Vaping ‘Kills’ – A Quick Breakdown.

If you spend any time on the internet or reading the news, you’ve no doubt seen articles recently regarding several deaths over in the United States apparently caused by vaping. This is in-fact, just clickbait misleading bullshit… Here’s why.

So the war on vaping is nothing new, there’s been plenty controversy surrounding the smoking alternative for quite some time now. First we had the notorious popcorn lung incident, which was later debunked as bollocks when they realised there was zero evidence pointing to vaping being the direct cause. (They basically saw this mysterious illness, noticed the patient happened to vape and just decided to put two and two together.) Now, we have these six recent deaths over in the good ol’ land of the free.

I’ve read quite a few of the articles that’re being shared all over social media and there’s a distinct pattern with every single one. Although in their headlines they all say that these deaths are caused directly from vaping, they then proceed to contradict themselves in the post with some form of curve ball. In the case of the most recent death in Kansas, the unfortunate individual was stated to have several underlying conditions and just happened to drop dead a week after starting to vape. It’s not actually said what these health conditions are, but a quote from the Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health & Environment Dr. Lee Norman states:

“She had some underlying medical illnesses, but nothing that would have foretold the fact that within a week after starting to use e-cigarettes for the first time, she developed full-blown acute respiratory distress syndrome and died.”

Now obviously we can only speculate as to these exact illnesses, but one thing’s for certain. If she’s sadly passed away a week after starting to use a vape, either one of these conditions had to be linked to something respiratory, or she had another condition that’d yet to be discovered. (She had multiple already, so not a far stretch.) I’ve been vaping regularly now for over six years and not once have I had any negative side effects or impact from vaping, the same going for my partner, many friends and a plethora of customers back when I worked in the industry.

A recent, prominent case where the individual thankfully survived involves the young lady pictured above, eighteen year old Simah Herman from Los Angeles. A month ago, Simah found herself sitting in her dads car unable to breathe, upon which he had to rush her straight into the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. After her recovery, Herman stated, “I just remember feeling like absolute… Nothing. Like I just couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t drink water, I couldn’t move. Like, I literally just wanted to crawl out of my skin.” The day she was rushed in, doctors ran a chest x-ray which showed a ‘white haze’ towards the bottom part of her lungs, Simah’s pulmonologist Dr. Kathryn Melamed believing to be possible signs of pneumonia. Several days later, further x-ray results revealed her lungs were inflamed, full of liquid and filled almost entirely with white.

Dr. Melamed stated that we’re still discovering what effects vaping has on the lungs and that Herman’s condition was likely the result of some adverse reaction to a component within the e-liquid. This is a fair statement, though e-cigarettes have been a widespread product for a fair few years now, there’s still not enough study time to truly understand what long term side-effects may pop up. (Though in Herman’s case this isn’t relevant, since she’s nowhere near old enough to have been vaping that long.) In terms of a reaction, one of the active ingredients in most e-liquids is Propylene Glycol. An organic compound commonly used in injectible medications (to add viscosity) and as a stabiliser for vitamins, it’s a substance that’s been utilised massively for fifty plus years and is harmless to most people. Some individuals however can be known to have a PG intolerance, meaning if they were to breathe it in, it could cause respiratory issues such as a tight chest, coughing or worse in extreme cases. I know a few people who have this infliction yet still vape, though they tend to stick to high / 100% VG liquids if they can.

If we’re talking the other ingredients found within e-liquids, let’s have a quick look:

Vegetable Glycerin – Found in a variety of foodstuffs, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products.. Again, harmless by itself and as far as I’m aware there’s no known intolerance to this substance. Chances are even if you don’t vape, you’ve ingested this on multiple occasions without even knowing. (Fun fact: It’s what’s used to make the clouds in smoke machines!)

Nicotine – Probably the most demonised out of all the ingredients. Contrary to popular belief, although nicotine is highly addictive, it’s relatively harmless when ingested in the small quantities found in both cigarettes and e-liquids. (Though I wouldn’t recommend handling 100% pure nicotine, that shit’s going to kill you quick.. Luckily, most e-liquids only float between 0% – 5%.)

Flavourings – Another subjective ingredient, there’s so many flavourings produced from the various different manufacturers around the world. However, with TPD and other equivalent regulations, all of these will be stuff that’s already tried, tested and again used in a variety of food products. Hell, some companies go all out and use natural solutions, with one liquid I stumbled across using real (albeit processed) blueberry juice!

As you can see, when we break down the individual components they’re all relatively harmless and completely neutral in a reactive sense. So long as you’re sticking to safe, regulated e-liquids, there’s absolutely no reason why these products should kill you in any way beyond an existing medical condition.

Unfortunately, not everyone is buying regulated liquids, which leads us onto our final point of the article…

Dodgy liquids. Like any profitable product out there, there’s always going to be fakes and cheap imitations. It’s quite simple to make your own e-liquid, with all the ingredients listed above being easily accessible to purchase. However, there’s nothing stopping you adding other stuff into the mix, ingredients that could potentially create a dangerous concoction.

Coming back to some of the recent deaths, several individuals involved were found to be using liquids that weren’t regulated, with some even containing THC, the psychoactive component found in Marijuana. Now, I’m not saying it’s the THC that’s killed them. I’ve been an avid lover of weed for longer than I’ve vaped and mix these two loves on a regular basis (even trying THC liquid in the past.. It’s daaaaaamn good) and again, I’ve never had any adverse side-effects bar a bit of cotton mouth and my poor fridge being raided.

