Disclaimer

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

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Publicity

They had an interview on breakfast TV this morning on the theme of stroke. Of course, my ears pricked up.

They had a survivor on. In some ways, a very good example of a survivor, because she'd had her stroke at just 22. A lot younger than many people think is possible. Actually, even a baby could have a stroke, although it is also true that the probability increases with age.

They did at least mention that stroke was the biggest cause of disability in the UK, although I thought they could have made it a little more obvious by interviewing a disabled stroke survivor. Maybe a pretty young woman is considered better tv than somebody who's chair-bound (especially over breakfast!)? Nothing against this woman - I'm sure she's struggling to get her life back, however the stroke's left her. But tv producers think in terms of viewers.

The (first part of the) fatal mistake, in my opinion, was when the interviewer asked, quite innocently, something along the lines: "I suppose it took you a long time to recover?" This was completed when the survivor didn't correct him. Past tense, just like a cold, or a bout of chickenpox. I think probably all survivors - all the survivors I've met, at least -  would describe themselves as "recovering" at best. Present tense. I know a guy who had his stroke in the nineties and who still feels the effects. It never goes away - I think the biggest "win", if you could have such a thing, is to get to the point where other people don't notice the effects. I'm met several people like this too, I've probably seen many more without even realising, and I'm in awe. But it'll always be obvious to the survivor that they had a stroke.

I will readily admit to feeling very alone at the start of the stroke, something which made me reach out and find other people. I've written about that in the past, it was certainly one of the reasons for volunteering. I've kind-of come full-circle now - I feel alone again because although I know there are people out there, those who speak out never quite hit the mark. I've seen how the benefits system leaves people with benefits at such a level as to be meaningless - make no mistake, if you have a stroke, the system just casts you off, to sink or swim on your own. I've seen how the medical system abandons people for the simple want of transport to get to an appointment.

You eally want to show what it's like? Get a survivor on, ask them to write their name. Ask them to butter a piece of bread, to cut up a steak. Ask 'em to type something without making stupid bloody typos.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Infallible


I hate it when people consider themselves infallible, because none of us is.

I remember a while ago, I'd been volunteering up at the local hospital for a year or so. There's a specific aspect of strokes (I'll try not to say which because I'd prefer this post to be anonymous), and a training course had been organised aimed at members of staff. "There's a few spare places. Why don't you come along?" I thought that it might well be useful to learn more about the subject, so accepted.

The first half of the course was to be the theory. The second half, a group of people who'd been afflicted with this aspect of stroke had been invited in to be guinea pigs, so we could test our new-found knowledge.

On the appointed day, I arrived nice and early, and introduced myself to a somebody who happened to be lurking around the reception area, who I think I later found out was one of the doctors. "Hi, I'm Pete. I'm a volunteer from the Stroke Association, I'm here to do the training". "Oh, there is training today but you're an hour too early." That's funny. I note stuff in my diary as soon as I find out about it, but maybe I'd made a mistake? So I thanked then and actually went to the coffee shop for the next hour.

When I went back, an hour later, it transpired that I'd missed the first half of the course. This woman had heard the words "course" and "volunteer", had isolated them together and not bothered to listen to the rest of the sentence. She had assumed that, rather than being a course attendee, I was one of the people who'd been recruited to test the attendees in the second half of the course,

To say I was pissed off is an understatement. If this woman had been diligent, she could have checked, but no, she was sure that I was wrong. I could have been more assertive, I suppose, but I did realise that I might have indeed have got the time wrong.

It's funny because I've since recognised this trait several times in doctors - I must be right because I'm infallible. With the benefit of hindsight (i.e. I now know that I was correct) I should've just gone home, or not have bothered making the journey in the first place. I have at least learned from experience  - if anybody from there asks me about future training, my response is always a quick "no, thanks".

Thursday, 25 April 2019

The Irish Solution

I'm really fed up with the intransigence in Northern Ireland.

My solution is for the UK and Irish governments to get together and to govern NI jointly. Their main purpose should be to hold elections in NI, then to step back. If NI people vote again for parties who won't even talk to opponents, then they deserve everything they get.

'Course, it's a very reasonable question to ask why this hasn't happened already. Perhaps those 10 seats in Westminster have something to do with it?

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Scottish Independence



I must admit that, like Northern Ireland, I don't have any strong feelings about whether Scotland remains tied to England. I live on the south coast of England, just about as far as possible from the Scottish border, so I can hardly claim to have a direct interest. Like Northern Ireland, I'd be happy for the Scottish population to self-determine, but I'm not fussed which way they go. I'm certainly not a unionist in the case of Ireland and frankly, don't see Scotland (or Wales, for that matter) as any different.

Furthermore, I have a good amount of sympathy for a Scottish Independence referendum. Not because I'm either pro- or anti-independence, but just because the earthquake of Brexit has drastically changed the landscape compared to the earlier referendum.

I think the effects could be interesting, however. Presumably, if Scotland did vote fore independence, the UK by then would have left the European Union (although that in itself is a big "if"!). So they'd be wanting to join the EU just like A.N.Other nation. One of the conditions for joining the EU these days is that a state must at least be planning to join the Euro. Not actually adopt it, but plan to do so. So a knock-on effect of independence might be to ditch Sterling. Equally, I suppose the nationalist reaction is "so what?" I suppose they would just be going from one circumstance where they can't really set monetary policy (Sterling) to another (Euro).

It's interesting that as far as the UK is concerned, we too would nominally need to adopt the Euro, should some future government with to rejoin the EU. I suppose that's one of the things you negotiate on entry, but I can't help thinking that the reaction of the English to ditching Sterling might be somewhat more reactionary than might the Scots.

I mean, these are all just musings but, certainly, a subject with a surprise around every corner.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Allegiance



I must admit that I don't really have any strong beliefs on the unification of Ireland. I can certainly sympathise with past horrors committed by the British against the Irish, but that doesn't realty translate to what the future should be. Actually, that's not quite true. I believe that Northern Ireland should determine its own future.

As regards representation, I feel that NI's citizens have the right to be represented, wherever they decide they belong. It particularly concerns me that in the current situation, Sinn Fein don't represent their constituents' interests in the UK parliament. I say this from a standpoint of very much sympathising with Sinn Fein's existence, although I wouldn't vote for them purely because they don't take up their seats.

I know that SF not attending at Westminster is old hat. I also know that the problem they have is in swearing allegiance to the queen. The queen? I'm sorry, but this is my parliament. A UK voter. MPs should be swearing allegiance to their constituents, not to the head of state. So I can understand totally where SF are coming from.

My solution? Swear allegiance to the right people, and don't give SF the excuse. Make sure that all the people of NI are represented in parliament.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Role of Nationalisation



I'm just finishing off Ken Clarke's autobiography on Audible. I tend to think of Ken Clarke as very moderate, as right-wingers go, plus he's been a cabinet minister through large parts of my life. Now that I'm older myself, I can appreciate some of the issues he's had to grapple with. A lot of what he says is interesting but like most Conservatives, he sees a world of profit and loss, where I tend to see it as people's (and the planet's) well-being (or not). I think ultimately it boils down to what the main function of government is - to have prosperous people or to have happy people. (To a large extent, but not completely, I think that the two are mutual.)

For example he's just recounted a French attitude he experienced whilst at the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), visiting the Airbus project in Toulouse. This is at the time of Mitterand, so the socialists were in control in France. Clarke's notion was primarily to make Airbus commercially competitive versus Boeing, whilst other people's priority was to offer stable jobs to local workers (bearing in mind that Airbus is dotted across Europe). I mean, sure, you needed a viable aircraft at the end of the process, but to me, the latter seems a perfectly acceptable viewpoint.

It's kind-of like the arguments about nationalised industries. Is the role of the health service (say) limited to delivering healthcare, end of story, or do you also use it as a vehicle to get you towards full employment? That seems to me to be the whole purpose of having nationalised industries - instead of having the goal to supply some goods or service with 100% efficiency, as you would in a private company, you settle for maybe 80% efficiency. That 80% is just a number I plucked out of the air, but, you know,  something deliberately a little bit short of full efficiency. The wins being that whilst you pay out on salaries, you both save on benefits, and you're left with somebody who feels they've made a contribution. I think that's important because, by and large, I think people want to contribute. I think that some people do epect a free ride, but that they're in a small minority.

