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December (2004)


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January 2005


Monday 31st January 2005

06.10 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

 I think my greatest success story from yesterday was removing all the yucky hair from the bath plug hole. It is a job I hate doing. Even though it is my own hair, and other stuff, it still feels very yucky. But it needed to be done. The bath was taking ever increasing amounts of time to empty, and that was only while using it to shower. At the end of the last shower I had on Saturday I was left standing in over two inches of water, and that needed many minutes to drain away after I had finished. After yanking out a huge plug of hair the water now drains away as quickly as it comes out of the shower head.

 One of the first things I did after getting up yesterday was to repair a DVD player that Lee had given me. The original fault was that the mains input filter chokes had gone short circuit and blown the mains fuse. As a temporary measure Lee had taken them out and bridged the circuit. This enabled him to test the rest of the circuitry which was found to be working OK. Unfortunately with no filtering the power supply was kicking out all sorts of interference, and it was severe enough to cause patterning on the picture. With no prospect of finding identical replacememnt parts that would satisfy electrical safety he condemmed the machine as a write off. There is also the fcator that it is a very cheap machine - cheaper than any realistic repair charge. So he gave the machine to me. I sacrificed an old camcorder power supply to obtain two filter chokes of similar size to the originals. The machine now works correctly with no picture interference, but in some ways is still useless unless Lee can obtain the old remote control for it.

 I wasted a fair amount of time making a network cable patch lead tester. After the fiasco I had the previous weekend with my home made attempts at making up the leads, I decided that suc a thing would be a good idea. My original design was to use a couple of cheap I.C.'s to scan across the 8 connections and light up an LED for each correct connection.  The first problem came when I discovred the array of LED's that I had chosen were the wrong polarity.  The idea was still workable, but the aesthetics would be all wrong.I wanted a moving dot of light with each position representing a correct connection, but I had the opposite. All the LED's would come on to indicate continuity and a moving gap in the LED's would indicate the correct sequence of wires. I would have opted for that as a second choice, but I managed to get the sequence out of order after misinterpreting the connections on the I.C. I was already working with some very short wires from the pre-wired RJ45 sockets I was using, and re-arranging them would be another headache. So I scrapped that idea an resorted to a mechanical, rotary, switch to scan the wires manually. That was working well until I conected up the last two wires.. The switch I had chosen could only select 6 unique positions before duplicating  the outputs. (it's too complex to explain here). So my tester does not work in the way I wanted, but until I correct these problems it is still usable.

 I did finally start one of the things I had been intending to do for the last week. That was the dismantling of the 19" rack. I still have a long way to go, but I have at least started. It is possible that I may finish it next weekend and Steve will be able to collect it sometime in the week after that.

 Today is the last day of January. That is one whole twelth of 2005 over. Another eleven  periods like that and it will be xmas again !  This week bring with it the end of my course at Focus Vision, and the end of my official time at the internet cafe. Next week sees me back on standard dole money. I will then have more time to go and drink in The Herne, to see Ruth etc, but no money to do it - possibly. I have had various offers making some pocket money including doing more time at the internet cafe. I am not sure how the latter will work out. I think the boss there is hoping that I will be prepared to be at his beck and call whenever he likes. This is tricky. It is a potential source of beer money, but it will need some tact and diplomacy to arrive at a solution that we can mutally agree on. I do have a problem in that I don't like to do two jobs in the same day. For instance if I were to assemble some PCB's in the morning I would not like to drop that and go out to do different work in the aftenoon. Maybe this is what I will have to do until I get a steady source of income - a real job !
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Sunday 30th January 2005

08.00 GMT

Weather - very overcast, but dry

 It is strange how time can sometimes fly by. Yesterday was a great example of this happening. I had planned to do so much, and yet, in the end, I achieved very little. I did spend several hours in my studio, and subsequently wasted a lot of time trying to upload the results to a file server. Three times I tried to upload that 20 MB file, and each time it failed (although the ftp program reported it had been sent correctly). At the first attempt 9Mb were sent. At the second 14 MB got trough, and the last attempt only 4.5 MB got through. The last attempt was at gone midnight, when things should have been quieter. For that one I just started it off and went to bed. It was a little disappointing to come down here this morning and see how little had bee transferred. It really is an annoyance that there is no way to resume a partially completed file to the server I am sending it too. I think I'll give up doing it from here and upload it from the internet cafe on Monday.

 So what else did I do yesterday ? I did one load of laundry, and I did some reading while filling in the spare minutes. I sorted some stuff out for Lee, and did a little tidying up down here in my "computer room". That does not seem much, and yet somehow it filled the whole day. Perhaps I fell into a coma for the other hours and did not realise it !

 Today I must try and force myself to start dismantling the 19" rack that I keep on about. Having made some room down here will help as I can now move some of the junk in the way to down here. What I really want to do is to spend some more time with Patricia's laptop, but also spend some time winding some coils. Then there are several computer experiments I would like to do. I wonder what I will be reporting about today when I come to write tomorrows diary ?
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Saturday 29th January 2005

09.55 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

 I have had a bit of a lay in this morning, but not as late as the time above would suggest. I originally got out of bed at 09.00, but since then I have been copying some CD's and other misc tasks on the PC.

 Yesterday was a very long day. I had been hoping to leave the internet cafe early. Instead I left later than usual !  Having got there before it even opened at 08.40 I waited nearly 10 minutes for the boss to turn up, and then open up. I finally left at about 16.55. So I did a full 8 hour day instead of a 6 hour day. I could complain, but I did come out of there richer than I went in. So I'll say no more about it.

 It was a mad dash to meet up with Patricia before she went home from work, but I did manage it. I was able to explain about the poor state of health of her laptop. Apparently her son has been saying for some time that it is a useless pile of crap ! I still have some hope for it though. Last night I manged to install the software to use a network card on it. Finally I have full access to the disk drive. Last night I made a backup of the full contents of the disk by copying it to a directory on this Linux box. If I can get the floppy drive working I will probably re-install Windows 95 on it. At least I'll be able to understand what is going on in it. At the moment Windows is in Italian - most weird ! If I can't get the floppy drive working I may still consider re-installing Windows 95. I will have to partition the hard disk to make a partition for a copy of windows transferred over the network, and then hope for the best from then onwards.

 I am not sure what I am going to do today. I think that I should set some priority to start dismantling the 19" rack upstairs. Ihave no idea how long that will take, but it is getting all the crap out of it, and storing it somewhere that will take up a fair proportion of that time. Meanwhile I would like to carry on with Patricia's laptop, do some stuff in my workshop, and have a look at a Philips 1700 (or two). The very first priority must be to have a shower and get dressed. After that I have a load of laundry to do. Some I should have done earlier in the week.
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Friday 28th January 2005

06.30 GMT

Weather - cold with icy rain

 Why is it I always get a burst of inquisitive energy around 21.30 that so often leads me to getting to bed far later than I should do ?

 I started having anothet look at Patricia's old laptop at around that time last night, and couldn't put it down until gone 23.00.Somehow I do seem to be doing quite well with less than six hours sleep a night as of late. Maybe I'll end up sleeping for the whole weekend.

 That poor old laptop is really past its sell by date. Beside the fact it only uses a 75MHz processor with a mere 40 MB of ram, it has some more serious issues. The trackstick is extremely intermittent to the point when it is very rare that it works, and some keys on the keyboard often don't work. The floppy disk drive can't read most disks. The battery life seems extremely short, and finally the display is horrible. I think the display problem may be just that it uses older DSTN (?) technology rather the more modern TFT technology.  Essentially it is a write off, but there may be more that I can do for it with patience.
sunset over Croydon

 The picture to the upper right is a very poor representation of the stunning sunset seen from the office window where I was interviewed last Wednesday. I only had my phone camera with me, and that never takes a good picture. Lacking from the picture is the depth and perspective that would come with a higher resolution camera. It was taken from the 9th floor of a building that was already on semi high ground. So you should have been able to see all the detail of looking down on part of the town and then out to the horizon where for a few minutes, and little more, the sun appeared to be setting the sky on fire.

 I ended up finishing two computer jobs at the internet cafe yesterday afternoon, and I am hoping for a little extra pocket money this week. Today I am off to a very early start there, at 08.45, so the boss can get out to deliver his tax returns to his accountant for processing. This should mean I get away early this afternoon. If I don't I will be expecting an extra thank you from him. Next week is my last official time "working" there, but I have a suspicion that I'll still be going back there from time to time for odd jobs.
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Thursday 27th January 2005

07.00 GMT

Weather - cold and slightly damp

 Yesterday was a bit hectic. It started off fairly normally and then accelerated. My first port of call was to call in on Patricia to see if she had remembered the charger for her laptop - she hadn't ! Then it was off to the internet cafe. Sometime in the morning a man brought a PC in complaining it was running very slowly. I gave it an examination and loaded on AVG anti-virus and Spybot search and destroy. AVG found 82 virus infections ! While Spybot found loads, and loads of security issues. Having cured that I cleaned up te hard disk and when I left there it was defragging the hard disk. One problem was that it only had 128 MB of ram. That little can really throttle Windows XP. So we recommended that we upgrade the ram. Not having any ram on the premises it was up to me to fetch it from PC world.

 Soon after 13.00 I left the internet cafe to come back home and prepare for the afternoons interview. I left a little later than I intended, but still somehow made it there in time. It was a slightly strange interview because it was not for a specific job. The questions were rather broad rather than in depth.

