Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Graphic novels I recommend

In my youth, I used to collect several titles of comic books.  Then I drifted away.

Maybe ten years ago I started collecting certain titles of graphic novels.  Most of them are ones that I happened across at the library, and liked well enough that I bought them for myself, to keep.

Plus -- when you borrow books from the library (nothing wrong with that; it's what libraries are for), the author doesn't get any royalties.  When you purchase the book, she/he does.  So you're a patron of the arts -- supporting the artist.  FWIW.

Note that the below are from my perspective.  If your aesthetics diverge sufficiently from mine, then you won't like these.

Also, all of these are "played straight":  they are not parodies or any-such.  And they're well-written.  Otherwise, I wouldn't like them.

Some of these are single-issue offerings, or only had a limited number of volumes and thus have no new offerings.  Dangit.

Brody's Ghost -- a slacker guy, set in the near future, discovers that he can see the ghost of a murdered teenage girl.

Daisy Kutter:  the last train -- steampunk western with a strong female protagonist, a sharpshooter.  Out of print, but good if you can get it. (Ah!  They apparently had a successful Kickstarter-funded reprint.  So used copies are now around $45 on Amazon.)

Strong Female Protagonist -- a small proportion of the population among a certain birth cohort develop super-abilities when they're 14 or so.  One of them, in her early 20s, abandons her super-identity and goes to college and tries to live a "normal" life, which doesn't completely work out.  Great writing and art.  It was originally a webcomic, but the first four chapters are available as a graphic novel.  Apparently they'll continue to bundle the chapters into graphic novels as they accumulate enough material.

Usagi Yojimbo -- a rabbit samurai in an alternative universe feudal Japan.  He is imperfect but honorable, and an excellent swordsman. 

Concrete -- kinda nerdy speechwriter for a senator gets kidnapped by aliens, gets his brain transplanted into a concrete-like body with strength and invulnerability (and excellent eyesight), but without a sense of taste and touch. 

Raina Telgemeier -- the author/illustrator, not the series.  Tends to write autobiographical pieces.  I have Smile and Drama.  Eventually I'll pick up her other works.

The Walking Dead -- inspired the t.v. series, which I refuse to see.  Probably more grim than the t.v. series -- but I wouldn't know.  More about survival in a post-apocalyptic world than about zombies.

Ex Machina -- a civil engineer gets zapped by some sort of alien device, and is able to communicate with -- and control -- machines.  Becomes mayor of New York.  More interesting than how I made it sound.

The Arrival (by Shaun Tan) -- no words, just pictures; a man immigrates to a new country, and has to adjust to a new culture; fanciful but plausible "alien" technologies (clearly does not take place on earth); a great book for anyone of immigrant stock; a little pricey, but still worth getting.

Honorable mention:  These are pretty good -- but not quite good enough that I actually bought them.

Fables -- various fairy tales and folk tales living together in a semi-hidden neighborhood in New York City.  Serious, and sometimes a little grim (pun intended?).

Powers -- a former super-hero lost his powers, and is now a cop.  Deals with various other super-beings.

The Shepherd's Tale -- tells the back-story of Book, from Firefly -- how he came to be a shepherd.

Again -- if you share my tastes, then you'll like these.  If you don't, you may not like 'em.


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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Clever pop-up page

A clever pop-up -- as in "pop-up books":




Sunday, March 22, 2015

TKD whacking stick

Two of my kids take Tae Kwon Do.  One of the exercises that they do at TKD is the instructor walks around and strikes at them with a padded stick, and the students block it.  Yesterday The Girl asked me if I could make one of those, for practicing at home.

So today, when we were out running some errands, I noticed a box of those "swim noodles" at a cheapy store, for three bucks each.  I picked up a nice color (purple).

When I got home, grabbed my stash of misc. broomsticks and large dowels (note:  All are "found" and "rescued" -- freebies!).

I cut the purple swim noodle to length:  "my arm plus fist", I decided. Then I selected one of the dowels with the correct diameter, cut it to length, and rounded off the snubbed end with a rasp, then with a file.

