Dear Diary... May 2007

Thursday 31st May - Long Days, Thundery Afternoons and Black Nights

Well it was a very long day today as I ended up doing overtime tonight with some extended student support. I didn't mind that much as such because it meant that I was able to do some research and get on with a few things during the day like PC roll outs. Well, it was the plan. But as my two colleagues and I were lifting PC base units and 17" CRT monitors that were being replaced down the stairs (the building we were working in doesn't have a lift to the first floor, bit rubbish eh?) it meant that we had to do quite a few trips up and down carrying stuff until we had two trolleys laden full with old kit ready to head back to base. Well.. sort of. The rain and thunder then decided to absolutely bucket it down, so much so that it was just impossible to do anything except stand under the covers of the ground floor entrance and wait. And wait. And then wait a bit more. The rain decided to let off enough so we absolutely went for it wheeling the trolleys back.

It felt a strange sort of evening working really: on the one hand the printing wasn't going as mental as we thought it might have done - a bit of a let up considering the month was just basically hammered with print outs. On the other, it was a case of being able to give support out there to those who needed it and I'm quite sure that those who leave it till the last minute do so for a reason: I had someone come in at 7pm who had never printed to the A1 printers before and needed to know what to do - but they got there in the end and were pretty happy with what came out - so no complaints really which is a good thing. Just felt really brain shattered though as I left at 8pm for home - and I thankfully managed to get back without too many problems.

I decided I needed to play some rock classics, not least as I was perusing the BBC's Seven Ages of Rock web site and saw some preview clips of the fourth episode, the Heavy Metal one. In it, the guys from Deep Purple were talking about the completely seminal "Black Night" (my tune of the day on the premise that it's a metal classic and the extended version that's on the digital remaster of their "In Rock" album sounds fantastic yet distorted and loud, just as it should be) and just how they got the song together made me smile - they basically made it up as they went along and just put in some killer riffs at the same time. Sometimes the best songs written just are done like that - it's not about deep meaningful stuff, it's about making the music and lyrics work together. And I still think like Beavis and Butt-Head when I hear the intro to the song, sort of "Dun dun duh dun duh duh dun duh duh duh dun dun - dun dun! dun dun!" etc. You get the idea.

Wednesday 30th May - Page The Oracle

Another interesting day today in that first of all I ended up spending some time with a colleague from another site successfully packaging an application with a view to next year's student build. He had managed to build an MSI, but it failed when you logged on as a restricted user. One look at the CD later and I soon had the idea sussed - use the MSI from the main program folder, copy the folder to the server, use the MSI install (plus the MSP patch) and put in the custom information that we needed in order to install it but not activate the site licence (it breaks apparently after you image a PC, so you want to run the licence activator post-imaging). Anyway, as a test, got the installer running, plus a small tool you need to run in order to make sure limited users can launch the application - then activated the licence, and logged in as a student, and badabing! All worked. My colleague was chuffed to bits (as was I) and it meant that it was one less thing to worry about.

That done, I then worked on something else that had been bugging me a little - an install of an Oracle client on an admin PC complete with configuration for them to access some Oracle ODBC databases. The documentation I had was frankly rubbish, and I had to use my nouse to actually work out the right way to do the install. Oh, and the install of Oracle only lets the admin user run the stuff in there unless you specifically give Users read and execute rights on the folder and contents. Er, great. Surely the fact that it's a client install would indicate you've got a non-administrative user running the program? Possibly not, but there you go. The things I have to deal with.

Went round to my mum's for a while straight from work, always nice to do. In fact I was able to see both my sisters and their children too because Mum had taken one of them out shopping with her, and that was really good to see everyone. I know I'm biased but my sisters' children are becoming cute little handfuls now and it's just really nice to see them develop and become who they are. Also good to catch up with Mum, and I mentioned the new M&S ad for kids that pastiches' the Monkees theme and the title sequence. Of course Mum absolutely loves it and thinks the people who did the ad got it spot on, even right down to them running out of the water in a funny way. Well it made me giggle too cos when I saw it I thought "that'll be Mum happy then!" Ended up having something to eat at Mum's and generally caught up with everyone, always nice to do. And in fact Mum gave me a little something - the bus timetables for my holiday! She sent off for one for herself when she goes away, and they sent two and so had one spare. Aren't Mum's just fantastic sometimes?

Anyway, got home and needed to play something loud to wind down the day - and so it was time for a mixture of rock and rap or rock and dance, so it was the Spawn soundtrack first followed then by the Judgement Night soundtrack. Now that does rock, big time. In fact tune of the day is Biohazard and Onyx's title theme "Judgement Night" - as it not only rocks - hard - but the rap vocals are done brilliantly between the two bands, and it sounds really intense and lyrical. The days when this would get played in indie and rock clubs alike and everyone would just do their best rock/rap posing whilst moshing away yelling "Judgement Niiiiiiiiiiiiiight!" full blast. Oh yes. I was one of them, I admit.

Tuesday 29th May - Echoes Of A Distant Past

It felt like Monday at work today even though I actually knew it was a Tuesday. I think that was primarily because to be honest, I was so catching up on things that I needed to do that were left before the break, and because I also had to work on some new development of applications (as you do). First thing first though, a quick look at all our A1 plotters reveals that they've now topped the 6,000 page count for this month, completely smashing our previous all time total for one month. That's really a heck of a lot of work to be honest and it makes me wonder whether in fact it's all so needed, but that's just me I suppose.

I also then had to see what supplies we needed and what needed to be ordered, and it ended up being quite a sizeable amount, but all definitely stuff that we had to have to keep going for the rest of the term. I'm sure the relevant parties might have been surprised, but at the same time I know how much our printers are being used at the moment and keeping them going, above all else, is our absolute priority at the moment. Still, I had to wait around for a relevant signatory and then to take over the order by hand to our central purchasing bods - not something I do every day I should add. Anyway, that done it was then time to head upstairs to help roll out a couple of laptops to staff and get them all configured and working. In the end I'm glad I spent that time to do that - because more work done now means less hassle later (well that's the theory anyway).

I got home and felt the need to go and play some vinyl, primarily because I'd been watching the Seven Ages of Rock series on BBC2 but also because I felt like a change. So on went Pink Floyd's "Meddle" and while side one is great, "Echoes" which is the whole of side two, is an absolute meisterwerk, the Floyd at their best and as such has to be my tune of the day. It just feels so floaty free and really allows you to relax whilst listening to it - it's also a bit uneasy in places but there's no doubting that it's up there with the Floyd's classics. In contrast I even played the 9" single of Nine Inch Nails' "March of the Pigs" before realising that I needed to keep it safe (along with the "Closer" 12" singles I have) because they're now worth a few quid, according to my Rare Record Price Guide 2008. But back to the Floyd - it was "The Dark Side of the Moon" for me next, not least "Money" - again classic Floyd here and in a way it goes to show just how much they went downhill after The Wall. Their 1970s Harvest output was the best era, for sure.

Monday 28th May - Bank Holiday Reminisces

I decided regardless of the weather to get out of the house today, and I ultimately decided that a trip to Chester would be a good idea, as it wasn't too far to go, plus I could just immerse myself in a nice walk, and if need be, I could always shelter from the rain if it came. So it was out of the house and off to the local train station at around 9.30am and got the train into Piccadilly, so I could get the departure for Chester just after 10am (okay it was the Holyhead train but it stopped at Chester and was also quicker than the normal service which goes to Llandudno) and because of my crafty plan, I'd arrived in Chester at around 11am. Fantastic. As it was a bank holiday the free shuttle bus from the station to the centre wasn't running, so I walked it instead, and to be brutally honest it didn't take that long.

I headed straight down Foregate Street for the clock tower that you see in the middle of the street, and clambered up the steps to the Chester Wall. I thought the walk would do me good, but not just that, a change of direction. The last three times I've walked round the wall I've always gone clockwise - so for a change I decided to go the other way and head anti-clockwise. This meant that I arrived at the River Dee fairly early on, and followed the wall around the river until I hit the racecourse, with its pretty unique shape presenting itself before me. For those of you not in the know, Chester race course is one mile and 49 yards round, and its shape and shortness means you can pretty much see the whole circuit from the wall, making it unique. Went past there and carried on till I reached the water tower. That's in an unusual place, the wall heads over the railway to get to the tower and over the railway again to carry on the wall. At the tower though there's a set of steps which lead down to some gardens, so I sat there, paused, and thought a few things through.

That done, I walked around the rest of the wall till I was back where I started and had a look around a few shops and admired some of the architecture and buildings there - one thing that's so well preserved are the old buildings with one shop on top of another and also the way that they all stick out unevenly, it's so.. charming really. Anyway, with the weather a bit windy but dry I decided on really extending the day somewhat - by taking a trip into North Wales. I remembered that the main bus company for most of North Wales is Arriva, and I'm sure that they did a day ticket. So after grabbing a quick lunch, I headed to the bus station and before too long the 11A headed for Rhyl was there waiting, and sure enough also, the day ticket was sensibly priced. Basically, you pay £5 and you can use any Arriva bus in Cheshire and North Wales for the whole day. And that definitely was good value for me.

The 11A is a weird beast in that it doesn't go directly to Rhyl down the main road - but this is soon reasoned out because of the fact it stops at villages along the way and also goes up to Holywell and back down again too. Anyway considering the places it goes to (some gorgeous little villages with great views over the estauries) the journey looked picturesque before hitting Prestatyn and then finally Rhyl. Journey time - 1 hour 50 minutes. Not that bad considering it's around 30 miles or so straight down, and I reckon the bus did around 40 miles in total, with stops. And certainly something different.

Part of my reasoning of going is that I could follow the cycle path and walk down the front - and so I headed straight for the promenade. And it's changed a fair bit since I was last there - for the better. There's definitely regeneration going on and you can see that it's slowly helping the place getting some pride back.And so I headed to follow the cycle path, down the front, past the still way past its sell by date Ocean Beach fun fair (not fun at all) and over the blue iron bridge to Kinmel Bay, and then following the path to the sea front. It felt windy but also peaceful and serene, and as I walked past endless caravan parks on my way to Towyn, all of a sudden I felt really at home.

I got off the sea wall where the fun fair is by the wall in Towyn and memories came flooding back to my childhood and how the annual holiday was there because of my grandad having a caravan there - and yet even though we were poor we treasured the week so much and couldn't wait for it. And not that much has changed by the sea front road, the same shops and arcades, and even in some cases the same arcade machines (spotted a copy of Hard Drivin' in one of them - just how OLD is that machine?) and walking towards the set of lights in the centre just really brought it all home, even more so when I spotted the caravan park that used to be where the caravan was. I wanted to go and look, but a lot of the site these days have plenty of security so I didn't want to get into any trouble. I just went back to the sea wall and overlooked the sea and contemplated my thoughts, and I felt really safe whilst doing so - in a weird but good way.

