My Magic Wand

I decided back in January that this would be the year that I stopped smoking. I got a scare a few years ago when I had a series of heart attacks and ended up in hospital to clear a 99% blockage in an artery. That only kept me from smoking for five days. That was how long I was in the hospital. I came home and within an hour I had a cigarette. If you smoke, you know the feeling. I liked the feel of the cigarette in my hand, the draw, the throat hit, watching the smoke curl up when I exhaled and of course, the nicotine. The problem I had in the past was that I believed the hype from NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) companies, that the only addictive part of a cigarette was the nicotine. Well maybe for some people but for me it was the whole package. I tried everything over the years, gum, patches, lozenges, inhalers. They all did what they said to some extent. They delivered nicotine to the body. The patch delivered it 24/7 which caused some awful nightmares. The gum tasted like old shoes. The lozenges burned my mouth and the inhaler just irritated my throat. None of them stopped me from smoking. The longest I was able to go without a cigarette was seven days. I tried cold turkey also but no nicotine and no smoking was even worse.

I wanted to be retired for at least as long as I worked. I wanted to be around for my wife and kids and grand-kids. Something had to be available that would give me nicotine and the visceral experience of smoking with out the smoke and its tar and about 4000 other chemicals. What I needed was a magic wand that I could wave and stop smoking. It was not magic but technology that helped me.

I had heard of e-cigarettes the past few years but hadn’t paid much attention to them. They seemed to be a good idea but not very well done. I would see them at the local gas station. I tried one but it was like putting a pen in my mouth and hoping something akin to smoke would come out of it. It tasted awful, there was almost no vapour and the battery died within two days. I forgot about them entirely until two months ago. I was visiting a friend and while walking back to my car, saw a store called The Urban Cloud. I wondered what it was and took a look in the window. I saw a lot of strange looking devices in cases. Some looked like single cigar cases like my dad used to have and some looked like large pens or small flashlights. I went in and met Tyler, the manager and asked him about his business. He was friendly and enthusiastic and that counts for a lot in my book. He told me about the PV (personal vapourizers) that he sold and about the e-juice that was made in a lab in Waterloo. He was professional in every way. I left with some information and went home to do some research on the internet.

The information I found was almost overwhelming. There were Doctors and scientists on both sides of a debate. One side said that e-cigs were the best thing since sliced bread and the other saying that the apocalypse was upon us if they were not banned. I read blogs and reports and watched news videos until I was satisfied that I had a good idea what it all meant. The term I kept coming across that really jumped out at me was “harm reduction”. I had heard many times that the nicotine in smoking wasn’t the worse part, it was the smoke. Nicotine is not good for you but without the smoke, it is not a killer. If nicotine alone was so bad we wouldn’t have every Doctor recommending NRT to anyone who wanted to quit smoking. The e-cig works something like a fog machine at a theatre. A low temperature coil vapourizes the e-juice and this vapour is inhaled like smoke from a tobacco cigarette. The e-juice contains Propylene Glycol, Vegetable Glycerin, flavours and sometimes nicotine. Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin are used in fog machines and are considered non-toxic. The sensation of smoking is there, the nicotine is there but the smoke is gone. This is the “harm reduction” that I was reading about.

Armed with my new understanding, I decided to visit Tyler at The Urban Cloud again. He recommended a good starter system for me and showed me how it worked. The confusing part was the e-juice. There are a lot of flavours available with and without nicotine. I didn’t want to branch out too far so I picked the Canadian tobacco blend flavour with 18 mg. of nicotine as recommended by Tyler because of my pack a day habit. I walked out of the store and after more than 42 years of smoking a pack a day, I just stopped. I don’t know what the future will bring but it has been a month since that day and I can’t even think about smoking a tobacco cigarette. I’ve since picked up more juice but lowered the nicotine to 12 mg. and picked up a flavour other than tobacco (Urban Cloud’s own Anex), really tasty. The smell of cigarette smoke actually bothers me now. It doesn’t bring back any desire to smoke. It just makes me smile and think about the magic wand in my pocket.


In the early spring of 1974, I saw a 1962 MGB for sale in the paper. I went up and took a look at it and it was in rough shape. It ran well enough but was in need of a lot of TLC. I wanted to get it home but my little Austin wouldn’t tow it from Georgetown to Mississauga. I called my Dad to see if he could give me a hand and he told me how foolish I was to by an old piece of junk like that. He still agreed to help me though. We went to rent a bumper hitch and when we found out it would cost more than I had paid for the car, Dad came up with a new plan. We would tow the car with a cable, all the way from Georgetown, about 25 miles, in the rain, with me in the MG steering and braking. What could go wrong? It took us about two hours but we got it back to my apartment. We decided to start it up and Dad took it for a spin around the parking lot. He had a grin from ear to ear and kept driving around and around. He told me it needed a lot of work but said it was going to be fun to drive. Things happened that year and I ended up losing the car but I told Dad that someday I’d get another one and let him drive it. I took seventeen years but I finally found another MGB. The first thing I did was call Dad and tell him. I drove down to his place and let him take it for a spin. The grin was the same as I remembered and he told me I could leave it with him and take his Taurus instead. He looked quite happy sitting in the MG with his big cigar. He even managed to find a flat top to match mine so we looked cool cruising around Fort Erie. It was one of my favourite days with Dad. Happy father’s Day Dad. I miss you so much especially today.


Happy Father’s Day Dad

Android and my Touchpad

I’m starting to warm up to Android since I’ve put it on my HP Touchpad. I picked up the tablet during the fire sale. I was very lucky that a friend put one aside for me at the store. I won’t say which store of course. I enjoyed the web-os for awhile but since I can’t leave anything stock, I had to tryout Android. The cyanogenmod and the online tutorials made the process painless. The only problem I have had is my wifi stopping once in awhile. I’m sure a fix will come up soon. Meanwhile I can enjoy updating BYTE-IT from just about anywhere.

Some Pre-New Years Sadness

My Tess passed away today. She died while I was petting her. When we got her, we were told that her name was short for Contessa. I used to tease Sharlene that her last name was tickle. That got me whacked a few times. My wife said that I was Tess’ person instead of her being my cat. It seemed like that most of the time. She always had to be right next to me. She was very happy to see me when I got home from the hospital after my heart attack. She snuggled up to me for hours. Good-bye little girl, my furry friend. I miss my computer chair companion.


Thirty Years Ago Sir Clive Changed My Direction

I was looking for something on my bookshelf today and came across an old friend, my ZX81 Basic programming book. It doesn’t seem that long ago since I received my kit in the mail. It was an easy build, there were only four chips, so it was only a few days before I was able to hook it up to my old nine inch B&W TV and type in a program.


20 GOTO 10

It may seem funny and stupid now but I wish someone could have taken a picture of my face when I ran that program and saw the column of HELLO WORLD scroll up the screen. It was about 1 A.M. but I woke my wife up and showed her the glory I had discovered. She was not impressed. Undaunted, I changed the program to print DAVE LOVES SHARLENE! and she smiled but still went back to bed.

Many late nights followed and many different machines but nothing would ever equal that moment. In hindsight, it was pretty corny but I don’t care. I still have my ZX81 and will never get rid of it. It just strikes me that I came across that book tonight. The ZX81 was introduced in March of 1981. I got mine in early October. My hand just rested on that book almost thirty years to the day after I got it.

Thanks for the memories Sir Clive.



R.I.P. Steve

Yesterday a bright light in the tech world flickered out. Steve Jobs was about a year younger than me so I can really say that we were from the same generation. Not that that means much when it came to Steve. His reach was across generations, cultures, and religions. He had a simple goal, “To take over the world,” no wait that was Pinky and the Brain. Steve just wanted to make the beige box, which we all had under our desks, look better and “just work.”  I have never been a form over function type of person. I’ve had computers that didn’t even have cases, just a motherboard sitting on my desk with wires attached to it. As long as it did the job, I could care less what it looked like. I am of course in a minority as usual. Steve made beautiful and functional devices. They were premium priced but looked the part. Good-bye Steve. The tech world and the world in general will miss your style and dedication.