Archives for : Health

Pain Diary

I recently had the opportunity to answer questions about pain management and wearables.  Even if you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, I suspect most people are aware of the products.

Wearables are smart devices that are worn; fitness trackers, smart watches, health trackers etc. I’m not sure if those Bluetooth pills that are swallowed and feed back to a smartphone are strictly classified as wearable, but their benefits are definitely there.  Real time data is big business, and there are companies all over the world looking to cash in.  While many of those companies are profit based, some are more altruistic.  I certainly don’t have their budget but I wonder if the limited consumer gadgets I own could be put to use?

I’ve suffered with pain in my left knee after a road accident in 2007, pain in my lower back since around ’96 and my shoulder has dislocated at least since ’91.  I’d love to be able to walk, but the consultant at the Pain Clinic has told me it will never happen.  I’m taking it with a pinch of salt.  In 1974 my parents were told I wouldn’t survive the week.  I may be completely in denial, but I’d like to think that when it comes to medicine we can’t say never.  Putting aside the progress that’s being made in exoskeletons, I think the odds are against me but if I can help the medical profession find a trend then I’m going to do all I can.

Tasker already manages my medicines for me, announcing when they should be taken and nagging me if I’ve been unable to take them at a given time.  Tasker also allows me to manually record entries to my Pain Diary.  The entries update a text file (chosen for universal compatibility) via Dropbox, and also a privately shared Google calendar (accessible only via a private link). When combined with AutoPebble, medication notices can be pushed to the watch and actions taken.  I can notify Tasker that I’ve taken my meds, or to dismiss the alert and remind me later.  It also allows me to update my Pain Diary, all without taking my phone from my pocket.

Although the Pebble smart watch is renowned for its battery life, usually lasting 6 – 8 days, I’m not relying exclusively on it.  Using Tasker’s Scene functionality I can also have buttons pop up and update the Pain Diary straight from the phone’s home screen.  Because of the way Tasker works, that screen and all associated settings can be taken to a tablet or an upgraded phone in a couple of minutes.

Because of the way it’s set up I can add or remove items in the list very quickly. I can also type in rarer entries manually.  It has only really benefited me properly a couple of times, but those times have been worth it.  When a nurse asked how often I experience chest pains I was able to provide exact times and dates in a couple of minutes.

Obviously, this doesn’t have anywhere near the sophistication of what is achievable or even what’s currently in development. It has to be manually selected and doesn’t include heart rate, blood pressure, etc. but that’s not what I’ve set out to do. This started as a means for me to keep a personal record of when I’m in the most pain.  Providing the Pain Clinic with the entries is just an added bonus.

Finally quit

After three weeks the Tasks and Profiles in Tasker (an automation app for smartphones) have been removed.  All links between the PC’s, TV, tablets, watch and phones relating to having a smoke are deleted.  No longer can I soak in the tub, press a button on my watch and ask my other (better) half if she wants to join me for a smoke.  No longer can texts or AutoRemote messages be sent.  No longer can I automatically log my location at the Cuban Cigar Club with FourSquare.  Those who know me will testify to how rarely this happens.

I didn’t really want to quit smoking.  I loved it.  It was only really the finances that dictated the necessity to give them up.  The thing is, if you’re going to do something then make the effort.  Doing something half-hearted based on the fact that you didn’t want to do it in the first place is something that belongs in your childhood.  You certainly should have outgrown it by the time you enter your thirties (much less my age).

So, the final act of acceptance has been made.  I’ve deleted something from Tasker.

If you’ve missed the previous entries on smoking/quitting then you should know I hold vapes and Doctor Mike Evans responsible for my success.

Smoking Days 3 & 4

It’s been an odd couple of days. The support from others who either like the idea of me quitting smoking, and/or have been through this themselves has surprised me. It seems that everyone is behind this endeavour.

I’ve found myself more agitated. Things don’t annoy me per se, but they’re bugging me. Thankfully they’re not building up to the point where I’m exploding, but I’m more on edge. My partner and son are brilliant. They’re even more understanding and compassionate.

The surprising thing is that I can’t say I’m scraping the walls or turning the house upside down for a smoke. I’ve not had those particular cravings. We’ll have to see what the next few days bring. Hopefully it won’t be too long before my system stabilises.  In the mean time, the video from @DocMikeEvans can be found [here]


2014 has been an odd year.

  • Google made contact lenses with Google Glass tech.
  • Samsung and Cisco agreed to share patents (or at least not sue over them).
  • We learned a quarter of Americans think the Sun orbits the Earth.
  • The world’s first Braille mobile phone became available.
  • One of my Billy Connolly audio tapes got snapped, shredded and spat out.
  • Iain Duncan Smith was called to account for using misleading ‘statistics’ to justify his actions.
  • We visited Cragside, and I had the chance to tick “ride in Lord Armstrong’s lift” off my bucket list.
  • Vegan friendly cheese was grown in a lab.
  • Gaza disgusted the world with its unrelenting attack on Palestine.
  • The 3Doodler (3D printing pen) went on sale.
  • Vapes are exempt from the indoor smoking ban.
  • Workfare schemes were deemed illegal.
  • George Takei got slammed for his bullying of the disabled.
  • Skellow and Greggs made the headlines following their publicity on Google.
  • The iPhone 6 followed LG and Samsung’s curved screen approach.
  • Scotland’s referendum voted to remain part of the UK.
  • Apple’s proved their patents are more secure than your data when their iCloud got hacked.
  • Australia proved solar power could replace fossil fuels.
  • @CassetteBoy’s David Cameron video went viral just as David Cameron was criticised for holding a £25,000 champagne party immediately before announcing benefit cuts.
  • Sainsbury’s launched the best Christmas advert I’ve ever seen, while Famous Grouse went mainstream.
  • Ghostbusters reached 30.
  • Three years to the day after we met, we got engaged.
  • And after nearly 20 years, I’m giving up smoking.

Let’s hope that 2015 will be just as interesting. Hopefully in a good way. Personally, I can’t wait to get my hoverboard.

Happy New Year!


Having already tried different batteries, tanks and liquids, I’ve found some more effective than others. The 650mAH batteries are great if you’re just starting to vape. They, with the CE4’s, will give you an idea of how it compares to smoking. Unfortunately, apart from fitting in almost any pocket they’re not much use. Everyone will tell you to buy the best you can afford. I’m not different. Like many others, I tried the 650’s and CE4 tanks, but once you know you’re going to keep vaping I’d recommend an 1,100mAH Passthrough battery. They’re almost twice as long but they’re less likely to give up on you half way through the day. Even when they do drain they can be used whilst charging (it’s best to give them a few minutes after plugging them in). I picked mine up for under a tenner from eBay.

Pipe mod battery with Aspire ET-S

Pipe mod battery with Aspire ET-S

For a bit of novelty I also have a pipe mod. It’s a short, stubby 900mAH battery with a side fitting for the tank. You don’t have a built in circuit though, so it will keep powering the coil all the time the button is pressed (mechanical mod). You notice the difference between it and the 1,100mAH passthrough in both less power and the weight, but I love it dearly. The main down side to the pipe is that it has only the 510 fitting (smaller internal thread), but adaptors for the eGo (larger external thread) tanks are only a couple of quid off eBay.

After looking around eBay and Amazon, I stumbled upon a passthrough ‘bullet’ cable. It fits straight in to the USB port on your PC, and removes the reliance on a battery. While the packaging claims it is variable voltage, I’ve found it to be either inaccurate, exaggerated lies, or faulty as of the options: 3.0V, 3.6V, 4.2V and 4.8V, it would appear to offer 3.0V only.

I’ve only just got the itazte MVP 2.0, a 2600mAH battery with variable voltage and amperage but after the first press of the button it leaves you with a huge impression. It has a 510/eGo port on the top and even a USB port on the bottom to charge your phone/tablet or pretty much anything. It even has a counter to see how many times it’s been pressed. It resets after being turned off, but it’s a great little feature. I’m wondering how the USB output would stand up to the USB bullet, having two tanks connected to the one battery. That’s something for later.

We currently use Aspire ET-S BDC tanks with all but one of our vapes. They’re reliable, sturdy and give you a much more vibrant flavour than the CE4 tanks. Being metal they can almost numb your lips in the winter, but that’s pretty much the only down-side I’ve found with them. They can be topped up and the coil can even be replaced without having to drain the tank. We have different coloured tanks to identify which flavour is in which tank. Some are even Pyrex only (no metal case). It also helps that some of them are branded with the seller’s name and logo.

We’ve tried several flavours. Some aren’t bought again but the majority are pretty much on the nose. The chocolate is more chocolate syrup, the kind you’d use on ice cream. King of Cigar is closer to a Cohiba than Rocky Patel, but it’s still very pleasant. Menthol is as you’d expect, a minty vapour that reaches the back of your nose. Liquorice is a milder version than anticipated, and doesn’t taste nice at all when it dry burns. Neither does the RY4, a bitter disappointment. Western Conqueror split these judges, I like it, my better half doesn’t; it’s a tobacco flavoured vape with an after taste of mild chocolate. The Lemon liquid is hard to describe, it’s not a sweet lemon, but definitely more burnt than I expected.
My better half likes the Cherry Bakewell and Parma Violet liquids. They’re bloody revolting in my opinion, but that’s why you have to try these things yourself. Not everyone has the same tastes. It’s worth mentioning that the Pipe flavour is bang on. If you’re a pipe smoker and favour Clan with a hint of [possibly Condor], then you’re in luck. Despite some liquids, Menthol for instance, being almost completely perfect, the Pipe is the one that most matches my expectations, tasting exactly as described.

If you’re considering vaping as a means of giving up smoking then the best advice I can offer is this:
Either ask someone you know if you can try theirs, or get a cheap set up to try it yourself. This isn’t something that you can easily cut costs though. I’ve found that the more money you spend, the better the experience.
[If anyone is interested and wants to try anything we’ve got, just give us a heads up and pop round. We’re more than happy to help out.]

Final Smoke

It is my intention to give up smoking on the 31st December this year. It’s not something I want to do. If we had the money I’d keep smoking until my dying breath, but wishing for a lottery win isn’t going to get us anywhere.

When I started smoking back in 1994 it was a social event. There was always someone close by to smoke with. You didn’t have to go outside in bad weather, and while it wasn’t a written rule, there were some places where you just didn’t smoke. You could smoke in shopping centres, but nobody smoked in the shop itself. Smoke breaks were spent with colleagues, or sometimes you’d find yourself smoking with someone who shared the building, but from another company. You’d talk, share problems, and more often than not return to your desk with a fresh perspective or even the solution. It was genial, social, pleasant. With this in mind I’ve decided to not spend my last smoke alone.

I’ve decided to smoke with someone who can offer the same intellectual conversation that used to take place 20 years ago. My last smoke will be with my (soon to be) father in law.

My first smoke was a Hamlet Reserve. Since then I’ve changed brands a number of times, often due to the termination of a line or even the brand itself. I’ve tried cigarettes but didn’t find them to my taste. I’ve also bought a few pipes and have tried numerous variations of pipe baccy. I still have some. It’s always been cigars that I’ve gone back to, from cigarillos to coronas. With this in mind, it’s the Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 (Toro), bought from the Cuban Cigar Club in Newcastle that I’ve chosen as my last smoke.

From the 1st January 2015 I’ll be using vapes exclusively. Watch this space.

Final vice

It is with great reluctance that after nearly 20 years, I’m going to try to give up smoking next year.

Many of you will associate me with smoking.  The person who always carries a lighter.  The trouble is, it’s just too expensive.  In the last few years, the prices have been jacked up and up and it’s reached that point where it’s just not economically viable.  I can no longer continue with my last remaining vice.  My last smoke will be on New Year’s Eve.  Of course, for the time being, vaping is still an option.

I’ve been vaping more and more since trying it almost a year ago.  I’m still getting the nicotine in my system, but it’s far better for me.  Smokers are now looked on almost like lepers, but if you know me, you’ll know I really don’t care.  On face value, vaping can look similar, but in reality it has little in common. For one, it’s healthier for both the person vaping and the people around them.  The ‘second-hand smoking’ issue is immediately rendered moot.  Keep in mind, this is water vapour.  You get vapour from hot food, showers, baths, coffee, tea etc.  When you consider holding your breath while holding a cup of coffee, or holding your breath in the shower, you start to appreciate how absurd it really is.

The nicotine levels are easier to control.  They range from 24mg down to nothing at all.  Yes, that’s right, some vapers (people who vape) are using liquid/juice that is completely nicotine free.

It’s unfortunate that the media have branded vapes as “electronic cigarettes”.  E-cigs and vapes are very similar, in that they both use liquid, rapidly heated so it becomes vapour, which is inhaled.  But, in reality, they’re closer to nicotine inhalers than anything else.

Of course they must been seen in a negative light, partly because they can look like smoking, but I think it’s mostly because David Cameron needs his insanely high levels of tax currently on tobacco products.

Vape UsersThe media scaremongering will try to tell you that people will take up the craze because it “looks cool” or is fashionable.  Mass hoards will go out to buy these devices and the liquid to fit in, and more people than ever will be addicted to nicotine.  In truth, the Office of National Statistics prove only 0.14% of vapers have never smoked.
What’s not mentioned is the nicotine levels in the e-liquid used by this group.  I’d be amazed if any nicotine was found at all.

So, hopefully you’ve learned a few truths about vaping.  As I mentioned, quitting smoking is not something I want to do.  I’ve never wanted to be a quitter, but with prices as they are, I’m left with little choice.

Safer smoking

People all over Great Britain have been, and are, quitting smoking or reducing their smoking via electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) and vapes.  [The only difference is the e-cigs look like cigarettes].  They use batteries to charge a coil.  The coil heats up the liquid, turning it to vapour which is then inhaled.

Vapes can contain different levels of nicotine, from 24mg down to none at all.  [I know people who use nicotine free liquid as they want to quit the habit but not the experience.]  It’s also better for everyone else as the second-hand smoke issue no longer exists.

The trouble is, as the Guardian highlights, USB chargers (for anything) aren’t always safe.  Aside from the batteries heating as they charge, there’s the risk of malware.  This can turn your nice new PC in to anything from a host for annoying adverts (are they any other kind?) to a means of giving unknown levels of control of your data to someone half way around the world.  However, the solution is simple.

Any USB hub can remedy this for you.  Grab yourself a cheap USB hub, take it apart and cut the middle two cables.  Leave only the red and black cables intact (1 and 4).  Put it back together again and your USB hub can charge your devices without any data being transferred.  If any adware/malware/Trojan horses or viruses are hard-coded into the charger, they can’t go anywhere.

Of course, the alternative is to never charge anything from your PC, but we don’t always have that option.