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Last days on this European tour were spent in Frankfurt and the nearby town of Mainz. For the former I spent pretty much the entire day at the TotalView debugger debugger course at the Centre for Scientific Computing, Goethe University. It was particularly well run with core concepts explained well, then built upon, with plenty of hands-on examples. We stayed at the comfortable and inexpensive Adler Hotel. As an example of Frankfurt's contrasts it's one block parallel from the train station, and one block from the glass and steel that makes up the financial sector. It's location however is the middle of the red-light district, and we quickly dubbed the road Niddastraße into 'Needlestraße" on account of the dozen or so strung out heroin addicts who decided the middle of the pavement was a good place to self-medicate.

A short train trip from Frankfurt is Mainz, homeland of [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya's family. Quite a delightful town with architecture from ranging from the later medieval and early modern periods, it was also very interesting for me to go to the Gutenberg Museum. It is my considered opinion that with movable type and an alphabetic script it was from Mainz that the period of European modernity began. Also of interest for me was the location of the founding of the brief Republic of Mainz during the French revolutionary wars, the first democratic state in Germany. The chief organisers were the Jacobin-inspired Gesellschaft der Freunde der Freiheit und Gleichheit (Society of the Friends of Liberty and Equality), certainly a title I could get behind.

Leaving Europe we took the gruelling journ on Royal Siam air to Bangkok. Not much to say about the journey except that I had the opportunity to watch In the Heart of the Sea, a fairly good retelling of the wring of 'Moby Dick', and the frankly remarkable Hidden Figures, on the trials and successes of a group of African-American women mathematicians who worked at NASA in the early 1960s. As for Bangkok itself, it's incredibly humid. We've stayed at the thoroughly pleasant and inexpensive Salil Hotel 8, a short distance from the famous 'cowboy district'. It's been incredibly hot and humid and there's was little opportunity to explore, except for a couple of Singapore Slings including one at Cabbages and Condoms, a restaurant set up by a community development organisation promoting safe-sex and family planning. Alas, I did not get to play a game of chess to satisfy the famous song of the city.
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There was something quite perfect about landing in Doha, capital of Qatar, listening to The Clash doing "Rock The Casbah". The end of the first leg of the gruelling journey with plentiful but poor in-flight entertainment there was one good LP from the selection, the Hits Back compilation by aforementioned band. To their credit, Qatar airlines is quite comfortable and the airline food (which they keep on providing) was of a very high quality. From the transfer from the massive Doha airport it was another several hours before landing in Frankfurt, a stunningly simple transfer through German customs and then to Five Elements Hotel, an extremely well-priced and comfortable hostel in the middle of the red light district.

The following day the first port of call was the Goethe University library where I had made a previous request for some hard to find material from Friedrich Pollock. I was astounded to find the library special collections staff had put aside several folders of original typed and handwritten material, which I am sure (based on the foxing) that I was the first person to open in seventy years. After taking numerous photos of that material it was a short walk to Institut für Sozialforschung to be an academic fanboy. It was mostly deserted as it was undergoing renovations, but nevertheless did engage in a bit of an explore. It is difficult to underestimate the importance of this small group of serious and careful radical intellectuals to my own spiritual development. A homecoming in so many ways.

After that made a journey to the Struwwelpeter Museum, Frankfurt's long-lasting fictional children's character, them to the very impressive Frankfurt Zoological Gardens, where had a bit of a chuckle at the collection of exotic Australian birds. The day ended with a visit to the Alte Opera for a bit of high culture to listen to Schumann concert, although with some amusement almost ended up at the wrong concert (who would have thought would have two different shows on at the same building, at the same time, at the same price, with the same seating numbers?).

Today was spent almost entirely at the Center for Scientific Computing at the Goethe University, discussing their various system configurations, and sitting through one of their training courses on high performance computing using Slurm. It was a very comprehensive course but I felt that it could have done with more hands-on activities. As it was the in-class conversation with the systems staff and researchers was excellent. Aferwards they took us out to some traditional Frankfurt dining at Lamer Esel (The Lame Donkey). Apropos this I have written a presentation for the four HPC centers I am visiting in Germany and Switzerland, A Cloud-HPC Hybrid Model for HPC Centres. Now it is time for the train and a weekend in Schwarzwald

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Diary of a B+ Grade Polymath

July 2017

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