MV Communicator

MV Communicator

Wednesday 31st August 2005
Weather - slightly hazy

 Finally I am awake at a sensible time, but I still feel very tired. I wouldn't be surprised if I grabbed another hour of sleep after I have finished here. The main priority for today is to spend as much time in my workshop as the heat permits. The temperature today is expected to peak at 30° C, maybe even a degree higher, and a few degrees higher than yesterday.

 Tonight should find me in The Ram for a pint or two (and back to another late night).
 It was hot yesterday. In the morning I went to Tesco and came home loaded with catfood aand 6 litres of soft drink. I staggered indoors pouring with sweat. Inside the house it was a bit more comfortable and I managed to do some workshop stuff for a couple of hours before tiredness and the heat got the better of me. I spent the afternoon quietly pottering around in my studio.

 I made two important omissions in my shopping trip. I forgot I wanted some stock cubes, and I forgot to look at the price, and maybe buy, some bottles of food dye to test in my printer.

 I had intended to ghet to bed very early last night, but that was thwarted by The Bill being on TV at 21.00 instead of the usual 20.00. I still managed to get into bed by about 22.30, but after three previous nights of getting to bed closer to 02.00 I found sleep did not come easily despite feeling knackered. It was a hot and sticky night, although by this morning the breeze coming in the window was fairly cool. It doesn't like I had a very good nights sleep. My sleep should have been aided by three factors. First I was sleeping in freshly laundered sheets. Which is always nice. Then I left the duvet out of the duvet cover so I should not have overheated during the night. Finally I turned the mattress around so the lumpy bit was at my feet instead of under my back. Initially none of this seemed to help, and even with no duvet in the duvet cover, it still seemed too hot to cover myself. Yet this morning, waking up still mostly uncovered , I felt a little too cool. I expect a few pints tonight will help me sleep a little easier.
Tuesday 30th August 2005
Weather - hot and sunny

 Another very late night last night, and hence another late morning. Also another brief entry for today as I really ought to crack on and do some stuff. Today, after going out to buy some catfood, I expect to spend a lot of time in my workshop.
 Yesterday was a hot day, but indoors it was not too bad. I managed to do a couple of hours in my workshop, but also spent many hours computer minding.

 I can now reveal the results of one experiment I did yesterday. It had the potential for disaster, but so far seems to be working out OK. For the last few weeks I have been unable to print any colour on my Epsom printer. The yellow ink had run out, and I cannot afford new ink at the moment. While rummaging in the back of a kitchen cupboard I found an ancient bottle of yellow food dye. It looked so close to the ink refills I have been using lately that I tried it as inkjet refill. Amazingly it worked OK. Heaven knows what it will do to the ink jets in the long run, but it is working fine for now.  While I am buying catfood today I will check on the price of food dye in Tesco's. My guess is that it is considerably cheaper than ink jet refill ink. The only trouble is that I doubt they do a magenta and cyan dye, but I have compared the cyan ink to blue food colouring and it looks to be very similar, and the artificial cochineal looks very similar to magenta. I guess I may never achieve photographic quality this way, but it will be good enough for less demanding colour printing.
Monday 29th August 2005
Weather - clear blue sky
Bank Holiday in UK
 Another late start to the day after a very late night, and getting up in the middle of the night to check on the computer. However I am up, washed and dressed. Also I may have fixed a minor leak on the toilet cistern, and done a little computer work.

 Today could be the first day in several where I can sit back and relax a little. I still have some neglected stuff in my workshop to do, but it is going to be a hot day, and I do feel tired and exhausted after two nights of disrupted sleep.
 Yesterday was a bit hectic doing very little. It is surprising how time consuming it can be pressing a few buttons and waiting for a computer to do its stuff. Most of the time the computer does all the work, but you still have to be alert to set off the next process without wasting time. I did have breaks for meals, telephone calls, answering e-mail, and even watching a bit of TV, but essentially my whole long day, from 09.00 to 01.45 the next day, was consumed with babysitting a computer.
Sunday 28th August 2005
Weather - bright and sunny

  Despite my desire to spend more time in my workshop, I think I will be spending quite a few hours in my studio today.
 Although I had firm intentions to spend a considerable amount of time in my workshop yesterday, I never even went in there. I got a little distracted by my studio. In the morning I found a new "toy" on the internet. It was some software to simulate a vocoder. This is a gizmo to modulate your voice to sound like a musical instrument. With a voice like mine, anything that can make it musical must be a good idea ! I have to admit that the hours just flew by as I experimented with different settings.

 In the afternoon Jodie came over to use my studio. While she was occupying it I could have done some stuff in my workshop, but instead I made some food and had an extra long lunch break.

 Once Jodie had finished recording I had to spend a little time editing and uploading the file she had made. After that I resumed some of my own stuff in the studio. It was nearly 02.00 before I called it a day and went to bed. During that time I had one interesting interuption.

 At about 22.00 I received an e-mail from Patricia. She wondered if I would mind taking a look at her new C.V. Ten minutes later she sent it to me anyway. Now this is a change of circumstances ! Twelve months ago I was the pupul and she was the teacher. Now it seems our roles have reversed. I was too tired (and busy) to spend a lot of time on it, but I did manage to suggest a few changes. Now I think of it, one of my tasks for today is to take a better look at it, and possibly rewrite a couple of paragraphs so it reads a little more smoothly (by my standards admittedly).
Saturday 27th August 2005
Weather - still almost dark,  dry & cool

 I want to try and spend more time in my workshop today, but I am contemplating spending a couple of hours in my studio as well.
 It felt good when I discovered that my bank account was still almost in the black yesterday. With the addition of my dole money I was able to pay off my final accounts to British gas, and  NTL for my dial-up internet service. In addition I paid my BT phone bill for another quarter. I was going to pay London Energy their first dual-fuel money, but I realised that I don't have their bank account details. Perhaps I may try and find those details today. Finally, I paid my mobile phone bill. With the 1st of September very near I will have to find about £30 for my NTL phone/TV/internet service, and then possibly £70 for my Tesco Club Card Plus. The latter I may put off until my next dole payment goes in on the 9th September.

 Yesterday actually got off to a very slow start. It was getting very near midday by the time I had finished dealing with finances, writing long e-mails, and talking on the phone for nearly an hour (I didn't originate the call). I had a very simple brunch at around 11.45. It was too late for breakfast, and too early for lunch. I had red kidney beans with basmati rice drizzled with a little chilli and garlic flavoured oil.It was very nice, and this time I got the quantities about right and didn't end up with a gut busting plate of it.

 I spent the next 4 hours in my studio. At that time I had not finished up there, but I had reached a natural place to take a break and go and do some shopping. I stocked up on a weeks worth of tobacco, and some huge bags of rice and pasta. With a bit of bravado that did not really fit comfortably with my current tight budget, I also bought some buy-one-get-one-free frozen chicken breasts, and another bag of frozen "Tesco Value" prawns. Mabe tonight, or maybe later, I will be attempting an even more authentic paella. It will still not be totally authentic because I cannot afford the saffron to go in it. I was really hoping I had left it late enough to find the hot meat all discounted, but there was very litttle left and I guess they hoped that some sucker like me would still want to buy it at full price. So my treat for last night was a rack of ribs.

 Doing the shopping late does have one advantage, even if the hot meat is not discounted, I do not sit around all day eating all the snacks and goodies I have bought. So today I still have an unopened packet of cheap cheese and onion crisps, for instance. Incidently, when the hot meat is discounted at the end of the day it can be as low as half price.

 Once suitably fed I went back up to my studio. Most of the work required little intervention at that point. So while waiting the 10 -15 minutes for the computer to complete each of several processes I watched some episodes of Futurama. When I was finally finished I came back downstairs and tried to find something interesting on TV. There was very little on, and by 21.00 I decided to read in bed. With some discipline that is unusual for me, I put the book down and turned off the light before 23.30. I was asleep very quickly after that. I slept solidly until a couple of foxes in the back garden woke me up and I thought I may as well get up, write this, and then go back to bed for another hour.
Friday 26th August 2005
Weather - bright and sunny

  Today is the day of reckoning ! My dole was paid in today so I dared to look at my bank account. It was pleased that I was very slightly better off than I thought. Only slightly though, so I still cannot afford to be complacement.

 A lot of today has already passed, and I am still writing. So far I have written a couple of long e-mails, read a load of e-mails, paid two bills, and got stuck on the phone for over 30 minutes.

 My next move is probably to have some breakfast, and then I want to get into my studio. Finally, after all that, I want to get into my workshop for an hour or two.
 Yesterday had a surprise at the end, and the surprise had a surprise in it.

