goznet ...

David's diary: June 2003

I did indeed watch my Gladiator DVD - as given to me by Katy - last night, and it was indeed rather good, I'm pleased to say. It may well not have been my first choice of watching, but it was thoroughly engrossing, even with me as tired as I was by then, and I am sure I will watch it again soon. Anyway, it's now Sunday morning and I'd better go and do something about waking myself up properly before I hit the road to Farnham once again later this morning. Yes, that will be two weekends on the trot that I've driven down, and the third that we've met up at all. Getting serious, or just a happy coincidence? You decide!

Grr, that's two trips to the occupational health department already today, to no avail. First time, there was a notice saying they were closed until eleven. Second time, obviously somewhat after eleven, they were still closed. Clearly it's all part of a conspiracy to elevate my blood pressure still further.

For reasons some will be aware of, I'm a little bit self-conscious about this diary right now. Therefore I present to my readers something a little bit different, hopefully: "Yesterday through the eyes of a two-year-old"...

When we got to Auntie Katy's house, I couldn't see David. But I asked where David was and he appeared. I bet they'd been kissing. Then we went into the town and I sat next to Katy and David in the back of the car. We went to the restaurant and we had garlic bread and pasta. That was Mummy and me. Daddy had something beginning with L that I can't say. It looked disgusting but Daddy said it was nice and better than the Miller's Kitchen. Katy and David had pizza but it looked a bit hot for me, because I'm still little. I was a bit naughty and Daddy had to tell me off but then I was a good boy. Mummy left more than I did. I think her eyes are bigger than her tummy. Then we went for a walk in Alice Holt Wood and we saw squirrels and a big black bird and Mummy and Daddy and Katy and David all pushed my buggy, but it squeaked. And then we went to the playground and I was very clever and walked on beams and climbed up ladders and Mummy and Auntie Katy went to buy ice cream and I ate it without getting any down my front. There was a crocodile but I think it was asleep. Then we went back to Auntie Katy's house and we had some tea. I played in the garden and I ate two cakes! Well a bit of two cakes anyway. And then we went home. I bet Katy and David kissed each other again. They do things like that.

Of course, we didn't just kiss. We also went for a very nice walk - "round the block", but actually rather more pleasant than that might sound, even if we had to pretend to be brave explorers at one point thanks to the quality of footpath maintenance round there. I guess if the Discovery won't fit down it, it's not really worth bothering keeping clear. But we did kiss quite a bit, admittedly.

Bah, this morning I was going to meet with Jon and cut a CD-R of the latest build of the microprocessor simulation. But he's in another meeting he'd forgotten to warn me about, so it's not going to happen 'til this afternoon now. So, do I press ahead with some of the potentially tricky things I know still need to be done, and so maybe hand over a more advanced version of the software, or do I get up to date with timesheets and so on, which must be done by tomorrow? Dull as it may be, I think the latter may have to take priority.

That timesheet update didn't take as long as I'd anticipated, so it gave me a good chance to write a considered reply to an email from Katy received first thing this morning. I met with Jon after lunch, and invited him to try out one of the exciting new features in my software, which of course promptly failed. Zip, nothing, nada. Then we spotted something else I'd missed from the waffly pseudo-specification that really ought to be done before we let the academics loose on the software again. The first problem was just a bit of overzealous code deletion on my part, but the second one turned out to be more problematic and prompted a major rearchitecturing of the software this afternoon. It's still not quite fixed, but the whole thing is much more sane than it was, and my flash of inspiration arrived shortly after I got home this evening, so I made sure I emailed myself at work while the final touches to the solution were still fresh in my mind! This evening, while talking with Katy thanks to the miracle of my mobile's hands-free kit, I've defrosted the freezer and been for a healthy stroll around the block and a little further, and also updated Gareth's website, so I'm feeling really quite virtuous as I relax for a while!

Yay, the inspiration that struck last night proved to be spot on, and within minutes of getting to work this morning I had my software fully functional. Well, so I thought, anyway. Of course, Jon managed to coax a few more bugs into manifesting themselves, the most serious one being due to Java's insane following of antiquated "C" conventions. Anyway, three CD-Rs and detailed release notes have been passed to the relevant academics and I can breathe at least a little easier. I saw Mirabelle in person, and she was very pleased to receive her update and we had a good chat about the course and so on; she is definitely one of the better academics I have to deal with in the technology faculty. There's still much to do on this software, including quite a lot I have not yet been informed of, but this is a major step! I expect to spend about another week on it now, but then it will be time to move on to other projects again for a while, which may or may not prove to be too exciting.

Tonight I'm going round to Sarah's for tea, before going on to the Barge for our monthly Open House social - although most meetings seem to be ending up largely as socials right now, but that's another matter altogether - but will hopefully get the chance to chat with Katy at some point during all that! Things are progressing well in the latter regard, I'm happy to report, though past experience is making me a little cautious, though Katy thankfully fully understands where I'm coming from. It took me quite a few months to get to a place where I could really contemplate seeing anyone else again anything more than platonically, but I have now managed to pass that particular hurdle. But the next step will take some more healing, though I realise now that the only way I am going to totally get over what happened to me will be to make such a step - but the last thing I want to do is do so just to push the past out of the way; I've known others who have come croppers believing that would work...

