An update

A modicum of grossness and an amount of whining follows…

It’s taken quite a while to write this post – while my desk chair is more comfortable than the sofa, it’s not comfortable to be at for more than an hour or so.

Medical news

This morning I took my hydrogen and methane breath test. This followed a week off laxatives and several days off antidepressants and other medication, a day of semi-fasting (only water, small amounts of white rice and peeled white potato) so by this morning I was only prevented from being in an utterly foul mood by being too tired to care about much.

The test consisted of taking a solution of lactulose (wikipedia), then breathing into sealable bags every 15 minutes. The breath samples’ hydrogen and methane content are supposedly indicative of fermentation in the digestive system and hence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (wikipedia). I’m relatively rather hopeful – my current abdominal symptoms are mostly in my small intestine – but because this condition has gone on for so long I’m not allowing myself to get too hopeful.

After the test, I slept for a couple of hours, then produced strong evidence of intestinal fermentation. Yuck!

I’m also due to have a gastric emptying test. I’ve spoken with the gastroenterology department of the hospital where this would take place but they have no record of this test being commissioned. I suspect three possible causes

  • the test was commissioned by the private GI specialist, so doesn’t appear in records available to the public NHS
  • the NHS is taking its own sweet time to arrange things
  • I spoke to the wrong department.

The private GI specialist’s secretary has resent the request for the test but can’t advise any further because arrangements are made by the hospital upon receipt of the request.


While I was completing this post, NHS Lothian’s cashier phoned me to tell me how I could pay for the test. I was offered a choice of online, over the phone or in person. I tried to pay online but the online system failed. I’ve just paid over the phone and received an emailed receipt. I should now soon be told when the test will take place.

Sleep news

For several months I’ve been sleeping on a mattress in our spare room so I can lie prone with my feet over the end of the mattress, to avoid discomfort in my ankles. (Our main bed has a footboard that precludes this sleeping position.) Prompted partly by this and partly by the main bed’s age, Elly ordered a new drawer divan. In advance of it being delivered this morning, we spent yesterday afternoon dissembling and moving the bed out of our spare room, then dissembling, moving and reassembling the ex-main bed into the spare room.

The new bed was delivered this morning. Elly unpacked and assembled it – my test precluded heavy physical work. (I did help tidy and move bedding after the test.) I’m looking forward to an end to my nocturnal anti-socialability, and hence to a potential recovery of normal sleep.

Out and about

Last night, I went to a presentation by my colleague Dr Ella Taylor-Smith on Online and offline spaces for democracy. (Great to see the Prof and Mr Prof, Leah Lockhart, the Dean, Frances and others there too.) This was mostly based on her research into how campaigning groups use the internet to organise and share information. She pointed out that Erving Goffman (wikipedia) theorised that people ‘prepare’ privately then ‘perform’ in public. While Goffman looked at face-to-face interactions, the same appears to be true of internet interactions: we prepare and rehearse what we’re going to say online.

The word ‘preparation’ has since been fizzing around my brain – the first output was the question how can people prepare themselves to use the internet for democracy? At this point, the cynic in me suggests that natural wastage will increase the proportion of people who can use the internet. But this is clearly unfair on those who can’t use the internet now. It also ignores the digital divides caused by physical and mental issues, poverty, infrastructure-lack and existing empowerment-lopsidedness. (That is, those who already express themselves use the internet as an additional channel, while those who are voiceless remain so.)

It also ignores the last two words of the question. Many people use the internet socially, to buy online, for finances and interaction with government such as paying taxes and complaining about their refuse not being collected (one of my bugbears!). However, to the best of my knowledge very few use the internet to influence or take part in the decisions that affect their lives. Here comes the ideological bit – I think people should (be able to) take part in debating and deciding what happens to them, and in arranging the services that we all use. (Such services, for me, are the whole point of government!)

Having said that, it’s impossible for everyone to take part in every debate, so attempts at compulsion are bound to fail. I tried looking at every Scottish Government consultation for a while. I gave up after a few days – there was just too much to read while trying to work full-time.

So we need some kind of halfway-house where the internet (and other means) enable  everyone to take part but the opinions of the silent are not ignored. (Sentiment analysis anyone?) For example the EU referendum had a turnout of 72%. I do not believe that 13 million people had no opinion, and I think it’s wrong that some people who live and work in the UK could not vote.

Voting research has also shown that people vote if they grow up doing so, and crucially, if they believe that voting is effective. So it is likely that people will do more digital democracy if and when they are used to doing it and when they can see that it is effective. Participatory budgeting ticks these boxes – it’s easy to understand and hence to do, and people can directly see the effects of their votes. (The more votes, the more likely it is that a measure will be funded.) There are also plenty of digital tools to discuss and rank suggestions, although the nearest participatory budgeting scheme to me (Leith Decides) does not use online voting.

Ella’s talk also prompts me to think about my role. Currently I don’t take part in my nearest hyperlocal democracy (West End Community Council), mostly because I’ve been minutes secretary and web-weaver for three other community councils (and partly because I’m on a career-break). But I hope to return to this, to start mentoring about the internet in general and its use in democracy-oriented in particular, to academic work to understand how best to promote digital democracy and all the other socio-techie stuff that helps make life fun!


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