Dear Diary... February 2014

Friday 28th February - Smiling Spanish

It was good to feel more constructive and I put some of that feeling into the workload today - I had a technical meeting to attend during the morning, and with that done I also did some more testing on Macs with regards to an issue we recently had. The initial testing has proven to be quite positive, so we'll see what happens with the next lot. The good thing is though that on the whole we've managed to progress a bit, and I for one do feel good about that. We've also made sure as well that where possible we've been able to note down all the testing, so all good.

In fact my colleague and I had to head over to one of the buildings we look after and make sure we had a controlled power down of the large format printers at around 4pm. The power to the whole building was going off over the weekend, and as such we didn't want any power surges to happen and so kill all the printers, resulting in down time whilst they were being repaired. On the whole I think people were understanding as they had been informed in advance, and also because of the fact that we're doing this to actually maximise the uptime for them really.

It was straight out of work and on to the bus into the city centre and then another bus out of town as I was heading to The Love In My Heart's place for the weekend. We were going to our friend's place for a nice evening meal tonight, and it made more sense for me to head to hers and my friend pick us up from there. It was also good to see The Love's two cats Jo and Brian in so much happiness, they were either playing with a little ball or they were just resting on the bed or sofa looking rather cute all round.

Our friend came to collect us just after 7pm and it was good to see him - really looks like he had slimmed down a bit too (wish I could do that to be honest). It was an evening with a Spanish theme all round - lots of nice food, and some very Spanish inspired music from the likes of the Gypsy Kings for a start. Lots of cold meats and cheese to start and that went down nicely, as did the real ale I brought over too. The Simon Rimmer beer to go with chicken was more of an acquired taste but it worked well for me, not least with the main.

The main was chicken and chorizo stew, which went down very nicely, a really nice tomato sauce with some chillis and also some potatoes to go with it all. It was really homely and nice and tasted spot on, and the four of us had plenty of conversation, including The Lego Movie which our friend had been taken to see by his partner and insisted on little mini renditions of the main theme tune "Everything Is Awesome" by Tegan and Sara featuring The Lonely Island. I think it suits the film well and certainly gives kids of all ages that happy feeling, so tune of the day was an easy decision for me really.

More conversation flowed as did the beer and wine and it was good to think about the retro 1980s music a lot more, not least as a few of us were going to see Heaven 17 in the next couple of weeks, and on top of that, we were also remmebering the hit singles of the support act Blancmange, who were also quite well known in that era too. Of course it was pretty good to think of other 80s acts and we recommended to one of our friends that Swing Out Sister live was an absolute must the next time that they tour - I couldn't agree more.

We got a taxi back to The Love's place late in the evening and it was nice just to rest and relax before we headed to sleep and had the cats for company, who had woken up from their snuggled sleep to come and say hello to play for a bit, before getting a space at the end of the bed and curling up there to sleep together. Awww. It was cute, I admit. It was a good end to a really good and positive day and I have to say a much better end to the week than when it started off.

Thursday 27th February - Their Live Law

I felt a bit more constructive today. I think more so because I was able to have a good chat with a couple of people at work and was able to think about what they said, offering me some useful advice and generally speaking being there to listen. We do need that sometimes and I for one was definitely pleased to be able to call upon them and have them spend some time with me. I also managed to package up an older version of Oracle's Java 7 Runtime Environment which was needed for one piece of software to work correctly. Nice when you also have the time to also document the process fully so you can refer to it if you need to.

I wasn't seeing The Love In My Heart tonight as I was heading out with her tomorrow, so instead I spent a fair bit of time sorting things out around the house, but also listening to some music and watching a couple of DVDs. One of which was the live Reformation gig in January 2005 by Pop Will Eat Itself. I was at the same venue in Birmingham the night before and purchased the live CD on the night, which was a great memento of a brilliant gig, even with the odd sound glitch.

The DVD was from the night after, and showed a really good recording of a band at the top of their game live. There were plenty of highlights which reminded me of the night before but especially the likes of Wise Up! Sucker, Not Now James We're Busy and Ich Bin Ein Auslander, and most of all though one which struck a chord with me was the great rendition of the track that they co-wrote with The Prodigy, "Their Law" which really did have everyone bouncing up and down a heck of a lot - tune of the day there to be perfectly honest.

I also played some CDs as well and decided to put on the Seth Lakeman album "Word of Mouth" too, which is growing on me with every listen. I do think it helps enormously when I've seen him play most of it live just after the album release of course but I think too that it is also important to appreciate how good it is to listen to late at night with the lights down and in the darkness, really feeling the acoustics to a tee. I'm sure that when he tours again in October it'll be a lovely night, even more so if he plays The Love In My Heart's favourite song of his.

I also ordered a CD online too - namely a compilation from 1989 - The Hits 10. Part of the reasoning for this was I used to have it on tape, and it was Sony/BMG/WEA's own version to match the "Now.." series. It also had some good songs on and apparently, which I never realised all those years ago, the radio edited version of PWEI's "Wise Up! Sucker" complete with changed line "cos my head's in a blast" instead of the original lyric - worth the mere £1 plus £1.24 postage for that alone. Oh, and one of my songs of that summer, "Pink Sunshine" by Fuzzbox, ah the good old days eh?

Wednesday 26th February - Thinking

It's been a mixed bag of a day, but in a way that's been pretty helpful to be honest. I spent a fair amount of the afternoon sorting out an issue with one classroom, that seemed for some reason not to have one piece of software functioning correctly. When I investigated further into this, it was because for some reason the installer complete with serial number hadn't activated the correct way, which I thought was odd. We set off a small SCCM task sequence in order to activate the software correctly and piped that out to machines, all good thus far.

However I did notice in this one room that a few of the machines didn't seem to have the SCCM 2012 client, despite the fact I knew that there was a client push going on to machines that didn't have it. Further investigation showed where it was going wrong: yes, a damaged WMI on each machine. I ran a nice command to repair that and get that sorted, and once that was done, the client push worked properly as did everything else on that machine as well, hurrah to that I said to myself.

It was good to head homewards and I've been attempting where possible to clear my head and put the events of the last few days into perspective. I think on the whole I knew that I needed to work out what I was going to do, and I think that ultimately I'm going to make some difficult decisions in the next months or so. One of which I might well be making sooner than I think though, it all depends on what I can do in the meantime to alleviate the current situation I feel under. Thankfully The Love In My Heart has been supportive which has been massively appreciated.

I More old school Pop Will Eat Itself for me tonight, and mainly going back to 1989 (yes, 25 years ago!) and the singles from that year, including two which were to appear on "This Is The Day, This Is The Hour, This Is This!" no less. Of course there was "Can U Dig It?" and "Wise Up! Sucker" but later on the band released the Very Metal Noise Pollution EP which had two new songs at the time including the original of "92° Farenheit" played at breakneck speed with vocals from Sylvia Tella, and still for me the definitive version - tune of the day was a pretty easy decision really.

Tuesday 25th February - Tired and Emotional

I just really struggled today at work. No matter what I did, nothing seemed to be going right for me, and on top of that I had to spend close on two hours or so fixing a printer fault which in the end seemed to be one caused by people messing with the metal feeder rods that cleanly feed the sheets of paper out of the top front of the printer. That wasn't good but at least I managed to work out the problem eventually and get it all sorted out, and felt a bit more positive because of it.

Still though I just felt rather stressed and was trying were possible to keep my head down and get on with it. Too much going on though around me and to be honest I just wanted to get out of there, and felt really down on the way home. It did concern me a lot that I was feeling like this and I had a feeling just why it was the case, and so need to work on myself a little and think on. I did really need a massive cuddle though from The Love In My Heart and was pleased that she was coming over later.

I must admit I did go on a bit about it all later and did feel pretty bad for it to be honest. I just wanted to cry and really let myself go but couldn't, and seemed to just warble a bit. I just couldn't get out the words I wanted to say, and The Love was trying to offer me some useful advice as to what to do and how to approach things, which was appreciated to be honest. I just wish though rather than all that I'd have just not been able to say anything, have a massive hug and then get on with things normally.

We did have some chicken katsu curry for tea and I tried to make it like they do in Wagamama, so had some fresh breaded chicken and cooked them, did the katsu sauce and some rice too. It turned out okay really, and it was at least an attempt to do something different, although to be honest it also made me want to think about going to Wagamama as well, such is life I guess. Once that was eaten we settled in as we had an appointment with BBC Two at 8pm for..

The Great British Sewing Bee! Of course I may be slightly biased here due to my massive fondness for Claudia Winkleman and all that, but it is a really enjoyable watch all round. My current favourite is Lynda, who really seems lovely and the excitement she had on her face when she saw that Patrick Grant was wearing the pyjamas she made was a really nice moment. She won the garment of the week and as both The Love and I predicted, Simon was next to go. I like the new location though, although overlooking the Thames and all that's going on might prove to be a bit on the offputting side.

The Love headed home early as I was really tired and emotional, and just before I headed to bed there was one song I wanted to play to get out the frustrations of the day and sing along to: "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" by Pop Will Eat Itself. It is a massive song and many of the sentiments about racism and how it was back in 1994 are still true today, which is a sad indictment on society as a whole really. However, when you hear them sing "Will you speak out? Will you defend me?" you can tell the passion in the voices and how much they want you to change, it's epic stuff. Tune of the day was an easy decision let me tell you.

Monday 24th February - Saved By The City

It was a rather manic and stressful day at work, so the less said about that the better really. I just think that I'm getting on top of things, but then something else comes along which puts me behind. It concerns me in a way that rather than be more proactive as I would like to be, instead I'm being reactive, which to be honest isn't how I like it. I think too that often you are at your best when you've got the time to be able to really push on and do what you can do and show how efficient you can be, but that's not happening right now.

I headed homewards, had something to eat and was debating cancelling heading out with my friend tonight to the Manchester City supporters' meeting at the stadium, but then I thought "why should I let my friend down? It's not his fault" and so thought that it'd be best to go out, take the mind off things, meet some fellow fans and some special guests as well which had to be a good thing. So my friend came over, and we headed off through the early evening traffic to the Etihad Stadium.

It was nice to get a cup of coffee (and tea for my friend) and also some rather nice posh large cookies left on each table, so we shared some of those and chatted for a while before the proceedings got underway. It was good that we had two guests: former Manchester City and Manchester United midfielder Peter Barnes, and Manchester City women's goalkeeper Andie Worrall, who as well as being a player is also as diehard a fan as the rest of us.

The evening went well and lots of questions, and plenty too for Andie about the women's team and how they're shaping up for the season. I simply had to ask which three goalkpeers for men and women were up there as inspirations / favourites, and she came up with for the women: Hope Solo (USA national keeper), Karen Bardsley (Manchester City Women and England) and Nadine Angerer (German national keeper) and for the men: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich) and Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) and a pretty decent selection all round, has to be said.