Yesterday evening wasn't an easy time, but I'm glad I made the effort. I have to be honest and I admit I wasn't totally enamoured with the idea of going to Sarah's for tea, but I felt it needed to be done. By the time we were to go on to the pub I felt really quite low, and if it hadn't been for a nice phone call with Katy a short while earlier I'm not sure I'd have coped at all. We were all going to walk to the pub, but it started raining so Margaret drove us there and we actually ended up having a reasonably good time. We didn't leave late in the end, for various reasons - not least because we had an invisible child in our number - but it was a most pleasant social time, and Margaret's worries in particular proved to be unfounded. Before I went home I helped Laura with a bit of her homework, and picked up the strimmer - so no prizes for guessing what I'll be doing at some point over the weekend, weather permitting...

Anyway, tonight I'm popping round to see Margaret after tea, and tomorrow's my day off as usual - as if certain people needed reminding - but I need to be up even brighter and earlier than usual to take my car up to Old Stratford to be serviced, MOT tested and have a couple of other things sorted out that might not otherwise be checked. The weather for tomorrow is looking shaky, but the general plan is that I'm going to spend the day in and around the Stratfords, at the far north-west extremity of Milton Keynes. If it's damp, then "in"; if not, then "around". I'll have my mobile with me, so the garage can easily contact me if necessary, though past experience has proven it takes a miracle for them to do so - even just to say the car's done and ready to collect, but they're no worse than any other garage in that respect, I hasten to add!

Last night: Went to Margaret's. Had good natter about this and that. And quite probably the other too. Didn't go home too late. Slept terribly. Thought I'd died this morning. Rather glad I didn't. But pretty scary when you're not sure!

Today: Drove to Old Stratford. Dropped off car. Walked to Stony Stratford. In pouring rain. Discovered "opens 9am" is a principle, not a reality. Got wet. Mooched round charity shops. Bought Dubstar album for 2 quid. Bought pair of secateurs for a little more than 2 quid. Walked by river to Wolverton. Bought guitar for considerably more than 2 quid. Left guitar at shop to collect later. Mooched round charity shops. Bumped into Adrian from work. Had lengthy natter with Adrian from work. Adrian from work was in his car, so we stayed dry. Went into Christian bookshop. Bought new songbook and a Delirious album, for rather more than 2 quid. Went for lunch at Tesco café. Popped into Outdoor Shop. Found good sleeping bag for Mum. Walked back to garage. Car not back. Looked round showroom. Almost bought a new car. Was remembered by salesman from four years ago. Not for the first time. Paid bill, for extortionately more than 2 quid. Was given lift to MOT station. Collected car. Had to be shown how to open new petrol cap. Collected guitar. Came home. Played guitar. Like guitar. Mowed lawn. Phoned by Katy. Phoned Mum. Mum had already bought a sleeping bag. Went to Tesco. Got refund on electric toothbrush. Going to stick with normal ones. Did grocery shop. Came home. Had pizza. Had bottle of beer. Going to bed.

That involved a mere ten-and-a-half miles of walking altogether, by the way!

Oh, and amongst things I didn't do today: go to work, go to production meeting for the course from hell, quite get talked into replacing my car just yet.

I need to tidy this flat before Katy gets here. Katy said she's sure it's not that bad. I suspect however that she might appreciate somewhere to sit down.

It's not brilliant, but it's now as tidy as it's going to get, this side of Katy's arrival... Which I hope will be very soon indeed!

It was indeed, I'm pleased to say, and a jolly good day was enjoyed by us both. We first partook of the eat-as-much-as-you-like not-a-buffet at the Jasmine Cottage far-eastern restaurant - a not-a-buffet because it's all served at the table, which makes a most welcome change. Then went off for a fairly long but most pleasant exploration of the woods near Bow Brickhill, before winding up at Sarah's for a bit of tea with Claire and Margaret. Of course, having had two starters and two main courses each and plenty of crispy aromatic duck pancakes at lunchtime, we didn't have much appetite, but it was an ideal opportunity for Katy to meet Sarah in an unusually relaxed state. And we did manage a poppadom and an onion bhajee or two each as well as a bit of salad, I'm happy to say!

Sunday's turned out OK too, but it's late so once I've written a few words here and an email to Katy as promised, I'll be off to bed! Church this morning was mainly worship and ministry - a bit of a last minute decision, that I initially thought was a bit of a cop-out but one that everyone there eventually agreed was the right thing to do. Then I was going to bring Sarah, Laura and Rachael back to my flat for lunch, but there was a change of plans that made it more sensible to eat at their house instead. Then off for a walk round Willen Lake and a session on the inflatable Tigger slide there for the day, though Laura didn't want to come so Rachael's friend Kerry joined us instead and thoroughly enjoyed herself - and behaved impeccably of course. Finally, back to Sarah's for a light tea and to try and mend punctures in the girls' bike tyres, with not quite satisfactory results. Anyway, email to Katy time now, so byeee!

