Author Archives: Rob Ellard

Surströmming


Surströmming. What is it? Where does it come from? Can a doctor clear it up if it’s caught early enough? The answer is that we don’t know. Well, we know it’s herring, but shortly after you appreciate this fact everything becomes a huge bucketload of “You what?!â€

For reasons only known to themselves, 16th Century Swedes took rotten Baltic sea herrings and fermented them for a minimum of six months until they got all bitter and incredibly stinky. Then they ate them. At least some of them did. Enough for the next generation of Swedes to give it a go too. And so on. Until the Internet was invented and the world discovered Surströmming – and also found out that almost all Swedes have never heard of it until they read the Internet.

But it’s hardly caviar or a juicy burger, what gives it an element of desirability? It could be the retch-inducing stench when the tin is opened, it could be the repulsive taste – but we reckon it’s because of the bans.

First off, European politicians (being European politicians) tried to ban the fearsome fishy feast because it is too high in polychlorinated biphenyl. We simply aren’t allowed to make our own choices, right? Anyway, Sweden won a special concession on the basis that they made a good argument or invented Vikings or something.

Then it was time for British Airways and Air France to led all of the airline companies in bringing in their own ban. They argued that the fermentation caused the tins to become pressurised – and therefore constituted little fishy bombs that could go off without any notice.

The Swedish Surströmming Academy cried out: “Oh for Cods hake!†They pointed out flights should ban champagne and French cheese as it posed as much risk.

But when things get banned people become interested in seeing it, touching it and trying it. The plane operators did more than the politicians could manage with a deft swish of a pen on a document: they made Surströmming interesting to the world. They made Surströmming a little bit sexy.

And so our government has launched its big plan to combat the remaining problem of stubborn smoking-related diseases in the UK. They see vaping as a major part of the solution, which is nice. But our message to them is simple: make vaping devices illegal and force liquid manufacturers to make juices smell bad, taste awful and come in sealed tins. Remaining smokers know all about ecigs, they are choosing not to use them – so give them a reason, make it exciting like Surströmming.

A Better Tobacco Control Plan


The Department of Health said today: “We are at a pivotal point where an end is in sight and a smoke-free generation a realityâ€

The plan offers up much-welcomed prospects, applauded across the industry, by intimating that we will see them roll back the nonsensical restrictions on atomiser tank size and the strength/size of juice bottles. More than that, the launch of the document included advice to all employers and business owners that vaping is not included in the smoking ban. Moreover, it has been suggested that employers should encourage smokers and ex-smokers to vape in the workplace.

Mark Pawsey MP: “In particular I am pleased that Public Health England’s anti-smoking campaigns will now positively reference their vaping advice and that the government has committed to relook at relevant legislation as we exit the EU.â€

Will Hill, British American Tobacco: “It is right that the government will review the measures imposed by the EU following Brexit and recognises that they have not been effective in delivering what they set out in doing.â€

New Nicotine Alliance: “The government’s commitment to review the TRPR, with a view to altering those provisions which relate to e-cigarettes and the commitment to communicate accurate information about the relative risks of harm reduced products are, in particular, to be applauded.â€

Simon Clark, FOREST: “In the 21st-century tobacco control policies should focus on harm reduction products, not prohibition and other restrictive practices.â€

Duncan Selbie, Public Health England: “We are at a pivotal point where an end is in sight and a smoke-free generation a reality. But the final push, reaching the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, will undoubtedly be the hardest. Only by everyone pulling together can we hope to end the loss of life and suffering smoking has wreaked for far too long. Public Health England will do everything possible to make this happen.â€

Deborah Arnott, ASH UK: “Funding must be found if the government is to achieve its vision of a ‘smokefree generation’.â€

Sharon Hodgson, MP: “Whilst the plan sets out a bold approach to creating a smoke-free society, what it fails to do is recognise the deep cuts being inflicted upon local councils who are seeing their public health budgets slashed.â€

The nonsense that has seen storeowners have to slash prices on liquids and equipment, to throwaway levels, caused emotional and financial pain that will never be reversed. But moving forward, reversing the more idiotic aspects of the Tobacco Products Directive is something to be welcomed as it allows consumer choice once again, and will work better for smokers looking to switch to vaping. It’s taken a long time to get here, but we warmly welcome the new tobacco control plan.

We Did It


We called it; we said the thing the anti-THR (tobacco harm reduction) lobby feared most was vaping becoming a sexy thing. We pointed out the kittens they had when the pouty woman went all Cadbury’s Flake in a cigalike commercial. You remember? The one The Telegraph described as “sexy as watching someone gutting fish� Now, we’re not going to slate someone else’s pleasure, but if that journo gets off on watching fish being gutted then, well, then that’s a little bit odd.

