As the clock ticks past 11pm I’ve cracked open the programming text editor I’ve been using for the last several months to write blog posts. I guess when it comes to emptying my head, my brain works best when distractions are removed. If all I can do is type, I don’t get distracted by typefaces, line spacing, or anything else. It’s just me and the words.

Some time ago I experimented with turning my laptop into a computer from the 1980s running Wordstar. It’s amazing how much more you can concentrate without a multi-tasking operating system offering the possibility of listening to music, browsing the web, reading emails, and countless other very important distractions.


Today was something of a slog.

From the moment Alexa began filling the bedroom with radio early this morning it felt like I was walking out to bat over, and over again. Here’s hoping the rest of the week gets a little easier.

Time to go brush my teeth and fall into bed. Perhaps a few pages of a book first.


Infinite Rabbit Holes

For the last two hours I have been sitting in front of a computer with the intention of writing something . Instead I have tumbled down rabbit hole after rabbit hole around the internet – either researching stories on twitter to find out if they are true or not, trawling through wonderful comic book cover artwork, or talking to distant friends.

(Five minutes pass while I make a coffee – and I’m only too aware that this is yet another method of distraction from actually getting on with writing anything. At this point, I could probably apply to join the Olympic procrastination team).

It’s already Sunday morning at the time of writing. Saturday vanished into history half an hour ago. In my book Sunday doesn’t start until I wake up in the morning. I could quite cheerfully fall asleep right now, but the temptation to stay up and extend the weekend is ever present. It’s a fools game of course – burning the midnight oil. I’ll never learn.

I suspect I may have become immune to the effects of caffeine.

Perhaps a good book, and a quiet half hour might be just the thing though – a break from the screen, and the infinite rabbit holes of the internet.

p.s. I’ve canned the personal blog at Medium. I suppose this means I’m back.


A Burning Smell

The big computer hidden under the desk emitted a strange electrical noise yesterday morning, before switching off and filling the room with an acrid smell of burning. I pulled the plug out immediately. At the moment I have no idea what happened to it – but guessed at the power supply unit. A new one is on order, and should arrive tomorrow morning. It remains to be seen if the sound I heard was just the power supply, or the entire computer ending it’s own life. If any sort of surge hit the motherboard or CPU, it’s going to be “goodbye computer”.

I’m writing this blog post though, so you would be correct in thinking “he found a way”. I resurrected an old laptop, installed it with a shiny copy of Ubuntu Linux, and wired it up to the monitor, mouse, and keyboard on the desk in the junk room. A working computer. Yes, it’s slow, and yes, it’s a bit clunky – but it works. If the other computer really is dead, this will be the only computer around for months – if not years. There’s no way we can afford to replace it (it was handed down in the first place – my Dad gave it us when he upgraded).

It’s funny really – that I work in IT, but don’t have any sort of cutting edge hardware at home. I guess I have three daughters instead – and there’s not much left in the pot after providing for them each month. I sometimes think back to our life before children with a smile, and wish I had appreciated how much disposable income we once had.


Reorganising my Life

For the last few months I’ve been experimenting with an online swiss-army-knife called “Notion”, that allows you to record notes, compile databases of information, and so on. It has a wonderful interface, and can be transformed to solve most use-cases – a veritable rabbit hole that promises all sorts of productivity games. I started using it for more and more bits and pieces of my life – storing blog blog posts, writing articles, keeping code snippets, and so on.

And then it went down. For almost an entire day. With no updates from the management team. At all.

So yesterday evening I started migrating everything away from Notion. Initially I thought about returning to Evernote – and even tweeted about it – but then faced an uphill battle in terms of importing existing posts without having to laboriously re-format writing for hours. After trying several different workarounds I gave up, and turned my gaze to Google Drive.

Sure, Google Drive has it’s problems – nothing’s perfect – but for most of the things I do, it’s “good enough”. I’ve migrated all my old blog posts across, all of my technical notes, and all of the other bits and pieces that were stored in either Notion or Evernote. Google Drive has become my “one place to rule them all” – for now.

I need to stop playing with shiny new toys on the internet, and just live with the core few things I trust. At the moment that’s all the Google apps – from Mail, to Calendar, Keep, Drive, and Photos. Just recently I’ve been using Google Meet for family video calls – it’s every bit as good as Zoom or Facebook Messenger, and is free.

Earlier today I walked into town with my youngest daughter on a grocery shopping expedition. The first in several weeks. We get most of our food delivered via local farms and produce delivery businesses – but there are certain things you can’t easily get for them – important things – like peanut butter, and chocolate spread.

We’ve been ordering some things in bulk from Amazon “subscribe and save” – and had been thinking about buying instant cappuccino in a huge tin, but after doing the math, it turns out buying small boxes of instant coffee when it’s on offer is cheaper than buying in bulk. I hate it when brands do that kind of counter-intuitive idiocy. They must think people were born yesterday (perhaps some people don’t think when looking at prices).

Anyway. Dinner will be ready in a minute. Time to go set the table.


Hiding Out

I’m hiding out in the lounge. My other half has taken over the junk room (where the big computer lives), and is trying to cut together a video for the infant school with each of the staff members singing and dancing along to a pre-agreed music track, along with their children.

She started learning how to use the video editing software half an hour ago. The kind of video editing software you might use to make a movie. It doesn’t help that everybody’s video has been uploaded to a shared drive in portrait, landscape, with borders, without borders… so yeah – she’s going to have to rotate each clip, scale each clip, cut each clip, and re-assemble the various clips – all while keeping it in time with a backing music track.

It’s going to take hours. Especially as she’s learning as she goes. The only piece of advice I gave before running from the room in fear of my life was to use a parallel video channel to edit clips, and drop them into the “real” timeline after they looked ok.

I might not know a lot, but I’ve learned enough through doing the podcast to know how not to mess up everything you’ve already done in a huge hurry. I’ve already warned my other half that after an hour doing this, she knows more about video editing than anybody we know, and will be roped into editing videos for everybody over the next however many years.

My late father in law taught me an invaluable life lesson – never, ever be good at anything that anybody else needs somebody to be good at. I laughed when he first told me, but over the years I’ve learned through bitter experience that he was absolutely right. If you have a sought after skill, keep a damn good lid on it.

I suppose some people can’t hide their skills really. Take Gordon Ramsay, for instance – I wonder if his neighbours ever call up, asking “I’ve bought some bacon but have no clue how to wrap it round the chicken – can you spare a few minutes?”.

In recent years, the only time I’ve broken cover was to help a friend with her website. The site was pretty badly borked, and the person that usually looks after it was at a loss too. Within an hour I had rescued it from the fire, hacked my way through the back end, re-set passwords throughout, run updates, and handed her the keys to her shiny new online house. Here’s the thing though – she didn’t take advantage.

I love people that don’t take advantage. Unfortunately they seem to be in the minority. Some people’s entire existence seems to centre around taking what they can from others – exploiting, and using. Their lack of tact, empathy, guilt, or shame always amazes me.


I’m having a wonderful time sitting here in the quiet – eating chocolate biscuits, drinking coffee (I already had two glasses of wine), and half watching ridiculous TV shows on Netflix. Joel McHale keeps trying to talk me into binge-watching his show, but I’ve already promised to watch the second part of Dracula with my daughter.