Right, Katy's been emailed - at some length, in the end - and my memories of a really good weekend just finished will be tainted if I don't have the energy to get up at an appropriate time tomorrow morning, so off to bed I now toddle!

A bitty day, and I feel quite grotty. I woke up with a splitting headache and very nearly phoned in sick, but a couple of paracetamol seemed to do the trick so I did toddle in - albeit about half an hour later than planned and having forgotten to take my Beconase for my hayfever before I did so. Consequently, although my head's been fine, my nose and eyes certainly have not been, and the work itself today has been disjoint to say the least. Lara has suggested that now's a good time to put the microprocessor stuff away for a little while and concentrate on the software for another Technology course. That promises to be a little dull, but shouldn't present too many difficulties. But she threw another spanner in the works with a website for that same course, that needs to be updated; far be it from me to point out I'm a software designer, not a web developer, and I guess Jamie is overloaded as usual. And then I had a load of stuff dumped on me just because I'm about the only person round here who knows any Delphi. But I pretty much dumped it straight back again because I'm pretty sure that the "problems" reported are of an "EBKAS" nature and even if they're not, they are likely to be deep inside a third party library that I am simply not prepared to get involved in tweaking, especially since it's not Technology.

Still, I can go home soon, and such things need no longer concern me.

Well Katy's gone out earlier than originally planned to a birthday party, so it was just as well I decided to phone her earlier than usual while my sun-dried tomatoes rehydrated before I cooked myself up a yummy pasta. Not planning on doing anything much else this evening other than relax in the bath for a good while. Just need to choose my reading material; the choice is between another Philip Yancey book - having now finished What's so amazing about grace? - and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. For the sake of variety, I'm gently gravitating towards the latter. Philip might be shocked, but I doubt it.

One bath later, I'm almost a quarter of the way through Ms Rowling's first literary expedition, and a jolly good read it is too, as I had quite expected. One bath later, I'm also just about ready for an early night, but I'm going to have another pint before I do. Of water, that is - if some may rightly wonder.

Oh joy, that website I was asked to update is already turning out to be a nightmare and I am sure will only get worse. In line with usual and sensible policy round here, the live site is separate from the development site, the idea being that people like me can wreck the latter as much as we like before the pages go live. So I ask for, and am granted, access to the latter. But now it turns out that the development site is differently configured to the live one in terms of the way student authentication works. Specifically, the development site doesn't actually support the concept at all. I'm clearly not the first person to have been troubled by this daft decision, because even before I've changed a thing, the two sites are totally out of step. Whoever worked on it before presumably understandably decided it was a waste of time working on the development site when all the authentication stuff was going to need to be rewritten when it went live, so simply edited the live site instead. Needless to say I haven't been given write access to the live site, and if that hasn't been resolved within the next hour or so I'll be going straight back to my project manager to kick some system administrator backside on my behalf. Of course, I don't really want direct access to the live site, just a properly configured development site, but suspect it'll be the only way for the moment.

I'm only trying to do my job, dammit.

Oh, I've finally arranged with our Occupational Health department to have my blood pressure taken tomorrow afternoon, those with a concern for my wellbeing will be pleased to hear - and I know there's a couple of you out there! Also got to have my photograph taken in the morning for my new security card, so hopefully my blood pressure won't be too elevated from a day of running around the campus. More likely to be stressed by stupid webserver configurations...

My vague contact with regard to this website update agrees with my analysis:

I'd edit the live content if I were you, as long as it's not being used by the students at the moment of course. Ideally development on the non-live server would be best, but isn't very practical in this case.

Write access to the live server would be nice, in that case. I just knew this simple maintenance job was going to take more political than technical effort - though it has to be observed that whoever wrote the ColdFusion code currently in use has been aiding and abetting the pleasuring of small primates in an improper manner, so there may well be some programming issues too. Lara's off on study leave for a couple of days, alas, so I guess the ceremonial kicking of relevant administrational bottoms shall have to wait a little longer.

Thankfully there are other things related to this course I can be getting on with in the meantime, but I suspect this is urgent given some of the dates mentioned in the content. However, I don't seem to have found anyone willing to let the buck stop in their hands and sit down and actually talk this stuff through with me once and for all, so it will have to wait for Lara's return.

And if you don't understand the primate reference, please don't ask. Really.

Oh and some git academic's just phoned me about the Delphi stuff, despite my clear email yesterday explaining that there probably wasn't anything wrong with the software in question and that even if there was, the likelihood of my being able to do anything about it would be next to nil since it's mainly based upon a third-party utility library. But you knew all that already. He didn't seem to. To shut him up for the moment I agreed that if he could provide me with some sample input and output data - rather than just gormlessly saying "it doesn't work" - I would have a quick look at it again, but I really do have no intention of getting anything more than fleetingly involved. If a supposedly educated academic can't even understand my plain English explanation, it's hardly surprising if his students are getting a bit confused, poor mites.

But, you know, I'm not really having that bad a day!

I've not let my head do the typing yet, for starters.

