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I just configured Openring:

Or, on narrow screens:

(You can see a live version at the bottom of this post.)

It uses RSS to pull recent posts from a list of blogs, takes the three most recent posts, and shows 255-character previews for each. It lets me point people towards other writing they may enjoy, which is a simple way to manage the curation aspect of "there's so much out there but what would I like to see"?

The traditional solution here is a blogroll, a list of links to other blogs (especially well-done example). The problem is, it's hard to know if you would like a blog from just seeing it's name and author. Showing titles and snippets of posts helps a lot with this.

I'm currently pulling posts from:

Going through the feeds in my feed reader I was pretty sad to see how many people I follow pretty much don't post anymore. I didn't include those here since I didn't want to slow down my feed fetching. I'll probably add more later, as I remember blogs I like that I haven't included.

I have this configured as:

./openring \
  -s \
  -s \
  -s \
  -s \
  -s \
  -s \
  -s \
  < in.html \
  > current-openring.html

Then my static site generator includes that snippet at the bottom of each post.

I needed to tweak the CSS some to get it to look like the rest of my site, and also to switch from putting the posts in a row to a column on sufficiently narrow screens. Maybe there's a way to get flex to do this, but I just used a @media query.

full post...

Rhythm Stage Setup v2

My rhythm stage setup with Kingfisher has evolved a bunch since I wrote about it in September, and I wanted to put down how I'm currently thinking of it.

I'm thinking of my playing right now as:

  • The core of my sound is rhythm piano.
  • My feet play drums, usually kick/rim.
  • The breath controller adds to the sound in various ways.

I'm no longer playing with head tilt; as I played more with it I found that needing to have your head at specific angles wasn't pleasant. I also like to be able to look around while I play. It was also mostly something I wanted for combining with mandolin playing, and at this point I'm mostly playing piano.

I'm also not playing the jammer much when I'm the primary rhythm instrument. The piano works well enough, and I have so much more practice. I'm still using the jammer a lot when I play with the Free Raisins or take other gigs where there's another rhythm musician, but that's not this post.

So, how am I using the breath controller to add onto the basic piano + drums? Lots of ways!

Adjustible Booster

Musicians who use their feet have taken a lot of different approaches to seats. The main problem is you need to be the right height, which if your pedals have thickness is higher than usual, and you need something portable. Solutions I've seen include drum stools, folding adjustible piano benches, folding chairs, and Noah's throne. For me, a secondary problem is that I need to perch on the front of my chair, which means I need more space on stage than you'd expect because my chair is awkwardly far back. I decided to try putting together an adjustible booster, which can sit on a range of chairs and lift me any of 3/4", 1 1/2", or 2 1/4".

It's made of three pieces of 3/4" plywood, with velcro to attach them. The bottom piece has little ears to keep it from sliding back when on a folding chair:

It can be assembled to different heights, depending on how much higher I need to be:

It fits the standard plastic folding chairs (15" gap between metal rails) and the slightly larger older metal folding chairs (15 1/2" gap between rails). It also fits fine on the variety of regular chairs we have hanging around our house.

I haven't tried it at a gig yet, but it's just right for sitting and playing on.

full post...

History of Larks/Ravens

Many dances have switched to Larks/Ravens and more are in the process of figuring out whether it would be a good fit for them. How did we come to be using these particular terms, out of the range of possible terms?

For a long time the most common gender-free terms were Bands/Bares. These started around 1989 when the Jamaica Plain LGBT contra dance wanted something that didn't reference gender. They decided that the former gent or left-hand person would wear an armband while the former lady or right-hand person would have a bare arm. They called the roles "armbands" and "barearms" or "bands" and "bares" for short.

Kid Door

We live on the second and third floors of a two-family house, and Lily and Anna are now five and three. They're old enough that going to the backyard on their own is reasonable, but the exterior doors are too hard for them to operate. We considered a bunch of ways of fixing this, such as a play structure that extended all the way to the second floor windows, but decided on cutting a kid-sized door out of our basement door. I ran this by the kids, and they were strongly in favor.

I marked an opening about 16x40 on the existing door and cut it with the circular saw. I need to put a new blade on my saw: it's been slowing down, and burning the wood a bit. I finished the corners with a jigsaw:

The door turned out to be solid wood, which was convenient. This meant I could use the cut-out section as the kid door and wouldn't need to case the opening. Since I had cut a section out of the main door, though, I did want to reinforce it. I mitred some 2x4s and framed the opening, both as reinforcement and to make a stop. Clamps are a useful substitute for extra hands when working alone:

In retrospect I should have made this frame slightly smaller. It's 1/4" smaller than the door on each side, but because of the 1/8" saw kerf and slight innacuracies in making the cut there are some places where light/air can get through when closed.

By this point the kids wanted to help me, so Lily and I chiseled out the hinge mortises. Just using strap hinges would have been a lot easier, but I wasn't thinking about that when buying hinges.

You can see the chisel is backwards, but I didn't actually get to removing any wood until Lily was done helping.

I hung the door, and started on the handle and deadbolt.

At this point this project was like finishing any other door. Hole saws with a jig, carefully lining things up, going back and fixing things when the latch isn't quite right. I had bought a simple knob and deadbolt set, which went on easily. I considered having it re-keyed to match the rest of the house, but decided it wasn't worth it.

The last step was to trim the ends of the carriage bolts which I'd used to attach the frame. I used a metal cutting blade on my sawzall and then cleaned them up with a file so they're not sharp.

And here it is complete:

The bare wood is kind of silly looking, so we might let them paint it or something.

We still need to talk to them about how to use it, primarily about leaving it closed so bugs and animals come in, and we'll need to be checking that it's locked until they can consistently do that themselves. But they're really exicted about it already.

full post...

Beantown Stomp: Sliding Scale

At our first Beantown Stomp this spring we tried a sliding scale for admission. The registration form read:

We want people to be able to come regardless of means, so we're offering a sliding scale of $50-$150. If you can't pay at least $50, we recommend volunteering (above). We're predicting our break-even figure will be about $90/person, and the more you're able to contribute the more we're able to let others attend below cost. We like the YDW payment guide as a way to think about how much to pay:

Our regular dance is also sliding scale, at $5-$15, so we had some experience with "pay what you can" models already. The main alternative models are either a fixed cost for all attendees, or discounts for specific categories of attendees (child, student, senior, etc). [1] BIDA has preferred to go with a sliding scale primarily because we want to be financially accessible to as many people as possible and people's life circumstances are unpredictable. Age and student-status are rough predictors of how able to pay someone is, but there are always people for which it's going to be off. You could go full college-financial-aid-office and try to figure out exactly what someone is able to afford, but of course that's overkill for this sort of event. So we explain our financial situation, and ask people to pick something fair.

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