I know this is going to sound very tin-foil hat brigade, but what’s to say someone hasn’t gone and made a batch of THC e-liquid (something that’ll be highly sought after and easy to sell), and deliberately mixed something nasty in to make people fall ill? From what I’ve seen online, several of these deaths were pretty close to one another, so it’s not too much a stretch of the imagination. I’d like to think I’m wrong, but with some of the sick fuckers out there in this day and age, it wouldn’t surprise me.

If you’re reading this and you vape, serious talk… Stick to regulated e-liquids, buy your products from trusted vendors and if you really want to go homemade, then do it yourself! There’s plenty of comprehensive guides online that give spot on advice and it’ll help save you some pennies in the process! (Though certainly a hassle, if you’re lazy like me just buy pre-made. :P) It’s not worth the risk buying from some random Joe on Craigslist just to try and save money, as it could cost you a lot more in the long run. And if you are looking for that THC fix, stick to good ol’ bud and keep your vapes separate.

Thanks for reading! As someone who’s vaped for years and worked in the industry, stuff like this really gets me riled up. I completely understand the need for regulation and more studies to be done, but clickbait headlines designed to cause panic and anger aren’t going to help. People need to be given the facts so they’re able to make their own minds up and see for themselves what’s really going on.

If you’ve been thinking of quitting the ol’ stinkies for a vape but been put off by this whole scaremongering then fear not! I hope this post has helped clear some stuff up. While you’re at it, why not go check out my other article where I take you through the comprehensive beginners guide to the world of e-cigarettes?

I’ve got more stuff planned for the coming days and intend to get some work done on my new Youtube channel, so make sure to keep your eyes out! But until then, make sure to have a great day and vape safe! 🙂

Edit:

So literally half an hour after finishing this article, I jump onto Facebook to find Breaking News from NBC saying that the Trump Administration plans to ban all sale of flavoured e-liquids within the United States.

All due to this ‘growing issue’ as Trump put it.. Wait, you mean like the growing issue of school shootings? Yet you can still go down your local gun store and pick up an AR15 rifle.. Fuck me America, get it sorted.

Riding Motorbikes: A Dangerous Joy!

Transport, a staple of society and something we all use on a daily basis. Be that your classic 4 wheeled automobile, the pleb wagon that is a bus, or in my case a 2 wheel speed demon of joy inducing death! I love motorbikes and have been riding for a couple years now. Since getting myself onto the roads properly, I’ve come to realise quite a few truths I thought I’d share with you lovely people. So here’s a list of a things you hear and have to deal with as a biker!

1. People assume you ride like a moron.

Now if there’s one thing that comes with riding a motorbike, it’s the stereotype that you’re a dangerous, speed loving menace who shouldn’t be allowed on the roads. To be fair, I’ve seen quite a few people who fit this description and I can see why the reputation exists, but the vast majority of bikers I’ve met over the years are highly responsible, respect the rules of the road and if anything have better road awareness than a lot of car drivers. (Since we need too.)

As it is with many things, it’s the case of a few bad apples dragging everyone else down. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for opening up the throttle now and again when safe to do so, but if you’re wanting to clock triple digits on the speedometer, take it to a track. (Or a motorway at three in the morning.) My bike’s only a 125cc (see my baby below) so I can only clock about 75mph with a decent back-wind, but when I do eventually jump up to something bigger, I still plan to ride safely and stick to the speed limits. (Says the guy who just got his first speeding ticket, but hey! Do as I say, not as I do. ;D)

2. You’re going to be essentially invisible to cars.. Like, a lot.

Aah, the oblivious driver. Too many times I’ve been riding home from work, minding my own business staying in lane, when some douche nozzle (usually in a white van) decides to take a total blind turn into my lane, nearly wiping me off the road in the process. A lot of the time when this happens, they get a sharp blast of the horn and some rather evil glares through the visor, but most normally apologise and recognise their mistake. Sometimes however, I get the self entitled wank splats who seem to think the whole situation is my fault, kicking off at me flipping the ol’ bird the entire way. (One guy even had the balls to ask me to pull over, till I obliged and he sped off… Pussy.)

Now I get being on a motorbike we’re a physically smaller presence on the roads, but come on. We’ve got headlights just like any other vehicle (mine being set on permanently, both front and back), loud pipes so you can hear us coming along with most bike gear having some form of reflective materials added. (Or a Polite high-vis, if you’re a suspected child fiddler.)

Honestly, me and a few mates who ride have been talking and we’ve decided that all motorists in the UK should be forced to ride a motorbike for at least six months before going for a car license. That way they can see what it’s like having drivers be pretty much blind to you so they hopefully don’t pull that shit when getting behind the wheel.

3. Drivers pulling in-front of you whilst filtering / lane-splitting.

Okay, so this one is going to be subjective to whatever country you’re living in. Though filtering (riding down the white lines between lanes) is illegal in many countries, it’s actually not here in the UK. (So long as done sensibly on an appropriate road.) It’s a practice I avoided for most of the first year I rode, but after sitting in bumper to bumper traffic one too many times, I decided to develop a set of balls and worked my way slowly through the cars. Since then, any time I hit standstill traffic, I get myself straight into position and cruise down the middle, knowing most people I pass will be hating me in that moment.

Some though, take that hate to a new level and will deliberately pull the front of their car across to try and block your path. For starters, this is just dangerous. If I’m cruising down the middle, even at slow speeds and you pull out, I may not have time to fully react and end up totalling myself over your bonnet. (Knacking your car and probably others in the process.) I really don’t understand the mentality behind doing this. Is it jealousy? Do you not like the fact that I’m getting to my destination quicker than you? Or were you simply abused by a Fireblade as a young child?

