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.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Jeremy Vine

I happened to catch a bit of The Jeremy Vine Show today. I do like the programme, but I often miss it because there are usually other things going on. He has a know-it-all GP on there whom I find irritating (most doctors I've met, their favourite phrase is "I don't know") but nobody's perfect.

Today he covered a story about a girl with Asperger's who was ejected from a cinema for laughing too loudly. The story is also reported here.It sounds like a very tricky situation for both parties. On the one hand, this seems heavy-handed, but on the other, the cinema has other clients' interests to look after.

I can't pretend that I know the answer, but would just make the following observations:
  1. For a disabled person to basically say "cut me some slack, I'm disabled" is very much a last resort. Trust me, I know. On the converse, I will judge people based upon whether they force me to reveal that I am disabled (under circumstances where it isn't otherwise obvious). In so many of life's scenarios, it just shouldn't be relevant - my background is none of their business. I mean, it is very difficult to put yourself in someone else's shoes, but I wonder if there are parallels here?
  2. It's interesting that a part of the story is that some guy was also ejected for shouting "you're retarded". I can't help thinking there of a hate crime, as defined by one of Tony Blair's early acts (1998?) I mean, that certainly seems to meet the definition of verbal abuse. I'm not sure whether Asperger's would count as a disability, it wouldn't surprise me. Of course the difficulty would be showing that the abuse happened because the woman said "I'm autistic". He could just claim that he said that because of her behaviour, not because she was autistic or not. But certainly, people need to be careful. I'm sure if this woman made a complaint, then it would at the very least lead to a degree of inconvenience for the guy, in terms of interviews under caution etc. So, wiser just to keep one's counsel. 

Pills

I love it with pills, you open the box and you have to take one of the trays out in order to get at a pill. You get the pill, then, when you try to put the tray back, you find that the tray will not go back into the box, because the box has been stuffed with paper. You try to force the tray back, but it won't go. So you end up getting frustrated and destroying the box.

The joys of being one-handed.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

A Stroke Day

An all-round shitty day. First, I was criticised about three times for having a pop at my wife - not something I intended - so decided that the best thing was just not to say anything. So I've been sitting in silence since 11 o'clock this morning.

I also picked up a new batch of meds today, when we went out for groceries. As we got home, I was carrying the meds in my teeth and a shopping bag in my hand. The bag containing my meds fell apart, the meds went everywhere. When I picked the meds up, I'm missing one. Did I forget to order it, or have I lost the box I already had? I'd only just started that one - meds never all run out on the same day, and this was the last one in my particular cycle. I mean, in some ways, I'm thankful that it was just the statin, which isn't one of the major meds. But annoying - I'll have to rejig my schedule next month to make sure I don't run out.

A couple of hours ago I was having a cup of tea and watching some comedy on tv. I must have taken a sip when something made me laugh. The next thing, I'm choking. Our mouth goes down to our stomach one way, and our lungs the other. One of the very common effects of stroke is that the valve which decides between the two is damaged. So, someone who has suffered a stroke is more likely to have their food "go down the wrong way". In fact, it is one of the diagnostics - hospitals will do what they call a "swallow test" to ascertain the state of someone's airways.

So I'm sitting here, coughing, gradually expelling the air from my lungs. I'm desperate to get some air in there. I managed to get the back door open, to get some fresh air, and am out on the patio. In between splutters, I'm starting to get some air into my lungs and feel a bit less desperate. But unfortunately, I've been sick all over my jumper and pants. Not only that, but when I'm breathing enough to go back into the house, two of the chickens had also come in, and were almost into the bedrooms. So lots of shoo-ing followed, then a change of clothes.

I'm faffing around getting clean stuff on, and putting the dirty clothes in the washer, after which I finally get to sit down. On my glasses. Who put them there? I pick the glasses up and check for damage. One of the lenses is missing. I'm sitting on that too. I get the lens and put it back into the frame, but the frame is loose. The tiny screw is missing. The lens will just about stay in, but it is all very flimsy. So I'll need to go to an opticians to try and get them to replace the screw - I can't find the old one, and even if I could, my vision isn't good enough to be able to get it in the hole. With only one functioning arm I wouldn't be able to screw it in anyway. So I'm basically sitting here feeling very cheated - I don't see what I've done to deserve any of this. And I hate relying on other people.

I should have just stayed in bed today.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Eyesight

i wasn't particularly intending posting anything else today, but I just caught an image on Facebook. Do you see the red text on the black background? Well, I can't really read that. I can manage the white.


Economics

At Christmas I bought myself a subscription to Audible, which has helped me get back into "reading" books.

I've used this subscription to find more out about economics. Not personal economics, but economics at the state level. This is something I've wanted to learn more about, although of course unless you're prepared to study it academically, the scope is quite limited.

So I've read several of Yanis Varoufakis's books. He was the Finance Minister of the 2015 Greek Government, which famously pushed back against the EU. I've mentioned him before on the blog and must admit I'm also quite sympathetic to his left-of-centre analysis of things, which helps the ease of the read, but would, I'm sure, be different from a right-wing commentator. But obviously it is a subject which has evolved many layers over the years. Peel them back, and its not rocket science. I'm sure that in the real world, these things are for more complex, but his books wil be specifically aimed at the general public so I'm assuming are dumbed-down to an extent.

