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September's Journal

31/08/2000 - America Trip
We flew overnight, changing timezones on the way. I watched what had to be a severely censored American Psycho. It had to be or a) the stress over the gore was blow out of all proportion and b) there was no plot at all. I dozed and read for the rest of the trip. The girlfriend seemed to sleep the whole time. Turbulence was moderate at some points, but didn't wake her. We landed at 09:30 local time (GMT+1) and get the Heatherow Express back to Paddington, tube to Kings Cross and home. Taxi from the station to home and then we collapsed for real. Didn't do anything else but check email (more on that tomorrow) and unpack. We tried to go to bed at a sensible time for the UK to get over the jetlag as much as possible.

30/08/2000 - America Trip
We got up early to take advantage of the fact we had most of the day free to do sightseeing and packed. Dropped our backs off at the reception to pick them up around 17:30. We took a walk down 5th Avenue until we found somewhere reasonable for breakfast. Waitress service, etc. Nice people. We decided to brave the subway so bought a 1 day fun pass (!) for $4.00. We headed for the place someone from ASR had recommended for Leatherman supplies and found it closed long after it had been advertised as open, so we moved on and got some more money out at an ATM. We got back on the subway and headed for the World Trade Center.

Unfortunately we were on the wrong line to go directly to the World Trade Center so we ended up getting off somewhere about five minute's walk away. Along the way we came across a music and DVD place surrounding a hardware store. Joy of joys they sold Waves so I bought one before we plundered the DVD store for a few choice purchases.

Dragging ourselves away we walked past a Hilton hotel called "Millenium Hilton". I was so tempted to go and tell the manager someone had vandalised his sign. But I wasn't sure he'd get the joke. Arriving at the World Trade Center we attempted to buy tickets before seeing the sign for "0 visibility". As we needed the loo something chronic we went into the concourse below ground and got lost looking for them. Once relieved of our burdens we went up to ground level again with drinks until the sun started to burn through the clouds enough that we decided to sod the weather and go up the tower anyway.

Up the tower in the lift we went, 107 floors at about 25mph. At the top we went in what has to be the cheesiest 'virtual' helicopter ride ever before we took photographs from the top and wandered down again. Back on the subway we decided it was time for some real shopping (Nerf guns) so hopped back on the subway. Unfortunately we weren't on the right line for where we wanted to go so we got off a few blocks away at 42nd street and wandered through Time Square to the Rockefeller Center which we thought would be a cool place to shop. Unfortunately it sucks as a shopping place. Majorly. Unless you don't need anything. We had lunch there anyway before finding our way to a Barnes and Noble and getting some books.

Back on the subway again we headed for what we thought would be a better bet for toys, Macy's. They don't have a top department any more. How crap is that? In the end we plumped for the Toys 'R' Us next door. Dingy place, their selection of exotic weaponry was terrible so we departed and walk ed back to the hotel to collapse and wait for the limo to take us to the airport.

We were waiting in reception for about fifteen minutes, watching a limo guy for someone called "C, Richard" when we asked to look at his booking sheet. Natuarally they'd typoed majorly and it was us he was waiting for. The trip to Newark was long as the traffic was snarled up all the way to the turnpike. We got there eventually, queued for an age to check in and then spent a lot more time in the lounge outside the gate. We boarded and settled down for the flight.

29/08/2000 - America Trip
We woke when the traffic got too loud and considered breakfast in the restaurant and quickly discarded the idea when we saw the prices. In the end we wandered out and came upon an Au Bon Pain which did a good egg, bacon and sausage bagel. That, coupled with a nice chilled orange juice was enough to start the day.

We got back to the hotel in time for the limo (stretched again) to arrive ten minutes late. Traffic to Flushing Meadows was heavy again but we arrived, got our tickets and proceeded inside. I'd come in smart/casual clothes having been advised to do so by the prize information but the weather was humid and sunny so we bought a pair of shorts and a US Open T-shirt.

Inside the Arthur Ashe stadium we were way the hell up in the third tier. So, when I realised that Anna Kournikova was training down on the court in tight lycra and a semi-transparent T-shirt I cursed the lack of binoculars. There were some other people on the court after that, but we'd already had the highlight in my book.

We got some overpriced baguettes from a kiosk around lunchtime and then watched some more tennis. By 17:00 the tennis was over and we wandered around the other courts for a while before phoning the limo driver to come and pick us up. He said he'd arrive about 17:20 but didn't turn up until around 17:50. Turns out there was a Mets game on, or something.

We got back to the hotel in time to have a short rest before meeting a friend of the girlfriend's (friend of one of elderly relatives she'd met when she'd been in Canada recently). We wandered down Lexington until we got to a chinese place. The food was good to excellent and we only left when a) we were full and b) I was beginning to fall asleep at the table. We went back to the hotel where they talked while I dropped off. The girlfriend woke me about an hour or two later so so could actually get into the bed.

