Dog Blessings

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New must-read book for dog lovers.

My official review of Dog Blessings comes out in the next ish of MBR, but I just wanted to urge you all to buy a holiday copy now. This is the cutest, sweetest, best little dog book I have seen in years.

A master of anthologies, June Cotner has out done herself this time.

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Hidden Cosmic Diamonds

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Cosmic diamonds may be hidden in ‘carbon onions’

An exotic carbon structure could explain why astronomers have seen very little diamond dust in the universe.

Since the 1980s, researchers have puzzled over the origin of “nanodiamonds”, tiny diamond deposits preserved in meteorites, such as the Allende meteorite that landed in Mexico in 1969.

These tiny diamonds make up roughly 3% of the carbon in the rocks. That suggests nanodiamonds should abound in clouds of interstellar gas and dust, possibly forged in the fiery blasts of previous supernovae.

But so far, signs of diamonds have only been found in the dusty discs around three young stars. Strangely, the diamonds are found close to the stars, as opposed to being distributed more evenly in the space around them. That hints that they were not left over from ancient stellar explosions but may have formed near the stars, at comparatively low pressures.

Now researchers led by Miwa Goto of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, say they have come up with an explanation.

Nanodiamonds may be hidden from view in many places because they form within “carbon onions”, exotic structures made up of concentric layers of graphite that can form in dusty material that is blasted with high-energy particles, the researchers say.

Right conditions

Carbon onions have been used to forge nanodiamonds on Earth. At high temperatures, researchers bombard the layered graphite with electrons. This knocks atoms out of the onions’ outer shells, forcing the remaining atoms in the shells to rearrange and close ranks. The shells therefore squeeze inwards, eventually creating enough pressure at the centre of the onion to form diamond.

But conditions must be just right to produce diamonds in carbon onions around stars. A star must eject enough charged particles to turn onions into pressure cells.

Then, in order for astronomers to see the diamonds, one of two conditions must be met. There must either be a nearby source of X-rays that could slough off the outer layer of the onion to reveal the underlying gems, or the onions themselves must be warm enough – more than 300 °C – for the entire carbon onion to be turned into a nanodiamond.

The three stars that boast signs of diamonds are all massive young stars called Herbig Ae/Be stars. Notably, they all seem to have the required conditions to create carbon onion diamonds, Goto says.

Two of the stars have binary companion stars that emit large flares that could blast charged particles towards the onions. The other has a nearby X-ray source that has yet to be identified. All have dusty discs that are warm enough to sustain diamond growth.

Diamonds in the rough

“It’s a new idea that should definitely be taken seriously,” says Louis Allamandola of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, who has studied cosmic diamonds.

But he adds that it’s not clear how well the diamonds would survive continued irradiation by stellar flares. “If they can’t cool down fast enough, they just basically erode, atoms just boil off,” Allamandola told New Scientist.

Light from carbon onions may resemble that from other forms of carbon, making it difficult to confirm whether such structures orbit the star.

But carbon onions have been found in meteorites, including Allende. If future studies reveal nanodiamonds within those carbon onions, it would bolster the case that the universe is sprinkled with diamonds in the rough.

Journal reference: Astrophysical Journal

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“God Created Us Naked.”

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Remembering Bettie Page

by Karen Essex

Bettie Page, the 1950s pin-up queen and pop culture icon who died on Thursday, will be remembered for her indomitable influence on style, fashion, and sexual expression. But as Bettie’s biographer — and the only one with whom she ever cooperated — I can tell you that the underground bondage queen also had the unlikely effect of thematically shaping a series of biographical and highly feminist novels about powerful women in history.

In 1991, intrigued by the resurgence of Bettie’s image in venues as diverse as rockabilly clubs, nostalgia rags, and S&M fashion gone mainstream, I wrote a cover story for the L.A. Weekly, “In Search of Bettie Page.” For nine months, I had tracked down anyone who had ever known her or photographed her. But Bettie herself, the object of much speculation, remained elusive. Most people thought she was dead.

Then, as fate would have it, someone gave Bettie, who was living in anonymity and seclusion, a copy of the article. Imagine the shock — a seventy-something senior citizen who ran away from it all forty years prior, suddenly finds that she is famous again.

But she liked it. Though she did not want to re-enter the public arena, Bettie sent me a letter praising the piece, calling us “kindred spirits.” Soon, with co-author James Swanson, I embarked on the adventure of writing her biography, sitting down with her for hundreds of hours while she told us her story.

At the time, I was also trying to work out how to tell the stories of women in history who had been either dropped from the record or misinterpreted through the sexist lens of their biographers. I was to start with Kleopatra (the original Greek spelling), a victim of Roman propaganda remembered for the men with whom she slept rather than for her diplomacy, leadership, and the fact that she had mastered nine languages. How to present the stories of women who had been victimized without writing a victim story, I kept asking myself? How to give women in history who had been reduced to their sexuality the full breadth of their experience without diminishing or demeaning their sexuality?

So here was Bettie Page, a woman known only for her sexuality, who had been sexually abused by her father, sexually violated by a gang of strangers, and emotionally battered by a husband. In the years since she had gone underground, Bettie had become a born-again Christian working for the Billy Graham Crusade. Surely she would repudiate the work she’d done as a pin-up and bondage model. Surely she saw herself as a victim of the patriarchy that hijacked her beauty and sensuality and exploited it for its own gratification. Surely I was about to meet a woman who considered herself a victim.

I was wrong. Despite her more unfortunate experiences, Bettie never presented herself as a casualty of sexual abuse, and she never used that, or her religious beliefs, which were strong, to renounce the work she’d done as a model. Moreover, she never denounced sexual expression.

“God created us naked,” she said by way of explaining her total lack of inhibition in the buff. She purported that bondage modeling “was such fun,” even at times “hilarious,” except for when the elaborate gear became uncomfortable. And sex itself, she assured me on many occasions, was for her, always pleasurable and joyful. Though she had at times suffered at their hands, she never expressed bitterness toward men. I know women who are resoundingly more hostile than Bettie Page just for having suffered a few bad dates. No, Bettie was not going to allow anyone or anything to diminish the joy she experienced when she put that corset on (or took it off) and felt her full-blown sexual power.

Since the publication of Bettie Page: Life of a Pin-Up Legend, I have published four historical novels with strong female characters. Each, in her own way, was a victim, either of the era in which she lived and its laws, or of individual abusers, or of the general abuses and oppressive nature of the culture at large. Despite the enormous consciousness-raising of the last few decades, we still see attempts to diminish today’s female powerbrokers women like Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin by sexualizing them. Yes, in our porn-saturated society, people are still trying to shame women for — what? Having sexual attributes?

At least we can point to one woman, Bettie Page, who wouldn’t have it.

Bettie’s obits paint a bleak picture of her later years. But I found that, despite her trials, she had retained a zest for life and always took pleasure in memories of the work that she’d done. I hope that Bettie is remembered for her sexual joy, and for the gleeful spirit she brought to sexual imagery, whether she was frolicking on the beach or being ball-gagged and spanked, rather than for being a victim.

A female friend of mine said this morning, “Bettie Page did more for sexual expression than Alfred Kinsey.” Amen, sister. For all the countless (and valuable) mountains of scholarly and feminist writing that have influenced my thinking and my portrayal of women, I still look to a lady who said it all by looking into the camera and defying anyone to tell her she was bad or wrong.

Amen to you, too, Bettie. Rest in peace.

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Giant Robot Dog Terrorizes London

Giant Robot Dog Terrorizes London

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Women Prefer Internet To Sex

If, as reported, 46% of women would rather give up sex for the Web, does that mean the remaining 54% prefer sex? Seems like good odds to me. Besides, the implication of “they give up sex for the Internet” is misleading, since the Internet is largely sex-based. Show me what online content-industry is larger than sex and I’ll show you 46% of the people looking at it.

Sounds like the girls are actually just giving up potentially crappy, boring sex with their lamo usual cold dish to find some hot e-Fabio with whom to romance the Web.

46% Of Women Prefer Internet To Sex, Says Intel Survey

Intel conducted a survey they hoped would show how important the Internet is to consumers during tough times. Instead, the results — gleaned from some 2,000 respondents — are just kind of sad. Reports the Wall Street Journal:

An online survey commissioned by Intel has found, among other things, that 46% of women would rather go without sex for two weeks than give up the Internet for that long. The numbers get bigger for certain age groups; 49% of women aged 18-34 would make that choice, and 52% of women aged 35-44.

Some 30% of all men would swap sex for the Internet for two weeks, if they had to, with 39% of men aged 18-34 willing to make that sacrifice, according to the survey. Only 23% of men aged 35-44 said they would do so.

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Ukelele Weeps

Thanks to my bro for pointing out this cool adaptation of George Harrison.

Ukulele weeps by Jake Shimabukuro

Just for the beauty of it, here is a live version of his famous “Dragon” song, inspired by Bruce Lee.

Find out much more about Jake and his awesome music here.

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Royal Chu Tomb

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Tomb fit for Chu king, archaeologists agree

Chinese archaeologists have reached a consensus that the master of a tomb dating back 2,400 years, was a king of the State of Chu in the Warring States Period (475 to 221 BC).

“The tomb is the largest and best preserved found to date from the State of Chu in the Warring States Period,” Liu Binhui, an expert in Chu culture with the Hunan provincial museum, who had carried out research in Jingzhou for more than 20 years before transferring to Hunan, said.

The tomb has a 131-m-long horse and chariot chamber, the longest ever found from the period, the Wuhan Evening News reported yesterday.

Excavation of the chamber is about half complete, with 43 chariots and more than 100 horses unearthed, Liu said.

“Three chariots were equipped with six horses,” he said.

“That reflects the rank of the tomb’s owner. Only kings were allowed to drive chariots with six horses during the Warring States Period.”

The consensus came at an archaeological forum dedicated to the discussion of the tomb’s occupant on Wednesday after more than two years of excavation from the tomb compound, which is located in Jingzhou, Hubei province.

“All of the evidence leads to the conclusion that the tomb belongs to a king of the State of Chu,” Liu said.

Meanwhile, archaeologists have also found 92 graves that might have been for people buried with the dead, a custom of the State of Chu, he said.

Since its discovery in 1979, archaeologists have identified the main mound, about 100 ancillary tomb tumuli, more than 30 horse and chariot pits arranged in a row and a surrounding ditch. Formal excavation started in August 2006, he said.

Ever since its discovery, archaeologists have shown great interested in the occupant of the tomb, which covers an area of 60,000 sq m.

More than 1,300 jade items were put on display in Jingzhou in September last year, the largest exhibition of jade articles in China.

Xu Wenwu, a professor with the Changjiang University, made an even bolder assumption.

“The great probability is that the tomb is of King Zhao of Chu, named Xiong Zhen, who was the last king of the state,” he said.

In all, 11 kings ruled Chu.

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