Thursday, 25 November 2010

Happy thanksgiving

For those not in the know, today is Thanksgiving in the USA. I’m not sure one day would be enough in which to thank all the people who, for one reason or another, I would want to thank. Half of them (and not all are in the USA) would probably be surprised they’re on my list, and would just think it weird if I did thank them. Of course, thanksgiving isn’t really about thanking people you know. It’s about thanking those clever genetic engineers without whom that turkey would taste significantly less bland.

Sunday, 21 November 2010


It does astonish me, as I sit on the plane waiting to take off from St. Louis, that they like to board passengers with seats at the front of the plane before boarding those with seats at the back. This would not be so bad if we were not in the USA - land of opportunity, freedom, and enormous carry-on baggage. The current scene in the plane is reminiscent of a log-jam... the rather large businessman with the over-sized baggage will, within the next few minutes, succeed in stuffing said baggage into the tiny overhead compartment. And when that happens, and he sits down, the pressure that has built up behind him, comprised of 70 or more compacted passengers, will suddenly be released. Bodies will be hurled the entire length of the cabin.

So the Conference of the Psychonomic Society has come to an end, and the intensity of intellectual action that unfolded over the course of the past few days has now abated. St. Louis was the perfect location - it provides no distractions whatsoever. Though it must be admitted that "the arch" is impressive - an imposing monument to ... well... arches. It also has to be said, in St. Louis's defense, that it does host some excellent and memorable restaurants. The conference itself lived up to Psychonomics' usual standards, although the topic of many of my conversations did inevitably drift towards, or open up with, questions about my (rather peripheral) involvement in the Hauser affair (this is the Harvard professor who published data in the journal that I edit that was most likely fabricated - a conclusion I reached based on information passed to me by the authorities at Harvard). Of equal interest, it would seem, was how I feel about having been misrepresented by the NYT (they incorrectly reported that I no longer stand by my earlier conclusion), whether there is anything I can do about that, and what this says about the integrity of the press these days.

So that's that. I am now headed to Philadelphia, where yet more excellent food and equally excellent science awaits me. I am, quite literally, flying off into the sunset (not sure why, as I suspect that Philadelphia is in the opposite direction... I sure hope the pilot's satnav hasn't jammed).

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

@ 36,000 ft

OMG – I just spilled Bloody Mary Mix all over the full 11.6 inches of my MacBook Air! Stupid turbulence… This does give me some useful perspective, though; I now care very much less about the NYT journalist whose integrity I've been forced to question - my napkin provides a greater service to humanity …

Sunday, 7 November 2010

too much time on my hands

So... having cut the grass and the rushes around the pond, and having felt pretty good about the ever-expanding swathes of moss that make my lawn look particularly lush, I checked up on Cognition (the journal I edit) and felt good about that too - despite a 10% rise in submissions this year compared with last year, all my queues are clear. This year I’ve felt like my load has come down considerably. Oddly, the numbers indicate otherwise. I’ve made over 400 final decisions this year (accept or reject), slightly more than the number of manuscripts I’ve assigned myself (as distinct from those I assign to the Associate editors - the split is roughly 50:50). And of those manuscripts, I ended up triaging (i.e. rejecting without sending out to review) 49%. That’s a lot. There are different ways of defining triage rates, and the more conservative one (the proportion of final decisions that were triage decisions) puts me at 45% this year (with a four-year average of 35%). I’m evidently more productive this year than last (10% more decisions than the same time last year). So... a pat on the back, please. And the fact that I have some amazing collaborators scattered around the world with whom I’ve actually managed to publish a paper or three this year, and with whom another couple of papers are being produced, means that I have much to feel satisfied about. So... to all those people, without whom I could not feel so good on a Sunday lunchtime, and to all those other people who’ve sent supportive emails in light of recent events (see previous blog entries), my sincere thanks. And to whoever invented moss, my thanks also.

Finally, I’ve gone a whole week without buying a single watch. There’s self-control for you! My last watch was a limited edition (of 50), designed by a pair of brothers here in York. Ridiculously cheap for the price. However, my kids, who have little appreciation for anything at all, unless it’s downloadable and in the category “game”, think it’s complete rubbish.