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.

Maturity

Part of me chuckles whenever some kind of sexuality-based issue comes up. LGBT, Pride etc. I mean, I have a broad notion that a couple should be able to behave as they wish, as long as it is consensual, but beyond that, it raises an eyebrow that it is such a big deal for people.

Actually, I should not be surprised because with any non-hetero situation, there has been an associated fight for equal rights, and equal rights is important.

There’s an issue currently with some schools in Birmingham. I have no school-age children so, as you might 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 today. (Invariably, the views they hold today are more pallatable.) 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 it seems to make sense to me to explain exactly what a hate crime is, before they hit twelve. Which would presumably include telling them about homophobia and non-hetero relationships.

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. Frankly, eighteen is an arbitrary number, too, if we’re on the subject. I’d easily be swayed on these questions. 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 mean, I have always thought this, but since the stroke (or rather, since the diabetes which probably also caused the stroke) it has become personal. So a lot of these prejudices go over my head.

It can’t just be an “age” thing, because some of the people getting so worked up on this issue are older than me!

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!

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 ❤️ Paris!

I saw a nice surprise yesterday. Years ago I used to read a particular blog. In those days, I had no idea about platforms, I just signed up for emails when she posted. Her tale was interesting – she was an English woman living in Paris. I guess from her perspective, it was just “life”.

I used to love it in Paris, I’d have liked to have lived there myself, but my choice of career made that unlikely. IT is very English-language-focussed and France is, well, French! And by working in both London and New York, I was already in the Premier League, and France would have been a step backwards.

I must be roughly the same age as this woman, had kids at roughly the same time, etc. I think mine was a little bit older, but only by a couple of years. We diverged because while I was settled down by then, she was going through the shitstorm that is life – maybe that was partly why she was interesting, because she had a different life to me?

The woman wrote in an age when a good blog could lead to a book deal. Maybe it still can? And she duly published stuff. I read her first, but it was largely a re-hash of the blog. I think she wrote some more, but I stopped at one.

At some time, years later, I got myself a Facebook account. Maybe I re-read this woman’s book? But whatever the reason, I found her on Facebook., although she’d stopped blogging by then. I forgot about it until I logged on yesterday and saw a post from her, linking to a new blog she now writes. Lots of water under the bridge, and she now writes from the perspective of having bipolar problems.

With recovery, I think a big thing early on is what manages what. Do you manage the illness, or does it manage you? I found that with the stroke – some people could spend the day in bed due to fatigue, but I fought tooth and nail to get past that. And as I managed to get more control, my world got bigger, my horizons broadened to the point where I now blog about all sorts. With this woman, I scanned through the new blog yesterday and saw posts on what seemed like a variety of subjects – there’s certainly been a change over the last couple of years, and seems to have moved away from her 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, although I suspect that she, too, would define recovery as “getting your old life back”.



Incidentally…in the mid-nineties, I used to visit Paris maybe one weekend per month, 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-Paris could be as little as a couple of hours. The areas I knew well were those around the fifth and thirteenth arondissements, away from the centre a little, 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. My wardrobe was mostly French, and I’d have places to myself when I shopped – Saturday morning was my favourite – because “real” Parisians 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, our stays in Paris were sparse. We tended to go to France still, but stayed outside the capital. I have a friend who still lives just outside Paris, so we would meet up occasionally, and children with very little language in common 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 the metro and saw the tower for the first time.

The last time, 2008, we took a day trip there – Christmas shopping – from one of our new favourite haunts, Rouen, and had to fight our way through manic crowds by the big shops.

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 revisit.

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…

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.