Friday, 9 January 2015

07:54 – As it turns out, our official low the other night was 6F, tying the record from 1970. We finally replaced the roll-around humidifier we’d been using for several years. We got that one when the one built into the furnace failed and would have cost $1,000 to replace. The furnace guy recommended the roll-around unit and said it was what he used at home. It put about 2.5 gallons (10 liters) of water into the air per day, but required filter replacements a couple times a year that cost $30 or so.

Barbara wanted to replace it with an ultrasonic unit that didn’t require filters, so we checked Consumer Reports and ended up buying this one. Consumer Reports classifies it as a small, single-room unit, but rates it to put out 2.1 gallons per day, which is nearly as much as our old roll-around unit. So we decided to give it a try. So far, so good. The reservoir holds 3.0 liters and on high lasts about seven hours, so the actual output is about 10 liters or 2.7 gallons per day. It’s kept the relative humidity in the house at 43% or higher even during the frigid weather the other night. At under $30, if it lasts even one full season it’ll cost no more than replacing filters in the old unit, so we’ll see how it does.

We continued watching The Great War Diaries on Netflix streaming last night. So far, it’s one of the best WWI docudramas I’ve seen, second only to Black Adder Goes Forth. As always, I find myself wondering how the UK ended up allied with France and Russia instead of its natural ally, Germany. The world would have been a very different place. The UK and Germany would have won the war, the Bolsheviks would have been wiped out and the Romanovs reinstated if indeed they’d ever been overthrown, the US would have remained neutral, Hitler would have remained an obscure laborer, WWII would never have happened, and nuclear weapons would probably never have been developed.


41 thoughts on “Friday, 9 January 2015”

  1. The Great War started out as a convoluted and stupidly managed mess which became a ‘perfect storm’ of lethal circumstances and then quickly went out of control. The British leadership did not exactly cover itself in glory, but the primary blame lies with the Kaiser and the German high command for the ensuing war. The U.S. should never have got involved anyway; Professer Wilson promised American mothers he would not send their boys off to a foreign war and then did exactly that. My paternal grandfather was in that one and never said a word about it that I know of.

    Decent semi-fictional movie treatments remain “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Paths of Glory,” and “Joyeux Noel.” The latter illustrates how a few English and German soldiers briefly left their trenches on Christmas, 1914, a hundred years ago, and for one ‘brief shining moment’ almost derailed the stupidity, but were ruthlessly squashed by mad-dog warmongering officers and politicians.

    Looks like we have one heat-wave day on Sunday coming up when it hits the 20s, and then we’re back to below zero next week. The wind has been howling steady at 30-35 MPH since yesterday with gusts of 45-55. Tree branches and twigs all over the place under a dusting of snow. Tell me more of this “global warming.”

  2. OButwad is coming to my neck of the woods today. Schools in the area the asshat will be visiting are closing early because many roads will be blocked. My route home will have to change because the cretin is going to be in that area and the police will be blocking most of the roads. Apparently the OButwad thinks nothing of interrupting thousands of peoples lives so he can try and impress people. I just wish he would stay home.

  3. OButwad is coming to my neck of the woods today

    Odoosh regularly comes to Vegas which closes down the strip and the airport for hours during his travel.

    Obola is proposing “free” community college for those who “work” for it. I don’t know what “work” for it means, but I’m going back to school since he says it will be for all so skills can be developed. The local CC has an Associates in electronics which I’ve had my eye on. “Free” means we all pay for it, so I’ll take advantage.

    That’s what the Leader of the Free World decides to spend his remaining time on. Record IRS intake for three quarters. Add more free stuff. Who cares? It will all come crashing down on us. Lock and load a thirty-rounder.

  4. Lucky you!

    But it ain’t just ObuttWad; all the imperial presidents do this chit. This particular ass-hat has elevated it to new levels, though; his personal and security entourages rival any of Napoleon’s, Caesar Augustus or Rameses II.

    You will be required to attend streetside, kneel and doff your cap to His Most Holy Imperial Majesty, the Prophet Barack Hussein, many blessings be upon him.

    You wish he would stay home? What is his home? The White House? That belongs to us. More likely a mansion in Chicago while his African and Indonesian relatives continue to live in utter squalor, here or in their countries.

    Just had to uninstall and reinstall the Aviator browser here; it was showing a couple of errors recently and then finally kept crashing. I do not see any option to manually update or for automatic updates. But so far so good. If it had not come back up OK (and it even restored all my bookmarks) I would have settled on either Pale Moon or gone back to using Firefox ALL the time, instead of just for weather and Tube downloads.

    Dark, overcast, 22 and now snowing here. Wind has finally died down.

  5. “The local CC has an Associates in electronics which I’ve had my eye on.”

    Our CC system here is notoriously expensive so I’ll be looking at their STEM AA program and Digital Marketing.

    Either that or their Substance Abuse certificate, haha. I may even teach that one!

  6. Arg, what bloody arrogance, causing huge disruptions wherever he goes. It says something about a country, when the President is scared of his own population.

    Here, it’s not that unusual for people to see members of the governing council (which includes the president) on the train or on the street, just like anyone else. I don’t think there are even bodyguards, unless there some reason to expect trouble. I suppose there could be someone discreet, but if so they are entirely invisible; certainly nothing like the parade of suits and sunglasses you get around US presidents.

    Of course, there are the limos as well, but no roads close just because the president is travelling in the area.

  7. Since I’ll be paying for it, I think I’ll go for an EMT. I’ll have to talk to Barbara about what she wants to do.

  8. “…I think I’ll go for an EMT…”

    I did the Red Cross First Responder/First Aid/CPR thing here last month and am certified for two years. The EMT and Paramedic courses/training are available in the same area but cost some bucks and a significant time commitment.

    As for the other stuff, if I can get it “free” I’ll take a certificate or AA thing at the local CC, but otherwise am already committed to doing web development and FFL stuff online.

    “… when the President is scared of his own population.”

    It’s been like that here since the JFK caper in Dallas. Then stepped up again after each attempt. Even during the War Between the States, the Great Eliminator would walk around downtown Mordor by hisself; ditto Harry S. Truman. The former would give Pinkerton haht attacks with this behavior. And later someone got to him anyway. If someone seriously and methodically went about nailing the Incumbent and was willing to die in the attempt, it could be done. Hell, one hadji suicide bomber; they have plenty of Western/Caucasian converts now.

  9. Well, as I’ve always said, assassinating a politician should be considered just an extreme form of voting.

  10. …and/or free speech.

    It hath stopped snowing here and the pale yellow sun maketh an intermittent appearance. Still breezy and kinda chilly out there, with blowing snow.

    “Winter is icummen in,
    Lhude sing Goddamm.
    Raineth drop and staineth slop,
    And how the wind doth ramm!
    Sing: Goddamm.

    Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
    An ague hath my ham.
    Freezeth river, turneth liver,
    Damn you, sing: Goddamm.

    Goddamm, Goddamm, ’tis why I am, Goddamm,
    So ‘gainst the winter’s balm.

    Sing goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm.
    Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.”

    By E. Pound

    I mindeth not winter; it keepeth the riff-raff away.

  11. The way the Germans scared the British into fighting against them in WW1 was the naval arms race. The battleship race, that is; submarines were more important in the actual war, but wasn’t what the British were scared of before the war. Naval dominance was the most important thing to the British, and they had to spend quite a bit of money to outbuild the Germans. (Which they did, but they didn’t enjoy having to make the effort.)

    Bismarck knew better than to try to compete with the Royal Navy, but his successors didn’t.

  12. Agreed, and it was up to the Germans to recognize that naval superiority would finish them. They did not, and the coup de grace was, of course, the U.S. entering the war near the very end. In the continuation of that war, 1938-45, they again failed to see that both naval and air superiority would end their reich. It’s hard to sustain a multi-front war when your citizens at home are starving to death and being bombed 7×24 from above and you can’t resupply your military.

  13. I always thought that Hitler’s biggest mistakes were:

    (1) Not waiting until about 1945 to start the war, as his generals and admirals wanted to.

    (2) Holding the Wehrmacht at Dunkirk when they could easily have overrun the Brits before they could have been evacuated, which would have allowed Germany to invade the UK successfully and denied the US the UK as an unsinkable aircraft carrier. And all to give Hermann Göring the chance to prove that his Luftwaffe could do the job all by themselves, which obviously turned out not to be the case.

