Disclaimer

BEFORE YOU START: Please note that although I currently volunteer for both the Stroke Association and Age UK, the views expressed in this blog are strictly my own. I am not a spokesperson for either (or, indeed, for any) organisation, and I accept complete responsibility for the views expressed herein. I've tried to use the Glossary to explain any ambiguous terms, but if you think there is anything I've missed, please message me.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

For or Against

There's so much destructive talk around at the moment (against this, against that) that I wanted to write something constructive. What I want rather than what I don't want.

Of course I shall write about the relationship between the UK and the EU, it is a subject which is totally dominating UK politics at the moment. So, in terms of a future agreement, here's what would make me happy:

  • freedom of movement. I'd be happy for it to continue, just like (in theory) it does today. And, of course, if it is necessary, you guarantee the rights of people who do settle here. The UK has two sorts of immigration - that from the EU (which can't be controlled and which has decreased since the referendum), and that from the RoW (which can be controlled). While immigration from the EU has decreased, overall immigration has stayed roughly the same, so therefore RoW immigration has increased. But the point I'm making is that whenever a government minister talks about "control of our borders", I see it as jingo rather than something credible. It doesn't overly bother me, and I don't think it much bothers politicians either.
  • trade. I'd commit to maintaining (or even exceeding) EU standards. But only until further notice - I wouldn't attempt to bind my successors. For that I'd like for the UK to trade freely with the EU - I am wary of the term "union" because, depending on context, it often seems to imply some restriction of the two parties' ability to trade with third-parties. To be clear, I see something which allows the UK and the EU to trade with each other, but also which doesn't place any constraints on them trading with third parties. If either the UK or the EU subsequently chose to lower its standards, then I see no problem with the other party possibly walking away from the deal.

So, by those two stances, the problem at the Irish border goes away. We don't fear people coming via Ireland, Ireland doesn't fear our goods becoming inferior (or vice versa) and flooding their markets. I mean, I'm more of a republican than a nationalist anyway, so I wouldn't be particularly bothered if NI wanted to align itself away from the UK somehow (either as an independent nation or as part of a united Ireland), so long as that's what its population wanted. But my beliefs make for a homogeneous border in any case.

  • On justice, the key thing for me is that the citizen is subject to a set of rules, and is judged by a court if they've fallen foul of those rules, and that court itself is implementing rules defined by by politicians who make up those rules and who are elected by those same citizens  So it kind-of comes full circle. I don't much mind whether the rules are made in London or in Timbuktu, as long as there is traceability back to the electorate. In the case where the UK is involved in EU institutions, we have to accept that we've now left the EU, so if an institution is then subject to the ECJ, so be it and the UK has to accept that. If we don't like that, we set up our own institution, or do without.
  • On the system of representation, I'm happy to be represented, but both the UK and EU systems are flawed. I've mentioned before in this blog about different countries of the EU having more MEPs per capita, where, really, that level ought to be flat. Similarly, I've mentioned how we could reform the UK's FPTP system - the one thing it was claimed to have going for it was that it gave a strong government, but even that is now clearly known to be nonsense. But I think that we need consensual politics rather than the adversarial politics we see at the moment. Every government should be a GNU.
  • On general sovereignty, I think it is a red herring. Just, really in terms of... if you want to do a trade deal with X, then X will have certain specifications that must be conformed to. So, who's calling the shots? I see sovereignty as pretty parallel- we're all so interconnected that sovereignty is an illusion. I suppose you might argue that sovereignty is the ability to decide whether you trade with X or not, but unless you trade with somebody, you're on skid row.
There's obviously a lot of stuff I've left out here, but I suppose these are my "rules of thumb".
 

"People's Vote"

I wanted to make a bit of progress on my app today, but it is a Sunday and I also wanted to talk about this idea of a "people's vote".

I watched a political programme the other day, which had Caroline Lucas claiming that we were all a lot better informed about the EU now than 2 years ago, so we should have another vote.

Caroline Lucas is the former leader of the Green Party. As avid readers of this blog will know, I was once a member of the Green Party too. So I'd expect synergy on many issues, but not unfortunately on this one.

Better informed? Well, I might be in a minority but if I felt ill-informed on an issue I might be reluctant to vote on it. But if you look at voter turnout, a higher proportion of us voted in this referendum, than have in any General Election this century!

Better informed with a view to what? To changing our minds? Did Caroline change her mind? No, she called for Remain at the time of the referendum and has remained of that view since then. (In fact, I haven't heard anybody calling for a referendum who wasn't originally a supporter of Remain.) But does Caroline know more than the rest of us? Very possibly, as an MP, but remember that she is calling for a fresh public vote, so, really, it's public knowledge is the important metric here. So if Caroline hasn't changed her view, why should she expect anybody else to have done so? I'm afraid it smacks of pompousity to me - I was sufficiently switched-on to think that the EU is a good thing, but you're a bit dimmer, maybe it has taken you a couple more years to come to my conclusion?"

Or maybe we haven't come to her conclusion.

I must admit that I like referendums, they are the public's most direct way of implementing democracy, and I would be happy to express a view on the final deal or on the future relationship with the EU, but politicians are somewhat more vocal, and are saying that one of the options should be to make as though the 2016 vote never happened. What am I afraid of? I'm afraid that by then, we're in a place in which somebody will decide to adopt some referendum results but will ignore others. (Who?) Just holding another referendum - let alone any result - shows this.

As I've already said, I once felt sufficiently sympathetic to the Green Party that I joined it, but I fell out with them on this issue. To this point I have been quite defensive about my reasons for not having a second referendum, but, really, I feel like going on the offense. I want to leave the EU because I think it is a flawed organisation - why don't they think the same? For example, is is acceptable to them that Malta has more than 10x the number of MEPs, per capita, than France does? I mean, you might argue this one by saying that the role of the European Parliament is not the same as national parliaments, that it is more "committee-oriented". Fair enough, but but bear in mind that our MEPs are the only people who are elected by the citizenry of Europe, so unless the parliament represents both the left-winger and the right-winger, where does that leave us? And,why is it acceptable that even people who are sufficiently senior that they sit on the Council of Ministers, are not allowed to even enter proposals to be discussed by that Council of Ministers. Instead, they must be proposed by the commissioners, who are the civil servants of the EU and are not elected. Can you imagine an elected politician not being permitted to even discuss their ideas for policy? (I could go on about the manner in which these commissioners end up in Brussels, i.e. sent rather than elected, but that, I think, is more of a national issue, certainly in the UK. I think Royal Prerogative has a lot to answer for.) But I could go on to talk about e.g. the Eurogroup. I can maybe buy that an avid federalist might be happy that the EU even has economic policies, although I myself don't. The name of the group would be rational, i.e. the finance ministers of those countries who have joined the Euro, were it not for the UK's Chancellor (Osborne) also to sit on it, even though the UK does not have the Euro. But that it also meets in private, behind closed doors? What value transparency here? The EU label this group as "informal" - but if it is that informal, why does it even exist?

In many ways I can feel quite close to a Remain/Reform agenda here, although my analysis is that the EU will not reform itself. But at least a Remain/Reform agenda acknowledges that there are issues with the EU. But it does disappoint me that, from the people who currently shout "Remain", aren't also shouting "Reform".

And aside from all my musings above, if people don't respect the last vote, why on earth should we think they'll respect the next vote?

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Glucometers

Did I tell you my wife now nurses at the local doctors' surgery? The reason for mentioning this will become apparent in a moment.

If buying my own glucometers, I like to plump for the Beurer GL-50 monitor, which has a USB port at one end, that I can plug into my computer. I like this monitor, because the means of connection just works. I walk the monitor over to the computer, I push a button on my Beurer program on the computer (which I downloaded from their site) and it automatically works out what data points it has already and just sucks in the new ones.

I've had the monitor go kaput a couple of times, frankly I don't think any of them are particularly well-made, but I keep going back to this USB interface. I am incumbent to set up the time and date of the device, every time I do so I have to open the manual to find out how (I downloaded one of those too), so it can be a bit out when e.g. the clocks change, but the difference is never massive.

The downside of this monitor is that neither the monitor, nor the test strips for it, can be got through the NHS, so I need to fund them myself. Strips are important because the cost of the monitor is roughly the equivalent of a month's worth of strips, so the cost of the monitor is soon dwarfed by the cost of the strips. Note that insulin-dependent diabetics don't pay again for medicines (i.e. medicines issued by the NHS) in the UK. I figure I've paid once through my taxes over the years anyway.

Anyway, I'm forever looking to make savings, and the guy at my local surgery offered me this other glucometer, called an AgaMatrix Wireless Jazz. The draw of this machine was that both the machine and the strips, I can get them through the NHS, so no (additional) cost to me. As regards connectivity, they have a little app which sits on your phone, it connects to the monitor using bluetooth, and I can then "share" this data to my computer - I can send an email to myself, or more commonly I store the file in my cloud storage. But my computer can then pick up the file somehow and I can copy/paste the data into my spreadsheet.

In practise this is nowhere near as good as my USB connection. In practise, the phone and the monitor can be right next to each other, yet can't "see" each other. I always got it working in the end, but have had to faff around pairing and unpairing the two devices in the past. Nowhere near as reliable as that physical connection I get with USB.

I first used this monitor on 16th August, and last weekend it decided to pack up, it persistently showed an error when I put a test strip in. Same error with many test strips. So that's about the lifespan of these devices - four months. Just long enough to pop in a fresh set of batteries, but I shan't cry about that. It makes sense to replace like for like, as I have approx 75 unused test strips (sounds a lot but I'll use them in the next few months) in my bathroom.

Anyway, the good part about my wife working locally is that she could just ask the pharmacist for a new monitor, which she duly got yesterday.

One plus point of this monitor is that it takes the date and time from my phone every time I sync the two. The phone, in turn, takes its time and date from the network, so in theory it is always accurate.

It is interesting to mote that my last few readings with the "old" Agamatrix were 9 point something, and when it packed up I used the Beurer instead, which read 11. Of course, this could just be that the readings were taken a day apart, so I might have eaten something which caused the higher value. But it could also be the differences between two different meters. In real terms, it is only 10ish% difference, I notice it because one puts me within my target (10) and the other puts me outside. Funny how our minds work. On the offchance that the difference is real, my sugar was 7 today, just because I've tried not to eat anything that might be dodgy these last few days, but the acid test would be to have tested both monitors at the same time, side-by-side. I do have some control solution somewhere (but even that won't be accurate to within 10%).

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Stroke Day

I had what I call a "stroke day" today. I'm past the stage where I do silly things (mostly!) and I don't lose days to fatigue, in the way that some survivors do - I tend to be more short, sharp shocks - but I just had one of those days where things seemed to take longer.

My first thing happened this morning. An indirect, rather than direct, effect of the stroke. I've been meaning to get a haircut recently, so went into Salisbury. When I used to drive, it was fifteen minutes each way, unless you got caught in traffic. Coupled with the haircut, about an hour? But, as I'm restricted to the bus, it was a 3-hour round trip. I mean, I'm grateful that I'm able to go anywhere after the stroke, but it's not quick. It was rainy today, so I got soaked to boot.

The other two things I'll mention are a direct result of the stroke. It stemmed from my decision to wash my bedding this morning. Along with the bedding, some white interview shirts were lying on the bed, I hadn't put them away last time. They were a bit creased so I put them in with the bedding. By lunchtime, the laundry was complete - I was determined to avoid my previous mistake so was determined to iron the shirts, and hang them up in the wardrobe.

Ironing a shirt. Two minutes, right? Then imagine ironing it with one hand. Every time I adjusted the shirt, I had to re-adjust it to try and make sure I didn't iron creases into it, before I actually used the iron. A good ten or fifteen minutes, plus my back was killing at the end of it just for having been standing in a not-very-comfortable position. So I still have two of the three shirts still to do!

Lastly, there was putting the bedding back on. I've learned a few tricks by now, so I can manage pillows ok - as long as I use my teeth. The duvet cover is always a struggle but I use single bedding these days, so I know I'm able to do it (a double duvet would defeat me). But it just takes that much longer.

The bed itself is still a double, so the base sheet is also a double, and therefore tricky to get on. I find one of the corners, but it fights back as I try to tuck it under the mattress. It pops out, I lose it, and have to start the process again. This time I had the bright idea, instead of tucking the sheet corner under the mattress, to hook it over the bedpost instead. That seemed to make things easier. When three of the four corners were in place, the fourth was easy to identify and to tuck under the mattress, and the other three followed suit. Not a bad job. But it still took a good half hour, a lot longer than when I was healthy.

I'm sure that each time I do these tasks I get a little bit quicker. I remember a couple of years ago, being in tears because I couldn't get this double duvet cover onto the duvet and then onto the bed. (It was summer and I even tried to enlist the help of our rotary washing line,taking everything out into the garden, still to no avail!) But I wonder if I'll ever get to the point where they don't take any longer than they used to?

Friday, 30 November 2018

The UK's European deal

I must admit that I've thought that the EU was flawed, and have done for some years. I won't get sidetracked by going into the details, but I'm broadly in support of Tony Benn here. Whose views are all over the web. I don't accept Benn's premise that the UK system is at all better than the EU system - the UK has just as many flaws - but I agree with Tony's analysis, as far as the things that are wrong with the EU. To the point where I'd happily be out of it. I have European friends and think the idea of some pan-European organisation where we all practise brotherly love toward each other is a great idea. But I don't think the EU organisation is it. Yanis Varoufakis's writings add to my belief, although his conclusion is to remain and reform. I don't think the EU will reform, so therefore I'll walk. I don't particularly fear a rise of nationalism, because I think you argue the issue. I don't see the EU as a buffer to prevent future conflicts. I think where I disagree with my European friends is that they might. But then for a lot of them, their grandparents have either been occupied by a foreign power, or have themselves been occupiers, so my friends' perspective will be different to mine.

After the referendum, my view on the EU, frankly, became irrelevant. What then became relevant was how we were governed - whether we were governed by a beast which listened to the population, or whether we were governed by one which thought it should dictate. Certainly, for me, government is consensual. We pay our taxes, we (mostly) don't break the law, because we recognise that our society is the better for it.

I can understand May's deal. She's basically no more than a go-between. She's playing devil's advocate, and presenting what she thinks is the "best" deal that the UK will get from the EU. And the EU have agreed with her. Whether the UK Parliament will subsequently agree that the deal is a good one  is another matter.

But I harp back to the 52:48 nature of the referendum vote. To me, I think if you have a vote which is that close, you have to come up with something pretty diluted in order to try and reconcile these two factions. The majority might well have said "Leave", but I think we need to recognise that 48% of our countrymen wanted to stay in the EU. I can see where many Brexiteers are coming from, because they live in a world where it's right that 50.1% of the vote gives 100% of the power, but I don't agree with it.

I think that you have to compromise.  The most we can hope for is to reclaim governance (and this might be where May's deal falls down). Plus, you also need an acceptance that things might become clearer with the passage of time. We've been fifty years getting intertwined with the EU so I don't for a minute think we'll finalize the precise relationship we want with the EU in just two or three years. So, there are bound to be things where we either want to be closer to, or further from, the EU, so we need to not tie the hands of our successors. To hear things like "the UK can't withdraw from something unless the EU member states agree" seems unacceptable. We all need to be able to withdraw from X, in the knowledge that the other party might do Y as a result.

I do think that what I'm hearing from the politicians, btw, just exacerbates the situation. From Labour we hear no more detail that "the deal is a shambles". Why? From the government, we hear that the deal delivers on Brexit. Again, why? More specifically, it might deliver Brexit but how does it affect trade and jobs? And, there seems to be acknowledgement that people voted to leave because of concern over immigration (I didn't), so how have you satisfied them? You come to the conclusion that most politicians are just toeing the line, saying what they've been told to say. That they likely don't fully understand the deal either. At least with somebody like Jacob Rees-Mogg I've heard some kind of reasons why he doesn't like it. I mean, there's probably little on which Mogg and I would agree politically, but I think he's gone some way to adding clarity to the debate here.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Sugar Spreadsheet

My wife reckons that nobody is interested in this, but I'll share it nonetheless.

The spreadsheet where I record all my sugar is here. I've shared it to my web site folder, so hopefully you can see it. It comes down as a .xlsm file, which can be recognised by Excel 2016, which you get from Office 365. XLSM presumably means "a spreadsheet containing macros".

The spreadsheet has about 4 rows of dummy data, just so you can see what you have to enter. You just need to enter the time, date and value. Other columns are optional i I record how much insulin I take, and what monitor I use to measure - and those with a grey background are calculated.

To calculate statistics, just hit the button in the top-right, and follow the instructions. I've put a little macro under there which will ask for the first row you want to calculate stats for, and the last row. It'll then work out when was "one month ago", and write the number of entries, the average and the standard deviation in columns E, F and G. Please note that where you just have one reading for the last month, the mean will just be that reading. And, you need at least 2 readings during the last month in order to calculate a standard deviation, so with just this sample data, each cell in Column G shows an error (which will go away as you add that second row).

The macro is very basic, its main purpose is to work out which days are within the last month. it is quite crude, will expect the data to be in chronological order, and will behave unreliably id not. I really developed it for myself rather than for public consumption.

Software provided on a "best endeavours" basis. The macro is written in a language called VBScript, which I've never ever seen in the last 10 years! You can view and change the source code, in any case.

Job Hunt

As part of my job search, I signed up to a site called reed.co.uk, and set up a search. I asked for all jobs within a 10-mile radius. I know from other job search engines that this search yields 20-25 jobs per day, many of which are at the local hospital. So, imagine my surprise when their search email told me that, in the course of just 24 hours, there were more than 350 jobs!

I saw straight away that their search contained jobs that were not 10 miles from Salisbury, but 50! I mean, what is the use in that? Someone has obviously decided that it is better for their site to send out wodges on information, even though it is irrelevant, than to send a smaller amount of "correct" information. Answering my own question, presumably this allows them to say to employers, "hey, we pushed your add to a zillion people!". no matter that to most of those people, the ad was irrelevant.

It kind-of brings into sharp focus exactly who this site is aimed at. They're obviously a company, out to make a profit, and the way they make money is by commission when they place someone in a job. Any service they appear to offer to candidates is purely a means to an end. It's a bit like Facebook - you think you're taking part in some nonsense quiz, and all of a sudden Cambridge Analytica are telling you who to vote for.

So my dilemma is straightforward. Do I continue with these emails, in which case I'm headed for a lot of wasted time manually sifting through their false positives, or do I can the search, write it off as a waste of time, and hope that if that dream job does come along, I find out about it anyway from one of my other searches?