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The pedant’s revolt

Autumn. Saturday morning. Blue sky.

Pretty much my favourite time of the week, year, ever, ever. But recently I have been forced to reappraise some of my other favourite things. Favourite smell remains a bonfire at night when I am outside (has to be dark), favourite animal remains the sting ray. But my very, very favourite thing in the whole world – writing lists – I am no longer so sure of. In fact, these days it makes me feel a bit feint (ruled).

I have always been the world’s best list writer, and like to think my pedantic instincts and wholehearted love of bullet points helped me get work in typo-inserting at Linux Format. I am also good at the related arts of lecture note taking (useful for buying friends at university), keeping minutes at a meeting and shopping-list writing (ordered into the different sections of the supermarket, natch). Sometimes, and I feel dirty for admitting this, I have even added tasks I have already completed to my to-do list just for the satisfaction of being able to strike them off. Once I got a job in Oxford that required me to do a bit of project management, so to prepare I took a book on the subject on holiday to Spain and spent the week corralling everyone into the car and leading them on highly organised day trips with feedback sessions afterwards (”was the time we spent at the shop by the side of the road that was slightly too packed with local rustique ceramics a/ too short, b/ too long, or c/ – ow! Why are you hitting me with your chorizo?”).

But recently, readers, I have not been enjoying my list writing with my usual gusto. I sit here at my LXF Towers desk with my to-do list sellotaped to my desk, and I feel not heartened by the sight, but downcast. Do I really need an entry telling me to “go through my emails”? Just how inspiring is an order exhorting me to “post something interesting on LXF wiki”? Really, how often do I get to the bottom of a to-do list, anyway? There is always one thing, like the lugey at the bottom of a pint glass or the dead daddy-long-legs on the window sill, that never goes away, that never gets dealt with, that IS NEVER CROSSED OFF. For me, it is invariably the job requiring creativity: “come up with an idea for the news section”, “think of ways to engage the reader”, and so on.

And if you ask me that is wrong, wrong, wrong, The funnest, most creative, most important stuff is being left to last while I clean out my stationery draw (check) and update the word counts for writers (check). Well, I think it might be time to turn the to-do list on its head. Forget the easy, mundane stuff! From now on I will spend my time brainstorming new ways to present our tutorials and thinking up music-themed headlines for the next Ubuntu release (my latest: Sitting on the Brock of the Bay, Breezy like Sunday Morning, Ubuntu Are You? and Brown Distro in the Ring) and yes! dammit, posting something interesting on the LXF wiki! And if the issue goes to press late because I’ve neglected deadlines, so be it!

Well, better sign off. My notebook tells me I’ve still got to go to the library and rearrange my sock drawer before lunch.


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