Dear Diary... March 2012

Saturday 31st March - Draws and Decisions

I had a fairly quiet morning today, not least as I was rather mentally tired from all the work I'd been doing in the last week and needed to recharge the batteries in some way. It was good therefore to change the bedding, tidy up the living room and kitchen, and do some exercise on the Wii Fit before heading into the shower and getting myself nice and clean, ready for the day ahead. I also spent some time catching up on the remaining episode of Pointless so that I knew that I was up to date, and my, didn't someone win over £12K by knowing the voice over actors for the Toy Story series, the sort of question that I would have wished for!

I headed out in the afternoon to Wythenshawe Hospital to see my friend, and it was good to have a natter and be able to spend some time with him. He had the DAB radio to hand and so we were working out which channel was going to have commentary on the Manchester City v Sunderland game so that he could at least listen to it if we weren't going to be there. That said, as I headed home he was keeping me up to date with the scores, and going 1-0 and then 2-1 down wasn't in the plan. Neither was us going down 3-1 either, and just as that happened after I got home, The Love In My Heart came over.

A decision needed to be made - do I stay at home and play torture by Final Score to see what would happen in terms of the team's performance, or do we head out for a walk and then see what happens later? We decided for the latter as the plan was to walk the four miles down the old Fallowfield Loop Line from near me all the way to Chorlton. It proved to be a good decision as the weather was still decent enough with the sun sort of shining (but at least it was dry and that's something) along with a relatively still breeze out there. We walked along and it was not too long before we'd got past Fallowfield, headed down back on to the loop line and was heading towards Princess Road.

I couldn't resist, it was 4.55pm and surely the game was over now. I browsed the web on the phone and brought up the BBC Sport latest scores, and found to my relief that at least Man City had pulled it back from 3-1 down to 3-3, however that wasn't good enough in my view as we needed to win and keep going. It didn't feel much like a point gained and I've sort of resigned myself to the fact that realistically the title is out of our hands now, no matter what we do, and to be honest I can't see Man U dropping points apart from when they play us, and that's still not enough. Damn!

Still, it didn't spoil the walk. The weather was still set fair as we headed past St Werburgh's Road tram station and passed over the tram line before following the path onto Wilbraham Road and right by Chorlton's tram stop. We were considering going for a drink at The Bar, but it was full with no seats and also I'd worked out that the bus back was the next one, any after that we'd have to pay more money for and with us both having passes for the main bus company, it wasn't worth it (plus we had beer and wine at home) so we headed back home on the bus, and that didn't take as long somehow!

We got back to mine and I started to make the evening meal and The Love relaxed. It was good to do that and the three courses went down very well, especially the sirloin steak which tasted just right and was the right side of tender without being too rare at all, so good for me. The Love enjoyed the rioja (I had a glass too and it was nice) and later on she moved to the sauvignon blanc whilst we had the Lottery show on, followed by a game of Scrabble with some neat moves from us both (and indeed The Floe's album playing, so "I Hope You Know" is tune of the day) and that tied things over nicely till the Million Pound Drop came on.

Friday 30th March - The Long Last Day

It always seems to me that when you are about to take a week off work, everything on the final day grinds itself to an utter and complete halt. It felt like it today in times as I was trying to close off a few outstanding jobs, but I was also documenting packaging using the Adobe Application Manager Enterprise Edition (called AAMEE for short). I wanted to document using it so it's there on record how we'd package the various Adobe Creative Suites for use that people have paid licences for. Thankfully, AAMEE makes packaging for distribution via the likes of SCCM an absolute breeze.

However, there's one major caveat to watch out for when deploying any Adobe CS5.5 suite. AAMEE does package Adobe Acrobat Professional as part of it, but you'll actually find the install files in the "exceptions" folder. What this means is that you have to deploy it first before the rest of the suite, and with Acrobat Pro X, you layer on the base install plus the latest quarterly update should you need it. Thankfully my knowledge of the command line is pretty good so I was able to create a separate package from definition for the Acrobat Pro X install, and then use msiexec /update and the patch name to add on the latest patch on top. I soon got myself a task sequence together to do all three things, and off it went.

And sod's law was that it went a little over time in terms of trying to get it finished off, but in the end it worked very well indeed, Acrobat Pro X installed and updated to 10.1.2, and then the main parts of CS5.5 with all the updates went on top, and they were all latest updates too, so that was rather good. I need to do the 64-bit version when I get back in off leave, but at least I know it's good to go and it's been documented as well, so no complaints there methinks.

I headed off to Tesco not long after work and managed to blitz getting everything I needed. I wasn't sure what I was going to make for the evening meal for myself and The Love In My Heart tomorrow night, so I got a bottle of rioja and a bottle of sauvignon blanc and I'd let her decide what to have. I did get some nice sirloin steak along with some tiramisu and some wild mushroom soup, so that was main, dessert and starter pretty much sorted out. In fact I improvised a bit and used the remaining mozzarella cheese I had to top the burgers I made myself for tea, simple really.

And then it was on with Rock Band 3 for a bit after doing almost an hour on the trusty Wii Fit. I only had a quick blast because I wanted to catch up on episodes of Pointless, but it was still very rewarding overall, not least managing to pretty much nail a few songs on hard guitar and bass, as well as try and play online and get a little band together. My favourite tune to try out tonight was one of the imports from Rock Band 2 (I bit the bullet and paid the import fee so I've now got 70 songs from the game in there) - namely "Panic Attack" by Dream Theater. One day I'll get 100% vocals on expert, it's just one pesky phrase I can't bloody nail! Tune of the day nonetheless though as it's pretty epic.

Finally then it was catch up time with the episodes of Pointless. I must admit seeing a Smiths question for the pointless final made me smile as I suspected quite a few people were waiting for this one, not just me. In the end there were just three pointless answers for the top 40 singles, and I got two of them, namely "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish", and "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me", so I'd have won the massive jackpot on offer which had rolled over for a few episodes. I guess though with lots of people guessing the singles, there were plenty of low scorers that weren't pointless. Mind you, the contestants named two albums. Erm, the answer was singles, hello?

Thursday 29th March - Packaging Pearls

It was a different day of sorts today as I spent some more time documenting things that I'd been planning to for some time. This time it was how to use Orca to effectively make small edits to Microsoft Installers and how you can even use it to make an installer transform (MST) instead, so you keep the original MSI intact and you can then do as you need in terms of adding customisations easily. It's not too bad once you get going and being able to write some quality documentation is something that I do take some time to pride myself in.

I also spent some time during the day to resolve a few issues with regards to login but also seeing how easy it can be to deploy more applications as well, and also remembered that I needed to slightly change the installation order on my main task sequence for all the custom apps we have, so that Acrobat Pro installs before the main Adobe Creative Suite, as even Adobe themselves tell you it should be this way, so one quick task sequence edit later and all was very well indeed, so that has to be a positive thing really.

I headed home, although the bus was a little delayed. As I headed towards the Royal Infimary the traffic was slowing and with one of the main routes out of Manchester city centre blocked off, lots of traffic was diverting down the road that my bus goes down, so took a fair bit more of time than normal. However, considering what had happened earlier in the day on the road that was closed (a dead body found in the middle of the road, ewww) then it's understandable that a live crime scene needs some time to be processed and cleaned up slightly.

Later on The Love In My Heart came over, and we headed out for something to eat for tea, just for a nice change really. We ended up going to The Four In Hand in West Didsbury as they don't charge lots for the food but it's good stuff, and they have nice real ale so that's always a positive. In fact they had a sizzling grill night on where you could have certain meals with a drink for not much dosh. We'd already got some drinks in (a nice pint of Cocker Hoop too for me) but as I was having the gammon, I'd get a free drink, so I plumped for the glass of wine for The Love to have.

It was kicking off on a table near us as it looked like some sort of get together after a funeral was going on, and some of the ladies were being rather loud and bolshoi to say the least. The landlord in fact had no hestitation in asking them politely to leave because their foul language and coarseness was upsetting the customers, and that was a good thing - it meant we could chat and have our tea in peace and be able to catch up on each others' days as well while I munched some very nice gammon which on the sizzling plate really did do the job.

It was good too to head back later, relax in front of the telly and just take a trip back in time to Top of the Pops from 1977 on BBC Four. Some good stuff on there and it's amazing how many songs you do actually remember when you hear them again. One such example was Elkie Brooks' classic version of "Pearl's a Singer" which she definitely made her own with the husky Salford voice that she has. Definitely tune of the day as we both went "oh yes, we definitely know this one!"

Wednesday 28th March - Sixty Four

I had a day of experimentation of sorts in the office today as I re-imaged my test laptop with our current Windows 7 64-bit image. I knew that the laptop would be capable of running it, and I also knew that it meant I could test a few things out for our staff. I was pleased with myself that at least I'd packaged the 64-bit drivers for the laptop in question some time ago, thus future proofing things slightly, and so all the drivers went on without issues, which was very pleasing indeed.

I had also spent some time packaging the 64-bit version of Adobe Design Standard CS5. I had packaged the 32-bit installation some time ago and as some departments have laptops which were only 64-bit capable, then it was a case of using my packaging ninja skills to put together the installer. Thankfully Adobe's Application Manager for Enterprise makes the process a heck of a lot easier to do, and right at the start it asks if you need a 32 or 64-bit installation, and then compiles your installer with all the components that you actually need. This in effect works really well, and saves lots of time.

Of course one of the things I therefore tried was deploying this to my test laptop. As the packaging doesn't include Adobe Acrobat Professional, you therefore have to deploy that first and the suite second, and this seemed to at least by the time I left the office progressed nicely - fingers crossed in the morning that it'll still be the case of course. It was good though to feel like I'd got lots done and managed nicely to progress a few things. It's just amazing how quick time goes.

After a visit to Wythenshawe Hospital to see my friend and heading back home, I made myself some smoked fish and lemon rice for tea (pretty healthy I know, must keep this up if I can) it was on with The Apprentice on BBC1. I have to say that the women's only team really shot themselves in the foot by being so bitchy and mouthy with each other, and I do think that Lord Sugar should have fired at least two of them - certainly that would have made things interesting. After all, we all have seen how Donald Trump is lethal on the original US version and has no problem firing up to four at once if they're bobbins.

Still, I think the wrong one went tonight, for what it's worth. It should have been two of them, and that Jane should have gone as well. She's much too bolshoi and answers back at the wrong time to even class herself as professional in my view. There's times when you need to know when to keep quiet and listen, it's a key part of being professional (so you'd think anyway), and it just made me wonder how soon it'll be before she gets fired. We shall see won't we?

Tune of the day is the rather lovely "Glove" by the vastly-underrated The Floe from their album "No Looking Back". If you want a beautiful song performed with lovely acoustic guitars and even lovelier vocals, you've come to the right place. The chorus just really shows that all off to perfection and if you can't ever express yourself how much you love someone, than that chorus can do it all for you and then some more. Do check the album out, I promise you massively that you won't regret it.

Tuesday 27th March - Wild Wood of Documentation

Off to work today and finalising an intriguing problem that I had to solve - but got there in the end. One laptop I was looking at had had some free encryption software installed, which encrypted the whole hard drive (very nice of course for security) - but what I'd managed to work out was that when the BIOS was updated or some settings changed, Windows refused to boot. I had worked out what the setting was, changed it back and Windows then booted, and I managed to log in. From there I then ran the software and let that decrypt the drive so that it was fully usable without the slowdown of every single file having to be decrypted before use first.

I've also been working on some documentation to do with application packaging, as that's one thing I'm pretty good at overall. It's mainly been working on writing everything in an easy to understand way for people to follow, so one I tackled was how to do Windows Installer administrative image installs and how to update those with Windows Installer matches that get released from time to time. It was good practice to be able to do that and to document things correctly at the same time - rather useful to know what to do here. It also helped when you had an example application that has installer and patch so you could show screen shots and everything.

That took up a fair bit of time but it meant I could at least be using the resources in a good way, nothing worse than not using the time efficiently. It also meant that I could head home and feel good about the day's work, and stop off at Asda on the way home to get some bottles of water along with some bread to make my sandwiches for lunch. I'm trying where possible to get the lowest calorie wholemeal so that it does my system a reasonable amount of good - well that's the plan, I just have to execute it properly now.

