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David's diary: October 1996

Oops, I let it slip again didn't I?

I'm had the flat to myself for the last couple of weeks with my flatmate and his girlfiend sunning themselves on some exotic Greek island. Oh for a holiday! Well I suppose I did go to Dublin not so long ago, which was better than nothing. It's been nice having a bit more space for myself though, so I shouldn't really complain, and it will seem strange having them back again next weekend. The gas bill finally arrived the other day, covering, I think, 298 days of service. My flatmate was wondering if they'd forgotten about us, but obviously not. Mind you, the sum involved isn't too horrendous, not for the best part of a year's use anyway!

Work is going a bit better; I had some really good meetings with the department commissioning the work I'm doing, and it all became a lot clearer. I won't go so far as to say 'easier', but at least I know what the goalposts are now; I can finally see the wood for the trees. As well as my current project, we also discussed future work - the main one being a linguistic skills assessment system for companies, which I would consider to be an interesting system to develop. My impression of Toolbook is changing slowly, thanks to a frank e-mail conversation I have been having with one of Asymetrix's technical staff. I don't think I'm ever going to like Toolbook, exactly, but I am beginning to understand why it works the way it does, to some extent, which will be essential if I am to keep my head during the current project which I have now 99.9% decided to follow through using the package.

The car is still going well, and I'm not wheel-spinning it as much as I used to. People seemed quite amazed that I was managing to wheel-spin a Metro at all, in both first and second, though it wasn't something I liked doing. My cop-out way of reducing the wheel-spin though is to take routes that don't require such hasty get-aways at junctions etc. Oh well... While out shopping the other day I saw a Nova of exactly the same specification as my old one, but a J-reg, in one of the Central MK car parks. It was reassuring to know there are still some around even if they are not for sale. If I see it again I'll probably slap a "call me if you want to sell it" sticker on it, though that's probably being a bit cheeky!

Last weekend was, um, interesting. Just as I was about to leave work on Friday night, I got a message from Willy M (ex London Beat) asking if I wanted to come up to his Res Rocket Surfer studios in London on Sunday night for his birthday bash. Just too late for me to book the following Monday off work, unfortunately, so I've spent most of this week recovering from chronic sleep deprivation. But while there, I think I truly experienced the future of music... I am maybe a little bound by the Non Disclosure Agreement I had to sign before seeing anything, but I think I can safely say that I took part in an internet based MIDI jam session, with players from all over the world. Truly amazing, and much, much, better than I could ever have imagined - not even a hint of lag! The software involved is to go commercial, on Mac and PC, next year, and I'm certainly going to continue if I can - I'm hooked! For more information, have a look at http://www.resrocket.com, but if you have an interest in music, MIDI, and the internet, you might as well forget ever escaping... Willy M is also a self-confessed (even if I had to beat the confession out of him!) gadget freak; he photographed all of us there with his Casio digital camera, which seems ultimately cool for anyone running a web site and wanting to get photos on-line - I think he plans a web-based rogues' gallery of studio visitors with the pictures he was taking!

Anyway, better be going, hopefully write a bit more often - deja vu strikes again...

Well what's happened now? Not a great deal really, except that I seem to have found a spare moment or three to write a few words for this lengthening tome.

I managed to get home last weekend, supposedly for a bit of a rest, but ended up helping cut my neighbour's hedge and running errands for my parents - ah the joys of being mobile. One of my main incentice for going home though was to collect at least a little bit of my music gear, well enough that I can actually write a bit of music with my sound card, useful seeing as I've landed myself a little bit of an earning opportunity writing music for web sites. I've now written two bits of music for that purpose, striking a difficult mid-point in musical styles and sounding good with the diversity of sound cards - I could test it with my AWE32 and Sound Blaster 16, and also with the Ensoniq Soundscape at work. The Ensoniq probably sounded the worst, but it was all generally quite acceptable, and I've passed the file on for comments now anyway... Anyway I now have my keyboard here, and that's a big concession - it's just a little more natural using a full-size keyboard than a keyboard simulator running on the PC keyboard. I've also brought my drum module, so I'll be working a bit on improving probably my weakest point at the moment - programming decent rhythms, i.e. anything other than thump-hiss-bash-hiss-thump-hiss-bash-hiss etc stuff.

There was an interesting meeting at work today, but one which opened a whole new can of worms as far as my current project is concerned. It was billed as a 'multimedia demonstration' but was actually a kind of talk/seminar about the University's language projects and how they fitted in with the greater scheme of things. I'm a little bound by confidentiality (this seems a common occurrence these days...), but whereas when I started, my project was 'just a little program they were working on', when I met the language department, I discovered how it fitted in with their aims and ambitions; now after this meeting today, it turns out my work is going to be a cornerstone in the University's European ambitions within the TELOS language distance learning scheme, and to be designed to integrate with a multitude of different applications from other consortium members. So much for that 'little program'... What I think of this all, I have yet to decide, but it's certainly going to be interesting, whatever happens.

