Tuesday, March 21, 2023

It's Not All Muscle

After going back into weight training in a gym in the summer, when I usually only do it in the winter, I began to get bigger than about half my collection of antique T-shirts and was very satisfied with my progress. I got occasional comments of, ‘You’ve lost weight’ when in fact I’d gained about 10lbs on the 180 I was before. What the commenters actually meant was, ‘You’re more triangular’. So, I was very pleased with myself when I came back to the UK and signed up to the gym here.

Throughout all this I wavered in deciding on the best diet. Low carb and my muscles were more defined and stomach flatter, but I often felt thoroughly knackered and training sessions weren’t as pleasant. This last was even more the case in the UK where the gym temperature is 5 to 10 degrees lower than on Crete. It didn’t take me long in the UK to binge on carbs in the form of stuff like crumpets and malt loaf. After an abrupt climb in weight I then pulled back to lower carbs like crisp-breads and wraps – only two meals a day. My weight kept going up but hell, my arms, chest and legs were growing thicker, so that was a good thing, right?

It was only when I stepped on a scale a month or so back and saw it clear 200lbs that I decided I was kidding myself. Okay, I’d made some gains but they’d arrived with a layer of fat. Side on views in the gym mirrors weren’t pretty and seeing my belly bulge out and wobble when doing squats made me cringe. It was time to do something about this.

Now having experience in all this I knew that the best option for shedding fat is to cut the carbs and do a bit of fasting. I’m not sure I completely characterize what I do as a ketogenic diet because generally that means replacing the carbs with fat, when I am more inclined towards replacing them with protein. However, that does lead to the body going into ketosis. To get into this I simply stopped buying anymore carbs and simply used up what I had. I also limited myself to eating only after noon to get in a dirty fast (because I was having heavy cream in coffee and milk in tea in the morning). 

After instituting this protocol the over 200lbs on the scales was only a one-time event. As the carbs ran out my weight steadied at about 199 and I started to see 1.0 to 1.5mmol/L on a ketones breath meter, which is good. Then something happened a week ago that is familiar to those who go on ketogenic diets: my appetite started to diminish. With this happening and the amount I was eating declining, ketones went up to above 2.0mmol/L and at last I found the willpower to do a fast.

About a week back the will was simply there and I stopped eating and I stopped putting dairy in tea and coffee. I also started drinking some yerba mate I’d bought the year before (check out the Huberman podcast on that subject). Since my willpower had arrived I aimed to do a long fast. Also, knowing how the day seems to acquire extra hours when you’re fasting, I went off on a 7 mile walk that morning. Late afternoon I also went to the gym and weight trained. I ended the fast at 53.5 hours mainly because of low mood and feeling bored about not eating, not because I was particularly hungry.

The next day, feeling disappointed in myself I went straight into another fast – leaving that heavy cream out of my morning coffee. Despite having eaten the evening before, my ketones kept rising to 5.0mmol/L on the breath meter. That’s the point at which the screen turns red as a warning since the meters are primarily made for diabetics in whom that level of ketones is problematic. Timed from when I ate last I did a 21 hour fast. On subsequent days I did two 22 hour fasts and today as I write this am half an hour away from yet another one, if I eat. Over this period my breath ketones have been lowest to highest, 2.8 to 4.0mmol/L (and deep purple on the test strip). I’ve continued to walk 7 miles each day of this and put in another gym session too.               

It’s quite weird that my appetite is practically non-existent now and it seems I’m burning mostly ketones. Meals have been just a chunk of chicken and some veg. It was nice to look at the scales this morning and see 192lbs. Yes, I know it’s mostly water weight, but then human bodies are mostly water. Certainly, factoring in that 3,500Kcals deficit = 1lb of fat, I’ve shed some of it. I’m now looking forward to getting down into the 180s.

In conclusion: Do The Work!

Monday, February 06, 2023

Nicotine Trajectory

 It seems my nicotine trajectory has been one of, ‘Hmm, this is hurting me – I’ll cut it back just enough to stop the pain.’ So, over the years, I’ve gone from unfiltered roll ups to ones with filters, to delaying the first cigarettes with nicotine gum and ameliorating ill effects using an asthma inhaler, the varieties of e-cigarette and negotiations with them for least damage options, to NRT followed by pouches, and now at last to no nicotine at all. This history has also been interspersed with side branches into NRT and attempts at cold turkey quitting, all of which obviously failed. Incidentally, NRT is perhaps one of the most badly named therapies out there, since nicotine is the one thing it doesn’t replace.

