goznet ...

David's diary: April 1999

It's Good Friday afternoon, and I guess as Friday afternoons go, it has indeed been a good one - though I'm not so sure my building society balance is going to agree in a few days time. They never said that bank holidays were good days for buying shoes - which I did - but I believe they are quite traditional days for buying cars - which I also did. The shoes are unexciting but quite nice ones, at an even nicer price - though nothing can really beat the ones that are just finally wearing out after well over two years, probably the best-spent fifteen quid in history.

The car isn't wonderfully exciting either, but it runs very well, and goes like the proverbial off a shovel without any problem - I might even have to be a little careful, given how easily it got up to eighty and beyond on the A5. I guess I was a bit preoccupied when taking it out for the test drive - every car taking a little getting used to - so I'm sure I will find it a bit more exciting as time goes on. Incredibly, it is the car I looked at and immediately fell in love with last weekend, a dark red 1997 P-reg Hyundai Accent Coupe Si with most mod cons - I had assumed it would have long since been sold. I had to wait ages to get the test drive - the salesman was there on his own today, and rushed off his feet - but thankfully it drove as nicely as it looked, and it didn't take me long to sign on the dotted line and agree to collect it in a week's time. That gives them plenty of time to clean it up, check it over and everything, and for me to sort out the rest of the payment and insurance.

I'm getting five hundred quid for the Metro in part exchange, which wasn't bad going - considering it'll be as good as useless when four-star gets withdrawn at the end of the year, assuming it would even have got through the MOT due in a couple of weeks - but with things like the balance of the manufacturer's warranty still intact on the Accent, there wasn't really much room for negotiation or "extras", other than getting six months' road tax which is probably pretty standard. It was actually marginally cheaper than Parker's guide price for a top-notch example, so I think I got a good deal all told. Roll on next Friday evening, I say...

Before that, though, I need to go into the Halifax and get them to write me out a building society cheque, and also to phone my insurers to get a cover note for the new car - I might well do the latter later today, though the Halifax was only open until three o'clock this afternoon, being a bank holiday and all that, so that will have to wait until tomorrow at the earliest. As is usual, I have to drop in the cover note to the dealer in advance if I want the car taxed from the moment I collect it, but with a week to sort all this stuff out there should be no problem.

It'll be sad to finally say goodbye to the Metro after it's been in the family for so long - probably six or seven years - but I can't really get that emotionally attached to cars, and it has done good service both for my mum and myself. It will be quite nice, however, to step up a level of refinement with the new car, with its electric windows, four-speaker stereo, sun-roof and a few other nice bits and pieces - the Metro really was very basic, and I thought it was about time I treated myself to a little luxury, especially as I'm finding myself driving around a lot more than before, including ever-increasing trips up and down the M1 and so on.

Anyway, Angela's just arrived, and I'd agreed to help her with a small programming assignment in a little while's time, so I guess I'd better be wrapping this up for now, and refreshing my memory of programming in Logo, the language Angela seems determined to use despite it not really being the best suited to the task in hand. I'm not sure quite what the rest of the weekend holds; Zoe's certainly going to be up here for Sunday, though she may well decide to travel up on Saturday afternoon or evening - we'll just have to wait and see...

I left everyone on the cliffhanger of Angela's arrival to get some advice with her computer programming. She's doing a project about pi - as in 3.141592653... etc - and had a few pseudocode algorithms for calculating it iteratively, but wasn't too sure about where to start with converting them to real code. She'd hoped to be able to program them in Logo - since that's a language she has on her PC at home - but we had real trouble installing the package, and even then found the language to be very badly suited to exercises of that sort, as I had somewhat expected, to be quite honest. So by a roundabout route Angela ended up doing the routines in BASIC, which she should also have at home as part of any standard MS-DOS installation, and at least two of the three algorithms worked as we expected. The other one we were not so sure about, but it was a bit more of a hit-and-miss approach, so we might just have been a bit unlucky.

The evening's now nice and quiet after a really quite busy day for a bank holiday. I had the opportunity to go out and - as we did last night at neighbourhood group - dish out creme eggs to unsuspecting members of the public, but I'm really very tired, so a long bath and an early night I think are in order instead. Tomorrow morning, I'll do all my shopping and stuff - and probably pop into the Halifax too to sort out that building society cheque - and then phone my car insurers, since I didn't get round to doing that today, and it would probably be better to do it on a Saturday than a bank holiday anyway.

