Search Results: "Andrew Pollock"

17 May 2015

Andrew Pollock: [debian] Fixing some issues with

I got an email last year pointing out a cosmetic issue with I think at the time of the email, the only problem was some bitrot in PHP's built-in server variables making some text appear incorrectly. I duly added something to my TODO list to fix it, and it subsequently sat there for like 13 months. In the ensuing time, Debian changed some stuff, and my code started incorrectly handling a 302 as well, which actually broke it good and proper. I finally got around to fixing it. I also fixed a problem where sometimes there can be multiple entries in the Sources file for a package (switching to using would also address this), which caused sometimes caused an incorrect version of the changelog to be returned. In the resulting tinkering, I learned about, which is totally awesome. I could stop maintaining and parsing a local copy of sid's Sources file, and just make a call to this instead. Finally, I added linking to CVEs, because it was a quick thing to do, and adds value. In light of, I'm very tempted to rewrite the redirector. The code is very old and hard for present-day Andrew to maintain, and I despise PHP. I'd rather write it in Python today, with some proper test coverage. I could also potentially host it on AppEngine instead of locally, just so I get some experience with AppEngine It's also been suggested that I fold the changes into the changelog hosting on I'm hesitant to do this, as it would require changing the output from plain text to HTML, which would mess up consumers of the plain text (like the current implementation of

13 May 2015

Andrew Pollock: [tech] LWN Chrome extension published

I finally got around to finishing off and publishing the LWN Chrome extension that I wrote a couple of months ago. I received one piece of feedback from someone who read my blog via Planet Debian, but didn't appear to email me from a usable email address, so I'll respond to the criticisms here. I wrote a Chrome extension because I use Google Chrome. To the best of my knowledge, it will work with Chromium as well, but as I've never used it, I can't really say for sure. I've chosen to licence the source under the Apache Licence, and make it freely available. So the extension is available to anyone who cares to download the source and "side load" it, if they don't want to use the Chrome Web Store. As for whether a userscript would have done the job, maybe, but I have no experience with them. Basically, I had an itch, and I scratched it, for the browser I choose to use, and I also chose to share it freely.

7 March 2015

Andrew Pollock: [tech] Honey, I wrote my first Chrome extension!

I love reading Linux Weekly News. It's a great source of high quality Linux and FOSS journalism, and I've been a subscriber for years. One mild annoyance I have with the site is the way articles are cross-linked. All the article URIs are in the format /Article/531114/, which isn't particularly descriptive about that article's content. When faced with an article that links to another article, with perhaps a word of anchor text, it's hard to tell if the new article is worth opening in a tab, is indeed already open in a tab, or has been previously read. (Yes, the "visited link" colour can help to a small degree, but even then, it doesn't tell you which previously read article it is). This is what God the W3C invented the title attribute for. Back in April 2011, I emailed Jonathan Corbet and asked if his content management system could just do this, but it was apparently a bit tricky, and it got filed in the "feature request" bucket. I was sufficiently irritated by this deficiency last Monday, when doing some heavy reading on a topic, and so I decided to take matters into my own hands, and also learn how to write a Chrome Extension into the bargain. I was delighted to have scratched the itch under 24 hours later and developed something that solved my particular problem - lwn4chrome I'm calling it. I'm just finalising an icon for it, and then I'll have a stab at putting it in the Chrome Web Store as a freebie. I might even have a crack at writing a Firefox extension as well for completeness, but I suspect the bulk of LWN's readership is using Chrome or Chromium.

8 December 2014

Andrew Pollock: [tech] A geek Dad goes to Kindergarten with a box full of Open Source and some vegetables

