Thursday, February 09, 2017

Intolerance of unconventional quitting methods

It's well over two years since I quit smoking and I'm largely detached from quit-line but I still pop in to the blogs over there.

I don't have any real stats, but I'm picking that far more people fail on each attempt than succeed. This CDC fact-sheet says that over 50% of US smokers attempted to quit in 2015. That smoking rates are only slowly decreasing means that only a relatively small number of quitters succeed each time, but given we all know of ex smokers who did give up after multiple attempts it's reasonable that people who try hard enough and often enough can succeed.

In my time there I've seen quite a few cases of people trying to quit using various methods. This time I used Champix, a brain receptor blocker, with other common methods being cold turkey, nicotine (NRT), and vaping. I think I tried everything except vaping over the years. Nothing against vaping, I was going to use it last time, but tried Champix instead.

When someone who is using the conventional quitting methods fails people tend to minimise that they were using these methods but when someone is using an unconventional method it is very easy to blame the method. I have noticed that people who are in the "not-smoking, still craving" stages of giving up smoking can often be very judgmental.

There's always been a divide between the people using the various methods with negative propaganda often aimed at the NRT and vaping schools by cold turkey advocates. Interestingly the most vocal opponents of vaping are often the ones who fail a short time later.

Occasionally someone who is a few hundred days quit will slip up and have one, when they try to discuss this and say they have no intention on winding the clock all the way back to day one they are pilloried by people who have only just quit and often are the same people who harass the vapists.

There are also some people who intend to quit but as a step on the way are radically reducing their amount smoked, for example from 45 a day to 1 a day. Some of the strongest invective I've seen on the site has been directed against people who have attempted to reduce as a step on the way to quitting. I don't get it, having one a day is a lot better than having 45 a day and if that is a useful step on going to being completely smoke free I fail to see the problem.

Of course, I feel they would be even better off having zero a day, but that has to be their choice. On the other hand, it is Quit-line not Reduce-line. The purpose is to get us off cigarettes completely. All of us there accept that we need to get to that point and encourage others to do the same.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Most Influential Albums of my High-School years

Fellow comedian Neil Thornton posted this list of the top ten most influential  albums of his high-school years, although he must have been a slow learner as his cover a 17 year period.  I've kept to the years 1970 to 1974 when I was at high-school. The top ten most influential albums of my high-school years (in year order, then alphabetic) are:


  • Jesus Christ, Superstar. Religion, but a questioning religion that put the protagonists in a more naturalistic contemporary place than the empty rituals of the established churches. I wonder how much the religious revival in the west in the late 70s and later came from this treatment.
  • Let It Be the twelfth and final studio album by the Beatles. I started seriously listening to pop music this year, they ended as I started.
  • Lola Versus Powerman, The Kinks. Even though I couldn't discuss it then I found LOLA inspirational. "Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls.
    It's a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world,
    Except for Lola. Lo lo lo lo Lola."
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus. They were the climax of the surreal skit trend in British broadcast comedy that began (for me) with the Goons and wouldn't rise to such levels again until collapse and a fresh start from Alternative Comedy in the 1980s.


  • Electric Warrior T-Rex - Bang a gong, get it on. Nothing deep, just loved their music. I was 13 and 2nd year high-school.


  • Transformer. Lou Reed. Holly came from Miami F-L-A, hitch hiked across the U-S-A, plucked her eyebrows on the way, shaved her legs then he was a she. -- I just typed that from memory, then checked. I had it word perfect but the punctuation needs correcting. This story of Holly Woodlawn (1946-2015) was another that resonated with me and another I could never express at that time.
  • Ziggy Stardust. David Bowie. It's hard to pick one David Bowie album from the 1970-1974 era, he was so influential. I picked this one because it was the medium of my coming to appreciate him as an artist.


  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Elton John. At the time it seemed he lived his life like a candle in the wind. Like Bowie it's difficult for me to pick a single album as most influential. Unlike Bowie I always saw him as an entertainer and in 1970 to 1974 he had hit after hit, album after album. In the end I picked this one for Bennie and the Jets, Candle in the wind , Funereal for a friend and the title track.
  • Solo Concert, Billy Connolly. I do stand-up because I saw Billy Connolly on stage. I saw Billy Connolly on stage because I heard him on vinyl. Without this album Billy Connoly would probably never have been the big star he became at the right time for me to be influenced by him.
  • The Rocky Horror Show, Original London Cast Recording. My person preference is for the slightly later Picture Show (RHPS) recording, but that's outside the time frame and without the original stage-show there may never have been a RHPS so I'm describing this as influential.

1974: Try as I might I can't think of anything from 1974 that I would regard as more influential than the above 10. Sure there were songs I liked, but looking back from 40 years later, nothing that registers strongly enough to bump one of the others off.

Thanks to Neil Thornton for the idea.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Lizards help us find out which came first: the baby or the egg?

"Have you ever wondered why we give birth to live young rather than lay eggs? Scientists have pondered this for a long time and answers have come from an unlikely source: some of Australia’s lizards and snakes!"

