Dear Diary... June 2008

Monday 30th June - Murray - Mint!

Got home from work after finally sussing out completely why the XP Tablet Edition laptop I was working on wasn't bringing down what it should in terms of Zenworks stuff. Turned out that one of our servers had crashed, and it had crashed in such a way that some of the network modules which look after workstation registration for Zenworks had gone belly up, and since the back end of last week it wasn't registering anything whatsoever into the Zenworks tree. So, one forewarning and reboot of the server later, and all was well again and I was able to make some very steady progress and be able to at least look like I'm going to finish the whole image this week, although I do know that there's some extras to put on, which I can look at tomorrow.

Went round to see my uncle and auntie who live not far from me and have a good chat to them and share some news with them as well. In fact my auntie was very lovely and gave me some blueberry muffins which she'd bought a load of, and they were absolutely looking rather delicious. Knowing that two of my friends were coming over a bit later on, I thought it would be a good idea to have them with a cup of tea (forward thinking is everything isn't it?). It was good to see them and as I left for home, I saw my sister, her husband and my niece as it was her third birthday today (even though the party was yesterday, still good to see her on the day). It looked like that she'd had a big ice cream and wasn't afraid to scoff it either, awww, how cute looking was she?

My friends came over and it was the third set tiebreak between Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet in the tennis. Murray was struggling but then got through the tiebreak and won it, with a winner from way outside the tramlines of the court as well, impressive stuff and anticipation. As we chatted, we all kept one eye on the game and as Murray took the fourth set meaning a decider, it would be a case of if they could finish before it got too dark. Despite some protestations from Gasquet and indeed using all his challenges remaining to debate line calls (which actually works really well to be honest, no more McEnroe like antics I hope!) the game went on and it was almost duskily dark by the time Murray served out to win the final set 6-4 and come back from two sets down to win as well. It was ace, and the crowd were pumped up, and by all accounts BBC One had over ten million viewers watching the end of the game. Dunno how many of them were like me and seeing it on BBC HD, but still, rather good to see nonetheless.

It also showed that once someone British does well in anything, we as a sporting nation will try and rally round and get behind them. The crowd at Wimbledon did their bit, and as Tim Henman rightly points out, it's that extra lift that you need somewhere like that. It also made me realise that the British tennis team need some form of anthem to come out to for Davis Cup ties and the like to get the crowd pumped up. When I look back at the football songs at the likes of Three Lions and World in Motion, they got you going and got you in the mood for the game ahead. So maybe we need to have a theme tune for tennis to get the crowd going? Maybe Fatboy Slim's "Right Here, Right Now" could do the job? I'll give it tune of the day on that basis alone.

Sunday 29th June - Upsy Daisy

Over to my sister's this afternoon, as it was my niece's birthday party - she's actually three tomorrow, but it was easier to have the party on the Sunday and so that way she could have some of her friends over for a kids' party, and then the adults come along later and eat some more stuff too. I got there and the kids were in full flow enjoying themselves, and I kept several of them occupied with a bit of tiggy it, with me as it and walking around so as to let them run off and run away, which worked really nicely actually. I guess with me being the big kid at heart it helps to be able to show that side of me and really give the kids lots of enjoyment. Always feels good when you give something back, you know.

Later on when most of the kids had gone, my sister made some lovely food, and everyone was sat either out front or in the back chatting away, which was all round quite nice. I happily enjoyed some of the savoury rice and the pizza as well, and definitely felt nicely full for that. My niece then opened some of the presents that she'd had dropped off for her, including mine, and I could tell that she was dead chuffed with them. I got her this In The Night Garden board puzzle game where you can flip tiles over and you have to spot the difference, a la "Kim's Game" if you know what that is, and of course the piece de resistance was the Upsy Daisy costume that I'd for for her, which she really loved and went "Upsy Daisy" nice and loud.

I was also able to catch up with Mum and have a chat with her about her holiday in Cornwall, which she really enjoyed, and her friend really liked it too, which pleased me no end as well. I know that for different reasons that they'll have wanted to get the most out of it, and seeing that they did and indeed the pictures of the holiday made me even more jealous that I'm not venturing down to the South West this year. But I'm sure that I will manage somehow to get down there and that'll be something that I will look forward to for definite, I know that much.

I got home quite late but it was a quality afternoon spent with everyone and that mattered a lot to me. I think as I've got older I've realised that family is actually important enough to make the effort to spend time with when the times and moments are right, and having had such a great time with my sister last week, it's only right that I manage to make the effort where needed. I whacked on some of the The Prodigy when I got home which got me in a rousing mood to round off the weekend nicely and so "Get Up Get Off" is tune of the day - it's infectiously catchy!

Saturday 28th June - Windmills And Piers

Decided to head out and about today, and thought about where would be nice to go, considering the weather was just about holding and that it may be well worthwhile heading out somewhere for the day. I plumped for Southport in the end, as it's not that far to get there but also because of the fact that it's a very lovely place on the whole really. It was a wise decision all round. I walked along the front for a while, headed down the pier, and at the end of the pier what is the pier café also houses some amusements, but these were all really old amusement machines that would have been from the early 20th century, they all required an old penny 1d coin to use them, and the change machines gave out the old pennies so you could use them all.

Several of the old machines were one where a ball would be placed at the bottom of this display, and you'd press a lever to send the ball spinning off, and landing on some holes, some marked win, some not. If you won, you could turn the knob at the bottom of the machine and collect the prize. One such machine gave out two finger Kit Kats if you won, and had a few goes and won twice, so no real complaints there, and it was fascinating stuff to see some of the old machines beautifully preserved and in working order, with plenty of people having fun and using the old coinage.

Headed back along the pier and by the marine lake there happens to be one of the best looked after crazy golf courses in the country, it's a really nicely laid out course, freshly astroturfed and with fair challenges as well to putt properly. The last time I played there was back in May 2003, and I'm sure I hit around 50-odd or something. I was much more focussed this time around and just hit the ball rather well on the way to scoring a very good total of 42, which included two holes in one! What really made the day was that just behind me playing was a grandfather with two grandchildren, both little girls. At the 17th hole, you hit the ball round this spiral ramp up and down and then see if it lands in the hole (often rebounding off the back). One of the grandchildren hit it in which made them chuffed, then the grandfather did it as well for good measure and you could tell all three of them were really pleased. It looked a lovely family moment and felt rather special all round, and that's the sort of moment you live for.

Even better, the main arcade close by, Funland, had four pinball machines. Yes, four! They weren't cheap at £1 a play but it looked like they'd been well looked after. As I'd played Simpsons Pinball Party before as well as Spiderman, and I didn't fancy Pirates of the Caribbean, I went for Family Guy. And wow, what an ace machine that was. What I did manage to do was the little mission with Stewie for his mini pinball, played on a very small upper right playfield with little flippers and everything, which was fab! I have to say that even though I had two goes on it, it definitely had the right feel and definitely played to a high standard, it looked very well looked after indeed. Might even go into my top ten pinball machines of all time you know (hmm.. now there is an article waiting to happen!)

Still, felt very chuffed to bits and as I made my way home later after having a very nice little meal as well it just made me realise that sometimes it's good to head to the seaside and do the things that I like to do, and pinball as well as crazy golf are usually high up on the list, so it felt somehow very right that I was able to manage both and with some aplomb. It also made me think of Pullover's superb single "Holiday" which basically sums up the way that English holidays often are, and the chorus of "I want to find out who I am.. in a caravan" says it all very nicely. Tune of the day without a doubt, and if you've ever heard it, then you'll know what I mean!

Friday 27th June - On A Roll, Not An Arctic One!

I really felt on a roll today at work. I get moments where I feel really inspired and that the brain is ticking over nicely, able to put its mind to it. First thing in the morning was that I was able to sort out the last of the Group Policy settings for Office 2007, mainly to do with the autosave settings and the time delay to be set between automatic saves. Now in Excel, Word and Powerpoint, this all works well. However, in Publisher, there's only one setting which says "Set autosave delay in (minutes)". You can enable that, but if you do, it sets the autosave delay to one minute, and unlike the other Office programs, you can't actually explicitly set the delay. Annoying or what? However, the workaround was not to set it in Policy, but instead set a registry key for the time between autosaves instead. Darn, why can't Microsoft do things properly?

Anyway, that done, I found a useful utility which may be handy for many a laptop owner especially. If for any reason the sticker underneath your laptop with the Windows product key has become unreadable, and you're at the point where you need to reinstall Windows from the recovery CD, chances are you may have to enter the serial number. The last thing you want to do is to not know what that is, so a useful utility is this one, Magical Jellybean Keyfinder. I tried it on my PC in the office and later at home, and it really does work well, and also displays your Office product keys as well. Just how good is that eh?

So with those done, off to a meeting that we have once a month, and I was able to put some input into that as well as be able to really divulge more into the Office group policy settings. It felt good that I was able to use all the testing to good use and to have everything ready on time for when the main new image for 2008 which a couple of my colleagues have been working tirelessly on, was a really good thing. Just made the lunch taste that bit sweeter to be honest and I feel like I am on top of my game, as well as fixing two laptops and getting working on another one as well. I even stayed a bit later to try and finish something off, which on a Friday afternoon is something I can tell you.

I headed over to Tesco to do the food shopping, and to be honest, it was fairly quiet considering it was Friday at almost peak time. I managed to whizz around there in double quick time and get what I needed, even managing to treat myself to a little couple of things as well along the way, such as bottle of shiraz, and indeed the Jacob's Creek one which is rather gorgeous you know. Well, I feel like having a nice glass of the red stuff tomorrow night to have a nice wind down during the weekend, think I deserve it occasionally!

Got home to watch the Twenty20 cricket between Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, where the winners would be through to the quarter finals. In the end it was an easy win for Yorkshire as they romped home with two overs and nine wickets to spare. Intruguingly all the Nottinghamshire batsment came out to Hard Fi's "Hard To Beat" (give that tune of the day), how beautifully ironic or what eh? Cos they weren't. Still, good to see that even the umpires got confused between a four and a six late on, but once they realised it was the latter, it was all over. Anyway, good to see that the cricket is still exciting and tense and with Lancashire through to the quarters with a game to spare (tonight against Durham was rained off in the end) I hope that the boys can do the business

Thursday 26th June - Self Indulgence?

After I wrote yesterday's diary entry, it was off to the Academy 1 to see John Mayer do his live thing. I must admit I was rather looking forward to it, not least because it was the first time he'd played Manchester (possibly ever but I'd need to check that) but was also glad that I got my ticket quite quickly, because the gig had sold out pretty quickly, even if the tickets were a mere £25 a throw! I know, good job I went to the Academy box office and paid cash really isn't it? I was intrigued to see what sort of show he'd put on and the fact that it looked like he was on at 9 could well mean a decent length set, so here was me hoping.

