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David's diary: June 2004

Hey, can I let you all into a secret? I'm getting married this month!

Oh OK, so maybe not such a secret after all...

That's the good news. The bad news is that this job's hacking me off again, with another rushed release scheduled for tomorrow, diabolically complicated extra functionality requested for that, and a visiting Slovakian programmer with whom I have an almost complete lack of mutual understanding. If I'd been warned Roman was coming over, I might have been a little more prepared, but as usual - alas, I have to say - communications here have proven to be utter rubbish. Indeed I would have probably advised against his coming over at all, since his presence here represents part of that bad project progression option I was so keen that we didn't go any further down than absolutely necessary. But the management are still off in Spain, and it all rests on them, really...

Hey ho.

Today's being a marginally better day so far, but emphasis on the "marginally", with another pretty foul journey in thanks to lots more problems in Guildford town centre, and some strange bugs when I tried to deploy my software outside the safety of the Eclipse development environment. We're still on schedule to release a version of this software this afternoon, and it should actually be fully working to the extent that I understand we have claimed to our clients - though that kind of confidence frequently proves to have been misplaced, it has to be said... The management are now back, so perhaps we might finally be able to come to a decision on how to progress once we've passed this milestone.

The day didn't stay any better really, though at least I've managed to get a CD cut for Carly to take out to her client tomorrow. Otherwise been distracted by more matters involving our visiting Slovakian contractor and general sow's-ear purse-making, though at least Piran has now expressed his basic agreement with my analysis of where this project is going - even if he didn't go as far as saying "do it", alas. On a much better contractor note, one of them brought in some really yummy cake, but that's really been the highlight of the day so far.

Still, only an hour to go - followed by hopefully not quite as lousy a journey home as the one this morning... - and I can pack away such troubles for a few more hours. Yes, it's definitely an improvement on times of old, to be able to come home, even after a bad day, to good company - and hey, in a fortnight and one hour's time I will be clocking off for the last time as a single man! Yay!

Chilli beef kebabs and Italian salad awaited me upon my arrival home - after a journey that was indeed not too bad for once - with strawberries, crème fraîche and chocolate flake for dessert. I am sure the latter wasn't to rub in that I forgot to mention in here that Katy prepared a similar - minus the chocolate, for health reasons I am sure - dessert for our Saturday visitors*, but because strawberries and cream are one of the top romantic desserts, and it certainly hit the spot in all regards! Afterwards we watched the tail end of Saving Private Ryan, which we'd started the other day, and had a couple of games of Tantrix - Katy trying very hard to win, believe me - but neither of us was on for a remotely late night so we've said our goodnights and parted ways for now.

* And did the washing up, OK, fair point...

Busy busy busy at work the last couple of days, even if there hasn't been a great deal to show for it ultimately. However, I'm happy to say that Carly got on OK with the demo of "my" software to her client, so I seem to be in people's good books right now, and the go-ahead has basically been granted to go ahead and rewrite it though how much input I will get into that remains to be seen. Alas today I have been tasked with something I wasn't very successful with on Monday, namely trying to programmatically convert HTML into Word documents - but at least this time I've been given a budget to play with so need not rule out commercial solutions, although so far I've been thoroughly unimpressed with absolutely everything I have test-driven, both free and shareware/commercial.

In other news, the deadline for wedding invitation responses has now passed, and I'm pleased to say that more or less everyone has replied, whether formally or informally, and the vast majority have thankfully replied in the positive, so we have no need for any last minute panics to extend the list or anything! I'm sure we'll have more than enough to concern ourselves with as it stands, without extra complications like that! Cell group was quite good last night, though things have been disrupted somewhat of late due to various other events and commitments, so it was perhaps still not quite a typical gathering. One of those "disruptions" has been the On The Move outreach event currently ongoing in Farnham, and this evening we're entertaining Katy's mum and dad who've been busy with that for the last few days and no doubt will be utterly exhausted!

Anyway, on with sorting out that document conversion, depressing as it may be. At least we have an early finish today, so only a couple more hours to go!

Katy's mum and dad were indeed utterly exhausted as expected, but so am I now, so no detailed entry coming up I'm afraid, except to say that we've had a nice evening with them and are looking forward to seeing my mum and dad tomorrow!

