Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The cruel irony AKA poor timing

I've turned a personal corner, and have been slowly de-cluttering over the last year or so.  And starting a few weeks ago, I've really started to get into it.

And then:  C-19 -- and the corresponding shut-downs.

Previously, I'd been selling things on Gumtree.  But, I'm getting a little tired of that:  it involves front-end work (taking some photos; writing a description); ongoing work (responding to messages from potential buyers, most of whom are just tire-kickers; arranging meeting times with buyers, only to have them cancel); and about a year ago Gumtree started adding to your profile (without notice, and with no way of "opting out") a series of photos of "all the items [seller name] has successfully sold through Gumtree".  I do not want a series of diamond rings, or cell phones, or whatever burglary-worthy items, associated with my profile!

For all of those reasons -- as well as the long turn-around time, if you're trying to get a good price -- I've decided to just take my "good" items to the local chain pawn shop (who pays about one-fourth of what they plan on selling it for [fair enough; they're a retail business), and the "boring" items to the local thrift store.

But now -- we're supposed to minimize travel.  I feel bad going out to the local pawn shop (although:  maybe if I do it in a single, large transaction...). 

And the thrift shop (Aussies call the "op shops" -- opportunity shops) that I like going to is closed until further notice, due to C-19 (most of their volunteers are elderly).

So:  that's rather an impediment.

Can't stack it in the garage:  the garage is already full.

I'll think of something.


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Friday, March 27, 2020

Everyone is at home

Today is a test “learn from home” day for my kids (all of them have school-issued laptops).  My daughter is at her desk in her bedroom, doing some sort of group voice chat with her friends on her mobile (as she works on a graphic design task); one son (B1) is propped up in his bed, typing on his laptop; and the other (B2) has somehow commandeered our bed, as is typing from there.

I have a dual-monitor PC from work (with the appropriate statistical software installed), and am set up at the end of the kitchen table:  my first day of officially working from home (just like everyone else on my floor at work).

The Lady has her usual work laptop, but hasn't yet claimed a location:  probably on the bed next to B2. 

So far, no apparent adverse impacts on our household bandwidth (despite being non-NBN).  :)


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C-19 and social predictions

So -- this is my first day of working from home... until I'm told otherwise.  Strange times.

Here are three predictions I have for the aftermath of the current coronavirus (or, as I'm calling it, "C-19"), which I came up with on 25 March 2020:

1) Improvements in video conferencing:  There's probably a lot of people like me who never got around to trying out video chats -- and especially not "group" video chats (video conferencing).  But this last Wednesday my church council had a test run of a video conference, in preparation for a "re-shaped" church council meeting on the weekend (i.e. "no longer face-to-face").  And teams that work from home are going to use it more than ever before.

Once people discover video conferencing, they'll use it a lot -- because (despite the extra bandwidth it uses), it is more "personal" to be able to see facial expressions and body language when talking.

This increased uptake, and frequency of use, means that people will "shop around" for the most efficient, easiest to use video conferencing software -- whereas before they probably just used whatever everyone else in their company used.  This means that there will be increased competition in that sector (remember the "browser wars" in the mid-'90s?) -- and we'll get a lot of extra features, better interfaces, and generally better video chat products. 

I can't say whether the "base packages" will be free, and the "premium" versions will cost money -- or whether the "free" versions will be funded by advertising.

Unless one is just amazingly better than the alternatives (much like Google is still the strongest search engine), I don't see there being a quasi-monopoly.  Especially since -- unlike computer operating systems (or type of video tape cartridge) there aren't strong "costs" to switching back and forth (except perhaps the nuisance of exporting your "favorites" list of contacts).

2) Working from home will become normative:  By the time this C-19 thing blows over, a substantial portion of the entire industrialized world will have spent (I estimate) two months working from home.  The technical kinks will have been addressed; bandwidth will have improved.

Everyone will have established their "working from home" routines -- for individuals as well as workgroups.  This means that if people want to work from home -- to save commuting time; to minimize pollution (from travelling); or just from personal preference -- it will be more acceptable.

I have anecdotal evidence of workgroups that have wanted to have the flexibility to work from home, but were denied permission:  but now, they can.