I started using the pouches as better alternative to NRT and seemed to be getting along fine with them, just as one time I got along fine with the ecig. See, I didn’t want to quit nicotine; I wanted to quit ill health. But as with the ecig there comes a point when you realize you’re in denial about what it’s doing. 

Ever since quitting the ecig my lungs have been crappy. I’ve been trying to do something about this with cardio since I’ve known for a long time that I need to do exercise that gets me out of breath. To this end I’ve started with a 45 minute morning walk, and began reducing its time by jogging between telegraph poles. It’s been going well and I’m now down to 30 minutes while jogging between up of 30 of those poles. However, my chest still ain’t that great.

At this point I have to wander off into all the possibilities and these range from indigestion to heart failure, intercostal damage to exercise-induced asthma and so on, and so forth. In fact such is the data on these things and so similar are their symptoms that you can choose your malady dependent on your hypochondriac tendency. It’s one of these but, for the purpose of taking action it doesn’t matter which one: you exercise, eat well, and stop stuff that makes it worse.

As with the ecigs I went through a period of denial before admitting that within a minute of putting a nicotine pouch in my mouth the nag in that region of my chest over where most of us would point at our heart, would get worse. So, three days ago, I took the selection of nicotine pouches I had and threw them all into a bag and then that into the loft. The effects of doing this have been quite notable. I’ve had no particularly extreme cravings during the day but at night have had nightmares and panic attacks. Today, according to the stats, is supposed to be the worst day, with a steady decline in withdrawal over ensuing weeks.

I bloody well hope so!       

Friday, January 27, 2023

Lockdown Tales II and War Bodies

Things have been getting busy on the writing/publication front. Last year, upon finishing up with War Bodies I was a bit undecided about where to go next. I put together a few collections, one being Lockdown Tales II which has now been published by Ian Whates over at Newcon Press. Here’s the cover of that along with links above to Amazon and the new page I’ve just made on my website.

Meanwhile, Macmillan has released the cover for War Bodies. I love this piece from Steve Stone. Oddly, the intended aim was for a different ‘war body’, but smacked right on target with this one. Readers familiar with my stuff will need no explanations.

While selecting the novellas and short stories I included in Lockdown Tales II I also rejected a few. One of these was a novella concerning parallel worlds – one of which is the Committee Earth of the Owner books (The Departure, Zero Point & Jupiter War). ‘Fly Pills’ (working title) was another of those that started with a weird dream and though I enjoyed where I went with it, it just did not feel right nor did it tie up neatly. I started playing with it, steadily expanding it, and realized a number of things. Firstly it did not have a suitable antagonist. The antagonist of the novella was essentially a dystopian earth the characters were escaping from. Secondly it was something I needed to explore on a larger scale. I have since finished the first draft of that exploration with a book of 195,000 words, which is 25,000 larger than my largest The Line of Polity.

Now, while editing backwards through that book I’m thinking about what next. It could be I’ll do some more stand alones or it could be that I’ll launch into a new trilogy. Damned if I know at the moment.  

New Covers for Mindgames: Fool's Mate and Runcible Tales

Judging by some of his posts on social media Vincent Sammy has been busy producing artwork for publications for Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, but now he’s got round to doing some more for me. I’ve been in no hurry with all this and suggested he get on with them time permitting. 

When I’d just about reached the stage where story rejections were not so common for me, I threw together a selection of foundational Polity stories. Runcible Tales was taken by the small press publisher of ‘chapbooks’ Piper’s Ash just before I got taken on by Macmillan. The guy continued selling these for some years afterwards until closing down his press with the stories reverting to me. Now the collection is up on Amazon Kindle and POD but was sorely in need of the new cover you see here.

Mindgames: Fool’s Mate was my first book for which I actually got paid a decent amount: £1,000. I dislike the title the publisher foisted on me but am not sure it’s worse than the original To Die but Once. MFM always seems to me to be statement to which the reply should be, ‘Yes, they do indeed.’ This was another one in need of a new cover which Mr Sammy has provided.

