Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Basement rocker

As most office workers do, I keep a cheap electric guitar, a small practice amp, and a small toolbox with guitar gear, under my desk at work.

I occasionally -- by which I mean "once, since bringing it to work six months ago" -- go down the the lowest parking garage level under my building at work and play my guitar.  There's a concrete pillar that has a power outlet -- so I can plug in my amp.  Next to the pillar is a space between some bike racks which is protected by railings -- so I can set up and be safe from getting squished by cars. 

I point my amplifier away from me, to maximize the amount of natural reverb compared to the direct sound -- and I noodle away during my lunch break.

So, I did this once, about a week after first bringing my gear in to work (the first week of November, 2014).  (Holy carp -- it's April 2015!  How'd that happen?)  And for the last month I've been meaning to play "basement guitar" again.

Well, today's workday was making me feel a little futile -- so I went "eh", and went down during my lunch break. 

I enjoyed it.  And I amused the security staff.  :)

In related news, I'm playing guitar more often than I have in a loooong while:  about once a week, maybe a little more.  I've been inspired by a co-worker who is playing nearly every night.  I figure:  I enjoy it; I should do it more often.

I'm being fairly non-instrumental (pun not intended) in my playing:  I'm not recording, or trying to come up with song ideas.  I'm just noodling around with different scales, expressing myself, and enjoying the experience.  And in the process, presumably getting better at playing the guitar.

Finally, a comment about the guitar (pictured) -- which is the guitar I have under my desk at work.  It's kind of quirky -- but, I like quirky.  I picked it up for AU$59 (about US$43), because (as you can see in the photo, before I repaired it) two of the grommets on the tuning pegs were missing:  I repaired this by fabricating wooden "sleeves" to take up the space.  Also, the tip of the pickup selector switch is missing, and the volume and tone knobs are different styles of knob.

But, again -- I like quirky guitars.  :)


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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Handplane cost

I read a blog entry where the author is experimenting with using a small smoothing plane (a reproduction Stanley #2, from Lie-Nielson) instead of a block plane. 

That idea seemed worth pursuing, so I checked out my favorite online used woodworking tools website, based in Australia, to see what a used Stanley #2 might cost -- or maybe a Stanley #1 (even smaller).  I like that tools website because it has both collectable and "user"-grade tools.

But -- it turns out that Stanley #2s and #1s are rare -- and thus collectable.  In fact, #1s are super-rare.  So the prices on the Australian website for a #2 is AU$295 (US$235), AU$365 (US$290) and up; and for a #1 (only one was listed!) it's AU$385 (US$308).

In contrast, the moderately botique-y Stanley reproductions are US$275 for the #2, and US$225 for the #1.  Huh.

So, for a similar price (or perhaps less), you can get a new, slightly fancy model.

I guess "used" isn't always "cheaper".  Especially when the "used" item is collectable.

Meanwhile, though, I have a variety of block plane-sized planes that I ought to experiment first -- before doing the oddball things.


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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Two different sons

My two sons are the same age, but different in personality and skills.

B1 is very good at finding money on the ground when we're out running errands.   He's also interested in money for its own sake:  he's in early gradeschool, but already says that when he grows up he wants to have a "store" (he actually means "a business").  He also likes food -- so he says he wants to make and sell candy.

He may not do precisely that -- but he's the most likely of my children to start his own business.

We put the money that he finds in a separate jar from his "allowance" money.  This evening he asked me to help him count his money.  I found a few things interesting:  he sorted the money by denomination; placed all of them in columns of five; and placed all of them tails-up, and in the same orientation.

However, I don't think he has hard-core OCD, because he was a little loose in the physical arrangement of the coins:  some of the columns "drifted" a bit.  Various people on my side of the family have OCD-like tendencies -- so that's probably where he gets it.  The other two kids don't show any signs of it.

He asked me to help him add up the total, and I told him that sometimes it's faster if you let the computer help you.  So, I took notes on the count for each coin denomination -- and then set up a spreadsheet.

