Friday, 22 March 2013

Christopher Ward

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the offices of Christopher Ward, a british watch-making company offering a range of high-end watches at distinctively affordable prices. Their reputation is built on word-of-mouth, with multiple glowing reviews on the international watch forums. I'm in the process of putting together a series of short articles, written primarily by others, for their magazine and company blog on the Psychology of Time (I confess to not being amongst those that work on this topic, but I have friends who do). What I saw, and heard, was hugely exciting to a watch nerd.

The best thing about watches is that unlike smart phones, they don't come into quite the same degree of contact with those hazardous bacteria the likes of which can only be cleansed away with disinfectant wipes. And yes, I am the proud possessor of yet another watch. And it looks even better in person —on my person in fact— than it does in print.

On an unrelated note, my misgivings about the UK's obsession with the forthcoming "Research Excellence Framework" are growing to new highs as I hear various accounts of universities' strategies to inflate their ratings. The REF is an exercise in which university departments are rated each 7 years or so according to their research productivity and "impact". If it were not for the long queue of submissions at Cognition that require my attention, I would undoubtedly be ranting on the subject right now. I shall store it all up for next time.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Too busy to write, or wipe

It's a never-ending treadmill: teaching, marking (that's "grading" to our US cousins), supervising undergraduates, analysing data, reviewing grant applications and in my case, editing a journal. And whereas one cannot easily put a number to the quantity of teaching or marking or supervision or data, one can put a number to the number of manuscripts I see through from initial submission to either an accept or reject decision. This week (i.e. the very end of February) saw a milestone: Since taking on Cognition on June 1st 2006, I have seen through to completion just over 2,500 manuscripts. Which, across the 6 years and 9 months I've been doing this, works out at just over one a day, 7 days a week. Of course, that simply counts the final accept or reject decision letter. It doesn't count the letters in between asking for changes (I only wrote one of those each two days), nor does it take account of the time taken to choose reviewers for the 1,500 manuscripts I sent out to review (one each working day), and then, when the reviewers came back, the time I spent reading the reviews and the paper. Roll on Dec 31st 2014 when I shall release my precious into the editorial fires of Mount Doom. And then I shall be free.... free!!

But I love it. I just wish I had more time to devote to the other things I feel passionate about, such as the relationship between bacteria on iPhone screens and the University of York's insistence that paper towels in their kitchens are unhygienic and that a more hygienic experience is to dry your apple, or the hands you just cleaned to prepare your or someone else's food, in the toilet (for our US cousins... that's the room, not the piece of porcelain or, if you live your life on trains and planes as I do, the stainless steel). Yes: The University of York do in fact have an official policy that encourages hand-drying in the toilets and prevents its cleaners from supplying the (now empty) paper towel dispensers in the kitchens with paper towels. As for those iPhones, I can't really explain why so many have all sorts of nasty bacteria on them (first reported in the UK but then replicated a year later in the USA). I'm sure the University of York's policy can't help. But it seems to me that the simple solution, for keeping fecal contamination off your iPhone, is to use those little wipes pre-moistened with screen cleaner. That'll clean up the bacteria nicely. Though it might just sting a little.