goznet ...

David's diary: July 2001

Well I managed to take a break from all this for a few days, though needless to say nothing has progressed in my absence. If I get the chance, I might drop an e-mail to the new hosts to find out if there are any developments, but especially after taking the day off yesterday, I have real work needing catching up with.

Saturday was Eric and Stacy's long-awaited wedding, announced several months ago - before I left MKCF, not that that changed anything, friends being friends - and with a few changes to quite major details of the plans in the meantime. In the end it went really well, at the Trinity Centre in Fishermead, which meant that I had a useful "base" for the day just round the corner... It was a truly special occasion, a major turning point in both Eric's and Stacy's lives for sure, and one I wouldn't have wanted to miss for the world. Although the hall was packed out - we fitted in about 170 chairs when setting it out in the morning - there weren't actually that many MKCF folk there, but it was good to catch up with those who did make it along.

After a lazy start on Sunday - yes, Saturday night was quite a late one! - I drove home to my parents in time for a light lunch. Dad was out somewhere or other, so it was a good opportunity to show Mum again how to use the web and e-mail on their new computer, and I think she's just about got the hang of it now! Mum mainly wanted to try and track down old friends, pupils and colleagues - not a bad exercise for practice - and she found references to a fair few of them, especially those who'd gone into acting and so on.

Monday - which I'd booked off work - was Dad's day though, and we went shopping for a good-quality printer for his PC, eventually going for an Epson Stylus 890 photo-printer. We also went to Staples and bought a USB hub and an office chair, so it was quite a productive morning. We couldn't get the transparency scanner he wanted, but it's on order, and should be available in a few days. We spent the afternoon struggling to get everything we'd bought working, but we got there in the end, and the results seemed pretty good.

After popping round next door to say hello while I had the chance, sharing a pizza for tea with my parents, and watching a bit of the tennis, it was about time to head back up here and back to grim reality...

Happy Independence Day to all American readers - and I know I have a few... If you spot any large flying saucers hovering over your cities, either hope Will Smith's close at hand with his trusty PowerBook, or just go visit some relatives in the country or something until it's all blown over.

Last night was another pizza night, twisted crusts again. Tonight will be too, I suspect, with the left-overs from last night... Must remember to go shopping later, since I'm providing food for housegroup tomorrow and won't have any other opportunity, and then it'll be Tim's worship school. Probably the last one ever, I'm guessing, since they're breaking for summer and Tim's emigrating to Canada before the autumn term starts, so I really ought to pop along. Yes, I know I'm no longer MKCF, but he insisted I should!

Thanks to Tripwire, Shine now have some semblance of a web-presence back! The main domain change has finally gone through properly, though until Gareth's back in the country after the band's current European mini-tour we can't really upgrade the account to a proper hosting account. So we needed a neutral forwarding address to put a couple of temporary pages on, which Tripwire happily obliged with offering the space for - OK, so it was only a couple of kilobytes, but it was a couple of kilobytes I really and honestly couldn't get by almost any other means, believe it or not. What a star that man is!

Hmm, you'd think I'd get a vague shred of gratitude, wouldn't you? But oh no, that's not good enough and can I please waste yet more time chasing up things that should have been sorted out by others ages ago. Excuse me while I scream. Except that I haven't the energy to scream, so a mere sigh will have to do.

I'm moving office imminently. That'll be another good excuse to be busy with other things for a little while and make certain people realise the meaning of responsibility for their actions, or lack thereof. It's a nice office too, just a pity that it doesn't come with its current occupants - Thanh excepted of course, no offence mate - though I suppose it would make it a bit crowded.

I've had an apology of sorts, after Mark intervened. Won't actually have a chance to do anything more about the hosting or the site content for a few days now anyway, probably, so reality will have a little more chance to bite.

I've started the ball rolling with getting my own domain transferred into the Shine web account. This makes a lot of sense, since it will put all the sites I maintain under one convenient administrative roof, and also help Shine out since I will pay them for the space I use at the going commercial rate. Of course, this transfer won't be painless either, due to Creatingspace's suspension by Nominet, but at least I've done things in the right order this time, so hopefully the completed transfer will be just a couple of days away and Shine can have a cheque for a tasty fifty quid upon their return to the UK.

Although hopefully I've just managed to pay for the upgrade to a full hosting package on their behalf, so it'll be them writing me a somewhat larger cheque instead, which will be rather entertaining given their lack of money.

OK, so saying I "wouldn't have a chance to do anything more about the hosting for a few days" turned out not to be entirely true, but I've certainly not wasted too much time on it, and I do value at least some of my friendships.