Anyway, first up was the very able support, Jack McManus (official site) (myspace) - and he played the piano/keyboard whilst the rest of the band played a pretty nice laid back vibe. He had real thoughts to his songwriting and seemed a very capable writer as well, definitely warmed the crowd up nicely and was highly listenable. He was also very assured but not cocky or arrogant, which was lovely to see. "Bang on the Piano" was possibly my favourite, it was really uplifting with a catchy chorus and it certainly seemed like he was going for it during that track as well, so good for him!

Just after 9pm John Mayer (official site) (myspace) came on with his band, and the band themselves proved to be really tight and playing their stuff well, not least the guitarist to John's left as I looked to the stage who looked like he'd been rocking for ages, and the drummer also really had a cracking vibe about him as well. Starting off with a cracking version of "Waiting on the World to Change" and continuing the vibe with stuff from Continuum including "Vultures", "I Don't Trust Myself With Loving You", and "Belief" (make that one tune of the day), you couldn't help but notice how the live versions sounded longer, extended, and allowed John to play virtuoso a fair bit more with the guitar, and really showed off his guitar playing during all that. It did border on self indulgent occasionally but on the whole was working well.

Then, two killer moves. First, after a rousing version of "Bigger Than My Body", he starts off playing some blues, which sounded great, and then he started to sing the vocals, and a massive cheer emnated from the audience. Yes, he was covering "Mercy" by Duffy, and absolutely showing just how over-rated Duffy is by turning the song into a blues workout and making it his own. It was rather excellent all round to be honest, and showed just how you can really give something a different outlook. Second, just after that was No Such Thing segued nicely into Why Georgia, both off the vastly under-rated "Room For Squares" album. It worked really well together and most of the crowd thankfully knew what it was and were happily singing along at the right moments, a good vibe.

During the encore he went into a rather lengthy version of "Gravity" and during the middle he used it to basically rant about the media and the rumours that everyone in the world has to put up with. I think this was a thinly veiled attack at the media for saying things about how he's been with Jennifer Aniston, but it went on too long and I have a feeling that some of the audience were a bit too non plussed about that. Thing was, when he was playing that song, he was doing a fine job and it seemed a bit self indulgent here to rant on. Thankfully it didn't spoil what was an excellent show and well worth the dosh to go and see him perform, that's for sure.

As for today, well, it's been a case of getting on with things despite the absolute incessant rain that has been falling down everywhere at the moment, it's been really bad. In fact I was almost blown towards the bus stop when I left for home from work, but I did feel quite occupied and had finally sorted out one last setting for Office 2007 which was bugging me. You see, there's an option to have some wizard when Publisher starts which actually isn't a wizard at all, it just sets the right paper size for a new blank publication. So disabling it means that everything starts at a custom size, so I force enabled that in the Group Policy and it all worked rather perfectly to say the least - felt pretty chuffed.

Wednesday 25th June - Pork And Beans and Mozzer

I ventured out into the city centre during my lunch break today - for two reasons, first I needed to buy a birthday present for someone, and second, I wanted to see if I could track down the deleted Morrissey CD single of "All You Need Is Me" that I rather stupidly forgot to get myself a few weeks back during the week of release. I had a hunch and I was hoping that my hunch was indeed correct. First off, off to get the present I was after, and thankfully I knew exactly where to go and what to get, because I know the taste of the person whose present I was getting. Great when it's simple isn't it?

I popped into Zavvi and wandered round in attempt to find the singles section, which was much harder than I thought. I wondered if anyone actually bought CD singles anymore or indeed seven lovely inches of vinyl, because it seems that even here the record stores don't want to know. For me, it's a shame that people rely on downloads and usually listen to those downloads on a system much less equipped than a proper hi fi separates number, but hey, that's their call. I much prefer to have my tunes playing on a proper rig so a good single is always welcomed here, let me tell you.

Finally found one small shelf which had the singles on, and it was jackpot joy for me. Not only did I see the new Cure single that I also wanted, and the new Weezer one "Pork and Beans" but also the Morrissey CD single as well. You can imagine that cheered me up no end and so it was pretty much straight to the counter with my purchases. I think the counter blokey was shocked that someone was buying singles, but hey, Zavvi staff, if you make them so bloody hard to find people will give up. In a way that's possibly why I could still get the Morrissey single because no one could track it down in there.

Got home from work later and it was straight on with all three CD singles, all of top quality. The Weezer single has been made famous by its video, which features lots of people who've found fame through Youtube and the like, it's a really well made and clever video, almost as good as their one for "Keep Fishin'" which has the Muppets starring and has a great catchy hook line in the tune as well. Sometimes you just have to do these things, don't you? Anyway, let's give the old classic tune of the day and here's the video and everything!

Must admit one of the reasons that I did buy the Weezer CD single as well was not only for the A-side, but the B-side too, which on the CD happens to be a cover of "Are Friends Electric?". Now for yours truly as a bit of a Gary Numan fan (my friend is the real diehard mind you) it's a really good listen, and definitely keeps the spirit of the original nicely intact, even making it sound a little rockier as if Numan would have done it now in his more Industrial era, so much kudos to the band for that I reckon. Needless to say I was very pleased with listening to hear how a good cover version should sound, you know?

Tuesday 24th June - Light and IKEA Tuneful

Off to IKEA after work for me tonight, mainly to get the remaining bits of accessories for the kitchen just to give it that final finishing touch and to make it refreshed and lively. The storage jars that I use for the tea, coffee, sugar, pasta and biscuits admittedly look a bit old now and I was either going to get the same ones and replace them as they were, or just get some different style ones instead and make the place look a bit more sparkly. It's always better to head there during the week to be honest because it's less busy to say the least (understatement) and also if like me you're an IKEA family member, it's free tea and coffee as well during the week. In fact I treated myself to some meatballs and some almondy cake along with a coffee for my evening meal, which set everything up nicely.

I wandered round and soon located the kitchen stuff, and first thing on the list was the cutlery: I'd seen the one I wanted and thankfully it was in stock - and reduced in the sale as well! So the Ditto Mix set was mine, and I was very pleased to get that for less. I also got some new place mats and coasters (in the light blue this time) and then got to the storage jars. I got the same one for the biscuits, but saw these other jars with a frosted glass like effect on the sides, and it looked pretty good. I therefore got three small ones for the tea, coffee and sugar and a tall thin one for the pasta, which I'm sure would do the job wonderfully well.

Not satisfied with that, I also got myself a new duvet cover (the Ofelia Tång one) along with a fitted sheet to go with it (Sova in natural). I love the bedding as almost all of it is 100% cotton, and it just really does work nicely, it washes well and it's really comfortable to sleep in, and that's definitely something that I much prefer. A good night's sleep sets me up for the day, you know. I felt pretty chuffed and more so when I got to the lighting section and found the perfect lampshade for the kitchen as well. When my uncle was fitting the kitchen the glass shade had broken (it was old and horrid anyway) so it was the perfect opportunity to get something a lot nicer, and so I did.

Felt flushed with happiness on the way home, knowing I'd got what I came for and even some bonuses, and some of the stuff was in the sale too so I'd managed to save a fair few pounds along the way. I don't mind that to be honest, it's good when you feel satisfied that you've got lots for less, if you know what I mean. I was very tempted by the large Audrey Hepburn canvas picture, but decided against it for my better nature - a wise move all round I reckon! Still, nonetheless when I got home I started to set everything up and wash the old jars - I may be able to recycle them and use them elsewhere or see if anyone in the family wants them - and then promptly chilled out in front of Wimbledon.

Actually, talking of Wimbledon, full marks to the BBC for showing the tournament in HD again this year. Must admit that some of the stuff I watched tonight looked rather great in that format, with every nuance of the shot being visible as well as the close line calls. Centre Court looks neat with the retractable roof now, and it's still the place to be to watch tennis, as it should be. Not sure about Tim Henman's commentary, but if there's one thing which makes you think that you're at the tennis, it's the theme tune that the BBC play every year, and thankfully, unlike the snooker, they haven't messed with it. I even have it, and it's ace. So, tune of the day is Keith Mansfield's "Light and Tuneful", and that is most certainly is. As soon as you hear the opening bars you know instantly that it is Wimbledon, hurrah to that I say. Now if we could get more Brits through the earlier rounds...

Monday 23rd June - Sorting Out Day

Back to the reality of work today, but the atmosphere has been good the last few weeks, even if we don't know what's going to be happening in the future as yet. I think our colleague that has been seconded on to us is really relishing the prospect of learning new stuff, and he's really enjoying the chance to be able to have some more hands on experience. I think too that part of that is down to the fact that the team I work in are very much of a team ethic: we share information, we pull resources together, and most of all, we actually know that by being open and sharing, we get things done - and better.

Today two of us were working on a laptop that we'd worked on since Friday. We decided this morning to re-image it with an image we had, and then add on any necessary drivers etc and see if we could get everything to work. Well, we did, apart from the fact that the touch screen and tablet pen when turned around to be used as a tablet didn't play ball - if you touched the screen it worked okay, but as soon as you used the pen, both that and the touch screen refused to play ball. We're going to try out the recovery disc with Windows XP Tablet Edition on and go from there, and if that means we have to layer everything on top to try and make it the same as the current image that we have, so be it. (I have a feeling that some of the stuff doesn't work with Windows XP Professional, but we shall see.)

I got home and was sorting a few things out tonight as well. Firstly, I did a load of washing and ironing to make sure I had plenty to wear during the week, and then realised that I'd run out of fabric conditioner. I really hope that the new Tesco Metro near me opens soon so I can just nip there and get what I need, but in the meantime it was a hop or several down to Asda on the bus, and made sure I got what I needed, plus some other little bits as well. Intriguingly as I got there with not long to go, I whizzed round and got everything before the store announcer said that it was going to close in fifteen minutes' time. Phew!

I sat down and watched a really revealing documentary that moved me, and definitely I've thought about it enough to write a small article on the Thoughts page. I am always intrigued when a camera crew goes undercover, knowing that what they might find is something that maybe some people don't want you to see, but at the same time it also makes me wonder just how many risks that they may take as well. I mean, we've all seen the days of The Cook Report and how each week you'd always see Roger Cook confronting people and risking getting his head kicked in, right? Well, if you've never seen him in action, you've missed out, I tell you.

Anyway, I kept thinking about yesterday's Timperley tour and how brilliant it was, and indeed there's now been some clips from the day put up on Youtube from the event. I've uploaded my photos to my Flickr gallery, but in the meantime, enjoy my tune of the day, "Youtube is Really Fantastic", a reworking of one of Frank's classics. You know it is, it really is! Thank you.

Sunday 22nd June - Magical Timperley Tour

Today it was off out with my sister. You see, she and I are fans of the fantastic music and comedy Mancunian legend that is the one and only Frank Sidebottom, and each year usually during the Summer, he organises the Magical Timperley Tour, where he takes a load of people on an open top bus around his home area that is Timperley, even stopping off along the way so that everyone can see the sights of the place and have their picture taken at various landmarks as well.

So my sister and I took the bus from her place into town, and then the tram up to Timperley Metrolink station, where the tour would commence from. We were down for the 2.30pm booking, which I'd managed to sort out by ringing Mr. Alston the bus conductor, who also does the Frank merchandise these days too. As 2.30 approached, no sign of the bus, and then it arrived with the 1pm tour lot on the top, ready to make their way off after having had, by all accounts, a fantastic time. I'm quite sure that they did and it was all rather wonderful, but as you can imagine, I wanted to get on there for myself and see what it was all like.

With my sister and I paid on, and headed quite close to the front of the bus at the top so we could see and hear Frank guide us round, the weather decided to take a turn for the worse and get quite windy. We had also noticed that Little Frank was on the bus too, and as he's made of cardboard, he may blow away. However, Frank got one of the paying public to sit next to Little Frank at the front and basically look after him and carry him around, which was a rather nice thing to do. I kind of wish it was me, but I'd have been tempted to try and do Little Frank's voice I admit. So off we headed down Park Road and towards the centre of Timperley, having to dodge some low flying trees along the way, past a zebra crossing that Frank claimed was where the Beatles really did their cover to the Abbey Road album (haha!) and then past the newsagents where a car crashed into it.

Once past the Stonemasons Arms in the central lights of Timperley, it was off along towards the Brooklands roundabout, round there and down Shaftesbury Avenue, which Frank called the Timperley Golden Half Mile because of the fact that both sides of the road try to outdo each other at Christmas with their fantastic lights displays. You know they do, they really do. Then it was left to go past a farm and indeed past the one and only Timperley donkey, before spotting a house which had someone from Corrie up to no good there (not like Frank to spread the gossip eh?) and then after that, along past Altrincham FC and Stamford Park and back via the back of Altrincham town centre, and past the golf course. When we got to the cricket club past there, Frank asked everyone to yell "Howzat?" to the cricketers. They all stopped and waved - what a classic moment that was!

We then headed back into Timperley centre and got off the bus to head over to Timperley Fish Bar, which had been opened for the day specially. We all crammed into the chippy and I got some chips for me and my sister, which were absolutely gorgeous. Tell you what, if I'm round there ever I will definitely have to pop round there for some lovely fish and chips. Once that was done, we walked over to the two red post boxes in Timperley, one which apparently was for Frank's fan mail. There were photo opportunities here, so I simply had to indulge myself and have my picture taken with Frank, you know I did, I really did!

We then headed on the bus to The Grange sports and leisure club (formerly Timperley Labour club) where Frank had a surprise for us. He and his Oh Blimey Big Band played three punk covers, with Frank changing the words slightly to feature Timperley, but nonetheless sounded really good. It was in order, "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" by the Ramones, and then "Something Else" by the Sex Pistols. All sounded good and the raffle tickets were bought to win the cardboard cutout of Little Frank from the day. And before I knew it, it was back at Timperley Metrolink station to head home, but it had been brilliant and fantastic, and as the bus pulled up, Frank had us singing along to "Guess Who's Been on Match of the Day?" as well (I'll give that tune of the day because it was brilliant) and that just capped it all for me. It was ace.

Saturday 21st June - Midsummer in York? I Wish!

I had decided last weekend that it would be nice to take myself out for the day, and when I thought about where to go, I knew I hadn't been to York for quite some time and that it would be a good idea to venture out there, see some of the sights I hadn't seen beforehand, and also pop into the Cat Gallery shop to see what Rosina stuff they had. I was thinking mainly of stuff for the new kitchen and thought it would be a good idea whilst I was there to see. So with advance purchase train tickets in hand, meaning that I saved money on a standard day return plus had a reserved seat, off I ventured on the 1057 departure from Piccadilly and was soon in York for around 1230.

As I arrived, the weather looked a bit dull and cloudy but at least it was dry. I headed over the bridge over the River Ouse and noticed that the boats that took the people up and down the river seemed quite empty, I had a feeling that others like me had looked at the weather forecast and that the rain was going to come. I headed to York Minster, and as I'd never been in there, thought it best to redress the balance a bit and went in. Now, you get an option of seeing each of the three parts of the Minster separately and paying for each, or a "do everything" ticket for £9.50 which allowed you to see the lot. I went for the latter. I was also quite pleased to see that photography was allowed in the Minster except for the crypt and undercroft sections, which was fair enough and very good of them.

I had a walk around the main Minster first, and there was a choral orchestra on practicing with some really sinister sounding music. The ambience of the place and the acoustics served that really well, and it sounded beautiful as I walked around the main areas of the Minster, including the Chapter House, and all looked rather ornate with some gorgeous building work and architecture. Looking up towards the roof of the main tower and seeing how gorgeously decorated the place was showed just how beautifully kept it all is, and I don't begrudge paying an admission charge when they're going to restore the stained glass window to the East Wall and use the money sensibly.

As I'd paid for the lot, it was then up to the main Tower. There were enough warnings so if you were unfit or too large (there's a width restriction in the spiral staircase) then you shouldn't go up, but thankfully neither applied to me so I first went up the mere 108 steps which took you along to one of the parapets, where you would walk along and then go up the other 167 steps up to the top of the main Tower. It wasn't exactly shallow steps either, even steeper than in my house, and so I definitely felt that I'd had a year's worth of step classes in one to say the least. Even if it was absolutely hammering it down by now though, the view was most lovely and you could see for a fair distance from the top. Once that was done, around the undercroft and the beautifully preserved Crypt, and it definitely was well worth a visit - do pop by if you can.

At this point I headed along one of the old streets in York and spotted the Cat Gallery shop. Of course I had to go in and take a look. Now, some of you will know that I like cat stuff by Rosina Wachtmeister, and that her pictures and the figurines adorn the Towers, it's just a me thing. Anyway, what I spotted in there was a double oven glove and a tea cosy. Unfortunately they didn't have any oven gloves or oven gauntlets, which is what I really wanted to replace mine. I did note though that the figurines are becoming more collectible, and there was a delightful clock which was so tempting to buy and then put up in the kitchen once I got home, but it was expensive and I wanted to be good.

I then did lunch in The Punch Bowl, a really nice olde worlde pub, and they had some excellent guest Brains real ale on too (they did have Sharps' Doom Bar, but had run out, darn!) - the pint I had was excellent and I noted that the pub had been awarded the cask marque - always a good sign that they look after their ale. I then also decided to be really brave and have one of their pies as well, because I knew that they were massive. And I was not to be disappointed, the steak and Timothy Taylor Landlord ale pie I had was indeed huge, and full of steak, and that served with mash along with carrots, broccoli and gravy? Absolutely delicious. I was well pleased that I'd made that choice.

The rain was still lashing down but it didn't stop me heading through some of the main squares, complete with large chess board, and indeed onward to Clifford's Tower, where I headed up to the top to admire the view. It was hammering it down and I spotted two women at the bottom of the grass mound that the Tower sits on who were taking pics of themselves, doing poses a la Singing in the Rain, well it cheered me up no end anyway that the weather wasn't stopping these people from having lots of fun! Later on, I headed back to the train station and took the 1828 train back to Piccadilly, which was nice and on time although for some reason it felt longer going back - I think mainly because I was sad to be leaving after having had such a good time.

Got home and decided to watch the film High Fidelity for the first time in a while. I really love the film (the book's even better) and I think that the main character Rob as played by John Cusack is so well done - he is me in disguise, I am sure of it (although I would always have my record collection in alphabetical order, autobiographical would take too long and I wouldn't be able to find anything afterwards!) and the fact that Jack Black is completely ace in it as well just adds icing to a very good cake all round. In fact, at the end he sings "Let's Get It On" originally by Marvin Gaye, and does it surprisingly well, in fact better than his Tenacious D efforts, so let's make that tune of the day because it brightened an otherwise rainy day.

Friday 20th June - Penalty Pain

The day went by rather quickly at work today, mainly because firstly I spent most of the morning with a laptop ensuring that it was all up to date and that there was a full antivirus scan carried out to make sure there was nothing untoward. Thankfully all seemed well and the member of staff was a very happy person when she went to pick it up in the afternoon. And after having a rather nice lunch in Font, where the burgers are absolutely spot on and the nicest I've tasted in quite a long time, I battled this afternoon with a laptop tablet thingy. It was okay in the end once I'd set the BIOS to recognise the hard disks as Legacy instead of AHCI, the image I used previously all worked fine and dandy. Hurrah! So, what it meant was that I could then install the plethora of drivers and see what happens. Realistically all I need to do now is to get the tablet bit to work along with the pen, and all will be well with the world again.

Popped over to Mum's on the way home, as she wanted to triple check everything before she went on holiday to Cornwall. I'm so glad that she's having a week of enjoyment for herself and I know too that her friend is in for a right treat when she goes with Mum. I love Cornwall. It's just got something about it that makes it all rather lovely and wonderful, and I am sure too that even if the weather isn't perfect (it's looking like a little bit of rain, urgh) it'll still be the beauty of the place that will shine through. For me, when I went back in February, seeing it in a more natural way rather than be full of tourists was a really pleasant experience to be honest.

Anyway, got home just in time for the Turkey - Croatia quarter final. Now, admittedly the first 118 minutes of this game were absolutely bobbins and in truth I kept flicking over in the first half to see Lancashire narrowly lose to Yorkshire at Old Trafford in the 20/20 cricket. However, after 118 minutes the game came alive. First off, Croatia scored what many thought would be the winner, dunno what the Turkish keeper was up to but Luka Modric crossed in and like the fairytale would have been, Ivan Klasnic went and scored a good header. As you can imagine, everyone went mental.

However, Turkey have already scored late on in two of their games, and certainly when the chips are down, they somehow manage something. A long punt upfield was met by Semir Senturk and he blasted it in from twenty yards with the very last kick of extra time and it was 1-1! The Croatian coach, Slaven Bilić, was understandably narked with the referee as he thought he'd played too much stoppage time at the end of extra time. However, the impetus was well and truly with Turkey as it went to the penalty shoot out and it was therefore no surprise that Croatia missed three of their four penalties and Turkey scored all three of theirs to win 3-1 on the dreaded shoot out. Fair play to them for coming back, but they were so darned negative during most of the game that it reminded me of Greece in Euro 2004 (who won!) - maybe Germany might prove too strong for them, we shall see.

