goznet ...

David's diary: March 2000

Last night, yes, what exactly did happen to last night? Well I vaguely recall going to bed at about two o'clock, after a bit of web-site design - for myself this time - and music-making, but how approximately eight hours passed so doing is anyone's guess. There was the pizza, I suppose, but that didn't account for more than an hour of that, so I guess it's those pesky aliens again.

Thankfully I didn't get proposed to yesterday, as I am dubiously advised it is a girlfriend's legal right to do and have her proposition accepted, though I'm not sure how they would classify a girlfriend as distinct from some random female off the street who came up to me and declared undying love and a desire to have babies on my behalf. Anyway, I suspect it's all a bit of an urban myth, especially since I'd never heard of this "law" before, a "law" supposedly carrying a thousand pound fine for non-compliance. Rather like the idea of the Eskimos having how ever many hundred words for snow - they actually have less words for snow than us Brits have for rain, and that's a fact - or the Budweiser Frogs screensaver really containing a dangerous virus that will even make your ice-cream go gloopy, I guess it captures the imagination for all of about ten seconds before everyone forgets about it and gets on with Real Life. Having said all that, I'm sure that if Zoe had proposed to me last night, I'm sure I wouldn't have complained in the slightest - thousand pound fine or an urban myth, regardless - and would indeed have been equally thankful. Funny how these things happen, but that's quite enough hypothesising for a Wednesday.

Talking of Wednesdays, it should have been a curry day for me in the staff canteen, but for some reason the pork whatever-it-was really didn't inspire, and the other stuff on offer looked quite indifferent. The choice of sandwiches was of the egg, cress, or egg and cress nature, so I did something I've never done before while working here, and had a tub of salad instead. "So do I just stuff as much as I can in here?" I asked, getting some sarcastic comment back about squishing it down as hard as I could, and some garbled explanation of all the exceptions that would make it cost more. After all that, though, I just filled the tub with whatever I pleased and no questions were asked. It was actually quite tasty and I think I'll do it again very soon. It's also probably pretty healthy as these things go, and certainly much better value than curry that's seen a fifty percent price rise since Christmas. I'm not sure exactly what's happening this evening, so it seemed a good idea not to eat too heavily anyway; there's a bit of a gathering a Lloyds wine-bar to celebrate the launch of the Shine album, and it wouldn't surprise me if we end up having something to eat too, either there - if they do food - or elsewhere.

This evening's Shine album launch party thing went well, with loads of people along. It wasn't a formal event by any means, just a celebration of having finally got their album out after so long. I wasn't on for a late one anyway, but pretty much as soon as I started showing signs of being about to make a move, so did most other people, so I didn't feel like too much of a party-pooper. Anyway, I'm absolutely shattered, so I'm going to give Zoe a brief call once I've got this posted up and then head rapidly for bed.

Nine hours' sleep! Nine! My what a luxury that was... Do I feel any more awake this morning, though? A little, I suppose, but I think I could use a few more good nights' sleep. I'm sure it's not by chance that I've had time for a proper breakfast just about every day so far this week. I knew deep down that it was better in the longer term to get up early and have some breakfast - and risk being a little tired - than lie in until the last minute and just make do with a cereal bar from the shop, and somehow my dreams or whatever have conspired this week to make that a reality. Long may they continue to do so, and if I can get to bed the better side of midnight most nights, so much the easier that will become.

Once again, that unlikely pairing of guns and schools hits the headlines worldwide, this time with a six-year-old boy slaying a girl of the same age he'd allegedly been squabbling with the day before, using a weapon he appeared to have stolen from his parents several months ago - what a cool toy to bring to "show and tell".

Only in America, we would like to say... Although one doesn't have to look back more than five years to remember the carnage one - somewhat older - Thomas Hamilton inflicted upon many more children of much the same age in Dunblane. I was utterly shocked at the time; indeed I would say that I couldn't remember the last time a news report had reduced me to tears, and that's despite seeing some pretty horrific stuff reported over the years.

OK, so the reaction in this country to Dunblane was arguably a bit over the top, by outlawing handguns altogether, when perhaps there should have been some provision for legitimate use and storage at ranges, but the fact remains that at least we did something substantial about it. The death of a class of infants was enough to persuade even the right-wing government of the day that something had to change, and change it most certainly did - and on balance certainly for the better.

What worked - or at least partially worked - here might not work in the USA, where the gun culture is entrenched to such an extent it will probably be impossible to truly excise during our - hopefully at least three-score years and ten - lifetimes, but for the lives, not just the livelihoods, of young people to be gambled on sheer politics is plain sick. Sick. That's S, I, C, K - for those of you who can handle your forty-five better than a monosyllable.

To hell with your Second Amendment's mis-quoted and anachronistic "right to bear arms", actually a "right to bear arms as part of a well regulated state militia" in case the federal government turns nasty - as if the government didn't have slightly better guns anyway these days...

You may have got conditioned to hearing of school shootings - it's only the unusual ones that even make the news headlines these days, isn't it? - but you still seem to be able to turn on the grief-stricken outrage of "how could it happen here, our Johnny knows how to use his safety-catch", even if it is outrage that is quickly drowned out by that of the gun lobby with their tedious life-disregarding obfuscation of the basic issue.

That basic issue being that lives of kids are getting pointlessly wasted and that it's only political point scoring and the reputations of some semi-decaying gun-toting movie has-been and his cronies that's getting in the way of common sense prevailing.

Cool - after a flurry of e-mails and telephone calls, it looks like Shine's web provision is finally getting sorted out, although I won't truly believe it until both addresses are up and running... You see, Shine have another national television appearance in a bit over a week, and are hoping to get their web address publicised, so it was absolutely vital to get it all sorted out now rather than "as and when". OK, so it would have been nice to have had it done by the time of the album launch on Tuesday, but on the other hand no-one would have known it anyway so it didn't really matter, but this is a much more important reason to get it right, with far more potential for embarrassment if we don't... Anyway, all being well, the .CO.UK address should be working as from midnight tonight, with the .COM one following soon afterwards, though needless to say I am still awaiting detailed uploading instructions and so on. I'm sure it will all be done in time, but there's still a little niggling feeling to the contrary, and I won't really be happy until I see it all working with my own eyes.

Oh flip, just got an e-mail from the US record label side of things, with them having well-meaningly just registered the .COM address on our behalf, lest anyone maliciously snatch it like they did with one of the record label's would-be domains. Not good news though, because now we'll have to release it for our use, and someone, somewhere will be having to pay over the odds for the privilege probably... Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear... I guess I'd better drop another e-mail to our UK providers to explain what's going on, because I'm sure this has just become immensely more complicated, even if it shouldn't directly impact the television thing, since we were going to use the .CO.UK one for that. Still, these are hassles I really could do without at this time.

I'd like to share how I feel this fine sunny morning, but I can't really express myself fully in a non X-rated diary, so suffice to say that I don't feel too great and would quite happily curl up in a corner and hibernate awhile. Yesterday evening was good enough at neighbourhood group - and reminded me of a few important things I'd temporarily forgotten to my cost - but that was only the start of a long, and decreasingly fruitful, night.

Assured that Shine's .CO.UK web address would be activated at midnight, and with two hours to kill before I would be able to test it out and upload a "place-holder" page, I agreed to have a bite to eat with Chris and Claire. We ordered a delivery of a load of burgers and so on, which was all very pleasant - thanks again, Chris and Claire for footing the bill, much appreciated!

However, back at home, midnight came and went, with no sign of Shine's web address becoming available. I was becoming increasingly tired, but I still held on to some small hope it would be sorted, but I gave it an hour before calling it a night - and a not very settled night at that, no doubt the prime contributor to my present state of non-wellbeing. I tried again to access the web site when I got up this morning, but still nothing - and still nothing three hours later - so I have to say I'm pretty disenchanted by it all so far.

Add to that cold feet about the stuff with the .COM address for various reasons - even if the guy in America assures me it won't be a problem, though I gather that Network Solutions can take a month or more to process changes unless you pay them stacks of money - and I have to say that at this point I'd really like to wash my hands of the whole stinking lot, but it's too late really... As Magnus Magnusson would say, "I've started so I'll finish", even though I'd rather just throw in the towel right now and get on with life, assuming I've got much of one to return to.

Right, it's time to head home, after a not-too-brilliant end to an equally unexceptional week. Hopefully meeting up with my friend Steve in the early evening, then awakeness permitting, will later be going on to see Attila the Stockbroker up at Great Linford. However, seeing as I probably ought to have gone home at lunchtime, I doubt whether I'll last that long. The Shine web situation seems only marginally better than previously; I have at least been able to upload the placeholder page I'd prepared, but it's still far from being "live" and I am not confident of it getting sorted out this side of the next week. And that's without even touching on the continuing fiasco of the .COM domain registration, transfer or whatever the latest plan is...

Well after not the most wonderful day ever for a number of reasons, it did me good to get out for the evening I am sure. Steve arrived a little after seven, after a rare - but perhaps more frequent in future - visit to Psion-Dacom's offices up here, and we decided we'd drive straight up to Great Linford where Attila was to appear. Steve didn't actually stick around for the show itself, needing to be on his way, but the bar there was cheap and friendly, and was as good a place as any to get away from it all for a little while.

As for Attila the Stockbroker himself, well the self-styled "Zen Stalinist visionary" - and also Poet in Residence for Brighton and Hove Albion football club - did a good couple of hours of typically challenging and topical poems and songs. Topics ranged from rat-tailed maggots to General Pinochet, from Hitler to Haider, via various other more or less savoury scum-suckers, but actually being surprisingly nice about Slough - and correspondingly scathing of Betjeman.

Thankfully for me, it all finished in quite good time, and I plan on being in bed just about as soon as I can get a new sheet out of the wardrobe, though I'm sure I'll fit in a phone-call to my nearest and dearest yet, even if I'm dozing off as I do so...

Just a quick check-in entry, after quite a busy Sunday, but finishing up a bit earlier than often - and wanting to make the most of that with an early night, and hopefully a slightly more awake Monday than I am generally accustomed. But, let me assure readers, it's been a good day, a full account of which can wait until later...

Yes, it was altogether quite a good weekend, and especially a good Sunday - with a definite Super Supreme pizza theme, as will be revealed shortly... I can't remember a great deal about Saturday, but I vaguely recall having a reasonable lie-in, popping up into the city centre for a while, and spending a good part of the evening working on my new personal web pages. More than that, I'm not too sure, but if I have no bad memories, it must have been all right.

Sunday I recall considerably more of, happily to say, enjoying another lie-in - thanks to not being asked to play at Celebration for once - driving up to Wolverton with Zoe a little after ten. Tony Gray was speaking, as expected; I'd not heard him before I don't think, although Zoe had, oddly - I think it must have been one of those odd mornings last year when I was doing Sunday School that he visited before. His message was a good one, but sadly his delivery was too monotonous for it to sink in too well - though his evening address on baptism in the Holy Spirit was somewhat more engaging and went down better with most people, I think.

With Mark off somewhere else for the day, his friend Darren was looking a bit disoriented - especially when it was his first time at one of our celebrations - so after running Claire back home, Zoe and I went out for lunch at Pizza Hut with him. We pondered what was going to be the best value from the menu, eventually going for a large Italian Super Supreme with all the usual accompaniments, and were hungry enough by the time it arrived not to even notice the lack of olives. Our waiter noticed, however, and before we knew it, we'd agreed that they would cook up another one we could have as a take-out for nothing - that's customer service for you! So needless to say, we didn't go to KFC for supper, but instead had what was left of the free pizza - we'd left a note on the kitchen table asking people to help themselves, and there were three slices left by time we were peckish.

As for the rest of the day, well we watched "Toy Story" on video, so are now qualified to go and watch the sequel sometime - not that it was Zoe's first time, but I'd strangely not seen it before. I'm not sure if it's quite the classic many people make it out to be, but it was all good fun, and definitely worth a watch. Then we decided we ought to get out for a bit of a walk while it was still light, and found Phil and Angela thinking much the same thing, so we all went for a stroll down to Willen Lake, stopping for a quick drink at the Wayfarer. While we were sitting outside the pub, we were surprised to see Alan, Chris, Louise and Josie, out for a bit of late afternoon exercise too. They explained that they weren't to be going to the evening celebration, so when we got back home we gave our friend Sarah - still nursing her broken arm - a quick phone-call to sort out a lift for her, since she would quite probably have tried Alan and Chris in vain.

And that was about that, really - Sarah needed to be home in good time, and neither Zoe nor I really wanted too late a night ourselves, so once we'd run Sarah home and finished off the remnants of the pizza between us, it was just about time to brave the cold outside and wave Zoe off on her way for another week...

After all the fun of the weekend, the last couple of days have been fairly mundane, getting a fair bit of stuff done at work, with the main highlight being the launch - finally - of the Shine MK web site, now accessible at http://www.shinemk.co.uk. The DNS look-up problems over the weekend were quickly sorted out on Monday, and only a bit of silliness on my part prevented the site being up and running sooner than it eventually was - thanks to confusing "/web" with "web/" in the FTP directory path... Anyway, that's all history now, with the real content approved and on-line, and the site queued for inclusion on the major search engines.

This evening was the AGM for the OU Astronomy Club - not the boring event it might sound, however, with the formalities over and done with in the space of about ten minutes at the start of the meeting, followed by the usual stuff on astronomy news and what to look for in the sky over the month. The main part of the evening was however given over to a guy by the name of Paul Roche, from the National Space Science Centre in Leicester - a one-time protege of club coordinator Andy, and now a fairly big name in his own right - who delivered an excellent, informative and entertaining talk on the risks and effects of asteroid and comet impacts.