Zoe's Kindergarten encourages parents to come in and spend some time with the kids. I've heard reports of other parents coming in and doing baking with the kids or other activities at various times throughout the year. Zoe and I had both wanted me to come in for something, but it had taken me until the last few weeks of the year to get my act together and do something. I'd thought about coming in and doing some baking, but that seemed rather done to death already, and it's not like baking is really my thing, so I thought I'd do something technological. I just wracked my brains for something low effort and Kindergarten-age friendly. The Kindergarten has a couple of eduss touch screens. They're just some sort of large-screen with a bunch of inputs and outputs on them. I think the Kindergarten mostly uses them for showing DVDs and hooking up a laptop and possibly doing something interactive on them. As they had HDMI input, and my Raspberry Pi had HDMI output, it seemed like a no-brainer to do something using the Raspberry Pi. I also thought hooking up the MaKey MaKey to it would make for a more fun experience. I just needed to actually have it all do something, and that's where I hit a bit of a creative brick wall. I thought I'd just hack something together where based on different inputs on the MaKey MaKey, a picture would get displayed and a sound played. Nothing fancy at all. I really struggled to get a picture displayed full screen in a time efficient manner. My Pi was running Raspbian, so it was relatively simple to configure LightDM to auto-login and auto-start something. I used triggerhappy to invoke a shell script, which took care of playing a sound and an image. Playing a sound was easy. Displaying an image less so, especially if I wanted the image loaded fast. I really wanted to avoid having to execute an image viewer every time an input fired, because that would be just way too slow. I thought I'd found a suitable application in Geeqie, because it supported being out of band managed, but it's problem was it also responded to the inputs from the MaKey MaKey, so it became impossible to predictably display the right image with the right input. So the night before I was supposed to go to Kindergarten, I was up beating my head against it, and decided to scrap it and go back to the drawing board. I was looking around for a Kindergarten-friendly game that used just the arrow keys, and I remembered the trusty old Frozen Bubble. This ended up being absolutely perfect. It had enough flags to control automatic startup, so I could kick it straight into a dumbed-down full screen 1 player game (--fullscreen --solo --no-time-limit) The kids absolutely loved it. They were cycled through in groups of four and all took turns having a little play. I brought a couple of heads of broccoli, a zucchini and a potato with me. I started out using the two broccoli as left and right and the zucchini to fire, but as it turns out, not all the kids were as good with the "left" and "right" as Zoe, so I swapped one of the broccoli for a potato and that made things a bit less ambiguous. The responses from the kids were varied. Quite a few clearly had their minds blown and wanted to know how the broccoli was controlling something on the screen. Not all of them got the hang of the game play, but a lot did. Some picked it up after having a play and then watching other kids play and then came back for a more successful second attempt. Some weren't even sure what a zucchini was. Overall, it was a very successful activity, and I'm glad I switched to Frozen Bubble, because what I'd originally had wouldn't have held up to the way the kids were using it. There was a lot of long holding/touching of the vegetables, which would have fired hundreds of repeat events, and just totally overwhelmed triggerhappy. Quite a few kids wanted to pick up and hold the vegetables instead of just touch them to send an event. As it was, the Pi struggled to play Frozen Bubble enough as it was. The other lesson I learned pretty quickly was that an aluminium BBQ tray worked a lot better as the grounding point for the MaKey MaKey than having to tether an anti-static strap around each kid's ankle as they sat down in front of the screen. Once I switched to the tray, I could rotate kids through the activity much faster. I just wish I was a bit more creative, or there were more Kindergarten-friendly arrow-key driven Linux applications out there, but I was happy with what I managed to hack together with a fairly minimal amount of effort.

2 October 2014

Andrew Pollock: [opinion] On Islamaphobia

It's taken me a while to get sufficiently riled up about Australia's current Islamaphobia outbreak, but it's been brewing in me for a couple of weeks. For the record, I'm an Atheist, but I'll defend your right to practise your religion, just don't go pushing it on me, thank you very much. I'm also not a huge fan of Islam, because it does seem to lend itself to more violent extremism than other religions, and ISIS/ISIL/IS (whatever you want to call them) aren't doing Islam any favours at the moment. I'm against extremism of any stripes though. The Westboro Baptists are Christian extremists. They just don't go around killing people. I'm also not a big fan of the burqa, but again, I'll defend a Muslim woman's right to choose to wear one. They key point here is choice. I got my carpets cleaned yesterday by an ethnic couple. I like accents, and I was trying to pick theirs. I thought they may have been Turkish. It turned out they were Kurdish. Whenever I hear "Kurd" I habitually stick "Bosnian" in front of it after the Bosnian War that happened in my childhood. Turns out I wasn't listening properly, and that was actually "Serb". Now I feel dumb, but I digress. I got chatting with the lady while her husband did the work. I got a refresher on where most Kurds are/were (Northern Iraq) and we talked about Sunni versus Shia Islam, and how they differed. I learned a bit yesterday, and I'll have to have a proper read of the Wikipedia article I just linked to, because I suspect I'll learn a lot more. We briefly talked about burqas, and she said that because they were Sunni, they were given the choice, and they chose not to wear it. That's the sort of Islam that I support. I suspect a lot of the women running around in burqas don't get a lot of say in it, but I don't think banning it outright is the right solution to that. Those women need to feel empowered enough to be able to cast off their burqas if that's what they want to do. I completely agree that a woman in a burqa entering a secure place (for example Parliament House) needs to be identifiable (assuming that identification is verified for all entrants to Parliament House). If it's not, and they're worried about security, that's what the metal detectors are for. I've been to Dubai. I've seen how they handle women in burqas at passport control. This is an easily solvable problem. You don't have to treat burqa-clad women as second class citizens and stick them in a glass box. Or exclude them entirely.

