Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Unashamedly Cars

I have been a fully paid up state pensioner for just under a year, but the love of owning and driving cars remains undimmed.
My earliest recollections of childhood all revolve around cars, some of my most memorable and pleasurable memories throughout my life revolve around road trips,journeys,whether by camper van,motorcycle,or ....yep...cars.

My love of cars has never been especially about the inner workings or self- maintenance of whatever vehicle I happened to own. This was ingrained into my psyche with my first ever car, a Mini,where I decided to strip an SU carburettor to make the vehicle run 'better' - the resultant mess of missing springs,needle-jets etc forever cured that budding mechanic. I prefer to leave the maintenance to enthusiasts and genuine experts, it's the driving that's the attraction.

I'm sure that it would be truly boring to anyone who has managed to get this far, for me to list and appraise the various vehicles I have owned over the years(assuming I could attempt to recall 45+years of ownership). Instead of that, my focus will be on the last 12-13 months in an attempt to make sense of a flurry of car activity.

December 2017 total cars owned (3) :- Toyota MR2 (Mk 3), Honda Civic Type R(new shape), 2002 Honda Accord Type R

Just over 12 months ago this was my 'stable', all very good cars and each capable of delivering much pleasure but two were sold within a few months.The first to go was the MR2 roadster that was a 2006 model with ~ 30,000 miles in excellent condition, bought following extensive research into affordable roadsters with good driving characteristics. Yes I knew it had minimal to zero storage with no boot, but it did provide many happy moments throughout its life with me, but decided it had to go for another slightly more practical vehicle ....so opted for a 2011 Honda Civic Type R with ~10k miles in wonderful condition.

June 2018 total cars owned(4) Honda Civic Type R (old +new shapes), Accord Type R,  Skoda Octavia Scout 4x4 

My experience with the new shape 316bhp Civic Type R was very mixed throughout my short ownership of 6 months. The car is immensely capable and far exceeds my capabilities to explore its true potential, however what I could state is that the cornering ability, acceleration and braking were outstanding BUT my car was beset with silly niggling issues that spoiled my ownership experience. The fuel filler neck was frozen up with a 3'' block of ice,just as we were about to go on a long journey, another troubling non-Honda issue was that rodents loved to chew upon the battery and associated cables. Trivial, but sufficient to leave me slightly dissatisfied, enough though to make me look at a Skoda to replace it!
The UK Winter of 2017-18 was harsh including a number of 'beast from the East' episodes, the second of which left us without hot or cold water due to frozen water pipes and the consequent inability to use our gas boiler, to compound this our roads were blocked with snow. Following this episode I decided that a cheap 4x4 runabout was needed, after much deliberation a petrol Skoda Octavia Scout 160 bhp was acquired and immediately was impressed by its ability,quality and sturdiness.
This Octavia purchase led to me replacing the Type R mentioned above from a dealership that had both Honda and Skoda in its group, so after test driving a Skoda Superb DSG 280 4x4 petrol I did a swap.
Car fever had clearly taken hold of me at this stage as I was also a little dissatisfied with the hard riding older Type R and managed to swap for a nearly new Hyundai i30N

July 2018 total cars owned (4) Skoda Superb 4x4, Skoda Octavia Scout 4x4, Hyundai i30N, Honda Accord Type R 

So now I have 4 cars! and nagging doubts start creeping in, why on earth do you need 4 cars ffs!, why are all of them of a similar ilk (the Skoda Scout was remapped from its stock 160 bhp to 210bhp)? I tried to donate the Scout to my daughter, the Accord to my son, but alas .....this failed to happen. As is usual in Beard life, events then happened suddenly,rapidly but just maybe for the better! roll on now to the end of 2018

January 2019 total cars owned(4) VW Polo Gti (1.8), Audi TT roadster 1.8, Skoda Fabia 1.0 (110), Honda Accord Type R 

Virtually a complete overhaul of my 'garage' and my son is going to take the Accord this weekend. All of the 3 other cars have been remapped as all feature turbochargers, the expert who did this has done all of my vehicles for the past 10 years and I am always delighted at the result. All are exceedingly pleasant to drive, the humble Fabia is the workhorse, but it's a little gem.

