Advanced Playa Air Conditioner

I did another post about building a simple playa air conditioner. I made several major innovations over existing designs, but also repeated a major failure of existing designs. In this post, I will describe my process of addressing this failure and improving further on the prevailing designs for DIY playa air conditioners.


All DIY playa swamp/bucket air conditioners work on the same principle called evaporative cooling. The basic concept is simple; you force liquid water to evaporate into dry air. This turns hot, dry air into cool, humid air.

All the designs that I’ve seen use evaporative pads. Water is pumped over the pads, saturating them. Then a fan pulls air through the pad, evaporating the water in the pad. The cold air coming through the fan is ducted into a tent or yurt.

The Problem

Mots of these designs, including the apparent original, share a common flaw; they expose only a few inches of the pad to the outside air. These designs typically feature a bucket with a few small holes at the top to let air in through the pad.

The first problem is that the pad is designed to work across its entire surface area, and exposing just a few square inches of it to the outside air means the pad is not really working as well as it could.

The second problem; the holes are at the top because the bucket is full of water. So even if the pad was fully exposed to the outside air, most of it would be under water.

My First Design

My earlier post featured chicken wire which holds the pad away from the edge of the bucket. This means that the air from outside is able to reach the entire surface area of the pad.

The problem with this design is that the bucket is still full of water. So even though the pad is fully exposed to the outside air, most of the pad is under water.

Version Two!

Here are the two buckets with their lids side by side. The top bucket is the evaporative chamber. The bottom bucket is the water reservoir. Cutting through these is easy with a simple box cutter.


As you can see, the first bucket has drain holes which lead down into the reservoir. The evaporative pad sits in a column under the duct, drawing in hot, dry air from all directions.


Here is the evaporative pad, surrounded with chicken wire and with two drip lines installed. These are just sections of tubing with their ends crimped with zip ties, and holes punched every inch or so with a hot soldering iron.


When the evaporative column is inserted into the top bucket, the lines run down into the reservoir bucket like so.


I replaced my previous pump design with this one which is more clean and probably more reliable. These pumps have barrel jacks which run through a splitter and then to a power supply. Also, these are beefier pumps because the USB-powered ones could not lift water up high enough for this design.


I also found a beefier 200 CFM fan which can run into the same power supply. I added one duct adapter to each side, and attached an eight foot section of 4-inch dryer duct. This will run into the tent. The other good thing about using barrel jack power is that I have several batteries which will be able to run this newly redesigned system.


The same dryer duct quick disconnect runs down into the evaporative column and connects to the fan and duct.


This design improves on all the problems identified with the previous design. Looking forward to a cool playa experience!


Parts List

Anti-Darkwadding with Sound-Reactive Lights

I’ve been talking about doing this for a while and I finally pulled the trigger. I will probably safety pin these to bags and costumes throughout the burn. I think these would also be cool inside a clear backpack. Check out the video!

Parts List

3x USB-C Light-Up Charger Cord

3x USB Sound-Reactive Disco Light

3x USB-C/A Male/Female Dongle

3x USB-A Female/Female Dongle

1x USB Battery Pack

This is the battery pack that I used for the video. I tried measuring the power consumption of these lights but it was too low to register on my measuring device. Probably this battery is plenty to power these lights for the whole burn. And it’s easy to recharge with a solar panel like the one I’m bringing.

The dongles allow the USB-A Male of the disco light to connect to the USB-C Male of the charging cord like so;


Queerborhood Wifi


This is the final draft proposal for the pilot project to tie into the new borg network. If successful, the project could eventually deliver WiFi to the Queerborhood (7:30 sector). There have been several changes of priority since the first draft of this proposal. This final version features a mast with a microwave dish to tie into the borg network, a wifi router, and three range extenders which distribute the connection throughout our camp. This way, later we can add more extenders as well as load balancers in a future phase. This is intended as a first step in a larger long-term project.

For a brief description of my relationship to this topic; I am a licensed FCC Radio Tech (KK6VJX) with two decades of experience in supporting computer networks.

