Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Saturday, April 26, 2014

DIY Blastix or bundled rod drumsticks

Earlier I posted a blog entry on home-made drumming "brushes" -- which were actual dishwashing brushes.  I also made some mega-heavy, Taiko-style drumsticks.  This current blog entry is somewhere in the middle of that range of exploration:  some homemade "bundled rods" or Blastix.

Bundled rods are basically thin dowels, bundled together and used as drumsticks.  They're partway along the continuum between drumsticks and "brushes".

My thought was: instead of paying $15-$25 (horrors!) on a factory-made "bundled rod" drumstick, how hard would it be to make my own?  And, would it sound OK?

For raw materials, I bought a pair of bamboo sushi mats from Daiso, a retail chain where everything in the store is AU$2.80.  I also bought a pair of bamboo placemats from their competetors, Danda, where everything is also AU$2.80.  My basic outlay was therefore $5.60 per pair of drumsticks.

However, I also ended up paying $7.19 for a roll of decent-quality green duct tape (green tape is more interesting than silver or black).  Technically it was "cloth tape", with embedded threads for strength.  Since this project only used a few feet of the roll, I'm not sure how much of the total cost of the roll I should assign to the DIY Blastix:  maybe 30c?

And I also used a bit of glue.  More on that later.

As you can see from the photo, the two types of mats happen to be the same length.  This is useful for comparing the sound of the two materials, as the length of the material is held constant between them.

As you can see, my hand width indicates that the finished product should be missing the top two rows of string, but the lower rows might as well be retained in the final product:  it makes the rolling easier, and provides a bit of substance under my grip.

In addition, my approach is to remove only the second-from-the-tip row of string:  retaining the row on the end helps to keep the bundle together, and because it's at the tip, it should be pretty easy to remove after everything is assembled.  In contrast, the "second row" would be a nuisance to try to remove, post-assembly.

The weight and cross-section of the sushi mat is different than the black-stained placemat.  I think both are bamboo.  However, the placemat strips are round in cross-section, and thinner than the sushi mat.  Here you can (hopefully!) see that the sushi mat has a series of half-circles (or maybe 1/3 circles?).

I decided to roll the mat with the curved portions outwards:  it would make a smoother exterior, which would be less likely to dig into my hands.

Here's a shot of the sushi-rolling mats, with the second-from-the-
top strings removed.

Note the heavy-duty waxed paper, to keep the excess glue off my workbench.

Handy hint:  the waxed paper is actually the bag from inside a dried cereal box.  It's heavier-duty than "regular" waxed paper.  Because the inside of the bag tends to have cereal dust, I write "outside" on the outside of the bag, and make sure that the clean "outside" of the bag is what touches my workpiece.

This photo shows the gluing pattern that I used:  a strip down each side, along the thicker "ends" of the placement, and then one stripe of glue along each interwoven string.

I'm just using regular white woodworking glue (PVA, I believe).  However, it's the "Exterior grade, water-resistant" type of glue:  I figured there was no point in building something that a hot summer's day would destroy.

After laying down the glue, I held the mats tightly to the work- surface, and rolled them as tightly as I could -- being sure to keep the ends nicely aligned.

Note that I intentionally rolled one mat clockwise, and the other counter-clockwise.  This resulted in a "matched" set of sticks that were mirror-image of each other.

Then I took the green "cloth tape" and wrapped each stick twice:  two layers along the "upper" string's glue-line, and two more layers on the "lower" string's glue-line.  "Upper" and "lower" refer to my hand placement on the stick.

After gluing, I further aligned the sticks by forcefully tamping down the butt ends against the workbench.
You can see the size of my fist, relative to the project:  the upper band of green tape is peeking out between my fingers.

There was still a little alignment work to be done, so I also tried to tamp it down a little bit with a mallet.  It helped a little.
(The mallet was created by my late paternal grandfather, BTW:  it's my "go to" mallet, and ends up getting used on just about every project that involves striking against wood.)

Finally, I set up my creations to glue up overnight.  I placed them in an old cake pan, in case the glue dribbled.  I also placed them with the tips pointing up, so that the excess glue would drain away from the tips:  I wanted to ensure that the "bristles" could move freely, rather than accidentally get bound by glue.

Here are the (near-)final products:

For the purposes of illustration, I took the picture partway through unravelling the end string.

Finally, here's what they sound like:

One of these days I'll purchase a set of actual Blastix or "bundled rods", and compare them to my home-made devices.  Eventually.  :)


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Friday, April 25, 2014

Linux Mint on my machine

Windows XP is no longer being supported by Microsoft -- including various security patches.  Fair enough:  it's been out for many, many years (in "computer time", at least), and I don't expect a company to necessarily support a product that's long since been discontinued (and superseded by a newer version).  (Photo:  my old WinXP desktop)

Rather than upgrade to a newer version of Windows, I took the plunge and over-wrote Windows XP with Linux Mint.  And that's what I'm using right now, to post this blog entry.

One thing I like about Linux Mint is that it's free (as I understand it, it's developed and supported by hobbyists and volunteers).  Some types of Linux are free, and some are commercial -- and that's fine.  :)

Linux is an operating system:  not Windows, not Mac OS, but something yet again.  It has its own way of doing things -- although the "Mint" flavor of Linux (there are many, many types of Linux) has a lot of similarities to Windows (e.g. a "Start"-style button (labelled "Menu") on the bottom left, and a taskbar along the bottom of the screen).

Also, it has a "Home" folder, which is pretty much the "My Documents" folder if you're a Windows user.  (With pre-set folders of music, videos, etc. -- just like in Windows.)  And you can see the "Computer" icon on the desktop, which is basically "My Computer" for you Windows people.

Installation was straightforward.  I downloaded the installation software from the Linux Mint website, burned it to a blank DVD-ROM, and then booted my computer with the DVD in the drive (your computer has to set to boot from the optical drive before it boots from the hard drive).   Ten years ago you would have had to manually enter your hardware specs.  Nowadays, for most(?) Linux versions everything is auto-detected: all you really have to do is confirm your location, tell it what language to use, etc.  (HOWEVER:  I haven't yet checked whether my printer has drivers among the Linux repositories.  It's possible that I'll end up with a "generic"driver, which means some of the more specific features of my printer might not be available.  [Update:  see end of this blog entry.])

Clicking on the "Menu" button brings up all the different categories of software that are installed.  This is the "all applications" list:

One thing I like about the "Mint" version of Linux is that there's a zillion free apps, which are easy to download:  just go into "Administration", then "Software Manager".  This takes you to a central repository of software, where you can choose a genre (e.g. "Games", "Office") -- and go browsing.

I think it's clever thing is that the software is categorized into groups.  For example, if you click on the "Office" button, then all the "productivity" software (word processing, spreadsheets...) show up.  If you hover over one of them, then a little one-sentence description of the software shows up in the bottom right hand corner of that big grey display square (is it a "window"?  perhaps).

For example, I "went shopping" (except it didn't cost anything!) for various audio recording and video editing apps.  You can see the ones I installed:

And -- the above screenshots were taken with a "Screenshot" app that I downloaded, which includes such features as putting it on a timer, so that you can "get in position" before the screenshot it taken.

As I post this blog entry, there are a few things that I'm having to get used to:  for example, I used to use Windows Paint to re-size my photos.  I had to fish around a little to find the Linux app to do the same thing.  But I figured it out.

The rest of my blog-posting, however, was the same as when I was using Windows:  open up Firefox; go to my blog page; upload my photos from my "Photos" folder; and do a lot of typing.  :)

I will say, however, that if there's a specific piece of software you need, you might find Linux an impediment.  Although!  There is a Windows emulator, and also a "virtual box" for Windows (neither of which I've tried, and nor will I bother with) -- which means there's two different ways of installing Windows software "on" your Linux machine.

ALSO:  I just now went to see whether my USB printer worked.  Plugged it in to my laptop, and it wasn't detected.  And under "Adminstration" I didn't see anything for "Printers" or "Add printers" or "Add hardware.  However, a fairly quick Google search later, I came across this link: and following step #2 provided the solution.  Note that I knew what a "command line" or "terminal" was, so the instructions didn't worry me.  And once I opened the terminal window and typed in the magic phrase, a dialog window popped up,  Linux Mint did detect my USB printer, and from there I just clicked on all the obvious things.  So it could be that if I'd thought to have my printer plugged in (and turned on!) to my computer when I was installing Linux Mint that it would have already installed the printer drivers.

So:  Given that WinXP support ended in early April, it would be worth considering installing Linux Mint instead.  Of course, you'll need to copy all your personal files (documents, photos, home movies) to an external hard drive.  But presumably you already back up your personal files already...

(4/27/14 -- UPDATE -- when I do blog entries, I used to use MS Paint, which let me re-size my photos (usually to 25% x 25% of original)), and add some simple circles, lines, and text to the photos.  The image viewer allows me to re-size and "save as".  However, I'm mildly annoyed that the "paint" and "drawing" photos that came with Linux Mint, as well as those that I downloaded, aren't sufficiently "bare-bones" for me to easily insert text and lines.  I worked it out -- eventually -- and maybe I'm doing it the hard way. But that **is** a "negative", IMO.)


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review of "World's End" movie

A few days ago I borrowed World's End on DVD, from my sister-in-law.

In it, Simon Pegg plays a guy raised in an English village whose life peaked in high school: all his high school buddies now have marriages, kids, and/or careers, but he's in a state of arrested development.

He manages to convince his (estranged) high school buddies to re-enact their failed “pub crawl” from their senior year, back in their old hometown. However, it turns out that there's something odd about the locals.

Worth seeing once, if you like sci-fi and/or the Shaun of the Dead movie. However, now that I've seen it, I don't think I'd ever re-watch it.

It was pretty good.  :)



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Arturia Micro Brute synth

Ooh!  I want one.

But first I'd have to massively tidy up the far end of the house, to make some room.  :)


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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Three layers of coincidence

Well!  Three layers of coincidence today.

First, I received a wedding invitation from my two aunts, who are getting married in a few months in Washington State.

Then, I was reading a magazine clipping that my dad sent me about the music industry, and it made a passing mention of the duo Mackelmore & Lewis.  I did a quick YouTube search, and this was the first video that came up.

And finally -- it turns out that Macklemore & Lewis are from Seattle (as am I).

So, small world.


P.S.  For what it's worth, Macklemore graduated from The Evergreen State College.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Review of Muppets Most Wanted

We saw Muppets Most Wanted yesterday. 

Although it has some pretty good songs -- written by Brett from Flight of the Conchords -- it was otherwise mediocre.  Among other things, my youngest son (6yo), near the end, said that it was a looong movie.

It started a bit slow, although it picked up by the middle.

I wouldn't particularly recommend unless you can't think of anything else to watch. The Muppets (2011), with Amy Adams and Jason Segel, is much better.



Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Reivew of Fail book

Borrowed the book Epic Fail: the Ultimate book of blunders, by Mark Leigh, from my local library.

Engaging, a quick read.  A book of screw-ups, basically.

A certain proportion are probably urban legends, as there are no specific names or dates attributed to them.

Entertaining, none the less.



Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Moby wisdom

From the liner notes of Go -- the very best of Moby (his capitalization, not mine).

"i never expected to have a career in music (it's true. i actually expected to make music in my bedroom, have a day job, and dream about someday having friends who would be willing to listen to the music that i made), and i never expected to sell any records, and i certainly never expected to ever in a million years release a 'best of' cd.  i've had songs that have been played on the radio?  are you kidding?  i'm just a weird bald guy who makes music in his bedroom.  i'm not supposed to sell records or have songs that get played on the radio.  it's very odd to me.  nice, of course, but odd."


"religion can be nice when it compels people to be kind and compassionate and forgiving but not so nice when it compels people to superiority and violence and arrogance and judgementalism"


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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Darndest thing

Last week was my second Krav Maga class.  Different instructor -- the first one was just subbing -- and we had a tougher opening workout.  Not brutal -- but we had to do several brisk laps around the gym, which  made me realize that I'm out of shape in terms of running.

(I do a moderate amount of walking -- but I haven't run more than a few yards in years and yeas.  I'm OK with most forms of exercise -- but I've never liked running (or sit-ups).)

So, at the end of the class the instructor said that it's up to us, but he recommends putting in some work on our own time, or else our in-class exercises aren't going to get any easier.  I can believe that.

I've learned that for my own body, at least, my body starts to adapt to exercise in two or three days.  So I've started doing some light jogging -- mostly jog a bit, walk a bit -- in front of my house.  Done it twice since the last class -- and allowing a full day of rest before the next class.

I don't enjoy it -- but I'm hoping the investment in discomfort now will save me some discomfort later.  I'm enjoying the Krav classes except for the jogging -- but it's part of the package, so whatever I can do to make it less unpleasant during that part of class...

The jogging went well enough.  Oddly, my quads are fine -- but after I got done with my run my butt was sore. So I guess running -- or at least, the way **I** do it -- uses the butt muscles a lot.  Hm!

The butt-soreness may be due to the slight incline along my street.  It's subtle enough that you don't notice it while driving -- but you sure do while running!  I reckon it's a five degree incline.  And I tried to have my "walking" segments going downhill, and my "jogging" segments uphill.

We'll see if my exercising makes the warm-ups for this next Krav class any easier.


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