Thursday, 12 December 2013

100,000 words - a shout out

I reached a major milestone today, passing 100,000 words written on my novel.

I've known for weeks, maybe months that this would only be a milestone and would not signify the completion of my goal to publish a novel.

How many words is enough? Every novel is different but I know the story is far from over and so I need to continue writing until it is complete.

Back in 2009 I wrote about my plan to succeed as a writer. It seemed like a good plan at the time and certainly enabled me to flesh out large parts of the plot I'm now using. I've followed a different plan since May this year and that's enabled me to keep momentum going. But that plan has started to become unworkable as work and family and other commitments have taken over my week.

I've set a new goal. A new target of 150,000 words. I've a new deadline to achieve this by and need a new plan to carve out time to write.

But for now, I'm going to give myself a virtual pat on the back and celebrate.

May you continue to find strength and time to work on your goals.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

To Sharon and Mike - Microsucks crack hack team

I happen to know a couple called Sharon and Mike. Good friends of ours over many years. This post is not about them.

I think I first spoke to Sharon some months ago when she ever so helpfully called me to say Microsoft had uncovered a virus on my PC.

I was quite rude to her - assuming it was Sharon. I actually cursed her. I don't mean swore at her, I literally cursed her. I believe in the power of blessings and curses and although I rarely curse, that seemed like an appropriate occasion.

She called again this morning. I was in a much better mood and so decided to handle the call differently. [Perhaps it was a different Sharon, would she really be calling me back again after I was so rude the last time?]

What's that you said, there's a virus on my computer? Oh My! Malicious software? Oh dear!

(She was so helpful, Sharon was. She said she worked for Microsoft and they had been informed there was a virus and dangerous software on my PC and she was calling to help. I listened with a degree of patience.)

Was my computer on? (She asked.)

I said I would turn it on.

(I went and boiled the kettle. My wife came down, a perplexed expression on her face from overhearing one side of the conversation.)

(I smiled and whispered and then went back to the phone.) Just a few minutes, maybe this is why my computer's been so slow...

(I made tea for my wife and No Caf for myself. (There's a story I've been meaning to tell about that but maybe later...))

(Then went back to the phone.)

Is the computer on?

Yes.

Okay, I'm just going to transfer you to our support team. On the other side of the office.

(Sounds of chairs scraping across a floor. Whispered conversation. (We've got a live one?))

Hello.

Hello.

This is Mike. I'll be helping you today.

So kind of you Mike.

Have you got icons on your screen.

Yes.

What can you see on your screen?

A hill. (Okay. I can be an annoying git. I admit it.)

(Silence.) Can you seen icons?

Yes.

On the left?

Well, some of them are on the right.

What can you see on the screen.

(I struggle with this. What is he asking me?) A hill. (I answer.) And blue sky.

Okay. What operating system are you using?

Windows 97. (I used to get this answer a lot when I worked in IT support.)

Can you click on the four pane window button and hold down the R key.

(I actually lost him at this point. Four pane window button? Okay, I know how to answer that.)

Yes.

What do you see?

The Start menu.

No, hold down the R key and press the Four pane window button.

(Ah, not something I've ever done but does this open the Run dialog?)

Okay.

What do you see?

The Run window.

Okay, in the white box... (No need to be patronizing!)  type www.

Okay

go.gl

g o g l

No, go.gl

Okay

/339bx [!!! Warning - I may have misheard the guy but on no account try typing that web address into your computer!!!]

Okay

Then this will take you to a web page.

Wow (I replied) You're going to have to spell that for me, that's a long web site address.

No. type www.go.gl/339bx (I think that was what he said and yet again - DO NOT TRY THIS ADDRESS AT HOME!) [P.S. If anyone had the time to help me set up a reverse hack to identify these people I would love to hear from you!]

Okay, have you done that...

(At which point my patience and sense of fun both evaporated quite quickly. Maybe something to do with the fact I'd finished my drink. Maybe I'd just had enough of wasting my time. Whatever, I dropped the act.)

No. You should be ashamed of yourself. Trying to install a virus or malicious software on my PC! (I got quite snappy with him, this man pretending to be Mike. Pretending to help me while actually installing a Trojan or worse on my computer. Was he looking to steal my credit card details? My identity? Or maybe just turn my computer into a Zombie which could be sold to the highest bidder.)

Are you playing with me. (He asked. Yes, I had been. Wasting his time as he and "Sharon" had wasted mine except I wasn't also trying to steal anything from him.)

I hung up before he had a chance to and took a deep breath. I hadn't done any real good. Maybe delayed these scum for a few minutes in their attempts to break into my online world.

I didn't curse either of them this time, though maybe I should have. Perhaps I just couldn't bring myself to as what they are doing is no worse than GCHQ and the NSA. Hacking into our private lives. Stealing our data. Making our chance of online privacy that less likely.

My own Government, run by David Cameron and Nick Clegg (with the complicity of Ed Miliband) continues to demand the right to spy on me and you and my children because... Why? None of their reasons add up. The more they break online encryption the less secure my bank account becomes. The more the employ outside contractors to troll the Tera bits of data they accrue on you and I, the more likely it will get stolen.

Their protestations that Terrorists will be scared into hiding their illicit activities is a foolish sham. The real danger has always been from people who know how to hide what they are doing and those people are not going to be caught by sniffing every packet of data that is routed from here to the U.S.

As Isaac Asimov once wrote, Welcome to the goldfish bowl. Orwell warned that Big Brother is watching you. It doesn't matter how savvy I am in recognizing attempts to hack onto my computer. The State is already hacking my data right now and has been for years. It's enough to steal anyone's good mood.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Love my neighbour

I very occasionally teach at my local church. It is something that all Christians are encouraged to aspire to. When I do teach I usually quite enjoy it. At least I do now. When I started I got cold sweats and palpitations. (I'm not really sure what palpitations are but they seem to sound like what I experienced ;)

Part of the reason I enjoy it now is that I've developed a style which is much more conversational. I don't believe teaching means I have to stand behind a pulpit and lecture. No, teaching that I benefit from is interactive.

If I'm being taught I like to ask questions. I like to disagree. And when I'm teaching I now encourage discussion and conversation. I find that much more natural (and less scary) and it seems to work better for groups I'm teaching as well.

I used to hand write out what I was going to say: word for word. I will still sometimes write out passages I want to say and aspire to one day be able to memorize and simply be able to confidently speak without referring to notes. But that can wait for a day when I've got time.

I'm teaching tomorrow and all I've basically done is to look up the occurrence of the word neighbour (or neighbor in some versions) in the book of Proverbs. Turns out there are quite a few - though not as many as the word poor but I'll get back to that.

I quite like researching a topic (in case you hadn't worked that out by now) and this seemed like an interesting one. So why did I pick Proverbs? Well - it is one of the easiest ways to get a handle on what God is saying.

Proverbs is called the book of wisdom for a reason. If you've never read the bible it might be worth starting with Proverbs. (I'd recommend Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the best first books to read but Proverbs is a close fifth...) It always surprises me how much of our every day language comes straight out of the bible and an awful lot is from Proverbs.

Our church is focusing on the concept of love your neighbour this year. It seems highly relevant given the way everybody I know is struggling financially. Our church runs a food bank - Bethlehem House of Bread and there is a consistent need for it.

I often associate Jesus words about loving your neighbour with helping the poor but is that really all he meant? I expected the proverbs about neighbours to be connected to poverty but it turns out that just isn't true. I found four main themes regarding neighbours in Proverbs:
  • Be generous
  • Do unto others as you would have them do to you
  • Persistence can result in change
  • Some neighbors are to be avoided at all costs!
And of those four the vast majority were of the "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" variety. Only two connected with generosity out of eighteen. So, when Jesus said "Love your neighbour" did he have the Proverbs in mind? Certainly, his parable about the good Samaritan can be read that way.

Here are most of those verses:

Be generous
Proverbs 3:28
Say not unto your neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when you have it with you.
Proverbs 14:21
He that despises his neighbour sins: but he that has mercy on the poor, happy is he.

Do unto others as you would have them do to you
Proverbs 3:29
Devise not evil against your neighbour, seeing he dwells securely by you.
Proverbs 11:9
A hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.
Proverbs 11:12
He that is void of wisdom despises his neighbour: but a man of understanding holds his peace.
Proverbs 24:28
Be not a witness against your neighbour without cause; and deceive not with your lips.
Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did.”
Proverbs 25:7-9
What you have seen with your eyes do not bring hastily to court, for what will you do in the end if your neighbor puts you to shame?

Proverbs 26:18-20
Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”
 
Proverbs 27:10
Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you - better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.