After a while I realised I needed to head back to Rhyl, so it was back there on the number 12 bus, when I noticed that the whole of the complex that has the harness racing in Towyn also has a big fun fair now too, got to be safer that side than the sea lashing into it at high tide, and once back there I only had to wait ten minutes for the 1735 departure to Chester. All was looking okay weather wise until we hit Holywell, and the rain then lashed down violently all the way back to Chester, and even though it was lashing, the driver did really well to keep the foot put down and on schedule, and I got back into Chester well on time - around 7.20pm - a mere 1 hour 45 minutes this time around which had to be impressive.

Walked through Chester centre to the train station and made it in good time for the 7.53pm departure to Manchester. I was sat opposite a woman making her way back to York where she was studying (she lives in Chester) and from Runcorn East onwards we had this drunkard talking non stop bull about Communism and how he hates the Monarchy, Tony Blair, the BBC, and how he thought he was being spied on all the time becuase he was part Russian. We both tried to ignore him, even though he was implying we were both boyfriend and girlfriend! Considering she was sixteen weeks with baby with her partner, somehow I don't think so. Once this idiot had attempted to get off the train at Oxford Road, everyone on the train went "I don't know how you put up with him!" although the urge to locate some strong brown parcel tape to shut him up was very tempting, believe me. One can of Stella Artois should be all that you need to work out how many he may have had before.

Anyway, back home and writing this, I've not had much time to listen to music, but something that definitely strikes a chord with me at the moment, and hence my tune of the day is Joy Division's "Dead Souls". Not least because there's a great version by NIN in the Crow film soundtrack, but the Joy Division original just sounds bleak, desolate and really with feeling that shows and grows more desparate throughout the song. And there's something of me in there somewhere.

Sunday 27th May - I Win, Lewis Doesn't

The weather again took a turn for the rainy worst again today, so much so that the cricket was completely rained off for the whole day - damn and blast! Still, there was the Monaco Grand Prix to watch, but before that was on I needed to nip out to the local newsagents and cash in my £10 lottery win. I'd put it on yesterday on a whim whilst nipping out for something else, and thought "well let's do one lucky dip, you never know" and it worked out to be a winning idea. Now I don't do the lottery every week, far from it, but this was the second time in three weeks that I'd entered, and the second time I'd won. Maybe I should just enter on a whim when I feel like it from now on and see where that takes me?

The Monaco Grand Prix was good, although it transpired later that McLaren had issued team orders and so had told Lewis Hamilton to stay behind Fernando Alonso, even though Lewis looked faster. This for me made no sense - in the days of when Piquet and Mansell were at Williams, Patrick Head always insisted on there being no team orders and they were free to race - and if they weren't, we wouldn't have had that fantastic closing to the 1987 British Grand Prix, which was a joy to watch (Mansell made up a 27 second deficit to Piquet lap by lap and overtook him on the second last lap, in case you wondered). So as you can understand when the reports came out later I was pretty gutted, why not let Lewis battle and go for the win? I certainly would have let them go for it as long as they didn't take each other off.

Mind you, I've always wanted to go to Monaco anyway - not just for the Grand Prix. I'd like to go any time and just walk the streets that make up the circuit (and there's a couple of hills in there so that would be a good test if nothing else) and just immerse myself in the whole glamour of the place, whilst attempting to look Audrey Hepburn-cool. Not that it would happen (the looking cool bit) but you never know, with flights to Nice being not that expensive these days it could be an option. I'll have to see how it all pans out in the end I guess.

Oh, and because of my nod to them yesterday, and becuase they happen to be supporting Nine Inch Nails on tour (a good a reason as any to try and get tickets for NIN's Wolverhampton gig later in the year) tune of the day is the seminal "Seventeen" by Ladytron (now you see the link!). It's wonderfully electronic and although simple, it just works really well. I even tracked down the CD single for myself a while back because I wanted to listen to it properly (not least the Soulwax mix as well which layers rocking guitars on top - a neat touch) and rock out to it. Cos I can.

Saturday 26th May - Heading(ley) Towards Victory

I was going to go out and take a long walk today, but the weather decided to intervene and it was absolutely hammering it down in Manchester, and knowing where I was planning to wasn't too far, in the end I thought that realistically I shouldn't go anywhere. But there was a nice big Plan B - watch the cricket, and in between during the lunch break watch the F1 qualifying. And you know what? That's pretty much exactly what I did as well, and it worked out rather good.

Not least when during the morning session and the start of the afternoon session the England batsmen went about the West Indies with considerable aplomb. Kevin Pietersen not only got past his dreaded 158 jinx (his three top scores were all the same score) but also made a magnificent double century, and only got out because he and Liam Plunkett were trying to score as quickly as possible in order to make a big total, and that's pretty much what happened. His mammoth 226 in England's 570 for 7 declared pretty much set the benchmark, and also meant that we had plenty of time to bowl out the West Indies twice (assuming we could make them follow on of course).

By this time I'd watched the F1 qualifying and I have to say that Lewis Hamilton was again very impressive, and it took a mighty effort from his team mate Fernando Alonso to snatch pole off Lewis. Also, interestingly, was the way that the Red Bull team didn't tell David Coulthard that Heikki Kovalainen was on his fast lap and to get out of the way, instead DC blocked him and the stewards decided to demote his qualifying position somewhat. D'oh! all round there methinks. Mind you, it's set up the race very nicely indeed for Sunday, so it'll be a case of seeing what happens there, although I'm predicting a McLaren one two unless Felippe Massa can get in amongst them.

Back to the cricket, and once the tea interval had come and gone with the West Indies at 66 for 2 it all went downhill pretty quickly for them, with Ryan Sidebottom on comeback to the England team doing a great job taking four wickets. Before we knew it the West Indies were bowled out for a paltry total of 146, and of course England enforced the follow on (well so they should!). On the very last ball of the day, Ryan Sidebottom took his second wicket of the second innings, and that meant the West Indies were already on the back foot at a mere 22 for 2. Only the weather could save them now I reckoned.

Watched the Seven Ages of Rock documentary on BBC2 which was absolutely brilliant, as it was last week. Focussing on what they called art-rock, it meant plenty of time for Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Roxy Music (and I agree with the makers of the programme - their first album is one of the best debut albums ever), and even early Genesis (ie: when they were good and Peter Gabriel was around doing the weird stuff. After all could you have seen Phil Collins come up with the meisterwerk that is "Supper's Ready"? Thought not.) - but again it was a really well made programme which also showed some really nice rare footage. A bonus was the Ziggy Stardust final concert on BBC4 straight after - perfect for the Bowie diehards out there.

With all that cool music being played, it won't surprise you to learn that my tune of the day was something played on that programme, namely Roxy Music's "Ladytron". It's absolutely surreal, especially the intro, with all sorts of weird synth goodness together with some atmospheric oboe (yes, really) and then the guitars being played through a synth to sound all analogue and squelchy. It's quite experimental but also hits all the right places and makes a fantastic tune. And before you ask, the band Ladytron did get their name from this track, so there you go.

Friday 25th May - Completely Shattered

And not even physically either! I had a pretty good day today, first off was our technical group meeting this morning which seemed to go pretty okay really. I had an input into a few things that I was looking at and mentioned that one of the system loggers for student printing accounts kept falling over - most likely because of the sheer volume of printing that we do. Anyway, good to get a few points across and always good to meet up with people from other teams as well. Plus as it was a colleague's birthday from another team, several of us headed out for lunch which was pretty good - always excellent to have a general natter with them as people too, you know?

Anyway, mentally I felt a bit tired but set about testing an application installer and seeing if I could run it as a restricted user - and the obvious answer was unfortunately no. I have an idea of the problem though, and even found the solution. I've already noted it and emailed it to my colleague who built the MSI installer so we can do some extended testing. It turns out that there's an issue with the application running with mandatory locked down users (like we have with our students for example) and the software company concerned has even brought out a solution to sort that out. So there you go, that mentally tired me a fair bit.

As it was Friday it was time for me to head to Tesco and do my food shopping. As it turned out, I got all I needed including the washing powder (ran out of that last night and I need to get stuff done) and as the clothes were 20% off, I checked out what they had. Not only did they have two pairs of the dark blue ringspun jeans in my size (perfect for holiday) but also this nice dark blue short sleeved shirt with a ripped fabric effect on the front - very different - and reduced by half price already. The jeans worked out £8 for the two pairs, as they normally were two for £10, and the top £5.60. Bargain hunter aren't I eh? And it was so well timed as I thought that realistically I could put them away for July.

Left Tesco for the bus home, it was late but got on fine. Unfortunately as it was wending its way down one road, a bunch of idiotic yobbish kids decided to throw small stones at the bus window as it was going past. I'm just relieved and thankful that the side windows where I was sat didn't smash, but one of the front doors shattered. Thankfully none of the glass went near the driver, or that could have been a very nasty incident indeed. I have to say though that the driver was really good - she got to the next stop and calmly stopped, reported the incident and had a replacement bus sent out to us so that we could continue our journey. She was very polite and courteous too and it was professionalism personified - if all people who worked for the local bus company were like her, the world would be just a little bit nicer.

Mind you, if I'd have seen those kids, I'd have thrown them in the direction of the nearest police station, put them behind bars in a cell for at least 24 hours, and got the parents in and read them the riot act - as well as make them pay for any damages and give the kids and parents an ASBO while I'm at it. The kids who do these things aren't daft, they know that they can't get more than a ticking off. Quite frankly the law needs to be changed. If you're old enough to do crime, you're old enough to do time. End of. I'm completely sick of these do-gooders who insist other social factors are to blame so that the kids are bored and end up doing no good. What happened to responsible parenting? What actually happened to kids being polite? It seems so much of a rarity these days.

Rant not quite over (see today's thought for something else that's narked me) either - it seems to me that there's a general feeling of despair amongst us good honest people in the world that if you are well behaved you seem to get nowhere in life. What is it? I wish I knew the answer because I for one am sick of parents and kids who don't seem to have a basic grasp on the basics in life - you know, good manners, politeness, and overall knowing how to behave in particular situations. We need to do something - and do it now before the next generation are just one who thinks that everything comes to them because it's their right. Well learn folks - it isn't. I feel rightly and justifiably proud that I've had to work very hard for all that I have now, and it makes me treasure it more each day that because I've stuck at things and not given up, because I've been friendly and approachable, and because I believe i fairness, that I know that I am a good person. If only we all had a responsible attitude at the right time.

To express my anger with the world I needed a song tonight to express my complete dismay and anger - and what better than a bit of Rollins Band? Tune of the day therefore is the marvellous "Civlized" - which really hits home on so many levels - it's a powerful rock guitar, with Rollins really giving it some in the vocal department and making you really feel the passion that he feels. "You take life - you're just another pig to me. You think you're different but you're just another pig." I kind of like that sentinment.