At work one of my colleagues has some radio station playing through the PC, and for the last few days one song on heavy rotation has been Weezer's excellent new song "Pork and Beans". In typical excellent Weezer video fashion, the video features plenty of people who've been famous through various things on the Internet. There's even a Will It Blend blender in there, don't you know? But also the song is effortlessly catchy and I have no hesitation in making this one tune of the day. Maybe you want to see what I'm on about, right? Well, I'm sure a quick search of Weezer's website will help you.

Thursday 19th June - Firefox 3 Tweakage

Well, with the help of one of my colleagues this morning, I finally managed to sort out some of the problems I was having with lockdowns in Firefox 3 yesterday. You see, due to some of the changes in the Firefox code, the menu items in some of the menus used to end with three full stops like this (...) but now they end with the character for the ellipse which does three full stops instead, like this (…) - now visually you won't see a difference, but in terms of what it does with the menus, it makes a difference. I use the file userChrome.css in the profile's "chrome" folder to basically hide menu items that I don't need the user to see whatsoever.

But my colleague alerted me to a webpage which listed a few of the menu lockdowns, but also with an interesting twist, some of them had a character in which meant that the dots weren't needed. I gave it a go with a couple of the menu items, and badabing! It all worked rather nicely. So, for example, if like me you'd like to hide away the "Check for Updates" menu option to stop users seeing that and trying to update Firefox in a corporate or work environment, you used to do something like this:

menuitem[label="Check for Updates...],
menuitem[label="Check for Updates...] + menuseparator
{ display: none !important; }

However, as I mentioned, in Firefox 3, this doesn't work. However, with the use of a carefully placed ^ character, you can get it to work like this:

menuitem[label^="Check for Updates],
menuitem[label^="Check for Updates] + menuseparator
{ display: none !important; }

I soon made the necessary changes to userChrome.css, and all works well. Also, there's a subtle change to where you'd also put the code so that if your user types about:config, instead of seeing any config pages, they instead go to about:blank. Of course you don't want the average user messing with about:config, even for the administrator in Firefox 3 it warns you that you may do damage by doing any changes here.

What I used to do in the days of Firefox 1 and 2 was to change browser.js located within the browser.jar archive, and normally you'd look for a line that said var location = aLocation.spec ; and then in the line below, insert the following text:

if (location.match(/about:config/)) {
loadURI("about:blank");
}

The idea being fairly obvious - if the user attempts to load about:config by typing it in, you'd get the blank page. Now, the above piece of text still needs to be inserted, but it needs to be inserted below the following text in browser.js in Firefox 3:

var location = aLocationURI ? aLocationURI.spec : "";
this._hostChanged = true;

Once done, do note that not even your local friendly administrator can access about:config unless they've undone the changes in browser.js within browser.jar, or replaced browser.jar with an original copy from the Firefox 3 installation. It's a good lock down though and certainly prevents people from messing with what they don't have to. As such I now have a working way of getting a mandatory user to accept a Firefox 3 lot of settings by default and indeed to have all the lock downs built in. From the old days of Firefox 1, I have a script which creates the user profile and copies all the settings I want to it, so the first time any user runs it, they get all the defaults. For staff users, this then sticks and becomes a good base to work with too. None of this "Firefox has been updated" lark either I should note, but just professional looking.

I must admit having completely found the about:config change on my own today I felt like sharing that one with the masses out there, just in case you administer Firefox and want it nicely to be locked down all the same. I felt rather pleased and my colleague also deserves some praise for helping me get past the stumbling block with the user menus as well, and definitely it means that even if we don't roll out Firefox 3 for this summer, it'll all be in place pretty much ready to go for the next time that we have a play with it. Yaay!

I did the food shopping tonight and noticed something on the way there - the bus route that I took is the same one that I'd normally take when going to my Mum's, but changes have been made to the main road so that there's now a bus lane for the majority of the route, particularly along one stretch of road where the bus would get stuck in the traffic. Not any more! In fact, getting to Tesco that way was quicker than getting the other bus that I used to get, and.. it drops me off nearer too. The acid test will be tomorrow when I head to Mum's straight from work and especially with it being a Friday, but see what happens I guess. The good thing is that at least I felt like that the transport priorities are being taken a bit more seriously these days, and with the Metrolink extensions commencing next year (can't come soon enough, and if they get the line built to City's ground, even better!) hopefully it will prove that investing in good public transport is the way forward.

Anyway, feel rather good tonight so it was a chance to play some tunes loud and proud before the football and what better than a rather nice dose of some rock tunes to get you going? Well, why not eh? So, I plumped straight away for some 50 Foot Wave, mainly because I hadn't heard Kristin rocking out with that band for a while and so played the whole of the "Golden Ocean" album, because it rocks. And indeed "Pneuma" really does sound dirty, raucous and indeed loud. And when Kristin yells "shut the [bleep] up" really loud, you just feel that anger and passion - so tune of the day easily there. You know what? You know what? You know what? I feel bloody ace, and have had a good day!

Wednesday 18th June - Sparkly Motion

Off out tonight to Trof in Fallowfield, and in a way a rather nice moment to go. Two reasons: firstly, it was at this Wednesday of the month last year at the same venue that I saw Donna Marie for the first time, and the rest, as they say, is history, and second, Pete Green was in town playing a solo acoustic pop show and of course, as he was playing not that far from the Towers, I of course simply would have to go and check it out. After all, when someone makes the effort of arranging a gig to play near to you, it would be rude really for me not to go, and so I simply had to do the honours really.

After a hard day's work testing out some Firefox tweakage (which didn't all work but I'm going to give it another bash tomorrow) I went home, made myself some pasta and sauce, and despite the incessant rain, made my way down to Trof. Thankfully the vibe in there was pretty decent and none of the acts had actually started yet, so it meant that I could see what bottled ale that they had and enjoy one. Sadly, there was no Summer Lightning there, but there was some Fraoch heather ale, as that's rather gorgeous to drink, I simply had to give that one a bit of a blast. I spotted Pete and his girlfriend Claudia, along with another of the acts who was playing who was called Helen. It all seemed a nice relaxing vibe all round and after everyone had done a bit of sound checking, it was time to get underway. The promoter had a Levellers t-shirt on, always a good sign that he appreciates quality music you know!

Off went the show with the rather amusing Matt Tiller (official site) (myspace) who had some really quirky songs, some of them short, some of them serious, but most of them pretty funny to be honest. When you have song titles such as " Virgin Pendolino Toilet Roll Dispenser" and "My Mum and Dad Plus Modern Technology Equals Disaster" you get the idea of that often it's something observational, and while not up to the standards of a certain MJ Hibbett in that regard, definitely listenable and definitely also made the audience laugh. I wasn't sure but I thought I recognised her girlfriend from somewhere, and Claudia and her friend told me that she was from Coronation Street. I hadn't watched it in ages, so had to find out who the actress was later, and it all made sense then. Still, Matt and her did look a nice couple together actually and good that no one was bothering her either. I'm way too passe to do the whole "Can I have your autograph?" thing now.

Helen went on next, and time restricted her to a set of a few songs, she didn't tell that much about herself, only that it was a last minute decision to do the gig, and that she was from America originally. She did do a really nice cover version of "Hallelujah" (and I don't mean the Happy Mondays one) and had quite a soulful voice as well, which was rather nice. Then it was the turn of all the Essex lot who had come together. There was one guy on first doing some acoustic stuff unplugged, and he sounded decent, then his Austrian mate who called himself Napoleon Dynamite did his thing. He was a bit too shouty for my liking, if you're going to do that sort of stuff you need to have the authority to do it a la Billy Bragg.

Then up next was this rather ace little combo: it was two blokes playing acoustic guitar and this bloke who was doing all the instruments by human beatbox. And I have to say that his beatboxing was bloody amazing, lots of sounds of instruments in the background that he did, had all the hi hats, cymbal and drum sounds pretty laid down well, and his backing provided the perfect foundation for the two guitarists to do their thing. And they were different, and good too. I must admit that it impressed me how the beat box stuff was done, and certainly I would have not an ounce of talent when attempting to do something similar, so full kudos to that guy.

It was almost 11pm by now and I knew that Pete's train to Sheffield left at a quarter past midnight, so knew too that he had to really get a move and do his stuff. So on went Pete Green (official site - he doesn't have a Myspace and if you view his "songs" page you'll work out why!) and did a few of his lovely pop songs, including "I'm Gonna Stay With Her", his infamous song about Myspace which I love and sang along to, "Everything I Do Is Gonna Be Sparkly" - the single from last year, "Hey Doctor Beeching", his great song about the trains being ruined in the 1960s, "One Monday Morning", and best of all, one from the forthcoming EP, which is "Best British Band Supported By Shockwaves" - give that tune of the day because it sounds more ace every time that he plays it. It was a great little show and I really enjoyed it, and even though it was almost midnight when I arrived home, I had a smashing time and to see Pete do his thing made the day complete. I'm very tempted to go down to London mid-July to see the Press premiere of MJ Hibbett's "My Exciting Life in Rock", even more so now that Pete is supporting as well, how ace will that be?

Tuesday 17th June - Join In The Firefox 3 Chant

Well, today of all days, I simply had to go and download something. And you might have guessed what that was. Yes, at 1800 UK time, out came Mozilla Firefox 3 (well, sort of, see below) to the adoring and waiting public and hopefully to break a record attempt too for the most downloads of the same program in a 24 hour period. To say I've been excited about this has been the master of an understatement: I tried out a recent beta when roadtesting Ubuntu Linux 8.04, and that looked very nice and stable indeed, and now the final version is here, well, words fail me. It's just the same reliability and usability that I've come to expect from good old Firefox, but seemingly quicker and easier than ever. And less memory footprint, always a plus.

I'll have to get more into the innards tomorrow to see if I can do similar lockdowns that I've done before with Firefox 2 (such as the user not being able to see certain menus et al) but in essence, although some of the look and feel in terms of the menu buttons have changed, it's pretty much a case of with the main functionality, if it isn't broke, don't fix it. What does work a lot better though is the zoom function, which allows you to zoom in on a web page with a couple of keypresses, and the zooming in actually works spot on too, being really accurate and size relevant, perfect for people with visibiity impairments, so that pleased me no end. Not just that, but the site ID feature is really good for safe browsing. No more being fooled into dodgy bank websites for the masses, oh no, Firefox will display the site bar in green if it's good to go. Simple, but it works! If you go to Paypal, you can see that in action.

Must admit though I was kind of glad not to be one of these people who was waiting for the zero hour to come to try and commence the downloads - apparently the Mozilla site crashed earlier just as the download time was about to pass and everything go live. Still, it's fine now and if you haven't done so already, what are you waiting for? Download it sort of now ish. Discover just why I recommend it to view my site and indeed many other fine sites on the Internet. And then, very calmly, place that Internet Explorer icon well out of sight. Because believe me, you'll hardly ever need it again. And of course if you're using a Mac or Linux, you'll be just as happy won't you?

I spent the evening firstly watching Lancashire throw away a good chance of a win against Durham in the 20/20 cricket, as they bowled poorly and allowed too many sixes to be hit, with them winning with six balls to spare. I was tempted to get a ticket and go only for the fact that the weather had looked a tad dodgy all day and to be honest being sat in the rain for the cricket is not my idea of fun, as you can well imagine. Most of the stands are open to the elements as well, so when it rains, it absolutely hammers it down. It was an intruging game and well worth watching in HD as you can probably guess.

That done, over to BBC HD for the Italy-France game. I was unsure whether to watch that or indeed the Netherlands-Romania game on at the same time, but up to half time it was the former game, and Italy went ahead with a penalty, and France down to ten men. I had a feeling that Italy would just defend the 1-0 lead so I craftily went picture in picture for the second half. This did mean BBC Three through Sky on one side and BBC One through normal telly on the other, but at least I could still have the sound from the Italy-France game and keep my eye on the other game too. Worked a treat - in fact that way I saw all the goals go in (Netherlands beat Romania 2-0) and just after the second goal you could hear the Italians in the crowd cheering, knowing that result plus their win was more than enough to see them through to meet Spain in the quarter finals, whilst the Netherlands could get either Sweden or Russia, who decide that tomorrow night.

With me effortlessly enthusing about Firefox and how people are even having parties to celebrate the download (me not doing that, tis too geeky for my good self) I thought about just how they're all joining in a mantra, and the first thing that came into my head was Nitzer Ebb's excellent early single "Join In The Chant", which just has to be tune of the day. In fact the DJ who was playing tunes prior to Ministry coming on at Academy 1 last month was playing this and everyone who knew it like me was happily bouncing along and chanting the words, you know, cos it rocks. A bit like this:

Repeat after me: join in the chant, join in the chant, Firefox is great... Firefox! Firefox! (ahem.)

Monday 16th June - Three Degrees Of Separation

Last weekend was the start of the degree shows at work, and where possible I do like to have a walk around and see the work that is being produced. It's good to see that the years of toil and hard work culminate in something which the students can be proud of and indeed which stands them well for their future careers. I would have gone to the private view on Friday but it's always rather busy, and besides, I had already decided to head to the cinema. So instead I thought it would make sense to have a quick peek as I went around one of the buildings today, and was suitably impressed with that I saw thus far. Of course, as there's plenty of school visits going on, it's a case of keeping the head down and getting on with things.

And get on I did, I managed to successfully whack through an order for some consumables that I'd been battling with, ensured that the incorrect printer we had delivered was collected and that then the correct replacement would be shipped out, and then set up the remaining working printer to see what was happening with that. Oh, and on top of that, then write up a couple of documents that I needed to take care of and get written as well. It all seemed to fly by today which I was quite pleased about.

I'll probably watch the football later: most likely Germany against Austria. Back in the 1982 World Cup the last group games weren't played at the same time, so the two teams played out a 1-0 win to (then) West Germany which meant both sides went through on goal difference and eliminated Algeria, much to the absolute disgust of the footballing world. It was because of this game that all the final group games in major tournaments are now all played at the same time within each group so that no result fixing can take place. I would have eliminated both West Germany and Austria from the 1982 World Cup if I was head of FIFA at the time. Still, justice was done when Italy won the final I guess.

In any case, as I would like Austria to win tonight and knock Germany out, just to really put the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons so to speak, so what better to play some music by an Austrian band, right? Well it was hard to find anything remotely Austrian apart from Falco, so "Rock Me Amadeus" wins by default because it's a classic 1980s tune isn't it? So best give that tune of the day and have done with it!

Sunday 15th June - Up At The Lake

It was time for me to have a fairly relaxed Sunday afternoon, as the weekend had been fairly warm and also I'd done several things that I needed to do yesterday, some of them personal which I needn't go into right now. As the weather looked dry enough and that the prospect of rain wasn't on the horizon whatsoever, I made a decision to head out to one of my favourite places - Hollingworth Lake. I'd not been since it was a rather cold Saturday in January, and I thought to myself that it was time to head around there and take a nice walk.

It proved to be a rather inspired move. The weather was just the right side of nice without being too boiling hot, and the wind that came in from the hills just cooled things nicely, so that walking was a good option. For a change, I went around the lake in the opposite direction to the way I normally go, so went anticlockwise up Rakewood Road, through the nature reserve and to the shop on the Lake Bank (which was open, shock of all shocks) and then via the boating centre, seeing the horses up on the hills and then towards the pub at the far end and along to what's now the Wine Press (formerly the Fish Inn, even all the bus timetables refer to it as that!) for a coffee. There were lots of bikers outside as well, so good to see them allowed a bike parking space and be able to stop for a drop of the amber nectar or whatever they fancy.

One brisk business yesterday was the ice cream van sales - there were around three or four of them dotted around the lake in various places, and all of them seemed to be doing a rather good trade all round. Whether that was because there were lots of families out (including some fishing with their fathers, which all seemed rather nice and serene) or just because of the fact that there were also plenty of couples walking their dog, I don't know. Nonetheless the ice creams were going thick and fast, not least as some of the kids were dropping their Mr Whippy variety and having to go back for another one.

I was just glad that I was able to go and feel at one with myself and with the world there. Just sat by the lake side, admiring the view, being able to take it all in and most of all having just a wonderful time was the idea of heaven for a Sunday afternoon, and that made me feel ever so relaxed and just the right thing to do. I think sometimes it's easy to forget just how close you can be to get to places and how beautiful that they can be right on the doorstep. I'll definitely have to pop up there again before the Summer is over, I reckon.

In any case I got home and decided that what I needed to wind down was a nice bit of Moby, so one play of the "I Like To Score" compilation and all seemed well with the world. I really liked the James Bond theme that he did of course, but what's also on here is a re-recorded version of "Ah Ah" that ended up on the soundtrack to the film "Cool World" but it seems a bit more uptempo and punchy than its original track which was on the self-titled album. So, give that tune of the day and that's the day done.

Saturday 14th June - I'm The Kingbee Of The Castle

Had a bit of a relaxing day today, as I felt that the week had taken it out of me a little and I wanted to relatively relax and chill out. So after heading out to do a couple of important things that I needed to get done, it was over to Mum's for a chat and a cuppa. I guess that Mum should have been getting excited with her going to Cornwall in a few days time, and she is certainly getting there, but it was also good that she was able to chat to me about all sorts and so I knew what was going on with the world. My sister arrived with her son as well so good to catch up and join the little one in scoffing raspberry ripple ice cream. Yummy.

Headed out into Chorlton later on in the day as I decided to head to Kingbee Records. Not been there in absolutely ages and it's a right little gem for finding vinyl and CDs, and I was sorely tempted to spend lots, but didn't. It's really getting quite cramped for space in there now, but there's a good selection of second hand indie and rock CDs, new releases, and tons of vinyl on 7" and 12" as well as rare albums, prog stuff, all sorts of things in really good boxes. I did spot plenty of excellent little singles that I had and thought to myself "didn't realise that it was going for that much these days!" and so that was pleasant to see. It was chocker in there though and you could tell people had made a journey from near and far to go there as well, and that was intriguing to see too.

Made my way home later and watched the Euro 2008 games. Spain were so lucky against Sweden that it was untrue, and their last minute winner was scant reward for the way that the Swedes were battling away. It's half time as I type in the Russia-Greece game and to be honest, Russia should be more than 1-0 up. It looks like the defending champions will soon be on their way home if they don't buck their ideas up. Maybe what they need to do is have a good song for the tournament, much like Croatia have. What did they do? They got their manager, Slaven Bilić, along with the band that he's in, Rawbau, to do "Vatreno Ludilo" which is actually a pretty catchy rock number. Slaven himself can play guitar you know!! So, tune of the day because it puts recent England anthems to shame, and here's the video: see if you can spot Slaven.

Friday 13th June - Anything But Unlucky

Normally the superstitious types would avoid the Friday 13th like the proverbial plague, but I actually felt really good today. The working day went by without incident and indeed rather well: managed to sort out a fair few problems in terms of Access databases and made sure that everything went without hiccups, I'd managed to finish off the Office 2007 Group Policy settings as well although now I might have to include the settings for OneNote in there as well, so I'll work on that next week. I also got a PC imaged and ready for a member of staff who'd previously not wanted to use a PC at all but now their hand is being forced by their head of department. All seems well, and the weather even came out to be decent.

Decided for the first time in ages to head out to the pictures last night. The good thing about going to AMC in Manchester is that the screens are all good sized, it's not that expensive compared to some cinemas, and I can take the train from where I live to Deansgate, right near the cinema. After 6.30pm the train fares are half price in Manchester, so it means that the evening return is a mere 75p, can't argue with that for value can you? So I hopped on the train, got off at Deansgate, had a drink in Atlas and then walked up Deansgate to the cinema. Just how easy eh?

Well, I'd decided to go and see What Happens in Vegas, and although somewhat formulaic in parts, did work as romantic comedy material on the whole. Normally I find Ashton Kutcher a tad annoying but he wasn't too bad here, and Cameron Diaz certainly did her role rather well indeed. However, the best role of the lot was played by Rob Corddry, who was Ashton's best friend in the film, that got the best laughs but also the most useless lawyer - ever! Also, there was that guy from Law and Order who was the boss of Cameron Diaz's character, and he was really laid back and a good laugh too. I mean, surely the film makers knew what they were doing when the character was called Richard Banger so that it'd be shortened, right?

Nonetheless, it was good fun, and plenty of occasional one liners, but a nice romantic ending that although you could see, was nicely delivered and just had enough "awwww" factor for people. Kind of wish that there wasn't so many idiots in the cinema who insisted on talking throughout the film though, just how annoying is that. Made it hard to concentrate when you've got a lot of people just giggling in the background. If I was an usher, I'd be giving them a good ass kicking and getting them out of there so that the others in the cinema could enjoy themselves, you know?

Still, it was nice to venture out on a Friday, and I just think that I've been really able to wind down the week nicely as it's been fairly brain intensive and also in a way that's kept me going nicely. In fact before I went out I had a bit of a dance music phase as I was cooking my tea and keeping an eye on the Italy versus Romania Euro 2008 game - and Italy were so lucky not to lose! So with dance choons on, I remembered that I had some old classic 808 State, so on went "Cubik", still a tune that I'd got mental to today if I had chance and indeed one that brought back happy memories of seeing them during Euro 96 and going mental along with 15,000 others just a few days after the IRA bomb hit Manchester. So, tune of the day right there.

Thursday 12th June - Come On You Croats!

