Dear Diary... September 2005

Monday 26th September - Curry and Crawling

The weekend just gone was quite nice actually, didn't do that much per se but did enjoy a rather nice curry on Saturday night in my favourite haunt, Lal Haweli. As usual the service and food was top notch (the mushroom pakora was spot on again) and it just made for a really nice relaxing evening overall. I think after the hard week of enrolment, the last bit of which finished today, it probably needed to be something to help me wind down after the tough few days that was the first week of term. Not just that either: I decided to go for some mushroom garlic nan breads as well, and they were also darned good. If you're ever in Manchester and are looking for a good Indian restaurant - go here, because you won't regret it one little bit.

Went over to have a chat with my Mum on Sunday and it was nice to catch up on a few things, not least to see my youngest sister's little one, almost a year old now, crawling all over the place with such a cute and cheeky grin on his face (cue cries of "awwwwwww" from everyone). I suppose every child has those sort of moments before they end up causing their usual brand of chaos, and admittely he's so placcid that he loves being fussed over by everyone in the family. And with my other sister's baby being christened next week, it's at least something that the patter of tiny feet are around me - even if I might not have that feeling of being a doting father one day.

I did solve a very intriguing problem on Friday at work to do with a little swipe card reader that we'd got - it reads the student ID card and inputs their details into this piece of software. As the card reader plugged into the PS/2 port with a input for the keyboard, it all seemed to pick up. However, swiping the magnetic stripe revealed some characters that didn't need to be there compared to the ones we have which are built in to these PCs in a monitor. After a bit of head scratching, reading the manual and reading the online PDF manual, it turns out that the card reader was reading in these terminating characters which it called "sentinels". Thankfully there was a command to turn it off. Now here's where the fun begins: You have to use Notepad to send the instructions to the swipe card reader, and at no more than two characters per second! Now for the likes of me who can type quite well this is obviously a real pain in the backside, so I had to pretend I was doing the role of that bank assistant in Little Britain (the one that goes "computer says no") to make sure I typed slow enough. I sent the command, the reader thing beeped, and bingo! Everything worked as intended, excellent.

Thursday 22nd September - A Dreamcast and a Nightmare

Well, it's been a manic three days or so. First off, Manchester City just had to let me down live on Sky Sports 2 last night, didn't they? Our performance against Doncaster wasn't good at all, and being 0-0 after 90 minutes was embarrassing enough. Taking the lead with a clear penalty was fine, the sending off of Onouha was wrong (and at least the ref admitted that after the game) and their penalty was one too, but you'd think that some of the players would actually have practiced penalties just in case? None of them actually scored from the spot which to be honest beggars belief. Still, that's partly my own fault for taking the mickey out of a work colleague who supports Tottenham after they'd lost to Grimsby the night before. You live, and then you learn (well you'd like to think so..) but still you'd like to think that at the end of the day some effort would have been put in?

Mind you today was a different kettle of fish as well - had to sort out one of the PCs that were used for enrolment in the morning as it'd been playing up a lot, eventually got it all sorted out. In the afternoon I managed to get one of our images working on this new PC that had arrived, so once it's updated and cleaned up with the newest software on etc, the job as they say is a good one. I then did a bit of essential shopping down the local Asda a bit later on (had almost ran out of olive oil and I need some for a bit of stir fry dish I'm planning over the weekend you see) and managed to get some essential bits that I wanted.

Two nice surprises awaited me when I got home: the first was that the next door neighbour's cat came straight over to me to be fussed over. He's been doing that for the last few days and I feel I've definitely bonded with him. It's nice to see such a large and old feline so well looked after, and in good health. Another was a package for me with the Scart cable for the Sega Dreamcast! My brother had given me his DC last week when I went round as he didn't need it any more, he just told me that I need a bog standard figure eight power lead and a Scart cable. One visit to the pound shop and one successful bid on eBay later, and both items were paid for without delay. So naturally when I got the cable tonight I plugged everything in, and just hoped that everything was going to work properly. And it did. Woohoo! Also, the SCART cable has a composite block about a third of the way down, so if I wanted to instead, I can use the side AV of my telly to play it, which is what I might end up doing ultimately.

As I'd bought some games from Gamestation cheap the other night (Chu Chu Rocket for 99p, essential!) as well as a second controller, I plugged it all in and gave it a go. And it all worked, most excellent. Even more excellent was that a five minute quick go on Chu Chu Rocket became around an hour as I clocked all 25 levels in normal mode! Mind you, they're the same as an online version you can play at Sega Japan's website (the link is here to save you trying to find it) which actually gives you good practice, if nothing else! Don't make them like they used to...

