Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Expensive versus cheap universities

 Here's the punchline:  for nearly all students, I don't think there's a justification for attending an expensive university over a "regular" university -- e.g. a "state school".

As someone who's attended three universities and taught at one American university and two Australian universities, my assessment is that it's more about the student (and possibly the prestige/reputation of the university?), and not about the "quality" of the school.  That is:  unless you're doing some high-powered medical or science degree where there can be substantial differences in the resources (high-end lab equipment) -- there are good instructors and bad instructors everywhere, and it really comes down to how smart, and how studious, the student is.   Maybe at the ultra-high end there might be more opportunities for the "gifted" student:  but my impression is that the higher-end student will either "make" his/her own opportunities, or else maximize the "standard" opportunities (e.g. do a really ambitious "capstone" project). 

So my 2c is that if there's an in-state/out-of-state tuition cost difference, to just stay in-state.  If she truly wants to get away from the parents for "independence", just move to the other end of the state.  ;) 

The exception is if you think that a "fancy" school (Harvard?  Yale?) will build business networks that you otherwise wouldn't gain.  I can't speak to that.

The other exception would be if there's a very specific program, or person you want to study under, at a specific program.  (And!  Professors leave universities for a different one ALL THE TIME -- so do not attend a university JUST for one specific person; do it because the university also has a strong program.)

For "advanced" work -- sure, go for the peak.  But as an undergraduate:  let's say the calibre of one program is 70% the quality of the other.  Is the student really going to learn 100% of what is being offered?  Will the student **really** "max out", and absorb 100% of what the professors have to offer...?

Unless the student believes that she or he will be the equal of the instructors at the end of the program (unlikely -- even for graduate students) -- she or he will still be developing and learning, right up to the end of the program.

Definitely, some programs are better than others.  But (in my observation) it's more because some programs/departments are actively bad (i.e. dysfunctional) -- not that some are definitively superior to another.

Again:  it comes down to the student -- both the intellect and the effort -- not the "quality" of the program.  As long as the program's quality is at least "pretty good".

That said:  if she truly wants to go out-of-state:   if it's a state school, it would be far cheaper to investigate the "residency" rules and (presumably) move there for a year or two, work, and then attend university once she can pay in-state tuition.

I ended up having to take a year and a half off between the first half and second half of my undergraduate degree:  it was an incredibly useful and informative experience, and I don't regret it for a moment.  (I worked one and a half jobs -- but I was young and energetic, and it was only for a year and a half...)

That's my assessment, anyhow...   ;)


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Friday, January 26, 2018

Faith in humanity

I've been selling a few things on Gumtree -- the Australian analogue of Craigslist.

I do a "reverse eBay" approach:  I post the item at a somewhat optimistic price, and then on Monday or Tuesday of each week I lower the price a little bit.  At some point, the market value  intersects with my listed price.

The pictured guitar was now down to $30 (it has a few quirks, such as a repaired headstock), and although I'd had a few time-wasting inquiries, no one had shown any serious interest.  But then!  Someone messaged me (through the Gumtree site), and said he'd take it today, for $35 (i.e. a five dollar bonus), if I was willing to deliver it to him -- about a 15 minute drive away.

Now, the norm is for buyers to come to the seller.  But I'd had the guitar listed for a few months already, so I figured, "Eh; sure."  But the whole drive there, I was having reservations:  the guy's messaging had been a little stand-off-ish, and the potential buyer had no real investment or commitment to buying it.

I completely understand that a person would not want to commit to buying a musical instrument that she/he had not examined in person -- but I had visions of the guy going "(Strum, strum...) Nah -- I don't want it after all."

So, I get there, text the guy that I'm there, get to the front door -- and this smiling young guy (high-school?) answers the door.  He says that he just moved here, and that he left his guitar behind and wanted a guitar to play.  He speaks with a tiny bit of an accent, and when a middle-aged woman of a different race comes to the door as well, I infer that he's perhaps an exchange student (or possibly a boarder).  And:  because December is summer in Australia, it's around the start of a new school year...

Anyhow:  he liked the guitar, and paid me the money.  I asked if he had any guitar picks, and he said he didn't so I offered him a choice of the two I carry with me in my coin purse. 

So:  happiness all around.  An my faith in humanity was restored.


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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Snare drum tidying

This YouTube video started off by seeing whether a US$39 snare drum from was worthwhile.  But it ended up being tips for tidying up and improving snare drums.

I learned a lot.

Although:  he ends up improving the sound by upgrading the top head, bottom head, and the snare wires -- which would substantially add to the "$39" initial cost (he says $55 total; that's way cheaper than what I could find heads for in Australia...).

He acknowledges this -- and points out that (much like guitar strings!), heads and snares are consumables, so you'd have to swap them out eventually anyhow.

Fair enough.

That said:  I couldn't determine a strong difference between the sound around 2:00, and the post-tidying sound around 8:45.  Maybe it's just my cheap PC speakers.

