Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

What dogs live for

What word does a dog live for?


Especially when it's said in the kitchen.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Off-putting customer service

I was at a food-serving place today -- a cafe, I suppose: they sell muffins, quiche, sandwiches, etc., and you can get it to go, or eat it there.

The lady handed me my food item, and I expected the obligatory pleasantry. None came. No ''Thanks for coming!'' or the cliched ''Have a Nice Day!'' or... well, ANYTHING.

So, in an attempt to elicit some sort of customer-service-y send-off, I said, ''Hey, you have a nice day!''

The response: ''I'll try.'' In a monotone.

Eh. Whatever.

And, their prices are a bit high.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Every Time You're Doing That Thing You Do

Tonight, while sitting with The Girl while she fell asleep, I watched part of our DVD of That Thing You Do.

It's one of my favorite movies. But as a 38 year old who's been in two different pretty good bands that evaporated, it makes me a little sad.

We'll have to see how the whole ''band thing'' pans out, WIFMD.*


*When I Finish My Dissertation

Friday, May 25, 2007

Steve Martin's downward slide

(I almost used ''downward trajectory'' -- but I liked the alliteration.)

I have a soft spot of Steve Martin: he stars in some of my favorite movies (L.A. Story; Planes, Trains, and Automobiles), and in interviews he always seems like a nice guy.

Which is why I'm disappointed that -- at least for my own tastes -- his movies have been pretty lackluster over the last... fifteen?... years.

All of his recent movies that came to mind were ones that I saw the t.v. ads, and went "Eh." Never saw 'em. But, I figured there'd be other movies that didn't come to mind, so I checked out the list of his movies (and t.v. appearances) at his listing.

Based on this list, Father of the Bride (1991) was the most recent one that I actually **enjoyed**. A Simple Twist of Fate (1994; finds an abandoned baby) was... o.k., but not memorable; and in Leap of Faith (1992), where he's a con artist fake faith healer, nothing much happened, and it wasn't particularly funny -- but maybe it was an attempt at a "serious" movie?

Maybe he's lost the ability -- or never had it -- to read a script, see who's directing, and go ''This'll be a good one'', or ''This'll really stink''. Or, maybe he just needs to keep up on his mansion payments, so he needs the work and will take just about anything.

Anyhow: I know he still has it in him (and I haven't seen Shopgirl; heard it's pretty o.k.) -- but I'm still waiting.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Wishful Kung Fu thinking

Led the computer labs today at Uni. While driving home, and stopped at a stoplight, was looking around and saw a business sign on a building, ''Kung Fu Co."

''What a weird name for a kung fu place,'' I think. But cool that it's on the way home.

Another look to be sure; still says ''Kung Fu Co.''

Look again. Ah. ''King & Co.'' The font they used made the ''&'' look like ''Fu''. And, I guess ya sees what ya wants to see.

Bummer. But kinda funny.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Geek cred

This morning we picked up my dad at the airport: flew in to stay with us for two weeks, to help us move house, plus misc. yardwork. Among other things, he brought a 2.0GB USB key -- my term for USB flashdrives.

Now, I'm not saying I'm Geeker-than-thou for **owning** a 2.0GB USB key. I'm Geeky because I think it's pretty cool. ;)


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Deprecated without good reason?

Just when I think I'm un-geek, I find myself getting all worked up over... the deprecation (phasing out) of perfectly serviceable html tags.

Apparnetly, in terms of html code (i.e. the stuff that formats web pages), the "center" tag has been deprecated. Thus, instead of using "center" and "slash-center" for centering something, it's now "div align="center" " and "slash-div". And instead of just putting "i" and "slash-i" around text you want to italicize, it's "span style="font-style: italic;" " and "slash-span".

Now, I don't mind **both** ways being equally valid. But, I don't like the notion of "upgrading" to a new way that achieve the same result, but in a more roundabout way. Seems like bad practice -- and evidence that everyone is using webpage-creating software, rather than coding by hand.

Any webby people out there with insights on this?

According to the deprecation article at Wikipedia, the usual reasons for deprecation are:

1) The feature has been replaced by a more powerful, alternative feature. Maybe more powerful, but also unnecessarily complex. Why not leave it as an alternative, for that task-specific function?

