Dear Diary... June 2009

Tuesday 30th June - Start Of The Heatwave

Well, if I thought it was hot yesterday, it was hot and humid today. Those two ingredients together make working in the office not that bearable to be honest, especially as we had the electrical testing people PAT testing all our kit in the office too - and of course I do worry that a test would break the PC. Thankfully though it got a clean bill of health and so was passed safe and fit and ready to go - well it needed to be, or my argument would of course be for another PC rather quickly to alleviate any issues I'd been having. I did however manage to get quite a bit done though, including testing a couple of applications and also being very methodical in my approach.

I went to the city centre on the way home and just as I got off the bus, the rain started to come down, but it wasn't cooling rain whatsoever, it was warm rain - and that just didn't agree whatsoever. As a consequence I was glad to get into the Arndale Centre and have a look around in the dry (although of course it was very warm in there too). I had decided that I wanted a second guitar controller for Guitar Hero and the like, because it would be cool for when my friends come over and then one can do bass, the other main guitar (and if I got a third remote, vocals could be a possibility in three player mode, just how cool would that be eh?). I also though if possible wanted the same guitar that I got with Guitar Hero III just so everyone would have the same guitar (and they look cool).

I did look up Computer Exchange's website and they apparently had them for £20, and so I asked in the Arndale store if they had any. Off went the assistant and came back, and when we looked inside the box, the guitar was brand new - it had never been played and all the wrapping was still on the neck and body, which of course made it shiny and new too. Well that was that well and truly sorted out of course and so I ended up carrying the controller back through parts of town in the rain and on the bus home, but I didn't care - it was all good fun.

I gave it a quick blast later with Guitar Hero III and soon rattled off a couple of numbers such as Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" and of course the excellent "Bulls on Parade" by Rage Against The Machine (give that one tune of the day and have done with it). I put everything away and started to make the tea, as The Sunshine Of My Love was coming round later. I just did us some chicken and curly fries, as it was just too much running around doing much else, but that was fine. We relaxed later as I saw the England women pan the Aussies again at the cricket, then we checked out a couple of things on eBay as well as then had a six round game of TV Show King on the Wii, which was immense fun. The Sunshine did spin at the end of the fifth round and spun to lose all her cash, but then at the last round spun to swap money with another player, qualifying her for the playoff against me, so that was pretty cool.

It was fairly late when she went home, but as ever, I didn't want her to leave. One thing I've noticed is that the longer you spend with someone that you honestly and truthfully love with all your heart, you feel that you miss them more when you're not together. However, that does become healthy, as it does mean that when you are together, you spend the time as you know it's precious. We're both very sensible about it and I think that's why we are as we are right now - and that makes me happy. It's one year and one month today, woohoo!

Monday 29th June - Discharged

Never has the word discharged sounded so good, let me tell you. As some of you will know from reading the diary, last month I had a really nasty throat infection which meant lots of swelling, a visit to Accident and Emergency and also a visit to the hospital a few days after. A few weeks back I had an appointment confirmed for today just so I could be checked over and if need be have some blood tests to make sure that I was going to be fine. I didn't mind doing any of that, I'd much rather know I'll either be a clean bill of health or treatable if not.

I was concentrating during the day on getting some of the software to work and install on the latest build, and making sure that I was also documenting what I was doing in the right manner. I was minding the office for a fair bit of the day as my colleague and a couple of people on work experience were helping clean out some of the rooms that we were losing in all the big shake up happening due to building work etc, which isn't pretty. Mind you, that allowed me to get on with things and was able to sort some other queries out at the same time.

The appointment was at 2.30pm, and I'd already agreed with my management to leave work at 2pm and head over to the Royal Infimary (which isn't that far from work, which is handy). I got there easily on time and waited around in the waiting room before being called to the corridor outside the specialists' office, before then going in. He explained it was a precautionary check more than anything to check any infection had gone and that I was perfectly okay, and so checked the neck outside and in as well as the glands in question, and he said "well, no need to do any blood tests, everything's fine, so we're going to discharge you."

It felt such a relief, to be honest, because I knew I was back in the land of the living but also that I didn't have to worry about anything else it could have been. Daft I know, but you do worry about things like throat cancer and all that and any swelling could have been related and I wanted to make sure that I was in perfect health before any holiday coming up, so it was a happier me that went back to work for the last hour or so before heading home via Asda to get lots of cold drinks for the football later.

My uncle and his son, my two brothers and me ended up watching a real horror show as England under 21s capitulated in the final. At half time, 1-0 down wasn't too bad, but the manager Stuart Pearce, in my view, made a terrible decision - he swapped Nedum Onouha (our best defender) and brought on the useless Michael Mancienne, who looked completely out of sorts all the second half. Two minutes in and a free kick swerved past the goalkeeper and it was 2-0, and as we chased the game, Germany counter attacked and scored two more with ten minutes to go. It really was men against boys and 4-0 really flattered England at the end. Once again we've failed, but failed miserably.

I went back to my uncle's place later and sorted out a couple of things on his laptop and got back home to see the last bits of the epic Andy Murray match as he finally won out at almost 10.40pm, due to the new roof and the floodlights allowing play to go on so long - I bet the Wimbledon owners were glad they sorted that roof now, eh? And imagine the viewers on BBC One watching every bit of it live - and in HD too don't forget on BBC HD - my, that's some effort! In view of that, the tune of the day has to be Faith No More's "Epic" as this game was everything the football wasn't!

Sunday 28th June - Band On The Munch

Admittedly, had a quite lazy day today. The weather was boiling hot outside and so myself and The Clips In My Frame thought that it'd be best having a relaxed day in, with the windows open to let some air in, and then later on we were heading out for a nice meal. The weather was still sticky and muggy though, which wasn't so good, but we spent a fair bit of the afternoon on Wii Play doing all the mini games before then seeing the Hickstead Derby on BBC2, the pinnacle of the show jumping calendar. I remember it vividly as a kid seeing the horses and riders go down the steep bank, then to the Devil's Dyke and over the water jump and all the other famous fences that they'd have to do. It's rare as hen's teeth to get a clear round here, and so it proved - the only clear round was the very last rider, and so he won!

After that and getting ready to head out, it was off into the city centre to meet a couple of friends in town and to munch at Felicini's. We like it in there, and currently The Clips gets 25% discount off the food in there (part of the incentive scheme thing she has at work) so that helped a fair bit. The discount doesn't apply to any set menus, but myself and one of my friends went for that - the garlic dough balls to start with the mushroom risotto afterwards, which was just right and left me enough room for the panna cotta to share afterwards, which was light and lovely.

In fact, we were sat out in the terrace part at the back which is under cover, but has the side windows open so you can get some air in. It was still really muggy though and so it felt rather warm but almost alfresco as we were dining, which did feel pretty nice. Plenty of good conversation and food was the order of the day, and a fair bit to catch up on as well. Must admit that it's always good to do that - and the mushrom risotto in particular was on tip top form as well.

It was then back to mine for a while and out came Rock Band Song Pack 1, so we tried that and the microphone so my friend and I could be the band - we did David Bowie's Moonage Daydream and then a bit of Oasis with Live Forever, My friend did do the chorus from the live version by accident, which made us all giggle, but in a nice way. We then put on Guitar Hero World Tour and picked some favourites from that - so first off it was Sex Pistols' Pretty Vacant (make that tune of the day - punk classics never die) followed by a bit of Wings with "Band on the Run", REM's "The One I Love" and overall we were doing pretty well.

It was then on to the downloadable content, and we got hold of Queen's "We Are The Champions" and of course immediately had a good go of that, as you'd expect. I just imagined I was Brian May and my friend doing the Freddie bits, and it went off well. I did have a go solo vocal on Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" and surprised myself somewhat with being able to do the high vocal parts. My friend joked that certain parts of my anatomy hadn't dropped yet if I was able to go that high, but it was pretty tough to do. I guess I could have sung it at a lower pitch, must remember that next time...

Saturday 27th June - Muggy Me

Well, it was absolutely hammering it down this morning with rain, quite ironic really as I'd had a shower and put the PC on and whacked on Slayer's "Raining Blood". The idea is that if I listen to the tune more and understand the dynamics of it, I'll be able to then nail those bloody intense solos on Guitar Hero III at a much higher difficulty than easy (which is still quite hard!). In fact, for anyone who wants to be a play tester, they need to be able to play this track on Expert. Wow. Oh, and it also features in Guitar Hero Smash Hits, the new game, where plenty of the old songs from the first three games are now done in full band mode - and for Wii owners, that's ace, because I and II's songs that are on there will be the first time you can play them on the Wii as well. But I dread to try out the aforementioned Slayer song with the drums - it'll just be absolutely brutal!

I decided to head out into the city centre, as I needed to get a few bits for the forthcoming holiday. I had nailed a few things the other night when I went to Tesco, and managed to get the sun cream spray plus after sun, and even some very nice black jeans that were reduced from £15 to £7.50, and when I got to the till, they actually were further reduced to £4.50. Result! Anyhow, I knew what I needed, essentials basically: underwear and socks. And Marks and Spencer was the place to head - and got all that sorted for the right price, plus got myself a pair of their recycled cotton black jeans. I've already got a pair and they wash really well and don't fade, which of course has to be a major plus doesn't it?

So, it was a case of being able to head home quite quickly after all that shopping, and noticed that the weather had got really sticky and muggy. I don't mind so much if I'm able to get some good fresh air and keep relatively cool, but the problem is that often when it gets like this in Manchester, it's really really humid and sticky and quite unpleasant to be doing anything in. I of course do try and keep air circulating around the house and I am sure that some intense rocking with Nine Inch Nails' "March of the Pigs" on Rock Band Song Pack 1 (give that tune of the day) certainly helped considerably to make me feel a bit warmer. In fact after doing that in quick play, I tried to do the solo tour and did the first couple of levels, and because some of them were songs I like (such as Faith No More's "We Care A Lot") then all was well with the world and I felt back in the groove of serious rocking, and even tried bass on a couple of tracks to see how that did. Rock on!

There's still serious fallout with the Michael Jackson death though. I had been in HMV earlier this morning to see what games were out and what they had in their sale, and every single song was a Michael Jackson one. I know it's sad and all, but do the public really need all the songs blasting down their ears all the time, and at this time? Surely it'd be nice to let the public decide and instead play something that might sound a bit cheerier at this time - that might help people remember for all the right reasons and how his music made people happy when they listened to it.

Friday 26th June - Shredded Nerves And Shredding Guitars

I woke up this morning blissfully unaware of the major news story that had unfolded overnight, and had already collected my package from the Post Office, which was the two A3 clip frames that I had ordered. As I set off for work later and headed on the bus, the front page headlines both on the free paper you get on there plus any paper anyone had bought all read the same thing: that Michael Jackson had died last night. It was surreal to see at first and it didn't quite sink in for a while till I actually got to work and read it on the BBC News website.

When death is sudden like this and unexpected, it does hit people a lot harder than if, say, they were expecting it to happen if someone had been ill for a long time. Next month would have been his live return at the O2 in London with many many nights sold out and plenty of people scrambling for tickets as and when they became available. It was clear that his draw as an artist had not lost any of its impact, not had his music by the ticket demands. No one had any idea that he was ill nor was the death going to be so sudden, hence the national coverage in all the media and an outpouring of grief from many fans across the world.

What I do find slightly odd is that when a a musician or singer dies, all of a sudden everyone feels duty bound to buy their albums. At the time of writing, the top fourteen albums in terms of recent sales at Amazon have all been of his work - which is pretty unprecedented. I have a feeling that the UK album chart might be well cleaned up by any remaining stock left in stores as well. The same thing happened to a lesser extent when Kurt Cobain of Nirvana went in 1994, although back then there was no Internet shopping like there is now on the scale it is, and indeed it does tend to happen at death. We may find out the cause later on, but it's still a shock for a lot of people out there. Even though I wasn't a fan of his work, I can appreciate that many people were - and it's a huge loss for them.

After a tough day at the office including one of our technical group meetings today, it was time to head back home in time for the England Under 21s and their semi final against Sweden. The Swedes had been scoring for fun in their matches but had finished second in their group due to their loss to Italy, hence they were playing us who had topped Group B. And the bus thankfully sped down the main roads on the way home, which meant I arrived safe and sound prior to kick off with a couple of minutes spare so I could settle down and watch the action, with my uncle following later on as soon as he got back from work.

And what a start! Less than a minute and we get a corner, the ball comes out to Martin Cranie and he hits a sweet shot past the Swedish defence. Blink and you'll miss it, as it was pretty quick and so 1-0 to England. Another corner later produced another goal, this time the Swedish defence were all over the place and Nedum Onouha controlled the ball well in the box and shot home nicely for 2-0, good to see a Man City player doing the business of course. Later in the half a cross came over and the Swedish defender attempted to clear it out but instead volleyed it into his own net - and so 3-0 at half time. I must admit I had a feeling that it wasn't all over yet but hoped that the second half would be more the same.

My fears were right - once the Swedes had pulled one back through their leading scorer Marcus Berg poached one, and with fifteen minutes left England conceded a free kick in the wrong sort of place to give one away. Ola Toivonen did the rest and rifled home a smart free kick and it was then 3-2, and it wasn't that long after before Berg scored again (his seventh of the tournament no less) to make it 3-3, and all to play for. It was the Swedes who looked most likely to win and I was relieved to hear the final whistle so that we had at least another half hour of extra time to play with.

Needless to say, extra time was a pretty tense affair to say the least - with sub Frazier Campbell going for a ball he didn't have to go for, and his mistimed slide tackle was more than enough for a second yellow and of course subsequent red card, and it was pure backs to the wall stuff for England with ten men to hold out till the end of extra time, where the dreaded penalties awaited. Of course, the pens were something to dread as I'd seen England teams lose so many times that way - and the Under 21s two years back lost 13-12 to the Netherlands in an absolute epic shootout.

James Milner completely fluffed it and I thought we were out, but Man City keeper Joe Hart pulled off a great save to keep the scores level at 0-0 on pens. He then took one himself to make it 1-0 to England, and all of the next four penalties each were scored too - including one from young defender Kieran Gibbs, who kept his nerve admirably. So England were 5-4 up and up popped one of the Swedish subs to take the kick. Hart guessed the right way, and the shot hit the post, and it was England in the final. Relief all round of course, but it was dramatic and typically the way we'd always do it - the hard way! And with Germany beating Italy 1-0 in the other semi, it will be a repeat of the final group game as England play Germany for the tournament win on Monday evening.

After that, my nerves were completely shredded from having to watch and endure such torture - it was bad enough with the second half, but with all those penalties as well? Absolute nightmare, let me tell you. It was therefore time to plug in the guitar for the Wii and put on Guitar Hero World Tour, which I hadn't played for a while. I did however manage to do the whole of the New York gig, including the bonkers Van Halen number in there. This, however, did allow me to unlock a few more tracks including Dream Theater's epic "Pull Me Under" but best of all and tune of the day, The Stone Roses' "Love Spreads". Needless to say I was able to play along to that one especially as I've got the album it's from and do play that from time to time - plus it's a classic single. Might have to try that in vocal mode...

Thursday 25th June - Wii Will Bowl You!

My brother and his girlfriend came round last night, as it was her birthday and I wanted to have a chatter with them as well as give her a little present - the Honey Farm gift set from Lush. They had been out to Bakewell for the day and by all accounts had had a great time there, and were doing plenty to make the day special. It was good to see them and at first we saw the programme about the homeless people being shown on BBC1, where celebrities try being homeless for a week and living in the same conditions as those who do it for real. One of them pulled out and he kept sneaking off to a normal hotel bed, which for him really did make a mockery of the whole thing.

After that it was time to get the Wii on, as my brother's girlfriend had liked the sound of it but had never had a go, so I set her and my brother up as Mii characters (it's the law!) and then had them doing the bowling on Wii Sports, which gives you a perfect introduction to how it all works. My brother was getting the hang of it, but the slower and more accurate approach of his girlfriend was doing the business much better: and she came out with a very respectable total which thrashed his to some degree. As she won, she got to play me and it was neck a neck till around the eighth of ninth end, and I managed a turkey right at the end, but her skill and accuracy was really good.

My brother was now seeing how it was done and was up against me for a game, and he did much better than the first time, posting a very respectable score too. He kept up with me for a while too, and that pleased him - mind you, my 213 was about the third best I'd ever done, so I guess I was just in the groove or so after a game. He tried out the golf too and promptly panned me over the first three holes, scoring consecutive pars on each of them. As you can imagine that made his day very nicely indeed and before we knew it, it was gone 11pm and time for them to depart homeward and sleep soundly for the evening.

It's been slightly less warm today than yesterday, although to be fair the heat's crept up a bit and certainly does make for a bit of a clammy muggy late afternoon. It does need a fresher wind to at least not fee so close, but at least where I'm sat in the office reshuffle I'm near the window and am able to relax with the window open. I did manage to start work on the new build I'm having to do, which includes whacking on Windows XP Service Pack 3 and indeed Office 2007 Service Pack 2. The latter can't be installed, incidentally, unless XP Service Pack 3 is on there, so of course it was good to note which way around that everything needed to be done to ensure it all works as intended.

I got home and as predicted, the postman couldn't fit the A3 clip frames I ordered through the door, so there's a card for me to go and collect it from the sorting office tomorrow morning. I had a feeling this might be the case, but at least it's quite close to me so I can saunter over there first thing and get it all sorted. It'll be nice to put up the poster advertising Baskery's gig, and of course that also means that I'm able to admire it on the wall along with my Kristin Hersh one (if I put it there, that is). We shall see. In the meantime, tune of the day is going to be Baskery's "The Wise" as it's just such a lovely end to the album and so floaty...

Wednesday 24th June - Scorchio

All of a sudden, where's all this lovely weather come from? Although it was warm yesterday for the most part, I did almost get caught out by a sudden quick rain shower that hit central Manchester and tried its best to drench everyone on their way home from work. However, none of that today as the sun has been shining and as you can well imagine it's not been that easy to work in an office that doesn't really offer much in terms of air conditioning and the like, but we do our best in the circumstances.

In fact I was looking at one of the new PCs that had arrived with a view to setting up a working image on it, as it's a brand new piece of kit. The spec is pretty good too, dual core 3Ghz processor, a mere 4GB of RAM (useless on XP of course as it'll only see around 3GB of that), good sized hard disk, DVD writer and onboard HD audio and graphics with dual DVI ports out, plus eSATA and Firewire 400 on the back ports. Pretty nice really. I used our recent sysprepped image, and a lot of the drivers weren't of course present, so I had to add those in manually. However, it did do the job nicely, and once the drivers were in it looked a pretty quick and stable piece of kit.

We did spend a fair bit of lunchtime out in the local park green close to the office: everyone seemed to have the same idea and were all sat there in the sunshine. I was a bit wary to be close to some shade though: I do burn pretty easily and of course being out at the peak risk time of getting burned meant I knew I had to be a tad careful, so went into our relatively shaded office after a while to ensure I'd cooled off well enough. In fact I did also manage to sort out an issue with one of the PCs in the office as well later in the day, so that was rather pleasing to see. Sometimes, you just know that you're onto a good one.

The other good news of the day is the F1 breakaway row has finally (and at bloody long last) been resolved. For a seasoned F1 fan like me lots of the recent incidents reminded me of the FISA/FOCA wars of the early 1980s (for FISA, read FIA, for FOCA read FOTA) and it was a similar issue with governance too. Of course, I think the teams were fed up with Max Mosley basically making up the rules as he went along and I had a feeling that if he was going, plenty of the teams might reconsider their position. As the BBC's F1 mole wrote, there seemed to be a feeling of distrust of Mosley and the way he felt power hungry enough to run the show.

But whatever has happened today, and indeed how much influence Bernie Ecclestone has had on proceedings, thank heavens that common sense has prevailed and everyone can now concentrate on the business in hand of producing an exciting F1 championship for years to come. And to celebrate, what better than Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" as tune of the day? I'm sure hearing that tune just makes it all the more evocative when I watch the races, and of course this year even more so with Jenson Button doing so well (well apart from Sunday!) - and just gets me pumped up and ready to go.

Tuesday 23rd June - Chuck Out That Chintz!

It was off to see The Cover On My Duvet tonight after work, as she very kindly offered to make us some tea before we'd head off to IKEA later on. Tea was indeed very nice indeed, some lovely chicken with some vegetables and these potatoes seasoned with black pepper which had some kind of swirl pattern cut into them - bizarre, yet nice all at the same time. It certainly did the job and was nice to just sit at the table with the dulcet tones of the Wimbledon commentary team behind us as we were keeping an eye on Andy Murray's progress during that phase.

After letting the traffic die down a bit, it was off in The Cover's car to IKEA. As we passed through Droylsden I noted plenty of work was taking place for the eventual arrival of the Metrolink trams, and sure enough part of one of the roads was closed off in order to facilitate the work being done. It all looked promising and if they do manage to continue it all the way to Ashton itself, that might prove to be very useful indeed. We soon were past Ashton Moss and over to the IKEA there, and managed to get a space close to the entrance. Incidentally, I also noticed someone who didn't have a disabled blue badge parking in the disabled space - sheesh, will some people never learn? I was going to have a polite word but thought that they looked über-posh and would probably ignore me anyway, and I also spotted a CCTV camera that probably caught their illegal move.

Once within IKEA, it was a case of seeing what I wanted to get myself. My cousin very kindly had got me a gift card for there for my birthday last month and it was the first chance I'd had to go there and use it. I thought for a moment about a replacement coffee table for the LACK one I have, but then I saw something else which I did need - new pillows for the bedroom. The Cover had purchased some previously and said they really are good, and for the price, I was able to get four of them - exactly the amount I needed, and use the card that way to get them. And as I had enough of their lovely cotton bedding and quilt covers etc, it made a natural choice to go and get them with the proceeds.

The Cover wanted to get a chest of drawers for the bedroom, as the old ones she had were not looking so hot no and wanted something similar sized but to replace them with. It was a case of narrowing down between the Malm and the Aneboda ones, and it was hard to make the decision. She thought about leaving it for now and so we walked through the ground floor points for picking up the bulky items, and before we got to the till I said "might be worth checking out bargain corner - I might see something there for myself", so off we headed. What I didn't expect to find was an Aneboda chest of drawers in white, but already built! It was an ex-display item and there looked to be nothing wrong with it at all. Our guess was that because it was used for display, it'd also been built properly and so should be more robust (cos obviously you don't want a display item that's not going to show it off to potential), and the price for this? A mere £26.50, almost a third off the normal asking price for one.

The Cover had a think about whether it'd fit in the boot of her car, and I reassured her it would, and so we went to the till with it on a large trolley, purchased it, and then headed to the car park. As we got to the car we knew that we'd have to lift it slightly to get it over the smaller bottom section of the rear entrance to the car, but once that was done, it fitted snugly on the boot and back seats (folded down) and it was spot on. Hurrah! The Cover did take it a little slowly coming back to her place, but we got there without a glitch and soon had it where it needed to be, and it looked the part and really felt like it was properly built. It also therefore saved us much hassle in having to try and put it all together, because it's all done for us - so saving time and money? We'll have a bit of that, thank you very much.

We headed back to mine later for a coffee and a chatter, and I also got to try out Rock Band Song Pack 1 for the Wii. Now obviously I can't use my Guitar Hero III guitar with it, but the microphone that comes with Boogie (which I've used on Guitar Hero World Tour) also works fine on Rock Band, and so I was able to plug the microphone in to try out some of the songs (there's 20 in all). On the Xbox 360 and PS3, the tracks are downloadable but on the Wii you get separate CDs with the songs on (but at least also it's a standalone game too so that's good). I tried out Faith No More's excellent "We Care A Lot" and imagined myself as Mike Patton for a second, but best of all there was NIN on there, namely "March of the Pigs" - so that one's got to be tune of the day. I did pretty well on that and got 97% for the vocal performance, having sussed out that you don't hold the mic too close to you. I think even The Cover was impressed - although I did restrain into going into full on Trent Reznor shouty mode..

Monday 22nd June - The Kids Are Alright

It was a fairly busy day at work today, not least because I wanted to get two rooms with the AV kit finished off and have the PC up and running with all the relevant software. I had actually imaged them late Friday afternoon so that I could come in on Monday and finish them off, well that was the plan. I got to the rooms and restarted them to allow the sysprep to kick in and ensure that all the relevant drivers were installed where possible. After then doing its restart and booting into Windows, three drivers were missing: two of which were Intel specific stuff to do with Active Management and their Management Engine Interface (AMT and HECI respectively) and one was for this new visualiser, so I just downloaded the installer from the manufacturer's website, and off I went.

However, for some reason, the display wouldn't line up correctly no matter what I did - and the auto configure on the monitor didn't do much either. I went for some lunch and tried to rack my brains, and then I thought "ah hang on, why don't I try this instead?" and sussed it out. Basically, the AV desks have this controller at the bottom of the desk which controls all the devices attached to it (and there's a projector, visualiser, PC, DVD player etc) and so that in itself also controls the display. I simply got to the option menus and there was one for auto config for the display there, pressed it, and - all sorted. I had to do them both, but it was well worth it as it will mean that whoever uses it in future will have the desks up and running and be able to operate it smoothly.

