29, 2007: Shades of Gray
55 todayand glad of it. Why regret getting older? I remember
being young, heh. There are lessons to be taken from living fifty-five
years. Let me run down a few here:
- The cost of youth is ignorance; you know less than you think
- The cost of wisdom is pain; there comes a point where you know
more than you want to.
- Nothing is ever as simple as it first appears to be.
- Certainty is the greatest sin.
I could add a few, but what I might add (for example, things like
God exists and Cynicism is cowardice) are not so much
lessons learned as personal convictions founded in faith.
I've spoken of most of these here on Contra these past nine years,
but one of them is worth an anecdote: In 1967, a neighborhood girl
took a liking to me, which both astounded and delighted me, as it
had come completely out of left field. I had been rejected or ignored
by all the girls I had thought warmly of prior to that time, and
now, yikes! I tasted the first clumsy promise of love. Her phone
time was rationed, so we wrote each other letters, even though she
lived perhaps 2,000 feet to the south-southeast of me. This trained
me to think about relationships, rather than just live by
my emotions. In writing her letters I thought a lot about why she
liked me, and never came up with a reasonable answer. (It was easier
two years later when I met Carol and embarked on my first mature
relationship.) I remember thinking that things don't always
make sensea pretty powerful conclusion to reach for someone
raised to be rational. This was certainly true of the lyrics of
popular songs that I liked, most of which in that era were idiotic.
Then there was this song. I don't precisely recall when, but I
was sitting in the livingroom with Judy and playing records on what
my father called the "low-fi," our low-cost hi-fi. The
album was the Monkees' Headquarters, from which my favorite
song was the Mann/Weil composition "Shades
of Gray." Like most young teens, I thought in terms of
black and white, and here was a song telling me that there was nothing
to be had in the world but murk. I liked the melody and so I figured,
well, it makes no less sense than anything else in the Top 40. On
a whim, I asked her to slow dance with me. No other girls had ever
danced with me except my cousins (lotsa Polish weddings were happening
in my family thenabouts) and so, be it ever so clumsy, she took
my hand and we danced. I was transportedhow was this possible!and
the song was forever imprinted in my memory, as living evidence
that life could be wonderful, whether it made sense or not.
Thirty years passed. I joined and left various tribes as I finished
high school and then college. I tried to be a liberal and it failed
for me; thinking that liberalism was bogus I tried to be a conservative
and that didn't work either. The older I got, the more I realized
that there were no simple answers to any difficult question, and
sometimes no answers at all. My Headquarters album perished
somewhere along the way, and I don't think I heard "Shades
of Gray" much at all until the MP3 era began in 1998. (I don't
think it was ever a single and thus got no radio play.) The first
time I heard it after those many years I was poleaxed: It was perhaps
the most brilliant lyric 60s pop music had ever produced. When the
world (and I) were young, things were simple. Now there are only
shades of gray.
Was I depressed? Hardly. I finally understood (now that I was in
my late 40s) that easy answers are for the most part murderous thingsas
is the certainty that they inspire. The song had made sense back
when I was 14, but I had needed to grow into the sense that it offered.
The good news was that I had done that growing, and although I have
felt the occasional tugs of certainty (and its deadly bastard child,
idealism) I knew what it was and didn't embrace it.
Complexity is the great pleasure of life, and its salvation: When
things are complex, we all have "wiggle room" to figure
things out, make the small mistakes that we must, and move the human
condition forward. When things are seen as too simple, we get stuck
in glowing fantasy places that can never be made real, and into
which people must be pushed by force, even if it kills them. (The
seductively simple fantasy of Marxism killed a hundred million people
in the twentieth century alone.)
Nothing is simple, and nothing is certain. If you can't
accept this, maybe you're still too young. Give it time. It worked
28, 2007: Alien Graffiti
On my morning walk today I took the bike trail south along Main
St. in Crystal Lake past the rail spur where the Union Pacific usually
stashes a few freight cars. While passing by I noticed a bit of
graffiti on a hopper car and snapped a photo. The image is clearly
Boba Fett, but the alphabet in which the inscription is set remains
a mystery. It looks like something partway between Klingon and Hebrew.
Below is a wider view, showing where the art was on the hopper car.
What little text is in the other drawings is in typical slum English.
I know I have a few Jewish readers (few Klingons read Contra, though
it's their loss) and if any of that script looks familiar, do clue
27, 2007: Semi-Sweet vs. Off-Dry
One of the questions I'm asked very regularly by people who cannot
abide dry wine is this: How do I tell how dry (or sweet) a bottle
of wine is from the label? Answer: Mostly, you can't. The level
of residual sugar in wine (which determines its place on the dry-sweet
spectrum) is very precisely measurable, but there is no legal requirement
to put the residual sugar level on a wine label, and so most wineries
do not. The broad categories into which wine sweetness can be placed
run like this:
- Dry: Less than 1%
residual sugar (RS).
- Off-Dry: 1%-2.5%.
- Semi-Sweet: 2.5%-4%
- Sweet: 4%-8%
- Dessert: 8% and up
Wine snobs often complain about as little as 0.5% RS, which may
be part of why wineries don't put precise figures on their labels.
When I speak of "off-dry" vs. "semi-sweet" in
Contra, I mostly have to go by taste, as I don't have numbers, much
as I would like them. Furthermore, some wine types are all over
the map, the best example being White Zinfandel, which I've tasted
as anywhere from off-dry to sweet. (Most white zins hover on the
border between off-dry and semi-sweet.)
German wines have their own terms, and because a lot of very good
non-dry wines come from Germany (where people don't engage in wine
snobbery to the extent that Americans do) I'll summarize here:
- Extra Trocken (very
dry) less than 0.4%
- Trocken (dry) 0.4%
- 0.9% (Kabinett)
- Halbtrocken (literally,
half-dry; what I consider off-dry) 0.9% - 1.2% (Spatlese)
- Lieblich (semi-sweet)
1.2% - 4.5% (Auslese)
- Suss (sweet, generally
dessert) 4.5% and up. (Eiswein, Beerenauslese, etc.)
Sometimes the figure is given online, often in slightly obfuscated
form, in terms of grams/liter. A wine with 2 grams of residual sugar
per liter of wine is considered a 0.2% wine and pretty dry. A wine
with 30 grams of sugar per liter is a 3% wine and semi-sweet. CK
Mondavi quotes their wines this way, while Robert Mondavi quotes
them as conventional percentages, at least in their PDF brochures.