I’ve spoken to a lot of car drivers about this. Most tend to sympathise with me, but occasionally I get remarks saying that if I wasn’t doing illegal, dangerous things then I wouldn’t end up in these kinds of situations. Like I said, it’s a common misconception that it’s illegal to lane-split in the UK. Christ, the amount of bikers who do it and the amount of Police I’ve filtered straight past, there’d be no bikes on the road from us all being nicked! But even if it was illegal, does that give someone the right to pull their car out and put my life at risk? Fuck no.

Again, there’s always a few idiots in the gene pool and I’ve seen a few bikers filtering at ridiculous speeds or in stupid places like junctions and crossroads, but again these are minority examples of a few dickheads putting themselves and others at risk, ruining the group reputation. So if you’re a biker and reading this, make sure to lane-split safely and sensibly!

These points are only a few stereotypes and issues that come with choosing the life of two wheels, I could mention others but don’t want to rattle on too long. What I will say though, is that one of the best decisions I’ve made these past few years is investing in a bike license and getting myself on the road. Honestly, it doesn’t matter how bad of a day at work I’ve had. The moment I climb on my bike, start the engine and get the wind in my face, I’m chilled out and relaxed as anything.

There’s a great sense of freedom that comes with riding a motorbike and I believe a big part of this comes from the risks associated with it. You get a real adrenaline rush, similar to riding the biggest, fastest roller coasters you can! I understand why there’s a bit of a stigma surrounding bikers and the bad habits that come with the community (and community is a real big thing in the bike world, trust), but the same can easily be said for car drivers. The faults lie with individuals themselves, not the type of vehicle they use. People need to take more care when out, pay attention to what others are doing whilst sticking to the rules of the road. If everyone can do this, there’s plenty room for all of us to get everywhere safely.

Keep riding kids!

I’ve gone done a Youtube!

I know, the last post I made was letting you guys know about my social media pages, but at that point my Youtube channel was essentially desolate bar a cringe-worthy introduction video. But now my friends, I’ve actually recorded something!

Now I originally intended for this channel to be an extension of my blog, primarily talking about the same kind of stuff I do here. (And I still plan for that to be the case moving forward.) But honestly, I’ve found that whenever I come up with any sort of idea for a video, I either can’t get my words out properly on camera or my mind just goes into a total blank. (Honestly, Youtubing is harder than you’d think!)

So with that, I decided to go ahead and load up one of my all-time favourite PC games, download a copy of OBS Studio (software used to capture in-game footage) and get a couple games recorded. Well, I say this.. Originally I’d intended to play Black Mesa, a faithful and damn good fan recreation of Valve’s PC classic Half Life, but I just couldn’t seem to get in my groove, even after running through and recording the first mission a good few times. (The gameplay was fine, but the commentary was meh at best.. Should really write myself a script.)

I find picking the UT series poetic however, since my first ever post on this blog was talking about Unreal and how it’s the game that truly sparked my love for video games. So yeah, if that sounds like something you’d be interested in, feel free to click here and check out my mediocre, average quality attempt at a let’s play!

Otherwise, I’ve got a couple things planned to get uploaded on here in the coming days, so make sure to keep your eyes out! Until then, have a great day and thanks for reading! 🙂

Social media, we all use it.. Why not check out mine? :D

A cheeky title, but does what it says on the tin aha.

Obviously I do most of my posting on here, but I’ve also got a Facebook and Twitter account that’re tied to this blog! I’ve also started a brand new Youtube channel which will feature similar content to what I offer here, but with my ugly mug included! So if you guys are interested, I’ll pop some links below and feel free to check it out! 🙂

Facebook
Twitter
Youtube

Now that the shameless plug is out the way, I’ve got myself a bit of free time in these coming weeks so plan to get a couple things uploaded very soon along with some new content on the Youtube channel, so keep your eyes peeled.. Otherwise, thanks as always and I hope to see you then! 🙂

The Hype Train: Next Stop – Shadowkeep!

Destiny 2, a game that’s taken a good chunk of my time and money since Bungie made the base content free for awhile back in November. It’s also the game that got my girlfriend into PC gaming and we’ve spent a silly amount of time since running Nightfalls, melting bosses and generally having a great time! (Remember, couples who game together stay together! ;D) Needless to say, we both can’t wait for the release of Shadowkeep next month and have already got everything pre-ordered and ready to move onto Steam. With that, let’s talk about some of the reasons I’m hyped for Destiny’s next big expansion and why you should be too!

1. Moon’s Haunted.

If you’ve ever played the original Destiny, this one phrase should bring back a nostalgia overload of the great times had on our solitary, Hive ridden moon. Who can forget the first time they descended into the Hellmouth and bitch slapped Crota? (Still one of my favourite raids!) Well, Shadowkeep is taking us back to that old familiar rock, but this time we’re getting twice the map size in which to explore! Though the moon was a prevalent location back in the first game, it was certainly one of the smallest areas to mess around in when compared to other planets. (Not taking into account all the warrens below the surface you can traverse.)

Now some fans have complained that this is just a lazy copy / paste job re-using assets from the first game, and I suppose I get their point. (It would be nice to get some entirely new locations to explore like Enceladus or Europa.) However, on top of getting many of the same areas we’re familiar with, Bungie have expanded massively and opened up so many more buildings and zones that were previous inaccessible or simply didn’t exist. (Such as the Fallen ketch we destroyed during The Shadow Thief strike and a couple old buildings within the Anchor of Light.) It also makes sense for us to return since it’s a highly prominent location within the games expansive lore and many questions are still left unanswered. (Like seriously, if I don’t get to face Savathun in the Scarlet Keep I’ma be pissed.)

