Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The concept of day care centres

Daycare centres are a funny concept: You show up at 7:30, or 8, or 8:30 in the morning, and say: "Here's what is most precious to me in all the world. Could you look after it for me? I'll be back at 4:30."

BTW, The Girl was **much** happier going to daycare today. No tears, no sadness; some smiles. Looking forward to the little "dance" lessons they do in the early afternoon (Hokey Pokey-ish things, plus some simple yoga poses).


Monday, April 28, 2008

Learning and an extra kid

This is almost worth two separate posts, but I'll try to present my thoughts in a coherent, thematic manner.

This last weekend, I was reminded of something, and I learned something.

We were out at a multi-national fast food chain (to be left un-named...), with attached kid's playground (which are really neat-o! tunnels and cockpits and such), and there was this one boy -- about a year older than The Girl -- who was being really bossy and not letting other kids down the slide. I was the only adult that was actually directly supervising my child -- despite the sign asking parents to supervise their kids -- which meant that I was the only adult actually out in the play area (all the other parents were inside, presumably chatting with their friends).

So, the boy was being bossy and not letting people through -- or rather, trying to not let the other kids through, but the kids larger than him just pushed on past. But with the kids smaller than himself -- including my daughter -- he was succeeding in gumming up the works. So, in my Grown-Up Voice, I said "Hey! You need to let the other kids use the slide, too, buddy!" (Or some similar phrasing.) He scowled -- but he **did** let the other kids through.

He had already been a bit snotty and pushy, even prior to this slide-blocking incident, so I ducked inside and asked The Lady if she knew which parents in there had the boy.

The Lady told me that the boy seemed to be with his dad -- who was initially sitting at one fo the tables doing paperwork (with his back to the play area!) -- and then later went off to the bathroom (leaving the boy in the play area) -- and was currently somewhere in line.

At about this point, the boy came inside, and stood on the bench of the booth where his dad was apparently sitting. He sat there for a fair while, looking... well, not sad -- but certainly not "happy".

I walked over, knelt down next to the table (strategically so: body language; placing myself physically lower than his standing-on-the-bench [on the other side of the table] location, so that I would be in a less dominant position), and talked to him in my Mellow Dad Voice (which is distinct from my commanding Grown-Up Voice). I acknowledged that sometimes it's nice to have the slide all to ourselves -- but that sometimes, when other people are around, it's good to share, too. His face softened up, and he said "Yeah" a few times, softly.

He seemed like a basically decent kid -- and I was a little angry at the dad, who would take this kid out (weekend dad? why even bother, if you're going to just ignore the kid and do paperwork?) and then not spend any time with him? Plus, in this day and age, monitoring him so inadequately -- that's **totally** how little kids get kidnapped...

Actually, not "a little angry" at the dad -- more of a smolder...

Which brings me back to the point of this post.

Something remembered: every few months, I run across a kid and his/her parents, where the parent is so neglectful, incompetent, or just crummy, that I'm tempted to walk up and just say, "Look, you clearly don't want this kid -- why don't you give him/her to me? I'll actually pay attention to him/her, hey?"

Something learned: I'm thirty-nine years old, and I keep gaining new insights that I feel like I should've figured out before. In this instance, I was tempted to tell the kid off, and reprimand him. But, really, what would that have accomplished? As I say, the kid was basically a good kid. If the dad was actually paying attention to him -- if the kid wasn't basically a sad little boy that was having to entertain himself -- then I suspect that he wouldn't have been trying to boss the other kids around.

Responding to misbehavior by being all strict and commanding, versus trying to find out what's actually going on under the surface. Different styles for different folks -- but I've realized that finding out what's going on is more suited to my over-all style.

That's it. End of post.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cognitive map

This is a black- and- white scan of a drawing The Girl did on April 15th. She says it's a car. She's three and a half years old.

The scribbly thing at the top is her (she sits in the back seat, in the kid seat). The prickly thing at the bottom center is the steering wheel. and the four other things, with the solid dots in the center, are the four wheels.

So, yeah -- those are the meaningful bits of the car, to her -- how she chooses to represent it.