Monday, December 19, 2022

New Covers The Parasite and The Bosch

As I have detailed elsewhere, before I got taken on by Macmillan I was working my way up the writing ladder with numerous setbacks along the way. I did not leap from zero to a big publisher as has been the case with some and I’m quite glad about that. I learned the craft from that zero, to small articles in local papers, to stories in small presses for which I was paid nothing, to a few quid for stories, to novellas and collections and on upwards. I’ve had an agent that went nowhere, numerous companies taking my stuff and going to the wall. I’ve made the error of sending a snotty letter to a publisher because of a delay and having my submitted piece kicked. And I’ve learned along the way. After 20+ years of effort I got to see my books published around the world. And now have been producing books for another 20+ years on top of that. 

One upshot of this is that when Macmillan did take me on I had done hundreds of shorts stories, a number of novellas and various other bits and pieces either sitting unpublished in my computer or with small presses. Some of them came back to me as those small presses either went to the wall of shut up shop. I needed to decide what to do with all this stuff and, I gathered from fans, there was an appetite for it despite it being produced along my learning curve. Then along came Amazon Kindle, and latterly Print-on-Demand.

I didn’t expect much from this – just a way to make this work available to the few who might be interested – so I gave it a try. I put on there a novella called Mindgames: Fool’s Mate published by a company doing airport books and which fell foul of the net book agreement. I put another called The Parasite, published by Tanjen Books for a while until that closed down. Three short stories published in a magazine called Kimota and then distributed as a booklet at and SF convention went in – and those were Mason’s Rats. Another was a short collection called Runcible Tales published by a small press called Piper’s Ash, which closed down. And since then I’ve been throwing other stuff that way like a collection called Owner of Worlds, and a novella called The Bosch.

In every case I put these up with their old covers or something generic selected from the Amazon Kindle site. However, seeing that these constantly keep selling, I decided some time back that I should really give them some decent updated covers. How I got to the ones you see here involves something else I put out through Ian Whates’ company Newcon Press. Prior to and during lockdown I produced a few short stories but mainly novellas and published these as Lockdown Tales. I’ve since sent in Lockdown Tales II which you will see next year. I much liked the cover picture for the first book done by Vincent Sammy and so contacted him about doing covers for all my Kindle/POD stuff. I told him to take his time and see what he comes up with and here show you the results for The Parasite and The Bosch. More will be incoming, including a large collection of short stories which, not fitting any particular genre, I have titled Fantastical.


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Twitter and Facebook Bansturbators

I recently had my Twitter account restricted, which came as a surprise what with a ‘free speech absolutist’ now in charge. But then Twitter is a big organization and despite the apparatchiks in ‘Trust and Safety’ being canned, it still has a lot of dead wood that needs cutting out – both human and algorithmic. I protested the restriction and it soon came off. I then screen captured my tweet and the one I replied to and put them up on Facebook for ridicule. And next I got a 24 hour ban from Facebook.

Just as an aside from this let me show you some algorithmic stupidity because, only when investigating this ban did I come across one from back in August:

So what was my heinous sin this time in December? Someone posed the question of how does one reply to a silly conflation of biological gender with gay marriage, to which my reply was, ‘Straw man argument. Now identify as a seagull and fly off a cliff.’ I kid you not. Apparently on Twitter I was encouraging suicide while on Facebook I was going against ‘community standards’. I disputed that of course since I’d made a rhetorical analogy i.e. you can identify as whatever the hell you like but that does not mean you can be that thing, and it was not directed against an individual. Anyway, checking now to find the text of that conflation I find that my 24 hour ban has been lifted early.

But all that is beside the point I’m getting to here. I’ve been reading through the ‘Twitter Files’ where we’re getting an inside track on how the various methods of silencing people actually work. Obviously there is crappy code stuff that picks up on certain phrases, has no perception of sarcasm, satire and parody and often gets things wildly wrong, as per my screen shot above. But then there’s the hands-on human element and this is where things get a crappy. 

Throughout those email and slack communications between the apparatchiks of ‘Trust and Safety’ since booted from Twitter, things become plain. They were simply rationalizing what they selfishly wanted to do, which was shut down those they disagreed with or disliked politically. They talked a great deal about ‘rules and safety’ because, y’know, giving the other side of the USA political aisle a voice is dangerous, while apparently child porn and dictators elsewhere calling for death and destruction of other cultures is fine. Various ‘teams’ and individuals discussed this at length and had many meetings, which I guess is what you do when you haven’t got any actual work lined up. And the upshot was of course precisely what they wanted with accounts being muffled and shut down including, after much tying themselves in knots to designate a couple of innocent phrases as a call to violence, that of the sitting president.

