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David's diary: December 2008

The weekend could have been a lot worse in the end, particularly yesterday morning when we were on church set-up/hospitality duty and for once there were no significant issues to contend with. Saturday breakfast chez Simon and Bex, and an impromptu lunch at the Slug and Lettuce with Ian and Jo conspired to make it all quite sociably civilised. Not that we're brimming with energy as a result, but things could have been an awful lot worse.

Back to Java programming today and realising just how much I've forgotten over the last five years. I'm 99% certain all the issues I'm facing are ones I've tackled before, but can I remember a bit of it?! It really is looking increasingly likely I'll be junking this project in its current form, which is a shame, but it's dead time anyway at the moment so at least I couldn't have been spending it doing something significantly more worthwhile, and the concept's still good.

Business is deathly quiet at the moment, it has to be said. I know there's some stuff coming up for the church, that promises to be reasonably substantial, and a few other potentially paying bits in the offing, but things are overall pretty dormant. Thankfully I've got a bit of a buffer in my business account, so I can carry on paying myself the meagre salary I take, which will help us through Christmas, but I can't honestly claim prospects aren't a tad bleak right now.

Hope you don't mind, but I've added Google Ads to this site. It's supposed to display text and image advertisements, but I've only seen text ones so far. If it does serve images and they turn out to be obtrusive - or, heaven forbid, inappropriate - I can easily switch to text only. Anyway, hopefully this will generate a little bit of extra pocket money - mainly thanks to this diary and the random search keyword hits it attracts, this remains substantially my most popular site!

Wow, it's almost the weekend again - and guess what, it's another potentially busy one, though perhaps not quite so actively on our part as the last one, and we can opt out of at least some of it if need be. More when it's all over, maybe...

Hmm, just upgraded to Firefox 3, since Firefox 2 is apparently no longer going to be supported from later this month, and I'm only a little more convinced about its quality and fitness for use than I was when I gave it a test drive on release. I notice on adding this diary entry that every time I press return the screen jumps, which never used to happen. I guess it might be something to do with the adverts, but I'm pretty sure it didn't happen when I added Wednesday's entries. OK, I've just this moment upgraded the editor I use to the latest build, and it seems to be resolved. Oh the sheer joy of complex Javascript DOM interaction. Next stop no doubt will have to be IE8 compatibility, which may prove somewhat less straightforward to fix.

Other things that have proven not to be entirely straightforward lately have included lighting - particularly getting LED Christmas lights suitable for our tree, and (since it blew the other day) a replacement bulb for one of our bedside lamps. But yesterday we finally bit the bullet and decided that a set of eighty "warm white" LEDs would be OK for our tree - and with a fiver plus VAT reduction off what they were last time we'd looked, it would have been rude not to. Eighty seemed rather a lot of LEDs, but we think it will work out well, since each LED is somewhat smaller than our old incandescent bulbs, and we wanted more coverage than before anyway. As for the bedside lamp, that was a bit of a wild goose chase, but we're reasonably happy with the outcome. Our lamps use the G9 fitting (which merely defines the terminals as being 9mm apart), and recommend using Osram bulbs, though we weren't too bothered about that last stipulation. However, prices varied wildly, and it turned out the physical size of the bulbs did too - to the extent that it really wasn't at all clear what would physically fit in the limited space available. In the end we went for Homebase's own brand bulbs, which were the same price as their Philips ones but definitely would fit. So far so good with both the Christmas lights and the bedside lamp, but why should buying simple lighting be so fraught? Oh, and because fate's having a bit of a laugh, last night we found one of our halogen spots had blown, and indeed the fitting is not too reassuringly fixed to the ceiling - but thanks to the previous owners of the house having rather overdone things with spots, it's barely worth bothering even replacing the bulb.

