Dear Diary... February 2007

Wednesday 28th February - Vinyl Heaven

I decided tonight when I got home from work, after having my tea and doing a bit of cleaning around the house, to dig out some of my vinyl albums and whack them on. I thought that it was good to see how good they'd sound now I managed to get a replacement turntable a few months ago and play stuff I'd not put on for a while. I'd obviously played other stuff since then but I thought it'd be nice to actually go down the whole prog rock route and play the original releases where possible. There's just something so wonderful about the centres of old 70s records, the labels were iconic, the green Harvest label, the pink Island label with the "i" (or the palm tree with pink rim variant later on) and the black and white spiral Vertigo one. I think that's often lost for people with CDs and digital downloads that they don't feel as "attached" to a record label's releases as collectors and fans did back then. Thankfully a fair number of CD reissues have tried to keep the original centre of the vinyl record on the label side of the CD, which is pretty nice.

Anyway, first off, the iconic Deep Purple album "In Rock". I just wanted to whack on side 2, because I absolutely love "Into The Fire" (I can't do the vocal though) and "Living Wreck" for being such a fantastic song about groupies. Seriously, that's what it is. I then put on the Edgar Broughton Band singles compilation "A Bunch of 45s" which has the marvellous "Out Demons Out" as well as "Hotel Room", "Evil", and "Up Yours" which was so anti-election and anti-establishment. One of their best songs though is a B-side which is on here: "Call Me A Liar". Possibly one of the first really green songs produced too: "The planet's in a bad bad way, ooh yeah, and I'm sitting here counting the days.." - just fantastic.

Whilst resisting chucking on Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon" (note: the "The" has always been part of the title, those who drop it aren't proper fans - fact) simply because my copy has the two posters in immaculate condition and I want to keep it that way, I instead went for "Meddle" and threw on the brilliant "One Of These Days" on Side 1, a marvellous swirling epic that it is, and almost for good measure played the whole of side 2, namely "Echoes". It's just so moody and ambient but yet it works, go figure eh? I do like it though.

However, I felt I needed to rock out a bit more tonight and so it was to the Deep Purple "Singles As and Bs" compilation, which had two Parlophone and four Harvest singles, plus B-sides. Naturally of course "Black Night" was cranked up to full blast (note: the 25th anniversary CD reissue of "In Rock" has the extended version of the single which is even better) but yet something was even better than that on the vinyl, and hence my tune of the day - "Strange Kind of Woman". It just chugs along and is bloody catchy as anything, even after all these years. It's also testament to bands back then that they didn't need to have singles released off albums but have them as standalone tracks which gave you a taster of their current sound.

I finished off the vinyl frenzy with the first self-titled Roxy Music album. Of course, the original issue doesn't have "Virginia Plain" on there, but it's better for it, as the album's rather different sounding anyway. "Remake Remodel" is full of Eno's weird synthiness throughout, and in "Ladytron" there's also more rather good electronic noodling coupled with the band rocking out a bit more. Wonder if the band of the same name got the name from the track? According to Wikipedia, they did, but I don't always trust that as a 100% accurate source, as you shouldn't. Anyone care to contact me and confirm this is true?

Tuesday 27th February - Reading The Riot Act

Went over to see a couple of friends tonight to have a good catch up, a good chat and also while we were at it watch the Readin v Man U cup replay. Well, I guess a lot of people could well have switched off after a mere five and a half minutes, as some awful Reading defending plus playing a bad formation led to three goals for Man U - and to be fair taken pretty well. So you can imagine the average person watching thinking "game over, surely?" and turning over to something else. However, it didn't turn out completely like that in the end. Reading got to 3-1 within twenty minutes, and throughout the second half looked by far the better side as Man U sat back. When Leroy Lita made it 3-2 with six minutes to go, Man U were hanging on and then Reading hit the bar at the end. At least the game was entertaining because of the comeback and didn't fizzle out.

What made my friend and I laugh was that at half time chants towards pundits Alan Shearer and Alan Hansen were being sung by the fans behind the TV gantry. You could clearly hear them sing "Alan Hansen is a w*****" and, to the tune of Daydream Believer, "Cheer up Alan Shearer, oh what can it mean, to a s**** Geordie b****** and a s**** football team.." It wasn't even past the 9pm watershed technically so the Beeb could have been done for that. Anyway, at full time presenter Gabby Logan (what was it with that wraptop of hers? It just looked so unflattering?) was speaking to the three pundits including Ian Wright, and at the end it went something like this:

Alan Hansen: At the end of the day it was a tremendous cup tie. It really was. Five goals, drama, excitement. Great finish. Couldn't ask for more.
Gabby Logan: Is it always this much fun with you three?
Ian Wright: I just like the songs from the fans!

And as if by the power of Grayskull, someone already posted a clip of the moment on Youtube. Check out this link to giggle along. You can hear the Shearer chant in the background as well, brilliantly funny moment. Notice though how no fan usually slags off Wrighty.. that's cos at least when he summarises during England games he says what the average fan thinks, and tells it like it is.

Anyway, the tune of the day is something I listened to once I got back home and typed this missive before I'm going to hit the bed and sleep. None less than Sandie Shaw's reworking of her Eurovision hit, namely "Puppet's Got A Brand New String" which is available from her website for the next 60 days or so. It's a complete remake produced by Howard Jones (yes, the 80s pop star) and mixed by Andy Gray. It sounds so much different, more modern and it's miles away from the oompah trumpets of the orginal. It's a beautiful thing, and do check it out. You'll be very pleasantly surprised, her voice is in really good form! Go Sandie, go!

Monday 26th February - Raw Power

Well I took an early night and went to sleep pretty early. I was just really shattered for some reason despite not doing much. Quite why that is I don't know, but I think it was primarily that I'd had a bit of a lie in on the Sunday morning and it probably disrupted my patterns of sleep and awakeness. Still, I was glad I slept well and woke up this morning really refreshed from the sleep - not least once I'd had the shower and fully woken up. Even better, as I was leaving for work today next door's cat Pinky popped his head round to say hello. I'd not seen him for a few days and was worried that something had happened, but he seemed fine, so that was a relief and got the week started in the right spirit.

Spent a fair bit of time updating some more laptops today: a couple of those definitely needed the new and revised antivirus software on them, and at the same time I did some checks to make sure that their Windows was up to date as well as making sure Photoshop CS2 had the camera raw update installed: lots of digital cameras allow you to save images in their RAW formats, and Photoshop deals with them pretty well as long as the camera format is recognised: hence the need for the update to ensure it worked with all the latest gizmos out there.

Whilst working on the laptops the DAB radio was churning out some classic tunes from yesteryear, and one of them simply has to be my tune of the day - Sandie Shaw's "Long Live Love". Okay so it's not as cool as when Sandie went all indie in the 1980s, but for a pure pop song sung with happiness, joy and a real joie de vivre, you'd be hard pushed to match it really. And it just so happens to be her 60th birthday today as well, so happy birthday Sandie, the barefoot contessa!

Sunday 25th February - Scrapping For Victory (literally)

Had a nice and quiet day today, simply because I could, but also because there was quite a bit of sport on the telly that I wanted to watch. Because I know I'll need money for my forthcoming four gigs in four nights jaunt, plus the Easter break I sorted myself out with, I thought that realistically not going out would save me some dosh (and it wasn't that expensive being out Friday night either really). So the plan was set: watch both live games on Sky Sports 1 and see what's available to watch a bit later on.

First up: Inverness Caledonian Thistle against Celtic in the Scottish Cup. Caley have done pretty well against Celtic before - in fact they have won against them a couple of times in recent years, and so it was a tie poised for an upset. Even the 12-30pm kick off didn't seem to faze anyone there - it was a good atmosphere projected, and when Caley scored first and took the lead midway through the first half, you could tell how much it meant and that it could well be the first time for a very long time that neither Glasgow team would appear in the semifinals. Well, it was 1-0 until the 88th minute and then from a corner Celtic equalised, and just to add insult to injury Kenny Miller pops up with a really well taken winner into stoppage time. Oh how football can be such a cruel game at times.

