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. I am based in the UK and the blog therefore has a UK bias - I've tried to use the Glossary to explain any terms which might be ambiguous, but if you think there is anything I've missed, please message me.

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. Disclosure and Barring Service.

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


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


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 my local 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 Apprentice

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


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.


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.


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.

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!