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David's diary: August 2005

Not too wild a weekend this time, and probably just as well because we're both pretty tired and we've got another busy week coming up. We finished the current stage at least of boarding the loft so have been able to stow a good deal of the clobber from our soon-to-be guest room. Most of the loft is still unboarded but it's pretty much inaccessible space so I very much doubt we'll bother now we've at least got room for those occasional things like the Christmas tree and camping equipment. Yesterday was a bit busier at church than the Sunday before, but there were still a few people away, and Susanna was on her own so we took her out to the Balti Hut Sunday buffet, which was our social highlight really!

Oh, and to chill last night we watched Lost In Translation again. Knowing from the start this time that nothing really happens as such and that it's basically an observational piece, we enjoyed it hugely more. Truly beautiful cinema.

It's now a fortnight since I had my last interview, and they said they would be getting back by about now, so will be worth a prod sometime soon. But by way of keeping the ball rolling I've been invited to another interview today, this one being on Thursday morning at Hook. It's not actually for the position I applied for through the recruiter in question, but close enough, and actually reflects rather well on a company and/or recruiter prepared to actively match candidates to possible positions rather than work on a mechanical accept/reject basis.

Been "all go" today so far. The plumber came at eight o'clock, a little earlier than expected but we were both up and about anyway. He did a few necessary repairs and checks to our heating system but wasn't able to service the boiler itself because he couldn't open it since the kitchen had been built around it! And just as he was leaving, the MFI delivery van pulled up with our new office furniture - and just as they were leaving, the postman called with some stuff relating to my interview on Thursday, and confirmation of our holiday booking. Then I spent much of the rest of the morning deciding what exactly to do about the boiler, and consequently now there's a bit of a gaping hole in the woodwork above it but at least it's accessible, and I've booked the service for Thursday morning before I go to the interview. This afternoon I expect I'll mainly spend putting together the MFI stuff and starting to sort out the mess in the office!

Still "all go"... I just got the furniture finished yesterday afternoon, being slightly harder work than I'd expected - I really must stop believing salesmen when they say that flat-packed items will take however long to make - but pretty decent stuff very unlikely ever to fall apart! I had a church meeting in the evening that went on pretty late, and Katy was up early this morning in order to go to Harrow for the day, so I don't feel especially replenished. Got another meeting tonight and I need to do some preparation in advance of my job interview tomorrow, a couple of chunky forms to complete at the very least. Tomorrow looks like it will be about as busy, and Friday's filling up too now! I'm not sure exactly how wicked I am, but there's certainly no rest for me...

I guess it's hardly surprising the emergency services in London are a bit twitchy, but one story reported by the BBC caught my eye yesterday. Several roads were closed after a small fire broke out on a bus near King's Cross. The report noted that a bag was also found at the scene. Classic "unattended baggage", or simply a rare case of a passenger actually doing as we are all repeatedly told and not stopping to collect their personal belongings?

I have just filled in what must be one of the most tedious application forms ever. I guess that's what comes of applying for jobs with over-large computer companies with considerable interests in defence projects... Hmm, I really don't know whether I want this job, but I'd still be a fool not to do my best.

Another day, another interview, and given how shattered I now am, I have to say I am somewhat relieved that the interview that had been tentatively scheduled for tomorrow has been rearranged for Wednesday next week. Today's interview was with a certain large software company in Hook, and went reasonably well. It was in two distinct parts, one with a technical slant and the other from more of a personnel angle. The first part I would say went better, but the second wasn't too bad and I managed a good rapport with both interviewers in any case. They didn't know how long it was going to take to make a decision, and there would still be the security clearance to complete before I could be taken on, which can take up to a couple of months. So I really don't know what the prospects are with regard to this particular application, but at least once again I think I presented myself well and have given myself about the best chance possible.

Oh, just in case I wasn't quite busy enough this week, yesterday afternoon I finally managed to transfer all the data from our old PC on to this new one. It was a slightly more convoluted process than intended; I had been hoping simply to connect both PCs to our router, but I couldn't get them to talk to each other. In the end, I did what would probably have been the most sensible thing in the first place, and temporarily connected up the old hard disks directly. I didn't think it was going to work due to the comparative ages of the hardware but in practice it was perfectly smooth and I am sure much quicker than using the network, especially when one of the connections was going to be wireless... But anyway, that means at last we can pension off the old PC to a good home and save ourselves about four cubic feet of premium storage space in the process!

Just in case I was sounding a bit upbeat about the recruitment world, I should temper things by mentioning a couple of messages received today; one email, one answerphone message. One offering a "Java opportunity", no further details. The other offering a "developer position", no further details. Why do they bother?

And I missed a later message on my phone, offering a "role". Today we've mainly been spending buying the wrong things and having to take them back. Hey ho!

It's days like today I have to admit I'm slightly relieved to be out of work, and of course have to feel sorry for Katy who's not. It's been a really great weekend, but at about tea-time yesterday I hit a wall - so to speak - and am still very much feeling the effects this morning. My parents came down for the weekend on Friday night, as our first house-guests - even if they did have to bring the single bed they'd been looking after for me in order both to have somewhere to sleep! It wasn't too mad a weekend, but after a very busy week - with three church meetings, and friends visiting on Thursday evening - it just about did me in. But it was lovely having Mum and Dad here; over the course of the weekend amongst other activities we got out for a healthy walk at Frensham, had Katy's parents round for a barbecue, watched the conclusion of the cricket and went shopping in Farnborough and Guildford. The latter trip means we now have nice new crockery for when our new dining furniture arrives, to join the new cutlery that we agreed would also wait until we had the new furniture.

I very nearly bit a recruiter's head off then, but in the end downgraded it to a mere nibble. Jobsite unhelpfully does not allow candidates to enquire about a position without notionally applying, and one of the enquiries necessary in 99% of cases is as to where the location is since (like most recruitment sites) it seems to think "Hampshire" or "Surrey" is useful information, when it isn't. So I make my enquiry/application and the bloke emails back asking for me to resend my CV in Word format, the CV that Jobsite didn't even give me the option not to attach in the first place. Umm, how exactly did that answer my quite specific query? In fairness, on second asking the recruiter did reveal the location, and at least he did better than the 90% of recruiters who don't bother replying at all, or only use the information gleaned to bolster their spam databases. Hmm, I do get the feeling I've moaned about this kind of thing before, oh well...

Our quest for the near-silent PC is - for now at least - complete, I think. You may remember we fitted a much-improved CPU cooler a few days ago, and that made a colossal difference in the not-sounding-like-a-harrier-jump-jet-taking-off stakes. Well when we went shopping in Farnborough on Saturday, Dad bought a pedestal fan for them, and I bought a case fan for us. The latter approximately halved the remaining fan noise levels, which was pretty good. However the hard disk still made lots of noise when seeking, which obviously had never been so noticeable before over the general racket from the fans. But even that's sorted now, having found a utility that lets you practically silence the hard disk, with seeks now adding only about a decibel to the operating noise levels. The "cost" is that access speed is reduced by up to about a quarter, and although some models of drive would appear to support finer tuning of these parameters, ours doesn't seem to, so we'll just have to see whether it causes any problems. I sincerely doubt it though, and that we will just enjoy the silence instead.

From time to time, I get circulars from the University of Southampton, mostly either trying to drum up support for reunions or to extort hard cash. They seem to forget that they spectacularly dumped on me back in 1989, so I keep in touch with the people from then that matter to me and frankly find their requests for my money offensive. To rub it in, their most recent letter started "Dear ECS Graduate". Well, if they want to send me a certificate for a degree they made no effort to help me complete I won't grumble, but that prompted me to ask them once and for all to cease and desist. But of course, being the professionally run organisation that they are, the person to whom such emailed enquiries are routed is on holiday and didn't think to redirect them before they went. I guess they don't expect anything interesting to happen over the summer, being about as far detached from the real world as is possible... Today's rant over.

In more cheerful news, I completed our new crockery set today. We couldn't get the cups and saucers we wanted on Sunday, but there were just enough in stock at the Farnham branch today. All we still need now is our new dining furniture, tentatively pencilled in for delivery next Monday. Call me all domestic and soppy, but I really can't wait; our house is going to be so much more gorgeous!

Congratulations to Ceryn and Darren, on the birth this evening of Ruth Grace!

Getting to be a bit of a routine, this congratulating people on new arrivals...

Now that really was cheerful news, wasn't it?

Got another interview this afternoon, happily to say. Perhaps not so great that it's for a job in Winchester, which isn't very close, but at least it's in a reasonable direction for commuting so it will probably end up a quicker and more reliable journey than that out to Guildford and beyond I did for almost a year. This one is interesting in that it's the first opportunity drawing upon the pedagogic experience I gained during my years at the Open University rather than just my programming skills. Actually another downside has to be the video about Ruby I am currently endeavouring to watch, featuring surely the most irritating American ever. Too irritating to concentrate on needless to say...

Just to put the cat amongst the pigeons - one of the few cat-based expressions that isn't cruel to cats, albeit to pigeons - I am told that EDS wish to make me a job offer following last week's interview. They needed me to provide some information that I'd already given them, but I suspect the only copy they had was on my security clearance form which they'll have sent off already if they want to move quickly... Done that, anyway, so let's just see if I have any bargaining counters to take to today's interview by the time I am due to leave!

Been to and returned from that interview in Winchester. I really couldn't quite "read" the interviewer and his sidekick, but I sense it didn't go very well, and I didn't feel as comfortable there as at previous interviews I'd been to. Winchester itself didn't endear itself to me either - quick enough run straight down the A31, but horribly snarled up once there and I gather that's typical. On the bright side though there was a Thorntons and a good W H Smith, so even if I didn't come back with a dream job, I did come back with nice goodies!

Goodies of which Katy thoroughly approved, I hasten to add. Bit of a slow start today; I think yesterday hit me harder than I realised at the time. Going to venture in to town shortly though, but skip visiting The Gorge, in the name of saving my appetite for having a curry with Kit and George this evening.

Been and back, but not quite as successfully as hoped, thanks to Sainsburys not having half of what I needed, and I really couldn't be bothered to traipse back with it all when we would have to go out again anyway. But at least I managed to find some funky coloured in-trays for the office and a ball of polypropylene string suitable for making an Action Man death slide with, so all was not lost.

About half an inch's worth of paperwork arrived from EDS this morning, with an accompanying letter offering me a job on a fair starting salary. Not being able to let all those trees die in vain, it's looking 99% likely I will accept. No start date was mentioned, because that will depend on processing references and my security clearance application, but I talked to them this afternoon and they understand that I am keen to start as soon as possible, so will do what they can to get things moving even before they have received my formal acceptance.

Still, barring unforeseens, success finally!

It's been a nice sociable last few days, but thankfully not too intensively so. Thursday we had a curry with Kit and George, the first time we'd seen them for a while, and the Gurkha Raj Doot in Aldershot living up to its fine reputation. Friday Ian and Jo came round for tea, bearing generous edible and electronic offerings, and enjoying our Vietnamese chicken speciality. On Saturday Rachel and Daniel came over for lunch, and the weather ignored the forecast so we were able to have a barbecue even if we did run out of gas right at the very end! Now it's Sunday and we're off out to another barbecue in a short while - in fact the first one we've been to this year that we've not hosted, I believe...

And yesterday's barbecue went very nicely too - great to let someone completely different take charge of the cooking! Next weekend, it's a picnic! Yay!

A quiet Monday, with the undoubted highlights so far being the gas meter being read and Mobius Dick arriving in the post. I wonder when my new job will start. I wonder when I will even find out when my new job will start. Thankfully there are things I can be doing in preparation, brushing up on my Perl programming in particular, but it's not looking very like I'll be starting on that today...

When I went out for a walk late yesterday afternoon to hand-deliver a letter, I noticed that the garage at the top of the hill from here was closed, fenced off and boarded up. The display on the petrol pump read "97.9". I guess that's why.

I heard the letter-box clack, so duly went downstairs to investigate. Not the postman, but someone delivering circulars from the exact same estate agent we were on the market with before we moved, looking for properties to sell... Then the real postman visited, with the only non circular mail being a letter from our mortgage lenders, confirming and thanking us for our taking out mortgage payment protection, and explaining exactly how much money would be taken and when. The only problem being that we declined the cover and have it in writing! Evidently they're employing all the sacked gas and electricity door-to-door salesmen. In better news though, our new furniture has just arrived, hooray!