Then it was the Carling Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea. I almost was going to put a bet on earlier about Theo Walcott being first scorer - and sure enough what happens? Walcott scores to put Arsenal a goal up. Sod's law would have been though that if I'd have put the bet on, it wouldn't have happened, but there you go. Within a few minutes and against the run of play Didier Drogba equalised for Chelsea. And so it stayed at 1-1 and was a bit cat and mouse, with Arsenal displaying most of the skill and Chelsea battling to try and keep themselves in the game.

Certainly the injury to John Terry was something no one wanted to see, an accidental boot into his diving header rendered him unconscious for a small while. Concern from both sets of players was there for all to see, and praise the Arsenal physio Gary Lewin for getting over there first and helping out. Thankfully both sets of supporters realised too and both cheered his name - nice to see, that. Obviously it worried the players a bit and it did get a bit cagey for a while - understandably so. However, in the 84th minute up popped Drogba to score a great diving header to make it 2-1, and because of the stoppage to see to Terry, it meant at least 7-8 minutes of added on time.

Unfortunately this is where the game lost it. Kolo Toure went in for a tackle with John Obi Mikel, tempers flared afterwards and before you know it there was a mass brawl on the pitch, with both managers also coming on to the pitch to try and pull their players away from trouble. However, no excuses. You can be as passionate all you want when playing the game but when the passion descends into a mass fight on the pitch, what example does that set the kids watching? None. It was utterly disgraceful, and seriously the FA need to throw the book and the disciplinary charges at both teams for failure to control their players. Consider this: in all the previous years of this tournament, there had only ever been three sendings off in the finals. The three today doubled that total, and in truth there could have been more, maybe should have been. It was an absolutely diabolical advert for football, it really was. No wonder it ended up being thirteen minutes of added on time.

In the evening I listened to some music and also watched some old football on ESPN Classic as well, there was also the 1975 International Trophy race from Silverstone, pretty interesting that. Not least as it didn't count for F1 World Championship points but lots of F1 drivers took part in their cars. Had James Hunt's engine not conked out, he could well have won. But it's so good to see old races like that with Murray Walker's unmissable commentary.

Whilst listening to some tunes, I realised that the new Ash single was available as a free download, so I snagged it, listened to it and absolutely loved it. So tune of the day is "I Started A Fire" by Ash. I was gutted I didn't get to see them at the Academy 3 a few days back, cos it would have been fab to see them in such a small venue again (saw them at Boardwalk back in 1995, those were the days). It's really good though and if their new album is anything like this, it'll be a very welcome comeback indeed.

Saturday 24th February - Choking At Croke Park

First things first, I've just watched the England rugby union team get absolutely walloped, thrashed and generally played off the park by Ireland. And I mean thrashed. Put it this way, the 43-13 scoreline actually flatters England. Ireland were really good, and England were really bad. The ball kept being given away, especially in the 22, and the interceptions were vital ones that led to tries for the Irish. Not to mention the fact that Danny Grewcock rather stupidly got himself sin binned for ten minutes which meant that with the one man advantage the Irish scored two crucial tries to go up 23-3 at half time. The writing was on the wall from that point, I'm afraid.

If you ask me, the victory against Scotland was flattering to England because Scotland have been so poor this season (look at Italy's excellent victory at Murrayfield earlier today for example). And when England played Italy it was a struggle, and the writing was there for all to see. It'd take one team to tear us apart and we'd be back to square one, which is where they are now. What England need to do is drop players who clearly aren't good enough at the moment - Grewcock is one and Andy Farrell is the other one. He's too slow to be a centre and just doesn't seem to be able to recapture his glory days of rugby league I'm afraid. And that's just a starting point.

Anyway, I went out last night with a friend and had a really nice time. It's been ages since I went out into Manchester city centre on a Friday night for one reason or another, but it was just rather good to do so. Ended up having a rather good pint of mild in Rain and then later on chilling out in Varsity, seeing the last few minutes of the Cardiff-Preston thrashing, and then my friend and I getting slightly merry but having a good time with it. It's amazing how much fun you can have people watching as well - there were so many people out there who were either drunk or just going for it dancing to anything - even the rubbish Scissor Sisters. But it was just really nice to be out and to spend some time with a good friend - catching up on things, having a good general chat and enjoying ourselves. Isn't that what it's all about? Even ending up sort of singing along to Bodyrox's "Yeah Yeah" which diary readers will know I happen to like..

Went into the city centre this morning, primarily to try and get a new pair of jeans but nothing I saw took my fancy as such, so I thought a relaxing coffee would be in order - so off into the downstairs bit of Fopp and one latte later I was all sorted. Well, when their coffees are pretty good, and they cost exactly one pound, half the price of the coffee chains (Starbucks, ugh!) and you can sit down listening to some good tunes and relax, then it just had to be done. I was tempted to get a CD whilst in there but if I'd have bought one, I'd have bought several - probably most of the Edgar Broughton Band back catalogue reissues actually. Not least as the CD keeps the same Harvest label as the original vinyl release, even with replica centre of record as the CD label side!

But I did want to get home and listen to some of their stuff, and I did remember that I had their singles compilation on vinyl - original Harvest green label release and everything. So I just had to get that played, and tune of the day is therefore by the Edgar Broughton Band - namely their hippie anthem "Out Demons Out". It just seems to have the right feel to have people at festivals joining in and chanting the title of the song at the appropriate moments, but it has that real good distorted guitar playing with everything cranked up a fair bit at the same time. Amazingly, the band are still going - they're even doing a UK tour next month! If you like your prog rock a bit anti-establishment (and they always were) check them out.

Friday 23rd February - Can't Wait Till Easter!

The end of the week is nigh, but not so fast for me. Had one of our technical group meetings this mornings and one of the hot topics of discussion was Office 2007. On the one hand, demand is pushed by some faculties who insist their students need the latest version because certain other outside criteria don't allow you to publish documents in a version that they deem as too old. On the other, the look and feel of the new ribbon interface would considerably increase the amount of support calls - it's just so different that it really will require a bit of retraining in order for people to use it - not least the nightmare I can see happening if our support staff got moved over. They just wouldn't like it - and sometimes you do have to think outside the box.

Anyway in the afternoon one of our technical specialists tried out installing Office 2007 first and then Office XP thereafter to see if they'd run in parallel. It seems to work, although more testing would be needed. Mind you, the other issue would be configuring all the Office 2007 Group Policies for specifying what users can save stuff where, which are trusted locations and so on. So it's going to require some research and work for sure to get everything shipshape. It only increases the fact that OpenOffice is a more than viable alternative these days for people because it keeps the familiar look and feel plus it gets everything done that you want it to do - plus it supports the new International document standards which Word never does! Just a thought.

I managed to get myself booked a little mini break for over Easter as well today. As I'm taking the two weeks off over Easter to use my leave, I took a look at Travelodge's website, as lots and lots of rooms are now £15 a night for those two weeks - if you get in there quick enough! I've always wanted to go to Windsor, and Legoland is only down the road from there, so I managed to get myself three nights in the Slough Travelodge (just down the road from Windsor and 5 mins by train) for £15 per night. I then just booked the train from Manchester to Reading, taking advantage of Virgin's cheap fares if booked in advance, it's costing me £12 each way! So in essence it's not going to be that expensive in terms of travel and accomodation - all I'll do is take a train from Reading to Slough each way which won't be that dear. Indeed that'd still cost less than getting the advance returns to Slough via Reading. Go figure! I'm looking forward to that though - gives me something to look forward to before my major holiday in Cornwall later in the year, plus also it's somewhere new that I've never been so it's well worth me going...

Been listening to some fairly meaty tunes tonight to get me in the mood for going out in a short while. I couldn't resist one of my favourite tunes from the Matrix film, and so after a bit of checking through my CD collection I played tune of the day - Marilyn Manson's "Rock Is Dead". It just set the tone perfectly for the evening and got me in the mood to rock and get out there and enjoy myself. Which is what I'm going to do. Right now. Have a good weekend everyone!