2. Eris Fucking Morn!

Aah Eris, everyone’s favourite Hive obsessed Guardian. She played a key role in Destiny 1’s Dark Below and Taken King storylines and is probably one of the characters that veterans of the franchise have been crying out the most to return. (Like seriously, the community went nuts when that first Shadowkeep trailer dropped.. Fangirling to the extreme!) There’s good reason for this. Mainly, she’s a damn interesting character, being the sole survivor of an infamous fire-team that descended upon the Temple of Crota, along with spending years living alone within the Hive infested tunnels of the Hellmouth.


She’s honestly one of the most unique characters I think Bungie have created within the Destiny Universe. From her dark, hive aesthetic to her badass background and being one of Ikora’s ‘Hidden’, there’s plenty she could bring to the table now that we’ve dealt with Riven and wrapped up the Forsaken storyline. I’m glad they chose Eris to be the Moons new vendor, as there’s no character better suited for the job lore-wise. (Now give me those sexy new guns!)

3. Armor 2.0, bring on the customisation!

If there’s one thing I found was really stripped back in D2 compared to the original game, it’s the skill trees. Take a look at these two pictures below and tell me we didn’t take a huge step backwards…

If you couldn’t tell, that’s Destiny 1 in the first image… Same subclass, but double the perks compared to now. Seriously, the original gave you so much more choice in how you could setup your skills and abilities, meaning you could craft a more unique build to suit your playstyle. Now? We’re funnelled down one of three skill trees within each subclass, which leads to most players running similar if not identical setups to each other. (Bar weapon choice and armour perks.)

Although it doesn’t look like we’re getting any changes to the subclass system at the moment, Shadowkeep is definitely heading towards those glory days with the new Armour 2.0 system. (And Artifacts, but we’ll touch on that in a bit.) So how it works currently in Destiny 2, most armour pieces when they drop come with what’s called ‘Random Roll’ perks. This means that the abilities and buffs on your armour are pure RNG and you’ve got to continuously farm to get the ones that’re right for you. This for me brings up two problems:

1 – You’re spending a whole lot of time grinding away for that one piece of armour to complete your build.
2 – Sometimes you get the perks you want, but the armour piece just doesn’t look great or match your style.

Thankfully, the new armour system seems set to change all this. For starters, Bungie are completely scrapping the random rolls and have instead opted to expand massively on the mod system that’s already in place. What this means is instead of gear dropping with perks pre-set, there’ll be slots where you can socket in mods at the cost of energy (similar to games like WoW and other MMO’s) that grant you different abilities. Many of these look to be the same kind of buffs you get currently like ammo finders, flinch reductions and reload enhancers, but from what we’ve seen on the Shadowkeep website and the recent Directors Cut, we’re in store for a plethora of new perks to use. These mods are also tied to the different element classes, meaning if you’ve got a void piece of armour, you’re only going to be able to equip void attuned mods and so on.

As someone who loves a good RPG and spending stupid amounts of time playing with my character skill trees, I honestly can’t wait! Although we’re not messing with our subclasses directly, being able to always have mods that suit the weapons you use or the playstyle you love is ideal and cuts back on such a reliance to RNG and grinding. Bungie still haven’t confirmed what a lot of these new perks are going to be, but with the announcement of ‘Pinnacle Mods’ for those who really like to bash the end game content (that’s me), I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve got in store for us.

One last bit to mention before we move on, something that’s got me and a lot of the community real hyped… Transmogs! That’s right ladies and gentlemen, worry no more about having the most mismatched armour in the tower, as moving forward all Eververse armour sets will be converted to ornaments that are usable on any piece of 2.0 gear! Combine this with the new mod system, we’re always going to be rocking the best possible rolls whilst always looking the way we want! Like I said earlier, it’s frustrating finding that piece of gear with the exact perks you need but knowing it’s going to look like dogshit with the rest of your armour. It’s something that really should have been adopted long ago, but I’m glad it’s finally being implemented and I look forward to seeing what new snazzy armour sets await us!

4. Hello again Artifacts!

Since Bungie seem to really be focused on improving core character customisation and RPG’ing the hell out of everything, they’ve gone ahead and brought back the artifact system. This is something that was first featured in Destiny 1 during the Rise of Iron expansion and it looks to work on a similar principle in D2, though designed to run with the different seasons rather than having a vendor sell them weekly. These artifacts grant your character a variety of buffs and perks, similar to that in both the subclasses and armour sets. What’s unique this time round is that these artifacts are also going to allow you to overcharge your light level and reach beyond the new cap of 960. Bungie have claimed that the lengths at which you can go are essentially limitless, all depending on how much time you spend upgrading it and adding new perks. (Though there’s only so many you can unlock by the looks of things, so we’ll see.)

We’ve also been told that the artifacts will reset at the start of each new season, meaning you’ll lose all the progress you’ve invested into it and will have to start fresh. I don’t mind this personally, so long as each artifact brings something new like unique abilities then it gives players a goal to constantly work towards. The fact that it allows you to reach beyond the light cap means that you could essentially keep grinding and progressing forever! (Gotta get that XP!)

Now although Bungie have mentioned that the artifact will boost your light level to help go beyond the cap, I’m assuming this boost will effect you regardless of what light level you are. It’ll be interesting to see exactly how much more they bring to the table and what kind of unique bonuses we’ll be getting our hands on.. Speaking of new, unique stuff.

5. Finishing moves!

Oh yes, you’ve got to take out those big nastys in style! This is something entirely new that’s never been seen in Destiny before and from what we’ve been shown in gameplay clips and trailers, they look like good fun for sure!

From Hunters ninja-spinning shit to death with their blades, Warlocks blasting you away with pure void energy or a Titan simply hulk-smashing things out of existence, apparently we’ve only seen a small taste of the finishing moves that’re going to be on offer in Shadowkeep. Though we haven’t been told too much on how these will work, in an interview with Bungie’s Mark Noseworthy and Luke Smith, we gained a small bit of insight into some of the mechanics surrounding these moves.


