Category Archives: “Misc”

Actual Name Sources Of Our Children

In my recent posts I suggested that the names of our less-than-two-month-old twins were just plucked out of think air. Of course that was a bit of a lie, as shown by my wife’s post on the same subject on Facebook. I include it below for the record.

What’s in a name? I have been asked a few times about the origin of our children’s names so I thought I would share it with you here.

Edith Lenore Petty

Several years ago, when Matt and I were first starting to talk about having children, I had a dream that a little girl came up to me and said, “Hi mommy. I’m your daughter. My name is Edith.” Now, this was not a name I had ever thought about before but it’s the kind of name I like and so I decided that she could have the name she told me she wanted.

Lenore is a family name. It is my mother and my niece’s middle name. It is from “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe.

Arthur Elliott Petty

We knew both babies would have their father’s last name and not mine so we decided to stick with a British theme for names. Arthur is simply a name we liked a lot. We then went to Wikipedia and found a bunch of Arthurs throughout history and fiction that we both found intriguing. Chief among them Arthur Conan Doyle, Art Garfunkel, Arthur Miller and Arthur Dent. Bonus: Harpo Marx’s first name is actually Arthur.

Elliott (double L, double T) is for Elliott Smith, my beloved songbird. If you know me a little bit then you know how important this artist is to me. It seemed fitting to name my son after him. Well, middle name at least.

And there you have it. Two kids, four names, the weight of history on their young shoulders.

Arthur Elliott Petty

People have asked where we got the names for our children from. The answer is, just around the place, but here’s a list of various people and entities with the same names.




  • Bruce Petty (born 1929), Australian political satirist and cartoonist
  • George Petty (1894–1975), American pin-up artist
  • Lori Petty (born 1963), American movie actress
  • Norman Petty (1927–1984), American musician, songwriter, and record producer
  • Tom Petty (born 1950), American musician
  • W. Morgan Petty, a fictional writer
  • Richard Petty (born 1937), son of Lee and the winningest driver in NASCAR Cup Series history
  • Matthew Petty, Alderman on City Council in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Edith Lenore Petty

People have asked where we got the names for our children from. The answer is, just around the place, but here’s a list of various people and entities with the same names.




  • Bruce Petty (born 1929), Australian political satirist and cartoonist
  • George Petty (1894–1975), American pin-up artist
  • Lori Petty (born 1963), American movie actress
  • Norman Petty (1927–1984), American musician, songwriter, and record producer
  • Tom Petty (born 1950), American musician
  • W. Morgan Petty, a fictional writer
  • Richard Petty (born 1937), son of Lee and the winningest driver in NASCAR Cup Series history
  • Matthew Petty, Alderman on City Council in Fayetteville, Arkansas


Arthur Elliott Petty and Edith Lenore Petty
Born 16 December 2015,
0941 and 0943 GST,
Abu Dhabi, UAE

Arthur Elliott Petty

Edith Lenore

All involved are happy and healthy, the babies are thriving and beautiful.

AutoHotKey Useful

I work a lot on my laptop when out on business, and I find that not having an app key (also known as the “right-click menu” key – although that is misleading) is a right royal pain. I like to use the keyboard as much as possible, and the trackpad is terrible.

I noticed this problem when I was going through some emails on my work laptop and marking them as done (I use the ‘Flagged completed’ function to make them disappear from my main folder). I wasn’t using the mouse, so I was using the up and down arrows to select an email, then hit AppsKey > U > M to mark the email complete.

That is, I would have done if my laptop had an app key. Without one, I had to use the mouse/trackpad, which meant taking my hands off the keyboard. I’m no touch-typist, but it was annoying.

“But surely”, you say, “can’t you just use the right trackpad button on the laptop, which is right there by the keyboard and does the same thing?”

First, let’s be clear about the difference between right click and the app key. They are not the same, but they are related:

  1. The app key is the key on a full-size keyboard below the right shift key and to the right of the right super (or Windows) key that that brings up a context-related app menu at the location of the cursor. It looks like a little menu or list, and sometimes has a little mouse pointer on it.
  2. The right button on your mouse brings up the same app menu at the location of the mouse pointer.
  3. If the cursor is in one position, and the mouse pointer is in a different position, pressing the Apps Key will bring up the menu at the location of the cursor, not the mouse pointer.
  4. If the cursor is in one position, and the mouse pointer is in a different position,right-clicking brings up the menu at the location of the mouse pointer.

