close this bookVolume 1: No. 35
View the documentNews -- computer industry
View the documentNews -- information industry
View the documentNews -- NSF postdoctoral grants
View the documentNews -- job opportunities
View the documentNews -- journal calls
View the documentComputists -- Steve Vere, John Dinsmore
View the documentDiscussion -- business experiences
View the documentDiscussion -- back problems; ergonomic furniture
View the documentDiscussion -- CTS; voice recognition
View the documentDiscussion -- health and diet

The decade-old R&D tax credit will expire on 12/31/91, and Congress isn't interested in considering tax legislation this year. The tax credit would cost the government (i.e., taxpayers) about $1.4B per year. One study claims the credit is responsible for 15% of electronics-industry R&D, or $10B/year, but the GAO estimates that the 1981-86 R&D boost across all industries was only $500M/year. [Bert Robinson, SJM, 11/14.]

Apple and IBM still haven't found a CEO for Taligent. David Liddle, president of Metaphor, has instead chosen to become an IBM VP with Taligent-related responsibilities. The top slot at Kaleida is also unfilled, although rumor says that IBM's Nat Cerutti is a possibility. [Rory J. O'Connor, SJM, 11/13.] Rumor also has it that former Apple employees don't want to work under IBM-trained management. This may be an uneasy marriage.

Microsoft, recently estranged from IBM, is now teaming up with DEC as a route to global networking. [AP. SJM, 11/12.] This is better than a soap opera. Meanwhile, DEC and Apple have agreed to sell each other's computers in Europe. [SJM, 11/13.] Cray is also seeking to use DEC's distribution channel. [SJM, 11/15.]

Sun Microsystems Korea Ltd. (Seoul) is Sun's 17th international subsidiary. Korea lags only Japan as an Asian market, and Sun is already the leading workstation vendor there (with 34% of the market). [SJM, 11/12.]

DARPA's next Image Understanding Workshop will be held in San Diego, CA, on January 27-29, 1992. Contact Lois Hollan (, Meridian Corp. (Arlington, VA). [Oscar Firschein (, 11/8.]

Susan Hockey is the new Director of the National Center for Machine-Readable Texts in the Humanities, a joint effort of Rutgers and Princeton. The Center has a $65K grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Division of Research Programs, and $225K from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Susan is leaving a post as Director of the Centre for Textual Studies at Oxford. [The Finite String, 9/91.]

Network Equipment Technologies Inc. (Redwood City, CA) named Bobby R. Johnson Jr. VP of network applications. [SJM, 11/15.] NET uses expert-system technology for analyzing network problems.

Symantec Corp. (Cupertino, CA) promoted Julie E. Bingham to VP of productivity applications. [SJM, 11/15.]

Maxwell Communications Corp. is selling its computer book division to Paramount Communications Inc. [SJM, 11/13.]

Pyramid Technology Corp. (Mountain View, CA) has named Deborah Stanley VP of a new commercial database division. [SJM, 11/11.]

There's a growing consensus that "the network IS the computer." Much future CS research and commercial system development will be in distributed systems and parallel processing. Combine this with object-oriented programming and multimedia databases to get most of the buzzwords for the next decade. These are enabling technologies rather than intelligent automation, but at least object-oriented programming focuses on knowledge representation.

The Object Management Group (Framingham, MA) has released Object Request Broker (ORB), an interface specification for managing object-based requests on heterogeneous systems. ORB will coordinate with a distributed object-management facility (OMF), a high-level class-definition language (CDL) and a run-time application programming interface (API). Both static and dynamic binding of persistent object links will be supported. OMG also has committees defining how applications should talk to objects and how shareable class libraries should be written. The consortium now has 180 members. [Robert H. Blissmer, EE Times, 10/28.] (Need a job? Get the list of 180 companies. And think about joining these industry committees if you want to influence the "real" computer world. Papers in technical journals have only indirect influence compared to the actions of standards working groups. Besides, working-group activities often produce highly visible journal papers.)

The newspaper industry hopes to beat out the Baby Bells for the home electronic information market, but failed to do so during the seven years that U.S. courts gave them a monopoly. The newspaper business spends less than 0.5% on R&D, according to Gary Barker. Gary owns Startext, which provides the Fort Worth Star-Telegram online. [Gary Blonston, SJM, 11/17.] Sounds like a difficult market for AI services, but who knows? If newspapers don't know the technology, they may need consultants and project leaders. And if they won't pay for R&D, they may be willing to buy existing software.

In V1 N32, I repeated a rumor that Ameritech would soon own Dynix, a library automation firm. Paul Sybrowsky, the president of Dynix, vigorously denies that they are dealing more seriously with Ameritech than they have with other potential suitors over the years. [PACS-L, 11/18.]

NSF has announced this year's New Technologies Research Associateships, also known as "Postdoctoral Research Associateships in Computational Science and Engineering (CS&E) and experimental research supported by the New Technologies Program in the Division of Advanced Scientific Computing (DASC) and the Office of Cross Disciplinary Activities (CDA) in NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate, in cooperation with other NSF Computational Science and Engineering (CS&E) disciplines." DASC gave out 17 awards last year, and NSF is planning for 30 in an expanded program this year. The purpose is to benefit NSF's High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) activities, and RAs must have access to high-performance computing systems. [John C. Cherniavsky (, CISE News, 11/19.]

The grants can only be requested by unreimbursed faculty members (or by their institutions, technically) on behalf of the co-PI postdocs. Each proposal must contain a training plan. Requests of $36K-$44K total may include $28K-$36K stipend and $4K for discretionary research expenses for each of two years, with half to be paid by the institution. (NSF doesn't care where you get the matching funds -- even if it's from other NSF grants.)

I can provide a copy of the online announcement, or you can get a brochure from NSF DASC. You can also access NSF's STIS telnet database interface, as described in the NSF 91-10 STIS Flyer from (I mentioned this in V1 N3.) You will need forms from the GRESE brochure, which you can get from or (202) 357-7668. Applications are due by 1/16/92, with award announcements planned in 4/92. For more information, contact Dr. Merrell Patrick (, Program Director, New Technologies, DASC, at (202) 357-7727, or Dr. John C. Cherniavsky (, Acting Head, CDA, at (202) 357-7349.

The Technical University of Munich, Dept. of Physics, Theoretical Biophysics Group, needs a 3-year postdoc and several RAs in neural networks and statistical pattern recognition for speech recognition. Profound mathematical background required. Contact Hans Kuehnel ( by 12/1/91. [Joachim Buhmann (, connectionists, 11/13.]

The Chinese University of Hong Kong, EE and CS Depts., needs a research assistant in speech recognition. Contact Dr. Lai-Wan Chan ( by 12/31/91. [connectionists, 11/14.]

USouth Australia, Levels campus (Adelaide), needs lecturers and a senior lecturer in computer studies. Research is primarily in DB, DSS, HCI, and software engineering. Pay to A$56,375. Contact Robert Northcote ( by 12/13/91. [, m.j.o, 11/15.]

Michigan State University, Dept. of CS, expects 8/92 tenure- track openings in all areas, especially software engineering, computer vision, scientific visualization, and parallel computing. Contact Anthony S. Wojcik ( by 2/1/92. [Narayan S. Raja (, m.j.o, 11/18.]

Griffith University (Brisbane, Australia), needs up to four 1/92 lecturers in computing and information technology, especially in information systems, AI, software engineering, and CS. Contact Paul Pritchard ( by 1/24/92. [m.j.o, 11/19.]

Siemens Corporate Research, Inc., (Princeton, NJ) has research and research management openings in its software engineering department. Contact Thomas P. Murphy ( [Michael Platoff (, m.j.o, 11/20.]

UCentral Florida (Orlando) has two tenure-track openings in CS, with research in AI (NLP, KR, or knowledge acquisition) and computer vision (graphics or medical imaging). Contact Terry J. Frederick ( by 2/15/92. [Glenn Martin (,, 11/5.]

The Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs Geriatric, Research, Education, and Clinical Center (GRECC) has an opening for a Ph.D. or MD-level senior researcher in Medical Information Systems. Research in CS (AI, robotics, neural networks, etc.), cognitive science, medical informatics, and other areas will be coordinated with UUtah. Contact Dr. Gerald Rothstein, (801) 582-1565 x2475. [Jerome B. Soller (, connectionists, 11/18.]

