goznet ...

David's diary: August 2001

This morning's being an Afro Celt Sound System morning, musically-speaking. With a little bit of Air earlier, for sure.

Last night's dinner at Matt and Jill's went really well, in the end. All light-hearted, no pressure or anything. Not to say that discussion never turned to female-related matters, but all good-spirited and more than a little laddish. After the meal - tomato and basil soup, salmon-en-croute with boiled new potatoes and baby sweetcorn, and lemon tart with mango sorbet - Paul's friend Leon entertained us with a few of his songs he's playing at a gig in London later this week. We were all pretty shattered by then so didn't have too late a finish, but at least I can report back that it was nothing to be afraid of!

Buffet curry tonight, to belatedly celebrate Darren's birthday - and, unofficially, to even more belatedly celebrate my own. Getting on for half price, too, given that it's the last day my Chillies discount card is valid. Using it just in time! Not sure quite who's going, but should be a fair crowd.

This afternoon's musical menu has mainly provided Leftfield and the Corrs. Slight contrast there, agreed? Next up - and the last CD in the heap - will be Show of Hands' eponymous double album. Somewhat different again, eh?

Good curry - even if their standard summer discount ended up better than my card, much to my dismay, though Darren footed the full bill for ten anyway, good man! - but shattered now, so off to bed as soon as I've finished this...

It's raining!

Two hours later, and it's still raining. This is good. Very good. Would be nice if it stopped for five minutes in about an hour's time to give me a chance to get to the car without my brolly, but not really too bothered either way!

Well the hour has passed, it's time to go home, and it's still raining! By now we would expect to have received a departmental e-mail warning us of flooding on the university ring-road - since it's sensibly built on a flood plain - but maybe it's not quite that serious yet. Or maybe the mysterious Brenda - from whom all these e-mails with surfeits of "Fw:" and ">" signs seem to originate - is on holiday, so dozens of cars are being swept down the river as I type, and no-one's going to tell us...

And now getting on for yet another hour! I want to go home, without getting soaked to the skin. Meanwhile, having immense trouble trying to drum up support for next month's "Race for Bosnia" go-karting event. Regular readers will remember last year's experience, but I seem to be having great difficulty convincing people of the merits of risking life and limb hurtling round a race-track at 70mph just for the sake of some poor starving Bosnian refugees. But hey... Come on, you know you want to!

It continued raining until gone ten o'clock, more than eight hours solid! Not that it stopped me taking a wander down to Seamus and Gill's house, since they'd suggested I popped over one evening this week. Good to see them for the first time since May, even if they were a bit busy decorating their extension, but eventually they gave in and joined me in having a cool beer and a nice chat about everything going on the moment church-wise and so on. Happy to say that I've received some positive response to the karting suggestion this morning, so I'm hopefully half way to fielding a Vineyard team, which would be an excellent way to get involved in the wider community and have loads of fun!

Almost the weekend again - hooray! Not quite sure what's happening this time, but then I rarely am at this point on a Friday... Paul's suggested having another jam either tomorrow or next week sometime - though we're meeting Thursday night anyway, so tomorrow might be better - and, weather permitting, there's a Vineyard rounders match at Willen Lake on Sunday afternoon which will be fun. OK, I admit, it won't be fun, because I hate rounders with almost as much of a passion as I hate squash, but I'll go and support anyway!

Oh yes, I should say - and I realise this will mean precious little to anyone reading this on the web in a few weeks' time - that I've decided to change the way I archive this diary. Up until now, I have always kept an extra month's witterings in the "live" version on Monochrome after web archival, so that there's a month's overlap. That's too much hassle, and it meant my live diary was getting too big to manage easily, so now once I've carried out an archival, there will only be a part month left in the live diary. Depending on what point during the month I carry this out, that might of course mean that the live diary has very little content indeed - but all the more reason to give my web site a visit; see the top of the live file for details. Yes, there had to be a shameless plug in there somewhere...

Up and about surprisingly early for a Saturday morning, though I'm still not really quite ready to face the day yet. I've done a little bit of programming already though, starting work on writing a little piece of software to go in users' start-up folders that will harmonise their start menus. It's got a way to go yet, and I need to give the user interface some serious consideration, but I've made a good start, and already successfully tackled one of the trickiest bits of it.

Meanwhile, I suppose it was time I was getting dressed and going out to do my shopping, boring though that may be. Also, I've apparently been invited to a barbecue at Richard and Shona's later this afternoon - getting food in return for providing transport, I hope that doesn't make me technically an unlicensed cabby! - so I hope the weather holds out. I believe showers are forecast, but hopefully they won't come to anything much. Hmm, I wonder if my cousin Kate will be there?

I really don't know what I'm doing up and about at the moment. Not that it's amazingly early for a Sunday morning or anything, but I had a pretty rotten night's sleep for one reason or another.

The barbecue at Richard and Shona's went well enough - even if I use the term "barbecue" loosely, given the decidedly mixed weather - but not only shattered me physically but also gave me more food for thought than I care to mention. Kate wasn't there in the end, but plenty of other people were, so no there was shortage of people to talk to and so on.

Not too certain what I'm doing today, now, though I expect I'll take a walk up to Willen for this rounders match thing this afternoon, weather permitting. Half of me tells me to go back to bed for as long as I need - and blow the rounders if need be, not that I aim to play anyway - and the other half tells me to get up properly and stop being so lethargic and negative.

I'm really not at all sure which half is winning at the moment.

Someone please rescue me from this depressive mess.

A goodly number of people - both from here and elsewhere - helped in doing just that, happily to say. I'm still not exactly over the moon with things, but it's a definite improvement, and at least the rain lashing down outside is saving me from being hot as well as bothered... No, I gave the rounders a miss yesterday afternoon, and have not the slightest regret about doing so, though nor did I go for a walk anywhere else - but that was probably ultimately thanks to being so tired still. I did eventually force myself to get up properly in time to cook myself a pizza and trimmings for tea, then drove across to Darren's to go out for a drink at the Proud Perch, so at least I could claim to have done something vaguely constructive with the day!