Well the upgrade has gone through, and once I've had an answer to a minor query about log-file handling, I'll be in a position to start uploading some real content. That will probably be over the weekend now, but Darren and Gareth have chilled a little so I'm sure that will be fine. As for my own domain, well I posted off a written domain transfer request to Nominet yesterday evening, so hopefully that too will be completed within the next couple of days, and then everything will be just hunky-dory. At least until the next batch of problems, anyway. Oh, and it's my mum's birthday today and I forgot. D'oh!

House-group - or Open House, that being its proper name in Vineyard-speak - went well enough last night, although following a slightly different format to usual. It was overwhelmingly hot though, so it was a good thing that as part of my turn at providing the food, I decided at the last minute to supplement the crisps and home-baked cookies with copious choc-ices. Still too hot now, and increasingly humid, with the few spots of rain on the way home last night not coming to anything much, even if it's still trying. 99.999% humidity really sucks, you know...

Should emphasise that having realised I'd forgotten Mum's birthday, I did immediately phone her to apologise, and I'm sure I can sort out something belated tomorrow, especially since I now have some of those new-fangled self-adhesive stamps to use. Silly things - self-adhesive stamps, that is, not mothers. They must have spent ages getting the perforations to look just right; it's a pity you can't buy them in packs of four any more, though. Who'd want a four-pack of perforated mothers anyway, I ask you?

It's Sunday lunchtime, and I'm passing a few minutes waiting for a phone call to ask me to go and pick Sarah up from her cleaning job, so I might as well recap on the weekend so far. Friday night I was going to spend finishing off the Shine web site, but just as I left work, Sarah phoned asking if I would like to go and see "Shrek" instead. OK, so the site needed doing, but I also needed some entertainment after a week like that, so the offer was gladly accepted, and the film was a lot of fun - and certainly the best computer animation seen to date. As subverted fairy-tales go, I think I still prefer "The Princess Bride" - which I just happened to watch again yesterday! - but it came a close second. Yesterday was a bit of a strange day, with nothing quite going to plan but ending up quite reasonable anyway. Uh-oh, phone's ringing, better go...

Well I now have an official copy of the new Shine album, and it's growing on me already! OK, so I'm hardly in the target market, and it's never likely to be amongst my favourites, but it's definitely more "mature" than their first one and instantly likeable. I did of course have a CD-R copy a couple of weeks back, for purposes of creating the MP3 clips for the website, but this one's obviously got the full artwork and so on, and it looks as fab as it sounds!

Ouch! 28Mb bandwidth usage so far today - and the site's only just gone live! Thankfully we get 10Gb allowance a month, but it's still something we'll need to keep a watchful eye on...

Pizza last night; all is forgiven. For now...

It's a bit of a blast from the recent past, but for the last few days I've been concentrating on this diagnostic test software for S205 I was talking about a month or so ago. The graphics finally came through from the graphic design studio, albeit somewhat in a trickle, and not always in the exact form that was needed.

I don't envy the designer involved, for whom this was her first excursion into multimedia as opposed to print, but it was all still somewhat frustrating. It's at times like this that it really would seem a remarkably cunning idea to have the graphic designers working alongside the software designers, but despite all the shaking-up being proposed round here, something as basic as that isn't one of the options being considered. As it is, they all use Macs over there so can't even see their work in context, which makes the communication of what's needed doubly difficult.

OK, so heavy graphic design involvement in our software has only been around for two or three years - the S103 science foundation course was the first major foray into such visually-rich appearance - but that shouldn't mean it's too early to consider adapting.

Anyway, all the graphics are now integrated, the software looks pretty nice - though not perfect due to some sloppiness with the consistency of the graphics provided - and sample CDs have now been cut for perusal by the academics involved. Now just to do the same all over again for S204...

The weather today's being excellent - and not before time. Would be nice if it eased off a little within the next hour and a half, though, please! No thunder or lightning though, but I guess you can't expect everything.

A few minutes after that, I got a call on my mobile from Sarah, complaining of e-mail problems on her machine since I installed Norton Antivirus 2000 on it Sunday evening. Like me, I think she's become somewhat dependent on her e-mail, so I promised I'd pop round straight after work, though I couldn't stay long because I'd already agreed to go for a bite to eat and a drink with Darren. What it transpired had happened was that Norton had redirected POP3 requests to go via a POP3 proxy running on the local machine in order to filter for nasties, but it seemed that the proxy was broken. Now I'd hoped that the Windows ME help - which seemed to know about this issue - was going to explain how to get the proxy working, but its recommendation was exactly the same as the cop-out solution I was trying to avoid using, that of reverting Outlook Express to go directly to the real POP3 server and bypass the filtering. Anyway, at least her e-mail is back up and running now, which is more than I can say for my own, with Nominet still not having put through the tag-change request I submitted last week, but hopefully it won't be long now...