They explained that once an enemy falls below a certain health threshold, we’ll be able to trigger these awesome insta-kill sequences. (Sounds pretty similar to what we saw in Doom 2016.) On top of this, we’ll also be able to get our hands on armour mods that are specifically designed to enhance our finishing moves, granting unique bonuses at the cost of some super energy. (In one of the Directors Cut videos we saw the new super bar being segmented, most likely for this reason.) One of the examples given for these bonuses by Luke Smith is that once you’ve successfully pulled off the finishing move, you’ll generate special / heavy ammo for you and your team members. As well as being able to customise your finishers via armour mods, there’s also an option where you can increase the damage and add additional abilities by extending the duration of your finishing move through an animation. So although you put yourself at risk for a second or two during the animation phase, the pay off increases with whatever ability you chose to equip. (The guys at Bungie described it as Combat Emotes aha!)

It’s certainly something different and I know of a few people who have mixed feelings about it, saying it’s a fairly pointless addition, but hey! If these truly are finishing moves where we utilise some of our light, then I can imagine we’re going to get quite the payoff and really melt some enemies. Either way, it’s something I’m definitely looking forward to playing around with.

With all that, let’s move on to the final point…

6. Cross Save & New Light!

Now, I know that cross save has already came out and isn’t exclusively tied to Shadowkeep, but it’s still pretty big so I thought it worth mentioning. As you’ve probably gathered from the start of this post, I play Destiny 2 on PC. However, I’ve got a couple mates in real life who’re huge fans of the game but tend to play on their XB1’s. Although I don’t actually have a console up and running at the moment, if I ever wanted to grab myself an xbox and jump online with them, now I can! (Or y’know, they could come and join the master race. ;D)

I’m part of a few D2 community pages online and the amount of console players I’ve seen migrate over to PC since the release is massive! Firstly, that’s a great thing for our numbers (and k/d’s) as although the PC community has been steadily growing, it’s still been the smallest out of the three. (Though with New Light coming, we’ll see how that changes things.)


Speaking of New Light, the fact that the base game all the way up to Warmind are going completely free to play is a huge step in the right direction. As I said at the start, I got into Destiny 2 when the game was free for awhile on Battle Net. If it wasn’t for that I’m genuinely not sure if I’d have ever got round to buying a copy of the game. (I loved Destiny 1 don’t get me wrong, but had plenty other games on the go at the time.) This is going to give so many people who’ve maybe debated getting the game an opportunity to try it out and see what they think! If they’re anything like me, they’ll end up purchasing all the additional content within a few weeks of playing. (Plus, getting to re-experience the cosmodrome again? Yes please.)

So yeah, Destiny on the whole is in an exciting place at the moment, with many huge, positive changes on the horizon. There’s still plenty more coming that I haven’t mentioned here like the huge Crucible re-work (yay), so if you haven’t already, go check out the Directors Cut and get caught up on all the latest news and release info for Shadowkeep.

I’m hoping that the release all goes smoothly, Bungie must be under a lot of pressure since their split with Activision, losing a big chunk of development support from Vicarious Visions on the PC side of things. So far though they seem to be managing well and I’m sure things will continue to get better as time goes on… How many bugs will there be on release day? Only time will tell.

If you’ve got this far as always thanks so much for reading and I hope to see you all October 1st! Keep up the good fight Guardian.

In Summary: Fuck Call Centres.

Man, it’s been almost a year since I’ve posted. I’ve been meaning to write something for awhile now, but kept getting caught up with work or just being too knackered to be anywhere close to bothered. (Along with not knowing what to write about, heh.) But let me tell you, these past months have been a real eye opener, so today I thought we’d talk about the absolute soul destroying joys that come with spending a silly amount of time working in a call centre… Buckle up ladies and gentlemen, it’s going to be a long one.

A bit of background to begin with. I’ve been in and out of a few different call centres for the past 5 years now, working for several high profile players in the Telecoms & Tech industries. (One of whom I’m still working for, so will definitely stay unnamed.) When I first began, I worked for Apple through an outsource company. The role was primarily doing tech support for their iOS devices, but I eventually progressed on to work with the Mac side of things, before finally being promoted to a Tier 2 agent. This involved taking any manager requests when customers were being unreasonable dicks, or when an issue was too advanced for a basic Tier 1 agent to deal with. This was my first contact centre based job and at the time I loved it, though I think younger me struggled a bit with the responsibility of case management that came with the promotion. Because of this, I ended up looking for a job elsewhere and found a role working in-house for one of the UK’s largest developers for Accountancy based software, Sage.

My job with Sage was genuinely great (for awhile) and also involved working in their call centre. But rather than doing all out tech support, I learned plenty about payroll processing, which includes a variety of tax calculations, pensions etc. (Boring stuff, but good to have on the ol’ resume.) This came as a bit of a surprise since the job was advertised as doing nothing but supporting tech issues with their Accounts & Payroll packages. But, not wanting to complain and always willing to learn, I adapted surprisingly well, staying there for a good couple years. (Incidentally, I’m the fucking god of pensions.. Just sayin’!)

So far, things have been pretty positive. You’re probably wondering, “Hey David, where’s the fucking rant at?” Worry you not my child, for things began going downhill fairly quickly once a change of hands came round with the higher ups and everyone started having sales targets dumped on them. Now as I just said, when I applied I was under the impression that I was only meant to deal with technical stuff. I can live with the added Payroll support but now they’re expecting me to hit a three grand sales target on-top of all that every month? Fuck clean off. Honestly, it got to the point that at the end of every call, I was having to take a good few minutes to rattle off other shit the business were offering just to see if the client was interested in wasting even more money on an inferior, buggy product. (Half the time I was only talking with some admin clerk anyways, someone who has zero authority to purchase anything on their companies behalf.)

