It’s Time For Peterborough STEM Festival 2018

October is always a big month for me. It was the month that I originally started working for myself full-time, eight years ago. And by the end of the month, I’d realised that there didn’t seem to be a local network for people working in digital, particularly those working alone at home. So I happened to contact web developer Jonathan Frascella, and that led to the first Digital People in Peteborough meetup.

Almost a decade later, and DPiP has continued to grow. The monthly meetup has expanded to 700+members and a non-profit company to support it. A few years ago, the very talented Tia from WhoAteMyCrayons got involved in Digital People in Peterborough, helping it to gain a lot of momentum. And then came up with the seemingly insane idea to create a free STEM Festival for children in the local area. Around a year later, Peterborough STEM Festival arrived in 2016.

After great success in 2016 and 2017, it’s time for Peterborough STEM Festival 2018. And if you’re connected to me on social media or know me offline, you’re hopefully aware of it already. I think I’ve managed to shoehorn it into every conversation I’ve had for a few months now. Because it’s an amazing achievement for everyone involved, and this year more than 3,000 free tickets have already been booked.

Peterborough STEM Festival 2018

If you’re able to make it, I highly suggest coming along. You just need to be accompanied by a child if you’ve over 18, so they can explain all the complicated science, tech, engineering and maths to you. There’s a huge amount happening, from TV presenter Maddie Moate and Horrible Science author Nick Arnold giving interactive talks to F1 simulators, forensic science, engineering experiments, virtual reality, retro gaming and more.

And if you’re interested in volunteering, exhibiting or sponsoring, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s incredibly rewarding to see children inspired and encouraged to get involved, ask questions and learn while having a great time.

It’s an amazing tribute to the current organising team of Jonathan, Andy Reedman (at Mind of Design), and Liz Randell (at LizCreates). And to Tia, who has since emigrated to New Zealand, and is now organising the Tauranga STEM Festival for 2019.

I’m pleased to be volunteering again for the third year, accompanied by my son. And he’s already coming up with ideas for how to market and promote the event for this year, and in 2019. Which makes me incredibly proud of my small contribution to DPiP and the STEM Festival.

And in a strange turn of events, Liz and I met via DPiP and began dating earlier this year. We now live together, and I’ve seen first hand how much time, effort and commitment it takes to organise an event of this scale and magnitude. Plus how it’s brought my family together with Liz and my son swapping marketing ideas. Which generally end up with him finding new ways to have fun at the event, and more work for her!

I can’t give enough credit to the organisers, sponsors, exhibitors and volunteers that make the STEM Festival and DPiP happen every year, but hopefully this blog post goes some way to saying thank you to everything they do.


My Longest and Most Favourite Email Chain

My girlfriend and I started dating early in 2018. There’s quite an interesting story behind how we ended up meeting, which I might share more one day. But for the purpose of this article, it’s enough to know we ended up living together pretty quickly. And we also both mainly work from home. So I’m not sure why my longest and most favourite email chain started, really. But it’s giving me a lot of inspiration for life and work.

We’re pretty good at expressing our feelings for each other in person. And that’s matched by messages by text, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram etc. We’ll work on opposite sides of the same room, listening to the same music, and stop to chat at lunch. So I’m not sure why I originally emailed her with a cool office supplies Twitter account (Present & Correct, if you’re interested), but I’m guessing she might have been asleep or possibly working upstairs (occasionally we do separate far enough to work in different rooms for some time apart).

Incidentally, the use of female pronouns is simply to acknowledge she’s slightly less public and prone to over sharing online than I am.

That was 6 months and 95 emails and replies ago. And the conversation originally entitled ‘You Might Like’ is still going strong.

My Longest and Most Favourite Email Chain

It’s an interesting and ever-expanding collection. Despite all the note taking and bookmarking tools around, we spend so much time in email inboxes, that it’s easiest. And after 15+ years online, I’ve had to find and forward countless old correspondences, but even on big projects they’ve faded out after a few months. And rarely covered everything from work to relationships, food to comedy, and everything in between.

I’ve sent useful links for her business, and her for mine. We’ve shared ideas for future homes and offices (although increasingly that’s moved to Pinterest). Occasionally it’s been suggestions for Digital People in Peterborough and Peterborough STEM Festival. Or a TV show we should watch, an excerpt from an article with something romantic, a tip on how to successfully have a relationship with a writer, and upcoming gigs we might like to go to…

The content of those emails is always interesting, useful or entertaining. It’s also often personal. But the email chain itself is also pretty inspiring.


How To Replicate That Email Chain For Work:

I love sharing stuff I think someone will find worthwhile. It might purely be to make them laugh. Or it could help their life in some way. It’s why I became a writer. I think most people like the idea of being seen and respected as some kind of expert, connoisseur or maven. It’s a key driver behind sharing on social media.

