goznet ...

David's diary: October 2004

Another day.

Another month, in fact.

Perhaps I really am better off with the devils I know.

For now, at least.

Very nearly suggested Katy went to cell-group on her own yesterday evening. No disrespect to Katy, merely how little I felt like socialising. But a bit of pizza and TLC perked me up a bit, and we both had a good time marking Kathryn's impending departure to university with some fun and games. Also enjoyed one of my best nights' sleep for a couple of weeks, so perhaps it really was a bit of a relief that yesterday panned out as it did, difficult as it was at the time.

Wow, I've actually got one of the trickiest bits so far of this web server thing working properly - and Richard's dead chuffed about it. The server needs to be accessible only to a controlled number of licensed users, and that must not be under the control of whoever's running the server since that will normally be a customer, not us. So the server I am writing is now capable of talking to one of our central servers and generating and checking persistent gobbledegook cookies that get propagated through to the browser clients. Yes, the technically savvy may be able to crack the scheme, but it will be very tedious to do so, and it's about the same level of security as the system we are using to protect the stand-alone version of the software. Pretty tortuous, though perfectly logical, and I am pleased with what I've managed. I now know it's worth pressing ahead with this server because we will be able to regulate access - and am happy that I've not had to waste too much time on security versus real functionality of the software, which promises to be quite "fun"...

Wahay, we've been sent home an hour and a half early!

"Because I jolly well said so," Piran explained, ever so slightly paraphrased.

Saturday, and I've got the day all to myself; I wonder what I shall do?

Actually, it's (almost) all planned out already, so no need for suggestions!

Been up the hill to get the paper, that's probably the easiest bit done...

Noise levels rising, just as my level of needing to concentrate rises... If I had got that job last week I would have invested in a set of noise-cancelling headphones pretty much immediately. I think I may well do so anyway, although I gather they are better at eliminating constant noise than random background.

I think I'll take an early lunch instead, and hope things have improved later.

Needless to say I wasn't at much of a loose end over the weekend. Having gone to get the paper, I hit the road up to Milton Keynes for Darren's stag day. After a bit of a whirlwind romance he's getting married in three weeks' time, and Saturday was the appointed day for us blokes to get together and have fun.

However, it very nearly collapsed unceremoniously at the very first hurdle. We were to meet at the Daytona karting circuit at two o'clock, but by then only myself and a guy called Ian were there - too late for the session, no refunds, etc. But they also had no record of our booking. Eventually the others rolled up, having got stuck in traffic, and it turned out our booking was on the other computer system because it was an exclusive booking for their new circuit, but not until five o'clock... Thankfully our organiser had a copy of the email, and we split the difference with the venue, so that we were actually running a couple of hours early rather than an hour too late, and everyone was happy.

As for the racing, well it was the second time I had raced there, although not on this new circuit which only opened in June. It didn't look too great, but turned out to be excellent - very intense due to the lack of any run-off areas, and undoubtedly better than using a short loop of the main circuit, which would have been lacking in many interesting bends. So the weather was glorious, I qualified in a respectable - given the competition - seventh out of nine, and we were off! And then the weather wasn't glorious any more, first drizzling, then becoming increasingly persistent. Somehow I managed to maintain my lap times; I guess I was getting better at the same rate as conditions were getting harder. But thanks to spinning a couple of times needing marshal assistance, I eventually finished eighth out of ninth, beating only the organiser, who'd had a blow-out after a collision and had been forced to change to a spare kart... Still, excellent fun from start to finish, and we all agreed the weather added immensely, though it was amusing to see who'd not brought any spare clothes!

So I drove our organiser Mark down to Matalan to buy a new shirt, and most of us met up again at the Moon Under Water to while away a couple of hours before our meal booking. That was at Chillies, a mere five minute walk from the pub and although hardly the finest Indian cuisine, not a bad choice for the event, especially given that the karting didn't come too cheap. I wish I'd had more starters and foregone the main course dishes because they were a little on the "canteen slop" side, but it was altogether fine. Nice also to bump into Chris and Claire there, the first time I'd seen them since June. We'll just have to hold them to their intention of visiting us sometime! With the longest journey home of anyone there, I made a move reasonably early, and - going via Tesco at Kingston to try, unsuccessfully, to get some crockery we're after - was back in at about eleven. Utterly shattered, but still buzzing too much to sleep, alas.

But I was glad to be back in Farnham Saturday night - having seriously pondered trying to arrange a sofa to kip on - because apart from anything else, it was Malachi's dedication on Sunday morning, which it would have been a shame to miss. Katy and I got roped into serving up the drinks afterwards, which was fine apart from having only one half-way decent corkscrew at the church centre. We still managed to enjoy the buffet lunch laid on though, and it was nice just to catch up with lots of people over yummy food - though with all the guests Simon and Becki had invited, it was possibly even busier than on our wedding day, especially without the benefit of the marquee we had tacked on to the end of the hall. Otherwise, it was a nice quiet day, with a bit of Scrabble, a bit of crossword-solving and just generally making up for our Saturday apart.

And thankfully I slept really well afterwards, for once!

Nope, still can't remotely concentrate and I think I might be about to scream.

I didn't scream, but I did go for a walk and pound my head against the wall for a bit. For some reason I'm back again today so I obviously love it really. Or perhaps I was just lifted a little by having fired off another job application last night, though I've not yet had a reply. But now I'm here it's the "same old same old", and I have to say I'm not confident I will be any better company for Katy this evening than I proved to be yesterday. I am just so thankful that Katy is someone who loves me just as much during the lows as the highs. I want to be able to give as much as I currently receive - and I hate not being able to - but am glad that in the meantime I'm not going to be given up on...

It's a year to the day since Katy and I got engaged. Not an anniversary we intend to celebrate every year, but worthy of marking this time, we agreed - and Katy's just emailed me to say "yes" to my latest romantic proposition made on virtual bended knee, that we have chilli con carne tonight to celebrate.

We're now overrun by visiting Slovakians contractors again, though at least they are generally capable of working without having to shout louder than the rest of the office combined. I have been advised that noise-cancelling headphones are not likely to help in an office environment, so I might just have to take up a suggestion someone emailed the other day, that I get some closed back 'phones. Trouble is, half the appeal of using noise-cancelling ones would have been that they do their magic even without a sound source, whereas I would need music for the closed-back ones to be effective, and that would be just as distracting as my shrieking colleagues half the time...

Grrr, hit a technical problem with this webserver software, which means I'm going to have to rethink a quite major part of its philosophy. I decided I would store the user's preferences in cookies, but it's become apparent that the seemingly capacious allocation for cookies associated with each host is actually somewhat limited for my use... Oh well, back to the drawing board; it was nice just to be able to concentrate for a few minutes, if nothing else.

Went for a nice walk at lunchtime, that's probably saved my sanity.

Had nice emails today from Katy and from my old MK Vineyard friend Ivor. They have helped today not be a complete disaster. A reply to the job application I sent off last night would have helped some more, but it's early days yet.

Time to go home now anyway.

Rob's just pointed out quite how much it's bucketing with rain, but given how sunny it looks from the other window, there must be a pretty nice rainbow...

The rainbow was very nice indeed, a lovely full-arc double one. And thankfully I didn't get rained on too much on the journey home. This morning's journey in was pretty horrid though, thanks to the road closure in Elstead. I took what seemed to be a sensible diversion, but that turned out to coincide with another diversion, and flustered, I temporarily went the wrong way - loosely speaking given the lack of movement in the traffic, thanks to a big smash up on the A3. So my usual half hour dash turned into the best part of an hour and a half; for once it may have been the case that the Hogsback would have been preferable..!

Today's being reasonably OK so far. I have managed to rework the bit of code that was hitting problems with the cookie size limit, so that it now stores the client preferences on the server instead and if anything it seems to be working more elegantly that way anyway. Now to get on with the "real business" of this server, that is to say, trundling off and actually doing some web-searching!

But it seems to be lunchtime now anyway, so perhaps not...

No prizes for AA Car Insurance yet though. We took out a policy a couple of weekends ago - they came out about fifty quid cheaper than anyone else, even with zero voluntary excess, NCB protection etc - but we're still waiting to get any paperwork through from them. When I finally fought my way through to a human being yesterday evening - taking only half an hour of being assured I was progressing in their "queue", on a national-rate number - she claimed it had been posted the Monday after we had applied. However, I have to say Katy and I are somewhat suspicious, especially given the confusion at the time when the website collapsed on me just when I was providing my card details and I had to "finish" the transaction via the phone. I say "finish" because the jobsworth guy went through every single last question I had already answered on the web, rather than simply checking my card status as I requested... Anyway, the girl yesterday evening said they would send out duplicate documents first thing this morning, so all should be well soon, though it's hardly been the smooth ride we had hoped for after our year of being messed around by the cretinous Boncaster.

So a fairly good day comes to a close. Searching's not quite working yet, but very nearly. Only problem is, what's stopping it is going to be a right pig to resolve, thanks to previous design decisions not all of my choice; for anyone interested, it's seemingly due to overuse of static instance variables. It's clearly not going to be fixed today, so it's time to stop worrying, and just hope my journey home tonight is better than the outbound one this morning!

It wasn't much better, and nor was the one to work this morning. Got another job application fired off last night, so that's two possible escape plans in the pipeline to keep me optimistic. Or at least a little more optimistic than I might otherwise have been. Work-related things remain overall pretty grim, and unfortunately leave me too emotionally drained to have much other life. Got Emily and James' wedding to go to at the weekend though, and we're looking forward to that, as our first formal engagement as a married couple ourselves. Taking Kit and George as well, so should be a good day from start to finish.

I have a new PC keyboard here. Actually, it's a pretty old one that various other people would seem to have rejected. But goodness only knows why! OK, so it's not the best feeling input device I've used, somewhere between a notebook and a conventional keyboard in its travel etc, but its most redeeming features are that it has all the correct keys (and almost nothing except the correct keys) and all in their correct places. Is that really so very much to ask? Still, at least the "internet, multimedia and kitchen-sink enabled" abomination I've been fighting with for the last few months has found a happy new owner.

Hooray, now when I press F1, I get application-specific help, rather than make the coffee-machine gurgle into action. My previous keyboard needed me to press a special key before I could use the F-keys as Bill Gates intended.

I seem to be making some progress with this webserver thing now, having agreed with Richard that for the time being it's going to be a stand-alone product rather than a selectable mode of our existing product. Consequently I can get rid of much of the insane code that's only in there because of the bolt-on hacks to bolt-on hacks that have characterised development to date through lack of go-ahead to start all over again as almost everyone agrees we now should have... Anyway, it's now searching, and I "just" need to get it displaying paged results. Getting there, and only an hour 'til I can hit the road home.

This is just flippin' typical of this place. I'm getting somewhere with this webserver thing, and am close - I hope - to making it work pretty solidly. But of course a solid software core doesn't secure sales, portals do. So now it's sometimes - when running downhill with a following wind - returning meaningful results, I have been asked to concentrate on getting certain portals working. I'm sure they don't really mean I should freeze development of the core, but given the development history of our main product I have to be very suspicious.

However, working on portals for a bit did reveal a very interesting bug that took us the best part of a couple of hours to track down and fix. The effect of the bug was that our software would apparently conjure candidates out of nowhere, and make others vanish in a puff of virtual smoke. Twelve candidates found, twelve displayed, but only seven of them correlating. In the end it was a tiny Java misunderstanding on Richard's part, but boy was it a subtle one!

No sign of the management today, but there was a terse and somewhat pointed email awaiting upon our arrival this morning saying simply "before you ask, 5.30pm finish", so I suspect they have their spies out lest anyone even think about slinking off early like they specifically allowed us to a week ago. At least the Friday night traffic out of here isn't quite as bad as it was from Guildford itself, but I still doubt I'll be home any time much before 6.30.

Should be a good weekend coming up, tomorrow in particular, though not to say it won't possibly have its occasional challenges. It will in fact technically be our second wedding as a married couple, given that we were legally married when we celebrated our own. And the third wedding while we've been together, after Kit and George's earlier in the year, with yet another one coming up in a couple of weeks that should be just as good even if entirely different again!

So, back at my desk, that good weekend's over, and apart from hardly being able to sleep on Saturday night, it certainly did turn out good. Emily and James's wedding and associated celebrations Saturday afternoon and evening were lovely, and it was great to be able to be part of their happy day as they were of ours back in June. Traditional, yes - well mainly so, anyway. As it should have been, anyway! And nice as always at such events to catch up with old friends and make a few new ones. Thanks to that lack of sleep and other factors I was pretty fragile Sunday, and Katy felt little if any better, but we walked along to church anyway, and were glad we made the effort. We didn't have to do much else for the day, so it was worth a couple of hours of such self-sacrifice!

Yes, on Saturday I did see Claire, and Jess, and Nick. Claire and Jess for the first time in two and a half years, and Nick for the first time full stop. I had no idea what either my or their reactions would be, but everything seemed to go fine - indeed probably significantly better than I, at least, expected. I don't know what degree of friendship there might be from now on, but there is finally a mutual closure to what happened before. I could say more, but I don't think it's really necessary. I had a good old cry about it all at church yesterday, for what I suspect may have been the first time ever, but that was probably something that had been begging for an opportunity to get out of my system for all those years. Not sure if they were tears of happiness or of sadness, but it was an outpouring, a release. And I feel much better now.

I got a reply to one of the job applications I made recently. Although not a rejection by any means, not quite the reply I was hoping for either...

Thank you for sending your CV, which has been fully registered on our database. Our team of consultants now has access to your details and will work with our extensive range of clients to ensure that your next step is the right one, in line with your specific requirements. They will contact you directly to discuss any potential opportunities.

Yes, that's very nice, but I applied for a specific job, with a specific company, in a specific location. At least do me the basic decency of processing and replying to my actual application, not just send me a form email thanking me in general for volunteering my details to be put on your database.

But at least it was a reply, which is more than anyone else has bothered with.

The whole office seems to be gravitating to the whiteboard placed right behind me without any consultation. I might as well twiddle my thumbs for a few more minutes because I sure as hell won't be getting any work done while they do.

I didn't get a lot more work done yesterday, in fact I didn't get a great deal of work done at all - though I did write a couple of documents and get a couple of bits and pieces working so not a complete disaster area either. Nice to get home, anyway, and enjoy a nice quiet evening with my very own wife. Every time I say that "w" word, I go a bit quivery, and have to pinch myself to make sure it really is true. For a long time I never really believed I might ever be able to say it, but now I can, with head held high, because she's mine, all mine, and nothing can change that now. To have someone so special to share the rest of my life, with all its ups and downs I am sure, is just such a wonderful thing. I don't always believe I deserve Katy, but God obviously disagreed.

As for today? Miserable foul morning, miserable foul lunchtime - so no chance of a healthy walk I don't think - and no doubt a miserable foul afternoon and journey home coming up. But I will return home to my lovely wife - who's neither miserable nor foul, just wonderful - and all that will cease to matter.

It will be interesting to see if things improve at all round here. I went off in a bit of a huff yesterday with that meeting going on right behind me, and a few people complained about that and a couple of other times I showed limited tolerance of the general lack of consideration from my colleagues. So I've had a quiet chat, the main outcome of which was that we're going to shuffle around a little so that I am not quite so stuck in the middle of things. Not that I think that will make a huge amount of difference, but I am assured there will also be a renewed request for everyone to be more mindful of the fact that they are now working with colleagues who frequently need peace and quiet. Clearly the request has not yet been made because the sales team have been shrieking all afternoon with their usual irrelevancies, but at least there's a glimmer of hope that the environment might improve. Needless to say, those complaining were unable to talk to me directly about it, dragging Richard into it quite unnecessarily - and he was quite upset about that - but I get used to that in my life, obviously being far too scary a person to air grievances to directly.

Had to join in the laughter a moment ago, though, when there was a shrieked expletive from the sales side of the office, as the girl in question had pulled the power lead from her PC with her foot, obviously "losing everything" in the process. Especially when someone piped in, "And just when she'd got to level three!" See, I'm not completely humourless.

Well I have now swapped desks with Richard, and although I am still to be convinced it will make a huge amount of difference, I've at least managed to keep my cool so far today. Acid test as far as that is concerned will of course come when they next decide to have one of their chin-wags round the whiteboard. I'm not sure the inverse-square law applies to sound levels, but there should be at least a modest improvement. Of course still just as much potential disturbance from general office hubbub, and the annoying thing with that is that a single voice in silence can be just as irritating as constant background noise. I will be buying those closed back headphones very soon.

"You win some, you lose some" is the semi-official line from this morning's announcements. I'd put it slightly more strongly than that, personally.

For the last few mornings I have been most irritated by a radio advert, going something like: "Confucius, he say fantastic staff Christmas party makes for fantastic staff morale". I'd been just waiting for someone here to be taken in by such obviously specious marketing, and lo, this morning was the morning. So it is that we are to be allowed to choose our own Christmas entertainment, with value up to a quite attractive per-head budget. All very nice, but what really is the point, other than downright blackmail? I, for one, don't intend to play any part in it, even if I am spurning up to a hundred and twenty pounds being spent on me. Warm fuzzy feeling, then the management have you over a barrel.

And then changes to our sick leave arrangements. They're bringing in up to five "duvet days", the latest American import, so that we needn't feel bad about that hangover or whatever. If we don't take any of them in a year, we get a Christmas bonus of five hundred pounds. Use one of them, and it's only two hundred pounds, less fifty pounds for each subsequent one. So when I have that lie-in, I can rest happily in the knowledge that's three hundred pounds straight down the drain. And they're moving over to generally more draconian rules for sick leave, sick pay etc, such that no-one will dare be truly sick any more, lest we be shafted whilst bent over that aforementioned barrel.

Apparently there's average sick leave here of ten days per year, with suspicion that may not all be justified. Wouldn't it be the case that it would be better to address why people feel the need to take sickies, rather than beat people with a big stick and force ill people in to the office to spread their germs? Detractors will say that having a liberal sickness policy will mean people are off for the slightest sniffle etc, but I feel sure it would be more than made up for by improved health all round as contagion is more or less eliminated.

Confucius, he really say best way to build staff morale is to treat them with respect. But that seems to be contrary to modern business practices, alas.

Just had a scheduled fire drill. The fire escape took at least twice as long to get out of as the main entrance would have done. And it was lashing down with rain outside. And even Gary commented that the sirens probably exceeded health and safety limits with their volume. Rob, of course, technically died.