 During the course of the day I spent far longer in my studio than I thought I would have to. I still managed to spend at least an hour in my workshop. It was while I was relaxing with some food in the evening that Kevin called with the surprise suggestion that we go for a drink that night after having missed Wednesday night. We both tried to see if Iain could make it, but he seemed doubtful. In the end he didn't make it, but Kevin seemed happy enough to buy me some beers in return for a few DVD's. We met a little later than usual at 21.00 so only got through 3 pints. I intended to offer some money towards of the rounds, but I never got a chance. The surprise within the surprise was that not only did I get beer, but I got a packet of fags as well. It was such luxury this morning not to have to fumble around with cigarette papers, and half fill my bed with tobacco, as I had my first fag of the day !
Thursday 25th August 2005
Weather - bright and sunny

  Another bright sunny morning, but will it stay this way (unlike yesterday) ?
My intended schedule for today is to spend the morning in my workshop, and then the afternoon in my studio. It may not end up like that, but it is a start.
 Yesterday may have started bright and sunny, but it didn't last. A lot of the day was rather grey, and there was some rain. There was some wind, but it did not seem as bad as the weather forecasters suggested it might be.

 The main problem with yesterday was that I woke up with a headache, and I could not shake it off until very late in the afternoon. I tried to do some work in my workshop, but after an hour my head was really throbbing and I gave up. That really set the pace for the rest of the day. Three times I laid on my bed and did some quiet reading. After 30 minutes of reading I decided to close my eyes and have a snooze, and all three time I had a phone call just as I was dropping off ! I never did get to have a snooze.

 Despite not getting any sleep during the day, I had no trouble getting to sleep at around midnight. However I did have trouble staying asleep. I woke up several times during the night. On two occasions I woke up from dreams that I can partially rememeber. Both were unique types of dreams that I don't think I have experienced before.

 I am not sure of the first setting of the first dream. I can remember from when I was entering a pub for a quick drink. As I went in someone was coming out who I did not want to talk to. Irritatingly he insisted on wanting to talk to me. I refused to have anything to do with him and walked off, but still he persisted and kept trying to walk in front of me. In keeping with my personal opinion of him he appeared as only about 18 inches high. I tried swiping him out of the way with a clipboard I found in my hand, but that did not deter him. So I just strode forward and ended up kicking him everytime he got too close to my feet. Eventually he said that if I wouldn't talk to him, would I speak to another person ? That other person was a woman with a delightful sexy, possibly slightly French, but more likely Spanish, accent. I never actually saw her as she was following behind me and I was too annoyed to turn around. She carried on talking, but I cannot remember what she said, until we entered a park. Eventually she told me that some unknown woman fancied me and that I ought to know about it. That finally got my interest and I suggested we went into some sort of cafe or refreshment room that we were passing. We sat down, but I still don't recall looking at her face. What I did see was her foot resting on another chair. I think I could see the end of a trouser leg and a black stockinged foot in a low heeled, pointy toed black shoe. (There is probably a technical term for the type of shoe I am trying to describe, but I have no idea what it is). I thought it looked incredibly sexy. At that point I woke up. My first thought was that 5 minutes previously I didn't know I had a shoe, or foot, fetish. It seems I am a pervert and had never realised it before !

 The next dream happened an hour or two later. It was far too complicated to attempt to describe the whole dream, but I'll mention one strange thing in it. In some ways it was two interlinked dreams. In the first I was looking at an old house that was close to the end of of an extensive restoration. In the second dream I was looking at an old house that had been left in a terrible state after being left empty for some years, and had been visited by kids, drug users,  drunks, or squatters. Inside was littered with all sorts of debris, and it even had weeds growing on the staircase. It was the same house that I had seen earlier. The really weird thing was that I knew the internal layout from having been in it while it was being refurbished, but that was actually in  what was really the future.  Somehow I had achieved time travel in my dreams .
Wednesday 24th August 2005
Weather - bright and sunny

 It's a bright sunny start to the day, but a change is on it's way. The forecast is for more rain and strong winds. I think my body can detect the change in pressure already. I have a sort of headachey feeling.

 Today I need to spend even more time in my workshop. I am on the home straight at last, and I can't wait to finish what I am doing so I can move on to something else. This project has taken more time than I thought it would.

 Tonight, all being well, will be boozing night at The Ram. I haven't heard from Kevin yet, but Iain has confirmed he will be there.
 Yesterday ranged from the very good to the very bad. The very bad was Ulead DVD Movie factory screwing up while writing a DVD. I am very short of blank DVD+R disks, and I do not have enough spare budget to buy more at the moment (but maybe next week). I think I have just enough left (4) to cater for my immediate needs.

 One of the very good things was finding some bargains in Tesco's. Having confirmed that Iain was happy to barter a couple of DVD's for beer I used some of my currently remaining cash to buy some goodies.  Perhaps one of the better bargains was a fresh basil plant. It was less than half price at 38p. It smells wonderful, and I used it in a couple of wonderful dishes yesterday. Basil is a herb that I like a lot provided I use it infrequently or it grows boring. It added an interesting flavour to a paella I cooked yesterday. Considering that I have never cooked a paella before I was very happy with the way it turned out. It could have been improved if I had more seafood that I could have added to it. Once upon a time Tesco used to stock frozen mixed seafood with prawns, muscles, cockles and squid in it, but I couldn't find any yesterday. So my paella only had cheap, but tasty, "value" prawns in it. On reflection, I think that some ordinary fish in the paella may have added more than shellfish. The only bad thing about that paella was it turned out a lot bigger than I imagined it would be. I felt totally stuffed after eating it.

 Bits of yesterday were very frustrating (and continue so this morning). I have a corrupt video file that is resisting all attempts to repair it. Using Mplayer, on this linux box, it will play for the full duration of just over an hour, but any attempt to play it on a Windows machine, or to burn it as a DVD fails after 24 minutes. It is so frustrating when you know it is all there, but some glitch stops it working after 24 minutes. I have tried many variations of techniques to repair it, but so far all have failed. Another minor frustration is a video file that is in 16:9 widescreen. I haven't got a widescreen TV so everyone in it looks tall and thin. I can do something about this, but it is a long, time consuming, process.
Tuesday 23rd August 2005
Weather - bright and sunny

  After a grey rainy day yesterday the weather is forecast to be bright and warm today. Maybe this will inspire me to get on with more worthwhile things. I need to pop out and get some Tesco Diet Cola, and maybe a few other odds and sods (garlic maybe ?), then after that I really ought to do what I didn't do yesterday - get into my workshop.
 Yesterday was a horrible day. It rained for most of the day and this did not inspire me to concentrate on anything important. That is not to say the day was wasted. I backed up my entire mp3 collection on this Linux box to an external, usb connected, hard disk. I wasn't sure if the hard disk would actually be recognised on the usb ports. On some it was not. I think this is because I already have a multi-flash card reader connected to the one controller. This confuses Linux because it sees it as 4 different memory stores without any memory actually being there unless I plug in a flash card. So I think Linux has learned to ignore anything plugged in there. I was luckier on the other contoller port and all worked well.

 One thing I managed to do yesterday was to negotiate my beer for home made DVD barter system with one willing (?) participant. Hopefully the other will agree also. So tomorrow night I should be able to save my £10 drinking budget allocation for more important things. I suspect it will end up being spent on tobacco.

 I had some frustrations yesterday. An 800MB+ download I had patiently waited for turned out to be corrupted. So I have been attempting to download it all over again. This new broadband connection is all very well, but makes little difference when the other end of the connection can only trickle through data at less than the speed I could get on dial-up. I will feel a little cheated if ever NTL bring in the 3GB cap on my downloads. On the dial up account I could download an unlimited amount (subject to a very short breal to redial every two hours), and like that I had no worries about letting stuff trickle in over a period of several days if I had to.
Monday 22nd August 2005
Weather - grey and cool

  Today I really ought to be spending some time in my workshop, but there are some other distractions that will need a bit of attention. One distraction is trying to copy an 832MB file from an external USB hard disk onto my video editing PC. Something funny is going on as it keeps crashing for some unknown reason. Perhaps it is because it was formatted on a Linux PC and Windows XP has gone all huffy !
 Once I was washed and dressed, yesterday started with a rather nice breakfast. I have mentioned in the past about Tesco "Value" cooking bacon. It is a bit pot luck what you find in these 78p bags. I had chosen the bag I opened yesterday because it looked as if it had some big chunks in it. I was not disappointed. What I found inside were several of what could really only be described as lean gammon steaks. I had two of these, each about 5" by 2.5" of lean bacon about 1/2" thick, with some tomatoes all grilled togather (in fact it would be more accurate to say roasted as I did them in the oven). It was a very nice breakfast.

 I had vague intentions of doing some stuff in my workshop after breakfast, but got distracted by computers. The hard disks in the computer upstairs needed defragmenting so that got started. Then I wanted to convert a 700MB mpeg file to DVD format, and ultimately burn it to a DVD video disk. I think it was because I was trying to convert an NTSC recording to PAL that it took something like 12 hours to do the conversion. The end result when burnt to a DVD+RW disk was not bad, but I think it may have been better to burn it as an NTSC disk. So I will be trying again today.

 With most of what I did yesterday being reliant on computers you could say that it was a very lazy day punctuated by short periods of hard work, or hard thinking, or something like that. While the computers did their stuff I could watch TV or do some reading.

