Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Friday, January 30, 2009

Quaint Australians

Yeah, this is very American-centric of me...

Three different news programs (one national, I think), tonight have reported on an "axe robbery", where a man robbed a Subway sandwich shop, and also a convenience store, with an axe -- although technically, the thing looks more like a hatchet to me (the handle is hammer-length, not pickaxe-length). Sorry, tried an image search for some footage, but no luck.

More aggravatingly, some are starting to refer to the weapon as a "tomahawk" -- which it **definitely** isn't!

Also on tonight's news, some guy held up a store with a hammer. A **hammer**!!! Waggled it at the sales clerk, across the countertop.

As an American living in Australia, I find the whole notion of robbing small shops with woodworking tools to be a bit amusing (I think I may've offended my wife with my hysterical laughter...). I especially liked how the hatchet-wielding guy had his "weapon hand" on the counter, as support, as he reached across to rummage through the till -- seems like the cashier should've grabbed it, then.

I can just imaging some guy trying to rob a convenience store with a hammer, in Chicago, or L.A., or New York City. ("A hammer??? F*** you!!!" -- and then chase him outta there with a baseball bat.)

Which is why the local "road rage" shooting of a few days ago was so shocking: Where the heck did the guy get a gun?


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Financial tip: don't mortgage your house to play the stock market

In today's Courier-Mail, the local Brisbane paper, the front-page news was that, "Caught in a crisis not of their making, these mom and dad investors are left to face financial ruin!"

Basically, a local financial advising company, called Storm Financial, advised all these folks a few years ago that since the stock market was really hot, they should all invest their life's savings, plus mortgage their homes, and invest in the stock market.

So: now the stock market is bust, and all these 61, 62, and 65 year olds are losing their homes, can't retire, and etcetera. Oh: and the company went out of business.

Yes, that's crummy -- very crummy. But, um: when someone tells you to mortgage your house to play the stock market: don't.

And if you're within a few years of retiring -- do not put all your money (or even **most** of your money!) in stocks. Depending on who you talk to, the rule of thumb is that you should have 100 minus your age, or 120 minus your age, in stocks.
  • If you're 30, you should have 70% (or 90%) of your investments in stocks: you have many years until you retire, so there's plenty of time for the market to correct itself.
  • If you're 60, you should have 40% (or 60%) of your investments in stocks.
  • And, if you're 65, and hoping to retire, you should have 35% (or 55%) in stocks.

**Not** your life savings...

I guess what annoys me about the newspaper article is that everyone (on the front page, at least) lost a million dollars or more, each -- because they had a fair chunk of $$$, because they all used to run their own business (a couple owned a grocery store; another guy was a contractor; and another guy owned a taxicab company). So, how do successful small business folks get suckered like that....? Naive? Or just, too greedy? (tip: When someone tells you you can earn 20%-30% a year -- but there's "some risk" -- don't mortgage your house on it...)


Monday, January 26, 2009

Visa, or Master Card?

While typing up a section in my Dissertation dealing with social class differences in parenting styles, my mind wandered back to an observation I made to a co-worker, once:

Your brand of credit card tends to be class-based, it seems: If you’re working-class (or blue-collar), you probably have Master Card; if you’re middle-class (or white collar), you’re more likely to have Visa. Dunno why this is – but I’ve tried it out on a few people, and it seems to hold true.

Go check out your wallet or purse, and see if it's true for you. And feel free to mention your results (regardless of whether it works, or not), in the Comments section.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sweating like a monkey

Well, here in the land of Down Undies, it's still summer.

Saturday it was 33 Celcius (91 F). It rained during the night, so even though it was "only" 27C (81 F) at 8:30 this morning, it was already a steamy 85% relative humidity. So, we ditched and spent the day at the (air conditioned!) mall. (I brought the laptop, and typed Dissertation things.)

When it's simply hot, you can crank up the fans. But when it's stinkin' humid, tain't much you can do.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Do not cheese off Professor Hulke, puny human!!!

While I was in Seattle over Christmas, my brother and I visited the gravesite of my paternal grandmother. And we discovered that -- given the mod with the modern trend to have gravestones that are flush with the ground, rather than standing up -- it's **really** hard to find someone's gravesite when it's been snowing all week. Especially when you haven't visited it for two years.

