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?

Sunday, 18 November 2018

HBA1C

I don't bother much with my HBA1C reading. I haven't had it taken since February - in fact the last time I even went to my doctor's surgery, they were sufficiently unhelpful that I ended up complaining about them.

NB - it is not worth complaining about UK doctors' surgeries. There's a whole machine aimed at deflecting complaints

A good description of HBA1C appears here, but I will attempt to give my own description below.

Your HBA1C is your glycated haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is found in your red blood cells - they're the cells that carry oxygen through the body and basically enable us to function. Your blood also carries glucose (sugar) around in it, and over time, it combines with the haemoglobin somehow (I don't understand how it combines, but that's a whole level lower than I need to go). Glycated Haemoglobin is just a measure of these "combined" cells. The act of combining takes time, so the HBA1C is seen very much as an average reading over time. To give a context, "time", here, is 1½ or 2 months, and of course it is an ongoing process. So, from one day to the next, you wouldn't expect your HBA1C to change much. As you might expect, the HBA1C number is a ratio of glycated  cells to other cells.

If you're not a diabetic, your body produces insulin and combats the sugar in your bloodstream, and the amount of this glycated haemoglobin is at quite a low level  - below 42 mmol/mol is thought of as "normal", although there's a small range above this (up to 48 mmol/mol) which is informally labelled "pre-diabetes". I say "informal", because it isn't a real diagnosis - it just means that the likelihood is that you'll go on to develop diabetes. When someone is diabetic, there's more glucose sloshing around, more combination, and therefore that ratio is higher - speaking from experience, my HBA1C has at times been over 100 (it's a lot lower than that now).

HBA1C is quite important because this is the value used by clinicians to make diagnoses, and, if necessary, to determine what medication you have.

Anyway, having spent all this time describing HBA1C, I don't bother with it much. Instead, I prick my finger at least every day. This is something I can do in the convenience of my own bathroom, rather than having to go somewhere and give a syringe of blood. The glucometer measures everything that much more directly - how much glucose there is in the blood at a certain point in time. That's the key, though, at a certain point in time. It's a spot-value.

The other thing is that the amount of glucose in the blood is not only dependent on whether you are diabetic or not, but on what you've just eaten. When you eat (or drink) something, your body takes time to digest it, so you might have raised sugar levels for some time afterwards.

The way I try and get around this is by measuring my blood sugar every day when I get up. Because I do it after a night's sleep, I know that anything I might have eaten the day before should have been well-and-truly digested, so I'm measuring a kind-of baseline value. Then I write (i.e. copy) it down in a spreadsheet. This is why I like my glucometers to connect with the computer in some way. Anyway, I end up with a bunch of spot-values - I'm almost 900 so far - and looking at past readings I'm able to see how my sugar is behaving over time. I just use straight statistics (i.e. available out-of-the-box with something like Excel) to get an idea of what my sugar does over long periods. I generally look at the last month, so the same kind of timescale as the HBA1C, and work out the average value and a measure of its variance called the standard deviation. I remember back to when I studied maths, and these values are universally-accepted ways to measure things. So I end up with average values which are as useful as the HBA1C values.

But I've pretty much mentioned all this before, in other posts, I think. I used to take readings every day, then look at periodic readings - every 3 months, say - and calculate this average value, to give me an idea of how my long-term sugar varied.There were two parts to this - identifying which values to use, and actually doing the calculation. Doing the calculation itself was trivial, but identifying which cells to use, I did manually. The trouble is, months have a variable number of days, and in any case, sometimes I've taken several readings per day, so "a month" might be 28 readings, or it might be 100 readings!.

But this weekend, I put my programming head on and developed a macro (small program) for Microsoft Excel which worked out these calculations for me. I mean, I've programmed stuff for Excel before, but 10 years ago and, even then, only to solve a specific problem. Fortunately, little had changed, other than menus etc. to find my way in. So, the result? For every data point, every day, I'm able to calculate, automatically which readings are within that last month, i.e. which readings to use and to discard, then to when calculate statistics. For every reading. So I end up with this:



The average graph, obviously I don't want that to go to zero, else I'd be dead! But it'd be nice to get down to the kind of numbers I was at before ever I was diabetic. Of course, I can get lower numbers by taking more and more insulin, but I'd rather keep the insulin dose as low as possible, so it is a halfway house. I'm hoping to be more ambitious in the future. The SD measures how much this average varies, and ideally I'd like this to get to zero. But I know how different food can cause fluctuations in the sugar (which, let's face it, isn't going to change), so I'm not sure whether that will improve at all.

I'm not be completely finished yet, though. In theory, these values should just get calculated every time I open the spreadsheet, but quite often I'm opening it and seeing:


so there may be a little more work to do.

I think what I need to aim for is something that can be calculated when I say so (for most readings, that'll only be once) then just store the value in the cell.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Clearance

My mum and Dad both died in 2012. They left a 3-bedroom semi, full to the brim with belongings. I spent much of 2013 clearing the place out, and finally sold up in 2014. The big stuff, the furniture, beds, wardrobes etc., I put into storage where it has remained ever since.

We went up to the storage facility on Monday to sort out, once and for all, the stuff that was valuable to us. There wasn't a great deal of monetary value in it, both my parents came from very humble backgrounds, and the "valuables" amounted to just 1/4 of all that had been in storage. Even some of that was taking some of my mum's furniture, with a view to like-for-like replacement of some of our stuff.

Anyway, the storage people put me in touch with a house clearance company, who've looked inside the units containing the items I'm letting go of. And they said they'd give me £200 for the lot. I know my mum had some stuff they'll never be able to sell, I know that the £200 takes account of the costs they'll incur, but for a couple who lived until roughly 70 each, it's sad that their worldly goods come down to this.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Thoughts about jobs

I've been thinking about this for a while, so finally I thought I'd put something down.

I had an interview about a month ago, it made me reflect on the issues facing disabled people.

I mean, often when we go to interviews, we're nervous about what it will contain, what will be asked etc. I wasn't so much in this case - I have many years experience in the field of software development, although (a) most recently it was at a far ore senior level than I was being recruited for, (b) my experience was in different technologies than what they were looking for, although there was some crossover, and (c) I'd been out of the industry for five years. I'd like to think that (c) isn't a factor but I'm bound not to be as sharp as when I was immersed in IT every day.

But it made me think, the issues were not the interview itself, but just getting ready and dressed up, getting up the flight of stairs to the interview room, signing in and out at their reception. And so on. It's kind of weird that everything is back to front now - doing the job would have been easy enough but the issues are all the peripheral things!

Self-regulation

It's funny, I tested myself when I got up this morning, at around 7:30. 9.8, about average. I made myself a cup of tea but didn't have any breakfast yet. Because my sugar wasn't overly high, I didn't take my insulin just yet.

One thing happened after another, and before I knew it, it was 10:30am. Out of interest, I tested myself again. 9.2. I'd had nothing in between apart from that cup of tea, and there's very little carb in that.

I mean, I'm wary of reading too much into decimal places, but possibly this gives an indication of how well (i.e. badly) I'm able to regulate my own sugar level.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Dry Mouth

I had a strange incident on Monday. We went to arrange to get my mum's stuff out of storage, and all the while I had a really dry mouth. To the point where my voice didn't sound right (i.e. not how it usually sounds). Now, I usually take this as a telltale sign that my sugar is high, but I couldn't particularly think of anything I'd eaten which would make it so.

Sure enough, when we got home, the dryness had eased somewhat and I tested my sugar - which was down at 8. For me, that's low. Indeed, my morning sugars have been around 7 ever since.

So I must remember that whilst high sugar levels can be a cause of dry mouth (before the stroke I drank far more fluids, when I assume my sugar was that much higher), there are other things that can cause it. I need to try and find out what.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

PIP

It has been so long, I'd just assumed my PIP had been sorted and would continue as before. But I got a letter yesterday from the DWP saying they would no longer grant the mobility part of the benefit. I still get the main chunk but the mobility part is about 20%.

I hear of lots of appeals against PIP decisions, and I read that there is something like a 70% success rate. So the moral is that the DWP often get things wrong.

I've been busy these last couple of days, but will need to look at this tomorrow and maybe Thursday. First things first, their scoring system is out there in the public domain, so I can quite easily run through their assessment questions and see, foremost, whether I have any grounds to appeal. I suppose, after that, (assuming I do have grounds to appeal) I'll need to contact someone to help me through the process.

All grief I can do without.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Blue Badges

Therewas a news story a few days ago. It wasn't mega-news but enough to make the BBC's web site.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-46115444?fbclid=IwAR36mirBhNbmnu9hV-SqHsiN6w75TajYHBzFixEIRKTTuF1BVul1XmgC6rg

The story is basically a woman, who has a small son who's disabled, got a rude note on her windscreen for using a blue-badge parking space. Apparently, she was displaying a perfectly-valid permit in the vehicle.

I've seen this from both sides. Often, people don't appear to be disabled, and I think people must just assume because of that, that they aren't disabled. Some of my stroke buddies, say, have problems with their eyes - of course we don't see this when we see them. It highlights how looks can be deceptive.

On the other hand, we sometimes go to the supermarket at lunchtime, and I will see a white van parked in a disabled bay, the van has no badge on display and the driver invariably turns up 5 minutes later, sandwich in hand. So I do think abuse takes place.

For me, the badge is the key. I got mine by virtue of having PIP, so I already jumped through the necessary hoops to get that, although it was granted by the local authority not by the DWP. I think my permit lasts until 2019, although I still (today) receive PIP (I had an assessment a few months ago), so there's no reason to think that the renewal won't be straightforward. The badge lives in the glove box of the car, so, in theory, it is always with us.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Readvertising

It is an interesting conundrum. I see the same job, for the same salary, posted again and again. I can see, if you're a poster, that you might assume that someone, who might be perfect for the role, might not have seen the job that time around, so it might be worth advertising the same job again.

But I'm seeing jobs that are just being re-advertised for months on end, at the same salary. If someone were looking for that job, don't you think they'd have seen the ad by now?

It leads me to an interesting question - at what point do you, as a recruiter, throw your hands up in surrender and accept that there whilst there might be nobody sufficiently skilled to do the job, there might also be something wrong with the job which stops people from applying. It might be the job description itself, the conditions, or the salary. But surely it can't be particularly fruitful to just re-advertise the job again and again?

Friday, 2 November 2018

Blood Pressure

I don't much mention my blood pressure, but it has always been high and I have taken medication for it for several years. I used to worry more about my blood pressure than I did my diabetes, although these days I just take the meds and think "que sera sera".

In fact the only two things in my life which have ever been abnormal (i.e. non-average readings, I hate the word "normal") are my blood pressure and my diabetes. So, when looking for the causes of the stroke, these are prime candidates. Indeed, after the stroke, all of my meds were changed - and I can't help thinking that the meds I took before the stroke were not the most appropriate for me. But my blood pressure, certainly, is a lot lower now than then, back into a recommended range.

These days, I keep tabs on both my sugar and my blood pressure. With my diabetes, I can take the insulin and also balance my sugar levels with what I eat, plus I measure it daily so have many results. With the blood pressure, it's not as easy. I can take the meds, but there's not much else. I can't get the exercise I once did because of my disability, and frankly, even when I cycled hundreds of miles per month, it didn't make much difference. I used to keep sufficient tabs on things even then, to know that. So I'm kind-of left thinking that if a stroke is gonna happen, it's gonna happen. Plus, because there's not as much I can do, I measure it monthly, approximately.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Hidden Payloads

Been meaning to post about how different foods affect my blood sugar, last weekend gave me a good opportunity.

If you don't already know, blood sugar for a non-diabetic will generally sit at about 5 or 6 mmol/l. Because your body produces "enough" insulin, your body self-regulates and your sugar doesn't doesn't change much.

The definition of diabetes is simply that my body doesn't produce enough insulin of its own, and so I need to take additional insulin (or something - there are many drugs available) to keep my sugar under control. I try to minimise my dose of insulin, because it can cause side effects, and so I allow my sugar to run a bit high. I'm generally around 10 mmol/l. I hope that is still low enough to stop me having another stroke. Obviously because I don't produce enough insulin, my body's ability to regulate has gone out of the window, and so I vary the insulin dose a little with each dose.

Anyway, as you can imagine, what I eat plays a big part in how my sugar level varies. But it's not quite as obvious as you might think. I can generally sneak a small chocolate bar (my favourite is Turkish Delight, for UK readers) without it affecting my sugar level. I think that because you know the food is naturally sweet, you limit your intake. A Turkish Delight as a once-a-week treat is not noticeable, five Turkish Delights per day probably would be.

But all that is quite obvious. Some foods are less obvious. For example, white bread. Does not taste at all sweet, but on one occasion, in hospital, it took my sugar up to over 30 mmol/l! I mean, if you've ever mad bread, you'll know it is mostly made of flour, and what is flour made of? In fact, any kind of dough or pastry can affect my sugar. Another one is diet fizzy drinks - you naturally think that, because they're sugar-free, they'd have less of an effect on my sugar, but as far as I can tell, it makes absolutely no difference. Again, it might be volume-related. I've never been a big lover of pop, so I'm comparing a quantity of "not very much" to a quantity of "not very much". To give an idea, I've maybe only had one or two cans of pop in the last year. Compare and contrast with Donald Trump, who I think boasts 12 cans of Diet Coke per day! Pub drinks such as beer or cider are also quite high in sugar too, although I've never been into drinking at home, and it is rare these days for me to go to a pub. It is sufficiently rare, and I'll probably only have a pint to wash down a meal, that I allow myself to drink whatever I fancy. But I'm usually happy to stick with tea. I like a glass of cordial now and again, but still, very small volume.

So last weekend I was up at 14, which I consider to be high these days. I think this was down to a bag of crisps. It was one of these supermarket bags, so was bigger than the regular bags. Again, savoury not sweet, but the key is that crisps are basically 100% carbohydrate. Sugars are also a form of carbohydrate. Do you maybe see a link here? In fact, many diabetics just refer to diabetes as carb-intolerance. Similarly, I have to take care with things like potatoes, even just boiled new potatoes. Also rice or pasta, which I often have as part of an evening meal, or bread, which I already mentioned and which is a favourite for lunch. It's difficult to avoid such foods, but quite easy to limit your intake. I eat wholemeal bread - fibre rather than carb, and things like crisps are a once-a-week (or usually less) treat. I'm quite fortunate these days in that when I get a taste for something (e.g. my Turkish Delights!) I can usually wait several days, or until the next trip to the supermarket, to satisfy the urge.

 I think also that time of day might play a part. I test myself (usually) when I get up and am "fasting". (i.e. I'll easily have digested whatever I ate the day before), although whatever I ate the day before will still be measurable. But I do find that something I eat in the morning is less noticeable than something I eat in the evening, if I test myself then. Of course, I can vary the time of day that I test myself. I have, a couple of times, tested myself regularly over the course of the day just to see how my sugar varies during the day. I know that a large lunch will, by teatime, show in my sugar. Indeed, teatime is a favourite "other" time to test myself, because generally, that's the high point of my day. However I'm normally able to spot the foods that will put me high and avoid them.

It is annoying that people often naively think that too many sweets cause diabetes, when the things that put my blood sugar high are not necessarily sweet. Plus, of course, people naively respond to the general press - if you change your lifestyle, you can reverse diabetes - when, of course, it isn't always possible. It is possible to change your lifestyle, although difficult to avoid carbs, plus it is not always possible to reverse diabetes. In fact, for years I tried controlling my numbers through diet and exercise, and ended up (a) taking insulin and (b) having a stroke!

I'll just part with the thought that both of my parents were, and large parts of my family were/are, T2 diabetics. Make of that what you will.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

DBS Checks

As part of my overall job hunting, I have just seen a new low. Somebody is offering a "free" DBS check.

A few years ago, I'd never have known what one of these was, but now that I do some charity work....

DBS is some UK government agency, and DBS checks basically show if you have a criminal record or not. Both the Stroke Association and Age UK require DBS checks, because with both, I'm working with people who might be considered vulnerable. Both charities required a DBS check as part of the application process, but equally, each check was just a form filled out by me. There was no cost to me, otherwise I probably wouldn't have bothered volunteering.

My wife also requires a DBS check, probably more detailed than mine, for her work as a nurse. Again, something just sorted by her employer.

I mean, I'm sure that these checks must ultimately cost somebody something, but the individual being checked does not pay.

So it makes me chuckle that there must be so few plus-points about this particular job, that the prospective employers highlight "free" DBS checks

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Remembrance

In the UK, we are coming up to Remembrance Sunday once again. I must admit, I've struggled with this in recent years.

A hundred years ago, say, for example, in World War One, the average man-in-the-street would not have known about, or would have had a limited view of, world events. They would have trusted the judgement of their "betters", who sent them off to war.

If people had known what they now know about the reasons, would they have been so prepared to fight? Especially as the "war to end all wars" was repeated just 25 years later? Certainly, as I understand it, we were sucked into war almost accidentally, due mainly to distant alliances coming into play, and was far from clear-cut.

On to World War Two, and I think is an easy one to justify, in the light of Hitler's behaviour towards minorities such as Jews, for example. Of course, we never found out about the concentration camps until late in the war, but there were signs; there's no doubt whatsoever that, at best, we were dealing with an intolerant regime from the moment it arrived. I suspect I'd have been happy to join up and to do my bit.

So, growing up as a child, not something you'd spend time pondering.

But take later wars. In America, Viet Nam, for example. Here, Ireland, the Falklands, even moreso Afghanistan and Iraq. All of these wars were propagated by politicians, and all had some degree of domestic opposition. I've got personal memories from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the media coverage was such that every one of us was able to decide what was right and what was wrong. We had no need of politicians to inform us, because we were sufficiently informed ourselves. Indeed, politicians actively muddied the waters, for example the sexed-up dossier which falsely claimed the existence of WMD. So there is far more ambiguity in order to determine right from wrong. At best, I think it is a case-by-case call.

So it might be OK for me, a mere civilian, to decide that a war might be wrong. But what about a serviceman or -woman? Is their duty just to do as they are told (ultimately, to obey the will of their political superiors), or do they have a responsibility to decide between right and wrong, just like me?

It's probably worth noting at this point that the Nurenburg Trials of WW2 quite clearly stated that "obeying orders" was not a valid defence, although this was in the context of war crimes, rather than just taking part in the war itself. And, if you look at the history of that defence, it is inconsistent at best.

So that's the dilemma. Does a serviceman have a responsibility to take a view on the rights and wrongs of the situation they are asked to fight in?

Of course, if you say "yes" to that question, you probably then need to look at the composition of the armed forces. How particular regions (of the UK, I'm thinking now) are heavy recruitment areas for the armed forces, largely due to their large unemployment. Economic conscription. It starts to get very complicated, because an individual's choice to become a serviceman will likely be influenced by their environment. But, despite this, if you *do* say "yes", Remembrace is essentially a money-raising event on behalf of the British Legion, so why should you support somebody financially when they've purposefully done something with witch you disagree?

 If you say "No" - they ignore everything apart from their commander's instruction - then at what point do we apply conscience? At what point do you evaluate "this is wrong" or "this is right"? If you don't apply conscience at all, don't take a view on wrong/right, then you just defer up the chain and you end up with a politician making a decision, which may or may not be on principle (there's no guarantee either way), and everyone else just following suit. Iraq and Afghanistan are obvious examples where dodgy values have been applied, although I don't think Blair or Campbell or Bush are particularly unique.

I don't pretend to have an answer here, but certainly I can defend either view as principled, in its own right. And, of course, the view you take will drive your view of Remembrance.


Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Smoke and Mirrors

Since I've been looking for jobs, I've noticed some trickery by either the job boards or the advertisers to make a candidate think that there are more jobs than there actually are.

Firstly, when I opened my email program this morning, I had two emails from one of the job boards. Each advertising a job. The two jobs had exactly the same title. Further, they had very nearly the same description (probably 495/500 words were the same), they were posted by the same person, from the same company, with the same reference. They must have been the same job. So, either the advertiser has posted the same job as two different jobs, or the job board has sent out multiple notifications. Possibly, advertiser saves a job, job board sends a notification, advertiser amends the same job, job board sends another notification?

The other thing is that this job has been doing the rounds for some weeks now. The same advertiser posts the same job every few weeks. Presumably the job can't be filled, and this keeps it at the top of everybody's search results. This happens across the board. Many advertisers, many jobs. I can kind-of see why this would happen, because I, as a jobseeker, would probably not bother searching on "all unfilled jobs, even if they were posted 5 years ago". But, all the same, if you could get advertisers to actually close out a vacancy once it no longer existed.... Or, have an auto-expire on every advert? The job is assumed filled, or the vacancy no longer exists, unless someone posts a fresh advert? Advertisers would probably say that this is exactly what they're doing! But perhaps the job board could restrict recycling to every month or so?