Water fights are fun, especially when they involve Angela. It's not so fun clearing up afterwards, but on balance, it's probably worth it. The heating will be on overnight, so hopefully the carpets will be at least vaguely dry by the morning, though with quite a few gallons of water exchanged, we might well be squelching around for a few days yet...

Everything's on course for next Friday now - or I hope so anyway - with an insurance cover note on order and a pre-cleared building society cheque in my possession. The extra premium payable will be almost completely covered by the road tax refund I'll be getting, though as is usual with these things it's a touch on the high side - regular readers will recall the horror at the extra premium when I moved house, though this was not reflected anywhere near as much in the renewal quote when that came through a couple of months later. Desperately trying to find my insurers' phone number, I finally started sorting through all my miscellaneous accumulated paperwork; there's a long way to go before it will all be properly categorised - or binned as appropriate - but it's a start, and it's long overdue. Expecting a phone call from Zoe shortly, to say she's on her way; she's visiting overnight for a change, which is perhaps just as well given that I've agreed to play at the celebration tomorrow morning, meaning an early start for everyone. And the carpets? Well they're still a little soggy after last night's fun and games, but they're slowly getting there, even if the cost is having a house like a Turkish bath for a couple more days yet...

Well that was a most pleasant evening, and now I'm about to call it a day before a busy Sunday ahead - what with playing in the band tomorrow morning, apart from anything else that might unfold as the day goes on. Zoe arrived at about half past six this evening, after a busy day herself, and we took advantage of the unseasonally glorious weather with a stroll down to the Barge for an evening meal - but not before sorting out what was going to happen later. Indeed later, we picked up Josie and met with Andy and Rosie at the Olde Swan for a leisurely drink and natter. Zoe's spending the night at Josie's, which worked out to be for the best for a number of reasons, and she'll be driving back here in the morning in time for a bite to eat before we leave for Wolverton.

Sunday amply lived up to expectations, with Zoe enjoying not having a fifty-mile drive here for a change thanks to staying overnight at Josie's, and an excellent morning at Celebration in Wolverton. There had been a last-minute change of speakers, but Stuart and Barry from Yarm were great replacements, a real inspiration to everyone there with their powerful testimonies and engagingly upbeat approach. We lunched on Zinger Tower meals at KFC, and went for an afternoon stroll round an exceptionally busy Willen Lake, then had a relatively quiet evening in, sharing Easter eggs, salad and French bread sandwiches, watching the incredible Davis Cup match decider on the television and listening to an unintentionally rather amusing Christian rock CD. Zoe's now on her way home, and I'm going to get a fairly early night, especially since there's some crack-pot plan to go to the beach tomorrow, entailing a ten o'clock start from Andy and Rosie's. Bang goes my planned bank-holiday lie-in, but it should be fun anyway.

Today's bank-holiday trip to the seaside was all very pleasant, even if the sun only came out once we were driving home and I almost broke most of the toes on my right foot. I travelled with Andy and Rosie, but Matt's car wouldn't start again after we stopped for a bite to eat, and in attempting to bump-start it, my foot got in the way - only these fairly sturdy new shoes saved the day, I suspect... We bought some jump-leads at the garage there and got the car going again, and we arrived at Southwold on the Suffolk coast for a late fish and chips lunch and a walk on the sea-front. Then we drove a few miles up the coast to a little hamlet called Covehithe, and went for a walk along the rapidly eroding cliffs, followed by the briefest of dips into the numbingly freezing water - and I admit I was the most chicken of the three of us who dared even try. We returned to Milton Keynes via Beccles, stopping off there for a quick drink and to have a quick look at Andy's old family house, and finally got back to Andy and Rosie's at about eight o'clock. Supper was a couple of rather unimpressive but still nicely filling dial-a-pizzas, and then I headed back home, just too exhausted after a long day and needing to be up in good time for work tomorrow.

