Monday, September 15

The Facts of Vaping

Debate has raged back and forth over what vaping is, and the risks associated with it. The short summary is vaping can actually be safer than smoking, but there are a few inherent risks. Here are the myths, rumors, and facts regarding vaping.

1. Is Vaping Just for Liquid?

No - Vaping is simply a slang term for inhaling evaporated substances. The term covers a wide variety of methods used to vape and inhale substances.

Herbal matter is normally vaped in a large desktop vaporizer. These units often have wooden boxes and digital screens that somewhat resemble a pencil sharpener. These units heat a chamber, similar to a small oven to the high temperature necessary to evaporate the THC, CBD, and various crystals from the plant matter without burning it. When done with a medical-grade cannabis, the plant matter can still be extracted or smoked for the remaining chemicals.

THC is commonly found in concentrates, which are vaped in manners similar to meth or crack cocaine, although the tools used are much more refined than any crackhead or methhead ever devised. The art of vaping THC concentrates, whether in wax, shatter, honey, etc., involves the use of a bowl the size of a bolt head, made of either titanium or ceramic, that's called a nail. This attachment can be found for bongs, pipes, and eCigarettes. An open flame never touches the concentrate, so it is evaporated by preheating the nail.

Liquid vaping is accomplished by dissolving drugs in vegetable glycerin, then mixing them with an optional propylene glycol concentrate for the smoke effect. Many prefer to skip the PG, as it can cause issues with your respiratory system. Do not trust any vendor saying they have organic or natural eLiquid unless it's PG-free. If they don't label ingredients, don't buy it.

2. Are Dabbing and Vaping the Same Thing?

Yes and No. Dabbing is a form of vaping, but not all vaping is considered dabbing.

Dabbing was named within the last few years, after cannabis producers around the country started experimenting with ways to extract and inhale pure concentrate from their strains. The term came about as a way to say "just a dab will do ya," to warn habitual potheads that they needn't try a spoonful of the concentrate.

3. Is Vaping Harmful?

There are inherent dangers associated with vaping, and they're much more difficult to list out than for smoking.

Titanium, for example, is used in most vape kits because the metal can be heated to high degrees without burning. However, many cheaper alternatives exist as manufacturers compete for market share. Many metal nails are simply titanium-coated. Ceramic nails are recommended to avoid any issues, although for eCig dab attachments, the heating element is still metal, so the full risk isn't alleviated.

As stated before, the PG mixed with all commercially produced eLiquid and eJuice may be harmful in large doses, which you will ingest over time. PG is mixed even into the THC liquids sold in Washington, Colorado, and other medicinal marijuana states.

In addition, many vapers use a high-heat torch, some even attached to propane tanks. These have their own risk associated with them. Imagine a smoke circle with a gaggle of idiots breaking everything are now using a torch that can cut their arm off or explode if not used right. Be sure to have adult or professional supervision operating the torch. Don't pass it like a Bic.

Always remember you are vaping a drug. The act of vaping in itself is safer than smoking, but there are risks attached to your choice of drug to vape.

4. What Drugs Can Be Vaped?

Any chemical substance has a burning point, melting point, evaporation point, etc. Figure out what chemical compound you're trying to vape and what happens to it when heated. MDMA, MDA, meth, cocaine, opium, etc., will all have a different effect. This is chemistry. That's why it's called experimenting with drugs.

Learn about dosages and effects. Study the chemical compounds of your drugs. It's all out there on the Internet. Use science to keep you safe and experiment away. Personally I prefer natural drugs, but do what you do.

5. Can Alcohol Be Vaped?

Actually yes it can, although the process is a bit different, since alcohol isn't a pure extract, and a thimble of heated beer won't do much for you. There is, however, a great video on YouTube detailing how you can pressurize and depressurize alcohol to initiate a chemical reaction in which you can inhale vaporized alcohol of any (and I mean the video) kind of alcohol.

Keep in mind you're inhaling liquid alcohol directly into your lungs, and much less is needed to get you drunk. Also much less is needed to get you poisoned.

Got anymore questions about vaping? Leave them in the comments below...

Thursday, September 4

Guts Over Fear: A Critique of Trolling

The frame makes the selfie...
September 4, 2014 (Seattle, WA) - I spent all day listening to Eminem's latest single, "Guts Over Fear" on the Bloody gaming headset I picked up last weekend at PAX Prime.

I met a gaming journalist from Seattle who reviews PC accessories out an L.A. when I was covering E3 for Main Street. When I came out for PAX and the Cannabis Cup, he invited me over to his house one night, where we gossiped about video games and the industry for hours. It was a great time, and I traded one of the solar panels I was done with for a gaming mouse, headset, and mechanical keyboard.

Everything's Shady

Nothing to see here, folks...

I wanted to test everything out, so I decided to play this song because it's been on my mind a lot. Everything Eminem released this year has been on my mind, since that time that hip-hop journalist trolled me over my review of MMLP2 last November. I gave the album a second, third, and fourth chance on the road this summer, hoping maybe the excitement of a road trip would make it better, but I still wasn't impressed.

Eminem fell into a pattern, pandering to his fans as opposed to showing us the introspective side of him that we fell in love with in the first place. The Huffington Post seemed to agree, because they picked up my review, and even let me rename it to highlight how Kendrick Lamar slayed a legend, matching his pace on his own song. The only critic to agree was from a punk music blog. I'm still a little sad my review wasn't listed.

My second piece, declaring Lil Wayne the greatest rapper alive over Eminem, set the internet on fire. Hip-hop websites, blogs, and forums went ballistic. Even Reddit got in the fray. Apparently, despite all our years of supposedly integrated society, the misappropriation of black culture is still a hot button issue in this country.

Some nobody on the Huffington Post drawing comparisons between Eminem/Elvis and Lil Wayne/Chuck Berry makes people uncomfortable. Who in their right mind refers to Eminem as the Grateful Dead of rap?

The Fragile Artist

It wasn't until Tech N9ne and K-Dot hit the airwaves with "Fragile" that I started to think about life through the eyes of Marshall Mathers. Artists are sensitive about their work - I constantly re-read things I wrote, or go back and rethink what I've released, check out comments, etc.

You'd be crazy to think artists and performers don't still do that...and it appeared the rumbling of the blogosphere reached his ears, because the next verse he released held a lot of rage toward bloggers. Halfway through his verse on Busta Rhymes's "Calm Down," Eminem took square lyrical aim at those nobody bloggers with stupid opinions...

Me and Bus put it down like a sick pet
You're fucking with vets dawg, fucking internet bloggers
"I sit in front of my computer all day and comment on
Everything, I'm an expert on everything, everything sucks, play the next song"
Guess if I hopped out your freaking laptop, you idiot prick
With Biggie and kicked the living shit out you, I'd be dead wrong
Son of God I'm the S.O.G. like a wet log, pores never get clogged
I'm so full of self-esteem that I sweat fog
Yes, yes y’all, steady on the left, y’all
Step off 'forr you get stepped on, soft?

I found myself in a strange position, realizing I may have actually gotten under the skin of one of my childhood heroes the way stupid commenters on my blogs get under mine. I always wrote as though nobody was listening, but I suddenly realized what started out as a troll had actually changed the music I was listening to.

A Calmer Eminem

My biggest critique of both the album and Eminem as an artist was that Eminem can't open his heart and express love without coming off as corny. I pleaded for his softer side in the face of angry music. Now, as I'm listening to "Guts Over Fear" for the umpteenth time while writing this, I actually feel connected to the artist in a way I hadn't since I was a kid. The Rap God was listening to my prayers.

 In "Guts Over Fear," Eminem reveals that softer and more mature side. He skips the rage and instead, as he so eloquently acknowledges, self indulges over a song that could easily be called "Not Afraid 2." This is the Eminem I wanted to hear. We were robbed of seeing Biggie, 2Pac, and so many other artists mature into grown folks old enough to through reunion telethons on PBS.

Having Eminem still alive longer so many great artists makes me crave better art from him, and it appears that through trolling, this nobody blogger may have had a hand in shaping one of the greatest artists of all time.

I just hope you bring your A game on this next album in November, Slim. You're competing with people like Tech N9ne, Slug from Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Homeboy Sandman, Lil Wayne, K-Dot, Schoolboy Q, and so many others, for a lane in this need a grand slam.

Brian Penny is a former Operations Manager and Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower. He's a frequent contributor to The Street, Intuit's Small Biz Resource Center, Cannabis Now, Hardcore Games, and Fast Company.

Monday, September 1

Product Review: Venture 30 Waterproof Solar Tablet and Phone Charger

I've been on an extended road trip for about three years now. Some of that time I spent couchsurfing, but the majority of it has been spent living in a van. Vandwelling is actually quite comfortable for my needs, however I do have power and food consumption needs.

When I started out, I would simply find a McDonald's, spend a couple bucks on a sandwich and drink, plug in my laptop, and connect to their WiFi. It's a pain in the ass though, and I wanted to go back to working in solitude.

I didn't leave my corner cubicle in Corporate America to work in an even more asinine environment. To be productive on the road, I need to ground myself and work in peace. This is what drew me to explore solar power, and come across Goal Zero, the leader in portable solar solutions.

Solar USB Charging

Goal Zero's upcoming product is the Venture 30 solar kit, a rugged and durable 30 WH battery that's weatherproof, and comes with a 7-watt Nomad 7 solar panel to charge it. Both pieces combined weigh approximately one and a half pounds, and the foldable solar panel and battery are easy enough to stow away in a laptop bag, backpack, or glove compartment.

The Venture 30's black design with lime green trim is a trademark of the Goal Zero portable solar product line. Each piece is designed in a way to be daisy-chained or otherwise linked to created a modular solar solution. The Nomad solar panels are designed to either be folded and stored or unfolded and tied to the outside of your backpack or wherever's convenient.

The device includes a USB/Micro-USB cable. Either end can be unplugged to either plug into your tablet or smartphone to charge the devices or to plug into any USB port, the included Nomad solar panel, or an electric outlet to charge the battery. Five blue LED lights display the battery's current charging status, and they also serve as an LED flashlight.

Implementing into My Lifestyle

Lab conditions and tested specs are one thing - to really value a solar charging solution, you have to implement it into the real world, so I threw it on my dashboard and spent a week on the road with it from Utah through Idaho and Oregon into Washington. 

The Venture worked well for the first couple of days. It started at full charge, which was enough to charge my Samsung Galaxy an impressive three times in airplane mode. Once the battery was drained, however, it never reached a full charge again, although this was hardly the fault of the unit itself.

As the unit includes two USB slots, I kept my phone plugged into the batter to see if the panel could handle them both. The Venture is unique in that it does allow a pass-through charge. The trickle charge from the included 7-watt solar panel, however, wasn't sustainable through the night of the first day.Things got even worse as cloud covers rained on my solar parade.

Upgrading the Panel

I upgraded the solar panel from the Nomad 7 to the Nomad 13 in order to more closely fit my phone's power consumption needs based on my usage. Initially it seemed to do nothing. I left it in the sun for a full day with nothing plugged in, and it never charged past the first light. I had to plug the battery into my laptop to push the charge that night and set it back out the next morning.

The 13-watt panel seemed to do the trick. By around 2PM I had already reached the third light. This was easily a full phone recharge, and I had six hours of daylight left, so I plugged in my phone, which was at 23-percent, and I started working. By the time the sun went down just after 8, I had a full charge on my phone battery and two bars left on the Venture.

A Complete Solution

The Venture 30 charger on its own sells for $99.99, and the kit with the solar panel will retail for ~$169, although a firm price point hasn't been listed on their website yet. The Nomad 7 solar panel retails for $79.99, and the Nomad 13 is $159.99. 

The price is a bit steep, but if you do a lot of backpacking, camping, or otherwise spend a lot of time outdoors it's a great way to keep at least one device charged throughout the day. Adventure photographers and videographers will appreciate the ability to keep a GoPro or other equipment charged.

For my vandwelling, the Venture and Nomad series provides a way to keep me connected, but they're not enough on their own to fulfill my power consumption needs, which includes a laptop, and I hope to one day have climate control. Until I find a solution to that, I'm still wasting gas to keep my computer charged and me working/earning a living.

Overall, I'm satisfied with Goal Zero's design and the functionality of the Venture 30. It pushes a much faster charge than you'd expect, and it's nice to know I'm doing at least a small part to go green while fulfilling my need for connectivity on the road.

Brian Penny is a former Operations Manager and Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower. He's a frequent contributor to The Street, Huffington Post, Cannabis Now, and Fast Company.

Sunday, August 31

Product Review: Green Goo by Sierra Sage Organics

I don't know if it's my blue eyes, because I smell like cheese, or I consume too much sugar, but bugs love biting me. As I travel to different environments, I have to keep in mind proper insect repelling techniques. Otherwise I end up being literally eaten alive.

This morning before the sun rose, I woke up to insane itching. I noticed I had insect bites on my elbows, feet, and knees. Clearly my joints hold a special attraction to whatever's living in the air out here. Thankfully I had a few ointments and treatments to try out from my recent trip to the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake.

The Right Stuff

Being no stranger to yoga shalas, I'm used to seeing varying levels of organic, green, gluten-free, and the likes. While normally quite serene, these shalas can become a warzone of veganism and humanitarianism. I'm not that militant, but I do enjoy the purity that comes with organics. That's what initially drew me to the Green Goo.

This salve contains (in order from the label): "Organic Olive Oil, Organic Plantain, Organic Chickweed, Organic Yarrow, Organic Sage, Organic Calundula, Organic Chaparral, Organic St. John's Wort, Organic Comfrey Leaf, Organic Gum  Benzoin, Organic Myrrh, Vitamin E Oil, Beeswax, and Organic Essential Oils of Lavender and Rosemary."

Anything containing Frankenstein or myrrh is worth trying, so I rubbed some of the salve on my inflamed bites, seeking relief.

A Solid Temporary Solution

To my surprise, the salve instantly soothed the itching of my insect bites. The smell was somewhat minty and floral, and it didn't gunk up like petroleum jelly. About an hour later, the itch returned, and, rather than scratching, I rubbed the spots where the salve was, allowing it to absorb into my skin. This relief lasted another hour before I noticed the itch again.

I've so far reapplied Green Goo four times throughout the day, as I felt the urge to scratch my bug bites. I enjoyed the scent and non-greasiness of the goo so much, I applied some to my knuckles, as they tend to get dry in cold temperatures. I'll have to post an update at the end of the winter if Green Goo prevented any of those issues.

Pricing and Purchasing

Green Goo is available in a 3 oz package on Amazon for $13.95. It can also be purchased directly from the Sierra Sage website, along with the company's other products.

Brian Penny is a former Operations Manager and Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower. He's a frequent contributor to The Street, Huffington Post, Cannabis Now, and Fast Company.