Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Munich visit

Frontal and tropical cyclone expert Prof. Roger Smith at the University of Munich invited me to Munich for several days. I went on May 21-24. I got to meet Roger's students and postdocs, as well as engage in cafe-style discussions about important issues remaining in frontal research. I gave my seminar on the mammatus work I have done with Kathy Kanak and Jerry Straka. At the end of the seminar, people started knocking on the tables in approval. Apparently in Germany, that is the proper acknowledgement, rather than applause. Interesting!

I spent one day at DLR, a research laboratory outside of Munich. My host there was Hans Volkert, who many may remember for his presentation at the 1994 Bergen Symposium on the roots of the Bergen school conceptual model in the German literature. Hans showed me his copy of Vilhelm Bjerknes' 1913 inauguration presentation for his professorship at Leipzig where he laid out his view of how weather prediction could occur by integrating the governing equations for the atmosphere. What a treat that was! I also got to experience Bavarian outside dining on a lakeshore restaurant in the countryside, which was an excellent choice by Hans.

Also at DLR, I got to reconnect with colleagues George Craig, Nikolai Dotzek, and Johannes Dahl. Nikolai and his family hosted me at their rooftop apartment for dinner that night. I am here to say that Nikolai's barbeque grill skills are highly competitive with Al Shapiro at the University of Oklahoma. With convective storms on the horizon and a wonderful sunset, it made for the culmination of a perfect visit to a city and a country that I have never visited before.

I want to thank all my hosts for such a wonderful time. Also, I appreciate everyone who shared with me their research and attended my seminars, showing me incredible hospitality.

Nice Helsinki Photos


Great Helsinki Restaurants 1

Soul Kitchen
Flemingkatu 26-28
Phone: (09) 773 2233
Entry on eat.fi webpage

Fast becoming one of my favorite Helsinki restaurants, the Soul Kitchen lies at the corner of Vaasankatu and Flemingkatu, closest subway station at Sornainen. Although the Surf and Turf was a pretty spartan meal for 21.50 euro, other menu items are generous portions. Two favorites are the Late Birds Breakfast (porridge, fried egg, bacon, breakfast meats, cheeses, bread, fruit) for 10 euro, and the BBQ ribs (some of the meatiest ribs I have ever eaten, this coming from a ten-year Oklahoma resident). Although the corn-in-the-cob was tough and the cole slaw was not tangy, the ribs were worth the 13 euro alone. Another favorite of mine is the creamy peppersteak.

Almost as important as the food is the wonderful choice of old soul albums that play during the meal and the classic artwork on the walls. Also, the menus are printed like old LP records in sleeves. Very clever.

Beware of the excessive charge for checking in your coat, which, in a small place like this, I would not have expected.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Another record warm month across the world

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Person with crutches (braces) enjoying the Helsinki Street Party


Clash of Cultures 5: Tijuana Taxi

Mexican mariachi music sung in Finnish. Enough said.

Finnish Ice Hockey

On Thursday, Finland beat the USA (5-4 in overtime) in ice hockey, then lost 2-4 to Canada on Sunday. Senate Square was filled with 15,000 people to watch the game on the large screen TVs that had been placed there for the Helsinki Street Party for Eurovision the night before.

The Helsinki Sanomat reports: "For some drunken spectators, Finland's defeat was a bit too much to swallow. Some of the young men started taking out their frustration on the few Canadian fans in the area by pushing them around and by throwing bottles at them."

It must be hard finding ice left for ice hockey in Finland these days with an exceptionally warm 2006, as reported by FMI.

(Image from the Helsinki Sanomat web page)

The Tick Bus

On the way to the grocery store at Arabia yesterday evening, there was a line of over 100 people lined up to get inside a large van parked on the sidewalk. The van had a picture of what looked like a spider on the side. Although I had my suspicions, the paper yesterday confirmed my ideas.

Finland out of vaccine against dangerous Kumlinge disease spread by ticks

Given that the Finns spend much of their summertime at their cottages in the woods, I understand about protecting yourself from the ticks. Despite the fact that Finns are pretty strong, robust people (e.g., I know people that build their own kayaks from scratch and their own cottages), I am surprised by the ailments that many Finns face.

17% of Finns are lactose intolerant. (From Finlandia Cheese's FAQ.)

Most apartments and workplaces do not have carpets (even area rugs), as many Finns have allergies. Companies regularly service the entryway carpeting that people wipe their feet on at FMI and many other businesses.

Helsinki throws party for Eurovision

If there was ever a question whether Helsinki could throw a party, I think the city answered it with an emphatic, YES!