OK, the weekend's over, and what with us both being a little under the weather, we made jolly certain it wasn't half as hectic as it might have been. Friday evening we had our church leaders' Christmas meal, which was pretty good from both food and company points of view. It was probably our main such do this year, so we were quite happy to dress up a bit and didn't mind the sumptuous food in the least, oh no! We largely took things easy from then on, with Meryl round for an impromptu curry on Saturday, then saving our energies for the Sunday evening church meeting, with guests Bob Craine and Yarden largely overseeing proceedings ministry and worship-wise for those who braved the icy roads! Not exactly straight back to work today though, needing to do some deli shopping in advance of the home-group Christmas supper we've organised, but now I need to try and muster some enthusiasm for matters more dull.

I had another dental appointment this morning, this time with the hygienist, for a so-called scale and polish. The latter was OK, basically a supercharged brushing, but I'll do my best to avoid needing the former again - and have plenty of advice on so doing! It's bad enough having dentists prodding around with their pointy thing, without said pointy thing also vibrating at the perfect frequency to (quite literally) set one's teeth on edge. But I guess that's how they work... At least when they drill they anaesthetise! Anyway, that's all done for six months now, barring unforeseens. Phew. These dentists may be better than many, but they're still dentists!

Almost the end of the week, and we've got a nice meal to look forward to tomorrow evening. We also had our home-group supper last night, which went really well, with all eleven people expected turning up and enjoying our unashamedly pretty decent spread of cold meats, French breads and more. Just about getting into the festive mood now, and we'll put the tree up (with its brand new lights) at the weekend, in advance of what will be the last home-group meeting of the term, which we're hosting here.

We were pondering going into Aldershot today, but I in particular never quite managed the motivation, so instead we took a late afternoon stroll into Farnham, where I checked out the so-called "closing down sale" at Woolies, which was (as others have observed) no different to that of the last few days, just with barer shelves and sadder staff. Rather amused though that their receipt for my secret Santa gift and a new toothbrush pot for the bathroom says: "Avoid Jan Sale queues, Xmas returns can be accepted from Monday 29th Dec". Isn't that being a bit presumptive as to the likelihood of there even being any stores to return anything to by then?

This evening I've been trying to sort out Lizzie's PC via Windows XP's Remote Assistance, which actually worked for the first time in recorded history. Taking a short break from it at the moment while it reboots and does a slightly deeper malware scan, and hoping I might get a call soon to say it's ready for me to log into again and finish up the last few bits of housekeeping. Nowhere near as much of a disaster area as I might have feared given the background story Lizzie filled me in on over the phone, but still a little work to do!

Saturday evening, and pondering whether to go to Vineyard's Got Talent tonight - we probably ought, especially as I fear the clash with the climax of the TV talent shows may dwindle numbers somewhat, let alone the miserable weather. Breakfast this morning was as good as ever, with Bex cooking up her trademark chorizo hash and everyone anonymously swapping their secret Santa gifts - me getting sweeties and a few fun stationery bits, and Katy getting an animals finger-puppet kit including the compulsory penguin. Our meal with Ian and Jo was good last night too, procuring a family feast from their favourite Chinese takeaway and augmenting it with a couple of extra dishes. Just right for the four of us in the end, and leaving us not too bloated to play Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party, which lived up to its promise of being the first game controllable with one's backside as well as being generally quite decent as we have come to expect from that particular franchise! Anyway, if we are going out (and perhaps we should, if only to see Guy's reportedly specially pierced ear!) we'd better get cooking our chicken curry...

Sadly the pierced ear was not entirely 100% truthful (at all), but it was a good evening, we're glad we dragged ourselves along, and we can confirm that Vineyard really has got talent, and in bucket-loads - even if only seaside bucket-loads. Lulu was a popular overall winner with her very competent rendition of White Flag, but the less said about the eventual second-place act the better, to protect the reputation of our pastor and assistant pastor and our memories of Sonny and Cher in happier times. Meryl and Clare's interpretation of Rossini's Duet for two cats went down well as the quality novelty act of the night, and was perhaps the main reason we went, and who could but be entranced by Matt and Millie's Spanish juggling act?

Had a bit of a lazy Sunday today, needing a lie-in this morning more than a batch of baby dedications, though we'll hopefully be heading out to More...? later for this weekend's second dose of church Christmas spirit. Dragged ourselves out to Pizza Express for lunch, however, making good use of the one-weekend-only voucher in yesterday's paper, and popped into the Hogsback Brewery off-licence on the way to buy a few goodies.

