Dear Diary... March 2005

Tuesday 29th March - Not An Easter Bunny In Sight

Well, Easter came and went pretty much, actually. I was quite glad really because I had decided not to have any chocolate eggs at all and just generally not try and eat any of the Cadbury's stuff whatsoever. And why? Well, now the work in the bathroom's been done, I did a bit of a changearound in the house so that the office room is more empty like it used to be, and bingo! Out comes the rowing machine after a couple of months of non-service. That with no chocolate should help a bit too! I did around 1200 metres in ten minutes so that was near to what I was getting at my peak, thank heavens I haven't quite yet lost it, phew!

But it was intriguing to see on Good Friday when I was out that it was a mass panic everywhere you went shopping - Easter sales in full swing with hefty discount, and all the supermarkets must have over-ordered on chocolate eggs because Asda went from 3 for £4-50 to 4 for £5 in a desparate attempt to get rid of the overstocks. Also makes you feel bad if you bought them early and hid them for your kids, too. Bah. I guess that with a current aim towards eating healthily and not being obese, something just had to give and it's definitely plenty of cheap and cheerful eggs in the Ooops! section of my local Asda for the next couple of months, methinks. Especially if it was anything like today - got a few of those Muller Vitality drink things packed loosely (must have come out of a multipack by accident) much cheaper than buying the packs, so one of the raspberry ones for the next few days should help me a bit too.

Now that Summer time has officially kicked off clockwise (clocks went forward this weekend of course) it's definitely time for me to start thinking about having a bicycle again. As a kid I used to own a BMX and I used to love going off on my bike (usually with my brother) for a cycle round the park or even up to my nana's in Northern Moor. With the various urban cycle paths (especially the old Fallowfield Loop Line train track being converted into an urban cycleway and being very peaceful) there's an incentive for me to cycle around without having hassle of traffic, something which I really enjoyed in Jersey when I hired a bike for the day. So might have a look at that - who knows, might even cycle to work and save the hassle of getting the bus in the morning if I feel really confident!

Thursday 24th March - Party On!

Well, the few days before Easter was quiet, but I was invited to a work colleague's 40th do tonight. And so I thought to myself: "Well I'm off next week and the Easter weekend is looming, so why not have a good time?" And surprising as it may sound, I did. The colleague concerned is really nice and she looked the part at her birthday, nice outfit and having to whizz around to speak to everyone before hitting the dancefloor and, quite honestly, putting us all to shame. Believe me, if I'm half as active when I get there, I'll be very pleased indeed. I think that rubbed off on everyone that was there as we all stood in amazement while drinking various liquids. Good also to see some people out of work, as you can always chat to them more about things in general. Certainly I felt that, and it was good to converse about non-work stuff, if you know what I mean. Anyway, Blondie's Heart of Glass came on, and I thought "darn, I love this tune" and so my two left feet decided to hit that dancefloor. I didn't care if I looked an idiot (cos to be honest by this time most people were already quite merry anyway) and even if I wasn't looking like one, I didn't care either. Just old school tunes that make you realise just how pathetic the charts are now, really.

Left not that early but not that late either, and it was an interesting walk up to the bus stop home. Think a lot of people had the same idea as me as there were plenty of people out considering it was a Thursday night, and plenty of smily faces from drunken merry people that had got tipsy and were making their own way home too. I suppose it's after when people get violent that makes the place not to be, but still. I think there's a lot to be learned from knowing your own limits and controlling those limits so you still have a good time. I mean a few people were merry at this do but it didn't feel threatening at any point, all good natured fun on the whole. Special mentions must go to a couple of our lecturers, who really got going into things big time and were handy with the cameras so expect pictures on the web at some point ;)

Monday 21st March - Robots - Not Transformers In Disguise!

Well, it was a busy weekend a little, because of one thing or another, but I finally managed to get a decent pair of foldable portable headphones, and they weren't that expensive either, considering. A nice Sony pair is now mine, and they fold up pretty well to fit in my pocket, and nice and lightweight too. I really hate the in-ear type so it had to be over-ear or neckband, and be small enough. And the ones I found were just what I was after. I tried it out both on the PC and also the hi-fi as well as an MP3 player that I had a go of, so that was pleasing. Sometimes it's just better to work later in the evening without the sound of your music disturbing everyone (or you could argue my musical choice is disturbing, but anyway..)