Thursday 22nd February - Another Day At The Office

Well I settled down last night and watched the Champions League game between Liverpool and Barcelona. And I have to say well done to Liverpool, going to the Nou Camp and getting any form of result isn't that easy, and despite their patchy league form in La Liga at the moment you'd expect them to come out for a game like this with all guns blazing. That they did, and indeed it was very much the status quo returned when they went a goal up. Unfortunately they didn't read the script and Liverpool fought back and battled rather well, and it was good to see them equalise and then score the winner through John Arne Riise.

Anyway, been a bit of a mixed day today, I've again been spending most of the day with a couple more laptops (lucky me) but I've pretty much got them sorted out - was so nice to have a clear desk by the end of the day and not have two laptops plus a PC on my desk and me multitasking with them all. And you can do that particularly when the laptops have needed several (understatement) critical Windows updates. Makes you wonder if the staff concerned actually need a laptop as such or even if they actually go online with it out of work hours, but that's just me being curious I guess.

Tune of the day simply has to be a tune I had in my head as I was walking around Tesco tonight doing my food shopping, and one I used to hum to myself on the way home from indie nights, namely Electronic's seminal "Getting Away With It". I just loved the opening line because it's so.. well.. Manchester. "I've been walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose..." and lo and behold it was always chucking it down when I would hum the words on my lonesome way home..

Wednesday 21st February - Sea Change

Been spending most of the day with laptops today. You see, some of them I think still have the older version of our antivirus software we use, and that expires at the end of the month. So I emailed all the staff concerned last week and asked them to bring their laptops in so I could check if things were up to date and if not, sort them all out. Thankfully it's not been that bad a task per se, but many of them have also needed several Windows critical updates as well as the likes of Windows Defender chucking on to protect them a bit from any spyware that they may have inadvertently got hold of at home. As our antivirus solution also does a bit of spyware trashing, between the two it should catch anything. Of course I naturally recommend Mozilla Firefox if browsing at home, but then I would, wouldn't I?

I got home and there were two very nice packages for me when I got there. I'd ordered a couple of things on Saturday as I didn't feel too good and needed a bit of retail therapy to cheer me up a ltitle bit, so I managed to get myself Barenaked Ladies' "Maybe You Should Drive" CD (to fill a gap in the back catalogue) but also I ordered off an Amazon marketplace seller as they had the DVD-Audio disc of Beck's "Sea Change" album cheap. I'd heard good things about this album generally, not least a friend of mine who quite likes Beck (understatement) and so I thought "why not?" and ordered it.

Turned out to be a very wise move. I'm sure on CD it'd sound nice enough, but in high resolution surround (only 88.2Khz as opposed to 96Khz though, so I'm not calling it advanced res for that reason) it just sounds luscious. The acoustic guitars that play just fill the room with the plucked strings sounding so clear and concise, and the whole album just melts into your heart and doesn't leave it. In fact, it's a good late night listening album and also one that you could just share a long hug with someone whilst listening to it. It therefore won't surprise you that tune of the day is from that album, namely "The Golden Age". It sets up the whole theme perfectly of being broken hearted and a bit down, but never sounds depressing. Far from it.

Tuesday 20th February - Strength To Strength

And if you're wondering what I'm referring to, then it can be only one thing Tuesday nights were meant for - two hours of excellent drama. First CSI at 9pm (I flicked over during the commercials to keep my eyes on the footy) and then over to BBC4 for Life on Mars at 10pm. My deliberate plan of watching both episodes last week meant that now the Tuesday night schedule is pretty good and I can settle down to watch both of them happily. Life on Mars was once again absolutely fantastic though: not least when Gene and Sam were trying to hunt down the supposed terrorist. Typically Gene goes after anyone Irish with a surname beginning with O, which leaves Sam to the killer one-liner: "And while we're at it, why don't we ring that Internationally known terrorist, Dana? Or Val Doonican, maybe?" That just had me in stitches. And of course those of you who know Manchester well will have spotted Victoria Baths being used for a couple of scenes as well.

I think also I took some time out tonight to have a think about a couple of things that I want to do on holiday. My mum and sister came round earlier and I was telling them that I'd booked it. My mum loves Cornwall anyway so she was happy for me - and I was telling her about the helicopter flights that they do from Penzance to the Isles of Scilly, and I was tempted. My sister told me to go for it and that if I don't do it now, I never will, plus I can just enjoy the day and make it a good one - I'll probably walk around the main island in all the fresh air. But they also fly from Newquay too - and me mum's going there herself in a few months time, so she might want to consider it herself. Okay, it's not a helicopter from there, but still, got to be worth it hasn't it?

I did then see the Champions League highlights as well, which was on the whole a mix of good and bad for the English teams. Lille's threatened walk off in a strop because of a refereeing decision was a bit daft to say the least though: they should have been watching the referee rather than faff about getting their wall sorted out. What was more concering was their comments afterwards which basically said it was normal for them to protest in that way at the next time the ball was out of play. Really? If that happened in England then nothing would get done whatsoever and there'd be the likes of Arsend Wanker calling his teams off every five minutes or so because of a decision they didn't agree with. It beggars belief. I hope UEFA throw the book at them.

I thought that mellowing out would be the thing to do last night with all that fab telly on, and so late on before I went to bed I just whacked on a nice relaxing album and just drifted off to sleep with it on. And the pick of that album is my tune of the day - so take a bow, John Mayer: "St Patrick's Day" from his superb album "Room For Squares" won it for me. It's just a beautiful song, played so well and really shows a softer, luscious side to his music. And it's even semi-romantic, kind of, but not slushy. Oh no. That man does not do slush!

Monday 19th February - The (un)Reliant Robin

Well it was back to work and back to quite a few little problems solved, two of which I had to leave overnight to make sure that the necessary things on the PC and laptop I'm working on worked properly. Yes, I was multitasking and it was rather good to be doing so. Mind you, that said I was also having to do some user maintenance to make sure all the staff that had left were getting their accounts deleted - not many of them to be honest for us though and it didn't take me long to get it all sorted out.

Topic of conversation in the office though was last night's Top Gear, not least Richard and James' failed attempt to try and get a Space Shuttle made using a Reliant Robin. Don't know what made me laugh more, the Hamster driving round Hattersley in the car and having the locals laugh at him, or when the rocket did launch from some test site and it all went horribly wrong, as the failure to jettison one of the rockets meant a massive crash bang and explosion somewhere on a moor in Durham. Oh dear. It was funny though just to see how much work that they had to do to try and even get it to take off..

I noticed today as well that extra tickets were released for Nine Inch Nails' gig at the Apollo on Sunday. I am very very sorely tempted to go, but I don't know. The tickets are a massive £22.50 plus booking fee, which isn't cheap, and as I'm supposed to be saving up for me hols, I'm in a bit of a quandry. Part of me says sod it I should go and just go mental, but the sensible side says no. I'll have to decide quick though just in case and make sure that I get down the box office and get it all sorted out. It would be good, not least as I've heard the new single and it's absolutely brilliant.

Anyway, got home and decided I wanted to put something on that just was the perfect fillip for a Monday - or for any day where you feel like you've had a good day - and so tune of the day is MC Solaar's "Today Is A Good Day". It's part sung in French, part English, but it's so wonderfully laid back and funky, with lovely acoustic guitars, Solaar's gentle hip hip vocal and a nice female singing along to the chorus. It just works. And it's fab.

Sunday 18th February - The Best Team In The Land And All The World (well at least for today)

It was a very nice afternoon at the Towers for all concerned, as me, my brother, my uncle and his two kids, and my cousin all piled round here for the lunchtime FA Cup game between Preston and our beloved Man City. I'd said that lunch would be provided for everyone, so I had some sandwiches made up with various things, some mini pasties and sausage rolls, some corn chips and dips, and some mini Pringles, sort of buffet lunch but enough for everyone. And so it proved - there was hardly anything left by the final whistle! That for me was nice though cos it showed that everyone appreciated what I'd done and were enjoying themselves.

