Archive for April 2009

The Cheap Pipe Experiment

Let me preface this by saying I’m a pipe smoker, not that I smoke pipes. At least that’s how I see it. A person who smokes a pipe may smoke once a month, once a week, maybe once a day. A pipe smoker almost always has a pipe dangling from his lips, and a surrounded by a sweet smelling cloud of tobacco for as much of the day as possible.

So I abuse my pipes. I smoke a single pipe all day, letting it cool off between smokes, and then rotating to another pipe the next day. I have 7 “live” pipes that I rotate through. I say “live” because I have a few pipes that are barely hanging together thrown into a desk drawer should there be some ungodly emergency, and all my other pipes mysteriously disappear. Hey, it could happen.

Anyway, like I said, I abuse pipes. I’m a chimney, I drop them; you know, everything they tell you not to do. But I do clean them inside and out, even reaming them and sweetening them when I need to.

Still, I punish my pipes, and they’re kind of expensive, between $50 and $80 on the average. I do have one horribly expensive pipe, a meerschaum skull, but I never smoke it. Considering the damage I wreak, I decided to muck about with cheap pipes, not estate pipes, just to see what happens under the kind of conditions I put one through.

090402 Cheap Pipe 01So, the pipe you see here ran me about $18. There are cheaper, but you don’t know what they’re made of (I’ve smoked a weird, plastic like pipe once that ran me about $5). This is the basic briar with a vulcanite stem. No maker’s mark, just a stamp saying it was made in Italy, so I call it my “frah-gee-lay” pipe (see A Christmas Story). You can click on these images to see a larger view.

090402 Cheap Pipe 02090402 Cheap Pipe 03

090411 Cheap Pipe 01Now, remember, I smoke a pipe all day, but only once a week. Let’s take a look at this pipe a week later. Here you’ll see that the finish has started bubbling, creating air pockets underneath. In one corner, the finish has already chipped off a small amount. You can also see that the stem has already discolored. Again, you can click on the images to see a larger view.

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091818 Cheap Pipe 01So again, I wait a week, and smoke the pipe all day. At this point, the damage is extremely visible. Every place the finish bubbled, has now chipped open from handling. Okay, I kind of chipped at the edges so they’d look smooth, but on the whole, the damage is just from handling.

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Again, the key here is that I didn’t expect it to handle the abuse well, and that wasn’t the point. I just wanted a cheap pipe, regardless of how bad it would eventually look. You can’t beat a new $18 pipe with a stick just because it looks ugly. As long as the briar and stem remain intact, I’m perfectly happy with it.

090412 Cheap Pipe 01I thought I’d share with you one more cheap pipe. This is a meerschaum-lined pipe I got off of eBay for something like $7.  My rotation on this pipe was a lot harder, and it payed the price. You can see the damage to the bowl. The edges of the meerschaum lining have broken off, I’ve managed to actually smoke the pipe hard enough to destroy the bottom of the meerschaum, and the bowl itself is cracked. This pipe lives in my “if-every-pipe-on-the-earth-disappeared” junk drawer, ’cause, you never know…

090412 Cheap Pipe 02090412 Cheap Pipe 03

So how have my more expensive pipes held up under the same brutal handling? Virtually no damage to the finishes, except where I’ve dropped them, and minor discoloration to the stems.

So here’s my point: I wouldn’t recommend smoking any really expensive pipes unless you’re a collector. I’ve seen $5,000 pipes that would never touch my lips. I’d never buy them, but I sure as heck wouldn’t do much more than dust them once in a while. The range of $50-$80 is reasonable as good pipes go, and will survive regular use very well. But still, a really cheap pipe still smokes well, despite how it ends up looking, and isn’t that the bottom line?

Of course, one week later, I ended up buying another $80 pipe. Hey, it was my birthday!

Mr Hulot’s pipe censored by Paris Metro

Mr Hulot’s pipe censored by Paris Metro
Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:27am IST

PARIS (Reuters) – The pipe favoured by one of French cinema’s most enduring comic characters has fallen victim to advertisers who were worried about breaking an anti-smoking law — but have earned mockery and ridicule instead.

Jacques Tati’s Mr Hulot, whose pipe was as much a trademark as his hat and beige raincoat, is seen riding his Velosolex motor scooter in a poster advertising a retrospective at the Cinematheque de Paris.

But the pipe has been replaced by a small coloured whirligig by Metrobus, the group that manages advertising on Paris public transport, because of fears the pipe could break a law forbidding it from “direct or indirect” tobacco and alcohol advertising.

