Dear Diary... June 2005

Wednesday 29th June - King of My Own Domain

This week I made a couple of conscious decisions in that my site's web address isn't that easy to remember, and also that quite a few people contacted me about the indie band The Cygnet Ring, so why not have a whole site devoted to them instead and take the time to split up one big page into smaller chunks, do a discography, even try and work out the lyrics, all that sort of thing. I didn't necessarily want all the web space to go with registering a domain name (for the time being) but redirect for now and then if demand needs it, do a web site. After a bit of web searching around I found a company's site that did exactly what I wanted, and the prices were reasonable too - in fact so much so that I didn't hesitate to register two domains and set up all the configuration required. Quite easy really.

So as of today, please use http://www.zawtowers.org.uk/ in your bookmarks and any links you may have. Should be fairly easy to remember, plus the way the site handles my webspace, the location is there at the top of the screen for bookmarking purposes. How easy is that? Nice and simple. So you might also want to bookmark my new The Cygnet Ring site too, which is http://www.thecygnetring.org.uk/ - I uploaded that very late last night so you've now got access to my memories of the band, an annotated discography, lyrics (managed to do four songs but there'll be more), and there'll be more to come such as info on where to buy their music and so on. I might as well make the most of it, and further down the line if I decided to swap ISP I can just use an email address forward too - which will be nice I think. It's one of those things I'm glad I decided to do as everything looks a bit more professional now.

Been mad busy at work with configuring Group Policies in Windows XP Service Pack 2. Interesting thing to note too: if like us you'd disabled all Microsoft Networking stuff, you absolutely must put it back on before you upgrade to SP2, or stuff just does not work. Period. For most home users that won't be a problem, but it's always worth noting for people that try to lock down their users at work to prevent them mucking about. You know how it is. Anyway, we're running two PCs, one with SP1, one with SP2, primarily so we can see the many many extra settings SP2 has to set, and also what we need to lock down as well. It's very much concentration time and thankfully that's one thing I can claim to be reasonably good at.

Thursday 23rd June - Midsummer Madness

Well, the week has positively dragged, to be honest, and I can't wait until the weekend comes. And not without good reason either. It's just been dragging at work and been really slow on the whole, with plenty of work to do but all quite bitty pieces of work, nothing major, just time consuming tasks. Not that I mind too much as it keeps me busy most of the day. It's just that it's mainly been tweaking here and there and being on call for our admin staff as it's this time of year when the students receive their exam results, so as you can imagine there's plenty of happy bunnies, and some very unhappy people around.

Unfortunately, the washing machine finally broke down ealier in the week after making some rather loud banging noises last week which sounded really ear-piercing. On Monday it just seemed to get really bad, so I was going to call out the manufacturer and get the thing serviced - then I saw the repair charges and thought "not doing that one!" The costs weren't that bad, but it was when you added them all together and the fact that the cost didn't include any parts, by the time you'd paid for the repair you might as well have purchased a new one. Which is what I ended up doing in the end. Not an expense I really wanted, and I could have well done without, but nonetheless it had to be done. At least I got a good one - Indesit Evolution WIE127 - and it wasn't that costly. The nice thing was that it was reduced in Miller Brothers - and they're really good there as the stock they have in is all to take away there and then. None of this waiting for days for the thing to arrive if you really need it. And as luck would have it, my uncle had his van from work available that evening so the two of us just went down there, got it, hooked it up and it's all working. There's some nice features on this that the old one didn't have - plus it's 1200 spin too which has got to be good, and A energy rated (an essential thing for yours truly.)

Alas, Wimbledon is upon us and already it's bye bye to Tim Henman. Although outplayed by a player who played probably his best ever game of tennis, nonetheless it just goes to show that in terms of skill, character and temprament, Henman just isn't good enough. Period. Unlike Andrew Murray though, who showed Henman exactly what you have to do - crush a top seed three sets to love and play as if every point counts and matters. And not rely on the serve and volley game. Need I go on? As one British player leaves, a youngster comes up and shows them all just how it should be done. And he's the last Brit in and we're only at the tail end of round two - which to be frank is just embarrassing to say the least.

Saturday 18th June - Humidity Overload

This week's been horrible to try and work in: the closeness of the humidity is terrible, it was something like 96% yesterday and I could really feel it. Even staying still just results in lots of sweat and feeling uncomfortable - not the sort of day yesterday when you really want to be running up and down two flights of stairs constantly to the third floor really. Just not at all. Mind you, I've been doing some tests on the colour plotters we have and that included a change of print heads and a nerve-wracking firmware upgrade for each of them - it normally goes okay but I had to stand guard just in case anyone tried to send a print job while the upgrade was taking place, not a great idea methinks.