People have told me that I could sell ice to an Eskimo, and the job I’m in now is fairly sales orientated, to which I’m finding some success in gaining some extra money. But at the time with all the shit I was already expected to do, along with other ridiculous changes made in the business, it all became too much and I found myself stressed as anything. It got to the point where I was snapping with customers when they let their lip run too far and a handful of managers for just being general pricks. (Not ideal to say the least.)

Now obviously I found it all a bit rough, but I know I wasn’t the only one. I remember this one bloke who worked there, not sure of his name but I know he’d been an agent with the company for years and was well liked within the department. Give it a month after the sales targets were bumped up, low and behold he’s on a performance plan for ‘not doing good enough’. Give it another few months and he’s gone. Not sure whether he got laid off or caved himself and moved on, but either way it’s a disgusting way to treat someone who’s dedicated years of their life to your company. A lot of Directors and CEO’s seem to forget that those at the bottom who deal with all of the customer interaction are the backbone of the company and without them, most organisations would crumble. (I can’t see half the bosses I’ve had doing the jobs I’ve done, especially for some of the pathetic pay packets I’ve been given over the years.)

Eventually things escalated (after being on a performance plan for sales myself, along with just being negative as hell about the job), and I found myself in a meeting, discussing my on-going future within the company. After about 15 minutes of sitting down and chatting with my team leader and some random lass from HR, I was sent out the room while they made a decision. After only a few minutes, I was called back in to be told that I was no longer employed with Sage. I made sure to tell them exactly what I thought of the company, pointing out that having a known issue in your product for over a year and a half whilst doing fuck all about it is quite simply retarded. (Seriously, anyone who uses Sage 50 Payroll, get yourselves Quickbooks or something for the love of god.) I was escorted back to my desk so I could collect my things, at which point I took the opportunity to leave loud and proud, saying bye to colleagues I actually got along with, making sure everyone knew exactly what was going down. (Wouldn’t surprise me if some customers overheard.)

Now obviously, this wasn’t ideal financially speaking. Needless to say though, I was quite relieved no longer having to show up at that shit show five days a week. After this I got lucky, managing to dive straight into a job at a local vape shop that I’d frequented for a couple years. It was certainly a nice change of pace and since I enjoyed vaping, I found myself thriving in the role. Eventually, I got promoted up to Store Manager, being put at the helm of a brand new shop the franchise owners opened in a nearby city. Unfortunately, business struggled and after about a year the store ended up being re-acquired by head office. (With many other stores on the same street now closed due to the area just being cursed or something.)

For awhile I ended up working for another start-up vape shop. The owners seemed to be cool at first, but it turned out to be a total cash grab and them basically expecting me to run everything whilst they hardly sank any decent money into the business. (These people already being successful, wealthy businessmen.) Once more, the job hunt beckoned. I bashed out a fair few applications whilst gritting my teeth through the bullshit, until eventually I got a response for a job working with one of the UK’s big six energy companies. The catch? That’s right, it’s a call centre. (Specifically dealing with customers bills.. Let me tell you, customers become real dicks when their money is involved.) I was fairly dubious going back into a contact centre, what with previous bad experiences, but I needed the money as the pay I was getting at the time was barely liveable. Needless to say I packed my bags, told the vape industry to go fuck itself and off I skipped back to the life of the telephone, cautious but optimistic.

4 weeks of training went by and all seemed well. Okay the systems they use for dealing with customer accounts is outclassed by DOS on the best of the days, but I can make this work. At this point we’ve been up to the floor and listened to experienced agents deal with calls a few times. Most of the ones they took seemed fairly straight forward, mostly just taking meter readings and updating customers bills. Easy enough stuff, just hindered again by the shitty software and PC’s. The biggest issue though? Customers.

They say the customer is always right… No… Just no. Now I’m not saying that all of them are complete morons, but a lot of the time customers are self entitled, believe they deserve everything and seem to gain a whole new level of disrespect when dealing with people over the phone. (Mainly because they can’t get knocked the fuck out for backchatting.) I mean seriously, I spoke to people who haven’t paid their energy bill for months on end, yet have the audacity to call up and kick off to us when they get a debt letter through the door and a knock from a collector. Now I sympathise, if people lose their job and fall upon hard times it can be tough, trust me I know from experience. But when you ring the company, start f’ing and blinding to someone down the phone who didn’t even know you existed up till this point, you’re a piece of shit.

Thankfully, this was only a temporary position and a stop gap to bring in some money, but mentally speaking it’s surprising how much the job had an impact upon me. Before working there, I can genuinely say I’d never experienced any feelings that could come close to anxiety or depression. But within the last couple months of the job and a good bit after, I was quite frankly a mess. I would come home after a shift, act like everything was fine but deep down inside I’d be having a full blown panic attack, freaking out about inconsequential things from earlier in the day like; “Oh god, what if that person now hates me because I said this?”, or “Shit, I’m sure I fucked that up. I’m going to get fired, then I won’t be able to pay my rent and I just don’t know how I’m going to deal.” Seriously, I’d be sitting on the settee watching a movie with the missus and find myself zoning out entirely for minutes on end with these kind of thoughts going through my head, the pit of my stomach writhing with this horrible sickness. I actually spent a good couple months unemployed before I ended up landing a job with the place I’m at now. It gave me a good bit of time to reflect and sort my head out, but the one thing I learned was that me and call centres just don’t mix… Apparently I didn’t give a fuck though, and here I am back in one for a good 6 months now.

