Friday, September 19, 2014 Settled! A home for BlueSkiesResearch!

Posted: 18 Sep 2014 09:21 AM PDT
Eight months minus a day since our return to the UK, we completed on our new house in Settle. James already had a trip to Belgium planned (hopefully he will write something about it soon), so it was another couple of weeks before we started moving in earnest. We are now sufficiently settled to do several hours work a day, which is nice. Doing science at our computers is pleasant relief from scrubbing the very grubby house and wondering what to do with all our stuff. Anyone need any appliances which run on 100V?
Here is the house. It is an old Roman Catholic chapel, built around 1870, after Catholicism was re-established in the mid 1800s, then converted to a house in the 1970s or 1980s when the congregation moved to a new building nearer the town centre.
And here is the local pub, which seems to have 6 local beers on tap, different ones every time we have visited.
It has been unremittingly sunny since we arrived. This climate scientist thinks it can’t last much longer.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We're the best!

Another year, another increase in Geoscientific Model Development's impact factor. Last year I reported that GMD was a whisker behind ACP in the EGU journals, and this year our impact factor has risen still further to over 6, which comfortably leapfrogs ACP and places GMD 6th in all geosciences journals (aside: who or what is Gondwana Research, and should I be embarassed at never having read it?). Of course, the future direction of the journal is no longer my (shared) responsibility, but I will keep an eye on how things progress...

Incidentally, page charges at GMD, and indeed all EGU journals, are rather more reasonable than the outrageous profiteering by the American Association for the Advancement of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAAAAS as it is henceforth to be known, with their new attempt at if you can't beat them, parasitise them publishing.

Friday, August 08, 2014

[jules' pics] High Street

Decided to go shopping so yesterday we headed for the High Street near Ullswater in Cumbria.

Getting there was a bit harder than expected, as there was no railway station, and it involved a 700m climb from the car park. Views were nice though.
Finally got there only to discover that the Vikings had torn down all the shops in the centuries after the Romans had left.
The other shoppers seemed almost as lost (see their little silhouettes on that rocky outcrop!). Germanic and Australian accents asked us if we were "doing the coast to coast". Just a day trip we answered.
It was surprisingly pleasant especially considering that this High Street is so far from those more desirable parts of the UK.
Here, James is looking for the Apple Store. Sure it was supposed to be here somewhere...
The street side planters were flowering nicely. This is heather, probably imported from the soon to be foreign country of Scotland.
We never did find Harvey Nicks, but a couple of hours later we were in Patterdale (named after St Patrick Patterdale) where there are pubs that serve food and beer all day long. hicc.
Best High Street ever.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 8/08/2014 08:16:00 PM

Friday, August 01, 2014

[jules' pics] The Thames Valley

Londinium has, to me, always seemed alien to the rest of the UK, but the Thames Valley has become another country too. It is so polished that it seems more like a theme park than a real place.

Palaces and pleasure boating...
Goring greenery-2
Goring greenery-1

Perfect bijou gardening...

Hand-knitted designer bricking and flinting...
designer bricking-1
designer bricking-2

For those who don't know their UK geography, the Thames is the big river that runs right through Londinium. Thus, anywhere along its banks are the most sought after places to live, as you can easily commute in to the city.


Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 8/01/2014 01:26:00 PM

Monday, July 28, 2014

[jules' pics] Londinium

We used to tell our Japanese friends that certain things were Better in Britain. One such myth we accidentally perpetuated was the value of stricter planning regulations. Japanese cities are, on the whole, an awful jumble of buildings. Not so in the UK, we told our friends. We clearly misunderstood completely. During our decade long sojourn overseas, Londinium has been reinventing itself as a poor replica of some chaotic south east asian mega-city.
On the other hand, one myth the British choose to believe is that working conditions in places like Tokyo are undesirable. And yet here you can see all the little Londoners toiling away in their open plan glass skyscrapers. hmmm...
This one is perhaps not quite as bad on the eye, but still, it could be anywhere... I don't see the point of all the planning people, if the result is just a boring version of one of the less exciting bits of Yokohama.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 7/28/2014 01:16:00 PM

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Let's Gardening

This week it is the RHS show at Tatton Park in Cheshire. Cheshire is where the rich people who are socially blighted by northern accents have to go and live. I don't know how the show compares to the real one in London, but it was fun enough for us, and cost a fraction of a ticket to something called The Open (which seems to be some kind of sporting event, not far away). 

There were a lot of little show gardens. The gardening style is quite different from Japan, with a lot less vegetative taxidermy and a lot more grass and colourful flowers on long stalks, which can look a bit scruffy if not carefully done. Here are a couple of the good ones.

It is important to get there early as it just gets busier through the day.
10am - There were almost as many Pimms & Champagne tents as there were show gardens. However, this ready access to alcohol turned out to be very useful in the early afternoon when we got a phone call from our solicitor to say we have exchanged contracts on the house we are hoping to buy in Settle! Hurrah - a home for BlueSkiesResearch is on the horizon!
By early afternoon the tents were starting to fill up.
By mid-afternoon it was warm and busy.
This was the best display I saw from a shop. 

And this is surely the best gizmo - the iMow! Uncle In Law definitely needs one of these.
There was even fashion - because it was "Ladies Day". There was also a competition for the best frocked lady. This was done, I suppose, so that they could get an even greater of a percentage of the Cheshire Wives to attend.

Posted by jules (accidentally logged in to Blogger as James! wups.)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More than you ever wanted to know about penguins....

I hear there is a TV program on BBC2 at 8pm tonight, featuring some feathered creatures....

And my sister, who was base leader last season at Port Lockroy. It will no doubt be available on iPlayer for some time after, for those who miss it.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

BlueSkiesResearch: Le Tour du Sud

Posted: 19 Jul 2014 11:33 AM PDT
While the main event was going on oop north, we had an appointment in the south – seminars at Reading University’s new Paleoclimate Centre. Like most centres in the UK, this one mostly isn’t centralised, but more a collection of parts of people from different departments. This does not always work very well – people sign up and then do nothing – but it is potentially a good idea for a topic that supposed to span existing interests. We have found that the wider the interests of the audience, the more interesting and thought provoking their questions, so were glad to have experts from meteorology, climate modelling, paleo-data and archaeology attend our seminars.

We are really enjoying the change from Japan, where we had the guilt-ridden stress of having more money than we could possibly spend, to now, having to budget and think of ways to be more efficient. With the seminar booked for Wednesday afternoon, we thought we should arrange a few other entertainments to make it worthwhile.

We headed down south on Friday, to stay with my uncle-in-law, who lives near Reading. After catching a startlingly good concert in a local church that evening, and cutting up some logs on Saturday, on Sunday we headed to Bristol to meet with Lan Smith, an old friend and colleague from Japan, who was visiting the UK to attend the ecosystem modelling conference in Plymouth. Paul Valdes, who visited us last year in Japan, was kind enough to put us up for the night and with a tandem secreted in our van we were able to cycle into Bristol university with him and spend most of the day with him and other collaborators in the Geography department. We were back at Uncle-in-Law’s that evening.

Tuesday was spent at Reading University where we discussed a plethora of interesting topics with Sandy Harrison, the captain of the new paleo centre. The next day we decided to cycle the 12 miles from Uncle-in-Law to the university. We got lost many times in both directions and I was a bit disappointed that the roads for cycling on mostly were not roads at all, but actually dirt tracks, and so very slow. There is an awful lot of car traffic down south, so the main roads were also not at all appealing. We made it, but have subsequently been disappointed to discover that Reading University do not have an expenses rate for bicycle travel! Not very green! On Wednesday morning we met with people in the Meterology department. Everyone was interesting, but the best discussion was actually a surprise meeting with my school A-level (i.e. when we were age 16-18) physics buddy , Maya Balasubramanyam, who is just polishing off a MSc. I hope she carries on to great things – when we were young we had plans to solve all the outstanding physics problems, and as I have made so little progress, the responsibility must, I fear, fall to her.

On Thursday we got the train to Londinium, to visit Steve Jewson at a company called RMS. Acronyms remain epidemic in the UK, but this company does also have a real name – Risk Management Solutions. Their job is to write software to predict the probability, geospatially of bad things happening due to natural causes, in the next 12 months. They then sell the software to insurance companies. In their California offices they study earthquakes, and in London they do storms, both tropical and extra-tropical. I’ve been worried for a while about how many phd students and postdocs that British universities create – many times too many to replace retiring lecturers. Now I realise that some of them go on to have more useful lives. RMS is full of them. Having said that, the management structure also seems pretty flat at RMS, and not too enticing. Steve seemed to have about 30 people working for him in cubicles, but his “office” was really only a cubicle with walls a door – but no window! And the Brits have the cheek to pretend that they couldn’t abide Japanese working conditions! Nic Lewis visited RMS the same day, and after our seminars at lunchtime, James had an excellent fight with him and Steve about something called “objective probability”. … clearly, to anyone even half-Bayesian there is no such thing, but they seemed to want to cling to the idea nevertheless – apparently because they can sell it!  

The weeks’s work over, that evening we enjoyed a delicious dinner at a Malaysian restaurant near Paddington station in Londinium, that we used to visit in the olden days, on the way to Heathrow. We later visited another school friend of mine, and explored the exotic Thames Valley – it’s a whole other world – before heading back oop north on Sunday.

The Thames Valley

Friday, July 04, 2014

[jules' pics] Feeding the birds #2

The question of exactly what is being fed by our garden bird feeders remains as much a live topic as ever.
The squirrel school is going very well. They have trained James to make gradually more difficult puzzles. Each new one can be completed after about a day of hard thought. Then James has to think up a new, more difficult challenge for them. This step by step progression is ideal for honing the problem solving abilities of both James and the squirrels.
And here's WOL, sat waiting by the possibly squirrel proof suet ball feeder. Do WOLs eat blue tits? Alternatively he or she might have been hoping to catch the mousey thing that we have seen burrowing under the house.
Either way, I was astonished to see a wild owl only about 2 metres away (through the window).

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 6/11/2014 07:56:00 PM

Thursday, July 03, 2014

[jules' pics] The Holy Church of St Bicycles

A new religion has taken hold of the town of Skipton. It is the yellow faith of St Bicycles.
St Bicycles-1
But - could it be that one or two remain skeptical - both to the power of St Kickball and St Bicycles?!
St Bicycles-2
Despite being quite religious ourselves - we sit upon 2 unicycles, 4 single bicycles and 3 tandems - we have somehow managed to be away for the big event and tomorrow we will be heading down to the grim south, to give seminars in Reading and London!

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 7/03/2014 08:38:00 PM