How do we decide ?

This is very much a work in progress, which I intend to refine, but published in this incomplete form to link other posts into a wider context.

Choices can be tricky – important ones always are, and for each choice we (as individuals, groups, societies and humanity as whole) make there will be an alternative which we did not take.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

The Road not Taken by Robert Frost


With great power comes great responsibility

Peter Parker

Ethics, as I am using it here, is a huge field, containing philosophy, religion and politics.

Individuals, Groups, Nations, Humanity

Finding the right balance between the needs of the individual and the needs of the group has always been hard, and is becoming harder as the world grows more complex.


Scientia potentia est (Knowledge is Power)

Francis Bacon (attributed)

Any decision which is incompatible with science will ultimately go wrong, because the science tells us about the world as it is, rather than the world as we might like it to be.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.

Richard Feynman in Cargo Cult Science

Science can not be used on its own for some big decisions.

It is strongly hinting that we can not both continue to burn fossil fuels, and avoid climate change, but does not in itself say which option is ‘better’.


The Golden Rule: He who has the Gold makes the Rules

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country… corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.

Abraham Lincoln

Economics is another decision support system, helping us to decide how to allocate resources. As a nation, should we spend more on the NHS, or Education or the Arts – and if we say ‘yes’ to all of these, what do we cut, or do we (there is no magic money which comes from ‘the government’)

To paraphrase William Jevons, “Money‘s a matter of functions four, A Medium, a Measure, a Standard, a Store“. In supporting decisions it is its functions as a Measure – i.e. a way of comparing the economic values of two things at the present time, and as a store, which can be thought of a way of comparing the value of having one thing now against something else at a later time.

Pure economists tend to work with a hypothetical ‘economic man‘, who makes rational choices, based on economic self interest, however most real life people blend economic with ethical and scientific considerations.

How do They decide ?

If we can take a set of circumstances, and apply some combination of Ethics, Science and Economics, to work out what the response to some situation should be, then others, such are governments and corporations are, explicitly or implicitly doing the same.

If we examine the decisions they make we can work out how they actually weigh, for example the science which suggests that Climate change is a danger, against the economics which suggests that increasing air travel will bring prosperity.

All politicians claim to be working to benefit those who voted for them, and the question is, does examination of who actually benefited from their policies, once they have been implemented, match the claims ?

This is why transparency in the decision making process is so important. We should not expect perfection from politicians, or any decision makers, but if we, and they need to be able to show their reasoning, as part of a reasoned feedback loop.

Do we decide ?

I am not talking in the deeper sense, of do we have Free Will, discussed in an interesting way in ‘Is God a Taoist ?‘, but in the more pragmatic sense that access to information shapes our ability to make rational decisions.

A decision implies that there were some set of choices, and that one of those was picked. If the choices do not exist, or we are not aware of them then no decision is possible. It is easy to look at some other person, or group, and say that they are making poor choices, but they may not be aware of, or have access to alternatives.

This is where diversity interacts with decisions – or lack of them. If the only food available is burger and chips, because that is all that is available where you live, or you are not aware of alternatives, then you do not have a choice.

In an Internet context, if you are only aware of the products of the big monopolies – as is quite likely for most ‘real’ people, then there is not really a choice. For example Excel has become synonymous with spreadsheet, and Zoom with Video Chat. Although, for example Hoover is often used where we mean Vacuum Cleaner, we do actually know that in that case there is a choice, and we benefit, when we go to the shop to purchase one from range of options available.

Making Historical maps for WordPress with Viking and OSM Plugin

Maps are a great way to make some web sites about historical travels easier to understand. I have been enhancing some of parts of this blog, some of which is about family history, with maps and describe how I do it here, so you, if you wish, you can do the same. All the tools I use are Free, both in the sense that you do not have to pay for them, but more importantly they are developed by individuals or communities who believe that open sharing of information and helping others makes the world a better place.

I have maps created this way on (at least) the following pages


WordPress is a very popular choice for building web sites. You can host it on your own server, as I do, or try it by creating a basic – free – account at although to install plugins you will need to upgrade to a paid (Business) account, which costs (in October 2020) £20 per month. As I have my own server I have not investigated other options, but I know there are many places offering WordPress Hosting, but you need one which allows you to install plugins.

Plugins are the way a WordPress site can be extended beyond the standard functions. A huge range are available if you need something the basic version does not provide.


With more that two million contributors, OpenStreetMap is a not just a map of the world, but a resource of Geographic information used by researchers and charities (particularly in relation to mapping parts of the world which may not deliver a commercial return, but where maps are still needed such as the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Project).

The WordPress OpenStreetMap Plugin

Bringing two good things together, the WordPress OpenStreetMap plugin allows you add OpenSteetMap maps to your WordPress site. It is primarily aimed at people who want to show where they have been in recent or planned modern journeys, but can be used for showing historical maps. It displays a map with markers you can set when configuring the plugin, or for more complex use, a KML file.

A KML file is a way to describe, in a computer file, a group of Geographical features, such as places, or routes to pass them from one program to another. I generate these KML files with a program called Viking, described below.

I then need to copy the kml file to my WordPress server – for security reasons WordPress prevents unknown file types from being uploaded through its normal media upload, and although the plugin adds kml to the valid file types, and I have added it to the valid types in my WordPress settings the uploads are still refused (I will update this if I find a solution, and it may be particular to my setup).


Viking is really intended to be a GPS editor, but can be used to create the KML files for historic maps.

Viking being used to work with historic journeys

To generate the file I use with the OpenStreetMap Plugin I right click a Layer (journey) and select Export As…/Export as KML

As I said above this software is really aimed at people working with GPS in the present and the version I am using just now needs, for example, scrolling the date of a ‘way point’ back through many years to set it, but the developers are helpful and responsive, as you can see from the responses to my suggestions about updating dates and places.

If several people are working on the same set of journeys then they could collaborate by exchanging the .vik files used to record the places, dates etc, as the information held can be quite rich with images etc.

Say not the struggle naught availeth

I started this post a couple of years ago and never published it, but this has been a favourite poem of mine for many years, and the idea of a hyperlinked version must date back to before 2009, as that is when Sun Microsystems was acquired by Oracle.
The poem can be seen as being about several times when we seem to be in the losing side of some battle. When I originally started the post it represented, for me, the struggle between the general idea that knowledge should be shared, in particular Free (Libre or Open Source) Software,  as against the concept that knowledge should be a commodity to be owned by the powerful and used as a tool to maintain and increase their power.


The poem has been used as a message of hope in inspiration in several contexts, generally from the side who appear at the time to be the underdog.

Software and Internet Freedom

The context I originally thought of. Quite a lot has happened over the past decade or more. Linux, a computer operating system written by a Finnish student, Linus Torvalds, and offered freely to the world, now runs not only the computer I am writing this on, but those used by Google, Amazon, Facebook  – almost every big Internet facing website which is not owned by Microsoft. Android phones, set top boxes and cheap (£5) computers capable of running as a web server, such as the Raspberry Pi also run Linux.

On the down side, the way we communicate has largely moved from standards based, open email and openly published web pages to a small set of proprietary systems, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Churchill and the Second World War

Winston Churchill famously quoted the poem in a speech of February 1941, when the outlook for Britain – and democracy in Europe looked bleak.

The war was won, even though at the time of the speech the outcome was very much in doubt.

In the same way that the self isolation needed to tackle Coronavirus, is making this a difficult time for many of us, Churchill struggled with what he called his Black Dog – his term for depression – but he overcame it to give inspiring leadership when it was most needed.

Chartism – the original context

The poem was probably written in 1849, in the wake of the dramatic revolutions of 1848, and the defeat of the Chartist Movement. Although some think it relates to the collapse of the 1848 Italian rising, I think the Chartist cause resonated more strongly with Clough, and in either case today’s situation brings hope. Britain, and much of the rest of the world now has universal suffrage, while Italy is an independent country.


Although the death toll continues to climb, health services all over the world are under immense pressure, and an economic depression looks likely, there are signs of hope.

Scientific American has made all its Coronavirus coverage available for free, and for anyone who really wants to know more about the disease a group at Harvard Medical School have made a Corvid-19 Curriculum available. Reading that reveals the importance of the international free sharing of information about the disease, particularly from Chinese doctors who first encountered it.

It is spurring fundamental medical research, and boosting systems of testing, such as the nanopore RNA sequencing, being done by Oxford Nanopore, whose preferred analysis programme runs on Linux, and whose software is available for community review and enhancement.

I hope it is boosting open Epidemiological models, such as STEM, although I have resisted the temptation to dive deeper into this area I hope a diverse range of models are being openly developed, and tested against the real data to work out which best matches reality. (I intend to write a bit more about that when I get round to writing about Diversity and Regulation in Science)

We are recognising those, from NHS staff and carers to refuse collectors, who really are ‘essential workers’ needed to keep our society working, and I hope, post Coronavirus we will remember the part they played, and that it will not be like Kipling’s Tommy

Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul? “
But it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes ” when the drums begin to roll

The crisis has unlocked creativity all over the world, and people are coming together in creative ways, almost too many to mention here.

The sharp reduction in international air travel has been good for the environment, and I hope unnecessary travel for meetings will continue be be replaced by Video Conferencing,

Bringing me back to the origins of this article, I hope the world will end up using some kind of solution which will be based on standards and openness, such as Jitsi, rather than a closed system which aims to lock people in.

John and Charles Wesley Treasure Hunt in Oxford City Centre

If you have an interest in Methodist History, and wish to visit 15 locations around Oxford City Centre related to John and Charles Wesley, or Methodism today, there a free mobile phone app, called Huntzz, which can take you round them on a free Treasure Hunt.


Download the app onto your phone, and run it – you can do this from home (or your hotel in Oxford if you are visiting) before you start. You will see a list of available Hunts, sorted by distance from where you are.

Select the Wesley Walk in Oxford entry (you should only see one – mine has two as I developed it), and you should see a screen which looks like this:

As the screenshot above shows the start point is Wesley Memorial Church, in the centre of Oxford. If you are travelling by car you should use the Park and Ride, as the roads into Oxford are slow and confusing and parking is expensive. The church is a short walk from the train and bus stations.

To find out more about the Methodist Heritage in Oxford, have a look at the Wesleys Oxford website.

How the hunt came to be written

I am a member of Oxford Phab Club, a social club for people of all abilities, which is based at Wesley Memorial Methodist Church in Central Oxford. We are always looking for new ideas for things to do and over the years have done several Treasure Hunts around Oxford City Centre, for example the paper based treasure hunt we did in June 2015. We were looking for another hunt go to on the programme for the summer of 2017, and I found an App for Android and iPhone devices called Huntzz, which had an inexpensive (£1.79 at the time of writing this post, I think it was about that in 2017 too) paid Treasure Hunt around Oxford City Centre available. I downloaded the app, bought the Oxford Hunt and tried it, and on July 7th 2017 several Phab members did the same, with reasonable success. I had a family event that night, so was unable to participate, so the event is not recorded on the Phab website.

Through much of 2016 members of the congregation of Wesley Memorial, joined by other people with connection to the church, rehearsed a musical called Amazing Love, written by Jack Godfrey. This was performed in February 2017, and some Oxford Phab members performed in it, while others went to see it. Through this I became interested in the lives of the Wesleys, and their time at Oxford, tying it into my interest in family history when I wrote a post about Amazing Love, Demographics and Mass migrations.

I had noticed that the Huntzz app allowed a user to create their own Hunt, and felt it would be good to try, taking inspiration from the Wesleys in Oxford walking tour leaflet already available in the church. The Huntzz app authors encourage charities to create their own Hunts, and were very helpful and supportive. I also like a business model I can understand, where they sell Hunts at a good value price, as opposed to, for example offering something for ‘free’ where they make their money through intrusive advertising in the app, or selling your personal information. I produced the ‘Wesley Walk in Oxford’ hunt for fun, but if you feel inclined to support either Wesley Memorial’s Open Doors project, or Oxford Phab donations would be very welcome.

Although John Wesley may not have actually said

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.

it expresses the values which drive many of the activities of the church, so I have tried, in the “scroll” or guide entries, to link the historical sites on the Hunt to current activities.

Boots the Chemists

Somewhere which is not on the trail, but has an interesting John Wesley connection is Boots the Chemists. John Boot, who started selling remedies from a shop in Hoxton, had learned some of his skills from the book Primitive Physic by John Wesley, and was a ardent Methodist.

Android Apps for Renal Patients


I am a kidney patient, not a doctor. You should consult a doctor, rather than acting on any of the medical information on this page, which should be taken with a metaphorical “pinch of salt“.  If you are a renal patient, particularly one on dialysis, you should not be taking anything with a real pinch of salt.


Most people probably never give a thought to their kidneys, or are aware of the many functions they perform. They are so important that they are one of the few organs which come supplied as a pair, either of which, if working to its normal capacity, is quite capable of  enabling you to live a normal life.
Before 1945 renal (kidney) failure resulted in death. In that year Willem Kolff, working in Nazi occupied Netherlands, successfully used dialysis to treat a 67 year old woman, who then lived for another seven years.
Dialysis is life-saving, but does need the patient to be cautious in what they eat and how much they drink – and to monitor themselves regularly.
In 1950 the first successful kidney transplant was performed, but it was not until the introduction of immunosuppressants  in 1964 that it became practical for wider use.
Post transplant patients need to take immunosuppressant drugs, in some personalised combination, for life, and this plus continued monitoring, is extremely important.

Android Apps

There are some Android Apps which I use to ease life as a renal patient. All of these apps are available form the Google Play Store and most of them are also available via F-Droid, which is a repository for Free/Open Source Android apps. Apps on F-Droid are built from their source code, which can be inspected by knowledgeable people to check that the app does what it claims to do. As these apps often deal with potentially sensitive medical data this ability for somebody to inspect the app is important.
There are ‘free’ android apps in the Health and Medical (as well as other) categories, which pay for themselves by selling your medical data, which is why it is a good idea to understand where the apps you use come from.

Medic Log

Monitoring is important for Renal patients, who are often presented with a record book to record their results daily on release after treatment. I suspect the discipline of regular checking is more important than the recording, particularly if the record is on paper over a long period of time, but having results in an electronic format might turn out to be useful. For this reason I wrote Medic Log, which is available on the Google Play Store here, and on F-Droid here.
In the future I hope to add the ability to read weight from a Bluetooth scale which uses openScale directly into Medic Log.

Medic Log main screen


Taking your medication, whether on dialysis or post transplant is very important, and,  particularly post-transplant, it is easy to find real life getting in the way. Calendula is an app from the Centro Singular de Investigación en Tecnoloxías da Información da Universidade de Santiago de Compostela (CiTIUS)
It provides a flexible way to set which medication you need to take when, and will remind you when it is time to take it. If the normal time the alarm goes off is not suitable for some reason – for example if you have eaten recently and need to avoid taking your anti-rejection drugs until some time after you have eaten you can delay the reminder. It also keeps track of your stock level.
It is available on Google Play store here, and on F-Droid here.



Keeping a close eye on your weight is important to kidney patients, as it is a good way to tell if we are retaining too much water. Any accurate set of scales will work fine for this purpose, but you may be tempted by one wich connects to your phone via Bluetooth. Most such scales come with an app which shares your data with some medical health company, and at least one will not record your weight onto your phone until it knows your name, and address, your date of birth, and your landline and mobile phone numbers.
With openScale your data stays on your phone under your control. If you are looking for a smart scale I would suggest looking at one of the ones supported by openScale. The openScale app can be found in the Google Play store here and F-Droid here.

Care After Kidney Transplant

This one is not open source, but is one of the apps from the American National Kidney Foundation.  It provides information for post-transplant renal patients, and does not require any special permissions on your phone. It can be found in the Google Play Store here.

Emergency Contact Information

If you have a reasonably recent Android Phone (Nougat released August 2016 or later) you can add Emergency Contact Information, such as being a Renal Patient, which medications you are on etc. This information is available without needed to unlock your phone. You can also add contacts, such as your doctor.
How to set this up is described here

HTML in WordPress

I have been writing HTML, by hand – as that was the only way you could write when it first came out, ever since it was invented. Before that I had been using the DEC format program and IBM GML for some time, so the concept of a markup language was familiar.
As my previous web site was hosted on Demon’s homepage service, it was written in vanilla HTML. Since I read HTML  manuals and used it to experiment, there were features I missed – many of which have been around since the early days of the web – which are not directly available in the excellent WordPress visual editor.

Please note that some of these are now available in the Gutenberg Editor within WordPress.

Tooltips (<span> with <title>)

By using a construct like

<span title="Eating, and thinking !">Easter Quiz and Baked Potato Meal £1.50</span></p>

you can make a “tooltip” like “Eating, and thinking !” pop up when someone hovers the mouse over the “Easter Quiz…” text. This was used in several places on the old site, and may be retrofitted, but see for an example (18-Mar-2005)

Internal Anchor tags for footnotes in a page

Use something like

Sonnet<sup><a href="#sonnet">1</a></sup> to a Nonagenarian

for the source, and

<li><a id="sonnet"></a>Technically ...</li>

for the target.

Image Maps

  1. Publish the post  or page with the picture which has the image which should have the map.
  2. Download the image from the page to some temporary place.
  3. Fire up GIMP and select Filters/Web/ImageMap
  4. If needed refer to for more detailed instructions
  5. Save the generated Image Map file
  6. Go back to WordPress and edit your page in text mode.
  7. Find the image you downloaded and update its “img” tag with the “usemap=#map” tag, but if you have multiple images on the page change to something like usemap=”#map-g-ggf”
  8. Copy and paste the generated “map” section below the “img” section you updated, but change the name to match the previous page
  9. Update the WordPress post or page and test.

There is an example on the George Edward Lines – Pictures post.

Special Characters

There is a good reference to special characters, which can be inserted in HTML mode at