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David's diary: November 2000

Another month gone, then. Monthly report time once again - and better finally sort out my August one too, hadn't I? Last night was good - pesto pasta and salad for dinner, and out for a rare drink with Andy and Mark later.

I hate elitism. In all its forms. Educational elitism particularly sucks, with the traditional universities whinging about the new so-called "polyversities" getting in on the act and providing courses that anyone with enough determination and positive attitude can succeed on. I believe that the currently evolving system - i.e. one not stuck in the dark ages - gives opportunity to everyone, and in an age where employers look towards qualifications as indicators as a degree of commitment as much as absolute ability, it matters not a jot - and is actually decidedly splendid - that there are more than a few snobbish feathers getting ruffled. Much the same story with computer and internet elitism. If you're not using Linux you're clearly just a second-class computer user. OK... If you use AOL or Compuserve you obviously haven't got a clue and don't deserve to get anywhere near the internet. Excuse me?! Just as the polyversities almost singlehandedly revitalised the UK's education system, so the newcomers to computing and the internet with their "dumbed down" ISP access and so on have been largely responsible for the explosion in net usage in the last couple of years and the introduction of lower cost services, benefiting everyone. Elitism not only sucks, it's prejudiced and ignorant. I hate it, but you know that, don't you?

This afternoon has witnessed me clutching my head, experiencing one of my thankfully not-too-common headaches. The kind that make my eyes feel like they want to pop right out of their sockets, to add to the mess of my already-split skull. I once knew a kid whose behavioural problems were eventually diagnosed as being due to pressure on his eyes - hmm, I wonder...

Amazing what an hour relaxing in a Radox bath can do. Feel much better now. Just as well, because I'm off to a band practice as soon as I've posted this!

Band practice was much better than the last celebration one, it has to be said. Tim was happily showing off his new digital piano, and it was good to have Doug along on the fiddle this time. Afterwards, I went home via Andy and Rosie's where a few people were engaged in a game of Risk, but I was quite happy just to be cat-bound for half an hour before deciding to call it a night.

Pouring rain again today, and it's dark and gloomy, even half way through the morning...

Oh, Gill rang last night, mainly to tell me neighbourhood group tonight is half an hour later than usual, but also to remind me I'm supposed to be leading a Bible study for at least part of the evening. Oops. At least with an extra half hour I should have time to concoct something this evening after work.

On which basis, perhaps I'd better be going home!

Isn't the internet a wonderful thing? One Bible study coming right up!

Yes, I cheated a little, but no-one minded and I did own up... It was supposed to have taken twenty minutes, but although I wasn't timing it, I doubt I was much over. I found a useful study on the theme of the wedding at Cana, the venue for Jesus's first and in some ways most significant miracle short of his crucifixion and resurrection. I had time to run through the study beforehand, highlight a few particularly interesting parts, cross out a load I couldn't follow - so no-one else probably would either - and generally become familiar with it. It seemed to go down quite well, and certainly didn't put Seamus and Gill off their plans to share the load of running these studies with other members of the group, with Chris being up for it next week. And that was about it for the evening, enjoying a fairly early night and a reasonable bit of kip - and best of all, being in work on time for a whole week!

The week's up. I'm going home.

It's Saturday afternoon, with a Burger King club sandwich happily resting in my stomach and the sunshine outside beckoning me to go and do something active while it lasts.

Last night I went to the church bonfire and fireworks party at the Kings Centre, and I was glad I did. I was emphatically not going to go, but then had a dramatic change of heart, realising it was a social event as much as anything. Tracking down the "entry fee" of an individual firework proved to be a challenge I was unable to rise to, with the local shop only selling variety packs of useless little fizzly things and the garden centre bizarrely closed. However I bumped into Yvonne on my travels; she was having exactly the same experience and phoned the organisers to ask what was best to do, the outcome being that they had plenty of fireworks anyway and not to worry about it. There were indeed plenty of fireworks, and it was a good little display - probably better than the main city one tomorrow if the weather forecast doesn't improve dramatically!