But it’s not the sharing that’s important.

It’s the personal response. If I kept bombarding my girlfriend with emails and she never responded, I’d get bored. If I blogged without seeing any effect, I’d give up (and many people do).

That’s why I’m still so bemused by publications with large and diverse audiences shutting off their comments and ditching their forums. Too often it’s seen as a cost and resource drain. Not something that should be evolving and improving. So rather than fix problems, the interaction gets scrapped, or exported to something like a Facebook Group. Where you end up with the same problems, but the company can just ignore them more easily.

And it’s also made me realise that the sharing, interaction and groups I’ve wanted to build around some of my own projects have slipped or fallen by the wayside for various reasons. Something like Disposable Media thrived most when a diverse group worked together to share the best of their collective consciousness.

I need to get back to that way of thinking more, for work and play.

It doesn’t always result in a sustainable business in itself. There have been plenty of attempts to build various longterm conversations that had to end because they couldn’t support themselves. But if you have a reasonable business model or a defined benefit then they work. It’s one reason why email newsletters have experienced a massive resurgence. I’ll skip over 50 corporate mass mailouts to read the latest from Our Man Inside when it arrives, for example.

Time to work out how to facilitate more of that kind of sharing and communication. And to find more fun stuff to email to my favourite person…..


A Year of Vaping – Not Smoking. Savings Made, Lessons Learned

Last week I reached the milestone of a year of vaping. That means 12 months since I last bought or smoked a full cigarette. I did have a total of about two puffs on a friend’s Marlboro Light around Christmas, and immediately handed it back purely out of preference. I don’t have a problem standing near people smoking. But it’s not something I ever want to do again. Meanwhile I’m still enjoying vaping as I learn new things about it. And at the same time, I’m reducing my nicotine intake.

A Year of Vaping - Hidden in the Clouds

My main aim was to stop smoking. Mainly for my own health, but also for those around me. And in that respect, vaping has worked perfectly. All impartial studies show the risks to me are greatly reduced. The same is true for family and friends. And there have been big financial savings as well.

To put it into context, I smoked for around 20 years. In that time, the longest I managed to quit smoking was a few months. And then fell right back into it. When I couldn’t vape recently due to potential conflicts with medication, it didn’t cross my mind, and even the lowest level of nicotine lozenges felt really strong…

A Year of Vaping – Savings and Stats:

  • 365 days since my last cigarette.
  • 5,475 cigarettes not smoked (average of 15 per day)
  • £2,737.50 cigarettes not bought (average of £10 per pack)
  • Total cost of vaping so far: Kit (inc 2 tanks) £92. Liquids and coils: £534.98. Total: £626.98.
  • Savings after 12 months: £2119.52
  • Average cost of vaping per month: £44.58. And average cost per day: £1.48
  • At an estimated potential of 10 minutes lower life expectancy per cigarette, I’ve now regained: 912.5 hours. Which is 38 days. Or 5.4 weeks of extra time on the planet.
  • Exercise: I haven’t kept up my exercise regime as well as I could have done, although I can definitely run further more easily. And that’s one of my next areas to focus on. In 12 months, I’ve only managed around 7,170 push ups and squats for various reasons, and I should have been closer to 10,000.

Still, saving more than £2000 by doing something which is actually better for me is pretty impressive. And it’s been completely painless for me. I know some people don’t get on with vaping, or find it more difficult. But I literally started vaping on a Saturday night before Fathers Day 2017 whilst still smoking (and drinking some beers at the pub), and the next day I just kept vaping.


A Year of Vaping – Lessons Learned and Effects:

I’ve regained my sense of smell and taste, which is handy for cooking. And life in general.

I don’t feel the cold as much. Which means I save on heating bills and don’t get woken up in the middle of the night with cramp in my feet.

And I also haven’t spent mornings hacking up the remnants of cigarettes from my lung, which means I’m a bit less sluggish.

Aside from remembering to stock up on coils and liquid, the only hassle from vaping is spending time researching and debating the health benefits with people who have only accepted some tabloid headlines. With nicotine as an active ingredient, vaping will never be healthy. But all impartial studies have shown it’s 90-95% healthier in the short to medium term. And the biggest health problem I’ve found is remembering to drink enough water.

Meanwhile I don’t build my own custom coils with exposed connections, so the risk of a battery exploding is roughly the same as for my mobile phone.

And the time spent learning and researching vaping has paid off a little. The vaping community is a pro-active one, and recently the nice people at e-cigarette Direct got in touch. They were kind enough to send me a free Innokin Pocketbox to review, along with with new eliquids to try. The full write-up is on Disposable Media, but essentially it’s a pretty decent vape kit for £25. Less than half of the amount I spent to get started. And while I still prefer my Aspire kit for everyday use, it shows just how quick and easy it is to get started now.

A Year of Vaping - Innokin PocketBox

I’ve found almost everyone in vaping has been really helpful.

That includes the staff at Nicogreen in Rochester, Kent. They got me started and had to deal with my inexperienced questions a fair bit. I’d link to their website, but it seems to be constantly offline at the moment. And since moving back to Peterborough, I’ve spent a lot of time chatting and buying new stuff from Central Vape Shop in the town centre, and the Vape Project in Werrington.

It’s also interesting seeing how engaged most vaping companies are, especially when I share anything on Instagram. All of the vaping companies are quick to pick up on anything posted, and often share mentions of their products.

Over time, I’ve slowly reduced the nicotine levels of the eqliuid I use from 12mg at the start. I went through 9mg and 6mg, and have settled on 3mg which is the lowest level usually available. I honestly can’t say if I’ve vaped so much more on 3mg that the actual levels are similar, but it’s coming down a little now. And partly that’s due to finding lots of really good flavours in the last few months.

And new flavours are great. Over time I realised that not only did smoking cause people to move away from the tobacco smell. But as I got older and had more and more parents as friends and colleagues, I understood why some of them weren’t keen on having their children near someone who smoked. I obviously didn’t smoke indoors, or near anyone when outside. But the smell and after-effects of tobacco linger so long…

By contrast, some of my family actually lean forwards or comment on how nice some of the vaping liquids smell. I’m a big fan of I VG, for example, who seem to always have refreshing fruit flavours. Like Blackberg (blackcurrant and blueberries), Blue Raspberry (raspberry,blueberry and mint), and the sadly discontinued Pineapple Blast (pineapple and menthol). Or Nasty Juice, whose Fat Boy Green Mango liquid is perfect with some craft ale. And I’ve recently discovered Zap Juice and their lychee and lemonade flavour, which is lovely, too.

As with vape kits and batteries, by buying from reputable companies and shops, I know that the products are compliant with the new Tobacco Products Directive laws. Which including testing all eliquids for sale in the UK.

A Year of Vaping - Vape Kit and Juice

And for the last 12 months, there hasn’t been any need to leave the house at midnight just to find a petrol station still open and buy cigarettes. Or spending an hour trying to find a lighter.


Will I Ever Smoke Again?

Short answer – No!

Even now, I occasionally get a psychological craving if I’m watching television or a film in which people are constantly smoking. But it lasts a few seconds at most, and vaping relieves that urge immediately. When I can’t vape because I’m stuck inside somewhere, or for other reasons, I’ll stick to some of the nicotine mini-lozenges if I really have to. Or just wait, because my nicotine cravings are much less than they used to be, after moving down eqliquid strengths.

Are there downsides to vaping?

It’s still not healthy to be inhaling nicotine, and vaping a lot can lead to a dry mouth and throat. Neither of which is great, but it does encourage drinking more water as a result.

And you do get people who either complain about you vaping in the open air (I don’t vape indoors around anyone). Or those who insist that having given up smoking, you should now immediately give up vaping. I understand where they’re coming from, but there’s no point in rushing to give up everything and relapsing straight away.

The only other downside to vaping is the constant amount of misinformation, often coming from the tobacco industry and studies they have sometimes covertly funded. And the fact it’s mispreported at face value in the media. 5 minutes checking the provenance and actual details of each study, and you find that there’s no evidence of any major health risk, no equivalence to smoking, and no proof that vaping has encouraged any significant number of people to start using a nicotine product if they didn’t already smoke.

There’s a hashtag on Instagram, #vapingsavedmylife. And while I wouldn’t quite go that far, it’s certainly improved it a hell of a lot, as well as saved me time and money.


Metronidazole And Vaping – Check Your Medicines

It was only by chance I discovered a potential link between Metronidazole and Vaping, so I thought it was worth sharing as a reminder to check any prescription medicine for potential interactions with eliquid ingredients. As a relatively new technology, many healthcare professionals aren’t necessarily aware they might need to warn vapers of any potential risks.

The issue came to light after a recent visit to my dentist. I’d been prescribed a short course of metronidazole and warned strongly to avoid alcohol. The reaction between the two is strong enough that you’re advised to even stay away from mouthwashes and cough remedies that contain alcohol. And to stick clear of it for 48 hours after your course of treatment has ended to allow the antibiotic to clear your system. Which is a bit depressing when it coincides with a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, but fair enough.

What I didn’t know until I happened to check online is that there’s also a potentially similar effect between metronidazole and propylene glycol. Which is a big ingredient in vaping liquids, sometimes along with ethanol.


Metronidazole And Vaping - Check Your Medicines Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

Most of the reports were via vaping forums. But there is also medical information regarding the interaction between metronidazole and propylene glycol. For example, the antibiotic is often supplied under the tradename Flagyl by Pfizer. And they supply some information suggesting propylene glycol carries the same risks as consuming alcohol.

Of course propylene glycol is found in lots of places, including alcohol-free mouthwash, for example. So that’s handy.

And further research only gets more complicated.

I’m not a doctor or medical professional. I’m also not a scientist. So the summary of the following is to simply do your own research and have that alongside the best advice from qualified medical sources (your doctor, dentist, pharmacist etc).

But it appears that the link between metronidazole and alcohol has varying effects, and some exceptions. So it might be that there’s a genetic or other reason why it’s potentially terrible for some people, and yet others can apparently drink without incident. Either way, you don’t really want to use yourself as a test subject.

And as the risk for propylene glycol appears to come from the same process as alcohol, in that metronidazole has an effect on the body metabolising it, then it’s potentially the case that not every vaper would experience the same level of effects.

There’s also more complications, in that the consumption of PG will vary between eating/drinking it, and how much is actually absorbed whilst vaping, the amount in your choice of liquid, and how regularly you vape during the day etc.

I spoke to my dental practice, who weren’t aware propylene glycol was a potential issue present in vaping liquid. I talked to my pharmacist who suggested quitting vaping for 24 hours before starting the course of metronidazole. And I chatted with a few people online, including some health professionals who happen to be friends.

In the end, I picked up a few packs of the tiny nicotine lozenges at the lowest strength available (After getting down to 3mg vape liquid, I don’t want to build up my nicotine addiction again). And then tried to vape as little as possible for 24 hours while using the lozenges.

I only had a 3 day course of metronidazole, so figured the build-up of propylene glycol shouldn’t be too bad. So I simply used lozenges as much as possible, and had a very occasional vape when the psychological addiction was really getting to me. On the first day I had approximately 10 inhales (compared to probably 10 an hour normally!), and no ill effects. By the third day, I was up to around 30 inhales, and still feeling fine. The lozenges were a bit of a hassle, but interestingly they felt a lot easier and more effective than when I tried using them to quit smoking directly.


The TL:DR Advice:

None of this is meant to be advice for anything relating to consuming propylene glycol, alcogol or vaping whilst on metanidazole or any other prescription medication.

The only advice I would say is that if you regularly vape, it’s worth checking for any possible interactions with anything you’re currently taking or prescribed in the future. As even if your doctor or dentist knows you vape (as mine did), they may not know what ingredients it involves. And then you can raise it as needed, do some research, and make the best decisions to minimise the risks and side effects.



What Maplin and Toys R Us Need to Do

It’s not a good time for physical retail in the UK at the moment. On top of business rate rises, the uncertainty of Brexit and dropping consumer spending, most potential customers are currently snowed in due to the weather. And if they do venture out, they’re panic buying bread and firewood. And then this week saw the news that Prezzo is closing 100 restaurants, and both Maplin and Toys R Us UK are heading into administration. While I don’t know how to help a restaurant chain, I do have ideas as to what Maplin and Toys R Us need to do if they want to survive.

What Maplin and Toys R Us Need to Do


What Can Toys R Us Do?

I’m old enough to remember when the first Toys R Us stores began appearing in the UK. And it was pretty special. It wasn’t magical in the same way as a pre-Christmas trip to Hamleys. That was always an outing similar to Harry Potter visiting Diagon Alley, with demonstrators throwing toys around the ground floor. Toys R Us was always about the overwhelming experience of a massive warehouse piled high with boxes, which worked well  30 years ago.

But it doesn’t work now.

Just as the inventory of Toys R Us gave it a big advantage over smaller, local toy shops which disappeared for a long time, so the almost infinite inventory online makes even a warehouse seem small. And a new generation of competitors has appeared with a slightly more diverse and interesting focus. After a pre-Christmas shopping trip or two, I found almost everything either online or in the likes of Smyths and the Entertainer which stocked slightly more niche toys. Meanwhile a lot of what was in Toys R Us isn’t just cheaper online, but it’s also found in the big supermarkets at a similar price or less. One recently closed seasonal Toys R Us in a Peterborough shopping centre not only had one toy missing from a set, but the missing figure was cheaper in the Tescos 300 yards away.

I’m not the only one that has the impression Toys R Us has stagnated, as articles on the BBC and the Guardian websites show. And the solution is pretty obvious. Put all that space to better use.

Smyths has capitalised better on current trends by monitoring the likes of Youtube. It isn’t hard, when for example, the Dude Perfect channel above has 27 million subscribers keen to see them do things with Nerf weapons, for example. So why does Toys R Us insist on having shelves filled with hundred of boxes of the same Nerf guns and bows I can also buy at Tescos, B&M and a million online retailers.