I made sure that there was a padded section at the tip, as well -- for simulated "straight punches".

As I usual, I finished by writing the "completion date" and my initials on it.

And, here's me trying it out with The Girl.

Seems to work.  :)

Also tried it out with B2, who also takes TKD.  No photos of that, though.

A three dollar outlay, plus maybe 15 minutes of labor.   And I got to customize the length.

I'm pleased.  :)


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Pink P-90 guitar -- part 1

I don't have any guitars with P-90 pickups.  But based on some YouTube clips, I think I'd like the sound.

So, around early February (i.e. a month and a half ago) I decided I'd retrofit a P-90 into a spare guitar.  Eventually.

In other words, putting a P-90 in a guitar was on my "Someday" list:  eventually I'd mail-order a P-90 or two (I'd already selected the website to buy from).  But then in early March I saw an ad on Gumtree for a used P-90 at half the price of a new one -- so I picked it up on Sunday, March 8th.  And with that purchase, installing a P-90 was suddenly on my "The Next Few Weekends" list...

Here's a snapshot of the pink guitar that's the core of this project -- a "fake Strat", as I tend to call them.  Usually I don't like altering perfectly good guitars -- I like to leave them as I found them -- but this one already had two of the knobs broken off (purple arrows).  So I'd have to repair the electronics, anyway.

Since I only have one P-90, I knew I'd be creating a single-pickup guitar.  I'm fine with that:  there's a fair amount of precedent for guitars with a single pickup:

-My "main" guitar has two humbuckers mounted -- but only the bridge pickup works.  And I like the sound.

-Eddie Van Halen's "Frankenstrat" only has a humbucker in the bridge position (the single-coil at the neck is non-functioning; it's just cosmetic).

-And, for the last half-year I've been daydreaming about Les Paul Jr.s -- which only have a single, bridge pickup (a P-90, generally).

So, between March 8th and now (which is Sunday, March 22nd), I've worked on retrofitting the P-90 into the pink guitar.  I **was** going to present this project all in one blog entry -- but the process is taking longer than I expected.  So, this is "Part 1".  :)

Here's the guitar with the faceplate (as well as the pickups and electronics) removed, and the P-90 resting across the cavity, as a size comparison.  I've slid the P-90 as far into position as I can -- but it doesn't align properly with the two lengths of fishing line I've strung to represent the outermost guitar strings.  So, I'm going to have to widen the cavity for the pickup to fit correctly.

Because I have only one pickup, I'm going to set up the mounting plate to slide, so that I can adjust the pickup position.  As I mentioned above, I know from my playing style that I'm fine with just one pickup -- but because I haven't used a P-90 before, I want to be able to experiment with whether it sounds better mounted in the neck, middle, or bridge position.  If I occasionally want to change the pickup position, I'll just loosen the screws, slide the plate, and re-tighten.

I'll be using one of the below pieces of plexiglass as the mounting plate -- but, re-shaped.  These pieces of plexi are one of my (many) "salvage" finds.  I found them easily:  they were exactly where I knew they would be.

They're clear, so I'm going to make the guitar wiring a "feature" -- something to highlight, rather than to hide.

Back to the actual guitar.  Here, I've laid out masking tape, and marked out the necessary width for the pickup.  It's about a pinky's-width on each side.

This is the guitar, clamped to my portable workbench, with blocks of wood to protect the fact of the guitar (and an old shirt underneath, to protect the back).  This is under the carport, and I'm just finishing my hand-chiselling away the excess wood.  You can see the wooden mallet, made by my (late) paternal grandfather, lying across the neck of the guitar.

As you saw in the photos above, the inside of the body was painted a light pink.  But because I chiselled away some of the wood, there were two strips with bare wood.  Given that I'm using clear plexiglass as the mounting plate, I didn't like that.

Plus, I wanted the wiring to have a lighter background than the pink -- so that the wiring shows up more clearly, in contrast.  As I mentioned, I want the wiring to be a feature.  So, I re-painted.

Here I've masked off the body cavity, and painted it an undercoat of green.