I got the food started before The Love In My Heart came over, and timed it perfectly so that it was ready once Emmerdale had finished, so that she didn't miss it. I made some hunter's chicken with cheese and barbecue sauce, along with some baby new potatoes and steam fresh vegetables, and that felt rather good having - it filled us both up nicely and we were able to relax and chatter whilst enjoying the tea together. We then watched Don't Tell The Bride and had to laugh at the remote setting for the marquee, with wind and rain howling everywhere - ooops!

Out came the Scrabble and on went Paul Weller's "Wild Wood" album which was nice to relax to for us both. I really like this album anyway, an early classic from his solo career and the title track was one that showed a lighter side instead of full on guitars, so for that reason it's tune of the day. I played pretty well on the whole and came out with CRAVAT as a decent word to play, not least because the use of a V normally needs the use of an E somewhere, so good to think outside of the box for a change I reckon. The time does go far too quickly with The Love around though, and it always feels sad when she leaves for home later on, it has to be said.

Monday 26th March - Back To The Grind

It was back to work and back to the grind today after a week off, and I have to say by the sound of it I picked a good week not to be in work really, as things all happened over the last week which meant it was pretty mental all round. Not that I was going to get back into things slowly today, it was straight head long into a few things that I wanted to get done, and so ease the backlog of emails that I had to read through. I also was trying to get to the bottom of a delivery of laptops and eventually found out who was supposed to have them - and it wasn't us! Good job that I didn't open them and do anything with them really.

After work it was straight on the bus to Wythenshawe Hospital to see my friend in there. It's easier going straight from work because one of the buses that goes there virtually passes the office, and so that side of it becomes less hassle all round - even if you're battling against peak hour traffic leaving the city. I actually got there around a quarter of an hour before visiting commences, so I headed to one of the cafés on site and had a cold drink and a relaxing seat for a little while, which made me realise just how it's nice to take that little bit of time to wind down a bit.

Once I'd spent some time with my friend and was able to at least keep the spirits up, I headed on the buses to take me home. Even though the day was really warm and nice, it showed that once the darkness fell it was starting to get a little on the cold side, so worth noting at least for the next time I go to have something on me to feel a little warmer once the night falls. I got home and made myself some pasta with sauce, something nice and simple to keep me going for the time being.

It was good to wind down a bit more with a session on Rock Band 3 on the Wii. What was even better was that I topped up the Wii account with 1000 Wii points, so then had enough to import seventy songs from Rock Band 2 into 3, giving me a nice massive library of songs to choose from. I simply had to copy the contents of the 2GB SD card I used with Rock Band 2 (because the game can't use SDHC cards because it was released before the Wii system update that allowed larger cards to be used) onto a bigger 4GB SDHC card, which should then see me right for any Rock Band 3 future content downloads as well - thinking ahead, you see.

That done, it was time to get playing and so went straight into expert vocals, firstly online and then on my own. For the first time I tried Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like An Eagle" and surprised myself with 90% on the first go, which surprised me nicely. The other two songs from Rock Band 3 played online were ones that I've 100%ed on Expert, and so did them again which bumped up the band score rather nicely (well I hope it did anyway) - which was good to do. One of those was The Smiths' "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" and so that's tune of the day as it felt good to do Morrissey style on it.

Sunday 25th March - Styal in the Sunshine

It was really nice to head out this afternoon, with the sun on our backs and the weather being very nice indeed. Can you believe that it was 20 degrees centigrade (that's 68 in Farenheit if that's your thing) and it was lovely, for March? Neither could I, but it was, and it certainly felt rather good indeed. We had some bacon on toast and a coffee and looked how nice it was outside, and made a decision. We'd not been to Quarry Bank Mill in Styal for a while, and the gardens I'm sure would look lovely in the weather. We could walk around there and maybe even head to Styal village along the way, so that was the plan.

We soon were heading in The Love's car past East Didsbury and Cheadle Royal, passing Heald Green before skirting round the airport to Styal and the mill. The car park was rammed, as you'd expect, but The Love very brilliantly found a space and snagged it quickly. From there it was down to the mill grounds where we got our ticket for the garden and headed through the mill's meadow to the gardens. It was nice to see them in such good condition although one of the stepped walkways up was closed off due to some recent landslip. We got a good vantage point from the top of the gardens though.

We could also see that plenty of work was still being done, big time, on the upper gardens. There was a hidden until recently dipping pool found in the garden works, which is what used to be used to dip the old watering cans in so that you could water the plants, and also on top of that some more of the walled garden structure, so once some glass goes in there it could be used as it originally was designed. However, some of the lawned area has had to be dug up because Japanese knotweed has been found, and that's a really difficult thing to treat properly.

We walked back down the gardens and stopped off at the little pantry near the ticket office so I could get some of the very nice Snugbury farm ice cream, and the vanilla tub I had was lovely, and just the thing for a warm day. We walked past the Apprentice House and then along the footpaths towards Styal village, and a lot of the village cottages we came across were actually National Trust owned, and in impeccable condition. In a way the village served the purpose back then to house the mill workers and such, so it's good to see it retain its olde worlde feel if you will.

All that walking meant we were a tad thirsty so we diverted slightly on the way back and headed to the Four In Hand in West Didsbury for a well earned drink - and they still had the Ringwood FortyNiner beer, and as you can imagine that was one I quite like so that was me well and truly sorted, a good pint all round. Outside was still very warm and plenty of people were sat in the sunshine with their drinks, and it made a very nice leisurely Sunday afternoon indeed, even more so when I made us both some carbonara later for tea which just made the day that little bit lovelier.

After The Love had headed homewards, I put on my recording of the extended highlights of the Malaysian Grand Prix, and wow, what a race that was! It had rain, tyre stops, incidents a plenty and a brilliant victory for Fernando Alonso, although I think had he been pursued by Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel he might not have won, as Sergio Perez was brilliant in second with one small mistake with him going off costing him the win - which he'll get with the experience here, I'm sure of that. It still is nice to hear the strains of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" come on at the start of the programme, so tune of the day right there!

Saturday 24th March - No Stoke Without Fire

It was a relatively nice and warm day outside, and I did spend a bit of time during the morning taking a quick walk around where I live, after I'd spent the time in the morning doing my exercises, cleaning the house, doing some washing and on top of all that ensuring that I had enough coffee and tea in for later on, as I'd be having a few of my relations around to watch the football, as you do. I even managed a quick session on Rock Band 3, nailing several songs on hard level on guitar including Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' "I Love Rock and Roll", so that's tune of the day right there.

I then headed out in the nice weather and on the bus to Wythenshawe Hospital to give my friend a confidence boost and have a chat with him in there. Thankfully he's getting on the mend now and at least he had a DAB radio with him so he could plug that in later and listen to the football, so that was something at least for him. I think had he been at home he'd be watching the game of course, but there you go. It was good at least to think positive and I know that it was quite warm in the ward, so I opened the window close to the bed he was in to give him some nice fresh air, the least I could do.

I made my way back in pretty good time and this allowed me to relax a bit before quite a few of the relations came over and with a cuppa in hand, we settled in to watch Manchester City's away game at Stoke City on ESPN. I knew this was going to be a difficult game and so it proved: it was tight, niggly and a real battle of sorts, and we just couldn't get going the same way that we've managed at home at the moment. Still, as half time approached with the score at 0-0 I wasn't too displeased, as we had at least kept a clean sheet up to then and had Pablo Zabaleta brilliantly clear off the line to prevent a certain goal.

However as the second half got underway, it showed that we were under pressure from the off and eventually that pressure told. Peter Crouch headed down, and got the ball back from Jermaine Pennant, and his volley lobbed over Joe Hart from some distance. It was an excellent finish and no matter what you could have said about our defending, you can't stop wonder strikes like that and it was fair play to him. It did put us under the cosh for a bit though and I had a feeling that we needed to change it to bring the score back. Change it we did, btu the goal wasn't forthcoming.

It was getting tense in the front room and then Yaya Toure decided to try his luck from distance. It proved to be a good move overall as when the shot went in, it came off the head of Ryan Shawcross and deflected a little past the Stoke keeper, and so that made it 1-1 in the end. We couldn't get a winner, and at the end The Love In My Heart came over to see the last couple of minutes, before we all headed off to my auntie's place, as it was my cousin's birthday do and we all said we'd be there after the final whistle, and kept our word.

It was good to see some of the family and we had a relaxing time there, and there was plenty of nice food laid on, as you always get. There was also a very nice hotpot as well which I had a bowl of, and it tasted spot on, just the thing as the night was drawing in and proving to be a little on the cold side outside. We stayed there for a while and chatted to some of the family, and it was good to see a decent turnout too. We headed back to mine later for the Million Pound Drop Live and that was pretty good overall!

Friday 23rd March - Rock On!

First things first this morning was to get up and get to the large Tesco. It's only occasionally I go to the large one but this time I wanted to get some things that the local one doesn't have, such as the Tilda lemon basmati rice which goes perfect with fish, and also they have the rather nice Aberdeen Angus burgers that make for a simple but effective lunch or tea as I need. I was getting a bottle of pinot grigio for The Love In My Heart and noticed that the real ales were 4 for £6. It might not have seemed a complete bargain but then I saw what beer was included - no less than King Goblin! There were only three left, so I got those and the Holts 1849 ale. Oh yes. Rock on!!

After that, I had a leisurely morning of sorts, with it being the last day of my week off, and so spent some time doing some of the washing that needed doing, and also doing some research into hotel rooms for the Olympics. I've got a ticket for the women's football final, but trying to find a place that isn't charging £200 plus for an overnight stay is proving to be a tad challenging. Every single hotel chain (even Travelodge) have ramped up the prices big style to capitalise on the masses of tourists and sports fans heading down to London, and so it's a case of being able to find somewhere either further out of London and take the tube into Wembley, or even take a tent and sleeping bag with me - but I'd rather have a nicer nights sleep!

I then put on Rock Band 3 for the Wii and had a session on the guitar for a while, and I've been trying to learn more to do hard and expert instead of medium. It's all about learning for me to move the hand across to the far end to be able to get the orange notes. One handy thing with the Guitar Hero guitar I use is that the yellow (middle) fret has a little raised centre, so when you're moving across, you know that your middle finger should at least be on there and so you can try and get a sense of position.

I tried a few songs on hard at first and then moved to expert, taking on the supposedly easier ones first to see how I did. I got through Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" unscathed, and even did reasonably well with over 90% notes hit on The Beach Boys' live version of "Good Vibrations". However, the coup de grace was doing New Order's "Blue Monday". You don't have to do anything for the first minute, but in effect you're doing Peter Hook's bass lines in the opening sections, and then the lead guitar in the middle bits, but then Hooky's bass towards the end, which works out pretty well overall. As I've heard that song just a few times I know how it goes, and with the note tracking being accurate, we were talking around 96%, and five stars on expert. Get in! Tune of the day, obviously.

I then headed off to Wythenshawe Hospital, as one of my friends is in there at the moment with a small viral infection that he's picked up, but laid him pretty low and with a high temperature come Thursday morning, and so was sent straight there. It was good to try and cheer him up a bit and have a good chat about all things football, and also look forward to hopefully having news of a Manchester City win tomorrow, and so we spent a fair bit of time thinking about who the side would be. It was also good that whilst I was there I was able to get some light and air in to the place for him and get it a bit fresher, as it was a bit stuffy it has to be said.

I headed on the bus back to the city centre and headed into the city to pick up a few things that I needed to get, and it made more sense doing that now instead of the Saturday. Once home, I made myself some smoked haddock and rice for tea, and settled back to watch the three episodes of Pointless that I needed to catch up with, and that was pretty good. It made me laugh when Richard Osman was having a subtle hint at the maths teachers though with a question now and then with some simple maths, haha! That was good to watch and I also experimented with streaming music and video from the PC to my Humax Freeview HD box, and it works pretty well!

Thursday 22nd March - Cheshire Shopaholics

I had stayed over at The Love In My Heart's place last night after the football, and having seen Match of the Day before I went to bed it made me wonder how much Alan Hansen disliked Manchester City, trying where possible to discredit us, saying that we got lucky with the penalty and that we didn't deserve to win etc. Thank heavens then for Lee Dixon (who is a City fan) who is much more objective despite the blue bias, he told it like it was and knew that in terms of the title, every game is going to be a turning point, which it is.