 As I entered the information into the spreadsheet, I explained to the boy how a spreadsheet works, including the referencing of cell locations by the intersection of the column letter and the row number.  I tested his knowledge by asking him for the "coordinates" of the cells I needed to add.  He seemed to understand the nature of the process.

As you can see, he's collected a fair number of coins over the last year and a half:  nearly sixty-five bucks.

Of course, it helps that in Australia we have two-dollar coins:  that jacks up the total nicely.  It also helps that -- for whatever reason -- people seem to drop two-dollar coins more often than one dollar coins.  Or, at least that he notices the two dollar coins more often.

So, that's B1.

Both B1 and B2 are good at math.  But B2 has a stronger interest in it.

B2 also thinks like a programmer.  For example, The Lady's family has a tradition of providing "wish lists" for birthdays and Christmas gifts.  Last Christmas, B2's list was very structured and logical -- he stated it (literally!) as:

Monster High DVDs -- that aren’t on The Girl's list; Ninjago DVDs -- that aren’t on The Girl's list; Lego sets -- that aren’t on The Girl's list; video games -- that aren’t on The Girl's list;...”

So, I was rather surprised when, a few months ago, I showed them some introductory-level programming with BASIC-256, which is a free "BASIC programming" program that you can install if you're running Linux.  (It may also be available for other platforms.)

I was inspired to show them simple programming because the boys' teacher gave them a homework assignment for math which was "write all the numbers from 1 to 1,000".  They were learning the structure of how "counting" works for large numbers (e.g. going from "399" to "400").

However, I thought that having them write all the numbers was a waste of time:  if you have the kids write the numbers from 1 to perhaps 220 -- and also from perhaps 780 to 1,000 -- then that would be enough to demonstrate that they've learned the concept of incrementing up the ones, tens, and hundreds.  Writing the intervening 500-or-so-numbers doesn't give any additional benefit.

"Plus", I told The Lady, "that's what computers are for.  You could write a program in about four lines that writes the numbers from one to a thousand, in less time -- and the kids would probably learn more by doing it."

So, I went off and did it (Bah!).  And, for the record, I did it the hard way:  instead of just

for i = 1 to 100
     print i
next i

I actually did nested loops for the ones, tens, and hundreds columns -- which directly reflects the understanding that the students were supposed to be demonstrating.

And then I showed the kids.  But, surprisingly, none of the kids were particularly taken -- even B2.  But, I didn't push it.

BUT -- this evening, he asked me to show him "the thing on the computer where it counts from 1 to 100".

Sure!  :)

So, I showed him a simple "x=0", "x=x+1", "print x", "if x=100..." approach.

And then, for some reason, I started doing a "Mad Libs" set-up (shown at left; click if you want to enlarge).  I'm rather proud of the "gendered pronoun" little block of code:  nothing fancy, of course, and a little inefficient.  But I was just playing.

B2 started to emulate me:  our computers are side-by-side, so he'd come look at my screen, then type something similar to what I had done, but with different prompts and variable names.  In the process, I explained the difference between string and numeric variables, and he got to experience the difference between how the software processes "true" double-quotes versus two single-quotes together (which give the user the illusion of double-quotes).

I also told him that what he was doing was called programming -- or coding.

After about an hour, it was time for bed.  And, that made him nearly burst into tears (!!!).  He said that he'd rather keep writing on the computer than go to bed.  He also said (my paraphrasing) that he'd rather stay home and write code than go to school.  I assured him that when he goes to college, he's allowed to major in something that lets him do exactly that.  And that maybe he could get a job in it, as well.

BTW -- here's the result of my Mad Libs, as generated by the above prompts:

The end.


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Friday, April 24, 2015

Review of Dinner for Schmucks

Last night I watched Dinner for Schmucks on DVD.

It's about a guy who is trying to climb the career ladder, and is pressured by his boss to find an idiot to take to a monthly dinner, where the execs compete over who can bring the biggest idiot. The main character finds a well-meaning but obtuse guy whose hobby is stuffing and dressing dead mice and posing them in scenes.

Some swearing, I think. Some direct sexual references.

