Category Archives: Random

Crisco Candles are Awesome

I’m a DIYer at heart. I don’t know if this is because I’m insanely curious or if I’m simply cheap. It’s usually more cost effective to do things on your own than to pay others to do it. Think home repair projects, car repair projects, or growing your own food in a garden. Sure these things take time to complete but since you don’t have to pay others for their time it’s usually cheaper. Usually. It also gives me a reason to avoid people in general, which is always a nice perk when you’re an introvert.

A few projects I’ve been doing lately besides the typical car repairs are making my own USB solar charger and making my own vape juice. I’ve also been making my own window washer fluid for my car which has been a total pain in the ass because water apparently freezes when it gets cold out. Huh. I’ve had to figure out what to add to the mix to keep it from freezing. Rubbing alcohol (found at Farm and Fleet in the farming section) and ethanol/methanol also works great. My latest project though: candlemaking. 

Making candles is easy as fuck. You buy wax, buy wicks, melt the wax and let it solidify. The hardest is keeping the wick centered while the candle cools; I’ve made some shitty tool with cut up soda cans to hold the wick. I had purchased a ten pound brick of paraffin wax from Amazon last year and have almost went through the entire thing.

Soy wax is another alternative but seems rather pricey. I did some research on what soy wax actually was and apparently it’s made from soybean oil, the same shit you can buy in a grocery store. Apparently soy wax is simply hydrogenated vegetable oil, and I started wondering how difficult it would be to hydrogenate my own oil. I wouldn’t even have to use soybean oil and could use cheap vegetable or corn oil. Surely this would be the most cost effective way to make candles and I wouldn’t be forced to order wax from Amazon anymore.

Trying to find any information on hydrogenating your own oil was nearly impossible. A ton of websites showed up with information on how to make candles but these just tell you to melt wax into a jar. Duh. Other websites talked about the health effects of eating saturated fats which wasn’t what I was after either. The Wikipedia page on hydrogenation is about as complex as you can imagine and has zero practical information for the would-be home chemist/candle maker.

I found a good YouTube video that explained how to hydrogenate oils. You need oil, a hot plate, and a source of hydrogen. Okay. That’s not too bad. Hydrogen is kinda funky to make but can be done. (Protip: hydrochloric acid and aluminum!) But then he mentioned something about a catalyst for the reaction which was something like iridium or platinum (it was palladium). Platinum? For fucks sake where was I supposed to find platinum? It’s more expensive than gold. This put an end to my plan of hydrogenating my own oil at home; it wasn’t cost effective or easy if I needed precious metal catalysts. I wasn’t about to drop hundreds of dollars to make my own damn candles. Back to the drawing board.

There’s also a bunch of information about fats in general. I’m always amazed at how simple home projects like home brewing and candle making inevitably spiral into full chemistry after awhile.

If only I could buy hydrogenated oil. Oh wait, you can. It’s called Crisco, a brand of vegetable shortening. It’s solid at room temperature and should work in a candle. I went to the store and bought a giant six-pound tub for like $10. That’s cheaper than Amazon paraffin wax.

I only wanted to do this for the sake of doing it, but little did I know that using Crisco to make candles has almost no downside to it. It’s an edible fat, so I don’t have to worry about getting wax all over cooking pans and pots. Like butter, you can also melt the shit in a microwave. No more melting paraffin wax on the stove which is terrifying when you image dripping liquid wax all over the floor or carpet. Here’s what I did. I took an empty candle jar and cleaned the wax and old wick out of it. I then scooped as much Crisco into the damn thing as I could and microwaved it for two minutes. Bingo, liquid fat. I put the wick into the jar and let it cool. I wasn’t trying to be a total heathen about it so added some apple blossom scent to it along with some green dye. Here’s what it looks like.

And it works beautifully! I mean it’s a candle so it burns and that’s about all there is to it, but there’s literally no downside to making candles from Crisco. It burns cleaner than paraffin wax, it’s cheaper to make, and it’s easier to make. It was a really stupid thing to try and I hate to recommend this seriously to anyone, but if you want to try making your own candles grab some Crisco and give it a shot. It was very fulfilling.

Streak Day #18 Sucks (and a celebration of viewers)

This is going to be the laziest post I’ve ever written, which is saying something since most of my posts over the past few weeks have been lazy. I’m not even going to bother making a banner image for it. Who cares?

