Dear Diary... November 2004

Monday 29th November - Consistency Is The Key

And, just for once, City actually managed to be consistent. They won back to back games in the Premiership for the first time in ages, and I was really pleased. Not least watching the game and seeing the mercurial Shaun Wright-Phillips blast one in - with his left foot - not his usual right. Great strike that one. And well worth the effort of having a go from distance - as Sibierski was intent on proving as well. Good thing was that we kept a clean sheet, and we performed well. Also, this means an unbeaten five game run, which can't be too bad at all. Sure, three were draws, but nonetheless that's at least a good positive in that we haven't lost for a while - and the mentality grows stronger because of that. You only have to see how Arsenal have cracked under the pressure lately - especially yesterday. Great goal from Mellor, although you do have to wonder whether the Arsenal defence stood off him too much.

I did have a good but busy weekend, mainly because I ended up doing a lot of running around on Saturday - first off to try and get my sister a little surprise present for her wedding next week, and after a bit of searching around town I found what I was after - a good compromise of what I was after and the best of both worlds. Not just that, even got a matching card and wrapping paper for the present - which will be a nice touch on the day. I just hope that everything goes okay at the weekend now and that I'm going to see the first of my brothers and sisters tie the knot. I have a feeling it might just be my other sister who's next up, but there you go. Then, after a quick soujourn to Pizza Hut, I went off to the opening of the new Staples stationery place in Stockport, just in case there were any good offers on. Surprisingly there were, but none what I really wanted. I could have picked up a laser printer for around fifty pounds, but it'd have been a Samsung one, and having had previous experience with some Samsung products (especially their naff hard disks and cd-writers) I would not have trusted it with a barge pole. Still, I'm sure they did pretty well on the day, even having face painters out for all the kids to make it much more of a pleasurable shopping experience while being dragged around everywhere.

I also was down the pub yesterday watching both the live games - and I have to say that they were both pretty entertaining - not least the number of chances Newcastle wasted against Everton (understatement!) and Everton fought back well. Marcus Bent's miss near the end was pretty poor though - he really needed to get that one on target after doing all the hard work of beating the keeper to the through ball. Still, keeps them third - and breathing down Arsenal's necks! Just who would have thought that at the start of the season?

Wednesday 24th November - This Could Be A Job For Magnet and Steel, This

Well, at least this week's been a bit warmer and so I've been able to engage my brain a bit at work. So much so that I was on a real roll yesterday fixing problems left, right and centre with the various things that had been bugging me and/or other members of staff for weeks. I finally got Vectorworks to talk to the licencing dongle properly, which means now that whenever it starts, it checks the licence server, checks the dongle to see if a licence is available, and then issues it accordingly. Now it works, it's quite nice, but in the time beforehand it got quite frustrating knowing that I could have spent time on it doing other stuff. I even had to send the first dongle back because it seemed like it just wasn't playing ball whatsoever. Difficult, really. But glad I pulled it off because it showed that I could at least persist at something and make things work the way that I want.

I finally also managed to get hold of a new keyboard and mouse for me own PC today - finally my local stockist had the Microsoft Wheelmouse Optical - in black! This was swiftly purchased along with a nice and nifty black Logitech keyboard that's really nice to the touch, and does the job. No more annoying clicky keys, and not just that, I deliberately went for one with no extra multimedia or Intenet keys. Sure, they're nice, and for people who have Carpal Tunnel, well worth it, but for me I just find them a major annoyance and get in the way when I want to type properly. Not least as my words per minute rate is still pretty good despite being a two fingered typist - as I demonstrated today with one of the members of staff I was assisting.

Anyway, I watched Max and Paddy's Road To Nowhere the other night (I recommended to a friend to watch the repeat on E4) and it was hilarious. Not least their classic spoof of the A-Team, first of all talking about the programme, and how BA every week would drink some strange milk and end up in the aeroplane he didn't want to fly on, and near the end, Max and Paddy pulled off a real A-Team like spoof to get their camper van back from an unscrupulous garage owner, Mick Bustin (excellent work from Noddy Holder!) The spoof was so well done. In case you wondered also about the heading for today's entry, it was down to Max (played by Peter Kay)'s creation of two new crime fighters, Magnet and Steel. Two cops who operate outside the law, and the drawings of which were hilariously bad to say the least. Half way through their A-Team manouevre, Max says "This could have been a job for Magnet and Steel" which just made me giggle thinking of that. Actually, the show's been pretty funny, and if you're out on Friday nights, set the video (or DVD recorder if you really want to show off!) to record Channel 4 between 9-30pm and 10pm. I promise you, you won't be disappointed.

As I wasn't with the last of series two of Little Britain last night either. Great hilarious work all round, not least when wheelchair-bound Andy meets up with a girl (carefully arranged by his tireless carer Lou). Andy sees her and in typical Andy phrasing (monollabic syllables especially) says "I don't like her, she's in wheelchair!" Just the way he says it and the irony of it all (especially as Lou never realises Andy can actually walk without any problems) cracks you up. Not least also the many other characters such as Daffyd, supposedly "the only gay in the village" but as it turns out, he isn't and exclaims "I'm going somewhere where I'll be the only gay - San Fransisco!". Classic.

Sunday 21st November - It's Freezing!

It's at times like this I'm glad that I am in the house and not outside - it is really cold out there to be honest. Temperatures have been hitting below zero, and the frost in the morning, although making the day crisp and clear, isn't exactly an incentive for you to get out of bed really. Especially when it's a nice new comfy mattress that I finally got round to getting this weekend and replacing the old one, which really was on its last legs to be honest. Anyway, I did venture out this morning to have a quick look around in Stockport, and on several of the bus stops I saw these advertisements that have been stuck on for yet another accident claims firm.

I'm just waiting for the opportunity to voice over one of these adverts - it'd be a hoot. You can imagine the scene now: "Had an accident at work? Been bumped into while driving your pathetically expensive (because you can) four by four while doing the six hundred yard school run? Tripped over a pavement somewhere and cursed like a man possessed? Are any of these not your fault? Well, suethebastards.com is here to help. Simply speak to one of our trained psychoanalysts who will work out how much money we can leech off you for some poxy insurance policy which we'll make you take out while you spend months agonising over a claim. Just let us do all the work in the courts as we send some untrained office junior to attend your case and yet still win due to our corporate muscle wielding its way. And then watch us take 90% of you claim - guranteed. For a no nonsense conversation, ring us on 0800 SUETHEM or go online at suethebastards.com - today!"

I saw The Incredibles on Saturday as well. I'm not going into too much detail here (you'd better read my review) but suffice to say I was glad that I saw it before it's officially released in the UK this Friday (special advance showings are great, aren't they?) because it was such great fun. And, it's a sign of the times when there's just as many adults as children in the cinema when a new Pixar release hits town. I think a lot of that is particularly down to Monsters Inc., which I really love as well. Especially the chemistry between the two main characters, thanks to Billy Crystal and John Goodman's excellent work there. Anyway, the cinema was pretty empty considering it was a major new release, as it was last week when I saw the new Bridget Jones movie. And believe me, don't see that one if you can help it - it was poor.

Even City did their best yesterday too and cheered me up with a 3-1 win. Way to go, blues! Especially with Shaun Wright-Phillips doing what he does best and not only really playing well, but scoring along the way. A perfect answer to the Spanish "fans" who had abused him in the week, and indeed one that proved what a player he is - just head down, get on with it, and keep playing well. No wonder Kevin Keegan was enthusing about him in the post-match interview - cos I know I was as proud as he was!

Thursday 18th November - Rooney the Loony

Well, I spent two hours of my life watching the England game - and it was dull and upsetting too due to the racist chants (see my rant about that in the Thoughts section). Anyway, back to the game - and Wayne Rooney decided to act like an utter loony, didn't he? Running around chopping Spanish players to bits, or pushing them into the stand, and acting like a petulant so and so. Wonder if he's been learning from Roy Keane or something? It certainly wasn't the sort of advertisement you want to see for someone who can be talented, but unfortunately from me and many Everton fans, not unexpected. There were various times last season when he lost his temper constantly, and clearly even then some people were starting to think that his ego is bigger than his supposed talent. He did well at Euro 2004, but then the England team did - till he went off injured. Imagine if Portugal were leading 2-0, and he was still on the pitch and not getting the ball? It would have been interesting to see if he'd reacted so petulantly, my guess is that he probably would have done. A sure sign was at the last game of last season I went to - where City thrashed Everton 5-1. He was clearly intent on kicking the City defenders if things weren't going his way, and cried off like a little girl at the end.

And the same happened last night when he went off - throwing his toys from the pram in a right strop, not to mention of course throwing the black armband away in disgust. That's not on. Especially when the England players were paying their respect to one of the gentlemen of the game, Emlyn Hughes, who personified what it meant to play for both Liverpool and England. A time when you only needed to know the shirt number 6 was one he'd made his own, and one he wore with pride. Pride is something Rooney lacks right now - but unfortunately Sven isn't strong enough to either drop him or punish him. I would have not only been scathing, but told him matter of factly that if he ever did anything so disrespectful again, he'd never pull on a white shirt - again. Especially when there's others who really want to play for their country.

Mind you, Sven showed his usual tactical lack of awareness by not only picking the wrong team, but not giving the right people a go. What about Stewart Downing from Middlesbrough? He's been playing superb all season, and scoring goals from midefield too, and been an excellent winger, on the left, supplying great chances for the likes of Hasselbaink to finish off. Not only that, but you'd think with his manager being Steve McLaren he'd have an influence. I was imagining Downing on the left and Shaun Wright-Phillips on the right - now that would be good. After all, the Spanish did show us how to play properly with wingers, something I am sure that we could do with the right personnel. Not with Sven as manager though.

Something did cheer me up and make me laugh today - I got feedback for my web site! Now normally this is nothing to get excited about, but I had to smile so much as someone clearly was heckling me when they sent their mail. Of course, they chickened out by not sending their email address, but their name was "bored" and the comment they put was (excuse the spelling): "god your dull. get fucked" Well, let's see. God has a capital G, it should be you're instead of your, you get the idea. It made me laugh though because a) someone spent the time to fill out the form to tell me what a sad, pathetic lonely individual I am, which not could be further from the truth, b) they couldn't spell - and c) if they were that bored, when why browse the web anyway? There's plenty of other things you can do :)

Sunday 14th November - Remembrance

I think often we forget the sacrifices people make for us as a country, and Remembrance Sunday is a good way of reminding people that it was the case of so few dying for so many, keeping the country free from oppressive rule and from others who would harm the country. It's always particularly poignant at this time of year, and despite me being a strong pacifist, I can appreciate how much some people gave up of their lives back in World War I to ensure freedom. When the cause was just, mind you, not like a certain conflict in a certain country now. And that's what brings it all home in a way. Back between 1914-18 it wasn't about money, greed or power, it was about freedom and liberation but.. and here's the big but.. it meant something. Maybe I'm reading too much into this at this time of day, but it does make you wonder how the world would have been so much different if either World War had gone the other way.

Enough soapboxing for now, methinks. I was just frustrated yesterday at City's lack of being able to finish off teams at the bottom of the table. It was 1-1 against Blackburn, despite us taking the lead through Sibierski, and they had a penalty which was stupidly given away by Danny Mills, who quite rightly was sent off for it. Sod's law though it had to be the ex-City man Dickov who scored it, eh? He did that last season for Leicester as well, which makes you wonder if we should have got rid of him in the first place. Especially as our strikers are doing nothing at the moment and all the goals currently are coming from midfield - a slightly worrying trait to be honest. We're also moving further away from the top teams - not least as the top three all won, and all away from home as well. Not least that 5-4 epic as Arsenal beat Tottenham at White Hart Lane, I bet that was some game to be at!

Thursday 11th November - I'm An Uncle!

Well, the last week or so has been pretty mad, actually. Not least because on Sunday 7th November I officially became an uncle for the very first time, which is very nice. My youngest sister gave birth at around 6-30am after a twenty hour labour (cue Susan from Coupling: "Give me a bleeping epidural!") and the effort was all worthwhile, as Tyler William Michael was born. I've been to the hospital to see him, and I have to say, he looks really cute and lovely. It meant a manic mad rush around town for me to try and get a Forever Friends bear for him as a little something: I know, I know, I'm soft, but I can't help it. Eventually after seeing that almost all card shops in Manchester have been taken over by the Me To You bear I eventually located what I needed in Unit 7 in the Royal Exchange: a Forever Friends baby boy bear, with little blue babygro and everything. Awww.

My sister's doing really fine now, as is Tyler. He was drinking from his bottle yesterday and was really going for it, you could tell he wanted to be fed. Just to see the look in his eyes as he gazed into my sister knowing that she was going to look after him just felt very touching, and you could see the happiness they were both giving to each other. And I must admit my sister's really taken everything on board and is doing a really nice job of mothering him nicely, ably assisted by her long term boyfriend - he's been such a rock for her, they deserve each other too, you know. It's not made me broody to be honest, but I can understand a bit more just why it means so much for couples to have a child and raise them - it's like being a completeness of having a family and sharing the time and the love that you have together. Here's to many years of happiness for them, at any rate.

I guess as well when I thought about it more, it puts a lot of things into perspective as to why things happen. It's too easy to say "because they do!" without realising the reasons for things happening to you. I know for years that my other sister has wanted children (and she's now six weeks into having a baby herself, so that's good on her too) and it's just been a case of being with the right partner at the right time. Well she's certainly got herself that now, that's for sure. Plus of course my sisters can compare notes when the other baby's born too - although admittedly I'd like it to be a girl, just to even things up a little. I always felt five was an odd number for my mother to have, but, thinking about it, after the first two were boys she wanted two girls to even it out. Of course, things never work out like that do they?

Work's been a bit up and down too, either it's dead busy or dead quiet with no in between. However, I went to this staff meeting today and I wasn't at all convinced by the new thing Human Resources (formerly known as Personnel ;) were planning for support staff. Some sort of personal development plan that you're going to agree on with your manager every so often. One minor flaw in this - it's a case of you having the time. With the likes of doing IT, you never know when the next job's coming up, and it could be at any time. So that defeats the object, as does the fact that my manager has to go on an additional training day to be able to do the reviews, which I think is a bit daft to be honest. A manager knows their staff, don't they? Well, I know mine does.

Good job nothing happened this afternoon as the fire alarms were set off, and we all had to leave the building. Of course this leads to people not learning where the assembly point is, but surely common sense would tell some of them not to wait directly outside the main entrance of the building? Two reasons for this: one, it blocks the way for the emergency services in case there's a real fire, and two: more risk of getting burnt! You'd think they'd worked that one out. Bah...

Thursday 4th November - Thunderbird Is Go

As well as doing the PC upgrade, it was the perfect opportunity to change from Netscape Messenger to Mozilla Thunderbird, as mentioned earlier. However, one little thing was bugging me about it. Whenever I sent an email message and viewed, the plain text message wrapped across the whole window, and not wrap at 72 characters like it should do. I soon found out this was because some email programs now send out plain text email as a format called format flowed, which is supposed to look nice on PDAs etc. Maybe, but it doesn't look good when you think the message you've sent isn't doing what it should do. Thankfully a few changes to the preferences file user.js, and format flowed is completely disabled in both displaying and sending messages. Much more like I'd want the program to behave, too.

Apart from that minor foible, I'm pretty impressed. The layout is spot on, it's nice and easy on the eye, it works with my anti-spam solution K9 pretty well, and on top of that, it's easy to use. I guess on the old rig that I needed something that'd work on it, and that was Netscape Messenger 4.8. I was sad to see it go on the new rig, but I've found something to replace it. Sometimes you just have to move with the times, I'm afraid. Bit like when Manchester City moved from Maine Road. At first I was horrified that they could even consider leaving their spiritual home, one that made a lot of my childhood happier than it actually was, a place that I'd seen so many victories and so many great games, part of my life went when the stadium got knocked down. I suppose when I was inside the stadium for the Commonwealth Games, I could understand just why the move was taking place, but even so, it didn't feel the same somehow. Even when I go to the games at the new place, I feel too anonymous, too out of place, and kind of hark back to the days of being in the Gene Kelly stand!

Anyway, talking of City, it was bloody frustrating Monday night, I can tell you. Not only did City decide to chuck away a one goal lead at half time within a mere twelve seconds of the restart due to some utterly sloppy defending (understatement) it was like we didn't want to even go on and win the game. There was just too many people being in the team because they felt their place was guaranteed, especially that untalented nomark Steve McManaman. Hopefully we won't be renewing his contract at the end of this season - and good bloody riddance if you ask me. He's awful, and why Keegan ever signed him is beyond me. However, the one bright spark on Monday night was the performance of some of City's youngsters, not least Willo Flood, who really looked in place in midfield, and scored a good volley for our goal, which was nice for him. He also seemed to team up really well with Shaun Wright-Phillips, and nice to see some of the kids getting a chance to make it for themselves. If only he'd have done this around a year earlier instead of wasting money on people like Fowler and McManaman, hmph!

But moving swiftly on, it was the last episode of A Thing Called Love on Tuesday night, and the whole hour was just one of emotional rollercoasters. It was really fitting to end the series that Gary and Paula finally got together and showed their true feelings for themselves, which I think a lot of people hoped would happen. Liz White has been utterly superb as Paula, and if she's not nominated for any acting awards on telly for it then there's a serious bout of injustice going on. Although it was a shame that Gary's brother Michael was killed off in tragic circumstances, Paul Henshall who played him was really good too, showing that disabled actors are just as talented (if not more so!), and indeed showing all the character traits of a caring loving brother thrown in, and a sense of humour. And he's a graduate of the School of Theatre part of the place I work at, so good on him. I'm just hoping that the BBC bring the series out on DVD, because it deserves to be so.

Monday 1st November - Upgrade Me

Well, I finally did it. It was time to say good bye to the humble old AMD K6-2 500 system that had seen me well for the last five years, and with me knowing I have some overtime payments to come in later on this month, it was definitely a chance to get myself an early Christmas present of an upgrade or three. I've virtually got everyone's present, so why shouldn't I treat myself? Plus I worked out that I could afford it too this month, so another good reason to actively pursue it and get the job done. All well and good, it was just a case of finding the right equipment and getting it all sorted out. A quick visit to one of my local computer retailers, they had all the stuff in I needed and so it was time to get things done.

Picked up a really nice Microstar K7N2 Delta2 Platinum board to start with - the Platinum's are supposed to be MSI's top range boards with features and stability paramount - just what I need for the rig. And it's not exactly lacking in those features either, onboard Firewire (and they give you a nice bracket to whack in your case so the ports can be accessed from the back easily), onboard gigabit network card, onboard six channel sound with SP/DIF and coaxial digital out (neato if the PC was in the same room as my 5.1 rig, but nice to have), 8x AGP port, 5 PCI slots, eight USB ports (four at the back, and internal headers for four at the front), Serial ATA, and also supports dual channel DDR RAM. You could put in 3GB if you really wanted, but I had a 512MB Geil stick handy for the job. The board's got lots of nice features and looks the part, too.

So that was the board. Now for a case to whack it in - none less than a Zorro black midi tower. Nice case, it has a front door hiding the CD and floppy drives away neatly, front USB and audio, nice lights for power and hard disk, plus an LCD display which shows the time, temperature and the fan and power on. Quite nice to show off, but I didn't get it for that. Oh, and a window with a fan in the side, and a fan on top as well, extracting air out. Quite good, that. And definitely it seems to be doing the job.

Now the processor was the funny so and so. Initially I was going to go for an Athlon XP2600+ with Barton core, but when I bought the chip and checked the model number, turns out that a lot of 2600s don't use Barton core, they use Thorton core. All very well maybe, but Thortons have reduced Level 2 cache (256K opposed to 512) and not all boards support them. You might want to check the following on Microstar's site for more info - print it out before you buy an OEM processor just in case! Anyway, I built everything up without the CPU in, got a credit note for it being incorrect, and used that towards an Athlon XP3000+, and this time I double checked to make sure it was a Barton before leaving to save me another journey. That's now what I have in the rig, and it's very very nice indeed. Things fly now as opposed to wading through treacle like they did on the old rig, and WinXP with Service Pack 2 etc is doing what it should do. Must admit, I was tempted to whack Suse Linux on there, but there's too much stuff I have that relies on certain programs that relies on Windows, so I've had to stay put with it.

Of course, although home users should now be okay with WinXP SP2, it's not the case at work. Too many programs are broken with it for us to seriously consider upgrading it (also part of the reason I'd put people off that I know) but they're mainly Netware related, as well as programs which are used for various students that are more education specific. So far so good here anyway, my anti-virus solution works, Zone Alarm works (not touching the SP2 firewall, it stops stuff working apparently), my email spam filtering program (K9) works brilliantly, and it also means I can finally ditch good old Netscape 4.8 Messenger for emails and start using Mozilla Thunderbird (well worth it, I can tell you. Thunderbird rocks.) And you can guess which web browser I'm using, right? Yup. Mozilla Firefox :) It's proper web standards compliant, it's neat, it's fast, and it's also very user friendly. And I test this site with it. So if it works there, it should work in the likes of Opera etc.

I freely admit the upgrade's also given me added impetus to write more, and seriously get down to some more pages. I think as well that sometimes it just takes a little time to actually get things done in the head, and then to actually commit to writing things as you'd like them to be done. Also, when writing the new batch of poems for this month, I did notice that I've been thinking a lot, maybe too much, about a lot of things. While that's sometimes good, it's also bad in that it could well be that my head is full of garbage that I need to get rid of. Sorry, I'm waffling.

I'm not a dance person per se (can't dance to save my life!) but the new series of Strictly Come Dancing on BBC1 has been entertaining. I think realistically some of the celebrities need their come uppance a tad, and no one was more pleased than me to see Carol Vorderman get kicked off on Saturday. Her dance wasn't that bad, but it was those pained facial expressions she was pulling. What was that about? I always thought the rumba was supposed to be a really sensual sexual dance with a lot of passion, not pain! Still, at least Denise Lewis and her partner showed how it was done, smouldering with intent. I'm sure quite a lot of people watching that really wouldn't mind being either her partner or that of Jill Halfpenny (actress from Eastenders) particularly as they're athletic, graceful and really feminine too. And they wore the nicest outfits. The less said about Natasha Kaplinsky's the better, I think Julian Clary had it right in that she was bordering on looking like a hooker. I really hope she gets her wardrobe sorted.

What else? Well, City are at home tonight, and I'm there later on to see if we can beat Norwich or not. Here's hoping that we do, because we really need a win, and on telly as well just to show people we can actually play a bit. The game against Arsenal last week was embarrassing and we really need to put a much, much better performance in to show some passion and pride. No doubt I'll be going mental whatever happens, of course. Just have to see, but at times like this when we've been playing rubbish and not scoring, what would have happened if we'd have kept the Goat. I really do wonder!