Stick the boxes out the back, or just offer next day delivery. And instead, set up a Nerf range in every store, with someone potentially able to demo and teach trick shots. Suddenly I not only have a reason to visit with my son, but also some free entertainment which keeps him busy, and means I’ll end up picking up some spare darts on each visit, if not a new gun, bow, targets, or other stuff to renact the trick shots at home. As the owner of a ridiculous amount of Nerf weapons, and still buying more, the idea of being able to use them without spending 30 minutes running around to pick up darts is an incentive in itself.

And why have bikes that can’t be ridden around enough to test properly? Or have Lego that you can’t actually play with? Or radio control vehicles and drones that can’t be tested before buying?

I don’t want to see 100 boxes on a shelf. I want to know that if I visit, I can find either the best toy, the cheapest toy, or something particularly cool, unusual or interesting.

Yes, there will be a cost in demo equipment and staffing. But it can still be profitable and sustainable. And it doesn’t all have to be the latest in high-end toys. Look at how many interesting channels are inspiring kids to play with toy cars again, for example.



What Can Maplin Do?

The demise of Maplin makes less sense than Toys R Us. Yes, it’s almost as easy to set up direct shipping from Shenzhen for a new tech device as it is to find a place to park in the local town centre. But although you can get lots of supplies, advice and tips online, sometimes it’s still helpful to get hands-on tuition and advice.

And the problems haven’t been attributed to the threat from online retailers, as the Maplin CEO has said in a statement quoted in this Wired article.

“The business has worked hard over recent months to mitigate a combination of impacts from sterling devaluation post Brexit, a weak consumer environment and the withdrawal of credit insurance,”

But again, there was a great opportunity here. The author on Wired talks about the advice for the older generation, but it’s as true for those younger as well. It’s not simply about being able to get the knowledge you need to make a purchase, but having a space to connect with other people interested in the same things.

And there are plenty of examples to prove this.

I’m involved with both Digital People in Peterborough, and Peterborough STEM Festival. Two incredibly successful non-profit events which bring together people around technology, digital, science etc. All things which could be done purely online perhaps. But which would then lose the chance to also make human connections, build offline friendships and be able to touch, play, and break things in person.

But what about retail? I’m mentioned the demos at the likes of Hamleys or the big Lego stores. But what about Games Workshop, which always has a group of tabletop and role-playing enthusiasts grouped around a table at the front of the store. It invites more people to come in and try gaming, and potentially become frequent customers.

Or my fairly recent investment and interest in vaping. Over the last 8 months, I’ve checked out reviews and tips online. And had advice from existing friends. But it’s still nice to pop into one of my friendly local shops to check out new products, chat, and occasionally get them to help me out with a problem or question. And it’s also just nice to be able to connect with the enthusiasts that tend to run the better vaping shops and find out what they’re up to. I can possibly save a couple of pounds each month ordering online, but it’s actually nice to catch up with the people who own and work in the shops.

Why isn’t Maplin supporting the likes of DPiP and Peterborough STEM Festival? Or running workshops on how to update your phone, use a 3D printer, or repair your hifi speaker cables? Where’s the weekend introduction to setting up a Raspberry Pi, or helping you out if you’ve struggled with one of the many cool circuit-board based projects you can order online? I recently had a go at building an electronic synth via Tech Will Save Us, and it was great fun. Right up to the point that it didn’t work when we’d finished. Fortunately, the lovely and thoughtful lady who bought the kit for my son and I as a present also happens to be a methodical and careful electronics hobbyist. So she went back through and remedied the wires I’d not connected quite far enough, and a capacitor I may have put around the wrong way. But in the absence of dating a patient and kind electronics geek, being able to actually pop into a local place for help would have been great in the gap until the next monthly DPiP meetup.

And it wouldn’t be too tough for Maplin to have a big trestle table at the front of the store and get an organisation like DPiP or similar to volunteer some people to come along. Or to hook up with local Coding Clubs, colleges, and other tech organisations.


The TL:DR for What Maplin and Toys R Us Need to Do:

It’s simple. Any retail business with physical stores needs to give people a good reason to pick them over ordering online.

And that means having a real, justifiable USP for the hassle of leaving the house and journeying into town. In the case of both Toys R Us and Maplin, that can’t be just having physical products available.

It has to be about offering something tangible that isn’t easily replicated online. And that’s always going to end up being about the human experience.

The saddest thing is that I’m not alone in talking about this years ago. For example, Becky Naylor back in 2013. In fact, if I can cope with the fairly wanky description I used back in 2009, the ‘bankruptcy of the non-descript‘, it’s something that’s been growing for 10+ years. If you haven’t got a clear proposition and a clear justification, then you probably won’t have a business fairly soon…



Photo by Marcela R on Unsplash

8 Months With Vaping, Not Smoking

It’s just about 8 months since I switched from smoking to vaping. I changed to stop my health declining, to avoid harming those around me, and to be able to lose the smell of old tobacco whereever I went after two decades of Marlboro abuse.

Last time I updated was just after my 40th birthday. Since then a few things have changed. I’ve moved house to be closer to my son, which meant packing up everything I owned and renting a property for the first time in years. It’s also meaned relocating my business, and starting to build up a new client base in Peterborough for the first time since I left about 7 years ago. I’ve got back involved with both Digital People in Peterborough and Peterborough STEM Festival. And most unexpected – I’ve been lucky enough to start a new relationship with a wonderful lady who is understanding, supportive and just all-around lovely. As a bonus, not only do we have similar interests, but we also both run similar businesses, so there’s a good understanding when one or both of us is sat at a laptop at 11.59pm on a Saturday night working on something important.

I’ve also learned and reinforced a few things about vaping.

  • Finding good local shops for advice is always handy. Big thanks to the friendly staff at The Vape Project in Werrington Centre, Peterborough, and the Central Vape Shop in Peterborough city centre.
  • Switching brands means experimenting with new flavours. I’d been using Ultimate for ages, and switching to different brands means that some flavours, like Blackcurrant, just didn’t work at all from a different company. In fact, it was pretty awful. Fortunately, I’ve now discovered a new selection that works – current favourites include Zeus Juice ‘The Black’ blackcurrant and menthol (despite hating menthol flavours usually), Nasty Juice Green Mango, and Dream Mist Peach and Pineapple Coconut Rum….
  • Check before buying and fitting the wrong ohm coils. I wondered why one vape kit seemed utterly clogged and useless before finally spotting I’d bought 1.6 coils, not the usual 1.8 or 0.7. After adjusting the wattage on the kit, they were usable again, if not as nice as the others…
  • Don’t fit an old, loose 1.8 coil you have laying around at the bottom of an old box, because it turns out you probably swapped it out a while ago because it was worn out…
  • Expect that sons and girlfriends will take an increasinly active role in dictating what flavours you are allowed to vape around them – even if you don’t vape near them.
  • And try not to get annoyed at all of the misinformation about vaping. Cancer Research in the UK has been sharing advice about using vaping to quit smoking, and every post gets endless Facebook comments about myths and half-truths. I’m not a doctor or health expert, but I’ve put in substantial time to read as much of the available medical research online etc, and there’s a wide and well supported body of evidence for the benefits when compared to smoking. And nothing that suggests any short or medium term issues unrelated to nicotine – which is the main active ingredient in vaping for obvious reasons.

Incidentally, if any vaping brands etc need any help with marketing, do get in touch. My business website is still TheWayoftheWeb.

8 Months Vaping and Not Smoking




8 Months Vaping Stats:

  • 244 days since my last cigarette
  • 3,660 cigarettes not smoked (average of 15 per day)
  • £1,830 cigarettes not bought (average of £10 per pack of Marlboro)
  • Total cost of vaping so far: Kit (inc 2 tanks) £92. Liquids and coils: £314.98. Total: £406.98.
  • Savings after 8 months: £1,423.02
  • At 10 minutes per cigarette, I’ve now potentially regained: 610 hours of life. Which is 25.41 days. Or 2-3 weeks of potential life expectancy.
  • Exercise: Still not ideal, but by hitting 50 push-ups and squats when I have been committed, I can still just about claim a 30 per day average despite some unrelated injuries. Which is 5,970 push-ups and squats. The aim is to manage somewhere around 75-100 every day in future.

Turning 40 and Reaching 5 Months of Vaping

I recently turned 40. Which means my thoughts have oscillated between deciding it’s just an arbitrary number and cataloguing the achievements I hoped to accomplish by now. Should I see it as a major turning point at which life begins, or a sad realisation that I can no longer aspire to be listed as a ‘top 30 under 30’ or ‘top 40 under 40’ in anything? And that’s not helped by by dreaming subconscious apparently reliving my teenage and student years through the lens of John Hughes in the sleeping adventures I can remember when I wake up.

But there are positives I can focus on. If I had to pick a time when my life began, it would be when my son was born – rather than an arbitrary round number of years since my mother began years of hard work to support alongside my dad. My business adventures are not the most wildly successful in history, but they continue, and they’ve helped others achieve impressive success with contributions both large and small. I haven’t managed my childhood dream of creating an amazing novel or screenplay. But I did appear for a few seconds in a British film with featured names you might actually recognise, and have got to know some very talented writers who have inspired me to improve my fiction. And having played a small part in getting some geeks to meet up at a local pub, it’s now a thriving monthly gathering and an annual STEM festival attracting hundreds of children and their families.

Most of all my son is growing from a very cute child (I’m biased, I know), into a very intelligent, sociable and confident young man.

And I’ve got a growing awareness of the things I can control and work on, and what I need to accept and adapt to. I can’t control the events of life, only how I react and deal with them. And that has meant building up my persistance and determination even as I’ve encountered the loss of family members or friends.

That includes celebrating the smaller victories. To write a novel, or build a business, means maintaining momentum over a long period by gaining fuel from the small accomplishments each day. Enjoying each step on the journey, whether it’s completing a page, finishing a task, or even managing client communication and billing.

A shared pre-40 celebration with 4 of my oldest friends earlier this year

A shared pre-40 celebration with 4 of my oldest friends earlier this year

One of those things that I’ve been tracking and celebrating to keep up my enthusiasm has been my switch from smoking to vaping. And I can take some pride in the fact that not only have my ex and her partner also switched – meaning my son no longer has any smokers in his immediate family circle, but I’ve even had a few people contact me via Facebook etc to say they’ve been following what I’ve been doing and it’s helped or inspired them to either quit smoking, quit any nicotine delivery, or to share it with friends they’d like to encourage to stop smoking.

With that in mind, here’s the latest progress….

Turning 40 and Reaching 5 Months of Vaping

  • 152 days since my last cigarette.
  • 2,280 cigarettes not smoked. (Average of 15 per day)
  • £1,140 cigarettes not bought (Average of £10 per pack of Marlboro)
  • Total cost of vaping so far: Kit (inc 2 tanks) £92. Liquids and coils: £222.48. Total: £314.48.
  • Savings after 5 months: £825.52
  • At 10 minutes per cigarette, I’ve now potentially regained: 380 hours of life. Which is 15.83 days. Or just over 2 weeks of potential life expectancy.
  • Exercise: I’ve had to take more pauses than I’d like due to some joint/muscle issues. But 107 days of exercise in total still means I’ve managed roughly 3,000 push-ups and squats. And I’m glad to have pushed towards 50 every day to allow me to have the odd recovery period and still achieve an overall 30 per day average…

4 Months of Vaping

Today marks 4 months since I switched from smoking to vaping. Or 122 days exactly. And I’m still sticking with it pretty easily after 4 months of vaping.

Occasionally I still get an occasional hankering for a cigarette, but it’s easily dismissed. And I don’t get the cravings I associated with previous attempts to go cold turkey. Or even from nicotine replacement like lozenges or patches. Because while they supplied the nicotine, they didn’t give me a reason to get away from my desk, go outside and do some deep breathing to collect my thoughts.

4 Months of Vaping

Or to occasionally amuse my son by blowing smoke out of my nostrils ‘like a dragon’.

So how does that translate into progress?

4 Months of Vaping Totals:

  • Roughly 1,830 cigarettes not smoked (I was on around 15 a day)
  • And £915 cigarettes not bought (At £10 for a pack of Marlboro)
  • Total cost of vaping so far: Kit (inc 2 tanks) £92. Liquids and coils: £198.48. Total: £290.48.
  • Savings by switching after 4 months: £624.52
  • At 10 minutes per cigarettes, I’ve regained 305 hours. Or 12.7 days
  • And my exercise regime is now regularly over 50 push-ups and squats per day. Not quite enough for me to bump up my average yet (and I can’t be bothered to track every single day). So roughly in 77 days, 2,482 push-ups and 2,482 squats. And I’ve started doing some hamstring raises while I’m out vaping anyway…

So pretty good.

Having experimented with some other flavours, I’ve not found anything yet to justify the extra price and shorter coil life. And I’m still not switching to Direct to Lung (DTL) and chasing huge clouds of vapour yet. So I’d imagine I’ll stick with 6mg nicotine eliquid until after Christmas. Still half of what I was on for the first couple of months.

And I’m still happy with my vaping kit. Which, for the record is:

And so far, the only consumables have been some replacement coils, despite constant use.

I’ve mentioned the health improvements I’ve noticed before. One thing I’ve also started to notice is that I’m not waking up craving nicotine and caffeine as I did in the past. After 8 hours of sleep following my last cigarette, it would generally be the first thing I’d do as soon as my eyes opened.

I still tend to have an early morning vape. But that can be within an hour or two of waking up. And I don’t feel the need for caffeine until the afternoon, as opposed to requiring it early in the day to function.

And the good news is also that one of the main concerns regarding vaping is being slowly addressed. The issue tends to be that normal ingredients can take on different properties when heated, leading to undesirable compounds which could be harmful. So alongside any retailer/producer testing, the recent EU TPD regulations now require some emissions testing for products to comply.

A lot of companies make this available via their websites etc, which makes sense to promote themselves as legitimate and safe. Plus it’s also available via the MHRA website.


Vape Update: 101 Inhalations

It’s now 101 days since my last cigarette. And vaping is being backed as part of the annual Stopober campaign. Along with Public Health England, NHS Scotland has also stated that e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco, and around 53% of people quitting smoking last October used them. Despite the fact that some newspapers claimed health advisors were at odds, what the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence actually said is that there’s still little evidence relating to long term ecigarette use, but that advice should be offered on them for people wanting to stop smoking.

So basically, there’s still not a huge amount of information on the potential longterm effects of vaping. But all studies into their immediate effects show that they’re much better than smoking. Although obviously it’s safest not to be inhaling anything.

Which all means I’m still chuffed to be happily vaping away on 6mg liquid 101 days after starting out with 12mg and no more Marlboro.

AspireZelos With Nautilus 2 and Eleaf iStick with Nautilus 2

My Aspire Zelos (right) and Eleaf iStick 40W (left), both fitted with Aspire Nautilus 2 tanks

So what are my latest totals?

  • Around 1,515 cigarettes not smoked.
  • And £757.50 cigarettes not bought.
  • Total cost of vaping kit: Kit (inc 2 tanks) £92. Liquids and coils: £162.48. Total: £254.48.
  • Savings now at £503.02
  • At 10 minutes per cigarette, I’ve regained 252.50 hours. Or 10.5 days.
  • And continuing with a little over 40 push-ups and squats to mean I can take an occasional rest day and still average out on target – 1,602 push-ups and 1,602 squats in 55 days.

So far, the only times I’ve had any issues have been learning to make sure the chimney of the e-cigarette coil is dried out with a bit of tissue if there’s too much liquid in it. And the occasional taste of burning when coils are due to be replaced – I think I’ve now replaced each tank twice in over 3 months. Trying a ‘premium’ liquid which I didn’t enjoy did result in burning through the coil a little more quickly, but even so, another pack of coils for £10 or so should last me until after Christmas.

Being healthier and essentially giving myself a £2,000 payrise for minimum hassle seems to have worked out pretty well!

Looking at prices, it’s getting cheaper and cheaper to try vaping. The Aspire Zelos feels like a marginally better piece of kit, but at under £30 for the Eleaf, you can be up and running for under £50 including a tank. Even if you’re stocked up on duty free cigarettes, it’ll still save you cash fairly quickly.




Vaping at 90 Days

Bit of a check-in, as today I have now been vaping for 90 days. Which means it’s 3 months since my last ever cigarette, and it’s still going well. I get the very occasional temptation for an ‘analogue’ cigarette every few days, and it’s always late at night when I’m low on nicotine. My brain obviously still psychologically associates nicotine cravings with the final cigarette of the night, but as soon as I vape that goes.

And I’m now converted to 6mg liquid rather than the original 12mg recommended for regular smokers just under a pack a day. I’m still vaping a bit more than previously, but nowhere near the double required to match the nicotine previously – I’m probably vaping somewhere between 20-40% more. But it’s slowly easing off, and I’m enjoying being able to find a slightly wider range of flavours available in 6mg.

And I’m still enjoying improved circulation, particularly in my fingers and toes. Plus I no longer have any kind of cough, or the feeling like I need to hack up a lung in the mornings. No waking up with sleep apnea during the night. And doing daily exercise appears to be working as my recovery time afterwards seems to be slowly coming down. I’m not exactly turning into some kind of athlete, but I’m slowly rediscovering arm and leg muscles. And although I’m way off a beach body, I’ve found that not only are the arms of my T-shirts not quite reaching as far as they used to (spot the tan line), but I did take off my shirt and go swimming in the sea with my son recently… I’ve never been confident or happy with taking my shirt off in public, so that was quite a victory.


So the totals?

Vaping at 90 Days:

  • Around 1,350 cigarettes not smoked.
  • £675 of cigarettes not bought.
  • Total cost of vaping: Kit (inc 2 tanks) £92. Liquids and coils: £162.48. Total: £254.48. (I’ve just bought 8 more bottles of liquid, which should take me to another 2 weeks+.
  • Savings £420.52.
  • Potentially at 10 minutes per cigarette, that’s 225 hours, or 9.375 days of life regained.
  • And on the exercise front, I’m now just under 40 push-ups and squats per day. Which means I’ve managed around 1,162 push-ups and squats across 44 days. And will now be doing 1,200 per month.

So not bad. Add another 2 weeks of smoking, and the savings will be more than £500, which is a pretty decent saving for something which has made me feel healthier, stopped me stinking of cigarette smoke, and saves me from having to drive to buy cigarettes at 1am in the morning when I’ve run out and most shops are closed.

The worst temptation I’ve got is potentially buying a Direct To Lung kit to produce more smoke and make it easier to switch to 3mg liquid in the future. Mainly for entertaining myself at home by impersonating a choo-choo train, and keeping the more discrete kits (like my go to Aspire Zelos) for when I’m out in public…