28/08/2000 - America Trip
It was a bit difficut going to sleep Sunday night given where we were going today. Still, as we weren't getting a train to London until around 08:00 we had time for a bit of a sleep in to make up for any sleeplessness. Taxi to the station (money no object when soneone else is paying the lion's share), train to London, underground to Paddington and the Heathrow Express to Heathrow Airport.

We arrived at the airport with about four hours to spare (woman being over cautious), so we wandered around and had a Burger King midmorning snack. After a while we wandered through to the lounge (through security) and I managed to find the last part of the Night's Dawn trilogy (Peter F. Hamilton) in non-trade paperback size. The people at Waterstones had said it wasn't due out until the end of October. This is The Naked God, by the way.

We're flying Virgin Atalantic both ways. Last time I flew with them was when I went to the USA for the first time to work at Camp Arcadia in Maine. They'd just installed the LCD stuff in the backs of all the seats and were considering charging for the stuff they'd offer, but that trip would be free so long as we gave them some feedback. Anyway when we boarded we sat in the high forties seating number-wise. With a 7.5 hour flight ahhead of us you want to be comfortable and to be honest I was, fairly. The seats were pretty O.K.

While the ascent was pretty bumpy out of Heathrow, once we levelled out I worked my way through The Rules of Engagement (Samuel L. Jackson, tolerable, gory) and Pitch Black (no real 'names', slightly less tolerable, sci-fi) as well as some if the SNES games until I got bored. As a result the flight went by much faster than I'd been expecting. The girlfriend got caught up in something like Wario's Trees or somesuch. A Tetris-like game, anyway. That and The Next Best Thing.

Anyway, we arrived at JFK at 16:40 local time (five hours behind our GMT+1) and underwent the "Not a US citizen, we'll have to decide if you're worthy to grace our shores" treatment. Odd people the immigration guys. That and their stand behind the white line rules. No need.

The prize stated that there would be "a limousine" there to pick us up at the airport. We'd expected something like a taxi or an average-sized four-door. But no, there was a full-sized stretch limo waiting for us. There we were, T-shirts and shorts in my case, jeans in hers, getting ushered into something you normally see on the Oscars. It was no wonder the driver rang his boss from the airport to ask if we were the right people he was there to pick up. I certainly didn't feel like the right person.
Rush hour to Manhattan was a grind, but we finally got to W New York - The Court on 39th and Lexington. We'd seen the skyline (a bit cloudy, but nevermind) etc., etc. and frankly all we wanted now was food and bed. When we checked in at reception, the hotel found out they'd not got room for us (even though we'd been booked), so we were upgraded to a suite. Which was nice.

The area of the hotel we got (room 306 if you're interested), was pretty good. There was a lounge with 27" television, desk, sofa and two armchairs. A corridor lead to the bed room and contained a walk-in wardrobe with electronic combination safe. The bedroom had an en-suite bathroom and another walk-in wardrobe as well as a second 27" television. While we had air-conditioning we didn't have double-glazing in any of the windows of the corner the bedroom was on.

The girlfriend had a shower and we went for a short walk to see how much the Empire State building was to get in to. We also had a walk through Grand Central (home of DIane Duane's gate team). But this time hunger was the main problem so we headed back to the hotel. Body clocks thinking it was around 02:00 we had some good food for $80 (don't ask) and then crashed out. It was only then that we realised that New York is one of those cities "that never sleep". So neither did we, much. Still the Chrysler Building look good out of the window.

[15:40] Been a busy bunny these last few days. Sorry for the short dailies. Ghost is causing problems, but we have some long-term (but not complete) solutions to the problems. I've just finished the Sinfest archive. Man that Monique is hot stuff.

One of my lusers installed Microsoft Encarta on his work machine last night and it toasted his Windows 95 installation. I installed NT on it this morning and told him not to install software on my machine as it's mine. Having a non-admin account on NT might help curb his enthusiasms for bikini-clad women on his screensavers.

We're off to New York on Monday. I'm going to try and take the digital camera with me this time. It's not mine, but as I'm only away a few days there's less chance someone will notice it's missing. We'll be in a hotel close to Grand Central and checking out around midday on Wednesday (get your sniper teams in place). With luck I might be meeting up with ASR-NY and perhaps even getting a Leatherman Wave a bit cheaper than they are over here.

Need to go and move some PCs around now.

[17:40] Right so that's done, only I've half-crushed my right thumb (I'm left handed) between a desk being carried and a door frame. I don't really want to go to the gym now as I can't really grip anything in my hand now. Oh well. The girlfriend's brother (middle one) is coming to stay this weekend. Hope we get enough sleep to prepare for the week ahead.

