goznet ...

David's diary: March 1999

A very bleary-eyed Monday morning, and quite a busy week ahead of me, with a stack-load of stuff to do for the modern languages department, and no idea how to attack most of it - where do I order 150 padded envelopes from, for a start, let alone arrange the duplication of 300 floppy disks to go into them? I guess it's all part of the learning experience, but I do get the impression a lot of this is handed to me because no-one else can be bothered to find out. Mind you, people seem happy with what I'm doing, so I'll cooperate as usual...

Sunday was good though, as expected, contributing very much to my current semi-conscious caffeine-enhanced state. In the morning meeting I was unexpectedly invited out by Reece to help with the Trailblazers; he'd had a chat with the people I'd asked him to, and everything was fine about me doing stuff like that, and he'd also cleared up another emerging issue that was getting a lot of people down a bit. Trailblazers went well enough, and I should be able to start officially teaching in April when our team's next turn on the rota comes up.

Zoe arrived soon after the morning meeting, as promised, and we enjoyed an afternoon of wandering into town - and not getting too wet, thankfully - to get a card for Jon and Sally, and grabbing a couple of very nice crispy bacon and salad sandwiches at our favourite city-centre eatery, then going on to Jon and Sally's leaving "party" at Shane and Sandy's house in Newport Pagnell - the venue was chosen because their own home was pretty much entirely contained in boxes and suitcases, what with being ready to move pretty early this morning...

The evening meeting was very good indeed, and although it was overshadowed by the recent developments with Pete's illness, it kept an appropriately positive outlook, further enhanced by Leila and David's first foray into preaching, albeit fairly brief. I had a chat with Andy afterwards, and he confirmed what Reece had said about the Sunday School stuff, and advised that I would be free to return to Kids Club as from this Friday, which will suit me fine. I'll be looking forward immensely to going back - it's a long time since December!

So, apart from a visit to the Olde Swan for a couple of pints with a load of our friends, that was just about it for yesterday, certainly as far as anything more that just vegetating on the sofa, anyway... Altogether, a great Sunday in every way, though, with exceptional company, and good news about stuff that really had been getting me down lately. I'm not sure what we'll do next weekend - my Sunday morning will be a little different, helping with Fat Fish at Celebration - but I'm sure something will take shape as the week progresses.

Tonight - as Mark reminded me - is a music practice, as is usually the case on the first Monday of the month, though things have slipped a bit lately. Tomorrow, there's a Generation X evening of bowling and Quasar at the leisure plaza, which should be a lot of fun; it's a while since I've played any laser games, and even longer since I've bowled, so I'm looking forward to that a lot. Wednesday's looking clear, though there is prayer for Pete every evening, but Thursday and Friday are booked up - it's good to be back in the swing of things!

Woohoo, Complete Star Of The Day award goes to my friend Chris, who's currently in possession of my somewhat ill CD player. Friday evening he called in clutching a small integrated circuit with a heat-sink tab, declaring it to be the problem with the player. Alas, it was not a part that Maplins had heard of, so he asked if I could try and find it in a Farnell or Radio Spares catalogue instead, and "could I do it quickly, because the player's in bits all over the kitchen table" or somesuch... Anyway, I just returned a phone-call from him, and not only has he managed to locate someone selling the chips, but he's already got one on order, which should be with us in a couple of days - pity it's not quite as cheap as we'd hoped, and there's no absolute guarantee it will fix the player, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, and it's well worth the risk. What a star!

Well the music practice last night - which turned out not to be a practice as such after all - was, for want of a more superlative adjective, awesome. Gareth felt it right that we did something a little different for a change - hopefully not just because he'd only been reminded of the practice a couple of days previously and hadn't had time to plan anything! - so we kicked off with about three quarters of an hour of prayer on various topics, concentrating mainly on our own leadership and worship team, and the Church throughout the city. That was followed by about the same amount of time again on completely free-flowing, spirit-led praise and worship, prophetic words, and anything else anyone wanted to share, really. There was a simply overwhelming atmosphere of truly wanting to live out our worship through more than just words and music, applying it in everything we do and every breath we breathe. I have to say, I really did feel the presence of the Holy Spirit there last night more than I can honestly remember at any time in the past - and I know I wasn't the only one... Awesome stuff.