Then it was time to head back home and wait for Darren, who was running a little late, so by the time he arrived we were both somewhat more peckish than we'd anticipated, so our plans to go to KFC were rapidly upgraded to Wetherspoons. Darren went for a mixed grill followed by treacle pudding and I opted for my favourite chilli-con-carne nachos followed by their majorly indulgent chocolate cake.

I'd planned on then going home and doing some ring-tone composition for Shine, but that never quite happened for some reason, though I'll try and find a chance tonight. I must go shopping this evening too though, since I've volunteered to stand in at short notice to provide food for tomorrow night's house group, because Matt and Jill are away, second-choice Ally's put her back out, and third-choice Sarah's not even sure whether she's going or not! No problem, though, even if the requirements do include a birthday cake and so on for Andy, who's kindly hosting the gathering too.

Hmm, what a strange afternoon - winning eight Mercedes and two ice-creams, getting my domain transferred and finally getting round to ordering a data cable and LogoManager for my mobile. OK, so my driveway and freezer aren't going to be too crowded, because the former was only a collaborative simulation with no real prizes. My web site and e-mail are not actually active again yet because DNS is yet to be configured by the new hosts, but thanks go to Scott from Nominet for pushing ahead with getting the transfer done. The data cable is real enough, though, even if it was a little disconcerting to get a confirmation e-mail even before I'd keyed in my Switch card details...

Apparently due to the "failure potential" of a tree on campus, it is to be avoided prior to its felling later today. Failure potential, I ask you... The writer of the e-mail must have been a mechanical engineer before he became the grounds and safety co-ordinator, that's the only reasonable explanation.

Mmmmm, pasta with pesto, cheese and salad. Not had that for a while, folks!

Yesterday's potentially-failing tree e-mail reminded me of one we got a couple of weeks ago, relating to the awful new parking permits they recently started issuing. For years we've had discreet blue stickers in the corners of our windscreens, but in their infinitesimal wisdom they decided to replace them with hideous things to dangle from our rear-view mirrors - and obviously forget to do so, since it would probably be illegal to drive with them permanently in place.

Anyway, an e-mail came round, expressing delight at the fact that a claimed 99.5% of car users had applied for the new-style permits, and announcing that the old ones would become obsolete at the end of the month. Funny that. Especially when one of the cited reasons why they said the new system was needed was because the old database had become so outdated that accurate records of numbers of registered cars on campus had become impossible to maintain - so how could they possibly be so precise? Also somewhat odd that probably only about one in four or five cars are actually displaying their permits - assuming their owners had one - and that doesn't include the vice-chancellor's.

Once again, I bet they brought in some stupidly overpaid consultant to overhaul the system, and it's more than university's money's worth to admit that it's been a miserable failure and wasn't even necessary in the first place. Consultants who in the past have recommended things like the introduction of a dress-code into the call centre - the only people in the university so constrained, and yet with the least face-to-face contact of anyone here.

It simply seems that when an organisation pays a consultant to come in and make recommendations, they feel duty bound to implement them, otherwise it will be seen as a waste of money - even if the recommendations themselves involve yet more waste, as so often seems to be the case. Happens everywhere, not just here, so I'm not singling out the university for criticism in any way - the mere mention of a paid consultant being involved in any project anywhere should be enough to set the warning-bells ringing for anyone who cares where the money goes...

From an instant-messenger chat I've just had, the other participant's name changed to protect the chocoholic concerned:-

Someoneeating maltesers as we speak, which always cheers me up
DTEGozmmm, nice :)
Someonethough they do seem to have run out really quickly............
SomeoneI'm way too greedy
DTEGozbut they are sooooo light
Someoneyou hardly notice you are eating them, and that's the problem
DTEGozbut they are covered in anti-chocolate - looks like chocolate, tastes like chocolate, even smells like chocolate, but every bit of it you eat makes you healthier
Someonehehehe
Someonei like your way of thinking
DTEGoz:)
DTEGozinvented by the same people as anti-pizza
DTEGozwhich Pizza Hut kindly use in their extra-large stuffed crust grand pan Super Supremes
Someonewell, you learn something new every day!!

Well, we can dream, can't we?

Oh well, house-group barely happened last night in the end, so rather than sharing a cake and a whole stack of nibbles between just Andrew and myself - tempting as that may have seemed - we've agreed with Matt and Jill to defer Andrew's birthday celebrations until next week's gathering. Instead we took the executive decision to toddle off down to the pub for a little while, which actually worked out really well, a good opportunity to talk to each other about our work, background and so on.

Still no sign of my own domain being active yet, but I think it's just a DNS propagation issue now, because everything seems to be in order at Nominet and on the registered name-servers, so I'm hopeful everything can be got up and running over the weekend sometime. It's been frustrating not having my primary e-mail address active for the last couple of weeks - the web site I can live without, though obviously I would like it back soon! - and I've no idea who I might have missed messages from. I did put out an announcement to a dozen or so regular correspondents, but I'm bound to have missed someone important...

Hopefully the data cable for my mobile phone will arrive today; the registration code for LogoManager arrived in my e-mail yesterday, so I'm quite hopeful the "real" goods will be on my doormat tonight. The ring-tone version of Shine's new track "Heaven Noise" I converted the other night didn't sound too brilliant, and ran out of time long before I'd hoped, but once I have the data cable myself it will be much easier for me to fine-tune things. I just hope it works better than the infra-red adapter I tried before, though that was let down by its woeful driver software more than anything, and this new one should talk straight to LogoManager and the Nokia software, both of which are well-respected.

Anyway, time to get on with this S204 Java stuff...

Yes, the unavailability of my transferred domain is indeed just a DNS propagation issue, but I've now had the mechanisms behind this propagation explained to me, so I now understand it should all be sorted out within the next few hours. Monochrome's own DNS is now up-to-date - as of a few minutes ago - with about five hours to go on ClaraNET's and just under an hour for the DNS here at work. This means that so long as I have time - which I should, given that it shouldn't take much more than half an hour - I'll be uploading my site content over the weekend, and everything should be back to normal, courtesy of the rather splendid 1&1 WebHosting.

I've been a little cautious up until now in mentioning 1&1 by name, but now everything seems to be in order, I am quite happy to give them a positive mention. They may be an unfamiliar name, but they host and forward a claimed two million domains, and have built up a very loyal continental European user-base. Now they've launched over here, in apparently direct competition to well-known services like UK2, and will hopefully show them a trick or two. Their rates are competitive and their facilities astonishing - how does 10Gb per month bandwidth sound? - and their contracts are amongst the fairest I have seen, relying on keeping customers purely by impressing them rather than by charging exorbitant domain release fees and so on.

Woo! Spodding for free, courtesy of Orange! Well, I was up until a couple of minutes ago, but my fifty minutes are up now. Better be calling it a day...

Although of course at ten to midnight I had only ten minutes to wait until another chunk of fifty free minutes started, but I did go to bed, honest!

My web site's back up, folks. There's nothing particularly new on it, other than a short but thinly veiled rant about less-than-wonderful web hosting. But at least it's back now, as is my main e-mail. So rejoice, dammit!

Monday morning and back at work, and I think today's the day we're going to heave all our stuff downstairs to our new office. I can't say I'm entirely looking forward to the process, though I think I will prefer our new accommodation and it will be a good opportunity to turf out a lot of junk - not least my accumulation of empty Coke cans... A telephone engineer has just popped in to say that he's transferred our phone numbers already, so I suppose we'd better make our move sooner rather than later - though a day without certain people nagging me about work-unrelated things mightn't be such a bad thing!

As you may have deduced, the data cable for my phone did indeed arrive on Friday, though needless to say, the Royal Mail called for me to sign for it at 12.05pm, so it was off to the Brinklow sorting office I drove after tea once again. Connectivity with LogoManager and Nokia's own handset management software worked first time and without a hitch, though I initially had some problems dialling out. I'm not sure quite what fixed it, but something I did seemed to snap it out of its obstinacy, and it's been pretty much fine since. OK, so the connection speed is slow, as expected, but it's ultra-reliable, without a single drop-out or pregnant pause in transfer. But best of all, it's lovely and cheap, coming out of my generous inclusive minutes, and only a penny a minute off-peak if I do exceed my allowance.

Saturday afternoon I drove down to see my dad - my mum being on holiday for a few days - to help him install and try out his new Minolta transparency scanner. He'd ordered it when we went to buy the printer recently; they didn't have one in stock at the time, but he was able to go down and collect one earlier in the week. Anyway, it installed very smoothly indeed - in stark contrast to the Epson printer, which was a veritable nightmare - and gave pretty pleasing results right from the off, whether scanning slides or negative strips. There seemed to be some inaccuracy in the manual as regarded the orientation of source material, because images were tending to come out reversed, but I guess a little trial and error does no harm.

