Sock monster

My youngest daughter is a Ladybird (a member of the local Rainbows - pre-Brownies.) Every week her mummy takes her down to the church hall, she participates, and then I collect her at the end of the session.

Just like did with her sister, now a Brownie.

She's usually made something, like a hat or a hanging thing, or a paper plate with paper poppies stuck around its periphery - for Remembrance Sunday.

This evening the things on the table at the end of the room defied my attempts to categorise. Unusual.

The leaders explained, for the benefit of the more dim-witted parents, what they were.

Sock monsters!

Not one alike, each the product of a child's imagination, all amazing.

Ah, but glittery glue. Lots of it.

It gets everywhere, no matter how carefully it's applied. I hate slimy sticky viscous things. But the inevitable beckoned so I picked the thing up, and immediately an antenna dropped.

Oops! I never was the most graceful individual. Clumsy, though age is improving me.

I was more circumspect when we left for the car park, not trusting my littlest offspring with the task of moving the monster from hall to car.

Me: "Er… can you please reach into my trouser pocket and get my car keys?"

We chose a safe spot on the back seat for the glue and sock, and waited for her big sister to finish Brownies.

All the while I gave a running commentary, ostensibly for my daughter's benefit but a safety blanket for me. The pressure inherent in such situations is probably beyond the understanding of a non-parent. I'm sure it would have amused any adult within earshot.

We always chat about stuff during lulls between life and life, my daughter's and I. Stars & planets, cars, condensation, school lunches and their friends and creations. Today not much chat, aside from a few words about her new thing. It's got rice and lavender inside it and smells lovely. We'd best not let Ruby dog anywhere near lest…

Daughter 1 emerged a few minutes later, we buckled up and drove home.

Home, tea, change, ready for bed, tidy, teeth, night-night…

Though I know she wants to take it to school tomorrow, I'd forgotten if she'd told me the most important thing, so I just woke daughter 2 to ask her what the sock monster is called.

A frown, obviously. "I haven't named it."

And that was that.

Todo list

Where do I start?

Perhaps I need a list for that.

I've had list managers, todo managers, GTD task managers and have even flirted with full-blown project management software. In all-but-one case I've eventually and habitually snoozed, or edited-to-postpone, tasks.

That one piece of software: Omnifocus for iOS.

I slated its developers for a bug-ridden update after the transition from iOS 6 to iOS 7. Every piece of useful software eventually breaks, but…

On Android now after a sidestep to Windows Phone, I must say I miss Omnifocus with its rich feature set and calendar integration.

Thats my personal productivity mentioned, there's something important to note…

I use no productivity software at work.

I have a yellow Sigel Conceptum A5 squared notepad in which I write important things using a Fisher Space Pen. But the writing thing and the thing on which I write aren't that important; what I write is.

I have a system.

From the top:

  • The year,
  • Week number, month, date,
  • Date entry with date.

Entry, left to right:

  • Priority: only a '!' - used sparingly.
  • An arrow-of-sorts indicating moved from a previous day.
  • A checkbox, triangle or 'clock' indicating respectively: todo, done; a required change; or a time function such as late for work, a vacation/holiday.
  • A descriptive line indicating what I must do, who asked me, and job/task reference numbers.

I recently started allowing entries to span lines. It took 5 months; I was afraid of compromises, dilution of effect.

(Formatting required; for a better-rendered post look here.)


2 January 18th

↪[ ] Tidy desk

[✔] SolidWorks Vault deletions

[ ] Catch up with previous tasks

! /\ Change (size on component)

(clock) Sick: 11:35-

I've been using this system since June 2015; it's a keeper!


I can only now bring myself to talk about it - such is the impact on my family.

On Sunday evening, wearing my trusty grey dressing gown, I flashed Mollie, our female cat.

Swinging dangly bits, hip sways, whatever real flashers do, I did, my wife looking on aghast. Mollie’s normally inscrutable gaze faltered a little before she rolled onto her back, hands clasped cutely at her chest, legs ‘akimbo.’ Cute.

To me it felt liberating.

Giving an added sense of perspective, Mollie is coming up to her 4th birthday - all-but 7 months spent in our home (assuming the dates we were given are appropriate.)

And then it happened.

“You do know you just flashed your daughter,” my wife said.


Computer book required

I don't read enough. I bought 3 novels a few months ago with the intention of making time. Of course it didn't work! To help speed things along I'm thinking of narrowing my focus somewhat - to something I'm certain can start this process off. At the dawn of the UK's home computer revolution I bought a book about computers.

A key phrase from it still resonates: something like "computers are fast rule following idiots", then the obligatory "garbage in equals garbage out." It seems that those words are both truer than ever and at the same time subject to disproval based on what we see every day. But that's a topic for another time…

I'd like to re-acquire a copy of the book.

A quick trawl through the histories of various computers and computer companies from that era indicates a publishing date after 1977, and before 1982. It's a fairly big window given the massive progress being made at that time, so how can I be sure?

Well, 1977 as I'm certain the Tandy TRS-80 was mentioned in the book, as was the Apple ][. 1982 because when my first computer (a 1K RAM Sinclair ZX81) arrived my focus narrowed from the previous theoretical 'what if' to the more practical 'eeek, what now?!'