Today's been quite a busy Saturday, especially for a day so oppressively humid, such that doing anything too active was quite a hardship. I got up in good time this morning, and with my dad's birthday next weekend and he and Mum calling in to visit this morning, popped out to the garden centre to get some chocolates to tide him over for the moment and picked up a copy of the Times on the way home. Mum and Dad were a little later arriving here than originally planned, but we still enjoyed getting on for a couple of hours of their company before they needed to be on their way, and we then wandered down into town to support the last few minutes of the On The Move outreach barbecue and do a little more shopping. Needless to say we were shattered by the time we got home - though pitying the barbecue folks even more! - so spent the afternoon going through a few weddingy bits and tackling the Times crossword. Finally we popped round to Katy's parents' house for a little while to see some friends of theirs who desperately wanted to meet us and who gave us some lovely planters for the garden, which I am sure we will make good use of at some point. This evening's been a lot more relaxed, with our biggest achievement being almost finishing that crossword, though a couple of clues still have us stumped alas.

Why am I up at eight o'clock on a Sunday morning? No, there is no justifiable explanation for that, but at least I am using the time productively, sorting out a little more of the wedding music while I have the chance!

Monday, back at work, and almost the first in this morning, with Lynn unlocking just as I arrived. Richard's off today since it's his birthday, and as I said before, this company awards employees' birthdays as a bonus day's leave. As a result, I might well get on with building my proposed new user interface for this software while other demands on my time are minimised, these being people who are largely impressed by seeing things "in the flesh" - and I am confident I can come up with the goods a lot quicker than some have been suggesting.

Yesterday was not too busy a day - and thankfully not overly strenuous, given the continued heat and humidity - with the main activity being going out for lunch after church to Pizza Piazza with Simon, Becki, Malachi, Sam and Jane. Church was very quiet in the morning due to so many people being unavailable for whatever reason - school holidays and more - so it was good to get a group together like that. Katy and I also fitted in a short stroll, tackled the jumbo cryptic crossword in the Times, played a few games and generally enjoyed simply being together - just as well about the latter given that in a fortnight's time we'll be starting to get used to doing so for the rest of our lives!

Been working flat out ever since writing that, apart from taking a stroll at lunchtime, exploring some of the slightly more interesting and shaded paths on Merrow Down - of which I have just discovered Rudyard Kipling wrote fondly in his Just So Stories. I got a little bit of the new user interface prototyped, but then decided I really ought to return to the HTML/Word conversion stuff that was bugging me last week - and the excellent news is that I got it going, using a freeware ActiveX wrapper. It was a bit painful to get working, and is quite slow in operation because it has to load up Word every time - albeit invisibly - but you know what they say about beggars... In not so good news, the copy protection scheme we are using for the software seems to be presenting a couple of problems. One I am pretty certain about the cause, the other not remotely so, but ultimately it is my gut feeling we need to strip it out and do something completely different since it's both insecure to us and problematic to our users, and will surely lose us more value of custom than it protects.

In other news, my nephew-to-be is apparently very excited to be gaining a new uncle. Needless to say, it's only because I've got Toy Story 2 on DVD. The fickleness of youth, eh? Just wait until I traumatise him with Finding Nemo, given that they had to take back his copy for being too scary... Mind you, how will he cope with Buzz getting blatted by Zurg in the opening seconds?!

Got an earlyish night, but had unsettled sleep - I seem to be going through a phase, but hopefully just a phase! - so don't feel anywhere near as good this morning as I should. The journey in was OK, but it was scorching hot even at eight o'clock so the day doesn't really bode well for those of us who would much rather be in the arctic right now - though Skye was enjoying a cloudy 15 centigrade yesterday, which it might be nice to get in a fortnight too.

Still, maybe it will be a little cooler today thanks to a fraction of a percent less sunlight winging its way to us due to the planet Venus being in the way. On the other hand, probably not... I did sneak a "look" with my binoculars - projecting on to card of course! - before I left for work, and Venus was very definitely there, though I recall the Mercury transit not so long ago when what I thought was the planet turned out just to be a rather splendid sunspot...