Vapers are now the compilation of all the sexy scenes from Game of Thrones (ask your children), those late night Channel 4 programs with the triangle in the corner (ask your Dad), and both sexes of Dr Who (we aren’t sure who watches this any longer). *And, no, we aren’t going to join in an argument about that last one.

And so we now have to apologise. Clearly, you are sitting there, scratching an intimate part and smelling your fingers, thinking: “I am sexy, I am a real sexy beast.â€

Well, we’ve been disingenuous. We’ve stretched the truth. We’ve fibbed. Yes, vapers are sexier – a survey says so. We are totally more sexy than smokers.

Halo Cigs, purveyors of electronic cigarettes and vape kits, have conducted a survey looking at what the preferences are in online dating. From what we can ascertain about it, the app of choice will present you with a person. If you like them then you swipe right on the screen, conversely, swiping left if you don’t fancy the prospect.

Halo discovered that two out of three women will swipe left if faced with a smoker. Further to that, 64% of non-smoking men and women said they would not consider having a long-term relationship with a smoker.

Even smokers were biased against other smokers and would look for non-smokers. Ten percent of male and twenty percent of female smokers would refuse to form a relationship with other smokers.

Halo says: “The answers aren’t good news for the smoking crowd: men and women agree in their beliefs that smokers are addicted, enjoy nicotine, and are unhealthy due to their habits. A large majority of participants said smokers were addicted. Sixty-one percent of women thought smokers were unhealthy, just slightly higher than men. Additionally, only sixteen percent of women and twenty-one percent of men thought smoking was on trend.â€

The company points out that vaping is far less offensive to prospective partners…which means it will make you sexier. So we are all more sexy than we thought we were this time last week. Have a great weekend!

IDDQD


Maybe you are aware of the awesomeness that was the original Doom. Millions of otherwise healthy and sane adults were stuck to their PCs in the early 90s, as they battled with hordes of demons and seemingly endless waves of the undead.

And if you knew this, then you might also be aware that there was a reboot of the franchise in 2016. The games company Bethesda gave deadheads another dose of well-received goretastic mayhem. Even if you knew all of this already, did you also know there were some special satanic secrets?

One of the songs in the game is called Cyberdemon, and programmers cleverly hid the number 666 and a pentagram as images in the track’s frequencies – only visible using a spectrogram. It’s in the video below if you want to play it to the residents at a local old people’s home or for a primary school class assembly.

The hidden stuff in games is nothing new; product placement in video games has been going on for a while – from Pepsi Invaders in 1983 to Obama election campaign ads on billboards within multiple games. The thing is this, now researchers are experimenting with something similar in order to warn kids off vaping.

The University of Connecticut has received a grant of almost $400,000 (£308,000) from America’s National Institutes of Health to target game-playing teens with anti-smoking messages. Apparently, according to the beneficiary of this cash, postdoc psychologist Christopher Burrows, teens are more susceptible to these messages when playing games. So him and his mate Hart Blanton have created a first-person shooter and a car racing games as vehicles to carry public health messages.

“With surveys indicating that 97% of adolescents and 80% of young adults play video games for entertainment, use of entertainment video games as a tool for delivering graphic warnings has tremendous potential to influence youth cigarette and e-cig rates.â€

Did we say teens are more susceptible to accept messages? It sounds far better in the researchers’ words: “The project is needed to test the viability of ‘The Virtual Transportation Model of Health Communication,’ the theory that kids can be propagandised more easily when they are gaming.â€

The pair intends on inserting anti-vape ads into two pre-existing games, get kids to play them and then ask them how they feel about vaping. Doubtless, to prove they should have more cash, they will discover that young people respond well to such messages and they need to carry out more trials with more game formats.

And the fact that vaping is 95% safer than smoking will be lost on them all.

So, is vaping Doomed? Highly unlikely, although it may be time to go IDDQD on American anti-vape organisations.

newzoo image https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/the-global-games-market-will-reach-108-9-billion-in-2017-with-mobile-taking-42/

All Your Vape Are Belong To Us


By the 80s, spy stuff was getting smaller and more affordable. People had worked out that the X-ray Spex in the back of American comics were as useful as a kazoo in a storm. The advent of the Internet made it easy to stalk strangers, as information was just a few clicks away. But the world was turning. Those secrets you had that could only be revealed by the Sunday papers once you were famous – those secrets were finding their way into the public domain.

Marketing people talked about ABC1s as if everybody fell neatly into little bands based on Edwardian social structures. But these red-rimmed agents of Hell were plotting something more insidious.

Big Business (boo!) sussed out they could collect lots of little bits of information about you, flotsam like you buy Anchor butter and KY jelly. On its own, it means nothing other than you are a toast eater with the need for a water-based lubricant. But sew it together with other trinkets of data…and they paint a portrait of such unerring depth you’d wonder how they obtained your hidden diary.

You deviant.

For this very reason, I now complete online quizzes differently every time. One minute I’m telling YouGov I’m an astronaut in Cheadle, the next I’m a semi-professional Marxist rebel in High Wycombe. And this will work very well at protecting my data.

I’ve got my lies, I’ve got my firewall, I’ve got my VPN – nobody is getting to my secret stuff. Nobody. Until I plug my mod into the USB port, apparently.

It’s not new news. In 2014, as part of the anti-vape brigade’s attempts to scare people away from switching, they spread the myth that e-cigs spread special vape AIDS to computers. Or something. We laughed, they wagged a finger and tutted, we all moved on. But then they raised their eyebrows and reminded the room that a Samsung photo frame tried to kill babies. We ignored them and they went away.

Now, on Twitter, someone has brought the whole thing tumbling back into focus.

Ever eager to keep things in balance, Cesare Garlarti, chief security strategist at prpl Foundation, has run around screaming: “The security of the internet of things is fundamentally broken.â€

To put things into perspective, the WannaCry worm was a 4MB file – it would never fit onto the spare memory in an ecig. This isn’t to say it might not be possible in the future, but at the moment the greatest threat to your personal data is the dumb Facebook thing that’ll tell you what kind of Marvel superhero you are. I’m Squirrel Girl.

TPD III PART TWO


“Dear Stealthvapeâ€, writes one reader. “I used to love vaping – until the TPD came. I’m 62 and have fading eyesight, I haven’t been able to locate my tiny tank for the last two weeks.†Shocking stuff, oh hang on, there’s a PS: “P.S. I’ve no idea how I read your article either.â€

We mentioned that every occurrence of “maximum†in the TPD II will be altered to “minimum†in our TPD III paper. So, 2ml tanks will now be the smallest you can buy and everybody will have to get used to buying super-sized bottles. True, it’s been pointed out that not everybody wants to be sub-ohming 20mg+, but we think vapers will get used to it in time.

“Dear Stealthvape,†writes another reader. “I’ve been reading your second article about the TPD and it makes a lot of sense. What I would suggest is that if we are going to have juice that’s seven times stronger that our usual liquids then all we need to do is spend seven times less time inhaling.â€

Wow! Sometimes you people amaze us, what genius. A solution that’s more elegant than a mathematical problem solved by Leonhard Euler. Reducing vaping times by a factor of seven could be a huge selling point to the public health community. It’s snappy, just the kind of thing that’s vital when conveying complex ideas to people too busy banking their pharmaceutical company cheques to be bothered doing proper research.

Another aspect of TPD II that fell short of the mark was that of public safety. It has become glaringly obvious that vapers need protecting – not from shoddy products but from the actions of stupid vapers. The market is suffering from the bad publicity caused by these stupid vapers who seem to be oblivious to how one should store juice or charge a battery. Also, stupid journalists who don’t know the difference between their gluteus maximus and their cubitus.

Take this tale, for example:

Laura White saw smoke coming out of her handbag. “Oh no,†she probably thought. “I wonder what could be causing that?â€

The answer, according to both Laura and Lindsey Hamilton (reporter for the Dundee Evening Telegraph), was that her “e-cigarette lighter†had exploded into flames for no reason at all. Go, go click on the link and marvel at “Laura White, manageress of Douglas Sports Club, with her handbag and the e-cigarette lighter.â€

“Only five weeks ago, it was in a suitcase in the hold of a plane as we flew off on holiday. I dread to think what would have happened if it had caught fire in the bag in the plane.â€

Consequently, the major change in TPD III will be a section that stipulates people like Laura have to pass an exam in Mod Ownership before being allowed to make any purchases – and they will have to complete an online quiz when attempting to buy plane tickets.

“Dear Stealthvape,†writes our final person. “I live in Dundee, and I agree with everything you’ve just said.â€

Free Advice


It’s Friday, it might be a big night. You go out, hit the town and paint it whatever colour you fancy up to the point where you meet that special someone. All excited, the pair of you nip outside to share something intimate, something delicious.

Oh no! This couldn’t have happened at a worse moment. Your new friend is staring down at your trousers in disbelief. He or she asks, incredulously: “Have you had…err…an accident?†Your thigh feels all warm. This isn’t going the way you’d planned.

What an idiot, you tell yourself. Why does this always happen? Why does this always happen when I put a spare 18650 in my pocket with my car keys?

Last week, yet another person became a victim to ignorance when they bought a cheap device from a cheap shop and didn’t bother to follow the instructions. The packaging told the user not to charge the battery using a mains wall socket – but charge it using a mains wall socket she did. Without a second thought, she thrust it in and now has to live with the consequences.

The packaging told her to play safe, it told her to use a USB port. It’s so important to follow safety advice. The lithium ion cells that power our portable devices have a very high concentration of energy and, if not looked after properly, this can go wrong in spectacular and dangerous ways.

But, on the positive side, when cared for correctly, these batteries have the potential to change our lives for the better.

Apart from charging them in accordance with the instructions, the other thing you need to watch out for is how you carry them about. Loose batteries can and will explode if not stored correctly.

We aren’t going to plug a particular type of packaging, and we have no horses in this race, so we will simply point out that you have two very cheap options. First, a battery box can store a couple of cells – keeping them isolated from each other and anything else in your bag or pocket.

The second option is the condom-like silicon sleeves you can pop individual cells into. These make more sense in a pocket then being carried in a bag and, if strategically placed in male pockets, might also lead to admiring glances. You may need to use more than one battery.

There, a happy ending.

Next week: We will be explaining how to make your own e-juice, with frequent reference to oral sex euphemisms.

Lies


Farmer Eavis invited us because he said he wants a better world and, from what he could gather, our constant striving to bring you products that improve your life made us the number one inspirational choice.

We strode onto the ‘Almost As Good As The Main’ stage and were blown away by the crowds. Seriously, if you think the chanting for Corbyn was a bit unreal, you’ve heard nothing till you’ve heard a few fields slurring “Oh, St-eal-eal-eal-eal-thvape!â€

We know what hippies like, we know how to make stuff better. The Stealthvape helicopter dropped blessings of plasters for little boo boos, cups of rainbows for the slightly weepy, and free chainsaws for the bored children. What do you mean children can’t have chainsaws – don’t oppress the masses! We aren’t stupid, they’re kiddie chainsaws designed for little hands, built from lighter materials and tinier.

The crowds were there for Stealthvape, and Khruangbin, and Carter Sampson, and the Funktion One Experimental Soundfield. Not that you’d have known it from the Biased Broadcasting Corporation’s coverage. The coverage we never saw because, like we said, we were busy actually being there – like the pictures prove.

We were busy sharing outdoors toilets with popular Radio 1 DJs like Dave Lee Travis and Jonathan King. We were busy with Radiohead, catching a case of salmonella from a tempura tofu stall. We were busy at the First Aid hut, after displacing three vertebrae while camping.

We saw such wonders. We witnessed The Jimmy Krankie Sex Party Zone, The David Davis MP Talking To Yourself stage, and The Katie Hopkins Field of Toilet Sewage.

It’s totally true – we would never lie. Unlike the American Lung Association that has repeated its claims that vaping is as dangerous as smoking. If we didn’t know better, we would swear that we were busy all of the Glastonbury weekend and the American Lung Association went and took lots of psychedelic drugs. They are either massive liars or simply occupy a separate reality from the rest of us.

The Cochrane Review states that vaping is far safer than smoking. The Royal College of Physicians says that ecigs should be promoted widely as a substitute for smoking. Public Health England states that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking.

You need to get your act together, American Lung Association. You need to stop lying, confusing current smokers and perpetuating a situation whereby they put off switching to something far, far safer.

Our lies are, at worst, a bit dull – your lies are killing people.

TPD III Part One


Just as an aside, can you imagine how depressing it was for a science teacher in 2011 to be told by a class that there’s no point to doing homework as the world was ending in 2012: “it’s in a film, sir� Sigh.

Everyone everywhere thought TPD2 was as terrible as TPD1 – except for a voting block dominated by one person, who told them when to raise their little bits of card. In all probability, she simply guessed when to do it as no one had a clue what was going on. Then they all went off to fill in their expense claim forms and go eat croissants.

There are various rules to films. Firstly, almost always, the science has to be wrong. As children, film directors were most probably sitting at the back of science classrooms pushing chewing gum into gas taps. This is why they make a point of annoying science teachers now in their day jobs. Secondly: Trilogies suck. Directors will make one decent film and lump it in with two bits of rubbish just to upset science teachers when they go to the cinema. Star Wars, The Godfather and The Matrix are all cases in point.

