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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Where's the Objective Scientific Evidence for the Dangers of Diacetyl and Acetyl Propionyl?

I came across a blog called vapemestoopid.co.  In particular this post stands out:

http://vapemestoopid.co/2015/06/cloud-9-removes-five-pawns-testing-results-pending-legal-advice/

Basically its a discussion about how a UK lab and company called Cloud9 tested an e-liquid called Five Pawns.

The crux of the article is a table that shows the following data:


vapemestoopid says: "Five Pawns told more than one company in the UK that their liquids were DIACETYL and AP FREE. Not to mention how many in the US? Not to mention numerous email replies to consumers found during a simple google search. Dating back to 2013 from US, Australia and Greece."

vapmestoopid supplies the following three images (copied from their blog - link above):


So here we see Five Pawns claiming no Diacetyl or acetone.  Now acetone is not Acetyl Propionyl (AP) - a miss spelling?  Perhaps, but by how - its all greek to me...


And here we see Five Pawns claiming no Diacetyl - no mention of AP.


And here is some hearsay from GrannyGrump.

So as best I can tell Five Pawns claims not to use Diacetyl - nothing about AP anywhere except in the mind of vapemestoopid...

Not surprisingly Five Pawns claims the Cloud9 results are baloney:

http://fivepawns.com/five-pawns-test-results/

Here is the summary of Five Pawn's latest test numbers:


All but "Perpetual Check" have no detectable diacetyl according to their lab.

However, they do test positive in a number of flavors for 2,3 Pentadedione (AP).

What's interesting is the AP results all seem off by about a factor of between three and five.

So the conclusion of vapemestoopid and Cloud9 is apparently that e-liquids with "high" levels are dangerous because of this study, among others.

Indeed the referenced study cites other well known studies that have appeared elsewhere here and on Facebook and various vaping sites.  However this document also says things like:

"Regarding the combination of flavorings with propylene glycol and glycerin in aerosols, specific concerns exist for lung and cardiovascular function: 1) propylene glycol or glycerin alone may elicit pathophysiological and/or pathological changes in lung function; and 2) interactions between the effects of the individual agents may heighten toxicity."

Effectively all flavors and PG and VG might be bad in some way, also nicotine, for you to inhale.

The bottom line here seems to be that, "OMG, vaping certain flavors might be bad!"

So some arbitrary flavors are picked out - diacetyl and a variant of it, AP.

Why these?  They relate to the infamous "pop corn lung" incidents.

See: http://lwgat.blogspot.com/2015/02/diacytel-real-cause-of-health-problems.html

Also: http://lwgat.blogspot.com/2014/05/diacetyl-whats-real-objective-danger.html

Please read these.  The bottom line is no one, not the FDA or the CDC, has any real idea what happened with these incidents.

So I think a couple of things:

1) Running around testing e-liquid and publishing results without documenting the process in specific detail seems stoopid.  For example, the UK lab (according to Cloud9 uses "[the] same independant UK-based lab used by Trading Standards." - whatever that might mean) and the US labs, one would hope, would express how they do their work and how they calibrate and handle their processes, samples and equipment.

In addition one would hope that multiple samples and multiple labs would be used in a double blind study to ensure that both properly calibrated test samples as well as commercial samples are effectively intermixed during testing.

(This kind of testing is what a vaping trade association should do. My suspicion is that many are duped into paying money for bogus processes and results.)

2) The problem, as stated here on this blog as well as in the Five Pawns blog is this: "Further, we feel that efforts to translate industrial exposure limits to vaping exposure limits are flawed. It is clearly not the same.  If this were true, one would expect a population of individuals becoming sick from vaping, but this is not the case (underline mine). There are no known publicly documented cases of anyone having respiratory issues related to vaping AP or diacetyl at the levels currently in e-liquids.  Many websites and blogs discuss this exact issue.  We are confident that studies and future data will show inhalation from vaping e-liquids should not be compared to industrial exposure limits." - basically there has to be a reason vaping and smoking are not killing people due to DA or AP.

Until this issue is scientifically vetted panicking and screaming "Danger Danger" about DA and AP is really scientifically bogus and very misleading for consumers.

Is there a risk? Of course.  There is risk in breathing and in smoking.  Is smoking a greater risk than vaping?  Is it in the best interest of the consumer to continue smoking until, decades from now, all this is resolved?

No.

3) Testing results for DA and PA can and do vary over the life of an e-liquid bottle (again from the Five Pawns blog): "We have funded extensive independent research, including inhalation and heat studies, and have plans to begin in-vitro research as well, looking at the effects of e-liquid vapor on lung tissue.  In our research, we have also discovered that the effects of storage conditions and time on the shelf can also affect the variability of test results (underline mine).  Therefore, we have also initiated long-term stability and degradation testing, which can take up to two years for results."

So testing not only has to be calibrated relative to amounts but it must be applied comparably across testing environments and samples relative to the "age" of the liquid, exactly how the testing is done, and so on.

4) There are many other questionable ingredients like cinnamon which no one seems concerned with yet are demonstrably and objectively "worse" than DA or AP in terms observable of impact on body tissues in humans.  Selecting a small subset of some of these flavors (like DA and AP) but not others is also very misleading for consumers.  Yet I see no hew and cry for their removal from e-liquids.

The bottom line here is really simple:

Cigarettes are known to be significantly more dangerous than virtually all forms of vaping at this time.

DA is already in cigarettes (and vaping for that matter) at comparable levels to the "panic" levels described by vapemestoopid and clould9 yet apparently neither causes OB.

Without an scientific explanation of this fact its really disingenuous to make claims DA or AP are dangerous.

One must also consider the danger of leaving people on cigarettes until the "safety" of vaping is confirmed.

This is like telling children to wait in the burning second floor room until a proper, government approved ladder is available to rescue them.

Panic mongering is not good for anyone...

Monday, June 29, 2015

More Google "Don't Be Evil..."

In May of 2012 I wrote "Google's Waterloo, Patent 6,061,520."

Google's claim was that an API was basically unpatentable.

It looked like Google would be taking Oracle to the cleaners by freely using its Java APIs.

But in a surprise move the US Supreme Court has declined Google's recent appeal on the matter and has thus breathed new life into Oracle's claims (see this WSJ article).

As I wrote before I believe its completely preposterous for Google to claim that an API is not a copyrightable item.

According to the WSJ article: "Google had asked the Supreme Court to hear the case and limit how software makers could use copyright law to assert exclusive rights over computer programs. It argued Oracle shouldn’t be able to claim copyrights on basic software commands."

Really - anyone can just take software written by anyone else just because they invented "basic software commands?"

Sure sounds like a money grab on Google's part to me....

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Future (Past) of UI Design is Auto Correct Madness!

I found this article at Wired.

Basically the idea is that all these apps and HTML5 web page user interfaces are tedious and difficult to use relative to "texting."

Why not, the article postulates, use texting to interface to, for example, interact with your bank?

After all, everyone constantly texts and its a familiar interface.

So why not just select "My Bank" on the text destination menu and say "move $20 from account A to account B?"

After all, according to the article, 97% of people use texting on their phones - more than any other app...

I am reminded of the quote by George Santayana "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  Or, perhaps more accurately, my corollary "Those who are repeating the past are condemned not to notice."

Apparently the future of smartphones is the command line.

After all, what does texting your bank do but create the notion of a command line interface.

I find this extremely interesting.

Forty years ago while first becoming introduced to "computer science" the command line was all there was.

And it was considered the largest impediment to non-computer-literate users using a computer.

You heard about "arcane command structures" and so one.

No normal person could or would use this...

Thus the notion of a "User Interface" or UI was born.

Why not invent something like a "mouse" or a "touch screen" to make things easier.

And so, for forty years, that's what we do...  Spend probably trillions of dollars on graphics, faster chips, touch screens (don't forget the lost "stylus years"), and on and on.

Until we arrive again at the notion of "command line..."

Of course, if my iPhone is any indication of what Apple can do for texting look no further than this site: http://www.damnyouautocorrect.com/

There was a lot of research in the ancient computer past of what a good command line might look like.

As far back as TOPS-20 there was the TENEX command line interpreter (see this).

It worked hard to remove ambiguity and confusion from users typing commands.

The problem with texting, of course, is that the domain space is unlimited where as with a command line interpreter the commands you can conceive of and use are bound by the set of commands the computer actually understands.

To me its like the attempts to replace something like "Emacs" as an editor (emacs descended from TECO).  Minimal command interface.  Once you learned it well the commands would spring from your hands without thought.  And much, much more efficient that having to type, stop typing and grab a mouse, then let go of the mouse and type, etc.

I was always amazed in the late 80's after PC's became popular how much less efficient a kid that had grown up on PC's was at editing than a good emacs user.

The bottom line here, unfortunately for the new "command line" texting model, is that for command lines to work efficiently you have to have a domain of knowledge where the next portion of the command can be inferred from context.

For example, many modern OS's today let you type something like:

  copy a

where what is inferred after you type the letter 'a' is a choice of all files starting with 'a' - then, of course, there's some mechanism to pick which file you are interested very quickly.

Texting there really isn't much to infer from.

So if I text Bob "let's meet at a" is 'a' a set of restaurants, hotels, car dealers, etc.???

Now maybe we could try and guess but most likely in that case we would end up in the land of Apple auto-correct madness.

Now I don't know what the best UI idea is, but apparently I've already seen it because we are starting at the beginning again.

(I doubt we'll have everyone carrying around punch cards for the smart phones...)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Ten Years of Contrails...

Almost ten years ago I wrote one of my first blog entries (see http://just-got-lucky.blogspot.com/2006/08/global-dimming.html).

The point of the article was that apparently no one had considered or measured the effects of jet contrails on surface temperatures (think global warming science).

Now I did not discover this, it merely reported the results originally discussed on the BBC program Horizon.  Researchers had figured contrails matter but were unable to prove this until 9/11 here in the USA when all commercial jets were grounded for several days.

So, merely ten years later, climate researchers are now looking into this issue (see this article Science Codex).  From Science Codex:

The researchers report that the "diurnal temperature range was statistically significantly reduced at outbreak stations versus non-outbreak stations." In the South, this amounted to about a 6 degree Fahrenheit reduction in daily temperature range, while in the Midwest, there was about a 5 degree Fahrenheit reduction. Temperatures the days before and after the outbreaks did not show this effect, indicating that the lower temperatures were due to the contrail outbreaks.

"Weather forecasting of daytime highs and lows do not include contrails," said Carleton. "If they were included in areas of contrail outbreaks, they would improve the temperature forecasts."

The underlined part (my underline) is quite interesting.

I my experience daily weather forecasting is, at best, abysmally unreliable.  One has to believe that 6 degrees is quite a bit to miss out on (see this and this as well).

I wonder what impact this has had on the various temperature stations used, at least in the US?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

More on "Decided Science" ...



Interesting article here on how many viruses exist in the oceans.

Here's an interesting quote from the article: "Scientists estimate that there are 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, 
000,000,000,000 virus particles in all the world’s seas. They outnumber all cellular life forms by roughly a factor of 10. "

So apparently all we know about "life on earth" is eclipsed by the viruses in the oceans.

We know about 1/10th of the life on earth and nothing about what the rest does (according to the article we knew of 39 types of viruses out of an estimated tens of thousands).

According to the article viruses in the ocean kill bacteria which control how carbon is sequestered in the oceans (or released into the air).

Interesting...

"Flexible" Cimate Modeling?

So I came across this IEEE Spectrum article.  It would seem the California drought can cause the land to "flex" up and down up to 15mm (+/- 5 so 10 - 20mm).

"Climate change" sea level is supposed to be between 2.6mm and 2.9mm (see Wikipedia).

One wonders if the two are in fact related...?

As water moves out of one place, i.e., the ground, and into the atmosphere where it affects the temperature (reflection as clouds, green house gas as water vapor) one has to question how anyone can really "know" what the sea level is really supposed to be...

Imagine a weightless blob of water in the space station.

How would you calculate its exact diameter?

If you have ever seen videos of things like this, e.g., soap bubbles, its obvious that though the object is generally "round" it does not have a consistent or constant surface.  If one adds a gaseous layer and material moving from inside the bubble (or water blob) to the gaseous layer and back while its contorting freely in space it becomes very difficult to imagine how one might accurately know the size of the bubble.

Add a crust and you have an interesting and inaccurately primitive simulation of the earth.

You also have one which does things in terms of climate models which I have never seen described.

The earth has a radius of about 6,371 km or 6,371,000 meters, or 6,371,000,000 mm.

So we are supposedly measuring sea level to an accuracy of about .00000005%.

The probability that humans can reliably measure something like this on a dynamic surface like the earth seems, well, vanishingly small particularly since the IEEE article indicates that the next closest technology for measuring water in the ground has a resolution of hundreds of kilometers.

One also imagines that the weight of the atmosphere itself must have some impact at that level of precision.

Similarly, I wonder if the solar wind "flexes" the surface of the planet as well.

I sure am glad that all of this is decided...

Friday, May 22, 2015

Toptal (Sort of an Interview Request...)

So after fifteen years a major system I wrote is finally shutting down.  If you live in the USA and have an insurance card from a health care provider software I have written has touched your life.  This system has produced enough insurance cards for virtually every human being in the country to have several.

The client, who I shall not name here, got into the business around 2000.

They took delivery of a digital press sold by a client of mine and needed software to run it effectively.  At that time converting a print file in PostScript to something the machine could actually process took a very long time.  So long that it would take a year to rasterize the work that needed to be completed in a single month at year end.

Around that time I had recently created a product called pdfExpress.

pdfExpress was a C++ application that manipulated PDF files as data as opposed to rasterizing them.

At the time I created it a previous version, which was linked to Adobe Acrobat, was all that was available to manipulate files for printing.

One day, while sitting on the couch at home, I realized that the content stream of PDF was actually just well structured data that could be manipulated directly, so long as the rules of PDF were maintained.  Really, PDF is just a programming language, sort of a constrained PostScript.

I had spent about five years writing software to automatically convert programming languages, or more correctly, source code for applications, from one computer language, e.g., Fortran, to other languages, e.g., C.  (The company was called "Lexeme" and founded around 1985.)

It struck me that this was doable for PDF (though not PostScript for complicated reasons).  PDF was designed as short hand for PostScript.

I built the initial version of pdfExpress in about two months using a collection of C++ code I had written as well as a lot of new code.

(pdfExpress is the subject of these two patents:

US 6,547,831 - Method of Generating Documents Having Variable Data Fields

US 7,020,837 - Method for the Efficient Compression of Graphic Content in Composite PDF Files)

We needed pdfExpress to perform manipulations for projects like the insurance card system because Acrobat was too slow and licensing issues prevent it from being used as a server.

We set up a test run that normally took about a minute to do with Acrobat (the precursor was an Acrobat plug-in).

I hit "RETURN" and the DOS prompt came back instantly.

My associated and I gasped!

"Shit, something is wrong," he said.

"Yeah, it must have died," I replied.

We poked around and couldn't see a problem.

We tried it again.

Same thing.

My associate said "see if there's an output file."

We did, and there it was, correct!

We knew we had a winner.

In the end the C++ version outperformed Acrobat plug-ins about 1000:1.

So I've spent a long time at this - some 15 years.

In that time pdfExpress has grown to several hundred thousands of lines of C++, split off into sub-applications (like this) and branched out into other things entirely.  In this same time, at least according to Moore's law, the number of transistors in the processor of the computers I use as increased by a factor of about 16,000.

For the last few years I alone have been supporting the insurance card system which continues to emit tens of millions of cards per year.

Unfortunately, though, the printing devices are now too expensive when compared to things like smart phones, i.e., you've seen the GEICO pig showing the cop his insurance card.

So printing is dying and finally, after fifteen years, taking my client with it.  Oh, they'll still be around for a while making credit cards but Apple Pay, phone apps and the like will eat away at that as well.

So that leaves me with nothing major to do on the programming front.

(Yes, I still have other activities to keep me busy but not doing what I was born to do...)

So I found the company called Toptal.

Its a pool of folks who find people like me things to do rather than me trolling around trying to entertain myself on the software front.

So pdfExpress is sort of my calling card into Toptal (I don't know if they will like me or not but I am writing this to tell them about why I would work for them).

There's still www.lexigraph.com which talks about some of this, but its not really very current.

I am interested in working with Toptal because to me it seems like a really good idea.  I am not great at fitting in in a corporate world and this company will (hopefully) eliminate the need for me to do so.  But I think I can do things that would make a relationship between us a, as they say, "win/win."

I also don't like cold calling nor do I like bidding against folks who live in a different world where the cost of living is 1/1000th of what it is here.

I haven't talked to them (Toptal) as of yet but presuming they pass muster with me I should like to think I pass muster with them.

I figure that pdfExpress was competition with the corporate Adobe Systems.  It (I) beat them in my little niche.  So perhaps I can swing a gig with them.

(Actually a relative of mine interviewed there but went elsewhere.  So I know a bit about them.)

I've outlived printing but not programming...

Seriously, though, I like the idea these guys are presenting.  I've created plenty of "disruptive" technologies over the years - pdfExpress being one.  At the same time I have always mentored people along the way.  I've converted playground installers into master programmers.

So guys, give me a chance!