[16:55] Nothing much happening today. Had a long lunch, had some more problems with Norton Ghost (probably something to do with my funky configurations). The girlfriend's on a late tonight so it's dialout pizza for me and some DVDs.

Damnit, why isn't this thing working? Not like you can help from there anyway. The new AO seems to be a nice enough bloke. Smiles a lot, maybe too much, like that guy in Userfriendly. Did you notice Stinkymeat II is up now?

I think I'll go home soon.

[12:10] Jeez, where's the morning gone? Anyway, after some frantic redrawing last night (there's still one gif to redo tonight at home, guess which one?) I can proudly announce that the new Co-LARTers section is now open and fully HTML4.0/Transitional compliant. Please go have a look, and then tell me where I've made mistakes. The time I've spent not putting up these pages has been used in negotiating with O'Reilly just what I can and cannot do with stuff. If you read the "How to order" pages you'll see that I can't actually offer anything as a T-shirt just yet, not until I work out the details with Simon.

You see Simon agreed that I could use the term "BOFH" on this site on the condition that it never became commercial (or, I assume profit-making). As I intend to make the T-shirts to order and charge at cost (if not slightly less) I'm hoping he'll get back to me with the O.K. Either way, O'Reilly said I couldn't use "O'Reilly" anywhere, so I changed it to "O'Really" and rejigged everything.

On other news, I swapped out someone's printer which wasn't picking up paper (an old DeskJet 520) and spent some of the last hour with cotton buds and water cleaning accumulated paper dust off the rollers. I've just swapped it back in after seeing that twenty pages fed through without manual intervention.

Yesterday the old AO came back in to show the new guy at the top some of the ropes. He's a fairly IT-literate kind of guy, unfortunately he failed my first test which involved leaving fairly coherent instructions on how to change his password and then waiting for him to call in confusion. He did. Other than that he seems to be O.K. He knows how to file, how to use directories and he doesn't do the damned stupid thing of creating huge documents of 140-200 pages, each page being one letter and the document title being the type of letters contained within. In effect using a document like a directory. If they want to print out a letter from the megadocument they have to search for it, then print that page only. Takes me back to that old secretary who left a few months after I arrived. She used DisplayWrite 4 and I think the habit comes from her.

[14:20] Finished setting up the machines this morning. The network was playing up badly this morning. I emailed network support last night in the hope something would be fixed up by 11:30 this morning. I got some confused emails from one clueless person there and then someone decided the fault which affected me last week, which was at first thought just to be dead channel on a multi-channel converter, now seems to have become a fault in which the whole converter has gone flaky. I've been put on a different one. Everything seems to be happy now.

In other news I'm preparing to put my new section on the web (it's now on my machine rather than on an untracable zip disk). I'm still waiting for an email before I do anything though.

[17:10] Nothing much happening this afternoon. I've had a nice relaxing time. Why don't you tell me which photos you like the best. So few of you email nowadays I get bored in the afternoons.

[18:42] High level talks are taking place. More here as it happens.

[14:10] Have spent the entire morning (and still haven't finished yet) installing the new machines in the computer room. Don't expect to see me much today. I don't think the new section of the site will go up today, unless it's late this evening. Quick rundown on the weekend which I'll detail later is: X-Men, sleep, X-Men weekend on Fox Kids, kite flying, food, sleep, X-Men on Fox Kids, punting and food, Princess Bride, sleep. More later.

[19:50] "More later" means "more tomorrow". I've worked far too hard for my own good today and I need food and sleep and the last part of the Night's Dawn trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton to strengthen my tenuous grip on sanity. All I need to do tomorrow morning is set the homepage of the browsers for the course and install some JInitiator pile of pants from Oracle. With Ghost now running I can reghost the machines with Netscape 4.75 and no JInitiator whenever I like now. Takes minutes. No more slowly corrupting machines.

[12:00] Still no connectivity outside the building. I've been exchanging horror stories with other sysadmins in seperate parts of the institution. Most of them are back now, it looks like there's a problem somewhere between the switch I don't have access to in my main comms rack and the router at central's end. I can ping the switch here, anything else is dead. I'm not happy. I can't do anything worthwhile in terms of the site as I need the web for my information and I don't want to redefine all the printer LPR ports on the NT server (TCP/IP printing) to use IP numbers as it'll mean going round every single user's profile deleting and re-adding the printers based on the new ports. No, instead I've decided that it's time for a local DNS.

I don't know which machine will have the pleasure of being the DNS server. If it's allowed and possible I'll simply do some kind of zone transfer from central which are the canonical nameservers for me anyway, and then point the local machines at my server. From then on I'll send my DNS updates to central as normal and watch them update my tables for me. If the network or their DNS goes down again, at least people will be able to print. I suppose I could have stuck with the DLC/LLC way of printing (identification by MAC address), but I think a step up from ethernet is a good idea. Plus, while the printers are slightly more open now, it means the network printing requirements of the new accounts system are catered for already.

[13:00] On a 100Mb/sec network I've been forced to switch to a dialup account so I can log back in to the machines on the other side of the damage to check my email. It's embarassing the fact that there's nothing I can do from here as it's not my machinery. I can't even get access to the stuff that's broken as it's off-site.

[13:30] Stupid Networks "can't find anything wrong" at their end. Which means they're not looking hard enough as I've not touched a thing here. I'm going to see the X-Men film tonight. There's a reasonable chance that the 23:20 showing won't be as mad as some of the earlier evening ones. Pub, then someone reasonable for food, then about thirty minutes of queuing. Damnit, I've forgotten a book to read. Prehaps DNS and Bind.

[14:40] Now they're sending someone out to see what's up. I'm not holding out much hope on connectivity being restored before 16:00. I'm not going to have finished the new section before 17:30 unless a miracle occurs. In case the Almighty puts a hand in, come have a look around 18:00. Otherwise, try Monday morning.

[16:48] And network connectivity is restored. Don't ask me how, the people who promised to come round never did, stuff just started appearing again, slowly and fateringly. One of the linux boxes was having a sulk and had to have its cable touched, left alone and then glared at until it began to acknowledge pings.

I've done nothing today and I feel pissed off. Going home at 17:30.

[12:00] Lost of bad network connectivity today unfortunately. Still, the inability to talk on-line, and the fact lots of other stuff has gone fubar means that people are blaming any problems on the network outages at central and not calling me. I've been able to get on with my new section at a gopod place, only slowed down by the lack of access to the web for some of my information. At present I have no idea at what time today you'll be able to read this.

[17:10] Network connectivity has now been down all day. I'm writing this for uploading either just before I go home, or early tomorrow morning. I've been doing some of the finishing touches to the new section I keep mentioning. With luck I should be able to put it up on Monday morning, if not some time tromorrow.

THe lack of network connection has really grated on me today, I've been unable to get the information I needed to finish the stuff I've been doing. On the other hand I have gotten a really fucked Epson inkjet working again after everyone had guven up on it. So it's not been a day totally without work.

[12:10] Been working on the first sixth of the new section of the site, this morning. I can either do another sixth this afternoon, or put up the photos from Egypt this afternoon.

[13:40] Right, all the photos from Egypt are now up in the gallery. And I mean all of them. All the bad shots, the blurred, the embarassing and the badly lit. They're all there mainly because I couldn't be bothered to sort through them. Have a look. Just so you know, gallery 1 is the oldest, gallery 8 the newest.

[17:00] Done about half of the new site section now. It's really straining to come up with some new stuff, but I think you'll be impressed. Gym tonight.

[13:39] Cool news today; the girlfriend has won an all expenses paid (almost) trip to New York between 28 Aug and 31 Aug to watch the opening few days of the US Open Tennis Championships. Flights, hotel and transport are all covered. It's nice to be able to have another holiday so soon, even if it is only a short trip. We'll barely have time to get used to the time difference. I'm hoping to a) buy a cheaper Leatherman Wave, b) buy some cheap region 1 DVDs and c) maybe have a quick meet up with some ASRians. I can't imagine I'll manage any of those unless I'm really crafty with the time we have to spare. Oh yes, the trip is for winner "and guest", which is good.

Finished scanning in all the photos just now. I'll be cropping, montaging the panoramas and touching up as much as possible the blurred ones (Valley of the Kings tombs shots) before they go in the gallery.

Found this reference to the BOFHcam from one of my referer logs. Try running it through babelfish if you can't read it.

[17:45] Yes I know it barely makes sense. That's the (vaguely) funny bit. H-u-m-o-u-r, get it? Nevermind. Anyway, in lieu of the images I'll be putting up tomorrow, there are two standard images in the gallery at the moment. Have a look, or don't. Alex captured the second one (img46.jpg), I think Erin got the other. It was so long ago I forget.

Flyin out for such a short amount of time barely time to adjust for jetlag really. Still, it's free, we get to see some tennis (can we say Anna Kournikova, maybe) and there's an outside chance I'll get to do some shopping.

[17:46] And here I am, back at work. I've spent the entire day writing up the journal, checking the machines for signs of ineptitude and tampering and sorting out a hub which has just died, dead. Luckily the PFY has been imbued with enough Clue by me to cross patch everything until I got back. The hub's swapped out for now until I can get the ordering system (which is now in place institution-wide) to cough up an order for a repair. The thing might be under warranty still, which would be good. There's lots of other little things which need doing, but I'll detail them through this week as I deal with them. For the moment I've dealt with the massive pile of memos and stuff on my desk and gotten to a stage where I can begin to get back up to speed. I've got the photos from Egypt with me and I expect to begin scanning them in tomorrow with them appearing in the gallery sometime tomorrow afternoon and Wednesday.

