Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Monday, July 30, 2012

Book on tips and tricks for working alone

Good book; lotsa useful tips.

Good for if you're building things (fences, sheds, houses) by yourself -- tricks for if you don't have a helper available (e.g. to hold the end of the tape measure; holding the other end of the board).


My copy says US$18.  I see a few used ones on Amazon for about $12.

I recommend.


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Sunday, July 29, 2012

More obscure bands

Three bands that you've probably not heard of.

The first one is Fury in the Slaughterhouse.  I have two of their albums.  They write good tunes.  This is one of their better songs:  ''Radio Orchid''.  Sad song, good lyrics.

This band is the Eurogliders.  I don't think I've heard of them before.

Although the song (''Can't Wait to See You'') isn't catchy in a specific way, I like the use of synths:  very ''period piece'' (in retrospect).

Finally, here's Sunnyboys, with ''Alone with You''.  Reminds me a bit of Tommy Tutone...


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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Found this by accident

Driving to work a few days ago, listening to the radio, heard a song from the '80s that I'd never heard before.

James Freud and the Radio Stars:  ''Modern Girl''.

Catchy; I like the sound.  Will have to find more of his/their stuff.

A quick Wikipedia search shows that he's Australian.  Explains why I'd not heard of them:  I'm not from around here.


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Friday, July 27, 2012

I really like my job

Something I realized after work yesterday -- and still believe it today -- is that I really like my job.

My current job is relatively new:  the government dissolved my old agency in May, so I've only been at my current place about two months.  And it deals with a slightly different subject matter (although broadly ''criminology'') than my old job, and works the with the data slightly differently.

But!  Because I'm forced to use a spreadsheet program (Excel) rather than statistical software (SPSS or Stata) to manipulate the data, I'm learning a whole new approach:  I'm now (finally!) at the point where I can basically do all the data-related things in Excel that I used to be able to do in SPSS or Stata.

And, in my new job, my two roles seem to be to run analyses on data, and be the coordinator of data quality issues.  Running the analyses, I enjoy.  And coordinating the data quality means that I get to tap into my latent I.T. Guy orientation:  I have enough of an understanding of both database issues and data-crunching needs that I can bridge the gap, and speak the lingo -- possibly better than anyone else on my team.

My insights of ''Hey!  I actually **really** enjoy my job'' came about because all I did on Thursday and Friday was nut out (and accomplish!) a moderately challenging analaysis, in between assorted meetings with the database people to troubleshoot some data quality issues.

I get to interact with the database people enough that I get to influence what they do and how they do it -- but not so much that I have to actually learn SQL or write the code.  I'm in the perfect in-between zone.

Interesting; intellectually challenging; good stuff!!!   :)


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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Keeping it a secret

One thing about modern technology that's a little frustrating is that when you think of a really **cool** password for one of your accounts -- you can't tell anybody!!!


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Monday, July 23, 2012

My Facebook prediction

Supposedly, everyone out there has a doppelganger -- someone who looks just like him or her.

And supposedly, something like 80% of the English-speaking world (or some other impressively large proportion) has a Facebook profile.

And Facebook has facial recognition things -- where it says ''Hey, it looks like you're posting a photo of [name of person]. Would you like me to label it for you?''

Therefore -- it would be really clever of Facebook to have a doppleganger-sensing feature.  Click a button, and it returns a list of other Facebook people who look remarkably similar to you.

In the mid or late 1980s, when I was a teenager, I remember reading an article in the Seattle Times about some genius whiz-kid of advertising, in downtown Seattle.  The photo totally looked like me.  But when I thought to go back and cut out the article, I couldn't find it.

And I occasionally -- when I lived in Seattle -- had people who claimed that I looked familiar. 

Who knows.


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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Workbench mod

Ideally, I'd have a workbench with a top thick enough for dogholes -- holes into which you press or drop pegs or stops -- which you then brace your wood against.

But I don't.  One of these days I'll (probably) replace the crummy MDF top with a few nice solid slabs of wood.  But that's not gonna happen any time soon.

So, in the meantime, I choose to make various modifications to suit my needs -- while still keeping in mind that it's an ''heirloom'' workbench (it originally belonged to my wife's great-grandfather; presumably one of my kids will end up with it).

One of the modifications is taping a blue ''sewing'' measuring tape to the front edge of the benchtop (see photo above).  This allows me to approximately measure the length of wood without using a measuring tape -- for example, if I'm digging through scrap pieces of wood and looking for something ''around 18 inches long''.

In a similar vein, my solution to the difficulty in installing ''proper'' dogholes was to drill an array of holes, then populate these holes with short Allen screws (again, in the photo above).  By selectively extending these screws (see photo at left), I can create ''stops'' to butt my work against, for handplaning, chiseling, and etc.

Note the Allen key lying on top of my ''example'' piece of wood.  I put a big piece of tape on it so it's harder to misplace.

In this final photo (see below), I've butted up the piece of wood to the Allen screws I'd extended.  Because of where I stand -- basically, with my belly towards the blue measuring tape -- and because I'm right-handed, the chiseling and handplaning forces tend to be to the left and/or away from the front of the workbench.  So, the workpiece gets pushed up against the stops.

It also works well for securing sharpening stones when I'm sharpening.

Apologies for the poor-quality photos:  it's all by lamp light, as I didn't want to use up my camera batteries by using the flash.


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Friday, July 20, 2012

Good blues

Seasick Steve.  A co-worker mentioned him to me.  Good stuff.

I need to practice with my slide more.

And another one.

What you can do with a pair of hubcaps and a broomstick -- through an overdriven amp.

Finally, a good interview.

I gotta buy some of his albums.


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Thursday, July 19, 2012

HH of disease

So, here's three remedial tips:

1) When you're doing a series of vomiting, have the ''ring'' toilet seat down:  it's more comfortable than the porcelain toilet rim for supporting your forehead or cheek as you rest between rounds.

2) When you're lying on the tiled floor of the bathroom in the middle of the night, or the wee hours of the morning, use bath towels -- not blankets -- to keep yourself warm (and to provide insulation and padding relative to the floor).  Bath towels are more modular than blankets:  if you get vomit on them, you only have to wash the specific towel, not the whole blanket.

3) Medium-sized metal pots with long handles make great barf-bowls:  the long handle lets you keep it a slight distance away, yet bring it close quickly.

As you can probably infer from the above, we've had a cycle of disease in our household.  Mid-week it was blondie boy, in the wee hours of the morning:  several rounds of it.  I got to camp out with him.  A few days later, it was B2.  Then about 1am or 2am Saturday morning (the 14th), I was ill.  About every 30-45 minutes.  Well into the morning.

Monday, I was still very weak, and really not eating.  Blondie boy had a barking cough and a sore throat.  For both those reasons, I stayed home from work.

Tuesday, in the wee hours it was The Girl's turn.  Curiously, even though she's three years older than the boys, she was far worse at sensing when her vomits would come -- and thus, much more clean-up was involved.  Poor thing.

Gotta say -- all of the kids -- and myself, actually -- were pretty stoic about the whole thing.  Nasty business, though.

So, I was home Tuesday, to watch over The Girl -- and I was still not fully recovered -- and I'd been up much of the night.

It's Thursday now (July 19th), and I finally made it to work.  Still only at about 80% capacity -- fairly weak.  I was marvelling at how long it's taking me to recover -- and then I realized that just because I've stopped throwing up -- it's been five days -- doesn't mean that I'm **well**.  Duh.

Still:  better than I was.


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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Toolbox idea

Some folks on my woodworking e-mail list mentioned wanigans.  These are apparently a portable kitchen-box (tucker box?) that you bring in your canoe on canoe-camping trips.

This photo (from this website) shows a layout that would make a really good toolbox, given my working habits.

A lot of woodworking toolchests are accessed from the top -- whereas I tend to have mine up on a table or workbench.

Hmm...  I originally wasn't considering making a toolchest, as it seemed like I'd get a sore back from constantly bending over to fetch tools.  But this approach might be worth exploring.


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Monday, July 16, 2012

Lisa Mitchell writes good songs

Dunno if her music has reached The States, but Lisa Mitchell writes some good songs.  She's a past winner of -- IIRC -- Australian Idol.  My impression is that most winners of those ''Idol'' t.v. shows go on to pop-based careers.  But in Lisa's case, I would characterize her music as more ''alternative'' -- whatever the heck that means.

Skip ahead to 1:03, for a live version of ''Coin Laundry''.

Here's her ''Australian Idol'' audition.  She has a distinctive voice.

And, a cover of Dire Straits' ''Romeo & Juliet'' (which the Indigo Girls also covered).

I appreciate the fact that she sings **and** plays an instrument.


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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Neat-o sawhorses

For some reason, I like sawhorses.  I own more of them than I need (seven, I think -- if you include my sawbench), I save photos of them to my hard drive, and when workers are in my office building I stop and gawk at their sawhorses (which weirds them out).

So:  here are some photos from a guy's webpage of his saw horses. 

I like 'em!  A hybrid between a ''pure'' sawhorse and a small workbench.


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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Good song -- Walkie Talkie Man

Yet another good song (IMO) that's from a semi-obscure band.

Song is ''Walkie-Talkie Man'', by the band Steriogram.  I think they're from New Zealand: bonus!

Here's the music video that introduced me to the song:

Fairly innovative.

And here's a live version (Gah!  Stupid advertizing!):

Good stuff.  :)


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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Good quote from a co-worker

A co-worker has a ''wise thought of the day'' that he posts... well, every day.

Today's was ''Don't try to drown your sorrows.  Sorrows can swim.''


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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What makes a good song

What makes a good song?

One of my metrics – from a “pop” songwriting perspective – is whether a song runs through your head when you’re driving, in the shower, etc.  That is, its “stickiness”.  If it sticks, it’s a good song.

Another measure of a good song is whether it has an inherent sense of familiarity or “inevitability” – as though it’s already existed or you’ve heard it somewhere before.

Broadly speaking, my view is that there’s two types of “good” songs.  One type fits clearly within an existing genre.

The other type is “genre-breaking” – catchy and interesting, but also unusual.  These **don’t** sound like anything you’ve heard before.  Three examples (all YouTube-able) are Information Society's “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)”, Devo’s cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”, and Devo’s “Jocko Homo” (which I believe is in 4/7 time…).

Oh yeah:  and the B-52s “Rock Lobster”…

Nine Inch Nails "Head Like a Hole".  And others.

Partly it’s a distinction between the melody line and the backing tracks.  IMO the backing tracks are what tend to be unusual:  within the broad ''pop'' realm, the vocal melody still tends to be fairly accessible.


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Tuesday, July 10, 2012


As you probably know, I tend to rescue things rather than have them go to the dump.

I rescued this item from the side of the road about five years ago.  Not sure exactly what it is -- although it appears to be automotive in some way.

It has a pair of (gimpy) castor wheels in the front, and room for another pair of wheels in the back.  The lever raises and lowers a small assembly inside.  I always figured I could retrofit it to be some sort of holder of recording equipment, or some sort of rolling tool rack.

But.  Over the last few months I'd pondered what **specifically** I'd use it for.  Every idea I came up with made me realize that it would be faster, easier, and more effective to just build something from scratch to fulfill that role, rather than trying to awkwardly retrofit this cart thingy for that purpose.

You see, I've massively scaled back on my hoarding behavior:  I no longer keep ''spare'' things unless I know **specifically** what I'll use them for.  (Note:  boxes of nails or screws for 50c at garage sales don't count.  Although, I guess I'll use them for ''woodworking''...)

So, as part of my cleaning up my workshop -- auto shop repair thingy had to go.  I asked my wife's uncle, and my metalworking next-door brother-in-law -- both of whom appreciate spare parts.  Both declined.

So, it went out on the curb, with a sign stating ''FREE!!!''.

It sat there Tuesday.  And Wednesday.  And Thursday I went back to work -- and when I got home, it was still there.  And all through the weekend.

And then, just when I thought that I would have to bring it back in from the curb:  Monday night, after work -- gone!!!

So, I guess it found a new home.



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Monday, July 09, 2012

Well for goodness sake

So, this morning, Monday the 9th, some novice driver failed to yield the right-of-way and hit my car.  **Again**.

So, in the past year I've been in three fender-benders.  Luckily, each one was the other driver's fault -- and all were reasonably minor.  Two were from novice drivers; one was from a middle-aged lady who should've known better, but was too busy talking to her mother in the passenger's seat.

This one was in the brown car (sedan), not our red car (4WD).

Still, a nuisance:  now I have to go to a body shop to get an estimate -- and later, I lose access to the car for a few days while the repairs are made.



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Thursday, July 05, 2012

The best part of my vacation

Although it was indeed good to go off an a (short!) road-trip with my family -- I gotta admit, the best part was getting to spend three full days whipping the shed into shape.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday -- July 2nd through July 4th.

By ''shed'', I mean the three-car garage-sized outbuilding, which will never house a car.  Here in Aussie-land, we call that a shed.  About one-third of it is my workshop, and two-thirds of it are storage (bikes, suitcases, etc.).  We don't have a functional attic, nor a basement, so all the misc. ''guff'' deserves to be out there.

The problem is that I've been busy for the last few months -- with the chicken coop, plus other things -- so items have just been shoved into the shed around nightfall, then never properly placed.

My main goal was to put my workshop area into functional shape -- and I achieved this.  Photos below.  My secondary goal was to tidy and organize the ''storage'' area.  I improved the order -- but I simply ran out of time.  So, it's better -- but not how I'd like it.

Here's a few ''Before'' and ''After'' photos.

The main entrance -- Before...

 ... and After!

The difficulty was that this main entrance to the shed was where I'd stash all my frequently-used tools while I was building the chicken coop.  But they needed to be put away.  So, I did!

The nuts 'n' bolts shelf -- Before...

...and After!

The main problem with this area is that the blue ''bloodletting chair'' (long story; had for years but no place for it in the house) was in the way -- I always had to lean over it to reach these shelves.  The green up-ended table sitting on it was also in the way.  I moved the blue chair from this ''prime location'' into the deeper reaches of the shed (i.e. against a back wall), and moved the green table into a less-intrusive location.  (It has a bad leg: I'm going to repair it, and The Girl will use it as an art desk.)

I also was able to use up a fair bit of my stash of jars and containers in the process of sorting my nails, nuts 'n' bolts, and etcetra.  If the photo was less blurry you'd be able to see that all the boxes, tubs, and jars are labeled clearly.

My workbench -- Before...

...and After!

Woo-hoo!!!  Actual cleared **benchtop** **space**!!!

A lot of people hang tools off the wall behind their workbench.  I don't want to permanently attach anything to the wall -- it's just sheet metal -- so for the moment I'm using a small shelf which I (of course!) rescued from the side of the road.  Instead of hooks on the wall, I just lay my tools on the shelf.  Works well.

BONUS:  Working at night.

Here's the view -- post-tidy -- from near our back door:

And, standing in the shed doorway...

Because the shed doesn't have power running to it, I could only really work on things during the day -- which meant ''weekends only''.  Occasionally I'd try to do work at night -- but I'd have to hold a flashlight or wear a headlamp. 

BUT!!! -- I've now set things up so that I have two lamps permanently plugged in to a power strip, and an extension cord permanently coiled up near the other door.  Now when I want to do work at night, I just throw the cord out the door and plug it in to the nearby outlet on the side of the house.  Takes me about 60 seconds.

UPDATE:  Yep!  Have made use of being able to things at night about twice a week during the following four weeks.  Good stuff.

(Pre-emptive note:  Because we use 220 Volts here in Aussie-land, it's illegal to do your own home wiring, unless you're a licensed electrician.)

So:  I didn't accomplish **all** that I wanted to do.  But, by the end of this process, I could actually walk between each of the three doors without stepping over things!!!  And, I had a useable workbench.  And can actually find nuts and bolts, screws, and nails.

So, mission accomplished, really.


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Monday, July 02, 2012

Chickie house update

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've mostly finished the chicken coop.

I still need to take some good photos of the chicken house -- but here's some views of some of the specific components that I finished after getting back from our road trip. Basically, over this weekend:  and today I started on the major ''shed tidying'' project.

The first photo (below) is of the sliding latch.  This has been installed for a while -- but I came across this photo that I hadn't yet used, so I'll raise the topic again.  Basically, because there's some ''play'' in the latch, I intentionally installed it at a 30 degree angle, so that it always falls to the left.  This allowed me to be more precise with its placement. 

Also, instead of using the loop that came with the latch assembly to keep the shaft from pulling **away** from the doorframe, I reversed the position, hammered the loop flat, and used it as a wear plate (i.e. to keep the wood on the door from wearing away).  The shaft of the latch now forces the door closed:  this is a more structurally sound arrangement, as the four screws holding the shaft mounting are bearing the load, rather than just two screws for the loop.

That photo was taken a fair while ago:  before I installed the screening, as well as the handle.

Below is a photo of the door handle that I constructed for the outside of the door:

It's made of two pieces of wood -- an L-shape for the top and vertical portions, and a short, angled segment for the ''spacer'' at the bottom.  I designed it to be weather-resistant:  there are no gaps in the top portion, and there is no place for water to get stuck (and cause rot) where the lower segment connects to the vertical. Plus, I gave it a few coatings of Danish oil (finishing oil).

And here is the door handle for the inside of the door:

This handle is a simpler design: three pieces, with the two shorter ''spacer'' pieces notched into the vertical section.  Since this handle is under shelter (i.e. inside the chicken coop), I didn't worry about weather resistance as much -- although it still has a few layers of Danish oil (finishing oil), as well.

Both are made from lagistromia branches, from The Lady's grandmother's front yard. I've had the branches for two or three years, and I still have some segments that I'll eventually use to make other things.

This windowsill protects the chickies' feet when they roost there.  During an earlier phase of construction I'd borrowed my brother-in-law's angle grinder and cut this window in the front of the metal shed that I was converting into the chicken coop.  I did this for ventilation:  it gets hot around here during the summer.  I didn't have time to install the windowsill before we left, so I just draped several layers of newspaper and cardboard over the bare sheet metal edge -- so they wouldn't hurt their feet -- and held it all in place with a small C-clamp.

The window still involved my cutting a two-by-four into an L-shaped cross-section, and leaving parts of it long, for aesthetic purposes.  You can see the parts that have been left long -- it's the far left and far right of the windowsill.

This is the inside view:

You can see that the **inside** of this piece of wood is even with the verticals of the window hole -- in contrast to the horizontal extensions that I retained for the outside.

This is a closer view of the outside of the window sill.  I added the little plus-signs to the photo to illustrate that I've ''clocked'' the screws.  This is a practice that my dad showed me when I was a kid, helping him around the house:  orienting the heads of screws in the same direction is a subtle sign of professionalism.  And once you know about ''clocking your screws'', you'll notice this (or the lack thereof!) in a lot of places -- such as the switchplates and wall outlets around your home.

And finally, here are the happy residents!

Three browns and a black one.  The browns in the rear are standing on a two-by-four screwed to two upturned plastic flower pots -- a little perch that I'd whipped up for them a few months back.  The feeder (foreground) and watering trough (behind it) are hanging from wires that are tied to the two-by-four beam that supports the tin roofing overhead.

So, except for two tasks, the chicken house is completed!  The chickie house is still operational -- but I can't cross it off my list until I (1) install a turnbuckle to keep the front frame from sagging (the weight of the door is skewing it sideways), and (2) move the pile of ''Grandad metal pieces'' from the back left corner of the chickie house, so I can then properly bury the anti-predator mesh.


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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Birds at the Australian Zoo

About half of the animal demonstrations at the noontime (11am?) show at the Australia Zoo was birds.  The other half was crocodiles.

Once the bird demos started, it was easy to tell why some people chose to sit where they did:  they were near where the birds would come, perch, and then fly back to the trainers.

This clip shows some huge sort of bird.  I don't remember the name -- but it was **huge**!!!  It came flying in from over the stadium wall.  Near the end (0:07 - 0:12) you can see a trainer in the lower left of the screen.  Relative to that person, I reckon the wingspan is about 8 feet, maybe wider.

In this one, you can't really make out the audio, but they asked for volunteers from the audience.  The woman was told that the birds were trained to fetch rectangular pieces of paper.  She was told to take a $10 bill, fold it into quarters, pinch it between her fingers and then hold her arm out.

Yeah, the person laughing like a dork is me.

This final video actually happened in our backyard:  it's a willy wagtail. The reason for the name is apparent once you see them.

And -- them's the birds!  :)


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