Found it, though.

But, while we were wandering back and forth, I found a grave marker for Frederick Hulke. Which made me kinda wish **my** family name was ''Hulke''. Because, even though it's probably pronounced ''HUL-kay'' -- you could **still** go around saying "Hulke angry! Hulke SMASH!!!!!"

I'll bet if you were a high school teacher, or college professor, you'd be pretty popular with the students if you did that -- during lectures.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Few Regrets

I have very few regrets in life. Offhand, I can think of three.

One is giving away an Apple II monitor (monochrome green screen!) to a classmate’s boyfriend who did film/video stuff, when I was preparing to move to Aussie-land. It had an RCA input in the back, so I used to use it as a green t.v. screen with my VCR.

I gave it away because I knew Australian voltage is different, so it’d be a nuisance to run it. Gah; should’ve kept it: monochrome green is **cool**. And Apple II things are peculiarly hard to come by, here in Aussie-land.

Number two: My younger sister was in a play, in high school. By this time I lived out of town, about an hour away. She said the play wasn’t very good, so I didn’t need to come see her in it. So, I didn't.

In hindsight, I should’ve seen it anyhow – not because the play was good, but because my **sister** was in it.

Number three: All through high school, I had a total crush on this girl. Never talked to her -- it was a stupid teenage crush, based on her being cute, **seeming** nice, and seeing her in the hall between classes. (I've since figured out that it's "all about the conversation".)

Finally, one day, I “happened” to be following her down the stairs at school between periods (the main building had three floors), and some students were standing on the stairs, gabbing -- thus blocking the stairs. So, we were stuck Together.

We stood there for what seemed like forever – and I kept thinking, “Say something! Say something witty! Or -- **something**!!!” But, I didn’t.

I later found out, through various means (long story) that she wasn’t my type – so, it’s not like we would’ve dated or anything -- so I still would've ended up with my same wife (which is a good thing). But I still kick myself over my dink-ness.

Ah! Just thought of one more. (Oop! Two more.) But, not as seminal.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's a marvelous, sunny day outside, with a few wispy clouds, a touch of breeze, and not too hot (even though it's summer Down Under). My next-door brother-in-law has been intermittently driving back and forth with his riding lawn mower (he's tidying up some areas that have become overgrown) -- and I **desperately** want to go outside and do some yardwork.

But, I'm being good, and working on the ol' Dissertation...

Pretty much on schedule: I should have a "good" draft to mail to my committee by the end of January. Ish.

(Note: Photo is just some pic off the web; **not** my back yard....)


Monday, January 19, 2009

A thought on bands and good songs

I tend to listen to albums while I write, and today I was listening to the Bookends album by
Simon and Garfunkel (kids: check it out if you haven't heard it; has a "Sgt. Pepper's" quality to it that I hadn't noticed when I was younger).

There's a lot of interesting stuff going on in the margins of the songs -- sound effects and whatnot. Which made me think about the role of bands, versus songwriters, versus producers.

Very briefly (because I'm actually writing a Dissertation, offline...), most hit songs you hear are catchy because of the songwriter, and the producer: the band or performer doesn't have much to do with it.

To illustrate, think of just about any favorite song. If you heard a (good) cover band play it, would it still be good? Most likely. So, the band itself -- the performers -- can be subbed out by any of a thousand (no -- ten thousand) bands or singers. Whereas only one person, ever, could have written that specific song.

As far as the nifty "twists" that "make" a song ear-catching -- like that weird vocodor sound (technically, I think it's Auto-Tune) in Cher's "Believe" song? That's probably the producer doing that. When a band goes in to record an album, it's often the producer that suggests making the song longer, making it shorter, maybe repeating the chorus an extra time at the end, hey, let's start the song with a ticking clock... etc.

As another example, for those of you who heard Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out", I saw them perform it live on t.v. (was it on Letterman?), and they totally robbed it of what made it catchy. On the album, it has a jerky, robotic pulse to it -- which is what makes it unique. Played live, they just cranked through it -- I suppose in a (misguided) effort to give it more energy -- but instead, it just generi-cized it (i.e. made it generic). Which made me think that **they** weren't the ones that had the idea to play it Devo-like: it was the producer.