Writes PhD Candidate  of the  University of Sydney in The Conversation

"In research published this month in the American Naturalist, my colleagues and I at the University of Sydney studied reptile pregnancy to identify the factors necessary for a placenta to evolve.

"Although most reptiles lay eggs, live birth has evolved many times in the group of reptiles that includes lizards and snakes.

"Some of Australia’s most iconic species, have discarded egg-laying and instead hang onto their babies for the duration of pregnancy and give birth to fully developed young.

 Full Article
Original published under a CC-By-SA license.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Warratyi shows Australia's outback settled by humans 49000 years ago

Clifford Coulthard, an Adnyamathanha elder, was surveying gorges in the area in South Australian when "nature called". He happened across a rock shelter, which has turned out to be one of the most important prehistoric sites in Australia. The site, known as Warratyi, shows that Aboriginal Australian occupied the country 10,000 years earlier than first thought - about 49,000 years ago.

Wikipedia also has a stub article on Warratyi

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Devilishly Good Stats: 666 days, 20,000 Cigarettes, 200 quitline blogs

Smokefree days: 666 days
Cigarettes NOT smoked: 19980
Total savings: $17,915.40

Sometime today I will hit the 20,000 cigarette mark (I was doing 30 a day at the end).

This is [a copy of] my 200th Quitline blog post.

Back on Saturday 6th September 2014 I doubted I would last the day, by the Monday I still doubted I would last the day, Tuesday I doubted I the week. I am still here and still smokefree.

Since then it has been one day at a time always one day at a time. I still get cravings and temptations. I'm not proud of any of those but they have served to tell me that I have to stick to NOPE as I can not be a casual smoker ... I'd very quickly get back to 30 a day.

Originally posted on Quit Line blogs. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Can HRT alter sexual preference?

I was reading a discussion where several women who are transgendered noted that since beginning HRT their preferences for sexual partners have changed. Most of them considered themselves bisexual before and after starting HRT, but had noticed a differrence.

I have no idea if this is totally off the mark, but some of the responses to the question make me think of research into how a woman's position in her menstrual cycle affects the type of men she finds attractive (Apparently the studies assume heterosexuality).

When a woman is most fertile she prefers "manly" faces and smells much more than when she is relatively infertile. This strongly suggests that sexual preference can, at least to an extent, be modified by hormones.

When MtF people are given hormones, they presumably mimic the hormone loading at one point or another of a cisfemale's cycle. It seems to make sense that this could cause at least a small change in mate preference.

When Fertile, Women Want Manly Men
What do women want? It depends on the time of the month
Women's Preferences for Male Behavioral Displays Change Across the Menstrual Cycle

And for the guys:
The face of fertility: why do men find women who are near ovulation more attractive?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

500 days smokefree and looking good

Smoke free days: 500 days
Cigarettes NOT smoked: 15000
Total savings: $13,450.00

Wow. I'm so glad to see those figures still there. Yesterday morning I came close to having one. I finished the coming out at work process by emailing the overseas people I work directly with to let them know I am now Julia. After sending that I stressed out and walked outside and into smoker's corner. Nicodemon was with me, and "Special circumstances, just one today can't hurt" was in my mind.

Luckily no smokers were there, I sat and thought, asking myself why, just when I've finally got my life right, do I suddenly want to return to the destructive tobacco addiction? After a while I got up and returned to the office. At lunchtime I went to The Warehouse and bought some nice summer tops in the end of season clearance sale with the money that would have bought a 30 pack of cigarettes. I'll still have the tops long after the cigarettes would have been butts in the great ashtray of history.

500 days, still smoke free and still looking good.

Last night more stand-up, this time at Doolan's an open mic.  Normally you're only performing to other comedians there. A friend of mine from work was there with her husband and I tried out some new material. Another comedian had some friends of hers there to and they started laughing at bits of my material where I wasn't expecting much reaction in that room. There were also some walk-ins unrelated to other comedians and Tessa tells me the ones sitting near her were laughing. Nice to know I can hit the mark.

Afterwards, buzzing on adrenalin but no desire for a smoke. Long may it last - both the comedy and the not smoking.

An earlier version of this blog appeared on quit-line.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Devil Wears Kate Madison

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity" -- Charles Dickens, A tale of two cities

Smokefree days: 497 days
Cigarettes NOT smoked: 14910
Total savings: $13,369.30

At work I've been out  since September - October last year as far as the 5 of us in this country are concerned. Since mid last week I've been out to the whole building and since returning from holiday on Monday I've been in the office as Julia. By Wednesday it was obviously not going to work unless the people overseas I deal directly with are advised. Fine, I'll send them an email. Discussed  this with management and I'll send a personal email out Monday coming.

Sunday I have an "Open slot" at a pro comedy gig, my first time up on a pro night. I should be practising my act, instead I'm drafting that email. OK, I genuinely have a second chance at a first impression, but ... timing.

Finally, the major part of the transition is that I'm presenting in my place of employment as female, including the shared areas of the building and not just our small office. This includes the toilet facilities and this has been the most difficult for me as I've been totally stressed out about it. Yes, I know it's silly that I can stand up on stage wearing a mini-skirt in front of 150 people and talk about the funny bits of transitioning yet be terrified of using the ladies room in a secure office building but there it is. Partially it's because I know I've been dragging my stilettos on it in places like the Classic where I've felt more comfortable standing at the urinal in a mini-skirt than entering the woman space. Not to mention wanting to avoid queues, but that's taking the bad with the good.

To be fair each day has been easier and the other people in the office have been supportive. I have to walk past the men's to get to the ladies and a few times especially early in the week I serious considered chickening out. That and a kind of faux nostalgia for avoiding pools of past misses on the floor. Had we not had everyone in the building alerted I might well have done so.

With all the stress, the Nicotine Demon "Nicodemon" shaved her beard off, put on some lippy and stared back at me from the mirror saying things along the lines of "you need a few puffs to get through this" and "You needed a whole new wardrobe, I understand but you've got it now, come back. I forgive you", "just one packet to get through this week"

A few times I went for a walk outside to clear my head and Nicodemon was with me, but I told her to get away from me.  I've come too far and have too much ahead of me to go back to smoking. The stresses are already weakening and I feel I have got through another challenge.

Day 500 is coming up,.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

What I spent my not-smoking savings on

Smokefree days: 486 days
Cigarettes NOT smoked: 14580
Total savings: $13,073.40

That's just 2 weeks until the 500 day mark.

I'm officially on annual leave this week, but I went into work this morning as I wanted to speak to the manager. I needed to let him know how my transition is advancing and that when I return to the office on Monday my appearance won't be the non-threatening compromise I worked out for myself in August and I will be asking others to use my new name.

I know where that $13,000 has gone. Since August I've completely replaced my wardrobe. All the good condition menswear has been donated to the city mission and most of the rest recycled as rags. I have filled the void in my wardrobes and dressing tables with a medley from Autograph,  K-Mart, Millers, The Warehouse etc.

I have a good wardrobe, built from scratch in a short time and if I was still smoking I doubt it would have been as easy to assemble. I've been able to give myself permission to experiment in a way I wouldn't if I'd been spending 10,000 a year on smoking.

Ironically I had to go back to the office a second time today as 3 parcels each containing a pair of dress boots had arrived from China for me. The price differential is such I'm prepared to risk buying mail-order footwear.

It's only slightly ironic to say that quitting smoking  has made a woman of me. It certainly has helped free me to pursue this change both financially and by teaching me I have the strength to change myself for the better.

Oh, and the name's now Julia, so that's what I've renamed this blog as. Pleased to meet you

Sunday, September 06, 2015

365 days smoke free

Acording to my Quitline stats:
Smokefree days: 365 days
Cigarettes NOT smoked: 10950
Total savings: $9,818.50

No witty light hearted comments. I'm damned proud of lasting this long and will always be grateful to Champix, Quitline and my support team on the Quitline blogs, for making it happen. I doubt I could have made it without any of the three.

These days my main trigger for thinking about smoking is encountering fresh cigarette smoke (e.g. talking to a smoking friend in the street), but ironically my second worst trigger is Quitline itself. It just gets me thinking about the quit, the addiction, all the hard work, etc and that leads onto thinking "One would be OK" -- which, of course, it would not be.

In addition, about a month ago and for the couple of weeks leading up to then I had a powerful crisis in my life. I'm not quite ready to talk about it so I'll spare you the details. Since then, amongst other things, I have made a conscious decision to be more in touch with my feelings and emotions and to re-train myself not to just suppress them. Things that trigger a desire to smoke are not particularly welcome in this new Weltanschauun.

I'll still unreservedly recommend Quitline to anyone who wants to stop smoking.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Deaths in the family

Ever seen a nature documentary of African elephants examining the skull of a dead elephant?  It's fascinating  because in their behaviour we see a reflection of ourselves and the way we grieve for our lost friends and relatives. Other social animals show behaviour when a pack/herd/... member dies. Depending on our relationship with them we may choose to see it as mourning or as something less like us.

I don't handle death well. Probably none of us do, but I don't handle it in the conventional way either. I tend to crack inappropriate jokes ... I let myself exhibit the emotional side of grieving later in private, it's my way of handling the situation.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Net Hui 2015

Three days of participants from a large number of internet impacted and impacting organisations meeting to discuss the Internet, its societal impacts and its future in NZ is done. Net Hui is over for another year.

Every year for the last few years a couple of these conferences are held, usually one in Auckland and one down country. 

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Stand-up Revisited

Tonight I'm going to Snatch Comedy on Ponsonby Road for my second go at performing a stand-up set since I quit smoking.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Food For Thought. Notes for a comedy set

I'm ready. I'm going back. This rime I know what I want to say and it's going to be funny.

My past attempts

 1. I portrayed Death. A vaguely nineteen fifties movie death, but somehow less competent. Perhaps out was a sub Pratchett death, before the great man's cat got him.

I walked away from this with my head held high. achieve what I wanted I had nothing more to prove.