Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Somewhat Disturbing Tale

I believe I have mentioned from time to time that the Younger Son is... a little dangerous.

Nobody ever takes it seriously, though. He's the middle kid, after all. Jake is taller and much more talkative and gregarious. And of course, the Mau-Mau is terminally cute, and vivacious, and determined to be the centre of attention. Younger son is just a small-ish, slightly stocky blond boy with a mischievous grin.

Of course, if you look carefully, you discover stuff. For example: he's been helping me in the kitchen, slicing vegetables, since before he turned four years old. Seriously -- he really wanted to be involved, and he showed me that he had the necessary concentration and dexterity. He's not fast, no, but he handles a chef's knife better than most adults I know.

And for his fourth birthday he got a cordless electric drill. Okay - it's actually a cordless screwdriver, because his hands are small, but he loves taking things apart and trying to figure out how they work, and an electric drill was the great desire of his life at the time. He still has the device, with all its bits. And he still uses it.

Then there's that slight stockiness. He's going to basic gymnastics once a week now. Last week, he broke their local record for holding a reverse-grip chin-up. Watching him on the beam, you feel he might as well be trotting along open ground. They use an odd, lozenge-shaped cushion thing to force the kids to work their balance while doing deep knee bends: Younger Son doesn't wobble at all while he's doing his bit, and instead of doing a measured count of knee-bends, he just keeps going until they finally notice and tell him to stop.

He's not a talker, though. It would never occur to him to make much of these things. They're natural to him, and from time to time he expresses puzzlement that others can't do the same. But he is learning. And he has something else on his side: patience, and a devilish concentration.

They've only been back at school about four weeks. In his new classroom this year, Younger Son found that one among the various laptop computers didn't have a power supply. When he asked, he was told that the power supply had been misplaced because they'd lost the password for the computer, and they were waiting for the (harried and harassed!) IT guy to come and reset it.

Younger Son ferreted about the classroom until he found an appropriate power supply. Then he asked for permission to try and use the computer. His teacher, not knowing the little beast for what he is, apparently thought nothing of it.

The passwords for these 'puters are alphanumeric, and nine digits in length. There are some limits on the character range they use at the school, but I'm not going to detail them here. Likewise, they have some habitual patterns they use in their passwords, apparently, but again, no details needed.

It took him about two and a half weeks of brute-force password entry tests. And then one day he came home with a big grin. "All the other kids want to use my computer," he said. "But I won't tell them the password."

Of course, he'd not told me anything about the whole matter, so I had to tease the details out of him. But yes: he'd slowly, patiently, methodically worked his way through a range of potential passwords before he found it. And now he has essentially private access to the hitherto unusable computer...

He will be nine years old on his next birthday, on Christmas Eve. I have absolutely NO idea what to give him for his birthday this year...


  1. Give him something broken. Heck, get him a wreck of a car and see what happens.

  2. Actually, bad idea. He'll be driving it by the time he's 10, but you get the idea. something big with lots of fidgetty bits.

  3. Congratulations to the lad, beats the old bike locks I used to crack. Lockpicks?

  4. 1. Aquire stolen credit cards that require PINs
    2. Give to son to work out PINs
    3. PROFIT!

  5. Medway: our current project is simple. We have an old lawnmower motor. We've taken it apart, and cleaned it up, and put it back together. We need to replace the head gasket and the spark plug (and the fuel tank, which Natalie somehow lost after we took it off and left it in the kitchen) but by then we should have the motor running again.

    At that point, we're going to put a big duct fan where the blades used to be, mount the motor on a simple plywood/polystyrene body with an inner-tube rubber skirt around the edge... and he should have a working hovercraft-scooter.

    Stay with us, and see how it comes out!

  6. Flinty ... think about getting him into some basic coding if he loves the computer stuff ... like building things, but with your grey matter.

    Love the way that you encourage your chilluns'


  7. That boy is going to provide you with a lot of stories as he grows!


  8. That 2 stroke powered hovercraft scooter idea is just chockful of awesome - I commend you sir!

  9. Nice one Flinthart - I too love your style and encouragement with your kids.

    With a real hovercraft, Younger Son will be one step ahead of JB and his imaginary ones, even if the imaginary ones are gold-plated....

  10. I might have a present for him. Check your email :)

  11. Actually, check it tonight. I don't have your email at work :)