Sometimes it's the songwriter that suggests that (that's how I work, at least...) -- but then, that starts to blur the lines between "songwriter" and "producer".



Sunday, January 18, 2009

Older arms

I've had gray (or white?) hairs all over my noggin for quite some time, and I've had grey in my beard for the last year or two.

But now, I apparently am getting white arm hairs: at the moment, five on my left forearm, and two on my right. Something I hadn't really thought of, before: my arm hairs going white.

Just another sign of aging, I suppose. :)


Friday, January 16, 2009

Minor misc. update

Making pretty good progress on the Dissertation. I think I'm on track to have a ''good'' draft ready to send off to my committee by the end of January. Maybe a few days ''slop'' (i.e. the first few days of Feb.).

It's ten p.m., and the humidity makes the air feel ''thick'' when I breathe through my mouth. About 32C (90F) today, and 80% relative humidity. Right now, at ten o'clock at night, it's 27C (81F) and 72% rel. humidity. As long as you're out of the direct sun, and not doing any physical labor, it's actually not bad: you just sweat a bit. If you're sitting with a fan pointed at you, it's pretty decent...

Moustache and beard were looking pretty ratty. Yesterday, figured it would take about the same amount of time to tidy up as it would be to take it all off with the clippers. So, I'm back to no-beard, no-moustache. It'll grow back. :)


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Kid developmental observations

I keep a running text document on each of my kids' developmental landmarks -- although the landmarks I keep track of are probably different from what most parents would record.

All of these are from earlier this week...

The Girl: I noticed that she uses the word “either”, as in “This pen doesn’t work, either”. A fairly advanced concept, really.

Boy #2: Noticed that with his blue toy cell phone, he’ll pick it up, hold it to the side of his face, and say “Heya”. (I could be wrong about the phonetics; this is from memory. Did this twice within a few minutes, so unlikely to be just a coincidence – instead, it looks like he’s mimicking our behavior (we only have cordless phones in the house, so probably modellilng a cordless phone, rather than a cell phone).

Boy #2: Over the last few days, has regularly crawled into his sister's room, bypass the other stuff on the floor, and head straight to her drum kit, where he’ll grab the brown toy drumsticks; sometimes he’ll hit things with them, and other times he’ll crawl directly off, clutching both in one hand. Has a more effective (better-balanced) grip on them than Boy #1 (or even his older sister!), naturally grabbing them around the ¾ mark, rather than at the very end like his sibs tend to do.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Things I never thought I’d say as a parent (#137)

Something I never thought I’d say as a parent: “Nice people don’t kill other people. It’s not nice to kill people.”

I'd overheard The Girl play-acting with her dolls that she was going to kill them. I had to sit down and tell her that saying you’re going to kill people isn’t a nice thing.

I asked her where she’d heard about killing people. She said at daycare. I’m **not** happy about that.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Pecuilar dream about an ex-girlfriend

Dreamed that my first girlfriend (in college: I was a late bloomer) had the ability to turn into a large snake. A python -- not anything venomous. She could still talk and all that.

In my dream, she did this while we were dating. She was still nice and all that.

Not sure what that means -- if if there **is** any meaning to it. Odd, since it's not like I'd been thinking of her.

That'd be a reasonably handy super-power, though. "Turning into a snake," that is -- not "having dreams about old girlfriends turning into snakes." That'd just be stupid.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Unknowing insight

My daughter didn't understand why her cousin didn't stay for dinner, so we tried to explain about his being vegetarian.

"He doesn't eat meat," my wife said.

"I don't eat meat either," my daughter declared.

"Yes you do: you eat McNuggets." (Which, she does.)

"I don't eat meat," she repeated.

Good point.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Another terminology

I'm allowed to post blog entries, if they're quick...

The girl calls them “sunflower nuts” instead of “sunflower seeds”. Makes sense...


Triage-ing my life

January is ''finishing my Dissertation'' month. We'll see how that goes.

I’m trying to limit anti-Dissertation distractions to things that can’t wait until the end of the month, and that take five minutes or less. No mowing the lawn; avoiding t.v.; saving up the newspapers to read later. No reading other people's blogs (they'll keep for the next 30 days...)

