Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Friday, September 27, 2013

It was a Smiths song

I have a nine-to-five, Monday-through-Friday type of office job.

However, this week I had to take off Tuesday and Thursday, for childcare reasons.  So, I only worked Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

The mornings were bad, because it was like having three Mondays that week:  I stayed up late the night before, trying to prolong my day off -- and when I was at work I kept reminiscing about all the productive things I'd done on my day off.

BUT -- once the afternoon hit, it was like having three Fridays in one week -- with all the hope and optimism that a Friday will bring.

What this taught me is that when (not "if") I win one of the big lotteries, I'd work two adjacent days each week, rather than split them.



Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tip for many small parts

If you're assembling thing and you have a zillion small parts that are all the same (e.g. some Ikea kit), I recommend using a doggie bowl.

It has a wide base, so you're unlikely to knock it over.  It has a large opening so you can grab the pieces easily.  And the sides are tall, so the items are unlikely to get knocked out of the bowl.


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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bottomless slushie day

Yesterday -- Monday the 23rd -- was infinite refill day for slushies for the local 7-11s.  The rules were that you buy a large slushie, get a sticker to put on the cup, and for the rest of the day just show the sticker at the counter instead of paying.

Much as I enjoy a bargain -- and my slushies! -- I was concerned that this would be a form of aversion therapy:  that by the end of the day I would never be able to look another slushie in the straw again.

I made it through four slushies.  That was about right.

If it had been "free fruit smoothie day", I would've done better.  :)



Monday, September 23, 2013

Making a new mom laugh

At the end of each meal, my great-grandfather on my Japanese side (i.e. my maternal grand-mother's dad) used to pour a little tea onto his plate, swish it around, and drink the resulting mix.  My great-grandmother didn't like it (she thought it uncouth) -- but apparently he didn't like to waste food.

This is all hearsay:  he died before I was born, so I never met him.  But I share similar traits:  I put hot water in jam jars, put the lid on and shake it up, then drink the results.

It's kind of like spiced cider -- but berry flavored..

When I do this at work, it nauseates my Canadian co-worker.  She's off on maternity leave now, but as I rinsed out an empty jam jar at work, I thought of her.

My manager was kind enough to take the shots shown here with her camera-phone, and send them to my co-worker.  Apparently, she was amused.  :)


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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Who I like

I've noticed a certain theme among my favorite characters in t.v. series.  Off the top of my head:

-How I Met Your Mother -- Marshall (not Barney; Barney's fun, but quite frankly he's not a nice person)

-Firefly -- Book

-Star Trek:  Voyager -- Chakotay

-M*A*S*H -- B.J.

-The X-Men comic books -- Nightcrawler

All of these, I would say, are strong but gentle male characters.  They're fairly easy-going -- but are willing to stand up for what's right.

I'd **like** to think that these characteristics reflect me.  But certainly, it's what I like.



Friday, September 20, 2013

Hierarchy of interests

I picked up a few magazines this last weekend:  a computer (Linux) magazine; a woodworking magazine; and two music (recording) magazines.

I was carrying all three around in my work bag, so I had equal access to all of them.

The woodworking magazine trumped the music magazines:  I plowed through it in a day's worth of commuting on the bus.  And the music magazines trumped the Linux magazine.

Likewise, I have about thirty books on my “To Read” bookshelf by my bed, in various states of completion.  The criminology books keep getting trumped by WW, music, computer.

So, this all suggests where my interests currently lie:  woodworking, then music, then computer things.  And this is a correct reflections of how I've been spending my time.

But -- over the last two days I read an article called “A Comparison of Propensity Score and Linear Regression Analysis of Complex Survey Data” in the Journal of Data Science (2006, vol 4), followed by a 17 page printout from the *.pdf version of one of the Stata manuals (Stata is the statistical software that I use at work) for the “teffects” command for calculating the treatment-effects estimation for observational data. 

I've been reading this on my own time; because it’s interesting -- but also probably useful at work.  And this has trumped the music magazines.

So, I guess data geekery is pretty high up there.

I originally wanted to be an academic -- and I **do** enjoy teaching and research.  But my current job involves restructuring data to find patterns -- and I'm enjoying it.  So, it seems that I've found my niche.


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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Slushie redundancies

For my morning break, I went out to get a slushie.  I work downtown.