Other than all that, not too bad a day. Managed to get through without any big problems, and I've more than made up for taking about twice as long as expected with yesterday's "to-do" item. Also been given a much better graphics card for this PC, so that I can finally see things in a reasonable number of colours and without smearing; it's all well and good having a nice monitor, if the graphics card feeding it is out of the Ark. Anyway, last few minutes to keep my sanity.

In a move that I am sure will shock many of my loyal readers, I have decided that contrary to many previous utterances, I wish to continue working here for the time being. My pursuit of alternative employment is not being remotely fruitful, and I have presented a cunning plan that is meeting with modest approval from the lesser powers that be. Initially it didn't go down well, but when I said it was the end of the road for us if they didn't go for it, after a few minutes of reflective silence, elaboration was requested... I suspect that it still would have to get directorial approval, but it's a start, right?

To make the scenario clear, five months into my employment here, I have yet to sign a contract. Technically I could walk out at any time, though equally they could decline to pay me, so I'm not really going to do that unless desperate for my mental health. But they are likely to ask me to sign soon, since there is also the small matter of a probationary review and other contractual things.

Now it doesn't take a very good psychologist to spot that I've not been at all happy with work lately, and I believe that the primary cause of that is the sow's-ear / silk-purse conversion exercise that this job mainly involves. Yes, I do have a problem with background noise and so on, but I'm pretty sure that's just exacerbating what always has been the case since the day I joined, that this software's beauty is only skin deep, making the hacking and patching I so hate doing in any case, an order of magnitude harder to get my head around.

So I have proposed that if they want to keep me - and they claim they do want me to stay, though obviously my experience at the OU makes me a little cynical about such statements - it will be on the basis that I can concentrate to a large degree on developing a completely new core for an as-yet unannounced Version 4. Version 3 was supposed to have been a rewrite, but the Slovakian guy doing most of the development of it never was given the go-ahead to strip it out as much as it desperately needed, and has been pulled on to other more sales-driven areas anyway, much to his frustration. Consequently, Version 3 is going to be yet another Brownian Motion developmental freeze-frame, and it is my genuine belief that if that happens again, we might as well all pack up and go home because the next layer of extra functionality is going to demand a far more solid and high performance core than we can remotely claim at present.

I would continue to focus on this webserver version until complete, and then on an approximately half-time basis continue to support the current version in terms of helping create more portals, but there would be no further changes to the code base. This is in recognition that we do need to get the software sold and out there, and that new portals get that done most visibly. But without a solid core to hang those portals off, it's like an aging car where the only good bits of metalwork are held together by expanses of rust. I think they may finally be coming to the realisation that if they want their customers to renew when their subscriptions are up, they're going to have to have delivered more than sweet talk on the phone, but a good product we're proud to deliver. The management have apparently been discussing four-year plans for the first time ever, so perhaps this isn't the worst time to be making these proposals.

Anyway, as I said, for the moment I am concentrating on the webserver, and I hope that a lot of the principles I am picking up with that will be able to be applied to the new core. I am basically enjoying this, so let's hope that with some managemental common sense, that doesn't have to be a flash in the pan.

Richard's out on site, Rob's been burgled, and everyone else seems reasonably engrossed, so it's being a somewhat quiet morning so far. In the light of yesterday's musings, I have suggested we send out a questionnaire to users of our software to find out what they do and don't like about it so that we can provide them with what they want on a more ongoing basis. Responses so far suggest that the sales team like the idea, and think it will help them too.

Just giving the new Google Desktop Search a trial, because I think it could usefully interface with our own software to assist local machine searching. Amongst other things, it can reliably index Word documents and Outlook email, both of which would be incredibly useful to us. Unfortunately, the one thing it doesn't seem to be able to do is index Word documents attached to emails. I've emailed Google to ask if it's possible, but forum discussion seems to suggest that it isn't. Even if we can create a portal to GDS in order to help with searching files, it looks like we'll have to press on with our Outlook portal, which is causing considerable headaches for those developing it.

Otherwise, today's continuing to be pretty quiet and uneventful. Quiet and uneventful is good. And more than half way through, with the weekend coming!

Back to work, and for once for a Monday it would have been OK, if it wasn't for my distinct lack of remotely settled sleep last night. I think I might have snatched three or four hours dozing before we had to get up, and that really wasn't anywhere near enough. Busy weekend just finished, so really quite surprised I didn't simply collapse at bedtime last night, but then I'm weird.

So during the course of this busy weekend, we had Katy's sister and family round to visit, ate out twice - once with them at Millers, and once at the Shomraat to celebrate Richard's birthday with about half the church it seemed - visited Katy's grandmother twice, went to church of course, did some food shopping on behalf of Katy's parents, bought and put together another CD/DVD storage tower, somehow managed to complete the Times jumbo cryptic crossword, watched The Butterfly Effect on DVD, and still had time left over.

We were a little disappointed to find that Millers' recent change of hands has had more effects since we last visited. That time, even if they had taken the retrograde step of no longer having table service, they were still using their excellent menu with most meals available in three portion sizes. However they have now dumped that, and although the range on offer is broadly comparable, there is no choice of portion size. But in mitigation they are doing a "two meals for ten pounds" offer across half the menu, and their drinks prices are very competitive so they won't quite become just another chain pub-restaurant, and I am sure they will continue to enjoy plenty of our custom in future.

The Butterfly Effect didn't quite live up to expectations either. I'd read good things about it, so snapped it up when we found it pretty cheap while we were out shopping the other day. I won't spoil it for anyone who's not watched it, but for both of us, it was let down very badly by the last five minutes or so. Up until then it had been interesting and intelligent, but almost all that had gone before might as well not have by the finish. Most unsatisfactory and actually quite upsetting. We weren't necessarily expecting a Hollywood happy ending, but something a little more uplifting and positive would have helped.

Anyway, as I was saying, Monday... Better get on with some work, hadn't I?

Ah, regarding that film, it would seem that the mainstream theatrical release had a somewhat more upbeat - and decidedly less nihilistic - ending. Why the director would choose to do what he did to his "chosen" version is beyond me.

Tuesday morning, and actually got quite a bit of sleep last night. Hardly settled, but to think that I woke up at one point and it was only 11.30 must say something! Probably helped greatly by going for about an hour's walk with Katy half way through the evening, on a - thankfully eventually successful - wild goose chase round the local convenience stores. Talking of geese, I had a very strange dream about geese being herded, which became even stranger when a number of the fowl in question took flight and morphed into other birds, most bizarrely of all a king penguin. Anyway, I've come to work today armed with a reasonably detailed mental "to do" list, so I guess it's about time I started mentally ticking off some of its items... Hmm, flying penguins. Very silly.

Almost as silly as letting a customer loose on this webserver thing I'm writing before it's remotely ready for public consumption, but that's exactly what some crazy fool's offered. I would far rather just get on with it without worrying too much what anyone else thinks, and present it in a couple of weeks' time as a "take it or leave it" finished product. Instead, this probably means that said Very Important Customer will come back with lots of feature requests and so on based on this work in progress, they will inevitably be given priority over stability, core development and so on, and I may as well have been working on the disaster area of the main software after all. Trying to keep positive, trying to keep positive, but it's really not always very easy round here.

It's getting decidedly chilly in here. Can't see dead people though. Yet.

So much for the alleged air-conditioning; I thought it was supposed to maintain a comfortable temperature at all times. Evidently I am misinformed.

I have put my fleece on, but really wish I had my hat and gloves. It wasn't even as cold as this when I went for a walk at lunchtime to find a post-box.

"Only" two hours to go. I just so wish I could be back at home...

Hooray, it may actually be more or less dark by the time I go home. No, that really is cause for good cheer. For the last couple of weeks, my journey has coincided with low sun in the sky or sunset itself, conditions under which a rather distressingly large proportion of the driving population seems incapable of driving without causing pile-ups. At the other extreme of the day, there was apparently a traffic announcement the other day that there were delays on the M25, "due to sunrise". Anyway, I am genuinely hoping that my recent run of appallingly slow journeys home will now have come to at least a partial end...

Pretty horrid journey in to work thanks to the rain, finding queues as soon as I hit the A3. Only saving grace was that the Hogsback was even worse - hence the late arrival of most of my colleagues - so at least I went the best way.

Twiddling my thumbs a little here, updating a progress document in the absence of anything much else I can be doing. The demonstration of my webserver thing needs to run until ten o'clock this morning, and needless to say it's running on my desktop PC, so I can't do any development yet. I believe there may be another demonstration coming up later; I will push for it to done via someone else's machine. It doesn't need a dedicated box, just not to be on one where I need to be taking it up and down every couple of minutes to do my job...

OK, we've come to a compromise. I will run it on my machine still, but on a different port that will hopefully mean it can sit in the background and mind its own business. Ten o'clock is now here, so time to click "exit" methinks.

Hmm, "exit" didn't work, quite. Something for me to look into, obviously.

Lunchtime's here, and it's still just as murky outside so no strolls this time, and no cards or anything to post in any case. Methinks I will acquaint myself with Lydia. In advance of tomorrow evening's bible study on her, that is.

