Thursday, 16 December 2010

The good the bad and the ugly

One of my all time favourite films and yet watching it now, I find it too slow. Maybe because I don't have time to watch such a long movie in one sitting?

I passed my exam for T306 Managing complexity: a systems approach!

Ended up with a grade 2 pass overall for the course, which I'm delighted with. This ranks as one of my all time top exam results, even though I just scraped the grade 2 result. Goes right up there with the only exam I ever got a first pass for - Technical Drawing, way back when I sat my O Grades. Anyone remember those?

That year I also got my first fail. I received a D for Craft and Design... That was a bad one. Funny to think that a D grade at University counts as a pass and although I would have been disapointed to have received that for T306, I would have been relieved to not require a resit!

My ugly came the following year. I sat Higher Grade History and English in my fifth year and received no award for both. I had extenuating circumstances, having had a major illness that kept me off school during a crucial month, and yet failing so completely in those subjects was a blow.

Perhaps because I did so poorly back then, I've always felt I've had something to prove. It wasn't long afterwards that I signed up for my first night class. I got passes for a couple of O Grades over the next few years but nothing spectacular. Because I had never gone to University or College, I had a belief that I wasn't capable enough. It never occured to me that I might actually find College or University study easier than school.

It was transformational to find out, while doing my College HNC, that there are subjects that I'm good at. Perhaps because I found those subjects relevant and enjoyable. Realising that I can enjoy and excel has kept me studying and made a huge difference to my results.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Don't you just hate them?

If nothing else the OU's creative writing course is giving me exposure to aspects of writing that I desperately need experience in. Having written around a dozen short stories over the past twenty years, it is heart breaking to think none of them may be publishable, yet this is a fact I need to tackle.

My second assignment is to write a short story, 2,200 words in length and a short commentary. My first draft was over 4,000 words long. I tried editing it after a couple of days and while I wasn't happy with it, was totally stumped as to how I could cut fifty percent and still write the story I had intended.

I took Stephen King's advice and let the draft sit for a week. On Monday I tried tackling it again and spent a whole morning with my thoughts going round in circles. I eventually concluded that I just did not believe in the scenario myself and decided to rewrite almost from scratch. I still wanted to retain some major plot points and the essence of the ending.

By Tuesday afternoon I had written over 1,800 words and realised I was only half way through the story I was now trying to write. Cue attempts to tear out what little hair I have left.

I finally let my wife read both drafts. Quite simply she said I could probably cut out the majority of the first half of the story of my first draft and still make it work.

Cutting so drastically seems to be a technique widely used. I still wasn't happy with the first draft in terms of believability so decided to concentrate on the second. I wasn't able to bring myself to use cutting quite as randomly as simply removing the first three pages but eventually persuaded myself to kill off a major character and cut the first half down to 1,400 words.

Killing off that character allowed me a useful new perspective on the story. I had been blinkered from the start, trying to force a certain outcome that required this character. I was able to come up with a new ending last night which left me only slightly outside the word count. Plenty of room to trim!

I think I now need to let the third draft sit a few days so I can read it as a reader and hopefully finish the editing process. Once I'm done, and the assignment submitted, I'll post the drafts online for anyone who is interested in hwo I got from A to D.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Declutter goal

Okay, so it is nowhere near any of my 100 goals but, with Scotland gridlocked today and my wife unable to get to her work or I to my second interview, she suggested we make some room for a Christmas tree.

We found several dozen video cassettes that we could throw out or send to a charity shop. Tidying up our sitting room led to a need to make space elsewhere and so we started sorting through our collection of books. We managed to throw a few out but still have far more than we have time to read.

There were a couple of books which we wondered if they might sell on eBay. We have a few bits and pieces that we know we will never use again but can't quite bring ourselves to throw out: PCMCIA network cards from when I tried to set up a LAN party; A Palm Vx organizer that was the coolest piece of kit ten years ago; and DVD box sets that I should have sold the minute I finished watching them.

Well, they are all listed on eBay now. If you fancy a peek at some of the junk I've been hoarding, check out my listings.

If they don't sell, there is always a charity shop willing to take them off my hands.

It feels good to make some space but I'm conscious that behind our cupboard doors, we still have boxes we haven't unpacked since we moved ten years ago... On the plus side, there is a good chance Scotland will be gridlocked tomorrow and we can spend another day decluttering. What joy!

