goznet ...

David's diary: June 2001

Well I'm back, in body if not in spirit. Just want to sleep, but really must summon the energy to load the washing machine, or I really and truly will not have a thing to wear...

But can I sleep? Can I heck!

It's now Sunday afternoon, and I'm managing to have a fairly relaxed day even if a decent lie-in proved to be an impossibility. I arrived home yesterday evening after a somewhat fraught journey back to Milton Keynes and winding down with a cup of tea at Sarah's.

I would have to be brutally honest and admit that the week didn't end as well as it started, with tempers becoming more than a little frayed as time went on, and my plans to escape to Truro fell through unfortunately. Nevertheless it was good to get away for a few days, and the change of scenery and so on did everyone a lot of good I think. Charles and Sylvia were splendid hosts, offering me a good chunk of their house to myself as well as providing first class lunches almost every day we were there.

Newquay was seething for the first weekend, particularly thanks to it being the weekend of the infamous "Run to the Sun" event, with hundreds of car enthusiasts - and some rather less discerning hangers-on - descending on the town for a few days and noisy nights. They all cleared off after the weekend, though, and although it was still quite busy, at least it was possible to venture into the town and on to the beach, which we duly did most days.

We didn't really miss having a car, to be honest, though it might have been easier for me to get away once or twice, with Friday ending up being my only "day off" really, after a Thursday that's really best forgotten, sad to say. Anyway, I'm back now, and although in some ways I wish I was still there, in other ways I'm mighty glad it's all over and life can return to some semblance of normality - whatever that is.

Duly back at work now, and I've just finished struggling to remember what I did last month for purposes of my May monthly progress report - this diary came in useful, I can assure you! Two bank holidays, four days booked leave and a day off sick certainly conspired to make the maths a little tricky for this time of day, but it's all sorted and submitted now. It's just about lunchtime now, though, and then I'd better chase up Sian in the design studio to find out how she's getting on with the graphics for the diagnostic test Java software.

The answer to the latter sadly being "not at all". Too many other things taking priority, apparently, so I'm going to have to wait until next week - when I am of course scheduled to be busy with other things. Still, I have some comments and requests back from the academic regarding the "Life" simulation - some of them reasonable, some not so - so I should be kept occupied enough anyway. Plus Phil has apparently asked Jon if he can have some more of my time to churn out another of these diagnostic tests like the one I'm waiting on the graphics for, so it looks like my work's cut out for the foreseeable future anyway. Not that I'm complaining really, because I'm sure once I properly get out of holiday mode I will be able to get absorbed in it all once again, and at least it's all Java and at least it's new code, not patching up someone's previous dog's dinner.

Installed ZoneAlarm personal firewall software this evening, on the advice of a number of people. Only one warning message so far, though:

The firewall has blocked Internet access to your computer (UDP Port 13139) from 62.158.84.12 (UDP Port 13139).
Time: 04/06/01 20:54:00

Almost certainly not malicious, Zone Labs advise, but I've got my eye on you, p3E9E540C.dip.t-dialin.net, whoever you might be... Tonight, anyway.

No ZoneAlarm alerts at all last night while I was logged in, but I guess regular dial-up accounts are not as "interesting" to would-be hackers and script kiddies as unmetered and cable connections which tend to be less ephemeral in their status. Last week, Charles' AnyTime account seemed to attract alarmingly frequent suspicious visits last week, and a recent study of distributed denial of service - a.k.a. DDoS - attacks indicated American cable modem connections to be the victims of choice. But even if I am not seen as a particularly fruitful target, it's nice to know my system is now largely secure, although I had already fixed a few of the more glaring vulnerabilities of Windows 98 anyway.

Meanwhile, last night was quite interesting, and quite busy in its own way. Late afternoon I received a phone-call from Sarah, requesting a small favour and offering tea in return. That worked out very nicely indeed, because I had been planning on eating out somewhere or other anyway, since the OU Astronomy Club meeting was later in the evening and I hadn't really been intending to go home in between. As it was, I did pop home to pick up a few bits and pieces for Sarah and family, but had left work in good time so as not to be in too much of a hurry. It was good to see them all again, especially since things seemed a little strained on Saturday for one reason or another, so it was quite a relief that things appear to have returned to a semblance of normality.

Astronomy Club was better than average, with the guest speaker being John Zarnecki from our planetary sciences department, and the designer of one of the most important parts of the European Space Agency's Huygens probe due to land on Saturn's biggest moon Titan in 2004. Although John's talk was broadly about both Cassini and Huygens, he understandably concentrated upon the latter, and it was very interesting indeed, delivered in a down-to-earth - no pun intended - manner that couldn't fail to engage. He seemed remarkably pragmatic about the likelihood of it all even vaguely going to plan, which I suppose is hardly surprising given NASA's involvement, even if this particular project predated their well-known recent doomed cost-cutting initiatives.

