Busy; There Will Be War; Training Your Dragon


Chaos Manor View Monday, April 27, 2015


We had a busy weekend and I somewhat neglected this place, so I have catching up to do. I also got a lot accomplished.

Earlier this month I mentioned that my Panasonic Cordless Phone system (KX-TGE-270) worked quite well, mostly, but in my big old (1932) house the walls were well made, and I wasn’t getting dial tone in the back bedroom with the master station in my downstairs office. There were several things I could have done, but putting the master station (which broadcasts to the five cordless phones) in the kitchen or front hall where it would very likely have worked wasn’t one of them, because the master station requires a landline phone connection and a power source in the same place, and this house has very few such.

For twenty years and more I used a KIE wired phone system, but it is dying and replacement equipment is hard to find, so I bought the Panasonic Cordless system at Costco just before my stroke in December, tried to install it in late January, and have been fussing about trying to adjust it to my new way of life ever since. I wrote some of that a couple of weeks ago, and got:

Panasonic Phone Extender

This extender really helped my Panasonic cordless phone problems:

Barry Margolius

It happened to be on sale at Amazon so I ordered it instantly, and this weekend Eric and I installed it. It’s a small box not much larger than a deck of cards, with a wall lump power supply. I can be mounted on a wall or rest on a table.

The instructions are ambiguous and say among other things that the booster must be “registered”, but that turned out to mean registered to the master station sort of like Bluetooth, which is pretty simple. Better instructions can be found on line.

Once it was registered – that is, the master station and the booster see each other and have green lights – we looked for a place where there was power and the booster lights were green, the nearer to the back bedroom as possible. That turned out to be on top of the microwave in the kitchen. Now we have dial tone in the cordless phone in the back bedroom. It works. Our digits are complete.


Eric was over Sunday, and we installed Dragon Naturally Speaking.  I am part way through tutorial and have not used it to write real text; I am hoping to learn it, and be able to produce considerably more. It seems awkward, but I have never dictated much.  When I first got into this racket Alan Dean foster urged me to learn to dictate: it was much faster than typing.  He has it transcribed; in my case I had the marked mss. professionally typed.  I never studied typing as a systematic skill, and I learned a part touch and part hunt and peck style, which was in fact a lot faster than most writers, about as fast as I could think.  So I stayed with it although I now wish I had taken Alan’s advice. But I am grinding this out today faster than I was doing last week, so it may all happen again – I’ll progress faster relearning to type than I will dictating.  We’ll just have to see.  But I will practice training my Dragon.

Installation went easily enough although the downloading took longer than I expected, probably because we were also updating Precious, the Surface Pro 3, at the same time, and apparently that was the entire operating system and took hours – hardly Dragon’s fault.

So now I am training my Dragon, or it’s training me, and we’ll see.  I am using a Plantronics Gamecom Pro headset, which is ancient but appears to work just fine.  And now it’s lunch time.


Announcing There Will Be War, Volumes I and II, for Kindle and eventually all other eBook sources.


Volume I: http://www.amazon.com/There-Will-Be-War-I-ebook/dp/B00WONO0C0


Volume II: http://www.amazon.com/There-Will-Be-War-II-ebook/dp/B00WOM86I0

These are thirty year old anthologies, but the stories hold up very well, and surprisingly so do the essays. We will gradually bring out all nine volumes of this classic series. Classic doesn’t mean dull. The first Amazon reviews seem very good; I do not know the reviewers.  But I think the stories and essays are still relevant.  The principles of war do not change as much as you might think given the advances in weapons.


I also got this, but I had already bought the Panasonic system:

Cordless phones


The second generation Uniden 900 MHz Spread Spectrum phones have remarkable range, the best of any I’ve ever used. On flat land I’d expect at least a mile. If the base was elevated, say on the second or third floor of a house, I would not be surprised to get two miles or more.

I base this on my experience in hilly land with obstructions, the acid test being when I had my brother in-law put the base in his house, ground floor, at the bottom of a hill. He got in his car and started driving, and the phone kept working. When he got over the big hill and down the other side, and then went into his parents’ milking barn — the basement, concrete, lots of metal piping, tanks, etc.

The phone worked flawlessly — and the distance from the base was about a half mile, with a huge hill in between.

He got back in his car and kept driving, and the connection finally gave out when he got to the intersection, probably another quarter mile or so.

So, if they can get about 3/4 mile range, in a moving car (no external antenna from that “rolling faraday cage”) with a massive amount of earth between the phone and the base, then they ought to work anywhere in your house.

I would think you could probably find one on eBay for twenty bucks or so. Let me know if you’d like me to nose around and get the pertinent model numbers for these phones (they made several in that series — single line, single line with caller ID, two-line, and so forth).

For whatever reason, none of their newer phones have anything even close to that range. I have no clue why, but that’s the way it is. I’ve never heard of any other brands either, matching that kind of performance.




Silver Nanoparticles Could Give Millions Microbe-free Drinking Water

Chemists at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras have developed a portable, inexpensive water filtration system that is twice as efficient as existing filters. The filter doubles the well-known and oft-exploited antimicrobial effects of silver by employing nanotechnology. The team, led by Professor Thalappil Pradeep, plans to use it to bring clean water to underserved populations in India and beyond.

Left alone, most water is teeming with scary things. A recent study showed that your average glass of West Bengali drinking water might contain E. coli, rotavirus, cryptosporidium, and arsenic. According to the World Health Organization, nearly a billion people worldwide lack access to clean water, and about 80% of illnesses in the developing world are water-related. India in particular has 16% of the world’s population and less than 3% of its fresh water supply. Ten percent of India’s population lacks water access, and every day about 1,600 people die of diarrhea, which is caused by waterborne microbes.

Microbe-free drinking water is hard to come by in many areas of India.

Pradeep has spent over a decade using nanomaterials to chemically sift these pollutants out. He started by tackling endosulfan, a pesticide that was hugely popular until scientists determined that it destroyed ozone and brain cells in addition to its intended insect targets. Endosulfan is now banned in most places, but leftovers persist in dangerous amounts. After a bout of endosulfan poisoning in the southwest region of Kerala, Pradeep and his colleagues developed a drinking water filter that breaks the toxin down into harmless components. They licensed the design to a filtration company, who took it to market in 2007. It was “the first nano-chemistry based water product in the world,” he says.

But Pradeep wanted to go bigger. “If pesticides can be removed by nanomaterials,” he remembers thinking, “can you also remove microbes without causing additional toxicity?” For this, Pradeep’s team put a new twist on a tried-and-true element: silver.

Silver’s microbe-killing properties aren’t news—in fact, people have known about them for centuries, says Dr. David Barillo, a trauma surgeon and the editor of a recent silver-themed supplement of the journal Burns.

“Alexander the Great stored and drank water in silver vessels when going on campaigns” in 335 BC, he says, and 19th century frontier-storming Americans dropped silver coins into their water barrels to suppress algae growth. During the space race, America and the Soviet Union both developed silver-based water purification techniques (NASA’s was “basically a silver wire sticking in the middle of a pipe that they were passing electricity through,” Barillo says). And new applications keep popping up: Barillo himself pioneered the use of silver-infused dressings to treat wounded soldiers in Afghanistan. “We’ve really run the gamut—we’ve gone from 300 BC to present day, and we’re still using it for the same stuff,” he says.

The entire article is worth your attention.


How to Attract Female Engineers

By LINA NILSSONAPRIL 27, 2015     nyt

THE figures are well known: At Apple 20 percent of tech jobs are held by women and at Google, only 17 percent. A report by the Congressional Joint Economic Committee estimates that nationwide about 14 percent of engineers in the work force are women.

As a woman with a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, I look at those numbers with despair.

Why are there so few female engineers? Many reasons have been offered: workplace sexism, a lack of female role models, stereotypes regarding women’s innate technical incompetency, the difficulties of combining tech careers with motherhood. Proposed fixes include mentor programs, student support groups and targeted recruitment efforts. Initiatives have begun at universities and corporations, including Intel’s recent $300 million diversity commitment.

But maybe one solution is much simpler, and already obvious. An experience here at the University of California, Berkeley, where I teach, suggests that if the content of the work itself is made more societally meaningful, women will enroll in droves. That applies not only to computer engineering but also to more traditional, equally male-dominated fields like mechanical and chemical engineering.

There is more in the article, but it is clear that the goal is to persuade more women to work in high tech – and presumably high stress – lobs.  Precisely what that does to the human race is not so clear.  If we are to have a bright future do we not need bright people? And if intelligence is in any large part inherited – current theory puts it 50% to 70% heredity – then what will the result be? It’s a deeper question than is usually asked. Perhaps we also need to give some thought to the future.


House of Cards



Jerry, if all of the FUD about AGW (or whatever buzzword they’re using

today) is a house of cards, as you and I suspect, this article suggests that it might be about to come crashing down:


Note that there are three different official records of global temperatures, only one of them shows the claimed warming. Naturally, that’s the one the High Priests of AGW point to, while ignoring the two that contradict their theory. This is not science, this is either religion or politics.

Joe Zeff

As the data become more precise, the faith in the models grows among believers. We know what we have always known: the Earth has been both warmer and colder than it is now, and in fact fairly recently.



Cheaper Robots, Fewer Workers


By Jonah M. Kessel and Taige Jensen on Publish Date April 24, 2015.

This is the first episode in a Bits video series, called Robotica, examining how robots are poised to change the way we do business and conduct our daily lives.

Faced with an acute and worsening shortage of blue-collar workers, China is rushing to develop and deploy a wide variety of robots for use in thousands of factories.

Waves of migrant workers from the countryside filled China’s factories for the last three decades and helped make the nation the world’s largest manufacturer. But many companies now find themselves struggling to hire enough workers. And for the scarce workers they do find, pay has more than quintupled in the last decade, to more than $500 a month in coastal provinces.

Chinese businesses and the government are responding by designing and starting to install large numbers of robots, with the goal of keeping factories running and expanding without necessarily causing a drop in overall employment.

Government rules limiting most couples to just one child halved the birthrate in China from 1987 to 2003. The birthrate then leveled off at a lower level per 1,000 residents than in the United States. So China has lots of workers in their late 20s, but an ever-shrinking supply of workers now entering the work force each year.

The main ages for factory labor in China and in other developing countries are 18 to 24. Compounding the labor shortage for China’s manufacturing-intensive economy is that workers are staying in school longer — much longer. And following a Confucian tradition that the educated do not soil their hands with manual labor, graduates overwhelmingly refuse to accept factory work, except in supervisory, design or engineering positions.

As recently as 1997, China had only 3.2 million undergraduate students. With the Asian financial crisis that year, China began expanding its universities quickly, in an attempt to offset job losses among young people.



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




Busy busy, busy; polygraphs; will our cell phones be smarter that we are?

Chaos Manor View Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Niven and Barnes were over for a story conference, and we went to lunch at Ahi Sushi. Excellent lunch. Our Avalon novel is coming along nicely, and it’s time for me to do some of the work.

Thursday, April 23, 2015 : did a lot of reading and catching up, neglecting this place. I don’t much feel inspired by the news. There is an inevitability to what’s happening in the Middle East. And the European Union has filed a lawsuit against Gazprom for trade discrimination or some such.

Meanwhile, the first two volumes of There Will Be War, my anthology series, is about to be released. The essays are dated, being written in the days when the Cold War was a serious threat. The first two volumes will be available as an eBook in a week or so – final proofing is being done now – and a hardbound print edition of the first two volumes in a short time.


I’m one of the proof readers. I have been amazed at how well most of the stories – it is more fiction than essays, after all – have held up. And the essays on principles of strategy are after all, only dated in their examples, not truth. They are as valid as they ever were.

And I’m working on 2020 Visions.  We’ll have that available in a couple of weeks.



Lie Detectors?

Iran’s intentions could be clarified if the Supreme Leader and/or other prominent government officials had to take lie detector tests

Seriously?   I mean, isn’t the fact that “lie detectors” are as useful as ‘e-meters’, and a voodoo priest has better accuracy common knowledge?

Isn’t this why a fundamental rule of intelligence analysis is “Capabilities, not Intent”?

But considering that Iran has been less than 2 years from breakout for the past 30 years, there clearly *hasn’t* been any intent.

Best regards,

Mike Lieman

Well. that’s not strictly true.  Polygraphs – true polygraph, not the trick kits – with face and hand temperature and accurate measurements of breath and heart rate can give very good evidence of stress no matter how good the subject is concealing it. Inducing stress, and interpreting what it means.  My first job at the University of Washington was as a tech assistant to Dr. Albert Ax, who pretty well founded modern polygraphs. We did extensive studies on veterans at the VA hospital, and Al’s paper on the physiological differentiation of fear and anger was a classic.

Our equipment was primitive – vacuum tubes, 6L6’s not transistors, noise filters, very primitive – but we got results.  Again, interpreting those results is a skill, and takes experience to learn.  Things have got much better since the days of Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) using Wheatstone bridge circuits.

The same is true of Voice Stress Analysis equipment, which I not has gone off the radar, but still exists and I would assume makes use of modern computing power. Whether anyone at State knows of them or pays any attention to them is another story. I wouldn’t know.

Obviously diplomats will develop considerable self control if they stay in service – just as poker players had better if they are to stay in the game  — but very few can conceal all signs of stress from well designed equipment.  I would presume the Agency if no one else is aware of this.



The Internet of things doesn’t — and shouldn’t — exist


An open, fully connected environment is impossible and dangerous, which is why IoT is really a collection of separate networks

InfoWorld | Apr 21, 2015

A highly connected world where devices of all sorts intelligently use sensor data to be more efficient, adjust to changing conditions, prevent or at least flag problems, and optimize performance of themselves, workflows, and even personal health — that is the vision of the Internet of things.

Mobile security: iOS vs. Android vs. BlackBerry vs. Windows Phone

Google’s Android for Work promises serious security, but how does it stack up against Apple’s iOS and

Read Now

It’s a great vision, but despite all the hype in the last year, it does not — and may never — exist.

An intriguing subject of thought.  Yet I can imagine my car calling to warn me that I’m spending too much and will get him repossessed…


EU investigation of Google

the article you quoted talks about Google ‘seizing control of the opensource ecosystem’ from the manufacturers.
It conveniently ignores how those same manufacturers have been leaving customers in a lurch by locking down phones so they can’t be upgraded without the manufacturers assistance (and then not releasing any updates), loading down the phones with unremovable bloatware, etc.
I’m not saying that Google is entirely in the right, but the article was rather biased

David Lang

I posted it because it was interesting, not because I agreed with it. I often do that when I have not thought through a news article. It gets me comments from people like you who have given it some thought.


Intel Compute Stick now available: $149 for Windows version, $110 for Linux (ZD)

Summary:After debuting its PC-on-a-HDMI-adapter at CES, the chip giant is readying it for shipment — and has already delivered the first wave of units to tech reviewers.

By Sean Portnoy for Laptops & Desktops | April 23, 2015 — 05:10 GMT (22:10 PDT)

The concept of a “PC stick” — a processor and RAM embedded into a gum-pack-sized device that can connect to your HDTV via an HDMI connection — is nothing new, but when a company like Intel embraces the concept, a lot more people start paying attention.



A Blueprint for Your Digital Afterlife


We all know that we’re going to die someday. But what happens to our digital life after we’re gone?

A few months ago, a friend’s mother suddenly passed away. Her iPhone 5s was password protected, but no one knew the code. She had recently visited my friend and his family and used the iPhone to take several pictures with family members. Sadly, these are some of the last photos my friend has of his mother, but they’re all stuck on her iPhone.

Since then, my friend has been working with Apple to try to gain access to the photos. As the representative of his mother’s estate, he thought the process would be straightforward, but it is proving to be anything but.



The coming problem of our iPhones being more intelligent than us (WP)

By Vivek Wadhwa April 23 at 8:05 AM

Ray Kurzweil made a startling prediction in 1999 that appears to be coming true: that by 2023 a $1,000 laptop would have the computing power and storage capacity of a human brain.  He also predicted that Moore’s Law, which postulates that the processing capability of a computer doubles every 18 months, would apply for 60 years — until 2025 — giving way then to new paradigms of technological change.

Kurzweil, a renowned futurist and the director of engineering at Google, now says that the hardware needed to emulate the human brain may be ready even sooner than he predicted — in around 2020 — using technologies such as graphics processing units (GPUs), which are ideal for brain-software algorithms. He predicts that the complete brain software will take a little longer: until about 2029.

The implications of all this are mind-boggling.  Within seven years — about when the iPhone 11 is likely to be released — the smartphones in our pockets will be as computationally intelligent as we are. It doesn’t stop there, though.  These devices will continue to advance, exponentially, until they exceed the combined intelligence of the human race. Already, our computers have a big advantage over us: they are connected via the Internet and share information with each other billions of times faster than we can. It is hard to even imagine what becomes possible with these advances and what the implications are.

Doubts are understandable about the longevity of Moore’s Law and the practicability of these advances. There are limits, after all, to how much transistors can be shrunk: nothing can be smaller than an atom.  Even short of this physical limit, there will be many other technological hurdles. Intel acknowledges these limits but suggests that Moore’s Law can keep going for another five to 10 years.  So the silicon-based computer chips in our laptops will likely sputter their way to match the power of a human brain.

Kurzweil says Moore’s Law isn’t the be-all and end-all of computing and that the advances will continue regardless of what Intel can do with silicon. Moore’s Law itself was just one of five paradigms in computing: electromechanical, relay, vacuum tube, discrete transistor, and integrated circuits. In his (1999) “Law of Accelerating Returns,” Kurzweil explains that technology has been advancing exponentially since the advent of evolution on Earth and that computing power has been rising exponentially: from the mechanical calculating devices used in the 1890 U.S. Census, via the machines that cracked the Nazi enigma code, the CBS vacuum-tube computer, the transistor-based machines used in the first space launches, and more recently the integrated-circuit-based personal computer.

He goes on to describe S-curves, which Possony and I described in some detail in Strategy of Technology in 1969. Of course computing technology increases, but you can only compute what you have some understanding of; although data mining may be a counter example.  We have discovered some laws by accident. Statistical dragnets can be useful.  They can also be deceiving.



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.