There was some slightly unwelcome post from Thames Valley Police on the kitchen table this morning. I was worried it might have been a problem with my vehicle defect notification - and subsequent rectification - from a couple of weeks ago, but it was instead a form for me to make a written statement about the crash I witnessed the other day at the end of my road between a car and a cyclist. Seems all very formal, asking if and when I would be available to be a witness in court, amongst other questions, but I presume it's just a standard form, regardless of the severity of the investigation. I've got an "evening off" tonight - though I must phone Zoe, seeing as I unfortunately didn't get a chance last night - so I'll spend a little while doing that, I think, and get it off in the post tomorrow morning.

Yesterday's bowling and Quasar evening turned out to be a complete fiasco, though I still managed to salvage some enjoyment out of it, and with all the refunds and so on we got, it worked out fairly cheap. We got money back on two of the four bowling lanes we hired, including the one I was playing on, which simply couldn't count properly, detecting phantom strikes and generally being over-generous and inconsistent on the scoring front. Their maintenance guy tried twice to fix it, but eventually gave up, extremely apologetic and frustrated. Quasar was a bit better, though I am utterly unconvinced my pack was working properly; I know I played badly, but I certainly didn't hit one of my own team-mates nine times, more than everyone else put together. I don't even recall seeing him during the whole game...

Well my one evening off this week has passed by all too quickly, what with filling out most of that witness statement for the police, and phoning various people. Had a good conversation with Zoe, making up for lost time from last night, and finally got to have a chat with Dave, the stand-in Kids' Club leader, about my restarting on Friday evening this week. But now, after a few very late nights, I'm extremely tired, and am going to go to bed imminently, methinks - though I'll probably sneak in a quick bath beforehand, rather than have to get up at some unearthly hour tomorrow morning.

Today will go down as one of my most frustrating days for a long time, and I have to say that if the wrong people had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, I would probably currently be being charged for involuntary manslaughter. I may be no puritan Lord Whiteadder, but anyone who knows me at all well will know that swearing my head off - out loud, regardless of what I might be thinking - is not my usual conduct, though today has been somewhat of an exception. My delight at getting those multitudinous disks copied, only a day behind schedule, proved to be short-lived, having found out now we're not mailing them until next week anyway - and I was about the last person to know, needless to say. Then our planned pizza-scoffing and envelope-stuffing session scheduled for lunchtime today got cancelled, owing to a combination of no pizza delivery companies apparently including Walton Hall in their catchment area - unbelievable, and I doubt that was the whole story - and a distinct lack of padded envelopes. Then it turned out that the printed document to accompany the disks, which I had assumed was ready and waiting to be run off on some supervised bulk printer certain people rather naively assumed existed, was not even completed yet - and guess who had to rectify that, including capturing, touching up and pasting in more screen shots, inventing web addresses for servers yet to be commissioned, and so on... I fear that even leaving on the dot of five o'clock tonight - and switching off for a couple of days - isn't going to save my weekend from being ruined.

Yesterday evening went fairly well, as my first night back at Kids Club in over two months. New leadership has brought a few changes, and there are some new faces around, some of them more welcome than others, it has to be said. For those and other reasons, it's by no means certain whether I'll be recommitting myself to my previous extent; it's something I'll have to have a chat with Dave about sometime in the next week or so. After all, my own circumstances have changed quite a lot over the last couple of months as well, making my allegiances a lot less clear cut. I survived, however, and had enough energy remaining to make a phone-call to go some way to finalising what's happening on Sunday. Thankfully I turned down Mark's invitation to join him, Susie and Angela in Wolverton for a gig, given that we got a phone-call from Angela shortly afterwards saying they were going to Birmingham and did either Phil or me want to join them. When they finally arrived back this morning, at about six o'clock, it was actually from Manchester, so quite what happened last night I shudder to think. Anyway, this morning I've been able to have a much longer Saturday lie-in than I am normally accustomed, but I ought to be getting dressed now, probably, especially since I definitely need to do my shopping, and had been planning on doing a bit of tyre-kicking too. The weather outside looks pretty uninspiring, though, so maybe I'll keep today's activities to a minimum, and save my energy for tomorrow.