Lots of questions too on the post - Barcelona defeat and what sort of questions had to be asked of the defending and if we were too hard on picking on certain defenders in particular. Plenty of intelligent debate and lots of questions too about Peter Barnes as a youngster, winning the Young Player of the Year award, scoring the first goal in the 1976 League Cup Final and helping Manchester City to finish 2nd in the league not long after that. It was all good.

Later on I got my friend's picture taken with both Andie and Peter, and they were really nice to chat to on the whole too. It was a good night and in a way just what I needed, a bit of a breather. My friend and I headed back later, and I put on some classic Pop Will Eat Itself to see the evening in. I couldn't resist their classic 1989 album "This Is The Day, This Is The Hour, This Is This!" and namely the classic "Preaching to the Perverted" which samples a famous Jimmy Swaggart speech (same one as on The Shamen's "Jesus Loves Amerika" in fact) - and really is still a great favourite live - tune of the day was an easy choice really.

Sunday 23rd February - Lazy(ish) Sunday Afternoon

Whilst The Love In My Heart was having a well earned lie in, I was up and about and watching one of the final Winter Olympic events - the third and the fourth runs of the four man bobsleigh. The GBR1 team had fought back from 12th after the first run to 7th after the second run, and still within a good striking distance of an outside chance of a medal. The third run was in order, so Britain were 7th, and pulled off a time good enough to actually leapfrog a place to sixth and stay well in contention, just 0.03 behind fourth place as well. It was a solid run and showed that they really did want it.

The final run was getting tense, and a few sleds had gone down by the time GBR1 took to the ice. It was a superb start and the run was even better going down, and they did what they had to do: get the quickest time thus far, but it was a massive 0.41 seconds ahead of the next place. The German crew went down next and finished up slower than the British, so at worst 5th for us. Russia 2 pipped us, and then the top three all held their places (USA 1 just ahead of the Russian 2 in third, Latvia 1 second and Russia 1 winning the gold medal.)

It was a positive that the British had gone the right way in terms of moving up the leaderboard every time and just a mere 0.11 seconds off a bronze medal. It showed too that getting a good start number on the first run (it was based on World Cup positions, a fair way of doing it I reckon) was crucial, and if we had have done, a medal might have been a chance along the way. Still it's a good platform to build on for the next four years and proved that we can be competitive in bobsleigh as well as the likes of skeleton too.

The Love and I later on headed to Cheadle Royal and to John Lewis, as she had seen a couple of dresses that she had liked in other shops but we knew that John Lewis also stocked those brands within the store. They didn't have the ones that she was after so she could see them in the flesh, but it was nice to take a leisurely walk around anyway. I did also see close up one of the televisions that I had shortlisted as a possible replacement to my current set in the future, so was good to see what it'd do and how slim it actually was to fit nicely into the front room.

We then headed to the Ashlea for Sunday lunch, which was very nice indeed - lots of Sunday roast all round for us both, I had the gammon and The Love had the turkey, and a nice pint of the Wreckless ale to go with that as well, so no complaints there really either. It was rather warm in there for some reason and was glad I didn't have a jumper on to be honest. It was nice to relax together and have that moment though, and we headed to Mum's as well for a while and had a coffee and chat with her too, so rather nice in a lazy sort of chilled out way.

Later on I noticed that there was a repeat of the Hunt vs Lauda documentary on BBC Two, and it was one I watched originally last August. Some great music in there interspersed with the coverage and comments of the events of the year, including Kraftwerk's all time classic "Autobahn" (make that tune of the day) and of course having the likes of Niki Lauda, Ferrari team manager Daniele Audetto and indeed McLaren team manager Alistair Caldwell really told the story from the inside, and that's what makes it a perfect companion to watching the film Rush too. Watch it on iPlayer if you missed it folks..

Saturday 22nd February - Bungee and Battling

It was an early rise for me this morning, as myself and The Love In My Heart were heading with her father off to Tatton Park in Knutsford, and meeting with The Love's sister and niece. The Love's niece was doing a bungee jump for charity, and we'd obviously all supported her to raise money. Her niece's friend and boyfriend were also coming, so at least she had a suitable rooting section. The Love had also asked me to take the camera with me in case they wanted any shots doing, and as it's nice in Tatton Park anyway, I thought "well I can always take some shots in the park anyway, so yeah, why not?"

We headed to Tatton Park, and despite the instructions from UK Bungee to use the Knutsford Gate entrance, this wasn't open till 10am (which was when The Love's niece's jump was). We'd got there at 9am, and so made the decision to park in Knutsford and then walk through the park, along Tatton Mere and then around to the other side where the sailing club was and also where a 300ft crane was waiting to do the bungee jumps for the many during the day who were taking part.

As we walked along, we saw the crane on the other side of the mere, and until we got there, it didn't look that big. But getting there was a different story entirely, rather ominous and overlooking the mere nicely. The Love's niece was really calm and to be honest itching to go, and I'd sensibly put by walking boot/trainers on as it might have been muddy (and it was). They had someone from the UK Bungee folks demonstrate first and make sure all was safe and good to go, and only then did you realise how much of a jump it actually was. The music was old school 1990's dance including Utah Saints' "Something Good", and as that samples Kate Bush in a good way, that's tune of the day.

Three more people went and did their bit, and The Love's niece was all good to go. They had secured all the stuff around her ankles and centre, and then went up in the crane, and attached everything securely. The crane and the cage went up pretty quickly, and before you knew it, three, two, one and off she went. Having done a bungee jump myself, I completely got the adrenaline rush of how she felt, and coming down from that must have been ace. Before long the crane and bungee rope were on the way down and she was unbuckled, but clearly buzzing from the whole thing. She had raised over £350 for charity as well, so well done her!

The walk back to Knutsford was still a long one because it was more uphill, but at the same time it was clearly a really nice one as I got chatting to the niece's boyfriend (Bolton season ticket holder, and I advised him not to change teams - it's his local team and stick with them as I did with City) and most of The Love's relations too, so all were clearly happy despite the cold weather. We stopped off at The Swan close to Mere, and we all had lunch in there. I had the beef and ale pie and was a bit miffed that it wasn't a proper pie (pastry case lid, doh!) but it was still decent enough: although I wish I'd had the fish and chips that The Love had.

We headed back towards Manchester and The Love and I dropped off her Dad at home before heading back to The Love's place, where my friend headed over and then it was off to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City take on Stoke City. In truth, it was a forgettable game, mainly due to the fact that Stoke were on the whole happy to sit back and defend but also try and stifle the City midfield. City for their part also were playing too much through the middle and not enough down the wings, and.. dare I say this: we've actually played better without David Silva in the side!

Eventually with a few substitutions things took shape: one was enforced as a sub himself Stevan Jovetic went off injured and was replaced by Javi Garcia. This allowed Yaya Toure further forward, and the moment we started to use the wings a bit more, Aleksandar Kolarov went down the left flank and put in a lovely low cross for Toure to scramble home. The Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic will feel he should have done better stopping the shot, but it was a massive relief for every City fan, and it was just a case of making sure we kept attacking and trying for a second goal where we could.

I'd take the 1-0 to keep the pressure on at the top, and so that was fine, and later on The Love and I headed back to mine, I made us some nice chicken for tea and then we settled in for the National Lottery game show (where the England Ashes cricketer question I would have done well on, also the Wimbledon men's singles winners, I even remembered Goran Ivanesevic and Michael Stich!) and realised that once again we weren't going to win anything.. ah well, always next week I suppose.

Friday 21st February - Third Time Unlucky

It was a busy day and I had a bit of a mission towards the end of the working day to locate a member of staff who needed to get access to one of our student records systems, but was using our Mac enabled solution. However, when I checked, she was using the Citrix add-on natively rather than it be launched from the website that she logged on to (easily enough to do that) - and so I was really nice, pointed her in the right direction and the smile on her face said all I needed to know really - it's so nice when you help people out.

I must admit though earlier in the day I did have to try really hard to be quiet and silent during the team meeting: primarily because there were some things that I thought best against saying. There's a few things which I don't feel comfortable with at the moment and I think discretion was the better part of valour on this occasion. I'm trying to learn that sometimes it's not always about having a voice, it's when to use it, and to use it effectively to be the voice of reason. In fact I think the calmer persona these days is working dividends to be honest.

I headed home knowing already that the men's curling team had come away with a silver after being panned 9-3 by Canada in the final, but a silver medal was excellent stuff from them and their play off and semi final stones were ones which deservedly gave them that medal, and a great moment or two to relish from the Games as a whole. I also had seen that Elise Christie had qualified from her heat of the 1000m short track speed skating to get to the semi finals, where I'd hoped that she'd get to the final and maybe get a medal.

The semi final started, she was at the back, and gradually wound the pace up to come up to second, but on the back straight of the last lap the Chinese skater attempted to get by, there was an initial clash but Christie stayed ahead, and was then careered into on the final corner, taking her out. The commentary team thought that Elise would be advanced to the final as she clearly was in second when the incident occurred, but it seemed that the judges were taking a very long time to ponder over the decision.

When it did come, I was really gutted. It seemed that the judges had spotted a push from Elise and then that push maybe had resulted in the Chinese skater losing balance and career into Elise. The fact that they were both penalised made little difference to me - it just felt like the luck of skating wasn't with her, and that no matter what she was going to do, it wasn't just her Games whatsoever. The way she handled the interview afterwards with such dignity and grace, holding it all in, was a perfect example of how to conduct yourself and she deserves a massive amount of credit for that.

I also spent some time listening to Baskery's debut album "Fall Among Thieves" which even after a few years is still a great and vastly under rated release. They do have a third album out so will need to check that out, and are touring, although only playing London. Boo. Anyway, one of their tracks off the debut album is "Haunt You" which has some great bass and guitars in there, along with an infectious chorus to boot and three lovely ladies singing in harmony. What more do you need? Tune of the day easily.

Thursday 20th February - Hurry Hard!

Another action packed day at work today, but one where I did feel that I was making a bit of a difference, in that I was able to at least make sure that I spent some time doing a mountain of testing, this time trying different combinations of software on a machine where we were testing some licencing software - to make sure that it didn't affect any other installations happening. I think in many ways that it's often overlooked, how important testing actually is: would you want to deploy stuff without making sure it works first? Of course not.