 For dinner last night I put the pasta experiments on temporary hold when I realised the bag of potatoes I have here were beginning to deteriorate. They are not rotten, but there is evidence that they are starting to grow. So I had a  potato curry with some peanut butter in it to give a satay taste. I think I will be finishing off those potatoes before I start experimenting with the pasta (or rice) again.

 One thing I did yesterday evening got me fairly depressed. I found a web site with loads of Spanish verbs, and how to conjugate them, on it. I have this strange desire to learn some Spanish in case that ten billion to one chance does occur and I end up in Spain. Looking at all those verbs gave me a headaache. I could barely remember what they were in English, let alone remember the Spanish words. I am hopeless as foreign languages as these two extracts from my shool reports from 1968 and 1969 show.
School report extract
Extract from School report - 1969
At least in 1969 I got a W+ (W = weak !). The two teachers were Señor Cerezo (Mr Cherry Tree !) and Señorita Mamluke (I'm not sure of the spelling of her surname). The figures on the 1968 report are 100 = total possible marks, 42 = the marks I achieved, and 24 = 24th place in class out of (I think) 25. So there was someone worse than me !  Maybe, some day in the future, I will do better with Señora Bianco (Mrs White).
Sunday 21st August 2005
Weather - cloudy, dry and cool

 With most of my chores out of the way, except for laundry, I can pick and choose what I do today. I think I will probably spend a couple of hours in my workshop, but aside from that I may just spend a lazy day drifting between anything that takes my fancy.
 I suppose the highlight of yesterday was going out to Tesco's with £50 in my back pocket. First off I bought 125gm of tobacco. That should last a whole week, although should is a very unpredictable term ! In the main part of the store I bought 12 tins of catfood and some cat litter. For human food I managed to steer clear of too many luxuries, but I did buy a few. On a more basic level I bought some assorted fresh vegetables to add more variety to my pasta experiments. Despite being fairly carefull I only came away with £16. In theory I should have £10 available for Wednesday night drinking, but I may try some bartering for beer on that night so I can keep the £10 back for more urgent needs.

 It's a terrible habit of mine, but once back from shopping I sat down to a large breakfast eating some of the goodies I had just bought. This was mainly a couple of sausage rolls found at half price on the clearance counter. They were nice, but not spectacular, and even at half price probably a bit of a waste of money.

 It was not until later in the afternoon that I made it into my studio. It turned out to be a rather long session after I got a bit carried away. It was gone 18.00 before I took a break and had some dinner. I then watched a bit of TV, and then I was back in the studio sorting out what I had done and adding the finishing touches. It took several long waits while the computer processed the audio, and during these times I either read, or attempted to learn a few Spanish phrases from a few of Jodie's CD's of the band "Heroes Del Silencio". They are a Spanish rock band, and there were the lyrics in both Spanish and English in the CD booklet. I found some useful phrases and mades some notes about them. (This morning I can remember very little of what I learnt - such is the power of my memory for foreign languages). I think it was approaching 23.00 before I was satisfied with what I had done. I headed off to bed soon after that.

 Dinner last night was another pasta experiment. It did not turn as well as the previous day, Despite my original idea of adding some ham to this meal it was, once again, a purely vegetarian meal. One of the reasons it was not so good was that I overloaded it with too many different ingredients. Apart from the pasta itself I added peas, sweetcorn, mange tout, tomatoes, peppers and olives. I think the secret of my first experiment was to keep it simple with only half those ingredients. Another minor failure was that I added too much water this time. I was a little worried that the last experiment came too close to drying out. This time I had a fair bit of water still in the bottom of the pan, and that water contained a lot of the flavour of the vegetables. With hindsight I should have drained it off into a container and used it as a stock to start the next great pasta experiment.
Saturday 20th August 2005
Weather - fairly bright, damp and cold

  Today I will be concentrating less on my workshop, and more on all the other things I need to do. There is the usual Saturday morning laundry to take care of, and some shopping to get that I should have got yesterday. Then I really must spend some time in my studio. I have been attempting this for a few days now, but today I will do it !
 Yesterday was frustrating. I was hoping to obtain some money that had been promised to me. I needed that money to buy tobacco and catfood. It did eventually come, but not until 21.00 when it was too late to use it for a shopping spree. All that waiting around meant that I did not achieve all I could have yesterday. I was constantly alert to the sound of the phone ringing and had less concentration to do some of the other things I wanted to do. In fact one thing I could not do at all. That was to spend some time in my studio where I would be wearing headphones and so would not be able to hear the phone at all.

 Eventually I learned that the money was still definitely coming, but that it would be late. I was desperate for more catfood having opened the last tin in the morning. So I ventured out into the rain to buy some catfood with my dwindling resources. In fact I bought more than catfood. It wasn't much, but it was probably a mistake. The entire bill came to just over £8 and there was not enough money on my Club Card to pay for it all, even after presenting a £5.50 voucher that I had received in the post just that morning. I did have enough cash for the remaining amount, and I would have come away with 20 - 30p change, but I took a chance that my bank account still had about £20 left in it. It did, and the bill was paid OK.

 The other bits and pieces I bought included some pasta, and a few things to go with it. I am not a great fan of pasta, but it is cheap and filling, and I wondered what I could do with it. A lot of pasta comes in different shapes and sizes, but as far as I can tell it is all the same stuff. I presume the different shapes are based on some long lost regional variation, or more likely an attempt to make something that is mostly boring and tasteless seem more interesting. As an experiment I bought two bags of pasta. One was twists and the other quills. I also bought some olive oil, some chilli and garlic oil, and a bottle of black olives.

 So last night I started phase one of the great pasta experiment. I treated it much like rice and cooked it with some peas, roughly diced mixed peppers, and with some black olives thrown in as well. I also added some olive oil while it was cooking. Oddly enough it turned out quite well. The extra drizzle of garlic and chilli oil definitely added the finishing touch (although the chilli in the oil added no more than the merest hint of heat). I believe the traditional thing is to serve pasta by its boring self with an accompanying sauce. My problem with that is that the sauce is infinitely better than the pasta and it seems a tragedy to "water down" the nice sauce with a semi tasteless filler. My method, while it may be frowned upon by pasta experts everywhere, does have the psychological advantage of producing an integrated meal where the pasta is part of it, rather than just something added  to bulk the meal up. The difference may be trivial but it is enough to encourage me to experiment further. Tonight I will probably repeat the experiment, but with some ham (or bacon) and tomatoes thrown in as well.
Friday 19th August 2005
Weather - thundery

 Rain was forecast to start at 22.00 yesterday, but this morning it is still dry. It can't be far away though. There are loud rumbles of thunder coming from some distance away, but getting closer. And just as I write this, the first drops of rain are falling.

 Today I still have some stuff to do in my workshop, but there are other things I need to do. The most important thing is to buy more catfood. I opened the last tin this morning, but before I do this I will have to wait in for a delivery. I hope that delivery will include some money as I need more tobacco as well. Before the day ends I will also need to spend some time in my studio as well.
  I spent a long time yesterday morning writing an e-mail in reply to one sent to me by Patricia. I was really amazed to get a reply to that e-mail late last night. I could almost believe that although she is thousands of miles away there is a chance for our previous relationship to grow. To put that into perspective, I would say that back in June the chances of establishing the sort of relaationship that I desire would be roughly equal to winning the National Lottery without even entering it. Right now it is probably equivalent to entering the lottery and winning two weeks running. Maybe I am being too pessimistic. One insanely optimistic interpretation of our recent correspomdence is that she is tempting me to go and live in Spain with her. If that were really true I would have some immense hurdles to overcome, but I would almost certainly try to overcome them and do it. I was up until gone midnight composing my reply to her last e-mail. It contains some gentle probing to see if I can clearer measure of her thoughts.

 Besides spending lots of time typing stuff out at the keyboard, I was able to spend a few more hours in my workshop. I am actually running behind the schedule I imposed upon myself, but it is not a race, and my progress is good enough.
Thursday 18th August 2005
Weather - misty

 As the mist slowly lifts it looks as if today is going to be another fine hot day. Maybe too hot. My day today will probably be similar to yesterday. I want to spend even more time in my workshop. Before that I have a couple of e-mails to write in response to e-mails from Bear and Patricia. If I can find the time to relax, and get into the right frame of mind, I want to take the first tentative steps in learning how to program Microchip "PIC" chips. I know a lot of the theory already, but I have never worked in assembly language before. So it will be a bit of a steep learning curve at first. One other thing I ought to do today is to spend a couple of hours in my studio.
 Yesterday started very cool, but soon warmed up. By the end of the day it was very hot. This did slow me down a bit, but I did manage another hour or so in my workshop, but I got distracted by a desire to draft out some modifications to the schematic on the computer.

