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.   

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Keto Eating and All That.

Those who follow me on the social media will know that for quite a few years now I’ve been on a health-optimising rollercoaster. The background on this I’ve detailed and you’ll find it by scrolling through the hundreds of blog posts here, but in précis it is this: 1) A life of booze, cigarettes and the usual food until past fifty. 2) Knowing I must do something upon seeing the decline of people around me of similar age or just a bit older. 3) Watching my wife die of bowel cancer.  

Stopping smoking using e-cigarettes was a start because, as anyone who smokes knows, exercise is unpleasant while smoking and, along with other measures like diet, seems like a sticking plaster over the gaping wound of destroying ones lungs. Next was walking, mainly to ameliorate the psychological outfall of my wife’s death. With these my physical health improved markedly, though it took some years before the organ between my ears got back up to full function again. I lost a lot of weight and became quite fit, mainly because I couldn’t drink, wasn’t eating a great deal and was walking seven miles nearly every day. As my mind came back so did nasty habits, like drinking too much, eating crap, and like many in their fifties I wasn’t too happy with my side reflection in shop windows. Walking declined though I did other exercise like kayaking and weight training, but still the dreaded pod returned.

Phew, and now we’re up to date.

During all this time I’d started reading up a lot on ways to optimise health. In fact I was looking for ways to reverse or ameliorate 40+ years of bad choices. I’d hit a big one by stopping smoking, my exercise was good but still there was that fat. Fat is not good. Fat is hormonally active and can take you into diabetes. I won’t keep on about its many drawbacks sufficing to say that I needed to lose weight. I had always known that exercise does not cut it. There’s a perception out there that visits to the gym will take you along the course to the weight loss but it is simply not true. I’ve spent plenty of time in gyms and know that if you heave about the weights you’ll grow muscle, but every time I’ve done it the girth of my waist increased along with my biceps. And, frankly, when you sweat out twenty minutes on a cross trainer and burn only the calories of a slice of bread, you know that’s not the answer. The answer is controlling what you put in your gob.

So, over the years I tried fasting, and continue to do so. It works very well and drops off the fat at an astounding rate. However, though sometimes I would find it easy going into a fast, at other times it seemed plain impossible. I will continue doing this when I can, but find it difficult to sustain. What I needed was some method I could maintain: a change in lifestyle. 

Part of that change arrived over this last year and that was knocking the booze on the head. I did 73 days and had a lapse, but now after that I’ve been six months off the hooch. There’s more about all that a few posts back here. Meanwhile, I had been reading about various diets. From what I am given to understand a ‘normal’ diet doesn’t work so well because constantly starving your body brings your base metabolic rate down. Your BMR could be 2000Kcals a day at the start of a diet, but if you go down to eating 1500Kcals a day you’ll eventually plateau with your BMR set down to that (with the side effect of feeling cold, miserable and lacking in energy) and then, when the hunger becomes too much to bear as it inevitably does, you’ll go back to eating as before and pile the weight back on, usually more than you lost. But I had also been seeing much about the ketogenic diet and thought it time to give this a try. 

The theory of the keto diet is this: When you eat carbohydrates they knock up your insulin – big time if they’re simple carbs like sugar and starch. Insulin pushes one way to stick any excess you eat into fat cells and to a large degree prevents those cells releasing fat to be burned. If you can get your insulin down it is easier to burn fat. Ways of doing this are fasting ranging from those lasting 16 hours and upwards to days, or eating a diet without carbs – the ketogenic diet. Apparently you easily lose weight on this diet, so off I went.

After managing to do a fast of two days I dived in, eating main meals of just vegetables, eggs and meat, with a later plate consisting of cheese, nuts, raw veg and preserved sausage. I delightedly had cream in coffee too because eating fat is good while those bad carbs were down to 50 or 20 or sometimes zero grams per day. Hey, it’s all good stuff, fat is good, no problem! My weight, to my dismay, went up.

So no, the ketogenic diet is not as easy as some would have us believe. Delving into it all further I found that the reality is this: you do feel more full eating this fat based diet, you can lose body fat much more easily with your insulin down and hell I knew I was burning fat because my keto sticks were well into the purple and my breath meter readings were 3.0mmol/L and above, at one point even going as high as 8.00mmol/L, but the problem here is which fat am I burning, dietary or body fat? The problem here is that despite the claims of the keto fanatics, calories in and calories out still matters.

I convinced myself for a while that my weight gain was due to me putting on muscle, since I was hitting the weights regularly for an hour a day four or five days a week. I had in fact attained a body shape resembling a brick shithouse. But I was back to where I had been before while weight training with waist girth growing in consonance with biceps growth. Further investigation into the matter revealed a simple reality I had been aware of but was not admitting to myself: nutrient density. Nuts, cheese and cream are keto favourites but they are hugely calorie dense. You might not feel as hungry when you eat them, but seriously, check the number of calories in just a handful of nuts or, as had become a favourite with me, a pot of clotted cream. It was just too easy to eat too much.

I didn’t give up. I didn’t buy any more nuts or clotted cream, and reduced what I was putting in my coffee to a teaspoonful of full fat cream. The cheese went to being a rare treat rather than a staple. I was also more strict about the intermittent fasting I had introduced when my weight started climbing – not eating my first meal for 16 to 20 hours after my last meal the previous day. I did a two day fast at the start of this new course and my weight started to tumble. After a period of time I began to notice muscle definition even reaching the point where I could lose the end of a finger between the muscles on my biceps and forearm. Then I started to really feel like crap.

Now this is where it gets weeds and I don’t know what caused what. I’d also been reading about the benefits of lion’s mane mushroom and started taking the powdered version of that. It might be that I also picked up a bug – it certainly felt like that. I felt like I had a cold and then I got the roaring shits. Later reading reveals that lion’s mane can cause severe stomach problems. Or maybe I got a dose of covid. Or maybe, as seems possible, I’d over-trained. Or maybe it was a combination of all these. Whatever the reason I didn’t want to keep feeling like this, went off to the shops and bought carbs and, over the last five days stuffed myself. Almost immediately I put back on a lot of the weight I’d lost. Certainly much of that was glycogen filling up my muscles and my liver – another thing I learned is that though you will often read that glycogen weight is about a pound (500g) that is not necessarily true. It can go to two pounds and more, and this weight is multiplied three to four times by the water retained to hold it. I also stopped the gym for a week which didn’t help 

Now, at the end of a week of no gym, no keto, no lion’s mane and eating carbs I feel better, but I still have no real idea what I’m feeling better from. Today, as I have done on a few occasions before, I emptied various food packets into my composter and skimmed slices of bread over the back hedge. I’m going back into keto, probably including a long fast, but certainly re-introducing the 16 to 20 hours fasts each day. I’ll return to the eggs, meat and veg and forgo the nuts and clotted cream, and I’ll be heading back to the gym. This time I won’t do anything beside that and hope no bug comes along to clobber me, then I’ll find out. If I start feeling rough again and end up spending more time on the toilet than I like I’ll know that straight keto is not for me and I need to apply some other strategy. Perhaps what is called carb cycling. . .

I’m a work in progress, as ever.    

Hope this was helpful for those who are interested.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Social Media Posts February 2022

 Feb 2nd

Phew! I guess I've now got what I was aiming for with ketosis. It's been 6 days since I ended my last fast. I've been eating 2 keto meals a day in a 6 to 8 hour eating window. Breath meter reading hasn't dropped below 2.8mmol/L ketones while the sticks have been reading higher at around 4 (pink/purple). Face looks haggard and my weight is definitely 5lb down on last week and still dropping.

So how is your health and fitness routine going?

Feb 3rd

Trudeau only has a hammer and everything is a nail. When you see stuff like this, and the recent asshole opinion of Whoopie Goldberg, you come to understand that the woke left exist in a parallel universe. Also, in our universe, they're just a reality check away from occupying a rubber room.

Feb 4th

Just in case I ever disappear from here on FB, which is always possible with their censorious attitude, I can be found on Gab. Neal Asher @nealasher

And my Twitter alternative should I ever get kicked off there is Parler, again Neal Asher @nealasher

Feb 5th

Corporates as usual collapsing under pressure like empty suits. Gofundme have cancelled the millions of dollars donated to the truckers in Ottawa. Those who donated will have to fill in forms to reclaim their money else it will go to 'approved' organisations, y'know, like one that was burning down buildings not so long ago. Meanwhile Spotify is hurriedly taking down Joe Rogan podcasts from the likes of dangerous comedians. *sigh*

Oh I see what you did there: reality doesn't match the models, therefore reality must be altered.

He blinked and backed down (Rogan), validating his woke detractors. They will only increase their attacks on him. For the woke, or their opinions, attention is oxygen and they should be deprived of it.

Jack Reacher on Prime -  very enjoyable.

Feb 6th

Okay, plenty of smart IT guys here. When I'm looking at a site in Safari and want to post it to Facebook I just hit the post icon top right of the page and that opens a box of sites I can post it to. All I get in that list, however, is FB, Twitter and instagram. How can I add others there? When I want to post to Gab or Parler I have to laboriously copy and paste the address and would like to simplify that.

Damn Twitter. With this new Ipad I had Twitter back and started scrolling through it again. It is ridiculous how it sucks one back in. I found myself getting annoyed, political and making comments. It just isn't any good for the mind. Okay, in terms of liberty and the awful rise of the woke, those truckers in Canada are important, as is what's happening with Joe Rogan, but me getting angry and shouting into that vacuous site only serves to make me feel crappy. In all honesty I kept Twitter up because I stupidly hadn't figured out how to hide it from my home screen rather than delete it i.e. I wanted to keep it to post to through Safari but not be tempted to look. Now I have and it can bugger off.

Feb 8th

The day before yesterday I all but emptied my fridge. I'm now 42 hours into another fast and have been keeping myself busy to avoid thinking about a trip to the supermarket. 2,000 words written and house cleaned throughout. 🤣 Since I was eating keto before there's been no delay on ketosis - I never dropped out of it. It has been interesting to see how ketosis varies between the two measures I have. The sticks and the meter show changes that seem unrelated (they do measure different ketones) though if I got really anal I could probably track it e.g. perhaps breath ketones dropping when I drink milky tea or urine ketones rising x hours after my last meal or something. Whatever. My clothing has stopped shrinking.

Feb 9th

It's not just 5 years they've been shouting resist and putting #resist in their profiles. The self-proclaimed revolutionary left have been 'the establishment' for decades.

Interesting metabolic functions. During a 46.5 hours fast the highest I got on the breath meter was 2.9mmol/L. Finishing my fast at 5.45pm yesterday I ate sausages, veg and eggs in one meal then cheese, preserved sausage olives and celery in another. I also ate clotted cream, put cream in coffee and milk in tea. Now look at the breath meter this morning. This tells me I am fat adapted. My ketones went up during my fast but I was burning them. Then eating all that fat knocked them up even higher.

Excellent stuff today. I'm now on the downslope of my latest book and heading towards the ending. 2,000 words today typed without appreciable pause. I think I did them in 2 or 3 hours. All I know is I sat down at my desk sometime this morning and then when I looked up again it was 1.00 PM. I love writing when it goes like that. Of course this is first draft so there'll still be lots of work to do after I've written: THE END.

Feb 10th

Well, I guess the ketogenic diet is working out. I fasted a few days ago then returned to eating keto. My ketones, instead of going down when I started eating again, have continued to climb (the picture). Meanwhile, since getting into this properly with my first recent big fast two weeks ago, I've shed 7lbs and it ain't water weight.

Feb 12th

Same bullshit as with covid: dodgy models, predictions of catastrophe from 'experts' who like the power and the limelight, graphs that never match reality, massaged statistics, plain lies and corporates and politicians with their hands in our pockets, except in the case of global warming this has been going on for twenty years.

Feb 14th

Keto diet plus intermittent fasting seems to have stabilised me at high ketones constantly. Around 7.0mmol/L on the breath meter and varying from light purple to darkest purple on the keto sticks. Interestingly if one goes lower the other goes higher. The ketones measured by each test are different ones and I wonder if their variability relates to whether body or dietary fat are being burned?

What are you doing for health and fitness? What routines and plans?

About to head to the computer to get on with the latest book. I did 10,000 words last week and aim for the same this week, or to finish it, whichever comes first. Be nice to have the first draft out of the way so I can concentrate on some other things. I want to get up to date on my accounts, update my website which still has The Human as my latest book, work on sorting out a novella collection and do some editing there. Also there are some other more prosaic things like buying some more clothing. T-shirts are faded and getting stretched around the head hole. Socks are getting thin. And weeks of doing squats have rendered many pairs of underpants too small! 🤣💪

How are things going with you lot? What plans do you have for this week?

Feb 15th

Just stuck myself on gettr too @nealasher. With all these (Parler, Gab) it's just a case of posting stuff, following people and seeing what occurs. Mostly not a lot which is why FB and Twitter persist.

Goodness me. I now check someone's timeline when they send a friend request, but before then many got through without vetting. Every now and again one pops up with some dim-witted leftism and I delete them. What's sad, when I check the profiles of those spouting the most egregious woke fuckery, is I so often find the word 'writer' there.

Feb 18th

A somewhat blustery day today. It's flipping the letterbox and just outside there's a red plastic light cover obviously peeled out of a car. I hardly noticed this until writing THE END. Yup, I just finished the first draft of my latest book at 160,000 words. Hack, slash, hammer and chisel, with increasing amounts of sanding and polishing now begins. Some call this editing.

How is your day going?

Feb 19th

I wrote a story years ago for Nature, in which a guy who broke his back walks into a museum to see the wheelchair on display there. This will happen.

This is an old one (podcast). I wonder now, since I've come to enjoy podcasts so much, whether I should say yes the next time someone asks me to come on one. I never really took much notice of them before, but now they're quite a big thing. What do you reckon?

Feb 20th

There's a Greek expression 'making a hole in water' i.e. attempting some task but failing. The figures here make me think vaccinations have been a costly attempt to stave off the inevitable. That the vaccinated are more likely to be infected now is a function of the limited life of the vaccines and that those who have actually been infected have better immunity. The UK government was right about herd immunity at the beginning, before politicians started shitting their pants and chose the Chinese totalitarian route.

Been farting about with internet stuff this morning. Blog posts up comprised of posts from here, Jack Four on my website homepage, security issue sorted with my router and . . . there I stopped. It's like tidying the house sometimes. Where's that potato peeler? Ah, it is in that drawer, best I clear the rubbish out of there. Five hours later all the drawers and cupboards have been sorted and I'm halfway through cleaning the oven.

I got back to editing instead because chores should be in order of priority. And now I want to get in a gym visit. It is Sunday, after all.

Feb 22nd

Editing editing, then in chapter 7 I decided one section was a clumsy segue and needed work. The result was a 2,000 word expansion there with more to do tomorrow. This is required finessing of the first draft, which was essentially getting down the bones of the story. Hours drifted away and no gym time was had, but I'm happy with the results.

Has anything interesting happened in the world while I've been aboard War Factory Room 101? How has your day been?

Feb 24th

Weak, vacillating leaders fiddling while Rome burns, pouring money into non-existent problems, into leaden stifling bureaucracies and into the pockets of their corporate buddies, and then via circuitous routes back into their own. More concerned with how they appear in the world than making a better one - arrogant, psychotic and utterly incapable of admitting to error. Desperate to maintain their con game and its supporting narratives. Then next topping that off with a panicked economy-killing response to a virus and transitioning that into a power and tax grab from the people. 

And now, sensing the weakness, the vain turpitude of societies that have lost their way in silly ideologies, the predators are moving. Putin has started the ball rolling and China may be next in Taiwan. Perhaps China and Russia can be regarded as the first components of a new 'Axis'. It's easy to demonize, but the US and its 'Allies' aren't exactly clean. All the wars and proxy wars in the Middle East, while the people there seeing the jets shooting over and the bombs coming down had, and have, the same fears of those now in the Ukraine.

My brief and perhaps incoherent thoughts on present world events - to be updated and altered as I learn more. What do you think?

Ooh, I'm actually enjoying editing this latest book. While writing it to first draft I had reservations about many things, along with the usual generalized angst about whether it would be good enough, but now they are going away. 

In retrospect I realise that I've been here before . . . about thirty times! 🤣

Yes, I need a bit more world-building description, and need to spend a bit less time in the protagonist's skull. And yes I need to chop out some repetition and clarify stuff about how a particular entity works. But that's easy stuff going from whole book focus to the specific. Working title, which seems likely to stick: War Bodies.

How has your day been?

Feb 25th

Good grief. The utter lack of rationality about all this. The possibility of world war looms and Biden continues stopping oil and gas drilling in the US, while Kerry bemoans the damage to the climate arising out of war. Meanwhile, deeper down the rabbit hole, Putin's attack is all about white supremacy, or because his mother didn't love him enough. 

I'm aware that the silly ideologies of the Western world are going to be its downfall. But It's probably going to happen sooner than I expected, which I hoped would be after I'm pushing up daisies.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Don't Ask

As a child, in my teens and through to my twenties and early thirties, I was an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy. I used to alternate between the library and a second hand bookstore to get my supply and, being a bit anal about such things, recorded all this. In those years I was reading on average ten books a month. There wasn’t much selectivity there since my aim was that sensawunda fix, but things changed over the years – I changed. I read outside of SFF, I wrote more, I got on with a life outside of reading, and I steadily read fewer and fewer books. I think this is a natural progression. To the youthful avid reader everything you find in books is new and shiny and, of course, at that age you have more time for it. Then life and a degree of ennui get in the way. You find repetition in books of themes, characters, story lines and all. But that doesn’t stop you reading, it just tends to make you choosy. Things would have continued like this with me had something else not happened. I would have continued to read fiction books but more selectively until I turned my toes up. However, I got published by Macmillan in 2000 and, within a year or so, became a full time writer.

My reading continued as before for a number of years, but the ‘getting published’ is the start of a steep learning curve. Though I am still what is described as a ‘seat of the pants’ writer i.e. I don’t plan much and writing a book for me is as much an exploration as reading one is for others, I began to really learn the profession. I began to see the bones of books, the sinews and essential organs. I could see how things worked, or didn’t work. One upshot of this I began to see that in the fiction of others too. I would often know where the story was going. I would see the holes and think ‘I wouldn’t have done that’ which applied even down to the choice of a single word. As this perception first began to kick in I called it having my ‘editing head’ on (hat tip to Wurzel Gummidge), as it was more intense when I was editing something, or just after.

During this period I went by the dictum of ‘paying it forward’ and read stuff yet to be published by others. In every case, when I’ve spent my time with an editing pencil because the writer concerned wanted my opinion good or bad, the response was mostly lacklustre. They didn’t want help; they wanted praise. As I became well known, I also read ARCs of books by big publishers, enjoyed some and provided jacket quotes. Notable examples are Blindsight by Peter Watts and The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, but exceptions like them to my growing response of shrug and toss it aside were becoming rarer. Recently I tried reading books I always loved in the past and found myself giving up when hitting a continuity error, excess verbiage, silly plot twists – bad writing. I also recently tried a batch of new fiction to be very often baffled about how the books even got published.

Now, after more than thirty books, numerous short stories and novellas totalling over three million published words, I’m finding it very difficult to switch my editing head off. Which brings me to the point of this post: I am no longer a ‘normal’ reader and I don’t read or enjoy very much fiction at all anymore. This is why, when other writers now come to me with a reading request and possible jacket quote, I refuse. You guys, who want comments on your books, need to look elsewhere. You don’t want me reading your book; you want the bright-eyed SFF reader I was forty years ago. So sorry: don't ask.