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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Facebook Police: Blocking Cellphones, Saving Lives...?

A BART train in the station.
In "Is Social Media Free Speech" I discussed the nature of things like Facebook relative to free speech.

Today we have the California Bay Area Transport (BART) in the  news for shutting off cellphone (I've always wondered why Google spell check thinks "cellphone" is one word but not "highschool") coverage inside its tunnels as a planned mechanism to limit an anticipated protest.

Apparently in the recent past a BART police officer (and why do thing like BART or the NY Subway have their own police forces? Are the crimes somehow different?) shot a homeless man who was supposedly wielding a knife.  The protest was related in someway to this event.

In anticipation of the event BART turned off cellphone coverage in four of its stations for several hours. One of the reasons was ostensibly that, like London, the protestors would be using cellphones and social media to coordinate the protests (see this).

So now we have an interesting dilemma.

On the one hand, using social media to coordinate a riot protest would be a crime - though a crime if and only if it was not approved by the government and did not remain peaceful.  (I've often wondered about violent protests against those who conduct violence on innocents.)

On the other hand, what if grandma has a heart attack during her ride and no one can call for help so she subsequently dies?

Neither event happened - no riot protest, nobody's grandma is dead.

And BART claims that since it owns the cell antenna's in its stations it has the right to do what it like with them.

But what if their actions bring harm to others - even indirectly?  Isn't cell service today like a utility?  Something people rely on for daily on-going life? Can I rely on cell coverage to coordinate the pickup of needed medicine?  A ride to the hospital?  A life and death matter with a doctor?

Certainly there would be problems shutting off power to a few blocks of the city in anticipation of trouble.

As for cellphone "blocking" the US Criminal Code 47, Sections 301, 302a, 333 says that "The Act prohibits any person from willfully or maliciously interfering with the radio communications of any station licensed or authorized under the Act or operated by the U.S. government. 47 U.S.C. Section 333. The manufacture, importation, sale or offer for sale, including advertising, of devices designed to block or jam wireless transmissions is prohibited. 47 U.S.C. Section 302a(b). Parties in violation of these provisions may be subject to the penalties set out in 47 U.S.C. Sections 501-510. Fines for a first offense can range as high as $11,000 for each violation or imprisonment for up to one year, and the device used may also be seized and forfeited to the U.S. government."

Cell jammers are illegal so one imagines that shutting off a cell antenna is a similar problem.

The problem here is that government, in this case BART in the guise of the State of California has taken it upon itself to limit your free speech in anticipation of you doing something illegal or wrong with that free speech.

Mind you there is a difference between texting "meet me in front of Joe's Diner" and "help me destroy Joe's Diner" and "OMG I can't believe what's happening at Joe's Diner."

In the first and last cases I may or may not know why I am to meet at Joe's - leaving other events or evidence to determine if I am involved in the "conspiracy" to trash Joe's Diner.  In the second case merely showing up is proof of my involvement in a conspiracy to damage the diner.

And even if previous public Facebook plans are made to riot protest in a BART station doesn't shutting off cell service leave the remaining patrons without a means to call for help?  The riot protest has already been coordinated - its not like someone is actively standing on the BART platform publicly calling for assistance in rioting protesting.  (If they were it would be like shouting "fire" in a theater - there are already laws on the books to address that.)

Instead I think that BART is acting more like a building owner who chains the EXIT doors of a theater reasoning that there won't be a fire.

It seems like BART is taking the view that some or all of its patrons are potentially guilty of conspiring to riot protest illegally and therefore it is okay to deny everyone else their rights to use their phones for which they have paid, for which the service providers have paid, and for which services have become a public "utility" like power or water.

Sadly this sort of "you must be guilty" action of the part of government has been creeping into society for years.  If, for example, police find drugs on one person in a car in most states you, who have none, are also considered "guilty" do to an implicit conspiracy.

The long term effect of these types of laws and actions such as BART create chilling societal effects.

For example, I no longer give anyone I do not know a ride.  Why?  Because I don't know what you might have on you and I do not want to pay the price for your stupidity should I be stopped.

This makes society a less friendly place in general because those that are responsible are treated as if they are not.

Another effect is that, since you treat me as if I were a criminal or outlaw in the first place, then I lose nothing by acting like one.

Actions such as BARTs make using the subway a negative choice for patrons - particularly if they have need of communication while in route.

It seems like all of this is the slow and steady drive to "thought crime".  Social media makes it easier for the government to "listen in" on what the citizenry is up to (due to their own ignorance or lack of understanding that posting it on a publicly viewable website might be a crime).

Of course, this will only catch "stupid" criminals who Facebook about their criminal activities.

Which will lead to 'profiling' of the stupid and criminals.

Which will lead to making places like Facebook 'fairer' so that the stupid and criminal are not singled out.

Which will lead to more government agencies to help stupid people use Facebook "properly".

Which will lead to the "virtual Facebook police".

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

An Short Iodine Story...

Mrs. Wolf told me an interesting iodine story the other day.

Six months ago her friend, Miss C, had confided that she had recently had a mammogram that revealed a small lump in her breast.  The doctor, while concerned, suggested she come back in six months to have a follow up.

They had been previously discussing iodine and its affects so Miss C decided that she would purchase some over-the-counter skin-use-only iodine from the local drug store and apply it to her skin.

After doing applying this to herself regularly for six months it came time to visit the doctor again.

The doctor was shocked to discover that the lump in Miss C. breast could not be found.  So shocked, in fact, that she sent Miss C for additional tests - none of which could locate the lump.

Miss C received a clean bill of health with an admonishment to periodically checking in with the doctor.

Did this simple at-home iodine treatments alter Miss C's outcome?

You'll have to decide that for yourself.

However, there are many sites around the internet (such as this, this and this) claiming links between breast cancer and iodine deficiency.

A few months ago Mrs. Wolf was talking to a woman who was in graduate school (I forget the exact discipline - microbiology or something like that) studying the genetic aspects of cancer.  Mrs. Wolf asked if the woman thought that cancer was in any way related to diet.

"Oh no," said the woman, "its a genetic disease."

So Mrs. Wolf asked "don't some cancer's come from the environment?"

"Well, yes," replied the woman, "certain forms..."

"Isn't your diet part of your environment?" asked Mrs. Wolf.

A lengthy discussion ensued.

The woman conceded that indeed it would be possible that cancer and malnutrition could be related.

More interesting, though, was that until her discussion with Mrs. Wolf it would have never occurred to the woman to think that diet and/or environmental changes could improve a cancer outcome.  Her education was such that looking at cancer beyond the standard dogma was simply out of the question.

(Kind of like "Of course the world is flat.")

While its nice the FDA is so very worried about all the evils of things like cigarettes and child safety you have to wonder why there is so much less interest in something as simple as proper nutrition.

Then there is lung cancer and smoking.

I have always been fascinated by the fact that 1/3 of all smokers don't get lung cancer.  Why one third - what's so special about them.  The relationship of smoking to cancer is a statistical one.  Not every one who smokes gets cancer and not everyone with lung cancer smokes.

I am starting to wonder if its in fact the case that things like diet play a significant roll in lung cancer.  Could it be that those with certain dietary elements, for example, high iodine, could react to smoking differently.  The Japanese, for example, smoke quite a bit and yet their lung cancer rates are much lower (though rates for other cancer are equivalent to the US and some types are higher.)

Could it be their high-iodine diet?

See this for some interesting results:  "The risk of lung cancer in the United States study population was at least 10 times higher than in Japanese despite the higher percentage of smokers among the Japanese."

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Bioweapons in Your Sinus... (Part II)

On of the most popular posts I ever wrote was "Bioweapons in Your Sinus" on my personal blog.

If you suffer from any sort of sinus problems you should read it.

Around the same time I also wrote "Are You Iodine Deficient" - no where near as popular.

One of the interesting things about these blogs is it makes tracking changes in my life pretty simple.  I can look up what I was doing a year ago and have a pretty good idea of where are I stand today relative to then.

I discovered iodine deficiency after I wrote about sinuses.  If you read the Sinus article you will see that I have been a big fan of sinus flushing over the last several years to clear out infections.  Over all I would say that up to that point it was about the most effective thing I could do.

However, in the eight or nine months since I wrote those articles I have been following along a different path.  It started with this post: "Where For Art Thou, Oh Iodine".

I discovered that the entire US is, for the most part, vastly iodine deficient, myself included.

In the intervening months I have undertaken to fix this problem by supplementing my diet with iodine as I describe in the Where post - I basically added a drop or two a day of Lugols 2.2% solution to my diet.

My results so far:

- No more need for sinus flushing.  At ten drops a week of Lugols 2.2% my sinus problems have all but disappeared.  Nada, none, zip.

- My chronic athlete's foot, er, well small right toe, went away (in others I have seen an increase in iodine kill off that nasty yellow toenail fungus).

- Not one day of illness.

Over all interesting results.

I surmise from this that I have been supremely iodine deficient and, that with a full complement of iodine for my thyroid to use, I am in dramatically better health that I ever was - even at 54 years of age.

About a month after the iodine article I wrote "ADHD & A Spoon Full of Sugar" about memory loss and other problems.  Since that time (December of 2010) I have been taking Cod Liver Oil as well every day.

This has cleared what I thought was an "old age" mental fog.

(Just to be clear I also upped my Vitamin C dosage to 2000 mg per day from about 1100 mg during this time.)

The bottom line in all of this is that, to my mind least, most of what people think are "wrong" with them - from digestive ails to sinus problems to various other significant health issues are more than likely related to or have a strong nutritional component.

Now iodine today is nothing - nothing in the minds of the medical establishment - nothing of interest for research - really nothing at all.  Most if not all doctors believe that iodized salt is doing the job.

But the problem with that belief is that you'd have to eat an unhealthy amount of iodized salt to get enough iodine.  There is just enough iodine in iodized salt to keep you from getting a goiter - and that's about it - not enough for proper bodily function.

A while back I heard on the radio an interesting comment on vitamin C.  How, the commentator asked a guest, did the government RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for vitamin C get set he wondered.

The guest replied that it was based an amount large enough so that you would not get scurvy.

Well, asked the commentator, is that enough as in what you really need?

No, replied the guest.  The amount in the RDA is really about "enough" so that you don't see the symptoms of scurvy - but not enough for proper nutrition.

(When my wife bred English Mastiffs she always supplemented their diets with 1000 mg of vitamin C because though dogs produce their own vitamin C they do not produce enough if they are large.)

This conversation, for me, sums up modern medicine: "Just enough nutrition so that you don't have symptoms - we'll fix the rest with costly, dangerous prescription drugs."

The truth, of course, is that if you had proper nutrition you probably wouldn't need nearly as much "modern medicine" to be healthy.

I believe this enough to follow it in my own life - and it's been vastly successful so far.

(Of course I fully expect that I could drop over dead at any time just because that's how the world works - but even that would not change my mind at this point.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Open Mic at Mike's New Moon Saloon - Thursday's

Thursday's 8 PM to Midnight in Gibsonia, PA

Mike's New Moon Saloon
2059 Saxonburg Blvd
Gibsonia, PA 15044
Phone: (724) 265-8188

Located in Northeastern Allegheny county - Easily accessible from Rt 228, New Kensington, south Butler, Freeport, Natrona Heights.

Good prices on drinks and food. Friendly atmosphere.

Mike's on Facebook...

Directions via Google Maps...

See the "Lone Wolf" in action...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Women are Insane, Men are Stupid (Where have all the good men gone...?)

There is an article over on WSJ about "Where Have All the Good Men Gone?" by Kay S. Hymowitz.

She points out that men, er boys actually, in the late twenties and early thirties are basically useless as men.  They live in a quasi-child/adult roll partying, loafing, and generally being unproductive.  She talks about a "gender gap" where women of the same age have societal value, careers and a life.

What I wonder is why is this a surprise?

These young men are useless because the women in society have made them useless.

That's right - women have made them useless.


Very simply by making "adult sex" a part of the "extended 30-something childhood" she complains men are living in today.

Let me explain.

For the last few hundred thousand years or so women have always had to make the greatest investment in societal progression.  The investment I talk about here is not one of money but instead of self, of time and of focus of effort.  Once attached to a man a woman was responsible for having and raising the children, for taking care of the man, for advancing their (the family, the couple, the children) social role in society, and much more.

This investment was often the ultimate investment - women literally sacrificing their lives for the betterment of their children and families. (Is this really crazy?  I think not...)

And like any shrewd investor women had to make the very best (and wisest) investment that she could given her situation.

And what were they investing in?

Men, of course.

Women (or the woman's family) selected the best men they could to be their spouse.  After all, they would spend their lives with that man, so they better pick the best one available.  Just like investing in a stock or a bond, women (and/or her family) shrewdly analyzed what was available based on extended family, genetics, appearance, strength, and whatever else to help make the best decision.  This choice often, at least before about 50 years ago, involved a strong familial element as well: A father would want to know if the man was good enough?  Did he work? Was he reliable.  And so on.  So the investment often went beyond just a single woman planning a future but involved the progression of the entire family unit.

Would the man be reliable enough to keep the daughter around when the daughters parents got old so they would have a place to live.  Even thirty five years ago I remember the fear of meeting the 6' 4" 300 pound father of my future wife - would he kill me on the spot?  (Years later I would come to find out that her family knew I was a hard working guy and I would make a good husband - I guess the "kill you on the spot" act was just for show...)

The choice made of a particular investment the woman next set about to "close the deal" as it were.

This might have meant "making the best" of an arranged marriage or might have involved meeting a man through a family connection.  But whatever the details it was up to the woman to make it work.  And clearly sex and children were part of making it work.

And what was the man to do in this situation?

Like any prize show animal his job was to, well, "show off".  To demonstrate how he would be able to make a successful life - whether by showing off dad's previous efforts or his own.  Show his strength, his fast car, his daring...  Show the woman he was the one for her (hormones I suppose).

And the real driver behind all of this?

Sex.  Plain and simple.

No wife, no sex.

Sex, for the man, was the reward for acceptance of the responsibility of adulthood.

And so, as a man, your future sex life was defined by being married.  (Sure you could fool around and certainly there were women who would oblige.  But over all this was not the focus of society.)

And once there was sex there were mostly likely children, responsibility and all the rest.  All the rest of the reasons that a man has to grow up and be a man.  And if you as a man didn't look like a good investment opportunity your chances of sex over the long haul were very limited.

But all this changed in the 1960's when feminism cast out the traditional role of woman from society.

Now the role of women and sex is different.  There is no investment involved.  Woman can have sex as indiscriminately as men.

Whatever you might think about this consider what this has done to the role of being a man.

It has removed the "prize" aspect of selecting being selected by a wife.  Of being thrust into a role of responsibility, of having to grow up.

Ms. Hymowitz talks about a movie where twenty-somethings loaf around all day smoking pot, playing video games, and planning to develop a porn site.  What's not said, of course, is that foolish women are certainly "hooking up" on the sly with these guys on at least a semi-regular enough basis to keep them lazy, stupid pot-smoking loafers.

If there were no sex involved in their current lazy, stupid lives they would quickly grow up and find a serious relationship.

So my point is simple.

Modern feminism has made men superfluous.  Men can find sex without commitment, effort or responsibility - and so they do.  And that keeps them stupid and lazy.

Since only women can offer sex to the men it is they who are responsible for the men being foolish, stupid and lazy.  Men, as they say, are stupid to begin with and taking away what drives them to overcome this is exactly the wrong thing to do if you want good men.

So, Ms. Hymowitz, things are only going to get worse, not better.  In a decade or two your daughter will find that men will still be "adolescent" in late 30's or 40's instead of the 20's and 30's of today.

Men, left to their own woman-less existence, will continue to invent amusements like video games, cell phones and other geek toys, Maxim magazines, porn web sites and the rest to alleviate their need for a strong, solid on-going relationship with a woman.

There still are good men out their - you just cannot find them because you are not looking for the right kind of man nor are you looking in the right kind of place.  A serious man that wants a long-term relationship with a woman for the old fashioned reasons I mention above is not going to be readily available for an on-the-sly "hook up" and the local speed dating site or bar.

