Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Open letter to Vanessa Veselka and the Seattle band Bell

Three children in Australia (one now a teenager; all are middle school or older) are familiar with "Attempted Pop Song #1" and "Upon Greater Reflection":  they've been hearing it in the car since they were infants, and have had it on their MP3 players the last few years.

So:  worldwide recognition.

I should've dumped graduate school and offered to be your bassist:  ah well.  Timing.

And maybe Bell wasn't ready for two songwriters in the group. 


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Friday, December 21, 2018

Open letter to Paul McCartney and Ringo and all songwriters

I live in Australia -- so December is actually during the summer -- so people keep their windows open (unless they have the windows open).

As I waited for the train this morning, to commute to work, I heard a pair of young children singing -- loudly! -- "Yellow Submarine".  I did a quick web search:  it was released in 1966 -- a few years before **I** was born, and at least a full generation -- probably 46 years before those kids were born.

And yet:  they knew the song.

That must to amazingly gratifying as a songwriter or recording artist (Paul, Ringo) -- to have little children singing, unprompted, a song you recorded nearly half a century ago.

Your song is embedded in popular culture.

Can't get much better than that.


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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Review of the AU zombie movie Cargo

Cargo.  A zombie movie, but set in the Australian wilderness.

A dad is in the Australian wilderness, and has to get his baby daughter to safety through a cross-country trek.

The start is a tiny bit slow, but it picks up.

Slow zombies.  Not especially gory -- but some violence, moderate swearing.

If you're a dad (or a parent), you'll appreciate it.

Worth watching if you can find it.  It's on AU Netflix -- but may or may not be on the U.S. Netflix.


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Saturday, December 15, 2018

This is for the Americans:  a comparision of the Australian (or at least, Queensland) education system, compared to my experiences in the Seattle area.

I probably have a few details wrong about the local school process -- but it's generally correct.

And I don't know if this is how all AU (or even Queensland) high schools do it:  it could just be at The Girl's high school.

The structure is:

-Seven courses per term
-A rolling 7-day schedule
-Four classes per day (plus 10 mins of homeroom)
-Most classes meet 4x during the rolling schedule -- but some only meet 2x or 3x

This means that -- unlike at the high school **I** went to -- no one memorizes their class schedule -- because no two days are alike.

Students tend to map out in a grid which class they have for Period 1, 2, 3 and 4 for each day of the cycle (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3...), and carry a copy in their binder, and post another copy at home (e.g. above their desk). Each morning you then check the schedule, to know which books to bring.

Also, Health/PE is a single class, but with two different "modes":  the Health sessions are classroom days, while the PE sessions are in the gymnasium (and you have to change into your gym gear in between periods).  Because the kids aren't allowed to travel to school in their gym clothes (they have to wear their school uniforms), it's awkward to have period one as PE -- so usually on those rotation days they're they Health days -- but not always.  And sometimes if they're working on an in-class project, the teacher will tell them that next session will be a Health day, not a PE day -- and they have to remember that for next time (which could be 2-3 school days later).

The advantage of this "rotating schedule" system, I suppose, is that that each period is longer -- so each period is about 90 minutes long (whereas I think EHS was 50 or 55 minutes -- six periods a day?), which means that it's practical to do longer, more involved in-class activities.

And also you only have to bring 4/7ths of your books each day.

But, to use an AU phrase:  "it would do my head in" to have a rolling seven day cycle:  it doesn't even align to the school week (i.e. 5 days) -- such that the Day 1 class schedule at the start of a term is on a Monday -- but then on the next loop it's on Wednesday -- and then on a Friday....

Another advantage, though, is that it's robust against public holidays:  for example, if Monday is a holiday, then you just hold the classes for that day in the rotation... on Tuesday.

And I suppose it's good preparation for university - where your different daily schedules don't align.

Another difference is that you have "lower primary" (years Prep (American kindergarden) through year 2, "upper primary" (years 3-6), "Jr. secondary" (years 7-9) and "secondary" (years 10-12).

I'm pretty sure that up until the '80s(-ish), people who were planning to work in factories, get apprenticeships for trades, and etc. would just stay in school until year 9 and then get a "Jr secondary" high school diploma.  The kids who wanted to be office workers (higher than admin. assistants) or go to uni would stay all the way through to year 12.

This means that kids who thought school was a "waste of time" could legitimately leave after year 9.  This also means that (based on my impression) that the upper-level high school math, history, science and English classes are more rigorous in AU -- almost U.S. university level -- because only the "decent students" traditionally remained.

The implication is that university degrees in AU typically don't require "breadth" requirements like in American universities (e.g. 1 history class, 1 English class, 1 math, 1 science, 1 year of foreign language...) -- because anyone who went through year 12 already has that at a sufficiently high standard.  So people at university basically start specializing right away -- e.g. History majors will take nothing but History classes.  Within the broader (national) approach to education, it's internally consistent.  Similarly, they have the option of staying for an "Honours year" after their three-year Bachelor's degree, to do an "honours thesis" -- which strikes me as pretty similar in scope to a Master's thesis.  Which is why people typically don't get a Master's degree on the way to their Ph.D.:  the Honours degree is a sufficient prerequisite.

As undergraduates they tend to have two majors (minors don't exist):  half the classes in two different areas each -- e.g. Business and Economics, or Math and Physics.  However, a "double major" (all your classes in a single area) is viewed as more focused.

Law, Dentistry, Veterinary and Optometry are all undergraduate degrees.  So is Medicine (or, used to be, at least; they may have changed it in the last few years).  But some of them (I believe) require additional internship/residency periods.

A whole different system.  Different from the U.S. approach -- but both are internally consistent.


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Sunday, December 09, 2018

Netflix is limited

For the last few years, whenever I checked out a pawn shop or thrift store I'd browse through the DVD section -- in part because I like movies, but also because we hadn't got around to accessing "movie streaming" technology.

Yesterday The Lady signed us up for Netflix.

It looks promising -- but I won't be selling off my DVD collection:

-They don't have The Last Starfighter
-They don't have Yojimbo
-They don't have Scott Pilgrim vs The World

So:  we'll probably be using the local DVD rental kiosk less, to rent the recent releases.  And I've found a few Netflix series that look interesting.

But movies that are a bit old, or a bit outside the zone of popular tastes?  Looks like I'll have to stay with DVDs.

At least, here in Australia:  maybe there's a wider selection if you live in the U.S.


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Thursday, November 29, 2018

The music is embedded in me

Yesterday I re-watched an Australian-made movie called Three Summers, which takes over three summers at a fictional folk music festival in Western Australia.  The main character plays the theremin.  One of his character traits is that he's passionate about music.

"Music isn't something you choose.  If you can just drop it, you never had it."

--Roland, Three Summers (movie), 27:42; found 11/28/18 (May've already logged when watched the movie the first time, half a year to a year ago)

Roland:  "You girls are great.  You're really, really talented -- and music's always gonna be in your lives, there's no doubt about that.  But you have to ask yourself:  its it your vocation?  Is it the only thing you want?" 

Girl:  "Yes."

Roland:  "Then you have to make music for itself, not because it'll get you a hit.  You have to know that even if, after a lifetime of playing, you never get that hit, you'll still believe you made the right choice.  [...]  There's a band playing tonight -- an Afghani folk band.  My guess is they're unlikely to ever get a hit, and they probably know it -- but still they play."

(Three Summers (movie), 1:10:45; found 11/28/18 (May've already logged when watched the movie the first time, half a year to a year ago))

That made me think about my own relationship to music.  Over the past two decades or so, I would for literally months without touching a guitar, bass, or keyboard -- but then when I did get around to it, I would spend a few hours noodling around and enjoying making music, just for the inherent enjoyment of it.

In my youth I was in a band with my cousin and my roommate.  After the band broke up, I wasn't single-minded enough to do the "solo" thing -- although this was pre-internet -- so maybe I might've marshalled my forces a bit more if I'd been able to post some music online and mount a webpage.

But:  over the two months I've made an effort to make playing music a daily part of my life:  I have a small hand drum under my desk that I'll play for a few minutes before or after my evening session of typing on the computer (checking e-mail, etc.); I have a tambourine in the front passenger seat, so that when I'm stopped at traffic lights I can play it like a hand drum; and I received a small synthesizer for my birthday, which is about the length of the span between my outstretched thumb and pinky -- which I play on a near-daily basis during the week, on the "train" portion of my daily commute (it has a headphone jack).

And whenever I play music, I feel... good.

I have a substantial backlog of songs to record -- which I always say is better than the opposite:  tons of time, but no songs in the queue.  One of these days I'll sit down and record some of them.  And some-someday I'll sign up for some online song-hosting service, and try selling downloads of my songs.

I'm unlikely to get rich from selling my songs.  But I enjoy playing music; writing songs; and recording songs.  I earn a living from my "day job" -- so I'm happy to just be involved with music on a personal, informal basis.

Music makes me happy.

Yup.  :)


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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Basically have all the tools I need

I took the day off work today, partly "just because", but also because I had to burn off some excess hours.  Dropped the kids off at school, watched the (oddly long) awards ceremony (one of my sons received a "high achievement" award for the semester), and then left around 10 or 10:30am (I don't remember).

Among my wanderings, I stopped off at Carba-Tec for the first time in about a year.  They sell machine and hand-tool woodworking tools -- for woodworking hobbyists, not the "hardware store" types of tools:  so, medium- to upper-end.  For some reason -- maybe because they sell Japanese-style saws, chisels and handplanes -- they also sell Japanese cooking knives.

I confirmed something interesting: there really aren't any additional woodworking tools I need -- or even particularly want:  I've reached saturation.  Any tools that I need to accomplish the sort of woodworking that I like to do, I already own.  So, really, I just need to log more shop time -- not accumulate more tools.

(Exception:  a old-style, 1-2 person crosscut handsaw -- for sawing more efficiently through larger logs.  But there's no urgency.)

Similarly:  even though I appreciate a good-quality cooking knife, I really only use four knives: a chef's knife, a Japanese cleaver-like vegetable knife, a paring knife, and a modified paring knife for coring apples.  And I already own all of those.  So even though they had a number of nice-looking -- and reasonably-priced -- Japanese knives... I don't need 'em.

Upon further reflection, I don't really need any more musical instruments or recording gear.  In a lot of ways, it's more interesting to operate within the limitations of my equipment.  And I have a simple recording interface; a few inexpensive mics; an acoustic and an electric guitar; an electric bass; an inexpensive synth; and various pieces of percussion.  That's really all I need to record any of the songs I've written. 

So -- even though it's fun to browse online ads, trawling for musical bargains -- I'd be better served by applying that time to actually recording -- or at least, playing an instrument.


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