Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Monday, January 31, 2011

First day on the job

First day on the new job was today! Wasn't sure how formally to dress (an office job -- but AU is a little less formal than the U.S.), so I went with a shirt and tie, but no suitjacket. Figured I'd gauge how the other males dressed, and adjust accordingly.

The only other male in the office (it's a small dept. -- only seven of us so far) had a dress shirt, but no tie. So I'll probably wear a tie most days, but maybe not always.

At one of my previous universities there was a Thursday market on campus, where people would set up clothing booths, used books, and etc. One lady had a "vintage clothing" booth which included neckties for five bucks each -- so I used to buy one or two a week. After a few months, she upped the price to ten or fifteen bucks, saying that five bucks each didn't cover her handling and cleaning costs. Fair enough -- but it shifted the price (for me) from "impulse buy" to "a serious decision". And that was the end of my frequent necktie buying.

None the less, I think I have around 50 neckties. So I'll probably wear one every day.

Also: You know how I love the slushies. Well, there's a 7-11 directly across the street -- and another one two blocks away. Lovin' the downtown...!!!

And there's a "world music" instrument shop, with funky percussion instruments (and juggling gear, incense, and etc.) about two blocks away. Neat-o.


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Friday, January 28, 2011

Further delays

Hm.. Well, this is a pain. Some sort of delay at the phone company -- something about not yet wiping the old "codes" from our line, which is preventing our new ISP from working their ADSL magic.

Hopefully by Wednesday, I'll have internet access at home...



Monday, January 24, 2011

Placeholder blog entry

We've been changing ISPs, so we've been w/out internet access for a few days. Hopefully we'll be set up in a day or so.

Once I'm connected again, I'll delete this "placeholder" blog entry, and remedially post a few blog entries.



Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gratefully surreal

(A few emergency preparedness insights at the bottom half of this blog entry -- FWIW.)

Monday was my wife's first day at her new job: she'd left one uni- versity, and switched to another uni- versity across town.

And by Wed- nesday, both campuses were half-flooded. Weird.

A goodly chunk of down- town Brisbane is now under water: the waters peaked, appar- ently, in the early morning of Thurs- day, Jan. 13th. There's been a few incoming tides that have hindered the river's draining. Luckily, no rain (neither here, nor upstream) for the last few days -- so the total height was actually about a metre less than anticipated.

Mean- while, we're all the way on the other side of town. So except for the grocery stores being a bit under-stocked (there was a run on groceries the day or two before the flood's peak, and trucks haven't been able to get in to re-supply the stores), everything has been pretty normal on this side of town: we ran some errands at the mall, then spent most of the day at the park, with the kids; very few mudpuddles in sight (except for our front yard!).

Oh: And at the mall, about one out of every fifteen shops had a "Closed due to staff attending their flooded homes" sign on their (closed!) security grille.

Apparently, there's a few types of flooding. One is river flooding -- which we're super-unlikely to get, in our part of Brisbane. I think that's when people upstream from you get too much rain. Another type is stream/creek flooding -- when you have more rain than the local creeks can handle, so it finds additional drainage routes, like across roads and lawns. We get a bit of that on our side of town -- but if we get a gap of 4-5 hours between rains, it all drains away: it's just a temporary inconvenience.

By the way: In a "Survival at Sea" book that I have, it says that adults need a litre of water a day -- three litres in hot climates or when exerting yourself -- to survive. So over the weekend (prior to the main rush; in hindsight, we should've done this), we stocked up on liquids (in case the water mains break, or the city water supply becomes tainted). Bought some of those mega-jugs of water, plus extra does of soda pop (which we'd eventually use). Also stocked up on canned goods a bit (again, really should've done that sooner).

The Red Cross says that you should have enough food and water (per person!) for two weeks. There's a survival "rule of three" that says that (approximately), you can survive:

  • Three minutes without air
  • Three hours without shelter
  • Three days without water, and
  • Three weeks without food
Thus, we stocked up on liquids (water, soda pop, juice, etc.) -- figuring that if we under-estimated on the food, we'd be grumpy and uncomfortable, but generally OK (we'd just start eating sticks of butter, and drinking the olive oil...). But water, you **need**.

If the power went out, we'd have to use up the contents of the 'fridge as best as we could. But we could cook stuff, as our neighbors to either side have gas ranges in their kitchens. But -- we really **should** get one of those camp stoves.

And given that every two to three summers we seem to lose electricity for a day, getting one of those smaller portable generators for a few hundred bucks would be a good idea. Particularly since we have a cluster of five houses of family members within a few blocks of each other: many people would benefit from it. Refrigerators and freezers keep the cold in for a fairly long time, as long as you keep the door shut. So, we could pass it around, "refreshing" each 'fridge and freezer, to keep the food from going off.

In contrast, Mormons advocate having a year's supply of food. I don't know that we'll go quite **that** far. But certainly, I think having a month's supply of food and liquids for your household is not excessive, and both achievable (stash it under the bed?) and affordable.

