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Ways of Getting to NEFFA

As a four person family without a car, someone was asking how we handled occasionally needing to travel longer distances. I thought thinking through the various ways we've travelled to NEFFA might be interesting. NEFFA is an annual folk festival, a 50min drive south of our house. This is close enough that we've typically travelled there and back each day. Here are things we've done:
  • On Friday evenings when going by myself from work I've taken the train. There's an express that leaves South Station at 6:10pm and gets into Mansfield at 6:45pm ($10). From there's it's either a 20min walk or calling the festival shuttle and asking for them to pick you up. Door to door, including the Red Line to South Station, it's about 1hr15min, faster than driving there in rush hour traffic. I've been able to find a ride back each time with a friend.

    On the other hand, when going from home instead of work, and when not comparing with rush hour traffic, public transit isn't really competitive. (Plus right now the Red Line is running shuttles on weekends, which slows things down even more.)

  • Some years we've been able to carpool with others, usually family. Now that there are four of us this is much less practical, since it would need to be someone who would otherwise be driving alone.

  • Last year we rented a car for Saturday and Sunday, which is what I think we'll be doing most years. It was $64, plus $10 gas, plus about 15min of walking to pick it up and return it.

  • This year it happened to work out that a musician friend was flying out of Logan and wanting somewhere to leave their car. Our driveway is generally empty, so it's easy for us, and they're ok with us driving it some while they're away. I'm planning to reimburse them for depreciation which would be about $16 (155mi) [1] and gas was about $12, so say $28 for the two days.

I've thought about whether it would be worth it trying to organize a shuttle from Porter Square. Probably charter a bus, with one run to the festival Saturday morning (10am? arrival) and another run to return that evening (10pm? departure). If we went low end (school bus) and filled the bus it would probably be something like $20/person. Not really competitive with renting cars.

[1] Kelly Blue Book estimates at 4¢/mile for this car with this mileage, but that is assuming that the condition of the car doesn't change. While the condition is unlikely to change, every mile there's a chance that something goes wrongn and means you need expensive repairs. I'm figuring 10¢/mile, which is mostly just that it's a nice round number.

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Footboard v2

After thinking about how to make my footboard more expressive for a while, I went ahead and built one. After playing around with it for a few weeks, I like it a lot better!



I made one for each foot. I typically put a kick drum on the left and some sort of high frequency sound (snare/rim/hihat/scratch/etc) on the right.

Changes from the previous version, mostly as planned:

  • Carved instead of flat. I made spaces for my heels to go, and the tactile feedback is really helpful for keeping centered on the board.

  • Grippy instead of smooth. I used a section of a non-slip rug pad.

  • Sorbothane instead of neoprene. The goal was to find a material that would absorb the impact from my foot instead of bouncing around.

  • Circles instead of triangles for the sorbothane. According to the manufacturer it dissapates energy better that way.

  • Flexible adhesive instread of epoxy. I used Loctite Ultra Gel Control, a flexible cyanoacrylate.

  • 3/4" instead of 1/4" for the top. I think it's better if the wood isn't especially flexible.

  • Integrated toe rest instead of separate. No reason to have toe rests that can slide around independently. Looking back I really don't know why I put up with toe rests that kept running off. [1] I made the toes be pads as well but haven't used this for anything yet.

Overall I'm very happy. These are more pleasant to play, and they're sensitive enough that I'm able to play them well while set to be velocity sensitive. I've been practicing a lot while reading to Anna, trying to get the foot patterns fully automatic.

[1] Well, I do know why. I have a very string satisficing instinct. If things are at all tolerable, why change? Overall I think this leads to me being pretty happy.

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BIDA Family Dance Timing

Someone was asking how the BIDA family dance timing works, so here's it written up:
hall opens, family dance musicians set up on the floor
family dance starts
most of the kids who are coming are here by now
sound person arrives for evening dance, starts setting up on stage
family dance ends, start setting up for potluck
tables and chairs are set up, people start getting potluck food
everyone has their food
evening band starts their sound check
most of the kids are done eating, back to running around
most of the adults are done eating, though still at the tables
beginner's workshop starts by the stage, people keep eating
people start cleaning up from the potluck
workshop ends, evening dance starts

And a series of diagrams showing how this works out in our hall:

While this looks like very tight timing when I'm describing it, the actual timing tends to feel pretty good.

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Boston Rents 2013-2018

I've been keeping a Boston-area rent map since early 2013, which means I can look some at how apartment prices have changed over time. A rough way to do this is just to look at how listings have changed, tracking the average price for each size unit over the last five years:

Communicating about contra dance sound

If you're new to playing for contra dancing, communication with the people running sound can be tricky. What are you expected to bring? What can you expect them to have? What is reasonable to ask for? Different dances vary, but here are some guidelines.

At least a week before the dance, get in touch with the organizers about sound. You really don't want to show up and be missing something important. A good place to start is listing your musicians, what instruments they play, and what you need for amplifying each instrument. For example, with the Free Raisins I'd list:

Thoughts on Existential Risk

I recently talked to someone who wanted to know what I thought about existential risk (x-risk). The idea is, how do we keep humanity from being destroyed, or otherwise failing to meet its potential? Within the EA movement there's been some shift in focus from global poverty towards x-risk over the past few years, and as someone who's been advocating for and funding poverty-related organizations they thought I might have some thoughts.

Here's more or less what I said:

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