2) The feature contains a design flaw — frequently a security flaw — and so should be avoided, but existing code depends upon it. Could be, but I doubt it. (Anyone?)

3) The feature is considered extraneous, and will be removed in the future in order to simplify the system as a whole. Nope -- making it **more** complicated. (Although there was an example, under this reason, of the ''font'' element being phased out, due to Cascading Style Sheets. But I don't like the idea of being **forced** to use CSS...)

4) A future version of the software is planned to make major structural changes, which make it impossible (or impractical) to support older features. Doesn't seem **that** hard to let people "center" and "italicize" using the old-school way.

Again: seems to be webpage-creator-centric, versus those of us who bang together quickie pages by hand.


The first one is the saddest one

I don't know how I managed to avoid it after all these years of driving, but I finally accidentally hit a wild animal while driving at night.

Looked like a bilby (see photo) -- although it was probably something else, as supposedly bilbies don't get out towards Brisbane.

It was bounding towards the side of my car, from across the road -- such that I actually ran over it with the rear wheel, not the front. It was either naive, stupid, or suicidal.



Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Occupational hazard

By its very nature, I think being an academic tends to turn you into a know-it-all, with a touch of intellectual arrogance. After all, it's your job to be an expert in your field, and -- if you teach -- to pontificate, share your knowledge, and know all the answers.

OTOH, it could just be self-selection: them's the sort that go in to academia.

Maybe my rock musician tendencies will save me. Rock musicians are humble, and discreet about their opinions... right?


Monday, May 14, 2007

Sadly, seems like everybody's doing it

During the 2-3 years after I graduated from college, it seemed like every few months I was invited to someone's wedding. Just what happens at that life-stage, I suppose.

Sadly, I now seem to be at the other end of the process: divorces.

Every month or two, it seems like I'm learning about someone else getting a divorce: a lady I know from my wife's work; my relative, Giovanni; and the latest, today.

I was at a meeting at work today, and unexpectedly a lady I know from 1998[?], then lost touch with, was at the meeting. Turns out that her husband dumped her early this calendar year: they went jogging in the morning, then he went off to work while she worked from home. She checked e-mail, and discovered a 4-5 page attachment which was a letter from her husband, saying things weren't working out, and that he'd text her later that day to see if he could stop by that evening to pick up some things. Classy.

On a brighter note, I'm liking my new job. Although it turns out that my timesheet wasn't processed, because they lost the tax form I filled out. Which means my getting network access is further delayed. Gar.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Nice international folks

As a peculiar end to Mother's Day (same day in Aussie-land as in the U.S.), we went to a 7pm ethnic-based graduation ceremony for one of my wife's students. (The student invited my wife as an ''inspirational instructor''.) The student is from Oman -- a country somewhere in the Middle East -- so the ceremony was hosted by some Omani student club, which spans across the local universities here in Brisbane.

It made me sad to think that Muslim-type folks are going thru the same types of discrimination that Italians and Irish folks, Jewish folks, Chinese folks, and etc., have had to endure during those waves of immigration to Australia and to the U.S. ''Ewww -- they dress all funny and have a weird religion, etc.''

Well, they all seemed nice enough -- and their food was good. Can they **really** be bad people if they serve tasty food?


Saturday, May 12, 2007

The future of education

A colleague of mine was leading a computer lab session for a statistics class. A student was asking for clarification on one of the concepts, and wasn't understanding it based on his lecture notes.

''Well, did you understand how the textbook explained it?'', asked my colleague.

''I didn't buy the book, because it's pretty expensive -- $120 [US$90] -- for a book I'm only going to use for one class.''

''Ah. Well, you might want to go to a used bookstore and see if you can pick up a used statistics textbook for, hopefully, around twenty bucks. It's o.k. if it's from the sixties or seventies -- Intro to Statistics hasn't really changed much since then.''

''Well, the other thing is that I don't have time to do any extra studying for this course.''

Blink, blink. ''Um -- **extra** studying? You mean, reading the REQUIRED textbook?''


The frightening thing is that this student is an education major.

Apparently, this guy's area is social studies and English, so he doesn't see the point of the education program requiring him to take statistics, when he'll never use it. And I agree that it seems like overkill for the education program to require this for high school level teaching. Kind of like making the future chemistry teachers take German, because ''that's the language of science''.

But, still! Seems like a poor attitude towards education for a future teacher to have.

Oh! Two additional bits:

1) The student also said that he only needed a ''C'' to get program credit, so he wasn't worrying about getting a high grade. My colleague pointed out that aiming for a ''C'' is a dangerous game, because what happens if you mis-judge (e.g. by bombing the final)? And besides, if you aim high, that means that you can get one grade lower in **another** course, and your g.p.a. would stay the same. The student's response was, ''I guess.''

2) Another student, sitting nearby, apparently kept glancing over, making faces, and rollllling her eyes during this entire exchange.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Dilbert-like situation

So, at my new job, I can't get access to the network (or get an e-mail account, or internet access) until three or four days after I submit the special I.T. form.

The I.T. form requires my employee number.

And I don't get an employee number until I submit my first timesheet.

The clever work-around, suggested by the office staff, is to turn in a timesheet, with just one's first day's hours, to get the process moving. This sounded pretty clever, given that I started last week, and the end of the pay period is this coming Friday: this would expedite things by a week and a half.

So, today I phoned the H.R. folks to for my employee number. They claim they don't have any timesheet from me. Our office lady says she sent it in last week.

My guess is that my timesheet is sitting on someone's desk -- and that they're planning on processing it at the end of the pay period: this Friday.

Ah well.

So: Been working a few days a week, this week plus last week. Brought my wife's laptop in today, so I could actually type things.

If my employee number gets generated this Friday, I might be able to have network access and departmental e-mail... by next Friday.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Whether to intervene on public misbehavior?

Dear Readers,

O.k., I'm interested in people's opinions.

It's generated by a specific incident, which happened yesterday.

The broader question is: should one intervene against inappropriate behavior in public? And you could probably break it down into sub-categories, like people using foul language (repeatedly!), people damaging property, people being mean to others, and people physically being mean. You'll get a sense of what my attitude is by the end of all this.

Here's the specific: We were out doing our usual Saturday afternoon grocery shopping, and the lady in front of us had a boy, probably four or five years old, who -- as far as I could tell -- wasn't doing anything particularly wrong. Basically, instead of standing right next to his mom, he was standing maybe a metre (about 3 ft.) away. She lunged forward, grabbed his arm, and yanked him such that he was propelled into the side of the checkout counter. He stepped away from the counter, and then grabbed his arm again, semi-twisted it behind his back, bent down and hissed something in his ear, and then let go. She then stood up, said something to the check-out cashier, and was all smiles.

Through this, the kid didn't particularly react. My interpretation was that this treatment wasn't out of the ordinary, and thus didn't warrant any particular reaction.

I left the line and went out front, adrenaline pumping, hands shaking, wondering what I should do. I didn't think I should just ''let it go'' -- because I strongly believe that as human beings, it's our duty to look out for those less powerful than ourselves. I also wondered, geez -- if that's how she treats him **in public** -- then what's it like at home??? If someone doesn't let her know that, hey, what you're doing is not socially approved, then there's really no reason for her to stop, is there?

So, I went back in, looked her in the eye, and said quietly, ''I know you've probably had a hard day, but that sort of behavior isn't appropriate in public''; looked at her meaningfully; and left. In response, she smiled in what in hindsight was probably an ''I'm trying to please you'' smile -- a little bit deer-in-the-headlights, so maybe she had her only problems at home with someone else.

So, what should I have done? I'm glad I did something, but I don't think my implementation was as good as it could have been. For one thing, my statement wasn't sufficiently clear: she might have thought I was referring to her son's behavior as inappropriate; I should've specified ''inappropriate for an adult.'' And if she mis-interpreted my statement as condemning her son's behavior, maybe she took it out on him some more. Hopefully not.

When she was dragging her kid around, my first inclination was to call the cops, or mall security -- but I wasn't sure anything would come of it; and at that point, I thought that education and informal social control was more useful than straight punishment.

Dunno. But, there's things I just won't stand by and do nothing for: One is for a parent whacking on a kid; and the other is for partner violence.

The question is, what best to do?


No takers on the last chair

Hm. No takers on the last remaining chair. Need to mark it down from a dollar to fifty cents. And after a few days, to 20c.