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Friday 30th January 2009
08:28 GMT

 The temperature dropped overnight giving a stiff frost this morning. It didn't have to drop far. Yesterday, although mostly bright and sunny, was quite cool. Maybe it was just me, but I doubt if the temperature rose as high as the forecast 7 C. I expect today to be very much like yesterday. There is some very high whispy clouds, but the rest of the sky is clear.

 I never did get my visit from Patricia last night. I am not sure where she got to, but it may have been that the Zumba class she was going to attend went on longer than she expected. While I waited to hear from her I just ate my dinner and watched TV. Soon after 8.30 pm I concluded that she was not coming and started doing some stuff on my PC (mainly configuring my Sockso installation).

 Well, thank Kryton it's Friday ! The end of the week, and the end of the month (bar one day). The end of the month means that I am rich again (in a relative sort of way) - or I should be tomorrow. Tonight I think I may well celebrate with a few cheap pints of Wetherspoons beer. I would like more, but I have to get up reasonably early to try and make my house almost presentable for a visit by Aleemah.
Thursday 29th January 2009
08:30 GMT

 The weather is much improved compared to yesterday. This morning it is a bit misty, the sky is light grey, but best of all, it's not raining. yesterday was a quite dreadful day. There was rain or drizzle for most of the time I was at work, although I was lucky that it seemed to have stopped by the time I left to go home. Today is forecast to have many sunny intervals with a top temperature of 7 C.

 According to what I read in the paper this morning, the weather is due for a violent change next Monday. An icy blast is expected to blow straight from the frozen wastes of Russia. It will bring with it some, or even maybe lots, of snow. A quarter of a million copies of The Metro free newspaper will be left on trains today, and each will have the same weather forecast in. Despite all those newspapers left on the train, not a single one will be read by any railway employee with any authority. So come Monday morning the trains will grind to a halt as the snow catches everyone unawares !

 There is something about Thursdays. It is without doubt the worst day of the week. Contrary to the song "I don't Like Mondays", I do quite like Mondays, but I don't like Thursdays. I don't know why this should be. Looking back, it is my most popular day for going sick from work, and this morning I don't feel all that bright. I woke up feeling very snotty, and although that phase has now almost passed, my throat is a bit tickly. I am sure that will pass too. Just to add to my misery I feel a bit gassy this morning. That is normally my cue to spend half my morning on the toilet instead of getting the train to work. Well, this morning I did get my train on time, and I didn't have to break my journey to use the appalling toilets at Clapham Junction station. So I guess things are not too bad (but I would still prefer to be at home today).

 I didn't get to see Patricia last night. She was suffering from both a headache and toothache, and wanted to go straight back to her digs after work. She will try to see me again tonight. Without Patricia's visit I should have had the time to do all sorts of things, but I am ashamed to say I went into advanced couch potato mode. I spent most of the evening just watching old episodes of "Yes Minister", and eating too much (which probably explains the gassiness this morning !). Tonight I must do better, and I would give myself a 50% chance of doing so. We'll see !
Wednesday 28th January 2009
A sunny January day in the park08:22 GMT

 This morning's grey, wet, miserable start is in stark contrast to the bright sunshine we enjoyed yesterday. I took the picture on the left at about 1.35 pm as I had a wander around the park that backs onto the "Business Village" where I work. Although still rather cool outside, it was so lovely that I ate my lunch in the park. As I walked around munching my apple and pear I did notice that the sun was beginning to warm me up. There was very little breeze, and that helped a lot.

 I can't conceive that today could ever turn out half, or even a quarter, as good as yesterday. The rain is not very heavy, but seems most persistent, and the sky is just unrelenting grey, dark grey in fact. The only saving grace is that it does seem to be the warmest morning for some time now - if you can call 7 or 8 degrees warm. I have no idea what the real temperature is, but I reckon it is at least a degree or two warmer than the highest morning temperature in the last few weeks (or more).




 Last night I spent a very short time putting a few finishing touches to my audio workstation PC. To be exact, I cleared some of the debris off the table so I could put a couple of "monitor" loudspeakers on it. I say "monitor" speakers in as much as they are for monitoring, but anyone familiar with high end studios would not recognise them as such. They are not computer speakers, but real speakers, and they do sound pretty good to me. I think they are made by Jamo, or something. The best part is that they seem to be acceptably loud when just driven from the earphone output of my Soundblaster "Live Drive".

 To celebrate getting my audio workstation even closer to being usable I brushed up on some of my rather rusty audio editing skills. It was the first time I have done any computer audio editing in ages, and it did take me five or ten minutes before it all came back to me. I ended up, after a good hour practicing, with a one hour "mixtape" of golden oldies.

 Tonight I could do more audio stuff, but I am not sure if I will have the time. I need to get some shopping on the way home. That will consume a little time, and then I am expecting a visit from Patricia. I haven't seen Patricia for a little while, and I am sure she will have lots of news, and other stories to recount to me. All that could take some time.
Tuesday 27th January 2009
red sky over Waterloo East  08:19 GMT

 The seasons seem to be passing by very quickly lately. Yesterday, around midday, it could almost have been spring. It was cool, but the sun did feel quite warm when I managed to find a place to stand in it. This morning it is also just cool with a grey misty ambience like an autumn morning. Presumably summer must have happened overnight, and we will soon be plunged back into winter.

 I believe the forecast for today is that the sky will remain fairly cloudy, with just the odd chance of a sunny interval. If we are lucky it will remain dry. I am beginning to see some detail in the grey misty sky. Maybe the cloud will break up further than the official forecast suggested. It seems unlikely that we will get the mostly sunny afternoon that we got yesterday.

 The clouds did start to reform as I was going home after work. I took the picture on the left on platform C at Waterloo East station. The towards the north west the sky was really quite red. That should have meant a fine day today, but maybe not. It's hard to really judge from a photo, but it was really quite light when I took that, and 30 minutes later, just after I arrived at home, there was still a sort of dusky twilight.  It can't be long until the day will last into the night (if you will forgive such a stupid phrase).

 Some good things do happen. Standing in the warm sunshine for a few minutes yesterday was a good thing, but even better than that is my Aspire One netbook is working again. Once I had fed Smudge, and put my dinner on to heat up, I tried the advice I read from the web page I provided the link for yesterday. Within a few minutes my netbook burst into life as if it had never gone wrong in the first place. Why interupting the normal grub bootloader process should corrupt the BIOS in a PC seems to be a complete mystery, but that is what happened to me, and it appears that it, or somethiong very similar, has happened to thousands of people. Still, it's good to know the cure is so easy.

 Dinner, last night, was another good thing. I had made it on Sunday night. So all I had to do was to heat it up last night. It started out with me buying some cheap frozen beef in Tesco on Sunday morning. I could have defrosted before roasting it, but I decided it would be better as the basis for a stew. My thought was that it would be some cheap and nasty cut of meat as tough as old boot leather. Maybe it was roasted it would have been, but slowly cooked in my stew it was delicious along with some potatoes, onions and carrots. Other ingredients were plenty of paprika and chilli sauce. One good thing about cooking it the night before was that all the fat had set solid when I got home last night. So before reheating it I scooped off quite a lot of the fat, and made it a far more healthy meal (allegedly !).

 Against all the good things there are bad things. One of which was my timing this morning. I came very close to missing the train I intended to get. After a fairly brisk walk to the station I had to run up the platform and over the footbridge to dash on the train before the doors closed. I am not sure if I was dizzy with elation for managing to catch the train and find a seat, or whether it was just lack of oxygen ! (Probably the latter !).
Monday 26th January 2009
10:28 GMT

 
I have just done some research about my dead Aspire One netbook. It seems the problem is far from being rare. Fortunately the cure should be quite simple, but I will have to wait until tonight to try it for myself. I found the answer here, but be warned if you want to read the entire web page - it is about 65ft long ! As I say, this problem appears to be far from rare !

08:49 GMT


 There was a lot of rain overnight, but it stopped as early as 5:15 am (when Smudge went out). When I left for work the sun was still too far below the horizon to shed any light on the clouds, but I still got the impression that it was very cloudy. As the sun slowly began to light up the eastern sky I could see that it was indeed very cloudy. Right now that cloud seems to be breaking up. There is a very large blue bit of sky outside my office window, and from the way some of the buildings are illuminated I think that they are being illuminated by reflected sunshine that is falling somewhere I can't directly see. It would be nice to see some sunshine after a very wet and gloomy day yesterday. It seemed to be almost mild when I left for work, and if we do see some sunshine today it could get beyond cold to slightly above cool.

