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Portable Ice Cream

Often in the evening we'll bring ice cream to the park: walk there, play for a bit, eat, play some more, walk home. It sounds simple, and it is simple, but the key thing is you want to repack the ice cream well in advance so it doesn't melt. I usually use wide mouth one pint (16oz) mason jars:

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Backup Power

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.

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Home Solar Resiliency

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:

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Synth Brass

I've been continuing to play around with multitracking using my jammer and breath controller. For an accordion sound I've been fine with a basic free one in fluidsynth and using the breath controller for volume only, but there's a lot more potential for expression if you have a synth that supports it.

I wrote about how I'd been trying a sax synth from SWAM, and that's continued to be pretty good. Here's a piece from a few days ago using it: far-from-home.mp3.

There are other places, however, where I'd like more of a trombone or trumpet sound. I do play trumpet and baritone, so I could record myself playing them, and that's what I initially did. There are two tracks of baritone in the background, and one of trumpet:

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Whole House Fan + Evaporative Cooler

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 outside arid 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 ran one at night all the extra humidity would just get blown out through the whole-house fan. This seems like it should let you cool your structure to below the night-time low.

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How to parent more predictably

(As with anything else I write about parenting, this is mostly just my observations with my own two kids and may not generalize as well as I think it does.)

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.

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