Dear Diary...

This is my diary. How things are. Or something. Please note that the diary is archived month by month, so feel free to click the links for the archives.

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Thursday 18th January - Working From Home

I woke up in the middle of the night and all I could hear was the wind blowing, very strongly, all around where I live. It wasn't pretty. It also didn't sound very nice either and it was good to be able to go back to sleep. Even more so that today was a a work at home today (we're taking turns to work from home on specific days to free up desk space in the office for people who need it.) I've done it before and it can be quite useful to do so, so it meant a later wake up, breakfast, coffee from the Tassimo whenever I fancied it, all that sort of thing.

In fact it was good to avoid the bad weather (my colleague who travels in from Bushey mentioned a nightmarish journey this morning) and get on with plenty. In fact this allowed me to crack on not just with developing a form in the ServiceNow service desk software, but also documenting it at the same time, thus saving time and hassle all round really. It was good to get that done and work on how the form would look, and have conversations via Skype with my colleague in the team that requested the form, so we can see how it would work properly for us.

I also spent some time getting a couple of setup changes so I could access my VDI from home first thing. It transpired that some of them had been moved to a new server and new portal, but to ensure this would work I had to add the host name of the new server in my hosts file on the PC here. Wasn't too difficult to do and it was all smooth and seamless really, so that made me positive. In fact I would even say it was faster going through the revised server, so anything like that just has to be done really.

It did mean I could work from home and listen to the snooker in the afternoon, and what a match that proved to be with Mark Allen thrashing Ronnie O'Sullivan 6-1, and richly merited too. You might think that it was one visit snooker, and it was Allen making sure when he had a chance he took it and was pretty clinical. It was annoying, and something Mark mentioned post-match, that some so-called Ronnie "fans" would do anything such as shout out when Mark was playing and almost wanting him to miss. They're not proper snooker fans in my opinion and it's not Ronnie's fault that there's idiots out there either.

It also meant that I could listen to music without headphones whilst working and so it was good to play some tunes through my system also. So as such that meant plenty of Matt Gray's "Reformation" remakes of his own Commodore 64 tunes, including the brilliant and powerful rendition of the Village theme from that level of the game Tusker, definite tune of the day for me and a long favourite from that set. Makes me almost want to play the original game now!

Wednesday 17th January - Cup Drama

I had BBC One on tonight with a view to flicking between that and the Masters Snooker on BBC Red Button, where John Higgins was taking on Anthony McGill. Both players to be fair do have quality walk on music, Higgins having "Dignity" by Deacon Blue and McGill having an even better one - "This Charming Man" by The Smiths, so make that one tune of the day all round. In fact that match was pretty dramatic and finished reasonably late - the third frame being pretty epic and McGill won that to go 2-1 behind and win the next three to go 4-2 up, only for Higgins to up a gear and win four on the bounce himself to make it 6-4!

So back to the cup replay - it was Chelsea v Norwich City, and there were plenty of empty seats (primarily due to the prices I suspect, but also because not a full allocation taken for the away end). The kick off was also delayed due to the District Line not playing ball so well - anyone who uses that part knows that the Earls Court to Wimbledon section is notoriously unreliable, and Fulham Broadway (nearest stop to Stamford Bridge) is on that part of the line.

It was a dull first half, and was looking slightly dull at the start of the second half when Chelsea took the lead through Michy Batshuayi. However, nothing prepared for what was going to happen. It was stoppage time, Chelsea holding on, and Norwich kept going forward. In the very last minute of stoppage time the ball was crossed in from the left by Timm Klose, and Jamal Lewis expertly headed it into the corner. Great finish, the first of his career, and in front of the Norwich fans inside Stamford Bridge. Excellent all round!

That was only the start of the madness though, as extra time proved to be highly dramatic. First of all, Willian headed over an outstretched Norwich defender's leg - possibly fouled by Timm Klose for a penalty. All the pundits screamed for the use of VAR (Video Assistant Referee) but in fact VAR would have gone wth the referee, and Willian was booked for diving. Whilst maybe a pen, the fact that Pedro had dived earlier (and was booked quite righly by the referee) didn't help the Chelsea cause either.

In fact, the last few minutes of extra time was mental. First of all Pedro went in for a challenge he shouldn't have done, and after his booking for diving earlier, meant a second yellow and red card. Then right at the end Alvaro Morata went down in the box (he was slightly held back but not massively) and sprawled for a penalty. The ref said no, Morata made a TV gesture to go to the VAR, and also then started screaming abuse at the ref. Having been booked for the dive, the referee turned that into a second yellow and red for the reaction. Chelsea were down to nine men and Norwich tried at the end to get a winner, but not to be.

I also know from experience when he was at Manchester City that Chelsea goalkeeper Willy Caballero happens to be pretty handy in penalty shootouts, and so was no surprise to me that he saved the first Norwich penalty, which proved decisive with Chelsea going first. In fact all the Chelsea penalties were scored and so it was up to Eden Hazard to score the winner and he did so. Still, a decent game all round in the end and one certainly with a degree of controversy!

Tuesday 16th January - Back In The Swing

So it was back to work today after the excursion to the snooker yesterday, and all was good. In fact I had plenty to be getting on with so it was a case of working out a plan of action and cracking on. The first thing was to further test the Dell BIOS update for the Intel Microcode side of things, and on the whole this did actually work pretty well, albeit the restart comes up with a different exit code. Thankfully I know exactly what to do to get around that one so will be doing some further testing. I've also got a couple of HP laptops which I shall rebuild and test out a test task sequence with the new HP BIOS stuff for that too.

We also had our third line team meeting this morning, and it was good to be able to lay out plenty of stuff that I had planned. In fact when I read all of that out, it did seem quite ominous as to just how much we actually have to do, and lots across all of us for the next few months. In addition, once the Windows 10 upgrade has completed, it'll be a case of then decommissioning the old SCCM 2007, so going to be a real sense of getting that sorted and not having to administer two systems at the same time, result I reckon.

