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August 2, 2005

BehindTheMedspeak: New DNA machine uses firefly chemistry to quickly and cheaply decode the human genome


In yesterday's New York Times Nicholas Wade described a major advance in DNA decoding that will lead, in the not too distant future, to affordable personal genome sequencing.

His story tried to describe, in understandable terms, the enormous strides made by 454 Life Sciences of Branford, Connecticut toward reading an individual human's genetic code.

Long story short: Ten years ago, in 1995, Claire M. Fraser invented a process that could decode the genome of a small bacterium in 24,000 separate operations requiring four to six months.

It was a major breakthrough.

The new machine does the same thing in four hours.

The breakthrough is described in a paper appearing in the current issue of the journal Nature.


Here's how the machine works:

1) A fragment of DNA — from saliva, skin, blood, anywhere — is treated by a process called polymerase chain reaction which rapidly copies the DNA until about 10 million copies of the DNA have been created.

2) The copies are then attached to ultrasmall beads.

3) The beads are dropped into a credit–card sized grid of 1.6 million tiny wells.

4) In the wells a newly developed technique called pyrosequencing takes place: each particular DNA base causes the emission of a flash of light by triggering luciferase, the enzyme used by fireflies to generate their light.

5) Scientists then use computers to translate the sequence of light flashes into the DNA base sequence.

The company's goal is to bring the cost of reading an individual's entire genome down to $100,000, then reduce it to $20,000.

Mostafa Ronaghi, one of the inventors of pyrosequencing, told Wade, "What they have done here is very significant. This is the first step toward $1,000 human genome sequencing."

Guess what: once you turn something like this into an automated process, the nature of computer scaling takes over.

If you can do it for $100,000 eventually you'll be able to do it for $10.


Just as the digital watch on your wrist harnesses more computer power than a room–sized computer of the 1950s, so with automated DNA sequencing.

August 2, 2005 at 05:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



What's this?

I was just sitting here doing something close to nothing, paging through the new issue of the New Yorker magazine (August 8 & 15) when I noticed, in one of the little 1"–high ads stacked in the outside margins of the magazine's back pages, an unusual one on page 90.

The bold–face headline read, "I'll settle for perfect."

Underneath, it said,

    If you're the right man for me, I'm the right woman for you.

    Funny how that works.

    Find out if you have what it takes to be my perfect man.

Then the ad ended with a domain name: perfectmanforme.com

Well, I went and had a look and lo and behold, there's a very well–done (as in costly) website there, with all sorts of features like:

• All About You

• More About Me

• Perfect Man Test

• FAQs

• Updates/Blog

• Email Me

• Tell a Friend

On the home page we learn that the advertiser is a 45–year–old Ivy League graduate who's got all the usual/typical high–end personal ad attributes such as "minimal baggage, accomplished entrepreneur, financially secure, looks younger, ready for a great adventure," blah blah blah.

She doesn't appear to have set the bar too high; for example, she writes, re: the required level of fitness in her perfect man: "You can make it up a set of stairs without having a heart attack."

Her blog started just yesterday so I guess all this was timed to happen just so.


Well, good luck if it's a real person although I'm betting it's a clever way to introduce some new website, product or service.


You'll be reading all about this ad and website in the usual places in the coming days.

FunFact: the New Yorker ad alone cost over $2,000.

August 2, 2005 at 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Visionaire Magazine + Kid Robot Collectible Toys


Issue 44 of the always remarkable, visually arresting Visionaire magazine includes 10 original Visionaire toys customized by the world's greatest fashion designers: Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Donatella Versace, Hedi Slimane, Miuccia Prada, Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Louis Dumas for Hermès, Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana, and Viktor & Rolf.

It doesn't get any better than that.

The issue is released as two sets of five toys; each set contains photos of all 10 characters in an accordion–fold catalog along with a set of accessories including a toy cell phone, martini glass, and camera that the characters can hold.

$175 here while they last and I guarantee you that won't be very long.

August 2, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Water Talkies


Way cool.

"Talk to your friends underwater from up to 15 feet away."

No batteries, no wires, no gimmicks.

"Invent new pool games without constantly going to the surface to hear the details."

Always on.

"Invented by a kid named Rich Stachowski."

Water Talkies were the award–winning entry in the National Gallery of Young Inventors contest.

"Just put your mouth over the mouthpiece when speaking and your voice will be heard by everyone in the pool."

$11.99 for two here.

[via AW]

August 2, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

David Boies — 'Courting Justice'


If you:

1) Think you ever might need a lawyer

2) Have ever needed a lawyer

3) Are a lawyer, were a lawyer or want to be one

4) Have ever been involved in anything requiring a lawyer

5) Have ever been in court

6) Think you or anyone you love or care about or know might ever be in court

7) Appreciate excellence

8) Love a good story told well

then you will enjoy this autobiography of sorts of superlawyer David Boies.

It's a memoir of the years 1997 through 2000 on its surface, years in which Boies was an advocate in cases like the New York Yankees v. Major League Baseball; the U.S. v. Microsoft antitrust trial, dubbed "the trial of the decade" by the business press at the time; the Christies/Sotheby's price–fixing scandal; and, towering over all of them, Bush v. Gore in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

I cannot praise this book highly enough, on several levels:

1) Just as an inside look into high–stakes litigation and what it takes to do it well it's an absolute eye–opener

2) As an individual who himself has been in court several times as a defendant (once, when I was charged with rollerblading in the street even though it was across an intersection and I had a green light; a second time when I was charged with rollerblading on the sidewalk, both cases having taken place here in Charlottesville; in each of which I could have simply paid my ticket for $20 or so and gone on my way but instead chose to hire high–powered criminal defense attorneys, each time emerging from court victorious but in what some might say was a rather Pyrrhic sense as my legal bills in each case were approximately $1,000)

3) As an expert analyst and witness in anesthesia–related medical malpractice cases for many years, having appeared under oath in court in high–stakes trials some 5–10 times over the years, along with scores of videotaped depositions

4) As a person who, in my role as a medical expert, has worked with hundreds of attorneys from many states in the course of my consulting work, and has witnessed up close and personal just how good — and bad — an attorney can be, and how much that can affect the outcome of a case independent of its merits or lack thereof

5) As a person who many years ago seriously entertained thoughts of becoming an attorney and has always been interested in the field intellectually

6) As an individual who's always looking for ways to do what he does better

Boies is a maverick, no question about it: he's not from an elite background, rather quite the opposite; he had trouble learning to read, not getting the knack until third grade; he had enormous difficulty in junior high school because of his difficulty reading; didn't like high school and had ordinary grades; and became a construction worker after getting married at the end of high school.

His young wife demanded he go to college and he agreed though he really didn't want to leave his care–free life of work and parties.

From that point things took off and he ended up a lawyer.

Though the book focuses on the four years noted above it's full of short autobiographical vignettes and asides as well as a treasure trove of useful information applicable both in the legal arena and in life in general.

Without further ado, then, here are some passages from the book:

    • I relied on five principles that worked for me then and, with some refinements, since:

    First, explain what makes your client good and successful and, if possible, show how what the other side complains about should be applauded, not criticized.

    Second, whether you are plaintiff or defendant, go on the attack.

    Third, a trial, like a battle, is a zero–sum game.

    Fourth, it is important to be able to improvise but critical not to depend on improvisation.

    Fifth, don't rely on drama alone, but be prepared to dramatize the key points of your case so that they come alive for the jury.

    • Craps and litigation have their similarities. It is necessary to manage your exposure while taking risks. It is critical to be patient and not get carried away. Luck plays a key part. Every hand, short or long, eventually ends. And the result of every new roll, like the result of every new case, is independent of the last.

    • Probably the biggest mistake plaintiffs' lawyers make is complicating their case with unnecessary issues and evidence.

    • I was wondering the same thing myself. However, it is always better if your client thinks you have a plan, so I simply smiled and changed the subject.

    • Usually (particularly in a jury trial) plaintiffs win or lose based on the strengths or weaknesses of their evidence.