I also managed to sort out a software installation as well and configure it for a set of users that will need to use it, so that made me feel pretty good as well in that I thought the day had gone well. I had to nip into the city centre on the way home and get a birthday present and card, and also to try and get an A3 clip frame from somewhere. You see, I'd been given this nice free A3 poster which advertised the Baskery gig, and it's a nice shot of all three of them, and so I thought "get a frame, put it on the wall" like I did with my Kristin Hersh one back from 2007. I couldn't find any though, so I simply saw a seller on eBay later and ordered two of them - just in case I needed another one in the future it's all there then isn't it?

After some tea, my uncle came round as we were going to watch the England under 21s against Germany in the last group game. England needed to draw to top the group whilst Germany had to win, and they scored first within four minutes to make it 1-0. England though did equalise with Jack Rodwell heading in from a corner, and that's how it stayed so England topped the group nicely. In fact, considering that it was virtually a B team, they did well and hopefully some of them did enough to prove they might be worthy of a starting position for Friday's semi final to come. And of course, no injuries or anything to the star men, so a win win situation all round for us.

It was then time to try out FIFA 09 on the Wii, and we had a few games in two players on the same team mode - once he got the hang of the controls we were scoring well and in the three games we played as Man City, we won 5-3, lost 4-3 and won 4-2, so not bad at all really. I think seeing him score and rifle home such a good shot really made it prove that you can pick up and play it and really start to give it a good go to do well. Also, it showed that City can actually play quite well on that game, especially with some thunderous shots from Stephen Ireland along the way.

As for tune of the day, well that's an easy one actually. I was thinking about Wimbledon as the tournament started off today in earnest, and the great theme music which used to play whenever the tennis was on the telly which really set things up nicely. It's called "Light and Tuneful" by Keith Mansfield, and is available on the CD compilation "The Great Sporting Experience", well worth getting incidentally as it features the theme tunes to the likes of Grandstand, Superstars, the snooker, darts, Rugby Special, Match of the Day, and all original versions to boot. The tennis one is spot on and reminds me of when I was younger seeing Boris Becker win in 1985. Ah, those were the days, let me tell you.

Sunday 21st June - Let's Go For A Little Recycling Walk

I woke up this morning, blues style almost, and started to try and finish off what I did yesterday in terms of clearing out the wardrobes. I pretty much had decided most of what I was getting rid of, and also at the same time thinking about what could be donatable. It was then a case of getting through the last of the clearout and bagging accordingly, and I was quite amazed by how many bags I'd filled but also how many hangers I'd now been able to reclaim for use, and all of a sudden the wardobes feel a lot more roomy and now I can find most of the items that I need to wear, along with some that I'd not worn for a bit, so they may get an outing at some point.

I then kept my eye on the telly for the sporting day ahead. First off the England women's cricket team were to show the men how it's done in their World Twenty20 final against New Zealand. Some excellent bowling really did the damage and by the end of the 20 overs, New Zealand were all out for 85. It did not look like an easy wicket to bat on though (the men's final later proved that) and so the Kiwis had to bear the brunt of it - well Katherine Brunt anyway. Her figures in her four overs were two maidens, three wickets and a mere six runs conceded. At Test match level, it'd be good, in one dayers impressive, but in Twenty20? That's some going, let me tell you, I think any of the men would be chuffed to get that.

England took their time and were patient and won with six wickets to spare, the ever impressive Claire Taylor in batting mode getting 39 not out to add to her not out score from the semi against Australia, and it proved just how good England are in the women's game. They really do have the belief but also the ability, and I think they might have to teach the men a thing or two about how to handle a run chase. Early contenders for Sports Personality Team of the Year? Definitely. And I want to know if every England men's bowler can be given a right shiner like Katherine Brunt had if it has the same effect.

The F1 race at Silverstone, possibly the last ever British Grand Prix held there unless Donington absolutely muck things up big time, was pretty good even if it was pretty obvious from lap one who was going to win - and that was the impressive Sebastian Vettel. Felipe Massa eventually got fourth in the Ferrari and he really had a fighting drive and at the end was just ahead of both Nico Rosberg and the fast charging Jenson Button, who for some reason decided along with the Brawn team to go for the middle stint on the harder tyre - seemed an odd decision to me that, but still. It was good to see too that they actually were praising Vettel for his drive.

Later on The Buttons On My Phone came over, and we firstly went to deposit all the bags of my old clothes in the Oxfam deposit thing I mentioned yesterday. I did feel good for doing that, actively recycling and doing my bit for charity at the same time, so that pleased me no end. It also meant that I was able to do it all in one fell swoop rather than take a couple of bags at a time with me to work and then dumping them that way on the way in - do it all and get shut, hehe.

We then walked from my place to the local cycle path which goes along the path of the old Fallowfield Loop Line, and started off walking at a pace. Once we actually got into Fallowfield itself I bumped into my youngest sister, so it was a quick chat there before we started to walk again, and kept going till we reached the very end at Chorlton. We did notice that the old railway line here (which branches off from the Fallowfield Loop and goes towards Didsbury) was having all the overgrowth cut back, this is all in preparation for when the Metrolink tram lines go down there eventually.

Chorlton seemed very much alive and well with people milling around, and right near where you come up via the cycle path is a pub called The Bar, and it always has a good selection of real ale on. And this includes the gorgeous ginger marble one by The Marble Arch brewery in Manchester, which does actually taste a little of ginger, it's spot on that. As we were entering and going to the bar, I could hear in the background the dulcet tones of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' "Are You The One That I've Been Waiting For?" so that's tune of the day without question. Of course, it was nice to relax after a walk of some four miles or so and really feel like it was well worth the trip out. It was the bus back for us though!

I made us some pasta with sausage in them along with the sauce and some garlic bread, and settled down to watch some Come Dine With Me on More4 before turning the attention to the Wii and having a blast on the tennis as well the baseball, before doing a bit of bowling. I was quite pleased with my score really especially as I did a turkey in the last end, and really piled on the scoring in the process. I think too that it's all good practice to keep us both really active, as I can see a fair bit of walking being done when we're off to Cornwall, which will be rather lovely.

Saturday 20th June - Waiting For The Meter Man

A few weeks ago I had a letter which said that a lot of the electricity meters were being changed, and mine was one of them. The appointment was originally down for a day that I'd normally be in work, and as you can imagine, I didn't just want to take a day off to be waiting in. I did however manage to re-arrange it for a Saturday, and today just so happened to be that day. I did think that realistically it'd be better for me to be there to make sure I could turn off all the electrical equipment that might be sensitive to a power surge (even though I have surge protected sockets and all that) and that it all would go smoothly.

As I had time to kill whilst I was waiting around, I decided to do something that I'd been planning to do for a long time - and that was to clean out the wardrobes of stuff that I don't wear anymore. I noticed recently that a large Oxfam skip has turned up near work, and you can deposit your bags of clothes you don't wear there so they can be reused or recycled as needed to help others less fortunate. I of course thought that to be an excellent idea and would mean that I'd actually be doing a green thing too, so I set about deciding what to get rid of. I was pretty ruthless - many of the old band t-shirts went, most of them long sleeved numbers, simply because I tend not to wear them when at gigs and stuff, or bands that have since long split up.

I was also ruthless with jeans too: I still had a couple of pairs that were a size too small so they went straight out of there, and just ones that have faded but are still wearable (I don't like faded black, it looks horrid) and so it was a case of filling up bags with them all and trying to keep the same type of items together to make it easier for people to sort out later on. Time was soon skipping on though so eventually it was time to stop for the time being, take a break and get to watch the F1 qualifying and its build up to it. That of course proved interesting as it was clear that everyone was trying hard to get things to settle down and for the teams not to try and break away, but it could be too little too late.

Anyway, as I was about to get qualifying underway on the telly, the doorbell rang and it was the man to change the meter. He did a pretty impressive job though, because he said that the meter was fairly easy to access, so it was to turn off the electricity, unscrew the old one and take out all the connections, plug the new one in, connect it all up and switch it on and away it went. And in fact it took less than twenty minutes, which was a professional job all well done. As it happened, I just about caught Adrian Sutil's crash in first qualifying before seeing the rest of it live, and Jenson Button did struggle a bit with the impressive as ever Sebastian Vettel getting pole position.

I headed into the city centre later on as The Buttons On My Phone asked me if there was any possibility of getting a camera card reader that read SD cards. I was sure that I'd seen them in Poundland of all places, and so I went there and yes, there they were, for a mere quid. In fact they even read the SDHC cards as well, so that's a really nice bonus to be quite honest. I did that and a couple of other small things in the centre before heading home to have a nice shower before heading out later in the day.

I met up with The Buttons and some of her family, as we were taking her father out to the Table Table near St Peter's Square for a meal, as of course it's Father's Day tomorrow. It was nice to all sit at the same table and have a good chat to everyone, and indeed to have some nice food whilst I was at it. I had the breaded mushrooms to start, and you even got two types of dip to go with it, followed by the gammon steak with chips, egg and pineapple for main followed by some vanilla ice cream with blackcurrant coulis for dessert, so that all worked out very nicely indeed.

After that it was back for the two of us to The Buttons' place, where it was a case of checking out the camera card reader, which worked really well, and also checking a couple of things out on the web as well. It was a relaxing end to the day, but it just goes to show that sometimes you have to take a step back and relax. And as I was waiting a lot today, "Waiting For The Man" by Velvet Underground seems the right choice of tune here. Someone I know used to have a Lou Reed compilation tape and it had his solo stuff and some of the Velvets' stuff on, and that track was the end of side one - so tune of the day it most certainly is.

Friday 19th June - Runaround - Now!

Today at the office felt like the old kids' quiz show Runaround, in which Mike Reid used to go "G-g-g-g-g-go!" and then "Runaround - now!" and certainly it was that, as we needed to move around in the office. As part of the ongoing building work that'll be happening in the building next to us, some staff need to move out of there and move into smaller more crammed spaces. The knock on effect for us is that we're losing our Help Desk office and the member of staff in there is having to move into our main office. It does mean that they need to be front facing though, so my colleague needed to move to another desk. Ideally, he wanted to go where I was, and I then would go towards the rear of the office and be able to allocate the space. We got it sorted in the end, but it will feel weird on Monday when I go in there and go on autopilot before realising it's not my desk!

Still, I did manage to get to the nearest Tesco to home after work and blitz the shopping quite quickly, meaning I could head home and be all sorted shopping wise before 6pm, as the PC was being collected from me that I worked on the other night. I did all the cleanups necessary and had it fully service packed and updated, so it was good to sort that out - and they'd found a use for Dragon 10 on another PC in the family - meaning that they'll then source version 9 for the PC I looked at. So it wasn't wasted, and I'm sure that if they went back to the retailer they could have claimed a refund if they so wished. The software vendor did reply to my email I sent and did restate those requirements, but sort of skimped around the fact it wasn't on the box - which I've reminded them of that they need to certainly get the box labels revised pronto. But they replied, I guess.

My friend came round later, as he wanted to see Fifa 09 on the Wii after I'd been raving about it and how much fun it was and how the controls made it playable. He certainly enjoys the Wii, but finds that complex control systems aren't for him, so the all-play mode, where you can just use the remote to pass, shoot and tackle and the Wii does the rest, worked good for him. We did two players on the same team and as Man City beat Burnley, with some stunning finishes. I also showed him the Footii Party modes, and we had a blast on the table football mode winning a game each, followed by the ball juggling which was also good fun.

Then it was back to the serious stuff though, namely two players against each other. I set up Rangers versus Werder Bremen, and I won that one 2-1 in a very very close fought contest indeed. It was then an all London Premier League clash, just about at the time Setanta were losing their live rights as we played, and so Tottenham versus West Ham. I scored two thunderous free kicks, one from around 45 yards out and another just on the edge of the 18 yard box with David Bentley whacking them both in. In the end it was 4-1 but we both really played well, and I just got lucky with one deflected shot near the end to be honest. My friend was well impressed though and really enjoyed the experience.

It was then to Cue Sports: Snooker vs Billiards on Wiiware, and we played snooker for a bit before heading to the 8-ball pool, and it was a great contest as we knocked some sublime pots in and really set up a tight game all round. We both like that one - it's just really playable. The graphics may not be the best, but who cares? It works and it's good fun, and we've played it online with no fuss and it's always proved to be a good blast doing that as well. Great when things work, isn't it?

As for tune of the day well as we were playing Fifa 09 for quite a bit, one of the songs came on from that which I recognised, Ladytron's excellent "Runaway". It reminded me of seeing them at Academy 3 last year when it was packed to the rafters (unlike last night!) and how good it felt to enjoy that track - plenty of sublime electronics and above all a good tune that suits their style. So there you go.

Thursday 18th June - The Most Underattended Gig Ever

Tonight after a hard day at the office and getting lots of work done, it was off out to meet The Lime In My Soft Drink to head out for something to eat and then on to Academy 3 to see the mighty Baskery. We'd seen them supporting Seth Lakeman last year and then in Ruby Lounge in January, so hopes were high for another excellent show, and this time The Lime's friend and her husband were coming with us to the gig, so that was good to do anyway. I met up with The Lime near where she works and headed to The Waterhouse for a drink and some tea. I'd not had the mixed grill in ages so it was that for me, which worked out to be a good move all round really.

We then headed on the bus to Oxford Road and to the Academy 3, I just checked the show times so we knew who was on when, and then it was over to Kro, where our two companions for the evening were there and were looking fairly relaxed and ready to enjoy the gig later. I got some drinks and we found a nice comfortable table where the four of us could chatter happily. I had got the pint of Wainwright and it looked a quality ale - and the beer glass it was served in only added to that sense of feeling of quality too. It was all going nicely and thankfully we were not in the open air, as suddenly the rain started to hammer it down, followed closely by some huge hail stones, which really did hit hard and you could see them on the outside tables, almost snow-like as they fell.

It certainly wasn't the best of weather and to be honest that might have put people off coming out tonight, because of the fact that they might not have been that meithered. I also knew that the gig had not sold out because there were plenty of tickets available on the door on the evening. However, when we did get up to Academy 3, the place was pretty empty to say the least. It reminded me of when me and my friend went to see Bennet at Manchester Roadhouse and about sixty people turned up. Now, the Academy 3 is a fair size bigger than the Roadhouse, and I'd estimate that even when Baskery were on, there were around thirty five people who were there - and that wasn't a nice feeling. It was, in my view, the most underattended gig ever.

What is wrong with everyone? Do they not hear good music then they hear it? Are too many people indie schmindie loving sheep who can't see beyond the latest hip and trendy thing? Is it because they were all saving their night out for the forthcoming end of year shows and gigs? Or is it a more serious thing in that no one has actually still discovered how marvellous Baskery are and it's still a hidden secret? Well, for whatever reason, I felt really upset for the three lovely ladies of Baskery that no one turned up but also felt that for those of us here, that we were in good company and we can say "I was there at Academy 3 with 30-odd people" when they eventually, I hope, make it massive. After all, the number of people who claim to have been at that Sex Pistols gig at Manchester's Free Trade Hall make it into a bit of an urban myth, so who knows?

But that didn't stop proceedings, thankfully. Baskery (official site) (myspace) pulled off a remarkable show, and it was just as good as we've seen them. They went full on into plenty of stuff from their album "Fall Among Thieves (buy it at Play or Amazon) including a really good rousing version of "One Horse Down" complete with really amazing slide banjo guitar, a lovely soft and gentle "Oscar Jr Restaurant Bar" with the harmonies perfectly placed and lots of flow and breathe, and a really smart and fast "Here To Pay My Dues" with lots of toetapping along from the audience.

That was only part of a great show though: as ever, the superb "Out of Towner" got an airing, and to my surprise, The Lime was singing along with me, which was fab! Of course, the song does mainly have one lyric line, but who cares? It's such a good tune and you can just enjoy the "banjo punk" (as the band call it) feel to it, which of course rocks. There was a really fast version of "Why Don't Ya?" too, which really had you trying to bound and dance along to keep up the pace, and a really lilting "Harsh" too, which got everyone in the right sort of "awwww" mood throughout. Tune of the day though has to be "Haunt You" which was the last song of their main set, as it was an extended workout of the opening bass line, and lots of slide banjo accentuated, including a longer end part where they played the main hookline quicker and quicker before closing it all nicely. It just showed how bloody good they were.

The Lime's friend enjoyed herself whilst her husband wasn't so sure, but still as he said, it was a night out with great company and added to that a "we were there when.." moment, and the day was all good. And people, really, if Baskery are playing anywhere near you, go and see them. And if you're going to Glastonbury next weekend, make the effort to go and see them when they are there - you'll be glad you did. You'll get stuff like this if you do:

Wednesday 17th June - Slaying The Dragon

I had a bit of a mission of sorts tonight - basically to look at a PC for a friend's relative that wasn't playing ball too well and also to try and get Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 running. Before it was purchased, the specifications that were on the retail box were checked over and it was shown as compatible with their kit, and so that was a case of being able to have that one ready for installation and ready to go. Also, it was a case of seeing if there was any way of possibly cleaning it up a bit and making it faster - well, that was the plan anyway.

One thing I noted straight away was that the startup screen said the full Windows XP Professional splash screen, which said to me that it didn't have at least Service Pack 2 on there - hmm. So as you can well imagine it was a case of making sure it was service packed first - SP2 had already downloaded itself and was ready to be installed, so I did that first and would tackle SP3 a bit later on, but at least getting that on was a start. I also saw that there was a long expired piece of McAfee software, so it was rip and remove that and plonk on AVG Free Edition to do its job there. I was also thinking of a defrag, but that'd be done later once the software was installed.

And so we got to Dragon Naturally Speaking 10. And it installed (eventually). But then we tried to run it. And - it didn't play ball. It kept coming up with the same error, and so I thought "maybe the install didn't quite work as intended" and promptly did a reinstall and repair. Still the same error. Even removing the onboard 56K modem didn't do a jot of difference (just in case it was using that as a device for some reason) - and it still crashed. It was getting late so I took the PC back home along with some thoughts racking my brain how to solve it.

Eventually gone midnight at home I did find the answer - and it didn't please me one bit. It turns out that this version of Dragon Naturally Speaking relies on SSE2 instructions, which are only available on certain processors, and not the Athlon XP one that was in the PC I was looking at. Now, did it mention "an SSE2 capable processor" on the box? Nope. So that was not good. Surely if the spec was that requirement, the box should have mentioned it in order to save hassles and all that, you would think, or it would actually be sensible enough to do the check during installation and say "this won't run it" or something? Hmm... Nuance/Scansoft need to make their packaging clearer. It's all very well having a knowledge base article tucked away hidden on their web site, but let's face it, who's going to go to all that trouble, especially when they've checked the system requirements on the box against their kit?

So that was frustrating - but it does feel like I at least worked out something today in that sometimes there are situations which are out of your control and all you can do is try and work out just why that is, and also meant that I can approach a problem systematically as well. In the meantime, tune of the day is the opening theme to the film Enter The Dragon by the godlike genius that is Lalo Schifrin. I certainly felt like slaying some dragons after attempting the software installation.

Tuesday 16th June – Down By The Water

Another fairly tough day at the office, with plenty going on. It’s the time of year when everything happens though: the final examination boards and then the end of year show. As such everyone runs around getting all the last minute things sorted and asks us lovely people to do what we can to make sure everything works fine. We’ve also had someone in as well to show us some of the features of some new über-printers that we’re going to have under test and evaluation, and all seems pretty well.

Outside of that, it was nice to have a fairly relaxing evening tonight with The Milk in My Coffee. I made us both something to eat – some chicken in bacon and cheese sauce along with some potatoes and carrots. Nothing majorly fancy, but at least it was good and wholesome for us both. We settled in for a bit to see Bank of Mum and Dad on Really – it was an old one, but a good one and it amazed me to see how spoilt some of the people are who get endlessly into debt. The episode featured a woman from Newcastle who was content to party on and fritter away money, and have a car in her driveway that she was banned from driving. It was a tough week with her mum really having to battle on and tell her in no uncertain terms that it had to stop – and eventually her daughter stopped being so stubborn and stick in the mud. But still…

As the weather was still nice outside we thought it might be a good idea to head out for a walk, and so it was off to Didsbury and go to Fletcher Moss. Rather than go through the park in the Moss though, we took the path along the trees to the River Mersey as a walk down the river would be good. The river winds its way towards Stockport if you go upstream, although of course we weren’t going to go that far (maybe one sunny Sunday though it might be well worth doing). We kept going till we saw the M60 running virtually alongside us and then it was time to take a different path back, which ran along the side of Millgate Fields before doing a loop and ending up back by the river further up, close to the path we originally took. Then it was a straightforward back along to Fletcher Moss and up the hill to The Didsbury pub.

As it was still light and it looked nice outside, we grabbed a table and I went to the bar and – to my sheer delight – they had cask ale on! Oh yes. And there was one that certainly took my fancy – it had elderflower in it. Posh? Moi? No. It was really light and had tons of flavour and certainly was perfect for the late evening whilst the two of us chattered on about all sorts. It was nice to see so many couples out and about and relaxing so well – certainly made me feel pleased that it was a warm friendly atmosphere. So many pubs that have an outside bit tend to have people kicking off and being abusive rather than enjoy themselves.

As for tune of the day, well I was thinking about “Down By The Water” by PJ Harvey, pretty apt considering the walk earlier. It also reminds me of this time a couple of years back when I saw her at the Bridgewater Hall as part of Manchester and when she did this track, it was impressive because of her whispered end part that had the audience on end. I kept thinking about that as I walked by the water.

Monday 15th June - It's All Over At The Oval

After a very busy and productive day in the office which included a training session and a lengthy meeting as well, it was time to try and head home to get back in time for the Twenty20 cricket game between England and the West Indies. England basically had to win and a rain affected no result was no good either as it'd knock us out on net run rate, so it was a case of having to go for it and see what happened. Of course, I wasn't completely convinced about the England team - even though we did beat India yesterday that was a bit flukey to be honest and partially down to some strange batting order decisions from the visitors. But of course, we aim to hope don't we, so it was settling in and seeing what happened.

The game started well enough despite the loss of an early wicket, with Pietersen and the excellent Bopara whacking it around, but Pietersen tried one shot too many that he didn't need to, and he was out, and then to be honest it was a struggle in terms of the batsmen not hitting enough fours around the ground. The bowling from the West Indies near the end kept the score down, and only a four and a six from Stuart Broad off the last two balls made the total of 161 seem respectable(ish). However, with the rain lashing down, it was always going to be a Duckworth/Lewis affected outcome, and the West Indies needed 80 from nine overs to get through.

At the start of the third over, I thought we had a chance. Chris Gayle had been bowled by Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad had Kieron Pollard caught in the deep and 16 for 3 seemed promising, and even a couple of wickets from the spinners had them at 45 for 5 at the middle of the sixth over. Then unfortunately it was a case of watching a masterclass of batting from Sarwan and Chanderpaul, who rattled off the remaining runs with considerable skill, and found the gaps for four when needed, and achieved the total with four balls to spare of the nine overs, and so England were out.

Words fail me to be honest - I do think that we don't score enough off the bat and trying out normal Test bowlers in this situation doesn't always work. Plus not having enough people who could bat didn't seem to be the right move - at least put a score on the board to aim at instead of putting yourself under a ton of pressure to try and defend something which might not be so easy. Ah well, I can dream can't I? And I can dream that England can actually win the Ashes back too. So tune of the day is Skunk Anansie's excellent "I Can Dream" simply because it's a case of how I feel at the moment and because I am so looking forward to seeing them live in November, that is going to rock and then some.

Sunday 14th June - Hallelu-Ja!

It was another lovely day today, especially as I had the company of both The Star In My Sky and my lovely friends, and the five of us were all heading out firstly for something to eat and then on to The Lowry to see Bill Bailey live. I'd seen him before with one of my friends, and we both really enjoyed ourselves, so it was good to be able to go again, and indeed we got good tickets as well, so that was a definite plus. In fact the weather also looked rather nice as well with the sun out and plenty of time to enjoy ourselves as we all met outside Frankie and Benny's in Salford Quays.

As we entered I noticed the deal that they had for their Sunday Roast, two courses for £9.95 (either starter main or main dessert) and it turned out you could if you wanted have all three courses for a mere £11.45, not bad at all. We got some drinks in and conversation flowed effortlessly, as it always does between us. It wasn't long to wait till the soup starter came out, and the tomato and basil soup was absolutely bang on - it had the right amount of flavour without being too strong and tasted very wholesome indeed, did the job that. I went for the roast beef, and it was a good plate full of stuff - nice big slices of beef, a bit of mash, herb potatoes, broccoli, carrots, Yorkshire pudding and stuffing balls with some gravy to go with it too, and it filled the plate and indeed my hungry stomach nicely. Most of my friends went for that option - The Star had the pork, and that looked pretty good too.

My friend and I both had dessert, and it was the three scoops of ice cream as part of the deal. You could choose whatever three scoops too, so I went for strawberry, vanilla and toffee, and all tasted rather delicious and just the thing to finish off the meal well. I was a bit surprised that the bill added a 10% service charge already, but with there being five of us I guess it's part of the thing some places do nowadays - but it'd have been nice to actually feel like the option instead. It was all good though really, so with us suitably filled it was onward to The Lowry.

As we got there with a fair bit of time to go before the start of proceedings, we headed to one of the downstairs bar close to the entrance door for our seats, and were able to sit outside overlooking the quays at one of the table and have a good natter about all sorts. My friend is being a bridesmaid for her friend's wedding, so she was telling us about that and how it went on with the dress fittings etc. Apparently that wedding's happening whilst I am on holiday, and not in Manchester either, so we could be other ends of the country that week. It was good though to be able to catch up a bit too - best do that now before we had to sit and enjoy Bill Bailey - be rude to chat during a gig after all.