After some lovely croissants and a coffee for breakfast, we got ourselves ready and headed off in The Love's car, first to the local sorting office to pick up a parcel which the postman couldn't deliver yesterday to her place, and then off towards the city centre, down Princess Parkway, and then along the M56 and a little bit of the M53 to Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet. I wanted to get some clothes for our holiday later in the year and this week was the perfect time to go with us both being off work as well - it tends to be much quieter in the week than it is at weekend.

And so it proved. Parking for The Love was easy, and most of the shops were pretty quiet so it meant that we were able to have a good look around without anyone getting in the way. We went in the Ted Baker outlet, and The Love was a bit gutted that one of the nice sized shopper bags that come complete with matching flip flops weren't in with the right sized flip flops for her, so that wasn't good, but we had a good look around many shops and got some ideas about what to get.

In fact we hadn't got anything as yet, but a visit inside the Marks and Spencer Outlet sorted that one. I'd been after a couple of pairs of lighter cotton chinos for the away trip, and found this really nice colour, sort of half way between cream and beige that'd do the job well, and they'd been reduced to £21, and in my size too. I tried them on just to check they were right, and that was the first purchase of the day sorted, and from then we were on a roll of sorts. I went into Clarks next as I needed some replacement shoes for work, as my old ones were getting a bit worn now. I saw a pair I liked in my size, they fitted well, and thought £23.99 was decent. Even more so when I got to the till and found out that they'd been further reduced to £19.99. Woooo!

Not to be outdone, it was Next Clearance where we both hit success later on. The Love found a very nice top and some work trousers which were both very good value for her, and I had a bit of a quandry as I'd found some nice khaki chinos and a nice pair of dark grey jeans, but there was no changing room so I couldn't test them for fit. Do I get them, I wondered. As you can return them to any Next or Next Clearance store (and there's one of those next to big Asda by City's ground) I thought "yeah, sod it!" and so got them both. The khakis were £20 and the dark grey number £14, but they both look pretty stylish, and they fitted fine when I tried them on later, so was pretty pleased all round to be honest.

We were almost done, but I headed back to the Fred Perry outlet as we'd seen a nice shirt there that had been reduced from £56 to £16.50, and it seemed to have my size, so whilst I headed there The Love went back to Ted Baker to have a look at the bags. Both were great moves in the end. I tried on the shirt and medium was a bit too tight fitting, so asked them if they had a large - they had one in the back, it fitted, so that was me well and truly sorted. In the meantime The Love had asked the staff in Ted Baker, and it turned out the bag she was after was also in the window display - and with the right sized matching flip flops to go with it, and a bargain for the price. Yaay! So obviously they were got, and so a good day all round for me really!

We both then headed to The Old Hall pub close by for a later lunch, and they had Hobgoblin on cask. Wow! The day was getting even better than planned. We also had some very nice food too, The Love having the fish and chips which was spot on, and I had the cajun chicken which was also very good indeed. There was even a relaxed atmosphere and it felt pretty good on the whole to just sit and take it easy. It was then back down the motorway and back to mine where I tried on all the new stuff, and it all looked good, so that felt very pleasing indeed for me.

Tune of the day is more electronica for me. After The Love headed home I had on the likes of K-Pist (Swedish electronic band in case you wondered), Yellow Magic Orchestra, and best of all, Electronic Ensemble's seminal 1980 single "It Happened Then". It grows on you and really does show how early classic electronic pop singles really do stand the test of time ever so well compared to today's auto-tuned artists or ones fed through a vocoder for the hell of it. And one of the blokes who wrote it is from Manchester, so there you go.

Wednesday 21st March - A Chelski Battle

It was nice just to be able to do my own thing around the house today, and I spent a fair bit of time cleaning up the house as well as doing some exercises on the trusty Wii Fit. I posted some mail I had to post later on (a few more of my games that I had sold on eBay) and settled back to watch some recordings of Pointless from the last couple of days which I'd missed whilst I was away from the house. I also then was able to put on Rock Band 3 for a bit and have a bit of a practice on bass and guitar, which I'd not done for some time. In fact it was good to see that I'd been able to still hit most of the notes on a fair few songs - maybe I need to try drums soon?

Later on my friend and his wife came over for a bit before we'd be heading off to the football, it was good to see them and indeed to have a chat, and also we all watched CSI from last night. They'd missed the first episode but were glad to see the second, and indeed with Ted Danson now in it, it seemed to be another programme that they'd have to make sure that they record once they get their new Virgin box later this week - they've done what I've done and deserted Sky, which to me is a positive move. We enjoyed CSI and I think the dynamics of the team are going to work well, although when Catherine Willows leaves during the middle of the series, there'll only be two original main characters left (Greg Sanders wasn't officially cast-listed till Series 3)

We then had a good session of Rock Band 3, with my friend (or his wife) on vocals and me on guitar, and that worked out pretty well as we were soon nailing songs quite well, with some good playing all round. We did rather well on the classic that is "Centerfold" by the J Geils Band, and as I'd not played that before, we thought we did good, so tune of the day just for the cheesiness and 80s factor, of course. What was also good was that we did very well indeed on David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and Joy Division's classic "Love Will Tear Us Apart" even though it's not the original classic version (sounds like the 1995 remix to me, meh!) so all was good there.

Off we headed to see The Love In My Heart so that the ladies could chatter and watch The Apprentice whilst the two of us were at the football. Of course with Manchester United winning on Sunday and going four points clear at the top, no less than a win would do to get us back to one point behind and with all to play for with nine games to go. Of course we'd won fourteen out of fourteen on the bounce at home in the league this season so the form really has to continue if we're going to win anything. Certainly it seemed that way as I munched the chicken balti pie and contemplated the game ahead.

The game kicked off and City did everything but score against Chelski to be honest. We tried everything we could to get the ball in the back of the net, with a neat Samir Nasri shot which lobbed Petr Cech but hit the bar, Cech also saved from a Mario Balotelli chance, and it was generally a case of us doing everything but hit the target, sometimes trying almost too hard to create the perfect chance and with millions of passes before the killer touch. It was getting a touch frustrating but 0-0 at half time was okay, I guess.

The start of the second half wasn't that good, but Roberto Mancini swapped the side around and took off the ineffective Balotelli for Gareth Barry, and that all seemed okay till a Chelski chance wasn't cleared properly, and Gary Cahill hit a shot which deflected off Kolo Toure and wrong footed Joe Hart in the City goal, and Chelski were in front. Not good. Around ten minutes later was the moment that I was dreading - the comeback of Carlos Tévez. Whilst the players and Mancini himself had seemingly forgiven him for the misdemeanours, I hadn't, and so didn't applaud or boo - he's got a lot to convince plenty of the fans yet.

In fact we didn't get any better till on came Edin Džeko for the ineffective David Silva, and then the game did change. Edin looked a handful up front and the Chelski defence were more worried about putting tackles in, giving everyone else more room to roam around. One corner, forced after a Džeko shot was well saved, was cleared, but the ball went to Pablo Zabaleta, and the warrior rifiled a shot in. Michael Essien handled it, the linesman flagged it straight away and the referee pointed to the spot. Maybe a little harsh to give, but I wasn't complaining. Up stepped Sergio Agüero, who made no mistake and so it was 1-1.

The last ten minutes saw City virtually camped in Chelski's half, with them attempting to hit on the break with the likes of Didier Drogba, who came on for the hopelessly bobbins Fernando Torres. With four minutes left on the clock Samir Nasri, who had been brilliant all game, did a one two with Tévez and then he dinked it over Cech to score what was to prove to be the winner. It was great stuff from Nasri and you could tell how much it meant by the way that the whole team celebrated. We shall see what happens from here on in, but the result was great and it meant that we're not out of this title race yet, not by a long way. Come on you Blues!

Tuesday 20th March - The Way Home

It was good to have such a good night's sleep, and it was nice too just to wake up in our time, and we got ourselves showered, packed and ready and headed along North End Road, stopping for a nice breakfast to get us both up and about. It was good just to see how the place takes shape in the morning, with a street market along one side of the road which gave the place a real kind of urban feel, but the more real London rather than the one than you see in the tourist guides, and sometimes that's a good thing in my view.

We headed back to the Travelodge, picked up our cases and checked out, and headed along towards Fulham Broadway, and as time was a little pressing, we took the tube back to Euston, with the District Line to Victoria and then the Victoria line up to Euston, which worked out pretty well in the end. It wasn't mad busy on the tube as the morning peak had gone, and so it was much more relaxed. Euston was pretty busy still but mainly with people getting off trains, so we didn't have to wait too long till we headed on the 1200 train back to Manchester Piccadilly.

It was a quiet and relaxing journey back, with The Love engrossed in One Day and me with the iPod on, and with the title track of Rush's "2112" album on as we meandered through the countryside. This made a lot of sense actually, so tune of the day for me right there. It was nice to grab a coffee for us both on the train and just take it relatively easy as we were heading to Stoke on Trent, then Macclesfield and Stockport before arriving in Manchester and on time too. It wasn't too long for us both to get our buses home and it was a fond but sad farewell after having such a great time together.

I got home and watched the recording of the full F1 highlights from Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, and it was incident packed, especially near the end and indeed on the last lap, with Pastor Maldonado spinning off, Nico Rosberg losing a front wing and a mighty scrap from the last corner onwards for the final places with Paul di Resta and Daniel Ricciardo really coming off best in all of that. It was good to see Jenson Button really showing off his smooth driving style, looking after the tyres and being aggressive enough to get Lewis Hamilton at the first corner and looking pretty racey, it has to be said.

I also looked at some of the pictures that I took over the last couple of days - I didn't take lots mainly because we went to places where photography wasn't allowed, but managed some nonetheless. It was good to sift through them and see what we'd been up to, memories of another happy time together. That's pretty much it fot going away till May, where of course the trip to Nice and Monaco is going to be one that we're both looking forward to massively to say the least!!

Monday 19th March - Sonik Kicks at the Roundhouse

The Love In My Heart and I got up and had a relatively relaxing time of it, having a coffee in the Travelodge room and getting ourselves ready for a calm and relaxing day before the Paul Weller gig later, which we were both looking forward to. I know The Love has liked him for ages and saw him at the Manchester Academy in the early 1990s just after he started his solo career off, so that said a lot for me. We both went to a gig of his in Halifax a few years back and that was great because it was a smaller, more intimate gig, and we prefer those where possible.

We headed out and off to the bus stop to get the 414 bus which would take us to Marble Arch. We got off there and noticed that close to the arch there was this sculpture piece with jelly babies featuring heavily, which was quite cute. A bit of a strange location considering the arch and Hyde Park close by, but there you go. We walked down Oxford Street for a while, turning left just before Bond Street and heading past the shops in St Cristopher's Place, before we turned right to Bulstrode Street and found what we were looking for - the Heartbreak Gallery.

The main reason for going there is that The Love is a fan of the art work of Jack Vettriano (indeed, a canvas of his work The Singing Butler hangs proud in her front room) and there was an exhibition on in the gallery of many of his work, mostly in limited edition print form. It was good to go around the two or three floors of the gallery and be able to peruse the artwork. Many of them I've recognised from seeing them before, but some of them involving women as strong subjects such as a seducer or temptress do come across as a fair bit more risque, and certainly not one to hang in the front room!

We noticed a book of his artworks that you could read on comfy sofas, so we did that and the very lovely person in the gallery and shop handed us some other display copies of the books so we could peruse them. We spotted that a fair few of them looked like Nice, not surprising as he has an apartment there but also that the scenes depicted are places we've been. Indeed one of the books shows him doing a photo shoot along the Cours Saleya, and we recognised it straight off. Maybe next time in Nice we'll spot him, I wonder? It was great to go around and the gallery has a shop where you can buy his cards and the über-limited edition prints.

That was thoroughly enjoyable and after walking around St Christopher's Place and some of the shops there, we stopped off at a pub close to Bond Street for lunch and had the sharing "City Platter", which had garlic bread, wedges, sausages, chicken wings and nachos will all sorts of toppings, and some lovely barbecue sauce which was perfect for the sausages and wedges in particular. It was good to take it easy, before I hired a bike (eventually, after realising that I needed to update my debit card details for the cycle hire) and The Love took the bus, and not long after she had arrived I wasn't far behind on the bike as we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

We don't mind our art to be honest, and even though most of the first floor was sculptures from around the world, there were still some impressive pieces which made you think "how the hell did that get here?". We wanted to find the more modern stuff though, so we went to the third floor, and went along all the materials sections including some nice rare photographs made with pre 20th century equipment, along with some restored items which were great to see.