I really don’t know why I do this to myself, heh… I started earlier in the year and the company I’m with are incredibly high profile, well known and I’m actually a big fan of their products. (The missus more so.) Though I knew in the pit of my stomach I was making a mistake when I first walked into the interview, the lure of a good pay packet and some pretty sweet employee incentives won me over. To be fair, out of all the call centres I’ve worked in this is by far the best. The problem is I’m beginning to head back in that direction I was earlier in the year, feeling the anxiety creeping back in and these negative thoughts plaguing my mind in the rare moments of peace I get. Though not as bad and frequent as they were, I feel like if I don’t escape this rinse and repeat cycle of diving in and out of call centres every year or two, I’m never going to get anywhere in my career and just damage my mental health even more.

Pause.. I started writing what was meant to be a quick history of my time in call centres, but it’s ended up dominating half the article.. My bad! With that, let’s move on to exactly what it is that makes call centres such soul destroying cesspits of hell.

By now, I’m starting to feel like it’s less the companies I’ve worked for and more the call centre environment that brings me down. Though some of my previous employers have been pretty shit in the way they’ve screwed their staff over, I’ve started to identify plenty patterns that seem to follow me no matter what company I’m on the phone for.

1. KPI’s.. KPI’s everywhere!

Aah, KPI’s. A term you’ll no doubt be familiar with if you’ve ever spent any time within a contact centre or sales based role. KPI stands for ‘Key Performance Indicator’ and is basically all the targets you’re expected to hit within your day to day role. Though most jobs have these kinds of targets in some way, I find they’re ramped up not only in quantity, but intensity within call centres. Here’s a few of the one’s I’ve found that exist in every call centre I’ve been in:

– AHT (Average Handling Time, basically how long you’re spending on average with each customer.)
– Hold (How long you’ve got customers on hold… Obviously.)
– ACW (After Call Work, how long you’re spending finishing notes in the customers account after they’ve hung up.)

These three are the core targets of any job that involves you being stuck infront of a telephone all day, but if you’re expected to sell stuff then believe me there’s going to be more. From your net revenue, attachment rates and overall sales value in terms of cash, you best hope you’re making those millionaire bosses of yours richer, otherwise you could very well be out of a job.

2. Pressure, oh god the pressure!

Now, I found this to be less so in a purely tech support role, but in some way all call centres are nothing but pits of high pressure and expectations. Like seriously, you and your team could be given one particular focus for a week or two… The weeks pass by, great! You’ve nailed it, the target’s been hit! Unfortunately, because you were so focused on this one statistic since we kept pushing you constantly to hit it, these other targets have gone to shit. So basically you all need to do better and get these met by next week… The week goes by, great! You did it! The target’s been met, but wait, now this one has slipped… Starting to see the pattern?

Again, a lot of jobs are like this, with some sort of pressure from the higher ups to achieve a certain goal. But I feel that my time spent in retail within a storefront was faaaaaaaar less intense. At least you got some time to breathe, in a call centre you’ve got to deal with nigh-on constant calls and pretty much no time in-between. Christ, some companies have even put systems in place that automatically kick you back into a call after 20 – 30 seconds, meaning you’re basically non-stop the entire day. Whenever I make this complaint, most people tell me to be grateful and that my day should go by quicker because of it. In some ways I see their point. I’m always grateful for employment in this day and age and it does keep me busy, but after years of having to speak to literally a hundreds of customers a week, most of whom are complaining in some way, with no time to stop and clear your head? You’re going to get burnt out pretty quickly. (Again, even more so if you’re talking about their money.)

3. A lack of progression.

If there’s one thing I look for in a company, it’s an opportunity to progress and truly make a career for myself. If there’s one thing I certainly haven’t found in any call centre, it’s this. Now yes, you can progress down some routes when the opportunity arises (which is rarely), but most contact centres tend to have literally hundreds of employees at any one time. (With a staff turnover like you’ve never seen!) Because of this, competition can be fierce. Yes, I progressed fairly quick during my time in Apple, but I found things to be different back then, with people being generally happier in their jobs and less crap coming from the top down. If you want to move on to become a team leader or quality assessor (basically listening and marking peoples calls) then great! Because that’s essentially your only option in a call centre.

Now yes I’ve met quite a few people who’ve progressed into these kinds of roles after many years with a company, but at the same time I’ve also met plenty others who’ve been with the organisation even longer and are still stuck at entry level. You’re no doubt thinking “Well that’s obviously because they have no ambition or are just bad at the job”, and in some cases you’re probably right. If there’s one thing I do know, it’s that making a cosy little campfire up inside your bosses arse is a far more effective strategy it seems to get a promotion. Seriously, I’ve seen a few prime examples of people who’re pretty average at their job but are top class brown-nosers, managing to get good with the bosses and snake their way up the corporate ladder… Okay, you’re probably thinking I just sound like a jealous dick at this point, but no. I’m all for people doing well and succeeding, and as I’ve said in this article several times I have done myself. What I’m not for is people who haven’t earned their praise being promoted whilst genuinely hard working individuals get overlooked and are stuck taking shit at the bottom.

All of this ultimately leaves you…

4. Stuck in a rut.

Again, this isn’t everyone I’ve met and some have managed to find success. But I can honestly say that a good 80% of the people I’ve worked with in some way disliked or outright hated their jobs, many openly stating that it’s had an impact on their mental health. Right now I’m sitting here writing this as it’s the only thing I’ve felt in any way inspired to properly talk about. If you’re reading this and can relate, then the only thing I can say to you is work on getting yourself out of there and know that there’s plenty people struggling with you.