    (3) Declaring war on the US. If he hadn’t, there’s a good chance we’d have stayed out of the European war and focused on Japan.

    (4) Delaying Barbarossa by a critical six weeks to divert resources to Operation Punishment.

    (5) Failing to recognize the treasure that Germany had in its Jewish scientists.

    I think that if Hitler had avoided any one of those mistakes there’s a good chance the Nazis might have won the war in Europe and Russia. If he’d avoided all of them, the Nazis almost certainly would have won.

  14. Either that or their Substance Abuse certificate, haha. I may even teach that one!

    Two guys that got moved in across the bathroom while I was in college could have taught the PhD class. They would smoke weed, drop acid, and sniff ether until they passed out.

    One was a chem major and the other a dealer. They would clean their customers’ weed of stems and seeds, then take the detrius and do a fractional distillation in the bathroom to extract the THC. One time I went to the storage in the bathroom to get my tea mug and found a foul mess in it. The chem major was stewing mushrooms to extract the psilocybin from them. I never used the mug again – studying physics is hard enough without psychedelics getting in the way.

  15. (2) Holding the Wehrmacht at Dunkirk when they could easily have overrun the Brits before they could have been evacuated, which would have allowed Germany to invade the UK successfully and denied the US the UK as an unsinkable aircraft carrier. And all to give Hermann Göring the chance to prove that his Luftwaffe could do the job all by themselves, which obviously turned out not to be the case.

    The escape of the remnants of the BEF did wonders for morale and gave the UK a nucleus of a defense force, but there were Commonwealth forces that could have been brought over to defend the UK, though North Africa might have been lost. However, the Germans had no realistic hope of executing Sea Lion. For one, they had no landing craft. Second, their navy was not up to the task, even if the Luftwaffe had cleared out much of the UK air force. The real mistake in the Battle of Britain was not following up on destroying the radars and the command and control centers for the Air Force, and starting the Blitz on the cities.

    If they had waited until 1945, they might have had more trouble with the USSR, as they would have had time to build T-34s and KV tanks, and to retrain the army. The early start of the war was as much driven by perceived weakness in the West and domestic politics as anything else. (3) and (4) were definite mistakes, although if the Balkans hadn’t been taken care of the British might have landed forces there to try to take out Italy. As for the (5), he wouldn’t have been Hitler if he did that – can’t have Jewish Physics messing things up.

  16. More female Marines fail the IOC.

    I hope the incoming wuss SecDef doesn’t force the Marines to meet “goals.”

    The women came in as Marines and can’t get through the course. Don’t drop the standards just to fulfill some libturd’s wet dream.

  17. Well, my attitude is that if even a single woman on the planet can pass the physical, the physical isn’t difficult enough. The PC crowd are trying to turn what have to be absolutes into relatives. If a standard is that a recruit has to carry a 90-pound pack X miles in Y minutes, the fact that the recruit is a woman shouldn’t change those absolute numbers. None of this percentage of body weight crap or whatever. The job might reasonably require carrying 90 pounds; no reasonable specification would take body weight into account. Ammo doesn’t get any lighter because a woman has to carry it.

    Now, I’ll be the first to admit that right now Mary Chervenak could run me into the ground without even breaking a sweat. But put a 20-year-old me up against a 20-year-old Mary and she wouldn’t be able to keep up with me even without carrying any extra weight. Put a pack on each of us and it wouldn’t even be close. Not her fault. She’s a girl, and girls aren’t built to carry weight. But if the job requires the ability to carry weight, as combat soldiers must, that just means that women are incapable of doing the job. Put her in a fighter aircraft, an attack chopper, or a tank, sure. Anywhere that physical strength isn’t critical. But don’t put her in the PBI.

  18. “Two guys that got moved in across the bathroom while I was in college could have taught the PhD class. They would smoke weed, drop acid, and sniff ether until they passed out.”

    Ditto, except for the ether. Instead of that I did heroin, hashish and then booze for forty years. I could train the PhD graduates.

    On the women in the infantry roles; I just had an interesting chat with the local postmistress, a current SFC in the Army National Guard here with multiple Sandbox tours and 22 years in the Green Muthafucka. She told me that being short and just a little over 100 pounds she can haul the 130-pound pack OK for a while but can’t step up into a truck with it; her legs ain’t long enough and the weight is too awkward. She also clearly suffers from PTSD and I referred her accordingly to my peeps down in the VA in Burlap. She also recently came home to find her front door ajar and a guy rifling through her stuff in the bedroom, with loot on the floor. She did most things right; got her cell open and then dialed 911, but then yelled her name and address and the fact she had a gun and confronted the guy. He evidently thought she DID have a gun and peed his pants and cooperated until the cops got there.

    Unfortunately her gun was in the bedroom and she was unarmed; he just hadn’t found it. But all’s well that ends well and the cops got there pretty fast, she said.

    I told her next time don’t go in the house, armed or not. Call the cops and let them get paid to do their jobs and you live to fight another day. I’ve told my wife the same thing and would tell any man the same thing, too, unless the man is a Delta or Seal operator or SWAT and eats hostile fire for breakfast and is always ready for a hot LZ.

    Also, unlike in some recent incidents; if you ARE armed, and the perp is now fleeing, you don’t get to riddle him like a Swiss cheese in the back as he runs away. We aren’t there yet in this country.

  19. As regards waiting until 1945, German finances were already way-overextended in 1939, and were repaired only by looting captured countries and then continually milking them of resources. To the end of the war, they depended on iron ore from Sweden and oil from Rumania, as well as food from wherever they could get it; self-sufficiency was never an option, and so their financial problems were not something that Hitler could just have ignored. Nor did he; his decision to go to war at that time was largely based on them.

    Not that waiting would have been unreasonable, but one shouldn’t think of it as continuing the 1930s trend on to 1945; far from it. Germany would have had to slow down on rearmament even before 1939 for it to have become sustainable until 1945. And then their opponents would have had more chance to catch up. Hitler would have lost a certain ‘shock and awe’ factor, as well.

    (It’s surprising how little-known this economics is, given how important it was. Tooze’s book The Wages of Destruction is perhaps the best overview, though it gets rather boring in places. The book Strategy for Defeat, of which there are free copies available online, touches on it pretty well, though the main subject of the book is the Luftwaffe, which committed plenty of mistakes of its own.)

  20. “…the Luftwaffe, which committed plenty of mistakes of its own.)”

    Like bombing British civilians and their houses. Not cool, Herman, not cool.

  21. George, Nicholas and Wilhelm were cousins, Victoria’s grandchildren. George understood his job as a constitutional monarch. Nicholas thought that a return to feudal Russia was a good idea, making some sort of revolution almost inevitable. Wilhelm thought that Germany was being denied it rightful place as an imperial power. Since all the good overseas properties were taken he wanted Europe or at least a good part of it. He was also mad, if not psychotic. An interesting look at these characters is “George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I” by Miranda Carter. The resulting war set the stage for the 20th century.

    One really unfortunate result was that the Ottoman Empire came in on the wrong side. The result was that English and French politicians divided up the middle East by drawing lines on a map of an area they knew nothing about and couldn’t be bothered to find out about. We still suffer the repercussions of that stupidity.

    The atomic bomb was inevitable. As soon as the discovery of fission in the Uranium nucleus was published almost everyone thought bomb. The Germans were aware of the possibility of course but thought it would take too long. They certainly were working nuclear reactors but having exiled almost all of their best scientists made several initial mistakes that slowed them down. The same errors were made in the early stages of the Manhattan Project but were quickly corrected. Even the Japanese looked into it but decided that they didn’t need it. Without the urgency of WW II, development would have been slower but I have no doubt that a nuclear bomb would have developed. On the other hand, without the image of the bomb, nuclear power would have been adopted much more quickly and without controversy.

    World War One is probably the single most import event of the twentieth century. It was stupid pointless war and everyone lost.

    “Winter is icummen in,
    One of my favourites…

  22. I have really been enjoying today’s discussion. What I like about RBT’s Journal is that he has a bunch of regulars that have a wealth of knowledge as well as opinion. It helps keep my slowing down mind active.

    Beg your pardon to go off today’s topics, but recently we discussed the Amazon Echo. Well today I got my “invite”. The expected ship date is April 23, 2015 so I conjecture that they are not shipping from a pre-built supply.

  23. “It helps keep my slowing down mind active.”

    Ditto, and esp. good for me ’cause I’m a STEM moron.

    I just looked up that Echo thang and it’s $200? Wow. I wonder how swell this will be compared to their Fire Phone and Fire TV. I like the Kindle but I dunno about Bezos and his product strategy.

    In the local nooz we apparently had a three-car accident on the interstate this morning; a guy went outta control on the icy road surface, notorious up on the ridgeline above this town and the one south of us. He crashed off the road and his wife, following, stopped her car and then got out to help him. A third vehicle lost control on the ice and smacked into the wife’s car and the wife, who is now in critical condition with major leg and other trauma. The husband and the other woman driver were treated for minor chit and released. The Samaritan wife is messed up; not a good call on her part but understandable.

    Those of us who live in this area and drive up on that interstate ridgeline in the winter know to slow the hell down and stay in the slow lane and let the outta-staters and les Quebecois race up the fast lane at 80+ as though it was a bright sunny day with dry pavement. You also do not exit your vehicle on the driver’s side into oncoming traffic that can’t stop in time. On either side of the south- or northbound lanes you have either wet/frozen bog or a cliff face; if you have to stop up there, stay in the friggin’ vehicle, put your hazard flashers on and call 911.

    Every winter up here we see peeps flying up the interstate who then hit ice or black ice and roll their wunnerful SUVs. We also see the pickup truck operators who drive out onto the lake too soon or too late. And let’s not forget the snowmobile operators who swan across a not-quite-frozen pond. That’s a 750-pound machine with you strapped in tight in your heavy winter clothes, homes. Straight to the bottom for ya.

    It’s Darwin Awards every winter here.

  24. I got the Echo email, also. $99 for Prime members. Can it make me a sandwich? Then I’m in.

  25. “Can it make me a sandwich?”

    Yo, homes, dat’s what wimmenz is for.

    Actually I make my own up here; if ya want a job done right ya gots to do it yerself. My favorite is a hot pastrami, piled high, the lean kind, none of that fat and gristle, with spicy mustard, melted provolone cheese, maybe some onion, on a nice lightly toasted Kaiser roll. Or lean grilled turkey breast, with my own kicked-up sauce, some stuffing, cranberry sauce, maybe some lettuce and tomato, also on a roll. Then there’s the tuna melt, the double bacon-mushroom-onion steakburger, and the chicken salad, made with koshered grilled chicken breast and my own mayo blend and celery.

    So the Echo is $99 for Prime rubes, whoops, I mean customers? Hmmm…I see it as a novelty item…how useful can it be…maybe for bedridden or invalids…? Can it be hacked? Etc.

    Oh man, it gonna be in the 20s for the next few days; I best get to stackin’ firewood.

  26. “…nuclear weapons would probably never have been developed.”

    The development of nuclear weapons was inevitable. It just would have taken, at worst, an extra 5-10 years.

  27. I’ll limit my comments to the small canvas of humidifiers.

    We live in the Washington DC area and have more colder days than Bob & Barbara do and also have a two story house with a heat pump unit in the attic and a propane furnace in the basement. It’s only feasible to add humidity via the basement propane unit. It’s also a drafty house, despite — or perhaps because of — being new construction when we bought it in 1986.

    In the nearly 30 years we’ve lived in this house, we’ve tried the standard pad type humidifier, a fan augmented humidifier, an April Air disk humidifier and two steam units. And also a variety of table top ultrasonic humidifiers.

    We are on a well and septic system, with acidic water with high sediment levels. This has necessitated a treatment system with two acid neutralizers and a mechanical sediment trap. Since the acid neutralizes work by flowing the water through limestone pellets, the raw water becomes very hard and part of the treatment plant in our basement is also a softener.

    Hence, any system that vaporizes water has to work with the softened water – which functions by replacing calcium ions with sodium ions. With all the ultrasonic units we’ve used, the result is their internal “hardness” filters have extremely short life and are less than 100% effective. The result is a fine white sodium based dust throughout the house. The only way we found to solve this to use distilled water in the ultrasonic humidifier. This is on the expensive side.

    This lead us to have a steam system installed – a water-filled trough in the hot air plenum with a 2KW heater, warmed up to just below the boiling point. Equipped with an electronic control to periodically back flush and theoretically prevent the trough from mineral deposits. For the first year or two this worked well – not cheap to operate, but it could maintain decent humidity levels. That steam system failed because the backflushing couldn’t keep up with mineral deposits.

    Couple years ago we had that steam system removed and replaced with a Lennox system that heats water into steam by passing 240V AC current through the water directly — inside a disposable plastic cylinder. It also has auto-backwash. The plastic cylinder is supposed to be a user replaceable units — has water in and steam out ports and plug in connectors for AC power and status sensing. So far we are still on the original boiling cylinder.

    From the prospective of delivering steam vapor and humidity, the Lennox unit works very well, but it has a couple of very loud solenoid valves that frequently bang on/off and resonate with the furnace ductwork and can be heard throughout the house. Doesn’t bother me, but the wife does not like the noise at all.

  28. Yes, hard water is definitely a problem for humidifiers. Fortunately for us, our tap water is extremely soft.

  29. Regarding humidifiers, I remind this group that I live in the upper Mojave Desert, not too far from and climatologically similar to Death Valley. Believe it or not, we don’t have much trouble keeping our house adequately humid in the winter time. The only humidification we have is a lot of plants that my wife raises indoors. She’s a plant nut. The plants filter out the stuff that’s in the water so we don’t have any problems with humidifiers. Works great, but it’s not for everyone. She spends some time with the plants, but she loves that.

    Our house is well sealed, so the relative humidity in the winter time actually hovers right around 55 percent, which is comfortable for us.

    We have an air based solar space heating system, so most of the commercial humidifiers won’t work with that, since the plenum temperature is far too low for them. The plants work so well, that we are considering an addition which will have a small soularium or green house full of more plants, connected to the rest of the house. This will serve as a large humidifier, and of course a nice warm space to sit in during the daytime in the winter. Our nighttime temperatures typically get down to the mid twenties in the middle of winter, but they warm up to the mid 50s during the day time and sometimes even a little warmer, with plenty of sunshine. Without humidification, most other houses hover around 30 percent relative humidity indoors, which is way too dry.

    I sure don’t miss the old days of operating and maintaining various kinds of humidifiers, when we lived in other parts of the country.

  30. Ha! I’d like to claim a joke, but alas it was a speako. Huh?

    I have been using Android’s voice dictation, and occasionally miss these little faux pas. The dictation does work surprisingly well, but needs a different kind of proofreading, which I haven’t perfected 🙂

    Dictation also needs a different kind of mental composition, which I need to improve.

  31. Also, unlike in some recent incidents; if you ARE armed, and the perp is now fleeing, you don’t get to riddle him like a Swiss cheese in the back as he runs away. We aren’t there yet in this country.

    In Texas, if he is in your house, anything goes. So, drag him inside before calling the cops.

    And then there is the Joe Horn case where an older man shot two young burglars in the back in his neighbor’s yard while they were running away. He was asked by the 911 operator to not shoot them. The Grand Jury refused to charge him.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Horn_shooting_controversy

  32. I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking sometimes for writing. Yep, the errors that come out of voice dictation are completely different than the errors from typing, and you (or your copy editor) need to retrain your error-spotting skills.

    Aside from the errors, I find as a writer that dictating has a different “feel”. In fiction, the conversations come out somewhat differently if I dictate than if I type, and the descriptive paragraphs come out much differently. Anecdote, not data, but I’d guess that different brain pathways are involved. (At least in me. I had several skull fractures in infancy and early childhood, so it’s possible that my brain doesn’t work normally. I’m sure my wife would agree.)

    I haven’t dictated much non-fiction. I use a lot of non-English words which are more pain than it’s worth to train into the dictation dictionary, or the book is mostly diagrams and not enough text to be worth firing up the dictation software, or I didn’t have a computer that would run NaturallySpeaking. As may be, I can’t say whether dictating and typing give different results.

  33. Always wanted to use IBM’s Via Voice when I was writing a quite a bit, but didn’t have the right circumstances: there were heavy system requirements in those days. So, I improved my typing and composition. I could type about as fast as I could compose, and my accuracy was pretty good. Most of my writing was serious stuff like contract clauses and specs, and there was a lot of review which caught errors. A spell checker with a good add-on dictionary was about all I needed. Now, I am retired and don’t write enough to make use of much.

    I also have a deep appreciation for voice recognition. Worked on a small niche: cockpit voice recognition for military aircraft. That was in the 1980s, and we were severely limited by processing power. We believed that more powerful DSPs would save us in the near future, but we were wrong. We ran some tests under high-g maneuvers, and the voice characteristics changed enough that we couldn’t maintain accuracy, so we gave up. Don’t know if this was ever resumed or successful.

    IBM had a true speaker-dependent dictation system a little later. It came with a double-wide DSP card for the AT bus, and cost quite a bit. It also required about four hours of training, and that is probably what made it less appealing. It was actually very good for those who persevered, but was overcome by lack of interest.

    Then, the predecessors of Dragon shifted the landscape toward speaker independence, and dictation took a back seat. Nowadays, we have both in the likes of Google. I don’t know how much computing horsepower they throw at it, or how their algorithms work, but the results are impressive. It is considered the best example today. I just started using it on my Android phone, and it has impressed me.

    Still, it requires dedication and a different approach to writing. I doubt any other than serious and frequent writers would put up with it. I like it for streams of consciousness, with editing to clean up the results. If I did enough writing, I would start with my phone, and finish up on my desktop computer for final editing: spell checking and proofing.

    We do live in interesting times. Some of our tools do make us better smiths.

  34. David Weber, one of the authors in the Baen Books stable and creator of the Honorverse series, developed problems* that prevented him from typing the way an author must. He switched to dictating to a speech recognition system of some sort. His writing style changed significantly, in my opinion not for the better. Much wordier. However he finds he can dictate at 200 words per minute!

    *(“…I broke my right wrist into 57 pieces. The doctors put it back together again with two plates, twelve screws, and six pieces of wire — to which I have since added bone spurs and early onset arthritis.”)

  35. Weber’s wordiness seems to have gotten under control. The wordy novels were, IMHO, due to Baen not editing them properly. A couple of the “middle” Honorverse novels could have lost 100 pages and been made better. IMO, Baen didn’t want to piss him off, so they didn’t suggest cuts. It happened to Tom Clancy – he got so successful that if he had turned in a book that had 100 pages of a character reading the White Pages they would have printed it intact.

  36. The wordy novels were, IMHO, due to Baen not editing them properly. … IMO, Baen didn’t want to piss him off, so they didn’t suggest cuts.

    That was my impression, too. I stopped reading Weber’s novels years ago because I wasn’t interested in the blahblahblah. Thanks for the tip on later volumes getting better; maybe I’ll take a look if I remember when I have time.

  37. I like Weber’s books a lot, but some of them are pretty wordy. I find myself skimming over certain passages, until he gets back to the real story. In the Honorverse, you do have to like, or at least put up with, some long monologues on his military technology, politics, etc.. For all that, I’ve read nearly everything he has written, and lots of it more than once.

    Supposed to be pouring rain here, so we have sunshine, not that I’m complaining. Weather forecasting around the Alps/Jura is apparently difficult – they rarely manage a correct forecast more then 2-3 days in advance. Today, they just got it entirely wrong, even from yesterday’s forecast. The clouds apparently took a detour on the other side of one or the other range of mountains.

    My wife gave me a tex-mex cookbook for Christmas, so I’ve been trying out some of the recipes. Today’s brunch was homemade biscuits, not from the cookbook, but from here. Man, if I had known that biscuits were that easy to make from scratch, I’d have been doing it for years.10-15 minutes, pop in the oven, eat. My only cheat is that I don’t punch out round biscuits, I just cut the dough into rectangles. That way you don’t have to work it a second time, and who really cares if biscuits are round or square?

  38. We make biscuits here all the time, a snap. You can vary the recipe six ways from Sunday, too. Mrs. OFD doesn’t bother with cutting at all; just drops spoonfuls onto the baking sheet. We also like our Tex-Mex stuff here but the holiday period was all traditional New England Yankee.

  39. I still like David Weber’s books, especially the missile porn. I’ve spent way too much time thinking about his missile designs. But the FTL communications is a little over the top (but still cool).

    But, I pass on his pure fantasy stuff. Just not my cup of tea.
    http://www.amazon.com/Oath-Swords-David-Weber/dp/0671876422/

    His Safehold books have been very interesting. Basically the history of the second or third Imperium in the Dahak series in a very drawn out manner.

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