I drove home late Saturday evening in the end; I was prepared to stay overnight if need be, but I'd offered to take Claire out for a pre-birthday treat somewhere. For various reasons, lunch was not practical, but brunch was, so we went to the Little Chef and had a hearty meal with her mum and her best friend. Other than that, it was a fairly typical Sunday with the usual company, enjoying a walk round Willen and a ride on the steam-train amongst other diversions. Not too late home though, even if I didn't make it to bed myself for a fair while afterwards - but hey, it's only Monday today, so what does it matter?

It's three o'clock, and the office move is basically complete. It didn't go without any hitches, unfortunately, the two main ones being getting a dud key - so will be relying on my colleagues and/or the departmental master key for a few days probably - and dropping Lesley's cacti, breaking their ceramic pot and transferring most of their spines into my hands. Nice to have a vaguely empty desk, though - and perhaps this time I'll not bother collecting my Coke cans, especially given that after so many years I've now come to realise that there is no official recycling service anyway.

And lo, I did place this morning's emptied beverage canister into the waste receptacle provided for the purpose of containing this office's detritus.

Tim and I decided we'd go to our departmental restructuring launch briefing this afternoon. Two years in the making, it had to be worth a listen to the string of mutually backslapping directors, deans and PVCs. Anyway, having been, I am pleased to say that as a department we now have:

  • a new logo
  • a new name - but keeping the same acronym, conveniently
  • even less of a clue than ever before about what's happening or when

So it's business as usual I guess - at least for the time being.

Oh, I almost forgot, we also get a whizzy new PowerPoint template. Now that's what I call progress!

Third day in the new office, and that means two days of waiting around to be let in, because of the screw-up with the keys. It's nice enough here, though, even if we're still quite a long way from the rest of our immediate colleagues. Meanwhile, the last couple of days I've been having a slight run-in with 1&1 over the definition of their "free domain transfer" service, whereby it's not free at all, but I'll reserve final judgment until I've heard back from Nominet about their opinion on the matter.

Once again, I used the bat-key - if you saw it, you'd know what I mean - to get in this morning. Certainly easier and quicker than getting Security to come and open up my office, though I did get waylaid having a chat with Joel about all the new developments round here. Last night was mainly spent celebrating Hanne's earlier passing her driving test - first attempt, too, after her sickeningly good 34/35 performance in the theory test a few weeks back, only let down by her not understanding the question about tread depths. Tonight we'll try again to celebrate Andrew's birthday at Open House; I still have all the crisps, cake and so on from last week's failed attempt, but I'd better drop Matt and Jill an e-mail to confirm everything is still on. Anyway, I'd better wrap up this short entry now, since I have a quality assurance meeting to go to in a few minutes' time, not that I've had a chance to do any preparation for it, though I gather I'm probably not the only one...

Still no resolution to the charging for domain transfers issue, but that quick e-mail to Nominet has revealed that their manager is "very interested" in the matter, having read a copy of my e-mail correspondence, and will very probably be "contacting 1&1 Internet Ltd to have a chat about it". Basically, if it turns out that 1&1 have been taking money supposedly on Nominet's behalf for something that Nominet do not charge for, I'd imagine someone's powering up the fan right now. Of course, I'd hope this can all be resolved amicably, because we could do without yet another web host change right now, and apart from this particular little episode, 1&1 have been brilliant throughout.

Open House went well, and the food was well appreciated, even if twenty-six birthday candles did result in a bit of a towering inferno, and Matt rushing upstairs to unplug the smoke-detector before it woke Aimee! Things were muted a little with more about the recent death of the son of one of our church members, but talk of baps and buns - don't ask! - soon perked things up, and it certainly ended up a good evening overall. Tonight I'm supposed to be round at Sarah's, to demonstrate the use of the bike rack my mum has lent them for their forthcoming holiday - assuming it will fit on their hire-car at all - and to drop off a thing or two for them before they go.

Though not now, I'm not, with Sarah deciding she's too tired to drive up safely tomorrow - not that Claire seems to understand it's more important to arrive in one piece than go on the day planned, judging by the hysterical screaming I just witnessed over the phone - and instead having an early and hopefully restful night, though it sounds like she'll get a lot of grief from certain quarters anyway, poor thing. So I'm probably going round there for lunch tomorrow now instead, which leaves the question of what to do for food tonight, especially since I had precious little lunch today, but I suppose I could treat myself somewhere nice...

Decided I'd treat myself to tea at the Olde Swan, since I'd not been there in a while, and wasn't likely to go for a fair while yet otherwise. One sausage hot hob and chips - and a chocolate fudge brownie for dessert - later, and I can assure readers I no longer felt in the slightest bit hungry any more!

It's Sunday evening, and I don't really think I'm going to last much longer - especially if I polish off the bottle of wine Mark left in the fridge with strict instructions to finish...

Yesterday was a bit hectic, sorting out the bike-rack for Sarah and family, as well as giving it a test-drive to Willen Lake - with the added perk of some much needed fresh air and energy expenditure for the girls. No late nights for anyone, though, and hopefully Robbie Williams didn't keep them awake too much unlike Friday night, so I presume they set off safely today.

Today was interesting, going to a regional Vineyard fun-day up near Sutton Coldfield. It was a low-key but very pleasant affair, but the highlight for me was quite unexpectedly bumping into my cousin Kate and her new partner - well, new since about two years ago when I last saw her, when I think they had just started going out! Her children had of course grown beyond recognition since I'd last seen them, and Andrew had introduced his own daughter into the equation, so quite a change for all concerned!

Anyway, all the sun and all the driving - about a hundred and fifty miles of it - has taken its toll on me, so having popped in for a KFC on the way back from Matt and Jill's, I think I'll probably collapse into the bath for a while - perhaps with that aforementioned bottle of wine - and call it a day.

This morning, I had about two hours to save the world - and I think I managed. Now let me get out of my skinsuit and cape, and return to reality. Or, more - to the point - go home and get ready for Shine's free gig and album-signing this afternoon at the MK Virgin Megastore!

This afternoon I have mostly been watching Shine utterly woo the crowds at the Milton Keynes Virgin Megastore, get the best sales of any CD for the day there - more than the feeble Atomic Kitten managed for their album launch a little while back - and get invited back for more. On an even bigger stage. Even other Megastores are showing interest, apparently...

This evening, however, I have mostly been watching Lara Croft do her stuff in "Tomb Raider" - and I have to say that the reviews have been pretty unfair in squarely panning it. It is true that it's basically "Charlie's Angels" without the choice, and if approached with that understanding it actually delivers a lot more than one might be led to expect. Good harmless fun.

And right now, I am mostly listening to the audio companion to Moby's "Play" DVD, released today - and as cheap in Woolworths as anywhere on the web...

Though today I shall mostly be taking an early lunch break to run as many of Shine and their crew as will fit into a Laguna down to Luton Airport - with the added perk of getting to keep the Laguna for the rest of the week. Mmmm, power steering. Mmmm, air conditioning with climate control. What's the betting I'll never look on my altogether basic little Hyundai quite the same way again?

And the answer to that is "not very likely". I hate it. Great big lumbering beast, even with a two-litre engine - and it has the gearbox from hell, into the bargain. The air-con and power-steering just about redeemed it, but I'll be sticking with my car this week, thank you very much. No, the gearbox was even worse than that, almost impossible to get fifth quickly enough to get any benefit from it, and so much vibration back from the engine it was untrue. Hideous, hideous, hideous. And hideous besides. Sorry, Darren.

Shortly I must drive it again, though, in order to get home from work. But then it can languish unused until Sunday evening, when I'll probably be driving it down to Luton again to help collect Shine and co - though I might take my car, actually, since Martin will be driving the Galaxy so there should be altogether more space for everyone and everything...

Yesterday evening was long and hectic but productive. I'd promised I'd pop round to Sarah's while she's away in order to do a few bits and pieces for her while the coast was clear - specifically to try and attack the jungle that her back garden had somewhat become, and to try and "rationalise" the computer's setup a bit.

So I loaded up Mark's strimmer into the back of my car - yes, my car, much nicer! - and drove round there. Having cleared the lawn of miscellaneous discarded toys, bottles and so on, I set to work with the strimmer. It cut about two - maybe three - blades of grass before it decided it would go into economy power-saving mode and hardly spin, let alone cut. Oops.

Oh well, it was a good thing I'd brought all my disks and so on with me, because I was going to have a lot more time to work on the computer than I'd planned, and I got started with slowly sorting things out. Except that then Mark replied to my earlier text message about the strimmer, giving me the go-ahead to buy a new one, so I whizzed off to Homebase and pondered awhile over their selection of such tools. Eventually I went for a Black & Decker one with a 12m cable, which was just as well, because it only just reached to the end of Sarah's lawn, and I had been seriously contemplating getting a 6m one!

I didn't strim for long though, because it was very noisy, and by then it was getting a bit late, but I was able to attack the worst of the growth and may well return to finish things off later in the week. I might bring the hover-mower next time - assuming that works better than Mark's old strimmer - since all the grass is fairly short now. Sarah's got a push-mower, but it didn't seem to work when I tried it briefly...

Anyway, back to the PC I went, and spent another three hours generally playing with the configuration, organising things more logically and hopefully improving the performance more than a little. I'm still not entirely happy with its speed, but it's almost certainly better than it was, having had a few unnecessary background tasks - including some spyware - removed. I also installed firewall and advert-blocking software, which should help prevent against repeat performances in future, though I suspect a little education may be in order too.

I'm sure in the process I'll have deleted something treasured by the girls, but Sarah had asked me to use my discretion with anything potentially inappropriate or unsuitable, and I think we are generally fairly like-minded in that regard so I don't foresee any major problems. Nevertheless, I thought it would be a good opportunity to install a few new freeware games - as I'd been promising for a while, and I'd earlier popped a load of installers on a CD-R - and hopefully avoid any potential tantrums.

It was pushing midnight by the time I finally got away, having cleared away my empty beer bottles and so on - had to have some sustenance to keep going that long! - and checking everything was locked and secured. A productive evening, though, for sure!

My arms are still aching from the strimming, and it was even an ergonomically relatively well-designed strimmer I bought. Gardening's not for me, I fear.

And my left arm is still aching this morning; I think I must have pulled a muscle - as the tired but grinning whelk said to the limpet - or something. Anyway, last night was a one-off combined Open House gathering, to celebrate the forthcoming arrival of Kate and Mike's baby - indeed the second baby-shower I've been to, for those who consider it a girlie-only thing for some bizarre reason. Chris had set up some barbecues in the car-park, and a great time was had by all, I think - though it was touch and go at one point whether the guests of honour were going to turn up at all, especially since it was a surprise! I didn't leave too late, though, planning to fit in an update to the Shine website before I hit the sack, which I duly did, so there are now a few photos from Monday's Virgin Megastore gig up on the site for anyone who's interested!

Hmm, Her Majesty's Government Communications Centre is turning up in my diary logs again. I know you're watching me, whoever you are, so own up, won't you?!

Had to pop into town for lunch today. Well, I might have got away with doing so tomorrow, but it wasn't worth the risk. I'd promised I'd cash a friend's benefit cheque tomorrow and pay the money into their bank account so they would have some money on Saturday, but I feared that if I waited until I'd cashed the cheque, it might be too late for the paid-in money to be available on Saturday - it not being a proper banking day - so I paid in the exact amount of my own cash today instead. There's probably not such a rush to cash the benefit cheque now, though I'll probably do that tomorrow anyway, and just remember the cash will be mine, not my friend's! Apart from that, I paid Burger King a visit for a bite to eat and then headed back to work - and all just about within the hour, happily to say!

Welcome, Dave, to the wonderful world of last-minute shifting specifications. Enjoy your stay; you'd better get used to the idea!

Well it was just as well I went to the bank yesterday to sort out the benefits money, because I'm pretty sure I'd not have been able to cash the cheque today anyway, since it hadn't been properly signed. Just didn't seem worth the bother of missing my parking space at work by queueing half an hour at the post office to be told it wasn't valid anyway. There's a three-month time limit on cashing the benefit cheque, and the right amount of money is in the right bank account, so it can surely wait...

Returned to Sarah's yesterday evening to do a little more work on the computer, tidying up a few loose ends mainly. One reason the machine was running so slowly was almost certainly due to fragmentation of the hard disk. Sarah had run the defragmenter only six days ago; I was there when she did, in fact, and was a little surprised how quick it was. I can only come to the conclusion she hadn't been setting it going properly, because it took a good half-hour or more when I did it last night, and I can't believe that level of fragmentation was purely due to this week's tinkering. Still, we can all make mistakes, and mine was that when I was purging the system of evil "spyware" the other evening, I omitted the crucial stage of actually getting rid of it, not realising I had to tick the items on the list of discovered nasties! All's fine now though, with not a trace of anything that AdAware or PestPatrol objects to, and with AdSubtract and ZoneAlarm guarding the most critical entry point into the machine, it should hopefully stay that way.

Oh, and I also fixed their space bar, so I need no longer typelikethis when visiting... Seemed some little urchin had pulled it off and put it back on not only back-to-front but also quite ignoring the levelling device, so it was both wonky and largely non-functional unless pressed right in the middle!

Suppose I'd better get dressed and go out!

Saturday evening, and I've just got in from this afternoon's long-awaited Vineyard worship jam session. There was a good turn-out, though everyone was melting in the continuing heat-wave, so it was just as well that Jill had brought stacks of cold drinks for everyone! The emphasis was on having fun playing in a band together, so there was no strict musical direction, but we still covered half a dozen different pieces with varying degrees of success - and some of them really quite well! Anyway, shattered now, and I'll probably go have a nice cool bath in a short while, then see what happens next this evening...

