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. 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, 14 August 2019

Referendums

I was quite disappointed this morning. I was watching BBC Breakfast News, Labour's Shadow Education Spokesman, Angela Rayner, was on. I'm not sure of her exact words or even the exact subject (though I can guess), but they are reported here. The thing which disappointed me was when she said, "I think we've had enough of referendums, don't you?" An off-the-cuff remark, not part of her main point.

It did make me think. I mean a referendum delivers both a result (one way or the other), and an indication of how unanimous we are. If a referendum is 99% one way, then it is probably something we'd agree/disagree with little doubt. A result which is 50.1% vs. 49.9% is more contentious.

I'm happy to apply this to the Brexit referendum, which was 52:48 and which has proved pretty contentious, to say the least. That 48% of voters wished to remain part of the EU said to me that we should execute Brexit, because >50% of voters wanted that, but that we should remain very close to them afterwards. At least until we decided to diverge in certain areas, which will be inevitable over time. A very soft Brexit. "But I didn't vote for a soft Brexit!" No, but just as you wanted a Hard Brexit, so 48% of your countrymen felt sufficiently strongly the other way that they didn't want Brexit at all, so if you want to keep these people engaged in the process... And, of course, that is exactly how it has played out.

With the Brexit vote, I wouldn't have complained if Cameron had stated up-front that a marginal vote, between 45% and 55% either way, say, would put the government at "action stations", and another vote would be held a year later, say, to see resolve the matter for good. But that should have been said from the moment the referendum was announced (or even before), and Cameron was complacent.  he didn't think he could lose, so it didn't matter to him. Furthermore, if "Remain" had won the vote 52:48, you could guarantee that the issue would never have seen the light of day again, so it's not surprising that Leavers think as they do. And, it must be difficult for a Prime Minister whose whole ethos was first-past-the-post, who thinks that with 50% + 1 support, nobody else matters, to appreciate think in terms of proportions. To call for a second referendum after the 2016 vote, by the way, is just sour grapes - I didn't like the result so we should run the race again. 

But I don't want this post to be about Brexit. A referendum does, at least, give the public a chance to express its wishes. A straight yea or nea. And if you do things smartly, you can read more into the numbers than just the headline result. And if you ask the question smartly, you can learn even more. I don't think they need to be yes/no, for a start.

By contrast, Angela Rayner is an MP.

At the last election, in my constituency, the winner, John Glen, received 58% of the vote. A high number - I'm in an ultra-safe Tory seat. But that still leaves 42% of people who voted, who voted against him. More if you include people who didn't vote at all (turnout in Salisbury was only 74%, perhaps people don't think there's any point in voting?), but I shan't include them here.

The point is that a guy who gets 60% of the vote gets to make 100% of the decisions as he thinks fit. The other 40%....tough.

Take that a level higher. John Glen is a Conservative. Nationally, 13,636,684 votes (42.4%). The Conservatives were the largest party, despite winning less than 50% of either the vote or the seats in parliament (in our system, the two numbers are different, don't get me started!) so they picked the Prime Minister.

Just now, in 2019, Boris Johnson was elected Conservative Party leader (and therefore Prime Minister). The Conservatives have their own rules for this. Basically, their MPs whittle the field to a final two, and their membership then elects the leader. In this last vote of the members, Johnson received 92,153 votes (66.4%) against his opponent's 46,656 (33.6%) votes.

So in somewhat fuzzy math, I admit, 42.4% of 66.4% chose the UK's Prime Minister. 42.4% of 66.3% is 28.1%. It's fuzzy because one number refers to the proportion of total voters who voted Conservative, and the other number refer's to Conservative Party members who voted for Johnson.

So, which would you rather have? Something where more than half of us make a decision, or something where a quarter of us decide? No brainer for me.

I appreciate that there is a difference between the broad-brush type of question you can ask in a referendum, and the detail that MPs sometimes have to apply. The former gives us a "direction of travel" only. But that's good, as far as I can see. The public decides broad policy and Parliament fills in the details. I appreciate that we're asking a politician's role to change - the're no longer wielding power overall, in terms of defining direction, but are more literal servants of the public. I don't mind that one bit either. And frankly, Brexit is a very good example of the type of questions that we resolve - after that referendum, the role of politicians should have been to implement the decision as best as possible, not to squabble about whether the public made the right decision or not. But whenever I hear a Parliamentarian telling me how bad referendums are, I'm acutely aware that the process is actually taking power from their hands, and putting it in the hands of the voters. I'm happy that it isn't referendums that they dislike, it's loss of control.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Running before we can Walk

Ha ha ha. You've got to laugh.

Here in the UK, there has been a law against using a phone while you're driving since 2003. The purpose, obviously, is to reduce accidents happening because a driver is distracted by their phone. The rule is basically that if you have to pick a handset up, then it is illegal. But if you use a device in hands-free mode, there's no problem.

But they've noticed that, since 2011, the number of accidents which happen where a phone is involved has gone up!

They've done a study - MPs, no less, the people we trust to run the country. They found that at the same time that this increase was happening, only a third as many tickets are issued now compared to 2011. So, drivers must be pretty confident that they can use their phone without consequences.

It might seem blindingly obvious to most of us, that enforcement is an issue.

But instead of recommending enforcement, the study is recommending extending the ban to hands-free devices.

Another law which won't be enforced.

I mean, by all means, if it's going to make a difference then extend the ban. But let's get the basics right first - unless you're prepared to enforce whatever rule you come up with, how do you hope it'll make a difference?

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Privacy

Having an experience at the moment which just illustrates how different people have a different view on privacy.

The voluntary work I do, it gives me a very limited access to client's details. Name and phone number, mostly. The charity take data privacy very seriously, in fact the rules have been written into one law or another for almost forty years now. So, basically, I have to be very careful about saying anything which might disclose a client's identity. Even when I send an email to staff at the exact same charity, just because the nature of email means that it flies across the (very public) ether.

For my part, I'm very conscious to make sure that any client-specific data stays at the charity's office, just because it offers a degree of protection for me if there ever is a data breach. Indeed, that's the overriding reason for going into their office to do my work, rather than doing it from the comfort of my sofa.

So, both the charity and I take Data Protection very seriously.

Let's put that to one side for a moment. Last week, I contacted an organisation (on behalf of one of the charity's clients, as it happens). I suppose the organisation is more kind-of community-based, certainly not out to make a profit. I think they have a .org.uk web site, if that means anything to you.

The enquiry was quite general in nature, just to get their contact details, so my client could phone somebody up and confirm the date and time of the next gathering, etc. I made the initial enquiry just via social media. Somebody - I'm guessing a member of this organisation - sent some details to me, along with what was presumably their home phone number. Not asked for, beyond a general "contact info" request. Bear in mind that, apart from having a name on social media (which may or may not be my real name) I was a perfect stranger.

I don't wish to judge but there is a difference going on here. Perhaps because of the work I've done, both in the charity sector and previously in IT, I'm more clued up than most? Certainly, I'm aware of the statutes. As a rule of thumb, I avoid disclosing anything that might be used to identify a client. I use generics like "a man in his 60s", but not really anything more specific. That could probably only narrow down someone's identity to a few million! The get-out clause here is if the client discloses their own data to someone, but certainly I'm not allowed to disclose it on their behalf. But all the rules make perfect sense, because our information has value to other people. It's funny because you often see things on social media offering their service (a game usually( for "free" (i.e. no money involved), in return for your data. People aren't supposed to realise that their information, too, has a value. So, in my scenario, I wonder whether the responder was aware of what they were giving away? Presumably, they are just a private (albeit very helpful) individual, who hasn't necessarily been exposed to all these rules and regulations.?

Fortunately it ended well in the end. An "official" representative of the organisation got in touch, with "official" contact details. So the information supplied by my first responder got instantly deleted, with no harm done. I'm more comfortable with that anyway - I'm not really happy even to have known this information, even temporarily, it feels far more satisfactory to know that I have a number that they are happy to be distributed to our clients.


Friday, 9 August 2019

Closer Monitoring

When I prick my finger every morning, the results lately have been better than ever, Usually, down in the 5s and 6s. That's around 100 mg/dl, not massively higher than a normal value.

However, I had a blood test last week, and the HBA1C was a bit higher than I expected. Only around 70 (mmol/mol) as opposed to my calculated 60. I have two theories on this. Either my method for predicting the value is wrong (not beyond the realms...), or my sugar is going high later in the day, but is settling down again by morning.

On this second,it is entirely possible. I generally only measure myself once per day. I know from the times I have tested myself through the day, that my highest sugar tends to be pre-supper.

I take two doses of insulin per day. Until now, I've kept each dose the same. For one thing, it's just easier that way. And because my blood sugar each morning has been good, I've just carried on with this regime. But perhaps my blood sugar during the day is varying more than I think?

I backed this up tonight, when for a change, I also measured my sugar before supper. High.

I think that the total dose must be about right, otherwise I'd notice by the measurements I'm taking already. But I think I need to increase my morning dose by a bit, and reduce the evening dose. Plus, I suppose, I need to measure myself every evening to make sure I find the right balance,

Our Collonial History

I read something by the Irish Post yesterday. Some guy went on to Twitter, along the lines "what has the UK ever done to Ireland, that they feel this way about us?" And, of course, there followed this torrent of abuse. Not at all surprising, the history is widely known in places like Ireland, although British people themselves are largely ignorant. So this guy asked for what he got.