Sorry to all my regular readers for the brief break in service over the last few days... I've needed some time to think, and to sort some stuff out, but I reckon I should be roughly back to normal very soon - but hopefully a bit better for it. Sunday went well on most counts, spending a lot of time with Zoe, and enjoying a very tasty - and excellent value - pizza out for lunch. I was supposed to have played at church in the evening, but had to make my apologies through being utterly exhausted by the end of a busy day, and besides for various reasons I didn't feel "right enough" to participate in that manner. I had a good - if somewhat emotional - pray about these things in the evening anyway, and a further chat with my pastor and a few others last night which was very useful.

The working week so far has been fairly mundane as ever, with slow progress in general on this project, and ever-slipping deadlines all round. I'm supposed to be helping with some on-line student trials on Monday evening, for which I will need an internet-enabled laptop I can use from home, but given the speed with which everything else hasn't been sorted out over the last month or so, I can't say I'm overly optimistic about it being arranged in time. The 240 installation floppy disks are still waiting to be mailed out, with a few further problems needing to be sorted out before they can go, but I think Craig's taken responsibility for them, and they really have to go by about tomorrow evening at the very latest if they're to be with the students by Monday night for the trials!

Had a good play last night with a guitar-to-MIDI converter Phil had borrowed from college. With such a device, it's possible to play synthesisers and other electronic instruments from an electric - or any other steel-stringed - guitar. Phil borrowed the converter the other day, but had apparently found the results using the line input on it to be quite disappointing, so - at my advice - yesterday he brought home the proper hexaphonic pick-up, and things improved dramatically. With such a pick-up, it's possible to play complex chords, and for technical reasons it also improves the conversion quality even when just playing single-part solos. It still wasn't perfect - pitch to MIDI conversion is an imprecise science - but it was immense fun nonetheless, and I could be tempted...

Enjoyed a nice quiet evening in yesterday, reading a bit, doing some more to the web site I'm currently working on, and making a couple of much-needed telephone calls. Despite a fairly early night - that is to say, the better side of midnight - I'm still pretty bleary-eyed this morning; I think my body's trying to tell me something, and if I had any sense, I'd listen. I can hopefully get a good night's sleep tonight, though it will mean making a more prompt than usual getaway from our neighbourhood group meeting, and I do have a few things I need to discuss with some people there at some point. But for now, it's time to press on with work, frustrated at yet more obstacles being thrown down in my way - by now we really should have two voice servers and a further web server set up, with DNS entries activated, plus a load of other stuff, but progress seems to be minimal due to typically bureaucratic heel-dragging. This is quite alarming considering we're committed to being on-line properly from Monday evening - oh and no sign of the laptop machine I've been promised in order to administer some of this stuff from home. Oh joy...

Yesterday's highlight at work was finally getting the 200-odd disks out of the door, after a slaving over a red-hot photocopier followed by a frenzied hour of stuffing disks and manuals into jiffy-bags. The neighbourhood group meeting in the evening was as good as ever, with the usual potent mix of prayer, testimony, news and planning, plus a bit of music too, for a pleasant change. Got away in fair time, but still didn't make it to bed until well past midnight, so all plans on that front were dashed, and I didn't get an opportunity to talk to the people I needed to. The latter was rectified with a short phone-call a few minutes ago, to be followed up with a bit of a get-together tomorrow evening, which will hopefully seal the end of a bit of an unfortunate chapter of misunderstandings. Work today's not being too exciting, but with all the same unresolved urgencies as before, and no sign of them getting sorted out in time for Monday. Thankfully I do believe in miracles...

It's that regular Saturday afternoon lull in proceedings, a chance to chill a bit, and generally relax a little in time for whatever the evening might be about to bring. Last night, Phil and myself went round to Andy and Rosie's new place for a while, amongst other things listening to Air's Moon Safari ... and guess what, yes, I treated myself to my own copy of the CD today, quite heavily discounted in HMV. It's elevator music with attitude, but just so totally different to anything much else I'd heard - though with welcome Floydesque influences certainly - that I just couldn't resist adding it to my collection.

Having treated myself also to a nice new mixing bowl - sadly not a new mixing desk, yet, though it won't be long now, I don't think - while shopping this morning, I've been reviving my old hobby of bread-making this afternoon, the end product of which hopefully will get eaten this evening one way or another. I'd forgotten quite how therapeutic kneading the dough and everything is, and it's also good exercise in its own strange way. I'm trying a new recipe this time - nothing radically different, but one that includes a small amount of honey for sweetening - so it'll be interesting to see how it turns out later...

Tomorrow should be an interestingly busy day. I'm doing OHP in the morning, which always presents a few challenges of one kind or another, then after that, Zoe's coming up for the rest of the day. Hopefully I'll be a bit more generally "with it" this time; last Sunday was a bit strange for a number of reasons, but hopefully this time we can be in a bit more of a mood for being active. The evening meeting, earlier than usual, is apparently to include a baptism, which will be intriguing given that our baptisms are by full immersion, and the venue is to be the local school hall, not some river or a swimming pool!

Just checked on the bread, which is healthily rising in the airing cupboard - I was a little concerned that the yeast might have been past its best, being about a year out of date, but there seems to be no problem. I might even have to move the dough somewhere cooler since I'd rather not have to bake it until after tea-time, and it's only supposed to be allowed to approximately double in size... In the meantime, I might just have to listen to Moon Safari again - I just hope it will continue to grow on me; for some reason, long-term appeal is not something I normally associate with music that grabs me right away.

An interesting Sunday just gone, and one with downs but especially ups. Got up bright and early, to phone mum before we were both likely to be out for the day - especially with the weather as glorious as it was - but was mystified to get a number-unobtainable tone on dialling any STD exchange code, needless to say including the High Wycombe one. Phoned British Telecom's fault report line, and found out to my horror that they had decided in their wisdom to bar outgoing calls from our number, with a full cut-off scheduled for a fortnight's time. Why? Because they are incompetent fools, of course - what else would you expect? Yes, we had been having a few problems with billing since switching back to British Telecom from the now-defunct Ionica, but it was all their fault, and this latest problem could well be the straw that breaks the camel's back for Mark. The fact that they decide to do it halfway through the small hours of Sunday morning, when there's going to be no hope of getting it rectified before today, stank of sheer calculated inconvenience perpetrated by British Telecom. Needless to say, Mark is totting up all the extra expense incurred due to this, including having to buy phone-cards and so on, and British Telecom will be billed as appropriate. I'll not be holding my breath for any compensation, but we can but try... I just hope it can all be sorted out by this evening, otherwise there's going to be a lot of students let down when I can't participate in this voice-conferencing trial for which I had promised to be on-line from home. If they bang on about three working days and rubbish like that, then we'll just have to point out that if they can cut us off without notice in the small hours of Sunday morning, there's no reason why they can't do the reverse at a much more reasonable time. I can foresee some severe British Telecom butt getting kicked over the next day or so, and a few Orange Everyday handsets being ordered.

