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Friday, November 10, 2017

The Cargo Cult of Twitter Journalism

I recently read, with great enjoyment, Richard Feynman's Cal Tech 1974 commencement speech.  For those familiar with Twitter Feynman is a physicist (no need to write about the details of what a physicist does as it has no bearing on Twitter).

The jest gist of this speech revolves around a "cargo cult."  From Wikipedia cargo culture "... encompasses a range of practices and occurs in the wake of contact with more technologically advanced societies. The name derives from the belief which began among Melanesians in the late 19th and early 20th century that various ritualistic acts such as the building of an airplane runway will result in the appearance of material wealth, particularly highly desirable Western goods (i.e., "cargo"), via Western airplanes."

Feynman equates today's ritualistic "science" practitioners with the Melanesians (see as an example).

Rather than fully understand what they are doing as they study science instead they merely act as if they were scientists; just as the Melanesians who built runway's expecting planes to arrive with food.

For a long time I have studied the phenomena of Twitter.

Twitter is effectively like communicating with the dumpster diving unfortunate via messages thrown passed through household trash receptacles.

No one actually receives the message as with a letter or even email.

Instead, like a female dog in heat, it's randomly broadcasting throughout the neighborhood.  And you never know what will turn up in response.

So really, then, Twitter if you think hard about it, is sort of like Feynman's "cargo cult of science" except it involves journalists.

From Feynman's speech: "It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards.  For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid—not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked—to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated."

Except today with Twitter it's not just a lack of scientific integrity, but also journalistic integrity, or, perhaps, just basic human honesty and integrity, i.e., there is none.

There is no need for honest speech on Twitter.

No one really cares.

No one verifies anything.

No one has any facts.

No one uses deduction or induction or simple reasoning.

Raw emotion pours out like so much diarreha.

The twitterers simply scream like hungry chimpanzees rummaging through the dumpster of human ideas.

(BTW, I always find ways to post links to these articles to Twitter. I never actually read my Twitter  feed. Instead I merely cast pheromones to the wind.)

Sadly this sort of nonsense now extends to virtually everything you see "published" today, particularly on the internet.

For example there is this National Review article "If You Refuse to Condemn Predators because of Politics, You’re Disgusting (by Katherine Timpf)"

I am old enough to remember William F. Buckley and this sort of National Review content really doesn't seem to me to follow along with what I saw discussed on his television shows in the 1960's.  To wit:

The important thing, at least to me, about the Nation Review article is that it now reads (Buckley founded it) like a front page from the "Globe" or perhaps the "Enquirer" instead of an intellectual discussion of the ideas involved.

You find no real facts.  You see a discussion of a, er, well, about a discussion about tweets.

No (historical) evidence is provide either other than supposition nor is there rational reasoning (think "Feynman").

As to the article:

Everywhere and every day there are victims and their are perpetrators. Hopefully this is obvious.

The powerful exploit the powerless.

It's the reason we have laws here in the US.

These laws draw clear, bright lines around what is acceptable to society and what is not.

Hopefully this is obvious too.

And, at least in the past, we had a free press.  It was their job to elucidate areas in society where things were perhaps less clear.  To cause people to think about what was going on; not to spout rhetoric.

Not to fan the flames over the unknowable or unprovable.

Tweeting does not aid or help anyone - hell you don't even know who is actually tweeting or where they are physically located.

In the days of Mr. Buckley there was a certain hysteresis involved before you were allowed to write for a newspaper or broadcast on television.

Today no more.

(And yes, I am fully engaged in the consequences of the sort of behavior being written about.  I have seen witch hunts as well.  None of these belong in society today.  Yet, by it's very nature, Twitter glorifies them.)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

CASAA Vaping on a Plane Redux

About 18 months ago I wrote CASAA: Vaping on a plane about the dangers of lithium ion batteries on airplanes as a result of a lengthy related forum discussion.  I got into a fight about a CASAA "call to action" where some legislator wanted no e-cigs on a plane.  While to CASAA this may have seemed like a "ban" attempt (and perhaps it was) the notion that e-cigarettes are safe on a plane is, in my opinion, the real issue.

They are not.

Lithium ion batteries, especially in something like an unregulated mechanical mod, can take an airplane down.