 I find it hard to account for all the time yesterday. Maybe some of the things I did took longer than I imagined. Apart from the unknown time in my workshop, and the unknown time drawing diagrams, I did spent another unknown amount of time editing, and restoring some audio. That leaves an unknown amount of time that I cannot account for. I can account for another hour when I watched The Bill, and I did go to bed early. It is strange that I should feel so vague about how I spent the time yesterday. However it is obvious that I had sufficient to do that I cannot remember feeling bored at any time.
Wednesday 17th August 2005
Weather - bright and cool

 It is unusually quiet at the moment. For the last 5 or 10 minutes there have been no cars, trains, or planes.  All that can be heard is the birds singing. It's nice. It is also nice and cool. Later on it will end up hotter than yesterday

 Today I want to spend even more time in my workshop. There is a little less urgency in what I am doing as there is a holdup with some of the parts I need, but I want to get as ahead as much as I can. I'll also spend a little time in my studio where I have an audio file to reprocess.
 I reached a milestone in my workshop yesterday where I reached the half way point in one of the assemblies. I try not to think that I have now got to the other half to do. Frankly, it is a little boring at times, but it does help pass the time, and the end will, hopefully, be worth it.

 I started in my workshop soon after 09.00 and reached my milestone by about 14.00. I was feeling rather warm and sticky at the end, and I decided to give for then, but considered that I might do some more later in the evening when the day started to cool off. Outside of the workshop it felt a lot cooler, and after a bit of this and a bit of that I went to Tesco to finally buy my shower gel and some soap. I also shamelessly tried to pass one bottle of Diet Coke through the checkout between two bottles of Tesco Diet Cola. Unlike the last time, when it happened by accident, this one went through properly and I was charged the correct price for it. One other thing caught my eye when going round the store. I noticed the little yellow reduced price stickers on the hot meat counter. So I bought two half price hot Cumberland sausages and some hot chicken. By the time I had lugged it all home I was beginning to appreciate that yesterday was one of the hotter days of late. (Today is expected to be even hotter). After I had cooled off a little, and changed into indoor clothes, I had a very nice meat feast.

 Once that had settled I tackled an audio file I had been sent. Unfortunately it had been sent as an 8 bit/22KHz mono wave file and sounded very noisy. It was one way to keep the file size down, but an mp3 would have been preferable. It took a fair bit of processing, but I got it to sound fairly good in the end. While this was going on it seemed as if my computer was running very slowly. A complete virus scan revealed nothing, and a scan with adaware and spybot only revealed the usual tracking cookies etc. Perhaps it was all in my imagination, and actually made worse by running all those scanners while the audio file was being processed.

 While some of the audio processing was going on I had a call from my sister. I have no spoken to her for many months so we had quite a long chat. Quite by chance I learned of one fact that has often intrigued me. On several occasions I have wondered how old my dad was when he died. I thought I had almost passed his number of years, but it seems he died aged 52. So I have got to hold on for at least another couple of years to beat his record. It is a curious fact that I have never really had any male relatives as they all died fairly young. So I guess if I can hang on for a few more years yet I will not be doing too bad. Ideally I'd like to hang on another 10 years so I can make a start at spending some of my B.T. pension, but either way of getting off the dole would be acceptable.

 I was considering whether to get back into my workshop when I got distracted by the TV. I can't remember what preceeded it, but I started watching a 90 minute documentary on BBC2 about Germany just after the end of the war. It was quite revealing. The blurring action of a long period of time made me think that the transition from the Nazi state to one of peaceful democracy, with a lot of help from the allies, had gone smoothly, and should have been the template for the rebuilding of Iraq. Instead I learned that the process was almost a calamity with all sorts of cock ups taking place. It was almost as if all the dynamic people, the thinkers and doers, who had come to the fore to actually win the war, were either too tired to carry on, or had been ousted by the old order of plodding civil servants who tied everything up in red tape.

I sometimes think that the only thing that justified the second world war was the stopping of the ruthless extermination policies of the nazis. Without that it may have been better to finish the war within the confines of Whitehall. Even if we had been invaded I am sure that the order for everybody to wear jack boots (as explained in numerous episodes of Dad's Army) would never have managed to escape the confines of the civil service. Even with all the heads of the civil service either killed off or imprisoned, the lower ranks would still have probably been a match for the German organisation (and these people would still be needed to run the country even with the orders coming from different masters). Like a vast smothering fog the civil service would tie all new orders up in cost/benefit analyis, commitee meetings, sub committee meeetings, sub-sub committe meetings, public consultations, and other mulitifarious ways feeding their own egos. After a few years the Germans would probably shake their heads in disbelief and go home again. (Or maybe I just watch too much "Yes Minister", but even Margret Thatcher admitted that programme was too close to the truth for comfort).
Tuesday 16th August 2005
Weather - dry and cool

 I must spend some more time in my workshop today. At some point in the day, possibly this morning, I will pop out and finally try and remember to buy some shower gel. Any other happenings today will be truly spontaneous.
 I spent a lot longer than I had thought I would writing my response to The Job Centre yesterday morning, but it got done as was in the post box by lunchtime. For the next few hours I pottered around getting closer to my workshop, but never getting to enter it.  Finally, towards late afternoon, I ventured in there and got stuck into my work. Once I had got started I was OK and carried on for several hours without taking any more than a few short breaks. By 19.00 I was getting hungry and broke for dinner. After watching an old "Yes Minister" on BBC 4 I could not find anything to watch on TV. So at 21.00 I was back in my workshop. I stayed there until 23.00 before shutting down and heading for bed. Unfortunately when I got to bed my brain was still very active. So I was reading until gone 01.00 before I finally put the book down and fell asleep. So right now I feel I need another hours worth of sleep.
Monday 15th August 2005
Weather - bright with high clouds

 This morning, and as for as much of the afternoon I can stand it, I should be in my workshop. There will be a few interuptions. I have a letter to write to the Job Centre, and I'll also have to go out and post it. I may take a break, or two, to burn a couple of CD's or a DVD.
 It was just after midday when I finally went out to try and complete my shopping from Tesco's. I still did not manage it because I forgot one of the main reasons for going there. That was to buy some more shower gel. I have just enough left for one more shower, but I do have ordinary soap so I will not be going around unwashed. It is just that my favourite shower gel is my favourite way of washing myself. Despite not getting the shower gel I did pick up a few bargains. I thought I would try some of Tesco's own brand diet cola. I have already tried their "value" diet cola and it is disgusting beyond words, but their ordinary diet cola turns out to be acceptable. It comes with a sliver label that looks a little similar to Coca Cola's Diet Coke. Maybe that is why when I bought a bottle of each I later found it had gone through the checkout as "Tesco Diet Cola" x2. So I saved an unexpected 60p (approx). The woman on the checkout was either in a hurry, had poor eyesight, or was just generous as she also put all the catfood through at the price of Tesco own brand. That saved another few pennies, but then she put through the butter beans as kidney beans. I think I may have lost out on a couple of pennies here as I can't remember which was the most expensive. There are a few people in Tesco who can count and only scan the first item of a multiple purchase of identical items, and then enter the multiplier into the till. I'll have to try and identify these people and see if I can sneal through a few more bottles of Diet Coke among Tesco own brand diet cola. It is a very worthwhile saving.

 As is sadly normal for when I come back from shopping I had a bit of a feast eating some of the odds and sods found on the reduced price counter. It is actually poor value for money when consumed like that, but a few treats now and then help to keep the spirit up. Suitably filled, or even over filled, I made my way up to my workshop and got stuck in. It is always daunting starting a new project, but I made sufficient headway to enable a flying start when I get up there today.

 After spending 2 or 3 hours in my workshop I had had enough and finished for the day. I spent the rest of the day either reading or watching TV. For a couple of hours there was a programme on Channel Five with a(nother) count down of the UK's top twenty number one singles as (allegedly) voted for by the great unwashed British public. It was a motley collection of singles that were portrayed including one or more that I have never even heard of ! I like a quote from Paul Gambaccini that records from the last 5 years should be discounted as people have not had sufficient time to sort their memories out. That is so true. How can a single only released in the last 18 months be truly judged to be an enduring classic ?  Discounting about 5 from the twenty that were not worthy of consideration I would agree that all those left were exceptionally good, but I am not sure about the order they came up in, or whether there were some notable omissions. Number one was a big surprise. It was Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. A great record, but I had no idea that it could be so apparently popular. If asked I don't think I could possibly come up with a favourite single. There are just too many good records out there, and to a certain extent I could not be sure that I was not naming an album track instead of a single.

