Saturday, 22 May 2010


Goal 34: To finish and complete my degree

The sun is shining and I am inside studying :(

Current block is on managing sustainable development. One of the models reminded me of a blog:, I think I came across through a comment left by the author on a BBC online article.

I found the blog quite dense and hard going but am still fascinated by what I understand to be the authors main argument: Most econonomic theory for the last thousand years or longer is fundamentally flawed...

The author of the blog does propose a 'better' system: NEFS (Net Export Financial System) which I interpret to mean, accept that money is an illusion and create it as and when neccessary to stimulate the economy.(If you have a more accurate interpretation, I would appreciate your view :)

I seem to recall the Stainless Steel Rat being flumoxed by a similar system, but that's another story...

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Plan

Goal 0: Keep working

I'm on the train, on my way to work. I am tired after staying up too late again trying to install An evaluation edition of Business Objects. I find tiredness easier to cope with than stress, such as Being stressed last month trying to secure a new contract.

I was successful and all being well, this contract should last till August. But, after my last contract wasd extended again and again, it was a shock to be out of work, eventually signing on and facing up to the possibility it could be some time.

As one does during moments of crisis, I eventually formulated a cunning plan. Fortunately I never had the chance to implement it but I'm determined to make some progress towards it this month.

Quite simply, I'm planning to develop my own test database system with Business Objects reporting environment and post a few white papers or how to documents on my web site to demonstrate my skills.

This has mainly been prompted by feedback from one interview where I was told I came across really well but just didn't have enough experience. Red rag meets stubborn bull time :)

They were right, by the way. I knew, during the interview, that I didn't have enough experience. As you would expect, we had a very open discussion about it. But, the fact is, like many people, I excel in gaining experience once I'm in a role. The only problem with Business Objects (you'll understand why I don't use the acronym) is its relative inaccessability to anyone not already using it.

This has been my experience over the last few weeks trying to install an evaluation version. To be fair to SAP, my lack of knowledge of their wider product suite slowed me down. It did not help though when numerous product keys emailed by SAP failed to open the software!

Some helpful guys on their forum sorted this out though and last night the install worked.

Next step, design a system to report on.

Hopefully this will all be worth it next time I'm looking for a new contract!

Monday, 17 May 2010

The price of gold

Goal 3: To save enough to be able to retire

Did anyone watch BBC3's: Blood, Sweat and Luxuries last week? It is on iPlayer for those in the UK.

I currently own a few shares in one gold mining company in Azerbijan and one exploration company with rights to a region in Ghana. All part of my plan to invest and eventually save enough to be able to retire.

The BBC documentary made for fascinating but disturbing watching. Dozens of local people carrying kilos of earth up a hill for hours on end. After two days, almost dying through heat exhaustion, the poor Britons with them had carried 400 baskets which netted only a few grams of gold!

I've read dozens of company reports over the past year, trying to get my head round statements such as this:

Tonnage Grade Contained Gold
Measured 3,032,617 1.61(g/t) 157,298 (ozs)

The headline figure is what I've concentrated on: gold at $1,200 per oz times 157 thousand ounces is a lot of money.

But, if it takes ten people two days to shift a ton of earth to get 1.61 grams of gold...

It really puts it in perspective. 

I know many mining companies will use machinery as they intend to extract the gold in quantities to make it worthwhile as a business and I also know this has its own potential downside as intensive mining has greater potential to disrupt the environment.

I missed the beginning and haven't had time to watch it online, but I gathered that one of the supervisors or possibly owners of the mine supports 17 family members with the small amount of gold mined.

The documentary raised a lot of questions for me. What can I do to encourage the companies I invest in to protect and benefit the local population? Is it better not to invest in these companies? Or is it better to be involved and try and make a difference through that involvement?

What do you think?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Viable Systems Model

Goal 34: To finish and complete my degree

I've just submitted my third TMA of my current Open University course. It is a huge relief to have handed this in on time. There are five blocks of course material in this course: T306 Managing complexity: a systems approach. Five TMA's directly related one to each block and two further TMA's as a project. Then a final exam in October...

I was not looking forward to this Block or TMA at all. Despite being out of work this month, I have filled my time with job hunting and found everything else rather difficult to concentrate on. Strangely enough though, I found having to rush to read the middle section of this block quite helpful.

As part of looking at viable systems, the course dicusses the role of authority and power in relation to autonomy. Having worked for some organizations where I was told I had autonomy, and then having had that autonomy taken away, it was an interesting read.

It became more interesting when it moved onto criticism and blame verses feedback. I know that I can be quite critical, even though I dislike criticism myself, and it was good to see some methods that can be used to break a cycle of criticism.

All in all, I had to force myself to stop reflecting and keep reading which in the end gave me a better overview than I might have had.

I start work tomorrow on a three month contract. I suspect that the next three months will be easier despite having less time, but watch this space...