The Irish Post reported it. A British woman herself said that the Irish were "living in the past", and should let bygones be bygones. There's a point in that, I suppose. Other people readily reminded this woman that something like the Great Famine was deliberate genocide on the part of the British, but whilst I can have an awareness of the past, I don't really want it to dictate the future. And, of course, I can widen the argument. Famous examples include the UK's invention of concentration camps in the Boer War, or of something like the Amritsar massacre. It is one of those subjects where the deeper you dig, the more you uncover. Morants Bay, in Jamaica, for example. Something I learned about during a Black History Month a couple of years ago, was never taught from history books. The only possible conclusion is that the British past is very murky indeed.

That's really where I feel I'm walking a tightrope. On the one hand, I know that bad things have happened. On the other hand, I, personally, was not responsible for any of them. I can feel that such things were wrong, but I can't really feel guilt, just basically because these events were nothing to do with me.

I can quite easily take patriotism out of this. One nation controlling another nation is simply wrong, doesn't matter whether one of them is the UK or not.

But for all I don't/can't feel any guilt, I am acutely aware that I have benefitted by events of the past. It doesn't feel like it but I grew up in Liverpool, surrounded by magnificent buildings from centuries gone by. On the surface, we're told that the wealth that built these buildings was Liverpool's seafaring traders, although a fair amount was more bluntly due to slavery. Ill-gotten gains. Things like schools and hospitals, many of which sprang up because of individual benefactors, before the state took over. And don't let's forget that the USA was once a colony.

It is indeed a tightrope act. I'm against it, but I've benefitted from it. I don't pretend to have an answer. What do you think?

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Fact or fiction?

Wayne Rooney is in the news at the moment. Soccer star, former England international striker, most likely a millionaire a hundred times over. A story I once heard about him tickled me.

He's being interviewed by some reporter, who is obviously in awe of his presence.

- Gosh, must be great being you. I bet you don't even do your own shopping.
- Yes I do.
The reporter decides to test him.
- You do? How much does a pint of milk cost?
- 42p. I had to go out to the garage the other night to get some.
The reporter is aghast, as Rooney's answer is about right. But they think that anybody who meets Rooney must be as star-struck as he was.
- Wow. What did the attendant say to you?
- That'll be 42p, please.

Tickled me.

Monday, 5 August 2019

More Mass Shootings

In the past 24 hours, we've learned of two mass shotings over in the USA. I've written about gun control before, here. That was a year ago, but my views haven't changed.

It's tempting for us to pass comment on how bad that is. We can use all the fancy language we like, but that won't stop it happening again next time.

I really think it is time we moved on from "what a shame" to "what do we do about it". Rather than lamenting what happened, and crossing our fingers until the next time, we need to change the debate.

 I follow a couple of blogs these days. One of them is a guy, he seems quite switched-on. He also happens to be American. He's written something about the shootings and it has been informative to read both his post and some of the comments. I assume that most of the people who follow this chap are also American, so certainly they will see the problem from far more closely than I do.

It's not really surprising that without exception, the blogger and his commenters are all appalled, but even from the USA there are lots of "what a pity" comments. One of the things that raised my eyebrows though was this guy's distinction between these automatic "assault rifle"-type weapons, and, say, a handgun. He feels that assault rifles are unacceptable (no argument here) but that handguns are. I'd just go the whole hog and say that none of them are. Perhaps a reflection of living in a society without guns? Certainly, in the circles in which I move...

But there was a definite feeling that carrying a gun for personal protection was okay. I shall not judge.

One of the commenters also said something memorable, despondent, really, saying that nothing would change because Washington, D.C. was controlled by money. I very much agree with that, and would broadly echo his sentiment that the whole system needs to change. But again, though, I think we should not only be thinking that, but thinking how it needs to change.

It is a very sad situation. I'm prepared to think that many Americans would want to see gun control in some way or other, but probably not so far as I would go. But I think we also need to be constructive here rather than cynical, and be prepared to think about what we need to change, how we bring change about.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Herinneringen aan België

My eyebrow was raised this morning when I looked at the stats for this blog. It showed that in the last few days, a bunch of Belgian readers had visited.

Made me smile.I used to love going across to Belgium. We went all over, over the years, it was often a "pit stop" place to spend the last few days of a holiday by the sea, but it became more than that.

I used to love my cycling, including track cycling. What better to go to see the Six Days event in Gent? A beautiful place to visit for a few days, too. Gent was also on one of the motorways from Calais deeper into Europe, and was only 45 minutes from the tunnel. Brugge was even closer, although whilst I liked Brugge it was more of a tourist trap.

We'd also go deeper into Belgium. As I said, we liked the sea, and I distinctly remember staying in the resorts of Oostende and Blankenberge. In later years we visited the town of Nieuwpoort, which became a favourite of mine. In other directions, we knew Namur and Liege, we even went to a European Space Agency site right down in the south. In fact, we came north for that one, because we were staying in Luxembourg at the time. Although it's a small country, there is a definite split between the French- and Flemish-speakers. The split is roughly North-South, with the north being Flemish, including both Gent and Brugge. I always found that a little strange, since that land is quite near to France. Relatively-speaking, in any case. But what do I know? I don't know the history of the area; for all I know, Flemish might be prevalent precisely because of the proximity to France. But certainly I found cities like Liege and Namur had a stronger French influence (although if I think of a map, they're probably quite close to France too, just not the northern coast). If anything, I found it easier to communicate there, because my French is okay. Even though I haven't visited since the stroke, I still keep in practise on Facebook. My Flemish was never any more than a few words. I did once try to learn, but the stroke washed away all traces. The capital, Brussels, is a bit weird since it is a French-speaking enclave in the Flanders region, I only ever went there once although drove around its Périphérique a few times.

It is silly to talk about favourites, but I always loved Flanders in particular, I suppose because of the association of the region with cycling. I always felt nostalgic there. Plus, I suppose, Holland became another of our favourite haunts, and the languages spoken are near-identical. Those are places I would one day like to get back to - one of my visits to Gent was by train, so I know it is possible, even to continue up the coast to Amsterdam.

Happy memories!


Friday, 2 August 2019

Strongarm

Had a funny visit from a door-knocker last night, collecting on behalf of the British Heart Foundation.

Started off nice enough, idle chit-chat. Then he asked me if I had any personal experience of heart issues? I must admit, I often fall into this trap. It's obvious to me that I walk strangely, that my arm doesn't work etc. but I suppose it's not obvious to someone else, especially when I just met them. Anyway, I explained to him that heart attack and stroke are very closely-related. I even told him that I did voluntary work myself for a couple of charities - we might be fooled into think that fundraisers are doing so out of kindness, but they're actually pain employees of the charity - it's nothing more than a job to them. I made it clear that my effort was given, not sold.

He then directly asked me to contribute a regular payment. I explained that, because of the stroke, I was disabled, and told him the benefit I had to live on. It puts me in the realm of around £80 per week, so even the £1 per week he was asking for was significant.

Even then, he wouldn't leave me alone. Still wanted money. In the end I sent him away with a rather blunt "no". I went from a state of pleasantness, to a state of frustration, wanting him to go away, because the guy didn't show any signs of understanding what I was telling him.

This guy was obviously being paid to raise money for the British Heart Foundation, but he didn't care about who he raised the money from. In fact, when I thought about it later, it'd probably be more appropriate for them to help me, than to ask me for money. So I wrote to BHF to complain at the pushiness of this guy. Not least, benefit levels are public information. When somebody explains that they live on such-and-such a benefit, they should know the implications of that, in pounds and pence. The BHF in particular, as so many people who've experienced heart attack will be living on the same benefit as me. I do think that, long-term, these charities shoot themselves in the foot because the next time somebody from there knocks on the door, I'll just say a blanket "I'm not prepared to contribute to your charity", just because a previous fundraiser was so pushy. It's a shame, really, because they are probably a good cause - but most charities are good causes, and we have to use more effective criteria to decide whether we donate or not.


Thursday, 1 August 2019

Bus-ted

I was kinda reminded this morning how frail my situation is out here. I live in a rural setting, a small village. We're not far from the city of Salisbury, but nowhere in the UK is ever very far from a town or city.

The village lost its railway station following the cutbacks of the sixties, but still has a skeletal bus service to get people into Salisbury. The service is every 90 minutes or so, just between 9am and 5:30pm Mondays to Saturdays, even then with a gap in the afternoon.

This morning I planned to go into Salisbury for something quite innocuous, a haircut. I wasn't going anywhere or meeting anyone, so had no firm timetable. But the bus just didn't turn up. There might have been a really good reason for this, but that the bus service in unreliable is an unavoidable conclusion. And with 90 minutes between buses, it isn't really practical just to wait for the next one. When a bus doesn't turn up, it's not a case of "I'll be 5 minutes late", but people are automatically in the realm of they themselves just not turning up for appointments etc.

