Wednesday, November 25, 2015

DIY Space Heater Comparison - 2, Clay Pots

This is the second DIY space heater I am going to try. It is something I saw on Youtube a while back. The claim is that you can heat a small room in your home with this little homemade device. You put a clay pot inside of a slightly larger clay pot and raise them up over a candle, thus magnifying the candle's heat. Okay. Low expense and worth a shot. Here is how I did it.

I performed my experiment on ceramic tile in my bathroom to reduce risk of an uncontrolled, accidental fire.

First, I brought 3 bricks in from my back yard and set them up in a U-shape around a tea light.

I plugged up the hole in the bottom of the small pot and placed it over the tea light, being sure to leave space around the front and back of the pot for heat to escape upwards into the larger pot.

Then I placed the larger pot, with hole not plugged, over the small pot. I made sure all sides but one were covered to restrict air flow.

I lit the candle and waited. It took a little bit for the pots to warm up and I was not happy with the airflow of the heat being generated by the pot. But I could tell there was heat, which was good.

So I covered the top of the exposed bricks with aluminum foil. This restricted the amount of air available to the candle, forcing the candle to create a draw of air. In other words, the pot started to blow air harder out of its hole. This pleased me but there was not much heat being generated, certainly not enough to heat a small room (or bathroom).

I removed the small pot and replaced it with a can, both ends cut off. This also produced heat because of the reflective heat of the inside of the can. But it did not produce more heat that with the little pot.

So I replaced the both-ends-off can with a one-end-on can. The result was LESS hot air being blown out the top of the larger clay pot. (Interesting.) However, when I went to replace that inside can with my original small clay pot, I nearly burned my fingers. It was VERY hot!

I thought about this and decided that the reason the heat produced by my last modification was so little is because of the shape of the can. If the sides were sloped like with the small pot, the hot air could get out of the can. But can sides are straight up and down.

So I went into my kitchen and pulled out the marvelous device that allows me to punch holes into cans of condensed milk. (It is part of my can opener.) I punched a hole into the side of the 1-end-on can, then put the contraption back together.

The result was a marginal increase in air flow of the hotter air. Would it be enough to heat my bathroom if my central heat was not working? No. Enough to warm up my bathroom before a shower? No. Enough to warm the insides of a small igloo? That has yet to be tested. But I hear we are supposed to get quite a bit of snow by me this winter, so maybe I will test it out later on... Or maybe I will just stay in my nice, warm house with the now-working furnace and skip the igloo test.

Monday, November 23, 2015


I thought I was over this incident, but last night made me realize otherwise.

Almost 8 years ago, when I still lived in the Austin, TX suburbs, someone I knew and trusted broke into my home. It was around midnight and I had been asleep for over an hour. My daughter was up, having just finished an important homework assignment, and was turning off her computer so she could also go to bed when BANG! A fist punched open the dog door leading to our back yard.

I shot awake at the bang and my daughter's scream. As I said, we knew the intruder. So my two dogs were no protection. Their reaction to the surprise midnight intrusion (and theft) was to wag their tails and pant. Well, I am glad at least they were not traumatized. Neither was the intruder, from what I understand. But my daughter and I had trouble sleeping for months to follow. Even years later, we both got spooked at small, night-time noises outside of my parents' empty house.

It has been a long time now since the incident and my daughter seems fine living alone in an apartment on campus. I live with a small dog in an otherwise empty house and feel okay most of the time. But last night, the phone rang at 10 pm, which is very unusual. I paused my Netflix and put down my needlework, picked up the phone and looked at the caller ID. It read "Not Available." I let the phone ring but my answering machine did not pick up.

Ring... Ring... Ring... I counted to 8 before the caller hung up, thinking all the while, "Who has this number? Who would be calling this late at night? Who do I know that is unlisted?" The answer I came up with was nobody. A ripple of irrational fear washed over me but I decided it must be a wrong number. I let the phone ring until it stopped, all the while feeling emotionally assaulted by the prolonged ringing. Still, I knew these feelings were quite irrational and I pushed them down inside me until the ringing stopped.

Then I exhaled breath I had not realized I was holding and I put the phone back on its charger. It occurred to me that my answering machine must be turned off and I should turn it on the next time I walked into my office.

Ring... Ring... The phone started ringing again. I looked at the caller ID. Again, it read "Not Available."

A knot of apprehension formed in my chest. Consciously I rationalized, "This is likely some drunk calling the wrong number for a ride home from the bar." (It did not occur to me that my local bars close early on Sunday nights.) Using my intellect to push down my fear again, I walked into my office and turned on the answering machine. It answered the phone for me, "Hello, this is Beth..."

I listened to hear the caller leave a message. All I heard was a dial tone. I thought, "Good. Now they know they were calling the wrong number." I walked back to my living room to finish watching the end of my show and continue my needlework. Just as I was sitting down...

Ring... Ring... Ring... I got up and walked over to the phone. Looking at the caller ID, I saw that it again read, "Not Available."

I tried to hold it down, really I did, but there was no rationalizing it this time. Fear came bubbling up inside of me, creating a well. I stood, staring at the phone, motionless, trapped by the irrational emotion and having nowhere to go to escape because my refuge, my home, was not safe from this intruder and it was too late at night for me to call out to a friendly voice for solace.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

DIY Space Heater Comparison - 1

When my heater went out the SECOND time, the other week (I did not write about it but was without heat for the entire weekend as temperatures continued to drop in northern Wisconsin -- brrr), I pulled out my DIY hat and built three different space heaters in my bathroom.

The first is a simple one that residents of cold climates hear about for their cars.

This is today's experiment. It is just a candle in a can. The rumor is that this simple device will keep a motorist from freezing to death if s/he gets stuck in a car in the freezing (or subfreezing) cold.

DISCLAIMER I checked this out in my bathroom and not in a vehicle. My bathroom is significantly larger than the interior of a small car but it has fewer windows. That said...

The concept is simple. Light / heat from the candle is magnified by reflection off the interior sides of the can. In truth, the light was brighter than would have been produced by the candle alone. There was also a nice warmth near the top of the can. However, that is where the warmth stopped -- the top of the can.

Could this little device save the life of a single person trapped in a cold vehicle? Maybe just barely if the person held the warm can next to their chest. But I think keeping an emergency blanket or two in the vehicle would likely yield better life-saving results. As for myself, I have both a blanket and a can/candle/lighter combination in my vehicle for a possible emergency situation. I figure it is better to be safe than sorry.

Is this a good DIY space heater solution for a bathroom? No. It did produce a nice glow, however, and might be a good emergency lighting solution.

The second is one I heard about a few years back that involves two clay pots and a tea light candle.

The third is a miniaturized modification of a rocket mass heater.

I am still working on making this function better and hope to post updates later this season. For now, I will post my current findings.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Crap! An Intruder

Yesterday morning, I awoke around the usual time for me during daylight savings time: just a little before 6 am. I let my eyes stay closed as consciousness slipped over me in the early morning darkness of my bedroom.

There was a noise from downstairs. Just rousing from sleep, I was not alarmed. Then I heard another noise. Upstairs in my bedroom, I thought it sounded like it was coming from the kitchen. I moved my hand out of the covers to feel the warm lump on my right side, just to be sure my dog was still beside me and downstairs by his dish of water. Sure enough, my fingers felt the texture of fur. I wondered why he was not reacting to the noise downstairs. He barks at everything.

I heard another noise. It was just a small noise. A knot began to form in the pit of my stomach as I realized that an intruder must be in my house. It occurred to me that the intruder was awfully brazen to carelessly knock into things and make noise in my home in the wee hours of the morning. The intruder not caring whether or not he was discovered, I knew I was in mortal peril.

My first thought was of my pellet rifle. "Crap!" I thought, "It is downstairs in the living room. What a stupid place to keep a rifle. It does me no good there in the middle of the night."

Then I thought of my cell phone. (I don't have a house phone upstairs.) It occurred to me that I could call someone to be on the line with me while I checked downstairs for the noise. But I remembered I had forgotten to bring it upstairs with me when I went to bed the night before. I thought, "Crap! I left it in my purse last night -- downstairs."

I thought, "Well, I could just wait here and pretend to sleep until he goes away."

Then it occurred to me, "Crap! I have to pee."

The normal morning pressure of my bladder began to feel more and more uncomfortable. I needed to get up and go downstairs. (That is where the bathroom is.) I looked again at the dog cuddled beside me, still undisturbed by the downstairs noises in my house. He was warm and breathing so he clearly must be in a deep sleep. That I could fix.

A knot in my throat, I hoped the intruder would hear the noise of me getting the dog up and leave before we got downstairs. I roused the dog, making sure to be loud enough for the intruder to hear. Uncurling the ball of himself, the dog stood with a lazy yawn. He stretched his front legs like a cat might do, then sat for me to apply the wireless collar to his neck.

I listened as I put the dog's collar on him. There was no noise of hasty departure from downstairs. All was quiet. I wondered if the intruder was waiting to do us ill. The dog, completely unconcerned, made his way downstairs to wait for me to come open the door. I watched until he was at the point on the staircase where his sensitive nose would be able to catch a whif of the intruder's scent.

Nothing. No perked ears. No growl. No bark. He just plodded to the door. Breathing easier, I followed and let him outside. Then, cautiously, I looked around the house as I made my way to the bathroom. No intruder was in sight.

Walking back to the door to let my dog inside again, I heard a noise. It was coming from my French door. I looked to see what it was. The plastic sheeting I put up to keep the wind out for the winter had come undone. The wind was causing it to flap against the glass of the door and make noises in my kitchen.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

New 5 Star Review

The critical review for my most recent writing arrived in my email inbox this morning.

Reviewed by for Readers' Favorite

Five Stars! [Not unusual for my writing, and this little eBook is likely my best so far. I can count on one hand the number that have sold.]

Memory of Miracles: A Memoir, A Testimony is written by Beth Durkee. This 33-page book is a riveting testimony and the true story of the life of a girl born to parents with a college education. The story is about a quiet, shy young girl who loves to read with her greatest strength in math and science. She becomes a single parent before she becomes of legal age and has to live with her parents. She has two near death strokes before she is eighteen years old. She withstands incredible pain in the midst of her mother’s doubts. She embraces motherhood like any other teenage mother. She accepts her high school diploma from a wheelchair after being hospitalized and recovering from her last stroke. She doesn’t allow life to prevent her from going on to graduate from college in spite of the residual effects from her strokes. She sees life as possibilities rather than pity.

Memory of Miracles by Beth Durkee is a must-read true story. The author discovers influences in her life from age three throughout college that she believes are coming directly from God. She has undeniable faith in the power of prayer. To have survived three brain traumas before she was eighteen is a miracle in and of itself. A captivating statement was “to be able to see a miracle, one must first believe.” The author tells her story of miracles, her journey through joy, sadness, pain, happiness, and implausible belief, and faith in why situations occur when they do and for what reason. This story should inspire others to have faith.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Free Preview of Engaging Enchantment

Book One in The Legend of Lord Randall Castle eSeries
by Beth Durkee


“I’m sorry, friend,” Melador spoke quickly, putting the dish towel in his hand onto the counter and walking toward the entrance. “We’re closed for the night. Can I get you something to take home?”

“Uncle…” a familiar voice issued from shadows under the cloak’s dark hood. Melador instantly recognized his sister’s grandson, the half-druid he had helped raise from boyhood. His face rippled into wrinkles as he smiled in greeting.

“Barwick! Well, bolt the door behind you, then,” the old druid spoke, walking toward the young man. Ever since his grand-nephew had joined the King’s service, visits had been scarce. Melador missed him sorely.

“Let me take your cloak,” he offered, removing the long garment and placing it onto a nearby hook before Barwick could refuse. Under the cloak, a plain shirt with long sleeves hid the young sailor’s rippled muscles. In his hand, he carried a small package wrapped in canvas.

“Come. Sit,” Melador continued. Giving his grand-nephew no chance to say no, he took Barwick’s elbow and led him toward the small dining area. He wanted to hear all the news. “What brings you out so far from the castle tonight? I hear there was some excitement… What is in your hand?”

Barwick, now seated on a stool, could not keep the corners of his mouth down no matter how hard he tried to maintain his discipline. He had missed Uncle’s quirky energy. Tilting his chin downward and away, he tried to mask a smile by looking at the package in his hand.

He regained his composure quickly and replied with a question, “Can we speak in private?”

Melador glanced around at dark emptiness. Scratching his chin, he answered, “Sure... Go ahead. What’s on your mind?”

“Uncle,” Barwick nodded in the direction of the server putting away glasses.

The old man’s eyebrows lifted as he realized that Barwick wanted complete confidentiality, “Oh.”

Addressing the server, he dismissed, “Don’t worry about the dishes tonight. I’ll take care of them. You can go home now. I am just going to visit with my nephew for a while. Have a good night.”

“Thank you, sir. You, too.” The server folded his apron and put it away, unbolted the door and walked out.

Melador re-bolted it behind him and turned back to Barwick, “Do you want my faerie friend to leave, also?”

“No, please have him stay.” Placing his package on the countertop, Barwick unfolded the canvas to reveal a faerie king’s ransom in honeycomb. “I have a request that may interest him.”

Two sets of tiny fingers appeared on the edge of the countertop, then a head, followed by a shoulder and an elbow, then another shoulder and elbow and, finally, the complete body of Bud Starembers.

“Hmm…” nodded the druid. Barwick obviously wanted faerie help. But what could he possibly want that he felt the need for a bribe? Melador’s helpers were generally pleased to assist anyone of good heart.

“As you know,” the young man continued, “the princess attempted to elope today.”

Melador nodded. Of course he knew that. He was the one who had alerted the queen to it. He waited in silence to get to the part about the honey.

“What you may not know is that we received urgent news from the mainland today. King Edward died in Mercia and his son from his first wife, Aelfweard, is disputing Prince Aethelstan’s claim to the throne. The Lords of Wessex are gathering, sending representatives to Winchester for a council while Aethelstan moves his father’s remains from Farndon-on-dee to Winchester cathedral. The council is to make a unified decision as to which heir’s claim Wessex will support.

“We are not part of Wessex so this should be no concern to us. But it is. Our princess is betrothed to Duke Concobhar of Wessex and due to marry within the month. He wants his lady to attend the post-council festivities with him. It is right that he should ask her to accompany him and King Charles would be remiss to refuse the request. But in light of what happened this very evening, he would be foolish to send her without a trained escort to keep track of her. He has chosen me for that duty.

“I, after all, am the one who brought the princess’ lover to Saint Mary. I am also the only one who could find her with him tonight. Nobody else was able. But, Uncle, if she runs and I don’t have a faerie nearby… I am a fair tracker but I was only able to locate her because I had faerie help. I would never have been able to catch her without magic.

“Considering the princess’ propensity to escape and evade non-magical capture, I think it would be a good preventative measure to have a faerie with me in the event I might need help. Our ship leaves at first light and I know it is short notice, but will you relay my request amongst your faerie friends to see if anyone is interested in the job? This honeycomb is intended to be a half-payment to the faerie who accepts.”