My hands ache.

Oh yeah, nice little sample sent to me by Andreas of Billy Conolly detailing the kind of things users and end users ask for on a daily basis.

11/08/2000 - Recovery Special
I remember very little about Friday. I think I sat at home and played on the PC a lot while everyone else went and did exciting things. Oh yes, on Thursday while I was in town I went into one of the shops in the Sevenoaks franchise. The guy in there told me a way to stop my speakers from humming so much. It seems that the circuit that powers the LCD panel on Sony STR-DB930 amplifiers is badly shielded and so causes interference on the speaker channels. I took it in on Friday and expect it back in two weeks, give or take. That was about it. Apart from Half Life: Opposing Force.

10/08/2000 - Recovery Special
Today all I did was laze about the house. Checked email and (forgive me) rang the PFY to check everything was O.K. I have an excuse because next week I'll be at work and the PFY will be on holiday for the week. In the afternoon we wandered into town and had an Italian before watching Titan AE. That's about it.

09/08/2000 - Recovery Special
Damnit, but I hate feeling like this. It's probably something in the food or the copious amounts of water with minerals and chemicals in it. I woke at 03:00, 05:00 and 07:00 to stop from dying and began to wish from home. I'm very glad we brought the extra toilet roll. Holidays are not supposed to be like this.

Anyway, not having to get up until 08:00 was good as we could get the maximum amount of time in bed and still get breakfast (small). Our table partners for meals were heading for Luxor museum, so we jumped in a taxi with them and made our way through the streets with a driver who never looked at the road and used the horn to indicate. The seatbelts had been cut out completely.

While small, the museum was packed full of good stuff including a cachette of statues unearthed in 1989. By 11:00 we were done and our taxi arrived and took us back to the boat after we convinced him not to take us all round Luxor. We got badly cut up by a jeep full of soldiers who the taxi driver swore and gestured at until they shook their banana-clipped automatic weapons at. He dropped back then. Back on board the boat we sat around and waited for lunch, did a bit of packing of the hand luggage. We didn't go out in the sun because there's no chance of a shower until England. Had enough sun I think.

By the time the coach arrived to take us to Luxor airport we were ready to leave. It was a shame that once we'd arrived at the place it took over two hours before we got on board. Not bad really, but the place was 'basic'. Once on the plane I asked if I could go up and see the cockpit (never done it before). I was told to wait until after the meal. I duly did so and was watching The World Is Not Enough (it was The WHole Nine Yards on the way out) when I was beckoned up. I spent about about half an hour in the cockpiut chatting quietly with the pilots while they did course corrections and I identified pretty much everything on the panels. You know they barely consult pilots when designing the cockpits? Got some inside information on the concorde crash too.

Once landed and in possession of our luggage we met the girlfriend's mum and youngest brother and drove home. Bed followed once we'd unpacked slightly and checked postal mail and the answerphone.

08/08/2000 - Recovery Special
The boat left Luxor dock about 04:30, I know because it woke me up. Still feeling like crap. By 08:00 we were up and going to breakfast. Last night a new batch of people had boarded the boat. Many of them weren't sitting in the same places this morning as they were at dinner last night. The staff like people to sit where they start. As a result people are mumbling about it over breakfast as the staff mumble. Breakfast was on the top deck today (mirrored tables). The wind had picked up and butter, cornflakes and bread was going everywhere. We docked as breakfast finished, with a flotilla of police motorboats escorting us. It's apparent straight away that Quena is about as close to Middle Egypt as tourists get to go. Anything further north isn't safe for no-Egyptians until you get to Cairo.

Once our ship and the three others that were tied up there had disembarked all their passengers we had a convoy of coaches to Denderah temple surrounded by flak jacketed soldiers in jeeps. We travelled for about 8km east.

By around 08:30 Bassem was showing us round the place. I won't give a description of the place as this isn't that kind of journal. Suffice to say that the place is one fo the few temples which has a still covered hypostyle hall (which you can got to the top of (nice view)) and a cramped but impressive crypt beneath the ground. By the time the temperature was rising above 45 degrees we were back on the bus and heading for the boat.

We cast off almost as soon as the last person was on board and headed against the current back down to Luxor. Around the same time we had lunch. Generally we went to our cabin after lunch. Same again today. Realising today was kinf of the last full day in Egypt we took fifteen minutes in the sun. I doubt that summer in England will ever feel very warm to me again. Back in the shade I finished the second of the two big Peter F. Hamilton books I'd brought with with me. I made the mistake of thinking about work when we went back to the cabin and needed a lie down to recover. Dinner stopped me from thinking too hard about anything else for a while. Although I knoew I'd regret it again I had the full meal (gorgeous food) and then passed on the belly dancer in the bar. The girlfriend went though and saw the whirling dervish too. I don't think the spinning and the colours would have been good for me.

07/08/2000 - Recovery Special
There aren't many days when there wasn't at least some lazing done on this holiday, as you've probably noticed. Today was no exception, except for the morning. Which was packed.

Being at Luxor, we had no excuse not to go to the Valley of the Kings and environs. As a result, wakeup was 06:00, on the coach for 07:00 to avoid as much of the heat of the day as possible. After driving over the Nile and out of the cultivated strip which sticks to each side of the bank, we drove into the mountains for about 12km. Once stopped in a carpark we took one of those kitch little wheeled car trains up to the entrance to the valley proper. On the outside its just a series of holes in the walls of the valley with some extra cement and bricks to tidy things up. The inside of the tombs on the other hand were covered in wonderfully painted images. Did I mention that all temples and heirogliphics used to be fully coloured? Many of places like Karnak would have been amazing a few thousand years ago, shame things are so worn and faded nowadays. Anyway, the tombs were big and hot and humid and dim, I doubt any of the photos will come out clearly, or unblurred. The places were so crowded we kept getting jostled when we were taking pictures. Flashes not allowed, either.

The heat, coupled with feeling shite meant that once we'd seen the three tombs we'd paid for we headed for the 'train' back to somewhere that had toilets. Luckily I'd remembered the golden rule. Bring your own toilet roll. That's the smart thing to do. The smarter thing to do would have to not been the next person who used the non-flushing toilet I had.

Once we'd done there we visited an alabaster manufacturing shop (small building with 12 workers) and watched people make statues and pots and stuff. They then let us browse for stuff which we didn't buy on account of having no money.

as it was getting damned hot, the guide took us to the final temple of the day. Although he didn't tell us the temple we went to last was the site of the last big tourist massacre in Egypt. Frankly, in that heat all we wanted to do was go to the temple, look around and head back to the air conditioned bus. Back on the bus we got back to the boat and had lunch. For the rest of the day until 16:00 we stayed in the cabin and kept cool. Three hours of chilling after that heat was useful. At 16:00 the representative from the holiday firm came on board and explained the departure details for the different groups in our tour. Once that was done we went back to our cabin and watches the heat shimmer of the sun on the water until dinner. We're a little sick of the heat and sun at the moment.

I pigged out at dinner, knowing I'd regret it later. Unfortunately I'd forgotten that I wouldn't be near a toilet for most of the evening as we were heading for the sound and light show at Karnak temple. Luckily I dozed off at least once, which helped the time pass much more quickly. Hot stone helped too.

Our regular guide had the evening off so we had a first timer taking us out. Once we got inside we never saw him again and actually took the coach back to the boat withouyt him. We never saw him again. I think we scared him. Once back on the boat I paid for my excesses at dinner. Bed, when I got to go to it, was a reward.

06/08/2000 - Recovery Special
Didn't sleep well. Was feeling all hot and cod at the same time. Classic fever symptoms. Came down with a really nasty feeling in my stomach. Given how bad the girlfriend's been feeling I'm not terribly suprised. Given how bad I was feeling I didn't mind missing out on the trip in the morning to Esna temple after a tiny breakfast. It turned out the place was nothing special when everyone got back though.

We slapped on some suncream and headed for the sun deck as we pulled out of dock and passed through a swing bridge and a lock, heading up stream again. There were kids by the lockside throwing stuff up in film containers for us to buy. We scaled them right back down at them. No sale.

Going with the flow of the Nile meant we were against the prevalent wind direction. There was a stiff breeze up top all morning as we sat at the front of the boat. About midmorning we went back inside to wait for our arrival in Luxor (where we'd departed from). Just before lunch we were witness to another amazingly good bit if 'parking' of the ship in a space just big enough. After a cautious lunch (nothing too wild) we went back up on deck to prepare for some major sunning...

Unable to take fifty-five degrees of direct heat (very little humidity) at midday we went back to our cabin to wait for 16:30 and the tour of Karnak temple. Another one.

We'll be back for the sound and light show in a few days. As it was the place was huge. Massive, really sodding big. My admiration for the ancient Egyptians just keeps on growing. To take so long and to do so much shows really bastard-like tenacity. So we had a good look around, realised that the hypostyle hall was used in an episode of Battlestar Galactica (I won't say which) and were generally amazed.

Knackered by the heat, we got back on the coach again and instead going back to the boat we went to Luxor temple next. By this time all thirty-nine of us in the group just wanted to go and lie down so the tour of the place was short and sweet. We got back in tome for dinner (obviously) which was more of the same good food. It's hard to cut back for stomach reasons when it tates so good.

One of our table-mates was forty today (and some pair of people on another table were celebrating forty years married) so there was cake too. Before anything else happened we got some more water and went to bed. It may seem like we're being boring, but with the guts we had, it was the most sensible thing all round. And give that we're off to the West Bank tomorrow, not in Israel (I've been there) but the Valley of the Kings. More heat, less shade, another eraly start.

05/08/2000 - Recovery Special
Not really and exciting day today. Still, here it is. Woke, breakfast. Went to Phile temple in daytime this time. Looked fairly similar to how it did last night, only more visible and hotter. Our guide is quite knowlegable on Egyptian history (ancient) as we're visiting each place. Once we'd had our fill of the temple it was back on the coach and off to the Aswan Dam. It's a huge earth and concrete construction 3.3km long and about 125m wide in most places. After that we were shuttled to a Papyrus Institute where we were advised that the prices were best. Frankly I think the guide and the driver were getting kickbacks given the prices. Still, the girlfriend bought about the most tasteful thing in there.

Once we'd all done what we wanted to do, we were shuttled back to the boat again. We left Aswan over lunch and headed downstream (North). Stopping at Kom-Ombo temple we moored against a rough earth bank, almost grounding out and crushing a few trees. Many of us took the walking trip to the temple along the side of the river. We discovered (or I did for the first time) how Egyptians kept the blocks of stones so close together when building and how they moved them with the effort they did (sycamore and ball bearings). By this time the girlfriend was feeling the effects of Egyptian food, drink and weather. She didn't come.

I'm suprised I haven't succumbed myself yet given all the suinbathing and pigging out at meal times. ANyway, tonight was the fancy dress night; dressing up in your Egyptian purchases and parading round the bar is not my idea of a good time. I took out my headscarf from Israel and wore some clothes like many of the smarter-dressed arabs wear and that was it. She wore a shawl, we felt the least silly of all the people there. Given how ill she was feeling, we had dinner, bought some water and went to bed. There's an 06:00 wake up call tomorrow.

04/08/2000 - Recovery Special
[21:40] There was a 05:00 wakeup call for people this morning. We must have docked in Aswan some time between 04:30 and 05:30. I think I was woken up around 05:45 by the winch moving the gangway to land. Dragging outselves out of bed for 08:30 we spent the rest of the morning alternately in our cabin and on the deck under the shade. Lunch saw the arrival of the people back from the temple. While they were hot, dusty and tired, it looked like they'd had a reasonable time of it. From the pictures I've seen, it would have been nice. Costs of £125 prevented us from going though.

The afternoon was more of the same. Not that I mind. Doing nothing is good. I've only thought of computers once and that was working out how to scan in a triple panoramal photo montage in such a way that things come out right. Anyway, by the evening we were going a little stir-crazy so it was good that after an early evening meal (evening meal is "smart casual", rather than shorts) we took a short coach ride to Phile. "Fe-lay" temple is out on a island next to the island it used to be on before the dams flooded the land more than normal. We'd both gotten trousers and long sleeves on in preparation for mosquitos but there didn't seem to be any around, so we just sweated. The reason we were there was for a sound and light show where thy light up sections of the temple with spots and then give you a bit of history on the place. Richard Burton and Lizzy Taylor were two of the voices I recognised coming out of the overloaded speakers. The whole thing went on a bit too long though so by the time we got back on the boats with the other twenty tourist groups we were half asleep.

Back on board the boat/hotel we went to bed. There's a 07:00 wake up call tomorrow. Did I mention that last night there was stuff for the guests in the bar last night. Well, it was a kind of scavenger hunt-type game. The girlfriend who was showing the flag for our cabin got out of there as soon as possible when they started demanding "a pair of red knickers (worn)". We're here to have a good time, yes. But getting drunk and fucking about isn't my scene. The thing apparently finished about 01:00 in the morning. I don't think I could survive on that little amount of sleep right now.

03/08/2000 - Recovery Special
[14:21] We didn't really get to bed early in the end. More like 23:00. As a result, if it hadn't been for my watch set to go off at 08:00 we wouldn't have gotten up for breakfast. Cornflakes with coconut and rasins (added by hand) is great when you're watching the Nile go by from your table. Afterwards, while the ship made its to Edfu we tried sunbathing and I met my first Egyptian mosquito which was about an inch long. Luckily I'd been expecting something like him to turn up and death was quick and painless. Most of the rest of the hour before docking was spent sunbathing.

[21:43] The trip to the first of our temples took ten minutes in a set of packed minibuses. Stopping in a bazaar we were set upon (almost) by traders. Taking refuge in our tickets we headed for the temple and were quite overawed by the sheer scale of the thing. Stargate SG-1 just doesn't prepare you for the size and amount of stone used in the construction of the pylons and hypostyle halls.