I considered saving up all my blog entries -- but decided it was almost as efficient to just toss 'em up there. As long as they're short. Like this one.


Monday, January 05, 2009

Hawaii in Seattle

One last post about my Christmas holidays.

So, it snowed very well in Seattle -- the biggest one in twenty years, so I heard.

I was at my brother's place in Seattle: six adults and five kids, in a three bedroom apartment (my sister and her boyfriend were up from Oregon; plus my household; plus my brother's HH). I looked out the window at the snow, and thought "photo op".)

So, with my sister's b.f. being a good sport about it, he, my brother, and I, dressed up in the summertime gear and had a bit of a frolic.

Not sure if you can tell from these photos, but my brother was wearing flip-flops. The rest of us, just bare feets. We only lasted two or three minutes out there before it stopped being fun.

But, thanks to sisters and spouses, we got the shot. Two of them are above.

BTW, my brother is in the orange; I'm in the black shirt with the orange lei. For several of the photos we shot that week, people had a hard time telling which was my brother, and which was me. This included my brother and I: sometimes we had to resort to whose coat was which to figure out which was me, and which was him. Family resemblance, I guess. :)


Sunday, January 04, 2009

What I did on my Christmas vacation

I **was** going to spread this out over several blog entries. But, nah.

We flew out to Seattle around Dec. 10th. Spent about a week with my folks; then about a week with my brother and his family, in U.W.'s family housing; then, back up to my folks' place until we flew back to Brisbane.

The Girl got to see her first snow, ever (4 y.o.). She got to play in the snow with her cousins (the photo is of the first dusting, I believe). And build her first snowman, with her grandmother (my mom).

My brother, my sister-in-law, and myself (and my sister, as well, when she came up) set up two toboggan runs in my parents' back yard: one that went straight down the stairs, and another that curved around the side of the yard. My brother and I also built a snow shelter (in the foreground of the photo, below). We didn't quite finish hollowing it out: it was more of a proof-of-concept thing. We stayed up until around 10pm(?) working on it.

Actually, I guess I **will** save the next thing for just one more post.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Two odd dreams

I'm moderately jetlagged: went to bed around 6pm last night, and got up around 6am today.

Two weird dreams:

1) Dreamed that the guys from Flight of the Conchords had asked me to join their band. But Jermaine (the larger guy, with the glasses) was getting increasingly irritated with me. Eventually, the day before our first gig together, I asked if his irritability towards me was due to our having our first performance tomorrow, yet we hadn't actually rehearsed together and he wasn't sure I'd be able to handle the songs. He admitted that, yes, that was the problem.

I suggested that I just bowed out of the band (I wasn't sure why they'd invited me, in the first place). He agreed, and I ended up just being their roadie/guitar tech for that performance.

(Preface to dream #2: My youngest sister died in her early 20s. Apparently, alcohol + parties + balcony railings = a bad thing.)

2) Dreamed that I was on holidays in the States, staying with my brother and his family. The phone rang at their place, and since no one else was home, I answered it. It was my youngest sister, just phoning my brother to see what was up. I said, "Hey! They told me you were dead!" (Since I live in Australia, very occassionally I'm out of the loop on some things -- although in general, everyone's good about e-mailing.) She replied, "Where did you hear THAT from?" I said, "The rest of the family."


A weird thing, having a dead sibling: when folks ask me how many siblings I have, I'm never sure how to answer. I guess it comes up when you're 80, too, and some of your siblings have pre-deceased you -- but by that age, people kind of expect that you may have lost some siblings.


Friday, January 02, 2009

I have returned

Sorry for the lack of blog-ness these last few weeks: been in Seattle, spedning the holidays with my family.

A few blog topics in the queue, which I will blog about remedially...

Basically, though, had a good time. The Girl got to spend time with her paternal grandparents, and her aunts, uncles, and cousins (who are her age, or two years younger -- so, very close in age). And The Lady and I got to catch up with a handful of Seattle-area friends (but were impeded by the weather [the most snow in 20 years, I heard] from hooking up with others. Ah well.

A bit of ''weather shock'': left about 34F in Seattle; changed planes in Korea (about 30F); and ended up in a hotter-than-average day in Brisbane (93F). And humid. Ugh.