Cool biologists

I like this post "Juicy back stories on famous biologists"  at a blog that’s new to me but which I think is called Neatorama.

"In most textbooks it seems like scientists just waltz into their labs, fiddle around for a bit, then wait for the Nobel Committee to call. Sadly, the road to discovery is rarely that simple, and speed bumps pop up constantly. Call it historical context or call it dirt; there’s always more to the story."

Featured biologists are Mendel ("Give peas a chance", groan), Darwin, Rosalind Franklin, Albert Hofmann and Leonard Hayflick (father of "biogerontology", the study of how cells age).

From Petrona Noir to Swedish Noir

Thanks to Norm alias Uriah Robinson of Crime Scraps, I have just finished Roseanna, the first of the Martin Beck series of books by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, written in 1965. The book is readable and compelling. A murdered girl’s body is dredged up from a canal at the start of the book. Over the ensuing year or more, policeman Martin Beck and his colleagues tenaciously investigate until the girl’s identity, and then that of her killer, are found. The book is spare and focused, and utterly compelling in an unglamorous, uncompromising way.

I’ve read a great deal of crime fiction in my time, and although the "mystery" element is almost absent in this book, I found it completely absorbing. Beck is unromantic but realistic, both in his personal/family life and in his work. It is also educational to be reminded what it was like for us before straightforward international phone calls, faxing, emailing and the internet.

Highly recommended — and as Norm predicted, I’ll now have to read the next nine books in the series (one of which, The Locked Room, is reviewed at Crime Scraps). Norm has also written a succinct analysis of all ten books here.

Henning Mankell, Karin Fossum and Lisa Marklund are all superb present-day Swedish crime-fiction authors who write in the tradition established by Sjowall and Wahloo — plot-driven books that convey plenty of sociopolitical comment along the way. For me, the combination of police procedural with "placeism" — the details of everyday life that create an authentic and true voice  — is what makes reading all these authors such a rewarding experience.

The edition of Roseanna I read is published by Harper Perennial. This edition has an excellent introduction by Henning Mankell (author of the Wallender series) about his love of the Sjowall/Wahloo books; and at the end are interviews with the authors and another analysis of the books, as well as a list of all the books in the series, all for £6.99. I was very impressed and wish that one found these additional items in books more often, to provide context for interested readers.

As clear as black

I’ve applied a new design to Petrona, partly because I find these Typepad white backgrounds hard to read and partly in response to this comment from Shameless.

Please let me know what you think — is this more legible? Are the links clearer?

If you are a ‘basic’ Typepad user like me, the design options for your blog are limited, unless you pay them more money each month. My current design options are more limited than the free service offered by Google’s Blogger Beta, which is ironic as I moved over here from Google in the first place to be able to "tag". Now you can do more on Google than you can on Typepad where you have to pay.

Oh well, I’m assured by a lovely Typepad expert I happen to know that Typepad will upgrade fairly soon. Hope so.

Metaxucafe and brainiads

From an email I received yesterday evening:
"MetaxuCafe announces the launch of brainiads, an ad network for culturally
oriented Websites.

Brainiads emerged from three blogger’s [sic] dissatisfaction with many of the
current options for placing ads on our sites. We want to earn money for all
the effort we put into our writing, but we want to do it on our own terms.
Our focus at brainiads is on aesthetics and personal attention. We want ads
that are complimentary and unobtrusive and we want only to deal with
advertisers that we think are relevant to our collective readership.

Brainiads also acts as a firewall between you and advertisers, eliminating
any conflicts of interests you may feel arise about writing about products
like books or music. We at brainiads are bloggers ourselves and believe we
understand your concerns and wishes and we want to represent you so you can
concentrate on your site’s content and not worry about business details.

Please stop by the brianiads site ( ) for more
information. We have 26 sites as of today and will be capping membership at
various levels, so join up as soon as you can.

While we’ve been talking to potential advertisers for some time we expect it
to take a few months to get a critical mass of ads on our sites. Don’t let
that stop you from signing up, though. The stronger the network, the more
attractive we will be to the high-caliber advertisers we are targeting.

Join up and be a brainiad today:

Bud Parr,
Chekhov’s Mistress

Max Magee,
The Millions (a blog about books)

Scott Esposito,
Conversational Reading"

Metaxucafe (or "meataxe" as spell-checker would have it) is a network for literary blogs and bloggers. Here is its mission statement:

"MetaxuCafé is devoted to highlighting the best content from the community of bloggers who write about books. We serve both the writers and readers and intend to drive traffic to member’s sites and create context around and give permanence to their original writing."

I can recommend joining if you have a relevant blog and haven’t already joined. I’m not sure I will be applying to brainiads, not out of principle but because putting ads on my site is not a high priority among my many other priorities — I calculate I would make a dollar in about 50 years.