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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Saying "Goodbye" to Quit-line blogs

Last night one of my Quit-line supporters from my early days through to today since announced that he was leaving the quit-line blogs. As he was doing this because he was feeling bad about something that happened it caused considerable discussion. Included in this were some people saying that if he left they would too. While I had problems with my supporter's departure I've been pondering the other people's reaction.

Many of my supporters from my early days on quit-line, and others I supported in turn have left over the past 8 months. Some left because they relapsed, some because they no longer saw the blogs as constructive for their own personal journey to being smoke free, some left in a blaze of (in)glory and some just vanished. Over time nearly all of us go away. Quit-line is a transitory place.

Some time back I realised that I was too committed to those blogs for my continued healing and consciously reduced my involvement. I blog less there and  more importantly I read less there. Before I cut back I usually read every blog posted on the site and commented on most. Now I have a small list of bloggers I follow and support and read everything they write, but far less often read much of the All bloggers pages. Realistically within the Supported group of bloggers there's a core group of around a dozen who I feel close enough to and who write often enough to keep me committed.

As I'm very infrequently replacing membership in this core group, it means that as these people graduate from the quit-line blogs the relevance of the blogs to me is slowly but steadily dropping. I see this as a positive move towards not needing quit-line.

So, is there any single person who, if they left, I'd leave too? Eventually I'll reach the point in my quit where I'll no longer feel an advantage to being there. It's possible that I'll be at this point for a while before I consciously realise I've reached it, it may even be the departure of another blogger that makes me realise I've reached that point, but until then I can't think why I should feel a need to leave because someone else decided they should.

I hope my friends stay and contribute for as long as it helps their quits, only leaving once it is no longer good for their personal progress. They shouldn't leave for me and shouldn't do it for any other blogger.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A smoking dream

I'm sure I've had them before, but this time I woke up in the middle so I got to remember it. I guess this was a lucid dream, it was certainly believable and followed a logical progression.

I was at a social (probably business related social given how people were dressed) gathering at a place very similar to Auckland University's student union quad. There was indoor outdoor flow and I was outside talking to people.

I bludged a cigarette and smoked it, it was so nice, it was every falling off the waggon first cigarette rolled into one. It was just one so I wasn't going to reset my stats, I've recommended to enough people on quit-line that they shouldn't reset their stats for just one and only a few days for a couple so I was being consistent. Then a bit later I was having another one without even thinking about it. Someone pointed this out and I realised it was a second one, I wasn't even getting that great first cigarette sensation, just having a yucky maintenance cigarette, a slave cigarette.

I put it out immediately and was devastated. I then tried to work out if I should reset my stats back by 5 days or ten. I woke up while I was having this internal debate so I'll never know what I would have chosen but even in a dream I wasn't going to reset back to day 1 for 1½ cigarettes).

When I woke there was another strange thing about this dream. The cigarettes had a logo on them that looked a lot like the Rothmans crest, but rendered in black and white ... I never smoked Rothmans on a regular basis. Holiday brand for about my last 10 years, with other cheaper brands before that. Drum was always my loose tobacco of choice.

When I woke up I was confronted with how scary the thought of going back to smoking is and this dream really had me frightened.

Will it strengthen my resolve? I don't know, but I can't see it weakening it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Quitting Smoking, 250 days done.

Smokefree days: 250 days
Cigarettes NOT smoked: 7500
Total savings: $6,725.00

Another "Round" number, I do so like them and like to mark my progress. The problem is that progress, as such, seems to have plateaued. Obviously the behavioural reward part of the addiction hasn't been exercised for 250 days while the chemical part of the addiction was dealt to over 200 days ago.

My fitness levels are back at the "good-enough" level. I can go for my exercise bike rides and have no wish to step up to going to a gym or anything. As I'm no longer seeing any major advances in heath, fitness, or non-smoking, the days are just turning into one after another.

The addiction is still there though, just biding her time waiting for my complacency and comfort  to make it worth her effort to pounce. Unfortunately I think I have been getting complacent.

Yesterday I was fighting Nicodemon who had seemingly popped out of nowhere mid afternoon and decided to push the "Just have one" line real hard. Needless to say I successfully resisted the siren calls. I walked down to the convenience store on Kingdon St and bought an ice cream and some mints instead.

The ODAAT, DDDD, NOPE, etc mantras are becoming more important in my quit now than they have been for a long time.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

A Dot to hospital and back

I couldn't tell you exactly how long ago it was but a few years back, Dot, my Mother-in-law was diagnosed with emphysema. She quit smoking almost immediately, using lozenges and made it seem easy. I didn't know how she managed it but when my own time to quit came around, her example was part of my understanding that I could indeed quit.


Since then she's developed other health problems, and when visiting her in hospital on a couple of occasions where she was in an Accident and Emergency department, I quietly slipped out every hour or so to have a cigarette without rubbing her nose in it.

Last night she was rushed to Auckland Hospital. Tessa was with her for a while and then the two of us went in this morning. It turned out that the situation was both better and worse than I expected. There was a weird bit in that for the first time I wasn't slipping out and leaving the hospital  for the smokes while at the same time, there were times I so wanted an excuse to nip outside.

By midday we knew that she wouldn't need to be kept in for a second night and she was returned to her geriatric hospital mid afternoon.

There's no moral or lesson for me or for you in this story. It just was for us and I needed to document it. Normally I'd write it up for the quit-line blog but tonight I don't feel like putting it there in this form. Perhaps I am finally starting to distance myself from there for real.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My favourite is also the healthiest of NZ's popular potato chips

Neato. Normally I get to report that something I thought was healthy is actually a gluten fueled saturated fat nightmare. Today I found a recent article on Stuff showing that I have it right(*) for once.

Are potato crisps all the same or do some stand out as healthier? Stuff lifestyle put six popular brands to the test. These six different crisps were compared nutritionally. Their total fat, saturated fat, sodium and kilojoule contents were used to determine the "healthiest" brand(s). Comparisons were made using "original" or "salted" varieties (these normally contain fewer additives than flavoured varieties) and 20 volunteers were also asked to rate them on taste. THE RESULTS - FROM HEALTHIEST TO LEAST HEALTHY No 1: Proper Hand-Cooked Crisps - Marlborough Sea Salt (our purchase cost $4.69)

OK, OK. No potato chip is ever the ultra healthy option, but at least I've been choosing the least bad option of many & I do like their chips.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Reading in dreams. A prophesy that wasn't

I've heard many times that you can't read in a dream. For more than 30 years  I've also known from personal experience that this isn't universally true. I first heard the statement many-many years ago,possibly in Carl Sagan's 1977 book The Dragons of Eden which I read sometime before I moved to Wellington in late 1979.

Some time later than this, but while still living where I lived from 1980 until 1985, I had a dream where I read a Dominion Newspaper's front page saying that Scott Base had been destroyed by fire. When I awoke I remembered the headline,  the date of the paper (Month and day), an NZPA byline and the time of day (Early morning).

As the April date of the paper was only a few days after the dream, I was very careful to let a couple of trusted friends know about the dream and was vastly relieved when the date came and went without any reports of damage to the base.

Scott Base, then, as now, was New Zealand's main Antarctic scientific base so it would have been a major blow had the dream come true. Then, as now, I was a rationalist and did not believe in prophetic dreams, so I did not alert the authorities, I believed that I would have been regarded as a kook.

More than thirty years have gone by now, with no major fires reported there. For the first few years I paid attention to the news every April, but gradually things changed so it was no longer reasonable to have any credence that even if a fire happened that it could be associated to my dream. I've never completely kept it secret, but I've also never talked publicly about that dream before.

Other than personal changes, mostly minor to others, there have been major and meta changes. The Dominion is no longer published under that name, NZPA has wound up, I get my news from 24 hour news TV and newspaper sites on the Internet so no longer read newspapers in paper form.

This dream can no longer come true. It was not a prophesy. There was no warning that unless someone (possibly me) changed their behaviour, a deity would smite the base. It was a dream, it involved reading a newspaper front page, something I could do, it did not involve my having an "eye of god" view of the base.  Because it was limited to things reasonable in my life then and it lacked supernatural overtones, it was thoroughly believable, and that was the scary thing.

Imagine if a coincidence had happened? Imagine if a fuel fire had destroyed the base on that day. If I had believed I could have prevented it, I would have felt dreadful. In my defence, I doubted then, as I doubt now, that anyone would have listened to me.I described it to the friends I told about it as a weird dream, not one of them suggested I should try to warn anyone.

I'm not a superstitious person, but I can imagine how one would have felt if they believed that this was a message from God or an Angel. I can understand why they feel a need to warn. What if instead of a dated newspaper, they were simply told that an event was "Near"? Thankfully I was spared this.

Any time after 1995 I could have written about this, so why today? I'm documenting it today because I read a blog Comics I don't understand by "CIDU Bill" where he talked about reading (in multiple languages even) in a dream of his. This reminded me that the 30th anniversary of the last possible date of the dream had passed, and it would be good to document it now.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Election website nominated for Webby award

On The Fence - an interactive web tool devised by Massey University design students - has been nominated for a Webby Award. The Webby’s are the annual awards for excellence on the Internet, with nominees selected by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.