Another step closer to collecting the new car, today, with the insurance papers dropped off at the garage at lunchtime, so that they can sort the road tax out in advance. Apparently it's not a problem that the paperwork won't technically be valid until Friday evening - they have an "understanding" with the Post Office... No-one from work chose to join me on what will probably have been the last-but-one trip of anything more than trivial distance for the Metro; I lunched at the Burger King next door to the garage - a little more expensive than most of their restaurants, but at least I have a 10% discount card for next time I go up - and I was hoping I might get a little company. But never mind, at least I got the important stuff sorted out, so now it's just a matter of waiting, and finding an opportunity at some point to sort out about two years' worth of miscellaneous clobber from the Metro's boot and passenger foot-well.

Just spent the bulk of the evening on the phone, first trying - and failing - to talk to my mum, then giving my brother Pete a ring instead and having a good half hour's natter with him about anything and everything. Things seem to be going very well for him and Fiona, with the only downer being that their car's in the garage at the moment with engine-management problems. In particular, Fiona's almost back to full health after the grave condition she was in last year, which is great news, and she's got a full-time job too. Pete also gave me the telephone number for my cousin Kate who lives locally but I've never been to see in all the time I've been up here - although she reckons she might have caught my eye in the shopping centre one day last year, but then quite possibly so did a good many young ladies! - so I'll get in touch with her shortly, I think. She's going through rough times one way or another, and it's only right that I should at least offer some support while she's only just up the road from here. I guess I ought to go visit Pete and Fiona too, though...

I finally got through to my mum - I'd been trying on and off for a couple of days, getting only engaged tones; I was beginning to get a little concerned, hence my phoning Pete in the first place - and had just over an hour's chat with her. She and my dad seem to have had a pleasant, if somewhat wet, Easter break in Dorset, and I might head home to see them for at least a short while this weekend, new car permitting and all that. Biggest news relayed by mum is that not only have my sister and family finally moved into their big new house in Criccieth, but the family's also about to grow once again, with her sixth child due in the summer. This comes as a bit of a shock to everyone involved, to say the least, but I think they're now warming to the idea and it is a good indicator in many ways given recent events, even if their eldest daughter is more than a little bemused at how quickly things seem to have swung between extremes. It will make their already pretty large family utterly huge, and emphasises still more the importance of their having moved house when they did.

Not a bad day at work, though got off to a hungry start with no money except for a 1986 two-pound coin which the ladies in the shop turned their nose up at despite being legal tender, but soon rectified with a quick trip downstairs to the bank once it was open. I made good progress with producing the second version of the UDP analysis tool, having received the thumbs-up from Craig the other day. This new one supports multiple clients properly and should be a lot more reliable, making it far more suitable for distribution to students and unattended server operation.

I left work in good time this evening, though, to leave plenty of time before neighbourhood group to clear out my Metro of all the accumulated junk from the last couple of years; it was amazing quite how much it all came to when stacked in the hallway, and it's going to get a good sort through before any but the most essential bits go into the new car. I also gave the Metro a quick wash down - nothing too special, but it really was very grubby, and I thought it would be a nice gesture to hand it over in at least a semi-respectable condition.

Neighbourhood group was good, with the key activity being to look at the bigger picture and identify some worthwhile goals in life, not necessarily spiritually-based - something I think I will find very valuable to refine and persevere with, being someone who generally muddles on from day to day without a great deal of vision. After a break for Paul's Hebrews study, in a couple of weeks' time we're going ten-pin bowling along with Giles' group, which should be a lot of fun; hopefully we won't end up on a faulty lane like we did last time though...

Just got back in from half a weekend back at home - my first trip to see my parents for a fair while, and the last one was only a flying visit en route to Iver Heath if I recall. This one also involved Iver Heath, oddly enough - enjoying a drive and a brief drink with Zoe before heading back to Milton Keynes - though at least this time I spent a fair bit of time with my parents. I would have stayed another night, but with Zoe visiting tomorrow, and me playing in church in the morning with little opportunity to duck out, given that most of the musicians are away on a leadership course leaving only skeletal coverage at best.

Having picked up the Accent Coupe from Old Stratford only a little while earlier on Friday evening, this was its first proper outing, and it seemed to run very nicely, even if it will take a fair bit of getting used to - especially when reversing, with very different rear visibility from the Metro. Fuel economy is looking reasonable so far, and the unleaded petrol it uses is a fair bit cheaper than four-star anyway, but the real test will be on the typical daily driving I do, where the Metro rarely reached even the minimum economy it was supposed to, according to the information I have in my little book of second hand cars.