And when I get home - in an hour and a half - I can have some guitar therapy.

It was rather late by the time I got that guitar therapy, so of course had to play rather quietly. Though I'm pretty sure my nice neighbours have moved now anyway, and the others have made no attempt to say hello, even when I have done so. After another long bath yesterday I'm now about half way through reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and suspect that rate might be about to increase somewhat; I might even have to invest in some of the later books before I've seen their film adaptations... More on that in a moment though.

The photographing this morning for my shiny new access and identity card went smoothly enough. OK, so my new picture is pretty awful, as passport-type ones always are, not helped by the equipment at the security lodge being ready to be pensioned off - though it's all a lot more sophisticated than the last time I attended, well over six years ago now. At that time I remember being asked to stand against a wall and smile, and I don't think the card was issued on the spot. Now it's all done digitally and instantly, which is a big improvement!

The blood pressure test this afternoon was perhaps not so good. The pressure was somewhat elevated, but fell a little over the duration of the appointment - like it did at my doctor's the other day - so they want me to have regular tests there to establish a clearer picture. That would also perhaps indicate if I suffer from "white coat syndrome", since I should become more comfortable with the procedure as time goes on. It's a real plus having the occupational health department so convenient here; there's little or no way I could have committed to this kind of regime without them, realistically, so it was quite a stroke of luck that my GP's nurse suggested the possibility the other day!

But as well as the regular tests, there are some recommendations that I'm going to try. In particular, more exercise, of course - though I am already walking reasonably briskly for up to an hour a day - and less alcohol. Not so long ago, the latter I might have found particularly difficult, but I seem very naturally to have cut down recently for a number of reasons, so will stick with that if I can. I've actually been "dry" for a few days now; I wonder how long I can keep that up? Diet in general the nurse advised not worrying too much about for the moment, since failing through trying too much at once can be demoralising, but since I'm already getting reasonable exercise I think I can start taking a little more care over that, in terms of fruit and veg intake and so on. Oh, and chilling out more - including more reading and less computing! Hence why I suspect I might be shopping for some more books very soon...

Had my blood pressure tested again today, and it hadn't changed from yesterday. The nurse was particularly concerned about the diastolic pressure, 110 mm Hg when it should be between about 85 and 90. The good news is that diastolic pressure is not particularly down to diet or exercise regime, but can be "just one of those things". The bad news is that in most cases it is chronic and requires medication, possibly for life. But let's worry about that once I've had some more tests over the next couple of weeks and consulted my GP, shall we? In the meantime, my work's doing nothing to help, with this ColdFusion maintenance job turning out to be an enormous can of worms. It seems that the database behind it has been designed by someone with very little clue about anything much. I may be no expert in such things, but I can tell when having a single field, limited to 255 characters, to enter observations on up to fifteen different items, isn't a terribly good design decision. This is reflected in the HTML form design, with the textbox for the field running in a narrow column alongside the data table, with no guaranteed correlation between the rows in the table and those in the textbox. I joked earlier that I hoped this wasn't what was intended, but clearly I speak many a true word in jest. Needless to say, I believe the entire thing needs overhauling, but I have a horrid feeling it may already have gone live to students. Yet more evidence - if we really needed it - that software should be left to the software designers, and the academics should get on with what they do best. Taking study leave, normally.

So much for productive use of my much-needed day off; I only a little while ago dragged myself out of the bath, and I'm only likely to get dressed in a hurry if I decide to go for a walk. Though the weather looks lovely out, so I'd say there's quite a good chance of that happening, happily to say! Spent yesterday evening at Sarah's, which was a reasonably unstressful time, though I truly do look forward to the day I might visit and witness true and sustained harmony. I am sure it will happen sometime, and in the meantime the rest of us just have to keep hoping and praying for it. Before I left for Sarah's yesterday evening I had a brief farewell word with Tina, Steve and Lauren from next door, popping in one last time before they hand the house back to their letting agency today. They've been great neighbours over the last nine months or so - almost the only ones to have been at all sociable, and never any trouble at all. I'm not quite sure why they're going, but I'll certainly miss them. Just have to hope that whoever replaces will be equally nice! Anyway, I've told Katy that I'm aiming to go for that walk, and far be it from me to disappoint, so I guess I'd better be getting dressed, cleaning my teeth and enjoying the sunshine! Bye for now!

Too much sunshine to truly enjoy it. A stroll to and from the supermarket had to suffice, but I may well go out for a more recreational walk once it's a bit cooler this evening. I'm wondering if the heat has more to do with my blood pressure than I realise. I've known for a long time that I don't really "do" hot weather, and there must be a physiological reason for that, surely?

Anyway, I've been taking the opportunity to do a few updates for Gareth's site, though we can't remember exactly which mp3 files I was going to include for one of his new acts, so I'll have to ponder that a little longer. It'll probably be OK just to pick the three tracks I like the sound of best, though it would be nice to put names beside them, really! Gareth can always ask to change them later on if need be, and I can charge him for another half hour's work...

So, better be getting on - gently, given that I'm supposed to be relaxing!