I think Varoufakis is an interesting character. In his books - some of them are almost purely about the politics of his tenure - he talks about his dealings with the EU. To put it mildly, the stories are quite a turn-off. But these days, Varoufakis campaigns to be a part of the EU, but to reform it into something more fair. I must admit, when I read the stories, my gut feel is to distance myself as much as possible from this organisation. I've held my own views on the EU for many years, but Varoufakis is a useful confirmation to me.

But I think he is arguing the wrong thing. Rather than just arguing that the EU is in a poor way and needs to be improved, he should subtly change focus and argue "the EU might well be less than perfect, but this is why we need to reform it from within". As I have said already, right now I can go along with his analysis but my conclusion is different.

But maybe that's the book he's writing at the moment?

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Blog Statistics (2)

So I thought I knew how Blogger calculated statistics. However, yesterday I wrote a very quick post. At my stroke coffee, one of the guys took a photo of everyone and put it online last night, so I just put the photo in a post with very little commentary.

As soon as I did this, I happened to view the statistics, and this new post-page appeared in the list of pages that had been viewed. And this was, literally, two minutes earlier. And Blogger tells me that my blog only ever gets two or three visits per day, so what are the chances?

To try and find out a little more, I looked at a few other statistics, reloaded my page, and noticed that the Chrome visits increased by one! (I'm still using Opera.) It is a bit weird, since if I look at all-time statistics, Opera appears three times. Great for diagnostics - I know it is recognised but it is very uncommon. Maybe Blogger (or Opera) changed something and the browser is not recognised correctly any more?

So, all of a sudden, I'm treating numbers with a pinch of salt again. Hitherto, at least, I was seeing Chrome appear in the statistics, and happily thinking "that's not me". It really wouldn't surprise me if Chrome must be the world's most popular browser, but I'm equally sure that I don't use it.

Anyway, I shan't keep posting about my blog. One of my pet hates is to see, say, the BBC to use its news broadcasts to report on.....the BBC, and I'm conscious that me writing about my blog is much the same.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Coffee 25-Apr-2018

Gosh, almost all of us turned up today for coffee today, braving heavy showers to get to the Salisbury Playhouse. Here we all are:



Breaking Habits

Since my experimentation over Easter I've made a couple of changes to my habits. Of course in response to those highs I found in the early evening, I have been very careful at lunchtime - I've certainly reduced my bread intake and on many days, have cut it out altogether.

I also noted that my insulin didn't really appear to be kicking in until an hour or two after the injection. I don't snack a great deal between meals, so therefore mealtimes are really the times when my blood sugar gets quite a significant boost. As a result, I've not started taking my insulin about an hour before I eat, instead of at the same-ish time.

I still measure my blood sugar in the morning, pre-food and pre-insulin, to get the basal level, and sometimes in the afternoon too, and actually, just this small change has given me better control. First thing, my sugar is consistently at 10 or 11, which (if you look back at when I've talked about previous values) is an improvement of about 40%, and was consistent.

Until this morning, when I just measured in at 16.4 mmol/l. The difference? Well, as far as I could tell, the only difference yesterday from what I usually eat was that I ate spaghetti carbonara for supper. I mean, the three main supper carbs for me are potatoes, pasta and rice - probably my least favourite of these is pasta, so I hardly touch it these days, but I just fancied some for a change.

So I wonder what tomorrow will bring? I certainly plan my meals a lot more these days, so I already know I'm having a lunch of some mini pork pies (I'm in a hurry today) and a supper of a chicken tikka masala ready-meal. I've had this before and not observed any negative effects on my sugar, although I used to note that my sugar would stay high for 48 hours after a "high". So we'll see.....

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Blog Statistics

As I write posts in this blog, Google / Blogger gives me a wealth of management tools to control all sorts of stuff like the layout and the colours. It also gives me a page of statistics about who has been looking at the blog. Not names, but things like browsers, operating systems etc.

I must admit that hitherto I've treated these statistics with a pinch of salt. I was convinced that a lot of the statistics I saw were just me (I do have a very bad habit of proof-reading stuff after I publish it, despite the fact that I recently found Blogger's Spell checker). A few of the hits obviously weren't me, since Blogger approximates a reader's location by doing a look up on somebody's IP address to work out who the ISP is. Most people use ISPs in the same country, so that stat is only really good to a national level. So when I see a hit from India, I know it isn't me. Anyway, I did a little experiment:

I normally use the Firefox browser, but for the last week or so I've looked at my posts through another browser called Opera. I know Blogger can recognise Opera, because I've seen it appear on the stats page in the past. But, by the same token, it is not common and I don't normally get hits from Opera. The goal of the test was to see how many of the stats were "me", just by watching how prevalent Opera became in the recent stats.

I was very surprised at the result - Opera did not appear at all, even though I have been using this browser exclusively for the last few weeks. So, it looks like the stats on my blog are all generated by other people!

I mean, it's not surprising that Blogger can do this. The browser logs into Google (which owns Blogger) so every time I hit a page, Google knows that it is me. So, they must build their statistics with a bit of logic which says "only count it as a hit if it's not Pete". As I say, it's easy enough to do this, and actually it gives a better picture of who the audience is, but I am surprised that they bother, just because it takes that little bit more effort. Usually, people will try to cut as many corners as they can possibly get away with.

