Sunday, June 09, 2013

Ritter Sport again

In my brief jaunt to Bamberg & Würzburg last month, I only managed to pick up one new Ritter Sport to road-test. And it was a pretty good one:

Erdbeer Vanille-Waffel: 7.5/10
Well played, Ritter, well played. If this had been just a strawberry waffle combo, it would in all likelihood have been overly sweet. As it is, the vanilla adds a touch of creaminess to the proceedings, which in turn is then put in relief by the crunchy waffle. (The waffle makes this variety particularly satisfying to open using the Knick-Pack technique.) For some reason, I can't bring myself to rate this one among my all-time favourites, but it was nevertheless a highly pleasurable experience.

And here's an updated list of my all-time preferences:

Cherry & Mini Smarties: 10/10
Rhubarb, strawberry and yoghurt: 9/10
Milk Chocolate: 9/10
Alpine Milk Chocolate: 9/10
Knusperkeks: 9/10
Caramel & Nut: 9/10
Kakaosplitter: 9/10
Mixed Fine Nuts: 8.5/10
Corn Flakes & White Chocolate: 8.5/10
Cookies & Cream: 8.5/10
Nougat: 8/10
Cappuccino: 8/10
Hazelnut (milk chocolate): 8/10
Hazelnut (dark chocolate): 8/10
Edel-Bitter: 8/10
Rum, Raisin & Nut: 8/10
Orange & Marzipan: 8/10
Amarena Kirsch: 8/10
Fruits of the Forest & Yoghurt: 7.5/10
Peach & Passionfruit: 7.5/10
Bourbon & Vanilla: 7.5/10
Himbeer-Cranberry Joghurt: 7.5/10
Marzipan: 7/10
Blood Orange: 7/10
Raisin & Nut: 7/10
Coconut Batida Liqueur Truffle: 7/10
Vanilla Liqueur Truffle: 7/10
Knusperflakes: 7/10
Stracciatella: 7/10
Vanilla Cookie: 7/10
Waldbeer Joghurt: 7/10
Crema Catalana: 7/10
Milk & White Chocolate: 6.5/10
Alpine Cream & Praline: 6.5/10
Hazelnut & Almond Crumble: 6.5/10
Sunny Crisp (sunflower seeds): 6/10
Espresso Crunch: 6/10
Half Dark Chocolate: 6/10
Marc de Champagne Truffle: 6/10
Amaretto Truffle: 6/10
Whole Peanut: 6/10
Hazelnut (white chocolate): 6/10
Raisin & Cashew: 6/10
Nut in Nougat Cream: 5.5/10
Dark chocolate with Creme a la chocolate mousse: 5/10
Jamaica Rum: 5/10
Kakaocreme: 5/10
Peppermint: 5/10
Bourbon Vanille: 5/10
Whole Almond: 4/10
Golden Peanut: 4/10
Yoghurt: 4/10
Napolitaner Waffel: 4/10
Lemon: 3/10
Egg Liqueur Truffle: 3/10
Coconut: 2/10
Diet Half Dark Chocolate: 1/10

That means, by my count, that I've sampled 57 varieties. Heinz would be proud.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

More chocolate!

This blog has got awfully serious, hasn't it? Time to talk about chocolate again. Today's instalment of the Ritter Sport ratings comes to you courtesy of my chocoholic colleague (chococolleague?) Tine Breban, who raided the stores of the Ritter Sport Welt in Berlin specially. Good batch, too!

Cookies & Cream: 8.5/10
This is an excellent translation of the concept of Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough ice cream into chocolate-bar form. It has the right notes of salty crunchiness combined with sweetness, and feels delightfully indulgent.

Crema Catalana: 7/10
An inspired idea, rendering crème brûlée in Ritter Sport form. And it does translate well, with the creamy layer very reminiscent of its target. Rather lacking in execution, though; what I love most about crème brûlée is the slightly burnt, dark and crispy layer on the top, and this was missing from this interpretation, which consequently receives a somewhat lower rating than it may deserve on its own merit.

Himbeer-Cranberry Joghurt: 7.5/10
This one has crunchy, but is overwhelmingly sweet. The cranberry, by contrast, is easy to miss entirely in the powerful assault of raspberry. I have a sweet tooth, but this one was really too much for me. A little less brutal and it could have been a firm favourite.

Thanks also to chococolleague Laurel MacKenzie (of TV fame) and chocoholic collaborator (chocollaborator?) Anne Breitbarth, who also kept me supplied with delicious chocolate over this beautiful Spring period. But because it wasn't Ritter Sport, you don't get to hear about it.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Journal of Historical Syntax: interim report

My little Journal of Historical Syntax has been in existence for a year and a half now. The Executive Committee of the LSA has requested some facts and figures on the eLanguage journals, and I thought that readers might be interested to see these numbers as well. Enjoy!

Since its inception in summer 2011, the Journal of Historical Syntax has received 13 submissions: 1 in 2011, 9 in 2012, and 3 so far in 2013.

Of those 13 submissions:

3 were rejected.
4 were advised to revise and resubmit (of which 1 was subsequently accepted).
4 were accepted with changes (plus the 1 mentioned above).
2 are currently under review.

36 individuals have been involved in reviewing. The average time between receipt of the manuscript and date of the decision (not counting papers that were not sent out for review) is 97 days. 2 peer-reviewed papers have so far been published (1 in 2012, 1 in 2013). For these two, the times between receipt of the manuscript and publication were 275 and 187 days respectively. The articles have received 158 and 138 views respectively, and their abstracts have received 454 and 257 views respectively.

2 book reviews have also been published (1 in 2012, 1 in 2013), and a third is in the works. The two reviews have received 200 and 106 views respectively, and their abstracts have received 420 and 184 views respectively.

Many thanks to all our reviewers, authors and readers!

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The case for Open Access

The Pirate Party UK asked me to write a piece for them on Open Access. You can find it here:

I'm glad I've finally got my views on this down in writing somewhere! This sort of material was originally intended for another "What's wrong with academia?" post, which I probably now won't write. It glosses over some important issues, such as the whole furore (pointless, in my view) around CC-BY licenses, and whether to opt for green or gold Open Access. But as a quick introduction to an increasingly complex debate, I'm quite happy with it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Manchester beneath our feet

In a previous post I've blogged about my inexplicable affection for railways, especially abandoned ones. It may then come as no surprise that I feel the same way about hidden networks of tunnels. I think part of it is a boyish excitement at seeing discrete mathematics realized concretely - the same reason the Beck map of the London Underground is so iconic. The angular, artificial dreamworld constructions of maps and networks forcing their way into a reality which seems determined to be fuzzy in so many other respects.

When I was a child, my Dad used to take me to Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry. There were all sorts of awesome things on display there: a little train which would tootle a few hundred yards before coming back (and which now occasionally wakes me up at weekends with its tooting!), an "experimental" area with all sorts of cute demonstrations of the power of physics, and an early computer which allowed you to take a virtual tour of the solar system while playing Holst's Planets. (This last is sadly now gone.) But possibly my favourite part was the Underground Manchester gallery. Here it was explained how the sewer systems of the city had developed over the two thousand years of Manchester's settlement, from the Romans to the present day. In the middle was a section of Victorian sewer you could walk through, built with genuine sewer bricks and featuring an inconspicuous model rat halfway down. My excitement at this was not diminished when I revisited it last year.

Then, in my quest to discover the optimal walking route from Castlefield to the University, what did I discover?

A black door. Surrounded by an (ineffectual) metal fence - but also the kind of British box hedge that screams "Nothing interesting going on here". Set into a concrete stairwell, and leading to... well, who knows? Underground, is all that matters.

So this got me interested in figuring out what was really there beneath our feet. Not in a conspiracy-theoretic way; that's not what floats my boat. But a city as big as Manchester must have some skeletons in the closet, right? Or at least a secret closet in which it could in principle store skeletons. Preferably an underground closet.

The internet is one's friend in these matters, and I soon found out about various things. The creepily-named "Arndale void" - apparently built as the first stage of a proposed tunnel leading from Piccadilly to Victoria station. The abandoned Manchester and Salford Junction Canal, with its tunnel from the Bridgewater Hall to the River Irwell near the Granada Studios, used as a public air raid shelter during the Second World War. And, most scarily of all, the Guardian Underground Telephone Exchange.

Now, if you'd told me that there exists a secret network of tunnels stretching from Ardwick to Salford, built to withstand a nuclear blast, I probably wouldn't have believed you. That sort of underground insanity challenges even my overactive subterranean imagination. But it does seem to exist: a recent exhibition, infra_MANC, co-run by fellow Manchester lecturer Martin Dodge and based on local government documentation, presented some of the results. The catalogue is still obtainable via the Modernist Society, and so I ordered a copy. It's well worth a look - it contains maps, photos, and all kinds of discussion. But if tantalizing speculation is more your thing, take a look at the pages here and here. A recent fire in the tunnel reportedly caused 130,000 homes to be without phone connections.

I'm going to order this book, and also go on this tour with some friends. Hopefully I'll be blogging more about this stuff in the near future!