I found it worth watching once, but it's not the sort of movie that I'd bother watching again: it didn't have any key scenes that I'd want to jump to and re-experience.



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I still like She's Out of My League

Last night I meant to watch just a little bit of She's Out of My League on DVD, while eating dinner (the rest of the family had already eaten) -- and ended up watching the whole thing again, and staying up past my bedtime.

I do like that movie.  There is a lot of bad language -- and a few fairly direct (but not quite!) sexual references.

But:  it's rather sweet, with good acting (IMO), some good lines, and it's a nice modern-day fairytale about a nerdy but nice guy ending up with a highly attractive woman -- who (refreshingly) is also a nice person, with intelligence, gumption, and wit, rather than just an empty shell.

The Lady -- correctly -- notes that there aren't a lot of "plain-looking gals winning the hearts of hot guys" movies.  Although The Truth About Cats and Dogs may come close.


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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Children's stepstool

My paternal grandfather did a lot of wood- working -- and we are lucky to have a lot of things around the house that he made.

Pictured is a stepstool that he made for me and my sister, when we were little:  I can't remember not having it in the house.  When we were little kids, we had it in the family bathroom, and we used it to get up to the sink to wash our hands and brush our teeth.  My other siblings used it as well.

When we were really small, we would also sometimes use it as a little desk:  you sit on the lower step, and use the top step as the desk top.

And, now I'm a grownup, with children, and it's at my own house, in our master bathroom.  My kids still use it whenever they wash their hands or brush their teeth.

Family history.


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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Two short logs

Two weekends ago, while doing my pathetically short jog, I came across some short lengths of small-diameter logs by the side of the road.  I recognized them as wattle, which has a lovely reddish-brown color, so I came back a few days later and picked up the two larger ones.

I knew I wanted to use the wattle wood in projects.  But:  if you let logs dry "in the round", you get a lot of splitting -- which reduces the amount of usable lumber you end up with.  So I've found that you need to split them into quarters or eighths (depending on the diameter of the log), or cut the log into slabs.

I knew from experience that wattle doesn't split cleanly, so I would therefore have to saw them into slabs by hand.  I also knew that I wouldn't have time to do that right away, so I put them in my children's plastic wading pool (which was already filled with rainwater), to prevent them from drying out and cracking -- which ruins the wood for woodworking.

And then, this recent Thursday, on my way to the train station, I passed by a house where some workers were tossing branches into a grinder, which blew the chips into the back of the truck.  To the side of the house, on the grass, were about ten log segments from the trunk of the tree.  I stopped to inspect them.

The woman who lived in the house -- I presume -- came out to see what I was doing, and I told her that I do woodworking, and could I please save two of the logs?  She said OK, so I rolled two of them to the side, and she told the workers to **not** load those two onto the truck.

She said that they were fiddlewood.  A friend told me that it's basically a week here in Queensland.

That evening after work, I stopped by and threw the -- fairly heavy! -- log segments into the trunk

So, the wattle first.

I spent part of Friday (home with a sick child) and part of Saturday hand-sawing them.

By the time I got to the point of photographing them, it was getting near dark.  Since I wanted to get my blog entry posted, rather than wait another day, I set up two lights.  The yellow light is a halogen(?) work light -- which is very bright, but kind of yellow-y.  The green light is a solar-powered one from Ikea, which provides a bluer light.

Here's one of the pieces.  You can see that it has a fork, which makes for an interesting grain pattern.  I took a scrub plane to this one, to clean it up a bit, and also rubbed some Danish oil on it to bring out the grain.  However, the oil is still wet, which makes the wood look a little slimy.  Ah well.
(You may want to click the photo to enlarge it.)

This one is from the other small log.  This one is neither planed nor oiled -- but you can still get the sense that it's some nice-looking wood.  Both this and the previous piece are about 10cm by 35cm (4 inches by 14 inches).  That's enough to do something with.

And, here's the resulting stash.  I'll end up making some sort of small-to-medium storage box or jewelry chest, after I let the wood season for a year or two.

And, the fiddlebark.