So, when I see that 10 people have read something that I just posted yesterday, I now know that none of them is me. It's not just me that checked the post 10 times (which tbh isn't unusual). Brilliant! I only hope that they thought it was worth their while.


Saturday, 21 April 2018

Bedding

I washed my bedding this morning. It has just taken me the last hour to get it back on the bed, and even now it isn't right. The duvet isn't in the cover properly and judging by the seams the base sheet is at right angles to what it should be. But I'm knackered now so it'll have to do for tonight, I might have another look tomorrow.

It's funny because there are so many times in the process when you just want to get a pair of scissors and shred it all. Last time I did this, I did use a pair of scissors but only succeeded in destroying a leather belt.

If you ever want to know what a stroke is like, try putting bedding on a bed one-handed. A single bed will do.

Rivers of Blood

A couple of days ago was the fiftieth anniversary of Enoch Powell's "Rivers of Blood" speech. Lots of things happened fifty years ago - it shows what a turbulent time it was.

There have been a few programmes on tv to mark this anniversary. But they have all been of the form 50 years on. So they've all been produced from some kind of retrospective viewpoint. Not that this detracts from them, but I must admit that I have only ever heard snippets of the speech, so I was hoping to just hear the original speech in full. I'm quite happy that I can do the analysis myself.

One such programme was on last night. One of the most interesting things that I learned was that not much footage of the speech still existed - I think only 3 of around 20 minutes, so this maybe explains why I've only ever heard snippets. I find this quite staggering since the media turned up in large numbers, having been tipped off that Powell was about to say something incendiary. So it is hardly as if nobody appreciated the significance. And Ted Heath very quickly booted Powell out of the shadow cabinet, so again the message was picked up very shortly afterwards.

So my viewing didn't quite yield what I'd hoped for. But I carried on searching. I couldn't find any audio recordings (at that time, radio might well have been as prevalent as tv is now) but I did find a transcript of the speech at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/3643823/Enoch-Powells-Rivers-of-Blood-speech.html. This is the web site of quite a well-renowned UK newspaper, although as with all newspaper sites (it seems), you have to wait for the ads to load.

Powell used very eloquent language, he was a very eloquent man, but there was a definite subliminal message to his speech. On the face of it, he could have claimed that he was just reporting what other people had said to him, as certainly his apologists did, although the lack of counter-balancing argument made it quite clear (to me, at any rate) that he was taking a definite side in the debate. I mean, given the instant notoriety of the speech, this was obviously pretty clear to other people as well. Plus, when he talks about what to do about this "problem", he is far more explicit. To a small extent, I see the same kind of thing as I see today - instead of telling you how good his idea is, tell you how bad his opponent's is, although to be fair, this is a lot worse today. Many people today just go straight for how bad a person their opponent is, leaving the ideas out altogether.

But please, judge for yourself. It's worth reading, just so you don't then have to rely on other people's interpretations. I think it is always better to draw your own conclusions on things.

NOTE: You might find this link a little easier. It's not footage of the actual speech, but instead somebody reading the transcript. Will be easier on the eyes if you're someone like me!

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Drop-in 18-Apr-2018

One thing that every stroke survivor needs is the belief that things will improve, even years later. Sure, you need realism but you have to believe that things will get better.

As I often speak about here, many of you will know, since my stroke I've visited the very ward where I was nursed (originally, I wrote "treated" here, but actually there was no treatment except physiotherapy), just to chat to people with a view to helping them come to terms with their new predicament. I'm not a clinicial but at least I've walked in the same shoes.

Imagine my surprise yesterday, when I learned that one of the doctors had been saying to people "get used to your new circumstances because you'll never get any better from where you are now".

I mean, part of me is sad because this is obviously the kind of message that the UK's NHS is told to spread, but equally it'd spur me on just to prove the dopey git wrong.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Snack Attack

So, an nice, uneventful day. Until, that is, I decided to go to the fridge to get something for my supper. I opened the fridge door, and all hell broke loose.

It looks like something in the door toppled onto another shelf (also in the door), and the next thing I knew, the contents of two shelves were all over the kitchen floor. Including what I think was fruit juice, tomato sauce (which fortunately stayed in its container) and a pot of cream (which didn't).

So I'm basically standing there in tears, with cream all over my trousers and shoes, with the floor a mess and with my supper having become a distant prospect. I had already taken my evening insulin so, unless I ate a meal, I knew I'd have a hypo in the night...or worse.

Sure, I look back and analyse this, of course exactly the same thing could have happened to somebody able-bodied, although physically they would probably have found clearing it up less of an effort than I did. Certainly mentally they might have coped better.

In the end, my wife helped me clear it up, and prepared supper. The temperature alarm went off on the fridge and I was afraid that too was broken, although it seems to have cooled down again now. It's funny, now that we all live in a connected world I can look at the old order confirmation for the fridge - which I think is dated 2005 - so really, we're on borrowed time with that.

It's funny - I do look at my blog these days and often I think that, pretty much, I've said all I can possibly say. But every now and again.....