It's also been more busy as well in terms of day to day stuff primarily because we're low on some of our support staff at the moment, two of the team are now in different positions and so it's a case of being able to do what I can to help them out where possible and balance out the stuff I need to do too - not always easy of course but needs to be done nonetheless. In the meantime, I'm doing some more controlled tests, rolled out a couple of planned changes and pretty much got back in the swing.

It was good to be home, sort out the pictures from yesterday's snooker and get them uploaded, and then also settle in to watch tonight's match with Kyren Wilson up against Barry Hawkins, and so far it's been a cracker, with both players going for it, and some quality break building too - in fact the first two frames Hawkins won, both were centuries, which is a very high standard indeed. I did think the table is playing well after seeing the matches yesterday, with tons a plenty going in!

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather good "5000 Miles" by She Makes War, the opening track from her previous album Direction of Travel. Her new album has a Pledge Music campaign going at the moment, and I would strongly suggest that you do pledge for that - it'll be a victory for excellent music and a great new release for all to enjoy. You can even get the album on a red cassette or blue vinyl - such nice choices had I not already gone in at a higher level of signed CD, demos album and t-shirt. But do pledge!

Monday 15th January - Goblins and Masters Snooker

I had a day off work today, mainly as I was heading off to Alexandra Palace for the Masters snooker tournament, where I went last year and had a good time. I had the same early bird deal with tickets half price, so the whole day's worth of snooker (two matches involving the top 16 players, each best of 11) meant that was mine for a mere £10.50, absolute bargain in my view. I had been looking forward to this for some time especially as I'd seen some of the opening day between Mark Williams and Mark Selby on telly yesterday.

But before that, a little diversionary journey by train. I'd been awaiting the re-opening of the Gospel Oak to Barking line on London Overground (known locally as GOBLIN) after its electrification. The line won't be using the new four carriage electric trains yet, so it's still the two carriage Turbostar Class 172s. But, they're nice anyway and have proper seating facing the way you're going, and are surprisingly clean and nice inside. In fact, once I left Gospel Oak, it was a relaxing journey making its way through North and East London and towards Barking.

In fact, I needed to later on head on that service back, changing at Blackhorse Road for the Victoria Line to Finsbury Park, and in a real sense of excellent timing, got up to the train platform in perfect time to get the train to Alexandra Palace, and well in time for the start of play. I had time to see the usual snooker table laid up for the 10 reds clearance challenge, lots of memorabilia on sale. However they did need more catering staff in the main bar area: did seem as if they were short staffed and so service for those who waited was slow. This probably was why a number of people who would pop out between frames for a beer or coffee would miss at least one frame - of course yours truly doesn't do that, I like to watch it all.

Ding Junhui v Ryan Day was first up, and at 3-0 to Ding I was fearing for a whitewash. However, crucially Ryan pulled one back before the interval and then started to motor after the mid-session interval and pinched a couple of frames from behind as well as started to knock some cracking breaks together. In fact the quality of play from both players was superb: five centuries in all which is the most I think I've seen in a single session, and it could have gone either way from 5-4, but Ryan was excellent and thoroughly deserving of his win. I think too that although the Chinese in the crowd were gunning for Ding, they also appreciated the quality of the break building that Ryan was putting together.

I was sat directly facing the blue spot on the right hand side, and so when the referee Marcel Eckhardt correctly gave the foul against Ding as he brushed against the blue when reaching over, I had a perfect view of it - and he certainly did move it, not by much, but was a good call. Also, Ryan was questioning one re-position following a miss, and having checked on screen with the other referee Olivier Marteel who was doing the scorer role, Olivier went "that's spot on!" and I could see the screen from where I was sat - he was exactly right. Good to see Marcel's been given this tournament and he certainly is improving well as a referee.

The afternoon session finished around 5pm so like most people it was off to Wood Green on the W3 bus for a bite to eat and a drink before heading back for the evening session. It was then whilst having tea I found out the sad news about Dolores O'Riordan of the Cranberries passing way. It seems somehow apt that their song "Zombie" is tune of the day - a song that defined their sound and the unique voice somewhat too. That and "Linger" were two staples of the 1990s for a lot of people, myself included.

Back at Alexandra Palace for the evening session, Judd Trump's very snazzy striped shirt certainly had a few people paying attention, and against Liang Wenbo was going to be a good match. Judd pinched some frames that were close and put together some good breaks and 3-1 at mid-session became 5-1. However, getting over the finishing line is always tricky and to be fair to Liang, two centuries back to back were quality stuff, including the current highest break of the tournament too. Judd eventually did enough to get over the line to win 6-4 but the spirited effort from Liang certainly merited applause from the crowd, finishing just around 10pm.

Incidentally, something else I'd spotted along the way: the two TV studios (one Eurosport, one BBC) are either side of the sole commentary booth (BBC commentators inside.) Interestingly, although Neil Robertson was there with Eurosport and I spotted him several times around the Palace itself, it seemed that he spent most of the day in that booth either watching from within or reading through which bits of punditry to do in the evening. You could see for the evening session the Eurosport studio on before play with Colin Murray et al, and the lights on the BBC one during the afternoon with Jason Mohammad, Steve Davis and John Parrott.

So it was then avoiding the rain, back on the W3 bus to Alexandra Palace station, then taking the train to Highbury and Islington, literally walking across platforms straight on to the Victoria Line tube, and then once at Victoria changing for the train back to East Croydon and then home. It had been a long day but one that was excellent in terms of snooker action and just whetted the appetite for the rest of the week as well - massively looking forward to it all now!

Sunday 14th January - A Walk In Abney Park

It was nice to have had some good sleep overnight, and both The Love In My Heart and I were all snuggled up in bed, and with Brian the cat sleeping in his usual spot at the end of the bed, that made me feel rather all nice. In fact last night when watching Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol Brian sat on the sofa between The Love and I and had me stroking him for ages with contented purring, so that was nice. We had some nice breakfast and I settled in to watch a bit of telly whilst The Love got herself ready.

