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 :)