A Word For Regulators About eCigarettes / Vaping

Setting The Scene

A Word For Regulators About eCigarettes / Vaping

A Word For Regulators About eCigarettes / Vaping

I’ve been involved in a few conversations recently that have centered on the emerging laws and regulations surrounding eCigarettes and vaping.  Or rather, more talking about how the vaping community feels that things are not being handled at this point.  So, I decided it was time to write a word for regulators about eCigarettes / vaping when it comes to determining how best to design laws, regulations, guidance, etc.

This article really doesn’t cover everything that I have to say on this subject, but I believe it is a good starting point.  I welcome feedback from vapers and non-vapers alike, to get some of the points, ideas, and thoughts out in the open.  Use the comments section below, or feel free to use the contact form on the menu above.

Some Negatives

We have seen several negative stories in the press recently.  These, of course, are mostly irresponsibly written pieces, such as the one about E-cigarette accidents prompt poison centers’ warning (via USA Today).  Or, the story of a man found guilty of violating a law by using an eCigarette, even though the law doesn’t apply to eCigarettes (via Knoxville Business Examiner).  And, possibly the most annoying recent article: Selling a Poison by the Barrel: Liquid Nicotine for E-Cigarettes (via The New York Times) which has been widely syndicated.

Now, these articles are examples of why lawmakers and regulators need now, more than ever, more guidance in making laws and regulations regarding eCigarettes.  The thing is, the evidence so far is showing that lawmakers just are not paying attention to the evidence that counterbalances these typically over hyperbolic, extravagant and frequently just factually wrong articles.

Here’s a few thoughts and suggestions before things get too far wrong (which some already think they are).

Take A Light Handed Approach

Currently there is very little factually substantial reason to take action.  Most of the stories, like the ones listed above, have major holes or gaps in their coverage.  For example, conflating manufacturers purchase of large quantities of fluids with that of the consumer.  It’s just flat wrong.  Consumers purchase vastly smaller quantities, typically 5-30ml of fluid at a time, not a gallon.  And, the amounts of nicotine in those 5-30ml bottles are in the range of 6-24mg — the same range as current tobacco products.  Believing the incorrect information in these articles leads to wild speculations and / or actions that are just not appropriate.

Also, the science surrounding eCigarettes is still emerging, however some people seem to feel it appropriate to sound alarm bells by writing new studies that just drag up old, incorrectly done studies.  This is a problem sometimes in the scientific community, a major splash is made when a new study is published, but the corrections that are made later don’t get the same level of attention.  And, in some cases, the initial studies are still cited later, and the corrections are missed.

Slightly more distressing is that the studies that are heavily underwritten are the ones that get the most exposure.  Unfortunately, those are also often the studies that are conducted with the purpose of making a point, and do not always follow the most sound scientific processes.  Generally for each one of these studies, peer review groups will point out the problems with the studies, however without the funding to promote their findings they are often overlooked.

While all of this back and forth, he said, she said is going on, it’s just best to sit back and wait.  Let the scientists sort things out, or failing that make certain to find all the information regarding studies in order to have a fully formed opinion on the matter.

Listen To The People

It possibly seems counter intuitive on one level, however the fact is that the people who are already using the product have the most direct experience with it.  We can give the best insights if we are allowed to.  We can tell you the things that we would like to see happen if there is going to be laws or regulations, and many of us have a clearer picture of the situation without the bias of being representatives of a company that is either for or against eCigarettes.

The fact is, our experience will tell you more about the state of the industry, the feelings of those around us, and what the real implications of the product are.  The fact is, many of us have experiences that are what you should be paying attention to.  The fact is, laws and regulations are really for the people, not for the companies.  The people should be the basis for the laws.

Look For Good Examples

There are companies and organizations that set really high standards for operating their businesses and participating in the eCigarette and Vaping community.  I’ve referenced several organizations in other articles, including AEMSA and CASAA.  I’ve also referenced companies like V2 and Halo for following the standards / regulations that already exist, and setting the bar very high in terms of quality products, and transparency.

If anything, applying the standards that these organizations and companies have set to regulating the industry, then you would be taking appropriate measures to ensure safety for those involved in the production of these products.  It should be pretty clear that instead of trying to look for reasons to ban a new industry, it would be better to make the current regulatory structure that is already available apply to the new industry.  That means less work in writing new laws and regulations that could potentially kill a promising industry, and instead focusing on establishing standards that the industry can live up to fort he benefit of the consumers.

A Word For Regulators About eCigarettes / Vaping: Summary

In the end, I think the points come down to this:

  • Be cautious about sources.  Hyperbolic and inaccurate statements are flooding the media these days.
  • Don’t try to apply laws where they don’t apply.
  • Regulate first for safety.
  • Look for good scientific information.  Be cautious about scientific studies that have been dis-proven or seriously questioned by part of the scientific community.
  • Look for good examples: there are organizations and companies that are setting the standards for this industry.  Seek them out, and find out how they are voluntarily applying current regulations to make consumer safe products.  Follow their lead in making industry standards.
  • Use laws only when regulations are inadequate.

And, there was one final point to make: don’t confusing vaping with tobacco cigarettes.  They are vastly different.  The scientific research that is being conducted carefully is showing how big the differences between eCigarettes and tobacco cigarettes really is.

If you can keep these things in mind, and really try to get at the information from unbiased (or at least less biased) sources, all of this will make a lot more sense.

This really doesn’t cover everything that I have to say on this subject, but it’s a good starting point.  I welcome feedback from vapers and non-vapers alike to get some of the points, ideas, and thoughts out in the open.   Use the comments section below, or feel free to use the contact form on the menu above.

Three Reasons You Should Be Interested In Bitcoin

Introduction

Three Reasons You Should Be Interested In Bitcoin

Three Reasons You Should Be Interested In Bitcoin

So, I am posing a question this week: why should you be interested in Bitcoin?  That might seem to be an easy question to answer from the perspective of people who are interested in the technology behind it, or have libertarian political leanings, or any number of other perspectives.

However, I intended this to be a more generalized question.  I am thinking more along the lines of why should the general populace of the United States, or any other country be interested in Bitcoin?  And, in fact, I might qualify that further: why should you be interested if you don’t already fit into one of the categories I’ve mentioned (libertarian or technically inclined).  Now that is a far more difficult question to answer, especially if you don’t want to rely on the answers you would get from people already in those categories.

Do I really think I can answer this question?  Hopefully since I am not a libertarian I can avoid some of the standard answers.  And, even though I am more technically oriented, I tend to be good at setting that aside when I am trying to answer these types of questions.

Current Perspectives

A couple of interesting things happened this week.  First, there was a poll conducted that found that ten percent of the general population was interested in Bitcoin (via San Jose Mercury News).  Of course, the story tried to pass this off as a small amount of people.  However, I would argue the opposite.  Two years ago, I would bet that the public awareness of Bitcoin was only 1-2 percent, and this survey represents a big shift.  Of course, the public being mis-informed, or hearing only about negative stories related to Bitcoin is a concern. However as the traction and awareness of Bitcoin grows with the broader public, the ability to shift the perception is more easily accomplished.

The biggest news (in the U.S.) is that the IRS will treat Bitcoin as property (via USA today) instead of currency for taxation purposes.  I don’t know if this is going to happen in other countries, or how it would work in those countries, but for people in the US, this causes a number of complications (via FindLaw).

There are those that say that because of this move by the IRS it will slow the development of Bitcoin.  And that is a possibility.  However, the other thing to consider is that at least the IRS has taken the time to put some initial thought into the nature of Bitcoin.  And, it is hard to say that Bitcoin isn’t really seen more as a commodity than as a currency. However the thing to keep in mind, in my opinion is that this is a starting place for Bitcoin’s relationship with the IRS, and Governments in general.  If other countries or jurisdictions start classifying Bitcoin as currency, then it is likely the IRS will revisit this classification and change it’s guidance in the future.

It does make for a bit of an odd situation, since FinCEN has offered guidance that exchanges and other Bitcoin services need to follow the Know Your Customer regulations that banks follow, which is of course explicitly for financial based businesses, and not a product based businesses.  And exchanges are increasingly finding themselves the subject of financial regulation.

Now I don’t mean to single these out as the only stories from the last week or two, but they are fairly important as they show the levels at which Bitcoin is garnering attention.

Currency Is Dead, Long Live Currency

Thirty or Forty years ago people were most likely to use fiat currency in the form of cash or a promissory note (cheque) when conducting a transaction.  Credit was more generally reserved for transactions where it was seen to be advantageous to (a) put off immediate payment, (b) have some additional financial trail for the transaction, or (c) when a bank cheque was unlikely to be accepted.

Over time, however, two things have happened.  First, the credit industry has become more aggressive in marketing their financial tools (credit cards, money cards, ATM cards, etc.).  And, there has been a shift to electronic financial services: automatic deposits, bill payment services, online stores, etc.

These developments (among others) have been a major boon for the financial industry, often at the disadvantage to the consumer.  Using credit cards or other services for making purchases frequently adds additional financial responsibility on the consumer, while reducing the ability for that consumer to save money and invest it at the same rate as the service fees of financial institutions.

Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies), offer instead flat rates or surcharges, and these are often only one time charges (ie, you won’t get hit with an ATM fee and a bank fee for a single transaction). And these fees are typically lower than the fees that financial institutions charge.

This is one factor that makes Bitcoin important for the general population.  It offers the ability to have the excess burdens of the current financial system put aside.

Fixing The Weaknesses

Anyone who has had a purchase go wrong online (being mis-charged, or having their identity stolen, just to name a couple) know that the current electronic financial system is full of holes.  Bitcoin is making a serious challenge to the current system of electronic transactions, and trying to fix the shortcomings.

This is not to say that there aren’t issues with Bitcoin’s technology.  There are, and there is a community that is working on finding solutions to those problems.  And those problems are why many other cryptocurrencies have emerged.

But, the thing is, this is the first time there has been a development of a currency system that is outside of the financial industry and government(s).  It’s the first time in ages where the general public has taken control over financial system and is trying to make a new set of rules, and is using a new set of technology to do so.

That’s pretty big when you think about it.  It represents a change in our social fabric.  A shift from the concept that we were bound by financial institutions, and a small group of people that controlled those institutions.  Instead this is setting a more level playing field where people are free to innovate around how financial transactions occur, how payments are made, how services are offered, etc.

There is still a long way to go.  There have been some big failures so far, like Mt. Gox, Flexcoin, etc.  And there have been allegedly criminal businesses set up using Bitcoin, like Silk Road.  However, financial institutions fail, and people conduct criminal activities in any currency.  And, if you want a different perspective, think about the standard technology adoption.  It’s generally the businesses that are on the edge of legality (like the pornography industry) that are the first to adopt a new technology. (Think of the stir that the pornography industry has made in trying to adopt Google Glass.) It’s just in this case the technology is a new financial system.

This concept of a whole new financial system is basically uncharted territory. It was always likely there would be stumbling blocks.  Big ones. But even the stumbling blocks have served a purpose to make the general public more aware of Bitcoin.  And, as Bitcoin moves on to fix more weaknesses of the current financial system, its profile is only likely to become more positive, which will lead to wider adoption.

A Big Simplification

Bitcoin may also lead to a simplification of the financial system in another way.  (And, I admit, this is one that is talked about somewhat frequently.)  A single currency system that replaces or displaces national currencies may lead to more efficiencies and changes in transactions on the global level.

Now, a lot of people have touted this as being the best way to transfer money across national boarders.  And, there is truth to that.  However, I think this is going to have another factor: the globalization of commerce on a more basic level.

Think about it this way…  Right now, in order to order some things, you need to go to different sites for Amazon, like amazon.ca for Canada, or amazon.fr for France. While this is, to some degree, due to differences in the languages of each country, the technology has long been available to display the same website in multiple languages.  So that really isn’t the reason for splitting a site like Amazon into different country / region specific sites.

No, instead it is mostly to deal with issues of taxation, shipping, and other activities of conducting business.

Now, consider that if you have a common currency, the rules of dealing with shipping between countries, and taxing between countries become more simple.  More so, the banking and tracking of transactions is simplified as well.  While there are likely to still be differences involved in running a business in each country, having a single currency system will likely allow simplifying the rules to make it easier for the business to maintain compliance, and lower their overhead.

Also consider that manufacturers now don’t have to price their products for multiple countries.  Instead they price their product for a global market.

This kind of simplification will likely be passed on to consumers in the long-term.  Probably not immediately, given the current state of acceptance of Bitcoin in various countries, but the potential is there.  And, it could be a big advantage to consumers.

Three Reasons You Should Be Interested In Bitcoin

So, there you have it.  Three reasons you should be interested in Bitcoin:

  • Bitcoin simplifies transaction charges.  It removes the overhead that the consumer encounters with the current financial industry.
  • Bitcoin is attempting (and largely succeeding) in fixing the shortcoming of the current electronic transfer system.
  • A single, global currency will likely result in a single global economy which will simplify business overhead.  The savings from such simplifications are likely to be passed on to the consumer.

Okay, the last item is pretty speculative on my behalf.  While a lot of the current businesses are likely too set in their ways, newer businesses will likely come up and take advantage of a newer market economy.  This will either put pressure on older businesses of change, or lead to a change in the businesses that are the strongest in the market.  How much of this shift will really equate to consumer savings will likely be difficult to gauge.  It’s mostly a gut-feeling on my behalf.

I also mentioned a few other things along the way that are interesting…  Like the fact that this is the first non-governmental backed financial system for several hundreds of years. (You could argue that barter systems still exist, but they are based largely on concepts of value given the current financial system.)

Hopefully these are good reasons for you to be interested in Bitcoin.  I am not suggesting you should go out and get into Bitcoin now (unless you have some disposable income you want to play with, and you do a lot of reading on Bitcoin to understand the markets).  Rather, I suggest that you might find this useful as a basis for trying to understand why Bitcoin might be of interest, and maybe follow it more closely, and see when it actually may start fitting into your financial picture.

They Warned Us About Breathing And Vaping

They Warned Us About Breathing And Vaping

They Warned Us About Breathing And Vaping
By Michael Dorausch (Flickr: Electronic Cigarette Smoking) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Introduction

They warned us about breathing all those years ago, but none of us listened back then.  It seemed that it was scientifically proven that breathing was a necessary to sustain life.  Little did we know that even while it was necessary to breath, it was a subject that could be manipulated to become a political hot-topic.  Now we have to buy our air from the Oxygen Centers, and anyone caught breathing with an un-licensed or illegally purchased air supply would be subjected to excessive fines, and face potential criminal prosecution.

How It Happened

The blame for all of this falls solidly at the feet of the people who were exercise fanatics. Things were okay when it was only a small part of the population that took up working out, exercising, running, weight lifting and other physical activities.  Nobody paid all that much attention to them, they were just a small fringe element that the rest of society had to put up with.

But, as they started to get a bit healthier, they stopped eating all the chemically produced food substances, and went back to naturally grown foods.  And, over time, the scientists started to realize that the levels of illness were lower in people who were undertaking this extreme lifestyle.  These people weren’t dependent on the pharmaceutical companies chemicals that kept people alive, but generally caused more issues while frequently only reducing the effects of the main illness or issue.

That’s when the exercise craze started.  People wanted to live longer, they didn’t want to have to take chemicals all the time.  These radical types had shown people the way, and we were going to follow the trail they blazed.

That’s when the chemical-pushing pharmaceutical companies panicked.  Within a few years of the exercise boom, they started seeing the effects on the bottom line of their companies.  Several of the smaller companies closed up altogether.  The larger ones started seeing the impact of improved health having a negative affect on their profits.

At this time, the insurance companies caught on to another issue: people with better health had a reduced need for insurance.  And, as people became healthier they didn’t need overbloated policies, largely based on their lowered need for pharmaceuticals.  They started to panic when they saw their profits start to go down as well.

A Plan Is Hatched

Of course, there were political ramifications to this.  All of the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies started talking about the problem that this health craze was causing them.  They needed a way to crack the health craze so they could safeguard their profits.

The insurance companies came up with the answer: what was needed was more insurance on the fitness centers, and gymnasiums, etc.  So, they called up all the Senators and Congressmen they had bought during the elections, and put a buzz in their ear: gyms were potentially more dangerous now because of the increased usage.  The increased usage, they argued, made it necessary to regulate the gyms and fitness centers more for safety and make certain that they were insured properly.

Since many Senators, members of Congress, and the President were dependent on the money the health insurance and pharmaceutical companies contributed to their campaigns they saw the immediate need for regulation.  So, the American Fitness And Health Safety bill was passed and signed into law by the President.

The Inspections

The pharmaceutical companies role in all of this was to supply the scientific research into the results of the inspections of the fitness centers that was used as the basis for setting insurance rates.  But, that wasn’t the only part of the plan: as they gathered their information they came to some startling conclusions: that people were producing more carbon dioxide and other dangerous chemicals as by products when they worked out.  So much so (at least they claimed) that people in their rush to become healthy had been damaging the environment.

Now they went back to the Congress and Senate with the unsettling warning: exercising had damaged the planetary atmosphere to the point where the damage could not be undone. Anyone who was still breathing, even if they weren’t working out, was causing irreparable damage to the planet.

Of course there were many scientists that pointed out that the damage to the environment was not the result of people working out, but many other factors that had been in play for several many years before people started working out.  They, in fact, pointed out that they had research that had indicated these issues for years, but that no one had listened to them.

Of course, the Senators and Congressmen acted like they would take this information into consideration, and then set it aside.  Instead they wrote a new Bill: The American Air Conservation Bill.  This bill specified that every American had to buy oxygen from an approved supplier.  People were restricted on the amount they could work out if they still wanted to, in order to decrease emissions in the air. Insurance companies, of course, would supply coverage to allow people to obtain Oxygen at a reduced rate as part of their insurance policies.

And with this bill passed, the problems were solved.  People worked out less, they became less healthy, the pharmaceutical companies made certain they had control over the companies that produced oxygen as well.  By the time the American Air Conservation Bill has passed into law, they not only saw their profits return, but improve from the new regulation.  the insurance companies saw their profits return as well, as more people needed more pills for their health, and now they were able to add a premium to everyone’s insurance for purchasing Oxygen.

Conclusion

So, this story sounds a bit silly?  Maybe even a bit moronic or sophomoric?  Of course it does.  You would think that nothing this silly can happen in our Government today, the American people wouldn’t allow it right?  No way we could be manipulated in such an extreme and absurd way, right?

Well, while that may be true, it seems that the pharmaceutical companies are already trying to manipulate the Government to outlaw things that are a health improvement.  The recently leaked Glaxo Smith Klein memo regarding their lobbying efforts to regulate e-Cigarettes (via Bloomberg) shows that they are doing just this: lobbying to make it more difficult to produce THR product that competes with their products.  It’s not a far reach to imagine they will do anything they can to make these products illegal eventually, and along the way try to find some new product they can sell people.

And our government seems to be going along with this pressure.  Numerous states and cities are illogically implementing vaping bans.  Private businesses have already started implementing bans on Vaping, despite research that documents the relative safety of vaping as opposed to cigarette smoking.

So, my twisted little, pseudo-Orwellian tale is probably not as far of a stretch as it may seem.  Yes, the whole thing seems obvious and overly simplistic when laid out on the screen like this.  Nothing in this world is as simple as this story, but that won’t stop these companies from coming up with a similar strategy that ends in similar results if left unchecked and un-obstructed by the vapers who have benefited from using these products.

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Bitcoin Advice

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Bitcoin Advice

Bitcoin_ItalyIf you’ve been around Bitcoin for a little while, you will know there is no end of the advice that you can find regarding it.  Some of it is good, some of it not so good.  Basically, the good, bad and ugly of Bitcoin advice.

This week I happened into a meeting of Bitcoin enthusiasts, and came away with some rather mixed impressions about the group.  I’ll get to that in a bit. But first, I did find some advice that I thought worth mentioning.

The Good

I found this article today: New to Bitcoin? 5 Mistakes You Should Avoid…. And thought it was pretty good.  It covers some of the most essential things that you should know if you are just getting into Bitcoin.  Certainly, most people who have been around Bitcoin a while this is fairly obvious information, however if you are new to Bitcoin this article hits on some of the most essential information you should have.

There are a couple really critical things in the article.  One is that you shouldn’t panic over price swings.  If you have read / seen anything (even misleading medial reports) you should know that Bitcoin is a volatile market.  The price swings can make your head spin.  But, the fact is, for every time it has gone down dramatically, it has recovered fairly well.  Granted, not always to the same level it was at previously. but it tends to recover pretty well (especially if you were able to buy in at the right time).

The other critical point is: don’t go jumping into Alt.Coins immediately.  The Alt.Coins can be enticing because they tend to be lower in value so the buy-in seems to be cheaper. However, there have been a lot of them that are subject to Pump-n-Dump schemes.  You don’t want to be on the losing end of one of those schemes.  It’s better to stick to one of the bigger coins, or possibly a combination of them (personally, I’m only thinking of two these days: Bitcoin and Litecoin.  Dogecoin has lost it’s value, and other coins are a bit more marginal at this time).

Okay, so that’s it for the good advice.

The Meeting

So, I mentioned in the introduction that I happened across a meeting of Bitcoin enthusiasts in my area.  Given that I only know a few people who even know what Bitcoin is I was surprised, and obviously interested.  And, since I found out they were having a meeting, I went ahead and signed up for the group.

So we met at a pizza join here in town.  The place has a meeting room, but it was booked by another group, so we were out in the main area.  I got to talk to some of the people, but certainly not the whole group.

One of the things that I found was one of the things that has come up time and again in many of the media articles about the people who are involved with Bitcoin.  The views of the people who I had the chance to talk with, including the organizer of the group, were definitely had more conservative values, and were very definitely libertarian leaning.

However, I didn’t feel that any of these people were the crackpots or extremists that the media portrays.  Although, there might be some extreme attitudes that I just didn’t encounter during this meeting.

The Bad and Ugly?

So, if the people at the meeting weren’t ugly extremists, then what was the ugly?

The organizer of the event had put together a presentation that he was not able to present since we couldn’t get the meeting room.  However in going over his notes, there were several things that I thought were bad, and some possibly ugly.

First is that he only partially understands the technology.  He gets that it is a public ledger system and cryptographic system.  However, his notes don’t really make it clear that the technology that binds these things together, the protocol and platform, are the critical aspects of Bitcoin.  It’s that these things haven’t been put together before, and that there hasn’t been a communication system built around them trumps anything else about Bitcoin.

And then we start to get into some of the things that are just downright wrong.  For example claiming that 64-bit keys are impossible to break.  There are, in fact, long discussions threads on just the topic of breaking 64-bit key encryption.  Not to say that it is an easy thing to do, however, if the NSA or similar government entity wants to break your keys, they can likely do it.

Volatility is listed as an “advantage”.  Yes, you read correctly, volatility is an advantage according to this person.  Needles to say, this flies directly in the face of every financial system that man has ever built, and would lead to a lack of adoption of Bitcoin if it continued in perpetuity.  Of course, the presentation notes also list volatility under the disadvantages, so it seems that even the organizer of this group is of two minds on this topic.

There are some other things in the notes that questionable, however the context that they were put in would have been more important, so with no actual presentation I can’t speculate too much on these points.

Now, the thing that I really thought was ugly was the fact that the notes included a chart from Forbes that indicated that Bitcoin out performed many other major stocks and several IPO’s in the last year.  While this may be true, and it might make for a good sales brochure diagram, I think that it is something that shouldn’t really be used as point in a presentation like this.  Why?  Because it isn’t representational.  We don’t have enough information to speculate what the Bitcoin market is going to be like at the end of this year, much less put the expectation that it will outperform the rest of the market in the way it did last year.

And that somewhat scared me.  This was a presentation for introducing people to Bitcoin. However, if there are going to be charts like that floated around, it almost sounds to me like it could be turning into a sales job.  I honestly hope that it doesn’t turn into that at the next meeting.  It’s one thing to have a few private sales on the side, but if this group is going to turn into an investment group, or something along those lines then I will probably back away fairly quickly.

Conclusion

Okay, so there wasn’t exactly any ugly in this article.  But, there was some good advice for those that are new to Bitcoin.  And, there was some bad information in the presentation notes I looked over at the Bitcoin group meeting.  And, there is potential for something ugly, but only time will tell…

Adventures in eJuices

My Adventures In eJuices

My Recent eJuice Acquisitions

To Steep or Not To Steep

So this week I have had a few adventures in eJuices.  Some of this is a follow-up to last week’s To Steep or Not To Steep article. There is a brief topic that I didn’t bring up.  And part of this is a new adventure I’m having.

Follow Up

So, at the end of the post last week, I mentioned that a few of the juices I had recently reviewed from Mt Baker Vapor and Alien eJuice had been sitting around, steeping for a while.

I had some leftover Strawberry Kiwi from Mt Baker, and when I tried it the flavor had become week, it didn’t have the crisp cleansing flavor that it originally had.  I was pretty certain that had to do with the volatile elements escaping from the juice.  Well, I had two more of their juices that I still hadn’t finished.  Those didn’t fare any better.  The Chocolate Mint, which I thought was weak in the first place only managed to get a little weaker and no better with time.

The Oriental Tobacco, which I thought had a bitter aftertaste, I had hoped might get a little better.  Well, it wasn’t quite as bitter, but it didn’t improve the flavor at all.  In fact, the aftertaste made it’s way more into the tobacco flavor and kind of ruined it.  But even stranger: when I went to wash the bottle out, it didn’t rinse out cleanly.  There is a film on it that wouldn’t wash out.  I’m soaking it now to see if the residue will come off, but I don’t have high hopes.

On Cutting eJuices

Finally, the Irish Cream from Alien Visions.  While I had noted that it had lost much of its flavor, and become a bit too viscous, I wanted to try to save it.  I didn’t really hate the flavor, and I’m the kind of person that doesn’t like to let a good juice go to waste.

So, the only logical thing to do was to try to cut it a bit and see if I could get it vaping.  I had heard there were two things that you could use to cut a thick eJuice: Vodka and Everclear.  Well, I don’t keep Everclear around, so Vodka it is.

I carefully used some Vodka to cut the Irish Cream, adding just a few drops at a time with an eye dropper, shaking the fluid up, inspecting it visually to see how viscous it was.  I kept repeating this over and over until I got the fluid to a good level.  Or so I thought.  When I tried to vape some of the fluid, I noticed that I could smell the vodka as I filled my tank.  And then the fluid had taken on a bit of a harsh taste to it.

Now, I did this before I had done my research for last week’s article. But, during my research for that article, I found something interesting: Dr. Kistler mentions in the VapeTeam video that he doesn’t like alcohol in eJuices.  Mostly because when alcohol is heated up it crystalizes.  And, obviously, with the amount of alcohol I had added to the Irish Cream fluid it was enough to cause issues and change the flavor even more.  I took this as a bad sign and ended up throwing it out.

A New Adventure

So, I checked out a new local store over the weekend.  I went in and looked at their hardware / devices.  Looks (and feels) like good quality merchandise.  I thought some of it was from FastTech, but they sweat it isn’t.  I asked the prices on a few devices, a bit expensive compared to online prices, but not surprising since they have brick-n-mortar overhead.

I also checked out their eJuices.  Most of them were labelled, but they didn’t have a brand name on them.  I thought maybe they had an arrangement and could specify where they were sourcing their fluids.  Now, some warning bells should have gone off in my head as I was trying the fluids.  Some of them tasted like the cheap fluids that you get with Njoy products, or like the VaporZX juices I reviewed a while back.

But still, I found two tobacco flavors I thought were okay and decided to try them (differences in devices, wattage, etc. could make a difference).  So, I ordered the bottles, and the guy goes in back to get them. He returns with one and explains they are out of stock on the other. No biggie, I’ll just take the one for now.

Just as I’ve paid for the bottle I look at it closely.  It’s sealed, obviously not nic’ed or mixed on site, and it turns out that it is from Hangsen.  So I ask the guy at the counter about it, and apparently all of their fluids are Hangsen.  That explained why I wasn’t impressed with most of them, and some of them even tasted like cheap juices to me.  Almost all the Hangsen fluids I’d tried to date weren’t impressive. And now I am convinced that these lowe end chinese products you find gas stations are just wholesaling Hangsen fluids and re-labeling them

But still, since I’d paid for the bottle, I brought it home, still maintaining my adventurousness, and willing to be proven wrong.  Well, so far I’ve haven’t been proven wrong.  The first tank of the fluid I vaped tasted nothing like fluid in the store (which was a smooth, spicey aged tobacco flavor — this stuff was more like a USA Mix).  I’m steeping the fluid now, and will try it again in a couple of weeks, if the flavor ages and tastes better, then I’ll eat my words.  But, until then, I remain very skeptical.

Adventures in eJuices Conclusion

So, basically, this week’s adventures in eJuices has consisted of cleaning up most of the juices I had leftover from my reviews.  Unfortunately a lot of it got poured down the drain…such a waste. The lesson about using alcohol to cut eJuices is something I won’t forget.  I’ll have to see if there is something better.  I’m a bit concerned about the bottle the Oriental Tobacco was in…I think it might not be salvageable.

And finally, Hangsen fluids suck.  Unless this one steeps well.  If it does, I might try a few others since I have a store that has a whole bunch of them now.  But the chances of that, in my opinion, are very slim.  Let’s just say, I’m glad I still had some 30ml bottles of Halo juices that I hadn’t opened yet…  Vaping a very fine Turkish Tobacco as I write this article. 🙂

The Bitcoin Dream Is Dead?

Is The Bitcoin Dream Dead?

Is The Bitcoin Dream Dead?

Is The Bitcoin Dream Dead?

If you listen to the media naysayers, such as Kevin Roose in his article The Doomsday Cult of Bitcoin (via New York Magazine), you would believe that the Bitcoin dream is dead.  And, to be honest, he does make some valid points.  However, for all of those valid points, he ignores long lists of positives.

In fact, it is probably most revealing that an article such as his is about as “fair and balanced” as Fox News.  Let’s summarize his points:

 

  • The failures of MtGox and Flexcoin are bad.
  • Silk Road and Utopia were shutdown for their illegal activity.
  • Charlie Shrem arrested on allegations of illegal activity.
  • Consolidating Bitcoin miners are a threat to the network.
  • People like Erik Vorhees and Marc Andreesen have made some extremely hyperbolic statements, and you can find similar statements on Reddit’s /r/Bitcoin.

The Nature Of The (Bitcoin) Cult

Now, admittedly, Roose does have something of a valid point.  There is a lot of rhetoric that, when scrutinized from one perspective, does come across as sounding kind of cult-ish. However, is that a bad thing?

So, when you think about cults, there is generally a negative stigma attached to them.  After all the Branch Davidian’s, Manson Family, People’s Temple, Scientology and Heaven’s Gate are the examples of cults that most people think of when the subject comes up.  And, there is no doubt that these examples are the most extreme form of cults that shouldn’t be followed under any circumstance.

However, when it comes other areas, such as politics and technology there are extremist factions that might look like cults, however they are anything but.  The technology of Bitcoin (and cryptocurrencies in general) bears much of these extremist hallmarks.  In fact, I would suggest that as an outsider in the technology field, Kevin Roose has mis-understood and mis-interpreted what he was reading.

Here’s some well know examples where there has been plenty of rhetoric that to an outsider could have looked like cultish hyperbolic statements:

Emacs vs vi – this is an age-old ‘war’ among old school unix users.  These are text editors (not even word processors) that have very strong followings.  For a long time there was a war that went on in the text.editor newsgroup on the internet.  In fact, if you went into that newsgroup it was so thick you almost couldn’t read anything that wasn’t some part of the war between users of each editor.  And, they certainly went after each other with every last shred of rhetoric imaginable, it gave rise to the “Church of Emacs”, and many other things that would be considered memes by today’s standard.

Linux – early adopters of linux were often accused of proselytizing.  Users and developers of the operating system were certain that it was going to be the next big thing.  They were at war with Microsoft Windows.  They wanted to take over the desktop.  They were relentless in pushing their technology.  It was going to be the next big thing, but it never was.  Or was it?  These days linux is literally everywhere, but you probably don’t realize it: in your TV, your phone (all Android phones are based on linux),  the internet (last estimates I heard something around 70-80 percent of the internet was powered by linux in some form).

In fact, you could expand those two examples to anything that is an open source technology.  The idea that what many people mis-understood as this cult-ish group of geeks that wanted to change the world, and at times used a lot of the same rhetoric as cults would succeed seemed quite dubious.  Guess what, they have succeeded

So, this is where the point can and should be made: the geeks that are developing open source software, and Bitcoin / cryptocurrencies are very similar.  The single biggest similarity is that they don’t tend to think in the same ways that non-technological people do.  When they read statements that are full of hyperbole’s like “…this technology can change the world…” or “…the impact of Bitcoin is nearly unmeasurable…” they understand it for hyperbole.  They get that these statements are not made in order to make the technology into a cult, but rather as a form of mental stimulus a way to keep the minds open and thinking about new ways to work with the technology.

About That Balance Thing

I mentioned above that the article by Kevin Roose was about as “fair and balanced” as a Fox News report, and suggested there were positives that should be mentioned as well.  Here’s a couple of examples:

Overstock.com revised the value of Bitcoin transactions it expected for this year.  They originally projected $5 Million USD, they’ve upped that estimate to $10-$15 Million USD. That goes to show that people aren’t just using Bitcoin as an investment, they are using it where it is accepted.

There’s a lot of advancement in Bitcoin ATM’s, for example: Robocoin to Debut First Traveling Bitcoin ATM at SXSW Interactive Festival. Even a Polish soccer club is set to start accepting Bitcoin. And, a London Hostel Chain will accept Bitcoin.

just looking at CoinBase and BitPay there are over 45,000 merchants accepting Bitcoin. Sure, many of them are probably small merchants.  But so what?  Not since the introduction of the Euro have so many merchants started accepting a new currency.  And, let’s face it, the comparison to the Euro is quite unfair given the differences between the two.

How many businesses have started around Bitcoin?  Hundreds, maybe thousands?  I’m not just speculating about the companies that are offering bitcoin products or services, but the ones that aren’t bitcoin specific but accept payment in bitcoin.

I take this site as an example, I accept bitcoin and litecoin tips.  I’ve actually taken in a reasonable amount of both coins.  I’ve had more tips in both of those currencies than I ever had when I had Flattr running on the site.  Have I made enough to live on? No.  But I have made enough to secure equipment necessary to run this site for the next several years, and the equipment I need to start working on two more projects.  (More about those projects in the future.)

The point is simply this: while it may be slow and minor at this point, bitcoin and the cryptocurrencies are having an impact already.  It may not be huge, but presenting an article with a list of negative news stories without considering the positive stories is just plain ignorant and foolish.

Immature Technology

I’ve talked about this topic before, in my rant on bitcoin a few weeks back.  Yes, the days are still early for bitcoin, and for that matter, most of the cryptocurrencies.  There is a long way to go before the technology will become robust and resilient.

The part of the technology that is hurting the bitcoin adherents the most at the moment is many of the front ends of websites that are being found to be vulnerable to attacks.  Nearly every major failure to date has been because some weakness was exploited in the website of a specific exchange or service.  Even the malleability issue that MtGox has blamed their problems on has been known about for a very long time.

This is one of the reasons that I had said it would be best to develop some type of framework or set of foundation classes that these sites build their platforms on.  With code that is heavily peer-reviewed there is a lower chance of major flaws.  And, when there is a flaw found (such as the GnuTLS flaw that was found the other day) it’s easier to fix it and issue an update (the GnuTLS flaw was fixed within 24hrs and the update is available).

I said in my Mini Rant, the desire to engage in the profit motive in the cryptocurrency community is strong.  Possibly too strong.  Instead we need people that are interested in taking a longer term look at the profit motive, and put the development of the technology first so there is a long term strategy to engage in.

The Bitcoin Dream Is Dead?

If you focus on the negative news stories, the appearance of a cult-like culture, and ignore all the positive impact bitcoin has had, then you might be lead to believe it is dead.

However, the thing is this: the dream is not likely to be dead.  If anything it may be time to move on.  The technology surrounding bitcoin is immature.  There are now second generation coins that are building stronger technologies to remedy some of the more fundamental issues with the original bitcoin and some of the altcoins.

So, bitcoin itself may be dying.  If the rise of Auroracoin to overtake Litecoin in market capitalization is any indication, there is room for newer currencies.  That’s a pretty strong indicator to me that the dream isn’t dead, it’s just going through another iteration.  It took linux over 20 years and many iterations to get where it is today.  I don’t expect things to be any different with bitcoin, or any of the cryptocurrencies.

To Steep Or Not To Steep An eJuice

My Recent eJuice Acquisitions

To Steep or Not To Steep

What Is Steeping?

There seems to be some disagreement in the vaping community as a whole whether to steep or not to steep an eJuice. What is steeping?  What does it do? Why is it controversial?

According to Wikipedia:

Steeping is the soaking in liquid (usually water) of a solid so as to extract flavours or to soften it.

The most commonly steeped thing is probably Tea.  The act of placing tea leaves in hot water and letting it sit (covered or uncovered) for a period of time to extract the flavor from the leaves is the process of steeping.  There are other items that are often steeped, like sauces or chili.

How To Steep eJuice.

This is where things start to get a bit controversial.  Members of the e-Cigarette Forum recommend one method of steeping, while sites like Zeus Juice and Vapedojo recommend very different methods.  And then, if you look around on Reddit, you are likely to find someone posting a different method just about every week.

The most common element among most steeping methods is the introduction of air into the bottle of liquid to effect a change to the flavor of the eJuice.  Another common element in a number of the methods use is the introduction of heat to the fluid as an aid in the process.

Here are a few of the more common methods that people use in steeping fluids:

The One Step Process:

  1. Take a new bottle of fluid, remove any outer wrapping, then store it in a low light (preferably in a box or drawer in a cool room) for a few days or up to a week or two.

The Two Step Process

  1. Open the bottle, removing the cap and top piece.  Set the bottle aside for anywhere from a few hours to a day.
  2. Store the bottle for a period of time, as in the one step process.

The Heating Process

  1. Get a container of hot (not too hot, and definitely not boiling) water.
  2. Open the bottles of liquid you want to steep, removing the cap and top piece.
  3. Set the open bottles in the warm water.  Let stand until the water is room temperature.
  4. Dry off and re-cap the bottles, and then store as in The One Step process until ready to vape.

There are literally hundreds of variations on these methods using things like coffee cup warmers, warm dry rice, and a basket that holds the bottles of eJuice in a slow cooker turned on its low setting.

There is a post on Reddit that does show some of the effect of introducing heat into the steeping process has.  Granted the post is not conclusive evidence, however it is more methodical in presentation than the majority of anecdotal information that is posted by many people.

What Does Steeping Do?

Part of the question that I have asked myself is: is there any scientific studies that documents the changes that occur to eJuices when they are steeped?  The closest thing I could find to a scientific study was the Reddit post I linked in the last section.

However, I found some more useful information from Dr. Kurt Kistler in a Vape Team Live video from September of last year on YouTube.  While the primary subject of the discussion is safety in DIY eJuice, Dr. Kistler does touch on the subject of steeping, and made a couple of important points about it.  Here is a brief summary of the primary points:

  • Steeping is the introduction of air (or oxygen) to eJucie.
  • This allows a process of oxidation to take place in the compounds that are in a state that will react to the introduction of oxygen.
  • The process of oxidation will produce oxides into the fluid, however these are not dangerous.
  • During the oxidation process, components that are more volatile evaporate out of the liquid.  This can change the nature of the flavor of the eJuice.

This was probably the most clear and concise explanation of what occurs during steeping I was able to find.  It was also possibly the most authoritarian explanation I could find give Dr. Kistler’s credentials as a PhD Chemist at Penn State University and Chemistry Advisor with AEMSA (American e-Liquid Manufacturing Standards Association), as well as being a DIY eJuice maker.

To Steep Or Not To Steep

So, whether you steep an eJuice is up to you, and is something that should be based primarily on your own tastes.  I can say from anecdotal evidence that it does make a difference, sometimes good, sometimes not good.  A few quick examples:

In my Alien Visions eJuice review  I noted that the Gorilla Juice had a really strong cooked banana flavor that I did not like.  However, when I went back to vape the remaining portion of the bottle last week I found that the banana flavor had been reduced significantly and now it is a much smoother more pleasant tasting fluid to me.  On the other hand, the Irish Cream flavor has lost almost of all of the characteristics of tasting like an Irish Cream, and had become so viscous that I had to use vodka to cut it so I could vape it.

In my review of Mt Baker Vapor juices, I noted with some surprise that I liked the Strawberry Kiwi flavor as it was a nice palette cleanser.  However a few weeks later and it lost most of the tangy, bracing cleansing flavor that I had liked.  Dr. Kistler specifically mentions in the video that Strawberry flavors specifically use some compound that are more volatile, which would explain the mellowing of this flavor.

My local vape store carries some fluids from Mad Vapes, including one of my favorites: Mad4.  The store mixes their fluids on the spot, to order.  I find with Mad4 that it tastes okay when it is freshly mixed, however after about a week, the color changes from a slight pinkish red to a light caramel color.  Once this change has occurred the flavor is much smoother and more pleasant to vape.

So, to steep or not to steep your eJuice seems to be something of an open question.  There is definitely documented evidence of the process that the fluids are going through when steeping, and Dr. Kistler provides a very concise summary of the processes that are taking place in most juices.  Of course, there could be exceptions to this information as there are many thousands of different juices, and many variations of the flavor components used in them.

So there is nothing absolute about steeping.  In some cases it may make a flavor taste better, in some it may make it worse.  It depends on your taste buds.  Hopefully, however, this article has provided some information that explains what is going on during the steeping process, and you will be able to do your own experiments knowing that it is most likely safe (as long as you don’t get too crazy).