Raspberry ripple ice cream - who would have thought it would be such fun to find..? As it was, in my search only a bit of luck - OK, so it was more than luck, but not everyone round here will quite appreciate that - saved me from getting knifed, and it almost ended up being fruitless - literally - anyway.

You see, tonight we have our neighbourhood group pancake party - yes, I know Lent's already started, but sometimes you have to be practical about these things - and it is a well-known fact that there is no finer accompaniment to the seasonal fare than, not brown sugar and lemon juice, nor maple syrup, but raspberry ripple ice cream and chocolate sauce. So, being up in Stony Stratford earlier today - more on that in a moment - I tried the Budgens up there, but no sign of the elusive fruity ice-cream - no other variety will do, I hasten to add - so I thought I'd try the shop over the road from here. However, driving home, I noticed that my car was all covered in hardened little droplets of sap off the trees where I'd parked, so I spent five minutes once I was home rinsing down the windows, five minutes that might quite possibly have saved my life.

Just as I arrived at the shop, I noticed there was a bit of a commotion, with all but one menacing-looking guy subsequently making a rapid exit, and it becoming apparent that the one left inside was armed with a large knife of some description - possibly a meat cleaver - and that he'd already put one person in hospital in the last week. If I'd been there even a few seconds earlier, I would very possibly have been caught in the commotion myself and goodness knows how I would have reacted or what the outcome would have been. My friend Esther also happened to be there at the same time, and we both decided discretion to be the better part of valour and guessed our respective shopping trips could wait a while. The police eventually arrived, and after what seemed quite a long time, the guy was bundled handcuffed into the back of an awaiting police van, and the coast was clear. And after all that, no raspberry ripple ice-cream.

So, having been reminded of its existence by Sarah a couple of weeks ago, I thought I'd drive along to the Fishermead Co-op, and was far more successful there - and at half the price of what the shop over the road used to charge when they had it in stock - so I'm now fully prepared for tonight's feast.

Even the day up at Stony Stratford wasn't entirely event-free, with Marion having an epileptic fit at the afternoon tea-break - quite worrying when someone just collapses out of the blue and starts twitching. Even more worrying was that Marion was one of our office-mates for a couple of months last year, and we were completely unaware of her condition, despite others apparently knowing - so it can't have been a confidentiality issue. Goodness only knows what I or Sam would have done had she had a fit at that time; I think this needs to be raised with the occupational health unit or whoever, especially since Marion is not only a keen cyclist and yachtswoman, but apparently also currently the department first-aider...

Otherwise the day was quite useful, a "training day" of sorts, with lots of short seminars on many different software-development related topics, from Java and XML to formative evaluation - even if I'm still not entirely sure what that is - and pedagogic design. No single session was long enough to truly drag, though as these things always are, it was quite intensive and most people were fit to drop by the end of it. Thankfully there was no repeat of the stupid ice-breaker exercises we did at the last such event - including walking round the room humming - although our "speciality" groups were labelled according to different types of flowers in a bucket in the middle of the room, so all wasn't entirely sane.

Anyway, I'd better be drawing this to a close and getting ready to go out to neighbourhood group; I still have last night's events to report back on, but they can wait until a little later I guess.

Where did I get to? Oh yes, last night... Nothing too exciting, just a meeting of about half a dozen of us to discuss various church publicity issues - mainly to do with a forthcoming "welcome pack" but also touching on the web site, an issue closer to my heart, and probably the reason I was invited along. It was a useful time, anyway, and we've got some semblance of an action plan now, though it's clear there's some way to go.

Tonight's neighbourhood group pancake evening went very well, starting with about three quarters of an hour of "prayer walking" around Springfield, before adjourning for the aforementioned tasty goodies. The ice-cream and chocolate sauce both went down very well, though thankfully not down the front of my shirt like they normally do... I had a good chat about a few things with Seamus and Gill afterwards - including getting some more support for our plans for semi-regular weekend walks - and got back in just a few minutes ago.

I'm right ready for bed now, though, so just as soon as I've got these entries posted up and brushed my teeth, that's exactly where I'll be going...

Right, it's gone five, and it's time to go home. It's been a mixed week, and I'm glad it's all but over. That'll do for now - I'm off.

Three o'clock on Saturday afternoon, and finally a chance to relax a while... It's been a busy last day or so, meeting up with Dave yesterday evening for a bite to eat at Burger King - Rodeo meals are back, and cheaper than ever! - and then going on to the cinema to watch "The Green Mile".

This was a film I had heard mixed opinions about - some perhaps based more on prejudice than anything - but it was well worth seeing and judging for ourselves. I'll get a bit cliched now, I'm sure, in describing it as harrowing but heartwarming, graphic but tasteful, and - above all - probably the most thought-provoking film I've seen in a long time, working on many different levels. It was also a very long one, at three hours, but totally engaging and involving, one of those rare films that immerses the viewer in so much the boundary between fact and fiction gets very blurred indeed. So yes, ignore the detractors, prepare to be shocked and challenged, and go and see this film - its Oscar nominations were well deserved for once - and indeed for a lot of people it should probably be compulsory viewing.

As for today, well having not got home until about midnight and then not getting straight to bed, I didn't see a lot of this morning, having a late breakfast and not feeling at all hungry since. I've been up into town to do a bit of shopping, but nothing too exciting this time, just the usual groceries to get me through the week. And here I am, now...

Back into the working week with a bump - thankfully not too literally - and a struggle to keep my eyes open... No idea why, because I managed about eight hours sleep last night, and it wasn't too hectic a day beforehand, but I get used to this I suppose. Roll on that warmer, brighter, weather though.

Yesterday was good. No, that's an understatement. Yesterday was very good. Hmm, was that better? Well, you get the idea anyway - and after a bit of a forgettable week, it certainly made all the difference, and I feel clearer in my mind about where Zoe and I are going than ever before, I'm pretty sure. More on that in a moment, though.

Sunday morning was typical enough, with a surprisingly engaging talk by Phil on why we're Christians, ultimately, and how cool tigers are. Clearly Phil's been brushing up on presentation skills, because it's quite rare for me to remember what people have talked about, yet the tigers somehow serve as a good memory-jogger. The evening meeting was also good - even with the mild inconvenience of having to do OHP, something I officially "don't do at the moment" - with one of Andy's typically rambling but inspiring talks - on deliverance, I seem to recall, though with no tigers I can't exactly remember...

After the morning meeting we lunched at Wetherspoons, having found Chiquitos to be closed for refurbishment of some kind, enjoying chilli-con-carne in various guises and very indulgent chocolate sponge - or at least those of us not too actively dieting. Too indulgent by half, feeling morally obliged to go and justify at least the accompanying cream with a brisk walk round Caldecotte Lake, followed by a slightly less virtuous trip to the video shop to borrow "Virus". A very silly film, but it passed the time I guess, and I'll have to remember to take it back this evening given that we forgot last night.