This instance was only a haircut, but what if it happened on the way to one of my charity things? How many people would I then let down? It does kind-of make me worry, because I've just seen the tip of the iceberg. I'm wondering if I need to can the charity work altogether, just because I can't be relied upon to turn up?

I don't know the reason why, as I say it might be perfectly reasonable. It's happened once before in 3 years of bus use. I suppose I should look at this just as a car breakdown. It's a real pain when it happens, but if it only happens once every blue moon... I need to start keeping a record of no-shows just so I have an idea of the frequency.

The result, by the way? No haircut, of course. A walk out to the bus stop and back, probably an hour, including the time spent waiting at the bus stop. I'm fortunate I suppose that there are mostly no consequences of this at the moment, but really, I could have been doing something far more productive.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Down the Drain

I thought my disaster days were over.

Today I started to cook lunch with the best of intentions. While something was heating in the oven, I had a clear-up in the kitchen. I took some dirty dishes to the sink, but the sink was already full. With the old dishwasher, I got into the habit of soaking everything before washing it.

So, I had to put the soaked contents of the sink in the dishwasher. Only problem was, the dishwasher had clean dishes in it from the last time. So the first task was to put these dishes away. I use a Pyrex  measuring jug to make my porridge each day, so got two of these jugs out of the dishwasher to put into the cupboard. Then, disaster struck. I must have misjudged the distance to the shelf, and one of the bowls fell onto the ground and immediately shattered into 1000 pieces. All over the floor, things that had been left on the floor, the cats' food bowls, the works. i'm shrieking at all this.

No reaction from wife, who is next door in the lounge.

So, I'm left to clear everything. Fortunately I remembered where the dustpan and brush were - the hoover clogs in 2 seconds flat, so started brushing the floor. It probably took about fifteen minutes, I had to do it sitting on a stool, moving the stool around. It was difficult to stop my dodgy leg from messing up the pile of glass I'd just swept and was trying to manoeuvre into the dustpan. I had to control the dustpan with my feet, because of course I only have one hand available.

Everything which had been in contact with the glass had to be cleaned, so all the cats' things went into the sink. Well, except the sink was still full.

You can imagine how fatigued I was, doing all this. (And while sorting it, the oven had long beeped to tell me that lunch was prepared.) I'm doing my  est not to lose my temper. It finally gave way when I'm trying to access the taps to re-fill the sink, except I can't because somebody (might even have been me) had left some pans on the draining board to block my way. The pans were hurled across the kitchen. One of them then broke a couple of gin glasses belonging to my wife, but by them I didn't give a shit. More work, collateral damage. I gave up on the idea of lunch, for the moment at least.

I finally had some lunch after probably an hour or so. Cold. Shit. The trouble is, the injections I take require me to eat something. At least I'd calmed down.

In the middle of all this, I'm raging at how useless my wife was, I could have really used some help, and she is responding in kind, thinking I broke her glasses deliberately. Once everything was calm, I had to order two replacement glasses, plus of course a replacement Pyrex jug. What a fucking brilliant way to spend my disability benefit, and to spend an afternoon overall.

That she didn't give a shit, left me to clear it all up on my own, was disappointing. That we will now not speak for the rest of the week even moreso.

Honoured

We feel honoured. One of the cats has taken to leaving us little rodent presents. He's always been a hunter, but he's now taken to leaving them in the porch, just the other side of the cat-flap.

The weird thing is, they're left with a garnish, a few leaves or a bit of grass. I mean, we know he leaves the rodents for us, but does he see the vegetables we eat for supper and think "they're a funny lot, these humans, eating this green stuff"? Does anyone else find this? Our's can leave us anything from maybe two or three rodents per day, to a rodent every two or three days, and maybe 50% of the time, they come with garnish, so I don't think it's accidental.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Sleep

My hospital stay was a long time ago now, around 3½ years, but it had a profound effect on my sleeping patterns.

As I've said before in this blog, I was in for about five weeks. Not insignificant, though I've known plenty of people who've been in longer. The regime in hospital was quite a simple one. Evening meal around 5 o'clock, thereafter, there was no therapy or doctors. So basically it all went quiet. There were TVs if somebody wanted to watch, there may be family visits, and a lot of people just dozed, it really wasn't unusual for a lot of people to doze pretty much all the time. Nurses finally turned lights out at around 10pm, and all was dark - not quiet! - until the day shift nurses arrived in time to start at about 7:30am.

So, really, the evening meal was early, 5-ish, and after that, a lot of patients were asleep.

Obviously 5:30-6ish is ridiculously early to go to bed, but even after just a month in hospital, it rubbed off on me. I distinctly remember early days at home, struggling to stay awake beyond this time. In the early days, there was lots of sleep!

Even all this time later, I'm thinking of bed shortly after 9pm, and certainly don't go beyond 10pm. It works out on the other side, too - this morning, for example, I woke up just before 5am, and got up just after. But that's because we're in the middle of summer - it's different in December, though I always try to be up by 8am.

I remember in the early days. If I was doing something particularly engrossing, I'd stay awake, but otherwise, I liked a nap every afternoon. Nowadays I don't nap. And, of course, nowadays I'm doing something engrossing every day - working on my own, from home, throws up different challenges compared to working in an enterprise, but probably every needy as regards thought. The charity work has helped in that respect too.


Monday, 22 July 2019

Let's Be Careful Out There



One of my favourite TV shows as a kid was Hill Street Blues. It used to be on late, probably at 10:30pm on a Wednesday or Thursday night. I remember I used to rush home to see it - at that stage I must've been fifteen or sixteen, but I watched it for several years. My favourite character was undoubtedly one called Mick Belker, played by Bruce Weitz. He was a detective, and used to growl when he was pissed at someone!

I was overjoyed a few years ago when the box set of every single show was released, and one of the things I did when I was convalescing from the stroke was to re-watch them all. Brilliant, very Eighties, was reputed to be set in Chicago but they never gave that away. I think it kicked off a very long career for the writers, though I never saw much of the actors again.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Russians

A shout-out this morning to me Iranian friends, who are most likely fed exactly the same propaganda by their government, their media, as I am, and who probably have as little idea of truth as I do.


Clarity

I don't actually do as much these days, but I think about things a whole lot more.

Somebody the other day asked me about my views on religion. I gave my stock response - that if somebody decided to embrace a religion, then that was fine. Would likely be very positive for them, in fact. But they need to understand that they're only really qualified to make the decision for themselves, not anybody else. So I have no time for somebody who tries to convince somebody else to adopt their beliefs. The fundamental premise, that what I believe is better than what you believe, is wrong.

To me, anyway. This is a view I've held for decades, so I'm perfectly comfortable with it.So, I'm perfectly comfortable with the principle that, what somebody decides is good for them, is nobody else's business.

I can quite neatly apply this rule to sexuality. If a pair of people do something with each other, and they both consent, what business is it of mine, what they do? Because I'm not involved.

However, I leave my comfort zone at that point. Because of one specific issue - the environment. I'm happy to do what I can - less meat, no flying etc. But, actually, I want the next person to do rheir bit too. When they pollute the environment, I have a problem with it. Because ultimately, their actions will affect me.

In the same vein, I see a conflict with, say, the Extinction Rebellion protesters. My gut feel is that they should not be disrupting people or businesses, but in their defence, those businesses are actively harming the environment, which sustains us all, not just those businesses. It might not be obvious now, because from day-to-day, we don't see it with our eyes, but science is quite readily detecting it in all sorts of areas. Not just change, but change which has been brought about by mankind. One might hope that companies would understand that their ability to make any kind of long-term profit would depend upon having a benign environment in which to operate, but making a buck as easily as possible always wins the day.

I suppose you can't blame a business for thinking in this way - their goal is to deliver growth for their shareholders, it doesn't surprise me one bit that they are interested in the next two years, not the next two hundred - but it does highlight to me that governments have a role to play, by constructing the framework in which businesses exist. It should be governments who are forcing businesses to behave in the best interests of their electorate. I leave it to you to decide whether my government, or yours, is doing this. I suppose because governments themselves only last for a few years, there's not much imperative for them to put the environment at the top of their list.

It's funny, I sometimes start writing these posts, sometimes to tease out my own ideas, without any particular known result. I find it easier, to set things out in print. Certainly on this one, I feel I can support the Extinction Rebellion, because businesses are not just making a buck, they are harming something in which we all have a vested interest.

More tea, vicar?

Only last week (but a few posts ago now) I wrote the post Connected, My experiments with home technology. A brief recao: I got one of these home hubs on offer (£25), thought "How far can I take this?" and found a smart ligbt bulb on Ebay (£10), got it working (i.e. controlled by my voice). Then I thought "How much further can I take this?" and botght a smart electric switch on eBay (another £10).

The switch arrived yesterday. It plugs into your normal, unadulterated, electrical wall socket, that you've been using these last forty or fifty years. This smart switch is itself a socket. Into it, you plug your very unsmart kettle, which you've been using these last forty or fifty years. The purpose of a smart socket? It acts as a switch between the wall and the kettle, but controlled over wi-fi. You tap an app on your phone, the switch turns on, the kettle boils. Tap it again, everything switches off.

