February 28, 2005

PCVideoOnline and PlasmaKings

I posted on PCVideoOnline quite sometime ago after locating some electronics for a "too good to be true" price. This generated a handful of negative comments regarding the vendor. Today I received a glowing review from Tony... a "too good to be true review". I couldn't resist myself.

"Tony" registered under plasmakings@aol.com which is a operational email for plasmakings.com, which in turn is registered with the following info:


Registrant Contact:
   NextPlace, inc
   Ihab ElBarrawi (sales@nextplace.com)
   Fax: none
   6735 Ridge BLV
   Brooklyn, NY 11220

Administrative Contact:
   NextPlace, inc
   Ihab ElBarrawi (sales@nextplace.com)
   Fax: none
   6735 Ridge BLV
   Brooklyn, NY 11220
NextPlace is the Administrative Contact for pcvideoonline.com:
      Comp Direct  inc
      Eddie Barnathan
      417 5th Avenue
      New York, NY 10016
      Phone: 888.609.4618
      Email: sales@pcvideoonline.com

   Registrar Name....: Register.com
   Registrar Whois...: whois.register.com
   Registrar Homepage: http://www.register.com


      Created on..............: Tue, Dec 04, 2001
      Expires on..............: Sun, Dec 04, 2005
      Record last updated on..: Fri, Nov 05, 2004

   Administrative Contact:
      Next Place.com, inc
      Ihab Barrawi
      444 Bedford Street
      Stamford, CT 06901
      Phone: 646-824-4903
      Email: ihab@nextplace.com

Posted by torque at 11:02 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 23, 2005

Capybara at the park!

I received this lovely email from Acacio yesterday, as you can imagine, it made my day.


I took a picture of those two here in Rio.

Here is why the Catholic Church considers them fishes:

Hope you're hungry.


This cute couple was spotted at a park in Rio called Quinta da Boa Vista.

Posted by torque at 3:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 22, 2005

The magic of helium

The next time you see a balloon pumped up with helium, think about this: helium is a rare, non-renewable resource. Helium can be and is produced by fusion inside stars like the Sun. While it is the second most abundant element in the universe, it was not discovered in earth until 1895 by Sir William Ramsay. It has a suprisingly nuclear source. It was found in a mineral containing uranium called clevite. Helium comes from alpha decay, radioactive decay which produces alpha particles - each with two neutrons and two protons. Of course, this is simply doubly ionized helium. Helium is present in the earth's atmosphere at 0.0005%. It is not feasible to extract helium from air. The primary source commercially are natural gas deposits in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Liquified helium is critical in a variety of scientific and medical instrumentation, e.g., fiberoptic cooling, magnetic resonance imaging, and, most recently, whistling superfluid gyroscopes [2].

What's so special about helium [3]?

  • Helium is the second lightest element.
  • It is chemically inert, having essentially no tendency to combine with other elements.
  • It has the highest ionization potential (24.587 eV).
  • The boiling point of helium is closer to absolute zero than that of any other element, so liquid helium can provide the lowest operating temperatures of any refrigerant.
  • Helium remains liquid at atmospheric pressure down to absolute zero and can be solidified only by applying 25 atm. In its solid form, helium is extremely compressible, permitting volume changes of more than 30 percent.
  • Liquid 4He undergoes a transition to a superfluid phase at temperatures below 2.18 K (-455.5 °F) and has extraordinary physical properties, including viscosity-free fluid flow and extraordinarily high thermal conductivity (on the order of a million times greater than its conductivity in the normal phase and greater than that of the best metallic conductors).
  • The specific heat and thermal conductivity of helium gas are very high.
  • Helium is radiologically inert (i.e., it does not easily participate in nuclear processes and does not become radioactive).

Did you know that the rarity of helium prompted the United States to setup a Federal Helium Reserve? In 1996, per the Helium Privatization Act, Congress directed the Bureau of Land Management to stop producing helium and to sell the government's stockpile by 2005 [4]. An exhaustive report [3] is available for free, thanks to your tax dollars and mine.

As of January 2003, the USGS is aware 8.5 billion cubic meters of helium in the United States: 0.87 billion cubic meter at the Cliffside Field Government Reserve, 3.7 billion in helium-rich natural gas, and 3.1 billion in helium lean natural gas. Outside the United States, the estimate is 31.4 billion cubic meters broken down into Qatar, 10; Algeria, 8; Russia, 7; Canada, 2; China, 1; and Poland, 0.3 [5].