Well I got the main load of web stuff done for Gareth, but the rest - mainly encoding a few new mp3 files of one of his existing acts - will have to wait a little longer. I'm pretty much under doctor's orders to cut back on computer use as you know, so it's tough, really - and Gareth does know that. So this evening I got out for a walk round Willen Lake in the cool of the day, and it was somewhat pleasant I have to say - especially enjoying an unexpected second phone call with Katy as I rounded the south end of the lake. This evening I've been watching Enigma, which I picked up on DVD for a modest earlier sum today, and once I've had a drink of water, will be heading off to bed forthwith.

I was just about to query why I was up and about so early on a Saturday morning - as seems customary - when I realised it's just turned eleven o'clock! Oops!

Today really hasn't been too productive, but I did finish the stuff for Gareth and get well over half way through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, so it hasn't been a completely lazy day! Again, it's still far too hot outside to contemplate going for a walk or anything quite yet, but I suspect that as I did last night, I'll pop out for a bit later when it's cooled somewhat. Katy's off to her second hen party in as many weekends later, so that would probably be a good opportunity for me to go out too, once I've phoned her again as promised!

OK, so it was Katy who phoned me again in the end, wakening me from an almost trance-like state as I became further drawn into the evil that is Harry Potter. Well my old church said it was evil, so it must be true! What on earth were Margaret and Sarah thinking when they bought me the cursèd books? And will the flames of hell finally engulf me if I was to go and buy the next two episodes?

Sunday morning, and I've just had a begging phone call from Laura, with regard to transport to church at the snow-dome in a little while. So I need to get a move on slightly quicker than originally planned, but I deliberately allowed plenty of time this morning anyway. Last night, as sort of planned, I took a stroll down to Caldecotte Lake, and walked the north half of it, then went to bed, and read and finally finished my book. So I am now clean out of Harry Potter stuff and will have to return to Philip Yancey - at least until I next get the chance to go to a bookshop or suitably diverse supermarket, anyway!

Only three quarters of an hour into the week and it already sucks.

Five hours down, and it's no better. And it's way too hot. I thought my long weekends were intended to be relaxing and therapeutic, not provide even more opportunities for people to push stuff my way while I'm not around to tell them where they can stick it. Thank goodness I have non-work email access here too!

Please can someone just make the world go away?

So today was an essentially bad day as you may have gathered. Not unproductive by any means, but one thing after another - and from many different courses - seemed to conspire to grind me down, with the extreme heat not helping much either. The day ended OK though, finally securing access to the web-server I needed, and thankfully finding the update from the out-of-date development server to be not at all problematic. The stupid database and form design will have to wait until next presentation, however; the course has indeed gone live as I had feared, so changing things like that now would be a really bad idea! My memory is obviously rather good at blocking the worse things, because I can't remember much of what was particularly irking me so early in the morning, but believe me it was not a pleasant clutch of emails to greet me on a hot and humid Monday morning. I think I got most of the issues resolved - or at least as far as I am concerned, even if others might not be quite so convinced.

Yesterday worked out quite well in the end. After church, Sarah had lots to do and also wanted to have a rest, so was very grateful to have Laura taken off her hands for the whole afternoon. Yes, so Rachael was probably being the more difficult of the two, but simply separating them makes a tremendous difference. Anyway, so I took Laura to a barbecue at Gareth and Tash's house, first popping into Sainsburys to stock up on burgers, crisps and drink. There was a good crowd there, and we both enjoyed not having to do too much in the sunshine - and the odd ice-cube fight of course. All Laura then really wanted to do was play extras from DVDs, so having got permission to bring her back here, she happily engrossed herself in various such things for an hour or so before we returned to Sarah's for an al-fresco tea. Both girls had homework to do, with Laura and Rachael's respective enthusiasm being somewhat different, but they both did as required under my supervision - and a bit of help! - and it made a nice change for an evening there eventually to end happily, with no stroppiness or tears. Not to say the whole time went perfectly, but it could have been a whole lot worse, and frequently has been! And any shortcomings were made up for by no less than two phone-calls with Katy over the course of the afternoon and evening, though I wasn't always quite able to give my undivided attention!

Oh, I had my first alcoholic drink in over a week this evening. Not for any other reasons than that I thought I'd quite like a glass of red wine, and that it would be interesting to see how I reacted. I certainly enjoyed it, but it has affected me sufficiently that I am not itching to have another one right now. Instead, a big glass of water and a carrot seem to be doing me just fine!

Just been for another of my semi-regular blood pressure tests, and I'm down to 130/90! The systolic - that's the 130 mm Hg figure - is perfectly normal, and the diastolic is just a teensy bit above high-normal. Consequently, the nurse doesn't want to see me again until next Monday now - I can't take that kind of rejection! Just as well I get to see Katy before then though - so long as she doesn't raise my blood pressure again too much... We're not sure quite why it's come down, but it's probably a combination of reduced stress about the appointments as well as slight modifications to my diet and exercise regime, some of which might even be practically subconscious. But we're happy, anyway!