First, I tried the Night Owl that's down the block, then kitty-corner.  It's my preference:  the middle size is on sale, and the flavor and consistency is slightly better than at 7-11s.

But, the "cola" cylinder was in defrost (!!!).  Gah.  That almost never happens at that store.
So, I crossed back to my block, and tried the 7-11 on the corner.  But there was something was wrong with that cylinder:  it wouldn’t extrude the slushie.

So, I went to the 7-11 that was past my building, across the street, and down the block.  As it turned out, that one worked.  But if it hadn't, I could've gone around the corner for another block and caught the Hungry Jack's (Burger King) that's having a $1 sale on slushies.  And if the line was too long, I would've doubled back and visited thethe 7-11 under the shopping center, near where I catch my bus.

So, five different cola slushie options within a three-and-a-half block strip.  It’s good to have multiple layers of backups.  :)

Put differently:  my work location is optimized for slushies.


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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Wisdom for aspiring musicians

In my youth, I was in two different bands.  I think we wrote good songs -- but the bands didn't "go anywhere".  

My impression is that it happens a lot.

And now I'm middle-aged, have a wife and kids (who I like to be around), and don't really feel like spending months of the year driving from gig to gig and sleeping on strangers' sofas.

So, this is my sharing of what I think I've learned about making it -- or not making it -- in the world of music.  The following applies mostly to alternative rock, and probably folk and country as well.  It probably doesn't apply to classical musicians, jazz artists, and other types.  But you may as well have a glance, regardless.

Most of the following applies both to bands and to solo artists (or singer-songwriters).  It's in a vaguely narrative order.

(Note:  I'm having trouble getting a blank, un-numbered line in between the numbered list items.  So I guess my items will all be odd numbers...)
  1. Face recognition:  put your face on your albums.  Even if you don't want to put it on the front, at least put it on the back.
  3. Branding:  Have some quirk that people will remember you by, that (ideally!) your fans can emulate -- and a logo that you can put on your merchandise, and your fans can doodle on their denim jackets and school notebooks.  Madonna wore her underwear on the outside.  AC/DC has that cool logo.  Devo wore those flowerpots (technically, "power domes") on their heads.  The Ramones all wore leather jackets, jeans, and Converse.  Pink had pink hair -- until she became famous enough that she could stop.  The White Stripes had a red-and-white color theme.  Do **something**.
  5. Make your band name Google-able:  Either mis-spell a common word (e.g. Korn), or make your band name an unlikely combination of words (e.g. They Might Be Giants; Owl City).  One of my favorite bands from Seattle (sadly, no longer active) was "Bell" -- and it's really hard to do a web search on them.
  7. Do a web search for your band name before you get famous:  Rock music is full of bands that had to change their name because someone else already had that bandname.  The Mission/Mission UK is one example; also Yaz/Yazoo.  If you Google the band "Plan B", you'll find quite a few of them already.  Think ahead.
  9. If there's already someone (semi-)famous with your name, consider using a stage name:  I was inspired to write this blog entry by doing a web search for a local artist named Clare Quinn.  Turns out that there's an aspiring actress in the UK who's also named Clare Quinn.  If they both become famous at the same time, someone's gonna have to budge. It makes sense to just avoid the problem, either by changing your spelling, adopting a new surname (David Bowie is actually named David Jones -- but "Davy Jones" was already in the Monkees), or adopting a whole new name (e.g. "Sting", "The Edge").  But note that if you have a one-word nickname, it may be hard to Google (unless it's spelled oddly -- e.g. "Gye"). 
  11. Get a name that people can remember:  Our band was originally named "Quiescent Stridor" -- but people kept going "Huh?"  But we already had shirts with a "QS" logo, so we had to come up with a new name with "QS".  Luckily, my cousin's dad's girlfriend came up with "Quiet Storm".  Similarly, I'm toying with the idea of subsuming "Gye Greene" under an easier-to-spell band/project name -- much like Trent Reznor is Nine Inch Nails.  
  13. Get a name that's not R-rated:  Unless you're totally punk rock and intentionally want a name that isn't allowed on billboards and in newspaper ads, get a band name that won't embarass your nana.  And you twenty-year-olds probably won't believe me -- but band names that seem hee-larious in your youth will just make you feel like an idiot when you're older.

