Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Australia Zoo

Yesterday we visited Australia Zoo -- founded by Steve Irwin and his mom and dad, and carried on by Steve's wife and kids.

Good stuff!

Steve's memory was everywhere, such as the sign at the end of the parking lot, indicating their wildlife hospital (see above)...

..and the ''no entry'' sign, below, with Steve's outline.

Below is a take on the old joke:  ''Walk this way...''

At their noontime show (or maybe it was 11 o'clock?  I forget), it was neat that despite their fame, the Irwins still participate.  Here's Terri (from Oregon, originally!):

...and here's Bindi:

Bob is off to the side, out of harm's way.  Terri says he's not allowed to feed the crocs until he's ten.

We saw a wombat being transferred from its main enclosure to somewhere else.  Basically, they just put a dog harness on it, and the zookeeper walked it down the path...

At the wombat pen, they had footholds for the kids embedded into the cement wall -- so that they could see over the wall.  That's a good design.

In the large, open area for wallabys (a type of small kangaroo) to wander about, they had a ''safe zone'' for them to go to when they got tired of people:  a good idea.

In the wallaby area was a wallaby that clearly had an itchy tummy:

There was a big fiberglass crocodile that was there for a photo op.

I found it interesting that none of my kids thought to ''ham it up'' and get their picture taken while being ''eaten'' by the crocodile (i.e. climbing inside its mouth) :  **my** sibs and I would've!

My wife and I thought it amusing that, after spending all that money (although it goes to a good cause) for a family admission, the kids' favorite experiences of the day were the playground, ''spinning teacup'' ride (see below), and the jumping castle.

To the Irwins' credit, they **could** charge for these -- but they don't.  They also don't charge for the noontime show that I mentioned above.  I appreciate that:  it shows class.

I can't make fun of the kids too much, though:  I was at one of the world's most famous zoos, and what did I take the most pictures of?  Wood-slab tables (in the eating area) and wooden park benches!

Here, I wanted to record the leg structure of the slab table. I have no idea whose hand and wristwatch those are:  no one I know.

Here's the bench that caught my attention, in the ''Africa'' zone.  I like how it has natural edges, rather than being milled.

Note how the back of the bench is connected.  I think these would be tusked through-tenons, but using what appears to be a railroad spike instead of a wooden wedge.

The seat, too, appears to be a tusked through-tenon.  Again, with a railroad spike.

This table -- again, with un-milled edges -- was somewhere there, as well.

As with the slab tables in the food area, I wanted to know how the legs were constructed.

So, yeah: my take-away message from the Australia Zoo is that they have neat-o tables and park benches.  Plus cute wombats and itchy wallabies.  :)

Seriously, though -- we had a good time.


UPDATE:   The Australia Zoo is about two hours north of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.  It's in a specific town, and if you Google Maps it you can see that the critters, if they escaped, could end up in people's back yards pretty easily.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Inheritance rules

The following is my opinion, based on some musings over the last few years.  If you disagree, I'm interested in your rationale.

My impression is that in a lot (most?) families, the kids get most of the family heirlooms, and the grandkids mostly get the leftovers -- which a handful of exceptions where the grandparent specifically gives the grandkid an item.

On the one hand, the child of the deceased probably has strong memories of the item from his/her childhood.  So he or she would probably enjoy having them.  But at the same time, the grandchild would have strong memories if the item was used, or on display, at the grandparent's house, and the grandchild visited the house fairly regularly.  So the child would enjoy having them as well.

If the child inherits the items and doesn't immediately pass them on to his/her kid (i.e. the grandchild of the deceased), then many of the items are likely to go into storage -- because the child of the deceased already has a household set up, with sufficient chairs, sofas, appliances, tools, and etc.  Two implications of this are that the grandchild of the deceased won't see them again (until settling the estate of **his/her** parent), and the great-grandchild of the deceased (i.e. the grandchild of the person who received the items) will not have any memories of these items (because they are stored away).  Thus the family history of those items are less likely to be passed on, and ''I remember [name of item]''-ness of those items are less likely to be created.

The exception, of course, are when room **is** made for those items to be actively used or displayed -- or when the child of the deceased actually passes the items down prior to his or her own death.