Proverbs 27:14
If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.

Persistence can result in change
Proverbs 6:1-3
My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth.
So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:
Go - to the point of exhaustion - and give your neighbor no rest!

Some neighbors are to be avoided at all costs!
Proverbs 16:29
A violent man entices his neighbour, and leads him into the way that is not good.
Proverbs 17:18
One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor.
Proverbs 21:10
The soul of the wicked desires evil: his neighbour finds no favour in his eyes.
Proverbs 29:5
A man that flatters his neighbour spreads a net for his feet.


So, the above verses are from Proverbs. They're all connected to the concept of neighbours. I'm not going to tell you what to think about all this - I want you to tell me. So go on, discuss!

[All verses above are copied from Bible Gateway:
King James Version in plain text
NIV in bold
Thanks to Biblica regarding terms of use of copyright for NIV text:
http://www.biblica.com/biblica-about-us/terms-of-use/
I have paraphrased the KJV to remove thees and thous etc.]

P.S. My Goal 68 is: To have my neighbours round for a meal.
I haven't forgotten!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Buggers

[Contains major plot spoilers for Ender's Game]

It's not often I get to see a movie the night it opens, still less I've been waiting 25 years for the movie!

Opening in the UK today, (I can't believe we're getting it before the US) Ender's Game has been a science fiction classic since the book was published in 1985.

I fell in love with the book as a teenager. Like Harry Potter caught kids of a decade ago and the Hunger Games over the last few years I was hooked on Ender's Game from the first page.

I'm too involved with this story to give an unbiased review. Ender's Game utterly rocks but I don't know how to sell it. The fact is that is hard to sell a movie to adults where the star is a 12 year old boy. Hard to sell a movie to kids when that 12 year old boy displays psychopathic tendencies and uses extreme violence only to be rewarded when he does so.

Maybe this explains the almost complete lack of popular knowledge of the book. Though is it possible that The Hunger Games and similar books only actually caught on once the movie was released?

I took my two eldest kids to see Ender's Game. I read the novel to my seven year old daughter last year. Child killings and all. She loved it and wanted to go see the movie, however having sat through those same two killings on screen I'm not at all sure when I'll let her see it. Maybe we'll do the same as we did with The Hobbit: show her an edited version.

Ender's Game is a powerful story. The movie did extremely well to compress the most important plot points into such a short film. Everything key to the book is there. They even managed to include dozens of homages to extended scenes in the book.

Although as a teenager I initially focused on the battle school and command school sections of the book for the awesome complexity of the games and the possibilities they offered; I re-read the book again and again as an adult for the psychological complexity. The cruel manipulation of a child by ruthless authorities; the fact that the child - Ender - knows he is being manipulated, fights back and yet in the end goes along with it since he realises he is needed; the concept of a child grasping that a warrior must understand his enemy and that to truly understand the enemy one must love that enemy.

The film manages to include a much reduced but still enjoyable set of Zero G battles and command school battles. The graphics are excellent. And the film also manages to emphasize the emotional and psychological battles that are taking place.

I wondered if they would leave out the beginning when Ender loses his monitor, an alien device that allows Graff to see what Ender sees; to feel what he feels; to hear his thoughts. But no, they leave that in. I wondered if they would leave out the ending where Ender hunts for and finds the queen but no, they include that as well.

Everything important was left in, at least, everything important to the overall story. The complex relationship Ender has with Bean in the book was reduced to a few homages. The same as Ender's relationship with his launch squad and the other commanders.

I guess I only had two disappointments with the film. The first was the politically correct refusal to use the word bugger. Why? Is it due to the sexual connotation of the word? Or the use of the word as a curse? For either reason, bugger is what everyone in the book called the formics. Bugs, buggers. Giant ant like creatures that ironically attacked us first since they thought we were not sentient; just ants to be stood on.

This concept is subtly but brilliantly shown in the film. Whether it is obvious without having read the book I can't say but in case you've seen the film and have some questions, here are a few answers...

The ansible in formic technology that humans captured after the first invasion. It is instantaneous communication and the buggers use it to speak to each other across the galaxy in real time. It is in effect an extension of their own form of telepathy.

The humans use the ansible in the film to communicate and direct the battles in real time across the galaxy but what they don't realise is that the system is still directly plugged into the buggers home world. The buggers are in effect hacked into the entire human network without the humans realising it.

The buggers attempt to use this to communicate with Ender through his mind game (another scene that young kids may find disturbing) to great effect.

My second disappointment was the ending which felt flat. Maybe my expectations were just too high. I'd be interested to see what you think after watching the film. I'm not sure how else they could have done it since it was true to the books ending but even so, I wanted something more rousing to leave the cinema with.

However there was so much complexity and emotional depth to the characters that I will want to watch it again. Asa Butterfield was utterly convincing as Ender. He was absolutely the right person to play him.

Harrison Ford was also excellent as Graff. The wooden voice over which marred the trailers was left behind the moment he was allowed to act and he played the role of manipulator well.

Viola Davis as Anderson was also amazing. Casting "her" was an inspired choice as even my daughter commented on walking out of the movie. Played by a woman the emotional range of the character was far more convincing than it would have been from a man.

Ben Kingsley was perfect for Mazer Rackham. I was extremely worried that he might reprise his role from Thunderbirds but no, he played the character just right, even managing to attack his pupil in his first scene. "Only the enemy can show you where you are weak."

The changes to the plot that allowed Valentine and Petra to drive the story forward were inspired.

On a geeky note, it was amusing to hear other men in their forties walk out of the cinema discussing the relationship between Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow... Nice to know I'm not the only geek out there!

Whether the movie will become a classic of science fiction I can't say but I enjoyed it and recommend it. If you haven't read the book you can buy Ender's Game from Amazon.

Oh, and by the way, if you enjoyed Ender's Game you might enjoy the other stories set in the Ender universe. They are all quite different to Ender's Game but emotionally rich and very satisfying to find out what happens when Ender finally finds somewhere for the queen to call home...

Friday, 25 October 2013

Goal 41 progress report

I'm almost finished!

Not what I wanted to say which was... I'm finished! But it will have to do.

Goal 41: To install a shower downstairs and decorate room

The first part of that goal is complete, it's the decorating that is now taking the time. But, I've made some good progress this week and have one more day to get all those irritating last little jobs done.

Do you ever find it difficult to fully finish a DIY job? I do. Drives my wife crazy. I can live with partially finished work in the home for far longer than I should be able to. It has inspired me to write another book though...

Don't worry, I'm not taking time away from my novel or two other non-fiction books I'm working on. But I have been planning a sequel to my "best selling" eBook: 10 Plumbing tips to save you time and money.

Since I wrote the first eBook when I was half way through the project I've wanted to finish the story. I'll tell you more about it when the actual project is actually completed but since I haven't posted in a month I wanted to at least show my face.

Our shower room is now fully functional.

I've had five face to face interviews over the past three weeks and will be starting work on a new contract on Monday.

I've written over 27,000 words towards my novel.

I've made some progress on my other non-fiction books.

I've also had another coaching session with Frank Mason - check out his site: http://www.turnkeycoaching.co.uk/. It's been good having regular sessions and being forced to think about why I do things and what holds me back. But more about that later. After writing 1,900 words this morning before breakfast (that's my shout out of the day!) I need to get my stuff together and get this shower room done and dusted (well, not actually dusted... I'll leave that to the wife... Ow, what do you mean "Cheeky!")

Monday, 30 September 2013

Little by little...

It has been a month since I published my first eBook: 10 Plumbing tips to save you time and money

During this time I've managed to avoid blogging as I've concentrated on writing my novel; almost finished working on our new shower room; and sent out a couple of dozen job applications.

But I've been checking sales of my eBook as the month went on, at first daily but later weekly as the sales failed to come pouring in... ;)

Realistically, I had very low hopes. An eBook written and published in a day? Was I ever going to be a best seller?

However, the few sales I have had have been encouraging. Apart from the 300 free downloads on day one, I sold one eBook before August ended. Since then I've consistently sold one eBook each week and last week I sold three!

Not quite enough to pay for a coffee but, for a book that's only been "advertised" on this blog and in the comments section of Joe Konrath's blog, I think it's doing rather well.

What if I sold one book a week for the next ten years...?

The above sales were all through Amazon.com grossing me $0.35 a time. Times 52 that gives me $18.20. Convert that into real money... Call it £11 a year. In ten years this fun little eBook could make me over £100.

Sure, I'll have to pay taxes on that but even then I'm looking at around £90.

That's exciting, not because I'll make £90 over ten years but because by the end of this month I hope to publish another two books, both of which will be much longer and hopefully more saleable.