Asking people at the wine shop is dicey, since wine shop people
generally have an ideological aversion to anything that isn't either
bone dry or else a European dessert wine.
Other clues you can use to spot non-dry wine:
- "Late harvest" generally means "sweeter than
dry" and also less tannic, at least among reds. That said,
this term covers a lot of territory, from off-dry to very sweet
- "Serve chilled" or "summer wine" imply non-dryness.
Most dry white wines (like Chardonnay) are assumed to do their
best at something below room temperature, though duels have been
fought over just how much below. Having to explicitly say
"best serve chilled" is code for "not dry."
- "Very drinkable" also tends to mean non-dry, though
I think it's a snob euphemism for "wine you can gulp down
without grimacing." Not all "gulpable" wine is
bad wine, and I did plenty of grimacing as I learned to like dry
wine. (I still grimace at the bitter oaky swill that passes for
Chardonnay these days.)
I should point out here that I review only non-dry wines in Contra,
not because I like nothing else, but because reviews of dry wine
are everywhere and people who cannot abide dry wine are poorly served
(nay, generally insulted as unworthy yahoos) in the conventional
wine press. I'm guesstimating that more than half the wine I drink
is dry to very dry (0.5% RS and down) and I drink it happily and
often with delight. It's the snobbery I object to. There is no
necessary connection between wine sweetness and wine quality.
None. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.
26, 2007: Odd Lots
- George Ewing discovered that the much-abused Silvercup
Rocket that we saw in 1980 has been acquired by the AirZoo
aviation museum in Kalamazoo (was
acquired and moved, in fact, back in 2004), which has begun
what may be a long but worthwhile restoration project on the artifact.
There's another 2004 picture from the AirZoo here,
in a PDF.
- In the past week I have been inundated with copies of an emailed
malware-planter that pretends to be an online greeting card. The
domains it points to vary, but all so far end in .hk (Hong Kong)
and use the subject line "You've received a postcard from
a family member!" Years ago when I first saw online greeting
cards I cringed; they were an exploit waiting to happen, and I
have long told people not to open them. Besides, if it's the thought
that counts, it takes more thought (and thus might mean more to
your card-ee) if you choose a paper card, write something in it,
peel a stamp, and take it down to the mailbox.
- One reason (there are actually quite a few) that I like Colorado
Springs in the summer is that we don't have much standing water
and thus not much in the line of mosquitoes. Here in Chicago,
there's a puddle in every gully and the bloodsuckers pretty much
rule the gloaming. Larry Nelson sent a
link to a nice product concept: Stand by a box fan with a
handy clip-on net, and when the little bastards come by for a
taste, whoosh! They're in the net. Be the bait!
- I got chewed out a little for talking about "shit wine"
in yesterday's rant, but (once again) George Ewing was on top
of things and sent me a link to a
wine that pretty much fills the bill.
- Seagate has announced a
one terabyte hard drive, enabled by the use of perpendicular
recording rather than stacking more platters on the spindle. I
don't think that they're the first 1 TB drive, but Seagate's announcement
definitely means we're out of stunt territory. Thanks to Pete
Albrecht for the link.
- Similarly, this past March Samsung
announced a 64GB solid state (Flash) drive designed to directly
replace 1.8" laptop hard drives. My X41 Tablet has a 60GB
hard drive; hardware gets old fast. No price announced, but it
won't be cheapat least for the first month or so, heh.
25, 2007: Red Heron and Another Jeff Wine Rant
(Important note: This is a rant. If you don't know what
a rant is, please look it up. I've discovered that I've had to warn
some people, as it's a bit of a departure for me. Thank you.)
The mostly insipid Slate has
(finally) knocked one out of the park: Mike
Steinberger's recent four-part series on wine language and individual
differences in how we taste things, including wine. Mike has confirmed
for all time what I have long suspected: That bitter wine (including
most Cabernets and nearly all Chardonnays) is shit wine. No, he
didn't say that. What he confirmed is that the human experience
of taste is not uniformwe don't all taste the same things
the same ways.
Wine snobs generally assume that if they say a wine is spectacular
and sublime, it is. If said wine makes Jeff gag for its bottomless
bitterness, well, that's because Jeff is a yahoo red-stater with
insufficient education and breeding to appreciate the spectacularly
sublime whiff of cat piss and moldy oak floorboards. The possibility
that bitter tastes overwhelm all other tastes in my mouth doesn't
occur to them, because it doesn't happen to them, and of course
their experience is normative. But nowOMGone of the
wine snobs has had the courage to admit it.
The series is informative and funny; read it all if you have any
least interest in wine. Mike explains the current state of the art
in flavor science, and how research seems to divide humanity into
supertasters, tasters, and nontasters, who differ primarily in the
intensity of their reaction to bitter flavors. (Here's
another piece on the topic.) Then he lays waste to the whole
concept by getting his sense of taste quantitatively tested, only
to discover that the science as it applies to him points in all
different directions: His genes, his tongue anatomy, and his sensitivity
to bitter flavors do not agree. As is true in so many different
areas, we find that in the subjective experience of flavor, we need
more science, and better.
Wow. A wine critic has been forced to admit what most of us intuitively
grasp: Each of us tastes what we eat and drink in entirely different
ways. The standard language and uniform culture of wine enthusiasm
are learned, and although they are weakly based on identifiable
nuances in taste, the operative word is "weak." This language
and culture are passed along as received wisdom and mercilessly
enforced, though every so often a cultural power like Roald Dahl
has the courage to call the whole pretentious business the nonsense
that it is.
Here's the only thing you really need to know about wine, and it's
as true of wine as it is true (as Professor Schickele says) of music:
If it tastes good, it is good. Do not apologize for
what you like, ever.
Let me throw yet another handful of mud into the faces of the wine
snobs. Michigander Steve Salaba brought a bottle of St.
Julian's Red Heron wine ($7 at Meijer's) to Chicago on his last
trip here, and we tried it during dinner at Gretchen and Bill's
last week. It's a semi-sweet, non-vintage blend of American red
grapes and Concord grapes, and quite unlike anything we've ever
had before. It's a wonderful summer grilling wine that goes beautifully
with the hot dogs and hamburgers that Bill expertly flung about
on the coals. Serve it chilled.
Red Heron is about 75% Concord, which is a taste you don't get
much in wine because wine snobs hate Concord and have declared it
bad in all its possible uses. According to them, Concord tastes
"foxy." Umm...what does that mean? And is it really bad?
The truth is that we're in circular reference territory here: Technically,
"foxy" refers to the flavor of the Concord grape, an American
native that was originally called the "fox grape." So
the wine snobs dislike Concord grapes because they taste like...themselves.
I suspect that it really means "reminds of us peanut
butter and jelly sandwiches, which are unworthy fare for self-anointed
cultural sophisticates." (One particularly pugnacious wine
critic called the Concord grape a "mutant blueberry,"
though it really is a grape and tastes nothing like blueberriesor
oak floorboards either, which we consider a big plus.)
Red Heron is not easy to find outside of Michigan, and I'm unlikely
to get it once we return to Colorado. So it is with relish that
I will recall sipping Red Heron from my grandmother Sade Duntemann's
1919 crystal goblets, between bites of Bill's most excellent hamburgers.
Life is good, wine does not have to be dry, and your experience
of wineas with all of lifeis unique. Let the wine snobs
chew their floorboards with ecstatic praises. It works for them.
You and I can see it otherwise without explanation or apology.
23, 2007: The Espresso Book Machine Gets Real
Reports are pouring in from many places (including Tony Potts and
the Make Blog) that the
first publicly available Espresso Book Machine has been installed
at the New York Public Library. I've
been watching this thing since 2001, and I confess I've been
a little puzzled why it's taken six years to get the damned thing
to the starting gate. No matter; it's there, and it's now happily
spitting out nicely formatted paper copies of public-domain books
for library patrons.
Print-on-demand book manufacturing has been around for some time.
The Xerox DocuTech machine first saw use in the early-mid 1990s,
and it now has numerous competitors. The Espresso Book Machine is
notable because it's a book manufacturing robot, and requires no
human fussing to make a book. (Keeping it running long-term may
require a little skilled labor, heh.) You basically select a book
from its catalog and push a button, and a few minutes later you
get a single copy of the book. This requires some cleverness, especially
on the binding side, but it looks like they made it work. My experience
in repairing copiers and duplicators suggests that it was reliability
that held it back. If that problem's been solved, Espresso has its
job cut out for it.
A fleet of these in the basement of a big bookstore could enable
I call "replenish-on-demand" bookselling, which could
turn the book retailing business (and thus book publishing, which
shapes itself in response to book retailing) inside out. I can only
assume that Barnes & Noble and Borders are watching. When they
decide to take the plunge, well, that will be the show to
20, 2007: Fireflies Rising
One quick note about the trip out here: When we spent the night
in Des Moines last Saturday, we stayed at a Best Western that bordered
a high school with a large grassy field between us and the school
buildings. While walking the dogs behind the hotel around 9 PM,
Carol and I watched the fireflies out across the field in the deepening
dusk. I haven't lived near fireflies for a long time, and I saw
something that I don't think I ever noticed before: The male fireflies
(that is, the ones that actually fly) seem to flash mostly while
moving upward. I saw a handful flashing while hovering, but after
several minutes I failed to see a single one flash on a downward
It was startling: They gave the impression of sparks rising over
a pinewood fire. I don't think I would have noticed at all except
that it was a big field and there were hundreds of fireflies active
at once, rather than the three or four we would see in the front
yard back in Chicago when I was a kid. They weren't synchronized
at all (and some tropical species of fireflies do synchronize
flashes, which must be awesome to behold in a big field) which made
them look even more like sparks over a fire.
Nothing more than that. I don't know why this preference for upward
flashing would be of evolutionary advantage to the fireflies, and
it may not be. It is, however, a lesson: Pay attention! The
world is full of wonders. Blink (or play videogames all the time)
and you'll miss them.
18, 2007: Guess Where?
I haven't said anything here for a few days because...we drove
to Chicago. I won't go into why at the moment, but the decision
was a quick one and a little unexpected. We decided to take it slower
and do it in three days rather than two (as last time) given that
the weather forecast looked good and I didn't expect to be dancing
in the rain with 18-wheelers.
It was, in fact, sunny and beautiful the whole way there, so on
our first day out we jogged a little north off I-80 at Ogallala,
in western Nebraska, and took a look at Lake
McConaghy, which was formed by damming the Platte River. I wasn't
prepared for what I saw: (Off-) white sand beaches in Nebraska!
Better still, they allow you to drive your car right onto the beach,
and don't fuss about dogs running on the beach or going into the
water. The beaches are evidently natural, from extremely fine river
sand worn away from the limestone strata we could see exposed on
the hillsides. The lake is huge and the beaches seemed to go on
forever. I brought my digital thermometer and dropped its probe
into the lake. The water was 72°cold, but I've been in
colder. We decided not to attempt it on the way out, but we're hoping
that the water will warm significantly while we're in Chicago, and
intend to take a day off on the trip back to dunk on the Lake McConaghy
The rest of the trip was uneventfulthough we passed a couple
of cattle feedlots near Kearney, Nebraska that closed up our sinuses
bigtime. QBit and Aero behaved very well, and traffic moved pretty
monolithically at 5 MPH over the stated limit. We took notes on
places we might visit on the backswing: the Amana Colonies, Wallace
Winery in Iowa, and a few state parks with swimming lakes or
Late Sunday morning we again left I-80 briefly, to lunch in Grinnell,
Iowa and see the 1914 "jewel box" Merchants
Bank building, designed by Louis Sullivan. It's very identifiably
however, the brickwork on the front face looks very recent compared
to everything else.
So we're here, and will be here for a couple of weeks. I have broadband
and will be in contact. More later.
14, 2007: Don Herbert 1917-2007
Wizard is dead. On the other hand, he got the job done. Hundreds
of thousands of graying 40-to-60s have a better handle on how the
world works because they watched Don Herbert do magic on his seminal
live TV show, Watch
Mr. Wizard, which ran from 1951 to 1965.
Except it wasn't magicand that was the whole point. Watching
Mr. Wizard on Chicago TV in the late 1950s is as far back as I can
trace my passion for understanding how things work. As Carol will
attest, to this very day when I run across some phenomenon that
I don't understand, I mutter, "What's the physics here?"
That's my Mr. Wizard training at work.
When I was in third grade my dad bought me Herbert's 1952 book,
Mr. Wizard's Science Secrets, and it still sits on my science
shelf, full of dirty fingerprints and water stains and the occasional
rip. (I was generally careful with valuable things like books, but
hey! I was eight! And I was doing the experiments! C'mon!) You can
get used hardcover copies on Amazon for three bucks. Unlike a lot
of tech books, this one still works for kids 55 years later, because
the materials used are stuff you can mostly find lying around the
house (or at Home Depot) and physics hasn't changed for awhile.