(He, no doubt stupidly, thinks better of a true woman than that...)

You see there are still good men out their - and its harder for them to find good women - women who want the have children and raise families.

They just know better than to hang out where modern women might find them...

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Single Serving Egyptian Friends (I hope you are well...)

I have been following the protests in Egypt with interest.  About six years or so ago Lexigraph, my business, was working with a couple of people from the Egyptian offices of a large, international computer business.  This was for a potential project related to some printing for an international gathering.

As part of the project Basem and Asra came over from Egypt to the US to spend a week on the design of the system we were building.  Basem, the IT Specialist, was a Coptic Christian and Asra, the Project Leader, a practicing Muslim.  Both are a relative rarity here in rural western Pennsylvania where I live.  Over the course of the week they were here I had a chance to get to know them and learn a little bit about their culture.

What made me think of them was the fact that much has been said about the fact that many of the protesters are "young", use cellphones and the internet for communication, and so on.  Of course, both Basem and Asra were relatively young and no doubt fit the profile as "tech savy" types that would be plugged into the protests, at least according to the news accounts.

As the visit progressed we were able to take our guests to lunch and sometimes dinner.  Each outing was an interesting cross-cultural affair.

As a Christian Basem was considerably more westernized in his views - though perhaps more with an flavor of the 1800's than the 21st century.  Coptic Christianity, which originated int the first century, is a faith practiced by about 1/6th of all Egyptians (10 million out of 60 million) - a figure surprising to me at the time as I considered Egypt to be a Muslim country.

(Even the name Egypt is a western creation.  It was first used by the ancient Greeks, Egyptos, from the ancient Egyptian words (Hut-Ka-Ptah), one of the names for “Memphis”, the first capital of Ancient Egypt.  I spent some time studying the Ancient Egyptian and Ancient Greek languages in school.)

Basem was gregarious and cheerful.  He was happy to talk about his culture, his life and his family.

For example, he told us dating was allowed only as a group affair - there were no western-style boy-girl dates.  Basem, who I estimated to be in his middle-late twenties, described of how mixed gender groups of friends would get together and go out to restaurants or parties in order to get to know one another.  As two people's interest in each other would grow there was eventually a formal process for the male "asking for the hand in marriage" of the female dictated by their culture and faith.

There was no "living together" or any of the common western-style relationships one finds today.   Beyond this he was generally familiar with the west and our views - though he considered our model for male/female courting and dating absolutely bizarre.

Asra, on the other hand, told us that she was initially frightened of us.  Being a practicing Muslim woman from the middle east alone in the USA her perspective on the west was that we were probably all war-mongering barbarians (sort of along the lines of the Capitol One airline mile credit card barbarians you see on TV).  However, as the days passed her views changed, at least a little.  By our second or third group trip to lunch she began to believe that we would not attack and kill her and began to relax a bit.

We found out that she was concerned, for example, that she would not be able to eat anything here because of Islamic dietary laws.  However, that turned out not to be the case as she found that most places we went to had a large variety of food on the menu - much of which that could be fit to her dietary requirements.  Asra, did not talk much about herself, her family or her social life I think out of fear.

At one point my wife and I took the two of them to dinner.  Up until this point both Basem and Asra had only interacted with males since the entire corporate staff of four at that time was all male.  Upon meeting my wife Asra seemed to open up considerably talking about how afraid she was initially that we were all barbarians and talking openly how she believed that everyone in the USA was out to destroy and kill all Muslims.  I think that this dinner to some degree gave her a different perspective on us western barbarians.

At the end of the week when they were preparing to leave they offered us gifts - papyrus paintings of the pyramids and Spinx they had brought with them.

The project was ultimately canceled (run by a shady Brit it turned out to be just hot air) and he left Basem and Asra's employers with a very large unpaid bill. Unfortunately, like so many "single serving friends" you meet in the corporate world we lost touch over the years.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

From the Land of Unintended Consequences...

The legacy of clean, efficient nuclear power.
I am as clean and green as anybody.  I live in a house made partially of recycled material, have a garden, generate only a bag or two of trash a week, work extensively with recycled rather than new materials... but there are limits.

One of the important limits of "green" is really understanding what the differences are between things that might be green and things that are green.  At issue is that many people like to talk about green but really don't understand what that means.

For example, is buying a Prius hybrid really more green that using and existing vehicle?  My existing truck sits in my driveway.  It uses no energy unless I drive it.  However, its big and old and probably not as efficient as a new hybrid one.  A new one would use less gas but I'd have to think about what the overhead and cost in terms of energy and "green" it would take to build it.  What about battery disposal and/or recycling?  As you answer these questions you see that even though something might be new and more "green" the actual cost of it in terms of "green" when you factor in all of the elements makes it much less attractive.

The same is true of "climate change."

Here there is a lot more rhetoric.  And one theme in particular is loud and clear: "Big coal fired power plants are filling the atmosphere with CO2."  The implication is, of course, that this CO2 is triggering "climate change."

This mantra has been going on from some years and what's interesting to me is the effect its having on other countries. 

China in particular.

And China is often demonized for building a lot of coal-fired power plants (such as this article).

Like any self-respecting country China has decided to do something about these problems - both the perception that their country is a big polluter as well as their problem of being one of the most energy-hungry countries on earth.

Their solution?

Clean, efficient nuclear energy.

But not just any nuclear energy. 

No, not at all.  They plan to use something called a molten salt thorium reactor.

So why write about this?  Well, a long time ago as a child I lived in southeastern Wisconsin.  We lived on the rural farmland where the number of animals far out numbered the people.  In the early 1970's the local power companies decided they needed some nuclear power plants to beef up the local electrical power grid.  The initial idea was that one of these plants would be built across the street from my parents home. 

My father became sort of an activist against nuclear power and by 1972 was busy with other locals putting up signs, protesting, and so on against having this plant built.  (One of my contributions was "No Nukes is Good Nukes.") As a geek child I became interested in the details of how these things worked, what the issues where and so on.

My interest was also fueled by a high school friend who's father worked at the now defunct Zion nuclear plant in Zion Illinois.  We were able to spend time at the utilities test nuclear site, see the computers, examine and venture inside their small test reactor, and so on.  A geek child's dream...

From all of this a few things were crystal clear:

- Nuclear power, while efficient and non-polluting as it operates, was a big mess in terms of creating fuel, managing fuel, maintenance and handling spent fuel.

- Nuclear power was best done with traditional plant designs that us water for coolants.  Exotic nuclear systems were nothing but trouble and a black hole of engineering for the unknown.

- The technology was so complex that there would be a variety of unintended consequences.

And this was the early 1970's.  And since then there have been a variety of minor safety issues (Karen Silkwood, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl)...

So now the Chinese are going to build molten salt thorium reactors.  This is a new and untested technology.

What's interesting to me is the fact that these reactors involve some of the most ugly, nasty and dangerous chemicals on earth: fluorides, uranium hexaflouride gas, thorium, and in much larger proportions than traditional nuclear systems.  And this particular reactor type uses all sorts of exotic versions of these chemicals and new, untested and interesting ways as well as requires a lot of pre- and post-processing of the fuel (think large complex nuclear processing facilities - the kind Silkwood blew the whistle on - but in a country where you just commit suicide after they found out you've been poisoning the animal food for the last couple of years with melamine.)

So off they go on a twenty year plan to "develop" this technology.  Reading the link above its clear that some of there reasons for this are to alleviate their perception as a polluting country, particularly relative to greenhouse gases.

Which takes us back to my original point.

The Zion plant from my childhood sits abandoned today - large pools of 30 years of radioactive waste sitting right next to the shores of lake Michigan (which is busy eroding the shore right near the plant).  The plant itself is large and ugly and takes up acres of land - land which can never be used again - at least not in my lifetime or the lifetime of my grandchildren.

The 1970's promise of a nuclear power bonanza for the region has been replaced with a traditional coal fired plant near my childhood home belching steam into the sky day and night.  (This way we have power to surf the internet, text and use our cellphone while driving our hybrid cars to the organic food store.)