Back at my parents, I had a relaxed time, catching up on stuff, and doing a few technical jobs for them. I popped round to see my neighbours yesterday evening, since they were off to Normandy at some unearthly hour this morning - I'm not sure when I saw them last, and since that time, Rebecca had landed a job at my old school, amongst other family developments. I managed to find a home for the badly-fitting shoes I bought last weekend; they fitted my dad much better than me, so he's happily taken them off my hands - or should I say my feet - which is good news indeed, though it means I've got to buy another pair now...

Anyway, with a busy day and an early start tomorrow, I'd better get this entry wrapped up, and send off the customary "got home safely" e-mail to Zoe. Goodnight everyone!

It's Monday night, and I'm off to bed shortly after another twelve-hour day at work, thanks to being required for on-line technical support this evening. The drudgery was punctuated for a short while when I gave Jon and Philippa a lift home so they could avoid the April showers, and got a meal out of doing so too, which was all very nice. Jon's shepherds pie made up for the vegetarian buffet lunch provided for a T305 almost-being-complete party - very tasty, but some of us do need a little meat in our diet.

Yesterday was a fun and busy day, with Zoe driving up in the morning, arriving in good time since I was playing in church, then later going for lunch at Pizza Hut with Andy and Rosie. The Sicilian meal deal was still running, even though it was supposed to have finished at the end of March, so we got plenty of food for not too much money. Then drove back to Andy and Rosie's, phoned Alan and Helen, and all went for a walk near the canal in Wolverton, before returning to Alan and Helen's for cheese and ham toasted sandwiches, most of a film on television, and then to the Olde Swan for a swift half or two to finish things off nicely.

Such a non-stop busy weekend took its toll on me, and I am utterly shattered now, and grateful that I can in theory at least have a little bit of a lie-in tomorrow morning. It's been great fun though - worth being tired for, most definitely...

Another long evening of being on technical support duty, and with about a fifty percent success rate, which is better than normal. What wasn't so successful was trying to get a meal down at the Cellar Bar, finding they were understaffed and not offering hot food this evening. I was so looking forward to my customary pizza slice with extra ham and a sausage and brown sauce toastie, but a cheese salad roll and a packet of crisps just had to do instead. I finally got around to sending off a couple of bits and pieces to DVLA today, meaning I am now officially shot of the Metro, and should get back most of its road tax in a couple of weeks. Otherwise, a pretty uneventful day, really, but just as well seeing how tired I was, and still am. I'll try and get an earlier night tonight, I think - it was only just before midnight that I eventually turned in last night, and I wasn't too grateful for that come this morning.

Not the most amazingly exciting day ever, but I've known a lot worse, and it didn't seem to drag by too much, with a reasonable amount of stuff to be getting on with. Spent this evening catching up a bit with Mark - who's been away for a few days doing one thing and another - and playing around a bit making weird noises with one of my old keyboards. Doctor Who themes I was told it sounded like; I suppose I should take that as a compliment... It's nice to have a relatively decent and relaxing evening at home for a change; I did a little bit of work towards the MKCF web site before heading off from work, but I was still home well before nine o'clock, unlike Monday or Tuesday. I believe there's a good film on in a little while, so I guess I'll get this diary entry added in, give Zoe a ring to see how today's been, and then put my feet up in the company of Mr Seagal for the rest of the evening.

So ends another week, and unlike last week, this one actually had an excuse for seeming long and a little bit tedious, with more than its fair share of late nights and so on. I haven't helped much by not capitalising on those less hectic nights, such as Wednesday when I was up til who knows quite when playing - and remarkably, winning - at Scrabble, or last night watching Contact again after neighbourhood group.

Tonight I doubt will be any more relaxed, with the suggestion of searching out some live music of some description. Similarly tomorrow evening looks to be quite hectic with a pizza night out in Newport Pagnell, but being a taxi service too for good measure. I don't think these few days will go down as the best for dietary quality, with tomorrow's pizza added to by two McDonalds's yesterday and a Burger King lunch today...

While in Bletchley at lunchtime, also popped into Halfords to buy a set of spare bulbs for the car, and looked at alarm systems and other anti-theft devices while there. No decision yet made on the latter, though there's some systems there that would give some peace of mind at a reasonable cost, and be better than what I've got at the moment. The car's got an immobiliser anyway, but I'd rather people didn't even try.