The past few days with the blog have been…interesting I guess. Usually I’ve been raking in about 25 views per day, and if you remember my goal of 1,000 monthly views you’ll realize that I’ll come up short for March. No big deal. I’d be happy with a record monthly viewer count even if it is short of 1,000. Work in progress and all. This also makes the possibility of having record daily and weekly viewers as well. Once again, not a goal I’m chasing after, but I still do obsessively check my viewer numbers every few hours.

What happened, and I don’t really know what exactly happened, was Thursday. I was sitting nicely around 15 or 20 views by midday — a typical day really — while the week overall was slightly below average. I checked the views a few hours later and somehow had an extra 30 damn views and was up around 50! What? This didn’t make any sense. I didn’t write some masterpiece or market the hell out of anything, but it seems viewers came out of nowhere. Despite not knowing why, I was happy about it. Somehow Thursday ended with a whopping 64 views, about 20 more than my last best day. Friday also raked in 54 and I somehow had a record week even as of yesterday. The past best week in terms of viewers was 210 and I’m at 233 currently. There’s still two hours left but as you can tell I’m greatly slacking with the post today. 235 is a huge improvement over 210 and I’ll take it.

So what the hell happened on Thursday?

So that’s the reason for this totally low effort post today. I’ve gotten my best day, best week, and I’m on track for my best month in terms of viewers even if it does come short to the magical 1,000 goal. I don’t want to do any work today and am content to just kinda sit here and reflect and pat myself on the back. As always, I have no idea what I did differently the past few days, but whatever. Thanks for the views guys!

Streak Day #14 Sucks (and some stuff about writing and The Wheel of Time)

Two weeks. Two weeks I’ve been at this shit and I’m almost starting to regret it. Things are great if you have something to write, but I’ve been in a funk the past few days. The writer’s block is getting especially bad and while I can still churn out a daily post I can’t for the life of me think of anything to write regarding any of those fictional stories I’m supposedly working on.

One thing to note: I’ve started reading The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I was weary to begin because apparently it’s a massive thirteen-book series, so had only purchased the first two books months ago. The first one is like 700 pages long too. By starting on a fucking thirteen-book series each with a conservate 500 pages means I could be committing myself to reading a massive 6,500 pages at least. Did I really want to get myself into this project? It’ll take like a year.

People say that creativity comes from branching out and trying new things. Reading Hunter S. Thompson nonstop sure helps get the honest, no bullsit, and vulgar tone down in your writings, but it doesn’t help you branch out very much. I hope by delving into some high fantasy stuff that I’m not used to maybe the creative juices will start flowing again. But I don’t know.

The problem with what I write is it shirks the entire idea of high fantasy and stories in general. I think it’s my bleak mindset on life shining through. If I believe that life is not a big and grand adventure and that we’re all looking for some big grand adventure to add meaning to life this is certain to leak into my stories. What I seem to write about is the pointlessness of everyday life, as bleak as that sounds. I don’t even want this to sound edgy or anything; this is what I seem to write about. Strangely I notice I also write about those magical moments in life where things do make perfect sense and everything is wonderful. Little bursts of light here and there in the total bleakness of the grand story (which doesn’t exist) itself.

I read 100 pages of the first book last night. It was great. I was absorbed into the world and the plot, while slow for the first two chapters, quickly took off. I was hooked. The tension that the plot was about to devolve into a shitstorm was palpable. As one chapter ended I found myself eager to start the next chapter, just waiting for some mild break in the story to finally quit and finally fall asleep. I think I finally passed out around 5:30 a.m. Holy hell.

One thing I despise about reading intense fiction stories is the shock that I receive when I stop reading and come back to the bleakness of the Real World. It’s shocking and I’ve noticed this feeling before while watching movies. I clearly remember seeing Apollo 13 in the theater as a kid and the shock I felt walking back to the car on a bright and sunny day realizing that, yes, it was just a movie and I was back in Reality was terrible. I’d have to go to school later and I’d have to do homework and I’d have to grow up and I’d have to get a job and I’d have to grow old. Consider the harrowing adventure Jim Lovell and crew had to contend with over a few weeks as they whipped around the moon not sure if they’d survive in the dark inhospitable environment of space. It’s a fucking Adventure. And it was engrossing and exhilarating and it was a shock walking into the parking lot and realizing that in a way it was all a dream to you.

