My 2019 Takeaways

The blue knockoff shift pod was an amazing success. It was so easy to set up and take down. It fits perfectly under a flat top shade structure and it stays cool until after noon. Along with my favorite ear plugs, the blue shift pod allowed me to get more sleep than ever before at a burn. I can’t recommend these highly enough.

I brought a notebook this year so I could write down things I wanted to change or bring next time. Here are some of the things I wrote down;

Bring More Fans: I brought a pair of high speed fans for circulation. When you’re under a flat top shade structure, often times the air outside stays pretty cool. Pumping that in can make a world of difference. And it augments the effectiveness of the swamp cooler. I set up two 200CFM fans with ducts to draw air in from outside. These were on a simple thermostat. They automatically kick in when the temperature starts to rise. I estimated that adding these simple circulating fans gave me about two extra hours of cool temperatures for sleeping in. In the future, I think I will double this set up and bring four of these 200CFM fans while ditching the swamp cooler altogether. The swamp cooler is really large and complicated and needs a lot of water and isn’t super effective. Simple circulation feels like a lot of value for not a lot of money and space, in my experience.

Bring A Parasol: I felt like the only person without a parasol this year. I borrowed one from a friend in order to go to the DMV with another camp one day. Having that tiny bit of shade to bring with you on playa makes a world of difference.

Flat Top Shade Structure: This year, my friends and I brought several large pieces of aluminet. Initially, this was just laid over the blue shiftpods. This did not help at all with the heat. In fact, it created lots of noise flapping around, while not helping with the heat. Our tents were right next to a 20′ by 96′ flat top shade structure which formed the core of our camp’s residential area. I experimented with moving the aluminet to attach to the shade structure and then to poles on the other side of our tents. This means that the aluminet was hanging taught a few feet above our tents, rather than touching our tents. This made a HUGE difference with the heat. That said, mounting the far end of the aluminet to poles stuck into the ground was not ideal because they moved around even though they were guyed down. I  think a more ideal system would be to set up another small flat top twenty feet from our main flat top, then stretch the aluminet between them, and set up our tents underneath. This would mean a lot of extra shade for super cheap. #lowhangingfruit

Failover Switch: My camp provides power to every tent. This is great, but if you’re relying on it for something like ventilation and then it goes down, you will get hot and wake up. I also brought a large battery, but it doesn’t charge super fast. Using it as my main power source would not work. It would discharge overnight and then not fully recharge in time to use it again. The solution is a failover switch. I have actually already written a proposal for using these for our kitchen refrigerators. The idea is simple; a battery charger and a failover switch both plug into the main grid. The battery charges from the grid (or from solar or wind). Then, the failover switch provides power from the grid to all your devices while the battery is charging. If the grid fails, then the failover switch immediately switches to drawing power from the battery. The devices plugged into it don’t even notice. When the grid comes back on, the switch immediately moves back to drawing power from the grid and the battery begins to recharge. This is especially important for ventilation and air conditioning. One morning this burn, the power failed and the tent quickly heated up to an uncomfortable temperature, waking me up. Never again!

Renewable Energy Sources: With the layout described above, the battery can easily charge off of solar or wind rather than the grid. Then, the switch could be hooked up in reverse so that we first use the stored solar power, and then switch over to using the grid. This would offset diesel fuel costs, and reduce our carbon emissions!

Pens, Sharpies, Calling Cards, Ziplocs: Ziplocs are perfect  for storing the many small items which accumulate during the burn. There are many cute examples of calling cards which my fellow campers were giving out this year. Pens and sharpies are extremely handy, especially during strike.

Snacks: My favorite two snacks this burn were frosted strawberry pop tarts and peanut butter filled pretzels. Specifically we had the giant kirkland buckets. I will definitely bring some of these next year.

 

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.

Fundamentals

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

Phase-One

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 Queerborhood.net 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.

Topography

 

Parts List For First-Phase

Learn To DJ: (4) Getting Gigs

2019-07-26

6:30-7:30

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

Learn To DJ: (3) Lighting and DMX

2019-08-10

5:30-8:30

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!

Learn To DJ: (2) Advanced Mixing

2019-06-28

5:30-8:30

Facebook Event

Slideshow Link

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 second workshop, we will learn how to set up gear and mix tracks with vinyl and CDJs.