Anyway, it may well be that Lynn and I are the only "below stairs" people here, with no sign as yet of Richard or any of the others, but I suppose I ought to be getting on with work now. I wonder what I shall busy myself with today?

The copy protection problems seem to be half sorted now. There is still at least one gaping theoretical hole, and I am not totally convinced the scheme works on all machines in the first place, but it's all working much better now than it was yesterday. Alas though, the sales team have gone and flogged the software to a load more baying customers, and there are still loads of other serious issues to be resolved before they can possibly be satisfied, so I dare say the next few weeks will be somewhat challenging. On the other hand, I'm hardly going to be here, am I? I've also found a fan to put on my desk, at least until such time as anyone steals it. Josh insisted it was dead, but I found it works fine if turned all the way up to ten, which as it happens is no great hardship on a day when it's way too hot even to think about venturing outside - not even to try out Richard's radio-controlled birthday present...

Today's weather is mercifully a little cooler, though hardly the spectacular end to the heatwave that had been forecast, and we've also just received a load more fans - obviously Lynn's unfortunately-worded request yesterday for some "big fanny things" met with approval - so there's plenty of airflow in here!

Katy and I did an unusual thing yesterday evening, and went out to the pub! We were trying to remember the last time we had done so, and frankly couldn't. It is indeed quite possible that we never have just gone out for an evening drink together, because while we were just doing weekend visits we never really had the time and we certainly hadn't done so since I moved down towards the end of April. But it was nice just to go out and chill for a while - and the pub was nowhere near as heaving as we'd feared - especially since we've got a busy few evenings coming up one way and another during our last few days of singleness.

Anyway, better get on now, especially since the temperature seems to be rising now and I'm best off doing what I can while it's still tolerable in here!

Short of my untimely death, there are only two reasons why I might not have written in here for the last couple of days. Either nothing has happened to warrant writing anything, or I've been far too busy to have had time to. The truth in fact lies somewhere in between, which by rights should mean I had both enough to write about and time to do so, but the reality isn't that simple! Clearly there is a third dimension to all this. Enough wittering in any case.

Generally though, things are progressing well towards next week's events, and we are about to enter our last weekend of singleness. There are a few itty bitty things still to do, but they are mainly dotting i's and crossing t's rather than anything too demanding hopefully! Up until now it seemed that we had kept things in perspective and spent more time on further-reaching things than "trivial" details of the wedding day, but I guess it's inevitable that in pursuit of the perfect event, some of these little details will prove to take a bit more of our time than we might have anticipated! Anyway, tonight we are meeting with our caterer and this weekend we will need to finalise the order of service and other such things, but then hopefully we can take the last few days a little bit more easily to conserve some energy for the big day itself.

Work's OK, though I feel I'm lacking direction a bit. Richard has been pulled out of the project management role for the software I am working on, and Lynn who is replacing him for the moment is still really finding the ropes himself. I feel I need more autonomy but I know there are Slovakian contractors working on this stuff and they are not very good at telling us what they are doing, so I am very reluctant to use my initiative when I would very likely be working in conflict with them - and although they come cheap, that would make no sense. But it's Friday today thank goodness, and that means an early finish - even if the Guildford roads aren't much better as a result - so as long as I can keep myself reasonably busy and not get too stressed, that will do me just fine.

Unfortunately I did get stressed, thanks to the clever but impenetrable coding of our friends in Slovakia, but I stopped short of putting my fist through the monitor I am happy to say. Indeed the early finish helped a lot - though then getting stuck in traffic for over an hour going home soon cancelled that out.

Anyway, this evening I was supposed to have gone for that meeting with our caterer, but was so shattered upon getting home from work that we agreed that Katy would go while I flopped into the bath. The meeting went perfectly well, I was later informed, and it turns out the lady doing it really is top notch, and has made a rare exception to do a private function, especially since she's getting ready do to all the catering for the Farnborough airshow... After my bath I drove up to Katy's mum and dad's house for tea and a game of Scrabble - losing horribly - and helped Rob collect a tumble drier he'd been kindly given.

Anyway, I can have a lie-in tomorrow so am not rushing off to bed, but I am still pretty cream-crackered after today, so it won't be long 'til I nod off!

