September 20-30, 2004
Last week long time reader and valued contributor, Derek, sent THOCBDC a description of a novel way to open a bottle of wine that had been sealed with a real cork or a synthetic cork.
I forwarded this description to the Publishing House of Donald A. Bull (PHODAB) for their professional comments. Mr. Bull replied in his own pen:
"Where's the patent application drawing? !!!"
For many years there has only been one real alternative to the purely mechanical cork removing device (*). Aside from knocking off the top of the bottle with a saber or decapitating it with a nicely aimed jacketed slug from a 9mm; or banging the butt of the thing against a tree in hopes that the cork will be dislodged by some internal tsunamis ... (all of which are inconvenient and unlikely to work) ... the only other gentlemanly way of getting at the contents of the bottle without using surgical steel has been by the employment of compressed gas.
Most of these not-so-new-fangled devices inject air or some other gas into the bottle via a pointy hollow needle. When the pressure inside the bottle reaches a critical point either the bottle explodes ... (and all is lost) ... or the cork is expelled. Since some synthetic corks are extremely reluctant to loosen their grip on the throat of the bottle there is a nasty chance that the container will be the first thing to 'go'. Then you, wine lover, are left with spilled claret and shards of glass ... and, perhaps some nasty wounds.
Now there is another way.
The Van Gleesen Cork SuckerTM does away with sharp needles and highly compressed gases ... and the dangers that go with them. By the clever use of wires, gears, motors, electricity, hoses, switches and pulleys, the Van Gleesen Cork Sucker allows the wine connoisseur to place his bottle upright on any flat surface; he then slips the mouthpiece of the Van Gleesen Cork Sucker over the neck of the bottle; after ensuring that the machine is plugged into a 240 watt outlet our wine drinker need only turn the toggle switch from "off" to "on".
As the powerful bits inside the machine spin faster and faster the cork knows nowhere to go but UP. Even the most recalcitrant stoppers cannot resist the powerful sucking action of the Van Gleesen. The manufacturer claims that 99% of all corks will have been slurped free of the bottle's neck by the time that the machine has reached only 15% of its sucking strength.
If in the one-in-a-billion chance that the Van Gleesen reaches 60% of its sucking power without having disgorged the cork, an eighty decibel siren will shriek and red strobe lights will flash. "ALL OCCUPANTS SHOULD THEN LEAVE THE ROOM", will scream from a Lotus approved speaker. And, if the analog dial ever reaches 75% the makers of the machine wag wisely that there will be a disastrous decompression of the bottle. It, and any odds and ends lying about the immediate drinking place will be ingested by the whirling workings of the Van Gleesen.
The patent holders of the machine sternly warn: "DANGER: Should there be an implosion due to the destruction of the blocking element (e.g., bottle) any continuous running at a 100% load on the Van Gleesen's machinery will allow this total vacuum to take a terrible toll (the Van Gleesen vacuum is even emptier than that found in the deepest parts of the universe). At that point everything within a radius of 3000 meters will be sucked into the machine. All of the composite atoms of the in-sucked things will be so commingled that rendering their separation will be impossible."
(*) These mechanical things are corkscrews ... well, mostly. But, there are other sharp things that attempt the same end: hooks and blades are less favored.
PS: The Van Gleesen engineers are working on a gravity concentration machine. By capturing a small bit of gravity from a large surrounding area (several square kilometers) their device would allow the wine buff to employ nature's own best kept secret to extract his cork. Of course, the bottle would still be permitted to stand on its end ... as the gravity concentrator could be aimed in any direction.
Good grief! Apparently the Van Gleesen Cork Sucker may be in trouble ... well, at least its makers may have a patent problem. This morning I received the following e-mail from Don Bull. Don was president of the company that made the Goodway VAC-1 Cork Gobbler.
It looks like Van Gleesen may be infringing on the Goodway VAC-1 Cork Gobbler patent. I have attached a photo of Goodway's product. Please note that this unit is superior to the knock-off in that it has a lifetime Stainless Steel Tank, a carry handle, 2 swivel caster and all-weather rear tires. It also has an automatic shut-off valve that senses when the cork has been gobbled so that the contents of the bottle are not sucked out.
You report "The manufacturer claims that 99% of all corks will have been slurped free of the bottle's neck by the time that the machine has reached only 15% of it's sucking strength." Will the Van Gleesen suck the contents of the bottle out too?
Do you think there are grounds for a patent infringement suit? Has Van Gleesen sold enough of his units and raised enough cash to make it worthwhile? I don't think Goodway would want to waste time and money on attorneys if Van Gleesen is broke and can't pay a settlement anyway.
This whole affair really sucks.
PS: Don followed through with some dangerous pictures ... of what might happen should the 'suckers' be used improperly.
After my last message to you, I began to wonder about the validity of even the Goodway Vac-1 Cork Gobbler patent. Couldn't one just take any vacuum and accomplish the same thing? Was there anything really earthshaking about the Goodway patent? Was the Cork Gobbler really patentable? Was the Van Gleesen really patentable?
I went to my wine cellar and selected a bottle of Old Fart Red:
I then took my super high powered suction central vacuum system with all-in-wonder gulper nozzle in hand:
The result was:
We often hear "Don't try this at home." I think it would be good to forewarn your readers!
From ever observant Derek:
I spotted something on your latest mechanical cork sucker and zoomed in to see what it was.
I wonder if Bull's Goodway VAC-1 Cork Gobbler patent has experienced similar unhealthy uses.
American losses in Iraq took 20 months to reach the number of confirmed dead in Haiti caused by Jeanne's one day blow ... and, if you count the missing in Haiti, the American fatalities in Iraq might not nudge that number until the next New Hampshire primaries.
Jeanne leaves more than 1,070 dead in Haiti
At least 1,000 more are missing in Caribbean nation
Wednesday, September 22, 2004 Posted: 11:30 PM EDT (0330 GMT)
GONAIVES, Haiti (AP) -- Workers used dump trucks to empty more than 100 bodies into a 14-foot-deep hole on Wednesday -- the first mass grave for the more than 1,070 flood victims of Tropical Storm Jeanne. Bystanders shrieked, held their noses against the stench and demanded that officials collect bodies in waterlogged fields.
The government late Wednesday said up to 1,250 people were still missing and that the death toll could rise to 2,000 people.
Dinner with Watcharee and Pom:
Watcharee, Pom, Golf and one of Watcharee's friends 'crash' a wedding photograph at the Shangri-La Hotel.
Yikes! (if true):
Fear over human link in bird flu
Monday, September 27, 2004 Posted: 12:41 AM EDT (0441 GMT)
BANGKOK, Thailand (Reuters) -- Thai and international health officials are holding an emergency meeting to review a case in which there is a "very remote possibility" bird flu was passed from human to human, a senior WHO official said.
"It was a preliminary suspicion," Dr Kumara Rai, acting head of the World Health Organization in Thailand, said on Monday of the possibility of human transfer of the disease, which has killed 20 Vietnamese and nine Thais this year.
However, the great fear since the epidemic swept through much of Asia early this year -- that the H5N1 virus would mutate, acquire the capacity to pass from person to person and trigger a pandemic in a population without resistance -- was still a long way from reality, Rai said.
"It is still very remote," he said of a case stemming from an 11-year-old girl who died with bird flu-like symptoms in Kamphaeng Phet province in north-central Thailand while her mother was away working.
The mother returned home to see the ailing girl in hospital and died after the cremation of her daughter, who never was confirmed to have had bird flu.
However, an aunt the girl lived with did catch bird flu from carcasses of dead chickens she was disposing of, Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan told reporters.
"Three lab results have confirmed this patient has H5N1. She had direct contact with the disease while disposing of chicken carcasses with her niece," Sudarat said. The aunt had recovered.
All known victims of the H5N1 virus have caught it from direct contact with diseased fowl.
WHO and Health Ministry officials met to review the case as the ministry held a meeting of directors of all state-run hospitals to review bird flu procedures.
"We have been instructed to go on 100 percent alert," said Health Ministry spokeswoman Nitaya Mahaphol.
"We are recruiting health volunteers in every village in Kamphaeng Phet to keep a close eye on people down with colds or flu," she said.
"There are over 1,000 villages in Kamphaeng Phet. These private volunteers will report any suspicious case to the ministry and their samples would be sent for screening tests."
Experts dampen bird flu fears
Monday, September 27, 2004 Posted: 2:29 AM EDT (0629 GMT)
BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- -- International health officials at an emergency meeting in Bangkok Monday said there is no evidence that bird flu has been passed from one human to another.
At the same time, Thai Health Ministry spokesman Nitaya Mahapol said a woman is the second confirmed case of the virus in the country's current outbreak, which surfaced in July.
As a result, hospitals and health officials across the country have been put on high alert to monitor any return of the disease -- the H5N1 strain of the virus.
Suspicion of person-to-person transmission emerged after members of the same family showed signs of bird flu in the country's north-central province of Kamphaeng Phet.
A committee comprised of representatives from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and Thai Health Ministry officials has been formed with the sole purpose of monitoring any potential human-to-human transmission, Nitaya said.
Earlier this year, the bird flu ravaged Asia's poultry industry and jumped to humans in Vietnam and Thailand, killing 24 people. About 100 million chickens across the region were slaughtered to halt its spread.
Thailand, the world's fourth-largest chicken exporter, slaughtered more than 40 million birds in its bid to eradicate the virus earlier this year. The virus killed eight people in that episode.
Construction across from the Siam Interchange Skytrain station is really soaring. The last time (*) I took some photos of the area the workers were still working on the underpinnings.
(*) The earlier photos are around here someplace but I don't know where I GOOGLED them ... well, you know what I mean: the traditional search words don't seem to come up with anything showing the construction in its early days. ... Wait, here it is!
Packing for Florida ... see you in about 48 hours ...
PS: My "Whew!" was a little premature. But, that is not why we are going to Florida.
Thais Report First Person-to-Person Case of Lethal Avian Flu
By KEITH BRADSHER
Published: September 28, 2004
BANGKOK, Sept. 28 — A 26-year-old woman who cradled her dying daughter in her arms for 10 hours at a hospital in northwestern Thailand, and later fell sick and died herself, has now become the subject of a hurried medical investigation across several continents.
Thai health officials confirmed today that the mother died of A(H5N1) avian influenza, and said that she probably contracted the disease from her 11-year-old daughter while caring for her. They labeled the mother's case as the country's first probable instance of human-to-human transmission of the lethal influenza strain that has swept east Asia, killing millions of birds and 29 people, 28 of whom are believed to have contracted the disease directly from fowl.
Door to door ... from our apartment in Bangkok to our house in Fort Lauderdale ... it took us exactly 30 hours and 30 minutes. Twenty-one of those hours were in the air: from Bangkok to Frankfurt and then from Frankfurt to Miami; both flights were on Lufthansa. One hour was passed at the Senator Lounge at BKK ... four hours were a forced killing at the Senator Lounge in FRA ... and two hours were wasted going through US Immigration at MIA. The balance was made up on the road.
Of course we did all of this to be close to tonight's Great Debate.
PS: Hurricanes ... flu ... hurricanes ... flu ...
Thaksin: Wipe out bird flu or face sack
BANGKOK - Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday ordered his ministers to wipe out bird flu by the end of October and warned that they would be sacked if they failed.
The orders came at an emergency meeting with provincial governors, who were summoned to Bangkok a day after Thai authorities and international experts confirmed a probable case of human-to-human transmission of the virus.
While the case appeared to be an isolated one, it prompted Mr Thaksin to crack the whip in an effort to put an end to the outbreak, which has killed 10 people in Thailand this year and another 20 others in Vietnam.
'The government will wage a war on bird flu... because it is a big problem that sparks fear both domestically and internationally,' he said.
'By Oct 31, we must be able to declare there is no more bird flu in Thailand.'
The Premier, who had declared 'wars' in the past on drug trafficking, corruption and software piracy, ordered the governors to launch a house-to-house census of chickens, assume every dead fowl was a bird flu fatality, and cull birds ruthlessly wherever the deadly H5N1 virus was detected.
Confidence in Thai poultry, tourism and food safety would be damaged if the campaign failed, he warned.
'Should there be a Cabinet reshuffle, a few people, including the deputy prime minister, agricultural minister and health minister... will be moved out.'
But deputy prime minister Chaturon Chaisang said yesterday the problem would probably take three to five years to bring under control.
He told a radio station. 'There are no fences along borders of countries in Asia to block migrating birds. As long as the disease persists in China, Vietnam and Malaysia, Thailand won't be able to get rid of bird flu and vice versa.'
Migratory wildfowl are thought to spread the virus. Among the measures the Thai authorities have taken are a ban on raising chickens and ducks in open air farms, providing more testing and isolation facilities for government hospitals.
But some economists believe Thailand's poultry industry, which last year was the world's fifth largest exporter of chicken and chicken products, would never fully recover from the bird flu outbreak.
A Thai woman who died on Sept 20 from the H5N1 strain in Nonthaburi province was probably infected by her daughter, the Thai Health Ministry and World Health Organisation said on Tuesday.
Her death was the first case on record of probable human-to-human transmission. For the virus to become a public health threat, it must be passed from person to person, not from bird to person.
'The hope is this is an isolated cluster,' Dr Robert Webster, an influenza virologist at St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, told the Washington Post.
'If it goes to a second round from this family, then we are in trouble.'
--Straits Times 2004-09-30
Next: October in Florida