More on Progress

I've blogged previously about my stress ball. I've also mentioned how I try to hit one of my light switches. I haven't mentioned either for a while, but I do still keep at it. I'm not so good that I do these exercises daily, although of course I should. I don't walk five miles every day, but I should. You can take from this that motivation is a constant battle, just as it is, say, for an able-bodied person who joins the gym for a year, only to have stopped going by February.

I also exercise my bad ankle, just by trying to stretch it. The movement I have in my ankle allows me to walk (approximately) but it is very tight - just about the joint with the worst movement. Stretching my ankle also reminds me to stretch my wrist. My (bad) wrist was formerly my writing hand, and doesn't have enough control to be able to write any more. There is a flicker of movement in the wrist, and my hand can just about hold a pen, but then I just stare at my hand and wonder why it doesn't work.

But basically, I am still doing all these things. I don't often mention them, but I am trying. Probably not as often as I should, but I do see some progress.

Friday, 13 April 2018

The road to gun control

Like many of my fellow Europeans, I look on in disbelief at the USA, where a guy who has a beef with society can wreak such havoc. That there are such people seems to be a "given", I suspect we have them everywhere, yet the USA will not take hard action to limit the amount of damage they can do.

I think you need to split this question into two parts:
  1. what do you do about sales of new guns?
  2. what do you do about the guns that are already at large?
For the first of these questions, I don't even think that the issue has anything to do with guns. If you ask about promoting gun sales, you'll often hear the answer "NRA", as if it doesn't really matter what people think, but the NRA has decreed the rules. But no matter how powerful the NRA is, it doesn't have a vote. Sure, it can fund (all) politicians' campaigns, but it doesn't have a say in its own right.

So I think if you want to push the legislators into taking action, then you need to limit the amount of pressure that can be exerted by groups such as the NRA. Politicians need to know that if they were to take an anti-gun stance, that their re-election pot won't just evaporate. But right now, it's not even clear that America wants gun control. We hear a lot about it in our media, but the UK knows only too well about extremely vocal minorities, and it's not unkeard of to hear of media companies pandering to the whim of their audience.

But for that reason, I think you're looking at the bigger issue of political funding. I haven't really thought about how you'd do this, I don't much have a preference, but the aim would be to have politicians unable to be bribed by pressure groups.

This, in turn, would take the NRA out of the equation, as an excuse for why gun legislation doesn't happen. I mean, it could well be that America does want guns, but at least then the politicians have a free hand to reflect the views of their constituents.

To the second question, I'm afraid I see no solution. I have heard it said that some people carry arms so as to defend themselves from excessive behaviour by the state, I think that this was the rationale behind the Second Amendment in the first place. Even putting the legitimacy of this belief to one side, I think it is fair to say that you're not going to persuade these people to give up their weapons. So I'd predict bloodshed.

Who knows? Maybe the argument comes full-circle and that's why politicians don't take action? Although I've never heard that view expressed.

I really think that, on that point, the genie is out of the bottle and there's no going back. I despair for the USA.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Juxtaposition

I thought my post of a few days ago was pretty good, even if people disagree with me, it shows that I am able still to string a couple of thoughts together. In front of a computer, at least.

On Monday, my wife and I went out to a particular shop, where we had lunch. I knew something hadn't agreed with me, as we'd just about got back up the driveway when I needed to get inside to use the toilet. I eat quite a bland diet these days, so I have a some strong ideas of what the cause of this might have been, although they are, of course, only ideas so I won't mention either the shop, or what we had (which might give it away).

Since then my guts haven't been normal. I mean, I feel fine, but my toilet habits have temporarily changed (for the want of a better word). And since the stroke, obviously I walk more slowly, but also I have developed a realisation that "if it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen". I notice this with walking, when I often stand on things purely because I need to put my foot down now, and with something like typing, when my hand just has to hit the nearest key, whether right or wrong. I spend a lot of time correcting spelling mistakes, I see them as soon as I type them, but that doesn't prevent them happening in the first place. And it's not because I don't know how words are spelled - I'm probably better at spelling than most of the population.

But, basically, my guts are exactly the same. (Under normal circumstances, I can control things such nobody would notice anything.)

Suffice it to say, last night, everything conspired with everything else, and rather than snoring gently, I was having to clean the toilet floor at 3:30am. Believe me, you don't want to hear the gory details and I'm choosing my words very, very carefully. But not at all a pleasant experience.

Incidentally, this same thing happened while I was in hospital. Of course, in that scenario, there were other people about. I rang for assistance in the middle of the night, but none arrived and so the inevitable happened. Patients can wait some time for help, especially during the dark hours. And, of course, lots of other things have happened to me with medical professionals, but this is the thing I remember. These days, people are very free to say how proud we should be of NHS staff, but I just remember that episode. In reality, when I was in hospital, I saw some really good staff, but I also saw some pretty poor ones. Doubtless they'd say the same about patients.

But to return to my original point, it is surprising that I now experience both the really-highbrow stuff, and the really-lowbrow stuff - strokes give you that!