The only real "smart" on my part was: when the light bulb arrived, it came with instructions to download an app to my phone (called Smart Life). This was part of the setting-up process. With only one device, it didn't much matter what that app was, other than the end result was that it could be connected to my Google account, controlled by my new Google Home Mini device, and my voice. It was clear, though, that this app could control many (hundreds, I think) devices if I set them up, so when I got the switch, I looked for one which could be controlled by the same app. I didn't want to have one app for my bedroom light, another for the switch, a third for some other light, and so on. So I looked on the web. This wasn't trivial, in that it took two or three hours, but hey, it was only looking at web pages. Eventually I found some switches (eBay again) which mentioned that they were controlled by this particular app.

They duly arrived yesterday, and because they were controlled by an app I had already set up, it took less than a minute. I set the switch up in the bedroom, where the wi-fi is signal nice and strong, and was duly able to turn the switch on and off from my phone. Because Smart Life was already linked to Google, with my voice too. I then moved the switch into the kitchen, where the wi-fi signal from that network is much weaker (I set up different wi-fi networks so that the whole house is covered, the kitchen it covered by a different network. I know I could improve this now, but at the time I set up the wireless networks, it was the best option).

Anyway, I plugged the kettle into the switch, and....hey presto!

So, this morning I was able to kick-start my first cup of tea by speaking to my hub, from in my bed. 'Course, I still had to pour the hot water into the cup myself.

With the light bulb, there is an element of it stopping me from banging into things in the dark, so I can argue a case for that. But with the switch, this is pure decadence, and really was an experiment, to see how far I could go. I am impressed that I've come this far, having not spent £50!

Saturday, 20 July 2019

No Tomorrow

Whenever we need some "proper" shopping, we head about 20 miles away to Southampton. It's a far better for shopping than nearby Salisbury.

My wife was looking for some new earphones today, so off we headed. A mediocre shopping list - return some clothing, look for the earphones, then go to the Decathlon for some tee-shirts to wear at the gym (her, not me!).

We went mid-morning, and by lunchtime we were done. Seeing as we were out, my wife suggested getting some lunch. Me being me, I agreed.

Most of our shopping had been done in a mall called West Quay, so we decided to lunch there. We found an American-styled burger place called Five Guys. I'd never heard of the place before, although from its web site, it looks like a US chain which has opened up in the UK. They had a decent-looking menu, and I decided to eat meat for the meal.

The order was a burger (wife) and a hot dog (me). We shared a portion of fries, and I had a milk shake and wife a fizzy drink.

Going through this one-by-one, both the burger and the dog came wrapped in foil. The fries came in a polystyrene cup. Wife's drink came in one of those paper-impregnated-with-plastic cups, and my drink came in a pure plastic cup, complete with plastic straw and lid. The drinks came immediately, but the food came all together, in a paper bag.

I suppose these guys deserve a round of applause for using paper bags, not plastic. But the goodness stops just about there. Foil is indeed recyclable (let's forget for a minute that re-using is preferable to re-cycling), except I saw people eat their burger, scrunch their foil wrappers into a ball, place back in the bag, then the bag scrunched up and put in their bin. So I wonder just how much of that foil gets recycled? A polystyrene cup, used once then also put into their trash. My drink - three pieces of plastic, used once then thrown away. Lastly, my wife's drink. In exactly the same kind of single-use cup that ethical coffee chains have refused to use.

The only area in which I have questions here is in how we encourage people to use resources more wisely. I don't like to run towards taxing everything to force people to change their habits, but taxing plastic bags certainly had the right effect. Maybe if cafes are forced to charge £50 for their foil-wrapped burgers, they'll think twice?

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Flexy Lexy

No, not a new position I just invented. I've been told that I am a flexitarian! A new word to me.

From Google: A semi-vegetarian diet (SVD), also called a flexitarian diet, is one that is plant-based or with the occasional inclusion of meat. In 2003, the American Dialect Society voted flexitarian as the year's most useful word.

I still eat meat a little. I had cod last night and a few nights ago, delicious ultra-thin pizza thing called a Flammenkuerche, something I first tried in Alsace and stocked by Lidl from time-to-time. Topped with cheese and ham. But you'd be surprised, a lot of things I eat are pure vegan.Tonight was tofu and vegetable rice. My aim when I became a "flexitarian" was no more than being conscious about how much meat I was eating, vith a view to eating less of it.

Vision

I want to give an indication of my eyesight. When I was first coming back afer my reboot, I got myself into an online Sudoku game, just to kickstart the sharpening process. I still play it from time-to-time, mostly when I'm lying in bed with my tablet.

I'm still good with numbers, but my eyes mean I have to look at them that tad longer, to see them properly. I guess this is a slowness I'm stuck with.


Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Have I Got News For You

Well, no, actually, because I've stopped watching the UK political satire show Have I Got News For You.

It happened a few weeks ago, I wanted to let the dust settle, but still feel as strongly now.



The incident which precipitated my decision happened online, rather than on tv. They posted a photograph of the Tory leadership debate. At the time, Sajid Javid was one of the contenders. The photograph showed him sitting awkwardly on his stool. The caption read along the lines, "And you trust him to run the country?"

Here, I make the leap that running the country requires a degree of intelligence. It is a leap of faith, I know. But the point of the joke was to imply that somebody with this physical "foible" (beforehand, I never even knew there was a proper way to sit on a stool) he was unfit to do this intellectual task.

I'm afraid I thought of all the disabled people who have been told they are not fit to do a job because of their disability. Of all the black people who've been discriminated against, simply because of the colour of their skin. That they are disqualified from something, for reasons totally unrelated. That it is dressed up as satire does not make it right. This is real life, not satire. Past and present tense. These words harm real people.

So, I said something.

You should have seen the hatefulness of the responses! Because Javid wasn't disabled, attacking his physical characteristics was ok. Even if they were unrelated. (I have no idea whether Javid has some kind of disability or not, if he does, he certainly doesn't disclose it, but he might quite reasonably hold the view that it is nobody else's business).

Even that for finding this not-at-all-funny, I was an example of everything that was wrong with the country. I wonder how much charity work that guy did? how many people he helped each week? (Actually, I knw the answers to these without even asking, since nobody who does voluntary work would describe someone in such a way.) The comments reminded me, I'm afraid to say, of people who joyfully laughed at nig-nogs on Seventies UK TV, until society told them it was wrong. Wrong is wrong, something might be commonly acceptable, but that doesn't make it right.

There is another point, here. At what point does fun (satire, say. Sport is also a good example, I'm old enough to remember when we'd never play with the South Africans) stop, and you take the matter more seriously? I leave that one for you to ponder.

Mishtakes

I've made a few, but then again...

I looked this morning at which of my posts have been most recently read by people, followed the link to the post itself. Almost immediately, I found a typo.

I do, of course, try not to make spelling mistakes in the first place. In fact, my spelling is good - very, very good - so if you see a typo it'll most likely be a slip of my finger, or tapping the keyboard too lightly to register a stroke (happens a lot). I run my potential posts through a spellchecker, of course, (every little helps!) but I often find myself falling into the trap of running the spellchecker, re-reading something, deciding it can be better-worded, re-writing it (complete with typo) and not re-checking. Another favourite is writing a typo such that it spells a perfectly good word, albeit the wrong word. That'll fool a spell-checker every time!

The reason, as you might guess, is stroke-related. Certainly a part of it is that, being one-handed, my one hand has to traverse the entire keyboard. So, especially writing key combinations, Shift + P for example, some agility is required. On the few times I've had to type them, the Euro symbol (on a UK keyboard, it is Ctrl + Shift + 4, I think) is a particular demon.

There's another factor too, though. Occasionally, my brain just says "Fed up working out which key to hit, so just hit the closest one". Of course, I know immediately that is a typo, so can correct it. Mostly. But it makes for slower typing. My foot does the same, not that I try typing with it! I will often end up standing on things, for no other reason than my brain says "Down. Now.". I suppose with my foot, balance comes into it as well. Unless I have two feet firmly on the ground, I am likely to topple. I might do that anyway. I like to think that any falls (i.e. onto the ground) are long behind me but I still need to be careful. I've been down a bit on soft grass, even once quite recently, just when the unevenness has tipped my balance as I put my foot down.

So please, if you see a typo in one of my posts, forgive me. If you let me know, I will correct it. When I spot it anyway, I will correct it. My friends tend to be very forgiving if they encounter one of my mistakes, but for me it is pure embarrassment, because I used to do so well. Bear in mind, too, that I'm not brilliant at spotting things these days, either.

Can't Win...

I did one of my voluntary gigs yesterday. We're very aware of fraud these days, and one of the clients mentioned that she'd had a phone call. She didn't recognise the number, so didn't answer. Exactly as I'd behave.

Only now, she's anxious in case the call was bona-fide, and she missed something important.

I certainly go by the mantra that if somebody wants something, and it is bona-fide, then they will leave a message on the machine. If they don't, the call is instantly forgotten. If it is important, they will invariably write anyway. Probably, you'd behave similarly. But it just goes to show how somebody from the previous generation might think. I'm sure that when we hear about people being scammed, a lot of it is because they're too caring.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Oops

I measured my blood pressure this afternoon. I have this vague notion (aspirational, obviously!) that I measure my blood pressure every month or so, but I'm also aware that I haven't measured it for a few months.

Looking at my database, 28th February! Over four months! I must be more disciplined in future. Fortunately at the end of it all, the measurement itself was ok, 137/80 in the "good" arm and 133/80 in the stroke-affected arm. I have been told that for stroke survivors the numbers of the affected side can often be different to the unaffected side. I've known this since in hospital, all that time ago, but never explored it. For the next few readings, I need to measure both arms to see if I can tease out a relationship between the values. I'm pretty sure that what I saw from these measurements can easily be explained by the accuracy of the machine itself.

As you can imagine, trying to put a cuff onto my "good" upper arm either requires someone else to help, or contortion and teeth! So it'd be a lot easier if I can measure the bad arm instead.

Credibility

I'm glad in some ways that, these days, I tend to half-listen to things. Sure, I don't always hear the detail of what people say, but in other ways, gives good feedback. Two examples this morning:

A couple of hours ago I watched something on the BBC's iPlayer, a programme on the BBC News Channel the other night, Andrew Neil interviewing the two Tory leadership contenders. He interviewed Jeremy Hunt first, who was very unconvincing, and by the time Boris Johnson came on, I was doing other things. So, not watching the images, but listening nevertheless. I became aware that there were many times where both interviewer and interviewee were just talking over each other. I mean, I suppose you could blame one guy as much as the other, but in Johnson's case, the one thing he didn't really do was to promote himself. Rather that aa articulate, crystal-clear vision, a half-hour just of bickering.

I have to say, I don't really feel it is appropriate to get too involved in commenting about the Tory leadership contest, not least because I have never even been a Tory supporter. So, both candidates are pretty unsatisfactory to me, Hunt for what he says and Johnson not just for that, but for how he presents it.

Second, was just watching one of these faith programmes on tv. Half-watching, doing other stuff. It's a faith-based discussion programme. A small panel of people, two presenters plus two guests, discussing one or two topical issues. I have no idea who the guests are, but I'm suddenly aware that one of them, her voice is dominating what should be a four-way conversation. So, without really listening to any of the detail, I'm aware that here is somebody who doesn't necessarily talk sense, but who will browbeat. I'm not even sure what her point of view was.

It's funny, isn't it? Before somebody gets up and says whatever they've got to say, there's first an issue of their credibility. Of course, the true measure of somebody is what they say (and do), but we can't resist forming a kind-of sneak preview with our minds.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Caerdydd

I went to university in Cardiff. Looking back, an ideal city in which to study. I loved the place, probably less than 30 minutes' walk from the city centre, wherever I lived (Roath, mainly), and studied in a leafy area adjoining the centre.

I suppose I had my fair share of ups and downs. My first time away from home, my first loves... Academically I did quite well in the end (BSc Physics), despite my poor attendance in the second year. I worked in the main university building, a beautiful Victorian construction, and very grand.

I liked Cardiff so much that I didn't want to leave. But, in a way, I didn't have to make a clean break. In my final year I dated a girl who was at a different stage of a different course. She didn't finish until the year after me, so I went back quite regularly. But Cardiff was different. Every street, so-and-so used to live there. Used to. So, the place became quite melancholic. In the end, the girlfriend finished her course, and enrolled on another in London, so my visits to Cardiff became rarer, although I still had friends who worked at the uni. In any case, the girlfriend and I split up a few months later.

In the years immediately after I graduated, I had a job in Oxford. A couple of hours away, so allowed me the occasional day trip.However work started becoming busier, I started travelling on business, so visits dried up.

Fast forward a few years, it was the late nineties. I had been to the USA and had come back. I now lived in Southampton, too far for day trips, although I did take my girlfriend (now my wife) there for the weekend for a glimpse of my past. And, we've been back several times since. Even with daughter, we took her to see the place too. It helped that Doctor Who, and, later, Torchwood, were filmed there, as my wife loves her sci-fi. It also gave us a chance to see how the docks area had been redeveloped - in my day, it was a no-go area. Now, it was full of daleks!

I think the last time we went, our visit even clashed with a Wales rugby match. Really, to visit Cardiff on a match day can't be beaten, although I never got into the sport itself despite my fanatical Welsh friends.

I have so many good memories of Cardiff, and, in fact, my first visit to Salisbury is linked. Jo and I would get on the train for a change of scenery, and found both Salisbury and nearby Bournemouth for day trips. Little did I know I would end up here.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Connected

Google have an offer on at the moment. A Home Mini device for your home. One of these things that just sits in the room, waiting to do something until you speak some command to it.. It was £25, I like tech, so I thought, why not?

It arrived yesterday and was quite painless to set up. On its own, however, it'll tell me what time it is or what the weather is like - things I can do myself anyway. More interesting, it can control things like lights, with the necessary hardware. Okay, I can control the lights myself too just by walking over to the switch, but I was thinking particularly about when I have to get up at night, in the dark, and have to navigate to the light switch before I do anything. I rely a lot on my sight these days (patchy though it is) and am pretty wobbly (more wobbly!) in the dark.

So I started off knowing nothing, and contacted one of these Internet light shops just to ask "what would I need to buy in order to get something going that I could control with my voice?" The answer came back that it would cost £200. In benefits speak, two weeks salary. To buy something to replace something which already works. So I immediately said "no, thanks".

I noticed though that each of this guys quotes included another bit of hardware, (confusingly also called a hub). But didn't I have that already? the Home Mini? the answer was "no", and here's why. I'll refer to this other bit of hardware as a "box", to hopefully be clearer.

Of course, it took a few hours of web searching to try to understand the technology. Web sites were almost universally poor - I found several articles entitled "why you need another box". Great, exactly what I was looking for. But what was the one question they didn't answer? Web sites generally pre-supposed that you did need a box, and here's what you do with it.

Anyway, I found a few blogs on the subject, and they eventually led me to the discovery that, yes, some of these products do require a separate box (probably the better ones), but that others don't. The purpose of the box is to act as the middleman. You plug the box into your internet router. You speak to the Google Home Mini, it realises your intention is to turn the light on. It whizzes a command across the internet, which comes in to your internet router and ultimately arrives at this box. The box knows how to speak to the light bulb. and hey presto! the light goes on. Technically, the box is a bridge, something which just translates from one thing to another. Exactly the same as a translator. You can have a Russian guy and a Chinese guy in a room, and via the translator, they can talk to each other.

 But some solutions didn't require this extra box. Like a Russian talking to a Russian, no translation is necessary. These bulbs tended to be called Wi-fi bulbs. The principle is the same. Google Home Mini works out that you want to turn the light on, so it whizzes a command across the internet to your internet router. All this is exactly the same as before. But because the bulb is "wi-fi", it can talk directly to your router. No translation (i.e. another box) required. Alongside this, less hardware meant that prices came tumbling down. From £200 to £10!

Don't get me wrong, I can see the value in having a bridge in there to make the bulb work independently of the precise internet protocol. I spent my life building such safeguards into the solutions I defined for clients. But when you're on a budget... The downside here is that the solution is dependent on the internet being up. But, if the internet is down, most likely the electricity is out anyway.

So feeling pleased with myself I have ordered my £10 light bulb from eBay. But it set me thinking, what else can I do with this thing?

One of the other obvious things is that these things can play music. Great, but these streaming services typically cost £10/month. Especially when I already own 99% of the music I will listen to, why would I even want to pay a penny? I mean, I tend not to buy music any more, but over the years I must've accumulated something approaching 200 GB! Especially when my format of choice is FLAC, the highest-quality format, and therefore the biggest size.

Some of these services do offer free versions, however. They'll get you started, but they're restricted. However, the device is also a Bluetooth speaker, so I can play all the music I want, just so long as the file is already on my tablet. The Home Mini will even connect to internet radio stations.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Downton Abbey

It's funny. I knw myself well enough these days to know that I don't particularly follow the crowd. My tastes are quite unique.

On serious matters, on something like politics, my priorities, and therefore my views, are not common. Indeed, I was surprised to find, when I looked at some online politics groups, to find some people who did agree with me. On certain issues, anyway.

On lighter things, take television. A lot of programmes I've simply never seen. The Saturday night "make an unknown person a star" shows, for example. I see these for what they are - cheap, low-quality tv. Another popular show in the UK is The Apprentice. I think I watched the first season for novelty value, but stopped, ironically as it grew in fame. I've probably posted about that show before, but my objections to that show are quite serious. The premise that the bottom line is the beginning and end of everything offends me. Money is one commodity, sure, but there are others.

On the subjet of tv, the other day I watched a re-run of the first few episodes of Downton Abbey. I think this aired for the first time around 2010-2015, but missed me completely. I suppose, at that time of my life, I started off in London, had two years sorting out my parents' estates, then spent the last few years trying to get the "bicycle mechanic" thing to fly. So I guess I was quite busy.

I mean, I'd certainly heard of it, I knew it was a massive production, but still never watched. But having taken the opportunity second-time around, I'm impressed. Of course this upstairs/downstairs thing is absolutenonsense, but I suppose a fairly accurate portrayal of the time. On the strngth of these episodes I've just ordered the box-set of every episode, and, really, you can count in years when I last bought a dvd.