 After finishing the interview I called in on Jodie to connect up her computer (just plugging in the mouse/keyboard.monitor nd mains power - nothing hi-tech !), and to connect up a DVD player to her TV. That part was reasonably quick, but she also asked me to install some software to connect her mobile phone to the PC via a USB lead. I did not manage it in the time I had left. The software had one strange quirk. It was supposed to be installed before the USB lead was plugged in, but then complained that it could not find the USB lead ! It was all a bit weird and perplexing, but my time had run out and I had to leave.

 Next stop was PC World, in Catford, to buy the ram for the  computer I was repairing earlier in the morning. The prices on PC Worlds website are very different to the instore price. We had budgeted for 512 MB of ram according to the price quoted on the web site, but once in the store I found we could only afford 256 MB. That is enough to get Windows XP going, but I don't know how the customer, and my boss will react to it. By this time it was about 19.20 and it was starting to feel like a long day.

 The day was not over even then because last night was pub night. I barely had time to get some breakfast together, and eat it, before going back out to the pub. We had a surprise visitor there in the form of Pete (aka "KJ"). He was very free with his beer buying money. I think he bought something like three rounds. It saved me a fortune, and I still have my £10 for another session, another day. Much of the time it was nteresting talking to Pete, but he did have a bee in his bonnet about people stealing his "business" name, and from my knowledge blaming the wrong people for it. It is a long and complicated story, and I'll mention it no further.

 Today is my morning at Focus Vision to read the papers and hand in my timesheets. Pretty routine except that I will not be able to hand in the details of the four jobs I have applied for this week becuase I have not applied for any jobs this week so far. I think that next week will be my final one at Focus Vision.

 This afternoon I am back at the internet cafe to install the extra ram. I hope that goes without incident because I am not really supposed to be there, and I want to get home again and have a snooze (or something). I did not get more than 6 hours sleep last night (possibly less) and I do feel a little sleepy this morning.
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Wednesday 26th January 2005

07.00 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

 I am running very late this morning so I will be brief. I had a late night last night after I decided to have a fight with this PC. After I re-installed Mandrake 10 I lost the correct use of Kuickshow - a picture viewer. There is a bug in the program in this version of Mandrake Linux. I managed to cure it the first time I installed it, but could not remember how I did it. The answer is to upgrade a couple of library files. There is a problem with that - one won't install without the other being installed. In effect you have to install them simultaneously ! I managed that at some time past midnight. I can now use Kuickshow again, but I have been left with a shortage of sleep.

 This afternoon I have an interview at a recruitment agency. It's a shame that I will probably be yawning all the way through it. Nevertheless I must prepare for it properly. That includes washing my hair this morning. I must get to that very soon or I'll be going out with wet hair - not a good thing at the moment. It is so cold that any wet hair will probably freeze !

 So the days starts with the same routine. Visit Patricia who I hope has remembered the charger for her old laptop. Drop the charger back here before going on to the internet cafe. I'll be leaving there sometime soon after 13.00 and coming home again to do my final preperations before heading to Croydon for the interview.

 One unusual event yesterday was that I stopped off, on my way home from the internet cafe, at The Fox And Firkin for one and a half pints of Stella Artois with Taz and Scott. That was most pleasant. It was my first beer since last Wednesday. I am looking forward to a pint, or three, with Kevin, Iain, and maybe Howard tonight in The Ram. I hope the Winter Warmer is back on and tasting good. Last week my last pint tasted very "bottom of the barrel".
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Tuesday 25th January 2005

06.15 GMT

Weather - bitterly cold and windy. no snow yet

 Once again there is sleet or snow forecast for today. It never happened yesterday, except for about a three second splash of fine rain, and I wonder if it will happen today. There is some damp on the road outside, and a car looks as if it is covered with some heavy condensation, but it could have been earlier rain. It is certainly bitterly cold. The wind yesteday worked it's way into each and every crevice. To complete the misery, yesterday, the gas ran out in the heater at the internet cafe just ten minutes after it opened, and long before it had even challenged the cold in there. I was shivering until a new gas bottle was delivered early in the afternoon.

 The only other significant thing yesterday was icking up a laptop from Patricia for repair/refurbishment. It turned out to be a very ancient beast using a mere 75MHz Pentium processor. It's spec is not that far different to Ruth's old desktop PC with it's even slower 66 MHz processor. That PC is slow, but good enough to surf the net, and do basic office tasks. So the laptop should be a little better than that (but not much). The main problem is that the trackstick does not work, nor do some of the keys on the keyboard. I suspect that a ribbon cable may have become partially detached in a similar way to my ancient Mac Powerbook laptop which also suffers from the same problem after being dropped. The Mac powerbook is easy to open and repair, but Patricia's laptop, made by AST, has no obvious way of being opened. I'm sure I'll find a way when I have given it a better look, but for now I am left wondering how ????

 I am a little woried at the momemt. I seem to be a little snotty this morning. I hope it will pass once I have had a hot shower. It may just be the after effects of sleep, but it may be a cold. This would be very inconvenient if it was still going tomorrow when I am going to a work type interview. It is not an interview for a specific job, but is being done by a recruitment agency prior to being offered jobs. Apparently the idea is that once I have been interviewed by the agency I will not need to be interviewed by a prospective employee. This has advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantage is that I consider a job interview to work both ways. I like to interview the firm offering me a job to see if I like them. I am not sure what I would do  if they failed the interview. I don't have the luxury to be selective at the moment. Fortunately it has never happened except for one job last spring that turned out to be rather different to how the job advert read. I would still have tried the job if it was offered, but I think we both knew we were unsuited to each other.

 I think I must have been dreaming about the forthcoming interview last night. All I can remember was that my watch battery finally gave out and I did not know what the time was. I have noticed that my watch is starting to look a little dim. It is probably time to change the battery. I bought the watch in, I'd guess, 1991 and it is on its second battery. It's hard to remember how long the first battery lasted, but around 7 years may be about right. So another 7 years and new battery time. I wonder if I have a spare anywhere ? It uses a battery that is similar, but thinner, to the "standard" PC motherboard backup battery - a CR2023. Maybe using some string and sealing wax I could fit one of those in. I do have at least one spare of unknown capabilities.

 Today should be another fairly routine day. At least there will be some heat in the internet cafe. I don't know if I will see Patricia this morning. Since she moved she does tend get in later than before, and I know her boss will be there at 09.00. Unless we both get there somewhat earlier than that I will give it a miss. I will have to see her sometime today to pick up the charger and other leads for her laptop before I can dig too deep in it. There is one other interesting thing about thatlaptop that I forgot to mention. It uses Windows 95 in Italian !
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Monday 24th January 2005

06.45 GMT

Weather - still dry, but very cold

 I was so intent on hearing about the weather that I totally forgot to remember an interesting dream I had when my clock radio alarm went off. I was expecting to hear reports of thick snow, and all transport stopped. Instead I see that it is still dry outside. It does feel bitterly cold though. It is still too dark to judge what may be happening up in the sky. I can't see any stars against the general glow of loads of light pollution, so it is quite probable that the sky is cloudy. Maybe we will get a flutter of snow later this morning.

 There were many things I thought I might do yesterday, but I don't think I ended up doing any of them apart from a quick rummage around Tesco. It was a lucrative day though. I sold my spare DVD player, and a spare monitor to Jodie. I thought I was only lending her the monitor until she could sort something out for herself, but she was so impressed with it she bought it outright. I now have enough cash for fags and a drink on Wednesday night.

 It is hard to remember just what I did do yesterday. I seemed to be quite busy, but it was all a bit of this, and a bit of that. All those bits added up to a full day with very little interuption from TV or other dubious leisure pursuits. Some time was spent converting a lot of NTSC video footage to PAL so it could be burnt to DVD. I did half a dozen short films, but my input only took 5 minutes, or so, per film. The rest of the work was done by the PC without me assisting it. I think I mentioned these films before. They are all very old films that are freely downloadable from www.open-video.org . They are downloadable in any of three formats - mpeg1. mpeg2, and mpeg4. Some are available in all three, but others are only available in one or two different formats. The mpeg 2 format is ready to burn directly to DVD, which is the nicest way to watch them, but they are all in NTSC format, and, as they are transferred from film, they need to be slightly reduced in size to display the whole frame on a TV. Another disadvantage is that the subject matter seems to be entirely American.

 Today will be an almost routine day with a possible bit of excitement. My first port of call will be a visit to Patricia. If she has remembered to bring it she has an old lap top that is in need of refurbishment. The main problems are that the floppy disk is intermittent, and the pointing device (could be track ball or track pad) does not work. Both could respond to cleaning, and I'll also clean up the hard disk and install some anti virus software etc.

 Once I have finished with Patricia I shall call home for a few minutes before going out again to spend the day at the internet cafe. If I get the time I will investigate Bear Share. It is one of these dubious p2p file sharing programs that I have had recommended to me. I noticed it is already installed on at least one terminal (as is WinMX). I have never tried these naughty things before, but maybe I will  today.

 All being well I will be playing laptops when I get home again. If not there are plenty of other things that require my attention. I still have not tackled dismantling the 19" rack upstairs, but now I have got rid of more of Jodies junk (including a very large bass guitar that was standing propped up against that rack) I have more space to work in. One day I will even have enough space to work on the old Philips N1700/1702 video machines. That will please Kevin !
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Sunday 23rd January 2005

08.00 GMT

Weather - bright, clear, light frost

 I am a genius ! Or at least in my dreams I am. I had this dream last night that was about about computer files, and file compression. I worked out that if I used a compression program that compressed a file by a factor of four it would end up as one quarter the size. So far so good, but then I thought that if I multiplied the file by itself it would end up one sixteenth the size (¼ x ¼ = one sixteenth). Sadly it does not work out like that in real life. There was more to that dream. or a similar one. A councillor for Lewisham council was commenting on open source software. "The reason I disapprove of opem source software is that you can get what you want, and what you don't want". When written down it does not seem to be very profound at all. There must have been more to that dream than I can recall. I forced myself to remember that phrase when I woke up, but I seem to have forgotten the context in which it was said.

 Yesterday was, on the whole, rather boring. I could have changed that but I decided to plunge ahead playing with that bloody awful Mac computer. I did achieve some success. Winamp for Mac (version 0.71 beta) installed OK and does play mp3 files, as does Quicktime Pro 4. I stupidly thought that I may be able to play internet radio on it, but internet access on it is like wading through treacle. It is so slow and tedious. It is possible that the fault lies with Internet Explorer 4. I have downloaded Internet Explorer 5, Netscape 4.8, and Mozilla 1.2.1 to try on it sometime. It will be a slow process as I have to upload the files via my Windows 95 laptop that is running MacLan successfully. If I can I will leave the bloody thing alone today and get on with more worthwhile stuff.

 There are several things I ought to do today. One is to dismantle the 19" rack that I have upstairs. It is not really being used and I have found a mug taker for it. That person being Steve who gave me the 12 port hub. Dismantling the rack is going to be a major job. First I have to get access to it, and then remove all the junk from inside it. When I say inside it I mean literally inside it. Not only are there several redundant units mounted in it, there is also some some junk just sitting in the base of it. Oh, and there is some junk on top of it as well. I am going to have to make some seriously hard choices about what can be totaly thrown away.

 There is always the possibility that other distractions will come up today. I think Jodie is trying to arrange some transport to carry her computer, loan monitor, bass guitar, and any more of her old junk I can get rid off, to her new flat. If it does happen I may have to go with it to set the computer up. I think a brief visit to Tesco is also on the cards for today.
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Saturday 22nd January 2005

12.30 GMT

Weather - bright and sunny, but cold

 This must be one the latest starts to the day ever. In fact I have been up and dressed for quite some while. Since then I have done my laundry, emptied Nelly's litter tray, been out to buy some tobacco, eaten some breakfast, and watched two episodes of Futurama !

 Yesterday was pretty routine, but time shifted. I started late at the internet cafe becuase the boss wanted me to stay late so he could go out on several errands. The original idea was that I would only be staying until about 17.00, but it was past 18.00 before I left for home. After getting home so late I abandoned doing a few things that I was considering and just played with the computers. Kevin turned up with the patch lead that I had begged for (in fact two of them) and I connected the Mac into the network.

 This particular Mac is actually a Mac clone, and not a genuine Mac. It is a Umax Apus 2000 and it uses a 180 MHz power PC processor. Unfortunately it has very little memory in it, and that means it performs about as fast as 486 machine trying to run Windows 95!  I think I have moaned about the memory in that box before. It uses very rare 5V memory in a 168 pin DIMM package. I have tried filing out the locating slot of 3.3V memory and using that but it won't even boot until I take the DIMM out again.I have a suspicion that there is more to it than that. It may be that there is something special about the bus width. I have located memory for it on the internet. From a UK supplier it was so expensive it would  be cheaper to buy a new machine. From America it is considerably cheaper, but still too expensive for it is little more than a toy.

 Now that the Mac is on the network I have installed MacLan onto my Laptop. Unfortunately the version of MacLan I have will only work on Windows 95, and the Laptop is the only machine I have running Windows 95 (unless I dragged another old machine out of the cupboard).  I can now see the Mac from the Laptop, and this has brought about a very strange way of working. I can now send files from this Linux machine to the laptop, and from there send them to the Mac. This is, of course, stupid, but at least it is a start.

 The sky is clouding over now (it is 14.13 - some time after I first started writing). There was mention of a possible fall of snow today, or tomorrow.  From the look of the sky I can believe that some snow is indeed possible. The temperature is probably about right too. I quite like the idea of some snow provided public transport returns to normal on Wednesday when I have to go to Croydon for an interview.
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Friday 21st January 2005

07.05 GMT

Weather - dry, windy, and almost mild

 After getting to bed very late on Thursday night, I decided to have a lay in for an extra hour yesterday morning. It meant that everything was done in a bit of a rush, and I did not have time to go and see Patricia. Instead I went directly to Focus Vision. The session there was uneventful, and once t was over I went to the internet cafe where I had volunteered to spend an hour so the boss could get out  to go to the bank.

 Soon after I got home I popped out again to do a little shopping in Tesco. I was feeling wicked so I bought some hot chicken and had a good feast. Unfortunately that made me very sleepy and I dozed off. I was barely awake in time to rush round and spend 30 minutes with Patricia..

 It was later in the evening when the fun started. I was trying to make up a new network patch lead. I had a couple of spare RJ45 plugs, courtesy of Kevin, and some 8 wire cable that probably came from Lee. Unfortunately the wres in this cable were on the upper limit of the maximum size that the plugs can take. One of the wires was also very slightly bigger than the rest. The result is that I spent ages trying to get the wires to terminate correctly. I am sure I achieved continuity in the end, but the cable would not work. I don't think I have crossed any wires over so I guess I have damaged the plugs beyond use by continually prising them open to reterminate the wires. I have sent a plea by e-mail to Kevin asking if he can make me up a 6ft patch lead. Tonight I will try and make a patch lead tester. I think I have a couple of RJ45 sockets somewhere. I don't know if they are 8 way ones, but I'll find out later. In fact a couple of old network cards would be good enough to meter out the conections end to end to see what is happening. It may be with a bit more perseverance I can get my patch lead to work.
 I have finally got around to uploading a few pictures taken on my phone camera. So far this year I have taken very few pictures with it, but these three pictures have been sitting in the phone for too long and are almost out of date.

 First of all, to the right, is a picture taken on Wednesday 12th  of Peter Wright who turned up at the Ram out of the blue. I wrote about it here.

 Below, on the left, is a picture from 24th Dec 2004 when Tesco's did not open until 08.00.I moaned about it here.

Below, right, is a picture I took early this month. The sun was very low in the sky and reflecting from the glass of a car onto the wall of a house opposite. It was a really strange sight and I have never seen anything like it before. I guess it was a case of everything being in the right place at the right time.
Peter Wright
Tesco is closed

curious reflections
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Thursday 20th January 2005

07.00 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

 Yesterday was quite eventful. It started with a visit to the dentist. To my great surprise the dentist did not find any major problems. She did replace 3 buckles (minor fillings at the gum line of a tooth), and give my teeth a quick clean - all without anaesthetic ! Even the cleaning was only the odd scrape here and there instead of the endless gouging and polishing. It is almost enough to make me believe that I am doing a good job at looking after my teeth these days. As was expected itwas a new dentist. She was young, possibly  French, and rather tasty looking !

 After the dentist I stopped off at home for a quick sandwich before heading off to the internet cafe. One interesting job there was to install a new network printer. I was fortunate that just as I started Steve came into the shop and was able to provide some valuble advice. With his help I managed to install the printer in half the time that it would have taken me otherwise. It is one of those things where, with the benefit of hindsight, is totally logical, and yet faced with doing it for the first time it seems more complicated. It was also the first time I have worked with Windows 2000 Server edition. That in itself was slightly daunting, but now I know it is very similar to Windows 2000 workstation version - which is really not that far removed from Windows 95. If you can do one, you are halway to doing all of them. OK, that is a bit simplistic. There is loads of stuff that is different at a deeper level, but most of it is just a logical extension of what came before, and the basic interface has not really changed.

 Yesterday was one of the days when I am very glad I was not left alone in the shop. Later in the afternoon there was an invasion of very loud kids. The boss had to read the riot act at one point, and threaten to bar some of them, but it all passed off without incident.

 The first thing I did when I got home was to try out the network hub that Steve had very kindly donated to me. It has a load of connectors whose use was not immeadiately obvious so I ignored them and just plugged in my network leads and it all worked perfectly. Subsequently, with later confirmation from Kevin, I was able to guess that the other connectors were to do with connecting one, or more, units together to exend the 12 ports to 24, 36, or even more. One of the jobs I may do at the weekend is to both tidy, and extend, the rats nest of cables feeding the network around the house.

 Last night was pub night. Howard didn't make it as he is in Suffolk. Iain was extremely late after spending an age on the A2 coming home from Ashford. So for much of the night it was just me and Kevin. It did make for a smaller round, but only in that I left howard out. I bought the first round and Iain's pint of cider sat gently gassing away on the table for over an hour before he arrived. Apparently it was still perfectly drinkable. After the pub I sat down and watched a recording of The Bill. It was just as bad as ever, and every week I wonder why I watch such crap. It is now just another soap opera which happens to be set around a police station. A sad reflection on its former glory ! The main point of even mentioning it was to explain that I had a very late night, and this morning I had an extra hour in bed.