I ended up cadging a lift there off Yvonne and her family, though their littlest one was upset by the loud bangs so they left early and I got a lift back with Gill's family. At this point the real fun and games started, as we decided to go home via McDonalds and only on arriving back home finding they had omitted Gill's burger from the order. A quick phone-call to the store later and Gill was driving back there while I looked after the children, Seamus being off having a drink with Shane. She was given a couple of extra desserts as compensation for the inconvenience, but it was still a pain, and then to add to her woes, she found she'd accidentally not recorded "The Bill" which she was hoping to put her feet up watching... It was a nice opportunity for a chat, though, and she was grateful for the company in any case.

Anyway, I've done my weekly shopping bit, including having a good long test-play on the Yamaha CS6x keyboard in Chappells since I'm quite seriously considering investing in one, and making my monthly pilgrimage to Carphone Warehouse to pick up their latest catalogue. I'm still just about resisting the temptation to get a mobile phone, but suspect it won't be long now before I give in, especially since a certain someone is gently nagging me now...

Annoyance of the morning was getting accosted by some girl in the open market handing out "lucky" heather and demanding money. I try not to be too mean to such people, but when a round pound in the hand is met with "is that all, can't you make it two?" it angers me to be honest. I stuck to my guns though, bid her good blessings, and the heather needless to say went in the next bin I found. With all the honest and grateful needy people around, like those selling the "Big Issue" and so on, and even the rough-sleeping beggars, that kind of attitude just really irks me.

"Something active while it lasts" turned out to be a brisk stroll round the whole of Willen Lake - for those wondering, it has a bridge across the middle, so it is quite possible to walk round half of it. In the evening I watched "Erin Brockovich" on DVD with a rather poorly Mark, later joined by Darren with whom I went round to Andy's afterwards for a game of Chinese Checkers.

Today's OK so far, with Celebration this morning up in Wolverton, pizza for lunch - just a supermarket one, for a change - and, unless there's a complete deluge, the city fireworks display yet to come this evening. I'm hoping to go with Andy, Rosie and others, so whatever the weather, within reason, it should be a good evening, with jacket spuds back at Bradwell afterwards!

It's the morning after the night before, back at work, with another week ahead of me. Things didn't work out quite as planned last night, though a good time was still had by all, I think. Due to waiting for someone who never turned up, we were well behind schedule leaving to go and see the fireworks, eventually arriving at Downs Barn just as the sky started filling with the first multi-coloured explosions. We couldn't get anywhere even vaguely close to the display area, and didn't manage to meet up with many of the people we'd planned, but it was still good, if somewhat on the short side, and our view was fine. The weather was grim as expected, but it didn't seem to have thwarted the hordes, though we wonder if the display was curtailed slightly because of it. We had more success meeting people back at Andy and Rosie's afterwards, with a fair crowd gathering for bakes potatoes and so on, and a few of us lingering a little longer for another game of Chinese Checkers before calling it a night.

Despite my general unhappiness with my job here, odd things do happen to lift me from time to time. Today it was being given a 500Mb hard disk. Unexciting on the face of it, but it could end up saving lives. All it took was to ask...

Things seem to be looking up a little in general. I can't say work's doing much for me, but other aspects of my life are looking a bit more promising than of late. I can even envisage myself having to make some tough but happy choices in the not too distant future. You can tell by my coyness that it's not likely I'm going to let on anything quite yet - even I don't know what's happening for sure, but I just get a gut feeling that everything's going to be all right - and fairly soon!

Not a good day at work, but things aren't as bad as they could have been. My glass is half full, oh yes, but I know the corollary all too well still.

Last night was busy, and tea was the main casualty - as was breakfast this morning, but that's another story. Just as I was about to go home, Gareth phoned, asking if I could transfer a minidisc on to CD, something I have the technology at home to do, so I agreed. Trouble is, that took me up until when I needed to go out for a new "school of worship" Tim is starting up, so any hope of getting even a bite to eat was somewhat in vain. Thankfully there were ample nibbles after the meeting - which was itself very good, I should add, and well supported - so I didn't have to starve. I had to put the final touches to the CD for Gareth after I got home, then dropped it round to him, labelling the tracks on the minidisc while I was there too, so any plans for an earlyish night came to nothing, and I was also just too late it seemed to make a phone-call I wanted to make before going to bed. Oh well - just hope I can get a chance to do so later today instead, being a special day and all that...