I was a little annoyed on getting home last night to find that my front windscreen washer system has packed up once again - this seems to be becoming an annual occurrence, although this time it seems to have stopped working altogether, unlike last year when the pump was blocked and just wouldn't shift any water. My car's going in for its annual service and MOT test very soon though, so I guess it can wait. Some people seem to gain pleasure from endlessly tinkering with their cars; I have to say that I consider good mechanics to be worth every penny...

Right, I think I've basically finished the "Life" Java applet now, having implemented all the reasonable requests the academic made, rejecting only the ones Jon said were not worth bothering with. I made one last ditch attempt to persuade the applet to run more smoothly on older, slower, machines, but to no avail, so that's simply being blamed on Windows' poor performance in timing-critical applications. Jon also came to have a chat with all of us in this office about games - not an attempt to clamp down on such activities, but rather to encourage us in that regard. Basically, it seems that a high-profile project bid the Open University is involved with has highlighted some deficiencies in that area, and I suppose they see us relative young'uns as their best hope to improve things! Anyway, with that to ponder, it's more or less time to go home now, and looking forward to a nice relaxing evening...

Perhaps not quite the relaxing evening I'd planned, but quite fun anyway, going to watch "The Mummy Returns" with Mark. Basically an utter load of cliched nonsense and even less believable than the first in the series, but still good fun so long as you leave your brain securely at home. Thankfully I knew this to be the case, so modestly enjoyed it all.

Earlier I'd gorged myself on yummy pasta with pesto and all the usual trimmings, and shared a reasonably nice bottle of wine with Mark and Matt, since none of us could remember whose it was and it was taking up too much space on my shelf of the fridge for some reason. Pasta's quite a healthy dish, really - just a pity about the half a slab of cheese I normally grate into it...

It's "Open House" - a.k.a. house group - at Matt and Jill's tonight, the first one I'll have been to for a couple of weeks, what with our boat trip a fortnight ago and of course being on holiday last week. I've no idea exactly what we'll be doing, but all the meetings so far seem to have followed a fairly similar format, with an ice-breaker discussion of some kind, about half an hour of worship, pause for coffee and biscuits, and a time of prayer.

I've done my democratic bit already, and been utterly underwhelmed by how much anyone seemed to care given how marginal the Milton Keynes North East seat is, and how easily it could return to Tory administration. Sheer apathy simply seems to have ruled all around, from the campaigning through to polling day itself, and it's only through fear of what might happen that I've really been bothered to do anything myself. Apathy certainly breeds apathy in this case, it would seem.

Not an amazingly productive day, really, but "Life" is pretty much done as I said before, I'm still waiting on the graphics for the diagnostic test software, and Phil's only just dropped a specification for my next big project on to my desk, so that's hardly a surprise. Besides, there are those who thought I could use another week off this week, even if it didn't end up being quite that drastic...

Well the election's all but over, and the outcome seems to be satisfactory, though of course many who voted as I did will be waiting with a certain amount of bated breath to see how much of what has been promised now gets delivered. I didn't realise quite how marginal the Milton Keynes North East seat was, with the Labour majority of a mere 240 at the last election making it their third most unsafe constituency in the country, though it's been upped to a somewhat more secure 1829 now, no doubt ensuring Brian White another opportunity to misuse House of Commons stationery in a few years' time. Unlike the last election, I had no great urge to stay up and watch what happened as the night unfolded, and to be honest there were no major shocks or upsets that would have made doing so worthwhile. Still waited with Mark and Matt for the first few results to come in though, and polished off another bottle of wine between us, so I'm feeling a little weary this morning and really must get ready for a quality-assurance meeting in a short while.

Hmm, it's my dad's birthday tomorrow, but he's on holiday in France, and has not yet embraced the mobile communications revolution, so I guess that takes the pressure off a little. I'm quite tired today, having had a hectic - if quite fun at times - weekend since I last wrote.

Saturday afternoon was spent finishing off the main bit of decorating Claire's bedroom, finally, with just a border to be added to complete it. It certainly doesn't look a professional job, but it's better than it was, and hopefully will appease the letting agents when they next come to inspect. I'd kind of hoped to get away in good time after doing that, but then, with Claire safely off visiting a friend overnight and the others away for the weekend anyway, Sarah suggested going to the cinema, particularly liking the look of "Along came a spider", the new Morgan Freeman thriller. That was very good indeed - I'm not a big thriller fan, but I might yet be converted! - as indeed was the Ask pizza we decided to go for beforehand...