The 52nd Eurovision Song Contest was held in Helsinki this past weekend due to the victory of the Finnish rock band Lordi in the 2006 contest. Eurovision flags were everywhere around town, even flying on the head of the trams. The city provided lots of free music. Friday night was a street party with a concert stage at the Senate Square. Yvette and I got there in time to see the end of Tijuana Taxi, the pop-rock band The Crash (a favorite with the high-school girls), and the Don Johnson Big Band (no, not THAT Don Johnson!).

Saturday was more music, followed by the live broadcast of the Eurovision finals in the Senate Square. Senate Square was packed solid on Saturday night. Claustrophobes probably should have kept their distance!

Saturday's night broadcast opened with a fantastic new video for Lordi's "Hard Rock Hallelujah." After that, it was all 24 finalists "performing" (i.e., singing over the karoake versions of their songs) their music. Any upbeat music made the crowd go crazy. Crowd favorites were the entries from Greece, Turkey, Ukraine, Sweden, and, of course, Finland. The Russian entry, while catchy, elicited some boos from the Finns.

After all the songs were performed, each country's residents dial in to vote. Top vote getters from each country get awarded 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, ..., and 1 points in that order. (Of course, you cannot vote for your own country.) Each country then is surveyed and the scores are assembled. Serbia won this year with their broken-love ballad "Molitva." Singer Marija Serifovic sang the crap out of the song, which won the hearts of the voters. Many other eastern European countries voted for the Serbian entry, leading some to assert bloc voting, as in this commentary.

Like other years of Eurovision, it's not necessarily the best song or the best performance that wins. But, it's good clean fun, and a chance to dance to this, sung by this:

News You May Have Missed

About 25,000 commute by bicycle to centre of Helsinki in summer, but each year only about 10 serious accidents happen.

The Finns are upset that Bush rejects Finnish President Halonen's request for a meeting, but he found time for the Swedish Prime Minister

A CIA web page ranks Finland 24th in the world in "account balance" with assets of over +$8 billion. The U.S. is last with -$862 billion. (Current account balance "is a country's net trade in goods and services, plus net earnings from rents, interest, profits, and dividends, and net transfer payments (such as pension funds and worker remittances) to and from the rest of the world during the period specified. These figures are calculated on an exchange rate basis, i.e., not in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms.")

Friday, May 11, 2007

Cool music

"Hots for the Smarts" by Richard Thompson

I want a girl with a brain
The size of Siberia
With a haughty disdain
Of all things inferior
I don’t want a learner
With a Bunsen burner
She must be the finished article
Who sees our attraction
As chemical reaction
And charm as merely a particle

"A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" by Randy Newman

A president once said,
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”
Now it seems like we’re supposed to be afraid
It’s patriotic in fact and color coded
And what are we supposed to be afraid of?
Why, of being afraid
That’s what terror means, doesn’t it?
That’s what it used to mean

Miscellaneous items

The dollar is at a record low relative to the euro and a 25-year low against the British pound.

The European Research Council has been given a budget of 7.5 billion euro a year to 2013

Great new interactive web page for restaurants in Finland: http://eat.fi

Antipode, a radical journal of geography posted this article about being a non-tenure-track faculty member in the US: "Skilled, Cheap, and Desperate" by Mark Purcell

Eight years after defeating curbside recycling, Norman, Oklahoma, 71% of residents vote to support curbside recycling.


As people may know, I am an Editor at Monthly Weather Review (MWR), the longest continuously running meteorological journal in the world. Of the American Meteorological Society journals (and probably nearly all other atmospheric science journals I know of), MWR has the fastest time from submission to an initial decision (66 days in 2006) and time from submission to final decision (161 days). Some journals take almost twice as long as we do!

At the end of 2007, Dave Jorgensen and Bill Skamarock will be stepping down as Co-Chief Editors of MWR---Dave after ten years of service to MWR. I will be assuming the role of Chief Editor.

My Editorial Board for 2008 will be Jeff Trapp, Fuqing Zhang, Liz Ritchie, Nolan Atkins, Jim Hansen, Jim Doyle, and Tom Hamill. To the best of our knowledge this is the youngest Editorial Board for an AMS journal ever. I am proud of these volunteers!

I have been active in founding and serving as Assistant Editor to the Electronic Journal of Severe Storms Meteorology (EJSSM). EJSSM is an open-access, international, scientific, formal, online journal for the publication of original and updated research on all kinds of severe storms.

Just recently, I have been asked to serve as Assistant Editor to Atmospheric Science Letters, published by the Royal Meteorological Society in the United Kingdom. I have accepted their offer.

Monday, May 07, 2007

FMI assists Eurovision visitors to Helsinki

With the long summer days approaching (16.5 hours of daylight with sunrise about 5 a.m. and sunset about 9:30 p.m.), Helsinki is a cool, dry place to be next weekend for the Eurovision contest. FMI has provided some information for visitors.

The climate of Finland during the Eurovision contest: http://www.fmi.fi/weather/climate_12.html

A new site has been added to the Helsinki Testbed for Eurovision. The temperature from the Ilmala site can be seen here.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Half a Year!

I have been in Helsinki for the last six months and five days. Doesn't seem like half a year in some ways, seems like a lifetime in others. Wow!

Friday, May 04, 2007


Meet my girlfriend Yvette Hancock. She is a 35-year-old theoretical physicist working on nanoscale devices at the Helsinki University of Technology in Espoo, a western suburb of Helsinki. She arrived in Helsinki in September 2006, shortly before I did. Yvette has dual Australian-British citizenship and got her PhD from the School of Physics and Materials Engineering at Monash University in Australia in 2003. During the end of her thesis, she was inspired to write a children's story about her thesis. Ellie the Electron's adventures are told through the lens of quantum physics: uncertainty, spin, and electron microscopy. Yvette says that Ellie "wants to be the star of the Quantum Circus and stand out from the rest of the electron crowd (difficult considering they are all supposed to be identical)."

Similarities between us
  • the ability to quote directly from The Simpsons
  • INTJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
  • laughing uncontrollably over little things (oftentimes my stupid jokes)
  • Buddy Holly
  • broccoli
  • the importance of effective scientific communication
  • geology, glaciers, and severe weather
  • roller coasters
I think she's a candidate for the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS).

Yvette accompanied me on my trip to Vienna and during Vappu. More adventures are planned in the future.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Pictures from Vienna

Paying income taxes in Finland

Last week the Finnish tax forms arrived. Big difference from the USA. Here's why:

  • Federal and local taxes are both handled in one form, as opposed to the US where separate federal, state, and local tax payments and forms are required.
  • The numbers are already precalculated for you based on the income reported to the government by your employer. All you do is check that the numbers are correct and sign the paperwork.
  • Standard deductions are already precalculated for you. There are few, if any, itemized deductions allowed. The basic tax form is essentially the front and back of one piece of paper.
  • I am paying taxes for the two months I worked in Finland in 2006 (November and December). Based on these two months, my percentage of tax from my total income amounted to 10.5%. Compare that to over 30% in the USA (state and local taxes combined).

"Finland shifts to the right"

This was the headline of the English-language monthly newspaper/magazine Six Degrees. Still, Finnish natives say that a shift to the right in Finland is still more left than the Democrats in the US. From the article, authored by Sini-Tuulia Numminen:

"The victory of the right-wind parties in Finland's recent parliamentary elections seesm to continue the conservative wave sweeping across Western Europe. The Centre Party maintained its position as the biggest party but the real winner was the National Coalition Party which won ten new seats, losing to the Centre by just one seat and by less than 1% of the vote. The True Finns, a small party also situated on the right on the political spectrum, also declared itself as a winner with a 2.5% rise in its vote, giving them five seats in parliament."

"With just 67% of the electorate bothering to vote, this was the lowest turnout in the elections since the Second World War."

"More women candidates were elected than ever before, increasing the female representation in parliament to 42%."

Happy Vappu!

Tuesday May 1 was a national holiday in Finland. May 1 is their Labor Day called Vappu (celebrated in early September in the USA). On Monday, we joined Jenni, Elena, and Reija from FMI and went to the central outdoor market area (Kauppatori) in the evening to see the Havis Amanda statue be topped with a student cap. This old tradition has become modernized when the authorities didn't want people climbing on the statue. So, now a crane lowers students down, a firehose cleans the statue (and the students, too), and the cap is placed on the top. Many of the Finns in the crowd pull out their white and black student hats (look like Skipper caps) and confetti rains down on the people who pop champagne bottles.

The smoke in the picture of the statue with the student cap on is coming from a portable wood-fired sauna that someone brought to the market. A small brass band played songs from atop a truck. What was cute was that even old couples in their 60s still had their caps. The older the caps, the more yellow they get from age (and champagne spray over the years).

On Tuesday morning, we went to the park (Kaivopuisto) and had a traditional picnic with thousands of other Finnish-speaking Finns. (Turns out the Swedis-speaking Finns go to a different park in a different part of town.) The weather was quite sunny, albeit a bit cool. Still a fine day to be out.