-- Business blog now available --

A quick note to say that I've set up my Business blog, to be able to speak with a clear voice on both personal and work issues (i.e. by having separate blogs).

Thursday, 15 October 2009


I’m posting this bunch of bullet points as is, otherwise this ain’t going to get posted at all… :-s

I’ve got a photo of my duodenum, but need to find it and scan it…


  • Pam, the super efficient ward sister with the excellent bedside manner
  • Lesley, the lady with the scanner (radiographer??)
  • The good Doctor
  • Caroline – who took me
  • My Mum, who picked me up


  1. Admittance into Gastro-enterology
  2. Own cubicle, cubicle’s own hand wash
  3. Explanation of choice between
    1. Throat spray
    2. Sedation
  4. Explanation of procedure
  5. Chose throat spray
  6. Doctor arrives, I sign disclaimer
  7. Go into ‘operating room’
  8. I marvel at the gastroscopy equipment
    1. Looks like something out The Matrix 
  9. Doctor gives me throat spray
  10. Bed, turn on my left hand side
  11. ‘Bit’ to go between my teeth – aargh!
    1. It’s a plastic thing with a hole big enough to have the ‘camera’ put through it, and so you don’t damage the equipment by biting on it - yeeuch
  12. Gizmo fed into my mouth
  13. Deep breathing, steady breathing
  14. Suction thing like dentists
  15. Swallow
  16. Swallow again
  17. Gizmo into my stomach
  18. Further down, into duodenum for a look around
    1. Makes me feel a bit sick
  19. Air being pumped in makes me burp a lot
  20. Gizmo used to take samples – duodenum
  21. Back into stomach for a look see
  22. Concern because of saliva & breathing
  23. Back out again
  24. Thanks heavens!
  25. Lesley gives me photo
  26. Recuperation
  27. 45 minutes after spray
  28. Mum comes to collect
  29. Rather tired last night
  30. Have a sore throat today – unsurprisingly. Rather like a ‘sore throat’ caused by illness.

Initial test results

The biopsy taken from my duodenum was put into some ‘agar jelly’ containing lactose, along with a colour indicator. Apparently those with lactose intolerances normally turn the indicator a sky blue colour. I managed to turn it navy blue, which means a severe lactose intolerance.

The good Doctor also mentioned I have mild gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (apparently). Although looking at the symptoms, I don’t seem to suffer from this…

Results of blood test? Need to recall / check documentation


  • Would have been good to have some kind of hand signals to communicate
  • Lack of control
  • Anxiety over pipe in mouth, & breathing
  • Throat spray vs. sedation

Deep joy – not.

Monday, 7 September 2009

The [un]funny tummy saga continues


Last week I went along to our local Hospital to speak with the Consultant Gastroenterologist. I took Caroline along to give her perspective (it was she who suggested I might be have an intolerance to lactose as couple of years ago).

This is a part of the continuing saga of my digestive system. So, look away now if you’re of a sensitive disposition.

We both felt that the good Doctor (name on application) was pretty impressive:
  • He has a good bedside manner / interpersonal skills
  • He seems open, knowledgeable, approachable

My Backstory

Not sure if he expects to be quoted (hence anonymity), but I recounted my story


  • 2 Years ago - Caroline suggested I might have a dairy intolerance
    • Not sure, take a bit of convincing!
  • Went to the local GP, pretty useless really
  • Went to see the Practice Nutrionalist, pretty useless
    • But did give me a link to www. Lactose.co.uk
    • I bought some lactase pills - helps, buy some more on eBay
  • Aunt had been treated by Nutrionalist, Angela Beecroft
    • I (eventually) go to see her
  • She gets me to do a stool test – result points to Dientamoeba fragilis
  • She recommends complementary therapies
    • These help, but after treatment has finished, symptoms return
  • After taking these she suggests I have a course of anti-biotics
    • I go to the local Doctors (different from first ones, as we’ve moved since then)
    • I've had two courses of Metronidizole - which is why I went to see the Consultant


  • I think I've had this condition for ages
  • When I was on the anti-biotics
    • I felt more clear-headed
    • I felt rested, I slept better
    • My tummy was quiescent
    • I was less snappy & more pleasant


  • Diarrhoea
  • Gas / wind
  • Tummy rumbling
  • Need to open my bowels soon after meals [I did say…!]
  • Better - taking lactase tablets
  • Worse - having dairy, but this is not the only story

The Opinion

  • The Good Doctor reckons it is IBS probably – he thought they were classical symptoms
  • Doesn’t have a very high opinion of most complementary therapists
    • Has been involved in IBS study for 15 years
    • No candida or parasites found in his experience
    • Parasite (from previous test) is probably a red herring
  • We discussed link between stress & stomach – certainly I used to have pretty serious ‘butterflies’ in my stomach when I was a child

Next Steps

  • I go back in a couple of weeks
  • Tests for
    • Parasite – blood & stools
    • Endoscopy (argh – literally & metaphorically…)
      • Coeliac
      • Um something else
  • Treatments to be determined, depending on test results

Wash up

Caroline has also felt that the complementary stuff is bunkum, and (quite possibly) has probably been right all along ;-) :$

It's fair to say that I'm rather taken with the complementary stuff, but in the hospital, I managed to conjure up the following John Maynard Keynes quote:
“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
It’s been an ongoing saga, so I don’t want to get my hopes up. However, if anything like the positive effects of taking that anti-biotics is a guide, this could be promising…

This is a shortened set of notes as I want to get this post up & not spend ages deliberating…

And finally:

Tummy-related Tweets

Monday, 22 June 2009

Deadwater MTB trail - Kielder Forest

A post to commemorate taking the afternoon off last Thursday, and taking my bike up to Kielder. As per my tweet:

First piece of Leave this year - taking the pm off, & the MTB up to Kielder

Named after Deadwater Fell, part of Kielder Forest, and more about which is here. Most of the trail has been built by Kielder Trail Reavers, supported by The Bike Place.

Learning points

The trail is bearing up well, but has become quite uneven, with lots of stones, where the surface has been worn away.

  • My fantastic Marzocchi Bomber fork needs pumping up – it was slightly hairy going off large rocks / bumps and the forks compressing more than I’d have liked. Where is that shock pump?! Gah
  • My skills & stamina definitely need a big improvement!
  • Also, my brakes needs sorting / bleeding & new brake pads installed

btw, if you double-click on the photo of my bike and the associated gear, you will open a browser window at Flickr, as I have annotated the photo (and the next couple…).

Monday, 8 June 2009

Dan Hannan lays into the BNP

In the immediate aftermath of the European elections, I thought it useful to repeat this rather fine clip which sums up why I don’t like the BNP [although there are many other reasons].

From Dan Hannan’s blog at The Daily Telegraph

Can you suggest any other links / reasons etc.?

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Monday, 1 June 2009

GoodReads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, or WeRead?

I’ve read a few cyberpunk and popular science books over the last few years, and I thought it’d be fun to catalogue them online and see whether there were folks who might suggest close matches to the micro-genres I’ve enjoyed.

To that end, I started looking around for websites that might provide this service.

This should probably be seen in the context of similar searching a while back, which lead to checking out Collectorz to catalogue my CD collection [so last century I know! ;-)].

  • GoodReads
    • Second most established
  • LibraryThing
    • Seems to the most established
  • Shelfari
    • Owned by Amazon (altho others get book data from Amazon)
  • WeRead
    • Is this the most recent of the 4


A google search for comparisons of the four yielded these:

However, this post looks like the clincher. I have therefore signed up with this account at GoodReads.


Whilst checking out Collectorz, I found that one can scan the barcode of the CDs (and hence books) to more rapidly upload the details to the Web / desktop application.

The scanner of choice seems to be CueCat. Initially LibraryThing had this post and I thought LT would be the way to go. Happily this help item on GoodReads shows GR do the same, so CueCat is now on my birthday list!

If I go with Collectorz for CDs, I will let you know. I see there is discussion on GR re cataloguing CDs, but it’s not mainstream.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Where we live

WAH - my Office ;-)I wanted to write a brief paean to where we live, as we have enjoyed it so much.
Unfortunately we are moving when our lease expires in July because of circumstances beyond our control. So I thought I’d post whilst the going was good.
You’ll find a fair few photos of the countryside around where we live via my Flickr account.
My home office
We used to live in North Shields, so to move out into the lovely Northumbrian countryside has been a literal and metaphorical / metaphysical breath of fresh air. :-D
Other plus points is that where we live:
  • It’s not too far from Newcastle upon Tyne: about 30 mins from the Metrocentre & central Newcastle
  • It’s good for mountain biking
    • I can hit the country roads and green lanes from straight out the back door
    • It’s closer to Kielder forest, where there is all manner of cross country mayhem courtesy of Kielder Trail Reavers
  • There’s a brewery half a mile away, which we can drink at the the Black Bull
  • It’s nice and quiet and it gets pretty dark in the evenings (if the light from Newcastle & Gateshead doesn’t reflect off the clouds)
  • Towards the North West, the sky at night is very clear and it’s possible to see some amazing stars (and a few shooting ones)
  • There is a varied slew of wildlife out and about, including:
    • Deer
    • Bats
    • Cows / Sheep
    • Kestrel
    • Badgers
    • Foxes
    • Mice
    • Song birds
    • Toads
    • Sundry insects
    • Rats
    • Feral cats
    • All manner of birds
    • There’s a few horses knocking about, too
More of Jarvis' garden ;-)Jarvis, our dog, loves it as he chases the pheasants, partridges etc. that lurk in the cover around and about. We get to walk him in various places, which keeps us fit, too.
There *are* downsides:
  • Winter can lasts for 4-5 months, can we windy, wet & snowy; it can be expensive to run an oil-fired central heating system
  • Broadband is pretty hopeless – we’re at the end of a 9km line, at the limit of usability really
  • The pigs being reared next door can get a bit smelly!
So that’s it. We’re hoping to move down the road, so watch this space.
UPDATE: This is new house [ok, so it’s the garden at the top-left corner, but you get the drift ;-)]

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Schizophrenia – disambiguation

I have a long-term interested in Psychology, having graduated in 1992 as a Bachelor of Science from the University of Bristol.

The point of this post is to say that (IMHO) it is wrong to view Schizophrenia as being synonymous with split personality, as the quotes from Wikipedia (below) attest.

I get frustrated when the word schizophrenia is used when ‘split-personality’ would be more appropriate.

Schizophrenia is defined by Wikipedia [accessed 25/5/09] as:

“Schizophrenia (pronounced /ˌskɪtsəˈfrɛniə/ or pronounced /ˌskɪtsəˈfriːniə/), from the Greek roots skhizein (σχίζειν, "to split") and phrēn, phren- (φρήν, φρεν-, "mind") is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a mental disorder characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality.

Distortions in perception may affect all five senses, including sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch, but most commonly manifests as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking with significant social or occupational dysfunction.

Onset of symptoms typically occurs in young adulthood,[1] with approximately 0.4–0.6%[2][3] of the population affected.

Diagnosis is based on the patient's self-reported experiences and observed behavior.

No laboratory test for schizophrenia currently exists.[4]

The entry continues:

“Despite its etymology, schizophrenia is not synonymous with dissociative identity disorder, previously known as multiple personality disorder or split personality; in popular culture the two are often confused.”

Wiktionary defines it thus [accessed 25/5/09], and thereby shows there is an informal use of the term:



  1. (pathology) A psychiatric diagnosis denoting a persistent, often chronic, mental illness variously affecting behavior, thinking, and emotion
  2. (informal) Any condition in which disparate or mutually exclusive activities coexist

For the purposes of balance, I am including the Wikipedia entry on Dissociative Identity Disorder [again, accessed 25/5/09]:

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a condition in which a single person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities (known as alter egos or alters), each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment.”

I realise this is probably a hopeless cause, but nonetheless worthwhile!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Blackberry add-on applications

I’ve just installed Blackberry App World on my Bold, and thought I’d do a review of what’s installed so far.

Most of these were before installing App World, so good that BB / RIM have made it easier to find appropriate apps.

Doing the individual links to all these apps would take ages, so I’m afraid you’ll have to Google them… :$

  • Twitter
    • Twitterberry – serviceable, lacking functionality
    • Twibble – nice look & feel, but usability & functionality are pretty poor
    • Tiny Twitter – probably the best of the lot, but doesn’t seem to work in the UK properly (worked in the US when I was in Texas recently…)
  • Google
    • Mobile App – search
    • Maps, including Latitude – excellent
    • Sync – for sync’ing calendar with desktop
  • Facebook – came already installed
  • WorldMate Live – great if you’re a frequent traveller: trial version was great when I went to Texas
  • BBPlacemarks app for Brightkite, could do with a bit of extra functionality
  • Amazon App for Blackberry – good, would be even better if I had the option to use it with Amazon.co.uk
  • Opera browser – useful when Blackberry browser doesn’t cut it
  • Flickr app
  • Remember the Milk
  • Blackberry App World
    • Bloomberg
    • Shazam
  • NeoReader
    • Use the camera on my Bold to photograph barcodes and the new square ones – and turn that into something meaningful
    • Can’t get it to work properly, but fantastic idea
  • Vodafone SatNav
    • Not bad, but sometimes takes wacky options

Since compiling this list yesterday, I found that all the system memory  was taken, and therefore the Bold was running slow all the time.

I’ve therefore uninstalled Bloomberg, Shazam, and NeoReader [I think], to free up enough space.

It would be good to be able to install the apps on my micro SD card – which is 8Gb.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

419 e-mail – from someone at NatWest Bank. Fail

Someone needs to tell this joker that we don’t trust our banks any more – muppet!
‘sppose it’s our stupid fault for falling for these scams & I’m in no way immune to this sort of stuff… :-s
Your Attn,
Compliments of the season and good day.I am Ray Wells, the system and control director at the NATIONAL WESTMINSTER BANK,i am writing this letter to solicit for support and assistance from you to carry out this business opportunity in my bank.
Lying in an inactive account is the sum of Three Million Pounds sterling(3,000,000:00 GBPS) belonging to a foreign customer(Sperber Thomas) who was a gas consultant here in UK.He happened to be deceased during a business trip with his wife(Sperber Julie) on board the Swissair Flight 111 , which crashed into the Atlantic off Nova Scotia in september 2nd 1998.
Info of this crash was on the news which we have tried to notify his relatives but to no avail,see links below for more detailed information:
Ever since he died the bank has been expecting his next of kin to come and claim these fund which cannot be released unless someone applies for it as next of kin, as indicated in our banking guidelines.Unfortunately he has no family member in UK or Over-sea who are aware of the existence of the money.
At this juncture i have decided to do business with you by soliciting your assistance in applying as the next of kin to the bank then the money will be released to you,as i do not want the money to go into the bank treasury as an unclaimed bill,because the banking laws and guidelines stipulates that if such money(s) remains unclaimed for a period of eleven years(11yrs),the money will be moved into the bank treasury as an unclaimed bill.
My request for a foreigner as next of kin is occasioned by the fact that the customer was a foreigner and a British cannot stand as next of kin.
50% of the money will be your share as a foreign partner and your assistance to actualise this business,thereafter i will visit your country with your help once the money hits your account for disbursement according to the percentage indicated.
To effect the immediate transfer of the fund to you as agreed,you must apply first to the bank as the next of kin to the deceased,then we will follow up all formalities for the transaction.
Upon receipt of your reply, i will send to you, the text of application you are to send to the bank,and further clearify you in other issues as to effect this business.
Awaiting to hear from you urgently.
Best Regards
Ray Well.”