Supper was at KFC as is traditional, though going to Westcroft instead of Stacey Bushes for a change due to Zoe's need to visit a cash machine - and mine too, as it turned out, having lent someone a fiver and ending up a little short of cash myself. Twister meals all round, for a change - with a Zingers having been flavour of the moment for a while - and a good natter about all kinds of stuff, from Neighbours - thanks to Natalie Imbruglia on the radio - to ... ummm ... EastEnders. Hmm, maybe not "all kinds of stuff" after all.

So yes, as I said, I feel a lot clearer about my relationship with Zoe now than of late, and thankfully, all thoughts are now of a positive nature. Yes, I am feeling the physical distance between Milton Keynes and Iver Heath more than ever before, but I am taking that as a Good Sign as much as I possibly can. OK, so it's only an hour on the road, but it's an hour that makes midweek meet-ups more or less impossible - certainly on any routine basis - and I would have to admit I do get a little envious of Phil and Angela apparently being able to be together virtually every waking moment when they're not busy working...

The fact that any doubts that might build up during our week apart get happily shattered come the weekend would seem to confirm all this. If I can overcome that mid-week doubt, then I'm sure I can feel altogether a lot more positive about it, seven days a week, rather than just a couple - resulting in quite an emotional rollercoaster ride.

I'm still holding out for a miracle that might make it practical for Zoe to move up here - as she's said many a time she would, given half a chance. Otherwise, there's still well over a year before anything like that would be a realistic possibility, and a lot can happen in that time - one way or the other... That's not to say I couldn't cope with that, but it would be difficult - though I guess if we survived that long it would be a good sign? I guess I'm coming across as Mr Impatient again, but I am susceptible to quite major confusion, temptations and so on, and whilst absence makes the heart grow fonder to some extent, it also leaves it open to unwelcome attack from various quarters.

But anyway, I think that'll do for now, I've probably shared too much as it is, although as often is the case it seems better to share it than to bottle it up.

Besides, it's lunch time.

Hmm, funny how people have an annoying habit of making me eat my words... This time it's my German colleague Markus, previously the cause of much irritation, who just e-mailed me to say there was - quote - "a (hopefully) pleasant surprise in your pigeon hole". This - indeed pleasant - surprise turned out to be a bottle of Burlwood 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon, as thanks for all my help over the last few months, processing tedious audio files, server logs and so on. Not that I'm a massive wine drinker, but hey, who's complaining? Made my day anyway. Thankfully he didn't comment on the first few bars of the German national anthem I'd written on the uncannily score-like pattern on the brown envelope in which I enclosed the CD-R I sent him this morning...

It's been a moderately fun evening, devouring a mound of my favourite pesto pasta - with the obligatory salad and grated cheese, of course - and experimenting with acid a bit. Oops, that should have had a capital "A" - lest anyone get concerned - Acid being a rather nifty little sample sequencer that came on a bonus CD-ROM with my sound card. As a bit of a "music-by-numbers construction kit", rather than the kind of tool I am familiar with, I had assumed it would just be a bit of a toy, but I have to say I'm quite impressed and suspect it could be a rather good way of building drum loops and so on. OK, so the supplied samples are a bit cheesy and not much to my liking, but I can use any other sounds I like so the potential is quite massive. Once everything's sounding good, I can export a WAV file, drop it straight into Logic Audio, chop it up, build around it, apply effects and generally do pretty much whatever I like. Not bad for a free CD-ROM it took me a month to investigate...

Another vaguely interesting thing I did in the last few days was to set up a web server on this machine. Now it's not for other people to access remotely, but to make a better test-bed for my own web development projects. Although it's possible to access local files without using a web server, there are a number of associated problems, not least the lack of automatic detection of index.html files as defaults, and an inability to run Perl CGI scripts etc. Netscape also has some difficulties displaying images direct from the file-system, I have found. So on Friday I installed Sambar, a web server I'm quite familiar with from work - and much less bloated than Microsoft's free one - and so far so good... Thanks to its virtual-hosting capability, I can give each of my ongoing web projects a separate URL - e.g. http://shinemk.localhost - and never again have to worry about where "/" in a path-name refers to and so on. Again, all for free ... good eh?

Meanwhile, talking of Shine, tomorrow I need to drop into their office to sort out a couple of things on their computer, mainly trying to get the internet access working again at all - something apparently went wrong on Friday - and also set up a couple of new e-mail addresses. Gareth also hopes I can set a separate password for web access and e-mail, but I'm pretty sure that's not easily practical, but I'll have a look anyway - I can't even think how it could be done in theory, let alone practice, unless there's something I can do with the content-advisor features in Internet Explorer. Ah yes, Mark's just confirmed it is possible with the content-advisor stuff, or at least to block access to enough sites to have the desired effect, and he's shown me how to do it, so I'll implement that at least as a temporary measure.

All's sorted out chez Shine, with net access back up and running - although deliberately clobbered on the web front, as requested - and the required changes made to the e-mail configuration. I also updated the e-mail settings with respect to their new domain name, and adjusted the inbox rules to work a little more seamlessly in sorting incoming messages for each of them.

Erk - just typing today's date reminded me, it's my sister's birthday! Better give her a phone call tonight, seeing as I'd otherwise completely forgotten... It's being a fairly uneventful day, finishing off my monthly report for February - trying not to make it too much of a work of fiction - and doing a little user database management for the Lyceum system.

Mild annoyance of the day so far was finding that I had received a pager message last night - the first time since I sent it back to be reprogrammed not to spam me with so-called "news" and other useless announcements, but also just about the first time I'd not had it with me since then, because I accidentally left it at work overnight. Still, I doubt it was of any great importance, because I spoke to Mark this morning and he didn't mention it, but it's still annoying.

Oh, the big news from work today however is that Stu's on the move, off to some probably horribly-well-paid new job up in Nottingham after about a year here at the OU. I don't know much more than that, nor exactly when he's going, but I would imagine it would be in a couple of months time, from past experience of these things when I've been applying for stuff.

Other than that, well I've been digging out a few prices for a SIMM to upgrade my sound card with, and the best I've found so far is a company in Manchester, selling a 32Mb one for about thirty pounds - convenient given that they are based just round the corner from my friend Andy's brother, and Andy's going to visit him at the weekend!

Mustn't forget to ring my sister, mustn't forget to ring my sister ... what's betting I still do, though? Anyway, this evening's being fairly quiet, and I'm going to have a bath in a short while which will kill another hour of it, and it's normally best not to phone her much before about ten anyway.

I fixed a little problem with the DVD drive on my home machine that became evident yesterday evening, when I found that pictures with any movement to speak of caused horrendous artifacting, with Alanis Morissette not looking very nice thinly sliced as she emerged from PowerDVD. It turned out that when I had updated my video card driver the other day in a vain attempt to squeeze some extra resolutions out of it, when it said to also upgrade to DirectX 7, it really meant it... Having done that - thankfully I had grabbed a copy of DirectX 7 a few days ago at work and popped it on a CD-RW - everything's beautifully smooth again. Basically, my half-baked video driver upgrade had disabled video overlaying, a process which allows the DVD player software much more direct access to the display hardware than normal. Without overlay capability, the player has to go through extra software stages, making it much less efficient, with compromises - such as those that sliced up the aforementioned Ms Morissette - having to be made to maintain the required playback speed.

There was a letter in the post this morning from the Revive team, just to confirm the date of the next live event as being later this month. There was no mention as to whether or not they had received my long-awaited character references yet; for some reason there had been some delay in these being sent, but maybe they have finally been written. I can't even remember who I nominated, so hopefully it's all resolved and I won't have to rack my brains and go chasing. I am naturally pessimistic, though, so I have to suspect there's still been no progress, although judging by how much they've - nicely - nagged at me in the past, it does seem strange that there's no mention of it at all this time. Maybe I'll drop them an e-mail or something to query it while there's still plenty of time, because I'm a little fed up with it all, and would happily join the prayer team or something for the evening if that was less hassle for everyone concerned.

Not really the most exciting last couple of days, so not much to report, I don't think. Yes, I did phone my sister on her birthday, but no, I didn't get any further than leaving an answerphone message. Neighbourhood group was good last night - nothing especially exciting, but it was a good time together, with the highlight being Claire announcing that she's landed a new job after many months of trying. Other than that, about all I've done of great interest is watched part of a Japanese anime DVD my office-mate Sam lent me, in order to put my newly-fixed DVD drive through its paces - quite fun once it got started, and a lot more so if watched in Japanese language with English subtitles rather than with the poor dubbing. Anyway, it's nearly the end of the week - not really one to remember, work-wise - looking forward to Zoe coming up for the whole weekend so we can go to a party in Wolverton Saturday evening, then spend Sunday with Sarah and family which should be quite fun whatever we end up doing.

Oh, yes one more thing of note before I disappear off for the night: Rodeo burgers - back in fashion at Burger King - are made even nicer by the addition of bacon, especially when said bacon is not charged for. However I suspect the latter was a one-off case of generosity and/or oversight rather than any new give-away policy. Having said that, the last two times I've been there have both ended up being better-than-expected value, having been given a veritable mountain of chicken wings the time before when one turned out to be a little un-defrosted.

It's Saturday afternoon, and I'm just awaiting a phone-call from Zoe to say she's on her way up here for the rest of the weekend. I managed one of my briefest ever trips up into town a little while ago, going nowhere other than Waitrose, to stock up my shelves in the cupboard, fridge and freezer, and also to get a few supplies in for tonight's party. I deliberately didn't have much for lunch, since I'd agreed with Zoe that we'd have something to eat before we drove up to Wolverton. I've no idea what's planned for the party; all I know is that it's a belated St Patrick's Day celebration and that we're supposed to wear something green... Still, it's just about the first "traditional" party I've been to for over a year - indeed since the ill-fated one a couple of New Years Eves ago - so I'm sure it'll do me good to let what hair I have down for a short while. So, anyway, the Guinness is in the fridge, the digital camera's on charge, the phone's plugged in - in anticipation of that phone-call from Zoe - and yes, I managed to find something green that I'd be prepared to be seen wearing...

The weather's pretty gorgeous today - warm, sunny and not too windy - and hopefully it will stay so tomorrow, what with our plans for going out with Sarah and family. All being well, after lunching at McDonalds - a sensible choice, as was confirmed last time - we'll head up to Stoke Bruerne for the afternoon. As regular readers will know, there's a rather pleasant stretch of the Grand Union Canal there, with lots of locks, boats and a tunnel to provide interest. There are also a couple of pubs and a playground if I recall correctly, so as long as the weather continues to be good to us, it should be a fun time for all. That is the problem with the Milton Keynes area however, that if the weather's not so good, there's very little to do other than go shopping or go to the cinema or something, though in practice the climate here tends to be very mild and dry, and it's very rarely been a real problem.

Monday morning ... where do the weekends go? Well this one's actually been really quite hectic and generally enjoyable, so it's not too bad being back at work, even if it's going to be a quiet week in the office with Sam away on a rare holiday.

As often seems to be the case for one reason or another Zoe got a bit waylaid with other things on Saturday, arriving here at about five o'clock in the end. No problem there, though, with plenty of time before the party was due to start, so we headed off to Pizza Hut for tea - no surprises on our menu choice there - and then shortly on to Fiona, Ali and Jane's pad up in Wolverton. Ali had been trekking in Africa a couple of months ago, and many of her companions on that trip came along for the evening, so - along with a good number of our colleagues from here - it was quite a houseful once the party got going. There were quite a few new name/face associations for Zoe to try and remember, but she'll probably never meet most of them again, so it didn't really matter... We didn't stay too late, needing to make a typically fairly early - i.e. pre midday - start on Sunday, getting back home at about midnight, but it was good to get out for the evening and meet a few new people and some blasts from the past. I have no idea what time it all came to a close, and I suspect quite a few guests won't have remembered much the following morning.

Sunday happened pretty much as planned, starting off by going to fetch Zoe from Chris and Claire's at about ten and walking up to the school for the morning meeting. The worship was a bit uninspiring, which was a pity, but Paul's whistle-stop tour of Acts and other books, concentrating on the character of the Holy Spirit, livened things up a little. After the meeting, Laura and Rachael walked down to the house with me and Zoe, and having fitted Rachael's child seat into Zoe's car we all headed over to McDonalds where we met Sarah and Claire for lunch. Then, with the weather forecast being exactly right for a change - wall to wall sunshine! - it was on up to Stoke Bruerne, parking just out of the village as I normally do, and going for a stroll up the canal - if canals have an "up", exactly - to the tunnel. Distractions on the way included helping operate one of the locks and having a look around the canal museum in the village, though by the time we'd been to the tunnel and back, time was getting on and smaller legs were getting weary - and their owners a little grumbly - so we drove straight back to Sarah's for a bit of tea and a chat.

Much to my surprise, Daniel had asked me in the morning if I could play at the evening meeting. I only stepped aside from playing at morning meetings, though it seems that some people had interpreted it as a more complete resignation. Fair enough, I'd not played at an evening meeting for a while, but that wasn't out of principle, just the way things had panned out lately what with ferrying Sarah around while her arm was broken and suchlike. Anyway, I happily accepted the invitation to play, and it was really quite a powerful evening - an hour and a half of pretty much continuous music, prayer and ministry. Shattering in the extreme, but most worthwhile, and good to get back into things a bit. I'm still not sure when I'll make a more complete return to these things, and thankfully no-one was pressuring me too much last night, but I suspect it mightn't be long, even if there are certain provisos in so doing.

After the meeting, I was peckish but Zoe wasn't very, so we decided we'd cook up some of our favourite pasta and trimmings, which we could easily split according to our relative hunger. Then it was on to Chris and Claire's to collect Zoe's stuff, getting a little waylaid by various things - including Chris gleefully demonstrating his newly-acquired but not-so-new keyboard to me - then finally it was time to wave Zoe on her way back home a bit before midnight in the end. So, yes, another altogether good - and different - weekend, and just a mere five days to wait until the next one, with yet more fun planned...

Oh yes, one other vaguely interesting thing from Saturday evening was seeing a rather impressive meteor - Zoe's first, indeed, despite many efforts during last year's predicted showers. We were just driving back home from Pizza Hut - and a walk round Furzton Lake, I forgot about that earlier - when the meteor appeared right in front us, pretty unmissable, especially since it was fizzling and sparking as it flew across the eastern sky. It could herald the start of some quite interesting night-time sights, actually, with the announcement the other day that the famous Iridium satellites are to be pulled out of orbit now the company's finally thrown in the towel; I presume what we saw Saturday evening wasn't just the first of those...

It's Tuesday morning, and I'm desperately struggling to stay awake. No idea why, given that I got a fairly early night last night, slept quite well - if not brilliantly - and didn't exactly rush to get up this morning. But whatever the reason, I'm tired, and I can't really see things getting any better. Maybe I should start drinking coffee, though I have to say that the odd times I've used things like Pro Plus I've ended up feeling wide awake but nauseous - these things are always a trade-off. Yesterday at work was not bad, even if I didn't get done the things I was planning on, with the main highlights being a demonstration of our Lyceum software to some quite important people from the BBC - including the head of commissioning for children's programmes, apparently - and helping my colleague Matt with a user-interface evaluation he's doing as part of a course he's studying - rather than designing, for a change! The latter involved him taking notes as he watched me work through an exercise he had devised using Word 97 styles, and then for comparison using a proposed improved interface he had designed. I don't remember doing a lot in the evening, other than having a bath, washing my hair, and - as I said - generally aiming for a fairly early night, which I largely managed.

When I got downstairs this morning, the upgrade SIMM for my sound card was sitting in an anti-static bag on the kitchen table, so I'll open up my computer and try fitting that this evening, I think. I didn't manage to find any cheaper suppliers than Micro Direct in Manchester, and Andy was quite happy to pop in to see them on Saturday while he was up visiting Peter and Esther for the weekend. I hope it all works, because I've heard there can be weird incompatibility problems between the ISIS sound card and certain SIMMs, though the consensus of opinion seems to be that 60ns EDO memory is a fairly safe bet. So that's what I've gone for, and at only about thirty pounds for a 32Mb one - compared with anything up to eighty pounds from certain well known dealers - it seemed worth the risk, and I'm sure I can find someone else who can use it if it's not compatible for any reason. By adding the SIMM, I will be able to use the sound card as quite a sophisticated sampler; the card has 4Mb as standard, but by default that's taken up with the General MIDI sound set, so by adding extra memory I can use both those sounds and up to seven minutes' worth of my own! Like the AWE32 I had before, the ISIS card has a full-featured synthesis engine, so it'll be well worth the bother to upgrade.

Ah well, today's almost over, work-wise, with less than an hour to go. I've done a fair bit today, including all that stuff I had scheduled to do yesterday - specifically down-sampling a few dozen megabytes' worth of sound files, so we can fit a few more applications onto our forthcoming updated departmental CD-ROM. Tedious stuff, but I was able to "switch off" while I did it, so it wasn't too bad, and my calculations as to the space we would save seem to have been quite accurate. Anyway, I guess I'd better be wrapping things up for today, heading home, installing that SIMM on my sound card, playing with sound banks for a bit, and then getting another early night - let's see if I can be a little more awake tomorrow morning...

Hey ho, the SIMM didn't work, surprise surprise. Slotted it in, set the memory size jumper, powered the machine, and lo and behold, no extra memory reported. Performed a "hard reset" on the sound card, and it reported an extra 16Mb - not too good for a 32MB SIMM - with further hard resets inventing apparently random new numbers anywhere from 6Mb to 16Mb. A little research would seem to suggest this is not a unique problem, although hard and fast solutions seem a little trickier to come by. As for sound performance, well that was about as predictable as the memory count, with either stony silence or random notes depending on which way the wind was blowing at the time, and certainly nothing even vaguely approaching correct behaviour. Anyway, although I'm decidedly miffed, I'm not majorly panicked about this yet, because the memory didn't cost a lot, I'm hopeful there might be a simple solution anyway, and as I said before, someone will probably be able to take a perfectly decent 32Mb EDO SIMM off my hands for not a great deal less than what I'm paying for it. So, apart from patching up my finger which I ripped open trying to get the cover back onto my PC, and doing a little work on the Shine web site, that's been about it for this evening, and I'm shortly going to have a bath, make a short phone call to Zoe, and hit the sack.

Well the bath and the phone-call to Zoe somehow bit the dust last night - although the latter was made up for by chatting with her on-line for a little while - and I got a reasonable night's sleep, even if I had a couple of rather stressful dreams, including one about taking an exam... I think I'm feeling a bit more awake than I was this time yesterday, though hardly on top of the world yet. At least the sun's out now, the early morning mist having cleared - that alone has lifted my spirits a bit! My finger's feeling a lot better this morning too; I took the dressing off and it's not seriously bled since, so getting a bit of air around it can only do it good now.

It's looking increasingly likely that the SIMM I tried to fit last night is not going to work with the sound card, and that I'll need to replace it by fair means or ever-so-slightly foul. Despite the assurances in the sound card's pun-tastic user manual that any 60ns 72-pin memory would work, and various other sources suggesting EDO was fine - indeed the card's on-board memory is EDO, confirming the latter - it now seems that the good old "number of chips on the SIMM" issue is rearing its ugly head once again. I vaguely recall this from the bad old days of 30-pin SIMMs, but it seems that it's still a problem several generations of SIMM on. However, any hope of finding a definitive answer as to what number of chips are required seems a fruitless task, with inconsistencies even within single web articles on the subject... The SIMM I tried has four chips, with some people suggesting it needs at least eight - if not sixteen! - to be compatible. I'm still hoping I might get a more authoritative response from Guillemot's technical support service, though I'm not holding out a great deal of hope given others' past experience. Thankfully, Darren's got a few EDO SIMMs he should be able to let me try - though nothing as big as 32Mb, he doesn't think - so I should at least be able to ascertain whether any SIMMs in existence will work on my sound card at all, giving me fresh hope for further investigations.

Cool, just over a week since my last wine donation, another one arrives this afternoon, this time a 1998 Caliterra Chilean chardonnay. Actually I was expecting this one, as a "thank you" for not really helping sort out Lesley's home PC, and was able to state my preference for a white - I love red wine, but Zoe's not so keen - although I don't really think I deserved it. I'll have start a proper wine rack at this rate, though I have a hunch we might get through it at the weekend anyway.

It's Thursday, and the run-in to the weekend's almost started. On one level, this week's gone by really quickly, but on another, it's dragged like nothing on earth.

I'm sure time exists on at least two - if not three or more - different levels, though I doubt any respectable journal would accept my theories... It certainly is the case that although short-term time can move slowly, longer-term time races by. There also seems to be a different scale of time that exists for the subconscious, such that we are incapable of recalling whether certain memorable dreams we had were last night or several days ago, and even dreams from years ago can stay fresher in our minds than "real" events from the same time.

Anyway, the main thing is that it's Thursday, so only a couple of days to go until Zoe visits next - and she'll be up in good time on Saturday, all things going to plan. I'm not yet sure exactly what we'll be doing, although the tentative idea is - taking advantage of the girls being away for the weekend - to go for a slightly more energetic walk with Sarah on Saturday afternoon, followed by tea back at Sarah's. However, the weather forecast is looking a bit touch and go, so we'll play things by ear and hopefully come to a firmer decision tomorrow evening, though I'm sure we'll find something to do one way or the other.

Last night was fairly uneventful, declining an invitation to go and see Andy, Rosie and a few others - mainly because I was too tired and had things to do, though only getting a couple of minutes' warning didn't help too much either since I'd probably missed a message on the answerphone... Things to do included uploading the latest changes to the Shine web site, and experimenting a little with server-side trickery with a view to making future updating a lot simpler. The feedback we've received about the site has been really enthusiastic, with even some web professionals giving it the thumbs up, giving me a lot of self-confidence.

It's neighbourhood group tonight, of course, and it's going to be a bit of a houseful again I understand, with Pete and Wendy's group joining us for the evening, but I think Seamus and Gill have got something fairly light-hearted lined up, so it should be bearable. It will still be less crowded than those meetings earlier in the year, when three groups were crammed into Paul and Carol's lounge, although Seamus and Gill are dearly looking forward to getting their extension built which will make these sort of things much easier.

Anyway, on with work, of some description...

Right, it's lunchtime, and my Automatic Menu Predictor says the staff canteen fare is likely to be as dire today as it was yesterday, so I'll be popping in the shop en route and seeing if they have any bacon and brie rolls again. Thankfully they did yesterday - and I didn't even have to dig to find one - and tea at McDonalds yesterday evening was quite pleasant, an Oriental McRib meal thing, though I doubt I'll do the same again today.

True enough, yesterday's lunch menu was uninspiring, though there were no bacon and brie rolls in the shop, so a chicken, bacon and mayonnaise one had to do instead - a good second best it has to be said. Neighbourhood group was good, and not as crowded as I'd feared, thanks to numbers generally being a bit down for both groups that were combining for the evening. Highlight of the evening was almost certainly the game of Scattergories, where we had to name categorised things beginning with certain specified letters. It's a game that always brings out the worst in people, though, with the biggest laughs of the evening probably being raised by "something that floats" beginning with the letter "J", for which the girls' team came up with "jobbie". Anyway, as often seems to the case, things didn't finally wrap up until about eleven, when I walked home to give Zoe a phone call - though it was engaged and she ended up phoning me - and head to bed at about midnight. We're still not sure exactly what's happening on Saturday yet; I'd phoned Sarah yesterday, when she warned me about the likelihood of the weather being grotty. We agreed I'd phone again tonight when we'd have a better idea, though the forecast's now looking a bit better, so I'm hopeful we can sort something a little bit adventurous out, and Zoe's happy to fit in with whatever we decide on.

A few other vaguely amusing anecdotes from the game of Scattergories last night...

  • Us thinking "Jennifer Juniper" was a clever song title worth double points, and the girls then trumping us with "Jesus Jesus Jesus"
  • Martin, fount of all trivia, insisting that "jetsam" floated
  • Depraved minds thinking alike, with "something found on the beach" beginning with "D" inspiring "donkey dung" and "doggie do" for the lads and lasses respectively

Well, they were funny at the time anyway. The eventual score was a draw, by the way, strangely apt considering how much we'd all cheated.

Right, that was the week that wasn't and it's just about time to go home, mercifully. Not really one to remember for anything much, I'm afraid - not work-wise, at least - and hopefully next week can be at least a modest improvement. Anyway, I've not been asked to help at tonight's Shine gig - or at least not yet anyway - so I think I'll put some time into a bit more web site updating, especially since the transfer of the .COM domain appears finally to have been agreed after some serious "yankee butt-kicking".

I'd better apologise in advance for any typographical errors that might slip through as I write this in an unaccustomed three-fingered manner, owing to the number of dressings encumbering my digits this bleary Monday morning. The cut my computer chassis inflicted on my right index finger a week ago still hasn't entirely healed yet, and still needs protection if it's not going to scar, and I thought I'd better cover some sore skin on my left middle finger which I kept finding myself picking and biting at, making it still worse.

Anyway, it's been a good weekend as they go, whizzing round the shops on Saturday morning before Zoe arrived for a late lunch a little after one. The weather was still decidedly ominous in the morning - prompting me to take the rare step of driving into the city centre, and reminding me, as I gulped at the post-budget unleaded petrol price being 80.9p/litre, that I also needed to pay my car tax. So, running a little late, Zoe and I went for a slightly hurried lunch at Westcroft KFC - a Zinger Tower meal for me, and a Twister meal for Zoe - with Sarah arriving on foot just as we got home.

While I was in town, I'd bought a local Ordnance Survey map and a tourist attractions guide, though with the weather still looking a bit iffy, we decided it might be best if we weren't too enterprising after all. So rather than driving out to somewhere like Towcester as I'd vaguely planned, we just went for a walk up the river to Willen and back, stopping off at the Wayfarer for a drink. In the end, the rain just about held off and it was actually quite sunny at times, certainly well worth getting out for a couple of hours, and Sarah enjoyed the company as ever.

We then drove back to Sarah's for a further natter and some tea - yummy peppered chicken breasts with rice and what my mother would affectionately call "gunk", plus that bottle of Chilean wine I'd been given during the week - before heading back to mine, needing to sort out some computer graphics for Sunday night's Revive event, and then on to Chris and Claire's for the rest of the evening. I almost forgot the clocks were going forward, so was caught out a little when we found it was effectively an hour later than we thought, so I wandered back home in time to get at least a modest amount of sleep.

Sunday was another good day, with Celebration in the morning - including the formal appointment of a number of new elders, with more to come shortly, apparently - followed by lunch round at Chris and Claire's. They've been trying to eat a bit more carefully lately, so lunch was mercifully not too much of a mountain of food, but instead a just-about-perfect amount of roast pork, steamed vegetables and gravy, followed up with a delicious if unseasonal Christmas strudel. We watched "The Empire Strikes Back" - not as good as "Star Wars" but still quite impressive - and a couple of Deep Space Nine and Voyager episodes before getting ready to go to Revive.