 I went to be at around 23.00 and did some reading. I felt a bit uncomfortable while lying in bed. Initially it was a bloated feeling like I had eaten far too much during the day, but although I had eaten a lot, there have been many precedents of eating even more without feeling so bad. After an hour I was beginning to feel like I might vomit. So I made a couple of trips to the toilet that were productive and did not involve vomiting. That settled things enough for me to get to sleep, although I fell asleep wondering if I would have to make a mad dash to the toilet to vomit later. Fortunately  slept OK without having to get up again and make any mad dashes, but this morning I was still feeling a little yucky. A few more trips to the toilet seem to have settled that, and confirmed a suspicion that it was not how much I ate yesterday, but what I ate. My suspicion falls on a chicken and ham pie found on the reduced price counter at Tesco's. It tasted OK, but maybe it was just on the turn, or had some mild contamination. Perhaps it is just as well that I wolfed the whole lot down in the morning before it could get worse, and only suffered mild food poisoning instead of the full blown "projectile from both ends". (Yes I know you would have preferred not to have heard that !).
Sunday 14th August 2005
Weather - overcast but dry

 Today, being a day of rest, will possibly be the day I finally pull my finger out and do something worthwhile. I have, or appear to have, had a good lay in this morning. That is not actually an accurate assesment. I woke up at 03.15 (approx) after having some sort of bad dream. I have no idea what the dream was about, but after going out for a pee, I tried to get back to sleep and failed. My brain suddenly woke up and started thinking about things. It got stuck in a loop while I was mentally composing a reply a Job Centre query. They have written to ask why I did not apply for a job I enquired about, and threatening that I may be in breach of my Job Seekers Agreement by not doing so. The basic answer is that the job turned out to be beyond my capabilities when I looked into it further. I think I have worked out a way of replying that will show my contempt for such a stupid question, but without it being obviously disrespectful. Maybe they won't realise my subtleties, but it will give me some joy when I have finally written out the reply and sent it off.

 I got back to sleep around 04.00 and slept right through to 09.00. Since then I have washed and dressed, as well as found a couple of blank mini disks to record a short wave radio station on. Unfortunately all my computers tend to cause serious interference when directly connected to a radio. So it's back to analogue recording - well almost. Mini Disk is digital, but the little MD Walkman feels like a little cassette recorder. The station in question is Alices Restaurant. It was once a land based pirate radio station, but just for today is broadcasting legally through a high power Rumainian transmitter that they have hired. It is on 9290KHz until 16.00 (or maybe 18.00) tonight. Between 12.00 and 14.00 one of my old friends, Nigel, is the DJ.
 Yesterday was another very lazy day when I could not motivate myself to do much. During the morning I did waste some time playing with the ancient, and poorly regarded CD writer that I mentioned the day before. I tried hooking it up to my Windows 2000 machine upstairs via an external SCSI drive box. Windows did recognise as something, but it was not sure what so it put it in the hardware list with a question mark by it. I told windows that it was just an ordinary CD drive and it obliged by giving it a drive letter. At that point I could read from it perfectly. So the next test was to see if Nero could use it OK. I knew that an earlier version of Nero had been able to use it even when Windows ME did not even recognise it was even connected. My reasonably up to date version of Nero recognised it instantly, and knew of its capabilities (not many !). So I tried burning 600MB of files to it. It is not a fast burner. In fact its top speed is only x2, but it managed to get to the end without apparent mishap. I had set Nero to verify the contents once burning had finished. It failed that saying it could not mount the disk (mounting disks - an unusual idea for Windows, but common with Linux). However after closing Nero down and trying the disk I found that it seemed to have burnt perfectly. I'm still curious about how the drive would perform under Linux, but it is nice to know that at least I still have a fully working CD writer spare even if it is a bit ancient and poorly specified.

 The next single block of time that contained anything worth mentioning was when I finally plucked up the courage to watch The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy movie. It had its moments but was as bad as I thought, although not neccesarily in the way I had thought. Trying as hard as I could to avoid references to the real HHGTTG as broadcast by the BBC TV, and to the books and radio broadcasts, as has been recommeneded by past reviewers, I still rate it as a bad film. A lot of the film looked as if it had been made by an amateur oufit, perhaps a bunch of enthusiastic fans who wanted to reproduce bits and pieces of the story. Even the graphics for the book looked as if they had been made by schoolchildren in the 1950's. The very book itself, when it appeared on the screen, looked more like the size of an old "LP box set" rather than something that would fit comfortably in your average hitchhikers dressing gown pocket. Particularly galling was that the real Marvin (the paranoid android) had a non speaking guest appearence as an extra. Why oh why, if they had him there did they not use him instead of a fat bloated Californian travesty of an android. I think the cast and crew of that film will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes (even ahead of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation).
Saturday 13th August 2005
Weather - cloudy, but not too cold

 I really should be spending all day in my workshop. However I have laundry and a bit of shopping to do (the shopping I didn't do yesterday). How the day actually turns out is anyones guess.
 Just after 09.00, yesterday, I finally plucked up the courage to speak to my bank. It was not nearly as bad as I thought it might be. My dole had been paid in, so as far as they were concerned I had followed their wishes and was no longer overdrawn past my overdraft limit. The best bit was that I told them how I had tried several times to alter one particular standing order via internet banking, the one that had actually taken me past the limit, failed and had attracted the £34 penalty, and each time it had failed to change. After a bit of whinging they deleted the £34 bank charge as "a gesture of good will" !  So I am solvent again. I even have a whole £22 in my account available (but still £80 overdrawn !). This has come as a great relief. My next dole payment should be on the 26th. So at the beginning of the month I will be roughly £100 in credit !  Or at least I would be if there was not one more debit for the Water board to pay, and an impending mobile phone bill to pay. I will have to check when it is exactly, but in a month or two my mobile phone contract should finish and I can cancel it. I still have a pay-as-you-go phone and that should cater for all my needs.

 After the elation of sorting out my finances (for now) I did not feel like doing anything. For the first time in several times I could totally relax without being burdened by troublesome thoughts. So for most of the morning I did nothing of any note. Later in the afternoon Jodie came over again to use the studio. She is off to Finland again to see he boyfriend next week , and wanted to get some advance recording done. That kept me distracted until she left at some time close to 20.00.

 There was nothing on TV last night. The only programme I may have watched, To The Manor Born on UK Gold, had finished by the time I had finished closing down the studio after Jodie had left. So I decided to surf the net while celebrating my new financial freedom (!!). I had half a tumbler of scotch, the last in the bottle, and smoked my only cigar, a leftover from some christmas past. It was close to midnight by the time I felt I had had enough of the internet, and I went to bed.

 During the day, but I cannot remember at what time, I did my first experiments with brown rice. It worked out OK. I cooked it in the same way as I cook basmati rice, but gave it an extra 5 minutes. Added to the rice were some chopped peppers, some peas, and some chicken. I served it with some Thai sweet chilli sauce dribbled over the top and it was excellent. I can't wait to try something similar, but today I think it will be potato and chicken stew. As much as I like the rice, I have a bag of potatoes whose life is far shorter than the rice. So I ought to use those up first. When I "rediscovered" rice recently I was actually using some rice that was a whopping 3 years past its sell by date. Despite that I could tell no difference between it and the newly bought rice. So the potatoes definitely have to go first, and the ready cooked chicken will not last in the fridge any longer.

 One thing I did turn up during my internet searching was some info on a CD writer that I was given some years ago. It is an ancient JVC writer that manages a staggering x2 writing speed. I have tried it a few times out curiosity with mixed results. One of the peculiar things is that usually Windows decides to ignore it's presence. Despite that Nero Burning Rom can always find it and is capable of using it. I wondered if there were any firmware upgrades that might make it more visible to Windows (or even if it were actually capable of being upgraded). I did find some firmware upgrades, but found a lot of other stuff as well. Everything I read about the drive slagged it off unmercifully. Apparently the first crime is that it is very prone to overheating. Then it can introduce other assorted errors for no apparent reason. The recommendation is - AVOID !! Even the firmware upgrades are to be avoided as they introduce worse bugs than the original. The final words of advice were that if it has to be used it should be used in an external enclosure (it uses a SCSI interface) that is well ventilated, and not to turn the power on until the very last minute before trying to use it. I am so glad that it was given to me for free. I would hate to have paid out money for such a white elephant. Despite that I am curious to see how it fares when used on a Linux PC. Will it be instanly recognised as a CD drive for starters, and can I successfuly burn a CD with it. The answers to these questions I hope to find sometime in the future. Maybe not in the next few days, but my curiosity has been aroused now. All this actually came about when I was looking for something else and noticed the drive sitting there partly open and I couldn't close it without powering it up.
Friday 12th August 2005
Weather - damp and grey

The major task for today is to confront my bank manager about my recent financial misdemeanours. My dole money should have been paid in today. That will get me on the right side of my overdraft - just, but only just after all the bank charges have been added on. Some of those I will try and get dropped as they are not totally my fault. If their internet banking interface had allowed me to change some of my standing orders I could have avoided the worst of the overdraws. Besides that, if that wasn't enough for a whole day, I will get stuck into some stuff in my workshop.
I started yesterday pretty pissed off and depressed. As a sort of therapy I went into my workshop and did some stuff to keep my mind otherwise occupied. I worked solidly until 12.30, only stopping for the occasional drink of water, and a few fag breaks. Then I had a simple meal of rice and peas cooked with a beef stock cube and some curry powder. It was sinple but very nice. A little later in the afternoon an odd combination of circumstances meant I was able to sell some stuff for £40.

I was "rich" again and dashed straight out to Tesco's to relieve myself of this burdensome money !  I almost succeded, but I still have £6.33 left ! I bought a 100gm of tobacco, another 8 tins of catfood, two boxes of cat "crunchies", and some foodstuff for myself. There are a couple of slightly less immeadiately essential items, such as soap, that I could not carry yesterday, that I will go back for today. That should keep me going in basic stuff for a week or two, although I will need more tobacco before a fortnight is out.