The other four nominees in the political blog/websites category are Rolling Stone magazine’s online coverage of America’s Gun Violence Epidemic, and US political news/commentary sites factcheck.org, truthdig, and politico. Winners of The Webby’s People Voice awards are determined by the number of popular votes nominees receive.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Backpackers "Steal" van by mistake

When I first read this I thought it was young tourists trying it on
Three German tourists say they have become unintentional vehicle thieves through a quirk of backpacker culture.

The tourists said they thought they were allowed to take a van left at Christchurch Airport with the keys in the driver's door as they had been told that backpackers sometimes left vehicles they could not sell at airports for other backpackers to take.
More at Stuff.co.nz
Then I thought a bit more and remembered a trip to the UK with my father over 40 years ago. He'd bought a barely roadworthy car for getting around in and late in the trip the question of how we would get rid of it came up. Before he found a wreckers who would accept it, he seriously considered simply gifting it to an incoming tourist at the airport. I can't remember if he mentioned that he knew of some place where this was expected or if he was just blowing off steam.

It sounds like backpackers are now a bit more organised.

I hope this conviction doesn't overly harm the futures of these 3 young Germans.

Obviously I didn't hear the full story, but from what I read in Stuff, I would have given them the benefit of the doubt.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Internet New Zealand member consultation

Gosh, has it been ½ a year already? It seems like only yesterday we had the September InternetNZ consultation on the 30th. I blogged about it, but I was totally wrapped up in the non smoking issues and paid little attention to the actual issues in my report.

Tonight was almost the mixture as before. I feel that we tend to discuss the same issues over and over again without advancing what we are seeking to achieve. Sure there are different views, and I could accept if we went with one or more of the view points I oppose, at least we would be doing something.

It's more of a topic for ¿Que? than for here, but I honestly feel that we stand today at a crossroads, the internet can be used either as the greatest tool for the free exchange of ideas between the peoples of the world and if not ushering a time of peace, at least usher in a time where we understand our opponents enough to know why we fight; or the internet can be used as an engine of repression that would make the world of Orwell's 1984 seem liberal. Already from the cellphones we all carry it is possible to do far more information gathering than the telescreens in 1984 could manage.

Internet NZ is the only New Zealand organisation that understands the issues, has the funding to be involved and has the mandate. I only wish it had the will.


Meanwhile, the drink and the smokes? Predictably enough I felt far less on edge than in September. Going home, despite the drink, I felt no more than my usual mild desire for a smoke. I don't think I'm having that linkage anymore.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Six months smokefree today

According to my stats on quit-line:

Smokefree months: 6 months
Smokefree days: 181 days
Cigarettes NOT smoked: 5430
Total savings: $4,868.90.

On Saturday the 6th September, 6 months ago today, I was searching home over and over again to see if I had some cigarettes or tobacco left anywhere. I'd already admitted to myself that if I'd found any I would have smoked them. I may have searched home but I was also determined not to leave home and go anywhere near a petrol station or dairy.

At the time I seriously doubted I would last the day, let alone the weekend. It had been such a long time since I lasted more than a couple of days without smoking. This time though I had two secret weapons. I had Champix and I had the Quit-line blogs.

I vividly remember that first day. I strongly remember the first month quit and then my memory of quitting blurs. I'm guessing that it's because of the lack of firsts and other notable events coupled with a change to my mind where not smoking has become my new normal.

The lesson for you is that if a weak-willed cigarette addict like me can last 6 months, anyone can.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Quitter, Non-smoker and Ex-smoker

Earlier today on Quitline,  Axl231261 and g1nny posed the question "When do we go from Ex Smoker to Non-Smoker?"

I'm not sure that it is a progression. Quitting is a process at the end of which you've become an ex-smoker. Being a non-smoker can also be interpreted as a function state .. one who does not smoke.  If I'm not smoking, I'm a non-smoker. If I'd never smoked I would be a non-smoker. If I'd given up 20 years ago I'd be a non-smoker. If I gave up yesterday I'd still be a non-smoker:
Time QuitEx smokerQuitterNon-smoker
Never smokedNNY
Still smokeNYN
1 day?Y?
100 daysYY?

Most of the table cells make sense, but the question marks are the ones where interpretation is required. Personally I'd say the ? marks should be replaced (left to right) by N, N, Y even though that second N contradicts the previous paragraph. Redefine "Non-smoker" purely functionally as "Non-smoking smoker" and I'd agree with the Y.

I'm still trying to work through going from "Quitting" to "Ex-Smoker". While I wasn't smoking and getting by with Champix, a chemical aid, I was definitely a Quitter. Since then I've been a couple of months not smoking without any chemical assists. Functionally a non-smoker during that time, but with internal turmoil that makes me wonder about my commitment to the process.