Nice quiet Saturday, but we got out for a couple of hours this afternoon to go to Mel and Simon's housewarming party in Farnborough. We picked a good couple of hours because it was lovely and warm and we could all sit in the garden and generally take it in turns nattering and humouring the children. It'll be nice once we're back from our honeymoon to do something similar at what will then be our house, especially since Katy didn't do anything like that when she first moved here. This evening we've munched on Chinese food and printed off a few memos to brief our crack team of ushers and musicians - bearing in mind that in a week's time we will be married and, all being well, safely ensconced at our first night's secret destination! We also finished the Times crossword between us, that becoming somewhat of an intellectually healthy Saturday institution for us, even if success implies more of a devious mind than an intelligent one!

Another one of those typically unrestful so-called "days of rest", as anyone in an active church will surely appreciate... After a fairly hectic morning of being prayed for and the general hardship of being given early wedding gifts, we hit the local Harvester - where we also plan to go on Thursday as it happens - for lunch with our cell, primarily to celebrate Wes and Becca's engagement. Bit of a revolving door job, just as our engagement reaches its happy climax, another one gets off the ground, and what a lovely couple they make too! Afterwards Katy and I went for a short stroll but it was oppressively hot out, so we kept it to the bare minimum to justify a chip or two, though then were delayed for a few minutes upon finding an important bag one family in our party had left behind and unfortunately driven over. We tried to phone its owners to no avail, but then they returned anyway a few minutes later, so it was just as well we'd waited rather than taken it back to their house, and thankfully apart from a bottle of lotion, it seemed none the worse for its vehicular ordeal.

Apart from watching the final hour of Apocalypse Now, we've spent pretty much the entire rest of the day doing wedding related stuff, including finalising the order of service and printing off a master copy for the duplicators, and briefing a few more people on what we need them to do. A few hassles though, namely a couple of important "players" who are being a little elusive, and two groups of guests who have hit last-minute transport problems that will need sorting out if everyone is to be there as planned and wanted. So it was that by about nine o'clock I'd been hit with a wave of exhaustion, but I still had enough energy to do a little more editing on the music we're putting together for when guests arrive and for the reception, so hopefully we'll be able to get the four CD-Rs finished off and given to Tim within the next couple of days.

Anyway, early start tomorrow, and the joys of Monday traffic into Guildford, so I guess it's time I was calling myself "wound down" and finding my way to bed.

Sitting in traffic jams is decidedly boring, so I carried out the following only marginally less boring statistical analysis of vehicles observed flying red and white pennants as I drove into and through Guildford this morning:

French vehicles: 8
American vehicles: 5
German vehicles: 1
Truly British vehicles: 1
Occupants si-ing-i-ing any more: 0

I'm pretty sure there were fewer of them in the first place this morning, which is no bad thing unless it's because all their owners are comatose this morning.

Naff day, but at least I have only two more days at work, a fiancée who loves me very much (and vice versa) and not much of a care in the world beyond that.

Feeling like a bird with newly clipped wings right now. Thank goodness I'll be getting a proper break from it all for a couple of weeks - and hopefully upon my return I'll be working on something different. Though they've told me that in the long term they want me to "own" this project. Shame I don't want to. I just don't see the sanity in the way we're approaching this project. I have no problem with working as a team on it, but getting developers half way round the world to collaborate in the initial stages of getting a solid new software core working really is not good use of resources. We use the foreign contractors because they come cheap, but I feel I am being completely wasted right now and I'm pretty sure they are too. I guess, given that I won't be here for a while now anyway, I can sit out the rest of my probationary period, and after that be pretty frank with them about how poorly I'm being used if that is still the case - and I can't be too confident anything else will be the case given the fairly clear lack of understanding of major issues affecting software design.

Don't get me wrong, the people here are a great bunch. Just as I got back from my lunchtime stroll I bumped to Carly, who's the main person doing sales on the software I'm working on. Yes, I have been frustrated at the way the software has been sold before it's ready for market, but Carly's really appreciated the effort I've put in so far. She asked if I've talked to my line manager about it, and to be honest I haven't, but that's mainly because he's too nice also, and I wouldn't want to hurt his feelings by suggesting bad decisions had been made. Maybe I'm just too sensitive, but I still feel like the new kid on the block here, and really don't feel I have the right to make too many waves yet. But, honestly, if I wasn't off on my honeymoon imminently, I don't think I'd be able to last more than a few more days here, so something's got to give...