And some of it is startling, especially when you're eight years
old: Take a strip of paper an inch wide and maybe eight inches long
and hold it beneath your lower lip. Blow hard out into the
air. The strip will rise. Why? Mr. Wizard told me, which is good,
because in my delight at the experiment I was bordering on hyperventilation.
I remember less of the show itself, simply because it's been 42
years since it folded. But I do remember the fact that Mr. Wizard
didn't look like a TV scientist, and there weren't a lot of test
tubes on racks. He worked on what might as well have been his kitchen
table, which meant that it wasn't mysterious and elsewhere. I could
do it too. He was enthusiastic without being manic, but more important
than that, the show wasn't all about him. That's the problem
I have with more recent expressions of that same idea, especially
Bill Nye the Science Guy, where we have a little too much Science
Guy and not quite enough science. (It may simply be my age, but
I find Nye's approach annoying after just a couple of minutes.)
Don Herbert was content to let the sense of wonder rise around the
experiments themselves. He was a guide, a teacher, and a facilitator,
not a stand-up comic.
I know, I use humor too when I explain things, and I'm aware that
it's a tough rope to walk, especially in this Age of ADD. I'd rather
have Bill Nye than nothing at all, and although the experiments
are not something you can do in the basement, I like Mythbusters
even more. We badly need to get the message across to young people
that the world works in consistent and predictable ways, and that
the ways things work can be discerned by study and observation.
We need to make it clear that you don't have to be a scientist to
embrace the scientific method. Don Herbert didn't look like a scientist,
and thus he didn't make me want to be a scientist. He made me want
to go downstairs, take the world by the tail, and figure it out.
Well done, old friend. Well done.
13, 2007: Fixing a WinAmp WAV Problem
A friend of mine sent me a WAV file that he got somewhere of the
Horst Jankowski cover of the old standard "Nola,"
which was the B-side of Jankowski's wildly successful 1965 single,
"A Walk in the Black Forest." It's the slightly goofy
one with the spoken track in the background, in which a husky European
male voice occasionally whispers, "Maria," to which a
European female voice replies, "Uh-uh-uh, Nola." (At the
end of the song she gives up and says, "Ok, Maria" in
a voice dripping with resignation.)
I was a little surprised that Winamp wouldn't play it. After some
poking around online, I discovered that there is more than one way
to make a WAV file. Much depends on how you encode the audio information.
In this case, it was MPEG 3 audio in a WAV wrapper, and Winamp didn't
know how to deal with it. The solution is to add WAV to the file
associations that Winamp will attempt to play using its MPEG 3 codec.
- Run Winamp.
- From the main menu, select Options | Preferences.
- In the left pane of the window that appears, click on the "Input"
subitem under "Plug-ins".
- In the pane that appears on the right side of the window, click
on the line that begins "Nullsoft MPEG Audio Decoderů"
- Click the Configure button.
- In the text field under File Associations (that's where the
cursor will be) add a semicolon followed by the three capital
letters WAV. (Don't separate the semicolon and the letters with
- Click OK.
- Click Close.
- Exit Winamp and re-start.
12, 2007: Space Ship Mars AKA The Silvercup Rocket
I didn't look very hard for Space Ship Mars online, so predictably,
George Ewing found it and send me a link to a page that has at least
part of the story and several contemporary photos that show the
unit that we saw in Sault Ste. Marie in 1980 in its glory days of
supermarket parking lot promos.
Here's the difficulty: It wasn't called Space Ship Mars in the
1950s. I suspect that whoever intended to use it in a roadside attraction
(which is where we saw it in 1980, albeit abandoned) scrubbed off
Rocky's face and name and was working on the Wonderbread image to
break the product connection and probably avoid trademark litigation.
It was actually referred to in its day as the "Silvercup Rocket."
There's a nice writeup and additional photos here.
That whole site is lots
of fun, and I encourage you to take some time and poke through it.
What I don't see there is any indication of where it was built and
what it was made from, which would be interesting in the extreme.
It looks like the rocket we saw in 1980 did in fact end up here,
much worse for the wear. Look closely at the nose: The name "Space
Ship Mars" is partially gone, and you can see a portion of
the name "Silvercup Rocket" underneath it. (Incidentally
and alas, Douglas
C. Souter, the gentleman who took those photos, has apparently died
recently. He was born in 1952. Like me, urrkh.)
Evidently there were other traveling rockets in that period, including
the Ralston Rocket and one from Kraft, which was apparently offered
as a prize in a contest. Imagine yourself as a kid (or a parent)
confronting the reality of Kraft Foods delivering an RV-sized tin
rocket right to your driveway. Probably the only thing worse than
not winning that contest might be winning it.
11, 2007: Rocky Jones and Space Ship Mars
There's been some discussion recently on other lists about Space
Ship Mars, an interesting cultural artifact that I saw in 1980,
up in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, right near the famous locks. I
found the photos and figured they're worth a look.
George Ewing WA8WTE threw a party in the summer of 1980, up at
his house near Sault Ste. Marie. He had just (or not quite) finished
construction, actually, and recruited about 20 of his friends to
come up and dismantle the plywood geodesic dome he had been living
in for several years while building his own A-frame chalet. He made
an enormous inflatable tent out of clear plastic, kept full with
an ordinary window exhaust fan, and I think about 15 of us slept
in the tent. It was a great time, the weather was perfect, and I
swam in Lake Superior, which most people never do, even those who
live right on Lake Superior. (Ok, it was Whitefish Baybut
it still must have been a very warm summer up there.)
In the old downtown section, right near the abandoned railroad
station, someone had put this tin spaceship thingie up on railroad
ties. It had been built to hook on the back end of a fifth-wheel
tractor and be hauled around on a pair of wheels built into the
structure under the tail. None of us really knew what it had been
built for, other than an assumption that it was a tie-in for some
1950s TV show.
And so it was. What we now know is that Space Ship Mars was part
of a national promo for the Rocky
Jones, Space Ranger show that ran for only one season in
1954. I was only two that year, but the show was filmed (rather
than simply broadcast live, as so many shows of that era were) and
thus I watched the reruns into the very early 1960s. The shows were
released directly into syndication and were sponsored locally, almost
always by bread companies. You can see a loaf of bread indistinctly
on the left end of the lightning bolt on the ship on the first photo;
as best we can tell it's Silvercup Bread. (Rocky's face has been
removed from the side of ship, but he's on the other end of the
lightning bolt.) Apparently three or four of the ships had been
built out of surplus military aircraft carcasses, and were exhibited
at carnivals, county fairs, and other public gatherings.
The ship had been sealed with sheet metal and pop rivets, but someone
else found one of the other units and took some photos of what's
left of the interiors. It's a mess, apparently because people
unknown were using it as a sort of stationary RV. I don't think
the one we saw is still up there in Sault Ste. Marie, and it would
be interesting to know what became of them and what they looked
like when new. There was a lot of work put into them, and
they could not have been cheap.
Higher res scans of the photos are here
and here. I'm the third guy
from the left on the top photo, and although I can identify about
half of the people lined up under the ship, I won't try to pin them
down in order. (Amazingly, many of them read Contra.) The group
included Tom Snoblen, Todd Johnson, Al Duester, Alice and Angel
Insley, Mike Bentley, Barry Gehm, Bill Higgins, Nikki Ballard, Lee
Hart, Jim Furstenberg, Bill Leininger, and George Ewing, who took
the photos and is not shown. Others were there but I don't recall
their names. It was a great trip, and only in part because I was
young. (I can't sleep on the ground anymore, sigh.)
10, 2007: Clues on the Used Book Bots
Short on time tonight, but Paul Santa-Maria sent me a note that
may shed some light on the mysteriously high prices for used books
from some online vendors working through sites like Amazon, Alibris,
and ABEBooks. (See my entry for June
7, 2007.) I'll quote Paul's short message in full here:
I looked for Franz's
Actor book and found two, $8 and $22. I checked a couple of days
later and found both at $22. Then they kept leapfrogging lower,
and eventually I I got it for under $5 plus shipping. I keep checking
and the remaining copy price keeps fluctuating. Could there be
some buggy bookstore software that is supposed to monitor competitor
prices and adjusts to keep their price below the others?
I had a strong intuition that we were looking at bot behavior,
and this lends credence to that intuition. The intent may not be
to have the lowest price on any given book, but rather to be high
enough above the lowest price to make arbitrage possible given a
few dozen orders per month. The bot owner probably stocks no books
at all, but waits for an order for a book that can be had elsewhere
cheaply enough to make it worthwhile to buy the book and resell
it almost immediately. There's probably a nice piece of algorithmic
database work in there. It doesn't matter if the algorithm shoots
unrealistically high half or two thirds of the time, or occasionally
goes into literal absurdity (like that quarter million dollar computer
book spotted by Bruce Baker and mentioned in my June
8, 2007 Odd Lots) as long as it brings enough sales to be worth
Of course, when bots start setting their prices based on other
bots setting their prices based on other bots, weird things happen.
Definitely let me know if you learn any more on this. It's a fascinating
business, and if it's a crew of price-setting bots watching the
competition there's nothing illegal about itbut it may at
best be an experiment, and I doubt there's a lot of money in it.
On the other hand, penny sellers are everywhere, so who knows?
9, 2007: Supercore
In stories circulating widely around the Web, Apple's
new all-animation, all the time user interface is just the hottest
thing. How hot? Well, it introduces a brand new UI element: smoke.
In the item I link to above, launching a window to burn a CD or
DVD also launches a plume of smoke curling away from the top of
the window. Wait, there's more: If you blow into your headset mic,
the smoke billows away off the edges of the screen.
Spare us. I object to this for a couple of reasons. First of all,
it perpetuates the myth that smoke is interesting and glamorous,
or, God help us, an art medium. I remember watching one of my friends
back in college smoking in his parents' basement and then sculpting
the stream of smoke he exhaled with quick motions of his fingers.
He did other dumb things too; I hope he's still alive. Maybe I'm
being priggish, but I also watched my father die horribly of a smoking
habit. Smoke is our enemy, like malaria and Marxism, and should
be buried with those and a lot of other fiendish and deadly things.
Don't get the wrong idea. I have a lot of sympathy for Apple Computer,
even if they have an obsession with pointless buttsquirt like animated
smoke. (I'm expecting that the trash can icon will soon begin crossing
animated legs when it needs to be emptied.) Clearly, we're getting
to the point where we have more cycles than we know what to do with,
especially with those imminent eight-core CPUs. So let me make a
suggestion here: We need to take one of those increasingly wasted
cores and turn it into something useful: a master core with special
powers and its own entirely independent memory system. It should
be able to inspect and change memory belonging to other cores, and
among its other tasks it should load OS files into the memory belonging
to the other cores from a storage device inaccessible to subsidiary
cores and main memory any other way. The idea is to create a boss
process in a privileged core that simply can't be subverted by programs
running in the main portion of the machine.
Yes, it's a two-edged sword: Such a supercore would doubtless be
seized for their purposes by a media industry desperate to have
absolute control over what what files are loaded or run on a computer.
On the other hand, Apple stared down Big Music over DRM, and because
it controls its own hardware, could work with Intel to create such
a system and tell Big Media to just back off. Dare we hope that
they have the courage to try something like that? Or are they going
to make their rep and stay in the game by creating visual emulations
of catastrophic hardware failure? Will the Blue Screen of Death
be replaced by a billowing blue mushroom cloud? I can just see a
debugger window dripping liquid when it spots a memory leak...
Substance first, style later. And optional. (I've seen enough real
smoke come out of computer hardware for one lifetime, thanks.) UI
gimmicks at some point become distractions from the things that
the underlying machine is trying to do, like get my work done and
protect itself against the bad guys. Apple has a marvelous opportunity
here. Let's hope (as with smoke) that they don't end up blowing
8, 2007: Odd Lots
- Odd Lots have been piling up here recently, so let's burn a
few, starting with a
dog-powered scooter that the Make Blog called to my attention.
Two small bike wheels and a ride-em lawnmower seat plus some aluminum
tubingdamn, I could do that! (QBit just went and hid under
- Robert Bruce Thompson of
Building the Perfect PC fame, sent me an
excellent 32-page minibook on Wi-Fi security, which you can
download free from from O'Reilly's Web site. It's a PDF in a 7
MB ZIP, and the link takes you to the directory so you can get
it any way you prefer. I used Bob's book to build my main machine
here, and the
second edition is a must-have if you intend to build your
first custom PC out of separate components.
has a short piece on the way ebooks are keeping the romance genre
afloat. Garish covers can be embarrassing if someone sees
one in your hands on the train going in to work, but if you're
reading it on your cellphone, well, nobody will know. I met these
people at BEA a few years ago, and whatever you may think of their
subject matter, they really know what they're doing.
