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Mon, 24 May 2004

Tie one on

Neckties. We hates them, preciousss, don't we?

Well, I do. My neck is short and thick: about two sizes larger than the rest of me, in terms of off-the-shelf men's shirt sizing. So if I wear a dress shirt I invariably get lost in a mound of wrinkles, or have to put up with a too-tight collar. Then there's the whole necktie thing. As far as I'm concerned the only reason for having a ligature around your neck is that you're about to be hanged. They're uncomfortable, constricting and hot (and yes, I sweat through my neck), fiddly to put on and take off, and invariably end up accidentally dunked in the soup or wind-swept into disarray. As an eccentric item of display maybe a case can be made for them, but as a day-to-day item of clothing they suck -- and especially as the determinant of the formality of male attire, which seems to be how they're mostly used. (How else to explain the bizarre use of clip-ons as part of security or police uniforms?)

When I was a kid I had to wear one as part of school uniform. When I was a young adult I had a "professional" job that required me to wear one, along with a suit, or a white coat. It became an increasingly irritating token of an oppressive conformity that I grew less, not more, accepting of as I grew older. Then I wised up and realised that ties were unnecessary as long as I avoided social situations in which I would be judged negatively by influential strangers if I didn't wear one. The old saying "first appearances count" is not actually correct: it would be more accurate to say, "first impressions count". It follows that if you arrange your work so that people you do business with form their first impressions of you before they see you your lack of an ornamental noose won't affect their opinion of you significantly. In the age of email and telephony, this turned out to be was relatively easy. Indeed, I think the last time I wore a tie was probably to a business meeting five years ago (if you ignore a more recent fancy-dress party), and I don't think I own even one of the cursed things at present. But I digress ...

I've just had the pleasure of having my anti-necktie prejudice placed on an empirical footing by a team of researchers at the New York Hospital Medical Centre of Queens:

The researchers, at the New York Hospital Medical Centre of Queens led by Dr Steven Nurkin, looked at ties worn by doctors, their assistants and medical students at a teaching hospital in New York and compared them with ties worn by the hospital security staff.

Almost half the ties (47.6%) worn by clinicians were found to harbour potential disease-causing bacteria.

"Studies such as this remind us about what we may bring to our patients' bedside," Dr Nurkin said.

"By increasing our awareness and making simple behavioural changes we may be able to provide a better quality of healthcare."

The researcher said their study questioned whether wearing a tie was in the best interests of patients.

White coats or medical smocks tend to be changed regularly and cleaned in an environment that is designed to prevent cross-infection. Even shirts and trousers are laundered regularly. But ties tend to be made of expensive and difficult fabrics (silk, anyone?) and get cleaned only when it's absolutely necessary, as in when they get dipped in the soup -- or in a patient's wound dressing. Truly, it's disgusting.

About the only note of caution I'd sound is that pretty much the same sort of studies were rolled out in the late years of the 19th century by the nascent razor blade industry to try and wean Victorian gentlemen away from their whiskers. But as most patients in a hospital are more likely to come into close proximity to their doctor's necktie than a beard, I'm going to let that one rest.

[Link] [Discuss fashion victims]

posted at: 22:23 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

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In between fits of emergency damage control on the server, a couple of bits of news emerge from the writing front. Lobsters, which originally came out in June 2001, was translated into Japanese some time ago: it has now made the shortlist for the Seiun Award (for translated fiction), the Japanese equivalent of the Hugos. Of course, it's up against that Ted Chiang story, which means it's going to lose, but that's nothing new. And the news arrived at just the right moment to cheer me up (there's nothing quite as depressing as fighting a rear-guard action to keep a dying server alive on intensive care, unless it's doing the same thing for a human being.)

And then I discovered "The Atrocity Archives" had been reviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle, who seemed to like it (the phrase "science fiction's more pleasant surprise of the year" leapt out and bit me between the eyes, despite the trailing treacherous words "... so far".)

And the post today delivered the proofs for "Survivor", the final story in the series running in Asimov's SF. Hmm.

[Discuss writing]

posted at: 14:14 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry


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