 Yesterday I had some successes and one major disappointment. The major disappointment is that my new Aspire 1 netbook seems to have died. The power light comes on, a fan whirrs inside, but nothing else happens. I will do some research on this, but I am sure the answer will involve going back to PC World, and with the aid of diagrams, slow and clear speech, hand gestures, and maybe a few bananas and grapes as rewards, I will convince one of the trained monkeys there that it is faulty, and I think, ideally, it needs replacing.

 One of my successes was trying out some software with the rather strange name of Sockso. This software, available for Linux, Windows, or Mac, is a free, open source, personal music server. It allows me to easily listen to music from one central source on any of my PCs on my intranet. It can also be "tuned into" from anywhere on the internet. Unfortunately it seems that with my low end broadband connection it only takes one bit torrent download to completely stuff up the connection. Sockso is both good and bad. It is easy to set up and use, but time consuming to arrange loads of audio files for sequential playback. At the moment I have stopped the torrent download that was causing the congestion, and I can listen to my stuff easily here at work.
Saturday 24th January 2009
16:42 GMT

 Much to my relief this morning turned out to be dry. I think there was a frost this morning. Although I did get up quite early on in the morning, it wasn't until gone 9 am that I took a good look outdoors. There was no frost visible on the cars outside on the road, but my lower back roof did seem to be white and frosty, as did my next door neighbours. Earlier on, while it was still dark, I might have seen frost on my neighbours shed roof. It looked brighter than normal, but it was just too dark outside to see any glitteryness. On the whole, the day has been fairly bright with some diffuse sunshine. Now, as night begins to fall, it seems to be getting colder already. On a work day it would be about now that I would be walking home from the station, and although the daylight is fading it is still light outside.

 Last night I felt terribly tired when I got home from work, but I still managed to raise the enthusiasm to go out for a quick drink. There was actually a three part temptaion for this. I did fancy a beer or two. I wanted to do some shopping in the 99p shop which is almost opposite the pub, and lastly I heard from Iain that he had a sound card for me. When I got to the pub I found that Iain was feeling tired too, and, like me, he didn't want to stay there too late. After two pints I decided to call it a day, but Iain half heartedly suggested that he might like one more pint. I must admit it was tempting. I had been drinking "Plum Pudding" ale. It was fruity and sweet, and I am sure it was really a Xmas ale, but at only 4.8% it seemed just right. Had I succummbed to temptation I might have even stayed for another after that, but I was also looking forward to my dinner. It was a stew/casserole that I had prepared the night before, and left in the oven on a low gas before I went to the pub. It was very nice, but nearly as nice as an indulgence I had bought in the 99p shop. That was a ginger cake with Xmas spices in. I was lucky that it was a fairly small cake because once I started it I couldn't stop until it was finished. There was something about it that was sensationally irrestible.

 This morning I got up at my normal time and fed Smudge. Then I pottered around for for an hour or two before deciding to treat myself with some more time in bed.It was 9.45 am before I got up again. There was a slight downside to getting up that late. For reasons that I have never discovered, the water pressure here drops after 9 am, and it falls to the point where my multipoint water heater runs cold when trying to feed the shower head. I still get hot water through the more free flowing hot water tap on the wash basin, but I can't have a shower. Washing myself with a flannel is not so nice as having a shower, but probably as effective, but I was unable to wash my filthy hair. Fortunately I am not expecting any visitors today.

 Once I was washed and dressed I went shopping in Tesco's. I bought a few goodies, and some essentials like cat food and toilet paper. I also bought some of their very cheap diet cola. They have a range of cheap diet colas. The "Value" range is undrinkably disgusting. The premium range is not that wonderful. The Sunsip range is quite drinkable, and the standard range used to be very nice. A little while ago that standard diet cola must have had a recipe change or something. When ice cold it is drinkable, but as soon as it warms up a bit it gains a nasty bilious sort of taste. The last bottle I bought has lasted several days because I didn't like drinking it. It is fortunate that I still have that bottle because I was able to compare the label with the bottle I bought today. I notice that the nasty stuff has "Tesco 2008" on it, and yet the bottle I bought today has "Tesco 2006" on it. I am hoping that todays purchase will be of the nice tasting stuff. If so, then I will know what to look for when I do some more shopping in there tomorrow.  I may well buy as many bottles as I can carry - just in case ! Failing that I will be buying the cheaper Sunsip version in future. It's not as nice, but still not too bad.

 A lot of my day has been fairly lazy, but I have achieved a few things. As well as doing the shopping I have done two loads of washing, and I have installed the sound card I got off Iain last night. Fortunately it had a different chipset to the other two sound cards in my audio workstation, and once I had tracked some drivers down, it worked just fine. I now have three out of the four audio channels I want working, and I have several options for the last one. I have one other internal sound card here that I could try, but I think it uses the same chipset as the onboard sound, and I am wary about trying it. I may take the cowards way out and use a USB sound card for channel number 4. I already know that I have two which work OK, and I have more recently gained another to try out at some time.

 The rest of my day has been taken up by reading New Scientist, and dozing on my bed. It was while laying on my bed, half reading, half dozing, and listening to some music that a thought occured to me. I don't know if it is just me, or if it happens to everybody, but some things can trigger off a sort of fleeting memory that is like a flash of dream, and often just as hard to remember. In this particular case it was music that triggered off the sensation. I was listening to a song by the Dutch band Kayak, and for a fleeting moment I was transported back in time to a real or imagined memory. The silly thing is that I can't really recall what that memory was, but it felt really good. It really was like trying to recall a half remembered dream. I was either in a good place, or with good people - maybe both.

 It is not only music that can trigger this sort of sensation. There is another more common sensation I get that can be triggered by certain patterns of sunlight. It's like summer encapsulated in one instant of time. In this flashback (for want of a better name) I do remember some details. It is warm, but not hot, the sky is a vivid blue, and I am walking effortlessly alongside a row of terraced houses that are brightly illuminated by the sun, yet there is no glare. I have no idea where that vision is set, but just like the far briefer flashback I got from the music, it feels very right and happy. It is difficult to say how long that flashback lasts for.  I think it is just a frozen instant in time, and as such lasts for no time, and yet is timeless. I probably spend more time trying to interpret it than the vision actually last for. At the moment I can't think of any other flashbacks that I have had, but I do know that I have had them, and that all the others have probably been triggered by certain songs. I think certain Pink Floyd songs are apt to do this - I must listen to some more Pink Floyd soon !
Friday 23rd January 2009
08:56 GMT

 This morning is a dull, wet, grey, miserable morning ! The rain was very light when I left home, but it seemed to be a lot heavier by the time I reached Earlsfield. The wind seems to have picked up a bit too. I am trying to remember how yesterday started, and I can't, but I do know there were plenty of sunny intervals yesterday, and there were a few showers. During one fag break I tried to take a picture of a rainbow, but it was rapidly fading, and is was too indistinct to bother trying to reproduce here.

 Yesterday morning I was suffering badly with galloping gut rot. I think it may have had something to do with the prunes and oats I had eaten the day before. It may also have been something else because I was still mildly affected this morning. After a very late start, and uncomfortable journey, I finally made it in to work at about 9.15 am. In consequence I thought I had better stay late to make up for it. That was a shame because it was quite bright and sunny at around 4 pm, and I may have made it home in complete daylight. Instead, it was totally dark when I got home, and wasn't even that bright when I left work.

 One thing I did yesterday was to order a couple of sound cards for my audio workstation experimentation. I shouldn't have really spent that money, but they were rather cheap. One, a PCI model, was just over 5, and the other, a USB connected one, was around 11. My ideal setup is to only use intern, PCI connected, sound cards, but reading the reviews for the USB connected one gave a hint that it was possible to use it in dual channel mode. One, alleged, DJ said that he had succesfully used one channel for pre-fade listen headphone monitoring, and the other for the main playout.  So there is hope that this USB box will suit my special needs, albeit in external form. I think it was described as a 7.1 surround system. That means it should have as many as 4 outputs. If two can be used independantly, I don't see why 3 can't. Those three, together with the onboard sound card in the PC would be all I need for my project.

 The sound cards will be delivered today (or should be) so I can look forward to a lot of experimentation over the weekend. Maybe I will start tonight, but I think I will be boozing for some of the evening.

 Another bit of experimentation, and one that made me a little late for work this morning, is playing with Linux on USB "pendrives" (memory sticks, etc). There is a handy little programme, for Windows, Linux or (I think) Mac, that makes transferring an operating system image onto a pendrive. That program is Unetbootin, and I tried it this morning before leaving for work. My first effort did not work, but I was trying an unsupported distribution. Even as I type I am clogging works network bandwidth by trying again using a network install of Fedora 10. I think I would have been happier doing this at home. While I should have been making my way to the station, with my bones, and several other bits of me, creaking away, I was sitting comfortable in the warm, and I could easily have spent another hour, or two, there before going back to bed. Ah well, just another 12 hours to go and I could be back in bed again. Night, night !
Wednesday 21st January 2009
08:35 GMT

 There was a thick white frost when I left home to go to work this morning. It seems to have thawed now, or maybe Earlsfield was a little warmer than Catford.  Another possible difference between Catford and Earlsfield is that in Catford the sky was almost clear. Here in Earlsfield it seems to be very cloudy.  It is possible that it is not all cloud I am seeing, but just a mist hanging around a few hundred feet up in the air. (I know that, technically, mist and cloud are just water vapour, but at some unknown height above ground the name changes from mist to cloud - unless you are on top of a hill, and then cloud can be at ground level - it's very confusing, isn't it !). If that horrible greyness I am seeing is just mist floating high above the treetops we may be looking forward to a bit of sunshine as it disperses. However if it is cloud then we are probably going to get wet.

 Last night I took my mislabled trousers back to Tesco to exchange them. I anticipated a lot of trouble doing this, but in fact it went fairly smoothly, and the result was better than I expected. I was told that without a receipt I could only exchange the trousers, but that was what  wanted to do anyway. Upon commenting that my particular size was fairly rare I was told that I could exchange the trousers for any other style of trousers, or indeed any other clothing. After a good rummage I could only find two pairs of trousers in the right size, and both were cheaper than the pair I was exchanging. So I was able to exchange one pair of trousers for two pairs after paying the difference in price. That difference was just 97p ! One pair of trousers is a dark brown colour. I can't say I really like the colour, but I am either growing to like it, or ignore it. The most significant part is that they fit. To tell the truth they are a little tight, but I am sure they will wear in. I am wearing them right now, and they seem reasonably comfortable, although it will be nice to get them off again when I get home tonight.

 After my visit to Tesco I had my dinner and tried to watch some TV.For dinner I had a large jacket potato with cheese and beans. That was most enjoyable. Watching TV wasn't ! It seems nothing happened on the entire planet yesterday except America getting a new president. It was hardly news. We knew about this before Xmas. We already knew that he is supposed to be a nicer chap than our own Fueher, G B ruin. So what was the news all about ?

 I hear that this new president will be the 44th one that America has tried. Surely, if they can't get one that suits them after all that, it is time for them to write a nice little apology to The Queen, and beg to be let back into the Empire again. Then again, you can see their point. I doubt if anybody wants to be ruled by the thugs who run Whitehall at the moment.

 I gave up on TV after The Simpsons finished on Channel 4, and I almost could have gone straight to bed, but I thought I would have another quick play with the sound cards in my audio workstation. What I discovered is that the two PCI sound cards I have installed will not co-operate with each other. The problem seems to stem from the fact they are both Creative Soundblasters. They are different models, and I think the main chip is different, but many of the supporting files seem to be very similar. Both cards are apparently installed according to Windows, but I can only ever get one to work at a time. When I install the drivers and software for the cards the installer sees that certain software already exists and does not install it again. The missing bit would appear to be whatever controls the volume of the card, and that card is left installed, but muted. If I could unmute the silent card I reckon it would work, but before I get too desperate I am following up on some other possibilities (alternative sound cards in the main).

 After allowing myself about 30 - 40 minutes for messing around with sound cards I did go to bed quite early. I think I made it into bed by 8 pm, but I did stay awake reading until 8.45 pm. Then I turned the light out and fell asleep very quickly. I slept very soundly until Smudge, who must have been counting the minutes, decided that at 4.30 am I had had enough sleep. I did try and turning over and getting back to sleep, but it didn't work. Once again I have not caught up with some recent lack of sleep. I feel fine now, but I'll probably be quite dozy by later this afternoon. I think I'll be going for a pint tonight, but it's going to be a very quick one !
Tuesday 20th January 2009
08:50 GMT

 To my relief, it is dry this morning. The sky is cloudy enough for rain to happen at any time, but some forecasts suggest that there could be some sunny intervals today. However, the temperature still remains at a fairly cool 5 or 6 C, and the breeze makes it feel a little cooler than that. Yesterday did see some sunshine, but there was also a very heavy shower late in the morning (maybe very early afternoon - I forget). The heavy rain shower did not last all that long. In was very convemiently timed to be between two of my fag breaks.

 There were several things I could have done last night when I got home from work, but I didn't do any of them. I felt very weary during the afternoon, and that stayed with me even after I got home. So I ignored my new audio workstation PC, couldn't be bothered to take my undersized trousers back to Tesco, and just slumped down in front of the TV. I wasn't actually watching live TV, but instead watching the final Dr Who story from the series I have been watching. I can now leave Dr Who alone and maybe be a bit more productive (or start watching live TV again !).

 On my way into work I withdrew some cash from a cash machine at Waterloo station. Part of the theory about yesterday being the most depressing day of the year was that many people would be mourning there ever diminishing bank account, and thinking that it seems to be a long time until pay day. I read my balance slip after withdrawing my cash........I am now officially depressed !

 Thank you for several suggestions I received about my quest for 4 separate stereo ouput channels on my new audio workstation PC. It would seem I have two choices. Choice one is to buy a professional sound card. This would make the whole thing neat, and hopefully stable too. The second choice, and given the current state of my bank account, the one I will be persuing, is to use 4 cheap consumer sound cards. It is a bit messy, and maybe troublesome to set up, but I am half way there already, and in time I will get all four cards working (though I have yet to buy one of them).

 On Sunday I wrote about the Glow Sticks I bought at the 99p shop. The four different coloured one I tried on Saturday were not very bright to start with, but they do seem to be lasting a very long time. I am sure that after 12 hours they are usually too dim to see, but the ones I started on Saturday were still faintly glowing last night. I'll admit that I had to have the room in darkness before it was very obvious, but I am still sort of amazed at their longevity. If I has started all 25 in one of the two boxes I bought, I could possibly still have had enough light left to just about read by (with the glow sticks a few inches above the paper !).
Monday 19th January 2009
09:55 GMT

 There was a lot of rain overnight, and it was still raining when I left for work. By the time I got to Earlsfield most of the rain had stopped. Now there are breaks in the cloud, and if one of those should line up with the sun we should see some sunshine.

 Today, according to several newspaper reports, is the most depressing day of the year. It is supposed to be caused by a combination of being a Monday, pay day being so far away, and the next holidays being so far away too. It was predicted that as many as 25% of people would phone in sick today. Whoever made that prediction did not travel in to work in the same way that I did. My train was exceptionally packed this morning, and not just 75% full as the prediction would suggest. The same was true for my bus from the station to work.

 Of course there are other reasons to be depressed today. A dripping wet start to the day, and particularly a Monday, does not exactly raise the spirits. I have some other reasons too. I tried on a new pair of trousers this morning, They didn't fit. They didn't fit in a big way ! Although they have the same labelled specification as the most comfy trousers I am wearing at the moment, they did not live up to that specification. I estimate that the waist size is about four inches smaller than the label would suggest.

  A minor reason for depression came yesterday. I came to the sad realisation that it is not possible, or maybe just not easy, to use the two outputs of my "Soundblaster Live !" independently of each other. The same would appear to be true for most consumer sound cards. For some of my experimentation I need to have four independent sound outputs from my new audio workstation PC. I did manage it yesterday by using the onboard sound for one ouput. The "Souondblaster Live!" PCI card for another, and two USB connected sound card for the other two. Amazingly it did all work, but I find that solution rather inelegant.

 Overall, despite these rather minor reasons for depression that I have described, I do feel rather good. Maybe it is the thought of 25% of the population being so depressed that they have to skive off work, and all the city bankers committing suicide because of the plunging wealth of the banks in these economically depressed times. My life may, on average, be unfullfilling, and generally unexciting, and quite often tediously boring, but you sort of get used to that after 10, 20, or even maybe 30 years. So for me life is pretty normal at the moment, and feeling normal when everyone else (according to the newspapers) is on the verge of suicide actually feels pretty good - "in the land of the blind depressed, the one eyed normal man is king !" So I am king for today. Whoopee ! 
Sunday 18th January 2009
06:46 GMT

 Yesterday started out bright and sunny. I doubt we will be so lucky today, and yet I did notice that the moon was sitting in almost clear sky a short while ago. So maybe there is some hope for sunshine this morning. Yesterday's sunshine extended well into the afternoon, but it clouded over as sunset approached. Overnight there was some rain, but it seems to be dry again this morning. One thing that spoiled yesterday was the wind. The air temperature was a fairly respectable (for this time of year) 9 or maybe even 10 C, but the wind made it feel a lot colder. Today will be a little cooler than yesterday, but if it stays calm it might feel better than yesterday (when outside).