Thankfully there was no church meeting Sunday morning, so the late night mattered little - this Vineyard "regime" seems good for social lives! - although I had only a couple of hours to myself really, with Sarah coming over for lunch. Well, originally I had invited Sarah and Claire - especially since Claire had often asked when she could visit - while I essentially had the house to myself, but then it turned out that Claire had already plotted her escape for the weekend, so it was just Sarah. Or at least that was what we had presumed, until Laura and Rachael unexpectedly rolled up outside, back from their dad's much earlier than expected, and having had only a sandwich for lunch. So my catering plans were rapidly revised, and thankfully there was still ample to go round, cooking chicken korma and rice for Sarah and myself, fried chicken for the girls, and a few other bits and pieces to keep everyone happy.

Time flew, though, and it was soon time to head off to the evening Vineyard meeting at the sports centre, though we took a slight detour via the playground at Willen Lake to allow a little excess energy to be expended, and unexpectedly meeting our good friend Ellen there, looking after Esther for the afternoon, so had a bit of a chat before heading on the meeting. The evening meeting was very good once again, a well-crafted balance between worship, teaching and socialisation; I'm beginning to feel quite settled with the Vineyard now, with it seeming to deliver most of what I need from a church and giving the opportunity to be involved in something exciting like that more or less from the start.

So that was about that, really, aside from the usual nattering and so on, a little bit of PC configuration tweaking for good measure, and catching up with Mark - as well as finishing off the lunchtime wine! - when I finally got back in. Today I'm taking a break from my usual activities and doing a bit of software testing for Guy for a little while, though I have to say I can't really follow exactly what it is he wants me to do...

And now it's more or less time to go home, and I still don't really understand what I was supposed to have done for Guy. But I've put some time in, and made some notes which I'll duly write up tomorrow, so I hope he'll be happy. Not that I care unduly if he's not - I have no idea why people seem to think I'm available for doing this kind of rubbish, but I'm not in any position to argue.

Yesterday evening was mainly spent giving people lifts to and from places, but I also got a chance to do a little Java development at home, inspired by a Lunar Lander type applet I recently saw - and thought I could better. OK, so I only got the vector graphics routines working last night, but it's a start, and all good experience even if it goes no further. This morning I successfully booked my car in for a service and MOT test on Friday, and Tim's kindly offered to ferry me around as necessary for the drop-off and later pick-up. Unfortunately it's going to be an expensive service, since 40000 miles means my car is due for a new timing belt, but that's just one of those things I guess. They're also going to fix the windscreen washer and try and sort out the squeaky suspension, so hopefully by Friday evening I'll have a decidedly happier car!

Needless to say, it seems that the vector transformation code in the Java I wrote last night was about the least efficient algorithm I could have chosen. As master mathematician Tim suggested what the worst way of doing it might be, it all rang strangely true, so no, I really shouldn't have converted all the points into polar coordinates - and given that I did, I should at least have used the improved arctangent function Java provides for such purposes - but rather used a really quite simple rotation matrix. Mmm, yes, "rotation matrix" - that rings a bell from the dim and distant past, and will save a lot of unnecessary trigonometric calculation. Something like:

[ cos A   -sin A ] [ x ]
[ sin A    cos A ] [ y ]

is apparently what I should have been doing all along... I live and learn, forget and some time later am then reminded.

Right, it's just about time to go home, after a not terribly exciting day. There's a Shine fundraising barbecue this evening, though, indeed my first barbecue of the year - should be fun, and also will be an opportunity to hear their new album for the first time as well as get some stuff from Gareth to contribute to the forthcoming website revamp. That's especially urgent with talk of a somewhat advanced UK release date for the album...

The rotation matrix worked great - thanks Tim! - and once I got back home from the barbecue I programmed in a slightly more convincing lander-module than the nested squares I'd been using up until then. It looks quite good, especially with anti-aliasing enabled in order to make the vector lines look smoother, though there's still a long way to go before the game will be anything like complete. The barbecue went really well, with about a dozen of us there to enjoy copious quantities of burgers, hotdogs, kebabs and other nibbles. Sadly the CD-ROM Gareth was going to loan me with web-site related stuff had gone walkies, so I may or may not get what I need in order to do that, although I've been given a web address I can download at least some of it from anyway, and he's asked Alliance to send me some stuff too. The new Shine album sounded great, needless to say, on repeat play for a good part of the evening. As expected, it has a much more gutsy British sound than their first one, which was ruined by bland American production that didn't even impress across the pond let alone here.

I really don't feel like being here today, having had bad hayfever all day yesterday - and not much better today, so far, really - a somewhat stressful evening of maths tutoring, and an unsettled night to cap it all. I'll see how I go, though... Oh, I now seem to have got at least some of the artwork to help me put together the new Shine site, so hopefully I'll get the chance to work on that at some point over the next few days.

But now it's time to go home, so hooray.

And now it's time to go to bed. Early, I know, but I need to be up in good time to drop off my car at Old Stratford, and I'm dead on my seat as it is...

My car's safely dropped off to be serviced and so on, thanks to Tim volunteering to ferry me to and from Old Stratford. Of course, my directions to the garage - just in case we got separated as we drove up in convoy - turned out to be inaccurate. "Sharp left at the roundabout, then second left, after the Little Chef / Burger King combo site". Except of course, where the combo site had been last time I was there, there was now absolutely nothing but a gated-off expanse of concrete, and in my confusion we took the wrong turn and ended up having to do three-point turns in extremely confined space. We got there in the end, though I still almost forgot to hand over my old MOT certificate - it really should be a checklist item I'd have thought, along with keys, confirming a contact number and any necessary alarm codes etc, but hey. Anyway, all should be in order now, and I just have to wait for the call to say it's ready to collect - though of course as any car owners reading this know, garages never ever phone when they say they will, but that's just one of these things we get used to. I just hope the bill doesn't sting too much; I know the service is expensive, since the car needs the new timing belt - not necessarily expensive in itself, but apparently requires quite a lot of work to fit - but with a bit of luck the washer motor and rear suspension issues won't come to too much, and not much else will need doing for the MOT. If it comes to less than about 500 pounds altogether, I guess I'll be quietly - if not exactly ecstatically - happy... Running a car simply isn't cheap.

Good news and bad news, regarding the car. The bad news is that my head gasket is apparently madly leaking oil, and needs to be replaced at some considerable cost. The good news is that the procedure for so doing involves much of what my 40,000 mile service would have included anyway - including the new timing belt - so as long as I don't desperately want the service done today, the two jobs can be rolled into one and save me a hefty stack of money. As such I'm going back in a week's time - and Tim has already volunteered to ferry me again, good chap - and the bill shouldn't end up being much more than I'd originally hoped. The MOT test was less problematic, with a couple of bulbs needing replacing and of course the washer motor which I knew about, so that shouldn't break the bank too horribly. Regarding the suspension, the mechanic couldn't hear anything when he took it out - mainly because it was pouring with rain at the time, he said! - but he's going to lubricate it anyway, and I'm to listen to it over the next week and report back accordingly when I return to get the head gasket seen to.

Hmm, well I've got my car back, having had its MOT test done and a little bit of work, but obviously not the main part for which it needs to return in a week's time. The washer pump has been replaced as expected, along with a couple of bulbs - apparently not charged for - as I'd suspected might need doing. As for the "squeaking rear suspension", well the less said about that the better, but thankfully they didn't charge for wasting their time looking at that and we had a bit of a laugh about it afterwards. Suffice to say I have temporarily removed my reversing aid thing, which obliged with a familiar-sounding squeak when nudged by the mechanic... The mechanic also reassured me that the car was safe to drive, albeit gently, over the next week; the head gasket was only leaking oil, with no evidence of the oil polluting the water or vice-versa, the latter of which would have been particularly bad news for the health of my engine. Anyway, I'm probably going out for a drink with Darren and maybe Gareth and Richard in a short while, so I suppose I'd better be getting dressed and so on after my early-evening bath!

Drawn a bit of blank trying to come up with a new design for the Shine web site. The last one seemed to fall into place so easily, given the brash colour-scheme of the album and so on, but the new album is more subtle and much harder to "key into", and I don't really have the design confidence to come up with something album-neutral of my own. Something's got to be done, though, and I suppose I could work a bit more on the content this evening, although not much is really changing in that regard - or not that I've got material to work from anyway. It's all just a bit frustrating when I've been begging for artwork and suchlike for months, and then it all comes through with a fortnight to go before the rescheduled launch date, and stunning though it is, offers few immediate ideas for webification.

Otherwise, what's happening? Well I went for my drink with Darren, Gareth and Richard last night, which was all very pleasant - especially the impulse-ordered profiteroles! - though there was a bit of action when a nearby car got broken into and some stuff stolen from it, which overshadowed the earlier part of the evening somewhat. Got a reasonably good night's sleep and a decent lie-in this morning, but then the phone rang... It was Claire, rapidly descending into a tearful panic as to where her mum had got to, and ringing round anyone who might know or be able to help. Thankfully it all turned out to be a false alarm, with Claire having misheard where Sarah was off to for the morning - thinking she was doing some cleaning for a friend, but in fact going to do some shopping and evidently getting a little waylaid.

Also booked some tickets to go and see Eliza Carthy next weekend. She was the only name that really stood out from the line-up for this summer's Cropredy festival, so I was planning on giving that a miss and keeping an eye out for when she might be playing locally. Then I just happened to be looking at her web site yesterday, and noticed she's playing at the Stables in Wavendon next Sunday evening; a quick e-mail to the venue confirmed they still had tickets left, and I ordered them by phone this morning. Not exactly cheap as tickets go, but the Stables is a fine venue and it should be an excellent evening.