The same thing happened yesterday when I stopped reading The Wheel of Time. Mind totally blown and fixed on the greater themes in the story. The Light. The Wheel of Time. The impossibility of stopping past events from repeating themselves in the future. The grand battle against The Dark One. The promise that every character in the book has a purpose, some key role they’re going to play in the Grand Tale. I put the book down, blew out the candle, and walked upstairs to eat peanut butter on crackers along with a glass of milk. Only wearing my underwear. I looked out the window and the sky was turning a dull greyish color. Thanks Daylight Savings Time. I slept until 1 p.m., dragged myself out of the bed, and made some coffee. Now I’m writing a blog post. This is my Grand Adventure. Yay.

Not that the characters are on grand adventures all the time. I’m sure they had to deal with the same mundane bullshit I have to deal with, but this doesn’t bother them in the story. It isn’t even discussed really and only appears in vague ways. Wanting to leave the comfy town in order to “see the world” or to “go on an adventure.” But they seem happy enough and you can’t help but feel bad for the everyday person being caught up in the shitstorm. Tam, one character in the story, can’t wait to get back to his farm and tend to his sheep, even if things are going to hell around him. He likes the quiet life. If they are like me though, maybe the want the world to fall apart in some huge crisis between Light and Dark just so they have some reason to break away from the pointlessness of everything else. To be a part of something greater than themselves.

Sometimes I do think I’m on the brink of my own Great Adventure, kinda waiting around to the world or myself to totally snap in some way to set me out on it. Maybe I am a future best-selling author? Maybe these stupid posts are all the hard work I need to do to get to that point? I doubt it. This fragment of hope exists as a tiny and miniscule glow tucked deep in the back of my mind. I’m not writing because I think it’s a step on the path to greatness, no. I’m writing because there isn’t jackshit else to do and I need to kill another hour before I sulk my way to work. Another day in my fourteen-year career at UPS. Another post in my fourteen-day streak on WordPress. Jesus Christ.

I really think these tiny glimmer of hopes for a better future are what keeps people from going insane. The tiny glow of possible being an author is what keeps the darkness at bay. I know it’s likely bullshit, but if I really gave up hope, what else would I do? I think if everyone gave up hope there’d be no other choice but to string a rope from the ceiling and end it all.

Solar Phone Chargers Suck

A few nights ago, in bed and unable to sleep (like always) I had a drunken idea. I wasn’t drunk at the time but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a classic drunken idea. You might know exactly what I’m talking about; it’s one of those ideas that sounds amazingly amazing at the time but upon waking up and mulling over the idea ten hours later you realize it sounds kinda silly, undoable, and stupid.

I want to go live in the woods for a week.

I don’t want to get too much into my reasoning here, but I think I need a break from life in general. Just to get away. Being poor means I can’t hop in an airplane and fly away for a vacation, and I don’t have any scheduled vacations until July, so living in the woods seems great because it’s cheap and doable. And I can’t think of a better way to escape life than to live in the woods like a bum.

My main issue is this: I don’t want to totally abandon society. Writing is part of the introspection process for me, and there is no goddamn way I’m going to write in a notebook. I want to make some progress with my stories and continue blogging and transferring notebook writings to a computer is a time consuming mess. Most of the time I can’t even read my writing, especially the hastily written scrawl that appears when I’m in the zone. To live in the woods I need my phone and preferably my computer. Sounds easy enough, right?

I’m going to ignore all the other logistical problems here like where I’m going to sleep, what I’m going to eat, where I’m going to park my car so I can still get to work, etc. and focus on the phone and computer problem here. It’s a pain in the ass to solve.

The main problem is going to be charging the damn things. I’m totally ignoring the WiFi needed for my computer here by the way. A phone is easy enough to charge given a power source (the obvious one here is a car) but the computer is different. It requires a 120 volt AC source to charge. The easiest solution would be to use a car inverter (which I have) to charge it, but these options involve the car again. I want to live in the woods far enough away that if I am doing this project illegally in the park that I’m well hidden. Camping too close to a parking lot might get me booted from the park straight away.

Ideally I could charge my stuff via something that is usually present when living outdoors: the sun. It’s big, it’s bright, it’s in the sky for about half the day, and it’s the primary source of power for everything on earth. It’s an obvious choice. And I also have about three solar panels.

The one I want to use is a larger maybe 1.5 sq. ft. solar panel that puts out about 20 volts max. The other two are smaller 6 volt panels. It’s this guy right here:

AA battery pack for scale.