Apart from the intense humidity, I got the new Manchester City DVD through the post yesterday: the end of season 2004-05 review. And like Fremantle's previous Manchester City DVD release "Pride in Battle" it doesn't play correct on my trusty Pioneer DV-646A. After a bit of checking through the disk, I found out why: the discs are mastered differently, and part of the difference is that there's three root menus - two with the masterer's logo, rather than the one with the title menus displaying properly. Well annoying, so I've sent Fremantle an email telling them that their mastering process is to blame and to sort out a remaster, giving them as much information as I could gather about the discs. Thankfully, they play on the DVD drive in the PC, but that just means cropping lots of the screen off as they are in widescreen. However, I did manage to get them to play in the end, but I had to get clever on the PC. If your DVD player shows no copyright warning message and no menu, but you can still press ENTER on the menu to play the main feature, your player is also incompatible too - contact me and I'll tell you how I got round the problem.

Been also quite busy in that I had to go back to the local GP to have the stitches removed. It was a flawlessly easy task in the end, and Susan told me that I'd healed up really well. I might end up having a little scar on my back for some time, but the main thing is that everything's gone well and it's all sorted out. I must admit I do feel better about myself not feeling a lump on the side of my back sticking out, and in a vain sort of way that I look better too. If you can't love yourself, then who can, eh?

Monday 13th June - Over and Out

So much for the England women's football team: Wednesday saw them lose a 1-0 lead to Denmark: and what especially hurt was that they were essentially ten minutes from qualification from the semi finals until two late goals undid us badly. And what made it even worse was that with Finland and Sweden drawing 0-0 later in the evening meant that a win would have had us through as group winners, avoiding the possibility of facing Germany in the semi final. Not very good was to come on Saturday though as we lost an early goal to Sweden and never recovered - maybe playing at Ewood Park wasn't such a good idea after all eh? Still, I guess there's a lot to learn for the women in that there was too much overconfidence from some players and too many nerves from the others: at least when the men played on home turf in Euro96 they got to the semi finals and did really well, only losing on penalties to (yes you guessed it) Germany.

Went out Saturday evening anyway as one of our family relations (well, my cousin's long term girlfriend) reached a special birthday in the week and so had booked a place in Stockport for the do. It was pretty okay I guess, only for me there wasn't that much to munch at the buffet: most of the sandwiches had cress on (a total no no for me) or salad on them. Fine for some but I just didn't fancy too much stuff: good job I'd munched a hearty lunch earlier in the day when out shopping just in case. That said though the DJ was also not too hot either: in a three and a half hour stint he was playing the same tunes three times over, and for the first hour or so had some DJ mix CD on which meant he had to do no work whatsoever. You know, if it was that easy I could just whack some tunes together on an iPod, hook the output to a good amp and speakers, and bingo! DIY kit to take on the road and play some class stuff on.

And that annoying frog is still number one! Who the hell is buying that rubbish excuse for a tune? And how much must Jamster have spent on marketing? Every single channel you turn to has either that frog, Sweety the the chick and Nessie the dragon. Of course conveniently forgetting to tell you unless you read the very small print that you have to subscribe for £3 per week and of course be over 16, despite the ironic fact that this sort of rubbish is aimed at kids who just want to have that "killer app" (well supposedly anyway) Be ding ding ding ding die, you scummy frog, that's what I say. Or you could always play this game (hit him hard).

Tuesday 7th June - Operation: Lipoma Removal

The good news: the minor operation was a success, and I feel a whole lot better for having the lipoma out, I can tell you. Even better was how professional my local GP surgery was for the whole thing. The NHS takes a lot of stick, but I feel if someone does a good job you should say so too to balance the negativity out. Certainly I felt very relaxed and in safe hands, so full credit to Dr Tracey Vell and her assistant Susan for doing a wonderful job. I had some anaesthetic put on the lipoma, the injection of it hurt a little bit but it did numb the pain and I didn't feel a thing with the sharp instruments, the skin was cut away to expose the lipoma and carefully they removed it. I got to see it too, not very nice lumps of fat gristle on top of what looked like a ball of fatty tissue. That done, they stitched me up and covered everything up with some dressing, and gave me some sensible practical advice in terms of when I bath or shower to be careful with it.

I got home later on and rested up for the day, and even though I did feel the anaesthetic wear off and that I felt a little bit of discomfort, it was nothing really. All I could sense was the relief that I'd got rid of the lump and was all clear. I'm also glad it was just a lipoma really, it could have been much worse and I suppose if you see anything untoward around you, always best to get things checked out. I just have to go back next Tuesday to have the stitches out, and I'm home free.

Of course there's so much rubbish daytime television on I've ended up watching sport for most of the afternoon (no surprise there then) so it was mainly the racing coupled with the odd bit of football here and there as well, just a shame there was no women's football on today as that would have been good. Just have to hope England can actually manage to get the job done against Denmark on Wednesday. Come on you ladies!

Monday 6th June - And I Thought Watching Man City was nerve-wracking?

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting the City of Manchester Stadium, always a pleasant place to go especially for me, but City weren't playing. So why was I going? A concert, perhaps? Nope. The opening England game of the Women's Euro 2005 championships. I took my father along with me (he actually suggested to me we should go as well) along with my uncle and his two kids, and it turned out my sister, her husband, my brother, my cousin and his girlfriend were all going as well, although they were in the opposition end to where we were - ten go mad at Eastlands or something like that.