With a combination of these two factors, if you look at one day's job alerts, probably only 5% or fewer would fall into the category "totally new, have not seen before". Some of the job boards which actually send a digest of the previous day's jobs, will actually include multiple references to the same job, in the same email!

I do think this approach is indicative of our view of jobs as a whole. The government will claim that there is very little unemployment, and yet as a society, we rely more and more on food banks. We hear about people having three jobs in order to make ends meet.

I think when you have bad statistics about unemployment, you've got two options. You either fix unemployment by getting more people into work, or you change the way you calculate unemployment so as to bring the numbers down. One method strikes me as genuine, the other as a fiddle. And I see little of the one, and lots of the other. And the job boards are no better, having taken a deliberate decision to crack on as though there are more jobs than there actually are.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Four Eyes

I picked up a new pair of glasses today, they are all-singing, all-dancing varifocals. In theory, I put the things on when I get up, and take them off at bedtime. My eyes have a prescription with distance, and also a prescription for reading. It is weird so far because. as anyone with varifocals will know, the lens transforms from distance (top) to reading (bottom). So today, I'm looking a lot like a nodding donkey today, trying to get the focus right. Even now, whilst I'm supposed to wear these all the time, I find it easier to type without wearing them.

I did have some previous glasses - distance only - and used to wear them mainly for driving. Since the stroke, I don't drive any more and have mostly just left these glasses on the seat beside me, just to help me focus on the tv programme guide. And, with the old grasses, one of the screws came out, lost forever, which meant that the lens was no longer secure. So whenever I popped the glasses on, the first job is usually to pop the lens in the frame, getting fingermarks on it in the process. If I clean the lens, it pops out of the frame. Can't win. Well, maybe I can, by getting some new glasses. So, fingers crossed.

(I've now popped the glasses on. It feels weird, because to see the laptop screen clearly, I have to look over the laptop screen!

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Duh

At certain times, I've worried about my future in the IT industry, just by virtue of being "too rusty" to be useful any more. Then at other times I realise I probably needn't worry.

I have a digital (internet) radio which stopped working a while ago. All was fine from my network, but the radio was meant to connect to some cloud-based service, and couldn't. I resolved to fix it this afternoon.

It turns out that the service provider had discontinued the service, which is why I couldn't connect. Instead, they have a new service. My radio is quite old, must have been one of the first internet radios -we always had poor reception here in terms of RF signals, but good internet. So, over time, I can imagine things get superceded. Annoying, but true - companies think nothing of pulling the rug up from under their users.

The dumb thing is that the firmware of the radio obviously contains the URL to connect to. The old firmware obviously contained the old URL. So, my radio couldn't connect to the new service, to play radio, unless I upgraded the firmware. The only problem was that the "upgrade" function was obviously trying to connect to the old URL. Which no longer existed....

I am fortunate that this radio, whilst it should do everything by wi-fi, also has a USB port. Wires to the rescue!

Monday, 8 October 2018

Jobs (2)

Quite a surreal experience today. Pretty much since I lived in this village, I worked up in London. There was always quite a clear demarcation between home and work.

But today I interviewed with a couple of guys who work for one of the few businesses in the village. It'd be strange to work for them - working within walking distance of home, first time ever.

Realistically, I'm trying to get back into the industry after five years away, so wouldn't really rate my chances - I'm not sure if it is something I'd want to be doing either. But equally, they're a charity based in our tiny village, so they probably won't attract many candidates. I wouldn't mind betting that every candidate they do attract will have a back-story similar to  mine.

Realistically, every interview is practise for the next interview. This one didn't go at all badly, considering the time I'd been away, how much water has passed under the bridge. But then again, I have spent months boning up technically, so really, that shouldn't come as any surprise. I got a little tripped of on some of the most recent language concepts, but that's not really a problem because I have already read up on the question I was asked, and I can easily read up on general updates to the language in the next few days. The only day that I am busy this week is tomorrow. Next time around, I'll be convincing.

One interesting thing: I've never been a fan of "blagging" - pretending I know more about something than I actually do, instead I've always been very "matter of fact", and have generally floated to the top in every environment that I worked in because I have always been stronger than most people, technically. If fact it would surprise you how often I've worked with poor technologists in supposedly prestige environments. Anyway, yesterday I had already come clean about my lack of up-to-date knowledge, so I asked these guys some questions about a few aspects. They didn't use those aspects either! Just goes to show, you have to look past the blurb.And I still maintain that a lot of the languege's innovations, while labour-saving for developers, are not necessarily intuitive for reviewers.

Pharmacy Blunders

The first thing I do each morning is to fire up the computer and see anything that happened overnight, either on social media or by email.

This morning, a friend of mine had posted a story he'd picked up from the BBC. Some pharmacy (in the UK) had issued a chap with the wrong meds, the chap subsequently died. The same thing once happened to me, except I check all my meds, so noticed the mistake before I'd even opened the box.

The error was with Downton Pharmacy. Somebody had picked the wrong drugs. Somebody else had then checked those wrong drugs, and signed them off anyway. Having designed many banking systems, I am very familiar with four-eyed processes.

When I spoke to the pharmacy, their excuse was that they were very sorry, but the staff were soooo hard-worked and always in a hurry.

To compound matters, I complained to the NHS, lest the same thing happen to somebody else. The result was that despite the mistake, the pharmacy's working practises were sound so therefore no action would be taken.

I mean, I never complained to try and make any financial gain from the situation, but maybe I should have? I have a feeling that the NHS just cover up for each other, whereas a court might have taken this more seriously. Certainly, at the end of this process, there was a definite note-to-self: next time, call a lawyer. It can't have been far from their minds either, one of the first things the pharmacy asked was whether I could return the evidence, errrr, the meds back to them.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

The Appremtice

I'm just sitting here with the tv on, and the BBC keep playing a trailer for "The Apprentice". They must have a new series starting.

I must admit I have always found the idea of The Apprentice totally abhorrent. The idea that everything just boils down to profit and loss just negates those other things in life which are, in themselves, valuable qualities. The only thing I find difficult about this programme is finding a suitably negative word to describe it.

I'm sure Alan Sugar must be nicer than the role he plays on the programme - you can't possibly get by in life, let alone prosper, with such a negative attitude towards other human beings.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Prescriptions

I've been trying out an electronic prescription service, my experience so far (3 months) has been quite good. They are Superdrug. I should say, this is UK.

When I set up the account, it took a couple of days for it to work, just because I said I was exempt from having to pay for prescriptions, and I suppose they checked this. But thereafter, the meds arrive through the post 3 days after I order them.

They don't send refrigerated items, which means I have to get my insulin from a pharmacy still (but they issue me with a long number that I can take to the pharmacy, so it still saves me a trip to the doctor's). Of course, there is a reason for that - because refrigerated items wouldn't stay cold even if they sent them by courier! So, I'm wary of companies who say they will dispatch refrigerated meds. Especially as those meds are subjected to a "cold trail", which must end once the meds are put into the post. I did find one company who claimed to post refrigerated meds in some kind of insulated envelope, but i took it a step further and asked them whether they had ever experimented by posting a refrigerated item to themselves, then measuring its temperature upon arrival, just to verify that the insulation was effective. Surprisingly, they didn't reply but I think I know the answer.

My surgery, by the way, aren't as switched on as this online pharmacy. Last time around, I sent a request which was then re-issued to the surgery by the pharmacy. Not only did I get the stuff I asked for, but I got other stuff that I didn't! They're all meds I take, so I'll get to use them sooner or later, but it gives an indication that the surgery doesn't really care about the cost of all this stuff. I suppose receiving too many meds is better than not receiving enough, but it'd be nice if they could just get it spot on.

So, if anyone wants some needles or some test strips, I have some spare at the moment!

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Where's the damn cursor?

I must recount a funny episode from the other day. I'm telling it purely out of amusement, as I don't think this woman has a prejudiced bone in her body.

She's showing me a web application, so we're sitting down in front of a computer. I'm driving. This screen comes up, she's obviously familiar with it, and says, "just press OK". Or cancel, or something.

I can see the button, but the trouble is, my eyes don't see the mouse cursor too quickly, so I have to waggle it about a bit and catch the movement. So it takes a few seconds before I'm able to do as she says. And she points to the button on the screen, as though it's that I can't see. It's easier on a PC that I can customise - on my laptop I have all the regular cursors, but large size and lime-green for added contrast.

Not really amusing, I suppose, but it is funny to observe the assumptions that people make.

Jobs

Gosh, people talk about the staff shortage in the NHS, but I suppose unless you're close to it, it doesn't really register.

I must have mentioned, I am looking for a job at the moment, and, to cover all my bases, I've set up an email alert with the government's jobs web site. I guess this web site is what the traditional Labour Exchanges and Job Centres morphed into.

Anyway, I do a search local to Salisbury, Wiltshire, and yesterday, 12 of the 21 newly-advertised jobs were up at Salisbury Hospital, just over 50%. Today, there are 26 new jobs, of which 12 again are at the hospital - this time almost half. It's staggering that just one employer can be responsible for that many job vacancies. I know you can't just make the leap and say that the NHS employs 50% of the workforce, but even so.....

I suppose just seeing how in-demand my wife (practise nurse) is, should give the game away.

These "new" jobs are not always "new", by the way. Employers tend to recycle the same, unfilled job every few weeks, some even every few days to keep them at the top of people's search results, so you often see "new" jobs which you've seen before. Common sense would tell you that if the job can't be filled, then there's something not quite right about it, but that doesn't seem to alter anything.

https://findajob.dwp.gov.uk/

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

More on progress

Just as a little addendum to yesterday's post, I had to go out yesterday and, when the bus drpped me back, I set the stopwatch and it took me 9½ minutes from the bus stop to home. I realise that won't mean much to people who haven't a clue where my bus stop is in relation to the house, but it means something to me.

From the days when I started getting out and getting the bus, I've always allowed 20 minutes for the journey, so presumably at one stage it would have taken 15 minutes or so.

When I was healthy, of course, I never timed myself, but I used to think of the walk to the end of the road (which is probably half as far again as the bus stop) as taking about 10 minutes.

So, I think that makes me about 2/3 as fast as when I was healthy!

This is it, give or take. Note Google's estimate of 7 minutes, so that's how much slower I am than their assumed speed of about3mph.

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/dir/50.98468,-1.7476958/50.989043,-1.7442357/@50.9869252,-1.7481561,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!4m1!3e2?hl=en
.
I haven't used my real address because I want that to remain confidential.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Progress Report 02/10/18

I was extolling the virtues of my blog yesterday, just as a way of recording progress. So it seemed a good idea to actually record some!

I look back and the time after the stroke felt "foggy". With hindsight, not at the time. This feels quite clear now - although as I say, at the time, it has always felt pretty clear. The stroke obviously damaged me physically, but mentally, I feel healed. I'm just on 2½ years downstream.

Physically, I'm getting quite near to full range of movement back in my bad arm. By that, I mean that I still need to use my good arm to lift it, but I can quite happily put it on and behind my head before it starts to hurt. I obviously use the bad arm less and naturally, your body has a tendency to seize up if you don't exercise it. So I do e.g. stretches every day to maintain suppleness.

With my walking, I can't put my finger on anything specific, but I'm sure my walking has improved. My stamina, in particular. And I'm quicker - I have a walking pole, and when I use that, I'm quicker still - I can use it just like a ski pole to push myself along. But I don't like to use the pole because I want to get back to how I was, which includes walking unaided.

My stamina has improved. Really, the first trick of the recovery is knowing that when you run out of puff, you just need to stop for a minute, then you can carry on. When I was first ill, for example, I would walk to the end of the road, one seat at a time. Now, I'm able to stay standing, and take fewer breaks (though usually not no breaks, yet). But by doing that 50 yards at a time, I can get myself 100, 200, 400, 800 yards etc. eventually.

My overall health has improved to the point where I'm starting to think of the "little" things once again. I went to the opticians last week, for example. I'm probably going to get to the dentist next. I mean, opticians and dentists will no doubt argue that they're not little things, but given that I was once at the stage where the option was life or death....

In terms of life, I have been deliberately sharpening myself up technically. I have 20 years' experience in IT, and realistically, that's the only area where I could still command a premium. My other qualification, as a bike mechanic, didn't really give me a comfortable life even before I was disabled. To that end, I have spent my working days trying to be disciplined, sitting in front of the computer all day, doing "work"-type stuff, with the tv off, until 5 or 5:30pm. Of course, distractions get in the way, for example we go shopping every Monday, but in general...

At the moment I'm looking at the Entity Framework, by the way!

I mean, none of this has as much value as when you're working on a commercial project and get to know all the ins and outs of something, but at least it means no blank stare when somebody starts to talk about it. In truth, I have looked at EF commercially too, but the conclusion back then was that it wasn't a sufficiently mature technology at that time. And my experience of commercial projects was that different resources (e.g. database and application resources) would frequently work on a project at different times, and unless you had someone who had a bird's-eye view of what was required, there was often a disjoint. I remember working with one particularly poor analyst once, who specified things sufficiently badly that we had to ask the database resource to do everything again. She (the resource) was unsurprisingly miffed, but what can you do?

So alongside this sharpening process, I've also got my CV live and am looking daily for jobs. The trouble is, in Salisbury there was never much IT to speak of, and what there is will probably be nowhere near as leading-edge as I was used to. From an employer's perspective, I could well imagine them thinking, "holy crap!" when they look at my CV. And possibly thinking that I'd want to walk in and take over the place! Of course, there is a flip-side in that somebody will ultimately get to use my skills quite cheaply, if they're prepared to take the gamble.

I have also said I will spend a half-day per week helping Age UK with their telephone befriending service, although I will get some of that time back because I've decided to stop going to the stroke peer support group. When I first started going around the hospital ward, I was amazed that people got any value out of some guy just going round and chatting to them informally, but they did. I'm kinda similarly amazed that people see value in my picking up a phone and talking to them, but at the same time, I'm not, because it is basically the same thing.

The danger is, of course, that the charity work and the job aspirations will come crashing together at some point, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Anyway, for now, I need to wrap this post up because it is 9am and time to start work!

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Labour

A couple of things happened yesterday which re-affirmed my belief that if we elected the Labour Party (in the UK) we might well be getting more than we bargained for.

To explain the first, I need to explain the current news. Over in the USA, a guy has been proposed by Trump as a Supreme Court judge. Once selected and approved, they hold this position for life, so pretty important. The guy is going through the senate hearings at the moment, and a woman has come up and testified against him, saying that he sexually assaulted her. I mean, powerful stuff, but so far it is just an allegation - nothing has yet been proven and this guy has never been charged with any of this. It is, after all, a criminal offence.

Anyway, on the strength of this allegation,my cousin (who is an affirmed Labour Party supporter) shared some posts on Facebook, to the effect that this guy is an abuser, and shouldn't get the job. This would be totally fair enough, if the guy had been convicted of something. But, at this stage, nothing is proven. Indeed, by posting this stuff on Facebook, folks might well be harming the case against this guy, just because his lawyers might say that it shows the guy won't get a fair trial.

But the point I picked up on was the willingness to let due process go out of the window, to forget that somebody is innocent until proven guilty, in favour of lynch mob justice, and that scares me. I'm left feeling that in their ideal world, they wouldn't bother with things like courts, and that worries me.


The second event happened last night. A guy I don't know, but who said he worked for the Labour Party. He posted a clip of some young kid going into the Tory Conference, and being pelted with eggs. And it was posted as if this is an acceptable way for people to behave. In fairness, this kid seemed totally obnoxious, but despite that, it showed that for people who didn't agree with him, it was ok to assault him.

So, I see that event and worry that free speech itself is at risk. I see this, and envisage the Brownshirts.


I can possibly feel for Jeremy Corbyn. It doesn't worry me one bit about his links with the IRA or Hamas - these are groups with a clear political agenda, if Corbyn happens to share the same politics, I'm not bothered. Whether I agree with him or not is a different matter, but I don't really attach any significance to him having those views. But these Facebook posters follow him and are extremely vocal in their support, but he has no reciprocal say about how sound their ideas are, whether he actually wants their support or not. Presumably, as a politician, he's just happy as long as people vote for him? Certainly, when I have seen Corbyn interviewed, his own ideas seem well thought out, but the trouble is, he can't do it all on his own. Sooner or later, you have to delegate to people like these Facebook posters, and you're at the mercy of their prejudices, which aren't immediately apparent from manifestos. So Corbyn, unfortunately, is not the issue, it is his supporters, and, unfortunately, the guy can't do anything about them.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

End of an era

Well, not quite, but I've decided to place some other commitments over my Wednesday afternoon peer support group, Salisbury Stroke Support Group. In truth, the attendances have not been brilliant for a while, and yesterday I turned up and was on my own (again). I actually took my wife with me yesterday, so strictly speaking, I wasn't on my own, I just mean that no-one else turned up. And, at least I got a lift home afterwards, so I didn't have to hang around for the bus. But the two of us spent half an hour just chatting to each other, something we could easily have done at home any day of the week.

It's good, I suppose, that people feel they have recovered to the point where they don't think it is useful to come along to the group any more, but at the same time a little sad. Moreso really because I think of it all as a bunch of mates getting together rather than just peer support. And, of course, there is the perennial question, "what if someone new needs support.?" There are precious few avenues as it is, and we've just closed off one of them.

Certainly, whilst I'm not working, I had a very straightforward view that I had nothing better to do than to go into Salisbury every couple of weeks, so I was happy to go along. By that I mean that there was always other stuff to do, but generally these days I don't have to be in a certain place at a certain time, so I was happy to go to the group. But, really, if I'm going to go along - leaving the house at midday and not getting back until 5pm - and sit there on my own, there are far better things that I can be getting on with. I may even end up going into Salisbury anyway, but at least I won't be constrained by meeting times.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Ties

On the subject of getting myself back into work, I'm really happy because last week I managed to pick up a suit in the sales, which just about fits. And today, I got a pack of white shirts - I'd already got a couple of silk, clip-on ties, and have just checked myself in the mirror and...I look impressive!

I haven't had to wear "smart" clothes since 2013, and really, it's good that I can wear all that garb again. And of course I'm a lot bigger - at the height of my cycling I remember buying 28" waist trousers, and now I am a healthy 34" at least - what few pairs of jeans I have are 34" but when I tried the suit on, I should probably have gone for 36". And my neck has got a lot thicker - I needed 17" shirts! The rest of my torso hasn't increased as much, in fact the shirts look a bit tent-like apart from around the neck! But I can't really complain, I'm coming back after a stroke, after all. And it is true, I'm more sedentary now, but I'm hopeful that a job will get me moving about a bit more in any case.

One other bit of semi-good news today. It's nothing definite yet, but when I was consulting, the first trick was to have a CV which was attractive enough to make agents bite. That was always the key. If I could achieve that, and get the CV in front of the client, then it would normally impress them too, and I would get to meet them at interview. I mean, that was always another kettle of fish, but unless the CV turns heads, you've fallen at the first hurdle.

As I said last time, I consider that when I worked up in London, it was Premier Leage stuff (even though it often didn't feel like it!) and I developed a CV to match. I could pretty much guarantee that I'd get an interview if I went for a job. Anyway, I sent it off in respect of one job last week, and it obviously still ticks the boxes because the agent phoned today to say she wanted to put me forward.

I mean, there is a potential hitch now in that I have all this experience at quite a senior level, and the work around here is somewhat lower-key: my experience might put some people off - although I have to admit this is a good start.

On the same note, I am going to a job fair tomorrow, and am feeling quite optimistic about things, although I'm not sure what to expect, or whether it'll be a total waste of time.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Technology

I must admit I do quite like how I'm able to use technology. Not just stroke-related stuff, but more just to get my old life back.

My working background, before the career break and the stroke, was in IT. I worked in the City for 20-odd years, and before that had a spell in New York. So I was at quite a high level, as IT goes.

I'm now recovered enough from the stroke that I want to find a job. It's not only money, although earning several tens of thousands per year would be preferable to earning £100/week disability benefit. It's wanting to do something productive once again.

To that end, I've spent the last month or two sharpening my technical skills up to where they were in 2013 - at the top of my game. In many ways, it is largely about getting myself back into the discipline of sitting down and spending the day working, but I have been able to be quite productive too, picking up and using new technologies. Or, in fact, there is very little that is new, it's more just moved on a version or two.

Of course, a lot of the stuff I used to do in the enterprise can't be mimicked on my laptop, but, actually, a surprising amount can. For example, I can write code or develop databases. And, some web technologies have come along - or rather, matured to the point where they're usable - which I've been able to pick up. I mean, I have built web applications (as in "programmed", rather than "graphic designed", but the real advantage of the web is that it sidesteps deployment issues. If you can find another way to crack deployment, then putting an application on someone's desktop is far more powerful. And, by those standards, what I'm doing is noddy compared to what I used to do, but you have to do what you can.

On that note, by the way, I have redeveloped the family web site using some of the latest technologies. (It's only a few pages - I have done other stuff too!) One of these technologies is pushed by Microsoft (who you'll likely have heard of!) called ASP.NET MVC. ASP.NET is Microsoft's way of building web applications, which I have been familiar with for many years. MVC stands for Model-View-Controller, and is basically a specific way or organising your web site. I won't get bogged down in too much detail, but MVC has actually been around for 50-odd years as a way of developing applications, and there are lots of these (they're called patterns) out there, all of which are subtly different, but all of which aim to avoid your program becoming one big heap of spaghetti! But it is only really in the last 10 years or so that Microsoft has picked up MVC and built a framework which developers can use to build stuff. What they've done is not absolutely pure, but as long as you follow a few rules (for example, on what you call things), it can be very labour-saving and can help with organisation. As it happens, the way in which the web works fits in well with the MVC pattern, which is no doubt why Microsoft built around it.

To summarise, http://www.hurford.me.uk. It's only really a couple of pages, but I have a contact form on there where I've been able to use this MVC approach.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Salisbury

I guess a lot of posts from now on will be reminiscing about stuff.

I was in Salisbury yesterday, was waiting for my wife, who was at the opticians, and sat on the edge of the Market Square just watching the world go by. It is weird about having a brain injury - certainly immediately after the stroke I never thought I'd see Salisbury again, then when I did get out of hospital, going into Salisbury was like going to a different world. Part of that undoubtedly is because my habits have changed - rather than shopping, I've got everything I need so am happy to sit and watch people, but that trend of downsizing was happening anyway, even before the stroke, so possibly a healthy me would have behaved just the same?

But yeah, the fog is clearing now but it certainly felt like the Twilight Zone. I suppose as I've become more able to go places, my world has gradually gotten bigger. I do recognise that getting to the bus stop was my first mega-milestone, just because it allowed me to get further afield. If I hadn't have made that one, I've no doubt it would ultimately be fatal.

What's quite strange is that I must have improved gradually over time, I've always kind thought along the lines "aren't I doing well?" I mean, I'm stronger now, certainly, than a couple of years ago, but even back then I don't remember thinking "I'm a wreck now but I'll be better in 2 years". I mean, I certainly think the second half of that - that I'll keep getting better - but certainly not the first half. I'm confident that there'll come a time when nobody will know I ever had a stroke. I'll always know, but nobody else will.

I probably haven't said things very well. Reading it back, I don't think I've particularly done a good job.

The other nostalgic thing which happened yesterday was that, quite by accident, I met the guy who was my next door neighbour in hospital. They put us next to each other because we were both youngsters, in fact I think this guy was only in his thirties, even younger than me. He hadn't had a stroke, but had had some other brain injury, I'm not sure which. I wouldn't have taken it on board at the time. We both happened to be in a music shop, we recognised each other, I knew I knew him but I couldn't place him. He recognised me, though. He'd put on weight from what I remember, but then so have I. I don't know if he gets fatigued, if that makes him more sedentary than he used to be, but I know that fatigue is not just limited to strokes. Unfortunately my wife and I were just on the point of going back to the car, and this guy was just getting served, it would have been nice to have a proper catch-up with him. I hope he feels he's doing as well, if not better, than I've done.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Schooldays

I remember the first time I ever got into trouble at senior school.

I went to an old-fashioned grammar school, which selected just 90 pupils each year from the whole of the Liverpool area. It sent a few people to Oxbridge each year, and had pretty good sports teams etc.

I must have only been about twelve or so, and a group of us were trying to work out nicknames for classmates. We had a guy in the class whose name was Meneer - this sounded vaguely like "manure", so we decided to call this guy "horsey". Real schoolboy hunour.

Unbeknown to us, this guy didn't like this name, took it personally, and complained to a teacher. This chap never said anything to us - with hindsight this might have been enough, certainly a quiet word from a teacher would have been. It was the kind of place where pupils respected teachers, especially twelve-year-olds.

So, the next thing I know, I'm being publicly identified as the person calling this guy names. I can't remember what eactly was said, but I remember thinking it was all so unnecessary, especially when the guy had himself been taking part in this game with us. It's funny with the passage of time - you forget the details but remember the feelings. I remember being baffled, because this chap had said to us that he liked the name, yet had subsequently complained.

It's funny, in seven years at that school, I never particularly got on with this teacher after that. I suppose I realised which way the cards were stacked.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Steady Joe's

My mum died in early 2012, and my dad followed suit on Christmas Day of the same year. After mum's death, I was concerned at how long the process of probate was taking, a mix between my reluctance to deal with it, and the pace at which external things, over which I had no control, worked. When my dad died, I decided that, rather than renew my contract with my clients, I needed to take time out to get everything sorted.

I finally sold me late parents' house a year later, in January 2014. It was a large three-bed semi, must have been twice as large as my house, and was full to the brim with "stuff". Once the house was sold, I had money in the bank and followed my love of cycling (doing it as opposed to watching it, although I liked that too). Since I was able, I decided to try my hand at a change of career, and in summer 2014 was training as a bike mechanic (training which I subsequently passed). Dates tend to fade in our memories, but events.....I remember watching the 2014 World Cup final from my hotel bedroon over near the course in Lincolnshire.

Fixing bikes was far harder than IT. I knew even from the training that I was slower than my 20yo compatriots, but I was thorough and did a good job. Do you remember Lance Armstrong? At the time he was being talked of in terms of the "best cyclist of all time", and he owned a shop in Austin, Tx called Mellow Johnny's. I guess it is still going, although I don't know whether Armstrong is still involved. Anyway, what a good name, I thought. So I tried to think of something similar. Steady Joe's was the best I came up with. I don't even know anyone called Joe! but it had a ring to it. In my ears, at any rate.

Unfortunately, repairing bikes was far harder than IT, just establishing myself as a business and getting regular clients. Also, most of the money in bike shops is on the sales side, and it was repairing them that interested me.

So, in autumn 2015, I had a long hard think and decided to go back to IT. I was, after all, pretty good. But I wanted to =work closer to home, I didn't want to spend three hours per day on the train any more. It was slow and took a while, but the UK's Ordnance Survey (the "official" UK map-maker) is based in Southampton, twenty miles away from me, and I secured an interview with them.

Unfortunately, the day the interview was scheduled, I'd been in hospital three weeks following the stroke. I never even found out that an interview had been scheduled until I went through my emails after I left hospital, in the middle of March 2016. Timing, eh?

It's funny, because at one of my clients in London, one of the boss-ladies shocked me in a meeting once by saying, "if you see a gap in their CV, it means they've been in prison!" and it kind-of haunts me now that that's exactly how my cv looks! As a consolation, I do have a City & Guilds certificate from the Bike Mechanic course, plus of course I have DBS (criminal record) certificates from the charity work I've done since the stroke.Honest!




Papal Visit

I'm in the UK. The pope is visiting Ireland at the moment. I follow some Irish feeds on social media, plus the UK media has a passing interest, so I'm kind-of aware that it is going on, although it is pretty much a passing interest for me too.

Certainly from the UK media, a lot of the coverage has been from the angle of "abuse by clergy", many of these stories are now quite widely known. Not just in Ireland, although Ireland is certainly included. But I must admit I feel for someone like the pope, who has been very contrite about all this. I mean, I'm making an assumption that he had no personal involvement in any abuse, but really, all these apologies divert from his main aim, which is surely spreading the christian message. Make no mistake, it's a great shame that some people have used the church as a cloak through which to abuse others, but really, these people are responsible for their own actions, it's nothing to do with the church. If anything they've exploited the church as well, just by using it to get themselves into a position where they've been able to abuse people.

I mean, it is good that the pope says something, the abuse was wrong so it is the right thing to do as far as the abused are concerned, it also distances the church from the abusers, i.e. the church recognises that it was wrong.But, really, I don't this he bears any personal responsibility here. Without doubt, The church could have done better, both in terms of its staff selection, and even moreso in terms of the subsequent cover-ups, but most probably, the guy who is now pope would have been some distance from all of this (both time and space).

I do see some parallels here with party politics. How many times does someone say or do something stupid, then someone else, who happens to be on the same team, is forced to try and defent them? How embarrasing must that be? And, of course, because politics is so tribal, they do attept to defend them, while the rest of us are sat there, thinking "what an idiot!" . Worse, in this case.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Hospital Outpatient Appointment

My wife went for a hospital appointment yesterday, it was something respiratory so, before the appointment, she needed to get a chest x-ray. As you can imagine, that's not uncommon for respiratory appointments.

So we got to the appointment and were immediately told to go to another department to get the x-ray. This might have been our fault, we might have turned up at the wrong place to start with. Except that when we got there, the x-ray people had never heard of my wife. Not even late, but non-existent! So there's then 20 minutes in the waiting area while somebody is trying to find out what is happening.

And we see at least three people rock up to x-ray, all with the same story, all patients at this respiritory clinic, none of whom are expected. Presumably this happens every Tuesday, and somebody's day consists of just chasing around after widow/orphan patients. You'd think that, when a respiratory appointment gets created, the system would have the option to create an x-ray appointment too, but that appears not to be the case. And nobody's doing it manually, either at the same time as they create the respiratory appointment, or even when the patient arrives on-site and checks-in!

I've got a lot of sympathy for the Labour criticism that our hospitals are starved of cash, but I don't think cash is the only answer, there's a basic lack of common sense. How many people must go into the NHS with similar ideas to mine, and just get ground down by the system such that nothing changes? That's the serious part, and it's very sad.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

PIP

In the UK, the primary disability benefit is PIP, or Personal Independence Payment, and the stated purpose is to help provide some funds for those little extras you have to fork out for because of your condition. I suppose taxis is an obvious example, although they don't really exist around here. If I took a taxi to Salisbury and back, it would cost me over £50, which would soon nullify the benefit.

Anyway, theyrun assessments for this benefit, basically to check you're as impaired as you say you are. I had mine at 10 o'clock this morning.

I know that PIP works on a points system. No points if you're ok at something, one point if you're not all that good at it, five points if....forget it! A lot of the points are scored if you're reliant on somebody else to do things for you. When you've finished, you tot up all the points, and if you score enough, you get the benefit. I spent yesterday morning reminding myself of all this, as well as looking at the specific areas covered by the PIP questionnaire. My main resource was here.

Having now had the assessment, I'm very glad that I looked at this site, since the questions asked at the assessment were very similar to those presented on the site. I took the time to prepare answers to the questions, to cite examples, and to commit many of those answers to memory. This was a very useful exercise because we go through 90% of life trying to be as "better" as possible, but there are a small number of instances when we need to tell it like it is. I'm glad I put that extra thought in.

One example was cooking. Can I prepare a simple meal? Well, on the face of it, yes I can. I can quite easily process that information, use the hob or oven, and come up with something vaguely edible. But think on for a moment. I'm one-handed, so if that simple meal involved getting something out of a jar, forget it. Slicing things, forget it. My cheese these days comes via an electric grater. Similarly with tins. For these I need to use my electric tin-opener. Even those tins with ring-pulls risk breaking my teeth instead! And then, after the meal, the washing-up. One-handed, so I can't wash dishes all that well. Once again I sidestep the problem by using a dishwasher. There's a pattern forming here - all these gadgets I'm using (or other people) to live a normal life. And I think that's what the PIP people are looking for - things you can't do unaided.

Plus, of course, things like socialising. I could be flippant and say that I never had much of a social life anyway, but actually, I used to work in London, and would sometimes go out with friends up there. I used to ride a bike, and many of the people I used to meet because of that, I don't even see any more, just because I no longer move in those circles. So, really, these things do require consideration.

So, my advice to anybody facing a PIP assessment is basically to look at the type of questions they ask. I've mentioned one source, but there are others. And deliberately take some effort to think about the answers, because the "headline" answer is not necessarily the most accurate. Having said that, I might have been assessed as "null points", so who am I to give advice????

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Anti-Semitism

I must admit I feel a bit sorry for Jeremy Corbyn. He seems to have some dodgy acquaintances, but as far as I know there's no evidence that he himself has ever been anti-semitic.

Having said that, I don't think it's enough for him not to be anti-semitic. It's fine for somebody like me to be judged on what I say and do, but the only person I'm representing is myself. Corbyn, however, is representing thousands of people. So I think he needs to go one step further.

This then begs the question, what more should he do? Unfortunately I'm not sure there's an awful lot he can do, except try to ride this out. I know there was a kerfuffle a few weeks ago about Labour not adopting the same definition of anti-semitism as pretty much everyone else. I think this was dumb, even if, as they argue, their version was better.

But in the last few days, I'm sure I read a story about an allegation that a Labour councillor had called for Jews to be....was it executed? Even if this was meant as a joke, it is pretty way-out. In the actual story, Labour seems to have done the right thing by suspending this councillor, but of course it is worrying that this person is representing Labour in the first place. Poor old Corbyn can affect the present, and maybe will affect the future, but he can't control the past. That's why I think he needs to just do the right thing in terms of disciplinary procedures, and ride the allegations out.

I must admit to having a personal interest in this story, as my mother-in-law came to the UK as part of the Kinder Transport, in 1939. She was born in Belgium, and those members of the family who stayed behind didn't survive. As a result my wife has very few family members on her mother's side. I can totally buy that there must be a mechanism which allows somebody to criticise a state (Israel) without it being seen as criticism a religion (Judaism), but the flip side is that we all have a right to exist. It worries me when I hear people like Ken Loach (a film-maker whose material I generally like very much) talking about history being a matter of opinion, which appears to support holocaust-denial, but then I look at my daughter, for example, and realise that she probably has no idea what the Kinder Transport was.