Unhappiness and screentime are related. I don’t want to bring up unhappy children. But there is Peer Pressure, Social Media, and Boredom to deal with. My children weren’t happy with me taking away smartphones, laptops, and tablets, but then studies show that they would be unhappy if I don’t take this stuff away – and worst, I could end up with depressed (and potentially suicidal) teenagers. So I had to do it; as a parent, it’s my job.

The charity Action For Children finds that a staggering one in four parents struggles to control their children’s screen use.

The first thing that had to change was MY use of these gadgets; you lead by example, don’t you? This is also hard.

Insidiously, this stuff has replaced the old ways of newspapers, wandering around shops and looking at clocks. I wasn’t looking to be a new age hippy or getting all Jesuit about it. It’s about increasing happiness.

These gadgets can be useful, as long as they are not addiction driven, or considered the default. People are fidgets – that’s why everyone smoked cigarettes in the bad old days. These days it’s the phone. Bad habits for idle moments.

So I began last November (2017) by coming off social media, leaving my phone behind, and demonstrably using gadgets less. Cookbooks were taken down from the shelf. Clocks told me the time. I used my brain to remember where places were and I figured out how to get there.

Have I got happier? Yes! I would say so. I went onto facebook today – for the first time since – and I no longer need to participate, after all, who cares if I “like” or “share” something that I instantly forget and really only was a knee-jerk reaction to show some level of approval? Vanitas. Bottom line is that my views are not terribly important, the effort is wasted.

So I am relieved and happier to have broken the bad habit. What about my children?

Well, this has been more difficult, to be honest. But it really does make a difference. I have seen it with my own eyes.

It’s all about showing them HOW to use a device as a tool for a purpose, and not to depend on it to alleviate boredom. My wife keeps saying that boredom is good as it makes you more creative; you invent something in daydream moments and similar weird mental states (like the eureka moment in the bath, or when waiting for a bus, gazing out of a train window, or sitting under a tree like Isaac Newton).

I do think it is weird and dystopian when I see crowds of children wandering to school each morning while staring at the screen on their mobile.

The biggest problem for my wife and me is that we slowly allowed the screen to allow us to get mummy-daddy time. The screen was a babysitter. My son now says “I’m bored – what can I do?” and he’s looking at ME. That is the challenge – see the Bob Granleese article below for what’s it’s like to try this.

The other aspect that gladdens my heart is that it reduces all those other risks – grooming, adverts, cyber-bullying, brain-washing, and exposure to radicalisation.

It is hard but rewarding. As a recovering addict, I would recommend less social media and less screen time to everyone. Go do a blog every few weeks if you cannot go “cold turkey”.

The main thing is to say goodbye to being an internethead.


“Phone-addicted teens really ARE miserable: Scientists warn young people should limit their screen time to just two hours a day to boost happiness” By HARRY PETTIT FOR MAILONLINE PUBLISHED: 14:11, 22 January 2018 | UPDATED: 19:55, 23 January 2018

“Teens who spend less time in front of screens are happier — up to a point, new research shows” By Tara Bahrampour 22 January 2018

“Why are British kids so unhappy? Two words: screen time” by Bob Granleese The Guardian Thu 7 Jan 2016 12.24 GMT

“Limit children’s screen time, expert urges” By Hannah Richardson, BBC News education and family reporter
9 October 2012



Old Dog – New Tricks

One thing about the internet is that it can educate.

Seriously; I have learned new ways to tie my shoelaces, neckties and even how to boil an egg.

However, one thing I have noticed is that when I tell people IRL about something I just learned from the internet, many of them roll their eyes and back off. They don’t want to know!

New ideas rock their world, so they refuse to hear and accept anything that doesn’t fit with their schema.

As for me, I am consciously evolving. I have a long list of things about which I was wrong in the past. So what? Is that a bad thing or a good thing?

I am changed daily by the internet (youtube – Alex, Rick, Scott, Phil, The Brothers Green, Gordon, The King of Random, ProHacker, this guy, and this, TED talks and more), I am constantly amazed by podcasts such as (The Tim Ferriss Show, Planet Money, 99% Invisible, The Science of Success, History Extra, WTF, The Adam Buxton podcast, Criminal, Radiolab, Risk, Beautiful Anonymous, The Partially Examined Life, The Allusionist, Death Sex and Money, The Psych Files, Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, Here’s The Thing,  and more again).

The only TV that comes close is BBC Four.

Maybe I am of a “certain age” that likes to learn, needs to relearn, and wants to change and grow.

If you have any recommendations leave a comment – I won’t let it be seen if you prefer.


I have a loan of a Burny Les Paul.

I have not played an LP for decades; I bought an American Classic Strat way back in the last century, but my first electric guitar was a Les Paul gold top.

I swapped out the bass humbuckers on the gold top with a Dimarzio twin humbucker and added a toggle and it rocked and ripped. What an instrument that was.

Sadly I slipped on a patch of ice and tossed it under a lorry.

