Seven questions for Harry Potter

Nobody has asked me to do this meme, but I can’t resist. I saw it on Scholar’s  Blog, where Michele was tagged by Sheila of Wands and Worlds [no link as there is none or it is broken on the source post].

1. Butterbeer or pumpkin juice?
Pumpkin Juice. (Cabernet Hogwarts might have stood a better chance.)

2. What House would you most likely (or want to) be in in Hogwarts?
Ravenclaw.

3. If you were an animagus, what animal would you turn into?
Red squirrel (but knowing my luck, I’d end up as a Lethocerus).

4. What character do you empathize with, or resemble best?
Sirius. And strangely, I related to him in this way in book 3 before further similarities were revealed in 5 (he barely comes into 4).

My favourite character is Lupin, though of course I have a very soft spot for Harry.

5. What position do you play at Quidditch?
Chaser.

6. Which teacher is your favorite?
Lupin (especially his boggart lessons). Mad-Eye Moody’s Dark Arts lessons were pretty cool, too.

7. Any Harry Potter 7 predictions?
Yes. ;-)  In common with many of my acquaintanceship, I have worked out what I think is likely to happen in book 7, but I have great faith in J K Rowling outwitting us all.

Your go.

Musings on scientific celebrity

From "The Dark Ages" column in the Times, by Kate Muir:

"I saw this cartoon the other day: two kids in their school careers office standing before a rack of brochures for future jobs: Celebrity Chef, Celebrity Gardener, Celebrity Painter and Decorator, Celebrity Antiques Dealer…and Celebrity Rodent Exterminator. And it would be funny if a huge swathe of children didn’t think these options were true, for the telly has told them so.

For instance, there’s not a Celebrity Scientist on the list. Children don’t value science as much as they used to. “One of the things that makes people choose a particular career is the chance of becoming a celebrity,” claims Professor Edwin Southern of Oxford University. “Children are not seeing science as a place to go.”

Fame by association, or even transient celebrity, seems far more attractive than hard work, even for the most able children. A survey by Fame Junkies author Jake Halpern of US schoolchildren gave them about ten choices of future careers: 23 per cent wanted to be head of a great university, 13 per cent wanted to be a politician, 9 per cent wanted to be director of a huge company – and 43 per cent wanted to be a “celebrity personal assistant”…."  In another of Halpern’s surveys, "650 schoolchildren [were asked to] to choose their perfect dinner companion from a list that included President Bush, Jesus, 50 Cent, Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton and Einstein. The kids selected J-Lo as their top choice, followed by Jesus – proof that celebrity is the new religion for teenagers. Paris beat Einstein, of course."

Professor Ed Southern, by the way, achieved fame for inventing the Southern Blot. I kid you not. His paper in the Journal of Molecular Biology describing how he made it is probably the most cited paper in biology, after one by a man called Laemmli, who discovered SDS-PAGE (sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis). This is a tongue-twister and may sound boring, but the Wikipedia link I’ve provided in the previous sentence leads to a Hollywood-like "demystifying" video of life in the scientific fast lane (sorry about the pun). Laemmli’s 1970 paper describing SDS-PAGE is far and away the highest cited Nature paper ever. Why this should be is another story for another day. But one thing is for sure, Profs Southern and Laemmli did the work first and got the celebrity later. As intimated by Ms Muir, though, scientific celebrity isn’t the same as other types of celebrity: probably nobody outside science has ever heard of Profs Southern or Laemmli, and probably neither gentleman owns a Malibu beach house or a private jet. Yet modern biology depends on the techniques they invented.

P.S. If you are really interested, here’s the abstract of Laemmli’s paper, in its entirety: "Using an improved method of gel electrophoresis, many hitherto unknown proteins have been found in bacteriophage T4 and some of these have been identified with specific gene products. Four major components of the head are cleaved during the process of assembly, apparently after the precursor proteins have assembled into some large intermediate structure."

Wall Street Noir from Akashic Books

Via Akashic Books: … Wall Street Noir. "at the rotting heart of corporate America, Peter Spiegelman collects disparate, darkly humorous voices that shed light on the seedy underbelly of the financial world, providing an alternative and honest look at life on the Street. A starred review in Publishers Weekly endorses Spiegelman as “the ideal editor for the Wall Street entry in Akashic’s noir anthology series, assembl[ing] a stellar cast of 17 crime genre luminaries, many with financial backgrounds,” showing how Wall Street has spread its insidious reach far beyond the boundaries of lower Manhattan. Through cautionary tales from the likes of former Merrill Lynch securities analyst Henry Blodget, ex-finance lawyer John Burdett, and renowned author and Wall Street Journal writer Jim Fusilli, these stories showcase a side of Wall Street previously restricted to convicts, criminals, and newspaper headlines."

Er, wow! Enthusiastic blurb. Peter Spiegelman is one of my favourite authors: here’s my review of his latest, Red Cat. Of the other authors listed above, I have only read Fusilli, but he’s good too.

Akashic Books is dedicated to "reverse gentrification of the literary world". As well as Wall Street Noir, their other newest title is Tango for a Torturer, apparently a "long-awaited sequel to the award-winning Adios Muchachos!".

How will history judge Blair?

Link: BBC NEWS | Politics | How will history judge Blair?.

I could get quite into this politics thing. I wonder if the world of politics could possibly be as argumentative as that of science? Having written that I didn’t think I’d ever be writing about Tony Blair et al. on this blog but finding myself doing it, I received an email the other day (from my husband, using a civilised method of spousal communication), containing the BBC link at the top of this post. There, you can read accounts by three historians of the Blair era. The MP read the articles because he’s enjoying reading a book (on Wellington and Napoleon) by Andrew Roberts, one of the three historians.

Roberts starts out: "Before 11 September 2001, Tony Blair was set to go down in history as a second-division prime minister, one of those who stayed in power for a long time but without having any appreciable effect on the story of his times."

By the end of his article, he concludes: "Prime ministers are not judged by posterity on issues to do with transport, health, education, or even – most of them – on economic indicators. They are judged by the One Big Thing that happens during their premierships. That is why Neville Chamberlain’s Munich Agreement, Anthony Eden’s Suez Crisis, Edward Heath’s Three-Day Week, and John Major’s ERM debacle have left them branded as failures. Equally, Winston Churchill’s Blitz orations, Margaret Thatcher’s saving of British capitalism and Tony Blair’s vigorous prosecution of the War against Terror will leave them noted by history as highly successful prime ministers. "

Special offers from Waterstone’s

I am too tired to blog (or do anything ) tonight, so will just quickly draw attention to today’s Waterstone’s e-newsletter. …." two fantastic offers. First up, is the chance to buy The Living Planet DVD for just £5 (RRP £34.99)! Filmed on five continents, The Living Planet examines each of the earth’s environments, seeing how living organisms survive and thrive in conditions ranging from the Arctic to the tropical. To get this four-disc DVD for £5, simply add it to your basket with your other shopping, and as long as your total spend (excluding the DVD) is over £25, you will receive the DVD for just £5.

And if that’s not generous enough, we’d also like to give 1,000 customers a free book! The Lies of Locke Lamora is something of a mixture between Hustle and Oliver Twist, with a hint of The Pink Panther and a dash of Ocean’s Eleven. Part historical novel, part revenge thriller, part crime novel and part fantastical adventure, this is a brilliant debut novel from a hugely talented first-time author. Our booksellers think it is a great book that deserves a much wider audience, and they asked us if we could tell everybody about it. We agreed, and decided to give away 1,000 copies! Find out more and enter the draw for your free copy now."

Apologies for the lack of original content. I hope normal service will be resumed some time over the weekend.

Spinebreakers reading network

Penguin books (UK) will launch in September an online book community for teenagers, called Spinebreakers. "Spinebreakers.co.uk will be a stimulating and entertaining portal into the world of books, run by teenagers themselves. Editorial control of the site will be in the hands of a core editorial team of nine teenagers aged between 13 and 18 years, supported by a large network of contributing teen editors from across the UK."

