Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Gill Jowers - photographer??

After posting the entry about Gill Jowers, I found myself wondering what might be on the internet about her. This threw up her Facebook page (which I had already found from my own Facebook account) and also a possible Flickr page. This noted that "photographer Gill" lives in Warwick and worked in local government, so it could be the same Gill Jowers. Either way, the photos are superb, so much better than my own efforts recently. Clearly a serious bird photographer, long lens (500mm?), wide aperture so small depth of field, very good focusing. Yes, a very nice set of pictures

Examples of Gill Jowers' photography - but is it the same Gill Jowers?

Comments on my Blog

For the first time in ages I have reviewed some of the comments people have made on my blog. I tend to assume that no one actually reads my blog but it is clear than some people do stumble across it from time to time - mainly by doing various web searches it would seem.

Most recently, a brief "thank you" from the musician Jarboe who I mentioned a few week's ago in connection with the Swans tour that was then taking place. This brief comment prompts me to listen to her albums Sacrificial Cake, Thirteen Masks, A Mystery of Faith and Men today. Her work is a thing of great beauty and is something I return to again and again.

And with some surprise, I come across three comments on the post I made year's ago after I had a look on Friends Reunited - I hadn't seen any of these before today. My favourite is the one from Gill Jowers. I am really surprised to have heard from her. And as I said in my original post (and the reply to the comments), I have nothing but fond memories of Gill. I remember once persuading my parents to go for a meal at the Portofino restaurant where Gill worked, but she wasn't working that night! And what about the time she overdid it on a sunbed and was a deep red colour for many days. But in the main, I just remember the two of us trying to do physics and maths A level together, paired up for physics practicals, comparing answers to homework and so on. They were very happy days. I hope things have worked out well for her in the 30 years since then - amazing, 30 years!

(Addendum - some time later. And it turns out there is a Gill Fletcher (nee Jowers) on Facebook who was at Kenilworth school in 1981 so it is definitely her! There is a photo of her which I might just about have recognised her from. Nice to put a picture to the name after all these years. I did ponder on it, but I don't think I am going to contact her via Facebook. She is doing an MSc at Uni - good for her!)

The other comments are from Ian Tebby, who seems not to know who I am at all though I knew him quite well, and Chris Deakin, who I don't remember well at all. And I do wonder what happened to Huw Davies who I exchanged some photos with and had a 3 hour phone call with soon after the original blog appeared in 2008 but silence since then.

I really must try and find out what my blog readership has actually been. I use the blog now instead of writing a diary (which I did fairly consistently from about 1977 to 2006 - hence perhaps why I remember the past so well) but I have no aspirations to acquire an actual readership. Perhaps I will post a random diary entry from 1980 or so - or would that be too embarrassing?

The very last "Two and a half Men" - No more Rose?

The last two episodes of Two and a Half Men were screened last night. It was not intended that these would be the last, but Charlie Sheen's problems have seen filming curtailed, perhaps for good. Indeed, as we have watched the last half dozen shows, it has been apparent that Charlie has been featuring less and less in them. Perhaps it will continue without him? The highlight of the show for me was always the character Rose. She was not in many of the episodes - perhaps a third - but always had the best lines. I have always enjoyed bonkers women characters in TV shows, and she is perhaps the most bonkers of them all. .ttt . . .
What a star - perhaps Rose would become the main character in place of Charlie?

Jan Garbarek's Music

The other night I was watching a climbing video - the rather intense On Sight - which featured some great music, including one exceptionally haunting piece for male voices and what has turned out to be a saxophone. Unusually for documentaries these days, there is a full list of the music and I concluded that the piece was probably Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble and a work called Officium.

A quick search of the internet uncovers the usual mass of information about Garbarek himself and 30 years of his works. Some samples are available on various sources. I picked up one or two live shows, and can tell already that this will be someone whose work I will want to hear in some detail.

. . ttt
Nice album artwork I thought

Monday, 28 March 2011

A weekend in the Lake District

Friday .

A last minute cancellation and some re-arranging of others means we can get away earlier than expected, meaning we can beat the conjestion north of Birmingham and so arrive in the Lake District late afternoon. This gives us a brief opportunity to visit the Leighton Moss nature Reserve close to where we are staying. Beautiful read beds, fantastic bird watching facilities - though most of the birds were black headed gulls. We may have seen a red start as well . ..

