I Made A Resource For A Pre-Diabetic Friend

The other day, a friend of mine asked if I could make her some charts she could print off and put into her bullet journal.

She was recently diagnosed as ‘pre-diabetic’. Meaning that she may have a form of diabetes but they’re not sure what sort and how serious it is.

So, right now, she’s using a blood-sugar record several times a day. For ‘use’ read ‘stab self in finger’. Yeah, not fun, but necessary.

As I’m a graphic designer by trade, creating the charts wasn’t too much of an issue for me. Below is am image of what I made. I included boxes for symptoms my friend might be experiencing when she takes the reading.

The blood sugar record charts, doubled up across an A4 size page.

I sent it to her as an A4-size PDF file, so she can print off copies, fold and tear and have several A5 sheets to go in her journal.

I’m attaching the PDF file to this post, at my friend’s request. She thinks this might be helpful to others who are in a similar situation. And I have to admit that it felt good to be able to help her in some way. She already has several other medical conditions to grapple with. Having this diagnosis from her doctor is yet more stress, and it hasn’t been fun for either of us. I’m hopeful that she can get the information she needs to get this under control.


I’m no stranger to micro-blogging. I used to have a Tumblr blog for many years, but fell out of love with that place eventually. Not for lack of stuff to share, by any means. No, Tumblr lost me because it is actually quite hard work to do long-form blogging on there, and if you start a post in Markdown and save it as a draft, it gets converted to HTML. Fun! (Not.)

(And then Tumblr got gobbled up by Yahoo, which in turn got gobbled up by Verizon and stitched together with the remnants of AOL to form Oath. Possibly a reference to what passed a lot of people’s lips when they heard that news.)

And I’m no stranger to Micro.Blog, either. I backed it when it was on Kickstarter several years ago, but my usage fizzled out after a while. Mainly because Real Life was busy kicking my butt around that time.

Anyway, I decided to give it another go, and it clicked with me. So much so that I’ve opted for a paid plan so I can have that micro-blog as a subdomain of this site. You can find it at thoughts.alanralph.co.uk—at some point I will work on getting it integrated more with this place.

What I like about Micro.Blog is that you’re not thrust straight into the feed of everyone’s recent posts when you log in. You see your recent posts first, and then you can go look at what other people have been posting. It’s a blogging platform that has social features at a bonus, whereas Tumblr was more of a social network that you could sort of use for blogging.

The site itself does a good job as a basis for blog-writing, but it also has apps for various platforms so you can write offline and post when you’re ready. (Including for Macs, joy!) And there is support available now in several third-party blogging tools, including my tool of choice, MarsEdit.

Micro-blogging allows me to quickly fire out some thoughts about stuff I’ve been doing during the day. And it’s getting me into the habit of blogging something every day. More to the point, blogging rather than putting it inside the walled garden of Facebook.

Some of the things I’ve posted over there may get fleshed out more and end up as longer posts here. We’ll see how things work out.

Thirty Years Online

It dawned on me the other day that it is coming up for 30 years[1] since I first got online.

Needless to say, the world was a lot different back then!

For starters, the ‘Internet’ as we know it know wasn’t around yet. In 1989, only large companies, research institutes, universities and the military were connected to it. The online world for regular folks—or rather, those regular folks who had the means to do so—consisted of dial-up modem connections to bulletin board systems (BBSes) and online services like CompuServe and AOL.

I first stumbled into that world via the pages of Computer Shopper magazine[2], which had a forum on a service called the CompuLink Information eXchange, or Cix[3] to those who used it.

I was at university at the time, doing a BSc Computer Science course, part of which involved a year’s placement at an IT company. I’d gotten myself a trainee position at the Bracknell headquarters of International Computers Limited (ICL)[4].

It was through my day-job at ICL that I was able to access Cix and buy a second-hand 1200/75[5] dial-up modem from someone on there. Then I persuaded my dad to run a phone line extension up to my room so I can connect my new modem up to my BBC Master 128[6] home computer.

Fun times were had accessing various UK bulletin boards as well as the aforementioned Cix. Expensive times, too—back then, phone calls cost a lot of money. My parents had words with me after a couple of large phone bills!

That was how it all started. In future posts, I’ll recollect some other milestones in my online life.

    1. I forget the exact month and date, so I’m posting this now while I remember! ↩
    2. The UK version published by Dennis Publishing, not the US version published by Ziff Davis. ↩
    3. Pronounced ‘kicks’. ↩
    4. It was in the process of being acquired by Futijsu as I neared the end of my time there. Or, perhaps more accurately, swallowed and digested. ↩
    5. That’s 1,200 bits-per-second download, 75 bits-per-second upload—not that unusual for the time. Thankfully, I was able to get a faster modem later on. ↩
    6. Yes, the British Broadcasting Corporation. Acorn’s BBC Micro series (produced for the BBC for the Computer Literacy Project) were the principle 8-bit home computers in the UK in the 1980s, alongside Sinclair Research’s ZX-80/ZX-81 and ZX Spectrum, and later on Amstrad’s CPC range. And before anyone writes in, yes, I’m aware there were other UK computer makers around at that time, but these are the ones that survived and thrived. ↩

Goodbye to 2018, and to my Dad

So 2018 is now in the rear-view mirror—and good riddance to it. While I did make some progress on personal stuff last year, it was overshadowed by my Dad’s terminal illness and the stress and strain of caring for him.

He passed away peacefully in the early hours of the 22nd December, at home with his family around him, as he had wished.

He had put in place an Advance Directive (also known as a Living Will) to cover the eventuality of his no longer being able to communicate his wishes. An end-of-life care package had been prepared by our GP and the local district nurses, and it was started the day before, on the Winter Solstice, at my mother’s request. (We had already planned ahead at the end of last year, and myself, my mother and my sister had Lasting Power of Attorney so we could handle Dad’s affairs once he was no longer able to.)

We have had so much support over the last year, albeit with some pushing required by my Mum to get it in place. Care agency workers visited several times a day to help care for Dad, and we had overnight respite so that both myself and my Mum could get some sleep. District nurses checked Dad’s condition and helped organise additional assistance. Our local doctor’s surgery also supported us, and pushed to make sure things were followed up on by other agencies. We had medical equipment and other aids supplied to help made Dad as comfortable as possible. Even the little things, like the chiropodist who would call every so often to trim Dad’s nails, were welcome.

It took a few days to adjust to the changes once he was gone. The biggest was that the house was a lot quieter, not just because fewer people were calling around or phoning during the day, but because the oxygen machine that had been running continuously for over a year and a half was silent now.

In a way, we’ve already mourned over the months and weeks leading up to Dad’s passing. That is both a blessing and a curse of a terminal illness, as a friend pointed out to me.

Now, I’m getting comfortable with having music playing again, without worrying about not hearing the doorbell or the telephone.

There are still a lot of loose ends to tie up. The Christmas break has meant a delay in getting things moving, but they are moving now, in fits and starts. The people we’ve dealt with so far, either on the phone or in person, have been helpful and sympathetic. My parents had taken steps to tidy up and simplify their financial affairs as much as possible, and made a point of having relevant paperwork filed away ready for when it would be needed. So now it’s just a case of going through the various steps and waiting for the insurance, investments and pensions companies to do their parts. I am helping my Mum to work out how much she will have each month to live on, but the initial outlook is good. We will all be doing some belt-tightening, but that is probably a good thing anyway since there is a lot of uncertainty ahead due to the state of the country and the wider world.

There was some good news for me in 2018. I’ve started getting to grips with my finances, and I am earning more money now than I was at the start of last year. Writing in a private journal has helped me to process my thoughts and record the positive as well as the negative in my life. Changes to my eating habits and increased exercise has allowed me to lose some weight. And I’m finally starting to knuckle down on my habits of procrastination and lack of direction.

I’m looking to carry all of that forward into this year, and build on that success. I have a lot of personal projects that I can now block out time for, which will help me to grow even more. More regular blogging is definitely a part of that.

I know that some of the above may not make for comfortable reading, but I feel that more people need to talk openly about the end of life and not view it as a taboo subject. I am glad that I was able to be with my Dad at the end, and help him to die with dignity and in peace.

Why I’ve Not Been Posting Here

As you can probably tell, this blog has been very quiet.

The reason for this has been to do with my dad’s health.

In early 2017 he was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). It is causing the tissue in his lungs to harden. It will eventually kill him.

The process has been gradual. His walking distance became less. He needed oxygen, then more oxygen. Driving became difficult, and eventually he sold his car. He lost strength, and everyday activities like washing, dressing and eating became a struggle. A stair-lift helped him retain some mobility for a time, but it was not to last.

In the spring of this year, the decision was taken to install a special bed downstairs, and he has been there ever since. He has a commode next to it. We’ve done everything we can to make him comfortable. The care visitors, district nurses and other helpers have been a blessing. But it has taken a toll on myself, my mother and my sister.

Then a breast-screening detected a small growth in one of my mum’s breasts. A biopsy confirmed it was cancerous, but it had been caught early. She opted to have a mastectomy, to make sure it couldn’t return.

I’ve been caring for both my parents the last few months. My mum is fully recovered, but needs my help to look after dad and keep on top of the household chores. Dad is relatively comfortable.

I’ve no idea how much time we have left together, and I’m trying to make the most of every day. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had bouts of anxiety and depression. But I have support from some close friends, and a few hours of respite each week.

I am reconciled now to this process. I do not fear death. I know that it is part of the cycle of life.

I’m posting this partly to help me heal, and partly in the hope that it may help others who are or have been going through a similar experience.