We decided it'd be nice just to head out for a walk, and although it would have been nice to go round Fletcher Moss, it was just too busy to try and get a space for The Love's car, so instead we headed off towards Cheadle and off to Abney Park. In fact since we last were here it looks like there's been a care home built in the park itself, which I guess would at least have some scenic views if nothing else. We did follow the path that took us up to the hall, and noted that some of it had been redecorated and painted on the outside, looking like refreshed nicely.

We did follow the path out of the hall and along the road towards the café on the far side and the lake. We then walked up the path close to the railway line and wondered where it went, and in fact we could see the Ashlea pub from the back, so this was obviously the short cut we've seen from people walking to the car park! It was then a case of following the path which took you along the fields, back towards the main road and to the front entrance, although we had at least looped around a bit.

We then went off to the Gateway pub in East Didsbury for a bit of lunch, and that was all nice, especially as I had the steak and eggs, with the sirloin done medium and pretty good too - and The Love's ultimate burger looked the part. In fact I had a coffee and a cheesecake slice for dessert, and they have a posh new coffee machine in there - you get a mug and you can go back for free refills, including the likes of latte and capuccino as well. Must remember that if at gigs where there's a Wetherspoons nearby and I don't fancy a beer!

It was a sad farewell later to The Love as I headed on the train back home, and indeed more so as I heard news of the Liverpool - Manchester City game. City went down to 4-1, then pulled it back to 4-3 at the end and almost got an equaliser too, but our unbeaten league record this season has finally gone. Fair play to Liverpool though, they wanted it more and it really showed as well. Tune of the day was playing as I headed home tonight, the excellent "The Spirit Lives" by Roy Harper, himself a City fan incidentally...

Saturday 13th January - When The Day Job Is A Weekend Job

The Love In My Heart and myself got ourselves up and ready, and Brian the cat was after lots of fusses and cuddles from us both (for a change!) - as normally he may snub me a little. However, I think he was rather pleased that it was all attention fro him as he was purring nicely, and he must have known we were heading out later in the day. In fact, it was a whistlestop head out, and first of all off to The Love's father's place, as he had mentioned to The Love that his printer wasn't working and so had asked me to look at it.

Before that though, it was over to see The Love's father's neighbour, who wanted some advice on a replacement laptop battery for the laptop that she has. In fact that was all good as it was a nice easy thing: she wanted to know which battery it was, where to get it from, and if at all possible if we could get an original replacement as well. In fact getting the model number of the battery was easy as it slotted out, and with it being lithium ion, and the laptop being a few years old, I suspected it had just been overused. I located an original online from a reputable retailer and she was happy to get that ordered and sorted, so that was easy really.

The Love and I headed back to her father's place, and I soon discovered the issue with the printer. It claimed it had no black ink, and he said he had replaced the cartridge. It looked like it had been, but.. with the same one that was empty and had been taken out in the first place - particularly as when you held them in your hand you could tell which was heavier. And of course the new one didn't have the orange tab taken off either, so easy to sort that, the light went off and all was working again. To be fair, we've all done that when we've changed a cartridge over at some point!

It was then a quick stop at The Love's place before heading over to The Cheshire Line near Cheadle to meet up with Mum and her friend. Mum very kindly offered to get us a drink and the four of us chatted for a while as they had just had some lunch, before The Love very kindly gave them a lift with us back to Mum's, where we had a coffee as well. It was good to be cosy and have a good catch up before then heading off to Asda on the way back, and getting a posh pizza and garlic bread for tea along with some wine for The Love (especially as I had Black Cat ale in already!)

We settled in for the evening and watched Great British Railway Journeys from last night on BBC iPlayer which included a nice visit to parts of Cornwall including Fowey, and Goonhilly on the Lizard Peninsula. Nice. And then it was on with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation on Channel 4 (make the theme tune tune of the day) which meant lots of Tom Cruise for The Love and lots of action generally for us both. It's always good to spot parts of London being filmed, and I actually spotted that the phone box Jeremy Renner uses in one scene is very close to my office!!

Friday 12th January - BIOS Brilliance

It was a day of discovery and working things out all day to be perfectly honest. This was primarily due to both HP and Dell having released a swathe of BIOS updates which also amends the Intel processor microcode and how it interacts with the BIOS. This is the hardware part to help mitigate the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, so pretty good that we've got some progress on this at least. Almost all the HP laptops we have will have an update available with some of the others following in the near future. And for the Dell desktops, the three newest models appear to have them that we have, so not bad there.

As a result I spent a chunk of time today looking at how the Dell BIOS update applies itself and how we'd be able to in effect get that out there in a controlled way. The good thing was that you can apply things silently (good there) but also that you can invoke a restart. Well, good.. but the only thing is that it triggers off a different exit code, which if you're deploying as a SCCM program within a package doesn't necessarily work the way you'd want - as it always wants an exit code of 0. Dell uses an exit code of 6 if you've asked to do a reboot too, so you would need to trap that (for example a run command line task sequence step allows this.)

I'll do some further testing on Monday as ideally it'd be good to apply the update and reboot and only have this happen first thing in the morning so that it's all nicely done before the PC is used by staff, meaning less hassle all round. The good thing is that we know we have a good wake up time, we can define a service window for the collection(s) concerned and so there's a sensible bit of planning needed. Doing the update manually did of course work and that was good to see that it showed the screens that were being processed post update and how it'd all work properly. In a good way, that means less hassle.

Laptops though are a different breed. We can apply things silently, but it's the process that happens during restart which takes the time, primarily because it has the screen going on and off as well as doing some applying of the actual update, so could easily have people turning things off at the wrong time, which is not what we want. So we may need to be a little more careful how we'd work that - but as we do them when we build a laptop, we can of course get them added in so they work for a rebuild, which is a quick win there at least.

Good to get some markers down especially as I'm off on Monday, and so it was off to Euston later and to the 1800 train to Manchester Piccadilly, picking up some train tickets for The Love In My Heart at the same time from Euston itself. I got on the train and it was relatively nice and quiet, with Kraftwerk's title track "Trans Europa Express" playing (make that tune of the day) as I headed up North on the train. And having a nice Chinese meal for tea together, with the crispy shredded chilli beef and egg fried rice being rather ace, was just a good way to start the weekend and offering lots of hugs to Brian the cat. Awww...