New growth

From there we carried on to Silverdale with enough time for a walk along the estuary. There are far more birds here than at Leighton Moss, including a huge flock of some sort of wading bird out on the exposed mud - most impressive

No idea what these birds are - we feel we should know


The day of our big walk in the Langdales. As usual, I have had some trouble coming up with a route that is suitable for Linda, but I had high hopes that we would be able to add on a bit to a walk that we have done before up to Stickle Tarn below the Langdale Pikes themselves

At the start of our ascent - the stream by the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel

A rare photo of me - Linda is not a keen camera operator

Pavey Ark - one of the finest cliff faces in the Lake District

Jake's Rake - a pretty scary way to ascend Pavey Ark, and a route that I last did in the early 1990s. Not at all suitable for Linda

Crossing a stream as we move round to the eastern ridge of Pavey Ark

An earlier plan for today had been to traverse to the west from Stickle Tarn and ascend Blea Rigg from where I would have been able to see Easedale Tarn, where dad's ashes are scattered. But progress is not quite fast enough I felt, so we skipped this and ascended Pavey Ark by the eastern ridge - the easiest way I thought.

It actually turned out to be a reasonable scramble, but luckily had no precipitous drops so Linda was just about ok on it.

Linda on the summit of Pavey Ark

Not many sheep on the hills yet

Descending Pavey Ark

And ascending Harrison Stickle, the highest of the Langdale Pikes, with Pavey Ark in the background

Linda doesn't quite make the summit of Harrison Stickle. Her hip is hurting her a little and the last scramble seems a bit too much. She did get to within 25 feet or so of the top though

Climbers on the face of Pavey Ark

Linda's unusual descending technique on tricky rocks

Tired at the end of the walk - back just above the hotel

We are back at the starting point by around 4:00 for a drink. The bar has copies of the Langdale and Ambleside Mountain Rescue Service review of 2010 which makes for some interesting reading.


Another walk, this time just a couple of hours round Grisdale Forest

A much-recovered Linda with the Coniston fells in the far distance

One of the many sculptures in the forest

We always like forests . . .

Friday, 25 March 2011

Progress in trading - but some negatives

Our main research effort on trading has been the move from relatively slow intra-day systems towards what might be better described as High Frequency Trading. But in the last couple of weeks, we have had some set backs in this process and are now beginning to move back the other way to systems that trade 6-10 times a day rather than 30 times. Initial work has focused on improving our trading of crude oil and has already thrown up some excellent results. The main question now is whether the same sort of thing can be created for EC and the DAX.

Moving away from HFT also gives us the chance to trade in a more nuanced way as there is enough time to perform the slightly tricky calculation that this requires. In particular, I am looking at fast-reversing stop strategies that could eliminate a number of whipsaw losses. I have created a selection of "exemplary case studies" where certain methods work really well, and soon I will be moving on to the detailed testing of these ideas.

While Jerome did the existing trading today, I shadowed the trading with such a reversing stop strategy in place and both got some good results and found that I could keep track of things as time went on. So another promising area to consider - and certainly one that I feel much more comfortable with from the point of view of doing the actual trading. I have come to hate doing the actual trading as the intensity involved is too high for me and I get distracted too easily and make mistakes. Something slower but more nuanced would be better

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Fallen

The last few days have seen me reading Dave Simpson's The Fallen - my current non-work or climbing related reading. This is actually rather a fun book - a search for as many of the past members of The Fall as he could find. At least half the names are people I've never heard of.

As usual, this sends me back to the vast collection of cds I have by The Fall. Today I heard Grotesque for the first time in perhaps 20 years - I had forgotten just how great Container Drivers and especially Impression of J Temperance were. This was followed by Slates. I remember buying the vinyl version when it came out - the 10" version.

I saw The Fall about a dozen times in the early 1980s, and then once a few year's later. They played Oxford a couple of years ago. I should have gone (and taken Linda). I have bought most of the cds over the years, and generally find some tracks I like every time. But the peak for me was around 1983 with the Peel session that featured the stupendous track, Smile - perhaps one of my personal top 5 tracks.

A few years ago there was a superb documentary of tv about them - The Wonderful and Frightening world of Mark E Smith. I should have another look for that - I think I downloaded it at the time.

. Around the last time I saw The Fall - late 1980s, with the rather scrummy Marcia Schofield on keyboards

Another major trading enhancement (we hope)

We have been through some major upheavals on the trading. An approach which we quite liked late last year rather fell apart in early 2010 and would have been very poor to have stuck with. But we have moved to approaches which are far more in line with our basic psychology and are now at the stage when we are probably approaching something like a stable basis.

Yet this weekend produces another significant amendment with an apparently small change turning out to make quite a bit profit change. Now if we can actually produce about half the expected profit per day at about the current risk levels, we should be very well set.

But the main thing is that the systems are very user friendly. I personally don't like doing the actual trading, but even I am able to do a few hours at a stretch with it. I am able to read a bit as I trade and that helps me manage. But the main trading is done by Jerome and that is definitely for the better.

My work now switches onto estimates of worse case daily and weekly losses and hence the possibility of estimating maximum position size (which is probably quite a bit above where we are now). I even allowed myself to do a couple of future projections for the next six months. I should really avoid doing this as it always adds to the disapointment if we hit difficulties, as we always seem to do.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Shameless - older episodes

The last few days we have been watching a few episodes from season 7 of Shameless which we somehow seem to have missed at the time. In the latest episode, Chesney and Carl are on the run after being accused of murdering some guy. They wind up on the Welsh border and take shelter in a farm where a rather attractive older lady is busy with a sideline in growing marijuana. For a brief period, this seems like heaven to them. Or, as they express it, "a Milf on a weed farm, what more could you want?"

Inspired by watching last year's episodes, I have also gone back to season 4 and 5 and my all time favourite character - Carrie, the mad policewoman. A real shame when she left I thought. So maybe we will watch season 4 and 5 again next.

One of Carrie's rare raunchy moments

And the slightly fetish version of Carrie from the closing credits. There is also a James Bond spy themed closing credits in which she appears.

A year or so ago the actress who played Carrie - Amanda Ryan - was in one of the period dramas that we were watching. After Shameless, it was pretty odd to see her in something like that, but she has, apparently appeared in some quite high-brow things

The theme of growing marijuana led us back to Saving Grace, one of our favourite films. I was particularly taken this time by the two old ladies who make themselves what they think is a pot of tea. But like It's Complicated, that we also saw recently, some films are more or less adverts for smoking weed.

Two old ladies from Saving Grace

Climbing - a wild idea

Watching the TV series, Everest -Beyond the Limits, I have been struck by a number of interesting points. For instance, after his failure in the first series, Tim, the LA biker with numerous bits of metal holding him together, made it to the top. He is a real burk and is definitely not what you would call a mountaineer, but none the less, there he was, getting to the top. And then there is the 71 year old Japanese retired school teacher. After climbing Cho Oyo, he has attempted Everest and is now the oldest person to have reached the summit. It is tempting to say that if they can make it, maybe I am being too circumspect in looking at what I might be able to do.

So a brief internet search locates a UK company called Jagged Globe, which runs a who series of high-end climbing expeditions. And they run a number of 8,000m peak trips, my focus being on Cho Oyo. They don't avoid the difficulties, but there is loads of information on the site and this had caused me to consider some pretty radical ambitions. Cho Oyo costs just over £10,000 and takes 45 days. For the moment, this is the mountain I am thinking about - with a tentative target date of Autumn 2013. Maybe do a winter climbing trip next January, followed by something in the summer and autumn of next year, and so on. At the very least, this provides some good motivation for going to the gym (where I can now do 50 lengths of the pool and 25 mins on the cross trainer - such a jump from 3 or 4 weeks ago)

A view down to Everest, with Cho Oyu to the left and the somewhat easier trekking peak, Mera Peak, in the foreground

From the walk in to Cho Oyu

And a view of Cho Oyu that makes it look quite imposing. The sixth highest mountain in the world, but also widely considered the easiest 8,000m peak

Monday, 14 March 2011

Recent mountaineering reading

My current reading is rather dominated by climbing-related stuff. At the moment this is Doug Scott's Himalayan Climber, which I received as a leaving a present when I left Smith and Nephew at the end of 1992. He really has lived an extraordinary life

Doug Scott - the John Lennon of mountain climbers

On the summit of Everest - a famous photo

Prior to Doug Scott, it was Chris Bonnington's Kongur - China's Elusive Summit, one of my dad's climbing books (which I have kept all of). The other three members of this Bonnington expedition are now all dead - Boradman, Tasker and Rouse

And prior to that it was Nick Heil's Dark Summit, a different version of the summer of 2008 on Everest - the season that was filmed for the Discovery programme I've been watching recently What next? Perhaps Greg Child's Thin Air, or one of Reinhold Messner's books (though I can't find these at the moment) One good side effect of this is to provide me with significant motivation for going to the gym. Perhaps surprisingly, I am now making real progress - I'm up to doing 40 lengths of the pool, 20 mins of weights, 20 mins on the cross trainer machine, not bad progress for four weeks of effort.

Stephen Pern in Japan - an old video

While transferring some old tv shows from dvd to the PC's hard drive, I came across one of my all-time favourite programmes, Stephen Pern's film about walking the length of Japan. This has some wonderful moments - his experiences in traditional Japanese inn's - Ryochan? - some great campsites on the many ridges he walked along, an amazing view of Mount Fuji in the early morning, some amazing koto music. A truly great programme.

Stephen Pern at one of his high mountain campsites

I was also reminded of a couple of other programmes on similar themes - for instance, Lesley Downer's retracement of the "narrow road to the deep north". And some books on the same theme - for instance, Alan Booth's The Roads to Sata. What a shame Pern didn't write a book about his trip. His US book, The Continental Divide, is really good. He suggests in the film that he has pretty much lived his whole life as a traveller. Now that is truly something to have achieved

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The latest data bash - a new market from Monday

The results of the latest data bash mean that we are close to adding a new market to our trading - the German stock market via the DAX future. As always, we are looking for profitable markets that are largely uncorrelated with what we have already and this seems to fit the bill. I have been sketching out a new series of research programmes for the coming weeks. Everything we are doing is back under the microscope. Some things don't suit me well from a psychological point of view - mainly the hyper fast trading we do in crude - and I am keen to move away from them if possible. I just don't have anything to replace this with yet! How much longer can the constant data bashing go on? I need to tidy up all the research spreadsheets I think. Fill in some gaps, bring some stuff right up to date. Then step back and really think hard about where we are going with it all. In a couple of weeks we are hoping to go to the Lake District and I will have a couple of days off work for the first time this year. Hopefully I will be able to see things a bit clearer for having a break

King of the Slums Peel Session

A name from the distant past springs to mind - King of the Slums. In particular, their amazing Peel session from the mid 1980s (?). Few people have sought to develop the electric violin in rock music after John Cale in the Velvet Underground. But Sarah Curtis is one of the few. All four tracks of the Peel Session - Big girl's blouse, fanciable headcase, leary bleeder and venerate me utterly - are excellent, and all with the discordant droning electric violin overlay. I used to have this at a cassette tape - one of the 210 Peel extract tapes I produced from 1978 to around 2000. But as so often is the case, I have found a copy on a download site as part of a huge download just called "Peel Sessions", containing 270 session from 1967 to 2002. No doubt some excellent stuff that I haven't heard for years, for instance the Altered Images Peel Session with Dead Pop Stars, Loop's session featuring Afterglow, but sadly not Yeah Yeah Noh's session from 1984 which I would really like to hear again

A "new" release from King of the Slums is available on Amazon. It features a new version of one of the Peel session tracks. I have a quick listen to the sample available but it is terrible - the wild, out-of-control violin is dropped own in the mix, when it should be highlighted. A great disappointment I thought

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

David Bedford & Mike Oldfield's "Argiers"

The current edition of The Wire magazine has a long feature on the Bristish Composer David Bedford. I only have one full length CD by him, Star's End. And I only really knew his other works from the couple of pieces on the Mike Oldfield Boxed collection. As with so many articles in The Wire, I am immediately keen to hear more and to listen closely again to what I already have - can there be any more validation of a music magazine?

Cool hair and beard!
I first came across Mike Oldfield in the late 1970s when he had one or two hit singles - Portsmouth and In dulci jubilo. I saved up for weeks to buy the Mike Oldfield Boxed 4 lp set, but in the end I think my dad bought it for me for Christmas. I haven't listened to Tubular Bells for years, but Ommadawn and Hergest Ridge are both on my ipod and I do listen to them both quite regularly.
The 4th lp in the boxed set was called Collaborations and it is this which has some other David Bedford music on it - a bit from Star's End and The Phaeacian Games. But the highlight of Collaborations was Argiers; a simple acoustic guitar and recorder piece that has haunted me for years. I have, in the past, tried to buy a cd copy of just Collaborations but it was always only available in the 3 cd boxed set. However I have now tracked down a copy of it online and am delighted to hear it for the first time in many years. This is the track that I whistle in the bath, hum in the car, hear in my head several times a week. Yet I hadn't heard the original for more than 10 years. It is so amazing to hear it again.
Since downloading it somewhile ago, it has played on repeat perhaps 25 times in a row - and it is still great.
Mike Oldfield Boxed
This recortd comes from a time when receiving a new record was something amazing - with the enormous quantities of music now available so easily, something has definitely been lost. The anticipation of saving up to buy something, the intent listening that each record received (except Jon Lord's The Gemini Suite which always sticks in my mind as a record I bought, played once and vowed never to listen to again ever). The music I listened to from about 1976 to 1984 is definitely "my music" regardless of the enormous amounts of stuff I listen to now.
How I always remember Mike Oldfield - I don't think I have listened to anything new by him since buying Boxed. Perhaps I was sure this could never be beaten?