I'm quite run down at the moment, and decidedly glad the weekend is but a couple of hours away. The main reason is simply too many unavoidably late nights - they seem OK when it's my choice, but not when I have no choice - and too little proper time to rest and relax. Wednesday night was busy enough as you know, but last night proved to be not much different either. It turned out that one of the tracks on the CD-R I'd made on Wednesday was the wrong version, hence the wrong version was also on the minidisc, so Gareth asked if I could transfer the correct version of the track on to it from another CD he had. An easy five-minute job, thanks to the joys of optical digital cables and CD synchro recording on my minidisc deck. However, needless to say, disaster struck, and it got in a complete knot over track indexing, and despite only recording a few seconds of the CD, filled the minidisc with over 240 tiny tracks of virtual nothingness. These took about half an hour to go through manually deleting, and then it was time to go out to neighbourhood group anyway. I completed the job afterwards, going via the computer instead which proved to be much more reliable, if somewhat time-consuming, and then I had to go and drop the CD and minidisc back off at Gareth's, by which time it was pushing midnight. Needless to say, I wasn't able to make that phone-call I mentioned nor do many other things I'd hoped, and was utterly fuming - and breakfast again suffered this morning, no coincidence I am quite sure. No-one's fault, per se, but still annoying to the point of desperation, and with work as it is at the moment, hassles I could well do without. At least neighbourhood group was good, even if Chris wasn't there to run the study he had been intending, but I'm sure he'll get another opportunity to do that sometime when he's not stuck in Manchester for the night.

I was going to spend most of yesterday evening on the phone, but then Darren phoned me instead - just as well, because all I was getting was engaged tones - and we went out to the Black Horse for a drink. Or I should say the Proud Perch, as it is now called for some bizarre reason, now it's changed hands to be a Barge-clone pub. Nice nonetheless, with proper open fires and good beer, so not really complaining; I just suspect it'd been called the Black Horse through all recorded history. Came home via Darren's, not least to drop him off, but also to collect a sliding keyboard shelf that he's said my parents can have to go with their hypothetical new computer - nice one, Darren!

Monday morning, back at work, and with a couple of days left to finish the nightmare of a project I'm currently tackling. I'm pretty sure I can do it, but I'm also pretty sure it's one of the last projects I'll be involved with here. The weekend was good, in the end, just the right level of doing things and relaxing, so I'm feeling at least moderately alert and raring to go this morning. OK, so I lied about the "raring to go" bit, but it's closer to the truth than most Monday mornings of late.

No Dave for last night's pizza outing - he's in Ireland, as both Darren and I had forgotten until I tried phoning him on his mobile - and, indeed, no pizza, come to that. Instead we decided we'd go and have a Wetherspoons meal instead, both ending up with a scrumptious surf'n'turf - that's scampi and steak for those not in the know. Darren wanted a mixed grill, but for the second time out of three such visits, they didn't have all the requisite ingredients, but were happy to bump his meal up to the surf'n'turf too for no extra charge. Just as well, since I was paying this time, as a thank-you for the keyboard shelf thing Darren gave me for my parents' forthcoming home computer system.

New keyboard now on order at Chappells! They confirmed they could match the most aggressively-pricing advertiser in Sound On Sound, and throw in some accessories at fair savings too. So I decided to go for it, and one shiny new Yamaha CS6x keyboard should be making a trip from their warehouse to the store this afternoon, in time for me to pick it up tomorrow morning hopefully!

Which I have now duly done, being very disciplined and only checking that everything was present and correct before coming into work and of course struggling to find a parking space! Remind me I'm in the east car-park, should I forget when it comes to time to go home, lest I wonder where my car's gone.

Oh, I forgot to say, I didn't get the job at Fuji. They said they'd had a lot of response to their advertisement, and there were people with more appropriate skills. I guess that really meant "more appropriate skills for the money we were prepared to offer". Hey ho, never mind. Push at doors; some open, some don't. But there's only one way of finding out, and I did my best, didn't I?

Tsk, no-one reminded me about the east car-park, or at least not when it had a chance of making any difference. So I took a slightly longer route to get to the car and was consequently slightly later home, and had consequently less time to noodle on the CS6x. But it was time enough, and I think I'm going to enjoy using this bit of kit as a central creative workhorse. I could bore you readers with lots of details about the multi-mode filters, the sequencing capabilities and this that and the other, but I won't. It's dead good though!

This time last year, readers with exceptional memories may recall it was foggy, but tonight there's patchy cloud, which bodes well for any attempt I might make later to go Leonid spotting. Leonids are meteors, in this case tiny particles of dust from the trail of Comet Tempel-Tuttle which comes our way every so often. Like so many things, scientists don't really understand the principles behind this at all, so it's never too certain whether there will be a big meteor storm or just a few per hour - or even exactly when any shower might occur in the first place! But anyway, if I'm still awake come the small hours of Saturday morning and the clouds haven't thickened up and started shedding their load, I'll be heading for somewhere nice and dark for a little while to see what I can see...

This evening, however, I've been rearranging my studio to make room for the hefty new CS6x, taking the opportunity to rationalise the wiring a little, amongst other things! Not now included in the set-up are my old Kawai tone module, my even older - not that I've had it so long myself - beloved Roland monosynth and also my old Roland controller keyboard, since they are now all pretty much redundant. Which of these I will hang on to, and which I will give away or sell - and for how much! - remains to be seen, but there simply isn't space to have them all hooked up just for the sake of it. What remains is a disturbingly Yamaha-biased set-up, with only the Behringer mixing desk and Guillemot audio card letting the side down - even the DarkStar tone module is distributed in the UK by Yamaha!

Well miraculously the forecast of light rain last night came to nothing and indeed the skies largely cleared, so I braved the cold and drove up to Campbell Park for a while in search of the elusive Leonids. If I'd been singing of cockles and mussels and had a half-empty wine bottle by my side, I could easily have been a vagrant resting on that park bench, but instead I was as alert as I could have hoped to be at that time of day with my eyes scanning the heavens for anything of interest.

The sky wasn't completely clear, with the moon sporting a splendid halo, and the stars and planets not much more than fuzzy blobs, but it was decidedly better than last year's disaster, and I probably saw a couple of dozen decent Leonid meteors in a little under an hour. There were a few flurries of heightened activity, at about 3.55 and 4.15, though the hoped-for storm at 3.44 never materialised. Still, it was worth the effort, even if my planned lie-in this morning didn't happen for various reasons I won't go into here.

Thankfully I still got a total of six or seven hours' sleep, so I'm not feeling too bad, and I'm not rushing to get up properly. I'll need to go and do my shopping at some point, and I promised someone I'd try and find some information at the Milton Keynes Gallery when I pass by. There's another quiz night tonight, with our team attempting a hat-trick of wins having successfully defended our title last time. One of our star members isn't available, though, so victory is not assured by any means - as if it was anyway! - but Trevor's our expected stand-in so hopes are still high!

We graciously - no, really! - conceded defeat at yesterday's quiz night, coming a creditable third and so missing out on completely monopolising the engraving on the trophy for a third time. It was still a good evening for all, with Debbie's husband Michael joining us along with Trevor, our regulars Martin and John both being otherwise unavailable. Once again, Debbie's nursery was the real beneficiary, to the tune of a couple of hundred pounds, so ultimately the evening was a success whatever! It almost didn't happen for me, though, having got some strange notion in my head that the quiz was in Kents Hill, driving around aimlessly for what seemed like an age before returning home to consult my diary from last year - these ramblings do have uses, you see! - to ascertain I should in fact have gone to Old Farm Park, one of the next neighbourhoods down. Foot to the metal a little, I was only five minutes late in the end, and they hadn't yet started properly, so all was fine, with my food and drink contributions gladly appreciated by all.