As England aren't in Euro 2008, because they only needed a draw against Croatia at home in their final group game to qualify and fluffed it completely, it was a decision I had to make before the start of the tournament who to back. I decided that realistically I wanted to back a team that had Manchester City players in there, so realistically it was a choice of Switzerland (Gelson Fernandes) and Croatia (Vedran Corluka). Knowing that the Swiss weren't that good and might well be out in the group stages (in fact they already are after losing both their opening group games ) I thought that Croatia would have a good chance of winning, and so elected to back them.

After a slightly nervy 1-0 win earlier in the week against Austria, today was much better from the chessboard kitted men. They really went for it against Germany and what was important was that they showed a bit of togetherness and passion, and their opening goal was well deserved. The second one was admittedly a bit lucky due to the deflection on the initial shot, but to be honest, the German defence could have easily stopped Ivica Olic getting to the rebound, but they didn't. So that's their own fault really. Although the Germans didn't give up and pulled one back, they didn't look as good as they did against Poland on Sunday night, and so the Croatians got a deserved win. Now, if Austria beat Poland tonight or if they both draw, Croatia will be through for definite, and well deserved too.

I managed today with a colleague's help and assistance to get through and document the last lot of the Office 2007 Group Policy settings that I needed to. As part of this year's rollout, it's going to be Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Publisher, so I ensured that I documented all the user policy settings for those and any that are just a generic Office setting, and as I made any changes, completely documented it. This way it was also easier to work on rather than put every setting in a spreadsheet first and then go back after and change it.

And yes, I know, there is an Excel spreadsheet with the Office Group Policy settings in. But it's completely unwieldy, hard to read and use, and just full of bloat, so hence me creating one from scratch and doing so properly. It also meant I cut out the bloat that wasn't needed and so was able to concentrate on what was needed instead - and my colleague who's been working on things in another Faculty came over to have a chat and was really appreciative of the work that we did. So it goes to show: share things, and the world shares nicely back. Isn't stuff great sometimes?

One of my colleagues came in, and straight away three of us in the office went "You look like Suzi Quatro!" and then we realised that she probably wouldn't remember who she actually is. Oops. Well, not quite, because immediately it got me thinking of her hit songs in the 1970s which showed that not only could she rock with the best of them, but had a cracking voice to boot. So, "Can The Can" wins tune of the day cos it's dead catchy and it also really rocks as well. Oh, and Suzi looks rather lovely in the video too. Hurrah!

Wednesday 11th June - Twenty 20 Pasta Bake

It was a rather nice and relaxing evening all round tonight. I had got the ingredients in to make my chorizo sausage pasta bake, and as I hadn't done one for ages, and with the new kitchen well and truly underway, I thought it might be quite nice to test the culinary skills and indeed use the kitchen properly. Whilst I was sorting out all the ingredients and working out what I needed to do (more like remembering it!) I had the Twenty20 game on in the background between Sussex and Kent, which proved rather exciting. What did Surrey in the end was the fact that the Kent bowlers got wickets at regular intervals, and even with the Surrey captain Chris Adams doing his best to post a respectable total, wickets were falling and in the end, although it took them almost to the end to do so, Kent made it past their target.

I had cooked the pasta, and got out the sauce, the sliced chorizo sausage and the cheese, so it was a bit of careful layering required - pasta, sauce, sausage, then pasta, sauce, sausage with the cheese on top, bung that in the oven for 25 minutes or so, and relax and put the feet up whilst it's cooking. It turned out really well and I was ever so pleased when I took it out of the oven and everything was right. It was thoroughly enjoyable and the spiciness of the sausage together with the pasta sauce with mushrooms was a great combination, and I happily enjoyed all of it, it has to be said. Even the dullness of the Euro football tonight didn't dampen the enthusiasm whatsoever.

I spent some time with some old and new dance stuff, namely Moby's new CD "Last Night", which is growing on me with every single listen, and also played the CD single of "Feeling So Real". To this day I love the ecstatic piano mix on there (give that tune of the day in fact) but also of course it has his rather emotional and guitar-laden cover of Joy Division's "New Dawn Fades" which for me as you can guess is special. I even put on A Guy Called Gerald's "Voodoo Ray" as well as some old skool MC Solaar, very much the music for laid back moments it has to be said. I guess with the summer coming (sort of) I am enjoying my music listening and a perfect wind down after a hard day at the office, where I'd been looking at the Office 2007 Group Policy settings. Oh joy!

Tuesday 10th June - Letters From The Underground

Finally I'm starting to see the last of the pesky cold. Although quite bunged up somewhat, when I do at least blow my nose there's actually lots of rubbish coming out, and you know what they say, better out than in and all that. It'll just be nice to have it all shifted and moved and away really, as it's been a right nightmare to have. In fact the early Summer has brought that and numerous bouts of hay fever to the masses (three of the staff in our office all suffer badly with it) so it's not exactly free of sneezes in there at the moment and that's a bit of an understatement.

It feels quite surreal at the moment too: on the one hand I know I'm on call because of the exam boards that are going on around us and thus on the toes in case things are happening, but on the other there's all the students who are either waiting for their results or indeed for the degree shows to commence and for them to get some attention and be able to show off the work to the best of their ability. Well, that's the plan of course, but like all plans it doesn't always go according to. What is good is that the students are generally pretty calm and have done what they can, and indeed one of my colleagues got a nice thank you from someone as they passed, which was good to know.

Spent a fair bit of time tonight listening to that new Levellers song which you can download via their website and register your email address. I must admit since seeing them back in March at the Apollo, which was a top top night, I've kind of got back into them in a way, and if their new stuff carries on being rather good, then it all bodes well. I have to say that out of the three tracks released thus far, "Burn America Burn" the new one, is superb. It's classic Levs all the way through and I for one can't wait for the new album - and indeed hope that the masses out there give it the recognition it deserves. Tune of the day - easily. And here's the video:

The new album is "Letters From The Underground" and I have to say that might be on my "must have" list when it comes out. Kind of wish I was going to Beautiful Days in August, but I know realistically that such extravagance I can't do at the moment until I get myself a bit more financially sound after having the kitchen done. It has also meant no holiday, so I have to take the rough with the smooth really - that's just how it is at times isn't it?

Monday 9th June - Installed In Not So Quick Time

Spent a nice evening with a couple of my friends tonight. One of them had decided to invest in a replacement tower unit for their PC, and I'd found a place online that did reconditioned Dell PCs for not that much money, with decent specifications and everything. Indeed, what they ended up getting was a Dell Vostro 400 with Geforce 8600GT graphics card, 2GB of RAM and 320GB hard drive, plus front card reader, for not that much, which was rather ace. Knowing that some of the newer Intel chipsets required a Serial ATA driver to be loaded at the F6 prompt when installing Windows XP, I had made sure I had a USB floppy drive and drivers on there - just in case.

Got to my friends' place and once I looked at the case, knew straight away that there was a problem. The new tower didn't have any PS2 ports whatsoever, and as that was what their keyboard used, it meant a USB keyboard was needed. The three of us ended up in Altrincham and they both found a nice new keyboard each in the same shop: one of them was aluminium and caught my friend's eye straight away and so with that duly all sorted, headed back and I set to work. The Windows installation plus service pack 3 (which I handily had burned a CD of) was all easily done, and once all the hardware drivers went on, all seemed good. I had backed up the My Documents plus Firefox and Thunderbird settings from the old rig, and so they went on fine too.

However, Quick Time was being a real bitch and for some reason the new 7.4 version refused to work properly no matter how many times I attempted to uninstall/reinstall the thing. In the end I had to use Windows Installer clean up utility to get rid of the Windows Installer information, then, once that was done, installed the old version 6.5, then 7.1 and finally 7.4 so everything was working again. Meh. Apple's installers are now as obsolete as their first generation iPhones have now become - ie: they don't work as well as they should do. Well, never had that sort of problem with the older Quick Time installers anyway but since they want to integrate their software updater and iTunes if you are so inclined, it has seemed much less reliable.

I was able though to have a good catch up with my friends as well, tell them all my news as well as be able to share some good moments of humour whilst listening to the Netherlands pan Italy 3-0 at the European Championships, so all seems well on that front. In fact we got talking about music and how that on the new Morrissey single he's covered David Bowie's "Drive In Saturday" as one of the 7" b-sides. Now, can any music download legal site possibly have this available? Doesn't seem so. Even more ludicrous is that HMV's website for downloads only likes IE and nothing else. Meh! to them as well. But I'll give the Bowie classic tune of the day anyway as it sets off the opening parts of the Control movie perfectly.

Sunday 8th June - Easy! Easy! To Hit Another Car!

Well, if you were watching the cricket, anyway. I got up this morning, still a bit bunged up but generally feeling quite chipper inside really, and headed down to whack on Sky Sports HD1 and see what was going on. The Saturday had ended with England in a commanding position against New Zealand to say the least: bowling them out for 123 and enforcing a follow on, which meant they needed 242 to avoid an innings defeat, and had battled their way to 177 for 5 at the close of Saturday.

Sunday morning's play lasted an hour, which really tells you all you needed to know. Ryan Sidebottom was his consistent brilliant self and rattled through four wickets whilst conceding only twelve runs in his spell, and ended up with 6 for 67 in the second innings, pretty impressive stuff all round. It also meant that by the time he'd taken the fourth wicket of the morning, New Zealand were 225 for 9, still needing 17 to avoid the inigmony, and Sidebottom was now one wicket behind James Anderson in the leading wicket takers for the series. Anderson himself was due to bowl the next over.

So, first ball of the over, Jacob Oram smashed Anderson for six moving himself to 49 not out. Next ball, he whacked it again, but Ian Bell fielded superbly to prevent them scoring more than one, which meant that although Oram had made his half century, Chris Martin, the number eleven in every sense of the batting word, was at the crease and had to survive four balls from Anderson. It didn't happen of course. First ball, off the bat and straight to Paul Collingwood in the slips who doesn't drop those sort of chances. All out for 232 and England won by an innings and nine runs. I could have done the "Easy! Easy!" chant if I were in the crowd at Trent Bridge, but I just did the same to the television instead.

Headed out to Lyme Park in the afternoon, and the weather was set very fair indeed. It was a lovely sunny day, lots of families were out, and I walked up the hill to the Cage, and then back down to the hall, where I had a nice walk around the gardens and the back of the lake, and past the orangery, before heading out down the other far side of the park as well. It was all just rather lovely all told, and great to see so many people deciding to head out and enjoy the weather at somewhere so beautiful. The skies were blue and the horizons beyond were just absolute picture postcard stuff to be honest, which cheered me up no end.

I had recorded the F1 for later and so when I got back I watched that in full. My, was Lewis Hamilton bloody stupid or what? Knowing Montreal's reputation as a track for having safety cars, and also knowing that the likes of Massa have been disqualified for leaving the pit lane with the red light on, you'd think that a bit of common sense prevailed in the McLaren garage. Obviously not. Quite rightly, after making their stops, both Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica had stopped at the end of the pit lane waiting for the lights to change. What does Lewis do? Follow his dad earlier in the week and crash a car, although a) Lewis' car was a bit more expensive, b) he hit Raikkonen instead of a bush or a tree and c) he should know better.