Kind of like "Rosie the Riveter", where after women were so broadly integrated into the workforce during World War II, it was hard to force them "back into the home" again.  Except that this is the opposite:  it'll be hard to keep people from the home (as they work).

3) Smaller workspaces; more hotdesking:  I do think that there is something benficial about having co-workers physically located around you:  social interaction, spontaneous conversations -- and nipping down the hall to ask a question is often still the right level of interaction:  e-mails are too cumbersome if there's a lot of follow-up questions (e.g. for clarification), phoning takes a little too long -- and you can't gauge how open to interrupting someone is (even with their electronic "busy status" flags).

It's also good for creating social integration -- especially with new hires:  my team has worked together for at least a year, so we all have a sense of each other, and of the group -- so we can not be "in person" for a month or two and still feel like we "know" each other.  Whereas integrating a new person to the group would be difficult, if there are only e-mails, phone calls, and the occasional group chat to bring him or her into the group.

Maybe when we have better holographic imaging technology -- so we can do the "Kingsmen" (the first movie) style of "virtual colleagues".  But until then, it is good to have at least some face-to-face time.

My prediction is that workplaces will grow physically smaller -- at least in terms of the number of desks (and computers) that are required.  If your workplace currently has 100 people, five years from now I predict you'll only have 60 workstations set up.

Some people -- like me! -- are "nesters", and like having personal items, photos of the family, and etc. on their desk.  But others have fairly spartan desks, and would probably be happy to only come in for meetings (as needed:  once a week, if you can schedule things efficiently).

I foresee two variations:  one is that two teams share the same "pod" (group of cubicles) -- maybe with one person piling their things on the left, and the other on the right.   They then alternate working from home, and coming in to the office.  The converging on the office would largely be for for developing and maintaining social cohesion.

The other is that each team is allocated space:  I'm estimating that about one-third of a team would want to work at the office all the time; one third would share a desk with another team member and just trade off (based on a schedule arranged between the two); and one third (pragmatically, more one one-quarter) would work from home unless they had a specific reason to come in -- at which case they'd sit at a super-small desk with their laptop.  This means that only about half the number of proper "workstations" (computers, proper desks) would be required -- a long as there were enough small, "blank desks" available for the "drop-in" people to set up for the day.

I predict that there will be enough inertia, post-C-19, that a lot of people who had worked from home over the last two months will just... keep doing that. 

The process of the reduction in workstations back at the office wouldn't be felt for two to three years:  it would largely come up whenever space gets reassigned (e.g. your team or directorate moves to another floor) -- and the new set-up has fewer desks than the old set-up.


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Sunday, March 22, 2020

What you wake up to

Although I'm pretty sure it's not "The 19", I'm trying to physically isolate myself from my family.  Among other things, I'm sleeping on the floor of the living room (next to the piano), on top of two layers of yoga mats, a blanket, and some beach towels.  I've come full circle:  that's very similar to what I slept on when I roomed with my drummer "Captain Crash" and his brother in my early 20s, between attempts at university.  Despite my being middle-aged, it's still reasonably comfortable.

So -- this morning:  farmers wake up to the sound of the rooster; in some seasons I wake to the sounds of wild birds; some people wake up to the smell of coffee, or bacon. 

I wake up to the sound of my sons screaming over their comms about Fortnite.

But at least they're having fun:  mostly.  ;)


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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Taylor Swift is a good songwriter

So, I'm working from home today -- part of the "worldwise disease" thing -- and I was playing the YouTube "Taylor Swift" mix this afternoon.

A have a few of her CDs (yes:  CDs.  I'm old like that), and haven't listened for a while -- but a few weeks ago I watched the Netflix documentary on her, so I've been coming back around to her music.  (NB:  It shows her songwriting process.  Interesting, to those who songwrite.)

As I said:  playing the Taylor Swift mix -- and "Shake It Off" comes on.  And I suppose I had never heard-heard the lyrics, but the opening lines of

I stay out too late
Got nothing in my brain
That's what people say, mmm-mmm
That's what people say, mmm-mmm
I go on to many dates
But I can't make them stay
At least that's what people say, mmm-mmm
That's what people say, mmm-mmm just the saddest thing:  I actually started tearing up.  Because:  my personal insight for the last few years is that most people -- young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, bi, trans, whatever --  are just looking for someone to love them.  So she's going out with various guys, and none of them last -- and then people pick on her for that:  so, you're sad because your heart is broken, and then people slag you for it?  Gah.

And then the next track came on, which was "Blank Space":  and I'm going through my work e-mail, but also listening to the lyrics -- and the chorus has the line "So it's gonna be forever // Or it's gonna go down in flames" is so very true -- isn't it? That's a good line:  concise; clever; and a bit of insight.

And, then, later in the song:  "'Cause darling I'm a nightmare dressed like a daydream".  Ooh!  good; clever.  Good juxtapositioning -- and good repeating "D's":  darling/dressed/day-dream.  Good rhythm as well:  I bet she was giddy when she came up with that one.

And then, a bit later, "You Need to Calm Down", with:

You are somebody that I don't know
But you're takin' shots at me [...]

Say it in the street, that's a knock-out
But you say it in a Tweet, that's a cop-out


You are somebody that we don't know
But you're comin' at my friends like a missile
Why are you mad?
When you could be GLAAD?  

Yep:  strong, clever lyrics.  How could someone that writes lines like that be thought of as unintelligent?

A minor edit:  I mis-heard the line "'Cause shade never made anybody less gay"  as "'Cause shame never made anybody less gay".  (And maybe that's the correct transcription: I've just copied and pasted the lyrics from a quick web search.)  I think my line is a little stronger.  But, of course it's an edit of an already strong line -- so I'm just polishing something that's already good.

And, somewhere in the mix was a solo version she'd performed of "Blank Space":  yep; knows how to actually sing (good vocal control, good expressiveness) and play guitar.  No autotuning:  an actual musician.

Anyhow: good singing; good performance skills; good songwriting; the  documentary makes her seem hard-working.  Sure:  she deserves all of her success.

She's already found fame, and money.  I hope she finds happiness. 


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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Swell if Dolly Parton would cover my song

About 30 (yow!) years ago, I had run out of money and knew I'd have to drop out of college at the end of the term.  I was sitting on the balcony that overlooked the common area of my dormitory, and wrote a song called "Il Fait Plu", which means "It is raining" in French -- and is pretty close to all the French I know.

The song really doesn't have anything to do with raining -- but the title contains a hidden meaning -- Old Roommate will figure it out ;) -- and "sad songs" and "rain" go well together.

Out of all the songs I've written, it's one of my favorites:  melody and lyrics.  The first verse is:

I'm looking down from the balcony of my second home
This, is kind, of strange
The music comes, but the words, don't seem to flow
I -- don't know

And the chorus is:

I don't worry much
It's not something I usually do
Looking out the window
    seeing life go on
Il fait plu 
Il fait plu 

And then about five years ago, I suddenly realized that the song would sound really good if it was sung by Dolly Parton:  in fact, it sounds like something she would have written.  Dunno how I came to that realization:  just -- "poof".

I can "hear" her singing it.

 I must admit, I haven't pursued this in any sort of focused way:  I've done a bit of a web search a few times -- but, nothing.

I haven't even started a Soundcloud (or similar) account -- or figured out how to post audio-only songs to YouTube (I have a channel -- just haven't sat down and uploaded it).

Which is why people know her music, and don't know mine:  hard work; gumption.  And lack thereof.

Maybe this weekend. 

Anyhow:  if you actually know Dolly, maybe ask her to take a listen?  It's already copyrighted -- so I'm not worried about anyone "stealing" it. 

It's a good song -- I reckon.

Okay:  weekend's coming. Let's see if I post it on YouTube.


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Friday, March 06, 2020

How to teach yourself the guitar

I'm totally self-taught on guitar -- so, that approach works.  If you know someone that plays guitar, that'll serve as a good "mentor" for how to hold the guitar, tricks of the trade, etc.  (Although:  I didn't have that [pre-internet].)  ;)

Basically, download a PDF of guitar chords, and then Google for "tabulature" (indvidual notes) and/or chords of some song you like (and know how it's supposed to sound).  And then just keep practising until you can play it smoothly. 

If you're at all of a creative bent -- if you know two or three chords, just strum them in a sequence, with a certain rhythm, and then sing over the top:  that's a song.  :)

If you want to record yourself:  for about $50 you can pick up a used USB recording interface online -- get one that has XLR (Google it) and instrument inputs -- and for another $100 you can pick up an inexpensive but decent mic with a microphone cable.  And now you can record yourself.  Oh:  with freeware software:  Audacity works just fine, and is available for Windows, Macs, and Linux.

It's also more interesting to get together with other people.  But playing along to backing tracks works well, also.

Also:  guitar pedals are fun.  I recommend the guy on the "JHS pedals" YouTube channel -- esp. the "What's the deal with Behringer" episode.  Some people scoff at Behringer -- but they have some good products at very reasonable prices (around AU$50?).  (The JHS Pedals guy's notion is "Price doesn't matter:  if it makes your guitar more fun to play, then it's a good pedal.")   Distortion, and either reverb or delay, are good types of pedal to start with -- but chorus, flangers, phasers, tremelo -- all are fun.  :)   Also "loop" pedals (again, see YouTube) -- esp. if you're solo, and want to play against yourself.

Oh!  Download a guitar tuner app for your phone, then check that your "open" string (for each string) and the octave (12th fret -- the double dots on the side) is the same note (e.g. an "E" and an "E").  If the octave note is a little sharp or flat, you'll have to intonate it (see YouTube).  Similarly, if the distance between the string and the fingerboard (the "action") is too high, then when you press down on the string you'll actually be pulling the note sharp:  you'll need to adjust the bridge height.

For both of these, you can find instructions on YouTube ("How to intonate your guitar", "How to adjust the action on your guitar"), if you're comfortable with tools.  Otherwise, you can pay someone $30-$50 to do it for you. 

There's also the "neck relief" -- the curve of the neck:  ideally as you go down the fretboard, none of the intervening frets (between your finger and the bridge) get in the way and cause "fret buzz".  This is also something that you can adjust yourself -- but this is getting towards the zone where it may be better to have someone do it for you (at the same time as setting the action and intonating your guitar).

Anyhow:  most of the most famous guitarists are there because they play all the time -- not necessarily "practice" -- but they're just always playing, experimenting, having fun:  "face time".

If you practice, you'll get better.  If you don't, you won't.


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Thursday, March 05, 2020

Tips on buying an electric guitar

Tips for buying a (used?) electric guitar:

1) Take a friend who plays guitar (if you know someone).

2) Humbucker pickups if you want a full, meaty sounds, single-coils if you want a thin, cutting sound.  (There are other types of pickups, with different sounds -- but this is a good starting point.)

3) It's okay to start with a small practice amp.  Get a guitar amp that has a "Pre" volume knob and a "Post" or "Master" (or a "Drive" and "Volume"?) -- or some variation of two volume knobs -- then turn up the "pre" and turn down the "master" for distortion -- or keep the "pre" low and the "master" up for a clean sound

4) Even though you'll get a slightly better price through Craigslist, Gumtree, etc., I suggest going to a pawn shop:  more of a range, all in one place.

5) Find a guitar that you think looks cool, and "grabs" you.  If you can't find one that appeals, go to another shop rather than "settling".

6) If you know power chords (see YouTube), you can fake just about anything.

7) If you have an electric guitar, you automatically look cool.

8) If you are at all sentimental, avoid trading in or selling your first guitar:  95% chance you will regret losing it. 

Good luck!


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Sunday, March 01, 2020

I enjoy playing music

So, basically I'm an idiot.

As I've been saying for the past half year or so:  figure out what you enjoy doing -- and then try to do it, a lot.

Well -- I apparently enjoy making music.  For example, last night I messed around on a weird little four-string short-sale guitar (two of the strings are missing), playing through an inexpensive chorus pedal:  loved it.  And then tonight I noodled around on the piano, playing a classical-sounding "miscellaneous" piece that I made up as I went along:  made me happy to be doing it.  And then, just a few moments ago, I messed around again, on the same funny little four-string electric guitar, this time through a cheap flanger pedal (getting some sitar-like sounds in the process):  once again, loved it.  I was happy, happy, happy.

Which means, of course, that I should do this more often -- like, every night.

Let's see if that actually happens, of course.

But:  I'm a generally happy guy.  But making music makes me even more happy.  So:  I should do it.  A lot


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