  • Meet and Greet
  • Recap controller mixing
    • Beat-match; measure-match; cross-fade
    • Working without visualizations is a lot like vinyl
    • Introduce Level Mixing
  • Microphones and feedback
  • Mixing with CDJs
  • Mixing with Turntables
  •  Practice time!

Learn To DJ: (1) Sound Gear and Mixing Basics

2019-06-15: 5:30-7:30

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 first workshop, we will learn how to set up DJ controllers and mix tracks using Serato.

Workshop Outline

    • Meet and Greet
      • What kind of DJ are you?
      • What kind of DJ do you want to be?
    • Industry Technology Timeline
      • Early Tech Had One Major Downside
        • Turntables and Crates
        • CDJs and Crates
      • Software!
        • Scratch Live and “Crates”
          • MP3 / MP4
        • Midi CDJs and “Crates”
        • Controllers and “Crates”
    • Speaker Basics
      • Powered versus Unpowered
      • Connection Types
    • Sound formula: Source -> Mixer -> Speakers
      • Sources
        • Turntables
        • CD players
        • Controllers
        • Microphones
      • Mixers are pretty interchangeable for most purposes. We will look at a few examples in the practice session today.
      • Big Speakers
  • Mixing Basics
    • Playlists and Autoplay
    • Verse; Chorus; Mix
    • Beat Matching and Turntablism (The Meat)
      • Everyone gets a chance to practice in a moment…
      • Pitch bend and jog wheels
      • Line up the beats, then cross-fade to the new track
  • What To Play?
    • Goals and Cadences
    • Have Options
      • Decades, Genres, Special Event Types
      • You need 20 songs per hour!
  • Practice Your Skills!

Learn To DJ: (0) Gear Up

If you want to get started learning to DJ, you will need three things: headphones, a controller, and a laptop. There are a few more things that you should really get, but don’t need right away. We will cover these in another post.

First, Pick a Controller

I recommend starting cheap. You can reasonably get started DJing for just a couple hundred bucks. Maybe you’ll hate it, maybe you’ll love it. Many people spend thousands of dollars on their first set of gear. I recommend baby steps. Here are a couple of full-featured controllers which will enable you to do just about everything that any other DJ can do, but on the cheap;

 

Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB3

Shown above is one of the controllers that I currently use professionally. The Pioneer DJ DDJ-SB(1/2/3). There are three versions of this controller and there is essentially no difference between them. They just add a new number and try to sell you a new one. They start around $250 on Amazon, but I would check second hand gear shops. You can likely find one of these for under a hundred bucks at guitar center or other similar places. This controller basically gives you all the control you could want. Pioneer sells controllers for many thousands of dollars which are essentially the same as this one. The one downside is that it’s a little big and doesn’t fit into my backpack.

 

Numark DJ2GO2

This is another controller which I use professionally; the Numark DJ2Go2. You can get a one new for around $75 on Amazon. It gives you almost all the functionality of the bigger controllers, and it will fit into any backpack with no problem.

 

Pioneer RZX

If you walk into guitar center and tell them you want to buy a DJ controller, they will probably try to sell you something like this; the Pioneer RZX. At a casual $3,000, it gives you all the same features as the $75 controller from above, plus lots of screens which duplicate the functionality of the software on your laptop. You also get lots of flashing lights and buttons which will be very showy and fancy looking, if you’re into that sort of thing. One pro here is that you get a built in mixer. You may need a mixer if you are doing certain kinds of gigs, but I prefer to pick them up separately for under $100.

If you want to check out a longer list of many more options, look at Serato’s controllers section. Later we will cover alternatives to controllers including custom racks and coffins for vinyl or CDs. Controllers are the most simple way to initially get started and learn the basics, and they are the only option for most DJs who are visiting clubs with controllers already installed and set up for them.

Headphones

Now that you have chosen a controller, you will need to get some headphones. The purpose of headphones is to help you cue up the next track and start the mix. Lots of people like lots of different things in headphones. Very briefly let’s talk about response curve. Every device that makes sound from earpods to loudspeakers has a response curve. If you play white noise through it and look at a graphic representation of the sound you hear, it will not be a flat line from lows to highs. The problem with bass-heavy or bassless headphones is that they sound different from the music you’re actually playing. So it’s hard to mix correctly based on what you’re listening to through the headphones. Here is an example of a really really good response curve;

XD-53 Response Curve

This curve is good because the entire line stays flat and very close to zero. The further from zero you get, the less accurate the headphones are. When headphones are designed for flat response, the manufacturer will typically communicate this by saying something like “studio monitoring headphones.”Allen & Heath Xone XD532

Allen & Heath’s Xone XD-53 2 Headphones are the ones shown in the graph above. These are my all time favorite headphones. They are a little pricey and a little hard to find online. Amazon currently has them out of stock. These are a really great pair which has the old technics feature of twisting and folding back at the ears, so it’s easy to listen to just one side by holding them with your shoulder. This is hard to find in headphones today.