Conclusions 

I must be mad! Car dealers around the UK rub their hands with glee whenever I make contact, but its both my hobby and passion,however this constant tinkering does come at a price so a period of stability must now be the regime.

***** barely finished writing this, when AAAAAAAGGGHHHH a dealer contacted me to see if I want to swap my recently purchased 2010 32k mile Audi TT for a 2018 Fiat 124 Spider 3k miles! The madness never ceases it seems.

*****
24 hours on, 2 Fiats later, I am back to a previous deal from 2 weeks ago :- a newer TT, a Mk3 circa 2016.

Beard nonsense continued, the newer Audi mentioned has been traded in along with the Polo for a 17 reg Audi TTs

So by early Feb. maybe, just maybe sanity has returned and now this 2 person 'family' has returned to just 2 cars, especially as only one of us drives.

Definitely the last post on this subject, my mind needs to focus on other needs in my life :-)




Saturday, 15 September 2018

Vaping,Vultures and Cars

Please bear with me whilst I do a characteristic waffle,before arriving at the nitty gritty and the real purpose of this post

Starting in reverse order with cars and their power plants, some induce a feeling of pleasure whilst others are nonedescript,functional and bland. PreTurbo era, naturally aspirated cars that I have some knowledge of, include a Honda Accord Type R with a 2.2 litre VTEC, BMW M3 3.2litre, Porsche Boxster 3.4 litre S, all of these have wonderful engines with a delicious exhaust note in my opinion, but how does one quantify a subjective opinion into facts.

We are now in the Turbo era, where naturally aspirated petrol or diesel cars are as rare as hens teeth. From their introduction into F1 and rally cars in the early 80's usually fairly unreliable, and 'peaky' ,turbocharging has improved in leaps and bounds regarding reliability,driveability and efficiency so much so that they are the norm in even the most mundane of vehicle. Just to highlight the staggering evolution, a 4 cylinder 2.0 litre Ford Fiesta of mid 2000's was producing 150 bhp., whereas the latest offering is a 3 cylinder 1.5 litre producing 200 bhp. and is actually more economical. For me though the turbocharger has dulled the sensory pleasure of hearing an engine being 'wrung-out' or extended at 'full chat'.

Continuing my evolutionary story, I must include electric/hydrogen vehicles of which I know little, these are supposedly the future of motoring, speed, zero emissions are among the virtues. High purchase costs even after government assistance, incomplete and patchy charging infrastructure has meant that current sales are modest. My initial impression of these vehicles is that pleasure is even further eroded from the naturally aspirated era, but that is maybe an 'old fogie' with luddite tendencies speaking. The UK Government recently announced that by 2040 all new cars must not include petrol or diesel as their powerplants.........

Now just imagine that was not 2040 but in 6 weeks time, and all existing vehicles must be removed from the road . This is in effect what the latest FDA announcement on #ecigs was implying in a worst case scenario, others have covered this folly in far greater depth than I wish to dwell upon here. It is my contention that Gottleib in cahoots with the likes of the Truth Initiative and Tobacco Free Kids hatched a devious plan probably 12 months ago to knobble ecigs via the commercial success of JUUL. As we know he is proclaiming an epidemic, whilst producing no data, having to act upon public outrage that he and the other organisations have fuelled via a gullible media.This is truly depressing to examine from afar, I can only imagine the despair of US Vapers and the Vape Industry at this ongoing uncertainty. This is where my Vultures could be applied to from the title, but no it's in the next brief paragraph

Very Low Nicotine Containing Content (VLNCC) cigarettes was the other hobbyhorse that FDA head Gottleib was promoting very soon after taking up his post, in conjunction with attempting to move smokers to #ecigs.
I have written about this in a previous blog and I shall now reveal VLCOS (Very Little Chance of Success) is my acronym that for some reason was bastardised into Vultures.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

A Few Reflections

My recent blogging attempts have been rather curtailed for a variety of reasons, shoddy internet availability,far more gifted peers,the lack of anything much to contribute. This blog will follow a typical pattern of a scattergun approach, and trust that someone, somewhere, may find it interesting or at least a discussion starting point.

Newish products tried and tested

I am not a reviewer, and typically if happy with something eg my current Vape set up(s) will not stray too far from them, however I was curious enough to see what the fuss about IQOS and JUUL was about, to buy one when they became available. My initial impressions of IQOS were mild disappointment and thus slightly underwhelmed,but with persistence I found I was looking forward to my 'daily treat' of maybe 2-3 Heets, however the cost of these will always be a prohibiting factor for myself. JUUL in the UK of course has a TPD spec limiting it to 20mg/ml,compared to 58mg/ml availability in the US, however, even though lower than 'ideal', my initial experience is positive and can see this as a useful addition, especially for when driving.

These and other similar products are coming thick and fast, despite the regular nonsense in the media and from the withering voices of rogue 'Public Health' renegades, choices for smokers(considering switching) have increased greatly. I shall not get involved in the curious debate amongst some Vapers opposed to stores stocking these products, but simply state that it's entirely up to the store to decide what they wish to sell.

Following on from my last passage, it would be great to see far more co-operative schemes, where a Vape store works in tandem with an enlightened,pragmatic local Stop Smoking Service eg Leicester, Southampton. Generally SSS have seen a reduction in footfall and a reduction in their staff numbers and budgets, this is a natural consequence if seen by the consumer as irrelevant and by cash strapped councils who are not always seeing value for money. It is still very concerning that over 66% of local govt have not adopted an e-cig friendly approach as implicitly advocated by Public Health England, Royal College of Physicians .....etc, the Public Health Minister Steve Brine states it's advisory!

Taxes 

This raises its head either at an EU or UK level, the EU has a 'consultation' that is ongoing, the UK if the SUN newspaper is to be believed is proposing a sin-tax in the November budget to raise £40 million to be used for the NHS. To state the obvious this would be nonsensical when other Departments and Agencies are supposedly in favour of Harm Reduction. I hope this is/was a 'planted' story with no substance, if that is not the case and the Chancellor does indeed announce a 'sin-tax' this UK Government will confirm its ineptitude in no uncertain terms

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The level of Support Required for New #ecig Switchers and a few suggestions

None of what I shall be writing here is rocket science or even original content,apart from a wacky idea that I shall advance towards the end of this blog

After this quite encouraging but slightly misguided RCGP conference summary was published,it triggered an instant response from me in the comments section

Without rehashing the same comments, it ran along the lines that GP and most Stop Smoking Service(SSS) have neither the knowledge, or in particular the financial resources(+staff) to fully support new switchers, if they have chosen to use e-cigarettes in place of tobacco cigarettes. Please note, I do not expect, or am advocating for free kits to be provided by SSS, however if their budgets allow,this could well be very helpful(but piss off non-smoking taxpayers?) Hampshire and Bristol have just  introduced such schemes .

The vast majority of #ecigs users will have transitioned from tobacco cigarettes without any GP or SSS involvement whatsoever. There are a few notable exceptions, such as Louise Ross from Leicester SSS, who have been incredibly supportive since 2014 pioneering and campaigning for an e-cig friendly service(along with so much more).

How, many of the 1.5 million UK sole users have been 'supported' to date

1) Vaping Forums  eg AAEC , Planet of the Vapes , UK Vapers , E-Cigarette Forum are the 'Big Four' in the UK

Each of these have new user sections, the level of knowledge,guidance, general product and mental support awe inspiring, and certainly not to be dismissed or discounted.

2) Dedicated Facebook Groups :- way too numerous to make a meaningful list, but try this 

3) Twitter - very quickly can get support from #Vapefam, most folks very willing to help new users. try this site to get you started  as a suggestion(thousands of others also exist)

4) Bricks and Mortar Vape shops - again a vast amount of knowledge exists here

Items 1-4 have supported 'many', but I cannot and would not estimate how large a proportion of the 1.5 million sole users(out of 2.9million total users) were exposed to this knowledge and information

**Note, after writing my blog, this academic article appeared on twitter, which covers the above points in a similar, but more rigorous manner, covering 4192 former smokers.