I still can’t “go there”. Let’s move on.

So, after years of whammy bars, and twangy-ness, I have a guitar on loan that weighs a lot more, is curvy, and the neck is not bolted on. My first job was to put on a set of 9’s.

So how did it feel to be back on a Les Paul?

Amazing. Different.

The first thing I noticed was the sustain. Wow. Just wow. Then it was the possibilities of the settings – two pickups and two volumes and tones – plus the inbetween position and all that could give.

Wonderful and empowering.

I missed the whammy, but the sustain made up for it. The superbly low action and low frets meant I was doing long slides, legato runs and playing at greater speed. yes, it makes you play differently.

The neck felt more like an acoustic – and it played well with open standard chords like people do on acoustics. It stayed in tune and all in all a happy experience. I have already written and a couple of things as a result.

But who can afford a Les Paul? I  was thinking of maybe an ES 335 in my dreams and one day  – but that day never comes. Should I get a Burny or other version? Hmmm? I hear that Gibson is almost bankrupt, so maybe now would be a good investment opportunity to go for the real thing, plus this loan has made me think I need something of that ilk to fill what is so obviously a gap…


Guilty Until Proven Innocent

I was always told that people were innocent until proved otherwise.

It’s about something called “The Benefit of the Doubt”.

It’s a default position. It puts the onus on the accuser so that we can all get on with life without having to defend ourselves constantly.

It’s a good idea; the bad guys get caught and the good guys that are wrongly accused are safe.

Except that it’s no longer true.

It worries me that “allegations” and “accusations” have predominance in the media these days.

As far as I can tell – at this point in time nothing has been proved against Jimmy Savile, Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen, James Levine, Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK and many others.

So – in law and supposedly IRL – these guys are safe and innocent until a jury decides guilt. Right?



It was a perfect storm.

In the run-up to Christmas break, everyone was busy and self-absorbed. I stopped shaving and soon a beard was evident. Then there was the festive break, during which my beard flourished.

I ate too much and drank too much and did not exercise enough during the festive break, so I resolved to lose weight in the New Year — much like everyone else.

I returned to the office with a beard and on a diet.

Over January I lost over 5kg by skipping bread, potatoes, and alcohol. (protip)

On the last day of January, I shaved off my beard. That was when the problems started. I woke up on 1st February with a crick on my neck. It was very painful and I had to tilt my head to the left to gain pain relief.

I now think it was the head tilt, the beard loss and the weight loss – whatever it was, my client looked at me and freaked out.

“Do you feel alright, Dave?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Come with me”

I followed him to the main boardroom where a meeting was going on.

“Sorry guys, sorry to interrupt, but look at Dave – what do you think?”

I stood there, ignominiously, as people stared at my face, intently, deliberately and solemnly.

“Oh dear!”

“Not good”

“Get him to hospital”

My eyes widened.

Suddenly I was told to go straight to the nearest hospital. I was also told to leave my car and they got a colleague to drive me to the hospital right away and without delay.

Scary. Serious. WTF?

How weird did I feel? Imagine how you would feel. They thought I was having a stroke!

Minutes later, and  I am in the A&E department of Monklands Hospital. I am Whisked into a bay, the curtains were drawn. Blood was drawn too – and a catheter installed in my right hand. I was tested for mental agility, I got an ECG print out, I had a sip test. All sorts of things were done and I was thoroughly checked over.

All in all I was whisked from my desk at 1pm and eventually made it home alive at 8pm. That’s a long, stressful shift. My wife and children arrived to relieve my colleague. And what was the verdict?

I’m OK.


Nice to know.

On the other hand, people think I have had a stroke just because I am ugly.


Oh My Gawd!

We got a new Mitel phone system installed in the office.

I connected the wires. I logged in. So far so good. I set up 30 odd other phones. I’m a helpful guy.

Then I noticed that I had to set up my voicemail. I pressed the appropriate buttons.

“Input your voicemail password” … Easy – login password 4 digits plus three more as provided in the email.

“Enter your new seven-digit password”… Oops (I wasn’t prepared for replacing the password)… 0000000

“Say your name as you like it to be said”… OK, no problems.


“Please say your outgoing message”… So I said “Sorry I am not available – please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can”.

That was it. Simple enough – until I noticed that when tested, people calling in only heard: “Sorry I am not available – please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can”… not my name. I ought to have said my name in both recordings. Damn.

I tried to erase and re-record the “Sorry I am not available – please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can”, but it wouldn’t let me. Never mind.

I overheard a colleague trying to do the same thing I had just done, so I said, “You have to be careful; if you get it wrong, you cannot change it”.

Unknown to me, the daft lassie admin person was in the middle of doing the same thing. When she heard me saying you cannot change the message recorded, she exclaimed, “What? Oh! My! Gawd!”

And this is what was recorded as her outgoing message.

When people call her and get voicemail, they are greeted with, “What? Oh! My! Gawd!”.

And she cannot change it.