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David's diary: November 2009

Been rather under the weather for the last few days, but that didn't have to stop "little things" like enjoying Katy's birthday curry out with Ian and Jo, and going to the rugby club fireworks on Saturday night with Bex and the boys - though it did mean spending a large part of Sunday recovering, alas... This afternoon I'm just waiting for a phone call from a prospective new client - and just getting lots of unrelated sales calls instead. I had a good natter with his colleague earlier, and am really quite looking forward to getting my teeth into the work proposed!

Limited progress with that job, but it's still "on" as far as I know - just need to be patient! Bit more activity on another new potential job, with quite a flurry of emails going to and fro, so hopefully one if not both of these can kick off properly this coming week. Despite the best efforts of the pretty much utterly foul weather this weekend, we had a good couple of days visiting my parents, including going to Tring Museum for old times' sake. The museum really hadn't changed much from when it was a regular childhood destination, and was a surprisingly entertaining place to spend a couple of hours on a wet and windy Saturday afternoon. Today Rachel and Daniel came to ours to have an all-day breakfast brunch, a walk and a healthy dose of Mario Kart Wii, but now we're fading fast and bedtime really can't be too far away.

Not the best start to the day, waking up in the small hours of the morning to the cordless phone downstairs beeping like mad. Then we saw the street-lights flicker and it was obvious there were electricity supply problems. To cut a long story short, we then had no power for the next five hours - and the Southern Electric emergency helpline was only partially useful, initially confirming there was a problem, then implying it had been fixed when it very plainly hadn't. Thankfully the human beings there even at antisocial hours were rather more efficient and proactively communicative, and we were falteringly welcomed back into the twenty-first century at about nine o'clock. Not only no power for that time, but no sleep, worrying about food in the freezer, Southern Electric's ambiguity and that we would be woken up by the phone beeping again even if we did get to sleep. Hey ho, well at least it's not too crazy a day today, with Katy out having coffee with a friend and me not having anything too time-critical until this afternoon. Oh, and also on the bright side, our new central heating programmer kept time perfectly throughout - though of course it can't actually turn on the heating or water without mains power, so... Well, at least it's back and fully operational now, and we don't live in Afghanistan or somewhere where lack of what we consider basic amenities is no doubt the norm.

Good meeting this afternoon - full steam ahead with revamping the church site!

So we had a few more calls from Southern Electric, really going beyond the call of duty [ooh, that should get me a few search hits] in phoning at least three times during the day to check we still had power. Missed a call last night that was probably them, though, because got a note through the door today saying we may be without power for much of tomorrow daytime as they finish the emergency repairs started yesterday. Although quite necessary, that will be a bit of a pain; although I somehow doubt we'll be "off" for the whole six hour period mentioned, they say to unplug most electrical appliances, so we may have to find other ways of working (or to entertain ourselves) - at least once our laptop batteries have expired, anyway!

Good news this morning though is that the Wii version of the BBC's iPlayer is now out, and seems to work well. There had been a special version available via the web for some time, but the Opera browser required was not a free download on the Wii. The browser went free a couple of months ago, but a simultaneous update broke iPlayer, so it's been completely non-functional for the last few weeks. However, today the BBC and Nintendo launched a stand-alone version of the system, not relying on the browser at all any more, and initial tests demonstrated that it seemed to do exactly as claimed on the tin. The video quality is not quite broadcast standard, being ever-so-slightly (but really ever-so-slightly) choppy, but perfectly watchable. How it will fare at busier times of day will remain to be seen, but presumably that's an issue across the entire iPlayer platform and the additional Wii users surely won't make that much difference in the longer term. Anyway, good to see another example of technology that just works - a dependable and unobtrusive servant, rather than a glitzy firework show that's all flash bang wallop for a few seconds then you have to wait another year for anything else to happen...

Oh, and connected with the power cut thing, we noticed a young man from Southern Electric without a hi-vis vest wandering around the close with a clipboard yesterday morning. I spotted him again when I was walking back from my meeting in town, and it turned out he was one of a gang of Southern's doorstep salesmen. What a day to choose... "Yes, we'd love to switch to you, as a token of appreciation for last night's catastrophic failure!" Bet they got loads of takers - possibly even more than the Jehovah's Witnesses following in their footsteps this morning.

We had my dad visiting for the weekend, which was nice. The weather wasn't, though, so we had to keep ourselves well entertained without going out too much, but succeeded reasonably. Alas since we visited my parents the weekend before, their computer had taken a turn for the worse, with the dreaded corrupted registry file problem that so many seem to get struck down by, so Dad arrived Friday morning with the system unit under his arm. Thankfully with the help of Tux the friendly penguin, and contrary to conventional Microsoft-indoctrinated wisdom on these matters (let alone £50 misnamed recovery CDs that nuke everything), we managed to get things up and running again, without needing to re-install anything. The hard disk is still distinctly faulty (occasional spin-up reluctance, and a couple of dodgy sectors), but should keep going for a bit longer, especially having converted the file system to the supposedly more fault-tolerant NTFS. Doing all that saw to quite a bit of our "wet play" time to amuse ourselves, the rest occupied with Saturday breakfast at Bex and Si's, and braving foul driving conditions to eat out at the Harvester on Saturday evening. We left Dad to his own devices yesterday, and apart from getting drenched in the morning he seemed to have a good ride on his bike and visited the local Rural Life Centre so had plenty of photographs to share upon his return!

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