 With my immeadiate money worries out of the way I was free to relax for the rest of day and to contemplate how I will be cooking some brown rice in the future. My favourite rice is Basmati, but I considered that some of the simple dishes that I have been experimenting with lately, where rice is the main ingredient, need a stronger rice. Basmati rice is quick and simple to cook, but other types of rice often need longer to cook and the preparation can be more elaborate. At least that is what my memory is telling me. I bought two types yesterday - brown and American long grain. So I have some learning to do.

 I have to admit that I did very little for the rest of yesterday. I did some eating, and consumed two of the little luxuries that I bought, and I watched some TV. By 21.00 I went to bed to continue reading. It was a hot sticky night, and it was uncomfortable just lying quietly on my bed reading. I wonder if some of the heat I was feeling was a reaction to some Balti (mostly chilli) flavour peanuts that I had eaten earlier. Mostly though it was the weather. When I went out shopping during the afternoon I soon came to realise that it was quite hot outside - specially in the direct sunshine. That heat was then trapped by some fairly thick clouds that appeared during nightfall. By mid evening it was raining, and it continued on and off until after I was asleep. This morning the rain has stopped, but it is less chilly outside than the last few days. Despite that I have closed the lower half of the window as the draught felt too chilly to sit in. It is very grey outside and I wonder if there will be more rain today. Not that it really matters as I won't be going anywhere today. I have nowhere to go, and even if I did I could not waste money on getting there.
Thursday 11th August 2005
Weather - bright and colol

There's not much going on today. If I can I want to get into my workshop and make a start on some currently non-important stuff that may be important in the weeks to come. All this depends on not getting another nasty letter from the bank or I will retreat from reality inside a book I started reading yesterday for just that purpose. (It's a Harry Harrison Sci-Fi novel).
Yesterday got off to another bad start with another letter from the bank. This one said I had to suspend my own account and made more veiled suggestions of interest charges, overdrawn charges and other assorted penalties. I think that if I ever get a long spell back in the black I will be making enquiries with other banks to see if they treat people a bit better.  I will contact my bank tomorrow when my dole should have brought me back into my allowed overdraft, but unfortunately not into the black, and see what can be sorted out. In particular why I cannot stop standing orders being paid out while I am overdrawn using internet banking.

 That letter left me pissed off and took away all inspiration to do anything. I spent a fair bit of yesterday just immersed in a book. Late in the afternoon Jodie came to use the studio and I was forced to participate in the real world for a few hours, but mostly I can sum up most of yesterday as reading, eating and watching one or two select TV programmes.
Wednesday 10th August 2005
Weather - bright and cold again

 This afternoon I am expecting Jodie to come and use the studio. I'm not sure what I am doing today. I may use the studio myself this morning. There is no drinking tonight, Kevin is on holiday and I am totally, completely broke.
 I was not very happy yesterday. In the morning I received a letter from my bank. I have been charged £34 for a bounced direct debit. So my financial position is far worse than I thought. Even Friday's dole money will not get me in the black, but it will get close. Fortunately most of the monthly bills are paid, and next fortnights dole will go in before the beginning of September when the next round of bills starts. With the little bit of money I am expecting to get from Lee I could have a fairly comfortable September, but I will still have to be very careful, and for the next fortnight I am back to being totally grounded with only about £35 on my Tesco Club Card to sustain me. Most of that £35 will go on catfood and tobacco, so it's back to a very bland, high carbohydrate diet for me.

 On top of the worry about my bank account, but really part of it, was another "threatening" letter from the electricity board saying they wanted more money. Some time ago I tried to change my standing order from £42 to the requested £65 a month. For some reason I could not change it via online banking so I let it stand. Last month I paid up the difference as a one off payment, but yesterday I phoned them up to say it was their fault as I was waiting to hear ow much I should be paying now I am on their dual fuel tarrif (gas and electricity). They accepted this and reviewed my past electricity consumption. For electriccity they said that about £50 a month was all that was required, and not the £65 they had been asking for. So I have arranged that I will be setting up a new standing order, if the bank can't change the existing one, of £60 a month to start being paid later this month. Now we are both more or less happy. They are happy that they will (ought) to be getting the money they want. While I am sort of happy that they will stop nagging me. I will be paying £8 more a month, but will not have to keep topping up the underpayments (£27 last month).

 This story is actually being told out of order, but in order of importance. All the negotiations with the electricity board, and closing the account with British Gas took place late in the afternoon. For much of the morning, and into the early part of the afternoon I just moped around unispired to do anything. Soon after 15.00 I went out to the Job Centre to sign on at 15.30. Once there I was asked how my job searching was going. This is pretty much part of the standard interrogation, and in theory, unless you can satisfy them that you are actively seeking work your benefits can be stopped. I told her about the job I had applied for online, and showed them a printout from a page of their own website with a job I was interested in. It is rare for jobs found there to have any contact details, or the name of the firm, and the details have to be found from the Job Centre itself or via their phone line. She looked up the job and told me it had been suspended. At that point I was able to say that my job searching was going very badly as the job had appeared to be available when I had checked a few hours earlier. So I asked if she could at least reveal the name of the company so I could approach them with a spec letter. That was not allowed so I said that my job seeking had almost ground to a halt, and that it was their fault. This was almost humourously accepted (as intended) and the interogation came to a halt. The good news is that because of the upcoming bank holiday, and a staff and office reorganisation, I do not have to sign on again until 20th September.

 It was straight after coming home from the Job Centre that I tackled the Gas and Electricity boards. After that was done I felt totally exhausted, and could do no more than lie down and do some quiet reading. An hour or so later I made some food and watched the 18.00 news on TV while eating it. The options on TV after that were not very inspiring so I went back to reading. By 21.00 I was actually in bed, but I continued to read until sometime after 22.00, perhaps nearer 23.00, when I turned out the light and quickly fell asleep. I'm sure I had some peculiar dreams about LAN cables, but the memories are now too hazy to be recalled.

 This morning I think I have more energy, and with my finances now stable, although still balanced on a knife edge, I may be able to concentrate on doing something useful.
Tuesday 9th August 2005
Weather - bright and cold

I have one very important appointment today with the Job Centre. I sign on at 15.30. Apart from that I will just be pottering around doing a bit of this and a bit of that.
 I have applied for a job this morning. I am pretty certain I won't hear another thing about it. The job is an I.T. job as a 1st Line desktop support engineer at a "busy and trendy" media agency. Trendy is almost certainly a code word meaning they are after a very much younger man. Still, you never know....................

 I spent many hours rebuilding my PC that is called Greysky yesterday. This is my favourite spare PC that uses a Pentium III 450MHz processor. Originally it had a removable hard disk carrier with a choice of two hard disks. One was Wndows ME on a 4GB drive, and the other was Xandros on a 6.4GB drive. The rebuild was to take out the hard disk carrier and install two permanent 10GB drives. One now has Windows ME on it, and the other Xandros in a dual boot arrangement. Nothing else has changed, but this time Xandros has not picked up the PCI SCSI card with a SCSI CD writer attached to it. One possible reason is that Windows has set the SCSI card to share resources with another card, maybe the sound card. Another day I will see if I can persuade Windows to use some other i/o, irq, etc for the SCSI card and then see if Xandros can find it. Although it is a little annoying that Xandros has failed me in this respect, it is of little consequence. The free, "Open Circulation", version of Xandros limits CD burning speed to x2. So it would probably be quicker to copy the files I want to burn to the Windows partition and burn them using the Windows application Nero.

 Besides the advantages of dual booting, without having to swap hard drives over, the object of the exercise was to liberate the smaller hard disks to use on the Pentium Pro PC which cannot reliably detect disks bigger than about 8GB. Some other day I will retry Vector Linux on one of these smaller disks and see if it can get the boot sector correct. I may also try an old version of SuSe Linux (6.3 ?)  that I have on an old magazine cover disk somewhere.  I have read suggestions that SuSe is able to cope quite well with low memory provided I select a low end window manager instead of going for the heavyweight options of KDE of Gnome.

 I didn't seem to get up to much else yesterday - apart from a few little odd jobs. I did get into my workshop, but all I did was to replace the broken plug on a keyboard. I did a little shopping for vegetable (and some junk food). I also bought some cheap sliced pepperoni thinking it might go well in a rice dish. Although not unpleasant it turned out to be very unexciting.

 Dreaming about being on a treadmill suggests monotony and boredom. That may be true for a normal vertical treadmill like the wheel in a hamster cage, but what does it mean when you dream that you want to get on a horizontal treadmill and run around fast enough to defy gravity ?  The memories of my dreams are fading fast now, but I do remember some scenario like that. There was a tie in with a Sci-Fi book I was reading before going to sleep. I had two human assistants/trainers from the planet Pyrrus (surface gravity twice Earth), and whose names were rather bizarely Mandrake and Redhat (Linux distros !!). They were trying to teach me the technique of running fast enough around what was more or less a circular room, and to end up running on the wall. I can't remember if I ever achieved it, but I think it seemed fun at the time.
Monday 8th August 2005
Weather - bright and very cold

 I think I may pick up my soldering iron today. It seems to have been a long time since I did anything in my workshop. At the very least I ought to repair a keyboard with a damaged plug on it by converting it from P/S2 to AT. That means cutting off the damaged mini-din plug and fitting a full sized din plug. I think I will do just one tiny bit more shopping for some tomatoes and peppers.
 Yesterday went by quite pleasantly. I spent a little time in the morning exploring some Linux options. Initially I wanted to try and install the fwm95 window manager in the experimental installation of Redmond Linux. I found some "howtos" on how to do it, but fell at the first hurdle - "fwm95 requires libraries so and so", in turn those libraries probably require something else as well. So I did some research for lightweight Linux distributions. The particular requirement was to work with only 48M pf ram with a full graphical interface. Two possibilities arose (there are probably others). These were Puppy Linux and Vector Linux. So I download both of them and had a play. Puppy Linux was quite good, but is a live CD distribution that does not install to a blank disk. It makes its home on part of another operating systems file system. Running just from the CD was slow and unresponsive, but I did like the way it worked. It had one major flaw though - it did not find my ISA sound card.

 So next was Vector Linux. I quite liked that. The installation went smoothly, and it did find all the bits in the computer correctly, even the sound card was correctly identified and configured (probably). Funny thing was I never heard it make any sound !  At times it did feel a bit lumpy, and even froze solid once or twice. The major problem was related to lilo, the boot manager. It was probably because the BIOS could not see the full size of the disk. It was a 10GB disk, but the BIOS reported it as an 8GB disk. On booting up all I could get was the first "l" of lilo followed by half a screenful of "40"'s repeated over and over again. As a temporary solution I was able to boot from the installation CD, and then transfer to the hard disk from there. I am now in a bit of a quandry with several options available to me. The simple solution is to use the installation of Windows 98 that is still safely on its own hard disk. It makes everything in that PC work correctly, or I could perevere in getting Linux working correctly on it.  A smaller hard disk would almost certainly solve the lilo problem, but I am tempted to put the Pentium II mother board back in the case and try Vector Linux again. Of course all this is a load of fuss for a PC that is near the bottom of the pecking order of my PC's and is unlikely to be used for anything serious.

 Later in the afternoon/evening I was tempted back into my studio. Using modern digital processes I have an amazing selection of audio tools that I could only have dreamed of 10 years ago. Despite that whole arsenal of tools I have yet to find anything that will remove an offensive Village People song from within the middle of someone elses music mix !
Sunday 7th August 2005
Weather - clear blue sky , cold

 I think that for today I will be pursuing less artistic pursuits, and more technical pursuits. In other words less time in my studio, and more time playing with computers or in my workshop. There is one artistic thing I may do however. It has started as a beautiful clear day, although at the moment it is actually rather chilly, and I might consider going out to stretch my legs and catch a bit of sun on my face. I can't think of anywhere to go, and even if I could I cannot afford the fares to get there, but I could take a wander around the park or local streets with my camera.
 Yesterday was quite a successful day. I did all that I predicted. I did my laundry, emptied Nelly's litter tray, and went shopping, and later on spent a lot of the rest of the day up in my studio.

 Shopping was a joy with my Club Card Plus having credit on it. I bought 3 types of staples. These were bread, potatoes and rice. The rice was a sudden inspiration as I was walking around the store. There are tasty things that can be done with rice and some curry powder. I also bought a few little luxury items like a 50p bar of chocolate, some "value" crisps, and some pre-cooked spicy chicken slices that were very nice when cooked as part of a spicy rice dish last night. As well as a few other bits and pieces like vegetable I also bought a 6 pack of "Athurs" cat food. It is cheap variety that the cats later told me was not totally to their taste. Maybe the economics of it were not a good idea after all.

 Once I had satiated myself with some of the food I bought, I  went up to the studio, initially, to do some experimentation. I tried to burn the same audio to four different makes of blank CD. Although the four types were of different manufacture, only one actually had a brand name on it, and that was something unheard of. The four types all played back perfectly in both CD players. However one did seem to take a little longer when seeking between tracks. I tried burning another set of audio tracks on another of those disks, but that time I did the burning at half speed. That one seemed perfect. In the light of this I will definitely avoid using "5 Star" disks for audio in the future, although maybe if I burnt them at 1/4 speed they might be OK.

 I stayed in the studio until roughly 20.00, although I did take a few short breaks. Thanks to the wonder of modern digital editing I managed to pull success from what was a disastrous recording session. The ability to edit down to the nearest millisecond, and retry it if it was not right, is a fantastic luxury for anyone who remembers using splicing tape and a razor blade on 1/4 magnetic tape.

 I came down feeling hungry after that session and so set about cooking my spicy chicken and peas pilau rice.  It is ages since I last cooked any rice, but I have not totally lost my touch.  I say not totally because if I had a chance to cook that dish all over again I would have added about another tablespoon of water. The rice was perfectly cooked, but just a tiny bit dry. Other than that it was delicious. The dryness may have been because it was a fat and oil free recipe. It is possible that I may do a rice dish for tonight, but sadly I have no more chicken to put in it, and sadly I don't think bacon would quite work - but I may try it anyway !
Saturday 6th August 2005
Weather - grey but dry

Several things on the agenda for today. I will be emptying Nelly's litter tray, doing some laundry, and doing some shopping (yes my Tesco Club Card Plus is back in credit !). Besides all that I want to spend some more time in my studio, and to imvestigate why most audio recordings on "5 Star" cheapo recordable CD disks sound noisy on my two ancient CD players (and modern CD walkman type player).
Some of my gloom lifted yesterday when I succeded in buying half a dozen tins of catfood on my Tesco Club Card Plus. I had sufficient cash to pay for them if the club card was not in credit, but thankfully the transaction went through the till OK. Today I will be using the card to stock up on a lot of basics (potatoes etc) and just a few luxuries like meat to make the day go better.

 I spent a lot of yesterday in my studio upstairs. One of the things I was doing was to make an audio compilation CD. Having carefully selected the tracks I wanted, and normalised the volume level of each one, I burned the compilation to a "5 Star" cheap and nasty CDR disk. When I played it back the results were horrible. The two ancient CD players up there found it hard to play, and one even gave up by track 6. While playing there was an irregular shhh shhh sound in the background. To a slightly lesser extent I could also hear this when playing the disk on a far newer portable CD player. So I looked through a few assorted odd CDR disk that I have and found an "Intenso" disk. When I burnt the audio to that and played it back the difference was amazing. Playback was rock solid. All CD players found the tracks more or less instantly, and there was no background noises. I have never noticed any problems with 5 Star disks for data use, but constantly have trouble using them for audio work. I think I will be avoiding them in the future. Apart from the poor audio reproduction I worry that anything I have archived on them will be unreadable in a year or two.
Friday 5th August 2005
Weather - rain

I cannot even begin to predict what I may do today.
 I didn't really like yesterday at all. I can't really concentrate on anything during the day when I am waiting for a specific time to arrive. In this case it was the hospital appointment at 15.28. So until it was time to leave here I just pottered around flitting from one thing to another and feeling sort of bored. At the hospital my eyes checked out OK, which is what I was expecting, and I will be recalled again in a years time for another check.

 It was on the way home from the hospital that things went from bad to worse. I called in on the Aldi supermarket on my way home and attempted to buy £15 worth of stuff on my debit card. The transaction was refused, presumably for lack of funds, and I had to abandon my shopping and come home empty handed. This was a bit of a shock as I thought I had a little spare cash in my account. So instead of having something very tasty for supper I had to resort to curried potatoes with green beans. It has left me feeling a little pissed off.

 Today, or tomorrow, there should be £70 available on my Tesco Club Card Plus. Unless that transaction, on the 1st of the month, failed through lack of funds. To avoid further embarrasment I shall go to Tesco today and attempt to buy about £2 worth of catfood on my Club Card Plus. If that fails today I can afford to pay cash for it. If it goes through OK I may return later in the day to buy a few staples for myself, but I think it will have to be more boring stuff like more potatoes and frozen peas. I may be relying on a lot of that £70 for tobacco  for the next week or two so I'll have to keep the cost of groceries to the barest minimum.
Thursday 4th August 2005
Weather - bright and dry

Today I have an appointment at Lewisham Hospital for a DECS examination at 15.28. This is one of the few examinations that do not need rubber gloves. Instead I get blasted in the eye by a powerful flash. I will also be getting another lecture saying it is about time I signed up with a family doctor. Apart from that minor inconvenience, today could be the day when I rebuild my firewall, or maybe do something else. I did download the files to install a lightweight window manager, fwm95, onto the Pentium Pro PC that still has the disk with Redmond Linux attached to it. Installing the files will be one thing, but actually configuring everything to use fwm95 could be mind boggling. I do have the vaguest idea how to do it, but it will involve lots of headscratching.
 I am not sure what I am doing up at this time of the morning. Last night I was in the pub, and after a decent drink came home to watch the late night showing of The Bill on ITV 3. Somewhere within earshot of my bed I had an alarm call at 06.00. Just for a change this was a quartz one instead of a fur and whiskers one. I think my watch, which was in my trouser pocket, was set to sound at 06.00 - a legacy of days when I had to get up to go to work. So basically, this morning, I have the sort of hangover that is not painful, but feels like every effort is like wading through treacle, and I could have done with more sleep.

