Are eCigarettes Targeting Young People?

Introduction

Are eCigarettes Targeting Young People?

Are eCigarettes Targeting Young People?

I hadn’t planned to write an eCigarette column today.  With the arrival of summer, demands on other parts of my life, and the need to do some more rigorous research things are likely to slow down for a bit.  However, I couldn’t help but notice the onslaught of news articles today proclaiming things like: Sweets makers want names off e-cigarettes or even more ridiculously Kiddy Trademarks Challenge e–Cigarette Makers who Piggyback on Famous Yummy Branding.  But are eCigarettes targeting young people as implied in these stories?

The upshot of many of these articles is to link the brand-naming of certain eLiquids is targeting our youth for these products.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to comment on this story since it has reared it’s ugly head in the past, and will likely keep coming up from time to time.

Are eCigarettes Targeting Young People?

First, I know I have said this before, and I will say it again.  I have not seen evidence of any attempts to market electronic cigarettes to young people.  At least not in this country.

All of the local vape shops I have been to in this city have signs clearly indicating that they will not sell their products to anyone that is under age.  And, I have seen in at least one store that I frequent the staff request ID from someone that they were unfamiliar with.

Most of the websites I have been to have had some form of warning that their products are only available to people 18 years old, or older.  And, in fact, many of them have had some type of pop-up age check / verification before you can enter the site.  Some sites have had age verification as part of the ordering process.  I am not saying that all websites have had these checks in place, but simply the majority of them I have checked out. (I can’t even remember one that didn’t have something in place for age verification.)

I would urge anyone who finds a store that doesn’t have an appropriate sales restriction notice in place to ask about it.  Make certain that the store is doing what is necessary to keep these products from being purchased by under age individuals.  More so, urge the store owners and staff to put the appropriate signs in place.

The same goes for any websites we might come across that doesn’t have appropriate age verification in place.  Write to the operators of the site, make certain they are doing some kind of age verification and not just relying on credit card vendors to screen transactions.  They need to make a proactive attempt at age verification to show they are a responsible vendor.

How The Youth Get eCigarretes

I don’t believe for a moment, however, that making these efforts will necessarily completely stop young people from getting eCigarettes if they really want them.  Why?  First-hand experience.

I started smoking analog cigarettes when I was sixteen years old, before it was legal for me to buy them.  This wasn’t a surprise to anyone.  In fact, there was an almost acknowledged fact that some high school students smoked.  In fact, we had places outside the building where we went during lunch, between classes, and free periods to smoke, and no one ever said a word.  And I mean no one: not a teacher, staff member, administrator, anyone.  It was accepted.

However, the purchase of cigarettes was still illegal.  So, how did I get them?  My primary source was vending machines in some of the local restaurants.  It wasn’t difficult to make certain I had the right change and go into a restaurant with a cigarette machine in the lobby that wasn’t under constant supervision.

After a while I became familiar with the stores that would sell cigarettes to me.  Quite a few gas stations and quick shops would sell them without asking for identification.

Some of my friends got their cigarettes from their parents, brothers or sisters.  I would still bet that happens today.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised (and have read stories) about parents buying eCigarettes for their children — to stop them from smoking tobacco cigarettes.  In their own way, these parents are doing their part in the Tobacco Harm Reduction struggle that is supposed to be a major priority.

The point to all of this is: if kids want something, they will find ways to get it, and it’s not just eCigarettes.

On The Naming Issue

Now, onto the main thrust of the stories: eLiquids being named after other products.  This isn’t really a marketing issue, and I don’t think any company really thinks that it is.  It’s purely a legal issue, and part of the price of doing business.

Personally, the eLiquid vendors I deal with (including all the vendors in the picture attached to this story) go through the effort of naming their liquids in a way that is referential to the type of flavor, without infringing on the intellectual property of another company.  That’s what the core of this issue is: if a company is using a brand or a name that is registered, patented, copyrighted or trademarked by another company then it is infringement.

The way the laws are written, it is clear that the company that owns the intellectual property has to defend it.  So, these companies are not doing this to “protect the children”.  They are doing it because legally they have to do it.  If they do not defend their property they could use it.

There are many stories about companies going to great lengths to protect their copyrights and trademarks.  For example, Coca-Cola used to send employees out to bars, restaurants and other establishments and have them order a Coke.  If they were served some other cola product instead of Coke, the establishment was warned they had to inform patrons that they weren’t serving Coke.  If an establishment repeated the offense, they would receive a legal notice.

Xerox ran advertisements in a number of newspapers years ago to dissuade people from calling “photocopies” Xeroxes unless they were produced on an actual Xerox product. Xerox was concerned when the photocopy market opened up, they would potentially lose their trademark.  And that could be disastrous since it wasn’t just the name of their product, but the name of their company.

So, don’t believe a word about this being about the children.  It’s not.  It’s business plain and simple.  There is no overt campaign to market eCigarettes to children as far as I have seen (although, admittedly that is only anecdotal evidence, and I could be proven wrong).  Companies filing lawsuits over the names of liquids isn’t some campaign to save the children.  It’s merely a byproduct of doing business in our legal system.

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Aspire To The Nautilus

Introduction

Aspire to The Nautilus

Aspire Nautilus with custom drip-tip installed

Okay, so I am months behind everyone else in getting to some of the newer tanks that are on the market.  Honestly, for a long time I thought that I would just be sticking with the Kanger ProTank line.  However, now I Aspire to the Nautilus.  Why?  Well, read on for my review of the Aspire Nautilus.  I would almost call it a ProTank killer, however I have a few reservations.

Aspire To The Nautilus

When I first saw the Nautilus in my local vape shop I wasn’t impressed by it.  Why?  Mostly aesthetics.  It honestly just isn’t the best looking tank on the market.  It’s not as bad as the Innokin iClear 30B, but I just don’t care for some of the knurling, and the overly curved top.

And, I know some people say that branding is important. However, I disagree.  I don’t think it adds anything to have “Aspire Nautilus” on the glass.  It just looks tacky.  If it was a small engraving or etching, I could see that. But these big letters don’t add anything, and it actually kind of detracts more from a tank that has a marginal appearance in the first place.

