>Happy Belated Birthday to Pagan Topologist!


Happy belated Birthday to Pagan Topologist whose 
presence on this blog contributes a lot to its continued success.
Happy Birthday, dear friend!

>Algorithmic Pricing on Amazon

>I just discovered the following hilarious but true story about algorithmic pricing on Amazon:

A few weeks ago a postdoc in my lab logged on to Amazon to buy the lab an extra copy of Peter Lawrence’s The Making of a Fly – a classic work in developmental biology that we – and most other Drosophila developmental biologists – consult regularly. The book, published in 1992, is out of print. But Amazon listed 17 copies for sale: 15 used from $35.54, and 2 new from $1,730,045.91 (+$3.99 shipping).

Want to know how that happened? Read the full story here. I still can’t stop laughing about this.

>The First Post From the New Work Space


And now, as promised, pictures of my workspace before I got my first desk in 8 years and now that I finally have one.
Here is the work space before the change. And yes, I’m messy, it’s the end of the semester, no need to make me feel even worse about it than I already do. 
And here is the new work space. Now I can have all my reference books right where I work. There is no need to run upstairs to get them every five minutes or leave them strewn around on the floor.

And this is how the living room looks now that I have removed all the work-related mess:
I’m absolutely loving this new arrangement.

>Quit With the Images!


Recently, I wrote about my annoyance with people who include huge, slow-loading images into the body of their emails. Since that post, I have discovered that some folks take this irksome habit even further. We are at the end of the semester, and everybody’s Inboxes are filled with emails from students, colleagues and administrators. Many of those emails include important attachments that are huge in size. To give an example, my students are submitting their oral exams in .wav files that occupy a lot of space. If the Inbox overflows, the university will freeze my account, and it will take a while to unfreeze it and get my stuff back. Obviously, this is something we are all trying to avoid.
And, of course, this is precisely the moment that an inconsiderate colleague chooses to send an invitation to his talk in an email that consists of an unwieldy message with a set of useless but huge graphics in the body of the message. They take forever to load and clutter up the mailbox. I wouldn’t have blogged about something like this, of course, had it not been for the fact that this colleague immediately resent the same huge graphics-ridden email to everybody with a note that the indefinite article in line 4 from the bottom should be substituted with the definite article. And then he sent the whole thing once again to remind us of his event. And then he sent it once more. 
I really wonder if anybody will come to this colleague’s talk after such a show of disrespect from him.

>The Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill: A Review


As I was walking around the Big Sleep bookstore in St. Louis, my eye caught the book cover that you can see in the picture. Of course, there was no way I could resist a mystery novel titled The Merry Misogynist that is set in the Communist Laos of the 1970ies so I immediately bought it. "That's a really good one," the store owner commented. Now that I have finished the book, I couldn't agree more.

This novel is part of Colin Cotterill series featuring a 73-year-old coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun and his intelligent and sexy bride, a 66-year-old Madame Daeng. The Merry Misogynist is an absolutely delightful gem of a mystery novel. I'm very glad I discovered this series and can't wait to read all the other Dr. Siri and Madame Daeng novels.

Many mystery writers – Agatha Christie – included have tried to create a series where a married couple would solve crimes together. Every such novel that I have read has been one huge flop. Colin Cotterill, however, managed to create a convincing, funny and endearing couple of amateur sleuths in his Dr. Siri and Madame Daeng. These characters are so memorable that they will, without a doubt, remain with you long after you are finished with the novel.

Another reason why this novel is worth checking out is that it gives you a very unique feel of the Communist Laos in the 70ies. Cotterill manages to offer a depiction of Laos in that era that is convincing and fascinating without turning into a history textbook. Of course, I know nothing of Laos in 1978 (which is when this novel takes place) but my experience of living in the Soviet Union makes me trust many of the details of a day-to-day life in a Communist country that Cotterill provides in The Merry Misogynist.

It is a rare mystery writer who knows how to write a funny and tender book that has at its core an investigation into the crimes of a brutal serial killer. Colin Cotterill, however, manages to do just that. Unlike many of today's mystery writers, he never succumbs to the temptation to become preachy or revel in depictions of gore.

Overall, I can say that I'm overjoyed to have found this great mystery series and recommend it highly to any lover of the genre.

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>A Funny Quote from The Merry Misogynist


I'm reading a mystery novel set in Laos that is titled The Merry Misogynist. I will write a review as soon as I'm done but for now I just wanted to share a really great quote from the book. This excerpt refers to the education system in the Communist Laos of 1978. Or does it?

"So as not to disturb classes, or, as teacher Oum would have it, wake up the pupils, he switched off his motor and scooted along the driveway to the building that housed the chemistry department. He'd been in graveyards less silent. Education, it appeared, had given way to copying large tracts of text from a blackboard. It saved the vocal cords of the teachers and the brain matter of the children."
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>Left Bank Books


After my recent trip to New York, I'm well stocked on theory and criticism books. However, the Left Bank Bookstore is such a landmark that I absolutely had to visit it.

Of course, it would be wrong to leave a bookstore without a purchase, so I got a used copy of Victoria Glendinning's biography of Anthony Trollope.

Small local bookstores need to be supported by customers because they run the risk of being pushed off the market by the giants like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. So if you ever find yourselves on Euclid St. in Saint Louis, make sure you visit both Big Sleep and Left Bank Books. Big Sleep has this great homey environment where the owner who has read most of the books he is selling is always ready to engage in a discussion of mystery fiction.

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