Now that's facinating. How come Qatar has so much helium? Qatar Liquified Gas Company issued a press release on helium production not too long ago:

Qatar will become one of the world's leading helium producers by 2010, with the launch of a $115m helium joint venture plant. It will be located at the Ras Laffan Industrial City, with Qatargas, RasGas and RasGas II supplying the helium. The contract for the design and construction of the plant was awarded to the French company Air Liquide Engineering SA on 21st May, 2003. The Minister of Energy and Chairman of Qatargas, HE Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah signed on behalf of Qatargas and Dr. Ibrahim Al Ibrahim, Vice Chairman on behalf of RasGas.

The plant owners have also concluded two separate long-term agreements with BOC Group Inc. and Air Liquide America LP for the installation of facilities required to extract helium from natural gas, purify and liquefy it for export.

The plant will be constructed over the next two years and have an annual production of 650 million standard cubic feet of helium. The first helium sale is expected in July 2005.

"This is just phase I. We hope to double production as we plan to be the world's top helium producer", said HE Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah. Currently, only a few countries produce helium including the US, Algeria and Australia. The US alone produces and consumes 60% of the world market share of helium. There are only 12 helium plants in the world today. One plant is currently under construction in Algeria and Ras Laffan will become the world's 14th helium plant.

Helium is colourless, odourless, non-reactive, safer and lighter than air. It is require for a number of commercial and industrial applications. It is the second most abundant element in the universe, but rarely found in concentrations that justify economic extraction. Due to its marginal presence in natural gas, extracting it for liquefaction is complicated, which makes it an expensive product. However, Qatargas' North Field, with its massive natural gas reserves, makes extraction economically viable. The key markets for Qatari helium on completion of the project include the Middle East and Asia. It is estimated that Qatar will account for about 15% of the world's helium market.

[1] S. Gagnon, It's Elemental, Jefferson Lab.
[2] T. Malik, Whistling Helium: Supercold Sound May Lead to Better GPS in Submarines, 16 Feb 2005.
[3] The Impact of Selling the Federal Helium Reserve, Board on Physics and Astronomy (BPA), National Materials Advisory Board (NMAB), 2000.
[4] Selling Federal Helium Reserves Should Not Adversely Affect Industry, Research Activities, National Academy of Sciences, 23 May 2000.
[5] Helium, USGS, Jan 2005.

Posted by torque at 1:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 18, 2005

Assure, ensure or insure?

The Hutchinson Encyclopedia has the skinny.

To assure something is to make certain it will happen: Victory is assured for the younger, fitter boxer as he has the advantage. To ensure something is to take steps to make sure that something happens: Seat belts should ensure that you will be unhurt in an accident. To insure something is to take precautions against something undesirable happening: The concertgoers insured against disappointment by buying their tickets early.

Posted by torque at 3:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Keyhole API

Keyhole is beautiful... but is this beauty tapable? Incidentally, TerraServer USA offers a webservices API which might be a good alternative.

Posted by torque at 11:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 15, 2005

Dupont Real Touch Elite laminate flooring (Home Depot)

Over the weekend, while returning some toilet stuff, I spotted the cherry wood Real Touch Elite laminate flooring at Home Depot. It looks and feels beautiful. It is on sale this week for $3.77. Several boards out there have pointed out that Home Depot 10% discount coupons are out there, so keep an eye out for them. Dupont does not directly manufacture this product.

AzFred at the the ISW bulletin board points out that it is in fact a new import from Spain from the Faus Group.

This import from Spain is new to the USA and not in general distribution nor does it have a track record. There are similar products in the flooring stores that feature better brands, have a longer track record and similar warrantee periods.
Another user had not so kind words:
Well folks - here's the straight scoop on the new DuPont Real Touch Elite laminate. IT IS A TOTAL DISASTER OF A PRODUCT AND SHOULD NOT BE SOLD. I consider it an a faulty interlock design and ti thin edge design is too easy to crack and damage. After two weeks of attempting to get some installation tips from both Home Depot and the DuPont Tecnhical Flooring rep, I have given up and contacted Home Depot and, my lawyer, and the N.C Attorney General's Office. This design is a total disaster and installation impossible. I have trashed three boxes before finally calling it quits.
Yikes! Fortunately for Dupont, he posted a happy ending.
My previous post got some attention. I did get a call from the DuPont SE technical rep in N.J. He agreed that the documented installation process was sketchy. He says that the only way to install the Elite is by using the snap-lock process. I did find after following his instructions that it went pretty well but not as easy an Pergo. In the documentation it indicates that you need to life the adjacent board. This is not what it seems. Actually you only have to raise it about and inch or so. You practically push the joints together at a very slight angle, not the exagerated angle depicted in the installation guide. That was my big problem. You may still get some minor gas where the "snap" process will not fully pull the joints together. There is no "tap" block tool available for use with this product. I did experiment and find that by cutting a scrap piece (retaining the "tongue" groove side) and cutting the other end as a flat cut that you can "engage" the scrap into the groove at several points along the long edge and tap gently with a rubber mallet and remove any minor gaps left. Evidently DuPont is in the process of trying to train installers and Home Depot personnel. The finished floor does look absolutely great as compared to anything else that I have seen. And, I also noticed that in walking across the finished floor that you do not hear the plastic like click that you hear when walking ascross Pergo and Shaw.