Here's a shot of the two logs, as I dumped them in my front yard.  They probably weighed about 60-70kg each (130-155 lbs.) when I lifted them into the car (wet wood, freshly cut):  they felt like they weighed nearly as much as me, but not quite.

Here's one of them, with a ruler on it.  Both of them were almost exactly the same length and diameter, so there's little point in showing both of them with a ruler.  The ruler is 12 inches (about 30cm) -- just to give you a sense of scale.

These were of a decent diameter, so I was hoping to heck that they would split cleanly:  splitting is a lot faster and easier than hand-ripping with a saw.  (I refuse to use a chainsaw:  too dangerous.)  I'd never used fiddlebark, so I didn't know what to expect as I began to split the first log...

But!  Here's one of the logs, after I'd split it with some wedges.  It split fairly cleanly:  note the straightness of the split, where I've indicated with the red rectangle.  However, it does get a little ragged further down:  see the blue rectangle.

Here's a shot of the wood in the process of being split.  That's a wedge from my paternal grandfather's estate, BTW.  In fact, most of the wedges I used for this wood-harvesting are from his estate.

Here's a shot of one of the original logs.  As you can see, it's pretty much 12 inches (30cm) across:  that's enough to do some useful things with it.

Once I did all my splitting -- here's a shot of a portion that I cleaned up with a scrub plane -- the area is indicated by the red rectangle -- and then rubbed with Danish oil to show the figure.  This piece of wood is flatsawn.  I'm a little disappointed with the color:  when I was examining the logs when they were on the woman's lawn, I thought the wood would have more of a pink-ish coloring.  Still, not bad -- and the figure is usable.  (Click to enlarge, if you like.)

Here's another piece -- again, cleaned up with a scrub plane, as indicated by the red rectangle.  This one is quartersawn.  It also has some spalting, which gives it some variation in color.  (Again, click to enlarge.)

I have two pieces like this:  about 30cm by 50cm (12 inches by 20 inches) -- enough to make a seat of a simple stool.

Here's an indicator of the thickness.  Should make a good seat for a stool...

And, here's the resulting stash (oops!  getting dark...).  Enough to make a six-board chest (or two?) (explained below), plus a simple stool or two.

Here's what I'm thinking of, when I say a "six-board chest":

Basically, you get six wide boards, and join them together to make a storage chest.

And, here's what I'm thinking of for my eventual footstools.

This first photo shows two footstools made by my late (paternal) grandfather; I'm thinking of emulating the one on the right.

Here's another example.  I'd probably splay the legs like this one, in contrast to my grandfather's design (above), where the legs go straight down.

However, for security (i.e. robust engineering), I'd probably have the legs go all the way through the top, then "wedge" the legs (with the force going against, rather than across the grain -- of course).

For all of these slabs of wood, I'll let them season "loose", on shelves, rather than "stacked and stickered".  ("Stickering" is drying lumber in stacks, with slats of wood as spacers between them.)

My wood-seasoning philosophy is that drying lumber in stacks makes them dry "in tension":  wood wants to shrink as it dries, and if it doesn't have room to flex, it cracks a bit.  Also, the resulting wood has internal tensions, such that if it gets wet and re-dries, it will move to how it wanted to in the first place.

In contrast, my seasoned wood is stable.  It's true that it cups a little bit -- but I just plane it flat.  I'm willing to trade a lower yield for wood that is actually stable.

My approach.


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Guy who builds tiny houses from salvage

Thanks to Salvage Construction Lady for sending me this YouTube video.

The guy's a little wordy.  But the houses are nice.

I did notice that he kept comparing "modern" building materials as full of plastics and toxic off-gasses, versus "old" building materials that are "natural".  However, he forgot about lead paint...

I can totally see myself building something like these in my back yard, as a home office or guest house.  After I retire, of course.  ;)


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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Mostly better

Well, I had a weird week this week.

Monday I left work a few hours early, for an orthodontics appointment to get my braces tightened.

Tuesday I took the day off:  they boys had an eye appointment in the morning, and it it wasn't worth the commute to work a half day in the afternoon -- so I cashed in some Flex hours. 