While I waited for the paint to dry, I returned to the mounting plate:  I've put masking tape on it to make the layout easier, and have marked out where I'm going to make my cuts.

Back to the guitar (the next day!).  Here I've removed the masking, and placed fresh masking tape to map out where the screws for the "tracks" in the mounting plate will go.  You can also see the result of my second coat of paint:  a light dusting of white, so that the green undercoat shows through.

I then made some cuts to the mounting plate (but forgot one!  Will have to do it next time), defined the locations of the screw slots (for sliding), and marked out the approximate position for the pickup (which I then moved to the right a little bit).

Here's the mounting plate in the "full bridge" position:

And, here it is in the "full neck" position:

That's it for now.  I have some ideas for the electronics -- but I'll discuss those next time, once I have supporting photographs.

Clue:  I have a stash of various electronic components, so I already had a few double-pole, single-throw switches to choose from.  But I needed to visit the hardware store today to pick up another type of switch.


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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Storefront surgery

The U.S. and Australia both have cultures that are (mostly) derived from Great Britain.  And we both speak English (mostly).

Because of those similarities -- and the fact that I've lived here long enough that most of the existing differences now seem "normal" to me -- there's not a lot of things left that make me feel more "American" than "Australian".

But, this is one of them.

To an American, this seems like a shop in a strip mall that's offering walk-in surgery.  A little odd, but -- eh, why not?

If you click the photo to enlarge it, you can read the phone number.  So maybe you have to make an appointment before you get operated on.

But an Australian would not see this sign as odd.

This is because in Australia, a doctor's "surgery" is what Americans mean by the "examination room".

So basically, this sign just means "Doctor's Office".

I hope.



Friday, March 20, 2015

My lists

I have some whisperings of OCD.  For I don't know how long (since college, I think), any book that I purchase I write my name, the date, the location of purchase, and the price, somewhere inside, near the front.

I've done the same thing with CDs, inside the CD booklet (but curiously, not for DVDs -- or for LPs or cassettes, for that matter).

I have four "running" documents on my computer, where I fairly compulsively log the date, location, price, and misc. notes regarding the item in question:  one list for "Music gear" (including guitar magazines); one for computer things; one for woodworking (and gardening) things; and one for sports/exercise/martial arts things.

I keep these lists partly because I'm curious about how much my various hobbies cost me -- and I need to collect the data as it occurs -- because once data is lost, it's gone for good.  I also record this information because I'm sentimental, but have a mediocre memory -- so (for example), I want to be able to remember which similar looking backsaw I got from my wife for my birthday; which was from that garage sale down the street; and which was from my grandfather's estate.

And, I'm curious as to how much prices shift over time.  So I sometimes browse back through my lists to (for example) see how much a bottle of boiled linseed oil cost me, four years ago.

The upside of my list-making is that I have **very** good records of (some of) my belongings:  when we got burglarized shortly after moving to Australia, I was able to give **very** specific details to the cops, and the insurance company, about the guitars that were swiped.

The downside to the list-making is that I often have a backlog of tools (and etc.) piled next to my computer that I'm not "allowed" to use -- because I haven't yet logged them.

I'm OK with that.

Choices, choices, choices.


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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Going with my interests

This morning was grey, drizzly, and a little windy.  As I sat on our porch, putting on my officeworker shoes, I thought, "I wish I could stay home and just sharpen chisels."

But I went to work instead.

I came home early, as I typically do on Thursdays, to take my kids to their Tae Kwon Do class.  Usually I go for a short jog while they're in class -- which I don't enjoy, but it's good for me. 

But I decided not to.  Instead, before we left home I packed up my sharpening gear and a fistfull of chisels (and two tool totes, to carry everything), and sat on a bench near their class -- and sharpened chisels.

Afterwards, we picked up some fish & chips for dinner.  While waiting for the fish & chips, the kids and I wandered past a shop with a basket full of wise sayings on little clay plaques.  One of them said "Do things that make you happy."

Which I had done.