Friday, 3 December 2010

I spy with my little eye... something the colour of see through

I braved the arctic conditions gripping Scotland today to secure a Christmas present for my youngest daughter. With the help of her sister and brother we managed to distract her while I bought it. The bag provided was only partially opaque and I thought it wouldn't be a problem as she has only just started learning to read until eldest daughter pointed out the box has the same brightly coloured picture as the TV ad youngest has been getting excited over.

I think we successfully hid the present. On the way back, stuck behind a JCB for the first few miles and reluctant to overtake on potentially slippy roads I started playing I spy. Youngest daughter came up with the title of this post!

It has been a slow month and slower week. My ten year old son has earned more than I have this month! I discovered that links I've included to products on Amazon have actually generated some sales. A grand total of 96p earned. My son earned more than that by shovelling snow from neighbours paths. I'm proud of him!

I've spent far more on Amazon recently than I have earned. My tutor has recommended several books so I have purchased: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft; My Grammar and I (Or Should That Be 'Me'?): Old-School Ways to Sharpen Your English; and The Penguin Guide to Punctuation (Penguin Reference Books).

I have begun reading My grammer and I and have yet to start the Penguin guide to punctuation. I've found Stephen King's On Writing to be fascinating. However, while it has inspired me, I think from King's description that I have writers block. King suggests that writers block is knowing what one wants to write but not wanting to do so. I was wondering this morning if being out of work is part of the problem. I generally feel more able to tackle difficult projects when I am earning money. There is something about not earning money that makes me reluctant to do anything other than try and get another job.

I often think that being out of work will be an opportunity to write more or complete another project and yet - even last month, after my wife started her new contract, I could not keep myself from checking the job sites every day and applying for a few jobs. When it comes down to it, I need to work. I need to provide for my family.

I had an interview two weeks ago for a permie job. I've been invited back for a second interview. It was encouraging to have done better in my bid than England with their World Cup bid this week.

If I am successful in the second interview I might have a few more weeks to work on my writers course. I have written a short story this month for my second assignment but at 4000 words it is twice as long as the word count so will need some serious re-writes. I will need to make as much progress as I can with the free time I have left.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Who's the Mommy?

I have been reprising a role as house husband this week. My wife started a contract on Monday and now she is bringing home the bacon I am fully responsible for school runs, cooking, cleaning, washing and other tasks that seem far more time consuming now I'm doing them. I was ready to go back to work before she came home Monday night.

Her contract may run until Christmas which gives me a chance to get a jump start on studying. I wrote 2,400 words this week towards a short story I need to do for my next assignment. I'm already 200 words over the word limit for the story and I estimate my first draft will run to plus 3000. I am aiming to finish the final draft next week and move onto to assignment 3 a month ahead of schedule. My cunning plan could be derailed as I've got an interview for a permanent role set up for next week.

My wife will not want to quit her contract but after six weeks of no income it will be good if we have to work out how to juggle two jobs rather as none.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Level 2

Hi, my name's Mark and I'm a Level 2 addict.

I signed up to Interactive Investor's Level 2 service last month. I've been curious about it since I read The Naked Trader by Robbie Burns. For those who haven't heard of Level 2, it gives immediate access to share prices. Most share data one sees online is at least 15 minutes out of date. This is not a problem most of the time but I have found it extremely frustrating to buy a share only to find the price had reached a peak and then started to fall immediately afterwards. Unfortunately, I have not been able to use Level 2 to avoid this. In fact, if anything, my trading seems to have gotten worse ever since I signed up for it!

I have been doing some research on and watching a small AIM traded company: Berkeley Mineral (BMR) for months. In July I finally received money from funds we had set up seven years ago for our children. I had closed these down and requested the money be returned as the funds had failed to increase in value over those seven years and had actually made a slight loss. Even worse when inflation was taken into account.

I decided to invest the money in Berkeley Mineral. It was a high risk investment and I made a decision that if the investment made a loss I would replace that loss out of my other investment. My plan was that by managing my own small fund, different investments would have shared risk and shared benefit and reduced fees.

The share price had been hovering between 1.8 and 2.2 pence for a couple of months then the share price did go up over fifty percent but then retraced on delays. I sold out at 2.26p regretting not having sold at fifty percent profit and thinking it was just what is known as a 'pump and dump'.

But I sold at the bottom and the share price started climbing. I decided to buy in again but had to pay more and so purchased less shares. By October 22nd, the share price had gone up and down several times. I started to get concerned as Berkeley Mineral reported delays in signing a crucial contract. I posted on the Interactive Investor forum my own concerns that this was just a 'pump and dump' and I sold at 3.3p, again making a small profit.