Must admit I was pleased that Robert Kubica didn't get hit, and he went on to record a famous victory: his and BMW's first as a team (they of course used to power the Brabham team in the 1980s for example and supply them with engines) and a one two at that with Nick Heidfeld finishing second. I like Kubica, he's fast and racey but also very calm and collected, and very personable and unassuming by all accounts. I couldn't believe how calm Kimi was after being shunted up the backside by Lewis though, maybe he needs to speak to Nelson Piquet Jr in the Renault time and ask him about his Dad taking karate lessons with Eliseo Salazar during the 1982 German Grand Prix - a bit like this:

You see folks? F1 isn't the same without a bit of Murray now is it? And even though it's not quite as good as Fleetwood Mac, I have gotten used to Moby's "Lift Me Up" being used for ITV's theme tune, so I'll give that tune of the day and go from there.

Saturday 7th June - Frankie, Do You Remember Me?

Going down to Liverpool today with a friend - but not to do nothing! Oh no, you see, Frankie Boyle was doing his live show at the Royal Court, we had tickets, and all was well with the world. Well, I was a little bunged up and feeling worse for wear due to the fact it was looking like a full blown cold was trying to kick in, but it wasn't going to stop me enjoying myself and making the most of it. We headed on the train over to Lime Street, and it was soon arriving at the European Capital of Culture.

With some time to kill in the afternoon we headed along via the new Liverpool One shopping development (which looks really good, you think it's like the Trafford Centre at first but thankfully without a roof on it looks much more spacious and airy, and lovely because of it) and then over to the Albert Dock. We headed to the Tate Gallery and although part of me was tempted to see the Gustav Klimt exhibition, at the same time the cost kind of said no. So instead, it was to the first and second floor exhibit of how the 20th century artists plied their trade. Most of it was thoughtful and inspiring, and some not so (I mean, painting a square completely blue - what's all that about?)

The one piece that has us both talking was two shots as part of a performance artists' work, were she would read a piece of paper with a poem on, but that piece of paper had been inserted somewhere within the woman and she would pull it out of there as part of the performance. I know what you're thinking now. Ewwww! And what if she had to go the toilet in the meantime as well? The mind, as they say, boggles. Had a coffee and a tea respectively in the café below later, and all was well with the world.

Headed back via Liverpool One to the city centre, and spotted a pub that not only did food but had the Switzerland-Czech Republic game on, thus killing two birds with one stone, good eh? So it was a nice big gammon steak for me, surf and turf for my friend, and seeing the Swiss narrowly lose 1-0 was not the best game ever to watch, but it certainly was good in the background. What I also noticed was that some of the other screens were playing music videos and songs, and one caught my eye straight off - Amy Studt's "Misfit". It was a nice surprise to hear that and it still sounds as good as ever. I know, me liking pop music and all, but seriously it's a bloody good tune - and she wrote the whole thing herself - thus much kudos from me. Hell, it even made my top singles of 2003.Tune of the day for me, bit like this:

Went over to the Royal Court and had got there without problems so it was to the bar, get drinks and then take our positions, we were right by the centre aisle and a few rows up in the circle, and the view was very good indeed, can't complain. It was stiflingly hot in there though, whether that was to try and make you spend more on beer or not I don't know, but I certainly noticed it to some degree. The show started, not with Frankie Boyle, but a support act and warm up, who was pretty decent, had a massive beard, and rattled off some quick fire humour.

Frankie came on later and did an hour and a half's set. I have to say that I didn't find all of it funny. Whether or not this was because it was too close to the bone, or indeed he explored subjects that he shouldn't have done, I don't know. I just felt that on TV, where he's a bit more restricted as to what material he can use, he makes the most of it and doesn't veer off into dark places that shouldn't be veered into. I mean, the whole sketch regarding Shannon Matthews and paedophiles sickened me to the stomach, and to be honest, I was half tempted to leave, but thought better of it. When he got back on track and delivered some good one liners and was able to inject humour into much more normal situations, that certainly made me giggle. Indeed his joke about David Coulthard cracked me up no end and I kind of wish he'd done more material like that.

Having seen three out of the four Mock The Week regulars (with Russell Howard coming up in September) I'd have to say that Dara O'Briain was by far and away the best of the three - whether or not that's because he made a lot of it up as he went along, and was geniunely a hoot, I don't know, but it just worked. Andy Parsons was very good too, and certainly his style fitted well with me. Frankie? I don't know. I may have to reserve judgement somewhat based on the fact I wasn't 100%, but it just seemed to me to be the wrong side of risque.

The show finished around 10.30pm meaning we'd missed a planned train to Piccadilly, but the one to Victoria had been delayed, so we headed on that. After a first initial hiccup which meant everyone had to go on the front two carriages, we were soon on the way home, arriving in Victoria around ten to midnight, heading on the tram to Piccadilly so my friend could take the tram home, and then off on the night bus home for me. I got home, collapsed into bed and just hoped that the bunged up feeling I had was only temporary!

Friday 6th June - Every Birthday Should Be On Friday

It was one of my relations' birthdays today, and having nipped into the city centre on Wednesday to get all the presents sorted, I had to make sure that I took everything with me to work today so I could just go straight there from work via my Mum's, which is what I did. Thankfully the traffic on the bus seemed much less than usual on the way there as well - maybe because some schools have two weeks off for this half term? I digress. Anyway, got to Mum's and the kettle was on for me, and had a cuppa and a good chat about all sorts. It sounds odd, but I've really got more close to Mum over the last year or so: I know exactly what triggered it as well but I've been able to deal with things in my life and get on with them - and so has she. I think also she still sees me as the intelligent one of the family, despite the fact it's my brother who has the degree!

Anyway, went round to my relations' place, and lots of the family were there waiting for her for a while, so plenty of tea and coffee was consumed in the meantime. My niece was also there so I took her out to the back garden to keep her amused and have a bit of a play - when she gets all giggly she's just so lovely to be honest and that's what must be a great joy for my sister to see those sort of moments as she grows up. Awww. It was also rather lovely to see so many of the family there, a definite sign of unity and excitement in equal measures, especially when my relation turned up and received lots of lovely gifts from us all. Isn't life great sometimes?

Nipped home via the Burnage Tesco (which I won't have to do for much longer once Tesco Metro opens near me, hurrah!) and it was a bit of a blitz to be honest. Because of the kitchen being done, I've not done any food shopping since three weeks ago, so not only did I like to get my little weekend treats of croissants and bio yoghurt for breakfast, but also stuff that I can throw in the cooker as well to eat the other meals with. And lots of household items as well: handwash for the kitchen and bathroom, deodorant, shower gel, kitchen wipes (saw some Mum had and thought "I'll get some of those!), fluffy dusters, fabric conditioner. No wonder the bill at the till was a bit higher, darn I could have used my Clubcard voucher had I remembered to pack it - aaaargh.

Ah well, got home and relaxed with some tunes, not least as I was feeling a bit throaty and coughing and I'd also got some medicine to try and tide me over which I'm sure will do the job. I spent a bit of time with some Seth Lakeman, primarily because a friend of mine had seen him in Buxton last week and complained voiceferously about the mixing engineer being rubbish and so it not sounding so right, and I wanted to compare that kind of imagination to how it would sound on the record - thankfully a heck of a lot better it has to be said. I just hope that when the new album comes out soon (at bloody last, I hear you Seth-ites cry) that the production is as good as the last two: so take a bow "Lady of the Sea", because you're tune of the day - it's so uplifting don't you think?

Thursday 5th June - This Is The Time

Had a really nice day today, all started with the fact that things at work were generally dying down a little, and everyone's now much more settled and preparing for the all important degree shows next week, there's lots of activity with everyone attempting to get themselves fully ready for the show and also making sure that they've got enough of what they need to display everything without too much hassle. It's a hectic time for them really but at the same time I like to be the calming influence, so if anyone arrives to see us a bit hassled hopefully we can take them down a notch, assist them, and help them on their way. Sometimes it just requires the right amount of patience doesn't it?

Had a really nice meal out tonight, as I decided that heading out to a Chinese would be a rather good thing to do, not least when it happened to be Tai Wu, which does a really mean squid chow mein as well. Not that I was having that tonight, oh no, I instead plumped for the chicken in honey and lemon sauce which was rather heavenly - you got plenty of chicken for the money, and the sauce was just the right side of sweet without being too sickly. I really like the ambience in there and despite it being rather busy it wasn't too much trouble to be seen to and to make the most of the time there.

Noticed later that one of my least favourite programmes was back again for another stint - yes folks it's Big Brother. Big bloody deal. I don't care who they assemble these days: it's clear over the last few years that the producers have well and truly lost it and are only interested in those who are the most wacked out in terms of personality and also adding silly twists that don't really do anything. For the first series or two, it was at least more of an experiment in human nature and psychology, and as I have an interest in the latter anyway, it was at least something. Problem was that after that it just seemed to go more outlandish to satisfy the needs of those who religiously watch the whole thing 24/7. I'd much rather watch something that actually had some substance or indeed a good gritty drama instead of car crash television. At least Davina by all accounts looked a bit nicer this year, but she's still annoying.

Meanwhile on the cricket front, well good news all round after a bit of a rubbish start today. England were at one stage 86 for 5 and looking wobbly, only for a brilliant sixth wicket stand by Kevin Pietersen and Tim Ambrose. Pietersen's century was his slowest ever, but it also showed that he was able to battle it out and be patient where needed, and his compusure along with Ambrose's determination saw them well to the close, and Ambrose's half century was another well deserved highlight as well for the team, showing that these days the England lower order batsmen can actually bat a bit as well. And because at least I was able to see the highlights on Channel 5, their theme tune "Shine" by Shannon Noll really does get you going. Even if it's by an Australian, it's tune of the day - quite inspiring really. Something like this:

Wednesday 4th June - Showing The Ropes

I've been again showing the ropes, as it were, with the new member of staff, and it's great when you've got someone who is genuinely enthusiastic and willing to learn the skills that we have, and also who isn't afraid to ask questions and be able to see things differently. I have a feeling that it may work out for the better that we have someone else joining us. The only down side today was that it was a really sticky day and just felt humid for most of it - it's one of those moments that you know you'll be on your way home and just want to shower or get changed as soon as possible.

I had to head home via the city centre though, as not only did I need my hair chopping to bits because it's too thick and not what I want, but also as I had a birthday present to get as well for one of my relations. Thankfully I knew what they were after and so it was a simple case of get in, get what I needed and go home - my kind of shopping, as you can well imagine. It's just good to be able to blitz things that you need to do without too much mucking about to be perfectly honest.