It's school vacation, by the way -- so the kids are at home rather than at school.

Tuesday night Boy #1 developed a hearty cough and a fever, so Wednesday I stayed home with a sick kid. 

Luckily, the kids are old enough that they don't need real monitoring -- just an adult to stay home with them -- because I felt a little run-down myself.  I got up in the morning and saw The Lady off, then went back to bed.   And managed -- with occasional interruptions from the kids -- to sleep until 11:45am.

Sleeping until 11:45 is pretty impressive, since my office job means that I'm usually awake around 6:30am.  This means that despite my best efforts, now-a-days I can only "sleep in" until about 8:30am -- then I lie there, awake, until I figure "Eh; may as well get up."

So, clearly I was a bit fatigued.

Thursday, I actually managed to make it to work.  Felt pretty good, though not at my full capacity.  The Lady stayed home with the kids.

At the kids' Tae Kwon Do class in the evening, usually I've been doing a light jog around the school grounds.  This time, though, I didn't feel up to it.  Instead, I did a moderately brisk walk for just under a half hour; lay on my back in the school field and looked up at the stars for about ten minutes (been years since I've done that...); and then played guitar in the car for the remaining half hour.

Really enjoyed playing the guitar.  I really, really should play the guitar more often...

Friday, Boy #1 was still unwell, so it was my turn again.  This time I managed to sleep all the way to 12:30pm -- so, still not completely well.

After I got up, I was feeling mostly good -- so I did some light yardwork.

And, today is Saturday.  Spent the morning indoors, and the afternoon in the shed, hand-slabbing (i.e. sawing) some small logs so that they could season without splitting.  In a few years I'll turn them into a small storage box or jewelery box.


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Review of the movie Office Space

Over the last few days I've watched the movie Office Space on DVD.  (Yes -- how quaint...)  Recommended by Strong Lego Cyclist Guy.

Yep -- I liked it, and would recommend it.  It's not my most favorite movie EVER -- but I enjoyed it.

The premise is that an I.T. guy works for a tech firm (in California?), with a cubicleville layout, annoying bosses and co-workers, and basically just dislikes his job.  And then he does something that I can't reveal, because it's kind of a spoiler.  But it's enjoyable.

Some sexual references, and occasional swearing (plus "giving the finger"). 

Worth watching if you've ever had an office job.  :)



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Types of hammers

A guy goes though his hammer collection, and explains the different types.

**I** found it informative and useful.  But then, I'm a bit of a hand tool geek.  ;)



Bench dogs from a coat hanger

Clever!  I'll have to try this.

Making bench dogs for your workbench using a suitable diameter dowel, and a coat hanger for a spring.


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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fabled element

If I ever got into steampunk, I'd build a contraption that utilized a mysterious sort of power source. 

And I'd tell people that it was powered by the element "meconium".  Which I only learned the name of today (although I'd heard it before -- but I never remember it).


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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

His voice brings back memories

I'm not the world's biggest Lemonheads fan -- but back when It's a Shame About Ray came out (1992), I had it on heavy rotation.  I like all the songs -- which, for most albums, isn't true.  And the follow-up, Come On, Feel the Lemonheads (1993) was pretty good as well.

And -- as most music does for (I presume) most people -- The Lemonheads represent a certain time of my life, in Seattle.

But, over the years, the CD drifted to the back of the pile, and I lost touch with it.

But!  Today I somehow wondered "What ever happened to Evan Dando", so I checked the Wikipedia article.  Which showed me that there's a few other albums I need to check out, including Car Button Cloth

As usual, I checked the relevant Wikipedia article to see what the album's "hits" were, and found them on YouTube.

Here's one:

And, as soon as the guitars started strumming, I thought "Yep -- that's a Lemonheads song."  And as soon as the vocals started at 0:32 -- ahhhh, the memories.  I'd never heard the song before -- but the voice; it brings back memories.


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Sunday, April 12, 2015

It's OK

For me, weekends are "getting things done" time -- things that I don't have time to do during the week.  It's time to tidy up, do some yardwork, and be otherwise productive.

So, today (Sunday) I did a fair amount of yardwork -- although I also partially sawed a short log in half, so that it could dry without splitting.  (I've put the log back into water; I'll finish sawing it next week.)  And I exercised:  I don't particularly enjoy exercising -- but I like the result (i.e. getting stronger.  Eventually).

And I got dinner for the kids.

But.  I sat on the sofa and watched two episodes of As Time Goes By with The Girl -- an old show that she and I both enjoy.  And I watched an episode of Cupid online -- possibly my favorite t.v. show, and probably my favorite episode of that show.

So, that's about two hours I spent watching t.v. (so to speak), when I could've been productive with things around the house.  Like vacuuming.

But, you know what?  I enjoyed how I spent my time.  It made me happy.  And doing things that make me happy are as valid as "being productive". 




Saturday, April 11, 2015

Mod your tools

I don't spend as much time woodworking as I would like.  But at least I'm at the point where I know my preferences.

When tools have wooden handles, the wood tends to be varnished -- and I don't like it.  When you perspire, the handle gets slippery.  Even when you don't perspire, I still don't like the feel.

I subscribe to a woodworking discussion list, and one of the guys mentioned that he always removes the varnish from store-bought hammer handles.  So, I thought I'd try it.

Here's the three-pound hammer from my "splitting wedges" kit.  This is the "in process" shot:  most of the varnish is gone, but I'm still working on removing the rest.
The pink tinge, by the way, is pink spray paint:  for any tool where there's a risk that I'll set it on the ground outdoors (trowels, pruning shears, this hammer...), I give it a slash of pink spray paint, to reduce the risk of my losing the tool among the clippings, fallen branches, etc.  I paint it on both sides, because I don't know which side will be up.  So, another "tool modification".

For removing the varnish, I could've used sandpaper -- but it's faster to use a somewhat coarse file.  Here's a shot of the file after perhaps twenty swipes across the handle:  the file is clogged with sawdust, which means it stops cutting.  Luckily, I have a file card (cost me five bucks, I think, at the local hardware store).

And, here's what the file looks like after a few swipes of the file card (cleaning the file along the diagonal teeth of the file, rather than against the teeth).  The file is all cleaned up and ready for a few more swipes -- until it gets clogged again.  Repeat, repeat.

For most of the filing, I held the hammer in my woodworking vice, on my workbench.

Here's a shot after I've removed all of the varnish -- except for a small ring around the neck(?) of the handle, which doesn't matter because I don't grip the hammer there.

And, here's a shot after a few wipes of my "tool handle" mix:  a 50-50 mix of boiled linseed oil and methyl alcohol (to thin it).  I actually think it looks better than the original varnish -- although, in this photo the oil is still wet, so the appearance could be temporary.

Anyhow, the process didn't take too long, and the handle indeed has a nicer texture:  more grippy.


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Friday, April 10, 2015

Comic books are cool

Old roommate sent me this product review from a Marvel comic t-shirt on

He particularly liked the last section -- as did I.

"I was at school one day and a beautiful girl walked up to me.  She questioned my shirt and asked what was a "marvel".

I then proceeded to say that Marvel was a comic book franchise and named every character on the shirt and explained their superpower. The girl then proceeded to call me a no-life then walked away from me furiously. 

Would buy again."


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Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Tidier and better

For the past twenty or so years, I kept all of my soldering gear in a shoebox.  When I soldered things -- which isn't often -- but I do -- I had to rummage around to find the things I needed.

So, about a year ago I dumped all of my soldering gear into a spare toolbox -- black, with green latches.  (I kind of collect toolboxes:  I like toolboxes; and when I need a tool box, I can choose among a range of sizes.)  That was a bit better -- but things were crammed in based on where they physically fit, rather than being arranged by task.

So, this last weekend when I was working on the electronics on my P-90 guitar mod, I decided to tidy up.  And after I packed up for the night -- I did!

First toolbox, top tray:  spare wire, wire cutters, and wire strippers. 

First toolbox, bottom tray:  various shrink-tubing (for insulating exposed joins), and the heat gun to make the shrink-tubing contract.

Second toolbox, closed.  It was marketed as an artist's box for paints -- but I just think of it as a nice little wooden toolbox.

Second toolbox, top tray:  actual soldering gear, including the piece of ceramic tile (the carrot; originally a hot plate for casserole dishes) for soldering on, the soldering iron itself (hidden under the carrot), the holder for the **hot** soldering iron, and the grey rag (to the left of the carrot; when it's wet, I use it instead of a damp sponge for wiping the tip of the soldering iron).

Second toolbox, bottom:  many different colors of electrical tape (most of them are green, of course), a roll of solder, and three alligator clip "holding devices" (not very clear in the picture).

Here's a better shot of two of the "holding devices".  The one with the black-painted metal base is better, because it's heavier (I've circled the electronic switch that it's holding).  The purple disk with the single alligator clip isn't as good, because it's not as stable as the metal-base one -- but it's nice to have as a spare.

And -- that's my soldering kit.  My various electronics components are elsewhere.


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Monday, April 06, 2015

My reivew of the Spongebob Squarepants movie

Saw the Spongebob Squarepants movie yesterday.  I actually like the cartoon series OK, so I was surprised how indifferent I was to this movie.

Put differently, this is the first “kids' movie” that I've seen in a **long** time that I **didn't** particularly like: usually I get dragged along, and despite my pessimism I am won over within the first few minutes. This time: nope.

Mostly, it seemed to go along without a destination: it wandered. And seemed to go on for longer than I liked. I actually dozed off a little, maybe at the 40% mark – I'm not sure.

But – the kids liked it. Unfortunately, all of the other “kids' movies” I've seen in the last few years are also enjoyable to me, as an adult. But not this one.

So: let the kids watch it – and they'll probably enjoy it. But the adults may as well leave the room.



Sunday, April 05, 2015

Reivew of Rango

Watched a DVD of the movie Rango last night.

It's an animated movie in which Johnny Depp voices the main character, a pet chameleon who gets lost in the desert and comes across a old west town of animals suffering a water shortage.

It was a little odd, and a little slow-paced.  Not one of Johnny Depp's best films, IMO.

I think it was intended to be a children's movie -- but my kids seemed indifferent to it.

It was -- OK.



Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Log slabs into something

Back in January 2013 (or 1/27/13, to be exact), a storm knocked down a tree a few houses down, which had been growing along the side of the road.  Unfortunately, the tree's roots passed under the water mains, so when it fell over we (and our neighbors) were without water for nearly a week.  But -- I managed to gain a log, about an arm-span in length.

I think the tree might have been some sort of eucalyptus.  Certainly, it's a hardwood.

I took the log home and slabbed it so that it would dry in a controlled manner -- rather than letting it dry "in the round" and developing all sorts of splits and cracks, thus rendering it un-usable.

My first attempt was to split it with some wedges.  Unfortunately, not all trees have wood that splits cleanly -- and this species was not one of the well-behaved ones.  So, I ended up ripping them by hand, using a converted crosscut saw.

I parked the resulting slabs under the eaves, up on bricks (to keep the termites away).  Although one of the slabs ended up on our porch.

Slightly more than two years later, I took another look.  Here's how they are.

Here's a shot of three of the four slabs, showing the sides that were up.  You can see that they've been bleached by the sun.

But.  Here are their undersides, with a lovely reddish color.  Note the one in the foreground will need some cleaning up:  you can see how it didn't split cleanly.  (Click to enlarge.)

Here are the ends of two of them, giving you a sense of their thickness.  The one on the left is about a fist's thickness (i.e. four of my fingers).  That's enough mass to use for something useful.

I oiled the underside of two of them -- that is, the portions that have not been bleached by the sun.  It gives a sense of their original color.  Nice.  :)

Here's the one that's been on the porch.  It's the other section that didn't split cleanly.

And, here's the porch one, from the end.  Again, it will need some cleaning up (with a handplane, probably prefaced with an adze).  I think this section would be about three finger-widths thick, once it's cleaned up.