So much for today's promised thunderstorms, though I won't hold Katy personally responsible, since even her patience was only slightly rewarded. It started gently spotting with rain as Sam and I left work, and as we parted company when we reached our street it got a little bit heavier. What was merely pleasantly refreshing soon became unpleasantly soaking and I had to make a dash for it for the last few metres. But no thunder, no lightning, and a muggy night to come I sadly suspect. Going to head for bed soon though, and at least try to sleep!

Much cooler and more pleasant day all round today, and got a reasonable amount of work done too. I finally was given the go-ahead to update the live versions of the web pages I've been working on. Technically they have not presented any real problems, but politically it's been a nightmare - but it's all over now. The rest of the day I spent tackling the next aspect of that course, namely pulling together some coherent "specification" for the CD-ROM that the course team are wishfully expecting by the end of July, if not sooner. I very much doubt they'll get what they want, but having gone through their scrawled notes this afternoon I have to say it does look at least remotely feasible.

Anyway, been in from Open House for a little while now, and it's about time I was heading off for bed I guess! It's not been a bad evening, being a little more focussed in general than last week, and we had a good time of prayer at the end - and for once, the fact that we overran was not a problem! It was great also that Sarah managed to make it along for once, and thankfully she received lots of much needed ministry before we broke off into smaller groups.

Definitely time for bed now though... Night-night, friends!

Today's seemed a long day, but with it my week is almost over - much as some people may not be keen to be reminded they have another day to go. It's been quite a productive day though, working with that "specification" I pulled together yesterday to design a sensible structure to the software, and having completed that rather quicker than I'd expected, getting going on designing the launcher navigation system and some of the simpler content. I'm using some software I speculatively wrote a few months back to display the navigation system, and it's quite neat because all the visuals can be written in HTML and therefore easily adjusted - and even handed over to a graphic designer for finishing if need be! The activities themselves will be a mixture of packages hijacked from other courses, and some Java applets. Some of the latter have essentially been written already and should hopefully drop pretty much straight in to the HTML, but others promise to be a little more problematic, but I'm pretty confident this is a good route to be going down with this software.

Katy's been out all evening, so I've spent much of the time watching Sam's DVD of 8 Mile and listening to the Delirious CDs I got back last night after a few months of being lent out! But Katy wasn't too late getting home and gave me a call when she did, so I'm going to call it a night now - goodnight everyone!

Slow start to my Friday, after an unsettled night's sleep. I almost got up at eight o'clock, but it would have been a big mistake, because I then proceeded to get the best two hours sleep of the whole night... Was then woken by Mr Postman delivering Delerium's new Chimera, a couple of days before it's due to be released! Nice Mr Postman, and a reasonably nice album, though not their best by a fair way I don't feel. It's also my first copy-protected CD, which made it worthy of a bit of investigation, though I've not yet got my marker pen or insulating tape out. Not that I said that last bit, did I, your honour?

Well I've been and done my shopping this afternoon, including buying presents -although somewhat unimaginative - for a couple of people with birthdays coming up, and getting fully Harry Pottered up as planned. No new DVDs though, for a change - got plenty enough to do, read and listen to otherwise, after all!

This evening's been one of phone-calling, speaking in succession to Katy, Dad, Mum, Katy again and finally Sarah. That's probably it, because I could do with an early night having got quite a long day tomorrow. But officially I can say little more, except that I will need to be up pretty early to get ready for it. Right now, winding down with a nice slice of Dubstar and a rare glass of wine.

Probably didn't need to be up quite this early, admittedly - it's not even eight o'clock yet, but I couldn't sleep any more with my mind rushing around as it so often does. But at least it means I can take things easily this morning, relax in a bath for a little and so on. This weekend should be a good one!

Back in glorious Milton Keynes now, with the gentle pitter-patter of rain outside - and the twittering of birds whose parents obviously never taught them only to sing after the rain had stopped. Fledglings of today, I ask you.

But this has been a simply terrific weekend, and my earlier secrecy paid off, with Katy's mum enjoying a truly surprise sixtieth birthday lunch out at the Mill House at North Warnborough on Saturday. It was a super location, sold some of the best food I've eaten in a long time and of course the company was most excellent, with all of the immediate family there plus the odd straggler from Milton Keynes. It was a little pricey, but well worth every penny, and Daniel, Rachel and Rob got good mileage out of the free boating available on-site.

Back to Katy's parents for a healthy walk round the block while Grandma had an afternoon kip, tea and the ceremonial Opening Of The Presents. Then the time was for ourselves, but with it having been such a hot and humid day we were both very tired so decided not to do anything too imaginative for the evening. Instead we took a walk around the block from Katy's house and stopped for a half at one of the local pubs - and very glad it had a good garden because it was incredibly oppressive inside. Thankfully it cooled a little overnight, so I slept fairly well back at Katy's parents' house, though there were some good and welcome rumbles of thunder that interrupted my last few hours of sleep!

Today we've been to church, which was a just about perfect blend of worship, message and ministry - and I learnt a couple of new songs into the bargain! We didn't rush our sociable squash and biscuits, but decided then to go to the cinema if there was anything good we could get tickets for. That meant popping home to check the Warner website, and booking ourselves a couple of seats for The Matrix Reloaded. We picked up our tickets, grabbed a bite of lunch at the Beefeater pub near the cinema, and wandered back up to see the film. In terms of deep meaning it was even more of a load of hocum than the first film, but in terms of action and especially comedy - albeit perhaps unintentional - it was a good popcorn flick, or in our case, pick'n'mix and nachos. Then for a stroll along the Basingstoke Canal from Odiham, and it was just about time for me to do the inevitable heading back up the motorway bit. Thankfully the latter was a bit quicker than last time, though it was a mucky journey with the weather as it was, and heavy traffic, but I was still home in about an hour and a half.

So, as I said, overall this has been another truly excellent weekend, even if yesterday in particular was rather pre-organised in comparison with previous visits - not that it really would have worked any other way of course! It's really nice to be welcomed and accepted once again as part of someone else's family - and I sense more than ever that this might be one I'll be staying with for more than the odd night on occasional weekends... It was a little strange as we drove out to the pub on Saturday to pass by the house where I used to live all those years ago now - but perhaps this is somewhat of a coming home?

Again I returned to work after my lovely long weekend off to find an Outlook inbox load of trouble in store. So much for my shorter week being to reduce my stress levels and whatnot - and no surprise really that my blood pressure was up a bit again today. Overall, today has been characterised by one meeting after another, and too little time in between them to really even begin to do any proper work. Still, at least the last one I had, with Lara, turned into a good old general natter about cinemas and action films, so it wasn't completely tedious and only involved me signing my name in blood a couple of times. This evening I'm off out for a pizza with Darren for the first time in ages, though with my new somewhat healthier eating regime in mind we've agreed that instead of going to Pizza Hut we'll go to Ask, where the emphasis is definitely more on flavour and quality than sheer quantity. Too often I've come out of Pizza Hut feeling utterly bloated, and sometimes even finding it uncomfortable to sit down in my car to drive home, and I'm frankly rather happy with having lost a third of a stone in the last couple of weeks and would like to keep that up!

Pizza was yum. Didn't allow Darren to talk me into buying his car though!

He tried hard though, let me give him credit.

I want to go home; work is annoying me just beyond my limit today. Filling out QA metadata using broken Word templates really is no fun, and now that's done I'm debugging supposedly-working ColdFusion. Thank goodness it's lunchtime in a few minutes, though I must remember to try and save some appetite for Sarah's birthday barbecue this evening, assuming it's all going ahead as planned!

With a combination of a sweltering lunchtime walk and sweating blood over this ColdFusion this afternoon, I think I might well have just about worked off what little I had for lunch. Hopefully I have now cracked the ColdFusion problems, almost certainly caused by yet more knock-on effects from the insane database design - an insane database design it's impossible to do anything about for the time being because it is live and being used by students right now. Basically, there is next to no validation whatsoever on the data the students enter, so if for any reason they type in non-numeric or blank values, everything further down the line falls over in an ungracious heap. There's a tiny little bit of Javascript to check for some of these things, but if students have Javascript turned off for any reason, complete nonsense can easily be stored. I daresay the scripts I've been tearing my hair out over today would have been fine had they been fed reliably numeric data, but that was an assumption too far on the part of whoever designed this thing - someone who I understand has since left the university and quite possibly these shores. Added to that, according to the database, six-person households generate almost four tonnes of waste a week each - methinks a little sanity checking is needed as well as that validation!

Reserving judgement on this evening. Enjoyed looking after the barbecue most of all, which says something, because I don't normally. At least Sarah had a good day and evening, which was the main thing. I've decided celibacy is best.

Unsurprisingly, that last bit in particular caused a little alarm. In practice I am sure I'll be open-minded and might even be persuaded to change my mind. For the moment though, despite all Sarah's assurances that when the time comes I'll already be one of the world's most experienced "dads", right now it seems more like all the incentive I need to book myself into the vasectomy clinic.

But I'll give it a little more thought before I make any final decision...

Today's being a bad day, as you can tell. I think the post-weekend crash came yesterday, but the shockwaves are still echoing, and my hayfever's about as bad as it's been all season so far which compounds the lack of fun. The ColdFusion stuff still lurks, and the cans of worms extend to the horizon at the current rate. So much for "just adding a few row and column totals", as the original brief for this required. And pleasant though the course team chair may be, he speaks in a hitherto unknown tense of the English language, the unconditional presumptive. This means that you can go to a meeting swearing blind you're not going to be talked into anything not explicitly previously agreed, but find it's already taken as read that you will be doing what is needed regardless of your ability or other workload, and with no room to manoeuvre. Although it will clearly mean extra work, I so hope we can get the go-ahead to totally redesign this software from the ground up for next presentation. I would even be prepared to do it myself, so long as it meant that neither I nor anyone else would have to do the kind of nonsense I am at the moment. However I'm pretty sure there is no resource allocation for this project, so I very much doubt it will happen. But I'm sure they'll magically find the resource to employ more of the contractors who cause these kind of messes in the first place. I'm sure there are such things as competent contractors, but the money to employ them clearly doesn't exist in the education sector - unlike the pharmaceutical one!

