

It was only because of a few bounces that came into the mailing address PC that I was reminded to check the nether regions of our steam-driven admin back-end, and especially the registration database.

Logging Jam

There were a lot in there. The total now is over 4,000 (many, as we'll come to, doubtless lost to the disposable email sky... or hotmail, or gmail fairy). That's the ones signed in and already up.

There were also a large number stalled in our awful 'double opt in' system (sign up, get sent an email, re-confirm to activate. All genius for security, but less spiffy in a world of spam, filters and firewalls). This originally seemed like a good plan, imposed on us by those who know better. Long gone now, but as the guy who agreed, the buck stops with yours truly. Time has moved on.

And I just spent a lot of it going through scores that were in limbo, approving manually. Amazingly, very few 'spammers', who are easy to detect. 

Many new friends still as a result of the Poundland packaging (if sadly likely to end soon), the Joy of Junk book, mentions on such as the FoE or Guardian, or shows like the one just held in U of Worcester.

I wish I could change the system for the better. I am sure it can be. All things can of course change, be improved, evolve...

But they almost always also take time, and if it's Junkk IT, that means 3rd parties and money, as I don't know my HTML from my SQL. And as such skilled consultant fees I don't have currently.

However, things must change, so ways must be found.

Spring Into Summer Cleaning

So the summer hols reading on the beach will include a bit of drastic editing of pages that have been left fallow too long to serve now, and hiving off bits that it's possible free scripts and social media plug-ins from such as FaceBook and Blogger and Wordpress can do easier, better and much more integrated.

I've noticed Facebook or twitter pages or articles I follow or find all can be shared in the blink of an eye, as I do now especially on the 'Here Are Some We RE:made Earlier!' FaceBook page linked from the home page.

Maybe I can also reproduce the categories within these, to get these shares archived in a way to easily search under various topics again.

It will of course be a bunch of work, but with luck doable. 

Looking For Help In All the Right Places

I am also looking at converting to social enterprise or even charity status to see if this can help find more help, especially in terms of the warm bodies (as funded staff or volunteers) to get us back to when we were running 150,000+ unique visitors and climbing monthly.

Friday, June 13, 2014

IDEA - Kelly Kettle, plus some musings on efficiencies & enviROIs

One of the joys (of many) of this lark is what you can stumble across. 

And, of course, who. Which can always lead on to all sorts more fun stuff.

The other day on twitter I shared a link to an electric 'eco-kettle' (I'll save detail on this for another day, as this thread is set to head off on enough tangents already).

Suffice to say it was... is... claimed as a very green way to boil water.

I was convinced enough to be tempted, and shared this intention on said twitter, FaceBook, etc. I believe I added a caveat on its claimed values until bought and tried.

What followed was a most interesting serious of exchanges on what it takes to boil water, as you do, with an impressively credentialed gentleman who goes under the name of Roger Tallbloke. On many matters, but especially science and even more so that of climate, well worth a follow:

With that too often over-used and abused (esp. by our glorious 4th estate) term, I think he'll allow me to also confer upon him the accolade of on occasion erring on the 'controversial', but then who worth their salt is not?

But he and I do share a love of science, engineering and, crucially, second-use design (which we will get to soon, promise).

However reductions of waste and promotions of efficiencies do also score high with us.

So let me simply share what he did with me to my apparently incorrect notion that an electric kettle was the most eco (we shall suspend such as health & safety, speed, style & convenience factors for now) way to get water hot:

RT: Electric is a lot less energy efficient than gas for domestic water boiling.
JM: Really? Presumed an element within water was much more efficient than what first needs to heat pan & gets lost around edges.

RT: A lot of energy wasted heating air in bubbles forming on element which then rise to surface and lost to atmosphere. Well designed gas kettle loses little heat because turbulence makes heat cling to sides and be absorbed through to the water

RT: Other forgotten factor in elec vs gas is transmission losses for elec. Mad use of high grade energy for instant gratification.

He then topped the lesson with a lovely design example, including data:

RT: My 2oz kelly ketttle design boils a pint in 4 mins with 16g denatured alcohol. around 56% efficiency.

(Tangent - Interestingly enough, I just took delivery of a 'Junkk' Stirling Engine kit (sadly half the parts missing) that looks just like this. It will be subject of another post once finished, so watch this space. Clearly aluminium beer cans also have their re-uses.)

He has offered to expand when he has a moment, which may happen here, or on the 'Idea Page' on the site I have created in complement.

Roger has kindly amplified in significant detail:

For those who don't know what a kelly kettle is, look at this cross section:

Usually made from 16 gauge aluminium (old ones in copper), they are too heavy for solo backpackers but great for windy campsites.

So I made this lightweight version using UK and USA beer cans (they do the big in america). Rather than using wood for fuel I keep it clean using ethylated spirit (denatured alcohol). The stove at the bottom has two sets of flame-jet holes which heat both the inside and outside of the kettle. A simple aluminium windshield made from an extra large beer can opened out is used as necessary.

