Dear Diary... March 2011

Thursday 31st March - Time For Tea

It was another long and hard working day for me, but one where I felt I made progress, and packaged up Solidworks 2010 SP5 so it would work correctly in Windows 7 without issues. Thankfully, the installer DVD comes with an application that lets you create an administrative install package, which would make life a little easier. I set that off, and off it went to get the latest service pack version as well, and off it went to create its installer package. That done, it wanted you to launch a .hta file with a simple "click to install" button. Did you need that? Not really.

However I found out that the .hta file was editable in Wordpad, so I opened it up and located what clicking the button actually did - it just ran a setup file with various switches. So I thought to myself "maybe I could put that in my SCCM Admin console, run the app and see what happened?" and I did - and it worked, installed and everything. It did take me a while though to get it up on the SCCM server and with good reason - the installer compressed was a mere 8GB, and the program when installed took up a massive 18GB of hard disk space. Thank heavens I was working on a machine with a large hard disk, let me tell you.

After I headed home via the local Tesco to get some bottles of wine and also some meatballs, I had The Love In My Heart come over for tea. It was lovely to see her after us heading home on Tuesday after our weekend trip, and we had plenty to catch up and chat on about work and all sorts, so that was good. I made us some pasta with meatballs and a side of garlic bread to go with it, and that went down rather nicely for us both. I indulged The Love with the soaps for a while too, and then we worked out where we were going to eat out over the weekend and watched some of the Wild Swimming programme on ITV3. It even mentioned outdoor lidos and the one we passed in Penzance the other day.

My pictures had been finished by this point so I'd emailed folks to let them know that they were up, and of course it was nice for people to take a look at them and see what they thought. Some had commented that it made them want to go back to Cornwall, and how parts of St Ives reminds them of Portugal, and The Love could see the similarities in one of the shots that I'd taken as well, so that was good. The Love quite liked a few of them as well and it's always nice to see how much she encourages me to take pictures too, so that's rather lovely.

We then had a game of Scrabble to finish the evening, and I played some Swing Out Sister thinking we'd finish by the time the CD finished. Not a chance! The board was difficult and took time to sort out, and so with more moves left to do, I put on Traffic's seminal "John Barleycorn Must Die" album, and on that I love "Freedom Rider" so that's tune of the day for me. It helped me a bit do some good moves near the end and I didn't do too badly. I did have an eight letter word (one letter in play) but The Love blocked where I was going to go, but good for her because that's part of the game!

Wednesday 30th March - Back To The Grind

It was back to work for me, and that was pretty painful in itself. After such a lovely few days off it was always difficult to head back and I spent a fair amount of time today catching up on emails and also solving some issues that I couldn't always get to the bottom of, so felt rather positive at the end of it all. I worked on a PC that's going to be used in one of our departments and it was mainly a case of getting Windows up and running along with the AHCI SATA driver, and then making sure all the drivers for the hardware was installed, and basically keeping it as a vanilla build with antivirus only as well as the operating system.

I headed home later and made myself some tea, and then settled in to look at the pictures from my weekend away and work on what I liked and what I'd upload to Flickr. I think nowadays I am more selective in what I choose - I like it to be a cross section of the time I've had, but also ones where I think that in terms of composition and in terms of how it looks, I managed something different and decent too. It was difficult to decide which ones but once I did, I started uploading them a few at a time, so I could see if anyone found them interesting at the time.

I suppose when you do go away and have a good time, it's always nice to capture the moments you have and so you can think back and say to yourself "oh, remember when we went to Lanhydrock?" for example. I think as well every time I do head to Cornwall, the more I actually fall in love with it and if I win the lottery, want to move down there. There's something I can't describe really, the way of life, the more relaxed pace, and also the climate just seems different. Lots of things all put together really.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Solomon Browne" by Seth Lakeman, as it tells the story of the Penlee lifeboat disaster in Cornwall. Every year in Mousehole, the nearest village to Penlee Point, the lights are switched off in December to remember the disaster and the people who perished in it. The song deals with the story in a poignant way and really is one of Seth's finest pieces, and always reminds me of Cornwall when I listen to it. When I visit Mousehole, particularly, of course.

Tuesday 29th March - Don't Wanna Go Home

Both myself and The Shells On My Beach really didn't want to get up this morning. Not at all. Because we knew that in a couple of hours time we'd be heading home from Cornwall back to Manchester and that wasn't what we wanted to do really. We'd had such a lovely time together and it really made me feel relaxed and much happier in what I'm doing with myself, and I think for The Shells it was a more than welcome break for her as well to do her thing. It was good to get up as we needed to and after a quick nip for me into the centre of St Austell to get some sandwiches for lunch as well as a pasty for Mum to take home, it was then time to leave.

We decided that walking up the hill all the way to the train station was going to be a killer with all the luggage we had, so instead we took the bus that was due and headed to the station that way instead, which was much easier to do to be honest, saved us time and hassle. And this time at least the train back was direct, so once we were on that was it. Someone had sat in our reserved seat so whilst I was sorting the luggage out on the train The Shells got everything sorted and we could sit and relax. Good job that we did too as once we left and headed towards Liskeard, the rain came down and hammered it at a rate of knots.

It was a rather wet view as we headed over the bridge between Cornwall and Devon, and the coast close to Dawlish and Teignmouth looked rather wet as we headed through there at lunch time. Onwards we went on the train, first to Bristol and then to Birmingham before heading to Manchester, and The Shells had her book and I had my tunes on my Spiro, including plenty of The Sword. I've decided I need to get a ticket for their gig and so I can see them rock live, and that tune of the day should be "How Heavy This Axe" as it certainly describes the heavy heart I felt when leaving this morning.

It was also very sad to say goodbye to The Shells at Piccadilly station as we made our own ways home. I gave her a massive cuddle in the station and didn't care who was looking one bit, I just felt really sad for us to be parting. I got on the bus back to my place, sorted out what needed to be washed and got started on all that - and two loads of washing meant that everything was going to be clean but also that my case would be packed away for another expedition in the future. I felt that somewhat empty feeling of the day after the days before, if you know what I mean.

Still as I had my fish and chips for tea later and contemplated on the last few days, I realised just what a wonderful time I'd had and how I felt ready to take on the world a lot more, but also to appreciate more the value of having time for yourself to do the things that you really want to do. I'll have to see if we can go back one Summer in the near future (not this one) and maybe do some more exploring of different places, maybe even taking a flight to the Isles of Scilly, or even taking in some countryside. We shall see of course, but it made me feel happy knowing we both had a lovely time of it.

Monday 28th March - St Ives and the Seagulls

It was the final full day of the long weekend in Cornwall, and The Shells On My Beach and I were determined to make the most of it. And so we had a plan to head to St Ives for the day, always lovely there I thought to myself. And so it was first of all up to the Eden Project Café for some breakfast. What we missed the other day was that if you had something hot to eat before 11am, you got a free tea or coffee with it. We weren't missing out on that this time and as I was queueing up to order the food, I noticed someone ahead of me getting 10% discount with their Eden annual pass. Hang on, I thought, so headed back to get mine and then order the toast for The Shells and the bacon roll for me, and the coffee was free, and 10% off the food, so it was a mere £3.37 for us both for breakfast - total bargain, and delicious too.

With us duly filled up nicely, we headed to the train station to get our Ride Cornwall ticket. This allows you unlimited train and bus travel in Cornwall for one day for a mere £10, and as we knew it wasn't that cheap to get to St Ives on the train anyway, it made a lot of sense. And even more so when we discovered that the train was delayed by half an hour. When it did arrive, it meant that we'd get into St Erth half an hour late too. It looked like the branch line from there to St Ives ran every half hour, so we might get lucky. If not, we could always stay on the train to Penzance and get the bus instead, so we had options if need be.

Thankfully the train got to St Erth in time to get the branch line train to St Ives, something I've never done before. I'm glad I did though. The line took you past Lelant Saltings, on to Carbis Bay with the line hugging the cliffs over the sea, before winding its way along the edge of the coast, with the cliffs and sea below, before heading to St Ives itself. I can now understand why people like the train journey so much to get there on that line! We soon walked on to Porthminster Beach and had a little stroll, even getting close to the sea as well to see just how blue and clean the sea is.

The tide was well in close to Smeaton's Pier when we walked around there, so no sign of any seals possibly paying a visit (shame that) and we then walked along the back of the town through some of the older streets and in some of the shops, before then heading back along the front again. It was lunch time by now and we were feeling a tad peckish, and so I finally got a Cornish pasty on my hands for lunch. I wanted to sit down and eat it, but I could see plenty of seagulls all around circling. It was a little intimidating for me as I knew that they would try and swoop down on anything loose, and yet people were ignoring the signs and feeding them! Sheesh.

We then headed via the back streets of the town to Porthmeor Beach and outside the Tate St Ives. We were going to go in but the admission charge was a little much to be honest, and so decided against it. It was nice to sit overlooking the beach huts and the beach itself though with some lovely blue seas outside. It was then back along to the shops and the cobbled streets, admiring the view over the sea and then to one of the harbour front cafés for the other essential Cornish food item - the cream tea. We shared the two scones with jam and clotted cream, and overlooked the seafront as we had those with a gorgeous cup of tea. It felt rather homely and nice to do that, and sort of romantic too. I know. Aww.

We walked around for a while longer before heading on the 516 bus to Penzance, which took you the less commercial way through Penbeagle and then through the country lanes towards Nancleadra and Ludgvan, dropping off the children from St Ives School to these villages on their way home. It made us both wonder just how different it is going to school when you live quite rurally too. Once in Penzance we were going to head to Mousehole but the bus had left, so instead we walked around Penzance centre before heading down Morrab Road past the gardens and on to the sea front, where we walked along past the Jubilee Lido pool and stopped to admire the sea. We couldn't see St Michael's Mount due to the sea mist, but knew where it was.

It was then off to one of our favourite pub haunts, the Dolphin in Penzance for some well earned tea later on. I had the chorizo and prawn risotto with garlic bread which was well tasty, whilst The Shells had the sizzling chicken which was choc full of chilli and peppers on a very sizzling hot plate. It looked rather good too! It was then a walk from there up the rather nice Chapel Street with its lovely shops to the Admiral Benbow, with its interior being all ships and pirates related, and quite a really intriguing place. Everyone was friendly and the Doom Bar was on top form too, and all was well with the world in there, and the owner's dog was resting under one of the tables after a hard day, it just felt really homely.

We then walked back to Penzance station and headed back on the train to St Austell before the walk back to the Travelodge, safe in the knowledge that we'd had a good long day out and that we'd really seen some more sights we wanted to see. Tune of the day is "March of the Toreadors" from the opera Carmen, originally composed by Georges Bizet. There was a rather nice rendition being played in the Admiral Benbow and that added to the feel of cosiness and comfort in the place. We decided that we'd want to head there one night for our tea and make a really nice night of it in there too. And so we headed to sleep with the journey home tomorrow. I felt sad that the time went by so quickly...

Sunday 27th March - Lanhydrock Love

It was a reasonably relaxed lie in this morning for myself and The Shells On My Beach, and that was good after having a late-ish night on Saturday. The Shells still fancied a bit of a lie in and didn't need breakfast, so I headed next door from the Travelodge to Costa Coffee, and hit on a cunning plan. I had a fair amount of their loyalty card points, so why not use them? So I did - and got a free ham and cheese toastie along with a latte! Of course, I think I had enough to pay for us both for a freebie if she fancied anything too, but I think she was more than overjoyed to spend a bit more time relaxed and getting herself ready for the day out we'd planned.

We were soon heading back up the steep hill to St Austell train station, and this time heading East on the train to Bodmin Parkway, not that far in terms of time and distance, but far enough. From there it was the walk along the former carraige drive to Lanhydrock House, which for the first part is flat and runs alongside a river, all very lovely. We noticed a marshal up ahead and then some runners, and it was a half marathon going on that morning, quite surreal really. The last part of the drive is a pretty steep walk uphill, but the tree-lined path then shows you Lanhydrock itself, and it looks as always rather wonderful.

We showed our National Trust memberships at the gate (even had the new cards scanned in now!) and then made our way to the house. It was nice to go inside the house for a change, and the house was almost all opened up, with many wonderful rooms lovingly restored. And you were even allowed to take pics inside with the flash off, so I didn't miss that opportunity of course. The old kitchens, the drawing rooms, and the nurseries were all beautifully well kept, and the novel way of keeping the dairy cool was something else too. It just felt like a wonderful period property, and the time spent around there was plentiful. The long gallery was also a brilliant room - and someone was even playing the piano rather well at the far end, adding some ambience.

After a lengthy walk around the house, it was time for lunch. I was going to have a pasty, but none left. Boo! So instead I went for the vegetable soup which was gorgeous, and a little cake for afters too. That filled us both up nicely and meant that we still had the walk back later to walk some of it off, so all good. We then headed to the gardens, walked along there and up towards the Higher Garden via St Petroc's Church, which is still in use today. The Higher Gardens afforded some lovely views over the estate and the house itself, and the woodland walk took you even higher up, and that certainly kept the legs moving rather nicely and keeping somewhat fit as well.

We walked around the gardens and down to the house again and I had a well earned clotted cream and blackcurrant ice cream (and it was just as nice as the other night) and then we rested in the gardens and admired the view of the house again. Time had sped by well but we both enjoyed the house very much, and knew that plenty of the rooms really did take you back to the Victorian era and how the owners of the house would have lived back then. We walked back down the carriage drive (and much easier going downhill!) back along the river and then to Bodmin Parkway station and timed it well to only have a small wait for the train back to St Austell, where it was back to the Travelodge for some rest before heading out for the evening.

And out to a place dear in my heart - The White Hart in the centre of St Austell. Why? Simple. They do the best steak and ale pie in the country. And I wanted to see if the reputation I'd given it was still for keeping or not, but they always do good food in there. I also had a voucher for £5 off food if you spend £20 or more on food, so that couldn't be complained at. So with a pint of Tribute being supped with The Shells having some lovely wine, we elected to have starters as well. I had the carrot and coriander soup which was really hearty and wholseome, and The Shells' brie was also looking rather good as well, nicely fried with a crisp salad.

Of course that was the precursor to my steak and ale pie, and - I'm delighted to report that it was as good as ever and still retains my "best steak and ale pie in the country" accolade. Big chunks of steak, whole mushrooms and a rich but not overly rich gravy in shortcrust pastry just oozed delicoiusness, as did the chips and fresh vegetables to go with it. I was in heaven eating that and even had a bottle of Clouded Yellow to have with it, which was wonderfully lovely to drink as well. The Shells had a lovely main meal as well, the Sunday roast pork, and it was absolutely stunning by all accounts.

We stayed and had another drink in there as the ambience was very nice - good background music, including KT Tunstall's "Suddenly I See" (tune of the day because of the lyric "this is where I wanna be") and friendly staff who were always helpful too, especially when I asked about the bottle of Clouded Yellow and which way would be best to pour it for best taste (there's two ways you see.) And with smiles on their faces despite being busy too. One time we'll have to stay here as I bet the breakfast is also rather gorgeous too, so all well and good there. It was a tired but happy twosome who headed down back to the Travelodge to have a well earned sleep after another lovely day.

Saturday 26th March - Our Time In Eden

A nice Saturday morning sunshine greeted us as we left the Travelodge and headed up towards the centre of St Austell for breakfast. We'd decided that as we were going to the Eden Project later, and that they'd opened up a café in St Austell itself, it was a good idea to head to the café for breakfast, have it there, and then make a full Eden day of it. The café was the top of the White River Place shopping centre, and the views over the hills from the windows made it an idyllic spot to rest and relax. The breakfast was good too: I had a bacon and mushroom roll whilst The Shells On My Beach had an egg and bacon one, and both really tasty. I liked the fact that they had little tables for the little ones and that most of the chairs appeared to be recylced, making it quirky but a relaxing place, quite homely too.

It was then to the bus station and sensibly we got a Western Greyhound Day Explorer ticket, which meant we could use all their green buses in Cornwall for one price of £7.50. As the buses aren't that cheap down in Cornwall, it made sense particularly with what we had planned for the day. We headed on the 527 to the Eden Project which dropped us off close to the pedestrian walk to the entrance, and down we headed to get in. As we'd travelled by bus we got £4 off the admission price (£14 instead of £18) and if you made you donation a gift aid one, your admission became a one year pass for Eden as well, meaning we could come back for free if we wanted to. There's another benefit too as we were to find out later in the holiday...

Off we went and first to the Seed, which is carefully placed in the middle of The Core, which had plenty of learning activities as well as café at the top of it, placed there primarily due to floods taking out the main biome link cafés. We walked downhill from here, along past the biomes and WEEE Man, and also seeing the rather large bumblebee sculpture placed alongside one of the paths. It was an inspiring sight too to see some of the gardens come out in lovely bloom outside, and as the weather got nicer, it just felt rather good to be able to see how things were changing and developing.

Then it was off into the biomes, and we disrobed a fair bit as we entered the tropical biome, and with good reason. The heat and humidity needed to keep the ecosystem for the plants in there certainly felt pretty oppressive, and as we walked around the steam and heat really did show how much it was needed for the likes of the banana plants, the Amazonian style waterfall, the tropical species and everything else. Sensibly they've placed a cool room in there which is full of aircon and rather cool, and people were taking advantage of that to cool themselves down. We walked past and even tried some baobab juice as well (rather refreshing that) and then headed back to the other end of the tropical biome. As soon as you left you felt the change back to normal temperature, and you really did need to re-robe a bit more not long afterwards. If you ever want a free sauna, that's where you go. There's even a walk to the top for a view down, but the temperature can get to 45°C in there, so think carefully if you do!

The link between the biomes gave us the chance to validate our yearly pass, and then it was on to the Mediterranean biome, at a much more soothing natural temperature. I liked the whiteness of the walls and little sides of houses built to show off the growing plants, and the display of tulips that were in full bloom as well, all rather lovely. It also was good to see some of the details behind the displays, and even some Mediterranean food was on offer to keep a nice feel to this biome. Certainly it felt rather lovely as it was when I last went to Eden, and we stopped off at one of the cafés to have a home made Cornish steak burger for lunch. It was nice for me but a little bit rare for The Shells.

We then walked up the far end paths close to the biomes to spot the metal farmed sculpture ploughing the land, and also all the displays of rope fencing made with hemp, no less. Some of these had little holes which you could peek through and see the biomes beyond which made for a rather nice little view through. We also saw the allotments to grow your own vegetables with a rather nice scarecrow too to help out, and before we knew it we'd spent most of the day there admiring the plants, flowers, landscape and realising that in fact recycling an old china clay pit did make sense in how it was being used now. We both really enjoyed it and had a wonderful time there.

It was then back on the 527 bus back to St Austell and there we changed buses for the 525 to head to Charlestown Bay. The tall ship in the harbour greeted us from a distance and one of the little gift shops on the way down mentioned that it was recently featured in Doctor Who no less, so well worth noting for future watching. The bars and pubs along to the harbour and seafront were busy, partly because of the Wales v England game, and also because the weather was still very nice. We walked to the harbour front, and the view of the beach showed that people were happily playing there and making an afternoon of it.

The harbour also had a little bridge to walk across from one side to the other, and we walked back up the other side with plenty of lovely little cottages (most of them for rent admittedly) as we admired the tall ships from the other side. The view of the sea from this elevated position showed how sheltered the harbour was and how much it was a really nice place to be at. It was also good to see that many families were around having a day of it, even later on in the Rashleigh Arms pub where a pint of Proper Job was mine to devour, oh yes. Very nice. We sat outside in the late afternoon sun and just chatted about all sorts, really relaxed. I already knew this was the break I needed at least, and before long headed back on the 525 bus to St Austell, and we got off near the shopping centre making the walk back to the Travelodge a bit easier.

For the evening, we headed to Fowey for our tea. We got the 526 from the Travelodge which became the 524 at the bus station, heading through Holmbush, St Blazey and then Par Green and Trywardreath before then speeding through towards Fowey itself, dropping us off at the Safe Harbour Hotel pub. It was then downhill into Fowey and we walked down the main street to see where we fancied heading to eat. After a bit of deciding it was off to the Lugger Arms, where the food looked homely and the place looked busy too. I had a pint of Tribute and soon decided on one of the specials, the Fish and Feathers - chicken in a cream and white wine sauce with king prawns on a bed of crushed new potatoes with some veg too. Gorgeous - and The Shells tried a bit and agreed. She had the home made cottage pie which also looked spot on. A drink in the Safe Harbour followed later before our bus ride back to the Travelodge for a well earned night's sleep!

Tune of the day in the meantime had to be something from the 1960s, as the Lugger Inn in Fowey very much had that vibe of music going on, which also made the pub feel that much more homely as well, which was a good thing for me. And no Monkees either - bonus! (those who know me understand why). Instead we got the likes of Manfred Mann and such like, and generally speaking nice tuneful stuff which made perfect listening and ambience too. So out of what we heard, "Waterloo Sunset" by the Kinks gets a nod from me - kind of carrying on the sunset theme too. Was nice just to end the day on a relaxing note too methinks!

Friday 25th March - All The Way To The Mevagissey Sunset

It was up bright and early with my case pack and off to meet The Shells On My Beach at Piccadilly station, as we were off to Cornwall for a very long weekend (four days in fact). A while ago I noticed an offer on for Travelodge rooms and had managed to book the one in St Austell for a mere £19.50 per night for four nights on the bounce. That added to the trains being pretty inexpensive meant that we could do more when we got there and also have a wonderful time. Strangely, the train back is direct, yet the one there involves a change at Birmingham and at Plymouth. Why, Crosscountry Trains, why?

Anyway, we soon got on our first train and the seats we'd been allocated for both this and the second leg were close to the luggage racks. On one hand a good thing as we could keep an eye on our stuff, but another is that people tend not to be sensible when putting luggage on, and don't seem to grasp the basics of space management, meaning some cases can fall whilst the train is moving. More fool them. We got ourselves settled in, had a coffee and all was going rather nicely as we sped away from Manchester and headed towards Birmingham - and of course New Street station, a place MJ Hibbett correctly calls as "Hell on Earth" and I have to agree completely.

We made our way across to platform 11 from platform 12 (no mean feat I can tell you) which also gave The Shells time to enter the massive Euromillions draw as well. We got to the platform, and the train was delayed by around twenty minutes. Meh, all that dashing across as well. Still, we got on and understandably it was pretty busy, but we got our seats all sorted out and the train was even making up time and looked like we'd get to Plymouth bang on time. However, at Bristol Temple Meads we had to go semi-backwards via Bath, Westbury and Castle Cary due to signalling problems at Bridgewater (the normal route heading to Taunton) so that meant around an hour's delay in all. We got through to Plymouth and everyone was waiting for the train as it was going to head back to Edinburgh later on, so was a bit mad getting off!

The next sceheduled train to St Austell arrived and of course two lots of people were attempting to get on, so it was pretty manic really. We got the luggage on fine but seating was lacking, so I kept an eye on the luggage whilst The Shells got some space to stand which was fair enough. Thankfuly by Bodmin Parkway things had calmed down a bit and so we were able to sort of relax before getting off at St Austell, where the long downhill run through the town centre to the Travelodge awaited. Thankfully, the traffic wasn't mental so getting down there was fine in the end, and soon checked in to the Travelodge, got a lovely room with some trees at the back which meant it was a little more quiet, and that was us unpacked and sorted out.

