Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Stopping Smoking - so how am I getting on?

So I understand that I haven't given anything up by stopping smoking. I have simply stopped doing something that was stupid, expensive and injurious to my health. Following my decision to give up on Sunday night I have started to read Allen Carr's famous book "Easy Way To Stop Smoking". It is actually designed to be read by someone who is still smoking, but it is still very helpful if you are using it to reinforce your commitment to stop. In a sense, the opening sentence of this paragraph summarises Carr's point. But it is far cleverer and useful than that pithy sound bite. I am stunned by how much of his analyses directly corresponds to my experience. The guy is clearly quite full of himself but he really does has a lot of understanding.

Likewise, I have also watched the excellent Russell Crow/Al Pacino film The Insider which shows the utter contempt the Tobacco industry has for it's customers and human life. They see cigarettes as a nicotine delivery system and clearly suppressed the evidence that Tobacco causes so many serious health problems like lung cancer, heart problems, circulation and such stuff. And they still try the "we aren't trying to encourage new people to smoke - we are just trying to persuade people to swap brand" bullshit. Excuse my French, but they are cynical lying murdering bastards. Now that they are seeing the western world is starting to reject their evil poison they are focusing on the third world. How low can you go? So Bob Geldoff gets their debt dropped and they spend it all on fags! Hmmm.

And yet, even understanding all of this and having only been off the smokes for 3 days I am starting to get cravings. I went to the pub quiz yesterday evening and it was no problems sitting in the no smoking area and quaffing ale without feeling bad. But today despite all the above I still feel like lighting up. I have gone the hardcore route and haven't bothered with patches or Nicotine gum since it seems a bit illogical to try and give up nicotine by taking nicotine. Still, I suppose it was nieve of me to think that breaking a 25 year habit would be pain less.

Also, I should say thanks to those who have offered congratulations and encouragement, both on this web log and in the real world. It is both much appreciated but also very helpful since it would make me feel so bad if I were to go back to my stupid smoking ways. It has been often been observed that ex Smokers are by far the most vocal when criticising smokers and I am planning on joining them if for nothing else but to make it untenable and embarrassing to slide back into the filthy habit.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Smoking - it's a bit rubbish

I'm not proud - but I started smoking when I was 11 years old :-( My mate Harry Lines had a job as a paper boy and miraculously every now and then he would turn up with two hundred JPS (John Player Specials) . I'm not suggesting that he nicked them, but let's just say I never saw any receipts.

Anyway, we used to stand on the corner of Chanterlands Avenue and Loveridge Avenue in my home town, Hull, looking kinda like James Dean. Or so we thought. Until two big lads beat Harry and I up and nicked our stash of cigarettes and pointed out that we should be sucking rather than blowing. Because up until then we had been blowing. Scoff as you might but there aren't any instructions on a pack!

These days the advice on cigarette packs are pretty is explicit. The pack of Silk Cut Silver I'm currently looking at says "Smoking Kills" and "Smokers Die Younger". My good mate Brendan decided to give up the smokes yesterday because when he asked his daughter what she most wanted for her 21st birthday she didn't ask for an XBox or Playstation, she asked him to stop smoking. Ouch! But fair play to the fella - he has gone for it. He has ditched that fags.

So has it made me pause for thought? Damn right it has. Smoking is unattractive, unsociable, unheathy, illogical and basically stupid. But bizarrely I'm still smoking as I write this. What a F**k Wit I am.

So I look at my current pack of fags and see I have 15 snouts left. I'm really enjoying my last smoke. I really am. But of course, I know it is stupid. SO NOW IT STOPS.

Can I Keep it up? I don't know. But I'm going to try...You betta believe it.

(and if you hear a funny cracking sound - that is me crushing the last of my fags)

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Do you get what you pay for?

As the regular reader may recall, our DVD player packed up a few weeks ago. I was exploring all sorts of options to replace it but then we decided to buy a house. So we're skint. However, I was really missing playing my challenging European art house films. Ok, so I haven't got any challenging art house films, but I have got loads of dumb American action films and I really miss not being able to play them. So as a stop gap, I decided to get a £35 Mico DVD808 from Sainsburys. I expected it to be rubbish but I am astounded how they have packed so much performance into such a cheap package. It even has a Optical Digital output to pump the sound into my surround sound HiFi. I watched The Aviator on it last night and there was no fragmentation, artifacting or dodgy colours. For £35! That's less than the cost of 3 DVD films. My last player cost £970. Me thinks I may have been ripped off last time.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Changing of the Guard

So Tim Henman crashes out of Wimbledon whilst new hope Andrew Murray defeats the 13th seed . Like most British folks, I suspect, I'm only really interested in tennis when Wimbledon comes round. But all these years of watching Henman have done nasty things to my nerves. Even when he is on top he still manages to throw sets away to make us think he is going to lose. So it is a breath of fresh air to see Murray winning in straight sets and never seeming to lose his confidence. That is not to knock Henman's achievements. Staying in the top 10 in the world for 10 years is an outstanding achievement. So even if Murray loses to Nalbandian in the next round I think it is fair to say that Murray has taken over from now on. It might take him a while to get into the top ten but I don't think his ranking of 313 will stay for very long.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Worst Road in the World

I have to travel from my home in South West London to the North quite a lot for customer meetings. Getting to the M1 which starts at the top of North London is a doddle. Just follow the North Circular road. Some bits of Hangar Lane are just a single lane, but for the most part it is two or three lanes. It's about 15 miles and normally takes me about half an hour.

But today I had to go south to Chelmsford so had to take the South Circular road to the Dartford tunnel and the M25. Again - this is about 15 miles but this morning it took me 1 and a half hours! In fairness there were road works in Wandsworth and Lewisham, but the real problem is that the South Circular isn't really a road - it is just a set of confusing road signs. I kept finding myself doubling back on myself when I hit signs that pointed left saying "South Circular (E)" and right saying "South Circular (W)". I don't know if I need to go East or West! Just tell me where they go to. Getting from the Dartford tunnel to Chelmsford which is 30 miles only took an additional 20 minutes. So today's lesson is if you have to travel from South West London to Essex - take the train.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


My good mate Glastonbury John (who ironically lives in Topsham) and his main squeeze Heather are in a bonkers punk band called the Reoffenders. They're mighty fine whether you like your Punk classic (as in the Pistols or The Clash) or modern (as in PJ Harvey or Hole). Anyway, John has just bought a PA system for the band from some geezer in Morden via the power of eBay. Now Morden (which if you don't know it is in South West London) and Topsham (which if you don't know it is just near Exeter) are about 200 miles apart so a trip for John to pick up the PA would be around 400 miles. Not ideal. So he asked me to pick it up and keep it for him until next time he is down in the Big Smoke. Morden is only 8 miles from Chez Ports.

Obviously my saint like generosity meant that I was only too happy to help out my chums. But also I was quite curious. I have never been to Morden but it was one of the areas Ali and I had considered moving to before we realised we could stay in Barnes (fingers crossed). How glad I am that we didn't move there. I have seldom been to a more soulless, featureless and frankly boring place. It is more suburban than Surbiton and that is saying something. It's no coincidence that Morden sounds so similar to Mordor. Don't go there. It's shit.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Bad Wolf

As the regular reader of this web log will know, I am a huge fan of the new series of Doctor Who. To bring the series back after 16 years and manage the amazing trick of appealing to the adults who remember the classic series and also to appeal to a new generation of children who are viewing it as something brand new is amazing.

Obviously the greater budget and improvements in technology have had a significant result on the look of the show especially the special effects. The writing has been excellent and under the stewardship of Russell T Davis, the series feels consistent and in safe hands. The acting and actors are brilliant and there are plenty of laughs, scares and surprises.

This is of course great news for a Whovian like myself. I so hoped that they would get it right and they have. But what has surprised and delighted me even more is how the show has adopted the Internet as an additional route to the viewers. It started of with the leaking of the first show "Rose" a couple of weeks before the premier. The BBC claims that this was unauthorized and that the person responsible had been sacked. I suspect that it was deliberate though, because it is a classic example of viral advertising, starting a movement on the Internet and generating massive media coverage.

It hasn't stopped there though. The amount of additional material, behind the scenes coverage and extras available on the official web site is quite staggering. It is also the first show I have ever seen that introduces a brand new theme for the site for every episode. That would be enough for any other TV show but they have also created other sites to support the series. For example the site Mickey is maintaining can be found at Who is Doctor Who and there is a real site for UNIT (the secure password is badwolf).

Observant viewers will have noticed a theme through the series of reference being made to "Bad Wolf". For weeks there as been intense speculation and debate on Internet forums and web logs about what Bad Wolf means. In the last episode The Doctor even comments on this, dismissing it as coincidence. Now there is a web site Bad Wolf that outlines the clues and proposes some theories. This site is also created by the BBC. I won't speculate here on what I think Bad Wolf means, but I applaud that brilliant use of new media. If you don't agree with me just try searching for "Doctor Who Bad Wolf" in Google and you will soon see how it has spread.