Any project that you attempt should start as simply as possible, only adding complexity to solve a problem. The most obvious way to charge my phone (and let’s worry about charging that piece of hardware before even worrying about the laptop) is to connect the solar panel directly to the phone. But seeing as the panel puts out like 20 volts in direct sunlight and the phone charges from a 5 volt USB supply I’m terrified to do this. It might not even work and in the worst case scenario I might blow my phone up or destroy it. Do I want to risk my Samsung S7 by hooking a panel directly to it? No way.

This is probably a good way to fry the circuits in your phone.

Luckily I also have an LM7805 integrated circuit (IC for short: this basically means there’s a bunch of shit in the chip to make it do what you need it to do without working out the details on your own) which takes some input voltage and outputs 5 volts: perfect for a USB charger. So now the plan is this: hook solar panel up to the LM7805 and hook that to my phone. Here’s a poorly-drawn example:

The LM7805 is not really this large.

And the phone did charge! But damn did it charge slowly. I started charging it (while off to save power) at 59%; about 45 minutes later it was at 62%. Jeez. This wasn’t going to work at all.

Back to the drawing board. Solar panels don’t put out a whole lot of current. They provide free electricity, but it takes a huge solar collection area to do anything useful with it and this is why the phone was charging so slowly. I was directly trying to capture energy into the phone, and it was slow indeed. If only I could store the energy into another battery passively to use later. Collect power all day in the sunlight and then charge quickly when I needed to. So here’s the plan now:

Another good question is how all of this shit is supposed to survive in the woods for a week.

I’m going to take eight rechargeable nickel-metal hydride batteries and charge them via the panel. (Note: These things are great. I use them in gaming remotes, TV remotes, and anything else that eats through batteries. When they die, you charge them, and you don’t need to constantly have a stack of alkaline AAs laying around the house.) Since each battery provides 1.4 volts, the entire pack should be around 11.2 volts; 12 volts from the panel (regulated by a charge controller. I know I said 20 volts earlier) should be perfect to charge them. And when I want to charge the phone, I use them along with the LM7805 circuit to give the USB line, and the phone, 5 volts. The batteries should store all the energy passively through the day, and I can charge (hopefully) quickly when I need to. I don’t know if this will work as well as I hope it should. I currently have the batteries charging and after the sun goes down I’ll see how charging the phone works.

The full setup so far. I would have my phone in the picture charging, but guess what I had to use to take the picture?

An easy work around here would be to grab a car battery and haul that around with me, but car batteries are heavy. I don’t want hauling a 50 pound battery around to be part of my living in the woods project.

I charged the 8 rechargeables with the panel for about two or three hours. I was then able to charge my phone with those from 43% to 49% in about a half-hour at a half-amp of current. This isn’t too bad even if it is slow for a phone. It’s doable at least. Obviously I need to start with freshly charged batteries so all the panel has to do is “top them off” periodically instead of doing all the heavy lifting of charging them in the first place. I’d like to stress again how little current a solar panel puts out. To do anything you need a large solar panel.

And to close this really boring post: let me bitch about solar powered cell phone chargers, like the kind you buy in a store. My mother-in-law kept talking about them today. Apparently there’s one that’s about the size of a cell phone and can charge a phone very quickly. It even works in the shade! she mentioned. I call bullshit on this. If it has a tiny, phone-sized solar panel, it won’t be able to do jack shit. The product probably has a big, fat, lithium-ion battery which can likely charge a phone multiple times before it dies. The solar panel is there to charge it in the meantime, just like my shitty setup detailed here. The problem: the panel is too small! To charge the internal battery I’m guessing this shitty, tiny device must be left in direct sunlight for at least three days, probably more. While it might work great if the internal battery is fully charged, the solar panel will be unable to top it off even under low use. This is simply physics and can’t be worked around. Charging your phone by solar power fucking sucks.

Streak Day #7 Sucks (and some stuff about New Year’s Resolutions)

Seven days?! Really? Wow. I’m proud of myself, but at the same time realize that it wasn’t really that hard. All you need to do is plop your ass down for an hour each day and force something out. I was skeptical about these posting streak proponents but now I realize they’re probably onto something. While I don’t think these posts are “typical” Everything Sucks posts like everything else is, I think they still fit the tone of the blog. Instead of bitching about big, grand, and ‘complex’ topics I find myself complaining about smaller mundane and bothersome things that I encounter during the day. Being sick (but not too sick), depression, and in this post, my failed New Year’s Resolutions.