Never post a SELL recommendation on a share dealing forum. The easiest way to get hate mail in the world!

My timing was terrible. The share price started to move up again. Went past the previous high and kept going. I signed up for Level 2 a few days later and then began some truly inspired foolishness.

Between the 25th and 26th of October I bought and sold Berkeley Mineral five times, nine trades in total. I finally sold my holding on the 27th having realised that I could not use Level 2  to decide when to buy or sell. I bought believing a peak had been reached only to see the share price fall. I sold to minimize my losses only to see the share price rise!

I thought by the end of the 27th that I had made a total loss of around £400. It actually wasn't that bad. Taking into account previous profits on Berkeley Mineral deals, I was left with a profit of £80. Woopee. Except, If I had only made the one purchase, back in August. Then left that purchase alone, it would now be worth over £3,000. A 200 percent profit in just over two months.

I would not normally share this kind of detailed information about what shares I have or don't have but may this serve as a cautionary tale. I am kind of hazy about order of some of these buys and sells and my stock broker account does not seem to have sorted them in correct time of deal order so the table below is my best guess. I am going to cancel my Level 2 account now and try and learn from the experience.

Finally, I still own 500 Berkeley Mineral shares, just to remind myself...

Date Buy/Sell Stock Quantity Price Purchase Cost Sale Value Balance
02/08/10 Buy BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 48780 2.05p £1,017.94
21/09/10 Sell BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 48780 2.26p
£1,089.48 £71.54
23/09/10 Buy BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 36122 2.65p £974.97
22/10/10 Sell BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 36122 3.30p
£1,179.08 £275.65
25/10/10 Buy BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 50000 4.33p £2,188.78
25/10/10 Sell BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 47959 4.45p
£2,121.23 £208.10
25/10/10 Buy BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 48459 4.08p £1,999.97
26/10/10 Buy BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 46829 4.80p £2,271.98
26/10/10 Buy BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 44297 5.05p £2,258.14
26/10/10 Sell BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 44297 4.66p
£2,054.29 -£4,267.70
26/10/10 Buy BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 40890 4.97p £2,053.99
26/10/10 Sell BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 46829 4.80p
£2,237.84 -£4,083.85
26/10/10 Sell BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 50000 4.57p
£2,272.55 -£1,811.30
27/10/10 Sell BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 40890 4.65p
£1,891.44 £80.14

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Goal 31 To be and do all that God wants of me

I can and do apply this goal to many of my other goals. When I read the bible, I see an inspiring story of God providing for people who choose to trust in him. Even more inspiring is God's willingness to provide for billions of people who at best ignore him, at worst seem to hate him.

In many of the motivational books I have read in the past couple of years I have seen advice that is a mirror of parts of the bible.

Just now, I am unemployed, my wife is interviewing for a job. It is a difficult time, uncertain and with a fair amount of stress. Yet I choose to believe that God is providing for us. Interestingly, I believe that God has provided financially by enabling myself to be in work for most of the last five years. I believe that God has provided by teaching us to save as much as we can. Also, God has and is providing for us because we have followed his advice to spend within our limits.

Writing that last sentence, I have a question as to whether we have actually only spent within our limits. Quite possibly not! That leads me to question whether we have saved enough. Again, quite possibly not...

But, we have restricted our spending and have saved and so six weeks into my unemployment, we are coping. Worst case scenario, I am managing my own pension fund and we could ultimately raid that. Before that happens I might be calling agencies about work abroad!

Aidan commented on my post: Money for nothing. The Ecclesiastes reference was interesting. I like Jesus story of a man who goes on a journey and leaves his three servants with an appropriate sum of money to invest. On his return the man finds the servant he entrusted with the most money has doubled the investment. The next servant has also doubled his investment. Yet the last servant not only did nothing with the money entrusted to him, he almost seems to insult the man. (Ref: Book of Matthew Chapter 25 verse 14 to 30)

I take from this story an encouragement to be and do all that I can, whether working or investing or studying or with my family. I know I fall far short of this goal in many areas but this is one stretch target I don't mind aiming for.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Baby steps

Managed to get climbing yesterday and got one tie in higher on my lead climb goal: number 8. It took me so long to clip-in that I lost my confidence and burnt out. I'm still afraid of falling while reaching for the next hold on that overhang which is a big part of the problem.

I forced myself to start exercising again this week. I've found that I can practice pull ups while hanging from our top stair landing. It helped yesterday. Just need to make it a daily habit!

Friday, 5 November 2010

NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month is, according to the official website, "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30."

I missed the start despite having seen people in forums begin to discuss NaNoWriMo over the last month or so. I was procrastinating yesterday, my favourite hobby at present, on the Open University forums. I am desperate to find out my grade for my first assignment... Anyway, I found a forum dedicated to NaNoWriMo and once I understood what it was all about started to get intrigued.

Then I found out some more and lost some of my enthusiasm. On the plus side, the idea of encouraging millions of people to actually write that novel they've been putting off is a great idea. This year, November has 22 week days, so if I was to write 2273 words a day, five days a week, by the end of the month I would have completed a novel. This seems to be the core aim of NaNoWriMo.

On a more negative note, none of the novels are actually read. The website talks about writing a lot of, well, rubbish. It is all about quantity and not quality. Novels are verified by software which only checks word count, not whether the novel is readable, has fascinating characters or a gripping plot.

There are also other limitations set. Participants should not have previously started the novel. This excludes me from seriously ramping up production on Fallen Warriors. Or does it?

I've already been working to a word count for over a year and have found it extremely helpful. Does it really matter if I break the rules in a competition where potentially everyone can be a winner and where my work will not be verified in any way? I'm still not sure if I'm going to enter myself but if I do, I'll let you know.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Guilty of apostrophization

Okay, I admit it, I never got a handle on when and when not to use an apostrophe at school. My use of the apostrophe in "portrait's" yesterday is apparently a mistake.

I'm not at all confident that I will correctly apostrophize consistently in future but I do believe there is power in self encouragement and self put downs are a bad idea, so let me simply write that I have improved my knowledge of correct use of apostrophes and am hopeful that I will continue to improve.

I found this website quite helpful this morning: Makes a lot more sense than any of my English teachers managed during years of schooling. One rule to remember, only one. Only use an apostrophe when letters are missing. It is kind of crazy that modern English disguises this simple rule since apparently the roots of using an apostrophe for illustrating the possessive go back to adding es to words which got shortened to 's and so the single rule still applies - apostrophes are used to replace missing letters.

It is quite possible if any of my English teachers are a) still alive and b) reading this that I was simply daydreaming while the above rule was taught.

NEWSFLASH: Found another misplaced apostrophe! I'm going to stop looking now. The thought of one day having to grammar and spell check a 100,000 word novel is giving me apostrophe-jitters.

I have managed this week to meet my aim of writing 200 words a day on Fallen Warriors. I've not done so well at working on the plot. I will get there.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Goal 42 To own a JoLoMo painting - revised

I've enjoyed looking at paintings by John Lowrie Morrison, also known as JoLoMo, for many years. I find his paintings a joy to view and his reasons for painting them are also inspiring.

I was privileged to visit another artists studio today. Graeme Sharp's paintings have some similarities to JoLoMo. Vivid use of colour, willingness to use bold colours and an ability to see life and light and capture and share that through their paintings.

Graeme excels in producing portrait's that shine with an inner vibrancy.

Painting with oil, there is a richness in the depth of the paint in the 3D nature of the painting that I unfortunately could not capture in these photos.

Graeme produces smaller 10 inch portraits, like the ones immediately above, through medium and large two metre works. These larger portraits are if anything even more lifelike due to the depth of detail he can include. Yet, they show an unearthly, spiritual quality in the subjects that adds to a sense that one is viewing something alive.

In Goal 42 I am saying that I value beauty and artistry. I see value in a painting that inspires me that is itself far greater than the insurance or eventual resale value of a painting. I don't want to buy a JoLoMo or Graeme Sharp portrait as an investment. Someday I want to buy one simply because seeing them lifts my spirit. I'm modifying goal number 42 to include one day also owning a Graeme Sharp painting.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Calling Mumbai

I would rather avoid it but when our home phone went completely dead this morning and our broadband also died, there was no choice but to call that national rate number on my mobile.

We are in the process of changing providers from Talk Talk. After benefitting from ultra cheap phone and broadband with Tiscali for a few years, Talk Talk's takeover has resulted in only one thing, higher prices. I did wonder if they had simply cut us off this morning. Neither Tiscali or Talk Talk have provided good customer service but I am assured by my Indian friend this is simply a fault. In three days, hopefully we will be with a new supplier. I don't want to hope too much for improved service...

I'm now borrowing a neighbours broadband. I would thank them but I don't know who is providing an unsecured wireless connection...