And about three hours later, I've finished assembling the chairs. Thankfully the table itself was assembled by the delivery men, because the top is a darned heavy lump of solid oak, and the legs aren't that light either! All went to plan until the fifth chair of the six, for which the bolts for attaching the seat frame to the back legs were half an inch too long. So out came the hacksaw to shorten the bolts, and I resigned myself to spending a good hour breathing iron filings. Then I realised that in fact I could get away with the bolts at their full length for attaching the front legs to the frame, which saved on a bit of sawing. But then most annoyingly of course - and at this point I would have kicked myself for not checking first had I had any energy left - the last chair's bolts were fine. Yes, I could have used all the longer bolts for the fronts of the last two chairs, and avoided the wretched sawing altogether... I guess that's the subtle difference between a DIY enthusiast and a DIY expert.

Generally pretty naff and unproductive day today. But my dear wife will be home in about an hour's time and we are going to cook a good hot chilli con carne.

One of the things Katy suggested I could do while I waited for my new job to start was to overhaul my website. Now I won't really claim to have done that already but I have at least pruned the dead wood from my links page. I knew it had needed doing for a long time, but finding that at least one link was now redirecting to what might be considered inappropriate content was a spur...

Umm, what did we do this weekend then? Well we had friends around for drinks on Friday evening, had a relatively quite Saturday I think, and went for a picnic and a walk in the woods with people from the church - plus a few visitors from France - on Sunday. And we actually had lie-ins in the mornings, for a change. May not sound that exciting, but it was all really just about what we needed.

Oh, I completely forgot, we went into Guildford on Friday - but without my parents in tow this time! - and got lots of nice things. New kitchen knives and chopping board, some new clothes of various kinds, and a nice picture for the dining end of our living room. And we went on the bus, well the park and ride one, that is; the first time I'd been on a bus for... ohh... a decade?!

Thank goodness for "silent ring" on mobile phones. Otherwise whoever it was who phoned at 4:18 this morning - from a withheld number, obviously, they always are, aren't they? - and didn't even bother to leave a message might have been left so traumatised they would be unable ever to pick up a telephone again.

In better junk communication news though, I've just realised where I've been going wrong career-wise. It seems that several months ago, one of my employees registered my company information with a Chinese business network. They note that a long time has passed without it being updated, and want to confirm that I am still offering services in the area of Ice Cream Reverse Engineering.

I had two opportunities to go out for lunch today. One in Hook, one in Elstead. One involved my wife, one didn't - in the nicest possible way! One might have involved jumping through a few hoops security-wise, one didn't. Elstead, wife and no security hoops won the day. Actually I didn't have lunch itself out, but I picked up a chicken caesar salad from the shop next to the pub, and that's happily in my tummy waiting to be joined by a bacon and pasta salad later!

And we went out for lunch properly yesterday, Katy taking it as her day off rather than the usual Friday. We'd had quite a productive morning, getting our garage door repaired, replacing the gas canister on our barbecue and raising a small but significant query about our new dining furniture. So we treated ourselves to a jolly decent "prix fixe" lunch out at Prezzo in town before doing a little mainly window shopping and then scooping up Grandma to take her out for coffee as a pre-birthday treat. Oh, and the new memory card for our digital camera arrived yesterday morning, delivered by a postman doing a very fine impression of a drowned rat. We were supposed to have signed for it, but he despondently explained that he couldn't find the signature sheet and had a horrible feeling he'd posted it through someone's letterbox, and had generally had enough. Anyway, at least that means we can take more than a couple of dozen photographs when we next go on holiday, which has to be a definite plus, right?

Been a quiet Friday, as Fridays go, with Katy being at work - and in fact both at the office and out on site. I've been vaguely useful and gone and got some shopping in to see us through the weekend, and done a few maintenance checks to Katy's car since she took mine in to work - with me doing those checks in mind, not just for my air-con. Peugeots seem to be more neglectable than SEATs; Katy couldn't remember when the tyre pressures were last checked and none were more than a couple of PSI off nominal. The weather's looking decidedly dodgy now; I think it might be a good idea if I rescued the washing while I have the chance!

