domingo, 25 de dezembro de 2011

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MONTMARAY By Michelle Cooper, excerpt

By Michelle Cooper

23rd October 1936

Dear Sophie,

     Happy birthday to my favorite little sister! I've been trying to recollect the day you were
born so I can gush about it in an appropriately sentimental fashion, but I'm afraid it's all a blank. I must have been too busy pulling Veronica's hair or smearing stewed apple over my smock to notice you popping into existence. I do remember Henry's arrival ten years ago, and if you were anything like her, you were a most unattractive baby--wrinkled, redfaced, loud, and rather smelly. Lucky for all of us that you've improved somewhat with age.
     Now, did the presents arrive safely? I had to go all the way to Knightsbridge for the journal, and then I got detention for sneaking off from Games, so I hope you appreciate it. You can use it to write down your thoughts. You must have plenty of them at the moment, given Aunt Charlotte's letter--I assume you've read it by now. Are you thrilled?
     Terrified? Well, it's all your fault for turning sixteen--you gave Aunt Charlotte quite a shock when she realized how old you'd suddenly become. She had to sit down and have an extra-large sherry to recover.
     As for me, this new school is almost as ghastly as the old one. I suppose I'd been hoping Rupert would come too when I was thrown out of Eton, but his parents keep saying no, worse luck. The House Masters have finally sorted out dormitories, and now I share with three boys. Two are in the Rugby First XV, ugh. The other has noxious feet and learns the bagpipes, so is nearly as bad. I have already had two detentions, one for missing Games on Saturday and one for not doing Latin prep. The Latin prep wasn't my fault. I didn't know there was any prep because the Latin Master told us about it in Latin and I didn't understand a word he said.
     Remember, I am in MarchHare House, so please make sure you put that on the address
when you write, otherwise the letters might get lost. It's a good House to be in because it inevitably comes last in the House Cup, so no one cares much when I lose House points.
     The other good thing about MarchHare is that we can climb out the top-story windows
onto the roof and look into the hospital next door, which is very educational. Also, sometimes the nurses come out onto a balcony to smoke, and they throw us a cigarette if we beg nicely.
     It's almost lights-out, so I'd better finish. Tell Veronica to come and live in my trunk so she can secretly do my Latin prep for me. She could write my History essay as well, it is on the Restoration. And ask her to bring Carlos with her so he can eat the bagpipes. Love from your wonderful brother,


     As usual, Toby's letter was coded in Kernetin, which Toby and my cousin Veronica and I invented years ago so we could write notes to each other without the grown-ups being able to read them. Kernetin is based on Cornish and Latin, with some Greek letters and random meaningless squiggles thrown in to be extra-confusing. Also, it is boustrophedonic (I adore that word and try to say it as often as possible, but unfortunately it hasn't many everyday uses). "Boustrophedonic" means you read one line left to right, then the next right to left. Veronica can translate Kernetin straight off the page into English, but I find it easier to write it out, so there it is, my first entry in my new journal.
     It has a hundred blank pages thick as parchment, and a morocco binding, and is almost
too lovely to write in.
     I did get some superb birthday presents this year. Veronica gave me a pen with my initials on it. From my little sister, Henry, came a new Pride and Prejudice, because I dropped my old one in the bath and it hasn't been the same since. (Henry, who wishes she'd been born a boy, looked quite disappointed when I opened the journal from Toby -she'd probably told him to get me one of those pocketknives with attached magnifying glass, screwdriver, and fish-scaler, hoping that I'd then lend it to her.) The villagers presented me with a honey-spice cake, a lavender pillow, and a beautiful comb carved out of driftwood. Uncle John doesn't even know what year it is, let alone the date, so I never expect so much as a "Happy birthday" from him, but Rebecca, our housekeeper, gave me the day off from washing up the breakfast dishes. Even Carlos, our Portuguese water dog, managed a birthday card, signed with an inky paw-print (now I understand why Henry was being so secretive yesterday and how the bathtub ended up with all those black streaks).
     And then there was Aunt Charlotte! I opened her letter long after breakfast was over
because I couldn't imagine her approving of anything as indulgent as birthdays, but that
turned out to be the most exciting part of the whole morning. I won't copy it all out, most
of it being her usual scoldings about our idle, extravagant lives here on Montmaray, and
do we think she's made of money, and so on. But here is the important part: ...and now that you are sixteen, Sophia, I am reminded yet again of the sad burden I have been forced to bear since my youngest brother and his wife were so cruelly torn from this world, God rest their souls. My only comfort is knowing how grateful Robert and Jane would be if they could see all that I have done for you children.
     However, my responsibilities are not yet complete, and your mother in particular, Sophia, would have wanted you to be given the same social opportunities she had. As for
Veronica, it is not her fault that her feckless mother is who-knows-where and quite unable to make appropriate arrangements regarding a matrimonial match. I feel it is my duty, then, to sponsor your debuts into Society. We cannot postpone this event much longer, in light of your advancing ages.
     I expect early in the new year would be the best time for both of you to travel to England. I leave it to Veronica to write to Mr. Grenville regarding steamer passage and railway tickets. In the meantime, I shall begin perusing the Almanach de Gotha for eligible