I saw the film Robots at the weekend. Yes I know it's supposed to be more for kids, but animation films are loved by everyone, especially me (after all I did buy The Incredibles DVD on Friday, the first day it was out, so if that tells you anything) and the people who'd written Robots were also responsible for Ice Age, so that was most excellent. And it turned out there were quite a few adults who didn't have their kids as an excuse to go and see it when I headed into the cinema. Sign of the times maybe, and that's why there's so many little quote-ettes that the viewers will understand more than anyone. One of the characters Lug (quite cat-like) has to put tapes into his mouth to work his voicebox. When Rodney Copperbottom announces a plan to repair the robots, Lug finds a tape, puts it in and in true Darth Vader style, announces "the force is strong with this one". Neat touch. Turns out that they got the James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, to do that. How nice?

Also a bit of localisation has gone on with some of the voices, so in the UK for example we get bit parts played by Terry Wogan and Eamonn Holmes - it'll probably be the same with other places around the world, just to make it a bit unique. I guess it makes more sense having a personality people will recognise rather than some American who might be famous in their country, but not internationally. Makes sense. And of course there isn't just that either, but it's a different slant on CGI animation than say Pixar do. Although the trailer for their next one, Cars, looks rather brilliant I have to say..

Thursday 17th March - Everything Happens At Once

Well, it's felt like that this week - thank heavens I'm taking some of my leave off tomorrow. First off there needed to be an updated piece of software installed, because the database that this software happens to use is to be upgraded, and in a really clever move (ahem) it doesn't play ball with previous versions of the software. I can understand it sometimes when stuff gets upgraded, but even Microsoft have the common sense to make newer versions of software read files created in older versions. Might just be me, but that always irks me somewhat and makes me wonder.

Anyway, gripe over. The week in itself has been pretty manic on the whole because of various things happening all around the place I work at - it's end of term, which mean hand ins, which mean lots of questions, which mean you're on your toes constantly. I don't actually mind that, because at least it means that you're able to know what sort of problems might occur and how to try and avoid them in the future (being proactive and all that sort of management-speak that you always hear).

I went a bit old school earlier in the week too and started to compose a little tune on the Commodore 64 - purely for fun partially. Within the hour I'd got back into the loop of being able to use the editor that I'd used for a while once again, and all its little quirks and foibles along the way. I just thought it'd be fun to see what I could manage in the space of a few hours, and even knocked something up I was pretty pleased with overall, so who knows what might happen? This doesn't mean I'm coming back to that computer full time though (see the FAQ) but at least it means that if I ever have the need to be a bit retro, I can just unwind for a few hours and lose myself in all those lovely shorthand codes for voices, arpeggios, slides and the like. Ah.. memories.

Sunday 13th March - Unwinding in the Monolith

Been a quiet few days or so really- not. My brother did turn the big three zero on Friday though, so my Mum invited all the family round last night to celebrate with some food and a few drinks, so that was nice too. I suppose though it has me thinking that I'm getting very old, very soon, as when you're the eldest child you probably feel the age more than anyone because you're watching all your siblings grow up. Just good to see everyone in the family as well and meet up with them - catching up on stuff since the holiday.

Been no holiday if you're a City fan though: my brother'll have his 30th birthday to remember by as Kevin Keegan resigned as City manager. I still have a conspiracy theory that he was pushed more than the actually wanted to, though, but still it doesn't surprise me. The team lacked passion on Monday and the way he was talking in the press this week it almost seemed like he'd given up on being able to mount any form of challenge as a manager - like the top three were destined to be so as they have the most money, and no one else could really touch them ever again. I suppose also though realistically we have stagnated a bit since our 9th place finish in 2002-03, last season wasn't great, and this has been better but also with rubbish Cup runs. So a fresh face is as good as any, and who knows, Stuart "Psycho" Pearce just might be the man. He shouldn't be given just the remaining nine games to prove his worth though: in a way he already has. He took over as assistant manager at the start of the season, and since then our defence has been a lot tighter. No coincidence, methinks.

