Dear Diary... August 2011

Wednesday 31st August - Talking Italian

It was another busy day for me today as I finally got to the bottom of sorting out how exactly we could sort out the registry settings for applications for the trolley/loan laptops, and it worked pretty well. I had a rough idea what needed to be done and I soon concocted a batch file to do some of the work I needed, except for some reason, when being brought down through ConfigMgr, the registry just failed to merge no matter what I was going to do with it. Meh. Mind you, at least I had Solidworks 2011 packaged up today and that's ready to go out to the rooms that need it going on. It's pretty hefty though as an install so it'll be fun and games deploying that, I reckon.

I had stayed behind in work a ltitle anyway because I was going into the city centre to meet The Sauce In My Pasta and one of our friends for the evening. It was our friend's birthday on the Friday and as he was going away the same time as we are for a welcome break, it was a good excuse for us all to meet up and have drinks and a meal together. We planned to meet at Ra!n Bar, as it's close to where The Sauce works and as she was working late herself, it was just easier to all be there. Our friend was there when I got there, so I got myself and The Sauce a drink and a very nice pint of The Guvnor was on the cards for me, hurrah!

The Sauce soon arrived and we had plenty of chat as we always do, not least because of the last weekend that we'd all had with one reason or another, and how we had braved the cold to see Jenson Button in a Formula 1 car. Can't wait of course to see Formula 1 again, only this time I might have to go somewhere different to see it! We also talked about the forthcoming holidays and what else had been happening, and soon before we knew it the drinks had been drunk and it was time for something to eat, so off we headed to Felicini nearby, even handier when I had a voucher printed off for 50% off the food, ooh yes.

As ever, Felicini didn't disappoint either. We noticed that there were some new red sofas put in with some of the seating, which made it feel less formal and a little bit more intimate as well, so that was rather lovely. The only difficult decision we faced was what to have for the meal. I opted for the bread tin for starter which was as tasty as ever, The Sauce had the bruschetta and our friend the stuffed olives. We were chatting about the 1980s and myself and our friend mentioned the cult classic Rita Sue and Bob Too, and the two of us spent a few minutes reciting some of the classic lines from it, and who it featured. We both agreed that The Sauce needs to see it so she can understand just why it is a classic.

The main course came and we were all happy - our friend had the Al Diavolo pizza, pretty spicy with the jalapenos on, The Sauce had a very nice carbonara with lovely poached egg on the top and I went for the chicken and wild mushroom penne, which really did hit the spot nicely. Dessert followed for two of us and we had some cake with coffee, all very civilised. The carrot cake was gorgeous and well worth it, and that with an americano coffee really did fill the hole but in a good way, and we all agreed that it was a lovely meal between us all.

Our friend then took us in the direction of a pub that he thought we'd all like and it proved to be a cracking decision all round. The Molly House is the sort of pub that most people want to go to - they do cask ale (yaay) - they don't have stupidly loud music on so you can hear yourself talk (yaay), they also have newspapers so you can peruse with a pint if you wish (yaay) and overall it's very relaxed. And the Beartown cask ales were on offer for a mere £2 per pint, served in a proper old school pint glass. Winner. The Ginger Bear was spot on and thoroughly deserving of my attention!

We made our way back to Piccadilly after a drink in there and we'd all agreed that we had a great time. The conversation always flows easily and I think that the nicest thing of all is that I've made a friend out of it, who's been a good friend to The Sauce for years. Isn't it great when that sort of thing happens? Tune of the day in the meantime is "Night People" by The Human League, as we were all discussing what a top time we had near Christmas last year seeing the band and it reminded me of this, possibly the best track from their most recent album "Credo" - that album might even sneak a look in my favourites of the year!

Tuesday 30th August - Import/Export

I had a bit of an odd puzzle on my hands today, and one that I eventually was glad that I had kept myself organised with in the first place. We're using Group Policy to bring down preferences for application files and registry settings for certain applications that we have installed. In theory this is all good, as it means that if we have some customised applications then we know all the settings will work correctly out of the box. However, if you're using a trolley teaching laptop you might not be connected to the network and so will have no way of bringing down any settings this way. In essence what this means is that you've got to do registry settings etc for the special local user we're having.

All well and good, but here's where you hit problems. Using the Group Policy registry wizard, you can choose to import whatever settings you like. All well and good, but try exporting them back as a registry file afterwards, and you soon realise that actually, you can't. What the hell? I get the idea of the policy settings being in a nice XML format, all good, but sometimes it'd be nice to export not just import them in. Oh joy of joys. I did a bit of research and still no luck, but thankfully I'd been clever enough to export out the reg files for each of the apps and keep them safe, so saving me tons of time.

What this meant was that I could get all the registry files that I needed and merge them as one, and also then write a batch file which would copy the relevant settings for the applications to the local user's Application Data folders. This proved to be pretty good all round as it meant that I could do it pretty easily and get everything I wanted in there. I'm going to test it though so I am bringing down a standard laptop image for loans that we're going to be using, and then from that it's going to be a case of trying out a couple of things and seeing what would happen.

I arrived home later on and had a peek at the rest of the pictures that I took yesterday - and the best of them all are now up. It was such a thrill and looking back I have to say that it was one of those "you had to be there" moments. All we needed was The Chain by Fleetwood Mac to add to the atmosphere (make that one tune of the day whilst we're at it) and all would be well with the world too. I can just imagine it now with the sound of the cars - awesomeness, I tell you.

Monday 29th August - Birthday Button

It was a cold and wet but ultimately a very good day all round today. After getting all the domestic chores out of the way it was time to head into the city centre and meet up with The Love In My Heart, as there was an event in the city centre that I didn't want to miss. Oh no. It was the Vodafone VIP live in Manchester event with some of the roads closed off, and for good reason. Only Jenson Button driving a McLaren F1 car through the streets of the city centre! As you can well imagine with me being an F1 nut and all, and with the prospect of not much F1 on proper telly from next year, I simply had to get there and see what was going on.

We headed to Albert Square and the VIP area and viewing spaces there were already full, so we headed down John Dalton Street, round the back of Spinningfields and on to Deansgate and I managed to find a pretty good spot close to NatWest and where Wagamama is. Some people in the office building opposite had managed to get in there for the day and so were able to step on to the roof that overhangs the shop on the first floor, offering a rather good view all round. We had to wait a fair bit as the action wasn't due to start till 12 noon.

Just after then, along came a safety car to check if the course was okay before Jenson then headed out in the McLaren MP4-12 road car, all sleek and silvery, to give a couple of competition winners the ride of a lifetime. Jenson was going for it as well as he headed up Deansgate and turned right towards Albert Square, and the spray even from the road car in the rain showed how much he was pushing. He took people out in that and then it was time for a break before then it would be the moment we'd all been waiting for - the drive of an F1 car...

And he didn't disappoint either. He did two laps of the course down Deansgate, John Dalton Street and Albert Square, but as he got towards the end of Deansgate he did a donut move and headed back to Albert Square for everyone before heading back. The noise was amazingly loud, the speed was unreal and he really seemed to be enjoying himself. So much so that a short while afterwards he decided on another two laps or so of the circuit and headed down Deansgate again at full pelt, which in the incessant rain was even more brilliant, the Pirelli wet tryes kicking up tons of spray.

It was a great time and one I'll remember for ages - the speed was something else and just to see the car that close up was also wonderful. It makes me even more so want to go to a proper race now and experience the thrill of it all - especially as I can imagine Jenson and Lewis hopefully kicking backside for McLaren next year as well as this. It was cold and damp though so we soon headed to The Love's place and warmed up with a coffee and a well earned sandwich and watched Three In A Bed on Channel 4 +1 before heading to mine.

We got changed and headed to The Elizabethan pub in Heaton Chapel, a place we both like. We were meeting my friends there as it was my friend's birthday today and we always like to make an effort and head out for a meal together. It's all good, and we got a nice table and my friend arrived and was impressed by the look and feel of the place. It was good to see both our friends and they were full of chat and fun, always good. The food was spot on too and I had some rather nice food - mushroom soup to start, a proper steak and ale pie for main which is stunning, and ice cream for dessert. My friend had the roast and he liked that, another friend had the ham and eggs which looked good, and The Love had the fish and chips - well worth having if you're in there!

My friend was also pretty pleased with the presents we'd got him from the City shop - a charcoal polo with the new City logo on it, and a new Umbro retro diamond shirt - it has the umbro diamond down the arms and the old school City logo on the front. I must admit I like that myself and almost bought one at the same time but I'm happy with my retro shirt too. He was well chuffed with those which made the day even more lovely - it's better to give than to receive and when you have friends as nice as the ones I have, makes it even better.

We went back to mine for a brew and a good chat and ended up watching the 100 Greatest Gadgets thing on Channel 4. We were all hedging bets for the number 1 slot - my friend went for the telly, I went for the iPod but in fact it was the lighter. What the hell we both thought? Pointless really. As usual of course they had celebrities talking about it, which say if you were from The Gadget Show like Suzi Perry, fair enough, or the lovely Rachel Riley from Countdown, but Julia annoying cow Bradbury? Oh please! Overall, a top day, and tune of the day sums it up nicely, The Levellers' all time classic "Beautiful Day" - as it was just that.

Sunday 28th August - Snugbury Farm and Dodging Deer

Myself and The Love In My Heart had planned a day out in the countryside today as the weather was set to be mixed but hopefully decent, and we also knew that it was good to spend time out in the fresh air and not always be at home. For ages now I'd enjoyed the Snugbury's ice cream that you can get when you're at Dunham Massey and Lyme Park, but never been to the place where they make it, and get some directly from the farm itself to try and see how nice it is. We'd worked out a route there and even if the weather was looking a bit icky when we left, we thought we'll go anyway and see what happens.

So it was down Princess Parkway in The Love's car, off down the M56 to junction 10, and down the A49 towards the Mid-Cheshire countryside, passing the Cheshire Polo Club (and a game was on too) and alongside the Grand Union Canal in parts before carrying on down the A51 (the A49 turns right to Whitcurch) and towards Nantwich, and a couple of miles before, spotting the sign for Snugbury's and off to Park Farm, where the ice cream is made. The farm also has a unique straw sculpture which is changed every year and looked like a rather nice place to be.

Before tucking into some ice cream we headed left to see the animals in the fields close to the farmhouse, and you could see the Kunekune pig, originally raised by New Zealand Maoris, but the little piglets especially look rather cute. There was also a black goat sharing a field with them too, and they were all happy just munching the grass and feed and happy to roam around. We then walked down the field to this year's straw sculpture, and massive it is too - a large polar bear. It must have been around twenty feet tall and tons of straw must have been used. The claws were particularly well done and as an alternative piece of art it got our thumbs up in a big way.

We walked back and admited the kunekune pigs again, and managed to get some good close up shots of the pigs, before heading to the barn where the farm shop is for the Snugbury's ice cream. The only difficulty I had was picking a flavour as plenty of them looked gorgeous. In the end I went for the polar granola, which had lots of granola pieces with a vanilla and strawberry base, and tasted gorgeous. The Love even went for the clotted cream vanilla, which considering she doesn't normally have ice cream shouls give you an indication that it was pretty nice! It was far too lovely and had I not been thinking about the Sunday lunch which we'd need to have later I'd have been tempted to have some more, or even take some home, but nonetheless it was wonderful stuff, and I'll have to see if I can possibly get any local shops to stock it so I can take it home from there. The pigs were ace as was the straw sculpture so it's well worth a trip out there if you get the time to do so.

We headed back up the A51 and A49 and stopped off for a spot of lunch at the Riverside Inn, which was close to the swing bridge near the village of Acton Bridge. It also did two for one for the main meals and when we looked the menu was similar to the pub close to Cheshire Oaks Outlet Village that we've been in quite a few times. We even got a table close to a window overlooking the river which was nice. The Love had the Red Leicester Chicken and I had the cajun chicken and both meals were spot on, as was the lovely pint of Cocker Hoop that I had. If you're around that area it's well worth stopping off for food, let me tell you.

We then decided to head back down the M56 but come off for Altrincham and head for a walk around Dunham Massey, just in case the deer happened to be out. And they were - and a fair few of them were happily munching in the long grass in part of the deer park and relaxed for people to take pictures. I had the camera with me so it was good to get quite a few of the deer, even some of them running across the path and back towards the main house, where a couple of them were happily grazing close to the front entrance of the house no less. Awww.

We got back home and I suspected that City had won judging by my friend's text earlier in the day. What I didn't expect was for us to win 5-1 at Tottenham which was an incredible result. Well it was till Man U tonked Arsenal 8-2 later in the day and became top of the table on goal difference, but still it's Manchester's football teams leading the way and for us it was great to see us do the business. Didn't expect Edin Džeko to score four, he's now the leading Premier League scorer with six from three games. Wow. What a day that was.

Tune of the day though reminds me of the lovely day I've had, and plenty of nice countryside, animals all around and getting fresh air in too - definitely a positive. And we dodged most of the rain too. "Here Comes The Summer" by The Undetones may seem a little ironic, but when the sun was out, it was lovely, and having ice cream on a sunny day somehow just seems to be the right thing to do. And of course the tune's being used in a new advert at the moment for Kodak - well worth checking out.

Saturday 27th August - Pounding The Fish

The weather couldn't decide what the hell it was doing today. Was it going to rain, or be sunny, or pour it down? Opinion was very mixed as I headed for Stockport to do a little bit of shopping. I wanted to avoid the city centre as it'd all be diverted and mad busy due to the Pride parade, which I'm sure would be great to watch of course but meant that getting to the shops might be a tad more difficult. So it made going to Stockport a relatively easy decision to make for me. It didn't take me long to get there and I'd already headed to the Merseyway precinct before another shower of rain came in.

What did intrigue me was how the nature of the shops had changed since I last went shopping there - the former Westgate department store was closed a while back and now what's there is proposed to be another Primark. Just what everyone needs. Not. Further down the precinct where the large Woolworths used to be, there's now three shops: River Island, Deichmann Shoes and a branch of Costa Coffee, showing that at least the space is being taken up. I went into WH Smith to get some birthday cards and wrapping paper and of course that was busy with everyone buying back to school stuff, as you'd kind of expect.

Interestingly, I also spotted a branch of that Pound Bakery. In effect they're trying to rival Greggs as cheap and cheerful and on the whole succeding nicely, with two pasties for £1, two decent sized cake portions for £1 (such as carrot cake) and even bacon or sausage barms for breakfast at £1 too. I guess it makes life easier if almost everything is at the price range, and on the whole the food looked pretty good. In a day and age where you have to economise and with places like Poundland becoming more popular, it makes perfect sense from a a marketing and money point of view.

I got the shopping I needed and headed home before the rain decided to kick in again, and this meant I could clean up the house a fair bit and then watch the F1, with an exciting race from the Belgian Grand Prix tomorrow but today was all about qualifying. It proved eventful because of the rain, and some got it right, some got it badly wrong. What were the McLaren team doing asking Jenson to cruise in when he could have nailed another good lap to make sure he got through second qualifying? Whoops. Bit daft there methinks. I must admit though I'd love to go to Spa - it's a proper driver's circuit that one.

After seeing some of the rugby league Challenge Cup final and also keeping an eye on the footy scores, it was over to see The Love In My Heart for the evening. She very kindly had offered to cook for the evening and we'd planned a nice cosy night in together. She had even been to Marks and Spencer and got the dine in for two deal, and bought a starter to go with it. We had a baked camambert for starters which actually was very nice, with the cheese cooked to perfection. The main was gorgeous too, haddock mornay with prawns at the top and a nice sauce to go with it, together with some potato wedges and some peas too - all very lovely. The dessert was a really nice fruit terrine with lots of Summer fruits, and with ice cream too. Oh yes.

We spent the evening then having a good game of Scrabble, where I scored a hefty 83 for playing all seven letters at once. This was while The Love was watching The X Factor, and I had my back to the telly so that I couldn't watch what was going on, probably a good thing to be honest. Mind you, even hearing someone absolutely murder Guns n'Roses' classic "Sweet Child o'Mine" really made me think how deluded people are to even go on and sing so badly. I wish I could tell The Love that these sort of shows are destroying music and not allowing proper bands to get their breaks, but it'd be pointless - she'd watch it anyway to be honest.

Tune of the day on the other hand though is a proper tune - "How Heavy This Axe" by The Sword. The sort of tune that you can work out and exercise to, and the sort of tune that's perfect when you're trying to run to avoid the pouring rain as I was doing today when heading out to do some shopping. Somehow I just had it in my head when timing my trips between shops so as to get that small chink of daylight in between avoiding the rain, and of course hearing this live proves just how much of a rock classic it'll be one day, when people realise that there's more to life than reality TV.

Friday 26th August - Friday Elements

I had another busy and productive day today and I feel that I'm really getting on top of things. This morning we had the usual meeting over Microsoft Lync for our Windows 7 deployment progress meeting. I think the fact we've met regularly shows that we're really focussed on progress and how we really want to take things forward between all of us. It was good to share some information between us and I think with the possible end in sight we've really moved forward. What's also been good is that I've really had to push myself a lot more and that has to be a positive thing.

This afternoon I looked at Adobe Premiere Elements 9 as one of the departments in the building that I'm in now might be going with it, and downloaded the trial version of the software to see if it was possible to work out a silent deployment method. It looked pretty good from what I could see in that there were some instructions from Adobe themselves how to do it. I followed them and made any alterations as required, and called the OEM.exe with the relevant command lines. This meant that it would bypass all the screens, accept the serial number that you would enter on the command line, and within around ten minutes the whole thing installed neatly without any interruption required.

In essence you have to modify one of the XML files in the installation folder which populates that with all the settings like accepting the EULA, not downloading any updates and also checking for any content etc. It also meant that when you selected the installation language, it meant that you also needed to select the language for the default video settings, so United Kingdom for example = PAL = epic win. Of course Adobe don't tell you this, you had to check out other sites like AppDeploy or check the MSI itself to see a full string of those video select languages. Mad, I know.

Still, that was the day pretty much done and I headed home and watched Pointless. The jackpot's been growing for some time and today it was a pretty decent £11,000 to play for. One of the questions in the prize round came up as Christmas Number Ones of the 1980s. Beng a quiz and trivia buff, I could have named all nine songs but guessed that no one would remember Renee and Renato's "Save Your Love". I was right - it was a pointless answer, as was "There's No One Quite Like Grandma" and also "Reet Petite" which was rereleased and became number one in 1986. Both the answers that the finalists gave were only number two songs. Oops!

Mind you, the couple who went to the final did the right thing with the football question - it was Champions League final scorers and out of the three answers that they gave, two of them were pointless and either were good enough for the £11,000 prize. I would have also won as I said Paolo Maldini (scored for AC Milan against Liverpool in 2005) and also Fabrizio Ravenelli for Juventus early on - he went to play for Middlesbrough later in his career and that was one to bring back the memory banks, so did okay on that one too. It made me think again about possibly applying.

After doing the shopping at Tesco I watched the UEFA Super Cup Final on ITV4 and it was a decent game but you always suspected Barca were going to beat Porto, and a goal from Lionel Messi and one late on from Cesc Fábregas were enough to take the win and add another trophy to their cabinet. Of course it was good to see the stadium in Monaco too and think about maybe one day City might be there - you never know of course. I just wish ITV4 would get better presenters and summarisers - I can't stand Andy Townsend whatsoever.

Tune of the day is a rocking number and it's actually a cover no less, but a bloody good one. Who'd have thought that Finnish death metallers Children of Bodom would do a version of a Suicidal Tendencies classic and actually do a great job with it? Well that's what they've done, they've made it nice and fast with plenty of crunching guitar and the vocals, although not as good as Mike Muir (nothing could be) suit the way that they've done the song.

Thursday 25th August - These Are The Champions

I felt quite productive today as I was working with a colleague on hopefully packaging up an application that one of their departments use - it's called Greenstone, which is freely available and allows for digital library management using their software. In essence it seems quite easy to use, but the installer is a right pig's ear job of it, often the case unfortunately when it's mainly compiled for other OSes. In essence the executable extracts the installer files including a Java .jar archive, and then calls the .jar file for the install. Because there's no way of guaranteeing that the user has Java, there's also a full Java run time installer in there just in case as well, which of course we didn't need.

When the installer files extract, as long as you don't install anything you can grab the installer files from the temporary directory and then have them in a folder, and just calling the .jar file does the install. However, upon further investigation the Java file uses the Ant installer method. Looking into this further, you can perform a silent install as long as you've modified one of the files in the Java archive (thank heavens for 7-Zip which allows you to look inside these things). This file is the main installer script and at the top you can specify the parameters for text-auto and swing-auto. The latter parameter when run with the installer generates an file, which you can then populate with defaults.

Once this is done, you can then call the installer jar with the text-auto parameter and it uses whatever's in to generate a silent automated install. I did some tests and it works, as long as in Windows 7 you call the .jar file as an administrator. I also noted that you can't call the Java install over the network, so I've generated a batch file on the network source server to copy the installer files down to a temporary folder on the target workstation, run greenstone.jar text-auto and then delete the temporary folder afterwards. A little dirty maybe but it does do the silent installation like we want to, so I can't complain really.

Flushed with that, I headed home as I knew that the Champions League group stage draw was on. By the time I had got on to the PC at home and logged on to the UEFA web site, it meant that some of the initial pots of top seeds had been drawn. What I did note though was that after those initial pots, Manchester City could only be in Groups A, B or D. This is because Man U were in Group C, and Arsenal and Chelski in groups E and F. Now the UEFA draw states that A to D are the top half and E to H the bottom half (one half play Tuesday the other Wednesday for example) and they split the countries with multiple participants so that two English teams are in each half of the draw. This meant that City would therefore avoid group H with Barcelona and AC Milan in it. Phew, I said to myself.

So I noted as the pot three teams were drawn out, the chances for City's group choice were less, and as four teams were drawn I'd already worked out that we had to be in Group A along with Bayern Munich and Villareal, no slouches in European competition. And with Napoli adding to the mix as the last team drawn, it was going to be not the easiest group but maybe the one that's the most open to qualify from with four very evenly matched teams. Might be an omen too as we were in Group A of the Europa League last year and qualified from that as top of the table, so who knows?

Afterwards I had The Love In My Heart over for some tea, which was some tagliatelle with meatballs in a mushroom sauce, which worked out really nicely, even if it was a little on the messy side to make. It was also nice as Mum came over as we needed to sort a few things out for her, so we ended up having a coffee and lots of chat in between. I think on the whole though it goes to show that because Mum feels so comfortable with The Love, they can happily chat on without any prompting from me, makes life a lot easier on the whole to be honest.

Tune of the day is one that really does suit the mood I'm in at the moment: "My State Of Mind" by Swing Out Sister. It's pretty laid back and relaxed with some jazzy vibes but it also makes me think about how often I'm "in the zone" when concentrating at work and how nice it is to relax a little and just do something else. It's also one of the highlights of Swing Out Sister's "Beautiful Mess" album as well, so we can't complain about that - it's a great album and well worth a listen if you have the time.

Wednesday 24th August - Two One To The Arsenal

It was another day and back to the normal business of work for me. Today was mainly about getting one of our postgraduate rooms ready for the new Windows 7 build, and I'd put up signs to say that the room was going to be closed due to upgrading work. After the experiences last week I had a feeling that it wouldn't be for the best, but thankfully the first part, bringing the main OS image down, seemed to work really well and was relatively quick. I was keeping an eye on it with one of the office laptops with the ConfigMgr console installed, and I noticed that it moved quite nicely to getting everything on.

