Wednesday, 16 June 2010


I believe it to be no coincidence that the culinary highlights of my life have been served up primarily in one city, albeit at different establishments. The city in question - Philadelphia - is host to the finest coffee (La Colombe), the finest fine-dining (Vetri), and the finest wackiest tea (Bubbles Tea House). The tea in question  does indeed contain bubbles - tapioca bubbles (more ball than bubble) - which sit at the bottom of whichever flavour tea you choose (I had iced peach tea), and which you suck up through an extra wide straw. I'd never had anything like it. It was a totally new (and somehow unlikely) experience.

Equally unlikey, but no less satisying, are the astonishingly good-looking brain scans that my collaborators in Philadelphia have collected. Research barely gets more exciting than this.

Very much less exciting, is all the work I'm behind with. Aside from an experiment to analyze, a thesis to read, three papers to revise, and a gazillion manuscripts to process at the journal, I'm also giving three talks over the next two weeks (one in Austria, two in Spain). One of them is to an advisory board that I'm a part of - advising Elsevier on the next-generation online tools for managing their journals. My talk, based on way more experience than anyone should have to endure, will be about "The mobile editor: The challenges of editing a journal at 30,000 feet" (gives a whole new meaning to "the mile-high club”). The challenge, by the way, is that everyone these days is into “cloud computing” - they forget that “the cloud” is completely useless when you’re flying through them.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


That’s the name of the grant review panel that, for the past 5 years, I have been going to three times each year (LCOM - Language and COMmunication). It’s a part of the National Institutes of Health in the USA. Yesterday was my last session as a ‘permanent’ committee member (it’s a fixed-term, after which you are gracefully retired off the committee). I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss the science. I’m going to miss my committee colleagues. I’m going to miss their smart comments, their integrity, and their friendship. It was a privilege to work with them. It was a privilege to be considered one of them.


That’s how many manuscripts I either sent to review, triaged, or made editorial decisions on last week.

It is also, coincidentally, the time in seconds it took between the O2 website being updated to introduce the new iPhone and my entering my details so as to be amongst the first to possess it. My iPad, by the way, continues to amaze me. And others. Just today (in Washington DC, where I was attending an NIH review panel), a complete stranger came up to me in Starbucks and said “Is that an iPad? F@!k, that’s amazing!” (Apologies to anyone offended by the pr@fanity - he said it, not me!). I let him touch it. But only after he’d washed his hands...

Gadgetry is taking over the world. It is all too common to see people walking along oblivious to anything but the conversation they’re having with what most often appears to be an imaginary friend. Inevitably, they have a bluetooth earpiece attached to their ear like some monstrous slug glued to their head. Today, though, saw the inevitable culmination of this obsession to talk. I was at Union Station in Washington, DC. The power-dressed woman coming towards me was talking nineteen to the dozen, apparently giving orders to some hapless assistant. But there was not a headset to be seen. Nothing. Not even a clip-on microphone. I figure she hadn’t noticed that her earpiece had jumped ship. I didn’t have the heart to tell her. After all, I could have been wrong, and she might have had some new-fangled gadget embedded in her person. Or been completely mad. I guess that is a plausible alternative. But I like the idea more that she’d dropped her earpiece without realizing. And I suspect her assistant would have liked that too.