The NEC Research Institute Inc. (Princeton, NJ) needs a BS/MS RA in NLP to work in Unix/C and perhaps Prolog or Lisp. Contact Sandiway Fong ( [, 11/4.]

Carleton College Library (Northfield, MN) needs an MLS Electronic Services Librarian, $30K minimum. Contact T. John Metz ( [Eromenos (, PACS-L, 11/19.]

Mount Holyoke College ( South Hadley, MA) needs an MLS Science Librarian for work with an automated library system. Contact Sandra MacFadyen by 12/15. [bgoodwin@mhc.bitnet, PACS-L, 11/19.]

The Association for Machine Translation in the Americas (AMTA) is a spin-off of the International Association for Machine Translation. There are plans for workshops and conferences, resource exchanges, and a newsletter to be edited by John Hutchins. Join by 1/1/92 for the founder's rate of $50. (Regular rates are $65 active, $25 associate, $200 institutional, and $400 corporate.) For information, contact Scott Bennett (; (512) 471-4166. Submit newsletter items to Joseph Pentheroudakis ( [, NL-KR Digest, 10/31.]

Knowledge Representation for natural language processing; Mind and Machines. Additional papers may be accepted for a book in Kluwer's Studies in Cognitive Systems series. Contact Stuart C. Shapiro ( by 11/16/92. [NL-KR Digest, 11/1.]

Blackboard paradigm and its applications; Expert Systems with Applications. Contact Ajay Vinze ( or Arun Sen by 5/1/92. [DAI-List, 11/10.]

Knowledge extraction from text; Heuristics: The Journal of Knowledge Engineering. Contact Steven Lytinen (lytinen by 3/1/92. [NL-KR Digest, 11/15.]

Artificial Intelligence and Law -- An International Journal. Papers will be taken from the 4th Int. Conf. on AI and Law. Contact Donald H. Berman ( or Carole D. Hafner at [AIL-L, 11/14.]

Journal of Intelligent Information Systems: Integrating AI and Database Technologies. Editors are Larry Kerschberg, Zbigniew Ras, and Maria Zemankova ( Submissions to Judy Kemp (

Computer support for concurrent engineering; IEEE Computer; 1/93. Papers may be reprinted in a book from IEEE Press. Contact K. Srinivas ( by 1/15/92. Referees are also wanted, and should contact Jon T. Butler ( [V. Jagannathan (juggy,, 11/7.]

Steven Vere ( is a Sr. Staff Scientist at the Lockheed AI Center in Palo Alto, where he is co-PI for the Autonomous Agent project. Homer, the autonomous agent, is an integrated, mind-like AI artifact functioning in a simulated 2D environment. The agent's faculties include limited natural language communication, temporal planning and reasoning, plan execution and replanning, episodic memory and reflection, and symbolic perception. (See Computational Intelligence, 2/90, and an article on integrated AI in the 12/91 Scientific American.) Steve's research has included inductive learning at UIllinois and temporal planning at JPL, after getting a Ph.D. in CS from UCLA. He also wrote the article on Planning in the AI Encyclopedia.

John Dinsmore (ge2173@siucvmb.bitnet) has done research in NLP, knowledge representation, cognitive science, and linguistics. He has just published Partitioned Representations: a Study in Mental Representation, Language Processing and Linguistic Structure (Kluwer), and has edited The Symbolic and Connectionist Paradigms: Closing the Gap (Lawrence Erlbaum), to appear early next year. John received his Ph.D. in Linguistics at UCSD, then taught CS at SIU-C for 7 years. He also organized two conferences of the Midwest AI and Cognitive Science Society. John is looking for an industrial research position. He is also seeking other computer people interested in business with Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, especially within the Baltic countries.

Citibank has unilaterally upgraded my MasterCharge to Gold Card status, at no charge. I've been with them for years, and my usage has not changed significantly. Might they have noticed that I just started my own subscriptions to Business Week, Inc., and Forbes? Or is it because I've checked off CEO/Owner on various circulation questionnaires? [Nobody's given me a free news-weekly subscription yet, but they've sold my name to others.]

