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.

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