Because I'm Middle-Aged Guy, and I now know what I enjoy, and what I don't.  :)


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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St Pat's Day again

Well, it was St. Patrick's Day again.

As I've said before, green is by far my favorite color -- and so St. Patrick's Day is almost like a religious holiday for me:  I must wear green!!!

So, here's what I wore to work today:

Or rather:  it's what I wore **at** work.  The hat and the suit jacket I carried in a bag, and put them on after I got to work.  Didn't want to attract attention on the bus:  no point.


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Monday, March 16, 2015

A change in the seasons

So, it's mid-March -- I think fall is finally here.

For the past many, many months we've been sleeping with all the windows open.  But this morning when I got up, it was actually -- a little cool (!!!). 

So I ran around and closed all the windows.

Niiiice!!!!  :)



Sunday, March 15, 2015

Polite real estate

I think the "Circle-P" logo is for the realtor.

But I immediately read the sign as a single word.


Addendum:  A few days later in the same neighborhood, I saw this sign -- clearly from the same real estate company.  So "Circle-P" must be their logo.


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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

E-mail thread

My co-worker CC'd me on a graph I'd made about a week ago.  Then we were witty.


Me:  Hey!  I remember that graph…!!!  :)

Bike Tragic:  “Fruits of your mastery” and all that.  :)

Me:  LOL!  :)

Better than being “Master of all Fruits”.   (Kind of like “Lord of the Jungle”, but with a horticultural spin.)

Bike Tragic:   Or “Fruity master of all”.

Me:  That would make an intriguing bumper sticker.




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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Move review of Gran Torino

Well.  Gran Torino has Clint Eastwood as an old man, a retired auto worker, who is grumpy and racist and swears a lot.  Actually, a lot of people in the movie swear a lot.

He remembers when his neighborhood used to be an ethnically-Polish, working-class neighborhood. But, over the years everyone that he knew has either moved away or died -- so the neighborhood is now mostly Latinos, Cambodians, and other ethnic groups.

And, he has a classic car in his garage -- a Gran Torino (which I'd never heard of, but I'm not "into" cars) -- which is an object of desire of some local gang members, as well as his estranged sons, and his greedy self-centered granddaughter.

Hm.  I'm not sure how much of the actual plot I can describe without giving it away.

How about this:  a co-worker told me he didn't like it.  And I watched the DVD "Special Features" first, which didn't inspire me to see the movie.  But after I watched the first five minutes, I was hooked.

There's some funny bits, some sad bit, some very grim bits -- and the ending in plausible and is consistent with what went before -- and actually pretty clever.

A lot of swearing, racist name-calling, and a fair amount of violence.  But it was still a good movie.

Not one for the kiddies.  Or if you're already bummed.



Saturday, March 07, 2015

Movie review of the movie Brave

Yeah, I know that Brave came out a fair while ago.  But I didn't see it when it came out; and then we picked it up cheap on DVD, and added it to the pile of potential movies for family movie night.

Anyhow, watched it tonight.  Yep, good.  :)

It's about a Scottish princess, maybe 17 or 18, back in the old "clans" days.  Her mother -- the queen -- makes her spend most of her time learning all the princess-y things, but all the princess wants to do is ride her horse and do archery (and with some swordplay in there as well). 

Some amusing bits, some sad bits.  Billy Connelly voices the dad (the king) -- so that's a bonus. 

It reminded me a little of Frozen, in that it sharply deviates from the old Disney "princess (or commoner) looking for a prince"; instead, it's about a princess who doesn't want a prince.  And anyhow, the focus of the story is the mother-daughter relationship: the whole "you need to choose a prince and settle down" is mostly the point of conflict between the daughter and mother.

Yep; worth seeing.



Friday, March 06, 2015

My review of the movie About Time

Saw the movie About Time.  It was a good movie, and I'd recommend it.

The basic notion is that a kid from a fairly well-off family -- they live in a huge house that's a short walk to the beach, have afternoon tea on the beach every day, and his dad was able to quit work at 50 to spend more time around the house -- and his dad informs him after the son's 21st anniversary that the men of his family have the ability to travel back in time.  But, only through their own timelines.

