Saturday, January 11, 2014

Hawthorne effect (Sunday brunch: January 12, 2014)

An interesting juxtaposition of work and hockey this week.  I’ve been reviewing studies of devices that keep track of when doctors, nurses and other health care personnel wash their hands when entering and exiting a patient’s room.  Their impact is based on the Hawthorneeffect, also called observation bias.

If you have children, you know exactly what that’s all about.  They’re much more likely to obey you if you know they’re watching.  Of course it’s not just children who slack off if they think they’re not being watched.  I had a teenage partner for a squirt game (9 and 10 year olds) last Sunday morning.  Like a lot of teen refs, he’s still a player and sees refereeing as a way to earn some pocket money.  Skate around, blow the whistle when there’s a goal or an offsides or a penalty, pocket the check, save the real effort for practices and games. 

So he hung out in the middle two-thirds of the ice instead of getting down to the goal line to watch the play in the offensive zone.  He called one of the goals from up around the hashmark; fortunately the coaches weren’t the type to yell at us for being out of position, but I quietly got on his case at the next stoppage.  It didn’t really change him much though; all I can do in these situations is skate hard and set a good example.

The game ended uneventfully, and when I got back to the dressing room, I found our supervisor was there.  He’d come to watch the third period and check up on us.  He was pointing out to my partner all the times he was making calls from a bad angle or too far away, and I imagine he must have felt pretty bad on the ride home. 

I’m not immune to criticism, so it was good to have someone looking at my performance.  I was pleased that the main thing Monty wanted me to fix was my line-change routine: I was putting up my had twice when I should be doing it only once.  It’s a little thing, but better to have something of mine critiqued than to hear nothing bad and wonder if there are problems we just didn’t have time to talk about.

As for my partner, we’ll see if the experience will put a little more hustle in him at the times when nobody else is watching. 

Do you solve differently when nobody is watching?  Resort to Onelook or Google or the Anagram Server right away?

Double acrostic weekend.  Wonder what caused Mike Shenk to pick the quote he uses in the Wall Street Journal puzzle this weekend.  It’s seasonal, but a bit dark.  The Times puzzle is behind the paywall.  One good thing about the Times is that Deb Amlen usually gets some comments from the constructors of every puzzle and Hex usually have something good to say.

On the cryptic side, there’s the usual National Post puzzle by Hex, and LizR has a new Brit cryptic up.  Liz borrowed an interesting grid from Nutmeg: it has a ring of threes in the middle.  Usually constructors (especially British ones) cope with something like this by linking the threes with other answers; Liz made a mini-theme out of them, cluing them all in the same way.  Catch the original title of her post too, hidden in the URL.

Kevin Wald has posted his MIT Mystery Hunt warm-up.  This year’s hunt begins Friday at noon.  Some people participate without being on campus, and some teams will be willing to accept extra hunters who are looking for a team to participate with.  I think that his “Tripling Hither, Tripling Thither” is new too.

An interesting variety crossword this week too.  BEQ posted a “From A to Z” where you have to figure out the missing first letter of each clue, which in turn will tell you where some other answer will go.  A couple of bugs in it though.  Philip Morris hasn’t been making the product in answer 23 for years, and I can think of at least two possible answers that would fit in 7d.

Finally, if you’re looking for more puzzles, Will Johnson has updated his links page for 2014.  However, most of the cryptic links are to series that have stopped posting new puzzles.

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