I headed homewards and started off a pile of washing, and then settled in to watch more of the Winter Olympics. I did manage to catch up with the women's curling bronze medal play off, where Britain were up against Switzerland. It was a tense affair but with Britain having the hammer in the final end, it simply meant that we had to give skip Eve Muirhead a chance to put one in the centre to win it, and it all came together nicely. Eve set the stone off, dead perfect line and weight and right in the centre of the house to take it 4-3 and the bronze medal, and with the men guaranteed silver at worst, it meant that we had four medals in total, the best at a Winter games for us for ages. Hurrah!

The Love In My Heart came over later, and we had some chicken with mushroom and thyme en croute together with some parmenter potatoes and peas for tea, which went down pretty well: the chicken was moist and the pastry well cooked, but the filling maybe was a smidge on the dry side - still, worth a go though. With us for various reasons heading to sleep early last night, we settled in and watched First Dates that had been on Channel 4 (which I'd recorded) and we both were like "what?" in terms of some ofthe dating. I mean, there was a couple snogging their face off in the restaurant. No.

I think the concept is fine as such, but you do wonder whether some people are now going on it to go on telly rather than find love - their five minutes of fame so to speak. It probably does also show though nonetheless the same difficulties that we've all felt on a first date: conversation pauses, a feeling of "what if they don't like me?" and other parts of doubt that you no less have. I think generally you know if it's going to go well during the date, and I certainly look back at the first time I met The Love In My Heart and about half way through during the meal I thought "she is absolutely lovely, just hope she thinks the same." Must have done something right I think!

We also saw The Hotel Inspector, where Alex Polizzi was giving the once over to a tired looking B and B in Falmouth in Cornwall. The actual place itself had charm on the outside, but the inside really needed some tender loving care on it, and using the former swimming pool as effectively a hoarding tip - massive no from me (and Alex of course). The fact that it didn't say at the end of the programme that it had closed the business said to me that something must have happened to turn it around a bit, maybe the cheaper prices or the extended use of the pool for other revenue making activities?

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather lovely "Goodnight, Hollywood Blvd" by Ryan Adams. I've kind of rediscovered the "Gold" album a bit as of late and after The Love headed home it was just good to listen to that album and relax before sleeping. For me, the softness with the strings and the feeling of it being a late goodnight (it's close to the end of the album too) just personifies the sort of song that I'd want to have written myself for that mood and feeling. Darn, it's good.

Wednesday 19th February - Stone of Destiny

It was another positive day at work, not least as I spent a fair bit of time this morning in a very constructive and productive meeting. I must admit being able to contribute and to do so effectively and professionally did my confidence the world of good to be honest: I made a very good point about how there's certain policies with regards to plans that maybe need to be followed, and everyone agreed with me and said that it was very valid indeed. I was sat next to one of our librarians who I know and it was good to see her too.

In fact today was about seeing people, and that's where I work best. In fact when I was on my way back from sorting out a problem with a projector, I bumped into a couple of lecturers who are really nice people, and I'd not seen them for a while. I needed to speak to them about a forthcoming course committee anyway, and so spent a bit of time with them too. That was quite good as I was able to get some information but at the same time be friendly too, so everyone wins effectively, always a good thing.

I got back home in time to watch the last couple of ends of the Winter Olympic curling semi finals for the men, with Britain up against Sweden. Sweden took two in the ninth end to go 5-4 up but this meant that the Brits had the hammer (ie: the final stone) in the last end, and so needed one to tie, two to win and make it to the final. With two stones left we were lying well, the Swedish skip took aim, but missed the intended stone and knocked that and one of his own out, leaving our skip David Murdoch to be able to tap on to the Swedish stone, have both in and win. Which is what he did - and a 6-5 win (the second in two days to be won in similar fashion and by the same scoreline) to get through to the final.

When checking back through the history books of the curling at the Winter Olympics, when Rhona Martin led the British women to glory in 2002, they too won 6-5 in their semi final against Canada. So maybe there's something in the scoreline? Either way though, it does mean we're guaranteed a silver, and so that's three medals in one Winter games, which would be our best for absolutely ages. And if the women managed to get a bronze tomorrow, that'd be ace too. They were right in it till the end against Canada and at least pushed them to the final stone, so fair dos to them really.

I spent some time tonight catching up on TV I missed last night, including The Great British Sewing Bee with the rather lovely Claudia Winkleman hosting (yes, I do like Claudia. A lot.) I think having more people in a different location (overlooking the Thames in Wapping) does make for a more intriguing show, and it does look quite nice around that area actually - mental note already made to pay a visit there next time I'm in London. I have spotted the location where it's filmed as well as the café. Maybe I need to plan a trip to see that and the old location in Dalton Kingsland?

I did avoid the Brit Awards tonight, primarily because James Corden isn't my cup of tea. During that thought it seemed to be that Prince's gigs in Manchester were announced, two nights in total (Friday and Saturday) at Academy 1. The tickets unsurprisingly sold out, even at a cost of £70 plus £7 booking fee. I suppose seeing someone like that in a small venue must have been an incentive. Not my thing but I knew The Love In My Heart likes him - so I made a quick call. She declined due to the ticket cost but I think she appreciated the fact that I was willing to ask first!

Tune of the day is "Kino" by Cabaret Voltaire. My CD and DVD set of the reissue of "Drinking Gasoline" arrived today, and so playing the CD was an absolute must. More so though was the DVD, a reissue of the old VHS tape "Gasoline In Your Eye" with plenty of classic Cabaret Voltaire on there, and videos all made with the band by Peter Care. The ones for the EP such as "Kino", "Sleepwalking" and "Ghost Talk" are all ace, but Kino is a track I still admire to bits and one of my favourites of theirs. Oh, and the DVD has the video to the 12" of "I Want You" as an added bonus. Yes.

Tuesday 18th February - Getting A Bit Messi

It was a good productive day in the office as my colleague and I spent most of the morning rolling out a software installation or two to two student labs, which we knew weren't going to be used for most of the day. One of the installers could be distributed via SCCM, but the software vendor openly admitted due to the nature of the installer, it couldn't be done silently as a system user, but only as a logged in user with enough admin rights (that's us then). So it was a case of logging on to every single machine and then because the user condition was satisfied, the installer ran without problems. Which was good.

When distributing the other piece of software though, we found a failure on nine of them, and once we got to the bottom of it, we found out what it was. The installer calls a Java base .jar file to perform its installation, but if the Java runtime environment was borked on the machine, it'd fail at that point. Eventually we worked out that an uninstall, remove any remnants of files and then a reinstall would do the job perfectly. I suspected that when a Java update was rolled out to those machines, some of them shut down half way through the install and so borked them which was a bit of a concern.

With all that work done and more during the day, I headed home, nipped into Iceland to get a few bits, and then made myself something to eat before my friend arrived and the two of us headed off to the Etihad Stadium to see a mouthwatering Champions League clash as Manchester City were to take on Barcelona in the first leg of the last 16 tie. When I consider a mere fifteen years ago where City were (League One effectively) and the teams we were playing then, I'd have never guessed that we'd be in the latter stages of the premier European cup competition for the first time ever.

Anticipation was there but more in hope than expectation for us: we knew it was going to be a difficult game really and the best we could do was at least give them a tough time. The club had an idea of having a mosaic around the ground and so every seat had a piece of plastic sheeting, which the idea was you'd put up and that would resemble part of it: a Champions League trophy in one stand, the words "Blue Moon" in another and in our stand a blue moon itself. Nice stuff, and then the Champions League theme played, which I love to bits and so is tune of the day for obvious reasons.

The first half started and City were playing 4-5-1 with Álvaro Negredo up front, a brave move but one to stifle the Barcelona midfield. That said though, the team selection was puzzling: why have Martin Demechelis at centre back when Joleon Lescott and Vincent Kompany made more sense? Why have Aleks Kolarov left midfield and why not play a more attacking formation? All those were a puzzle, but the plan did seem to work somewhat: Barca had a couple of chances, but Negredo headed just wide and a goalmouth scramble resulted in their keeper Victor Valdes holding on the line with the ball, so at least when we did make a break it was fairly incisive. We badly needed a second striker though to really penetrate the defence.

The second half started and within a few minutes the game was turned. A beautiful incisive pass found Lionel Messi, and he took on Demechelis, who fouled him when Messi was bearing down on goal. Penalty or not, it was definitely a foul and a red card (couldn't argue with that). The ref gave a penalty although replays suggested later it might have been on the line (still a pen if that was the case) and some suggested just outside. Messi brushed himself off and scored the penalty for Barca to take the lead for 1-0.

From then on for the most part it was a case of Barcelona passing it around and creating chances, and us doing what we could to hang on a fair bit. We did have a great chance though when Yaya Toure found Pablo Zabaleta, who volleyed it into David Silva, who chested it and shot, but well saved by Valdes. Vincent Kompany had Messi in his pocket for the most part of the game, but it was a defensive lapse by Gael Clichy in the 90th minute which allowed Dani Alves to score, and at 2-0 you had to think it was tie already over.

Still, it was a great atmosphere tonight and when you consider how far that the team have come over the years, just having the opportunity to see City up against the best sides in Europe shows that there's still massive potential for us to eventually improve and go further. I didn't feel gutted, just glad to have seen us give it a good to in a stadium full of passion. I know we'll be back to try again next season and an early goal in Barcelona might at least prove interesting in March - see what happens I guess.

Monday 17th February - Back To Basics

In many ways today I was getting back to some of the basics of the job that I love doing, finding solutions to potential problems but also being able to spend some time testing things too. I think sometimes that it's very easy to be forget how important testing is: in many ways this allows you to work out a plan of action based on the results you have, but also come up with scenarios that might need to be tested and for the results to then be suitably looked at and analysed. I guess having a good analytical brain is pretty good for these sorts of moments to be honest.

One thing I did work out is that now we've finalised testing of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 client, it therefore means that we're able to put it into a position of deployment as people need it (mainly one department). Part of the issue we encountered during testing was that one of the test licence protection pieces of software for some reason wasn't allowing CRM to be installed via its preferred method (ie: SCCM 2012) but removing that did allow the install. As it's something that's still under evaluation itself, we knew that this could be worked on but shouldn't stop us distributing in the meantime.

It was good to feel constructive after a day like that and after staying behind a little bit later than planned, I headed home and decided that a good plan of action would be to spend some time in and watch some telly, but also spend some time reading a book as well - I have a fair bit of the Ronnie O'Sullivan documentary to read and so thought it good to put on MJ Hibbett and the Validators' "This is Not A Library" CD at the same time, so I had some quality tunes to listen to.

The book seems pretty good thus far in that there's a lot of focus on how his own personal demons affected his game over the years, but mainly a battle with addiction as well. A lot of stuff of course had gone on with both his parents, and so naturally that meant things to cope with even before making it big on the snooker circuit. It seemed a reasonably honest assessment of how things went down, and the next chapter on the list is one on the players to see what he thought of them at the time of writing it. I do know he used to idolise Steve Davis though so be good to see what was written in that.