If I don't have a job by the end of this month I plan to also have completed my novel, something I now believe is within reach. The novel will take longer to get to a publishable stage but once released I'm expecting far better sales than for 10 Plumbing tips...

I've still got a lot to learn about self publishing. One thing I only discovered this evening, the royalty report Amazon displays when you load it up only shows Amazon.com. I needed to change a drop down to see sales in other regions!

Amazon.com 310 free downloads 7 sales
Amazon.co.uk 30 free downloads 1 sale
Amazon.de 7 free downloads 0 sales
Amazon.fr 0 free downloads 0 sales
Amazon.es 3 free downloads 0 sales
Amazon.it 3 free downloads 0 sales
Amazon.co.jp 0 free downloads 0 sales
Amazon.in 1 free downloads 0 sales
Amazon.ca 8 free downloads 0 sales
Amazon.com.br 0 free downloads 0 sales
Amazon.com.mx 2 free downloads 0 sales

So that is a total of 8 sales in the first month and 364 free downloads!

I don't know why my book has been downloaded in Mexico but not France or Japan... Maybe I need to add a section on my singing toilet...

I've also now got enough material  to publish a sequel to 10 Plumbing tips! I don't know if I'll ever have enough books on sale to make a living but I believe that supplementing my income is a real possibility.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

No 1. Best Seller in Do-It-Yourself!

Wow! There is nothing like experience to ram a point home. For years now I've been reading Joe Konrath's blog: A Newbie's Guide to Publishing and he has talked about his experience of experimenting with different prices for his eBooks; special offers; and free pricing - all to see what has the best sales results for one book and overall.

His conclusion is that offering one eBook for free can result in enormous interest in your work which then goes onto have a positive sales impact on your other books.

I have only published one book but already my eyes have been opened.

I'm currently sitting at number one in the two categories I selected for my eBook: 10 Plumbing tips to save you time and money
  • #1 in Kindle Store - Books - Home and Garden - How-to and Home Improvements - Plumbing and Household Automation
  •  #1 in Kindle Store - Books - Home and Garden - How-to and Home Improvements - Do-It-Yourself

This is only in the free category of course but even so, it is quite amazing to go to number one within 24 hours of release:

Not only that but I've actually given away over 300 copies! Three hundred people have downloaded my book. Okay, so I made no money but think about what might happen if you published a few short high quality eBooks on a similar topic and gave one away? If you managed to give away 300 copies, that could be 300 people interested in seeing if you had any more books out there...

Colour me excited!


A huge thank you to everyone who downloaded my eBook! I have learnt so much through taking part in Joe Konrath's 8 hour eBook challenge:
  • Producing a short high quality eBook can interest people in downloading your book.
  • Using free special offers can generate a lot of interest.
  • It isn't that hard to publish an eBook.
  • I will need to spend more time on editing and formatting next time...

Also, a kind person on Joe's blog gave this tip which I'll repeat here. If you analyse the url for my eBook:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Plumbing-tips-save-money-ebook/dp/B00EVBRKLG/

The bit in the middle can be anything you want... Remove it:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00EVBRKLG/

Change it to something completely different:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/I_Just_Feel_Like_Dancing/dp/B00EVBRKLG/

Or even snub the author...
http://www.amazon.co.uk/This_book_needs_better_formatting/dp/B00EVBRKLG/

Copying and pasting all of the above links will take you to my eBook, only free now for a very short time...

Friday, 30 August 2013

Publishing a book in 8 hours

It's 06:44 on 30th August 2013 and I've just published a book in 8 hours!

I haven't been up all night but I've had less sleep than I intended. Turns out that once you publish a book to Amazon it can take up to twelve hours for the book to become available. Ah well, that's all part of the learning process...

I was taking part in a spur of the moment competition organised by Joe Konrath who writes the A Newbie's Guide to Publishing blog and has published dozens of books through both legacy publishers and independently. His 8 Hour EBook Challenge was a revelation (he actually published several eBooks in just over one hour each). The knowledge that it was THAT easy to publish an eBook gave me the motivation to give it a go.

I actually worked on three eBooks this week: a brand new one that I had second thoughts about - How I doubled my income. I wasn't sure if I was ready to give up too many financial details. Also I've been working on another book but I'm not ready to share that one just yet and it would probably have taken me over the 8 hour challenge.

But for the last fortnight I've been working on Goal 41: To install a shower downstairs and decorate room and wondering if there is anyway I could recoup some of my lost time...

Just before Joe published his challenge I came across a Facebook Advert for How To Write a Book This Weekend. That was challenging enough! Between one and eight hours seemed insane and definitely worth a go!

I'd been taking pictures of the project as I went along and after reading How To Write a Book This Weekend was already wondering about putting together a lessons learnt from plumbing eBook.

Yesterday I decided to put it all together. My 8 hours worked out as follows:
30 minutes taking photos
4 hours writing the book
1 hour editing
1 hour formatting
30 minutes creating the cover (all my own work :)
1 hour getting set up on Amazon's KDP program (included a call to my bank for my IBAN and BIC codes)

I published the book, by Joe's deadline of midnight 29th August, only to find my eBook was stuck in review and it could take Amazon up to 12 hours to release it... Aaargh!

I did contemplate staying up all night and emailing him the published link as soon as I got notified but managed to decide sleep was more important.

A huge thank you to Joe for giving me the motivation to get on and publish something!

My own tale of plumbing highs and lows is now live around the world.

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Plumbing-tips-save-money-ebook/dp/B00EVBRKLG/

US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EVBRKLG

and other territories...

Of the whole process I found formatting and setting up my Amazon account the hardest. The latter is a single time process though each eBook does need setting up.

It is ridiculously easy. So much so that I can see why some people get frustrated with the lack of quality of eBooks. I have to say that on first inspection I plan to release a second edition soon - just to adjust the formatting. Also, the pricing is weird. I set the UK edition to £0.99 but it has been released at £1.02 (is this because Amazon want to be able to offer at a discount later?)

Regardless, I've set the eBook to be free today - 30th August 2013. Please download and send me any feedback. Even better, why not review my eBook on Amazon!

I've not completed either Goal 41 or Goal 100: To publish Fallen Warriors but after this week I am a whole lot closer to both goals!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

What keeps you from completing that novel?

Most of us wannabe published writers don't have a good excuse. Unlike the characters in our novels, we aren't being hunted by mad serial killers; saving the world; or caught up in a whirl wind romance.

So why is it so hard to complete and publish that first novel?

I follow J A Konrath's blog and am always fascinated by stories of how people got past their own particular hurdles.

My biggest obstacle is my job. I'm an IT contractor/consultant and I spend most days managing complex projects; juggling tight timescales and developing applications, databases and reports for whichever company has chosen to employ me.

Lots of other people have similarly busy jobs or lives so I hope this will be relevant to you.

In December 2012 I started a three month project. The specification grew and I ended up taking four months to complete the project. I was the sole developer: coding the software, designing the user forms, writing the SQL (Structured Query Language) that enabled reports. I spent weeks on systems and business analysis; negotiated and agreed requirements with the clients; provided models and adjusted the requirements based on client feedback. I designed and developed the databases and wrote the user manuals. I ran training sessions for dozens of staff.

By the end of the project I was exhausted.

Yet somehow, during that time, I managed to come home and edit 10,000 words of a novel. It didn't seem enough.

I was dejected that I made so little progress on the novel until it hit me that what I do every single day at work is exactly like writing and editing a novel!

Characters: I have to get to know the people I meet on each new project. I have to understand them, find out what they want, even though they sometimes don't fully know themselves. Sometimes I can advise them, steer them in a direction that will hopefully result in the project delivering what they need. Other times I have to go with the flow and find a way to connect the dots to keep the project on track.

Story: Systems and business analysis is all about identifying the stories in each organisation. Why are these processes important? What happens next? How will this affect that? Where do we start? Where will we end up? What happens in the middle...?

Plot: Some processes are irrelevant and can be discarded. Others are vital and need to happen in exactly the right order. Different activities need to be carried out at points along the way. Sometimes the whole project can be thrown into disarray when a situation changes or a risk turns out to be a real problem.

Management: Whether I'm assigned them or not, I give each project deadlines. Milestones to help me quantify how I'm progressing and enable me to flag up if aspects of the project are taking longer than I expected.

Editing: In many ways - testing code; rewriting and refactoring; and redeveloping based on feedback is like the novel editing process. Iterating over and over until the finished product is ready for release.

After four months of hard graft I took note of what I had produced. It's taken me a few more months to work out what I wanted to say about it...
 
I developed:
  • 24 Database tables (all normalised to third form...)
  • 161 Database SQL Queries
  • 13 user forms
  • And produced 7669 lines of code (that worked out at 156 pages, single spaced...)
  • I wrote a Technical Manual which came to 65 pages (8,873 words)
  • Also an Administrators Manual: 52 pages (6,927 words)
The resulting business application is being used daily by over 200 people and is enabling the organisation to improve their productivity.

Oh, yeah, and I got paid...

I was struggling to edit a novel at the start of the year but finally realising that I practise editing skills every day was a huge boost to my confidence.

You will be using your own skills, day in and day out. Like me, you may have never connected what you do with writing and editing a book. So, what's keeping you from completing that novel?

Sunday, 21 July 2013

You can take the Scotsman out of Yorkshire...

You can take the Scotsman out of Yorkshire but you can't take Yorkshire out of my blood.

We've just returned from a week in the Yorkshire village of Hunmanby. Week one of this years two part holiday.

We lived in York from 1995 till 2005 apart from a two year absence when we worked in Tajikistan. I still feel a strong connection with York, our friends there, and Yorkshire itself. Some of my best friends are from or still live in Yorkshire.

After my last post on Scottish identity I've found it interesting reflecting while on holiday that while I still feel I belong in Yorkshire, I now feel that I am settled in Scotland.

We keep going back to York and Yorkshire for holidays as we find it a great place to unwind. This years holiday was, yet again, desperately needed. I've continued my coaching sessions with Frank and the topic of balance keeps cropping up. My life is far from balanced.

While I've been trying over the last year to rectify parts of this, especially spending time with my family, I've a long way to go.

Goal 58 was to do ten fun things with my family. If I can't manage that while on holiday then when can I manage it?

1. Go to the beach

Hunmanby is a few miles South West of Filey and only two miles from the Hunmanby Gap, a narrow road that leads down to a glorious six mile stretch of sand. We visited the beach several times and I managed to let some stress seep away as we walked, played and rested.

2. Build a sandcastle

I don't like swimming but do like building sandcastles. Here's one we made last week:

 
3. Kick a ball around with my kids

I find kicking a ball (or throwing one) to be a great stress reliever. Why don't I do this more often?
 
4. Eat ice-cream

We ate a lot of ice-cream last week. As most of the UK enjoys the current heatwave I cry havoc and say let lose the dogs of Global Warming... Bring it on!

5. Visit York's Chocolate Story

If you're looking for a fun way to spend an hour in York I highly recommend York's Chocolate Story! A guided tour of how the Rowntrees, Terry's and others turned York into the Chocolate city and transformed the lives of thousands of people by their ethical business practices.

At each stop on the tour we were given chocolate samples to try including some from the stages of transforming cacao into chocolate. The tour finishes with you making your own chocolate lolly and receiving a demonstration of how to make your own luxury handmade chocolates.
 

6. Go on an open top bus tour

York is a beautiful city. We had intended to visit York's Chocolate Story earlier in the week but it was booked out. On our way to a museum we saw one of the open top buses and changed our plans.

7. Laugh uncontrollably

Families are strange, weird, odd groups to be part of. At times we just want to get away for some peace and quiet but then when we manage that, we usually miss the chaos. We had no WiFi in the cottage we were renting. The TV had no record, pause, rewind. It was like taking a holiday twenty years ago. It was great (if frustrating at times). Life slowed down. We ate most of our meals together. It gave us a chance to be silly. To make fun of each other. To laugh.

8. Visit the sea life centre

My eldest is planning on a career as a Marine Biologist. We now always visit the nearest Sea Life exhibit when we're on holiday. This time in Scarborough. This seal gave me a wave...


9. Go to the cinema

We didn't manage to go to the cinema while we were away but I took the kids this weekend and highly recommend Monsters University. Much better than Despicable Me 2.

10. Play a game

We took several games with us and found a few waiting for us in the cottage. We spent quite a lot of time playing games. It was too hot to be outside a lot of the time but even so, we enjoy games.

We actually managed a family game of Civilization. (Thank you Sid Meier!) If you are familiar with the game, we took it all the way to the end enduring mass trading and movement sessions. My wife almost wiped me out but I hung on in there ... ;)


We also found an old Go game! I played one game with our youngest who I'm delighted to say beat me by one stone (having had a four stone handicap and some advice). She was playing black.


What fun things can you do with family or friends this summer?

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Is your identity Scottish, British or both?

I am both Scottish and British and generally glad to be both.

My identity changes depending on the situation I am in. Outside of Scotland I generally identify as Scottish. I lived in England for eight years and was fully accepted as Scottish by my English friends. I lived abroad for two years and found calling myself Scottish rather than British as generally I got a better reception. (Worldwide the films Braveheart and Highlander have done more for the Scottish reputation than almost anything else I know)


When in Scotland I identify as British.

Does this seem perverse?

Quite simply - I believe in the power of union. I believe people are stronger together; working together than we ever are apart.

We have all had different experiences. I've found that there are many people born in England and Northern Ireland that I get on with. Growing up on an island community in Scotland I was an outsider to many. Some accepted me for who I was, others did not.

Since then I have had close friends who were born in Scotland and many who were born South of the Border of across the water.

I do not exagerate when I state I would die to protect English and Northern Irish friends or that some of them have placed themselves in harms way to protect me.

A few people in Scotland seem to hold the view we would be stronger when separate - when the Scottish people control their own destiny. The reality is the Scottish people already control their own destiny, we have and have always had the power to influence and change anything we want within Scotland.

So why haven't we exercised that power?

I am for Union; I'm against independence from the UK but I perceive the debate around independence as an opportunity to challenge my fellow countrymen and women to get involved, start debating, start questioning, start acting.

If you cannot be bothered now to challenge MSPs and MPs about their decisions, there is little likelihood you will do so if we have independence.

If, on the other hand, you claim democracy now; make your voice heard now - then together we can make a difference! And if we make a difference now then we can continue to make a difference in a United Kingdom.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

The dangers of the SNP's Marxist equality

The SNP stands for Equality. Above all else, they demand equality. Not jobs for the unemployed; not food for the hungry but equality.

The SNP do not want you to remember George Orwell's warning in Animal Farm: All are equal... but some are more equal than others.

Early this year I spent weeks of evenings and weekends responding to the Scottish Government consultation on redefining marriage. The Express online reports that 80,000 responses were received, two thirds of which were "resolutely opposed" to the concept of redefining marriage.

The SNP administration said it would disregard those views...

Think about this: In spite of a clear majority opposing them, both the Westminster and Holyrood Governments have thrown out concerned protests at changing a fundamental aspect of society. Public responses to consultations have been thrown in the bin! These same Governments have manipulated polls to hide the fact the majority of people believe Traditional Marriage is good for society.

Two thirds of voters have loudly stated they are concerned the same-sex marriage bill will reduce equality, harm diversity and criminalise law abiding citizens. Yet the SNP have chosen to disregard our views...

In any democracy, when a majority speaks, the Government listens to them. Any Government that ignores the majority of voters has become a form of dictatorship.

I was introduced to a film of KGB defector and propaganda expert Yuri Bezmenov on the lie of "equality" - you can watch an extract of this here: http://youtu.be/ZatGAkBZcW4

The first lie of equality is that we are all equal. But we are not all equal.

Men are not equal to women. We are different. Those differences are good and the vast majority of people enjoy and celebrate those differences. We as society have created the concept of marriage to protect men and women who join together, celebrating and enjoying our differences but understanding that union of man and woman needs protection.

Adults and children are different - they are not equal. Adults have more responsibility, children do not. This is good recognizing difference and protecting those who are weaker.

There are many more aspects of our lives where we have accepted legislation which sounds good but is built on a lie: the lie of equality. I believe that every person on this planet should have the right to work, the right to earn respect, the right to contribute, regardless of gender, age, skin colour or place of birth.

However, even the word right has become abused: the reality is that we should use in its place the word responsibility! I have the responsibility to work, the responsibility to earn respect, the responsibility to contribute!

If you also demonstrate that responsibility then you and I can get along.

Equality however is not about responsibility - it is all about rights!

There are many great evils being enacted by our politicians in the UK: National Debt increasing past £1.3 Trillion; unemployment at 2.5 Million; voters being consistently ignored by politicians; The poor being hounded and accused by rich politicians; and redefining marriage without the consent of the people.

My Goal 89 is: To change laws for the better.

Politicians want us to believe redefining marriage will be a change for the better. Yet marriage is about boundaries, about setting two people apart from society to the exclusion of all others and one of the scariest parts of their proposed legislation is the discarding of this concept. Politicians want us to believe that adultery is no longer a problem despite the universal hurt and destruction to relationships adultery causes.