Interesting. :)


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Five best musical guests on Sesame Street

Thx to Elsie for this link.

A person's opinion of the five best musical performances on Sesame Street (includes the relevant links to Y'all Tube).


Monday, April 21, 2008

Quantifying pop songs

Google and the internets are magical things. On the way back from my first tutorial today, I saw these graphs posted on someone's office door -- but, no citation as to where they got them.

However, a brief round of Googling, and I found a repository. Ooh, yeah.

Funny -- although many of them are probably generational: you gots to be of a certain age.

These three are the ones I saw posted on the person's door (you'll have to click on 'em, to make them large enough to read):

This next one, my dad would "get"...

These next two, I found by accident while clicking on the various thumbnails looking for the three above. I'm sure there's more.

(Slag -- "Doncha think"? Yeah, I know -- wrong song.)

Again: this next one, my dad would "get"...

And I didn't include the two or three that I didn't get; clearly, some song that I'm not up on.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

No, that's not what I meant

So, we're running errands today at the local mall. I see a girl, maybe 16yo, with her mom. The girl's wearing a Nirvana t-shirt -- similar to the photo I've posted here, but with one of the guys (maybe Kurt; I don't remember) holding a flower. The caption says something cryptic about flowers.

Being a quasi-musician... from Seattle... and having once worked at a place that sold band t-shirts... I was curious about the phrase. It didn't ring any bells as one of their song lyrics; maybe they have a new album out: B-sides and studio outtakes that Courtney's releasing?

So, I went over and asked the girl, "Sorry, but -- what does that phrase on the bottom of your t-shirt mean? Is it some new song or album of theirs that's been released?"

"Oh, it's the name of a band. 'Nirvana' is a band."

(A pause, while I re-orient myself.) "Um, yeah -- I know that. That's **my** generation..." (Mom looks bemused; she's probably about my age.) "What I meant was: What does the phrase at the bottom mean? Do they have a new song or album out?"

"Um, I don't know", the girl says. "I just liked the t-shirt."


I guess folks who were teens in the '70s probably feel the same way about kids wearing artificially ''aged'' Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin T's -- they don't care about the band, they just want a '70s ''period'' look.

So, I must be at that age: the bands of my youth now have ''retro chic''.



(P.S. Minor trivia: When I was in my first band [playing bass], with my cousin [on guitar], and my roommate [drums], the age-ordering by instrument, and the relative age gap, was identical to Nirvana's: bassist was the oldest; then guitar; then drums.

Also: It drives me nutty when I see these band ads that specify "18-26" for the applicants. Dave Grohl (formerly Nirvana; now Foo Fighters) is my age. Are these folks saying they'd turn down Dave Grohl if he applied for the gig???)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sad Girl

On Wednesdays, The Girl goes to daycare, and for some reason the last few weeks she's been really sad about going: tears and everything.

Usually The Lady drops her off, but today I got to do it: the hope was that she'd be less upset if Daddy was dropping her off, rather than Mommy. Didn't work.

Because it had been a while, I was only 80% sure of which room was hers. So, I asked her, "Is this one your room?"

"That not my room," she sobbed. "My room at home!"

A language thing: different meanings.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ninja instructor

So, I'm leading one of my tutorials, and there's these two women sitting off to the side who keep talking. If they're discussing one of the points I raised -- well, I guess that's o.k. But I had the strong suspicion that their discussion was actually a bit tangental to the class.

I gave them the ''Teacher Look'' a few times, and that quieted them -- briefly. But then they would start again.

I finally ended up striding over to their side of the class, with my white labcoat billowing proudly behind me, and standing next to them. "Perhaps I need to stand over here for a while, eh?" I asked with a grin and a raise of the eyebrow. They got the point.

Then, to diffuse the situation, I launched my thirty-eight year old self into a cartwheel -- labcoat and all -- back to the middle of the room -- where I resumed the lecture, deadpan.

After a minute or two I commented to one of the students in the front row: "The secret is in keeping a straight face."


Monday, April 14, 2008

Home is where the

I like my job and all that. But as I was walking from the parking lot to my building this morning, I realized that at that particular moment, I'd actually rather be with my wife and kids.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Peculiar comic strip

Found out about this comic strip -- called Wondermark -- from Wil Wheaton's blog. Some are funny -- some are just peculiar. And, some have good insights.

