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Thursday, March 23rd, 2017 11:35 pm
Gaming sessions have returned back to normal with the return of Andrew D., from his Malaysia and UK holiday. Sunday was the regular session of Eclipse Phase. As is often the case, the first session sets the scene and this time it included the hatching of an Iktomi egg and contact by The Factors in Uranus. Wednesday was a session of Laundry Files which continued the explosive problem of a person in China being a nexus point between this world and fire vampires. Apropos have still be working on Papers & Paychecks with positive responses to the draft, perhaps the best being from NinjaDan, "this is looking like a real RPG sourcebook". Well, yes, that's the plan of course.

In other news items, there have been several mainstream news articles advocating land tax, following investigation by the Parliamentary Budget Office, as the Australian property market is in a bubble, with the proposed replacement of stamp duty with a broad land tax a fundamental and sensible policy. In related news there has several new 'blog posts on the Isocracy Network site, as well as a new article by Joe Toscano, The Four Horsemen of the 21st Century Apocalypse.

Finally, this afternoon gave a guest lecture at the University of Melbourne, for the course COMP90024 Cluster and Cloud Computing, on The Spartan HPC System at the University of Melbourne. Lectures like these are a tough gig; the four to six hour workshops and tutorials are at a slower pace with more direct involvement with the smaller number of participants. This is a much larger lecture, around two hundred postgraduate students, and with a lecture slot that lasts well over an hour there is a need to pack in as much information as possible. I am still not used to what I much presume is a millennial norm of applauding lecturers a the end of the class. This is normal now, right?
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Sunday, March 19th, 2017 12:02 am
After having added another six thousand words this week, I have released a very rough draft of Papers & Paychecks, and posted an update for the project. The book is now 18 days overdue, and whilst I know that Kickstarters do have an almost assumed lateness in them, my inner project manager is screaming at me about being on-time. Still, I have completed pretty much all the core components and what really needs to be done is equipment lists, sample NPCs etc. In addition this I have made a solid start on the next issue of RPG Review with several thousand words done there as well. Friday night played Eclipse Phase with our international group with Think Before Asking; a superb ending of dramatic action with all the sort of paranoia that environment engenders. Tonight took some time out to visit Brendan E., for our regular dose of good popular culture; this time it was several episodes of Ash vs Evil Dead : Season 2 (look at that, 100% on the Tomatometer).

Whilst these activities have pretty much taken all my evening time, the days has been equally busy. There has been some preparations for the annual assignment and HPC lecture for Cluster and Cloud Computing. In addition there is an HPC for Economists course that is being prepared, a new round of general HPC courses, and preparations for ISC Frankfurt. In addition to that there was a steady flurry of interesting software installs this week, including a new version of ORCA which does ab initio quantum chemistry (finally, new MPI bindings!), and the Biopython suite. There has also been reports for the technical working groups on the upcoming upgrades for research compute facilities at the University. All in all, it's been quite the week.
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Sunday, March 12th, 2017 12:06 pm
Friday night caught up with Peter C., at Sister Bella a typically Melbourne small bar hidden at the end of laneway. Peter lives in the Netherlands and I believe the last time we met was well over fifteen years ago (at the very least, it's not in my LJ and I'm sure I would have recorded the meeting). We know each other from the SF community in Perth from the early nineties and I was always impressed by his combination of moderate politics with a radical and enthusiastic imagination; we had a good chat about the Dutch Reformed Political Party and the Party for Freedom. Afterwards visited Brendan E., in the form of a belated birthday visit. Went to a local Mexican, Beach Burrito which provided some fine sangria and for pit entertainment has skate ring. Afterwards returned to initiate our knowledge of season 2 of Ash vs Evil Dead. Brendan is always a good one for justifiable cynicism and is superb at filtering for our popular culture tastes.

Semi-political meeting of the week was a visit to the University of Melbourne Secular Society with James Fodor speaking on 'Where Does Morality Come From?'; currently seeing if we get another similar presentation to The Philosophy Forum. There is a new article on the Isocracy website, Argumentum Ad Temperantiam on the notion that the middle ground in news is preferred. Continuing the series, I have written a summary of Trump's seventh week, and as news just in, a detailed review of the rather dramatic result in the Western Australian state election, as two of four 'blog posts.