Thursday 24th May - Annihilate This Week

The title of today's entry also refers to my tune of the day, not the original Black Flag version (as good as it is) but the Rollins Band's reworking for the compilation album "Rise Above". Somehow it just sounds a bit rockier, less loose and Rollins' voice is in better shape and really giving it some. Also I suppose really that because I've felt that the week is a bit on the long side it just sounded like the perfect workout for me to really loosen up and get focussed towards the weekend (which at least is a long one because of the Bank Holiday on Monday, and the Monaco Grand Prix is also on the telly - woohoo).

Anyway, today was a bit of a mixed bag. This afternoon a colleague and I did a couple of new rollouts, mainly of laptops, whilst getting rid of the old kit. There's so much stuff we've already swapped over that there's actually a need for another room to store it all in. The base units themselves aren't the issue here, it's the fact that there's a 17" monitor (a CRT one) for each of them as well - and they're not exactly the lightest thing to carry either. I'll be glad to see the back of them once they're donated to worthy causes at some point - as I'm sure they'll be able to bring someone else much happiness.

Also I had a student come in pretty late on during the day with a small problem. Her Lacie external 320GB hard drive beast was working fine, but for some reason someone reformatted it for use with the Mac only and now it wouldn't play ball with Windows. Tch tch, the hard drives are always formatted in such a way to be used with both systems.. anyway, you may of course know that a small problem with Windows XP is that you can only format up to 32GB of a drive as FAT32. However, there are ways round that, and one of them is to use Symantec's gdisk (or gdisk32 if you want the Windows command line flavour) to format the drive as you wish. It actually detected the USB external Lacie beastie and so with careful use of the command line I was able to use the utility to reformat the drive quick style and have it working as intended. Let's just say that the student concerned was one happy little bunny, and I didn't mind staying behind to help her out.

Wednesday 23rd May - A Greek Tragedy

Had a normal sort of day at work, well not quite normal in the morning but the afternoon was a case of working on a couple of development issues that needed to be sorted out. However, in the morning it was a meeting with the internal auditors, which basically wanted to know the stuff that we do now and what services are provided after the Summer. It's basically something I can't explain too much about at the moment, but suffice to say that it was a pretty long and pretty intense meeting which meant that almost the whole morning was taken up. It's often difficult to actually think of everything that you do because on a daily basis things change, and also there's so many tasks that you would do because of the proverbial nature of the beast.

Wound down nicely when I got home and first of all worked on a new upload to my Youtube channel - so if you go there you can see what it is. In essence it's nice to be able to capture moments from my old video recordings and make the most of them for the world to enjoy. It's nice to be able to give something back sometimes I suppose - that's just my generous nature! Anyway, that done and uploaded, it was time to give the house a bit of a clean before getting myself psyched up for the big game tonight - the Champions League final between Liverpool and AC Milan.

In truth, the game had a couple of major turning points. Liverpool were doing nicely until a minute before half time where they gave away a free kick on the edge of the area. Andrea Pirlo took it, it deflected off Filippo Inzaghi and it went past Pepe Reina to make it 1-0 to Milan. The timing was absolutely crucial, right at half time and instead of it being all to play for, Liverpool now had to come back from behind, albeit not 3-0 like in the 2005 final. However, the second turning point was when Steven Gerrard broke through the Milan defence, but his final shot was too weak and saved by Dida. Had be blasted it into the top corner it could have been a whole different game, but from then on Liverpool were chasing the game.

And then Rafael Benitez made a tactical faux pas by chucking on Harry Kewell. This player is so over-rated and rubbish it's untrue. And just because Gennaro Gattuso is an enforcer in the midfield doesn't make him a fool - and Kewell's dive when Gattuso clearly got the ball was clearly the desparate act of someone trying to make an impression for all the wrong reasons and an attempt to get Gattuso sent off. Thankfully the referee (who to be fair had an excellent game) called it like it was and told Kewell to get up. It was also Kewell's faffing about which led to the break for Milan's second, Kaka providing a perfectly weighted ball to the run of Inzaghi, who beat the offside trap and slotted from a narrow angle past Reina for 2-0. Six minutes left, too much for Liverpool to do, even if they did get one back in the 90th minute through Dirk Kuyt.

And so that was that - Milan had won the Euopean Cup for a seventh time making them still the second most successful team in European Cup history and now just two victories behind Real Madrid. (Had Liverpool won they and Milan would have been tied on six each, hence the "still" part of my comment) And to be fair, a fitting retirement present for Paolo Maldini should he wish to take it.

Later on I was putting on some old tunes from the 1990s for me and a friend who was round, and the Shamen came on. Hence my tune of the day is "Pro-Gen". Yes, folks, it's called Pro-Gen. Not Move Any Mountain. I wish someone would tell the music channels that though because every time that they put the video on they always call it the wrong title, which is a constant source of annoyance. Especially as I have the original UK and German CD singles (I had to get the German one to get the 7" Beatmasters version I like the best - ah well.)

Tuesday 22nd May - Lift Me Up Oldschool Style

Another long and arduous day, and it was pretty tiring too physically as three of us from our team were carrying out PCs to be deployed and replaced, which was necessary but a bit on the time consuming side really. But nonetheless at least if it's all done now it's a bit less hassle for later on, and of course it also means that staff are well happy with their new kit (and considering their old kit was Pentium III machines with a mere 256MB of RAM, I think I would be pretty chuffed as well to be honest). One of the buildings we look after has the oldest lift I know though - you have to actually slide the doors open yourself and then operate it. The only other place I know that still has one similar is the Dancehouse Theatre on Oxford Road!

Anyway, did the overtime shift tonight and assisted quite a few students and ensured everything was ready to go with the printing and that there was enough paper and ink to print overnight, so it meant that all their work would hopefully be done by morning. It's looking pretty reasonably good for us to hit our all time monthly A1 plotting record too - the previous best was a mere 5,500 or so in May last year and we might, just might, break it this time around!

Got home and uploaded a couple of more nice bits of video capture to my Youtube channel - go there now and see what they are, I'm not telling you, leave it as a surprise so you can enjoy the clips on there. I still one day plan to do me doing poetry readings somewhow, don't know just how I'm going to get that to work as yet, but I will think of something in the offing. Might even hire a DV camera and do it properly - sort of "Poetry from the Towers" maybe?

Oh, and if you want a giggle, see what happens when the BBC put a hard drive through a smashing series of tests - dropping it from a second floor window, driving over it, immersing it in a pond and then just to add insult to injury taking to it with a hammer blow. Read about it and watch the video clip (half way down) for some classic moments. And let this be a lesson to you - Lacie hard drives are definitely not all they're cracked up to be. And you could so tell it was a 40GB Porsche designed number, seen plenty of those at work.

Lastly, my tune of the day - and with good reason. It's Lush's excellent "Ladykillers". I just had the tune in my head as I woke up this morning (don't ask - long story!!) and I wanted to sing along on the way home from work but decided not to. One play of their Lovelife CD later and that was me all sorted and raring to bound around the room - minus Miki's rather red hair at the time. I know someone who has a very similar colour though!

Monday 21st May - Video Didn't Kill Any Radio Stars For Me

Had a very long day at work today, and more of the same tomorrow. Although my colleague's been mostly doing the late shift during this busy month to ensure that our plotters are constantly on the go 24 hours a day (honestly!) I volunteered to step in as he's been on the go constantly for the last couple of weeks and to be honest, I felt he needed a rest. I didn't mind too much as it meant I could get some work done and think about some forward planning in terms of laptop deployment (ooh, exciting I know) and also try and see if I could spec up the cost of some A3 scanners and what it would envisage us doing. Because in this day and age, if you don't respond to student needs, you're a goner.

Anyway, some good news when I got home from work, eventually. My uncle had checked in work and found that they had an old video recorder which they didn't use anymore, and so gave it to me as a replacement for the one that I was using to do video capture with. Cracking, I can now do more video capture to the PC and eventually add more to my Youtube channel, so that's something well worth sorting out. I hooked everything up, did a test capture and it all seemed well.

So much so, that I managed to upload a classic Fantasy Football League clip featuring Chinese football (their striker is worse than Jason Lee - and that's saying something) and in the same clip, it also mentions Danny Baker being at Italian Football - cue huge fat bloke, as he would say - and sure enough, fat bloke lookalike comes on. Fantastic stuff. If I get chance there'll be more stuff uploaded this week for you all to enjoy - cos I can, and because it's nice to be able to archive things isn't it?

With somewhat ironic timing, one of the digital radio channels at home had on Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star" - seminal, I know. Not least as the radio star doesn't tend to exist anymore, are you hearing me Chris Moyles? Anyway, talking of radio play, it's quite frustrating that CSS' excellent "Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above" - even if it's a re-release, didn't get that much air time and only just broke the top 40. Considering it's a rather great song and deserves more recognition, it makes me wonder.

But.. there's even more great songs that deserve recognition - and one of them happens to be by MJ Hibbett, so his "Control Alt Delete" track (yes kids, Control Alt and Delete!) is going to be my tune of the day - because I can. You can even watch him perform it with a ukelele - all you need now is for him to be armed with it singing "When I'm Cleaning Windows". Okay, maybe not, but still..

Sunday 20th May - Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Well I think that was the title of some 60s classic tune, anyway. But it does represent the mode of thinking today - it was a case of getting all the domestic chores done, as well as having the second recycled PC being picked up at around 11am - which I am sure will bring happiness to its new owner - and it meant that I was able to really do the recycling thing big time again. I must confess I've had immense satisfaction from it and feel properly proud, and you never know, I might be able to do it again once I get enough spares so I'll have to see how it goes.

Had a nice relaxing afternoon with a friend down one of the bars in the centre of Manchester. The Great Manchester Run had long finished but many runners were making their way home, and on the way into town I saw someone in a banana outfit - bet that they were quite warm in that after running 10K me thinks. Also many runners were heading towards the train and tram stations to make their way home (sensibly Metrolink were operating double trams on the Altrincham route for those who were using Park and Ride type schemes) and as it turned out many of them had stayed in the centre for the odd post-celebratory drink.

Anyway, must confess it was rather lovely catching up with good conversation and with the Heineken Cup final in the background on the big screen as Wasps beat Leicester and deservedly so in my view, and then on went the cricket so it was a chance to see England do reasonably okay and Kevin Pietersen score a well earned century. The falling of wickets at the end was more I think about England pushing on to post a declaration than actually bad batting (well I hope it was or that's worrying) and putting the West Indies in just to be tested at the end of the day could have been a good move - if Steve Harmison could actually bowl accurately, that is!! Suffice to say his two opening wides were disgraceful and he doesn't look in form at all. I'd seriously drop him for the second test as he clearly doesn't appear match ready for England.