Excerpted from A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper Copyright © 2009 by Michelle Cooper. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

2030 The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks

2030 The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks


     It was a normal day, or so it seemed. Actually, nothing in 2030 seemed normal, not to Brad Miller anyway. Brad was surprised at how many people showed up for his eightieth birthday. Surprised because he had these friends in the first place and surprised at how healthy they all were. This was not what people in their eighties were supposed to look like. Sure, the lifts helped, along with the tucks and the hair and the new weight- loss drug, which, while only seven years on the market, had become the biggest selling drug in the history of the world. That’s what happens when a chemical works almost one hundred percent of the time, in everyone. But still, Brad thought, these folks look good.
     And they did. They were thin, healthy, all looking better than their parents were at forty. The only thing missing were younger people. Brad couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen a young person at his birthday.
     Other than his son, whom he never talked to anyway, he didn’t even know anyone under fi fty. Nor did any of his friends. There was just too much resentment and too much fear.
     As the lights dimmed, the customary “life” movie played in the middle of the room, holographic style. People were getting tired of these. It was one thing to watch home movies of someone else; it was another to feel like you were in them. It was like boredom squared. But people watched; they laughed and told Brad how much fun it was to see him “age.” He, like many of them, actually looked better now than he had ten years ago.   But it was funny. Where once that was a compliment relating to how you lived your life, whether you ate well or exercised enough or got a good night’s sleep, now it was just about what you could aff ord. And once cancer had been cured, the youth business went crazy. Most people in that room were only in their twenties when Richard Nixon declared a war on cancer. Like all the wars going on at the time, this one seemed to have little success. The progress was so slow. Still, people held out hope that when they got older there would be a cure for what ailed them. But when the year 2000 rolled in, there they were: bald, fat, and ugly. And there was still cancer.
     But everyone in that room, probably everyone in the world, remembered where they were when they heard the news. Oh, there had been so many hopeful stories over the years. So many false starts. So many mice that were cured, but when the human trials started, people dropped dead of all kinds of things that had never bothered a mouse. But then it happened.
     And like all of the greatest discoveries, from Newton to Einstein, Dr. Sam Mueller’s cure was so exquisitely simple. Dr. Mueller was no genius. He grew up fairly normal, in Addison, Illinois. A big night out was going to Chicago for pizza. After graduating Rush Medical College, Sam Mueller interned at Rush- Presbyterian- St. Luke’s Medical Center and then, realizing that making a living as an internist was going to be tough at best, he started looking elsewhere. He thought of concierge medicine, which was all the rage, but decided to take a fairly lucrative position at Pfizer. He figured he would do that for a while and then something would unfold. Oh my, did it unfold.
     Mueller had always been interested in the immune system. So much in medicine was pointing to the body’s own defenses as a cure- all, but the success rates were modest at best. He was assigned various projects at Pfizer. Some were interesting, some he hated. He never understood the Viagra- for- women thing. Every woman he ever knew could go all night, have a bowl of cereal, and go for another afternoon, but he worked on it anyway, and when it happened it was huge.
     The team got big- time bonuses and raises and all kinds of rewards. They were even sent to Hawaii, where Sam Mueller met his wife. She wasn’t Hawaiian, she was an assistant on the project whom he had never really gotten to know, but then one night on Kauai they both got drunk, walked on the beach, watched the most beautiful sunset in the world, and fell madly in love.
     Maggie was a great companion for Sam. Smart, easygoing, and very supportive. He could talk to her about his ideas and she would not only listen but also encourage him.    The idea she liked most was an interesting one. Something about using a person’s own blood to attack cancer cells.
     Sam was convinced that if a person’s blood was combined with someone else’s blood that wasn’t compatible, if the combination of the two was just right, one person’s blood cells would fight not only the other blood cells but the foreign bodies in their system as well, including the cancer.
     But the real break came when Pfizer merged with a Swiss firm and Sam was let go.  Thank God he never told anyone there about what he was working on or they would have owned it.
     With Maggie’s help, Sam Mueller raised three hundred thousand dollars, took on a partner, and started Immunicate. His blood idea was in the right direction but it didn’t work properly; it knocked out cancer cells but attacked the other organs, too, and the body’s immune system went into overdrive, killing everything. Something had to be done to make the blood combination work against the disease without working against the rest of the body. The answer turned out to be common amino acids.
     Sam and his partner, Ben Wasser, spent an entire year injecting the blood with different aminos. With the help of computers they tried millions of combinations. There were so many months where they felt it was not going to work. And then on the night of June 30, 2014, they put together alanine, isoleucine, proline, and tryptophan. Four common aminoacids that had never been combined before, certainly not in this precise mea surement.
     Two years later, over ninety- four percent of the participants in the human trials were cancer- free. There were still rare cancers that did not respond, but all the big ones were knocked out, and the success was so overwhelming that trials were stopped early and the drug was available to the general population by the spring of 2016.

From "2030" by Albert Brooks. Excerpt courtesy of St. Martin’s Press.

sábado, 24 de dezembro de 2011

terça-feira, 13 de dezembro de 2011

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R.E.M. - Losing My Religion (Live @ MTV) HD

quinta-feira, 8 de dezembro de 2011

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