Hare brained Suggestion Time to provide additional useful Support

 a) Social Media from Central Governmentt Sources/ Public Health England/NHS dealing with Smoking eg #Stoptober here 

 b) As above but local Government based + funded (eg pre-existing SSS.)

c) 'Sympathetic' University Departments

could

Operate a dedicated #Switch2Ecig  website+ Social Media sites with  both a) +b)+c) providing funds + personnel to establish and operate, BUT crucially involve the genuine experts :- VAPERS to help run this (try NNA and VIP, even IBVTA /ECITA for knowledgeable volunteers).

It only needs a handful of folks to operate,and potentially be a very cost effective scheme, especially as austerity measures continue to bite. Empowerment is a word frequently used...this would be a good opportunity to demonstrate just that!

** NOTE

E-Cigarettes are primarily a pleasurable consumer device, that have the added benefit of being a highly popular and effective aid to stopping smoking . Other aids are available, having varying effectiveness, the key to cessation success, is consumers having access to detailed accurate information, and making an informed choice of method. This blog was not intended to 'knock' SSS(many of which are under great financial pressure), rather to inform GP and interested others, of what *alternatives* currently exists for new switchers and how that could be enhanced.

As mentioned above,and as we are all aware  many local authority SSS have received massive reductions in their budgets  which politicians and NGO such as ASH and CR_UK are campaigning Central Government to address. However this is further complicated by many local authorities antipathy towards Vaping , without a wholehearted embrace of Vaping as a valid cessation method , ,they should be defunded or have their budgets slashed, as has been the case.

Why should Central Government bale out rogue councils who have decided that the advice and guidance from themselves via PHE,NCSCT, Stoptober(NHS) is ignored for ideological reasoning, to the detriment of their citizens. This commentary from LGE  (2016)is illuminating, giving a glimpse of the conflict and ignorance that exists(recently reinforced via this damning follow up survey) .

In economic terms the costs/quitter figures do not make for enthralling or edifying reading  this quotes £55,571 per quitter, although I have read estimates of £74,000 elsewhere...... naturally a price cannot be attached to a smokers life BUT surely a more radical commonsense  approach needs examining and implementing?

The solution is staring cash strapped councils in the face, what are they waiting for? All professional and responsible bodies apart from the BMA have made positive reports or commentary towards Vaping in England, surely the WHO negativity(heavily criticised) should hold zero credence!



Monday, 21 August 2017

Lengthy reply Removed by Moderator

One of lifes' little frustrations, is writing what you consider a courteous detailed reply to someone, only for the moderator to jump in and remove the commentary(their prerogative of course!)

This happened today Monday 21/8/17 in reply to  Prof Michael Eriksen in the Conversation here 

my reply was thus :-  .....

'Prof.Eriksen….Michael


Much to admire in your article referring to the recent announcement from the FDA, I wish to make a few points regarding a few of your comments


You stated ‘I can assure you that few smokers derive true pleasure from their addiction. My research team has found that most smokers regret that they ever started, and they desperately want to quit the habit.’




I make the observation that many of those surveys compiled data from smokers who had a clear determination and motivation to quit as they had accessed stop smoking services.

As an ex-smoker myself, it is not quite as cut and dried as you imply,I cannot provide counter-data, but believe a 'love-hate' affair is probably nearer the truth for many smokers,unrecorded by researchers.


Additionally the notion of smoking pleasure was dismissed, however these  items(many others are available) present a different picture.


I have no desire to labour the point further, but a substantial number of smokers derive pleasure from their smoking and have zero desire to quit.

However, even though now a non-smoker for well over four years, I read some of the claims from tobacco control with ever increasing scepticism. Truth and facts should not require embellishment, 'the end must not justify the means' in what has become an ever more acrimonious pro-anti nicotine 'debate', with the consumer as the casualty in this war.

********


The notion and appeal of Very Low Nicotine Content Cigarettes(VLNC) to Smokers having no desire to Quit is either very low or zero. These gentlemen put across the arguments against VLNC,far more succinctly than I could hope to achieve



Prof. Kozlowski


Clive Bates


Prof. West


Regarding the possible size of the black market you said ‘Of course, regulators would have to figure out how to prevent black market sales of high-nicotine cigarettes.’

I honestly believe that you,the FDA and all who are advancing VLNC have grossly underestimated the scale of this market, and the unintended consequence of empowering and emboldening the criminal element who would willingly supply and satisfy the demand. 1920’s-30’s alcohol prohibition was not a glorious chapter in US History, it will be repeated if this VLNC folly continues.

Nothing rude,maybe some items are contentious,but that is debate?

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Challenges for Vendors and Desirability of Compulsory Membership of a Trade Association

Firstly,
I am not a vendor and so claim zero expertise or deep knowledge on the details of running a successful business, but as a consumer directly influenced by their current and future viability these thoughts are directed towards them.

I do not propose to rake over the sad history of how and why TPD2  evolved as it did, or bleat about how the MHRA is implementing such as this, despite Lord Prior stating
But rather concentrate upon what was said in these tweets via ECF 


'It's obvious that without consistent, professional and unified industry representation vaping will face continual challenges.''

More to the point, how to convince this disparate industry that without a well-funded professional body the future is not good?''



The disturbing reality is that out of 2000 vendors,equipment manufacturers,juice makers....etc there exists only a tiny number who are involved or members of a trade association

see ECITA , IBVTA and yes even the infamous TVECA ,UKVIA for current UK membership numbers *please note,no details of subscription costs are included in my blog*

whilst some of the big players are contained here,there are vast numbers who are not involved whatsoever. Again, I don't want to now start a long script extolling the virtues of belonging to a trade association other than saying 'strength in numbers, helps to protect your business', 'helps to guarantee the quality of the ''product'' and to avoid rogue traders'................. 

It is inexplicable that vendors have not joined up, and a false economy to save upon the membership fees, when the very future of their business is in the balance.

Maybe controversially, I shall advance a thought that all vendors should  belong to a trade association (of their choice ), on a compulsory basis. I am a libertarian by nature, but something along these lines has to be at least considered, before regulators decide that for you. 

Licensing(of e-cig outlets) appeared in recent Welsh and Scottish proposed legislation,inevitably this will be passed eventually.This is but one example of where a meaningful 'lobby' that a strong trade association could represent, may help favourably frame the debate with legislators.

The same circumstances exist in the US(and elsewhere), with the same unwanted outcome expected so fgs. Get yourselves organised NOW!  

Join one of the 3 UK based Associations asap or if you are from a European country without a Trade Association consider ECIV 




** I regularly listen to Dimitris  on here  bemoaning the lack of vendor involvement in the various state trade associations ** so the problem is far from unique to the UK


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Action Required to Halt Plummeting Public Perception

Despite weighty reports from Public Health England, Royal College of Physicians, from Eire the Health Information and Quality Authority, from the US Truth Initiative and recently from Canada University of Victoria and News articles such as this in the Guardian  it is my contention that the battle for hearts and minds(of the general public) is losing ground quickly.

ASH UK estimated the following in 2016 here with the disturbing analysis of only 15% of the adult population believing that e-cigarettes are a lot less harmful than smoking


Other jurisdictions had similar dismal results Germany recorded 20.7% In the US ''According to the survey, 35 percent of adult smokers perceived e-cigarettes to be equally or more harmful than combustible cigarettes in 2015''. What will these figures be like in 2017? if comments sections in various media outlets are any guideline,there is little cause for optimism.

Without some immediate action from the likes of Public Health England,ASH UK,CRUK, this situation will be irreversible. 

Over the last 3 weeks we have witnessed the most concerted negative media campaign against e-cigarettes that I can recall over the last few years, whether it be reduced male potency(sperm),additional violence and burglaries,maladjusted children, philandering adults associated with e-cigarette use amongst the most bizarre claims.......endless baseless junk, BUT syndicated around the World, and as Brad Rodu recently indicated is only the tip of the iceberg of what is in the pipeline for the coming year. 

Undoubtedly Duncan Selbie, Kevin Fenton and Martin Dockrell at Public Health England are very well aware of all of these 'facts', but when are they going to counter it? 

I could waffle on about Public Health Campaigns,TV + Newspaper advertisments......... but if they wish to preserve their groundbreaking, immensely brave decision from 2015 status (to be supportive of e-cigarettes), vigorous action is required asap.