Monday, July 6, 2015

An Academic Experiencing History in the Making While Conferencing in Europe

I am spending 3 weeks in Europe doing some serious conference "chaining," beginning with last week's Dynamics of Disasters conference in Kalamata, Greece, which I had the pleasure of organizing, to the EUROPT Workshop on Contiuous Optimization  in Edinburgh, Scotland this week and, finally, to EURO2015 in Glasgow, Scotland next week.

While spending this period in Europe I have felt like an academic tourist to history in the making.

I have written about our experiences in Greece, just prior to Sunday's referendum, with voters voting no to the referendum on austerity measures.  Last week not only did we experience long lines at the ATM machines, some of which ran out of euros, but we also had to pay for some of our meals in Kalamata with cash, since credit cards were not being accepted.

The photo below is of a queue at an ATM that I took last week in Kalamata.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed not only the conference very much, but also the hospitality of the Greeks, the warmth  of its people, the climate, as well as the beauty of the country, and the culture and food!

After the Dynamics of Disasters conference, we flew to Vienna to meet with a colleague, Professor Manfred Fisher of the Vienna University of Economics and Business, and his wife. They have been friends of ours for many years and I have both taught a version my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare course there and have given several invited lectures at that university. Our hotel in Vienna was right next to the hotel that US Secretary of State John Kerry was staying at, negotiating with the Iranians further details of the nuclear deal. The photos below we took of the guards and even of Andrea Mitchell, the NBC correspondent, whom we chatted with.

I am a big fan of John Kerry's since not only was he our senator from Massachusetts but he also wrote me a nice letter when I received a Distinguished Fulbright at the SOWI Business School at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, back in 2002.

When flying to London this past Saturday on Easyjet from Vienna, we encountered an air traffic control strike by the French, which resulted in a different flight trajectory and a bit of a delay (but only of about 25 minutes). And what could be more delightful than seeing the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, which we just happened upon after a glorious walk through Hyde Park yesterday.
While walking past the palace we chatted with an NBC crew member, whom we told that we had seen Andrea Mitchell in Vienna, and he told us that the British team had helped set her up for her interviews. He was getting ready for the Today show broadcast at which the christening of Princess Charlotte would be covered (and the British newspapers have been filled today with photos of this joyous event which took place yesterday).

Speaking of history, and being part of history, last night, while at dinner, at an Italian restaurant in London, an interesting lady sat next to us and, when she ordered her meal, I could tell that she was from the US so we began a conversation. Not only was she from the US, but she is from Springfield, Massachusetts. She was in England to take part at a conference at Oxford University this week on slavery since one of her ancestors was a slave and, would you believe it, Rhonda Brace, which is her name, had an interview on last Friday.

The below is a photo of the two of us.
Being an operations researcher is never dull!