Today's been a curious day so far, expecting to play in this morning's meeting up at the school here, but instead being "called up" to do similarly for our West congregation over in Two Mile Ash. Their regular, and indeed sole, worship leader was off sick, which left them in a bit of an awkward situation. A number of us had agreed in principle to help them out on a fairly regular basis anyway, so this was a case of putting that into effect, albeit at only about an hour's notice! It was a good time, though, and West seem a good bunch of folk. The speaker for the morning was Andy, doing an approximate re-run of what he'd done at Centre last Sunday, but his message was so good it did no harm to hear it a second time. Predictably enough, I came home via Pizza Hut and then gave Mark a lift to Bletchley for him to pick up the van to ferry some stuff for tonight's youth event at Woughton.

Oh yes, having clean forgotten yesterday, I also popped into Milton Keynes Gallery to try and find the information I'd been asked to investigate; no joy as such, but the guy there was very helpful and is going to look into it for me, so there's hope yet! I had contemplated giving Sarah and family a quick visit on the way back, but decided instead to phone them, which was probably as well because they were all a bit under the weather with various bugs and things, though we had a good chat anyway and agreed we'd try to catch up with each other properly next weekend. Hmm, yes, next weekend - looking forward to it with a certain amount of trepidation, and that's not the possibility of catching up with Sarah and co, I should emphasise, but more on that later, probably.

A bit bleary-eyed this Monday morning, but I was up in good time and in work early, so it can't have been that bad. Yesterday's evening meeting was a very powerful time, fairly blatantly asking for God's presence and getting it in a big way, and for once I wasn't in the band so I could get more involved at "ground level". It's so easy for religion and tradition to get in the way of the real presence of God, but make the effort to give him some space, and the rewards can come thick and fast. We're learning...

Not only is it the end of an era for Postman Pat and Beaver College, so it also is for Monday night's famous eat-all-you-like buffets at Westcroft Pizza Hut, with the buffet counter decidedly bare last night, and the sad truth quickly confirmed by our waitress. So instead we went for a curry buffet up at the Moghul Palace in Stony Stratford, probably the town's finest Indian restaurant, and a good choice it was too. Splendid service, great atmosphere, top food, fair price. I think we might go again...

Oh dear, it seems I have an apology to make, as a result of a long-term problem from which until now I wasn't aware I suffered. As such I would like to unreservedly say sorry to all those I may have offended for what I now realise to have been a chronic lack of judgement on my part. I have just come to understand that a lot of the films I have enjoyed immensely over the years are, in fact, complete trash, unworthy of ever having been committed to celluloid in the first place. The latest such travesty to humankind, seen last night at Cineworld and enjoyed immensely due to my now abundantly clear lack of discernment, was "Bedazzled", which is apparently "a pile of unadulterated [expletive deleted]" according to every right-thinking human under the sun. Once again, my heartfelt and sincerest apologies to everyone in the civilised world; I will endeavour never to enjoy a film again in my entire mortal life.

Feeling a lot happier about next weekend's events - really. Thanks Catherine!

I'm just a born worrier and pathological procrastinator, that's all.

Some sad news tonight though - my great aunt Grace died earlier today after a short illness. Readers will recall I went to visit her in September - a visit that turned out to be both the first and last time I ever got to meet her, in this life at least. I hope I will get to see her again, though - but not just yet, probably; all in God's own time.

Last night was otherwise a little frustrating, going all the way to Wolverton for a worship band practice that had been cancelled and no-one had bothered to tell me. Or they hadn't tried very hard anyway, so I think I might not try too hard to remember to turn up next time. An hour standing around in the freezing cold waiting on the off-chance that someone else might turn up - I had a hunch I might have got the time wrong - very nearly took its toll on my health, but a fairly manky Zinger-lookalike from the fried chicken shop probably saved the day, even if I do go down with food poisoning instead. I also got a little further towards sorting out this weekend's events - hence why I was so inconsiderately on the phone earlier - and although I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to wear and so on, I am still more reassured about it all. I've got to go shopping tonight for a wedding present anyway, so I might well give Burtons a visit seeing as I have a reasonably valuable token to spend there at some point...