Thursday 11th January - Hunted Part 2

As many of you know, the new series of Hunted started last Thursday. I didn't write about it at the time in my diary, but my gosh, were some of the contestants on that absolutely thick as pig poo or what? The first rule of Hunted should be to avoid any major coach and railway stations - full of CCTV and obvious places to get caught. So one of them decides to try a disguise at Manchester Chorlton Street station and take a coach down to Milton Keynes, despite there being CCTV in the coach station, tracking of the coach itself and a fairly obvious route down motorways.

The woman concerned realised what might happen and so asked the driver to stay on to London instead - again another big mistake. The Hunter HQ is in central London, so where would you avoid? Central London, right? Instead she got off the coach close to Marble Arch where two of the Hunters including the fab Julie had been sent from the HQ, and they were just waiting for her to get off the coach virtually. Slam dunk and the quickest ever (I think) capture in Hunted history. Oops.

This time around tonight a father and son made the classic mistake on Hunted - using a phone to call family. Even worse, the son was telling the Mum where they were and of course that was music to the Hunters' ears. They were very lucky to get away of course, but I suspect that they may make another mistake, as did the couple of ladies who had got to Edinburgh to see one of their family members, and used a burner phone to call a relation and got them to note the number down. The number was found, and then the ladies knew that they had to get out of there sharpish.

Rule 1 of Hunted - do not use any mobile phone. Rule 2? See Rule 1. It's that simple really. If you're going to go completely off grid then you need to do just that. In fact the two ladies have taken a lift in a car well known to the Hunters and so they're going to look at a service station type capture in the next episode I reckon. It goes to show that sometimes you've got to be really careful who you trust and who you get in a car with also. Certainly I think that risks were taken by one of the contestants, withdrawing cash in Ramsbottom and not thinking he was going to be detected. Like duhhhh.

It reminded me of when Nick and Ayo won Series 2, they had different tactics, but Nick getting someone disguised as him while he was 100+ miles away was total genius, and when he got to the extraction point, both The Love and I were going "YESSSS!" with fists in the air celebrating - he deserved it and was a top bloke. I also listened to Kraftwerk's "Computerwelt" (make the title track tune of the day) which perfectly sums up how the future would be with all memory and data being controlled. Much in the way all surveillance is now in fact. I'm still looking forward to more people being hunted down next week though..

Wednesday 10th January - FAC 424

I spent some time after work today watching the Parliamentary debate following the publication of the National Audit Office report on the Department for Transport and Govia Thameslink Railway, and their not so good performance. The NAO report was wholly damning on the DfT, proving that they hadn't consulted with passengers properly on how the "franchise" should be, and in addition then not checking that there would be enough drivers to drive the trains either, a fact still very much the case since the middle of 2014.

In fact, proof of the pudding is in the fact that there are still driver shortages for Thameslink and Great Northern (two of the "brands" as part of GTR) and there hasn't been a strike on either of those, and yet, still not enough drivers, so cancellations regularly happen unless there's a massive amount of overtime carried out. Although yes, train companies to a degree run on overtime, the amount of reliance on that is just too much. If you want proof of that, ask anyone trying to get on a Southern service when the drivers' union ASLEF's overtime ban was in force, meaning drivers worked regular hours and that was it. It showed up to 30% reliance, way too much, particularly from a Health and Safety point of view.

In fact the thing that really narked me off about the debate is that despite good and fair cross-party questioning from the likes of Caroline Lucas, Stephen Lloyd and Andy McDonald, the secretary of state Chris Grayling clearly wanted to just go down the line of "blame the unions", and had also committed a faux pas by claiming he'd commissioned the so-called "independent" Gibb report himself. Certainly passengers have got much more clued up and they are no longer fooled - they've worked it out for themselves and the ballot boxes on the South Coast last election told their own story. Amber Rudd almost lost her seat in Hastings with a massive majority reduction, Stephen Lloyd gained Eastbourne for the Lib Dems (and is doing everything a local MP can do to try and get things sorted), Caroline Lucas strengthened Brighton Pavilion for the Greens (passengers know the work she's been doing too and can see that.)

After I had my tea, I decided to settle down and watch the DVD of "24 Hour Party People", a film I've owned on DVD for ages and one I enjoyed when it came out at the cinema, a biopic if you like of Anthony H Wilson who, as well as being a Granada telly presenter was the man at Factory Records, home of Joy Division, A Certain Ratio, The Durutti Column, New Order and Happy Mondays to name but a few at the time. Steve Coogan is superb as Wilson, really getting lots of mannerisms in, and it's notable now how many faces actually had roles in it: John Simm was Bernard Sumner, Lennie James was Alan Erasmus (he would be in Series 1 of Line of Duty), Shirley Henderson was Lindsay Wilson, and Andy Serkis played producer Martin Hannett.

Add to that appearances from Wilson himself, Christopher Eccleston, Nigel Pivaro (Terry Duckworth from Corrie), Peter Kay, Rob Brydon, Ralf Little as Peter Hook, Mark E Smith from The Fall as a punter outside the Haçienda, Mani from The Stone Roses being a sound engineer at the Apollo, and you get the picture. Naturally of course the music is top notch, especially as there's lots of the Factory back catalogue being played, including the sublime "Jacqueline" by The Durutti Column (make that tune of the day) and New Order's film closer "Here To Stay" which was a top tune too.

I really enjoyed it again, and especially some of the extra scenes on the DVD, including one of the Manchester derby (filmed at Maine Road) where Wilson goes with Rob Gretton, New Order's manager (superbly played by Paddy Considine) into the North Stand and chanting "City aggro, City aggro, hello, hello". Bear in mind Wilson was a staunch Red, and you could tell the initial tension with him and Gretton before realising he'd be likely to get his head kicked in for too much smugness. Add to that Shaun Ryder seeing Gretton after the game in another deleted scene, that too also hilarious. In fact the whole film could have easily been an hour longer with them all in!

Tuesday 9th January - Agüerooooooooooooooooo!

It was another busy day, and I spent a chunk of time monitoring how things were going with deploying the HP Battery testing utility, and how many xml log files I'd get back, and of those if any batteries needed a recall. It was noticeable that the first few didn't show any recall needed, and through the day it seemed that all the ones reporting back appeared to be perfectly okay, which was definitely a plus point. I think we may have actually dodged a potential bullet there, but once we get all the evidence we can make a decision and go from there.

I did also do some further checking and investigation into the ServiceNow instance, and worked out what needed to be done, and documented most of that in two documents: one detailing the levels of access potentially needed, and the second then detailing what permissions might be necessary and how to achieve that. In effect, it's getting all the nice stuff cleaned up and ensuring it all works before we potentially look at bringing these in to some live proposals accordingly.

I got home later than planned as I was assisting one user with their issue in terms of not being able to set their Bitlocker PIN correctly for some reason, and once that was all sorted out, I headed home, albeit via Tulse Hill on the Sutton train, changing platforms for the one to West Norwood, and changing again for West Croydon - it did save me around 15 minutes' wait in all though so wasn't too bad, getting home just after 7pm and then waiting for the Tesco delivery to come around 8pm - and with everything I needed.

I then settled in to get a live feed of the Manchester City v Bristol City Carabao Cup semi final. I have to say Bristol City played well and certainly were not parking the bus either - and although we did have most of the possession they got a penalty late in the first half which they converted for a shock 1-0 lead going in at half time. They deserved that as they went for it and it was good to see. City weren't at their best but suspected that in the second half we'd do a fair bit better.

And that was the case too - with Manchester City going for it going forward. A nice move with Kevin de Bruyne and than Raheem Sterling meant that the ball was slotted back for de Bruyne who smashed it home for 1-1. It was still that for most of the second half, and Sergio Agüero came off the bench. He proved well worth coming on as he rose to a Bernardo Silva cross in stoppage time to take the game 2-1 on night, giving us a slender lead going into the second leg at Ashton Gate. In the meantime tune of the day is the old classic City song "The Boys In Blue" - as the lyrics state, "the Boys in Blue never give in..."

Monday 8th January - Back In The Swing

So back to work and back to a full week of being in - the two days back in last week were just a nice gentle nudge into getting me back into organising myself. In fact I spent a fair bit of time today checking over the development instance in ServiceNow and working out just why that we couldn't see the normal changes to be raised, or for example the templates either - it was due to permissions and also because some of the necessary categories were pretty much invisible, and so meant that they weren't active and present. I think I know the way to work this though so we shall see what can be done..

I also spent some time checking over some recent application updates: namely Adobe Flash Player which looked like it was all going swimmingly, and this morning an update to Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, again all going nicely too. I heard also that Google are planning a Chrome update later this month to mitigate the Spectre and Meltdown flaws somewhat, and there's plenty of other interesting things that are out - and some AMD processors apparently didn't like the update and went all blue screened. Not my AMD machine at home or two AMD based laptops at work though...

It certainly was interesting, and the day went by quickly so it was off home and thankfully on a seat on the 1714 train home (now departs a minute later for some reason.) In any case, it was at least on time (ish) and I stopped off on the way home to get some medicine, and then proceeded to do some online food shopping so it'd arrive tomorrow, and that was sensible to do, especially as it would be cheaper to do that with the four hour slot (you get an hour announced on the day) as it was a mere £1. I also used some Clubcard vouchers and got a tenner off, so can't be bad.

I also spent some time tonight watching the rather excellent Great British Railway Journeys on BBC2, and catching up a couple of last week's episodes on BBC iPlayer. I have to admit that I do like the way Michael Portillo presents this - somehow painting a nicer picture of trains when travelling offpeak. I must admit when he was on the Isle of Wight I was half expecting Vicki Pipe and Geoff Marshall of All The Stations to go "It's a class 38" when describing the former old tube train stock on the Island Line...

Tune of the day incidentally is the title track of Kraftwerk's "Computerwelt" - yes, the German version. In fact the verses which mention Interpol and Deutsche Bank also mention the likes of the BKA, and how they'd have all your data (hence the "haben unsere daten da" line). In fact when they perform this now in English, the second half of that verse is now "CIA, and KGB, control the data memory" a move more closely aligned to the original, although the speech after the third verse also mentions medicine, none of that in the English version incidentally. Still, a very interesting comparison I think.

Sunday 7th January - Keen In Kendals

After a nice breakfast, The Love In My Heart and I decided it'd be nice to have a walk around the city centre in the afternoon, get some nice lunch and also peruse some of the shops. In addition, she had a number of gift cards for House of Fraser for Christmas and she wanted to see what she could treat herself too - especially with the sales on. Naturally of course we always refer to the one on Deansgate by its original and proper name of Kendals - anything else just really isn't on, and will always be Kendals to us.

In fact back in the day that and Lewis's (now mainly a large Primark on three floors, but Lewis's had six floors including the Santa grotto at the top at Christmas) were the sort of stores that people would flock to and make Manchester a destination for shopping - and it's notable now a different sort of vibrancy on Oldham Street compared to when that was one of the main shopping streets way back when. We walked through the Northern Quarter and then through the Arndale Centre, stopping at shops on New Exchange Street and also the Oliver Bonas on St Mary's Gate also before hitting Deansgate itself.

Once inside Kendals it was up to the first two floors' worth of womenswear, where the sales for The Love were in full swing. Now, sometimes sale stuff is disorganised and difficult to find stuff at the right price - thankfully not the case here, all departments had sale stock neatly organised, including a rather nice black Biba jacket which would have been tempting for The Love if it was in her size. She did however see a gorgeous Ted Baker skinny rib jumper with a bow at the top right, which she loved when she saw it at full price (but not cheap!) - and we found one in her size, and fitted spot on, so it was hers, and at 40% off too. She looked gorgeous in it too.

We did also see a few other possible things too, but the nice thing is we can always head back whenever another sale is on, or simply pop back to another store and see what else they have. It's perhaps noticeable that some of the in store sale stock such as this isn't reflected on the web site, so often it's actually better to go in and have a mooch around. We did notice the third floor champagne bar with the idea of being a "husband creche" so he can have a drink whilst the wife goes shopping was empty, most likely if the bar charges too much, or if most people do what we do sometimes and just go in the shops separately (so for example if there's a record shop next a clothes shop, I'll go in one, The Love the other, simple..)

We did head back to the Northern Quarter and had a very nice Sunday lunch in the Abel Heywood - they had the same Red Admiral ale I'd had a week or two back in the Samuel Brooks in Sale too. We did like the menu and the Sunday Roast pork that The Love had was plentiful to say the least - tons of vegetables and meat and gravy there. I had the steak and ale pie, and it was a proper pie (hurrah!) with some nice seasoned chips, peas and gravy. All lovely and just what I needed to try and get the spirits back up and to get over the cold bug somewhat.

The Love and I had a hug and kiss goodbye at Manchester Piccadilly station before I headed off to get the 1735 train back to London Euston, and listened to Kraftwerk's "Trans Europa Express" album - which in its original German form sounded even better. The title track is tune of the day as somehow it just fitted the mood perfectly as I was heading through the countryside in the night, and with the occasional lights of towns and villages as it sped back down South...

Saturday 6th January - The Magic of the Cup

I was up and out early, heading on the train to London Victoria, then the tube to Euston, and was soon boarding the 0900 departure to Manchester Piccadilly. Although I'd only been back home a couple of days, it was the FA Cup third round today and Manchester City were at home to Burnley, so wanted to see how we would do. The Love In My Heart was still a bit icky with her cold bug, so at my suggestion, and having done a pit stop for some painkillers at Sainsburys in Piccadilly, headed on the tram to her place, where Brian the cat was being all cute, and a nice bacon bagel greeted me with a brew. Nice!

In fact it was a relatively chilled out morning as we just caught up and chatted, and ensured for differing reasons we had dosed ourselves up with medicine: me to try and warn the cold off and just keep it to a minor headcold, mainly congested in the nose and ears, and The Love to ward off pains in the back due to the extended flu bug she's had. It was nice though that Brian was being all cute and lovely, and enjoyed a little play out on the decking chasing leaves before heading back in and being all snuggly and warm in his little cat house igloo - he's grown to love that and snuggles in there during the day.

Later on it was off to meet my friend and off to the Etihad, and it was good to be back there again and grab a well earned brew - and catch up a bit too before kick off. The team news looked strong with the likes of Silva, Sané, Sterling and Agüero all playing, so that was good - even if Claudio Bravo was in net. And so the game commenced, and despite City going forward, Burnley had a good strength side out, and a defensive mistake from John Stones let in Ashley Barnes who legged it forward and smashed a shot at speed into the top corner - a very good finish also.

The second half needed to be better from City in terms of clinical finishing, and it was too. A quickly taken free kick from İlkay Gündoğan meant that the ball went to Agüero who slotted home low and hard. The Burnley players and manager were upset, but the referee had clearly blown for the free kick to be taken - so if they were faffing around and wasting time (or not being ten yards behind the ball) it was their problem. 1-1 then became 2-1 a minute later as Agüero and Gündoğan did a 1-2 and the Argentinian legend walked around Nick Pope in the Burnley goal before slotting home, cool as you like.

It didn't end there either as the shackles were now loose. David Silva found Leroy Sané down the left, and despite being fouled, Sané put his shot low into the opposite bottom corner for 3-1, and with some substitutions made, a gorgeous through ball from Kevin de Bruyne found Sané who rounded Pope and played a perfect low ball into the box for Bernardo Silva to score and make it 4-1. A good effort all round really and one which showed that City could bounce back and play well. Be interesting to see who we get in round four actually.

After some nice food for tea, The Love In My Heart and I settled in to watch Beauty and the Beast - the live action version Disney released last year and one The Love's sister had lent her. It was notable the beast was the actor Dan Stevens (who had been in Downton Abbey) and Belle was Emma Watson (Hermoine from Harry Potter!) - with some excellent roles from Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor and especially Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts, the teapot. She also sings a version of the title track which is tune of the day (and it harked back to when Celine Dion duetted with Peabo Bryson for the 1991 animated release.)

Friday 5th January - Battery and Bargains

I spent a fair bit of time today further evaluating the necessary Windows updates for the flaws I mentioned yesterday, but also and interestingly, something else which one of my colleagues had flagged. HP were doing a recall of some laptop batteries on some models which would be known to overheat and so not work correctly. They had released a utility which you could run which meant you could see at a glance if the battery was okay or if you were in the position of having to arrange for a suitable replacement.

In fact, the utility appeared to be one which you may have been able to run silently, so I worked out that first of all it could be extracted to a folder of your choice (using /t:>path and /c), and then the executable within run with the -s switch for silent. This wrote an XML file in the folder which showed you if the battery was one that needed replacing or not. A bit of work later and I had a SCCM package created, and a task sequence done which copied the files to a folder locally, ran the executable silently, copied the xml file up to a network folder (with the machine name being the folder name with the XML file within) and then cleaned up the local folder afterwards. Worked very nicely when I tried it too.

And so far so good, actually. The two laptops I tried it on which were an affected model appeared to have good batteries that weren't bad. To be brutally honest, I'd be more concerned about the slightly older model (HP ProBook 640 G2) and so once I get one of those in for testing it'll be interesting to see how those fare. I've raised a change at least to get that deployed and tested on that kit and for it to report back, which should mean that we will at least know if we have any that are needed to be sorted and which ones, so that's good.

I also went to IKEA after work primarily as I'd had a gift card for Christmas and so wanted to see in their sale if there was anything which I'd need currently. I was half hoping for one of the sets of stainless steel cutlery to be reduced, but no dice on that. There were lots of potentially nice plates and bowls reduced in store as well as some bedding, but I'm okay on all of that score so didn't really need anything as such. Nice to peruse at leisure though, and treated myself to the hot dog on the way out - well, why not eh?

It's been a different first few days back at work due to it being a shorter week on the whole (two days as opposed to four) and with me heading back up to Manchester tomorrow for the football it'll feel like I wasn't away really. I guess the lure of being in my home city is just a nice one to have, and The Love showed me how cute Brian the cat had been when he was sleeping last night. He's so lovely, and so tune of the day is The Cure's iconic single "The Love Cats" which to be honest, if I was ever getting married, I'd want this played at some point during the evening. Or "Lovesong" because the words are fab.

Thursday 4th January - Back At Work With a Meltdown

Well not quite that sort of meltdown I should add, although the slight bunged up feeling from the last couple of days appears to have caught up with me somewhat. It's actually more of a head cold than anything else, and have made sure I have some good decongestant in and some tissues to get me through the day. Admittedly, I have been also very conscious of the fact that I don't want to be poorly for the weekend and being back in Manchester either for the football, so I'll do what I can do get it all sorted and take it from there I think. It was good to start to be in the rhythm of being in the new year though.

And with very very good reason. The Meltdown I'm talking about is the codename of one of two major flaws (the other being Spectre) in the way that computer processors interact, and how in the race to be faster and faster, some security issues were left behind. If you want an indicator of how serious this is, the CERT advisory makes sombre reading - get a new processor that's not affected by the bug. Yes, seriously. Most people of course can't do that so the next best thing is to mitigate that with a suitable operating system patch - with the caveat that there could be computer slowdown.

I managed to snag the one for Windows 10 and be able to install and test it on a test laptop - and all seemed good there during some robust checking during the day. In fact, the update won't install on some devices unless the anti-virus software you use has a suitable definition update which sets a registry key in Windows - meaning that that software passes all the tests required to not be one exposed by those flaws either. To be fair to Kaspersky (whom we use at work) their definition updates from 28th December had the relevant bits included, meaning that the update was all good to go. Excellent.

If you need to install the updates yourself, and Windows Update doesn't for some reason show it, you should be able to get the update manually and get that installed (provided your anti-virus software passes the checks when the update commences.) The advisory from Microsoft is here (you may need to click and accept the EULA first, then click the link again, but they're all there from Windows 7 upwards, including Windows Server 2016 and SQL Server too. Of course it will mean that you'll then at least have done what you can to mitigate it. Some vendors may also include additional hardware BIOS updates too, so may be worth looking out for that.

Definitely busy getting some of that tested, but that's what you have to do - be aware, be alert and work out a suitable way forward to ensure all is well accordingly. It's notable that the update was brought forward from the usual Patch Tuesday releases - and although AMD thinks it's sitting prettier than Intel in terms of processor, later it was proved that they're still also vulnerable, so always better to be safer than sorrier and to be less smug to be honest. Still, definitely kept me on the toes!

I spent some time tonight listening to more of the Kraftwerk German language releases on CD, and the excellent "Taschenrechner" is tune of the day for that reason. I did also watch one of the Blu-Ray discs I got for Christmas: "Ferrari - Race To Immortality" which showed the traumas that the team and drivers went through in the 1950s with motorsport generally being very dangerous: with drivers being killed in races such as the Mille Miglia (which was later banned) and the German Grand Prix at the original brutal Nordschleife, and also how Mike Hawthorn didn't really enjoy his World Championship win due to the deaths around the sport at the time (and in addition he had seen first hand the horror of the Le Mans tragedy in 1955 having driven in it, later won)

Wednesday 3rd January - Back Home

The Love In My Heart and I had had Brian the cat snuggling up to us both overnight, and this was the final time we'd wake up before I'd leave to go home. It worked out well as The Love could drop me off at Piccadilly before she headed off to work, and indeed that I was going first class and so I could mooch in the lounge, have breakfast and really be all chilled out. It was an emotional kiss and love for Brian the cat before I left, and hugs and kisses for The Love as I left the car and headed into Manchester Piccadilly.

It was upstairs to the first class lounge, which was nice and quiet. It did mean some nice coffee and some panettone too (bonus!) and it was good to sit back and relax in comfy chairs and watch BBC Breakfast for a bit before then heading down to Platform 5 just before 0900 and walking all the way down to Coach J, where my seat was, and picked one close to a luggage rack to place the case on. All good, and the staff were as lovely as ever, so had coffee, orange juice, and a proper full breakfast including some gorgeous sausage, black pudding and rashers of bacon.

It was good to take all that in and watch the world go by, and as The Love said, when you're in first class, it does seem to be a quicker journey for some reason. Actually, we were two minutes early into Euston, so two hours and three minutes overall, impressive stuff. I activated the monthly Oyster at Euston and took the tube to Victoria, and it was good to see that the Tonbridge train was in and that meant it'd be nice and quiet, and even with only four carriages, it proved to be so, so a nice relaxed (for once!) journey on Southern into East Croydon and back to the flat.

I did have a fair bit of post to open, including a Christmas card from my cousin in Bournemouth, my auntie in Gilingham (Dorset, not Kent, incidentally) as well as my ticket for the Masters Snooker in Alexandra Palace in a couple of weeks' time. Some of those could have arrived on the 22nd and 23rd before Christmas, but of course I was in Manchester by that point. Still, good they arrived safe, and it did mean I got a good few cards in the end (plus some I brought home including a cute one from The Love of course). Now it's time to take the tree down.

I also spent some time getting all the new CDs organised and ready to transfer to the iPod as well for future journeys on trains, and so I spent some good time listening to my three German language versions of Kraftwerk albums on CD, and started with Computerwelt. It's so nice to listen to the likes of "Taschenrechner" and "Nummern" properly in original language, but the title track is excellent, so tune of the day it most certainly is. Especially as there's better lyrics as well which are tons better than the English one!

Tuesday 2nd January - Thirty Nine Seconds

I had a bit of a quiet day really: The Love In My Heart was back at work (and to be fair I may have been going home yesterday if only for the fact I'd booked some time off for the Manchester City v Watford game tonight) and so it was mainly myself and Brian the cat for most of the day. He was as good as gold to be honest, and spent most of the day snuggled on the pouffle, on the bed, or surprisingly, on the cushion on top of the shelving units in the hallway. He doesn't always sit there, that was usually the late Jô's territory. But nice to see, and he responded with love and cuddles from me so that was nice - he even snuggled up to me on the bed after The Love had left very early for work!

I headed to the cash point at lunch and took advantage of a McDonalds offer of a quarter pounder with cheese for a mere £1.99, and that kept me going nicely for the afternoon. I did watch the World's Strongest Man 2017 Winner's Story on My5, which was interesting as it showed the truth behind the controversy over Hafthor Bjornsson's "double dip" in the Viking Press. It was made clear to the competitors by the referees that this wasn't allowed, and in fact other competitors such as Brian Shaw weren't happy with the technique used. Perhaps most telling was that one of the judges, legend that is Magnús ver Magnússon, would have actually deducted three other ones that Hafthor got the benefit of the doubt over. If the other three would have been also taken off, Brian Shaw would have been second in that event and tied with Hafthor for 2nd overall.

I had a phone call from my friend's wife saying that my friend, who had been struck down with the same cold and flu over Christmas, had been throwing up in addition and was too poorly to come to the game tonight. This wasn't good news for me. To explain: my friend is a wheelchair user, and has been my friend for over twenty years. Thus he gets a wheelchair space at City with a free carer to come along (normally me with his wife deputising in midweek games I can't come to) - but if he can't make it, I can't use the carer ticket alone - and even if I could, I'd have had to go to his place, pick it up and then drop it back off.

In this instance, I managed to get a ticket online from the official box office, and being a Cityzens member (primarily for discounts on Virgin Trains but also for match ticket discounts for these reasons) I get a fiver off, so got a front row seat in South Stand Level 2 for £25. I couldn't print at home and no option was present to load to the card (the new one assumedly in the post after I renewed) so I went to the ticket office, and the lovely staff there sorted it all for us. That done, back to entrance L2, and barcode scanned, and in to the seat, and a really nice view of the pitch from the corner flag, and especially the goal to the right on the telly.

Getting in on time proved to be a cracking move all round. The pass from David Silva found Leroy Sané, and then his perfect low cross was met by Raheem Sterling, and it was 1-0, in thirty nine seconds. Yes, less than a minute. Some of the press claimed it was thirty eight seconds, but I saw the time on the official scoreboard. Still, either way, a really nice way to start and a response after the 0-0 on Sunday. And a quarter of an hour later, the ball was crossed by Kevin de Bruyne, and it was either a goal from Sergio Agüero, or an own goal from the Watford defender - it was the latter. We cruised to 2-0 at half time.

In the second half, more of the same with City in cruise control, and from a shot from de Bruyne the ball was saved by Gomes and squirmed out to Agüero to poke the ball home from close range for 3-0. Even a consolation goal for Watford was just that - and it was in the end a good win, and with Oasis in the ear as I left the ground and returned back to The Love's place, a well earned win and still fifteen points clear at the top. Nicely done, and so Supra's ace version of "Blue Moon" is tune of the day.

Monday 1st January – The Start of 2018

With the midnight chimes sounded, kisses and rose cava poured and clinked, The Love In My Heart and I settled down for some more Chic, and as we both suspected, saving some of the classics till last. They did do a version of Bowie's “Let's Dance” which was okay (Nile Rodgers did have a hand in it) but vocally the drummer shouldn't have sung it. After seeing Simon Le Bon do it justice in the Celebrating Bowie gig last year, they should have got him on stage if possible.

Still, of course later the likes of “Le Freak” with everyone blasting out the “Ahhhhhh.. freak out!” bit at the chorus starts was a pretty essential listen, as was “Good Times” to close the show, nice stuff all round. I have to admit when we did flick over to Jools Holland the line up wasn't as good as previous years, although Beth Ditto doing the classic “Young Hearts Run Free” was a real good effort, and Beth really dig give the vocals some soul and passion – good for her, and tune of the day for that reason.

We headed off to bed around 1.20am and Brian the cat was as ever snuggled up and being all cute, and slept surprisingly well actually. Waking up to a clear morning with no snow or rain was rather nice, and Brian was having a good rest on his favourite pouffle and playing out as well, so he was full of happiness. In fact this year, due to the sad passing away of Jô last year, the cat calendar we have is all of Brian, and January's pic is of him with the duck doorstop in the bedroom. Awww..

The Love was still poorly so I headed out to get more medicine and some Sinutab for the sinuses, which really did help. It didn't get rid of all the cold obviously, but the pain in the sinuses was eased and that at least was useful for The Love, so she was able to at least get up and be around the flat with Brian the cat having stayed by her side in bed for most of the day, and that was really good of him – it was almost as if he sensed that something was up and was able to act accordingly.

Later on was the grand final of World's Strongest Man, and a nice touch to give the event a longer time on telly (an hour and a half including adverts instead of an hour on Channel 5.) The good thing was that allowed each event to have more coverage on including the squat lift, which was mental. 13 lifts in a minute was superb, but then for that to be topped and to get 15 was mightily impressive, with the same number having been achieved in the Viking Press as well. It was definitely a real case of the standard being increased a lot.

The deadlift with it being max weight rather than reps suited Eddie Hall down to the ground. In fact, it went all the way to 472.5kg, which Hall cleared and Hafthor Bjornsson failed at. This gave Hall a four point lead going in to the Atlas Stones, and after the remainder had gone with only two completing it, he knew that clearing all five would guarantee the title (and in fact clearing four the fastest would also do it). In the end he did four, composed himself, then cleared the final one with a couple of seconds to go to win the title.

I was mightily pleased for Eddie Hall – his years of dedication culminating in a title well deserved, winning three of the six events (squat lift, Viking Press and deadlift) and a few facts: Hall's win was the first British win since Gary Taylor in 1993 (yes that long), he's only the fourth British winner after Geoff Capes, Jamie Reeves and Taylor, and Eddie also holds the deadlift world record. In fact he's the only man ever to deadlift the magic 500kg, which was achieved in Leeds last year. It'll be interesting to see if he does retire as he said he would, or if he wants to be the best Briton ever and overtake Capes. In any case, well done!!