Smoking, hard hats and the cane

I received an email a few weeks ago.

It was simple enough – would I be kind enough to do an interview?

I was in a good mood at the time so I agreed, despite the fact that I invariably decline such requests.  I am learning that a lot of my problems stem from agreeing to something while in a good mood, so from now on, good moods are out.

Naturally I asked what the interview was about and the answer was rather vague.  It was to be about my general attitude to life and stuff I write about, which is about as vague as anyone can get.

Now I hadn't used Skype on this laptop before.  On previous laptops I just slotted in my microphone and my earphones and away I went.  It transpires [and I never noticed this before] that there is only one little socket.  After a bit of exploring I realised that the socket combined microphone and earphones so how the fuck do I put two plugs into one socket?  In the end, I used the fiddley little  thing that came with my mobile phone.  It worked, but the little bean things I had to stick in my ears kept falling out.

Anyhows, I got Skype working and we started the interview.

He launched straight into a piece I had scribbled about being a discriminated smoker.

The feeling I got was that I had been invited to play a game.  Only when I got onto the pitch, was I told the game was soccer.  OK, that's fine, but a couple of minutes later I'm told that the game is actually cricket so I have to do a rapid adjustment.  Two minutes later I find myself playing rugby, followed buy American football followed by tiddlywinks.  To say it was confusing was putting it very mildly.

What made things even worse was that William [the interviewer] not only knew exactly what he was going to ask next but the little sleeveen had researched each one.  When I call him a sleeveen, I am being very polite; God knows why?

Things weren't helped by the hangover and the fact that the little beans kept falling out of my ear. 

I got another email when I got back on Monday.  I had hoped he had forgotten all about the interview and had moved on to better things, but the email informed me that he hadn't.  He had published it.

You can find the original here.

However, I have done a bit of editing [if he can do it then so can I] and have removed half an hour of politicians [oh that I could do that in real life] and here is the result –


Go to Hell

I read some sad news today.

I was reading through the various sites when I came across this piece from Ian.

I hate hearing about the death of a pet, and in particular a dog.  I tend to grieve a lot more for dogs than for humans and I think it's tragic that dogs have such a relatively short lifespan.

However, his article got me thinking on the subject of Heaven. 

I am not what anyone would call a religious person.  I was brought up as a Catholic and as a kid I was taught that Heaven was all clouds and harps and sitting at the foot of God staring up at him for all eternity.  Even before my age reached double figures it struck me that that sounded like absolute and utter torture, akin to being permanently water boarded with no respite.  It was the beginning of my downfall from Devout Catholic to Devout Agnostic and thence to Devout whatever.  I don't know what I am now.  I have been described as an atheist, an agnostic, a pagan, a humanist and a few other less flattering names.  Basically it doesn't concern me.  I live my life as I see right and if there is a god who is going to judge purely by what flavour of religion I follow then he isn't my kind of god.

Death though is a certainty and not believing in it isn't going to help very much.  But what comes after?

I don't know, and nor does anyone else.  Maybe there's an afterlife and maybe there isn't.  The only people who can possibly tell us are those very people who can't tell us, because they're dead.  The ultimate paradox.

Suppose there is an afterlife?  Suppose it is what the majority of religions preach – a place of eternal happiness?  This begs Ian's question – will you meet your dog in Heaven?  Or is it some kind of place where there are rules about dogs?

If there is a Heaven [if there isn’t an afterlife then after I’m dead I won’t exactly worry about it] then in my book it is a very simple place to describe.  It is, to all intents and purposes your idea of an ideal place.  If you love dogs then your dogs will be with you.  If you hate dogs then Heaven will be a dog-free zone.  In other words, Heaven adapts to the individual and there are as many Heavens as there are dead people.  If for some strange reason you want me to be with you in your afterlife then I will be, though I won't be aware of the fact because I'll be in my own Heaven.

Maybe I'm already there?  Maybe I feature in my mother's, father's or sister's afterlife and have been with them since they died?  That's fine by me and I'll probably return the favour when it's my turn.

What kind of place would it be?  Well, that depends on your imagination.  To me it would be the familiarity of Ireland with the climate of France with a perpetually changing landscape of mountains French villages, Irish pubs, rocky shorelines and when I get bored with any of those I invent my own perfect place.  I shall live [?] there with all the people I have known and loved and that includes of course my dogs [and guinea pigs and hedgehogs].  If one of my friend’s ideal of Heaven is to live on the Arctic ice-cap then he [or she] will be there in their own Heaven while my version of them will be happy to be in my zone.