Last night was quite hectic, rushing around shopping before neighbourhood group - which was a so-called "pub outreach", another name for "going for a pint for a change".

First port of call was Debenhams, where Alex and Catherine's main wedding list was held. Nice efficient touch-screen system to generate the list of the required price range - getting a little limited, so near to the wedding date - but no sign in-store of the present I wanted to buy them from it. "Where's the list held? Ah, Southampton - that's a massive store, that'll be why", came the explanation from a helpful assistant. However, I was assured they could deliver it for free - even though I'm still not exactly sure what it was from the brief product description - so decided to go ahead and order it anyway. However, having gone through all the rigmarole of debit card details and so on with someone at the Southampton branch, they then decided they were going to charge me for delivery after all. Not likely, needless to say. I let my aforementioned helpful assistant sort it out, and of course after some discussion they did the decent thing and waived the charge.

Then it was time for the second part of my early evening's mission, trying to find a nice outfit at a fair price. As expected, I eventually wound up at Burtons, who were doing an excellent promotion on suits and things, and also offering a further hefty discount for store-card purchases - the latter only applied last night, so that was a well-timed trip! My assistant was very helpful and I soon was the happy owner of a quite individual but somewhat timelessly classic suit, shirt and tie combination that should do well for other events in the future too. However, I'm not entirely convinced about how their 20% store-card discount worked, and I've queried that, because I'm sure I paid a tenner over the odds, but at the end of the day I still got well over two hundred quid's worth of good quality clothes for half price so I'm not losing sleep over it.

Then I had a bit of a panic when I suddenly wondered when I'd last used my Burtons store-card and more specifically whether they had my new address. My first thought was of course of getting a "free" outfit, closely followed however by visions of credit-blacklisting, so I did the decent honest thing and went back into the shop to query it. As it happened, my address was up to date, so the card can't have been anywhere near as old as I thought it was, but it was worth checking just in case.

Popping into Waitrose was happily somewhat easier, since they operate a cunning scheme that says that the price on the shelf is the price you pay - it would be so much easier if more places did that, I feel. Walking through the centre - forgetting Burtons had recently moved location - I also bumped into Mike from Chappells, the assistant who sold me my new keyboard the other day; it's always nice to be recognised and valued as a customer - even out of hours! - especially since they made next to nothing out of me on that particular sale.

Neighbourhood group at the Springfield pub was good, nothing too serious but hopefully just bringing a bit of light into a place that doesn't have the most wonderful reputation - it was the pub where an ex-neighbour stabbed someone not so long ago, and that's just one incident that caught my eye... Much of the time was spent watching the Millionaire thing on the big-screen television there, and the rest with some very sad individuals amongst us messing around with their mobiles...

I made a bit of an early getaway from the pub though, needing to phone Becca about Saturday's plans - the wedding, which the present and suit were for, of course - especially since I'll probably not get to see her this evening even though I'm heading that way after work. Everything seems to be in order now, though, and I think we're all looking forward to what should be a truly excellent day!

And what a weekend that turned out to be, leaving me thoroughly refreshed and invigorated for the week ahead - not.

The wedding was top stuff, of course, about as nice an event as could have been hoped for - all very festive with lots to make it personal and distinctive, and of course both Alex and Catherine looked truly stunning in their pre-Raphaelite outfits. Becca was good company, and only complained a little about my driving; it was pretty foul conditions both to the New Forest and back again, and I think she found the amount of spray on the motorway a touch alarming. We arrived early nonetheless, but there were always enough people to talk to, so the rather long waits between formal things happening turned out to be bearable. The meal was excellent as expected from a prestigious hotel like that, but we didn't stay a lot longer after that had finished. There didn't seem to be a lot organised for the evening, and a lot of people were travelling fair distances home that night, so we didn't feel we were being party-poopers by saying our farewells at about nine and hitting the road home.