So yeah, a promising start. Let's hope that the other fifty-odd episodes live up to the standard.

Oh, and note to readers - there isn't really an abbey (or anything remotely similar) in Downton! The outdoor shots were filmed at a place not a million miles away called Highclere Castle, although the story is entirely fictional, set up in Yorkshire.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Facts and Figures

I have posted various one- or two-liners about stroke and the health service, but thought I should probably be a bit more detailed.

Firstly, somebody having a stroke has almost a 90% chance of survival (i.e. surviving more than thirty days after a stroke), so there are lots of us about the place. According to the Stroke Association, there are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK every year, and around 2 million stroke survivors in total. Think about that statistic for a moment. 2 million. The UK has a population of 60-odd million, so that's one every thirty of us. Stretching that somewhat, this means that when you see a football match on television, there might be a thousand stroke survivors in the crowd. But that would mean a uniform distribution of stroke survivors in the population, personally I don't know any survivor who gives a hoot about football!

I know that for me, the physiotherapy I received in hospital was brilliant. In contrast, condultants (the top doctors) were irrelevant and the quality of the general nursing variable - literally from very good to very bad. For me, hospital ended pretty much as soon as I was on my feet again, although I came home in a chair and was very unsteady at first. And there the help stopped. Unfortunately, I'm judging the whole package - acute care plus the rehabillitation afterwards - so my overall verdict is "poor". I've heard the same verdict many times over, although my knowledge apart from my personal knowledge, is anecdotal. I have also heard some good-news stories, somebody receiving appropriate treatment a matter of minutes after having had a stroke, or having a really high level of rehabillitation, so I think treatment could best be described as patchy. I think when you talk about a stroke strategy, the very first goal must be universality.

Going on to disabilities, although most people will survive, almost 2/3 of survivors will leave hospital with some kind of disability. In that respect, I am absolutely common! The current disability benefit, PIP, then comes into play. It is a points system - I get points for not being able to use my arm. I get some points for not being able to walk far because of my stamina and my dodgy leg, but not enough to affect my overall result. If my arm were OK, I wouldn't get the benefit at all. I was quite surprised at how little the benefit was. To give a point of reference, my weekly benefit used to take me about an hour to earn when I was at the height of my career. I think this is entirely deliberate - disabled people are not high enough on the radar to matter, because he who shouts loudest gets the most attention. The level of care after a stroke, and of benefits, leaves me in absolutely no doubt that, if you have a stroke, the state just expects you to die. My benefit has reduced since the stroke, just because I'm getting better, walking further etc. In principle this is fair enough, because I need less help than I did, although my expenses haven't really changed. If anything, they increased once I was able just to leave the house.

There's another side to this too. I've been strong enough to go back to work for some time, but not really to travel up to London on top of everything else. So, I'm constrained to looking locally, which reduces the number of opportunities considerably. I can't blame anyone for that, except the stroke. My own fault for living where we do. And, where I used to be able to walk into the top City banks and not only get a job, but be well thought of by my co-workers, I now can't even get an interview with local employers. I can consteuct all sorts of reasoning in my head to explain this - that my experience was so specialised that local employers feel intimidated by my cv - but really, at that point, I'm just playing mind games with myself. The Stroke Association again provide some estimates here to help. If the likelihood of an able-bodied person being out of work for eight years is x, then the probability of a stroke survivor still being unemployed eight years after their stroke is 2 or 3x. Personally, I still keep an eye out still, but I busy myself writing my own software from home - keeps my brain active and might actually help people. I'm fortunate enough to still have a small amount of savings tucked away, and have the knowledge to kick off a project from start to finish just by virtue of my experience being my own boss.

As if getting back into work isn't hard enough, I spoke to one woman once who had been made to sit on her own, away from everyone else, just in case somebody "caught" her stroke! Not a word of a lie, this is people's intelligence. The last I heard, her union was acting on her behalf.

Please, in writing this, the last thing I want is sympathy, I just wanted to give an insight.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Doomed to Depression

I mentioned the other day about my mother. It's funny, because I often think that my mum's generation will turn out to be the most "have it all" generation in human history. There's a balance between the advances of civilisation, and trying not to screw the environment. My mum enjoyed much of the former, but probably worried very little about the latter.

To a cerain extent, I could probably count my own generation as right up there. One could argue that I'm in that category too, but  I'm not sure my daughter's generation will be exempt. I'm certainly aware of my footprint, but a lot of other people don't share my concerns.

We went to Starbucks today, that emblem of the throwaway society, and you can see that they're using plastic like it's going out of fashion. Well, it is, I suppose. If I go there, I'll only ever have a hot coffee, no matter what the weather, to drink in. The reasons? Because takeaway drinks are served in single-use paper/plastic cups, and all of their iceddrinks seem to come in plastic cups (despite photos above the counter showing the contrary). At least with mine, they wash it (let's not mention for today how detergents also pollute) and somebody else uses that same cup. Even when people big-up recycling, to recycle something is only ever second-best, because re-use is what we really want.

Even my attempts to be frugal came short, though. For one thing, I had a bap - which came with a plastic knife that I didn't ask for or use, and which probably got chucked out, still unused, after I left. Not even single-use plastic, but zero-use plastic! And, even my wife commented on how chilly the place was. It was quite humid today but not overly oppressive, although obviously Starbucks' aircon was in overdrive.

I find it all very depressing. I consciously don't eat much meat - very little these days - just on the grounds that it takes so many resources to grow a cow. I consciously don't fly, because it's unnecessary. I poo-poo my wife's plans to go away somewhere warm in the middle of winter, for that reason. I'm aware that I could go even further, but we all have our limits. But at the same time as I'm trying to do my bit, other people don't give a shit.

I must admit that I have become an awful lot grumpier as I've gotten older. The more I see of the world, the more it disappoints me. I see politicians lie about important things - to me that's enough to kick them out there and then but other people vote them back in. I saw the NHS for myself and it was pretty shit. yet people wave flags to indicate how good they think it is. I see how few people get involved in charity work to help others, and how nobody would even dream of giving up their seat on the bus for me, despite my disabilities. And I generally see other people trying to undo all the effort I'm trying to put in. It's depressing because the older I get, the more things I see that we really could do with changing. And one kind-of concludes that this must be true for anybody who thinks about the big picture, anyone who has a view on how the world should be. Whatever their politics. Dissatisfaction. And just as I am depressed that I live in a world where nobody gives a shit, so somebody like Margaret Thatcher would have been disappointed at not being able to turn society more into her vision. Finally worked out something we have in common! But anyone who cares, we're all doomed to depression in our old age.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Work Progress

It's funny, my web application (under development) stopped working yesterday. I was just about to look at a new library called SignalR. Normally, a browser requests a page, and the server serves a page. End of. This technology allows the server to keep sending updates to the browser. It's possible to spoof this using older technologies, but... I want to use current.

I took the chance to upgrade a few bits and pieces, and this was what did for me. The application uses something called Bootstrap (makes the display fit automatically when it comes to computers, tablets, phones etc.) and I suspected this immediately. In the end, I built a "template" app, and compared the two side-by-side. The first place I looked was my code - I thought I might have edited out a crucial line, say, and I never was infallible, even before! - but I couldn't find anything.

The browser I use has a bunch on debugging tools, one of which tells you exactly what files are loaded underneath a button. Not just the (html) page itself, but and images, style sheets, or any other bits of code. I made sure I loaded each file fresh every time (browsers will normally store things in a cache) and noticed that the Bootstrap files were different to each other. So, I took the files that worked, and copied them to the site that didn't work....and hey, presto!

I've tried to be brief in my description, but rest assured that this hunting has probably cost me a day, just as I figured out what to do next.

Something in my housekeeping one of the things I updated was Bootstrap, although I just glanced past it. I didn't think that this widely-used commercial product would cause me problems, but it did. Having said that, I'm sure it was tested very thoroughly, and I'm sure it's just me that needs to tweak my code somehow - they must've made a subtle change. A task for later on in the project, perhaps?

Sure enough, I must've started off on version 3 point something, and hit the button to upgrade to version 4 point something. I support as you go through a major release, you should expect changes. Regressed it back, anyway, for now, and am now good to go.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Anniversaries....

July 2nd.

World UFO Day!

It also happened to be my mum's birthday - she would've been 75, had she lived - and of my parents' wedding anniversary (53 years).

Monday, 1 July 2019

Paradox

It's funny, I happened to be looking at social media last night and saw that somebody had posted about Brexit...again. I for one think that everything to say has already been said, many times over. So much so that I'm in two minds whether to post this. I glossed over the post, but it was vaguely along the lines that Brexit was a bad idea.

Makes me chuckle a bit because surely the time to present such arguments was before the referendum? We subsequently had the referendum, and people made a decision, whether good or bad. So I think that ship has sailed.

I'm always left wondering what the point of these posts are, and whether people have properly thought things though. Are they just to stop Brexit? So, people have specifically voted for X, and in response they get Not X. A bit of a paradox, no? Indeed, we've seen this already with several political parties wanting to ignore the result of one vote, but at the same time saying "vote for us" in the next. I include the Liberals and, I'm afraid, the Greens, in this category. So, in their great wisdom, they've decided that one vote should be ignored, but the other not. That one vote is valid, but the other not. Especially if you're a political party, you should really think long and hard when you decide to pick and choose which decisions you'll observe.