Monday 19th September - Back To (Un)Reality

Getting up this morning and getting the bus into work wasn't that bad, but once I'd hit Oxford Road during my lunch hour proved to be the unmistakable unreality of the students being back at the ranch once again. Is it me, or do the students look younger and more naive every year? Or do they actually just look younger cos they'll live a lot longer than I probably ever will? I saw so many of them tonight with plants that they'd bought from a plant sale at the Academy, makes me wonder if your average student landlord is going to be happy by seeing the sight of soil on the floor when the plant gets knocked over after one pint too many down the pub. Still..

It beats watching your team do everything but score, as Man City did yesterday. How many chances did we have, and how many hit the bar? It was amazing that no matter what we did, we couldn't put the ball in the net, and Bolton get a penalty at the death and win it, thus ending our thirteen game unbeaten run. Can't fault the team though, it's one of those things and no doubt on Wednesday against Doncaster in the Carling Cup, and then on Saturday against Newcastle away (which will be interesting with Owen and Shearer up front) we should bounce back. No doubt that we'll be organised and it'll be good to see how quick we can get back to winning ways - hopefully not too long!

Monday 12th September - Happy Happy Joy Joy All Round

The last three days have possibly been some of the best days in my whole life - ever. Not only was the whole weekend at the Back in Time Lite/Retrovision thing kick ass and I got to meet lots of wonderful people once again - far too many to mention here but you know who you are folks, but I also was keeping my eyes on the Manchester derby via the WAP on my phone - which is now charging me as the free month is up so good job I bookmarked all the necessary pages I was after! And at 5pm I was sufficiently happy anyway, having just had a titanic two player Outrun 2 session on the XBox that was there - playing that on link mode is just superb, the final score came through from Old Trafford with the result being a 1-1 draw - which meant a great away result for City, but it also kept my beloved heroes above United in the table. We're the pride of Manchester, we're the pride of Manchester....

So that was obviously good, and although the cricket was being interrupted for the weather, it was all meaning less time for England to sort things out. As I got to the venue on the Sunday, I saw that we'd almost bowled Australia out and really ploughed into them making their innings collapse - big time, so much so we ended up six runs ahead after the first innings. This made me even happier knowing that just maybe we could finally do the job and win the Ashes, at last.

You can imagine while working today that I was nervous, keeping my eyes on the score while sorting out various laptops for people and getting them configured properly. In fact, what really made it was when Kevin Pietersen hit the century and I felt more relieved, and by the time I got home it was 301 for seven and realistically it was looking all over, and we did pretty well in the end to make sure we didn't panic. But when the urn was finally presented to Michael Vaughan and he held it aloft, yours truly was going dool, lots of happiness around and just pure emotional joy at finally seeing the team do the business and show that without doubt the English cricket team can now be considered right up there as the best in the world, through hard work, determination and team work. Oh, three days of pure delight from Saturday onwards: two days of excellent retro gaming, one kick ass concert as well, Manchester City really showing their mettle and now this. I can't take the smile off my face right now and I don't intend to for some time.

Friday 9th September - What A Week That Was

It was indeed another very hectic week at work - simply because lots of academic staff came back and they were all asking questions of what needed to be done, plenty of new people starting off and needing to be set up on their way, ensuring that their emails and everything was working fine, and not just that - but finally getting the student builds up and running for the start of term was something quite to behold as it meant two hard months of getting everything ready, putting the images together for the hard drives, and then also having to do a major blitz of all the main computer suites was a tad on the difficult side. However, as I finished at lunch time today I felt that I had done more than enough to earn the afternoon off and take it easy before a nice weekend ahead of me - not least the excellent retro event that will be Back in Time Lite and Retrovision 6. I'll probably do a separate report of the event for some other site, but suffice to say if it's anything like the previous events I'm in for a right treat I think!

Oh, and don't even get me started on Wednesday night's utter debacle - unless of course you want to read my rant in the Thoughts section. Repeat after me: Sven is a wanker, Sven is a wanker, Sven is a wanker....

Saturday 3rd September - Back To Reality

Back home and up and very early for the train at 6-10am. Unbelievably Arriva Trains Wales actually got me back on time, so I was able to get home in time for the England football game. Not that it was very exciting to be honest, but a win's a win I suppose. The only other reality nightmare about coming back off your holiday is that you have to do so much washing of clothes and drying and ironing them. Not really the sort of thing that you want to do considering taking such a long train journey, but there you are, that's the way it goes. And indeed back to work on Monday, lots to do and so little time. I didn't even get any lottery numbers either, as that would have helped considerably ease the pain of having to leave this morning. It was far too nice and lovely in Cornwall and I didn't want to come home (understatement).

Friday 2nd September - Titanic Theatre Experiences

Final full day, and made the most of it. Checked out Sennen Cove in the morning, which was very nice, lots of little coves like that all over the place, but this one also has the option of walking to Land's End if you wanted, over the clifftops. Plenty of people out early in the morning, even some surfers and beach volleyball players!

But in the afternoon was a real highlight: a trip to the Minack Theatre to see a play. A musical, no less, and a good Broadway inspired version of the Titanic version that made the film look what it is - bobbins. The Redruth Amateur Operatic Soceity did a great job, with some fine voices, and made excellent use of the dramatic scenery that the Minack has to offer. Even if there isn't a play on, go there anyway becuase you will see how wonderful the place is - built into the cliffs with a nice steep rake so you can see plenty of the stage activity, and also lots of little staircases behind the stage which the actors and actresses used. What impressed me the most was the clever use of the scenery to make sure that the drama of the piece was kept intact too: bringing in dining tables for the dinner scenes, and even having a proper ship steering wheel for the scenes on the main captain's deck.

Munched gorgeous Italian food at night at Gino's Spaghetti house on the front, well worth checking out. The sweetcorn and mushroom pizza I had was utterly divine, as was the Minestrone soup too. In fact the waitress told me the pizza was popular and it was her own favourite, so it looked like I'd picked well. And I had a table overlooking the sea, what more could I want to make the holiday more complete? As I thought about the fact I was going home tomorrow, the only regret was I didn't do two weeks, so I could have done Newquay Zoo, the Eden Project, Truro etc. Still, I made the most of it and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Thursday 1st September - Saints, Seals and Spooks

Three activities in one day? Must be mad! Actually I wasn't. It worked out really well. First off, on the bus to Marazion and over the causeway to St. Michael's Mount. The tide was out enough, so that meant I could walk across and not be cut off by the rising tides. As the walk's around half a mile or so, it's good exercise. I got into the little island, paid the admission charge and then checked out a little cinema presentation of the history of the mount. I was glad I did as it told of a Cornish legend about Jack the Giant-Killer and explained that the giant he killed had a heart of stone, and that heart is on the steps leading up to the top of the mount where the castle etc is. And sure enough, half way up I could actually see the little stone, and it was well worth knowing about beforehand!

The top has some really nice castle bits and lots of ancient houses wonderfully preserved, there were no photographs allowed, which was fair enough considering that some of the exhibits were over 400 years old and needed to be kept pristine where possible. The outside battlements and such overlooked the rather lovely gardens below that surround the main mount, and at one point the family who owned and lived on the island even had their own dairy farm with Jersey cows! The whole place was really nice and steeped in history, and as such I can highly recommend it. Even managed to get back across to Marazion before the tide (do note you can get a ferry boat across though if the tide is high!)

Managed (just about) to get myself on a boat for the afternoon and take a cruise around the coast, which was rather good. Went past St Michael's Mount and all the way around, the guy who steered the boat was pretty good as he told you about the places and some of the history, all with a nice Cornish sense of humour. After heading west for a while, we then reached a couple of coves, one of which has a nudist beach (hence he had the binoculars, hmmm) but the other supposedly has some seals on there. And after a bit of time, and with the driver almost giving up, we saw one, his little head popping out. For the £10 price, I got two hours of crusing along the sea, a good driver and guide, and spotted a seal too in the bargain. Out of the two boats you can go in, select the Mermaid one, it's much better than the Viking. Thank heavens I made the right decision!

And finally, off for a Ghost Walk in the evening at 8-30pm, you met at the Tourist information office and your guide took you round a few places which were said to be haunted. I have to say that being in a dark cemetery at around 9-30pm surely wasn't inspiring, but at the same time some of the tales did sound genuine, especially the last one of the black dog of Penzance harbour, which apparently people talk about. The guide has actually been on telly as well, and he seemed pretty genuine, he even admitted that some of the stories people told he just found way too fake.