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David's diary: November 2008

Bit of a hectic and occasionally fraught weekend, but overall on the good side of average - and today's invoicing day which is always a nice feeling, even if I'm still likely to make a slight loss after paying myself.

Friday afternoon we went with Katy's parents and our nephew to the rather lovely Winkworth Arboretum, enjoying the last of the autumn colours, before joining Katy's sister at the nearby Harvester for a typically good nosh-up, then back at home doing our best to steer clear of the inevitable trick-or-treaters.

Saturday was a Bex and Si breakfast day, and in the evening we attended the Mellow Design fifth birthday bash which was good apart from the faulty heating in the hall! Sunday morning we were on church set-up, but thankfully had a quieter day otherwise. Sometime in the midst of all this I managed to chip a molar, which thankfully is not particularly hurting, but that's just as well seeing as the earliest I can get an NHS appointment is the end of next week...

Other than that, we heard the sad news yesterday that our erstwhile neighbour Peter had passed away; we'd gathered he was rather ill, but really weren't expecting quite such a rapid decline from his still fairly sprightly self when he moved house last year. Puts my tooth thing a bit in perspective, too.

So yesterday was Katy's birthday. In her childhood Katy reportedly laboured under the belief that all the fireworks going off really were in her honour, but it's still a nice notion to hold on to! In the end, with pretty foul weather I don't think there were many pyrotechnics being enjoyed or endured. Hopefully Saturday evening might have better weather, and if it is, we might go to the town display - or at least find a suitable freeloading vantage point. We certainly didn't regret foregoing the rugby club display last Saturday, being probably even fouler than last night.

Anyway, Katy's birthday... Well weather permitting we were going to go to Marwell Zoo, but the weather didn't permit so we went to Basingstoke instead. After a sleepless night thanks to strange noises from our water pipes, we weren't up and about as early as hoped, so had about an hour's shopping before adjourning to Ciao Baby for burger and pizza (both very tasty and filling) and then on to the Leisure Park to finally redeem our Odeon passes to watch Quantum of Solace. The film had received a damning one-star review in the Saturday Times, and we'd heard that was somewhat unfair, and it was. Not a brilliant film by any means, and inferior to its direct prequel, but definitely above average. Then in the evening we had home-group, and we'd been adventurous by doing our first ever bit of baking, what turned out to be an utterly delicious chocolate fudge brownie cake, which went down very happily with the six of us there.

This week will officially go down as Chocolate Brownie Week, with both a chocolate brownie pudding and chocolate brownie cake round at Jo and Ian's yesterday evening to add to our earlier culinary endeavours. Today's been a funny old day really, having had an exceptional lie-in this morning, which was very fortuitous for one of our neighbours who was in the midst of a major flooding incident and we were about the only people around to help! If we'd been up at our normal time we'd have been off doing our shopping. Instead, by the time we'd helped mop out our neighbour's hallway and kitchen it was nigh-on lunch-time, but we found Yates's in Aldershot were doing exceptional all-day breakfasts as part of their two meals for £5.95 deal, so that did us well until a bit of tea late this afternoon. Raining again this evening, so no great desire to trudge in the mud to see the main town fireworks, but we did have a wander into town anyway and caught most of the display from the railway footbridge on the way back. Now drying off and pondering exactly what we'll cook for our friends visiting for Sunday lunch tomorrow!

Yesterday was really good, with Mel, Amanda and Lydia coming round for lunch after church - chicken, vegetable and salad wraps, we decided in the end, which went down happily enough. Then by the time we had amused ourselves with our friends' Wii tennis, bunny-dancing and cow-hurling exploits, it was time to be thinking about the evening meeting where Yarden were finally leading worship. That was a really blessed and anointed couple of hours, and it's been literally years since I've felt so liberated to worship as intended, and to really not care what anyone else but God thought. So back to earth with a bit of a bump today, but no regrets.

Oh, by the way, I've redesigned my business website, www.goznet.co.uk. The content's largely the same for the moment (though has expanded recently anyway, especially the FAQ) but I've overhauled the visual theme to make it a bit more... well, contemporary. Please do let me know what you think, especially in the unlikely event that you can remember what it was like before!

A slightly sad afternoon as we gave our former neighbour Peter his send-off. As far as I can remember it was the first time I'd been to a church funeral for someone who'd lasted the course, so I've no idea if including communion is the norm, but that (along with tomorrow's commemorations) certainly brought an interesting angle of remembrance to it all, and the service included plenty of amusing anecdotes and so on to keep things far from morbid whilst remaining perfectly dignified. So RIP, Peter, and we're looking forward to seeing you again some day!

More power glitches today, though things seem to have settled down again now. Frustrating, though, and again I am pondering getting a cheap UPS - though since the broadband typically goes down too, it won't necessarily be as much help as might be hoped. In better news, two parcels in the post today: a new book of cryptic crosswords for us to puzzle over, and (hopefully, she's not opened it yet) Katy's new watch, since her old one needed both a new strap and a new battery, and a complete replacement cost hardly any more!

Katy's watch was all right too. It's a little larger than her old one, but that was perhaps a little on the small size anyway, and she gains a much-wanted second hand with this one, which might not have worked so well on a smaller design. Still neat and tidy, and up to Lorus's usual good standard of finish, so all in all quite happy with it. Having been so efficient and such good value, I guess I'd better add The Watch Hut to my preferred retailer links!

Oh, has another week gone by? Not been the wildest week ever, but a few things of note. Particularly, I had to go to the dentist on Friday (not my favourite excursion, it would have to be said) but at least it means that broken tooth of mine is being sorted out, a task hopefully to be completed tomorrow with a mere filling. We had Si, Bex, Mali and Elijah round for a curry on Saturday evening, after having breakfasted at theirs in the morning, and Cate came round to share a bottle of wine on Tuesday evening - all very civilised sociable pursuits!

Katy's parents were in France for a few days, and we'd agree we would take their PC in while they were away and try and sort out some long-running issues. In the end, by far the most straightforward approach was to start from scratch by wiping the PC and reinstalling as minimal a version of Windows XP as Packard-Bell's recovery procedure allowed. After we'd thought we would have to do that for someone else recently, we were all geared up with a Knoppix Live CD and our external hard disk to back everything up on to and restore their documents and photos from afterwards, so although quite slow (especially with only USB 1.1) the procedure from start to finish was reasonably painless, and we've had email confirmation this morning that Katy's parents are seeing a vast improvement in how Windows is performing.

I'm also vaguely starting a new software project. I've had a couple of arty types approach me over the last few days with regard to wanting a web-based portfolio set up. Typically such people don't have any budget to speak of, so although my rates are good, they're still more than some people really want to pay. So I'm tentatively starting work on a system to make it easy to create portfolios, and in so doing, brushing up my distinctly rusty Java programming skills. I remember when I first programmed in Java, back at the Open University, and it was a breath of fresh air, being a syntactically genuinely elegant language, with its cross-platform abilities being the icing on the cake. However, many years on, I'm now more used to PHP, which is far less elegant but much richer in terms of functionality, making it easier to write real-world software. But only for the web, really, and what I am starting on now really has to run on the user's desktop, hence the return to Java - and although I can enjoy an ideological glow, it's a bit painful going back to using ten lines of code where one would have done the job in PHP!

Now back from the dentist, and my mouth is feeling a bit bashed around on that side but hopefully nothing that won't pass. Although I had to put my hand up once during the inevitable drilling, the most unpleasant bit was them struggling to wrap a glorified jubilee clip round the tooth in order to keep the filling contained as they squirted in the amalgam, and it's probably the aftermath of that more than anything that I can feel as the anaesthetic wears off.

Meanwhile, and completely unconnected, I've hopefully got a new client I'll be doing some stuff for in the new year, having yesterday fixed up a meeting for January. It will most likely be slightly uncharted territory for me, since they would appear to be constrained to using Microsoft's IIS rather than Apache, and that will probably mean developing in ASP (or perhaps ASP.NET) rather than PHP. However, the concepts should be much the same, and I used to develop in Visual Basic many years ago, so I'm not anticipating too many headaches. I've managed to get IIS up and running on my own PC, so have a working development environment, and I'm actually quite looking forward to getting my teeth into something new and CV-friendly.

Quite a busy weekend, but not enough to justify how tired we both are today. Saturday we went up to Reading to see our friends there, and that included a sunny but decidedly chilly bike ride (well for Darren and myself anyway!) at Dinton Pastures, excising the memory of three years ago when our friends' car was broken into. Sunday we went to both the morning and evening church services, helping out at the evening one with setting up and the audio-visual side of things. Not too late a finish, so not really too sure why we've been struggling quite so much today, but we did get out for a little while at lunchtime and bought in some bits for sausage and bacon rolls, so feeling a little better for them being inside us and keeping us warm!

Having a seriously lethargic and "down" week, it has to be said. Waffles with Nutella for breakfast, and sugary cakes brought round by Jo earlier, helped lift things a little but really this one's a wipe-out. Not helped by really seriously hating Java now, especially since yesterday it jokingly pretended to have corrupted the Windows registry. Developing with it is just so slow and unrewarding, too, and I've not even got on to the difficult bits of this project yet...

Blah blah blah, but at least the weekend's not too far off now, not that it promises to be the most relaxing ever. Took a break from the somewhat speculative Java programming today to do a little - shock horror - paying work, namely getting a contact form working on a client's client's website, which ended up a little more fraught than expected due to server configuration issues. This afternoon we've been out shopping, including getting some potting compost for our dracaena, which we need to take a cutting off - but not including getting any Christmas lights, finding all the ranges available just plain bizarre in terms of not including sensible numbers of bulbs. Seriously fading out by the time we got home, but thankfully nothing else we need to do today, and we have nice reduced-to-clear Chinese to eat in a short while.

And now the weekend really is here, not having managed to do a great deal today Java-wise. Even loading and saving code is tedious, and I've just started looking at customising the JTree component and am seriously thinking I should have taken up goat-herding all those years ago.

On a more positive and constructive note, though, I wonder if Katy will approve of cracking open a bottle of wine over our posh fish and chips we'll be cooking any time now...

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