This meant that if I was relying on the cursor to select items in the email list, moving up and down with the cursor keys, and not looking at the location of the mouse pointer, I needed the Apps Key, otherwise just hitting the right-click button would bring the menu up in the wrong place, and to avoid that I would have to move my hands from the keyboard, move the mouse, and it’s just a whole thing.

I found a solution in the form of AutoHotkey, which was always being plugged by the folks over at Lifehacker. AutoHotkey provides

Fast scriptable desktop automation with hotkeys


a scripting language for desktop automation

and it solved my problem easily. I installed it, and just added the following line to the default script:


All this does is remap the Caps Lock key (which I never use) to the App Key, so that now on my laptop I can easily bring up the app menu without using the mouse.

In addition, I added these lines:

^;::send %A_YYYY%-%A_MM%-%A_DD%
^+;::send [[%A_YYYY% %A_MM% %A_DD% %A_DDD%]]

These are extra. The first line just expands the very useful Excel and Access functionality of inserting today’s date with Ctrl+; across the whole of Windows. The second line does the same, but wraps the date in double square brackets to easily insert a valid date wiki link in my TiddlyWiki. Of course, the date is in ISO-8601 format to avoid confusion.

AutoHotkey is very powerful and useful, and these examples barely even touch the surface, let alone scratch it. Highly recommended.

Managing your tasks with todo.txt

[This was posted on my company’s internal intranet, hence the dry tone. But hey, content is content.]

I am always trying to find ways to manage my to-do list. I’ve tried various methods, including paper, Outlook, Google, and various phone apps, with varying amounts of success. Recently, I think I have found a method that seems to be working better than most. It uses a very simple but powerful tool called todo.txt.

Todo.txt was created by founder Gina Trapani, after realizing that many computer geeks were using a simple plain text file to manage their task list. She created a simple set of rules for formatting a plain text file (like what is produced by Windows Notepad) so that the information is structured in a predictable way.

The summarized rules are:

  • A single line in your todo.txt text file represents a single task
  • Priorities are always at the start of the line, in the form: (A), (B), (C) etc
  • Task contexts are represented like this: @Home, @Work, @Errands, @Phone etc
  • Projects (sets of related tasks) are represented like this: +DubaiMetro, +DohaMetro, +Renovations
  • Completed tasks start with an X (and a space)

There are some other rules including how to deal with creation dates, due dates, and completion dates. All the rules are here. There’s a lot more to it, including a dedicated Unix command-line tool, lots of powerful filters and so on, but the point is that it is very simple and powerful, with even more powerful features if you want them.

An example of a valid todo.txt file is:

2014-12-22 Submit application @Work +PM
2015-01-11 scan photos @Home +Blog
2015-01-12 @Work draw diagram +DubaiMetro
(A) Urgently buy milk @Errands
X This has been done @Home +Renovations
(A) Call Mom @Phone +Family
(A) Schedule annual checkup +Health
(B) Outline chapter 5 +Novel @Computer
(C) Add cover sheets @Office +TPSReports
Plan backyard herb garden @Home
Pick up milk @GroceryStore
Research self-publishing services +Novel @Computer
x Download Todo.txt mobile app @Phone

The smart things about todo.txt are:

  • You can edit the file using any text editor on any computer: Notepad, Sublime Text, gedit, vi, vim, emacs, the OSX default editor, you name it.
  • Because the formatting rules are fixed, apps can be created which use the format and provide a nice interface for managing your tasks. There are free apps available for Linux, OSX, Windows, Android and iOS.
  • Your todo.txt file can be in a cloud-based file storage service like DropBox. Mine is, and it means that I can view and edit it at work with one app (or directly in a text editor), in my phone with another app, and then again at home on Linux with whatever I want.
  • If you want paper, you can easily print the raw text file, or many of the apps provide a nicely formatted list with color highlights and checkboxes.
  • It’s future proof – it’s not locked in to any app or software, and can be moved around as much as I want.