Normally, we would need to install enormous masts to connect to the borg network, but luckily we have three semi-trailers which stay in the camp throughout the burn. This means we can place smaller masts on top of the trailers in order to tie into the network. Specifically, I am recommending a “non-penetrating” mast designed for flat roofs. Instead of weighing it down with bricks, we will use two pairs of three ratchet straps to tie it around the trailer.

Per the borg’s recommendation, the main connection is a Ubiquiti NanoBeam microwave dish. This is wired into the junction box on the mast where a cheap wifi router takes the connection from the microwave dish and distributes it via wifi to the camp.

Throughout the camp, cheap wifi repeaters extend this signal to make sure our network reaches the entire camp. These will be included in the junction boxes of our power grid’s new distribution substations. During the proposed second phase of this project, additional masts will be placed in various locations and tie together via a load balancer which then feeds into our wifi. This means that if there is any problem with any of the masts, the other ones will continue to work. At that point, any neighboring camps that want to tie into will simply need to use those cheap wifi extenders to tie into our system since we are doing all the heavy lifting of connecting to the borg network.



Parts List For First-Phase

Discussion Group: Conscious

In this episode of his podcast, Sam Harris interviews his wife Annaka about her new book, Conscious. This book explores the current state of the art of our knowledge about the nature and purpose of consciousness.

In this interview, they go over three main “interesting” questions she poses in the book, and the answers she gives to these questions.

  • How could any amount of non-conscious stuff become conscious in certain arrangements?
  • Is there anything we can observe from the outside which proves conclusively that something/someone is conscious?
    • Locked-in
    • Robots
    • People we see in dreams who don’t even exist
  • What is consciousness for/ what does it do?


You can also check out the book itself by clicking on it below. I am planning to set up a book club around this in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Conscious by Annaka Harris

Lying by Sam Harris

Lying by Sam Harris makes the argument for radical honesty. This is an interested book which is very different from his previous books, but connects to them on the theme of reasonable and rational discussion of their topics.

Religion, he seems to imply, can only exist in a world where people are comfortable lying to themselves and others. His actual argument in this book is simply that we should be honest, and that it’s always better to be honest.

Lying by Sam Harris

Letter To A Christian Nation by Sam Harris

Letter To A Christian Nation is a very direct critique of Christianity from the perspective of rational Americans. He attacks head on the basis of Christianity and its many arguments, as well as the argument that it is a good thing for anyone.

Letter To A Christian Nation by Sam HarrisThere are many very excellent arguments in this book which I am already using and will continue to use. This is a book that any atheist or humanist should read.

The End of Faith by Sam Harris

The End of Faith was Sam Harris’ first book. He published it while he was still a graduate student. This book is an excellent indictment of Christianity in America and the many externalities it perpetrates on the world.

The End of Faith by Sam HarrisI think if I had read this book twenty years ago, it would have had a dramatic impact on my intellectual journey. As it stands, I already agree with essentially every point he makes. Still, it was a good read that will help me to consider deeper rebuttals of Christianity and its arguments.

Learn To DJ: (4) Getting Gigs



Are you DJ-Curious? Comfort & Joy is hosting free DJ workshops for anyone interested in learning this magical art. The workshops will be led by seasoned disc jockeys from very different parts of the DJ industry. You will learn how to set up sound and lighting gear, how to mix music, and how to pick tracks.

Food and drink will be provided. Anyone who attends all four workshops will receive a very special gear gift from C&J.

At this fourth workshop, we will learn about the history of the vocation of DJing, and how to find work today. We will have several local big names on hand to answer questions about the work itself and finding gigs.