And the Zion plant has as waste fuel rods, chemicals, parts and coolant stored on site.  (There is no place to move them to - no one wants nuclear waste in their backyard - so it sits in Zion's backyard...?)

The Chinese plants will have God-knows what sort of bizarre and horrific waste chemicals that will require as yet undeveloped chemical processing technologies to prepare, manage and store.  And as we know the Chinese are somewhat less fastidious about making sure that the right chemicals are used for the right things manufacturing-wise...

No, I think the Chinese are simply caught up lost in the world "green" rhetoric.

Leaving the rest of us to suffer with the unintended consequences of our actions for centuries.

Don't believe me?

Just as the people of Chernobyl...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Nicotine, Nazi's and Magical Thinking (Conclusions...)

In my last several posts on this topic I have addressed many aspects of the burgeoning e-cigarette business.  So let me summarize my thoughts:

The demonization of smokers is an activity as insidious and evil as any other racially-based activity.  There exist studies to indicate that smokers have various genetic predispositions to smoking and nicotine hence targeting them as a group is wrong.  (And yes this is like what the Nazi's did to the Jews - particularly because society as a whole goes along with it with a wink and a nod because the government portrays smokers and smoking as unclean.)

Smokers are people like everyone else.  They have rights which cannot be violated because they make others uncomfortable.

The exact same arguments where used by the Nazi's as an excuse to round up Jews.

And no, smoking laws that eliminate smoking from private enterprise are wrong.  Wrong because taking away the rights of the business is no better than taking away rights because of skin color or gender or anything else.

E-cigarettes have nothing to do with smoking and its associated medical side show of misery.  E-cigarettes function no differently than vaporizers and coffee pots.  Both heat liquids containing chemicals, both give off vapors you can breath, both address specific mental and physical cravings.

Personally I believe that they should not be called e-cigarettes because doing so associates them with the historical demonization of smokers.

So why do it?

I have noticed that in social situations most people are so used to the classic "smoking cues" that if you pretend like the e-cigarette is a pen or pencil virtually no one notices what you are doing with it - even in the homes of virulent anti-smoking Nazi's.  People today are accustomed to devices with lights so they don't attract attention - particularly if they are not orange.

People seem to accept it - sort of like seeing a joint for the first time at a party - "Oh, that's interesting!"  "How does it work."  "Can I try it!"

So in the best interest of success it would seem that its best for e-cigarettes not to be cigarettes at all - but rather vaporizers.

This will make it very, very hard to legislate exactly what the difference is between a vaporizer I might give my child as part of a breathing treatment and an e-cigarette.

Nicotine is not evil.  Its a drug, like most naturally occurring substances, that comes from a plant.  It occurs in eggplant and tomatoes as well as tobacoo.  It is not well studied except as part of smoking.

However, most anit-smoking Nazi's simply apply the evils of inhaling smoke to nicotine.

They should not be given a pass on this.

The government promotes all sorts of other dangerous behavior so long as its "socially acceptable."  For example, safe sex.  "Safe sex" spreads disease and creates children.  Birth control is never 100% effective.  They promote the latest "health craze" like Lipitor and statin drugs, antibiotics, and so forth even though there is ample evidence that these substances are not helpful and very, very often do much more harm than good.

But because they are in bed with the drug companies these facts are ignored.

Like a heroin addict government is addicted to cigarette taxes.  If you do not believe this conduct the following thought experiment.  "Every quits smoking today."  What happens?  Tens or hundreds of thousands who make a living because of tobacco become unemployed.  The local 7-11's go bankrupt or become unprofitable.  Thousands of FDA and academic anti-smoking Nazi's loose their jobs.  States lose tens of millions a month in revenue - revenue that props up bad pension and other decisions.  People stop going to places that accept smokers.  Millions gain weight and become obese - encountering numerous and serious health issues as they do so.

All of this cuts off the stream of cigarette, employment and excise tax revenue leaving states, already bankrupt, in worse shape than ever.

They turn to the federal government for aid - but its already over extended and fails to help...

The truth is the government (federal, state, and local) requires tobacco revenue, sales and businesses in order to function.  Take that away and they will go bust.


They say they want us all to stop smoking...

Given this scenario do you think they really want to lose their jobs?  Go bankrupt? Have nothing to study?

Of course not.

And what about the moral implications of this?

If smoking is so unclean and evil how could anyone justify making a living from it?

Particularly if they, as their living, claim its evil and unclean.

No, smoking and her friends are like the prostitutes that visit the judges or police chief's office after hours - they are all corrupt.

E-cigarette technology comes from outside the USA.  This is very, very bad because it gives the FDA the entire force of the US government to use against it.  Honestly, I think that e-cigarette companies should set up shop in Mexico and give Mexicans crossing the boarder illegally huge bags of e-cigarette materials to carry (for pay of course) into the country.

This would solve the problem since the US government has no real concern about stopping this sort of illegal entry to the US.

Of course the real problem is that ridiculous laws here make developing technology to help smokers something can only be done in another country - thanks Mr. FDA for looking out for your charges here in the US.

Children will use them! Can you please give me a break.  The FDA is happy to give condoms to kids - with mere paper instructions in the box.  Do the condoms always work? No.  Are they reliable birth control? No.  Does little Suzy remember to take her birth control pills every day?  No.  And what are the risks of those pills long term?  Are they good for you?  If so, why to the packages have so many warnings on them?

Then there is the nonsense of "it entices children"...  So does pot.  So does drinking. So do most things that adults do that children cannot.

Anyone every been to a giant kids party for 18 and under where tobacco companies are giving out cigarettes?  No, me either...  Guess we'll have to wait for the vaping companies to do the same - that way the law enforcement community will have something to work with.

How about just saying "no".

Its time for the industry to setup a trade association and start beating the bushes in Washington DC.

Its time to have some hearings on capitol hill where vapers can sit in front of congressmen, like Henry Waxman, puffing away on their personal vaporizers while they explain why congress should leave the industry the hell alone...

This will all come to a head when some toddler or little kid grabs a bottle of nicotine juice, drinks it and dies.  This kid will become the poster child for the "vaping is evil" campaign.  Posters in every convenience store, dire online warnings, and so on.  But it will be a ruse.

Every vaper must claim that they are using the device to "help them quit."  Not to actually quit, but the help them.  Then explain to everyone that making the devices illegal will cause them to have to smoke again.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Nicotine, Nazi's and Magical Thinking (Part III)

One of the posters reading this noted that nicotine is a neurotoxin. This is the sort of thing I am talking about.  If you make the definition of neurotoxicity "anything that affects the nervous system" (as described here) then yes, nicotine is a neurotoxin, just like love, chocolate and caffeine.

Nicotine is probably one of the most widely used drugs on earth - particularly when you consider its alternate forms (things into which it is converted or is part of) such as Vitamin B3 (niacin). 

(For those that are interested the E-cigarette forum thread is here.)

First off, Vitamin B3 is nicotinic acid (created commercially by literally treating nicotine with nitric acid) - also known as niacin.  Humans, unlike some animals, cannot manufacture Vitamin B3 on their own so they must get it from their diets.

B3 is required for health.  You cannot live without it.

Pure nicotine, on the other hand, is naturally present in eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and a whole host of other foods.  So, unless you avoid these types of food, you are exposed to nicotine on almost a daily basis.  (Though it is present in these foods the levels are generally much lower than the levels in cigarettes.  Eggplant has the most - about 10% of what might be in a cigarette.  The levels in other plants are about 10% that of eggplant.)

(I suppose that if you believe that nicotine is a neurotoxin then your mother's admonishment to "eat your vegetables" is tantamount to a conspiracy to kill you...!!)

In your body about 80% of the nicotine is converted to continine which is excreted via the urinary system.

So nicotine is closely related to Vitamin B3 that occurs naturally in things we eat.

As to what dangers nicotine present to a human (short of consuming too much) things are much less clear.  While there are a lot of studies about nicotine and smoking there are not a lot about what something like an e-cigarette might do as far as basically delivering nicotine only to your lungs.

So what you see written about studies and so forth related to nicotine are vary often linked to tobacco use.  In fact, there is very little published about nicotine alone - and what their is published you must read very carefully to tease out the issues related to nicotine versus those that are tobacco related.

The bottom line here, as I see it, and how this relates to e-cigarettes in general, is that "science" has done very little to study nicotine on its own, probably about as much as is done for caffeine.  Since its associated with tobacco it is just generally lumped into the "evil cigarette and tobacco" category and forgotten.

There are lots of silly sites like this claiming that foods of one sort or another are bad for you - but I think you have to be very careful when looking at this.  Personally I have come to believe that smoking is very likely done to address some sort of dietary deficiency.

Now, I am not a doctor so what I am telling you here is purely opinion.

First off, as I have documented in this blog, I have discovered that I, a person who is relatively healthy (or at least so I thought), is malnourished in today's USA.  What I mean by this is that my diet, though it consists of a variety of things does very little to address what my body really needs. This is due to many things as I have also written about here.

So one of the first things that I have to question is, relative to all this study of nicotine and excluding any tobacco studies, are these studies looking at healthy people in the first place.  And by healthy I mean people who are receiving proper nutrition.

More to the point, if you were properly nourished in the first place would you be smoking?  And, if you were properly nourished, would nicotine harm you more than love or a cup of java?

While you might scoff at this you really need to do some research before forming any sort of serious opinion.  For example, as I have documented here relative to Iodine I would say that probably 96% of everyone in the US is Iodine deficient.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with smoking?

Well, for one thing the symptoms of Iodine deficiency are many of the very same reasons people talk about as reasons for smoking - feelings of depression, tiredness, that sort of thing (see "Where for art thou Iodine").  Now, having addressed my own personal Iodine deficiency I have to say that the fact that medical "science" and the FDA ignore proper nutrition is the real crime.

And by crime I mean crime.

The FDA is supposed to help make sure that we citizens are healthy through monitoring and controlling issues related to foods and drugs.  The problem is that, as far as I can see (and again there are blog posts here to this effect) they simply don't care about things that don't involve good press for them and money.  Sure they spend lots of time making sure that Lipitor is available to kids - but as far as making sure the citizens of the country have enough Iodine in their diet they do nothing.

(Which is worse for your kid - smoking, e-cigarettes, or Lipitor?)

And that's a crime at the level of genocide.

So what we have here is a government that simply ignores the true health of its people working very hard on things, like Lipitor, that are really simply treating the symptoms of the people's underlying dietary deficiencies and doing nothing to correct the true problems, e.g., approving bromides in bread versus Iodine.

Given this you have a class of people, smokers, who are struggling with health issues.  The FDA, despite a vast collection of evidence that people's feelings about themselves (their self worth, worries about self, etc.) is more dangerous to their health than food, diet or lifestyle, works hard to demonize their smoking habit - thus directly contributing to they feeling of low self worth.

This demonization of smoking creates an untold negative mental affect on the smokers view of themselves.  A negative view compounded by malnourishment caused by the FDAs lack of action.

Now we have e-cigarettes - in fact not cigarettes at all as they involve nothing that burns.  I think the first mistake is to even call them e-cigarettes.  They are vaporizers - nothing more.

These devices serve to eliminate what is wrong with smoking - the smoke and burning - leaving only nicotine - a naturally occurring chemical found in many foods.

And what does the FDA do?

Attempt to make using these devices a problem.

(As a side note I find that most people don't even recognize an e-cigarette at all.  Because it does not smell or burn people simply don't notice it at all unless you try to make it look like you are smoking.  I think this is a very interesting psychological aspect to all of this.)

The truth is that the FDA is full of people who "used to work in industry" and, just like its total lack of attention to genetically modified and industrialized foods (because its staff came from that industry), e-cigarettes pose a threat to the well being of those its oversees.

The real problem is the FDA, the states, and the government in general is that they profit mightily from smokers.  (Do you really think the billions won by the states in the tobacco wars is being saved for your medical care as a smoker later in life?)

Only a government could do such a thing.  When the government runs a gambling casino they excuse themselves by displaying the 1-800-GAMBLING phone number at the bottom of the ad "in case you need help".

The hypocrisy of this is insane...

So far then I am saying (to summarize):

- The demonization of smokers is like all other racial profiling.

- Nicotine and e-cigarettes have nothing to do with smoking and its medical side show of misery.

- The government, with things like Lipitor, is just like a tobacco company pawning off bad things on unsuspecting victims.

- The government profits from this.

So how do e-cigarettes survive in this maelstrom of misery...?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Nicotine, Nazi's and Magical Thinking (Part II)

Juliet - Death by a Love Addiction (Ban it for the children!)
So we have clearly established that there is a bias against smokers - a significant, government sponsored, and perhaps racially based bias that says smoking is evil, wrong, and unclean.

And we also know that smoking as a nicotine deliver device is "bad."  But what exactly is the problem with nicotine?

Well, the US Surgeon General's report (PDF here) spends a lot of time talking (pages 103 - 110) about nicotine addiction and addictive behavior but no time talking about the effects of nicotine addiction itself other than smoking.  (You can read about the DSM symptoms for addiction in the report.)  So, without any sort of practical comparison, i.e., what is nicotine addiction in the absence of smoking, the report provides virtually no information on the effect of nicotine on the body.  On page 183 the report concludes about nicotine:

Nicotine is the key chemical compound that causes and sustains the powerful addicting effects of commercial tobacco products.

Now, it does NOT list side effects other than the addiction itself and the need for getting your "fix" each day.  In fact, it implies that the tobacco product, i.e., cigarettes, are the problem.  Without smoking, in fact, there would appear to be no more problems with nicotine than, say caffeine.  In fact, caffeine is close behind nicotine in terms of gaining status as an addiction just like heroin and cocaine.

And there are studies such as this that indicate that inhaling nicotine vapors (without smoke) does not cause tumors or cancer like smoking.

In fact, the study showed, the only side effect was weight loss.

(Perhaps nicotine would help with the obesity epidemic...?  In fact, if we banned cigarettes and everyone that smoked dies of obesity instead are we better off?  Think about it...  Is dying in bed from being overweight better than dying in bed because you smoked too much?  Actually both can cause heart disease so the death might actually be due to the same cause.)

So let's compare nicotine with something like, say, Lipitor.  (You can read about Lipitor's official side effects here.  Of course, there are many other problems people report but they are mostly ignored.)

- Muscle problems.

- Kidney failure.

- Liver problems.

Somehow you don't find these serious issues with nicotine. (Of course in sufficient quantity it is a poison and is used as an insecticide in other parts of the world.  But then, too much of anything, like Lipitor or electricity or water, is also a bad thing.)

There are many, many commercial drugs with far worse side effects, in fact fatal, dangerous side effects, that the FDA allows doctors to prescribe every day.  No one is concerned (unless of course they are impacted by such a side effect).  No one cares.  These medicines are socially acceptable and deaths and debilitation from them are also socially acceptable.

Why is this?

Well, for one thing ads for these kinds of drugs now appear on popular TV and radio shows.  Long ago, when cigarette ads were still shown through these media outlets the side effects of cigarettes were considered socially acceptable.  Today, Lipitor can cause your liver to fail and, because as a society, we see the ads for this all the time (and we believe the foolish "cholesterol is bad" Nazi propaganda that goes along with it) Lipitor-based liver failure is a socially acceptable outcome.

(I have written extensively about the entire cholesterol "magical thinking" conspiracy here if you are interested.)

That's right, just like driving 65 MPH which reliably kills measurably more people than 55 MPH driving faster is socially acceptable and a socially acceptable way to risk you life.  No one complains.   No one cries.  Its merely a simple fact of life they humans accept, live and die with every day.

Addictive behavior is part of the human condition.

Have we all forgotten this?

Human's do stupid things all the time.  They find comfort in ritual, fantasy, and addiction.

Love, for example, is also a demonstrable chemical addiction (see this): "Love, in other words, uses the neural mechanisms that are activated during the process of addiction."

So where's the FDA on this love thing?

Where the the anti-love Nazi's?

If love is an addiction isn't it unclean just like nicotine?
 Sometimes its even fatal, just ask Juliet...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nicotine, Nazi's and Magical Thinking (Part I)

Anne Frank - From Wikipedia - Did she smoke?
I have been very busy and so have only been updating the Lone Wolf blog for the last few weeks.