Anyway, looking outside today’s window: what is clear is that nothing is clear after the election. Losers are running about claiming they won, winners are sulking because they think they lost, and small woodland creatures are breathing a sigh of relief that a person on a horse might not be coming to bludgeon them to death with the root of a 2,000-yr old tree. Or something. They simply don’t know. Nor do we. The only thing running through Theresa May’s head now is a mental image of her running through some corn.

Therefore, it is quite clear something needs to happen, and we aren’t sure what: it could be a new general election, it could be everybody trying to get along and agree on things, it could be that imaginative people writing blogs come up with new policies. Yep, that’s it; we’ll go with the last one.

Does Brexit mean Brexit any longer? The categorical answer is ‘maybe’, especially if ‘maybe’ is said like a teenage girl would say it (with a rising inflexion turning every statement into a question). So, we propose, the TPD means TPD III, it’s going to be like (appropriately) The Empire Strikes Back; where TPD I was the one with teddy bears and TPD II can be the one with Jar Jar Binks.

We are only proposing small tweaks. For example, by changing the word “maximum†to “minimum†we suddenly get all of the decent tanks back in stores. The paper has been written; Stealthvape’s proposal for TPD III is on its way.

Stitches


It’s not my fault that he got the cane; I didn’t say a thing because I’d no idea who’d pushed me. Anyway, no one was asking because that was all taking place in a head teacher’s office and I was in a casualty department having my head sewn back together.

Roll on a few years and I’m sitting listening to the lilting yet soporific drawl of a Scottish doctor. His years of experience clearly taught him that drowsy children kick up less as you stab them with needles. As he tied my fingers back to stem the flood of red, I wondered how many more times I’d have thread used to keep me together.

Six. Six times more. Two more head accidents, one hand through a greenhouse, the same hand through a front door’s plate of glass, a piece of surgery I’d rather not discuss in public, and the final time following an accident with a knife. In short, I know all about stiches.

This week there has been a bit of consternation in the world of juice makers. Stealthvape has been around since the dawn of the industry. It has seen people come into the market with their home brews, gradually take things more seriously and grow in respected businesses – and friends.

The thing that marked out vaping as a different business to be in was that so many, regardless of what they were offering, treated other businesses as friends, offering help and support so that they could grow as well. A lot of that camaraderie still exists even though we are all snowed under with the increased work requirement due to the effort of complying with legislation. You can see this at events like Vape Fest – vendors sharing tents and hotel rooms, beers and laughs. Customers too have become long-term friends following forum interactions.

It’s why bathtub brewing will always be frowned upon now. Everybody who is a major name in juice making started in their kitchen, but quickly went to great lengths to demonstrate the efforts they were making to be responsible with respect to hygiene and sterilisation. They’d start posting pictures of a new process, then a new machine – then dedicated facilities. They’d receive support and encouragement in the early days and become professional. They had clear intentions of making something reliable and worthy for the community to buy and use.

And some idiots never had any intention of doing anything other than ripping you off with shoddy products.

“As you all know,†one such bathtub brewer writes, “tpd has changed the way we vape and buy our vape.. however the tpd does not apply to [their trade name here] as we don’t supply for human consumption.â€

The genius thinks he has discovered a wonderful way to avoid complying with any legislation. Unfortunately, having the word ‘Vape’ in the business name kinda destroys that plan. It’s not a loophole – it’s just a display of rank stupidity.

Some people might ask what is wrong with folks buying cheap, they know they’re getting something that might contain dust, pubic hairs or bits of leftover sandwich – but that’s their choice, right? They know they could spend far more than £7.50 for 30ml, they choose not to. They know there could be urine or excrement from a pet in there, right?

Sure, as long as they are happy with what they’re doing then fine, that’s their call. But, odds are that most buying his cheapy juice haven’t thought about what nasties could lurk inside the bottles; he certainly isn’t telling them.

And we don’t live in a little bubble. What one disreputable bloke in Telford does reflects on the wider community. We are still fighting those who’d seek to place stricter controls on vaping; there are people who would see use in public and all flavours banned. Irresponsible people operating illegally do nothing but give them ammunition. The mind-set would be: if we can’t police ourselves and don’t conform to the legislation in place then maybe total banning is the way forward.

And then there’s the matter of it simply not being right that someone can produce nasty stuff in his bedroom, with no measures taken to ensure any level of hygiene standards – while other juice makers, our friends, have had to commit tens of thousands of pounds to be legally compliant. It’s not fair to them, it isn’t fair to the people buying the juice and it’s not fair to the whole community.

So, knowing all about stitches, we’re more than happy to point out these bathtub brewers can be reported to: