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David's diary: June 2007

Another month has passed, definitely accelerating with the inexorable approach of old age...

At least this month the time should be right on this entry, having fixed the once-a-month bug referred to last time round. I have no idea whether the stuff I am working on at the moment will turn out to be lucrative, but at least I am learning a thing or two as I do so, and that fix was a spin-off of such acquired knowledge.

Saturday in particular was a busy day, very much involved with our church's efforts to tidy up one of the more picturesque parts of the town, namely the park by the river - and indeed the river Wey itself. It was a double-edged endeavour, certainly, with the equally valid intentions of improving the environment we live in and share with our neighbours, and hopefully blessing those neighbours in ways going far beyond the recovery of shopping trolleys, road cones and more! And having done that and had a picnic in the sun, we came home and blitzed the house, my particular job being my annual speciality of cleaning out the U-bend and associated plumbing from the kitchen sink, which really does get pretty grim. One day I will remember to mark the pipe sections so I can put them back together in the right order - obviously I got lucky last time because this time was almost disastrous!

Anyway, it's Monday all over again, time to find motivation all over again...

So, our glorious, hard-fought-for and increasingly over-budget 2012 summer Olympiad has a logo - for a bargain £400,000. Shame it looks suspiciously like the broken shards of a 2012 summer Olympiad that has crashed and burned, but let's hope it's merely pathetic and not prophetic.

We have bikes, finally! The man who comes round every month relieving us of a few beer-tokens in aid of the local hospice lottery had been nagging us for the last year or more, and after our shock win the other week (OK, all of a fiver) we really felt we had no choice. In the end we moved quite quickly, shopping around and poring over brochures and web-pages, and Wednesday morning we did the deed. There was no time like the present, so we promptly took them out for a shortish spin round the back-roads of Farnham that afternoon, and yesterday gave them their off-road debut, cycling out to Rowledge and into the Alice Holt forest (gravel tracks and a few muckier and more knobbly paths), a total round trip of about 8½ miles. The only technical issue so far is that my front derailleur needs some adjustment, but that's pretty normal going for a new bike as it beds in, and if I can't wait for the free service in a few weeks the user guide is actually pretty detailed on such maintenance. All other issues are with the cyclists alone, both of us needing to get a lot fitter, but we've been eager to get out so far, which is more than I can say for some of the other forms of exercise we've given a go lately.

I sorted out my front derailleur this afternoon. As I had a hunch might have been the case, it was actually even simpler than the manual explained, with just a few twists of the barrel adjuster on the shifter needed to get the gears changing smoothly - and without the chain flying off altogether when trying to find the lowest gears! Katy's front derailleur was more or less spot on anyway, but that's quite possibly because she'd only used the rear derailleur so far, meaning the cable hadn't been under proper tension - so we'll keep an eye on it nonetheless!

Another day, another bike ride, this time actually pretty much the same as we did on Thursday, but with the added incentive of taking a picnic lunch. I went off for another lap of the Alice Holt forest cycle route after lunch, completing it in a not-bad-at-all quarter of an hour or so, a bit quicker than I'd expected. But all that wasn't before we'd hosted one of our fortnightly Saturday breakfasts, for a change. Cate, Tim and Susy graced us with their presence and we had a hearty meal of bagels, chocolate brioches, fresh pineapple and strawberries. Plenty of pineapple left over too, so tea tonight's looking like grilled pork loins with (you guessed it) pineapple, making use of our new griddle we bought yesterday when we popped into Aldershot for lunch.

No cycling yesterday, though it might have been a close call once or twice. Ultimately it was just too hot by far! Quite a busy day in the end, anyway, helping Matt with an "aggravated" flat tyre after church, going to the planning meeting for the next OAP tea-party and entertaining Meryl for tea. With all that done and it gone 8 o'clock, Katy suddenly said, "I don't think I can do more tonight." I wondered what more we might have been planning to do, then Katy reminded me we had been planning to go to More...? - i.e. a rather specific kind of "more"! I was inclined to agree but promptly changed my mind, especially since I liked the sound of the guest band (blues/folk) and there were people I wanted to catch up with anyway, so I made my way down on my own. As it turned out the guest band were slightly misrepresented (no blues or folk, and a bit cheesy) and the people I'd been hoping to see there never made it, but it was still good to get out and talk with a few others I don't get to see so often.

Well, in the interests of supporting browsers other than Internet Explorer, I gave the new Windows Safari beta a go last night and this morning. I guess the fact that I tried it for two sessions rather than just the one doesn't damn it quite as much as I could have, but it really wasn't very good. As usual with Apple, it's high on style but lacking in functionality. I just hope that its raising awareness that alternatives to Internet Explorer exist will outweigh the fragmentation and degradation of the competition to Microsoft. Nice try, perseverance needed!

