Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The real EGU

No doubt you've read Stoat's daily accounts from the EGU (eg). Here is jules's trip report:

Arrived early in Vienna, with a view to getting a head-start on the cakes. Visited Demel, which is a famous cake shop. The problem with famous things in Vienna is that they are usually rubbish. Had some famous cake and some mediocre tea, but at least I seemed to be in a no-smoking part of the cafe - and the building was very nice. Coming from Japan, being in a elegant old European building is a real pleasure.

Stayed at the Capricorno hotel which is extremely convenient for town and conference, and had the added bonus for me, a lonely lonesome traveller, of a lively ant colony in my bedroom.

Touristing until 3pm. The Albertina art museum had a Mozart special showing, which was a bit disappointing. I'd rather have seen something I didn't know about already. Visited the Kaisergruft which contains the huge and fantastically Roccoco-ly decorated coffins of lots of Habsburgs. Then went to the Haus der Musik, which is the museum for the Vienna Phil., but upstairs has all sorts of interactive sound things, including a womb room where you get to experience being an embryo again. After all this fun I headed up to the EGU to register and spent a happy hour logged on to the wifi which I was assured wouldn't be operational until the following day.

EGU days end late and it was about 7pm when I met up with a group of what was basically Paul Valdes' expanding empire plus hangers on. Someone (no doubt a future world leader) convinced us to go "authentic" and led us half the way to the Czech Republic in order to sup wine with fizzy water, dumplings and lumps of meat. The vegetarians complained that they only had fried vegetables and dumplings. I tried to point out that the meat eaters were actually worse off because they had to have either fried or boiled meat and dumplings. By the time the alkies were ordering second flagons of wine I was also starting to flag, and ran away soon afterwards since I wanted to be fresh as a daisy for the all important Climate-stuff session the next day.

I once posted on William Connolley's blog because he offered a free bier at the EGU to anyone who did so. This foolish man was at the important Climate-stuff session so I nabbed him in the coffee break, and was rewarded with not only bier but the honour of dinner in a nice restaurant accompanied by a man wearing very long bushy hair, shorts and sandals. The waiters were not impressed with my choice of companion, until after it was too late, when they saw the "Dr" on his credit card.

At 5pm, aware of having to spend several hours dressing before my exciting date with William I went down to the poster hall to remove my even more exciting poster about important Climate-stuff. To my horror there was a little man standing in front of it, apparently engrossed. Feeling I had already done my bit with the very busy 2 hour poster session earlier in the day, I sneaked quietly away to peruse some posters until it was safe to return. But, a few minutes later, there was the little man at my shoulder asking me if I could answer some poster-related questions. So, back to the poster I went. A few seconds later Dave Frame, who turned out to be the little man's buddy, appeared from behind a pillar! Had he been lying in wait? I thought they were all supposed to be too busy drinking beer to be interesting in our little poster, yet here they were at well past 5pm still staring at it. Perhaps they'd already been enjoying the beers from the bar in the poster hall. That would explain their rather lethargic manner, which at the time I put down to them having stood in front of my poster for the intervening 4 hours since the poster session.

At lunchtime my friend Yoko took me to a GOOD cafe in Vienna. I'm not going to tell you its name or where it is - because it was actually good! Turns out Yoko (who is one of my best buddies in Japan) is a top international traveller and had the inside information on many things, like how to get good opera tickets for not much money!

This was the day that Tim Lenton won a prize for, after all this time, still being surprisingly young for someone so brilliant. He gave a talk which was actually educational and interesting, rather than the usual soporific medal talk, "my 50 years doing such extraordinary dull science that I really can't believe I've won a prize". Its such a shame when a top boffin turns up to give a really dull speech. After the talk we (me and my boss Ayako) managed to get Tim to buy us a bier down by the posters. This was because I was wearing a very brightly coloured frock, so he couldn't pretend he hadn't seen us. Got to meet Tim's extremely nice girlfriend who is from NZ and is called Tee.

The session that I convened with Nanne and Masa occurred today. Nanne and I played "nice and nasty chairpersons" which is the same as "good cop bad cop". I went first so the participants were very well behaved by the time Nanne took over, and we managed to get out of the room before the next session arrived. In the evening I went out with the other conveners and also a few Japanese people, to a Serbian restaurant, which was actually quite good.

By this time it is getting hard to concentrate. Friday night was the free food and drink for all conveners. There must be about 500 EGU conveners, but there were probably only a couple of hundred at the party. The food was quite good, the only problem with that being that after another long EGU day, the party was so late (7.30pm) that I had to eat beforehand.

I went to see some wonky architecture before flying to Heathrow, staying at the Sheraton Skyline, which was an OK hotel except for the lack of oxygen in the rooms plus an unopenable window, which I had a very strong urge to kick a hole in.

If you ever fly to Tokyo, make sure you fly with Virgin Atlantic. It has a multitude of movies and TV programs to watch, on a self-controlled system. This is really worthwhile for a 12 hour flight.


William M. Connolley said...

Is that how it really was :-)?

William M. Connolley said...

Hey, have you seen this: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2006/04/science_advocates_blogging.php. I'm offended...

William M. Connolley said...

Oh wait... they list scienceblogs as a whole... hmm...

James Annan said...

Um, yes I have :-)

Your fault for being merely part of a collective rather than standing on your own two feet :-)