As for tune of the day, I blasted out some 1980s Industrial classics, mainly Cabaret Voltaire stuff. Even though I could have picked any tunes from any of their Virgin/Some Bizarre era, I went for "Kino" off their "Drinking Gasoline" double 12" single. Double? Yes, four tracks, one on each side, and a rather clever EP release. "Kino" really sums up their mid 1980s beat-driven output and it's really seminal as well. Two of the tracks from here ended up being bonus tracks on their long deleted album "The Covenant The Sword and the Arm of The Lord" - just try finding it on CD!

Saturday 19th May - Not So Magic!

Well, it was a really chilled out day today. I decided even to have a lie in - pretty unusual for me that, and then took my time pottering around the house before venturing out about lunch time. In the end I decided to go to the cinema and see Magicians, the new film with Mitchell and Webb - you know, the two who do Peep Show on Channel 4 and the UK version of the "Mac and PC" Apple adverts, which you may want to look at as the humour comes across really well actually.

Anyway, what did I think of Magicians? Well.. it was good, but not as good as it was made out. It at times felt like an extended episode of Peep Show that didn't quite cut it for me in parts. However, the genuinely funny stuff came across really well, not to mention Jessica Stevenson. Oh yes, she is in it, and her dance to an Electric Six song is worth the admission price alone, it's absolute comedy genius to say the least. Suffice to say that the look of Mitchell's character afterwards should tell you all you need to know. Quite a bit of the film was also filmed in Jersey, and I recognised Gorey Castle and Place de la Liberation straight away from the images I saw. However, some of the beach scenes were filmed in Skegness, and you have to wonder why when some of the beaches in Jersey are, to put it mildly, absolutely stunning. They really are.

Also saw the FA Cup final, and was that magic? No. Not so at all. In fact it was completely dull and the only bit of excitement came was when Didier Drogba scored the winner in extra time. For the most part it was absolutely boring and it was like the occasion and the sense of the occasion got to both teams a bit. For Chelsea though, a unique double. They won the last final at the old Wembley and now at the new Wembley were the first to win it there too, so that's a bit of history right there. I suppose fate lent its hand too, not least as there seemed to be goal for Man U disallowed for what only could be a foul beforehand, as the shot did cross the line. I guess though that after a long season it was just one step too far, but you never know.

Mind you, if my team had got to Wembley I certainly would have baulked at the prices the catering inside were charging for stuff. £4.50 for a pint or a burger? Someone's having a laugh there surely. And the "meal" at £8 was just priced so that it was just about worth it to go for that deal instead of buying things separately if you needed to - but just a rip off all round. I mean, people paid expensive prices as it was for tickets (since when does £90 for a ticket represent good value? Since never, that's what) so you'd think that the catering would be of a reasonable price. The FA have a lot to learn in that to attract fans you have to provide value for money and be able to keep them with that same value promise. But they don't learn.

Lastly I saw the first in the series on BBC2 of the Seven Ages of Rock. It was mainly about blues-inspired rock music and how the Brits took the blues and rock, revamped, to America, and how it was embraced there, most notably by Jimi Hendrix moving to London and then blowing everyone away with his sheer talent. It was a fascinating insight into the late 1960s and the world of music and how the landscape was changing from Woodstock on one hand to the tragic events of Altamont at the other, and how to reflect the end of the Summers of Love how the music got more dark (Rolling Stones' excellent "Paint It Black" springs to mind - put that down as my tune of the day while we're at it) and it set the tone nicely for the rest of the series. Ironically one of the contestants from Any Dream Will Do on BBC1 did this song tonight, and absolutely did it justice big time!

Friday 18th May - Freestyle Freecycler

Well first things first, I got everything done at work I needed to do today. I ensured that all the laptops were finished, and all registered in eDirectory, and of course registered all the wireless network card addresses so that they would work on the staff secure wireless network. This way it makes things a lot easier for everyone concerned because they can just go to connect to the secure wireless and use it. I even had to road test one out on the road yesterday in one of the departments as a member of staff was getting one, and even from quite far I could get a good wireless signal, which pleased me no end to be quite honest.

I also had to set up a multifunction fax, printer and copier thing for one of our members of staff in the admin offices. It was a replacement for a previous model and I'm sure that they were pleased in the end that they got it, as everything worked as intended for them, always a good sign to be honest. That took me nicely up to mid-afternoon where I then had to register all our new Macs for the corresponding networks so that when they get rolled out they would all work as intended too. In essence, our replacement kit is around 30 Macs (mostly MacBooks and a couple of MacBook Pros and around 8 iMacs), 36 PC desktops, with 8 more to come, and 14 laptops. In essence although not everything's being replaced it's still a fair old rollout and I'm sure that most of the staff concerned will be quite pleased - indeed anyone who has the new kit already is very pleased indeed.

Anyway, I checked my home email at lunch - and 14 messages in my inbox? That's unheard of in a four hour spell since I checked it before I set off to work. Anyway, seems like my offer of a free PC on Freecycle has gone down well as many people wrote to me to say that they would take it off my hands. I weighed up each one in turn before deciding that the most worthy cause was one where the people concerned would work with underpriveleged kids who don't have access to PCs to give them access, teach them basic skills, and if they get enough kit, give the kids a PC so that they have something to use and so that they're not left behind. The email I got told it like it was and I thought "that sounds good to me". I emailed the person back and gave them my mobile number so we could arrange a collection time.

I get a phone call around 3pm, we sort out a time, and he explains to me on the phone that he's been using Ubuntu for some time now and likes it, and as it's free keeps down the cost of running such a scheme for kids (I can see where he's coming from with this) and so makes it very worthwhile. That done, I got home from work and chucked the cricket on - with England doing rather well at 441 for 5, Paul Collingwood getting a hundred to add to Alistair Cook's earlier hundred yesterday and Matt Prior and Ian Bell going along nicely. I had that on in the background when I had a visit and the PC was duly collected. It was good to have a chat too and find out more about how it'll be used and he said to me "the kids in this scheme will be so happy" - and that really did give me goosebumps inside.

I feel wholesome, like I've given something back, and I've genuinely made a difference for someone out there. Plus the environmental side of me knows that I've been able to give away something that will be able to be re-used and recycled, and from that side of things that also makes me feel good that there's one less load of parts out there being built and costing the earth (literally). I felt even more so when I read another email from someone, and they sounded very deserving to me. I quickly realised I could give them the Compaq Deskpro I'd built earlier in the week and so told them that it'd be up for grabs. They were ever so pleased and we arranged a Sunday morning collection for it - so that'll be good to see it being used as well. Not least as the reasons they gave were valid and touched my heart. Which is nice.

After all that it was time to head out to Tesco to do the food shopping. I took longer than normal though because I was getting a birthday present for my sister's little one, who's two next month. I thought that it would be good to get something with a bit of growing room into, and so found a couple of delightful little things - that made me feel wholesome inside too thinking of how cute she'll look (mind you she usually does anyway but then I'm biased) and it's so good to be able to find things when you are on a mission to get them. I'd have got myself some more stuff as well but decided against it - got to be careful as I need money to spend when I'm on holiday!

Played lots of industrial tunes tonight when I got in, thought that it was time I really cranked up the volume up. So if the likes of Ministry, Skrew, Cabaret Voltaire, Young Gods, Nine Inch Nails, Gravity Kills and KMFDM are your bag then you'd be quite happy. Indeed, after realising that it had appeared on an episode of Beavis and Butthead (cue Beavis: "Higher, higher!") then KMFDM's seminal "A Drug Against War" just has to be tune of the day. Not least for the words, the loud rocking guitars and the 100mph pace of the whole thing. Mind you, I really wanted to go mental along with the words!

Thursday 17th May - Defrosted Domestication

Unfortunately real life domestic stuff took over tonight when I got home. I knew that the freezer needed a bit of defrosting for some time, but when I looked in there this morning it was almost like snow in parts, and I thought that I'd better do this sooner rather than later, and preferably before I do my next lot of food shopping, which would make a lot of sense. There was work to do today though, and I ploughed through the laptops slowly but surely, and was imaging the last lot of four (there were thirteen in all) before I left for home, so I felt pretty satisfied that I'd managed to get done what I could.

Got home, took everything out of the freezer and placed it in the fridge, switched it all off and then was at it with the jugs of boiling water letting things defrost as quickly and as safely as possible. Thankfully the unit's got a drain hole so I soon opened that to let the water drain into a handy container I have, and all looked well. Whilst that was happening, I whacked on some CDs so I had something to listen to - so the whole of Nine Inch Nails' excellent "Year Zero" album went on, as did CSS' "Cansai de Ser Sexy" as well. I'd also realised that Front Line Assembly were touring in July and playing the Club Academy, and I'd be tempted to go only that PJ Harvey is on at the Bridgewater Hall the same night - aaaaargh. Anyway, in tribute to FLA, I whacked on "Millennium" which is just so anthemic and loud and rocking - that's my tune of the day right there. It's just amazingly loud and powerful, and underpinned by a nice hard beat as well - we're talking proper Industrial style here, folks.

Interestingly as well tonight I thought that I would put up my first Ubuntu rig on Freecycle (see earlier diary entries this week) and then see what the interest would be. I remembered to follow the rules for posting for the Manchester group and worded my message carefully so that people knew exactly what was in it, as well as what they'd expect out of it. Of course I stressed that it was a base unit only, without anything else, so it'd be up to them to source a keyboard, mouse and monitor. That said, CRT monitors come up on Freecycle anyway (well they do in Manchester) so it wouldn't necessarily be that much of a bind to sort it all out methinks. Now I'll just sit back and see what the responses are when it eventually gets posted.

Wednesday 16th May - Hole In My Shoe

Well, I managed to locate some RAM and chucked it into the Compaq Deskpro once I got home from work, which was later than usual. I had to end up using some of my birthday money to get a new pair of shoes today. I normally have a pair for going out in, and the last time I wore them I felt a bit uncomfortable, and no wonder, when I looked at them there was a bit of a hole in the sole which made life not so great. Not great. Anyway, I normally have a couple of "everyday" pairs that I normally wear for work and everyday use, and then a nice pair for going out in so that I feel good - and why the hell not?

So straight off to one of the shoe shops in town. If like me, you're very much a "get in, get what I want and get out" person then you'd have been proud of me. Saw this very nice pair of Pod shoes that looked like they'd do the job - and they were reduced to £35 from £50, excellent. So I tried them on, they were fine, and two minutes later I had the pair purchased and I'd left the shop behind. See? No mucking around with me - when there's a job to be done, it's done. End of. And that meant I could also comfortably be home without too much hassle.

Off I started with the Compaq Deskpro again, put some RAM in, and one of the sticks of what I thought was 128MB RAM turned out to be a 256MB stick, so the three slots were filled with 512MB RAM. Another surprise had arrived when I got home - namely the official Ubuntu 7.04 CD! Nice of them to ship it me out, I thought. So I used that and within around half an hour I'd completely installed Ubuntu, and everything looked like it was working rather nicely. Ended up spending a bit of time browsing the web with Firefox and it all looked rather good to be honest, I put Mozilla Thunderbird on there as well as a mail client ready to go, and that meant that anyone who uses it can start using their web browser and email pretty much straight away, as well as OpenOffice. Oh yes.

A quick tune of the day today as I've not had that much time to listen to anything, but Bodyrox featuring Luciana's "Yeah Yeah" gets the vote, if only for the fact my colleague keeps playing it over and over at work and it's got into my head again!

Tuesday 15th May - The Ubuntu Freecycler

Did my bits of good for the environment over the last day or two. I still had all the parts put together to a very old PC (most of it being my old rig, some of it being a case donated from a friend) and as it was sitting there gathering dust, last night late on I decided to have a play around and see if I could whack on Ubuntu Linux. I already had downloaded and burned the latest 7.04 release (I did order the official CD as well as it's free, so that'll be good to have in future) so I thought "let's see what happens and go from there".

Part of my reasoning for this is that you may have heard of the web site Freecycle, where people advertise things locally that they're giving away for free so that someone else can recycle them and re-use them. After all, what might not be for use for you anymore could give someone else that nice bit of happiness. It's also a very environmentally friendly and green thing to do (not least if you use public transport to pick up anything as well). So my mode of thinking was: install Ubuntu, get it all working fine, then the base unit could be offered on there as a starter system for someone who'll make use of it and do as they need to.

As I knew the old beast met the RAM requirements I set to work - I set the BIOS to boot from CD, let the CD boot, and after a while up came the Live desktop with an install shortcut. Clicked it, waited a little while, followed all the prompts, and off it went installing. Made a cup of coffee and listened to a few tunes, came back up and the system was ready to restart. Did that and I soon had the Ubuntu desktop with all the applications you'll ever need such as Firefox, OpenOffice, Evolution Mail (although Thunderbird would have been preferable) and so on. Fired up Firefox, everything worked, apart from a lack of Flash plugin so I couldn't see anything on Youtube. Soon sorted that out though (and I must remember to do that for future builds - install Flash!) and even tried the web MSN Messenger as well, all seemed good. Must admit I was very pleased how easy it all was (as it should be) and that everything did what it said on the tin. I've dabbled with Ubuntu before on much more powerful PCs in the office, but to have my old AMD K6-2 500 beastie play happily with it was rather nice.

And good job too, as I'd answered an ad on Manchester Freecycle to collect a PC that someone was giving away - they didn't guarantee it worked but at least there would be spares that I could use to build another one, I thought. So off I went to somewhere on the Didsbury/Withington border and collected it - it was fairly heavy but it was a Compaq Deskpro desktop, and usually those things are built to last. Got home a bit later and hooked it all up to see if it worked. And surprise surprise, it booted! And with everything seemingly intact. A quick look at the Compaq online documentation to see how to get the case off (really easy actually) and I checked inside.

And - wow! Not a bad little beast at all. It had a Pentium III 600 processor, an ATI Rage Pro graphics card, Intel Pro 100 network card, 10GB Seagate hard disk, and ESS onboard sound. Maybe not that earth shattering, but (and this is the important bit) it all works. A quick check of the BIOS reveals that there's 192MB of RAM on there. Ideally I'd need 256MB to try and get Ubuntu to install using the Live CD, but I could download and burn the alternate text only installer CD instead. I'll have to check what RAM I have tomorrow and see how it goes from there, but it looks promising.

In the meantime, I listened to CSS' excellent CD and I have to say that I really love "Off The Hook" cos of the great guitars in it, so that's going to be my tune of the day. Just because I can!

Monday 14th May - No More Psycho

Well, it's been a long day today. And indeed it just felt like it at work, it was just immensely busy with students doing so much work and plotting, and it was just non-stop. I got in this morning and the printing room was absolutely choc full of students wanting to print out their work and indeed it was like a bomb had gone off. Trying to get the paper replaced in some of the printers as well as get the print heads replaced was a job and a half to do to be honest, but we got there in the end. Spent most of the day sorting out the new image for this academic staff laptop and finally managed to complete it just before it was time to go home.

Also found out today that Manchester City had sacked their manager Stuart Pearce. Sadly for me it wasn't a surprise. When your team scores only 10 goals at home all season (and none since New Year's Day) and when motivation is low, one of your best players decks another one in a training ground incident (and really Joey Barton should be thrown out of City, we can't have idiots like that at the club to be perfectly honest) and when the signings that have been made have been some of the worst I've ever seen (Georgios Samaras and Bernardo Corradi without doubt fall into this category for sure, they'd both be in my all time worst Manchester City eleven) then it all makes sense. From a financial and board point of view, many fans were that disgruntled that a lot of them were not renewing their season tickets next year, you can't really blame them. But not only that as well. I do feel that Pearce had lost it in the dressing room and didn't have the respect of some of the players and indeed couldn't motivate them enough like he really should have done.

It's sad, and in truth, I do feel the club also didn't give him enough time. Two years until being sacked is back to the bad old days at City where it seemed we'd have a new manager every season. With a possible takeover and financial backing, it could well have been we may have made a couple of brilliant signings that would have done the job and got us where we should ideally be - top half of the table at the very least. In all due fairness though, when I look at last August's transfer window and saw the quality players other clubs signed (Jolean Lescott at Everton being a prime example - he's been a revelation this season for them) you do have to wonder just what let's see if we can get the Tinkerman Claudio Ranieri in!

Had a thoroughly good time last night as I went to see Duke Special at the Academy 3. Don't know what it is with me lately but all the gigs I've really enjoyed have all been at that venue, and having seen Howling Bells, I'm From Barcelona and Kristin Hersh there, I was in there again last night to go and enjoy myself. And I certainly did. The support act Beth Rowley was rather good, singing some traditional, some bluesy and even some more gospel-like numbers. A couple of Duke Special's band played a couple of instruments to help out too, and it just set the mood off perfectly. In fact I kind of wish that she would have been on earlier to play a longer set, and it looked like everyone on stage was having a whale of a time.

But nothing could surprise me more than how absolutely fantastic Duke Special was. So much so that when I look back at my favourite gigs of this year, this is going to be up there. Not only were there some great renditions of songs from "Songs From The Deep Forest" but a great mix of the old, the new and the traditional, even when he did a number from the Huckleberry Finn musical and had Beth Rowley back on stage with him. I absolutely adored "No Cover Up" done live, it sounded so beautifully raw and emotional, and as for the last song before encore of "Last Night I Nearly Died" it just felt so lovely and warm in there and the whole crowd were singing along with the Dukester. It just was one of those moments where you were happy to be there and really enjoying the whole shebang.

Oh, and in between Beth and the Duke, I went to the loo to make sure I wasn't caught short. And guess who I saw in there? Duke himself, having a shave. Apparently he was telling us all that it was part of his pre-gig ritual that he does and that his dressing room didn't have a mirror over the sink so he couldn't see what he was doing, so he just ended up using the normal gents like everybody else. It was one of those moments that made you realise that some people don't forget where they come from and was happily chatting to people in there and really being himself - made me appreciate things a bit more.

In tribute, and because it's such a darned good tune anyway, tune of the day is "Last Night I Nearly Died" by duke Special. It's just one of those songs that after you listen to it gets hooked in your subconsciousness for days on end and doesn't let go. And for that reason alone, it is great stuff.

Sunday 13th May - Euro-Derision

Ended up seeing quite a bit of Eurovision last night, after seeing the Joseph thing on BBC1 earlier, where Rob (the builder, cue obvious reference to kids' TV character) was eliminated, to be fair he didn't stand a chance because I think the judging was a little biased, although the public didn't seem to think he'd be right either. A shame really, because considering he'd come from nothing, he did superbly well. In fact it goes to show that if nothing else someone should take him on for the stage, and as Andrew Lloyd Webber himself mentioned one of the Maria contenders who got knocked out at a similar stage is now understudy to Connie Fisher, so you never know.

Anyway, to Eurovision. Or, to put it another way, how to find the most tacky dross music for the most part and subject the public to three hours of rubbish plus some nice biased voting where everyone votes for their friends politically and not actually on the quality of the song. At least last year the group Lordi deserved to win it, and it was fitting that they opened with their anthemic "Hard Rock Hallelujah". Cynically, I could say it was the best song of the evening and I'd probably be right to be honest, but there you are. Ireland's entry was truly terrible and it deserved to finish last though, and it wasn't that good a song. And not to mention the off key singing as well.

But as for the UK's entry, well it was pathetic. It should never have been chosen in the first place (always the danger of a public vote I'm afraid) and to be honest it showed, as Scooch were complaining that no one was hyping them up. And rightly so, no one wants manufactured rubbish and it just sounded so pathetic and cheesy, so the UK also deserved to finish near the bottom. We would have finished last but for Malta being very kind and giving us a few points, thus avoiding the "nul points" scandal that was Jemini a few years ago - again selected by the British public. Dear me.

But there were plenty of other songs that didn't really merit a place in the final either, just far too predictable. Indeed after Lordi last year, plenty of countries decided rocking out was going to work, except it didn't because most of them tried but failed and didn't necessarily have the talent to win. Indeed the Ukraine entry was funny but it also was crucially in tune, and it was quirky and perfect for the large gay following that like Eurovision to the pink vote was theirs. The fact that they finished second justified all the pre-competition hype.

But.. Serbia's win. It was a terrible song. Sorry, but it was. It reminded me of Celine Dion in her awful phase (ie: Titanic and anything afterwards) and just didn't sound right to me. Kudos to her for singing it in her own language at least, but it just didn't cut it for me. I quite liked the Finnish entry "Leave Me Alone" because the singer Hanna Pakarinen sounded a proper rock chick, and it also sounded a bit grungy as well in parts, reminded me of Evanessence in a good way - and you know what? That's going to be my tune of the day. Now that deserved to finish much higher than the 17th place it got, it was a proper tune that. A quick glance at her website shows it's also from her third album. Whoa! Established pop act and everything :)

Saturday 12th May - We Can Be Heroes, Just For One Day

Well it's the weekend, and having received a few vouchers from my family, it was time to go to HMV armed with them and spend it on some CDs that I'd put on my birthday list. I guess I was thinking that it would be sensible because I knew what I'd got off everyone now, so I should be safe in my collections. Not least as first thing this morning I went to the sorting office, and as predicted, it was a card and pressie from my cousin and her family - very nice of her. Not least as it contained The Fray's "How To Save A Life" and The Magic Numbers' "Those The Brokes" CDs contained within. Excellent stuff all round, I'm so lucky.

Did all that, sorted out a few house things and then went off into the centre of Manchester and then into HMV. Interestingly, you often find that between the two different branches of HMV you can actually get price discrepancies between the costs of CDs. You want proof? I saw Duke Special's CD "Songs From The Deep Forest" - in the large Market Street branch it was £13, in the little one it was £5. Now if someone could explain that discrepancy I'd be entitled to know. Surely the prices should be the same, right?

So with a bit of clever price checking between the two, I decided on the end in three CDs, CSS' "Cansai de Ser Sexy" - not least because I love the single (tune of the day a few days back) and the video (a click of this link will help - it's the official Sub Pop records Youtube upload) - which is just seminal, but also shows just how wonderfully poppy and lo-fi it all is at the same time. Now I just need to find someone to make love to while listening to this song, hehe. Anyway, got that and the new Arctic Monkeys album "Favourite Worst Nightmare" in the small branch of HMV.

Went along to the larger branch and checked out the film soundtracks section. All the ones I wanted were either not in stock or ridiculously priced, and even with gift vouchers/cards/whatever I couldn't justify it really. But then I thought "can't find any Philip Glass here" and wondered if he'd now been put in the classical music section. And you know what? He had. And the CD that was on my list was in stock, the 2CD set of the "Low" and "Heroes" symphonies he did a few years ago based on the classic David Bowie albums. That was an unexpected surprise and I got that to complete my shopping for the day. Needless to say Philip Glass' version of "Heroes" is my tune of the day - perfect background music to do things to and just an absolute meisterwerk.

Intriguingly there's also an Aphex Twin remix of the Philip Glass version, which puts on some of the original Bowie vocals along with some haunting background noises and experiments. It's very interesting, and reminds me of when Glass remixed Aphex Twin's "Icct Hedral" and turned it into an absolutely beautiful minimalist tour de force of stuff. Sometimes you just have to embrace music as a whole, and not try to pigeonhole yourself too much into the set genres that you might wish to go in.

Ah well, Eurovision later. Let's see how poorly the UK do. To be honest, I don't think they'll do well - the song is appalling and no one seems to like it. I'm going for the Ukraine to do well with their rather weird act, a drag queen with a star on the head. Hmmm.. just surreal, and perfect for what Eurovision has now become these days - a total farce of political voting proportions... but in the meantime I have a PC to fix!

Friday 11th May - What Midlife Crisis?

I was thinking at work today that the middle ages (well sort of) are supposed to be when you start thinking about what you want to do with your life. But to be honest, is it worth the bother? I'm looking at the positives for me right now. I've got my own house, and in a time of rapidly increasing house prices that can only be a good thing. I've got a good family who are very nice and supportive but also are a good laugh as well, and I've got some wonderful friends who I really regard highly. When you add that to a job that I love and enjoy, and many other things, then it just has to be good. And so why worry? Because I certainly am not.

Work seemed to take an age today, maybe because I was bogged down with jobs to fix computers for most of the day and indeed roll out a re-imaged machine to one of the admin offices. It was good of me to do that though as it got me out and about and meeting some people, and not just that - to not think about one of the doors from the network cabinet racks almost falling on me. It's been mad busy with our Architecture students having deadlines next week and as a result they've been really hammering our A1 plotters. In fact thus far we've topped our previous best monthly total for the year, and we're on course to beat our all time monthly record (which stands at over five and a half thousand) so it'll be interesting to see what happens there.

But once work was done, it was time to head on home, and see what the postman had delivered. I had a card through the door saying I needed to pick up a recorded delivery package tomorrow (from my cousin, I would guess) and also a padded envelope. I recognised the writing straight away as it was from a friend, and they'd very kindly got me the Corpse Bride soundtrack CD. Fantastic! Danny Elfman is a genius and it's so proven here. I had a bit of that on before I decided to go out and as such tune of the day is "According To Plan" from said soundtrack. I love the fact that Paul Whitehouse and Joanna Lumley do great voice parts in that track too, and so does Tracey Ullman and Albert Finney. It must have been an absolute blast recording the whole movie, never mind the soundtrack. And it's suitably goth enough for me too, hehe.

Headed out into town and met up with my friends, and we headed over to Felicini's on Oxford Street. We had such a great time there at Christmas that I thought it would be lovely to go there again, and it was the right decision. The food was as delicious as ever, and the atmosphere was a really relaxed one so I had plenty of time to catch up and have a good chat with them all - and that's always a good thing in my eyes. I had the baked dough balls with garlic butter to start with, then the mushroom risotto (absolutely to die for!) and then the tiramisu for dessert. My friend had the giant profiteroles for dessert and amazed us all by virtually clearing the plate of the whole lot of them. And believe me, when they say it's enough for two to share, it really is, it's massive and enjoyable all at the same time. So are the scoops of Movenpick ice cream my friend had too, I was very tempted myself but the tiramisu won in the end. We all had either tea or latte afterwards to finish off and it was just a good way to wind everything down. Can't complain though: for the four of us, and bearing in mind it included drinks, it worked out at just over £20 a head. And that to be honest is excellent value - oh yes.

My friends, bless them, gave me some lovely presents as well. I got the animated series of Clerks (which is Region 1 only) as well as the Special Edition of Office Space (again, it's R1 only) and that comes with some preview disc for Borat as a freebie. Nonetheless though it's Office Space that rocks, if you've never seen that film you are missing out. It's just hilarious. "So, hmmmm yeah, where are those TPS reports?" Anyway, I also got the DVD of Miss Potter, which was also really good stuff. I might have to watch that curled up in front of the sofa and just imagine the gorgeousness of the Lake District in the background whilst seeing just how twee and sweet the film was. Oh, and giggle at Ewan McGregor trying so hard to do an old English accent..

All in all, another lovely day and with some nice things happening in the weekend as well, I am so having a great time right now. And why the hell not, I think I deserve it!

Thursday 10th May - Happy Birthday To.. Me!

Well I reach the grand old (not really old, actually!) age of 35 today, and it doesn't feel any different whatsoever to be honest. In fact I just thought that it was another day like any other sad as it may sound. I did however give myself little treats throughout the day. First on the way into work I headed into Piccadilly station and into Costa Coffee, and you can guess that a rather big decaf latte had my name on it, so I was drinking that on the way into work and had some left to drink at the office to really get me in a relaxed frame of mind. The second little treat was eating in one of the local pubs for lunch - I normally bring lunch in so it was nice for a change to have something and let someone else do all the work, so to speak. Had this rather nice barbecue chicken and bacon melt baguette which hit the spot.

Best of all though was later after work. My Mum had asked me over so she could cook me something, and knowing Mum, she'll probably have made me something really nice. And she did - potato rash, my favourite thing that she does. It was absolutely gorgeous and felt like a bit of anice blast from the past, actually. I was so chuffed to bits because it was well worth the effort, and both my brothers and little sister were there too (in fact her son helped me open the presents which I didn't mind one bit, I could see the happiness in his face helping me out!). Mum got me some HMV vouchers and this really nice shirt, my brothers got me some essentials for the holiday and this really nice Audrey Hepburn book with lots of images of her that just look gorgeous, and a retro edition of Yahtzee as well. Both my sisters gave me some money so it might be a new duvet cover from Ikea with those, I think.

After a while Mum and my sister needed to do shopping, but very kindly they dropped me off at Tesco on the way so I could get my food shopping done - didn't want to rush around tomorrow night if I was going out for a meal really so it made good sense. Got all I needed, got home and a while later my auntie and uncle popped over with presents from more relations including themselves, so a bit more money, HMV vouchers and the new Kaiser Chiefs CD. Excellent stuff all round. Was good to catch up with them and have a coffee as well, and of course I reminded me uncle that it was his wife's birthday next week. I've already got an idea of what to get her actually, I'm so organised, I know.

By this time it was 10pm so made a couple of phone calls and where had the day gone? It was a really nice relaxed day actually and I just didn't feel any older (a good thing in my eyes of course). Plus I'll be heading out with a few friends tomorrow for a meal so I've got all that to look forward to as well - it just gets better. I am just lucky really to have such nice people. And indeed, many thanks to those of you on the Remix64 boards who gave me birthday greetings - that was really good of you.

And as for tune of the day? Well I could have played a number of songs with birthday in the title such as The Smiths' "Unhappy Birthday" (although of course it wasn't) and Altered Images' classic "Happy Birthday" - got that too. But in the end I wanted to remind myself of the days when Bjork was good in The Sugarcubes, so it was "Birthday" by the Icelandic legends that went on. And it hasn't aged. One bit. A bit like me then eh?

Wednesday 9th May - It Never Rains But It Pours

And it's so true at the moment. It's absolutely lashing it down with rain here in Manchester, and although it's been a bit on and off with the weather over the last couple of days, it really has decided to come down in buckets today. In a way it's a good thing as earlier on BBC News online showed you a picture of one of the local reservoirs looking a bit on the empty side, and if this rain helps fill it up a bit then that has to be a good thing as far as I'm concerned. After all, no one wants a drought order in the summer if it's going to be nice weather and so having the rain now, especially during a week at work, is a good thing.

I spent a bit of time today with a new Samsung R20 laptop which we've got quite a few of to roll out to some of our staff. They actually look nice in all black and have plenty of good features such as wireless networking, three USB ports, and a DVD writer, oh, and a massive 160GB hard disk. They would actually have 1GB of RAM but a mere 256MB of that is taken up by the ATI Radeon X1250 shared graphics, still it's not a bad piece of kit. First thing first though is to get one of our standard images on there - not least as the hard drive has Windows Vista Home Premium (ugh) on there and it's not exactly the standard build. Thankfully I was able to image the machine and get what was needed on there, and let sysprep kick in, and then just had to do a few bits of driver installation. All looking good though.

Tune of the day is none other than the rather wonderful CSS' "Let's Make Love And Listen Death From Above". It's just addictive stuff and it's also got a really odd video as well which is rather fabulous to watch. It's so different and lo-fi that it appeals to the Stereolab fan in me, I suppose. And it also makes me feel less old which at about this time of year is a pretty good thing.

Tuesday 8th May - Thank Heavens For Sky Plus

Well that's what I was thinking to myself this morning. I'd had a good night's sleep, woke up and then proceeded to flick through the Sky+ recording of the snooker last night to get to the point I'd left it, with John Higgins leading Mark Selby 15-13. Selby had made a decent break in the 29th frame, but Higgins dug in deep and made a fantastic clearance to win the frame and go 16-13 ahead. The next frame was one of the best century breaks you will ever see at the Crucible. Considering the time of night, the pressure and the occasion, for Higgins to whack in a consummate 129 and play like a man possessed was something else, I have to tell you. And it also meant that the 2007 tournament equalled the tournament record for century breaks (68 of them in 2002).

In the last frame, Higgins made another sizeable clearance and all of a sudden it was all over, 18-13 and Higgins was the champion. He'd won the last three frames in under forty minutes or so, and earlier on some of the frames were lasting that long on their own. It was a sign of pure class and professionalism, and I was so glad I was able to watch it all unfold in my own time before I headed out to work today.