Interesting also to hear Clarke describing some of the things he encountered in the early Eighties and his analysis of the problems, at least, seem reasonable. I think something had to change from the Seventies, although I'm not sure that Margaret Thatcher's solutions took us entirely in the right direction. But you do look at things like the power of the unions... It's a great pity that we had to have a miner's strike (amongst others) to force the issue.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I think lastly that you need to be careful with political biographies. No matter who the politician is, they will present the facts so as to make their actions appear reasonable, and as a result, you end up feeling a degree of sympathy for them. No matter whether left or right. So I think you need to finish the book and give yourself time to digest its contents before drawing any firm conclusions.




Thursday, 18 April 2019

Spot the difference

Sorting some photos this evening, found this one from 2016:


Just to be clear, the pharmacy picked the wrong medication.And then checked it wrongly.

Do I need to add that I complained about this, and surprise, surprise, it wasn't taken any further?

De Strandvonder

Continuing on my theme of putting pictures into posts, this Northern Holland and this is the Beach Wanderer:

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Webcams

One of the things that came out of my last post, the blaze at Notre Dame, was that I wanted to see the cathedral for myself, so went hunting for webcams in France. In my healthy yeays, I used to go over to France a lot, I speak ok french and found a wonderful site with webcams from many places that I've known - https://www.viewsurf.com/. One such place was Les Sables d'Olonne, on the Vendée (west) coast of France.

I'm generally quite realistic about my disability these days I but look at those two guys on the bikes and hope they realise just how lucky they are - a few years ago, that would've been me (only maybe in July)!


Monday, 15 April 2019

Paris

I feel incredibly sad tonight to be hearing the news that Notre Dame cathedral is ablaze.

I'm not a religious person but I loved Notre Dame - at one stage pre-marriage I used to spend about a weekend per month in Paris, so know (knew) the city very well. I used to stay in the 5th arrondissement and would regularly walk past the Pantheon down to the Île de la Cité - Paris is a beautiful city to walk around.

Who could not be moved by this?

Saturday, 13 April 2019

American Memories



I had a job in the UK between September 1995 and February 1997. I was a programmer with probably 7 years' experience, and a novice project manager. The company was looking for a technical specialist cum project manager, so I suppose I was a decent fit.

The company was a start up and everyone was working on just the one project - a web-based B2B purchasing solution. The web was, in those days, sufficiently immature (and the company's idea sufficiently visionary) that this company could quite happily get into meetings with the High-Street banks.

The product required quite advanced (for the time) encryption, and we ended up building on a commercial US library. The library itself couldn't be exported, but it was perfectly OK for our product to use the library, and for our product to be exported. It indicates that the lawyers didn't understand the technology, but I suppose nothing much has changed in that respect. I didn't have any hand in selecting this product in the first place, which probably also says how inexperienced I was.

So, the solution was for me to fly out to the USA to do the work. It was only for about a month, and my first taste of the USA. The company's backers were venture capitalists based near Washington, DC, so that was the natural place to work.

In the end, it was a small town right by Dulles (Washington's main) Airport. Aspects of the USA were brilliant but it was very "suburbs" - every journey had to be made by car, the highway was dotted with clumps of either houses or shops, and in between there was a whole lot of nothing. I didn't like the suburb aspect but I did like things like the shops in the larger malls (I bought a new wardrobe!), Mexican food, say. Some things. I have a vague memory that this was around Easter 1996, and because I thought it was a one-off trip, I tried to squeeze in all the Washington touristy bits - the White House, Smithsonian, Arlington Cemetery etc.

But because of the suburbs aspect, when I got back home I didn't take it any further, and the project trundled on. The company signed a deal with Barclaycard in the UK, but Chase Manhattan were also interested, and the US is a far bigger market than the UK. Meantime I had started managing the entire project, although, because it was a one-project company, there was a lot of involvement from directors. I knew early on that management was not really for me - one of my employees came to me one day with a personal problem, and I remember thinking, "stuff your problem, as long as it doesn't interfere with my deadline". Not a brilliant attitude on my part and, in all jobs since, I've concentrated on the technical side rather than on people.

In order to help close the deal with Chase, I was sent out to their campus in Tampa, Florida. for a few weeks to hold a series of technical meetings about how the solution worked. I liked Tampa, it was mostly very new but had areas with a decent history and vibrant atmosphere thanks to its Spanish background. Plus, of course, the weather was a big improvement on the UK. This was early summer 1996, and the trip culminated in a meeting at Chase's head office in New York City.