The company has done a survey which it says shows that:

  • three in four teenagers get their information on books from the internet and wished there was more information on books available to them on the internet.
  • Nearly 44% of surveyed teens never or rarely visit a chain bookshop and 68% never or rarely visit an independent bookshop.
  • 69% of teens think they will be doing more reading online in the future.
  • Teens who rate reading as cool are the most frequent visitors to social networking sites.

Anna Rafferty, Penguin’s Online Marketing Director, said: "Publishers and the book trade are failing to reach teenagers via traditional methods of marketing and have been slow to create a space on or off line where teenagers can interact with books. Penguin is taking the lead, making books a far more attractive proposition in a crowded teen market place, harnessing their creativity, getting them involved in the creative process and hopefully making them readers for life."

The teen team will have the opportunity, says the Penguin press release, to discuss, debate and interact with Penguin’s rich source of publishing from contemporary titles such as Meg Rosoff’s Just in Case, Nick Hornby’s first book for teenagers Slam, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation to classics such as J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Kerouac’s On the Road.

Well, we shall see. I can understand that it seems to make business sense to Penguin to try to get the readers to their site, rather than to establish a group in one of the current social networks popular with teens. As has been said previously (not by me), what most people, teens or not, want is probably to have the ability to do all of their social networking in one place. Hence I am not sure how successful a single-publisher social site will be, unless they broaden it to non-Penguin authors. Time will tell.

100 blogs PC World loves

If you are short of online reading material, try PC World – 100 Blogs We Love, "our favorite stops in the blogosphere, covering everything from high tech to low comedy and all manner of pursuits in between". Of these, I’ve looked at about 10, subscribed to three or four in the past, and subscribe to one currently. But don’t let me stop you from checking out the list! There are categories to suit everyone, and each recommended blog gets a brief one-liner of description.

Several nice sides to Tony

I never thought I would write anything about Tony Blair (et al.) on this blog, but I have just read the most wonderful post about him on Material Witness. As Typepad ate my comment over there, I will provide a link to the Material Witness post here. It is a lovely story and shows several sides, charming ones, to a leading politician — the likes of some of which I have read nowhere else.

Tony Blair, Nicole Kidman and the unfavourable comparison.

I’m smiling.

I know I said this already, but…

I am so glad that Pundy is back.

"I guess Hitler, a master of propaganda, would have been a brilliant blogger. George Bush, well, maybe his grasp of the English language has prevented him from using this means of attack. He is obliged to use more direct action. Soldiers with guns are more loquacious, though not necessarily more persuasive, especially when they don’t speak the language, in any sense of the word, of the people they are trying to convert."

Just read on, and keep reading. (Warning, there’s a novel there too so you may not be back for some time.)

Another nice blog you got me into

Writer, rejected kindly came over to comment on my post of the other day, The Book Depository on POD. Here’s the comment: "Thanks for the infor. POD certainly does bypass the long and nauseating period of getting a whole lot of rejections. Check out a humorous take on literary rejections at Literary Rejections on Display."

Never one to ignore good advice, I did just that. Here’s a sample post, Sour grapes of wrath: "Wow! An anonymous reader posted the following searing comment on my blog today: "Two words for you, my friend–sour grapes. Aren’t you just a little embarressed [sic] to put these up on your blog, removing your info (how convenient) but not the agent/editors?With your poor me attitude, if I were an agent, I wouldn’t touch yo [sic] with a ten foot barge pole. Grow up–you make other writers look bad. Getting published is hard. Whining, I guess, is easy." I haven’t been told off like this in a long time. Probably ever."

You can see (but if you are like me, not read very well) lots of rejection slips (which authors can send in if they like), posted by "a published, award-winning author of fiction and creative nonfiction–but whatever. In the eyes of many, I am still a literary reject. Remember this: someone out there will always say no."