We took our seats in Row K of the stalls which meant we had plenty of leg room and an excellent view all round, which had to be a good move. Dead on 7.30pm Bill Bailey came on and for the next two hours we were entertained with him producing witty remarks, intelligent humour, the odd rant and plenty of playing of instruments. He had the rather neat Tenori On instrument with him as well, which he actually got one of the audience to go on stage with him during the second half to see if you could create something with it. It was actually quite a nice touch, that, especially as you could tell it made some really funky visual effects as well as play the notes, too.

Some of Bill's best stuff is undoubtedly when he plays his songs though, I particularly liked the "Emo" one he did (and that's tune of the day) as it really did take the mickey out of the likes of My Chemical Romance in one fell swoop, and with really clever well written lyrics. He also did his song about how John Lydon "sold out" doing a butter ad and how he'd write something to tell John in a punk style about it - but just as good during the encore too as he did the song "Hallelujah" (as heard by everyone last Christmas in some form or another) but did it in a Kraftwerk style, and that was hilarious stuff, as he sang it in all German and did the chorus like "Hallelu......ja!" and did it all that way, so it was really neato.

Myself and The Star both agreed it had been a lovely day out and to spend time with friends and to see such a quality comedy act made it all that bit nicer too, and we both knew that this weekend was yet another nice one that we'd spent together and that for me made it all the more lovely. I know, I know. But I don't care. Sometimes you don't appreciate what you've got and I aim to make sure that I do.

Saturday 13th June - Dublin In A Day

Well, I'd been looking forward to today for quite some time, in fact since I booked the flights a few months back. Myself and The Star In My Sky do like to have some nice days out, purely because it makes the time we spend together be that bit more special, and also because it means that we can both go exploring into new and exciting places and make the most of it. A while ago, we both noticed that Ryanair were doing some really good deals on flights from Manchester, and we managed to book the flights to Dublin and back, and even after paying some ripoff prices for paying by debit card, it came to the total of £43 for the two of us there and back, which wasn't too bad in terms of cost was it?

The flight leaving was at 10.50am, which meant we needed to be at the airport around 9am to get through the security checks etc. We got the bus from mine and changed buses to get the one to the airport, and we arrived bang on time at Terminal 1. After scoping out the new layout of the terminal (which had changed considerably since I last flied back in 2004) it was straight through to the security checks. Despite removing all metal items on me (belt, keys, coins etc) the machine scanner still beeped at me and I had to be checked, even removing my shoes and having them going through the scanner. I didn't mind though, as I'd rather be safe and secure when flying so that was good.

The one thing I loathe about flying is having to wait in the departure lounge for the boarding gate being announced on screen. There's no tannoy announcement so it's a case of sit back, have a coffee somewhere, and keep an eye on the screens. The waiting around always annoys me because it's time added on to the flight that realistically you don't get back. Still, the gate call came at the right time and it was over to Gate 11 for the Ryanair flight. We had the printable boarding pass and passport checked to make sure it was us travelling, and then it was a case of finding whichever seat you wanted (apart from the priority ones in the first couple of rows) so we went around four rows back by the left side. Of course, I was prepared for the sudden acceleration as the plane was ready for take off, and off we went!

Before too long we looked out of the window and admired the landscape below, then we both noted that for soem reason we were circling around the same bit of landscape again for some reason. It turned out that the pilot was awaiting allocation of a gate and runway at Dublin Airport, and thus was unable to land straight away. Even with that delay, we landed only a few minutes behind schedule and soon got to the gate to be able to disembark. And then there's the walk, and my it's a long one. Most of the Ryanair flights depart from Gate D, so you've got a ten minute walk to go from there to the arrivals hall, and it's just so anonymous. We got through to passport control, all was checked and sound, and there we were in arrivals.

I had done some research before hand and knew that you could get a 1 Day Rambler ticket for Dublin Buses, which included their Airlink service, for €6, and as the fare normally was that price one way, this made plenty of sense. When we asked for one at the Tourist Information desk, the woman said "if you're both travelling together, use a family one for €10 for the both of you!" - so that was nice of her, saved us a bit more too. In any case, close to the bus stop, they do have a ticket machine to get a 1 day ticket so if you're there for the day, it's well worth checking out either way. The bus journey to the centre of Dublin was pretty rapid, you went down the motorway and indeed the new part of the M50, which takes you along the Dublin Port Tunnel, almost three miles of tunnel under the suburbs and which takes you close to Dublin Port. The bus then goes along a few main roads before heading serenely into the centre of the City and along O'Connell Street where you can get off and start the day from, so that's what we did. It was around 12.30pm, so we had a fair few hours' worth of time to get around.

First stop was to admire the Spire of Dublin further along O'Connell Street - it's very very tall and if you manage to look up it, it's a long way up there. This is close to the old Post Office and indeed along this street many statues exist, including Jim Larkin and the man that the street was renamed after - Daniel O'Connell, a nationalist leader who campaigned for Catholics to be able to sit in the Westminster Parliament and thus important historically. His statue sits close to the bridge over the River Liffey and certainly the way that the street has been done up and tided up is a real credit to the city - it feels more European.

We headed over the river and towards Temple Bar, the more cultural quarter of the city. The narrow streets and the cobbled roads certainly made it feel more like Paris in some ways and the general feel of the place was warm and welcoming. It was good to see that even with modern day globalisation, most of the businesses were independent and were proud of that. We decided to stop by at The Shack for lunch, as we were both feeling a bit on the peckish side. The Star had some sausages with Colcannon mash, which looked pretty good, and I went for the steak and Guinness pie. The only fault was that the pie was a pastry case lid type, which meant that the title of "best pie" is still held by The White Hart in St Austell, but it did have big chunks of steak and you could taste the Guinness in there too, so all very lovely indeed.

We walked through Temple Bar a bit more, admiring the food markets and indeed the local independence of some of the art galleries, before heading towards the City Hall, an impressive architectural building with plenty of grandeur, especially in the colums at the front of it. We also then walked around the side of the hall and found the entrance to Dublin Castle, so we had a good walk around the outside castle grounds. Certainly the guard posts reminded me of many castles I'd been to, and the inside courtyard was well looked after and definitely could sense the feeling of having a horse parade of changing the guards etc in that part of the building. The castle itself wasn't open till later for a guided tour, so we exited the courtyard to the left and went down round one of the old castle towers, and towards the back of the grounds.

There we found a lovely hidden gem and a place you should go if you visit, Dubh Linn Gardens. The gardens are overlooked by the castle, with plenty of plants and water features to make it feel like a relaxing place. You've also got the sight of some of the coloured painted buildings of the outside of the castle (green, yellow, red and blue for some reason!). There's also a really intriguing sculpture, made of painted glass, of a snake that stands out from one of the water features, and it's well worth a look. It's all flanked by the old Coach House to the rear and to the side one of the libraries, complete with gorgeous courtyard and café. The gardens seemed popular for people to relax and indeed there were plenty of families, which made it all the more of a gem for everyone. Do find it if you can!

We then walked outside of the castle and along to St Patrick's Gardens, close to the cathedral of the same name. In the walls of the side of the gardens, there lie tributes to Ireland's literary greats, including Oscar Wilde. The gardens here were also busy with families too, and many people were just resting or having a late lunch, and all lovingly green too. We headed then around out of the gardens around the front of the cathedral and spotted many of the tourist buses that were taking people around the sights for the day. But none of that for us, it was a walk on foot out of there along some of the suburbian streets till we reached another gorgeous gardens - and that was St Stephen's Green.

Here, one of the two tram lines in Dublin end, but also the gardens themselves are really lovely and well worth a visit. There's a children's play area, a bandstand that's actually in use and you get bands playing, some monuments and statues including one that depicts the Famine, and a pond complete with ducks and some very friendly swans too. Lots of families about here too, so it really did feel a friendly place which certainly made it even more lovely. Interestingly, the bridge over the pond is called O'Connell Bridge, another tribute to that politician, and the arch at the North West end of the green is sometimes called Traitor's Arch, we certainly didn't feel like that walking through it!

It was then back through Grafton Street and some of the main shops that lie here. We also spotted the statue as a tribute to Thin Lizzy guitarist Phil Lynott, which at first had The Star asking me who he was!! There were an abundance of flower sellers and it was awash with colour, and that made the street a brighter place. And of course, buskers! It reminded me of that opening sequence in the film Once (filmed there, too) but it certainly added to the feel of the street scene and made it quite an urban thing. As we got to the statue of Molly Malone, which is the basis of a popular song particularly in Dublin, we also noted that there were anti-fur protestors en masse. We soon realised why though - it was to do with Barnardo Furs, who actually, to their massive discredit, sell real fur.

Walking back down the far end of Grafton Street and past the Bank of Ireland building, we headed back through Temple Bar and to the Halfpenny Bridge over the River Liffey, and on to the North side of the river. There, there was a sign for the Irish Music Hall of Fame to go along the street opposite, but could we find it? Nope. One thing that the city does I think need to improve on slightly is its signage - for those not with a sense of direction it might be a bit unnerving to say the least. Still, that didn't put us off, we walked westwards past a place called The Church, which was now a bar converted from an old church. Looking in, it was an old church, and all the decor on the celing etc was still there. It seemed very popular too, which had to be because of the uniqueness of the building I reckoned.

However, further down and going towards the river, we found a proper pub that really felt a bit more like the sort of place I wanted to go. It wasn't too "local pub for local people" but was very friendly and the bar staff even said "there's a table over there if you want to sit" which was a lovely touch. The Star had some wine and I had some Guinness (it would be rude not to!) and we noticed that all the wine was sold by the small bottle and not out of a larger one in measures, and it wasn't that cheap either in terms of prices for drinks. But it was nice to take it easy and relax for while.

We headed back along the river bank, and was tempted to take a river cruise down the River Liffey. However, the cruises were once an hour with no indication as to what time they were unless you asked, and as such it was a case of deciding later whether or not to do it. I think had we been there for longer than a day, we'd have done it. Mind you, we didn't see any of the boats along the river all day, despite several walks alongside the river at various times. After a while, it was back along and over the river to Temple Bar, where it was a case of checking out their little cinema hidden away in the middle of the area - it reminded me of the style and independence of the Cornerhouse in Manchester, and walking through the courtyard to the box office confirmed that - it all felt very cultural, as did many of the cobbled streets. In fact, we even saw the Irish Wall of Fame on one of the streets with images of many of their best musical exports!

It was then time to have a relaxing drink in one of the bars there, and this showed the pricing of alcohol to be massively expensive. A small bottle of white wine and a pint of Guinness, you say? How much? How about almost €11? I know. Expensive, that. In fact the Guinness itself was around €5, which said to me that even at current exchange rates, it would be close to £4 per pint, ouch! Not the place to possibly go for a hen and stag weekend, then (although by all accounts parts of Temple Bar at weekend are full of them!). It was then time to head back over the River Liffey and down O'Connell Street, we sat and watched some Gaelic Football in one of the bars close to the bus stop before the bus to the airport arrived.

The bus back out to the airport certainly had a mass of people walking around, and we soon found out why - Take That were on at Croke Park, and in the bar earlier every time a song of theirs came on, plenty of screaming women followed. I suppose I should be proud that one of the Mancunian exports are doing so well (begrudgingly!). As the bus headed out of town there were masses of women heading down the roads to the stadium, so the bus took a slight diversion out of town and was soon heading towards to the port and indeed to the motorway. One thing I should mention here: the tunnel road is a toll road and cars can be charged up to €12 at peak times, something to be aware of. The bus goes straight through and doesn't get charged at all (or they have some pre-payment going on, but either way it works well for it). We got to the airport in good time, but we soon found out we didn't have to.

The screens stated that the flight was a mere 20 minutes' late, so after mooching around the departure lounge shops, we then decided to head to the Gate D area (where we needed to board the plane) and it clearly stated there were places to eat near the gate area, so it was a ten minute walk to there. However, when we got there, all the food places bascially didn't have much, so it was a ten minute walk back to the main area, and the food court there, which again was virtually closing up and didn't have much. We got something in the end, but to be honest, it does need a few more eateries or signage to say what's available where (so be warned if you go). We then were back at Gate D67 in good time, and waited. And waited. And waited some more.

Eventually the incoming flight arrived, and we were able to board after letting the other passengers off. The flight left some 50 minutes late, but you could see all the lights of the places below, and I spotted Anglesey, Llandudno and the Great Orme, the Wirral and Liverpool (even Aintree Racecourse) before heading in its usual circle around Manchester with The City of Manchester Stadium in full view and then parts of Stockport before coming in to land at Manchester. When we left the plane, there was a shuttle bus there to take you to a different entrance to Terminal 1 to collect the luggage etc, and then it was a case of walking through customs and out to the station to get the buses back home, eventually arriving just after midnight! What a day.