- One of my readers wrote to tell me that Lulu had sent him a
pretty strange book: A Carl & Jerry Volume 3 cover wrapped
around the body of Getting Real by 37 Signals. That's fairly
benign; what Lulu does not want to do is wrap a cover from
The Cuddly Puppy of Wiggle Farm around Goth Moon Over
- My taste in games is legendarily bad, but Blueprint
from Teagames (requires Flash) may be worth a look.
- Jim Strickland sent me this,
and while some people may think it's funny, an awful lot of guys
simply have no clue. I don't know if dressing well attracts girls,
or if it simply doesn't drive them away like dressing badly does.
Being confident, dancing well, and having a sense of humor work
better, but it's hard to teach such things on a Web site. (It
may not be possible to teach confidence at all.)
- I have not found a duplicate of the 1990 parts tower I bought
from Turnkey, but several people sent me notes saying that MSC
Direct has something
similar from Akro-Mils. Way bigger, and not as suitable for
very small parts. $500 without the bins. Yikes.
- But that may be dirt cheap next to a
truly special computer book that Bruce Baker found on ABEBooks.
Something's seriously wrong here. Those prices are beginning to
look like purely random numbers.
- On the other hand, did you wonder (like me) how people selling
books on Amazon for a penny can make money? (See my entry for
6, 2007.) Here's
- If you want to really really really really erase that
hard disk for some reason (remember that recovering old data from
used hard drives purchased on eBay is something of a geek sport)
- Something I learned recently: Frederic
Nausea was the bishop of Vienna in the early 1500s. As Wikipedia
puts it, "When the Council was reopened at Trent in 1551,
Nausea was present." He attended the Diet
of Nuremberg in 1524, but, rather remarkably, was not at the
Diet of Worms.
7, 2007: ...Except When They're Not.
Bruce Baker reminded me this morning of something I'd noticed from
time to time and never bothered to pursue: the other end
of the online used book price spectrum. If you look up Degunking
Your Email, Spam, and Viruses
on ABEbooks, you'll find lots of copies for a dollar each (ABEBooks'
minimum price) which is unsurprising, as we remaindered 80% of a
6,000 copy run. Now, if you click the "Sort Results By"
drop-down field to "Highest Price" you'll find that you
can also buy a copy for $64.24.
Ok. I've seen stuff like that and always assumed it was a mistake.
The brand-new full-cover price printed on that book was only $24.99,
after all. But having spent half an hour browsing titles on the
other side of the price graph, one begins to wonder. Look up almost
any book you could want on ABEBooks, and sort by highest instead
of lowest price, and you will find listings like this
one. An ex-lib used copy of a book that mostly flopped in the
market (even though it's intriguing and well-written) with any number
of other copies for a dollar, listed for $300WTF?
Again, I figured some data entry clerk earning minimum wage in
the basement of a ratty used bookstore somewhere was either making
mistakes (skipping the decimal point and typing $300 instead of
$3) or else just fooling around to taunt the bookstore owner, but
not so: It's a trend, and there seem to be online bookstores that
specialize in this sort of thing. There are dozens; poke around
on the high end and you'll start to see common threads in the storefront
Bruce asked me what this means (expecting that there's some wrinkle
in the publishing business model that would reward such listings)
but I truthfully don't know. The weird price values, like $142.05,
suggest that a program is setting the prices somehowa human
would pick $140, or perhaps $139.99. But given that the default
display order is lowest price first, 99.99% of store visitors probably
never see the high-end listings. And of those who do, well, who
would pay three hundreds times the price of the cheapest
As it used to say on the cover of Cracked Magazine: Something
Funny Is Going On Here. Human greed propels money into the heart
of darkest Nigeria, but I don't see where the payoff is in this
case. Almost nobody sees the listings, and I can't imagine that
there enough stupid people in the bookbuying world to make it worth
these guys' time and effort. (I could be wrong there; after all,
the gods themselves contend in vain.)
So. They're not actually trying to sell the books in the usual
fashion. That seems clear. Tax shelter? Money laundering? Somewhat
oddly, I don't currently know anybody in the used book business,
so I'm not sure whom to ask. If you have any insights, please pass
them along. I remain mystified.
6, 2007: Books Are Practically Free...
I ordered a book about a month ago from ABEBooks, and finished
it a couple of nights ago. It was the 2000 edition of The Shaker
Spiritual by Daniel W. Patterson, and as detailed a history
of Shaker music as you'll find. The book is 8 1/2" X 11",
and 562 pageswith lots of photos along with musical scores
and lyrics of hundreds of Shaker hymns. It was in what a book collector
would consider fine condition, with no serious damage or wear.
It cost me $3.17. Plus $3 shipping.
Wow. $3.17 is an odd number, but odder yet is that the bookseller
sold it for that price, when it cost $27.95 new. I'm not sure why
he bothered at all. But the truth is that used books (recent ones,
at least, and sometimes old ones) are astonishingly cheap. Go to
Amazon and look up any reasonably recent hardcover book selling
for $25.95 or whatever. I paid cover for Arthur C. Brooks' Who
Really Cares? in hardcover and there are now 84 "new and
used" copies available starting at $3.80.
For an extreme example, go look up the hardcover edition of Telling
the Truth, by Lynn V. Cheney. It listed new for $23. Now you
can browse 105 new and used copies from...one cent. (Plus $3.95
shipping.) Right; I forgot. That's a lousy book. How about the hardcover
of The 2% Solution by Matthew Miller? Much better book; more
copies out there than you can imagine, starting at forty-four cents.
Strange Matters by Tom Siegfried goes for $0.75, and that
was a real good book. Even what I consider truly great books,
like The Great Influenza, can be had in hardcover for $5.99.
War Against the Weak for $7.34? Grab it, sheesh. Alas, John
Cornwell's The Hiding Places of God, which is a riveting
read, can be had for one cent. In hardcover. Ditto Conjuror's
Journal by Frances Shine, which was so good it brought
tears to my eyes. Got a penny?
Some books hold up better: The Wiki Way, with a $54.99 price
tag, can be had for $27.43. Bruce Schneier's $60 Applied Cryptography
is a steal at $19.59. But...then there's Degunking Your Email,
Spam, and Viruses by a guy I know, for $0.01. I guess it helps
to be Bruce Schneier.
Part of this is explicable: Paraglyph went deep on Degunking
Email, Spam, and Viruses, and the book bombed. Books that bomb
are remaindered and sold basically by the pound, so selling what
are essentially brand-new books with a black Magic Marker swipe
on one edge for a penny can be a money maker, if you can charge
$5 for shipping and then ship the book for $2.50. I'd think you
could make more money working at Wal-Mart, but who knows? Some people
just like books.
I'm sure it means that there are too many books chasing too few
readers, but that's a problem only if you're a publisher. Books
are practically free. (And without commercials or ads!) There's
never been a better time to be a habitual reader.
4, 2007: Linksys Powerline Networking Wrapup
My series on Linksys PowerLine networking generated a fair amount
of mail, and the two questions that come up are two that came up
for me long before I ever clicked the "Add to cart" button:
- How good is the security?
- Will the technology interfere with my amateur radio receivers?
As for security, I'm not sure it's uncrackable, but I don't think
crackling it would be easy. 128-bit
AES is not a pushover, and I don't think the local neighborhood
slackers care enough about cracking other people's networks to mount
a constant stealth side-channel attack that might take over a yearor
a decade. (Or foreverside-channel attacks are implementation-dependent.
A well-engineered implementation would not necessarily be crackable
by a single gamer-class PC.) Cracking Wi-Fi was easy and fast enough
to make it something of a geek adventure; not the case this time.
Nor are drive-bys an issue, since you'd have to plug something into
one of my exterior electric outlets, and I would notice that. (There
are only three at ground level.)
Stealth attacks would be limited to other homes sharing a distribution
transformer ("power pig") with mine, and in an area of
large homes on large lots, there may be only three or four homes
on one transformer. I can't tell, since power distribution here
is underground; but if you know what a "pig on a pole"
looks like and can trace wires visually from your back yard, you
might get a sense for it in neighborhoods with overhead wires. Distance
is also an issue, and even if people two doors down share a distribution
transformer with me, the distance to their lines would be several
hundred feet wire distance, and that's pushing the envelope for
the technology even under ideal conditions.
And there's a wild card: Power meters work by spinning an aluminum
disk via eddy currents, and to induce the eddy currents you need
biggish, low resistance coils. Coils of the sort present in power
meters present very low impedence to radio-frequency signals like
those used in HomePlug systems. A power meter is thus an unintentional
low-pass filter. How effective it is I would need better instruments
to test (and probably more time) than I can afford, but I can make
a simple empirical yes/no test by getting the permission of the
guy next door to plug my laptop into his patio outlet and see if
the HomePlug AV configuration utility can see my network. If he
can't see it, I'm in the clear, since his house is the closest of
any on this street.
On the other hand, I figured out how to change the data stream
password, so I really doubt security is an issue here anymore. If
the technology becomes really popular, monitoring neighbor networks
encrypted by the default password may become an issue, but we're
not there yet. And I can't help but think that a $3 low-pass filter
installed at the power service entry would take care of that completely
if the coils in the power meter itself do not.
The more interesting question is radio interference. There isn't
much hard technical information out there about HomePlug AV. I've
seen a writeup indicating that it uses frequencies from 2-28 MHz,
with firmware that "skips" the amateur bands, with the
sole exception of 60 meters (5.3 MHz.) Also, the units are supposedly
silent at RF unless they're actually passing packets, so when the
network is idle, there should be no interference at all, anywhere.
That's been my experience so far. I have one of the nodes installed
a few feet from my amateur station, and I have a 45-foot tuned HF
dipole and a VHF discone in the shop. I have spun the dials and
so far heard nothing I haven't heard before, and when I do hear
an interfering signal, I turn up the volume and walk a few feet
down to the plug and pull the unit from the wall. So far, pulling
the unit out of the wall has not changed any of the odd noise signals
I've detected, at least one of which is clearly my home security
system. (I had a severe HF interference problem with neighbors'
electric fences back in dirt road North Scottsdale. Reception here,
by comparison, is wonderfully clean.)
So at this point it looks good. I haven't installed a media PC
by the big TV yet, and there are other issues to research (like
a good wireless lap keyboard) but getting data to and from the TV
is no longer an issue. The Linksys HomePlug AV units are still a
little expensive ($85 singly; $160 for a kit of two) but they're
also brand new. I paid $1200 for an Aironet Wi-Fi system in early
2001 and never regretted it. The PLE200 units and their competitors
will be $35-$40 in a year or so. With Wi-Fi saturation a common
problem in urban areas now, HomePlug AV will be one way out.
If I learn anything else interesting, I'll report here.
3, 2007: More on Linksys PowerLine Networking
Testing of the Linksys PLE200 PowerLine networking technology continues.
(See yesterday's entry.) I took my laptop in one hand and a PLE200
plug unit in the other and went around the house, plugging the PLE200
into random power outlets. At every single outlet I very quickly
got a connection, including a DHCP transaction for an IP. I've read
some complaints online that the technology doesn't necessarily work
on all outlets, but it appears to work on all of mine. You can't
work it through a surge suppressor, and it works best when the unit
is plugged into a wall socket, rather than an extension cord or
a power bar. (If the power bar has a surge suppressor, forget it.)
It does, however, work fine through a GFI outlet, which surprised
me a little.
So the system gets high marks for effectiveness: Once you have
it configured, you can plug a PLE200 unit into any outlet in the
house, including your GFIs, and it's like plugging into an Ethernet
jack fronting a CAT5E wired network. I didn't do a quantitative
throughput test, but pulling several large files through the link
to my laptop seemed just as fast as going through the CAT5E wired
network in the walls. A video player on my laptop can pull videos
from my file server and play them without any jitter or hesitation.
What the system doesn't get high marks for is documentation. Admittedly,
I'm hard on doc, but I'm hard on it because it isn't that difficult
to do well, and for simple devices doesn't have to be as big as
the phone book. You can follow the doc (such that it is; the paper
copy is a little trifold printed on both sides) as far as getting
a link established between two units. After that (and the main issue
is establishing a secure connection) the doc brochure hands you
off to the configuration utility. The configuration utility doesn't
provide much help, but much, much worse than that is that it
doesn't tell you when it succeeds.
Yes, you read me right: You click a button to establish a secure
connection, and nothing visible happens. No info box of any kind
pops up to say "You're all set!" or anything else.
The security system is better than the one provided with Wi-Fi,
not that that would be too difficult. 128-bit AES end-to-end encryption
is turned on by default; in fact, I don't see any way to turn it
off. However, the system ships with a default network password printed
in the documentation, and all manufactured units use the same default
password, just as in Wi-Fi's HTML-based configuration screens. For
a secure connection you have to change the password, and when you
do that, the system swallows the new password and gives no sign.
Wait, there's more. Adding additional PLE200 nodes to the network
requires that you copy a 16-character alphabetic "device password"
printed on the back of the physical device onto a piece of paper
before plugging the new node into the wall. You must take this device
password to the configuration utility and add it to the configuration
utility's list of valid devices on your network. So you have at
least two passwords: One for the AES system that encrypts network
traffic, and a second "device password" for each additional
unit that authenticates a specific physical unit to the network.
This isn't a bad scheme, but I'm guessing it's very confusing to
nontechnical people who may not understand why the system needs
multiple passwords, nor why the password is printed on the back
of the device, and who get those passwords confused. The documentation
is less than useless, and whoever wrote the configuration utility
should be hung up by his heels.
I knew the system had succeeded only because when I changed the
password at the configuration utility, I could no longer access
anything from my laptop, connected to the second node up in the
livingroom. Only after I entered the second node's device password
into the configuration utility downstairs and went back upstairs
to the livingroom could I verify that the password change had succeeded.
PITA PITA, Little Caesar optional.
Now that I have all that figured out, it works very well. Setting
up security is tricky, but there is some reason to think that security
isn't that big a deal with this technology (HomePlug AV) and for
that you can thank your electric meter. More tomorrow.
2, 2007: Linksys PowerLine Networking
I made only a few mistakes in designing this house, and one of
them was not having CAT5E run from my router station downstairs
in my shop to the wall behind our big-screen TV. I'm not a media
freak, and I wasn't up on big-screen technology in 2002, particularly
the fact that an HDTV-capable set would also display computer video
nicely at 1024 X 768.
So we now have this huge display, and no easy network access. I
could put it on Wi-Fi, of course, but cracking Wi-Fi has gotten
easy enough that I'd prefer not to, if there were an alternative,
especially for just one link. (The rest of the house is well-served
by CAT5E.) I finally got around to investigating power carrier networking,
by buying a kit of two Linksys
PLE200 PowerLine AV Ethernet adapters. The units are basically
backbone taps, with the 120V power system in the building acting
as the backbone. Once the configuration app is installed somewhere
and run, you can pop any (reasonable) number of the units into the
wall, and connect one computer (or presumably, an Ethernet switch)
at each unit.
The raw bandwidth provided by the technology is impressive: Up
to 100 Mbps, about twice as fast as Wireless-G, and hugely faster
than any broadband connection I've ever heard of. But Linksys is
wisely positioning this as a way of throwing large media files around
your house, from a computer somewhere to a media center or vise
versa. I'm interested in putting a Dell Optiplex SX260 under the
TV, and allow the SX260 to send digital photos and home videos elsewhere
in the house. To do that, I have to have a fairly fast connection
to the SX260 under the TV. From my early testing, the PLE200 units
can certainly do that. I'm not done with tests yet, but from here
it looks pretty good.
Basic setup is easy enough, though not well-explained in the little
brochure that comes with it:
- You install the configuration app on a PC somewhere. It doesn't
matter which one. The PC doesn't even have to be networked itself.
All it has to have is an open Ethernet port.
- You run an Ethernet patch cord (provided with the unit) from
the PLE200 to the Ethernet port on the computer where you installed
the configuration app.
- You plug the PLE200 into a nearby outlet, and tell the configuration
app that it's there by clicking a button. The configuration app
queries the unit for its MAC address and probably does some other
things as well.
- You can now disconnect the PLE200 from the computer and put
it somewhere else. I added it to a vacant port on my router/switch,
and in a sense it's now acting as a powerline access point.
- Go somewhere else in the house and plug in the second unit to
an outlet somewhere. No explicit configuration step required;
the second unit looks for the other and you're in.
My only complaint with the install is that the installer insisted
on installing .NET 1.1 on the machine, even though as best I knew
it was already there. You'd think .NET could see that it was already
present. One test I forgot to make is to see if the second unit
would install without the configuration app available on some machine
on the network. I think it should, but the app was running and available
when I plugged in the second unit.
That done, I had a nice, fastand unsecuredconnection
to the rest of my machines and the Internet. Alas, security, while
not easily crackable, was not easy to set up, and I wonder if nontechnical
people will bother. That part looks like Wi-Fi all over again. More
1, 2007: Bacteriophage Therapy
Four years ago, Wired posted a
fascinating article by Richard Martin that I had utterly missed,
but it's worth a read if you've never seen it. (We were in the worst
phase of getting our new house built, so I will forgive myself if
I missed a few drips at the firehose.) The gist of it is that Soviet
Russian and Georgian researchers pioneered the use of bacteriophages
in therapy against bacterial infections, and did so back as far
back as the 1930s. Wikipedia has a slightly more detail-oriented
A much more detailed history of the field from Evergreen State College
in Olympia, Washington is here.
Even though biology is my weak subject, I knew what bacteriophages
viruses that infect only bacteria, and (for that matter) only
very specific bacteria. (They're very cool-looking, too.)
A phage that eats staph aureus will eat nothing elseand
boy, does that sound like an opportunity or what? The Russians still
use bacteriophages for treating bacterial infections, though how
well they work depends heavily on how well the concentrated phage
media are characterized, which is not an easy business.
The phages are not genetically engineered but are harvested from
nature, and except for a couple of bacteria species like mycobacterium
(which is a bit of an outlier in a number of ways) every species
of bacteria has its own species of phage. How well a phage attacks
a species of bacteria is unrelated to whether or what degree that
species of bacteria is resistant to antiobiotics. If you can get
a reasonable dose of the right phage to the infection site, the
phages generally win, especially since they are self-replicating.
(That means the patient can't foster phage-resistance by ceasing
to take the medicine.) After the bacteria are gone, the phages cease
reproducing and are gradually eliminated by the body. There's some
possibility that bacteria will evolve away from their phages, but
since nearly all known bacteria are attacked by very effective bacteriophages,
one can only assume that the phages evolve as quickly as the bacteria.
Given the alarm that's been sounding about new strains of bacteria
that resist all or nearly all known antibiotics, I'm a little surprised
that we don't hear more about this. Yes, I know, there's not as
much money in saline packets full of bacteriophages as there is
in new drugs, but stillone would think that a system for rapidly
separating species of bacteriophages by the bacteria they attack
would be worth a few bucks. This one's worth watching, and I think
it will become a lot more important in coming years.