That means that the rest of his life can be lived as an infinite set of "do-overs".  He spends the rest of the movie exploring the possibilities.

I noticed one logical contradiction -- but only one.  And I won't annoy you with pointing it out:  just enjoy the movie.

It's not my lifetime best-ever-favorite-movie -- but it's a sweet movie with many humorous bits, plus some sad bits, and a reasonably tidy ending.

Oh -- and the woman he falls in love with is written (and played) as someone you could see him falling in love with.  A much nicer person than a the woman he has a crush on elsewhere in the movie.

Some naughty language; some implied sex; no nudity that I recall.

Addendum:  I found a few websites (blog entries?  movie reviews?) that complain that About Time is full of logical errors and breaking the self-stated "rules" about time travel.  I disagree with most of them -- as do the comments under those entries.

Addendum, Oct 6, 2015:  For a while I was watching at least parts of this movie about once a week.  Then I went for a few weeks without watching it.  And then I couldn't figure out where the heck I put the DVD -- which was disappointing.  But today I was in a shop that sells used DVDs, and they had a copy for three bucks.  So I picked it up.  And I'm re-watching it.

So, yeah -- I've added the tag "Favorite movies" to this blog entry.



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Thursday, March 05, 2015

Improving my vocals

In an effort to improve my ability to sing on-pitch, I've recently recorded a few mp3 files of me playing a series of repeating single-notes on the guitar.  I start in the middle of my vocal range and go down a half step until I run out of guitar; then I resume at the middle, but go up until I've maxed out my vocal range.

I've saved a few copies to the mp3 player that's connected to my car radio, and every once in a while one of them comes up on the playlist -- and I sing along:  "Aaaaaaaaa.  AAAAAAAAAA.  AAAAAAAAAAAAA."

One of them came up while I was driving the boys to school this morning.  So I sang along.

After a few minutes, B2 commented "This is a boring song."

It was also my turn to pick the kids up from after-school care.  Another copy of the "vocal practice" mp3 came up.  "Hey!," I said (jokingly).  "It's B2's favorite song!"

The Girl listened for a moment, and then said:  "This is boring."

I can't argue.  ;)


I invented a word

Asked a co-worker how she was doing; she said “Oh... OK.”  And she wasn't her usual cheerful self when she said it.

I said that was too bad -- she deserves better than that: she deserves to be extrabulous.

“Extrabulous” = “Extraordinary” + “Fabulous”

I enjoy portmanteaus.  :)


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Monday, March 02, 2015

Finally a large spider

When I moved to Australia -- Lo, those many years ago -- it seemed like there were **tons** of fairly large spiders about.

But recently, I haven't been seeing any spiders except for teeny little things, about the size of ladybugs.

But!  This afternoon, B1 (Blondie Boy) asked to show me something in the hall.  "What's that?", he asked, pointing up near the ceiling.

Ah!  A spider!  And a decent-sized one, too.

I got a duster-on-a-stick from the broom closet, and had The Girl wave it about to the right of the spider.  Meanwhile, I got up on a stepstool with a plastic container from the "dirty dishes" counter, and a flattened cereal box, to catch it.

I wasn't worried about it being venomous:  as a rule of thumb, the smaller ones are the venomous ones; the larger ones don't need to be.

I took it outside and took a few snapshots:


And then I released it, and tried to get it to run away to safety (I've heard that large spiders and small spiders compete for territory:  so having large spiders around is actually a good thing).

Here are some photos (with rules with inches, and centimeters) for size comparisons.


So -- a 5" leg span?

I showed the photos to The Lady.  She reckons its a huntsman.  I believe her.


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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Young guy but old voice

Found this guy when doing a web search for "Hispanic country singers".

Vince Mira.  15yo, from Federal Way (near Seattle; woo!!!).  Has a much deeper voice than you'd expect -- especially given his voice during the interview.

His singing starts around 1:52.


ADDENDUM:  An original song by him.  It's a good song.  I hope he does well.


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