Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Friday, April 17, 2020

Culling CDs

As mentioned earlier (too lazy to cross-link), I'm taking advantage of the whole C-19 "working from home" situation to systematically go through my "second tier" CDs.

About half of my CDs are my "good" CDs:  I like the songs (catchy; memorable), and I have a sense of which songs are on which album.

And the other half aren't memorable:  I listen through, and they're "fine" -- but as soon as one song ends I can't remember the last one; and by the end of the album I don't remember anything I've listened to.  Some of them are CDs I picked up cheap; others were gifts; still others were by bands or artists with albums in my "good" pile -- but this specific album?  Not so good.

So I'm going through all of my "second tier" CDs, as I work.  If I like it because of at least one song, I write a note on a scrap of paper, slip it into the front of the CD case, and put the CD (including the case!) in the "keep" pile.  But if I can't identify any specific reason to keep it, I write a note that describes the genre ("Metal"; "Mellow female vocals with strummed acoustic guitar"), insert the note, and put it in the "discard" box -- with the idea to give the CD to someone that's into that genre of music.

Some of the CDs have "okay" songs.  In which case, the test question is:  "Would I mind if I never hear this song -- ever again?"

If the answer is "Eh -- nope, wouldn't mind" -- it's discarded.

So far I'm about 25% "keep", 75% "discard".  And that seems about right. 


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Saturday, April 11, 2020

Film experience with the Easter trilogy

For the last year or so I've been doing a fair amount of (unstructured) learning about film-making and video production:  I've read a few books, and watched a lot of YouTube tutorials:  the topic is very suited to the medium; can show examples of shots, depth of field, and etc.

But, I haven't had a lot of hands-on experience.

However, this whole "C-19" thing has changed that:  because my church (like all other churches) is currently not allowed to hold "in-person" services, we've shifted to an online format.  And because our vicar knows that I know a little bit about video things, I've been asked to assist.

They had already shot a few services before I was brought onboard, but it was fairly low-tech:  using a smartphone, and hitting "pause" each time they changed shots or location.

The first thing I was asked to do was assemble an equipment list.  I knew that getting decent sound is important, so I suggested getting a small stand-alone voice recorder:  it has a built-in mic, but also has a mic input for lapel mics (we've ordered them; haven't yet arrived).  Because we have a limited budget, instead of ordering cameras that can zoom, I suggested getting some inexpensive (AU$99) "action cameras" (i.e. GoPro-style) with a fixed focal length:  my reasoning is that we would just set up the shot by moving closer to, or farther away from, the subject.  And instead of zooming, we could just pick up the tripod and walk forward.  And they had surprisingly decent resolutoin.  We also ordered three tripods.

Since it's important to have decent lighting, we also purchased some AU$30 LED worklights from the big-box hardware store:  they're clip-on, rather than having stands -- which I figured would let us mount them to ladders and other tall things.  And we'd also need a few extra power strips/power bars (whatever you call them), with on/of switches -- because the $30 lights are too inexpensive to have their own switches.

CF, who is on the church council with me, was kind enough to do the "shopping run" for all of these things.

And then we did some shooting:  three separate days of production.  The early morning segments occurred without me (fine by me!).  But the "main" shots were during the day, starting around 10am.  Similar to a television production, we shot a few days in advance:  on Tuesday we shot the Thursday installment of the "Easter trilogy"; on Thursday we shot Good Friday; and on Friday we shot Easter Sunday's footage.  This gave CF (who was kind enough to learn how to do editing, so that I didn't have to!) only a day or two to do the editing.

I was pleased to discover that my year or so of learning about film making provided some context -- e.g. the subconscious symbolism behind shot angles and framing; "more light" is usually an advantage; how to get decent sound; and getting a good "performance" from the actors.  So I ended up serving as kind of Director/Director of Photography.

Example:   For the "stripping of the altar" scene, where we remove all of the accessories from the altar as we enter the period of mourning (because Jesus has been crucified, and not yet risen), I suggested that we keep the camera rolling, and remove a piece at a time -- but edit out the bits where the person is removing the items.  This would give the impression of the pieces mysteriously disappearing.