For example:  Person X is in her late 20s or early 30s -- still ''setting up house'' to a certain extent.  Her grandmother died in her 80s. Person X's parents are in their 50s or 60s.

Let's say there was a rocking chair that was always in the living room.  Person X could use a rocking chair, because she doesn't have a lot of furniture.

If her parents take the rocking chair, but don't have room for it, it goes in the attic.  When Person X's parents die in **their** 80s, Person X would receive the chair -- but she herself is now in her 50s or 60s, and doesn't really need another chair -- so she offers it to her own children.  However, they've never seen this chair before -- so except for being told that it belonged to their great-grandmother, they have no real attachment to it.

If, on the other hand, the inheritance skipped a generation, such that Person X directly received the rocking chair from her grandmother's estate, then she would receive it during her life stage where she could easily make use of additional items.  She would have strong personal memories of seeing the chair at her grandmother's place.  And when Person X dies, **her** children and grandchildren would remember the chair being in Person X's home.

Again, ideally, the chair would skip a generation -- to go to her grandchildren  -- because they would probably be at a life stage to use extra furniture, whereas Person X's own children would themselves be in their 50s or 60s.

To elaborate on the problem of losing family history:  people are more likely to know the background of an item if it is part of their daily lives (e.g. growing up with it), rather than if they are only exposed to it espisodically (e.g. visting grandma every summer).  If Person X immediately received the rocking chair upon the death of her grandmother, her parent could provide her with additional background on the chair -- as the grandmother is now dead and can not.  However, if the chair went to Person X's parents, then when the parents died, Person X would not have anyone (neither parents nor grandparents) to explain the family significance.  (Well -- maybe siblings of the parents, if they haven't pre-deceased the parents.)

I do not mean to say that children should receive **nothing** from the estates of the parents.  Rather, that if they are at a life stage that they do not have room for -- or use for -- inherited items, they should be passed along as soon as possible, rather than stockpiled. I don't deny personal sentimentality -- I have a lot of that myself -- but perhaps saving inherited things in moderation.

Some exceptions to my ''skipping a generation'' idea would be when the child of the deceased has immediate use of the item, and would actually have it out on display or make use of it.  Or if the child of the deceased intends to pass it along once **her** own child is in a situation to receive the item:  for example, if a college student's gradmother dies, and the student still lives in the dorms, then the student's parent would take possession of various furniture items, but pass them along when the student graduates and (eventually!) gets a house.

An example of inheritance working well is that I have my grandparents' sofa and matching easy chair:  when my grandfather died, everyone else in my family had plenty of furniture, so I received them.  They are both in our living room; we use them every day; I have strong memories of them over the years at my grandparents' house; and my children (and grandchildren) will also have strong memories of them.

An example of inheritance **not** working well would be the child of the deceased taking a stack of fancy tablecloths and putting them in her own linen closet (which most non-household members do not explore), and then 40 years later her own children going through her estate and not realizing that the tablecloths had been in the family for many generations.

I think recognizing hobbies and interests that skip a generation is also important.  For example, imagine a grandmother was into knitting; none of her children did knitting; but she has a granddaughter who knits.  The grandmother dies, and although the granddaughter expresses an interest in the knitting needles, all of her  knitting gear goes to the granddaughter's aunt to ''intends to take up knitting'', but never does.  When that person dies, the friends who settle her estate find the knitting needles, go ''Eh -- knitting needles'', and either throw them away or donate them to a thrift store.  Whereas if the granddaughter who knits had directly received them, then she would sometimes be knitting with her grandmother's favorite knitting needles:  that's kind of neat.

My argument also speaks strongly, I suppose, to divesting of a lot of your stuff **before** you die -- so that you can choose who receives it, and ensure that the story behind it is communicated.  Perhaps moving into a retirement home, or moving into a smaller house, has a latent function of pre-distributing your belongings:  it worked for my paternal grandparents. 

My argument also speaks strongly to documenting the family history of heirlooms -- perhaps typing up the lineage and taping it to the back of a dresser drawer?