My inclination is to make a small-ish woodworking workbench from this log.  The more practical use of the wood would be to make a sitting bench, with a back.  However, I'm afraid that if I made the bench and had it on the porch, then the sun would bleach the lovely color -- even if I oiled it.  And the bench would be too "rustic" go inside the house.  (And there's no room in my workshop.)

In contrast, a workbench would (presumably) be indoors, and thus retain the color.

I'm thinking using two, or maybe three, of the slabs as the surface.  I've read that traditional Japanese woodworking always has the bark side up (and the heart of the log down) -- and for some reason this fits my sense of aesthetics.

In other words (see illustration to the left), most Western wood- workers would cut a log in half and use configuration "A", because it maximizes the work surface:  you can see how you actually get a "leading corner" to the work surface, because the curve of the log is to the underside, where it isn't a detriment.

In contrast, I think option "B" looks better -- at least, when viewing it from the end.  But compared to the first option, you lose a few inches due to having to make the front and back of the slab meet the top surface (where I've made the red vertical lines).  Also, I would only partially clean up the area where the front and back slab meet -- which means that there would be a small valley there.  But, I'm fine with that.

 Here's my vision for the top.  I'd use two of the slabs.  The one with the fork would go on the back, and the thicker, more rectangular one would go along the front.  Only the edge along the front of the workbench needs to be straight (for clamping boards):  the back can be oddly-shaped.

The red arrows indicate the direction of the grain:  it's easier to flatten the work surface with a handplane when both pieces have grain that runs in the same direction.

 Here's a view from the left end of the work- bench.  Note that it's not quite to scale.  Note also the "V"-shaped groove -- which is fine.

The front slab would be thicker, and the back slab -- with the fork -- is a bit thinner.  So, I'd have to supplement the back with a wooden spacer, at least where the framework would be.

Unfortunately, the log wouldn't supply enough wood to make the framework or the legs of the workbench.  (Although the extra pieces could be used as the stringers(? - the horizontal pieces that would connect the legs).)  The solution would be to use one of the many "stumps" (basically, hardwood pilings) that I saved from The Lady's grandmother's old house.  They are of a similar red color to what I've shown you above, and they're about long enough to serve as front-to-back beams, as well as the legs of the workbench.

This, of course, will go somewhere near the bottom of my "To Do" list.  Fun, and interesting -- but not a priority.


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This is bizarre

The band Rush -- who wrote the song "Tom Sawyer" -- trying to play it on Rock Band.

I can just imagine the error messages that are being thrown up on the screen, for them not playing it "correctly".

I've heard that actual guitarists have a hard time playing Rock Band, because the buttons on the neck of the guitar-controller don't correspond to the actual musical notes.


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Two desirable synths

I'm a regular reader of the Sound on Sound recording technology magazine.  I used to read Recording magazine -- but SoS now suits my needs better because it includes live sound as well as recorded sound, and in addition to "recording" gear it also reviews synths and the occasional guitar effects pedal.

In the January 2015 issue, they review the Dave Smith Instruments' "Pro 2" synthesizer.  Sounds promising.  In the "Alternatives" sidebar (p. 106), the reviewer suggests the Moog Sub 37 as being "probably the closest competition".  "The Sub 37 is more imediate and has bucketfuls of that classic Moog sound, while the Pro 2 is much more fleixbile and can be intergreated into an analogue sutdio in ways that the Moog can't.  [...]  I recommend that you win the lottery and buy both."

Will do.

Here's an example of each.

Dave Smith Instruments - Pro 2  (mostly 1:53, 2:33...)

Polyphonic:  can play actual chords.

Moog Sub 37 (esp. 0:24, 0:41,

Paraphonic:  can play two notes at once if you tweak some things; otherwise, just one note at a time.

And possibly one of these:  a Moog Taurus 3 (bass pedal synth).

Or, a Taurus 2:  the sounds aren't as desirable as the Taurus 1 or Taurus 3 -- but at least the "keyboard" has a broader range.


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