Similarly, the shot ends with a single candle remaining in the middle of the altar.  The creative question is, what mood are we trying to evoke?  If we do a close-up of the lone candle on the altar, that will feel intimate and comforting (which might be good, in these COVID-19 times).  Or, if we do a wide shot of the bare alter with a lone candle in the middle, that will feel lonely and sad -- appropriate for a period of mourning.

I also suggested to the vicar that it would be consistent with the medium (YouTube) to treat the sermons more like a video blog, and make them more "musings" than formally standing behind the lectern.  So she ended up shooting them from her desk or sitting on her sofa, and then CF edited them into the "church service". 

And, just little things like suggesting we "cut on motion"; the "180 degree rule" when changing angles to shoot the same scene; creating a shot list from the "script" (the vicar cringed a bit when I called it a script:  "It's a litergy, not a script"), crossing off each "scene" as we went, and getting all the shots from each set-up before changing the camera positions.

The type of advice I provided turned out to be similar to when I was producing the audio recording of my congregation singing Christmas carols, about half a year ago.  So, it suggests that I'm decent at that end of the business:  the "vision", the planning, getting good performances.

What I'm not particularly interested in is the fiddly bits -- the editing, computer-based visual effects, and (in audio) the fine-grained tweaking of pitch and timing (which I also have philosophical issues with).  This is consistent with woodworking:  I like the planning, and the general building -- but I'm not interested in doing time-consuming inlay work or intricate surface carvings.  (Urgh.)  In part this is because I have only a limited amount of time, and I know that if a project extends beyond a weekend (or a period of vacation), it's likely to fall down the list of priorities and (literally) languish for years:  so I need to crank it out.

Similarly, Chris Schwarz noted that in a project, the final 5% takes almost as much time as the first 95%.  From my perspective, this means that I can finish two projects "pretty well", or one project "well".  So especially if it's something for my own purposes (e.g. an equipment rack, for music gear), I go with the "pretty good", with twice the productivity.  Maybe when I retire,I'll do something more fiddly.  (NB:  In contrast, my brother says he enjoys the precise tasks.)  :)

We had many learnings along the way -- such as the action camera screens don't correctly represent the framing of what's actually captured:  so we learned to add a substantial margin at the top and bottom of the screens -- and then CF would crop it down in post-production.

Hat-tip to CF for also progressively figuring out ever-better ways of integrating the footage with the text that the viewer would read (as she/he followed along with the hymn or Bible readings).


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Thursday, April 09, 2020

Predicted recurrence of C-19

Here's another C-19 prediction:  here in Australia they're calling it the "once in a hundred years" pandemic -- but really, i think that there will be a worldwide pandemic every ten to twenty years (but hopefully more like twenty years).

It won't be great -- but, similar to people who live in flood zones, hurricane regions, or places that experience forest fires:  you adapt; you fall into a pattern.

Next time the world will have a better sense of how to address these things:  much like a tornado warning in the American Midwest:  you take cover early, wait it out, and come out after the danger has passed.  So I reckon the next time around, countries will call their people home sooner; we'll get better with quarantining people from the get-go; and we'll just take three weeks or so of lock-down right at the beginning.  Which hopefully will mean a shorter over-all period of trouble -- because everyone nipped it in the bud right away.

That's my prediction:  every twenty years or so; and, we'll better know how to address it.


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Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Three unexpected effects of C-19

Here are three unexpected effect of C-19 -- or rather, the social isolation policies going on around the globe.

First, that it's actually increasing social cohesion -- particularly in urban areas and in the suburbs.  Because people are now home a lot more than usual, they are becoming aware of the people the next balcony over (in urban areas), and actually stopping to chat with neighbors (across the fence, or on the front walk -- while maintaining proper social distancing, of course).

Second, and related to the neighborhood-level social cohesion -- families are probably spending more time together.  Among other things, I know that in my household I've been seeing more of my kids.  I'm still working nine-to-five, Monday through Friday -- but usually it takes me an hour to get to work, and an hour to get home. Whereas now:  I turn off my PC -- and I'm home!!!  And -- there are my kids!!!  So we're actually running around in the yard more, and etcetera.

And third: now that people are running fewer errands, and working from home if they can, there are a lot of cars not on the roads at the moment:  surely that's good for reducing global warming?

I might not be the only one to have noticed this -- but I haven't directly read or seen anything that has expressly stated this.


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C-19 prediction on airfares and border closures

I predict that, once the bulk of the C-19 situation is over, that most countries will still keep their borders pretty locked up -- for about a year.  So, perhaps highly limited international travel until July 2021?  April 2021 at best.

This means that recreational travel (i.e. "vacations") will have to be within your own country -- esp. for larger countries such as the U.S. and Australia.

I also predict that airlines will neither discount nor increase the prices of airfares:  there will be pent-up demand for travel -- so the airlines won't need to reduce their ticket prices.  But, at the same time, people won't be so desperate to travel that the market forces would support price-gouging by the airlines.

Thus:  ticket prices will be essentially what they were, pre-C-19.


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Monday, April 06, 2020

Watching the progress -- C-19

When I was a kid -- pre-internet and all -- every Sunday my dad would look at the Sunday paper for the week's stock market results: he'd get out his book of graph paper and for each of the stocks that we was tracking he'd log the weekly high, low, and average (or maybe it was the close -- it's been a while...).

Over the last few weeks, I find myself doing the same thing -- but on a daily basis, and with the Covid-19 situation.

I've tried out a few different websites, and this one is my favorite:

Among other things, I like that fact that it has a "detailed" table --
-- which you can sort by country name, total confirmed cases, total deaths, and -- importantly! -- the number of cases and number of deaths, weighted by population.  (Note:  The first time you click a column heading, it sorts from smallest to largest:  click it again to reverse-sort, from largest to smallest -- which I find the most useful.)

I found it interesting that Vatican City is the worst-off in "Cases per population" -- but it makes sense:  it's in Italy; a small population; and (presumably) most of that population is urban -- so, living in close quarters.

In the above table, if you click on a country it takes you to another page, with  further information on that country -- for example, the entry on the U.S. also gives a breakdown by state (and, as with the "per nation" table, you can sort by various measures).

Grim -- but interesting.  Especially if you do forecasting for a living, like I do (well -- part of what I do...).


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Sunday, April 05, 2020

Major purge of VHS tapes

I moved here to Australia over 15 years ago -- and am finally going through my file boxes of (U.S. format) VHS videotapes.  Have so far gone through five boxes; kept 1 box's worth, binned 4.  I think I have about six more boxes to go.

They've been under our baby grand piano all this time, so not really in the way -- but I just figured "Eh", and started doing it.

(Related note:  I'm on vacation this week, as is The Lady.  We were going to do a great big de-cluttering, and send a bunch of things to the thrift stores -- except  that due to the C-19 situation, all the thrift stores are closed.  We're still going to do the de-cluttering -- but I really hate to just throw away a bunch of useful stuff.  Maybe just put it in bags, and pile it under the carport...?)

Have tossed a bunch of tapes of t.v. shows that I taped off the air:  Greatest American Hero, Wonder Woman, Ed (bowling alley lawyer, from Stuckybowl), Friends, Seinfeld, Smallviille, Dark Angel, and a bunch of episodes of the Jon Stewart show (back when he was a talk show host, not a political commentator). Figured that anything that I could get on DVD -- but haven't yet -- means that I'm apparently not interested.  And some of them (e.g. Friends) I already have on DVD, anyhow.

I had also taped segments of talk shows (e.g. Letterman) that had interviews with people I was interested in, or performances by bands I like:  I can probably find most of those on YouTube, if I liked -- and I never went back and re-watched those, so:  bin.

I also found a few "personal" videotapes -- e.g. a music video that Guitar Cousin and I shot, circa 1991, for one of his songs -- and also a music video I did for a song I wrote for my girlfriend at the time (The Great Green Bean - TGGB).  Also two tapes shot by a guy that Old Roommate and I briefly roomed with (or maybe **I** shot them, using his camcorder?  The notes on the tape don't say).

Unfortunately, I can't watch any of them here (in Australia):  in addition to no longer having a VHS player (our last one broke around 2006; haven't bothered to purchase a new one), the US and AU have different video systems -- and it would be really hard to find a U.S.-format player around here.  So I'll just wait until my next visit to Seattle.

And, I found a few videotapes of movies, as well as music videos (I used to belong to a "music videos of the month" kind of service, where I'd get a "mix tape" of music videos on videotape: we didn't have cable, and thus no MTV).  I haven't decided what to do with the tapes music videos yet:  some would be available on YouTube, but not all of them.  I'll probably keep them for now, and review them again in another few years (in total, they'll be less than one file box).

But the movies -- sadly -- are going in the bin:  none of them are rare, and I suspect that even most impoverished people these days (in Australia) have DVD players rather than video players:  so a VHS copy of "Singing in the Rain" or "It's a Wonderful Life" won't be in demand:  not worth saving for a year, then suitcasing back to the U.S. to donate to a thrift store.  But, I'm thinking of keeping the VHS copy of "This is Spinal Tap" -- just for the cover.  I'll display it on a shelf -- or maybe bring it in to work (when I go back to work -- rather than working from home!!!).



The Difference Between NTSC and PAL
NTSC stands for National Television Standards Committee. PAL stands for Phase Alternating Line. NTSC is the standard broadcast format in the United States, while PAL is the standard broadcast format in Europe, Australia, and parts of Asia.

Most people will not be able to easily tell the difference between NTSC and PAL. The main difference starts with the electrical power system that runs behind the color transmissions. In the United States, electrical power is generated at 60 hertz. The signal behind the NTSC broadcast format is set to send out 60 fields per second. Most televisions use a interlaced system, so the NTSC signal sends out 30 lines of the image, followed by another 30 alternating lines. Basically, that results in 30 frames of a complete image appearing every single second.

In Europe and other countries, electrical power is generated at 50 hertz. Televisions that utilize PAL as the broadcast format only produce 25 frames of a complete image appearing every single second. This causes problems with the proper display of motion, as it makes actors move a bit faster because of the difference in frames per second that are showing movement. If you are trying to watch a PAL movie on a NTSC television, you need to add 5 frames per second, or the motion of the film will be very jerky or slow.

Resolution Quality

The other main difference between NTSC and PAL is resolution quality. While PAL produces fewer frames per second than NTSC, it produces more lines. An NTSC television will broadcast 525 lines of resolution, while a PAL television will broadcast 625 lines of resolution.



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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Day three plus one of working from home

I have a small stash of CDs at work that I listen to during the day -- but of course, most of my CDs are at home.

Now that I'm working from home, I thought I'd start to go through all the CDs that I've been keeping in the hopes that "maybe one day my tastes will change".  But now that I'm thoroughly middle-aged, I know they won't.

In four days, I've gone through a shoebox sized stack of CDs:  I'm keeping 30-40%, and will give away the other 60-70%.  Nothing wrong with the CDs:  they're just not "catchy" enough for me, or too deeply into a genre that I'm only somewhat into (e.g. I like some hip-hop; I like some metal....).

I estimate I have 19 "bins" (let's call them; 1 bin is about 2 shoeboxes) of CDs to review: this is only the "ambiguous" ones, and excludes the CDs that I know I like.

I've processed half a bin in four workdays. So that's one bin in eight workdays. 

So it should take me about 152 workdays to process all 19 bins.

Five workdays in a workweek.  So that's 30.4 weeks.

It's three-fifths (i.e .60%, or 0.6 of a week) through the current workweek.  So, by this weekend I'll have about 30 weeks remaining.

If I've browsed the calendar correctly, that's Friday, Oct 30th.

Hopefully we'll be released by then...

And:  that could be an over-estimate.


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