goznet ...

David's diary: December 2000

Neighbourhood group was pretty good last night; we didn't do anything remarkably notable, but since it was our last proper gathering before Christmas it was good that we had such a full turn-out of folks. Then got a late night, followed by lethargy this morning, and nearly forgot about an important meeting at work... Still, the weekend's only three hours away now, and since I'm almost certainly not going to London now, it'll be a chance to relax.

No, I didn't go to London, and yes I did have a fairly relaxed weekend instead. Didn't really do anything of great note, and with the help of not-too-late nights and reasonable lie-ins, I was in work on time this morning for the first time in a while. Was slightly more energetic than I've been of late, mainly due to the weather being half-way decent for a change, so not only did I walk into town on Saturday to do my shopping, but I also went for two fairly reasonable recreational strolls. Oh, I had a proposal of marriage yesterday afternoon - but it wasn't to the person doing the proposing, so that one had to go by the wayside I'm afraid...

Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh!

Just had to get that out of my system.

Pizza Express is to be tonight's gastronomic venue. No buffet, but then nor is there at Pizza Hut any more, hence this change of dining policy. And Pizza Express is by far the superior restaurant, so it's not too tough a decision to make. Especially since I went to Pizza Hut yesterday afternoon anyway...

It's been a long old day today - and a fair way to go yet, actually - being in work at an alarmingly early half past seven this morning, although taking a few more minutes to find an unlocked entrance, needless to say. It's been productive, though, and pretty much on the dot of official home-time I handed over the software I pretty much had to have finished today, so all was well. There may still be some issues, but they should be minor ones I can fix in minutes if necessary - or they may be just too minor to worry about at this stage. This is the numeracy software I thought I'd got shot of a couple of weeks ago, but there was a load of stuff I'd missed, and some of that turned out to be more problematic than I'd thought - and with a tighter deadline than I had rather wishfully assumed. Today saw a few things getting both me and my boss scratching our respective heads, but we got there in the end - though not before I'd shared a few choice words about some of the issues I'm still not entirely happy with. I'm not heading home quite yet, though, with our monthly astronomy club gathering later this evening, so I'll probably be going for my customary meal at the Olde Swan in a short while, in time to get back here for soon after seven. Yes, that's meals out two days on the trot, taking into account last night's truly excellent Pizza Express outing, but you can probably sense I'm not over-concerned...

To anyone I've been ratty towards over the last few days, please accept my apologies - it's just been a bit of a tough time recently in many ways and I've probably taken things wrongly, insensitively or whatever. Some of what I've said probably needed saying, if not in the way I said it. I'm not out of the woods yet, and this is a lousy time of year to be feeling rotten, but at least I'm now aware that it's been a bit of a trend lately so can try and be more conscious about it all - sorry.

Anyway, last night's astronomy club was good - as were my gammon and cheese hot hob and chocolate fudge brownie at the Olde Swan beforehand! - with the highlight being a very interesting talk by Andy on gamma-ray bursts. These somewhat mysterious emissions of huge amounts of gamma-rays have puzzled scientists for years, but they seem to think they've worked out what they are, and it makes them even more incredible, coming as they do from the edge of the universe and hence the dawn of time!

Celebration band practice at Wyvern last night was quite good, and didn't drag on too long. Not much more to say about it than that, really. Tonight it's the Centre congregation Christmas meal - my first seasonal concession, and the first of quite a few. I guess Christmas is on its way; I'd better pull my finger out in other respects.

Stage one of Christmas is now complete, well fed and "watered" at last night's church dinner thing. I had been a bit apprehensive, going along as one of the few single blokes in the fellowship, but those of us in the same boat stuck together and had a good evening in the end. The food was great throughout, there was no repetition of last year's unfortunate bread-sauce incident, and even the wine wasn't at all bad for an all-in deal. OK, so the mince pies at the end were a little small, but there were plenty of them, so it wasn't a problem and we didn't eat them all anyway. The entertainment was of the home-grown "talent" variety and quite as tacky as would have been expected - indeed I am sure many would have been disappointed if it hadn't been so firmly in the Butlins mould of things. So all in all, a great evening out, in good company. By the time I'd run Darren home and helped him set up his new scanner - same model as mine, hence why he asked, though Windows ME provided a few complications - it was getting late though, so I hit the sack pretty much as soon as I got in, and didn't exactly rush to get up this morning.