Revive was as good - if not better! - than ever, with about two hundred youngsters and would-be youngsters present, enjoying an excellent - if rather bodily-function obsessed - programme of music, drama and so on. I was posted on the main entrance, as I have been at times in the past, helping count people in and out, but was close enough to the action to be able to listen to most of what was going on. Once that was over, we made our escape to KFC once again - though the Stacey Bushes one this time, and Zinger Tower meals all round - where we bumped into a few YPF folks and had a bit of a chat with them, before it was time to wave Zoe off back down to Iver for another week.

Oh well - so far, not really so good today. Nothing extraordinarily bad - unlike certain days I recalled as I was recently trawling through the "back issues" of my diary on the web - but just generally a day that never really got started, and is thankfully almost finished. Sheer lack of motivation I blame it on, nothing more or less, I'm just not sure exactly why, though I have some hunches. Sarah wondered on Saturday if it was because I felt I wasn't being stretched enough, but whilst there may be a little truth in that, it's certainly not the whole story. The simple truth - or at least part of it - is that although things have gone up and down a bit, I would say I've not had a single project in the three years I've been here that has really and truly inspired me. But the problem is that it's never been so bad as to really persuade me to take any drastic action in terms of finding anything better here or elsewhere. Whenever I fill out questionnaires and things, my responses almost always float about the "indifferent" mark, and I fear that apathetic mentality applies to a lot more of my life than I am always consciously aware, and I'm sure I do suffer as a consequence. What to do about it? Not sure, because I could all too easily indifferently just take the first alternative that came along and find myself in the same situation, with another three years of wasted professional development under my belt...

Hmm, why am I so tired? This really is being quite a struggle this morning, even with the kick from a Ritter Sport Halbbitter chocolate bar and a can of Coke. It wasn't even as if I got to bed exceptionally late last night, and I slept moderately well and only just got up in time to get into work by nine. It was a fairly quiet evening, with the highlight being successfully installing on my sound card one of the 8Mb SIMMs Darren had loaned me. At least that proves it should work with higher capacity units; it's now just a case of tracking down one that's compatible at a fair price. Although I chatted briefly to Zoe on-line, I sadly didn't get a chance to speak to her properly, unable to keep awake long enough waiting for the phone-line to be free. It's immensely frustrating having a relationship so at the mercy of technology and other people; sometimes fifty miles might as well be half way round the world with only a carrier pigeon to help. Still, I've trusted in God to sort something out, so there is hope...

That was a little annoying... Mark mentioned last night that he was collecting the ring-pull tokens from Coke cans in order to get his little brother a mobile phone. Now I am somewhat notorious in the department for my hoarding of empty cans, though only a couple of days ago I crushed a good number of them - including many with the requisite mobile phone tokens - and put them in the recycling bin. A recycling bin that never gets emptied since the bloke who was running the scheme suddenly upped and left, however, so I thought I'd go and recover the ring-pulls. Except of course that someone on a similar mission appeared to have got there first, so my haul only came to about half a dozen. Oh well, I'll just have to be a bit more vigilant in future.

Another wiped out evening that went I know not where, followed by an early night and a late morning. With winter over, I'm supposed to be full of energy, raring to go, and ... oh, it's cold, grey, damp and murky outside; nothing really changes. Oh well, life plods on - just praying for a breakthrough somehow.

Hmm, great minds obviously think alike, though I'm not entirely sure "think" is the best word, given that rapid-onset unconsciousness was more the order of the day. Y'see, the other night when I fell asleep waiting for the phone line to be freed up after I'd had my bath, it turns out Zoe did much the same, possibly even earlier, so I didn't have to feel too guilty. Oh well... It still doesn't solve the fundamental problem here, though, and I struggle to hide my - entirely unfair - resentment towards those able to be with their loved ones for what seems like every waking moment. Yes, I've been through this one before, I know, but at least this time I know which way I'm going a lot more clearly even if there are many frustrations yet to overcome. Prayer, prayer and more prayer - it's the only way I'm going to get through this, ultimately. I don't presume to know what God's solution is, but at least I know he's working on it and is going to sort it out with something that will leave everyone happy.

A bit better evening yesterday - well, a lot better actually - but too late a night, and once again only just up in time for work this morning. Gareth phoned wondering if I was going to the Shine prayer meeting, so having had some pizza - with garlic bread and salad, yum! - and a shave I decided I would, and it was a good time, especially after such a successful schools week just finished and many other positive things lately. Later in the evening, while everyone else seemed to be out - remembering my frustration at failed attempts earlier in the week - I gave Zoe a phone-call, good to speak with her for the first time since Sunday evening, then somehow it was well past midnight and high time I was calling it a day. So I did.

One good thing from yesterday other than the evening's events was getting an e-mail from Micro Direct in Manchester, the people I'd bought the incompatible 32Mb SIMM from the other week. Basically, they acknowledge that there can be incompatibility problems with EDO memory, and say they'll happily swap it for a different model, or offer a refund. Anyway, I've asked them for a list of the models they carry and their specifications, so I can make an informed decision, though I'm quite inclined to just accept the refund - or rather get Andy to, since I've not actually paid him back yet - and settle for the working 8Mb SIMM I'm currently borrowing from Darren. 32Mb would still be nice, though, so I'll wait for their response before making a final decision.

As for today, well it's being as tedious and unmotivating as ever, though thankfully the afternoon will be punctuated by a seminar from Sam and Karen, which will provide a brief distraction if nothing else. Other than that, my hopes for today weren't high, and so far have been successfully unfulfilled. At least there's neighbourhood group this evening, to end the day on what should be a positive note, though I have no idea what Seamus and Gill have got lined up for us this week.

Sure enough, the evening did make yesterday worth it, even if it ended up being another late one for me - and probably my fifth missed breakfast this week. Neighbourhood group was nothing exceptional, but a good time of fellowship as ever, doing a little bible-study and planning a few forthcoming events. As frequently seems to be the case we didn't get away until gone eleven - getting waylaid by me and Chris sorting out Seamus and Gill's internet connection, amongst other distractions - and that was just the start of the evening really... As I often do, I took a slight detour to walk back home via Chris and Claire's, and then they wondered if I'd eaten yet, which I had, but nothing exciting and it was five hours previously, so we rushed up to Great Linford just as the Chinese takeaway there was shutting up for the night. Instead we went into the takeaway next door and ordered a load of pizza and pasta - and a chicken kebab for me - trying to ignore the drunks as we waited for it all to get cooked. We ate back at Chris and Claire's, chatted about a few bits and pieces, and finally called it a night a bit after midnight. Unusually, Phil was still up and about, and Mark arrived back home seconds after me, so actually going to bed was still a little while off, but given her very late night on Wednesday night - so much for finishing by one o'clock! - I thought I'd better let Zoe sleep in peace, so her phone-call can wait until this evening.

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