It’s been working well for me. While it allows 26 levels of priority (A-Z), I only use 4 (A-D), and they mean this:

  1. The task I am working on right now
  2. The tasks I will do today
  3. Tasks that I plan to do this week.
  4. Tasks reserved for next week/future

The tool fits nicely with my attempts to keep control of my productivity and workflow, and I highly recommend it.

That Was My Jam

I used to enjoy posting a video with a fancy generated backdrop based on the video imagery. Sadly though, This Is My Jam has shut down, leaving only the archives of people’s posts. Was it The Guardian’s fault? Implicitly of course, as in all things, the answer is a reverberating yes.

They have been kind enough to set the site up as a kind of memorial, so you can browse other people’s archives as well as your own. Here are a few choice ones:

They also generated a little spiel about each years “jams”. Here are mine (I’ve emphasized some nice or strange bits):

2015: muteboy’s 2015 started strong with “Outdoor Miner (Wire cover)” by Hate Songs. 9 more jams followed it! Plenty of post-punk, new wave, and melodic death metal. muteboy found a rare one: “Burning Bridges” by Wire. People really liked “Good Morning Britain” by Aztec Camera (with Mick Jones). muteboy crossed 75 jams in February! And it all came to an end with muteboy’s final jam: “Rheinlust” by Fursattl.

2014: muteboy’s first jam of 2014 was “Living On The Ceiling (Vince Clarke Remix)” by Blancmange. 18 more jams followed it! Plenty of new wave, ambient, and 80s. muteboy posted a rare gem: “In The Space Capsule (Love Theme)” by Teeth Of The Sea. “It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back)” by Eurythmics got a lot of love. “Sequitur” by Steve Hauschildt closed out the year.

2013: The year got going with “Sensoria” by Cabaret Voltaire. muteboy found their eternal jam in August — “True Faith” by New Order. There was a lot of new wave, electronic, and electronica. “Dirty Epic” by Underworld got a lot of love. muteboy crossed 50 jams in November! “Europe Endless” by Kraftwerk closed out the year.

2012: In August, muteboy joined This Is My Jam, and kicked things off with “Never Be The Same” by Ulrich Schnauss. Nice. It was a year of electronica, ambient, and electronic. muteboy’s 2012 came to a close with “Zombie 303” by AGT Rave Cru.

In the absence of the site, I might still post the odd tune on here. (New stuff should probably go over on Both Bars On, I guess). Here’s my first one. In fact, it was the final tune I posted to TIMJ a few weeks ago, but I was playing it in the car this morning, and it put a smile on my face again, so here you are:

Printing a big map from OpenStreetMap for cheap

This is a followup from this post back in August 2013. The instructions described there no longer work, but this new way is easier and uses an open-source map. That last post got quite a few comments on it, asking for tips and telling me it no longer worked. I’m glad to provide an alternative.

I’ve recently needed to create large map images again, so I looked around for a new solution. I found it in the wonderful community around OpenStreetMap. From the About page:

OpenStreetMap is built by a community of mappers that contribute and maintain data about roads, trails, cafés, railway stations, and much more, all over the world.

Local Knowledge

OpenStreetMap emphasizes local knowledge. Contributors use aerial imagery, GPS devices, and low-tech field maps to verify that OSM is accurate and up to date.

Community Driven

OpenStreetMap’s community is diverse, passionate, and growing every day. Our contributors include enthusiast mappers, GIS professionals, engineers running the OSM servers, humanitarians mapping disaster-affected areas, and many more. To learn more about the community, see the user diaries, community blogs, and the OSM Foundation website.

Open Data

OpenStreetMap is open data: you are free to use it for any purpose as long as you credit OpenStreetMap and its contributors. If you alter or build upon the data in certain ways, you may distribute the result only under the same licence. See the Copyright and License page for details.

I particularly like the “free to use” bit, and because it’s free, people have built some amazing tools that extract and format the data in useful ways. All we want is a big exported image of a certain area, so here are the steps.