I live in the North East of England and there’s a silly amount of call centres up here. Many claim it’s because we’ve got the most friendly accents in the UK (they’re not wrong if you exclude Byker side), but it means that so many people in this area have experienced what I’ve described here today. Of course, many people around the world go through struggles with stress and mental health at work. It’s great that companies are starting to open up to this matter with a more sensible and welcoming approach, but ultimately I can’t see anything really changing for me when it comes to call centres. This past week, I’ve updated my CV and have been sending out a fair few applications to various different companies. My dad thinks I should look at car sales since I’ve apparently got the gift of the gab.. It’s tempting, certainly good money. At this point though, I honestly couldn’t care what I’m doing so long as I’m not in a call centre… Or McDonald’s.

P.S.
Thank you if you’ve actually read this all the way to the end! I haven’t written in awhile as I’ve just had total writers block, but I definitely plan to get more active and try to have something new at least once a month. (More if I can!) I know this page originally started out more focusing on Video Games / Vape related content, but to be honest I don’t think I’ll be posting anything vape related from this point forward. There’s certainly some interesting stuff that’s been going down recently in the gaming industry though so I’ll no doubt take a good look at some topics and get something knocked up for you guys real soon.

Until then, I’ma finish on a really shitty dad joke…

So when I first proposed to my wife, I gave her a bottle of tonic water…

… She was schwepped off her feet.

– Mike from Work, 2019. (You beautiful bastard! ;D)

“I’m Offended!” – The Worlds Favourite Phrase

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!” An age old saying that apparently means nothing anymore… Oh yes, this one’s really going to put the rant in ‘Rants & Rambles’.

So if you haven’t seen the news, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, everyone’s favourite Hindu Kwik-e-Mart owner from The Simpsons is being pulled from the show for good. A beloved character who’s been in since it all began back in 1989 just gone, like that… The reason? Well apparently, he’s a racist stereotype… *Sigh*

I’m sorry, but I am sick to fucking death of this new age, soft shite bullshit with easily offended morons ruining everything! You can’t say anything nowadays without someone proclaiming to be offended and hurling a torrent of abuse your way. Now I’m all for treating others with respect and not going out your way to offend someone and be a dick, but c’mon… Being offended shouldn’t have anywhere near as much power as it does… I think Stephen Fry put it best with his famous quote on the matter:

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… Than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what?”

Spoken like a champion and I couldn’t agree with him more! If you’re offended by something, then why not just keep your fucking mouth shut and move on? People are more than entitled to not like something or find something distasteful, but that doesn’t give you some sort of moral superiority just because you disagree with their opinion.

Back to the whole Apu situation, the character has been around for years! Christ, multiple surveys have been done over the years with Hindu’s and the likes, where the general consensus found was that most didn’t find him offensive at all… £20 says the one’s who’ve actually pushed for the character to be removed are young, white college kids majoring in Social Studies. (Once again, getting offended on other peoples behalf.) And let’s be fair, the Simpson’s has been chock full of satirical humour since it’s conception, with cultures ranging anywhere from us Brit’s to the Jew’s being portrayed under a stereotypical fashion… Does that mean it’s done in an offensive manner? Of course not! It’s blatant tongue-in-cheek humour meant in a lighthearted way.

But recently it seems there’s more than just poor ol’ Apu who’s coming under flak. Kleenex have just re-branded their ‘Mansize’ tissues to extra large, because y’know.. Gender equality. Many complained to the company deeming the products name to be sexist, to which Kleenex eventually caved under. I mean it’s a total fucking non-issue, but whatever… People aren’t happy if they aren’t complaining about something.

The real issue I have is the hypocrisy from these offended parties…

Let’s take modern feminists for example. (Or Feminazi’s as I like to call them. :P) Now originally, feminism is supposed to be about equality. That’s EQUALITY mind you, as in both genders being equal and not placing one above the other. However, it seems this definition has been lost in translation somehow, because half of the bullshit I see out there is less about making men and women equal (which by the way girls, you already are…) and more about creating a bloody Matriarchy and demonising all men.

I’d like to clarify that this isn’t all feminists and there’s plenty out there who still believe in the true cause, but I’m quite confident the Suffragette’s would be spinning in their graves if they could see what their movement has become.

And who can forget good ol’ ANTIFA? (Being anti-fascist by using fascist tactics!) If you’re not familiar with these cockwombles, they’re the ‘Anti-Fascist Movement’ and basically the lefts mini militia. They see themselves as the good guys, going round and punching Nazi’s! (Bearing in mind, their definition of Nazi is literally anyone who has a different view point to them.) I mean just look at them in this picture… Nothing says moral high ground like a fucking death squad. (Not to mention their bloody riot shields!) Of course, you don’t have to look very far online to find examples of these morons causing more trouble and damage than the ones they’re meant to be opposing. (Check out the Bikelock Fugitive for a perfect example.)

Look, I’ma just sum this all up now before this turns into an in-coherent rant. (I actually started writing this two days ago, but keep getting side-tracked and re-pissing myself off everytime I come back to review the topic.)

My problem with today’s society is two things… Too many easily offended parties forcing their bullshit down peoples throats, and far too many divides and barriers placed up between one another.

If the world stepped back for a moment, forgot about all this White Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, Feminist, Meninist BULLSHIT for just two bloody minutes and actually thought about HUMAN RIGHTS, maybe we wouldn’t have such a clusterfuck of a society! We’re all the bloody same at the end of the day. Your skin colour means NOTHING.. Your gender means NOTHING.. Stop creating groups and barriers between everyone, start thinking of humanity on the whole and what we can do to sort this train-wreck of a planet out and for the love of god, stop getting so triggered over pointless, non-issues that contribute nothing productive to the big picture on a whole.. If you’re one of these people who believe that Apu should be banned, or that ANTIFA are the good guys.. Go sit in a corner, give your head a wobble and have fucking words with yourself.