I've started to get mail to Computists International, and a few checks have come in that way. My bank was hassling me about the checks, so I've filed a fictitious name statement with the county court. It's commonly called a DBA, for Doing Business As. Costs $21 here, plus a fee for four weeks of publication in a local newspaper. (I claimed a second name that I hope to use -- only $2 extra -- and it will be interesting to see if I get business-insurance ads for that "company" as well. Claiming the name gives no legal protection until I start using it in business, but it does keep anyone else from registering the name in this county.)

As far as the government or the IRS is concerned, it's still just me doing business out of my home office -- that's why the names are fictitious. I do claim Computists International as a service name, however. (Service names are like trademarks, but apply to ... services.) I haven't seen any reason to incorporate, but Lily (my wife) is concerned that we could be sued if I give out advice. Therefore, note ye well: your career decisions are your own responsibility. I just comment on the world as I see it, and I seldom verify the reports that I pass along. I also make no claim to completeness, as I'm not a full-time news watcher. Important events may well slip by unnoticed.

If I did incorporate, it would be as a Subchapter S corporation. This is treated almost like a sole proprietorship -- what I am now, the default classification -- for tax purposes, but provides corporate protection against personal liability. Protection isn't absolute: 1) if I needed a loan, I'd still have to put up personal collateral; and 2) with a single-person corporation, it would take only minutes for a good lawyer to "pierce the corporate veil" and make me personally liable for my actions. Consultants sometimes incorporate to please their customers, but I'd probably do better just buying errors-and- omissions insurance. Liability would be much more of a concern if I had people working for me.

There's a new alternative, the limited-liability company (LLC). It's something between a multiple partnership (or cooperative) and an S corporation. [Partnerships are typically the least-desirable legal structure, although favored by law firms, advertising agencies, and accountancies.] You get the S-style tax advantages and corporate shield, plus "tremendous organizational flexibility." Only Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Nevada, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming offer this yet -- although 30 other states are interested -- and you take your chances on whether liability limitations would be honored in interstate business. [Jill Andresky Fraser, Inc., 11/91.]

You may hear that repetitive motion disorders constitute 52% of workplace illnesses. Although true, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace-related illnesses are less than 1/25 as common as injuries. Repetitive motion is a factor in less than 2% of reported workplace health problems, and most of these cases are in factories, meat-packing plants, agriculture, carpentry, etc. The 1989 figure was about 2 new cases per 10,000 office workers, vs. 20 cases per 10,000 for other workers. Lower back pain has ten time the rate for office workers, and ten times the cost per affected worker. [Chris Grant (chris.grant, C+HEALTH, 10/2.]

If you have back problems, you may need to spend time standing instead of sitting. (Winston Churchill used a standing desk.) If you also have a sitting desk, beware of back strain when you bend down for a quick keyboard command. One solution is the Tiffany Sit/Stand Workstation, a pneumatic work stand that adjusts from 24.5" to 38" high. It can hold a 43lb monitor, with your CPU held vertically on the floor behind the lift. The keyboard shelf comes with a wrist rest and is wide enough for a mouse pad. $495, Tiffany Office Furniture (St. Louis, MO), (800) 331-6315. [Wayne A. Yacco, MicroTimes, 10/28.]

Lew Neuman (Indiana U.) recommends the NADA-CHAIR, a saddle arrangement with a sling that loops over your knees. About $30; (800) 722-2587. [C+HEALTH, 9/25.] I tried this out, substituting one or two karate gi belts. It gives powerful back support, and reminds you to lean forward and sit up straight. [Curling your legs under may cut off circulation. A footrest helps -- I use a hot water bottle -- or you can get a chair with the seat sloping down. Sitting on the edge of your chair also works.]

Some people like to have the keyboard in their laps. ERGO- NOMIC (Long Beach, CA) makes a lap pillow that holds your keyboard and eases backache, shoulder strain, and repetitive strain injuries. Their Dynamic Footrest adjusts for leg length and chair height, and also massages your feet. (800) 829-895.

MicroComputer Associates (Los Angeles, CA) offers several wrist-support and palm-support devices. They also have a platform that adjusts keyboard angle. (213) 301-9400. Almost any computer magazine or catalog now lists several such devices. The new Mac portables come with built-in wrist rests.

I previously mentioned using a rolled up towel as a wrist rest. It works, and you can adjust the height and width by the way you roll the towel. (Try butcher wrap.) I'm now using a closed-cell foam pad, about 1 inch high. I can't say which is better, but they are different. A pad two or three inches wide is adequate, although six inches can help reduce sideways bend in your wrists. At ten inches, I find that I lean forward and rest on my elbows -- which tires my neck.

Byte (10/91) has an article on ergonomics. PC Week (10/15) had a feature on mice, trackballs, and pens.

Jani Spede (jspede@nervm.bitnet) has written online articles about computer health problems. I summarized her Carpal Tunnel Syndrome article in V1 N26. Two others, which she is willing to send, cover ergonomic devices for wrist problems and for computer- related eyestrain. [C+HEALTH, 10/22.]

The Maltron (England) keyboard has two curved halves, with a space key under each thumb. The Medinova (Sweden) keyboard comes with adjustable wrist rests. QWERTY-layout keys are in vertical rows, shifted so that middle fingers don't have to curve more than outer ones. Return and backspace buttons can be hit with the thumb, and there seems to be a built-in trackball. [Alexander D. Rosen (, comp.human-factors, 7/29.]

The BAT keyboard is a split "chord" keyboard from Infogrip (Baton Rouge, LA), (504) 336-0033. A Mac version is available. [Andrew Dent (, comp.human-factors, 9/4.]

Tom Leathrum ( has written a Mac program that lets you use your numeric keypad for all typing input. You can FTP it from /info-mac/cp/one-hand.hqx on [misc.handicap, 8/19.]

I discussed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in V1 N26. I've now heard (non-authoritatively) that CTS tends to strike professional women, and in their non-dominant hands. Professionals (e.g., typists, pianists, or reporters) do more repetitive motions than amateurs, and this can overcome any remedial effect of good posture or technique. Women tend to suffer more from fluid retention (due to pregnancy, birth control pills, menopause, premenstrual syndrome, and hysterectomy), which exacerbates CTS. Women may also be more susceptible to inflammation. [The Neck Arm Hand Book by Lauren Andrew Hebert, PT.] The non-dominant hand is involved in fewer different activities, and may also be used more in supinated (palm up) support positions that tighten the tendons. Other positions that cause trouble are flexion (bending the hand toward the palm) and ulnar deviation (tipping the hand toward the little finger), which fold the critical tendons against ligaments or bones. Pinching movements create five times as much tendon pressure as do gripping actions. (That's why shears are less tiring than scissors.) [Michael Sauda (sauda@maine.bitnet), C+HEALTH, 9/24.]

Some doctors have experimented with 300 mg/day vitamin B-6 supplements. If the supplements don't work in 12 weeks, though, B-6 supplements probably aren't the answer. If you massively overdose (100-500 mg/day), watch for loss of memory or for numbness in your feet. [Tim Freeman (, C+HEALTH, 9/18.]

There is an operation that can relieve all pain and numbness of CTS within an hour after surgery. One of the ligaments in the carpal tunnel is cut and pulled out, relieving the pressure. (This may cause a permanent decrease in grip strength. [Tim Freeman, C+HEALTH, 10/11.]) Dr. Resnick, appeared on Dr. Atkins' segment of the NBC Today show, 10/10/91, and could also be contacted through the Arthritis Foundation, (800) 283-7800. [Vikki Wachuku-Stokes. Marilyn Everingham (mrln2@msu.bitnet), C+HEALTH, 10/10.]

Snipping the transverse ligament band will not fix CTS in all patients. Robert Markison is a San Francisco-area hand surgeon who has done several arthroscopic carpal tunnel release surgeries. He prefers conventional methods in almost all cases. There is "incredible variability" inside the wrist, and arthroscopic examination doesn't give a big enough picture. Opening up the wrist may show that the actual problem is a couple of inches further up the arm. [Chris Grant (chris.grant) C+HEALTH, 10/26.]

If you can't regain use of your hands, you may need a voice- command system for your computer.

IBM and Dragon Systems have announced VoiceType, an adaptive 7,000-word system for the IBM PS/2. $3,185; (617) 965-5200. [PC AI, 7-8/91.]

Voice Navigator is a $799 program for the Mac. It takes a bit of training, but it does what it advertises. Dan Rasmus ( gives it a favorable review. [PC AI, 6-7/91.]

For DEC's latest in VAX voice and voicemail, see Computer, 7/91, p. 90. Several products are listed, including a specification for multimedia documents.

The address for the Kurzweil reading machine is Kurzweil Applied Intelligence (Waltham, MA), (617) 893-5151.

60 Minutes broadcast a piece on French cuisine Sunday night. It seems that the French eat enormous amounts of fat, especially around Lyon, yet do not suffer heart and circulatory problems. Four reasons were proposed. One was that the French eat only three meals and do not snack in between. [Perhaps foods taken together are different from foods eaten at separate times, especially fat with wine. Or perhaps timing, stress, and social factors are at work.]

Another is that French shoppers are very choosy, buying only fresh produce. [The U.S. system may involve pesticides and growth hormones, early harvest and chemical ripening; manufacturing that hides defective produce; addition of supplements and preservatives; freezing, canning, irradiation, or waxing; several stages of distribution; storage at home; thawing (which promotes bacterial growth); and overcooking. It's as if we were afraid to eat anything less than two weeks old. Japanese 7-11's get fresh sushi deliveries several times each day; Americans buy Twinkies with a rumored shelf life of 13 years. How many Americans know or care that mushrooms lose half their nutrition after four days of refrigeration? I read recently of a cookie business finding it hard to get baked goods into stores in less than five days -- approximately the shelf life of the cookie, until preservatives were added.]

Two other factors were given more emphasis in the broadcast. One was heavy consumption of cheese by the French. It seems that calcium in cheese binds with the fat and blocks its absorption. The same fat in milk will be absorbed and will clog your arteries. Dr. David Reuben, in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Nutrition, blamed homogenization, which breaks fat into small globs that digestive enzymes can attack. Either way, milk is a major danger for people of European descent. [Adults from other races do not drink milk, as they generally lose the enzyme that breaks down lactose. U.S. shipments of milk powder to Africa caused severe gastrointestinal distress, so the powder was used to whitewash houses.]

The other factor is consumption of red wine, which is known to keep platelets from attaching to artery walls. The broadcast came very close to recommending one or two glasses of red wine with every meal, although they couldn't get a doctor to explicitly advocate alcohol consumption. Half a bottle per day, with meals, without driving, was said to be OK. [If you prefer milk, stick to nonfat -- although young children in the U.S. supposedly need the calories in regular milk.]

I doubt that I could get a doctor to recommend Twinkies and Jolt, either. I avoid the munchies by sipping half-decaf coffee all day, with full coffee or tea if I've been up late. [I've got a little cup warmer on my desk that's really great.] When I do binge on snacks, I probably burn them off because of the caffeine. (It's sure not exercise that keeps me thin. I do eat sensibly, though, with a lot of Chinese cuisine.) A glass of wine sipped over an hour or so makes a nice change from coffee, but don't expect your organization to encourage it. Only famous authors get to sit on the veranda and sip sherry.

While I'm on the subject of coronaries, I'll put in a plug for aspirin. I haven't heard any research results lately, but there's a good chance that half an aspirin every day can reduce the risk of heart attack. Aspirin has also been used to treat senility, as it thins the blood and increases oxygen transport to the brain. (I suppose it makes brain hemorrhage more likely, but I'd be willing to take that risk.) Aspirin at the time of a heart attack definitely increases survival rates, and continued treatment with aspirin reduces the risk of a second attack. Doctors won't recommend aspirin prior to a heart attack, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone in danger of gastrointestinal ulcers -- but if you're over 40, you should give it some thought. I've heard that heart attacks are most frequent in the early morning hours, but I don't know if an evening dose is best.

-- Ken