As for the game itself, after City falling behind to a David Nugent goal it was all doom and gloom at the start. My uncle was name calling Michael Ball, and just as the Preston fans started to mickey take City, it seemed just the spur needed as Bernardo Corradi whacked the post with a clever shot and up popped Michael Ball to smash in the rebound and make it 1-1. That at least was all we deserved after Nicky Weaver had pulled off a great stop to keep us in it, therefore justifying his selection. And Ball was playing rather well, thus proving my uncle wrong (which he admitted later).

Although the mighty Blues had had the better of the second half, things weren't happening in front of goal - well not least till a few minutes left. A long throw by Ball was flicked on by Corradi, and there was the Freddie Mercury lookalike Georgios Samaras to hit home, albeit off the Preston defender who was later credited with an own goal. Still, it meant we were in front. And we didn't hold on either, a few minutes later the ball was flicked on by Corradi and up popped Stephen Ireland to absolutely smash it home for 3-1. The scoreline flattered us a bit but it didn't matter - quarter finals here we come, for the second year running. And that has to be good.

Tonight I spent a bit of time listening to some back catalogue stuff, you know, cos you can and all that. And while doing that I remembered a forgotten gem that I still love now, so stand up tune of the day - which is The Family Cat's "Place With A Name". It's just a great little tune and reminds me of how they never got the exposure that they really deserved, plus their cheery feel to most of their stuff early on was just so refreshingly nice really. Listen to Leonard Cohen, only heaven knows why.. what a first line that is.

Saturday 17th February - The Magic Of The Cup (almost!)

Well, I have to admit that I didn't think Reading would do the business against Man U in the FA Cup today, but they hung in there even at 1-0 down and their equaliser was nothing more than they deserved for their sheer effort. Even after that they could have sneaked a winner, but I do think that 1-1 was a pretty fair result. With Arsenal also drawing 0-0 at home to Blackburn, it's a replay neither side needed for their ambitions, but you could argue the case that they didn't finish things off at home when they had the chance.

City are on tomorrow against Preston live on BBC1, and so I decided to ask a few of my relations over. As the kick off's at 1.10pm I thought it would be nice to get some bits in for lunch. A quick trip to Tesco later once everyone confirmed that they were coming and I managed to get some bread rolls and barmcakes, some ham, cheese and chicken, some corn chips and dips, sausage rolls, mini Cornish pasties plus it was buy one get one free on the small packs of pringles. Sort of buffet-ish lunch but enough for the five of us at mine tomorrow to scoff whilst watching the big game. We so need to win but to be honest it's going to be a bit tricky to say the least. Just have to see how it goes.

For old times' sake, and because I needed to 100% the game with another character, I whacked on Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 on the PC. I soon got back into the swing of things and was pulling off some killer moves before I knew it, including the nose blunt side of the awning on the Cruise Ship level (which only gets unlocked once you get a medal in the three competitions you have to do in Career Mode, per skater) as well as a combo that got me x14, which I was well pleased with. Yes, I know there's some real hardcore players that score millions with combos, but they're expert gamers, and I'm not. The difficulty level is ramped about right, and I've managed to 100% the game with quite a few of them now (including the hidden Darth Maul character, he rocks).

Anyway, whilst playing the game, of course it has a kick ass punk and rock soundtrack, and one of them just had to be tune of the day - which is Motorhead's all time classic "Ace of Spades". Not just because it suits the game perfectly, but it's also a tune which over the years has represented lots of long haired people moshing away at any rock club you care to name. Not to mention either it's appearance in the Young Ones episode Bambi, where it plays as our intrepid heroes get the train for University Challenge. And don't forget the joker...

Friday 16th February - Why Do You Get All The Love In The World?

It's been a rather slow day today to be honest. I think everything was on a go slow right until it was the end of the week at work, and I was sorting out three laptops today. Two of them needed checking that their antivirus software was up to date, as the older versions of the one we use expire at the end of the month, and it's always best to be sure that everyone's up to date and protected. I made sure at the same time they had all the necessary Windows critical updates et al, so that was well worth doing to be honest.

A different proposition got us stumped in the afternoon, as a Powerbook G4 belonging to one of our staff refused to play ball with a HP Photosmart A516 photo printer. Even after doing a permissions check on the hard disk and reinstalling the driver from the official HP CD, nothing played. So we hooked up the printer to one of our new Intel-based MacBooks, and guess what? It worked. Of course, it also has OS X 10.4 on, whereas the G4 had 10.3, but HP's CD was supposed to be for both OSes. Still, bit too much of a coincidence though: makes you wonder why HP's drivers never seem to work as well on a Mac as they do on Windows. Lack of knowledge or experience maybe, who knows?

Went for a couple of drinks with some of our central ISU team after work - it was the day after pay day so a perfect opportunity to just wind back and chill out. It wasn't too bad either. I didn't want to stay out all night (those days are long gone!!) but did have a couple of nice pints of Pedigree in both The Paramount and then the Pitcher and Piano. That was nice enough and it was good to natter to quite a few people about non-work stuff, which is much better to be honest than just bitching about stuff in the offices and whatnot. Intriguingly though the Pitcher and Piano was full of business types and that was kind of their attitude of "oh look we've got money and we'll spend it on expensive bottles of champagne" that didn't make us lot feel pretty comfortable to be honest. I really don't like it when people use money as their power trip and think that they're better than you because they're more high profile and have to wear a suit to work, all that kind of bull.

Anyway, got home and kicked back, watched Skins that I'd recorded off E4 on the Sky+ box and then put a couple of tunes on to really relax myself, and now I'm typing this whilst listening to some Kristin Hersh. I just think that there's a time and place to listen to her music, and that time was tonight, just in the darkness, the mellow feeling, that sort of thing. But that's not my tune of the day: instead tune of the day goes to Nine Inch Nails' "All The Love in The World". The chorus is a question that I've often asked myself - why do you get all the love in the world? It's always someone else instead of me. Sometimes I'm not that fussed but sometimes I kind of wish it was me that would get it. I just love the piano sections (yes, you heard me, piano!) of the NIN song, and then the ending gradually builds to a full on crescendo of noise, piano and guitar as the call gets more and more passionate. Kind of like that!

Thursday 15th February - Access Denied

Well I've just got back from Tesco having decided to do the food shopping a bit early this week. It seemed really quiet as well so I was able to go in, get what I want, and go home in record time. I like it when I can do that - I hate seeing people who mooch for ten minutes deciding which flavour of grated cheese they're going to buy. Just buy one and deal with it, it's not difficult. I even (shock horror) had a list prepared, primarily because I needed a couple of non-food items and I didn't want to forget them by accident. I know, such a rivetting life I lead don't I?

Seriously, I've been with my head in Access databases for a while today - primarily on my Windows Vista and Office 2007 test rig. The layout of the menus is different, but thankfully by default you can set it so that databases can be saved in Access 2000 format. That seems to be fine, but opening them comes up with plenty of security warnings about "do you want to do this?" and "do you want to run this macro?" In a corporate environment (and even in education where I work) people don't want those messages - they just want to be able to get on with things without all the fuss and bother. Well, that's the theory. Just let me run it!!

However, a more worrying feature of Office 2007 came to the fore this week. Basically on the Windows Vista rig I'm running a very early technology preview alpha of the Novell Client - which we need for our network. I can log in, I can map Novell drives no problem. I can cut/copy/paste files on the network drives, no problem. I can open and save files in OpenOffice, Firefox, Autocad 2004 (which amazingly runs without problems) and such like. But if you try to open any Office document from a mapped Novell network drive, Office kicks in all its trust and security features at once and says "Access denied. Contact your administrator." And that's all it does, it doesn't tell you anything else, it doesn't give you any help pages on the problem, nothing.

