Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

My first stool

This weekend I finally completed a project that I've been working on (in bits and pieces) since about Christmas -- and has actually been several years in the making.

It's a stool -- or, alternatively, a endtable or bedside table -- made out of a wooden slab and four thick branches as legs.

A wife of a co-worker gave me the wooden slab about a year and a half ago (November 2016), when they downsized from their house into an intentionally small two bedroom apartment.  Previously it had been used as a "bridge" between two kitchen counters, and at another house it had been some sort of shelf in the garage (my co-worker thinks that the black marks might be motor oil stains).

I intention-ally did not sand back the surface, because:  (1) I like the darker, more "aged" patina; (2) I think the black marks make it look more interesting; and (3) I also wanted to retain the blue (teal?) paint splatter on one corner.

However, I did choose to sand across the tops of the round mortices, where the legs and the wedges come through the slab -- just to smooth everything (the stubs of the leg tenons protruded above the surface of the seat).  So I lost a little patina around there.  But that just means that you can see what the wood would have looked like -- had I sanded the whole thing.

Likewise, I intentionally made wooden wedges out of a darker wood, because I wanted the wedges to be obvious (an accent!  a "design feature"!) and contrast with the color of the legs.  I cut the wedges to four degrees -- because that's the angle that Chris Schwarz mentioned that he uses for his wedged chair legs.  Shore.

Note that the wedging forces are against the ends of the long grain -- because I didn't want to risk splitting the seat.  

The legs are lagistromia (crepe myrtle):  very slow growing, and can be pruned to be more "bush-like" or "tree-like", depending.  These are leftovers from prunings from about ten years ago, and I knew that they would someday become stool, chair, or table legs:  I was just waiting for the right project.

I intentionally left the bark on the branches, and kept them intentionally "rustic":  it looks more interesting. I also intentionally left the legs a little long:  I chose two long branches from my stockpile that suited my intended diameter, and cut them more-or-less in half, to maximize the leg length.  An alternative would have been to cut one of the branches in thirds, then cut a fourth leg to a matching length from the remaining branch:  this would have been fine, as the resulting stool would've been about knee height (sufficiently ergonomic) -- but I preferred have something that was ambiguously stool/table height.

I also made an engineering decision to splay the legs -- very slightly! -- rather than to make them perpendicular to the surface.  My rationale was that the torque would be minor, but the slight splay would provide a wider foundation, and thus increase the stool/table's stability.

Oddly, I didn't mark the source of the wood like I usually do.  As you can tell, I keep track of the source of the wood for my projects -- and usually I like all the components to be from the same source (or at least, identifiable sources) -- e.g. "from the construction dumpster from my kids' old school".  But it was either from the tree in the front yard in the house we lived in before this one (which was my wife's late grandmother's house:  we lived in it for a few years after the grandmother died), or else from the tree in our front yard (which was transplanted with a backhoe from the grandmother's back yard, place in our front yard, and then I pruned the excess branches so that the reduced root ball would not have to support an excess amount of branches).  But my best guess is that it's from the grandmother's front yard.

This stool marks a few firsts:  it's the first substantial project where I used my woodturning lathe (it's way easier to drill holes, then lathe the end of the legs, than it is to mortice a square or rectangular hole!).  It's the first chair/stool/table that I've made.  And actually, it's my first piece of furniture (I've made a few simple shelves - but I don't count those).

As is my practice, I documented the heck out of it, in permanent marker on the underside of the seat:  the completion date; the sources of the wood; instructions for adding additional coats of finishing oil (if desired); and my initials.  

I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but my feet are about two inches off the ground.  I could shorten the stool legs a bit -- but at the moment it can be used equally well as a stool and as an endtable:  if I trim down the legs, then it won't be quite the right height near a bed.

As you can probably tell, one of the things that I like about woodworking -- and songwriting and recording music, for that matter -- is the intersection of logical/engineering problem-solving, and creative/aesthetic decision-making.  In woodworking:  Will the thing that I'm making serve its intended purpose, and hold up under the anticipated loads?  But also:  do I like the design; do I like the way it looks?  In songwriting and recording:  what mood do I want to convey?  What sounds do I want to create?  And then:  how do I achieve those moods and sounds?

Anyhow, with this stool/table project:  I am pleased.  :)


P.S.  All photos are by my son B2, Tech Boy

P.P.S.  In the final photo, I'm on the phone with my sister.  :)  

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Save the Watchtower

As I was commuting in to work this morning, two people were standing outside the train station handing out pamphlets on vegan-ism.

Somehow, I got a flash of the scene early in the first Back to the Future movie, where the old lady was handing out "Save the Clock Tower" pamphlets.

That gave me an idea:

Not now, but maybe when I retire, every once in a while I'll stand outside the train station during peak commuting times, and hand out "Save the Clock Tower" pamphlets. 

Most people won't "get it" -- because by that time the Back to the Future movie would be fifty years old.  But some people will get it.

And I'll be amused...  :)


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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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