goznet ...

David's diary: October 2007

So, wanting a new CD release, which of these alternatives did I go for?

  • Pay Amazon £16.49, for an imported version, available immediately
  • Pay Amazon £12.45, for the UK version, and wait "4 to 6 weeks" for dispatch
  • Pay play.com £10.99, for the UK version, though they say it's not out for a fortnight
  • Pay CD WOW £9.99, for a product they've not got a word of information about
  • Hit Buy it now on eBay, for £8.00, and find it on the doormat this morning

Yeah OK, that was a bit obvious really. No idea how the seller in question got the new Fauxliage release so early; I'd assumed it would be a US or Canadian import but it's actually a pukka shrinkwrapped UK version. And you know what, I'm not going to ask.

In the meantime, another month has passed, which is a bit depressing. On the other hand, it does mean it's invoicing day and another £220-worth of Goznet letter-headed PDFs winging their way over the ether as I speak. I might be about to get some new work, which obviously is a good thing, and there's some more I've done that I may yet be able to invoice for. It's hardly profitable yet, but decidedly better than a kick in the teeth!

I managed to turn off from work pretty much completely for the weekend. Well I might have given it some thought now and then, but I determinedly managed to avoid doing anything, happily to say. We had breakfast round with Simon and Becki on Saturday, making a new friend there for good measure, and we had lunch out yesterday with Katy's mum and dad, fresh back from a trip to France, and Jo and Ian. While in Aldershot for the latter, we briefly met with Kit and George, who very kindly gave us a set of Cranium that they'd picked up for a song at a car boot sale. What utter stars! Oh, and finally there was More...? in the evening, featuring Grace's band Tuesday's Child, which was perfectly good but we were both running on vapour by then so perhaps didn't appreciate as much as we should have!

Katy's been up in London today, so obviously it was the day for a massive security alert at Waterloo, thanks to someone apparently trying to get through the Eurostar security carrying what Reuters describe as "suspicious articles" and trying to do a runner... By all accounts, that Katy's train is only running about 40 minutes late, is somewhat of a miracle. Normally she tries to get away early to avoid the rush, but I think she might be glad she didn't this time!

Had a pleasant walk into town this morning, got done everything I wanted without any trouble at all (now there's a first) and saw two kingfishers on the way home! My main mission was to drop off some advertising postcards at the guitar shop, having had a short but very civil email chat with one of the guys there, who insisted on not taking a penny off me for the privilege. But as a thank-you I didn't hesitate to buy the new capo I'd been meaning to get for a while - especially since I now seem to have lost the old one anyway. Slightly expensive, but it's brilliant, and hopefully the shop will get me some business now anyway... And it's also now time for attempt number three on the wireless weather station front, having popped into Lidl's for one of their £9.99 special offerings. The last two from Maplin were duds, but this one appears to be from a completely different manufacturer and will hopefully prove markedly superior!

Well so far, that penny under a tenner seems well-spent. Of course, the proof of the pudding will be whether the Lidl weather station survives overnight. Surely it can't be worse than the Maplin one that recorded 18.9°C just after Christmas... Anyway, I know it's early but it's time for bed methinks - and besides, no-one seems to be playing Scrabulous tonight.

I just saw a UFO! Well, it was a UFO until I hurriedly got the binoculars out, when it quickly became very definitely an IFO - a gold foil helium party balloon, glinting randomly in the sunlight as it drifted up, up and away from its no doubt tearful small owner... For Katy's benefit, I don't think there was a Lego man attached, though.

Being a bit sad like that, I did have to wonder how high such a balloon could rise. I would imagine that the limiting factor is when the helium pressure inside the balloon exceeds the air pressure outside sufficiently to burst it. Foil balloons are not inflated to the same extent as rubber balloons, but on the other hand they are not made of as elastic a material and have fragile seams. That's to say, the strain put on the skin will be less with the foil balloon, but it has less ability to cope with the stress that there is before the seams tear. I'm sure someone (perhaps eyeing a future Ig Nobel prize?) has looked into the science of this, but let's just say I have a hunch Friday's balloon may have gone up quite a long way. Katy's infamous Lego man, however, was piloting a rubber balloon and I suspect he didn't get to see the curvature of the earth before whatever fate eventually befell him.