 After my uncomfortable journey to work on Friday morning, I am happy to report that the journey home was far better. An added enhancement was that over half the journey was done in daylight, and it was still twilight when I arrived in Catford. I am, it seems, fairly obsessive about sun rise and sunset time, and particularly so at this time of year. I guess I just don't like commuting in the dark, but I doubt many people do. It won't be long now until I start and finish my commute in daylight, and then the next major event will be when I can actually wake up to full daylight. From then on life will be sweet, or as sweet as it ever gets.

 Of course some days are better than others. Yesterday had a few good points. I saw Aleemah yesterday, and after we had eaten in the local cafe (where I had an almost healthy jacket potato) we had a wander around the 99p shop. Two items grabbed my attention because I am a sucker for things that light up. One was packets of glow sticks, and the other was a rather groovy pen. The glow sticks came in packets of 25, and for just 99p they were far cheaper than I have ever seen before. They were the very thin ones - thinner than a pencil, but about as long - so unless I was a kiddie, or went to raves, they are utterly useless, but I get a sort of kick out of seeing them light up when you activate them, and they glowed in 4 or 5 colours too !

 I was first introduced to glow sticks when I saw some (probably) army surplus ones for sale at an amateur radio boot sale. I think they were charging something like 50p a stick back in 1995 (?), but these were definitely industrial versions. They were about 8" long, and maybe half an inch thick. They were meant for emergency lighting, and they were certainly good enough to read by. Albeit with a rather sickly yellow-gree glow. I still find it fascinating that by mixing two clear chemicals you can produce light.

 The second novelty item that I bought in the 99p shop was a ball point pen that lights up. The top half of the pen is clear acrylic with a twist of parallel fibres in it. On the side is a button. Below the acrylic top, just out of view, there are three LEDs. One press of the button lights up a red LED, the next press turns that off. The next press turns on a green LED, and more presses cycle through blue, magenta, cyan and white. The next press cycles through all combinations at about one second intervals. I have to confess that it provided minutes of amusement to me when playing with in bed after I had turned the lights out. Well, the novelty is over now, but it came with a spare set of batteries (three tiny little button cells). So I had better think up lots of novel ways to use it (or something).

 Another highlight of yesterday was putting the finishing touches to my new audio workstation PC (if such a thing could ever be considered to be finished). The last two things I did was to fit a second hard disk, for extra storage, and to install some software that, ideally, needs 4 sound card outputs to work in it's most useful configuration. The best bit of all was working out how to use that software. I tried it many years ago, on a rather under-specified computer, and got nowhere with it. This time I seem to have got the hang of it. It's little triumphs like that, that bring glee to my world weary heart.

 One negative thing, but in some ways a positive thing for me, was some pictures I received in an email recently. They were unboubtably funny, and one in particular took my fancy in a big way. That particular one I thought worth reproducing here, but I wanted to make a few minor alterations before adding it to my web pages. When I tried opening it using The Gimp image editor, I got a message saying it was a corrupt jpeg. It did actually open, and I ended up making not a few small alterations, but a few bigger ones. Now it has been edited and resaved it should not be corrupt, and safe to view. Prior to that, I don't think it was safe to view on a PC running Windows XP. The idea of a corrupt jpeg aroused my suspicions, and I did a little research. Although I have no proof that this particular jpeg image was malicious, I did confirm my suspicions that opening a specially crafted jpeg image can end up with a trojan, or other malware, being placed on your computer. You can read about the dangers here :-
http://pcworld.about.com/news/Sep282004id117951.htm
or
http://www.spyware-spysweeper.com/computer-trojans.html
or even
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1229010/posts
So be careful when forwarding on images that have not been checked with a good virus/malware checker. Meanwhile here is my cleaned, and edited version of the picture that is oh so very true.
As I mature (safe version)







 Of course it is too small to actually read, but if you click on it you will see the full sized image.












 Today I have no plans to do anything in particular, not to go anywhere (not including a short shopping trip to Tesco). I think I might go back to bed once I have finished writing. Later on I do have a magazine to read, and despite saying I had put the finishing touches to my new audio workstation PC, I have just realised that I still have to play with adding one, or more sound cards to the machine. Now that could be an interesting exercise !

Friday 16th January 2009
10:04 GMT

 Like yesterday, this morning is dull and grey, and like yesterday it will probably be dull and grey all day. We are still sitting on the transition between cold and cool with temperatures of around 5 or 6 C, and maybe peaking a couple of degrees above that late in the afternoon.

 I was late into work this morning, and had a mostly unpleasant journey into work. After partaking of rather large amounts of fibre based food recently (beans, oats, fruit etc.) I seemed to be ready to explode this morning. I was almost comfortable enough to go for the 06:54 train (that is the best one to get me into work on time), but at the last minute I decided that I would get the next train at 07:29. That train was packed, and even though I arrived on the platform early enough to secure a position to be first on the train, I still had to stand all the way to London Bridge.

 As I meandered my way onto the platform for the next leg of my journey at Waterloo mainline station, I felt a tap on my arm. It was Aleemah who is also working in Earlsfield today. So we got the train together as far as Clapham Junction. At Clapham Junction I most reluctantly decided it might be safer for me to get off there and use the toilet. I say with great reluctance because, as I have written here before, the toilets at Clapham Junction are not a pleasure to use. Considering they advertise the station as the busiest in England, if not the whole world, the toilets are smaller than any branch line station. Just two narrow cubicles are provided for men (plus standing space for maybe three men), and the ambience is pretty grubby. However it did urn out to be a wise decision to brave the horrors of the Clapham Junction toilets.

 I wrote on Wednesday morning that I would be doing transplant surgery on the controler circuit board of a hard drive. I am pleased to announce that it was 90% successful, although I would have been even more pleased to announce that it had been 100% successful. The hard drive now works for short periods of time, and then seems to drop it's USB conection. I can transfer a few hundred MB before it "crashes", but that is all. I don't think it is overheating, and my main suspicion at the moment is that one of the connectors between the circuit board and the mechanism is not making good contact. These connectors are just spikes that press onto the circuit board itself. I am hoping that if I give them a good clean I will fix the problem. To be on the safe side I have ordered a brand new hard drive that should be delivered here at work sometime today.

 On a more encouraging note, I have assembled the main parts of my new Windows PC and tested it with a live Linux distro. It all worked well, and once I have fitted the new hard drive it should be ready to go. Although "ready to go" is a relative term that actually covers quite a lot of work to do. I have to install Windows - a long tedious process compared to Linux. Then I have to start installing all the programmes I need. Once again a bit of a long process compared to most Linux program installs. The very worst bit will be trying to configure the one main program that I intend to run on this hardware. It involves all sorts of things including setting up a database. This could be an "interesting" learning process !
Wednesday 14th January 2009
08:15 GMT

 I am sure that the visibility in Catford was very clear when I left home, but here in Earlsfield it is hovering between being misty and being foggy. It is cooler than yesterday, but it's still a few degrees above freezing, and there was no sign of any frost. Once the mist and fog has lifted there could be some sunny intervals today, but I suspect cloud will dominate the sky. It stayed dry yesterday, as far as I can remember, and the cloud did start to break up a little. The sun almost managed to shine on a few occasions. As I walked from the station to home last night, the western horizon was fairly clear. If sunset had been a little later I could have been treated to some sunshine to cheer up those last five minutes of walking. By that time, about 4.55 pm, the sun had already set, but the western horizon did look very bright. It is becoming more noticeable that the days are now getting longer. In another week or two I can look forward to getting home in daylight, and maybe even glorying in the rising sun as I go to work. It will be some time yet before I can look forward to actually waking up to daylight, but it will be fabulous when it does happen.