Well my flatmate and his girlfriend are back from their holiday now, so it's a houseful again. We've blitzed the flat tonight with vacuum, duster and Flash liquid, and it's definitely an improvement. The dog seems happy to have some company again at any rate. My flatmate's girlfriend - Emma - has now started her job in Milton Keynes, and seems to have got off to a good start. She's a quality assurance manager for a food manufacturing company, which is her established area of expertise. Julian meanwhile plugs on with his work with a medical software company, complaining today about the level of the newly-arrived ISDN phone-bill, specifically a single 50 pound call he emphatically denies having made; 50 pounds is a heck of a long time, even at daytime call rates, now ISDN is charged at the same rate as regular phone calls.

Anyway, I'd better be off to bed soon - I'm writing this off-line at the flat, and time's getting on - so I'll bid you all goodnight, and hope I can keep up this frequency of postings... By the way, is anyone actually reading this? If you are, why not U2U me with your comments on the boring life I lead.

Hey Gozza's diary readers! This diary is not x-rated, and is proud of it. What's been going down since I last put pen to c:\dave\diary.txt? Well nothing too exciting, I have to say, but not completely uneventful either...

The project at work is really getting me down at the moment, having spent the last week or so running in circles trying to solve a problem which would take only about 10 minutes using a different language to Toolbook - and I know, because I tried it, but I'm more or less committed to using Toolbook now. However I may declare my first two months of work to be wasted, and blame it on bad decisions previously made by other people - which wouldn't be too far from the truth, indeed practically spot on. I don't know if they will let me program in Delphi - I had a go with Borland's 30-day trial edition and really liked it, but although I have spied a few of the distinctive orange boxes around the department, I don't think it's a system we officially use, preferring C++ for real programming, which I'm not yet au fait with, certainly not for the Windows side of things, but have a training course coming up next month.

I got the web page music written by my deadline, so a cheque is apparently winging its way through the post to me for that. I don't know the web address it is going to be used on, but I'm sure I will let you know when I do, so you can amuse yourself. We've also now ordered a new Demon account for the flat here, though the nodename we chose currently escapes me - it's something from Gaelic mythology anyway and probably utterly unspellable. I've been designing some pages for myself to go up on the 5 megabytes of web space Demon recently started offering its dial-up customers. They're nothing fancy, indeed they are currently completely devoid of anything that probably even an early version of Lynx would turn its nose up at, though I might start tarting them up a bit, if - as I am seriously thinking of doing - I get a scanner.

All these things I want to buy though, it's bad news. Especially music equipment, because that's the most expensive of the lot, really. I'm thinking of buying a Yamaha WX11 and VL70m, which between them essentially make up an electronic saxophone, and a hell of a lot more besides. I would be talking of blowing a month's wages if I got them though, so I'm still not definite, though I know what I want to do! I also want to buy a decent effects box, such as the Digitech Studio Quad, which will just about set me up for the music creation side of things, but then I'll have to worry about the recording aspects - a cheap 16:4 desk and a MiniDisc multitracker (probably a Sony one, looking at the basic specifications) are looking very tempting indeed. Oh, then plus a DAT recorder - sheesh, and I was supposed to be getting a new car sometime next year; something's got to give.

I recently took the plunge and ordered a credit card, so it might help with that kind of thing, giving me the best part of two months to pay interest-free, if I time things right. I've ordered one of those MBNA Visa cards, which have no annual fee and a much lower interest rate than high street banks' cards. There seemed nothing to lose really, even if I decided never to use it. Oh and I got a free umbrella, which is safely in the back of the car for emergencies.

This Sunday was my second week of trying out a church here in Milton Keynes. I used to go to mainly Anglican churches regularly, but hadn't been anywhere really since starting work here, what with settling in and everything. Well last weekend I was in Central Milton Keynes shopping centre and there was a Christian music event going on, and I got talking to people there. They were from the Milton Keynes Covenant Fellowship, a relatively new free church, who meet at a number of local schools around the city. They seem a lively and friendly bunch, and with good music and sound teaching, what more would one want? They are pretty strong on spiritual warfare, having played a pivotal role in the overturning of a decision by the local council to legalise witchcraft in the city.

For Hallowe'en night, the MKCF are planning a series of prayer vigils around the city, which sounds good to me. I have never liked the idea of Hallowe'en, even before becoming a Christian, but now I like it even less, and for all that those who participate in the "traditional" events may protest that they are warding off the evil spirits and all that, I say they are basically revelling in it, and don't understand what it is they are getting involved with. I'm not saying that every child with a black hat and a broomstick is an apprentice occultist, but it is a dangerous thing to even imitate, I feel. If it was pure fantasy, then I could probably just about tolerate it, but these forces of evil are real. In the past, I have heard many reliable accounts of the forces of demons and the devastating effect that possession by then demons can have on the spiritually weak, and they have only ever been overcome by solid prayer and Christian healing, not by celebration of the world of evil. Call me a spoilsport, but I'm only saying this because I care.

Anyway, better be going, especially if I am - as I hope - going to tonight's prayer/worship meeting at the church tonight. I haven't been to one of their evening meetings yet, but have been to similar things in the past, so I may as well give it a try.

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