Finally got around to The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie, in which a mustachioed Belgian detective investigates a series of murders. Have had it on my shelf for a while after it was recommended in my genre Ask Mefi. Somehow I've never got around to reading any Agatha Christie before.
Seems to be written in a slick, confident manner: lots of short chapters with punchy closing lines. Plays with the reader a bit, with mocking nods to Sherlock Holmes and discussions of the Perfect Murder.
It's light and mannered, with the details not entirely plausible. But the central mystery is constructed with awesome cunning and intricacy. Would definitely never have guessed that ending.
Will be keeping an eye out for this author.
What I'm Reading 2
The Common Thread by John Sulston and Georgina Ferry. Sulston was the director of the Sanger institute and a key figure in the human genome project. It's written in an autobiographical manner, mostly covering that period.
I'd already read a shorter account of the story in The Backroom Boys, so found it a little repetitive. The Byzantine politics and torrent of acronyms can be a bit difficult to follow. The scientific elements were interesting while he was studying what they call the worm, but less so when it comes to the human, since the problems were mostly those of scale and industrialization.
The problem was that a private company called Celera run by Craig Venter wanted to sequence the genome but control the data: patenting key genes and allowing only limited, paid access with no "redistribution". Furthermore, they wanted to use a "shotgun" method, ignoring the non-coding DNA that switches genes on and off.
Along with most researchers, Sulston regarded this as a potential disaster for science, and along with others decided to be the first to map the genome, thus publicly releasing the data before it could be privatised.
Sulston seems to have won the war, getting the data released; but lost the publicity battle, and does seem to be a bit of a sore winner about it.
Sulston points out that Celera had to abandon their shotgun method, and that the data they released was essentially just the public Human Genome Project data with a few additions. Venter seems to have successfully positioned himself in the media as a maverick who at least equalled the HGP achievement.
I should probably read something from the Venter side at some point, since he's generally presented as a bogeyman. But I think that to be on his side, you have to believe in the massive modern expansion/extension of intellectual property rights. If you're skeptical about them, or worried about patent thickets and the tragedy of the anticommons, I think Venter can only be the bad guy.
Overall, not a fascinating read, but certainly interesting and definitely important.
Economics. Obama bailout.
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