 It is now getting too late to visit Patricia this morning, but I'll try and make up for it this evening. This morning will be spent at Focus Vision. After that I have volunteered to mind te internet cafe for an hour so the boss can get out to the bank.I did that on my own initiative to curry favour with him. I would not have though I would be doing that a few weeks back, but it does bring certain advantages. When I get home from there I could be doing any of several useful things like rewriting some of my earliest web pages (and correcting some dead links on them), or having another play with that Mac that I was working on over the weekend, but I would not be surprised if I ended up taking a nap for an hour.
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Wednesday 19th January 2005

06.15 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

As I predicted, yesterday was a pretty average sort of day. Perhaps one difference was that I decided not to visit Patricia after work. I knew she would be very busy and decided not to disturb her.

 Today brings a few variations to the norm. At 10.00 I am due at my dentist. It is only for a 6 monthly checkup, but I would not be surprised if he finds some work to be done on my teeth. I seem to recall that I lst a bit of a filling sometime before xmas. So that, at least, will probably have to be replaced. If I am lucky, and it is only some very minor work, it will be done on the spot. If not I guess it will mean more time off of work. It's not that I mind having time off of work. In some ways I am all for it, but work is the lesser of two evils when compared to the dentist. I have referred to the dentist as "he", but my last dentist left just before xmas . I could get a dentist of either gender.It is very pot luck at the practice I attend. I have had a huge variety of different dentists over the years. Some have been good, and some bad. Most notable was the very first dentist I saw there many years ago. I had not been to the dentist for at least 15 years and was terrified even though I was in agony at the time. That first dentist was a very beautiful blond woman. That took my mind off the impending tretment straight away. Not only that but she was very reassuring and explained what was going to happen all the way through the treatment. The final clincher was when she lowered the chair down and I felt my head almost resting in her ample busom. Being at the dentist was almost nice ! Another notable dentist was a few years ago now. She was a very pretty Indian woman. She had such a light touch that it was the most painless dentistry I have ever experienced. Unfortunately her work was useless. 6 months later all the filling she had done fell out and I had the whole lot done again for free by her embarrassed successor. That dentist was a man. He did not mess about, but was mercifully quick. His work has stood the test of time well. Finally there was the time I had my wisdom teeth out. For jobs like that the practice brings in a surgeon from Guys (or Kings College) hospital. He was an old boy who was so well practiced that he made the job look easy. He pulled three wisdom  teeth from my mouth, and it was not that bad. He was slow when he needed to be slow and very fast when he needed to be fast. Perhaps his greatest claim to fame was that he was the only dentist who contradicted the advice of the dental nurse when she was advising me about after care. She said no smoking or drinking for 24 hours. When I remarked that I would be lighting up as soon as I was off the premises he said  to go ahead if I wanted to. It may kill me in other ways, but it would not harm my teeth. He then added that once I was sure that the bleeding had stopped, probably in a few hours time, I was free to go out and get pissed.

 This afternoon, while back at work, I am looking forward to meeting Steve. I have never met him before, or if I did it was many, many yers ago, but it was he who very kindly posted to me the PCMCIA lan adapter to get my old laptop onto my network. Today he is very kindly donating an old 10 Mbs hub so I can expand my network. Megalamania here I come !!! Once I am rich again I'll have to buy him a pint or three.

 Tonight sees another visit to The Ram with Kevin, Iain and , maybe, Howard. I have accumulated just enough to buy a round and so will not have to rely on charity for another occasion.
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Tuesday 18th January 2005

06.10 GMT

Weather - cold and dry after heavy rain last night

 When I went to bed at around 10pm it was pouring with rain. I was quite surprised to see that the ground is dry, and the sky is 50% clear this morning. It does feel cold though, and I believe it will be very windy later today. That wind, according to the weather forecast, will make it feel close to 0° today. Brrrrrrrrrrrr !!!

 Yesterday started with Patricia (and everybody else) being locked out of their office. The only way in, until other doors have been opened, is through a door that is only opened by an electronic solenoid. A blown fuse (allegedly) stopped that working, and I later learnt that a window in the door had to be broken before the door could be opened. I left her waiting to get in when I had to go off to the internet cafe. She finally got in some 20 - 30 minutes after I left her.

 It was almost a productive day at the intenet cafe. I had a PC to repair for one of the customers. I found it loaded with spyware and all sorts of other nasties. Not only that, but the desktop had been customised to a psychodelic mess. Fortunately it was running Windows ME and I was able to restore it back to a fairly stable condition before installing spybot, updating the anti-virus, and restoring all the desktop icons and background to something less lsd inspired. By the end of the day I had also done a full scandisk, and defragmented the hard disk as well. I think I will be sharing some of the profits from this job.

 I left the internet cafe much later than has been usual and headed on home. After a while I went to see how Patricia had fared in the morning. When I got there I was offered another small job. A little cheap and nasty clock radio they use there had been knocked off a table and no longer worked. Debbie, the administratot there, and owner of the radio, had thrown it away, but Patricia said that I ought to fix it. I think she wanted a demonstration of my skills before committing herself to letting me repair a radio of hers. When I got it home I was incredibly lucky to find that it was just a wire broken. It is the sort of fault that everyone thinks happens but never does - until now ! It was not that quick to repair as this wire was part of a 7 way ribbon cable and I had to reterminate all 7 wires. Once fixed I gave the radio a good scrub and it has come up looking almost new, except for the difficult to remove grime in the speaker grill, and the missing wave change switch extension knob. I intend to charge Debbie at least one fag for that repair, and possibly two !

 Today will be very much like any other day recently. There is some variation tomorrow when I have a dentists appointment in the morning, and Friday I will be starting, and finishing, late at the internet cafe. Other than that I am still pennyless and wondering where my next pouch of tobacco will come from.
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Monday 17th January 2005

06.10 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

 Yesterday was very educational, although I am not sure what I learned. It started off with the discovery that I had put the wrong LAN card in the Mac, and progressed from there. I finally got the Mac onto my network and was able to connect and control my firewall, and from there out onto the great world wide web. Of course no matter what I did I could not see any of the Intel machines on my network, nor vice versa. I do have some software that will enable that, although it might only work on a machine running Windows 95. That will be an experiment for another day. The software I wanted to try was called Print 66, and that should allow the Mac to recieve print requests from any TCP/IP capable machine on te network. I did install it, but it has a configuration script as long as your arm that needs customising for each installation. One of the principal pieces of information it needs is what printer is in use on he Mac. I had several to choose from, but I wanted to test each one before deciding on which one to make permananent. I tested the Epsom Stylus XL Pro, and an Apple Stylewriter II. Both these worked, but the Epsom does suffer from poor paper feeding. Most times it will start printing before the paper is fully under the print head. Pre-loading the paper is one tedious cure, but it does work. The printer I was hoping to use was an Apple Stylewrite 2400. This is a colour ink jet printer like the Epsom. Unfortunately it does not work. I was warned of this when it was given to me, but I thought it was just clogged print heads. So I spent the whole afternoon cleaning and testing the heads. After using every trick I know, and some I made up on the spur of the moment, I could not get a single drop of ink onto the paper (apart from drips and splashes from careless filling and cleaning). Reluctantly that printer is now in the dustbin.

 I put the Mac aside for another day and moved on to other things. I decided to sort out my network so that the windows machines could see this Linux box. One of the first things I noticed was that none of the windows machines could see each other. I don't know what the Mac had done (it being the only new thing that had been connected to the network), but all the machines had very strange I.P. addresses. Once I had renewed the leases on them all was back to normal. The Windows 2000 machine could see the laptop, and vice versa. I then tackled the Samba server in this linux box and, lo and behold, everything had access to everything else !

 I decided I needed a rest from computers at that point and did some reading, and watched some TV. Later in the evening I got a phone call from an old friend of mine -Mike from Canada. We had recently been in touch via e-mail again after a couple of years. (both our e-mail address's had changed and we lost touch with each other). It was really good to hear from him and the phone conversation went on for ages. It must have cost him a fortune. I am looking forward to seeing him later in the year when he is in  London for a holiday.

 Today will follow much of the routine that has been happening on weekdays for a few weeks now. It's back to the internet cafe, but today has a slightly new twist. Apparently there is a customer who has managed to break their PC and they want us to take a look at it. My boss phoned me up early on Saturday evening to warn me about it so I could take appropriate tools in with me.
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Sunday 16th January 2005

09.10 GMT

Weather - bright and sunny

 Yesterday ended up quite frustrating, but things were OK for most of the day. I started the day with an extra long lay in bed, and it took some time to get moving once I was up. After putting my laundry in the washing machine I had a look through all the stuff I had recorded from BBC7. First off I decided to archive my Round The Horne collection. I was hoping to get just one more episode, but it never appeared. I don't know whether episode 64 is a lost episode, or whether BBC7 skipped over it in favour of a more seasonal xmas episode. Whatever the reason I will have to wait a whole year for it to come round again if they run all the episodes in order. I havenow archived the collection on to DVD-R disks (two disks for safety). Once those disks were burnt I listend to two episodes of The Goon Show that were waiting patiently on the PC. Oddly enough I thought both episodes were below standard.

 A little later in the day I got out the Apple monitor I mentioned yesterday. I was mistaken about the picture quality. It is excellent, and will be ideal for Jodie as it also has a built in amplifier and speakers to connect to her PC. After a good clean it looks rather nice.

 The last thing I did yesterday took the longest time, and was the cause of all my frustration. I have been trying to put a network card in an old Mac. I almost have the right driver for it but there is a catch. Before describing that I will mention that I decided reformat the hard drive and re-install the operating system (OS 8.5). I had previously tried to install Yellow Dog Linux on te machine. It never really worked. Although I seemed to recall that I was well on the way to getting a Linux desktop up on it. Whatever the pros and cons of the Linux installation I wanted to recover the 1 GB of hard disk that was originally allocated to Linux. Reformatting the hard disk seemed to be the best way of doing it. Everything was fine and easy doing that, but when it came to installing the network card all my frustrations started. The driver pack had a readme file that said if the card is not reported as a "pci1106,8139" in the Apple system profiler you will have to open the driver file with a hex editor and change the name in the driver to match the card. And I thought Mac's were supposed to be easy !!! I had to download two different hex editors until I found one I was happy with. I eventually found the bits in the driver file that needed changing right at the bottom of the file after endless scrolling down the page. I changed them successfully, but still the card is not being recognised. Another read through the readme and it mentions changing all the instances of xxxx,yyyy. I could only find one, but maybe I scrolled too fast. The editor does have a "find" option, but it seems painfully slow, or it cannot find what I am looking for. By midnight  was beginning to think I should give up until morning. Soon after I did give up and go to bed.

 At this very point in time, as I write these very words, I have realised where I am going wrong. I have just picked up the other network card that I was considering using. It is the one that I though I had put in the machine !!! Duhh !!!!!! .........20 minutes have passed..... I am getting somewhere. The Mac now recognises I have an ethernet card, but I cannot get any communication flowing as yet. There is some activity on the lan, but something is not set right yet.......more time passes.......I can now see my firewall - I'm getting there slowly !

 Right now I had better go and get washed and dressed. I may report back more Mac based frustrations later in the day.
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Saturday 15th January 2005

09.10 GMT

Weather - cold, damp and miserable

 The weather has definitely taken a turn for the worse.. The last two mornings have been bright and sunny. This morning the temperature may be slightly higher, but it feels like it is colder. It is slightly misty and the ground is damp. Overall it is not good ! Time to stay indoors and do some stuff in the warm.

 Yesterday was a bit of a farce. BT Broadband were having major troubles (and may still be this morning). By mid morning the internet slowed right down and eventually stopped at the internet cafe. We had to turn all the customers away, but it was an opportunity for me to see the entire system shut down and restarted. I think I can now almost totally administer that system at a basic level. There are parts of the topology that still seem mysterious. Like why the server in the back of the shop that has several fast SCSI drive (possibly in a raid set up) does not seem to be the server for all he client computers. Data from those, if not stored on the local drive, is saved on the server at the front of the shop. My gut feeling is that it was all bodged together to make it work and never optimised. Another possibility is that the Cafezee software that controls, and times, access to the client computers overlays the existing network with one of it's own. I am sure that there ought to be further optimisations that could be done. Load balancing is one thing that presumably could be set up, but appears not to be. If I get over eager and try and download two huge files at the same time (i.e. Linux ISO files) it can take the other terminals down to a snails pace (still faster than dial up though).

 I stayed up late last night watching the programme on BBC2 about the Huygens craft and the landing on  ?????? (sorry, brain fade !). It was quite interesting, but I think there is a follow up programme this afternoon where, hopefully, there will be more data available, and perhaps a few more pictures from the surface.

 Today I have several projects in mind. I have promised to lend Jodie, on indefinite loan, an old Apple monitor to use on her old PC. She could keep it, but it is only a 15" display, and the picture looks a little soft. I expect she will eventually opt for a 17" LCD monitor and rather her throw my old monitor away I will get it back. Before she takes it away I will clean it up and see if I can zap the picture up a bit. It may be the 6.3V supply to the tube heaters is low because the the electrolytic capacitor usually used in the supply in most monitors has dried up. While that monitor is out I will probably connect it to an old Mac and test out a piece of freeware called Print 66. This, if I have understood it correctly, allows the Mac to act as a printer interface for any computer on a network (PC. Mac, or anything that can talk TCP/IP).

 There is one thing I must get around to doing today. I have been accumulating recordings from BBC 7 for almost the last fortnight and have not had a chance to listen to them. I must try and see what I want to listen to, and what, if any, to discard.
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Friday 14th January 2005

06.45 GMT

Weather - very cold and dry

 The job centre managed to irritate me twice yesterday. I tried to renew my New Deal photocard without success. The first thing to go wrong was that after the briefest visit to Patricia I rushed to the Job Centre tofind that it does not open until 10.00 on a Thursday. I thought it opened late on a Friday. So I carried on walking to go in toFocus Vision. The rest of the morning there was OK. No one  bothered me and I was able to get on with my work of reading the papers to pass the time until it was time to go home again.

 On the way home I detoured via the Job Centre to drop off the stuff to renew my Photocard. I was hoping my adviser would be able to process the renewal in short time, and that I would be able to pick up the new photocard later in the afternoon. I knew that was slightly optimistic, and it turned out to be true. Once I had dropped my stuff off at home I went out to do some shopping. Having done that I had something to eat and then promptly fell asleep on the sofa. I awoke with just 10 minutes to get to the Job Centre cash office to collect my new photocard. I had a mad dash to get there, but I was in time before they closed for the afternoon. After I was kept waiting for ages I found my doubts wre correct. The paperwork had not been processed and I was asked to call in again this morning.

 So today starts like many others. I will go and say hello to to Patricia, and then go on to the internet cafe. I will then explain to my boss that I have to go out for about 45 minutes in the morning, or leave early in the afternoon. If my luck is any good he will suggest going home early. The second option could be dangerous. If he goes out there is a very good chance that he would be late relieving me and I would not get to the Job Centre in time. It is a difficult decision. It would be good to start the weekend early, but it would be good to have some confidence that I would get my new photocard. On second thoughts the photocard is not that important. I am so broke at the moment I can't afford to go anywhere, nor afford the fare to get there ! I'll leave the decision about when to go to the Job Centre up to my boss.

 This coming weekend should be good. There is nothing I have to do, but several things I want to do. One project is to see if I can use one of my old Mac's as a print server. Print server is probably the wrong name. At this point in time I don't know what to call it, but the general idea is to be able to use one of the several old Mac printers I have lying around. They won't connect directly to a PC so I want to use one of my old Mac's to act as an interface, via my network, so that I can print from a PC to that printer. I don't actually need to do this. I have two perfectly servicable Epson printers connected to PC's, and each is available to all over my network. I really want to do it as an experiment. If it fails I have lost nothing, and if I succeed I will have gained a little more personal experience. If it does succeed I probably won't use it beyond doing a couple of test prints, although there could be a serious use for it. I have an ancient Epsom Stylus Pro XL printer here that is capable of A3 printing. It has a few difficulties, like the paper feed often goes wrong, and the main drive roller has some sort of kink in it that causes little bands on the print every 5 inches (the paper momentarily speeds up as it passes through the mechanism). One big difficulty is that  the only spare interface on the PC here is a USB port. The linux installation on this PC has some difficulty with a permanently connected USB printer and so I very rarely uses it. As the printer also has a Mac interface it could be useful to use an old Mac as a sort of network spooler and access the printer that way. We'll see. Maybe I will just sleep the whole weekend. I certainly wouldn't mind going back to bed for a few hours right now, but I have to get washed and dressed and ready for work.
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Thursday 13th January 2005

07.00 GMT

Weather - clear sky, almost frosty

 A lot of yesterday was like the previous few days. The exceptions were first thing in the morning when I had to do the emergency repair of this linux PC, and the evening from when I got home from the internet cafe.

 The day suddenly went unplanned when Kieth turned up just as I was about to go out to see Patricia. I reminded him that we had agreed that I was not available until 18.00, and after a chat he said that he would take a wander and get something to eat while I went to escort Patricia to her bus. We met up again shortly before 18.00 and had another long chat until it was almost time for me to go to The Ram to meet up with Kevin and Iain. It turned out that he had paid up front for the little bit of work I had done for him, but he slipped me some beer money anyway.

 When I got to the pub I found Iain was already there, but I had a surprise when out of the blue I was greeted by someone I have not seen for years. He was Pete Wright and should normally have been in Yorkshire, but was in London for a few days with his son Tom. Pete was an old workmate of mine from my days with Post Office Telecommunications, but outside of work he was more in Kevin's circle of friends rather than mine. We waited some time for Kevin to turn up before I phoned his home. It turned out that he had been to a retirement party and had not been seen since. By about 22.00 Pete had to leave the pub to get back to his hotel in Kensington. Kevin finally turned up at a few minutes before last orders sounded. He was very drunk and only wanted a coffee. He was also astonished to hear that Pete had been in the pub earlier, and was a bit annoyed that Pete had given no advance warning that he was even coming to London, let alone   coming to The Ram.

 Today I am not at the internet cafe as it is timesheet day at Focus Vision. My first port of call, as usual, will be to say good morning to Patricia. Then I have to drop off the stuff required to renew my New Deal photocard at the Job Centre. After that I will go and spend the morning at Focus Vision. During the afternoon I am free, but still have two important things to do. One will be to go back to the Job Centre to pick up my new photocard, and the other is to  do some shopping at Tesco.Top of my shopping list there is toilet paper as I have just started my last roll.

 After my shopping I had considered going to The Herne, but I will probably give that a miss. It is the sensible thing to do as I have very little beer monet left and half my dole, which should be paid today, will be going on bank charges. I think I will try and keep out of pubs until next Wednesday night. In theory Ruth still owes me a pint, but I can't survive a session on just one pint, and feel guilty about not buying a round myself. So I will use the rest of today catching up with a few things, and try to get an early night.
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Wednesday 12th January 2005

07.30 GMT

Weather - cold and dry

 This mornings entry nearly didn't exist. Last night I was playing with some font files and managed to corrupt the core fonts on this PC. This was not apparent until I tried booting up over an hour ago. The PC did boot, but he Xserver crashed leaving me at the command line. Given enough time, a lot of head scratching, and a huge amount of luck I may have been able to repair the damage the tech way, but I took the easy way out and re-installed Linux. The one good thing about Linux is that I was able to preserve my home partition so all my data is safe and sound. Using this cowards way of fixing things has had a few other benefits. My printer is now behaving itself better. I hope that my Windows machines will now be able to see my Linux shares, and finally I have been able to set the screen resolution to 1024x768. Actually the latter idea is maybe not so good. As I type this the onscreen font size is tiny, and it is now even easier to make typos and not spot them.

 There is not much to report about yesterday that was not a re-run of the day before that. The only added bit was spending a little more time on this PC and ultimately breaking it ! Today will start off the same, but there could be some variations tonight. Keith is supposed to be coming here to pick up the stuff I have been working on in my workshop. If he has some hard cash for me I will be going to the pub. If not then I will either spend some time in my studio, or spend a little time customising some of the options that need to be set on this new installation of Linux.
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Tuesday 11th January 2005

06.15 GMT

Weather - cold and damp

 Yesterday went pretty much as planned - Patricia, Internet cafe, Patricia, home, dinner, workshop, bed. It was not quite as bland as that, but nearly so. The internet cafe was very quiet all day so I indulged in some heavy downloading. There is a website (The Open Video Project ) that has loads of old films to download. They are not feature films for general entertainment, but usually old documentaries, or training films. NASA have contributed loads of stuff as well. Some of the stuff there has a sort of whimsical appeal and so yesterday I downloaded about a CD's worth of stuff. If it is quiet again today I may well download another CD's worth of material.

 The stuff I am doing in my workshop is nearing completion and I hope to complete it tonight. I think that today will be a re-run of yesterday. That could be true even down to the weather.For much of yesterday it rained. It was dry until about 10.00, perhaps a little later, but it rained until at least 17.00, and possibly again later than that. Just before I was due to go home from the internet cafe it was bucketting down. I actually stayed on there late than I had to, and waited until the rain had eased off before a soggy walk home through the park. Today there are gale force winds and driving rain forecast so I will probably be getting soaked at some point during the day.
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Monday 10th January 2005

06.15 GMT

Weather - windy

 There is not much to tell about yesterday. The day was dominated by spending ages upstairs in my workshop. I have no idea how many hours I spent up there, but it was at least eight. In a peculiar way it was rather enjoyable getting back to doing what I do best. I could make a career out of doing electronics. In fact I want to and have been trying to do so for well over a year now. I sometimes wonder if it will ever happen, or whether I will have to finally take up the offers by Lewisham Council for street sweepers.

 Today I am back in the internet cafe pretending I am at work. Prior to that I will call in on Patricia for ten, or more, minutes, and I will call in on her when I come home again. Finally I will be back into my workshop to put the finishing touches to my work up there.

 This must be my briefest ever entry, but there is no more to tell.
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Sunday 9th January 2005

07.30 GMT

Weather - calm with light frost

 It has been a calm and peaceful night. The wind has gone away and it has not rained since yesterday morning. The sky is clear and there is a light frost this morning. I expect the morning to be bright and sunny for a little while, but I can see some vapour trails in the sky and they are red instead of white.  I expect this means that the next wash of rain is not far away.

 After my disrupted sleep yesterday, I did not have a very productive day. I never did get into my workshop, but I did do some stuff on the PC. I have been investigating ways of resetting the administrators password for Windows NT and XP. There was a women who came into the internet cafe on Friday morning who had forgotten her password to gain administrator privelges on her PC, and was asking if I knew how to get round the problem. At the time I had no idea, but my searches have revealed that there are several approaches to the problem. The easiest way is to use a Linux based bootable CD that allows the password to be changed. I have downloaded two versions of the files needed to do this and tested them. Both are very similar. One has some extra tools and is slightly harder to use. The second is a slightly streamlined version without the extra tools. For a "standard" installation of Windows the default options seem to work well, but I could not get it to work on my Windows 2000 installation upstairs because that is set up in a slightly weird way ( Windows has ended up on the slave hard drive, and not the master drive - don't even think of asking why !).

 I can't really think of anything else that I did yesterday. It was a short day after my extended sleep, and seemed to pass by in a flash. I still intend to spend some time in my workshop today, and at some point I will pay a quick visit to Tesco. I may go late in the after and try and pick up a few bargains if there is anything going.
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Saturday 8th January 2005

07.00 GMT

Weather - wet and very windy

 It has been a very windy night, and still the wind is blowing in noisy gusts. When I first tried toget to sleep last night te wind was so noisy that I could not get to sleep. Some of the gusts of wind seem to shake the whole house. In the ned I gave up trying to sleep and and came downstairs to read until 02.30. Even after that I had trouble geting to sleep, but probably managed to fall asleep by 03.00. I was woken up again by the wind and by Nelly demanding her breakfast. I now feel very knackered and will be going back to bed very soon.

 It looks as if the only casualty of these strong gusts of winds is my council recycling box. By the early hours of the morning it had blown across the front garden, and it's lid was nowhere to be seen. I'll try and find it later when I am dressed, and there is some daylight.  Right now though, I am going back to bed !
11.15 GMT

Weather - still windy, but dry and some sunshine

 I have had some more sleep now. Not all the time was spent asleep. I was laying in bed for at least thrirty minutes before I managed to get some rather fitful sleep. Since then I have retrieved the recycling bin and started my Saturday load of laundry. The recycling bin had not blown up the road as I had feared, but was only tucked up in the wrong corner of the front garden.

 Yesterday had a couple of good points about it, and a few bad. I started off in a very energetic manner. I went to see Patricia for ten minutes before walking in the opposite direction to "work" to buy a copy of New Scientist from Tesco using the money on my Club Card. I then walked all the way to Ladywell to the internet cafe. The morning there was a bit sluggish, but the afternoon was very busy. Apart from a lot of customers using the internet there was an old lady who wanted me to photocopy a whole book. The book itself was full of religious poetry. I did over eighty photocopies on a soul destroyingly slow machine. I was minding the shop, by myself, from about 10.30 until 15.10. The boss was so pleased when he came back he slipped me a very handy £10 note. (I was also pleased that he was only ten minutes late coming back).

 After leaving "work" I went over to The Herne where I was hoping to meet Ruth to claim my free pints. Unfortunately she was not there, but her partner was and he bought me one pint. A little later Ivor and Iain turned up and they also bought me a pint each. Ivor also advanced me a £10 note towards the  (approx) £16 worth of one and two penny coins he will be changing up for me. So now I had £20 in my pocket and could afford some more fags.

 The really bad bit of the day was when I came home. There was a letter for me from my bank saying another dtanding order had failed and I was getting another £30 bank charge. This is a little strange because I thought I had enough in my account to just about pay my standing orders at the beginning of the month. I knew it was tight, but not that tight. ( the other bad thing was Ruth not being at the pub, but that was very mild compared to the letter from my bank).

 Today I will have to spend some time in my workshop. I have a little job to do that may bring in another beer voucher, but it may have already been paid to me. This work started so long ago thatI can't remember if I was paid in advance or not. If it was then I may have to curtail my next Wednesday nights drinking as my dole is not paid until next Thursday (I hope).
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Friday 7th January 2005

05.55 GMT

Weather - dry with gusty winds

 It stinks in here ! Nelly has just used her litter tray and missed it!  Aside from that everything is fine if you don't count the fact that I have run out of fags and I am having to smoke roll ups. With luck I'll see Ivor this afternoon and he will have the £15 converted from one and two pence coins  that Iain psssed on to him to change up at the Sainsbury's money changing machine. £10 of that will have to go on real fags, but the rest can go on beer. I do seem to be a litle broke at the moment. I have £140 on my Tesco club card so I won't be starving, but I dare not draw any cash until about next Thursday when I think my next dole payment should be credited to my bank account. Then there is the little matter of a strange pain I have that seems part way a strained tendon in my neck, or maybe some sort of abscess under a tooth. It is a pain that is only apparent when I do some sort of movement that stretches the skin starting somehwere just below my right ear down to somewhere under my right jaw. It first became apparent in a very mild way a day, or two, ago. Last night I thought it was going to get very sore, but this morning it seems much better again. Apart from this and that everything is fine !

 Yesterday was not much to write about. I started with a visit to Patricia, ane ended with a visit to Patricia. In the middle I went to Focus Vision in the morning, and lounged around durng the afternoon. As usual, Focus Vision was very irritating, but in a different manner to usual. There is one man there who usually collects the time sheets and has a habit of winding people up by moaning about what they put on the time sheets.He caused me particular grief on the last day before xmas by moaning that I was not allowed to use ditto marks for days that were identical. He then added to that grief by saying I was not adding enough detail to my description of the day, and descriptions of my job searches. Yesterday he caused me extreme grief by nt being there ! I had scanned in a copy of the time sheet and filled it on the PC. By using 8pt type I was able to fit in an excess of information that was cut-n-pasted into the tiny boxes provided to record each day. I was sure he would still moan about something, and I was looking forward to another argument, but he was not there. Perhaps I will be pulled up on it next time I go in next Thursday.