Taking 2500 years of wear and tear into account the thing had stood up remarkably well considering. We had a tour around the place and noted that in the odd section there was still paint on the walls. Once we were finished the tour guide (going by the name of Bassem) said we could try the bazaar. Those traders surely are the BOFHs of the market world. I made the mistake of shaking hands with one of them and had to spend five minutes watching him hold my hand until my British politeness dissolved and I just pulled it back. About twenty more seconds of windowshopping and it felt like we were fending off an army. We got back on the bus having told them we had no money (a lie). Once back on the boat we had lunch (huge) and then undocked, heading upstream to Aswan. I couldn't take more than two hours in the sun so we headed for our air conditioned cabin to read and shower. Occasionally we got a bit more sun, but anything over thirty minutes was tough to take. 'Afternoon tea' passed us by as we were asleep in our room, but we emerged in timr for Manager's Cocktails (or 'free drinks'). You see, everything is extra on board. And as the tap water isn't drinkable, you need to buy that too. Anyway, after a cocktailwe headed for dinner (also huge).

THe girlfriend is now on a "treasure hunt" organised by the staff. I've taken to the room in an effort to do some serious reading. If we'd paid for a trip to Abu Simbel tomorrow we'd have to get up at 05:00. But we didn't, so by the time we get up the place should be empty, so the jacuzzi and small pool will be free.

Estimated temperature for tomorrow is 52 degrees centigrade. We've been told that no-one should be off the boat for more than one hour, even if you're shopping. This is for our own benefit. I think we'll follow that advice.

02/08/2000 - Recovery Special
[23:10 local time] I'm sitting in a cabin on board the MS Ra II (merchant ship Ra (as in the god) number II). I can already tell that it's going to be a real chore to have to stay awake every night getting this thing down on paper, but I guess enough of the public want it to make it worthwhile.

Gettign up at 05:00 this morning wasn't fun at all. It also didn't get the day off to a good start either when at 05:40 half way to the station in the taxi I realised I'd forgotten my discount card for the train tickets. Luckily we'd booked the transport in plenty of time so there was no problem in going back and collecting it.

The train to London was pretty full, even for that time in the morning, although it was nice to find the Tube was practically deserted. Going from King's Cross to Victoria we shuffled onto the Gatwick Express and spent the hour to the airport dozing and discussing stuff. Naturally, having planned for the worst we arrived fwith hours to spare before the deadline for checking in so we got the bags dealt with and wandered round the shops before settling on a cafe to have some breakfast in. While, once we got on the plane, the pilot was extremely good at keeping us informed of developments and was good to listen to, having to sit on the hardstanding for an hour before we got permission to taxi to the runway wasn't really the best way to start the holiday.

The flight was on a Boeing 757 owned by Britannia and took about 4:45. Naturally we passed over a lot of varied terrain, saw the Alps, Greece and some absolutely stunning archipelagoes. Landing at Luxor (2 hours ahead of BST) the heat was just like I'd remembered from Israel the two times I went. Like an all over soft glove. You get used to it fairly soon. We walked acroiss the tarmac to a waiting bus and were driven the few dozen meters to the run down terminal building.

We collected our bags. Avoiding the people who wished to carry our bags for bakshish (tipping) purposes and were split up into the groups who were going to the seperate boats and hotels in Luxor. A quick ride through night-time Luxor (didn't see a thing) and we boarded the boat. After checking in we found that our bags had already been delivbered to the room, so we did a bit of unpacking before going to the lounge/bar to listen to quite a camp-looking Thomson Rep. tell us how things were going to work. Having someone do all the legwork for you for once and planning the week ahead was just what I needed after the stress of the last few months. I sat back and waited to go to bed.

I forgot that we'd not had much to eat, what with the heat and the airline food serving to cut appetite in half. Five courses of good food reminded me of my hunger. It was at this tine that we realised that as we couldn't drink the tap water here (even on the boat), we'd have to buy water for every meal and if we wanted some to go out on excursions with some. Bang went at least a third of our spending money. Hidden costs, bastards.

After dinner we went up on deck and lay on the sun loungers. Even at about 21:00 the temperature myst have been in the medium 30s. With a light breeze and lights on the shore of Nile passing by as we went upriver (south) it was pretty damned good. Shower, and early bed.

[11:30] Nothing much happening today. I'm at home. We'll be going shopping for the few final things such as hidden wallets, anthisan cream and more deoderant. Not that sweat has long to stay on your body there. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid forties (centrigrade). Going to cook those thoughts of work right out of my head.

I've closed email, tidied my directories, tarred everything and stuck some of the more important stuff offline for the duration. You can never be too sure of what's going to happen in your absence. I leave you with news that the new section of the site is safe and sound on my machine here at home and is looking fairly good for a release some time in the week beginning 14 August. Watch this space. No this one. Here.

See you in a week and a bit.