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Sunday, January 14, 2007

It's like sending postcards: wish you were here!

I just got back from dinner with some colleagues, and am back in Leibevoll -- and it's the traditional late Sunday night, just the staff (and, of course, me). Some modern German music (I'm alarmed by how frequently the music is bad american pop!), much of it cabaret.

Oh, and spiked coffee. I'm pretty damn happy. I'm running insanely large jobs on the supercomputer, writing code, and drinking really good cofffee in an empty bar at night. Damn, doesn't get much better! Well, other than the fact that I have to go back to my other world tomorrow.

But in the interim, I've got Leibevoll.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Markt Post, and an update.

It's sort of traditional for me to post from Leibevoll during the Saturday markt. So, here it is, as I sit inside with a lovely cup of coffee and a tasty breakfast, and watch the village go by.

The weather is very different this trip -- dark and windy, and sometimes cold. There is nobody sitting outside, though the tables and benches are still lined up, their umbrellas all furled and bound, sharp green against the gray sky. I'm glad to be here; the coffee tastes even better than before because of the weather, and the village community is delightful to walk around in. The people-watching is a little restricted, though, and the markt is much smaller. All of the carts and trucks have plastic shields that jut out, like fins, in frankly futile attempts to block the wind and rain.

My cheesemonger is here, and is as wonderful as before. I've collected some cheese to bring home as lunch (hopefully it'll make it all the way), including an extremely strong Irish cheese that tastes sharp and smells terrible. I will not open it on the plane! And today the baker had my favorite croissants, made with whole-grain flour and studded with seeds. I bought some strawberries -- out of season, I know -- and some Delice de Bourgone to eat on them. Also some wonderful apples. I will get some figs (winter figs, not as delectable as the summer ones, but still great) and tomatoes at the store up the road shortly. The oranges have been like eating sunshine, and I bought -- for the ridiculous price of 1,70€€ -- a baby pineapple, that has been sitting on my desk and smelling like sin. I've resisted eating it, because I keep taking little breaks and picking it up to sniff.

Being back at the research center has been great, although I was dreading it. I'd forgotten how truly wonderful it is to be able to focus exclusively on research, and be surrounded by people who are intimately familiar with the architecture and the tools on hand. It makes it easy to work all the time, to put the hours in and make progress. I love working like this, at maximum intensity, but I can't maintain the schedule -- 22 hours, then a nap and keep going -- so last night I had to sleep (I was making silly errors). Unfortunately, every time I give in and sleep, something happens on the supercomputer and my jobs die, or fail to launch cleanly, or both. After three days of losing work to the file system from hell (n.b.: GPFS sucks rocks!), it finally stabilized in time for a huge storm, during which I lost network access (I knew I should have stayed in the office and not caught a ride!) -- so I took a nap, and it killed the job for no apparent reason (I still need to contact the sysadmins about that). Then last night, I had to sleep, and the script _they_ provide to check the status of a partition between submissions failed to execute, launched abevyy of error messages, and aborted the entire job script. I think that I'm not allowed to sleep again until I'm done. And god only knows what it's going to do when I'm on the plane!

The research center has provided me a bike again, tragically the same one as before -- next time I'm telling them I need a different one! The damn thing hasn't improved: true to form, it allows its light to work only sporadically, lighting the trees above the road those times it does work. I've begged rides back to the hotel at night a couple of times, and stayed in the office a few times, but I like the hotel better when their network is working well. I'm getting a kick out of staying at the Hotel attached to Leibevoll (it seems so fitting), and they are taking very good care of me. They pay a remarkable amountoff attention to how I leave things, or set things out, and the other day, I came back for a nap and they had rearranged the shelves in the closet to better fit the way I had things set up. And they bring me a plate without meat for breakfast (although it is sadly lacking in fruit or vegetables!). The best part of catching a ride back, though, isn't the hotel, it is getting to walk in the next morning -- it takes on a bit longer than catching the train, but is pretty, and I can listen to my ipod, sort of a soundtrack for the countryside.

I've been enjoying the brisk wind and sharp light; it feels like the best fall days in Chicago, when it adds a boost of energy and invigorates my brain. People tell me, though, that this winter is much, much milder than usual, and that they are concerned. Predictions for this summer are apparently already for one hotter than last year, which was unusually warm, warmer even than the year before that, in which there were a record number of deaths on the European continent. The sense is starting to move past concerned into downright scared. There is not sufficient infrastructure in place to deal with a repeat of that summer.

We fought a winning battle against the depletion of the ozone layer -- we need to step up and do the same thing now, before it's too late. The signs are all here.

Location: Currently, Berkeley, United States

I'm an academic scientist who is both abroad and a broad. I am on the road so often that I have a house solely so that my cats will have somewhere to live.

Okay, fine. If you really really want to, and don't care how long it is between mail checks, you can send email to ascientistabroad  {a}gmail{dot}com

And, okay, sometimes there are comments. But it's my blog and I'll delete anything I want.

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