Quite a busy and sociable weekend, so both pretty tired come Monday but at least it's justifiable! We partied away Friday night at our friend Mel's house, took a bottle of wine round to Cate's on Saturday night, and had George and Kit round for a curry lunch and much Cranium yesterday. Plus all the usual Saturday/Sunday stuff... Busy busy busy, but fun too!

Oh, and I shouldn't forget our Saturday afternoon bike ride either - the first time we'd been out for quite a while for various reasons. We'd been intending to make it out to the Watts Gallery tea-room at Compton where we'd been by car about three weeks ago, but in the end it was quite enough of an achievement for us to get to the crafts centre at Seale. Looking at in on the map in retrospect we always were a bit ambitious, and the twelve miles we did do really weren't at all bad under the circumstances! Good cakes and coffee nonetheless, and all very healthy exercise, so really not complaining - other than a bit of saddle-soreness and stiff legs...

You can always tell when I'm busy, because entries in here become fewer and further between - and my turns on Scrabulous get a bit behind... This time it's because I'm setting to work on my next non-client project, and making pretty storming progress it has to be said. As usual I'm not going to give anything away of what I'm actually producing, but the interesting aspect of this for me is that it's the first time I've used AJAX. For some reason AJAX has somehow become perceived as inseparable from the whole accursed monster that is dubbed "Web 2.0", but it's simply a rather excellent bit of technology that could have been useful years ago. Perhaps all that gives the clue that it's not a household cleaning product or a Dutch football team, but the acronym for Asynchronous Javascript And XML, which basically lets web pages interact with their web-servers in a far smoother and less obtrusive way than the traditional form submission model. And to my great surprise, it's both dead easy, and widely compatible without great effort. I rarely say such things, but it's definitely cool!

A bit of a sleepy Saturday, thanks to a few nights on the trot with too little sleep through no fault of our own - except perhaps a little too much coffee. Last night was going quite well, until about 5 o'clock, when we were woken from our shallow slumbers by the cacophony of bleeping from our phones that accompanies a power cut. All credit (well almost) to Southern Electric, who having been alerted of the problem ten minutes later (we were the first to phone in) had it fixed in about an hour - with more bleeping from the phones, of course. Only almost all credit, because they phoned us at about 6.15 to confirm the power was back - nice to have such courtesy calls, but perhaps not when we might just about have got back to sleep again...

Anyway, despite being bleary-eyed, that meant by the time we went round to Becki and Simon's for breakfast we were as awake as we were going to get. We walked into town later for a bite of lunch and a bit of food shopping, but apart from that we've battened the hatches today with the newspaper for company. Getting late now; hopefully better sleep will be forthcoming!

Weird wireless problems tonight, starting when Katy noticed we were getting very slow connection speeds - and unable to be sure whether due to wireless or broadband issues. We tried to repair the wireless connection and it wouldn't reconnect at all. On further investigation, however, Katy's laptop connected fine, and speed-tested full steam ahead... After half an hour of general hair-pulling, we tried the last ditch attempt of reconfiguring the router to work on a different wireless channel - and lo and behold, we could connect. But now only on the desktop, not the laptop, which will have to wait until another day for more testing. We suspect it might have something to do with the skip-sized generator that's running 24/7 at the bottom of the road (apparently Friday night's power cut was not fully repaired, and a couple of properties are having to be provided with an emergency electricity supply) though of course it could equally be that someone's just set up a new network in the close, either sensibly hiding its SSID or using 802.11n, that was interfering. Perhaps there really are health issues associated with wireless - but they're more due to induced stress levels than radiation!

We've got the wireless up and running again. I'm still not sure why the initial problem affected only the desktop and not the laptop, but I know why our temporary solution worked only on the desktop. We set the wireless channel on the router to 12, and it seems like Katy's laptop recognises a maximum channel number of 11, in line with US wireless regulations, some kind of international lowest common denominator I guess. The enormous generator's still whirring away and I remain suspicious it's the source of the interference, but while everything seems to be working stably I doubt we'll worry too much about changing anything back when it goes.

That means I've been able to get on with my work, and the new site is taking shape rapidly. AJAX is proving not just to be rather cool from a user experience point of view, but arguably more efficient from a development perspective. Say you have a form, with fields that need to be validated by the server, and feedback returned to the user if they are not appropriate completed. Traditionally that would have meant submitting the form data, validating it on the server, and building a new page with appropriate hints, styling etc, making sure that the submitted data (whether right or wrong) was re-used as defaults for all the fields. With AJAX the server response can just say "field X is invalid", triggering a few lines of Javascript to adjust the field's appearance in situ. Simple!

But it's not been all work, having got out on our bikes yesterday morning. We took the car up to Frimley Lodge, then cycled a 12-mile loop taking in the Basingstoke Canal tow-path and the Blackwater Valley Path. Not exactly stunning scenery, it all being rather flat by necessity, but the latter had its advantages for us unfit types, and it was still all rather pretty. And decidedly muddy... I'm not sure if the bikes were the muddiest ever when we got them home and gave them a good hose-down but certainly we were!

And yesterday evening we got out to the first Vineyard prayer meeting since we officially took ownership of Church House in town. The one last month was literally hours before contracts were due to be exchanged, but this time there was no rent to pay, hooray! We had a good time of worship, then prayed around as much of the building as we could get into (Terry's still getting the hang of the keys, and we have some "sitting tenants" we need to work around for the time being) and also about the ministry trip to Romania a goodly number of people are off on in only a couple of weeks' time.

So altogether busy and active, that's got to be good!

And almost a week on, what's new in the world..?

Well in the absence of too much client work, I've been pressing on with this new website, and it's taking shape most encouragingly. In fact there are only a very few bits I need to add before I can put it live, and I've registered and set up the domain in anticipation. As with Diary 4 that went before it, I really have no idea what the site's public reception will be, but the business model is quite different, and if this earns me a bit more respect it could well feed back positively into the other things I'm offering.

Other than that, well the biggest news is we have a Wii! We'd been planning on getting one as a joint Christmas present to each other, but availability has again dropped through the floor, so it was a case of striking while the iron was hot and getting one when we could - in our case when Katy spotted that Argos at Farnborough had got a few in. That might have meant we held off playing with it until Christmas, but hey, we're not that self-disciplined! So we've been having lots of fun playing tennis, golf and baseball, ten-pin bowling, cow-racing and generally making immense fools of ourselves. If all that's a mystery to you, book a visit!

Oh, and we went along with our friend Ian (Jo alas being unwell) to our local Oxjam last night. We weren't going to last out for the whole four hours, but we made it to well over half way and saw four of the acts. Two were a bit indifferent, but Byron Johnston and Billy Irvine were class, and worth the entrance fee alone. And all for charity, so everyone's a winner!

Sunday evening, and after quite a busy weekend we're not going to make it to More...? tonight. We spent yesterday morning helping with gardening at our newly-acquired church centre, and we were on the set-up team for church this morning, so we've been quite happy to batten the hatches for much of the rest of the time, making a small concession for a lunchtime curry out with Ian and Jo today. Managed once again to completely avoid my day-to-day work this weekend, thankfully. I remain well on schedule for a launch within the next couple of weeks, and I've had a few clients paying invoices this month, so although the business could be doing better, it's as healthy as it's ever looked, just over a year into its legal existence. Yes, the 23rd was my anniversary of officially starting up for tax purposes, though in practice I wasn't running under full steam until the beginning of the year.

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