I inadvertently benefitted from graduate school delaying my life progress by ten years:  when my paternal grandfather moved into assisted care, my younger brother (six years younger) and I were the only ones among his descendants who did not yet have a house.  Because I was already interested in woodworking, but had not yet set up a workshop, I ended up getting a large proportion of his tools -- particularly his hand tools, as most of his kids and grandkids tended towards using power tools.  Consequently, about 80% of my tools are from my grandfather's estate -- and that's pretty neat.

Similarly, when one of my maternal grandfather's best friends died (no children), my grandfather saved a trumpet and a clarinet that had belonged to the man's wife, and passed it along to me.  Grandpa knew that none of his children or grandchildren really played music -- just me.  And I do indeed appreciate it.  :)

So:  I'm not saying that children shouldn't receive **any** family heirlooms, or things they remember from their childhood.  But they should try to ''throw downstream'' as much as they can.


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Thursday, June 28, 2012

They gave him his orders in Monroe Virginia

I just now Googled the lyrics to ''The Wreck of the Old 97'', and discovered that I've mis-heard the lyrics all these years:  I thought it was ''Montville, Virginia!''.


One of the things we did on our holiday is visit the little town of Montville, which The Lady hasn't visited in many years.

Of course, as with the rest of our vacation, it rained.  That took the shine off of wandering down the street, looking in to various shops.  And the kids were all whiny.  I ended up taking the kids to the car and sitting with them while The Lady looked into one last shop.

We also took the long way back to our rental place. You wouldn't know this unless you were from Western Washington (state) -- esp. north of Everett -- but the weather **and** the terrain really reminded me of back home.

It's up in the hills a ways, so year round it's cooler than the lower-lying areas (like where we live) -- which would suit The Lady just fine.  She said she sometimes wishes she could live somewhere up there, on a bit of acreage.  Not too many universities or govt. departments to work at, though.  Maybe after we retire...


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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sandbag training

Here's a link to a guy's blog post that discusses sandbag training.  Sounds interesting, and it has  fitness applications for martial artists.

Basically, a duffel bag filled with sand, with an extra handle or two.  Lift it, throw it around.

Based on the exercises in the video at the end of the above-linked post, sandbag training seems to have elements of old-time medicine ball training, plus kettle bells (see above photo).

If you have some rope, some duct tape, and an old gym bag -- and some sand -- it seems like an inexpensive but effective way to go.


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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hope it does not pop

We're about halfway though our first ''family trip'' **ever** -- if you don't count flying back to Seattle to visit my parents and siblings.  We're up at the Alexandra Headlands, near Maroochydore, staying at a rental place that's just a block or two from the beach.

It's been drizzling fairly constantly since we got here -- which is unfortunate, since the month prior to this has been reasonably clear.  Ah well.

Took a day trip to the Bundaberg ginger factory.  Took the tour, rode on the train, and etc.

As we walked past the parked train, something caught my attention.  Notice the red lines I've added to the photo, which emphasize the direction of the brackets that hold the ''door'' closed on the front of the steam train.  Three of the four seem fine -- but that lower-left one seems a little dodgy...

As it turns out, it's not **really** a steam train:  it has a gasoline-powered engine.  But still:  take pride in your work, people!!!

I wonder how many tourists notice that mis-aligned bracket?


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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Movie review of Arietty

We rented the DVD of Arietty, which is a Japanese animated movie based on Norton's book series ''The Borrowers''.

Well-written and produced, engaging, and suitable for both kids and adults -- although one or two places where the dramatic tension might scare little kids -- but not horribly; depends on the kid. 

I recommend.



Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fastest way to the bathroom

At work, the floor is laid out in a large rectangle, with cubicles on both sides of the main path.  Unfortunately, both the mens' room and the kitchen are on the opposite side of the building -- so it's actually a fair hike to get there.  Long enough that -- unlike at my previous job, where the kitchen was right across the hall -- I really feel like I've ''stretched my legs'' when I go use the toilet or use the kitchen.  And I try not to confuse the two.

When I left my desk to perform any of the above-implied tasks, sometimes I'd go clockwise, and sometimes I'd go counter-clockwise.  Usually I'd go counter-clockwise after leaving my desk, because I knew three people on that side, and didn't know anyone on the other side.  But, I still wondered:  which way was shortest?

SO -- last night after work, I stayed behind and measured.  I'd brought my mondo tape measure and my notebook; I made a little diagram in my notebook; and I measured from corner to corner to corner of the pathway, as well as from my cubicle to the corners, and from the toilet and kitchen to the corners.

It turns out that I was getting unnecessary exercise by walking past my friends:  from my desk to the toilets I was accidentally travelling an extra 12.4 meters (41 feet) **each way**; when using the kitchen, it was 8.4 meters (28 feet) each way.

And, for the day:  I tend to visit the kitchen about seven times a day, and hit the toilets about twice a day (I drink a lot of tea).  So that's about 1.17km a day -- about 3/4 of a mile.  That's all right.  :) 

Incidental exercise, they call it.


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Friday, June 22, 2012

Maybe live in Norway

On Tuesday of this week I was abruptly struck with the notion of living in Norway for a year.  Not forever:  just a year; long enough to get a sense of the culture.

I wouldn't travel around.  No, I'd just live in a village or small town, rent a house, and experience day-to-day life.  And, during the winter, freeze my butt off.

Partly this was caused by my being part Norwegian, and hearing from various sources that Norwegians, in general, are very nice people.

Of course, part of this daydream is not having to work for a living -- because that burns up a lot of time.  Instead, I'd just hang around the house doing woodworking and recording songs.  Maybe take weekly classes in some Norwegian martial art (Norse Fu?  Norse-jitsu?).

So:  win the lottery; move to Norway (with my wife and kids, of course!); hang about for a year; move back to Australia.

Of course, once I won the lottery, I could do all of that -- woodworking,  recording music, taking martial arts -- while staying here in Brisbane.  So maybe it's not the ''Norway'' part at all...


UPDATE:  And, two nights later, I stayed up past my bedtime Googling and Wikipedia-ing large villages and small towns in Norway -- including Google Earth-ing them to get an ariel view. Nuts, I know...

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chix rest

And, here's the chicken roost that I made.  It's intentionally ''rustic''-looking:  it would've been easier to just build something out of broom handles and two-by-fours.

I made the roost out of branches from a wattle tree that had been in our back yard.  It spontaneously started growing in our back yard (from seeds in bird poop?), about the time we moved in.  It grew for about three years, then died off when the outflow from our waste treatment system kept flooding that area of the back yard.  (Note:  It wasn't yechy water.  It was tertiary-treated, so technically (supposedly!) you could drink it.)

I figured it would be neat to use part of that tree in a project.  So, I did.

You don't get a sense of scale from the photo, but the top bar is about as thick as the handle of a baseball bat.  The front ''feet'' are as thick as the end of a wooden baseball bat. 

This was just about the last thing to be done for building the chicken coop.  Still gotta post a photo of the whole thing...


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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Misplaced car

My wife's late grandfather owned the property we built our house on.  Grandad was a pack rat.  Because of that, we have a pretty neat-o back yard.

For example:  I knew this car (pictured) was underneath the brush and vines -- I just hadn't excavated it.  So now -- or technically, this last weekend -- it's seeing the light of day for the first time in probably 30 years.

It's a Rover P4:  I don't know anything more than that.

Somewhere out back there's also the cab of a 1940s flatbed delivery truck.  Somewhere...


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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Go download some Logan Whitehurst mp3 files

One of my favorite songwriters is Logan Whitehurst.  Here is a website where most of his music is archived as mp3 files.  It also has links to two of his albums that are still in print.

Three of his songs that I particularly like are ''Prosthetic Brain'' (from the album: HOW DOES AN ELECTROSTATIC MOTOR WORK?), ''Happy Noodle vs. Sad Noodle (1999 version)'' (same album), and ''Robot Cat'' (from the album THE MINI-ALBUM OF LUV).  Scroll down on the above-listed page to find the links.

A genius.


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Monday, June 18, 2012

Quote from a co-worker

Quote from a co-worker:

Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Because if you liked what you did today, you can do it again tomorrow.



Sunday, June 17, 2012

Box o' switches

A few weeks ago I had the idea of modifying one of my electric guitars with some extra switches and such.  **Knew** I had a box of misc. electronics parts -- somewhere.  In our **previous** place, I knew exactly where it was.  But after about an hour of searching, I found it.

In fact, I found **two** boxes!  Spread them out out the kitchen table to see what I had.  Treasures!!!


Single-pole, single-throw switches. 

Double-pole, double-throw. 



Dunno whether you, dear reader, can appreciate this little treasure trove -- or the **possibilities** contained in this little stash.  But, it's there.

(Bwah ha ha...)


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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Flauting while beatboxing

How **does** that guy do it?

Pretty catchy tune they're doing, too.



Friday, June 15, 2012

Yet another instrument to get

I've wanted a hurdy gurdy since I was about 20 and saw them at a Highlands Games festival, or some-such.

Basically:  a hurdy gurdy is a wooden case with tuned strings (some fingered, some drones), a hand-cranked wheel that ''bows'' the strings, and some buttons that you use to ''stop'' the strings.  Kind of a hybrid of a Highland ''great pipes'' bagpipe, and a violin.

Here's an example:

And another:

You get a peek at the inside in this one, at about 0:35 and 0:40:

One of the things I like about hurdy gurdies is that, because of the drone strings, you get a bagpipe-y sound.  Like this:

With a bit of time, I bet I could build one.  I'll add it to my list...


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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Vas ist das

A pretty neat-o website, that lists about five ''What is it?'' items of the week, from various crafts and trades (plumbing, basketry, cooking, woodworking, surveying, medical...).  Later, they update the blog entry (at the bottom; scroll down) with the answers.

Good for weekly competitions with co-workers; learning about technological history; or just gaining some ''common knowledge''.

They've been doing it for a while -- so they have a lovely deep archive.  The photo I've posted here is from set #435


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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It must be something else

Saw a box at work with ''therapeutic presidential services'' written on it.

Made me think of a euphemism for something for JFK.  Or Bill Clinton.

Presumably not:  it was a small box.



Monday, June 11, 2012

I want a chazy

Saw this on a YouTube clip of David Letterman (see below), and managed to track it down.

It's a chanzy, from Tuva.  I **like** the tone!  (Strumming starts around 1:14.)

According to the online atlas of plucked instruments (near the bottom, so scroll down), the tuning is often tonic-fith-octave, and it's often a fretted instrument (good!).  Usually only the first string is fingered, and the other two strings are used as drones.

I did a web search, and can't seem to find anyone who sells 'em online.

Hmm.  Maybe I'll have to try building one.


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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Unfair geometry

Geometry is rather unfair.

Three-sided polygons are called ''triangles'', regardless of the relative lengths of their sides.  If all three sides are the same length, they're ''equalateral triangles''.  If two are the same length, they're ''isolesces triangles''. If they sides are all different lengths, then they're just ''triangles''.  Or maybe ''irregular triangles''.  But they're still triangles, regardless.

And these appear to be mis-spelled.  But I can't be bothered to look up the correct spelling.

If you have a four-sided shape, and all four sides are the same size **and** the corners are right angles, it's a square.  If all four sides are the same but they're **not** perpendicular, it's a rhombus.  If you have pairs of sides facing each other that are the same length, and the corners are at right angles, it's a rectangle; if the corners aren't right angles, then it's a parallelogram.  You can also get a kite shape if you have a pair of shorties facing a pair of longer ones.  And if you have facing sides that are the same length, and they're connected by a shortie and a longie that are parallel to each other, then it's a trapezoid.  And (from memory) anything else that's four-sided is just a four-sided polygon.

A five-sided polygon is a pentagon.  If all five sides are the same length and connected with the same angle, then it's a ''regular'' pentagon.

Here's my point:  there's favoritism towards four-sides shapes.

-There's sooo many names for the different types of four-sided shapes.

-All three-sided shapes are ''triangles'' -- even the ones with oddball length combinations.

-And five-sided (and above) shapes lack special (colloquial) names.  They're just pentagons, hexagons, sepatagons, octogons...  And we only love them if they're symmetrical.

Total favoritism.

And those are the types of things I think about.  Sometimes.  :)


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Saturday, June 09, 2012

To not lose your tools

While in the (ongoing!) process of building the chicken coop, I've discovered that it's pretty easy to misplace tools on the lawn.  And damp grass isn't very good for them, either.

I've discovered that it's better to lay them on a scrap of wood.  This keeps them together, provides contrast so you can see them more clearly, and keeps them off the damp lawn.

It's even **better** if you toss them in one of those $3 tool totes.  You can also find them in the aisle with the brooms and mops, labeled as ''laundry caddies'' or such.

The item pictured isn't part of the chicken coop.  It's a raised veggie garden frame, at The Lady's request.


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Friday, June 08, 2012

Positive spin

I like this cartoon.  Basically: it's more interesting to share in the joy of discovery than to be a snotty know-it-all.

The permalink is -- and the online comic strip is called ''XKCD'' -- worth a read.


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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Good drumming

I'm not into jazz.  But I **am** into drumming.  And this is good drumming.

I hope I can drum like that when **I'm** his age!!!



Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Big and tall sign

Found this sign about a block away from the place where I'm doing the MS Excel training.

Two things I appreciated about it.  One is that  ''significant man'' is a innovative euphemism for ''really big guy''.

For the second thing -- you'll probably have to click on the photo to enlarge it.  And even then, most of you won't get the joke.


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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Old buildings

I don't like old buildings enough to be an architect.  But I like old buildings enough to like old buildings.

I discovered this building today, across the street from the training center where I'm taking an ''Advanced Excel'' class.

I feel sorry for it.  The soot stains (I presume) above the top-story windows suggests a fire.  The entire bottom front is boarded up.  So, I'm guessing that that at some point there was a fire, which made it unsuitable for use, without major repairs.  But because (I'm guessing) it's a ''historical'' building, it can't just be knocked down.

So, there it sits.

I wish I had some government-issued authority to explore the interior of any building I wished.  That would be neat-o.

One of these days I should find out how to get building permits (or some-such) from the building.  If I can't explore buildings, at least maybe I could look at the floor plans.


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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Family vice

A few years ago (2006?) when my grandpa moved into assisted living, various family members received various belongings of his.  The family was nice enough to give me the vice that he always used.  It was installed on the front right corner of his workbench.

I've had the vice since 2007 -- shipped it to myself, from Seattle to Australia, along with a bunch of Grandpa's tools -- and wasn't quite sure how to use it.

June of 2011, I received a workbench that's about 100 years old, which my wife's great-grandfather used in his home workshop.

And on May 17th of this year, I installed my grandfather's vice on the great-grandfather's workbench.  On the front right corner.  Took me a while to determine my working habits, and where the vice would best suit my needs.

To compliment the multi-generational, ''two branches of the family vibe'', I used an offcut from the construction of our house as a spacer, to even out the underside of the workbench where the bolts pass through the top.  Wife's great-grandfather; my grandfather; me.

It's good to have it.

And a bonus:  lying on the workbench, in the photo, behind the ''sawdust brush'' is a mallet that my grandpa made.


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Saturday, June 02, 2012

A local bird

The locals call these ''Willie wagtails''.  A descriptive name.

Our backyard.


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Friday, June 01, 2012

Geeky items

A shop I really enjoy is Jaycar:  they're a local electronics and technology store (their slogan:  ''Better.  More technical.''), which sells various gizmos and test equipment (oscilloscopes!) and components (bins o' resistors, capacitors, switches...).

I have an idea for modifying my electric guitar, so I picked up a four-pole rotary switch.  I also picked up for a very reasonable price a mercury switch (see left), which is an on/off switch that is triggered by its position:  the blob of mercury either touches the two terminals to complete the circuit, or else it doesn't.

And, I picked up two photoresistors of different resistance levels.  (Photoresistors that have less resistance when light is hitting them.  Neat-o!)  I'm not certain specifically what I'll do with them, but I thinking along the lines of adding a selector switch to my guitar to engage/disengage the photoresistor 'loop', and rig up some sort of light-dependent tone control.

It'll be several months before I actually hack my guitar -- gotta finish the chicken coop, first!  And then make a shelter for my various stashes of wood. 

But I'll post some pics of the completed, road-warrior-ed guitar, once I've modded it.


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