Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Whistlestop Tour of England

Several months ago, I was invited by colleague Conny Schweirz to visit Leeds University in Leeds, England, where she teaches. Coupled with a workshop entitled Meteorology Meets Social Science: Risk, Forecast and Decision at the UK Met Office, I compiled a travel itinerary around these two events.

I visited the University of Manchester, generously hosted by Prof. Geraint Vaughan. I gave our mammatus talk there, which was well received since the audience had many cloud microphysics people there. Then at Leeds, I gave a seminar about my frontal work and Fred Sanders' legacy. In the afternoon, we had a roundtable session with students, but given the nice day, we had it outside in the grass next to the cemetary. I've never had such a wonderful scientific exchange!

On Monday, I visited ECMWF, which has the world's best global forecast model. What a tightly run ship. I was especially amazed at their maproom and the operational duties that some reseachers had to maintain the veracity of the data going in (or not going in, as the case may be) the model. I got quite a few good ideas from my interactions there. I thank my host Martin Miller. After a morning of relaxing in Reading, including a nice run through ruins of the Reading Abbey from the 1200s and along the Thames River, some CD shopping, I was on the train to Exeter for the workshop.

Prices in England are ridiculous. A pound is about two US dollars, yet the prices of things are the same in numerical value. (See my previous entry on the prices in Finland being about the same numerically as in US dollars.) One example was finding Ben & Jerry's ice cream store (Vermont) in Leicester Square. (Another Clash of Cultures! Actually, I found a video store in Helsinki that carried pints of Ben & Jerry's for 5.80 euro.) Having some flavors I've never had before, we had a scoop for 1.80 pounds.

The standard (nonreservation) price at the Novotel hotel I stayed at in Reading was 180 pounds, with 14 poounds for breakfast. The convenience of being located near the train station was outweighed by the excessive price. No free internet, only ten channels on TV. There was a swiming pool, but that was about it for free amenities. While many hotels are going to great lengths to provide amenities for their customers, Novotel seems to charge for everything. Avoid this chain if you can.


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