Saw The Apprentice for the first time in a while as well tonight. I have to say that none of the remaining five candidates impressed me whatsoever, and they all seemed a bit full of themselves but not actually having enough conviction in their actions (something former contestant Tre referred to in his excellent column.) For me, I'd have fired Helene as well - her choice of outfit particularly in the boardroom wasn't the best - it was those fishnets that just made me think "that's not very businesslike!" and also she doesn't seem to really have the desire or conviction. I reckon the best out of a bad bunch is Claire, so she may well win next week - we shall see. Can't wait to see the Lego animation version of the firing scene.

Had a good listen to Donna Marie's "This World" EP as well, seems that it's growing on me with every listen, always a good sign I reckon. I still adore it to bits because the songwriting works, the lyrics are pitched in the right direction and it's a very coherent sound all told. My choice of track from that at the moment is "Shooting In The Dark", it just has a lovely wistful feel to it and her vocals in parts are quite soft, which works well in the context of the song - so give that tune of the day and I urge you to go and check the EP out, you shall be glad you did.

Tuesday 3rd June - Shapes of Things

Another long day at the office, although today it was long for a different reason. We've had a member of staff seconded on to our team from another one, and to be honest I'm quite glad about it. We need more staff to help us with our workload, and indeed we also need another City fan in the office (which is always good as a matter of balance as you can imagine) as well as someone who wants to pick up the skills we have and be able to use them to the full extent. So today I was going through the account move procedure and also sorting out the PC that they're going to be working on as well, and also talking through imaging procedures and stuff like that. It's good that when you have someone who wants to learn from you and be able to take everything on board.

Had to nip out to the local Asda later for a couple of accessories to finish the kitchen off a little bit more. First stop was to get a bowl for the sink so I could do my pots in there and not damage the stainless steel sink too much - I'd rather have it looking all lovely. I needed a new sink bowl anyway as the old one was showing some wear and tear, and considering the one I got was under two pounds, no complaints. I also got a nifty holder for kitchen roll as well which was definitely a good thing to have - it otherwise is just one of those objects that becomes really hard to store anywhere, but with holder, all is well. It's very much a Quality of Life Enhancement Device, in fact. Isn't it great when the simple things just work?

Finally earlier today I managed to get the pics uploaded from my Leicester trip, so feel free to have a look around. Intriguingly, the public artwork of the three main sports of the city has had a lot of hits, but sadly my image taking coincided with the Leicester City football team being relegated to League One (for old skoolers like me, Division Three!) for the first time in their history ever. Still, it was of course intriguing to pass the market where Gary Lineker worked as a young whipper snapper before the blue shirted lot signed him and made him play good football before heading off to Everton...

As for my lot, well I don't know what the hell is happening at the moment. I mean, City get rid of Sven, not a good move, and then make a move for Mark Hughes, the Blackburn manager. I'm sure his managerial qualities are pretty decent and he's done a good job at Ewood, but for the Blues fans amongst us, nothing can alter the fact that he used to play for that lot in Stretford for many a year and indeed took great pride out of scoring against us in the Manchester derbies gone by. I must admit I'm hoping that Chelski poach him like they're looking like they want to, and let us get someone that the fans would actually want. In truth, I'd still have Sven any day of the week. The word continuity is key here.

In the meantime, I've been listening a lot lately to Donna Marie's new track "Shape of Your Heart", which you should be able to check out on her Myspace thingy. Give that tune of the day and quick, because it's absolutely gorgeous to listen to and definitely shows the direction she's heading in. I've also heard it live and it's rather excellent as well. Just when is someone going to snap her up, let her keep her artistic integrity and actually release stuff of hers and bring the nation to notice her wonderful music?? Eh?

Monday 2nd June - Madness, We Call It Madness

It was hellishly busy at work today - for some reason one of our colour A3 printers produced banding across the page which was not what we wanted whatsoever, so it's currently off whilst waiting for an engineer to come and sort the problem out. The good thing was that we have another one which is working fine, so we were able to carry on, and the A1 printers are still going like mental. In fact according to our stats, the A1 printers between them printed out over 8,500 pages of work last month, which is a pretty insane total, and that's a mere 1,500 up on last year, which we thought was going to be a bit of a limit! I also worked out that over the course of the academic year thus far, the plotters have used 20 miles of paper (yes, 20 miles!)

Anyway, not much time to do much today but did get the house more cleaned up after the kitchen exertions, and it was great to see just how much of a transformation it's all been. Mum's done the wallpapering and it looks fab, and when that gets painted, job done and dusted excellently. She's really been impressed by how it all is and so am I to be honest, always good to see things fully developed and ready to rock. So much so that I had to play Rollins Band's version of "Are You Ready?" as it had the right mode of feeling for today, so tune of the day for me no problem.

Oh, and after the events of yesterday, you may wish to read MJ Hibbett's blog entry or view the Flickr Gallery of the behind the scenes making of. Yes, I'm there!

Sunday 1st June - It Only Works Because We're All Here

Was off on a nice day out on Sunday - to the depths of Leicestershire. Now, I know what you're thinking: Leicester and all that? Not very exciting really, squire. Well, I had more reason than most to go down via Sheffield on the train today - simply because I was to be an extra in the filming of MJ Hibbett and the Validators' video for their forthcoming single "It Only Works Because You're Here" (tune of the day, obviously). Now I've seen Mark (MJ) do this song solo, but when he announced recently that the band were going to do it for a single, well as you can imagine that got me mightily excited to say the least.

So, with train tickets already booked and in First Class (a mere £4 up from a saver return as they're still called for the time being) it was off to head on the 0900 Manchester to Sheffield train. Unfortunately, the train had to stop at Davenport due to signalling problems and the time lost between there and Hazel Grove meant that even with the train going speedily, I arrived at Sheffield three minutes after the 1004 departure for Leicester had gone. Boo, hiss! I had to wait an hour for the next one but the kind staff validated my ticket for the next journey, so that was a relief I can tell you. However, East Midlands Trains did themselves no favours with not providing much in the terms of freebies in first class: coffee or tea, and that was your lot. And, to add insult to injury, coffee that you had to put not just the milk but the sachet of coffee in yourself. Rubbish, that.

Headed into Leicester no problem and soon headed around the city centre, walking along and spotting the market where no less than Gary Lineker worked (apparently his family still have a stall there) and indeed plenty of dancing going on due to some festival thing as part of One Leicester - some impressive breakdancing including head spinning that made me glad that I had two left feet and would never possibly attempt any of that sort of fare - not in my way. I was waiting for the bus to take me over to Enderby when the phone rang - and it was Tim the drummer, asking me how I was and where I was, and so explained that I'd be on the bus shortly.

I soon took the bus over to Enderby, down the Narborough Road (song about that somewhere I reckon) and then via the Fosse Retail Park, and through some country lanes to Enderby's main streets. From there, along the main road up the hill and down again to the Industrial Estate where Tom from the band works in his day job, and they were using the offices as the location for the video shoot. Clever, eh? Well, I'd like to think so. Tim had dashed out to try and get me from the bus but I must have walked past as he was driving along the road - ah well. He soon got my text to say "I'm here!" and then there were five of us, namely Tim and Emma, Tom, Mark and myself.

The four of them had already done a little bit before I arrived but then we got to film the last bit of the song first when I got there (reason being was that Emma had to dash to pick up the kids). It all went rather well, and indeed I think Tim and Emma enjoyed the moment of the song where they kiss (well they are husband and wife) and Emma jokingly said to Tim that that was his rations for the week, haha. I love that sense of humour and Emma was in fine jovial form, hurrah. Tom had his shiny new Nikon D40 (one of the digital SLRs on my short list when I can afford one) and so was taking pics behind the scenes, meaning my trusty old Nikon 2200 wasn't needed (I had it with me anyway so it wasn't a biggie.) In any case, it was good to be able to see the thing at work and actually produce good pictures too, something I noted!

We filmed the end scenes of the song, and then once Emma had left and said her goodbyes, the opening sections and indeed the bits with me in it. I have to say Tim was acting his bits really well and definitely got into actor role, and the four of us were having a whale of a time but making very good progress, so much so that with the time zooming past but yet ahead of schedule, we were able to pack up the stuff and head in Tom's car. Initially it was planned to head to the pub, but we had a brainwave in that Tom could put the pics on CD for Mark and Tim at his place, then head for the pub. I liked his thinking!

In fact, the car journey had us all thinking about the song and how it should start. Suddenly I had a brainwave. The song says at the start "The phone rings nine times.." and so surely a phone ringing (albeit not nine times - that would be too long an intro) would work. Just as I was about to say it, Mark then said "Got it - and I think this is what Warren was thinking also" and got in first with what I'd thought. Great minds think alike, and I'm glad that I was able to offer that input too. One car journey of thought that was, let me tell you!

Back at Tom's, he made us all a brew and then scuttled off to do the CD copying from the camera whilst Mark, Tim and myself chatted about music and how the CD collection always has some good and bad in it, and we spotted the Queen Greatest Hits box set which enabled much discussion as to how not to do a compilation (namely volume III of said thing). It was soon time to head to the pub too, so off to the Pump and Tap, one of their old watering haunts in Leicester. It's a bloody great pub, not only does it realise that serving cask ale is an absolute necessity, but also decent ale too, including Tribute (hurrah!! we all said) and so it was the Cornish finest pretty much all round, and we sat in the new back area underneath the arches, they'd decked it and even provided a blanket box to keep warm if you got cold. Smart!

However, what we also noticed was that this fine establishment could be closing soon - turns out that De Montfort University want to knock down an old classic bridge that used to carry the railway, and the arches that are behind the pub, and thus also then the pub with it. As you can imagine the locals aren't happy, and it's easy to see why - it's a good place, and every Christmas Day it seems that people converge on there for a Christmas Day drink - there were pics of every 25th December since around 1990 as proof of that event. We contemplated the thoughts, and Tom and Tim headed off to the recording studios, so I said my goodbyes to them and headed with Mark to the Criterion, another fine pub with fine ale. It was good to chat more to Mark as well and the time vanished before Mark and I walked back through Leicester so he could take the train home to that London.

I had some time left before the train so I headed through the centre with camera, took some more shots, and then found a pub that was doing a Sunday roast meal for not much dosh - winner all round, and it was lovely too. With tummy suitably fed, it was a short walk past the statue of Thomas Cook and on to the train station where I arrived in good time for the 1951 to Sheffield, having another free coffee (at least mixed this time) and settling back as the train sped through Derby and around the back waters of Sheffield to avoid the engineering works at Chesterfield - and arrived there on time to walk on over to the other platform to get the train back to Manchester - which arrived back home early so I could take the bus back. A top day all round!