A quick check with some of my colleagues at other sites who are also roadtesting, and a browse of the Novell forums reveals it's not just me who has this annoying quirk. And it's something really that needs to be looked at, and fast. I am sure there's a few disgruntled people out there already, because here's the kicker: the same documents I created in Microsoft Word XP and that are saved on my Novell mapped network drive open on the same mapped drive on the same test rig using OpenOffice. So that's OpenOffice 1, Office 2007 0. And as for that ribbon interface, some training companies must be rubbing their hands in absolute glee thinking about the fact that lots of their employees will need a re-train on the way that the interface is, and the whole new XML-based file formats. Oh, sheer joy.

Anyway, whilst battling away today one tune sprang to mind that sums up my mood at the moment: and it's therefore tune of the day - namely Nine Inch Nails' "The Hand That Feeds". Not least because we had a colleague over testing GarageBand on the Mac, and so we downloaded the Garageband tracks from the band's web site to have a play around with. Plus also it rocks hard, and that's what I want to do given the chance at the moment.

Wednesday 14th February - Avoiding Slushiness Are Me

Well, I have to say, Life on Mars was absolutely brilliant last night. Not only did it meet all the expectations and hype, but questions are now starting to be answered, or laid bare, about the main character Sam. And as if you didn't guess, Hyde has a big part to play. Note the bus that contained the dead person was a 210 going to Hyde (which they did from Manchester back in the 1970s), note also that every odd phone call he gets is from someone at Hyde. There's something in there I think, but just quite what will be revealed over the next few weeks. And I so can't wait.

And that's what the BBC must have thought. In a rather clever ruse for people to go and get themselves a Freeview box, the second episode was shown on BBC Four straight after the first one on BBC One. Of course the fans like myself and my manager at work turned it over straight away (as you do) and watched it. It was actually much better than the first, and I'm sure those of you without any form of digital will look forward to it next week. Classic putdown from Sam: "Ignore Ray, he has trouble comprehending words of more than zero syllables". And when he and Gene go in to see one of the so called ringleaders, Gene in true Gene tradition blazes in and goes "Hands up, you're surrounded by armed b*****ds!" I won't say too much more but suffice to say not only is it back, but with a vengeance.

Away from that, most of us in our office were trying so hard to avoid the slushy cheesiness of the day that it is today. So it was on with the DAB radio and on with a rock station that wasn't playing requests or anything remotely approaching sloppy, just good tunes. We're talking Deep Purple's "Black Night, Jethro Tull's "Living in the Past" and the absolute classic that is Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog." Now we're talking, indeed. It was just nice to get on with bits of development work as well as test a couple of possibly faulty hard disks whilst having something good on to work to.

Got home tonight and whacked on Barenaked Ladies' "Are Men" album. And I have to say it's just as good, if not better, than "Are Me". While still wondering why they waited so long to release the tracks that were previously download only extras as another album, or just release the whole thing as a 2CD set, I don't know, but still there's some rather good songs on there. Not least the first track which is my tune of the day - "Serendipity". It's just different, not least because Kevin Hearn is singing the lead vocals rather than the usual suspects of Ed Robertson or Steven Page. And it just makes it better for some reason. It's a grower. And that's how good albums should be.

Tuesday 13th February - Is There Life on Mars?

Another day, another two printers to install for staff. Ah well, not a problem, except one of them didn't request the required USB cable with their order and so had to traipse back to the office from the site location to go and get one. The extra walking just has to keep me fit I guess though, so no complaints really. In fact I walked it a bit further into work today by getting off two stops before rather than one just to give me that little bit longer to go. It's all about that gradual aim to get fit, I suppose. And I'd rather do that and really feel the benefits, especially when I go on holiday in a few months' time.

I'm really excited as Life on Mars Series 2 starts tonight, and it's something that I've been waiting for to come on telly again for a long while. I really do think it's been the best series on television for some time, and everything within it works. I'm also glad that this is going to be the last series too - because that way it's not going to outstay its welcome and come to a natural conclusion (although two endings have been filmed apparently, be interesting to see which one they show). And as for all the nice downloads on the site, well you've got the 1970s all blue BBC1 logo, and lots of good images toned in blue, as well as soundbytes and stuff for your phone. It's really good to back up the show with stuff like that. I can't wait.

Anyway, nice package came in the post as well - namely the new Barenaked Ladies CD "Are Men". I'm going to devote some time this week to listen to it, as it's apparently all the extra stuff that was on the 27 track download only edition of the "Are Me" album plus some extras. It'll also mean that the band can more confidently play this stuff live prior to their tour (can't wait to see them 2nd April) as well as all the old classic stuff that everyone should love, but they don't. Ah well, their loss and my gain I suppose.

Having listened to fair few tunes at work on the DAB radio today nothing really stood out (typical adult rock channel, never plays the more obscure prog rock stuff I'd really love to hear on that sort of station to be honest) but when I got home I just had this urge to whack on something to get me up and going, and what better than the absolute classic of all time that is my tune of the day - John Mayer's "Waiting on the World To Change". The words are brilliant, the song has plenty of great guitars and it just opens his "Continuum" album wonderfully. And the song won a Grammy (in fact Mayer won two) so well done him!

Monday 12th February - Music, Lyrics and Twelve Inch Mixes

I decided late yesterday to go to the cinema and so with my friend next door to me in tow, we went and saw Music and Lyrics - something that we both wanted to see. I guess as well when there's a voucher I've got which is two for one at AMC all weekends until the end of May I might as well use it to best effect, costing less all round and meaning more for your dosh. So after a quick train ride to Deansgate station and a stop at the Sainsbury's Local to pick up some mineral water (45p there rather than £1.60 in the cinema itself, you do the maths!) it was to the cinema and to hopefully see a good film.

So what was Music and Lyrics like? Well, if you want a bit of a romantic comedy, you've kind of got it. Although what interested me more was the plot about Hugh Grant's character being an ex-1980s pop star that is now playing theme parks and tribute type shows across the land until by sheer fluke his manager manages to get him landed with a chance to write a song for a modern day pop icon. Enter cute plant girl played by Drew Barrymore who secretly is a good writer, and once they realise this, off they go writing a song. Okay, nothing groundbreaking, I have to admit. But the humour is what makes it work - the cheesiness of the 1980s pop videos featuring the band Pop, the way that the sister of Drew's character is such a fan girl of the band (something that made us both giggle inanely) and the individuality of the characters is good.

Some critics have said that there's no chemistry between Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore - really? Well I thought they got along fine. And what's actually a big surprise is that both of them can sing reasonably well - so much so that the soundtrack CD's a bit of a Hugh Grant songfest - I'm sure there's plenty of women out there who might be tempted by that. But it's quite charming, entertaining, just the right length and not too slushy or sickly sweet for you - although the ending might have you feeling a little queasy, but it sort of works. Not going to spoil it for you but it is good fun.

Got home from work tonight and had a couple of songs in my head that I knew that I had on vinyl - so it was time to switch on the turntable and then play some 12" singles that I've got in my collection. First up was the trance mix of Nitzer Ebb's "Getting Closer" on their "Fun To Be Had" 12" single because that is a great electronic mix. And then something else that was in my head too, Consolidated's "You Suck" 12" featuring the Yeastie Girls. The words are far too obscene to repeat here, let's just say it's not something you'd want under 18s to listen to, but it does carry an important message in there. And then as if by magic I picked at random another dance classic, MARRS' "Pump Up The Volume" 12" version as well. I think in a way because of dance music the 12" vinyl single is pretty much still alive in some quarters, it just feels so right playing a tune on a Technics SL1210 turntable in a club really.

I then found some more stuff I wanted to play and one of them just had to be the choice of my tune of the day - namely PJ Harvey's "Dress". It's a real early classic and I have fond memories of being in indie clubs when I was younger and being able to shoegaze a bit to that and Sheela Na Gig and just not giving a damn about anything - how things have changed. Big time.

Sunday 11th February - Hooray Hooray I Want To Go On Holiday...

Well, another day, another quiet one really. I mainly got a bit of the housework done (mainly washing clothes) as well as think about my holidays for the summer. I really do want to go to Cornwall again and my mode of thinking is that if I book somewhere now I can hopefully get somewhere nice and have a good week's break there. Plus there's lots of things I wanted to do when I based myself in Penzance last time that I didn't get chance to do, such as the ferry trip to the Isles of Scilly, the Eden Project, Geevor Tin Mines, even maybe make a real day of it and head out to Padstow and go in Rick Stein's chippy (the restaurant needs reservations months in advance, my mum's done that when she goes to Cornwall herself in June) but I'll see how things go from there.

I only hope I can get the place I want - a couple of years ago I stayed in one of these lovely apartments in the centre of Penzance. It was ideal for a non-car driver like me - near the train and bus stations (so getting there and back was easy) plus it was also very handy for getting around by bicycle as I can hire a bike there too. I was thinking as well that realistically I could hire it for more than one day and get some fresh air cycling around the countryside. That would be rather lovely. In fact, I'm even considering getting a bicycle anyway and cycling more - keeps me fit, and also would help keep the weight off me. Now that would be rather good wouldn't it?

Spent a bit of time listening to the CDs I got yesterday as well as some old classic stuff which I just had to dig out as I'd not listened to them for a bit. And immediately once I started playing one of them a tune got stuck in my head and hasn't escaped since - and it's therefore my tune of the day - The Caretaker Race's "Anywhere But Home". I guarantee not many of you will have heard of them. But you know what? They were great, had wonderfully jangly indie guitars and in Andy Strickland a good vocalist and songwriter. What made me think of them was that in I'm From Barcelona's song "Treehouse" part of the verses sound exactly like Strickland used to sound vocally. Brought back memories of seeing The Caretaker Race supporting The Darling Buds back in the day - some gig that was.

Saturday 10th February - I Just Can't Get Enough CDs

A quiet day today really. I decided to just have a leisurely stroll around town and pick up a CD or two if I fancied one. It wasn't that warm either, and I was glad that I was wrapped up well in my jumper and keeping the cold away from me. I wasn't sure what I wanted in terms of stuff to buy, I did take a look in TK Maxx but nothing jumped out at me clothes wise and said "buy it cos I'll look good in it", but never mind. Eventually I thought that it would be nice if I picked up the new Bloc Party album "A Weekend In The City" - and after doing a bit of price comparison, I ended up with the limited CD and DVD version in Virgin - which didn't cost that much more than the normal CD to be honest.

But I thought too I'd go somewhere I'd not been for ages: Vinyl Exchange! It was so nice to be back in comfortable surroundings browsing the racks seeing what I could find for myself. I had a look to see if they had any Bonnie Prince Billy in, but no joy. I wouldn't have minded "I See A Darkness" for myself but I'm not paying expensive money for it, oh no. There were a couple of other CDs in the US indie section that caught my eye and tempted me a little, but it was something else that I eventually purchased: the limited 2CD set of "Remixes 81-04" by Depeche Mode for £6. Part of my reasoning is that several of the 12" mixes on there are of ones I've wanted to have from their vinyl 12" singles, or some I already own and want to preserve, so nice to have a good selection of them on a handy set. Kind of wish they'd had space to include the 7" Mike Shinoda version of Enjoy The Silence 04 on though, because I love that - but it turns out that's on the 3CD extra limited release. Darn!

But one of the mixes on that set is an essential one for me, and it's my tune of the day, namely Depeche Mode's "I Just Can't Get Enough (Schizo Mix)". It's the proper way to do a 12" extended version of the classic original, and I can now rest my rather well played vinyl 12" single. Also well timed because the original tune's being used on the trailer to the new Hugh Grant film Music and Lyrics, which I might have to go and see, more because of the subject matter and the fact that these days Drew Barrymore looks rather cute in the bits I've seen.

Just watched England win in the rugby union - albeit at a lethargic struggle against Italy. Still, a win's a win but it only proves that without Jonny Wilkinson, we would be knackered. I think his superb performance against Scotland last week only hid the fact there's still flaws in the England team, but he was a bit more ordinary today despite kicking 15 points out of a total of 20. And I have a funny feeling whoever told Jason Robinson to come out of retirement from Internationals might be one of the most sought after people at the moment.. That said, we won and that's a darn sight better than the football team are doing at the moment - the less said about that, the better.

Even the cricket team responded yesterday with a win over the Aussies and a spectacular bit of captaincy from Flintoff to get the boys psyched up and reducing the Aussies from 170-1 to 252 all out, and even at 15-3 in reply I knew we'd dig in, and no one's better at that than Paul Collingwood, his innings of 120 was truly brilliant backs to the wall stuff and he kept everything going to see us home with three balls to spare. Close it was, but it showed the tenacity and fighting spirit the lads still have. I'd love us to win tomorrow and take the best of three final 2-0, just to give us some pride back after a really bleak winter out there.

Friday 9th February - Another Day At The Office (2007)

More testing today as we got hold of Office 2007 this morning. I thought I might as well add it to our Vista test box to see how it behaves, and indeed to have a look at the way it's completely changed. And believe me folks, it has. Gone are the menus we've known and used for so long and in comes the ribbon, and a completely different way of thinking. The problem with that isn't that it might end up being easier to use, but because it's so different, I can't see too many people being impressed with it in terms of training and stuff like that. It really needs to be something you end up having a course on to learn fully, it's that different.

One thing I did also note that you can convert documents to PDF from within Office 2007 - but, get this, you have to download a free add-in from Microsoft in order to be able to do so. That's a bit of a misnomer: surely it would have been easier to place on the installation disc as an optional extra to install if you wanted to (and let's face it, most of us would). One word of note though is that the PDF files it generates do seem to generate a bloated file size. I'll have to do some further testing with Acrobat 7 Professional in our office but I'm quite sure that the file sizes that makes are much smaller. I'll do some trial testing out next week for that.

I also tried out the likes of InfoPath (absolute waste of time, no better than the useless 2003 version) and some new thing called Groove, but you had to set up an account for that so I couldn't be meithered at the moment. What was frustrating though was that this week an add-in for Word had been released which allows you to open/write documents to the OpenOffice text format (.odt) - but version 1.0 doesn't work on any of the machines I tested it on due to some COM error when launching the add-in. Curiously, I tried the previous release (0.3 M2) on both Office 2007 and Office XP on my PC in the office - and they both worked flawlessly. Something's seriously amiss there.

Anyway, that kept me busy during the day and soon it was time to get to do my shopping and get ready for the weekend ahead. As I was wandering around Tesco I was humming my tune of the day - Justice vs Simian's "We Are Your Friend". I saw the video again online today whilst taking a break and it's still a classic video to say the least. And the tune just has that right element of funk and the original Simian tune to make it all work. No wonder I voted it one of my favourite singles of 2006!

Thursday 8th February - Hasta La Vista, Baby!

Well, we finally received a DVD in the post today in work - and it was an internal mail with our licenced copy of Windows Vista Business Edition. I was quite surprised that we weren't going to receive Enterprise Edition, as that's the sort of volume licence version that you'd normally get, but still, it meant that myself and my colleague could do some road testing on one of our test rigs. Before we did any installation on our P4 2.4Ghz beastie though, we whacked up the RAM to 2GB and also chucked in a 120GB Serial ATA hard disk to be on the safe side, as well as a spare Matrox Millennium G450 graphics card - unfortunately the best we could find at the time - oh for a Radeon X1300 Pro or something!

Anyway, got everything up and running, and had a good play around. First thing we did though was turn off the User Account Control thing - otherwise you'll get pop ups every few seconds you try to do something with "are you really sure" type questions. Believe me, if you're a home user this would get rather frustrating to say the least. We then tweaked a couple of settings before having a general play around. The RAM really made a difference though - I used Release Candidate 1 on 512MB and it just couldn't hack it whatsoever. It actually wasn't that bad, although quite a few annoyances surfaced through the day as we were getting to grips with it.

The Aero interface was a non starter due to the graphics card, but in fact everything bar that scored 4s and 5s on the experience scale thingy so it wasn't too bad at all. What took some getting used to was the new look and feel interface as well as things which you could turn on and off like the sidebar (that went straight off, annoying) and where things were in the control panel. I have to say though adding an IP only printer was an absolute doddle, even detecting the right printer, locating the drivers and installing them for you. It was unbelievably easy. So much so that it even made Mac OS's add printer stuff look clunky in comparison!

I did a few road tests with some products we use at work: the Novell client is a technology preview and as such is very limited, but I could log on to the network and map drives etc, GroupWise refused to install though. That was until I discovered that unless you installed Outlook 2003 or above, the Windows messaging MAPI stuff wasn't up to date and so wouldn't interface correctly. Luckily the CD of Office 2003 Pro came in handy for that, installed Outlook and then GroupWise went on. Yaay. I also tried out all the web browser plugins, all worked fine. However if you're installing Adobe Reader 8, one catch: you have to run the installer in compatibility mode for Windows XP service pack 2 so that it extracts to a different folder and allows you to install the product. Weird, I know. And naturally as you'd expect from me, Firefox went straight on there to use that instead of the ghastly horrid IE7..

Anyway, I got home and then had a very chilled evening at a friend's - ended up watching some old 80s and 90s music videos on one of the music channels and having a good mickey take at some of the cheesy hair cuts and outfits at the time - not least with Kylie Minogue's "I Should Be So Lucky". After her split with her partner this week it seemed so ironic that tune was on to be honest. But best of all one of them on one of the channels just had to be my tune of the day - namely Bodyrox ft Luciana's "Yeah Yeah". I think it's cos it's one of those tunes that has a bit of attitude - okay so the dance beat background might not be the best ever, but it's those vocals that make all the difference, real punk sounding and just full of barb. I could teach you a thing or two...

Wednesday 7th February - Drinking The Elixir

Well it's the England game proper later tonight, and I've invited my uncle and my brother over to watch the game with me with the rig on full blast (and rightly so, too). I've also been a bit optimistic in hoping that both Man City players Micah Richards and Joey Barton will feature in part: it would be nice to see them have a go. More so for Joey, who told it like it was when he was ruffling feathers about the so-called "stars" and their World Cup autobiographies - sort of let the football do the talking instead. Granted it may have been outspoken but I for one agree, as does top BBC sports columnist Phil McNulty. It's a cracking read, that.

I had most of the morning taken up by looking after an engineer who's subcontracted to HP, he was here to fix our very poorly Colour Laserjet 4650N. He looked at it yesterday with me and we both came to the conclusion it was either the cyan scanner assembly, or the DC controller board. Thankfully he ordered both parts to be on the safe side and this morning spent a fair bit of time taking the printer apart. Once you actually open it all up and get to the scanner assembly, it's still not the easiest thing to open either, and swapping it did take time. However it did prove worth it because once the printer fired up, the 51.21 error had gone, and we were back to two working colour A4 printers again. Nice when stuff works and you have the right people, tools and parts for the job.

Whilst munching my lunch a song came on 6 Music. Now normally I can get it straight away but I had to wait a few seconds longer than normal before realising it was the fantastic band, the overlooked Salad, with their hit "Drink The Elixir". That has to be tune of the day for me - it just has all the good components of a guitar based indie song and the crescendo at the end is just marvellous. So much so that I got home from work a few minutes ago and decided to whack it on full blast. Oh yes. That's the spirit.

Tuesday 6th February - Psycho's Barmy Army

Well I have to say I was torn in two channels last night. After watching the first half of the England under 21s and seeing England losing 2-0 to Spain, I was in two minds whether to stick with the second half, or watch the latest episode of CSI on Channel 5 - particularly as the episode is one that sounded intriguing, and part of the new series. In the end I watched CSI and flicked over during the commercial breaks, and because of that I actually caught both goals. What seemed good to me was that whatever Stuart Pearce said at half time it obviously worked as the team looked a lot more fired up when I watched the full second half later (thank heavens for Sky Plus eh?) which obviously has to be a good thing.

And even England won at the cricket again against New Zealand, putting them into a best of three final against Australia. On paper, no match at all, but seeing as England managed to get a win against the Aussies last time around to help them qualify, then it might yet be closer than you think. Definitely all the one day games has only helped England's preparation for the World Cup, and for sure there's some stars making a comeback to what I'd consider what level they can play at if they try. Paul Collingwood's century for me was a standout, he really kept things ticking over and made sure that we posted a sizeable total that in the end just proved enough by the skin of our teeth.

I wound down before the football with a couple of CDs and with next door's cat Pinky by my side and by the fire - he seems to be doing that a lot lately, coming in and hogging the space for all he's worth. Not that I mind though, he's so placcid. Anyway, listening to some of the CDs gave me my tune of the day - namely MJ Hibbett and the Validator's "The Lesson of the Smiths". It's still the best track on their "We Validate" album and indeed is coming out as a double A-side single next month. Get it - you know you should.

Monday 5th February - It's That Well Known American Football Game..

Yes, due to licencing reasons et al I can't actually say what the game is, but you know the one I'm talking about, as my team the Chicago Bears faced off against the Indianapolis Colts in Miami. Now since around 1983 when Channel 4 started coverage in the UK of the game, the Bears were the team of choice for me, so when they won the Superbowl a few years after (anyone else remember William "The Fridge" Perry?) it was manna from heaven from me, and even if the team struggled a bit the last few seasons, bit like Manchester City, I kept the faith.

I saw highlights of their semi final game not so long back and it was great to see them qualify for the big final. Indianapolis were no pushovers though and had got there themselves on merit. It was such an up and down game. I didnt' stay up all night to watch it, instead preferring the handy use of the Sky+ box so I could watch some this morning and the rest when I got home from work (not daft, me!). Of course seeing the first ever kick off returned for a touchdown in the big game was something else, and although Indianapolis hit back, another touchdown for the Bears meant a 14-6 first quarter lead.

And then it all went downhill, primarily as the Bears quarterback had a bad game, and the corresponding player for the Colts didn't, throwing many good passes and in the end scoring three touchdowns to the Bears' two, and less fumbles and interceptions (which due to the incessant rain both teams had higher than normal ratios of to be honest). I was gutted to see my lot not do the business, but at the same time I guess reaching the big game was something that should be something to build on for the next season.

I'm not the only one who can't mention the name of the big time. Those fab people at Will It Blend? had all sorts of blend-offs for both teams, including the likes of a ball from each team and a mascot from each team too, and yes, they did blend! That made me giggle as every time Tom Dickson was about to say the real name of the game, someone would overdub the voice with "The big game" or "Super Sunday" etc. Imagine if the FA copyrighted any use of the FA Cup Final? What would we have? "Super Mayday" or something else, probably.

Because of the sporting theme, only one tune could possibly be tune of the day today - and there's a link to the big game. Johnny Pearson's "Heavy Action" which of course is the theme tune for Superstars (classic sports show that it is) later was used by one of the main American networks for their coverage of Monday Night Football - albeit a really nasty edited version and not the full on two minutes of brilliant theme. Somehow it only sounds right when thinking about Kevin Keegan falling off his bike!

Sunday 4th February - Taking Advantage

Well, I decided to do a bit of shopping today. For two reasons. First off, my watch has virtually bit the dust after me owning it for some five years plus. I bought it in the January sales one year for around £20, and it's been really good to me and given me good service. However, one of the parts is now missing so I can't change the time or date, and after going in a few jewellers they all told me the same thing: the cost of the repair would be more expensive than buying a new watch. So that was in the end quite an easy decision for me. One quick trip into Argos later and that was me sorted: not only did I find one that I actually liked, but it was in virtually all black with a black leather strap too. So that just had to be nice, and thankfully there's enough holes on the strap even for my wrists so it feels nice and comfortable on - it just felt better knowing that I was able to get it done.

Secondly, I used all my Advantage card points in Boots. The item I wanted was of a certain value, and after checking my points, I was a mere 17 short. Then I devised a crafty plan: if I purchased some razor blades that I needed, the cost of them would accumulate me exactly 17 points, get those first and then get the other item afterwards. And that's exactly what I did. Job done and me one happy bunny (well, albeit the fact that now I have zero points and will need to build them all up again, hopefully that won't be too difficult to do over time.)