Workshop Outline

  • Meet and Greet
    • “What kind of gigs are you interested in?”
  • History of DJing
    • Challenges and advantages
      • Then: Heavy, expensive crates of music
      • Now: Cheap controllers with MP3
    • Client expectations
      • Are you video mixing?
      • Are you bringing lights?
      • Are you taking requests?
    • Selling gigs
      • Schools
        • Find the decision maker
        • Keep bugging them
        • Sign exclusive seasonal contracts; offer free work as an audition with the option to cancel the contract if they don’t like it.
        • Play top 40/ contemporary
          • Have edited music crates
        • Typical pay is about $100/hr.
      • Weddings
        • Mostly word of mouth
        • Start with friends/ family
        • Win over wedding officiants
          • Make a special effort to network with them at weddings
        • Talk to wedding venues about being their recommended vendor
        • Typical pay can be $600-$1200.
      • Dive bars
        • Easy sell, low hanging fruit
        • Check local newspapers for bars with empty nights. Ask for a tryout.
        • Typical pay is a percentage of sales or a flat rate: $100-$200 plus a free bar tab for you and your guests (we’ll come back to that).
      • Clubs
        • Need to know someone or have a reputation
        • Pay ranges wildly from minimum wage hourly to high flat rates depending on the venue and the night.
      • Look for weekly/ regular gigs!
        • One-off parties are fun, but weekly gigs offer stability and reliable income.
        • Working three nights a week at dive bars pays about $20k/year and sets you up for bigger things.
        • Weekly dive bar gigs are a great reputation piece for selling larger gigs.
        • Exclusive contracts with schools are a great reputation piece for selling more school gigs.
    • Guerrilla marketing
      • Flyers only help if they come at the end of a conversation.
      • Talk to people. Invite them.
      • Go visit similar events.
        • Set up collaborations
        • Invite guest DJs to spin a few tracks during your sets while you take a break. Buy them a drink on your free tab in exchange for them telling people to come to your party. Check in and tag them to reach their following online.
      • Have a larger cause/ purpose
        • Nonprofits will bring enormous numbers of people to your party if they get a cut of the sales.
        • People feel better about partying if it’s for a good cause.
    • Q&A Panel
    • Mixer

Understanding Humans In The Wild with Sam Harris

There are two huge takeaways for me from this podcast interview. The first is Slot Rattling. The guest is Adam Grant, a organizational psychologist and professor from Wharton. He talks about Slot Rattling as a psychological phenomena which explains a person’s behavior when they identify themselves at a certain undesirable point on a spectrum of a given trait. The reaction is to initially jump all the way to the extreme opposite on that trait. But that isn’t quite right either. The person then tries to find the perfect spot on the spectrum which they are comfortable with. The lesson to take from this example is that there is no correct spot. And by considering other dimensions such as flexibility, we may find that we are sometimes in different spots on that spectrum.

The example that jumped out at me was straight-identified guys who want to do things outside of that identity. They often jump to hyper-masculinity as a defense mechanism which Freud would call reaction formation. Then they move away from the extreme by looking for acceptable alternatives that can fit within their narrative. Freud would call this sublimation.  Overall, this is a super interesting concept which I will refer to, often.

The second thing that jumped out at me was Cognitive Appraisal as a useful tool for mitigating anxiety. Anxiety is the anticipation of future discomfort. It comes with a heightened state of arousal in the Reticular Formation. The thing is that the Reticular Formation which moderates arousal is separate from the Amygdala which moderates emotion. The Amygdala is part of the default mode network and subject to executive function. We can choose to change emotions, if less easily the accompanying state of arousal. Grant suggests redirection your attention away from focusing on the anticipation of possible future discomfort to the anticipation of possible future success or pleasure. This seems like a really great idea which I will try to practice.



Learn To DJ: (3) Lighting and DMX



Presentation Link

Facebook Event

Are you DJ-Curious? Comfort & Joy is hosting free DJ workshops for anyone interested in learning this magical art. The workshops will be led by seasoned disc jockeys from very different parts of the DJ industry. You will learn how to set up sound and lighting gear, how to mix music, and how to pick tracks.

At this third workshop, we will look at setting up lighting gear and using smart versus dumb controls including simple DMX control boards to run lighting rigs.

Workshop Outline

  • Dumb Lights
    • Switchboards
    • Demo Modes
  • Smart Lights & DMX
    • Define DMX
    • Define Channels
  • Early Smart Fixtures
    • Incandescent Lights with Dimmer Packs
  • Evolution of Smart Fixtures
    • Smart Lights/ LED
      • Par Cans
      • GOBOs
      • Moving Head
    • Fog Machines/ Hazers
  • Let’s Practice!