A friend at work said she wasn’t going to commit to any resolutions this year because most of them fail. Fine, I thought, she wasn’t wrong. Somehow I think I’m an idealist or something; I love the idea of things and to hell if they’re practical or not. Go big or go home, I suppose.

Referencing this post right here for my list of resolutions. If you check it out, you’ll see the post (for once) is overflowing with optimism for 2020. Sadly, it only took a few weeks into the year for everything in the world to go off the rails. The stock market has fucking died, coronavirus is terrifying everyone, and we almost went to war with Iran. I’m sure there are other fucked up incidents in the year that I’ve forgotten over the past six two months, but with me having so much optimism for 2020 it sure was depressing to see things go to shit so quickly. And the same was true with those damn resolutions of mine.

The first to go was the “compliment a person daily” resolution. That was always the hardest one to pull off, me being a raging pessimist that never sees the good in anything. At first I was surprised at how complimenting people daily actually got me to see the good in people, but that didn’t last. What happened was depression. Anyone who has struggled with depression knows that it puts you into a very basic and lowly mode of survival. It’s like a haze of limping along blind hour after hour with no overarching goal in life but to survive to the next moment. At least for me, I found myself sleeping all the time, feeling tired and unmotivated, antisocial, and eating just enough food where the starvation didn’t make me feel worse. Naturally, complimenting someone in one of these moods is a no-go and that’s exactly what happened. One bout of depression into the new year and the compliments stopped. First I missed a day, then got back to it, then missed a few more days, got back to it, and then I don’t think I’d given a compliment purposefully for my resolution in at least a month. Not that I never give compliments; they’re just not part of my daily routine anymore. Resolution #1: DEAD.

And let’s go back to depression real quick: it makes you exhausted and tired all the time. One of my resolutions was to wake up at 10 a.m. everyday and that was great for a few weeks (maybe a month) until depression kicked the fuck out of that goal too. What’s funny is I still wake up around 9:45 a.m. naturally for some reason, like my body knows it needs to wake up. Maybe I trained myself well. But I wake up after having went to sleep around 4 a.m. and feel like utter shit; I then roll over and go back to sleep until noon, 1, or 2 p.m. depending on how shitty I feel about the day. Resolution #2: DEAD.

What about only drinking on Sunday? Moderate success there so far. I do have an exception to the rule: something like “special occasion drinking” whatever that means. Social events, unusual events, etc. The past few weekends have been hell. We had to drive to Chicago two weeks ago and finally got back home around 11 p.m. That meant my day was totally and utterly fucked and what better way to cap off the shitty day than with a six-pack of cheap beer? Last weekend my sister and I went rock climbing — same deal — gone all day, physically exhausted from climbing up walls and riding in a car, and what better way to relax than to pound a six-pack down? Luckily, drinking on the weekday is still a major no-no because that’s where the real cliff edge is. Once you start that it’s a full-send into fully-fledged alcoholism. Hopefully this weekend is uneventful and I can wallow in depression/boredom without needed a six-pack on Saturday. Resolution #3: MILD SUCCESS.

Resolution #4: Publish two Kindle ebooks. Yeah, I’m working on it.

Resolution #5: Write and post my Morrowind fanfic on Wattpad every Sunday. I’m going strong on this one. At first it started off really rough; I was struggling every Sunday to finish and post, but now I think I have a flow. It’s still a chore, but I make progress during the week now. I usually start working on the next chapter on Monday or Tuesday, really tidy it up Wednesday-Saturday, and edit the damn thing on Sunday. It’s great. The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is how much having a routine you stick to helps the project actually progress.

Which leads me back to resolution #4: the ebooks. I really think I need to force a chapter out, like the Morrowind story, weekly. Doing this almost guarantees 50 finished chapters in a year making the book probably complete. Even if the chapters aren’t as inspired, at least they’ll fucking exist. I haven’t written anything for these stories in at least a month and it’s depressing. But somehow the Morrowind story keeps trucking along because I have a schedule hold myself accountable.

Lastly, and to wrap this post up in a nice and tidy bowtie: reach 1,000 monthly views on this blog. This one has suffered in the past two months: December had record viewers and each month since the viewer count has went down.

But for March? Fuck. I really think I’m on track. Like with the Morrowind story, having a routine is awesome and really helps productivity. This impromptu posting streak really seems to be bringing people here. It makes perfect sense too: the more you post the more people have to look at. Duh. But so far this month I’ve had 102 views in only 4 days. Doing a little math and assuming the same rate of views per day puts my monthly views on track to reach around 800. This is still 200 short but would be a record month in terms of views at least. I’m still debating if I want to keep this streak going — I really think I’ll burn out — but the idea of going for the major goal of having 1,000 monthly views is tempting.

Streak Day Six Sucks (and some stuff about being sick/the stock market)

I might as well make this a seven day streak, right? Maybe longer, but a week is an obvious goal to set. I was dreading the last post but was pleasantly surprised when it worked out okay.

As an update to that: I did call today and ask for an antidepressant. Reading the information about the drug escitalopram made me anxious: I’d have to wait about a week to feel any positive effects from the drug? Well shit. Why did I wait so long to give it a shot? Once again when your mood is shit and all you’re picking up from the world are bad vibes, you want relatively instant relief. It’s the impatience in me again; upon deciding on a course of action I hit it hard. Deciding to try an antidepressant and having to wait to even see how it’ll play out is terrible. Patience though. Everything worthwhile takes patients. But I do hate waiting.

And if anyone has any experience with escitalopram feel free to let me know what I’m getting myself into. I’m terrified I’ll lose my mind or something.

Yesterday my throat felt irritated. Swollen in a way. This is unusual when I get sick. My usual mode of sickness is this: sore throat leading to aches and a possible fever that develops into snot, phlegm, and coughing. This feels different. I awoke today feeling especially shitty: kinda achy and with my throat even more swollen than yesterday, but still not the painful scratchiness that is typical. I’m trying to play the mental game here — maybe I ache because of rock climbing a few days ago — and fight the idea of being sick in the first place. I’m not giving into it. As for my throat, I did quite a bit of drinking, vaping, and cigarette smoking this weekend. On Sunday in an attempt to escape the house, I ended up at a local park listening to music, writing, and occasionally screaming along to the music. Maybe that’s why my throat feels like shit, because I’ve been abusing it so much.

I’ve been on edge the past few months anyways. People at work are being decimated by sicknesses and there seemed to be two general types making the rounds. One seems to be a flu bug; this took a few coworkers out of service for over a week. The second was a stomach/digestive bug cursing them with diarrhea, vomiting, and a general feeling of impending death. To be honest I’d much prefer the later; I hate week-long diseases and had plenty of it with my two bronchitis cases last year. No, give me the terrible vomiting and shiting and I’ll power through it.

An obvious mention to COVID-19, the dreaded coronavirus, is required here. I’m not really worried about catching it — it still seems rare enough to not worry about — but sometimes I do think about it. I think there was a case in Chicago a few weeks ago, 60 miles away, and this made me feel slightly on edge. As time has passed cases have creeped closer to where I live in Rockford, Illinois, but I’m still not worried about it.

I think the disease has like a 1 or 2% mortality rate, which isn’t trivial, but if I did catch it I’d be happy with my odds. 1 or 2% is a high risk of death in the grand scheme of everyday life. Imagine if you had a 1% chance of dying everyday: that would be terrifying! I’ve also heard that the death rate is higher in kids and the elderly, and I’m comfortably in between those two age groups. While I’m not the healthiest person I do have a beast of an immune system. Somehow I haven’t gotten sick while working around diseased people at UPS for the past two months.

It’s interesting to think that I’m not worried about a 2% chance of death if I did catch coronavirus. It makes sense though. Back in my options trading days I would routinely put thousands of dollars on hail-mary plays that had like a 60% chance of failure. This didn’t both me (until I lost all the money) so a 2% chance of death kinda makes sense to not worry about, at least for me. I don’t think I’m very good with the whole ‘risk management’ thing.

Speaking of stocks and disease, coronavirus fears have totally ruined the market in the past week and half. I think the S&P 500 is down like 15 or 20%: one of the worst weeks since the 2008/2009 meltdown. In fact I think I read somewhere it has been the worst week since that time. And somehow I called the top of the market and didn’t get destroyed by the meltdown. It had been going up for the past three months for no fucking reason at all, so feeling kinda iffy about it all I sold a large chunk of my $SPY ETF holdings and invested in a bunch of inverse funds — if the market goes down these inverse funds go up. It’s a win-win! And nearly as soon as I did this the market tanked. I kept the hedges low so didn’t really come out ahead or anything, but the fact that my account has stayed nearly level during a week-long meltdown is something to note. I did good for once.

Smoking Sucks/Vaping is Awesome

Now that I got that unintended long introduction out of the way about how I ended up vaping in the first place, I want to explain why it’s fucking awesome for someone totally addicted to nicotine. There are just so many reasons that make it more appealing than cigarettes. In fact the only downside I see to vaping is the slight and minor inconvenience of charging the damn things. I suppose you don’t have to charge a cigarette to smoke it?

Instagram Pics

Vaping and it’s ability to “chuck fat clouds” is wonderful for your Instagram pics. I’m serious. You can blow these beautiful clouds in strange lighting conditions, filter the hell out of them, and you’re left with a masterpiece of artistic photography.

View this post on Instagram

ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space

A post shared by Jeremy Jordan (@jjwritestuff) on

The Smell and Taste

Cigarettes are fucking disgusting. Even though I smoked for about five years, I never did not find them disgusting. The smoke smells terrible. The smell lingers on anything it touches. My parents smoke and all I have to do is walk into their homes for a few minutes and I’ll leave reeking of cigarette smoke. They don’t even have to be smoking; it’s that prevalent in the atmosphere of their homes!

As for vaping? It smells great. This is slightly complicated though given the nearly endless varieties of vape juice flavoring. I’m sure some smell awful (and I’ve always found the fact that they have tobacco-flavored vape juice to be really strange) but with vapes you have options. You can find some fruity pineapple grapefruit flavored juice, or some coffee-flavored juices, whatever the hell you want you can find.

The Convenience

Smoking during the past twenty years has totally been shit on by society in general. Here in Illinois a law was passed banning smoking in workplaces; you couldn’t even smoke at a restaurant or a bar after that. This was great though; eating food in a smoke-filled restaurant was fucking awful. Even if there were separate sections for smoking, the smoke always diffused throughout the entire place. And after that? Laws and statutes banning smoking in hospital parking lots, in cars with children, and other various inconvenient minor things.

This makes having a cigarette a pain in your ass. If you’re at work you need to go outdoors, usually to a designated smoking area, sometimes off property, that might be far away from your work area. It might be cold out, or rainy, or whatever.

Not that vaping is clear-cut to do everywhere legally. It does fall into the category of ‘nicotine usage’ but it isn’t really smoking either. In fact I don’t know what the Illinois law even says in clear legal language. [SEE NOTE BELOW!] But my workplace lumps vaping in with smoking; you need to go to a smoking area to vape. No vaping while working! But the fun fact about vaping is that it’s very easy to hide. Smaller vapes can fit in the palm of your hand and don’t emit much vapor; I find myself totally disregarding the rules at work and vape wherever and whenever the hell I want. There is no stinky smell of burning plant material to out you and no open flame to create a legitimate safety hazard around fuel or other flammable materials. There is no constant plume of smoke giving your location away. Basically, even if vaping is lumped in with smoking, it’s stupidly easy to hide. You can easily vape in stores, restaurants, work places, and anywhere else without anyone noticing or really giving a damn. Just don’t be totally obnoxious about it that is.

[NOTE: I looked up the language of the “Smoke Free Illinois Act” and in the “definition” section provides this:

“Smoke” or “smoking” means the carrying, smoking, burning, inhaling, or exhaling of any kind of lighted pipe, cigar, cigarette, hookah, weed, herbs, or any other lighted smoking equipment. “Smoke” or “smoking” does not include smoking that is associated with a native recognized religious ceremony, ritual, or activity by American Indians that is in accordance with the federal American Indian Religious Freedom Act, 42 U.S.C. 1996 and 1996a.

Note that this doesn’t say anything about vaporizers. In short, at least in Illinois (your state laws can and will be different) vaping is perfectly legal, at least under the “Smoke Free Illinois Act”. I also don’t know if there are other laws in effect. This was the Big One though; the one to ban smoking nearly everywhere in public.]

Even More Convenience

Vaping supplies last a lot longer than a pack of cigarettes do as well. A single pod and bottle of juice lasts me about two to three weeks meaning I don’t need to continually restock my nicotine supplies. Consider the pack a day smoker; sure you can buy a carton of 20 packs and this might last you 20 days, but that’s a huge expense. A pack a day smoker who doesn’t stock up must stop at a shitty gas station whenever they run out and buy another pack, usually every day. This is a total pain in the ass that vaping skips right over. For the price of two or three cartons of cigarettes you can stock up on enough vape juice to last you nearly two months. Which I suppose is a good segue into the next topic…

It’s Cheap as Fuck

Once again consider the pack a day smoker: $8 per day, $56 per week, $240 per month, and $2,920 per year. This isn’t a trivial amount of money! Smoking is ridiculously expensive, made this way by the hefty taxes on the products and by the price gouging of cigarette companies who can price gouge because you’re addicted to their product and will pay nearly anything to get the nicotine fix. This was actually the main reason I quit smoking in the first place: I’m too cheap to smoke. It’s too much money wasted. And it’s the main reason I would never get addicted to cigarettes ever again.

And now consider vaping. A bottle of juice might cost, and let’s be generous here, $30. This lasts me two weeks but your mileage may vary. Still, this breaks down to only $15 a week — about the price of two packs of cigs. This equates out to about $800 per year, a third of the cost of smoking. Once again, if you’re going to be addicted to nicotine, you’d save a ton of cash by vaping instead of smoking.

I’ve recently started to make my own vape juice. I bought nicotine, the ‘filler solution’ and some flavoring. In total this cost me $35 and some rough math tells me all of the supplies should allow me to make around 40 weeks of vape juice. For $35! This is basically nothing! You can never get the expenses down to zero unless you can somehow source your own nicotine, but still these are crazily low numbers to support a raging nicotine addiction on.

There is also the fact that you need to periodically purchase pods, and while the costs of these will add up, you’d still be nowhere near the $3,000 expense of smoking. Just a rough guess, but I’d say a yearly supply of vape pods might total around $100, or you can be a heathen and use the same pods over and over until they cease to work.

Health Reasons?

So these are bit less clear cut and I can’t find any clear medical shit to say vaping is healthier. This page right here from the John Hopkins Medical Center seems to sum up the health effects nicely. In fact most medical places seem to insist that vaping is “bad for you” but can’t give any details as to why it is; section two of the article even says this gem: “People need to understand that e-cigarettes are potentially dangerous to your health.” My emphasis on potentially dangerous — we don’t know how dangerous these things are. Really I don’t think it has been studied long enough to even have good data. To discover cigarettes caused cancer required decades of good data and vaping hasn’t been around long enough to provide this yet.

That being said vaping has had a bad rap the past year with people actually dying from it. (Part one of the link above beat this into the ground. Which is a bit dramatic and missing the point entirely.) The media ran with this hype and scared a ton of people but the real problem it seems was from people using shitty, illegally-purchased, black market pods for smoking THC. Something about a buildup of vitamin E acetate in the lungs or something. The best way to avoid dying from vaping is to not use shitty, street-bought pods or juice. I mean that makes perfect sense so it shouldn’t really be news, but here we are. And the public still doesn’t seem to know much about this fact. In short: as with any other chemical/substance, don’t vape with shit you buy off the street!

I assume vaping will be healthier than smoking because it seems logical that it should. Obviously logic doesn’t make it true, but I think it points in the correct direction. Smoking is terrible for your health and vaping would have to somehow beat it to be worse long-term. I just don’t see this happening. While it might not be good for you, it shouldn’t be nearly as dangerous as smoking.

Smoking involves inhaling burning plant material. It’s never a good idea health-wise to inhale anything that is burning. I vaguely recall hearing that cooking on a charcoal grill too freqnetly is bad as the smoke from that causes cancer. In house fires smoke is a big killer, because humans aren’t meant to inhale fucking smoke. Smoking is literally this with the burning process changing and altering the already shitty chemicals in tobacco to even more dangerous chemicals.

One thing that does seem to be bad about smoking/vaping is the nicotine. Duh. Nicotine raises your blood pressure and heart rate so if you’re inhaling it nonstop (like smokers/vapers do) you’ll probably have a consistently elevated blood pressure/heart rate which isn’t good for your cardiovascular system. Once again, if you’re going to full-send a nicotine addiction at least skip the burning carcinogenic materials and keep yourself as clean as possible. Vape juice is about as simple as it can be — nicotine, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, flavoring — and would appear to be miles better than cigarette smoke. Sure, it’s not as healthy as not inhaling anything into your lungs at all, but no one is perfect.

Maybe I should’ve tried to get some affiliate marketing for this post? Rake in some of that sweet Big Vape money. Oh well.