Dear Diary... November 2003

Thursday 27th November - From despair to where?

Why?

Why do I follow a football team that always lets you down when you expect them to go and to the business? Why do they insist on playing lethargic when urgency was needed? Why the hell was our best player, Shaun Wright-Phillips, substituted, and why wasn't Anelka even bloody trying (not least that one on one that he had). Why did we have to just go down with a whimper and not go down fighting? And why do we just not perform at the moment? And worst of all, why did we ever get rid of Shaun Goater?

I could ask a million questions about tonight's "performance" against Groclin in the UEFA Cup. Truth be told, we lost it at home where they got the vital away goal which proved to be enough for them to go through. Despite some of their "tactics" they worked hard and in truth kept us at bay pretty easily, also creating a few chances themselves tonight that had it not been for some good defending, we'd have lost. And that would argubaly have been even worse. Nonetheless, it makes me wonder at this time whether there's enough pride and passion in the City side or not. You wouldn't have seen the likes of The Goat give that sort of game a miss, he'd have been there passionate and up for it and more than that, he would have shown commitment. Something a lot of the players lacked big time. And considering Middlesbrough haven't even conceded a goal in the last three games, we really are suffering from European hangover (the first leg draw has seen us in freefall since) and it now becomes a massive game for us to try and get some pride back. I wouldn't have minded so much but I took the day off work to watch the game. Good job I took tomorrow off to recover my emotions a little but right now I just feel aggrieved and angry with most of the team that showed no pride in wearing the blue shirt of Manchester City, and that hurts a lot. A heck of a lot.

Enough of my rant for now. The week's been fairly hectic and work's been totally mad. In a way I'm glad I was off as well because sometimes you have one of those days where nothing goes right for you, and you feel frustrated. Sign of things to come, most likely. However at least now the standard XP build for academic staff is rolling outwards, and that's something. Just a shame that there's so many PCs to do. Most of them thankfully are just memory and hard disk upgrades, that realistically shouldn't take too long, but it depends on what extra software that they have installed - and that's what takes the time to be able to get things done. I suppose the start of next week is when it really kicks in, keeps us occupied in the run up to Christmas and all that.

And talking of which, only four weeks today it is. Thank heavens I've done my shopping, and due to the overtime and recent extra repair jobs for PCs I've been doing, that I'm now able to afford the Christmas present to myself, a nice sleek black Mission MS8AS active subwoofer. Ah yes. Well, I've ordered it, but the place I've ordered it from have none in stock so they're waiting a delivery from Mission at the moment. Once they get it, it'll be in despatch and fingers crossed I get it okay without any problems. I'm lucky in that my existing Pro Logic receiver supports subwoofer out, so I can get it for now and then when I eventually go for a Dolby Digital setup, all the speakers are there waiting for the rig to severely kick some ass. And when watching DVDs on a widescreen television, it really adds that extra something and makes the front room feel that little bit more comfortable and cinematic (not to mention of course dramatic too).

Sunday 23rd November - Rugby's coming home!

It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming, rugby's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming, rugby's coming home!

Yes, I am still going completely mental from yesterday's epic Rugby (union) World Cup final victory. I lost count of the number of times I'd got out of my chair, cheering the lads on, yelling at them to stop making so many handling errors, running around the room when Jason Robinson scored the try right on half time, or with my head in my hands when the Australians equalised with a penalty at the end of normal time. The emotions I felt during extra time were a right rollercoaster, and it was just so well set up by the team to let Jonny Wilkinson kick a drop goal right at the death and score the valuable points needed to take England to a heart-stopping, nerve jangling, yet deserved victory. It was a real Jekyll and Hyde performance in some ways, yet the lads kept on pushing and never, ever, gave up. Martin Johnson (whom some people call Neanderthal Man for obvious reasons) was immense as captain, he kept driving the team, winning the line outs and instilling the mental factor that they would not be beaten, and would not be denied. Not even by the Aussies, whom to be fair, did their best and played as well as they could, and any side who pushed us to the death in extra time has to be a very good team indeed.

A couple of things I noticed was that how much pride was shown by the lads - throughout the tournament. Every game when the anthem came on they all bellowed it out and sang it with pride - something the likes of some of the England football players should take note of (yes, Gary Neville, that means you - follow the example Beckham sets and sing it loud and proud). Not just that, although a pretty intense final yesterday, the referee was boss and the captains had to back down and respect his decisions, no matter what. Something that most sports these days should definitely take note of. Some of the decisions were tough to make but on the whole most of them were fair to me. And playing the right way, firm but fair, has to be something good.

Preparation was everything for England - they'd won the Six Nations Grand Slam and so set about world domination, and the fact they'd gone over to Australia and New Zealand to play those teams and come back with a morale boosting victory says it all. It gave them the upper hand as other teams knew that on the day England could beat anyone and deserved their World number one ranking that they have. It was a master stroke from the England coach Clive Woodward and made sure that come the World Cup, the mentality of winning was embellished on all the team. No matter if we didn't play that well, we ground out the results, and that sometimes is a truer test of the champions than anything else.

Now only if my beloved Manchester City could gain back some of that rather than lose 3-0 like we've been doing the last couple of games.. bah!

Wednesday 19th November - It's that fine rain, the one that soaks you through

Well, the last few days have been downright miserable weather-wise, and living up to Manchester's so-called reputation for repeatedly hammering it down with rain. It's grey. murky and very wet indeed. Not exactly the ideal conditions when you're off to finish off a job I was doing for one of my relations. Basically their PC in work developed a terminal fault in that the motherboard and processor had died. As most of the stuff was integrated on there, the challenge was to locate parts that didn't cost much but would still do the job, and then build it (which is what I did on Sunday). As the new motherboard and processor would require more power, it meant a better case too. Thank heavens one of my local PC retailers, Aria, are open Sunday and have stock at a price that's right. So we got the Elite K7SOM+ integrated motherboard with Duron 1300 processor on board, it also has onboard sound, graphics and network, and USB2, bonus! Then as we needed new memory, 256MB PC2100 DDR ram, and a nice little desktop case.

So there I was building it all and everything seemed fine (we'd taken the CD drive, floppy drive etc from the old PC) and we booted up. Everything was going okay, except we then realised as the hard disk was going into Scandisk and checking itself, we knew that was also on its way out as well. Back to get a 30GB Maxtor drive which did the job, and then I reinstalled all that it needed for their office, Windows 98 and Office 97, and that seemed fine. It was only when I got a call from my relative's works that I forgot to do one thing: enable the NetBEUI protocol so the small network's PCs could talk to each other (including his). Don't you just hate it when that happens? Mind you, he does now have the fastest PC in their office so he can boast a little bit.

I did get quite carried away with happiness when England beat France in the Rugby Union World Cup semi final. Although admittedly I'm much more of a league man (and a shame Britain lost narrowly against Australia - again!) it was good to see the French beaten in appalling weather conditions (so that's where we got it from this week). People are criticising England for being too reliant on the boots of Jonny Wilkinson but in those conditions running with the ball is hard, it's about gaining possession and using it, something we did well. I only hope it's a nice evening for the final against Australia so that we can attack and show them just what we can do. Must admit I'd be well chuffed if Man City nut Will Greenwood got the winning try as well, and kissed the England badge when he scored (reminds me of the day Clive Allen kissed the City badge after scoring against Notts County once). But I'll take a win and the world title. And I'm not jealous of my cousin and her husband who are over there probably savouring every moment, the lucky so and sos!

Went to the Trafford Centre last night to get some little bits for Christmas, and I must admit I won't be going there for a while if I can help it. Why? Well, the lack of fresh air is something that's only compounded by the fact that someone in the centre turned the heating on to around 90 degrees or something, so it was warm and stale air that I was taking in. Added to that the sheer amount of people who were just basically walking around with uncontrollable screaming children and there's your lot. I was relieved to get some fresh air outside whilst waiting for the bus back in to Manchester to be honest, not least because of the fact that the cookie places within the centre mixed with that air was making me feel a little queasy (and that takes a lot for me to do that). Not the sort of thing to do when you're probably going to eat out later this week. Ah well..

Wednesday 12th November - It's a wrap!

Well, a quiet week thus far really. I've been spending a bit of time catching up and wrapping all the Christmas presents I've bought people lately. Thankfully I bought way too much of it at Boots last year when it was 3 for 2 on the stuff, and had about a roll and a half left. So far, so good, it's proving to be more than enough for what I need it for, and added to the silver and white gift tags I picked up on my travels, it looks quite classy when people will be receiving their presents. It's much better to give than to receive anyway, not least when you see someone's face of happiness and joy when you see what you've got them and they really like it.

Been watching in more detail some of the extras on the Finding Nemo 2 Disc Collectors' Edition (check out my rave review) and mainly the making of the film. What fascinated me was that the people at Pixar have a great sense of humour, and so not to feel too far away from people in their newer plusher surroundings made it so that all the men at work had to grow the most ugly moustache, and all the females had to have lots of eyeblush, in whatever colour they liked, between the eyebrow and the eye itself. Everyone would visit their colleague to see if they've outdone each other, and at the same time get ideas for the film. It actually really worked well and you could see the sheer happiness on their faces when an audience saw an advance screening and they all loved it to bits (and not hard to see why, either, I should add). Oh, and I must confess I love pressing the bonus features button on the main menu and have the character Mr. Ray carry lots of fish and sing "Let's make a selection, a selection, a selection, make a selection on the DVD! Ooooohhhhh. Pick something." If you've seen the film you can imagine how that sounds like.

Anyhow, over the last few days this odd but yet compelling gameshow has grabbed my attention on Channel 5, called 19 Keys. Presented by disgraced ex-Blue Peter host Richard Bacon, it has four famous contestants trying to get as many general knowledge questions right over four rounds. In some rounds the questions are only one key each, but in others they can be anything from one to three keys. Get it wrong - lose the number of keys the question is worth. When the contestant gets to seven for the first time, they can either take two keys off one opponent or one off two of them. Now, on each contestant's display, the more keys that they have unlit, the less are lit so they have a better chance of knowing which of the 19 keys opens the vault to the charity cash. If they get up to 18 keys of course, one is left lit and they can open the vault. In fact, they can have a go at guessing the right key at any time by pressing their red buzzer, but if they get it wrong - game over! Phew! That's that explained. Oh, one more catch, in the first 15 minutes of the game, the money goes up by £500 per minute up to £7,500, then for the next three it goes down by £2,500 per minute! So timing and everything is crucial. Anyhow, the first one they had on this week were all Blue Peter presenters (oh, the sheer irony!) and no surprises that the brainbox himself Peter Purves won (well, when you see how thick Konnie Huq was in comparison, definitely so). He managed to get 18 keys so it was obvious which one was left lit was the one to win. And on Tuesday, magician Paul Daniels and wife Debbie McGee up against the coughing cheat Major Charles Ingram and his wife Diana. Charles was winning, but Paul pressed his button, guessed the right key and won! Now that's magic, hehe. Not a lot, but I liked it. It's on every day this week so catch it if you can. Much better than Richard bloody Whiteley on Countdown anyway...

Sunday 9th November - The magic of the cup

This weekend was the first round of the FA Cup, the cup competition in football. It's the oldest, and also one of the most magical, with shocks and upsets just part of the folklore. After all, how else would you explain a non-league team getting a draw against a Premiership side? Exactly. It's the great leveller, none more so today when I watched Accrington Stanley take on Huddersfield live on BBC1. I'd just got back from Stockport having managed to get another Christmas present sorted out, and made some lunch so it'd be ready just before the kick off, meaning I wasn't going to miss a thing. And a good job too - Huddersfield were rather harshly down to ten men due to an appalling refereeing decision, and to be fair, they did well to hold it to 0-0 right till stoppage time with the ten men they had. Then came the classic stoppage time killer blow as Andy Gouck scored a screamer and put them ahead with hardly any time left. Despite it being not that entertaining a game, the magic of the cup lives on as many non-league teams did their own feat of giant-killing, beating league opposition.

And if only we could have had the same passion today as City were just undone by Leicester City, who clearly wanted it more. No doubt that Paul Dickov, ex-City player would have had a grand reception, as he scored many vital goals for us when we were in the wilderness. And just to rub salt in the Man City wound he scored a penalty to make it 2-0 to Leicester, they were well on their way to an excellent 3-0 win for them, but we just lacked something. Quite just what I'm not sure about, but it seems to me that the City of Manchester Stadium is becoming more of a hindrance than a help because we're still getting used to the place, the atmosphere at every game I've been to has been nothing like Maine Road, and I don't think everyone's attached enough to the place yet. I just hope that comes with time, but we missed out a glorious chance to be fourth in the table today. Bah! Only an international break might just do us good as we have a tricky away game at Newcastle next up.

Saw Matrix Revolutions yesterday at the cinema. And what did I think? Well, it was very tough going early on as there was a lot of explaining to do to try and explain to the viewer what was happening, and although they succeeded with me you needed to be fairly intellectual to work it all out, and that's just well unfair. The action sequences a bit later on were good, and they did at least give you the grand scale of the actual war against the machine world and the program. However, what really disappointed me a lot was the ending, which was completely lame. I'm not going to tell you what happens, only that I felt a bit extra had been tacked on to the end of the movie which it just did not need. When you go and see it (which inevitably you will) you can see for yourself what I mean. There were some good highlights in the film, like some of the female characters (namely Link's wife Zee) kicking ass against the machines (not just Trinity for a change) as well as the more philiosophical sides of characters such as The Oracle and Seraph. It was good, better than Matrix Reloaded, but utimately as I walked out of Warner Village Pilsworth I kept thinking to myself this question:

Why did they bother with the sequels, and just leave the original to keep its classic status?

It's an important point to think about. Certainly the reputation and excellent experience that the original film was in its time couldn't have been repeated. Everything worked out superbly in The Matrix, you could work out what was happening but at the same time there were many paths you could follow in the film. And it ends perfectly with Neo coming out of the phone box and flying away. And that was how it should have been left. Despite the fact Matrix Revolutions is actually pretty good, the damage was done by Matrix Reloaded, although in retrospect you do need to see Reloaded and Revolutions back to back as it'd make a lot more sense.

Anyway, rant over. For now..

Friday 7th November - Pole-axed!

Well, how disappointed was I on Thursday night? Very would be an understatement. I was at the City of Manchester Stadium to see my beloved City hopefully doing the business against Groclin of Poland. I knew they were a half-decent side and that they had taken the Polish league by storm, so it was going to be a tough occasion. I fact, on the bus going to the game there were too Groclin fans, Marcin and Jasek, and they looked fairly confident about the task ahead. As I sat in the South Stand at kick off, I spotted them both sat in the Groclin end chanting along with the rest of their terrific away support that they had, maybe not in numbers, but in sheer volume. Unfortunately, City's so-called reputation as being one of the best sets of fans is going down the tubes at the new stadium, there were only around 32,000 there so the ground was two thirds full, but not only that, no singing, no noise, no atmosphere. Despite a few of us in one corner of the South Stand trying to get things going there was just no urgency from our lot after the first twenty minutes. Yes, we'd scored and gone 1-0 up, and yes we had spurned chances to score again, but nonetheless we should have at least got another. The fact we didn't allowed Groclin to come back into the game, and in the second half they wanted it much more than we did. They didn't give up, were determined, got stuck in the tackle, and their goal was well merited indeed (and a great goal it was too). I was so frustrated I even considered leaving before the final whistle (which I usually never do ever) because I could see it was going to be one of those nights. Ah well, just hope in three weeks time we can turn on the performances away from home - we seem to be better away this season for some reason.

Work's been pretty busy at the moment as I spent most of the week working on sorting out all the Architecture rooms base builds, making sure they were updated with everything from Windows Update, removing and re-adding Quick Time 6 from scratch to make sure it worked properly, adding Easy CD Creator 5 (as all the PCs have CD writers in those rooms) and so on. Now my colleague and I had spent ages getting Autocad 2004 to work properly with the standard mandatory profile (a real bitch to do) the least we could do is have everything up and running. As it happens, these new base builds are in place just in case we have to replace a PC for any reason up there, at least we know everything will work as previously we'd been round and amended all the PCs accordingly with any updates done since we rolled them out. Mind you, at the same time, it is bloody time consuming.

I had recorded Superstars with me being at the game and all that, and what a pleasure it was to see Brian Hooper, one of the true Superstars legends of old, come back and do so well, despite him being the tender age of 50. You could see just why he became World Supertars Champion back in 1982, famously beating Americans left right and centre in their own back yard, and the spirited performance in the kayaking where he won said it all. When Suzi Perry asked him how it felt, he just went "YES! That gave me enormous pleasure winning that one." The competitive element was very still much there and it showed some of the others a thing or two, although the two that qualified for the final did excellently and were deserved winners.

Monday 3rd November - Remember, remember, the third November

Well, I do every year. The reason? It's my mother's birthday, and not least because she's turned a special age this year and still looks young and vibrant (good on you). Thankfully I'd managed to pull an excellent present out of the bag, no less than the Monkees' 4CD box set Music Box, with a 96 page book of archive stuff and photos, really nicely laid out. It's something I know she loves by the fact she's already itching to play it tomorrow so she can do full blast without annoying anyone. Maybe that's where I get the "I don't care, it's my music" attitude from, just a thought.

Been pretty busy last few days or so, not least of all because I've been trying not to feel tired, but it's really hard. Once Winter kicks in and you have the heating on to keep warm, I tend to slow down a bit and often I've been to sleep really early to try and get a good night's rest before the morning. And when it's getting cold and windy, the incentive you have to wake up really does become quite difficult, especially as by this time your bed is nice and warm and really hard to get out of.

Must admit though it's been a strange week due to the postal strikes too - as one office in Warrington which distributes a fair bit of parcel post went down with strikers, it's meant that some of the parcels I've been waiting for from those nice people at Play.com have possibly been delayed. Darn! I was so waiting for the packages to arrive so I could review the contents for the site. Ah well, it'll happen as soon as I get them and manage to watch the contents before throwing a burning missive webward. But I've not wasted the time, as I spent some time doing boring domestic stuff like cleaning and washing, a chore I hate to do, but I know I have to do.

I also saw the first ever repeat on TV on BBC4 of the film "Threads". If you've never seen the film, it's basically a drama about the threat of a nuclear attack and the consequences of it, all based in Sheffield. It's really grim and gruesome, not because of any blood or gore, but because it's so shockingly realistic and depressing about what might happen in the future if nuclear war did ever happen. Put it this way, I wouldn't want to live. There are many excellent moments in the film that make it so tough but inspiring to watch but the end scene where the daughter of one of the survivors has her own baby, and the look of shock and horror on her face as to what comes out and the way the film ends just as she's about to scream brings the curtain down on a most excellent film. Part of the reason it's not been shown on TV for so long since it was shown back in 1984 or so was because of its so scarily realism - even the DVD release has now been deleted. However, it's an utterly essential piece of film making that even though looks dated in parts, has actually retained its purpose extremely well. I only really do hope we never end up in a nuclear war otherwise we may as well commit suicide when it happens.

Even The Hits this weekend was worth watching (shock! horror!) as they had a weekend full of classic hits. Okay so there were only around sixty songs to choose from, but nonetheless some of them were bona fide classics, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", REM's "Losing My Religion" and "Everybody Hurts", Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" (even though I dislike Bon Jovi, it's fair enough to be on here as there are lots of people who define it a classic) and many other good tunes, not least the Stone Roses' seminal "Fools Gold". How happy I was when that one came on! It made a pleasant and refreshing change, and as an extra bonus at 9-30pm, the full video to Michael Jackson's "Thriller". It's about 18 minutes long or so, and really good of them to show the full mini-feature. I'm sure there's a few gutted MJ fans out there who missed that slice of pop history...