17 August 2014

Andrew Pollock: [tech] Solar follow up

Now that I've had my solar generation system for a little while, I thought I'd write a follow up post on how it's all going. Energex came out a week ago last Saturday and swapped my electricity meter over for a new digital one that measures grid consumption and excess energy exported. Prior to that point, it was quite fun to watch the old analog meter going backwards. I took a few readings after the system was installed, through to when the analog meter was disconnected, and the meter had a value 26 kWh lower than when I started. I've really liked how the excess energy generated during the day has effectively masked any relatively small overnight power consumption. Now that I have the new digital meter things are less exciting. It has a meter measuring how much power I'm buying from the grid, and how much excess power I'm exporting back to the grid. So far, I've bought 32 kWh and exported 53 kWh excess energy. Ideally I want to minimise the excess because what I get paid for it is about a third of what I have to pay to buy it from the grid. The trick is to try and shift around my consumption as much as possible to the daylight hours so that I'm using it rather than exporting it. On a good day, it seems I'm generating about 10 kWh of energy. I'm still impatiently waiting for PowerOne to release their WiFi data logger card. Then I'm hoping I can set up something automated to submit my daily production to PVOutput for added geekery.

5 August 2014

Andrew Pollock: [geek] Lifehacking with NFC, Tasker and HabitRPG

Oh man, I'm such a geek... Being a single parent has required a considerable amount of self-discipline on my behalf. I find I do best in an environment with routine to make sure stuff gets done. One of the things I did to try and make sure stuff got done was to form positive habits. To help and make this a bit more "fun", I started using HabitRPG, an online role-playing game based on habits. I've only ever used it in a half-arsed manner, and as a result, I die a lot. Often I'll do my dailies, but then forget to mark them off. Sometimes I just fall off the habit wagon altogether. And die. One of my dailies is to scoop my cat's litterboxes. For whatever reason, I find this a tad onerous, and had found myself falling out of the habit of doing it on a daily basis. My cat deserves better than this, so I wanted to get back on the habit wagon, but make it a bit more "fun" as well. I love NFC, I've been a big NFC weenie for a long time. It's a solution looking for a problem. I have a huge collection of NFC tags, and I've finally found a problem I could use them with. I wanted to make it more frictionless to mark a task as completed in HabitRPG. I didn't want to have to take out my phone, unlock it, open the HabitRPG app and check off the daily task. I just wanted to wave my phone at an NFC tag. Here's how I did it. The inimitable Paul Fenwick, who first inspired me to use HabitRPG, has a way more complicated set up to achieve something similar. The Site Reliability Engineer in me wanted the least number of moving parts and third-parties to have to get from my phone to HabitRPG. After some hunting around, I found this wiki page on integrating Tasker with HabitRPG's API, so based on that breadcrumb, I got hacking. I'd not used Tasker before. I was already using AutomateIt to do some other, reasonably dumb automation on my phone, though. Tasker is a little bit obtuse, and it took me a couple of days of casual fiddling with it to wrap my head around it's usage model. The fact that it can run arbitrary JavaScript, and that NFC Tools integrates with it is where the real awesome lies. So based off the wiki, I crafted a couple of bits of JavaScript, one to mark daily tasks as complete on HabitRPG, and one to query HabitRPG to see if they have been marked as complete. For the former, it was trivial, using NFC Tools, to write an NFC tag that then runs the Tasker task to call the HabitRPG API to mark a daily task as complete. That goal was now complete. The equally satisfying part was also having Tasker do a time-based conditional nag based on the state of the daily task in HabitRPG. So now if it gets to 4:45pm and I haven't scooped the litterboxes, my phone literally tells me I'd better go do it. I've also done the same thing with putting the dishwasher on. I've stuck an NFC tag on the dishwashing powder bottle lid, and I get a conditional reminder before bed time. It used to be an unconditional reminder with AutomateIt, and it was dumb, because I rarely forget to put the dishwasher on. Now, I can use HabitRPG to keep state on it instead. The hunk of JavaScript to update HabitRPG is very simple:
function mark_completed()   
  var http = new XMLHttpRequest();"POST", http_post_url, false);
  http.setRequestHeader("x-api-user", global('HabitrpgUserid'));
  http.setRequestHeader("x-api-key", global('HabitrpgApiToken'));
  var result = mark_completed(); 
  var error = e.message; 
All of the interesting stuff is defined in variables preceding the JavaScript in the task definition. Here's a screenshot of the Task in Tasker that tells a thousand words: Screenshot of Tasker task that uses HabitRPG API to mark a task complete Similarly, to query HabitRPG, I'm using:
function query_task()   
  var http = new XMLHttpRequest();"GET",http_get_url,false);
  http.setRequestHeader("x-api-user", global('HabitrpgUserid'));
  http.setRequestHeader("x-api-key", global('HabitrpgApiToken'));
  var p = JSON.parse(http.responseText);
  return p['completed'];
  var task_completed = query_task(); 
  var error = e.message; 
It's only slightly trickier because you have to parse the JSON blob that comes back. Again, a screenshot. Screenshot of Tasker task that uses HabitRPG API to query task state Now maybe I'll stop dying so much in HabitRPG, my cat will have the clean toilet she deserves, and I'll stop getting reminded about putting the dishwasher on when I already have. Better living through automation, that's my motto.

23 July 2014

Andrew Pollock: [tech] Going solar

With electricity prices in Australia seeming to be only going up, and solar being surprisingly cheap, I decided it was a no-brainer to invest in a solar installation to reduce my ongoing electricity bills. It also paves the way for getting an electric car in the future. I'm also a greenie, so having some renewable energy happening gives me the warm and fuzzies. So today I got solar installed. I've gone for a 2 kWh system, consisting of 8 250 watt Seraphim panels (I'm not entirely sure which model) and an Aurora UNO-2.0-I-OUTD inverter. It was totally a case of decision fatigue when it came to shopping around. Everyone claims the particular panels they want to sell at the best. It's pretty much impossible to make a decent assessment of their claims. In the end, I went with the Seraphim panels because they scored well on the PHOTON tests. That said, I've had other solar companies tell me the PHOTON tests aren't indicative of Australian conditions. It's hard to know who to believe. In the end, I chose Seraphim because of the PHOTON test results, and they're also apparently one of the few panels that pass the Thresher test, which tests for durability. The harder choice was the inverter. I'm told that yield varies wildly by inverter, and narrowed it down to Aurora or SunnyBoy. Jason's got a SunnyBoy, and the appeal with it was that it supported Bluetooth for data gathering, although I don't much care for the aesthetics of it. Then I learned that there was a WiFi card coming out soon for the Aurora inverter, and that struck me as better than Bluetooth, so I went with the Aurora inverter. I discovered at the eleventh hour that the model of Aurora inverter that was going to be supplied wasn't supported by the WiFi card, but was able to switch models to the one that was. I'm glad I did, because the newer model looks really nice on the wall. The whole system was up at running just in time to catch the setting sun, so I'm looking forward to seeing it in action tomorrow. Apparently the next step is Energex has to come out to replace my analog power meter with a digital one. I'm grateful that I was able to get Body Corporate approval to use some of the roof. Being on the top floor helped make the installation more feasible too, I think.

22 July 2014

Andrew Pollock: [debian] Day 174: Kindergarten, startup stuff, tennis

I picked up Zoe from Sarah this morning and dropped her at Kindergarten. Traffic seemed particularly bad this morning, or I'm just out of practice. I spent the day powering through the last two parts of the registration block of my real estate licence training. I've got one more piece of assessment to do, and then it should be done. The rest is all dead-tree written stuff that I have to mail off to get marked. Zoe's doing tennis this term as her extra-curricular activity, and it's on a Tuesday afternoon after Kindergarten at the tennis court next door. I'm not sure what proportion of the class is continuing on from previous terms, and so how far behind the eight ball Zoe will be, but she seemed to do okay today, and she seemed to enjoy it. Megan's in the class too, and that didn't seem to result in too much cross-distraction. After that, we came home and just pottered around for a bit and then Zoe watched some TV until Sarah came to pick her up.

21 July 2014

Andrew Pollock: [debian] Day 173: Investigation for bug #749410 and fixing my VMs

I have a couple of virt-manager virtual machines for doing DHCP-related work. I have one for the DHCP server and one for the DHCP client, and I have a private network between the two so I can simulate DHCP requests without messing up anything else. It works nicely. I got a bit carried away, and I use LVM to snapshots for the work I do, so that when I'm done I can throw away the virtual machine's disks and work with a new snapshot next time I want to do something. I have a cron job, that on a good day, fires up the virtual machines using the master logical volumes and does a dist-upgrade on a weekly basis. It seems to have varying degrees of success though. So I fired up my VMs to do some investigation of the problem for #749410 and discovered that they weren't booting, because the initramfs couldn't find the root filesystem. Upon investigation, the problem seemed to be that the logical volumes weren't getting activated. I didn't get to the bottom of why, but a manual activation of the logical volumes allowed the instances to continue booting successfully, and after doing manual dist-upgrades and kernel upgrades, they booted cleanly again. I'm not sure if I got hit by a passing bug in unstable, or what the problem was. I did burn about 2.5 hours just fixing everything up though. Then I realised that there'd been more activity on the bug since I'd last read it while I was on vacation, and half the investigation I needed to do wasn't necessary any more. Lesson learned. I haven't got to the bottom of the bug yet, but I had a fun day anyway.

25 May 2014

Andrew Pollock: [debian] Day 117: Fixed hardening issues with simpleproxy, uploaded slack and sma

I managed to spend a few hours doing Debian stuff again today, which was great. Today I learned about blhc, which is sadly not mentioned in the wiki page on hardening, which I always refer to. It turns out that it is mentioned in the walkthrough wiki page linked off it though. I'd not read that page until today. Many thanks to Samuel Bronson on IRC for pointing out the tool to me. Initially I didn't think the tool told me anything I didn't already know, but then I realised it was saying that the upstream Makefile wasn't passing in $(CPPFLAGS) and $(LDFLAGS) when it invoked the compiler. Know that I know all of that, the build warning also mentioned in the PTS made a whole lot more sense. Definitely a case of "today I learned..." So I made a simple patch to the upstream and simpleproxy is now all appropriately hardened. I'm very happy about that, as it was annoying me that it wasn't Lintian-clean. I was able to use the same technique to similarly fix up sma. It's somewhat entertaining when you maintain a package for almost 7 years, and the upstream homepage changes from being the software author's website to what appears to be erotic fiction advertising for London escorts... That made for some entertaining reading this morning. I've now managed to give all my packages a spring clean. I might do another pass and convert them all to debhelper 9 as a way of procrastinating before I touch isc-dhcp.

12 May 2014

Andrew Pollock: [debian] Day 103: Today's Debian efforts

I had a really productive day today actually working on Debian, as planned for my Mondays. I'm still working through my list of packages, trying to get them all vaguely up to date for jessie. It's mostly just addressing Lintian issues that mostly revolve around old standards versions, with the occasional new upstream release. I've also been doing bug triage where the bugs aren't overwhelming. Today I made uploads for pssh (a new upstream release), pymetrics (mostly just a rebuild), rcs-blame (mostly just a rebuild) and simpleproxy (mostly just a rebuild). I need to revisit simpleproxy, because I'm having problems convincing the resulting binary to be linked correctly for relro. It's weird, because I'm doing everything I'm supposed to be doing and I can see all the other hardening flags being passed in except for this one. I really like simplifying down debian/rules using dh, that really makes things readable. You can see the useful stuff without losing it in all the boilerplate. For some reason I was never a fan of CDBS, but I'm quite liking dh. I think it's because it's less opaque than CDBS.

7 May 2014

Mario Lang: Planet bug: empty alt tags for hackergotchis

There is a strange bug in Planet Debian I am seeing since I joined. It is rather minor, but since it is an accessibility bug, I'd like to mention it here. I have written to the Planet Debian maintainers, and was told to figure it out myself. This is a pattern, accessibility is considered wishlist, apparently. And the affected people are supposed to fix it on their own. It is better if I don't say anything more about that attitude.
The Bug On Planet Debian, only some people have an alt tag for their hackergotchi, while all the configured entries look similar. There is no obvious difference in the configuration, but still, only some users here have a proper alt tag for their hackergotchi. Here is a list:
  • Dirk Eddelbuettel
  • Steve Kemp
  • Wouter Verhelst
  • Mehdi (
  • Andrew Pollock
  • DebConf Organizers
  • Francois Marier
  • The MirOS Project (
  • Paul Tagliamonte
  • Lisandro Dami n Nicanor P rez Meyer (
  • Joey Hess
  • Chris Lamb
  • Mirco Bauer
  • Christine Spang
  • Guido G nther
These people/organisations currently displayed on Planet Debian have a proper alt tag for their hackergotchi. All the other members have none. In Lynx, it looks like the following:
hackergotchi for
And for those where it works, it looks like:
hackergotchi for Dirk Eddelbuettel
Strange, isn't it? If you have any idea why this might be happening, let me know, or even better, tell Planet Debian maintainers how to fix it. P.S.: Package planet-venus says it is a rewrite of Planet, and Planet can be found in Debian as well. I don't see it in unstable, maybe I am blind? Or has it been removed recently? If so, the package description of planet-venus is wrong.

4 May 2014

Andrew Pollock: [debian] Toning it down a bit

I received a complaint about the frequency of my life category posts appearing on Planet Debian. It's the first such complaint I've received, whereas I've received more complimentary feedback, presumably from readers via Planet Debian. It has made me self-conscious about my posts, though, and I don't want it to affect my blogging, so I've pulled the life category from what I feed to Planet Debian. If you want to keep up with the minutia of my life, and you were doing that via Planet Debian, you'll have to follow my blog directly. My apologies if anyone was annoyed.

1 May 2014

Andrew Pollock: [life] Day 93: A whole lot of running around

This morning Zoe woke up again at around 4am and ended up in bed with me. I don't even remember why she woke up, and neither does she, but she's assuring me it won't happen tomorrow morning. We'll see. As a result of the disturbed night's sleep, we had a bit of a slow start to the day. Zoe was happy to go off and watch some TV after she woke up for the day, and that let me have a bit more of a doze before I got up, which made things vaguely better for me. ABC 4 Kids has been showing a lot of ads for Ha Ha Hairies, which airs at 10:20am, lately, and it's one of the shows that isn't available on iView. Zoe had been lamenting that she never got to see it, and asking me if she could. Today the schedule was fairly open, so I made sure we were home at 10:20am. That involved a quick dash out to Woolies first to get a few bits and pieces for Zoe's birthday party. While Zoe watched the Ha Ha Hairies, I did some bulk egg hard boiling in the oven. After the Ha Ha Hairies and a little bit of general mucking around, we drove out to Spotlight to pick up the helium tank I'd rented. Zoe nearly fell asleep on the way out there. We picked up the helium tank and headed back home. That errand alone probably took a bit over an hour all up. We got back home and had lunch, but by the time all of that was out of the way, Zoe seemed to have missed the window for her nap. She did have a bit of a rest in bed, flipping through her library books, and I got to read some of my book as well, so that was nice. During that time, I got the call from Bunkers saying they were about half an hour out with the delivery of Zoe's bunk bed (my birthday present for her). That worked out well, as it was towards the start of the two hour window they'd advised me of. The bunk bed was delivered and then we popped out to Overflow to see if they had any food covers for the party food (they did) so we picked up a few of them. Today I learned that "As Seen On TV" is trademarked, and so "Similar To As Seen On TV" is the trademark dodging thing to put on cheap knock-offs. As Overflow is two doors down from Petbarn, we stopped in there as well and grabbed some more kitty litter. One does not just pop into Petbarn with Zoe, so we spent some time there looking at the fish and assorting aquarium paraphernalia. They also had some hermit crabs now too. On the way back home, we stopped in at (a different) Woolies to pick up the half slab of chocolate mudcake that I'd ordered for Zoe's birthday cake. I'd decided that the upright Minion cake I'd initially wanted to do was just way too adventurous for my abilities and not a good use of my time (and the quotes I'd sought for outsourcing it had come in at over $300). I scaled things back to just a flat slab Minion, which may still exceed my cake decorating abilities, but we'll find out tomorrow. There'd been a miscommunication at Woolworths, and my half slab hadn't been boxed up and wasn't ready for my collection. All the bakery staff had already gone home, and I didn't really want to come back tomorrow, because I had this crazy idea of possibly starting on the cake tonight (not going to happen), so a couple of non-bakery staff had to find the cake and figure out how to extract a full slab from the baking tray and cut it in half and box it up. It provided some entertainment for Zoe and I. We finally got home, and I rehashed some frozen leftovers for dinner. I decided to try something different for the bath time and bed time routine to see if it'd reduce procrastination. I got Zoe to pick out the three books she wanted to read at bed time before we got to story time, so we'd have something concrete to negotiate with. I also threw in the possibility of a "bonus story" if she didn't muck around. It seemed to work, and we had a fairly streamlined bath time. There's no doubt she was pretty tired today, and she went to bed without any fuss, so I'm hopeful that we'll have a good night tonight.

30 April 2014

Andrew Pollock: [life] Day 92: Kindergarten, cleaning and more birthday party preparation

I'm mostly back into my normal routine now. Next week should be spot on. Today, after my chiropractic adjustment and another walk to the post office to collect another package, I got stuck into cleaning the house. I got that mostly done before my massage, and knocked out the rest of it before I picked up Zoe from Kindergarten. Zoe seems to have successfully dropped her day time nap at Kindergarten now, which certainly makes a huge difference to getting out of the place on time. I'd underestimated the number of kids coming to Zoe's birthday party, so I needed to get some extra goody bags made up, so we headed directly out to Westfield Carindale to raid the The Reject Shop for some more bits and pieces. After we got home from that, Zoe watched a bit of TV and helped me assemble the extra bags, and then we had dinner. After some epic procrastination (on Zoe's behalf) I managed to get her to bed approximately on time. I really need to try some different approaches to getting through the bath time routine, because it's just taking too long. I gave myself a couple of time outs because I could see the situation deteriorating if I didn't. It's unhelpful that my blog seems to be the third hit in Google at the moment for "positive parent procrastination". I don't have the answers.

29 April 2014

Andrew Pollock: [life] Day 91: Kindergarten, a successful assault on my to do list, haircuts and venus fly traps

I hate the days when I wake up at odd hours for no good reason. This morning I woke up at 4:30am briefly, with no idea why. It makes me wonder if there was some sort of external noise, and that's what woke Zoe up yesterday morning. I got myself going at a reasonable hour this morning, and decided to walk to the Bulimba post office to collect a package that was waiting for me. It was a nice enough morning for a walk, and I'm glad I decided to do it. Along the way, I observed multiple grandmothers walking their grandchildren to school. I've been thinking a lot about next year lately. I feel very strongly about Zoe not having to go into after school care. It seems that one of the new societal norms is the grandparents have to step in with the school transportation and after school care. That's not going to be particularly practical in our situation though, so I'm currently leaning towards seeking some sort of flexible employment next year that will allow me to be able to be available after Zoe finishes school. I was fairly motivated to get stuck into my to do list after my walk. A long standing item was to cancel one of my remaining US credit cards, and the time difference worked out well to do that, so I finally took care of that. I then realised it was a good time for the US East Coast, so I did a Hangout with one of my best friends in New York. It was great to have a catch up. After that, I finished off my US tax return, and also sorted out some other stuff that needed finishing off. I had to go to the Valley to find a FedEx location, so I drove over there, and on the way back stopped off in Bulimba to get some Mother's Day cards. By that stage it was about time to pick up Zoe from Kindergarten, so I quickly grabbed some lunch and then drove over to pick her up. She didn't nap again today, so that made our departure from Kindergarten nice and easy. I'd booked both of us in for haircuts at 3pm, so we got home with enough time for Zoe to ride her scooter to the hairdresser. We had our haircuts and Zoe had a bit of a play in the play corner, and we headed back home. I'd bought a venus fly trap from Bunnings last week while we were picking up other bits and pieces. I wanted to show Zoe how they worked, so we watched a few YouTube videos. This one was particularly good. After that, we went down to the rubbish skip with our fly trap to see if we could catch any flies in it, but Zoe quickly lost interest. So we headed back upstairs, and triggered one with a toothpick. I probably could have done this on a Friday and called it a Science Friday activity with a botany bent. After that, we just watched some TV together on the couch until Sarah arrived to pick her up.

28 April 2014

Andrew Pollock: [life] Day 90: Kindergarten, and a motivational slump

My alternative option to quitting my day job so I could spend more time with Zoe was to take three months leave without pay. That wasn't really a great option, because it would mean that Zoe would only get one term of Kindergarten, and then I'd be back at work. Well today is the day that I'd go back to work if I took 3 months leave without pay. So far, I have zero regrets from doing the stay year-long at home Dad thing. At the end of the first week, I was absolutely exhausted, and a little worried that I'd bitten off more than I could chew, but since that point, I've found my stride and now I'm mostly just worried about what I'm going to do with myself next year. I'm really happy with the range of activities that I've been able to do with Zoe in the past 90 days. For this term, I'm going to do a combination of repeating some of the things we've done previously (Zoe's already asking to go ice skating again), and introduce her to a few new things that we didn't get a chance to do last term. As it starts to cool down a little bit more, we'll be looking around for more indoor activities to do, as well. Today though, I had a bit of a motivational slump. Zoe woke up, briefly, at 4:30am. I can't even remmeber why. I was smack bang in the middle of some serious REM sleep, so I found getting up to attend to her particularly jarring. I was a bit sluggish this morning as a result, and Zoe was also doing some spectacular procrastination. That coupled with rain meant we were a bit late getting to Kindergarten. The drop off itself went pretty well, and I drove home and had a late shower. There was a myriad of things I could have been doing, but I mostly just made a bunch of phone calls to organise things, did some more planning for Zoe's birthday party this Saturday, and waited for pick up time to roll around. I'll need to do a better job of being self-disciplined tomorrow. Kindergarten pick up was fine. I've been encouraging Zoe to reconsider napping at rest time, and the last two times I've picked her up, she hasn't napped, which has made for a much easier departure, and she hasn't been noticeably worse for wear for it. We went to take a look at the park we're having her birthday party in on Saturday, just to get a lie of the land in terms of tables and BBQs, and then we went to the Valley to clear my PO box. After that we went to the dance store in the Valley to get a leotard, socks and stockings for her ballet class. By the time we got home from all of that, there was only about an hour before Sarah was due to pick Zoe up, so she watched a bit of TV, and then we played hide and seek for a bit, and watered the seeds we've planted. I skipped yoga tonight because I'm still on lifting restrictions, and decided to skip Meatless Monday as well and hang out with my friend Michael and eat all the ribs I could handle. Boy was that an eating binge.

23 April 2014

Andrew Pollock: [life] Day 85: Mostly a day off for me

Zoe slept solidly all night. She woke up a little before 6am, wanting a cuddle, but it was still dark, so she went back to sleep for another half an hour or so. It was actually nice to get that extra 30 minutes to have a leisurely wake up myself. Sarah wanted to pick up Zoe at 7:45am to get away and get a camp site, so when Zoe finally woke up for the day, we didn't muck around too much. She announced she wanted banana and oat pancakes, but we were out of bananas. I offered her the opportunity to scooter down to the Hawthorne Garage to get some if she went and got dressed. She decided that'd be good. I had a 10am appointment in the city with an intellectual property lawyer to talk about patents, so I had this grand plan of trying to squeeze in a run after Zoe was picked up and before I'd have to head into the city, so I got into my running gear, and we headed down to acquire some bananas. We whipped up the pancakes, and then after a couple of mouthfuls of hers, Zoe declared she didn't like it and wanted Cheerios instead. Oh well. It was nice to get out of the house early in the morning, and it helped get Zoe moving. Sarah ended up getting here closer to 8:30am, which made it a little too tight to go for a run, have a shower and get into the city, so I scrapped the run and pottered around at home instead for a bit, before driving into the city. My goodness casual parking in the city is exorbitant. It cost me $35 for under an hour. I got some good advice from the lawyer, so I know where to proceed from here. Next I headed down to the Valley to get my orientation at River City Labs, but had I read my email before leaving the city, I'd have discovered that the lady giving me the orientation had to leave early because her daughter was ill. It cost me $6 drive into the car park in the Valley, take the elevator down, read my email on my phone and pay my ticket and leave again. Lesson learned. I decided to do the grocery shopping that I hadn't done yesterday while I waited for Anshu to come over.

22 April 2014

Andrew Pollock: [life] Day 84: Kindergarten Term 2 starts, I collapse on the couch for the day

Zoe had her first day back at Kindy this morning for Term 2. I couldn't believe how fast Term 1 flew by, and how little I felt I accomplished on a personal front. The two weeks of school holidays certainly put the brakes on trying to get anything much more done for myself, but Zoe and I had a great time. I was really happy with the variety of activities we were able to do, and it was nice that Zoe and Megan got to spend a reasonable amount of time together too. The weather cooperated for the majority of the time, which was the cherry on top. Zoe only had Kindergarten today this week, but Sarah has the week off, so she's going to be taking Zoe for the next couple of days, which is really convenient timing, as it'll give me time to recover from some minor surgery tomorrow without having to run around after her. I might also manage to finalise my US tax return. I'm hoping to catch a few movies with Anshu too, who also has the week off work. Zoe slept reasonably well last night. Two wake ups, but they were both quickly resolved, so we both got back to sleep quickly. I was absolutely exhausted last night, but felt positively chipper this morning. We biked to Kindergarten, and I decided to leave the trailer there to make things a bit easier for myself in the afternoon. I got home, and just felt like vegging on the couch. Then I remembered Anshu had the day off, so she came over and we hung out and had lunch. It was really nice to have a few hours during the day off. I biked back to Kindergarten, wondering if I'd have to deal with waking up Zoe from a nap, but she hadn't had a nap. We'd had a bit of a talk at breakfast about napping at Kindergarten, and I have no idea if it helped or not, but it meant we could make an orderly departure. Zoe wanted to participate in Megan's tennis class after Kindergarten, and they were down a kid, which made the warm up stuff not work so well, so the teacher was happy for Zoe to take part. I managed to extract her once the real nitty gritty of the class started. I did get a good opportunity to suss out place availability for term 3. We biked home, and I wanted to take my bike in for a service while I'm on lifting restrictions, so we drove over to Cannon Hill to drop it off. The Gold Cross bike shop has now merged into the Super Amart store, so Zoe wanted to look at everything on the way back out. We eventually emerged without buying anything. Next, we went over to Bunnings, because Zoe's been asking if we can grow some veggies and flowers from seed. That ended up being about an hour of trekking around the nursery section trying to find stuff. It was a good way to use up the afternoon. We made it out with a bag of potting mix and a few packets of seeds and a kit for growing stuff that requires a trellis. Unfortunately most of the climbing stuff (like tomatoes) are out of season now, so I'm not sure what we're going to be able to grow with the kit. We got back home, and I put dinner on and we watched a bit of TV together while it cooked. Bath time and bed time went really smoothly, as I think she was pretty tired. Here's hoping she sleeps well tonight.