The way I model it for myself is that I'm a nicotine / tobacco smoking addict and basically I'm like any other Addict. I happen to be clean and I can usually tell you how many days clean. I have acquired methods and techniques that help me avoid smoking and I have a support network that helps me stay clean. But, beyond all this I am an addict. I am a non-smoking tobacco addict, I don't think I'm really an ex-smoker yet and don't think I have any right to describe myself as that until I realise I go days in a row without thinking about smoking.

That's what I'll say to my fellow quitters. For the last 15 years I've worked with a guy that gave up before I met him. He's told me that he found describing himself as a non-smoker rather than an ex-smoker had one big advantage for him; people didn't offer him cigarettes in the way that they did when he said he was an ex-smoker. I don't know if the 21st century differs greatly from the 20th in this respect, but when talking to a non-quitter that doesn't know me as a smoker I describe myself as a non-smoker and would decline an offered cigarette with a polite "No thanks, I don't"

Upgrading Postgres to 9.4 beta3

I've been running Debian testing for quite a while and have recently had an error when attempting to update my Postgresql database
The on-disk format of the PostgreSQL 9.4 data files has changed between
beta2 and beta3 (and as a consequence, the catalog version number). For that
reason, existing PostgreSQL 9.4 clusters need to be dumped using the old
package version, and reloaded after upgrading the packages.

The postgresql-9.4 package will now refuse to upgrade because version 9.4
clusters exist on the system.

Per default, a "main" cluster is created. Run "pg_lsclusters" to check if
other clusters exists, and repeat the steps below appropriately.

To resolve the situation, before upgrading, execute:
# su - postgres
$ pg_lsclusters
$ pg_ctlcluster 9.4 main start
$ pg_dumpall --cluster 9.4/main | gzip > 9.4-main.dump.gz
$ cp -a /etc/postgresql/9.4/main 9.4-main.config
$ pg_dropcluster 9.4 main --stop

Then after the upgrade, execute:
# su - postgres
$ pg_createcluster 9.4 main
$ cp 9.4-main.config/* /etc/postgresql/9.4/main
$ pg_ctlcluster 9.4 main start
$ zcat 9.4-main.dump.gz | psql -q --cluster 9.4/main
$ rm -rf 9.4-main.config 9.4-main.dump.gz
So I did this :) only to get the following message on the zcat | psql step
ERROR:  role "postgres" already exists

Googling for the error message gave the suggestion that I should use the command dropuser postgres, but that just produced the message
dropuser: removal of role "postgres" failed: ERROR:  current user cannot be dropped

At this point I tried a little poking around and close to the top of the dump file I discovered the line
CREATE ROLE postgres;
A quick test of dropping the CREATE ROLE line worked first time. This meant that the zcat line now reads
zcat 9.4-main.dump.gz | grep -v 'CREATE ROLE postgres'|psql -q --cluster 9.4/main

With this change the upgrade's worked without obvious errors and psql is responding to simple queries. Unfortunately I don't know enough about postgres to be able to say that everything is working.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Last Christmas: Dr Who is scary again

Warning: I discuss the plot of the episode. If you're unhappy with details of a programme you haven't seen being discussed, please watch the episode now and then return here.

One of my strongest single childhood memories was hiding behind my mother's chair while watching the original Dr Who avoid the Daleks in their metal floored city. I was definitely at least 6 and probably no more than 8.

I've never understood why, before the middle of the 20th century, children's entertainment was permitted to be seriously frightening nor why after that it was forced to become so completely bland and non-threatening, but The Dr lived through that era and was destroyed by it.

Dr Who of the early 1960s was for a young child a very frightening TV programme. It was scary but at the same time I never wanted to miss a minute; hence the cramped space between mum's arm chair and the wall. Later incarnations of The Dr became less frightening. Obviously I was maturing but I also think that the BBC had been gradually turning down the fright as they slowly but surely turned it into the self parody it became before ultimately being shut down.

They say you are always a fan of your first Dr Who so it would be interesting  to hear from people a few years younger than me if they found the 1970s and 1980s versions of Dr Who as shallow as I did. Was it purely that I was maturing and out-growing the show?

Since the show was resurrected I've enjoyed watching the occasional episode as the new Dr Who was, I felt, still accessible to younger people without being a silly parody. Tonight I watched Peter Capaldi's 12 Doctor and Clara Oswald in the 2014 Christmas special  Last Christmas.  For the first time since those halcyon days of the early 1960s I felt genuine horror while watching the show. Sure I'm now an adult and didn't need to hide, and the horror of being trapped in nested dreams by a parasitic creature would probably escape attention by a 6 year old, but to me the thought of the mind being forcibly taken over by predators was scary.