When I got home I noticed the Man U - Tottenham game was on, and in truth, a right mismatch. Even when Man U had to put John O'Shea in net because they'd used their substitues and Edwin van der Sar went off with a broken nose, they still had too much. O'Shea even stopped a one on one with Tottenham striker Robbie Keane - bet he gets reminded during the Internationals this week as both of them play for the Republic of Ireland. Still, not a surprise result though.

After that I just chilled out for most of the evening with some good music on whilst typing up some notes, and I just had a lovely time listening to some MP3s I'd downloaded and placed on the PC ages ago that were free from band websites et al. One of which is a great instrumental that I still like now, so for that reason tune of the day is "Barba" by the Swedish electronic band K-Pist. For some reason it didn't appear on their "Enemies of Silence" album (real shame that, it would have fitted nicely) and not long after the band split (I think). One of them did do some solo stuff as well including a rather nice cover of The Smiths' "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" - I'll have to see if I've got it somewhere!

Saturday 3rd February - 1000 Days Of Hurt Never Stopped Him Dreaming..

Had a nice chilled out and relaxed day today with a friend - and spent most of the day in the pub! But with very good reason though: first off to watch the Merseyside derby on Prem Plus between Liverpool and Everton, and I think the blue half of Merseyside would be very happy indeed by taking a point from a 0-0 draw, especially the pressure that they were under in the second half. I honestly thought that Everton would crack, but instead they had the best chance of the game on the break but for Andrew Johnson to be foiled by an excellent save. He should have done better though. One annoying thing was that right near the end of the game, the coverage from the Sky dish broke up, so for some of injury time where was just sound and no picture, or even worse, none of either!

After seeing the rest of the Italy-France Six Nations rugby game, where really only one side was in it, the big one. England against Scotland, and the return of Jonny Wilkinson. So much had been said about his return, the lengthy period of not playing for England, the slight controversy of him being picked despite all the time out. The question was could he not just get to speed in International rugby union, but could he actually deliver a performance?

Well, let's just say this: to say the game was the Jonny Wilkinson Show would be a master of understatement. Not only did he kick superbly like he always does, he was active in a lot of England's possession, setting up Jason Robinson for an England try before slightly controversially scoring one himself, as the video ref made a howler of a decision it has to be said. Wilkinson's foot had touched out of bounds before he grounded the ball, but the video ref got it wrong and awarded the try. Not that it may have mattered much in the final scheme of things but you do have to feel that despite all the video technology it shows that decisions aren't always right.

But let's look at the statistics on the final score sheet: out of England's 42 points as opposed to Scotland's 20, Wilkinson scored a massive 27 points. Take those out of the equation and it could well have been a very different picture. Five penalties, one drop goal, two conversions and a try during the seventy odd minutes he was on the pitch, and an absolute fairyale of a comeback. No one could have predicted such an impact, no matter his elevated status in the English ranks. It speaks volumes. It also shows maybe how much he's been missed and how England as a rugby union nation was fast losing its status as being a contender for the World Cup: all of a sudden you can see the optimism everywhere flying around. But let's not get carried away. There's still work to be done and you're only as good as your next game.

Meanwhile, I decided to put together for myself a compilation CD of all Kristin Hersh's CD single B-sides that I have so that I didn't have to dig them all out to play stuff. It worked well, twenty one tracks totalling some seventy minutes, perfect. I might even MP3 them all yet. Anyway, listening to one B-side made it my tune of the day. "Blackstone", one of the B-sides from the "In Shock" single just sounds better with every listen as Kristin's acoustics plus David Narcizo's punctuating drums just works really well. It could have easily gone on the album,no problem!

And the less said about Man City's shameful performance against Reading today, the better...

Friday 2nd February - I Feel Officially Old Today

And why, you may ask? Well, today is my youngest sister's 21st birthday. And as I'm the eldest of five children, and I'm the one that's sometimes looked up to, it just made me realise that even the youngest isn't a child or teenager anymore, but a fully responsible adult with the world at her feet (well, sort of). I think I've been sort of knowing this moment has been coming, but I guess it still hits you somewhat when it arrives.

That said though, I went to my mum's straight from work and gave my sister her card - she'd already received her present from the four of us other brothers and sisters in the morning, and was happily showing off her new ringtone to anyone interested. I spent a fair bit of time having a bit of a play with my nephew too. What was lovely was that I lifted him up to have a little chat with him, and he just ended up giving me a hug. Awww, so sweet, I tell you. I also had a bit of time to catch up with my mum while she was sorting the food out for the family arriving a bit later on.

Eventually we demolished a very nice buffet around 8ish, and I had to be careful not to consume too much, although the temptation was there. It was just good that everyone was around and that my sister was just having a good time - as it should be. I remember my 21st birthday but for different reasons: a Morrissey album came out that day, went and bought it, and spent the evening with my then girlfriend having a meal. I didn't want to make a big fuss and it was just a lovely day that way, really.

Anyway, spent a bit of time with the family (and with my niece, who insisted on walking me around the house to find mummy and any other relations, which was lovely) I ventured off home and chilled out for a while. Everyone else was going to a club in town and I just didn't fancy it: I've been there before and the extremely loud music coupled with the appalling choices in music would mean that I wouldn't enjoy myself - plus as well I just am not a dancer full stop - it's not in me! I'm quite sure the ones who are going will have a nice time regardless.

It was a hard choice thinking of tune of the day today, but after listening to it at work it simply had to be The Stone Roses' "She Bangs The Drums". An absolute classic it is, and it just still sounds rather great with each listen even now. Even scarier which makes me feel old is that their debut album was released eighteen years ago. Strewth!

Thursday 1st February - Pass Me The Sick Bucket, Now!

As I walked into Tesco tonight to do my food shopping, I saw a display that just sickened me inside. Everywhere I could see along the first aisle was everything tied in with a certain day this month, yes, you've guessed it, Valentine's Day. I just couldn't believe it. And what made it worse was that as I walked down this aisle with my trolley I could see so many people getting their pink chocolates, the cava and wine, the cards, and all sorts. It just so panders to commercialism these days and just makes me wonder how romantic we actually all really are.

For me, it's always been the case that if you love someone, you love them all the time and don't need a token gesture like the 14th to show your true feelings for someone. And it needn't even be massive gestures either: sometimes the small things that you do are the ones that you'll look back on and it's what you remember as time goes by. Certainly when I've looked back at my relationships it's always those bittersweet little moments of emotion and intimacy that really mean the most. Right, I'll stop now. I'm not getting slushy. Instead I'll just say that if it takes a mass of marketing to remind people to do something that they should be doing anyway, does it make us all suckers for the hype or just that we're all cynical and really need to be reminded constantly of our cynicisms?

What's a bit more sad is that the architectural treat that was the former Odeon cinema on Oxford Street in Manchester is in danger of being bulldozed down and turned into another office block - just what the centre of Manchester doesn't need, a faceless building that has no inner soul and just doesn't add to the feel of the place. When you consider the 1930s outside feel of the place, and the rather quaint feel, you can't help but appreciate how people would have flocked to there to see the latest film. Even up before it closed as a cinema a few years back, I loved the place, it was never full of annoying kids and such like, a usually eclectic mix of people who loved film and didn't want to be ripped off left right and centre by the megaplexes everywhere but just wanted somewhere they felt comfortable in. I certainly did, and seeing The Matrix on the first night there is one of my abiding memories of being there and immersing myself in the way the building's acoustics just added to the sound quality. You don't get that any more.

Because I've been listening to the rather nice Kristin Hersh album "Learn To Sing Like A Star", it was inevitable that today's tune of the day is from there, and because of the gorgeousness of it all, "Vertigo" is currently getting my vote as my favourite track, as everything in there is just so beautiful, so lush and most of all, so Kristin. I can't wait to hear this live!