And yes, before anyone else comments, "The Proud Perch" is indeed a supremely stupid name for a pub. What on earth was wrong with "The Black Horse", as it was called until its change of ownership and refurbishment a year or so ago? Still, it's a nice enough pub, is now part of a chain that sells Bass, and it has a wonderful canal-side terrace - upstairs, bizarrely; that took some working out! So apart from the daft name, not much to complain about really...

Oh well, maybe I'm not half way to getting a Vineyard karting team together after all. Paul was quite interested, but has now dropped out for unspecified reasons, and for a number of other people the not-insignificant expense of it is a problem. Still a vague hope, I guess, but running out fast.

Must dig out the user manual for my mixing desk tonight - I know I've seen it not that long ago, but I'm blowed if I know where, so I guess that means turning my room upside-down once again in an effort to find it. Even the most attentive of readers will probably have forgotten by now that my mixing desk is, in fact, broken - and indeed has been so for the best part of a year. However, Darren has shown an interest in it for Shine, and I've said they're welcome to it if they can get it working; far better for them to have it and have some incentive to fix it than for it to languish in my room for another year doing nothing much at all. I suspect it's just a regulator or something that's blown, because all the channels went toes-up identically and all at once. Shine have good contacts for getting things like that sorted out, and I don't, so I might as well donate it and let them do what they can.

As for replacing it, well that's another matter altogether, and something about which I need to give some serious thought. In some ways, the broken desk was overkill for what I was doing, but in other ways it was barely adequate. It's possible to spend a heck of a lot of money on such things, but there are also bargains to be had. Mind you, I thought the broken desk was a bargain for the year and a bit that it actually worked; now, needless to say, I'm not so sure. I would be quite tempted to design and build my own mixer, meeting my exact needs to the letter, but I'm not exactly sure where I would start, and I would probably find my needs shifted over time anyway... So food for thought, anyway, and there's no urgent rush when I've been without a desk for the last year anyway. My sound card has loads of inputs, but it's not so good for linking things like effects processors and microphones, so something will need to be done if I'm to pursue my musical ambitions!

Well I've handed over my mixing desk to Darren, having successfully rummaged for the user manual yesterday evening. Darren seems moderately confident that either he, or someone he knows, can get it working, so I'm quite happy about that. Having dropped that off, I drove on to Andy and Rosie's for a most pleasant social gathering - the first I'd been to there for a very long time, and indeed the first time I'd met little Emily. Didn't stay late, though, needing a good night's sleep, and I still struggled to drag myself out of bed and through the bathroom this morning...

Ooh, it would seem I'm not the only one increasingly finding the web a better home for my diary. Kroz has "seen the light" too, and you can find his various musings at http://www.crosbya.dircon.co.uk/diary/ - not a lot there yet, and I can't say I agree with every word written so far, but I'm sure there will be a lot more to come, and Alan doesn't beat around the bush! He "says it like it is", and I respect him for that. And I think I still owe him a pint..!

Oh, I tell a lie, he's just linked in a load of old stuff. Nothing I've not read before, but going back to June now anyway.

Getting markedly better at the game - gained 30 ranking points now - but now I'm even seeing coloured loops when my eyes are open. I blame my housemate Matt, personally. And that's got nothing to do with him being a New Zealander - though he'd probably never have introduced me to it if he wasn't.

Darn it, Robot2 is tough! I expect someone will now pipe up and tell me that Robot3 was playing randomly, just to make me feel really pathetic. Anyway, I seem to have been relegated back to Robot3 opposition now, so hey ho...

Just realised that I'd lapsed on my "not hoarding Coke cans" resolution, since moving to this new office - I had to bin two of them this morning, which meant I failed yesterday. Assuming of course that it is possible to have a hoard of only one item. This also raises an intriguing question neither Tim nor I can definitively answer, even with the full OED at our disposal - of whether there is any etymological association between the somewhat similar-meaning "hoard" and "horde". Anyone else got any idea?

Meanwhile, uninspired as I may be, it's time to press on with my Java - currently working on change requests from the S205 academics - which I really ought to look to have done by the end of the week. Added to that, I've just this moment had a phone-call from Sarah asking if I can help move a washing machine tonight, so will be leaving work a little earlier than planned... Later this evening there's a Vineyard worship team meeting, which I'm looking forward to - hopefully the start of good things indeed!

Well that was a busy evening, helping move the washing machine for Sarah as planned, then the worship team meeting round at Rich's.

Quite why the generous chap - a friend of Di's, though I vaguely recognised him myself - was giving away what looked like an almost brand new machine, remains a bit of a mystery, but Sarah wasn't complaining. Thankfully it plumbed in identically to the broken dishwasher it replaced in her kitchen, though we did get the hot and cold inlet pipes the wrong way round initially, due to a complete lack of labelling! Rich's people-carrier was very useful for carting the washing machine around, though it still took some heaving, and I'm sorry to say that my back is giving me a bit of trouble today - but hopefully nothing lasting.

Later, it was the worship team meeting, specifically to watch a video on team dynamics, which was a bit cheesy but interesting and useful nonetheless. We're not sure where Andrew had got to, but that just meant all the more Pringles for the rest of us. We also had a bit of time for a more general discussion about anything and everything worship related - and unrelated! - and we've scheduled our first formal practice for later in the month.

Anyway, I'd better get on now, since I promised to myself I would today complete the extra question the academics have dumped on me for this S205 thing. Did I mention that before? Basically, at the last minute, the - as always, ever-so-nice - academics have decided not only that they want the names of some stuff changed, which is primarily a graphic design issue, but also to introduce a completely new question, which utterly ruins the existing order and layout of things. There are other issues with their comments, but they really do point to fundamental architectural deficiencies in the Java engine we're using, so I'm not sure how much I'm going to worry about them, at least before I can talk to Phil about it all.

So, just spent the whole morning shuffling questions 9 to 17 along one - and I've still not quite finished. You wouldn't believe the extent of the knock-on effects this has... And that's without even having had a chance to start programming the additional question yet! Hmm, supposed to be making another reasonably early get-away tonight - going to the cinema with Sarah and family.

Getting there now... I doubt I'll get this question finished today - it's a four-parter, and the academic who's written it clearly hasn't actually looked at the other questions to see how things tend to work - but I won't be far off.

A somewhat stressful evening - but there's a bottle of wine in the cooler, and I suspect it shall mostly be gone by morning. Oh, and I did get that question finished, amazingly, though it's not quite as slick as I'd like - but hey, I did it...

Wine's mostly gone already, actually. Goodnight now, though....

A fair few people seem to be suffering unhappiness in their jobs right now - or maybe made their exit already, whether voluntarily or otherwise. All this reminded me of a job I was in nine or ten years ago now, and that's probably sufficiently "history" now for me to talk in some detail about it. I won't mention the company by name - for reasons that shall become somewhat obvious - but suffice to say it was a French-owned High Wycombe based value-added reseller of prestige desktop computer systems such as IBM, Compaq and so on.

Things started well enough there - and I'd even say I enjoyed most of my time with them - but it was once the French ownership started to bite that things really started turning sour. Not that I blame the French in the slightest, just the people who were brought in to manage things under the new organisational structure. They swept in en-masse from another company - the amount of nepotism going on was unreal - and rapidly imposed their draconian and shoddy work ethics.

It turned into a culture where the incumbent employees were worthless resources, where allegations of sexual deviancy were par for the course on a daily basis - and if you didn't get the joke, it would be on you next time. One guy was quite excited to get sent on a Unix training course, then dismayed when he returned and was still doing the same old stuff as ever before. When quizzed, management said they'd only sent him to see if he would turn up. There was one particular girl who was very conscientious and hard-working, full of good ideas, but who probably knew her rights a little too much for the management's comfort. She was one of a whole swathe made redundant, needless to say, days before a substantial "blood money" pay rise for everyone else - a pay rise I actually declined in a rather dramatic manner, though I can't remember whether they took any notice.

And I won't even mention the hard disk sorting episode. Or maybe I shall, because it showed the sheer lunacy of the place. We'd had a huge batch of "budget" PCs, all of which were fitted with 40Mb hard disks. By 1991, 40Mb was getting a little stingy for business use - not that the company would have been averse to ripping off its customers, as the CEO once accidentally publicly admitted - so almost every such machine that was configured had its hard disk replaced with something bigger. My task then was to spend a couple of days sorting through the removed hard disks, which were of a variety of brands and models. Some time later, I questioned what had happened to them, thinking a local charity or school might appreciate them. They'd gone into the skip.

It was almost the end by then anyway, and I think in retrospect they probably wanted rid of me but had little they could really hold against me. By about that time I'd already been shoved well out of the way in "Quality Control", where all the non-functioning junk came back from customers - did I mention that nothing was ever tested properly before delivery? If it beeped, that was generally enough. British Standard 5750? Well they eventually got their kite-mark, but when the BSI inspectors came around, they were lied to, with whole areas of the facility off-limits, including that QC area where I worked latterly. Quite how they apparently got away with claiming they had no QC department, I'm not sure, though I've since gathered that BS5750 really isn't worth toffee in any case.

Working in QC was my eventual downfall anyway. I was well aware that the company was routinely selling previously used - and often abused - stock as new, particularly remembering one curry-stained batch of workstations that went out, and no doubt came back again just as fast, to be sold on to someone else less critical. But in QC, I was obviously at the front line of customers' rejects, and my ethics were stretched to the limit and ultimately beyond. Even the crooked warehouse manager - who happily oversaw one of my colleagues back his car into the warehouse and load up with thousands of pounds worth of stolen goods - can be quoted as saying "I'm not putting that [expletive deleted] on my shelves".

The final straw in this regard - and for my time with the company - was a batch of PC keyboards that came back from a customer. They were dirty and battered, with bits missing, and only just worked. There was a formal system for marking up returned products as "ex-stock" for cheap resale, but when I queried what the warehouse code would be for these keyboards, I was bluntly told "we don't make keyboards ex-stock". It was a minor thing, but the straw that broke this particular camel's back. I threw the dodgy keyboard I was holding to the ground, no doubt saying something like "it's definitely ex-stock now", and took a brisk walk to the nearby head office to speak with my personnel officer.

There was some delay in seeing the personnel officer - not unreasonable, however; I suspect a company as bad as that would give plenty for them to do. But when they finally emerged, it turned out they had already spoken to my manager, wondering what I might want! So much for confidentiality... I'm not even sure that's legal - but then nor was anything much else going on there, so perhaps I shouldn't have been so surprised. I can't really remember what transpired from that conversation, though it certainly didn't resolve anything, and when I was back at the warehouse, I was very publicly hauled up to the manager's office.

I think I had previously received a verbal warning for a minor outburst a while back, but this time I got a further simultaneous verbal and written warning, for "damaging" the already-broken keyboard and leaving my post without permission. Yes, the former was an act of petulance - and not the first time, though it takes a lot to drive me to such behaviour - but the latter was entirely within my rights, though I'm not sure I knew it at the time, and it was hardly my fault if they didn't have a personnel officer on site.

Anyway, I never did return after that. I lost a month's worth of benefits because they refused to return my P45 promptly, and subsequently did not get my rightful level of benefits because they threatened me with legal action for telling the Benefits Agency the truth about the sequence of events leading up to my effectively forced resignation. Perhaps I should have stood my ground, and shown the company up for the fraud it undoubtedly was, but by then I really was beyond caring, so I dropped it. But at least the nightmare was over...

Today's been a fairly lazy Saturday, getting up late, going food-shopping with Darren then to Pizza Hut for a late lunch. Then round a few domestic appliance shops looking for suitable dishwashers, fridges and freezers for Darren's new fitted kitchen. And finally back home, where I did a couple of updates to the Shine website - check out their summer sale prices! - and am now finishing off last night's wine...

I suppose I should think about getting up and dressed. And then maybe going out and shooting some grouse?

I was joking about the grouse, OK? I'm sure yesterday was a bad day for them, though, unless this year's foot-and-mouth crisis had any beneficial knock-on effects for them in terms of access to moors etc. But no disease will help save the skins of this year's GCSE and A-level candidates, whose results are no doubt due out imminently and will be shot down before they've even opened the envelope. But I believe I've gone on about this at some length in previous years - and with the same dubious metaphor - so I won't bore you further now.

As for today, well probably the less said the better, though I have successfully fixed a rather major bug in the S205 software that occurred to me last night. Specifically, I realised that some of the parts of the question I hurriedly wrote on Friday weren't going to be included in the overall assessment unless I wrote some pretty evil code. I wasn't in the mood for writing evil code, however, so I just took the liberty of shoe-horning the parts in question into a different format, and all seems to be OK now...

"As for today, well probably the less said the better" - full stop, actually. Seem to have come up to a brick wall in what I'm doing, and no inclination to find out if there's any way over it. Still, at least the graphic designer's showing a few vague signs of life with regard to getting the new graphics to me, in the light of the academics' last-minute change requests.

But it's time to go home now, and I don't really give a stuff any more. Must try and concoct some credible story for Phil of what I did in July though.

Which I suppose I'd better do now, since he says he'd rather like it today.

The most interesting entries on that July monthly report turned out to be:

  • Fixing configuration-file bug in simulation that really should have been spotted years ago
  • Making sure the residential school really will use the most recent version in future
  • Waiting around for security, since they took weeks to get me a working key

Nothing like a healthy dose of cynicism to keep me bouncing through the summer months, is there?

Oh, dinner's round at Matt and Jill's again tonight. No idea quite what it's in aid of - in actual fact, I don't think it's "in aid of" anything, just a good excuse to have some friends round and I'm honoured to be included - but I'm never one to turn down free food, now am I..?

Suppose I'd better go, hadn't I? Especially as Becca's asked for a lift there.

Quite an interesting evening, altogether. There was a good turn-out in the end for the meal at Matt and Jill's. I think they were a bit doubtful as to how many would come along - originally it was going to be just a girls' night, but they extended the invitation more widely out of a degree of desperation - but it ended up about right and a good time was had by all. I even came away with a clutch of pretty good CDs, since a newlywed couple there were giving away ones they had "duplicates" of now they were married!

For some reason, my brother came up in conversation at one point, and I commented how rarely I spoke to him, then to my surprise I found I'd missed a call from him on my - silently ringing - mobile. Thankfully Pete was still up and about when I got home, so we had a good chat about this and that before it really was too late to go on...

This evening I'm almost certainly round at Sarah's, getting tea in return for going with her to Homebase to sort out some cupboard doors for her kitchen and maybe finally have a look at the chain on Rachael's bike, which is coming off with startling regularity. I suspect it just needs a good oil, but I'll see if there's any simple adjustments also necessary to the derailleur - assuming it has one! - or anything, so I'll be going armed with everything relevant.

Just had to evict an enormous dragonfly from the office. Didn't see it come in, but it evidently made a bee-line - if that's quite the word - for one of the strip-lights and promptly got trapped inside the translucent cover, making a heck of racket, which of course drew our attention to it. There's not many insects we would go to any trouble to save, but this was one of them, and it was indeed an absolute beauty. Our insectist attitudes were of course proven by the dozens of corpses of less favoured species in the strip-light cover, and after a clean-out, Tim's half of the office is decidedly better illuminated!

Just reserved a second-hand Mackie CR1604-VLZ mixing desk - and a compressor to go with it. Cost for the whole lot? Three hundred and fifty quid cash! And what's more, it's reasonably local, so will be going across Friday evening!

Oh well, we didn't get as far as Homebase last night, but it was still a generally worthwhile evening, even if a little fraught at times. The main achievement was getting Rachael's bike sorted out, at least to an extent. The problem seemed to be that in the lowest gears, there was so much deflection on the chain that it was continually trying to pull itself off the chainring. Short of fixing a longer axle - which is not always possible anyway - there's not a great deal that can be done, so a quick phone-call to my dad confirmed that probably the best course of action was to nobble the gears so they wouldn't go low enough to cause the problematic chain deflection. Sarah suspects Rachael will barely notice, if at all - not really understanding what the gears are for anyway! - so that was a job well done. Apart from that, well we got a fair bit done of a jigsaw puzzle Claire had bought and been stumped by - so there was some semblance of a zebra materialising on the sitting-room table by the time I toddled off home just on the healthy side of midnight!

My strip-light got "visited" today, so that one's been cleared out too now. When I popped in to have a chat with Adrian this morning, I noticed Sofia had a chart of dragonflies on her wall - one of a number of nature posters - and I have now positively identified yesterday's and today's insect visitors as male and female Southern Hawker dragonflies respectively. Sofia was most chuffed her chart had been of use!

Just popped out to get some beer in before the local shop shut for the evening. Just as well I got dressed properly - well, shorts and t-shirt - after my earlier bath, because WPC Plodette was out in force, but ever so courteous as one would expect...

Taking a breather from setting everything up, and indeed I'll probably stop there for today anyway, especially considering the number of boxes and things I need to stow away too. So yes, I went to collect the mixer and compressor from near Bishop's Stortford as planned this afternoon, and indeed came away with a little more than I was initially reckoning on - but more on that in a moment. I arrived a few minutes before the guy did, but after briefly playing "football" with his very sociable one-year-old son, we adjourned upstairs to survey what was on offer musically speaking.

As expected the desk is a Mackie CR1604-VLZ, which means it's one up on the original CR1604 - a classic in its own right - with quite a few extra essential features, but not the most recent "Pro" model, which adds better quality microphone pre-amps. That said, it all sounds fine to me, and I've actually been able to test it with a pretty respectable microphone. Yes, not only did I also buy the rather nice DBX compressor as planned, but I was additionally fairly easily talked into parting with a few more pounds for a particularly lovely AKG large-diaphragm condenser microphone, which will be the bee's knees for any vocal or acoustic instrument work I do. Oh, and a decent microphone stand and another XLR lead for my collection thrown in for precisely nothing.

Anyway, it's all coped fine with everything I've chucked at it so far, but I really want to see if I can source some short straight-jacked patch leads before I start worrying too much about setting up the effects loops, and I also need to buy or make up a couple of insert cables for the compressor. With that in mind, I suspect Chappells will be one of my destinations tomorrow - or failing that, Maplins, and then see if I can hunt down my elusive soldering iron...

But for now, it's been a long day - two hours "on the road" in this heat really quite took it out of me - and I'm getting more than a little bit hungry, so I think I'm going to say that's it for the moment!

Sorry, boring mainly technical entry coming up...

It's only just turned eight o'clock on Saturday morning, but I couldn't really get back to sleep, and depending on a number of things I might have a bit of a hectic morning coming up anyway. Particularly, I might be going out for a picnic lunch, which would of course mean I really would have to do all my shopping bits and pieces - including looking for those insert cables and patch leads - before lunchtime, rather than my usual trick of having a snack at some fast-food eatery or other half way through. Looking at the requirements for the insert cables for the desk, it seems that any such cable running a quarter-inch stereo jack-plug to two mono ones will do the job. I had heard that manufacturers varied their wiring schemes, but at least for what I want it doesn't matter in the least, because the tip and the ring of the jack-plug are by necessity the important bits, and if they are the wrong way round for Mackie, I just swap where I plug in the mono jacks!

I realised last night that there is one respect in which this Mackie desk isn't as flexible as the one it replaced - surprising given that Behringer generally matched but did not exceed Mackie, feature for feature - and that's with the effects returns. Basically, the dedicated effects returns always - OK, there are a couple of very specific exceptions - go straight to the main mix and the main mix only. On the Behringer, they could be sent to the sub-groups too if need be - and need I did, since I used the sub-groups as my recording channels! The good news, though, is that I have plenty of normal channel inputs spare, so using four of those as effects returns won't be likely to present any problems. If necessary, I can always assign my computer's output to one of the dedicated effects returns, since I only normally want that to go to main mix only and not the sub-groups. Still a rather surprising omission from Mackie, though the desk's predecessor didn't have proper sub-groups at all, apparently, so I guess they are still "getting there" in a few respects...

Anyway, I'm going to get up properly now and dive into the bath for a while!

Well I've done my shopping, and ended up over ten pounds better off than I should have - at the insistence of the cashier in Maplins... You see, I couldn't get the leads I wanted at Chappells, and Maplins didn't have anything quite right - or at the right price - off-the-peg either. So I started picking my components to make the leads up myself, and gulped at the price that the plugs in particular were going to come to - they alone were going to account for thirty pounds of the bill, and that was before I'd considered the cable. You can imagine my surprise, then, when the till rings up just over twenty five pounds and everything's in order on the receipt... Wonders simply never cease, do they?!

The picnic never happened in the end - but might tomorrow instead, all being well - so it was a good opportunity to fire up the soldering iron and get at least some of the leads made up. The insert leads were the most fiddly, as expected, but the patch leads just turned out to be too numerous to complete in one session. I made up enough leads to test everything out, though, which is something! Still nine more patch leads to go, but they can wait until another day, or at least until the cool of the evening - it's a bit grey today, but humidity seems nevertheless to be high and I'm consequently thoroughly dripping...

I awake this Sunday morning to the rushing sound of torrential rain! Welcome though it is, I hope it doesn't last too long, given today's lunchtime plans...

Still pouring, with not the slightest sign of abatement. Plans will almost certainly change now, but hey, there's plenty of summer left - hopefully!

No, there was indeed no picnic yesterday lunchtime, but I took a trip with the usual suspects to the Little Chef instead, then for a slightly different walk round Willen Lake. Between showers it was really quite hot, so a stop at the Lakeside was welcomed by all - and just as well because it offered some shelter when the heavens absolutely opened. Getting on for half an inch of rain fell in about twenty minutes, but thankfully we missed all but a few seconds of it - but that was still enough to produce four utterly drowned rats as we dashed to the car to go home. Even with wipers on full-speed, it was still a complete white-out!

I am a scientist, not an artist. Or at least that was my excuse later - and by "later" I'm afraid to say I mean about one o'clock in the morning - as we "finished" that zebra jigsaw started during the week. That's to say, the pieces certainly fitted, but we weren't too convinced by the aesthetics of it all, and certainly some of them were in the wrong places though it would have taken a fairly acute eye to spot which ones... That did mean I didn't get any more than about six hours' sleep last night - and I dreamt a disturbing amount about wiggly-sided cardboard "squares" - so it's a wonder I'm even as awake as I am this morning!

Can I please put a quick question to the panel? Why do you read this diary? I'll share a representative selection of any responses I get - sycophantic or not - in due course, with anonymity assured, needless to say...

Hmm, having to play on-line Tantrix to get the jigsaw puzzle pieces out of my head... Not sure which are worse, though, really.