Melador’s brow had begun to furrow gradually deeper as his grand-nephew spoke. By now, his eyebrows carved a deep gorge in his temple. He had guessed what was coming all along, but needed to hear the words to believe them. Having been raised around tiny people, Barwick did not fully grasp the hostility non-magical humans had festered through the years towards all creatures of magic. Even the faeries, mostly pacifists, were being persecuted – if they could be caught. The situation was so desperate that the Queen of Faerie, herself, had decreed the mainland of Albion a hazard zone. Faeries were forbidden to travel there. Melador, as a druid, did have the authority to supersede her command if the need should arise. But there was no genuine need.

Without a word, he turned toward the back counter and scooped measures of honey into two tiny pails. Despite the years he had observed the request of Barwick’s human mother, he knew he must now violate her wishes. Pulling a stem of ragwort from a nearby vase, he handed it to the little man on the countertop. It was time to tell Barwick enough truth to make his own choice.

“Forget what you just heard, Bud,” the druid commanded his tiny helper. “My answer is no. Go upstairs and bring down my sister’s amulet. It is in my top drawer on the right side. Here are both measures of honey that you earned today. When you have brought me the amulet, you can take them and go for the night.”

Bud appeared visibly relieved by his master’s edict. Without delay, he took the ragwort and flew up a corner flight of stairs. After a few moments, he returned carrying a silver amulet over his shoulder. Depositing it in Melador’s open hand, he picked up his honey and flew out of a nearby window, a huge smile plastered on his tiny face.
Copyright 2014 © Elizabeth W. Durkee
All Rights Reserved.
Keep Reading! Download your copy today from Smashwords , Amazon , iBooks, Kobo and others.

Give Up or Take Action?

Today is the day I joined NetGalley as a Reader/Reviewer. Yes, you read right. I did not join as an author. Why?

Because I am as good as I am at crafting stories and because I know what kinds of criticism has been helpful or damaging to my writing, I happen to know how to give critiques. So I started a book blog a few weeks ago, downloaded some free eBooks, read them and wrote some reviews. My grand total so far is 3 and I am more than a little displeased with the quality of books available for free reading. I need a better source. I chose NetGalley.

What does that have to do with the title of this post, you ask? Nothing and everything. I am going to do book blogging because I like reading books and I am okay at reviewing them. Plus, building a book blog readership may lead to book sales of my own titles, which I would very much like. But the fact is that I have found it is very easy to locate free indie books that, pardon my language, are crap. I have also found that getting people to read the eBooks I write is very, very difficult -- likely because there is so much garbage out there, but also because my friends and family are just that: friends and family. They are not reviewers. In fact, most of my friends and family will not even read what I write much less leave reviews of my work. (This feels pretty awful, by the way.)

So how am I supposed to even begin building my audience? I'm not. I think that is the point. If I had started indie writing when I was in college and had professors to give feedback and/or their recommendations to inspire readership, I could easily have been successful. Or if I had a spouse to support my efforts by helping me pay for professional services, I could do it. But doing everything all by myself with no external help to gain readership, all while living well below the poverty line, is just really a lot.

As a result, I have been thinking about quitting writing for several weeks. This would leave The Legend of Lord Randall Castle eSeries unfinished for the... 1... 2... 3, yes, 3 readers I do have (my beta reader, my marketing person and my mom). That would be unfortunate, but is it unfortunate enough to inspire me to devote months of my time to writing and editing, at the exclusion of all else?

When I went to update my LinkedIn profile with my new book blogging "position" this morning, I saw that I have been trying (and failing) to make a career of authoring books for almost 7 years. Seven years is a long time. It is long enough to declare a missing person as dead. The question I am asking myself today is should I altogether give up writing books for my audience of three? Or is there some way I can take action to build some readership to keep me writing (books)?

I am making a last-ditch effort to gain some readers before I decide whether to quit. For the remainder of today, Engaging Enchantment (book 1 in The Legend of Lord Randall Castle) will be free from Smashwords. If I can get three reviews from today's downloads, I will consider writing a little longer. If not, I think I am done writing books.


Download your copy at