Already we are seeing increasing numbers of people being fired; demoted; or undergoing disciplinary proceedings at their work, simply because they hold an opinion. George Orwell would have been horrified at the way our society has accepted Government's double speak - saying one thing while meaning another.

What does the SNP vision of equality really look like? The SNP vision is of a totalitarian state where individuals are forbidden from voicing any opinions that disagree with the rich elite. This will be the new Scotland. This will be a free Scotland - where anyone can do whatever they want as long as they only do what the SNP allows them to do. By bringing the same-sex marriage legislation under equality law, anyone who voices disagreement will be prosecuted.

There are many ways the SNP could avoid harming Scottish society even with this legislation yet they seem dead set on dividing the Nation. By ignoring the responses to two previous consultations the SNP have sent a clear message they refuse to listen to the people of Scotland.

If this is the Scotland you want - all you need to do is nothing. The SNP will walk all over you and in years to come when they are stamping on your face with their hob nailed boots you can thank them for the wonderful equality they have given you.

I choose to make a stand against the SNP now and all who support them in trying to take away our liberty and freedom.

I encourage you to support organizations like The Christian Institute; Scotland for Marriage; and The Coalition for Marriage who are fighting to make your voice heard.

It is past time for we the people to take a stand against those in Government who insist on dictating how we should live.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Getting Political with IF

There is enough food for everyone... IF

IF what?

I've been aware of the IF campaign for a few months. Agreed with the aims, signed their petition and liked them on Facebook. That's enough, right?

Well, it was until a friend invited me to their rally down in London, timed to coincide with the G8 summit. I couldn't go to London but looking into it - weeks and weeks after the first invite - I found they were holding a rally the week following in Belfast. Laying on buses from Glasgow and everything...

But I'm starting the story too late...

At the beginning of the year I posted a list of my goals for 2013. I spent time thinking what I wanted to achieve and wrote down a list of goals that I thought could be reasonably planned out and achieved within the year. Except I didn't write everything down.

I had a secret goal. I had been becoming more and more aware that our Government was failing us badly. I kept finding blogs and articles about the amount of debt we owe  - now way past One Trillion Pounds! (And that doesn't even cover the money our Government has committed to spend that they leave out of the Budget...)

Our Westminster and Scottish Governments were planning to make radical changes to the definition of marriage without any mandate or consensus. I posted my response to the Scottish Consultation here.

But I agreed with my wife at the beginning of the year that three goals were enough... Of course even that I couldn't do, lumping two separate and distinct goals together as a "family goal."

I'm an addict... Addicted to Goals and setting Goals...;)

So, I embarked on a year where my secret goal - to get more involved with politics - became an open secret to anyone who has followed this blog or my twitter feed: @my100goals

In a way, politics has been there from the beginning of my 100 goals journey:
  • Goal 2: To change and influence people through my writing
  • Goal 64: To be the change I want to see happen
  • Goal 66: To be a confident and well received public speaker
  • Goal 89: To change laws for the better
I've been able to work towards all of these goals while exploring what I can do in response to what I see around me.

The IF Campaign coalesces solutions to many problems you'll be aware of round the world:

Aid - Enough Food For Everyone IF we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger and help the poorest families feed themselves.

Tax - Enough Food For Everyone IF governments stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries.

Land - Enough Food For Everyone IF we stop poor farmers being forced off their land and grow crops to feed people, not fuel cars.

Transparency - Enough Food For Everyone IF governments and big companies are honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food.

If you care about these issues then please sign their petition at http://enoughfoodif.org/home. Consider writing to your MP and MSP. Perhaps you feel as I did that one person getting involved isn't going to make a difference? My experience is that together, we can make a change!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Pain


Two weeks ago today I crippled myself through an act of impatience.

I had been working towards my goal to install a shower downstairs and decorate room (Goal 41) and had agreed a delivery of shower panels at 07:30 that morning. After arranging the delivery I was offered a job interview and preferring to get interviews over with earlier in the day had agreed a time of 09:00 – also for that morning.

I was ready, I thought, though had completely forgotten about the planned delivery in my desire to prepare for the interview.

I had it all worked out. Catch the train into Glasgow at 08:00. I would leave the house at 07:45 to allow an easy walk to the train station.

07:20 I had just stepped in the shower when my wife shouted the man was here and as he could not get access to the front of the house wanted to pass the panels over the wall at the back.

I panicked, jumped out of the shower and pulled on some clothes.

I still had time. All I needed to do was take in the three panels and I could still have a quick shower and reach the train on time.

The panels were heavy. Made by Respatex, they measured 2.4 metres by 0.9 metres. Plywood with a waterproof laminate.

I managed the first panel but the next two were cellophaned together and I struggled to carry them to the back door. At this point I was thinking: “I need to get them in the house in case it rains.” My wife was telling me to wait so she could help but I thought I could manage.

I thought wrong.

I failed to apply any of the numerous Health & Safety briefings I’ve seen or read over the years. I picked up the two cellophane panels and carried them in the house. I was okay except they were too long to set upright. Our rather heavy and large kitchen table was in the way along with chairs and my wife was moving the chairs out of the way. I could, even then, have waited but with every second that passed I was thinking about the need to catch the train.

I tried to set the panels down myself, misjudged the weight and angle and how much room I had and felt something go pop in my back. Cue extreme agony for the next couple of days.

I don’t think of myself as having a weak back though I have suffered from occasional back pain as a result of too many hours working at a computer slouched with poor posture.

Seven years ago, almost to the month, I did my back in. That was a very similar issue: impatience and – okay I’ll admit it – pride! I don’t like to admit I need help. I don’t like to admit I can’t manage. The last time I tried to lift a heavy iron radiator over our back wall and put myself out of productive work for a week. That time I went back to work probably earlier than I should and shuffled around the office for a couple of weeks. Or maybe that was the right thing to do.

As I’ve been told since by my Doctor and a Physio', modern theory is that once the initial agony has eased, getting up and about as much as possible aids the healing process.

But if you have ever suffered from back pain you will know all this.

So why am I blogging about all this?

If you have been keeping up with my blog posts you’ll know they have diverged from blogging directly about my 100 goals. However, there is usually a link, even if I forget to make that link clear.

My thought processes jump very rapidly sometimes and often I forget that in relating an idea or concept, it is helpful to show how I got from A to E.

Two weeks ago today I found myself, through impatience and pride, on my knees on my kitchen floor. I cursed. I swore. I hit the table leg in frustration and anger. I cried.

I was in pain and in those moments I knew that I was responsible for the agony I felt and for messing up an opportunity to get another contract.

The company I was interviewing with were understanding and would have rearranged the interview but after a day I knew I couldn’t guarantee when I would be fit to walk, let alone present a good image at interview. That contract was lost to me.

I had planned and hoped that within a week, or maybe two, I would have completed all the work and we would have had a functioning shower, sink and toilet. That project (Goal 41) has now been placed on hold for an undetermined future.

I effectively lost two weeks of my life to a foolish decision. Impatience has reared it’s ugly head again as I’ve felt better and tried to do too much.

Feeling like the pain was increasing rather than the reverse last week I saw my doctor. She advised I may have suffered a prolapsed disc. Essentially a hernia, or swelling of a spinal disc that has pressed on a sciatic nerve. Not as badly as I might have done but still enough to knock me back.

I’ve placed myself in a situation for the next month where I need to rebuild my strength and take care I do not set myself back. “The best laid plans of mice and men are aft gang awry…” I had two goals to achieve two weeks ago (Goal 41 - Shower room and to get a contract offer) and I scuppered both of them through impatience and pride.

However, all has not been bad. Some has been really good:
  • I still have pain in my back but I will follow my doctor’s advice and gradually build in some strengthening exercises.
  • I’ve spent more time talking with my kids than I would have done.
  • I was able to spend a couple of sessions getting coached – I blogged about that last week and will update more later.
  • I’ve been reading up on how to go about writing a novel and have made some decent progress.
  • I’ve watched a bunch of movies that I would otherwise not have made time for.
Oh, and I got a different contract. Only three weeks instead of six months but I am delighted with the opportunity and I started today.

My plans (and goals) are somewhat limited for a while but I’m hopeful for the future.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

A response to Atheism

Getting political over the past few months I've voiced my opinion in online forums to a much greater extent.

One of the results has been a vast amount of mockery directed at me. The last period of my life when people felt free to insult, deride and dismiss me was in High School.

I've chosen to speak out for a Biblical view of the world being created and question evolutionary assumptions; speak out for male-female marriage and question same-sex marriage; speak out for the poor and disenfranchised and against corporate greed and corruption; speak out for freedom of speech and against a rising fascist liberalism which seems to demand that everything a small elite group want is permissible but no-one else is allowed to have a say or dare to question them.

I freely acknowledge my starting point and worldview: I am a follower of Christ. I believe the Bible is God's message to us. I believe much of the Bible should be taken literally while parts exist as moral storys to warn and guide us.

I came across the image below on a Google+ search and was fascinated by the simple way it shows who we are as a worldwide population.

Finding a copy of the image at a high enough resolution to share was a bit harder. Google+ does not seem to like sharing high res photos. My search went as follows:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/s/world%20as%20100/posts
http://www.100people.org/statistics_100stats.php?section=statistics

and finally I resorted to typing the title as a straight search which got me this:



http://dailyinfographic.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/the-world-as-100-people_51505a8baf475.png

On my way I found the inspiration for the infographic and this breakdown of world beliefs:
33% Christians
22% Muslims
14% Hindus
7% Buddhists
12% people who practise other religions
12% people who would not be aligned with a religion


http://www.100people.org/statistics_100stats.php?section=statistics

88% of the world population have a belief in God; Gods or some spiritual reality.

Only 12% of people do not want to be associated with any religion. Yet some Atheists feel they are justified in hating, mocking and deriding the vast majority of people - educated, intelligent, hard working people who hold no hatred towards them.

Fortunately there are many Atheists who are disgusted by the hatred towards people of religion, who understand that if you and I can live in peace and work together the world will be a better place.

But I want to even the playing field. To those Atheists who proclaim that religion is the cause of all the hatred, violence and war in the world I would like them to remember three names:

Mao Ze-Dong: responsible for the deaths of 45 Million
Stalin: responsible for the deaths of 20 Million
Pol Pot: Responsible for the deaths of 1.5 Million

In the last century Atheism has given us some of the worst genocides in the history of the world.

What else has Atheism given the world?

Atheism has given the world Nihilism - a belief there is no justification for a moral code - anything is permissible. Fortunately most of the world rejects Nihilism which in its extreme justifies murder, rape, theft and any and all crimes.

Atheism has given the world Eugenics: a belief that the "genetically weak" are worthless; are a burden on society and must be eradicated to allow the genetically pure to rule and evolve. This is prevalent in our society today with the widespread practise and promotion of abortion and euthanasia.

Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists and all who hold to a religious belief are condemned by some Atheists for mass murder and genocide. They are condemned for bigotry and closed minded beliefs. I agree that in our history, every group of people has been guilty of horrendous acts.

The reality though is that it is not religion which is the problem, it is the people of this Earth: every man woman and child has within them the capacity for good and evil... including Atheists!

It is not religion which causes people to have closed minds and bigoted beliefs, it is not religion which is the cause of hatred and murder, it is simply who we are - fallen human beings who need to work to rise above the evil our hearts and minds tempt us towards.

Next time we are tempted to accuse someone or a group of people for evil done in the past, please try and remember that we ALL are descendants of ordinary people: some of whom chose to act for good, and some who chose to act for evil.

Which will you choose today?

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Turnkey Coaching

I've often wondered what it would be like to have a mentor. Someone to guide me towards my goal or goals. This week a friend on Facebook - Frank Mason - posted that he is working towards a Coaching Diploma and asked if anyone would help him achieve 100 hours of coaching practice by letting him be their coach.

I've known Frank for over fifteen years and we've made similar choices at times, choosing different routes but both aiming for clear goals.

He has set up his own company: Turnkey Coaching which you can read about on his Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/TurnkeyCoach?fref=ts

I said I would be glad to help!

I would imagine that everyones coaching needs will be different. Some people may need a lot of advice and guidance, others know what needs to happen, they just need some outside influence. Whether to ask the right questions; make a suggestion; or just listen.

For myself, I really needed someone to ask questions and then listen to the answers. My top goal for over thirty years has been to write and publish a book. The only person stopping me from doing this is myself.

I've done the first part. I have a completed manuscript. I just don't believe it is ready to publish.

Frank really helped by asking the right questions, helping me analyse what has held me back. If my number one priority is to publish a book, why am I not spending time on that?

A sense of duty and necessity which has driven me to devote long hours to work and study. I've chosen to place providing for my family first on my priority list. Yet there is also fear involved. Fear that what I've written just isn't good enough. That people will not like it. That I'm wasting my time.

That fear, at times anyway, has been enough to persuade me to concentrate on easier things; more enjoyable, more satisfying activities. Except they did not satisfy. They could not satisfy when the core driving force in my life is to tell a story.

I started well this year: meeting my weekly targets for eight or so weeks but then I got a cold; work became more pressured; crisis in the family; changing priorities... You know the sorts of things. I haven't touched my novel in three months.

Through a series of questions and discussion, Frank helped me face up to a scary but simple fact: all I really need to do is pick up where I left off. So I've made an agreement with Frank about how I'm going to tackle that. We will talk again next week and see how that is going.

This is my first experience of coaching and it is proving to be helpful.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Open letter to David Cameron MP

An open letter to David Cameron MP

As Prime Minister you have a responsibility to both serve and lead our country. Britain has been led by the teaching of Christ in the past and when Britain has followed the teaching of Christ and the whole law of God, Britain has prospered. You and previous Governments have tried to move Britain further and further away from the law of God and teaching of Christ and we are paying the penalty.

I urge you to turn from your wicked aims back to the law of God – the whole law of God. (1)

I have been reminded in recent weeks of parts of Gods law you may have forgotten:
  • Do not... curse the ruler of your people (2)
  • Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed (3)
  • Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman (3)
  • No-one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations (3)
  • All these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out (3)
Blessings and curses (4) are offered up to every nation.

Blessings of prosperity: safety; peace; fear driven away; terrorists removed; victory in our battles; population growth; the blessing of God

Curses of terror; disease; blindness; lifelessness; our enemies will benefit from our hard work; our enemies will defeat us; those who hate us will rule over us; we will flee even when no-one is chasing us. But God calls on us to repent/to turn from wickedness to Him. If we do this the curses will be removed and the blessings given, if we do not, the curses get worse!

Are these blessings and curses relevant to us in Britain? We once were a prosperous and peaceful nation – when we followed God’s law. As we have turned from God’s law we have experienced the loss of blessing and the beginning of the curse. Terror and diseases are haunting many in Britain. Our enemies are prospering while we work long and hard. We are being defeated by our enemies in the battlefield. You as leaders show us on a daily basis that you hate us! You encourage us as society to be afraid of terrorism even though for the vast majority of us, there is NO danger!

The actions of your government and previous governments and our actions in following you have brought our nation under a curse. This is evident most clearly in the loss of our prosperity and the fear of terrorism that has possessed us.

By choosing a course of liberalism you have ignored a key set of warnings:

Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial.
Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive. (5)

Under God’s law I am guilty. In recent months I have cursed you for the wicked laws you have passed. I ask your forgiveness and I choose to turn away from wickedness. I choose to pray for you and your government to turn from wickedness and do what is right.

I urge you to turn away from wickedness and repeal wicked laws.

Abortion

Each year 200,000 children are sacrificed in the UK for the cause of liberalism. Britain has slaughtered Seven million children since abortion was made legal in 1968. We have made the Nazi’s look incompetents in the way our country has succeeded in killing innocents over such a sustained period.

Abortion is utterly incompatible with human right to life. From the moment of conception a new human life is formed – completely independent of the mother.

Why are these children killed? Your government’s statistics make for cold, heartless reading. (6) Rarely because the mother would die during birth.

Let me be clear: we as a country have failed these women; the fathers of the children killed have failed these women. Instead of providing them the support and encouragement they needed, we have turned our backs on them. We need to offer support and offer encouragement to all pregnant women. All life is precious. I have friends who suffer from the same disabilities used as justification for abortion. The lives of my friends and many others (remember the Paralympics in 2012!) prove that disability can be overcome and great things can be achieved by ALL people.

It is said as an argument for abortion that by legalising it we protect women. Would we say this about any other crime? Shall we make child molesting legal to protect older men and women? Shall we make rape legal to protect men? Shall we make murder legal to protect the murderers?

I urge you to repeal the abortion laws with the exception of where it is certain a mother would die giving birth. Let us as a country provide support to any women who feel trapped, isolated, abandoned or afraid.

Men and Women should be challenged to commit to each other before having sex; should be advised the consequence of sex is to have children; that sex is not and has never been simply for pleasure – that it has an awesome responsibility in creating children; that children are wonderful and it is a blessing to have them. We as society should provide support to every Mother and every Father.

Unlawful Sexual Relations

Your Government and previous Governments has set itself against this country and against God by seeking to encourage dangerous sexual acts.

You have lied to the British people deceiving them into thinking there is such a thing as “safe sex.” The reality is there is only a very limited situation where sex is safe and even then it is a responsibility as sex is the means by which children are created. Reading through Leviticus 18 I am horrified at how far you and Governments before you have twisted the law in recent decades. We still follow much of Leviticus 18 in our marriage laws: the assumption being that men and women will abstain from sex until they are married!

Yet you want to redefine marriage, to reduce its value and destroy its purpose. Marriage is a commitment between a man and women WHO ARE LEGALLY ENTITLED TO MARRY! There are many examples given in Leviticus of people who are NOT allowed to marry: Family members; close relatives. We are told NOT to have sex with both a mother and a daughter. Not to marry our wifes sister while our wife is alive. We are told not to commit adultery with our neighbour’s wife.

And finally, men are told not to have sex with other men and we are not to have sex with animals.

Our society has despised and belittled these laws for too long and we are reaping the consequences. Sexually transmitted diseases and infections are crippling many in society. The more we lie to people about “safe sex” the worse the situation gets! (7)

From 2002 to 2011 the following increases in sexually transmitted disease were recorded in England alone:
  • Chlamydia: a 135% increase in recorded infections! 1.3 million people infected with Chlamydia in nine years!
  • Herpes: an 81% increase in recorded infections! 225 thousand people infected with Herpes in nine years!
  • Syphilis: an 87% increase! 26 thousand people infected in nine years.
  • Anogenital Warts: only a 21% increase but 714 thousand people infected over nine years!
Millions of people in the UK are at risk of sexually transmitted diseases because you keep lying to them and telling them sex is safe. Sex is only safe between a man and woman in a long term committed and faithful relationship. Marriage is understood by the whole of society to provide a clear boundary for protecting relationships.

Yet you lie to our children, you lie to us as adults, you want to destroy the boundary of marriage which protects sexual relations between a man and a woman.

Instead of spending millions on redefining marriage I urge you to spend millions on replacing current sex education to include recommendation on abstinence from sex until you are married. This will have the result over the next ten years of dramatically reducing the numbers of sexually transmitted diseases our NHS is struggling to treat. This will be a massive saving for the economy and will have a dramatic effect on the health of the nation.

I urge you to withdraw the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. You have no mandate to change the definitions of marriage.

In the last general election I voted Conservative. I have been a floating voter my whole life, having voted Liberal; Labour and Conservative over the years previously. I assert that Government exists at the will of the people and to serve the people. I did not give you a mandate at the last general election to redefine marriage. I guarantee that if you continue to dictate to this country what we should believe about marriage I will fight against the Conservative Party at all future elections.

Yours sincerely

Mark Anderson Smith BSc MBCS

(1) James 2 v10

(2) Exodus 22 v28

(3) Leviticus 18

(4) Leviticus 26

(5) 1 Corinthians 10 v23

(6) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/127785/Commentary1.pdf.pdf

(7) http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAweb&Page&HPAwebAutoListName/Page/1201094610372

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Everything you knew about climate change may be wrong...

Came across a couple of articles on climate change this week.

The first one is interesting: Harrison H. Schmitt and William Happer: In Defense of Carbon Dioxide. As a quick read this played to my scepticism of media who blinkeredly tell us carbon dioxide is the main cause of global warming. Lifecycles of the sun or oceans are rarely factored in despite having a massive impact on the environment.

A quick Google search reveals the contrary view. I read both articles and now what should I think? The contrary view is the mainstream view yet I still see no real arguments - nothing that admits our solar system and planetary environment is complex.

So, onto Allan Savory: How to fight desertification and reverse climate change



On its own, the Wall Street Journal article is just a point of view, but placed together with a well researched analysis by Allan Savory and I find evidence that takes into account the complexity of our environment.

The humility of Allan Savory is immediately compelling. For him to admit he got it wrong big time is an amazing confession and then to devote his life to finding out why is inspiring!

There is no greed evident here. No Big Oil conspiracy. Simply an honest and practical attempt to resolve one of the biggest problems our world faces: desertification.

Who is Phil Plait? Reading his bio on Slate.com he claims "He is a skeptic and fights the abuse of science, but his true love is praising the wonders of real science." Admirable and yet he comes across as arrogant and I have yet to meet an arrogant person I can trust.

Here are some questions for Phil Plait and anyone else who professes to love "real science":

If billions of hectares of land could be transformed and recovered - how much carbon dioxide would be taken out of the atmosphere?

If the majority of desertified land could be reclaimed and turned back to green - how would this impact global warming?

If desertification could be reversed - would the increase in carbon dioxide and one percent increase in global temperature matter?

Monday, 13 May 2013

An open letter to Gregg McClymont MP

Dear Gregg,

I am writing this as an open email to be published on my blog: http://my100goals.blogspot.com

I understand you will have another opportunity to discuss and vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill next week.

I ask you to vote on my behalf against this bill.

Understanding that every person has their own point of view and right to have a say in this matter, I also urge you to vote for the following amendment to the bill: New Clause 9 which calls for a referendum on the redefinition of marriage. (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2012-2013/0126/amend/pbc1261203a.953-959.html)

I have reviewed some of the other amendments which have been proposed and am horrified to read in one a plan to repeal the Marriage Act 1949: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2012-2013/0126/amend/pbc1262603a.1109-1111.html

While I recognise that Marriage legislation has changed some of the definitions of Marriage from a legal perspective over the last century, for the Government to repeal the Marriage Act of 1949 in its entirety without any public consultation or forewarning is a despicable act.

As you will be aware, the Labour party have no mandate to redefine marriage in any way. None of the electorate was informed of these plans prior to the election. The Government has no mandate to redefine the meaning of 24 million marriages.

We the people have a right to decide whether changes should be made to this vital institution. Marriage does not belong to the Government.

The Government ignored half a million legitimate responses to the consultation which stated opposition to the policy. This clearly demonstrates the consultation was a sham.

Why are supporters of the redefinition of marriage afraid of a public referendum? Why was redefining marriage not mentioned in the Queen’s speech? Why is the Government unwilling to publicise their intentions to redefine marriage?

It is deeply concerning that MPs are attempting to change the concept of marriage in such an underhand way.

Have you informed the people of Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East of how you have voted previously to redefine marriage?

Will you be advising people through your newsletter or on your website of how you have voted and plan to vote?

Again, I ask you to vote against this bill on my behalf and for what I believe is a majority of the electorate.

Yours sincerely

Mark Smith

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

Last month I stepped outside my comfort zone and stood at the entrance of our local Asda handing out leaflets and talking to strangers.

Why does anyone ever choose to hand out leaflets to strangers? Often it is for a good cause, in this case: Bethlehem: House of Bread

Set up by a couple in our church, Bethlehem was their response to increasing poverty in Cumbernauld. Bethlehem is a food bank. Up to fifty families a week now benefit and over 1,300 food parcels have been given out since Bethlehem was started in September 2011.

Bethlehem is run volunteers who also contribute to the food bank. The concept is delightfully simple: buy a few extra items in our weekly shop - whatever we can afford; then bring those extra groceries each week. Those who can afford to donate money which buys more groceries. Then, each week, the food bank is opened up and parcels distributed to whoever comes along.

I cannot say I was supportive at the start. I thought it was a great idea. I was delighted this was happening. I bought groceries - though infrequently. But I don't feel I really supported the project. I often live my life in a rush and it was too easy to forget to buy something extra each week.

Until Asda made an offer...

We could man their entrance and hand out leaflets and give people an opportunity to contribute... With groceries...

Thousands of people shop in our big supermarkets every day, more at weekends. If each person donated one packet of pasta or rice or tin of stew, we could feed a hundred families! I decided I needed to be willing to do more.

So, for two hours one bitterly cold Saturday I, along with a couple of dozen other volunteers over the course of the day, handed out leaflets and gave the community a chance to contribute to help the poorest

It was much as you would expect. Some were interested and chatted; some were in a rush; some happily took the leaflets while others did not. I've run my own gauntlets of leaflet distributors and steered well clear so fully understand the reluctance to engage.

Yet many hundreds of people listened or read the leaflets and understood the very simple message: we are all in this together!

Standing there, watching women carry out a shopping bag that they had asked to be kept separate so they could drop it in a trolley; men carefully lower a heavy bag so it didn't crush the groceries underneath; families give up some of their weekly shop so that others would not go hungry, it was a humbling experience.