The day got a bit better thereafter, managing to return to the less frustrating software I was working on towards the end of last week, though this morning the web stuff has reared its ugly head again - but hopefully needn't do so again until Monday when I need to make the pages I've been working on "live". The evening started well, finding my shiny copy of Semantic Spaces on the doormat upon my arrival home - surely Play.com's fastest delivery time yet! - and then enjoying no less than three phone calls with Katy. I didn't make it to Open House, still being quite shattered from Tuesday night, and was going to have a quiet evening in, but then I got a bit of an emergency phone call and had to go out after all - so perhaps it was just as well I wasn't already otherwise busy!

Phew, I've finally convinced the academic I'm dealing with for this course that the best way to deal with the obviously erroneous submitted data is to - now this is radical I know, so brace yourself - contact the student concerned to ask them to resubmit it! It's a bit late now - given that the summary results are to be published on Monday - so I doubt it will actually happen, and I have implemented a contingency plan to ignore that particular student's data if need be, but at least a little bit of common sense is finally beginning to be seen.

Now, at long last, can I get on with the software I'm supposed to be writing?!

This evening's been everything that yesterday should have been, enjoying a chilled evening in, with lots of music, lots of reading, a lovely phone call, one DVD - Scooby Doo, no, really, and although grim, it wasn't as grim as I'd feared - and a long hot bath. No work tomorrow, so thought I could manage a glass or two of wine too; just hope that doesn't turn out to be a big mistake. Nothing much planned for tomorrow, though I have a few vague ideas that may or may not come to fruition. Whatever, though, I plan to relax as much as I can!

Had my relaxing day as intended, going out for a late lunch and a walk by the canal and doing my shopping. Nothing much else planned for the day, but I am sure a bath, a phone call or two and a few more chapters of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban may come into it... Nothing more hectic, in any case!

All the above did verily come to pass, and indeed I was then ready to lay down my head 'til the dawn might break. So why I'm still up, goodness only knows.

Got up late even as lazy Saturdays go, but then I was awake very late last night reading. All I have specifically lined up for today is to tidy up this flat somewhat, in advance of Katy's visit tomorrow - and hope I can keep it that way until next Friday when I have an inspection by the letting agency. But I've put in twenty minutes of rowing-machine exercise, which I feel a little virtuous about, but the real test will be to see whether I can get myself into a sustainable regime and trim up this tummy of mine! Anyway, I'd better be getting on with things - just tidying to do, but lots of it...

Flat now tidy and clean, owner now sipping a well-earned Kronenbourg 1664.

Weather looks nice outside - do I go for a walk?

I did, and now I'm back, and eating my first curry in a good while. No it's not really curry weather, but a good jalfrezi sweat rarely does any harm!

I am told it's never the wrong weather for a good jalfrezi, but I'm not quite sure about that. It certainly didn't do me any harm though, and I've enjoyed a most pleasant evening chatting with Katy, and turning into a prune finishing off The Prisoner of Azkaban while soaking in the bath. So, that's three books down of the four I now own, with "just" The Goblet of Fire to go before I start getting impatient for the paperback release of The Order of the Phoenix. But I think I shall not start it tonight, preferring the idea of a good night's sleep so that I can be at my best for Katy's visit tomorrow. OK, maybe one chapter...

Right, it's Sunday morning, just gone ten o'clock and I'm vaguely up and about. Got a couple of hours before Katy's due to arrive, so no big rush, but the dream I was having could have gone on for quite a while longer so I thought it was as well to interrupt it - and it had gone far too surreal by then anyway.

Whether surprisingly or not, there's not really a huge amount to say! Not that yesterday was a bad day that I want to forget, by any means, but if you were expecting a vast write-up of all that's happened since I last wrote, you'll be a little disappointed. In terms of the mechanics of it all, well as planned, we went to Chiquitos for lunch, which was exceedingly pleasant, then for a wander around the shops - not at all stopping outside every jeweller, oh no - followed by a drink sitting outside at the canal-side dive that is the Peartree Bridge Inn, a healthy if somewhat overwarm stroll along said canal, and finally descending upon my friend David for a little while, who had been itching to meet the lovely Katy for several weeks now! Oh, and we also tried and largely failed to plan a break away somewhere, but managed to reach a fair compromise that should tide us over nicely until we can do something more substantial.

As for the less mechanical side of it, well yes, it was a most pleasant day and I enjoy Katy's company all the more with every occasion. If anything I am now finding that our phone-calls are falling short of expectation, because they are an increasingly poor substitute for actually being together. Trouble, writing this now, is that I'm back at work, with all the hassles that entails, and it's all too easy to forget what a good weekend it has been. I don't want to get into the mindset of living only for the weekends - been there, seen it, done it etc. No, I want not to have to live only for the weekends - but how, exactly?

Fed up and want to go home. And again being unavoidably disturbed as I try in vain to concentrate. It's clearly a lost cause, this trying to work lark.

Sixteen minutes. And counting every last one of them, at this rate...

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