Meanwhile, time's getting on, Sarah's invited me round - almost certainly on foot, given car troubles - to have a curry and watch a film in a little while, and I want to have a bath first so I suppose I'd better get on!

"Kiss the girls" was good, an earlier film in the series that brought us "Along came a spider" at the cinema the other day, though perhaps not quite as sinister as the more recent one. I was on foot, so didn't get home particularly early, but then I slept and slept... I had been hoping to go to Oxford this morning for a Vineyard service, but I'd not managed to arrange a lift - my car not really being fit for long journeys - and I thought I mightn't be much better myself. As it was, I slept through almost solidly until noon, and I'd have thought the service will almost be over by now. It was to be a commissioning service, with the Milton Keynes Vineyard having been planted out by the Oxford one a couple of years ago and the time come to fly the nest. I would have liked to have gone, but I'm not sure how much it would have meant to me as such a newcomer, with no real connections to the Oxford bunch. Anyway, I plan on continuing to take today fairly easy, but we'll just have to see...

And a fairly relaxing day I did indeed continue to enjoy, with the only real diversion being going along to the Shenley evening meeting with Mark - just as a visitor, fear not! - and on to KFC and the Old Beams pub afterwards.

I've managed to avoid using my car so far, and since I'm at work at the moment that obviously means I found my way here otherwise, indeed I dusted down my bike and took a leisurely spin down the riverside path. A little annoyingly, this means I could have taken the garage up on their offer to keep my car in over the weekend and for me to pick it up later today, but hey, I never knew the weather would be so glorious today. I doubt I'll keep this up all week, but it's as good an excuse as I'll get for as long as it lasts.

Last night, lying in the bath being inspired by the ceramic tiles, I decided what I'm going to do for the Shine website. It's not going to be amazingly exciting, but should be smart enough, easy to adjust, and fulfil all the other important requirements I have identified. Hopefully I'll get a chance to work on that a bit this evening, since time's rapidly running out before the new album launch!

Ouch, my wrist! This cycling thing's going to take some getting used to...

My wrist's feeling much better now - thanks for everyone's concern - even despite doing it no favours with not only obviously cycling home last night, but also being persuaded to go for a two-hour ski later in the evening. Amazingly, my homeward trip took only a couple of minutes longer than the morning one had, but I was hurrying a little, perhaps, since I was going for a pizza with Darren soon after six and wanted a shower before I did so.

Darren was a bit later than expected in the end, and it gave me time to at least get started sending a large e-mail on behalf of Shine, though annoyingly I later found it had bounced - too big for the recipient's Hotmail in-box - so it was somewhat wasted effort and we just missed the last of the pizzas we really wanted at Pizza Hut. Still a nice evening out though, and it was good to be remembered by most of the staff there - but who wouldn't, I guess?!

While eating, Mark texted me asking if I wanted to go skiing for a little while and I initially declined, but when he was still at home and pondering it when we arrived back, I swiftly changed my mind and we made good use of their "bring a friend for free" deal they are currently running. Pretty exhausting stuff, but good fun, and in the two hours we spent on-piste I only fell twice - once after a collision with Mark! - and I'm definitely improving.

I cycled into work again today, with the weather forecast looking good once again - let's see how long I can keep this up, eh? Maybe tomorrow I might join my colleague Tim, since I saw him whiz past this morning shortly before I left, but I'm not sure what time he normally leaves.

No sign of Tim cycling in this morning, and I was quite tempted to give it a miss anyway, feeling somewhat exhausted still, but when I saw the weather forecast was for wall-to-wall sunshine I decided I'd keep this healthy routine up for at least another day. I have a Vineyard meeting to go to tonight which I'll almost certainly risk driving to, but Bradwell Abbey isn't too far to go and I just need to keep the revs low. Might well pop a bit more engine oil in first though, for safety's sake!

I did a bit of the Shine web-site revamp last night, and although I can't claim to be delighted with the results so far, it's a vast improvement on Saturday when nothing looked good at all. I think I'll choose some brighter colours though, and hope that some funky pictures and so on can distinguish it from looking like just another dull corporate site. Persuading Internet Explorer and Netscape to behave similarly - especially when rendering tables, a usual sticking point - proved to be an interesting challenge, but I think I've got it sussed now, and I should be ready to start on the Perl scripting next time I get a chance to work on the site at all.

It's Thursday morning, and my week of cycling is now almost up, with only the journey home tonight to go. Tomorrow the car needs to be taken up to Old Stratford again, and Tim's helping me out once again as I think I said. I did actually take the car out last night to the Vineyard meeting as I'd planned - Bradwell Abbey being just a little too far to cycle really - and it went without a hitch, though I was driving remarkably cautiously and smoothly. Good practice for when I'm retired, anyway!

The City Discovery Centre at Bradwell Abbey actually took rather a lot of finding, being utterly unsignposted from the road, but I got there in the end and the meeting started somewhat late anyway so it didn't matter too much. The prayer meeting itself was excellent - not something you'll often catch me saying, to be brutally honest, but if this sets the pattern then that can only be a good thing. After a short time of worship - led by Paul, who was very good indeed - we broke into small groups to brainstorm and pray over a number of different areas of need. Very simple, but it worked really well!

I came home via KFC, having not had time to eat earlier - too busy installing the Apache webserver at home, not that it works properly, of course - and just after I arrived home, Andy pulled up and we all went out for an impromptu closing-time drink or two at the Swan. All very nice, especially since I'd not seen Andy for weeks, and had been meaning to catch up with him sometime, but any plans I might have had for an early night were of course somewhat spectacularly dashed!

Today I have mostly been experiencing the joy that is installing Windows NT. Particular joy, I can assure readers, is to be gained from spending an hour copying files from CD-ROM to hard disk when you're not even sure the hard disk is going to be bootable when it's all done. I shall soon find out, though...

Which it wasn't, and even when I made it so, the second phase of the installer still refused to acknowledge the completion of the first. It can wait until tomorrow now though; I'm going home...

And now the cleaners have - correctly, of course, but still annoyingly - locked Jon's office, where I was doing the NT installation yesterday, so I'll have to wait a while before I can continue with that, assuming he's in today at all! Last night was busy and fairly fun, programming up a MIDI file for a ring-tone Darren needed done - Logic Audio was a complete star, allowing me to play my developing MIDI track alongside the WAV file he'd sent - and then taking a walk with him down to the Barge. The latter ended up a lot of fun, actually, arriving there at the same time as Dave and Jo-Daniel, with a further merry throng arriving a short while later. Ended up being another late night, though, and I had to be up early this morning to take the car in for its work, so I am struggling a little to stay awake here...

And now I'm falling asleep waiting for the Windows NT installer to delete its previous botched attempt, removing files at the astonishing rate of about two per second. No progress bar either, but it seems to be working in alphabetical order, and it had got to "E" the last time I looked... If I could be confident it would work better this time, I would of course be happier.

Windows NT still won't install, despite jumping through several hoops in trying, but apparently Malcolm or Chris will lend a hand if need be - and I suspect that time has come. It can probably wait until Monday now though, especially since the garage has just phoned to say my car's ready for collection, and Tim's keen not to leave that too late. It's ended up a little more expensive than they first said, but I don't think I'm going to quibble over a few quid here and there on a job costing the best part of five hundred pounds anyway. Hopefully it'll all be unproblematic now, in any case, especially with a busy weekend coming up - including a barbecue at Chris and Su's in Lidlington Saturday evening and of course the trip to see Eliza Carthy at Wavendon on Sunday evening, as well as other possible miscellaneous journeys. Tim's very graciously accepted payment only of a pint of Hook Norton for all his time and effort today and last Friday, enjoyed this lunchtime as we watched our departmental cricket team narrowly beat the opposition in the last match of a work mini-tournament.

Well a somewhat indifferent day has actually ended quite well - and I suppose there are a few hours yet for things to get still better! I left work a little early to collect the car, having set one last attempt at the NT installation going, which was working markedly different to previous ones, so I'm very hopeful I can get that finished off on Monday. The car's fixed, and I'm sure a few other little niggling issues have been sorted out too, so I'm not begrudging it costing 27 pounds more than they'd anticipated. Last but not least, I finally managed to get the Apache webserver software running properly on my home machine, happily serving up anything I care to throw at it, so I've retired Sambar for the time being; it was powerful and easy to use, but just different enough from Apache - the de facto industry standard - to be annoying at times. So yes, I'm happy ... and only two more days until Eliza!

Tonight seems to be the night for people to try and access my PC's RPC system, on port 111. Good thing I'm not running an insecure operating system then!

I'm being able to take a slightly more leisurely Saturday than I'd perhaps expected, thanks to a slight change of plans. I'm still going to the barbecue this evening, and indeed will be leaving for it a couple of hours early having agreed to take Laura and Sarah down to help walk Chris and Su's dogs while I help Chris get the barbecue going. However there was going to be the added complication of Becca and her friends wanting to follow in convoy, and probably not wanting to leave so early, but now they're going to follow Matt and Jill instead, so that's one less worry.

Anyway, I've done my shopping, including some chicken pieces for this evening, and briefly bumped into Rachael and Charlotte whilst out - and indeed bumped into Charlotte again later and had a bit of a chat for the first time in a while. Now I've got a couple of hours before I need to go out again, and I'm weighing up whether to do a bit more work on the Shine website, or just relax in the bath for a bit... Tough choice!

Phew, what a weekend - and mightily relieved my car behaved itself nicely for the occasion. I had a little time to work on Shine's website, but then there was a bit of a change of plan - so it was a good thing I wasn't soaking myself in the bath, eh? - with Sarah and Laura having mislaid the key to their friend's house and so being somewhat unable to do their promised cleaning, instead enjoying the sun in her garden instead, but needing a lift home somewhat earlier than they'd expected.

Saturday night's barbecue was a lot of fun, with about twenty mainly Vineyard folk along to enjoy stacks of food, drink and general summer-time civilisation. The somewhat larger party going on next door proved not to be any problem, and provided a mainly pleasant musical background to the whole evening. Laura had a whale of a time playing with the dogs - Bea showing few signs of her life-threatening problems of a few days ago - but was somewhat inevitably the first to succumb to tiredness, so we took that as our cue to head off back through the lanes to Milton Keynes.

Sunday daytime was mostly spent at the local centre at Willen, for an event called Vineyard Voyage - basically an intensive introduction to what the church is all about, and some more general guidance on spiritual matters. Four hours fairly whizzed past, though the first half was mainly taken up with an excellent video of John Wimber - one-time Righteous Brother and major Vineyard leader, who died a couple of years back - giving his powerful testimony. Things got a little complicated at lunchtime, with Claire and Rachael being dropped off by their dad about two hours earlier than agreed, but ended up not too much of a problem, thanks to the video player then being available to keep them entertained.

Having dropped everyone back off home, I popped into Halfords to buy some rubber solution; Sarah's washing machine seal had sprung a leak, and although I had some repair patches, I had none of the solution to stick them on with, so it was a good excuse to stock up on that. We managed to effect a reasonable repair at the second attempt, and then it was time for a bit of tea before the concert. Sadly Sarah's expected babysitter's son was somewhat urgently rushed into hospital, so we had to make alternative plans for looking after the children, which didn't exactly end up ideal, but at least it allowed the evening to go ahead as hoped.

Neither of us had been to the Stables since the major rebuilding there, and we were quite impressed with the whole set-up now, a far cry from the somewhat ramshackle arrangement I remember when I went with my mum to see Martin Carthy a few years ago. Ironically, that last time happily coincided with my birthday, and this time it was Sarah's birthday and we were off to see Martin's daughter Eliza... The concert itself was very good - especially the second half - and enjoyed by all, even if I had perhaps hoped she would cover a bit more of her older material. It didn't finish too late though, so once we had returned to Sarah's and packed the children off to bed - a somewhat fraught exercise - we listened to a bit more of Eliza's stuff on CD before calling it a day ourselves.

Altogether now!

If you're happy and you know it, eat ice cream;
If you're happy and you know it, eat ice cream;
If you're happy and you know it, and the shop downstairs will sell it,
If you're happy and you know it, eat ice cream.

Mmmm... Double Magnums are nice.

Hey, the NT installation I started Friday evening went pretty much without a hitch, and I'm just putting the final touches to it at the moment. Note to anyone having problems in future: please double-check it really is a FAT16, not FAT32, partition you're trying to install to; the first phase running in DOS may not care, but the second phase surely does... OK, so the supplied driver for the network card didn't work, but I found one on 3Com's web site that fitted the bill, and thanks to Gateway 2000's Australian website I tracked down a driver for the quirky and obsolete video card installed in the machine, so all seems to be working well now. It's about time I was heading home now, though, and hopefully I'll get some more work done on the Shine site this evening - I'm feeling in the mood for a bit of Perl hacking, yeah baby.

Needless to say I got sidetracked by the offer of twisted-crust pizza, which provided a very yummy diversion for a couple of hours, but I did then manage to get a bit more work done on the Shine site, even if the heat was unbearable. I took a late bath, and the temperature was altogether a little more manageable by then, and I've now got the Perl scripting finished bar one bit which I think will be dead simple. Just needs some content to go in it now - well most can be recycled from last time round, but hopefully there can be something new to go on there too to keep the site interesting...

Having got Windows NT safely installed, today it's time for fun with IIS, also known as Insecure Internet Server - at least judging by the number of patches available for it. Given that it forces a system reboot after every patch, I have to say I was a little glad to find an amalgamated hotfix for all the patches since NT SP6, apart from two more recent ones. I'm sure the server will still have more yet-to-be-revealed holes in it than a Swiss cheese, but once I've set it up, it shouldn't be my problem any more...

Cornetto today, for variety's sake. Mint and chocolate, of course!