There are a lot of generous people in the world. People who told us they had been in similar need themselves in the last few years. People who don't have much themselves but know there are others worse off than they. People who have plenty and are glad to share.

By the end of that Saturday, over ten shopping trolleys were filled with essentials that have since been distributed to families who needed that generosity.

Families who are strangers to me and to the hundreds who gave that Saturday in Asda Cumbernauld.

A huge thank you to Asda Cumbernauld and to the people of Cumbernauld who showed (and I've no doubt are still showing) such kindness and generosity!


Thursday, 28 March 2013

Just another Easter

Last day of school before the kids break up for Easter. My seven year old was allowed to take a DVD in with her - the teacher asked if any of the children had an Easter DVD. Half the class must have answered: Hop.

Hop must have as much to do with Easter as Santa Claus does with Christmas.

I sent her in with The Chronicles Of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. Now there is an Easter story:

The creator of all things returns to find a world enslaved by an evil force. A human male turns traitor against the creator, choosing to value greed and power above all other things. Despite this treasonous act, the creator agrees to allow himself to be exchanged for the traitor and offers himself as a willing sacrifice.

The traitor, now forgiven, is set free.

The creator is horribly and brutally killed.

All hope seems lost until... the body of the creator disappears.

Two human girls search for the body and then meet the creator - magically and miraculously brought back to life: a willing sacrifice who shed his blood could not be kept dead!

The creator then leads an army to set free others who have been enslaved and ultimately conquer the evil force.

This weekend I choose to celebrate Jesus Christ: a willing sacrifice in my place; punished for my sin; killed but death unable to hold onto him; returned to life and power and awesome glory.

I'll be interested to see what film my daughter watched today. The Chronicles Of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe is not a Universal certificate: Parental Guidance advised.

What does Easter mean to you?

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Beware of the Leopard

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy might have this to say about the Scottish Government’s consultation on Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill:

The Scottish Government will claim the Scottish people have had ample time to read the draft bill and sixteen (count them) annexes. This will have been of no use to the millions of Scots who were never informed there even was a consultation.

The Scottish Government will claim the draft bill was freely available and could be printed out. This will have been worthless to the 29% of Scots (Digital Participation in Scotland: A Review of the Evidence) who do not have personal Internet use. That is almost one third of adults in Scotland who have been disenfranchised from taking part in the debate on Marriage and Civil Partnership.

The percentage goes up dramatically when you look at lack of Internet access for the elderly and the poorest in Scotland: 52% and 42% respectively.

Over the last month I’ve helped almost two dozen people respond to the consultation on Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. These were a wide range of people, some professional working people, others unemployed; many are intelligent but a few had learning difficulties and one had aspergers syndrome making it hard for that individual to concentrate. They were a wide age range as well: from early twenties to seventies. Every single person struggled as I had to understand the complexities behind each of the eighteen questions posed.

The few people who actually had access to a computer and the free week to read through the bill, the annexes, the associated research and other materials and who did not commit suicide during that process may have shared some of the conclusions my friends shared with me and want to ask these questions:
  • Why is the Scottish Government discriminating against the elderly?
  • Why is the Scottish Government discriminating against those with learning disabilities?
  • Why is the Scottish Government discriminating against the poor?
I sat with a young man who has aspergers as he tried to respond to the consultation. I believe his views on the consultation are as valid as those of any MSP; any journalist; any activist from Stonewall. He is intelligent, able to form reasoned arguments and has an opinion. Yet he found the consultation questions and statements to be deliberately and frustratingly confusing.

Not having aspergers myself I found myself no more able to understand the reasoning or so called justification the Scottish Government are using to propose this bill.

Several of my friends are retired. Together we helped one woman who has never used a computer in her life to respond to some of the questions. Without our help she would not even have been able to open the link to begin her response.

The Government bill aims to redefine a core aspect of society; will impact every single person in Scotland and will place hundreds of thousands of people in direct conflict with the Government.

So why is the Government not holding a referendum? Why is it that every single person in Scotland is not being given the opportunity to vote on whether this bill should be made law?

Is it because the Scottish Government knows (as the UK Government also knows) that the vast majority of people are opposed to redefining the meaning of marriage?

I would love to end with a snappy one-liner, perhaps be thankful the Scottish Government did not paste their draft bill to the underside of a filing cabinet, in a disused lavatory, with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard,’ but Douglas Adams said it first.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Time to balance the books

I only caught a few soundbites from today's UK Budget speech but that was enough to confirm neither David Cameron or his Chancellor George Osborne has any real interest in budgeting.

I was talking with colleagues today about data. Some people, managers especially, like a quick an easy summary. Did we meet our targets? How are we performing against our key measures?

Others (some managers included) like as much raw data as they can get their hands on. I'm a data guy. I like the quick and easy summaries but I don't trust them unless I can see the raw data and the calculations used to provide them.

So, I spent my lunch hour doing some quick and dirty analysis of my own.

[Warning: reading any further may cause you to distrust your Government!]

Figures taken from the BBC

"George Osborne says the deficit as a share of GDP will fall from 7.4% in 2013-14"

I don't like GDP. I've never understood it or why it is used. But, hey, every day is a learning day...

"Theoretically, GDP can be viewed in three different ways:
● The production approach sums the “value-added” at each stage of production, where value-added is defined as total sales less the value of intermediate inputs into the production process. For example, flour would be an intermediate input and bread the final product; or an architect’s services would be an intermediate input and the building the final product.
● The expenditure approach adds up the value of purchases made by final users—for example, the consumption of food, televisions, and medical services by households; the investments in machinery by companies; and the purchases of goods and services by the government and foreigners.
● The income approach sums the incomes generated by production—for example, the compensation employees receive and the operating surplus of companies (roughly sales less costs)."
Source: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/basics/gdp.htm

Did that make sense? Our UK Government uses all three GDP approaches and some complicated formulas to balance them.

I interpret GDP as follows:
Production: I provide work and services to my employers worth £48,811 a year
Expenditure: My total expenses are £23,613 a year
Income: My total income is £20,000 a year

My GDP can either be calculated as a balance of those three figures or as one of them. (By the way, any thoughts on the dicrepancy between production and income...?)

UK GDP is £1,540 Billion!

Now contrast that with the estimated income for the UK in 2013/14: £631 Billion

Our production capability is far greater than the income our Government can expect to receive. But who cares right, after all, we are capable of producing £48,811 (to go back to my income analogy), so what does it matter if we borrow £3,613?

I've done this myself, borrowed money to pay for College and University courses. Borrowed to buy a car so I could go to work. All in the expectation that I would be able to earn more in future years and pay off my debts.

And that is where my respect for politicians takes a nose dive. They know we will not be earning any more for years to come, some quite reasonably warn growth will be stalled for a decade.

In today's budget Chancellor George Osborne plans to borrow £121 Billion this coming year, and £120 Billion next year.

This money is not being spent on our future. It will not better equip Britain to generate more income, it is simply maintaining a status quo.

I started to have some respect for GDP but I've lost it:


Deficit
Deficit as % of GDP 7.40%
Deficit as % of Budget expense 15.30%
Deficit as % of income available! 18.10%

George wants you to look at the deficit in relation to GDP. It is a nice low figure. Seven percent, not too scary. The reality is that we need to look at the deficit in relation to planned expense and expected income!

18%! That is a huge amount of money to plan to borrow when there is no reasonable prospect of paying it back. Why are we borrowing this money? I don't know. Do you?

The Government appear to be saying that if we don't spend what they are planning, our economy will go into meltdown; unemployment will soar and we'll all regret it.

I believe this is a lie.

What the Government are not telling us is what they are actually spending the money on, not in the detail that would allow us to decide whether or not we actually want that money spent.

The BBC were asking last week for our suggestions for the Budget. Eighteeen percent of planned expenditure is a lot of money to cut from the economy but the reality is many households have had to cut that or worse over the last few years - and they have managed to do so!

We need a real debate in the UK about every penny Government spends. I'm sure there are a lot of ways we could cut eighteen percent from the budget without shedding a single job. There would be losers but shouldn't it be us that decide? Is the UK a democracy or a dictatorship?

Just in case you're still awake after reading that, here's some more analysis...

Population of UK: 63 Million
Adult population: 48 Million
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_the_United_Kingdom

If we as adult citizens were to be required to pay for our national debt (£1,155 Billion) it would require £24,062.50 per person. That is today. Our Government plans to add to that figure £2,400 each year for the forseeable future.

By the time my seven year old daughter reaches 18 (just over ten years now) and is able to work, her share of the debt could be as high as £48,000.

I am not willing to let my Government continue to store up debt for my children. Something has to change.

It is time to balance the books.