Is it me, or are a lot of people suddenly finding themselves soul-searching just recently?

No, apparently it's not just me, it is true, and although a little bizarre, it's strangely unsurprising. Some readers will know exactly what I mean.

Been to look at computers for my parents this evening. They'll be getting an Evesham, because I like the brand and other friends of theirs have recommended them independently, so that's pretty much taken for granted. I got helped this evening by a very knowledgeable young salesman, none other than MKCF's very own pastor's son Dave. Seeing as I also bumped into my friend Alan when I arrived, who was just collecting a PC for Christmas, it's a surprisingly small world!

A fairly uneventful weekend if my somewhat fallible memory serves me correctly.

Up not too early Saturday morning, bathed, dressed and stuff considerably later, and back from the shops just as the last glimmers of daylight were fading away. No Christmas shopping done yet - really must get going with that soon, but considering what it was like in the city centre on Saturday, I'll do it on a weekday evening I think! Spent much of Saturday evening on the phone chatting with my friend Jo and simultaneously watching the millionaire thing on ITV - with Milton Keynes a full half-second ahead of Cornwall, so although I heard an echo, Jo got to hear the right answers before any of her neighbours!

Sunday started badly, really. Worship at Celebration was good enough, but I felt in a completely miserable mood afterwards, not really good for talking to anyone, and it showed. Dave's good at picking up on such things however, and I forced myself to talk with him for a few minutes, and that definitely made things a bit better. I was just finding myself - as I put it when I talked with Dave - "allergic to humanity" and unbelievably irritable. Admitting that was probably as much a help as anything, and I've been invited round for dinner sometime soon, which was a nice bonus for someone feeling increasingly on the periphery of things. Sunday morning wasn't helped by the guest speaker being dull as ditchwater, I'm afraid, and I'd quite happily have fallen asleep if I thought I'd have got away with it. Thankfully our evening speaker, Roger Cole, was a vast improvement; I remember him visiting before, and he is always challenging and inspirational, without being weighed down with too much "complicated baggage". It was the last evening meeting this year, so it was good to leave on a high note like that.

Oh, and the other highlight of yesterday was giving my new friend Abi a phone-call in the afternoon; we've been chatting by e-mail for a bit, but this was the first time we'd actually spoken. Who knows where it'll lead in due course, but everyone has to start somewhere, and I hope we made a mutually good impression. Anyway, back at work today of course, entering the last fortnight before Christmas, so I'd better get on I guess...

Well what a splendid evening that turned out to be, yesterday, wrapping up a Really Not Too Bad Day, all in all. Darren was interviewing, so we decided we'd have a take-away after he'd finished since we weren't exactly sure what time that would be. However just before Dave and I were going to drive up to his house, Susie phoned, saying she was on her way to Milton Keynes to go skating for the evening with some of her friends, and did I - or we - want to join them? So it ended up a long and most pleasant evening. The take-away Chinese was superb - we went for a seat meal for three, tremendous value - and once we'd let that settle nicely we headed on to Planet Ice where we duly met up with Susie and friends. There was only a bit under an hour of the session left by the time we arrived, but that was quite enough for us old fogies, and our feet were nigh-on killing us by the time we went home. Still, it was a great evening out, in good company, and something we should probably do more often...

Hmm, did I ever recommend a web-hosting company called Thename before? If I did, then let me retract that recommendation, at least until they can prove once again they are capable of operating in a professional and customer-focused manner. My web site had been suffering chronic reliability problems due to being on a dodgy server, frequently down for hours at a time despite their claiming to operate a 24/7 watchdog system. They offered to move the site to a better server, though "move the site" turned out to mean "create the space then ask me to transfer the files and let them know when I'd done it", which I duly did. Since when, utter silence, and that was pushing a fortnight ago. My site's been in a somewhat indeterminate state since, refusing to acknowledge updates to certain areas, and other very strange problems pointing to a completely botched change-over. The latest problem is that the security configuration on the new server seems to be so paranoid it rejects some of my most important Perl scripts, and, of course, despite many e-mails from me asking what on earth's going on, not a sausage back from them. Very reassuring, I have to say. Although the issues have been different, I can't claim to have been getting much better service from them with regard to other domains they operate on my behalf. I hope this is just a blip, but I really cannot recommend them right now, can I?

No resolution to the web-site problems as yet, needless to say, though I did get a couple of e-mails from the provider late yesterday - suppose it's quite nice they check every few days - saying they were supposedly looking into it, in their typically haphazard kind of way. I'm not holding my breath, unsurprisingly, and am quite prepared to pull the site - and possibly a couple of others too - and request a refund if they can't oblige. Yesterday evening was fairly quiet and uneventful, with tea at KFC, a few phone-calls - incoming and outgoing - and listening to the storms outside from the comfort of my double-glazed bedroom to keep me occupied. I'm round at Dave and Mandy's for tea early tomorrow evening, as promised - not that we had agreed exactly when until last night - and Sunday morning I've got to both play in the band and help set out chairs and creche toys, but I've managed to juggle those duties before so it's no big deal.

Last night... what happened last night? Ah yes, it was the second "lesson" of Tim's new worship school, which was quite interesting although a little less interactive than the first one, and numbers seemed a little down too, alas. Got home and had a nice long phone call with Jo, losing all track of time and consequently missing the early night I had idly been hoping for. But never mind; at least I slept quite well! This morning I was up a bit late, and then spent ages turning over my room trying to find a jacket thing that it turned out was on the coat-hooks downstairs all the time, so I wasn't in work too promptly in the end. Of course, I'll be away from work promptly this evening, due to being up at Dave and Mandy's in Wolverton for tea tonight. The Springfield neighbourhood groups are carol-singing for the old people this evening, so I'll have to be away from Wolverton in good time if I'm to join in with that for once - but I think it could work out quite well in the end, especially if I can make a slightly early escape from here.

Last night was fairly hectic, but really quite pleasant. Braved the pretty grotty driving conditions to go straight up to Wolverton after work, for tea with Dave, Mandy and family - nice to get to know them a bit better and perhaps heal over a few past wrongs - and was then a few minutes late arriving back in Springfield for the carol singing thing. Thankfully that was all running a bit late anyway, so I didn't miss anything, and it was quite fun - even if it was about the coldest night of the winter so far and I wished I'd wrapped up a little warmer. Still, pity poor Martin and Paul, playing their steel-stringed guitars! The old folks all seemed really appreciative, anyway; you have to wonder how many people bother to do anything much for them... After that we adjourned back at Paul and Carol's for mulled wine, mince pies and so on, with a few latecomers joining us - I thought I was going to be the only one from my neighbourhood group, until Gill turned up - Seamus working late preventing her from coming out earlier - and Ken a little later, having reminded him of the change of time and venue when I'd bumped into him earlier in the evening. A little more of my Christmas and new year plans seem to have evolved; nothing earth-shatteringly exciting, but enough to make it all special and save me from just saying "stuff it" and hitting the sack well before Big Ben does its stuff!

I definitely can't recommend Thename now - see a post of mine from earlier this week. They've just gone bust, and apparently have been being very naughty. Any recommendations for good low cost UNIX hosting with unfettered SSI and CGI capabilities - including socket connections via Perl - much appreciated...

Oh, and preferably one that passes on the domain registration fees to the appropriate naming authorities rather than embezzling them, that'd be nice.

At the heart of every good analogue studio resides a good mixing desk. Sadly, by that adage mine cannot possibly be a good studio, because my mixing desk is - as of this afternoon, with a faint crackle and subsequent display of red peak LEDs - dead. Kaput. No more. Merely nailed to the rack. And, of course, a couple of months out of warranty - good German design let down by Chinese quality. Bit of a downer, really, but worse things have happened - just likely to be a bit pricey, one way or another, and at a somewhat unwelcome time of year given other recent and forthcoming expenses. I'll probably give Music Village a ring on Monday to see what's best to do, but I've heard horror stories of Behringer kit taking months to get repaired, so I might well end up urying my losses and going and buying a real Mackie desk this time instead. More an annoyance than anything, just as I was getting into the mood for writing some new stuff, though I should be able to wire some kind of compromise set-up to tide me over until such time as I can get things sorted out.

Otherwise today's been so-so, getting a better Saturday lie-in than I've managed the last few weekends. Still no Christmas shopping done, other than eventually finding some cards I vaguely liked, but I was trying to avoid the shopping centre as much as possible today - and it was indeed utterly seething in there when I had to grit my teeth to go to the card shop. Bumped into Sarah and Nicky outside Waitrose so had a bit of a chat with them - confusing Sarah no end later, apparently, since I'd tried and failed to phone her this morning, and she'd obviously dialled "1471" when she'd got home from the shops! Was shocked to find that Oddbins no longer stock Jacob's Creek, but they did guide me towards a nice sherry for tonight's neighbourhood group Christmas party, and I eventually found the exact wine I was after in the shop over the road from here - and at a fairly reasonable sale price too, no less. Bumped into Stuart - on his BMX of course, demonstrating his wall-jumping technique - as I was walking home, so I had a bit of company then.

This evening should be good, though, being our neighbourhood group Christmas party, as I mentioned a moment ago. I think it will probably be a fairly low-key event, but I'm sure it will be good fun anyway. Tomorrow's thankfully not quite as hectic as I'd feared, having been given a reprieve from chair and creche-toy duties for the morning meeting, though I'm still in the band so I don't exactly get the morning off! In the afternoon, the church is providing tea for some of the local old people - I bought some contributions for that today, but no-one was at home at Martin and Maureen's so I wasn't able to drop it off quite yet. I don't know if I'll actually go to the event itself, but I'm certainly happy to help in any other way, and a tub of cherry tomatoes and a big bag of Twiglets was quite reasonable. We'll just see how we go, I guess... But now I'm getting hit by quite a sudden wave of tiredness, so I think I'm going to follow Mark's lead and go lie down for a while before having a bite to eat and walking down to Seamus and Gill's.

Grrr, Amazon have rejected my card details on an order I placed with them a few days ago. Because it was a specially-obtained import and they don't check details until dispatch, they've only just flagged it now they have the CD in. Needless to say, the card details should have been fine; it's a new card, but I've used it a few times already without any problems. To add insult to injury, I bet they'll flog my CD to someone else before I can sort it out...

As for last night's neighbourhood group party, well that went very well, with a packed house at Seamus and Gill's. I think everyone had a really good time, especially one person who shall go nameless, but had to be practically carried home. Well, suffice to say it wasn't me, though I was involved in the said carrying. This morning's Christmas carol service was OK; well all the sketches and children's performances were great, but the main music was at best passable, but that's always the way with carols really - everyone expects them, but I don't think anyone in the band really likes playing and singing them.

Well what a pleasantly unproductive - and somewhat prematurely finishing - day that turned out to be. By the time things had really got started in the morning, it was time to jump on Malcolm's unique 1950 Birmingham Crossley double-decker bus to go to our departmental Christmas dinner. That was great, as usual, and the unusual mode of transport added to the occasion with a certain degree of nostalgic charm - what do you mean, it was a bit rattly?! It was only about an hour after we got back from Winslow that a power-failure knocked out most of our side of town, affecting not only us at the Open University, but also our neighbours at De Montfort University, the Hilton hotel and the British Telecom training centre - and no doubt many more besides. Needless to say, we took that as a cue for an early home-time. So here I am back at home - thankfully with electricity! - pondering whether to make my escape this evening, given that Mark's hosting a science department party here in a short while...

Going back to yesterday for a moment, that ended up a good day after that slightly shaky start. Andy and Rosie had been planning on going for a walk once they'd bought a Christmas tree, but it was quite late and decidedly foggy by the time they had, though I drove round there on the off-chance they might have at least something planned. As it was, they'd decided to invite a few people round for tea and games, which was all very nice, and then most of us adjourned to Giles and Jeanne's for mince pies and mulled wine. I didn't stay exceptionally late there, preferring the idea of an earlyish night, but still lasted longer than most of my friends...

As for this evening, well I stayed at home long enough to welcome in most of Mark's guests and help set things up a bit, but then decided I'd get some fresh air - albeit damp fresh air - by going for a stroll along the canal that "runs" along the east edge of the estate. Thought at one point I spotted the mythical "Beast of Springfield" pacing the canal broadwalk in menacing manner, but later found the owner of the associated tinkling bell I heard to be just a rather (un)healthily large tabby living in Turnmill Avenue. Mind you, I doubt the "real" Beast is anything much else, and tonight's moggy did look mighty big as it leapt across the path!

Well my CD from Amazon is now apparently on its way, and might even conceivably be on my doormat when I get home tonight. Second time lucky, as far as my Switch card details were concerned, it would seem. Fighting through the automated response system on Natwest's helpline, I eventually ascertained there's a known problem with Amazon. Sheesh! I mean it's not like Switch is a major debit card and Amazon are one of the biggest e-commerce sites or anything... Anyway, that all seems to be resolved now; I am assured it was only a blip and should not wreck tonight's Christmas shopping plans. And even if it does, I might just have a CD to listen to instead, I guess.

Ah well, no CD and no shopping. But we went to see "The Grinch", which was cool. Go see it too; you know you want to.

CD arrived this morning, and it rocks. It's the limited edition box set of Delerium's new album "Poem", on import direct from Canada. Worth the wait!

And Christmas shopping now done too, after a nick-of-time race round the shops last night, eventually paying for my basket-load at John Lewis just as the tannoy announcement was made that the shop had closed. As expected, more than a few vouchers in there, but also quite a few games and things for my sister's children and a couple of bits for my parents in advance of their main present, so I'll have to busy myself wrapping everything up tonight probably. No problems with my Switch card, happily to say, using it pretty much everywhere apart from Thorntons without any glitches. Also spoke with Mum last night to finalise a few more details of exactly what's happening over Christmas itself, and I think I feel a bit more relaxed about it all now... Christmas is OK - but only once I know everything's sorted. We spend far too much time stressing over this stuff - Dr Seuss was definitely right there!

Counting the minutes before I can get out of this place for a few days. Or at least I would be counting the minutes but for the fact that I'm waiting for a phone-call from Nominet, which could - literally - be this year, next year, sometime or never. But hopefully not never, because I'll still be waiting. That's in relation to the Shine domain - and, as it turns out my own one, since they'd just not got around to notifying me yet - and the fact that their web providers have gone bust owing Nominet lots of money in unpaid domain registration fees. Nominet seemed all very decent about it, in stark contrast to the good-as-useless service from Thename, but they're understandably a bit short-staffed this close to Christmas. I was hoping to defer sorting it out until January, but when Gareth dropped round a copy of their letter last night, it turned out that it was dated 1 December, and 21 days has now run out...

Today's otherwise been fairly quiet, with Sam having taken the day off, and not a lot going on anyway. A few of us congregated at the Airport Lounge bar for a little while at lunchtime, and apart from a bit of a mad panic to get my December monthly report written - I thought Jon was joking when he mentioned it last night! - that's been just about it. Oh, and I ran off a CD-ROM copy of Sun's Java tutorial, for me to have a bit of a look at over the break if I get the chance, but since I have no plans of taking a laptop home with me, those chances should be mercifully limited so I can enjoy the season properly!

A short break in my diary there, wasn't there? Well I'm safely back in Milton Keynes now, having had a pleasant few days away with my parents, visiting my sister and family. I drove to Herefordshire on Saturday afternoon and dumped off my stuff at the caravan my parents had rented before finding my way through the narrow and foggy lanes to my sister's house in Madley.

For the next few days, we did a mixture of walking in the Herefordshire countryside, visiting my sister, eating at a local pub - doing brilliant steaks with chips and all the works for under four quid! - and trying our best to keep warm in what was a rather chilly caravan. Christmas Day was spent mainly at my sister's house, needless to say, enjoying a lovely vegetarian Christmas dinner before we embarked on the presents bit, as well as generally being occupied entertaining the children and so on.

My parents are driving home tomorrow morning, but for various reasons I preferred to leave today, so after a walk in the snow and ice this morning and chilli con carne for lunch, I hit the road home this afternoon, getting back here a bit before six. The only real downer was me getting a bit of an upset stomach on Boxing Day - almost certainly due to the slightly suspect water at the caravan - which left me feeling a bit listless and miserable at times amongst other less savoury effects, but that all seems better now thankfully!

Anyway, I've no major plans for the next few days now, but will be taking things as they come and hopefully will be seeing quite a few of my friends between now and the new year - and beyond... Still almost another week until I'm back at work, so plenty of time to relax - oh, and learn Java, did I mention that?

Winter did indeed sweep across the country last night, and of course things have ground utterly to a halt as a result. I'm not sure if or when my parents eventually got away from the caravan in Herefordshire; they were due to be home by lunchtime, but I've heard nothing from them yet, and I've tried phoning them a few times since I think they might have my rucksack with my waterproofs and such things in it. "Such things" including my fleece hat and gloves, which I might have appreciated when I went out for a brisk walk out to and around the lakes at Willen this morning, but thankfully it was quite bright and sunny most of the way so it mattered little. It's altogether really quite beautiful out - especially when the sun's shining as it is again now - but I'm glad I don't have anything too vital to do for the time being, because driving conditions remain pretty treacherous, especially with a near-bankrupt city council that seems unable even to afford to grit the roads. It's showing no sign of thawing, which must make this some of the best snow Milton Keynes has had in the four years I've been up here, and indeed for some friends' children this may well be the first time they've seen anything like this!

Yesterday afternoon and evening were fun, and I ended up hitting the sack at about two in the end which was pretty unusual for me. Darren phoned mid-afternoon, and we agreed that once he'd done a few things he needed to do, we'd go grab something to eat and maybe catch a film afterwards. In the meantime I walked down to see Ken and Sarah for a little while, and thankfully caught them in, so stayed for a cuppa or two before going back home to wait for Darren. My plans for New Year's Eve seem to be taking a little more shape, with Ken and Sarah having invited me round for a meal in the evening before we get down to more serious seasonal matters as previously agreed. Anyway, Darren eventually arrived, and we "hit the hut" without much discussion, afterwards going on to Cineworld at the Snowdome. It was a bit pot-luck what would watch, and the programme was surprisingly limited for a holiday-time evening, but Arnie's new film "The Sixth Day" turned out to be an excellent choice, tackling the moral and social issues of cloning in his usual no-nonsense way. Back at home afterwards, Darren agreed to stay for a coffee, and we ended up watching "Death Train" on television. I'd seen it before, but it was a fairly good film, and it's always amusing seeing Patrick Stewart being someone other than Jean-Luc Picard. Then, with Darren gone, a quick e-mail check turned into a rather longer session on the net, finding Jo still up, about and on good form, and by the time we'd finished catching up on happenings and so on, it really was time to call it a night...

It seems to be around that time of year when television programmes, newspapers, and just about any other media short of things to write about or broadcast, do a "retrospective" of the year coming to a close. Highlights, lowlights, events, that kind of stuff... Sure, the year's not out yet, and there's still time for things to happen, but now seems as good an opportunity as any to cast my mind back, trawl through my diary archives, and duly present a potted summary of 2000, for the benefit of those people who accuse me of verbosity!

The year started with me being somewhat in love, and closed somewhat not in love any more. Somewhere in the middle, a few days before Easter to be precise, the transition between the two was at its most painfully evident. It was a difficult time, but one that I am sure was for the best, and I have no serious regrets about the eventual decision, or the many happy months that preceded it. I'm pleased that Zoe seems to have found contentment once again, even if I'm still going around a bit like a headless chicken myself. I've established close friendships with a number of people over the year, and I have a gut feeling that either from those people or elsewhere, it won't be long until I'm back on track and hopefully taking things to a higher level than ever.

I've travelled more than average this year, with the two main trips having been one down to Cornwall in June, to meet one of my best friends off the net, Jo, and then a long driving tour of the UK in September. The former was my first time that far south-west, so it was always going to be an interesting experience one way or another, and we had a happy few days together touring the county, seeing the sights and generally enjoying each other's company. The latter was a 1600-mile youth hostelling trip, taking in the Lake District, Loch Ness, the Scottish west coast - including Skye - and the Yorkshire Dales. One of the highlights of that trip was meeting my great-aunt Grace at a nursing home near Thurso in north-east Scotland; this was the first time I'd ever met her, and it also turned out to be the last - she passed away in November.

Church-wise, it's been a fairly quiet year for me, without any major issues to contend with, and generally plugging away at playing in the worship band, looking after the web site and so on. Shine have been going from strength to strength, and I've been working quite closely with them in designing and updating their web site and helping look after their office computer systems. There were a few crises in those regards, but nothing we couldn't handle, even if we did probably have a few sleepless nights between us, what with predatory domain name registrations, decrepit computers dying, and most recently their web hosts going bust.

Technologically, 2000 was the year that I finally saw the back of my old 486 PC, donating it to Zoe's sister Yvette for word-processing duties when I replaced it in February. It was quite a major step up, to move from a minimally specced 66MHz 486sx to a fully-loaded 550MHz Pentium III, and I'm still not really using it all to its full potential I'm sure. I put a good studio-quality sound card in it, so in combination with a nice new Yamaha keyboard, my creative urge is starting to resurrect itself after a few fallow years. Just a shame that my mixing desk chose this moment to die on me, but thankfully my choice of sound card is proving a blessing since it includes simple mixing facilities.

The car's still going well, though a few recurring problems and other odd niggles mean I'm always keeping my eyes open for upgrade possibilities. It still basically runs well, though, so I'm in no major hurry to get rid of it. It served me well on September's tour, managing such delights as the Hardknott Pass and the many winding Scottish coastal roads with considerable ease, proving to be quite impressive for a mere 1.3-litre vehicle.

Didn't do a great deal with astronomical matters this year, with the weather really not being in my favour all that often. Astronomy really is a winter hobby, when the skies are at their darkest and the most interesting stars and other objects visible - but obviously the risks of Great British Cloud and freezing cold are at their highest then too. At least I saw a good display of Leonid meteors in November - in stark contrast to last year's disastrous night out in vain - so 2000 wasn't a year of complete astronomical failure, even if my opportunities to use my telescope were sadly limited.

If I had gone to my great aunt's funeral, I'm sure there would have been a film title in there somewhere, having been to no less than four weddings this year. Daniel and Jodie, Phil and Angela, Ben and Sarah, and Alex and Catherine all "tied the knot" in my presence, and there have been yet more amongst other friends of mine. The last of those I attended was the least usual in many ways, taking place at a beautiful hotel in the New Forest, and to which I was invited to, in part at least, as the lifelong neighbour of one of Alex's previous partners - a connection we only discovered when I met them for the first time at the Cropredy folk festival this summer.

Work - yes, I guess I had to get on to that subject eventually. I'd love to say it's been a fantastic year, but it's not, so I won't. It seems that my role at work at present is pretty much officially as a "gap filler", which in practice means picking up the jobs everyone else had the strength of mind to say no to. I would go so far as to say I can't remember having done anything much worthwhile this year, apart from applying for new jobs. Nothing positive has come of any of those applications as yet, but 2001 really must be the year I either improve my situation at the university quite radically, or I get out while I still have the chance.

Anyway, that's about it, I think. Saved you the bother of reading through pushing a megabyte of web archives anyway!

Well it's holiday-time, so I may as well do more of what I enjoy, and as such I went to the cinema with Darren for the second evening on the trot last night, this time watching "Unbreakable", the new Bruce Willis film. Not quite what we expected, but interesting all the same and well worth watching. This morning I ventured out in the snow to walk up to the city centre - my car's still looking like an igloo with red patches and isn't going anywhere until it has to - to do my weekly shop and get in a few more bits and pieces for tomorrow evening. Back in the warm again now, and no real plans for the rest of the day, except to relax a bit, though I might fit in another more recreational stroll sometime...

Almost time to say farewell to 2000, either the beginning or the end of a new millennium - or about five or six years into the new one, strictly speaking, but never trust the Pope to get it right.

The snow's falling again as forecast, but thankfully I have only a short stagger along the street to Ken and Sarah's house this evening, even if I have a slightly longer trip to go to lunch tomorrow that might require a little more bravery. I've no idea quite what form tonight's celebrations chez Ken and Sarah will be taking, but I'm sure it will be good fun whatever and I'm really too drained to do anything too enterprising anyway.

There were a few vague suggestions being made about things to do tomorrow if the weather was reasonable, but other-local-Sarah has more decisively invited me round for lunch, by which time hopefully they will all have woken up a little after their epic rail trip back from Aberdeen on Friday. They knew it was likely to be slow progress, but it apparently eventually took thirteen hours and they didn't arrive home until the small hours of Saturday morning - really not very pleasant for anyone, let alone a single mum with three tired children in tow. They're not planning on doing anything tonight other than catching up on sleep, so hopefully if I get a suitably late night myself, we might all just about be on equal terms in our energy - or lack thereof - come tomorrow lunchtime!

Just slipped and slid my way up to the shop and helped empty their chill cabinet. I think we should have a fun night tonight...

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