And at the very end, when he compares the "straight out of the box", "with tuning", and "tidied up" -- I actually prefer the "with tuning, but not yet 'tidied up'" sound.


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Inside look at sleeper cabs

I've always been intrigued by sleeper cabs on semitrucks.  I've tried doing Google image searches, with limited success.

Last night I realized:  Hey!  Try a YouTube search.  Yep.

This one is a traditional style one:  a bunk, some cupboards, and room for a mini-fridge and a microwave.  As an aside, the guy seems like a good guy.   

In contrast, this one is a reallly nice one.  And the owner seems likeable.    Well-spoken.  A good t.v. host.


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A cool old trap-style drum kit

Lots of neat-o bits and pieces, in this old-timey drum kit.

Pretty neat.  I don't think I'd have a use for it, though.

Niiiice snare drum, though:  very steampunk.



Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Becoming a better guitarist

The following is pretty obvious -- but it took me a while to figure it out:

-Buying additional effects pedals won't make me a better guitarist.

-Buying a fancy amp won't make me a better guitarist.

-Buying a fancy guitar won't make me a better guitarist.

-The only way to become a better guitarist... is to become a better guitarist.

That is:  spend more time playing the guitar; try out new and innovative things.  The more time I spend playing, the better I'll become.

That's all there is.  There is no other way.


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Friday, December 29, 2017

Movie review of The Adjustment Bureau

I watched The Adjustment Bureau tonight on DVD, along with my teenage daugther.

It was good; we both liked it. 

A politician meets a woman by accident, then runs into her a few years later, and they hit it off.  But agents of a secret agency interfere to keep them apart.

Some good lines.  Well-made, engrossing and entertaining. 

Not so amazing that I'll watch it over and over again -- nor are there any scenes that I'll skip to, just to re-see.  But I'm very pleased that I saw it once.  Totally recommend.



Vacation bliss

One of the things I enjoy about being on vacation is that I eventually lose track of what day it is.

Apparently, it's Friday.  But I thought it was Saturday.

It's all the same, really...

Been doing some more woodworking -- plus sold a nylon-string acoustic guitar through Gumtree (I hadn't played it in years).  About to watch a DVD with the daughter:  The Adjustment Bureau.  I've already seen the special features:  looks like it'll be a pretty good movie.


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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Best vacation EVER

I'm doing well: best vacation ever...!!!

Similar to professional chefs (well: I imagine) who have several dishes going in parallel -- I have four(?) projects that I'm hoping will all get completed by the end of my two-week vacation.

I putter along with one, until I reach a stopping point (usually gluing or applying an oil-based finish), then let it "rest" overnight as I turn to the next one.

The projects are:

  1. Making substantial progress on my mini-drumkit in a suitcase.  I've been working on this during most weekends for the last month or two (would have to check the date-stamps on the photos I've been taking).  Lots of minor components:  as mentioned above, when one needs gluing or oiling, that's the stopping point for that specific component -- so I turn to another.
  2. Making a stool out of a wooden seat that I got from a co-workers wife, plus some thick branches that I've been saving for about five years, for just such a project!
  3. Making a stool-slash-endtable out of a short stump or piling (the local style of architecture would raise houses up on "stumps" -- basically pilings -- like this -- but made of wood.  The total length is about the width of an office chair -- so, pretty short, so I'm having to engineer a solution.
  4. Recording a song that I wrote a few weeks ago.  It'll be the first song that I've recorded that has me playing actual drums -- rather than using a programmed drum machine, or just foregoing drums. 
  5. I picked up (used; online) two wooden boxes that will go under my desk at work to hold some of my "things" (e.g. I have a spare change of clothes -- just in case I totally spill; also a towel (Hitchiker's Guide); also a pillow and a blanket...).  I'm patching some holes, oiling them, and doing a mod to the bottom of the larger one.
  6. Miscellaneous lathe work:  two weekends ago my next-door brother in law (the mechanically-minded one) repaired my lathe (an easy fix; duh) -- so I've been having a great time making various pieces of wood cylindrical.  It's full of micro-reinforcements (e.g. seeing the shavings fly off; continually changing the shape of the workpiece) that makes it inherently enjoyable to me (but YMMV).  Lovin' it; not yet tired of it. 
  7. Creating an auger-ing jig for stool-making, to control the angle of the hole that I bore in the seat (the legs are then mounted in the holes). 
  8. Planted some date pits (hoping they will sprout); planted a sprouted avocado pit in a large pot; and have suspended another avocado pit, and also a mango pit (seed?) in water to try to sprout them.
  9. Have re-ground a skew chisel blade (picked it up at some garage sale, perhaps a year ago?) and tang, and will probably turn a handle and mount the blade.
  10. Finally finished sharpening the hewing hatchet that I modded from a "regular" (symmetrical) hatchet. 

Regarding the lathe:  having a functioning lathe now opens the world of possibilities for making stools.  Before, I could cut a square or rectangular tenon on the end of a stool leg, then chisel a corresponding mortice in the seat -- but, that's a pain.

