The more accurate diary. Really.

Warning: These are old.

On with the diary. If the fonts are wrong then this may explain it.

December 2001

January 1st
Matthew and Danielle departed in search of planes and travel. Waah. I thought they were staying for longer. Oops. We now have a lot of food to eat up.

I caught a pile of the Blue Planet episodes on the television and was entranced. Can I have this as a screensaver?

December 31st
Flying visit from Matthew and Danielle. Wandered into town to expose them to Welshcakes, but could not tempt them to take laverbread back to Canada because the market stall was closed. Waah. Danielle wandered blithely through Swansea completely failing to notice the temperature was hovering at freezing point. Perhaps I shouldn't visit Canada in winter.

Inevitable party in the evening. Justin had a most bizarre video involving animated lego pieces replacing the characters in Monty Python's Holy Grail. Tequila events occurred, but we survived and spilled out into the street to watch the fireworks and pounce on passers-by with cries of Happy New Year. I could swear the same taxi has been in the same place at the same time that night for about four years running now.

December 30th
Finally finished wiping and putting all the books back in the bookcase. All that would fit, at least. Apparently we need another bookcase. Started by trying to put them in order: one case for Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer and friends; one for history, literature and poetry; one for sci-fi and fantasy. Didn't go very well. I expect some books to be near other books, and in the end they went in wherever they would fit. One of the shelves has collapsed in one case, so I piled all the books I never read up underneath it to hold it up. Let's hope Alan doesn't try to take one of those out. Tried to stack the ones that wouldn't fit up neatly, without touching the so-precious wallpaper. No-one is going to be allowed even to lean on it. At least not until I have spilled coffee down it or something.

Alan was persuaded to cook Chinese (or some British/Alan version thereof) for the first time in ages. He was very careful about switching rings off this time. No fire ensued. Woo.

More quiz activity late-night. We will finish this if it kills us. Only three left we're really guessing on now. But now we keep finding mistakes in the Oh, that's easy, it's.. answers we got at the start.

December 29th
Alan slept in again. He says it's not sleeping in if he is fixing bugs as a result.

Caught up with mail. Mailed Nat a pile of info, leaving us down to four questions in the quiz. Discoverd Gerald had mailed Nat the same info. Oops.

Messed around with baby-HTML again. Mozilla's Christmas present to me was 0.9.7 supporting the longdesc attribute on <img> tags. A friend told me I should be using this a year or two ago, so tried to add some. All the examples Google finds were for company logos, and all I have is a couple of photos. Had a go anyway. Got told it looked like the result of English lessons where you are given a picture and told Write down what you see. Hmm.

Still having trouble with Tesco and its online groceries. This company has dominated the market in delivering shopping in Britain. I cannot think how. I suspect it's to do with the fact that some of its competitors' idea of online ordering is to pick items from a list on the web, and then print out the results as your shopping list to take round the shop! In the meantime, Tesco surges ahead, and yet trying to order with Mozilla on Linux is still adventure. I know it shouldn't be like this. I've seen my sister do it with IE :)

With or without Junkbuster, and with a variety of Mozilla versions, on a cablemodem link, I get:

The combination of the two can be disastrous. I only narrowly avoided ordering, without my knowledge, five packets of an item neither of us eat.

I'd love to hear whether other people meet this and what what setups. Then I know whom to pester about it.

December 28th
I wish I knew why the mailer keeps dying. Restarted it. Again.

Finally got through to Parcelforce on the phone. They had left a card saying they'd tried to deliver a parcel whilst we were out. I had then rung and found they were delivering it that day. Which they didn't. Hadn't been able to get through to find out where it was until today. Asked could they try again. Discovered they couldn't. After finding the house whilst we weren't in it, they couldn't find the house whilst I was waiting in. So the driver wrote No longer at this address and returned it to sender. I cannot imagine what house he went to to be informed we didn't live there. Scaffolding on the outside there may be, but we are in there underneath it all somewhere. Really.

Lovely. Merry Christmas to you, too, Parcelforce.

Rang Amazon (the sender) and asked for it back. Amazon said Sure. Methinks they're used to this.

Alan pointedly informed me that the vacuum needed emptying as, I suspect, a method of demonstrating he'd done the vacuuming. He has managed to be excused the emptying after once demonstrating that asthma and bagless vacuum-emptying do not mix.

Manoeuvred another bookcase which has been on the wrong floor since we moved in to the newly-decorated room. The dustsheets didn't work. I have cleaned the CDs, the CD player, the CD holders, three bookcases and the contents of two bookcases, and two chairs. I have merely the heap of books in the centre of the room to do now. Unforunately, that's about 400 (or so it seems), and they are all going to need wiping to get rid of dust.

Given all that dusting, perhaps it is as well that the Amazon parcel didn't arrive.

Out in the evening to celebrate Leila's birthday. Caught up with lots of friends, but what a noisy pub. Ouch. Returned home to discover it was Friday, not Thursday, and became vastly confused. How did I get the right night for her birthday and the wrong day of the week for everything else? NTK arrived, and I still didn't notice it was a Friday. And all I had to drink was a half of shandy, so that is not the reason.

December 27th
This entry (and the next? :)) will not make sense unless you already know that a bunch of us are trying to provide decent answers to the questions of the King William's Christmas Quiz. We are being driven nearly demented in the process: And to cap it all, the Guardian talkbacks have found Nat's page and now consider us the opposition. Meanies. Perhaps we should swipe their answers for the fish :)

And we are still stuck! Or I think we are. I don't like our current answers for 5.2, 5.9, 5.10, 11.4, 12.3, 12.4, 12.7, 14.2, 14.4, 14.5, 14.7, 18.3 and 18.5. Oh. And there's a typo in 17.10.

Still, it's better than just three.

Alan is currently browsing Ebay on the television. Help.

December 26th
Our quiz efforts are getting out of hand.

The current answer list has grown but we're still stuck on a few. Apparently the theme of section 13 really is spies, and Nat is threatening to email Nigel West for verification. I have learnt more about the lives and work of Nobel prize-winners than I could imagine. My guess on Lloyd George knew my father got put back in when an earlier answer had no geographical location associated with it, but, oh horrors, we are getting dates which aren't 1901 for the event someone suggested. Now I see why my history teachers were so keen on primary sources to avoid errors. If I was there is primary, the web is definitely not. It's more like ultimate. In more ways than one. An American got one of the terribly parochial British answers. A biking friend is going crackers trying to think of motorcycle carnivals which turn into decent anagrams. Despite our morbid natures and knowledge of half the disease locations without checking (I live in Swansea, of course I know about the Hecla..), Rochdale's outbreak is defeating us. A Dutch friend thinks he's read potted biographies of everyone remotely famous who came from Rochdale, whilst an American friend claims that if you google on the name of Rochdale and any disease, you find a link. It's got to be more obvious than this... as have fishes' names meaning a light touch or dusty digit. Alan helped come up with where we should look for the answer to the Findlater's dry fly question: there is a book which has pictures of all the bottle labels. Special interest, clearly.. Where did he find this? On Ebay, of course. Some extremely blurry pictures were on the web anyway, and not only did we get the fly, a fishing friend thinks he's identified the precise variety of fly: the name itself is so apposite that it must be right -- or if not, the label should change, because they are missing a good pun!

The problem is, it's too engrossing. Since explanations were needed for some, we thought we might as well gloss them all. Nat disappeared for half an hour only to re-emerge with Wow, guys, listen to this, this is such an amazing story! about one (for which I note there is as yet no gloss); someone else has probably set off all MI5's alarms by wandering through the Public Records Office website, which identifies its webserver as -- no, you can find out --, for most of a day (he's the one who got the spy link, and he was last heard of buried in PDFs there); and arguments are raging about the precise details of some of the Nobel-winners' work. All completely irrelevant to the questions, but much fun.

In other news, it snowed in Swansea. Heavily enough still to be lying on the ground when Alan eventually surfaced, which was about 2pm. He spent much of the rest of the day playing with the television, and then disappeared out of the room. Half an hour later, the television started talking to me. Really. First it said Hello and then it told me not to forget a particular programme later. Something tells me that I know who caused that.

December 25th
Rang parents to wish them the best of the season and incidentally to get them to answer some of that quiz. Yay for parents.

I had found Alan an appropriately silly present which had nothing to do with computers. Hah.

Christmas dinner at Justin's, who does not believe guests should be allowed to leave the table able to move, and vegetated in front of his television watching DVDs.

Attacked evil quiz again in the evening. Someone finally got a line on section 13, although it's so incredibly obscure I can't believe it. Nat is being mailbombed by suggestions now, and since we have given up and decided that Google is not really cheating provided we learn something in the process and mark the ones we used the web for, we are finding more and more strange things out.

December 24th
Pottered about for most of the morning whilst Alan slumbered.

In the afternoon, got stuck into the nightmare annual quiz from King William's College which was reprinted in the Guardian newspaper. Normally I can get about ten of these before giving up in despair, and then I lose the questions before the answers are printed. Recruited help on IRC and spent hours on it - argh! Answers so far are up on the web courtesy of Nat: we have so far not resorted to Google and confined ourselves to books in our respective houses. We also discovered how little a technical channel can know about Nobel prizes; got into a grand wrangle about the dating of Sherlock Holmes books; discovered many euphonious but unhelpful translations (I love channels with many non-English speakers); squabbled about whether Google was cheating (for now, we think it is); learned much about Poe that didn't help with the answer about Amontillado; and generally forgot the travails of the world in our efforts to reach half-marks (which we are still working on).

With all that, I feel a little better for being completely stuck on the monster crossword of the other day.

December 23rd
Show of Hands on the television. Whee. Then Alan started playing about and updating computers and we now apparently have RH 7.2 on the television. I still don't understand this completely, but there is a PC attached to it, and I think this means Alan can watch television from his monitor upstairs or something.

I don't see why he wants to, but he can.

December 22nd
Whizzed into town for last-minute things. Spent a merry hour in the bookshop reading all the Fellowship of the Ring tie-ins. Don't have to buy them now.

Very cold in the evening. Discovered the next day Swansea was the coldest place in Wales overnight at -8 degrees Celsius. All right, Canadians and Scandinavians, you can stop laughing at the idea of that as very cold now..

Alan plugged the television back in, since everything bar the tidying is over in that room. It had been off for five weeks and the Sky box was desperately confused.

December 21st
Email died. Restarted it. Russell kicked the stored queue off for us from ZenII and it is coming in at such a rate that my attempts to get back on top of it are on hold until it stops.

Visitors in the evening. Now out of wine. Before Christmas!

December 20th
Back home. Well, in the early hours of the 21st, after a quick dash into the all-night shop next to the coach station turned into a half-hour wait for a taxi on its way to you now.

Naturally people have tried to deliver stuff whilst we weren't here. Oh well.

December 13th
Took off for my sister's with Alan. If he's supposed to be on holiday, he shouldn't be here hacking. I think holidays come under the category of private, but things I can't pass up commenting on:
December 12th
Ran around in ever-decreasing circles. The mail stopped for a while yesterday, so last night and today has been a deluge of the stuff.

Was finally catching up when the electricity started glitching: not enough to trip the fuses, but entirely enough to knock out the machines not on the UPSes or which draw a lot of power. Discovered the machine which gets my mail not on the UPS. Alan fixed that. Alan discovered he had installed the wrong kernel on his kernel-build machine when it failed to reboot. He thinks he typed in the wrong window. He is now fixing that...

In between, long pre-Christmas I need so-and-so's address phone calls from friends sorting out their Christmas card lists and catching up with lots of news.

It's now approaching 11pm and we have not yet even thought about tea. Fortunately, I see wine and olives and cheese to hand. Supper time. I'm tempted to skip the olives and cheese, too :)

I thought Alan was on holiday. Things are instead madly busy around here.

December 11th
Decorators have run out of things to do that don't involve the paper we're waiting for; so they are off for Christmas after today.

Google put all its new old news (um) up. I haven't bothered with deja since deja was practically impossible to use in Lynx, and too gaudy to use in a graphical browser, but this is usable. Found Alan bestowing his views on alt.mud, comp.sys.sinclair and goodness knows what, and an amazingly accurate prediction of something, which post I have now promptly lost. Wondered how many people submitted the Green card lottery last chance post to Google's list of great net moments. Found my first venture onto Usenet (hope this works, first time I've tried to post to anything beyond local.test). Remembered believing at the time that no-one would be mad enough to archive alt.* because it was entire megs of data (ahem) and was reminded inescapably of Charlie Stross' prescient thoughts on DejaNews. Not only did he get its survival into the next century as a database, if not as a company right, he was right on about contexts changing.

December 10th
Kitchen still smells of smoke. It was only a little fire!

Builders are still waiting for a magic part to arrive. Decorators are still waiting for half the wallpaper to arrive.

Friends came round briefly on their way to Tescos -- at 11pm! Dropped off some box you attach to a telly. Apparently there is a chip in there that you can run Linux on. Clearly this must be investigated, so off it goes to Russell King to make this happen.

Last night was cold and cloudless. Just before I came to bed, I looked out of the attic window and saw more stars than I'd have thought possible from a city road with the streetlights on. Orion (one of three constellations I can actually recognise, shame on me) was glittering above me. Entirely unexpected, but lovely.

December 9th
Kitchen still smells of smoke :) Alan made amends by doing without Specific Implement required for constructing my set of drawers and put all the bits together with the aid (I suspect) of a Very Large Hammer instead.

Resurrected some of the machines I seem to have accumulated (I don't have that many, truly) and groaned at the number of updates I need to apply to them. Then I need to get GNOME 2 building in order to brea^Wdocument it. Joy.

Discovered that the chain of docbook, db2html and tidy does not produce docs that pass the W3C validator until you remove all the target="_top" bits and add in a character encoding. Don't know which to blame for that. It could well be my fault. It usually is.

Sampled more interesting offerings from the craft fair and bought more mead. Yum. The market seems to have acquired a town crier, but I am confused, because he is advertising the market to people who are already there.

December 8th
Plasterer came and filled in more holes (how many do we have?) and plumber came and put the radiators back on the wall, which means we can have heat again downstairs. It also means that half my room is habitable again. Alan moved lots of stuff back for me before I had finished vacuuming, but I shall forgive him because the monitor is heavy.

He did some vacuuming later, but that was because he set the kitchen on fire and I told him that it was up to him to tidy it up again. (Tiny fire, but novel, because we don't generally set things on fire here. And really, it was just a piece of paper on top of the hob. Alan used the still-lit gas ring from which I had just removed a pan as a depositing-point for a very large piece of paper. Yay for engineers.)

So I anticipated Alan dolefully removing all the bits of blackened paper and ash, and wiping the surface down, and so on. But no. I came back to find him vacuuming the cooker.

Finally got a chance to put together a set of drawers I bought a month ago. I love the instructions on these flat-packed furniture things. They're mind-boggling. Alan helped, for definitions of help involving hitting things very hard and doing the final turns of the screwdriver. Inevitably we lacked a specific tool required for construction, and got stuck; so we are now left with a frame for the drawers with two of the four wheels attached, two partly-assembled drawers, and an array of Things Left To Attach.

December 7th
Found something suitably silly for Alan at Christmas. He's impossible to buy sensible presents for:

Well, what would you like?
What about...[some thing that looked Alan-like]?
They're boring.
Well, what about that book you were reading in the bookshop?
Oh, I was just reading that whilst I was waiting for you.
Computer stuff, then? What about that fancy card you were after?
Oh, didn't I say? [shifty look] I found that on Ebay last week.


On the bright side, Return to the Forbidden Planet is touring again next year. This is a brilliant play (musical/forgotten-rock-and-roll-masterpiece/piss-take/etc) and so I am very happy.

December 6th
A second room might be ready to reclaim from the decorators and builders soon. It's the room I have my computers in normally, so I am very happy.

Meal out for birthday in the evening. Alan coughed and sneezed loud enough for people on other tables to tell him, Bless you. We got a choice of liqueur at the end (clearly there are benefits to accidentally admitting to increasing age), and I picked on grappa, because I had never had it. Later, Alan ruminated on his sobriety levels. Reading email, fine. Replying to email, probably. Hacking is now right out. Later I found him hacking. Let's hope it wasn't something I use.

December 5th
Alan is catching a cold. So much for being on holiday. It seems to be a curse of holidays: everyone seems to fall ill just when they are off-work.

LUG in the evening. Sat in the quiet (no walkmans, no mobile phones) carriage of the train listening to other people's mobile phone conversations. Ho hum.

More decorating complications. More cellar complications. I no longer want to know.

The Junior Culture Minister managed to slag off folk music today, with a surreal remark about the idea of listening to three folk singers from Somerset sounding like hell to him. Since Show of Hands come from the neighbouring county, I think he is being very silly. Then again, Show of Hands do have some anti-privatisation songs, and this is a New Labour government, not a Labour one, so perhaps he wouldn't like them after all.

December 4th
The decorators painted parts of the woodwork today. I didn't know. We now have an artistic set of Telsa-fingerprints on the banister.

Alan is not allowed to laugh because he walked into the room after they'd just finished painting all the back of the door. Apparently it took some time for them to work out a way for him to leave safely.

Alan did his diary, just to make me be quiet about it. He can't remember what happened in Dublin. I can, so now I mention that my account (which is distressingly boring) is now up I feel sure he will suddenly remember what happened when and attempt to backfill his diary. It wasn't done when I wrote this though :)

December 3rd
Alan has caught a cold. He's blaming me, of course. If it is that cold, then it means he is going to be asleep for a week.

As a consequence, he felt the urge to eat very hot food in the evening. (Standard cold cure in this house is either a curry or a chili.) I went for a shatkora dish, because it has the most amazing bitter fruit or vegetable in it. Periodically I search through the local Bangladeshi shop for it, but I don't know why, because I have no idea how I might prepare or cook it. Google is failing me on this. Bad google.

Decorators keep switching the electricity off. I have given up running around resetting all the clocks. They set the fire alarm off with the dust, but they know how to stop it now :)

Sent a pile of parcels off in the naive hope that they would arrive in the right countries before the Christmas parcel madness starts. Packed as carefully as I could, but I think they still fall short of Anal-Retentive Packer paranoia. I bet they arrive in pieces anyway.

Idle Harry Potter thought: why is Hagrid a Gryffindor? Given his loyalty to Dumbledore, shouldn't be have been a Hufflepuff?

December 2nd
A day without builders. Assessment time: The decoration sounds like we're just adding stuff we don't need, but we have holes and ripped-off paper and plaster everywhere and it needs doing. I can't move my computers and books back until it's done. Currently they're all heaped up in the only room that was actually finished before all this started. I really want my computer back. Very tiny laptops are designed for intermittent use and for travelling, not for hunching over for a couple of months on end.

Apparently this will all be finished by the end of the week, but I take leave to doubt this. There was a time when it was all going to be finished by December.

Alan has been very busy and has now left his diary so long that I think he's forgotten what actually happened when.

Friends came round and we discovered we had not a single room where visitors can sit down.

December 1st
Happy Mailman Day to all those who got as many subscription reminders as I did. Ouch.

Persuaded Alan into town and promptly dragged him round the bookshop. Heh. Then discovered the Christmas Market which Swansea puts on every year: lots of little booths in the centre of the pedestrianised pavements. That was the end of serious shopping for the day. Time to browse and hunt down the fudge stall Alan remembered from last year. Even more stalls this year, some of dubious authenticity: Real Welsh Mead (yum, bought that, sampled half the stall, am going back to sample the rest), Traditional Welsh Craft Stalls, Authentic Welsh Waffles...

I was extremely restrained and merely bought a purse. (Note for Americans: purses here are what you put coins in. They are not the bags we call handbags. And I am going to make a glossary one day.) But then I ran out of money to put in it. Scarily enough, half these Ye Olde Market stalls accept plastic.

Around Castle Square there was also a French market, whatever that means. It seemed to mean a lot of completely unvisited bread stalls, a perfume stall (I have never seen perfume on sale at markets in France) and about five charcuterie stalls. I was a bit confused on how this had suddenly arrived in Swansea (my grandparents remember visiting onion-sellers, but entire markets?) then ended up behind the stalls (as you do) staring at a bunch of lorries with logos all about a French market. Hmm. Alan loves poking around at things like these and examining the contents of every stall very carefully, so the rest of the day was lost.

There were also several buskers (one lot were great) and a very loud American evangelist with -- alas -- a microphone and amplifier. It somehow seems unfair when only one group or person making noise has the amp.

The water in the cellar is now going down again. This is beyond frustrating.

November 30th
Still water down in the cellar, but the coloured dye (which I found on the table we eat off: just as well it says non-toxic) is not showing up there, so that's one route in ruled out.

Bumped into a friend in the supermarket. As you do.

I've been asked for a more obvious feedback route. So there you are! But please note: This should be clear from the above, but: I am not a kernel hacker. I am not an anything hacker. "Is this diary true?" will get answered. (It is.) "I have a problem compiling the brainsplat module under the pre-sliced option terminator; I am using the mutability framewedger on the standard infernalisation build" will not. (Well, it might be answered in a similar vein, but for a real answer, look elsewhere. It's much safer.)