Okay, procrastination over, time to hit my daily word count...

Update at 13:30 - 541 words written. Starting to think about plot again.

Monday, 1 November 2010

276 words

In the grand scheme of things, 276 words is just a drop in the ocean, but right now, it feels like a monumental achievement. I procrastinated all morning, doing useful and neccessary things right enough: working on my writers course; checking out new jobs being advertised. But, my main goal for today was to begin work on Fallen Warriors and it was a struggle all morning to sit down and start writing.

It was almost laughable when I finally started just before noon and my wife came downstairs to tell me time to stop for lunch. Almost. In retrospect much more amusing. As it was, she took the not so subtle hints and left me in peace to finish. She is very patient with me!

My goals for Fallen Warriors are in flux at present. If I get a job then I'm intending to write one hundred words a day. If my wife gets a job before me then I plan to write two hundred words a day initially while working on plot and character development and gradually ramp that up to 500 words a day.

I had intended to write a follow up post to A year of goals last week. A review of successes and progress made towards some of my other goals. But, I was pretty low last week. Also quite nervous about starting work on Fallen Warriors after such a long absence. Whenever I'm concerned about writing my novel, I find I don't want to blog.

I can look back over my life and see many times I have started on a writing project but then given up, either focusing on the latest exciting idea, or failing to remain disciplined. I almost did that over the weekend. I had a sudden resurgence of interest in a novel I started in 2007, a novel based on an idea I had as a child. I wrote three chapters but then chose to postpone work on the novel to concentrate on Fallen Warriors. As it turned out, I spent very little time writing for the next year. An even longer gap then than there has been this year.

Still, one of my intentions of keeping this blog is to make myself publically accountable for achieving my goals.

This blog has helped!

I included two work goals in my original 100:

Goal 9 To get Oracle iBots/Scheduler working in live environment
Goal 10 To enable all managers to use the Act As Proxy functionality

These were very specific work goals that I had agreed with my then manager I would complete. In a way, I had already written down my intentions to achieve these goals but I wanted to include them in my personal list as I felt this would give them more prominence in my thoughts. I feel that because I had included these, I did actually place these goals as a higher priority and was able to achieve them in good time. For anyone reading this who isn't familiar with Oracle Business Intelligence, iBots/Scheduler is a facility that can be set up to allow Oracle reports to be emailed to business users. It can also be linked to predefined targets allowing reports to be emailed only if a business target is met or perhaps more importantly, if a target is not met.

Act As Proxy functionality is similar in that is is available within Oracle Business Intelligence but requires the facility to be set up. As the name suggest, once enabled, it allows administrator users to 'act as' another user, to see what they are seeing and from a support point of view, makes the administrators life a lot simpler.

Goal 39 To finish the little DIY jobs in the kitchen

I had forgotten about this goal. I finished those jobs and our kitchen does look a whole lot better! There are a few other DIY goals on my list which I need to place as higher priority fairly soon!

Goal 46 To take my son camping every year

Having this written down as a goal, I made an effort to take my son camping this spring. It was just one night but we both enjoyed it. I have found myself questioning whether I should have this as a goal. Surely I should just be able to do this. But, in the end I come down to concluding that yes, absolutely! Anything that helps me and reminds me to spend time with my kids is worth having.

Goal 97 To finish writing these goals! Tonight!

WooHoo! That was an easy one. Well, a year on it seems easy. I do recall feeling utterly jaded with this list when I first wrote it and struggling to come up with anything else that I wanted to achieve.

One year on I think that writing out one hundred goals has proved worth doing. I am making progress. I've had some successes. Even my failures, as friends have pointed out, also show achievement as it is only when one attempts a goal that one can fail at it. I am willing to fail because I am determined to succeed.

Fallen down, picking up

Goals, goals, goals... Sometimes they can feel like a burden.The first of November today, a Monday. Perfect timing for picking up work on Fallen Warriors.

I set the alarm for seven this morning thinking I might get up early and then put it on snooze for half an hour. When I was working I would jump out of bed at six.

I've been procrastinating ever since I got up. Hanging out washing, studying for my writers course, even writing this blog entry... I'm actually feeling scared. If you look at the website I set up for my novel, I haven't written anything towards Fallen Warriors since April this year. That's over six months.

The only fiction I've written has been towards my first assignment for the Creative Writing course and that was in the last two weeks.

But, even though I'm scared, intimidated even at the thought of delving into the challenges of finishing a novel, I know I'm taking part in a marathon which only requires me to write a small amount each day. 100 words, five days a week, fifty weeks a year and in less than two years now I will have written 100,000 words.

I can do this.

Any encouragement anyone wants to give me will also be a great help!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A year of goals...

I finished my first assignment tonight for the Creative Writers course I'm doing. I actually wrote some fiction for the first time in many months.

I realised that in a weeks time I will have been blogging about my 100 goals for a year. It seems like a good time to begin to review where I'm at.

Looking over my goals there are three that I can confidently say I failed to achieve!

Goal 36 To have written 50,000 words for my novel by 31st December 2009
This was a failure. By the end of December last year I had only just passed 40,000 words. This was still way ahead of my original target of 25,000 words in a year and I think I had simply pushed myself to hard. I managed 50,000 words by February this year but was aware that I had run out of steam. I think I was going through writers block. I am planning to start work on Fallen Warriors again next week but will need to look at what I've written so far and decide how to progress with it.

Goal 55 To get the highest grade pass for the next Open University course I am taking
This has been another failure. I got an average of 75 percent pass for my course work assignments which is 10 percent short of a top level pass. No matter what I get in the exam, I can't get higher than a grade 2 pass. I have to say that I am not disapointed. I chose to cut back on study at several points as I had hardly seen my family in between work and study. Also there were quite a few seven day weeks to get that course work finished. However, I'm glad I set it as a goal. I would have been disapointed with lower grades in the course work and aiming higher I know I got more from the course.

Goal 69 To tidy the garden and grow vegetables in it in 2010
I would be ashamed to post a picture of our garden right now. I started so well with this goal but somewhere in March or April I let this goal go completely and a lot of seedlings I had so carefully planted were left to wither. Not good. Still, there is always next year!

There have been a few successes goal wise, more about them tomorrow...

Monday, 25 October 2010

Who's afraid of the big bad global warming crisis?

Not me, not since I saw the Channel 4 documentary: The Great Global Warming Swindle some years back.

I've edited the rest of this post as when I wrote it last night I had it in mind that volcano's played a big part in the documentary but watching some of it this morning that has proved wrong!

You can watch the documentary online through this link:

Just finished reading Michael Crichton's State Of Fear novel. I can't believe how many references he included, now I'm going to have to look them up!

Anyone else read the novel or have a take on global warming?

Just for the record, I would abandon all legislation surrounding reducing carbon emissions; would concentrate on improving efficiency and reducing pollution and waste to as close to zero as we can get; and stop interfering with how other countries use coal, oil or wood. Probably. I have no idea what I would do if I had any power to change legislation. That's not totally true, I would want to question and research it myself.

And as I got the topic of volcanoes wrong I did a quick online search. While looking up volcanoes I found a few interesting links. I love the Information is Beautiful website. This page has a link to a spreadsheet that implies volcanoes come nowhere near mankind in generating CO2:

Friday, 22 October 2010

Someones dream come true...

I'm going to have to change at least one of my goals. I didn't include owning an island in the original list but every time I see one for sale, and yes I do keep my eye out for them, I get a rush of excitement. I saw this advertised in MoneyWeek: For sale: Out Skerries Estate, 620 acre today.

Offers over £250,000. That is a figure that I can reach out and touch, well, in my dreams.

I can pull together £1,000 at short notice, would another 249 people be able to do the same and see if we can grab it?


Went climbing with a friend last night who introduced me to the concept of building momentum. He showed me that when reaching for a hold that is a long stretch or leap of faith, it often helps to build momentum by consolidating ones position, crouching down from a point of security and then starting the stretch or leap from that secure point and using the momentum to propel oneself that bit higher.

It was one of those moments of insight where it made perfect sense for the situation but I could see it having a far wider application. Education, business, faith, sport, even war!

Sticking with climbing for now, I tried applying the technique yesterday evening and I think it helped. Time will tell but I did achieve solid grips on an overhanging lead climb that I think I would have otherwise struggled with. What it didn't do anything for was my physical strength. I simply have not been exercising. I reached the lip of the overhang and could go no further. I hate falling and managed to climb down a little but turned the air blue as I finally let go and fell a couple of metres.

My goal number 8 is to climb the (lead climbing) overhang in Glasgow Climbing Center. I've twice gotten a third of the way up. I think my technique is improving but I need to work on my strength and stamina.
Back to press ups and weights this morning. To achieve goal number 8 I need to consolidate my physical strength and stamina and I believe that will allow me to apply momentum to getting to the top.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

A dress is unique

Could any parents be cruel enough to name their twins the same?

Perhaps it would not be cruel. Disturbing? Showing a lack of care? Certainly a lack of imagination. Maybe I've designed too many databases but I find unique identifiers interesting. In theory ones name, date of birth and address are all that is needed to uniquely identify an individual. In the world of databases though, that is just too much data.

From addresses to a dress. Being unemployed is giving me more time to spend with my wife. We went clothes shopping today, specifically looking for a dress she can wear to a wedding in a couple of weeks.

For most of our marriage, clothes shopping is something I've tried to avoid. Having had no training or useful advice on the activity I've stumbled through each occasion building up an increasing aversion.

Something seemed to click today though and I quite enjoyed the first few hours. My wife is beautiful and we found quite a few dresses that she looked stunning in. We really should have stopped for lunch though as a coffee and snack just didn't provide me with the stamina for the rest of the afternoon. Still, we came home with a dress that she looks gorgeous in.

I decided not to pursue the role in the Persian Gulf. Thanks for your comments Frank and Dan. I think writing the blog post helped me crystalise my thoughts and focus in on what is important - my family. Still, seeing the news yesterday about planned cuts made me wonder if I've made the right choice. Only time will tell.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A gulf apart

I was not expecting an agency to call this morning and tell me about a contract opportunity in the Persian Gulf. They need someone with my skills apparently, someone who can train and mentor; someone who can walk into a new situation, make sense of it and provide the client with meaningful information; someone who is expert in Excel and working with large volumes of raw data.

As Dr. Seuss would have said, "Somebody, somebody, has to you see..."

Its quite a dilema. I could apply for the role. I would like to. It appeals to my sense of adventure. I've never been to the Middle East. All that desert and dry air... Despite having been brought up on an island, I've never been too enamoured by rain.

Oh, and the daily rate is very good, double what I was getting only a month ago, flights and accommodation included...

There are significant downsides though, I would be away from my wife and children for two to three months. That is a huge downside. I've worked away for a much shorter time, only three weeks, and though I don't recall uttering the words myself, I believe my wife when she reminded me I said never again!

It is incredibly lonely to be away from ones family for a long time. My kids will change in that time and I will miss it. Why did I write will? Spirit of the adventurer rises again.

Of my 100 goals, Goals 19 through 26 are all about my family. Would pursuing this role make it easier or harder for me to be a good father, to be a loving and faithful husband? Undoubtably harder. These are just a small subset, eight out of one hundred goals and yet my family are more important to me than doubling my income or experiencing an adventure.

I need to decide today whether to pursue this role. Any opinions would be appreciated.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Shetland weather

I used to own a T Shirt with a weather map of Shetland showing sun, snow, rain and wind. The slogan was Forecast Shetland, Outlook Changable...

Went back to the Isles last week to celebrate my parents fortieth wedding anniversary. It was good to spend time with them and also to relax a little after the stress of the exam.

The weather was mostly wet and windy but we did get a couple of calmer days and it is these days I remember when I think of Shetland. The above photo was taken at the back of Mavis Grind. An ugly quarry which hides some picturesque scenes and the spot where the North Sea almost meets the Atlantic.

My wife and I managed to walk out past the bay and sat and enjoyed the Atlantic waves crashing on the rocks.
 Back to reality today, signing on once more and calling recruitment agencies...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


T306 has what was described as a reflective exam. I need to wait until mid December to find out if I understood what that means in practice. Still, it is now over. Reflecting on my reflective exam I found it scarily easy. Sure, I've spent the last month in some enjoyable contemplation but I've been taught to expect sitting exams to be hard and I found that I was never lost for words. Three hours of constant writing and the only real worry was cramp. It will be fantastic if I get a good result and a slightly disappointing relief if I just pass but for once, I do feel coming out of the exam that I know the course better for having prepared for the exam, and not just as a know it for the day situation.

The day of the exam

The day of the exam
Subdued panic soon over
Orange trees are still

Systems exam is from 2:30pm till 5:30pm. Hopefully my last OU exam as Creative Writing is just course work!

I pass this exam and I am just nine months away from achieving one of my three life goals - to get a degree.

Monday, 11 October 2010


Had my first day school for Creative Writing at the weekend. Lot of fun though it meant another Saturday away from the family. Have committed to avoiding all study on Saturday's for next few months.