We were going to walk through to Charlestown Bay, but time was against us due to the late train arrival (an hour and a quarter delay in all) so instead we hatched a plan - why not go to Mevagissey earlier, have a walk around and then get some well earned tea? And sure enough, on time came the 526 bus and off we headed. It was still light on the way in too, so was nice to see the view of Pentewan as the bus climbed towards Mevagissey itself. Of course the harbour was as lovely as ever and a walk to the lighthouse pier even gave us a a wonderful sunset to admire as well, so that pleased me immensely, it just felt all rather romantic.

We did pop in a couple of shops that were open, and one of which was Brocante, and the owner there explained to us how things had gone since the flooding a few months back. He said that it was time to get on with things and that most of the shops had been repainted, done up and generally revamped, with the insurance helping people to get back on their feet. Indeed he'd opened later than normal as people were still walking around and felt it daft not to be open. He actually had spent some time in Manchester so myself and The Shells had a good chat to him. It was good to see some really getting positive and showing that the place is as beautiful as it always has been to me.

It was then time for a very well earned pint, and so my first pint of Tribute went down well at the Ship Inn, with a nice cosy fire to greet us, before we then headed round to the harbour front and to Sharksfin, where the food is always excellent. Of course, who would I be to resist another pint, this time of Tinners (you only seem to be able to get this in Cornwall itself!) and we both went for the fish and chips for the main meal. This proved to be an excellent choice as the fish was stunning, with a light crispy batter, really good chips, and best of all a massive wedge of lemon to squeeze on. The Shells was going to order a starter but having seen the size of the main realised it was best not to have done. I even had a clotted cream and blackcurrant ice cream sundae for dessert, with real blackcurrants in it. What was there not to like?

As we headed back on the 526 bus back to St Austell later, with the sky now dark and the temperature dropping, we both realised that despite the delay, it was well worth heading back to Mevagissey again and enjoying the views. Tune of the day in the meantime is "Twelve Hours of Sunset" by Roy Harper, which seemed really appropriate. As the sun was setting in Mevagissey, all I could think about was that song and its serene beauty which matched what I was seeing live. Kind of wished that I'd put the "Valentine" album on my Walkman part of my Sony Ericsson Spiro phone, but still, I made a mental note to listen to it again on my return back to Manchester.

Thursday 24th March - Winding It Down

I had a pretty busy day at work, and it was a case of getting things done and trying to wind down before a few days off. First of all, I finished off the Samsung NC10 laptop I was working on and deploying Windows 7 to. For some reason even though I was using our site licenced version of Windows 7, Windows kept complaining that in fact it wasn't legal whatsoever. When I did try to activate it, it came up with an error code. Looking that up revealed that it was down to one of two things: either Windows 7 wasn't legitimate, or there was a BIOS error of some sort. Now that had me thinking.

The member of staff who's laptop I was re-imaging did say to me that they were having issues with the wireless card onboard the laptop, and just wondered if the two were related. Without further ado I went to Samsung's website, snagged the latest BIOS update and installed it. Soon the new BIOS went on, and Windows activated without any fuss whatsoever. And when testing the wireless out to connect to the secure network we have, it all worked pretty much first go. Far be it from me to assume anything, but it did all add up and that meant I could finish it off and have it all shipshape for the member of staff concerned.

I also sorted out another laptop issue with the way that it wasn't logging in correctly for a member of staff, and then finished the day off nicely by working on a Mac and getting my own Mac in the office updated to the latest version of Mac OS X (10.6.7) so I could do some testing to make sure everything actually worked as it would intend to do. The combined update from 10.6.5 was over 1GB in size though: not too bad if you're actually on a fast connection at work and all that, but if you're on a slower broadband connection you're really going to feel the size of that update - considerably actually.

Spent a fair amount of the evening cleaning the house and getting everything looking nice, and even went to Iceland on the way home to get some food for next week, as well as some coffee for work as well. Part of this plan was that I wouldn't need to do it early next week and so save some time. And I enjoyed a relaxing evening watching an old documentary I recorded off ITV back in 1997, The Murray Walker Story, which went behind the scenes at Jerez's championship decider and showed you how Murray worked and also of course mentioned the classic moments and races as well and more of Murray too - excellent stuff. There's plenty of good nostalgia in there for me.

And who else did gasp like me last night? I flicked over the telly before the news and the very end of MasterChef was on. And in the preview clip they introduced their special guest judge for next week, and you could see the "oh my god" from the contestants. I won't spoil it for you, except to say it's not Monica Galetti (although that would have been good fun seeing her really rip into the contestants' feeble efforts!) but it had myself and The Cream In My Cheesecake chattering away tonight about that moment - just purely because of the timing of it all. Shame then that the format's gone a bit bobbins, but hey ho.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Omen" by The Prodigy, which is typically full on by them of course. I didn't originally rate the song that highly (more fool me) but the more I listened to it back then I realised it was actually pretty genius and it had even more vocals than usual, and as the song progresses you can feel the evil and the anger in it, bloody genius. Of course I guess the proper way to enjoy this is with the lights down at 1am, really going for it with just the feeling for bounding around like a loon and going mental. None of that tonight though, it's an early night for moi...

Wednesday 23rd March - Late Running

I had a right late day of it at work today - finishing at almost 6pm! This was mainly down to an issue that I was having with a staff member and Entourage Web Services 2008, which despite my best efforts and indeed checking all the account settings and indeed making sure that the account had enough rights, couldn't see the shared address book contacts from another mailbox. It was a weird one but it might be something to do with the sharing account, possibly. Nonetheless it made me wonder just what you had to do to get it working, and maybe needed to check how I did it in Entourage on my Mac (which does work strangely enough!)

It meant that everything I'd planned tonight was running late - even if the bus home from work turned up on time. I got home, had a nice phone call with The Cream On My Cheesecake to start the evening off, settled in to watch the classic F1 on the red button (alhough a race from 2008 and 2010 can't be called classic yet, can they?) whilst doing some ironing, and then made myself some tea as well. I'd planned to get the case packed for my forthcoming trip, but realised that it was going to be a tight squeeze due to me needing to pack four days' worth of stuff in not the biggest case in the world.

Still, I got there in the end and worked out exactly what I was taking, how I'd fit it all in and also just what I'd need to do to be sure that I could get everything back in again for the trip home. Of course all my bathroom stuff is in one little bag inside the case, so for example I've got all my shaving gel, razor, shower gel, sponge, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste etc. It all worked out but I did have to use the expander part of the case to make the case that little bit bigger to get everything in, so it was a relief to be able to put it all away and know that's all taken care of.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather impressive "The Space in Between" by How To Destroy Angels, purely because of its dark brooding nature that seemed to suit the night time air as I look outside from the windows of my house tonight. The temperature does appear to be dropping a little when it becomes night, although for some reason I do feel quite muggy in the house for some reason, maybe that's me just working too hard and really getting on with things? In any case a perfect example of Trent Reznor still developing as an artist, and rightly so.

Tuesday 22nd March - Birthday Bonanza

After work, I sped home and got the place sorted out, and also made sure I wrote out the birthday card for my cousin, who's 24 today (my, everyone's growing old quick, that says something!) so that myself and The Cream On My Cheesecake could head over to see him later and have a nice time there. In fact it had been a pretty busy day all round - I spent a fair bit of time re-doing the application packaging for Adobe CS5 Web Premium (32 and 64-bit versions!) because it turned out that if you integrate any updates for Dreamweaver in there, it tries to apply them when the user runs Dreamweaver, which is bobbins. So instead what I did was to not include the updates for that, re-package it all up with Adobe Application Manager, and then chuck them up to the SCCM Server. Yaay. Sort of.

With The Cream at mine we headed over to my auntie's place to see my cousin. It was good to see him and his girlfriend and they were both well, and my auntie made us a coffee and feel very welcomed. And it wasn't before long that plenty of the family were over there to see him too - my sister, husband and her two kids, which meant I got to have a hold and smile and big grin at their now almost six month old little one - he's fast becoming a right cutie to be honest! I also saw my other auntie and uncle as well and one of my cousins, so soon the house was pretty packed with people chattering away. Must have felt nice though to have lots of people over on your birthday, hurrah to that!

We headed back to mine and I made us some gammon with chips and peas for tea, and as ITV1+1 was on it allowed The Cream to watch Emmerdale, and I'm sure she made the most of that and enjoyed it thoroughly. In the meantime I got the rest of the tea sorted and soon we were happily eating together and chatting about our working day. I'd finished uploading the last of the pictures from Sunday's jaunt in Salford, and that certainly was good to see that I'd managed a few nice shots with the 50mm f/1.8 AI manual lens - I'm fast becoming addicted to it as a lens to be honest!

We settled in then to see the final part of the documentary about the English National Ballet and followed the as they strove to get their production of the Nutcracker out and on time for opening night. The dress rehearsal was a bit of a faux pas to say the least and it was clear that especially with the snow that had grounded the stage props etc in deepest Kent that it was very difficult to really have the time to practice and rehearse and get it all right. They got it good on the night apart from one balloon not appearing from the top of the stage, and the producer really gave one of the stage team a really hard time to say the least.

Of course the Christmas-like weather outside did at least make the audience feel like it was a proper ballet for a proper Christmas, and hearing the score of Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" immediately takes you back to the ballet every single time, but not only that, it's an iconic piece that has been used plenty of times in all sorts of media, from television adverts to computer games, really. So tune of the day that'll be - makes a change to have a classical piece in there don't you think?

Monday 21st March - Drawing on X5 Experience

Another day, another application packaged up and ready for SCCM/Windows 7 deployment if required. Today I decided to take on Corel Draw X5, which was a fairly big install to take care of, but also one that needed some care and attention. The setup executable actually calls over 20 separate MSI installers in one chained install, so you needed a way to call the setup to extract the files to make it an administrative install. Thankfully that was pretty much doable, so got that bit sorted, and thankfully then the service pack 2 patch could also be added so that was patched up just as you wanted it.

However, the setup.exe looks at a file called setup.xml, which gives you all the configuration options that you might ever need when doing the setup. Several lines looked like they were installing each language separately, which you didn't really need, so I made sure that only EN (English) was installed. Why you'd need over twelve different languages installing on one PC is beyond me. There was also then a line in the xml you could set so that you'd agreed the End User Licence Agreement for all users during installation. This again of course made things a lot easier when I tested as a user, as they could run it without no prompts to register etc. Hurrah!

The big test will be to see if I can layer the whole thing on an SCCM task sequence, where it brings down the core Windows image and adds on all the applications we need. So on top of the core build, I've left it testing itself to see if it can successfully get hold of Adobe CS5 Design Standard, Acrobat Pro 9 and Corel Draw X5. If it manages to do all that and doesn't make a hash of it, I'll be pretty impressed, but I just hope that it can at least deliver what I want it to. Fingers very much crossed.

When I got home a nice surprise was waiting in the postbox - the new MJ Hibbett album "Wonderful Wednesday". He wrote all of it during February when he took part in a thing called February Album Writing Month, where you have to write a whole album during those 28 days or so. And there's plenty of little witty nuggets in there with such a cute and fond twee indie-ness that it's hard not to like it. "(Really Nearly) Lunchtime" is my current favourite track off there, so tune of the day it very much is. It just gives you that feeling of happiness when you listen to it, and shouldn't all albums do that?

Sunday 20th March - The Salford Seven

It was very nice just to take our time this morning, and The Cream In My Carrot Cake and I pottered around the house for most of the morning, I made us some coffee, and bacon on toast, and we were all very chilled out. I guess this was just the thing before a future jaunt to Cornwall, and that of course is something that we're both looking forward to - a lot as it happens. We kept an eye on the weather forecast for the week ahead on Country Tracks and were hoping that it'd be okay when we go - looks like it might be, so we'll wait and see what happens.

Later on I headed into the centre of Manchester and then on the tram to Langworthy, as I was meeting up with a few of the Mancunian Flickr folk for a jaunt around Salford, as organised by one of my contacts. It was nice to not be in the centre of Manchester for a change and so that meant it was somewhere different to get inspired and take ideas. One of our group was on the same tram as me, so it was nice to chat, and we met another of the group who had already made it to the tram station. Gradually the remainder of the folks made it (either on a later tram, or on a 33 bus that had decided to go to Rusholme first before realising he'd gone the wrong way) and soon there were seven of us, as organised.

First stop was Weaste Cemetery, which as places like that go was quite open to the elements with its wide walkways and flourishing cherry blossom trees which certainly made for a different view of things - sort of life after death, if you like. A lot of the older gravestones had whole families buried in the same area - which was either spooky or somewhat reassuring depending on which way you looked at it. Nonetheless though it certainly had a feeling of being a bit more grand than the average cemetery but I can understand why you wouldn't go on your own.

It was then a fair walk down Eccles Old Road and underneath the roundabout where the M602 starts, and down Regent Road, heading off in the direction of Salford Lads Club. Of course for me being a Smiths and Morrissey diehard this was a place that I'd been before, and certainly seeing some of the railings close to the club itself being adorned with felt tip pen musings of Morrissey lyrics, it certainly made me feel right at home. "This Charming Man" stuck in my head all day after that so it has to be tune of the day - and whilst there there seemed to be two people filming a "to camera" piece about the club.

From there it was cutting through towards Oldfield Road and along there with some disused places and indeed a view of the city of Manchester that you don't always see, on we went to The Crescent pub on, of course, The Crescent. The landlord in there was a proper ale buff and I had a pint of the Dog's Bollocks first, before trying one that Moorhouses Brewery had made specially for the pub as well, and I got chatting to the manager about Black Cat and he said to me "I love that stuff." Yaay. Someone who really knows his beer. Needless to say all sorts of chat and conversation ensued, a lot of it music related too.

We then walked back along past St Philips Church, where I saw Duke Special last year, skipped past the Cathedral and on to an old building that used to be the Salford Cinema. It then was a bingo hall in a former life, I think, and is now an abandoned place close to the inner ring road. It's a shame to see gorgeous old buildings like this just left to decline, and the hope is that part of the renovation of Chapel Street, one of the main routes into Manchester city centre, at least means that there may be some careful work being done. Last stop was the Mark Addy for a nice final pint of some rather nice beer and to reflect on a really good afternoon spent by all. Kudos to everyone for being there and making it such a fun day!

Saturday 19th March - Coffee On The Corner

After a leisurely morning spent mainly sorting out the house and getting lots of domestic chores done, it was a lovely surprise to see The Cream In My Carrot Cake around 2pm, and that cheered me up no end. As sad as it might sound, I do miss her lots when we're not together but in a way that also makes the heart grow fonder, as it then means we do make the most of the time when we're together. We decided to first have a quick look at the local craft and market fair on at the Inspire place, and it seemed like plenty of people were able to sell their wares - including two of them with lovely hand-made cards. Had I not already got some cards recently I'd have been tempted to get them.

We then took the bus and ended up in Chorlton, walking down Beech Road and stopping off at On The Corner. This little café is my sort of place. They do nice cups of coffee and tea, and serve some lovely home made cakes (the carrot cake I had was very good, not quite as good as the Alpine Tea Room but not far off) and as well as that there's vinyl and CDs for you to peruse. It was nice to have some coffee and then see what CDs they had as well as some good old vinyl, lovingly looked after with some of them being at fair collector's prices too. I was intrigued too by the 7" singles that they had in sleeves all around the place, really did feel like a proper record shop as well. If you get chance, go there (any day apart from Monday) and enjoy it as much as we did.

We then headed along Beech Road and stopped in a few more of the little shops to have a look around. I was pretty impressed that Loop had the Scrabble mugs, so you can get your own letter in a Scrabble format. Nice. And even some hand puppets with all your favourite characters from Sesame Street. Yes, that's right. Grover, Cookie Monster etc. I had a go of the Cookie Monster one and most likely had much more fun than was allowed really, but I can be a big kid sometimes I guess.

We also went in the Horse and Jockey for a well earned drink after all that browsing - and of course what I noticed was that they've now got their own microbrewery on site. I didn't try any of the two ales from that, but I did have a really nice pint in there and we relaxed, sat inside, chattering about all sorts. What was nice though was that it felt very relaxed without being too pretentious either, so all well and good. We then went back down Beech Road and headed on the bus back to my place, safe in the knowledge we'd had a rather relaxed and serene afternoon. Need to do that again, I think.

I made us some tea later and it was some rather nice butternut squash soup with a little honey and sage to start with, and followed by chicken wrapped in bacon with vegetables, potatoes and gravy for main. I even made myself a couple of Yorkshire puddings as well to go with it, so a hearty meal all round for us after a bit of a walk. We spent the evening mainly taking it easy, playing Scrabble with Ben's Brother's first album in the background (I need to make "Live" tune of the day because it always reminds me of being at gigs of theirs singing along to the chorus part with everyone else) and after seeing that I won nothing on the lottery but The Cream won a tenner for a change (yaay) it was time to curl up and relax. Awww.

Friday 18th March - Levelling The Academy

I had another half day at work today, which was nice. Nice in the fact that most of the morning was spent in a meeting with regards to Windows 7 development stuff, and then I spent a fair bit of time replacing the maintenance kit on a Laserjet P4515TN printer - it was pretty easy to do really and the printer itself worked really well afterwards. There's quite a few rollers and things like that to replace, and it's just a case of making sure that everything is in the right way so that it does what it's supposed to do.

I then headed from work straight on the bus out to Cheadle, as I needed to visit one of the shops there to get a birthday present for someone, and my thought was to do it today so I didn't need to rush around whatsoever on the Saturday morning, which makes sense. I then headed home via the local Tesco and got the food shopping out of the way too, so that made a lot of sense. It was then back home and just in time for the Cheltenham Gold Cup so I was able to watch that and see Long Run take a famous victory, overhauling the stalwarts like Kauto Star and Denman late on.

After a quick walk out to the cash point and also to take some shots of the local area, which I'd put on Flickr a little later, it was then time for me to take it easy and relax before my friends came over from Huddersfield, as the three of us were heading to Academy 1 to see the Levellers. Hard to believe it's been a mere twenty years since Levelling The Land came out, and even today anyone of my age really does appreciate what a good album it was and how it's stood the test of time really well (and it has) so of course be good to hear them play all of it. Would they do it in track order or randomly, I wondered.

The three of us got to the Academy car park and had to queue because some people didn't realise that they had to put £2 in the little barrier coin slot to get in, and so were stumbling about for change constantly. Not us of course, we were properly organised and we soon sorted it all out so that we were in and parked up, and headed straight there as time was ticking and we all wanted to see The Wonder Stuff supporting. I'd not seen them live in absolutely years, and so for me it'd be good to re-acquaint myself with a lot of their old stuff as well as their new bits too.

And my, The Wonder Stuff (official site) did not disappoint whatsoever! They really did play their stuff well, and Miles and Malc were in full flow, with Erica on violin bounding around and playing spot on. I did notice that their drummer had recently left, but they only go and get Fuzz Townsend (formerly of their good mates Pop Will Eat Itself) and have him playing. And if anyone's going to know the back catalogue, it's that man. Good to see that as well as the new bits, many of the old classics got played, which for a fan like me was just wonderful to hear them all again. We're talking "Golden Green", "Don't Let Me Down (Gently)", "Give Give Give Me More More More", "Unbearable" for example which as you can imagine went down well with me, and even "Ten Trenches Deep" at the end which really did get the crowd bounding around even more so. Excellent, and if they're touring on their toddles I might just have to go...

That got us all well warmed up for the Levellers (official site) and once the video footage of political protests et al was shown, with regular booing of Margaret Thatcher, on came "One Way" and it was time for everyone to go mental, and rightly so. They did do the album in track order, but notable was the fact it was the reissue track listing, which meant that after "The Game" we got "Fifteen Years" (which was added on after the first issue, fact fans). No problems there as that's good anyway, and we then got a lovely version of "The Boatman" which mellowed everyone out nicely before of course going absolutly full pelt into "Liberty Song" which had everyone belting the words out. Tune of the day without question there, it still feels just as good now.

After "Far From Home", the band effectively had got to the end of side one, and so then played all the single B-sides from the singles off the album, which was a different idea. What this did mean though was that their rather nice version of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" got played and that allowed them to really have tons of fun with it. After that back to the album and so a killer "Sell Out" followed by "Another Man's Cause" and up a notch with "The Road" before going full pelt into "The Riverflow" which was brilliant, and with "Battle of the Beanfield" ending the album with some really punchy drumming for the parts where needed, it felt like a celebration. We noticed a little boy of about five perched on his father's shoulders, going mental to all the songs, clapping along and with a Levellers t-shirt on! Excellent!

The encore was pretty good too, although it did feature a song that my friend doesn't really like in "Carry Me" but they did redeem themselves by doing "The Cholera Well" from their recent album "Letters From The Underground" and then after going off stage, coming back on for a final encore of "What A Beautiful Day" and that got everyone for one last bound around before the end. It was a great night, and also great to see my friends again and we had good chatter on the way to and from the gig, and we all enjoyed the Levellers do their thing. This is exactly why gigs are great!

Thursday 17th March - European Exits

I had a half day in work today which enabled me to get quite a bit done, including some work into trying to see how I could prepare a package for application installing via SCCM, and also then working out a plan of action for the next few weeks to see what can be done. I did have to cover a fair bit this morning as one of my colleagues was on the SCCM course and learning some of the basics as to what to do with it, so at least now we've got some idea of what needs to be done and how we can get there.

I went over to see my friend in the afternoon, as he'd bought a replacement hard drive for the failed one in his PC - a mere one terabyte drive. Thankfully we knew how to set the drive up correctly and soon had things up and running in next to no time. The good thing was that the drive was nice and rugged and once in the case was pretty solid and reliable, and once we got all the drivers on, everything seemed to be playing ball well. We chatted about the football and the possibility of the FA Cup Semi and going to that, and the dates I think would depend on what happened tonight. I think the FA were waiting before deciding on definite dates and tickets.

We made our way then to the City of Manchester Stadium and the traffic was pretty busy. Of couse people were making their way home from work as well as everything else, as you can well imagine, and with the kick off being 6pm it was a case of slowly crawling along Alan Turing Way towards the ground, but we got there in good time and had ourselves at our seats and with some food ready for kick off, so that was good. City had a mountain to climb from being 2-0 down from the first leg but hoped that we could do the business against Dyanmo Kiev in the Europa League.

The first half started brightly enough and City had some chances, Mario Balotelli shooting over from Micah Richards' low cross, and David Silva shooting wide as well. I felt that it was only a matter of time before we would score one, and we kept pressing in the hope that we'd score. However, half an hour or so gone and Balotelli decides the only way to get past a player is by high kicking him. The intent was there and the referee had no option but to give a straight red, and off he went. It was a stupid thing to do and I thought that if City were to go out now then it would clearly be his fault.

A few minutes later though and City got a free kick. It was laid up for Aleksandar Kolarov who hit low and hard, it squirmed under the Kiev keeper and it was 1-0 to City. We had a couple of chances before half time but we couldn't convert, but nonetheless we felt the comeback was on and one more goal would force extra time. Despite our best efforts though it didn't happen, and City just kept pushing, the Kiev players kept rolling around and begging for fouls all the time and basically time wasting every time they could. City brought on Edin Džeko to see if he could turn it around, and he had a shot in stoppage time which went close, but not close enough.

So that was our European adventure over, and a little bit too early. Although admittedly most of the damage was done by losing the first leg in Kiev 2-0, nonethless we played ever so well with ten men and I think if Balotelli had not been sent off, we might have just turned it around, and quite rightly in my book plenty of the fans have been not that complimentary to Balotelli - after all, as City legend Uwe Rösler said on ESPN when I got home later, he's let the players, the club but most of all the fans down tonight, and I couldn't agree more with him. At least Uwe knew what it meant to wear the shirt and be passionate in a good way.

Tune of the day is the rather good "One Way" by the Levellers, in preparation for their 20th anniversary tour of the album "Levelling the Land" which I'm going to see tomorrow. I can't wait as they normally put on a really good live show and as the Wonder Stuff is supporting as well, two for the price of one which can't be bad whatsoever! But back to One Way, it was an anthem for me back in the day and many an indie club would play it and everyone could go for it. Ah, happy memories!

Wednesday 16th March - Emco Is The Future, C64 Is The Retro

Back to work, and back to a problem I faced yesterday in packaging up an old application install to be a nice user friendly MSI install instead. Clearly the Appdeploy repackager, although free, wasn't quite cutting it for me, and so I wanted something a little bit better. A colleague had suggested to me Emco MSI Packager Enterprise Edition, as he'd had some success with it and so had someone else. Knowing that another colleague was finding it difficult with a piece of legacy software that she wanted to get packaged, I suggested that to her too, and so once I'd got my virtualbox set up ready, off I went and installed the trial edition.

I then went through the wizard which seemed pretty easy, it let you enter all the information about the setup and then clicked a button to perform the setup as per normal, and once you'd done the install you then simply told the packager it was done, and off it went to make a self-contained MSI installer with all the information that you needed to get everything done. It seemed easy but the proof of the pudding would be what happened when you tested it. Off I went with it, and tried out my now single file MSI install of Corel Paradox 8 on another PC. And it worked. First go. Yaay! And my colleague reported success with her old application too. I'm highly recommending it and that's an understatement.

I got a nice email from the Bridgewater Hall that Ryan Adams is going to be playing there in June, and so I might have to take The Cheese On My Crackers with me to that one - he's not done any touring for ages and a venue like that with him playing acoustic stuff only should be very smart indeed. I put on his "Gold" album and that sounded rather lovely as ever, and the opening track "New York, New York" is still a favourite of mine, so tune of the day right there. It's nice to expand the musical horizons, and I'd still love to get hold of the DVD-Audio version of the same album (must search for that soon) to really hear it nicely as intended.

Because of me remembering the old school but still classic Commodore 64 game themes after reminding myself of the Romeo and Juliet-inspired cover of "The Montagues and Capulets" in the game Sanxion, I had a bit of a mini-session listening to some of legendary musician Rob Hubbard's back catalogue. Some of that was the mere thirteen minutes' worth of soundtrack to the game Kentilla, which was an adventure game released by Mastertronic in 1986. At the time Rob wanted the whole thing to be an interactive piece, with various sections playing as you went through certain parts of the game. However, the usual time and money argument meant that it couldn't be done as intended, and so in the end it was all hacked together to be one rather nice long thirteen minute piece. Yes, thirteen minutes. None of this short and sharp stuff here you know.

In fact many of the best stuff Rob did was pretty epic too. The main in-game theme of Knucklebusters is almost seventeen minutes long and full of Industrial type sounds throughout, especially speeding up throughout the whole piece as the feel is much more manic. Other epic ones I still have a soft spot for now include W.A.R (a mere nine minutes), Arcade Classics (six minutes of rocking on with a sampled electric guitar throughout) and the in-game theme to Delta, eleven minutes plus, which definitely has its roots in progressive rock and also seems very heavily inspired by Philip Glass' "Koyaanisqatsi" soundtrack, notably the "Resource" and "Pruit Igoe" movements - there's definitely a sense of knowing where the inspiration is, even if maybe not intentional.

Tuesday 15th March - Sharp As A Sword

I had a bit of a brainwave today (I know, steady on and all that!) and thought about how I could possibly work on installing some applications or making some revised application installers in a controlled environment. Then it hit me - but of course, Virtualbox! It's still thankfully free even though it's now under the auspices of Oracle (like Java and OpenOffice are seeing as they bought Sun out) and allows you to create a fully working virtual machine which has full Internet access if you need it, access to CD and pen drives, pretty much all that you need for working inside your PC but not affecting anything, if you know what I mean.

So once I installed it all, I set up a Windows XP with SP3 install with the CD I have, and then made sure that all the Windows updates were installed (so that they don't get in the way). I also installed a couple of pieces of packaging software too. Each time I did something, I made a snapshot of where I was at with the virtual machine. This was important to do, as it meant I could go right back to a previous step if everything decided to go all pear shaped. Initially too I was going to use Appdeploy's free repackager app to try and re-package ye olde Corel Paradox 8 as a MSI installer. I tried it, the repackager created the MSI, but try this on another PC and all I got was MSI error 2318 which normally indicates that there's no correct source files. Hmmm.. Back to the drawing board for an MSI packager then.

Later on I arrived home, got everything sorted in the house that I needed to do, and was excitedly awaiting the arrival of The Cheese On My Crackers as she was coming for tea and staying over too, which is always lovely. I'd got us some nice steak for tea and I was going to do that with some chips and peas. I do her steak well done and mine medium, and have pretty much got the timings right now so I know when to put them all in. It worked out really nicely in the end and even timed our meal so that Emmerdale wasn't on, so she could watch it on ITV1+1 (I was cooking at this time so it's a good compromise to make)

After that we settled in to watch the second instalment of the English National Ballet documentary on BBC4, which went behind the scenes of the company as they strove to deliver excellent performances whilst keeping an eye on the cuts and funding that would be heading their way. It was intriguing to see them give someone a chance at a lead role and how in terms of performance the whole thing was pretty tiring, not to mention full of injury risk too - aching limbs and pains, and bloodied body parts due to using a sword in slightly the wrong manner seemed a major issue, and soon it was almost down to the bare bones for the blokes.

Of course, as it's Romeo and Juliet, that meant that Sergey Profokiev's score has to be used to most excellent effect, and one such piece from there is tune of the day - "The Montagues and Capulets". Everyone knows the piece when they hear it, and it's full of drama in its instrumentation too. I also remember it being used as an introductory tune for a Smiths or Morrissey tour, and Sunderland use it when the team comes out as well. I do remember it well though as the title theme for the Commodore 64 game Sanxion too, with legendary C64 musician Rob Hubbard doing a really impressive version considering the three channels at disposal. The original sends shivers down the old spine though it has to be said!

Monday 14th March - Getting On With It

It was back to work today despite the cold (yes, I freely admit, I'm not one of these people to skip work with a mere cold, I'm tons better than that thank you) and it was on with some more Windows 7 development. I worked out that the Samsung laptops that some of us have for teaching trolleys have a similar set when it comes to the utilities that come with them. It used to be called Magic Keyboard in Windows XP, but Easy Display Manager is the key one to really have, as that allows for the hotkeys (Fn + F whatever) to be pressed to do certain things - and have an icon displayed on screen too.

Anyway, I worked out that as it's an Installshield type setup.exe file, this means you can call it with setup /s to do it silently, and there was already an .iss answer file ready. However, you can also do /SMS for SMS/SCCM based installs. But (and here's the big but too) if you are installing as an admin or system user, it might not be able to write back to the installation source's setup.log file. Not good. So what do you do? Well, you can use the /f2 switch together with the log file location and this will then perform the install and place a log file where you tell it to, somewhere where it can be written and means that the install performs well.

That done, I tested it with an SCCM task sequence for my test Samsung P510 laptop, which brought down our current Windows 7 image, all the drivers, the Easy Display Manager as well as Adobe CS5 Design Standard and Acrobat Pro 9. And it all worked, and soon I had a working workstation image. Of course now we have some mandatory users to play with, it's well worth giving that a blast and seeing how it played. And shock horror - almost all the applications actually worked as intended, which was pretty good all round really!

After work I had a quick walk around near to me and armed myself with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens to see if I could get some really nice soft focussed shots. A couple seemed to work and they should appear in small form on the front page of the site. A quick note about that, in case you wondered: I'd wanted for a while to have a little easy way for people to peekie at my pics, and as well as the link to my photostream clicking on any of the little thumbnails reveals the full picture page, so that's good isn't it? I was pleased with my efforts but I know I'm still learning how to work the aperture ring and the focussing together..

I'm dosing myself up now with all sorts to try and shift the cold, but also to try and get some sleep tonight. I just always feel that I get dead bunged up at night and then that just makes it all worse, so I'm going to try and decongest before I head to bed, then hopefully I can make sure that it all shifts. I had a smile on my face as I listened to some Henry Rollins spoken word, notably the "A Rollins In The Wry" CD that really does sum up just what confuses men when they see women cry, and how it doesn't compare with some people's rationale.

However, tune of the day seems quite apt on the day that I found out that Die Krupps and Nitzer Ebb are heading out on tour - together - all around Europe but nowhere in the UK (or else I'd have had to seriously consider going) - it's one of the mixes of Die Krupps' "The Machineries of Joy" 12" single, mixed by Nitzer Ebb. It's the "Wahre Arbeit" mix, which really does its best to sound electronic style Industrial with pounding drums and bass lines throughout, with Nitzer Ebb's occasional vocals supporting that of Die Krupps really well. Ah, the old days of classic electronica...

Sunday 13th March - Reading Matter

I admittedly didn't have the best night's sleep ever, just felt really bunged up and not the best ever, but hoped that at least if the cold was here now then it would be gone before I head off somewhere nice in a few weeks time, and of course that it'd be off before I have a good gig to go to next Friday too. I gradually got up, tried as much as possible to decongest myself, and then made The Apples In My Cake and me some breakfast to keep us both going nicely. It was a leisurely morning spent watching Country Tracks and taking in all the rather nice Sussex scenery including an old steam railway too.

The Scrabble came out later and The Apples scored her highest ever points total, and did really well. Not only did she use the triple words a few times, but also niftily made the best use of the X, Q and Z in particular. For example she not only did ZOOM on double word (blank used as O) for 26, but then followed that up with RITZ for 39 (as in putting on the ritz of course, her favourite Scrabble word ever!), and did QUIP in the bottom left corner for 45 as well (the Q on double letter had been used by me before to make QUINS, you see) as well as doing AXE for 26 too, so all good. Her score was way above what she'd done. Maybe it was Seth Lakeman inspiring her? For that I'm going to make "King and Country" tune of the day as she played two good moves duirng that track!

Later on we headed back to The Apples' place, and my friend came over too, so we would then be heading over to the City of Manchester Stadium to see Manchester City take on Reading in the FA Cup quarter final. We just had enough time to watch the semi-final draw before we set off, and out came City or Reading as the first ball drawn. And as Jim Rosenthal said "will play.." we both had a suspicion we'd get Manchester United and so it proved to be. Well if there's any incentive for us today, there it was right there as the balls were drawn. We wanted now to see City do the business.

The game kicked off and City had the most of the posession, with Shaun Wright-Phillips shooting low at the Reading keeper forcing a good save. David Silva was also unlucky as he went through, and a couple of free kicks from Aleksandar Kolarov and Carlos Tévez went over too, and nothing we seemed to hit was going in. The City fans were in good voice though and cheering the boys on, and at half time you could tell that the atmosphere was being ramped up with the inflatable bananas everywhere and in sight around the ground, as well as the Poznan being done multiple times.

The second half was a case of "would we score?" as a corner came over and a Reading defender headed against his own post, Micah Richards got to one corner but his header was well saved, David Silva linked well with Tévez but couldn't score, and then a couple of long range efforts from Yaya Toure went just wide. Eventually, and finally, City did score, and from a lovely floated David Silva corner Micah Richards headed it home to make it 1-0, and the relief and joy was plain to see as the crowd eruped with the goal. And that's how it stayed, thankfully.

We were happy bunnies, as it will be off to Wembley for the semi-final. Of course the problem is that a Manchester derby at Wembley means lots of people heading down to London at the same time, which might not work so well. And I must admit I'd rather the semi be on a neutral ground still instead of Wembley, kind of cheapens the idea of going there for the final really. But still, a Manchester derby for the FA Cup semi? Bring it on! The last time that happened was way back in 1926 and City won 3-0, only to lose 1-0 to Bolton in the final. And who happens to be in the other semi-final? Got it right - Bolton! Go figure...

Saturday 12th March - Come Dine With Mum

I had a pretty good day despite all the bunged up feeling I had, and that's saying a lot about what went on. First off, I posted the parcel that I needed to as a result of my eBay auction that had been successful, and so went to the Post Office to sort all that out. And it went for first class large letter rate too, saving me some money when I posted it off (I normally put free postage and packing on eBay these days and so then my net gain is the item price less that, I don't think it's fair when people put £6 postage on if it's cost them £2) and it's all gone nicely.

The postman knocked on my door later in the morning as I had something to sign for - and I hoped it was what I was waiting for. Add to that the new REM CD and a present I'd ordered recently as well, and it was a good post day really. Once I signed for the package, I carefully opened the padded bag, and inside was what I'd been waiting for - no less than a nice Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AI lens! I've been after a fixed length 50mm lens for a while now and having won this on eBay for a pretty decent price, I can say I can understand why. Okay, so it's manual focus only on my trusty Nikon D3000, but you get an aperture ring to set the aperture, and indeed a focussing length indicator as well so you can work out what'd be in focus and what wouldn't.

I thought that I'd have to have a play, but I made sure that my D3000 could see it, and it could - only in full manual mode, but that's what I expected anyway to be honest so no worries there. The fast aperture of 1.8 might be handy for night or gig photography (as long as I remember to bump up the ISO a bit too) but it's really well made and built, and feels rather solid as it attaches itself to the D3000 as well. All very nice and I'm sure that I'll have to experiment with it a bit to get the best out of it, and indeed practice too.

Later on The Apples In My Apple Cake came over and we headed over to her mum's place, as one of her relations had a birthday coming this week and we we were all giving the relation their presents as well as seeing some of the family. It was a nice afternoon actually, we had a cup of tea and a nice little cupcake and even had the candles on them singing Happy Birthday. Sometimes the simplest things work out to be the best, and it was the case here too which was good. We then headed back to mine for a while where the Scrabble came out and we had a relaxing afternoon with a game of that before it was time for us to get changed and ready.

We were just about to leave to head to my Mum's when the rain started to bucket it down, so it was straight to the very local taxi firm who did the business and had a car for us in no time to take us to Mum's. If it hadn't have been weeing it down, we'd have walked no problem but we were both looking good and didn't want to arrive like drowned rats. Mum greeted us when we got there and I opened a bottle of the Brewers' Dark that I'd got earlier from Morrisons, and all was well with the world.

My brother and his girlfriend were in fine fettle as they normally are, and she's always lovely to chat to as well which is good. My brother was more than pleased with his Dunham Massey beer and the old school sweets in a big box that we'd got him from the Dunham Massey National Trust shop, no less. I think he was deciding what to have but realised that as Mum was cooking us a lovely meal, that could wait a little till after we'd been fed (plus knowing how Mum feeds us all, might not have room left tonight). Conversation and wine flowed for everyone, and it was all very relaxed indeed.

Mum excelled herself and proved yet again (as if I needed proving!) that she really does her cooking well, tons better than me. She did a really nice pate for starters with some softly toasted bread that was melt in the mouth, followed by roast beef with potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire puds, roasties and lots of gravy. The beef was spot on and I ended up getting myself some more slices afterwards, it was that good. I just could have died and gone to heaven right there had it not been for the scrummy apple cake (my brother's favourite) that she'd also made, and that was soft and tender and with some cream, just was absolutely lovely. The Summer fruit tart that The Apples had was looking very good too.

Afterwards we had a good chat about all sorts between the five of us, and time sped by far too quickly. I was wary of myself feeling more bunged up but tried to keep things relatively under control as I didn't want to spoil things just because I wasn't 100%. It was nice too to see that my brother had been helping a fellow artist put some pictures up at North Manchester General hospital, and apparently without realising it had met The Apples' elder sister at the same time. Small world and all that isn't it? It was soon time for us to get a taxi back to my place and the taxi firm near to Mum's charged £1 more than the other one we'd used near to me. I'll have to remember that for next time...

Tune of the day in the meantime has to be one of the tracks from REM's "Collapse Into Now" album which I played earlier during our Scrabble game. It's a really good album and one that might need a good few listens to grow on you somewhat, but the best and most catchy one is definitely "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter" which really comes at you, in a good way. The guest vocals by Peaches really add to that immediate feel as well as the fast pace of the whole thing. And yes, the underscores in the title are completely intentional.

Friday 11th March - Bunged Up

I had a feeling I was coming down with something approaching a cold today, and as the day wore on I've started to feel more and more bunged up inside. It probably didn't help that yesterday I had to attend a meeting that had a room with stuffiness left right and centre and no air circulating around, and also that today I was in another meeting where the air was severely lacking to say the least. We had the door open to try and let some air in, but it really didn't feel at its best in there to be honest. As the afternoon wore on, I tried to keep some hot drinks down me and keep myself going.

I went to Tesco and got the food shopping done, and that at least meant that I didn't need to head out again if I had to. I did make sure I got plenty of orange juice as well as cold drinks, and also some Lemsip sachets to make sure that I could take them regularly and keep myself going as much as possible. I had already entered the Euromillions draw for tonight but noticed the queue of people who were entering the draw in the hope of winning an estimated £68 million - can't say that I blame them to be quite honest. I just wish that I could win.

In some good news, I've manged to sell a couple of items on eBay, so I needed to make sure I had some well padded envelopes to post the items off. This is where the local discount pound shops near me are perfect for - they have exactly the size I want at a price I want too, a mere £1 for six, which you can't complain at whatsoever. It meant that with payment being received for one I could package it all up ready to take to the post office tomorrow and get that posted off - makes life easier as I'll have more time tomorrow to do so.

I ended up almost falling asleep in front of the television tonight as I just felt really warm and was trying to relax as much as I could with the telly on and with me dosed up with a Lemsip, but I guess tiredness was kicking in and gradually I was nodding off. I spoke to The Love In My Heart later on and she had had a long day, so I guessed both of us would be having an early night to be honest. You wouldn't want to see the mucus that came out of my nose either - pretty horrid stuff.

Tune of the day, somewhat appropriately, is "Feel Like S**t (Deja Vu)" by Suicidal Tendencies, because it pretty much sums up how the cold makes me feel. And it's also a fast paced number that pretty rocks too - lots of anger and feeling in this one about how it feels when you're not 100%. And there's a few swear words in there as well, so not something you'd want to listen to in front of any children either. It was also an interesting time in ST's career, as the track was part of a mini-album in between them leaving Virgin and signing with Epic in the USA.

Thursday 10th March - Dynamo Disaster

As you can well imagine, I was looking forward to seeing what Manchester City could do tonight against Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League. I'd been waiting for this game for a few weeks and to be honest, I already knew that it was going to be a pretty hard game, considering what Kiev had done to Besiktas in the last round. We were at least having the second leg at home, so if we managed to come away with anything from the game tonight that'd give us a solid foundation. Well, that's what I thought, anyway.

But before that, I had some quality time planned with The Love In My Heart after work. I headed from work to Rain Bar and got The Love a drink ready for her arrival. She was quite surprised when she saw what I also had with me too - a bunch of flowers from the rather lovely Venus flower shop on Oxford Street. I don't always buy flowers (too much is overkill and spoils the moment) but thought that it'd be a nice thing to do and I know that little surprises like that really do make someone very happy. I think she was both shocked and surprised in equal measure but thankfully she liked the flowers.

We had a chat about all sorts in Rain whilst a very nice pint of Brewers Dark went down by me - it was gorgeous and well worth it after a hard day at the office. I just felt so cosy and close sat chatting and with her gorgeousness looking into my eyes. I know, I know, I'm getting all romantic and soppy now. But when you have something so lovely, it's well worth it and well worth savouring all the time that you do have together. We walked back towards Piccadilly to get our buses home later and I could tell that she didn't want to go home really, and had I not arranged for some of the family to come over I think I might have been staying out a lot longer.

My uncle, cousin and his girlfriend came over later for the game, and at first City started pretty brightly, with a couple of good chances from Aleksandar Kolarov's crosses. But Kiev looked dangerous going forward too, and sure enough half way through the first half a cross from the left saw Andriy Schevcheko beat Joe Hart and Kolarov to the ball and he poked it in for 1-0. Not good. And as the first half went on, it was clear Kiev had the upper hand and I was getting a little worried about the collapse of the performance.

At the start of the second half we started with 10 men initially, as Mario Balotelli was not present. It was clear when he did come on his eyes were watering and he wasn't feeling at his best either. We all thought it was a little odd till I found out after the game that he suffers from hay fever with certain types of grass, and then I guessed it was an allergic reaction which had kicked in for him. Not long later he was substituted with Carlos Tévez and for a while we had some chances to get back into it. But unfortunately, Kiev scored a second and looked in total control from then on, Joe Hart saving well to deny a third which would have been the end of things for us. We were not happy with the performance at all though.

So next Thursday we need to win by three clear goals - only 2-0 to us will force extra time, and 3-1 would mean for example that they'd win on away goals. So the task is there and it's going to be pretty hard. I just hope and pray that we come out and absolutely go for it, and battle hard to stay in Europe. Other teams have managed to come back from 2-0 down before so it's not the end of the world but an away goal would have made lots of difference, I think. Tune of the day in the meantime is "Disappointed" by Morrissey, kind of sums up how I feel after the City game really.

Wednesday 9th March - Watermarking

I had a bit of an experiment tonight, which proved to be quite interesting. As you know, I love my music and my last two DVD players have both had the facility to play DVD-Audio, which is advanced resolution surround audio (96Khz and 24 bit audio as opposed to 44Khz 16 bit of CDs) and as such means gorgeous sound quality from some classic and some new albums. Of course, as the format's a little obscure, this means that some of the discs are fast becoming collectors' items for those true audiophiles out there (for example Led Zeppelin's "How The West Was Won" now goes on eBay for silly money, sort of £100 plus) and if you have a scratched disc that doesn't play, it might be costly to replace.

Now, DVD-Audio discs are written entirely different to DVD video discs. The DVD-Audio discs do have a video section, and for some discs if they have a Dolby Digital 5.1 version of the album that'll be in there, so that the disc will at least read in normal DVD players and play the 5.1 surround mix. The audio section though is where the high resolution stuff happens, and as you can well imagine most people would quite like to copy protect that stuff. Knowing how the CSS protection on DVDs was broken fairly easily, there's a bit of a stricter protection system, and it comes in two layers no less.

The first is CPPM (Copy Protection for Pre-Recorded Media) and this basically has a file on the disc with an encrypted media key which identifies and authenticates the player that you're playing the disc on. The player needs to get a key from this file, then decrypt it. Now if you hardware change the player's decryption methods, the key is unusable and so won't play any protected discs. It took years for people to work out possible ways of circumventing the protection, and even then there's still something which can stop someone in their tracks.

And that is the second layer of protection - digital watermarking. In this case, as well as the CPPM protection, the watermark is effectively a non-audible piece of audio that can be checked by the player. If it spots the watermark and the media key file has been compromised in any way (for example if you attempted to break the CPPM encryption) then at a predtermined period (normally 15 or 30 seconds depending on the level of watermarking) the disc will mute the audio and depending on the player either stop completely or display a "copyright lock" message.

As such, there's no known way of getting past the watermarking, and as such if one of your precious DVD-Audio discs is watermarked, there's no point of turning some of your DVD blank discs into coasters attempting to actually back up the thing for safe keeping. There is actually a way you can find out if your discs are watermarked though, and that's by using a program that reads the DVD-Audio layer, lets you extract a track from the disc to a wav file, then analyses that for the watermark and informs you in a text file if the track is watermarked. Normally if the track is, then so is the whole disc and that's a good way of knowing.

It turned out during my testing that one major record company in particular decided to watermark all their discs, meaning effectively that you need to be much more careful handling their discs just in case you can't get another original disc as a spare just in case. Other companies did too. However, some of the discs I owned and tested manufactured by other companies seemed not to watermark their discs, which at least means that if the worst comes to worse and the disc might be looking worse for wear, I can at least do something about it in the future. Intriguing, I think, and good to know for the future if I decided to upgrade my rig.

Tune of the day in the meantime was actually from one of the DVD-Audio discs I was testing and also playing on my rig for pure high fidelity goodness: "Love Comes To Me" by Bonnie Prince Billy. It's the opening track of the album "The Letting Go" which had a very limited DVD-Audio release (and yes, I have it!) It really does bring out the violins and strings nicely during the opening as well as give real depth and flow to the start of the album to get you in the right frame of mind. Well worth searching for if you can.

Tuesday 8th March - Pancakes Like Delia Would Make (minus capers and lime)

It didn't escape me that it was Shrove Tuesday today (in other words Pancake Day) and neither had it escaped The Lemon On My Pancake, who was all set to go with plenty of ingredients to bring round to my place tonight. The deal was that I would be making the tea, and then afterwards for dessert I'd let The Lemon loose in the kitchen and do the pancakes. She had apparently been seeing the adverts with Delia Smith in a lot and she was going to follow her recipe that she had from her ads for Waitrose. Thankfully even Delia knows not to mess with a classic recipe and resort to her usual two favourite ingredients of capers and lime.

But first the working day, and what a day it proved. I successfully managed to resolve a long standing issue with a HP Colour Laserjet 2840 printer and a Mac which just decided to print all PDF documents with a red background. I'd tried a few brute force methods to resolve it, and today I'd tried updating the Mac OS X HP driver set, updating Acrobat Pro 8 to the latest release, which helped a bit but still had some documents printing out red. In the end I worked out how to resolve it - if you selected "print as image" and printed that way, the background was as it should be and not red. The member of staff concerned was pretty happy let me tell you.

The Lemon came round tonight and I soon had myself in cooking mode whilst she was glued to Emmerdale on the telly. I made some tagliatelle with sauce and some meatballs and it went well together I think. It meant that I could use up the rest of the fresh pasta to save wasting it by going off and as a whole it worked quite nicely methinks. It was also good timing by me as Emmerdale had just finished when I was about to serve up, so that was rather good.

It was then, after a break, The Lemon's turn to take control of the kitchen and created her pancake batter mix with some melted butter, eggs, milk and flour and beat that to a lovely consistency. With the frying pan nice and hot it was time to pour some of the mix in and then let it cook nicely. Thankfully my Ikea non-stick pan passed with flying colours and The Lemon even did some flipping of the pancakes as well which was impressive. Much more impressive than when I had a go later, let me tell you. With some sugar and fresh lemon on, it hit the spot nicely.

We ended up watching a documentary on BBC4 which took you behind the scenes of the English National Ballet as they were getting ready to show Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall. It was a good insight into just how painful it is ballet can be for those taking part (holding those positions causes ankle bruising and often bloody toes) and how some of the instructors are so demanding in what they want, the main one Derek calling everything pretty much bobbins, even on the opening night. Makes you wonder just what you'd have to do to please him to be honest.

Meanwhile tune of the day is the rather good "Enter Sandman" by Metallica. It just reminds me of how a lot of indie and alternative clubs at the time started to play more rockier stuff once grunge kicked in, and even though Metallica were always thrash the number of people who used to ask for tracks from their self-titled album (aka The Black Album for those who don't know) meant that people would go mental to it. And even now, it's still one of their finest tracks of all time.

Monday 7th March - Getting Things Done On A Monday

It was back to work and to be honest, I didn't want to go back in today. Monday just lately has been really dragging somewhat and I guess that it's because I know there's so much to do in so little time. Mind you, I did get the chance to road test a couple of pieces of software and make sure that they worked with Windows 7, as well as get some prices from one of our software suppliers for upgrading costs. Thankfully, one of the contacts I have there is a really lovely person, and we ended up having a quick chat about the football. She's a Man U fan and her boyfriend is a Liverpool fan - I bet it was fun and games that was happening on Sunday afternoon when Liverpool won!

I spent some time this evening also catching up on emails. I figured that if I wanted to sit down and get things done, then Monday night's a good time to do so whilst I'm still in work mode. It's always nice to write a good email to someone, especially friends, as a bit of thought has to go into it. It's even nicer to call them or meet with them too of course but that's not always possible if they don't live close to you. It was good to think about what had been happening and write it in a nice email as well - and I even wrote one to The Love In My Heart - simply because I can, and she did tell me the other day how nice it was to have emails when we were first getting to know each other. Awww.

I did also spend some time relaxing and watching the World's Greatest F1 Cars DVD. I got this together with a book about F1 at Christmas, and had watched some of the DVD with the really old 1930s, 1940s and 1950s Grand Prix cars (F1 only came to being in 1950). It was good therefore to see some of the more recent cars along with some classic clip footage of them in action, and how the designers would try new things all the time to be ahead of the rest. Does anyone remember the six wheeled Tyrrell from 1976 or the Brabham "fan car" from 1978? Those were the sort of things I mean, proper inventions that were really different. I've never seen the fan car for real, one day I will I'm sure.

Oh, and to finish things off nicely for the day, I also watched some more classic F1 in the guise of the Murray Walker's "Magic Moments" video. Yes, you heard me correctly, good old VHS tape. In it Murray mentions the genius of Gilles Villeneuve, how John Watson used to win from the back with some storming drives, the legendary rivalry between Alain Prost an Ayrton Senna, the fighter and winner that was Nigel Mansell, and even lots of moments just about the Monaco Grand Prix as well, including of course the 1982 race with its rather dramatic ending. It's getting me nicely ready for the F1 season, let me tell you!

Tune of the day appropriately enough has to be "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac. When you're revved up and ready to go to watch the F1, there's just nothing better than a blast of the iconic bassline as it builds up with the screaming guitar kicking in. And trust me - in advanced resolution surround on the DVD-Audio disc of "Rumours" it sounds even better. Just listening to it now makes me want to be awake at 7am in the morning on 27th March to see the Australian race in Melbourne. I can't wait!

Sunday 6th March - Walking For Carrot Cake

The Love In My Heart and I had a relatively relaxed morning, with a bacon toastie sandwich and orange juice whilst we watched Country Tracks and took the pace of the day relatively easily to start with. The Love had to dash off to do some family stuff but promised that she would be back later which I'm sure would be good, and so I kept an eye on the score of the cricket. Wow, what drama that was as England pulled victory from the jaws of certain defeat somehow. I can't wait to see the highlights later, I suspect that they'll be rather good to be honest.

Anyway, I wanted to spend some time out walking, so I headed on the bus from near my place and headed to East Didsbury, getting off the bus at the Parrs Wood Lane/Millgate Lane stop and then walking along Millgate Lane to Fletcher Moss Gardens. It was interesting to see how much the water had receded since the flooding a few weeks back, and there was still evidence of the water, especially just off the main path along part of the park and the tennis courts, where the outside of the courts really showed just how much water they had - the outsides were pretty much floody bits of mud!

After a walk around the rockery it was time for a coffee, and so headed to the Alpine Tea Room within the gardens itself. I have to say that I've always liked the coffee in there and so decided to eat in and have the coffee along with some home made carrot cake. And wow! It's the best carrot cake I've had in Manchester, easily. Lots of moistness in the cake without feeling stodgy, nuts on the top of it and a sumptuous middle creamy section just resulted in me taking things slowly whilst admiring the place. The insides just remind you of how you'd feel at home, with bookshelves and real books, old clocks and mirrors, and a lovely stained glass window to boot. As for the cake, here it is!

The best carrot cake in Manchester at the Alpine Tea Room

Told you it was nice! After that and the coffee I walked back to the bus stop in good time for the bus home, and not long after I got back The Love In My Heart rang me to tell me she would be on her way over in around an hour's time so that was good. I had taken the camera with me whilst I was out, so I spent some time looking at the pictures and seeing what I'd got up to, and had pretty much finished sorting them out by the time The Love arrived, which meant a cup of coffee was well in order for us both.

After that, we decided to go for a walk together, and so we walked up to the local cycle path that was the former Fallowfield Loop Line and did a few miles down there passing through Fallowfield, under Princess Road and then on towards Chorlton. Because part of the old loop line near Chorlton onwards is now being used for the Phase 3 Metrolink extension from St Werburgh's Road onwards, you could see the station taking shape nicely and all the track is good to go. It does mean that the cycle path has to go around it slightly but they've kept it in use, and from here it's a short walk to the centre of Chorlton.

We headed to The Bar where a nice pint of Ginger Marble ale was waiting for me along with a nice glass of pinot grigio for The Love too. The jukebox was seven plays for a mere £1, so I had to have a go of that and put on seven very different bits of music, which were: Roxy Music "Do The Strand", REM - "Losing My Religion", Metallica - "Nothing Else Matters" (which is tune of the day as I like the sentiments of that one), Human League - "Don't You Want Me", Deep Purple - "Smoke On The Water", Depeche Mode - "Everything Counts" and lastly of all The Jam - "All Around The World" a nice early single, and why not?

It was then good timing for the bus back to mine, and I made us some rather nice medallion steak with chips and peas for tea, which filled the gap nicely before a well earned game of Scrabble, where I ended up making JOY on triple word for 39, before playing NIX and EX with the X on triple letter both ways, scoring 51. It was good too having some Seth Lakeman on in the background as we played, so all was well with the world there and the time went too quick!

Saturday 5th March - One Nil Will Do

I had a pretty good day all round today. First off, I headed to Iceland to get some snack bits in for some of my relations, as they were heading to mine later to watch the City game whilst I was actually there watching it. I also stopped off at one of the local pound shops and managed to get some air freshener and some kitchen wipes too, saving a trip to Tesco or Asda in the process (and most likely paying more, so all good there) and this in addition meant I could finish getting the house cleaned up so that it'd all be neat and tidy for later on.

After a spot of lunch I headed towards Ardwick as I wanted to see if that PFD photography place was open. Sadly, I remembered that they don't always open on a Saturday, and so instead went straight back on the bus to the city centre, and walked up Lever Street to the Real Camera Co. It's always intriguing i there, and someone was buying a Canon EOS40D in there, and asking the question "can you use this without a lens attached?" which of course the answer is no. I don't think the customer realised that it was just the body only and you'd need a lens first before you get started. Mind you, some of the Nikon lenses in there, as gorgeous as they were, weren't too cheap.

What intrigued me most of all though were the sheer array of film cameras that they had on the shelves, with a glass cabinet full of Leica, and then along some back shelves plenty of Canon and Nikon and Pentax film efforts. It'd be interesting to try a film SLR out and see how that would be in terms of processing and performance et al, and I know too that I could at least possibly use some of the lenses I have in manual mode, so would be good to at least have a blast of. Plus of course there's the waiting for the film to be developed and processed too.

Later on my friend and his wife collected me from mine as we were heading over to The Love In My Heart's place first, and then the two of us over to the City of Manchester Stadium to see Manchester City take on Wigan. We left a little earlier from The Love's than normal as we wanted to head to the ticket office to get the tickets for the forthcoming cup games with Dynamo Kiev (Europa League) and Reading (FA Cup). The queue was far too long so we got into the ground and had a well earned brew instead which went down rather nicely.

The game itself wasn't too much to write about to be honest. However City did press in the first half, and a neat move involving Yaya Toure resulted in the ball being played to David Silva, whose low and hard shot was fumled by the Wigan keeper right through his legs and in the net for 1-0. City went close a couple of times in the half but in the second half it was mainly Wigan pressing, and they hit the bar and went just wide in stoppage time which might have given them an equaliser. It wasn't pretty but if someone said you'd get three points, I'd take it. At least it means we're slowly trying to get back towards the top two, especially as Arsenal had drawn 0-0 against Sunderland earlier.

We then went back to the ticket office, and although there was a queue, it wasn't as bad as we thought it would be, and so waited for a while and then got the tickets sorted out. As it turned out the tickets for Reading cost less than we thought, so that was good, and soon we were making our way back towards The Love's place, and got nicely warmed up for a few minutes before we all were heading off, myself and The Love in her car, and my friend and his wife in his car, and arranged to meet up at The Ashlea for an evening meal together.

Thankfully there were tables for the four of us and so we soon were thinking about what to have for starter and main. I went for the stilton and pepercorn mushrooms which were as gorgeous as they usually were, and for the main I had one of the specials on the board - the chicken and chorizo risotto, which was stunningly lovely. Both my friend and The Love went for the fish and chips, which also looked good, whilst my friend's wife had the rather nice gammon and even had a jacket potato with it too, so that was all good. We love it in there, the atmosphere is always relaxed and friendly, the staff are good as is the food, and so makes life easier.

We headed off respectively home later having had a good time, and when The Love and I got back to mine we settled in to watch the last instalment of the Mad Dogs series before heading for bed. Thankfully The Love's dad had recorded it from Sky for us, and we were able then to enjoy it and see what happened at the end. It worked out pretty well and I think the balance of the four main characters and the actors who played them really set the scenes perfectly. Whenever I see Philip Glenister though I always think of him as Gene Hunt in Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes, and so tune of the day is the Bowie classic "Life on Mars?" because it just set the scene for the whole series. And of course John Simm, also in Mad Dogs, was Sam Tyler in Life on Mars.

Friday 4th March - Storage Woes

I'd had another productive day in the office and apart from being in a meeting all morning where we pretty much thrashed out just exactly what we'd like to see as Core (gold) applications for our master Windows 7 image if we go that way, I also had chance in the afternoon to test my Windows 7 64 bit workstation, and then see if Adobe Web Premium CS5 would layer itself on and indeed install the 64-bit version of Photoshop. Amazingly it did and I'm sure that when I used it, it was pretty quick and did the job rather nicely indeed. I also then had the chance to see what else would work on a 64-bit environment and surprisingly quite a few things did!

I headed from work straight on the bus towards Northenden and from the Post House (as all us locals know it, not some bobbins Britannia Hotel) I walked down along the road near to Wythenshawe Park and soon to my friend's house, as he had told me the other night that for some reason the PC wasn't seeing the hard drive at all. I had a spare 40GB SATA drive with me for testing, and so we could see what the score was. I checked all the drive connectors, all seemed well, and nothing. Even changing motherboard SATA connectors didn't do anything. I plugged in the 40GB SATA drive and it all worked.

Just to test things out, I put the other drive in the freezer in an antistatic bag and waited to see if that would bring it back to life. It didn't (sometimes it has been known to). My friend reckoned that when they had power cut last Friday it might have taken the PC down with it, and possibly then the hard drive in turn. Ouch. Not the sort of thing you'd want to happen but I guess that as the hard drive electronics appeared to be scrambled (you can actually hear the drive spinning round) then that would be a sensible explanation as to why it didn't work whatsoever.

We soon had the 40GB drive up and running with Windows XP reinstalled, along with his Kaspersky antivirus, Firefox, all the web plugins, all the little bits of software that we could get hold of as well as the drivers and so on. It was relatively pain-free on the whole and the drive did its job well. What at least it did prove was that the old hard drive had pretty much died and that the PC was perfectly okay. With my friend's wife cooking a lovely tea as well, it was good to chat to them both and get everything up and running, so that felt pretty good to be able to do that.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "The Chromancer II: Nemesis" by The Sword. I decided when I got home to whack on their most recent album "Warp Riders" and this for me is the stand out track from it. It's pretty much everything about the band in nutshell, nice heavy rock lines that are a cross between Black Sabbath and Metallica, and lots of dark mood throughout. No wonder this was in my favourite tracks from last year, it just sounds epic as it chugs along too - the sort of thing I like!

Thursday 3rd March - Slipstreaming Away

I had a bit of a battle on my hands at work as I wanted to get Adobe Acrobat Professional 9 packaged up so it would be suitable for an SCCM-based installation. In theory it shouldn't be too difficult as I'd previously sequenced the MSI, customised MST transform and MSP patches in a Novell Zenworks environment, and that worked. However, I did want to include all the patches that had come out since then to make it just that little bit more secure, and that meant downloading them all and then seeing what happened. SCCM didn't like adding a long command line with PATCH= and then all the patches, so I needed to slipstream them in.

After doing a bit of research, I found out two things: first, you only need to add in any Adobe quarterly security patches, so you have to do them in a certain order. Second, you must also make sure that they're done in ascending numerical order. All seemed well with that, so I used the msiexec MSI installer to create my administrative image with 9.0.0, and then layered in each update, one at a time. I got that all done, and ran the Customization Wizard to create the MST transform with all the bits I needed, and then tried via SCCM to roll the install out. It failed. Every time.

I then tried to run the MSI on its own from our SCCM server to install it, and it failed saying "invalid serial number" despite the fact I knew full well that the serial number was indeed valid and correct. I did some further research and found out that Adobe's recent 9.4.2 update might have been the cause of it, so I started again with an administrative image, then bolted on all the updates again all the way through to 9.4.0, and tested the MSI with MST to see if took the serial number, which it did. Hurrah! This also meant that distributing via SCCM should also work, and it did. I felt rather pleased with my little self, I can tell you.

I headed home and off to Tesco to do the shopping. I would have done it tomorrow but I'm off to my friend's straight from work to try and fix their poorly PC, so it was a case of walking round, get what I needed and then head home. I had a bit of a brainwave as to what to make for tea for myself and The Lights In My Sky tonight, and so set about it all once she arrived. I did chicken tikka massala with fresh diced chicken, along with some lime and coriander rice and garlic and coriander naan bread. It went down pretty well and she seemed to enjoy it, so that was good.

Tune of the day in the meantime was something I've not been able to get out of my head all day to be honest: "Maiden, Mother and Crone" by The Sword. I noticed that their tour has been rescheduled for May this year so I might have to head along to the Academy 3 and check it out, and it also meant that I had some of their tunes that I'd played on the Guitar Hero series of games to mind when I thought about seeing them. I quite liked that track actually, and have even tried it on vocals as well as blasting out the drums on it, which I've got quite used to now although it can be a little awkward at times!

Wednesday 2nd March - The Magic of the Cup Lives On

It was straight over to see The Milk In My Coffee after work as she very kindly had offered to cook the tea for me before myself and my friend were going to head over to see Manchester City play Aston Villa in the fifth round of the FA Cup, which I'm sure would at least be exciting. As I was heading towards the city centre from work, she asked me if I could get a bottle of wine along the way, so I stopped off in the Tesco Metro in Piccadilly Gardens and got her a nice bottle of Wolf Blass Shiraz which was on offer, and then headed on the bus to her place, where a rather nice lasagne was cooking.

With tea consumed and it tasting rather good, we relaxed a bit and chatted before my friend came over, and he was well up for the football as I was. We knew it was going to be relatively quiet in terms of numbers tonight, primarily because the game was on the telly, but also because a lot of people for whatever reason can't be meithered with cup games. Their loss, I say, especially as the way it's looking there could be a potential final appearance at Wembley on the cards. And who wouldn't want to go to that? We headed to the ground and noticed the quietness and I reckoned that the ground was about half full, and an attendance of just over twenty five and a half thousand isn't good. At all.

Still, their loss was the gain of us for being there and within five minutes we'd taken the lead. The corner came in from Aleksandar Kolarov, the ball bobbled in the area and off a Villa defender right in the path of Yaya Toure who smashed it home for 1-0. And with Gareth Barry and Patrick Vieira holding the midfield together and quite tightly, it meant that the likes of David Silva could play their flair game and really put City in the driving seat. It didn't take too long for City to double the lead either, as a gorgeous through ball from Yaya Toure found Mario Balotelli, who took it on and then smashed it home with a clinical and excellent finish.

So all was well and I have to say that despite the weather getting a little colder, seeing City do the business always warms me up nicely. And in the second half following good work from Zabaleta, the ball came loose from the Villa defence leaving David Silva to smash it home low and hard for 3-0. And from then on City cruised to victory and set up a sixth round tie against Reading, who had beaten Everton 1-0 at Goodison Park last night. It won't be easy, but the quarter finals of the FA Cup have to be something to relish and let's hope we can do the job!

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Hey Jude" by The Beatles, which blasted out of the City stadium speakers before kick off, with everyone singing in and changing the "Hey Jude" bit of the chorus to "Ciiiiity" as you do. I had to sing along with it as well and blast it out, because it got me in the mood for seeing the mighty blues do the business. And why not, I say!

Tuesday 1st March - Spring Has (sort of) Sprung

After the rather cold and windy day yesterday, it was quite reassuring to be up this morning and find that the weather, although a little crisp, was quite clear and during the day it felt rather still and nowhere near as cold as it had been. Maybe now we're in March Spring has sort of sprung upon us, and I must admit that it's a pleasure to go home from work and not actually be in the dark as I'm heading home. And as I headed home today, it was nice to see a crisp clear sky that made the whole place feel that little bit cosier. All good.

I spent some time today with Adobe Application Manager and the installation DVD for Adobe CS5 Web Premium, which pretty much had lots of the stuff from Design Standard (apart from, bizarrely, InDesign) as well as all the web stuff. It looked pretty good from where I was, but it was a case of using their Application Manager which would then package up an MSI. The new version at least now lets you add on updates by adding the zip files that you've downloaded, so everything integrates pretty nicely. It's now uploaded to our SCCM console for testing by me so we'll see what happens tomorrow.

I also noticed this morning that there were not one, but two leaflets, which had been possibly posted through the door last night, and both by two local poliitcal parties. For those of you who don't know, the local swimming baths has been saved from closure (it was due to be closed because of the council's cuts) and what seemed a little off to me were that both Labour and Lib Dems were claiming it was their action which had prevented a closure. It smacked of cheap points scoring and to be honest, they both needed to look at what actually went on and it was something that the local people did, without any backing from any of them thank you very much. It'll certainly make for an interesting council election come May that's for sure.

Must admit that I've been keeping an eye on eBay as well as some of the local camera shops to see if I can possibly get a 50mm 1.8 lens for my Nikon beastie. I know that the two lenses I've got are good for standard short and longer range shooting, but if I wanted to do portraits or stuff at gigs where I'm allowed to take pics (for a few indie bands for example) then something like a 50mm would possibly be ideal for the task. I know how much they are new (standard AF is around £100 which I'd have to manually focus on my D3000, or the AF-S version for around £250+) but it's a case of seeing what you might be able to get.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "In Motion" by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, from the Oscar-winning soundtrack to the film The Social Network. Obviously as you can imagine I was quite pleased that the NIN frontman has been recognised as a musician and instrumentalist and that the two of them managed to compose such an evocative soundtrack that somehow fits in well with the whole theme. The end part has plenty of what sounds like Commodore 64 instruments as well, especially the arpeggio parts, and that as you can imagine for someone like me really does feel rather nice.