Monday 19 December 2022

What did Musk expect?

 What did Musk expect?

 I'm a member of Twitter, although I haven't logged on for a few years. It's not a place I like to visit.

So, I heard just now that Elon Musk (who bought Twitter recently) set up a poll. "Should I step down as head of Twitter? I will abide by the results of this poll."

57.5% said "Step down".

 Really, what did he expect? Hasn't he heard about Boaty McBoatface? Ask silly questions, get silly answers. We learned that again in 2016 with the Brexit referendum.

So will Musk do what he promised? Or will he ignore the poll?





Sunday 18 December 2022

Trump trading cards

 Trump trading cards

Donald Trump announced as et of 100 trading cards, costing $99 each.  You get an NFT (which is a blockchain signed certificate of authenticity and a sweepstake code that enters you for the possibility iof various prizes, incluging a meal with the man himself.

So I wondered if a secondary market had developed.

Of course it has.

I went on to eBay, and found that for $118.80 you can buy a jpg (but no printed picture) of a card - but not the NFT or sweepstake code. Um. I could make a jpg using screen capture, which I can do at no cost. To sell that for $118.80 would require serious chutzpah. And to buy it would requite serious stupidity.

But wait - there's more!

From Canada, someone is offering "high resolution images of the NFTs on pressed and shrink wrapped CD-ROM. It does not contain an NFT or sweepstakes codes." for £60 for 13.

A seller who has made eleven  sales on eBay in his history, is offering JPGs (No NFT) for $999.99. He's also offering a 20 by 20 inch glossy print for $2999.99. Or 20 JPGs for $4999.99

But I couldn't find anywhere on eBay, someone offering the NFT version, which is the whole point.


So I visited the web site that sells the cards, but if you're hoping to spend $99 on a card, you'll be disappointed.


I am reminded powerfully of Trump University, which ended with a $25 million lawsuit. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the settlement and payment by Trump, "is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university."

Tuesday 6 December 2022

Doctor appointment

Doctor appointment

When I go to the web site of my GP, I can't book a face-to-face appointment, only a telephone appointment. I do see the reason for that; most things can be dealt with over the phone. But not all.

I think I have a hernia. It's not too surprising - I had one several years ago, and because it had a risk of strangulation, I had an operation, which wasn't too bad, but left me knocked back for several weeks.

So I made a telephone appointment. The doctor took me through all the tests that she'd have done herself, and thought that it's most likely a hernia. A repair operation isn't recommended, but I have to avoid lifting heavy things and other forms of strain. I might also get a belt from the pharmacy. Just to be sure, she said I should make a face to face appointment.

Which I can't do on their web site. So I phoned up, and I can't do it on the phone either, except if I phone at 8:30 am on the day. I asked if I could pre-book, and the answer is no, I can't.

 Why is this?

The person I spoke to didn't know, just "them's the rules". So I have to phone in at 8:30 am, hold for however long it takes, and eventually get an appointment.

My thinking is that, whether they realise this or not, what's happening here is rationing.

Tuesday 22 November 2022



I'm using an Airwick Freshmatic (Purple Lavender) and it works fine. Every few minutes, it goes "pft" as it squirts an atomised mist of fragrance into the office.

Just one problem. The "pft" noise is just like the sound of a short circuit. So, every pft makes me look round to see what's just blown!

Sunday 20 November 2022

A data recovery

A data recovery

A friend's daughter had a computer problem - her Windows 7 machine just wouldn't start. It's an HP TouchSmart, so I got her to bring it in and I put it on my workbench. When I powered it up, sure enough, it told me that the hard drive had failed.

Opening it up was a bit of a problem. It's a 23 inch LCD screen, with all the computer stuff built in to the back, and it wasn't obvious how to take the back off. But a quick Google showed me how, and I soon had it taken apart. I took the drive out, and attached it to a linux computer, and it told me that the drive had about 50,000 reallocated sectors (which means it's well past the end of its life).

So I put a new drive into the HP, and tried to install Windows 7, from a genuine DVD that I have. Windows 7 installed, but it wouldn't recognise the ethernet, which means that it wouldn't be able to connect to the internet, or to my local network. I'm guessing there's a special HP Touchsmart version of Windows 7. I tried a few different variations, but each time the intall wouldn't recognise the ethernet. Why is Windows so complicated?

So then I installed linux, version Fedora 37 - but that didn't work, Fedora claimed that there was no hard drive. My guess was that my attempts to install Windows had banjaxed it. So I ran Zerodisk and zapped the drive, and then linux installed just fine, and the hard wired ethernet port worked, and the wifi ethernet.

Back to the linux computer with the original drive attached - I mounted the drive (it was an ntfs file system, so I mounted with the option -t ntfs) and that worked.

I rummaged around the hard drive until I found where friend's daughter had kept all her pictures and videos, and copied them all onto my network (all except the dozen or so pictures that refused to read because of hardware errors). That gave me 98 gigabytes of data in about fifteen thousand files. I had a look at some of them to make sure they were readable - there's a lot of dog pictures there!

Back on the HP TouchSmart, I mounted my network drive, and copied all those files to the hard drive there - it took quite a while!

I noticed that she had skype on the old drive, so I installed skype on the system, and an email client (thunderbird), and several picture viewers and video players, and Firefox as a web browser. And I set up some desktop icons so she'd find all this easily.

The last time I did a commercial data recovery, most drives were 20 megabytes; the drive in the HP was 1,000,000 megabytes. But the principles are the same.

I checked on eBay, you can buy a working HP TouchSmart for about £50 and upwards, but most of them are "collection only" which would mean a long trip. The one I was working on had an Intel i3 running at 3.3ghz with four cores, which is quite whizzy for a  TouchSmart.

Linux also recognised the wireless keyboard (and I think there's a wireless mouse, but I haven't seen it, so I used a Microsoft IntelliMouse, which I think is the best product that Microsoft have ever made). I don't think I got the touchscreen working, but I don't think that's a loss. Touchscreens are a very bad idea, for two reasons. The first is that to use them, you have to hold your arm out in front of you, and try doing that for a whole day! The second reason is that your fingers are going to make the screen filthy, and if you want to know why, look at your keyboard and see how dirty that's become!

I really don't like the keyboard that came with the HP. Keyboards are always a matter of taste, but for me, a good keyboard is one that feels good, and doesn't miss out any characters that I've typed. But you could always replace the keyboard with one that you prefer, and connect it to one of the six USB ports.

I'm looking forward to telling her that I've rescued all her dog pictures!

Saturday 12 November 2022



Today I had my cataract operation. I've been not exactly looking forward to this, but as it turned out, it was less unpleasant than the average visit to the dentist. 

We turned up 20 minutes early, but because of some cock-up that I didn't investigate, we were left sitting in the waiting room for more than an hour - apparently they didn't know we were there.

So when we sorted that out, I signed all the paperwork, and a nurse put drops in my left eye, the one with the cataract. 

Then more drops, and more drops, then a consultation with the anaesthetist (I chose local anaesthetic), then more drops, and more drops, then the injection (a bit like the Novocain you get at the dentist) then "Lie down here" and they wheeled me into the operating theater.

More drops, then a rubber sheet over my head and chest except for a hole where my left eye was, then a thing was emplaced to keep my eye open, then more drops. Then iodine (a disinfectant, which also left me pretty much blind in my left eye). And then they used a machine which broke up the cataract lens and sucked it all out (apparently it was brown-yellow and quite thick and opaque). Then the surgeon inserted a plastic lens that would leave me able to see long distance without needing glasses, where the cataract used to be, then more drops (washing), then more drops (antibiotic), and then they took off the rubber sheet and installed an eye patch (aaaarrr, Jim lad) so right now, I can't see at all out of that eye. But the patch comes off tomorrow morning, and I just need to wear a plastic guard at night for a cojple of weeks.

And for the next few weeks, there's a schedule of eye drops and more eye drops and then eventually when the eye "settles down" a visit to the optician for new glasses - that'll be after Christmas.

They said that I can drive as soon as I feel confident that I can see well enough. Fortunately, I don't have to go to  Barnard's Castle to check my vision, I just need to check that I can read a licence plate at 20 metres.

Friday 11 November 2022

Windows 10

Windows 10

The big problem I had with installing Windows 10, was the fact that the iso file was 6 gigabytes, and therefore wouldn't fit on a DVD (which takes 4.7 gb).

I discovered this when I downloaded the file from Microsoft. I already have a Windows 10 key, the problem was, how to get it onto my HP xw6600?

My first attempt was to put it onto a USB drive. I have some that take 8gb and some at 32gb, so space wasn't a problem. But ... the HP xw6600 wouldn't boot from a USB stick. A message flashed past telling me that, so eventually I gave up and did some research. Maybe I need to update the BIOS, which would be a nerve-wracking procedure, because if it goes wrong, I have an xw6600 brick.

My next effort was DVD+R DL. These disks are "Dual layer" and can store 8.5 gb, and that will be enough ... but the DVD on the HP probably won't cope with that. So I bought from eBay, a DVD+R DL drive and a 10-pack of discs; £17 isn't a lot.

But while I was waiting for that to arrive, I tried another way. What if I install Windows 7 (I have a key for that - several keys, actually) and then upgraded it to Win 10!

So I installed Win 7, but now how do I do the upgrade? I needed to mount the ISO file (of 6gb) on the Win 7 machine, but Win 7 won't do mounts like that. However, there's a workaround for that! It's called "WinCDEmu", so I downloaded and installed that, and then I mounted a network drive to the server where I stored the Win 10 iso, which gave me exactly what I needed.

I clicked on "setup.exe" and the install went smoothly - and it accepted the Win 10 key that I have.

So that gave me (eventually, the install took a long, long time) a Win 10 computer, and I was able to switch the screen to 3840 by 2160 pixels (yes, it's a very big screen, diagonal 42 inches) and then I ran steam (I'm a subscriber) to install - you guessed it - Civilization VI plus all the expansion packs that I got for my birthday.

Of course, that took a very long time to install on the new Win 10 box, because it had to download several gigabytes of files. But eventually, it was all up and running.

So now I have a 32gb memory computer that runs Civ 6 in full screen mode, and I'm a happy bunny.

Tomorrow, a surgeon is going to do something to my left eye that I'm trying not to think too much about, to deal with the rather obscurantist cataract that I have there (and there's no guarantee that it will give me top quality vision because I also have glaucoma in that eye. No-one is sure about how much of the problem is down to the cataract and how much the glaucoma. And after that, even though it's only a local anaesthetic, I'm going to be wearing an eye patch at night (Aarr, Jim lad, maybe I can give my pirate costume another outing) and I won't be able to drive for an unknown length of time, but - and this is the main thing, I will be able to play Civ 6!

Wednesday 9 November 2022

A grand day out

A grand day out

November 7th is the birthday of daughter.2, so we went to the Dorchester for a celebration. We were sat in a room just next to the kitchen, which apparently is a great honour. It turns out that kitchens aren't walys places where there's lots of panic and much swearing.

There were about a dozen of us, and we started off with a present to me from daughter.2. She'd just been to Disney, and got me an upgrade to my Wizarding Hat, which was great because the old one was too small for my head and kept falling off, plus this new one has flashing LED stars all over it, and will be my Christmas Hat for many years to come.

There were seven courses, including two kinds of artisan bread (they counted the big crisps as bread).  A far cry from the bread trolley that we used to get at The Grill there, where you used to be able to get a big meal for £20, now £75. That's inflation for you. Also, there was no dessert trolley.

The chicken, we were told, came from Norfolk. "Very flat, Norfolk," I told the chef. The beef came from there too.

This was my first major outing since 2019, what with Covid followed by my major liver resection operation. I drove us to daughter.1's flat, and parked there, then we got an Uber to the Dorchester. I thought I'd have trouble eating so much, but it all went down just fine, which shows that I've got my full appetite back. Also, I was a bit concerned about possibly falling asleep during the meal, but that didn't happen either.

I was asked "Which is your favourite child", which is usually an impossible question, but I found a neat answer, pointing at the two daughters ... "Neither of those two." 

Some of us got rather tiddley and there was quite a lot of veritas in the vino (there were seven different wines, one for each course). I stuck to water, because it's "be kind to my liver" this year.

Sunday 6 November 2022

Civilization and Windows

Civilization and Windows 

I'm a big fan of the game "Civilization", and I've been eagerly awaiting version 7 of the game. Then I discovered that they'd released upgrades to Civ 6; "Rise and Fall" and "Gathering Storm", and everyone playing Civ seemed to be using them. So I went on to Steam and bought a bundle of all the upgrades, costing £50, and installed these on my games machine.

Very soon. I found that it was crashing frequently at a late stage in the game. It got so bad that it was crashing every few minutes. A bit of thought and some research, led me to think that the problem was insufficient memory. I was running Windows 7 on a Dell Inspirion with 8gb of memory, and the computer memory couldn't be increased.

So I had to use a different computer - an HP xw6600 with 32 gb of memory (and that's the most you can put in) with an Nvidia Geforce GT1030 video card and a 3840 by 2160 monitor. That was currently running linux, both Fedora and Ubuntu.

First I tried running Steam and Civ under linux. That was a complete disaster. Clearly, I needed Windows. Sadly. So I installed Windows 7 on the HP. But when I tried to run Civ, it wouldn't run, complaining that the graphics card driver wasn't up to the job. I tried looking for an updated driver, but no luck.

So I downloaded Windows 10, but that came in at 5.5gb, too much for a DVD. I tried putting it on a USB and installing from that, but I couldn't make that work; it wouldn't read from the USB. I put quite a lot of effort into trying various things, but I couldn't get it on.

There is no  Windows 9, so I went to Windows 8.1. That's only 4.2 gb, so fits on a DVD, and I was able to install that. And then I went back to steam, logged on and accessed Civ 6 (plus upgrades). That downloaded 10 gb of files to the HP, and when I tried to run Civ it worked!

But then I found that at the full 3840 by 2160 resolution, the screen kept blanking, so I reduced the resolution to the next value, and that seems to work.

Running Civ 6 takes 5gb of memory, and that plus all the other stuff in memory comes to 7.6 gb; since I've got 32gb, there's plenty of headroom.

So I'm back in business!

Saturday 5 November 2022

It started a year ago

It started a year ago

November 5, 2021 I went to John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford for a simple procedure. I had a cancerous growth partly blocking the duct between my liver and my gall bladder, and they were going to put a stent in place to allow free passage in that duct. This was to be the first of several procedures.

They sedated me, and put a plastic thing in my mouth so I wouldn't bite their tube. And I was pretty much out of it then.

The tube went to the right place, but they couldn't install the stent. Bad news. So I had a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch (because I hadn't eaten for 12 hours), and a couple of minutes later, was violently sick, bringing it all back up.

And I had a major pain in my belly. The doctors had warned that there was a one in five risk of pancreatitis, and I was the unlucky one. They sent me to Churchill hospital on the same day, and I spent the next three weeks there.

The pain was so bad, they put me on morphine for it. I had a button I could press to get a mini dose, and there was a timer that enforced a gap of five minutes. I pressed that button a lot.

I felt really nauseous. Even the thought of food felt bad. For the next two weeks, I had pretty much nothing to eat, but the pancreatitis resolved itself over that time, and I was able to eat, but only simple stuff. By then I'd lost about ten pounds, but I could afford to lose some weight.

So now it's a year later.

It took me several months to get my appetite back; for several months, when I ate, it was without pleasure. I ate because I knew that I had to, and so I forced the food down me.

Today, I'm a lot better. There's still some foods that I'm not liking, but I'm not far from my previous state of being able to eat just about anything (and I surprised my Japanese friends in Tokyo about what I was willing to eat).

I no longer have a gall bladder, that was removed in a later, major operation. Apparently, we don't actually need one? The major operation also removed most of my liver, but the liver regenerates, and mine has done just that.

So I'm pretty much back to full health now, except my back is troubling me (it was before) and I'm wary of catching Covid or Flu (although I'm thoroughly vaccinated.

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Barclaycard commercial trouble

 Barclaycard commercial trouble

All I wanted was the statements for the company credit card from June till now. So I went to the web site that I've used before to get them, but it wouldn't let me log in. I tried the two possible usernames, with the correct password, and I got a "703 error" - it couldn't recognise me.

So I called  Barclaycard commercial. I got talked through doing what I had already done, and got the 703 error again. So I waited a couple of days.

Meanwhile, I filled in the form on their web site to get help.  That got me an answer that talked me though logging in to the online system. It was as if no-one had actually read about the problem I had getting into their system. I tried following their instructions, and again got the 703 error. 

 So I phoned again (0800 008 008) and spoke to Andrew there. He told me that the 703 error was a known problem that they've had for the last couple of months, and that they were working as fast as they could to fix it. In other words, there was no way I could use their online service to get the statements. So I asked for another way, and he said that this is done by a different department, he'd ask them to send the statements by email.

An email arrived, telling me that  "You have received a PGP Universal Secured Message" and that I should "each out to sender within 48 hours
and get your One Time Passphrase (OTP)". So I called 0800 008 008 again, and was told that I'd be phoned with the OTP.

A couple of days later, I hadn't been phoned, so I called 0800 008 008and said, maybe they called the wrong number, or maybe I was out, and this time I gave them my landline and my mobile to call.

I didn't get a call.

Then I got two emails. One told me the URL where the secure message was and also gave me the passphrase. The other one told me the URL, but not the passphrase. This seems to be a different system?

So I copy-pasted the URL into the browser, told it my email address and the passphrase; it let me in and told me to change the passphrase. I had to try a few times because it hadn't mentioned that I needed at least one capital letter, one lower case, one number and a punctuation mark. And, by the way, the passphrase that they sent me, didn't conform to that.

So, at last, I could access my statements. Which led me to another problem. It looked like this.

Nearly illegible. And it got worse when I scrolled down to the individual payments. So I phoned again to tell them about this, and also to tell them that they shouldn't have told me to wait for a phone call, because on their second attempt, they sent me the passphrase in the same email as the URL to access.

Pretty bad security, by the way, because if that email had been intercepted, the bad guy would have been just as able to access my statements as I did, since he would also know my email address (it was also in that email, of course). The complicated system that they used, was no more secure than if they'd just emailed me the pdf. Because a bad guy intercepting the pdf, could equally have intercepted the email that gave all the details about how to access the pdf.

Banks aren't very good at security. I sent them back an email to tell them so.

Your attempt at security is pathetic.

You sent me an email which, if intercepted, would give the bad guy full   
access to my statement. I have xxxxxed out the important details of that   

How is this more secure than the much simpler procedure of simply emailing
me my statement?

Is there anyone at Barclays who understands security?

 And none of this would have been necessary if your problems with the "703
error" on your online system had been fixed.

Please take this as a formal complaint.

So, to print out the statement, I used Libreoffice Draw as a pdf reader, and that gave me a sufficiently legible version.

Monday 17 October 2022

Targeted scam

Targeted scam

I've just received a targeted scam.

It started with an email with the subject "Catch up". The from-address was someone I knew a very long time ago, but hadn't actually met in person. I'm calling him xxx xxx:

sorry to bother, do you order on amazo n?

I didn't understand that, so I answered:

I don't understand your question.

The clarification came back:

Thanks for responding, do you shop on Amazon ?

So I replied "Yes". At this point, I was wondering what this was about - perhaps he wanted some advice on using Amazon? But why was he asking me?

And then came the main email.

Glad! I've been trying to purchase a $150 Amazon E-Gift card by email, but it says they are having issues charging my card. I contacted my bank, and they told me it would take a couple of days to get it sorted. I intend to buy it for my Friend of mine who is diagnosed with stage 4 mesothelioma cancer, It's her birthday today. Can you purchase it from your end for me, I am just trying to put a smile on her face in this trying times. I'll send you a check regarding the refund later. Here is her email ( )and have it ordered From Me Please and the message space, write Happy birthday Dear Rita, Stay strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Eph. 6:10, 

Let me know once you order it and send me the confirmation once it’s done.

Well. That clarified the situation. I'm supposed to spend $150 and send it to "Rita" (I'm guessing that this is another email address used by the scammer). And then he'll send me a check (not a cheque, so this must be coming from the USA). Later, he says.

Oh, really? My guess is, the check won't arrive, and I'm $150 down. I thought that the bible quote was a nice touch.

So I've sent four emails back. The first was to the genuine email address of the person that the scammer was pretending to be, to warn him about what was happening. The second was to the scammer:

I have a better idea. I have my own merchant account, so I can probably bill your card where Amazon couldn't. So, if you give me your card number, expiry date and CVC number, I can bill your card for $150, and then send the $150 gift card using a different credit card to Rita, along with your inspiring message.

If we move quickly, we might be able to get this done on her birthday.

And on catching up - I've often felt a bit guilty about the joke I told you when we last met, do you remember? I'm sure you do, because you were quite angry at the time. I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me for that.

Of course, the joke part was total fiction, because we've never actually met. I just thought it might help the plot along a bit.

The third was to "Rita" (I've redacted it slightly).

I would like to wish you a happy birthday.

You might wonder who I am; I know xxx xxx, who reached out to me to help him to send you a birthday present.

Hopefully, the present is now on the way.

I will be praying for your fight against your medical condition.

John 15:7 If you remain in Me and My Words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

And the fourth email was to and (again, redacted for posting here).

I received the following email from I don't think
that the sender really was "xxx xxx", which is the name he claimed.
I have not sent any money.

Perhaps you might investigate the authenticity of the email addresses and

And I enclosed the email that made the request for $150.

My guess is that the scammer has gotten hold of the contact list for xxx xxx and is sending emails to everyone on that list, asking for this $150. I hope that closing the "Rita" email address will put a spoke in his wheel.

Monday 10 October 2022

Growth, growth, growth

Growth, growth, growth

But how? The UK has a labour shortage.  From farm labourers and fruit pickers, to doctors and nurses. And a labour shortage has a very negative effect on economic growth.

One answer is, of course, more babies. Currently, we're seeing 1.6 babies per woman, and a steady population needs about 2.1. And it's hard to see how that 1.6 could be increased. Tax incentives, maybe? Awarding a medal "Hero-mother of the United Kingdom" if you have four or more babies? But I can't see any such scheme having a significant impact on the decision whether to have more children. Also, there's a big lag - even if we started heavy swiving tomorrow, the babies wouldn't reach the workforce for 19  years or more. And during those 19 years, they would be a burden on our housing, our health systems, our schools and so on.

And governments don't look that far ahead anyway, so not only it wouldn't work, also it won't be tried.

So what's the alternative?

My grandparents came from Russia, about 120 years ago. They were immigrants, refugees from the pogroms. Russia didn't want them, but the UK welcomed them (welcomed isn't quite the word). Immediately, my grandparents (and later their children, grandchildren and so on) joined the labour force.

But we've reversed all that. We left the EU to "take back control", in particular of immigration. That didn't work, of course, because much of UK immigration was from outside the EU.

But maybe we could encourage more immigration from European countries like France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and so on? And how could we do that?

Leaving the EU wasn't a good way to encourage immigration from Europe.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

Not my king

Not my king

On the whole, I'm in favour of the monarchy, although I suspect that Big-ears will soon be a good reason to lean the other way.

But I'm also in favour of the right to protest peacefully. Holding up a placard saying "Not my king" or "Abolish the Monarchy" should be the right of everyone. And there should be no restriction as to when this sentiment can be expressed - indeed, the death of Elisabeth II is an obvious time to make this point.

So why are the police arresting, or moving on, people who are simply holding up a placard?

This is wrong. Very wrong. There should be an enquiry to find out who told our long-suffering police to act in this way, and whoever was the cause of this policy, should be moved far away from policy-setting.

And King Charles III should support such an enquiry. Or is he worried about what happened to King Charles I in 1649?


Thursday 18 August 2022

Thirteen stone, three pounds

Thirteen stone, three pounds

Over the last few months, I've got some of my appetite back, and I've been putting on weight. Today, I was up to 186 pounds, 84.4 kilograms.

At one point, I was a lot less. Not long after my operation, I was down to 12 stone 8, or even less. In the hospital, they were so worried about my nutrition, they shoved a tube down my nose to my stomach and tried feeding me that way - it didn't work, it just kept me awake all night.

My BMI now is 27.3, overweight. Maybe I need to stop trying to fatten up.



Monday 15 August 2022

It's beer, Jim, but not as we know it

 It's beer, Jim, but not as we know it

Actually, that's a misquote, but nichevo.

I've never been a big drinker (except in my late teens, when I got bladdered a few times). But I do enjoy a pint of beer, especially in this hot weather.

So when I found that I had liver cancer, and they cut out most of my liver to cure me, I gave up alcohol altogether, including coq-au-vin and other foods cooked with wine.

Six months after the operation, my liver has regrown, and (I hope) is back in business. I'm still not a big drinker, but I still enjoy a pint of beer. Except that now, it's "non-alcoholic" beer.

Which, it seems, isn't what you'd think. In my naivety, I assumed that non-alcoholic means ... no alcohol. But apparently not. Apparently you can still call it "non-alcoholic" if it has 0.5% alcohol . Normal beer is around 5%, ten times stronger.

Some non-alcoholic beers really are devoid of alcohol; you find out when you read the side of the can or bottle.

Right now, I'm drinking about two bottles per day; some 0.5% and some 0%. That works out at about one bottle of normal beer per week, and I'm thinking that my liver should be able to cope with that.

So why drink this stuff? Obviously, not to get drunk. It's because I like the taste, and in this weather, it's a good idea to get lots of liquids.



There are two ways to send data to a web page, GET and POST. GET puts the data into the URL - that means that the data is stored in the server logs and the browser history.

POST is, very slightly, more secure, because it doesn't have the above issues.

If you use https (and you have to use https to use the Barclays services), then all the data is encrypted before it's sent from your end, and only decrypted at the server end. That means that an interloper can find out what server you're accessing (, which we knew already) and what port you're using (443, the https port). so the security benefits of POST, and quite tiny.

I use Barclays for running credit cards, and I do it with a program I wrote. I used GET to send the data, because it's slightly easier to implement. But, suddenly, Barclays have woken up to the difference, and they've just told me that as of October 2022, they won't accept GET, everything has to be POST.

There's nothing in my browser history, because I'm not using a browser, I'm using LWP::UserAgent. That is a perl library. There's no history. And yes, the info is in the server logs, but the server is run by Barclays, and they should have it under the most stringent security.

I hate it when they do this. I've been running credit cards for 25 years now. Originally, they could only accept paper, so my database would print out each billing, and we'd ship the paper to our local bank. They would then ship the paper to Poole (except one time when they lost it and didn't tell me until several months later) and some typist at Poole would type it all in again.

Since then, they've been gradually improving their service. The problem is, each time they make a change like this, thousands of businesses all over the country, have to make changes in their software. I've been though this maybe a dozen times now.

The security difference between GET and POST has been known for a very long time. Why have Barclays only just woken up to it? And why do they think it would affect my systems?

Also, it would be nice if Barclays gave a sample working program. Since they haven't, I'll do it.

It would also be nice if someone at Barclays tried to read their documentation. Everything one needs is there, but it can be really difficult to find.

I'm not telling you my id, userid or password, obviously - if you use Barclays to run cards, you have your own. This program works, and I can then parse $content to take action depending on whether the card was accepted or declined.

use LWP::UserAgent;
use CGI::Carp qw(fatalsToBrowser);
print "Content-type: text/html\n\n";
$epdqurl = "";

$amount = '1000'; # meaning $10
$cardno = '4111111111111111'; # that's a test card, it will be declined
$expires = '0824';
$transactionid = 'post-test-1';

my $browser = LWP::UserAgent->new;
my $response = $browser->post(
'AMOUNT'    => $amount,
'CARDNO' => $cardno,
'ECI' => '9',
'ED' => $expires,
'ORDERID' => $transactionid,
'PSPID' => 'my_id',
'PSWD' => 'my_passwd',
'USERID' => 'my_userid'
open RES, ">test.out";
print RES $content;
close RES;

Portable air conditioning

Portable air conditioning

It sounds like just the thing. A small, battery-powered box that makes a room cold in just a few minutes.

 Except, it doesn't.

A real air conditioner is a heat pump. It pumps heat from one place to another. It works by compressing a fluid (which causes the fluid to get hot), it move the hot fluid to another place, then it uses convection to cool the hot fluid; so the heat is dissipated outside the room. Then the fluid is decompressed and that makes it get cold, and that cools the room. You can see the effect for yourself using a bicycle tyre pump. Refrigerators and freezers work the same way.

These portable units, don't have anywhere outside to dump the heat. Anyone with any sort of physics knowledge would know right away that a "portable air conditioner" cannot work, just as a perpetual motion machine can't work. Of course, most people have very little knowledge of physics.

So what do these units do?

If you blow air over water, the water gradually evaporates, and this cools the area by using the latent heat of vaporisation. Your sweat works the same way; the sweat evaporating from your skin, cools your skin. Not by much, but it does work.

So you could get the same effect by letting a fan blow over a basin of water ... and that's pretty much what these units do. Or they use ice, which means that they're piggybacking on your freezer, and your freezer will have to work harder to make all that ice.

If it comes with a hose that you poke though a window, then it could actually be a portable air conditioner, in which case it will cost around £500. If it's an evaporative cooler, then it'll be more like £30 (£15 to £20 if you get something from eBay), and if you pay much more than this, you're overpaying. The Beldray costs £20. The Cooledge costs £65, far too much, but most of these evaporative cooling units are grossly overpriced - and over-claiming.

There's a downside to evaporative cooling that no-one mentions. The air it blows out is a little bit cooler, but it is also a bit more humid. And that means that your own personal cooling system (your sweat) won't work as well as it does with dry air.

 Yes - evaporative cooling works. But don't expect it to do very much





Monday 8 August 2022

The cost of living crisis

The cost of living crisis

Inflation has hit us. The consumer price index was 9.4% highr in June 2022 than a year ago. And there are lots of arguments about the cause - the Ukraine war has affected gas and oil prices, food costs more, we're seeing the delayed effect of the Covid crisis. Lots of explanations are being thrown around, but everyone seems to agree on one thing - the government must Do Something.

And so Some Things are being Done. None of them are effective.

There's a price cap on energy; specifically gas and electricity. In our house, we use very little gas - almost none, because our heating is done with a heat pump, which is driven by electricity. Also, we aren't on the "default tariff" - I had a big haggle with our vendors EDF to get the best price.

The price cap came in, in 2019. People thought it was a great idea, but experience tells us that it isn't as simple as that.

For any resource that isn't unlimited (economists call these scarce resources) there has to be a way to allocate them between buyers. The usual mechanism is price; a higher price causes a lower demand and (after a lag) a higher supply. And vice versa. If you try to control the price, and make it lower than it would be (a price cap) then demand is higher than it would be, and supply is lower.

The other mechanism is rationing. You tell people how much they can have. That worked in WW2 with food rationing, because it's possible to calculate how much food each person needs (about 2000 calories/day for women, 2500 for men). But how do you do it with electricity? How much electricity do you need? How do you ration electricity?

In April 2022, the price cap rose by 54%. It needed to go up, because global gas prices had gone up. You can tell a vendor "Buy your gas for £100 and sell it for £90) but they won't stay in business for long. A lot of energy vendors went out of business.

In October 2022, the price cap will rise by 70%. You see the problem? If your bill was £1000 last year, it went up to £1540 in April, and will go up to £2600 in October. The April rise was made more palatable by the fact that we don't need much home heating at that time of year, but the October rise will hit the winter of 2022/23.

People will be forced to choose between eating and heating, is the slogan I've heard. It's nonsense, of course. When I was a lad, if it got cold, you put on another sweater. We didn't have central heating - what we did have, is ice on the windows (single glazing) in the cold mornings.

So what can the government do? There's a variety of possibilities, but they all boil down to subsidising the cost of energy. But if you cut VAT on energy, you'll have to raise taxes somewhere else. Or borrow, and "borrow" implies "pay back later". And once you start subsidising the cost of energy, you won't be able to stop, because then that 70% price rise kicks in. The only hope is that energy costs fall in a few years, and I'm not expecting that to happen.

So everyone is telling the government "Do Something" because talk is cheap, and I've not seen anyone in government admit that "there isn't much we can do". They can do a bit of nibbling round the edges, but nothing substantial.

So the government will Do Something. And then act totally surprised when it has no effect.

Sunday 24 July 2022

This weird trick reverses diabetes

This weird trick reverses diabetes

How many times have I seen spam like this? A lot. But ...

In September 2021, I was diagnosed with diabetes. Using the finger prick test, I was coming in at 8 or 9 (normal is 4 to 7). And the HBa1C test was saying much the same (that's a blood test that is measurung the average over the last few months) . So, I changed my diet a bit (I never did take much sugar) and went onto a prescribed drug for it.

But I've been off the ddrug (Metformin) for months now, and I've not been watching my sugar intake. Yet by the prick test,  I've come down to 5 or 6, which is normal, and this is confirmed by my latest HBa1C test, which also came up normal. 

So what changed? Obviously the big change was the nine-hour operation in which they removed most of my liver and all of my gall bladder. 

So there you are. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone else, because the chopping of my liver was an anti-cancer measure, but it seems to have had the good side-effect of also removing my diabetes.


Monday 4 July 2022



Last year, while they were analysing my blood, they also told me that I had diabetes. And a heart murmur.

I wasn't too bothered - I also had cancer, and ranked that way higher. I thought, I'll worry about the diabetes once the cancer is fixed.

But maybe I don't have diabetes. I got myself a test kit, and I've been testing every week or so. Normal is in the range 4 to 7, and at the end of 2021, I was reading 8 or 9. Which is diabetic, but only slightly so.

But now my readings have come down - maybe my liver is doing a better job than it did. My latest reading is 5.7 mmol/L, which is exactly in the middle of the normal range.

My blood pressure is also looking better, at 120 over 76. It had been in the range 130 to 150 at the end of 2021, and at the hospital, they even put me on blood pressure pills for a while. But normal blood pressure for an adult aged 20 to 40, is 95-135 over 60-80, so my blood is as good as it should be.

And my back is feeling a lot better now. I'm avoiding lifting heavy things because I don't want a recurrence, but now I can get into and out of bed without pain, and without using a stick.

Friday 1 July 2022



Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells. I've heard various anecdotes about it, all the way from "no impact on how I feel" all the way up to "horrible". And since I am now a liver cancer survivor, I was concerned about the possibility of having to endure this.

Apparently, chemo is best done in the first 12 weeks after the operation, the idea being to destroy any residual cancel cells. It's the principle of "kick your opponent while he's down". Basically, you're taking a poison that will hurt the cancer cells more than the healthy cells. And that's why it can be horrible.

 Possible side effects include ...

  • feeling tired most of the time
  • feeling and being sick
  • hair loss
  • an increased risk of getting infections
  • a sore mouth
  • dry, sore or itchy skin
  • diarrhoea or constipation

 I got lucky. Because my cancer was detected VERY early (see previous post for why), the operation (which was a big one, lasting for nine hours and using five surgeons) removed all the cancer (along with most of my liver and my gall bladder). The post-operation histology confirmed that I was R0 (100% good).

So last week, I consulted with the oncologist, and he confirmed that I was all good, and didn't need chemotherapy. 


Some time in the next several months, I'll be checked with an MRI scan, but that's a cake-walk.

Thursday 23 June 2022

New meter

New meter

In March 2021 I was asked by EDF, my electricity supplier, to read the meter. I tried, but the display had failed. I reported this back to them, and they said I needed a new meter.

Fair enough, I thought. But the next 15 months led to no new meter. Twice I had to cancel their proposed visit because I was in hospital, once they came with the Wrong Sort of Meter (two phase instead of three) and another time, the installed just didn't turn up.

But on 21 June, a man arrived with the right sort of meter.

He said it would take an hour of no electricity. I got ready for this by poering down all my computers, because my UPSes wouldn't run that long. THen he made the changeover, and I had power back - he took less than half an hour, because there were no complications.

But I haven't had free electricity for 15 months. With the faulty meter back at base, they'll try to get a reading from it - failing that they'll "estimate" my consumption.

So then I powered the computers back on. I expected at least one failure - that's what you get when a whole bunch of computers are powered off then on. But everything worked just fine!

Wednesday 22 June 2022

Double VAT

Double VAT

Each quarter, I need to work out how much VAT to pay. It's a very complex calculation. I need to work out how much I've received from each EU country, and apply their particular VAT rate, and when all that's worked out, I need to visit the Irish tax website to report the numbers and pay the VAT owed.

Now that we've left the EU, do I still need to pay the EU this tax? I dn't know - I don't really understand how this ought to work.

For the UK, I need to total UK sales each day, list the VAT-registered purchases, report both numbers and pay VAT at 20% on the difference.

Obviously, I've automated this as much as I can. Each day when I do the billings, I append to a file totallog.txt what the sales are. This is done by the same routine that displays the summary totals.

Yesterday, I wasn't sure if I'd done that last part, so I had a look at totallog.txt to see if it was recorded there. What I saw was scary. What I saw was that every day, since May 3rd, the totals had been recorded twice.

I checked my program. It only recorded this once. How did it appear twice? I used Google to see if there were any clues there - no luck. I added some code to alert me if the output print was called more than once - it wasn't.

Eventually, I found the problem.  I opened the totallog.txt twice, once for appending the banked amounts, once for recording the eu and non-eu numbers. But I hadn't closed the file in between doing these, so with the file twice-opened, it was being appended to twice.

This mistake would have doubled my VAT bill. I'm glad I found it before it fed into my next quarter VAT returns.


Thursday 19 May 2022

Ancient computers

Ancient computers

It was 1984, and I was establishing myself as some sort of PC guru. I was writing for most of the PC magazines, and for the IBM PC User Group newsletter, and for the stockbroker that was my day job (my best article was "The bus has no driver", which countered the idea that economies are run by some elite person or group; in this case, the Saudi oil minister).

I realised that I was spending an hour commuting, each way, and those hours weren't productive. So when I saw the NEC PC-8201a, I thought, I can use this on the train.

It's small, A4 sized, and fitted nicely in my briefcase. It ran off four AA batteries (and I kept a spare set handy, It had 28kb of usable memory, which was enough for two articles.

It cost me £137, because I got it as a dealer from Pete and Pam (later P&P Distribution) and it was a fantastic bargain. The keyboard is a good, full-travel keyboard, the cursor control are the most logical I've ever seen. The only drawback was the screen, which was 40 columns wide and 8 deep, but I could live with that.

I'd spend the commute writing an article using the TEXT editor, download it to a PC using the TELCOM program. On the PC, I would spell-check it, reformat it to 78 columns, and print it out. Yes, in that days, even PC magazines didn't have computers, and needed printed text.

I still have that PC8201a. I got it out recently, and it didn't work. I opened up the battery case, and one of the traces was badly corroded, so I bypassed it with a bit of wire, and that made the battery case work. Then I struggled to get the NEC working, because I'd forgotten that there's an on/off switch on the side.

Now it works perfectly.

Bill Gates told me that the Basic for that computer was the last Basic that he wrote himself.

The next computer was the Sinclair Z88, which also ran off AA batteries, and had an 80 column screen. But that screen was hard to read, the keyboard was terrible, and I hardly used it. It didn't work when I tried it recently.

Then Amstrad brought out the PC100, another nice A4-sized computer using AA batteries. I got one for each of my daughters, but I don't think they ever used them. Now when I tested them, one worked perfectly, the other didn't.

Another nice buy was the Psion series 3a. This was a pocket sized computer that ran Dos. The other good thing about it is that it had a built-in database, and you could put your contact details into it, including phone number. Then you could phone the contact, and the Psion would emit the touch-tone signals to your phone, and you didn't need to dial. OK, not as slick as today's smartphones, but this was 35 years ago, and portable phones barely existed.

Another pocket size computer was the Toshiba Libretta. That came with Windows 95. I got it because I thought I'd use it for powerpoint presentations. In practice, it really wasn't very useful.

I also had another battery powered computer, but I don't remember the name, it wasn't useful at all, and it's probably buried somewhere ni a cardboard box. Its distinguishing feature was that it use 1 1.2 inch floppy disks.

If someone asked me to recommend a portable, battery-powered computer to be used as a writing system, I would definitely go for the NEC. They are still available on eBay, but at twice the price I paid.  runner up would be the Tandy 100, or TRS-80 100. Same machine, but an inferior keyboard layout.  The Olivetti M10 is the same. But they aren't commonly available.

Second would be the Amstrad, which you can get on eBay for £60 or so.

Sunday 10 April 2022

Facebook hello

Facebook hello

For no apparent reason, Facebook has restored my account

Tuesday 5 April 2022

Disk failure

Disk failure

I got my first warning, when part of an important file, that was text-only, became corrupt and had binary stuff in it. I was able to replace the binary from a backup.

Then it happened again. And again. I'm so glad that I use a flat-file text-only database.

This is an important computer, it's the one I do billings from, and is therefore inside the innermost bastion of my firewall. That turned out to be a big problem later.

I used the SMART system, which tells me how many bad sectors there are on the drive, and it was large - and growing fast. This disk was on the verge of failing.

So, first I built a replacement computer. I used an Intel motherboard (I bought a job lot of these a few years ago, and they're great) with the CPU an E7500 dual processor running at 2.93 GHz. I put in 8gb of memory, and an 80gb 2.5 inch drive.

Next, to configure it, I used a ip address, because that's in the range I use for "inside", the innermost bastion. That meant that I couldn't connect it to the usual 10.x.x.x range, it had to connect to the "inside". But the switch that is fed by the "inside" is way across the room, so I cleverly put a switch between the firewall "inside" and the switch across the room. Everything still worked. So I took a feed from the new switch.

That should work, right?

But it didn't. And I still don't know why.

I tried lots of things, such as replacing the new switch, and many others that didn't work.

Eventually, I did a "hail Mary" (an American football term for a desperation move) and slung a 10m cable from the old switch right across the room to the new server, and to my utter astonishment, it worked!

So I loaded up the new server, partly from the failing old one and partly from the backup, installed apache (latest version, and configuring that led to much grief).

Eventually, I got everything working, put the new server in the place where the failing server was, and everything is OK now.

Monday 4 April 2022

Fetchmail follies

Fetchmail follies

First, I'll explain my email system. It's complicated.

To tell other computers where to send email for me, we use the DNS (Domain Name Service) system. In that, an MX (Mail eXchange) record tells other computers where to send my email. There are two main servers, mail2 and mail1. The MX record tell the priority. So, mail is sent to mail2, unless mail2 isn't working, in which case it goes to mail1. Both are Raspberry Pis, version 1, vintage 2012. I also retreive email from several AOL and Gmail accounts.

Mail1 gets spam, nearly everything. Because it shouldn't be used unless mail2 isn't working. I take advantage of this by setting up a bunch of MX records with even lower priority as spam traps.

But I don't want to visit both computers, so I set up fetchmail, to visit each in turn and use the IMAP protocol to collect unread mail and put it on my email reading computer., xantl. To read mail I use pine or alpine, a text-only reader. That means that I don't have to worry about unpleasant surprises that you can get in web-based readers.

When it gets to xantl, it passes through my mail spam filter,sorting the mail.

So what went wrong? Suddenly, fetchmail stopped fetching mail from mail2 and mail1. I hadn't made any recent changes. This happened a few weeks ago.

So I tried fetchmail -vvv (verbose) but that told me nothing useful.

I tried reinstalling fetchmail. i tried installing fetchmail on another computer. I tried reinstalling dovecot (the IMAP server) on the pis. nothing worked. I tried updating OpenSSL - no joy.

I tried using .forward on mail1, but that didn't help. and all this while, I was reading an dealing with emal on mail2 and mail1.

I tried changing the MX records to a different computer. No use.

Then I did what I should have done in the first place. Google is a great resource, but I also have a file where I keep a record of past problems and thier solitions, and I found this gem.

 To see what fetchmail is doing:
fetchmail -Nvvvd0 --nosyslog

So I did that, and it told that the problem was that fetchmail couldn't negotiate a secure channel with mail1. But I don't need a secure channel because the whole network is secured.

So I added 

 sslproto '' 

to the .fetchmailrc, telling fetchmail not to use secure sockets.

And everything worked!

I think this happened because fetchmail updated itself without telling me. The fact that a couple of weeks of Googling turned up nothing, makes me think that I'm the only person who has ever had this problem. There can't be many people using fetchmail release 6.4.23 to retreive mail from 10 year old Raspberry Pis.

Monday 7 March 2022

Facebook farewell

Facebook farewell

 I logged in to Facebook, the first time for ages, and I got this:


xxxx, Login approval needed
We've noticed a login from a browser, device or location you don't usually use. We need to confirm that it was you before you can get back on Facebook. Learn more

xxxx xxxxxxx Facebook
Choose how to confirm that this is your account
Complete a few steps to confirm that this is your account
So I clicked on continue. After several seconds I got:

Choose an option
How do you want to confirm that this account is yours? You can try any of these options more than once. Learn more

Thursday 3 March 2022



In July, I came up with the idea of using a more modern anticoagulant than
Warfarin, which I've been on for 25 years. Warfarin works, but I have to go to
the clinic every few weeks to get tested.

So they said yes, but we need to look at your blood. I gave a sample, And
nothing happened for a couple of months, but then I was contacted And was told
that I have markers. Meaning, a problem.

Part one

So I went to Wycombe hospital, and they gave me a thorough going over. I have
a minor blockage in one of my heart valves, but nothing to worry about. I have
diabetes; blood sugar normal range is 4-7, and mine comes in a 7-9, so only

And they did a CAT scan, and found a lump, in the duct between my liver and
gall bladder.

After that, everything happened very fast. I had an MRI scan, which confirmed
the lump, and I was told it's 95% likely to be cancer.

50 years ago none of this would have been possible; I had no symptoms, and
felt perfectly healthy. Then they did a PET scan; they put something slightly
radioactive into me, and scanned. A PET scan is a generic cancer detector. I
had to wait weeks for the result, but it came back clean, apart from the known
lump. I had to confess, I cried with joy when they told me this.

So I had a consultation with an oncology expert at Oxford Churchill hospital,
and he explained the options. But there was only one real option.

The liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself. And it comes in two
parts, a small part and a large part - the lump was near the large part. The
plan was to cut off that large part, and then the small part would grow.

But first, I needed three procedures; a procedure is a minor operation. The
first was to put a stent next to the lump, so that bile could flow freely to
the gall bladder. That happened in Oxford Radcliffe.

But it didn't work. They sedated me (meaning, I was asleep). I held a plastic
mouthpiece between my teeth, and they put a tube down my throat and navigated
it with xray assistance down to where it needed to be but they couldn't get it
in place. Worse - one of the risks of this prodecure is peritonitis, and I got
that. I vomited up the contents of my stomach, I had a terrible pain there,
and they shipped me back to Oxford Churchill.

Over the next several days, even the thought of food made me nauseous, and I
was in a lot of pain. They put me on Paracetamol, and a saline drip to keep me
hydrated, and the morphine, which was another drip that I pressed a button
when I needed more - which was often.

After several days, I was feeling a bit better, so they scheduled me for a
repeat of the procedure, except this time they went in through my side. That
worked, and now the bile drained through a tube, into a bag.

So, again some days to recover, and then we faced the next procedure. the idea
was to block the blood supply to the bad part of my liver, so it would start
to shrink, and the good part start to grow.

I was slightly sedated, and lay flat on my back for two hours, and my back
really doesn't like that. then I had to stay in that position for another two
hours, until eventually I could move and relieve the pain. That was 100%
successful. A few days later, they did the second part of that, which
consisted of blocking the outflow.

All this was to get me ready for the main event.

I got out of hospital 17 days after I went in. I still had the drain, but it
didn't drain externally.

While I was in hospital, I lost 18 pounds, mostly because of the peritonitis.
But I felt OK when I left, although with very little appetite.

That was November 22. I was told to get as fit as possible for the big event
in January.


I spent the next two months eating as much as I could (which was not much, I
was still suffering a bit from the peritonitis) and exercising on the
stationary bike, 20 minutes per day. Then the date was set, 19th January.

Part two

I arrived at 7am January 19th as requested at Oxford Churchill, and the
anaesthetists went into action. They stuck things into me, and eventually
asked me what I was there for. "Full brain transplant" I said and they
laughed, but I didn't because I was suddenly unconscious.

The operation took nine hours and five surgeons - it's the biggest they do in

I woke up in purgatory. They call it the Intensive Care Unit. My mouth was as
dry as a desert, but when I called for the nurse, all I got was a wet sponge
to suck. I had to do this several times. Meanwhile, the noise level was high -
phone ringing, people chatting, large things being dragged noisily across the

On my second day there, they got me to walk round the ward, and that was good
enough for them to transfer me to the upper gastrointestinal (UGI) ward, the
same place I was in November. I was able to greet many of the nurses by name.
They put me in a room for four, and I settled down. I had been told that I'd
be there for 10-30 days, depending on complications.

At that point, I had two things in my side, giving me timed and measured doses
of painkiller, I had a catheter, a big cannula in the big wrist vein on my
left, another big cannula in my jugular on the right, and a small one in my
right arm. And so I rested.

The doctor team came round, and I was told that the operation as 100%
successful, and now they were analysing the histology. That took a few days
more, and also came back 100%. And at that point, I was no longer a person
with cancer, I am now a cancer survivor.

The worst parts of the ICU was when a nurse dropped the catheter bottle and it
went all over the floor - not my problem, but when it dropped, it jerked the
tube, and the sudden pain made me scream.

I also got into a big row about my eye drops. I take wo different kinds in my
left eye (glaucoma, but it's under control). First, the nurse claimed that I
only had one set of drops, then she claimed that I didn't take eye drops at
all, because it wasn't on her computer. So I pointed out that both of them was
on my printed list of medications that I had brought in, in the bag of
medications. Eventually, I stopped arguing. And they found my list of
medications, and agreed that I was right. And then they lost one of the two
bottles, and couldn't find it. That was fixed when they did a new prescription
for it.

I was so glad to get out of ICU!

After a couple of days in UGI, they took out the painkillers in my sides.
After a couple more days, they took out the catheter, which wasn't painful,
but the first time I tried to urinate (into a bottle) what came out was red.

I have to admit, that made me very worried. I called a nurse, she called a
doctor, and he spent quite a long time with me reassuring me that although it
was normal, it was quite common, and was caused by some minor damage inside,
and would clear up in a couple of days. And he was right. But when I looked at
what first came out into that bottle, it was natural to worry.

The next several days were spent mostly sleeping, plus a little bit of
exercise, and a little bit of eating. As soon as I felt a bit better, I got
someone to bring in a small side table, she set my laptop up for me, and I was
able to log in to my network, and everything was running smoothly.

But ... my left forearm became very sore - it was phlebitis, an inflammation
of the veins, brought on by all the needles. The nurse told me it would clear
up in a week, and it did.

I started doing ward rounds. I'd get up, put on a dressing gown, walk round
the rooms in the ward, and if a door was open and the patient was awake, I'd
stick my head in and ask "Fancy a chat?". This was usually well received, so
I'd come in (masked) and we'd sit and chat for a while, about why we were
here, and our professions, about our children, hobbies and that sort of thing.
I did this almost every day.

On February 8th, the consultant decided I was ready to go home, hurrah!