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Brexit

As I see it, there were three possible stances for the UK's referendum:
  • the EU is cool,
  • the EU is broken, but we're better off fixing it from the inside,
  • the EU is broken, so we're better off getting out.
Personally, I think that the first option just doesn't hold water. For example, that there is no public mandate for things like the Eurogroup, which nevertheless wields power, let alone why a collaboration of nations even needs an economic arm. Even the composition of the Council of Ministers. So if I meet people who argue this, then I'm likely just to move on, as I don't think we'll be productive discussion. My bar for what I consider to be "democracy" is very high, so that probably explains why we're on different pages. For example, many people would claim that that the UK Parliament is democratic, but I'd argue that a "first past the post" system, which means that one party or another will have a huge majority over everyone else, based on a difference in the number of votes of just a couple of percent, is fundamentally unfair. So whilst somebody might argue that "first past the post" is a form of democracy, I'd argue that it's a pretty unfair form. Sure, you can argue that "first past the post" gives you a decisive result, but shouldn't politics be about coming together and thrashing something out which suits as many people as possible? How are you going to make stuff work, once you get beyond the four walls of parliament? You might also say that "first past the post" provides a built-in safeguard against extremists - but really, if a party gets 10% of the vote, does it not deserve to get 10% of the weight in parliament? No matter how distasteful its views may be? I'm a firm believer that, if someone has distasteful views, then you argue with them and....people aren't stupid. And if you're arguing sense against nonsense, who needs a safeguard? For these reasons, I'm also against no-platforming, but that's another topic. Getting back to the EU, the Council of Ministers comprises people who are there by virtue of being elected according to the foibles of their home states.... So actually, if I'm debating Brexit, then quite soon I'm talking about electoral reform instead.

Either of the last two options is reasonable, people could quite justifiably have voted In or Out, so I'm not going to bash people whichever way they voted. In that respect it is very much like a personal relationship with problems - some couples choose to try and make a go of it, other couples go their separate ways. It's impossible for a bystander to say that one course is correct, and the other wrong. Furthermore, as I was growing up, the EU (or the European Economic Community, as it was then) quite happily split all the main parties down the middle. Tony Benn, on the left, and Enoch Powell, on the right, quite happily campaigned for a No vote in the 1975 referendum.

Other Labour stalwarts such as Michael Foot also came out against. These were honourable men, so it is particularly disappointing to hear the Labour Party of today, and its supporters, talk as if every Brexit supporter is a mindless racist.

My own view of Europe is more aligned to Tony Benn's, so I supported Brexit. I won't go into his whys and wherefores, because they're probably on YouTube, but broadly, he was against on the grounds of democracy. I'm not sure whether he also talked about the sovereignty issue, although I can imagine a UK Member of Parliament might. I must admit I have no preference whether I'm governed from London or from Brussels, as long as I'm governed by someone who was elected democratically. And I don't see a lot of difference between the UK and the EU in that respect. I live in a very safe Tory constituency, but don't vote Tory myself, so I have no voice in the UK parliament. I see leaving the EU as a start-point toward all-round reform, not an endgame in itself. In fact, I believe (you might have guessed) that the single most important issue that we face is electoral reform, even Brexit is on a lower level from that. But I was asked for my opinion specifically on the EU, so I gave it.

So let's think it through. Democracy is important to me, but things like immigration aren't, in fact I very much like being in a diverse community. Also, the standards enforced by the EU, for the most part, protect things (and people). So if I look, say, at the Irish border question, I can see that there is a border there already for many things, a line where if you step one foot either side, different rules apply. Today. Things like laws, taxes, currency. The two big exceptions post-Brexit will be goods and people. Neither of which bothers me. If anything, I can see a relaxation of standards more likely to come from the UK rather than from the EU, so Ireland should probably be wary of dodgy British imports. For people who do consider immigration an issue, then I foresee a problem. How do you keep people out without a hard border? Possibly, you let people in, but you restrict services such as health care and social security, just on the grounds that economic migrants might be more likely to seek help from the state? You can place restrictions on employment, say. Although much of this exists already, but in a half-baked form. To do this properly, you need to check people's identities, so you're possibly talking about Identity Cards once again. What a banana skin that was for New Labour, only ten years ago! Plus, of course, you still have all these people running around the countryside so, if it is merely their presence to which people object, the problem still exists. And simply "wishing" for there to be no border, as I'm hearing from the Brexit negotiators, is not enough, not if Brexit was driven mainly by immigration, as we're told. But there again, I don't see that war is a foregone conclusion either. A resumption of the Troubles is only one possible outcome, of many. I think the Good Friday Agreement is something of a fudge, but the numbers who voted for it showed clearly to me that both Irish and Northern Irish people were fed up with war. So I think it was a relatively small number of people who were responsible for all the violence. But then, that is usually the case, in any conflict. And there are still conflicts.

Anyway, I want to wrap this up as we're getting a bit long. I just wanted to quickly add a couple more things - first, that because of Brexit, I allowed my membership of the Green Party to lapse. It may well be that I vote for them in future elections (they still want electoral reform, which was their main attraction to me in the first place), but I wasn't comfortable staying a member. As I've already said, I see nothing wrong with people holding a view either for or against, and a party should accommodate this. But the Greens are overtly pro-EU, and every time they say this, it makes me uncomfortable. There are honourable reasons for supporting Brexit, plus of course one could easily ask why the Greens (or anybody who is pro-EU) aren't crying out about reforming the EU so as to make it more democratic.