Recently, though, I have been involved in a very interesting and unique process.  Several close relatives have been switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes.  And, what is surprising to me, is how much illogical and foolish nonsense is involved in the "myth of the evil cigarette".  To the point that it involves something like an e-cigarette which does not burn anything at all.  How is such a think "smoking" in any rational sense?  How is it a nicotine delivery device any different than, say, an eggplant, which is full of nicotine?  How is something natural like niacin (nicotinic acid or vitamin B3) bad for you?

I call it a "myth" because most of what people seem to believe is not based on any actual science at all but is in fact based on what I will call "politically-based pseudo science".  What is fascinating is that this pseudo science is no more modern or reliable than Hatiian Voodou yet modern people cling to it as if their very lives depend on it.  (Perhaps its because as a nation our burgeoning scientific ignorance is accelerating at a remarkable rate, at least according to this.)

As an advocate of logic the pseudo science of "the evils of cigarette smoking" makes a very interesting tale...

(I am an advocate of the libertarian perspective on all of this - if you don't like it go away and leave me alone and don't take my rights away because of what you don't like.  There are many other dangerous activities and diseases but since they are politically correct science looks for cures and aids to make sufferers live longer - funny how you don't see that with smoking...  Is it morally "better" to create a medication to help an Aids or Hepatitis C sufferer than a smoker?)

The history of this begins in the 1950's as observations about what happened to smokers were turned into epidemiological studies.  I have written here before about this kind of study (magical thinking) and how they work.

In point of fact no one reports the number of smokers who die from cancer as a percentage of smokers, i.e., if 100 people smoke how many will die.  The answer, unfortunately for the anti-smoking Nazi's is that only about 10% or so are actually killed by cancer directly (er, as "directly" as can be claimed) as a result of smoking, i.e., 10 of the 100 will die of cancer (see this).  So the propaganda machine turns this around and always talks about how many people die from lung cancer - which tells you nothing about the actual risk of smoking.

According to this only 1 in 4 smokers will develop progressive and incurable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

And most interestingly and more important there are many new genetic studies that point to all sorts of other genetic links between cancer and smoking such as this in Scientific American.

So my first point in the e-cigarette saga is that smoking is a problem related to being a "social outcast".  Its certainly less dangerous than many things, everyone regardless of whether they smoke or not will still die, and there are many more unpleasant ways to die than via lung cancer, COPD, or other smoking related illnesses.  (One study I would like to see is what does it cost to die.  I would also like to see studies that remove the elderly from the classic types of studies, i.e., what do younger people die from that is not usual.  As I have pointed out here in the past death certificates have only one box for a "cause" - and that is also a problem with all of this.)

So at any rate the ratcheted-up anti-smoking Nazi goose-stepping is all based on the fact that a majority of people don't like smokers.  Surprisingly even heavy pot smokers have complained to me that cigarettes "bother" them - as if that made any kind of sense at all.  They (the cigarette smokers) are "unclean" - to borrow from a more infamous famous historical perspective.

So the bottom line from the e-cigarette perspective is that its the "thought that counts": you're on your way to the concentration camp if you look like you belong there - life will be better for the rest of us (even the heavy pot smokers) without you...

Of course you think that I am some sort of anti-smoking extremist - which I am not. (I am merely a logician applying consistent rules across the boundaries of time to expose "pseudo science" for what it is: nonsense.)

Simply read the link above from the Scientific American - perhaps the smoker sitting next to you has a genetic variation leading them to smoke in the first place.

So how, in the eyes of a Nazi, is that any different than the genetics of Judaism, of Mishchling?

And given a demonstrated genetic component to smoking how is "hating smoking" any different than the evils of racial profiling?  Is a cigarette hanging out of someone's mouth any different than someone wearing a burka or turban?

Its not... its just plain old guilt by genetic predisposition.

While you many not like this, or me for saying it, you will not be able to convince me I am wrong because I am not.

E-cigarettes (which, again, don't even burn anything and hence are not related to smoking at all other than by appearance) have a big hole to dig out of...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chinese Mothers: No Catering Allowed.

Amy Chua - Harvard Professor, Author, and Chinese Mom
As I have written before I am married to Anthropological Mom.

Over the weekend I saw an article in the WSJ: Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.  The author, Amy Chua, describes her anthropological child rearing methods:

- No sleepovers, parties, camp, TV, computer games, getting less than an A, and so on.

- Insulting and/or belittling their kids when they deserve it.

- Use what by today's Western standards would be considered abusive physical or verbal coercion.

- Expecting their child to excel.

Not that long ago this was the standard model for child rearing in the USA as well - for example, when I was a child.  Our parents in those days were not nearly as strict in terms of some areas - we could, for example, watch TV after our chores were completed - but for the most part these rules stood.

If I had a penny for every time a childhood friend said "man, I can't do that, if my old man found out..." I would be a billionaire. 

In my day the "old man" meant business. 

If you lived on the farm as many of my friends did you spent your life working on the farm until you were old enough to leave (16, 17, 18 - depended on the kid's maturity level), get married or become one of the old man's partners.  No one cared if you didn't like it because if you didn't do your jobs and chores the family would starve - and it would all be on your head.

If you misbehaved and he found out you got a "beating".  The nature of a "beating" varied but it was not pleasant and was often added to anything dished out at school.

You weren't expected to be number one in the class or get all A's, but you were required to get "good grades" - again this varied by circumstances.

When you screwed up in front of the old man you were likely a "%$@## idiot" or a "dumb @##".  The old man was unafraid to express his true opinion in your presence.

Unlike Amy Chua the "old man" never sat around making you learn the song on the piano.  If he was paying for lessons you damn well better take them and seriously.  It didn't matter as much to him what became of your piano skills afterward - so long as you followed the program and took the spending of his hard earned money seriously.

There were no sleepovers in those days unless you were a girl - and then it was still rare.  You might have some friends over on a birthday, but again that was a rare event.

The old man didn't care much about your self esteem - that was your job.  You knew where you fit into the world based on what you were and what you had offered to you.  No one spent much time worry about having things - no one had things like computers, video games, and the like.  The old man made sure you had a ball and glove, or whatever was appropriate for your sport.  You had three squares, a bed, school, and chores. 

You learned to get along with bullies or you got beat.  Bullies were different in those days because there was still honor - if you whipped the bully he acknowledged it and gave you respect.  If you lost you were welcome to try again any time.

The bully didn't detract from you self esteem - he was a challenge to self improvement.  Your self esteem was intact no matter what happened unless you trashed it by running from a fight, ratting out your best pal, and so forth.

Today's children are so confused about themselves and their self esteem that they cannot deal with reality - reality like the fact that that there are and always will be bullies.  While adults can pretend they don't exist the child is smart enough to see that they do.

I wonder what this confusion does for the child's self esteem?

The Chinese Mother story is really the same story of what the US was like in the 1950's and 1960's - which was probably like everywhere else in the world in terms of child raising.

Here in the USA we have given up our adult lives to become children.  No one wants to make little Johnny "feel bad" about himself so we, as they used to say, "cater" to him.  Now, like Chinese Mothers, no one should be "catering" to anybody - particularly children.

Just last night my friend used the expression about his dog.  "Those damn kids cater to that dog by letting it in and out all the time so pretty soon the dog expects to be let in and out on its own schedule."

Thank God that some people still get it.

Without "catering" we all know our place - we may not like it - but at least we know what it is.

Once the "catering" begins all bets are off - your destiny is no longer set by you but by the "caterer" - who ever that may be.

Take my friend's dog for example, the dog is actually training the kids when to let it in and out.

Now who is in charge?  The kids or the dog?

And so it has gone on since the 1970's when whiny adult children set out to "change the world" and "make it a beautiful place".  Sadly today's modern Western society is today nothing but "catering".  Catering to every conceivable special interest group, minority, majority, interest, whim, religion, lack of religion, you name it.

Is the world now a better place than it was in 1970?

It is for the Chinese Moms. 

Their kids are succeeding where ours are now failing and falling behind.