The episode started as almost a comedy with Santa Claus crashing his sleigh at, Clara's house. I thought "Oh no, another parody" but then the episode turned dark with strange shambling aliens and "Dream crabs", spider like creatures, attaching the guest victims ... except that Santa Claus returned and then either was or wasn't there, eventually being there almost to the end.

I think that what made the horror aspect work so well was that there was this mixture between the comedy elements around Santa Claus and the horror elements around the dream crabs. At first it seems to be a standard comedy horror spoof, except that as things carry on it becomes obvious that it isn't this and that the apparent comedy elements are actually a part of the horror.

Eventually everything is resolved, but this is hardly a surprise as we know the Dr will always survive and while there have been companions that have died, I can't remember any recent cases.

I've said to Tessa a few times that I like the thought of Dr Who far more than I like the reality of Dr Who, but if they can start producing shows of this quality I may well become a serious fan again, a mere 50 years after first being one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Smoking in the Magazine of The Ship of Fools

Well, it's officially the Christmas holiday for me and I'm not due back at work until the 5th, except that I committed some code changes just before leaving for the break and my conscience won't let me just leave potentially bad code in the pool for 2 weeks so I'm quietly monitoring things remotely. I simply didn't want to return to the new year with code changes from the old year half done if I could help it.

I'm also going to be checking for any urgent queries over the break. Hopefully nothing seriously difficult to deal with.

Other than that I don't need to worry about the wonderful world of printing for a couple of weeks.

I'm also 109 days into quiting smoking and just coming up to a portion of the year where everything is different. Between now and Anniversary day I have Christmas, New Year, 2 weeks holiday, one weeks work and then the 2015 Linux Conference of Australia ... held in the great Australian City of Auckland.

It's all good, but also the first time I've done any of these things since giving up and my experience of the last 109 days is that the first time I do anything since quitting, the addiction will trigger and try to convince me that it's time to have a cigarette. It's really weird how that works. I know I'm not planning on having a smoke but somehow the addiction thinks that just a little extra push and I'll crumble like a house of cards.

Perhaps a little more worrying is that I've been feeling a weakness particularly in the arms and legs; strangely not especially connected to my exercise routine but I have been feeling a desire to cut that short. For now I'm treating it as psychosomatic as it doesn't seem at all consistent, but if I end up taking a couple of extra days rest from exercise over the break it will be interesting to measure how that affects this weird little ailment.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

What is it about tobacco addiction?

Last night I would happily have smoked at least one cigarette. Today I didn't even think about it except when on Quit-line and even then it pretty much felt an abstract thing.

Last night I noticed the smokers outside at the food hall in Te Awa, this afternoon I sat at the next table to some at Circus Circus and only realised when I saw the waiter removing their used ashtray.

I like the TV programmme Coronation St, and several of the characters on there are smokers. Usually I notice when one of them lights up. I watched last night's episode this evening and I couldn't tell you if anyone actually had a puff.

What's tomorrow to bring? Will I cruise through or will I have to fight myself toa standstill? Why can't the damned thing make up its mind how to attack?

BTW: Have you ever noticed how on Coro (and possibly other TV shows) they always have a full-size cigarette in their mouths even if they've supposedly been smoking it for a while.

Sometimes, I wish

Sometimes I wish my back didn't hurt as much when I drive;
Sometimes I wish I hadn't had to drive to Hamilton and back tonight.
Sometimes I wish I could still light up while waiting for Tessa so we could go home;
Sometimes I wish I could have, one, just one;
Sometimes I wish the addiction wouldn't lie to me.

Sometimes I wish Christmas was already over;
Sometimes I wish I was a child and Christmas was still magic.
Sometimes I wish I'd never started smoking;
Sometimes I wish I was starting my quit next week.
Sometimes I wish I could have, one, just one;
Sometimes I wish the addiction wouldn't lie to me.

Sometimes I wish my friends on here wouldn't have their own problems quitting;
Sometimes I wish the addiction wouldn't lie to them;
Sometimes I wish I didn't have to be strong for them.
Sometimes I wish I could have, one, just one like I tell my friends.
Sometimes I wish the addiction wouldn't lie to me.

Sometimes I wish I could climb into bed and pull the covers over my head.
Sometimes I wish it was only sometimes.

Sometimes ... Often ... Always ...

I Wish.

Bruce Clement, December 2014

No, I'm not in any trouble or an especially bad place tonight. I just wanted to externalise this as a bad poem.