Whereas:  with a lathe, as long as the leg is short enough to fit in the lathe (not sure about tall stools...), you turn a round tenon, and then just drill a hole in the seat:  easy!

Anyhow:  grand times; making progress on all of them; and will have at least some things to show for the vacation.   :)

At some point, I'll post photos and create blog entries on most or all of these...   ;)


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Book recommendation about book on introverts

I haven't quite finished reading this book -- but I was inspired to recommend it anyhow.  It's called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.

Its focus is on introverts, and that it's okay -- even **good** -- to be an introvert. But, of course, to discuss introverts it has to compare and contrast them to extroverts.

Basically (my interpretation/summary):
  • Introverts "like" people just fine -- but they find that interacting with people "uses up" energy; whereas extroverts are recharged by social interactions (this is one of the key diagnostic points).
  • Extroverts tend to have "gangs" of friends, and like throwing big dinner parties and get-togethers and engaging in light chit-chat; introverts tend to have one or two close friends, and prefer to get togther in groups of two or three, where they tend to discuss things more deeply (whether the topics are personal or intellectual).

  • Introverts tend to have difficulties "pushing forward" their views in group ssituations, so their often get overlooked. Which is a shame, because they often have good ideas and keen insights -- in part because they tend to be meticulous, methodical, and well-researched rather than jumping to conclusions.  Because of their tendency to be quiet, rather than the "center of attention", they tend to make keen insights.

  • Introverts that feel strongly about things (e.g. activists, crusaders) are often able to put on a bold face and meet-and-greet, make speeches, etc. "in the name of the cause" -- although they find this draining and then have to go "recharge" for a few hours.

I'm about 80% introvert, I think: my main interests (woodworking; writing and recording songs) are pretty solitary, and I'm very happy with my own company. But I'm very much able to "chat up" sales clerks and etc., and (possibly due to teaching classes while in graduate school) don't have a problem with speaking in public or "cold calling" people. But mostly I prefer to be on my own.

I found the book to be a reasonably engaging read (and have noted a fair number of good quotes) -- although for me it wasn't a "plow through it in three days straight" kind of book: I keep getting sidetracked by recording magazines and etc. ;)


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Saturday, December 16, 2017

The world is my oyster

So:  today is the first day of two weeks' vacation:  I return to work after New Year's Day.  The horizon stretches before me...

I have two weeks -- and no particular commitments.  So, one way or another, I'll get "creative things" done.  It's just a matter of in which realm:  woodworking, or recording some songs.

My brother in law fixed my woodworking lathe for me, so I can now make cylindrical things.  So I might make my first, simple footstool:  just a plank plus four cylindrical legs, which I'll turn from some of my "found"/"rescued" wood.

Or, I could try to finish my "micro drumkit" that I've been working on during weekends for the last month or so:  a fully-functional drumkit that fits into a small "flight attendant"-sized rolling suitcase.

Or, maybe turn some other things on the lathe -- like some drumsticks made out of exotic wood.

If I make a bunch of drumsticks, or a bunch of stools, it's likely that I'll start to give them away.  My paternal grandfather used to enjoy making things out of wood -- but then would end up giving away most of the items, because the interesting bit is the designing and executing (the making).  Once you've made them -- well, how many cutting boards, footstools, and etc. do you really need...?   ;)  So I suspect I'll be the same way.

I've been meaning to record a song that I wrote a few weeks ago, about people going back to college, taking up exercising, and etc., in an effort to make their lives better.  Plus, a few nights ago I finally sat down and noodled around on the electric guitar -- and came up with a chord sequence that would make a good song (energetic, but slightly loose and sloppy).

I'm planning to do my first recording with real drums:  all of my existing recordings either use a drum machine, or are drum-less.  So first I need to figure out which is my preferred pair of room mics for drums (my inexpensive USB recording interface only has two inputs), then record both drum tracks for the two songs in parallel (i.e. "in the same session"), and then go back and forth between the other tracks for the pair of songs.

The recording process keeps getting delayed because we've been having nice weather, so on weekends I keep thinking, "Well, I'll do woodworking during the day, with the natural light, and do recording at night."  But by the time of nightfall, then having dinner, and doing things with the kids, and then checking e-mail -- well, it's time for bed!  ;)

Also, I have some yardwork types of tasks that I could do this week:  maybe finish tidying that pile of bricks at the end of the yard, and cut up some fallen branches for firewood.  Maybe pick up the various piles of miscellaneous (e.g. stashes of "found" wood) and consolidating them somewhere.

In the end, it'll be a balance between "going whichever way my mood takes me" and "being careful to NOT start 'yet another project', before finishing the ones I'm already working on".

And:  the family will probably catch a few movies.  For fun, we might try to catch two movies in a single day.

Regardless:  as long as I keep busy doing things that I like to do -- that's a well-spent vacation.  :)


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