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Ditches, Cundies, and Burns

drainage ditch
A blog post about water drainage – and the lack of it.

It’s a times like these when I’m driving or cycling in our locality, when I feel a bit hacked off. Hacked off because the roads are awash with water, and roads and driving conditions are worse than they need to be.
Photo credit to Steve took it
With the snow rapidly melting, I think it should be running down ditches, flowing away through cundies (drains of loose stones), and into small streams that Northumbrians [and others] call burns.

The problem was particularly bad last year in early September, when a Northumbrian market town was inundated by flash floods. The roads around us were impassable in places, which meant it was tricky getting to the wedding of a couple we know.

The bride was stuck in a traffic jam when the Newcastle to Carlisle road was closed due to flooding, and the priest had to be rescued when his car engine was overwhelmed by standing water! The ceremony went off without a hitch, but about 50 minutes late…

I have been out myself from time-to-time, digging away at the verges on the road that leads up to our house, to let the water run-off into the ditches which usually are cut between the verge and hedgerows / fencing.

In doing so Jim, our next-door neighbour and ‘deputy farmer’ has called over and said I shouldn’t be doing the Council’s job. So, in writing this post I assumed that the Castle Morpeth or Tynedale Council were being dilatory.

A quick Google search showed this FAQ and made me think again:

“Roadside Ditches

Do you know who is responsible for looking after ditches? This is one of our most frequently asked questions.

Gloucestershire Highways Logo
Ditches on private land are the responsibility of the landowner, roadside ditches are normally the responsibility of the adjoining landowner, legislation permits the Highway Authority to discharge rain water from the highway into these ditches.
In order to keep ditches and drains working properly we advise landowners to:
  • clean the waterways on your land regularly to ensure water is able to drain from the highway.
  • check headwalls and grills regularly.
Rainfall certainly seems to be more intense these days and this does cause more drainage problems.
If everyone regularly maintained their ditches, a large number of the county's drainage problems would not occur. This would save a great deal of council taxpayer's money that is being used to solve the problems caused by blocked ditches and drains.”
Another hit was this:

“Who is responsible for roadside ditches?

The Highway Authority is permitted to use roadside ditches for the drainage of the highway.
Unless constructed specifically for the drainage of the highway, the maintenance of these is normally the responsibility of the adjoining landowner and not the Highway Authority. If road flooding occurs as a result of obstruction in these ditches the Highway Authority may exercise its legal powers to require the riparian owner to clear the ditch.”
A hit for activities around Alston (in the South of the County) are also enlightening:
Re: 2e/JAN/08 Cllr Pennell reported that he has researched the issue of responsibility for roadside ditches on the internet and noted that councils make a common presumption in law that the owner adjacent to the highway is responsible for the ditches. CALC have asked the county council to justify their position, but have not heard back yet, and the clerk has contacted the Country Landowners Association, who were unable to comment as the council is not a member. She has also e-mailed  the new NFU chairman for Cumbria, who is aware of the issue and willing to follow it up. 
The Traffic Management Committee met last month, and copies have been circulated of the County Council’s worksheet for employees on the cleaning of roadside ditches, and the Highways Act 1980 s101 which lists the power the Highways Authority has to fill in roadside ditches.
Cllr Phillips reported that he had spoken with Geoff Wilson from the Trail Riders Association, who had also offered to look into the issue of where the highway boundary should be. He added that if there is a case to fight, parish councils across the county should be in support. If needs be he will convene a meeting of the Rights of Way committee to discuss in detail.
It was observed that the county council have maintained the roadside ditches for thirty plus years, and it might be that in accepting responsibility for this they might have acquired that duty, possibly there is something about this in case law.
So, if you’ve read on this far – thanks for sticking with it! I had hoped to point the finger squarely at the Council and have done with it.

It now appears that maintaining ditches appears to be the responsibility of the landowner, and therefore I’m guessing it’s not a priority. However, the landowners may well reckon that the Council should be doing it - ergo no-one does. Dah!

I realise that the farmers keep the hedges in order, and it would be great if they could sort out the ditches on a regular basis, or else get a subsidy to do it – we’d all benefit IMO.

A shame that, as I not only agree with Gloucestershire Council but would also say that Councils wouldn’t have to pay so much in road repair bills because of the erosion this undrained water creates.


Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Seaton Canoe & the Transporter Bridge

Yesterday turned out to hold an unexpected pleasure. I was travelling down to Teesside to hook up with @dmaxxx at Digital City Business.

David has done a grand job with the SCL business plan, and we had a washup session yesterday, after he’d finished the plan at the end of January.

*Anyway*, the traffic stopped around 10 miles North of Middlesbrough, near the Elwick turn-off. I called the BBC Jambuster line to report the problem.

The incredibly helpful man told me that I should head for Hartlepool, go through Seaton Carew and over the Transporter Bridge – completely new territory for me.

So, re-programmed SatNav to the fore, I went
The highlight, undoubtedly, was the £1.20 trip across the Tees using the Transporter Bridge. Photos on Flickr.

Transporter Bridge across the River Tees from Justin Souter on Vimeo.

Heaven knows how long it took the folk still on the A19 to get into Middlesbrough, but I was only 30 minutes late – genius! 

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Is Diners Club listening to the Groundswell?

diner's club
A different type of diner’s club ;-). Photo credit to MamaT
A rant about not being able to get my money from Diners Club – the charge card people.
Set of bullet points to summarise the situation (from my perspective, of course):
  • I have over-conscientiously credited £550 to my Diners Club account – i.e. to pay off what I thought was an outstanding balance
  • I would like the money back – i.e. I don’t want to spend it
    • Anyway, not many places actually take Diners
    • I’m not staying in hotels, so haven’t got any big ticket things to spend the balance on…
  • I first start asking for my money to be wired to my current account, probably back in October
    • however, there’s some technical issue or other
  • I also wanted to pay off my credit card – but they couldn’t do that either
    • I thought the credit card was owned by the same company, but I now find that Diners Club has been sold by Citigroup [find out who has bought them]
  • Because it hasn’t happened, I’m wondering whether Diners Club is deliberately retaining my credit balance because they are affected by the Credit Crunch
    • I’m rather worried I’m not going to see the money again
  • Supervisor
    • There never seems to be a supervisor to talk with
    • I have been promised a supervisor call-back on two occasions – it hasn’t happened
    • Either they haven’t called, or they haven’t called my mobile
    • Presently I have no messages on the landline number they have for me, and I don’t recall their supervisor calling on my mobile
  • That said, Diners have a great first line
    • Plaudits especially to Juliet – extremely helpful, patient and courteous
    • Also, Shirley
    • There’s no point having a pop at the call centre people – they are told to speak to a script, and have little discretion.
Anyway, I have no confidence in Diners Club as an organisation, and I’m writing this because I want my money back!
The title of this blog relates to whether I will get satisfaction from Diners Club in the UK because they are listening to people like me to blog and tweet about corporations – although I think not.
If that’s the case, then I will use this post in future to agitate for better Customer service through social media tools like Twitter etc..
I have posted to my personal blog, as it’s a personal matter, but it could be an interesting case study!
I’m going to get in contact with their UK head office – Google led me to this post with contacts details for the Chief Executive’s complaint wrangler.
Update: I've hopefully removed all the apostrophe's from Diners, apart from the photo credit...