I wonder, can you help me find it?

Some help:

  • It's heavily slanted towards the U.S., relating to both that country's computing history and its then-contemporary devices. That's not surprising.
  • It has a picture or a photo of a computer on the front.
  • The colour beige or orange features predominantly on the cover.
  • it's the same size as a thick novel.
  • Er… I know it's not much help!

So, how about it? Have you got what this quest needs?

A sense of humour

My oldest daughter is often challenged by her homework - there's way too much for a 6-year-old, but the school gets good results and we don't want to rock the boat, at least not just yet. The latest batch has what I presume is an exercise related to imagination.

The brief being to create a monster, describe its likes and attributes, and draw a picture. The most important bit, the one daughter 1 was most challenged by, giving said monster a name.

It should be easy, it's only a name. Right? But we'd only recently finished with the weights and measures homework, moving together throughout the house finding objects for me to illustrate what things weigh. Brain full.

  • 5kg was easy for her - 5 bags of sugar.
  • 100g less easy given perfectionist daddy's insistence in diving into the miscellaneous food items drawer. But we got there.
  • 63kg is what a mummy weighs. Not this mummy here you understand, as I noted at the bottom of the page to the teacher, in a pitiful attempt at humour and face-saving.
  • 30g is a packet of crips (chips if you're the wrong side of the Atlantic Ocean.)

So, a name for the monster? She didn't know. So I explained what it must be like being one. "Just imagine what life must be like as a monster," I said. "Everyone's out to get you simply because you're going round the countryside eating small children and sheep. And, do you know, that's wrong."
She looked at me for a moment. And then looked again.

I continued "Imagine all you want is a quiet life, to just go down to the shops and buy some nice food, go home at the end of the day and sit down with a cup of steaming hot chocolate. And you can't because the villagers are out to get you, stab you and set you on fire."
At this point daughter 1 opened her mouth and said something very appropriate: "?"

Ok, non-verbal communication is indeed very powerful, but let's move on…

"So," I said "let's pick a name now. Please."

"Flib-blob-floo-boo," or something very close, was her reply. I'm still not sure if as an answer or because I'd melted her brain. But I pushed for an answer - it was past her bedtime.

"How about Buttercup?" I asked. "Just because it's a monster doesn't mean it has to have a horrible name like Raaarg or Snaarlf."

"No." came the emphatic response.

"Snowdrop?" was met with a giggle. On our way now, I hoped, but I'll spare you the despair I felt when each subsequent pick was rebuffed. Close to giving up or getting her mother to help I gave it my best shot: "Jim-Bob?" (her name) "or Ag-Ack-Ack?" (her younger sister's name.) Incidentally I'm not in the habit of divulging my family's names publicly. Apart from the cats.

Simply "No."

My patience wearing thin, inspiration arrived: I asked her to pick a letter of the alphabet to start the name off.

"F" she smiled.

Imagine my thought bubble: "Uh-oh."

"i" arrived quickly, much to my relief.

"s, h, l, e, g ,s, !"

Done, at last!

And here she is:


I have what's been called a well-developed sense of humour. Ok, I'm putting a positive spin on it. Being frank, a lot of people think I'm a bit weird. And some think I'm a lot weird. And, do you know, I have no problem with that.

I do have a problem with the dangly bulbous-ended thing between Fishlegs' legs. I dare not ask, especially as I made the assumption a girl would pick a female monster.

"A tail?" you say.

Naah, she's seen my willy.

Computer assistance required

Why do people ask for assistance with computer problems they haven’t solutions for? That’s an easy one to answer: so they can show off their superior ability.

An example using you as the twit: there’s something wrong on your screen, a dialogue box appears and you can progress no further. What do you do? You ask your shining white knight to assist! Easy.

Said knight (me) arrives, asks you to do nothing more, not even move the mouse, then asks a series of questions. My first word though is “STOP!”


Dismiss any and all dialogue boxes remaining on the screen,
Pan and scroll the screen so that the area causing problems is no longer visible, let alone in focus,

Answer “What were you doing prior to the event?” with “Nothing!”

Answer “What were the contents of the dialogue box, even approximately?” with “I don’t know, something technical, how am I supposed to know?”

Answer “What do you need to do to progress?” with “I don’t understand.”

Eventually a dialogue is established, an approximate timeline leading up to the error is ascertained, and other big words…

A plan coalesces!

“Right,” I say “I think I know what’s causing the problem and I’ve a solution* I think will work. Should we try it?”

“Yes.” you say.

I start to patiently explain the background, the reason for the error, and steps necessary to avoid the ‘thing’ happening in the future. And this is where it falls apart.

You click, pan, scroll, press buttons, dismiss dialogue boxes, and then, as if it wasn’t enough, offer an alternative solution. You do it before I finish. Every time.
“I know mine will work,” I say. You ignore this with “Yeah, but…” so I walk away.

Until the next time…

A few minutes later I observe a thought bubble above your head: “Er… that didn’t work, crap idea, I’ll go and ask X…”

A quarter of an hour later I observe X walking away a little flustered, and Google search appears on their screen. Eventually a solution appears and it’s implemented. X of course gets due credit. It is indeed only fair.

And there’s a smile on your face, you did well fixing that.

Until the next time…