After that, things got a lot better, happily to say. The morning meeting wasn't too bad, and the OHP operation went quite well after the usual initial hiccups - like not being able to find a projector, then not being able to find the acetate for the first song on Gareth's list... Zoe arrived soon after the meeting as expected, though a little delayed due to unexpected congestion on the M1, and once again we had a Sicilian deal at Pizza Hut - just under ten pounds for any Sicilian pizza and two soft drinks really isn't bad at all. Later in the afternoon we took a short stroll up to Campbell Park, with Zoe delighted to see a hedgehog close up for what was - amazingly, though I guess I was brought up in the country, relatively - apparently the first time she could remember. Such small delights! The evening meeting was an hour earlier than usual for a number of reasons, and saw about ten people getting baptised - originally there were only going to be two, but it's amazing how these things can change - and almost as many again getting saved afterwards. We're going to need to do it all over again very soon, we think... The baptisms were carried out in a very cleverly constructed outdoor pool, filled courtesy of the local fire brigade, and made comfortable with an urn of hot water. Amongst those getting dunked were Jo-Daniel, who finally - after a long, long, time - became a Christian earlier in the week, and Kenny, a friend of Andy and Rosie's who's finally pulling himself together in a big way after a very difficult life so far one way or another. Needless to say, there was a bit of a party afterwards at Jo-Daniel's house, which was good fun, and then it was back to our place to watch a warts-and-all documentary on Nirvana that Phil was using as inspiration for part of his dissertation. Finally wrapped things up at about midnight, with Zoe safely on her way home, and me safely going up to bed. On balance, an excellent day once again.

Feeling utterly helpless, to be honest, doing work far removed from anything I had ever anticipated as a "software designer", though in these days of flexible job descriptions and even more flexible working hours and so on, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. I am being driven to despair, though, and if I could access the office walls more conveniently, I am sure there would be plenty of head-shaped dents in them by now. As it is, the monitor will just have to do, and that's a little more forgiving in general.

I seem to have been given sole responsibility for sorting out technical - and a few more political - problems for about a hundred students testing out the on-line voice conferencing software this week. With no guarantee our home phone line was going to be working last night, and - more to the point - no sign of the promised Windows 95 laptop, I was here at work until some unearthly hour last night, getting completely overwhelmed by students having any number of problems with the software. And since it's not even our own software, and there are so many other variable factors involved, there's precious little we can do to help, half the time. I might suggest that the reason a user can't hear anything is because there's some obscure Windows mixer setting gone awry, but half the time I have a hunch that alien intervention is the more likely culprit. Trouble is, you just never can tell. But I have to be able to, and it's even worse when I'm having to do it all in real time, with students wasting real money and expecting real answers. That said, Lesley thought last night's practice session went quite well, so at least there's one happy person around.

As it turned out, our home phone line had been reactivated by the time I got home, but not before Mark had spent all of two hours talking to the incompetent fools at British Telecom by the time he got put through to someone with any authority to sort it out. Two months free line rental seems to be fair compensation for the inconvenience caused on Sunday and Monday morning, and will more or less cover our out-of-pocket expenses, though as merely the latest and most spectacular stage in a series of impressive bodges by British Telecom in sorting out our account, I think Mark's going to be fighting for a little bit more.

Zoe phoned shortly after I arrived back home last night, and we had a good - if somewhat curtailed due to tiredness - chat about all kinds of stuff, including some interesting issues that had arisen as a result of Sunday evening's events. Alas my plans to get an early night after what turned out to be a twelve-hour working day came to nothing, when I joined Mark, Phil and Susie on a closing-time trip to the Olde Swan. I still got to bed in fairly good time, though, and with Craig insisting I should have time off in lieu of last night's fun and games, I didn't exactly rush into work this morning. However, there was a CES seminar I wanted to go to, so I had to be in a little sooner than maybe I'd planned.

Chris popped round yesterday evening to give Phil some Haagen Dazs as "payment" for helping him move some furniture around the other day, and whilst he was there, he gave me the address and phone number for the place in Bletchley that's finally got the part that will hopefully fix my CD player. I gave them a ring this morning, hoping to pop down there at lunchtime - probably via Burger King or somesuch - but because there was a credit card transaction involved, they quite rightly wanted authorisation from Chris for me to be able to collect it. Simple, I thought - I'll give him a ring at work. Except that his company denied all knowledge of him. As did their head-office, to all intents and purposes. So I guess the message left on his home answer-phone will have to do; another day with my dismantled CD player all over his kitchen table won't make much difference after getting on for a month, I suppose...

Anyway, today's almost over, work-wise, and a few more technical queries dealt with - but yet more not, and the look of concern on my face is frankly unnoticeable. I guess I quite like doing a bit of this kind of stuff; it was moderately fun going around helping with the staff-only trials the other week, but now there's an overwhelming volume of participants, and there's no way of actually looking at their system configurations and so on - relying only on the limited information most of them can provide - I think those days of enjoying being in a support role have just run out in some spectacular manner. Oh well, at least I should be able to put my feet up for a while tonight and totally forget about it all.

Once a technical support bod, obviously always a technical support bod. Any hope of getting away from work promptly this evening came to nothing with a phone call from Markus asking if I could spare "five minutes" to telephone this disabled guy to help him set up the voice conferencing software on his PC. Needless to say it took a little longer than five minutes, but we eventually got it working without too many hassles, and I think he was quite pleased with the results. Then finally headed home, and remembered I was supposed to be sorting out Freddie's newly acquired printer. He'd run into some serious problems a few weeks back, and thought the printing problems were related, but it turned out to be something really quite simple, and he was very pleased with the end result. Basically, the nice fonts had all been disabled, and Windows was making a very bad job of substituting alternatives. A quick configuration adjustment and the inevitable Windows reboot, and all was fine. At least I've got an evening meal this coming Saturday out of it, to add to my lunch at Dave and Jo's - though the latter is compensation for spending the afternoon sorting out their garden; definitely a case of "no pain, no gain". So even if most of the day was fairly unrewarding, at least this evening turned out somewhat better, and a welcome phone call shortly after I arrived back in from Freddie's finished things off most wonderfully.

The joys of being a technical support bod are unending, and, by the sounds of it, so will be the role. Well at least I know where I stand now - programming appears no longer to be in my job description - although the whole project might be coming under more than a little bit of scrutiny as from a meeting tomorrow, so perhaps the future isn't quite as laid out as I've implied. Half-heartedness seems to be one of the key factors round here, and on the part of more people than would dare admit it. But enough of that; it only depresses me to talk about it, and who knows, the whole thing might be scrapped by this time tomorrow - here's hoping.

Last night was interesting and different - and hopefully not the last of its kind - with a few of us going round to Matt's for a couple of hours of worship, bible-study and prayer. Nothing at all formal, just a free-flowing time of going wherever we felt led, and I have to say I really quite enjoyed it. I'm finding myself able to open up a lot more lately than I ever have been before, and I find it is in smaller and more intimate groups such as these that such abilities flourish more easily. I'd like to contribute more on the bible-study front, but I guess that's just something that will come with time, all part of the learning process...

Enjoying a slightly longer lull than I'd expected in Saturday's proceedings, and most welcome after a moderately strenuous day so far. After doing the regular boring Saturday stuff in the morning, picked up Eric and drove round to Dave and Jo's house on Willen Park - where I'd not been before - for a light lunch and some much needed work in their garden. This included dismantling a fairly substantial planter, building some play equipment, and generally tidying the garden up a bit. I guess I'm really not that physical, because I'm pretty shattered, even with quite a few hands making fairly light work of it all and getting it to a fairly completed stage earlier than we had anticipated. I've got a few hours to spare until I need to get ready to go out to Freddie and Jackie's this evening - a good opportunity to prepare whatever is necessary for tomorrow, when I'm off down to Iver for the day, because I won't have much time either late tonight or early tomorrow morning to do so.

Sunday ends, or rather Monday begins, and it's the closing moments of what has for me been a great day. Finally got around to visiting Zoe and her family on a Sunday, with all that that entails from an ecclesiastical point of view, amongst other things. Church turned out to be just fine, with a very modern approach - apart from the painfully uncomfortable pews - and a spot-on message. After a nice filling lunch at Slough Burger King and a toddle round the mostly closed-for-Sunday shopping centres, we went for what ended up a quite lengthy stroll round Black Park, enjoying the serenity of the lake and the forest there. Dinner was back at Zoe's house, but we went out to a pub on the outskirts of Uxbridge which unexpectedly ended up being rather a home from home, almost identical in every way to its near namesake here in Milton Keynes, the Olde Swan, even down to the candlesticks and the writing on the beams. Arrived back in time to catch part of the Shawshank Redemption, but we'd both seen it before, so not wanting too horrendously late a night, agreed I'd make my way home shortly after that. The journey back up to Milton Keynes was straightforward and quick - quite the opposite of the one down, slowed by grotty weather, diversions on the M1 and incorrect signposting on the M25. But now it's about time I was finally calling it a day - some of us are supposed to be in work by nine... - so I think I'll just add this entry into the diary, clean my teeth, and hit the sack with good memories of a wonderful day.

It's only just turned eleven, and I'm unusually exhausted - I think the two hours on the ice rink tonight must be the main reason for that. I wasn't really intending to go out, still very tired from last night, but when it came to the crunch, I agreed I'd go, and it certainly was good fun. The last time I'd skated was in Dublin about three years ago, though I used to do so fairly regularly when I was at college. Any hopes it was going to be like riding a bicycle from a not-forgetting point of view were swiftly dashed - though I fell over only a few times, and it was only as my confidence slowly returned and I started showing a little recklessness. I'm sure my feet, legs and backside are going to hurt like heck tomorrow morning, but it will have been worth it - it's all good exercise, and I probably should do it more often.

Because it's generally so mundanely depressing, I am going to follow an increasing trend and not really talk about work stuff in here unless it is earth-shatteringly exciting - which most of the time it most emphatically isn't, needless to say. Last night I was originally hoping would be a quiet time, a chance to relax and catch up on a few other things that had been neglected a little over the last few days. But then Andy phoned up, bored because Rosie had gone to bed not feeling too well, and wanting to do something. So instead of that nice quiet evening, we went out to the video shop and borrowed The Rainmaker and watched that, some of us scoffing tortilla chips and so on for good measure. I'm not normally too excited by the prospect of legal dramas - to be honest, the choice of new releases at Blockbuster was pretty poor - but this was a really good one, and totally engaging. Zoe phoned about half way through, but was happy to wait for me to phone her back when it had finished, though it went on a little longer than I had expected, so half an hour rapidly became an hour. But never mind, it was good to talk, and worth the wait. So all in all, it was a good evening, and all that other stuff will just have to wait until tonight, although I'm working late doing more live technical support - I hope mentioning that doesn't count as talking about work!

And so, with the news that British and American cruise missiles have been pounding Belgrade and Pristina, and heavily armed NATO fighter jets in the air, once again we face the uncertainty of effectively - even if not technically - being at war with an unpredictable and defiant adversary, and this time in a hot-spot that has played a major part in the break-out of both world wars this century. What the outcome will be is anyone's guess; the hope is of course that it will persuade the Serbs to climb down from their defiant position over Kosovo, but there's no guarantee of that, and with the Russians again taking an actively condemnatory stance, this whole thing could be a primed powder-keg. The world we live in isn't really any safer for the collapse of the iron curtain and the communist bloc, and here we are perhaps seeing more clearly then ever that the effect has in fact been quite the opposite. For the first time in its fifty year existence, NATO has attacked a sovereign European nation, and whilst I don't condemn that per se, it is a very significant and potentially dangerous new twist to the tale. If I felt a bit concerned about my personal safety during the Iraq operations, I have to say that I am now really moderately petrified. I still believe that the "final conflict" will involve Iraq and Israel amongst others, but this could be a precursor, a sign of these times of great unpredictability. It's got to get bad before it gets better, and the worst is definitely yet to come, I am afraid.

Today's been a long but fair day, moderately satisfying at work - though I won't go into details, by virtue of nothing earth-shattering exciting having really happened - and a good joint neighbourhood group meeting this evening. Almost fell asleep in the bath before the meeting, but I was very glad I didn't, because it was a lot of fun - even the games with after-eight mints and nursery-rhymes... Quickly phoned Zoe after I got back in, but now I'm looking forward to an unusually early night for me - hopefully I might even get into work on time tomorrow morning; I've been slipping again lately, I'm sorry to say.

Saturday's here, after a long, but I guess fairly satisfyingly productive week, and today's been an equally productive day really. After doing mundane Saturday-type stuff in the morning, Mark and me drove over to Bedford to check out a school he's interesting in applying for a job at, coming back via the Old Stratford Burger King for a couple of 99p special offer burgers, and having a look round the Hyundai dealer up there. I later drove down to Perry's and Wayside in Bletchley to have a look at the Fords, Peugeots and Volkswagens, though I have to say that the Hyundais at Autorama currently look hot favourites. "Prepare to want one", the TV advert says, and I think I do... There was one particularly nice Accent Coupe there, well-priced for its specification and a lovely deep red, though with the stock turnaround they have there I doubt it'll stay long. Mind you, today's expeditions were intended mainly as fact-finding ones and I wasn't necessarily expecting to find the exact car I wanted. Having said that though, in a way, time is against me with the possibility of an expensive MOT test in the next couple of weeks and indications that many dealers will not be accepting cars only running on four-star for part exchange much longer.

Now I'm quite exhausted, and I can hopefully enjoy a relatively quiet evening and an early night, before whatever excitements tomorrow will surely bring. Zoe's planning on coming up - I hope she was fully compus mentis when she agreed late last night! - and I believe there are a few other things going on tomorrow which we may or may not decide to get involved with. I'm sure that whatever we end up doing will be fun and most worthwhile, and it's pretty usual for us only to think about an hour ahead. Speaking of "hours ahead", I must remember to set my various clocks forward this evening - another good reason to get an early night, seeing as one gets stolen from us, or at least borrowed without permission until Autumn.

Another great Sunday with Zoe's company, enjoying a temporary-farewell lunch for Susie at our favourite eat-as-much-as-you-like curry house in Wolverton, and a nice walk to Lodge Lake from Andy and Rosie's, as well as the more usual Sunday activities. Badly missing our hour from last night though, we were both pretty shattered by the time we'd run Kenny back home, so have drawn things to a close unusually early, and politely declined joining the others wherever they were going. All being well, I should be in bed by eleven, and Zoe hopefully not much later - unprecedented for a Sunday night this year, I think...

Needless to say, despite that relatively early night last night, I still didn't much want to get out of bed come eight o'clock this morning. I managed, though, and was in work on time for a change. I suppose it was a reasonable day, with the highlight - worthy of mention in this diary in accordance with the previously declared ban on anything work related that wasn't at least moderately momentous - being Craig giving his nod of approval to the TCP and UDP quality-of-service analyser software I wrote at the end of last week, and wanting it enhanced in many ways I approve of... This evening's being fairly quiet, spent totting up my share of the phone bill, listening to the CD Phil's band recorded at the weekend - and playing a couple of my old demo tapes to emphasise its comparative quality, not that it was really in any doubt - and generally being suitably lazy. But for now I think I'll get this added in to my diary, have a nice long relaxing bath, and go to bed - probably via the telephone...

A reasonable day at work, getting the voice-conferencing FAQ done to a large extent, enjoying an interesting presentation on copyright and licensing issues, and getting a little sampling done for Sam - he wanted some very basic drum sounds, and I'd agreed I would record my Roland TR-505, since very basic drum sounds are what it most excels at... I hit a few weird technical hitches doing do, but all was well eventually, and I think he'll be pleased with the results. This evening was fairly uneventful until Andy knocked at the door, rather distraught because he and Rosie had locked themselves out, and only Kenny - who couldn't be found - had a spare key. We knew where Kenny would be at about eleven o'clock, so we all drove across there, and everything got sorted out, but rather stressful times for Andy and Rosie nevertheless - especially with Rosie now officially two months pregnant - even if Hooper the cat was rather amused by Andy peering in through the windows. Made a quick phone-call to Zoe, and now am going in a generally bed-wards direction - it's been a long day, but a good one.

Tonight's been a fun - if rather expensive - evening, as a modern-languages department meal out at a Thai restaurant in Stony Stratford. There was quite a nice mix of techies and linguists, and a surprising amount of communication between the two factions. The crunch came at the end of the evening, picking up a bill for nearly two hundred pounds between the nine of us, but that's bearable for an occasional outing, and I have to say, the food was top notch.

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