The series of meetings obviously helped, and we duly signed a deal with Chase. Instead of Washington, DC, we'd be located in Tampa, Fl. to be close to them. The company clearly had designs on moving to the US, so I let it be known that I'd quite like to go over there permanently, and they set the wheels in motion to obtain a visa. I liked Tampa much more than DC.

Chase must have been having their own meetings about the project, and the next thing I knew, Chase dictated that the project now had a sufficiently strategic importance, that they wanted us close by, in New York City. Personally, this was fine by me, since I'd liked New York City even more than Tampa. My first impression of Manhattan had been very positive. The only thing was that the cost of living was that much higher than in Florida, but that was the company's problem, not mine, right?

From midsummer 1996 onwards, therefore, I was over in New York City quite a bit, helping to set up a US operation. Funnily enough, I didn't do many "tourist" things, because there was no hurry. I did go up to the top of the World Trade Center, and remember going to Staten Island on the ferry, to see Liberty, but there was lots more I eventually wanted to do. I loved New York - it was very different to most of the US, just in terms of its compactness. And there was so much going on - if I had to identify the capital of the world, this was it.

By the end of the year, my visa had come through so it was time to make things permanent. I said most of my goodbyes in the UK and gave up my rent. Then, the snag!

Basically, the company offered me a deal to work in Florida, which I accepted. They offered me the same deal, but in New York City. In real terms, in the UK I had viewed a few houses and was ready to buy, in Florida it would've meant a nice apartment (rental) and a decent car, but in New York I'd have been renting a room in a shared house/apartment, in one of New York's other boroughs, not Manhattan. The trouble was, I'd been in New York for some months now, I'd made a few friends and, more importantly, had been involved in hiring future co-workers. So, I'd had some exposure to the market. I was being asked to take on quite a senior role, but at a quarter of their salaries. Presumably the company gambled that just the prestige of working in NYC would be irresistable. But whilst the location was attractive, I had my doubts about the company itself - was it really something I wanted to be tied to? I felt that the atmosphere could be quite toxic, even between the directors. The company was very marketing-driven, very good at talking the talk, but not necessarily walking the walk. I remember once working a 26-hour stint the day before a meeting, because somebody had promised something pretty impossible, and we'd had to do the best that we could, I snook a couple of hours sleep in the boardroom! Also the support we had from Chase was unusually limited, or so I thought at the time (I've seen it many times since). The middle-managers we dealt with harboured ambitions to become senior managers - they had to maintain a certain distance from us because if not, and the project went belly up, then it might rub off on them. Middle managers in large corporates think very much like that the world over - make sure you don't go out on a limb for anything, and you'll get promoted just for not screwing up! Actually, the senior managers I know got there precisely by going out on a limb and succeeding against the odds, but that's a different story, and I have the benefit of hindsight.

Anyway, the to-ing and fro-ing went on over Christmas 1996, but in the end I decided not to take the offer - it was a step backward rather than forward. I mean, I was still minded to get to New York somehow, and armed with the visa (which wasn't transferable between "sponsors", but which did at least show that my skills were specialised enough as far as the US authorities were concerned), whilst at the same time set up my own company in the UK, in case things didn't work out.

As it happened, I severed my ties formally with this company in February 1997, fortunately there was a spell where I was on gardening leave but on full pay, where I was able to develop my own business. I got the first work through my company in early March, down near Winchester (which brought me to this area), and over time lost the urge to work in the USA. I loved New York City but looking at how things turned out both personally and professionally, I can't really complain.

I got a letter from an official receiver, some months later, telling me that the UK arm of this company had gone to the wall - I suspect they put all their eggs into the Chase basket and Barclaycard weren't too thrilled - but by then I was nicely into the rest of my life.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Progress? Report



I talked about my disabilities in the past, but not so much recently. I have a kind-of overall attitude that nothing much is changing, so I don't bother talking about it. But, just in the last week, something has changed, so I thought I'd just publish a recap of where I am. I'll split this into a few subtopics, starting with the most general:

Balance

I still find myself off-balance, but am able to correct myself either by shifting my body weight or, more likely, by using some fixed object to stabilise myself. Fixed objects are often walls, etc. The distribution of my body weight must play a part, since I can be standing still and still lose my balance. I actually feel more balanced when I'm, say, walking, just because my momentum is carrying me is a particular direction anyway. Changing direction introduces wobbles, as does "pottering" (by which I mean, moving somewhere quite slowly, without much momentum)

I guess I've improved since leaving hospital, just in terms of using fixed objects for balance, just because I have to do so less often. But I still need to do it, so this is largely anecdotal. Certainly in hospital, when I first started walking again, I never used to go more than a step away from a handrail, although now I can walk from A to B, across open space. I do sometimes feel unbalanced while walking, but I can fix myself and don't fall over. Which leads me to:

Stamina

I learned early on that, if I wanted to get somewhere, I could go a short distance, take a break, move another short distance, and so on, and eventually I would get there. Within reason. If you wanted me to walk a hundred miles, I'd probably decline! But with a shorter goal, I'm generally happy that I'd get there eventually.