Have been beavering away at Papers & Paychecks with plans for a draft release on Monday evening. Dan 'Smif' Smith has provided some excellent art pieces that can also come with the draft. Also making preparations for RPG Review Issue 34 which will have game design (systems, scenarios etc) as a main focus along with an interview with Ron Edwards, along with preparations for our annual Bunnies & Burrows game - this time planning to be held at the Conquest convention. Today I break the drought from actual play with a session of GURPS Middle Earth planned. To be honest, I can't even remember where we're up to - and our GM isn't famous for doing session write-ups. Still, all will be resolved I am sure.
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Wednesday, March 8th, 2017 09:42 pm
The weekend witnessed a trip out to the Knox festival, primarily to join a group of friends to see Polly Samuel who is counting down what is almost certainly the last weeks of her life. We took a long our copy of the bestselling Nobody Nowhere which we found at a book sale on the other end of the country. It is of course, an extremely honest and insightful autobiography, and Polly no doubt will have some great pride in the contribution she has made to the world.

The following day went to see Sixteen Legs at The Astor, introduced by patron Neil Gaiman and with said writer incorporating a dark fantasy story into this feature-length nature documentary on the Tasmanian Cave Spider. It was all fairly good, but to be honest it didn't justify a feature-length film and Neil Gaiman's "dark fantasy" wasn't nearly as strange and evocative as a lot fo his other works. I have the sneaking suspicion that the main reason the huge numbers of people turned up in the first place was to see him.

That day was also a meeting of The Philosophy Forum where I gave a presentation on The Philosophy of Quantum Physics, a rather conceptually difficult topic, often counter-intuitive, and often subject to speculations by people who clearly know nothing of the subject at all. Fortunately the well-attended meeting were people of sound and rational minds and there were was very good discussion on matters of quantum entanglement in particular.

It was not the only presentation of the past few days however; last night gave a talk at Linux Users of Victoria, giving a summary of Multicore World 2017, along with making some suggestions for improvement. The meeting also had two short talks, one by Russell Coker on Quilt, a patch management system, and Rodney Brown, on RISC V, a free and open source RISC architecture.
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Saturday, March 4th, 2017 07:14 pm
My last day in New Zealand was spent giving my farewells to the good folk at Nyriad and then travelling to Auckland to give a presentation at the Auckland University of Technology. Since then there has been little opportunity to engage in much else except for my usual work, although the visit to NZ did have immediate benefits with discussions at the University about exactly where to host a proposed new GPU expansion and the relative benefits of Infiniband versus 100GE with RDMA. Nevertheless today has been busy with a preparation for a presentation tomorrow to The Philosophy Forum on "The Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics", and attending a festival tonight where we will catch up with Polly Samuel. Next Tuesday I will also be presenting to Linux Users of Victoria on Multicore World 2017.

Being away for a couple of weeks and with another regular GM overseas in has meant some significant gaming withdrawals. Last night played Eclipse Phase with the regular distributed crew across multiple states and countries (will we get [livejournal.com profile] patchworkkid to join us once he moves to Canada?). Still, I have some recent nerd purchases - the facsimile of Thorin's map I picked up in Hobbiton for [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya will go well when framed, plus a recent purchase of a stromatolite dice set satisfies my long-standing desire for a "gem set" of gaming dice, and an interest in fossils and bacteria. In addition there has been a fair bit of work on Papers and Paychecks following last week's update, with a recent acquisition of illustrations from Dan 'Smif' Smith, which are looking very good.
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Sunday, February 26th, 2017 06:32 pm
One of the most common errors in computer science is an off-by-one error, and I did just that on my journey from Wellington to Cambridge, having everything booked (flight, shuttle, departure) one day out-of-sync. All was resolved quite quickly, and I was absolutely astounded by the Nyrid staff who caught my email at 6am and managed to collect me at the Hamilton airport. Thus began the beginning of four days in the company of this extraordinay company led by Matthew Simmons and Alex St. John. In my considered option they are following very good start-up logic and are developing some rather impressive disruptive technologies, and I have found need to comment on length on both of these features. It is a constant and powerful working environment there, dedicated on their goal, and the mostly young staff are very sharp. It must be immediately noted that the company really looks after its staff, with two evenings in succession at The Good George, and a recruiting BBQ today which is all worthy of note.

I've been hosted at the remarkable Earthstead villa, which appropriately includes Ian McKellen's name (aka Gandalf) in the guestbook. Yesterday was a day off from my usual schedule and Nyriad took me and Andreas Wicenec to Hobbiton. It was, of course, a wonderful location and great to have the set kept in place and obviously enough I took a few photos. The Green Dragon Inn was a particularly nice touch. The tour, however, is guided and is all over within a couple of hours - we were fortunate to arrive early as the queues later on were quite substantial. I am somewhat conflicted between the obvious need to explain the filming and set and how the very same destroys the magic of the film, and downright mocking of the apparent need to slap a trademark on everything ("Hobbit Holes (TM)", really?). I couldn't help but be a little disappointed by the sheer indifference of the tour guide when I pointed out that Bilbo's door lacked Gandalf's rune.

Later in the afternoon wandered around the small town of Cambridge which continued its very English style (town name, nearby Hobbiton) by distracting me with a regional game of cricket. Seriously, I can imagine hobbits playing cricket. The local team was quite successful bowling out the opposition with a lead over one hundred runs. I must confess a conflicted relationship with sport. I love the pace and skill involved in Australian Rules Football, and enjoyed playing in my youth as a defensive half-back line player and occasional ruck-rover. With cricket I enjoy the narrative, the gradual unfolding over summer's day to five. It was another game of my youth, and played the role of an unorthodox opening bowler who would bowl spin as well as the typical pace (opening batsmen were often very confused as a result). In both cases however, as much as I could enjoy watching and playing such sports it was aggressive competitiveness and boorishness common in both players and especially fans that put me off. I suspect I am not alone in this assessment.
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Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017 10:53 pm
In the remaining two days Dunedin found the time to visit the art gallery. I usually pooh-pooh it because it has an unhealthy obsession with abstract art (don't they know it was a CIA plot?) and pointless installation pieces, both of which I particularly loathe. This time however they had an exhibition by a local genius Kushana Bush who uses modern subject matter in a Indo-Persian medieval style. Also managed to catch a good portion what appeared to be a Scottish music festival. Slept quite poorly that night courtesy of freshman students discovering the joys of orientation week. Get off my lawn.

Arriving in Wellington I stayed in Mount Victoria, very close to a famous scene from the Lord of the Rings. Not that I managed to see much of Wellington, except for the harbourside and Shed 6 where Multicore World was held. But my goodness, what a conference it is - small (around seventy people), but three days of a packed agenda with some of the best IT minds in the world, including John Gustafson, Tony Hey, Michelle Simmons, [livejournal.com profile] paulmck and many more. I think my own paper went reasonably well, but certainly there were many others that were right on the pointy end of core issues in computer science. Plus there was a couple of politicians who dropped in to visit, including Clare Curran who is something of a regular. After the three days of conferencing managed to get to have dinner with [livejournal.com profile] mundens and Joe G., making it my only non-conference/work social activity since arriving. Tomorrow morning, it's off to Cambridge to visit the good people at Nyriad.
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Saturday, February 18th, 2017 12:00 pm
An arrival to the South Island was met by fires in Christchurch. As if that poor city has not suffered enough from the terrible earthquakes of 2011 which still scar the city. The famed central Cathedral is now but a shell of what it once was, and like all great ruins is gradually being taken by nature. The official part of my visit was to the University HPC team who have shfted most of their facilities to their national infrastructure. Still, I managed to have enough spare time to vist the impressive Canterbury Museaum and take a walk around the botanical gardens before spending a night in a former prison cell, which is certainly an imaginative use of such facilities.

The following morning caught an early flight to Dunedin and chatted with a final year engineering student who had also apparently had been on the flight with me to Christchurch. Her home was Dunedin and her trip to Melbourne was her first overseas jaunt. Arrival at Dunedin was faced with the announcement that their famous chocolate factory, would be closing down. For many this is heartbreaking; it is one of Dunedin's prize businesses, even the home of Dunedin's first computer. For the three hundred and fifty workers there it is absolutely devastating; and capital does what it always does, moving to the cheapest location. For advanced economies, I often point to the example of Germany who still have a powerful manufacturing industry.

My first day was spent with David Eyers and Jim Cheetham who cover HPC and security respectively, and their insights on such subjects will be taken home and again, as is my want, visited the Otago Museum. I've also been contacting many people I know in NZ about whether they would be interested in taking the recently retired Avoca system across The Ditch. I rather like the idea of NZ having a Top500 system on its shores. The following day was free time and the opportunity was taken to visit our South Pacific base are looking after it. The musicians who live there are doing a great job and apparently a new LP, "Lodge Music" will be released in the near future. I'm quite looking forward to it.
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Tuesday, February 14th, 2017 11:16 pm
What did you do on Valentine's Day? Well, I left my partner at the airport (after a hellishly long drive due to substantial roadworks on the freeway). Poor [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya is going to be by herself for a fortnight, whilst I spend two weeks in New Zealand, starting a Christchurch for a day, then Dunedin for three, then Wellingon for four, then Cambridge for four (yes, I will visit Hobbiton), then finally Auckland, and then back homewards bound. It's a rather hectic tour and almost entirely consisting of a conference and research-related visits. Yesterday finished the talk that I'm giving at Multicore World, so that's certainly one thng I don't have to worry about. There's even a possibility I might even be able to give away one of the world's most powerful computers. Also had a great lunch with several members of the University Sustainability team with a couple of members of Research Computing; there was no official collaboration going on, entirely social. We just happen to work in the same building and I have a couple of good friends in the former group.

Last night was the final of three sessions of Tarkovsky films at the Astor, the semi-authbiographical "The Mirror" and the WWII story "Ivan's Childhood". The former was beautiful and strange with discontinuities and more magical realism than you could poke a wand at. The latter was about as bleak as you could imagine; a vengeful twelve-year old who acts as reconnaissance in the swamps of the eastern front. Whilst on the topic of things magical, realistic, and bleak, I've been working on the last pieces of a late issue of RPG Review, particularly a review of GURPS Transhumanism, GURPS Reign of Steel, and Mindjammer, all of which should be made public in the next few days. In an interesting gaming session on Sunday we finished another murder-mystery episode of GURPS Middle Earth (there's an awful lot of that in Michael's games). Swinging back to the aforementioned topic, I'm hoping to pick up the Stalker RPG, based on the Tarkovsky film. More than anything else, Tarkovsky's Solaris and Stalker seem both very useful sources for truly alien minds, and perhaps appropriate for Eclipse Phase
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Saturday, February 11th, 2017 11:24 pm
Working on the transhumanist issue of RPG Review Issue 33 this week, having received (a little late) the interview with Rob Boyle. Reviews for that issue are also gradually making their way on rpg.net, with Eclipse Phase - Gatecrashing, receiving a strong recommendation. The week also witnessed a session of Papers & Paychecks which thematically took aspects of the classic The Keep on the Borderlands; it worked very well. Friday night managed to get some Eclipse Phase play in, a variation of Think Before Asking. Today was another Cheesequest day with [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce where - apart from making our way through several varieties of said food - we also made our way through another chapter of Mice and Mystics.

The Isocracy Network continues at pace with a meeting on Friday night on a 2019 Labor-Green Alliance. Of course, a week is a long time in politics, and the departure of the ultra-conservative Cory Berndai from the Liberal Party does give the possibility of greater control by more liberal elements; the possibility of even a Grand Coalition was raised. There has been four 'blog posts on the Isocracy Network this week, including Actually, Nazi's Are Still Bad, by [personal profile] reddragdiva, Tribune of the Plebs by [personal profile] catsidhe, and my own The Shambling Mound's Third Week.

This coming week I leave for New Zealand for a fortnight, which will include visits to some computational centres in Canterbury University in Christchurch, Otago University in Dunedin, MC-ing and presenting at Multicore World (that's quite some speaker's list, then to Cambridge for Nyriad and finally the Auckland University of Technology. I must say I'm rather looking forward to the visit, as it has been far too long since I've had the opportunity to drop into this rather favoured corner of the world. "Home is where the heart is", and mine is very much in the deep south of Aotearoa.
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Tuesday, February 7th, 2017 11:42 pm
Dropped in to the Unitarians on Sunday to hear Paul Dahan give his presentation on Land Price a Cause of Poverty and Source of Unearned Income. It was a good topic, and Paul does get his points in a storyteller's style. Rick B., was meant to be taking the service, but his train of thought was a little askew, so I took the opportunity to task if he wanted me to take over. It was a fairly seemless process. Afterwards Rohan McL. presented to The Philosophy Forum on Ontology and Violence, also held at the Unitarians..