As for tune of the day, it'd be easy to say how wonderful a day it was, and it was, and indeed having The Star there with me made it such a lovely time (plus she looked gorgeous, always a bonus) which is always good. However, on the way back I thought about all of the Irish music exports and thought that Thin Lizzy's classic rock anthem "The Boys Are Back In Town" just seemed right somehow, cos we were back, and back in town at that, so it was all well and good. Hurrah!

Friday 12th June - I Have The Power

And no, folks, not like He-Man either! My friend had decided to upgrade the power supply on his PC, simply because he'd bought a high end Radeon HD4670 graphics card, and the existing supply just couldn't cut it - it would shut the PC down as it couldn't cope with powering that, two CD drives, a hard disk and Intel Quad Core CPU, so I could see the logic there. Ideally of course you want to make sure you have enough overhead of power for doing other stuff as well, so I was pretty impressed when I headed over and he'd got an 800W beastie, complete with six and eight pin PCI-Express connectors (if needed) and even a couple of SATA drive connectors thrown into the bargain. He'd also bought a fan for the side of the case as well which had these neat silicon sockets to plug it in and keep it there.

I set about changing the supply first, and it wasn't too long before we removed everything out of there and was able to take the supply out. Of course, I suggested that he keep it as a spare because it was still working fine, even if it wasn't so powerful. I then put the new one in and connected all the drives, and tried where I could to keep the cable tight so that none of the cables would be touching any of the fans or attempting to get in the way of the airflow. That done, it was then a case of putting the graphics card back in, along with (once the fan was secure) the new side case fan, which meant me putting the power connector in the right place on the board, sliding the case back on and screwing it in. We fired it up and everything worked really well, which was good to see.

We then turned the attention to the Wii, as he'd picked up a new game from Tesco DVD Rental, Winter Sports. We had a go of the downhill skiing and found that you needed to be really precise on the controls and that the difficulty was set pretty much like the real thing - so as neither of us have great balance, game over. We did also try the curling and found the controls way too confusing to make it playable - it needed simplifying so much to be honest and as a result that went off. However, the luge was one where we both felt at home with it. You pressed A to start, moved the remote back and forward in time with the swinging of the luge, then pressed A to career off. After this, you put the remote side on and tilted it to go round the bends. Once we got the hang of that it was very good, and I even pulled off a really quick time and won over the two runs, so that was impressive. It did prove to be really easy to pick up though, just made us wonder why all the other games couldn't be like that.

It was then time for Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, oh yes. My friend was a bit frustrated because he couldn't play the rowing event (which he played at mine as I had it on rental before getting it for my birthday) as you needed to play through some of the circuit modes first to get there. We also found out that you had to win the circuit mode playing on your own so that you'd unlock the stuff, so once that was established, I had a go and gave the events a blast, breaking some console world records in the process (only to be fair because I'd played it constantly before!) - and once the fourth circuit in beginner's class was done, rowing, dream race and 4 x 100 metre relay were all unlocked.

Of course then it was straight to the rowing, and my friend got the hang of the controls again very quickly and was able to really complete the event and win and win well - so that pleased him no end to be able to play that one. Not just that though, we played the javelin in single player mode taking turns each as Knuckles, and I pulled off a throw of 107.10 metres which was pretty good all round. Once my friend got the hang of the controls, he was then able to get better every time and then launch a massive 107.55 metres and beat my best of the evening. Well done to him, I say! I think it's one of those games where a bit of perseverance pays off, and also it does at least give you the chance to get to grips with the controls. So that was all good.

I took the bus back to my place later on and set about plenty of washing and ironing before heading for bed, knowing that tomorrow was going tol be a long and good day all round. I have been looking forward to going for ages, not least because it'll be the first for a fair few reasons, and The Star In My Sky is coming with me - how nice is that? For now though, and because I'm seeing Baskery next week, tune of the day is their excellent "Out-Of-Towner" which just has a catchy hook and chorus that just doesn't let you go, and also means you can sing along and go mental if you wish. It's just great fun and that's what we want!

Thursday 11th June - My Brother The Guitar Hero

After some of us in the family came round to mine and watched England demolish Andorra 6-0 last night (and to be honest, it could have been a ton more had Peter Crouch put his shooting boots on instead of a pair of clogs, he was useless to say the least) both my brothers stayed back whilst I fired up both Guitar Hero III and Guitar Hero World Tour on the Wii. One of my brothers can actually play a real guitar so I was interested to see how it would work with him having a blast on some of the tracks to see if he was able to translate that skill of playing.

I put on III first, and we thought that only the classics would do for him, so we put on Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" and he did that on medium and on his first go, with no hassles. I tried that myself and actually managed it with a good score, so that pleased me immensely. He also did Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" and did very well with it indeed, and was clearly getting used to the controls. Who'd have thought it - my brother on the Wii? He usually slags it off saying it's not as good as say the PS3, but I think he might be wanting my other brother to get hold of Guitar Hero and a guitar on that console so he can play it at home!

We also tried out guitar and vocals on World Tour, and plumped for the classic "Sweet Home Alabama" so that he could do guitar and me vocals, hehe. It worked out pretty well in the end, although he did say that playing it in easy didn't seem as easy for him - there's less notes to hit and he's more in keeping with playing the track as it would be, which is where medium and above comes in. Interesting to note though, and I'm sure if he's over at mine at some point he might have to have another blast of it to see what happens. Nonetheless though playing such games like this in multiplayer mode certainly makes things more fun.

Back to today, and it was definitely a sense of getting things done. I had a report to write on all the feedback to the testing of a piece of web-based software, and anonymise it all so that it was a fair and constructive report. I also was able to then present that at the meeting I had later on in the day and really put home the point that things do need to be more user-friendly and that we need to be less technical with the user at the same time. I think that was a good thing and that we really do need to move on with things now. I felt good afterwards and even managed to attempt to fix a PC at the same time.

Later on, The Star In My Sky came over and I made us both some tea, and we settled in to watch Celebrity Masterchef. I was surprised at some of the contestants, as they really did try hard and wanted it badly. I had a feeling that Shobna Gulati (she used to be in Corrie and Dinnerladies) would win her heat somehow, she seemed really focussed on what she did and came up with some good dishes and was very methodical in the pressure test. I didn't quite think Dennis Taylor had it all in him, but fair play for giving it a go and actually trying to make it happen.

It was a good end to a good day really, and especially as I'd been working on a little Shuttle rig to see if I could get that up and running to a good speed. In the end, everything was starting to work as intended: the wireless card I bought and put in played ball, as did the hard disk, and sooner or later it'll be a fully functional Internet ready rig as well - it's a really nice piece of kit, actually. It's a very old SN45G with Athlon 2800, but it would do the job that I want it to do. It's also good fun when you're able to have a practice with your skills and make it work.

Lastly, tune of the day has to be "Sunshine Of Your Love" by Cream. It's an old sixties classic, that's very true, but it goes to show that guitar genius doesn't just come naturally, you have to work for it. The middle solo in this makes the whole track work, plus it has some killer riffs that just make you want to rock out - as my brother of course did. Oh yes. Shame Eric Clapton never rediscovered the same feeling of being in a good band after that, mind.

Wednesday 10th June - Opening The Office Door

I finally had managed to get some time to myself today, and so it was time to have a look at customising and configuring an installer for OpenOffice 3.1. As we use Novell Zenworks and the like at work, we had already plumped for the Novell version - part of the reason being is that it supports the Office 2007 formats on the fly and so there is cross compatibility there without any problems whatsoever. I first of all then went to the Novell site, used my login and started to snag the OpenOffice zip file which had all the installer requirements that I needed. I noted that there was an MSI for the install and also a handy MST transform for whichever language you wanted to use, including en-GB, meaning a UK release. Oh yes.

I soon started to make the Zenworks application installer object, which would refer to the MSI and the MST file accordingly for setup. I needed to customise the MSI properties so that it wouldn't associate opening Word documents etc with OpenOffice (as MS Office 2007 is on there already) and also to make sure that it didn't try to register itself for any updates etc. Most of that work had been done before with OpenOffice 2.4 last year so it wasn't that difficult to locate the settings. I soon also found the little extension to disable the first run wizard, so knew that'd have to be integrated also.

The thing which took a little time was finding the setup files for each application once it was installed so I could change the default save. The decision was made some time ago that for compatibility, the default save should be the Microsoft equivalent where possible and in 2.4, the files were in a certain place. In 3.1, it's a fair bit trickier, they're hidden away deeper into the folder structure. I did find them though and it was a simple case of changing the files around so that the corrected defaults were used. Because you change them at the program level, each user that uses it will then get those defaults, saving much hassle in terms of configuration tweaks etc.

It was then just a case of being able to then make it so that the MSI install would run, then you could run to place the relevant tweaked files in the right folder and integrate the extension to disable the first run wizard. That all done, it was then testing, and testing, and yet more testing, before I was happy with it to upload it to the central applications store so that anyone could then do the install when they're doing their new builds. It actually worked really well in the end to be honest, so that was pleasing to see. I felt like I had achieved something, and you can't always say that when you've got your head down trying to concentrate and everyone in the world wants your attention and time. Not that I mind of course.

I did make a momentous decision on Monday, and that was to decline an interview that I was due to have yesterday in terms of an internal position as part of the restructure that's going on. The more I've heard this week, the more that I am glad that I made that decision. I enjoy what I do now and to be honest, I'd like to keep on doing that, and certainly myself and my colleague have been working hard but working well as a two man team for the last week or two. We certainly seem to have been motivated and I am hoping that it might stand us in good stead for the future. My motto is often that you have to enjoy the job to really make it worthwhile, and if you are not enjoying it, then that isn't good.

I nipped into the city centre at lunchtime and got a couple of things sorted out, including the Euros that I am going to need for this weekend. Thankfully the main HSBC had a little cash dispenser that gave you Euros at no comission and at a competitive rate compared to all the other local bureau de changes, and so that made life a heck of a lot easier. I got what I needed and it was a simple task. Why can't everything in life be like that, I wonder? I did also get some food in for later as the England game is on and I've invited some of the family round to come and watch it in glorious high definition (assuming ITV HD can hold its signal this time). At least it's not the soon to be going bump Sultana Sports...

As for tune of the day, the weather has been bobbins lately and it bucketed it down today, soaking my poor love The Handle Of The Umbrella on her way to work. So I think we need a nice happy cheery tune to keep us all happy, and what better than the excellent "La Ti Da" by The Icicles? It's just so nice, and makes you smile in places you didn't realise. And they're a lovely bunch of people too, having met them. Yaay!

Tuesday 9th June - Express Shuttle

After I had spent part of Saturday building the Shuttle PC it was time for me to put it in place and get everything up and running on it. I had built it for a friend of my father's, whom I've known for a considerable length of time, and his wife. He came round to pick us up and admired the HD telly and the content, sort of saying "I could really do with a HD box!". We collected all the boxes that I'd got ready and we headed back to their place to have everything rigged up and sorted out.

We made a space in the kitchen and thankfully there was an extension plug there, so it was a case of plugging everything in and go. It was the first time I'd used the monitor too, because I didn't need to unbox it at the weekend, and it assembled easily enough as well as looked much classier and more expensive than the actual cost, which is a good thing in my view. We powered it up and everything played ball nicely, and Windows was nice and responsive. It soon detected their BT Home Hub as well, so it was a two minute job to connect to it and everything was up and running on it. I did note from the Home Hub manager though that the connection speed was still slow, plus they had told me that they couldn't make any calls for some reason.

After a bit of wiring checking, the hunch was correct - the Sky phone cable which we suspect was damaged when moving stuff around the other day was not doing as it should and so was blocking anything going past it in terms of phone calls. We removed that from the equation, and badabing - calls working. We now knew the phone was working, so we rung BT and I first checked to see if there was a line fault, and then after that spoke to their broadband technical people, who confirmed that yes, there was an issue with the broadband connection and they'd have an engineer sort it out for a much quicker speed. To be fair, they were pretty good all round which is what it should be like.

I then set about setting up the HP Photosmart C4585 printer - and it was a doddle to do. Within minutes the printer had all the details of the Wireless network and I was able to send a print to it and scan from it wirelessly, and it all worked wonderfully well. We set the printer up on the laptop and again the wireless stuff all worked and it got added dead quickly, which really impressed me - so much so that there might be a review in the offing, watch this space! I also guided one of their children through iTunes and how it works in terms of synchronisation with the iPod with the library, so they understood that and we extracted a CD to iTunes in the process, all good and working well.

