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David's diary: December 2007

Ooh, it's December, and we've not got our Christmas tree up, not done any Christmas shopping, nor even had any Christmas meals out. Unlike far too many, alas, it would seem... You see, Christmas is still over three weeks away, for goodness sake!

Having a bit of a lazy morning today, we have to confess, being plain shattered after a pretty busy week, especially for Katy what with Manchester and so on, and a slightly manic Saturday with Darren, Ceryn and the girls, a large part of which was spent running around a "soft play" place. The quote marks there reflecting the number of burns and bruises we all picked up!

However, we had a surprise visit from Meryl this morning, so it's not been a complete write-off! Especially since we have arranged a slightly less impromptu repeat visit later in the week.

This so-called picture of the day on the BBC website has the caption:

My grandson Spencer is very intent on the contents of his fishing net and totally oblivious of the magnificent sky over Loch Tay.

Forget both sky and potential fish! Personally, I'm far more concerned about the loch's-worth of water about to flood out of the left hand side of my monitor.

Now the end of the week, and Meryl's hopefully on her way here for tea - and there's plenty more low-key fun lined up for the weekend. It's been a fairly busy week for us both, me mainly stomping on a fair few bugs in CSR, and rejoicing that my advertising revenue from the site has doubled in that time. OK, it's still only 56 cents in total but if it continues to rise exponentially...

Bit of a bleak weekend, but we mustered the enthusiasm to walk into town this afternoon, to get the Rayman Raving Rabbids we'd promised ourselves with some early-arriving Christmas money. It's staying safely shrink-wrapped for the next two weeks, though! Meryl came for tea on Friday as planned, and we rustled up our hearty chicken, bacon and mushroom pâté roast with pasta, and she was kept remarkably entertained by Find Mii, which for what many would consider a kids' game is actually pretty tough and compelling. Breakfast chez Bex and Simon on Saturday, and Katy might have gone to a girlies' social there in the evening but was too wiped out by then, so we cracked open a bottle of pinot grigio over a leftover chicken, bacon and mushroom salad. Sausages and chips and securely battened hatches tonight I think!

In the meantime, another tale of woe to add to last month's list of the problems afflicting one of my clients' shared web server over the last year. Friday evening the server was hacked again, despite assurances from the hosting company in question after the last such incident that security was tightened up. In fact, whereas the previous attack seemed only to involve uploading benign files to world-writeable image folders, this time the hacker was able to modify files only writeable by their owners and root, suggesting escalated privileges were attained. To make matters worse, the modification made was one that could install Russian zombie spam-bots on unwitting surfers' machines, so wasn't remotely benign this time. Believe you me my client is trying to move his site off these idiots' server once and for all, but it would seem to be proving a somewhat fraught process even without this extra spanner thrown into the works...

Katy's supposed to work long mornings Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and a slightly shorter one on Friday. The whole lot adds up to half-time hours. But it's a rare week when that pattern materialises, and this one wasn't one of them. Consequently, today was her whole day off, and we braced ourselves for a trek into Basingstoke to break the back of our Christmas shopping. As with last year, using the leisure centre park and ride made for a painless journey, even if we didn't save much over the Festival Place multi-storey. Just as well the journey was fine, because the shopping itself was about as stressful as expected, and that's even as we intentionally keep things modest. Anyway, it's pretty much all done now, and we're home and going nowhere else today. Christmas is officially now allowed to happen. Just a shame we couldn't buy extra energy, because that's almost all that is now missing.

The prize for the worst bit of junk I saw today went to a potentially quite stylish alarm clock in a gadget shop. When I first saw it, it was displaying a reasonably random selection of LCD segments, almost but not entirely unresembling a feasible time. So, knackered. When I went back in a little while later, it was displaying 12:00. Encouraging, but for it being more like half past two. I pressed a button, and it displayed a figure it referred to as the TEMPRATURE. I pressed the button again, and the random segments returned and the bleeper got stuck on. A couple of minutes later, once I was lying low and all the neighbourhood dogs had been driven berserk, a shop assistant did something to it to stop the racket. On my way out of the store, its display again read 12:00, awaiting the next person finding out what not to spend a tenner on.

Another day, and another hacking incident on one my clients' servers. You know, when I reported last week's incident to the hosting company in question, I kind of thought it might prompt them to secure their server. But no, it appears to be exactly the same exploit, by exactly the same people using exactly the same elevated privileges. Mustn't grumble though, it all gets invoiced - though I'm sincerely hoping this time my client will follow up my suggestion from the last time round and pass on the costs to the muppet hosting company involved.

Scare of the day, however, goes to Tesco, whose email received first thing this morning started with the terrifying words: With Christmas less than a week away... It's traumatic enough them banging on about it since goodness knows when, without them lying into the bargain!

Slow day today, but one more invoice able to be sent off, and a fat refund from Southern Electric, so not grumbling too much. Also pleased to see the BBC have finally produced a version of their controversial iPlayer that's not tied to Internet Explorer, Windows XP or flaky P2P platforms - worth a look if, like us, you never watch stuff when it's actually on...

Oh, and then of course there's the Facebook status "is" thing, which they capitulated on almost as quietly as the BBC with iPlayer. And at least they had the intelligence to insert an "is" in everyone's editable status text to compensate for the removal, unlike MySpace who just removed the "is" and made everyone look like morons. Easily pleased, I know...

Had a bit of work to do today, but really not enough for my business to be viable as a full-time endeavour. I think things will pick up a bit in the new year anyway, but I'm realising more and more that I will need to supplement this with something reliable. Still, at least it meant I had time to spare to park up at the golf club and walk into town with Katy to do a bit of food shopping ahead of a reasonably sociable weekend, and make a couple of contributions towards one of the ubiquitous local radio Christmas toy appeals. Speaking of the C word, our tree went up this evening, still going strong into its fourth year I think, and no fake needles shed for a long time. Christmas and New Year's Eve generally seem to be healthily taking shape now!

Nice sociable last few days, with Katy's mum and dad round for a good unhealthy fry-up Saturday morning, Simon and June visiting for Sunday lunch, and Andy and Antonia round yesterday evening for a drink and chat about church set-up matters. Katy's just phoned to say she has left the building and is therefore now officially on holiday. It's looking unusually nice out, just a shame there's only an hour or so of daylight left at this time of year...

So we did our big Christmas food shop today. It filled the conveyor belt and came to over £100, ouch! But Tesco unexpectedly accepted both our similar-looking money off coupons, so we saved £12 straight off. We're sure we could have got some of the stuff cheaper at Lidl, but not everything, and expect it would all have balanced out, apart from the hassle. Anyway, hopefully that's most of the stressful bits of preparation over and done with, and we can relax and enjoy ourselves for a couple of weeks now! I dare say I'll still have a few odds and sods to do over the next couple of days, but just about the whole world seems to wind down for one reason or another at this time, so I think I can get away with doing much the same...

Wow, it's been a long Christmas Eve Eve (after a good and social couple of days, with various people!) and I'm more than ready to drop. Late this afternoon was the Vineyard carol service, and as part of our training up to lead a set-up team we agreed we would help get things ready in the morning, as well as generally be able bodies during the service itself. And in between we went into Farnborough since we'd volunteered to get some cinnamon to pep up the mulled "wine" and we needed to do a few bits of shopping anyway to tide us through the next couple of days.

While in Farnborough we also did a bit of window shopping at PC World of all places, since Katy's on the look-out for a new laptop bag, and for all their downsides, they've undoubtedly got the biggest range on show. I was intrigued to spot that they actually had a real genuine Eee PC in stock, albeit only the 2G version in cheap white, but a five minute play (unencumbered by the usual passworded screen locks PC World insist on) was long enough to convince me its more powerful sibling should be my next significant toy business purchase.

The Christmas bit's now out of the way, with just the New Year to come, when we're hosting for a change. We were sociable with Katy's side of the family before Christmas Day, and with mine for a few days after, up near Hereford. Christmas Day itself we had our lunch with a few people from the church and beyond, and a slightly unexpected tea round at Katy's parents. Really just totally exhausted now, so glad to have had a quieter day today and still another 24 hours until the (perfectly civilised, and not too numerous) hordes descend upon us tomorrow evening.

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