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May 21, 2005

'Bleedout' — by Joan Brady

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A new book by Joan Brady is always for me an occasion for excitement.

This is not the Joan Brady who wrote "God on a Harley" but another, older, far different person.

This Joan Brady began life aspiring to be a ballet dancer and succeeded: she was accepted into George Balanchine's New York City Ballet in 1960 at age 21.

Then began her departure from the beaten track.

In 1963 she married the writer Dexter Masters, a family friend twenty–five years her senior whom she had been in love with since she was a small girl.

This ruptured what was left of her family life since her widowed mother had long regarded Masters as the companion of her own old age.

Her only child, Alexander, was born in 1965 and a year later the family moved to England.

In 1971 they settled in Totnes, Devon, Kent, where Brady lived until very recently.

In 1982 she published a memoir entitled "The Unmaking of a Dancer" ["Prologue" in the U.K.],

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considered by many knowledgeable individuals to be among the very best accounts ever of life inside the high–powered, closed circle of world–class ballet.

Her husband became terminally ill in the 1980s and died in 1989.

Her second novel, "Theory of War," was published in 1993 and won the 1993 Whitbread Book of the Year award.

Brady was the first woman ever to have won the award.

In 2000 Brady's District Council granted permission for construction of a shoe factory in a building adjoining the old house she'd lived in since 1971.

She found the noise and fumes intolerable and protested, so much so that the council countersued her and had her indicted.

She found herself in court 15 times over the next two years and abandoned her novel in progress, unable to concentrate on it any longer.

Instead, she began a legal thriller which channeled much of her rage into its story.

This became her latest book, "Bleedout."

It's excellent: original, tight and gripping.

But these qualities are not surprising if you've read Brady's great "Theory of War."

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That book tells the story of a four–year–old white American boy sold into slavery soon after the Civil War.

The boy grew up to be Alexander Brady, Joan Brady's grandfather.

Here's a link to a most entertaining and informative March 29, 2005 BBC radio interview with Brady.

Here's a link to an excellent interview with Brady which appeared in the April 8, 2005 Independent.

Brady has left her long–time home in Devon and now lives in Oxford.

From "Bleedout":

    What I had not sensed was that the state of alert that rules a prisoner's life really ought to rule us all. Only because of David's tense vigilance and contempt for the hypocrisy of civilized friendship did I stumble across the saddest rule of human contact, and one that I had always assumed belonged to his world, not to mine: watch your back most carefully when someone you trust steps behind you.

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    "Confusion protects money" was another of Professor Flamm's rules.

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    It is one thing to visit the panther in the zoo with guards and guns at your command should the ground rules shift in some way that does not suit you. It is altogether another when the panther becomes your daily companion.

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    Just as you can tell the quality of a lock picker from the sounds of the work, you can tell professional training from the first move a person makes: fighter, dancer, skater, murderer.

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    Uranium is an unstable atom; it's the source of a fission reaction in a bomb, and because of it not even old weapons are safe. You can't destroy them when you don't want them anymore. You can't recycle them either. You can only bury them and hope for the best.

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    He leaned against the outside wall — cold stucco finish at his back — and breathed slowly in and out: an old trick to force the nerves into submission. You can't let the adrenaline take over. Lay out the ground before you make your move: what's known, what isn't and what has to be done.

May 21, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Radio 'VCR'

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Interesting technology.

"This portable device records a radio broadcast at the touch of a button, or at timed daily or weekly intervals, even when unattended, so you can play the broadcast when it's convenient."

You can program it for AM or PM.

Also works as a voice recorder.

Windows and Mac compatible.

"Records MP3s (USB cable included) from any audio source, including CDs, cassettes, or TV, without the need for a computer."

Plays MP3, WMA and RVF files.

Also works as an AM/FM radio.

"Backlit LCD screen shows ID3 file tagging information such as artist and song title."

128 MB built–in flash memory.

Accepts SD memory card (not included).

Digital tuner.

10 timer recording presets.

Rechargeable lithium battery.