It was a little late when I got back (and they very kindly gave me a lift) but I felt it was a job very well done and that everyone was happy with what I'd done. I aim to please, you know! I thought also that it put a lot of what I've been doing for years with helping people into good practice and going from there. I satisfied myself with thrashing West Ham 10-1 as Man City on Fifa 09, which brings me closer to the league title as well, which has to be something well worth doing. I just have to see when the team will life the title, but that Robinho, he's bloody lethal in the game - wish he was like that for real. As for tune of the day I'll have to give it to Ladytron's "Runaway" as it features in the soundtrack of the game and is a cool tune all round - just spurs (sic) me on to more victories..

Monday 8th June - What Do You Call An Aussie Cricketer In England?

I had had a busy day at work today and after making a couple of phone calls to some of my friends, it was time to settle down, make myself something to eat and watch the Twenty20 matches on Sky Sports HD1. I did manage to catch the last few balls of Ireland's impressive victory against Bangladesh, which meant that Ireland were definitely through to the Super Eights phase at Bangladesh's expense. Later on today though was the big one - Australia v Sri Lanka. If Sri Lanka won, the Australians would be out of the tournament at the first hurdle, and after the way their fans gave England stick on Friday, I am sure many people were cheering the Sri Lankans on to be honest.

The first few overs were whacked around the ground a bit by the Aussies in typical fashion, and then Sri Lanka turned to a spinner - and not Muttiah Muralitharan either believe it or not. They have another ace up their sleeves these days in the form of Ajantha Mendis, who then slowed the pace down but also was spellbindingly accurate, giving the batsmen all sorts of problems. He took three wickets and two of them were the most plum LBW decisions you are most likely to see - didn't exactly make it hard for an experienced umpire like Billy Bowden to make the decision, let me tell you.

In the end thanks to some lofty sixes, Australia did make 159 and I thought that total was quite gettable. Sri Lanka started off decently enough and indeed Tillekaratne Dilshan was thrashing the ball round the ground, including a gorgeous little lofted shot which gave him a four and his fifty. When he departed not long after, Kumar Sangakkara carried on and played a captain's innings, speeding up the run rate and with the help of some hefty sixes from Jehan Mubrarak, Australia's misery was complete when Mitchell Johnson bowled a wide and Sri Lanka won with six balls remaining, quite comfortable really.

Of course now Australia will regroup and I have a feeling there will be fire in the belly when they come to defend the Ashes later in the Summer, but for once the English fans can at least smile by at least being in the last eight whereas Australia are out. Already the gags have started: "What do you call an Aussie cricketer in England? - A spectator!" and stuff like that. I suppose that any form of success that the men's cricket team has is noted - but the women when they start are the World Cup champions, and if they manage to win the Women's Twenty20, well they should win Team of the Year in the BBC Sports Personality awards as far as I'm concerned. They rock, they do.

After this it was time to settle down and watch the final episode of this series of Ashes to Ashes. It did seem a little confusing at times but they were obviously setting it up for the next and final series, where you are apparently going to work out who exactly Gene Hunt is and what he has to do in all this. Although I've not minded the two series thus far, I keep thinking back to how wonderfully brilliant and gritty Life on Mars was, and how well John Simm and Philip Glenister worked together in their roles. I guess we'll have to see what happens next year, but I have a feeling it might be one series too many, just maybe. Nonetheless, as the trailers had a great use of a classic 80s song, Ultravox's seminal "Vienna" gets tune of the day from me.

Sunday 7th June - Confessions of a Matalan Shopaholic

For a while now I'd been wanting to get some shorts for my holiday. Nothing too short, you should understand, but something around knee length or a bit longer which would be comfortable and also not too in your face with the design either, as it would make sense to then at least look a bit more adult and still be able to enjoy myself in the time away that I was going to be having. Encouraged by The Sunshine In The Showers a fair bit, as she thought that I wouldn't look too bad in them, we had some nice croissants and orange juice for breakfast and it was off to the local Matalan to see what they had.

In case you wondered, I don't shop at Primark no longer, for ethical reasons. You may have seen a documentary some time ago about the way that some of their suppliers don't do ethical trading, and as Primark seem to have done nothing about that, my conscience won't allow me to shop there - plus any jeans I used to buy from there have all faded really badly as well, indicating poor quality. Matalan's a bit nicer and the price, while a little more expensive, is still competitive enough to actually be decent, so that's good. Plus as well they seem to have reasonably decent brands for not that much dosh, always a good thing.

Anyway, we spent a fair bit of time seeing what they had and also what looked good on me. I had my eye on a couple of pairs so The Sunshine suggested that I try them on to make sure that they were all good. I tried both pairs on, and came out of the changing rooms to show her, and she approved, and said I looked good, which was a confidence booster. In fact I actually found three pairs that I liked, so that was nice, one in a stone grey, one in beige and one in a dark grey, so all bases covered nicely there and it'll co-ordinate well. Not only that, but I also found a decent pair of sunglasses as well thrown into the mix as well as a pair of light jeans/trousers (sort of in between) which I could wear if we went for a nice meal in the evening, so that was also excellent.

I felt like I'd shopped and spent a fair bit, as I also got some trainer liners for the walking/training shoes that I am taking with me, so that you wouldn't see the sock beyond the shoe but I'd be nicely covered, and pretty much got most of the wardrobe sorted now for the holiday, so that's all good methinks. I just have to get some normal socks and underwear and that's pretty much the lot covered nicely there, and I know too that it'll be a little lighter to pack as well with what I got today, so I can take less of the jeans (which would be heavier) and go from there. I guess all I need now is the weather to be decent and that's all sorted, although we do have the option of using a washing machine in the apartment if we so desire, so that's a good thing - I could even travel lighter if I fancied!

We headed to see my Mum for a bit and have a good chatter there as well as then head back to mine, where it was a case of whacking on Carnival Funfair Games for the Wii and having a blast on the competition mode where you do five fairground games against each other. We had four such games, each of us winning two each. She's a demon on the "A Day at the Races" (ie: Kentucky Derby for those in the know) and also the ring toss as well, so it's sometimes quite difficult to win there. We also played Scrabble for a bit as well, and it was a case of the board being fairly tight till it was spread nicely, and that was a good test. We had Baskery and then 3 Daft Monkeys on during play, which was pretty smart. In fact, I'll give "Paranoid Big Brother" by 3DM tune of the day because it's such a good opening to their album, and because it's what I really think of some rubbish Channel 4 show that's just restarted. Meh.

The Sunshine went home later and I caught up with the Sky Plus recording of the F1, and it was a cracking race, with Jenson Button making the most of Sebastian Vettel's error at turn 10 on the first lap to take the lead, and from then on it was his super smooth driving that did the business as well as everything else (such as Vettel's move to a 3 stop strategy which meant he finished third behind Red Bull team mate Mark Webber) so that was all good. And, shock horror, I turned over to the cricket to see England putting a useful total together against Pakistan in the World Twenty20.

England had made 185 for 5 off the 20 overs, a decent score considering in the earlier game South Africa had walloped 211 against Scotland. Pakistan never looked likely to make the total, with England getting regular wickets as well as limiting the fours and sixes nicely with some varied bowling and dot balls too - and the change of personnel also helped, I feel. Pakistan made a mere 137 for 7 off their 20 overs, and England's 48 run win meant that no matter what happens between Netherlands and Pakistan on Tuesday, England would also qualify on net run rate - because one of the other teams would have to have a worse rate than England's and thus go home.

For those of you wondering how this works, here's a simple explanation. England lost by one run over the Netherlands on Friday, so effectively over the 20 hours, the net run rate was 1 divided by 20 = 0.05. England would have -0.05 and Netherlands 0.05. After England beat Pakistan, effectively over 2 lots of 20 overs England had scored 162 and 185, equalling 347. Against that would be Netherlands' 163 and Pakistan's 137, totalling 300. So divide the difference (47) by the number of overs bowled in total (40) and you get 1.175, rounded up to 1.18. Pakistan meanwhile currently have a net run rate of -2.4 (48 runs divided by 20 overs). So if Pakistan won by a huge margin, the Netherlands' net run rate would drop low, but if it was very close, Netherlands could potentially lose and qualify. One more thing: if a team is bowled out before their alotted overs (such as Scotland were today) the all out total is for the whole 20 overs, not the overs they were bowled out for. So in their case, 81 all out after 15.4 overs would be 81 all out after 20 overs, meaning their run rate was 4.05, compared to South Africa's 211 (10.55 per over) in the same game, so South Africa thereofre have +6.50 net run rate. See, easy really!

Saturday 6th June - Shuttle Building

It was a fairly wild and wet day today, which is why I was quite pleased to be staying indoor and working on a PC build for someone. They had specifically asked for a base unit to be as small as possible, and so I plumped for a Shuttle rig, because they are small and tiny - it's a mere 20 x 20 x 30cm in dimensions, and manages to pack plenty of power into such a small casing. You basically get the motherboard, power supply and case in there, and there's a specific processor heat cooling mechanism which means you don't need the retail CPU fan to do the job - but use that instead. It's quite a neat approach and something I remember from building one at work many years back.

So, with all the parts checked in stock at my local PC parts retailer, it was off to their warehouse to get all the parts I required. As well as the Shuttle base unit, it was an AMD Athon X2 5200+ dual core CPU, 2GB of RAM, LG DVD writer, 320GB hard drive, Microsoft USB keyboard and mouse pack, 17" widescreen monitor and also a little extra part for the Shuttle so that you get a parallel port in there (something which had been asked for) as well as a PCI wireless card as it was going to be used wirelessly. And of course, a licence and CD for Windows XP Home Edition - they didn't want Vista, and as a bonus the XP CD comes with Service pack 3 built in, so that was all rather nice and saved me some time.

I got home and took the screws off the Shuttle case, and also the processor cooler, added the processor in there and re-added the cooler back in. Having already taken the drive tray out, it was then a case of adding the RAM, screwing the drives into the tray, connecting the data and power cables and putting it back into the tray, then putting in the wireless card, and then adding the parallel port cable and connector to the mix. It didn't take me that long to do overall - around half an hour, and I felt pretty happy that everything would work. As my LCD television can double as a monitor as well, this meant I could install the software, and have the F1 qualifying in Picture in Picture mode so I could watch it. And who says men can't multitask, eh?

The CD was put in, and Windows XP started to install itself nicely. It detected the hard drive etc and was pretty much ready to rock and roll, and once I answered all the questions it did its thing, and before long I had a working desktop with everything nicely connected. I had saved time and burned most of the additional software and drivers to a DVD disc, so I was then able to add all the drivers (for example the nVidia chipset and the wireless card), chuck on AVG, add on the normal stuff like Firefox, all the web browser plugins, and indeed once IE7 was installed then to connect to my wireless router and do all the updates etc over wireless. I have to say that the TP-Link wireless card, for under a tenner, was rock solid, it worked every time and got a nice stable fast wireless connection to the router.

I installed any extras needed, such as the CD that came with the DVD writer that had Power DVD, Nero etc and also whacked on Open Office 3.1 - as it's free I thought this would be a sensible move to do, to be honest. Of course it has all the functionality of MS Office and it's free. In fact, I even found the way in version 3 to make the default file save format as MS Office (for compatibility purposes), something I'll need to do in the office when we roll out OO3 on top of our existing builds - something well worth noting there then. I was all done and dusted by around 3pm, which was a pretty impressive thing all round. Mind you, the Shuttle was as good as ever to build and I have to say that if I was reviewing it, I'd give it a high mark for excellent build quality, a clear user guide and also a really efficient system all round.

With that all done, and with The Sunshine In The Showers being free this evening, I thought it might be nice if I headed over to her place. I had to nip in via the city centre, and as it turned out, it was pretty busy. Everyone was trying to get on the bus out of town to Heaton Park to see the Oasis gig that evening, and the queues for the bus spread pretty much around the block, which was something to see. Mind you, the bus to The Sunshine's place arrived pretty quick, so that was very useful, and I was soon heading out to her place for the evening.

After something to eat (a very nice chicken with some tomato bits in the middle all in a crust, very lovely) it was then time to settle in for the evening and end up at Chick Flick Central as The Sunshine insisted that I watch PS I Love You just to prove it wasn't another ordinary type of movie. It wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be to be honest, there's some decent acting performances (although Lisa Kudrow is just terrible as the man-hungry Denise, it has to be said) and the soundtrack is reasonably okay, even playing the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl's classic of all time "Fairytale of New York", which even not at Christmas sounds ace, so tune of the day there then methinks. It was nice to just settle down and snuggle to be honest too, made the end to the day all rather homely and lovely. Just a shame that none of us can win on the lottery!

Friday 5th June - It Never Rains, It Pours

I was on my own for most of the day in the office, as my manager was in meetings and everyone else was either off or on leave, and with the reduced staff numbers that we have anyway, cover was skeletal. I had to keep my eye on all the printers, sort out any queries as well as have a constant influx of staff coming in to see me. One of them had a really old MacBook (the clamshell ones if you remember one) which was running Mac OS 8.6. It still all worked well though and booted up no problem, which is a sign of reliability if you ever needed it.

One interesting issue was with an Excel spreadsheet. The sheet had some dropdown lists in some cells to fill values, but the user somehow had lost all the dropdown lists and couldn't see the values whatsoever. When I looked at the original spreadsheet template and compared it, what the user had done is deleted the lookup table cells that the data validation rules for some of the cells referred to, so it was a case of putting them back first and then changing the validation rule to re-refer to those cells instead of seeing #REF! everywhere, so that was good. It also made me realise that Excel's quite powerful when you get the hang of it, which I knew anyway.

I went straight to Tesco in an experiment to see if I could go there and get home quicker than going home first then going to there. Of course as I was about to leave the office, the thunder claps kicked in along with some heavy rain, and I did feel quite drenched as I got to the bus stop. But it wasn't that bad a journey and the weather did clear up a little by the time I got there. I soon whizzed around and got all the shopping done and even managed to time it perfectly for an earlier bus homeward, so I was actually home before 6pm, meaning I could watch the opening 20/20 cricket game between England and the Netherlands.

And to be honest? I wish I hadn't have bothered. England started off well, but as soon as the Ravi Bopara/Luke Wright partnership of batting was broken, it fell away, the run rate slowed and England only got to 162 off the 20 overs, and no sixes, which in this form of the game isn't good enough. As the overs went by and the Netherlands were playing their hearts out, I could see that they wanted it a lot more and were able to push for the final few overs. It all boiled down to the fact they needed seven off the last over, so a run a ball would be an extra over each tiebreaker. It got to the last ball - they needed two to win despite England not capitalising on run out opportunities. They hit the ball, Stuart Broad missed the stumps for the run out, and no one backed up the throw, so it was overthrows all the way and Netherlands won on the final ball. Fair play to them, but England were not good enough on the day and unless they beat Pakistan, they'll be out of the World championships on their own turf, which is just not cricket - literally!

As for tune of the day, well I was thinking earlier in the day about how nice the weekend was going to be, but it looks like the rain is going to stay, so "Down In It" by Nine Inch Nails gets my vote. Not only does it sum up where the England cricket team are, but also the fact that Trent Reznor near the end sings "Rain rain go away, come again some other day" which also seems pretty apt!

Thursday 4th June - Second Thoughts

It was a pretty uneventful day by all accounts to be honest at the office - it was just a case of cracking on with things and solving a few problems along the way. However, I'm having second thoughts about something about the moment and that seemed to dominate my thought patterns. I'm just not so sure after all that it may well be the right decision for me and after a discussion with one of my work colleagues, that seemed to be pretty much confirming what I thought as well. I'm just going to play it by ear and see how it goes safe in the knowledge that I might have to make a quick decision.

One thing I did manage to get all sorted out though today was to get a multifunction all in one printer - and with wireless connection. Someone I know is after one, and I did a fair bit of research and reading of reviews to see what would be of use. I gave them the choice of two, and they went for one of the selections - the HP Photosmart C4585. It had been reduced at Currys to a mere seventy quid, and for that you get scanning, photocopying, copying, a camera card reader so you can print pictures from the camera, and it has wireless capabilities so you can connect to it on your network at home and print to it. Rather neat all round, it has to be said.

So, I did the reservation and went over to Currys later in the centre of the city to collect one. Only of course this meant dealing with their shop assistants. It took one of them a mere three attempts to put the correct code in, and then have to ring someone to fetch it out of their stockroom, which took almost ten minutes. Why they don't have a smaller room with the reserve and collect items in to make it easier, I don't know. Still, money handed over and printer picked up, so that was at least fairly painless in the grand scheme of things.

Later on I had The Cork In The Wine Bottle over, and she'd left me a bottle of wine and some naan bread so that I could use those with the tea I was making for us both - chicken korma. I managed to find these frozen diced chicken cubes in Tesco, fry them off until they are cooked, put the sauce in, simmer for fifteen minutes, job done - and the rice doesn't take long either, nor the naan bread. It turned out miles better than I expected and we both enjoyed a hearty meal and a glass of wine which was all good. We had a good chat about what I'd discussed earlier at work and she seemed to be thinking along the same lines as me, which was good.

It was then a case of putting on the Wii and trying out Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. She did really well and managed to get up to the £50,000 mark and showed me how it was done with some excellent answering of questions to get so far. In one of the next games though I got some really good questions that I knew the answers to, and not only got past the £50k but then on to the £150,000 mark, which was rather nice all round. I was three away from the million but I got stuck on the next question and so thought "time to take the money and run rather quickly away with it". It does play pretty well though and at least Chris Tarrant does feature, so that's all good.

Before The Cork had come over, I ended up doing a shed load of ironing with the excellent 3 Daft Monkeys album "Social Vertigo" on in the background. I really like the album and seeing them live last year was an absolutely brilliant gig (in fact my favourite of 2008) - so why not play it loud and proud? Out of all the tracks on that album, I really love "Human Nature" the most, as it's got some excellent fiddle playing by Athene and it sounds almost middle Eastern in the way it flows and progresses. Plus it's one that everyone gets dancing to as well, so tune of the day it most certainly is.

Wednesday 3rd June - Wireless Woes Wednesday

Well, not for me, they weren't, but I had been asked a while ago by a friend of my father's whom I've known for absolutely ages to build them a PC, but also to see what I could do with getting their wireless network playing ball. I'd arranged over email and texts with his wife (who'd asked my uncle about me sorting it out a while ago) so that she'd pick me up from Piccadilly Station and we'd go and have a look and see what the score was. She didn't have to come and collect me at all, I'd have been happy taking the bus there, but you don't really argue too much with someone insistent.

We had a good chat and popped into their office to see my father's friend, who looked really well. In fact he's shaved off the moustache and beard that I always recognised him by, but still as much a rabid Blue as I am, so we soon got nattering about the new signing Gareth Barry and seeing how well he'd so for us and how much Villa fans are chastising him for going for the money. I can see that side of it too in that there isn't that much loyalty in football anymore, something we've seen with Shaun Wright-Phillips going to Chelski for example. Good job we're a forgiving bunch when we took him back to City, then!

Back at their place, I had a look at the laptop first to see why it wouldn't connect wirelessly to their BT Home Hub. Wired, it was fine, but wireless, nope. I soon discovered that the wireless hotkey (Fn and F1) brought up a menu where you had to click with the mouse to enable wireless on. Why it couldn't be a simple on/off toggle is beyond me, so that's rubbish programming, that. I enabled that, it found the Home Hub, put the network key in, and everything worked and wireless was on. But it did seem pretty slow, which was a bit concerning to say the least, especially as I didn't think they were that far from an exchange.

I did some other checks in the Home Hub manager and found that the download speed was well slow. I suggested that the Home Hub should be connected to the main BT socket with any other phones and extensions via the microfilter, and that seemed to work, once we got cupboards moved and emptied that were blocking access to the phone socket. It did come online a lot quicker and also reported a faster speed, but was still not the quickest ever. I therefore suggested that it might be worth them getting the line checked out and also to see if the broadband speed had been capped at the exchange, with the thinking that if it was plugged in to an extension, it might have seen the network speed via that and set a maximum - they should be getting around 4.5 megabits really. I did get the Wii up and running as well, so all was good and I felt happy!

I got home fairly late but it was a good job well done and that means everything is prepared for when I do the PC build for them over the weekend - so I know what to expect and what they want from it, so it was a good prep visit as well. As for tune of the day well it was a pretty easy option actually - namely "Do You Wanna Go Faster" by Terrorvision - well let's face it, they all wanted the broadband speed to go a bit quicker, and of course that was pretty much the theme in the car on the way back!

Tuesday 2nd June - Bake Central

It was even hotter than yesterday today, well it seemed to be so. A quick check of the BBC Weather revealed that it was one degree centigrade warmer, but what really made life unbearable during the day in the office was the humidity - it really was at a high level and made doing anything that required any form of exertion pretty uncomfortable. The offices have no aircon to speak of whatsoever, all we can do is open the window and office door and try and get some air circulating, but even that isn't always that good. Just glad I'm not in our dropin room - that tends to be a right furnace even with the windows open - just the design of the building makes it so.

Had a very relaxing evening with The Cork In The Wine Bottle, as I had promised to have some quiet and early nights in this week and also make some tea - as you do. I had all the ingredients in to make a corking chorizo sausage pasta bake, which might not sound the most ideal thing in the hot weather, but it also is delicious, so that's my excuse. Of course with the dryer and oven on it soon got pretty warm in the house, so had to open the back door later to try and get some air going through the place to see if that helped. The effort was worth it though: the pasta bake was up to my usual standards and it went down a treat, which is what it's all about really.

We had a bit of a giggle on the Wii Sports tennis too. We'd not played that for a while but it didn't take us that long to get into the swing of things and to soon be whacking the balls around in all areas of the court. I didn't do an Andy Murray and lose the crucial points, although I did note that The Cork was playing pretty well all told. A couple of games of bowling followed, and I actually did my third best score ever on the second game, so that helped my ranking crawl back up to a reasonable level that I felt happy with. It was pretty good though in that we really picked things back up and got on with it.

Then, just for The Cork, it was Gok time, especially as it was the last in the series and all that. It featured one woman from Bolton who had a ridiculous number of clothes in her wardrobe and didn't know what to do. It just shows that if you shop too much on impulse, you soon just can't find anything and don't realise what you have. It was good therefore to see the transformation: chic chick at the end but still looking natural and beautiful too, and certainly if that was my husband seeing that I'd be so made up at what happened. The Cork tells me the one thing she loves about Gok is that he sees everyone as beautiful in their own way and really bigs them up too, which does help a lot with self esteem and all that. And he beat that annoying cow Brix in the high street versus designer challenge, hehe.

I noted too earlier in the day that the film crew from Burnley Library had uploaded a clip of the Kristin Hersh show that we'd been at up to Youtube. It looks ace, and reminds me of the gig big time, not least as I can see one of the fellow Kristin fans I know bopping the head to the music and really getting into it big time. It just reminds me of spending some lovely quality time with the two women I adore the most (The Cork first, then Kristin, obviously!). "Slippershell" is therefore tune of the day and here's the accompanying video I've been going on about. Enjoy!

Monday 1st June - Buggin'

I think I've got to the bottom of the whole throat and tiredness thing. You see, on the Friday I seem to remember having to deal with a couple of members of staff's PC problems, and one of them I do remember actually being quite hoarse and their voice didn't sound at all like normal. Now, considering the number of bugs going around at the moment, I could have quite easily caught something, and with my immune system slowly getting its little self back to normal after the whole swollen glands thing, it could have just caught me out and given me a bit less health wise than it normally would have done. That theory seemed to be true as I worked through the day and I could feel my voice getting a bit more back to normality.

I'm not taking any chances though: I nipped in the shop on the way home and got some dry tickly cough medicine, as I do feel like I'm being tickled when I do cough, and it's also non productive in that there's no horrid phlegm coming out (hey, just thought, phlegm is a great word for Scrabble isn't it?) and see what happens. Mind you, I was quite crafty. The Sainsburys near my Mum's was charging almost double what Instore were for the same thing, so that saved me a few quid along the way, hurrah. I had gone to see Mum straight from work as I wanted to see how her weekend up in the Lake District and Cumbria had been - and by all accounts she'd had a lovely time so it was nice to be able to chat and catch up.

Work was pretty busy too and there were plenty of worried faces when we told them that basically the printers for the A1s were due to a long wait, which is standard this time of year. Their expectancy soon dropped when we told them that actually the current delay wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it's still long. It's par for the course, and we tell everyone that, and most of them do prepare for that and have time to be all organised, so on the whole it does work quite nicely. It's a case now though of seeing what we can actually do in terms of volume output and replacements and going from there. I did also solve a good problem earlier in the day as I was able to take a quick look at one of the PCs and have it back up and running fairly quickly - network port security had kicked in and so needed a resetting..

The weather's still very warm here but it's scheduled to cool off in the next couple of days and go back to some kind of normality for this time of year. I think the sudden heatwave has caught a lot of people off guard in that in some of the rooms it still feels like the central heating is on. I really hope that for the new building that is being planned that air conditioning is taken into account - I really want to be able to work in conditions which aren't going to be stiflingly hot or freezing but at a constant steady workable temperature. Well, I can live in hope, can't I?

Anyway, I am in serious Kristin Hersh withdrawal mode now after seeing her three times last month. Out of all the three gigs, I have to say I enjoyed the Burnley Library one the most - the venue seemed more intimate but also the fact that the support act was brilliant helps considerably. I think too that the unique setting made it feel different and that was nice. I've been playing some of her other band stuff as 50 Foot Wave today, and remembered the excellent video to the single "Clara Bow" which is all good fun, especially as it's one of Kristin's kids going for it in the video. Add to that it's a good pop punk tune, and it's tune of the day easily.