However what we didn't expect but we found it to be our favourite bit was the exhibition which had the stage costumes and designs from theatre and music productions. Some of the intricate small scale models of stage sets proved to show just how much work goes into a set and its design, and some of the costumes from theatre shows really did show lots of talent on show, not least of course the likes of the Lion King ones. Some of the music ones that they had were fab: Mick Jagger's 1970s silver jump suit, the original Adam Ant "Prince Charming" costume, and one that was lent out but I'd liked to have seen - Brian Eno's original one from the inside cover of Roxy Music's "For Your Pleasure" album which he wore on stage too. I have the original album so it'd have been good to see it for real.

After a coffee and a gorgeous Victoria sponge cake in the café there which was stunning stuff, we headed back to the Travelodge, got showered and changed and ready and headed off out on the bus, first on the 28 to Notting Hill Gate, and then the 31 to Chalk Farm. As the bus went down plenty of narrow roads it was often getting stuck with parked cars so took longer than anticipated, which was a bit gutting. Already at the Roundhouse before the doors had even opened there was a queue, but we wanted some tea first, and after a little bit of me remembering where it was, we went to the Lock Tavern, which I've eaten in before. The food was gorgeous, notably the pie and pint deal for £8.50 which I had - a yummy steak and ale pie with mash and peas, that hit the spot perfectly. It might go into the pie top five, I kid you not! The Love had the burger which looked massive, but on seeing the fish we both wished we'd had that!

The Roundhouse was quieter in terms of queue, so we got in easily, dropped the coats at the cloakroom and headed up to the main stage level 1 area where we had the tickets for there. We got a good spot early on and watched the support act Baxter Dury - to me he looked like he was trying to in part almost speak the lyrics in the style of Mark E Smith, but with less aplomb and in other parts, sing them with a softness and affection. That's no surprise considering who his Dad was - the late great Ian Dury - who had that art much more down to a tee. Baxter did a decent job though and the tunes were a least there musically, so good to see some of the legacy is still very much intact. Sensibly he hasn't tried covering any of his dad's great work.

The crowd were filling up very nicely and the lights went down, and on came Paul Weller. The leaflet that The Love picked up pretty much explained how tonight would work - the whole of the new Sonik Kicks album, plus an interval followed by an acoustic and electric set. The Sonik Kicks album certainly sounded more experimental than some of his recent work, and that came across live, with some violinists, some Kraftwerk like experimentation in "Kling I Klang" followed by "Sleep of the Serene", one track going more into reggae style, "Study In Blue" and that was only on side one of the album.

In between the more experimental stuff though there proved to be some guitar driven stuff that's as good as he has managed though, especially "That Dangerous Age" which proved to be a good choice of single having people sing along to it, and the more synth-led and Bowie inspired "When Your Garden's Overgrown". As a whole, the album came across good live and we heard a couple of people stood near us who had been the previous night say that it was better than last night, so I guess it didn't work out too badly at all.

After a short interval allowing me time to head to the bar for myself and The Love, on came Paul and the guys for the two extra sets. The acoustic set was rather lovely, and featured a great version of "Out of the Sinking" which added to its aura, so tune of the day there, along with a great version of "Stanley Road" with Paul on the piano belting it out. "No Tears To Cry" was lovely too, and it showed that sometimes stripping the songs back works really well. We even got "English Rose", from the first Jam album, done acoustic too, so yaay there.

In fact, this is where I take odds with the Independent's review from the night before, basically saying that Paul was playing what he wanted and not pandering to the masses with "the hits". I'm actually glad that he didn't, to be honest. Too many artists do that and just play their most successful songs over and over, which eventually you get sick of because you've heard it too often live. I'd rather them be the artist they are and show that their albums, not just their singles, are the ones to enjoy listening to. If that means playing album tracks instead, so be it, and even The Love was more impressed because it's stuff you might not normally hear at a gig. But a little bit of pandering later...

Anyway, so on with the electric set, and like the acoustic one, more album related tracks although he did belt out the title track of "Wake Up The Nation" at full pelt, along with "From The Floorboards Up", which pelted nicely along. There was also the likes of the title track of the "22 Dreams" album too, and generally it all rocked very nicely indeed. Even Miles Kane came on with him for one track, which was rather good to see the Wirral man get some stage time (and something that he wanted to do for some time, so ambition achieved there!). Right at the end, time for an encore and so on came "A Town Called Malice". That was to shut up the Independent reviewer and needless to say, it kicked backside, massively!

We headed on the bus back to Aldwych first and then the bus to Fulham Broadway and back to the Travelodge. it was midnight when we got back and we were both tired after a long but rewarding day. Paul Weller and the band (notably Steve Cradock of course) were brilliant, and it was good to see him in a small venue again. It's a shame that three women just in front of us thought it was like being in the pub and were chattering all the way through Paul's set, which I found disrespectful. They sang along at times, so why not just shut the hell up chattering and just enjoy the music, I wondered. People like that shouldn't be at a gig if you ask me.

Sunday 18th March - Off Darn Sarf

After getting up early, doing my exercises and showering and getting myself ready, it was time to leave the house behind and head to Piccadilly station, where I'd be meeting The Love In My Heart. We were heading off to London for a couple of days, and mainly this was because we were seeing Paul Weller at the Roundhouse on Monday night. It'd also allow us some time around London and to be able to also view some art too (something we planned to do last time but time was against us a bit). It was reasonably okay weather wise as we met at the station, and having got some lunch sorted to take on the train, all was well there and so we got on, got our seats and off we headed.

The train journey was as fast and reliable as ever by Virgin, even coming in to London Euston earlier than planned by around five minutes, which is decent going for a Sunday afternoon it has to be said. It was also good that we were able to have coffee, and some lunch, and relax on the way down. The Love had her One Day novel to read through (she wants to finish that before watching the DVD that she now has) and I had the iPod nano on random with all sorts playing. It was quite apt that The Jam was on there, so "The Bitterest Pill" was always a favourite of mine - tune of the day was an easy decision therefore.

We headed out of Euston, stopping to top up the trusty Oyster card, and then headed on the bus towards Kensington first of all, and then changing there for another bus which would take us to North End Road in Fulham, where the Travelodge was situated that we were staying at. Well, we did get it for a mere £15 a night to keep costs down for us both, so can't argue with that of course. We headed out after checking in and unpacking, and of course as Chelski were playing down the road (literally) it was busy with fans coming out of the ground after their 5-2 FA Cup quarter final win over Leicester.

We managed to get the bus into central London which did a diversion of sorts to avoid the football traffic, but soon was making its way towards South Kensington, past the V&A museum and along towards Piccadilly Circus, where we'd get off the bus and have a wander. We headed towards Leicester Square and inside M&M's World, dedicated to those brand of chocolates. It's quite scary how much stuff there was in there dedicated to it, with some neat pastiches of things like the Beatles' Abbey Road, the London buses etc all featuring the characters from the sweets. Nifty, and the collectables on one floor were scarily priced!

We then walked along past a few theatres (including the one we saw Avenue Q) and to a pub close by, which had Tribute on cask. Unfortunately the barrel had ran out, but they still had Landlord so that was me sorted, and The Love had some nice wine. We found a cosy corner of the pub to chat in, and that was nice. We soon headed off and towards Covent Garden, and it was nice to walk through the central piazza with an opera singer giving her all in one of the squares below. We then headed past the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, where the Shrek logo was lighting up the theatre green in the dark, very nice indeed.

It was getting to be the evening now and with darkness descending, we walked towards Waterloo but before we got to the end of Aldwych we noticed a nice pub that did food and thought that it'd be good to head there for something to eat. It proved to be a good decision all round, especially as they had an upstairs dining room which was nice and quiet and with nice views, and keeping the old feel of the place intact. And they had Tribute on cask and it was still on. Oooh yes! You don't know how happy that made me, let me tell you. The food was gorgeous too - the fish I had was superb and the Sunday roast beef The Love had was great too. So much kudos to The Wellington, close to the start of The Strand.

We headed back on the bus to Fulham Broadway and walked the short distance from there to the Travelodge, and in time for Upstairs Downstairs so that The Love could watch the latest instalment of that, and we caught up on the news, and I even saw some of the F1 highlights on BBC2, but knew I'd recorded it from BBC1 earlier in the day. I had worked out that Jenson Button won, so that cheered me up as I like Jenson - he's a top driver and really seems to have his wits about him. It was a long day but worked out to be very worthwhile.

Saturday 17th March - Fingers Crossed

It started off like a normal day would have done, and I spent a fair bit of time this morning whacking on some old electronic music clips on Youtube whilst doing some morning exercise, which seemed to work quite well. So the likes of Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Rydeen", Kraftwerk's "Home Computer" at al were played, but perhaps best of all is "It Happened Then" by Electronic Ensemble, which was pretty ground breaking for its time - and the people involved recorded it in Manchester, so another piece of music history for the city there. It really does sound futuristic with the vocoder type effect that's on there but also the hookline just draws you in massively. Listen to the lead line in the chorus and compare that to Kernkraft 400's "Zombie Nation"... so tune of the day is Electronic Ensemble.

I headed to Mum's to have a coffee and chat with her. It's Mother's Day tomorrow as I woudn't be able to make it to hers tomorrow I felt it best to head over today with the card. She mainly wanted the money to get herself some stuff for the summer, so I didn't mind whatsoever, and even got a box of Lindt Lindor as a small treat for herself too (well why not?) We had a good chat and it was nice just to relax and catch up. She was heading out with one of her friends later and so it was nice to be able to see that she had some nice things planned for the weekend too.

If was off into the city centre where I got my hair cut (which badly needed doing) and got some bathroom essentials as well, mainly shower gel as I needed some and I found that Superdrug were doing various types of Lynx shower gel for a mere 99p, which is a bargain by any stretch of the imagination, oh yes. It also meant that after a good look in Vinyl Exchange for some CDs (I didn't find any, but nonetheless was impressed to find several CDs that I already had which needed a place in other people's collections as well as mine) it was time to head home and watch some sport.

I had recorded the F1 qualifying on BBC HD in case I didn't get home for it and that was a wise move, so I could watch the highlights. It wasn't bad in terms of how much they showed and Ben Edwards is already proving to be a good commentator (he actually narrates most of the recent F1 end of season DVDs, so it's a familiar voice to many anyway) and him and DC seem to be working pretty well together. I was a bit concerned though that in parts the production seemed a bit "bitty" as it jumped from one bit to the next but hopefully they'll get that balance right over time, here's hoping. Wonder what'll happen to the grid walks for the live races?

I also watched some of the horse racing on Channel 4 and the Midlands Grand National from Uttoxeter. It looked like it was hammering it down there and so I can only imagine it must have been tricky for the jockeys riding around, but it proved to be a cracking race, as did the chase the next race afterwards. I guess after being spoilt with the Cheltenham Festival this week race fans at least had something else to watch as well, so that's good. And I kept in touch with Final Score throughout too.

The Love In My Heart surprised me nicely by heading over for a coffee and a chat, and that was rather lovely all round, very unexpected. It was good to catch up and chat and be able to give each other a few cuddles too (I have missed her lots really) and look forward to tomorrow, where it'll be a nice time had by us both I reckon. She was passing and felt that she'd feel bad if she didn't drop by, and so it was good to see her for sure. We both also were in the midst of ironing shed loads of stuff so for her it was a good break from all that!

I then settled in to watch the Tottenham v Bolton FA Cup game, and at first with two goals going in, one for each side, it was poised to be a proper cup tie with no quarter asked or given, and both sides playing good stuff and going for it. However, all that changed with a few minutes to go to half time as Fabrice Muamba, the Bolton midfielder, collapsed on the pitch. There was no one around him, no challenge, no nothing. Straight away when the players noticed it looked bad, and as the camera moved out of shot and towards the players, you could see that they wanted the stretcher on right away.

The next minutes or so were uncomfortable viewing, with ESPN sensibly moving away from the situation and panning around the crowd and the players not close by, who were clearly aghast at what was going on, as was I. It didn't seem right somehow and as the stretcher was on along with all sorts of medical staff, you had to wonder how serious it was and everyone was just worried sick. Muamba went off on a stretcher and towards a waiting ambulance, and the referee Howard Webb took the players off. Soon after the sensible decision to abandon the game took place - I don't think anyone would have been in the mood to carry on after that.

As the evening went on, I kept my eye on BBC News 24 to see if there was any good news to come from the hospital. A statement was made around 9.30pm saying that Muamba is in a critically ill condition and that there'd be nothing else given at this time. Everyone is obviously thinking about him - players from many clubs have tweeted their best wishes for him to get well (including a few City players) and I'm sure that many of us fans are thinking the same tonight. When you have something like this happen you put all sorts of rivalries to one side and just be together as football fans, hoping that he'll pull through. Fingers crossed for Fabrice.

Friday 16th March - TV or not TV, That Is The Question

We had a bit of fun and games in the office today looking at an Apple TV device. In theory it's supposed to allow you to connect to it with your iPad or iPhone and either mirror the display of your iPad on the AppleTV (connected via HDMI to a projector or TV) or stream content from your Mac or PC running iTunes as well. In theory it's a pretty nice devide, but in practice and in my view it's much more suited for home networks where you're connected to your broadband router on the same wireless network and subnet.

Certainly when testing it, using our wireless network was fine, but the AppleTV device wasn't allowing the iPads to connect to it and in the iPad menus, there was no option to connect like there was on iTunes. As a test I plugged in an old wireless router just to the mains and a test PC, ensured the wireless network was set correctly and once this was done and the AppleTV device connected, the iPads could then see it and be able to connect to it. That's how it should work but I suspect it's something to do with the network infrastructure and the wireless network that might prevent it from talking properly any other way.

A bit different, and more poring over an Excel spreadsheet today checking all the small applications people use and seeing if they actually will work on Windows 7. We even had all the software for a dictation machine that comes complete with a USB key to act as the software licence. The version did install on Windows 7 and a software update really did make it work rather well, so it was pleasing that it was another important one to cross off the list and that meant it was almost to the end of testing all the apps as well as compiling the main list I needed to do.

I had to also check the backup tapes out and swap them over for the next lot of backup runs (more so when I am off on leave so I know everything's working as it should). I got to the server room and discovered that the backup tape drive had been unplugged! I knew it was during today as I checked the backup logs this morning which showed that the backup was successful, meaning that something had happened during the day. Good job I went up there really and so all was soon well with that, meaning I could look forward to a week off!

Tune of the day is "YYZ" by Rush, which they named after the airport code for Toronto (true) and it's a rather epic instrumental that really showcases what the band are about in my eyes. It also reminded me of today's first round of Pointless, where you were given a three letter airport code and had to name the city that the airport was. Most of them were pretty easy but not that many people knew that CDG was Paris (Charles de Gaulle you see) and that RIX was Riga in Latvia either, so some surprises in there I reckon. And the returning pairs' curse was finally broken today, happy days there!

Thursday 15th March - Hart-break

It was a busy day at work today (again) as I had plenty to do in terms of covering for my manager at a course commitee meeting, which he asked me to do because it clashed wth both a course he was on and another meeting that he had to go to, and I didn't mind that as it gained me some more experience, always a good thing. It was good to be able to attend and speak with quite a few of the staff there, and earlier in the day I'd been invited along to a small get together from our Residential Services team, who were celebrating their move in (and very kind of them to ask me along too, much appreciated!)

The day was done and it was time to head home, and the traffic seemed a little busy already, I guess that some people were heading straight from work to the Etihad Stadium to soak in the pre-match atmosphere for Manchester City v Sporting Lisbon, which I was off to later. My friend came over later on and we headed towards the ground, and although the roads seemed a little quieter than normal, it was still busyish when we got there, and after a well earned cuppa at The Love In My Heart's place, it was time to head over and see if we could overturn the 1-0 first leg defecit.

The game started and although we did at least look promising, the danger was being caught on the break and Sporting looked decent on the ball. They'd brought several fans too, some of them were in the stand opposite us, not normally where you'd see the away fans going, but there you go. They got a free kick and buried it for 1-0 after a needless foul was given away, so 2-0 down on aggregate. I felt that City needed to score before half time, but a goal went the other way as some poor defending let in the wonderfully named Ricky van Wolkswinkle to score and make it 3-0 on aggregate, a mountain to climb. At half time the boos from the City fans were all you needed to know - it was poor.

Out City came for the second half, and once Edin Džeko came on, we looked a revitalised side, and all of a sudden we started to believe in ourselves. A lovely pass from Yaya Toure found Sergio Agüero who buried it home, so 2-1 down on the night, 3-1 down on aggregate. The game ebbed and flowed a bit more, we brought on Samir Nasri for David Silva and it all looked a bit more together. The ball was played to Agüero who went down inside the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. Only one man was going to take the penalty of course, and that was Mario Balotelli. Why always him? Because he scores without problem, and so 2-2 on the night, 3-2 down on aggregate. Due to the away goals rule we still needed to score two more.

A few minutes later and a corner came over, whipped in from the left by Aleksandar Kolarov. Džeko got a head to it and it glanced to Agüero, who pounced on the ball and slotted it home. So at least we were winning on the night now, but knew we needed one more. The fans got behind the team, the whole place lifted and I kept thinking "Come on. Please. One more goal, that's all we can ask for." Balotelli came close with a header and as stoppage time carried on and with Sporting trying all they could to waste time, it looked like we needed a miracle of some sorts.

And we very very nearly got one. Joe Hart, the City keeper, went up for the corner with everyone else and although he didn't get a touch, Nigel de Jong kept the ball alive and floated a lovely cross in, Hart spotted where it was going and headed only for the Sporting keeper to pull off an excellent save which meant the deflection also just avoided Džeko to make it the winner too. Alas, then, out on away goals, but at least I kept thinking that we went out with some pride. The most frustrating thing was knowing if we'd played that way over the two legs we would have gone through to the quarter finals, but not to be.

Tune of the day in the meantime is pretty typical of how most City fans were feeling after the final whistle: "Disappointed" by Morrissey. It's just the sort of song that sums up the feeling perfectly with its slightly downtrodden feel, and where you can really feel the gritty Northern-ness of it all come through. And of course it has a great ending: "This is the last song I will ever sing, no, I've changed my mind again..." which sometimes is how you feel when you've got behind the lads but then realise you still need to back them for the next game, which is what we need to do!

Wednesday 14th March - Testing, Testing, One, Two, Seven

Another day at the office which involved plenty of testing, and that proved to be rather good all round. Not least because the testing was getting to be much more easier as the day went on. One of the things I needed to test was the NBS Building programme that a couple of our Capital Projects people use for building design information. It thankfully installed first go without any issues and ran perfectly in a Windows 7 environment, so that was good. Also, I found out that there were some applications which needed individual serial numbers, so no point even bothering to package them up.

What was also worthwhile for me today was that I spent some time checking over the main extra applications and what their versions would be that might then get it to work in Windows 7. Effectively those who have any Adobe licences for CS3 or below, well they won't work, and that would then mean that they would either need to upgrade to the latest release or if they didn't need it, then it's a case of not going ahead with it. There's been plenty of testing by me and that's proved to be invaluable, and no doubt over the next two days I'll do what I can before having a well earned week off.

I headed home from work later and had to head to Asda to get some bits of food in, and then went home to do some exercise on the trusty Wii Fit. This time around it was time for some 3 Daft Monkeys on the CD player and their album "Social Vertigo", which is pretty good to try and do some muscle-based exercises to. I do think that music is helping my concentration somewhat and so I'll make "Paranoid Big Brother" tune of the day as a result. It really does get the album off to a cracking start and get you motivated.

I then did some catch up with the recrodings on my Humax Freeview HD box. First off, the second day of the Cheltenham Festival of horse racing, and that proved to be quite controversial during the Queen Mother Champion Chase, as confusion seemed to be about if they were going to jump the last fence or not. To me, it was shameful how the stewards behaved and the clerk of the course in charge really came across as quite arrogant when interviewed by Channel 4 later in the afternoon.

It was then a case of watching the new series of CSI, as the first episode of the new series was on Channel 5 last night. I'd recorded it as it's not the sort of thing that The Love is into really, and so it allowed me to watch it at a more convenient time. It at first seemed rather strange that Ted Danson would be the lead investigator person, especially as I used to watch Cheers back in the day. But the opener certainly showed signs of part of the character's quirkiness, a bit less perhaps than William Petersen's "Grissom" but still, and the fire with Stokes and Willows showed how passionate they were about the job still. I guess it'll grow on me more again now that Lawrence Fishburne has left - didn't like his character that much (and Fishburne is a very good actor, I have to say that) so I lost interest a little.

Tuesday 13th March - Green is Go!

Today at work was a continuation of the work I was doing yesterday in terms of checking over which software would work with Windows 7 and which wouldn't. In fact I emailed one of the staff about the piece of software I was having issues with yesterday, and they admitted that they knew that they would have to look at updating it - but it's not as easy. The main program controls a web-based database, so the back end side of it would have to be upgraded, and once that's done it's then a case of having to round and update the client end to get it all to work. I did obtain a download link for the latest release so I could run that standalone and test it, and that worked very well indeed.

I also thought of a cunning plan, and one which means that it makes life easier. As I'm testing things out, I'm updating a master Excel spreadsheet which I can refer to so that we know which software works correctly on Windows 7 and which doesn't. Looking at Yes and Nos can be a little bit intimidating, but what if I colour coded it? Say red for No, green for Yes, for example. And this is where conditional formatting comes in. In effect you define a couple of conditions, so that if a cell is Yes you colour it green, and if no, red. It's improved a lot since the days of Excel XP where it worked fine, and it's much more efficient at what it does. It's a really useful tool to have and means now that once I type the value in, the colour changes. Easy peasy.

I felt pleased with that and even more pleased when the staff newsletter was delivered via email in the afternoon and I noticed that two of the articles that I'd written appeared in there, so that was all rather lovely. The good thing was that it didn't need any editing of what I wrote, so that meant that I explained things in a non-technical way but also that was very readable and not boring whatsoever, so that's good as far as I can see. I also had a meeting with my manager which went pretty well I think, and it looked to me like I'd achieved a lot of what I set out to do in the last year, so that definitely meant less pain all round.

I arrived home and did a few chores as well as my usual Wii Fit session, this time listening to some Metallica as I was doing the warmup exercises. You wouldn't think that metal and yoga would work maybe, but if you're listening to the likes of "Nothing Else Matters" then you'd actually find that it would work really well and that it's a case of just taking it all in and enjoying the moment. "The Unforgiven" from the Black Album would work just as well in that context as well it's a much more slower melodic piece. Mind you, "Enter Sandman" to rhythm boxing? Oh yes, I can see that one working very nicely indeed!

The Love In My Heart came over later and we had some tagliatelle carbonara for tea, along with some garlic bread which just hit the spot, especially as I did it extra crispy for The Love, which she adores. It was nice just to chat about our respective days and then it was out with the Scrabble, and I had a pint of the Elbow "Build a Rocket Boys" beer whilst listening to the album of the same name. With me gazing longingly into The Love's eyes during play, what more could I want? Well, to be fair, The Love won and won very well indeed it has to be said. She made some killer moves and really did play well, showing some tactical and dictionary nouse, with TRIAGE on triple word being an example of her instincts.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Jesus is a Rochdale Girl" from Elbow's album as mentioned above. It's quite under-rated compared to, for example, the opener "The Birds" but it just says a lot to me what the band are about, writing great songs with thoughtful lyrics and some beautiful music. I suspect next time we play Scrabble The Love might be asking for this album to be played if it means that she wins with it. Maybe I need to try and slip some metal in there that I really like next time though!!

Monday 12th March - Peaches, Regalia and Manic Monday

It was a pretty busy day of sorts today. Not necessarily because I was running around either, but I was doing lots of background work with regards to the eventual rollout of Windows 7 for staff machines. We had a very large spreadsheet sent to us which featured all the software installed on all the PCs under our campus remit, so we could take a look and see what was the most common pieces of software. The idea behind that was that we would be able to package the software up and get that all up and running without issues, and also see from that list which would actually work or not in Windows 7.

Straight away I noticed that the list included all the standard build stuff that a) we're licenced for and b) on our default build anyway, so for those there was no point whatsoever in having a list full of the likes of Microsoft Word, because it's going to be on the standard image anyway, and that trimmed the list. I also noticed that it included the software for student PCs on there, but as they're already Windows 7 all the software on there is pretty much packaged, so that made perfect sense to me to be honest.

I tried out one of them - which was Bizagi Process Modeller. The standard version is freeware and by the looks of the spreadsheet, a few machines had it on. Having checked the installer executable, it's actually an InstallShield executable which inside lies a nice Microsoft MSI Windows Installer. Simple really, I simply ran the setup with /a to pretend to do an admin installer, got the MSI out that way with all the files, and from then setting up the package etc was rather easy to say the least.

However it got to another piece of software that we have, and I thought "I'll see if it actually installs on Windows 7 before packaging, as I think it might not work" and in true Gene Hunt tradition, my hunch was spot on - it didn't work. It got almost to the end of install and then rolled everything back and spectacularly failed. I tried twice just in case it was me, but sure enough it was an epic failure there. I suspect that later versions (and confirmed via Microsoft) of the software do run on Windows 7, so I need to send a firm but polite email tomorrow. Oh, joy!

I got home and decided to see if I could find if the original LP version of Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats" had been reissued on CD without any remixing or anything like that. I didn't find a single CD, but what I did find, I wish I'd found a couple of years back when it was released - a nice reissue of the original LP on either 140gram or 200gram heavy vinyl, and those who own it have said that it's effectively the same as the original, and all nicely cleaned from the original master tapes. It didn't take me long to find somewhere that had it on a blog, and so I checked it out. Yep, it's the original vinyl version - recorded from this reissue and uploaded as nice FLAC files. Hurrah!

Listening to those showed that the original spirit of the album had been kept intact, the missing lead near the end of "Little Umbrellas" for example, a clear sign of knowing if it was, along with the ending of the superb "Peaches en Regalia" as well, which has to be with certain instruments, and it was. Tune of the day for that one obviously, because it's such a brilliant piece of instrumental work anyway and one that most people know about even if they don't necessarily know who Frank Zappa actually is. I saw how much that Classic Records vinyl reissue was, and although very tempting, I skipped it for now. But who knows? Maybe in the future....

Sunday 11th March - Middlewood Birthday Way

It was a leisurely moning had by myself and The Love In My Heart, and it was punctuated by a phone call from Mum - she was doing a small spread of sandwiches etc for my brother's birthday later and had asked us to come along. We then knew we had to plan that a little into the day we had, so that was fine, at least we knew now and that'd mean not eating too much during the day. We had decided though that it would be nice to take a walk out and go somewhere different today, so we plumped for part of the Middlewood Way.

The Love very kindly drove up to Rose Hill Marple station, where there was plenty of parking close by to the start of the Way (obviously for people with bicycles etc) and so we started to walk down. The plan was to walk so far and then turn round and walk back, although if we didn't have the car, we could have started at Rose Hill, gone to Middlewood or Higher Poynton and got the bus back from there, but no worries. It was nice to see so many people out on their bikes, or with their dogs, and even a few people on horseback as well, and even a beaver scout group who was doing part of the walk as well.

We got as far as High Lane's former railway station, about two miles down the Way before heading back, which meant we'd cover around four miles, not too bad at all. It was good to walk back down the opposite direction because you get to see different landscapes in the distance that are always behind you when you walk - so good to spot them. It was pretty energetic stuff, and it at least meant that we'd had a good bit of exercise. I must admit that my legs now do feel a little on the sore side, but nonetheless good to go.

We went back to my place for a little while and indulged in a game of Scrabble whilst having on Air's "Moon Safari" album on, which I'd not played for a while. The Love recognised "Sexy Boy" because it was also used on some adverts, but for me that's not even the strongest song on the album - for me it's the opener "La femme d'argent" which set the scene perfectly with lots of cute ambient hooks mixed with some funky sounds - so tune of the day was a good decision for that one.

It was off to Mum's then and she had put on more than a few sandwiches - cheese with crackers, sausage rolls, salad, all sorts, and even some crisps etc. So it was a good job that I didn't eat much during the day to be honest and we tucked in to that with most of the family there. I'd given my brother his birthday card last night, but as it was his birthday today it was nice to surprise him with a little something I'd done earlier in the day - a recording from my original vinyl LP release to CD of Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats" album.

I know what you're thinking - but the album's out on CD anyway! Ah, not so fast, music lovers. You see, when the CD was issued of the album it was remixed, with lots of different parts added and the original effectively played with so that different instruments were up front etc, and for some purists it's not quite the same as listening to the vinyl release. I can see the point of that, and so with my Bush MTT-1 turntable which has an inbuilt phono preamp, I connected it to the PC's line in, and recorded both sides of vinyl, did a bit of editing with Nero Wave Editor and came out with six wave files to record to CD. Yaay. Good fun to do, and my brother certainly appreciated it - and we had a good do later too, so all was good!

Saturday 10th March - One L Of A Party

It was a pretty quiet day really, mainly because I'd spent a fair bit of time this morning giving the house a good Spring (ish) clean. There were just a few things I needed to do and thought that as time was on my hands a little today, I'd go and get things done. It worked out pretty well really, especially as I realised half way through that I'd ran out of those excellent dusting cloths and also some sponge scourers for the kitchen, so it was a dash to Tesco to get them and then continue onwards with what I needed to do.

However, I managed to get everything done in time for Football Focus, and with a good reason. There was an exclusive interview with Mario Balotelli done by Noel Gallagher, and overall it was a really insightful yet also fun interview too - and you could clearly see that Mario was relaxed in the presence of Noel. It also put a lot of the media stories and myths to bed, in that he didn't drive around the city dressed as Santa, nor did he go to a school with a child who was playing truant to sort the bullies out. What was true though was that he went to John Lewis for an ironing board, and came back with a quad bike and a trampoline. Noel so wanted it to be true (very rock and roll I suspect) and it was. Hurrah!

I spent the rest of the afternoon watching the racing on Channel 4, and was a touch disappointed to find that there was only one race over the jumps at Sandown Park, which is a pretty good test (especially the Railway fences, as they're so close together) but kept up to date with the football results on Final Score, and that seemed to be doing the job rather well - not least the banter between Robbie Savage and Mark Bright, which was pretty funny all round to be honest. I really enjoyed that!

Later on The Love In My Heart came over, and we had a coffee and relaxed for a little while, and I kept an eye on the Everton v Tottenham game on ESPN before we got ourselves ready to go out. One of the relations of the family (mainly on the other side that we don't usually see) was having a 40th birthday do at the Northern Lawn Tennis Club, and so had invited a fair few of us to come along. Some people were going in fancy dress (it had to be beginning with the letter L because the relation's name started with L) but it was optional, and to be honest, I don't do fancy dress and neither does The Love.

The location of the place meant that we could get the bus from my place pretty much straight there, and it was easy enough to do that - the driver was content with completely pegging it really fast there as well, so no complaints overall. We got there in good time and there were quite a few people there - I didn't know everyone but knew enough people to be able to relax and chat a fair bit, and later on Mum, my brother, my two sisters and their partners came along, so it was good that we could all have a natter there. Plenty of people had ideas for the letter L, loads came as Luigi from the Mario Bros, three were ladybirds (including one of my sisters) and Mum even went as Lulu.

It wasn't too bad in terms of the fact that the bar even had Landlord on cask (woo!) and that it wasn't expensive in terms of getting a drink at the bar either. There was also some food laid on with some very nice lasagne and also some chilli and curry by the looks of it. We relaxed and had a table to sit and chat at, and later on there was even a singer who was belting out all sorts of disco songs including "Disco Inferno" by The Trammps, quite poignant considering that Jimmy Ellis the lead singer had died a couple of days before, so tune of the day there - it did get some people on the dance floor that one.

It was pretty good all round really, and we left in just enough time to get the last bus back to mine, and so we could relax and chill out a bit before heading for bed, but it was good to have made the effort to get out there, and I'm sure that there'll be plenty to celebrate for my relation - she was really pleased to have so many of us there and that was nice. It was good though to be home and to just chatter to The Love before sleep - we'd had a nice time but it's good sometimes to have that wind down sort of moment.

Friday 9th March - 3D Or Not 3D, That Is The Question

There are times when I really enjoy the job that I do and get to try out some new things and work with staff to ensure that we've got things set up properly. Today was one of those times. I'd been asked to get a PC imaged and ready with our standard student build plus a couple of other bits of software, and then when we got the PC there we'd be setting up the small Denford 3D printer so we could try it out and see what it did. I had to patch the new network socket as well so this meant that in effect that the PC would be able to log in to the network and be operable happily.

Once that was done, I set up the Denford 3D printer with their Up! software and it was pretty easy - I installed the software first, then installed the printer drivers from where the software was installed, and Windows 7 happily talked to it, so that was good. However, I noticed that there was also a very large box next to that, and this happened to be the printer that I thought they might have had delivered as well - the HP Designjet 3D colour printer. Okay, so it doesn't print in multiple colours, but it does allow you to have different coloured ABS plastics to make designs other than plain white or cream.

I soon realised that as the printer had no USB connectivity, only network, and that HP thankfully gave you a normal and a crossover network cable, it was a case of using my initiative, and I soon worked out what to do. The PC had a PCI slot, and I knew we had plenty of spare network cards, and so dug out a 3Com card, put that in the PC, configured it for a private networking IP, and then configured the printer's network setting for another networking IP which would be on the same subnet. I connected the crossover cable, installed the printer drivers and software, and it saw it. Hurrah, eh?

It was then a case of trying out the software to see how it works, and in effect it loads any 3D model file with the .STL extension (say for example if it was created in SolidWorks) and then generates a "pack" from that model. The good thing is that if you have multiple models with packs already made, then you can mix them into one master pack and so print more than one design at once on the printer, as long as it stays within the confines of the mounting plates, and the software's really good at spotting this.

After initialising the printer's firmware, loading the spools of material (one is support material which supports the model material, and you can then use a separate tank-based solution to remove the support material cleanly, leaving your model intact) and then checking the design in the software beforehand, we tried a test print out. It was scheduled to take one hour twenty five minutes and that's exactly the time taken, but we came out with a very nice gear part that really did look the business. It felt good to get it done and show what it can do and also what could be done with it as well. I might have to try this out myself and see what we can do!

After all that excitement, writing something for our internal newsletter was a different challenge but one well worth doing, and that got the creative juices flowing. I also had to stay behind late tonight as I needed to restore a file from one of our backup tapes as one of our staff called me to ask me a massive favour to get it back - and I knew it was something that they needed, so all was well and the restore worked wonders. It's great when stuff works and leaving for the weekend meant I could smile and look forward to it.

I went into the city centre as I needed to get a couple of things, and spent some time in the Virgin Money Lounge with a coffee and a watch of BBC News 24, which proved to be relaxing and a good wind down. Even better was meeting The Love In My Heart in Kro Piccadilly after she had finished work which meant a pint of Build a Rocket Boys for me and a glass of pinot grigio for her, and so we were able to chat and catch up on our respective days as well. It's always lovely to see her but I think it's special when it's a bit less expected, and as we left to go home afterwards I just ended up giving her a massive hug - cos she is so lovely and lovable. How lucky am I? Very, let me tell you.

The Love headed home and I headed off to Tesco before heading home myself, and it was a quick shop really - but all the better for doing it now. After watching the recording of tonight's Pointless I felt pretty smug that I would have got a pointless answer in the opening round (Morgan Freeman films) as I knew that the actor had starred in Chain Reaction with Keanu Reeves, a film I saw on telly aeons ago but got quite into late one night, and sometimes these little facts just stick with you - well it does for me anyway.

I then listened to some gorgeous surround audio discs to wind down for the evening. First up was the Super Audio CD (SACD) version of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" and listening to that whilst doing the Wii Fit exercises actually worked very well - it was relaxing enough in the opening for me to do the yoga with, and stepping along with Viv Stanshall's introductions to each instrument during the closing sections of part one worked a treat. Listening to the whole thing in 5.1 surround and with such a well placed mix really shows how complex a piece it actually is. The SACD version is pretty rare: around £70-80 new on Amazon now!

Another rare-ish surround audio disc followed, the DVD-Audio version of Queen's seminal "A Night At The Opera". Yes, it has Bohemian Rhapsody on it of course, but there's plenty of other great tracks on there, not least the playful "Seaside Rendezvous", the better single in my view "You're My Best Friend" but also perhaps most progressive of all, "The Prophet's Song" which really does sound epic and dramatic all at the same time. Tune of the day - an easy decision, notably with all the vocal echo parts in the middle, which in surround just is gorgeously good. Good luck in finding the DVD-Audio release now though...

Thursday 8th March - Sporting Chance

After a busy day at work it was good to head home and get myself ready for the evening's football. I'd invited some of my relations around to mine to watch Manchester City's first leg of their Europa League tie against Sporting Lisbon, and of course with it being away in Portugal I wasn't being there in person - that'll wait till the second leg at Fortress Etihad. After the way in which we despatched Porto in the last round, I was cautiously optimistic, but knew that every game was going to be difficult and that we needed to be on our game right from the start.

A minute or two after kick off, my uncle and two cousins headed over and we settled in to watch the game. It was quite frustrating during the first half as all the attacks were breaking down with a lack of cohesion and a lack of passing somewhat, and it just wasn't working out. Yaya Toure was a big miss, but what didn't help was that Vincent Kompany went off injured after a few minutes. Although Kolo Toure did a good job, having to play Gael Clichy at the un-natural position of right back was starting to show and a lot of Sporting's attacks were down the right hand side, so it would be interesting to see how that went on.

0-0 at half time was a relief as we could have been 1-0 down, but it didn't take long at the start of the second half for us to fall behind. A Sporting free kick was saved by Joe Hart, but it went straight to the Sporting defender Xandau, who after a first attempt cheekily backheeled it past Hart and Joleon Lescott and that was them one up. It wasn't the best of defending and it took us around ten minutes to recover, and they had a good chance to go 2-0 up but for an excellent Hart save. It wasn't pleasant viewing and I had a feeling that we might struggle.

At last with twenty minutes left on came Mario Balotelli for Edin Džeko, and the game changed somewhat, with Balotelli being involved in most of City's attacks. In fact he was constantly fouled by the Sporting defenders, earning free kicks in useful positions and giving us some chances to equalise. Aleksandar Kolarov was unlucky with a free kick, Balotelli hit the bar with a header from a corner that was so well directed, and it got a bit ugly at the end as Sergio Agüero was clearly stamped on. But 1-0 down wasn't a disaster, but does mean we really need to play our best side possible in the second leg and see what happens.

After the game The Love In My Heart came over, and whilst I indulged her with the soaps I ordered Pizza Hut delivery - not done it for ages and thought that it would be nice to do. I think she enjoyed her vegetable supreme and I had the BBQ Texas one, with tons of crispy bacon, chicken and a barbecue sauce base - much nicer than I thought it would be actually. We also watched the David Walliams swim down the Thames for Sport Relief and had fun spotting the celebs who were out in support, including Miranda Hart's rather disastrous attempt at making porridge to say the least.

I put on some Paul Weller and we settled in for a game of Scrabble, and so was the first time that we used the new dictionary to adjudicate the words as and when we needed to. It proved to be useful and we had a good game all round. I did do EX which also made AX and WE (and the X was on triple letter) for a massive 55 points all told, but all the other large letters came out very close to the end, which made scoring with them a tad tricky. We did have Paul's "Studio 150" album on which The Love adores, and his version of "Close To You" is rather lovely, so tune of the day was an easy decision really.

Wednesday 7th March - Catching Up

I had another busy day, and finished off the Toshiba laptop I was working on yesterday, and the testing pretty much concluded what I thought yesterday about the extra drivers - they needed to be installed separately and as part of a task sequence that works pretty well. I also realised that in fact you could specify in the task sequence a criteria to make sure that they'd only install if the manufacturer was Toshiba itself, so there's options to certainly narrow that down, so that's good, methinks.

I spent some time this afternoon getting to the bottom of why one of our AV units which controls a projector and other such equipment didn't work, and it seemed to have no power whatsoever. I checked the box and behind that a network cable plugs in, which then goes to a covered network socket which houses the rest of the trunked cable and a socket there, making it easier to trace for us. I fluked that socket and found out that it was on the wrong vLAN, hence it won't be looking to try and be controlled by the central AV controller. One quick call to have the socket switched over, and hey presto, on it comes. Hurrah indeed!

I also had to head home via Debenhams to pick up a present, and it was a present which I was so glad to order and get it at a good rate, as it's something that I really wanted to get The Love In My Heart for her birthday next month. She already knows what it is because it's something she spotted, tried on and really liked, so to be able to get it for less is a win win situation, and I know that when the time comes she will look rather lovely all round, so all good there. Interestingly, the PA was blaring out plenty of tunes and enticing people to come in and spend, but hey, I had two days online preview before their 25% off sale went live in the store. Epic win.

I got home and after doing a session on the trusty Wii Fit and having my tea, I did a fair bit of catch up telly. I had recorded the programme last night about Nicholas Hamilton, Lewis's brother, who was trying racing in the Renault Clio Cup that they have here in the UK. Nic, incase you wondered, has cerebal palsy, so he had the car modified in such a way so that the seating position was right and that he could use his leg in a different way for the accelerator and brake, and it showed that he was pretty gutsy, not least after a pretty bad crash that he had earlier in the season. It was nice too to feature on him more and even though Lewis was there, it was in support and not distracting from his brother, really good to see.

I also had a package that arrived when I got home, a CD I ordered at the back end of last week. A few years back one of the best Commodore 64 musicians Richard Joseph passed away, and I knew that before he became a computer musician that he had his own progressive rock past, featuring in the band CMU (Contemporary Music Unit) and their second album "Space Cabaret". I'd only been able to get it as part of a CD reissue of both CMU albums, but much nicer to get it on its own and with the original artwork. Of course it was reissued again a little while back by Esteoric Records, so one order later and it was mine.

And so is it better than the 1993 CD 2 on 1 issue? Definitely. It sounds like it's been remastered properly and has a much more accessible sound in the mix, as well as having the tracks in full (the opening track appeared to have been edited out a smidge in the 1993 issue). On top of that, the "Heart of the Sun" single along with the alternate version of "Doctor, Am I Normal?" that was on the B-side appear as extra tracks. The booklet also has the original lyrics and pictures of the band from the original album reproduced rather well, and it just had to be played in full to enjoy the progressive rock sound.

Needless to say it really did evoke memories of listening to it years ago, and that tracking down an original vinyl copy is pretty hard (and expensive too, we're talking around £100 for a copy of it!) so the CD is the next best thing, really. And "Archway 272" really does set the tone ever so well for the whole album, especially the manic ending of the phone ringing in the head, it just works brilliantly, so tune of the day was an easy decision for me in the end. Well worth checking out if you fancy something different from the R&B crap the kids listen to today.

Tuesday 6th March - Black and White Porticos

I had a productive day of sorts today, as I was working on a laptop that needed a re-image with Windows 7, and as it was the first of that particular type that we had back for a re-image, it meant that I could spend some time with it getting a driver package working correctly, so that anyone else would be able to image the same laptop down and get it to work fine. In total, I found that there were three items that needed completely separate installers, and these could be done during or after the task sequencing progress. One was for the hotkeys, which thankfully Toshiba now label under their "Value Added Package", the second was for the hard disk protection shock sensor driver and utility, which you can install silently as long as you get the syntax right, and the other was for the Bluetooth (which common sense prevails and the same driver is used).

Upon imaging the laptop, even though Programs and Features had shown that the Bluetooth drivers had correctly installed, it wasn't till I pressed Fn and F8 together to toggle the wireless that I saw that you actually needed to toggle it so that wireless and Bluetooth was on (it's not by default). Once Bluetooth was enabled the driver kicked in and installed all the necessary Bluetooth components. Why it didn't do that in the first place, I have no idea, but at least I know what to do now and how to get it working, so that's at least a positive that I can take from that.

I also had a very positive outcome from a meeting with our Visual Resources person, who looks after a shed load of slides in a massive slide collection. A while ago they catalogued over 20,000 of them for the Design Council and made a massive Paradox database with the slide collection in there. As it's pretty important (and converting it would cost a lot to make it an Access-like one) I knew I needed to have it working under Windows 7 and under Paradox. Thankfully because I'd taken the initiative to MSI package Paradox 8 for Windows which we know works with the databases, that made it easier, and with the data copied to a test area that would replicate the user's shared drive once that moves, the tests we did all worked and the member of staff was happy to sign it off, so all good from our point of view.

I stayed behind a bit after work to sort out some mailing list issues, and then I walked up to meet The Sparkle In My Eye after work. We were heading into the city centre, notably the Portico Library where one of my friends from Flickr was having an opening night of an exhibition in there. I've never been in the place but apparently it's a lovely building so it was a two in one night really - see the building and see the photos. Of course with the photos mainly in black and white but with plenty of grittiness, they looked very good indeed, and one of the other photographers lived near me so I was able to spot their stuff a mile off due to the locations used (many of which were close to me) so that was good too.

The building really is stunning, the circular ceiling roof glass lets in lots of light during the day, and the bookshelves with the old books around the outside really do give the place plenty of history, and well worth a visit just to have a mooch around if nothing else. It was good to see an exhibition of pictures in this way and I think it definitely gives me some ideas for the future if I ever thought about doing something similar - maybe, we shall see. I felt inspired though and especially when we stumbled upon the members' area at the back where they get served posh cuppas etc. Oh yes.

We then headed to The Gateway in Parrs Wood for some tea - it was steak night and so this meant a decent grill meal and a drink for a mere £6.59, so a mixed grill and pint of the very nice Bruins Ruin it was for me, and The Sparkle had some fish, chips and mushy peas too, and that looked good. It was good to chat and relax for a bit and be able to just slow down after the busy week for us both thus far. I think when The Sparkle is really relaxed and smiles it's such a beautiful thing. Honestly, it is, and that makes me feel very happy too, and why the hell not?

We got back to mine, and I'd dug out the AA guide book to Nice that proved pretty useful when we went there last September and no doubt will do so again when we head back there in May for our holiday. What I didn't realise was that I still had one of the little paper tissues you get with your ice cream at Fenocchio's, and that made me think of all that yummy ice cream, and also Jonathan Richman's "Ice Cream Man" which I played later after The Sparkle went home, so tune of the day that most certainly is. It also gave us both some ideas about when we go!

Monday 5th March - The Cold Ides of March

I thought March might have tried to look a bit more Spring-like, but it certainly didn't feel like that in the morning, that's for sure. It felt rather cold and rather windy all round, and I'm sure that all that nice weather we had at the back end of last week was just an illusion of some sorts. It was looking pretty draughty out there and sure enough as I headed towards work you could see it wasn't going to be the day for heading out if you could help it, although I did have to in the afternoon.

Now that some of the staff have effectively moved from their old office to their new place, and that all the IT side of it is all up and running, and very much sorted for them, then I needed to make sure that their old office was completely clear of anything IT-related where possible. Obviously there's plans afoot for what was the old office, so best to make sure that there's nothing there. I took our large cage trolley over which meant that I could load it up with plenty of monitors and four desktops, which were pretty decent spec and so this meant that we could re-use them in some way, and I had plenty of ideas.

I also spent some time working on packaging up Autodesk DWG Trueview 2012 for deployment. For Windows 7, the MSI of the Trueview itself (located within the install package) worked fine as often you'd have installed .NET Framework 4 first and using SCCM, that worked fine. However not the same in Windows XP because of so many dependencies, and they're in the full installer package. Doing a setup /q supposedly sorts that out from the main package (you do still need NET Framework first though) so I'll have to try and test that on an XP rig at some point.

I headed into the city centre on the way home as I went to Waterstones to collect the book I ordered - the new edition of the Scrabble dictionary. Online, Waterstones matched the price of Amazon, and of course, I get cash back from Waterstones via Top Cashback, so no brainer really. The staff were lovely in there and took the time to check all their deliveries they had to locate the book, and so I soon headed home with the dictionary in hand. The plan will be to give The Love In My Heart the first version of the dictionary then we've got something at hers if we play Scrabble there, and use the new one here.

Having a quick browse through, there's plenty of words which are handy if you have a Q without no vowels, such as FIQH (which means Islamic jurisprudence) and also QIN (which is something Chinese if I remember correctly) which are new to this revision. Oh, and apparently you can now also have facebook as a verb - oh joy bloody joy. But still, it's an invaluable aid when playing to settle any issues with words and it also effectively means that you've got armament with the official proper word list!

Tune of the day in the meantime is "The Bay" by Metronomy from their album "The English Riviera". With the weather not looking too handy, being able to escape to sunnier climes in this song is just the thing to do, and with its lovely bass and synth hooks, along with the rather neat almost dancey feel to it, it goes to show that when you write a decent song that people will get wind of it and soon realise the geniuses that are behind it. I'd be playing it if I were DJing any disco anytime soon anyway...

Sunday 4th March - Walking in the Wind

The weather didn't look that clever during the morning, and we pottered around the house, with me making some croissants and coffee to get us in the right mood before we decided what we were going to do. The rain was pretty incessant and whilst The Sparkle In My Eye was getting herself ready, the Newcastle v Sunderland game was on ESPN so I watched that for a bit. I looked every single bit like a derby game in terms of the tackling that was going in, and I'm sure a red card would be brandished at some point, and just before we headed out, Stephane Sessegnon didn't let me down with a sending off.

We decided to head out for a walk to Fletcher Moss Gardens in Didsbury, and thankfully the earlier rain had helf off. It did look a tad on the windy side though, so we decided to head on the path towards the river, and then follow the Mersey Valley Health Walk which takes you around a large field that sometimes gets used as a flood basin for the River Mersey to stop local homes being flooded. It was also interesting to note that they had some large gates now in position that will be closed to pedestrians when the paths aren't safe to walk, which to me makes perfect sense.

I have to say though that it was rather windy all round, and I suspect that the bad weather might have been the reason why so many people were getting a warming coffee at the Alpine Tea Rooms. I'd have done as well had it not been so busy, but we thought of a Plan B, and so after heading back on a further walk to The Sparkle's car, we were originally going to head to The Didsbury around the corner but that was busy, so it was a short trip down towards Cheadle and to the Ashlea, which was quieter and cosier too.

In fact we headed to the downstairs bar, which was quite snug and cosy with the real fire on, and I got a coffee and The Sparkle a wine, and we settled in and had a chat and noticed that they had a bookshelf where you could pick a book and read it in the pub, which sounded fab, along with a book amnesty, where you could drop a book off and take one from the shelves as a swap, which sounded like a good idea to me - although everyone seemed to be leaving Jeffrey Archer novels for some reason. Mind you, the music in the pub was unobtrusive and did include Seth Lakeman's "Band of Gold", a track which The Sparkle loves to bits - so tune of the day was an easy decision.

It was then back home and to the warm house where a good game of Scrabble ensued. In fact The Sparkle pulled off some great moves, including KILN on triple word (and K on double letter, blank used as I) for 36, and later on JESTED also making DARES for a massive 48 points too - very well done I thought. Her score was very good indeed, and it shows how much she's getting better at it every time. Hopefully the newer edition of the Scrabble dictionary will arrive soon, so we can try and make use of that to settle any word debates!

Saturday 3rd March - Fourteen on the Bounce

It was a busy(ish) Saturday of sorts, as I'd thankfully got any bitty stuff sorted last night, which meant I could spend a bit of time this morning heading around the city centre. The main thing was to get my brother a gift card for a certain music store in the city centre, as that's what he wants for his birthday. I also went into Waterstones as I'd had an email that the book I ordered was supposedly delivered to the store, but they didn't have it. I did notice though that they were starting to stock more board game related items which was pretty good, even the likes of little pocket travel sets of the likes of Scrabble and Cluedo. Woo, nice!

I headed into Fopp and had a good mooch in there whilst I had the time, and ended up with a bit of a Depeche Mode session to listen to later. I picked up one of their most recent albums "Sounds of the Universe" which was the CD and DVD set for a mere £3, and also the CD and DVD re-issue of their "Some Great Reward" album. It's one of the early DM albums that I don't have, and the DVD has a great 5.1 surround mix of the original album. Certainly later on listening to "Master and Servant" in that format was rather awesome all round, so that's going to be tune of the day. I even chilled with coffee in the Virgin Money Lounge as well, which was well worth doing (well it is free for me so why not?)

Later on my friend came over and we headed off towards Fortress Etihad, as Manchester City were up against Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League, with that rarest of rare things for City, a 3pm Saturday kick off. Well, I never! Bolton brought more fans than Blackburn, but still to be honest not that many considering the short distance they've got to travel. Maybe it's also a sign of the times that we're charging too much for some away fans too?

Anyway, City kicked off and we could have been around three up in the first ten minutes, with Mario Balotelli forcing some good saves from Adam Bogdan in the Bolton goal, and a couple of other chanes went wide. It made me think it might not be our day, but then I remembered that we were at home and that we don't generally lose at home in the league whatsoever. Sure enough a goal came but from the most unlikely of sources really - a shot from Gael Clichy which took a wicked deflection off the Bolton defender and past Bogdan into the net. Nothing the keeper could do, but I'll take a shot from distance any time if it goes in, and so 1-0 to City. The Bolton midfielder on loan from Arsenal did test Joe Hart with a good shot, but Hart was equal to it - thankfully.

The second half started with Balotelli almost making it 2-0 within the first minute and he had other chances to finish the game off. At 1-0 I wasn't too happy just in case we were planning to concede one, but in the end I needn't have worried. Adam Johnson cut in from the right and kept possession really well before he went to the byline, backheeled it into the path of Balotelli who doesn't miss from there, and it was an easy second goal. City had brought on Edin Džeko for more cutting edge and he almost scored late on but for the brilliance of Bogdan, he was their man of the match by a massive distance and really did keep the score down.

So 2-0 it was then, and City fans were singing to Bolton "Championship, championship, you are coming, you are coming at the end of May" and even though they gave a pretty spirited performace, they've been in the doldrums for most of the season. The dream's gone a bit sour for their manager Owen Coyle, although I'm sure Burnley fans are actually quite pleased at Bolton's malaise at the moment. It was easy enough for City though, and that's fourteen out of fourteen this season in the Premier League at Fortress Etihad, the most consecutive home wins from the start of the season by any Premier League team ever, so that's good as far as I'm concerned.

Later on I cooked The Sparkle In My Eye and I some lovely food for tea, starting with a mushroom soup with crusty bread, followed by medallions of steak with chips and peas, along with this really posh raspberry roulade for dessert, which was really tangy and crisp and lovely, and plenty of that was good to have. I even had one of my Build A Rocket Boys ales that I got yesterday (far too nice let me tell you) and we snuggled up watching the Lottery game show and later on then having a good game of Scrabble, and before long it was time to head to bed and sleep.

Friday 2nd March - Mission Accomplished

Well, today was the day where everything finally came together and that the first major move to the new building is all complete - with all their IT type stuff working. And thankfully it meant that I could get it all playing ball happily. First off, the printer needed configuring so I remembered how to change the IP address if you can't access the printer control panel - simply put your laptop in the same subnet as the printer, connect to it via crossover cable and then make sure that you can see the jetdirect web page via the printer's IP. You then change the IP to the correct IP you need, hook the printer to the network, and off you go.

This worked fine, and once I got all the information together I spoke with our folks from the projects office, and it was of course my former team colleague so that meant of course that we could have a good chat as well and show that the job had been done professionally and properly. I'd also managed to get hold of the analogue to digital converters which mean that we can still use the likes of a fax machine and the machine that they use for card payments via our IP telephony system. In fact it was a good learning experience of how to work with the converters that are used - for two reasons.

The first of which is that often with faxes you normally get a cable with RJ11 at one end (like the one at the back of your broadband router) to a BT phone socket plug at the other. What this of course means is that you need a BT type socket in the converter box. And does it have one? Erm... no, it's RJ11 at that end too! Thankfully a bit of networking and speaking with the lovely ladies in our switchboard proved to be fruitful as they had some spare cables of exactly what I needed, and they worked properly too when I connected them. I got a test fax sent to the machine, and sent one back, and it all worked, and the card payment machine showed that it was online, so all good there.

One last thing to do was sort out the swipe card access to the doors, which hadn't been working for some reason. When myself and a colleague from our Networks team located the network socket that's connected to the swipe card controller, we found out why - the network cable wasn't patched in at the cabinet end. That was soon sorted, and once it did that, all the controller's updates downloaded to it which meant that my card worked correctly and so then in theory would everyone else's as well. I was most pleased which meant that everything was done and I could effectively now hand it over. I did feel proud though because I knew that I had got there in the end. Hurrah!

I went home later and headed to Tesco to get the food shopping in. What I didn't expect was for them to have the Elbow "Build a Rocket Boys" beer in there, so naturally I had to be tempted to get a couple of bottles of that for my good self, and I'm sure that it would be rather good all round. I'll make "The Birds" from that album tune of the day as for me it'd seem perfect to listen to that whilst having the rather fine beer all round. Oh, and of course I should mention that the same band has sold out their night at Jodrell Bank later in the year, so that'd be a great gig to have got a ticket for.

I watched Pointless back on my Humax box as I'd recorded it from earlier, and found that there were five pointless answers in the first round, words that end in "ill". Far be it from me to suggest that the round was too easy, but even Richard Osman said that there were a ton of answers which were pointless. I would have won the head to head as I knew the picture of Julia Gillard being a low score in female world leaders, and also knew that the kids's character was Fantastic Mr Fox, amazingly a low score in there. How the mind does boggle sometimes...

Thursday 1st March - Onwards and Upwards

Another good and productive day all round really, and for many reasons. I spent a fair bit of time today over at our new building putting some finishing touches off to a couple of outstanding items ready for the big move tomorrow, and hopefully that'll all be good preparation. The printer is now in but it needs to talk to the network correctly in order that it'd communicate with the server, and the good thing is that all the backend stuff appears to be working as intended, which is a positive move all round. I've also got the remaining PCs over from the old office now so with the ones I got ready yesterday, we've got a full quota of ten in there ready to rock. Hurrah!

I also had a bit of a play with some beta software, and not just any old beta either - Adobe Creative Suite 6! Yes, it's not out for a few months but I've signed up to beta test it and primarily for a couple of reasons - so I can be sure that it'll deploy to PCs if we need to do any deployments, and also to make sure that it'll play properly on the kit we have, which is the most important thing of all. One good thing that came out of it was that Adobe currently use Adobe Application Manager, which you can package up the whole suite into one nifty MSI installer that does the job of distribution for you, and the current version also allowed me to do the CS6 beta. Nice.

In fact that worked well and I realised that Acrobat Pro X, included with the package, was missing - and this is because it packages it as a separate installer in the "exceptions" folder - so you have to install that individually. Intriguingly enough, I could then make an admin installer of that, add the latest patch in automatically and then use that for use with the Customisation Wizard X to make a good deployment of it. Quite cool really, and it does mean that deployment should be nice and easy if anyone decides to buy it and want an easy way of distributing things.

I also played with the applications in the suite, and was pleased to see that InDesign files can be exported to InDesign Markup Language, meaning that it'll work with CS4 upwards, allowing for backwards compatibility, whilst Illustrator can save its files as earlier versions (even way back to Illustrator 3 if you want) so that again allows for a bit of cross-version working if you need to do that. After all everyone doesn't always have the latest version and it's important that you can at least work with the right files if you need to. Photoshop though really does need a separate graphics adapter to cut it - the onboard Intel one that comes with the test rig isn't up to the complex stuff it needs - so something well worth noting there.

I arrived home later on and made a rather nice chorizo pasta bake for myself and The Sparkle In My Eye, who came over later to enjoy that with me and it was good to make us something lovely before we headed to see Mum and have a coffee there. Mum was still coming to terms with the death of Davy Jones - she is a big Monkees fan and so it did upset her a fair bit. I tried to be positive by saying that you should remember the good times and happiness that his music gave - and that at least she got to see them in concert last year in what inevitably will be their last ever tour, and she got her pic with the Monkeemobile too.

We got back and I explainedto The Sparkle how there's a special edition Mario Balotelli "why always me?" t-shirt designed by the folks at Umbro and Tinchy Stryder, who despite being a staunch Man Utd fan also seems to be a fan of Mario Balotelli for some reason. His band Ruff Sqwad released a song on an EP at the back end of last year simply called "Mario Balotelli" and even though he doesn't appear in the video, the samples of Roberto Mancini and Balotelli feature along with two football skills blokes in Man City shirts, the number 45 on the back (Balotelli's number at City) with the name Ruff Sqwad - class. Even though it's not my sort of music normally, it does kind of work, so tune of the day it is - and here's the accompanying video: