Recycled CD Mosaic Table

Just finished this little end table after perfecting my CD mosaic skills. It's got a pour-on lacquer finish and is taking up too much space in our little cottage. Threw it up on ebay if you're so inclined to bid...

The Magic of the Mail

I love sending and receiving snail mail - I really do. We have X number of ways to connect with each other digitally now (skype, facebook, email, cell, gmail chat, text) that the most intimate form of written communication we have has been largely forgotten. I say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it's time for snail mail to make a comeback. Here are some ways you can get back into the game:

1. Send away for free samples. This is a no-brainer- there are several sites online dedicated to this where links are posted for free samples. Try - I just have a few free stuff gadgets on my IGoogle and click on the links that seem interesting. Set up a dummy email account and usually you just have to fill out an online form and answer a couple of questions. Usually they take 4-6 weeks and by the time they arrive you've forgotten them and are pleasantly surprised. I've gotten free granola bars, a hospital sharps container, tons of stickers (which I cut up and use for other projects), and I haven't bought soap or shampoo in months thanks to all the products I get in the mail.

2. Write to companies you think are awesome, and write to companies you think are lame. One time I bought an "easy to clean litterbox" that required no less than 9 steps to cleaning out the box! I wrote a letter to the company and they sent me a personalized letter of apology, free litterbox liners, and a Paul Bunyan sized litter scoop. Win! And when I proposed to my wife at Garcia's Kitchen in Albuquerque, we were so smitten with each other we forgot to get some souvenirs. I wrote to the restaurant with our story of true love and burritos and they sent us a care package with t-shirt, mug, pen, and fridge magnet!

3. Reconnect with old friends. We all have a few interesting people in our lives who we've just lost touch with. We think of reconnecting but feel awkward writing an email, don't want to get trapped into a phone conversation, or bristle at Facebook's "suggestion" for us to "reconnect" with them (damn robots telling us what to do!) Just scribble a quick hello down and mail that sucker out. As it goes into the ether the onus is suddenly on the other person now to get in touch.

4. Get a bunch of different denomination stamps, and a postage scale. Use the USPS' online postage calculator to send them on their way. I send slinkies and books and toys and presents of all sorts to my friends through the mail, and it's cheap! Parcel post is the biggest transportation thing going for inanimate objects, get on the gravy train!

Wood Gasification Stove Saves the Day!

The blizzard that hit the northeast states recently left many without power, running water, or heat. I was one of the many who found myself in this predicament, envying those neighbors of mine with generators. Luckily, my homemade wood gasification stove, fashioned from tin cans, saw me through the worst parts. One of these is super easy to make, and I was inspired by this simple instructional video:

When my wife and I awoke the first morning after the storm hit and were still without electricity, I loaded the stove up with scrapwood, grabbed the grill from our toaster oven, and brewed some espresso in the Moka Pot.

Then Melody started work on breakfast - scrambled eggs and toast! We cooked it up on the living room floor, just making sure to keep the stove on top of a few ceramic plates for heat dissipation. Be sure you're adequately ventilated when using one of these stoves- these gasses are not so safe to breathe in large quantities.

After nightfall the house would get really chilly so we curled up and played some scrabble or listened to the radio, generating heat with the stove one batch at a time. By breaking up the combustion process into discrete parts, this stove generates an even, virtually smokeless heat. All that's left at the end is a small pile of ash. All you need is a squirt of lighter fluid or rubbing alcohol to get it started. If you have trees nearby you'll be with heat for a long time. This thing can run on twigs!

The next plan is to build an even bigger one with a longer burn time. It was a drag to have to reload the little guy- introducing fresh wood to a live batch seems to disturb the gasification process and generates smoke. A coffee can sized stove would burn for quite a while.