It's been a fairly busy and moderately productive Saturday morning, and now I have a chance to relax a little before the evening's activities. Having given my dad the shoes I bought a couple of weeks ago - they fitted him much better than me - I needed to get myself a new pair again. I eventually got a nice - and heavily reduced-price - pair from Dolcis, though being more traditional leather rather than nubuck, I'm going to have to get back into the long-lost habit of shoe-polishing at least a couple of times a week. These fit a lot more comfortably than the last ones, seem at least as well-made, and actually ended up a little cheaper.

Regular readers will recall the enthusiastic reception I gave to Air's Moon Safari album a few weeks ago. Well it now has a companion in the form of their earlier Premiers Symptomes EP, which is of a similarly high quality and exceptional innovation. It too would have to fall into my category of "elevator music with attitude", but that's no bad thing - I simply love this stuff, it's just so mellow, laid-back and sumptuous in its orchestration. There are a few more obvious echoes of Moon Safari in it - or vice-versa, more accurately - and it's a altogether little on the short side, but definitely well worth a listen for Moon Safari fans.

Had a look at car alarm systems in Maplins, and I can't say I was overly impressed. Although they advertise an extensive range in their catalogue, their actual stock is quite limited, and the units are of questionable quality. I think the selection at Halfords was generally better, and equivalently priced for the kind of thing I was after. While I had the bonnet up a few minutes ago I meant to check for a suitable place to mount an alarm - but it seems like it's a fairly non-trivial task to install one, from a hardware if not an electrical point of view, so I'd be quite tempted to just go back to the dealer and get them to fit one.

Working backwards in time, last night was quite fun, with Angela and Jo-Daniel visiting earlier in the evening, then everyone driving over to the Old Beams. Mark then phoned Briony and collected her, eventually getting back to the pub properly with about a minute remaining of last orders. Then went on to KFC for a late-night Zinger Tower - although some others were obviously even hungrier than that, given the oversized family bucket they got - and then back to the house. I got to bed in fairly good time, and Mark I think followed soon after, though apparently the remaining stragglers heard the dawn chorus before calling it a night.

Anyway, hopefully now a relaxing afternoon ahead, before tonight's pizza outing. I'm not totally sure where the place is, other than "Newport Pagnell", but I'll manage... I've got to pick up Jason from Caldecotte and probably Keith from Walnut Tree too - and Phil might yet decide to join me - but that's no problem, with a new tank of unleaded this morning. Fuel economy on my first tank seems to have been in the low thirties, but that's no great surprise, even with the relatively economical motorway driving last weekend, given that I've probably not been the most thriftily prudent driver for the last week, though I'm slowing learning.

The pizza night went very well - once we'd found the place anyway. It was tucked in some insignificant little shopping arcade that we passed right by without noticing, and only thanks to a friendly local did we eventually track it down. The food was excellent, and good value too, definitely a place to remember for the future. The pizzas were more along traditional Italian lines rather than American deep-pan style, but to be honest I prefer them that way; the flavour is generally a lot more concentrated and they normally end up being surprisingly filling. The garlic dough-sticks and chocolate torte with toffee ice-cream complemented very nicely indeed, all washed down with a bottle of cool fresh Peroni. All top stuff - must do it again sometime! Meanwhile, time for bed in a short while, methinks; got a busy day ahead and it wouldn't do for me to spend it half asleep, now would it..?

After an excellent Sunday, this evening was surprisingly not too much of an anticlimax. Yesterday was actually spent being remarkably active, apart from the rather extended equally remarkable lazy moments, including at least an hour or so fast asleep - but at least I wasn't the only one... Zoe arrived shortly after ten in the morning - no hurry for a pleasant change, and she could have got away with being even later, actually, but never mind. Lunch was at our favourite Balti house in Wolverton - in an amazing show of predictability, their help-yourself buffet of everything you could ever want. Then down to Caldecotte for a walk, and the rest of the afternoon seemed to vanish into thin air really, albeit most pleasurably. In the evening, someone had the bright idea of going for a walk to Willen, but it started to rain and we got lost anyway, eventually ending up at the Barge to spend the money we had been planning on saving by going for a walk rather than a night at the pub. But never mind, it was a fun day, and it left me quite shattered, the perfect preparation for the week ahead...