This is all still the case. Just looking back to the start (it was an extreme condition, so easy to compare against) I have improved, just in the terms that the short distances have become a bit longer, the breaks have become shorter, etc. I can probably manage 100 yards or so, before I need to take a breath, my breaks can be as little as 10 seconds, or so. It also depends on the day and on how much I've walked already, so presumably on my energy levels.

So, like I say, I get there. I have timed myself over distance, and looked at the numbers. Google Maps is great to compare against, since it can measure quite fine distances, and can come up with a "walking time" estimate (such-and-such a journey will take you five minutes, etc.) . I'm about 2/3 the speed that Google assumes. Google assumes a constant speed, though, where I get slower as I tire. And, I'm not sure whether Google takes account of uphill/downhill.

I've found that often, the reason I need to stop is because lactic acid builds up in my good calf. Bear in mind that until the stroke, this was my weaker leg. But I've found that even if I stop for a break, when I start again it doesn't take long for the lactic acid to return. For that reason, I try to walk slowly enough that it doesn't become unbearable in the first place.

Interestingly, in terms of state benefits, I don't get anything for my restricted range. To qualify for benefits, you either need to have a range of less than 20m, or have issues even planning a journey. I didn't argue with that decision, because (a) mostly, I can walk more than 20 yards, and (b) I'm as capable of planning a journey as the next person. So, they applied the rules correctly. But it is a silly rule, if you ask me, just because I do face issues not faced by able-bodied people.

Eyesight

 My eyesight does, at least, appear to have stabilised. Immediately after the stroke it was worse than it is now. It is still not 100%, though, and will never be so. Before, and around the time of, the stroke, I was having problems with my eyes and had both laser surgery and injections to try and help. But either the problems, or the treatment, has left permanent damage.

My short-distance vision is OK, it has worsened just naturally as part of ageing, but my longer-distance vision is not so good. In addition, my left eye is markedly worse than my right, which indicates to me that the stroke might have had an effect. I have prescription varifocal glasses which I'm supposed to wear all the time, although I only tend to wear them when going out, and often have to come hobbling back into the house, when I realise I've forgotten them.

I have been told by the hospital (who I still see) that my sight is still good enough to drive, although because of my arm I haven't even attempted to get behind the wheel. I'm not sure how valid my insurance would be, for a start!

Left arm/hand

The stroke affected my left side, and my left arm is effectively useless. I can move my arm, but if I lift it, it is a matter of seconds before it gives way. So even something like buttering a slice of bread, I have to do one-handed with my right hand. My left arm isn't good enough to help.

I have less movement, as you move out from my torso. There's good movement at my shoulder, less at my elbow, none at my wrist. Or, very little. My hand is funny because I can clench a very loose fist, but I have nothing when it comes to straightening my hand. It's difficult when there is nothing - when there's a flicker, I can keep working on it, but when there's nothing...

I mentioned that I could sort-of clench a fist - the thing about that is the effort required to do so. An able-bodied person would just do it without thinking, but for me, there is very much thought and effort involved. You can see my face grimace as I attempt to clench my fist.

Even then, I can't maintain the clench, so if I put a knife, say, into the fist, then it just drops out. So I can't really use the hand for anything. My arm isn't even strong enough to lift my hand for any length of time, even if I could. So practical things like holding a pen, or cutlery (or typing), are out.

So, in terms of benefits, this disability is what counts. There are all sorts of things which I can't do, which take considerably longer, or for which I need gadgets to help.