Three examples -- for which you'll have to click to enlarge:

Food warnings:

Vikings and Technology:(From

Infant measurements = arbitrary:(From

There's also a fun "Easter egg": if you hover your mouse over the cartoon at the original website, a witty comment from the artist appears.


Friday, April 11, 2008

The Girl's cognitive

Well, even though her pronunciation is still behind the curve (but, getting better on a daily basis!), The Girl has darned good fine motor skills for her age (3.5 years old).

A week or two, she finally made the cognitive leap on how to use a computer mouse -- although she finds a trackball easier, as you can divide the tasks across two hands: right hand "steers" via the trackball; left hand "left-clicks".

This is a screenshot (click to enlarge) of one of the drawings she did in TuxPaint. (Complaint: it's not clear where the saved paintings are stored; and a quick Google search doesn't answer the question. Thus, I had to do a screenshot. ADDENDUM: Re-Googled, and found the info under the FAQ on the TuxPaint website.)

First off, I'm impressed that The Girl can "steer" this stuff. In the cognitive realm, she's placing items with purpose, rather than just a random mess. In the image I've shown here, the teddy bear came first. Then she placed the penguin above it, and declared "The penguin is sitting on the teddy bear's head!" Then, "The penguin is eating an apple!" and "The other penguin is eating a banana."

It's also interesting that shes internalized the cultural representation of the relative placement of two-dimensional objects having three-dimensional meanings: for example, placing the penguin above (and slightly overlapping) means that it's sitting on the teddy bear's head; or that placing the apple or banana touching the penguin's mouth means that it's being eaten.

Interesting stuff. :)


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Girl's language development

The girl is three and a half years old -- and she still talks funny. More specifically, her pronunciation is a little off, compared to most kids her age.

But, the last few weeks she's been improving by leaps and bounds. Although, some gaps remain.

We're trying to -- gently -- correct and shape her speech. But after four or five tries per episode, we let it lie for a little.

Example: She says "SLUH-hee" for "slushie" (i.e. frozen coke; slurpee -- my one great vice). I ask her, "Can you go [my finger to my lips] "Shhhhh!!!", like you're telling someone to be quiet?" She copies me, with a "shhhh" sound.

Then I say, "Can you say "SLUH - SHHHHH!!! - shee".

And she says "SLUH-shee [finger to lips] SHHHHHH!!!"

Repeat 3-4 times; call it good.

So, clearly she can make the sounds... :)


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Props to Microsoft

Even though it's great fun to slag on Microsoft (no derision intended to Slag, the excellent blogger), I was **really** impressed by this (thanks to Old Roommate for the link that led me to this link...).


Raymond Chen is a developer on the Windows team at Microsoft. He's been there since 1992, and his weblog The Old New Thing is chock-full of detailed technical stories about why certain things are the way they are in Windows, even silly things, which turn out to have very good reasons.

The most impressive things to read on Raymond's weblog are the stories of the incredible efforts the Windows team has made over the years to support backwards compatibility:

Look at the scenario from the customer's standpoint. You bought programs X, Y and Z. You then upgraded to Windows XP. Your computer now crashes randomly, and program Z doesn't work at all. You're going to tell your friends, "Don't upgrade to Windows XP. It crashes randomly, and it's not compatible with program Z." Are you going to debug your system to determine that program X is causing the crashes, and that program Z doesn't work because it is using undocumented window messages? Of course not. You're going to return the Windows XP box for a refund. (You bought programs X, Y, and Z some months ago. The 30-day return policy no longer applies to them. The only thing you can return is Windows XP.)

I first heard about this from one of the developers of the hit game SimCity, who told me that there was a critical bug in his application: it used memory right after freeing it, a major no-no that happened to work OK on DOS but would not work under Windows where memory that is freed is likely to be snatched up by another running application right away. The testers on the Windows team were going through various popular applications, testing them to make sure they worked OK, but SimCity kept crashing. They reported this to the Windows developers, who disassembled SimCity, stepped through it in a debugger, found the bug, and added special code that checked if SimCity was running, and if it did, ran the memory allocator in a special mode in which you could still use memory after freeing it.

