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Gaming, Gang of Four, Zombies, Studies

The past few days have been throwing myself into various activities after getting (mostly) over the cold last week. I have prepared myself for all the bits and pieces required for RuneQuest Glorantha Con Down Under, and I'm feeling quietly confident that it should all fall into place. Tonight we had a committee meeting of the Cooperative and pretty much checked off all the boxes of things that need doing. I've been composing Metaphysical Musings of the Scholar Wyrm which will be one of my three articles for the Convention special issue of RPG Review. In actual play on Thursday, there was another session of Star Wars: Force and Destiny where we're finding ourselves working for the Empire for the greater good (and they want it for the greater evil). Today I ran Eclipse Phase, where the proxies and their sentinels have been assigned a mission into a radioactive zone of sex-crazed mutant exsurgents; should be fun for them.

Last night was nephew Luke's birthday. After dropping off a nice bottle of whiskey for looking after our place during the European holiday, and as per last year. we took him to a local Thai restaurant, Sukho Thai, which does well with food, price, and decor - plus a nice drop of French red. After giving ourselves a hearty meal, we took Luke to see The Gang of Four, which Luke had familiarised himself with from my collection last time he did house-sitting. It was the fortieth year of their debut album, Entertainment!, and it was a pretty damn good gig. I ended up buying Andy Gill's guitar, making it the first electric guitar I've owned, which is pretty funny for someone who has been reviewing music as long as I have. Unsurprisingly, I've already written a review of the night which is available on Rocknerd.

One other pleasant distraction to this was visiting Brendan E., on the weekend who provided us with the viewing pleasure of Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die. New housemate Hien N. was also present and we all had quite a good time watching this quite tongue-in-cheek movie with some rather good cultural names - Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Bill Murray, Adam Driver. and a hilarious performance by Tilda Swinton. The somewhat mixed reviews of the film seem to have forgotten that this is essentially a comedy film, a spoof of the zombie genre, and to be honest there were some scenes where he could have turned it up a couple more notches in this regard. But it was jolly good fun and not to be taken at all seriously.

Apart from this, I've been working through the dissertation of my MSc thesis, specifically the draft of the literature review. My supervisor is being a bit ornery about getting all the specifics in and I suspect I'll have to provide a third version of the proposal even though I'm getting close to halfway in writing the draft thesis itself. I've also discovered that he doesn't actually read the entire thing - he made a request for the timetable in the last revision when it was at the end of the document. It really does strike me that sometimes various academic reviewers are not as careful as they should be.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/283184.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Music: Entertainment!, The Gang of Four
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My Body Betrays Me, RuneQuest Glorantha Convention, Aesthetics

I guess it was inevitable. After a 24 hour sleepless flight, followed by two days of teaching, jumping from temperatures from just over ten to mid-thirties and back again, I would, of course, come down with a cold. Sunday I struggled through a session of RuneQuest Glorantha with a bit of a headache and sneezing, that evening I was utterly smashed and completely incapable for work the following day, and today I'm coping a bit more but not moving much. My strategy for dealing with colds has become, over the years, one of annihilation. Get wrapped up, drink several litres of water, sleep a lot, and down plenty of cold-and-flu medication. Trying to fight it through force of will does not work.

Fortunately, just prior to succumbing to this I did manage to write most of the two-part scenarios for the upcoming RuneQuest Glorantha Convention. Justin A., has done an excellent job most of the initial concept and invited a few other to whiteboard some notes, and I went a bit nuts and basically hammered it into the requisite two three-hour scenarios. I'm pretty satisfied with how it's all coming along. As usual, people are leaving registration to the last fortnight which from an organiser's point of view is a little challenging, but I'm pretty sure It'll sort itself out OK as long as I rally the troops. The games are organised, the speakers are organised, the Convention journal is in production, the scenario is in production, and the swag bags have been ordered. Just have to ensure that the auction items and catering happens.

As a moment of aesthetics, I've realised that my Nexus 6 is dying after four years, which seems terribly appropriate. I've sent a tweet to Huawei, which is generating a bit of amusement. Ah, humans, we love finding and creating narratives. And, on a completely different tangent, I've only just realised that the LP I am currently listening to, The First Feast, was an Australia-only release. The rest of the world, you missed out. This thing is superb; I still remember how impressed the bus driver was in '89 as we took the coach from Perth to Melbourne and recommended this as a driving album.



This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/283105.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: sick
  • Current Music: The First Feast, Beggars Banquet Compilation
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European Tour 2019: Frankfurt and Return to Australia

The final days in Europe consisted of a combination bus and train journey from Prague to Frankfurt via Nuremberg. The DB bus service was an excellent example of German luxury and comfort. As for Frankfurt, it's always quite a mixed city. We stayed in the Hotel Adler which is comfortable, centrally-located, inexpensive, includes breakfast, and is located on Niddastrasse, which we have nicknamed "Needlestrasse" on account of local junky population. Completely harmless, of course, but it does add some local colour when an individual is fishing under bright lights for a working vein on the back of their hand, and others are cooking up around the corner. We ate a local Chinese restaurant, Meng Yuan, which was notable for its authentic decore and lack on non-Chinese diners; in other words, it was pretty good. A walk up the road to my intellectual homeland, the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research revealed that somebody had added an amusing conspiracy theory from [profile] reddragdive at Rocknerd that Theodor Adorno wrote all The Beatles songs. Who would do such a thing? Well, certainly Marcuse would understand the motivation of The Aesthetic Dimension.

The following day was an early flight from out of Frankfurt for a twenty-four or so hour flight to Melbourne via Abu Dhabi. I wanted to be ready to sleep by the time we arrived in Melbourne in the evening of local time, which meant staying awake for the entire flight. At the very least it provided the opportunity to watch several movies. I rewatched (for the fourth time now), Blade Runner 2049, and my opinion expressed in an early review remains. The following movie was Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which was visually beautiful and had a fair story but didn't really seem to have comprehensible character motivation. Turning to a slasher-drama, Us certainly had a great deal of game, and also decent social critique, even if the ending was predictable. In complete contrast, Isn't It Romantic</i>, was a amusing romantic-comedy involving a person who doesn't like romantic comedies. But the top film of the journey was an Indian gothic-horror Tumbbad which included issues of poverty, greed, madness and a monster called Haster, no less. It was really quite a brilliant story, good characterisation, and with excellent atmospherics.

Arriving back in Australia it was time for a double whiskey and half a sleeping tablet to knock myself out until early the following morning. Why early? Because I didn't have a gap day from landing and returning to work. More to the point the last two days have consisted largely of working my way through the mountain of emails that have accumulated, and teaching a two-day course on Linux and shell-scripting for HPC with an emphasis on bioinformatics content, which I squeeze in three days worth of content in two days. As it was, my delivery wasn't quite up to my usual standard, although what feedback I've seen was pretty positive. In any case, I've been really quite zonked from the journey as my body-clock re-adjusts. It hasn't stopped me going to gaming tonight to play Star Wars: Force and Destiny RPG. Quite a fun game with some narrative input that works reasonably well.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/282839.html.
  • Current Location: Coburg
  • Current Mood: tired
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Europe Tour 2019: Bratislava and Prague

Following Vienna the next stop of the journey was Bratislava, capital of Slovakia and a mere hour or so away from Vienna. The city has some charms, especially an extensive old city for its size, but one can see why it's overlooked on many visitor tours. Staying on south side of the river at Hotel Expo was a little outside the main events but it had some benefits as well, with a morning walk around the old border forest between Czechoslovakia and Austria before making it over the "UFO bridge" to locations more worthy of visiting. For travellers, something really worthy of note is the Laundromat Cafe. After both the laundries near the hotel in Vienna were closed, this was a sight for sore eyes. A traditional Slovak dinner was to be had at Cafe Restaurant Verne, which is in a rather beautiful location on Hviezdoslavovo Namestie. The following day included a visit to Mačacia Labka (Cat Cafe) where several local rescue cats are present to charm.

And that was the quick trip to Bratislava. I cannot help but think that they were on the worse end of the deal following the Dissolution of Czechoslovakia, which was never subject to popular consultation. It's definitely a little on the poorer side as you can tell from infrastructure and fittings, even if there is the gleaming new buildings and shopping centre on the south side of the city. You might think that the breaking up of a country would be something that people, on the principle of national self-determination, might want to have a vote on. As it is, only a minority in both Slovakia and the Czech Republic thought it was a good idea then, and still think so now. So here's to Czechoslovakian self-determination.

After Bratislava was a train journey to Prague; late and overcrowded with a small army of university students returning over orientation week. I sparked up a conversation with a Red Hat cloud developer from the United States and his artist partner, and with a Czech university student who took to the opportunity to practise his English skills (my Czech skills are almost non-existent). It certainly made the four-hour "standing room only" trip a lot easier. Finally reaching Prague, checked in to the Lavanda Hotel and Apartments, which was quite nicely placed with short tram trips to the main parts of the city. Prague is, as everyone will testify, a truly beautiful city and quite reasonably priced. It also has some deliciously gothic history, with visits to the Dripstone Wall, the Museaum of Alchemists and Magicians, and even the too famous astronomical clock all provide. As a moment of delightful serendipity spent a late lunch with Colleen Hartland, former Greens MLC for Melbourne West and her partner Victor. We have spent time in meetings together, but never over casual conversation, and we'll certainly do so again.

The following day was a visit to a bric-a-brac-cum-antiques store, run by a pair of Serbians. Following the fall of the Eastern bloc, Prague, in particular, was completed raided by western antiques dealers by the truckload and the days of bargain pieces are truly long gone. Nevertheless, it was a charming way to spend a few hours fossicking among this vast collection of bits and pieces, and I'm sure our Serbian friends were happy with the sale of a few classic watches and glassware as well. Escaping from the clutches of these charming purveyors of odds-and-ends, finally made the way to the famous Prague Castle with its extensive grounds. Alas, access to the defenestration window was not available due to repairs, which was my main reason for wanting to go. On the way back dropped in for an hour at a baroque concert (quintet strings) at Liechenstein Palace. The musicians, from Prague Philarmonic and Prague Symphony, played with acumen and pleasure, and even with some humour as their performance of Strauss' Pizzicato Polka indicated.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/282478.html.
  • Current Location: Prague
  • Current Music: Fixion, Trentemøller
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European Tour 2019: Vienna, City of Music, Dreams, and Death

The last morning in Zurich was spent at the Swiss Landesmuseum, conveniently located across from the Hauptbanhof. This massive, sprawling combination of joined old (historicist French Renaissance) and new buildings includes an excellent collection of local archeological finds, Swiss history content to modern events, various weaponary from the early modern period, as well as well-appointed rooms of the wealthy. It is probably one of the highlights of Zurich and a good way to finish the trip there before taking a flight to Vienna. If time permitted the six-hour train trip probably would have been preferable, but as it was the Swiss Air flight was pleasant enough.

From Zurich the next stop was Vienna, staying in the Hotel Geblergasse, which is utterly spacious and affordable following Zurich. The area is densely populated, with a heavy migrant and working-class population. Anarchist and communist stickers are plastered everywhere and the hotel itself has characters from many walks of life. Like much of what is seen around the inner region of Vienna, it could certainly with a bit more foliage, which contrasts to the surrounds of the well-provided Innere Stadt, which itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for very good reason. Vienna is certainly the most "old European" city, with astounding baroque buildings everywhere. One could spend a lifetime or several in such a place.

Home of a multitude of famous musicians, it is nicknamed "the city of music" and it is appropriate to visit the central cemetery, Wiener Zentralfriedhof, for the gravesides of Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, the Strauss family etc, as well as contemporaries such as Falco and Kurt Hauenstein. The Viennesse have a little joke, of their cemetery Halb so groß wie Zürich, aber doppelt so lustig ist der Wiener Zentralfriedhof"
("half the size of Zurich, but twice as much fun"). Also of note is the location of Carl Schweighofer, of the piano-manufacturer family, which featured on the great 1980s hit by Ultravox, "Vienna". As a deep fan of said band, the opportunity to have a photo taken at that location could not be passed up. I also gave my respects to the great psychologists, Viktor Frankl and Alfred Adler.

The following day was an attempt to visit some of the major sights of the Inner Stadt. This included St. Stephen's Cathedral, and a tour of the crypt, notable for containing some 12000 skeletons, mostly of people who died of the plague. When the smell became too much, prisoners were lowered into the pit to dismember the corpses. Afterwards it was a visit to the delicious Globenmuseum (flat-earther hell), and the small but charming Esperantomuseum. There was a Esperanto-word-building Pacman game which I was doing pretty well at, but had to leave for time considerations. Finally it was a visit to the truly beautiful Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, which had a special exhibition on the works of Emperor Maximilan I, being the 500th anniversary of his death.

That night was a visit to the Wiener Staatsoper (State Opera) to see Jules Massenet's Werther, and we were dressed up appropriately. The Opera itself is a truly delightful building and caters to people of all sorts of financial circumstances (best seats for the rich, standing room for the poor). Massenet's adoption of Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, is faithful to the key themes of that story. Performed in French (as one would expect) the Opera also has individual screens for subtitles, including in French itself so one can follow along. Alas, the presentation in that language was not centered and truncated some sentences. Peering at the English translations, I can see that they were sometimes pretty cavalier with their interpretations in that language. Nevertheless, a great performance overall in an astounding location.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/282257.html.
  • Current Location: Vienna
  • Current Mood: busy
  • Current Music: Vienna, Ultravox
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Europe Tour 2019: Cabaret Voltaire, International Protests, Leichenstein

With formal classes at Zurich completed the opportunity presented itself to explore the city more completely. Of special interest was a couple of trips to Cabarat Voltaire, a bar and performance art space in the Altstadt, located where the original Dada movement was founded. The "artists-in-residence" (meaning, they were living there) provided a piece called "Hausen", which combined audience participation of how people lived, their occupation and fears etc, combined with interactive VR, electronic music etc. Whilst I understand the desire to bring out commonalities through isolated differences, the ensemble lacked a emergent narrative direction or flow and as a result, was pretty disappointing overall. The signature cocktail of the establishment (consisting of gin, absinthe, lemon, and thyme) was pretty tasty, however. To be honest, I think Bauhaus has more staying power than Dada, and more cogent manifesto and besides, nobody does dress up parties like Bauhaus. Anyway, that was Zurich. I hope I don't think I have any real need to visit the place again.

I should mention that on the way home by pure chance I came across a protest march against the Turkish attacks on Rojava and, having that political alignment, joined in immediately. I had already done so in Freiburg as well, so this seems to make me a bit of an international protestor for Kurdish self-determination or some-such. Of course, this must always be understood as a protest for national self-determination, rather than independence per se - that is for the Kurds to decide. Likewise, it is not associated with competitive nationalism either. If the Kurds were the ones denying the Turks their right to national self-determination, I would find myself marching with the Turks against Kurdish oppression! Nor does the right of national self-determination does not trump universal individual and social rights. But this is all matters that I have spoken about before.

The following day was a visit to the Principality of Liechtenstein, a political anachronism if there ever was one. When I was a wee lad of a mere eight years I sat next to a boy at the North Beach Primary School and we poured through an atlas finding the smallest country in Europe, with Luxembourg, Andorra, San Marino, Monaco, and eventually Leichenstein getting a guernsey (the Vatican City seemed to be a bit of a cheat). Now, forty-three years later, I have fulfilled a childhood dream and visited the country, taking the train past the beautiful alpine lakes Zurichsee and Walensee and then the bus from Sargans, through the south-western section of the country to the capital Vaduz. The place is tiny and unless one is into hiking over mountains you can see a lot of it in a single day. The impressive national museum was well worth the visit and alas, the Vaduz Castle was undergoing renovations and closed to the public. The Rhine separates Switzerland from Liechtenstein and that provides a good opportunity for a picnic lunch as well as a visit to the old bridge where one can play the game of being in both countries at once.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/281920.html.
  • Current Location: Zurich
  • Current Music: The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord., Cabaret Voltaire
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Europe Tour 2019: Zurich Residency and Thesis

I'm now into my fifth night in Zurich and it's all been a bit exhausting. Everyday has been attending the residency during what is slightly more than normal work hours, plus working on draft proposals and proposals for my thesis. In a sense it's been good that I haven't had an enormous opportunity to see the limited sights of this city, as it is extremely expensive for visitors, however for locals the high GDP PPP per capita suggests that it is less onerous (Luxembourg is even higher, but on my limited time there it seemed a lot more friendly, financially-wise). Zurich has its charms of course, including the beauty of Zürichsee, the parks and gardens, and the fine old buildings of District 1 and Altstadt. The public transport system is excellent, and everything is neat and clean and just so. I also rather suspect I would be dying of boredom if I had to stay longer than a month. Either that or spending all my time with Cabaret Voltaire and engaging in good art damage.

As for the MSc Residency, it has been quite a mental disruption to what is supposed to be a vacation. It's pretty hard work in many ways, but is also an excellent introduction to the thesis writing process. The highly international class has been provided a number of group tasks, one being a very quick hypothetical business analysis of a European company moving into China. The group decided that I would do the presentation itself and, to be quite honest, it came across extremely well as I gave a rapid, relentlessly logical, and very passionate exposition on a project to rebuild China with various environmentally-beneficial building materials (apparently I've been nick-named "The Dragon Professor" by classmates as a result). In addition to this, I've produced the draft proposal and proposal for my thesis; Is the Future of Business Software Free and Open Source?, where I'm looking at various trends in software licenses over the past two or more decades, plus the disciplinary influences of business studies (especially monopolistic advocacies), the economics of imperfect competition, and software engineering. Plus a bit of the Church-Turing thesis for good measure; one can't get enough of that.

In addition to all this, I've been making preparations to the final leg of the vacation. This includes the flight to Vienna, and train tickets and hotel bookings to Bratislava, Prague, and then finally Frankfurt, before the journey home (after which I have two days of classes to conduct the day after landing). Tickets have been produced to see Jules Massenet's Werther at the Vienna State Opera because, let's face it, such opportunities like this don't come up often. Also worth mentioning is that over the past three weeks or so, I've been topping the weekly Duolingo leagues, firstly ruby, then emerald, and most recently pearl, through a combination of lessons in German, French, then German again, and most recently, in Czechoslovak. Hopefully, I will have enough of a grasp of the latter by the time I arrive in Prague to at least give simple greetings and requests! Actually, I am kind of hoping that this will be a gentle gateway to the Slavic languages and Russian in particular, which I have struggled with for some time.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/281620.html.
  • Current Location: Zurich
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: Unyt, Scann-Tec
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Europe Tour 2019: From 'bourg to 'burg, Swiss Finishing School

After the Parisian visit, the next brief stop on the journey was Strasbourg. This is a city that the French and Germans fought over for centuries and, having finally settled on the Rhine as a natural border, have decided that it would make a good showcase for contemporary Franco-German friendship, as well as a number of European Union institutions. It is quite a beautiful, clean, and inexpensive town and shows plenty of signs of being a nexus between the two cultures in style. It was market day in the old town, and I managed to resist buying various trinkets from the antique market. One thing that cannot be missed is the impressive (even by European standards) Strasbourg cathedral with its stained glass demons and the astronomical clock.

The next step from Strasbourg was a short distance away across the border, Freiburg, often suffixed "im Breisgau" to differentiate from Freiburg and Freyburg in Saxony and Fribourg in Switzerland. It is another town with a notable university sector, and a few years back I visited some of their high performance computing centre. Pleasantly surprised that we were doing HPC-cloud hybrids, quite cutting-edge back then, but from completely different approaches, we went on to produce an academic poster for the IEEE and a follow-up journal article published this year. Rather charmingly, their team came out to have a long breakfast Schloss Cafe, which overlooks the town in a rather picturesque manner. If one was to do a postcard of a classic southern German town this would be a good candidate, with the hills of Schwarzwald in the background. I am rather fond of the Baden-Württemberg region ("Wir können alles, außer hochdeutsch").

After Freiburg it was a short train journey to Zurich, where I am here for a more formal part of the vacation, the compulsory residency required for completing my MSc degree in Information Systems (which I am jokingly calling a "Swiss Finishing School"). We're located in a miniature-sized studio apartment, which is nevertheless quite good value. The residency class is quite large, probably close to fifty or so people from around the world, although I am the only Australian. The chief lecturer, Dr. Alistair Benson is a cynical Glaswegian with a dry sense of humour, but with excellent content. I think we're going to get along quite well. For what it's worth, the claims of "sticker shock" in Zurich are very much true; most basic food items seem to be at least 50% more than comparable European or Australian prices.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/281353.html.
  • Current Location: Zurich
  • Current Mood: tired
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Europe Tour 2019: The Hague, Ghent, Paris

After leaving the hotel in Delft, ventured slightly north to a visit to International Criminal Court, which included a small but interesting visitor's centre. Its work, of course, is limited to prosecuting those who are caught, rather than those that are victorious and powerful. Nevertheless, I did send some postcards to George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and John Howard with "Wish you were here. We have not forgotten you.". They have committed an international crime of aggression and they should never be forgotten in their responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. It is possibly one of the extremely few instances where the death penalty might even be justified, as it not possible for restorative justice to be carried out.

After The Hague it was a short trip to Ghent, where we stayed across the road from the Campo Santo cemetery. The Flemish hotel owner was surprised with our rather modest abilities with local European languages for people from Australia, but was satisfied with the answer, "We love Europe". Afterwards made our way to have dinner with Qassem, a Syrian refugee who has now settled in Belgium. It was one of those curious friendships where we had known each other online for several years before meeting him in person, and I made several representations to Australian politicians to get him out of some dreadful situations, but Belgium proved to be a lot more accommodating. Unfortunately the person who made the booking for us, Kenneth Hoste of EasyBuild fame could not attend for medical reasons.

From Ghent we took the train to Brussels to stop over for lunch, before boarding the Flix bus to go to Paris. The Flix bus service never seems to be on time (although N=2), but in this case it was a lot cheaper than the train, which is my preferred mode of transport. In Paris, we found ourselves in the 12th arrondissement in a hotel room which was tiny and pretty expensive even by Parisian standards. That evening finished a report for my Masters in Higher Education at a local laundromat (I've submitted essays from stranger places), and the following day went on a very extensive journey. We started at the Bois de Vincennes and managed to complete about ten percent of this magnificent city parkland and forest. Afterward, took a long promenade to the Place de la Nation and then down the Boulevard Diderot to the Left Bank, where I someone managed to limit my purchases to a single book (albeit published in 1791). This was followed with a late lunch with Norman Spinrad, in the Basque restaurant Beaurepaire downstairs from his apartment. We spent about three hours discussing his science fiction, contemporary fiction, and historical fantasy books, as well as international politics, and I'll be interviewing him for the Isocracy Network in the coming month or so.

Afterward headed back towards the hotel, but made a detour the somewhat hidden Picpus Cemetary, which is on the same street as our hotel. The cemetery is famous for two things; firstly being a location of mass graves of individuals who were executed during the Reign of Terror. Secondly, being the gravesite of my namesake, the Marquis de La Fayette, author of La Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, "le fils de la Revolution Américaine", & etc. "Lafayette, Je suis ici". Shortly afterward Gianna V., caught up with us and took on a visit to a local comic store where, by good fortune, a first-time author Marine Spaak, was doing signings ("dedicace") for her graphic novel "Sex, Sexisme, and Sun". The young woman had spent a year in Bendigo, of all places, so we could converse in a combination of French and English. Afterwards Gianna, caseopaya went down the bar and restaurant district of the 11th arrondissement and had dinner at the Italian restaurant, Popine, which is mentioned for its excellent quality for simple fare.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/281274.html.
  • Current Location: Strasboug, France
  • Current Mood: relaxed
  • Current Music: Come visit the Big Bigot, Severed Heads
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Europe Tour 2019: Stuttgart, Darmstadt, Delft

The second half of the visit to Stuttgart included a visit to the Maulbronn Cloister, formerly of the Cistercians and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With parts 850 years old, the monastery complex is in astoundingly good condition, effectively a preserved medieval village. It is unsurprising the local council now uses one of the buildings as council offices. Naturally enough the pun "from Melbourne to Maulbronn" had to be made as well. Apart from the stunning buildings, three stories of the cloister were charming; firstly, the determination of where the cloister would stand (a thirsty mule, laden with treasure, establishing "Maulbronn" aka Mule Fountain), secondly, the use of Maultasche, a ravioli-like pasta to hide the consumption of meat from God, and thirdly, that Johannes Kepler was a student at the cloister. Felix, our host, mentioned that he was a descendent of Kepler and later showed us his family history book and family crest which affirmed the claim. That night had a dinner at Tina's Trollingerstub of traditional Swabian fare.

The following morning we bid our farewells for another year and journeyed to Darmstadt, which is primarily a university and technical city close to Frankfurt. It also just happens to be the home of the European Space Agency's Space Operations Centre. With an invitation from the director of ground facilities, a magnificent tour was provided, including a visit to the control room and a plentiful discussion of past and present operations of the Agency, along with connection with New Norcia in Western Australia. I was particularly taken by the ESA's involvement in on the landing on Saturn's moon, Titan, along with their landing on a comet. Also of particular note was the small box of remains of Ariane EDIT, a rocket which exploded shortly after launch (a programming error caused a 64-bit float to be shoved into a 16-bit integer), which I have used in a few presentations in the past. Whilst the sheer enormity of relatively deep space (and time) explorations touches deeply into my pantheistic orientations, on a more practical and immediate sense the Copernicus Earth Observation programme has many varied and obvious applications.

From Darmstadt, a fairly long trip was planned by train along the Rhine with quite a few changes. This was quite interrupted by the cancellation of a service at Mainz. Whilst Mainz is a fairly charming city, staying there for an extended period was not planned on this trip and, following some juggling, the timetable was re-arranged with an eventual arrival in Delft at 2100 hours (with short changes in Dusseldorf, Venlo, and Eindhoven). Arriving in Delft, Jett D., was already present to take us from the station to our lodgings on the outskirts of town (relatively so in a country like The Netherlands). The next few hours were spent over drinks discussing where various people of our mutual rock-and-roll youth have ended up and swapping listening tips on older and more contemporary bands. It is true that a few of the visits of the Europe 2019 trip are short, but one can hardly travel from literally the other side of the world without making a detour to see friends old and good.

This entry was originally posted at https://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/281058.html.
  • Current Location: Ghent
  • Current Music: Shadows, Twin Tribes