In the case of a natural disaster, you **hope** that the authorities will get to you in a timely manner. But they may be otherwise occupied.


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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Minor update on floods

75% of Queensland (the state that Brisbane is in) has been declared a disaster zone. And edges of downtown are underwater.

The flooding for Brisbane is projected to peak at 3am tomorrow morning: the Brisbane River bisescts Brisbane, and the tides coming **in** will clash with the water trying to drain **out**.

Some interesting (albeit large filesize) simulations showing the neighborhoods around the Brisbane River that are expected to flood are here, on the Brisbane City Council website.

Much of the water is then expected to move south overland to flood New South Wales (the state where Sydney is).

At least we have blue skies today, rather than rain: that changes the projections, giving us an estimated 1.0 metre **shorter** peak level of water.

The number of families trapped on (pitched!) roofs for many hours -- with just minutes of notice -- makes me think that flood-prone people should have a "go kit" for lashing one's family to the slippery roof: a hand-cranked "eggbeater"-style drill and reamer (for making holes); some S-hooks and rope (for lashing yourself to the holes), and some tarps and blankets.



Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Flooding update

Previously, I'd said we had no worries regarding the flooding here in Queensland, Australia.

The situation has changed.

So far, so good for our specific neighborhood. It rains sometimes, then stops. Sometimes heavy rain, sometimes a drizzle. Water covers sections of the road, about axle-deep -- but we have a four-wheel drive with a pretty high undercarriage (and the water isn't "rushing" water -- it's fairly still) -- so we just drive on through. And four or five hours after it stops raining, the standing water has drained off.

However: Today they shut down parts of the downtown area, and some neighborhoods adjacent to downtown (most with "Valley" in their name...) have flooded. Also, we were phoned about 2pm to come get the boys out of daycare: they were shutting it down early, although a handful of staff would be staying behind to look after the kids whose parents weren't able to get them.

They're expecting the floods to equal, or possibly surpass, the 1974 floods (which were the largest since the 1893 floods -- a nice graph and timeline here).

For the last "big" flood (1974), the water blocked off sections on the road, up and down the street from the trio of properties belonging to my wife's family -- so they were cut off for about a week. However, it didn't reach the houses.

We have about a metre of slop, I reckon: as long of the flood levels don't exceed the 1974 levels by more than a metre, it shouldn't reach the house.

I'll try to post a blog entry every day or two. If it goes more than two or three days without a blog posting, it could mean that I'm still at home, but just lacking phone service (DSL) or electricity. Somewhat ironically: if we get evacuated, I probably **would** continue to post blog entries; presumably the centre we go to would have some sort of internet access (in this modern day and age; for contacting family).


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Monday, January 10, 2011

To insights to job hunting


As I've mentioned, I've been (essentially) laid off: the project I was working on has ended, and my supervisor's follow-up grant didn't come through. So, I've applied for a few jobs, and am asking around to previous people I've worked for if they have any part-time work.

Two insights to job hunting:

1) Because December-January is summer **and** Christmas break in Australia, a lot of folks take their vacation during that period. Thus, it's really hard to contact folks: all you get is their vacation messages stating that they'll be back in mid-January.

2) I was gonna go sign up at a temp agency. However, it's hard to look for work during a natural disaster.



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Sunday, January 09, 2011

Leetle leezord

Every few nights we get a little evening visitor, in the form of a little lizard -- probably a gecko -- on the outside of the family room window.

Maybe it's a good place for bugs.

He (or she?) strikes a few dramatic poses, hangs about for a bit, and then wanders off.

Good stuff.



Saturday, January 08, 2011

Tadpole rescue

A few days ago I noticed, as I was leaving the car, that there were tadpoles in the series of mud puddles in front of our carport. This means that we've been inadverently bonking them on the head every time we arrived or left (Sorry!!!). :(

Here's a closer view of one of the mud puddles. As you can see, it's clear enough to see things on the bottom.

Thus, I mounted a Tadpole Rescue Mission. I knelt near each of the populated puddles with a soft drink cup, scooping up each tadpole (and accidentally, a bit of mud) whenever I saw one, and dumped it into a small bucket.

You can see my boot print (circled in red), which gives a sense of scale, as well as a sense of squooshiness.

I then dumped some of them into an alternative mud puddle, in our back yard, which is fairly permanent during the rainy season -- as well as out of the way of the car.

But most of them, I dumped in the kids' plastic wading pool.

I showed the tadpoles to the kids, and they were pretty interested.

Some of the tadpoles have hind legs, and two or three have leetle front legs. Cute!!!


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Friday, January 07, 2011

Two more impending movies

These go into the "Upcoming Movies That I Hope Won't Suck" file. Not hoping as desperately as with Scott Pilgrim (which, IMO, was actually pretty darned good). But still...

The Green Hornet (which seems to be even more indebted to Kato than in the original -- while the Green Hornet guy just tags along).

And, the Green Lantern.


Note: Just a coincidence that both have "Green" in the title.


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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Front porch workshop

It's been raining a lot lately, so I haven't been able to saw wood on the back "porch" like I usually do: the only cover is the eaves, which still gets me wet if it's blowing to any amount.

So, I've shifted my operations to the front porch. (Photo to left; click to enlarge -- if you want to.) I've put a yellow box around my "sawbuck" to hold round-bottomed things to saw (e.g., small logs), in the upper left of the photo. Also my saw table (bottom center), for things that are fairly flat on the bottom.

Below is an example of the slabs I'm sawing off: this is wattle, from one of the trees that blew over in my brother-in-law's yard. In about a year, I'll use it as raw material for modifying an inexpensive electric guitar that I have.

In general though, I'm just sawing logs into quarters -- the long way!!! -- to minimize their splitting as they dry. Eventually I'll cut them into lumber. By then, though, I hope to have a bandsaw!



Monday, January 03, 2011

Computer guy

Given my relatively low level of expertise, it's frightening -- but I'm apparently the ''computer guy'' in my wife's family.

Either of my brothers-in-law here would likely claim that title, in my absence. One is slowly working on a Bachelor's in Comp. Sci. -- but he has no outside interest in computers beyond the required coursework. (He has a full-time job as a database programmer: the degree is just to make him eligible for promotion.)

And the other BIL was a Physics major -- but he gave up his "computer phase" about fifteen years ago.

So, that leaves me: possibly might have gone into programming if my parents had a personal computer at home when I was a kid (the 1980s, so Apple IIe's, Commodore 64s and Amigas, and IBM PC clones). And until about a year ago, I subscribed to a Linux magazine -- so, there's some GeekPoints(TM) right there...

Anyhow, my father-in-law asked me to take a look at his PC, which wasn't working. Turns out that it wouldn't boot; more specifically, the error message implied that it wasn't detecting the hard drive. So, took it home to have a look.

First, I tried to boot from the DVD drive, with an Ubuntu (Linux) CD-ROM. Got most of the way through the process, but then had "reading the CD" errors. (I think that's the photo at the start of this blog entry; click to enlarge.) Thought it might be a bad CD, so tried another one. Same problem. Tried an Ubuntu DVD, but it wouldn't even start the process. So, the optical drive was dicey as well.

So, I popped the top of the case. With towers (PCs in a vertical orientation), the hard drive is pretty easy to get to. However, with **this** one, the hard drive is ALL the WAY at the BOTTOM. Ugh.

In this photo, it's at the back left of the photo -- under the floppy drive, which is on top.

Luckily, the innards were cleverly designed. by removing two finger screws, the floppy drive and optical drive can be moved out of the way. Here they are, removed.

Two more screws, and the portion that supported the floppy drive and optical drive lifts out. The HD is now accessible.

Two more screws, and the frame that holds the hard drive in position can be removed: here's a closer look, prior to removal.

Once I removed the hard drive from the frame (four more screws!), I put it in my IDE-format hard drive cradle: basically, it's a "Build Your Own External Hard Drive" kit: it has a power cord and a USB cable; you supply the hard drive.

Upon reflection, I **am** probably the only in my family that owns a hard drive cradle -- "just in case". Or, for that matter, that knows that IDE is the older format, and they're now SATA.

I've been messing with this project for probably an hour, at this point. But, at least I've had a chance to use the hard drive cradle! (Had it about a year, I think; never used it.)

Plugged the USB cable into my laptop. The hard drive was successfully recognized. Looked around, and copied all of the "My Document" files to my computer: rescuing his files was my FIL's main concern; fixing the computer was secondary (although desirable).

Since the hard drive worked, I thought maybe it was a bad IDE cable. Swapped it out with one of my spares. Re-assembled the PC, and tried running it again. Nope: still doesn't recognize the HD.

Brought it back to my FIL's place. Given that the hard drive itself was fine, and the cable doesn't seem to have been the problem (although mahaps **both** cables were bad?), then maybe it's a bad connection on the motherboard. In which case, to fix it we'd need to get a new motherboard, and swap all the pieces over.

(Weak analogy: Your car engine is fine; the electrical is fine; the brakes are fine; etc. But the chassis is rusted apart. So, to "fix" your car, you'd need to buy a car frame, and then bring all the other stuff across...)

Trying to swap out the motherboard is more than I'd want to try. And between parts and labor, my FIL's (I'm guessing) looking at AU$200, minimum. Given that this PC is from 2003 (still has PS/2 ports on the back!), even if it was "fixed", it's old enough that something else might go wrong with it. So, he'll probably just buy an inexpensive desktop or laptop machine.

(Jan. 5 addendums: (1) Hey! There's an extra jack on the optical drive's ribbon. Maybe they can both use that. (2) I didn't check out the power cable; I'll have to "loan" it the power cable that supplies the optical drive.

I checked, and he hasn't bought his replacement computer yet.)


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