My post concludes among other things:

"Unfortunately, though, nothing I wrote above gives me or many others in the world faith that vaping devices and batteries are “safe” in the context of something like an airplane cargo compartment."

Ultimately anyone promoting the use of vapes on a plane (and particularly the baggage checking of vaping devices) needs to understand the associated risk.  As I said in the original post - if there are no batteries in the devices they are perfectly safe on a plane.

Today there is this WSJ article.  It concludes

"The latest laboratory tests conducted by FAA experts found that in extreme circumstances, even a single seriously overheating laptop—packed inside a checked bag next to common but flammable consumer products including nail polish or aerosol sprays—can produce a blaze or explosion capable of disabling typical fire-suppression systems in cargo holds of passenger planes. As a result, safety experts have concluded it is safer to keep laptops in cabins, where a blaze can be identified quickly and dealt with more effectively."


"... concluded that keeping all laptops out of checked bags “is the simplest, most effective and most efficient option for addressing the identified safety risk.” [underline mine]

And recently I received this email from Efest (a vaping battery supplier):

"Good NEWS to you.

Here I`d like to share  two good news with you:

1. Efest batteries and chargers has passed FCC certificate, now all Efest batteries and chargers are authorized with  UL, CE, ROHS certification.

2. Efest batteries and chargers were COVERED BY GLOBAL INSURANCE  from 25th Sep 2017,that means all the orders after 25th Sep 2017 can get insurance.  So you can sell more Efest products without worries.

I`m writing to tell you that we back to work already. The peak season is continue , all Efest products are full in stock, please send me order list earlier if anything you need, we will ship them asap."

This implies safe shipping (as all the Chinese carriers are beholden to US-based carries like UPS and the USPS for shipping into the USA.

The difference between laptop batteries and a mod?  The laptop typically has thousands of test hours applied to its batteries and charging systems.  The mechanical mod you built last week?  Not so much...

At the end of the day CASAA was (and perhaps still is) way, way off base on this one.

The vaping community looks like a bunch of morons for not taking a stand on lithium ion battery safety in the very first place.

(Anyone not know a story of someone's mechanical "burning" something...?)

The FDA and others pay attention to accidents (not just planes but also burns, car accidents, etc.) that relate to batteries and, I assume, accidents in the context of vaping.

Even the Chinese get it now...

Efest has figured out that nobody at Efest wants the NTSB holding up an Efest battery during a crash investigation.

SEVIA, the Chinese vaping association, is probably involved too in some way as they send a lot of vaping equipment around the world on airplanes.

As for me?

I pay no attention to CASAA anymore.

Their time has long past.  To me the sorts of stances they take, this one in particular, make all vapers look like fools; and they are for following along and believing what their "leadership" says.

Making vaping objectively "safer," even if just on the battery front, is, or at least could have been, a useful FDA bargaining chip.

Alas, there isn't anyone in charge, no one to send the check to, no one to take the stance...

It's too late.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

On the Astrological Importance of Vaping...

Attached is a image of the in-process construction of Open Source Power One (OSP-1).

As promised it supports a "deans" connector for RC use (left above batteries), USB power out (lower left, converter lower left on protoboard) for phone charging and 510 top right.

Along the way here I have discovered that the war against vaping being waged by ANTZ and the FDA has some interesting history or, perhaps, back story.

I have been reading about Paul Feyerabend and his comments on "science."

Like Feyerabend I am probably considered "anti-science" by some and certainly for my views on vaping relative to FDA dogma on cigarettes in general.  I find Feyerabend's comments and approach to the history of science and the application of science in "modern culture" quite fascinating.

What's even more interesting is other folks, often considered "gods" of science, are not always out of disagreement with him.

(Be forewarned the discussion below is not for the feint of heart.)

From, no less, consider this (full text here).  It starts out:

"Objections to Astrology - A Statement by 186 Leading Scientists

(The following statement first appeared in The Humanist of September/October 1975.)

Scientists in a variety of fields have become concerned about the increased acceptance of astrology in many parts of the world. We, the undersigned - astronomers, astrophysicists, and scientists in other fields - wish to caution the public against the unquestioning acceptance of the predictions and advice given privately and publicly by astrologers. Those who wish to believe in astrology should realize that there is no scientific foundation for its tenets.  ...[ it goes on quite predictably ].

Before getting to Feyerabend, consider Carl Sagan's (yes the same one that says "billions and billions") response first:

"Response from Astronomer, Carl Sagan (1934-1996), who was invited to sign the statement (underline mine):

"In the middle 1970s an astronomer I admire put together a modest manifesto called 'Objections to Astrology' and asked me to endorse it. I struggled with his wording, and in the end found myself unable to sign, not because I thought astrology has any validity whatever, but because I felt (and still feel) that the tone of the statement was authoritarian. It criticized astrology for having origins shrouded in superstition. But this is true as well for religion, chemistry, medicine and astronomy, to mention only four. The issue is not what faltering and rudimentary knowledge astrology came from, but what is its present validity. Then there was speculation on the psychological motivations of those who believe in astrology. These motivations - for example, the feeling of powerlessness in a complex, troublesome and unpredictable world - might explain why astrology is not generally given the sceptical scrutiny it deserves, but is quite peripheral to whether it works."

One might also consider at this point the placebo effect and it's opposite, the nocebo effect and how they apply here.

Finally here is Feyerabend's comment in full:

"Response from Paul Feyerabend (1924 - 1994), Professor of Philosophy at University of California, Berkeley 

"Now what surprises the reader whose image of science has been formed by the customary eulogies which emphasize rationality, objectivity, impartiality and so on is the religious tone of the document, the illiteracy of the 'arguments' and the authoritarian manner in which the arguments are being presented. The learned gentlemen have strong convictions, they use their authority to spread these convictions (why 186 signatures if one has arguments?), they know a few phrases which sound like arguments, but they certainly do not know what they are talking about.1 

Take the first sentence of the 'Statement.' It reads: 'Scientists in a variety of fields have become concerned about the increased acceptance of astrology in many parts of the world.'

In 1484 the Roman Catholic Church published the Malleus Maleficarum, the outstanding textbook on witchcraft. The Malleus is a very interesting book. It has four parts: phenomena, aetiology, legal aspects, theological aspects of witchcraft. ... "

"The book has an introduction, a bull by Pope Innocent VIII, issued in 1484. The bull reads 'It has indeed come to our ears, not without afflicting us with bitter sorrow, that in ...' - and now comes the long list of countries and counties - 'many persons of both sexes, unmindful of their own salvation have strayed from the Catholic Faith and have abandoned themselves to devils... ' and so on. The words are almost the same as gthe words in the beginning of the 'Statement,' and so are the sentiments expressed. Both the Pope and 'the 186 leading scientists' deplore the increasing popularity of what they think are disreputable views. But what a difference in literacy and scholarship!

Comparing the Malleus with accounts of contemporary knowledge the reader can easily verify that the Pope and his learned authors knew what they were talking about. This cannot be said of the scientists. They neither know the subject they attack, astrology, nor those parts of their own science that they undermine their attack. ...

We see: the judgement of the '186 leading scientists' rests on the antedeluvian anthropology, on ignorance of more recent results in their own fields (astronomy, biology, and the connection between the two) as well as failure to percieve the implications of the result they do know. It shows the extent to which scientists are prepared to assert their authority even in areas in which they have no knowledge whatsoever."

From this, a pretty good summary of the above:

"So, both Sagan and Feyerabend were attacking Kurtz and his 186 not because they were wrong in criticizing astrology, but rather because they didn’t actually criticize it, resorting instead to a medley of ad hominem and irrelevant arguments because they knew they were right. That’s the definition of dogmatism, which, in theory at the least, is not a scientific virtue."

Sounds eerily like the many scientists who endorse things like climate science and the war against vaping.

Doesn't it...

We, the n undersigned scientists blah blah blah...  

I have often commented (here and here for example) on how the will of smokers has been crushed by this very scientific bully you see Feyerabend attacking here.

Modern smokers in general have been cowed by the very thing Feyerabend derides.

Feyerabend taught at the University of Berkeley, California no less... 

I wonder how he would view the Antifa protests? 

I have ordered Feyerabend's Against Method which should be quite interesting.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Shop Owner and the King - A Parable

The Parable of the Shop Owner and the King: "Once upon a time there was a shop keeper who sold food and beverages.  One day the shop keeper realized that if he put the numbers one through ten into a hat people would bet on which numbers would be pulled out and in what order.  The shop owner began making a lot of money. 

One day the king, hearing what was going on at this shop and other shops who learned of this game, realized that he was not receiving his fair share of taxes on the shop owners profits.

So the king decreed that all games of chance should be illegal believing that he, the king, would be able to take over the betting games and fill his royal coffers.  The king then sent his sheriff to confiscate the hats from the shop owners so the betting game could not longer be player.  Then he open his own grand casino, filled with the finest gold, silver and jewels to attract the bettors who used to go to the shops.

But our original shop owner, however, was very clever, and told those betting on the numbers that the prize in his shop would be paid to the first bettor who not only guessed the right number but could also calculate the sum of the remaining numbers in the hat.

The next time the king's sheriff confiscated the hat the shop owner went to the high court and made the following argument: "Oh great your honors, the king has wrongfully confiscated my hats for betting on the premise that my game is a game of chance.  I do not offer a betting game but in fact a game of skill, for the winner must not only guess the right number but also be the fastest at adding and the best at remembering numbers."

After great deliberation the honored judges realized that in fact the shop owner was correct and that, though chance was involved, only a skilled individual could win the prize.  The judges then granted our shop owner an exemption from the kings degree.

But the king was even more clever!

The king realized that as long as a shop owner did not hear of the great court victory the bettors would continue to support the kings casino.  So he sent his minions out to the shops where they told the shop keepers "Do not fear!  I, thou the representative of the king, am on your side.  I will warn you whenever the sheriff is about to call and take your hat so that you may hide it."

The king had realized that once all the shop owners went to the high court and argued that their shop was no different than the original shop owner and hence exempt from the kings decree his casino would have no customers because all the bettors would bet in their local shops much closer to home.


A little over a year ago I wrote about how the general class of air freshener products meet the definition of an FDA "ENDS" device (see link).

Recently I had a discussion about this and I realize I had missed out on some interesting new products.

For example, this air freshener system from Walmart:

- With a Great Value Automatic Spray Dispenser, you will enjoy a room full of the fragrance you choose.

- The dispenser automatically releases a fine mist with 3 timed intervals. You can select the time interval that works best for you - 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 30 minutes. 

Then there is this and this from ebay.

So we discussed what, exactly, distinguishes these items from FDA "ENDS" products?

Certainly not their construction or operation.

And here in Pennsylvania it surely seems like these devices meet the definition of "electronic cigarettes:"

“Electronic cigarettes.” As follows:

(1) An electronic oral device, such as one composed of a heating element and battery or electronic circuit, or both, which provides a vapor of nicotine or any other substance and the use or inhalation of which simulates smoking.

(2) The term includes:

(i) A device as described in paragraph (1), notwithstanding whether the device is manufactured, distributed, marketed or sold as an e-cigarette, e-cigar and e-pipe or under any other product, name or description.

So let's break this down a bit.

The only thing distinguishing these devices from e-cigarettes is either "vapor of nicotine" or "simulates smoking."

Since I currently do not vape nicotine let's skip to the second item...

A google search of "simulation" with regard to the law brings up things like:

1) A "simulated contract" (from this): "Simulated contract, in Civil law, is a contract that, by mutual agreement, does not express the true intent of the parties." - but this requires two parties.

2) A "simulated sale" (from this): "A simulated sale refers to the sale in which no price or other consideration is paid or intended to be paid."

3) And even simulated sexual behavior in various contexts: "(1) “minor” means any person under the age of eighteen years; (2) (A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B), “sexually explicit conduct” means actual or simulated— (i) sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex; (ii) bestiality; (iii) masturbation; (iv) sadistic or masochistic abuse; or (v) lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person;"

But these would not seem to apply here.

On the other hand, these faux cigarettes designed for actors (as in freedom of speech) would:
Clearly I am not simulating "burning" - Wikipedia defines "smoking" as "Smoking is a practice in which a substance is burned..."  These items would be banned based on "... any other substance and the use or inhalation of which simulates smoking." (Other substances might include, for example, water vapor... after all, humidity in Pennsylvania is not 0%)

So exactly what is not allowed in Pennsylvania?

Pretending to "smoke" as you would in grade school using a stolen cigarette (you are inhaling a substance, a vapor actually: water vapor)?

Clearly this is not well defined or even rationally defined.

I suppose they expect to go after people blowing out big clouds of vapor.

Yet, of course, vapor is not smoke.

I have a giant orange phone charger which I use to vaporize some of the ingredients of cake frosting.

How, exactly, can this be a simulation of smoking?

The issue here is one of force, not logic or science.

It looks bad so it's banned I guess.

This is complete and utter nonsense.  Legal mumbo jumbo trying to express an intent.

And failing.

The FDA, on the other hand, relies on "nicotine" - but only nicotine from tobacco.

Another faux distinction.

But as I think this over, the real problem for the FDA is also "dual use."  The FDA "deems" lighters as "accessories" to "tobacco products."  Similarly for rolling papers, plastic extenders from the 1950's to make you look cool, etc.

Since these have other uses they must be left out of the regulation.  Just like pure, chemically created nicotine not "derived" from tobacco (as I have written about before).

These "accessories" are acknowledgement of "dual use," plain and simple.  The class of things we wish we could regulate but can't.

We will see that, for example, 18650 batteries are "accessories" and not "components" of an ENDS device (unless built in, of course).

SO what does this have to do with the parable?

The FDA doesn't want us to see that virtually everything is an "accessory" - like a lighter - that has another purpose other than vaping related.

You are the ignorant shop owner.

The same is true of Pennsylvania.

You pay taxes because you don't realize what's not a "dual use" item.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

OSM 1 becomes Open Source Power (OSP)

I have been using OSM 1 for some time.  It works quite well.  Time to move on to the next phase, I guess OSM 1.1 (red).

The new version has a USB output (5V 2A for fast charging iPhone and Android) for phone charging as well as a dean's connector and a 510 connector.  The dean's connector will make it possible to use this for a variety of high-power applications.

Note that I am switching to the Adafruit Bluefruit Huzzah.

This is no longer a "mod" nor is it confined to vaping.

The Huzzah is the same Atmel processor as the Arduino Micro.  However, it all has a nRF51822 Bluetooth radio that will speak freely (using software available in the respective iPhone and Android stores) to your phone.

Currently I imagine that this will be purchased without software and, like Ghost Gunner IP, you'll simply download software to make it into whatever you want it to be.

I need to change the name, perhaps to OSP for Open Source Power.

Parallels between CNC Firearms and DIY Vaping

There are many interesting parallels between the vaping industry and firearms.  In particular I am intrigued by the correspondence between DIY in the vaping world and companies like Ghost Gunner (GG).

For those fearful of firearms and guns in general its probably worth gritting your teeth for a short while to learn about what Ghost Gunner has done in the highly regulated world of firearms.

Much like DIY vaping, at least so far, making your own gun is a right granted by the federal government (so much for a Constitution).

"The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, requires persons who engage in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in firearms to obtain a license from ATF. The term “manufacturer” is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(10) as any person engaged in the business of manufacturing firearms or ammunition for purposes of sale or distribution. The term “dealer” is defined by 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(11)(B) and in ATF's regulations at 27 C.F.R. § 478.11 to include “any person engaged in the business of repairing firearms or of making or fitting special barrels, stocks, or trigger mechanisms to firearms…” This type of dealer is commonly referred to as a “gunsmith.” The marking requirements of the GCA apply to firearms imported by a licensed manufacturer or manufactured by a licensed manufacturer. 18 U.S.C. § 923(i). Firearms altered or manufactured by a licensed dealer/gunsmith are not subject to the marking requirements.

The above quote is from here.  The underline is mine.  Basically if you're just a regular "joe" (gunsmith in this context is anyone doing things privately) you can build your own fire arms.  (Meaning you don't have to put serial numbers on them.)

Hmmm...  Kind of like a DIY vaper.  If you are not manufacturer you are free - more or less - to do whatever you like.

The government really had no problem with all this because no one could realistically make a "gun" at home.  Pretty much everyone had to buy and register their firearms-maker manufactured gun at some sort of store.  What happened after that was okay because at a crime scene for some gun crime at least there was a serial number and a place to start looking.

Ghost Gunner changed all that.  They sell a CNC machine (see more here) for around $1,5000 USD that can make things out of metal.  In particular "receivers" for guns - hand guns, AR-15, pretty much anything else you can machine out of aluminum and fit into their CNC machine.  (A decent AR probably costs around the same.)

God forbid!  Now there are "build parties" for AR-15's and people publishing specs and files on the internet to make all this easy.  (Note that the ATF initially went after GG for simply publishing designs of guns online.  There was a lawsuit and eventually GG was free to do what they liked (EDIT: So far able to do what it liked: see

The parallels here with vaping and it's interaction with government are striking.

Simply substitute "FDA" for "ATF" and away you go...

I am writing this because of the 80% rule (see this ATF page).

The basic idea is that something that is less than 80% completed (in the case of a gun the "lower reciever - part with trigger, holds the barrel, firing mechanism, etc.) does not meet the statutory regulation of a "manufactured firearm" (I am paraphrasing).

Of course the ATF FDA wants everything to be a gun vape.

Then there's FedEx.  Since GG is busy doing what is not prohibited by law, but wanted to be illegal, FedEx decided simply not to do business with GG.

(Good think FedEx wasn't in the business of baking cakes in Colorado!)

The legal case for Ghost Gunner has been going on for several years and has now reached the Supreme Court.  (See more here.)

Much like the Larry Faircloth vs FDA suit (see this) requesting that the FDA's violation of the First Amendment through restriction of truthful info on vaping (and requiring 0mg e-liquids to be labeled as containing nicotine).

In any case, at least so far, DIY vaping has not been attacked in quite the same way as GG.

And, with Gottleib at the FDA one hopes there will be some relief in general (though Zeller is still at the CTP).

As far as DIY and intellectual property for vaping is concerned, though, the proverbial cat is out of the bag.

And, on the "dual use" front, the GG CNC machine, just like a 510 flashlight, is hardly illegal on its own. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Secret Life of USB Chargers

I am writing this so that I and you can understand what USB charging technology is about.  One thing that's clear is that all phone and vaping charging system are not created equal.  Some work better and/or faster than others.

I want to create one that does as good a job as possible so that my new creation can, as quickly and efficiently as possible, charge you phone.

So first we need to understand the standard USB interface.

First off, the USB 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 interface has the same pins on the top of the connector.  Typically these are used for the charging process (from here):
You can see more here but the basic idea is that all three standards are compatible from the charging perspective.

Another common issue is why do certain chargers work better than others charging a given device?

Well, for one thing USB communicates information.  In the case of non-charging applications D+ and D- are basically very fast serial lines for sending data around.  

From this site we see that the way a charger sets D+ and D- allows the phone to determine if the charger supports its needs.  This table showing how D+ and D- are set by the charger, taken from the linked site, shows some options:
  • 2.0V/2.0V – low power (500mA)
  • 2.0V/2.7V – Apple iPhone (1000mA/5-watt)
  • 2.7V/2.0V – Apple iPad (2100mA/10-watt)
  • 2.7V/2.7V – 12-watt (2400mA, possibly used by Blackberry)
  • D+/D- shorted together – USB-IF BC 1.2 standard
  • 1.2V/1.2V – Samsung devices
So you can see that your generic USB 1A charger does no good on your iPhone.  In fact your iPhone will generally barf if offered a mere 1A.

So to build a generic device capable of usefully charging most or all phones (and everybody has their own phone favorite) it will be necessary to emit the proper D+ and D- voltages.

The basic wiring diagram looks like this (from here):

Apparently the values of the resistors don't matter except in the contexts of battery drain.  The specific voltages as indicated above matter exactly.  How we get there probably does not.

Note that all the values in the table above are above 3.3V so that we can use Atmel GPIO pins to set them via a resistor network.

If we replace these resistors with potentiometers then a user can set them for their phone if they have a voltmeter.  Typical Atmel's used here don't have digital-to-analog converts (DACs) but we would need that to drive this directly.

Here's some ideas:

In order to get 5V from 18650's we need a regulator such as the Pololu 5V, 2.5A Step-Down Voltage Regulator D24V22F5.

This will generate 5V from series/parallel 18650's.  In addition, it supports an enable feature (EN pin) allowing it to be disabled via a control signal (drawing a 5-10 micro amps - normally 1ma if no EN).