Friday, 7 May 2010

Tarred and feathered

Goal 85: To pay off all my debts

I’m not in favour of a hung parliament. I prefer the idea of tarring and feathering them all instead.

I've just listened to David Cameron's speech, 2:30pm on 7 May 2010. My opinion - this was a speech by a leader. If you read my post yesterday, I did not vote for the Conservative party. At the risk of being lynched in Labour dominated Scotland, I think Cameron might have just swung the situation in his favour. More importantly, possibly in the countries favour too.

If you do not like Conservative or Liberal Democratic policies, start writing to your MP and to whoever does manage to form a government. Don't even wait for a government, start emailing and letting them know you care. The one overriding result of this election is a message to politicians that it is the people who appoint them and who they are there to serve. Politicians need to listen to us more.

I have to give a caveat to this, personally, I don't think any party can ever implement universally 'fair' or 'just' policies since whatever they do will have a negative impact on some sector of the population. So, to some extent, we have to push politicians to make good and wise choices, even if some of those make our lives harder.

The biggest issues facing us as a country just now? Greed and waste! We have spent far more than we have and borrowed to do it. If we do not stop spending more than our income and start paying off this debt, we will suffer for it.

I want the government to publish where our taxes are spent. I suspect that if we really saw where our money goes, most of us would not mind cuts in so called 'public' services.

What do you think?

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Who has the longest ladder?

Goal 89: To change laws for the better

When I want to vote for none of the above parties and I don't live in Chingford or Woodford Green, what do I do?

I noticed the party posters above on a lamp post outside our polling station. Who do you vote for? The party with the longest ladder?

No, but for other reasons let me confess to having voted for a party whose main manifesto policy I strongly disagree with. I am Scottish and enjoy being associated with Braveheart and Freedom! But, I am not proud of being Scottish at the expense of being glad of being part of a United Kingdom. I agree with many who say Scotland is stronger for being part of a union.

If the SNP ever manage to hold a referendum for Scotland to break away from the UK, I plan to vote against such a break up. I cannot claim to be voting for any of their major policies. I feel the UK needs a change and none of the three major parties seem to be offering the change I am looking for. I will not vote for the socialist party and as there are no other options, I have voted for the SNP.

May God have mercy on my soul!

If you are willing to share, who did you vote for?

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Austerity Measures

Goal 49: To have earned £40,000 by the end of this year

We took a long hard look at our expenses last weekend. We have a little income each month and combining this with our savings, we can last a few more months if we cut out all ‘luxuries.’ Our kids allowances have been halved in May and they have been warned we might need to stop even this next month.

‘Luxuries’ include putting money aside for things like next years MOT and home insurance… But, what can one do? The fact that we had been putting money aside, though never as much as we really could, has meant we now have a few months grace until I can get a contract.

I can’t imagine what it must be like for anyone who has already reached the point where all savings have gone. Well, I can, I just don’t want to. But, it’s in my nature to consider the worst case scenario and while it would not be pretty, bankruptcy would not be the end of the world. We’re a long way from that though.

I have a plan and it doesn’t involve spending our way out of this recession!

I’ve pretty much switched off to the election debates apart from discussing it with friends. None of the political parties seem to be anywhere near addressing the main issues as I see it: £1 trillion in debt and an annual budget that defies belief of £700 billion.

Sure, the only way to deal with either of these issues will involve cutting huge amounts from public spending and that will result in job losses. But, surely it must be possible to enforce a cost efficiency drive that cuts out the ‘luxuries’ in public spending. Here’s some thoughts:
  • Cut salaries of MP’s and senior civil servants first and the hardest!
  • Identify exactly where we are spending money and allow the public to decide if we really want to continue doing so.
  • Are we wasting money on arts, or dare I say it, IT projects?
  • Could we cull some consultancy fees?
  • Could we limit travel expenses?
There must be hundreds of billions that could be trimmed from our annual expenditure. Yes, it would result in some job losses, but if we could start paying off that £1 trillion in debt, maybe we could eventually be debt free and just think much we could reduce tax by then…

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


Goal 96: To stand on top of Ben Nevis

After the stresses of last week, it was great to join some friends and former colleagues yesterday who were climbing The Cobbler near Arrocher, Scotland.

I persuaded my family to join us, assuring my wife that I would not leave her behind with our kids and would not spend the whole day reminiscing.

The Cobbler is not a high mountain, under 900 metres, but it does have an incredible summit which is a climbers paradise. I did have some ambitions of bouldering near the summit but having committed myself to a family friendly day, we ended up stopping just after half way, enjoying the view and taking our twelve, nine and four year olds back down before it got too late and they got too exhausted.

I took the picture above from the top of a rather large boulder that did allow me to get some climbing out of my system.

On the way back down, I got a call from my colleagues who had reached the summit. It was a great day and our kids did magnificently. They may even be persuaded to join us again some time...Ben Nevis here we come!