Completed that preparation for Lydia, and I have to say it wasn't anywhere near as easy as I'd hoped. There wasn't quite as much to read as there was for Barnabas or Amos, the first two studies in this series, but in a way that made it even harder to draw anything too significant out of it. Still, I managed to make a few notes so won't be going along completely empty-handed, and I might yet revisit it if I get the chance. I just wish the bible would speak to me in the same way as it seems to for many others. Something for me to work on...

Anyway, over the hump of the week, and I'm sure the weekend will be on us soon enough. Got Darren's wedding to look forward to, which should be good, though I'm not expecting there to be hardly anyone we know there. I met a few of his closer friends at the karting and curry stag day recently, but he has pretty much started a new life since moving away from Milton Keynes. Like the other big wedding of the weekend, he's marrying into an existing family, and judging from the pictures on the web I saw, they too should be very happy indeed!

Urrgh. Fair bit of sleep, but nowhere near settled enough to be restoring. So I feel pretty grim this morning, and the hours simply cannot pass quick enough. Might have helped if it hadn't been howling a gale half the night, with one of our neighbours' glass recycling bins going flying at one point; thankfully they discovered it before the little oiks on their way to school decided to play - though it would at least have provided some variety from ringing our doorbell. Had dreams of collapsing fences and so on, but no damage really done I don't think, though we really do need to get our garden fence sorted out soon anyway!

So, pressing onwards, ever onwards, with this webserver thing, and I have to say it's looking pretty nice having managed to resist most pressure so far to add new features rather than get it solid. Just pondering the location "map" this morning; traditionally our software has done it graphically, even though it is useless, confusing and takes up acres more screen space than necessary, and I've got a reasonably slick text version working. But like so many things with this software, some things will be required to be done because that is the way they are done. I guess admission of insanity is traditionally a late stage.

Amazingly, my textual non-map is actually gaining widespread approval from the people who matter. Even one of the directors agreed that the graphical map we currently have in the main product is more annoying than useful. So textual it shall stay - and hopefully move that way in the main product in due course.

Been out for a lunchtime stroll since the inclement weather of the last twenty four hours seems to have subsided somewhat, and this afternoon's "to do" list mainly comprises getting some semblance of emailing and printing working in my software. Must admit I am feeling a little buoyed by earlier discussions.

I keep thinking it's Friday. Wishful thinking at its most extreme.

Just had a useful meeting with Rob though, discussing loads of user interface issues for Version 4 of this software. Although I've heard nothing official on the matter, that would seem to suggest that Version 4 might have been approved. Will it actually be called "Version 4" though? It's a version number almost all computer products skip, for various reasons - technical and otherwise.

I'm allowed to think it's Friday today though, because it is. Amazingly, a completely trouble-free journey in to work this morning; I hope that won't get made up for this evening, needless to say... Anyway, pressing on just nicely with this webserver thing, though Richard's asked for an ETA for completion, which I might be being a little ambitious about especially given that I'm going to be on leave for at least part of the next month. Still, at least we're talking about ETAs, which at least implies expectation of a finished product rather than some half-baked gamma-release work in progress. Can but hope!

Oh, and it's silly hat day today. Which - as Katy might wonder - was indeed why I surreptitiously asked where our hats might be. Though given how cold this office gets by the afternoon, I might well be needing this bobble hat anyway!

Can I go home please? If I can't go home, I'm going to have to go to the garage to get something to eat. And I'm trying to avoid doing that. So...

Thankfully Caz talked Jon into letting us leave at 4.30. Just as well really!

Had chilli beef tacos for tea, now that was worth getting home early for!

That and being with my wife, of course. My wife of over four months now!

So the wedding season's over for this year. Just a pity that the dry season decided to finish a day earlier, so the weather for Darren and Ceryn's wedding was truly atrocious - but that was never going to get in the way of it being a really good day, needless to say! By sheer coincidence it was held a modest stone's throw away from Emily and James's church in Reading from a fortnight before, so we found ourselves on strangely familiar roads driving between the church itself and the reception hotel a little way along the A4 in Thatcham.

The service itself was really quite traditional, though perhaps to be expected for a pretty middle-of-the-road Baptist church. Bride and groom both looked stunning, and didn't stop either beaming or giggling for the entire hour - and Ceryn's little daughter seemed to do no better at keeping a straight face. We weren't too familiar with most of the hymns, and have to say some of them were a little on the overly epic side, but it was a lovely service nonetheless and the message from the pastor was spot on. With the rain still coming down in forty-five degree torrents, informal group photographs were kept to the minimum and taken in the church, and we were then blocked in the neighbouring school car park for half an hour having unwisely been amongst the first to arrive...

Off to Thatcham for the reception, giving a wave to the Comfort Inn as we went past - after all, we didn't see James's favourite water tower this time - and then used a little body-language interpretation to work out who else wasn't part of a larger group of family or friends. As we had expected, it was only really the guys I'd first met at the karting who I vaguely knew - although it turned out there was a small connection between this and the previous wedding, via Ceryn who knew James quite well - but we found a couple from near Cardiff who we ended up sitting with at the reception itself, which worked out nicely. The buffet was top notch, with plenty of choice and all very tasty, and Katy and I stayed for enough of the disco afterwards to have what was quite probably our first dance together ever and watch a few others embarrassing themselves.

No let-up in the deluge for the journey home, but we didn't get back late, and were able to wind down fairly well before hitting the sack. Overall, a lovely day, a lovely couple and a lovely family. And Ceryn's promised us an equally lovely lasagne if we go and visit them sometime, so I guess we'll have to now!

The office is almost silent, with half the sales team gone home by the looks of things. Unfortunately, some newly-recruited techies are installing wireless PIR detectors that seem to take delight in beeping very irritatingly indeed as part of that process. Still, only a quarter of an hour and it'll be time to hit the road home, and with a bit of luck, the guys will be paid overtime to get their job finished once we've all gone. Can't say it's been a productive day; in actual fact I've spent much of the time backtracking some changes with respect to a part of the software that is likely to become obsolete very soon.

Another quiet day thanks to a distinct lack of sales team, and I'm managing to get on reasonably well with this webserver thing. Had a useful meeting with Rob to discuss interface issues for version 4 of the core software, which has apparently got implicit approval now given that a lot of the work I am doing for the webserver will apply itself to that, and the webserver's being funded out of the pockets of a couple of ten-grand customers. We predict tough times ahead though, as the inevitable industry backlash to what we're doing hots up, especially with plans to increase our throughput by an order of magnitude. Our beloved customers will soon start realising they've abused their job website accounts - quite probably getting booted off said websites - but for now things aren't too bad. I continue to mainly enjoy my work, and the powers that be seem basically pleased with my work, so although I don't think this would be a remotely wise place to stay for long, I have no pressing urge to get out.

Though having said that, I'm now a bit uncomfortable with further developments on the heavy-handed management front, with a whole swathe of employees blocked from using instant messaging even for internal purposes. That swathe does not include most of the technical team, but we've still been advised to keep our heads down, amidst talk of some further quite serious changes in the offing. As I've said before, it's time the management started treating its employees with respect rather than contempt. I may have no pressing urge to leave, but I am sure I wouldn't be the only one who would jump ship given half a chance, and the likelihood of that happening - which would be utterly disastrous for the company, needless to say - has undoubtedly just increased substantially.

Things now seem to be teetering on the brink of the abyss here at work. I said that more changes were in the offing, and I wasn't kidding. I obviously hope it doesn't happen, but it looks like things may become very messy very soon indeed. Fingers are being pointed, and the bucks passed are getting red hot.

Well that was a very nice evening out with George and Kit - well, apart from the bit where we waved goodbye to them as we left them in A&E at Frimley Park. Lovely curry - as we have become accustomed to from our friends at the Gulshan - but next time we are to strongly advise George against choosing the fish.

All is calm here at work this morning. Almost too calm...

Hmm.

That's all I really have to say today.

I'll say it again though, lest you think I have suddenly broken the habit of a lifetime and become a man of few words.

Hmm.

Another calm day, but I can't help but notice that the sales team are giving us the cold shoulder, which can of course only help any communication issues there may currently be. Interestingly though, it would seem that the webserver thing I am working on could well yet save this side of the business, so although my current beavering away may not be very obviously productive as far as they are concerned, in time they may well have me to thank for being in a job at all.

Last night we had a cell-group social round at our house, almost certainly the biggest gathering we've had there since I moved in. It was just a nice relaxed evening, eating copious quantities of pizza, crisps and muffins, playing games and simply nattering. We like having people round to visit us, as most of our friends are very well aware, and if good food and/or drink is involved, so much the better. Didn't get a good night's sleep, but hey, it's almost the weekend.

Today really can't end soon enough. Not that it's been a particularly bad day, but it's dragging and we really do miss the old four o'clock finish we used to enjoy on Fridays. Of course, the directors might yet let us out early for good behaviour, but under the current climate I have to say that's not looking very likely. At least whenever I do get out, I have my wife and honey-and-mustard chicken to look forward to, and the last half-daylight drive home of the year.

I applied for yet another job yesterday evening - both Katy and I spotted it independently on different websites - and the recruiter got back to me today to get more details from me but to apologise that it really wasn't the job for me due to being more Unix/Linux than Windows. More experience for me to get, I guess... Maybe when we get that new PC of ours we should make it dual-boot? And then install Tomcat, PHP, MySQL and all those things I'm rather lacking...

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