Very lastly, I just wanted to deal with a couple of issues very quickly. For me, economics comes a firm second to democracy - I think you sort your foundations first, then worry about the rest of thehouse. So economic arguments don't sway me. And, I think I made my mind up about the EU in about 1990 (Maastricht), so to now claim that the result was null and void because of overspending, or dodgy Facebook campaigns, in 2016 is not something I take seriously. I wouldn't particularly mind another referendum (although my mind hasn't changed on the basic question - I haven't heard a peep from the EU about how it improves itself for the people of Europe, even since the referendum), as long as its purpose wasn't just to overturn the result of the first. That basically says that there's no point in ever having a referendum again, because we'd just have another to overturn the result, so why bother at all? Just keep the status quo and spend the money on something else! Certainly, no point taking part in one - a waste of energy. So I think any referendum should ask a different question. Indeed, it seems quite sensible for people to make a decision based upon the terms of the deal - but this I see this as a three-way question: to accept the deal, to reject the deal and to leave, and to reject the deal and to stay. Of course, it could be argued that we have already decided the leave/stay aspect.

I mean, if I learn anything from this whole process, it's that issues are often quite complicated, far too complicated to be settled by a simple Yes/No question.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Unmasked

I must admit that sometimes I don't like the person that the stroke has turned me into. I resent having to apply a "filter" when dealing with other people. Two examples from just this morning:

My wife had left an empty cardboard box next to the kitchen doorway. I mean, that's where we keep stuff ready to go into the recycling bin, so not a particularly surprising place to choose. As I walked past, I'm not as precise as I used to be and I knocked this box onto the floor. So just to get it out of the way I gave it a kick, but only really succeeded in kicking it into the middle of the doorway, where it was well-and-truly in everyone's way. I got past it and went into the kitchen to continue making breakfast, and when I came back out, the box was gone. Clearly my wife had decided to take it out to the bin there and then, lest it get in the way again. I wasn't really happy that I'd made her take it out there and then.

Again, whilst preparing breakfast, I went to boil the kettle, there was no water in it so before I even started boiling the water, I had to fill it again - my wife had used the last of the boiling water. This shouldn't be a big deal - between us all we probably fill kettles a zillion times a day. But it seems to happen on most days so I was grumbling under my breathat the extra effort - would you believe that when someone has had a stroke, it is an extra effort? I'm ashamed to have thought those thoughts over something so trivial.

I mean, I'm sure I had my foibles before the stroke, but I hate how I need to apply a mask these days in order to stop the unreasonable thoughts from poking through.

Old Timer

We're at a loss, many of us patients. No matter how much we might research our own health, that still only amounts to one person. I've spoken in the past to people in the medical profession who I'd generally rate as quite silly, but they do have some usefulness because they've experienced multiple cases, not just one.

So I suppose what I'm trying to say is that even my vast knowledge has limits . (Although some people may argue about its vastness anyway 😀).

After a stroke, a common approach seems to be to put people onto a drug which supposedly stops the blood from clotting, and therefore prevents clots from forming. An anticoagulant, to use the parlance. The one I'm on is called Clopidogrel (75mg), which from my small soundings, seems pretty standard. Look this one up on the web, and you'll see all sorts of danger signs - basically, if you're taking this drug and you cut yourself, your blood won't clot back again like a "normal" person's, and you bleed out. In reality I found the stroke nurses to be somewhat more bullish. If I look back, this was really the only treatment I received after the stroke, other of course than people reviewing and changing the meds I was already on. But this was the only "anti-stroke" drug. There was lots and lots of nursing, but that was the limit of the actual treatment.

So, bearing in mind that I'm already on what appears to be the standard anti-stroke drug, I was wondering the other day, what if I have another stroke? I mean, I'd like to believe that's very much behind me now, but.... Statistically, I believe that there's a slightly higher probability of going from Stroke #1 to Stroke #2, rather than just going from 0 to #1. So the thought did cross my mind. Is it just a case of saying, "keep taking the medicine, but there's nothing more we can do"? Certainly, when I look in the EMC (my wife's nursey handbook), 75mg seems like the only dose for this drug. Perhaps there is another drug? Perhaps, because my stroke buddies and I are all first-timers, we just haven't come across it yet?

Anyway, up at the hospital the other day, one of the other volunteers is a guy who's had seven strokes. I mean, I don't know whether they were all strokes, or whether some were TIAs - in any case, the treatment is the same so in practical terms I don't see a lot of difference. So I asked him. Unfortunately, other than getting a response that yes, there was some treatment, and then getting full details of the events behind the second stroke, I was still left a bit unsure. I can't really blame the guy - if I'd had seven of anything, I'd struggle to work out which one was which. So I'm still on the lookout for someone who's had two strokes, so they can tell me how they were treated second time around. I must ask one of my ward-friends, next time I'm up there.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Progress

I did my usual walk around the stroke ward last week. On this occasion I was accompanied by another volunteer. I think this chap (who must have been in his seventies or eighties) had had seven strokes to date. Count them out! With just one stroke under my belt, I feel like I'm swinging the lead 😀. His most recent brush was more recent than mine.

Anyway, after walking around for 20 minutes, this guy needed to stop for a breather. I'm not knocking that - for anybody who's had a stroke, every ounce of effort is welcome, no matter how little.

But it reminded me - this time last year, that was me! It's not at all obvious, when you see yourself every day, that you are recovering, so you have to pick up on the signs.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Secularity

A few days ago, it was the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination. As a result, there were various commemorative posts on social media.

My own view is that while King's views on equality are laudable, there was/is absolutely nothing to stop somebody holding those exact same views, but in a secular capacity. Furthermore, King muddied the waters when he claimed to be "doing God's will". (The commemoration included footage of him saying these exact words - it was suggested that he may have been speaking metaphorically somehow but I was unconvinced - I'm not even sure if someone could say those words and mean it metaphorically.)

I don't really buy arguments about doing God's will, because if somebody claims to be doing God's will, it's tantamount to them saying that they are not fully responsible for their actions, because their god was at least partly responsible. I don't know. Maybe that's how some people think? Certainly, I think if I were religious, I'd want to be even more careful in case somebody was trying to hoodwink me into doing something, in the name of my religion, something I didn't particularly agree with. A "just" war, a crusade, for example. Plus, I think it is a logical step from what King said, to being a part of something like Islamic State, and cutting people's heads off, all in God's name. Sure, King's words were a way away from that, but I think they were along the same path.

So, for those reasons, I don't think you bring God's will into things. I think if you simply argue in terms of wrong and right, that resonates with people. The big issues that MLK tackled, in particular, make it dead easy to argue wrong and right.

Anyway, my words caused a storm in a teacup. I was criticised by some people because I was blaspheming, by others for being racist. Other people jumped in to defend this view. I don't really say anything in order to garner popularity, but a good sanity-check to hear other people echoing my view.

It was disappointing to hear a couple of people just saying "shut up" (I'm paraphrasing a little), as if even bringing up the subject was taboo. I chuckled because it reminded me of the stoning sequence in Life of Brian, but all the same was disappointed. It kind of reminded me of the time when even owning a bible was considered blasphemous. Blasphemous, of course, because as soon as people knew what the bible contained, they were able to argue and dispute its meaning. Except that was 500 years ago - for some of us, in any case. Somebody else piped up that they were bored with the thread - although I kind of put that down to their attention span as opposed to anything I'd said. Quite why you read a thread, then take the trouble to write a comment to say that you're bored by it, I'm not sure. I don't know what they were expecting to see. If I were in the business of politics, it's a useful bit of insight that some people just aren't able to follow a coherent argument, and not at all surprising that New Labour mastered the soundbite so effectively, at least until it became hollow.

But despite several tens of people agreeing with me, it was the half-dozen who disagreed whose comments I focused on. I think that disagreeing, and dissecting exactly where I might disagree, is far more useful, far easier to learn from and perhaps develop arguments. And who knows? I might be wrong.

Monday, 2 April 2018

hypers

Since my experiment the other day, I have gone back to measuring my blood only occasionally. I don't think either my hand or my pocket would have it any other way. I still measure first thing in the morning, but I am also testing to see if I can find an afternoon peak. I was high yesterday, so I injected half of my evening insulin a couple of hours early, and again today, when I gave myself the whole dose to get my levels flat again. If this drops everything down towards a hypo, then I have my evening meal to bump up my sugars.

We were out at lunchtime today, we went to a local garden centre and I had a coffee and a small piece of apple pie. Not a proper lunch I know, but how often do I lunch out?

I normally eat some very basic porridge for breakfast, but as yesterday was Easter we opened a packet of bacon, which I finished off today. Sure it was on wholemeal toast, but I wonder whether the fact that I had the bacon in a buttee came into it? I am at home again tomorrow, plus my menu will go back to my usual ingredients, so perhaps we will see?

Astrophysics

My background is one of theoretical physics, which is pretty closely related to astrophysics. It included things like quite a heavy analysis of quantum mechanics, and in fact part of the course was a course specifically about astrophysics.

I got to be very good at physics - I'd have got a first-class degree had I been able to get up in time for lectures in my second year. By the time that I left college, I was talking to astrophysics tutors about continuing a doctorate in something to do with astrophysics. In the end, however, I wanted finally to have two pennies to rub together, so went into industry. And I can't complain - I did very well for myself and enjoyed immensely solving technical problems, but the most rewarding thing was seeing how I used to float to the top even amongst people who had more experience, and education, in things computing. But I always retained a deep affection for astrophysics.

In the bath this morning I was listening to my Audible subscription - I've blogged about this before (here) but not for a while. I was listening to recordings of an old Radio 4 programme, The Infinite Monkey Cage. In the UK, Radio 4 is the "intelligent" station, mostly talk-based and quite highbrow. This programme features the famous "tv-professor" Brian Cox, and is broadly centred on astrophysics, Wonderful.

Fundraising

I do sometimes get disillusioned with charities. I follow a few - especially, but not restricted to, stroke charities, especially since my own brush with stroke.

In my professional life, I worked with a variety of clients and, basically, you negotiated as good a deal as you could. But there was no "career ladder", for example. I think the high water mark for me was £800/day, about £100/hour, even this was several years ago so I would expect, in today's money, it'd be even more. With this in mind, therefore, I pretty much consider that the biggest donation I could possibly make to a charity is my time.

But I see ads on tv (lots and lots of them!) and posts on social media, and I appear very much to be in the minority. There's lots of fun runs, for example, but they're all quite thinly-veiled sponsored events, basically aimed at generating cash. Exactly as I used to do on a sponsored walk, say, when I was 10 years old. It's pretty clear, both in terms of the thrust of the adverts, and also where the recognition happens (so-and-so is a star because they raised £10000, say), that the main driver for a lot of charity work is to get hold of your cash. Not your time, but your cash.

Don't get me wrong. Money is a great enabler. With more cash, the charities can do more. I know all about being enabled as the money I earned from my job enabled me to visit five-star hotels and restaurants, to happily head to the Mediterranean for wonderful holidays, and to drive around in a Porsche 911. So I know how, when you start off with a bundle of cash, nice things can follow.

But cash is only ever a means to an end.The ultimate goal of a charity is nothing to do wish cash, it is to help people.

I'm not speaking out of sour grapes - these comments are really just an observation. I'm not speaking because the charity work that I do goes pretty much unnoticed - in fact I have always shunned the limelight and wouldn't really want it any other way, plus by the people who are important to me, it isn't unnoticed. My goal in my charity work is to do what little I can to help people who've recently been touched by stroke to rationalise what has happened to them, and in that respect, the charity itself is an "enabler", enabling me to go onto the ward and speak to people. Plus, of course, my efforts only amount to an hour or so every fortnight, so one could hardly accuse me of working tirelessly! Indeed, my metric is, and has always been, whether my visits benefit the actual patients or relatives - so in that respect, any goals that the charity night have as regards fund raising are incidental to me. Quite simply, if I didn't think I was helping people in some way, then I wouldn't bother. There is a certain vulgarity about asking people for money.

It's ironic, really, because my greater experiences in this area (I'd never have registered all these things until I actually started getting involved myself) make it less likely that I will donate to charities. I did donate to Amnesty International a few years ago, and they just used the event to just harangue me for more and more money. If my wife is no longer with us, then my will specifies that my estate will go to the welfare of my animals, and I'm still happy with that arrangement.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

What is an MRI Scanner?

I ponder all sorts of useless questions when I go to bed at night, and this was one from last night. Among many other body parts, MRI scanners are used to scan the brain after a suspected stroke, so the question has some broad degree of relevance to me.

So let's start with the individual words. MRI is Magnetic Resonance Imaging. The easiest word there is Imaging - building up a picture of something. I also know that when MRI was first introduced, it was called Nuclear MRI, so there's another word. (Given the unpopularity of nuclear power, I can easily understand why that word was later dropped.) So we still have Nuclear, Magnetic and Resonance. Well, Nuclear must refer to something to do with the central part of every atom, the protons and neutrons. Magnetic suggests that either electricity or magnetism is involved. Electricity and magnetism are actually the same thing. And resonance implies that you throw a range of stronger/weaker things (energy?) at an object, and sooner or later you can observe some kind of effect. It's like that famous American suspension bridge - it could withstand all sorts of windy conditions, but when wind of one particular speed hit it, it buckled and fell down!

I can't resist this:


But really, beyond the words, I've never really taken the trouble to find out (or I've more likely forgotten!) how an MRI scanner works. However I have a background in physics so with a bit of reading I should be able to understand how it works. With a fair wind behind me, I might also be able to explain it!

Here goes (it's actually pretty straightforward, trust me!):

So, in our tissue we have water, and the first step of the process is to excite this water. (In fact it is specifically the hydrogen nuclei, which form part of "water", which are targeted. And when I say "excite", I'm talking about using magnetism to get all of the hydrogen nuclei pointing is a certain direction - just like the needle on a compass.) The way in which this excitation is caused is by applying a magnetic field to the tissue. Different tissues contain different amounts of water, and the water (at the molecular level) behaves differently (magnetically-speaking) depending on its surroundings, so we can identify different types of tissue, hence the usefulness of the process.

You then turn off this field. As these excited water molecules settle back down, so this change causes changes the electric field they generate, and these changes can be measured. So a machine has two things going on. The first bit is to use a (varying) magnetic field to get everything excited, the second is to detect, essentially, this level of excitement. The overall image is built-up because the location of the "excitement" detector is known quite precisely, and so, during a scan, lots of tiny snapshots are all put together. And the heavy "clunking" noise that we hear? Is basically the just the detectors, detecting these changes.

In case you're wondering, the magnetic fields involved here are quite strong. Certainly, stronger than we experience in everyday life. And the way they're produced uses things like mega-low temperatures (the kind of temperatures which turn helium into a liquid) and something called superconductivity. So these are actually quite complex techniques, but to produce something that is simple enough that we all have an appreciation of it - a magnet.

Would the reader think it a cop-out if I also posted a further source of information? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physics_of_magnetic_resonance_imagin. I've cut a few (many) corners here both for brevity and for ease of understanding, but this article describes things more precisely.

The older I get, the more I understand the beauty of how we can use bits of physics to get hold of real-life, useful information.Wonderful.