How scary is that... A couple of days ago I spotted that an college friend's daughter had a page on Facebook - now aged 22, engaged etc. She was only about 10 or 11 last time I saw her, so I had to double check my arithmetic. To rub it in, she's got a child of her own now! I feel so old.

Being Katy's day off, and given the likelihood of the weather turning inclement - not that it's happened yet - we got out on our bikes for a little while this morning. We loaded them on to the back of the car and took them out to Frensham Little Pond, and did a circuit from there, partly based on the officially published cycle route, but veering off and visiting our favourite and oft-mentioned pond, particularly pretty now that the rhododendrons are in full bloom, and returning via back-roads. An added incentive to do so was to get off the worst of the sandy paths that somewhat characterise the unwooded parts of Frensham Common. It brought back not entirely fond memories of mountain-biking in my youth (when such machines were relatively new-fangled) and struggling to keep upright on such surfaces. In fact one of my least-fond young childhood memories was of falling off a tandem into a bed of stinging nettles, thanks to sand - and all gleefully caught on camera, such was the sadism of the cycling fraternity in those unenlightened days. Almost any other surface is fine, but sand is an absolute killer on two wheels and exhausting going too.

Hmm, I really do think it's about time I was putting together a local photo gallery - don't you?

Sorry, still no gallery, but a bit more material - albeit not local - to add to one when I do. Though we might just about have counted our couple of nights up in Norfolk as a holiday, so maybe we'll add our photos to that part of the website along with all those already there.

Yes, we've been away for the weekend, up visiting Katy's aunt, uncle and cousin at the seaside for a couple of days, also using the opportunity to call in on Katy's grandma at her nursing home. We were based at Ruth and Tony's beach bungalow, away from almost all mod cons, and it was relaxing being able to watch the sun go down over the Wash, accompanied by flocks of oystercatchers and the odd plover. Yes, it was true twitcher/birder country, and even we succumbed for a little while on Saturday, doing the rounds of a nearby RSPB reserve and watching avocets, harriers, linnets and more. We made sure we sampled plenty of local produce, being plied with cockles, samphire and more on Friday night, and seeking out an excellent little seafood café we'd been recommended on Saturday evening.

It was good to meet Robin (Katy's cousin, not the songbird!) for the first time, having heard so much about him and of course having exchanged a fair few emails. Grandma really wasn't in such a good way, but was still pleased to see us even if the chances of her remembering even a few minutes later were fairly slim. She seemed happy enough at the home, but it's really not an existence I want any part of when my time comes, especially for the sake of others.

We were planning on going for a bit of a walk yesterday morning round a nature reserve just down the road but ended up going for a row on the brackish lake behind the bungalow. Neither of the two boats was 100% ideal for one reason or another but it was still good fun and good exercise, and hopefully Robin got some good photos!

On the way home, and undecided on what route we should take, we decided to call in on my parents, having a present for them from the RSPB reserve shop and not being entirely certain when we might see them next. So it was actually fairly late by the time we finally got home, but there was certainly no way we could be said not to have made the most of the weekend!

A week ago I'd barely heard of samphire, and I've now eaten it twice! Today, by way of a slightly belated wedding anniversary celebration we had a pub lunch at the Barley Mow in Tilford, where I sampled their (delicious) fried mackerel with said greenery and new potatoes. However, we got there by somewhat unconventional means, hitting the dirt on our bikes to do so - and given the torrential rain we had yesterday there really was quite a lot of mud around, our crud-catchers doing a remarkably good job it has to be said! The bikes still needed a good hose down when we got home, but we remained almost 100% muck-free.

We celebrated our anniversary a day late because apart from today being Katy's day off, yesterday we were entertaining Katy's parents for dinner, with her mum's birthday fast approaching. We've been doing quite a lot of Moroccan cuisine lately, and yesterday we prepared particularly scrumptious spiced lamb with pittas and plenty of other regional accompaniments. Slight miscalculation, with both starter and dessert involving pineapple, but hey it's good for us, even if it didn't entirely follow the Mediterranean theme!

No cycling for the last couple of days but we did get out for a walk today, more or less (but not quite) in between showers. We wanted to check out a route we might cycle with my parents soon, but we were aware we were driving into murk, and the heavens did indeed open on us on the way to Odiham. But we still managed to get an hour or so's walk by the Basingstoke Canal, and only got rained on for the last ten minutes or so. And I think we have now worked out a reasonable route for a cycle ride with a few choices for a pub lunch.

I guess we'd better brace ourselves for the begging letters and the long-lost relatives coming out of the woodwork. On the other hand, perhaps not. We might be having a bit of a winning streak on the local hospice lottery, but it's only another fiver!

Maybe third time lucky for the grand?

And we promptly spent half of it back at said hospice's charity shop, stocking up on reading matter - including The Da Vinci Code, which we thought we should enlighten ourselves by taking with a pinch of salt reading.

This morning I started going properly back to basics with a rework of the software I'm developing. I know at this rate it'll never get released, but there was no way I was going to be able to rigorously test it and be proud of it as it was, and there are no specific deadlines. So, the plan is to be nicely object-oriented throughout, applying all the lessons learnt from my first attempt. I tried retrofitting an object model but I soon realised it was merely differently bad and needed to be redesigned from the ground up.

And this afternoon we went mountain biking, for the first time in a week, but the bleeper's just gone on the cooker which means our roast lamb is ready so I'll have to leave this for now!

Yes, so we went out on our bikes for a bit yesterday afternoon. The roads between here and our favourite forest park can be a bit soul-destroying, so we parked at the edge of the forest instead. We did a lap of the designated cycle route by way of a warm-up, and then got a bit more adventurous on some other paths we knew. There is no clear indication of what is and isn't supposed to be accessible to bikes, so we just went carefully (not that we met a soul) and walked where necessary. Blasting around the main route at high speed is exhilarating, but negotiating the mud and undergrowth much more fun! The latter was tiring though, and Katy took a breather while I shot off for another lap of the main route, getting my time down to 14 minutes for the three-mile circuit, though that was as much due to the paths being more or less empty save the occasional dog-walker rather than me having become any more competent. The last little bit to the forest centre was still a killer - I'm not sure why, because it's not that steep, but I guess is just such that all previous momentum has been expended. Oh, and once we'd cycled back to the car, Katy suggested I might have the energy still to ride home, so we loaded just Katy's bike up on to the car again, and I did just that. All very good exercise for us both anyway, though our legs were stiffer than they've been for a couple of weeks!

So, Facebook's down for the afternoon, well at least that's one fewer distraction to my getting on with work. No word on why - just suddenly stopped responding and/or displaying messages saying affected accounts would be unavailable for "a few hours". When it works, it's a nice little system, so much better than MySpace, but I can't help suspecting that today's downtime is due to it growing too fast - not only in terms of the near exponential increase in members, but the rather hurried implementation of what they term "applications" which allow third parties to potentially run riot on users' accounts, and by all appearances not actually working very well. I fear that even if they can sort out whatever today's problem is (and if it is down to security of applications, that "few hours" estimate could turn out to be optimistic...) they may have lost the plot anyway. Facebook has got where is has in part due to their previous adherence to the well-known "KISS" principle, ensuring that members' pages do not turn into dysfunctional disaster areas, but it's looking like those days might be over. Still, on the bright side, no-one logging in means no-one for the CIA to gather information on, right?

Today we updated Katy's music listening for the 21st century, though it took us a couple of attempts! She's been having to do a little more travelling for work of late, and wanted an mp3 player to while away those long train journeys. Needless to say, the idea of spending £100+ on something with a household name and more form than function didn't appeal too much, so having looked at some possibilities, we ended up going to Argos when we drove into town this morning. Alas though, the Idisgo model we bought turned out to be a load of rubbish, with a useless display and navigation scheme - unstructured 1GB storage with no track names! - and worst of all, a nasty prolonged hiss in the left earpiece about 50% of the times any of the controls were operated. So with a slight easing of the rain this afternoon we decided we'd get some exercise and walk back into town, and thankfully Argos didn't bat an eyelid when we asked for our money back. But in mitigation we did buy a different model as a replacement, an Aigo one with twice the storage for hardly any extra money - and although its navigation is still a bit clunky, it's got much better features, displays useful information and sounds great. So I'm just finishing off ripping and transferring a few more of Katy's favourite CDs, then she'll be ready for that next Manchester trip! Just a little galling that the whole player cost less than a mere memory card of the same capacity for my phone did from eBay only a few months ago...

Pity any poor people who might have gone along to the Farnham Carnival this evening, given that it's been lashing it down for most of about the last four hours, and hasn't totally stopped raining at all today... We can imagine there will be some very disappointed kids who've put in a lot of effort, but sadly c'est la vie. As one article in the paper recently put it, goodness knows where "flaming June" got its reputation, unless said adjective is more of a euphemism than a strictly temperature-related description.

Amid the more serious aspects of the rather troubling news from Glasgow Airport early today, it was somewhat amusing to hear a taxi driver being the BBC's prime witness. With only a couple of fuzzy stills to speculate around, Auntie Beeb positively leapt at the chance of having a real genuine eye-witness to fill in the gaps. Now taxi drivers do have a bit of a reputation for an opinion on everything, but this one really did take the biscuit, being no mere boaster but a world-class expert on security and international relations. He stopped short of stating that the burning car incident "bore all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda" (as is the traditional pronouncement within minutes of any terrorist-style attack of any nature, regardless of precedent - been used as the basis for a couple of wars, you know) but he said everything but that, and certainly hinted at it. Oh, and you'll never guess who he had in the back of his cab the other day...

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