So much for "changing the world" - making our selves second rate and mediocre - taking ourselves from a position of leadership to "has beens".

But at least we can feel good about ourselves as we slide relentlessly from our current world of mediocrity to complete abysmal failure as a culture and society.

And sure, a lot of Asian and Indian cultures stress the same principles and hard work as we once did.  But we also had creativity which the "old man" was never concerned about.  If you wanted it bad enough - what ever it was - you had to convince him.  He didn't cater to your ideas and dreams but he would respect them if they earned and deserved it.  Of course this is evidenced by the fact that in the olden days you "grew up and left home" because you needed to prove yourself - unlike today where you simply "never grow up or leave home".

And one more thing.  Amy Chua is not writing this article to ask for your forgiveness or to cleanse her soul for past wrongs against her children.  Chinese Moms will continue to expect their children to excel without concern of their Western self esteem.

Does this mean their children will always be the smartest children or the most creative?

Its hard to say. 

The Chinese culture has been around for 5,000 year or so, about twenty five times longer than ours here in the US and about ten times longer than most European cultures - twice as long as western culture in general.

Freedom and creativity can buy you a lot - look at the progress made here in the west during the last two hundred or so years. 

But we're still a flash in the pan compared to most Asian cultures.

I think Amy Chua just doesn't want us to drop the ball.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Making a Front Door (Part I)

No, I did not make this door - its for illustration only.
Now that the holidays are over its time to finish up some projects around the house.

A major issue has been the fact that we still do not have a front door for our addition we added two years ago.  With the slowing of the economy it didn't seem prudent to buy the one we wanted given that we had the materials to make one.  Sadly of lot of other projects came up in the mean time which left us with a big, insulated, patched hole to fill.

So the goal here is a 3' 0 68 1-3/4" sold oak front door with two side lites on the side.  (Let me decode the door talk: 3' 0 means three feet (36" inches) wide, 68 means 6' 8" high, side lites are windows - not lights you turn on and off.)

The plan is to create the door first, then the frame, with a spot for the door and lights, then the lights. 

The image above shows the basic idea - though this is not our actual design.  The door itself will be made using mortise and tenon joints.

The mortises will be made in the stiles for the door.  The stiles are the long, vertical strips of wood running up and down on the left and right of the door (see picture and diagram below).  The tenon will be made in the rails which are the cross pieces.  Mortise and tenons are used because the door will be exposed on one side to the elements and subject to a certain amount of heating and cooling which will result in the wood expanding and contracting.  Things like glue-only assembly tend to fail in this sort of situation.

Below is a diagram of what components make up a door.

This is very old technology to be sure.

Our idea is to make the front door from the barn wood we have left over from our barn tear down.  So, rather than run down to the lumber yard and purchase the proper sized boards for this project we will instead make them.

Yes, you read correctly, we will be making oak boards. 

Given the thickness we need for this door we will need to start with 2 1/4" think "rough cut' oak.  Rough cut means that the boards are cut down from raw timber stock.   In our case we have saved the oak beams from the old barn - so instead of starting with logs we will start with beams.  We will plane the boards down to the finish size of 1 3/4".

(As it turns out all of this is a remarkably "green," recycling sort of a thing to do.  No logging will occur, no sawmill will be involved, etc.)

Unlike timber old barn beans have some advantages and some problems.  On the advantage side they are easy to manage - no limbs to remove, already in at least somewhat of a convenient size, already been drying out for the last 150 years or so and so forth.  On the down side there are nails.  Wood working equipment does not like metal and so all the metal has to be removed from barn beams.  Unfortunately, since the beams are part of a structure assembled in part with hammer and nails this can be a lot of work.

So, before doing any "rough cutting" we have to remove all of the nails.  To do this we need some plain old hand tools.  A mallet, chisels (and large screw drivers acting as chisels) and a one-handed adze - which I made out of something I found at Home Depot or Lowes.

The problem with the nails is that they rust off at the surface leaving only, at best, rusty remains flush with the surface.  To get these out you have to dig down around them removing wood until there is enough of the remaining nail exposed to pull out with a set of dikes or a wonder bar.

Once exposed you can usually get the nail out.

So after a hour or so of work we have our barn beam stripped of all the obvious nails.

Now at this point its important to realize that A) the beam is long enough and B) its thick enough.  Otherwise going through all this work might be a big frustrating.  So, to be sure, we can get at least one 2 1/2" cut out of this and its almost 90-some inches long - more than adequate for what we need.

To make the rough cuts we will use a chain saw.

(To be continued.  This will all take some time so there will be infrequent updates as various milestones are reached.)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Tobacco/Cocaine Bleedout...

We spend an awful lot of money on stupid things in this country and its really hard to even imagine why.

This came to mind the other day when I was writing about the FDA and smoking.  In 2010 the FDA will spend $200 million USD on "to continue to implement the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Preventing youth from using tobacco and helping Americans quit, promoting public understanding of the harmful constituents of tobacco products, developing the foundation of science for regulating tobacco, and regulating tobacco to reduce the toll of tobacco-related disease, disability and mortality are tobacco program priorities for FY 2011."  This out of a total of $4 billion USD budget.

So if one imagines that cocaine as an "industry" does about $100 billion USD in revenue each year I have wonder why I have not seen one, not one, FDA warning about cocaine products here in the good old USA.

No, I'm not talking about the bump you get down at local bar (apparently no one complains about that).

I'm talking tea (like the kind you make with hot water) containing coca leaves.  The kind you can buy at  The kind that will get you busted in a drug test.  For example, this kind of "Coca Tea" sold directly on-line here (I went all the way to checkout just to make sure I was not on the Bolivian or Colombian

So what is up with this and the FDA?  I really don't get it. 

Cocaine is a Schedule I Controlled Substance.  Yet there seems to be nothing going on with it related to the FDA save for the banning of a drink called "cocaine" (see this) - a drink that did not actually contain any cocaine (yes, this is really like Alice in Wonderland).

Clearly cocaine is nearly as big, if not bigger, than smoking. 

And we are told, and have been since 1913 or so, the cocaine is bad; and since the 1950's that smoking is bad. 

We know this. 

So why spend $200 million dollars a year on smoking prevention but still allow us to drink cocaine tea?

Isn't a little tobacco like a little cocaine?

Apparently not, at least by the FDA.  Tobacco is FAR WORSE.

(Only ex-hippy, liberal, wacky nut jobs in the government would think this.)

I think this is like the $20,000 USD vet bills we run up (see this) giving little Fluffy an MRI, surgery, and blood tests.

Why, you might ask?

Because sometimes you get so focused on something, like your pet (or smoking), you start to miss out on the bigger picture (like the massive US cocaine addiction).

Wouldn't it be better to spend $20,000 (or $200 million) on something else?

Is my money going to make that much of a difference?

And, most importantly, are there smarter things I might be doing instead...


You see, I think we are just busy trading one problem for another.

When I was a kid in eighth grade your friends' older brother could get a six pack of beer somewhere without too much trouble and you could hang out, shoot the shit and drink it.  No harm and no foul.

Then the federal government came along and made kids having a beer a horrific crime by threatening states that if they didn't make it a horrific crime they would have some (5% or so) of their highway funds cut.

And it worked...  Except little Johnny and little Suzy are strung out on crack, coke, meth, oxy's, and pot.

You see - they were going to experiment regardless of the FDA's laws - a few beers - a cop catching them - running away through the bushes - that sort of thing made you grow up.  I know I grew up when my best high school friends sister was killed when I was 15.  She was in eighth grade when it happened.  My friend was never the same.

The problem is that today 16% or more of all drivers on strung out on drugs (see this).  Only about 2% have a blood alcohol greater than the common legal limit of .08.  The alcohol drivers "over the limit" are down about 50% since the 1970's...

In 1976 my friends sister was the exception, not the rule.

So you see, the "Don't Drink Till Your 21" program working, right?

At least the government thinks it is because they don't have to care about what else little Johnny might be doing instead...

We all get tobacco is bad. 

We all get that its "evil" and "foul" and "violates your rights".

We all tolerate the rights of bar and business owners loosing the right to entertain customers using legal products.

We all tolerate smokers having to stand out in the cold and rain so as not to "harm" everyone else.

While the FDA can proudly point out all the progress that's been made against smoking and alcohol WHO IS GOING TO TAKE CREDIT FOR THE VAST INCREASE IN HARD DRUG USAGE?

You an bet it won't be the FDA and anti-smoking bigots.

Thursday, January 06, 2011


Over on the Lone Wolf blog I posted about e-cigarettes.  You can read there about what they are and how they work.

What interests me here is the reaction to these devices.

Now first off let's be clear.  There is no burning of tobacco - no smoke.  Instead nicotine infused steam or water vapor is created inside the e-cigarette and that's what you breath.

This has been studied in New Zealand (read this).  The report Summary says: "It is very safe relative to cigarettes, and also safe in absolute terms on all measurements we have applied."

As for the US you can download the full PDF here from the Surgeon General's website.  This is a long, tedious read about the hazards of breathing combustible materials.  Even the nicotine addiction section is tied to this.  I would imagine that no one is surprised to read that breathing smoke is bad.  Everyone knows this: smokers and non-smokers alike.  Unfortunately the government has spent a lot of money and time discovering and validating the obvious.

One imagines that, for example, firefighters would find this an important read because most of what is discussed about smoke and breathing smoke is generally true.  Apparently studying the effects on smoke on those people chronically exposed as part of their job is less important.  (As anyone who burns common paper household trash can tell you there is far, far worse involved than mere smoke.)

Then there is the FDA.  They have attempted and failed to have shipments of these products to the US banned or stopped at the boarder.  The FDA contends these are "drug" devices and must be subject to extreme regulation and control by the FDA (as opposed to, say, hypodermic needles, which you can buy by the dozen's in any drug store).

The problem here is really very simple.  All of this is about two things: money and control.

No one believes that smoking is good for you.

However, smoker's are addicted to two elements of smoking: the "hit" of the smoke from the drag and the nicotine.  E-cigarettes offer both - the vapor as the "hit" as well as the nicotine.

Nicotine is, in any significant quantity, a dangerous chemical.  In most of the rest of the world its used as an insecticide.  In small quantities, like those found in both tobacco and cigarettes, its dangers are much less clear.

A quick check of Wikipedia indicates many common elements between nicotine and, say, caffeine.  Both are alkaloids, both affect mood, both are consumed world wide in enormous quantities, both are mildly addictive to some degree, and on and on.

Sales of cigarettes in the US for 2005 was some 378 billion cigarettes which comes out to $180 billion dollars US at a retail price of $5/pack - which is probably around one percent (1%) of the US economy.  Another 1% of the economy covers the cost of treating smoking related health issues.

There are claims that "lack of productivity" caused by smoking costs around $100 billion USD per year but I think that number needs to be compared to the reality of eliminating cigarettes and any associated productivity losses associated with that to be meaningful.

The reason e-cigarettes are so popular is that cigarette prices are highly inflated by taxes.  Cigarettes in other countries where taxes do not play as much of a role is significantly less.  US states like New York can garner as much as $5 - $7 dollars a pack in taxes.

With e-cigarettes you can happily vape away for about $100 a year without paying any US taxes.  In a state like New York that probably means about $5,000 USD less a year per smoker in state tax revenue.  Given New York's tens of billions in budget shortfall you can see one of the reasons government is so interested in stopping e-cigarettes (200,000 smokers = $1 billion in annual cigarette taxes lost).

Then there is the control aspect.

The FDA believes that its role is to ban not only smoking but also the concept of smoking, i.e., its not good enough to control what you do, but you cannot be allowed to even want to smoke.  (Read the Surgeon General's report if you don't believe this).

The problem here is two fold.  First there is tax revenue and corresponding money spent on smoking remedies.  While on the one hand the government claims to want to ban smoking banning smoking successfully will strangle many state budgets because, as hard as it is to imagine, all those big dollar tobacco settlements won over the last decades are not sitting in banks waiting to pay for the cost of smoking related illnesses.  No, like social security, the states have long since spent that money and rely on direct tax collection of tobacco taxes to survive.

Second the FDA needs to control tobacco in order to manage the tobacco market relative to its big-tobacco friends in the industry (after all, their collective $180 billion dollar market is in significant danger if e-cigarettes go off the existing "tobacco control range").

Secondly, without a crusade, like tobacco, there is less for the FDA to do.  With less to do budgets shrink (just look at the hundreds of government funded studies in the Surgeon General's report).  So, though Congress told the FDA it can regulate but not ban tobacco, the FDA struggles to make itself relevant on the e-cigarette front.

All this said let's compare cigarettes to other "drug related" industries.

I would estimate that about 1,000 metric tons of cocaine is produced annual.    A metric ton is 1,000 x 1,000 grams (1,000 kilograms) or one million grams.  With a street price of $100 a gram that $100 million dollars per metric ton (more if the cocaine is cut).  Given 1,000 metric tons that's about $100 billion USD in manufactures cocaine sales - probably two or more times that retail on the street.

Now in the US a 100 billion dollar company is going to employ at least 50,000 workers - probably many more.  So one imagines that the same relationship must be true for cocaine.  Yet while there are lot of small scale arrests there are relatively few large-scale arrests (maybe 5,000 per year for trafficking - but I am having a hard time figuring this out).

At any rate while the FDA would happily shut down any US tobacco company at a moments notice for some trivial reason or other they apparently cannot manage to get their hands around the illegal drug trade's throat no matter how hard they try (I wonder if this is because government is full of baby boomer dopers who really don't want to see recreational drug use actually eliminated?)

Now if you add in cannabis, heroin, meth, etc. and other legal drugs used illicitly you will see that these industries employ a lot of people and are very, very large (like on the order of Mobil-Exxon for each type of drug).

The point of all this is that "clamping down" in terms of the FDA means at least a $100 billion dollars per year in annual sales - so clamping down on e-cigarettes (or cigarettes in general) would probably (actually) be a huge boon for the market.  Not to mention it would cut $100 billion out of state cigarette sales taxes.

The bottom line is that the FDA is grasping at straws: trying to get the cat back into the bag.

But I think its too late.  I have heard, but cannot confirm, as many as 30K people are converting per week to e-cigarettes (I wonder if this is because the FDA told them smoking was bad for them?)

Bottom line for me?

- E-cigarettes are far less dangerous than smoking regular cigarettes.

- Government and big tobacco are going to work very hard to protect their slice of the revenue and control pie.

- The FDA and state tobacco tax collections are going to go head-to-head for you cigarette tax dollars - its unclear to me who will win this battle.

- Banning e-cigarettes in hypocritical nonsense if you believe smoking regular cigarettes is bad.

- The FDA controlling tobacco and/or e-cigarettes to much will simply yield yet another giant criminal industry on the order of Exxon-Mobile.

- FDA regulation = means to tax.

- No one really knows what things like ionophores or genetic engineering might be doing to us and our food supply - but killing off smoking is apparently far more important to the FDA than stopping, or even studying, something that the entire general population has A) no control over, B) is not analyzed in anywhere as much, and C) is in virtually every food product we consume.

At the end of the day illegal drugs, tobacco, and alcohol probably make up a very large portion of the economy - on the order of health care at one sixth.

Perhaps the FDA should simply hire tobacco company execs to work there - after all they do hire big food execs - and magically there is not investigation or problem with genetic engineering or commercial chemicals with very little safety study.

Right or wrong smoking what people choose to do with their money.

(Again, I think that big government workers are liberally minded and see tobacco as evil and smokers are dull thugs unable and unwilling to think for themselves.  On the other hand, they see things like pot and so forth as enlightened recreational activities when properly used - after all, that's what they were told in the 1960's.  As I said - its what people choose to do with their money.)

But big nanny government knows you are too stupid to take care of yourself so they plan to do it for you.

Personally I think that all the tobacco settlement money states sued for should be required by law (or lawsuit) to be held aside for future tobacco health costs.  If the states cannot do this they are simply hypocritical liars who are out to take your money..., erh, ah, profit from your smoking habit.

Its a good thing we have exercised morality from our modern social conscience - otherwise someone might notice what's going on that think it was, gasp, wrong...