The CD was of course a good bit of music to have on too, with me being after this CD for aeons and finally getting thanks to an eBay seller (who claimed it was a US import, false - Mark himself informed me only 500 copies were pressed on CD, so I consider myself rather lucky to have got it at such a cheap price to be honest) and there's some cracking tunes on there, including one of my all time favourites: "Easily Impressed" which has to be tune of the day. Even now when I see the band live pretty much everyone is ready with the "Oi! Hibbett!" line after the second chorus, superb stuff.

Sunday 16th February - Four Miles For Sunday Lunch

The Love In My Heart and I had had a leisurely night in after the football and we'd gone to my local Chinese to get takeout for tea, which was gorgeous. I got up early to watch some more of the Winter Olympics, namely the super G first, and then the women's snowboard cross which was excellent fun. I was gutted for Zoe Gillings that she just missed out on a place in the final by a small margin, but she took it well and showed that her attitude was "I'll come back in four years and do better!" which is what you want to see.

Later on with the weather dry and bright we decided to head out for a walk, and one we've not done for a while. In effect it's following the former Fallowfield Loop Line, which was a former train line that covered part of South Manchester and where the tracks were still down till the mid 1980s. Today it's now a haven for cyclists as part of a Sustrans national cycle route, and it's also good to walk along too because the path has been tarmaced down so a firm surface to walk on.

We headed through near me and got on to the path, and followed it with bridges going underneath Kingsway, Lindleywood Road, Ladybarn Lane, passing Sainsbury's at Fallowfield, then underneath more bridges at Yew Tree Road, Princess Road, Alexandra Road South and Withington Road and eventually seeing the tram stop close to St Werburgh's Road. Just by that tram stop you can see the junction heading right which will be the new airport tram line as well. We carried on though and crossed the tram line to do the final leg of the journey, skirting alongside streets of terraced houses before finally getting to Chorlton itself.

We decided then to head into The Bar, which we've been in before and always had a nice time in. Today was no exception either. They had the rather nice Ginger Marble 5.1 ale in there (one of eight real cask ales on as well, impressive) and we thought that a spot of late afternoon lunch/early tea was needed after that nice four mile walk. The Love went for the Sunday roast beef and that proved to be good, lots of meat, plenty of roast and mash potatoes and vegetables, a massive Yorkshire pudding and a lot of gravy too. I went for the haddock and chips, with a gorgeous fish, hand cut gorgeous chips, home made tartare sauce and a nice dish of mushy peas as well. All rather nice all round really.

It was sad to say goodbye to The Love after a lovely day or two together, but before she left for home we did get to see the second run of the two man bobsleigh. The British team weren't on for ages and then I realised that as we'd finished 21st in the first run, only the top twenty would be going in reverse order and then us afterwards, and we ended up 23rd after the second run, dropping places. The Jamaicans were there and had a wild ride but got down in one piece, and the crowd got behind them massively, which was great to see as you can imagine.

I also spent some time listening to more 1980s music after being inspired by my visit to the hairdresser's yesterday, and so put on some Depeche Mode. Even after all these years "Everything Counts" is still a classic, and at gigs of theirs it's the one which gets all the fans singing along in unison, which must be pretty spine tingling to say the least. I kind of like the fact it's quite pure in its composition (ie: not layered over the top) and shows a lot of skill. Tune of the day - easy decision really.

Saturday 15th February - Cuts and Chelsea Cut Down

I had a leisurely morning watching more of the Winter Olympics. Indeed it was hard to tear myself away from the action, notably the short track speed skating where Elise Christie was going in the 1500m. She won her heat but for some reason initially was disqualified. As it transpired eventually, and with many observers and commentators wondering what exactly it was she had done wrong, the truth came eventually an hour later, where it was shown that she stepped inside the finish line markings and so technically was cutting the inside of the track by a mere 1cm. Ouch.

However, it wasn't nice to hear that after her 500m final where she had been given silver originally but was disqualified due to a collision that many people had been abusing her over the Internet, especially Twitter. She deleted her account as it turned out and coping with all that as well as concentrating on her races must have been difficult. I think that from what I could see, some of it was just absolutely disgusting (the hate tweets) and it does make you wonder just how much is being done to prevent such stupid behaviour happening. I really want Elise to come back in the 1000m and nail it later this week, that'd show them!

I then went into the city centre and to The Northern Cutter, where as usual the lovely ladies did a wonderful job of cutting the hair and getting it all neat and tidy again - they're fab they are. It was good too that one of the Ministry of Sound 1980s compilation CDs were playing (one of the same ones I have in fact) which meant some quality 80s tunes including "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" by Soft Cell (call tha tune of the day) and also "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" by The Human League of course. Great when there's so many classic tunes to keep you going!

I then headed off into HMV and then spent a bit of time mooching in Fopp, and was sorely tempted by various cheap CDs and Blu-Ray discs. However I thought that it would make more sense to be able to save up for those a bit, not least as the money being spent on the new cooker would mean a need to tighten the strings a little for the next month or so. It was good to see that some of the films on Blu-Ray were pretty cheap though, notably Sherlock Holmes and the first three Mission Impossible films as well.

I headed home and saw the dramatic ice hockey match between the USA and Russia. It was 2-2 in the third period, Russia had a goal disallowed, and then it went to suddend death overtime. Both sides went for it, couldn't score another and so to game winning shots (or penalty shots as it's normally called in the NHL). The three shots each meant a 1-1 level score, and so sudden death kicked in. It took till the 8th shot each for TJ Oshie to finally score for the USA and win it in sudden death, which was definitely dramatic and well worth watching.

My friend came over and we headed to the Etihad Stadium to see Manchester City against Chelsea in the FA Cup. He wasn't confident and I was a bit worried after the league result a couple of weeks ago. However, as I got to the ground I thought that it'd be a good time to get our own back especially as we'd not played midweek due to the bad weather. I also thought that with a good strength team out we could hold our own and hopefully play better than last time out.

And we did. The first half saw us going for it, and after a couple of early chances, we went forward, Edin Džeko held up the ball well and released Stevan Jovetic down the right, who slotted the ball off the post past Petr Cech for 1-0. It was a well worked goal and well deserved. We had a couple of chances where the ball fizzed across the box, but at the back Vincent Kompany looked much happier partnered with Joleon Lescott, and Pablo Zabaleta at the right had Eden Hazard in his pocket, which was very good to see let me tell you.

The second half came, and we were still playing well but I feel needed a second goal. Jovetic went off for Samir Nasri and within a few minutes he'd made a really good impact, doing a superb through ball to David Silva who slotted it back into the path of Nasri and he couldn't miss really - 2-0. And that's how it stayed. Chelsea went for it near the end but the defence held well and on a couple of occasions we could have broken forward for more, but job done, and safely through to the sixth round, and looking at the fact Arsenal or Liverpool could be out tomorrow, might just be a really good chance of getting further...

Friday 14th February - I'm Cooking On Gas

I was up early as I knew that I had my delivery of my new gas cooker from AO.com today, and as promised I received a text at 7am to give me an approximate time, which was around 9am. That was good for me so I made sure I got everywhere cleaned up as needed, and then made sure that I put the Winter Olympics on to watch the downhill part of the super combined, followed by the ice hockey between the Czech Republic and Latvia, which had a controversial moment when Latvia clearly scored, the ref didn't give it and only after appeal did it show how right the replays were. Time for net line technology in that sport then?

Just before 9am the two installers from AO.com arrived, and were very professional throughout, unpacking the new gas cooker inside, taking the old one away and then making sure all their gas safety tests were being done correctly. As my old cooker had an inlet at the bottom with a hose going up, this was old hat and so they had to weld in a new pipe up to where the cooker inlet should be, along with then making sure that the supply was coming through okay without any issues. Once that was done, it was a case of fitting it in and making sure it all worked. Due to the extra pipe weld the work took longer than planned, but they were both really good.

In fact, they even asked to use my Dyson and cleaned up after themselves too, so where the weld and dust was on the kitchen floor they vacuumed it up, and indeed they also fitted a safety chain so that if the cooker fell forward it'd stop and so not affect the gas supply as well. They explained everything clearly to me and it made me glad that I went for the installation - the old one went away and although it was sad to say goodbye after nearly twelve years, I must admit that the kitchen does feel a lot more modern now because of it, so that's also good.

I then focussed the attention to getting gig tickets, as two went on sale today for ones I really wanted to go to. First off was Seth Lakeman at the Lowry on Sunday 19th October, and The Love In My Heart was coming with me (woohoo!) - and so I sorted two tickets out in row K of the stalls. It's a good row cos it's by the aisle and so means lots of legroom, no heads in the way and not many people having to shuffle past you all the time - and the view is also excellent at the right height as well.

I was going to to go the Royal Northern College of Music website to book the Clint Mansell gig, but the website appeared to be down. I did know the phone number though so I rang up - and got a ticket in the front row of the stalls. Hurrah for that. I could have had row AA more in the pit but that would mean cricking the neck looking up, so thought it best to go for stalls A. That indeed made me pretty happy to be able to get that and I'm sure an evening of film score music on 10th October will be different, and excellent too. In fact "Lux Aeterna" from the Requiem For a Dream soundtrack is tune of the day for that reason.

Later on was time to watch the final two runs of the women's skeleton, with Lizzy Yarnold leading after the first two runs. She was first to go on run three and promptly smashed the track record whilst doing it, which sent out a marker to everyone to start off with. At the end of the third run she was a massive 0.78 seconds ahead, and it also meant that she was last to go in the final run so she knew what needed to be done. I think too that it showed that all the training had paid off, because the run was pretty clean apart from turn 11, and everyone seemed to be hitting that left wall after the turn anyway.

The final run came and as the women came down, it was a case of who was going to mount a challenge of some sort. As it got down to the final few, Katie Uhlaender put a very good run down, and then Elena Nikitina did her run, but was all over the place. She hung on to lead by a mere 0.04 seconds over the American. Noelle Pikus-Pace ran next and set a good run, but it meant that Yarnold needed a big error. It of course didn't happen, Lizzy ran the fastest fourth run of anyone (in fact, all her four runs were the fastest in each round) and claimed a deserved gold medal, Britain's first of these Winter Olympics. I was so pleased for her and it was a superb victory, well done Lizzy!

Thursday 13th February - You're My Triple Word Score

I got up and headed to work and as I looked back at the house, all seemed fine with mine despite the storm, but I noticed that the end terrace where one of my neighbours lives has had a chunk of the guttering come away, looked like it was snapped off possibly by a stray roof tile (although the roof seems okay) - could possibly be the building at the end of the street with a stray tile from that, but either way not good. I just hope it's not a massively expensive job for them to repair it, but best be that rather than in some cases I saw on the news roofs coming clean off etc.

