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Jeff Kaufman
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I've been playing around with my jammer a lot lately, and I wanted to write up two ideas I tried: one that worked and one that didn't.

Idea 1: when you play a notey tune, it's common that you're constantly playing notes. The extreme of this is a bagpipe, where there's typically no way to have a rest and all you can do is choose what note will come out, but it's also common to play flute or whistle this way, pausing only for short breaths. So what if I made a mode on the jammer where I hold each note until the next note begins? This turns out to work really well: you can play a lot faster and with a lot less tension if all that matters is when your fingers go down and not when they come up again.

By automating the end of each note you're freed up to move your hands to the next note sooner, but the tradoff is you lose the option to play polyphonically or leave short gaps between notes. I've also found a similar tradeoff on whether to set the jammer to pay attention to how hard I press the keys (velocity). When playing brass synths I've had them configured so how hard I press the key determines how the note begins while how hard I'm blowing determines overall intensity and lets me modify the note as I sustain it. While this is good for slow expressive playing, if I try to play a notey melody I find that having to pay attention to how hard I'm hitting each key slows me down a lot. While the last time I was thinking about this I was mostly thinking about automation that lets you play multiple notes at once, automation that lets you play faster is also an option.

Idea 2: when making multitrack recordings where I play all the parts it's easy for me to layer multiple instruments. It would be nice to be able to to do this live to some extent: I don't need to be able to do everything, but at least being able to play two notes on different instruments. Two horns playing together can be a really good effect, and often the lines are simple enough that one person could do both. I've had two different ideas on how to handle this in software. ...
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To bring ice cream with you: repack into a portable container well in advance so that can freeze well. Bring cones, sprinkles, spoon, paper towels.
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I've been thinking about power in situations when the grid is down. Some things we'd be sad to miss:

* Heat: we have forced hot water heating, which needs electricity both for the boiler (electronics and fan) and for the circulator pumps (three pumps).

* Fans: it pretty much never gets hot enough in Boston to cause harm as long as you can have a fan pointed directly at you, but without that it can be unpleasant to dangerous. Being able to run our whole house fan overnight would be pretty helpful.

* Sump pump: our pump is only needed once a year, in early spring when there's a lot of rain but the ground is still frozen (n=3), but without it we can have several inches of water in the basement.

* Lighting, fridge, chest freezer, microwave, etc: not going to hurt us by their absence, but good to have.

What are good sources of power when the grid is down?

* Solar: we're getting solar with an "SPS" socket providing best-effort power, up to 2kW, when the grid is down. This is only when the sun is shining on our panels (noon-6pm at best) and we'd like to have at least some power all day.

* Generator: provides lots of power, requires storing fuel, noisy, not that expensive. Gas isn't ideal because it goes bad, but propane lasts more or less indefinitely and there are good propane options.

* Portable power station: a bunch of lithium batteries with a charger and an inverter.

* UPS: small lead-acid battery with a charger and an inverter. Designed for high current over a few minutes, and for switching over from grid power to battery without a blip, neither of which are what I want.

* Battery + charger + inverter: a deep cycle lead-acid battery, probably AGM, a smart charger that can feed the battery lots of power when empty and then slow down to a trickle as it fills up, and an inverter to convert back to AC to power things. Basically, a do-it-yourself UPS.

What are the costs involved? Some estimates: [... more]
Backup Power
Backup Power
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Lots of houses around here have solar panels on their roofs, due to a combination of subsidies, falling solar costs, and high electric prices. You might think this would be really good to have if something went wrong and we had an extended power outage, but standard residential solar doesn't give you any power when the grid is down.

I'm looking at putting solar on our house, and I'm trying to figure out if it makes sense to go with something that would be more useful in an extended blackout. There seem to be more or less three options:

* Default: no off-grid capability.

* Secure power supply (SPS): an outlet in the basement that gives you power when the grid is down and the sun is shining.

* Batteries: storage and the ability to switch the whole house over to run off them.

Talking to solar people and looking online, it doesn't sound like it's possible to have an intermediate option where the whole house has power, but only when the sun is shining. I don't really understand why this can't be done with an interlock, but that's what they say.

An SPS is only a bit more expensive, while a system with batteries looks like it would be about $10k. We could also do something in between, like charging a UPS or other batteries from an SPS and using it to power things when the sun was down. In general it seems like a potentially useful tool for combining with other things. Have others thought much about it?

A big question here is how likely we would be to need something like this. Guessing, maybe over the 25 year life of the system there's a ~5% chance we have a blackout lasting more than a week and a ~2% chance that we have one lasting more than a month? I think at these odds it's worth it to get the SPS, some long extension cords, and maybe a UPS, but not worth it to get a full off-grid-capable-with-batteries system?
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In dry climates it's common for people to use evaporative ("swamp") coolers; same idea as sweat evaporating off your skin cooling you off. The downside is that they increase humidity in the air, and if it's already pretty humid then that can make things uncomfortable. This means evaporative coolers are rarely used in more humid regions.

