TO AT&T: “I have no dial tone.” If too big to fail, should it be allowed to exist? Robots on the march. And other important matters.

Chaos Manor View, Sunday, September 4, 2016

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide.

James Burnham

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983

Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.



I’ve actually been getting some work done, but I’ve also been engaged in monkey motion because of the new ATT&T system. It didn’t help that I seem to brought back about seven different varieties of common cold or mild influenza from Kansas City. I’ve pretty well shaken them off – I no longer have that ache all over feeling – but I admit to doing a lot of funking out and reading old Nero Wolfe stories.

My problem with AT&T can be stated in a few words: on my cell phones the service fades in and out over time, from never more that three dots, generally only one, and all too frequently zero, which still sometimes permits a call, or worse it says on my iPhone, “no service”, and really means it. My wife’s old fashioned flip phone has the same kind of service – erratic fading to zero – but her phone doesn’t give her information. It just works or it doesn’t, and all too frequently, it doesn’t.

This bad wireless service has been a problem for decades, and I dealt with it by buying a mini-tower from AT&T; that worked like a charm for years, but then it stopped working, and I’ve lost all record of how to use it. This problem I can solve: I just take the Mini-tower to an AT&T Store and tell them to make it work, and if they can’t, I buy another. It will shoot a morning, but it can be done.

Because cellphone or wireless service is so erratic in this part of Studio City, I have always had a landline. At one point I actually had five of them, including a kind if primitive high speed digital preview of ISDN which I used for broadcast radio back in the days before the Internet. I couldn’t get actual ISDN. We are three hundred feet beyond the distance allowed to the switch.

But the landline always worked. Back before they got clever and broke up the old AT&T, the two things you could count on from the SAT&T Regulated Public Utility: arrogance for the clerical staff, and dial tone. If you ever lost dial tone, it was likely that all your neighbors had as well. If it was only you and you could use a neighbor’s phone to report it, you were never more than one day without dial tone, and more usually only an hour or two would go by before an AT&T truck pulled op in front of your house and a very competent technician fixed the problem, generally without cost. AT&T might be hated for its attitude, but by gum they got you dial tone.

They broke up AT&T, but the parts kept merging, and eventually someone put enough of them together to be able to call itself AT&T. Of course it no longer had or supported Bell Labs, AKA the Basic Research Institution for the human race, but that’s not all it had lost: Gone, too, was the basic mission of “we always give you dial tone.” There are a few of the old AT&T people who remember that era, but most have died out; and their replacements apparently don’t care.

In my case, my problem is that I have no dial tone, and I have no way of getting AT&T to acknowledge they know that. I go on line and it tells me, if I have no dial tone, disconnect everything and wait five minutes “to let the line clear.” Did that. Another tells me to go to the box outside and connect a working telephone and listen for dial tone. The Phone Company put a big cable tie around that box so I cannot open it.

I need help. I tried 611 calling on my cell phone. So has my wife. The result is invariant. I get a person who tells me my cell phone is fine. I say I want to report a landline without dial tone. Considerable conversation about who I am and what number I want to report takes place. Eventually this person, probably in Bombay, says she can’t do anything but she’ll connect me to someone who can, please hold. Then nothing no matter how long I wait. Now it may be that the cell phone irregularity has something to do with this, but it happens every time. Every dadgummed time.

If anyone knows a way to report NO DIAL TONE to AT&T, please let me know. I thought of going to the AT&T store on Ventura, but Roberta called them and they said there is no one they can notify. I saw an AT&T Service truck as we were on the way to church this morning, but we were late and I didn’t see it on the way home after we left church for breakfast. Come Tuesday, I may just go out and hunt one down. Or go to the AT&T store and sit there with a sign saying NO DIAL TONE or something similar.

If any AT&T execs read this, I have NO DIAL TONE on an AT&T landline. Attempts to dial the number produce the illusion of ringing to the caller, but my phones never ring. If I answer while it is “ringing” to the caller, I hear a sort of buzzing noise in the phone I answer with. After 20 rings I hear a robot tell the cell phone that the number you are calling is unavailable. I cannot test the NIB because the AT&T tech put a cable tie around the outside box; and how would I know if the test phone I was trying it with works anyway?

I HAVE NO DIAL TONE. I cannot find a way to report that.


Aside from the AT&T nonsense, and recovering from seven kinds of flu, I am getting back on track. Thursday was entirely devoured by locusts, including a no charge visit by reliable Mike Diamond to root out the sewer pipe which was causing my toilets to overflow. Distracting. Friday the flu got me. Friday and Saturday were used in vain and frustrating attempts to report the landline had no dial tone. It’s now Sunday afternoon and Labor Day is tomorrow.

There’s a great deal of mail, some important, and I need to do an essay on the essence of America and The Melting Pot.


The Indianapolis: Men of Courage

Starring Nicholas Cage

The trailer doesn’t say how much might have been taken from Jack Chalker’s historical fiction novel of the event, The Devil’s Voyage. Hopefully a lot, but probably none, since they didn’t use his accurate but melodramatic title. Those of my age will recall the discussion of the loss of Indianapolis – not mentioned by name – in the infamous move Jaws.

(Jack’s book ended with the speculation that chain of events which lead to the discovery of the Manhattan Project – and a suggestion that the Russians warned the Japanese about the Indianapolis – was a Russian spy finding out about the government’s investigation of Astounding Science Fiction magazine in 1942 for Cleve Cartmill’s story Deadline, and Robert Heinlein’s Solution Unsatisfactory, both of which feature a fictional Manhattan Project-like secret program to develop nuclear weapons.)


He also, more frivolously, sends this, for those who prefer nerdish jokes:

Subj: T-shirt spotted at Staples

I can see your graph paper. You must be plotting something.




People who were doing actual work, contributing to their economy, were forced away so that twenty of the most elite could have the entire city to themselves to bloviate and do nothing to actually contribute to an economy.
The fact that they forced people out of the city and filled the space with security personnel is telling all by itself.  They are frightened of the population whose wealth they have stolen.

China’s Xi warns against ’empty talk’ as G20 summit opens

Ben Dooley

AFP – AFP – ‎Sunday‎, ‎September‎ ‎4‎, ‎2016

Leaders of the world’s biggest powers met Sunday to try to revive the sluggish world economy, with their host Chinese President Xi Jinping urging them to avoid “empty talk”.

It is also reliably reported that every prostitute within ten kilometers of the meeting and where the delegates staying was banished, to be replaced by state agents who are trained in the arts of  honey-pot. This would be a technique long in use by the GRU and KGB, so hardly surprising, except the Chinese employ it with amazing efficiency.


EM Drive
Dear Dr. Pournelle:
You’ve mentioned several times that the controversy over the drive could be settled easily enough if someone would test it. It looks like someone was listening.

Tim Scott

There are many reports that the test results merit publication. Extraordinary results require extraordinary evidence, said Descartes (and Carl Sagan); perhaps we are seeing that. More when I learn more. I am still dubious but hopeful.


As the bear moves so does the dragon:


In early August, Japan’s Coast Guard witnessed an unconventional Chinese assault on its territorial waters. According to Japanese officials I met with last week, at least 300 Chinese “fishing vessels”

began incursions into the exclusive economic zone around the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, disputed territory administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan as well.


And Japan is keeping the British in business:


Tensions in the South China Sea have led Japan to splurge on British-made hardware to prepare for a confrontation with China.

Recent saber-rattling by North Korea has also given Japan cause to restock its armory.


◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


The Ignorant Generation

Dear Jerry:

“Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system – it is its crowning achievement. Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts ­ whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about ­ have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings.”

From Patrick Deneen’s essay “How a Generation Lost its Common Culture” at

Best regards,

–Harry M.

Crowning achievement, to have sown the wind…


Amazon jet delivery service

A good article. I think your comments on too big to fail is too big to exist really applies here. Just as Walmart destroyed the mom and pop stores in small town America and now, due to obsession with profit over everything else, is letting their giant stores become crime magnets and slums, Amazon may do the same thing to all other retail business and even the shipping business.

I think what Amazon has done to the book business is fantastic, especially for authors, but books are something that lend themselves to online sales. For many of the things Amazon sales, you need to see it in the real world first to evaluate whether you want it. That need leads to shop locally and buy online which destroys the local retailers who have to pay for the stores and still loose the sale.

I don’t want to see Amazon stop innovating, but I do think our existing anti-trust laws need to be enforced. If Sherman anti-trust does not apply here, then we the country need to start talking about the situation.

Phil Tharp

Agreed that the existing laws ought to be enforced; whether we need new ones is clear. What they should be is not so clear. Bezos has said he has no intention of absorbing FedEx. But as a general proposition, I think there must be limits to growth, particularly in vital services; and I think the “growth” fetish is very dangerous. I see no need for Hersey to “grow”. It makes a profitable and very satisfactory product; why the pressure to “grow”? I could name many other such products.

Unlimited Capitalism sees no value in stable communities.


Professors tell students: Drop class if you dispute man-made climate change



This summer of 2016, excavations led by Nicholas Conard at the Hohle Fels Cave in the Swabian Jura in Germany have, once again, yielded an extraordinary find: a 40,000 year old tool, made of mammoth ivory, which served to make ropes. The implications of this find are invaluable…



How to get rid of your beer belly

Obese people will be routinely refused operations across the NHS, health service bosses have warned, after one authority said it would limit procedures on an …

Stephanie Osborn

“The Interstellar Woman of Mystery”


This is WAY COOL


A 3-D printing pen for professionals handles special materials, lets users fine-tune work

(Tech Xplore)—At first sight drawing objects in the air has you rubbing your eyes in disbelief and then you realize you are looking at a 3D pen in action.

Stephanie Osborn

“The Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

I think I want one.


just bought two old fluke bench meters

They are 8840A’s from the 80’s. I’m a little over whelmed. Both units are in perfect condition. They look like they are maybe a year or two old, not 30 years old! They both came with excellent printed manuals with theory of operation and schematics! I would be happy to get a PDF version, but they are real manuals that make sense and are easy to use.

And they were made in the USA.

I don’t know who convinced Agilent (to us old guys, that’s HP) to move test equipment production to Malaysia, but they should be pilloried for it. There is no excuse for building high margin, long term durable equipment in a 3rd world country. And then, of course, there is the intellectual property theft that goes with it. I bet executives at HP/Agilent/Keysight (or whatever name they have now) are stymied why China is making better and better test equipment. Perhaps it was all the intellectual property that went out the back door of the Malaysian plant Agilent setup.


Made in a time when there were values.


Walmart is cutting 7,000 jobs due to automation, and it’s not alone

It’s not manufacturing jobs that the robots are taking now

But the Walmart decision may be a bit more alarming for those in the workforce. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the most concerning aspect of America’s largest private employer might be that the eliminated positions are largely in the accounting and invoicing sectors of the company. These jobs are typically held by some of the longest tenured employees, who also happen to take home higher hourly wages.

Now, those coveted positions are being automated. The Journal reports that beginning in 2017, much of this work will be addressed by “a central office or new money-counting “cash recycler” machines in stores.” Earlier this year, the company tested this change across some 500 locations. “We’ve seen many make smooth transitions during the pilot,” said Deisha Barnett, a Walmart spokeswoman.



By 2024 half the lobs in the US could be done by a robot costing no more than ten times the annual wage of the person now doing that job. Live with that knowledge.



And on that happy thought I’ll leave you. More shortly.


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



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