I'm sitting here patiently waiting for Argos to deliver a new desk for the office, so I guess it's a good opportunity to get these ramblings up to date. For a bank-holiday weekend when we had some vague plans, which never really came to anything for various reasons, I think we did surprisingly well.

Saturday was a "doing useful things" day, some of those useful things being sorting out a birthday present for Katy's dad, eyeing up new lounge curtains and a better doormat, getting various kinds of hooks for various purposes, buying a strimmer, and inevitably tending the garden - this time able to do a proper job, going right to the edges. Standard bank-holiday fare, I guess! Oh, and I'm pretty sure we earned our crispy duck pancakes we had in the evening, even if we did stop for a Burger King lunch while we were in Farnborough.

Sunday we thought we would check out a curtain shop in Weybridge, being where Katy had bought our last lounge curtains and got a good deal, stopping off in Guildford on the way to buy one of the doormats we'd been contemplating. As it turned out, the curtain shop was considerably more expensive than the one we'd looked in on Saturday for the exact same fabric, so it was just as well we had planned on making a bit of a day out of it by stopping for a picnic and a walk near Wisley, just off the M25/A3 interchange. Our walk took us to the Chatley Heath semaphore tower, about which my ignorance slightly dismayed Katy I fear, never having considered how the Admiralty might have efficiently communicated with the docks in Portsmouth before the days of the telephone. So that was a definite education for me, and there were great views from the top, especially towards London, with the London Eye, the "Gherkin", Canary Wharf and the new Wembley Stadium all clearly visible in the distant shimmer. We also had a look round the nearby lake, but that was poor in comparison to those at Frensham.

Monday we really weren't quite sure what we were going to do, wanting to do something a bit active or sociable, but fast running out of options or people definitely able to join us. But quite by chance I "bumped into" Darren on MSN, for the first time in a good while, and they were having similar problems. So after a couple of phone calls and short family discussions on both ends of the line, we agreed they would come and spend the afternoon with us rather than waiting even to get into a theme park. We still had the morning to ourselves so ordered our curtains from the original shop and did a little extra shopping, getting home just in time for Darren, Ceryn, Lois and Ruth's arrival. Despite a distinct lack of white rolls at Tesco, a good barbecue lunch ensued - the first time our parasol had gone up, suspecting little Ruth might appreciate the shade - and afterwards we drove out to the forest park at Alice Holt, proving to be a hit with everyone concerned. A bite of tea for more or less everyone, then it was time to convince Lois she really would be better off going home with the rest of them rather than falling asleep on the sofa, and all was quiet again.

And, barring anything I've forgotten, that was that. But what a great weekend!

Still no Argos lorry, though. 8am to 6pm delivery windows are not much fun...

Six hours in, with four to go, and the nice man from Argos has finally dropped off our new desk. And it weighs a goodly part of ton, it truly does... Should match our shelving in more than one way, that being the case! Needless to say though, it's going to take a bit of juggling to manoeuvre it into the space, and it may be easier to assemble it in situ, so signing off for a little while!

Almost two hours - and thankfully no major problems - later, I'm back again... But still some sorting out to do before Katy gets home, so maybe not for long!

Tried to be useful today, but it's far too hot and humid to exert for more than a few minutes at a time. No, I don't expect sympathy, but that's the way it is. Still, I've managed to drop off a load of stuff at the dump - which was just as busy as when we went on a Sunday a couple of weeks ago, thanks to them having changed the traffic flow insanely - and I've bought a few garden tools and some grass seed, with which I have attempted to replenish a very worn patch of our lawn. I've also sorted out a few more bits and pieces in the office, but we really need another purge, especially of old textbooks and suchlike, before it will really be as we would like it. I've tried chasing my recruiter regarding a start date for my new job, but it seems like he's not got any more information out of them than we knew several weeks ago, but that's perhaps not surprising given that my security clearance application is utterly out of their hands. So now just waiting for Katy to get home so that we can have a nice early tea - of honey and ginger prawns, most likely - before we go to see Ray at the Maltings.

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