Whole-house fans use a completely different principle: instead of cooling air they just trade it. If it's 85F at the day's high and 65F at the low, running a lot of cool night-time air through the house can cool the structure down enough that it stays cool all day. The main limitation is you can't even in theory cool the structure below the day's low, and in practice you're going to be several degrees above that.

But what if we combined these? Running an evaporative cooler during the part of the day when the house is closed up wouldn't work well, but if you run one at night all the extra humidity just gets blown out through the whole-house fan. This seems like it should let you cool your structure to below the night-time low.

I'm not sure exactly what the mechanism for this would look like: where should the damp evaporative surface be?

One option would be cooling the air, with something like a hanging towel. I think this would work, but would need a lot of water for the amount it cooled the structure: you're cooling the air, and most of the air is being immediately blown out again.

Another option would be to use the wall, ceiling, or floor as an evaporative surface. The advantage here is that you should have better heat transfer, where you draw more heat out of the structure than doing it indirectly via the air. Maybe make the walls out of something that doesn't mind getting damp (ordinary paint?), and gently mist them all night long at whatever rate balances evaporation? You'd want to stop a while before turning off the whole house fan, to reduce humidity levels down to something pleasant. You probably also wouldn't want to do this in sleeping spaces.
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A few weeks ago I wrote about why I think it's valuable for parents to be predictable. I was mostly describing an end state, though, and reasons why it's a good place to be, but what should you do if you're interested in being more consistent?

I think it breaks down into three pretty different skills. The first is only saying things you're comfortable fully standing behind. Many people especially when irritable, sleep deprived, or surprised, can quickly spit out a consequence that is harsher than is fair. Things like, "if you don't stop this minute it's no desserts for a week!" Then when the threat fails the consequence feels too extreme, and they don't follow through. If someone read my earlier post and decided they needed to stand by their quickly distributed threats I'd be pretty sad, and not expect this to make things better. Instead, any consequences need to be reasonable and proportionate, where you feel fair when you do have to enforce them (which, ideally, is rarely).

One thing that can be helpful is having a system of simple stock responses. The simplest is just a stern voice. If you reserve speaking firmly for rare circumstances, then saying something intensely and seriously can feel very significant.

Time outs can also work well: we use a system where we make it clear what needs to change ("stop shouting", "brush your teeth"), count to three, slowly and clearly, stopping if they do what we want, and if we get to three then it's time out. Serious things can be time out immediately. If you reliably use these, then not only does the kid understand how they work and what they mean but you don't have to come up with a novel appropriate response at a time when you're very stressed ("Do not bite me. That's time out.)

Even better, though, is avoiding commands and threats entirely. If they've been playing with a puzzle and they ask you to read to them, you can say you'll read once they clean up the puzzle (and depending on age maybe help them clean it up). They probably want you to read badly enough that they clean up, but if not that's ok too. You're using something they want you to do as leverage to get them do something they should do, but you're also teaching them the general practice of cleaning up one thing before getting out another.

Similarly, don't make committments unnecessarily. Instead of "I'll go downstairs and get your bear" maybe "I'll go downstairs and look for your bear." While with adults we understand that when a person says they'll do something they mean they'll put in a reasonable effort and may fail if the task is surprisingly difficult or if factors outside their control intervene, I find that with kids being explicit about likely failure possibilities is helpful. "I'll go see if we have any more cheese sticks." Similarly, adults understand that you don't have authority over everyone around you, but with kids phrasing like "Mama can read to you when we get home" isn't as good as "I'll ask Mama if she'll read to you when we get home." Or, even better, "when we get home you can ask Mama if she'll read to you."

The next skill is thinking of rules that will work well in a range of situations. These can be explicit rules ("hold hands when crossing the street) or implicit ones (saying yes/no without explaining reasoning but following a pattern you could explain if asked). I find thinking "saying yes/no no means saying the same thing in this sort of situation in general" is a helpful way of thinking about it.

This is another case where preparation can help. Before going to the beach, think about what rule you'll have for the water: "stay with a grown up the whole time", "only go in the water with a grown up", "only go in the water by yourself right in front of the lifeguard." If you notice yourself giving inconsistent answers to questions, take some time later to figure out if there's a rule that would work better ("one short video each night, after dinner"). It's ok, and expected, to end up with a rule that doesn't match some of your previous decisions, just try to get a rule you'll be happy with. ("I know we did let you stand on the table sometimes, but from now on there's no standing on the table.")

The easiest rules to be consistent with are the ones our culture has for adults, since you and everyone else more or less know what these are. As kids are generaly less capable, tall, intelligent, prudent, etc than the people these rules have evolved for, you are going to need to make accomodations. But I find that starting with a perspective of treating kids like adults unless there is a reason otherwise works well.

The third skill is actually following through on things you've said. The better you get at the two skills above the easier this is: you're saying fewer things that need to be backed up, the consequences you've promised are ones that generally seem fair, and your kids generally understand the patterns and choose to avoid the consequences. But they will still test to see if maybe the boundary has retracted while they weren't looking, and when they do you need to be firm. Sometimes this is unpleasant for both of you but it makes the rest of your interactions far better.
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playing music by myself
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