But, there is one thing that really bothers me more than just about anything: the base.  On the base where it meets the glass of the tank there is a rolled lip.  Why?  Who knows.  I can’t say that I recall seeing this on any other tanks.  It certainly doesn’t add anything to the looks of the tank, in fact, to me it’s out of keeping with the rest of the metal work on the tank.

Reasons For Buying the Nautilus

If the appearance of the tank were the important point, I would have skipped it.  (In fact, as I mentioned above, I wasn’t impressed with it when I first saw it…)  But, there were a couple of things that made me change my mind and give it a try.

First, it has an adjustable airflow ring.  You can select between four air-flow ports to adjust the draw of the device.  This is useful for people who like different types of airflow, and allows adjust for differing fluid viscosity.  Air-flow had become a big issue for me with the addition of the Seven 22 and Lavatube to my collection.  So having a tank that offered it’s own airflow control was definitely something that I was interested in.

And, in fact, I can report that it works perfectly with all the devices I have tried it on: the Lavatube, MVP, Seven 22, Nemesis, K100.  I haven’t tried it on an eGo, as I think it would look silly (Phil Busardo shows what it would look like in his video review, which I’ll include at the end of this article.)

Second: it’s a dual coil tank.  One of the reasons that I wanted to try the iClear 30B was that it was a dual coil device.  So, seeing that the Nautilus offers a similar coil configuration made me curious (one of the things that I did like about the iClear 30B was this feature).

Third: massive capacity.  This tank will hold over 5ml of liquid.  Most of the other tanks I’d used hold 3ml.  I had to fill them at least once a day when I was using them.  I suspected that the 5ml capacity of the Nautilus would make it possible for me to go a whole day without refilling the tank.  Sure enough, one filling in the morning is all I need with this tank.  Which is really, really awesome in my book.

Fourth (and final): it looked like it would be a good match for my larger devices.  And in fact, it is.  It fits perfectly on the Lavatube.  It doesn’t fill out the whole Seven 22 size, but it’s probably one of the closer tanks to fill out a device that uses a 26650 IMR battery.  (I know someone mentioned another tank that can do the same thing, but I can’t remember which device, or where I saw it.)

Performance

So, knowing what the reasons were for getting the Nautilus, how does it perform?

Honestly, it has exceeded my expectations at every turn.

It draws well when the air-flow is adjusted properly for the fluid.  It doesn’t make a whole lot of crackling noise (unlike the ProTank and iClear 30B).  The taste of the juices I have used in it has been very good.  Throat hit has been very good.  And vapor production has been very strong.

The thing that has impressed me the most though is the noise level.  I think it has to do with the enclosed coil design, but also with the large silicon ring at the bottom of the tank that seals everything.  The silicon appears to dampen the crackling sounds you sometimes get while vaping, making this the quietest tank I’ve used.  And this is a consideration as I’ve mentioned in the past, since someone has already commented on the crackling sounds from other tanks when I was on the phone.

Issues

But, this tank isn’t without issues.  Fortunately none of the issues have been show-stoppers for me, but they are somewhat annoying.

First, the top portion screws onto the glass of the tank.  The threading is rather wide since it’s more difficult to make fine threading in glass.  However, the problem I’ve encountered is even with the top piece screwed onto the glass properly the center post will be off-center.  It will straighten out as you put the base back on the tank, but that can lead to the other big issue.

Sometimes the coil threads will get jammed in the center post. Now, apparently Aspire is putting a card in the box that points out this issue now.  I didn’t receive one in my box.  But this is really an issue that it would seem Aspire needs to work on.  It’s too easy to have a coil get jammed.  And on more than one occasion I’ve had to resort to using a pliers to get the coil loose (being extremely careful to not damage it).

The final issue: sometimes there will be junk accumulated in the bottom of the base, below the coil.  And, on at least one occasion, I have seen this brown junk on the lower portion of the coil. I don’t really know what it is, but I suspect it’s leftover condensed eJuice that has leaked out of the coil while the device was sitting.  However, I am a bit leery about the coloration of the junk since I was vaping a mostly clear fluid, and this stuff was very brown.

Conclusion

This tank is a real winner.  The issues I mentioned above keep it from being a ProTank killer in my book.  However, it is one of the best performing tanks I’ve encountered yet. The larger capacity, dual coils, low noise level, adjustable air-flow all make it a top-performing tank.  And, given that I was a Kanger devotee that is saying something.

As always, Phil Busardo has an excellent review of this device.  He compares it to several other tanks, and tears it down in more detail than I can easily do in a relatively short article.  Here’s his video:

Why Is Bitcoin Popular In Estonia?

Why Is Bitcoin Popular In Estonia?

So I was playing with Google Trends tonight and found something that I thought was really unusual.  When I started comparing references to different cryptocurrencies, Estonia was at the top of the chart for bitcoin. Why is bitcoin popular in Estonia?

Why Is Bitcoin Popular In Estonia?

Google Trends Chart

Part of what made this somewhat humorous, and very curious to me is that you can barely see Estonia on the Google Trends map that goes with the above chart:

Why Is Bitcoin Popular In Estonia?

Google Trends World Map

Can you see it? Maybe if you are extremely good with geography you might be able to find it. Here’s a larger map that might help you locate it:

Why Is Bitcoin Popular In Estonia?

Estonia (in dark green) on a world map.

Setting Aside The Initial Humorous Curiosity

Why would bitcoin be trending so high in Estonia?  Well, it seemed part of this had to do with the shutdown of BTC.ee following threats from the Estonian Police: Estonian Police Target Bitcoin Trading Site BTC.ee (via CoinDesk).  That is a really fascinating situation: the Estonian Central Bank stated that bitcoin may be little more than a Ponzi Scheme. Shortly after that statement, the Estonian Police started targeting bitcoin traders / exchanges, which lead to the shutdown of BTC.ee.

So, I thought (at first) that this explained the popularity of bitcoin in Estonia.  A simple news story about the struggle of bitcoin in Estonia. But then there was part of the CoinDesk article that undermined part of the assumption to make this new story the reason for the trend:

With 9,669 downloads of the bitcoin client and wallet to date, Estonia is ranked 56th worldwide. Lithuania is 45th, with 15,527 downloads, while Latvia lags behind its two neighbors at 59, with 7,918 downloads.