 I think that yesterday was a good day, although I did read some worrying news. I didn't do much in the morning, but I spent an enjoyable afternoon in my studio.

 It was shortly before going out to the pub that I had a quick flick through BBC teletext to see what was going on in the world. I am very concerned by one news item. Apparently someone associated with the London bombers has been charged with withholding information that could lead to the arrest of one of the actual bombers. He may be a despicable bastard, but leaving that aside, since when was it a criminal offence not to grass up your mates, family members etc ? Is this another indicator that we are on the slippery slope to the Orwellian nightmare ?  What today may be special circumstances becomes common place tomorrow. How long will it be before it is a criminal offence not to turn in your mates for any offence they may have committed ? I doubt I know anyone who has not pulled some stroke at one time or another, even if that was just as trivial as driving at 35mph in a 30mph limit. With the miracles of modern leechs I could be alive on this planet for another 50 years (if I ever do sign up to a doctor again), and suddenly the future does not look too rosy. Perhaps not signing up to the proper care and maintenence of the human body is not such a bad idea after all.
Wednesday 3rd August 2005
Weather - drizzle

Tonight will probably be a drinking night at The Ram. I have managed to keep £10 back for the night somehow. During the day I have a few things to do that will keep me amused. One possibility is to do some stuff in my workshop, and another is to build my new firewall. The old firewall is working OK, but the latest update message is bugging me. I can't install it unless I increase the memory installed in the box. The new firewall will use an old PC that Steve gave me, and already has more ram in it than the old firewall PC.
 Yesterday I did a bit of this and a bit of that. I spent a lot of time experimenting with old Linux distributions on old hardware. This all came about when curiosity got the better of me and I decided to see just how the installation of the forbidden Caldera Linux looked. It may be some relief to those who disapprove of the distribution that the installation failed within a few minutes of starting during the start of the hardware detection routine. The machine I tried it on was the 450MHz Pentium III machine that quite happily installs and runs Xandros. Strangely enough when I later tried to install Ubuntu Linux, that too failed, although much later in the installation routine. Ubuntu seemed to get it's knickers in a twist over the graphics card. That card is an early AGP card, and perhaps is a little rare, or there is something odd about it. I seem to recall that Windows has some difficulties with it as well until the correct drivers are installed.

 That happened upstairs. Meanwhile downstairs, in my back room, I had this machine running checking e-mail, and occassionally playing internet radio. At the same time I had my big video editing machine burning a couple of disks. Finally I had the Pentium Pro machine running as well.  Actually, to really add the final thing, the firewall PC was running as well. That makes 4 PCs all running with 3 monitors on and chucking out heat (the firewall does not normally use a monitor). With that lot going it got rather hot in here ! The Pentium Pro machine was also being used to test out some old Linux distributions. I thought I would give Slackware yet another go. So far I have not managed to get a good working installation from Slackware. This time was no exception. One big failing with the installer is that it is easy to miss out a step to test the X server that gives the graphical interface (if indeed there is one). So upon first boot the X server failed and I was left with just the command line to work from. If  had been truly dedicated, and more importantly I had some real use for the machine, I could have learned some valuable lessons about manual configuration of Xconfig. Instead I just moved on to another old distribution. This one was Redmond Linux, predecessor of Lindows, and subsequently Linspire. The hardware detection and configuration program used was the same as that used for Caldera Linux - Lizard. This version worked perfectly, although it might have had one little bug. I'm sure it reported that it had not found a network card, and yet almost by a miracle the network card was up and running when the machine finally started up for the first time. Amazingly everything had been detected and configured correctly, even the ISA sound card.

 If that old machine had a decent amount of ram in it, say 128MB, I am sure it would have worked very well. Sadly it only has 48MB and using it was like wading through treacle. Nearly all the trouble was KDE desktop sucking up all the resources. I am going to keep that installation and one day see if I can add a much lighter desktop like fwm95. although an easier option would be to see if Deli Linux, optimised for Pentium I or 486 processors, would work. Deli Linux comes with a lightweight desktop, and even a lightweight X server, specifically for machines with limited amounts of ram. The last time I tried it I could not get it to install properly, but I cannot recall just what went wrong now.

 From a slightly obscure source I heard a comment on this diary. It concerned my mention, a week or two ago, about buying new underpants.What the commenter failed to realise was that when on the very tight budget that I am on, buying  such luxuries become a cause of celebration. Of my regular income a whole 99% of it goes on just a few regular items. Over half of that is on services, gas, electricity etc, and the rest on just three things. These are tobacco, catfood and human food (mostly in order of importance).For the last couple of years my computer stuff has been "charitable" donations of mostly obsolete stuff, and it is only by being able to do a few occasional odd jobs that I can raise the money to buy the occasional round in the pub.
Tuesday 2nd August 2005
Weather - clear and bright

 I have one definite thing to do today. At 20.00 there is the last ever episode of Star Trek "Enterprise" being shown on Sky One. By hook or by crook I will be watching that undisturbed. For the rest of the day I'll probably be doing something in my workshop and/or doing something to computers.
 I almost achieved all that I intended to do yesterday, but I could have done more. I did a lot of workshop type stuff, but did it while watching TV. As I learnt new and exciting things (or maybe not) from repeats on the Discovery channel, I was busy winding coils. What I should have done then is to get into my workshop and solder those coils into place. My excuse for not doing so was that my fingers were aching, and I had a phone call from Jodie to say she wanted to come over and use the studio. So I decided to break for lunch before setting things up in the studio for her.

 From then on time seemed to fly, and I did remarkably little to fill in that time. Later in the evening I spent some time in the studio myself. Breaking only to watch "Yes Minister" on BBC 4. By about 22.00 I went to bed with a book intending to read until 23.00 at the latest. Unfortunately I got carried away and did not turn out the light until midnight when my eyes were going blurry, and my eyelids drooping. I was asleep very soon after, but mysteriously woke up at around 04.00. I think it may have been a fox in the garden that woke me up. Last night was the first time in a week, or more, that I have slept with the bedroom window open. So any sound from outside would appear louder than it has done lately. It is only 6 or 7 weeks after midsummers day and it is remarkable how much daylight we are losing. Just a few weeks back it would have been light, or almost light at 04.00, but this morning it was very dark.
Monday 1st August 2005
Weather - drizzle

 I have no particular plans for today, but I think I may spend some time in my workshop.
 I didn't achieve much of anything particular yesterday. It was a Sunday, and like God, I chose to mainly rest. Unlike God I could not rest all the time. He didn't have hungry cats to shop for ! So soon after Tesco's opened I was in there buying catfood, and a certain amount of human food too. The one thing I should have bought was toilet paper. Unfortunately I didn't realise I was running out. I am down to my last roll, but that should be good for a week unless I am lucky enough to eat something like a Vindaloo !

 Later in the day I spent several hours in my studio recording some stuff, and processing some other stuff. While some of the processing was going on, or more precisely, waiting for the computer to finish the pocessing, I started searching for a specific old magazine cover disk.  I knew that somewhere I had a copy of a "forbidden" (in an Orwellian way) Linux distribution. This was Caldera Linux which was released by SCO. There is a whole pile of lawsuits going on between SCO and various companies over alleged copyright infringements. These all relate to whether SCO owns part of the Linux Kernel. As such, SCO are hated by most of the Linux community. This site is as good as any at explaining what is going on. Eventually I found the disk I was after. It was actually a DVD rom disk which I think is bootable, although I have not tried it as yet. I have no real reason for wanting to try it except that it is there (and the fact that it is "forbidden").

 One other thing that happened yesterday was that I had the potential for a house fire.  While tapping away at this PC in the morning, I could smell a fishy sort of smell. Initially I thought it was some old catfood going off, but I had not put out any fish based catfood for sometime. The other thing that smells like that is an overheating 13A mains plug. After a little investigation I found that the plug for the Washing machine was too hot to touch. Unfortunately the water pressure round here is low because of a few minor leaks in the surrounding roads. This reduces the temperature of the water from the multi-point boiler here. Because of that the washing machine is having to use it's own heater, and this draws a heavy current. I quickly turned off the socket and withdrew the plug (not easy with a very hot plug in a confined space). Investigation showed that a screw that connects the fuse holder prongs to the connection block was loose. I tightened it up, but I was still concerned that the metalwork would be corroded and still not make a good connection. So one of my other purchases from Tesco was a brand new plug. Perhaps today I will open up the old plug, clean it up, and keep it for something that consumes far less power.
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