USB Wood Fired Stove / iPhone

Well, it had to happen… a way to plug your iPhone into a wood stove…

No, not one of those giant house sized ones; a little ‘backpack’ sized one.

It is an interesting idea. A fan forced gassifier type wood stove that uses a thermocouple to make the electric power to drive the fan. One of my major complaints about the fan forced stoves has been the “carry batteries and use them up” aspect. If I’m looking for a stove to keep going in a disaster, “Make sure you have spare batteries” is not on my list of “features”. Self powered is.

So the stove is called a “BioLite”. Their web site says it sells for $130 (which seems a bit expensive to me, but then again, it is a way cool gadget for something so hot… )

I could do more to describe it, but they already od that at the web site, I found a good review of it, and a video of it in operation. My only “complaint” is that the “quiet whine” that the video says ‘after a while you don’t notice’ is something I will always notice. A mosquito like whine never ever is pleasant for me and never ever blends into the background.

Still, as an occasional emergency use device, or for camping with unknown fuel supplies, it could be very useful, and earplugs are not very heavy ;-)

Of interest to me was that the fuel used to boil a pot of water was maybe two handfulls of small sticks. The kind of thing available in unlimited quantities around here each “garbage day” as folks set out literally tons of “yard waste” to be hauled off. As our electric power is already “crazy high” and the rate schedule says $1/2 / kW-hr is coming soon, this ‘gizmo’ would pay for itself in short order. The “spec” says it will make 5 kW thermal on high. That’s $2.50 / hour at our “soon to be” rate. That makes “payback time” about 52 hours of use. There are not many things with a Rate Of Return such that payback is measured in hours…

Even at our present 30 cents / kW-hr that is $1.50 / hour with payback in 87 hours. As we use a stove burner about 3 hours / day, that makes it about a month of normal use.

Looks like this spring the “outdoor kitchen” project will be a priority. Even if all I do is make a rocket stove or simple camp oven, payback within the season is assured. Welcome to “the new California” where cooking on gathered wood is “the new normal”…

Joking? Not quite. There are two Californias. The rich one, and the poor one. The rich California of movie stars and techies will still do the AEK and pay $1/2 / kW-hr to run their electric grill on solar panels. The poor California of Mexican farm workers and domestic help, of janitors and carwash workers; well, they will find lower cost ways of living. (Then there are the cranky old farts who will use sticks out of spite at stupid electric rate policies ;-)

OK, enough moralizing. Here are the links:

Stove Company:

The “buy it” camp stove page, with some specs listed:

They also make a larger “home stove” pitched for 3rd World Countries… maybe I need to tell them about California…



This guy does a DIY version using a different stove and an external thermoelectric generator. More “klunky” but it whirrs rather than whines…

Then again, maybe for the patio I’ll just make a “16 Brick Rocket Stove”… This video also demonstrates how to make a tortilla and cook it too ;-) There are other videos showing 24 brick variations and some with fired clay bricks. It’s about as simple an “ersatz stove” as you could ever want while still being efficient.

FWIW, the 24 (and more!) brick stoves just make more ‘chimney’ squares going up. Some put a ‘chimney like square’ below the wood feed hole so there is a ‘drop pit’ for charcoal and ends of sticks. That keeps more air flow to the burning ends and gives a bigger ‘ash pit’. Also, then, you don’t need a ‘1/2 thick’ brick for the bottom of the fire feed area. Having air leak in through the non-mortared joints also makes the fire more efficient (from the added warmed ‘bleed air’ into the fire box). So if you do mortar one of these, having an air channel to below the burning ends of the sticks is a good idea. I’ve seen one with a base, a ‘feed hole’ like square, then ‘chimney square’, then another ‘feed hole’ square, then chimney squares to make more draft. That gives a lot of air feed to the burning ends and an easy ash clean out. (Though for the non-mortared ones, it’s pretty easy to clean out the ashes ;-)

I’m thinking one of these with a tin box on top and I’ve got a cheap and easy bread baking oven. As I’m presently running about 1/2 hour a day of bread baking time, that’s also on my list of “find an alternative” todo-s. While I could buy a Coleman Camp Oven for $60, it is just a tin box with a door and thermometer in it that you set on a stove. Not even insulated. I think I can do better with a DIY solution. Maybe a tin box with a brick surround to keep the hot gas in and the heat stabilized. Or even just a double walled tin box…

Whatever I use, I’d like to keep the gasses out of the oven (as the bread needs to have a pure flavor). Yeah, I know, wood smoke flavored bread is a special treat… but not to the family that wants “familiar” flavors (i.e. nearly none white foam bread…)

But the oven is for another day. For right now, I’m finding the idea of a twigs and yard waste powered patio kitchen attractive. That I can do it with a pile of 2 dozen bricks and not much else is also interesting in its own peculiar way…

Then there is the heater… It would be nice to get a more efficient use of the old fire place, and maybe even have a place to ‘put the kettle on’… Creative people, gotta love ’em… Someone has already worked that problem out for me. It takes more bricks, but not a whole lot more. So even on cold rainy days I can have my coffee and cook an egg or two without needing to go out on the patio in the cold, or use the All Electric Kitchen…

Then these folks from Texas have made their own version of ‘stove with oven’. I think I want to make one that’s a bit more natural looking (so maybe a slate liner around the outside of the oven box), but the idea looks proven.

I really like the way she says “In South Texas” in one breath, then says “Mexico” in the next… I think “Tex-Mex” is is pretty much accepted in large parts of the South West and California…

I really wonder if the the Global Warming folks pushing for $1/2 / kW-hr solar electricity have any clue that folks like the ones in these videos (or, for that matter, like me) even exist. Folks who LIKE the idea of cooking on a pile of a dozen and a half bricks using junk from that ol’ tree out back. For free. I wonder if they have even the most remote clue that folks “like us” will never use their $1/2 / kW-hr electricity. That we will ‘find another way’. (At that price, I can use my Diesel car to make electricity… about 40 cents / kW-hr at present). But I digress… this posting is about using “waste” wood scraps to cook, and enjoying the process ;-)

In the end, I’ll likely go two ways at the same time. On the one hand, just build a ‘pile of bricks’ stove and plop a Coleman box on it for an oven. All up under $80 and “done” in about the time it takes to hit Home Depot and the sporting goods store. OTOH, I’ll likely also spend the money to get one of those iPhone charging wonder gizmos. Just because the idea of being able to say “I need to go cut a limb off the redwood and start a fire to charge my iPhone.” would cause some folks heads to explode ;-)

Longer term I’ll likely make a more “proper” patio stove / oven that looks nicer and has higher end slate finish and a DIY oven box laid out more for bread baking. Then the bricks go to the ‘materials’ pile and the fold up Colman oven to the “preparedness pile”…

Hmmmm…. Looks like Walmart has the Coleman oven for $40 at the moment.

So more like “Under $50 all up” and done in a stop at Wally-World and Home Depot. Call it an hour if I’m slow… I’d guess it is about 4 kW thermal, so $1.25 at present electric rates per hour of use. 40 hours payback? Heck, that’s about 10 days if baking bread and using it as a stove… I think I know what the “project” is for tomorrow ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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31 Responses to USB Wood Fired Stove / iPhone

  1. Petrossa says:

    Yep, everyone knows cellphone coverage is great in the outback. Well at least you can play tetris

  2. The guy who invented Tetris died recently. When they buried him, the whole graveyard disappeared.

  3. Bloke down the pub says:

    I have a Kelly kettle, see here ,that works very well. It does get through the fuel quite quickly so you need to keep a constant eye on it if cooking for any length of time. I also have a chiminea that I’ve cooked on, always handy as a back-up, though I haven’t tried baking on it.

  4. j ferguson says:

    That certainly is a slick little stove. Maybe here is a good place for someone to help me understand how burning renewables reduces carbon footprint as REI apparently believes.

    As to the USB port, what else would you need assuming you had committed the Junior Woodchuck Manual to your Kindle?

  5. Gary says:

    E.M., I run a wood/coal stove all winter as primary heating for my rural home. Occasional blizzards knock out the power for a day or two. What can you tell me about thermoelectric generators that might take advantage of the stove heat (running about 300-400F on the top surface) for charging devices and lighting?

  6. kakatoa says:

    I would be a happy camper if someone would integrate, in a cost effective manner, the electrical generation capability of a biolite stove into a wood gasification furnace.

    My father in law has a biolite on his wish list for X-MAS.

  7. Jerry says:

    Re: DIY oven. A kaput hot water heater has a 40 – 50 or so gallon ‘oven’ (cleverly disguised as a water tank) buried within it. A bit of applied DIY is required to strip away the disguise. :) Just saying, stuff is where you find it and is not necessarily labeled with all possible uses.

  8. j ferguson says:

    there’s a great line in neal stephenson’s book Zodiac where they are in a hardware store trying to find something to suit their purpose which of course will likely have nothing at all to do with the object’s originally intended use. And our hero says, “Why else would you ever visit a hardware store?”

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    @Bloke down the pub :

    Another “Gizmo” for my wish list ;-)

    As “cup-a-tea” is the major reason I run the stove / pot, one of those is likely as valuable to me as a plane old stove / burner….


    Sadly, here in California, it has become nearly impossible to find places without some kind of cell phone coverage. Even those tend to be in the bare desert, not the wooded hills. In the hills it has more to do with valley vs hillside / top than ‘remote’. That is, your local obstructions matter.

    So I’ve been 4 hours drive and a few hours hike into “the woods” and STILL could not get out of range. I love that feeling of being absolutely on your own and “out of touch”. Now it is only a choice. That loses something… It is now S.O.P. to check that your cell phone is charged and in your backpack when “wilderness” camping. Folks call in for “rescue” with GPS coordinates. Yes a “big step forward”… but something is lost…

    It’s damned hard to get your kid interested in looking at tree moss and the sun angle when he just pulls out his cell phone and google.maps and says “There’s a road a mile that way… Burger King 5 miles down it.”

    For “home camping after an emergency” it’s a very big feature to have USB charging. We’ve had significant power outages here. After the Loma Prieta quake, I had power, but areas near us were down for several / many days. Cell service was up, but you need a phone charger. (My solution is the ‘car charger’ and leave the car on the street (so house can’t fall on it). But in a long power outage while camping on the patio, keeping the phone charged is a feature. Not everyone here has a generator, or a car.

    @J. Ferguson:

    As I don’t have a Kindle, I’m assuming it can be USB charged? Interesting point. Put a “survival library” and “howto videos” on an electronic gizmo you can charge via USB. “Brain in a box”…

    All I can see is the need to add some ‘practical skill’ at applying some of the advice / methods. Knowing how to use a drill and file (and having them…) helps, even if you do have the blueprint…


    That’s been done for decades (century?). Ham Radio guys were using stove thermoelectrics to run radios “way back”. Here’s a 50 W modern one:

    claims a 500 W size “coming soon”. ( I like the one that clips onto a Coleman Lantern… there’s always a ‘dark side’ where you don’t care about the light, so using it for electricity is a neat idea…)

    So I guess it depends on how much power you need and how much money. Just buy 10 x the 50 W ones and lay them on top of your stove for more power…


    “You are somebody. -E.M.Smith”

    Just sayin’…


    Yeah, if I had an old water heater… and a place to put a giant oven…

    The “smoker” is a nice outdoor oven, too. It just is a bit large for doing “one loaf of bread”… So I’m looking to make something a bit smaller for “my daily bread”… Don’t know what I’d bake in an oven that was 5 feet long and 2 feet wide…

    @J. Ferguson:

    To quote someone or other: “Parts is parts…”


    Though it is hard to convince the spouse that my “junk pile” is in fact a “parts and materials inventory” ;-)

  10. Petrossa says:

    Move to Europe EM. I can’t get proper coverage in my home in a 30.000 pop town. There a certain corners it works, others not. Or i am suddenly in the country next door and pay supercharged fees.

  11. j ferguson says:

    Kindles charge off USB port or a 5 volt charger. You can do bulk storage on a notebook with a terrabyte drive if you must. Kindle not as useful as real books, but you can carry a lot more with you, if whatever you need is available in ebook or pdf. I just got a new one, the Paperwhite which has less capacity, but more than enough, and much better resolution than my kindle 2. smaller too.

    I have the 10,000 receipts book which didn’t work well on the old kindle but haven’t tried it on the new one yet.

    best, john

  12. w.w.wygart says:

    Been done, decades ago.

    Back when I worked in the aerospace industry, I worked for a company who’s original core business was temperature sensors, primarily thermocouples and hi-temp wiring harnesses for on-wing and off-wing turbine engines. In the ’50’s/60’s [long before my time] they had this neat little product [a commercial failure] called the Seegenator [after Seebeck Effect] which generated enough DC to power a transistor radio from a candle. It was about the size and form-factor of a backpackers candle lantern, but had about 3,000 type K thermocouple junctions in a couple of strips attached to the sides of the tube and a small voltage regulator [transistors!]. The body of the Seegenator acted as the chimney [you could even store your candle inside it] and the candle was the heat source. It was the functional and plug in equivalent of a nine volt battery complete with snap style connectors.

    These days TEG’s are a more form friendly option than t/c’s, buy some of those, some heat-sinks, and with the right voltage regulator circuit you are in business. Welding the necessary thousands of strands of Chromel and Alumel together to produce the required voltage [and current] and insulating them properly takes some real manufacturing expertise, couple of cold-welds [as opposed to cold-junctions] and what ever efficiency you had goes to hell.


  13. E.M.Smith says:

    And interesting video of making a ‘3 burner 3 pot and an oven’ stove / kitchen. I don’t have anywhere suited to it (needs a self ventilating space, no chimney, and more room than I have) but if I lived on 1/4 acre and had a larger patio, it would be fun to build.

    The video starts with a ‘rocket oven’ on a cart that doubles as a kiln. Later, several bits used in the “Kitchen” oven / stove are stated to have been fired in the first oven / kiln. (Things like spreader plates and other small clay / ceramic parts.) I don’t know which has me more interested, the kitchen of the kiln… (It is way more efficient on wood given the small burner than other backyard kilns I’ve seen. Looks like double walled oven part is the trick…

    They also cook a meal of roast chicken, beans, french fries, and what looks like cheese quesedillas. Frankly, they are having an easier time of it than I do in my small kitchen where all the burners are crammed together…


    I’d rather move to Chile or Peru ;-)


    Nice bit of history. I saw references to the same kinds of generators being used in oil and gas field installs (where not much electricity exists, but lots of ‘free’ hydrocarbon to burn…) So one ought to be able to find larger units in the O&G Support industrial supply chain.

  14. sandy mcclintock says:

    I notice the ad says ‘smartphones’ not iPhone.
    I have found that my iPhone 3gs needs a 2 amp charger. 5 volts and 5 watts implies 1 amp which for me would not be enough. My little Android phone is less fussy about the USB power characteristics.
    I wonder what other people have found in practice.

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    @Sandy Mcclintock:

    Batteries usually charge any time the voltage is high enough. That the iPhone wants more amps likely just means the battery is larger and / or they want a faster charge time. (There is a threshold of current where there isn’t enough current to net increase charge due to internal self discharge rate and charge circuitry consumption, that that ought to be ‘way low’).

    So while I don’t have direct experience with it, i’d expect it to mostly be a very slow rate problem. Though it is possible that “cut off’ circuitry is in there to only try to charge if the current / voltage are high enough.

  16. Petrossa says:

    EM, when i was fleeing from the netherlands oppressive 1984 squared political climate is considered where to go profoundly.
    What is needed:
    Stable liberal political system
    No religious influences
    banking not run by the local mafia
    low risk of getting your throat slit
    good healthcare
    no scary diseases rampant
    convivial population.
    good weather/climate

    Which just about rules out everything except the usa and western europe.
    The usa i decided against, just not my thing.
    So i was stuck deciding a country limited by germany, austria, france.
    Germany and Austria have lousy climates so France it became.

  17. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.:I’d rather move to Chile or Peru…Like this place: One hour from Lima City, 600 inhabitants, at 2,900 meters altitude, wild partridges, etc. (In the 9 millions people Lima crazy city almost nobody knows how near is this secluded place:
    Google Earth Map:

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, none of the local stores had the Coleman Oven, so I ordered it online. Delivery in a week or so. $38 tax and shipping included.

    Also got the bricks. I’ve made the stove now and….. tum Ta DAH TUM!

    We’ve had “First Fire”!

    I made an enhanced 24 brick “rocket stove”. Posting to follow in a few days when I have camera time and lighting.

    I’m tentatively calling it the “G70 Stove” based on the shapes of the key layers. many of the ‘pile of brick’ stoves that are called “Rocket Stoves” don’t have good adherence to the actual design features of the real Rocket Stove. In particular, they often do not have the wood feed shelf raised above the air feed channel. Instead, they often just feed air and wood into the same hole on or near the bottom. Just an L shaped tube, really. Mine has a lower air feed channel and a wood feed channel one layer higher, then the chimney. I also have controls for draft on both of those feed holes, so you can set it for ‘charcoal’ burn by blocking of the top wood feed hole and damping down the lower air feed. Rather like the StoveTec with two doors and dampers.

    But not at $125 from Amazon… ( While I’d love to have one of these for ‘at the beach’ or ‘car camping’ where it is much more portable, in reality I’d likely use something even more portable then. For stationary use in the Third World (their design point) it’s great as it is self contained and can be moved outdoors for cooking, then brought inside when done. But I wanted to know “was there a cheaper way?”

    Mine is a bit overbuilt on materials. I could make one almost as workable for about 2/3 the bricks. Still, I like the deluxe features. And I can always use the bricks for something else later if I get bored with it. ;_

    So how much cost? I bought 24 bricks, but 25 is better ( I’m using an existing brick for one of the dampers). You can get these for about 24 cents as ‘cement’ bricks, but fired clay is likely to be more durable. They run at 52 cents here. So $12.48 was spent, but $13 if you get the added one. I also bought a 16 inch square ‘base’ paver of cement for $3.50 or so that wasn’t really needed. As I’m using a layer of brick for the ‘floor’ of the fire area. You could likely leave out either the ‘base’ or the 5 bricks used as a base that is mostly just a fire proof layer between the cement ‘base’ and the rest of the stove. So do I really need two ‘base’ layers?… At any rate, all up, I’m into it about $16 for my stove. With completely reusable materials.

    “First Fire” was on ‘found materials’ that consisted of standing dried stems from Jerusalem Artichokes that had died back for the winter and some hulls from lima beans ( I’d harvested the seeds and left the husks where the stove got built…) Lit on the first try, burned cleanly and nicely, and consumed things pretty much to ash. (At the very end the nubs of the last stems didn’t burn fully, but I didn’t have much coals by then and those were the damp ends from near the ground…) All in all, quite pleased. It would likely smell better with hardwood or fruit wood, and I’m going to try it as a Hibachi / BBQ of sorts “sometime” toward Spring.

    Well, before this turns into the full on posting that I’m planning to write when I have pictures…. I likely need to wrap it up…

    As an ‘ersatz stove’ it is fast and easy to make and very cheap to buy the materials. It works on any dried plant crap (as evidenced in the ‘First Fire’…) and does well. You have great heat control with either fuel feed rate or dampers (or both). It was modestly windy today and the wind was right into the fuel feed. No problem other than a bit of ash out the top on gusts. (A rebuild will likely point the fuel away from the primary wind direction and / or I’ll add a wind screen AKA cinder block ;-) up wind. ) “Start time” was about a minute and “turn off” is about the same, at least with the ‘trash sticks’. Using larger lumber like wood likely to take longer. I can see having some of each and choosing size based on expected burn time.

    I didn’t put a grate on the top yet, but one from the portable BBQ ought to be fine. I’m also pondering 3 or 4 small bricks / stones as a pot support. Well see what I end up with. Stability is quite high (as you might expect from a pile of 2 dozen bricks…) and mortar is not needed.

    So I’m a very happy camper, even if “camping” in the backyard.


    The great thing about the Pacific side of Chile and Peru is that you can choose your climate by going up / down the mountains. From tropical hot to ice. Just pick an altitude…

    Looks like a very nice little town. I wonder if anyone in Latin America would like an old white guy to show locals how to make highly efficient stoves out of piles of self made bricks….


    A reasonable choice, IMHO. I’d likely have gone for Portugal or Corsica… but I like the ocean… Brittany Coast / Spanish Galicia have their charms too…

    But all a bit far for me. I’m on the wrong side of N. America and an ocean ;-) Closer to Japan in some ways… Panama is closer than some parts of the USA for me.

    Ah, well. Other than the economy / politics California is hard to beat, so my ‘motivation’ is mixed, at best… So far it’s been easier to just cut costs / income than pack up and leave. We’ll see. Kid graduates in a couple of months (officially done, but ceremony to go), so “options” open soon…

    I could be happy wandering Latin America making mud and brick stoves and planting willow / cottonwood / eucalyptus coppice fields; demonstrating low land use low labor cooking to poor folks. Wonder if anyone needs that…

  19. Pingback: G70 Brick Stove First Fire | Musings from the Chiefio

  20. Petrossa says:

    In corsica foreigners tend to get killed/harassed a lot. Not a nice place to live even if you are corsican.They still have a kind irish IRA active there blowing up stuff and killing people.

    The only pleasant place to live in Portugal (climatewise) is also the ugliest part, the Algarve. Plus the language is hard to learn. That i forgot in my list: you must speak the native language fluently.

  21. j ferguson says:

    On France:
    Friends are returning to US after a 7 year attempt to retire there – become residents, which was thwarted by their inability to raise their French to the level contemplated by the local authorities. They bought a wonderful place east of Bordeaux in the midst of a vineyard operated (right word?) by a truly wonderful and generous patron (again, right word?). We visited and were astonished that really good wine could be contained in one meter cubetainers.

    The language wasn’t all, though. They were able to involve themselves in a local dispute arising out of the routing for electrification to an adjacent property which some of their neighbours (the politically connected ones) would have preferred not electrified. And they handled their end of it with such grace that they enraged everyone. It was one of those problems that has no good solution – and in this case there were none but awful choices. It sort of went with the territory (namely their specific property).

    SWMBO and I have spent lots of time pondering how to get away from the madness in the US. NZ? Bangkok? maybe Uruguay? In the end (so to speak) we’ll stick it out here and continue to rely on the incompetence of the authorities to keep the weight of their feet on our necks tolerable.

  22. Petrossa says:

    Yeah, you shouldn’t try and work or fit in in France. Being a misanthrope i fit in quite well because i ignore everyone. And for that France is ideal. Where i live xenophobic is an understatement to describe local population. But since all administration in France is done the French way you can get away with a lot. Which is an enormous advantage coming from the Netherlands where each fart is is measured,duly noted and registered for eternity linked to your socsec.

    The whole highway system has been lined with automatic number recognition cameras that will alert your vehicle from anything to an outstanding parking ticket, fiscal debt, insurance, roadtax, MOT, drugsoffender, you name it it is linked. An average speed will be calcdulated and the fine will be automatically withdrawn from your account if you don’t pay voluntarily.

    You need a permit to live in your own property, it can happen you buy a house and don’t get one after which the government thoughtfully allocates it to the social rent collection so you can rent out your house for less then the mortgage payments.

    Civil functionaries have to right to enter your house without your permission and in your absence if the cities computer singles an anomaly. (the previous owner(s) forgot to tell the cityhall they moved, so too many names on 1 address)

    A drunk driver got away with 120 hours community service after killing a pedestrian, and that’s not an exception.

    An elderly person got a fine for picking up litter and throwing it in the city trashcan, because it was an empty sandwichspread container (no houshold waste allowed)

    Another person got fined for driving whilst using a cellphone when the police told him to backup 10 yards from a standstill position and he still had his cellphone. When he (quite reasonably got annoyed) he ended up in a holding cell.

    Your trashcontainer which is chipped gets weighed the garbagetruck. The bill for being over quotum gets sent automatically.

    You can sell softdrugs freely as a vendor but you are not allowed to buy them wholesale as a vendor. Go figure that logic.

    You can legally download music but can not upload it legally. Go figure that logic.

    The freedom of expression is limited by how big your wallet is to defend yourself in court since the law for ‘hatespeech’ is very very vague.

    In fact everything in the Netherlands is forbidden if it’s not strictly allowed.
    Coming from that background France is paradise in a paradise where none of the above exists. Hell, it took me 5 trips to the french IRS to get my address right and it still isn’t. It seems i live in concubinage with my stepson rather then my wife.

  23. j ferguson says:

    I take it all this bad stuff is Netherlands?

    2 years ago we visited France and drove Autoroutes. We approximated the speed limit but were frequently passed at very enthusiastic speeds by the usual Audis and Benzs, registration plates almost always from you know where.

    The radar cameras seemed to always be announced with signs and of course everyone would slow down, then the usual suspects would speed up again to 200 k/hr or ???

    So I asked about it. The answer was that the authorities didn’t really care if you drove really fast if you were paying attention as revealed by seeing the radar camera signs and slowing down. If you didn’t slow down, that meant you weren’t paying attention and deserved the fine you would so earn.

    I am not sure I believe this story – it makes too much sense. If it is true, I think I would like to live there.

    We still think about Bangkok. Spouse lived there in the ’70s. There we would be irrelevant, and no-one would ever mistake us for locals.

  24. Petrossa says:

    Yeah the Netherlands, and that is not the half of it. Every policecar scans licenseplates automatically on a permanent basis and via their onboard computer can access all your information up to your medical. All national databases are linked to your socsec number. Example, the IRS wanted to oust the at home hairdressers, you know those who earn a bit on the side in the evenings. So they simply crossreferenced the waterbills to the fiscal records and paid a visit to all with more than average waterconsumption which fit the profile of a hairdresser. They caught about all of them and hit them with an estimated gains tax.

    Ironically the speedcameras in France are setup and personnel trained by the Dutch police, there are quite a lot of handhelds and roadsides. They really discovered the extra income. In the Netherlands the revenue of traffic fines has been calculated into the coming budget every year. When people start make less violations, they up the price where now it’s about 400$ for a miles over speedlimit. Also putting up very confusing speedlimit signs are very hot nowadays. Imagine an 8 track highway with a speed limit of 130 km/h with only one small part at 100 km/h without apparent reason. It’s just the same uninterrupted road. They made a fortune out of that. 30 km/h over the limit is a vast amount and almost everyone got caught.

    In France they are more blatant, they just put up a changed speedlimit sign with 100 meters behind it a lower speedlimit sign with a radar. 100% success rate. They also start to calculate the fines into the budget. They’ve been raised too to meet targets.

    But at least they still haven’t got a clue about computers so …….

  25. j ferguson says:

    thank you for taking the time to share all of this. 1984^2 indeed. I would hate that. but, I have to assume that most Nederlanders want it that way. Can that really be true?

    I loved the idea of catching the independent hairdressers by reading the water-meters. My guess is that most people in Netherlands pay their taxes and do not cheat anyone. But that’s not the case everywhere.

    We lived in Miami for 14 years. There, it was if you thought the thing was honest, it meant you didn’t understand what was going on. While there, SWMBO worked for a number of organizations, at some level all of which were cheating someone; sometimes the owners, sometimes the IRS, sometimes everyone. She finally blew the whistle on the last one. 26 people were indicted. Everything in the place that could be crooked was. Some of the schemes were really clever. If you’d like to know how to steal jet fuel without getting caught for years, I can explain one method.

    While I was being entertained nightly by tales of what happened that day at the “office”, fool that I was, I thought the civil engineering office i worked at was straight.

    How wrong I was. There, the comptroller was skimming the proceeds. But I didn’t find this out until years after i’d left for more interesting work overseas. I had never been able to understand why it had been so difficult for my projects to make money. It was all billable hours and budgeted, too.

    At an earlier employer, I had computerized my department with an Osborne in 1982. I had hours expended every Saturday morning. The other guys didn’t get theirs until 30 days after the fact – best IT could do at that point. So I had a grasp of things in close to real time and was able to manage closely – and be profitable.

    But not in Miami. I got the figures weekly at that place and so felt no need to run my own books. Little did i realize that what I was charged was more than what was on the timesheets – so arranged that only an audit comparing actual timesheets to the weekly print-outs would catch the difference. This made my jobs seem less profitable and the delta went straight into the Comptroller’s pocket. I don’t know how he was caught, but it happened after i left and went on to greener (for me) pastures.

    The point of the above is that a society in which everything is crooked tends to be forgiving.

    I have to give the Dutch Police credit for the 130 km/h to 100 km/h sudden speed limit dip/trap. it becomes almost a game.

    The 1984^2 constant monitoring of your every move is much more worrisome.

    I wonder when the explosion will come, and what form it might take, if the government should become so skilled at suppressing “originality” that people finally rebel. I don’t think the folks in the US who are arming themselves with all manner of fire-arms will be the ones to do it. Likely the form of rebellion will be one we’ve never seen before – after all, you cannot buy pitchforks at most hardware stores any longer, and few people can even spell tumbril.

    I do think that immigrants, particularly Hispanic immigrants, will be the salvation of liberty in the US for reasons you can infer from what I’ve written above. Maybe, as you seem to have found, the French are like that too.

    One other thing. For anyone not interested in stealing jet fuel, I can explain a crackerjack scheme for skimming a trade-school operation – truly undetectable.

  26. adolfogiurfa says:

    @j ferguson : I wonder when the explosion will come…

  27. Petrossa says:

    Slow cooking frog syndrome Ferguson. There will be no explosion, the younger generations don’t know any better. The emigration of dutchies old enough to remember increases daily however. In my neck of the woods there are about 250.000 emigrates now. The still working rest heads for Australia, Canada those kind of places.

  28. j ferguson says:


    When we drove NZ in October we learned that they were losing 5,000/month to Australia. The story was high pay at the mines – ah, er, …. resource operations. $150k to $200k. The NZ loss was made up by asian and uk pensioners to bring it down to annual loss bit less than 5,000.

    If there are 250k Dutch in France, aren’t the French a bit nervous, or do they just worry about the non-europeans?

    I always ask ex-pats if many of the other local ex-pats have an interest in re-creating on new soil the same aggravations that caused you to leave the other place. The English seem to be the most adept at this – recreating their stifling social structure in the most remote parts of the world, but maybe they are outgrowing it by now.

    I can well remember the 1956 Hungarian Emigres in Chicago in 1968 loudly deriding our disorderliness and lack of control – things were pretty messy here that year. What they apparently missed was the peacefulness in Hungary under the Russians.

  29. E.M.Smith says:

    Just putting a ‘note to self’ about camp stoves and fuel…

    I have a Sterno ‘folding stove’ that is really just a pot holder / wind screen into which you set a can of Sterno. (Which is ethanol that has been gelatinzed with calcium acetate)

    One of the “improvised features” of it is that you can put liquid alcohol into an empty can and use THAT as a stove. Yes, more dangerous as it is possible to spill and it can make a mess. But it does work ‘in an emergency’. Which got me wondering “how well and how cheap?”.

    So off to Home Depot. A gallon (about 6.6 pounds) of methanol cost a bit over $15. Now that works out to about 15 ‘servings’ of 7 ounces each (the mass of the Sterno in the large cans). So about $1 / Sterno-can of fuel. Might that be cheaper?

    Well, I’ve bought Sterno for about that much at the local Cheap Store ( Smart & Final or similar… don’t actually pay attention to the name… suppose I ought to.. They have some ‘restaurant supplies’ including ‘flats’ of Sterno and Sterno-knock-off.) But I did a quick “on line” check. At this point, these folks:

    Have Sterno in 72 count cases for $67 and the knock-off for $34.59 in lots of 3 cases.

    Now I don’t know as I’ll ever need 216 cans of Sterno-like-fuel, but that’s mighty cheap. Under 50 cents / can. That’s less than 1/2 the price of methanol by the gallon. (And the ethanol has more BTU / lb…)

    So either I need a cheaper source for methanol, or it is actually cheaper to buy the proper fuel in the first place for that Sterno Stove… (Just not in units of 1 can at the sporting goods store…)

    FWIW, the “stove” does an OK job of (slowly..) boiling water and will even fry eggs / make pancakes (as long as out of the wind and you are patient and don’t mind light brown / straw colored pancakes…) It is something like 1600 BTU / hour, so rather like a regular stove on ‘simmer’… which is what Sterno is intended to do anyway… keep food warm in serving flats.

    (My 1.2 kW ‘regular’ electric burner is about 4094 BTU/hr, for comparison, while the ‘big burner’ is about 2.2 kW and 7500 BTU/hr. Large gas stove burners can run 10,000 to 12,000 BTU/hr. Yes, British Thermal Units. A very useful unit. One pound, or about a pint of water one degree F. So take water 180 F degrees ( or from just about freezing to boiling) with a 9000 BTU/hr burner takes 2/100 hour for a pint. So 1.2 minutes. As it takes about a pint of boiling water to make a camp meal and hot beverage, that’s ‘nice to know’… the Sterno will be about 1/6 that fast, or about 7+ minutes. Lose 600 BTU/hr to wind and don’t use a lid, it can take forever… )

    At any rate, the “other” ersatz use of the Sterno Stove is to turn the empty sterno can upside down (leave the lid off! don’t want a hot air launched cap / can!) and put a “tri-ox” tab (or “Esbet Fuel” tablet) on the ‘bottom’ of the can (that is now the top). Presto: Instant solid fuel stove. Yes, you could put the tab inside the can, but that’s a long ways from the pot. That works better with wood sticks that poke up more..

    So that simple folding ‘stove’ lets you use gel, liquids, solid tabs, and sticks. Though I’d only use the “ersatz fuel systems” outdoors as they are variously noxious, risky, messy, or just a bad idea inside. ( The hexamine / tri-ox / Esbit tabs in particular soot up your pots and have fumes that are horrid, IMHO. Emergency use only as far as I’m concerned, and only outdoors with pots about which you care not…)

    Sterno Stove picture here (along with a questionable use of a coat hanger to make toast over one…)

    There are convenient for a ‘dirt cheap’ emergency prep stove that can be packed in a bag somewhere and you don’t care if you forget about it for a couple of years. (In a hot car trunk in the summer in the desert, the fuel will slowly evaporate from even a sealed can, which was part of what got me first interested in ‘other fuels’ in the empty can ;-)

    “Someday” I’m going to do a ‘lots of small emergency stoves’ review, but for now, just putting up this ‘bookmark’…

  30. Jason Calley says:

    Speaking of small emergency stoves… I have wondered whether a workable stove can be made from a hand pumped bug sprayer, the kind of sprayer used, for instance, in one’s garden. Fill the sprayer with alcohol, run a hose from it to a small spiral of copper tubing with tiny holes drilled for jets. Make the last few inches of copper tubing before the spiral cross over the jets for heating. Put a small pre-heat cup under the spiral for starting. Maybe a flash suppressor somewhere along the fuel line, basically just some bronze wool in the tube. The actual sprayer can be positioned a good distance from the flames by use of a longer hose.

  31. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jason Calley:

    Yes, but if using alcohol, it’s even easier… You don’t kneed the pressurization. But yes. Something like this, but with pumped fuel instead of internal wick:

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