Audiotechnica ATH-M50x

Audiotechnica makes some great headphones with decently flat response curves. I have this pair of Audiotechnica ATH-M50x Headphones. They are much more affordable than Allen & Heath, while still providing great flat sound.

In a pinch, basically any headphones will work because Serato can do a lot of the work for us, but you will thank yourself for investing a bit in some really good headphones. The most important thing is sound isolation. It’s hard to pick up the details of a song on earbuds with loud music playing all around you on big speakers.

Most Laptops Will Work

The software which almost all DJs today use is called Serato DJ. A free version of it comes with most controllers, including all the ones I linked to above. This will allow you to do most of what you will need to do most events.

The hardware requirements for Serato DJ are very basic. It works on anything since Windows 7 or Mac OSX 10.12. You will need 4GB of RAM and 5GB of Disk space. Almost any modern computer will meet these specs.

Here’s an example of a new laptop for under $200 which meets these specs.

Today I had a wonderful, magical, linguistic epiphany.

Today I had a wonderful, magical, linguistic epiphany.

Many people will know that there is a kind of imaginary line that goes across Europe from east to west, dividing the Northern languages from the Southern languages. The Northern languages are all very similar to each other; English, German, Norwegian, Swedish, etc. The Southern languages are all very similar to each other; Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese. But the North and South are very different from one another.

OKAY SO… about the names for the days of the week in the North vs South.

Mani is the old viking name for the goddess of the moon. Mani is also where the word Monday (Montag, Mandag, etc.) comes from in all the Northern languages. In latin, and all the Southern languages, the word for Monday (Lunae dies, Lunedi, Lunes, Lundi) comes from the name of the Roman goddess of the moon, Luna.

Tyr was the old viking god of war. Tyr’s Day is the root for Tuesday (Tirsdag, Tisdag, Dienstag which was originally mis-transliterated from the rune thurisaz and should really have started with a TH, not a D). In Southern Europe, the god of war was Mercury, and Tuesday is Martis, Martedi, Mardi, Martes.

Wotan is one of the original pronunciations of Odin, whose ravens send messages to all the other gods and spy and tell him their secrets. Wotan’s day goes without saying, and in the north, it’s still spelled Wednesday or Onsdag (With German being the odd one out and using the literal phrase “mid-week” for Wednesday.) In the South, the god of secret messages and spying was Mercury. And the words for Wednesday are Mercurii, Mercoledi, Mercredi, and Miercoles.

Thor was the strongest and manliest god in the north, and Thor’s day hasn’t changed much in English. It’s Torsdag in Norwegian and Swedish, again missing the H when it was transliterated from the elder futhark into modern letters. In German, thurisaz is again transliterated as a D instead of the more accurate TH sound, and they get Donnerstag. In the south, The strongest, manliest god was Jove, or Jupiter. And Thursday is called Giovedi “Joe-veh-dee,” Jueves, Jeudi.

Freyr was the god of the harvest, the spring, and renewal. In the North, Freyr’s Day is called Friday, Freitag, and Fredag today. In the south, the corresponding goddess is Venus, and Friday is called Venerdi, Vendredi, Viernes.

Saturday and Sunday are less interesting…

Saturday seems to be basically the same in the North and South, a reference to Saturn, one of the Southern gods.

Sun was the Viking sun god or more accurately the personification of the sun. In the North, Sunday is called Sonetag, Sondag, and Soendag. In the south, The name for Sunday is based on the literal word for a slave master in Latin, Domenicus; Domenica, Dimanche, and Domingo.

I find it super interesting that the root words for most of the days of the week come from various local versions of gods that represent similar ideas, and that despite the thousands of years of the Christian dark ages, not a single one of these gods — whose names have been spoken every day by countless billions of people throughout history — is the Christian god. All of the days of the week are named after pagan gods in every language I know of.