And work was, as we'd all expected, manic. We knew that it was the busy time this month for many a hand-in for the students, and so it proved. The A1 colour plotters are on the go constantly, and to be honest there's that much stuff waiting to be printed that even if nothing else was submitted to them now, it's going to be Thursday before the last lot of it gets printed out. You think I'm kidding. No. We worked out that between the five plotters that they do around 20 high quality A1 prints per hour. Assuming that they're left full of paper, ink etc to print all night that's 480 in a 24 hour period maximum, and there's more than that number of jobs that have been submitted. I guess it's the price you pay for being popular as well.

Tune of the day is by a band I'm going to see this Sunday: so it's Duke Special's rather fantastic "Wake Up Scarlet" - a great opening to a rather lovely album. And if it's anything half as good live, it's going to be a rather lovely and intimate gig, just perfect really.

Monday 7th May - Midnight At The Crucible

I had a rather good day today. It was a Bank Holiday so I was off work, which was good, the weather wasn't that good, which was not good, but the snooker was on, always good, and I'd decided to go to the cinema, which is usually good. In the end I'd decided to go and see Wild Hogs, as it looked pretty funny plus the four leading cast members would be an intriguing mix: imagine if you will Tim Allen, John Travolta, William H Macy and Martin Lawrence heading out on motorbikes on a road trip to the West Coast to rediscover their younger, more free days, and indeed encountering much trouble and mayhem along the way. It just worked for me somehow in that it was hilariously funny, but also with some nice touches.

For example, John Travolta's character is called Woody, and so that meant whenever Tim Allen (Doug) was talking to him, he'd often sound like he was using his Buzz Lightyear off of Toy Story voice to talk to Woody (for those of you not with it, Woody was Tom Hanks' character in the Toy Story movies - makes sense now eh?) - but also there were plenty of one-liners that just hit the spot, and the extra little characters that made you smile, such as John McGinley (one of the two Bobs from Office Space) playing a gay cop and Marisa Tomei looking rather feisty as the love interest later on. Not going to spoil it though, but do go and watch it - made me smile anyway.

Got home later on and settled down to watch the snooker. I'd recorded the afternoon session and flicked through it and - wow! It was now 12-10 and the session had to be stopped two frames early due to the slow play. So it was all to play for all of a sudden and the frames just were shared at first to it was 14-12, and then a titanic frame of some fifty odd minutes and it was 14-13. Where did that all come from? The next frame was edgy stuff but John Higgins just edged it to make it 15-13. I looked at the watch, it was gone midnight, so I set the Sky plus box to record the rest and went to bed before I ended up trying to keep awake - I just felt so amazingly tired.

Anyhow, whilst glued to the big screen and the television, one song kept in my head all day for some reason, and it was so that tune of the day would be Manic Street Preachers' "Your Love Alone Is Not Enough". It features the fantastic Nina Persson from the Cardigans, but also the video is rather good and it's a quite welcome return to form for the band. I even heard a bit of the album Send Away The Tigers in HMV and quite liked what I heard. Yaay.

Sunday 6th May - The Final Countdown (Sort Of)

Had a pretty quiet day today getting the domestic chores done and indeed watching the first day's play in the World snooker final. Well, you kind of knew I might have been watching that somehow, not least as it proved to be a bit of a demonstration of the game at its best. Sure, John Higgins may have been leading Mark Selby 12-4 by the end of the day but he got there through determination and picking off frames that were close. Both players made some excellent breaks and safety shots alike, and it actually felt like a final, if you know what I mean. It's rivetting stuff and being sat there with a coffee this evening watching the game was a really relaxing feeling to be honest.

I also was having a think about the abduction of Madeleine McCann that happened in Portugal before the weekend, which has been one of the main news stories here. While it's obviously quite horrible what's happened to her, and indeed her parents must be going through anguish right now, it's also a sign of the times that you have to be so careful where your children are concerned. Although you could be judgemental to the parents for leaving the children alone while heading out for a meal together, the place where they went was supposedly in the same complex, and not that far. It's a hard one to call but I have a feeling that someone had been keeping an eye on the area for some time and was just waiting to pounce on any child. Also makes you wonder why somene would abduct one child and not all three as well, too. But it's just that sort of thing that makes you also wonder just how evil the world is.

I decided today as well that I'd do a bit more on the recycling side and joined the Manchester branch of Freecycle online. Basically rather than try and unsuccessfully auction things off on eBay, I thought it would be easier for me to give them away to someone who would have a viable use for them, and at the same time do my bit for the environment so that someone else would be able to make use of the things I don't need anymore. Actually, the Wombles were all about that weren't they, and that was back in the 1970s, and a kids show!

But anyway, I'm going to have a check through what I've got in the house in the next few days and see what can be given to a good home, and you never know, I might be able to take things off other people's hands and make use of them myself. One such idea I had to was to accumulate the parts needed to build a PC, then I'd set it all up, chuck Ubuntu Linux on there (as it's free, keeping up the free tradition), and then re-offer it via Freecycle as a complete kit so that someone could use it for themselves - for free. Neat, eh? I might even undertake it as a side project if I have the time so I can see how viable it would become, and maybe even something to whack on the old CV.

In the meantime, I spent a bit of time checking back through my old 7" singles today as well and discovered the fantastic single that is my tune of the day - "Born In 69" by Rocket From The Crypt. It's just a really good tune and short, punky and to the point. I actually bought the 7" cos it was very limited and I liked their sound at the time (in truth that and "On A Rope" have stood the test of time pretty well actually.)

Saturday 5th May - Football And Snooker Loopy Nuts Am I!

It's been a long but very good day today. My friend and I were off to see her lot, Everton, against Portsmouth, but we'd timed things quite well so that I could stand in the bars by or in the ground and watch the Manchester derby there. I was considering trying to get a ticket for that big game, but in truth I wasn't holding my hopes out whatsoever, considering we haven't scored at home since New Year's Day to be quite honest. And I'd already got the tickets for the other game, as I had a feeling the derby may have been moved to a Sunday (which would have been ideal) but it wasn't. Ah well, the joys of scheduling!

Got the train over to Liverpool and headed over to The Welkin for some lunch in there. In the background a TV is silent but plays Sky News - with subtitles. But the subtitles are really bad, folks. I mean, bad. It's like someone who's learning English as a second language doing them and really not managing to construct proper sentences. I could give plenty of examples to be honest. I think it's actually done by voice recognition or something, but whatever software they've got it really useless, it just doesn't do the job. If I was deaf, then I really would be tempted to turn the subtitles off and probably lip read instead if I could, as it just didn't seem to work too well.

Lunch done, headed past a couple of bars with the footy on and kept an eye on the score before heading on the bus to Goodison. Got in the ground and thankfully the television sets by the food bars all had the derby on, so I kept an eye on that. City were 1-0 down and ten minutes left, of all things, we get a penalty!! Okay, with Barton suspeneded he can't take it, and it was therefore down to Darius Vassell. Unfortunately Edwin van der Sar saved it and United held on for a 1-0 victory. Aaaaargh. That was not good whatsoever, but I was determined to not let this spoil the day really. I'd expected defeat anyway and as we can't score at home, not a real surprise. But 1-0 isn't a disgrace either and it was a battling performance, so that has to be something.

On to the game we were at - the first half was really nervy for both sides, somewhat spoiled by the referee Howard Webb. Unusually Everton were attacking the Gwladys Street end in the first half, and it was just frustrating for their fans as Portsmouth defender Linvoy Primus kept them out continually, and I had a feeling that the first goal would help determine the winner. And so it proved second half - Everton got a penalty and Mikel Arteta stepped up and scored it - just. David James had guessed the right way but couldn't stop it. 1-0, and Everton were in the box seats.

Three minutes later and it was basically game over. The ball came over from Manuel Fernandes and defender Joseph Yobo popped up with a header into the roof of the net, and it was 2-0. At this point it certainly was party time for my friend and all the Everton fans, with them singing "We're all going on a European tour" to the tune of Yellow Submarine, and a really good song about Mikel Arteta as well - he really seems to be a fans' favourite judging by the number of fans who had his name and shirt number on their backs. As it turned out with Reading losing at home to Watford, and West Ham battling for survival and beating Bolton 3-1, it meant that Reading would be three points behind Everton with a game left, and with nine goals of goal difference to make up. Bolton could overtake Everton, as could Tottenham, but they'd be the only two who could, and as fifth, sixth and seventh would qualify for the UEFA Cup, it was all working out nicely. Even more so once Gary Naysmith scored a late header to make it 3-0!

Needless to say my friend was well chuffed and to see her sing along with the chants and just really be a happy bunny made it all so worth it. Headed back to Lime Street station, got into Manchester and got off at Oxford Road station so I could pop into the restaurant I was booking for next Friday - got that done and headed for a post-match drink - me to drown the sorrows of my lot but also to savour her victory too. And the pub just happened to put on Wigan v St Helens in the Rugby League. Now I tend to pledge my allegiance to the Saints, primarily as my manager at work is a big Saints fan, and she likes Wigan. I of course was thoroughly enjoying Paul Wellens' one handed destruction of Wigan as he scored four tries and looked dangerous every time he got the ball, hehe.

Made my way homeward and stopped off at the Manchester Academy box office on the way, getting the ticket for Duke Special. I can't wait to see that gig, and indeed it'll be a good end to the weekend with my birthday in it, so it's a kind of little present to myself to see the gig I guess. I know when a gig is on the box office is in the reception in the front, and it means that I can also pay face value and avoid the booking fees and other ripoff fees that ticket offices charge these days (and they really are scandalous!), so that was good to do. Got home, whacked the snooker on, and for the next two hours I was engrossed by the Shaun Murphy-Mark Selby semi final. It was epic stuff and Selby won 17-16 in the end after being 16-14 down at one point, and the match kept turning advantage all the way through. It was amazing stuff, and I really thought that this year the four semi finalists were closely matched (John Higgins had come down from 14-10 down to beat Stephen Maguire 17-15, a performance no less than Steve Davis said was the best he'd ever seen under pressure from that scoreline, and as Steve Davis is the man, he should know!

After all that activity I needed a mellow tune to chill out to before I headed to bed, and so what better than the rather nice Philip Glass Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack? Tune of the day is therefore "Pruit Igoe" from the soundtrack, not least as part of this tune features in that BMW ad, you know "A car is a car is a car" - that one. It's well worth getting the soundtrack CD (or even better, get the DVD-Audio version like I have) because it just sounds like no other.

Friday 4th May - Impossible Mission Accomplished

Well, okay, I'm exaggerating, it wasn't quite an impossible mission, but it wasn't far off. I'd had a pretty good day at work, managed to get a PC image and build done for one of our admin staff who's moving offices and will be working in two different places during the week, and had that all maintained and ready to go. I also had to be very tactful but post a message of complaint to one of our group mailing lists, due to the way a new policy had been implemented without the right means of communication. The fact that I had my manager and two people from other sites ring me up and tell me that I handled it pretty well said all I needed to know, and my colleague emailed me from home (he had a day off) and said "Nice one!" so that felt rather good.

It's too easy to complain and rant, and often I've found that if you're constructive and fair in your criticism you get a much better response. Indeed, this is how I've managed to get compensation out of Virgin Trains recently and it was a pleasant surprise to get some, but at least it shows that people are more willing to listen if you stick to the facts but also suggest ways of making things better. The old customer service ethoses at one place I used to work at said it all: "never state a problem without a solution if possible" and I can see completely where they're coming from with that.

Anyway, talking of customer service, I'd just like to say a thank you to the very nice assistant in Tesco Extra Stockport tonight for being very pleasant, polite and helpful. You see, the mission impossible was that I saw a nice pair of dark blue ringspun jeans in there for £6, and it was two for £10, but after I'd done a visit to my local Tesco where I do my food shopping, they didn't have my size in their clothes section even after looking in their stock for me. So after I'd got home, went to the local chinese and treated myself to lemon chicken with egg fried rice, which was rather delicious, I then headed out to Stockport to the Extra store. I looked around, they had the same pairs of jeans I wanted, fine, but.. none in my size. Anyway, I located an assistant and told her what I was after, and off she went to the stock in the back to see if there was any. She managed to locate a pair and brought them out to me - fantastic, but only one pair! I thanked her for the time being and went round the place seeing if there was anything else I wanted. I also checked with another person on Customer Services and indeed they were two for £10!! So I located the same assistant and politely explained I needed another pair cos of the offer. Without any fuss off she went and got me another pair with a smile. Now, that's what I call customer service. I didn't see the name on her badge cos otherwise I'd have written a letter to the manager of the store praising her.

Okay, some of you may say, people should do this sort of thing anyway, but to be honest you'd be surprised how many people in supermarkets don't always help you so much, but it was just the whole experience was how it shouild be. Politeness, courtesy, and efficiency and with a smile too. It's too easy to go into a complaining rant but often we British aren't that good at being complimentary when needed either. So time to redress the balance a bit. And as a net result, I got what I wanted - and they're a really dark blue, perfect for me and I'm sure a couple of pairs may be in the case for when I go on holiday so I can colour co-ordinate with a couple of nice blue tops that I have. Not daft, am I?

Tune of the day is Duke Special's "No Cover Up". Part of the reason is that my colleague at work reminded me that the gig is Sunday 13th May and he was questioning if I had a ticket yet (he'd got his already). I must nip into the Academy Box office tomorrow on the way home and get them. And it was No Cover Up, performed live on Jools Holland, that sounded so poignant and wonderful, with some great piano playing and hearing a white Belfast bloke in dreadlocks perform with such emotion is just something else, I tell you.

Thursday 3rd May - I Wanna Be Elected

Well okay, not me personally, as I wouldn't dream of standing for election for councillor anywhere to be honest. It's too much hard work and also just too time consuming to consider. Not just that but it's a heck of an amount of responsibility that I wouldn't dare take on. That said, I do believe that there is no point whinging about the fact that X and Y are in local government unless you actually have used your vote to try and influence things by voting for who you think would do the right job for the area you live in.

Thanks to some pathetic bureaucracy by a Government commission, a lot of the council wards in Manchester were re-organised some years ago so that supposedly it meant a more equal number of voters in each ward. But in reality what this meant was that several people including me in the area which I live now come under another ward with another district name. Is that sensible? No. Is that pathetic? Yes. I actually voiceferously complained to the Boundaries Commission who said that that was the reason and there'd be no reason to feel affected by it. Well, news for you, Boundaries Commission: me, my uncle, a few of my work colleagues who live in the area don't want to be classed as another ward, thank you, which means any regeneration misses us out because we're not geographically where we think we should be. It's just idiocy gone mad, and the sooner the old ward boundaries are returned, the better as far as I am concerned.

Anyway, I got home from work tonight and went along to the local polling station, card in hand so that the clerk could just look me up and check that I exist on the roll, and that was me ready to cast my X in the right place, and job done. It took less than a minute, and that's exactly how it should be. The polling stations are open from 7am to 10pm so no one really has an excuse not to go down there and cast the vote. Go there, use it, do what you need to do. If someone you don't like in the local area gets in and you didn't vote, well really you can't complain. It'll be others that put them there.

Interestingly one of our senior management at work is actually in the polls to be a councillor in the area in which he lives in. My colleague noticed it as it's part of the council where he lives, and we were like "no surprise there then!" - as we know the member of staff concerned has been a local campaigner for some time. All day I kept thinking of Alice Cooper's seminal "I Wanna Be Elected" and that's therefore my tune of the day. The video to that song is rather odd, especially with the chimpanzee. By the power of Youtube, here it is!

And talking of Youtube, I spent a bit of time doing some video capture and uploaded something new to my Youtube channel. It's a classic clip from Fantasy Football League where Nottingham Forest striker Jason Lee got his revenge on the two hosts by mocking their "pineapple on his head" mickeytake after scoring a goal. Classic stuff. I'd have done some more but the video recorder I'm using to play back the stuff that's linked to my capture card has now gone on the blink. Admittedly it was a freebie from my uncle some time ago (My Nicam one is downstairs in the AV rig) so I guess it's lasted pretty well and it's not done too bad, so I might have to see if I can track a Nicam VHS recorder down dead cheap and just use that instead for more capture stuff, that might be the way to do it.

Wednesday 2nd May - Champions League? They're Having A Laugh

Well after tonight Chelsea and Manchester United are both out of the Champions League, and to be fair they both were out on merit. Last night's game was a true battle of tactics even if it wasn't that entertaining, and the way Liverpool played they simply wanted it more, deserving of a lead through Daniel Agger on the night to make it 1-1 on aggregate. And even in extra time it was Liverpool creating the chances and were really unlucky when Dirk Kuyt was claimed to be offside for a disallowed goal. It looked good to me, and noticably the cameras located Perluigi Collina (ex-best referee in the world) and he didn't look too impressed by that decision either. But in a way I don't think either side wanted the penalty shootout. That said, Liverpool looked again like they wanted it more, and all their penalties were scored with confidence. Two excellent saves from Pepe Reina later and it was left to Kuyt to make it 4-1 and an easy win in the shootout.

So that was them through. And could history be made with an all-English final as Man U took on AC Milan? In a word, no. Man U never got started really and too many of their stars had an off day. What was crucial was that the experienced players of AC Milan didn't have an off day, with Gennaro Gattuso bossing the midfield with passion and aggression, and Clarence Seedorf having the flair to pick out the right pass and know where to be at the right time - like he was when he beat Gabriel Heinze to the ball to make it 2-0 on the night and 4-3 on aggregate. Of course if you have Kaka in your team that helps a bit too, and he really was on form as well. As is often the case, when one side goes all out to come back in it, the other scores, and so really when Girardino was set loose it was a one on one, and 3-0 to Milan, which was how it ended. In truth it was only a late goal at Old Trafford which gave Man U a narrow lead, and going to the San Siro is a tricky task. No English club has ever won there. My lot Man City came close once drawing 2-2 in the UEFA Cup back in 1978 before thrashing them 3-0 at Maine Road, but that just also shows how long it's been since City were decent. Be nice to have some goals at home this Saturday though.

As for the snooker, well wow. Shaun Murphy was 11-5 and 12-7 down against Matthew Stevens yet kept going and kept believing, playing some awesome stuff under pressure and ended up winning 13-12! You could see the affect it had on Stevens, he looked visibly drained, but Murphy deserves credit for sticking at it and battling. Over the years at the Crucible we've seen some comebacks, and a few from 12-8 down but none from 12-7, so a bit of a record there. It was almost as good as Ken Doherty's comeback against the late Paul Hunter a few years ago - Doherty was 15-9 down in the semi final and battled back to win 17-16. But it's great to see such comebacks, and Shaun's interview with Steve Davis and John Parrott on the Crucible balcony was a really nice touch too.

Tune of the day is I'm From Barcelona's rather fab "Collection of Stamps". Some of you might even recognise the fact that the intro bit of the tune is being used at the moment by T-Mobile on their Web and Walk promotion thing. Yes, it's that one that goes "ba, ba, ba-da ba da da da..." and doesn't leave your head until you've tried to sing along to the singalong bit. Yes, it's that good, and fun too. Not least if there's all 29 of the band on stage!

Tuesday 1st May - Mayday Mayday! Printer Bailing Out!

This time of year is always a very busy one at work, not least because of the fact that many of our students are preparing their work for their degree show at the end of June, but also because there's plenty of other deadlines for the students who aren't final year, and they need to get work handed in. As such it's pretty mad, and you don't get much time to work in between jobs doing the stuff that you normally need to do. I only just about managed to venture across to our post room to ensure a faulty Iomega external hard drive was being sent off to Iomega (in the Netherlands!) by courier, but I also had another pressing job on today.

One of our academic staff had mentioned that their printer wasn't playing ball, and when I checked it out, the paper feed just wasn't feeding anything, there was nothing stuck and to me it just smacked of defective parts and kit not built for the job. Rang up HP Technical Support who after taking my details insisted that I had the printer in front of me before I called them back to ensure that their agents could go through all the trouble shooting procedures that I'd already gone through anyway. It's frustrating really because I know what's wrong with it and I know what needs to be fixed, but it's just barriers in the way, and that's never good to be honest.

Add to that I spent a fair bit of time sorting out a PC for a research exercise which meant that I was able to clone it with a recent image, get all the software checked to make sure it was all working fine, and of course double checking the fact that the PC was registered and it was all pretty much up and go. I was pleased in the end though because it meant that once everything was up and ready it can go over later in the week and if I manage to meet the deadline for putting that kit in then it has to be a good thing to be honest. There are times when you do feel good about the job, and that along with helping students is definitely one of them.

Anyway, it's the Champions League semi final later, and I really do want Liverpool to beat Chelsea tonight and win on aggregate. I just think that the arrogance of Jose Mourinho needs taking down a few notches, and seeing as Liverpool have beaten Chelsea before at the same stage of the competition, it's not an impossibility - especially if it's a repeat scoreline of Liverpool's 2-0 win in the league at Anfield earlier in the season. Also, it could well set up a Liverpool against Man Utd final, which would be rather tasty to say the least! (That's of course assuming Man U manage to get through against AC Milan tomorrow night - no certainty there of course)

As I've got home this week I've turned on the CD player and cranked up some rock tunes, and I felt like a bit of Juliette and the Licks tonight, simply because it's great fun and because Juliette Lewis really can do to the rock chick thing and get away with it - her voice is good enough to do so. So I've nominated "Shelter Your Needs" as tune of the day because it has plenty of driving riffs and just hits all the right notes in the right places, not to mention plenty of passion in her voice. That's what I'm talking about!