Hmm, it seems that the prognosis on my old Behringer mixing desk is not as good as I'd hoped, indeed that it's most likely broken beyond economic repair. Darren says Wigwam have told him the power supply is duff, the voltage regulator has blown, and a few of the chips on the main circuit board are fried. I had guessed the regulator had gone, but hoped that might be the extent of it; clearly I was being over-optimistic. There's still an outside chance the repair-shop might be able to cannibalise some other desks to get something working in a few weeks, but it's not looking at all hopeful. Oh well, it was worth a try, and at least we now know, and it's only cost a standard courier fee if Wigwam decide it's fit only for the skip.

Needless to say, not an overwhelming response to my earlier request, so these are not a selection of comments, these are all of them...

  • Because all your diary entries are belong to me.
  • Because I know you, it's well written, and it's a nice slice of life.
  • Why not? Just interesting to see what other people get up to in their lives, I s'pose. A fairly transparent voyeuristic urge. :)

Nothing there that persuades me to change my style or anything, though...

Of course, it would have been nice if there was one that had said "just checking to see whether or not you had said 'Hello Tugs!' yet", but hey...

For the benefit of web readers, that's what we call an in-joke. Join Mono.

On the edge of tears, and I wish I knew why. I think it's work, but not sure.

In case readers hadn't noticed, I've had rather a lot of what some might call "good luck" lately - even if I've had a bit of a lousy day today and seem to be going down with something this evening so plan on getting a very early night...

Just to recap, and fill in a few more details, this was the basic sequence of events that brings us up to today:

  1. For various reasons I don't particularly want to go into, I recently lent someone rather a lot of money on somewhat uncertain repayment terms. Although I could afford it - I don't lend more than I can afford, and that ultimately means "afford to lose" - it still left a big dent in my finances at a time I'm trying to build up some semblance of a deposit for a house, now there's talk of the current boom coming to an end. How even that came about was rather uncanny, but to explain would give away rather more of other people's business than I should. I had a good pray about it, and God persuaded me it was the right thing to do, so I went ahead and wrote out and posted a cheque the very next day. Bible verses have since independently confirmed the correctness of my decision.
  2. Having given away my old faulty mixing desk to Shine - not that they've been too successful so far in getting it fixed, alas - I was looking out for a replacement worth getting. I decided I wanted a Mackie - being the near de facto standard for project studio desks - but was rather taken aback by the prices, especially with my bank-balance somewhat depleted by the cheque I had just written out. The desk I really wanted cost nearly a thousand pounds, so I was going to compromise and get a slightly lesser model, for a slightly lesser price - but it was still going to sting badly. Even second-hand, prices were considerably more than I really wanted to pay, and besides, no-one local was selling anyway.
  3. I was just about to place an order for the lesser Mackie, when I thought I would have one last look at the adverts on the Sound On Sound website, and I very nearly missed one. Due to anomalies of alphabetic ordering, it was set apart from almost all the other adverts for Mackies, and it had been placed only the day before. It was local - well, home counties and within an hour's drive - and half the price of almost anything else similar on offer. And best of all it was essentially that full-blown model, the one that cost almost a thousand new. Oh, and when I phoned the guy, despite it being one of the most desirable and best-priced items on offer, it was almost the only thing no-one had asked about.
  4. A couple of days later I drove down to collect the mixer and also a compressor - an essential piece of music production equipment I had skimped on up until now - I had tentatively reserved, and I really couldn't have asked for a more pleasant guy to do business with. He'd recently married and moved house, and he had rather grudgingly been persuaded to part with his music-making equipment. He'd been messed around in the past with second-hand selling, so had priced everything as low as he reasonably could, to get quick and easy sales. So it was that he easily talked me into relieving him of a rather nice studio microphone and accessories for a near throw-away price. You can imagine my surprise on getting home to look it up on the web and find it originally retailed for $699.
  5. Finally - though I don't doubt this isn't the end of the story - there was the small but still quite significant issue of the jack-plugs at the weekend, when you will recall I ended up paying only slightly more than half price for a load of plugs that should have cost thirty pounds. And if it hadn't been for the fact that the shelf-price for the metal ones was bizarrely exactly the same as for the plastic ones, I would probably never have made that saving at all. Oh, and did I mention that the 28 jack plugs I bought were the last 28 they had in stock - and exactly how many I needed?

So, all in all, I feel that my decision to lend the money - representing a good chunk of a couple of months' wages - was completely confirmed by all that happened since. I was totally blessed for not being tight and worldly - even though my reward is more possessions. I just want to make sure I make the best of this now it's happened, because I believe it's far from "just for me". Part of which I suppose is why I'm sharing this now, but there's more to come from me, I'm determined. To do otherwise would be unthinkable. Thank you Lord!

Today I'm mostly making good progress writing a sine-wave tutorial applet in JBuilder, with nice pretty anti-aliasing to improve the visuals no end...

Though I'd dearly love to know why my threads resolutely refuse to restart...

Solved. Threads do not restart. They run once, and once only - and sensibly so, on further consideration of the potential issues involved. I'm sure if Sam had been here rather than on holiday, he could have told me that ages ago... Easily resolved, though - I just need to create a new one every time!

And now my applet looks really quite cool, especially now I've changed it to run in black on white, rather than the - admittedly somewhat retro-tastic - white on black that BufferedImage defaults to unless told otherwise. Anyway, it's now more or less time to head home, have some tea - pizza, salad and garlic bread, methinks - before going on to Lidlington for a band practice! First time in months for the latter - and the first time ever for Milton Keynes Vineyard I believe, with or without me; should be an interesting experience...

Interesting it certainly was, and quite productive too. Three of us turned up to play in the end - Andrew being exhausted after his summer mission - plus Chris to unlock the hall and Matt to oversee and mix it all, even if he'll play less of a role as time goes on. So there was me on my sax thing and occasionally singing - though not as much as I might have, because it turned out that one of the microphones was broken so I volunteered to share - with Rich leading on guitar and Paul on keyboards, both singing too.

I think we did four or five songs, and most of them came out sounding quite respectable, even without percussion - though Paul did fill in a little from keyboard for one or two of them. Mike plays drums, but he's winding things down for a bit due to impending fatherhood, so we'll probably have to do without much of a rhythm section for at least a few months.

I'm not yet sure when I'll be playing at a full-blown Sunday meeting; I think the idea is that I will alternate with Andrew - and besides, our borrowed mixer is a little lacking in channels - and I had already said I'd rather not play in September, though I probably would be around for at least the first meeting if need be.

Right, it's been another fairly productive day, getting this sine-waves Java applet into a vaguely demonstrable state, even if the source code is something I would not yet wish upon even my worst enemy. Had a few problems getting multiple instances working as required, but Tackline came to the rescue and saved the day - the solution was obvious but evidently previously invisible to me... Anyway, better be going home now, to get ready to out to tonight's Vineyard pub social up at the daftly-named Proud Perch, so bye for now, folks.

Well any hope of sitting out on the rather lovely canal-side terrace at the pub last night came to nothing, because it was decidedly damp and murky. The weather took its toll perhaps on the number of people turning up - even the organisers gave it a miss in the end, it would seem! - but there was still a fair crowd, and a good time was has by all. I had chicken arabbiata for my main course, which was absolutely scrumptiously delicious - looked easy to make, too, so I think I'll try my hand at it myself sometime! - topped off with chocolate brownie and ice cream for pudding. We didn't finish very late, so I was able to get to bed vaguely early and manage a semblance of a good night's sleep, though I'm still mightily glad the long bank-holiday weekend is but a few hours away...

But now it's almost time to go for a long-awaited - but almost forgotten - meeting with Adam, our head of unit. He's booked chats with everyone in the department, I believe, to talk to us individually about the structural changes going on at the moment. I gather from those who've already had their turn that it's nothing too onerous, indeed that it's pretty informal, and besides, Adam is definitely one of the "good guys" in all that's going on at the moment.

Indeed, not too bad, and we didn't even talk too seriously about the impending restructuring. Instead we mainly talked about the merits of Java versus C++ - particularly with regard to the thorny issue of multiple inheritance - and how much Toolbook sucks, before having a look at some of the more interesting Java applets I've been doing lately.

Long weekend! Hooray!

Thought it was about time I updated my music making web page, seeing as it looked like I'd not touched it in a year or more! So ... I've done just that.

Exciting, huh?

And yes, I suppose it would be nice if I actually had some music making to write about... Working on that one - believe it or not.

Going to dive into the shower in a moment, before hopefully going for a walk somewhere or other - got to make the most of the vaguely cooler bit of the day!

Yes, Matt, it is rather sad that us crazy poms have a public holiday solely to celebrate it being August, but at least we don't use things like the President's wife's sister's cat's birthday as an excuse - unlike some countries of which neither of us are nationals.

But anyway, August bank-holiday Monday it is, and what a glorious day it is outside - and a little cooler than of late, too - so I suppose I should be getting up properly, and going out and doing something constructive with it! After all, I'll be "back to the grind" tomorrow - if only for one more short week - so I should make the most of it while it lasts. Oh, and I will hopefully be doing something a bit special tomorrow evening, but more on that after the event... Ooh, I am such a tease, I know.

Yesterday was a good day, taking a trip with "the girls" to St Albans for the annual Church in the Park event organised by the Vineyard there. The weather was mercifully cool, and the rain held off until the very last moment - though I suppose that was why it became the very last moment - and a good time was had by all, including a picnic afterwards. There weren't that many Milton Keynes folk there, but everyone was very friendly and welcoming, and I think some new friendships have been established.

Well I felt I had to go out somewhere while the weather was so glorious, so took a stroll down to Willen Lake. Needless to say it was utterly seething down there, and I was amazed only to have to queue for about five minutes for my ice cream... I found a nice quiet - and vaguely shady - spot to eat it, before deciding it was way too hot to contemplate traipsing round the lake, especially when I still had the walk home to tackle! So to the aptly named Lakeside pub there I went instead, and fairly swiftly knocked back a pint of chilled Diet Coke before braving the by-then searing heat to wander back home. So not really the most amazingly well used bank holiday, but frankly it was about as much as I could bear! I think I should go and have a lie down now - and maybe a bit of a snooze - because tomorrow promises to be a little busy...

Oops, had a bit of an accident with my digital camera - but hopefully nothing too drastic or expensive to get repaired. I just went to remove the memory card to download some photos from yesterday on to my computer, and the battery holder fell out of the other end, its retaining clips broken off. One clip had only just broken, so I found that on my desk, but not sure about the other one, and I have an idea it might have gone a while ago. Sadly the clips were part of the camera itself, not the battery holder, so it's not likely to be ultra cheap to fix properly, but I'm pretty sure it'll be worth doing. I've fabricated a satisfactory - if unsightly - "field repair" with some cable ties, and if my tube of super-glue hadn't completely dried up I might have been able to effect something more permanent. Anyway, at least it should be fine until I get back from any holiday I might take during September, when I'll probably get a quote for a proper repair by Kodak. Just a tad annoying, that's all...

This morning however, back at work, I am struggling with the veritable piece of rubbish that is the standard Java DecimalFormat class, which for all its wonderful flexibility, won't actually round numbers properly - where "properly" means according to the basic rules that everyone apart from bankers follow.

Did you ever do that thing at school where you would persuade a kid to stick two fingers in his mouth and stretch outwards, whilst innocently declaring "my dad's a banker"? Or was it just at my school? Anyway, that's what I think of bankers and their stupid rounding schemes, IEEE involvement or not.

Ooh, that was a fabby evening! More when I'm a bit more awake, though. Maybe.

If my loyal readers cast their mind back to April this year, they undoubtedly won't remember me having pondered "can I really bear regularly doing that M1/M25 run again..?" Well I'm still not sure, but last night I made the effort to - at least as a one-off, and quite probably more to come - and it was certainly worth it. It was kind of strange to glance with a certain amount of fond memories at the east-bound exit for the M40, then quickly collect my thoughts before taking the west-bound one instead.

And the evening itself? Well we had a jolly nice curry at Burnham's poshest, chatting about school memories, fine food and much more besides, before agreeing there would certainly be a return trip in the pipeline. Three hours later it was high time I was heading back to base, but if I'd been grinning any wider I'd probably have needed to borrow a Humvee...

Eek, got my latest Orange bill yesterday - for forty quid! Forty flippin' quid! Now I'm sure that would be music to many readers' ears, but that's pushing twice as much as usual for me... Mind you, 58 text messages - at ten pence a pop - didn't help things, not entirely unrelated to last night's events, I should add! Painlessly paid by Natwest's on-line banking though; last month's payment went through smoothly enough, so I may as well stick to doing it like that.

Hmm, I wonder if my internet-ordered DIMMs - one for my machine, one for Sarah's - will have arrived today? Well, the answer will undoubtedly be no, since they're being sent by Royal Mail Special Delivery, which inevitably means the best I'll have got is a card to explain that they would have tried drop-kicking the package through my open bedroom window but for the fact that they feared it might have landed on something soft. But knowing Milton Keynes's abysmal postal service they won't even have got that far yet... Oh, "Track and Trace" says the package should arrive before midday tomorrow; I'll believe that when I see it, but I'll make sure I allow half an hour for the inevitable trip to the Brinklow incineration plant - sorry, sorting office - to wait around twiddling my thumbs while they can't find it.

Alexis tells me I'm being "entirely too mysterious"... I know, but I have my reasons and my sensitivities. All will become clear when the time is right.

But for now, it's time to go home and cook up something nice and yummy - probably pasta in some predictably green and cheesy shape or form. I've decided I've finished the S205 diagnostic test software. No, I've not done everything the academics requested, but we need something to keep ourselves in business in the future I'm sure. So for the last two days I'm here for a month or so, I'll be concentrating - as I have been today, more or less - upon the S204 diagnostic test software. Predictably enough, it's more of the same, basically, just worse specified - oh joy. I'm not sure Phil realises I'm off for the whole of next month, but the word "tough" springs to mind, especially when he is technically way down the pecking order of those demanding my software development time. I'm beyond caring anyway, to be perfectly honest.

Pesto pasta with cheese it was indeed, last night, though I think I'll be cutting down the quantities in future. I thought I would try it with mature cheddar for a change - OK, the real reason was that Waitrose didn't have any mild or medium in sensible size packs last Saturday - and it was very yummy but a little bit overwhelming quantity-wise. Sarah says she almost exclusively uses mature cheddar, because you don't need as much of it so it's less fattening, and I should really have heeded her warnings. I'll know for next time, though!

Other than that, the evening was mainly spent either in the bath or on the phone - first call being from Sarah to get the full and happy low-down on Tuesday night's fun and games down Slough way, then Mum catching up with me after yet another short break as she enjoys her retirement to the full! Oh, and then another hour on-line chatting to You Don't Know Who - ha ha ha - before deciding bed really was the only place worth being, so going there forthwith...

Just had an intriguing idea for a new website, hopefully original.

Watch this space...

Heck, was it really over six hours ago that I last posted to this diary? The afternoon's flown by - must be something to do with getting unusually engrossed in the work I'm doing right now. Of course, I've done all the routine stuff now, which just leaves the more complicated bits... And one day to do them, if I'm to have this vaguely complete by the time I go on holiday. It's really not going to happen, is it?

"Holiday" in the loosest sense of the word, that is, of course. I have not yet the foggiest clue what I'm going to be doing with one moment of my time off!

Ooh, my memory upgrade from Crucial arrived today - and no trip to Brinklow required. Shame, I was actually looking forward to getting a McDonalds on the way back! Of course, I wondered how a Royal Mail Special Delivery had been successfully delivered, but then remembered Mark's back from his latest jaunt so I suspect he signed for it. Anyway, my DIMM works just swimmingly, and I'll probably fit Sarah's one - which is an identical part, it turned out - over the weekend. If hers isn't compatible for any unlikely reason, I guess I'll just have to have 384Mb in my machine instead...

So begins my last day at work for a while, and a day I'm hoping to make quite productive. Here's my to-do list; let's see how much of it I can keep to...

  • Finish S204 question 11
  • Attempt S204 question 8, hopefully question 5 and maybe question 12
  • Package up the work in progress on S204
  • Package up my final draft of S205
  • Package up the sine-wave simulation thing
  • Write my August monthly report
  • Rejoice, and care no more

Well at least one of those will definitely happen!

Hmm, perhaps two of them now, actually - given that if ASCII text allowed me to cross through items, the first would be well and truly obliterated by now...

Well, in the end, almost a complete change of plan with regard to S204, but I've completed all but three of the questions for the diagnostic test nevertheless - just weren't quite the ones I'd expected! Anyway, I hope that will sweeten the blow to Phil when he realises I'm not around for the whole of September, and I've kindly left him with source code in the unlikely event that anyone else wants to pick up the baton in my absence! Well, actually not yet left him it, because I'm doing a runner as soon as I've e-mailed him the relevant information along with my August monthly report! Successfully packaged up all the other stuff as well, so all things considered, I think I'm abandoning ship in a really quite conscientious manner... And now, as promised, time to rejoice and care no more, methinks. Toodle-pip.

And now safely at home. Ahhhhhh... I'm going to enjoy this, I know!

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