This evening started off a little frustratingly, trying to phone a number of people and only getting engaged tones for an hour or more. Eventually I got through to my cousin Kate, and had a good long chat with her - once she realised who I was, and not just some weirdo who happened to know her name... She's the cousin who lives just up the road in Newport Pagnell, but who I've never been to see in all the time I've been living here; I think the last time I saw her was at our grandmother's funeral in late 1997, and that was obviously not a normal kind of occasion for socialising. Anyway, it seems very likely I'll be going up to see her within the next few days, and I'm looking forward to it a lot. She's going through difficult times, but seems to be very positive about it all, and I have high hopes that everything will work out well for her and her children, even if not as ideally as one might have hoped - but it's very difficult, and quite probably wrong, to be idealistic when your own family are involved.

Anyway, I'm very tired and I've got a bit of a headache, so I think I'll call it a day now, and hope I feel a little livelier tomorrow - who knows, I might even make that trip up to Newport Pagnell tomorrow evening; stranger things have happened, after all...

A nice quiet Tuesday evening, not spent with my cousin Kate after all - that's got to wait until tomorrow evening, but I'm looking forward to it a lot, and I've just about worked out where it is she lives... Just got back from the Barge, where I walked for a swift pint with my house-mate Phil, but other than that, and giving Zoe a quick phone-call before going out, it's been a fairly mundane evening - and much needed that way, given how generally tired I am at the moment. Out of curiosity - and a little initial disgruntlement - I looked into insurance groupings of cars; I had been a little disturbed by how much higher my car was than just about anything else of that engine size, but then it all became clear... Basically, the Hyundai 1341cc 12-valve fuel-injected engine is an absolute cracker, developing almost 83bhp - compared to the mere 55bhp my dad's fairly perky 1.3 injection Polo is rated at - which is only matched by 1.6i or higher variants of most other manufacturers' engines. So I don't feel so ripped off after all!

Another mundane day, but an excellent evening with my cousin Kate. I headed up to Newport Pagnell straight from work, and found her place without too much difficulty. I guess I was there for about three and a half hours; not having seen her at all for a couple of years, and barely for much longer than that - and not sure I'd ever met either of her two young children - there was a lot of catching up to be done. Just have to make sure I don't leave it so long again, though given how well we got on together, I don't think there's much risk of that, and she seemed keen to join in with some of the modestly adventurous activities I get up to with friends here from time to time. She also really wants to meet Zoe, so I guess I'll have to sort something out on that front too, and sooner rather than later. So altogether, yes, a great evening, and now I'm just letting my pizza and garlic-bread supper settle a little before turning in for the night.

Long day, but about to end, I do believe. Work was modestly interesting, spending a fair bit of time testing out one of the first proper builds of our own internet conferencing system, which adds shared whiteboard capability to the existing voice facilities, but all done in Java now. This evening's neighbourhood group meeting was quite fun, mostly spent playing a Jenga tournament, of which I was a joint winner - got a nice big Yorkie bar to consume once I've finally cleared the Easter-egg backlog. Not sure exactly what's happening tomorrow night; there was supposed to be a birthday party for Simeon at Fatty Arbuckles, but it seems like plans have changed to just going to see some unknown soul band at Zaks, so I'm not so sure I'll go now after all - a big plate of ribs and things would have been nice, but soul's really not my thing. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to have a nice quiet evening in instead. Or not as the case may be; I suspect I'll end up being sociable, somehow...

Well the weekend's here once again, thank goodness, though what's happening all seems a bit in the air. Even the trip to Zaks tonight is off, thanks - as with the proposed meal beforehand - to lack of interest, apparently, though I believe there might be something similar on tomorrow evening. As for tonight then, well there's supposed to be a game of Risk at Andy and Rosie's later - once they've finished at Teen Club - and although I could think of better ways to pass the time in a similar fashion, I guess that will be preferable to sitting around here getting bored all evening.

Last night went quite well, though exhausted as I was after what seemed a long week, I didn't last out for the second game of Risk and adjourned back here about an hour before the others. I narrowly avoided losing the first game, as such, but far from won it either - one day I guess I'll find some strategies that work, but every game ends up a little bit different. Today, I'll be going in to the city centre in a short while, then doing who-knows-what this afternoon or evening, and similarly tomorrow really, though I'm sure it will be good whatever happens - Sundays just have a habit of being like that, really; can't think why...

This evening wasn't too bad at all. Even though rumours of a meal out somewhere turned out to be no more than rumours, the support band at Zaks - a certain Plastic Sole - was top stuff, though I bowed out of staying for the second band; good though they were, they just weren't my cup of tea, and with an early start - as Sundays go - tomorrow, I need a fairly early night. Plastic Sole were one of those "just out to have a good laugh" acts, and very competently they pulled it off too; only a pity that they're splitting up, allegedly. Anyway, I'm off to bed imminently, and setting my alarm for some unhealthy hour tomorrow morning. That's right, it's time for one of those reciprocal visits down to Iver Heath - I'm sure it'll be fun, and I'm sure I won't be missed for one Sunday away in the month, unlike some...

Just got back from today's trip down to Iver, and it's been a brilliant day as always. Church in the morning was decidedly tolerable, on a theme of sheep, shepherds, and more specifically the Good Shepherd, and was a good opportunity to catch up with some faces I'd met briefly a few weeks ago - and most remembered me, which was a good sign indeed.

Lunch was a lovely chicken roast - followed up with yummy pineapple Vienetta and miniature pavlovas - with Zoe and her sister and parents, and after that we played traction engines for a while with Zoe's dad. He'd been given this working model traction engine for a birthday present but hadn't got around to trying it out, so today was a good opportunity, and it was a lot of fun once we'd got it sussed out.

Getting out before the weather rather closed in for the evening, then went with Zoe to Windsor, and had a stroll in the park and a good natter, regularly interrupted by planes - including Concorde - on their final approach to Heathrow. The rest of the evening was spent at our favourite curry house in the area, this time going utterly to town with both starters - well, poppadoms and the usual accompaniments, anyway - and desserts, in the form of very pleasant Indian ice cream sorbet, with the more usual stuff in between.

I wasn't on for a very late night, so with the weather looking a bit dodgy too - and, true enough, the M25 section turned out to be pretty foul really - I made a fairly swift getaway after that, and now I'm just about right ready for bed, though I can't say that going back to work tomorrow is the most exciting proposition, but it's an unavoidably busy week ahead, I believe. But anyway, thanks again for a great day, Zoe - roll on next weekend, eh?!

Not such a wonderful today, being stuck at home unwell once again - just a grotty cold or something similar this time, not the flu that I got severely hit by at the end of last year, but especially unwelcome at this critical phase in projects at work. I don't think it's any coincidence that my rare episodes of ill-health tend to be linked to times of stress at work; thankfully my colleagues seem to be quite understanding and supportive, when it could be all too easy to be very cynical. So having e-mailed my boss early this morning, I think I'll just take it easy today; I feel a little better for some breakfast and a long hot bath, but don't want to rush into anything too enterprising, bearing in mind how swiftly I have sometimes deteriorated in the past when trying heroics. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll feel a lot better, especially since I think it's tomorrow that there's a ten-pin bowling trip in the evening, and I wouldn't really want to miss that if I could help it!

Despite an almighty sneeze just a moment ago, I feel a lot better this evening, and should be fit to return to work tomorrow morning. I've had a suitably restful day, and plan on a nice quiet evening now. Elaine phoned earlier to confirm details of tomorrow's bowling trip; after recent disappointments, it's a relief that it is actually happening, and will be a good chance to get out and enjoy myself after what will most likely not be a classic day at work tomorrow, probably spending half the day slaving over either a hot photocopier or CD-R burner. Anyway, not much more to report, I don't think, though been having a little fun trying and failing to synchronise my SH-101 synthesiser with anything else, but the sound of failure was never quite as good as this before, so I made sure I got the best of it recorded for posterity. I think I'll probably get a budget MIDI-to-CV converter in the near future, and do the job properly; a company called Philip Rees does a range at sensible - i.e. cheaper than Kenton - prices. Although it's been a long-term aim of mine to build one myself, I think it's likely to stay a long-term aim for the foreseeable future, and if I'm to make best use of the '101 - and it still makes some incredible noises, despite being past its best - I need something sooner.

Having perhaps snubbed Kenton Electronics a little in that last entry, I have to now say that their Pro Solo MIDI-to-CV unit is now the hot favourite. Yes, it is a little more expensive than the Philip Rees Little MCV, but in terms of "bangs per buck", it appears to offer a lot more. A few people suggested I also consider the Syntecno Teebee, which is a hardware TB-303 emulator with no less than four additional gate/CV output pairs. Nice though it would be - and I'm not quite sure how much it costs, but I doubt it's cheap - it seems like its MIDI-to-CV converters are drastically under-specified compared with the Kenton or Philip Rees units, and I don't particularly want a TB-303 anyway, so that wouldn't be much of a bonus to me. I've downloaded manuals for the Pro Solo and Teebee - none available for the Little MCV, but it's so simple, I doubt there is much of one - and the Pro Solo seems a remarkably comprehensive system, and should offer everything I will ever need, and probably more. I have a quote from Kenton; all I have to do is pick up that phone...

Ten-pin bowling was a lot of fun, as expected, and although I came a long way from winning, I did acceptably well by my own meagre standards, and certainly didn't lose as such. Unlike the last trip - to a different bowling alley, admittedly - everything worked fine on the computer scoring front this time, and I think a good time was had by all. Anyway, I'm now just passing the time while a pizza for Mark and myself cooks in the oven, and once that's devoured it'll be time for bed, methinks. I've felt reasonably fine today and this evening; still a little bit phlegmy, but nothing too serious, and not enough to get in the way of my enjoyment of the evening out.

Another week ends, with a most welcome long bank-holiday weekend coming up, bringing I know not what pleasant surprises and other general summer-is-here type frivolity. Thankfully I think I'm more or less back at full health now, if anything just suffering from an excessive amount of heat about the place, not helped by a fair bit of physical exertion earlier today.

Today's been a suitably hectic day at work, moving offices to be closer to the action as far as the internet conferencing project is concerned - and more to the point, making room for a new recruit starting on Tuesday - and finally gaining the kudos of being on the second floor, after well over two years. Also had nightmares trying to set up a new student-facing machine; it was delayed as it was, and we've already had complaints from students who couldn't log in yesterday or today, and even when the machine was in our possession, it was as good as useless, thanks to the previous owner having kindly left the Windows NT Server configuration passworded. Thankfully the server daemon software will tenuously run under Windows 95, and it's a dual-booting system, so we've fudged a temporary solution that will do at least for the weekend. Finally, the new laptops have arrived, and I've been encouraged to take one home for the long weekend - my arm took a lot of twisting, I can assure you, though I expect it will have dropped off by the time I've lugged the little beastie back to the car.

Anyway, it's way past time to go home now, I do believe, so I'd better wrap things up for today, make sure everything's secure, and toddle off for the weekend.

Back at home now, and enjoying a fairly relaxed evening, though anything could yet happen, I guess. The laptop seems quite nice, playing video and stuff very well - the sound is particularly excellent put through the hi-fi, needless to say - though I can't say I'm at all keen on the touch-pad mouse, but I think you can hardly get a laptop without one these days, and they're undoubtedly better than the little rubber stick nestled amongst the keys that the rest of the manufacturers seem unwisely to have committed to. For some reason, Quake and Quake 2 refused to run on it - weird never-seen-before error messages abounding, perhaps Windows 98 problems - but I think I've got enough to keep me entertained for the few minutes I'll probably want to use it during the weekend. I just hope the purchase of three of these things can be justified now; without modems attached, they can't even be used to test out the software we are developing, though that can be rectified fairly painlessly.

I made further contact with Kenton today about their Pro Solo MIDI-to-CV converter, and was a little disappointed to be informed that the portamento feature they boast about doesn't work in the normal, tried and trusted, way. Generally, portamento - that is to say a slide, rather than the usual step, between notes - happens when you play an analogue keyboard in a legato style, without gaps between the notes, and doesn't happen when you play in a more staccato fashion. Kenton have chosen to - at least for the time being - ignore this industry standard and do things their own way, though in fairness I'm not now convinced that the Philip Rees unit does it right either. It won't be enough to put me off getting the Kenton, unless something really irksome becomes apparent as a result of my latest queries, but I'm still glad I found out about it before rather than after buying it, because at least I will have made an informed decision rather than just fall for the considerable hype.

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