I’m Too Damn Sweet

When talking about everyday words that, given context, can also be rude, George Carlin once observed: “You can prick your finger, but don’t finger your prick!” This is a story of how pricking my finger could potentially have saved my life.

And has also become a colossal annoyance.

It begins about a week and a half ago. And somehow I got a small cut on my little finger. A tiny prick, if you will. I don’t know how, I didn’t even notice it when it happened. But over the weekend, I saw that it had become infected. Annoyed, I booked an appointment with my GP and took time off work to see her and get some antibiotics.

So far, so good.

While I’m there, my GP says “Hmm, it’s been a while since you last had some blood tests. And it’s a bit unusual for someone so young to be getting bacterial infections.” Someone so young! Lady, I thought, 36 is NOT young! “I want you to go and get these blood tests tomorrow,” she says. So I take some time off work the next day, and give two beautiful vials of my cherry-red life juice to the pathology nurse.

Later that day, my GP rang and told me to come see her as soon as possible. My blood glucose levels were at 16.6 mmol/L – a healthy person’s should be roughly between 4 and 5.5 mmol/L.

So yes, dear reader, I’m a Type 2 Diabetic.

Many people, upon hearing such news, would be distraught. They might be overcome with emotions – anger, fear, sorrow. But not me. To me, this is all just one giant annoyance. An inconvenience. Terry Pratchett used to describe his Alzheimer’s as an “embuggerance”, and that’s exactly what this diagnosis is for me.

And I can afford to be annoyed by this – I’m fairly lucky (if luck can have anything to do with it). I’m not showing any real symptoms (My GP’s exact words: “How you’re not feeling absolutely awful is beyond me!”). And of course, there are far worse illnesses to have than diabetes. With significant changes to diet and lifestyle, and some medication, I can beat this. I went on a health kick several years ago and dropped nearly 10kg. I’ve seen various specialists already, with appointments to see more in the near future including a diabetes educator and a dietitian. But I also have two key weapons in my arsenal: the ability to turn on the willpower and determination when I set my mind to something, and a freaking amazing support network of friends and family who can encourage and assist me. And a surprising number of them have kicked sugar in the balls. So, keto or near-keto friends, I may be asking for low-GI suggestions in the future!

Like I said, I’m seeing various experts, learning things and making plans on an ongoing basis. But for now I’m taking Metformin (the standard first-line diabetes drug that lowers blood sugar and increases sensitivity to insulin), monitoring my blood glucose levels will a wicked cool little gadget, and significantly reducing my portion sizes while increasing my amount of exercise. See! an embuggerance.

So, I guess the moral of this story is don’t get fat, be active, watch the sugar intake, and have regular checkups with your GP – even if you feel fine. And remember: you can finger your prick, but you should also prick your finger!

That Puppy Episode

Twenty years ago a young comedian made an announcement on her slumping TV show. She received death threats, lost her job and fell into depression. For three years she couldn’t get any work. She revealed something of herself that nobody at the time would dare make public and it killer her career, her health and her wellbeing.

But while that announcement initially cost her personally, it saved the lives of thousands of people. Because of her, thousands of people found the courage to reveal who they were to the world. The strength to be themselves. The will to keep on living.

Thank you, Ellen. You deserve all the toaster ovens you could ever need.*

Ellen Degeneres quote

* And your career picked up enough that you can now afford them, so yay you!

The US Government poses the greatest threat to US trade, all for the illusion of increased security

Lucas nails it on the head. This is why the US – a fantastic, wonderful country – is now on my No Go list for at least four more years.

codenix | blog

The United States Government has thrown a cat amongst the pigeons with its ramped up forced data exposure policies affecting travellers to their country.There are reportsthat increasing numbers of travellers are being forced to unlock and hand over their electronic devices to Border Control agents, who may then download an unencrypted clone of your device’s stored data to store and interrogate at will, potentially forever.

This practice is akin to forcing you to hand over all your email history, all your passwords to your cloud storage and social media accounts, all your phone’s stored location tracking data and call history, all your photos, your complete contact list (which can be used to build a profile of all your associations), and of course access to your finances if you have banking apps installed.

Now many of these things are available ​to law enforcement in the US anyway, but in…

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So, It’s Trump.

There’s no way to sugar-coat this.
Ignorance, fear, racism and misinformation have put a tiny-fingered, misogynist, bigoted, fact-fearing child in the White House. And next to him an evil, homophobic, evangelical climate-change denier as his Vice President. In the prophetic words of River Tam, things are going to get much, much worse.


I was going to write about how this happened. I was going to look at who’s to blame – was it the media? Was it the DNC or even Hillary herself? Was it all FBI Director James Comey’s fault?
But that’s not my place yet. More knowledgeable and experienced people will be writing about that. There will be weeks and weeks of analysis. There will be op-eds and infographics and charts and finger-pointing.
But what we need right now, I think, is some perspective.
Before we had Obama, we had Dubya. Before we had Justin Trudeau, we had Stephen Harper. Before we had the most productive Australian Prime Minister, we had eleven years of John Howard. Sometimes to take two steps forward you have to take a step back.
Social change is slow. If you try and rush it you get push back, because it’s largely generational. For hundreds of years, each generation has been more progressive than the one before it. 150 years ago, women couldn’t vote. 60 years ago, American schools were segregated. 20 years ago, same-sex couples couldn’t get married.
Older white people voted for Trump. Older white people voted for Brexit.
Two weeks before the election, SurveyMonkey published this map of the electoral college if only millennials voted:

Source: SurveyMonkey

So the upcoming generation has progressive ideals. Unfortunately, fewer millennials voted this election. So maybe we need to reach out to the kids better. Maybe we need to inspire them more, like Obama did in 2008 and 2012. I don’t know.
But I do know that giving up won’t help. I do know that we can’t just accept the world the way it is. Women weren’t given the right to vote, people stood up and called for it. Desegregation didn’t just happen, civil rights campaigners stood up and demanded it. Marriage equality is happening around the world because people are fighting for it.
So we can’t just give up. We need to take action. We need to see Trump’s election as a wake-up call. A call to action.
So take action. Engage with people who think climate change is a hoax. Campaign to your elected officials for humane treatment of refugees. Speak up when you witness or experience sexism, racism, bigotry. And support the victims of sexism, racism and bigotry.

And above all, be the change you want to see in the world. Nate Silver on the FiveThirtyEight Election podcast talks about the ‘smugness’ shown by many of the commentariat – especially on the left and in parts of the media. That doesn’t help. Be better than that. If you can comport yourself with all the restraint, patience, dignity and wisdom that Barack and Michelle Obama have demonstrated – time and time again – you’ll be helping to make the world better.

There is hope. Change will happen. It won’t happen fast enough, and many people will be hurt in the process. But if we keep the pressure on, we will get there.

Fired up?

Ready to go?


Oh gods I found this funny.

I was watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this morning, which started off with a depressing look at Fox News’ vilification of poor people. Then, after the ad break, came this little gem about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. In case you’re not aware, McConnell is the quintessential Old White Republican Arsehole. He’s repeatedly tried to get the Affordable Healthcare Act repealed, he’s opposed every gun control attempt, and described shutting down Guantanamo Bay as releasing ‘murderers’ into the US.
And he’s the 10th wealthiest senator, with a personal fortune of over US$9 million.

So making fun of him is extremely entertaining.

Here’s the clip from the Daily Show today. It’s brilliant. 😀

And possibly my favourite #McConnelling so far is this one:

The Future of Skepticism: More. Positive. Stuff.

Over the weekend I had the joy of attending the Australian Skeptics National Convention in Canberra. Let me just say this: it was FANTASTIC. Skeptic conventions, Skepticamps and other such events are always terrific fun to attend because it’s always great to be with friends and like-minded people. But when a convention is as well put together as this one was – around a common theme, with a diverse range of engaging speakers, in an environment of spirited collegiality – it really does motivate and inspire.

Dr. Paul Willis talking at the Australian Skeptics National Convention 2013.
Image: Ruth Ellison

The last speaker on the program was the inimitable Dr. Paul Willis. Former host of ABC’s splendid Catalyst program and now director at RIAus, Paul is a charming, genial man with a razer-sharp intellect and a love of puns. And his thoughts on where skepticism is going, which he shared in his talk, are spot on with what I’ve been thinking recently. He boiled it down to three key points:

  • More. We need to be doing more. There’s an entire internet out there waiting for us to get out there and fill it with good information. And if we don’t, the quacks and the woo-pedlars will.
  • Positive. We need to show that we’re not a bunch of nay-saying curmudgeons. Let’s give positive feedback to the people and organisations that are doing fantastic stuff. When Catalyst does a terrific show like the Chiropractic episode, we need to be congratulating them and thanking them. Get our voices heard and we’ll see more of the good stuff.
  • Stuff. We need to expand the range of what we do. If you don’t have a blog, start one. If you’re not on social media, get involved. If you don’t do a podcast, or a vodcast, why not think about it. Comment on blog posts. Comment on Old Media sites like newspapers and TV shows. Submit complaints to the TGA on dodgy websites. Join the Guerilla Skepticism team and write some Wikipedia articles. And take advantage of some of the tools being developed like rbutr, Web of Trust and Fishbarrel.

Have a listen to Paul’s talk here: