Another study on red wine

Today I read an article about another study purporting there to be health benefits to drinking red wine.  I feel that such studies as this are highly deceptive.  They get disseminated in the media with headlines about health benefits of red wine.  But the real question should be: Is there any benefit to having red wine versus just having grapes or grape juice?

I think there should be a law that any studies done on the potential health benefits of wines must always include whole grapes and grape juice as well.  What a waste of research, of time and money to go through all the trouble of these studies and not bother to include grapes and grape juice as well.  Why not  include for example muscadine or concord grapes both of which have ultra-high levels of the beneficial phenolics and other compounds?  I’d love to see a study how concord grapes compare against red wines for health benefits.  My intuition tells me the grapes would blow the wine away.

Of course one major problem is that the grapes sold commercially are among the least nutritious varieties.  And this problem is not a medical one.  Why do we live under a system where the food production/distribution system is controlled by these agri-giants which have incentive to sell garbage fruit and vegetables among all the other garbage they sell?

An animation speaks a thousand words

There was some article in the news about more BS circulating about 2012 relating to galactic alignment or something like that.  I actually don’t want to even bother reading the full story explaining that its BS – I already know.  But it did actually make me wonder about the plane of our galaxy vs. the plane that our Earth orbits the Sun in which is called the ecliptic plane.

What made me think of this?  What made me think of this was this: when the Big Bang occurred, basically all this stuff exploded.  At first there was just gas, then it condensed into vast clouds.  Some of these clouds went on further to condense to form stars and other celestial bodies.  First this massive exploding apart and then a congealing together.  Out of that our galaxy – one of trillions in the Cosmos – eventually came into existence.

Our galaxy is a spiral galaxy and is disk-shaped.  It has a big clump of matter near the middle – like a big ball – and then there’s this vast disk-shaped portion that extends out.  Everyone knows this shape (except perhaps many kids in today’s deficient society).

So, inside this galaxy I already know that we’re located out in a spiral arm.  But then I thought about how all the different stars in the galaxy have their own solar systems each with its own plane.  Do those planes tend to align with the galactic one or are they more-or-less random?  Reason would tell me that they would be more-or-less random.  There seems to be no particularly good reason why their alignments would all be influenced by the galactic plane.  If you could see an ultra-fast time lapse of our galaxy where the stars were all flying around, yes they’d all be pulled along by the spinning galactic disk, but each particular star would be spinning in its own way.  What would influence the direction of spin and the ecliptic planes around all those stars would probably have much more to do with factors like how the gas which formed them initially collapsed, and perhaps other local gravitational influences.  The influence of the galaxy would probably be quite small.

Curious then about the orientation of our planet’s ecliptic plane with the galactic plane I eventually came across this great animation.  An animation speaks a thousand words.  In this animation I really like how, towards the end of the animation when the Earth’s celestial north pole comes into view, one can clearly see the North Star in the Little Dipper.  It turns out that the galactic plane is offset from the ecliptic by about 60 degrees.

Here’s a thread on a forum where someone explains what one would see on a summer’s night looking to the sky facing south.  I’m copying this post below only because sites like this often disappear and then information gets lost.

The central region of the galaxy is in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius and not far from Scorpius.  It is near them that the plane of the galaxy intersects the ecliptic (plane of Earth’s orbit) at an angle of about 60°.  If the planes were nearly parallel, then we would see the Milky Way running through all of the constellations of the zodiac.

Picture a summer evening while the region between Sagittarius and Scorpius is crossing your southern meridian.  The ecliptic would appear parallel to the horizon.   You would observe the Milky Way sweeping upward at an angle of about 60° to the ecliptic.

You mention the Earth’s hemispheres, but they are separated by the Earth’s equatorial plane, not the ecliptic or galactic planes.  The equatorial plane currently intersects the ecliptic plane at more than 23°.  In the current era, the center of the galaxy is visible from the Earth’s South Pole and not the North Pole.  That will eventually reverse due to precession.  But in either case, observers on most of the Earth’s surface experience periods of the day during which the galactic center is above the horizon.

For astronomical graphics, including monthly wallpaper calendar, visit:

Curt Renz – “Centaur”

Report abusive e-mail (Yahoo)

Many people are not aware that, when they receive abusive or offensive e-mails, they can report it to the company which hosts the e-mail account.  Finding out where to make the report can be tricky.  Today I needed to report an abusive mail from a Yahoo mail account.  If you type “report abuse yahoo mail” into a search engine you are likely to arrive at a page which list links to other pages.  I went through this process which was frustrating and seemed to go nowhere before finally finding this page which has a link to contact Yahoo Customer Care.  That link takes you to a form where you can fill out information about the offending e-mail.

To make the report you also have to copy the full headers of the offending mail.  This itself can be tricky and is not that obvious with most mail clients.  For Mozilla Thunderbird I had to select View -> Message Source from the menu.  The hosting company needs the full header information to be able to determine exactly who sent the message, when it was sent, and other details to affirm its veracity.

As far as I know, if the mail is extremely offensive or abusive the hosting company will shut down the account.  Most hosting companies take offensive and abusive e-mails very seriously and do not screw around.  So if you report such a mail it is likely that the account will be cancelled, an appropriate action and a strong signal to the sender that such action is inappropriate and intolerable.

Helicopter noise notes

Large 5-alarm fire at Golden Gate & Eddy

3 news choppers and one airplane/drone

SFO Aircraft Noise Abatement Office (online complaint form)

Stations’ contacts:

As per callback from one station, KGO, KNTV, KPIX, KCBS and possibly KRON will be sharing a helicopter (good idea).  Said that their helicopter stays above 1,800 feet but question remains as to whether that is sufficiently high.  Said their copter is red and white – saw that one passing near me about an hour ago – it seemed low and was definitely loud.

Why the need to keep flying over and over and over after they’ve already got sufficient footage?

Possibly write legislators about coming up with reasonable policies to balance people’s right to peace vs. news organizations’ desire to film.

Representatives’ contact:

Follow-up on fire: fire was so bad they are letting the building burn down to the ground.  Sad for all the residents who live there, especially at this time of year.


Other reference:
Massive Fire Engulfs San Francisco Apartment Buildings
American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter
Rep. Howard Berman proposes helicopter noise bill for L.A.
Helicopter noise infuriates L.A. residents
Feinstein, Boxer: Reduce Helicopter Noise Above Los Angeles

Change of Season Tea Variation

Try this variation of the Change of Season Tea I wrote about the other day.  To make this tea I used a 32 oz. glass jar (which originally was a pickle jar):

– Grated fresh ginger.  Grate the equivalent of about 2 tablespoons.  Put in jar and pour hot water over it, filling jar about 7/8 full

– Dried sweet mandarin/tangelo/orange peel.  These are the sweet-tasting peels I save and dry out.  If you can’t get these you can buy orange peel at some herb stores but be aware that they may be much more bitter.  And of course you can always use fresh peels as well.  Of the sweet mandarin peels – use several good-sized pieces, enough to impart a wonderful citrus flavor to the infusion.

– Peppermint.  This is a powerful ingredient and I use only about 1 rounded teaspoon or maybe one level tablespoon.

– Dried rose flowers.  Rose combines so well with this tea and imparts a divine flavor into it.  Use about one level tablespoon.

– Dried apple.  Use maybe one teaspoon or perhaps slightly more.

– Rooibos.  It has a way of complementing the tea yet adding a new dimension to it.  Use about one rounded teaspoon.

– Stevia leaf.  Just a pinch of this powerful herb is all it takes.  Too much and it actually imparts a bitterness.  With just a little bit the floral and fruity accents should really come out.

This tea is a variation of a tea I first obtained from a health food store in Germany called früchte tee (means simply fruit tea, can’t really give the pronunciation English equivalent because of the German “ch” which is a raspy sort of sound formed in the back of the throat, its sort of like “froohhhta te”).

I have to say, this is one of the most amazing, wonderful teas I’ve made in a while.  Sipping it now and – wow!  It has the therapeutic warming effect of the ginger but there’s the whole fruity and slightly flowery dimension that just makes it sublime.  Many früchte teas use hibiscus which is also called roselle, which has a dominating flavor and imparts a deep red color to infusions.  By leaving out the roselle I open the infusion up to the more delicate fruit and flowerly accents, and do not interfere with the ginger dominant note.  By using the sweet mandarin peel I impart a delicate, floral-type citrus element, which actually complements the rose very nicely.  The dominant ginger note is a great base and all the other herbs are more mild, except perhaps the peppermint, which is why I only use a fairly small amount of it.  However I feel its important to keep peppermint in it for therapeutic reasons.

One other floral I had considered for this tea was chrysanthemum flower which I did not use however.

One interesting variation of this, based on the first Change of Season Tea I mentioned the other day, is to play with high-grade cinnamon and see how that offsets the other herbs.  High-grade cinnamon is to low-grade cinnamon as sweet mandarin peel is to bitter common orange peel.  Perhaps in the future I will step down the citrus element, up the apple element and use cinnamon and see how that goes.

I’m also thinking about ideas of incorporating some more powerful detox herbs like possibly burdock root, dandelion root, beet root, or others.  But these other herbs present interesting challenges and I feel I will have to use them in a totally different type of infusion which I will explore in the future.

When people come into my studio, I think they often feel like they are in some sort of laboratory.  The see all the jars of herbs and stuff everywhere.  I like living in a laboratory.  I could never live with a clean fanatic, as for me having stuff out and accessible is important to my creative thought processes.  I love being in my kitchen surrounded with everything, being immersed in the ten thousand things 🙂

This is one of those infusions which I relish so much I actually don’t want to finish it.

Herbs for Soothing/Change of Season Tea

Sometimes a cup of the right tea, made with the right herbs, can be extremely therapeutic.  I have a sensitive stomach and a lot of things can upset it.  These include virtually all dried fruits in anything more than the tiniest amounts, nuts and seeds in anything but the tiniest amounts, and things like granola which tend to sit in my stomach and feel like a rock inside.

The most absolutely healing herb I have found to remedy digestive issues is grated fresh ginger steeped in hot water.  In other words fresh ginger tea.  When there’s an acute need for it I will make it fairly strong.  But oftentimes I don’t need a strong dose, and so can tone down the amount of fresh ginger.

Some other herbs that go good with, which complement ginger, are:

Peppermint, which also has soothing properties like ginger.  Peppermint is used in Chinese herbal remedies like the cold formula Yin Chiao.

Lemon verbena.  One of my absolute most favorite herbs.  I will sometimes use this with Camellia sinensis a.k.a. traditional teas.  It goes very well with peppermint and ginger.

Lemon peel.  I will also sometimes use mandarin or other citrus peels.  In fact if I’m eating a citrus fruit I always try to eat the peel.  If they taste really good I will let them dry and use them in teas later.

Cinnamon.  The cinnamon I get in bulk is listed as “5%” and is very rich.  It is much sweeter than cheaper cinnamons and lacks their bitterness.  The taste is very fine.  A small sprinkling is all it takes.  Cinnamon is good for diabetics and for when you OD on sweet food.

Rose petal.  Dried rose petal is a very gentle herb and I have read is good for one’s complexion.  It imparts a delicate, luxuriant quality to teas.

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I just found this amazing coupon site

Today the department store didn’t have the half-size of boots I really wanted to get.  I went online and ended up at  They had the boot!  In the size I want!

During the checkout process there was a box to enter a coupon code.  I thought “Why not at least try?” so I did a quick Google search and found a site,, which had a page listing coupon codes for

I saved $50 on my order!  Wow!

I notice that a lot of what seem like sites offering coupon codes are actually spam.  I got lucky to find  In fact there were multiple codes for listed on the page, and all of them seemed to work, although only accepts one coupon code for an order so the $50 one was the best deal.

What a nice end to my day though with the boots and now I can look forward to getting them soon and having the hottest boots of all to wear!

Since I’m onto the whole coupon thing, I should mention another really cool site which doesn’t feature coupons but rather lists ongoing advertised specials and discounts:  If you need to get for example an external hard drive or a cell phone or something you can go to this site and see which specials are currently running at all the major stores.  Extremely useful.

How to Root a Verizon Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Today I finally got disgusted with the bloated ads on many websites I visit with my Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.  There are two main ways to block ads – using a proxy, or using a hosts file.  A proxy listens on a port on the local machine and mediates requests and answers to and from a web browser to the destination website.  In the process, it filters out known ad servers based on wildcard/pattern matching in the names or on blacklists.  The problem with a Galaxy Tab is that none of the web browsers even have a way to configure them to use a proxy server, so this method is out.

The other method to block ads, a bit more primitive perhaps but effective nonetheless, is to basically put entries for sites that are known to serve ads into the machine’s “hosts” file which allows all requests to specific addresses to be rerouted.  The hosts file maps hostnames to web addresses.  So when a website tries to load ads from e.g. which is now entered in the hosts file and remapped to nowhere, the ads never appear.  This works because by default the hosts file on the local system takes precedence over DNS address resolution.  (On Linux systems the order of precedence can actually be set in a file /etc/nsswitch.conf)

However altering the hosts file requires superuser permissions on the Galaxy Tab.  This means the device must be rooted.  So here we go:


How to Root a Verizon Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

I researched this and there is a lot of complex information about how to root a Galaxy Tab, but the solution I found was in fact extremely easy and consisted of just a couple steps.

1) Hopefully you’ve already installed the Samsung Kies app which allows you to connect your Galaxy Tab to your computer and transfer files to it.  If not, do so (and be sure you get the latest version which as of this writing is ver.

2) Download Samsung_Galaxy_Tab_10.1_root (2).zip and copy it to your Galaxy Tab.  It is easiest if you copy it to the uppermost-level directory (which is referred to as /sdcard).  This file is a tiny little update that basically installs the superuser app on your Galaxy Tab.  It does not do anything radical to the system like flashing it or updating the OS.

3) Power down the Galaxy Tab by pressing and holding the power button and selecting the power off option.  Then power it on.  When the white “Samsung Galaxy Tab” text appears press and hold the power button and the volume up button simultaneously.

4) Two icons will appear on the screen.  Highlight the one with the box and the little green android character by pressing the volume up button, then press the volume down button to select this option.

5) Now press the volume down button to highlight the option “apply update from /sdcard”.  Press the power button to select.

6) You will now be shown the files in your /sdcard directory.  You can highlight the Samsung_Galaxy_Tab_10.1_root (2).zip that you copied over before by pressing either of the volume buttons to scroll, then press the power button to select it.  The actual process of applying the update will be very fast and the Galaxy Tab will reboot.

7) You will now find a new app called “Superuser” in the app list.  Your Galaxy Tab has been rooted.

8) I also installed the patch to allow Netflix to run on the Galaxy Tab.  The process for installing it is identical to that for the root patch above (steps 2-6).  Once this is complete you can go the the Market and just install Netflix and it will work.

I would like to reiterate that all this complex stuff I’ve seen on the Internet about rooting a Galaxy Tab 10.1 is not necessary at all, only the simple steps above.  My Galaxy Tab was already running Android version 3.1 when I got it so perhaps that is partly why it was so easy?

Additional Info

My next endeavor will be to see if its possible to actually enable phone calls with the Galaxy Tab.  It seems utterly silly to me that it does not.  The device in fact gets assigned an actual phone number from Verizon when you get it, but this apparently is only for data purposes.  Another related endeavor will be to try to get SMS to work.

Some other cool things: I got an inexpensive car vent mount off eBay which works great.  You will also want to pick up a car charger adapter.  One extremely cool use of the Galaxy Tab is as a GPS navigation in the car.  The app that does this is the “Places” app.  One cool feature is that you can touch the microphone icon and then just speak a destination.  It seems to get it right with amazing accuracy.  Today I also discovered that you can set Places to a given city by first saying the city name and selecting it, then afterwards you can go to locations within the city just by saying coordinates like “fourth and market”.

The language input definitely needs to go further with the Galaxy Tab 10.1 however.  It should be possible to do a lot more in terms of interacting with it by using voice.

Another real annoyance is weak support for international fonts.  I’m reading a Buddhist text right now and unfortunately many of the characters which have diacritical marks do not render.  There are online forums filled with users trying to get fonts like Devangari, Tamil, Myanmar, Arabic or others to work on the thing.  In the age of Unicode fonts there’s really no excuse for this to occur.  Come on Android, get it together!

Oh yeah – after the rooting process above, how did I actually block ads?  By going to the Market and just installing “AdFree Android”.  Really, I didn’t want to have to do this but I pay a premium price for my bandwidth and I’m tired of having to concede precious screenspace to stupid ad bloat which always seems to popup first even if the rest of my page takes forever to load.


Beyond this, there is a deep philosophical argument as to why one should root one’s Galaxy Tab: this is a device which a person purchases and therefore owns.  They therefore should have a right to full access to it.  Now if the manufacturer has enabled/disabled some feature, and the end user then bypasses this and causes disruption/damage to the system, it does seem fair that the manufacturer not be liable for said damage.  However it seems completely illegal that the manufacturer would void their liability merely for accessing the system.

In other words, I don’t see how rooting a Galaxy Tab could itself ever reasonably be considered a valid ground for voiding the warranty.  Such a warranty would, in my opinion, be illegal.  However, if a person were to root a Galaxy Tab and try modding their system which resulted in damage, then yes I believe that the manufacturer should not be liable for such damage.

This may seem like an esoteric point, but I believe it is an important one in the age of technology to fully understand.

Of course the counter argument would be that even the process of rooting the tablet, even if it consists of copying only one small file to the system, is considered a form of damaging/tampering with the functionality of the system.  But the basis behind such “functionality” is to provide a device which has the owner locked-out and forces them to e.g. endure ads on their device.  So the question comes down to to what extent manufactures will try to force upon their customers ads or other undesirable content.

Unfortunately we do not have true competition.  We have what are similar to monopolies by a small handful of very major media and device companies, so they could easily restrict their content in draconian ways and force it to work on only a small number of sanctioned devices.  They could lock out competing devices which gave users the choice to customize their device and hence customize the content they pay for.  This is what the real war is about.

This is why I believe we must fight for true Internet/content freedom (neutrality is only part of it).  Even the telephone network should be open access to all conforming equipment which wants to utilize/access it (we have paid for the phone networks with our money).  And we must fight for device freedom (openess) and also software freedom and open standards.  This is one major reason why I think the modern Internet business culture is profoundly misguided.  It is a major departure from the original vision of the Internet when private companies attempt to control and monopolize technological niches for profit rather than develop the best technology possible using open standards.

Internet entrepreneurs who cash in on this greed only betray freedom.


On or around 11 January 2011 Verizon pushed an update to the Galaxy Tab.  If you select to download the update and go to Settings -> About Device -> System updates you will see the following:

Android System Update

Downloading – 351.0 MB

This Software Update for your Galaxy Tab 10.1 by Samsung includes new widgets, features, enhancements and more. Please remove any shortcut or widget link from any home screen prior to updating your device. You will be unable to use your device for the duration of the install, which is expected to take 6 to 7 minutes, but could take longer. For more information, please visit

After this update installs Superuser will stop working and it will be necessary to repeat steps 2 – 6 above.


Major credit goes to user bmyton on forum thread “Verizon 4g LTE Tab – Netflix Working.  This article basically reiterates his information.  I am creating this page to help disseminate this info and hopefully make more happy Galaxy Tab users.

Future Android Updates

If you are unhappy that Samsung is indeterminate about wanting to keep its Galaxy Tab line updated with the latest Android updates, let them know.

Quark stars and quark super nova

Was reading today about the concept of “degeneracy” for various subatomic particles, which among other things explains the properties of white dwarf stars (electron degeneracy) and neutron stars (neutron degeneracy).  Mention was made in the article about quark stars – a hypothetical type of star that basically consists of quark matter bound by gravity (instead of by the strong nuclear force as quarks normally are), as a result of quark degeneracy.

This is extremely weird and there are no established instances of such stars if they exist, although the article mentions there are a couple of candidates which have been observed by Chandra.

Mention is also made of the possibility of quark nova which, if they occur, would be the most powerful explosions in the universe.

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