What Time is ‘Four fingers’ ?

Hold out your arm with your hand at a 90 degree angle to your arm so that your hand is between the bottom of the sun and the top of the horizon. Be sure to squint (almost close your eyes), so that the sun doesn’t hurt your eyes.

How many of your fingers ‘fit’ in that space (bottom of sun-top of horizon)?

That is the time.

Four fingers is usually about 1 hour before sunset.

Q) I have short arms and stout fingers? Won’t my ‘finger time’ be different than someone with long arms and skinny fingers?

Okay, these directions are for the people who think they //really// need to know the answer:

How many of your fingers ‘fit’ in that space (bottom of sun-top of horizon)? You might discover that only 3 fingers fit…or that you have to use TWO HANDS to stack enough fingers up to fill the space!

Now do a little clock watching to see how many minutes it takes for the sun to actually get down to the horizon. Divide the minutes by the number of fingers that fit: now you know how many minutes your fingers are worth!

Be aware that your ‘minutes per finger’ will vary according to the time of year, location on the planet, and your view of the horizon.

Second answer for everybody else:

It doesn’t really matter. When you see the sun getting close to the horizon, go find the party!

Square Foot Solar Cooker

The Ft2 solar cooker.

This is the Square Foot Solar Cooker (Ft2) that has evolved from the original winebox rice cooker that I used at the Burn last year.
The winebox worked fine, but this is a far far superior cooker, and I want to share it with you in hopes you will make and use one at this year’s Burn.
Sadly I cannot afford to go this year, but would love to see any pictures of this thing being used out there, and learn of your cooking experiences with it.
I am thrilled with its performance.

Go to the hardware store and buy some square foot mirrors, the kind you use to tile bathrooms, etc. Don’t buy the beveled ones, they’re twice as expensive and bevels are not needed. A pack of 6 mirrors runs me about $12, and there are 6 in a pack, enough for two cookers. Make one for a friend….
Next you need some duct tape, a tube of silicon (optional), a can of black spray paint.

You also need, (depending on your uses), a couple of widemouth quart canning jars, a 1 and 1/8 inch spade drill bit, a wine bubbler cork (available from your local zymurgist, and pick up a bubbler, too…), and optionally some 3/8 copper tubing. (The last two items are not necessary for cooking only)
Finally you will need a gallon jar made of PET (#1) plastic. You can readily get these from your local bartender, as they are the jars that hold olives. Tip him/her a buck and ask to save a couple of those jars. If they use glass gallon jugs, so much the better, as I prefer glass.

You can make your cooker(s) either permanent, or break-down. I like both.
Permanent is great for around the house, and break-down is great for travelling light and folding flat.

The Reflector.
Now, since you Burners are above average intelligence people, I don’t need to tell you how to build the reflector, other than that you need to hold it together, and then add bits of duct tape to temporarily hold it in place. Then, place a full strip of tape along the seams. You should fully tape the two back upright reflector pieces, because then you can fold them backwards for flat storage and transportation. Or you can if you wish run a bead of silicon along the meeting inner edges, and after a few hours drying time it will be a one piece unit.
If you can’t figure it out, drop me a line….

The Inner Jars
For cooking, use good quality canning jars with sealable lids. Cover part of the jar with tape as shown, and the top screw on to keep it from getting painted, and then paint those suckers flat black.
When dry remove the tape to see the cooking window where you can watch your foods get done. And to see if they need more water.
Put the jars on the reflector for a couple of days before using to hard-cure the paint, and keep that paint smell out of your food.

The Outer Jar
You can use #1 PET plastic, #5 PP plastic (cherry jars), or good old gallon glass jars. I used glass for a long time, and then interestingly found out that #1 PET gets hotter than glass, and faster. Pick up a couple of plastic jars if you wish, because you can use them when not cooking to make an excellent raisin sherry. My first batch is wonderful, and knocks me on my ass after too many glasses…. I prefer the #5 PP jugs for winemaking for some reason, don’t know why, other than my work saves them for me.

Outer Jar Lids.
With a drill press or hand drill, and a one and 1/8 inch bit, drill a smooth hole through the center of the plastic jar lid. This will let you do two things, the first is to disinfect water, and the second is to allow you to insert a bubbler and cork to brew your own gallon of wine as above.

Water distillation, and potential alcohol distillation.
A good empty clean quart Coors beer bottle will make a water disinfector. Yes, I hate their politics, but I like the taste of their beer….
Place a nearly full bottle of water in the center of your outer jar. Carefully screw on the plastic outer jar top (the 1 and 1/8 inch hole lets the top of the beer bottle stick through — but DON”T put the cap on the beer bottle) Place this whole assembly on your reflector, and after about 130 minutes by my tedious measurements on a cold winter day, you will have reached 150 degrees which some say is the threshhold for disinfecting water. Surely on a hot summer day, it will be faster.
After 220 minutes, you are in the alcohol distillation range, and after 280 minutes you will be well into boiling range. At our Reno altitude, water boils at about 206 degrees, and that’s as high as it will go unpressurized. This unit, here, will boil water for as long as it has good sunlight.
As far as distilling alcohol, I understand that is illegal, and hence will NOT use my copper tubing into a water cooling container to try that….

Other dangerous considerations
A couple of days ago I said “Why not” and filled a mason jar 1/3 full of soybeans, and 4/5 full of water. After soaking overnight, I placed the unit in the cooker.
After a few hours, the soybeans were not nearly done, so, daringly, I tightened down firmly the mason jar lid and put it back in the cooker. And it got hotter, and hotter. Eventually I took it out into the kitchen and gently released the lid. Well, volcanic hot water spewed everywhere, and the thing foamed and hissed like a Hades nightmare. So I put it back out, as the sun was waning, and at the end of the day, after letting it cool on its own, carefully opened the jar. It was still wicked-hot, but lo and behold the soybeans were DONE. This is the very first time I’ve ever had soybeans cook fully in a solar cooker in one day.
I think my thermometer at max measured 260 degrees in the outer jar.
However, I caution you not to try this unless your are very daring and as stupid/foolish as I am. If you are like me, then please, be aware that the whole thing may explode on you — with great violent vigor –, and never ever set a hot jar on a cold or cool uninsulated surface, else you may be picking out shrapnel.
If you are foooooolish enough to try this, let it cool on its own, and then after several hours see if the beans are done. Soybeans in my opinion are NEVER done until you can squish them between tongue and palate, and if you can’t do that, then spit them out and keep cooking. Soybeans are incredibly filling, and possibly the reason we as a people don’t like them, is we’ve never tried a fully cooked one. A little soysauce, possibly with rice, and some nice nutritional yeast stirred in, oooo, heaven.

Further thoughts
You MUST be careful with this cooker. If you were to trip and fall on the glass mirror assembly, it may puncture an organ or cause a serious sudden loss of blood. It is potentially deadly lethal if left lying around. So don’t leave this about for the unwary, because someone or yourself may trip and fall on it and puncture themselves and fucking bleed to death. And be aware, I never use the F word in my writings, EVER, so please take care….

I hope you will build and use a couple of these before and during the burn this year, and since I cannot afford to go, please send me pictures and an email or so about your adventures with it. I would be greatful.

If you build yourself a couple of these cookers, you will be able to have 40 ounces or more of good cooked food in the evening when you take a break from your revelries. Without needing tracking or any care at all. Just fill your inner cooking jars with food, place on the reflector, put on the outer jar, and point the right hand edge of the cooker to where the sun will be when you want to eat. Fill it and forget it.

I am posting this tonight, with the hopes that my photos will embed here. I am a computer novice, and they may not upload. Or they may be greatly oversized. If so, and you are computer literate, perhaps you could email and help me to get all this stuff posted. I would be greatful.
Ya got a couple of months yet to experiment with this, so get to it….

Thanks and peace to you.
(Craig Bergland)
email renofreepress (at) charter.net or post on AEZ list.

And finally, please remember

Careful! Remember, All Intense Glares Blind Eventually!!! Repeated Glaring Light AND lack of eye protection will seriously mess you up!!!

“Generators?  We don’t got no generators.  We don’t need no generators.  We don’t have to show you no stinkeen generators…”

A Simple Solar Generator

Setting up a solar charging system is not as hard as you may think. The layout is described fairly easily with the diagram below

And there is a set of slides that gives you a more detailed description:

CLICK HERE for the slides


Thinking about 2010

I’m thinking about the design for 2010, and given that the theme is metropolis i’ve decided that we can go back to our roots of urban planning. Yes that’s right, no more crazy curves, just straight lines and clearly defined boundaries.

Want to help?

Would you like to help finish this new site?

We need people who:

  • Have a lot or little time to contribute. No commitments required.
  • Have writing skills and can edit some of the articles and correct spelling and grammar. (obviously I don’t)
  • Have html skills and can go in and clean out extraneous code that got ported into articles. (wordpress doesn’t need this. It just looks sloppy both on the inside and out) Also, check links and troubleshoot images that are not displaying.
  • Know WordPress and have ideas or can help with issues that come up.

Would you like to post some new articles?

This site is on-going and this is a place to share your ideas and tips for alternative energy and playa life in the AEZ.

First Register!

The links below will help you get started writing your own post. If you can use a word processor then you can do this. You don’t need to know anything about html. If you need help or get stuck you can just save your draft and ask for help. You can’t really mess anything up and we will check your post for you before it gets published.  So why not give it a try?

How to Write a Post

Using Categories
Categories Explained (video)
Adding Images to Your Post
Posting Your Picasa Images
Posting your flickr Images
Posting an Event

(These links are also always available below on the bottom of the right column.)

Sources for LED Light Strings

Solar powered LED lights need no outlet so they can be placed anywhere that gets sunlight.

EarthToys website. Misc Gadgets

115V Holiday Bulbs – varied colors, mixed, & white or green wires.

12 volt and ‘run on inverter’, click on LED light strings or scroll down

12 volt multicolored

Battery, blue lights!

Battery, white lights, for under a patio umbrella

Run on inverter and battery LED strings

Run on inverter, battery, another source with more variety their battery-operated red LED strings can be set to “random blink” or “steady on” and take 2 C batteries. the description on the website doesn’t give you enough information.

Run on inverter, ‘forever bright’ LED strings

More sources and info for ‘forever bright’ LED strings

Colored or white LED rope lights, 120 volt red or yellow, 100 foot reels, ~$2 and .48 watts a foot

Red or yellow, ~$4 and .47 watt a foot on 150 foot reels

Blue, green or white, ~$15 and .77 watt a foot

3 AA battery light strings in different colors (not LEDs)

Maybe thomas could bring us a couple of these

Wholesale orders?

Blue strings! wholesale order?

Make your own! retrofit old xmas lights into LED strings

Home built LED light curtain

General LED info

OnLine Resistor Calculator LED’s, Voltage, Resistors

Another on-line calc

Here is a great link I found on my sailing list about how to build LED circuits. It is specific for the marine environment but very applicable to other applications.

Using Categories

Once you have registered, you will be assigned “author” permissions so you can post.

Categories are the main organizational structure of our site.  Our categories display as TOPICS on the sidebar of every page. It’s important to use categories when you post to help others find your post. If you do not select a category, your post will default to the category named “Misc.”

Select the category that seems best for your post. You can select more than one if it is appropriate. Just use your common sense. Imagine if you were looking for info on something…where would you look.  If you have suggestions for more categories, please let us know.

Here is wordpress documentation on categories:


This video is helpful too. It is for an earlier version of wordpress and the interface has changed slightly since that update.


Below are some screen captures of our Categories.

The side bar displays them as TOPICS.

When you are logged and writing a new post, it is important to select an appropriate category for you post.

Grey Water Info from the Earth Guardians


-copied from:

Water, Water Everywhere

Most camps need to dispose of grey water during Burning Man. Grey water is produced from cooking, dish washing, and hair and body washing. Our permit from BLM does NOT allow us to dump grey water directly on the playa. Therefore all grey water must be collected. Camps can then remove that water directly off the playa (by themselves or using Johnny on the Spot). Some camps may choose to use evaporation ponds to reduce the amount of water they need to haul off the playa, but these ponds can easily get clogged with dust. Some camps have even developed technologies to reuse their water. The appropriate methodology for you depends on the size of your camp, your background and experience, and the level of energy you want to spend dealing with grey water.

What’s Simple? Small and mid-sized camps can collect your grey water and take your water to several RV dump stations along highway 80 and in Reno after the event. See below. Please check with the dumping station before the event for disposal charges and determine if they can handle the amount of water you are planning to dump! Larger camps should consider setting up a contract with Johnny on the Spot to collect grey water. With 30 days notice, they will provide a collection tank for you at the event that they will collect at the end of the event for disposal.

How can I reduce my grey water? First — remember Conservation, Conservation, Conservation! In your kitchen area, set up a low-volume water spray over a basin, for dishwashing and hand cleaning. You need remarkably little water to wash up with. Assign a water cop in your camp to remind campmates that you’re in the desert, not at home. Use a biodegradable detergent instead of soap. Camp Suds, works well for dishes, hands, and showers. Rub your hands with a few drops of a waterless disinfectant lotion, available at drugstores, before you handle food. This saves water and is also good camp hygiene. Evaporation ponds are a technique that has been shown to reduce the volume of grey water. Though it’s important to construct a pond that is big enough for your camp. Too big — it will still work great. Too small — it stops working when the water gets too deep! Also limit showers the last few days of the event before you’ll need to pack up the evaporative pond for disposal.

What about scattering my grey water? For reasons of sanitation, and sheer volume, both Black Rock City and the BLM discourage scattering. However, if you’re in a very small camp, with minimal dish and body-washing water, you might choose to pour your grey water through a filter or sieve (eg a paint sieve or pantyhose), disinfect the water, then, since it is treated, disperse it on your street to keep down dust. A watering can works nicely for sprinkling.

What are the reuse options? While some camps supported by environmental engineering students have developed elaborate systems to treat the grey water for reuse, most camps do not have the expertise to treat grey water to be clean enough for misting and drinking.

How do I build an evaporative pond? The following design is borrowed from Astral Headwash, who has won the valuable ‘Earth Guardian Camp of the Day’ award for several years. This pond will dispose of up to 15 gallons a day, and is easily expandable.

Materials and Construction for a 15 gallon evaporation pond

You will need:

•four 2×4’s 8 feet long,

•black plastic sheet, 6 mil thickness, 10 ft by 10 ft,

•3″ screws

•a screw gun (cordless drill), or

•nails and a hammer,

•a staple gun,

•a pump and a grey water container

•and gloves.

•Contact: Bob Meydenbauer of Astral Headwash meydenbauer(at)yahoo(dot)com
Contact: Larry Breed, Earth Guardian, ember(at)burningman(dot)com or earthguardians(at)burningman(dot)com

•Simple Shower Design from NoseFish

•BRC MUD Grey Water Treatment Web site: http://www.freshmakkur.org

Grey Water FAQ’s

What is grey water?

Water your would not like to drink. (shower water, dishwater, toothbrushing water)
(Black water is what goes down a toilet)

How can I minimize the creation grey water?

  • Take less water to the playa: you will conserve water if you bring less! However 1.5 gallons per person per day is the bare minimum. You don’t want to have to ration your drinking water in the desert.
  • When you shower, get wet, turn the water off, soap up (scrub those nooks and crannies), then turn the water back on to rinse off
  • Shower with a friend: a friend can efficiently rinse the soap off as well as wash your back
  • Use a pump-up pressurized water sprayer for dish washing http://www.nextag.com/pump-sprayer/search-html
  • Minimize the creation of dirty dishes: eat right out of the pan! Share utensils!
  • Lick your dishes clean! Then swirl with clean water to remove any food bits –> next, drink that water! YUM!
  • Wipe out dirty dishes with paper towels/wet wipes or use paper dishes: burn the paper in one of the burn barrels

What are the rules about disposal of grey water on the playa?

[This is a recollection, and needs verification]

BLM’s list of stipulations for Burning Man forbids disposing of untreated graywater on the playa. What constitutes treatment is not specified, but would probably be satisfied by filtering out solid matter and disinfecting with Clorox. An amount of water sufficient to create a muddy patch is of concern; smaller amounts aren’t. Playa visitors not attending Burning Man aren’t bound by stipulations, and should be guided by common-sense wilderness ethics.

The 10th Annual SF Decompression HEAT THE STREET FaIRE!

The 10th Annual SF Decompression

The 10th Annual SF DECOMPRESSION Heat the Street FaIRE! is 10/11/09 on
Indiana Street in San Francisco – Sign up NOW at flambelounge(at)burningman(dot)com
to get involved and share your artistry!

This time of year it can be hard to imagine anything past the glowing promise of Burning Man, but there is indeed life after the Playa! Your Burning Man year-round volunteer Special Events Team is already hard at work planning this year’s 10th Anniversary SF Decompression! Similar teams around the world are planning their Decoms-along with various weekend gatherings and regional events.