As if to prove the above, I have just had thrust into my hand a nice card from pretty much everyone here and thirty quid in gift vouchers! See what I mean..?

Everything King Midas touched turned into gold. Everything King Mitre touched turned into a 45-degree angle - kudos points to anyone who can recognise that reference without googling for it. On the other hand, everything I touch today seems to be turning brown and smelly. First the CVS repository, when I tried to remove some duplicate source code files and it kindly deleted the lot, and now my desktop fan has packed up, just as the day reaches its hottest peak. Thankfully Roman managed to fix the former, but the latter's doomed I suspect. Katy reassures me I still have a fan, but I'm not going to be able to check "it" out for a couple of hours yet, and I'm hating every minute of waiting.

I'll make no attempt to hide the fact that I'm writing this in the small hours of Wednesday morning. That wouldn't have been the case had Word not decided to crash on me, and lose my groom's speech. Yes, I had saved it; the saved file was corrupt. Our gas boiler pretty much literally exploded this afternoon, so with that challenging day at work and more hassles last night, it seems like Satan's in overdrive trying to screw up everything he can. We're not going to give in to him though, so he might as well give up and ... errm ... go to hell.

At least we got our reception music recorded this evening, that's something.

Now into my last couple of hours here, thank goodness. Today has been a little better than yesterday, but not by a lot. It's only my lack of really caring what happens in my absence that's responsible for that. Richard asked me pretty bluntly - after a fairly naff meeting where my body language probably spoke volumes - whether the job's turning out to be what I expected it to be, and I really wasn't sure. I said to ask me again after this fortnight... The trouble is, ultimately, that nothing has really changed here from the OU, with the only real difference being this is a more commercial environment. I am still tasked with sorting out other people's bad code and taking the flak from repeated poor historic decisions. I really could enjoy this job, I am sure, but right now all I am really caring about is the fortnight ahead. After that, I suspect I will be re-engaging job-hunting mode, because Richard's suspicions are probably right, and although the situation is theoretically retrievable, I very much doubt it will happen in time to save me from a nervous breakdown, and I will have someone more than just myself to be responsible for when I return.

Meanwhile, on a brighter note, this evening I am supposedly going out for some small semblance of a "stag do", though I am sure it will be no more than a few of us blokes from the church going out for a drink or three, and frankly that suits me just fine. Michael's organising it all, thankfully; I really wasn't bothered either way - especially since so many of my friends remain in Milton Keynes and beyond and it wouldn't have been practical to involve them - but I'm no party pooper if others want to do things like that on my behalf! I resisted having a party for my 30th birthday but conceded in the end when someone else agreed to organise it - and had a great time, needless to say - and a wedding's a much nicer occasion to celebrate! Katy had her "do" at lunchtime, with some of her girlie friends coming round to see her; they had been planning something a bit more adventurous, but after yesterday's mishap with the gas boiler, Katy had to stay in for the engineer, and I gather Malachi was quite fascinated by the bits of dismantled boiler all over the lounge floor... So tomorrow, off to Guildford register office we go, then the countdown really and truly begins!

So, three hours to go until we're legally knotted. I'd like to be relaxing in the bath or packing stuff for the honeymoon, but the gas engineer is here at the moment after he was unable to finish off yesterday - and indeed he's going to have to come back again after the honeymoon though at least he can turn the boiler back on - so I can't really do anything too much until he's gone!

Last night's drinks at the Bat and Ball were very pleasant, with half a dozen of us men there in the end, and I didn't finish the night tied to a lamppost or anything like that, which will be a blessed relief both to me and to Katy!

Today, Katy and I have mainly been getting married.

Well, doing the legal bit of it anyway. Saturday is when we'll really consider ourselves knotted, but we can hopefully sit back and enjoy ourselves then!

Day Two has now come to a close, and next I plan to see if I can sleep at all between now and tomorrow morning. Been a jolly good Day Two, I can assure you!

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