Posted by torque at 10:49 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 9, 2005

From whence cometh Lent?

According to Carol Reeves [1], Lent, from the Old English word "lengten," meaning "spring", is derived from a 40-day festival of abstinence dedicated to Astarte, Chaldean fertility goddess. The Catholic Church, in the 4th century, established a parallel 40-day fast for believers to "stay focused on their new life as Christians". Historically, the Reformed Church and the Anabaptists (root of the modern day Baptists) rejected Lent, as it is not specifically preached in the Bible.

[1] C. Reeves, Observing Lent is widespread, not universal, Gazette-Times, 4 Feb 2005.

Posted by torque at 8:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 8, 2005

Rife machine? The shocking truth!

The Rife machine is a device, invented by Royal Raymond Rife, which produces RF or "pulsed magnetic field" waves tuned to the membranes of bacteria or virus. By bombarding yourself with such waves, you will be able to completely eradicate the foreign body. Seems reasonable doesn't it? I suspect it to be a scam. A search on Google for "rife" brings up more than 1 million entries. On the other hand, a search on search.lanl.gov (BIOSIS, Engineering Index, Inspec, ISI Art & Humanities, ISI Social SciSearch, ISI SciSearch) brings up nothing related. Nevertheless, it seems pretty mainstream. Amazon carries a number of books on Royal Rife.

A friend of a friend asked me about such devices earlier today. My first reaction was to dismiss it as a money making scheme. Theoretically, destroying something using resonance is not unreasonable, however, to isolate a single frequency that kill the microbe or virus without affecting anything else in the body sounds too good to be true. Apparently one goes in for 30 minute sessions daily, probably for a ridiculous fee. I asked about the frequency and was told that it was something like 1000 MHz. Online the magic number seems to be 1150 Hz.

From David M. Tumey and William H. Sheline "Royal Rife Revisited: Reconstruction of the Original Rife Ray Tube" via Xenophilia, here are some of the special frequencies:

organismfrequency (Hz)
Streptothrix (fungus)784
Typhoid Bacteria712
Typhoid Virus1862
B.Coli--Rod form (Read E.coli)880
Tuberculosis Rod form803
Tuberculosis Virus1552
Sarcoma (all forms)2008
Carcinoma (all forms)2128

Ahh, quackwatch.org has a good write-up on suit related to the Rife machine.

One of Abrams's many imitators was Royal Raymond Rife (1888-1971), an American who claimed that cancer was caused by bacteria. During the 1920s, he claimed to have developed a powerful microscope that could detect living microbes by the color of auras emitted by their vibratory rates. His Rife Frequency Generator allegedly generates radio waves with precisely the same frequency, causing the offending bacteria to shatter in the same manner as a crystal glass breaks in response to the voice of an opera singer. The American Cancer Society has pointed out that although sound waves can produce vibrations that break glass, radio waves at the power level emitted a Rife generator do not have sufficient energy to destroy bacteria [1].

Another lengthly articles on the evils of Rife machines can bef round at healthwatcher.net. Apparently, a good number of cancer patients have died choosing to spend big bucks on a Rife machine rather than on conventional treatments [2]. This is really a tragedy.

The typical cancer pitch is that the Rife machine can be used to kill so-called BX or Bacilli X. These are tiny bacteria which can morph into four different forms. It is this bacteria, this BX, which turn normal human cells cancerous At this point the advertiser will probably start talking to you about the evils of the pharmaceutical industry and how it crushed Royal Rife, leaving him poor and destitute at his deathbed. Then it will move to how AIDS can be stopped using this technique...

Want more? Allthings2all ahs an analysis of James Bare's latest reincarnation of the Rife machine.

[1] American Cancer Society. Questionable methods of cancer management: Electronic devices. CA -- A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 44:115-127, 1994.
[2] B. Hills, Cheating death - Australia's battle with Rife machine quackery, Sydney Morning Herald, 30 Dec 2000.

Posted by torque at 10:45 PM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

February 4, 2005

Visual Studio 2005 beta

It is always nice to get "free" software from Microsoft. For a limited time, Microsoft is offering free downloads of Visual Studio 2005 - Visual Basic, Visual J#, Visual C++, Visual C#, SQL and Visual Web Developer. I find it facinating that they threw C++ back in with C#. What is the difference between C# and C++? I for one am still using my old Visual C++ 6.0 in lieu of C# or C++ .NET. That said, I have a feeling, despite Scott McNealy's rhetoric, that .NET will win in the end. The other day, after avoiding it for two years, I was finally coerced into installing .NET Framework 1.1 into my laptop in order to use Kinko's direct print software. The annoying thing is that the printout didn't even look right... sigh.

Posted by torque at 3:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Office 2006

Still waiting to upgrade to Office 2003? Annonymous sources peg the next release of Office 12 Beta 1 at August 29, 2005 and the target for "street" availability July 17, 2006. When contacted, Microsoft VP Chris Capossela commented, "We will continue the trend of shipping a new version of Office every two to three years. That kind of predictability is very important for our (Software Assurance) annuity customers." Interested in more speculation, Andre Da Costa predicts:

Office 12 Beta 1 – May 2005
Windows Longhorn Beta 1 – June 2005
Windows Longhorn Server Beta 1 – June 2005
Office 2006 Beta 2 – November 2005
Windows 2006 Beta 2 – January 2006
Office 2006 Worldwide Availability – May 22, 2006
Windows Server 2007 Beta 2
Windows 2006 RC1 – July 2006
Windows 2006 RC2 – September 2006
Windows 2006 RTM – October 30, 2006
Windows 2006 Client Worldwide Availability – November 7, or November 23, 2006
Windows Server 2007 Beta RC1 – April 2007
Windows Sever 2007 Beta RC2 – June 2007
Windows Server 2007 RTM – August 2007
Windows Server 2007 Worldwide Availability – September 6, 2007
Service Pack 1 for Windows 2006 client with WinFS integrated - October 2007

Posted by torque at 2:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 2, 2005

Scott McNealy on the [next] evil empire

19 Nov 2001It really is mankind against Microsoft. ...we're the ones wearing the white hat. [1]
22 Mar 2003This is mankind vs. Microsoft. And we’re winning. [2]
16 Sept 2003It's been Java Web services versus .NET--and mankind won. It's over. Java Web services is the platform. [3]
6 Oct 2004Microsoft needed a partner, their customers wanted choice. One is an unstable molecule. Who else are they going to choose as their second source? You know, Sun and Microsoft aren't that competitive. We don't do MSN, we don't do Xbox, we don't do applications. They don't do computers, storage or infrastructure. They weren't going to do it with Larry (Oracle). They weren't going to do it with IBM. They can't stand IBM. They at least respect us. They really don't like IBM. And they hate the GPL. [4]
5 Feb 2005It is humankind versus IBM Global Services, and we are kind of the leader of mankind in this aspect. [5]

[1] Q&A with Scott McNealy, BusinessWeek, 19 Nov 2001.
[2] Mankind vs. Microsoft: We’re winning says McNealy, CIOL Bureau, 22 Mar 2003.
[3] Welcome to SunNetwork -- Scott McNealy's keynote, SunNetwork Conference 2003, 16 Sept 2003.
[4] A. Vance, McNealy: Microsoft needs Sun to beat IBM and Red Hat, The Register, 6 Oct 2004.
[5] M. Kanellos, Sun lights up its grid, ZDNet, 5 Feb 2005.

Posted by torque at 2:52 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Addresses, maps and the information age

As some of you may know from my previous post, Google has been providing name-address searching functions for sometime. What you may not know, is that you can now do reverse phone number searching. I got a message forwarded to me this morning from a concerned friend.

Google has implemented a new feature wherein you can type someone's telephone number into the search bar and hit enter and then you will be given their address and a map to their house. Everyone should be aware of this! You may think this is a good feature or not.

***Note that you can have your phone number removed or blocked. Before forwarding this, I tested it by typing my telephone number in
google.com. My phone number came up, and when I clicked on the MapQuest link, it actually mapped out where I live - quite scary. Please look up your own number. Read below for details. Think about it--if a child, ANYONE gives out his/her phone number, someone
can actually now look it up to find out where he/she lives. The
safety issues are obvious, and alarming. In order to test whether
your phone number is mapped, go to:


Type your phone number in the search bar (i.e. 5555551212) and
hit enter. If you want to BLOCK Google from divulging your private
information, simply click on the telephone icon next to your phone
number. Removal takes 48-hours. If you are unlisted in the phone
book, you might not be in there, but it is a good idea just to
check. If your number does come up if you hit map,it will show you a
direct map to your house...

If you click on your phone number, a form will come up whereby
you can remove your number from Google.

Here are my thoughts. Reverse phone number lookups have been available for at least 5-10 years now. I remember doing my first one as an undergrad. The data, of course, comes from magazine subscriptions, contests and phone book publishers. And Yahoo Maps and Mapquest? Well, there is no stopping someone who has your address from getting directions.

While it helps to opt out of Google's list, it is probably too late to stop the information. You would have to opt out of hundreds if not thousands of sites. The only real way to regain annonymity is to move into an apartment using a pseudonym, use cash, never file a tax return, cancel all your phones, shred your garbage, and communicate only from pay phones and at internet cafes. Even then, these days, $30-40 can buy you a lot of information (SSN, home purchases, outstanding loans, etc.).

So, does it scare me? Information that becomes public cannot be destroyed. It is just a fact of life. What is scary are companies that aggregate credit card purchases, mortgage payments, phone call logs by your social security number. I'm absolutely sure that they will not give you this information, even if you say please. Of course, maybe you trust them, but can they be trusted to keep it private? Last week T-Mobile got hacked.

Jonathan Cherry, a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service in Washington, D.C., said one of the victims in the incident was a Secret Service agent who was part of Operation Firewall.

In addition to the e-mail and personal-computer files of hundreds of customers the intruder had access to, the hacker obtained documents of Secret Service agent Peter Cavicchia, who was investigating the hacker and was using his personal T-Mobile account.

Welcome to the information age.

Posted by torque at 11:33 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Brain injury attorney

While not "mesothelioma attorney", "brain injury attorney" is a pretty respectable keyword. Overture's inventory tool reports 13395 searches for "brain injury attorney". Bids are in the $12 range. The top 5 sites on Google are 5+ in pagerank, so the opportunity may not be that large. I wonder how brain injuries typically happen - vehicular trauma?

Posted by torque at 12:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 1, 2005

Organic dog food

Yes, it exists - and yes, it is a big deal. Last year organic pet food sales grew three times as fast as human organic food sales [1]. How big is the market? The domestic pet food market is about $15 billion. Organic pet food is at about $14 million. So, there is a lot more room to grow.

Amazon carries a 33lb bag of Hund-n-Flocken adult dog food for $35.99. It is made of USDA choice lamb meal. Wow. How about Newman's Own Organics Senior Dog Chicken Formula, a 5lb bag for $10.79. That's pretty expensive chicken. It may all seem excessive, but, as Ann Martin and Shawn Messonnier report [2], "many ingredients [in pet food] are potentially harmful and composed of the dregs from slaughterhouses and the rendering business." You think that's bad? Apparently, "it is not uncommon for thousands of euthanized dogs and cats to be delivered to rendering plants, daily, and thrown into the rendering vat -- collars, I.D. tags, and plastic bags -- to become part of this material called "meat meal." Yikes! Likely a response to such sordid news, home-cooked pet food suddenly becomes quite reasonable.

[1] B. Horovitz, Organic pet food gets paws up, USA Today, 13 July 2004.
[2] A. Martin and S. Messonnier, Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts about Pet Food, NewSage Press, 2003.

Posted by torque at 11:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Cough, cold and fever medicine

The kids are sick, coughing and wheezing through the night. Do you know your active ingredients? Check before administering. Unfortunately, there are a lot of "universal" syrups that include all sorts of chemicals that probably aren't need. Here's what may be in your kids' over-the-counter cocktail...

ingredientfunctionhow it works
phenylephrinedecongestantconstricts blood vessels in the nose, lungs and other areas, thereby opening airways
pseudoephedrinedecongestantconstricts blood vessels in the nose, lungs and other areas, thereby opening airways
dextromethorphancough suppressantsuppresses area of the brain which controls coughing - do not use if cough is phlegm producing
acetaminophenfever reducer
ibuprofenfever reducer

Cough and cold medicines are typically composed of decongestants and cough suppressants. The decongestant is used to clear stuffy noses, loosening up snot. This lets the kid breathe, but may leads to dripping mucus, which, going down the throat eventually causes coughing, hence the cough suppressant. Nighttime medications typically include some sort of antihistamine. Indeed, antihistamines are primarily for allergies, however, they have the side effect of drying up mucus. Since at night the child is unable to blow their runny noses, mucus running down the throat causes a irritated throat the next day.

[1] Drugs.com
[2] V. Iannelli, M.D., Before You Buy Children's Cold Medicines, About.com.

Posted by torque at 2:39 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack