Friday, April 29, 2011

[jules' pics] Easter

Sometimes it is advantageous that the shops don't stock British food - James made delicious hot cross buns!

Hot cross James

My mother-in-law knows the best way to my heart...

Easter Eggs!

And there were 4 more eggs each in the parcel!

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/29/2011 06:16:00 PM

The Cult of Statistical Significance?

I was listening to a recent More or Less which had a piece about statistical significance. The guest was Stephen Ziliak who has a book on the topic. I actually thought he gave a slightly confusing account of the limitations of significance testing ("likelihood of the magnitude"?). His book also has a lot of hostile reviews on Amazon suggesting it reads a bit like a blog rant. Perhaps this Gerd Gigerenzer article is better written.

The reason for the More or Less article was a recent US Supreme Court decision that medical trial results could not be brushed under the carpet simply due to their being "statistically insignificant". In the case in question, it seems that there might have been prior reasons to suspect side effects of the type observed, so the fact that they had not (at that time) reached an arbitrary threshold is not adequate justification for concealing them.

I've mentioned before, IMO most of the confusion over significance testing is that the p-value actually doesn't answer the question people are interested in (probability of a hypothesis being true), but is routinely misinterpreted in that way. The same confusion extends to confidence intervals, of course, and these errors are routinely found even in articles that claim to be authoritative (eg and of course also here). But I wouldn't call it a cult, it's more likely to be down to confused thinking and laziness on the whole.

And also, as several people spotted, on xkcd:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Inflation, base rates and the Monetary Policy Committee

I think what I'm going to say in this post is blinding obvious, and I've been surprised over recent months about the lack of any public debate over the issue. Maybe some of the economically-minded readers can explain if/how I'm wrong...

The Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England has one duty, which is to set the Bank of England Base Rate so as to hit the inflation target which has been set at 2% for some time now. However, inflation is currently double that figure. It is not in dispute that a higher base rate will act to bear down on inflation, and vice-versa. When the inflation rate fails to stay within 1% of the target (as is the case now) the MPC even have to write a letter to the Chancellor to explain their failure and present their strategy for fixing things. The CPI has been above this threshold (2%+1%=3%) for well over a year. The Base Rate has been at the record low of 0.5% for the past 2 years without any hint of upward movement. So why is this?

The obvious answer, that does not seem to be openly acknowledged, is that the official policy on inflation has actually been abandoned for the foreseeable future. A major cause of the current economic problem is the state of the housing market with prices still being stupidly high, but any significant drop in prices would hurt those who took out unreasonably high mortgages to pay hugely inflated prices over recent years. The (unstated) new policy seems to be to protect those who over-extended themselves, by simultaneously keeping mortgage rates at record low levels while inflating away the debts themselves. After a few years, even if house prices stay stagnant in real terms, the debts will have withered to the point at which negative equity is no longer much of a threat. For example, 5 years at 4% inflation will rescue anyone who currently finds themselves "underwater" to the tune of 25%.

The "downside", if you can call it that, is that this sleight-of-hand is being effectively paid for out of the pockets of those fools who didn't mortgage themselves to the hilt, but who actually saved their money, only to find these savings vanishing due to the same low interest rates and high inflation that is wiping out the mortgage debts. What idiots we were, not jumping in head-first onto the debt gravy train. Forget the banks, the housing market really is "too big to fail".

In most circumstances, I would expect journalists to gleefully highlight such a glaring inconsistency between stated and actual economic policy. But somehow, this de facto wealth redistribution from savers to borrowers seems to be taking place without any serious debate. Could it be that the journalists are also up to their necks in mortgage debt and delighted that the Govt is baling them out using our money?

Japanese "too stupid to change their clocks"

The Govt didn't actually use that form of words, preferring the old standby "confusion". Which sounds pretty much like "too stupid" but really just means "we don't want to do it so are pretending it would be a lot of trouble". Of course, as I mentioned before, some companies are planning on running their working days 1h earlier than usual, but others are not, which somehow isn't going to cause any confusion at all, oh no...

I don't know if JAMSTEC is going to change its official working day. Perhaps they will set up a working group to consider the question and formulate a policy around October or thereabouts. Of course we work the hours we want (within reason) but things like the canteen timings could change, or not. We try to get up earlier than usual in the summer anyway, because there is so much early daylight and it's painfully hot cycling to work in full sun much after 8am. But that does leave us waiting a long time for our dinner.

In other news, the Govt is introducing its "cool biz" uniform change earlier than usual, and this is also apparently not confusing. I'm not really sure why people aren't allowed to wear what they want in accordance with the actual temperature rather than changing clothes according to some arbitrary date on a calendar, but then again, I'm not Japanese...

Monday, April 25, 2011

[jules' pics] 4/25/2011 06:30:00 PM

strelitzia, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.
Our pet strelitzia.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/25/2011 06:30:00 PM

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Restraint order

Just before we left for the EGU, I heard that Ishihara, Governor of Tokyo, had called for "self-restraint" to show sympathy with the victims of the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami/meltdown disaster. I assumed that everyone would ignore the old buffoon who is continually making a fool of himself - he already said the tsunami was divine retribution for the Japanese being soft and self-indulgent, which would be idiotic enough even if it hadn't hit a relatively poor rural area rather than, say, central Tokyo. However he was comfortably re-elected recently - it would perhaps be a bit cruel to say that as an ageing surly grumpy xenophobe he is ideally suited to represent Tokyo, but only a little bit!

Anyway, back we came to Japan and found out that in fact most of the main sakura festivals have been cancelled. I even saw a report that the Tokyo Fireworks have been cancelled - these are scheduled for the middle of August! Mind you, my Japanese colleagues didn't seem to have heard this, it may be an error of the English-language press (and this article seems to contradict the story). The "restraint" has hit the tourism trade hard, and a particularly unfortunate consequence of Ishihara's campaign is the threat of a slump in sales in sake from Tohoku, which is one of the major production regions. In response to the slump in sales, Tohoku sake brewers have started a counter-campaign to get people to buy their products again. It would be a sad irony if these nth-generation family businesses, having survived war, recessions, earthquakes and tsunami, were put out of business by the mawkish sentimentality of people thinking that sitting at home being resolutely glum is somehow sharing the pain of the troubles up north, rather than merely adding to them. The mood has been a bit sombre than usual here, not surprisingly, and there is no reason why anyone should be forced into an insincere show of jollity, but conversely, the idea that we should all be coerced into "self-restraint" by order of the governor, or through fear of public criticism, is self-contradictory at best.

So, jules and I decided to have a small hanami party, and bought some Tohoku sake (Nihonshu, to give it its real name - sake is a generic term for all alcoholic drinks) to enjoy under the falling blossoms.

Plenty of people seem to agree with us, a famous old cherry tree was swarmed by visitors in Fukushima despite the cancellation of official festivities. I'm not really a huge fan of Nihonshu but I'm prepared to give it some serious consideration as part of my contribution to the regeneration of the region. Cheers!

[jules' pics] Petal Fever

Arrived back on the Kanto plain at the peak of a fantastic but short cherry blossom season - ie all the blossoms came out together.

sakura viewing
Our walk home was shared with many others. It was nice to see the crowds returned to Kamakura.

A week later we went out early to enjoy falling petals...

I'm not sure why some suggested that cherry blossom parties should be cancelled because of the apocalypse. Several Japanese people have explained to me that cherry blossom season is not about spring and new life, but rather is a period of mourning - best enjoyed while the petals are falling - signifying the ephemeral nature of life and beauty. I would have thought, therefore, that nothing could be a more fitting way to mark the recent apocalypse than getting drunk on Tokhoku sake as thousands of petals fall all around.

A few minutes after the above photo was taken, the morning petal blowers and brushers came round to get the night's fall of petals all tidied up. Why they would do this I don't know. Perhaps, once again, petrol powered hand tools allow cultural tendencies to get out of control...


Not actually cheery blossom petals, but crab apple (kaido).

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/24/2011 03:37:00 PM

Saturday, April 23, 2011

"The Future University"

This conference announcement deserves wide circulation, I think:


The current year’s theme will culminate in a major Mellon-funded conference at the end of June 2011: ‘The Future University’ - not ‘the Future of the University’ (over which the new ‘austerity’ looms alarmingly), but its evolving character and changing concerns, especially in the digital age. The conference will address post-disciplinary developments along with policy implications, as well as the catalyst provided by the creative and performing arts on one hand, and the social sciences on the other, when it comes to rethinking the very basis of ‘the Future University’ as a place where education and research (including practice-based research) remain vitally inter-connected within the broad field we know as the Humanities.

Panels will consider musical performance and creative practice, the reorientation of old disciplines in new regions, the relation between universities as they are or might be, and between digitality and democracy, higher education policy and the humanities, the role of ‘the human’ in global literature, and a range of literacies that include both digital literacy and the literate eye in looking at and writing about art. Keynotes will address ‘Digital Technologies and the Conditional University’ (Bernard Stiegler, Pompidou Centre) and ‘The Impact of International History’ (Sir Adam Roberts, President of the British Academy).

The programme will also feature a musical performance event called ‘Improvisation in the Round’, a panel discussion on ‘The Fate of the Humanities’, and a closing panel at the Fitzwilliam Museum on the role of the University Art Museum.

Unfortunately I can't attend, so may never learn about the role of "the human" in global literature.

(Hat tip jules, who is on the mailing list. CRASSH organised an interesting workshop - and poster session - when we were in Cambridge last year.)

[jules' pics] 4/23/2011 03:19:00 PM

korea, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

The April Foolery of Austria Air continued on the way home. We were permitted to enjoy an orange cone for an hour or so in Seoul while the idiots changed flight crew. The subsequent additional snack was, however, a "fluffy muffin", which was a considerable improvement over the pre-Chernobyl chicken ramen we had on the way out.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/23/2011 03:19:00 PM

Thursday, April 21, 2011

[jules' pics] New Vienna

Yes - a sadly predictable post after yesterday's. As a formerly amazingly important and now amazingly irrelevant city, Vienna has a kind of sick desperation in its modern building...

leaning buildings
Just like Sakuragicho, the Viennese can make leaning buildings too!

Austria Center
The Austria Center - the present home of the EGU conference. It is OK inside although this year some of the rooms were too cold. Particularly the one used for the paleoclimate sessions could have been more like the Last Inter Glacial and less like the Last Glacial Maximum. Luckily I had my magic sweater with me. I did not realise it was magic when I made it - but it is incredibly light, warm and compressible. The only issue is having to avoid geeks with rucksacs and velcroey jackets while wearing it, as the loopy weave pulls badly. But really it is quite nice to have an excuse to avoid rubbing up against them...

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/21/2011 11:58:00 AM

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Filling the power vacuum in Japan

I mentioned that there were a couple of hurriedly-arranged sessions on the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami at the EGU. Well, we were basically twiddling our thumbs for the last couple of days before leaving for Vienna - the computers were off due to the power cuts, and our posters had been printed - so we thought we might as well chuck together another poster to take with us for this new session. While most people were naturally focussing on the geophysics, our particular perspective was on the potential for solar power generation - especially if promoted by the Govt - to fill the gap left by the shut-down of Fukushima power plant (and others, though they will probably come back on line sooner or later). Current projections are that the peak summer production will be about 45GW in the TEPCO area, but the usual demand is...60GW. Meaning that the power cuts (which are in abeyance for now) will be back with a vengeance in a a couple of months, and might take place next summer too. So everyone is desperately looking for ways both to cut consumption and to find new resources.

Our poster is here (warning - 5MB). A few quick calculations suggest that a sustained push for installation of solar power could make a significant impact. Firstly, although I didn't actually find a precise statistic for total production capacity, it seems that Japan makes several GW of solar panelling per year (one factory alone makes 1GW). Also, Japan builds a ridiculous number of houses each year - over a million, about the same as the (much larger) USA. So there is a lot of new roof space under construction, and it may be reasonable to expect that build-integrated solar power could probably add about 2.5GW of capacity per year in the TEPCO area.

These capacity figures are all peak rather than average power, and the typical problem with solar (that makes it relatively expensive at least on a capital cost basis) is that it only generates power part of the time. A typical capacity factor is 15%, meaning that a 1kW panel will generate not 24kWh per day but more like 4 - or conversely, you need to build and install 7kW of panelling, and a storage system, to get an average 1kW output. But here's the key insight - the Japanese power demand peaks precisely when the solar power is actually producing, during summer daytime hours. So since the current concern is not the total power production, but rather the summer daytime peak, solar is suddenly a rather attractive solution. In fact the capital cost seems to be not far out of line of other more conventional power supplies, at maybe $5 per W (peak). Right now, it's also a distress purchase - if people want their A/C on during the summer (which I certainly do) then the price may not be a primary factor.

Apparently the Governor of Kanagawa (our prefecture) is pushing for solar power, and the national govt also has a policy goal of 30% by 2030. So it will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens.

[jules' pics] Olde Vienna

vienna 6
Kunsthistorisches Museum

Karlzplatz and Henry Moore

vienna 5
Outside the Hofburg, Rat House in background

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/20/2011 12:42:00 PM

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


James may have posted The EGU Review, but with 10 bazillion parallel sessions, each of the merely 10,000 attendees may enjoy a unique experience.

I started the week learning about the Urban Climate. We had a poster in the session, which I defended, as Lalu Das, the first author, is now back in India. The concept of our work is quite straight forward, assessing whether any of the long term Met stations in Japan may be uncontaminated by the Urban Heat Island Effect, and the poster is available here (link to pdf of Lalu's poster). For those who don't want to download the pdf, the answer is that, amazingly, there could still be some relatively uncontaminated "rural" stations. We merely considered "rural", "suburban" and "urban" climates, limited as we are to the historical measurements. It was made clear in the session, however, that there are many different urban environments, and there is no unique definition of "rural" (ie forests may be quite different from deserts). In fact the people at the session were much more microscopically minded, and were doing amazing things with complex models and fiddly measurements, in local environments. Now feeling truly urbane, I next attended four talks in different rooms, on tipping punts, Australian drought, costs of mitigation, and total carbon emissions, all before lunch. Some quite dull talks on how doomed the planet is followed - dull because they were mostly reviews rather than new stuff. After tea I naturally went and cheered at Probability Reborn, convened by Thomas SvD, James and Reto Knutti. They did a much better job of it than we did 2 years ago, so I hope they will carry on next year with a similar session.

Tuesday was almost all paleo, and on Wednesday morning I attended the Last Millennium session with James. After lunch I was lucky enough to get a seat in Icesheet-Climate Interactions. They had guards turning people away at the door. Obviously it was popular, but it was not _that_ hot a session, but rather it was held in a small room with almost no standing room. It was mostly all new to me, so good value, although the warm room and after-lunch jet-lag induced tiredness did make it a personal challenge. Later I attended a medal lecture on ocean acidification by man with a ridiculous name who actually gets his hands wet, which was also educational and good context for our collaboration with Andy. Thursday was the Talagrand Backwards-Maths session, which is always very exciting. Unless, like James, you actually understand these things, the trick is to not obsess on any of the details and just let it wash over you. Then it is possible to spot the patterns, and maintain a pretty good idea of roughly what they are talking about.  After coffee, at last, it was time for the Let's Interglacial session. To be honest, there had been an awful lot of last-interglacial ever since Tuesday. It is obviously hot. And that's the question - why was it hot - and are we going the same way? While no one actually said it, they are all hoping that the answer will be that yes we could be going the same way and, if so the WAIS (Western Antarctic Ice Sheet) is history. This, of course, would be a big problem for those countries whose low lying areas have not already been handily swept away by a massive tsunami. On Friday I enjoyed the EarthquakeTsunamiNuclearApocalypse  session with James, and then we went to eat cake and drink silly Viennese coffees: Melange left; Latte right.

Viennese coffee

Monday, April 18, 2011

The EGU review

Well, jules has already covered the important bits. The hotel was great, and having an extra day at the start was a nice bonus, especially as the first conference day was a particularly busy one for us with my talk and a poster each to defend. It sometimes seems a bit boring visiting the same city over and over again - this is probably my 4th visit and jules' 5th - but on the plus side it makes the practicalities very easy to arrange, and the conference venue is hard to fault.

I started off with some decadal prediction, which still doesn't really work as far as I can tell. But people are having fun trying. Then there was stuff about volcanoes and geoengineering, which was mostly a bit too focussed on technical details to be really fascinating to me - plus I may have been distracted by thoughts of my (co-convened) session which was next. Two snippets of information I did get out of it was that the relationship between volcanic eruption strength and climate response is a rather complex one where seasonality plays a role, and that TiO2 may be a more efficient alternative to sulphate aerosols for artificial injection (though more research is needed....). I enjoyed my session, I thought there were a lot of interesting presentations which covered a range of approaches, both Bayesian and non-Bayesian, with recent obs or paleodata, all for the purposes of probabilistic climate prediction. People were mostly talking about recent work (that I was basically aware of) rather than future stuff though. Then straight into the poster sessions, which as usual were all run in the evening (at least for the climate division) along with the free paint-stripper.

Tuesday started with stochastic and statistical physics, which ranged from the purely theoretical to entirely ad-hoc. I'm never quite sure how important this is for climate modelling and prediction. Then Andrey Ganopolski gave a really good medal lecture. Sometimes these are rather routine surveys of past glories, but he included a lot of new stuff too relating to glacial-interglacial cycles and the carbon cycle. After lunch I spent the afternoon sessions running between the nonlinear geosciences session (mostly) with a bit of paloeclimate modelling. The former had lots of interesting time series analysis ideas including another medal lecture and a young scientist award lecture, both of which were good and gave me food for thought. The Young Scientist, Reik Donner, introduced some interesting ideas relating to complex networks, that I mean to look up some time. In the Lewis Fry medal lecture, Catherine Nicolis claimed to have invalidated the Maximum Entropy Principle, which I was very happy to hear, having decided some time ago to not invest any time in trying to understand it :-) I also enjoyed a talk about coastal erosion and the inevitability (or otherwise) of fractal coastlines. Jules had a talk in the paleo modelling session which was not news to me and I didn't see much of the other paleo talks but they all seemed to be having fun. By now we had finished all the real work so could enjoy the "10 years of open access publishing" party which somehow morphed into the President's Reception up on the secret 4th floor.

On Wednesday morning there was lots of last millennium stuff, mostly analysis of proxies with a little bit of modelling. Several people warning about the difficulties of inferring much about past climates based on limited data, and finally Martin Juckes gave a rather hammed-up deconstruction of the McShane and Wyner paper. I'm surprised he or anyone else thought it was a useful thing to do, really, and it was a bit toe-curling in places. At lunchtime the Climate Division had its business meeting at which everything passed off smoothly. No Exxon controversy to debate this time! I wonder what happened about that? The afternoon was a bit blank so I went to see part of Peter Challoner and Dan Cornford talking about emulators. These things are a great tool but sometimes somewhat oversold, since (as I have pointed out multiple times) if you only want to characterise the uncertainty of the output(s) of a model with multiple uncertain inputs, you can do a pretty good job with a modest O(100) simulations irrespective of the number of inputs.

I had another poster in the evening, relating to our own Last Millennium work. That's very much work in progress and I got a lot of ideas and motivation from the other talks and posters so hope to do some more on this soon. In fact I'd been meaning to do stuff in March but the earthquake and power cuts put paid to that - I ended up just taking the same poster I'd presented in Kyoto last December. Lucky I had it really. Work was still not over, we met Dan and Emma for some discussion of secret collaboration before adjourning to the local Chinese for a decent dinner.

Thursday had the highlight of the Inverse Problems and Data Assimilation session. Particle filters are all the rage these days. There is a basic and well-known problem of dimensionality (or equivalently ensemble size) but a number of tricks are being developed to make them work in practical applications. It is funny to see how the field has come full circle back to nudging, which was the first attempt at data assimilation over 50 years ago before there was any real theory to underpin it! Last session of the day was about feedbacks, Ray Bates gave a talk which initially seemed a little provocative and indeed did provoke some audience reaction. He argued, using a simple model, that a net positive forcing could generate a net negative temperature response even in a stable system. This initially sounds implausible, until you realise that this situation only requires a mild negative forcing over a region of high sensitivity, combined with a slightly stronger positive forcing over a region of rather lower sensitivity (having a relatively low coupling between the regions also helps). And indeed on checking his paper, this is really all he's done, though he's also undertaken a very detailed analysis. I suppose this could have some relevance to energy-balance analysis of the response to forcing with strong spatial patterns, such as negative aerosols over land and positive GHGs everywhere, but I can't help thinking that the presentation made it seem more complex and counterintuitive than it really is. Another prize lecture, this time by Andreas Oschlies, finished off the day. He was arguing strongly for more quantitative assessment of marine biogeochemical models, which seems like a good idea to us.

By Friday we were pretty worn out, so it was no bad thing that there were not many sessions of direct importance to our work. However, a special emergency session about the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami had been arranged at short notice, so we spent the day learning about what had happened. Apparently it has refuted most of the major theories about earthquake size, being far bigger than expected for its situation. There were even preliminary comments about the large aftershock that had happened the previous day, the location of which was also not in accord with expectation. The tsunami was about 15m most of the way along the coast, and had been measured to run up as high as 38m at one point! The following panel discussion also covered the nuclear problem, and I asked if they had any comments on the hysterical over-reaction to this. They seemed to accept the premise (at least as far as Europe and the USA was concerned) and thought that some clearer and more authoritative Europe-wide scientific assessment of the (low) risks could have helped. We also submitted a poster to this session, about which more later...

So, that was the end of it. We struggled along to the Convenors' party for a good feed and collapsed into bed. Unusually, this year we didn't even skive off any sessions to do some touristing, and only turned up a little late one morning when the 8:30 talk didn't seem that interesting. Overall, there was plenty to do and the whole conference re-confirmed our view that it's generally rather better than the equivalent AGU event. I haven't even talked about the people we saw doing all sorts of interesting things relating to carbon capture and storage and renewable energy. In contrast, the AGU was full of people hand-wringing ineffectually about "communication". On the other hand, San Francisco food is certainly better overall (Hotel Stefanie breakfast buffet notwithstanding). So it's a tough call :-)

The abstracts and program are on-line here, by the way.

[jules' pics] Butterflies

After the concert, we had lunch in the palm house. The food tasted very good, but this is the only restaurant where I have ever seen a waitress take a swig from a drink before placing it on a tray and taking it to a table.

palm house

Lunch was followed by brief trip to the butterfly house.

butterfly house

butterfly house

Is it a good thing when to be frightened by one's own photographs...?

butterfly house

So much excitement meant we had to go home to the hotel and rest for the afternoon ...and practice our talks. James was under the misapprehension that he could present 30 slides in 12 minutes, so I had to work hard getting him to chop out all the irrelevant guff. Finally got it down to 13, including title page and bibliography. In the evening we ran up to the Conference centre and registered. This process is now very quick, but still worth doing the day before if, like us, you have posters to hang on the Monday and also want to make the first (8:30am) talk.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/18/2011 12:47:00 PM

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Things that make you go...hmmm...

In the current situation, one thing I didn't expect to see is a puff piece for...radiation therapy quackery!
Tamagawa Onsen’s special hokutolite bedrock, with naturally occurring radium, is thought to be particularly effective against cancer.
There are quite a lot of "Radium Onsens" in Japan, in fact we have been to one in particular a few times (Masutomi-no-yu near Kinpu-san). I had assumed that the radiation level was not high these days but according to this link the water there may be about 11,000Bq/l (and a person here says some other onsen are 10x higher) - compare the recent fuss when Tokyo water briefly reached 200 Bq/l. Ok, the bathers aren't generally drinking the onsen water and don't spend very long there, but there are full-time staff and the whole neighbourhood must be (relatively) hot. The radon concentration in the air seems really high too - way in excess of the USA EPA's "action level" of 4pCi/l = 148Bq/m3.

I feel a cunning plan coming on for a profitable redevelopment of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Those big pools of warm relaxing health-giving cancer-curing radioactive water...

[jules' pics] Strauss - the other one

In pole position poised above the 8th double bass, Sunday morning was the world famous Vienna Philharmonic. Like at the Riding School, photography is not allowed, presumably as it frightens the players, so these photos were all taken in the intervals.

vienna phil

In the first half of the concert, a little dumpy woman (Dame Gillian), did amazing things with the 4 console organ of the Musikverein. Our excellent position above the orchestra was luckily on the side of the hall that allowed us to watch her in action. The cadenza of Poulenc's organ concerto proved without doubt that her little silver court shoes were magical.  

vienna phil

In the interval people go outside, mostly to inhale smoke.

vienna phil

The concert hall is hardly an auditorium and I suspect that all the seats have some disadvantage. From our position, the percussion was perhaps not quite full volume, but how much percussion does one really need?

vienna phil

A lot apparently. In the second half, things got quite excessive. Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony requires an inordinate number of instruments. Apparently, as a child, Richard had a bad time in the mountains one day and got wet and cold and lost, but he survived to tell us all about it. James thought at 50 minutes it was rather a rushed mountain adventure. Does that mean we now need to sample one of Richard's longer works? 

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/14/2011 10:41:00 PM

EGU Hannes Alfvén Medal 2011 | Syun-Ichi Akasofu

Was mildly surprised to see another EGU medal (after this one) go to someone who is best known to me as a rather rubbish climate sceptic:
The Hannes Alfvén Medal is awarded to Syun-Ichi Akasofu for his outstanding achievements in Solar-Terrestrial Physics, establishing the substorm as a fundamental concept of magnetospheric physics.

But obviously he has a background as a proper scientist, some years back. Thankfully his drivel concerning climate change appears to have basically sunk without trace (despite his ongoing attempts to puff it).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

[jules' pics] Extra fun

The advantage of the April Foolery of Austria Air, was an extra day to recover from travels before the conference started. Japanese jetlag wakes you up early in Europe, so Saturday morning we headed off to the Hofburg:


And found the home of the prancing horseys: The Spanish Riding School.


Our 10 year old guidebook suggested nothing would be on, and that tickets to the proper performances we unobtainable, but that one may find space in a practice session. We joined the queue anyway and got tickets to the performance which started 40 minutes later!

Photography is not allowed, as it frightens the horseys, and certainly it was true that applause made the younger horseys jump about a bit. Having switched off flash and focus-assist lights, and as the final applause thundered out, I thought it should be safe enough and took this shot:

Spanish Riding School, Vienna

Like all real girls, I like horseys, and I do miss never seeing them in Japan, so I enjoyed the show. But I did think it seemed a bit pointless. The best bit was the dance at the end, where they tramped round in a kind of set dance... to Strauss, naturally. After 10 minutes in Vienna one is already sick of Strauss waltzies.

Horse trick

This is one of the horse tricks that I didn't photograph live. Unlike the statue, the actual horses held the pose for just a short while, although they did rather better in the exercises when they had no riders on their backs.

I don't remember Saturday afternoon. Perhaps we ate some cake and fell asleep.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/13/2011 12:57:00 PM

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

[jules' pics] 4/12/2011 03:38:00 PM

Vienna Breakfast Buffet, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Not often I get a commission! Breakfast buffet at Hotel Stefanie, Vienna. Very nice hotel. Best in Vienna that we have tried. Quiet, clean, big room, fantastic bed, mostly working shower, bird song and church bells in the morning. Only problem was the crap internets.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/12/2011 03:38:00 PM

Monday, April 11, 2011

[jules' pics] smoking

Viennese smoking

At last the impossible has happened and the smoking situation in Vienna has improved. At restaurants and cafes it seems to be under control, and although many people smoke outside at restaurants we were not so troubled by the disgusting habit of people smoking walking around in the streets, that was so prevalent last year in San Francisco and Cambridge. The Viennese do however seem like hardened smokers in attitude. When I asked if the EGU cafe, which was an impenetrable smokey haze two years ago, was non-smoking, the waitress replied that unfortunately it was! Inside the EGU, the one disappointment was the EGU conveners' party.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/11/2011 10:05:00 PM

Friday, April 08, 2011

[jules' pics] 4/08/2011 08:11:00 PM

poster, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.
James and Dan discuss the importance of making sure the figures in a paper are colour coordinated with the journal's front cover.

The EGU has regressed from internet to least I don't recall this being a problem last time. So, blogging of pictures from Vienna will have to wait until we are back in Japan.

jules' pics at 4/08/2011 08:11:00 PM

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Spoke too soon!

Neatly demonstrating the risks of a precipitous sooner did the British Embassy remove their travel advisory relating to Tokyo, but the situation took a serious turn for the worse:

Beer in short supply in Tokyo region due to quake, power outages

Rumour has it that the UK advice against travel to Japan will be reinstated forthwith, though once the news gets out, it might not be necessary.

However, Kamakura brewery is (presumably) unaffected, so I'm looking forward to returning and ploughing some money into the local economy.

Japan - now with added safety

Well, I grumbled at the Embassy (including by email) when they (inappropriately, IMO) advised against travel to Tokyo and advised residents to "consider leaving", but at least they have updated their advice reasonably promptly:

We are no longer advising against all but essential travel to Tokyo

And though they do not explicitly point it out, the sentence suggesting Tokyo residents "consider leaving the area" has been quietly dropped.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

It's summer time....Japanese style

In a brilliant display of the sort of lateral thinking that the Japanese are so famous for, the Govt has decided to abandon its idea of adopting a summer time clock change...but is instead just asking businesses to start their day one hour earlier. And, one presumes, they will end one hour earlier too.

Obviously, the trains will also have to start their daily schedule one hour earlier so people can get to work on time. And it would be awkward if the schools didn't also change too so families can keep their same morning schedules.

But it will save people the trouble and confusion of changing their clocks!

Monday, April 04, 2011

[jules' pics] Mostly Japanese mountains

On the flight we had views of some favourite hills



Kita Alps (we typically head either here or the Minami Alps, for a week-long walk in the summer):

Kita Alps

See our website for some of our adventures on these hills, although I see that some of the most spectacular walks are missing. Must get James on the case.

No photo of the Minami Alps. We passed over them, but I didn't take a photo. So, for contrast, this is Mongolia (I think):

err... Mongolia?

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/04/2011 12:37:00 PM

Saturday, April 02, 2011

[jules' pics] Narita Airport

Korean Air from Narita

Racing cars?


Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/03/2011 04:29:00 AM

[jules' pics] April Fools

We had a slightly unusual trip to Vienna, home of the IAEA.

The Narita Express train is not running so we got the bus.

This was actually a pleasant change. It is fast, frequent, and friendly and affords great views.

Then the April Fool jokes started.

The flight crew disembarked just long enough to Geiger Count the passengers. Fortunately this did not take too long as the flight was not very full.

The only food served on this part of the trip was a tiny tub of pre-Chernobyl chicken ramen.

Stopped for 1.5 hours at Beijing Airport to change flight crew. More than 6 hours after we left Narita, it was about 6pm Japan time by the time we finally got our lunch. April Fools jokes are supposed to stop at noon. Hungry James was not amused.

Arrived rather late in Vienna, but at least we have an extra day to recover,

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/02/2011 10:21:00 AM