 Today I am at the internet cafe until 15.30, but not until I have called in to say hello to Patricia. From the internet cafe I will get a bus to go straight to The Herne. I do have enough cash left for fares and one pint. Ruth has promised me a pint or two for doing her computer, and I will probably get a pint from Ivor. I think three pints should be sufficient for breakfast. If I get there early enough  I may elect to leave with Ivor if he is able to give me a lift home, and I have had two pints. If I could get there even earlier I could probably have two pints and still get back to Catford in time to escort Patricia to her bus stop.
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Thursday 6th January 2005

07.10 GMT

Weather - dry after rain yesterday evening

 This morning I have a bit of a hangover. It is not too painful, but my guts feel a little out of sorts. I decided on an extra hour in bed this morning so I ought to try and keep this brief.

 Yesterday started with a pleasant visit to Patricia before walking on to the internet cafe. That started off reasonably OK, but the afternoon did seem to drag a bit. When I had finished there I walked back to to visit Patricia again. At this point I had eaten little and felt both hungry and as if I had a lot of energy. So after seeing Patricia I strided off to go to Tesco's. I seemed to buy a lot of heavy stuff and had 4 heavy bags to lug home. Surprisingly the bill only came to £21, but a lot of the weight was things like cans of baked beans and cat food.

 Once I was home again I had some dinner and flopped down in front of the TV for a couple of hours before going out to The Ram to meet Kevin, Iain and Howard. We had an unexpected, but very welcome guest visit from Bob Dunn. Several pints of beer later (4 I think) it was time to go home and to watch the recording of the The Bill I had made while out. I think this was possibly not a good idea. For one thing it made me very late for bed, and secondly I had a few sandwiches while watching it. It was probably those beef and ham paste sandwiches that almost induced me to vomit twice in the night. I never did vomit, but I did taste some acid reflux twice. My guts are still gurgling even now.

 I did have one strange dream that I almost recall. The details are hazy, but it was about Ruth's feet. That sounds quite kinky, and maybe it was, but what I remember was more strange than kinky. I was either buying, or selling, or maybe I just owned "Ruth's feet". They seemed to be tiles on a wall that may have had pictures, reliefs, or impressions of feet and ankles (sideways rather than as you would stand). I can't recall anything in particular happening. It was just this wall standing there with the tiles on it. There is a totally non kinky reason that could have inspired such a dream. When I gave Ruth the new, new, PC the other day I noticed that two of the feet were missing from it. I have been wondering where Ruth's feet are for a couple of days now! Of course I could have some previously unnoticed fetish. I'll take a look at Ruth's feet next time I see her (possibly this afternoon) and see if I feel excited.

 Today I am not at the internet cafe as it is timesheet morning at Focus Vision. I do have to go by the internet cafe before Focus Vision to get my "boss" to sign the timesheet. I just hope he manages to open up before I am due in Focus Vision. I will be going via Patricia before all that though. The session at Focus Vision is only for the morning and I am free for the afternoon. My original intention was to go over to The Herne in the afternoon (maybe to look at Ruth's feet !). After last night I am not sure if I want another drinking session so soon, and I am not sure if my finances will allow it, but Ruth has promised me a couple of pints, and Ivor may have changed up the loose change that I gave Iain to do 6 weeks ago. So it may be less of a drain on my wallet than it would initially appear to be. I think I will be deciding whether to go, or not, nearer the actual time.
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Wednesday 5th January 2005

06.05 GMT

Weather - very cold with clear sky

 Yesterday started well. I went along to see Patricia before going on to the internet cafe. It was so good to see Patricia again after a break of  two and a half weeks. She was looking well, and was wearing my xmas present - a little necklace with a small piece of rose quartz set in a dangly bit. It sounded as if she had a very busy xmas holiday period. Onereason why she did not contact me was that she erased all the numbers in her mobile phone before giving it to her son. We have now swapped numbers for her new mobile phone.

 After a very pleasant fifteen minutes with Patricia I headed off to the internet cafe where my work placement is. As usual I was there before it opened. The sign on the door says it is supposed to open at 09.00, and I am due to start at 09.30. It actually opened at 09.35 ! I have learned how to let the situation there wash over the top of me. It is neither bad, nor good, but is just time that does not really exist. Actually the time went fairly fast. I spent a fair amount of time searching for jobs on the internet. I actually found three jobs of interest that I have applied for online. I think there is only a realistic chance of one being a true possibility, but the others were worth going for even if only to fill my quota of applications for Focus Vision. There was a fourth job that was slightly beyond my capabilities, but I may apply for it anyway in the hope that the company may have some lesser roles available.

 My original intention when I had finished at the internet cafe was to go back and have a longer chat with Patricia, but I decided to go to The Herne instead. I had not had a drink with Ivor since before xmas, but there was a more pressing concern. I had to arrange for Ruth's replacement PC to be handed over to her. Iain has been carrying it around in the boot of his car for well over a week and had not handed it to Ruth even though they had seen each other once or twice during that time. Ruth now has the PC, and I have the first, rather embarrasing, PC back again. I'll carry out a post mortem on it tonight, but it sounds as if the graphic drivers have become corrupted in some way. Maybe it is a leagacy of the hard disk problem that first plagued that PC when I first gave it to her. The replacement PC is, or was, my best spare PC. It is the one that preceeded the PC I am using now. It is reasonably fast. Fast enough to play a DVD video - just. It was also very reliable. I just hope it continues to be so when in use by less experienced users.

 Getting to The Herne is relatively easy from the internet cafe. A P4 bus goes from outside the cafe to the top of the hill  half a mile above The Herne. The bus tends to be very crowded with jostling schoolgirls at the time I leave the internet cafe, and being only a single decker bus it does make for a slightly unpleasant journey. From the bus stop to The Herne is downhill - a very steep downhill ! In that direction it is a fairly short and easy walk, but I would hate to try and do it in the other direction. I had several pleasnt pints in The Herne before Iain dropped me off at home with the evil computer at around 18.00. I spent the ret of the evening cooking, eating, watching TV, and applying for those jobs online (and editing me C.V.).

Today will start with a visit to Patricia  followed by a day at the internet cafe. I am not sure how I will pass the time of day there,, but I'll just make it up as I go on. After "work" I will definitely go and see Patricia again. Once I have seen her onto her bus home I will go home via Tesco. Then later in the evening it will be Wednesday night at The Ram with Kevin, Iain and Howard.
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Tuesday 4th January 2005

06.05 GMT

Weather - windy

 Yesterday started off bright and sunny, but by midday it had started to cloud over. It was still pretty cold outside as I discoverd when I went over to finally finish off the furniture assembling for Jodie. I am sort of glad that is out of the way as I now feel I have earned the beer money her mum gave me to do the job. It was a little tragic coming home from there. I was not sure of the times of the trains, but I made a mental note of the time that I saw a train pass earlier. Unfortunately it seems that for reasons unexplained alternate trains were running up to ten minutes late. The train time I had noted was one of the late running trains. So when I got to the station I found I had just missed the train I was aiming for as it had been on time. The train I eventually got turned up 10 minutes late after I had been waiting 35 minutes for it.

 The visit to Jodie was the only worthwhile thing I did all day yesterday. I spent the morning mostly watching TV while waiting for Jodie to get up. (Our days have always been some four or five hours  different from each other, and that is why we do not socialise more.) I got home a little after 17.30 and spent a few hours watching TV. Whilst the mornings TV had mostly been The Discovery Channel (or one of it's subsidaries), which was all educational type stuff, the evening was mostly pure entertainment. I got drawn into watching Carry On Screaming on Channel Four (or was it Three ?). That must be one of my favourite Carry On films of all time.

 I forced myself to switch the TV off at 21.00 and had intended to go to bed then. It didn't happen quite like that as I got distracted by this computer. Just before I turned it off, after a last check for e-mail, my view was drawn to a couple of pages I had printed out ages ago, but had more recently been ruined after getting soaked in a frothy cola incident. The pages were simply a list of all the fonts I had on the PC printed using the actual fonts to describe themselves. I thought it would only take a couple of minutes to reproduce those lists, but it actually took closer to 45 minutes. I was quite surprised when I found I had 105 different fonts installed and available to Open Office. Many look very similar, and it is not until you see them printed out side by side that you can appreciate the differences betwen them. Even then the differences betwen some, say Charter and Times, are very difficult to distinguish. This is probably because some are open source fonts that are designed to be equivalent to proprietry fonts from the likes of Microsoft. Being a dual boot machine it was easy to import all the Windows fonts into the Linux system.

 It was close to 22.00 before I was in bed. I knew that I would be getting up early today, being the first day back to "work", but I still decided to do some more reading. The book I have been reading over the last week is Robert Heinliens " I Will Fear No Evil". It is quite a big book and takes a lot of reading to get through. By 23.00 I felt sufficiently sleepy to turn off the light. At first I though I was going to have a re-run of an earlier night and not be able to get to sleep. My fears were unfounded, and I slipped into sleep while still thinking I would not be able to.