I think that there's a clear principle here, that if people decide something, then the establishment has to carry it out. That's really the crux of the matter - that one vote is equally as valid or as invalid as the next, regardless of subject matter. I deliberately use the word "establishment" rather than "government", although in the case of the EU referendum it happened to be the government. But it applies in General Elections too, where we're talking about changing governments themselves.

The consequence is simple. If you ignore the last vote, why should anybody trust you to uphold the result of the next?

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Smash Hits

See also: Found.

I've been pleasantly surprised these last few days, for two reasons.

Firstly, I see who "referrers" to the site are. Over time, I've seen the referrers start to include some of the main search engines. A couple of months ago it was google.co.uk, a few weeks ago it was google.com, their main site. So, ever so slowly, I guess the profile of the blog is going up.

Secondly, a couple of times over the last few weeks, I've seen an abnormal number of hits, probably 10x normal. Once, probably 100x. I see the demographics of these hits, though, and whilst most of the hits are from the UK, there are a noticeable minority from other jurisdictions like the USA, Russia and Israel.

I don't mind this one bit - as long as my audience realises that I'm only really going to write in English, then if I can help anybody else get through their experience, that's brilliant. However, it's also raised my caution levels as well. In the past, people have left spam comments, "buy viagra here"-type comments. I really don't like to censor things, but I do if I feel they run against the spirit of the blog. So I try to look at the comments regularly just to make sure...

Blogger helps me a little with this, it automatically rates comments and might put them in a kind-of "Junk Email" folder (where presumably they remain until I approve them for publication), but it does kind-of surprise me that anybody would feel this blog is an appropriate place to write such comments in the first place. But I guess the point is that they just don't care.

Friday, 28 June 2019

Maturity

Part of me chuckles whenever some kind of sexuality-based issue comes up. LGBT, Pride etc. I mean, other than a broad notion that a couple should be able to behave as they wish, as long as it is consensual, I am surprised that it is such a big deal for people. But then I'm probably surprised because with any non-hetero situation, there has been an associated fight for equal rights. I've always seen this in other scenarios and appreciate that, yes, a fight for equality is a big deal.

There's an issue currently with some schools in Birmingham. As you can imagine it's not a topic I follow closely, so I might have this wrong. A group of schools up there are teaching kids about relationships. The teaching includes gay and bi relationships, and I'm not sure if all the schools involved are primary schools (4-11 years), but certainly some of them are. These lessons have sparked protests from parents, and I think the dispute is framed as the establishment (including local council and national government versus the parents.

I think the interesting question here is the broader one of "at what age is it appropriate for someone to do x. X might be many things, from something like learning about non-hetero relationships to the criminal age of responsibility. We've had politicians over the last few years for expressing views when they were young-grown-ups which are different to the views they hold now. I'd include this as well - basically anything along the road from immaturity to maturity.

Just taking a yardstick, I think that the current age of legal responsibility in the UK is twelve. So, presumably, somebody could be convicted of a hate crime aged twelve. Theoretically. So if you're teaching somebody about non-hetero relationships, it is probably good that people know about them before the age of twelve.

I don't say here that twelve is the correct age, merely that one event should precede the other. In fact, I think that twelve is a pretty arbitrary number and would be happy to be swayed by science. Just as I would with things like the minimum age for smoking and drinking etc. In particular, that other example I gave - people changing their views on something - I have heard that there is evidence that our brains don't finish growing until our mid-twenties, so maybe rather than talking about lowering the age to do something, we should be talking about raising it?

Incidentally, the reason I'm mildly amused is because, to me, somebody's sexuality is totally unimportant. I've thought this since maybe the stroke, so possibly something like stroke re-defines the things we consider to be important in life? Having said that, equality is still important to me. So I can understand their struggle, even though I don't share it. It can't just be an "age" thing, because some of the people getting so worked up on this issue are older than me!


Thursday, 20 June 2019

Water Into Wine

I'm very good these days at turning a negative into a positive. Let's face it there aew so many negatives!

I've run out of Pyrex bowls in which to cook my porridge. I'm just trying to wait for the dishwasher to be full before I put it on, so a couple of empty bowls are in there waiting to be washed.

Havever, I need breakfast, I NEED breakfast, and remembered some Pains au chocolat in the freezer, ready to bake. I mean, porridge may be good for my carbs but....fuck it!

I just need to train myself not to burn my tongue, and let them cool a while as I get them out of the oven!

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Trapped

Meant to mention, lunch from hell last week.

4 hours, 10 miles from home (far too far away to just walk out). I wouldn't mind, I've now kicked off my new development project so I had definite things to do once I got home. I don't work particularly quickly these days but there is at least a to-do list, and I know that sitting in a pub all afternoon won't cross anything off.

Still, made the decision for next time a no-brainer!

I heart Paris!

I saw a nice surprise yesterday. Way back in a previous lifetime I used to read a particular blog. I shan't use the blog's name because, the Internet being what it is, that'll probably give the author's identity away in 2 seconds flat! Her tale was interesting anyway, plus she was an English woman living in Paris. I used to love it there and would have liked to have lived in Paris myself, although my choice of career made that impossible. In IT you tend to regard London, New York and possibly Sydney as the places to be, and I was lucky enough to work London and New York - something like IT is very Anglo-Saxon and France is, well, French! We must've been around the same age, had kids the same age, etc. I think mine was a bit older than her's - enough at least for me to easily remember what life was like bringing up a young kid. We diverged because whilst I was settled down by then, she was going through the turbulence that is life - maybe that was partly why she was interesting, because she was experiencing something different to what I had? 

The woman wrote in a time when a good blog could lead to a book deal (maybe it still can? Reading - actual paper books - is too much effort for me these days so I don't keep up) and she duly published stuff. I definitely remember reading the first, but it was largely a re-hash of the blog, so I think I stopped at one.

At some time later I got myself a Facebook account, and must have said I "liked" this woman - she was on Facebook too but I don't think she wrote the blog any more by that time. I must've re-read her book at some point.

I forgot about it until I logged on yesterday and saw a post from her, linking to a fresh blog she now writes. Lots of water under the bridge etc., and she now writes from the perspective of having bipolar problems. There are parallels there with this blog, where I write from the perspective of having had a stroke, although obviously one is mental and the other physical.

I think a big marker, not really of recovery, but of whether you manage the illness or the illness manages you, is that our horizons get broader - like they used to be before we knew it could be different. Certainly for me - I suppose I can't speak for anyone else. Health once again became a subject, one of several, rather than the subject. I notice these days that I write a lot about politics - I mean, of course I agree with this stuff because I wrote it, but I expect it would bore everyone else to tears! But the point is that the posts have moved beyond the subject of stroke. I always said that I didn't want the stroke to define me, and political posts show that it doesn't any more. Politics is a bit of a cop-out, because you can engage from the comfort of your armchair (and I do!) but you're still contemplating something other than your health and your mortality.

Another, more direct, reason for me to blog is to record my physical recovery. One day I walked 10 yards, the next 20, and so on. So to a large extent, I don't really care how interesting the blog is to other people - it's a bonus if you enjoy it too, but really, I write it mainly for me. I guess writing on different subjects charts recovery too, but altogether more subtly. I've always thought of myself as long-winded, but rather than fitting into a newspaper story, I can use the blog to properly explore issues, so long-winded deliberately doesn't bother me. My posts are as long as I feel like writing about something.

I scanned through the new blog yesterday and saw posts on what seems like a variety of subjects - there's certainly been a change over the last couple of years, and seems to have moved away from health. I hope that's an indicator of recovery from her perspective too, claiming life back for herself. The posts are quite infrequent, so presumably there is a whole load of other shit going on, and the blog is just the stuff she chooses to share with the world. I don't detect a lot of conscious "recovery" stuff, but there again for something mental, how does one quantify recovery? I suppose that, like me, you set yourself goals, but unlike me thost goals will be mostly subjective. What might be a mountain for one person will be a molehill for the next.

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Incidentally...trying to work things out...I think the last time I was in Paris was in 2008.

I used to visit maybe one weekend a month back in the nineties, before I went to the US, before marriage, before parenthood, before flying was bad! I used to live in and fly from Southampton, and home-to-city-centre could be as little as a couple of hours. The areas I knew well were those around the fifth and thirteenth arondissements, a bit out of the centre, the area around the Rue Mouffetard, the Avenue des Gobelins, out to the Place d'Italie, if those places mean anything to you.  I used to stay in a tiny hotel on the Rue Censier, when not with friends.

I used to love going to the Louvre on Sundays before I flew home, first because it was free on a Sunday. and second, because the bus to Charles de Gaulle went from the nearby Opera. Even now, if I had to pick a favourite artist, Corot would be right up there. My wardrobe was mostly French, and as I got better jobs I used to frequent the Rue du Faubourg rather than the Galeries LaFayette. I'd have places to myself when I shopped - Saturday morning was my favourite - because other folk wouldn't get up until lunchtime!

