Hidden Payloads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DBS Checks

As part of my overall job hunting, I have just seen a new low. Somebody is offering a “free” DBS check. Disclosure and Barring Service.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

So, growing up as a [post WWII] child, not something you’d spend time pondering.

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

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

It’s probably worth noting at this point that the Nurenburg Trials of WW2 quite clearly stated that “obeying orders” was rejected as a defence, although this was in the context of war crimes, rather than just taking part in the war itself. And, if you look at the history of that defence, it is inconsistent at best.

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

Of course, if you say “yes” to that question, you probably then need to look at ecomonic conscription within of the armed forces. How people from certain regions or backgrounds are represented disproportionately, because otherwise there is little chance of finding a job. And the whole thing starts to get very complicated.

But, despite this, if you *do* say “yes”, Remembrace Day is essentially a money-raising event on behalf of the British Legion (a charity which supports UK veterans), so why should you support somebody financially when they’ve purposefully done something with which you disagree?

 If you say “No” – they ignore everything apart from their commander’s instruction – then at what point do we apply conscience? At what point do you evaluate “this is wrong” or “this is right”?

If you don’t apply conscience at all, don’t take a view on wrong/right, then you just defer up the chain and you end up with a politician making a decision, which may or may not be on principle (there’s no guarantee either way), and everyone else just following suit. Iraq and Afghanistan are obvious examples where dodgy values have been applied, although I don’t think Blair or Campbell or Bush are particularly unique.

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

Smoke and Mirrors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four Eyes

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Jobs (2)

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

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

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

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

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

Pharmacy Blunders

This morning, a friend of mine had posted a story he’d picked up from the BBC. Some pharmacy (in the UK) had issued a chap with the wrong meds, the chap subsequently died. A similar thing happened to me once. It was only because I check all my meds as they arrive that I spotted the mistake beforehand. A lot of people don’t, so the guy’s death was not surprising – we just expect everyone to get it right.

In my case. the error was with my local pharmacy. The system in the UK, there are two boxes to fill out. One person picks the meds out of the store, initials one box. A second (different) person then checks the choice, initials the second box. Two-stage verification – a lot of the banking systems I designed had the same setup. One person creates, another checks.

Somebody picked the wrong drugs, then initialled the box. Somebody else then checked those wrong drugs, and ticked the second box. It’s this second step where I had the issue.

When I spoke to the pharmacy, their excuse was that they were very sorry, but the staff worked so hard and were always in a hurry. I asked them which was more important – to do things quickly or to do things right?

The pharmacy asked if I would return the incorrect medication. I refused. As far as I was concerned, those tablets were now evidence, in case they later denied their mistake.

I decided to complain to the NHS – there was every chance that they could make the same mistake again, and that the next person will not notice. The NHS swept the complaint under the carpet. If I’d have wanted things to change, I should have gone to a lawyer, hit them in their pocket instead. But my interest was that they get things right, not that I make money from it.

The Complaints procedure just left me feeling that the NHS just looks after its own. It hardly instills confidence. Their refusal to improve the system just means that I took unilateral action, and never used them again. Anybody else… shrug.