Comic Relief was also around on Friday night, and that was a great effort all around. I quite liked the Peter Kay music video where he mimed to a Tony Christie number, and lots of celebrities were seemingly either behind him or alongside him along for the ride: even Max and Paddy in one part of the video! It was quite in keeping with his persona, and even his good friend Sally Lindsey (Shelley from Coronation Street) did a bit. Twenty years of Comic Relief though, that's a long time isn't it? And no doubt with all the money raised over the weekend, also so worth it too. And although Edith Bowman deservedly won the celebrity Fame Academy, I really enjoyed the performances of Adrian Edmondson throughout: especially his rendition of "Can't take My Eyes Off You" when he turned into character (Vyvyan from the Young Ones no less) half way through..

Anyway I ventured out today because I needed some bits of shopping, and after a look around a few of the shops I needed some foody bits, so off I went into the rather new and rather large Tesco Extra. And it's massive: with almost everything you could ever need (and they stock the fabric conditioner I like to use, too, yes!) you could very very easily get lost. Plenty of stuff to tempt you to buy though, and when I got to the checkouts there's these self service tills where you scan and pay for everything yourself. Not new, of course, as Somerfield in Piccadilly's had them, but still it's nice to see. And despite a few attempts of having to scan a couple of items it did work well on the whole. But nonetheless earlier on as I sat in the upstairs café bit with a piece of chocolate cake and a very nice medium coffee (at not expensive prices either, I'm pleased to note) you could see how much fascination there is as the people walked around there almost in a trance-like daze looking at all the items and wondering how they were going to pack them into the trolley that they'd got, which was miles too small. Ah well, c'est la vie and all that.

Wednesday 9th March - Blue Is The Colour

Well, I guess I can feel blue for a couple of reasons. Man City lost, deservedly, 1-0 to Bolton on Monday night and it was the right result. We tried to break them down but couldn't, and the best chance they had, they put away. Realistically now it's looking like mid-table at best for us and that's about it. Not really that much progress compared to last season or the season before, with not even a cup run to cheer us up at all either. I guess it's just winding down time till August, probably why the attendances are dropping a little because the expectation isn't there somewhat.

Compare that if you will to Chelsea-Barcelona on Tuesday night. It was a choice of watching that or the Milan-Man U game, and thank heavens I picked the Chelsea one. Five goals in the first half as the overall two legged game swung to Chelsea, with three early goals meaning a 4-2 aggregate lead, then two goals from Ronaldinho (the second one was awesomely struck) meaning 4-4 on aggregate and that meant that Barca would win on away goals. One very dodgy foul on the goalkeeper later in the second half allowed John Terry's header to win the tie, and ironically the best ref in the world, Pierluigi Collina, didn't see it. Makes me wonder what Mourinho said at half time, if anything. Nonetheless though Chelsea showed some character, and compared to how Man U went out with a whimper (Milan were the better side, period) it was such a contrast in the two games. Must admit though it did make the evening complete when Hernan Crespo's header went in :)

Been interested to hear about the leak of the first new Doctor Who episode and all the fuss created over it. In a strange way, and here's the conspiracy theory kicking in, might be the best thing to happen for the BBC. The curious will download it and watch to see if it's any good, and anything that gets it into the news also will raise the hype and awareness for when the show does actually start on Saturday 26th March. I think for the casual viewer also that having a good actor such as Christopher Eccleston is a bit of a master stroke, primarily as he's good, he's appeared in other dramas such as The Second Coming where he came across very well, and also an air of mystique might be prevalent. Jury's probably still out about Billie Piper mind you, but we will see, I'm sure. Wonder which employee leaked it though, cos I'm sure that they are heading for the sack, big time.

Monday 7th March - Techno techno techno phobia

Well, another weekend gone by the wayside, and so quickly it went as well. Of course, with it being Mother's Day yesterday, I went and popped over to my mum's for a while, and handed over the obligatory card and present. I'd managed to get her these china mugs she'd seen in Argos that she liked, and when I went to get them at the weekend the one in Manchester only had two sets left: thank heavens for online reservations, saves lots of hassle and travel. I remember one year my Mum wanted this light fitting, and the only place that had it near me was Argos in Altrincham (I checked all the other ones around Manchester) and even then it was a mad dash from mine to there to make sure the store didn't close on me - made it with something like fifteen minutes to spare or something daft like that.

My mum, bless her, she's such a technophobe, and so when my sister had got her Beaches on DVD, she asked me how to work the DVD player so she could watch it. I didn't mind really: after all we all have to start somewhere with technology, and if you put the fear into people, they'll never give it a go. Needless to say a few minutes later she was one happy bunny as she could work the basics, and so watch the film later on. It also helps that the remote is very similar to both the DVD players that I've got in the house, actually. Well, it is now.

Had to get a replacement DVD player for the bedroom, as the one that I had has started to skip very very occasionally on some discs, and it doesn't even play any of the DVD-R blanks that I use when I'm mastering stuff from VHS onto DVD for my own use. I'd had it some time though, and it'd served me well. No contest I thought: I didn't want to pay loads, as the main Pioneer DV-646A downstairs is for the full-on DVD action with surround, just wanted a good one to play stuff on in the bedroom so if I feel tired I can watch something in bed. Did a scan of the local retailers online, and noticed that Richer Sounds were knocking out the Pioneer DV-370, in multiregion form, for a mere £49-95. Needless to say I printed a copy of the price from their website (which clearly, thankfully, said "in store price") and off I popped to the one in Stockport and got it. Might review it for the site, but suffice to say this: it's a bargain, and even has component video out thrown in. And the remote's the same as my mum's DV-350, so that made life a ton easier on Mother's Day, obviously.

Come on you Blues tonight!!

Wednesday 2nd March - Beware the ides, whatever the heck that means to you

At this time of year, some of you will always hear the phrase bandied around: "Beware the Ides of March". I mean, who are the ides? Do they live in March, Cambridgeshire? Are they something actually to be aware of at this time of year? No, nothing like that, but still, why do also people think it to be the whole month of March when it's supposedly March 15. This BBC article might be old, but it does the job. It's amazing sometimes what you want to find out when, and how sometimes you just can't locate what you need - although thankfully a Google search of the phrase took a few seconds in this instance, sometimes the fact search engines ignore common words like the and and unless you force add it with the + sign (remember that one) can be frustrating.

Anyway, talking of mad happenings, one such thing happened on Monday. There I was at my friend's place sorting out their PC problem (a nasty virus had stopped all the important services like Windows Update and Internet Connection Sharing, which they use) and the game between Norwich and Man City was on. Cue Fanzone. Cue despair from me at there being two goals for their lot within the first fifteen minutes. Cue joy from the City commentator when we made it 2-2 before half time. I started off for home when half time went, hoping to catch the remainder of the game later on Sky Sports News. And when I switched on, nothing of City's late winner to make it 3-2 (Robbie Fowler had a great game, apart from the two goals, incidentally) but instead, none other than Norwich City's owner and chairwoman, Delia "capers and lime in everything for me please!" Smith. She went on to the pitch, ranted about the fans being the 12th man, and then screaming almost "Where are you? Where are you? Come on!" to the fans. Talk about a case of how to make enemies in one fell swoop? If you really want a cringe and a giggle, Sky Sports has it here but it only works with IE - bah! Take note though Murdoch: your websites aren't web standards compliant, learn to hire proper web developers or something, like the BBC do.

And it even snowed in Manchester earlier in the week (okay, a couple of hours where it stuck, but I don't care!) It's really amazing how just the odd bit of snow makes the media believe it to be a blizzard. Maybe they should try living somewhere in Switzerland or Austria where heavy snowfall in Winter is a regular occurrence, and they manage well enough without going into panic overdrive like some people tend to do. Ooh look a bit of snow, better not go into work today as my gas guzzling car can't even make it off the driveway, oh it's so slippy (etc etc). Just makes you think, really.