Work was pretty productive today: I had the first meeting of part of a focus group who would deal with problem management, and what the difference in theory is between a problem and an incident. It's sometimes hard particuarly in IT to distinguish between the two and try to get to the bottom of things, but in a way it's also good that on the whole there seemed to be enthusiasm for what was going to be a way of looking at things differently, especially with root cause analyses, which tend to be written after incidents as a summary rather than during, so sometimes hard to get completely right as to what you want to do.

After work I headed not home but instead to the city centre and first stop Marks and Spencer Food in Piccadilly Gardens. As I was waiting in for the cooker tomorrow I didn't want to chance it not arriving to cook a meal, and so I suggested to The Love In My Heart that we have a nice meal tonight for Valentine's, which was nice for her cos she could have a drink and snuggle up to bed later with the cats (so everyone wins!). Their dine in for two for £20 had some lovely food, and we've done it before so it's nice to be able to get something we'll enjoy.

In the end I plumped for the croquille st jacques for the starter, and then for the main the duck a l'orange with the potatoes with cheese and tomatoes in them (I also got some mash as an additional side), plus the raspberry panna cotta for dessert, a bottle of cava and a small box of chocolates. The offer was very popular and many people were heading there to get their stuff on the way home too, so pretty pleased I got everything, and as I headed across Piccadilly I noticed a tram would soon be here so I got on the tram to The Love's place.

We had a coffee and settled in to watch Coach Trip which was mainly filmed in Cannes today - we both recognised the Boulevard Croisette which we both walked down when we were there (tis rather lovely it has to be said) and then once that was done, the meal was started to be cooked. The croquille st jacques were as lovely as ever (we had them last year if memory serves me well) and then the duck was simply stunning: we both loved that to bits and having the mash as well as the cubed potatoes gave it all some texture nicely. The Love had also got this really posh raspberry presse which went down gorgeously, as did the cava!

We then snuggled up to watch some telly with the panna cotta before I sorted out something on her laptop so she could access her work stuff from home (they use a Citrix connection to do it and it seemed pretty easy to get working). I did also give her some advice on how to use Outlook and Word 2007 (she's used to the older versions so the ribbon in Word was a little bit different to say the least!) and it was nice also just to be together and do our normal together things too.

We opened our cards, and hers was lovely, and wonderfully understated in the loveliest way, which I really liked. I had got her a card whilst in Lichfield, which had small hearts with Scrabble De Luxe letters spelling out love, with "You're my triple word score" as the tag line. As we both do play Scrabble a fair bit, I knew she'd get the sentiment and was really happy to get the card. That made me feel good as well. It was sad to head home later but I was also happy we'd had a nice relaxing night together full of love and happiness, as we always do.

I think it's important to note before tomorrow that if you do love someone, you love them all the time, not just make the effort for one day. It also made me want to play The Cure's superb "Lovesong" when I got home, which is what I did. The words are spot on and when you consider Robert Smith wrote it for his wife, it's also nice to have that sentiment on record. In fact if The Love In My Heart was a Cure fan, this would be the first dance wedding song - seriously. Tune of the day it most certainly is.

Wednesday 12th February - Very Windy Wednesday

Around lunch time at work I was checking the weather forecast, and it looked like it was going to be pretty windy around the North West of England for the remainder of the day. The weather front looked like it was going to be coastal though so thought nothing more of it at the time, and just carried on with my usual daily work, including rolling out a software install to a bank of machines in one of the buildings with my friend and colleague (who's now joined our team, so that does make me feel rather happy to say the least.)

However it was clear from hearing the wind outside that it was getting up a bit, and we had an all staff email sent from work around 2pm saying that we were being sent home early from work at around 3.45pm and almost all buildings were shutting at 4pm. With the wind at its peak between 5 to 7pm they didn't want people still travelling home at that time and facing the worst of it, so made the sensible decision to at least make sure everyone got home safe. It was quickly and clearly communicated out across all platforms, and that was good to see that it worked spot on.

With that in mind, I headed home later and the wind was getting up a fair bit - in fact you could see that some vehicles were swaying a bit in the wind. It was no surprise to learn that two of the main motorway bridges locally were closed off as well due to the high winds for safety reasons, and that generally traffic getting home was pretty mental, so was very glad indeed to have avoided that. I kept myself nice and warm at home and waited to see if Manchester City's game against Sunderland tonight was to be called off or not.

When my friend came over for us to head to the Etihad, the game was still on, so we braved the rain as well as the wind (although at least the wind had died down a bit) and headed towards the ground. It was only as we were just approaching Alan Turing Way that an announcement came through via Radio Five Live that the game was cancelled: the pitch and stadium was fine, but all around the ground walls had fallen, the programme kiosks had blown over and were blowing across the grounds, and as the area around the stadium is very open to the elements the safety of the fans couldn't be guaranteed, so they decided to postpone it.

Whilst a sensible decision, both my friend and I wished it had been made earlier: not just for the City fans battling the weather, but the Sunderland fans who had pretty much got to Manchester on their coaches only to face a long trip back to the North East. I suspect either or both clubs might be paying their coach fare to the ground for the return game to compensate, which for me at least would be a pretty fair way of sorting it out (tickets of course would remain valid for the re-arranged game as well).

I headed home therefore and had a relaxing night in, listening out for the wind and hoping that none of the slates from the roof etc would come off. I looked outside before I headed to bed and the worst of the wind had died down and all looked good, but I know other people haven't been so lucky. It was certainly the windiest I've ever seen in Manchester for a long time and let's hope we don't get any more of that. It also made me realise how lucky I am compared to other parts of the country which are facing horrible conditions right now, especially in Somerset.

Tune of the day seems an obvious one maybe but it was the first thing I thought of as I was keeping myself snuggled up in the evening: "Stormy Weather" by the Pixies from their Bossanova album. There's only one lyric through the whole song repeated a few times, namely "It is time.. It is time.. whoaaah, it is time for stormy weather" with some crunchingly dirty guitars playing in the background. It just worked a treat and gave you a feeling of battling the conditions yourself if you felt the need to.

Tuesday 11th February - AO, Let's Go!

The Love In My Heart had recently had a very good experience with AO (formerly Appliances Online) when she had to order herself a new washing machine, and of course seeing their funky adverts with the staff seemingly happy in their jobs and the Ramones' classic "Blitzkrieg Bop" being used ("Hey, ho! Let's Go" being easily recognisable of course - tune of the day right there) it was a good idea to check what they had there first in terms of a new cooker.

There were a couple I quite liked and so I ran them by The Love In My Heart, who said they both looked good. In the end I went for a mainly black New World one, perfect to go with the granite coloured worktops in the kitchen, the right fit for the space I need it to be, it's a gas one as well (cookability kids, that's the beauty of gas!) and it was the cheapest price I saw it online. Not being one ever to miss a bargain though, I also scooped some cash back via the Top Cashback website (2%) which means I'll get a little back towards it as well, not to be sniffed at.

In fact after I'd raised the order during my lunch break, I had a call from them just to confirm the order was there and everything was going through, what would happen on my delivery day in terms of timing etc, and indeed another rep rang me back later as I'd opted for their connection and disconnection service (Gas Safe Engineers have to do the job properly and they've started to send them to fit your new cooker, makes sense to me). I made a suggestion that if the person ordering doesn't opt for their own service for connection, to make it clear that for their own safety they need to ensure they use a Gas Safe Engineer when connecting such an appliance (and it's all done in one go then too.)

I headed home and the traffic was properly mental going home, it took me ages to get back. In fact we had a minor blizzard of snow in a ten to fifteen minute spell, and we're talking proper snow as well, even attempting to settle on surfaces around. I suppose after all the rain it was good to see a change slightly, although if it kept being slushy and iced overnight, it might be hairy in the morning, we'll have to see. I got home, and with the Friday now booked off work to have delivery of the new cooker, all was well with the world.

The Love In My Heart came over, and I had got some mince, so I improvised and made a spaghetti bolognaise. it worked well with the mince as it was lean, and hardly any fat whatsoever too, so did that, put the pasta sauce in and mixed it all nicely letting it simmer, and cooked the spaghetti as well, which did its job rather nicely. Not done something like that for ages so was really pleased how it turned out in the end - at least the hob was still working so I was able to cook something for tea.

We watched the second part of the Births, Deaths and Marriages programme on ITV, and it was quite sad to see the former Marylebone Town Hall close down and all the records of the births etc being moved to their new locations. It was interesting to see the stories of those who worked there and how they each did their jobs. The woman who was tracking down those who died without any contacts or records must have had such a hard job to do - to be the only one present at the cremation, to search the house for records in the distant hope of finding relatives to inform them, immesely challenging we both thought.

Monday 10th February - Tracking Down Errors

I had a bit of a mission or two today, the first being testing a piece of software that is basically used on a web page following an upgrade on Friday that had taken place. I did a few tests on my own machine and found that despite all the upgrades, it was still asking to install Adobe Reader 10 despite the fact I had 11 up and running without issues on my machine - which clearly to me indicates that any code present isn't doing a proper form of detection. Surely any version higher would be compatible and be allowed to work, right? I mean that's what you would normally do in those situations.

The other issue was testing a software installation via SCCM 2012, as a colleague who had been testing it had found that there were errors when performing the test. I remoted on to the test machine in question, and had a feeling that it might have been a piece of software which handles licencing controls that was at fault. To prove the point I carried out an uninstall of that and then using the same task sequence I was testing with, I tested out the installation, and guess what? It worked first go. The only change I'd made was to remove that other software. Naturally my concern is what if that stops other software too? That would indeed be a bad move all round.

I headed home and felt positive that I was starting to track down some errors, and once I got home I settled in and watched some more of the Winter Olympics. It's been good so far and the women's luge was on today, which seemed pretty intense and all good competition. There was also the live men's moguls skiing finals (or bumpy jumpy as several people have been calling it) and that worked out well, and the Canadians at the end were pulling off some crazy air tricks to get some scores, and negotiating the bumps in quick time too. The host nation got a bronze so naturally that was them going mental.

I switched on the oven in my cooker, waited for it to get to temperature before I would set the correct gas mark, and... nothing. I was a bit perplexed, and indeed I left it for a bit, checked everything inside and all seemed well, and turned it on again. Eventually the flame came up, but it was the only time it would do and just enough time to cook something for tea before it went. Now, looking at what I can see, the flame failure device (which cuts out the gas if required to do so) had failed, so it was stopping the flow of gas at all times and not working as intended.