Line–in cable, FM cable, AC adapter, cradle and earbuds included.

4"H x 2.25"W x 0.75"D.

Weighs 3 oz.

$199.95 here.

I wouldn't expect this device, in its current incarnation, to be around very long before Stevie Jobs sends out the cease–and–desist Cupertino–based Apple lawyer bots to shut this offering down.

Better be quick if you want to try one out.

May 21, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Where did I come from?

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As part of a project to map human migration, anyone can have their DNA analyzed for ancestral origins under a program created by National Geographic and IBM.

Here's how to proceed:

1) Go to www.nationalgeographic.com/genographic and order (for $99.95) a mail–in DNA testing kit

2) The cheek swab you submit is used to find "persistent markers" in your genetic code

3) These markers are then matched to the movement of different groups of humans up to 60,000 years ago

The project began on April 13 of this year and aims to create the largest and most detailed map of human lineage ever assembled.

At the core of the database will be 100,000 samples scientists will obtain over the next five years from indigenous populations all over our planet.

The project will compare these DNA results with those of people who submit samples to the program, then search for patterns to refine the map.

The $40 million project is the brainchild of Spencer Wells, a geneticist and explorer–in–residence at National Geographic who has long studied population movements.

Wells says that previous studies have looked at about 10,000 gene samples, only enough to paint migration patterns with the broadest of brush strokes.

He added that participants in the project may be able to trace their lineage all the way back to the particular region their ancestors inhabited some 10,000 years ago.

[via Charles Forelle and the Wall Street Journal]

May 21, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The shattered porcelain vases of Dror Benshetrit

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This protean New York City–based designer has created vases for Rosenthal which have seen violence — yet somehow recovered.

His Studio Dror exhibition at the 17th Annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair this past week in Manhattan promised "the future of porcelain" but Linda Hales, reviewing the work in today's Washington Post, wrote that "it looked like a metaphor for life."

Agreed.

May 21, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A website William Gibson would like

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Can there be any higher praise?

Not to my way of thinking.

Last evening I was sitting here doing something close to nothing but different from the day before when I happened to take a virtual amble through my statistics site.

It's got all kinds of stuff to amuse and delight if you're looking for something to waste time at other than the usual suspects.

Anyway, I happened to upon some website called in-revolt.blogspot.com that had sent 1 person to bookofjoe over the past day.

Whenever I see a website that's referred someone here and I don't recognize it, I have a look: you'd be amazed at all the cool people/websites I've come across this way.

So I went and had a look and was astounded at what I found when I clicked on the site's links page.

Thousands of links, all neatly alphabetized and categorized.

You could spend a long time here.

Very, very cool.

May 21, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Your own private inflatable island

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It's a very tricked–out air mattress/pool toy is what it is.

Measuring 8 feet on a side, it holds eight adults comfortably according to the website.

"Can even serve as a mooring station for small boats, kayaks and wave runners."

But wait — there's more!

"For the truly adventurous, a durable strap in one corner hooks to your towrope for speed towing of up to four people."

Last one to stay on laughs at everybody else.

"The inflatable glides over water, lifting off the surface just slightly enough for an exhilarating ride."

Why waste your money on a hovercraft?

Comes with eight stainless steel moorage rings for modular expansion.

The towing strap "can connect to an anchor (not included) to keep the platform in place for the day or even the summer."

Or even forever.

"Includes four removable padded swim straps for a secure handhold when climbing onto and down from the platform."

Deflates to 7.5" x 29" square.

$299.95 here.

May 21, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Float Copper — 2.7 Tons Worth

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This piece of copper, weighing 5,432 pounds (2.7 tons), was found in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

It measures 7 feet by 5 feet.

Float copper is copper ore which was ripped loose from the earth's surface by a glacier; it then traveled with the glacier to its ultimate destination and remained behind when the glacier melted.

It is found in all states that have received glacial drift from the Lake Superior region, primarily Wisconsin and Michigan.

And now a magnificent specimen can be yours.

It's up for auction on eBay here; the auction ends May 24.

Or you can simply buy it now for $11,995.

Shipping not included.

From the auction website:

    Truly unique, it would make a great conversation piece to place in front of your home.

    No one would ever have another one just like it.

[via CSS]

May 21, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Polished steel chopsticks are the secret of South Korea's world domination in human therapeutic cloning

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The only way you'd find that out, though, is by reading to the very end of yesterday's Financial Times story by Clive Cookson, the paper's science editor.

And reading it online wouldn't have told you either: it was in the paper version but not the internet story.

Professor Hwang Woo–suk, the world's greatest human cloning scientist, told Cookson that the use of polished steel chopsticks in South Korea, instead of the wooden chopsticks used elsewhere in Asia, explains "the extraordinary dexterity" of his researchers.

Hwang is in the spotlight because of this past Thursday's electrifying report in Science magazine of the latest results from his lab.

He and and his colleagues succeeded in taking skin cells from patients suffering from spinal injuries, juvenile diabetes and congenital immune disease, then growing embryos which yielded stem cells containing only the genetic code of the skin cell donors.

The next step is to place these individualized stem cell lines back into the donors in the hope that they will differentiate into the tissues needing repair.

The crippled will indeed walk again and not that far into the future.

More from Hwang:

"Small children learn from their grandparents to pick up slippery corn or rice," he said, "and that is excellent background for micro–manipulation in the laboratory."

The Koreans work 365 days a year — 366 in leap years — and begin work at 6:30 a.m. every day (8 a.m. on Sundays).

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That's what it's all about.

I will admit I do not begin at 6:30 a.m. though I do work 365 days a year — 366 in leap years.

Here's Cookson's story as it appeared online.

    South Korea’s 'Giant Step’ in Human Cell Cloning

    Scientists have cloned embryos for the first time from patients with serious diseases and injuries.

    The research at Seoul National University in South Korea demonstrates the principle of "therapeutic cloning" producing stem cells genetically identical to the patient, which could repair damaged or diseased tissue.

    Hwang Woo-suk, the study leader, called it "a giant step forward towards the day when some of mankind's most devastating diseases and injuries can be effectively treated through the use of therapeutic stem cells".

    The results, published online on Thursday by the journal Science, illustrate the way Asian countries - China and Singapore as well as South Korea - have established a world lead in some areas of human stem cell science.

    In an interview, Prof Hwang said this is partly because of supportive political and social attitudes in Asia in contrast to the US and many European countries, where embryo research and therapeutic cloning are either banned or mired in controversy.

    The Korean team has made rapid technical progress since producing the world's first cloned human embryos early last year.

    Those embryos were clones of the same healthy young women who had donated 242 eggs to the study and the scientists cultured stem cells from only one embryo.

    In the new project they took eggs and DNA from different people.

    The resulting clones were from patients of both sexes, aged from 2 to 56, who were suffering from spinal injury, juvenile diabetes or a congenital immune disease.

    Starting with 185 donated eggs, they produced 31 embryos, 11 of which yielded stem cells.

    Independent scientists, who had expressed doubt about Prof Hwang's original study, acclaimed the latest results.

    "Some thought that his earlier success with cloning only worked because it used a woman's egg and the [ovarian] cells surrounding it," said Anne McLaren of Cambridge University.

    "But now: good news for men. Some of the cloned lines were derived from men's skin cells."

    All therapeutic cloning research uses "somatic cell nuclear transfer", the technique developed at the Roslin Institute in Scotland to produce Dolly the sheep.

    The Korean scientists transferred the nucleus from a patient's skin cell into a human egg whose own nucleus had been removed.

    The egg was then stimulated to develop into an early embryo.

    Cells were removed when the embryo was a microscopic ball six days old, and cultured with nutrients and growth factors to become a self-replicating "line" of stem cells.

    Prof Hwang said a key factor in his team's success was the availability of eggs from fertile donors, instead of ones left over from fertility treatment which some western research groups have tried to use.

    Speaking in London about his research, Prof Hwang warned people not to expect clinical applications in the near future.

May 21, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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