  14. Register the web address:  As noted in this guy's blog entry, you need to own your own website (and the URL), rather than rely on a Facebook page, because (1) Facebook calls the shots, so ultimately you have no control, and (2) Google searches don't like Facebook.
  16. Make money off the tours and merchandise, not the songs:  My impression (and based on some things I've read) is that it's hard to make money off of album sales.  An alternative approach is to make your money of your performances, and off your merchandise (e.g. t-shirts, stickers, keychains).  People can copy and share your mp3s, but it's harder (and less likely) for people to bother ripping off your t-shirts -- until you get **really** famous.
  18. Put some downloadable demos on your website:  In this day and age of reasonably-priced technology, there's very little excuse for not having a few downloadable, demo-quality songs on your website for people to share with their friends.  (If you're not technologically-minded, surely you have some friend who is, and can record you.)  You can still save the "good versions" for your pay-per-download transactions.  And if it's a good song, a "demo" version will still be enjoyable to listen to.
  20. Post some YouTube videos of your music:  The video doesn't have to be fancy; it can just be you singing and playing.  But -- once again -- it's something for people to share and spread the word.
  21. .
  22. Get songwriter royalties (and producer points):  I could be wrong on this, but my understanding is that if the recording of you song sells, the songwriter in the band gets paid twice:  once for the performance (split among the band members), and again for the songwriter royalties.  And if your song is famous enough to generate cover versions, only the songwriter gets paid!  Also, the producer gets the song royalties as the songwriter.  It's very important, then, that the Beatles included some songs that Ringo and George wrote.  It's also interesting that R.E.M. songs list all four of the guys as the songwriters -- which means that they all get equal royalties.
  24. Get out of the garage:  Devo spent a few years in the basement, practicing and honing their weirdness.  Eventually, though, they started playing for other folks. In contrast, my second band (Sacred Cow) only played in the guitarist's garage.  We never went anywhere -- and so we never went anywhere.  (Note:  In this internet age, regular posting of YouTube videos may suffice.)

  25. Make sure that everyone in the band has the same goals:  I was the youngest in Sacred Cow, my second band, a four-piece.  Two of the guys were married (one with kids), and the third guy was seriously partnered.  They all had rents or mortgages, and "real" jobs.  I wanted to start booking gigs in Seattle (about an hour away); they wanted to play at the local bar for their friends (in a relatively small town).  I think that if we had all been willing to gig in Seattle, we could've generated a following.  But, nope.