Looking online, the costs of these and indeed to get one fitted weren't cheap either - and as I'd had the cooker since I moved into the house (eleven and a half years ago) and the previous owners probably had it for a bit before I moved in as well, so it's done the job. Granted it has an eye level grill which some people think is a bit old school, but I guess as well that it works and the grill does do what it's supposed to do properly. It's a bit sad that it's giving up the ghost, but it'll be good in the end to get something which will fit in with the kitchen too, so sort of a mixed blessing really.

Tune of the day is a classic from Pop Will Eat Itself, namely "Can U Dig It?" which was released as a single twenty five years ago this month. It's a classic from their catalogue and showed the direction which they were going at the time: more hip-hop, with good use of samples and plenty of guitars and beats to get you in the mood and rocking. It's also because I've pledged towards their new EP which includes a ticket for their gig at Sheffield O2 Academy 2 in May as well, so looking forward to that.

Sunday 9th February - History In The Making

I got up early, leaving The Love In My Heart to have a well deserved lie in, as the blue riband event of the Winter Olympics, the men's downhill skiing was on at 7am. I knew that the course was difficult and it'd definitely be a case of someone skiing certain parts of it spot on who would win. Early on, that seemed to be the case as those who made up time in the middle icy section had the best time with Kjetil Jansrud taking the lead early on. His time was then beaten by Matthias Mayer a few minutes later, but there was still a wait for some of the top men to come down.

Bode Miller came down in bib 15, but he made bad mistakes in the middle section and that cost him any chance of a medal, and then Aksel Lund Svindal also headed down. He too was close throughout but faded a little in the middle section and he was in bronze medal position at the finish. Two races later was Christof Innerhoffer and he was up on Mayer at the final checkpoint but the final jump proved costly, he was a little too off line and that very slight error meant he finished 0.06 seconds behind Mayer, meaning he was Silver and Jansrud in bronze. No one bettered the time after that and that's how it finished. Pretty exciting stuff all round though.

Then it was off to the women's slope style, with British interest. Jenny Jones had qualified through the semifinal route for the final, and although her team mate Aimee Fuller didn't make it, she joined the BBC commentary team as the top 12 women went down. As Jones was second qualifier from the semis, she went second, and laid down a solid marker, only for four others to be better than her by the end of the first run. Her initial run had been safe but knew she had to lay it down second time around to have any chance of a medal.

Jones started her second run, the rails were excellent and all three jumps were technically excellent, although not lots of rotations she did do grabs and crucially landed her jumps spot on, and the judging had been pretty consistent to reward those clean runs. Her final score was 87.25, which at the early stage put her into the lead. Sina Candrian of Switzerland came along soon after and did a good run with a couple of minor hand drags to keep her up, but with more difficult jumps. The judges gave her 87.00, so Jones was still ahead. As riders came down, some fell or made mistakes, and Enni Rukajärvi of Finland then nailed hers brilliantly for a massive score of 92.50 to take the lead with Jones second.

One by one the riders went down, and Jamie Anderson was the third last athlete. Her run was amazing and to be honest deserved to win it, and the score of 95.25 showed that to be the case, and that put Jones down into third. I must admit I was thinking "please let the other two make mistakes on their final runs" and secretly so were the BBC commentary team. Isabel Derungs went first, and made a massive error and fell, and when Anna Gasser mucked up her first kicker jump and landed on her backside, that was enough for us to know that Jenny Jones had claimed a historic bronze medal.

To put it into context, after Alain Baxter was stripped of his bronze medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in the slalom for testing positive for a banned stimulant, this meant that Great Britain had never won a medal on the snow - all the other medals were on ice: either curling, ice hockey, bobsleigh, skeleton, or figure skating, so it was easy to see just how historical Jenny's achievement was. Well done to her, and I'm sure it's given the British team a massive boost for the rest of the games showing that if you put your A game on and give it your best, you can achieve.

Later on The Love In My Heart and I had a leisurely afternoon as we headed to The Lowry to see the exhibition Defining Me: Musical Adventures in Manchester, which showcased artefacts, photographs, posters etc of the Manchester District Music Archive, along with its donators. For us both it was a fascinating insight into how music used to be in the city, with various venues come and gone (including the Electric Circus for example) and how cheap gigs were to go to, how often famous bands would play in the city, and the stores behind the fans and the love for the artists that they had at the time. Tune of the day is A Guy Called Gerald's "Voodoo Ray" after I spotted that someone had donated an original release 12" single (rare as hen's teeth!) to the archive, and I had to go home and play that single later on..

It was a great exhibit though and it was really good to see so much of the musical history being preserved. Some of the old photographs of gig venues and record shops, original membership cards of the Haçienda and even some inside shots, some of the former places like Belle Vue being famous for outdoor concerts and what have you, just really fascinating. We had a late lunch in Bella Italia (30% off food, like our bargains us!) and the pizza Cotto was simply one of the best pizzas I'd had in ages, credit to the chef there for such a good job I reckon. Right then, back to the Winter Olympics for the re-run of the 7.5k biathlon sprint...

Saturday 8th February - Curtains For Me

It was nice to have a relaxing night's sleep, and be up reasonably early-ish to see some of the action at the Winter Olympics, namely the men's slopestyle where two British men were to qualify for the final. It was entertaining to watch, not least because of the amount of air generated from the kickers for the various stunts, and some of the tricks being pulled off were somewhat insane to say the least - especially three or even four rotations all the way round on one jump - sort of playing the likes of Tony Hawk's skateboarding games to be honest.

The Brits didn't do too badly either, for a while we had Jamie Nicholls up there, but gradually as a lot of the boarders nailed their second runs, he would eventually finish a creditable sixth with his team mate Billy Morgan in tenth place. To have two people in the final though was a very good achievement and I have to say I really enjoyed the event - technical rail sections and some jumps for the crowds really did make for an enjoyable event and I'm sure the women's final tomorrow will be just as good because of it.

I then headed into the city centre. I had decided that after many years of having a blind inside the window of the office room that it'd be better to have curtains up instead, and as I now had a spare pair due to the new ones for the bedroom it made more sense to get those up in the office room and have a pole put up. Knowing it was quite a small window I didn't need a long pole as such, and after some research I checked out one in Wilkinsons which was extendable, but the shortest length was 100cm, pretty spot on for what I needed to have.

One purchase later and a look around a few other shops, and I was home early afternoon. I had already unscrewed the blind and removed it, and cleaned the window inside (and partly out as much as I could) and so it was then a case of putting up the three support brackets (I used some existing holes above the window where possible, made a lot of sense) and once those were up, and the pole grub screwed to the length I wanted it, I then put the pole on with the rings, and then screwed the support screws into the brackets to keep the pole in place. It worked pretty well actually.

I then realised that as the pole had eighteen rings, I didn't have enough curtain hooks left because the existing curtain had less hooks in for the old pole in the bedroom. I nipped out to get some hooks, and as I'd washed and ironed the curtain, I was then able to put it up, get it all in place and look the part. I was pretty pleased too as it meant I was able to use what I already had in some part and also meant that if I wanted to change curtains around I had the option to do so, so that was pretty good all round really. I put on the Seth Lakeman album for some nice calming influence whilst putting them up, and I still like the album closer "Portrait of My Wife" so that is tune of the day.

I settled in for the afternoon to see some more of the Olympics including the luge before heading towards the Apollo to get some tickets for myself and The Love In My Heart. It meant I was able to get some good seats and best of all because I was paying cash, no booking fee. This actually saved me £5.25 booking fee per ticket and a £3.25 postage fee, so that's almost £14 saved, so as you can see, pretty worth me doing that. The Love picked me up from outside the Apollo on her way to my place and that meant we could have a nice cosy evening in together, which is what we did.

It was good to see some of the luge as well before we had some nice chicken in cider sauce and potatoes and vegetables, and with the blood orange creme brulee for dessert, it meant we could watch the lottery show and see how we'd do on the naming of lists before then seeing if we'd win any money or not on the lottery, which we didn't win. Boo hiss. Needless to say with Manchester City only getting a 0-0 draw at Norwich, Match of the Day wasn't watched and we cosied up after Jonathan Ross to an early night, which was actually nice to be snuggly too. The simple things are sometimes the nicest after all.

Friday 7th February - That Friday Feeling

I woke up this morning, showered and got myself dressed and ready, and headed down to the conservatory for breakfast around 8.30am. The host Pauline was lovely and I explained that I'd been to the cathedral for the gig, and she informed me that quite a few events are held there now, and that the couple staying in the room next to me had also been to the gig. They came down for breakfast themselves and I had a good chat with them about the gig and all things music, and they'd seen Seth in more places than me too - Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester and even Buxton! Impressive, that.

Breakfast was really nice too, lots of toast, coffee, orange juice, cereal, cheeses with bread and some ham if you wished, and some fresh fruit as well. Lots to enjoy and even some eggs if you so wished as well, really good stuff. It was just nice to look outside and the possible sunshine and have good conversation. Indeed when I checked out and paid later on it was really nice to thank Pauline for such a lovely stay and that the bed was comfy (which it was) and the nice big towels were a definite plus. Apparently some people had told her it was wasteful to use big ones - not for me, I loved it!

I headed through the centre of Lichfield and as I had a bit of time to spare, had a quick wander around some of the shops before heading to Lichfield City station, heading on the train to Lichfield Trent Valley and waiting there for the 11:17 departure. That was a nice comfortable journey to Stoke-on-Trent too (thanks London Midland) and equally nice and comfortable on the slightly delayed 12:20 to Manchester Piccadilly via CrossCountry as well, so got home pretty much on time. It was also quite nice weather wise so that cheered me up no end.

I headed home and had a nice surprise in the post: the pictures I'd had developed from DS Colour Labs, complete with their usual CD of the pictures too. I had used my Nikon F80 film SLR when going to Lyme Park on Sunday and so was good to get the film developed. There's some nice shots in there and so having them on CD as well does mean that I'm able to do some digital editing of them if I need to, although the prints came back really lovely and sharp too. They're good at this sort of thing, hence the reason I use them. And with film so cheap at Poundland, that offsets the developing costs nicely.

Having now done all the washing it'll be time to kick back, watch the Winter Olympics opening ceremony and then have a relaxing night in, watching The Last Leg later and more than likely doing a bit of telly catch up as well. It's been good to spend some time off work and I think the more I enjoy the time I have, the better for me. Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather gorgeous "Solomon Browne" by Seth Lakeman which I've had in my head for most of the day after last night's rather superb gig.

Thursday 6th February - Lakeman in Lichfield

It was the start of two days off work for me today, which I'd booked a few weeks back, partially because I was going to need to think about using the remainder of my leave off work, but also because I knew that there might be a strike on at work, and so didn't really want to lose a day's pay, so booked the leave off well before the cut off date for taking it. As it transpired, this was an inspired move when I noticed that Seth Lakeman was playing around the country to promote his new album, so it wasn't difficult to put two and two together and get things in place to make it happen.