A few times I have seen people arriving at this site having asked the simple question – "Can you smoke in Heaven?".  My answer is of course you can.  There will be a limitless supply of the perfect baccy and your lighter will never run out of fuel or flints.  There won't be the slightest worry about health because you are after all, dead.  All those around you will love the scent of burning tobacco and will never raise an eyebrow when you light up. 

But what about the Anti-smokers?  These are the people who believe they have a moral right to be superior and are only happy when they are torturing people.  Their idea of perpetual happiness is to be sticking pins in those of us who don't conform to their ideals.  How can they possibly exist in a place where the rest of us don't give a damn because we are permanently in a state of bliss with not a care in the world heaven and not an Anti-Smoker to be seen.  The answer is of course that they have to have their own special place where they can live out Eternity torturing people.

I'll call that place Hell.


Questioning the questionnaire

I have a big problem with questionnaires.

It's not that I do very many, but rather the fact that questionnaires make up a large portion of the "evidence" that is used by the Nannys to try to control my life.

Life consists of an almost infinite number of variables.  No two people are the same, so essentially any questionnaire should consist of an almost infinite number of options to each question.

I came across a very interesting example.

This questionnaire purports to predict the chances of dying within the next five years.  Now I would have thought that such a prediction would depend on a vast number of variables, yet somehow they base their predictions on a dozen or so questions.

The first two questions are pretty obvious – age and gender – but then, out of left field they ask how many cars I have!  Now I'm sure there is some logic behind this but let's concentrate on the question.  I am asked whether I have none, 1, 2, 3 or 4 or more.  They don't however ask any details.  I could own a car hire firm but prefer to walk everywhere, or I could have a garden full of rusting old wrecks.  Or maybe I'm a classic car collector but never use them except for special occasions?  Any of those options would result in an answer of 4 or more, but wouldn't impact on my health, or any other aspect of my life.

Anyhows, we pass trough another couple of straightforward questions until we come to our old friend – Do you smoke tobacco now?  There are only three options – basically Yes, Occasionally or No. 

I have a huge problem with this.  For a start, what is "occasionally"?  Does that mean twenty a day, or one a week?  When does "occasionally" become "regularly"? How many forty a day smokers would class themselves as an "occasional" smoker, simply because they don't smoke sixty?

That apart, they don't mention what kind of smoking.  I don't think anyone will disagree that there is a major difference between pipes, cigars, cigarettes and roll-your-owns, yet all are lumped into the same basket.  There is a great danger here that a cigar aficionado could be dumped into the same category as a fifty a day smoker of max-strength cigarettes.  There's no mention of inhaling either which is a slight omission?

But then we come to our walking habits.  Am I a "slow", steady" or "brisk" walker?  [I presume “none of the above” is for wheelchair users and people who can teleport?].  I would class myself as a steady walker sometimes and brisk at others.  If I'm with someone they invariably shout at me to slow down as my "steady" is their "brisk" and my "brisk" leaves them gasping in a heap.  The advantage if long legs?  If I'm with the dog I'm "slow" because she has to stop ever few yards to sniff some poo or pee on the pavement.  So what the hell do I answer to this one?  Apparently this is one of the major defining questions so a wrong answer can knock years off my life.

Then we have a few medical questions which again are a little simplistic.  If I haven't had diabetes, a stroke, cancer, angina or a couple of others then I'm fine, despite the fact that I could have some degenerative ailment which isn't mentioned. 

Then we have what I would call the "experience" question.  They ask if I have suffered a bereavement, an injury, a divorce or financial difficulties which is presumably designed to check for stress.  They leave out a whole load of other very high stress causes though.  They don't make any mention of moving house [near the top of the list for stress levels] for example. What if I am just about to face a major court case, with a real threat of imprisonment [relatively common these days with so many people in financial difficulties].  Come to think of it, what are "financial difficulties"?  Is my house about to be repossessed or am I just a bit overdrawn on my credit card?

They are some of the questions that are asked, but what about the questions that aren't asked?  Where is the mention of genetics or mental wellbeing?  I would have thought that someone with acute depression would be a higher risk than someone with too many [or too few] cars?  And what about lifestyle?  Again, there would be a huge difference in life expectancy between a sky-diver and a crown green bowler?

So here we have a questionnaire which illustrates the problem with all questionnaires – the questions are far too general and it relies totally on the honesty [and subjective judgment] of the victim.  While I'm not questioning the validity of this particular example, I am saying that it illustrates how a questionnaire can be easily slanted in favour of the expected result [the old “when did you stop beating your wife” syndrome].

Incidentally, I did the test and was as honest as it permitted.  I'm apparently younger than I thought [smoking apparently doesn’t that big an impact as I tried as a smoker and a non-smoker] and there is only a 6.3% chance I'll be dead in five years.

Or to put it in another way, there is a 93.7% chance I'll still be around annoying the hell out of everyone.

Quite good odds?

World No Tobacco Day

Today is World No Tobacco Day.


I just checked the cupboard where I keep my supplies and my stash is still there so it seems their little ploy isn't working.

The WHO are celebrating today by screaming about the illegal trade in tobacco.  They are also screaming about wanting to increase the cost of the said tobacco.  Now in the hermetically sealed world of the Tobacco Control Industry, this may make sense, but in the real world the laws of economics apply – if your prices are too high then your customers will go elsewhere and you don't combat this by raising your prices further.  Elementary, my dear Watson.

Of course the WHO have the ides that if you keep raising prices and stop the illicit trade that people will be forced to quit smoking.  This ain't gonna happen for the simple reason that if there is a demand, there will be a supply and the more they clamp down on smuggling, the more devious the smugglers will become.  The more the price is increased, the greater the incentive to smuggle.

Today is also the day that ASH starts its "Wrinkler" campaign.  Doubtless Twitter will be alive with the anti-smokers hugging each other and congratulating themselves on this stroke of genius?  They will all tweet about how funny it is and how clever it is and I'm happy for them.  It's nice to see something bringing some joy into their sad little lives. 

For a while now they have been hauling some bloke around the States dressed as a pink blob.  I'm not quite sure of the concept here and I'm not sure what impact a pink blob will have on the world at large, but the Antis were having orgasms over him and frantically tweeted about him at every opportunity.  But there again I get the strong impression that these gimmicks are just for their own amusement and a good way to spend the massive grants they get from the taxpayers' ill gotten gains.

Pink Blob

The face of ASH?

At least the Wrinker thing will give the bloke in the blob a bit of a rest?  Poor chap.

I have seen that Wrinkler video described as a "hilarious parody" [hilarious??].  Does that make my wee post on Friday a hilarious parody on a hilarious parody? 

I did a wee search for "the wrinkler" on Google yesterday.

My little effort appeared on the first page in the top ten alongside ASH..

I'm expecting some traffic from that.

Don't fuck with a professional!!


The Wrinkler

Those lovely people in ASH have come up with an absolute whiz of an idea.

They are all giggly and slapping each other on the back and hugging each other and saying how excited they are and this is a cracker of an idea and it is sooooo funny.

They are going to launch their new campaign called "The Wrinkler" and they cannot wait until the big day.

They are going to advertise cigarettes and tell us all how those cigarettes will give us wrinkles!

Now I thought advertising cigarettes for any reason was banned, but if they can do it, then so can I –

OK, so this is more of an advertisement for Photoshop than cigarettes so maybe that's how they get around the law, but is there a grain of truth in their presentation?  Do cigarettes in fact cause wrinkles?

I decided to have a look.

Now it's not easy finding photographs of people who do or do not smoke as they tend not to advertise that aspect of themselves either way, but I persevered.


James Reilly

OMG!!  Would you just look at the poor wretch!  Look at those ghastly wrinkles and the blotchy skin.  Look at the nicotine stained hair!  The poor man.  He looks as if he's in his seventies but hard though it is to believe, he is only 59!  The ravages of his smoking addiction have certainly left their mark there,


David Bowie

Good heavens, just look at the difference!  The smooth blemish free skin with just a few laughter wrinkles around the eyes.  The difference is incredible!  Now you will not believe this but this chap is 68!!  Yes – he is a full nine years older than our poor smoking wretch above, but just look at the difference between the complexion and hair!  He's maybe nine years older but he looks twenty years younger.  Who would think that those evil cigarettes could make such a difference?  He was very wise to stay off those disgusting cigarettes, wasn't he?

So maybe The Wrinkler works after all?

Whoda thunk it?