The kettle sits on the stove and uses a large american Fosters can with an internal chimney made from a UK beer can of smaller diameter. They are jointed with aluminium solder (and a lot of patience and swearing).

The chimney has flutes folded into it so it tapers from a wide circular base to a narrow 5 pointed star at the top. This raises the velocity of the combusted gases, creating the 'draw' to make the boil happen quickly. The 'hat' in the photo is a section of UK beer can with exhaust holes in and it conducts exhaust gas heat back into the water.

Updates posted - 16/05/14:

If you take care with drying times, you can use superglue for jointing and it'll last 20-30 boils.

I also make smaller versions with pint UK beer can + 2x red bull cans for chimney. Tricky jointing. Just enough for a cuppa. 1oz

The UK version uses a 4g stove made from a lip balm tin - 'internal' jets only. In use here on Red Pike


Finally comes the tricky bit as I need to refer to the blog there and the site page here, but to cut and copy across I need to publish both, go back and then re-edit. Or something.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

EVENT RE:View - Your Green Future

University showcase events have got a bit grander since my undergraduate days.

Last week was invited to bring along our RE:use ideas stand to this event, spanning two days.

In that time about twenty schools attended, sending pupils ranging from about 10 to 16 years of age, in class batches of about 30.

Amongst a variety of other things (I lost my stand-assistant son the second day as he ended up as a judge on a Dragon's Den feature elsewhere) the classes roamed the exhibition hall tasked with gaining an appreciation of what various 'eco' companies were, what they did, how their products or services contributed to sustainability, etc, plus what was involved career-wise should these be seen as appealing avenues to pursue.

The hall presented an eclectic bunch.

In addition to several University of Worcester (host campus - ironically where 'Chief of Stuff' Emma graduated from and who carried out our RE:tie market research) departments (including Computing and Robotics, with a 3D printer set-up I found most interesting given our RE:tie prototyping adventures and future design ambitions for new product ideas) & council sustainability offerings, there were such as Green Buying, marketing green products, World Aluminium, the Canal & River Trust  and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (who had a Stirling Engine model that has inspired my next Junkk project - watch this space... Already located and ordered from amazon to reverse engineer!).

Plus of course, (son included):

What was nice was the level of interactivity we could all offer the students, which made it very much a 'hands-on' experience'. This stand from actonenergy had a thermal imaging camera and, as you can see, yours truly was hot stuff:

There were sadly few opportunities for distractions, especially when I lost my lovely assistant, but I actually did come up with a new idea whilst there that I'll be adding to the site soon which many of the kids really liked... a totally easy cable labelling system... and also noticed another possible opportunity whilst rummaging under the table. If ever there looked to be a mass volume item that currently needs buying whose function surely could be met free with 'Junkk' materials, this is it:

So how was it all? Was it worth it?

Overall, yes. Kids, like adults, come in all shapes and sizes, so we got the 'get it over with' box-tickers, the 'why bother?' brigade but... also some real sweethearts vowing to go back home to search the site for inspiration. That is always nice.

All the teachers who visited were also very positive. Even got a few guys from various eco NGO/charity outfits swinging by. All very keen for us to come and exhibit at their fayre/expo/whatever.

The trouble is, exhibiting takes a lot of time and often money to get there. I was kindly offered expenses to be at this one but really it doesn't help much on the mortgage. Looking around the hall almost all others there I am pretty sure were getting paid in some form for their time too.

I need to get my head around this better. As clearly there are opportunities to see such contributions getting official support/sponsorship. And though not eco, which at least does carry a raft of benefits educationally, this example of what can get funded (a lot)* made me smile:

Whatever else, no one can accuse of being a waste:)

I was thinking of attending this, but it is a fair old hike. But maybe turning into a social enterprise or charity is, ironically, a way to actually cover costs if not make some money.

We do serve a pretty useful, as well as re-useful purpose, after all!

*Addendum - 17 June 14

For wry smiles, this also served well:

Especially seeing this: "The FoI requests revealed Cole had been awarded the second £150,000 of her award despite failing to fulfil the criteria. Nesta told us had been released the money for "achieving scale" – despite not actually having launched. That's quite an achievement. When asked if it could define "scale", Nesta failed to respond."

That's quite an amount.

Maybe it's more 'who you know' than 'what you are actually trying to achieve?'

Interestingly. NESTA is getting a lot of profile across normal and social media with its latest largesse.

One hopes the most money goes where it will do the most good, less expenses of course. The results, and numbers (beyond that eye-watering £10M to play with), will be interesting.

We used to submit to such prizes, but given the effort required vs. what seemed to win, we have tended to avoid them now.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


Check out this TVC:

I am... excited.

This is a huge brand not just paying CSR lip service to second use, but building a major marketing campaign around it.

This post will with luck be added to as I request more info.