After a comfortable lie in and sorting out an overnight bag, it was off to Manchester Piccadilly station, where I'd be taking three trains in total to get to Lichfield City station. First off, Manchester to Stoke-on-Trent via Virgin Trains, and I had around twenty minutes wait there so got a nice coffee from the Gourmet Coffee café on Platform 1. It was then London Midland all the way, joining the stopping London Euston service which stopped at Stone, Stafford and Rugeley Trent Valley before arriving at Lichfield Trent Valley, where the rain started to pelt it down. Headed up to the bridge for Platform 3, and then one stop to Lichfield City, arriving on time.

It was a short walk through the centre and the shops to Dam Street, where my overnight stay would be at The Bogey Hole, a little B&B which was located pretty close to the cathedral itself. The owner Pauline greeted me on arrival and showed me to my room. As it turned out only two of the rooms were booked for tonight, so she offered me a double at no extra cost. That was rather lovely. I would be staying in the Chad Room, which overlooked the pedestrianised street with a Tudor building opposite. It had a really comfortable bed, en-suite bathroom with shower and everything, and a massive bath towel, like I have at home. The room was well laid out, Freeview telly as well, and really showed attention to detail. Yaay indeedy.

I unpacked (and lots of hangers in the wardrobe too, another plus) and headed out in the rain around the centre of Lichfield. The minster pool of water in front of the cathedral grounds looked lovely, and the small park where the war memorial is overlooks part of this. Looking outside the cathedral showed how beautiful the building is, and as I was sheltering from the rain in the main entrance, I could hear behind the doors the sound of Seth Lakeman and his band rehearsing. This also meant that the main entrance wouldn't be the way in tonight so made a note of that.

The centre of Lichfield did have a lot of historic buildings, some of which were Tudor fronted in style, the Guild Hall also looked impressive, and the three church spires around the centre also showed an impressive history and heritage. I immediately felt comfortable and at home to be honest, and that was a good feeling. What was also impressive was a good number of independent shops, at least three of them being coffee shops, seemingly doing well. It was nice to see, and I made a note of one shop that sold cards to nip in the morning and see if they had any nice Valentine's cards for next week.

Once back at my room I relaxed with a bit of Countdown on Channel 4+1 (admittedly, I do like Susie Dent off there!) and then it was showered and changed before heading out for an evening meal. I found a nice pub, and it was their curry night - curry and a pint for £5.99. One chicken korma and the Backyard Blonde later and that was me well sorted, and it was good to relax with a drink and be in the mood for tonight's show. All of Seth's tour this time is in churches or cathedrals (his new album was recorded in a church) and I'd be sure that the acoustics would be good.

Knowing my ticket was unreserved choir stalls, I got there before the doors opened at 6.45pm which allowed me to make sure that I had time to get in and get to a seat. The layout inside meant that the reserved seats was towards the stage at the end of the cathedral, you went in via the transept, so you were in the middle of the cathedral. As you went in on the right was towards the rear and the choir stalls seating in there. I got front row of that which meant I could see through the arch and straight down to the stage, admittedly slightly distant - but you could tell those who turned up later and were much further back were a bit unamused. You snooze, you lose.

Dead on 7.30pm Seth Lakeman started his show, and straight away the intimate setting and the gorgeous acoustics really did mean for a clear crisp sound and one that meant you were able to hear no matter where you were sat. It was going to be intimate and lovely, and certainly when he was playing tracks from the new album "Word of Mouth" it felt that way, notably songs such as "The Courier". It was interesting to see that he had Lisbee Stainton playing and singing too, and her voice was a perfect foil to Seth's on a number of songs too.

One gorgeous moment during the first half was when he unplugged the violin and did "Portrait of My Wife" completely acoustic minus the PA, and let the cathedral carry the sound. It really did tingle the spine in all the right places and was a beautiful thing to behold - tune of the day for that reason. He also did "Solomon Browne" which is about the Penlee lifeboat disaster in Cornwall, and a storming version of "Take No Rogues" as well which had something extra with Lisbee on the vocals too. "The White Hare" also got an airing and that felt rather lovely.

A break midway through allowed for some liquid refreshments, and the church volunteers rang a bell to get everyone back to the seats for the second half of the set, where more magic happened. Naturally, "Kitty Jay" solo violin and at a fast pace was played and that really did show off the acoustics, and as you can imagine a lot of people were happy with that. Indeed, having such an early track as "Ye Mariners All" also pleased me immensely, probably too much to ask for "How Much" so this was pretty good to have. "Apple of His Eye" was also very good too.

The last two songs for the encore really encouraged everyone to dance at the front (and they did!) as he went all howdown style with "Blood Upon Copper" to start with, building up pace as the song progressed. That went almost straight into the brilliant "Race To Be King" which again got faster as it went through with any remaining energy in the crowd being used to really go for it. It showed just how much musically the band were together with Seth and how much togetherness the crowd felt too. It did feel a really special gig and I think this will be up there with one of my favourite gigs of the year.

It was all done at around 9.30pm (most likely a curfew at 10pm possibly?) and so it was the very short walk back to The Bogey Hole and to my bedroom where I watched some of the Olympic slope style qualification on the red button before settling in to my very comfortable bed, which was lovely and cosy and warm, and that felt really good. It had been a lovely day all round despite the rubbish weather and I felt positive about the fact I'd made the most of the time off. Hurrah!

Wednesday 5th February - Record Breaker

And no, not cueing the theme tune from the 1970s TV show with the late Roy Castle singing the theme tune either. I did feel postive though after a productive day, where I finally got time to look at a way of upgrading some of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM plug-in installations to version 2013 from 2011, mainly onset by a system upgrade that had been performed by an external supplier. The key thing was to ensure that a task sequence in SCCM should prompt the user to quit Outlook and Internet Explorer (or quit them for them), remove the old version and install the new version.

Finding a nice silent uninstallation command was rather helpful for 2011 and I updated the SCCM package with that uninstall program. It was then a simple case of finding out that /Q did the silent install for the new version, and once I got a task sequence together, a test on my own machine proved to be successful, so it's out to others for testing. I think I've not managed so much that made me feel positive for a while and the last three days have sort of made me feel somewhat inspired.

I headed home a little later than planned but was also sorting a few things out for plans for the future: both The Love In My Heart and I thought that it'd be nice to stay somewhere really nice and lovely for our respective birthdays, and so the place I was looking at for The Love's birthday got back to me to confirm that the rooms were free, and so after consultation, I booked one of the large double rooms. In effect it means that it's close to where we'd like to be for her birthday, and also means that we can have a relaxing and peaceful stay.

As for my birthday, I remember with happy memories how The Love whisked me off to Masham and to The White Bear, and to the Black Sheep Brewery Tour as well. I thought it'd be nice to go back there and this time around do the Theakstons Brewery Tour (it's in the same village no less) and of course as The White Bear is a pub that also serves their fine ales, it'd make for a rather lovely time of it all. The staff there were lovely when they rang me back after their enquiry, and so all was well with the world there too, so two nice places to go booked in one night. Get me!

After tea, it was good to wind down with some Wii Sports Resort on the Wii. I was definitely on a positive roll this week, as not only did I break my 3 hole record for the special course (holes 19-21) with a score of -3 (3 under par) but also I did the 100-pin bowling, hit eight strikes in a row (the curve ball is the key here) and scored a mammoth 2699 points, beating my previous best by over 200. It was quite reassuring to hear the announcer say "it's a new record!" and really make me feel ever so positive.

I think that it's definitely been a case of feeling more positive about myself in the last few weeks: I know that things are starting to work well for both The Love and I, and her new job has given her fresh impetus and a sense of belonging that really does make for a happier bunny. I can see that difference too and in a way that's allowing me to get my head down and get on with several things too and concentrate my energies a lot more into what can be done to move forward myself. I'm being realistic of course, but you never know.

Tune of the day is the rather ace "Civlised Debauchery" by 3 Daft Monkeys. It does seem having time off work during the week feels a little bit like that, as I'm heading off to see Seth Lakeman tomorrow night. I also wondered in such a venue how ace seeing 3 Daft Monkeys would be too, their positive energy and songs that make you smile really does rub off well when you see them live, and bounding around a cathedral with its acoustic somehow sounds so right for them. Clap, clap, fiddly dee indeed!

Tuesday 4th February - Word of Mouth

It was another pretty positive day in the office, where I managed to get to the bottom of an issue which a few members of staff, including my deputy manager, were having. For some reason when iTunes decided to launch it would come up with an error referring to MSVCR80.DLL, a Visual C dynamic link library, sometimes associated with one of the executables for the Apple Device Support, an integral part of iTunes. It transpired that after some investigation some users who had admin rights may have updated in the last week to iTunes 11.1.4, and that would have been the cause.

Checking on Apple's own forums showed a series of similar complaints, effectively saying that the update borked iTunes on their Windows box. Most of the time it was a case of uninstalling the version, and then distributing our safely packaged and working 11.1.1.11 version from SCCM. In a way it also means we have a consistent version out there, and indeed by using a clever install switch means you don't need to install the intrusive and annoying Apple Software Update, so much better for corporate use as well. Not daft, me you know!

Anyway, it was good to get things sorted and generally try where possible to get to the bottom of some issues, and left for home feeling pretty good. Once I got home I noticed a rather large bubble wrapped envelope, and my suspicions were right - it was the new Seth Lakeman album "Word of Mouth". The limited run that I pre-ordered from the website was a book and inside it had two CDs, one of the album and a second of extra tracks plus interviews with the people who inspired some of the songs, and a short DVD of the making of the album as well. It also had an A4 sized print signed by Seth himself. It just goes to show that sometimes you have to make the effort to make a CD worth purchasing and it was definitely the case here.

The Love In My Heart came over for tea, and once we had the thai chicken along with some dauphinoise potatoes, we settled in for an evening game of Scrabble and put the album on so we could have a good listen. It all sounded really nicely produced and with lots of the subject matter being about Cornwall, similar to what 3 Daft Monkeys did for their album Of Stones and Bones. One track that caught my attention straight away was "Labour She Calls Home" which is written about Rowena Cade, who founded the Minack Theatre, and that was tune of the day as it was a really lovely song too.

After listening to that we put on the Births, Marriages and Deaths programme on ITV, all about the registrar's office in the city of Westminster (and mainly a Marylebone Town Hall no less). It was intriguing to see some of the wedding ceremonies taking place, how the registrars themselves actually think it's a positive about love, and how one of the colleagues changed their opinion about gay people when she ended up working with one (and a positive change too I should add). It was massively sad though that a baby who'd been registered a few weeks before had then passed away, and it was handled delicately and sensitively, which The Love and I both went "awwwww" to. It must have been heartbreaking for that to happen.