Left leg/foot

My leg is the same as my arm, only worse. It is the same story, in that I have movement at the hip, a bit less at the knee, and nothing at the ankle. With this combination, however, I can walk, albeit with a very obvious limp. Because there is no movement at my ankle, it has become stiffer. The flexibility of an able-bodied ankle provides a form of suspension. The inflexibility of my gammy ankle means that I find it less easy to cope with non-flat surfaces. In practise, this manifests itself as a "twisted ankle" feeling quite often if I walk on non-paved ground.

The reason I say "worse" is simply because when I get to my ankle and foot, there is nothing. So, even the equivalent of clenching a fist is out. A very recent development is that I might have worked out how to move my foot slightly, but....millimetres - and not something I can just do at will - I'm baffled why I can do it some times and not others. It was such a small flicker of a movement that I had to ask my wife to keep hold of my foot, just to see if she could feel any movement. And, to move those millimetres, the effort and grimaces were enormous. But as I say, at least with a flicker, I have something to work on. But mostly, I have no use of my ankle or foot.

There is a knock-on effect to this in that my lower leg frms a kind-of arc when I walk. So it not just goes in one plane, but goes outward too. Consequently, I need a wider space to get through. This is a small thing, inasmuch as it only comes into play infrequently. But when it does come into play, I lose my balance.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Mis-sold



My job hunt has not been very successful. An example happened about a month ago. It was a lecturer role. Now, I've never taught in my life, although I do have plenty of experience of software development, so I'd hope that that would be useful when you have a bunch of people specifically looking to get into IT.

I was encouraged by the job advert. It specifically stated that it was fine if you didn't have teaching experience, so long as you had substantial industry experience. Exactly what I wanted to hear. The advert went on to say that, if you weren't already a teacher, you'd be sent on some crash course. Fine.

So I applied for the role and I was encouraged because they offered an interview. I mean, they said that applications from non-teachers were welcome, but all the same, if you are a trained teacher, that must be an advantage.

So I was pleasantly surprised that they offered an interview. However, my joy was short-lived when I read what the structure of the interview would be. Or, of one aspect of it. Have any of you heard of a micro-teach? I hadn't, despite all my IT experience. I was actually quite miffed that these people had said "teaching experience not required", when it transpired that it was, very much so. Of course, I didn't say anything other than to say thank you, but I didn't want to go any further. From my perspective, the goal once I'd realised that the job was unsuitable was just to spend as little time as possible on it, instead looking at vacncies which might be suitable. I had said on the application form that I was disabled, so maybe when they offered the interview, they had some quota to fulfil? But really, I'm not going to take the time and trouble to even turn up, if all I am is a makeweight.

I bet the person they eventually hired was already a teacher.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Mystery Food



One of the good things about testing myself daily is that I can see the effect of different foods on my sugar the next day. In fact, for that reason, I'd recommend testing to anybody, even somebody healthy.

Of course, if you're healthy, you're less likely to see the magnitude of the changes that I see, just because your body will nullify most carbs naturally.

It is from these observations that I can see that a packet of sweets, say, has much less effect on my sugar than a portion of potatoes. As I've said before, it's not "sweet", but "carb". Of course, sugar is itself a carb, so I'd assume that I would notice it, if I consumed enough. But knowing that kind of information is really useful to me. We're individuals so individual foods will affect us differently, but as a rule of thumb...

The reason I bring this up is because, on two occasions, my sugar has been high this week. Not high, high, but above average. I haven't eaten anything that I'm aware is bad for me, so I've been puzzling a bit over the things I have eaten.

The only thing I can think of, which I ate the day before each reading, was a bowl of muesli. Cereals in general are deadly for containing lots of sugar, but this was specifically a "no-added-sugar-or-salt" variety. So the only sweet stuff should have been the fruit itself, although, granted, raisins are quite sweet. These appeared to be mixed in with oat flakes. Oats are generally my cereal of choice, although heaven knows what other things were mixed in (unfortunately the packet, listing ingredients, is long gone).

So I'm kind-of wary about eating any more of this stuff.

The other thing I observe is that following a "high", it takes my body 48 hours to get back to normal. The next day is always high too, although not as high. I suppose that's just how long it takes your body to eat, process, and get rid of, any food traces. Aside from this being me, that I have to be careful what food I consume, this information is quite interesting I think.


Changing Plans

Ha, ha, it's funny how an email can change your day...

A couple of weeks ago I started doing bits on my new project. I had determined that it should be a web-based project, just because I haven't worked on a meaty web-based project for a couple of years. I wasn't sure what I wanted the subject matter to be - ideally I'd like a fresh subject but, if it came to it, I could provide a web-based equivalent of Diem.

I started sniffing around Microsoft HealthVault. This is a Microsoft effort, so will have decent resource behind it. It provides end users with a nice web site through which to store various health-related data, including their blood glucose. It also provides an API, so allows people to write an application, connect to HealthVault, and use HealthVault to store the data. One of the big things about health applications is user security, and the big win of using HealthVault was that Microsoft handled all that - it is already a secure site.

So I've downloaded a couple of samples, got them working, and earmarked some time to write my own noddy code, just to see how it all hangs together. HealthVault doesn't support all the statistics supported by Diem, so another thing on my list was to discover whether I could store that data somehow. Fortunately, as it happens, I hadn't got anywhere near that yet.

So I signed up and got myself a HealthVault account, only last week. I've logged into it just to poke around, but haven't got into any specifics yet. Then, fast forward to this morning. When I loaded my email program, lo and behold, a message from Microsoft saying that they're pulling the plug on HealthVault in six months time.

In some ways, a shame, because I might have been able to use it. But I'm mightily glad that they made this announcement when I'm just embarking on a new project, rather than a year into it.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Random

I like to have a short bath every day. At weekends, especially, the soak tends to be a bit more leisurely, and I have just been listening to my current audiobook, a geeky little number called Humble Pi.

It appealed to me because I've always been a bit of a maths geek. It's basically about maths/engineering cock-ups, where bridges have collapsed etc. The US space programme features a lot. Last time he talked about a bridge between somewhere in Germany and somewhere in Sweden. They agreed a height for the bridge, and started to build half each with the intention of meeting in the middle.

It all went wrong because they agreed on a height, measured above sea level. But each set of engineers used a different reference point as "sea level", so the two halves of the bridge met but one half was 50cm higher than the other! Things like that tickle me.

Today's instalment was about random numbers, In particular, how difficult it is to generate truly random numbers.

"Proper" generators will use something physical - nowadays things might rely on quantum physics, for example, because at the quantum level, particles can appear and disappear at random - you can even get usb devices built along these lines. In the 1950's the UK came up with ERNIE to generate random numbers - based on the length of time it would take a single electron to travel the length of a neon tube, which fitted the technology of the day. Because the path is chaotic, and therefore the distance travelled/time taken by the electron is random.

A cheaper/easier way is to produce something which looks as though it is random, called pseudo-random. It reminded me of one of my biggest programming challenges, many years ago. To produce a "seed" which, to all intents and purposes, was random. Lots of things will produce a seemingly random series of numbers, but they all rely on a seed. If you use the same seed twice, you get the same series of numbers, so the randomness of the seed is the key.

This algorithm took ages. In the end, I combined a bunch of things. The program ran on Windows so I ended up using stuff like mouse movements, and the interval between keystrokes. Even then, it was hard to be random, because trained typists didn't use the mouse, and typed keys at surprisingly regular intervals. I got there somehow and the algorithm ended up being used by both Barclaycard in the UK, and Chase Manhattan in the USA, as part of their merchant operations. This was mid-nineties, so heaven knows if it is still in use (I can't imagine so). The product I was working on used an American security library, which was subject to export restrictions, so I ended up going to the USA for the first time to do the work - with the same company I later went back several times, and was granted a visa to work there fulltime, as development lead.

Those were the days...


Friday, 5 April 2019

Hypo alert

Gosh, I just had my first hypo for ages. Well, almost. It was coming up to lunchtime and when I got up to make it, I could feel the hypo starting to come on. I did myself a paella ready meal, which has the advantage that it microwaves in, like, 2 minutes flat.

But even as I was eating it, it kept falling off the fork, my hand was shaking.

I'm probably an hour later now and feel not just normal but well-fed. On top of the ready-meal I also had a bowl of no-adder-sugar-or-salt muesli.

In a way I'm glad I started having hypos again because it shows that I'm controlling my sugar down to normal-ish levels (in fact in this case to lower-than-normal levels). I'll keep in my mind that I might need to reduce my insulin at some point.

Double Talk

On UK tv, they show a couple of regular politics programmes on a Thursday night. They're on later than my bedtime these days, so I record them and usually watch them over the following few days. So I'm sitting here on Friday morning,before work, watching some Question Time.

One thing I notice is that many politicians are very good, when you mention cuts, at changing your frame of reference. "Such-and-such has been cut by 50%." "We are spending £100m more." So you've gone from talking about % to £. I saw Sajid Javid doing exactly the same thing, recently, so it is a deliberate tactic, I think.

To be clear, a cut of even 0.1% is still a cut - doesn't matter how much money is involved. Because of inflation, you need to spend more money just to stand still.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Customs Union

I'm quite in favour of a customs union between the UK and the EU, for now, but I think the argument splits into two.

First, I'm very much in favour of a free trade agreement, just because any other approach seems to be cutting off our nose to spite our face, and because we trade so heavily with the EU currently.

But a customs union is more than that. It is also the two blocs showing a united front to other countries. Common tariffs, standards etc.

My gut feel is that anything that the EU arranges with, say, the USA is nothing to do with the UK. And vice-versa. But one argument persuades me otherwise. What if, on item X, the UK charges a tariff of 10% and the EU a tariff of 5%? Or vice versa? For your smart American merchant, it'll be cheaper to import their product at Rotterdam rather than Southampton. And, with the UK and EU in a bilateral free trade agreement, they could just drive the goods the rest of the way, and avoid the higher tariff.

I mean, I hear the argument that the UK needs to be able to strike its own trade deals with other countries. I have sympathy for it. But I worry that the UK will develop a policy of undercutting the EU. The money aspect doesn't worry me so much, but I fear an erosion of workers' rights. It doesn't have to be this way, of course, but this is one of the choices that must be made.

For these reason, I'm happy that a customs union trumps a trade deal, at least for now - while the UK and the EU trade so much with each other. It doesn't have to be forever, though, so I don't think we should try to tie the hands of our successors. Atthe same time, I think it is something that we have "until further notice", rather than having a set end-date. But a critical part of the union will be who, then, sets the tariffs?

Well, we're in a fortunate position that, at the point in time when we leave the EU, both of our tariffs will be the same. So, on Day #1, you have synergy.

But obviously the UK leaving the EU allows for divergence (setting a customs union aside for a moment). I would suggest that in any future talks with other countries, that the UK has one vote and the EU has one vote, and that both need to agree or we stay at the status quo - basically, either side has a veto. (I'm very sympathetic to Brexiteers of this one, that the UK should not just be a rule-taker. And fine, the EU consists of many constituent states, but these stateshave already set their individual statehood to one side, in order to trade as one bloc - the EU.) If one side finds this unbearable, then you need to look at dismantling the CU. Just with this last sentence in mind, we shouldn't attempt to tie the hands of our successors.

It's funny because yesterday I encountered a Brexiteer on Facebook, to whom any idea of a customs union was an anathame, whereas I too supported Brexit, but actually wouldn't mind it one bit.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Found!

I check this blog quite regularly, not necessarily to write stuff, but more to just look at housekeeping stuff. For example, I check the comments because once or twice I've found that people have left spam, or adverts, stuff like "buy Viagra here". I mean, this is mostly quite a serious blog, I can do without that crap, so I police the comments. It kind-of goes against my grain, to censor things, but I can't assume that other people will behave responsibly.

Anyway, looking at the statistics for the blog this morning, I saw that one of the referrers from yesterday was from the search engine, Bing. I followed the referrer link and, sure enough, this site comes back on the first page of results, when somebody does a search on the phrase "stroke survivor".

I've got mixed feelings about these statistics. In the early days, I thought they were just me, checking  past entries. But while the statistics don't go so far enough to tell me the reader's actual name and address, they do give me various clues. Different browsers make requests in different ways,and Blogger can tell the difference between Chrome on Windows, and Firefox on Apple, say. Blogger doesn't show me your IP address, but it does show me where in the world, just down to the "country" level. So, if you view my pages through a British ISP, say, then you'll show up as a hit from Britain.

So, one of the reasons I take the statistics semi-seriously is that Blogger tells me that visits happen from a bunch of different countries. Most common is the USA, of course, but there have been hits from several other countries across the world. Importantly, not UK, so not me. Similarly, when the stats tell me that my blog was viewed from an iPad somewhere.... well, I know that's not me because I don't own an iPad!

I guess Bing must be pretty big, I know it is owned by Microsoft, but when I last checked, I don't come that high on Google. I tend to regard Google as #1, just because it's the search engine that I tend to use. I'll have to search for myself again and see what I find. One day!