Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A Short Book Review and a Fun Contest

The "commuting book" that's been keeping me company on the bus and metro the last week or so is a fascinating volume by Deborah Blum titled The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, and it's wonderful. Not a book to be read while eating, to be sure, but a great read for anyone interested in crime, punishment, and history.

Agnes and I are big fans of the TV shows Bones and NCIS, both of which feature forensic sciences as key parts of their plots, and Ms Blum's book tells us how the modern science of forensic medicine grew out of the study of poisons and the establishment of the first true professional medical examiner's office in the United States. The book is divided into chapters which focus on various poisons (Arsenic, Chloroform, Wood Alcohol, Cyanides, Mercury, Radium, etc.), and although packed with scientific detail, it's written in a light, fast-moving style that often reads more like a popular whodunit than a work of history. If you're interested in science, history, police science, or all three, you will love this book. I got it from the library, but as soon as it's out in paperback, I'm going to buy it for my library.

Another one of my guilty pleasures is the weekly "Style Invitational" contest that appears in the Washington Post every Saturday. Each week, it offers a different bizarre, humorous contest with off-the-wall prizes, and some of the entries are truly hysterical.

This past Saturday was the annual appearance of the contest called "Post Time," in which the paper lists 100 of the horses eligible for the annual Triple Crown races (the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and the Preakness), then asks you to pick any two (regardless of sex), mate them, and name the foal. The contest hinges, of course, on the fact that foals of prize horses are usually given a name that combines elements of the names of the sire and dam. One of the examples given in the paper suggests you could mate the horses "Dublin" and "Odysseus" and get a foal named "Bloomsday." You can check out the contest - and enter it - here. I have a bunch of entries to submit...I'll share them with you after the deadline (next Monday).

That's all for today. Time to be off to the races ... so to speak.

Have a good day. Don't poison anyone. More thoughts tomorrow.



craziequeen said...

One of my heroes is Bill Bass, the leading light in forensic science and creator of the real Body Farm.

I'll have to look out for this book, it sounds very interesting :-)


Mike said...

I like the main group of characters on NCIS. I think they're a good mix.

Wv: corify - When the forensic person takes the middle out and leaves the outside intact.