 I think I predicted what I would do last night fairly well. I ate my keema rice, and watched a Dr Who story, and then did some computer related stuff. I started to gather the bits together that I would be using to build my next PC (the specialised audio workstation as I have now dubbed it). Things soon came apart when I found a spare SATA hard drive was faulty. One of the chips on the controller board had blown up. A bit of rummaging around revealed another hard drive that used the same chip on it. This second hard drive was a much smaller, 40 Gb drive, and as far as I can remember it was beginning to suffer from occasional bad blocks. So I have brought both controller boards into work to do a transplant. Changing a 64 pin, half postage stamp sized, surface mount chip is fairly easy with the right tools, and we have the right tools here. The two essential tools are a hot air desoldering station, and a good microscope. The only big problem I can foresee is that sometime when a chip really blows up, as this one has done, it can sometimes weld it's connection pins to the PCB tracks. I hope this has not happened, but it's not insurmountable if it has.

 While I had my USB to SATA hard drive adapter out, which I was going to use to check what was on the blown up drive before using it (and before I knew it had blown up), I decided to take another look at the old hard drive I had taken out of Patricia's laptop back in November (or December) to replace it with a new one. I thought I had copied all the relevant data across to her new hard drive, but she said she thought there were still a few files missing. I may have missed some files, or they may have just got lost when the drive started to die. I tried to copy the contents of the entire hard drive over to my desktop machine, but very soon the virus checker kicked in and spoiled the copying. I decided it would be better to do a complete virus check, and delete anything dodgy on the original disk , before attempting another copy session. By this time it was getting very late, and I had intended to get to bed as much as an hour early. Instead I found myself going to bed an hour late, and left the virus checker running by itself. I expected to see the results when I got up in the morning. I didn't !!

 I had booted my machine into Windows to do the virus check and copying because I thought that it might be better to handle the NTFS formattted disk by it's native operating system. Sometime during the night Windows did an update, and despite being set to only install updates on my say so, and definitely not to reboot without prior permission, it did the update by itself and rebooted. Bloody Windows !! I had no idea if the virus scan had completed, or what it may have found. So I had to do it again this morning before coming to work. Windows update obviously thought it was more important than a virus check because it had obviously closed the virus scan quite early on. This morning, after 20 minutes of scanning, my virus checker found the dodgy codec installer that I knew to be there, and one more contaminated/bogus file. These have no been hopefully deleted. Tonight I can try and copy all 22 GB of data onto my big desktop drive again. Then, probably another day, I can pick through all the files and burn backup DVDs of anything I think might be of use to Patricia.

 One more of my prediction came true last night (although I am not sure if prediction is quite the right word). The honey and vanilla peanuts were actually cinnamon and vanilla peanuts with chocolate coated raisins. I couldn't resist just having a quick taste, but just like crack cocaine (or something), once I started I couldn't stop. I think that even if someone broke both my arm I would have found a way to eat that nectar of the gods !
Tuesday 13th January 2009
08:34 GMT

 As the sun creaked it's way up the eastern horizon it was met with an impenatrable wall of cloud. All that cloud has certainly kept the warmth in. Standing outside Waterloo station this morning felt the closest to being warm for a long time. Out in the suburbs the boundary between cool and comfortable had not been crossed, but it definitely wasn't cold. To put some figures on it, one source suggests that this morning started at 9 C, but I think that was probably inner London, and Catford would probably have been a degree or two cooler. So far there has been no rain this morning, or none that I have seen, but the ground is very wet. My prediction that it would rain yesterday was correct, and at times it did rain quite heavily. I would not be surprised if today was similar.

 Last night, on my way home from work, I scoured Tesco's for the last of the Xmas bargains. Most of the edible, or drinkable, Xmas stuff has now been sold, but I did find a few exotic crackers/biscuits on sale for about a quarter of their original price. I also found some honey and vanilla coated peanuts tucked away in a corner at a very reduced price. Those peanuts worry me. They sound delicious, and assuming they are, it is going to be very hard not to eat the whole lot in one sitting ! (but that's true of any peanuts).

 I have been trying to avoid over eating in this last week. Mostly this hasn't worked, but I did come close to it last night in quantity if not in calorie intake. I cooked myself some delicious keema rice (my name for it, and not exactly what you might buy in an Indian resturant). In a similar way to a recipe I described some time back, I browned some onions, garlic and minced beef in a little oil, and then cooked that with peas and rice all in one pot. With, as Colonel Sanders used to say, my own secret blend of herbs and spices, it makes a cheap and filling meal. The last time I made something similar, and maybe the time before that, I wolfed down the whole lot in one sitting, but not last night. I stopped halfway through and took the unusual step of having a dessert. This was some Mcvities "mint digestive slices". I didn't know what they were, but they looked nice, and indeed were nice. It's difficult to describe exactly what they were. I think it was like crumbled digestive biscuits mixed with a few nuts and fruit, topped with a crispy(ish) mint flavoured chocolate.

 I think my time last night was split between cooking, eating, watching a classic Dr Who adventure (Jon Pertween - Day Of The Daleks) and doing a little internet research. The biggest share of my time went to watching Dr Who, and that overlapped with eating. It doesn't sound all that much, but it was enough to make me slightly late for bed (and I was hoping for an early night). Having got to bed a bit late I lost even more slep when I was woken up by the uneartlhly sound of Smudge coughing up some furballs. I then had to get up and wander around with a handful of tissues to pick up several piles of unpleasantness from the carpet outside my bedroom. This morning I discovered a bit more downstairs.

 Tonight I will reheat and consume the rest of my keema rice, and then there are two possibilities to amuse myself. One is to watch another Dr Who adventure, and the other is to build a new computer. Not exactly a "new" computer, but putting back together one I had partially stripped to use some bits in the machine that now has Mepis linux installed on it. The computer I may rebuild tonight, or at least make a start on, will be Windows based, and will be for some experimental multimedia type stuff. One experiment will involve using more than one sound card, and what might be the second sound card is an external USB connected unit. It will be interesting to see how stable and versatile that is. Hopefully I will not get carried away and end up late to bed again. I don't want to fall asleep in front of my PC at work again like I did yesterday.
Monday 12th January 2009
08:12 GMT

 After as many as three weeks of frosty mornings, this morning is most definitely frost free. It still feels chilly outside, but by comparison it is relatively mild. I would estimate it was as much as 3 or 4 C when I left home to come to work. The weather forecasters are predicting a high of 10 C for today. The downside is that comes at the cost of a lot of cloud. It is now threequarters of an hour later than when I took the sunrise picture yesterday, but it is still darker now than then. I can't recall any mention of rain for today, but the cloud cover would suggest that if it does rain it could be very heavy. Yesterday, as the BBC web site said it would be, was bright and sunny. I don't know what the temperature rose to, but I do know that when Smudge finally decided to go out, she was out for a long time. Far longer than has become usual recently.

 I had a very laid back day yesterday. After doing my shopping I sat down, had some breakfast, and watched some videos. Later on I had another play with Mepis linux on my spare PC (or one of them). It was working remarkably smoothly. Although I had those few problems I wrote about during the installation, after fixing those everything has been so simple. One piece of software I installed was called Mixx. This is a "digital" DJ console that is available for Linux as well as Mac OSX and Windows. Unfortunately it is designed very much for Disco DJ's rather than radio DJ's, but if I were ever to go back to making radio programmes I might consider it as the basis of a mixing desk if it improves in the future. For radio use it needs at least four music channels and a mic channel. I think I'll investigate their web site and see if any of these things are in the pipeline.
Sunday 11th January 2009
07:20 GMT

 It's hard to tell without going out into the icy cold, but there has either been a very light dusting of snow, or there is a particularly severe frost outside. From the way the ground looks white only on the far side of the road suggests to me that it is actually a very light dusting of snow. According the the BBC Weather service the temperature should be above zero right now, but I don't think that is the case in Catford. It also suggests that today will have many sunny intervals. I am not so sure about that either.
Red sky over Catford



 I took this picture at about 07:30 looking toward the East where the sun was due to rise. The exact shade of the red colouring looks slightly different to real life (and I can't be bothered to correct it), but the amount of red in the picture is right. The sky was really glowing vivid red in a way thay suggests bad weather is on it's way. While I was shivering on the door step taking the picture I re-assessed my thoughts about whether what I can see on the far side of the road is snow or frost. I think it was just frost rather than snow.







 On Friday evening I ventured out to the pub for a few pints with Kevin and Iain. It was bloody cold on the way there, and despite the booze it felt even colder on the way back. I left the pub around 9 pm, although I am unsure of the exact time. As I walked home it felt like the freezing air was really cutting into my lungs. I walked quite slowly, but I was still home in ten minutes or less. By the time I got indoors my chest felt quite sore from breathing in that icy air, but I quickly recovered once I was in the warm. However it did inspire me to get some hot food inside of me (not having eaten since the morning), and the hotter the better. There was only one answer - curry ! I ordered a takeaway from a restaurant I had not used before (Spice Grove). I found some of the flavours to be a bit different to that which I am used to. Some bits were quite pleasantly different, and some not quite to my personal preference. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, but I don't think I will try them again.

 Yesterday was another cold day, and it seemed hard to warm the place up. I didn't fancy going out, and I didn't fancy doing much more than sitting in the front room with the heating up. Around mid morning I got a phone call that was to change how I thought the day might work out. It was from a friend of mine, and one part of the call was to offer me a working LCD monitor that was missing it's power supply. It needed a supply of 12 Volts at 3 Amps. For some reason my friend was either unable to source such a supply, or couldn't be bothered to. I happily accepted the monitor, and towards midday it was delivered to me. It didn't take me long to find a suitable power supply (actually from another monitor that has a tricky fault). I gave it a quick test, and it did indeed work very well.

 Later on in the afternoon I judged my back room to be warm enough to work in. The first thing was to dump the ancient Compaq PC that I had been playing with back into the cupboard (to await the time when Windows 95 comes back into vogue !). Then I took the old Compaq 14" CRT monitor and dumped that out of the way. With a bit more debris removed from the table top I put the new LCD monitor on the table and connected it to another of my spare PCs. The last time I had used that PC was when I was experimenting with dual booting between two different Linux distributions. Only one version was actually working and it did not pick up that a new monitor had been connected, and it would not let me change the screen resolution to the required 1280x1024 that the new, 17", monitor required. I thought it might be a limitation of the onboard graphics card I was using, and so I fitted a new AGP graphics card. This mucked everything up ! There was stuff I could have done to rectify the situation, and later I would still have to do some hand hacking of the configuration files, but I chose to do a completely fresh installation of Mepis linux, and abandon the dual boot idea.

 Like many current Linux distributions, Mepis starts off as a live CD that can then be installed to hard disk if you are happy with it. One option is to start up the live disk with the graphics set to 60 Hz to suit most LCD monitors. It booted up just fine, and I started the "installation to hard disk" process. It would seem logical to me that if I were running the live CD in "LCD monitor" mode, then that mode would be carried over to the hard disk installation, but no ! When I rebooted to the new installation my new LCD monitor immeadiately protested that the input signal was out of range. Once again I rebooted and booted from the live CD. From there I was able to mount the hard disk and hack the xorg.conf file. I didn't have a lot of confidence that it would work, but setting the vertical refresh rate to 60 Hz, and also adding 1280x1024 to the list of available resolutions (which the installer had not picked up on) did work just splendidly. Upon rebooting from the hard disk I was rewarded with a perfect picture of the correct resolution and refresh rate.

 My hacking of the configuration files did not end there. My setup on the PC is possibly a little unusual, but I am sure not without precedent. I have two hard disks in the PC. One is a small hard disk, 20 GB, that I use for the operating system, and the other, 160 GB, I use for the home partition. The Mepis installer makes no allowance for the the system to be split over two hard disk. Initially it used part of the root filesystem on the first hard disk for the /home area, but I edited to fstab file to put /home on it's own hard disk. Other than those two little bits of hacking it all worked rather well. One thing I had not appreciated is that Mepis uses (or maybe, now uses) debian format files (.deb) for package installation.  Although Mepis have their own repositories for software, their package manager also has the option to use standard Debian repositories just by ticking a few boxes in the repository manager. That opens up a whole new world of available software, including my beloved XMMS mp3 player.

 Today there is only one thing I have planned. That is to go shopping in Tesco. Apart from that I think I will probably just laze around. I predict that there is a 40% chance I will get a visit from Patricia, and that will provide a welcome diversion probably some time in the afternoon. Other than that I will try and make sure that I get an early night so I can be up early and fresh for work in the morning.
Friday 9th January 2009
08:31 GMT

 There was some dense looking fog when I first woke up. Since then it has lifted leaving a very grey looking sky. If it continues to disperse we may have a bright sunny day. This is what happpened yeaterday. By mid morning it looked like a brilliant spring day when viewed from indoors. Outside it was a different story. It was still very cold with the temperature only around 4 C or so.

 It seems I have gone down with a cold again. It is, at least so far it is, quite a mild cold. If today had been a mild spring day, or better still a warm summer morning, I would have gone into work and hoped for the best. With memories of how bad my chest got during a late summer illness (I can't actually remember which month) I decided that I didn't dare go out in this morning's freezing fog. So here I am at home.  With luck, by staying in the warm, I will get over this chill very quickly. It feels like I have improved already. After keeping the heating up high, and after taking a steaming hot shower, the flood of snot has decreased a lot (but unfortunately not stopped). While I quietly sit here, in the warm, and with a box of tissues handily at my side, I don't feel too bad at all. Maybe I will do some computer stuff today, or maybe I will have a succession of hot soups and lots of naps. I hope that by taking care of this cold so quickly, and perhaps with the help of some drugs (anti-snot drugs whose name eludes me for the moment) I will be able to indulge in a few pints this evening. Then tomorrow I can stay in bed half the morning and get over it all again !
Wednesday 7th January 2009
08:33 GMT

 Sometime after 6 am it started to snow this morning. It settled quite readily on the already frozen ground, but it was only a light flurry of snow, and had stopped by the time I left the house just before 6.45 am. I don't now how cold it was last night, but it may have been as low as the previous night, and that was a record breaker apparently. This morning it is obviously freezing cold, and the sky is a dull grey colour. It may be that more snow will fall during the course of the day, but I don't think it will come to much. At least I hope it doesn't. It is one thing to be trapped at home because the railways have keeled over, but I don't fancy being trapped at work !

 My workroom is slowly becoming easier to warm up after getting chilled to the very core of it's fabric over the Xmas holidays. By mid morning, yesterday, it was fairly comfortable, and by the time I left to go home it was almost hot. This helped my dodgy shoulder and elbow joints a lot. During the morning I gained full mobility of my arm, and the only pain I had was when I moved my arm out to extremes. This was similar to how it had been in the week leading up to Monday nights siezure. After taking extra care with my arm, and doing my best to keep it warm, I think it was more comfortable in bed than any time in the last week or two.

 During all this arm trouble my back, and hips, seem to have been fine. I think the next joints, or limbs that wil give trouble in this cold weather are my right leg and left ankle. I've had a few twinges from my left ankle recently, and even not so recently. For fleeting moments it feels as if I have sprained my ankle, and then with a few paces the pain goes away again. Curiously it is when I take the weight off my ankle that it gives this little twinge of pain. It hasn't done that for a while now, but there seems to be a certain potential for soreness in it at the moment. My right leg is not sore now, and in a way was never sore, but as I arrived at work it felt like I had walked a couple of miles on it instead of a few hundred yards. It seems fine at the moment, and hopefully it will stay that way, but I think I will be glad when this cold weather is over (unless we get a really good overnight snowfall and I am trapped at home in a "winter wonderland").

 I did some shopping on the way home last night. I bought the ingrediaents for another experimental dinner along the lines of the chicken and rice I described on  Sunday. I thought I might try something along the lines of keema rice. I couldn't decide whether to use minced beef or minced lamb. In the end I bought both plus two different types of rice. One rice was another bag of the long grain and wild rice that I used last time, and the other was "fragrant Thai rice". Having gone to the trouble of buying those main ingredients along with more onions, and some chillis, I didn't actually make my rice dish last night. Instead I had some hot chicken that I noticed had been marked down to clear on the Tesco hot chicken stand. I had two half price chicken kebabs and a bag of spare rib flavour crisps for my main meal, and I later topped that up with a large can of Heinz "meal soup" (Cumberland sausage and vegetables flavour). It wasn't the most healthy bit of eating, but apart from the large bag of crisps, it wasn't too bad (probably !).

 Tonight I think I should be able to cook my rice concoction, but there is an unknown variable in play tonight. I will almost certainly be going for a pint or two with Iain on, or very soon after, my way home from work. If there is just normal booze available, and I stick to just a couple of pints I will be fine, and the food experimentation can go ahead with no problem. On the other hand if there is something like a delicious strong winter ale available, or somehow I end up having more than a couple of pints, I may just opt for something out of a tin. Going home in the freezing cold, and with little more than a couple of pints of beer in my stomach will make me beyond starving, beyond ravenous, to something for which adequate words may possible have yet to be invented !
Tuesday 6th January 2009
07:25 GMT

 All the snow has gone, but there is a thick frost this morning. Last night was forecast to be the coldest night this winter - so far. Temperatures were forecast to drop to as low as -5 C. I don't know what the actual figure was, but it certainly was damn cold last night.

 Most of the snow had melted away by mid morning, and the cold dry wind dried the roads and pavements by mid afternoon. There was still the odd snowflake falling as I made my way home from work last night, but they there was not enough to even begin to be noticed when they fell. Today should be dry amd very cold, but we may see some snow tomorrow, or so last night's weather forecast suggested.

 Just recently, maybe for as long as the last fortnight, I have had a bit of a sore shoulder, or upper arm. It is my right arm that has been giving the trouble. Initially it was mostly ignorable, but soon after I got home from work last night, it became very sore indeed. I think it was because work was really cold. There had been no heating on at work for the best part of a fortnight, and it was positively icy in there. Even by the time I left to go home it was only starting to get comfortable. The last time I shivered in there all day it was my back that became painfully stiff. This time it seems to be my right arm. I can barely lift my arm to head height, although it is reaching out that generates the worst pain. To tie my hair back prior to getting in the shower meant using the wall to semi support my elbow as I fumbled around the back of my head. The worst part was while I was in bed last night. I just could not find a comfortable position to lay in. Eventually I fell asleep from shear exhaustion. I guess there is some improvement this morning, and a really hot shower helped a lot more than painkillers or (last night) two very decent doses of dark rum.

 Just to make life a little more difficult this morning, my guts are playing up slightly. I guess it's because I have included far more fibre in my diet over the last two days. I think I am stable now, and I had better try and get the next train to work.
Monday 5th January 2009
08:32 GMT

 To my incredible surprise it snowed overnight. There was not a great deal of snow, maybe an eighth of an inch, but even the road was white. Contrary to what you might expect, it feels ever so slightly warmer (or less freezing) than recent mornings. At least that is the case when the air is still. The wind feels bitterly cold. A few more minor sleet or snow showers are forecast for today, but then the temperature is due to plummet to as low as -5 C overnight. I expect the snow may have melted by then, and it has started already, but the surface water that will leave will freeze solid.

 I made it to bed soon after 9 pm last night. That was not as early as maybe I should have gone to bed, but it didn't really matter because it took ages to get to sleep. Even when I did get to sleep it was not that good, but on the plus side I did have a really good dream. In my dream the world, or maybe just S.E. London had been invaded by aliens. These aliens, bearing some resemblance to Jehova Witnesses, had a sort of group mind and wanted to incorporate us humans into it (just like Jehova Witnesses). Somehow I discovered they were ultra sensitive to ultra violet light. I seemed to be in a chemists shop when I first found a small U.V. lamp, and that drove away the aliens until the lamp seemed to die away on me. So I went through the back of the shop into a pub, which was full of aliens, and then into the repair room of Dulwich telephone exchange. I searched for another sorce of UV and found an Eprom eraser that produced intense UV light. It was sufficient to partly melt the hand of the alien who was menacing me. They soon admitted defeat and decided to leave Earth. Before the alien with the melted hand left he allowed a doctor (or some medical type person) to cut off the hand to analyse it. Then the aliens got into their ships and took off. The aliens ships were rather strange. They seemed to be like thin disks of brightly coloured plastic - almost like kids toys.

 My journey into work was notable this morning. Just that thin layer of snow was enough to disrupt the train service. I can only imagine that several earlier trains had been cancelled. As I walked to the station I was passed by what I thought was the new 06:44 train. That train, before Xmas, used to run almost empty, although it had been growing in popularity since it's introduction. The train I saw was very full. Very full indeed. When I got to the station I saw that the 06:44 train was actually indefinitely delayed, but my 06:54 train was only due to be a few minutes overdue. It did indeed turn up only a minute or two late, and it was jam packed. It was a struggle to get on, but I did, and we all stood crammed in shoulder to shoulder all the way to London Bridge where the crowd thinned out considerably. It was nice to get out at Waterloo and sit down on the toilet for a few minutes. I wasn't desperate to use the toilet, but I thought I may as well sit down out of the draught and see what might happen. The rest of my journey was straightforward. No crowding on the train out of Waterloo, and even the bus was only moderately full.
Sunday 4th January 2009
16:50 GMT

 I awoke to another thick frost this morning. It has been very cold all day. I am not sure if any pockets of frost remain in some sheltered spots, but by mid morning the most obvious patches of frost seemed to have melted away. So in theory today is warmer than yesterday, but with hardly any sunshine there was no extra warming on the front of the house. I didn't turn the heating on full in my front room, and it is a fair bit cooler in there than yesterday. If the cloudy skies persist overnight it could be a frost free morning, but I bet it still feels damn cold outside when I set out to go to work for the first time since Xmas eve.

 Soon after I had finished writing yesterday, I got a call from Aleemah to say that she was just getting on the train to come here. We had a pleasant time, and watched the film "Velvet Goldmine". This was an enjoyable film, but slightly strange. It was the fictional story of the rise and fall of a glam rock star in the 1980's. Although fiction, a lot of it was almost a biography of David Bowie and other fictional characters who could be mistaken for such people as Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, and Kurt Cobain. It was almost as if the names had been changed (to fictional names) to protect the innocent (and not so innocent), and of course for legal reasons.

 After Aleemah had gone home I did a bit more work on my Aspire One netbook. I didn't finish everything I wanted to do because I wanted to try and get an early night. I did get to bed quite early but in the end I couldn't get to sleep as early as I wanted. This was partly through lack of practice, and partly because Smudge wanted to sleep on my bed, and choose all the wrong places to settle down. I am not sure if I slept well once I did get to sleep. I was experimenting with a new pillow, and although sometimes comfortable, it didn't feel quite right.

 I did wake up early, but not early enough had I needed to go to work, and to make matters worse I went back to bed to get another 30 minutes sleep. Eventually, once I had washed and dressed, I went back to my netbook and finished configuring it. I now have wireless networking working on it, although not perfectly, and after a lot of struggle I got XMMS working OK. The final problem with the wireless networking is that it dies if I put the machine into hibernation. The only way I can reconnect is to restart the whole machine. Fortunately the time between booting from cold is not that much longer than bringing the machine out of hibernation. So for now I will just use shutdown instead of hibernate. The one other problem mis that the inbuilt card reader does not work. I think that it may need a BIOS update to get that to work, and I am no hurry to do that, and there could be other workarounds that I will investigate later.

 My efforts to eat less in the run up to going back to work have not been going very well. Yesterday, for instance, I had burger and chips with Aleemah in the local cafe. This morning I had three bagels for breakfast, and tonight I have just eaten a rather large, but very delicious meal. It was a home cooked dish that was a sort of cross between a biryana, a paella, and a risotto. I gently browned some onions and garlic in olive oil before adding some large cubes of skinless chicken. For seasoning I added a couple of chicken stock cubes, some black pepper, paprika, smoked paprika, and a large dash (a very large dash) of hot chilli sauce. Once the chicken was almost cooked I added some long grain and wild rice, a handful of frozen peas, followed by about a pint of boiling water. Once that had simmered in a closed saucepan for about 20 - 30 minutes I ended up with a truly delicious meal. It could have served two, but I ate the whole lot ! I now feel rather stuffed, but in theory the rice should soon break down, and I should be feeling starving when I go to work tomorrow.
Saturday 3rd January 2009
10:47 GMT

 It took a long time to happen, but the early morning sky gradually cleared, and now the sun is shining. Behind the glass of the living room windows the sun feels quite hot, but outside it is still very frosty. With the outside temperature not forecast to rise to above a few degrees that frost may linger all day in some sheltered spots.

 This morning has been a bit of a rush. I got up a lot later than I intended after another fairly late night, and getting the house in reasonable for Aleemah to visit needed some unusually focused thoughts. There is more I could do, but for now it will have to do.

 The reason for my late night was that I continue to experiment with my new netbook. The installation I did of Fedora 10 turned out to be very unsatisfactory. Twice I fiddled about with the sound settings, and both times it wanted to change something like 400+ packages to allegedly satisfy dependencies.  Why mucking about with the sound should lead to Fedora 10 automatically trashing itself is a bit of a mystery. On both occasions, on rebooting the machine I was left with just the cursor, and some occasional messages from the kernel when I restarted the X server with ctrl-alt-backspace. These flashed by so quickly I could not read what they said. Although I could restart the X server, there was nothing else I could do. There was no other keyboard or mouse input possible. In the end I installed Ubuntu. Before I went to bed I got to the point where everything was stable and everything seemed to work except the WiFi connection. That was strange because it said the Atheros driver was loaded and active, but there was no sign of the wireless connection in any other place. Some research should turn up the answer to that, and then all I will need to do is to track down the special trick needed to install XMMS, the mp3 player, which Ubuntu can't seem to provide, and that I feel is an essential on any PC (unless it is running Windows, and then everyone needs Winamp 2.x).
Friday 2nd January 2009
06:09 GMT

 This morning seems to be the same as yesterday morning. There is no frost, but there is a very light mistiness to the air. I seem to recall that some sunshine has been forecast for today, but it is too dark to tell what the clouds look like just yet. There is a feint orange glow in the sy from the street lighting, but that could just be high mist rather than cloud.

 Yesterday was a fairly pleasant day. I took a walk to the cash machine during the morning. This was mainly to check my wages had been paid in, but also to see what shops were open. As I expected, Tesco's were closed, but some of the usual suspects were open. In particular, Poundstretcher was open, and I took a wander round in there. It was very quiet, and I must have been one of only 5 or 6 other customers. I thought I might buy some sheets while I was in there, but it must be "duvet cover month". Perhaps they will have some sheets in there next month Quite why they seem to have a policy of only stocking both sheets and duvet covers at the same time for a few rare, and random months of the year is anyone's guess, but my observations over several years seem to suggest this is so. Maybe it is just a conspiracy to frustrate me in my efforts to buy matching sheets and duvet covers (" just because I am paranoid it doesn't mean they aren't out to get me" !). I did buy a couple of pillowcases. I wasn't particularly after pillowcases, but I thought it prudent to get them while they were there. Perhaps by late summer I will manage to accumulate an entire set of new bed clothes.

 Later on in the morning I got a text message from Patricia to tell me that she was on her way round to see me. She didn't stay that long, perhaps slightly less than an hour, but her visit was most welcome. As was the most magnificant hug to wish me a happy new year. It left me feeling happy for the rest of the afternoon. There is a possibility that I may see Patricia again today. Once again it is likely to be a short visit because the real reason for visiting will be to print out a couple of pages on my PC (or more exactly - print out a couple of pages on my printer attached to my PC).

 After feeling so bad on new years eve I managed to curb my appetite a bit yesterday. I think I do feel better for it this morning, although by late yesterday my resolve was slipping badly. For a very late breakfast I had a couple of tins of soup. I will admit that would have been slightly more healthy if I had not sprinkled some cheese on the tomato soup, but being mostly liquid it was quickly assimilated leaving no unneccesary bloat. Later on I had a fairly light lunch, but during the evening I had a bad case of the munchies.

 My excess hunger seemed to be precipitated by staying up a lot later than I probably should have. I had been ensnared by a couple of programmes on TV. The first was yet another "best of" Top gear. Although I had seen most of the bits that made up that programme there were a few bits that I was unfamiliar with. That was followed by another sort of "best of" encapsulated in a documentary celebrating the 25th anniversary of the TV series Black Adder. I think it was gone 11 pm before I finally made it into bed.

 When I finally got into bed I found I was suffering from that most illogical situation where I felt too tired to get to sleep. I felt exhausted, but I could not find a comfortable position, and I was either too hot or too cold depending on which bits of me were under or out of the duvet. It was probably past midnight before I eventually fell asleep. This morning I feel very tired and ready for more sleep. I doubt I would have been awake at this hour in the normal course of events, but I was helped to wake up by dear Smudge. She invented a new way to wake me up to get her breakfast. This consisted of stsnding on top of me in bed, and placing three very heavy feeling legs directly on my rather full bladder, and the fourth leg directly on my genitals ! That leg placement doesn't sound very authentic now I come to write it, but that is how it felt as I woke up in agony ! I suspect that she had originally climbed onto my stomach, and that fourth leg came into play to stabilise her as I rather quickly woke up from what felt like a three ton weight pressing down on my full bladder. It was certainly more effective than any alarm clock.

 I have only a few vague plans for today. In fact the only definite plan is to do some shopping this morning. There are three essential I need - fags, diet cola, and cat food. No doubt there will be other things I will by as well. I am going to try not make any plans around a visit from Patricia because I cannot rely on her actually coming here. However if she does I am going to try and meet her halfway. It will be a good excuse to do a little more exercise. I really don't like walking aimlessly, but with a definite goal it is fine. The only other prediction I can make about today is that I may consider the possibility of thinking about the possibility of doing the hoovering that I have been consdering doing for the best part of the last week (or more).
New years day - Thursday 1st January 2009
06:47 GMT

 The first day of the new year starts off cold and dry. It must be a few degrees above zero because there is no frost, but the blast of cold air as I opened the door to let Smudge out still felt pretty icy to me ! It is still nearly a couple of hours away until the sky is light enough to judge the amount of cloud, but I think it will be fairly cloudy again today. Yesterday was mostly overcast. It would be nice if there was some sunshine today.

 Last night was the usual disappointment. Checking back over the last five years of my diary entries, and relying on memory before that, suggests that last night was a typical New Years eve. On these typical New Years Eve nights I usually have an early night because I am on my own. I think that the night of 31st December 1999 might have been an exception that broke a continuous run since about 1984. If I have got my years right the exception in 1984 was when Imogen saw the new year in with me (although unfortunately I had to endure watching "Eastenders" New Years Eve celebrations on TV at the same time). In 1999 I had the greater pleasure of seeing the new year in with Sarah who for the first, and only time, stayed with me all night. Prior to all that, I seem to recall that the last time I spent the evening in the company of a lot of people would have been in something like 1980. That was in a totally overcrowded, very loud pub, and I hated it.

 If I really stretch my memory I realise that I have left out one, and possibly two more, occasions when I have seen the new year in with company. I am guessing it was in 1992, or maybe 1993, when I went with Jodie to the Marquee Club, and saw the new year in there. I don't think I enjoyed myself that much, but it was a sort of interesting adventure. It is possible there were other occasions that were obviously so dull that I have forgotten about them. The only hard evidence is from these diary pages, and it is definite that I have spent the previous five new years eve nights alone (not counting cats).

 Being alone on new years eve is no big deal when you are well practiced with it, and I only mention all this now because last I thought things might have been different, and I was quite disappointed that they weren't. When I last saw Patricia she said that she thought her son was going into central London to partake of the festivities there, but that she didn't feel like she had the energy for that. I suggested that if she was on her own she should join me here, and she said it could be a possibility. That was enough to get my hopes up, but it didn't happen. Before I found out Patricia would not be seeing me I had the offer of joining Kevin in the pub for a few beers, but I said no in anticipation of the company of Patricia. It was unfortunate in that the assumption I would be staying in for the night lead me to eat far more than I should during the day. I didn't eat any single big meal, but I did a lot, and obviously too much, grazing during the day. By the early evening I was feeling quite uncomfortable, and I would probably died of a heart attack if I had attempted to walk to the pub. So even though I did, eventually, have somewhere to go, I was just too stuffed to go there.

 The evening passed by fairly quickly watching some TV, but I did not attempt to stay up until midnight. I was in bed before 11 pm, and asleep half an hour later. There were a lot of fireworks going off even then, but I don't think I was woken up by them at midnight. I even took the precaution of turning off my mobile phone so that I wouldn't be suddenly woken up by any text messages coming through as has happened in some previous years. What did wake me up was Smudge who decided that she was going to attempt to sleep on my pillow. That was at 3 am this morning. While I was awake I switched my mobile phone on again and received just one message. It was some animated "Happy New Year" media message. The strange thing is that I have no idea who sent it. If your mobile number ends with 299 (maybe 229), then thank you for your wishes.

 Today is the day when new years resolutions come into play. I didn't make any specific resolutions for the year ahead, but in the shorter term there is at least one thing I have to do. That is to try and do a bit of dieting for the next four days. I don't go back to work until Monday 5th January, and on that morning I don't want to feel that the walk to the station is too far, and too difficult, because my stomach still feels distended, and the fat around my arteries is too thick to let any blood through. This is going to be tricky ! There is too much temptation to eat while sitting around at home, and the whole point of the exercise is to get myself fit enough to actually do some exercise (in the form of walking, and rushing about for trains). Going out to the pub is not the answer because that just makes me even hungrier, but there could be some help on the way. Once again there is a small possibility that Patricia may drop by today, and distraction therapy always works well (although the stress of anticipation is often counter acting). More definite is that I should be seeing Aleemah on Saturday. There is one more thing I have to do prior to returning to work, and that is to get my sleeping patterns back in order. In other words I have to get back to early nights, and early mornings. I didn't get up early enough this morning, but it wasn't a bad start. Now I have to resist the temptation of going back to bed - which I would like to do after last nights late night.