Arising out of all this and my own bans/restrictions, I see that you also cannot definitively separate the human and algorithm elements and that there are gradations of influence throughout. Of course humans write the programs and can make those politically biased. I can guess that somewhere there are bits of code that get you noticed if you use the phrases ‘Make America Great Again’ or ‘Trump rocks!’ It is almost certainly the case that those you ‘associate’ with, whose tweets/posts you like and/or share have an effect too. I have no doubt there are watch lists and sliding scales running from harmless to dangerous (under their ridiculous definitions of these) and the higher up the scale you go the more likely you are to be shut down. 

In my case I look at stuff I share ripping into woke Hollywood, global warming, China, left wing politics and so forth, and assume I’m some way up the scale. There is undoubtedly ‘sensitivity’ there to anything I post and a greater likelihood of me being banned/restricted. This thumb on the scales, this knowledge that some blue-haired woke activist can shut me down with the press of a button, brings home to me the dangers of social media. You end up silencing yourself on matters you feel strongly about just to stay visible. It’s in the region of making excuses for and altering your lifestyle to fit the booze or cigarettes – forming yourself to something that is anathema to you.            

And that way the fuckers win. 

Friday, November 04, 2022

Vaping Update

If there’s one lesson I hope people have learned and are learning in this internet social media age it is that are no founts of truth out there. Every media outlet, every scientific paper, every written and otherwise broadcast thing has a bias – whether deliberate or otherwise. In fact there is so much ‘stuff’ out there you can of course find papers, studies and articles to fit any particular bias you have. This becomes frustrating when you are actually looking for the ‘truth’ because you can find ‘facts’ on any subject that thoroughly contradict each other.

I recently stopped vaping (two weeks ago) and prior to that and up until now I’ve been trying to find out some truths concerning vaping and nicotine, and their effects on the lungs and cardiovascular system. You see, I don’t want to give up nicotine; I just want to give up having shitty lungs.

Medical articles on vaping are very often old ones about smoking retooled as anti-vaping propaganda. Rarely is the harm reduction mentioned i.e. vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking. Elsewhere all the old bullshit is on display about ‘popcorn lung’ (disproven) and deaths from vaping (people vaping THC with vitamin E) accompanied of course by the cries of ‘think of the children!’ Particularly egregious is the stuff out of the USA where states get pre-emptive damages from cigarette companies, which they budget for and don’t want to give up, and which they would have to give up if everyone stopped smoking by switching over to vaping. And when it comes to nicotine, it’s difficult to find articles about its effects that are divorced from its method of delivery – as with the vaping hit pieces, nicotine is conflated with smoking and demonized.

It is in the end a field loaded with misinformation, disinformation and malinformation as the apparatchiks of Twitter label anything from those outside of their political tribe.

So you have to do your own research, figure out what to believe and what not to believe, and come to your own decisions.

I started smoking at about the age of 15. I smoked for 38 years. Initially I smoked unfiltered roll ups until my chest started to get crappy and wheezy and to hurt. I smoked filtered roll ups until the same occurred again (about 10 years later). I tried to give up many times, cold turkey and with NRT. Ten years ago I was delaying the first cigarette with nicotine gum and using an asthma inhaler to open up my lungs enough to be able to sleep. Leaving aside all the other influencing events at the time, I took up vaping about 9 years ago and, with a few hiccups over maybe 3 years, stopped being a smoker and became a vaper. My health improved immensely. Supposed acne rosacea cleared up, constant eye infections went away, the asthma inhalers went in the bin and within a year I found I could swim a mile straight without having to stop and cough my lungs up.

All of this made me an advocate of vaping and I am still mostly in agreement with everything the vaping community says about it. It has improved the lives of and in many cases saved the lives of millions. Meanwhile it is under constant attack by vested interests in Big Pharma, Big Tobacco and from the politicians in their pockets etc. You can check back through my blog here to find my relevant posts on the subject.

One of the big things about giving up smoking is that suddenly being healthy is an option. Taking up jogging, when you’re still on a pack a day, is a tad ridiculous. It’s twiddling with the 10% of the problem while ignoring the 90%. Having stopped smoking I went all in on exercise regimens and within a few years was a lot fitter and healthier than I had been in preceding decades. This has continued with swimming, weight training, kayaking, and mountain walking and so on. A year or so ago I had a crack at doing some running because I felt I wasn’t getting enough of the out-of-breath cardio I needed. My lungs hurt and I got very wheezy so I though no, I’ll just ease into it. I tried HIIT to the same effect, then cramp and an injury knocked that on the head. I thought nothing more of the way my lungs behaved until recently.

Over the last year I think I may have had covid so that really messed with the signal. I thought the morning cough I developed might have been an outfall from that. Anyway it soon went once I was on the move and, damn it, I could still swim a mile with no problem. I guess it took a few months before I properly understood that my lungs were getting a bit shitty. And then it took a little longer to let Occam’s razor in and accept that the more I vaped on one day the shittier my lungs felt the next morning.

Note: I’m not unaware of timings here. My lungs got worse during the period of ‘The Pandemic’ and my reluctant trips for two vaccinations because the authoritarian cunts in control made it likely that I would not be able to travel. And, as is becoming increasingly evident, by lung problems could be related to either the vaccines or the virus. A big source of annoyance to me is that having had the vaccines and getting the required app/paperwork, when I returned to Greece, nobody checked them at the airport! Anyway, I have to put all that aside and look at the reality: more vaping = shittier lungs. 

There are options of course. I have learned that some people have a problem with the propylene glycol in vape juice. I learned how this can dry the lungs, but I also learned that the other component you replace it with, vegetable glycerine, does the same though to a lesser extent. In retrospect, I realise that when I made one attempt to reduce nicotine in the eliquid and just ended up vaping more, it made me feel worse. Interestingly, propylene glycol is in asthma inhalers and I have to wonder if maybe use of inhalers is related to adverse effects from the stuff while vaping. Also, with my distrust of the medical establishment on many matters, I have to wonder if many using asthma inhalers for their malady are in fact exacerbating it with their medication. 

But changing eliquids I suspect would a stopgap for it seems to me that my vaping is tracking the same progression as my smoking. Maybe I could cure present my problem for the next few years, but it would come back because, however you do it, you’re still putting irritants into the lungs – you are still causing inflammation on a regular basis. When I started talking about this stuff I also learned of others having the same experience and, in the end, only one option remained: give it up. Stop putting anything other than air in my lungs.

But the jury is still out on nicotine by other routes.

Note: I could not give up smoking with NRT but I could give it up with vaping. However, I am finding it very easy to give up vaping using NRT. Perhaps those who want to give up smoking should go this route: smoking > vaping > NRT > freedom. But I’m also aware that every stage of ‘giving up’, for me, has been instigated by noticeable damage and not simply the knowledge of future damage. 

Friday, March 18, 2022


Between my school years and my early twenties I was coming to decisions about what to do with my life – where to apply my effort. I’ve mentioned in interviews how I focused on writing because it could incorporate many of my other interests. All knowledge is useful when your vocation is describing the world and its people. Though that world might be a fantastical or science fictional one, there are truths about the way ecologies work, physics works, science works, how people behave and more besides. Once asked what I thought was one of the most important factors in writing my answer was: the truth. In writing I could eclectically select from my other interests and apply them.   

What I haven’t mentioned before is how I put aside one of my interests: art. I was good at drawing and painting and felt that with sufficient effort I could become very good at it. But what is the measure of success in this enterprise? Money is one measure, personal satisfaction is another, but at the time I looked to the art world to see what was lauded and what did I find? I found daubs that looked like the products of snails dipped in variously coloured paints and dropped on a canvas. I found sculptures that looked like interpretations of the world from a five year old. And I found a pile of bricks sitting in the Tate gallery. No, art was not for me, because the systems of measure of excellence were fucked up and had been for a long time.

I remember the feeling of disappointment; of an option closed down by gatekeepers who seemed to have lost all grip on reality. Now I wonder about the many girls and young women, physically competent and excelling at sports, who push themselves to do better and into competition. Are many of them now feeling the same when they look to the future of something they want to turn into a vocation? Do they get that sinking feeling of disappointment seeing the option, the course, and the final goals closed down by a silly ideology that puts them on the track, or in the swimming pool, or whatever physical sport they want to pursue, with a man? Are they reconsidering their futures?

The ideologues of the left talk much about colonization and, as ever, they are accusing those who oppose them (basically anyone who isn’t them) of the sin they commit. While in the process of supposedly ‘decolonizing’, their ideology has colonized the arts and humanities, the media, governments and schools, and it’s now colonizing the sciences and the sport’s world. It’s a virus – spreading from the organs originally infected to destroy others too. It does not assess whether what is destroys is good or bad, and offers no rational replacement for the same. Except, of course, for the wonderful utopia it purports to be ushering in.