Got to the ground early as there was supposed to be pre-match entertainment and it duly came with a load of cheer leaders, called the Cheer Kids. They did their pom pom thing to a couple of numbers and it wasn't bad, then on came the teams to do their training thing. The opening ceremony (or whatever they call it) was a bit odd, some operatic singers doing a classical number, with several women bringing on some balloons, and then burst these big balloons to release lots of little ones into the sky, with each country's flags already being taken around the pitch as well. Not bad, a bit of a strange ceremony, but it seemed to do the job. The anthems were sung (of course everyone belted out the English one, with the Finnish fans dotted around the stadium doing their bit) and it was off.

England did well in the first half and although a bit fortunate with the own goal, nonethless that was down to the pressure we put the Finns under. A second followed with a fortunate header going in before the keeper scooped it out Roy Carroll-style, but the Finns had headed against the bar and looked a little menacing. Somehow as half time approached and I battled my way to the food bar for some refreshments, and just about saw the start of the second half on time. I wish they'd had more people on as you could see people getting a little frustrated waiting for so long. Anyway, Finland scored a very good goal indeed and at 2-1 it was pretty nervous stuff. One came Aluko (who'd scored the winner in the women's FA Cup final) and she missed two good chances to score a third, the first was a one-on-one she should have done so much better with. Those misses really told as a defensive mix up made it 2-2 with just minutes to go.

The board came up with three minutes of added time at the end, and all of a sudden the crowd noise rose and everything seemed to rise to the occasion. The ball came in from Karen Carney to Aluko, the shot went in with another good save from the Finnish keeper and then Carney hit the rebound into the top corner, a delicate chip avoiding the three defenders on the line. Everyone rose around us and went positively mental, as you'd expect really. A bit fortunate too in that we didn't really deserve to win based on the performance, but sometimes, especially in major tournaments, you take the result, now it's Denmark on Wednesday. A bit more difficult, methinks.

The sofa arrived this morning and it's so nice and comfortable, so glad I picked it in the end. In turn though that means wholesale changes in-house, the futon has now been transported upstairs to the spare room and the bed that was in there has been dismantled and got reassmbled yesterday somewhere else, and I'm sure the new recipients are very happy with that too as they get a bed for free (well it was there when I moved in so I didn't see the point of charging for it to be honest). It makes more sense for the futon to be up there too as it can act as a spare double bed if anyone is crashing over, meaning lots more room for one, or snuggle time for two. And it actually makes the room look bigger. Partially as I got clever and located some decent plastic storage boxes for spare sheets etc that fit underneath it. Clever, eh?

Went out to a really nice Chinese and Thai restaurant on Saturday night, and it wasn't even in Chinatown. I pass it on the way to and from work every day and sometimes in the evenings if I've been out for a night out. So I've seen how busy it's been and decided to give it a roadtest, which it passed with flying colours. The starter was a really nice sweetcorn soup with lots of beaten egg as well, and what was nice was that you had the choice of the egg or not - particularly good to know if you're vegan, not just vegetarian, so that was good. The main was really well presented - chicken and squid noodles with lots of stir fry vegetables and an excellent sauce that just gave it that necessary kick. Whilst not seeming a bit portion it did fill me up very nicely. So if you fancy a change, I can highly recommend Moso Moso on Oxford Road, it's next to the Royal Infirmary and means you can avoid the corporate crap fodder of Subway and McDonald's next door, thankfully.

Wednesday 1st June - Sofa, so even better

Had a phone call today to confirm the delivery date of the new sofa. Woohoo. Can't wait now, especially as it's been a few weeks since I decided on the one I liked and actually ordered it. Of course this means a slight shift around in furniture around the house (the futon's going upstairs and the small spare bed that was up there is going to someone who needs it for their place) this weekend, but that's only a minor inconvenience compared to being able to have a much comfier place to sit on - the old one my mother gave me has done the job, but it's time it got replaced and I'm sure I'll have the benefit of it all after the weekend's been and gone. And the day before I have the minor surgery to get that lipoma removed, it all happens doesn't it?

Been working hard on customising Mozilla Firefox a bit more, so even now all users can share the same extensions, namely one that I thought would be a good idea: the Foxy Voice extension. What this does is let you read out web pages aloud using Microsoft's inbuilt text to speech engine (and particularly if you have Microsoft Office XP installed, which of course we have at work, or even better, Read and Write of some description, you get better voices). It's simple - and it works. Getting it to work for all users involved a little bit of tweaking, but nothing too untoward thankfully. Now if only I could get the "import settings wizard" not to appear the first time the user uses Firefox when logged on, and everything would be hunky dory..

But you can't have it all. Especially if you're David James, and the moment Eriksson can he's changing the England team and dropping him from the goalkeeper's position on the USA tour, basically now indicating that he's redundant. This despite Robert Green making some absolute howlers in the second half. Okay, Paul Robinson's played his way into the number one spot, but the way Green was playing he didn't look like he could be a number two to be perfectly honest. But the whole tour didn't tell us much apart from the fact Michael Owen still knows where the net is and became the fourth highest England goalscorer ever, and his second hat trick too. Ah well.