I set off the other task sequence to put all of the specialist applications on, and knowing that would take time, I kept an eye on it with the laptop long enough to make sure that it got past the point where it normally fails. I've found that if it gets past that, then everything else seems to work perfectly well, and soon enough all three were all done when I got back from lunch, and that definitely made me feel better that it was another lot of rooms all done, dusted and sorted out. Always good to have alternate plans in mind though and I did a few jobs whilst waiting for the machines to finish, so that was pleasing.

I got home later via the city centre as I wanted to take a peek in one of the camera shops in the city centre. What intrigued me was that one of them had a Nikon SB900 flash unit in really nice condition, and with that I could do bounce flash and all sorts of angles for night shots with flash on, so maybe that's something I've got to save up for as the next move, we'll see what happens and go from there I reckon. I got in home just in time for Pointless even so, so it was good to see how the contestants did there and wondered if maybe I should try and appear on there with my friend some time.

After having my tea it was on with the football on ITV1 to see if Arsenal could possibly beat Udinese and qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. With two of their best players leaving, Cesc Fábregas going to Barcelona and Samir Nasri heading to us at City, you did wonder if that was a gap that might be a void for the team. They held a slender 1-0 lead from the first leg but of course an away goal could well change that. It didn't go to well at first for them though as Udinese scored before half time to make it 1-1 on aggregate, and Arsenal were a bit fortunate not to be 2-0 down on the night before half time.

However all of that changed in the second half as they found another gear, with Robin van Persie scoring a few minutes into the second half with a cool finish which meant Udinese had to score two now to go through. They got a penalty a few minutes later which for me seemed a bit hash, only for the Arsenal keeper to pull off a superb save and keep the penalty out. That was the moment for me that changed the game, and a short while later Theo Walcott broke forward and slotted it neatly past the Udinese keeper to make it 3-1 on aggregate and 2-1 on the night, which meant that they'd join us, Man U and Chelski in the Champions League draw tomorrow.

Tune of the day is a piece of music that you can't actually buy, but you get to hear it a lot during the football season. It's "Champions League" composed by Tony Britten, and adapter from George Handel's "Zadok The Priest. He got the London Philarmonic Orchestra to play it and the chorus of St Martin's In The Fields to do the singing. The song is actually in French, German and English wording, which are apparently the three recognised languages of UEFA (what, no Spanish?). I'll be hearing this at the Etihad Stadium this season which will make my hair stand on my neck - I can't wait!

Tuesday 23rd August - Candidate

I had a different day at work today which was a training course for the whole day. It was all to do with becoming a better candidate in terms of application forms, CVs and interview processes etc and was organised by our human resources people. In essence it meant that I could make sure that anything I would be doing for any applications for promotions etc would be the right thing to do, and that you would also be meeting any criteria in the interview process that you have too.

It was a nice compact group of around eight of us, and as I knew all of the staff there this meant that I was able to relax and contribute to the whole day. The morning was mainly about how your CV and application forms should look like, and what pleases me is the way that I do CVs now isn't far off the current modern method that most people like the look of, so all was good there. The application form process though was good to know: embrace the modern thinking somewhat of meeting the pointed criteria rather than paragraphs where you show that you have met the criteria instead.

In the afternoon we split into two groups and one of the other staff from Human Resources came along so that we could in effect have mock interviews for posts that would be the next step up for us from what we are now. I had to go first out of our group and have two others plus our HR person ask the questions. It was nerve wracking but I think I did okay, but got some very good pointers how to improve and that will prove invaluable, I am sure. I also think that I was able to offer some useful feedback for the other two when the tables were turned, so that worked out pretty well.

Later on The Love In My Heart came over, and we had a very nice meal together of peri peri chicken with potatoes and vegetables, and then we watched the Great British Bake-off, which looked like a lot of fun, but also difficult to do for those who try baking out. Two of the three challenges involved dessert and pastry, which I've never tried as I would always worry that I'd burn it massively. Some of them managed a lemon tart really well, but then fluffed it on making the individual little tartlets that they had to do twenty four of, two lots of twelve with different flavours and tastes. Good to watch though, and with Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins together again, it wasn't too bad.

On iPlayer I promised The Love that I'd watch with her a documentary about the presenter of A Place In The Sun: Home or Away, Jasmine Harman, and her mother. The documentary focussed on her mum's hoarding habits and how it's affected Jasmine and the rest of her family. It was good to see that there's a movement to try and get it classified as a medical condition that needs attention and help to try an resolve it, and having all the items in a massive warehouse to try and clear out the rubbish seemed the only way. I don't know how Jasmine did it, but we also don't know how her mum could live in such a mess all the time - it truly was a dangerous place to be.

Tune of the day has to be though "Black Coffee" by Black Flag. Sometimes you need that rush of caffeine to keep you going, and today was one of those days. I had the coffee with milk in, but nonetheless it felt that I needed to drink it black later in the day to try and keep an intense level of concentration and keep going - I must have had two cups by 11am which is unusual for me. As for the track I like the original but I also like the Rollins Band version done for the charity album for the West Memphis Three, "Rise Above" as Rollins himself is in bloody fine form!

Monday 22nd August - Meeting Monday

Another Monday to start the week and a day which certainly proved to be pretty busy all round really. I had a team meeting in the morning which went on for a fair amount of time, primarily because as one of our managers is off, the other is doing a fair chunk of work and having to attend numerous meetings, which they kindly passed all the information on to us today. There's a lot to take in and a lot to do, and sometimes I think we all get the impression that everything's moving at such a fast pace now it'd be nice to stop and pause for breath just to remember where we all are.

I also spent a fair bit of time with my colleague sorting out the necessary hardware and kit for the enrolment periods which would be coming up soonish. We managed to work out just why the software which makes the cards didn't connect to the database, and once we worked that out, everything was all good to go there, and we even tested a webcam and printer to make sure that the cards were produced correctly and that worked rather nicely all round too.

In the afternoon I also spent some time meeting staff and doing what I could to sort out some of the problems that they had and helped to clear the backlog of calls that we had. I felt that it was important to lead by example and from the front so that I was able to do my thing and do it with expertise, skill and most of all a customer focus. I think too that if I lead this way it also makes people feel less alone in what they do, but we shall see. I even had another mini meeting before heading home, so all was pretty busy there to be honest.

After work, I headed home and settled in for the evening, watching Pointless on iPlayer as I'd got home from work way too late to watch it. It was pretty good and I felt gutted for the winner who went for the jackpot and had two of their three answers score a mere one point, just one more than the pointless required to win a massive £6,250. Ouch. I must admit I really do like this show a lot now, maybe because it appeals to my knowledge of trivia somewhat and I'm sure that if my friend and I went on we might be half decent at it. We shall see.

Also on iPlayer I watched Grand Prix: The Killer Years. It was on a few months back and was a fascinating documentary about how Formula 1 was completely unsafe during the 1960s and early 1970s, and how gradually drivers such as Sir Jackie Stewart were trying to change things. One accident he had at the original Spa circuit was most likely a catalyst for that, and as time went on it was realised that having experimental cars made of magnesium which went on fire and burnt people inside the car was really not on. Perhaps the most telling was the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix with the death of Roger Williamson, which finally shamed the sport into doing something about safety once and for all.

Tune of the day is a tune that the documentary makers used as a tribute to the great Jim Clark, who was one of the many fatalities of the era, who was a brilliant driver and who knew how to push the car to a limit that was a safe limit but still fast. The tune is "Three Hours" by the brilliant Nick Drake, and just has a peaceful mood to it that somehow seems to work in harmony with the moment. Well researched by the makers and one that makes you think and listen at the same time.

Sunday 21st August - City, City, Top of the League

It was all about Manchester City today in some way or form. After The Love In My Heart and I woke up, we got ourselves ready and we headed off to the Manchester City store at the ground, as it was on the way back to her place. I wanted to nip in there as it's my friend's birthday next Monday and almost all of the gift ideas he had were from the City store, I thought it best that we headed there and got some nice stuff. In fact the City store was pretty quiet all round as I imagine some of the fans were already on their way to Bolton for the away game, but I got what we were after so that was very pleasing indeed.

We headed back to The Love's place for a short while and I saw some of the TV film about Evel Kenivel that was made a few years ago with George Eads (Nick Stokes from CSI) as Evel. They cleverly used some of the vintage footage from the infamous Caesar's Palace fountain jump crash to good effect and that certainly made it all very believable when it was performed within the film. I didn't see it all as we head to head elsewhere but nonetheless it was quite intriguing to watch a bit of that.

Later on I headed into the city centre and the on to my friend's house, as he had very kindly invited me over to watch the Manchester City game at Bolton which just so happened to be live on Sky Sports 1. I don't have Sky any more (gave it up over a year ago as it was proving to be too expensive to watch) and so the incentive was there. We had a cold drink and it was ready for kick off, with before the game started a quick check on the cricket, which worked out well as we saw Tim Bresnan knock over the last couple of Indian wickets to make them all out or 300 and to bat again.

City went forward from the off, as did Bolton, and it proved to be a very good game all round. David Silva hit a firm and hard shot which the Bolton keeper Jussi Jaskelainen might have done better with but nonetheless it was two happy people when it hit the back of the net. A few minutes later City get a corner, taken short to Gareth Barry who then rifles a shot into the top corner from twenty five yards for 2-0. Bolton though pulled one back before half time with a move involving ex-City man Martin Petrov who crossed home for Ivan Klasnic to make it 2-1.

At half time we wondered what was going to happen, with City playing some lovely flowing stuff and a couple of chances missed by Sergio Agüero which he might have scored on a different day, but still we looked full of running and possibly goals, and so it proved early in the second half when the impressive James Milner put the ball forward, and on to it ran Edin Džeko, who slotted it low and firm past Jaskelainen to make it 3-1. City then controlled the game with some lovely stuff before Bolton pulled it back to 3-2 with an excellent Kevin Davies header. The next ten minutes or so were pretty tense and City even put on Carlos Tévez as well, but in the end we held out.

What that meant though was that City are top of the league at the moment, and that was a good feeling to have won two out of two. We were both singing "Mancini, wooooah, Mancini, wooooah, he comes from Italy, to manage Man City" etc whilst Bolton's club tannoy kept playing Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough" (tune of the day for that reason) and we were ecstatic. I only hope that the team can keep on this form to be honest but what we saw today will really warm the heart over the next few months ahead. And even Andy Murray later in the tennis had the beating of Novak Djokovic, excellent!

Saturday 20th August - A Day In Wales

I had a nice early start this morning as I wanted to head off somewhere and rekindle some childhood memories. For years when I was younger my family would head to the North Wales coast and more often than not off to Towyn, situated half way between Abergele and Rhyl, for a week of sun and sand (and often days out within the coastal area) and stay in a caravan that my grandad used to have in one of the caravan sites there. Of course things have changed since those young formative years, but for me it was a place that I considered to be special, and when your parents were trying their hardest to make a nice life for you, you appreciated any holiday when money was tight.

On I headed on to the 7.50am departure from Piccadilly which would take me through Warrington Bank Quay, Frodsham (home of a certain singer from Take That no less) and Chester before crossing the border into Wales and on to Shotton, Flint and Prestatyn before getting off the train at Rhyl. From there I walked through the town centre and on to the sea front. I have to admit some things are changing in the centre of Rhyl, such as Drift Park on the promenade which looks to have restored some civic pride, and some new sea defences which are being worked on at the moment. The site of the former Ocean Beach funfair is actually now a repository for all sorts of large rocks which will help aid the sea defences.

After passing the Marine Lake and seeing that the old miniature railway still runs after all these years, it was over the blue bridge that takes you over the River Clwyd and joining the cycle and coastal path in Kinmel Bay, walking along past some lovely houses on the front before turning around the Golden Sands holiday park with Towyn very much in sight. I also noticed that Golden Sands was expanding into a field where the Happy Days caravan park used to allow tents to be placed. This also means that with the site fenced off, those from Happy Days have to steer around this site once they're over the railway bridge, bit much to be honest.

Anyway, being the investigative sort, I headed to that railway bridge, as this was the very one we used to have to use to get to the beach. The view from the top was pretty good as you could see the updated sea defences (mainly since the flooding in 1990) and the railway line. Just as I was heading back down to the Happy Days park, a nice classic Pullman train went past, looking very authentically old and wonderful. As I walked through Happy Days I could spot the place where my grandad had his caravan, and memories came flooding back of how it was back in the day when I stayed there. I even occasionally went up with him over the winter for a weekend just to do some maintenance on the caravan and some rest and relaxation - it was happy days, literally.

I walked over the road to the Tir Prince raceway, often used for harness racing, but today the site was hosting an outdoor market and car boot sale, and it was very busy with cars queueing up on the main road to get into the car park, and with the fair at Tir Prince also at full pelt, it seemed a hive of activity there. I didn't buy anything from the car boot, but good to see plenty of stalls with normal people's stuff, not just endless market trash thankfully. The harness racing track is bigger than you think and you can certainly see how popular it might be when a meeting is on.

I walked then down to another of my all time favourite places - The Black Cat amusement arcade. I used to spend lots of time in here, playing the likes of Track and Field, Paperboy and later on Peter Packrat, Afterburner et al. Today it has a mini Bowlingo bowling alley, a Guitar Hero aracde machine (had to have a go of that of course), lots of 2p falls type machines, Kentucky Derby on the back, and a swathe of shooting and racing arcade games as well as the usual rip off grabber machines. Pretty much everything you need really. If people were around Kentucky Derby might have been on the cards but decided against it.

I walked then down the road that takes you to the railway and over to Knightly's Funfair, which nestles between the railway and the beach wall. Interestingly the last part of the road before the railway has now been pedestrianised and with a floral display looks pretty good really. The funfair looked good from on top of the railway bridge, and seemed to me that it was busy even at midday with people wanting to go on rides to make them dizzy. Passing through that and on to the cycle path and sea wall, you could see how much the sea defences have improved but also the care taken so you can actually get to the beach with some walkways.

As I walked westwards along the coastal path, you could see the railway edging closer until effectively you've got caravan parks, the railway, the sea wall and then the beach and sea. You can also see in the distance the wind farms that have cropped up too - a distant yet pretty sight on the coastline. As the coastal path heads towards Pensarn the caravan parks lessen and instead you get houses on the other side of the railway. Closer to Pensarn there's one of the rustiest railway bridges out there, certainly shows it's been here a while. And in Pensarn itself, quite a lot of people were out on the pebbled beach and in the arcades too, and that certainly was good to see.

I treasted myself slightly later on with an ice cream as I sat and admired the beach and sea, and certainly the whole stretch of coastline brought back happy memories for me, so that was all good. I then headed to the bus stop and got an open top bus back to Rhyl. In Summer there's a service that starts from Pensarn and follows the coast road to Towyn, Rhyl and then via Prestatyn to Talacre, so it's quite a good route really. As I headed back through Towyn the clouds blackened and it started to look like it was going to rain, and got to Rhyl bus station a few minutes before the train back to Manchester. As I left, the heavens opened and pretty much all the way back to Manchester it was constant rain, so I think I timed the escape quite well really.

No regrets though - had a wonderful time and it reminded me so much of the family holidays I used to have and how I miss my grandad more than I thought. Certainly seeing the caravan site rekindled lots of lovely memories all round, and that was good. Tune of the day for that reason is "Holiday" by Pullover, which has the iconic chorus of "I want to find out who I am... in a caravan" and somehow that rings so true with lots of us when we were kids. Plus it's a great bit of jangly indie pop that you should all try and locate at some time and you'll realise just why I love it so much.

After I got home, The Love In My Heart came over later and I made us a lovely meal for tea with mushroom soup to start, free range chicken, roasties and vegetables for main followed by some New York cheesecake for afters. The Love wanted to watch The X Factor so I thought it best that she did, as she was feeling a bit under the weather with a cold, bless. Mind you, she seemed to agree most with Gary Barlow as a judge in general (whether this correlates with her love of Take That, you decide) and that there were too many commercial breaks in the programme that was on. I just hate it but seeing as she's allowing me to head to my friend's to watch City on Sky tomorrow, I couldn't really disallow it being shown on the telly could I?

Friday 19th August - War Inside My Head

Well, a good day to end the week on really. First things first was that all fifteen PCs that we'd set up to do all our über-large applications on top of the standard image worked, which was good especially considering that the installation sources for those total a mere 27GB. Imagine that amount of data transferred over the network multiplied by the number of PCs and you can see the sheer amount of data that is involved - not exactly pretty but that's what you've got to do these days. In fact as I'd managed to image nine down with the core build, we set these off to do the software installations whilst we had our weekly team meeting.

I finished from that and went back to the room where I'd set the PCs off doing their installs, and all was well wit them. So that's a total of fifty eight that were ready to go - not too bad I guess, especially considering the monster size of the software installs. I've worked out that in total this means that the core image plus software is taking around three and a half hours per machine to do, so obviously if you're doing a fair few together they're taking a similar time but in essence saving time. The only concern that I've got is that if we need to re-image a machine at some point, then it'll take some time.

I went home and did my shopping at Tesco, and it was unusually quiet for a Friday evening. Maybe this was because I left it a little later than normal due to me finishing work a little later, but it certainly meant that I could whizz round there and get home in time to watch the cricket highlights on Channel 5. And my, they were worth watching as well. England absoulutely hammered India again, and Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell both made well over 150 in a third wicket stand of a massive 350, leaving England on a massive 456 for 3 at the end of the day. Wow, that was ace.

Tune of the day is a cover version, as I'd heard that the thrash/death metal band Children of Bodom did an album of cover versions, which happened to include one of my favourite Suicidal Tendencies songs. Actually to be fair to the Finnish metallers, they've done a bloody good job in covering it, with plenty of power, speed and melody to it. Of course I'd rather have Mike Muir singing it, as really only he can convey it like it was meant, but it's still excellent, with lots of affection for the original and plenty of riffs left right and centre. And you can't argue with that.

Actualy the coughing and spluttering I've had on and off for the last week or so has just meant that I've coughed so much that my head actually hurt a little with headache when I got up this morning. It might not be such a good idea to listen to too much metal in the meantime of course, and I guess a lot of it's been down to the hard work and stress I've had during the week, but I suspect I might have to either have an early night tonight or a long lie in in the morning. I shall see...

Thursday 18th August - On A Roll

I think the success of yesterday manifested itself nicely into today too, as I spent a fair bit of time rolling out some more desktop student PC images. In fact as we know there's plenty of building work going on around the building I normally work in, we had the common sense to put plenty of PCs in one of the rooms we can easily get access too, and as it happened twelve of them are going to be in a room that will be moved to a lower floor, so it wasn't too bad to get them all set up, bring down the core OS image down and then last thing tonight set all the software off. I think that it should be a bit less hassle when it's overnight and not many other people are doing anything, so fingers crossed there really.

I also received an email all the way from New Zealand who had read my diary and noted the success that I had with Vectorworks and how to deploy it as a command line installer, and using ConfigMgr console too. I will respond first thing tomorrow as I want to double check my documentation I wrote when doing it to make sure it's all good, but on the whole it's good to see that there's other people out there using the same software and also facing a similar issue when working out deployment strategies. I suspect a lot more of us will have to be doing this in the future, so good to know now I guess.

I arrived home later on and got a call from The Love In My Heart - she was coming over a little earlier than planned as she wanted to head to B&Q to get something for work. So off we went, and we managed to get some bamboo cane that she was after - mainly for work as she had planned to make a small wigwam type tent display with the bamboo being the supports, and after venturing in the rain outside, we managed to find a batch of them that would do the job.

Also, we finally located the light bulbs for the hallway of her place. When the builders built the place she lives in, they decided in their infinite wisdom to put these obscure as hell MEM BC3 bulb fittings in. They're like a bayonet, but with 3 prongs instead of 2. Annoying? Oh yes, especially when you consider how cheap that normal energy saving bayonet or screw cap bulbs are these days. The price in B&Q was similar to what she had seen online, but of course there was no extra postage to pay, so win all round reallty. I just wish it was easy enough to have those fittings converted to a standard bayonet instead - would be much cheaper and a better choice of bulbs too. Meh.

We had some lovely tagliatelle carbonara for tea and I indulged her with the soaps a little before we watched the last in the series of Town on BBC2, which featured Totnes in Devon, a place I've been to a couple of times. In fact, it's one of the few towns to have their own currency (the Totnes Pound), has a man going round in a rickshaw recycling old cooking oil and turning it into biofuel, and how Dartington Hall is inexplicably linked with the town too. Plenty of places like the market square and the long main street heading downhill are places I recognised, and of course the river Dart winds its way through too, so some focus on that as well. And it's the birth place of one Jimmy Cauty of the KLF no less (amazing fact of the day).

In essence it's a shame that the series was so short as it showed yet again why Nicholas Crane should always be the main presenter of Coast. Nothing against Neil Oliver per se, but I think Nick has a bit more of an authoritarian way of speaking, yet informal which draws you in. You could see as a geographer he enjoyed in tonight's episode of Town when he put a solar panel on one of the houses, and spending the Totnes pounds that he's genuinely interested, and that comes across to the viewer. Similarly on Coast, he's normally getting the good stories of human interest too.

Finally for today, tune of the day needs to be something nice and relaxing to calm the nerves after a pretty tough week at the office so far, so what better than Philip Glass' version of "Heroes" from the Symphony of the same name. This particular version has also been used in an advert for Eurostar a while back when it first moved to departures from St Pancras International station, and just has the right feeling of emotion, uplifting feel and certainly serves as a great piece of music. You should definitely check it out if you have the time.

Wednesday 17th August - Success

At last, success! After managing to at least get the main OS deployment image on to the PCs in one of our student labs, I kindly asked everyone to hold off multicasting for today so we could make sure that all our site applications in our task sequence were able to go on. We knew that all the PCs were ready to go and so I associated the task sequence advertisement with our suite of PCs, and then waited to see what would happen. Thanks to the command that I put in at the start, the PCs didn't go to sleep, and they kept going. Network utilisation was apparently pretty much on the up, but crucially it was working still, so we kept an eye on it.

And some two and a half hours later, a lot of the PCs seemed to be reporting success, as I could see the reporting mechanisms for the advertisements which told me that all was well with the world there. I tried to log on to a couple and sure enough, when I did that I launched all the site applications, and they all worked perfectly well as they were intended to do. I was pretty pleased even though I knew that it had taken ages, as when I worked out the total size of the installers, it was quite scary - a massive 27GB worth of install source files, for each machine, over the network. Ouch. That's pretty hefty but it's the way that we have to do deployments now, so glad and relieved that it all worked.

I had a course stroke meeting this afternoon, as it was an awareness session with regards to the new e-Learning solution that we're going to be using for the next year onwards. The person conducting the session I know very well as I do a lot of their IT support now, so good to see a familiar face too. It was all very good and explained just where we'd got to, how it worked and what needed to happen in order for where we're at now, as well as a possible idea to as to what to be able to do in future with it. I seemed pretty happy about it to be honest, as I know that such changes as these have to be seriously thought about.

I also had to play with a HP Mini 5103 netbook that someone had ordered, as they wanted to test out Windows 7 with it. I had our main OS core image on it easily enough but noticed that some drivers were missing so needed to sort out a driver package for it. It wasn't too bad in the end and I soon got that all sorted out and made a driver package pretty easily, once I'd got the correct drivers from HP. Unfortunately unlike Samsung they make getting drivers more difficult as they have various different versions of the same kit - two different wireless drivers, three different Bluetooth ones. Oh joy. Thank heavens I know my PCI _VEN and _DEV codes eh?

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "Shadowplay" by Joy Division. I was sorting out some of my most recent pictures and realised that I did a couple of good ones last week with the shadows in the sun with myself and The Love being figures in shadows and it worked ever so well, so I thought of a witty title and this song came into mind. And of course because it's a classic Joy Division song anyway - from a classic album. Seriously folks if you've never heard "Unknown Pleasures" yet, it's about time you did. Honestly.

Tuesday 16th August - Multicasting Madness

I had a veritable nightmare at work today as we had all sorts of fun and games with multicasting some of the student PCs and getting them to install all our software. I had done the multicasting yesterday of the main operating system image and all the gold core applications, and that went pretty well. However, when it came to the software installations with a task sequence, one different matter entirely. As the software doesn't like being multicasted via the normal Windows PE method, you in effect have to unicast it as part of a separate task sequence for applications. This normally works well with a little server load added of course.

But there were two reasons why it failed to work today which was a tad frustrating: one of which was that if anyone else across the network was multicasting an image and their network speed was set to 10Mb/s, it slowed everything else on that network to the same speed. Aaargh. And not just that - for some reason if you're working on a set of PCs that are set to go to sleep after 30 minutes, and you've left them to crack on with doing the task sequence, then if it takes longer than 30 minutes (and ours definitely does because of all the specialist software) then when it sleeps, the sequence stops, doesn't start till you wake it up and often then fails at the point of wake up.

So what to do? Well, simple solution is to prevent your PCs going to sleep in the first place during your deployments of applications. An easy way to do this is at the start of your task sequence in that inset a run command line step and do the following: powercfg -x -standby-timeout-ac 0 (which actually sets it to Never in the power saving options) Then of course at the end if you wanted it to be set back to 30 minutes, you'd do another command line but with 30 instead of 0. I'll give that a go first thing tomorrow as part of our application task sequence I think. In the meantime late afternoon I re-multicasted the OS deployment part to them all so I knew I had a clean image.

I headed home after a very long day and had enough time to watch Pointless, which is always a good quiz show. I must admit I'm addicted to it and don't mind catching up with iPlayer on the Wii to watch it if I don't get home from work in time to see it. Today's episode was particularly good in that several of the questions I knew some pretty low answers to. For example sides that have won the treble in Europe (domestic league and cup and Champions League/European Cup). I knew that Celtic did that in 1967 and that answer would have scored me 2 points and most likely won the round. I also knew my 80s music in another round which many of the contestants didn't. I mean, was "Too Shy" really by Culture Club? Oh how I laughed at that one!

The Love In My Heart came over later on and I made us some lovely steak with chips and peas for tea, making it feel like a proper hearty pub meal with lots of taste in the steak itself. After that it was on with Come Dine With Me for a bit before getting out the Scrabble and having a good game of that with Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" on in the background as music to think to. The Love did really well and her FROZE for 51 was an excellent move, in fact the only move in the game better than that was my ISOLATE (blank used for S and A) also making ME on triple word score (the E was on the triple letter) which totalled 80 points including using my letters.

After that I put on REM's "Green" DVD-Audio version. I still have reservations about the mixing of this version of the classic album but I don't have any reservations about the quality of the music and songwriting though, still after all these years my favourite REM album. When you listen to "World Leader Pretend" you know it's geniuses at work, so tune of the day right there methinks. We enjoyed that and I even put on Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares USA which was quite entertaining in the end, as one former British chef showed that he had gone downhill and needed an impetus from someone else!

Monday 15th August - Slaughtering The Swans

It was the start of the new football season for all us Manchester City fans (at long last I say) and myself and my friend were off to the Etihad Stadium (still sounds odd saying that) to see City's first game against Swansea. This is now our third year that our friend and I have season tickets together, and it's meant that we've been able to see plenty of great matches and lots of good football. I've been through the ups and downs over the many years I've supported the team, and I suspect that this season might be another up like last, but we shall see.

As we got to the ground a little earlier than normal, my friend and I headed over to City Square to see what was going on there. It was pretty good as they had the regular presenter Hugh Ferris there with Danny Jackson (aka Fanzone Danny - if you've ever seen him on Sky Sports you know who I mean) and new addition to the matchday team, the model Natalie Pike. She's a big City fan and also did a degree where I work, so she's got brains as well as beauty, and I guess it's good to have both male and female presenters getting into the match day atmosphere for the fans too. Danny's most famous moment is probably this one:

This was proven more so in the little quiz that they had with Danny on one team and Natalie on the other, joined by a fan on each side and Will Greenwood on Danny's team and Welsh rugby legend, Superstars legend and Swansea fan Gareth Edwards on Natalie's team. Plenty of questions about City ensued and I said to my friend most of the correct answers, which I think he was impressed by. I even got the old picture to be of the 1904 FA Cup winning squad no less, so that was nifty. I could have been on either team if they wanted me, I reckon to myself.

We got into the stadium and took our positions on Level 2 of the East Stand. And what's this? Comfortable padded seats? Oh yes. I suspect in Winter they might be a bit better than the plastic ones for not freezing your bottom off on, and of course they're much more comfy when sitting down to cheer the boys on. Maybe that's the cunning plan to prevent people from standing when they don't have to, I wonder? The teams came out and the noise was electric - and fair play to the Swansea fans as they brought a considerable number of fans along considering it's a fair distance and a Monday night game too.

The first half got underway and City played pretty well, with Swansea wanting to pass the ball around too, so fair play to them too. City had a few chances though as Edin Džeko had a shot well saved by their keeper, David Silva hit the bar, as did Gareth Barry right on the stroke of half time, and Silva also had another shot well saved as well. I was quietly confident that if we scored we'd get another and that we just needed to be patient and get on with the game. The applause the players got at half time seemed to back my theory up and my friend and I certainly thought so, he even tried the new skin on chips at half time which weren't too bad by all accounts.

The second half got underway and City pressed again, but Swansea also had a good shot on goal well saved by Joe Hart, showing that they were more than happy to go for it. Not long after that though came the breakthrough, as the ball went to Adam Johnson on the right, his cross cum shot was parried away by the keeper only right into the path of Džeko, who couldn't really miss, and so 1-0 to City. Not long after that came a substitution with the possibly injured Nigel de Jong coming off, and on came our new signing Sergio Agüero, nicknamed Kun apparently because of a comic character that he likes.

For the next half hour the entertainment value went up once again, as first off a good City move involving man of the match David Silva meant a ball went out to Micah Richards on the right and his low cross was perfect for Agüero to finish neatly into the bottom corner and that was 2-0. It wasn't long before it was 3-0 either, with Agüero beating the keeper and lobbing him, and just managing to flick the ball back before it went out of play straight to Silva, who was rightly rewarded with another goal to make it 3-0. Wow! Did all that just happen I wondered, as City were tearing Swansea to bits with their attacking play.

The game carried on and with a few minutes left fans decided to head home as victory was in the bag, but not us two. Oh no, we've seen plenty of last minute goals to know otherwise. And it proved to be the case again as Agüero got the ball midway inside the Swansea half, went forward a bit and then unleashed a powerful shot firmly into the Swansea net from at least thirty yards. It was a goal to savour and one that you had to be there for - shame on all the fans who left early and missed all of that. What were you thinking?

Tune of the day as we headed out of a very rainy but happy Etihad Stadium is Supra's version of "Blue Moon". It used to be played last season which got us all going but tonight they had Liam Gallagher's new band Beady Eye's version, which is a) bobbins and b) not a patch on anything his brother could have done with the same song. Supra's version is much more rocking with proper guitars and a singer who actually sings the song with passion and gusto, just like a City fan should have. The club need to reinstate this, and fast.

Sunday 14th August - Walking With The Wind

The Love In My Heart and I decided that if the weather was okay, we'd head out for a walk and make the most of the day if we could. We had some breakfast earlier on and generally pottered about, and made sure that all was well with the world. We were going to do a bit of shopping first anyway as it looked like it was going to rain but still be all sticky and humid, and that's not always the best weather to be walking around in. Still, I had some ideas as did The Love, and so off we set in the direction of the city centre.

First off was the new Marks and Spencer Outlet on Great Ancoats Street in the Urban Exchange centre - it had just opened and looked all shiny and new, but nothing grabbed the attention of The Love. I did however get a pair of black jeans in the clearance for a mere £9, and the only size that they had was mine, so that pleased me no end. We then went to the large Tesco in Gorton where I used some of my Clubcard vouchers and got myself this nice dark green check shirt, which was reduced to £8, as well as some factor 50 spray for the holiday in a few weeks time, just to be absolutely sure that I wouldn't burn to bits.

We then headed off towards Denton, down the M60 and around the back of Bredbury cutting through Compstall and then down to Marple Bridge, where we stopped off and then took a walk through Brabyns Park. It's all very nice with wooded paths. One of the paths takes you up and over the railway and then towards the Marple Locks canal path, where we then walked down the locks for a while, and admired one couple who were heading up the locks with their dog, who was in a basket at the top of the boat peaceful as anything and admiring the view somewhat.

We then walked back up the locks path, down the hill towards Marple Bridge and having walked around the village earlier before the park, the weather had started to just turn out to be decent so that meant we could head to the Midland pub, get a well earned cold drink (a lime and soda in my case) and then relax and watch the world go by, and why not. It was good to head up there anyway and the canal looked like it was being very well used. Not sure I'd want to have to operate all of those locks to get up anywhere, but sometimes you just have to do what you need to.

It was then back to mine and we saw Escape to the Country, where a couple were focussing on a move to North Wales and some lovely country cottages were presented which made us think "wow, wouldn't it be nice to live there?" It was intriguing how the couple went on a bit of a tour of Llandudno too, with the pier and the Great Orme all taking centre stage, and of course the copper mines that are up that peak as well, showing how resourceful people used to be (and in many ways still are - the mines were saved from becoming a car park and are now a tourist attraction.) I have to say that Nicki Chapman suits those summer dresses that she was wearing and certainly seemed to make the couple comfortable about the moves. She even pronounced Betws-y-Coed correctly (not easy I can assure you) so kudos to her for that.

Tune of the day has to come from one of the new CDs I got yesterday, as I had a bit of time to listen to them earlier and it was good to really enjoy the music on offer. Being a bit of a fan of punk when I was old enough to discover music history and find out about music, The Jam certainly hit the right notes for me, and "The Modern World" is still one of my favourites of theirs - just edgy, hard and to the point. And of course the single version had to be very slightly edited, so that the swear word wasn't on there. Meh!

Saturday 13th August - CDs and Chorlton

Had a pretty good day all round, and once I'd got the house cleaned up nicely it was first of all off into the city centre. I went and had my hair cut which did the job nicely - and had good banter with the staff in there as one of them's a staunch Red, so we chatted a bit about the result last Sunday. Thankfully she and the other staff had left early on Tuesday and so avoided all the hassle that went on. In her words, "they're just d**kheads" and you couldn't really argue with that. I walked down Market Street later on and although you could see some boarding up still, most of it seemed pretty normal. The Miss Selfridges that had been burnt did look a mess though.

I went into the That's Entertainment shop too, as they do CDs for not much dosh. They often have used stock at a mere £1.99 or three for a fiver, which can't be too bad. Of course for someone like me who likes the music it's a fair bit of looking in and seeing what they have got. And I found some nice surprises to add to the collection too. I only found five I wanted and it seemed pointless not getting a sixth, so I managed to pick one up for The Love In My Heart as well so that she would have something that she'd like - and why not, I thought to myself. So what did I get? Well, if you want an eclectic mix, how about The Jam's "Compact Snap", Tenacious D's "The Pick of Destiny", Barenaked Ladies' live album "Rock Spectacle" (which is normally bloody hard to get hold of for some reason), Slayer's "God Hates Us All" and Depeche Mode's "Speak and Spell". See, told you I was eclectic.

I arrived home and had a relaxing time before The Love came over to mine with my Mum, as we'd planned to take Mum out for the afternoon. I showed Mum the pictures from my niece's birthday that I'd taken with the Nikon F80 film SLR I have, and gave The Love the CD I got her - Sixpence None The Richer's album, which has "Kiss Me" on it which she adores, and then we headed out to get the bus to Chorlton. The plan would be to head down Beech Road, check out the shops and so on, and then head somewhere for an evening meal, so that would hopefully work out well. The bus was a little late but it came and we were soon heading towards Chorlton, getting off at the bus station and walking down Beech Road.

We stopped off first at On The Corner, a place I love, and Mum seemed to like it too. Whilst I was there she asked me to name a tune she hummed, and I knew it straight off: Frank Zappa's "Peaches en Regalia". Ironically behind where we were sat was a display with the rear cover of Zappa's "Weasels Ripped My Flesh" album. Whilst we had coffee and I had a gorgeous carrot cake, we chatted about music and all sorts. I perused the vinyl and what happened to be there but a vinyl first reissue of Zappa's "Hot Rats" album. The current album had finished playing and the person at the counter said to me "put something on if you want" so I had to put side 1 of that album on and play "Peaches En Regalia" on. Tune of the day - had to be!

We walked further down Beech Road, looking in clothes shops, art gallery shops with some very nice but expensive artwork, custom furniture shops, and Loop, a place that not only sells Scrabble mugs (The Love got me my W one from there no less) but also Sesame Street hand puppets. Couldn't resist having a go at the Cookie Monster one (and yes I am a big kid before you ask). We then checked out a small craft fair being held inside The Beech pub. The vinyl outside had my attention so the two ladies headed inside and looked at the stalls in there - The Love bought this lovely little bag whilst she was in there. I got two 7" singles cheaply: Judas Priest's "Breaking The Law" with fold out sleeve, and Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Firecracker" a tune I really like for its electronica.

It was then to the Horse and Jockey, and it was nice to sit outside with a pint and chatter away. We were thinking of eating there but as there wasn't something for everyone, we instead sat outside and admired Chorlton Green and how many people were milling around and generally having a good time even if the weather wasn't 100% in the meantime. After a well earned drink there it was back up to Wilbraham Road and into the Lloyds pub, which had some good food on. It was very well worth it - the gammon I had was spot on, the steak sandwich that The Love had was plentiful, and the steak for Mum was gorgeous too. I even had a sticky toffee pudding too to complete the set and it was really nice. And not expensive either, so kudos to them.

We then headed up to The Bar, close to the Metrolink station, one of The Love and mine's favourite haunts. I was going to have the Ginger Marble, but then I saw what else they had - oh my gosh! They had Black Cat on cask, only the second time I've ever seen it in Manchester (the other one is Sandbar, where it's regular as anything). So what did I do but of course have a pint! Mum had this Timmerman's raspberry beer which really did smell lovely and apparently taste just as good too (mind you, Bacchus is nicer Mum!) and it was good to relax in there with a drink before we headed homeward.

We'd all had a great day and I suggested that at some point in the future we should head up to Bury and take the East Lancashire Railway to Ramsbottom, and that'd be good because a) Mum's never been on a tram, ever b) steam trains would be cool to head on, especially old fashioned ones and c) Ramsbottom is lovely anyway and I'm sure Mum would love it there. So that'll be something to look forward to I think. It had been a long day though so after seeing we'd not won the lottery and then relaxing in front of the telly, it was time for The Love and I to head to a well earned sleep.

Friday 12th August - Slog

It was a day of meetings at work today with one during the morning, focussing on our Windows 7 development work and how we were all progressing, including the campus technology kit for demonstrating in lectures etc and how that was coming along, and also the progress in general as to how things were going. We actually finished ahead of time which was good but we also got to chat to a lot of people and discuss where we were going from here too, so all quite productive. And in the afternoon there was also a meeting for the local team to see how we were all getting on. In the end it's proved to be quite useful having these meetings now and getting on with it.

I had fun and games though in the afternoon as I wanted to test out a few things on the new rig I'd imaged yesterday and this morning I went and put all our site applications on it (ie: all the Autodesk stuff, all the Adobe stuff, and plenty more besides). For some reason 3ds Max Design 2012 didn't want to get past the splash screen which was a bit annoying. I found that it's often due to the graphics driver, and as I know the laptop I'm using has a good onboard graphics chip and so that all worked, but the PC has some Intel onboard graphics that can't be handled properly by the software.

Thankfully this is documented and you can change the shortcut so that it has a switch at the end. -v lets you then choose the video mode you want, so -vd becomes Select Direct 3D, -vs is for software render, -vo is for OpenGL and so on. The native mode it tries to use, Nitrous, isn't applicable to all graphics cards and so for safety as the Intel ones can handle it, I'm going to go for OpenGL and see how that works in the long run. Fingers crossed that it will work rather nicely for them all.

I headed home and had the Test Match Special commentary on the red button as England's cricketers went for it against India. After carrying on when they left off and with Tim Bresnan whacking the ball to the boundaries (especially the six he made) England soon reached seven hundred runs against India before Alistair Cook's epic innings finally came to an end as he holed out for a massive 294 - he really wanted the 300 but just couldn't do it. That said I think had he reached that total England might have declared anyway, but a massive 710 for 7 was going to be some total to chase - especially as it meant India were 486 runs behind as they started their second innings.

Tune of the day is the rather good "It Happened Then" by Electronic Ensemble. It's a little heard electronic dance number from 1980, but it's rather good for several reasons: firstly it was by a couple of folks from round these parts, second it has vocoder electronic parts many years before it became fashionable, and last it also inspired many electronic tunes after that. Just a shame that it didn't get the recognition it deserved back then as when you listen to it, you'll understand why!

Thursday 11th August - Town

It was good to see that things were slowly getting back to normal in the city of Manchester, and although it was a bit busier heading into work today, the main thing was that you could see that everyone was getting on with their lives now. All the furore seems to be dying down and the fact that the local newspaper named and shamed those who had been sentenced, with their pictures across the front page clearly sent out a message to say that those who would be caught would be punished. And to that I say - good!

It was a fairly busy day and I spent a fair bit of time getting together another test rig which I could bring our standard image down to and then layer on all the specialist applications on top to make sure that they all worked. There was some definite server slowness though so it meant that multicasting was taking forever and it just ground to a halt. It seemed to be up and running around 4pm though so I made sure I set off a task sequence to bring down our gold core image and go from there - let it run overnight and I can do my other bit.

I had The Love In My Heart come over later and we chatted away whilst I made us some rather nice peri peri chicken together with some new potatoes boiled then oven baked along with some vegetables. It's always a nice fair chunk of chicken that you get and it's quite succulent too, complementing the topping nicely which gives it that fair bit of kick. The Love seemed to have had a good day all round, and I was able to show her the pictures that I'd had back in the post that I took on my film SLR the other day. It came out pretty well and quite a few of them I was very pleased with indeed.

Later on we settled in to watch Town on BBC2, which has been a good series all about certain towns and how their history and geography has shaped where they are. Last night focussed on Perth up in Scotland, which was once a city but is now a town, although plenty of people locally want to see it back as a city. I was intrigued how the river helped shape the town and how the flood defences almost merge in with the walls of the town too, and the flooding a few years back meant that those defences had to be bigger and stronger than ever before. But there was also the plans to demolish the former city hall and make a piazza square in its place as a focal point of the town too, interesting but yet controversial plans.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Disciple" by Slayer. It somehow seems to appeal to my frame of mind right now, taking out all the frustration of the week and rocking pretty hard to this classic. It has a full on Tom Araya belting out that God hates us all, and with real passion and anger in the voice too. It just also shows that more than being thrash they actually have a real talen for what they do too. Somehow I'd like to see some of this week's rioters mess with Slayer - not a chance. Imagine them belting out "Raining Blood" to a massed crowd like that? It'd scare the crap out of them!

Wednesday 10th August - Soapboxing

It seemed surreal heading off to work this morning. The roads did seem a lot quieter but also there felt like that plenty had gone on overnight, and it had. Order was finally restored to the city centre of Manchester around 2am and throughout the day we've had lots of people volunteer to clean up the city and make it as better as they could do. My brother went along and took some pictures of plenty of people in Piccadilly Gardens with brooms provided by the people in Wilkinsons and generally getting on with things. We Mancunians are a resilient lot: we bounced back from a terrorist bombing in 1996 and the place is a lot more on the up - we turned a negative into a positive.

I'm sure we can do the same here, and it helps massively when the police have been kicking backside, arresting the idiot who set fire to Miss Selfridge on Market Street and also two other idiots have been named, shamed and sentenced. Yet there's some who see it fit to post a clip on Youtube of the police seemingly kicking too hard. Not so, folks. There was lots of trouble around Piccadilly Station and when you see idiots in hoodies and masks attempting to cycle towards trouble clearly intent on it, then in my view the police can do whatever they like to keep law and order operational.

In a way too I think public opinion has turned. Previously it was sometimes a case of too many do-gooders saying that the police were being too brutal with some people, particularly in demonstrations where such protests were often hijacked by people out there looting in the background and having people sometimes caught up in it. Now the balance has tipped, and people are getting completely sick of the same minority spoiling it for the vast majority who get on with their lives, work hard and give themselves every chance at making their life as good as they can. I've seen how it's turned already with a fair number of people in offices hearing the news that the scroats were arrested saying "Good! Now give them the nth degree".

So what does this mean then? It's simple really. I think that people are no longer overly concerned about the police having powers to do whatever they can to bring situations under control - they're more concerned about wanting to get back on with things. Seeing the numbers of people out in Manchester really does kindle the spirits in a good way. In fact our ultimate big boss of our place suggested that if we had clearance from our line manager, we'd be allowed to head to help out the clearup operation which was a positive gesture to be honest. And hearing that both Manchester and Salford councils will evict the families of idiots who have been caught creating havoc shows that it's not going to be tolerated. Again, good!

In view of that, tune of the day is "Ghost Town" by The Specials, as certainly that's what parts of the city centre were like tonight after most of the shops closed down early and battoned down the hatches just to be on the safe side. It's best not to take any chances and I suspect that over the next few days any shops without roller shutters will have them fitted. Also that tune seemed to fit the mood of thirty years ago when the country faced a similar less difficult situation.

Tuesday 9th August - Calm and Chaos

I had a pretty productive day at work today. I was actually off to another of our sites to assist one of my colleagues who needed to run similar software to what I was running on my site, but a different version, and I had agreed to head over and offer my expertise and assistance so that they could have the software up and running in minimal time. It was handy for me too because the site is actually closer to home, and it's a relatively pleasant walk from my house to where the site is, alongside some lovely roads and trees. All very civilised, I think.

I arrived and my colleague came first out of everyone else, we had a cuppa and I looked at the room in question. I suggsted that we try out the software on one machine, make sure it works, and see what it does, and then see if I needed to apply the scripts that I found a few weeks back. They were using the standard AutoCAD 2012, not the architecture flavour, but still had the same issues I had - in that running as a limited user didn't do what it was supposed to do. I had all the relevant scripts with me that I used, so we configured the settings as we wanted, and then made sure that this was called before the program ran.

And.. tada! It worked. And so flushed with success we headed to the settings for Google Sketchup 8 (not the pro version) and managed to work out what registry settings were required and crack on with that too, so it felt pretty positive. I also went through some useful bits of advice to do with ConfigMgr, and the two of us headed out for lunch at a nearby pub, which had a very nice steak and Guiness pie, a big chunk of proper pie with chips, onion rings and peas. Result all round!

I headed home and it was a lovely walk, and later on when The Love In My Heart came over we'd heard that there might have been possible disturbances starting in the centre of Manchester but as we were going for a nice walk out way out of town that we should be okay. We headed to Chorlton Water Park as I'd never been there before and it's supposed to be a nice place. And so it proved to be. We walked around the whole of the lake by following a path all the way around, and it was a gentle pace but a very nice one.

The weather was closing in after one good lap of the lake so we headed home and I made us some lovely rump steak for tea. We switched on BBC News 24 and were watching with some horror, but mostly anger and frustration, at the chaos in the centre of Manchester. Lots of idiots were out trying to smash and loot the shops and also attempt to set fire to a couple of places. The police were at least out in numbers and ready for action, and I think on the whole they battled on to try and keep on top of the situation. They couldn't stop everything and some shops had their windows put through, some had stock taken, but I have a feeling it could have been a lot worse. In Salford though it was pretty awful with the shops taking a battering and some places burning too.

I just don't know what to say really except incidents like these make us both feel very upset and angry in that there's some idiots out there who don't seem to understand that there will be consequences to this type of action, and that there's plenty of things that can happen to them, and that respect has to be earned, not taken for granted. You heard so many say "they don't respect us..." which just shows total ignorance of how it works. Authority is something you respect and by treating it that way then people will give you respect you earn. Simple really. And of course on top of that, it makes you wonder what parents would knowingly let their kids be involved in activities, unless of course you're the family that went to Lidl when it was being ramsacked and packed the car with a shedload of stuff before driving off...

Tune of the day though pretty much sums up my mood - and how I want to disconnect from the constant 24 hour media coverage, giving almost notoriety to what's going on - "Disconnect" by Rollins Band. It rocks of course but shows a lot of thought: "Don't want to see too much, it makes me see to much", and "it just fills me up with noise, it overloads myself!" to give you an idea to sometimes switch off and avoid everything and disconnect from what's going on. If only it was that easy...

Monday 8th August - Warp, Weft and Weave

I had a bit of work to do today with the final settings for the program that some of our fashion, embroidery and textiles people are going to use, called Scotweave. We wanted to set up the jacquard loom software so that we'd have a default jacquard harness to use with particular settings. The idea is that we'd set this up and so when the students would create a loom disk, it would have the harness settings for the jacquard loom already present thus saving tons of time and effort.

It was nice to see our weave technician who knows her stuff but is also very lovely to chat to as well, I like her sparkly personality. Between us we remembered what she had learned on the training course and soon made a harness design which would do the job nicely. I tweaked the batch file we have to run the software with all default settings correct, and made it so that the user would get the harness design in their network drive, so when using the loom disks they'd have the design right there. I spotted a couple of things to be wary of and between us we got it done. The good thing is that because I liaise with the staff a lot, they're willing to come and talk to me and get things done the right way.

We also had a team meeting today as well where we worked out a plan of action as to what to do with the remainder of the rollout that we need to do for all the Windows 7 kit we have left to do in the first phase. Thankfully I was able to offer some useful input into that, and as a side note I've even documented what I did to get Vectorworks 2011 working as a silent install, so felt pretty pleased with myself full stop. I'm actually at another site tomorrow helping one of our colleagues with all things Autodesk, so hopefully that'll all work out just fine too.

I headed home and watched the preview clip of the new Beavis and Butt-head series which will be on MTV later this year. Hang on, you say. New Beavis and Butt-head? Yes, folks. It's back, and what's more than that, one of the new episodes happens to feature Beavis' alter-ego, and perhaps the most well known side character, Cornholio, also returns too. The preview clip I've watched seems really promising with the animation being a lot better but the humour remaining positively intact. What also makes me smile is that they've lost none of their character either, and so I can only hope it gets shown on terrestrial television soon!

Tune of the day seems pretty apt considering all the rioting going on in London at the moment, as it has scary parallels to 1981 - "Ghost Town" by The Specials. It captured the mood of the nation back then and I think now with plenty of fires being set off and shops looted all over the place, it somehow seems to be reminiscent of how parts of the capital seem to be descending into chaos and anarchy, with people either upset with a lack of opportunity or a lack of respect from the policy. Either way, it's rather scary all round!

Sunday 7th August - Wembley Woe

So, it was up at 4.45am for me as I got myself up, showered and ready to head out for the day, as my friend and I were off to Wembley to see Manchester City in the Community Shield. He arrived at The Love's place at 5.30am and we headed down to the North Car Park in the pouring rain - I was glad I had a jacket with me to keep the rain off as it wasn't the most pleasant weather ever. Thankfully the coach we booked was perfect for my friend, who has to use a wheelchair a fair bit of the time now. The coach had a lift which took the person in chair up to the coach level, and there were spaces for up to eight chairs and they were clamped into place so as not to move in transit. The coach drivers were excellent and knew their stuff, and were a good laugh too.

We headed off in a slightly wrong direction (even almost going past Old Trafford, boo!) but got on to the M56 and then the A556 to the M6, down there and along the M6 Toll, which saves tons of time, before getting to the M1 and getting to Northampton services for around 9am. We had an hour's break there which was enough time to get everyone off and on with wheelchairs etc, and my friend and I headed to Costa Coffee, I had coffee and a cheese and ham toastie and my friend went for a tea and a croissant with tons of jam. It was a nice way to gently get up with something to keep us going, and before long we were back on the M1 towards London.

At the end of the M1 it was down the North Circular Road and soon off to the side roads following the route to Wembley, and following the roads around the stadium we soon got to the coach park where some of the other City coaches were. This did mean at least that we were near the entrances and so with tons of time to kill (11.30am and it's a 2.30pm kick off!) we headed around the ground, and I showed my friend how the fans would walk along Wembley Way from the tube station, and how the statue of the legend that is Bobby Moore oversees proceedings as the fans head to the stadium.

We then had some chips from one of the stalls outside the ground (not paying rip off prices inside mind you) and soon got ourselves in and heading around. We got to the Betfred kiosk and decided to each have a small bet on the first goalscorer and result. My friend had Joleon Lescott at 28/1 and Yaya Toure at 11/1, whilst I had David Silva at 9/1 and a double of Yaya Toure to score and City win 1-0 at 60/1 - well it's happened before, that was my logic, and it could happen again. With that all done we got to the spaces we'd been allocated and for my friend the view was excellent, a really smart unobstructed view of it all.

The teams did their training and soon some strange red and blue outfitted people headed on the pitch, assembling the club crests out of various pieces, Krypton Factor style. Once this was done the band Reef came on (remember them?) and did their big hit at the time, "Place Your Hands" - tune of the day as it's still pretty rocking now. As my friend and I remembered it being used on TFI Friday on Channel 4, we sang along to the chorus as per the show "It's your letters, it's your letters.." as you do. Well we used to back in the day and we know our TV stuff.

The game kicked off and it was edgy stuff for the first twenty minutes or so with some tasty tackles coming in, and a few bookings along the way too. I thought Mario Balotelli was going to kick off with Nemanja Vidic (that would have been tasty but red card central) and once play calmed down a bit both sides had chances. However it was City that took the lead as a free kick floated in found the head of Joleon Lescott to make it 1-0. Double happiness for us - City went in front and my friend won £28 from Betfred of course for the first scorer. That alone made it a result if nothing else happened. Of course I wasn't to know that with stoppage time left in the first half, Edin Dzeko would smash a 35 yard low shot into the net and make it 2-0 at half time. Wow!

I did however know that United wouldn't be taking that lying down and they made three changes at the start of the second half, which proved a good decision. I figured that if we kept the score at 2-0 and kept pushing forward we should win it easily. That didn't happen. Chris Smalling made it 2-1 from a clever Ashley Young free kick and then Nani, Wayne Rooney and Anderson combined to leave Nani sprinting in and smashing the ball home for 2-2, with less than an hour gone. It wasn't pretty to see us lose the lead like that but it shows us still how much we have to go.

It got to stoppage time and both teams went for it. We had a corner which was cleared, and between them Vincent Kompany and Gael Clichy had no idea who wanted the ball, and so in popped Nani, ran forward, easily went around Joe Hart in the City goal and that was it - 3-2. I felt physically sick. How the hell could we have done that? And why couldn't we have at least held on for penalties with a slightly better chance of winning? That said though United did deserve to win, sadly, as we looked completely out of sorts during the second half with the midfield mainly anonymous. Had he not retired, it'd have been the perfect time to put Patrick Vieira on to sort it out.

It was an unhappy two of us who left the ground and headed back to the coach. Thankfully the coach drivers who were on were full of humour and at least kept the spirits up on the way home despite all the rubbish traffic. We were stuck heading towards Stanmore out of Wembley and went past the tube station there, the same one that The Love In My Heart would have used many years ago when she worked down that way. We eventually got on the M1, headed past all the roadworks, got on the M6 and on the M6 Toll and stopped at Norton Caines services for a brew and something to eat, before getting back to the stadium around 11.10pm.

Saturday 6th August - Film and Digital

Had a bit of a relaxing day today as I knew that tomorrow would be a very early wake up call due to myself and my friend heading to the Community Shield at Wembley to see Manchester City face Manchester United. With that in mind I had a leisurely morning around the house cleaning up and getting some clothes washed, and also made sure that I had plenty of chores done as I knew I'd have no time to do them during the rest of the weekend. As I finished earlier than planned I had a couple of hours to kill, so felt it best to head out and make the most of the improving weather.

I headed on the bus to Millgate Lane in East Didsbury and walked from there along the path alongside Stenner Woods to Fletcher Moss Gardens, went past the Alpine Tea Rooms and down through the rockery to one of the paths that takes you to Stenner Lane, and from there along the beautiful tree lined path to the River Mersey. I could have walked on the path around Millgate Fields but instead followed a different path which went up and down hills alongside some farm land and ended up further up the River Mersey with the M60 motorway on the other side. This took me to the sluice gates close to the far end of East Didsbury and followed the bank alongside the sluice to a road that takes you to Old Bedians sports club. There's a path there that takes you over a pond and back to the path to Millgate Fields too.

I then walked through the Stenner Woods almost back to my point of departure where I headed back up through the gardens, past the tennis courts and on to Wilmslow Road, and then down Stenner Lane to the church where a wedding had just finished. With two rolls of film used for my Nikon F80 film SLR, it was time to head home on the bus, have some lunch and then get the films sent off to DS Colour Labs for processing. I get a discount for two films being processed at once which is good and of course the free CD of pictures comes in handy for digital storage as well, so be interesting to see how the Superia 400 film coped.

Later on The Love In My Heart came over and we headed over to the Inspire centre in Levenshulme so we could check out a small exhibition of photography by Ed Sprake, who lives locally and I know from Flickr. It was good to put a proper face to name and we had a good chat about 50mm lenses and all sorts, and I have to say it was a neat touch to have a small miniature version of each image with an explanation behind the image too. The one of the bandstand in Whitby as a 360 degree angle with lots of multiple long exposures really looked stunning and I would hope that someone buys that or some of the other work. They even had some cool film soundtrack music playing in there so that was good, including "Moon River" by Henry Mancini from Breakfast At Tiffany's, so that was tune of the day.

We headed back to The Love's place, and she made a gorgeous lasagne for tea which went down a treat, as well as some lovely creme brulee for dessert, and we ended up watching the film Cloverfield together as there wasn't much on the telly. I thought it actually worked well on the whole using the point of view of someone with a small video camera recording everything as it went along, and although obviously jumpy in parts due to the nature of the story, it added to the nature of the film somewhat brilliantly. Of course the real clue is right at the end but you've got to be careful to spot it. And with that, sleep as I had an early start tomorrow..

Friday 5th August - Friday Frivolity

It was a good end to a good week as I worked on getting ConfigMgr to deploy Vectorworks 2011 using the command lines that I'd managed to get to do the install. I eventually did so - with one little catch. You have to create two packages - one for the installer and then one for the update. You can't have a dependency within the same package on one command running before another so I found out. It also I guess means that if I keep them as separate packages, and an update comes out, I can then simply deploy the update and make sure that in my task sequence for all the software we just deploy accordingly.

I decided as it had been a long week nonetheless and after having our weekly online camera meeting via Microsoft Lync - which has been working really well for the likes of conferencing to be honest - I joined a few of my colleagues and headed to Sandbar. I'd not been there for ages and I do love the place - not least because of their good beer selection (they have Black Cat on cask, yummy) and for the first time this year they're doing food over the summer. Black Cat was on so that was mine, as was this gorgeous chicken, chorizo and mushroom penne with a lovely cream sauce, that would easily match anything you'd get in a restaurant. Gorgeous I tell you.

I headed over to Tesco on the way home and did my weekly shopping, and it was a case of getting the things I needed but not as much as I usually had to - I will be out all day for the football on the Sunday and also don't need to possibly make as much as I need to for tea during the week either, so it was a case of getting some essentials and trying to keep the cost down. I did also get a bit of a bargain as some of the Clubcard vouchers had arrived - one of them was for 75p off a leading make of fabric conditioner and as I actually needed some, I got some - and it was priced at £1. So effectively it meant 25p, hurrah!

Spent some time later watching the Diamond League meeting at Crystal Palace on BBC2. It was a pretty good evening not least as Mo Farah showed his supreme class right at the end with an excellent 3000 metres win to get him warmed up nicely for the World Championship at the end of the month in South Korea. Jenny Meadows also won the women's 800 metres which was a real confidence booster for her, and there was also the world's best time in the women's 400 hurdles too, so definitely plenty of world class action on show. It's also on tomorrow so I might have to tune in for a bit.

I also listened to PJ Harvey's latest album "Let England Shake" tonight in recognition of its Mercury Prize nomination that it recently had. I do listen to it quite a bit anyway as it's a really thought provoking piece of work throughout, and the fact that some of the tracks are a little off kilter adds to the feeling it has. My current favourite track from the album is "Bitter Branches" which just sounds edgy but almost as if it could have been on her debut album too - tune of the day easily. It's very easy to see why she got the nomination though - and I have a feeling that at the end of the year this could be one of my favourite albums. You mean you've not bought it yet? You really should.

Thursday 4th August - Breakthrough

I made a breakthrough today, and not necessarily intentional, but still pretty positive. After liaising with the software manufacturer of Vectorworks, it turns out that you also need to specify -d followed by the installation directory you want to install the software to. Even though the installer does offer a default it seems that it doesn't take kindly to using it with any of the command switches when launching the installler for some reason, so you've got to specify the lot. When I did this it all then worked which was pretty good on the whole, and late on I was able to at least get the software installed and prove that it was possible. Something to try out tomorrow I think.

I also was assisting one of my colleagues with the testing of a couple of new campus technology setups and making sure that they all behaved themselves correctly. It turned out that a couple of new points had been put in so we were able to give them a blast and see if the network was talking correctly. It looked like it had and that everything worked pretty well on the whole - was good to note that the socket that the main controller in the room connects to is actually hidden away behind some of the trunking, so unless you knew where it was you couldn't mess with it - probably a good thing to be honest.

I ended up staying behind a little bit to try and set off my test laptop with all the additional software on top of the current standard image that it has - mainly because for some reason it had crashed pretty horribly for some reason and I wanted to make sure that it wasn't anything I'd done. As it turned out when I left all the software in my task sequence was working pretty nicely, so was quite pleased with how it was working. I think I've learned a lot over the last few months about being patient and knowing to think about things in a rational way to get where I am today.

After I got home I had some domestic chores to do, so got all them done first so that I could relax for when The Love In My Heart came over later on. I decided to make us a carbonara, but as you never seem to get enough bacon or ham or pancetta (depending on preference and make of sauce) in the sauce itself, I always get some bacon lardons and fry them, adding them into the sauce and pasta later once fried so that there's much more meat for the meal. It works pretty well really and that was very nice indeed. I indulged her with some Emmerdale and Corrie later, and for me I just relax and snuggle up, cos that's sometimes what you have to do.

In the meantime, tune of the day happens to be REM's "Losing My Religion". I wanted to try and see if I could complete it fully on expert vocals on Rock Band 3 (it's a downloadable song) having done so on Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock already. Thankfully as I know the song well it meant that I was able to sing it and do it justice and managed to get 100%, so felt pretty pleased about that - the second to last phrase often is tricky if you don't get the falling notes within the words as it fades off. I'm just pleased that such a classic has been given justice over time.

Wednesday 3rd August - All Almost Alone

With one of my colleagues off and my manager pretty much in and out of the office for most of the day, it was mainly me taking the reins and sorting out a few issues along the way too. I spotted there was a couple of jobs that needed my third line support, so I tried to give that and be as supportive as I could, and also set up a task sequence for my colleague so that all the Autodesk products would install on one of our test rigs, this made a lot of sense so that they could try out the new software too. We deployed it and I sat back and saw that the task sequence would take around an hour to do, not too bad I guess.

I also spent some more time with the Vectorworks 2011 installer as well - I had found out from the software manufacturer that you could also pass -d to tell it which directory you wanted it to install to, but their suggested -q for quiet mode didn't work whatsoever. They're working on it as we speak so I should have some news on that, but fair play to them for actually helping out. I did say that if I did get it talking to ConfigMgr that I'd document it as I'm sure that for other people deploying the necessary software, they would find it to be of use as well.

As well as all that, I had a laptop from a member of staff that I needed to image with the current Windows 7 early adpoters staff build. On the whole it seems pretty good to me, and because the laptop I had to image wasn't covered by our current driver packages, I made one for the Samsung X60 plus. It mainly needed the card reader drivers, sound, ATI Radeon Mobility graphics and the bluetooth but apart from that it seemed pretty good, considering most of those drivers were written for Vista and had to be used because the manufacturer has no native Windows 7 drivers, so I improvised a little.

I headed home after a long day, did a fair chunk of washing and ironing and well as finally finished off the portfolio of pictures from Saturday, so they all look good now. I also got myself some Wii Points and decided to snag some of the downloadable content from Rock Band 3 - not played it for a while and thought it'd be nice to have a bit of a sing song all round. I snagged Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping" and after a couple of goes nailed that on expert vocals, hurrah! Tune of the day that one is. In fact it was good fun to sing to it because it reminded me of bounding around like a loon on Dancing Stage Euromix in the arcades with my DM shoes on. Ah, memories.

I also got hold of Pantera's classic "Walk" as well and vocally it seems harder than it looked - maybe I was expecting a bit more shouty vocals considering it's Phil Anselmo on vocals and all, but did get around 95% on expert so didn't fare too badly really. It's actually really good to play on guitar though so I might have to try that out again - as well as the drums as I'm sure that would be great fun to pound those in true metal fashion. Sometimes it's always good to remember why you fell in love with bands in the first place and here's one of the reasons why I got into Pantera...

Tuesday 2nd August - Enjoy The Silence

It seemed relatively quiet in the office today, but that was because there were only a few of us in and also because we were all getting on with some major project work. I had a package arrive today and that was the Vectorworks 2011 media that I'd been waiting for, the last piece of specialist software that we need to include for the new student build. I first of all knew that I had to update the licencing server with the new version of the server software and server driver, and because the virtual server we have centrally doesn't interface with USB dongles in any way, we're keeping it on our existing licence box to save time and hassle.

Once I updated all of that which showed version 8.31 running as opposed to 8.30, I then first of all did a test install of Vectorworks 2011 just to make sure that everything was playing ball as intended. It all installed and when I tried it out, it talked to the licence server and picked up one of the licences available. As that dongle also allows for use of Vectorworks 12.5 licences we'd bought previously, I tried 12.5 from my machine, and it also worked rather well too and showed that each licence used could happily exist as one of the number we have. All well and good.

However, trying to do a silent installer for use with the likes of ConfigMgr is anything but easy. To be fair to the manufacturers, they've got one of their folks in touch with me and we're working through some tests together to see what can be done. What I did manage to find out is that you can pass some switches to the installer executable itself: -u for the username, -c for the Company Name, and -s for the serial number, so in theory you could fill that information in and that's a bit less for you to do when you perform the install. Thankfully unlike the old version 12.5 you don't have to give special registry permissions anymore - thank heavens for that!

With me pretty pleased with myself I headed home and tidied around a bit as well as do some ironing of some jeans that I needed to do. Of course it had cooled a little from the humidity so thought it best to get some stuff done now and and at least evade the horrible humidity later on. I made some peri peri chicken with potatoes and vegetables whilst The Sunshine In My Sky arrived, and we chatted about our days and how things had gone. She had been all over the city in meetings and so was understandably already quite warm, so allowed her the luxury of Emmerdale and relaxing.

After tea and a chat with Mum on the phone, we settled back, I put on Paul Weller's Studio 150 album and we had a game of Scrabble to keep us going. It was nice to see that in terms of strategy, The Sunshine really is playing well these days, putting together some very useful moves indeed to score a shedload of points. Her ZEBRA was a cracking effort, and also MERES where the S also made SQUIDS too, which was nifty stuff. I think I had a bad rack at the start though with five As so soon got them swapped over which proved to be a good move!

Tune of the day isn't from the Paul Weller album, but from the CD I put on next - Vonda Shepard's 1992 album "The Radical Light". It has the original "Searchin' My Soul" (which got remade for Ally McBeal a few years later) but also has a really beautiful track which says a lot about love and romance and how you search for it, and so "100 Tears Away" is the song of that album. It just seems to have lovely words and Vonda's voice is on tip top form too - and I'd love to hear her play that live on a piano or something like that.

Monday 1st August - Humid and Horrible

It's amazing how much the weather can contrast here in Manchester. On Saturday it was warm but delightfully so, with a little breeze but on the whole very breatheable and very nice air quality, and it was nice to be outside. Yesterday though was pretty sticky and humid and it doesn't help if the low cloud around just doesn't move, it had that feeling of being rather a clammy day where you just wanted to get out of your clothes as soon as possible and into the shower - not always an attractive thing to do I have to day.

It didn't help this morning that there was a traffic jam passing the Royal Infirmary on the way to work and being sat on a bus that seems not to know when to turn the heating off on a humid day doesn't exactly get the day off to a good start. Even though there's some air conditioning in the office I now work in, we even noticed it felt a little humid in there, and so it was good that it dropped a little during the day before becoming rather oppressive whilst we were having a team meeting in another building during the afternoon. It was good to see everyone and indeed catch up on plenty of what was going on.

I headed home via the local pound shops as I needed to get a couple of items from there, and also went to Iceland as I needed some food bits I couldn't get the other day. What was amazing was how much now that the food they sell in there is their own branded items and how little other companies get a look in. In a way that's also sort of contributing to the fact that not everyone shops in there locally because sometimes only the nice branded stuff actually does the business for some people. That said, Iceland's own barbecue meat feast pizza is rather gorgeous!

I spent time checking over the remainder of my pictures from Saturday's meet up with some of the lovely Flickr folks, which will be uploaded over the next couple of days as I get time. I was pretty pleased with one shot I took of the back of a Ford Capri which the local police used to use in the 1980s - the one on show on Saturday was one of the last ever commissioned for police use, and it's in impeccable condition so that's good. I can just imagine Philip Glenister driving around in one if they made another series post-Ashes to Ashes. But talking of the Gene Genie for a second, you've got to love him in that new Gordon's Gin advert: "Overbearing aromas of pretentious rubbish!" Oh yes.

Tune of the day is "Night People" by The Human League, definitely one of their highlights from their 2011 album "Credo". It has a really mean bass line that underpins the whole thing rather well and even with the odd nonsensical lyric along the way ("Leave your cornflakes in your freezers, leave your chocolate and your cheeses") it sounds really electronic almost as if those modern artists who copied their style somewhat have been usurped by them returning. It was also good to see plenty of people dancing to them when they played this live at Christmas last year, hurrah!