  1. Use the Firefox browser. (You can probably duplicate these steps in other browsers, but I’ll leave that up to you)
  2. Install the Easy Screenshot add-on. (There are probably equivalent add-ons for other browsers)
  3. Go to BigMap 2, which is a tool created using the open data from OpenStreetMap.
  4. Click and drag and zoom to find the rough area you want a map of. You don’t have to be exact – go bigger than you need.
  5. Select the map display type using the buttons on the right. This is very cool – as well as the regular types you can have a watercolor effect, cycling map, Russian language map, or (my favorite for the work I’m doing at the moment) the toner and toner-lite versions. Play around and see what you like. Another advantage of the open data model is that people are free to create new display types.
  6. Once you’ve selected the area and the map type, click Submit.
  7. In the new screen, you can see a nice big map. But this map is made up of a grid of map tiles which make up  the whole map. If you right click in the map, and save the image under the cursor, you’ll only be saving one small tile. A control panel at the top left allows you to manipulate the map. I’ll try and describe what the controls do. Play around, you can always click on ‘BigMap’ in the control panel to go back and start again.
    • The information line at the top shows the number of map tiles shown, the total map resolution, the zoom level, and the aspect ratio.
    • EXPAND lets you expand the area covered on each side, without affecting the zoom level. It adds map tiles to do this – you can see in the information line.
    • SHIFT lets you shift the view one tile width up, down, left or right, without affecting the zoom level.
    • SHRINK lets you shrink the area one tile width up, down, left or right, without affecting the zoom level. It removes map tiles to do this.
    • The ZOOM controls are as follows:
      • in/double size zooms in on the map, and makes the size of the map area bigger as well, by adding map tiles.
      • in/keep size zooms in on the map without making the size of the map area bigger.
      • out/keep size zooms out while keeping the map size the same.
      • out/halve size zooms out while halving the map size.
    • The bottom row of controls include the ‘BigMap’ link which takes you back to the first screen, and the ‘hide this’ link.
    • The controls below that allow you to save special scripts to generate the required map, but I’m bypassing those. I think there is a function to ‘Enqueue’ the map for generation and download, but I don’t think it works on huge images, and a huge image is what we want.
  8. Using the controls, find the area and zoom level you want. I found that zoom level 13 gives nice street- and building-level detail. As you zoom in, notice that the image grows bigger than the browser window and scroll bars have appeared. Scroll around and enjoy your huge map!
  9. Click hide this to hide the control panel. If you need it back, just click the map.
  10. Using the Easy Screenshot add-on, click Capture Whole Web Page. The add-on has some editing tools, but I just click the save button to save the image to the desktop, or copy to put it on the clipboard.
  11. You now have a huge map image you can print, edit, or otherwise use. Enjoy!
  12. If you want to print it on a presentation board, follow the instructions on the old post here.

Open data, people creating free tools, it’s great. If you have need for maps in your business, check out Switch2OSM for information about using this stuff commercially.

I’m using these maps to semi-automatically generate cover art for my podcast, The Coiled Spring. Check out Episode 15 here.

We’re In

Cassie and I moved into our new apartment in Abu Dhabi on Friday, bringing to an end a far-too-long period of living out of suitcases in hotel rooms. Our new place, on the 15th floor of the Capital Plaza building, has a view of the Arabian Gulf, two bedrooms, four bathrooms (yes) and tiled floors throughout. The Capital Plaza building complex contains the fancy Sofitel, has five towers (hotel, office, three residences), and looks like it was designed by Ivo Shandor. I’ll be posting some photographs soon.

Four bathrooms in the American sense. two bedrooms, each with an en-suite, one “powder room” or “cloak room”, and one bathroom off the maid’s room (yes), which we’re using to store boxes.

There’s a lot more to write about obviously, because the last couple of months have been a real rollercoaster. More to come. In the meantime, I will leave you with a new word I learned today:

A contraction of “Abu Dhabi” and “anniversary”. People celebrate (in their own way) many abuversaries. 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, 5 years, whatever it takes to mark the passing of time, and your ability to survive.