Turning over to ITV4 saw that Fulham v Sheffield United in the FA Cup replay was still on and into extra time. The Blades fans were singing their "Jose Baxter Baby" chant loud and proud and he took a corner with a minute of extra time, it was flicked on by Harry Maguire and then headed in from close range by Shaun Miller. Their fans went understandably mental and I must admit I was pleased for them too - one of my colleagues on another team is from Sheffield and a fan of the Blades, so I can imagine him being pretty happy with that scoreline too!

Monday 3rd February - Solving Problems On A Roll

I was determined to get to the bottom of an issue which effectively was causing all sorts with SCCM 2012, and the lack of actually PXE booting correctly for any unknown computers which weren't in the SCCM database and / or indeed didn't have a MAC address in its attributes for the machine (where the client push had failed) because of various reasons. As you can well imagine, it was frustrating if you were seeing a machine just get stuck at the DHCP screen with dots everywhere and not going anywhere.

As a test, I made sure my test laptop wasn't in any SCCM database (either 2007 or 2012) so it would effectively be a vanilla machine. I then did some work with one of our Systems Team folks, and what should happen is that when you do all the relevant options in the admin console for enabling unknown computer support, it should in theory correctly enable Windows Deployment Services (WDS) and configure it correctly. It seemed to have all the tick boxes done but somehow not playing ball as intended, so we did a side by side comparison between 2007, our development 2012 box and the live 2012 box, and all seemed to be a similar setting.

However, when testing with our development box, we always imported a machine first, which meant its MAC address and name were known to the 2012 PXE boot server for development, and now with my test, that wasn't showing either. Hmm. Anyway, some further testing later and we got to look at the WDS settings on the test box, trying out a setting, seeing if it worked, revert back. Anyway, a few minutes in, we hit what seemed to be the right setting, in that the PXE response tab of the WDS server properties was set not to respond to any requests. Set this to respond to all, and booted up my test machine, and hey, it got an IP, attempted to look for work, found nothing to do and then moved on happily.

We scheduled in a change of config on the live server, then tested this out, and on my test machine, and several other machines which I also tried when I hit the F12 key to PXE boot correctly, it all came up with getting an IP address, and worked without issues. Our DHCP is done by our switches and the system that looks after those and it's not the same as the SCCM 2012 box (or I'd be pointing at the infamous settings 66 and 67 on the server's DHCP settings) and the switches were correctly configured (or no machines at all would locate the IP via the router's IP helpers) so it looked like I'd cracked it.

Indeed later on when the IP helpers were switched back on for the various vLANs, all tests proved successful and it meant that I was then able to make sure that everything worked correctly, and was rather pleased that it all worked out in the end. I think sometimes when you need to really focus on a problem you can get it done by being methodical and logical, which is my approach these days to a lot of problems to make sure that it worked correctly. Indeed late on in the day I was also able to resolve a second issue where a driver package hadn't successfully uploaded, so the dependencies failed. Once that was fixed, all good to go too.

Then it was Manchester City v Chelsea, and there was talk before the game of Jose Mourinho parking the bus for the team and seeing if we could get past them. In fact it was the opposite, they had a real go and to be fair were deservedly 1-0 up at half time through Branoslav Ivanovic. We didn't get going and the baffling decision to have Martin Demechelis in midfield instead of playing James Milner alongside Yaya Toure didn't seem right to me, disjointed and too easy for Chelsea to break through.

The score stayed at 1-0 and to be truthful we were lucky to get away with that, Chelsea hit the woodwork and were by far the better side. It's been the first time since November 2010 that we've failed to score at home in the Premier League, the first league home defeat of the season (having won the previous 11 on the bounce) and generally it was a massively deflating moment after the triumphs of the day gone so far. New Order's "Blue Monday" played before the game (tune of the day) seemed massively appropriate somehow to sum up the feelings really. I was just not happy with the performance, and dare I question Manuel Pellegrini's tactics? Maybe so.

Sunday 2nd February - The Only Way Is Pemberley

The Love In My Heart came over Saturday evening and we watched the lottery show, didn't win but we did see a pretty superb win from the challengers on the show, where they successfully names 52 words that are in the lyrics of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. Of course if you know the song (as I do) it's a darn sight easier to be able to actually guess the words of the song because you would have them in your head, and good that they deliberately played along to the first verse and got most of them from there. Impressive, as was watching Rush on Blu-Ray later on as well, that really did sound superb in full surround, oh yes.

The Love In My Heart and I got up and had breakfast and knew that we were heading out to Lyme Park later, as for their Winter exhibition they had a walk and tour based on the locations used by the BBC for the filming of Pride and Prejudice, and with the statue of Darcy still in the pond close to the house, perfect for many a fan (including The Love of course) to be able to go along and see what the fuss was all about. With the weather set fair but rain having fell the last few days we took sensible footwear, this proved to be a good move all round let me tell you.

I was going to take my Nikon F80 film SLR and shoot some film around the park, and this made a lot of sense to me for a change. However I checked the batteries and they were gone, and so nipped to the discount shop on the way there and got some spare just in case, which made perfect sense. Not least as the CR123s that they had were a mere £1.99 each, so less than four pounds for a replacement was good all round to be honest. That and once the film was inserted into the camera, I was good to go for some different shooting.

We got to the entrance to the gardens, and we showed our memberships, and that got us into the garden and some of the exhibit for free, and it'd normally be four pounds, so money saved there. We walked around and with the guide we had there was a little trail to follow, and at certain locations large wooden frames which you could look through and see as the BBC cameramen would have seen it when filming there, and obviously one by the statue there. The Winter sun was really good too and came into the orangery rather beautifully it has to be said.

We also went around the shop and where one of the cafés was, they had a wall display with details about the characters and the actors from the BBC series, and down one aisle you could play chess and backgammon as if you were in the film, and even try some venison pate if that was your thing. One of the parts of the former chapel of the house was set up with pictures of the park by artists, and the other had costumes for people to dress up in (and a lot of the children did I have to say).

In the small café, the room was empty of all catering, but instead had some of the original costumes from the series, including the white shirt was worn by Colin Firth in the scene from the lake (yes, that one!) - and so as you can imagine lots of middle aged women rather looking at it with a swoon. In fact there was a small part of the exhibit about the role of Darcy and whom people thought played it the best. Colin Firth won with around a 80% majority of people who filled the form in voting for him, seriously!

On the way back we turned left at Hazel Grove and was going to head to Poynton for lunch. However at the first lights we spotted that the Fiveways pub had been done up and looked very inviting, and a Holts pub at that so that meant decent beer for not expensive prices. In fact this proved to be a good move all round: the inside was rather lovely, with lots of comfy seats, a cosy bar area and best of all,a proper carvery. It looked lovely so we decided to have that for lunch. It was a good move.

You got two thick slices of whatever meat you wanted, and they were thick slices indeed. We both went for gammon and turkey, along with Yorkshire pudding, carrots, potatoes and gravy, and I had sweetcorn too. It was gorgeous, best carvery we've both had in ages and best Sunday roast meat we've had too. That, a pint of the Two Hoots ale and The Love for company, does it get any better than that? No. In fact the carrot cake I had for dessert was lovely too, so all round, a massively positive experience and one I can recommend.

We got back, we had a game of Scrabble whilst listening to Swing Out Sister and that was all good for us for the weekend, and whilst hard to say goodbye to The Love, I knew she had the kittens to see to as well as some ironing, and so I put on Queen's "A Night at the Opera" DVD-Audio, with the output analogue so my DVD player was doing the decoding duties, with the amp set to accept 5.1 analogue audio from the player. It sounded gorgeous, especially the epic "Prophet's Song" with the vocals everywhere in your ears, so tune of the day from me.

Saturday 1st February - Wind, Rain and Curtains

I woke up and looked outside at the weather, it wasn't the nicest ever shall we say. The wind and rain has been a constant over the last few weeks but today it especially looked rather evil to say the least. I did want to head out and check out some music purchases (possibly) at Sifters in Burnage and was also toying with the idea of some new curtains for the bedroom as well, as I'd seen some recently which I liked the look of and thought that they would look good in there.

Once I had breakfast it was off on the bus towards Fog Lane, and headed under the railway bridge by Burnage station and on to Sifters. I've always liked it in there, the pricing is always pretty fair, the stock is well looked after and the owner knows his music, and normally has some classics playing from the hi fi system behind the counter. Today was no exception either as he had a compilation of some of the 1960s classics playing, including the classic "Paper Sun" by Traffic, with of course Steve Winwood's voice in fine fettle (so that's tune of the day folks as you'd expect)

I did spend a fair bit of time browsing the CD racks, and I did decide in the end to buy two CD albums and a CD single to boot, namely Avenged Sevenfold's "City of Evil" album (which has the likes of "The Beast and the Harlot" and "Bat Country" on there, tracks I've rocked to in the likes of Guitar Hero) and also Paul Weller's "22 Dreams" album which nicely fills a collection gap, and has some of my favourite tracks that he's done live recently, so made sense to me to get it as well. I also got the Prodigy's classic "Voodoo People" CD single as well which might need some late night play.

From there I headed to Poundstretcher where I'd seen the pair of curtains that I was after, they were eyelet and so perfect for the curtain pole in the bedroom, and indeed they were also the right width and drop that I wanted too (46 x 90 inches to be precise). I paid for them and got them home, and then remembered that I had to unscrew two screws that hold the pole in place to the supports, and once done, I could remove the pole, take off the old curtain, then thread the new one through the eyelets, and then put in place all back together. It looks pretty good and certainly spruces up the room a bit - result all round really.

I spent a fair bit of time in the afternoon keeping an eye on the football, with an incredible result from Newcastle as Sunderland won the local derby there 3-0 with former Man City player Adam Johnson scoring his sxith goal in four games, what a run he was having. I did see some of the racing on Channel 4 and thought how wet and windy it looked at all the tracks and how the ground staff must have worked overtime to ensure racing took place. Ffos Las in West Wales looked pretty tough going for their races, and in the middle of nowhere, must have been pretty battling stuff all round to win a race I reckoned.

I sorted out all the house and then have The Love In My Heart coming over later, with some beef bourbignon for tea and a nice glass of wine for her too, it'll be just nice to relax and there might be an opportunity to put on Rush on Blu-Ray complete with full surround from my amp which just might have to be done now, I must admit since I've had it back I've really wanted to play everything in surround and just catch up on the sound stage I've missed for a few weeks. Should be cracking.