I was just about to write that it's being a mercifully cooler day today, when the sun suddenly comes out and no doubt will begin to slowly roast us to a crisp once again. I got the scripting for the Shine website finished last night and also worked on converting a bit of the old content to work with the new engine, but then Darren phoned wanting some help working with audio file volume levels and also with a fridge of beer to help clear, so the rest of the evening was history. Shouldn't have much chance to work on the site tonight, though, since I'm supposedly off skiing with Phil, Angela and Mark, making further use of the BOGOF offer at the Snowdome before it runs out at the end of the week. If it does get as hot today as it's done recently, what better way to spend the evening, though..?

Last night's skiing went somewhat interestingly, to say the least. Phil and Angela unusually rolled up a little late, but we were on the slope by 8.15 anyway, so it didn't matter. Every time I've been since the lessons, I've used 150cm skis, but the bloke on the gear counter refused to issue them to me, saying size nine boots wouldn't fit on them properly - though he did later ask how I was getting on, which was a nice touch. All very odd, but it was a good excuse to start using longer skis, even if they took some getting used to on the slope. Longer skis give you more control when turning, but since they distribute your weight over a larger area they make you go faster, so it's a bit of a trade-off.

So last night I was on 162cm skis, but that's still a fair bit shorter than the ones I used and fought with in vain for most of my week of lessons earlier in the year. I crashed somewhat more than last week's session, which I would probably put down to a combination of increased confidence and not being accustomed to the longer skis, but no harm was done. Ironically, my only "injury" was when I got my left index finger trapped in one of the bindings when I was taking my skis off right at the end of the session, and I was probably quite lucky not to have broken it or at least caused a nasty blood blister.

Both Phil and Angela had skied - I think that's how you spell it! - before, but Phil had quite a hard time and wasn't really enjoying himself much. His struggling caught the attention of the stewards there, who would have been quite within their rights to ask him to leave the slope for not meeting the required minimum standard, but instead they were really nice about it and let him join in with a beginners' lesson that was about to start, for no extra cost. Not bad at all when we had only paid about twelve pounds each for the two hours as it was! Phil's still not quite up to standard, but he was definitely looking a lot more confident - and much happier! - by the end, and one more lesson would probably clinch it for him.

After a couple of drinks in the Moon Under Water it was time to head home and get some sleep, with this morning being mercifully cooler and a little damp, a most unaccustomed state of affairs. Tonight there's an Open House social at the Wayfarer pub on Willen Lake, which should be a bit fun, though despite what I just said, I hope the weather perks up a little by then because I'm planning on walking down if I possibly can!

Oh marvellous, my website's disappeared into the void, as indeed has the Shine one. And now e-mail has started doing similarly, although it continued to work for a while after the web sites broke. I know we're supposed to be switching web providers in the next few days, but this really is not a good time for this to happen. Assuming there is ever a good time, of course...

What have these two websites in common? Both are overdue for renewal, though in the case of mine, only by a week or so; Shine's I'm not so sure about, and I have been making anxious noises about it recently so have somewhat mixed feelings. With regard to my own domain, though, did I receive notification of this fact at the time? Am I expected to memorise the renewal date for an account for which I have never received a shred of paperwork? I'm glad we're getting shot of the bunch of cowboys purporting to be our web hosts, but this is not the kind of clean transition we were hoping for...

I was able to pack all my troubles away for a little while last night, with our Vineyard social at the Wayfarer - except of course it's now called the Lakeside, after its recent refurbishment, and it's a very different kind of place now. Had the best numbers turning up for a while, too, which probably just says something about socials, though we did have a couple of - entirely welcome - interlopers.

Back to reality today, though, and I've foolishly agreed to phone our new web hosts to discuss in detail our package requirements, so I think I'll try doing that during my lunch break. Apparently they should be able to get everything up and running within a couple of days, and the expected-to-be-troublesome Nominet update has gone through very quickly thanks to a bit of timely arm-twisting from Darren.

What happens with my own website and so on remains a little questionable. Although I was personally most annoyed by my own going off-line - especially given the warning that Shine did receive that their time was short in that regard - Shine's site has to be a priority at this point with their album launch so soon, and I'll get mine sorted out once theirs has been. Of course, there's still the content to complete, but I've basically decided to reuse the old stuff as far as possible, so that's more or less done.

Of course nothing's ever as simple as it seems, with it now being the case that although Nominet have transferred the troublesome domain as required, the new hosts don't seem to be able to track it down from their end. That shouldn't be a problem, because once they hold the tag, they can do what they like with it anyway, but for some reason it's presenting difficulties. Thankfully the guy I've been dealing with at the new hosts seems really helpful, so I'm sure it will all work in the end, but, as I said, nothing's ever as simple as it seems...

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