(via CoinDesk)

So Estonia is 56th in world rank.  That certainly doesn’t fit with the line of thought I’d had. To me, bitcoin would have had to be more common in Estonia for it to make sense that the actions of the Police would have such a major impact.

But if bitcoin isn’t that common in Estonia, then why is bitcoin a popular search in Estonia?   Certainly it’s hard to imagine that Estonia would be leading these searches when it is only the 56th in rank for bitcoin world-wide. The answer to this question was still alluding me.

Looking at http://localbitcoins.com shows that there are only five buyers / sellers of bitcoin in Estonia, so it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of large exchanges in Estonia.

Finally Some Clarity

But when I was just about perplexed by this Google Trends chart as I could be, I found a passage in an article that hints at the reason there is a high level of interest in Estonia: Bitcoin ‘Ponzi’ Concern Sparks Warning From Estonia Bank (via Bloomberg).  The key isn’t in the Ponzi Scheme aspect of the story, but rather in recent financial history of Estonia:

Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, which joined the euro this year, got burned in 2008 as a real estate boom turned to bust and a global credit freeze hobbled exports. The three nations suffered the deepest recessions in Europe at the time, with Latvia’s economy contracting by more than a fifth in 2008-2009.

(via Bloomberg)

Okay, so this makes a more sense to me.  This particular region of the world (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) were hit heavily by the 2008 recession (all due to the sub-prime mortgage infestation into the financial system).  That seems (in my opinion) to have really shaken the faith people had placed in traditional financial systems in these countries.

As a result, there is major interest in bitcoin (and potentially other cryptocurrencies) in this region.  And now, the statements of the Estonian Central Bank, and the actions of the Estonian Police are likely serving to spike the search trends on Google. That is quite a bit more understandable.

A Crazy Aside

While I was searching and reading articles trying to find a better explanation of the Google Trend, I came across another interesting story about Bitcoin in Estonia: A Bitcoin Castle Will Be Born In Estonia (via Bitcoin Examiner).  This article seems to be from March of this year (that’s a rough guess given that there isn’t a date of publication on the article itself), so I wonder what effect the current situation with the Central Bank and Police will have on this.

The Seven 22 Super Wattage System

Introduction

The Seven 22 Super Wattage System

The Seven 22 Super Wattage System

It is somewhat ironic that I find myself writing an article about the Seven 22 Super Wattage System from Pioneer4You.  For quite sometime I have been thinking about getting a device that was smaller than my Innokin iTaste MVP2, or any of the mechanical mods that I have laying around. Instead, I end up getting a device that is a lot larger, and requires 26650 IMR batteries to operate.

Not to mention, this is probably the single most expensive vaping device that I have purchased since I started.  Nothing has come close to this device in price: the iTaste MVP, Lavatube, and SiD were all much lower in price.  For that matter, the new video card I’ve ordered for my computer was cheaper than the Seven 22, which retails for somewhere between $135 and $150.  (Note, at the bottom of this review I’ve added a couple of videos.  In the first review, J Leone states that Pioneer4You has a very strict pricing policy on the device.  He was selling it on Smilin’ Vapes for just over $120, so I have to believe that was about the lowest approved price you can buy it for.)

The Seven 22 Super Wattage System

So, what is this device about, and being so large (and heavy!) how does it fair compared to other devices I’ve used?  Well, first let’s run through some specifications:

  • Wattage range: 7.0-22.0 Watts
  • Output Voltage: 4.0-8.5 volts
  • Battery Voltage: 3.4-4.2 volts

Note, the manual says the battery range is 3.2 volts to 4.2 volts. In my usage of the device, it always seems that it cannot fire when it gets down to 3.4 volts. That could be dependent on the resistance of my coil, or the Wattage I have set, but it seems to be fairly consistent.

The Seven 22 comes with a bunch of built in protection features:

  • Low Voltage protection
  • Low Resistance protection
  • Reversed polarity protection (ie, battery inserted upside down)
  • High Input Voltage Warning
  • Short Circuit Protection

Many people, including Grimm Green and Phil Busardo are comparing the Seven 22 to the Sigelei 20W.  They are right to compare them, the only difference between the two (besides weight and battery) is the Sigelei uses the SX200 circuit / firmware, and the Seven 22 uses and SX220 circuit / firmware board.  The only difference between these two board is that that SX200 only goes up to 20 watts, while the SX220 goes up to (you guess it) 22 watts.

In Use

But, all of these numbers typically don’t mean a whole lot to people.  (I actually like them, however, as proven by my inclusion of Phil Busardo’s review video below for those who want more detailed measurements of the output of the device.)  Instead most people want to know what it’s like to use the device.

So, I initially had some reservations about the device.  It’s a large, rather smooth stainless steel device, and weighs more than twice the iTaste MVP2.  I thought the MVP2 was heavy when I bought it, but was able to adjust to it.  I thought the Lavatube was the largest device I would ever own – but the Seven 22 is slightly larger in circumference, and about 1/2 inch taller.  And it absolutely dwarfs my Nemesis clone in 18650 mode with a kick installed.

But still, the device was immediately comfortable for me to use, despite it’s weight.  If anything, the fact that it is a solid piece of stainless steel made it feel sturdy in my hand, and I was soon able to adjust to the weight of the device.  I was able to adjust to it quickly and even able to use it in my car while driving.  (A concern for me as I drive a manual transmission, so I need to be able to handle the device and my stick shift at the same time.)

At first I had problems getting a tank that I could connect to the device.  My standard ProTank 2 couldn’t get any air flow when screwed into the device.  This is the same problem that i encountered with the Lavatube.  So, I had purchased an iClear 30B to try with the Lavatube, but didn’t have any luck.  However, I was able to use the iClear 30B with the Seven 22.  And, that worked fairly well, until I started having problems with the coils, as I mentioned in my review of the iClear 30B.  Lately (for the past couple of weeks) I have been using an Aspire Nautilus with the Seven 22 with great success.

The performance of the device is stunning.  First, since it uses average wattage, like the DNA’s, it doesn’t suffer from the pulse-width modulation issues of most mods.  The power to the coil is smooth in almost all cases, and the power is very accurate in my use.  (Note: Phil has some interesting points in his video review about the power based on the resistance of the attached coils.  I didn’t notice what he found, mostly because I tend to run the Seven 22 from 10-15 watts.)