We have an online tutorial this week, discussing and composing Kaiku poetry. I won't be able to contribute until after the exam and won't be blogging much this week either but here is my first ever haiku. Feel free to leave any comments or your own haiku in response.

Tayvallich road
Golden leaves fall to hard earth
Car stops dead. "Hi Coo"

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Impressive efficiency

I signed on this week. On Monday. After my experiences in the spring I took advice and signed on as soon as my contract ended. My expectation is that I will find a new contract within a month of signing on! I don't know why that is but it sure does seem to motivate me to find a new contract.

I didn't expect to be asked to attend a signing on interview within an hour of phoning. At least I was dressed!

The job centre even had all my details stored which saved over two hour of answering mind numbing questions about our financial status. I was very impressed.

Anyway, four days in and I now have a telephone interview booked for tomorrow. A VBA specialist role working with Microsoft Access and Visual Basic macros. I love spreadsheets. It says so on my mug. No-one's bought me one that says I love databases but I would drink out of it if they did :)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Who dares wins!

What a morning! Three wasps found their way into our bathroom. Our children have been a bit freaked out by a wasp infestation in our roof. No-ones been stung but every other day they find a dead or half dead wasp in one of their bedrooms. I didn't want to leave the wasps for the children to find so had a mad five minutes trying to wack them, hoping I didn't wake anyone up and that I wouldn't miss my train.

Made it into Edinburgh and was unconcerned about the pouring rain until a bus swerved towards the lane next to the pavement and hit a massive puddle dead centre! I've laughed at people getting soaked in similar ways on TV. never expected to get caught myself.

Drying out before work, I decided to cash in some shares that had jumped 20 percent this morning. CAZA oil released positive news. Only, I got greedy. I though the shares would rise higher than 34p before re-tracing. I set a stop loss at 36p only to watch the price start to slip back, 33p, 32.5p. I then tried to sell and couldn't until 30.5p. Almost as soon as I'd sold, the price moved up again. I eventually decide to buy back in but even that seems to have been a mistake as the share price is now drifting South once more!

I'm in admiration of other traders who seem to read the signs correctly, selling near a peak, then buying back into a share they trust has a long term future once it has gone back down. If done well, one can increase their holding in a share substantially which results in greater profits in the long term.

I still have a lot to learn, especially about discipline! Still, I can't help setting new goals. Thinking about the plan to earn a million in ten trades, I realised I had not factored in tax or fees. I would want to spread the risk as well and so would pay more in fees as earnings increased. Level 2 share dealing would probably be neccessary after a while and it is slightly more realistic to imagine doubling value over a year, rather as over a single trade.

Year Start Value
Level 2
Year End Value

Start of Year 1
End of Year 1
Start of Year 2
End of Year 2
Start of Year 3
End of Year 3
Start of Year 4
End of Year 4
Start of Year 5
End of Year 5
Start of Year 6
End of Year 6
Start of Year 7
End of Year 7
Start of Year 8
End of Year 8
Start of Year 9
End of Year 9
Start of Year 10
End of Year 10
Start of Year 11
End of Year 11

It is still a dream goal but who dares wins, right?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Who wants to be a millionaire?

Goal 16: To be a millionaire

It is such a nice round number. Back when I was ten and day dreamed about having so much free cash, a million pounds would have been worth a lot more, but, back then, there was less to spend it on!

A post on Interactive Investors CAZA discussion board this evening sparked off a thought. If I have £1,000 to invest, it would only take ten trades where each trade doubled my money to reach £1,000,000.

1 £2,000
2 £4,000
3 £8,000
4 £16,000
5 £32,000
6 £64,000
7 £128,000
8 £256,000
9 £512,000
10 £1,024,000

I immediately saw a flaw in this wonderful scenario, once one gets to trading over £10K, it becomes harder to trade at the normal share price. One has to contact a stockbroker and place an order which the stockbroker will try and complete. The price is agreed with the stockbroker and depending on a lot of factors, will be higher than someone with only a few thousand pounds could automatically trade at.

Note that I didn't see this as just being a complete fantasy! I think it would be incredibly difficult to do, even though two of my trades have now more than doubled in the last year. If I was fortunate enough in trading to get to above £100K, it would be nerve wracking to risk all of that during each higher trade. Perhaps nerve wracking enough that someone would make a TV show about it, or has that already been done?

Still, I think this may be an interesting goal to pursue. I'm not going to raid my pension pot but if I can scrabble together a thousand pounds, I'll let you know how it goes.