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 Most share data one sees online is at least 15 minutes out of date.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
-£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
-£903.43
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
-£1,913.13
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
-£1,791.87
26/10/10 Buy BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 46829 4.80p £2,271.98
-£4,063.85
26/10/10 Buy BERKELEY MINERAL R ORD GBP0.01 44297 5.05p £2,258.14
-£6,321.99
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
-£6,321.69
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: http://www.dreaded-apostrophe.com/. 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!