That being... having a nice pizza, a cool bath, and an early night. Goodnight!

Oh well, yesterday afternoon's jam session was supposed just to be a bit of worshipful fun, with more formal band auditions to follow later in the summer, but this morning I had a phone call from Jill, sidestepping all that and asking if I want to be on the worship rota as from September. In a way I had been hoping not to get too involved with that for the time being, but Shona had let the cat out of the bag a few weeks back that I was a musician of sorts, which was inevitably going to accelerate things somewhat. As it turns out, it works out quite well, because it gives me the summer to ponder the details - and perhaps a little longer if I'm not around much in September, as often seems to end up being the case - and the "honeymoon period" I think is over too, so I will need something like that to apply myself to in order to keep the ball rolling.

As for today, well it's uneventful so far, but I might well try and get out and do something this afternoon, even if it is the hottest day of the year so far. This evening, though, I must return to Luton Airport to help pick up the Shine team. That means using Darren's car again; I was going to use mine, but there were concerns over space, and if the weather stays like this the air-con could well be the clincher anyway. Martin's going to be driving the Galaxy, and will check on the teletext for the expected arrival time of their EasyJet flight from Holland. The flight's scheduled to arrive at nine this evening, and EasyJet apparently normally pretty good, though it's a very busy weekend for flights everywhere, so we'll just have to see, and we'd rather not be waiting around clocking up two loads of extortionate airport car-parking fees either...

Too ... hot ... can ... barely ... breathe ...

Though the air-con made the trip to and from Luton bearable - certainly something for me to think about as I ponder replacing my car. But now I'm dripping with sweat again, and expecting a horrible night's lack of sleep, especially since I'm also worried sick about something probably utterly inconsequential.

Well I got some sleep - in the end; it was far from easy - but what I'm doing up and about at six in the morning is anyone's guess.

And now at work well before half past eight; what is the world coming to? Of course, it would be better if I was actually wide awake, but hey, I guess I can't have everything.

Ouch, my right thumb's giving me agony this morning. Really no idea why.

Then suddenly it stops. More or less. Bizarre.

And now it's started again. I guess it'll come and go.

Last night's panic's over, by the way. Might even get some sleep tonight if this stinkingly hot weather calms down at least a little bit. Here's hoping, anyway.

And now cheered immensely by an enormous - larger than life, in fact - picture of a puddy-tat in my e-mail. Thank you Laura!

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks these new machines that convert your loose change back into useful money are fundamentally evil. Don't waste your money on rubbish buskers and wishing wells, the promotional leaflet encourages us; instead we should fill their machines with our unwanted coppers and get them converted back into bank-notes "for a small commission". I'm sure the homeless, hospices, and everyone else - yes, including cash-strapped musicians - who rely on donations of this kind will be utterly overjoyed to see their one reliable income source cut off thanks to rampant materialism at its greediest. Coinstar's the name, and Sainsburys stores are where you'll find their evil machines; you know what to do, or not to do. The good news is that the parent company is going down the pan anyway; the sooner the better is all I can say.

Sorry about this rush of diary entries today. My mind's only really working in snippets. Not a lot's getting done, to be honest, so I might as well go home. I was in the office obscenely early this morning, after all...

Go home I did, but I was soon out again, packing the Flymo and strimmer into the back of the car and going round to finish tidying Sarah's lawn and to proof-read an essay she was writing for college. OK, so in the end we ran out of time and I only got to read a couple of pages of the essay, but it was better than nothing, and the garden's a big improvement now anyway! Also popped out to KFC for tea - and McDonalds for dessert, obviously! - making the most of what was undoubtedly the coolest part of the day...

Was a bit of a greedy so-and-so at lunch today, deciding I'd give the barbecue my custom for a change, and feeling that one burger simply wouldn't be enough. So I had a double cheeseburger instead, where each burger was at least a quarter-pounder if not more... OK, so it did mean I missed out on the cajun chicken wraps that were available in the canteen, but hey. Seemed about right in the end though - especially with carrot cake for dessert - since I'm eating at Matt and Jill's this evening. Not sure what that's going to be like; it's a "single guys'" event, but hopefully not too cringeworthy, and we've even got live music booked!

Hmm, I brought in six CDs this morning, and I've listened to five of them already - the simple pleasures of absent colleagues! Mind you, I'm off home now, so Air's "10000 Hz Legend" will have to wait until tomorrow. Oh, and my recent office move was finally completed today, since I now have my own working key - so Tim can have his back when he returns from his holiday. A security guard even came across specially to test it, what a good man...

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