One of the reasons I think this device works so well for me is the ease of finding the button on the device.  I frequently pick up a device to vape without really looking at it, so finding the button easily is key.  I think most of the manufacturers of devices have gotten that point these days, in large part due to reviews from Phil, GrimmGreen and others who have made it a major point.

Battery life is fantastic.  Phil stated that he gets about two days from a battery.  I only get about 36 hrs.  But, I think that is attributable to the fact that I tend to run a lower resistance coil at a higher wattage setting.

The interface of the device takes a bit of getting used to. First the main screen will take users that aren’t familiar with the Sigelei or other advanced devices a few minutes to get used to reading.  But, once you are used to it, the information about the status of the wattage setting, battery output, and remaining charge is perfect.  And, the fact that it updates in real-time is a major step forward for these devices.

Using the settings can take a bit to get used to.  Using the tilt-to-change the wattage menu still feels a little less than ideal.  As others have noted, it’s more likely that you will over-run your target and have to back up to get where you want to set the device.  However, having this operation be completely single-handed is a plus in my book. I was always annoyed with having to hold a button for a long period of time to start changing a setting, so the tilt-to-adjust is a much better approach for me.

One Complaint

I do have one complaint that no one else has mentioned it.  Maybe they hadn’t been using the device long enough before they reviewed it.  However, I sometimes get a shock my device while powering it. It’s not a severe shock, it will just feel like a warm spot on my hand while I am powering the device.  It goes away as soon as I release the button.

My theory is that in some situations the bottom spring is making contact with the edge of the case, and is causing another circuit to form along the outside of the case.  And it isn’t consistent in terms of the location where the power passes through my hand.  Sometimes it’s near the bottom of the tube, sometimes near the middle of it.

Looking in the bottom cap it doesn’t seem there is anything to isolate the spring from the rest of the tube, so it’s difficult to tell exactly why this is happening.

A Few Of Phil’s Negatives

Phil stated a few negatives in his review that I disagree with. First, he stated that he doesn’t like the screen dimming as soon as you release the button. I don’t have an issue with that. The idea that the screen stays on for a minute so you can look at it without having to hit a button is a plus. Dimming the screen helps to preserve the battery life. This is no different than adjusting the brightness on your cell phone to help maximize battery life.

Second, he states that there is a “flash” (Phil explains that it’s not really a flash, but something that grabs your attention if it’s within your periphery vision) when the screen turns off. I have not noticed that, and since watching his review, I have tried to observe that phenomena. However, I don’t disbelieve that he is experiencing something, and I think it might have something to do with the last point I disagree on.

(Note: Phil has pointed out that others have mentioned the same issue in the comments on his video.)

Phil states that sometimes when changing the battery, the wattage will get reset on the device. I have only had the device reset the wattage one time in over  a month of usage. The one time the wattage setting was lost was when I accidentally forgot to charge my batteries, and I couldn’t use the device for over eight hours while charging them. After letting the device sit that long without a battery (trying to charge two 26650’s at the same time took longer than normal) the Seven 22 went back to a default wattage setting.  This one time aside, I have not seen the behavior that Phil describes in his video.

This suggests to me that Phil’s unit might be faulty. I think (or guess / speculate) a capacitor is not functioning properly in his device and may be causing a small power surge when the display is turning off, and possibly not holding enough of a charge to keep the memory refreshed while swapping batteries. I am not an electrical engineer, or knowledgable in terms of electronics. But, from some experience working with computers that have had faulty capacitors, this seems like a possible explanation.

Conclusion

Overall, I am very happy with the Seven 22, much to my surprise.  I thought it was going to be too heavy and cumbersome to use on a regular basis.  However, it has become my go-to device because of the extremely accurate average wattage output providing an exceptional vaping experience.  The lack of step-down regulation that Phil mentions in his review would be a bonus, however it’s not a major weakness of the device.  A couple of the other negatives Phil mentions I have not experienced in over a month of usage.

My only real complaint has to do with getting a shock from the device.  It doesn’t happen all the time, just occasionally, and it hasn’t been severe enough to be dangerous in my opinion.  But it is still a bit worrying.  The sticker shock might also be a bit for some people, however if you are going to spend a similar amount for a DNA 30, then this might be worth checking out.

Here’s the first review I saw of this device from J. Leone:

Phil Busardo did a review of the Seven 22  a few weeks ago.  What I always appreciate about his reviews is the charts and analysis of the devices.  His review backs up my impressions about the overall performance and accuracy of the Seven 22. (Although I do disagree with him on a few other points, as I mentioned above.)

(05/13/2014: Note: I’ve updated the section regarding Phil’s complaints.  Phil pointed out that a portion of the wording was confusing / contradictory sounding.  Also, I added Phil’s note about comments he received about the screen issue.)

Bitcoin Is The New Terrorist Threat

Introduction

Bitcoin Is The New Terrorist Threat

Bitcoin Is The New Terrorist Threat

So, in the world of Bitcoin things seem really simple.  It’s just a currency, or an asset – a store of value of some type.  Yes, it’s very unstable, for many reasons. But that’s not what I am here to talk about.  It seems that the rest of the world, especially governments and the media see the bogey man everywhere when it comes to Bitcoin. So, Bitcoin is the new terrorist threat.

Let’s take two stories from the news this week, and talk about them briefly.

SEC Issues Investor Alert

This story appeared in Tech Crunch: SEC Publishes Laundry List Of Bitcoin Risks, Cites Governmental Regulation As A Potential Headache. The article refers to this publication from the SEC: Investor Alert: Bitcoin and Other Virtual Currency-Related Investments.

The funny thing about this report is that the majority of the information is pretty much generic to nearly all investments:

  • “Guaranteed” high investment returns.
  • Unsolicited offers.
  • Unlicensed sellers.
  • No net worth or income requirements
  • Sounds too good to be true.
  • Pressure to buy RIGHT NOW.

In other words, there are scams out there using all the classic tactics of other investment scams.  Congratulation Bitcoin scammers!  You’ve now ascended the mountain to take your rightful place in the pantheon of investment criminals!

Of course, the SEC did go on to point out that there are are more risks to Bitcoin investments, like not being able to recover your coins (something all users of Bitcoin realize from day one, I hope).  They also point out that Bitcoins investments themselves are more risky…and then use Mt.Gox to illustrate the point.  Of course anyone who thought they would be secure investing in Mt.Gox anytime in the last 2 years (or so) had to be smoking something.  Mt.Gox’s problems became legendary even before they were shut down, so if you ignored all the warning signs and still had your coin in that exchange, you knew the risks you were taking.

Okay, There was an even more “wild” story out there in the last couple of days…

Bitcoin Is The New Terrorist Threat

Yes, Bitcoin is the new terrorist threat according to the Pentagon, as documented in the Washington Post article: The military thinks Bitcoin could pose a threat to national security.

According to the article, the reason for concern is this:

One reason would-be criminals find Bitcoin so attractive is that it makes anonymous transactions over long distances a cinch. Like cash, it’s the perfect financial tool if you’re trying to cover your tracks.

So, in other words, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are as transparent as cash.  Of course, that is incorrect, but it doesn’t stop the reporter from saying that it is, or stop the Department of Defense from making statements that it is.  Despite the fact that surely the Department of Defense, and I would hope the Washington Post reporter, realize that all Bitcoin transactions re recorded on the blockchain, and can be tracked more efficiently than cash transactions can be tracked.  (And let’s face it, if anyone has the resources to monitor and trace transactions on the blockchain in near real time, it would be the Department of Defense).

Conclusion

So, I haven’t been watching Bitcoin news for a while now…  I got somewhat tired of it, and life (as usual) interfered in my ability to keep up with things.  So, tonight when I sat down to scan through some of the stories from my Google Alerts, I expected to be a lot of things that I was unfamiliar with, or at least represented something new.

Instead, I found stories that are basically the same-old thing that I’ve been reading for the last 6 or more months.  In a respect that is somewhat disheartening given that the reporting isn’t anything new, or any more accurate than what I was reading before.  However, it is somewhat comforting to know that I haven’t really missed anything.  In fact, if anything, the fact that Bitcoin  based financial scams look just like any other investment scam to the SEC is somewhat heartening…seriously.  It’s a sign that the Bitcoin image in the press is on the same level with just about any other business crime.

The sensationalism around the DoD terrorist threat story is nothing more than what has been said for the last two or more years.  So, there is nothing new there.  And, in fact, the reporting is at the same level: there’s bogey men everywhere and we’re going to report on it, even if we miss the most simple points that should be mentioned.

Oh well, at least it was fun to read some silly stories again.

The FDA Admits It Is Over-Reaching

Introduction

The FDA Admits It Is Over-Reaching

The FDA Admits It Is Over-Reaching

I have to say this first: I have not had the time to read through the complete proposal sent forward by the FDA.  I do advocate that everyone who is going to comment on this situation should actually read the actual proposal.  And, bear in mind, it is still a proposal.  It is not law, it is not legislation.  It is a proposal to extend the FDA’s power to allow them to regulate another class of products that are on the market.  It is, on this basis, that I believe the FDA is over-reaching.  And, even the FDA admits it is over-reaching.

The FDA Is Over-Reaching

So, how is it that I believe the FDA is over-reaching?  Well, if you read Deeming Tobacco Products to be Subject to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as Amended by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act; Regulations Restricting the Sale and Distribution of Tobacco Products and Required Warning Statements for Tobacco Product Packages and Advertisements [PDF] (yes, that is the complete, formal title of the proposal) you will find a few statements regarding electronic cigarettes:

Recent years have seen the introduction of new nicotine-containing products, such as electronic hookahs, “vape sticks,” and electronic cigarette liquids with fruit and candy flavorings that are not currently covered under FDA’s regulatory authorities. (Section I B, Page 11)

And most tellingly:

Because tobacco products contain nicotine—an addictive substance (Ref. 2 [HHS, 1988])—their regulation is consistent with policy recommendations derived from economic models of addiction (examples include Gruber and Köszegi [Ref. 4, 2001]; Bernheim and Rangel [Ref. 6, 2004]; and Gul and Pesendorfer [Ref. 8, 2007]). (Section I B, Page 10)

That last quote is, in essence, the single biggest over-reach in the document.  It is, in fact, a logical fallacy — a form of bad logic.

Bad Logic and Fallacies

The reasoning the FDA is using in this report, plain and simply false.  And, I will show in a moment that even the people behind the report from the FDA recognize that they have bad logic in this proposal.

But, quickly, let’s explain what a logical fallacy is.  Quite simply put, it’s a series of statements that imply a relationship, however when the two statements are related to each other, the conclusion is false.  Take the following example:

  • Water evaporates;
  • Humans contain water:
  • Therefore humans evaporate

Clearly, that isn’t true.  We don’t actually evaporate just because we contain a high percentage of water in our bodies.  This is the kind of bad logic that I quoted above, the logic works something like this:

  • Tobacco contains nicotine,
  • e-Cigarettes contain nicotine:
  • Therefore e-Cigarettes are Tobacco.

Now, that is an egregious error in this proposal.  There are lots of other plants that contain nicotine, such as chocolate.  Does this mean chocolate is tobacco, and therefore should be regulated under this proposal? (You know, the more I think about it, maybe chocolate should be regulated given how many people are addicted to it. )  I doubt anyone at the FDA would ever take that statement seriously, in fact I would hope they would laugh at that suggestion.  However, based on the bad logic they have presented that is exactly what they are proposing, if their false logic goes unchallenged.

The FDA Admits It Is Over-Reaching

There is an interesting footnote to Table 16 that is quite telling:

If there is no valid predicate tobacco product for e-cigarettes, the number of products or UPCs on the market under the proposed rule would depend on the number of marketing authorizations obtained through premarket tobacco applications. (Sect II B2, Table 16, Page 26)

They are admitting here, in somewhat obscure language, is that they don’t really know (or think) that it is a valid argument to classify e-Cigarettes as a Tobacco Product.  The fancy wording “no valid predicate” means that there has not been a product brought to market like e-Cigarettes before.

What Next?

This is, in my opinion, the greatest argument that we have against this FDA proposal.  It is based on bad logic, and even the FDA knows that it is not a valid argument.

Logical fallacies are easy to explain. They are easy to message.  Politicians, the press, and the general public will understand this argument.  We make jokes using logical fallacies all the time, and people get it. (Think recently about a Saturday Night Live skit that centered on e-Crack Pipes…that was obviously based on a fallacy, and a lot of people thought it was funny.)

We need to make a concerted campaign around the lack of logical arguments for this classification of e-Cigarettes and Vaping/  We need to make it clear that the classification of e-Cigarettes and Vaping in this group of products is based on bad and false logic.

A Little Bitcoin Mashup By Ali Spagnola

A Little Bitcoin Mashup By Ali Spagnola

A Little Bitcoin Mashup By Ali Spagnola

So, I’ve been following Ali Spagnola for a year or two now.  I found out about her because of a story about a douchebag suing her over her concept for a drinking game concert that she had a few years ago.  She had to go through a whole bunch of legal proceedings to prove that some random jackhole didn’t own her idea (basically it was a copyright case that was particularly nasty).  In the wake of that story, I was thoroughly impressed with her willingness to fight the douchebag, and eventually get to produce her CD and take her party concert on tour.

It was unfortunate that I didn’t get to see Ali on tour,  The closest she was to my location was about three hour drive away, and I couldn’t make it to the show due to work.  Rats.  Well, maybe the next time she is on tour I will get to see the show.

Recently, well a couple of months ago, Ali wrote and performed a little bitcoin mashup. So, since I haven’t been able to keep up with the Bitcoin news lately, I thought I would share this song.

Follow Ali’s YouTube channel!  She releases a song every week in her “This Week’s Most Googled Song” series.  There’s certainly a lot of humor and fun in everything that Ali does.  Follow her Twitter for some real laughs.  There’s been more than once where a random tweet from her has made my day better.

Here are links to her social media sites:

Ali’s Google Channel: http://goo.gl/aoxKQT
Ali’s Song Downloads: http://song.alispagnola.com
Ali’s Facebook: http://www.fb.com/alispagnola
Ali’s Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/alispagnola
Ali’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/alispagnola

Now, if Ali would only consider making some of her YouTube songs available under a Creative Commons license so I could include them on The CerebralMix. 🙂 (This is only a half-hearted joke.  I do understand that not all musicians / artists are a fit for Creative Commons.)

One Lost Week

One Lost Week

One Lost Week

Where Have I been?

So, where have I been for the last week or so?  Well, the story goes back to a post from last week: One Dead Motherboard, and continues from there. As I said in that article, I had a replacement system on order, and hoped to be back by weekend. One lost week later, and I am just recovering and getting back into the swing of things.

How Many Ways…

How many ways can things go wrong?  Well, let’s just say quite a few.  First, the new system that I ordered on Tuesday evening didn’t arrive until Friday.  Late Friday.  Late enough that when I looked at it and realized I needed an adapter cable for the video card, the local store that I could go to was no longer open.

Saturday, after returning from the store, I found that I had a notice in my mailbox.  I found a notice in my mail.  I needed to be ready for a property inspection.  Not in a week, but in 2.5 days.  Guess what that meant?  I spent the next 2.5 days preparing for an inspection. (And even that inspection didn’t go as planned…)

Oh, and if all of this wasn’t enough, I had some work things get in the way. (That is, since I had to maintain a work-readiness state 24hrs a day, I was restricted in some of the things that I could do.)

So, after completing the inspection on Tuesday, I finally got to sit down and work on putting my new system together.  Oh yes, it wasn’t as simple as plugging the new machine in and turning it on.  I had plans to re-use parts of the old machine that were okay in the new system.  And that started a new problem: the new system didn’t have enough power connectors to allow connecting all the drives from the old machine.

To make what could be a potentially long, detailed and very geeky story a lot shorter, the end result is:

  • The video isn’t configured the way I want it.
  • I still don’t have a CD/DVD drive (because of the power issue).
  • There are some things that aren’t configured the way I want them.

But, the good part is I have a working system.  I haven’t lost anything from the death of my old system.  This means that I can get back into a working state in the next few days.

The Plan

So the way things stand right now, here’s what I am planning:

Finish The Configuration

I can’t get everything immediately, but at least I can clean up some things on the system, and have it in a working state.  I’m still wrangling a few details, but I think I can finish them tonight.

The CerebralMix Shows

I did record the show last weekend, and I will record the show this weekend (in fact, because of some testing I did last week, I think I have stream-lined yet another part of this process).

Next week I will release both episodes.  Probably on Tuesday and Thursday, unless something goes really wrong in the post-production process (which I don’t foresee since I’ve managed to streamline that portion pretty well).

Writing

I’ve been listening to a lot of new music over the last week.  So, setting up a new review queue shouldn’t be an issue.  Sorry if you’ve submitted stuff only to see no reviews coming out in the last week.  I know I have at least five releases I’m ready to review, and there are at least three submissions I haven’t gotten to yet.

Getting back to eCigarette / Vaping and Bitcoin articles may take a bit longer.  There was some big Vaping news the other day, and I want to take some time to research it.  I might be writing up a couple of other things as stop-gap articles before that.

I don’t know what to write about Bitcoin / Cryptocurrencies. I was basically falling behind on the news there for a while, and this incident has only put me more behind on the current state of things.  I’ll look around and see if I can find something interesting (from my perspective) to comment on.

The Takeaway

So, what do I take away from this whole experience?  Well, it’s kind of difficult to have a single take away…  There wasn’t a whole lot I couldn’t do, even despite my losing a machine.  It was more of a collision of circumstances that left me in a position where I couldn’t do as much as I wanted.

There are ways to deal with some of these issues.  In fact, there is one that I have been working on for a few months that I think needs to get re-prioritized to happen more quickly. So, that’s kind of a hint to be on the look out for something to be changing on this side.

I think the one thing that I could take-away from this is the need to make my environment less system dependent.  Having a machine failure shouldn’t have been a roadblock to working on at least some articles for the site.  And, truthfully it really wasn’t, it was more the way circumstances piled up on each other (work, inspection, lost machine).

Basically, this wasn’t a situation I could have avoided.  There are only so many things you can plan for, but there are a lot of things that you can’t plan for.  If I’d had a house fire, I know I could recover.  It might take a while, but I could do it.  Same thing if I was injured, I could recover my work, but there would be a delay.

So, sometimes, you just have to make the best of the situation(s) life hands you.

Vapin’ Old School With The Lavatube

Introduction

Vapin' Old School With The Lavatube

Vapin’ Old School With The Lavatube

I came into vaping a bit later than some people, like Grimm Green.  He’s been at it for five years (or more) now, whereas I’ve only been involved for a little over two years.  As a result, I’ve skipped a number of mods that might be considered classics.  Well, I decided to correct that, at least partially, and do some vapin’ old school with the Lavatube.

(Apologies for the quality of these photos.  I’m working with my cell phone until I can get something better…)

The Lavatube

If you haven’t heard of the Lavatube from Volcano then you have missed one of the all-time classic mods.  Along with the Bolt, the Lavatube was one of the first that moved beyond an eGo style system and started using 18500 and 18650 batteries.  Also, the Lavatube was notably one of the early variable voltage mods (I believe the Provari and Sigelei mods also came out around the same time, but do not know the exact dates).

However, as variable wattage devices started coming out, and with the push by some vapers into rebuildable atomizers, sub-ohm vaping, and mechanical mods, the Lavatube and Bolt were somewhat left behind.  That was until last year when Volcano introduced the Lavatube 2.0, and eventually the Lavatube 2.5.

Vapin’ Old School – Well Kinda

It’s funny, sometimes I have nostalgia for things that I’ve never had or done before.  And this was the case with the Lavatube.  When I saw them recently on the Volcano website, I decided that I should have one in my collection.  And, well, while one would be cool, three would be even better, right?  And since I hadn’t been making any major hardware purchases for a while (just one or two mech mod clones, nothing spectacular) I decided I could splurge a little bit.

So, now I am sitting here with three Lavatubes, just because I felt like filling in some of the gaps in my collection.  Only, this really isn’t the old school style Lavatube, as the 2.5 version has a few features that the original didn’t have.

For example, you can now switch between Average Voltage and vRMS settings.  Typically the device (and most other regulated devices like the MVP and SiD) use vRMS as it will ensure to not over-power the coil you have attached to the unit.  The Average Voltage setting is generally marked by a slightly hotter, more intense vape due to the coil being supplied more power.  The Lavatube manual specifically recommends using the vRMS setting, unless you are an advanced vapor.

The original Lavatube was a variable voltage device.  With the introduction of the Lavatube 2.5 they have made it into both a variable voltage, and variable wattage device.  You switch between the two modes by holding down the + or – buttons for about 20 seconds.

The body style has been changed, it’s now just a flat-top device with no tapering at the top around the connector.  The body now sports a dimpled texture, and etched in logo.  The firing button is recessed, which makes it easy to locate it even in the dark.  The threading has been been polished even finer than the previous versions of the Lavatube.

Overall Impressions

I’m definitely impressed with this device from a machining and build standpoint.  Little things like the extra polishing of the threads makes for a really nice feel for the device when replacing a battery.  Also, the threading is nicely laid out, such that when you screw the two pieces of the unit together, the logo always lines up in the same place (seems like a small detail, but these days attention to these kinds of details isn’t lost).  The buttons are anchored so their orientation doesn’t change as you use the device.  The buttons are firm and clicky.

And there are a lot of other little details that are quite nice and enjoyable about this device.  In fact, I almost wish I could stop now because all the things they got right with the device are impressive.  But, unfortunately, there are things that just aren’t so great, and they cannot be ignored.

The first is the body style change.  I mentioned that the top used to be tapered, will that’s because it was actually a drip-cup cap.  There was a little well around the connect where any over-flowed, or spilled juice would collect, instead of running down the side.  That’s something that shouldn’t have been removed from the device, IMO.

The performance of the device overall is just average.  I can’t really differentiate it from my MVP or the SiD.  It’s not a bad thing that it performs as well as those devices, however with such a long head start on these other companies I really expected something more from a newer device (especially at the price Volcano wants for it).  However, I have admittedly not messed around with the Average Voltage setting yet, so maybe that is something that will blow my socks off.  I’ll post an update when I try it…but for now…

The reason I haven’t tried the Average Voltage setting yet is because of the single biggest problem I’ve encountered with the Lavatube 2.5: air flow.  When I got the device, I immediately tried to screw my ProTank 2 onto it as it’s my daily use tank (and basically my favorite tank).  As soon as I did, and I tried to take a hit I got – nothing.  No vapor, no air flow.  In fact, I tried a couple of times and sucked so hard once, I accidentally got a mouthful of eJuice.

So, I did some searching, and found that this is actually a problem with the connector on the Lavatube.  Basically, many the way the 510 connector is threaded blocks the air-flow holes on the base of the ProTank when it is screwed down.  The best solution for this is to get an airflow base for the ProTank (like the base for the Aero tank, or the ProTank 3).

I went over to my local vape shop, but they didn’t have the Aero tank, or replacement bases in stock for it.  So, it looks like I will have to order it.  But, while I was at the shop I did find they had the iClear 30B in stock, which I had wanted to try anyway.  So I got the iClear 30B and tried it on the Lavatube.  With a little fiddling I was able to get it work, however the draw was still fairly stiff in comparison to using it on the MVP, SiD and even some mechanical mods.

In Summary

That’s pretty much where I’ve left things at this point.  I have the Lavatube, but it doesn’t perform all that well with the standard tanks that I have at my disposal.  I could probably break out an old Nova, or something similar, but I don’t really use those tanks anymore so it wouldn’t be a fair test: it wouldn’t taste or vape the same as my daily setup.

Which is really a shame.  I like a lot of other things about the Lavatube, especially all the detail given to the machining and fit of the device.  I had reservations initially about it’s size, it’s easy larger than the SiD and all my other mechanical mods.  But, I found it comfortable to hold, and easy to find the controls on.

I want to try the average voltage setting, but without a tank that I can give a thorough test in vRMS mode first, it seems kind of pointless to try it.

Gap between the Lavatube and the iClear 30B

Gap between the Lavatube and the iClear 30B

Also, one other thing I noted about the Lavatube that I don’t particularly like: the 510 connector sticks out a bit above the top of the device.  This means that anything you are going to connect to it is going to have a bit of a gap between the bottom of the tank, and the top of the Lavatube.  Not exactly the kind of look that I like.  I prefer it when things can flush mount properly.

I guess all-in-all, I wouldn’t recommend the Lavatube.  There are devices that function as well as it, and at a lower price point, like the MVP.  But, maybe that will change when I get a device that will have better airflow on it.

 

 

A Rant About Common Sense Vaping

Introduction

A Rant About Common Sense Vaping - Image by lzord from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Image by lzord from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

I’m working on some articles that require a bit more research before I can sit down and start writing.  Because of the amount of research required I am actively scanning literally hundreds of news sites for stories about e-Cigarettes and Vaping on a daily basis. There are several topics that have come up in these stories that annoy me every bit as much as the distortions and lies the media tells.  So, I’ve decided that a rant about common sense vaping is in order.

This is a rant about two specific topics: handling / storing e-Liquids, and handling batteries safely.  These are two topics that are extremely important for all vaper’s.

Battery Safety

First up is battery safety.  I read a couple of stories recently about batteries “exploding” or “catching fire”.  One such article was this: Fire service warn against leaving e-cigarettes on charge after several devices explode.

Now, I get it that accidents happen.  But this article documents three incidents within a single month, in the same region.  Of course, even then it could still just be a coincidence, right? I was thinking that at first, until I read this part and got extremely annoyed:

One fire crew was called to a property in Conway Grove, Cheadle, at 7.00pm on March 29, where the residents had left their device charging for nine hours.

NINE HOURS? NINE HOURS!!

If these were cig-a-like batteries, they should have charged in under three hours (typically two hours).  If they were 18350’s it would also likely have been a maximum of three hours.  18500’s typically take three to four hours, and 18650’s typically need four to five hours (although I’ve had one take close to six hours).  So how in the world did someone leave their battery on a charger for nine hours???

I can only think of two scenarios that could answer this.  The first is ignorance.  The person charging the battery was not aware that they needed to watch how long it took to charge the battery, and not leave it on longer than required to charge it.  Now, it could be argued that if that person got their battery from a store that didn’t explain how to properly explain how to handle it that it wasn’t their fault.  Or they could have gone to a website and bought it without any instructions on how to handle the battery.

But, I call BS on both of those excuses. The long and short is, these are technologies that aren’t like our cell phones.  They don’t have all the safety bells and whistles that a phone or other electronic device has.  And, especially if you are using a larger mod (like a SiD or ProVari), or a mech mod, it is on the owner of the device to know and understand what they are doing, and how to properly handle their equipment.  There are tons of resources all over the internet for this equipment.  There is no excuse to not go out and make certain that you have all the knowledge necessary to handle them properly.

The other scenario that explains the nine hours is: a faulty battery or faulty charger.  But again, this comes into the situation where you have to know the equipment, and make certain you are handling it safely.

It’s been noted many times over that one of the sure signs of a battery dying is if it takes longer to charge than it has previously.  At first you might not notice it.  But by the time you have it on the charger for an additional 20-30 minutes beyond the normal charge time, it is time to start suspecting you have a bad battery.  If several of your batteries are taking longer than they had previous taken to charge, you might suspect that your charger is having issues.

Basically all three of these things should set off alarm bells or fireworks for a vaper.  Yes, it is possible to have an isolated incident, but if an isolated incident starts becoming a trend, then it needs to be investigated.

Nicotine Is Still A Poison

Despite emerging research that we may not have properly judge lethal dosages of nicotine in the past, there has been nothing that really refutes that it is a poison.  More than that, there are other side affects of nicotine such as raising your heart rate, blood pressure and metabolism.  (Simple Nicotine and Scientific / Chemistry entries from Wikipedia).

Now, most of the news media has talked about their being more calls to poison control centers regarding nicotine fluids.  And the media has greatly mis-represented the amount of nicotine that most e-Liquids contain (which are typically about the same levels of nicotine found in various brands / strengths of tobacco cigarettes).

However, there are reported cases of children being exposed to nicotine fluids.  Here is one of them: Child poisoned by ingesting liquid nicotine. Now, despite the stupidity of Lee Cantrell’s statement, the spin of the story by the reporter is correct, at least in part:

It is important for parents to be conscious of where they leave their liquid nicotine…

This is not the responsibility of manufacturers.  It is not the responsibility of retailers.  It is the responsibility of parents, guardians, siblings, or anyone that is around children.

If you were a smoker, would you have ever left your cigarettes where you kids could get to them?  If you did leave them out in the open, and did it knowing that a child could have access to it you were not using common sense.  You were not taking your responsibility seriously.

If you had drugs or medication around, did you leave laying about in non-childproof containers?  Did you leave it where children could have access to it?  Did you do this knowingly?  If you did, you were not taking your responsibility seriously.

If you have household cleaning supplies that have poison(s) in them, or are known to be poisonous, did you leave them someplace where children could get to them?  Again, if you did so, and did it knowingly you were not being a responsible parent and/or guardian.

e-Liquids are no different from any of these substances.  It is a poison.  It is serious fluid.  It needs to be stored where children cannot get to it.  It needs to be stored in childproof containers.  If necessary, you may have to lock it up someplace. Would you leave a loaded gun out in the open, or would you put it in a locked cabinet?  I sure as hell hope you would lock it up – there have been documented cases of children picking up guns and accidentally shooting others.

A Rant About Common Sense Vaping

Okay, that pretty much wraps up my rant.  I just get angry when I read things that really fall into the range of common sense that people seem to be ignoring.  Despite the convenience and improvements that many of us are experiencing using e-Cigaettes and Vaping devices we have to have respect for them.  We have to make certain that we have the knowledge, and take the safety precautions necessary with them.

So, for the tl;dr types, here’s the summary:

  • Know how long to charge a battery
  • If you notice it taking longer than before, you need to check out the charger and battery, likely one of them is failing
  • e-Liquids are poisons, no matter the emerging research
  • e-Liquids should be treated the same as tobacco cigarettes, medicines, cleaning solutions and weapons
  • e-Liquids should be stored in places where children will not have access to them.
  • If all else fails, you may need to lock up your e-Liquids to keep them away from kids

Now, don’t make me write about common sense stuff like this again.  If you didn’t like this article, I didn’t like writing it ten times more than you didn’t like reading it.  I feel like the Hulk: don’t make me rant, you won’t like me when I rant.