Not as planned, but as somewhat expected, I ended up stopping over at Prestwood; I was just too exhausted, and I had a good lie-in Sunday morning, something I'd almost certainly not have managed up here. Up in time for pizza, potato wedges and salad for lunch, and a short afternoon stroll before darkness fell and I embarked on the last stage of my journey back to Milton Keynes. Since I stayed overnight at Prestwood Friday night too, I had a good chance to talk to my parents about this computer system they are hoping to get, with my dad in particular sharing his feelings on printers, scanners and so on. I have some prices to compare with what I can find via web-based suppliers, but I think we've essentially arrived at a decision on what we're basically going to buy between us, and hopefully we'll have things sorted out very soon. Whether it'll all be in time for Christmas is a little questionable, but that doesn't matter too much either way, especially since they are planning on being away then anyway.

A mildly hectic evening yesterday, catching up on my missed weekend grocery shopping at Waitrose, nipping into the XScape KFC for dinner and then out to a somewhat impromptu pre-Christmas prayer meeting up at the school. Any hope that would wind up the evening proved to be in vain, with Darren then visiting, bringing some CD tracks he wanted "mixed" for his sister's forthcoming wedding ceremony music. We didn't do the mixing itself last night, but I now know roughly what's involved and will hopefully get a chance to get it done tonight - but not before we've been to see Charlie's Angels, of course... Oh, I had a hunch yesterday was Mark's birthday, and the number of cards and things around seemed to confirm that, but it's not actually until Wednesday - I know we're having a curry then, but I thought that was just because that's the night our favourite deal is on. That didn't stop him getting his present from me yesterday though, since I could hardly grab it back off him having already given him it, and in any case the earthenware tub jammed with half a pound of the yummiest looking and smelling Stilton we'd ever encountered neatly solved his problem of what to have to eat last night!

Hmph, just spent a frustrating extended lunch-hour battling against a Shine office computer that makes the Russian infrastructure look pretty good. Between a virus infection and surface errors on a hard disk that's running on vapour as it is, the thing's pretty much shafted, and I'm not entirely convinced I left it in any better a state than it was when I arrived. But at least it was a chance to catch up with Gareth for the first time in a while, and hear a little more of the exciting stuff that's happening in the worlds of Shine and a new parallel project from the same stable.

Oh, and to add to the fun, we've just ascertained half - pretty much literally half - of Shine's e-mail system has been dead for the last three or four months anyway, but only one person's bothered to tell them. Shine operate two domains, one effectively forwarding to the other - or at least so we thought... I had assumed that e-mail sent to the secondary domain got forwarded to the primary one before being forwarded on to their real ISP e-mail address. However, it now appears that both domains were set to forward to the ISP, and when persons who shall go unnamed changed the ISP account used to UK Online, it meant adjusting merely the primary domain's mail forwarding rules evidently wasn't enough. As a result, anyone sending mail to the secondary domain - which would quite likely be anyone in America, a rather large chunk of their market - will have been getting impolite bounce messages from Freeserve. Unfortunately, whilst it's dead easy to adjust the mail forwarding rules on the primary domain, it's much trickier - perhaps even impossible for someone outside the hosting company - to do so on the secondary one. They use a natty and convenient web-based interface to set these things, but of course web requests to the secondary domain are forwarded to the primary one, so we never get to see the screens for the secondary one... I just hope our hosting company can sort this out quickly, just bearing in mind the last time we queried anything about the secondary domain they denied all knowledge of it!

Oops, I didn't quite make into work on time today, up far too late last night doing various things of varying importance. First up, straight after work - with only enough time to drop off my briefcase - was a trip to see "Charlie's Angels" at Cineworld, followed by this CD mixing mini-project for Darren's sister's wedding, and then feasting on cheese and wine into the small hours of the morning with Mark whilst "assessing" the people on a certain currently immensely popular website for - erm - assessing people.

The film was great, as expected; not everything it could have been, but a lot of fun nonetheless - "mindless fun that delivers" as it is accurately described on IMDB - and Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu were of course particularly gorgeous. Hot or not? Go figure... We also took the opportunity to give their "Deluxe" screen a test, though to be honest it wasn't really worth the extra asking price just to have access to an overpriced bar, reclining seats that didn't stay put, and a pretty much non-existent waitress service.

The CD mixing was time-consuming, but we got it done and were pleased with the results; hopefully Darren's sister will agree! She gets an eight-minute Barry White megamix, a somewhat shortened Chopin piano piece, an extended mix of Robbie Williams' "Angels" and finally Babybird's "Gorgeous". The Barry White and Robbie Williams tracks were of course the trickiest ones - especially the former, fairly seamlessly merging five track segments into one. I spotted a slight mistake on the CD late last night, though, so I cut another one that Darren can have when I see him this evening at Mark's birthday curry.

Yes, Barry White, you did read that right. Needless to say, as soon as we're completely happy with the CD - probably once the wedding's been and gone - the WAV files will be scrubbed from my hard disk with military-standard precision.

I'd just like to thank Pete for the following observation:

By "military-standard precision" I assume you'll miss the Barry White .WAV and take out half your operating system instead?

Thank you, Pete. Undoubtedly correct.

Last night's birthday curry for Mark was good, and I didn't let a rather unwelcome little e-mail arriving just as I was about to leave work spoil things too much. About ten of us went in the end, for our "usual", the Kashmiri night banquet at the Bekash in Stony Stratford. Always good food and always good value - with a surprisingly low bill at the end of it all too.

We didn't finish too late, thankfully, which was just as well because I'm really feeling quite drained at the moment - not good when there's still another two days until the weekend. This weekend it's the big Mono meet in London, which I'd tentatively agreed to go to for at least some of the time, but I'm increasingly feeling I probably ought to give it a miss, feeling as I do at the moment.

As for the e-mail that arrived late yesterday, well it was a nine-page report detailing things still wrong with the numeracy software I thought I had done and dusted a couple of weeks ago. I thought it had been written by an academic so I was a bit negative about it when I bumped into Jon this morning, but then it turned out Jon had in fact written it himself, though he seemed surprisingly sympathetic, mainly because as much as anything he was miffed that he'd not heard a word back from the academics involved.

But either way, it means there's still a load of stuff to be done to the software, some likely to be easy, some not so. To be honest I just feel utterly burnt out with this stuff. It's not that I can claim to have been working in overdrive on this, but to be thrown back into the first bit of proper programming in a couple of years, and it to be a hideous maintenance project based on badly written code in a nasty language using obsolete libraries and tools really has just pushed me to the edge.

I don't blame anyone per se for this state of affairs, but somehow I seem to have earned a reputation as a "fixer", someone who'll pick up the detritus no-one else wants to touch. There were even vague murmurings of my taking over a project called Metanote a few weeks back, possibly the most notorious of all the Projects That Just Won't Die. Thankfully that came to nothing, or I'd have handed in my notice by now and stuff the consequences.

But whatever the reasons behind all this, it ends up taking so much out of me that it simply becomes a downward spiral for me, feeling less and less capable of doing anything much about it, or even doing the work that gets assigned to me. I very nearly didn't bother coming in today, and to be honest I suspect that at this point it wouldn't make a scrap of difference to the productivity of this department even if I left for good.

It's always interesting to read reviews from different viewpoints, whether before or after experiencing the subject matter for oneself. The CAP Reports on films provide a dilemma for me, however, since I essentially agree with what they are setting out to do, but still find them way over the top and as a result frequently downright hilarious. They seem to work on the basis that the average American parent wouldn't think twice before allowing their little darlings to go and watch soft-porn slasher movies or whatever. But anyway, having watched "Charlie's Angels" the other day, which of course gets the customary CAP red flashing warning light, I was amused to read the following:

In one scene in "Charlie's Angels" a bad guy tries to kill Dylan with gunfire and Dylan dodges the slug. No one can see a bullet coming and dodge it. There is no toying with firearms, folks. None! Firearms are unforgiving and eager to do damage.

All good stuff so far - as someone in favour of strict gun control - if showing a lack of appreciation of fantasy and parody. However, it then goes on to say:

They are vital tools to this free nation and our safe homes, but they are not toys.

Oh well, it was good while it lasted. Only in America, I guess...

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