 I had one vivid dream that I still remember the essence of even though the details are fading fast. I think it is unusual for my dreams to take place in a totally fictional setting, but this one was centred around the set of the TV comedy "Drop The Dead Donkey". This is was a comedy set in a TV newsroom, and the fictional company ( Globe Link News) were great rivals of  CNN. In my dream I was on a work placement there. Globe Link News occupied one floor of a huge multi occupancy tower block. The rest of the floors were taken up with other news organisations - both print and rivals CNN. At the core of the dream I had fallen asleep in the office for some time. For a laugh the rest of the office had reset all the clocks to make it look as if I had slept right through the day, and well past the time I should have gone home. Someone had also painted my face with Tippex. For my revenge I kept going out for fag breaks, often getting lost in the huge building. When I got back I lied how I had bumped into some CNN staff and had related the tale to them. This got embellished up to the point where the man from CNN had suggested that I had been dosed with the date rape drug and been sexually assaulted by the Globe Link News staff. At the end I was telling them that I had to pop out for a little while as CNN wanted to interview me and arrange for medical tests to be conducted. This had the desired result and the Globe Link News people wre running around like headless chickens all blaming each other. I woke up again before I could reveal the truth to them. So somewhere in the land of dreams there are still a lot of worried people. One slight oddity in that dream was looking a myself in a mirror. I can't ever recall doing that in a dream before. I did not look exactly like me, but it is hard to explain the differences as it was me, but not quite.

 Today is a day I have been waiting for, for what seems like ages. It is the first day since the 17th December last year that I will be able to say hello to Patricia again. I am a little annoyed that she did not call me as she suggested she would. Today I will attempt to find out why. I am also back in the internet cafe for my work placement. I can't say I am looking forward to that, but it has to be done so I'll grin and bear it.
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Monday 3rd January 2005
Bank Holiday

07.30 GMT

Weather - dry and mild

 I did feel a lot better yesterday, and that makes me even more curious as to what illness I had been suffering from. It is possible that I am still not over it. Last night I felt very uncomfortable in bed and had a lot of difficulty getting to sleep. The bed seemed either too hot, or the outside too cold. Also I managed to find every last lump in the mattress, ruck in the sheets, or even grit ! I did go to bed early as I wanted to start getting up again at 06.00. I was in bed by 21.00, but I did intend to do some reading before turning off the light. I read until 23.00 which was a little later than I had intended, but during that time I felt comfortable. It was only when I then tried to go to sleep that all the discomforts started. After perhaps a whole hour I decided to give up and turned the light back on to carry on reading. By 01.30 I was feeling very tired and tried for sleep again. This time it came fairly quickly. This morning I feel that another hour of sleep would have been a better idea. I also have a backache of the type which feels like I slept on a rock. As I move around that ache is slowly going away. I could (and maybe will) cure it by going for a short walk.

 One of the things that improved upon my already improved mood yesterday was bright sunshine. For much of the day the sun was shining brightly. It even carried a little warmth into the south facing rooms, but did little for the outside temperature. When I went out to buy some fags the wind carried a real chill to it. Strangely it was only my face that really suffered from the cold. It felt like my ears would drop off. Usually my hands would suffer as well. As the day continues to lighten, and the sun creeps slowly higher in to sky, it looks as if it will be another bright sunny morning today. It would be nice if it could keep it up all day.

 Today I think I will be sociable again, but only to a limited extent. I will probably go over to Jodie to finally finish the furniture assembly that I started helping with a few weeks before xmas. There is actually very little to do now. As I recall it is just 3 drawers to assemble. In all probability I will only be out for a few hours. I am not sure how I will fill in the rest of the time today, but if it is anything like yesterday the time will soon fly by. One thing I will certainly be trying to do is to get an early night. Tomorrow the world starts again and I have to go to "work" again. I also hope to visit Patricia on my way into work. I am still waiting patiently for some feedback about the little xmas present I gave her.

 Before I finish for today here is a little puzzle for you. Upstairs in my studio I have a PC running Windows 2000. In that PC is a Teac DVD burner and a Yamaha CD burner. The Teac is an IDE device, and the Yamaha is a SCSI device. Both will read and write CD's until the cows come home. The Teac will write DVD's until the crack of doom. The problem is that once the Teac has read one DVD +/- R disk it will not read another until the machine has been rebooted. At this point in time I cannot say whether that also applies to proper pressed DVD rom disks, or even DVD video disks (pressed or burnt). The only thing I can think of is that somehow the old disk is not being unmounted from the file system when it is ejected. I have seen similar things happen using Linux, but then that would effect any disk that the drive tries to read. In this case I can read a CD OK, but it still refuses to read a DVD afterwards. Windows says "Incorrect Function" when I try and explore the DVD disk. An additional piece of information is that the DVD R disks are formatted to ISO9660. I think I do get another go if the next disk is dual formatted as ISO9660 and UDF, but I haven't tried that recently to be sure it works. If anyone can suggest a cause for this it would be a good time to try clicking on the comments link. Of course a cure would be a better choice, but at least an explanation would satisfy my curiosity.
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Sunday 2nd January 2005

07.05 GMT

Weather - dry, almost mild with blue sky

 I have had a lot of difficulty deciding how best to use the comments facility. For now I have added a link to the top of the page and added an extra link to a page just for comments. Please note that comments can be read in two places, but my replies (if needed) can only be read here and that the page is not updated automatically. It will be updated  only when I upload the page - usually in the morning, but possibly more often if there is anything of huge importance to add to it. It's all rather new and confusing, but I'm sure it will settle down into a routine later.

 Yesterday was another very lazy day. I can't really recall doing anything of great importance. I did do my laundry and go out for fags, but that is about all there was to yesterday. The rest of the time was probably spent reading or watching TV. Maybe today I'll do a bit more, but as yet I am not predicting what that will be.

 Last night, as I was lying in bed reading, it sounded as if someone was really getting pounded by a thunderstorm. It had been raining here during the evening, it also seemed quite windy, but both had died down by 21.00. The thinder I heard was distant. At first I thought it could be fireworks, but it went on far too long. Although far off, it sounded as if the thunder was almost continous from time to time, and even then it echoed around the sky for ages. Whoever was under it must have received a good pounding.

 At around 03.00 I woke up as if from a fever. My pillow was damp from sweat, and I had that same sort of feeling of relief when you know a cold has finally broken. Yet as far as I know I have not had a cold. I have felt very miserable for the last week, but I assume that has been down to the time of year (and not hearing from Patricia). There have been a few mornings, and maybe a few times in the day, when my nose has been a little stuffy. I have also had the occasional tickly smokers cough, but I have not actually felt what I would call ill. I am trying to work out if I feel any better this morning. Maybe I do, but it is too early to tell. I'll see how the day goes and make a decision then.

 During the night I had one or more dreams that seem to have been centred around Woolwich. It is difficult trying to get the dream(s) in chronological order, but it seemed to start with geting off a train at Woolwich and getting totally lost. I was going to work, or a work placement, and eventually ended up in a factory that made wooden soles for shoes ! I think it was later on in that, or another dream, that I discovered what the factory did. Two things happened there that I recall. The first was that I lost my packet of fags and spent an age looking for them. The other was that I was given a very weird push bike to mend. This bike was weird with a capital W. It was styled on an old tram in paint scheme and decoration. Somehow it folded up when being carried, and the wheels were designed so they could run in tram tracks. When not in tram tracks it was designed to be steered through the pedals ! I think my repair was just to adjust the brakes. At some point the dream changed and I was on a tram (perhaps trolleybus would be a better description) going through Woolwich where, once again, I was totally lost. The trolleybus was not being powered from the overhead wires, but instead had been fitted with a diesel engine so it could operate wwhere the wires were down (in a similar way to a class 73 locomotive if you know what one of those is). Everwhere we went I could see the overhead wires being taken down as Woolwich was being converted to use ordinary buses. That is all I can recall of last nights dreams.  I am sure there was more detail in the bits I can recall, and probably dreams I can't remember, but that was enough for one night.
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Saturday 1st January 2005

08.00 GMT

Weather - dry

 It's not a great way to start 2005 - no job, no money, no woman, but I do have a headache. The headache is not as you would expect , a hangover. I did have two small bottles of beer last night while I was in my studio, but there was hardly enough there to whet my appetite.

 As you can see I am trying a new, rather radical, page design. It seemed like a good idea when I made it up yesterday, but this morning I am having second thoughts about it. I may change it to a less gory colour scheme sometime. One new innovation is the comments link under the days entry. By clicking on that you can send comments to me for inclusion in these pages. It is not automatic and I will have to cut and paste the comment in by hand. As yet I am not sure how it will all work. As it is unlikely I will get many, or any, comments I will probably just paste them to the right of the comments links. If  I had lots of comments I would probably provide a link to a new page. I also spent something like 14 hours, yesterday, restoring all the entries for 2003 and generally tidying up the file structure of these pages. I have checked most of the links, but I expect there may be a few that do not work. This is specially so for the 2003 entries which were made witha Microsoft product that used htm as a file extension instead of html. I corrected hundreds of those, but it is inevitable that some got away.

 So to sum up yesterday I spent most of the day on the PC battling with web design, I then spent two hours in my studio recording two hours of music.That finished at about five past midnight, and for the next ninety minutes I was editing and processing the two hour audio file. By the time I got to sleep I was completely exhausted. I think I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, and I probably slept in a very awkward position. Maybe that is the reason for my headache this morning. I have only had six, or less, hours sleep and I feel like going back to bed very soon.

 My only plans for today are to go out and try and massage some money out of a cash machine to buy some fags, and to do my laundry. For the rest of the day I think I will just mope around.
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