    • Lawyers and their clients should be quick to settle early and slow to settle late.

    • It is rarely possible to know for sure whether a particular case should be tried or settled.

    • Knowing what is true is a necessary first step, but it is not enough. A lawyer must prove those truths, and prove them with admissible evidence.

    • We both agreed that a trial with the gloves off would be fun for me (and for him...), but less so for our clients.

    • The easiest way to spoil an effective cross–examination is to keep it going too long.

    • Jury selection is part art, part science, part guess.

    • Juries do not want to hear clever hypotheses about what the facts might be; they want witnesses, and lawyers, to tell them what the facts are.

    • ... If litigation is like bridge, the settlement of litigation is like poker.

    • To win the battles you fight, it is necessary to prepare for many battles that you end up not fighting.

    • The prospect of losing does not usually deter me. The best case is one where you are on the right side and you can win; the second best case is where you are on the right side and you can't win.

    • Lawyers must be prepared to tell a client what needs to be done even (indeed, particularly) where the client does not want to do it; and to give that advice in the strongest possible terms, even if the client is offended. Lawyers who do not are not serving their clients well.

    • It is easy to be clear and simple if you sacrifice accuracy, or accurate if you sacrifice clarity and simplicity. A trial lawyer's success depends on his or her ability to be clear, simple, and accurate at the same time. A lack of simplicity and clarity prevents a lawyer from communicating effectively. A lack of accuracy will destroy a lawyer's most important asset, credibility. In a short case a lawyer sometimes may manage, if so inclined, to rely on misstatements of law or fact without the other side, or the court, catching on in time. In a long case, or a case as intense and public as the Florida election litigation, everything will come out; accuracy is not only good ethics, but critical to credibility.

    • The detailed knowledge that is essential to a lawyer's preparation comes with a danger. The danger is that the lawyer will forget how a fact or argument appears to someone who has not accumulated the lawyer's specialized knowledge.

    • As often happens to a witness with a witness who has taken an unexpected body blow, he lost his confidence and his committment, agreeing with question after question.

    • No matter how bad a judge seems, it is sometimes possible to make the situation better, and it is always possible to make it worse.

Here's how good I think this book is: anyone who doesn't read it but should is guilty of negligence.

For $17.13 (new) or $3.57 (like new) at amazon, you'd be a fool not to buy it.

"Written by and for fools" — our credo.

And proud of it.

August 2, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mother Ship Night Light


Oh, sure — it's being marketed as simply a tricked–out night light.

From the website:

    Under–bed night light gently illuminates the night.

    Eight bright LED lights glow from under the bed or nightstand so you can find your way without turning on a lamp.

    Perfect for children's or grandparents' bedrooms or guestrooms.

    Lights last for over 12 years of continuous use.

    Just plug them in and forget them.

$24.98 for two here. (Item #23238)

A being gets homesick.


So every now


and then


we create a consumer device to remind us of good times past and future.

August 2, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Annual State of the Blog Report


What with the one–year anniversary of bookofjoe Version 2.0 approaching (August 24 marks the day) it seemed worth a post to share where things stand as of now.

Above, the total number of people who've stopped by each month for the past year.

You will note that last September, the first full month, some 40,000 intrepid souls made the journey: that's about 1,300/day.

Last month 150,000 people visited, on average about 5,000 a day.

The trend appears to be favorable.

Page views (below, in purple) mirror the visitors' numbers: 75,000 last September v. 230,000 last month.

Next stop: 10,000 visitors a day.

That's a nice, round number and I like round numbers.

I believe that the more readers I acquire the better bookofjoe will get.

The reason?

About 10%–15% of my material now comes from readers, up from a far smaller proportion back in the day.

With more cool readers giving me tips and all I can't help but improve.


Bring it.

August 2, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bionic Wrench


Six piston–like steel bars close in to grab the nut as you squeeze the handle.

Does not round off corners like pliers and wrenches.

Adjusts on the fly.


    6 SAE sizes: 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8, 11/16, 3/4 inch.

    10 Metric sizes: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 mm.

$28.95 here.

August 2, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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