  26. If you have musical family or friends, consider yourself very lucky; doubly lucky if they have the same musical tastes:  I was lucky enough that my cousin and I are of similar ages, and had overlapping musical tastes.  And when my new co-worker at the movie theatre mentioned that he played the drums -- a convergence! But after a few years of practicing, the co-worker joined the army and got shipped out of town, my cousin and I placed an ad and auditioned a few drummers but no-one clicked, and I eventually went back to college (out of town).  If only my cousin or I knew someone else who played the drums...
  28. If your musical friends have similar tastes, but play unusual instruments -- go for it anyhow:  Let's say you're starting a rock band, but your buddy plays the violin, not the guitar.  A violin with a pickup, through a distortion pedal, can do some serious "lead guitar" work.  Your drummer only has conga drums, not a regular drum kit?  Make it work.  Plus -- the unusual combination will make your band memorable (see above).  Examples:  Jethro Tull, with that guy playing the flute.  Men at Work, with the flute.  INXS, with the horns and such.
  30. If you lose a band member, make it work anyhow:  After my cousin and I lost our drummer, we should've just used a drum machine and kept going.  It worked for Sisters of Mercy.  And They Might Be Giants, in the early days, played along to a pre-recorded backing tape. The White Stripes (and The Grates) didn't have a bassist.  You do what you can (small plastic man).
  32. Don't have jerks in the band:  I was only in bands with nice people.  And that wasn't an accident.  Being in a band with a musical genius who was also a pain in the butt would've been... unpleasant.  It would've made the whole process unpleasant.  Portions of your journey will be a hard slog:  no need to make it worse than it has to be. 
  34. The music business is a business:  Once you try to make a living from something, you become market-driven:  if you want money, then you have to do what sells.  Ideally, you can follow your own tastes and the people will come.  But sometimes not.  Having to respond to public tastes can also kill your love for the activity.  For example, I once (briefly!) thought it would be great to own my own recording studio -- until I realized that I'd have to accept any old band with money in their pockets, no matter how wretched their music -- just to keep up the cash flow.
  36. Do it while you're young and unencumbered:  Once you have a family, once you have rent, it's harder to work a crummy day job and play gigs and live off spare change while busking for gas money while sleeping on your brother's sofa.  I reckon you have about a ten-year grace period -- say, ages 18 to 28 -- before it gets awkward to go back and get a degree, start a career, and start saving for retirement.  I don't mean that you need to stop playing music -- just that you should probably start implementing your backup plan.
  38. Going it alone is harder for different types of music:  Most of the music I write doesn't sound right in a busking or solo situation.  To go anywhere, I needed to be in the context of a band.  If I was a folk musician -- and possibly a country artist -- busking on street corners and attending open mic nights would've been more of an option.
  40. Recognize your gift:  This always surprises me, but regular people can't write a song.  Even people with musical training often can't make up a simple, catchy melody:  they can only reproduce (and interpret) what's already been written.  And most non-musical people can't write lyrics.  It's weird.
  42. It's even harder to write a good song:  Among the people that actually can write songs, not everyone can write a good song.  And even those that can write a good song can't write a good song all the time (e.g. the solo work of John Lennon and Paul McCartney).  
  44. There's no shame in being a one-hit wonder:  If you write a song that millions of people enjoy, remember, and possibly play at their wedding -- consider yourself lucky.  Very, very most songwriters don't get that.
  46. Fame and popularity is poorly correlated with merit:  A lot of my favorite songs, and favorite bands, I discovered by accident in the three-dollar bin.  And one of my top-ten favorite bands ever (Bell) had a few albums, then ended.  There's a whole lotta randomness involved, including whether you fit with current trends, where you live, who you know, who sees you -- and whether your drummer joins the army right after your first gig.
  48. Even if you can't make a living at it, never stop the music:  I still write songs; I don't play as often as I'd like; and one of these days I'll record some of my recent songs, post them on YouTube, and see what happens.  But it would take a few weekends to become recording-worthy, and woodworking and yardwork are currently higher priorities, because they address the needs of my family.
  50. Appreciate the journey; avoid regrets. :)

That's it for now; I may add more as I think of them.


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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Woodworking not knitting

Every Friday morning, I take the kids to their before-school tennis lesson, which lasts a half hour.

For the first semester, I'd sit there and read. Reading is fine:  I enjoy reading.  But I read on the bus for an hour each workday, so I don't need more reading.  What I need is more shop time...


Starting Friday, August 16, I started bringing along a small tool kit and two pieces of wood -- and I work on the wood.  I use one of the benches next to the tennis court as a workbench.

There are three different styles of benches next to the tennis court.  There's a pair of wooden benches which aren't suitable as workbenches because they each have a lip (indicated by the red circles) across the front of the seat, and also across the top of the back, which get in the way of clamping.

Similarly, the seats and backs on the aluminum benches aren't solid.  Instead, the back is hollow, with a lip all the way around:  again, this gets in the way of clamping.

So, I use this one.  It's clearly seen better days -- which is an advantage, as people at the school would be less likely to worry about me damaging the bench than if it was beautiful.  And it has an open structure, which allows me to clamp the boards I'm working on to the back and to the seat. For example, it's easy to pass my clamps through the gaps between the slats of the seat.

Here's one of the boards I'm working on, in the position I would clamp it when I'm (eventually!) ready to dovetail it.

Here's the position of my workpiece when I'm jointing the edge.  Ideally the wood would be perfectly vertical, and the top would be horizontal.  Instead, it's tilted towards me -- so when I'm using my handplane I have to adjust for that.

The red arrows (photo above, photo below) indicate the direction of handplaning.  You can also see how I butt the workpiece up to the concrete leg, which serves as a planing stop.  The concrete leg is sunk into the earth -- so there is no movement of my "workbench" whatsoever.

Below is how I clamp battens or stops to the seat of the bench, and then butt the workpiece against that.  I'm using a scrub plane to clean up and flatten the surface.

This next photo shows the workpiece pulled away from the battens, so you can see their positioning.  It also shows the towel a bit better.  The towel is mostly symbolic:  it signals that I'm taking steps to not damage the bench, and it also serves as visual contrast to show that my workpiece is separate from the park bench -- that is, that I'm **not** hacking away at the bench itself.

As you can see from this next photo, the bench isn't an optimal working height for some tasks.  Actually, for scrub planing the faces of the boards, I usually sit on the curb (upon which my left foot is standing).  When I'm jointing the edges of the boards (see earlier photos), the workpiece is actually at a comfortable height.

Here's a closer look at the wood that I'm working on.  They are two pieces, cut from a longer piece of hardwood that I found in my back yard (I forget exactly where) about five years ago.  I balanced it on a pile of bricks, unsheltered, and re-discovered it a few weeks before starting this project.  It's part of my wife's grandfather's legacy:  they used to own the property where we live, so there are piles of rusty metal, abandoned car parts, and stashes of 50-100 year old lumber here and there.

I'm cleaning up the surfaces, flattening the faces and jointing the edges (i.e. making them perpendicular to the faces).  Then I'll rip the boards in half to create bookmatched pairs (i.e. open the boards like a book, and the wood grain on the inside surfaces should mostly match each other).  These will eventually be the sides of a rustic-looking tool caddy.

And here's my stash of tools.  The specific contents will vary with the task.  Currently the caddy holds three clamps, the two wooden battens, a scrub plane, and some layout and marking tools (e.g. trysquare, grease pencils), plus my homemade plane-adjusting hammer.  When it's time to rip (resaw) the boards, I'll add a marking gauge, and carry my rip saw by hand; when it's time to dovetail, I'll swap in a backsaw, a bevel gauge and a marking knife.

And what am I building?  A tool caddy, similar to the one above but with more capacity.  It will serve as a portable, self-contained "dovetailing a box" kit -- with tools for scrubbing/surfacing, simple jointing, rabbeting, layout, and dovetailing.

It's somewhat recursive, I realize:  dragging a tool kit around and spending many hours to make...  a portable tool kit to drag around.  But I figure I have twelve more years of childrens' tennis lessons, soccer lessons, and etcetera.  I figure as long as there's a park bench, picnic table, or bleachers nearby, I can set up shop.  "Downtime" becomes "shop time".

My aim is to work on this project only during tennis lessons, and see how long it takes me. 

So far it's been working well. As I mentioned above, my first Friday doing this was Friday, August 16.  I've logged four Fridays of progress, and things are coming along -- and I arrive at work each Friday with a slight buzz, having started off the day with some woodworking.

(Although:  I have to clock in a few minutes late, as I work up a slight sweat while woodworking.  So I sneak off to the downstairs showers and change into my work clothes, before formally starting my day.)

Unfortunately, I didn't get to do any "portable woodworking" yesterday:  Thursday night I helped The Lady grade a bunch of papers (urgh), so I didn't get to bed until about 2am.  So instead of bringing my tool kit Friday morning, I brought a green bath towel -- which I folded up and used as a pillow during the kids' tennis lesson.

My nap took place on a different park bench.


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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Something better

Last night I meant to compose and post (remedially) a long-ish blog entry during the half hour before I meant to go to bed.  Instead, I dug out a synthesizer that I hadn't played for a long time, and played for an hour (whoops!).

Tonight I meant to post that blog entry -- but I noodled around with the synth again.  And that's fine.

My blogging has largely fallen by the wayside -- a casualty to real, actual life.  And that's fine, too.

Maybe this weekend I'll kind of catch up on it.  Or maybe not.



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Monday, September 02, 2013


Here's another indicator that I have unusual interests -- although, possibly shared by other woodworkers.

I'm helping my daughter (AKA ''The Girl'') making a small wooden box as a gift for my wife (AKA ''The Lady'').  I have a few different sizes of nails, but they were all a little long.

So today I went to the mega hardware store and picked up three sizes -- 20mm x 1.6mm, 25mm x 1.6mm, and 30mm x 2.0mm -- to complement the other size (40mm x 2.0mm) I already have.  I like having a range to choose from, and they only cost about three and a half bucks a box.

I'm guessing that ''normal'' folks don't care about having a range of nails to choose from.

They're flat heads, by the way.  Box nails, I think.


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