This was not an unusual case. The Windows testing team is huge and one of their most important responsibilities is guaranteeing that everyone can safely upgrade their operating system, no matter what applications they have installed, and those applications will continue to run, even if those applications do bad things or use undocumented functions or rely on buggy behavior that happens to be buggy in Windows n but is no longer buggy in Windows n+1. In fact if you poke around in the AppCompatibility section of your registry you'll see a whole list of applications that Windows treats specially, emulating various old bugs and quirky behaviors so they'll continue to work. Raymond Chen writes, "I get particularly furious when people accuse Microsoft of maliciously breaking applications during OS upgrades. If any application failed to run on Windows 95, I took it as a personal failure. I spent many sleepless nights fixing bugs in third-party programs just so they could keep running on Windows 95."


But, that's apparently the "Old Microsoft." ON THE OTHER HAND (same web article)....


"Microsoft needs to give you a reason to buy Longhorn, and what they're trying to pull off is a sea change, similar to the sea change that occurred when Windows replaced DOS. The trouble is that Longhorn is not a very big advance over Windows XP; not nearly as big as Windows was over DOS. It probably won't be compelling enough to get people to buy all new computers and applications like they did for Windows."


And etcetera.

It's a good article; go take a look. It gots some good inside scoops.


I am well!

The only good thing about **not** being sick is how **good** you feel when you're **not** sick any more!!!

I mean, I'm probably only 90% of ''normal'' (a relative term, given my general eccentricities...) -- but the contrast with yesterday is just soooo pleasing!!! Like, I can walk around and not feel like I have to throw up. Hey!

Photo is a still shot from my ASUS eee's webcam, of the shirt I'm wearing today. It's the band t-shirt from my first band (me, my cousin, my roommate). My cousin (''Guitar Cousin'') designed it.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Character, or cruelty?

So, I woke up around 11pm, 3am, and 4:45am to barf -- several times each round. This morning I felt un-well, partly due to the lack of sleep, and partly just to the intestinal stuff.

But, I had tutorials to cover -- and no one to sub for me -- so I came in.

Except for dry-heaving in the men's room between the first and second tutorial, I've been pretty o.k. -- just fatigued.

So: Either I'm a slave to responsibility, for coming in -- or I'm a walking disease vector. Or, both.


Addendum: And, dry-heaving in the men's room at 5pm, just before being picked up to go home. And twice that evening at home.

(Yes, you really needed to know that...)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Small laptops are the new thing

An interesting blog entry from here, noting that

"These small education computers for under $500 are creating a problem for makers of full size conventional laptops and high cost sub-notebook computers. Consumers who see that these cheap little computers are more than adequate for most tasks will ask why they should pay two or three times as much (or in the case of some premium sub-notebooks, six times as much)."

Ayep! I mean, very few people are doing three-dimensional graphic rendering. Most folks are doing: 1) word processing; 2) spreadsheets; 3) slide presentations (e.g. PowerPoint); 4) web browsing; and 5) e-mail. Given that the "normal" computers of five years ago worked just fine for these tasks (800MHz, 20GB hard drives, etc.) -- do most of us **really** need a 3.2GHz laptop for $3,000 -- when a $500-$800 one will do?


Friday, April 04, 2008

Sometimes the punt is good

Sometimes when you take a punt, it works out well.

One of my favorite bands is ''Laptop'' -- a one-man band, which has been described as a mix of '80s new wave and industrial. He writes songs with lotsa synths, distorted guitars, and witty, somewhat sardonic lyrics. Good stuff.

So, because I was ordering some other used books and used CDs off of, I ordered this one as well -- sight unseen.

Now, in the past I've been burned on buying albums -- un-previewed -- by bands that I really like. Sometimes then end up being stink-o -- especially if they're from the very end, or very beginning (like this one) of their careers.

Plus, the track listing indicated that there was a fair amount of overlap (about 50%) with songs from this guy that I already had. So, not as much ''value for money'' as I'd hope.

But still, I took a punt.