Oh, and our Christmas tree which went up yesterday seems to have started a bit of a trend, with a few more lights and decorations of varying taste visible on the close now. We'd wondered when one house in particular was going to gain its customary adornments, but noted the owner up on a ladder earlier and although their lights have not yet been switched on, we can see the ghostly shape of a Santa waiting to be revealed to the world.

Katy also, curiously, received a Christmas tree in the post - and a real Norway spruce no less, albeit only a very tiny sapling. Some kind of eco-friendly carbon-offsetting initiative on the part of her company, it would seem, though quite how many will end up planted versus immediately binned, and how many polluting trips had to be made to post offices to collect parcels unable to be delivered, will probably never be known. Undeniably cute though.

More...? was a bit of a strange one, with Will's cover band Steam doing an acoustic set with (for at least the first part) a suitably Christmassy feel. But somehow it just didn't quite click and seemed a bit overly "worthy", with the band only really managing to let their hair down by the closing minutes with a perfectly decent Abba medley. Still, nice to get out, it was ultimately a lot of fun, and the company was good. So not seriously complaining!

The last couple of days I've been subcontracting on tidying up another website. Well, got to get business somehow! More or less done now, and hopefully I will be able to pass it back to the original contractor for any content changes the client wants. Took a little longer than expected due to the slightly bizarre structure of most of the pages, but I gather I may well be being paid somewhat more than I quoted for the job, so these things will all balance out in the end!

The week's almost done, and probably pretty much the year, work-wise. Had a few bits and bobs to do this week though, which were anything but unwelcome. Not enough to pay my way really, but better than nothing! With all respect to Meryl, home group last night was a flop, with just Meryl making it in the end. So we worked out the chords to a few more worship songs, had a bit of a jam with whatever instruments we could find, and had a game of Scrabble. This term always was going to be a bit of a funny one for home group, thanks to Alpha and other pressure upon our number; the question is whether we can reverse the trend in the new year...

So Katy's worked her last hours for the year, and after lunch we tried to do a little more Christmas shopping this afternoon at Badshot Lea, but with little success. Had a bit more work to do this morning, but I expect that really is it for the year for me also now, so I've done my periodic PC "housekeeping" and backing up with that in mind. Still about 100GB space left on this external drive, so thinking the new year could be a really good time to back up and reinstall the whole PC. It's essentially still OK, just increasingly chugs a bit and undoubtedly has several layers of rubbish that won't really shift except through sheer nuking.

Sunday afternoon, and whiling away a few moments before we go to our carol service, surely marking the beginning of Christmas proper. I have emailed all my clients to advise that barring emergencies I'm essentially not available for the next couple of weeks, so Christmas and the new year really can happen now.

Had a nice evening yesterday, with Katy's parents round for dinner. They'd said before that they like (but rarely get to have) Mexican, so we cooked up beef fajitas with all the trimmings. Indeed we pushed the boat out a bit, going for posh mature sirloin rather than our usual cheap and cheerful rump steak (though on special offer it didn't work out much if any more anyway!) and it was melt-in-the-mouth delicious.

So we've had a mainly nice quiet day today, with no church (and indeed it was a morning we were due to be on set-up duty) and just an hour or so of craziness when we popped in on Katy's sister and family who were visiting said siblings' mum and dad, to swap our last few presents - with me getting surely my most ususual gift of the year, a Cyberman-shaped bottle of bubble bath! Of course, good uncles as I try to be also sometimes have to be deftly-handed, and I was soon roped into helping finish off a rather fiddly Meccano-style jeep that Daniel was struggling to construct thanks to a distinct lack of instructions. Moroccan chicken is marinading and just about ready to cook, and I doubt we will last very much longer - though perhaps have another try at Super Paper Mario which we picked up half-price in Woolies yesterday and are finding ourselves not particularly good at... Now, how do we defeat that wretched Fracktail?!

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