Mr Hulot, the accident-prone hero who stumbled benevolently through a series of films between 1953 and 1971, is one of the most immediately recognisable figures in French cinema and the affair of his pipe has sparked a minor uproar.

The Liberation daily was among many newspapers mocking the cover-up, pointing out that Mr Hulot is not wearing a helmet, is riding an old-fashioned, polluting vehicle and that the small boy riding behind him is not seated securely.

“Why not go all the way with this legislative zeal?” it asked.

Even Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot has been worried. “We’re getting pretty ridiculous with this,” she said.

A Metrobus spokesman appeared unperturbed, reacting with the kind of assurance in adversity that would have done Mr Hulot proud.

“I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about,” he said.


Why are Teens Smoking Smarties Candies?

Look, I have allergies. I used to be able to just go to the store and pick up pseudoephedrine. Now, since it’s used in the manufacturing of meth, I now am required to present my drivers license to buy it, and have my purchases monitored because god forbid I’m building up a stockpile 3 pills at a time. If there’s anything that meth dealers should be put to death for, it’s the fact that I can’t just pick up allergy medication without a full strip search. By the same extent, I’ve been thinking about going to a meth dealer just so I can buy 30 days of Sudaphedrin all at once.

Now comes this wacky story. We know that smoking anything but pipes is bad for you. Your average pipe smoker can actually jog 13 miles with a meerschaum between their teeth, but they’re just too mellow to get up from that comfortable chair. But smoking Smarties? If I have to present my goddamn license just to buy Smarties, someone is going to die.

From the Digital Journal

Published Apr 13, 2009 by
Bob Ewing

A number of YouTube videos indicate this is not a new trend, however, some parents and health authorities are concerned about teens smoking smarties.

The video that accompanies this story was posted on August 14, 2008 which as trends go is not new. What has happened is that parents and health authorities have seen the video because the mainstream media finally caught up with the Internet.

The concerns that are being expressed are one, that it glorifies smoking and two that smoking smarties can lead to chronic conditions such as smokers’ cough, infections and choking.

The danger rests in the possibility that the person could accidentally inhale the fine powder down the wrong pipe. Sugar sitting in the lungs or nasal cavity for an extended period of time could cause an infection.

Smarties have also been snorted. I’d be more concerned about the snorting behaviour than the smoking one.

Mark Shikowitz is a Long Island ear nose and throat specialist. . Shikowitz treated a 9-year-old who had pieces of candy lodged in his nose. The candy eventually dissolved.

Why do teens do this, well, perhaps they are seeking that viral video that will take them to instant Internet fame,as short lived as it maybe. Perhaps they watched a video that showed them how or perhaps they saw the news which gave this trend considerable coverage or maybe they are just imitating morn or dad or that older sibling who smokes.

Teenagers will experiment and YouTube and cell phone have given them the tools to film and broadcast those experiments. A suggestion to parents, the mainstream media and health authorities check out YouTube more often, you may be surprised what people are doing.

Knees-up in Oamaru is a smoking time

There’s a little blurb here about a pipe-smoking contest using clay pipes. I’ve never heard of something like that, except it makes sense that someone would have one. And if you’re rich, send me to New Zealand so I can try it.

Knees-up in Oamaru is a smoking time

4:00AM Tuesday Apr 14, 2009
Nigel Costley

The enthusiasm generated by Oamaru’s Victorian Celebrations was perfectly demonstrated by the Can Can dancers of Arrowtown.

Lacking a performance venue on Saturday night, they created an impromptu stage by bringing a pair of cars onto the footpath facing each other with their headlights on and gave an exuberant performance of their customary knees-up.

I wimpishly asked of them: “If the car owner gets busted for a traffic offence, would you share in the fine?” One of them airily replied: “Oh, I’m a lawyer, I’m sure I could get them off.”

Running from November 12-16 last year, the Oamaru event had an array of traditional delights, including such un-PC activities as a smoking contest which was held during the Victorian Fete on the last day. The object of this singular and contemplative activity was to see who can keep their pipe going for longest. The contestants sat in solemn concave at a long table and were given a clay pipe packed with a certain quantity of tobacco. They were each given three matches to use in the first few minutes and then they were on their own to last as long as possible. The skill apparently lies in keeping the embers burning gently and evenly across the top , rather than burning a core through the middle of the tobacco.
Dressed as a Chinese coolie, complete with a dead chicken on a pole, Sam McEachern came a commendable third on his first attempt at the competition. His pipe conked out at 27 minutes, while trying to smoke, engage his fellow contestants in banter and take photos are the same time.

This year it was won by local horse breeder and three-times champion, the Amish-looking Richard Vinbrux, who held out for 34 minutes, narrowly squeezing out the previous champion, Ken Mitchell. “The trick is to relax,” he said. “If you’re too nervous, you puff too hard.”

Doyenne of the Oamaru art scene Donna Demente, who specialises in paintings of large heads with sensuous lips and languid eyes, is also leader of a bikie group (push bikes) called the Hydrangeas.

Usually overshadowed by the more spectacular penny farthings, this group whizzed about the town on bikes of antiquated appeal, often festooned with a floral display.

A similar piquant charm is found in the Wizard (aka Ian Brackenbury Channell), once of Christchurch, who has moved to Oamaru and is still much given to practising his wizardly ways. This time he bestowed an award on one of his most faithful acolytes, Sir Barty, on account of his immense talent for being annoying and because in collaboration with Barry the Egyptian, he intends building a pyramid in Oamaru.

For many participants, the ball was the Heritage week’s peak experience. It was an enchanted evening – the women in their opulent and dazzling ball gowns, bedecked with bustles and baubles of myriad size and hue. The gentlemen were resplendent in tailcoats and top hats or – even more dashing – military uniforms or kilts. There was a selection of waltzes, fox trots and the military two-steps, culminating in everyone on the floor for the grand march led by the pipers.

Following in the tradition of the great Mrs Beaton, Marise Martin devised a performance entitled The Victorian Domestic Goddess Takes a Husband. Aided by five equally fictitious characters, she dispensed wisdom and guidance to fellow female pilgrims on the vexed question of how to choose and keep a husband.

Certain women, well lubricated with sherry and elderflower cordial, expressed the wish to trade their husbands on the night. The success or otherwise of these wishes is not recorded.


The Victorian Celebrations are held in Oamaru annually, during the
second and third week of November. For further information

Outwest Tobacco Customer Appreciation Discount Program is where I get my pipe tobacco from (bulk, Lane Ltd., BC-A, hint, hint). They sell pipes, accessories, and of course tobacco. And more!

I gotta tell you, I’ve been doing business with them for years. One of the things I like best is that they offer small sample packages (1 oz.) so you can try different tobaccos. Gene’s also nice enough to do business with over the phone. I once ordered the wrong size Peterson pipe and they replaced it quickly with no hassle.

I’ve linked to them in a number of places throughout this blog.

As the price of tobacco goes up, Outwest Tobacco has launched a Customer Appreciation Discount Program. Gene explains it better than I do, so here’s the progam.

April 7, 2009

Our recent price increases were necessary not only because of the increase in the Federal Tobacco Tax but also because of the additional cost passed on to us from most suppliers. 

We did a thorough review of our prices and operating costs and we were surprised at the amount of increase we had to make on some tobaccos. Ultimately, it is you, our valued customer that pays most of the price and tax increase. Note that pipe and accessory prices did not go up, they are not subject to the Federal Tobacco taxes.

And so it is timely that we have implemented our Customer Appreciation Discount Program. You might call it a
“Tax Rebate”.

Here’s how it works:

When you have purchased $100.00 worth of tobacco, pipes or accessories from Outwest Tobacco, the Discount Program kicks in. The Discount you will automatically receive on your next purchase, after reaching $100.00, will be 3% of that purchase amount, before shipping and handling. This Discount immediately reduces the amount paid by you, whether by credit card or check. It’s all programmed into our system and in effect right now.

From the customer history records we have kept since 2005 we have the total amount of product purchased by you, our valued customer. A bracket system has been established with 8 levels of increasing Discount Percents. The more you have bought, the higher the Discount Percent. When you have purchased $100.00 worth of product; tobacco, pipes, accessories, a Discount of 3% will be automatically applied to your next purchase.

For our loyal customers it gets even better. If you have already purchased from Outwest Tobacco, going back to 2005, say $310.00, the discount on your next purchase will be 5% of that purchase. The next bracket is $500.00 and the Discount there is 6%. The highest Discount is 10%.

Bottom line for you is, we are reducing the cost of your purchases from us with this Customer Appreciation Discount Program.

This is our way of saying…
“Thank You for being a loyal customer, we appreciate it when you come back.”
Gene A Crawford