And -- I luuuuuv it!!! Good stuff (as good as his other stuff). And the ''duplicate'' songs? They're earlier incarnations -- they sound almost like demo versions, in that they're not as ''produced'' sounding as his later stuff. So: not duplicates of the versions I have. Good.

Happy music-listening boy! :)

(Not my most-favoritist of his albums -- but still, good stuff. Favorite song: "Nothing to Declare" (uses Customs and Immigrations at the airport as a big metaphor). He also does a Human League/Depeche Mode-y version of Billy Joel's "Still Rock and Roll to Me".)


Obstructionist city council

We're trying to get planning permission to build a ''mega- shed'' -- a three-car garage -- a few metres off of one end of the house. The model we're looking at has one garage door, and two ''empty'' garage bays.

Short-term it **might** hold a car, but eventually it'll be the ''box room'' to hold misc. ''stuff'' (Christmas decorations; suitcases; etc.), plus have my music gear, woodworking gear, workout things, and a bunch of other stuff that, yeah, are more ''mine'' than ''my wife's''. It'll be my big playhouse (which I'll also end up sharing with the kids -- which should be nifty).

ANYHOW -- I just got a phone call this morning saying that we can't build it where we want to, because that's a ''waterway'' -- i.e. where the water goes when it floods. Except that where we've located it is actually one of the highest spots on the property!!!

What happened is that during (or shortly after?) the 1974 Brisbane Flood, the city charted out where the flooded areas were, and added those to their city planning charts: If you proposed buildings are in the ''potential flood areas'', you can't build there (or at least, need to do special things in order to get permission). However, they didn't base their zoning on the contours of the land. Instead, they just used a few spots as data points, and played ''connect-the-dots'' in a straight line -- again, regardless of the actual contours of the land.

So: It looks like we'll need to contact some certain branch of the city council; fill out some forms, pay some fees; and have some person come out to personally look and say ''Yep! The map's wrong -- this-here is high ground!!!"

Which means future delays.

I just wanna get my shed built. Sigh.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Spooky times

A few days ago, I came in to work, dropped my bag off in my office, went into the room next door to get a drink of water, returned to my office -- and noticed that the clock on the wall was two hours fast.

The minute hand was spot-on -- it was just the hour hand that was off.

So, I re-set it, sat down at my desk, and did some computer stuff. Got up to get something from the networked printer -- and when I returned, my clock was three hours slow.

Again, the minute hand was fine: just the hour hand.

So, I re-set it.

Finally, later that afternoon, it happened one more time -- but this time, only an hour off.

It's not that the batteries are running down -- because then, the minute hand would also be incorrect.

Maybe it's the ghosts of Daylight Savings attacking my clock. (Queensland, and I think the Northern Territories, are the only states in Australia that don't do daylights savings.)

A little spooky.

Hasn't happened since, though.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Greenhouse gasses and percent females in legislature

Actually, those two topics -- greenhouse gasses and the percent of female legislators -- are not causally related. I just didn't feel like starting two separate blog entries.


A quick estimate of which is worse for global warming: mailing a letter, or sending an e-mail.

Curiously, he concludes that it depends on the distance traveled, and whether the e-mail is stored for a long time (versus getting deleted). He also has some innovative suggestions.


If you want to use "the percentage of female legislators" as a measure of the gender equity of a nation -- and you accept that it's harder for females, ethnic minorities, etc. to make it to the national level of government (compared to the state level), then here's the numbers for the U.S. versus Australia:

AU (2007?):

29% female in Federal Parliament


US (2001):

14% female in House of Reps

13% female in Senate


I realize that this compares disparate years -- but I don't want to invest the time to find a source for matching years.

But -- unless the U.S. has doubled their proportion of females from 2001 to 2007, then AU has basically twice the proportion of females as representatives at the federal level.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Teaching witticism

So, yesterday one of my tutorials (called "quiz sections" at some universities) was a little unruly, and hard to get settled. But a few hollered "Hey!"s on my part did the trick.

After I had their attention, I half-jokingly shook my finger at them and said, "You're all being a little naughty."

"And," I added, "Not in the fun way, either."

It got laughs.