But Paris was really my bachelor playground and after I got together with my wife, and certainly after my daughter was born, we still went to France regularly, but stays in Paris were sparse. I have a friend who still lives just outside so we would meet up occasionally, and kids with very little else in common (including language!) would play together for a few hours. Daughter and I did the obligatory trip up the Eiffel Tower etc. - if it hadn't been for her, I wouldn't have bothered but it was worth it just to see her face when we came out of Bir-Hakeim and she saw the tower for the first time. I think the last time, we took a day trip there - Christmas shopping - from one of our new favourite haunts, Rouen, and had to fight our way through the crowds on the Boulevard Haussmann.

I don't now know when, or even whether, I'll get back there given my mobility these days. And, I'm reluctant to travel without money coming in. It's one of a long list of places with very fond memories, but not really vital to go back to.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Don't Ask

Partially as a result of my volunteering, I follow an Age UK news feed.

Last week, the UK's BBC announced plans to scrap a concession, that there is no need to pay for the license if you are over 75. If you're under, I think the rule is per-household (so if a household has 10 TVs at the same address, you only pay the fee once), but although this tax goes to the BBC, it covers any live streaming into your household, even, say, if you use the BBC's iPlayer to watch live tv on your iPad. As the Internet has developed, however, the line has become blurry - while you need a license to watch anything being broadcast live, you don't need one to watch YouTube videos, say, because they're not live.

I mean, it is to all intents and purposes one of those indirect taxes which people are just conditioned to pay. Whenever the subject is raised, there are always calls for a rethink on this tax. I must admit I can see two sides to the issue - on the one hand, it seems a very old-fashioned way to fund a broadcaster, and even the BBC has introduced subscription-only feeds of some of its content, so it seems to be moving away from that model. On the other hand, it is handy not to have content directly controlled by advertisers. Of course, add to this mix the fact that the BBC seems quite wasteful - digital projects costing millions have been canned with no tangible results, well-known presenters have been paid in the millions for their services - and it all becomes quite murky indeed.

Anyway, to raise more money the BBC wants to scrap this concession. That's the headline at least, although in the fine print, the plan is to keep the exemption for people on some benefit. So, I asked a question of this charity - how many people will this rule-change actually affect? How many over-75s are in receipt of this benefit, so will still not be required to pay?

Even within that question, there is grey area. It is accepted that many people who are eligible for the benefit, don't actually claim it. But I thought that there, the Age charity might have estimates. I have heard it said that some old people are too proud to claim the benefit and wish to live life standing on their own two feet - that may be true, but I suspect they don't come into this equation anyway, since they'll presumably be paying their £150/year fee regardless - because the over-75s concession is, after all, a benefit. What, I suspect, people mean when they say "too proud" is "it's easy to claim the concession currently because it is just a tick-box, but actually claiming the benefit is far more onerous". Which is something I can understand, having navigated the minefield of disability benefits. But, maybe that hits the nail on the head? Maybe the real issue is that we need to make this benefit easier to claim?

So I asked for these numbers. My hope was for the Age charity to respond, but they didn't. Instead about 20 other people did - some sensible answers but mostly negative in tone. I very much got the impression that I was being chided for daring to pose these questions. I mean, especially if somebody is campaigning for something, they should expect to be scrutinised. Even then, all I did was to scratch the surface.

One particularly offensive woman said that the numbers didn't matter because the whole thing was a misogynistic plot (given that women tend to live longer and would therefore pay for more years, there's a kind-of logic to that), and that being male, I came from a privileged background and couldn't possibly empathise anyway. Her tone totally wound me up, so I introduced my disability and said that, yes, I felt very privileged. I don't like to bring my disability into things because it really shouldn't be relevant to all but a very small part of my life, but it can be useful in closing down an argument. People will happily come out with all sorts of insults when they assume you're able-bodied, but they tend to shut up quite quickly when you say you're disabled. And, when arguments like that are presented, I think they do immense harm to a cause because they changed my attitude from one of open-mindedness to one of hostility.

Ultimately my attempt to find out more was not particularly successful, I mean, the BBC have introduced this rule change so as to make money, so certainly some people will be affected, but how many? In principle I've got no problem with some 80yo millionaire having to cough up £150/year, and when people talk about this issue, I'm acutely aware that people like the queen (estimated wealth £500m) and Paul McCartney (estimated wealth $1.2bn) fall into this ategory, so there are some extremely wealthy over-75s indeed! Plenty of people said "the tax is a bad idea because it means I will have to pay more", but as far as I am concerned, that's not a good argument when we're talking about taxation as a whole. It's just self-interest.

This benefit does worry me, though...

Friday, 14 June 2019

Junkie News

Yay! I've measured and recorded my blood results each day as normal. The values have been pretty unspectacular, 9s and 10s mostly. However every reading gets entered on a spreadsheet - there are now something like 1100 of them - and I wrote a macro to keep a rolling average. It calculates the value over the previous 50 days. So, my average today would have included whatever was calculated 50 days ago but not Day #51, my average yesterday would have included Day #51, but not Day #52, and so on.

Because these few days of results were unspectacular, I was surprised to learn that my average for most of the last week has been sub-9 (mmol/l. That's about 160mg/dl). That's pretty much lower than it has ever been since I started measuring.

'Course, all you non-diabetics can scoff, your sugar will still be half of mine! And, I didn't see those numbers this week, but my current insulin dose will take me down into the fives, and will quite easily take me into hypoland if I eat a late meal.

On positive discrimination

It's funny - one of the artists I follow on Facebook is Tracy Chapman. You might have heard of her -she particularly had a string of hits from the late 1980s. She is American but obviously the music travelled across the Atlantic.

I guess those early hits must have set her up for life, and I noticed a while ago that she was doing philanthropic stuff like organising concerts, where unknown wannabe musicians could perform. I thought that this was a nice idea, except she restricted the performing musicians to women. Tough luck if you were a wannabe-famous male politician, I thought, and said as much.

I was quite quickly reminded that women needed all the help they could get, and that the recording industry is very top-heavy in terms of its white, male executives. That might all be true, but how does positive discrimination  help the struggling male musician?

Funnily enough I saw this same effect once in a left-wing organisation, an event which brough out something which I thought was far more sinister. This group happened to mention that they applied some rules to election results, meaning that elected officials were split 50:50, men and women. Ironically, in this organisation, it was not at all uncommon for more women to be elected "naturlly" than men, so the rule had the effect of bolstering the numbers of male electees. I made a comment, more in mischief in order to gauge reaction, and was really quite surprised at the hatefulness of the reactions. The lesson I took from that experience was that dissent is not allowed (and that is the sinister aspect, forget your broad church!).  The irony there is that there is an argument for positive discrimination, an example being to enforce quotas of men and women, provided such measures are seen as temporary, until an equilibrium is reached. But nobody actually put this argment to me, something else which I found disturbing. It was kind-of, people knew that positive discrimination was good, but did not know why, or rather when, it should be applied. So I had nothing further to do with the group, which was a shame because, on probably 70% of the group's policies, I was sympathetic, but they lost my support over their intolerance towards dissent.

It strikes me that if quotas are a problem, then yes, positive discrimination is a sticking plaster fix, but it doesn't really address the underlying causes. I think we, at the very least, need to devote a big chunk of our efforts to solving these.

Next PM

This Tory leadership contest. I mean, I am reluctant to say anything since I've never even been a supporter of the Tory party, let alone a member. But isn't it a good idea that its MPs get to express their preference, but that the entire membership gets the final say? The members can cast their vote, taking parliamentary preferences into account, but finally choosing somebody with broader appeal than just the Westminster bubble.

My only criticism of the process, really, is that their MPs whittle it down to a final two candidates before this members' vote happens. Surely, if they just whittled the list down to a half dozen, say, then the MPs could still be able to express a preference, as they did yesterday, but the membership would have a wider choice in selecting the leader?

If you have many candidates, as there were yesterday, then you could use the MPs vote, just to whittle the list down into a "top six", say. So, we'd know from a process such as yesterday's, that Boris Johnson is by quite a distance the favourite amongst MPs, say. That seems totally fair enough. If you have fewer than six candidates, then every candidate could be put forward to the members, but you could still have an initial MPs ballot, just to sort out their preferences. The only time this system falls down is if there is only one candidate, but in that scenario, the one candidate would automatically be the winner, whatever system you use.

My half-dozen number here is pretty arbitrary. I'd see a number large enough to give a decent choice, but small enough that filling out the ballot paper does not become overwhelming. In parliamentary elections, it's not unheard of to have a dozen or so candidates, so I'm sure six would be bearable.

I mean, if you wanted even more from your process, you could get people to express an order of preference, pick your top three candidates, say, although it'd be difficult for the Tories to use such a system internally, while at the same time resisting any proportionality in terms of parliamentary elections. But it boils down to a simple choice : would you sooner have a leader who, say, received 50.1% of people's first choice, but 0% of their other choices, or would you sooner have someone with 49.9% of people's first choices, but with >50% of people's second choices. It seems to me that the latter person, more people would describe them as "acceptable".

But, as I say, this is all centred around a party which I find unacceptable anyway, so not something I am prepared to get too animated about. These people, from the outset, have a different idea of representation to mine.