Afterwards that was another session of Eclipse Phase, as the Sentinels finished off their Vurt-inspired hallucinatory scenario (part one, The Vurt in the Mind's Eye, part two, Of Fictions Imitating Reality). In a very closely related science fiction trajectory went to the Astor the following night with [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya, [livejournal.com profile] funontheupfield and Maria to watch the Tarkovsky psychodramatic film, Stalker. I appreciate the rumours that this is where the KGB poisoned him, but they seemed to do well enough in finding the most polluted place on earth to do the set.

Other major event of the past days was a presentation I gave just a few hours ago at Linux Users of Victoria, on Open Stack and the Barcelona Summit. I tried to give a conceptual overview of cloud technology in general, and OpenStack in particular with summary detail of the core and optional services, as well as the governance process, the techical changes in the Newton release, and the future of OpenStack's development. The well-attended LUV meeting also was addressed by Jacinta R., who spoke on various types of algorithms including some very recent developments by László Babai on Graph Isomorphism.
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Saturday, February 4th, 2017 11:55 am
Recently a meeting with an early career person earlier this week on their future career in IT - and it became a 'blog post on careers and purpose in its own right. For my own part going to IT was a career change some fifteen years ago from politics, and with a short transition period. As evident, it seems that one doesn't really leave a subject they are passionate about - life just gets more complex. Continuing the passion and profession synthesis, next Tuesday I'll be speaking at Linux Users of Victoria on OpenStack and the Barcelona Open Stack Summit. Following a similar theme have also made a good start on my talk for Multicore World on HPC/cloud hybrids. Slight hiccup of the week; whilst turning off the compute nodes for Edward a tech pulled the cable for the head node as well, just after a "please move your data" email went out - oops.

There's nothing like the election of a disruptive and destructive leader to get people motivated in politics. There's been multiple 'blog posts relating to Lord Dampnut in the past week on the Isocracy Network, including my own summary of his activities, The Shambling Mound's Second Week. Part of this weekend will be spent preparing material for the Isocracy Labor-Green Alliance strategy meeting (FB) next Friday. Whilst not usually a political organisation, the RPG Review Cooperative has agreed to respond to PETA's insane complaint over Warhammer 40K characters wearing fur.

Having completed the skill trees on Duolingo in the past year for Esperanto, French, German, and Spanish, I have found the daily challenge is keeping them all lessons at "gold" status. Most recently, whilst keeping such a level, I've decided to take more "offline" lessons on those languages via texbook learning to give a more conversational grasp of the languages, something with Duolingo is not good at. Nevertheless will also continue the extensive learning via that medium of Russian, and Mandarin on Memrise. The new month also reminds me that it is time re-establish my interests in the "Scandinavian languages", partially in preparation for ISC and subsequent journeys afterwards, but also to extend my grasp of Germanic linguistics.
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Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 10:02 pm
My local favourite art deco cinema, The Astor is hosting a set of films from Soviet director, Andrei Tarkovsky. His films are famous for being slow, immersive, and powerful. Last night was his epic version of Lem's story Solaris, which I attended with Rick B., [livejournal.com profile] funontheupfield and [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya, which really does a great job of exploring a truly alien intelligence. Very much looking forward to the next two sessions, with Stalker, and then the week after, The Mirror and Ivan's Childhood. It's all been under the nominal activity list of the RPG Review Cooperative which, on a tangent, PETA have targetted Warhammer 40K for having fur-clad characters. Sunday was a session of GURPS Middle-Earth finishing an adaption of the Spider Farm scenario.

Activities on the Isocracy Network are continuing a-pace which is not unexpected given the international events. I have started a new 'blog series The Shambling Mound, which will provide a week-by-week update on the U.S. President's activities. Obviously it looks like there is plenty of material for the next issue with the current immigration bans and constitutional crisis. Steve Sprigis has added a new article, They Are Not Invincible, and of course, being in the end of the month there's a new newsletter with a particular emphasis on the upcoming meeting on the Labor-Green Alliance: Policy and Strategy, and plenty of international union actions.

Preparations for the New Zealand tour are almost complete with accommodation and HPC centre visits all arranged. As usual, despite working for the lumbering monster that is the University of Melbourne, I choose mainly cheap backpacker accommodation, and my speaking slot at Multicore World has been confirmed. I've also been plodding away at overdue European Tour posts for the University, and reviewing. This week have been also reviewing optimal network topology and equipment for HPC/cloud hybrids with throughput as the main goal. Language lessons are going well, having completed the Tetum course on Memrise, and continuing with Mandarin, German, French, Esperanto, and Spanish on a near-daily basis, along with a bit of Russian.
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Saturday, January 28th, 2017 10:43 pm
Many of Australia's public holidays are quite comic. Determined by state goverments, in Victoria we have holidays for a horse race and a football game. But apart from stupid holidays we also manage to have grossly offensive ones, and worst still, the national day, January 26, which celebrates the invasion of the country by British forces and sequence of genocidal policies against indigenous Australians. I have written an article on the Isocracy Network which outlines the history of Australia's establishment, the effects, and how a Treaty with the indigenous peoples could resolve many issues. As for the day itself, I cooked up a storm of some basic dishes (risotto, French onion soup, bread and butter pudding etc). On related political issues have arranged for an Isocracy meeting for February 10 (Labor-Green alliance strategy meeting (FB)).

During the week I've made arrangements for a short tour of New Zealand in a manner that's rather like a mini-version of the grand Europe tour of last year. On February 15 I will be going to Christchurch to visit their Bluefern HPC facility, followed by a trip to Dunedin to see their HPC staff, as well as to check on our secret base. After that I'll be going to Wellington to MC and present at Multicore World, then up to Cambridge to see the work of the good folk at Nyriad who are doing some great co-work with us, and hopefully to drop into Hobbiton, and then to the Auckland HPC centre, before making my way back to Melbourne: two weeks of meetings, conferences, and taking journeys in light planes around the country.

In miscellaneous activities had a hackathon with the Papers & Paychecks rules on Wednesday night, that will be followed by a game of GURPS Middle Earth tomorrow. My review of D&D Basic Set has been published on rpg.net. A subchapter of the Building Clusters and Clouds book has been written up on Data Centre Preparation. Apart from that there's been a lot of language study; French, German, Spanish, Esperanto, Tetum, and Mandarin pretty much every day, with Russian somewhat less regularly.
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Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 09:49 pm
Apparently I enjoy a challenge as I look at the mountain of tasks that I've set myself for the year, which has little room for any additional activities. Certainly, I am going to be looking harder and increasingly so at individuals who may be interested in co-collaboration in sharing the workload. Of course, so much of this is of my own creation - [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya does remind me that nearly all of the non-work demands that I have are entirely the result of my own volition. It is true: If you live your dreams, you can remake the world was a telling line in rather charming surrealist novel The Dream Years that was influential in my honours year. The following year I had emblazoned on my diary in large letters - back when paper diaries were still functional - a quote from Paul Valéry, What are you going to do TODAY?.

So how was that weekend? Saturday was the Annual Penguin Picnic for Linux Users of Victoria, which has a smaller turnout than last year (many were at LCA in Hobart), but was nevertheless very enjoyable. In other Linux-related issues, have compiled The Provision of HPC Resources to Top Universities and added a few notes on Keeping The Build Directory in EasyBuild and Paraview Plugins. I've also been investigating various aspects of data centre management will be posted very soon.

As a small mountain of people main on various social media contacted me with birthday wishes (sometimes I get this ridiculous notion that there are people out there who respect and maybe even like me), a psychologist friend made some very good anonymous comments on the Melbourne car attack, which had to go on the Isocracy Network website as there are are important issues of crime, prevention, and punishment being addressed. Just added yesterday was a contribution from some Syrian refugees, Amina's Story, which is the first part of a wider compilation. There is even another post forthcoming from the ever insightful Steve S., but that's going to be delayed for a day or two for spacing purposes.

There have been several gaming events over the past few days as well. The weekend saw two games of Eclipse Phase, one being an introduction to a variant of Think Before Asking (I have actually played in this scenario once before and have run it another time - but I can keep mum as necessary). Sunday's session was a variant of Lurking In Every Flower, which is like Philip K. Dick meets Vurt - Anders Sandberg's work is getting some solid activity. Finally, several of the reviews that I've provided to RPG.net have now been published, including Alternity Player's Handbook, Alternity Game Master's Guide, Gangbusters, Basic Fantasy, and OSRIC.
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Friday, January 20th, 2017 10:18 pm
It's pretty clear that I'm going to have to get back into the habit of posting to this journal at least twice a week, for the sheer sake of having a somewhat succinct personal record of events and links to various thoughts and considerations. Today apparently is the point of my forty-ninth revolution around the sun, which I'm hardly going to celebrate hard; a small lunch gathering at Timiao courtesy of my manager at work. Received some great books from [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya, which will keep me busy for a while. The day however will live in some infamy however - not for the inauguration and speech of President Trump (which happens at 4am January 21st AEDST), but rather of rampage in the Melbourne CBD (caseopaya's office was in lockdown).

This aside the week has had some other highlights. Last Saturday's Cheesquest day with [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce and [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla went very well. I made two cheesecakes, with the baked vegan one surprisingly working out quite well (crazy but true, I can cook vegan food with some competence). It was also the first attempt at porron drinking games, being an item I'd picked up the week prior. We played Asterix: Das Kartenspiel, a rather clever and quick bidding game. The following day was the AGM and BBQ for the RPG Review Cooperative, which was very much enjoyed by all present. Other gaming related events for the week included Laundry Files on Wednesday evening. Tomorrow is another BBQ I'm preparing for; this time for Linux Users of Victoria.

The week Zhou Youguang died, known as "the father of pinyin". His passing providing a psychological impetus (this often happens for me) to start learning Mandarin on Memrise which I must admit is bloody hard. Unlike European languages (even Russian, which I started again this week) there is nothing in terms of lexical similarity. Then there is the simplified logographic script and hanyu pinyin to learn with the vowel tones ("mā ma mà mǎ", "mother scolds the horse") which can lead some stunning writing (e.g., Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den). I've been led to believe that the grammatical structures are a lot less complex than English (let alone German etc) but I'm hardly at that level yet.
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Friday, January 13th, 2017 08:22 pm
It has been quite a culinary week. Sunday night was a dinner at The Melba for Rodney B's, sixtieth birthday, an evening of fine food, excellent conversation (I introduced a young linguist to the joys of Esperanto), and the surprise of discovering that Nick Cave was on the table next to us. I resisted the urge to interrupt what appeared to be his family dinner. The following night had dinner and drinks with [livejournal.com profile] txxxpxx and Tony at Loi Loi as txxxpxx prepares for her big journey to North America. I found a particular highlight of the evening was swapping stories about various visits to Timor-Leste (which continues to have insanely bad governance issues). In addition we're hosting a Cheesequest tomorrow and the RPG Review AGM BBQ on Sunday; I've been preparing a mountain of food for both those events.

Despite continuing issues in Timor-Leste, I have recently returned to studying Tetum, courtesy of a short course on Memrise. It only covers a couple of hundred words, far less than what is required for basic fluency (around 2000 for most), but it will provide a necessary foundation for an open-source basic translation engine which will start with Tetum, which is on my 2017 list. In other languages, I find myself keeping my Duolingo Esperanto, French, German, and Spanish all gold, with the occasional lesson in other areas; it takes about ninety minutes each day (that is, my public transport trips). I feel that it's about time that I went beyond Duolingo into deeper studies of grammar and etymology. Fortunately I have a pile of language text books next to me! On-topic, Google's new neural machine translation system is very interesting and impressive, but to head off any speculations, this is not "strong AI", and not even close to it.

There has been a bit of gaming activities this week as well. Apart from running an good session of Eclipse Phase last Sunday (a modified version of Glory, that made the sexual elements more blunt), and completing a review of Eclipse Phase: Gatecrashing and working on the finishing touches of the next "Transhuman" issue of RPG Review, I have also submitted a backlog of reviews from said publication to RPG.net, which I should have done some weeks ago. Wednesday night was another session of Papers & Paychecks; the committee seems to be firming on a decision on who to go for printing this publication (ePlot have been very helpful), and the money for the Kickstarter has been mostly received (postage still pending). Taking the approach of "more haste, less speed" some good progress has been made in getting this and the companion volume out by the end of February, perhaps March at the latest.
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Saturday, January 7th, 2017 05:38 pm
New Year's Eve was spent at two gatherings; one hosted by Anthony L., which has a solid gathering of aging radicals, aesthetes, academics, and even diplomats. The second was hosted by [livejournal.com profile] sebastienne, and included the goth, punk, metal, and geek set. Both were great nights, although I suspect the latter would have been more in tune with my review on Rocknerd of Mogwai's Central Belters which was completed that day. As the fireworks went off [livejournal.com profile] saithkar made comment about their expense and aesthetic nothingness, which led to me bring enlighten all with the use of dead children as a unit of currency (this will be my reading for tomorrow's Unitarian Poetry Service). A recent production of a pair of pistols valued at 4.5 million USD is another case in point; that's a lot of Dead Children.

The new year has already been busy enough in work, extra-curricular, and social activities. In the former, have started providing summaries of the European tour, and have put in a submission for a BoF with the University of Freiburg for cloud/HPC hybrids at the International Supercomputing Conference. Have recently fought some particular annoying R libraries (one lacking in complete dependency listing). Fortunately a discussion came up on the EasyBuild mailing list just at the right time, leading me to 'blog Installing R with EasyBuild: Which path to insanity?.

Apart from the aforementioned NYE gatherings, also took the opportunity to visit Brendan E., on new year's day, who treated us to viewings of Marauders and Tripping The Rift. The former was a good example of some serious violence and conspiracy, but alas ended up being a little too prosaic and simple on the latter. The latter is an adult-themed sf comedy cartoon, which does make modest use of genre-referential humour. In more film-related activity went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, with [livejournal.com profile] funontheupfield. It was feel-good film in the Potter-genre, and obviously well-designed for a 3-D version. I confess to being surprised at the massive all-ages turnout, having never delved deeply into Potterdom.

The new year has also seen a little bit of a flurry of activity on the political scene as well. Last night had dinner with members of the Labor Party and the Greens who are sensible enough to see that they have a common conservative enemy that is more important than any difference they may have between them. Because I am sufficiently non-partisan will be doing the same with a member of the Liberal Party early next week. The Isocracy Network 'blogs have had a few entries this year already, including one by myself on the impeachment proceedings of the South Korean President.
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Monday, January 2nd, 2017 08:25 pm
As I have done for several years now, at the end of year or beginning of the new year I've done a retrospective over the past year and sometimes even a half-baked plan of what the coming year might bring. Many people probably do the same with the arbitrary time-stamp that is the European new year, although most probably do it in their head rather than in a written form. There are good arguments against writing, but I find there are better (if different) argument for having the ability to refer to the past and organise one's thoughts in planning for the future.

Work, Linux, Politics, Gaming, Philosophy, Languages, Academia, Music, Film, Personal )

In summary, 2016 was a good year for me with many improvements in my life and very few things that went terribly wrong. A couple of major projects are incomplete, but far outweighed by a multitude of others, small and large, that have been completed. It was an extraordinarily productive year, probably the most productive I've ever had and almost the most interesting (2003 in Timor-Leste is always going to be a hard bar to beat in that regard). Could 2017 be even more productive? Well, yes, if I am more selective about where I direct my efforts.

Excelsior! Labor omnia vincit!
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Friday, December 30th, 2016 10:41 am
Family dinner for Christmas was at Falcon which comes with some beautiful views of the Indian Ocean. In the gift-giving ritual I received Letters of Note, which I devoured within a day. Many of the letters are insightful and important; others are a little different. Following day had a long lunch with [personal profile] delicious_irony and Bruce T at The Dome and collected under a third of the MARS library for shipping back to Melbourne the following day. Thus ended the flying visit to Perth; [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya's mother continues to defy medical expectations, managed to catch up with over fifty people from friends and family, and sorted through the bones of an old SF club. On the return to Melbourne two significant events has been collecting the cat from kitty prison and saving some myna hatchlings that had been blown out of their nest. Yesterday, caught up with [livejournal.com profile] taavi at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Because I am on a genuine holiday this week, with absolutely nothing that I have to do, I have found myself a pottering about and chipping at a few items on moderately long to-do list. Following a couple of recent weird Internet discussions I've found myself considering deeply the notion of political deliberation. The result is a long essay: Deliberative Isocracy : The Antidote to 'Fake News', which looks at the scope of democratic systems versus liberal rights, the concept of deliberation, and how to really put 'fake news' and its distorting influence in representative democracy to an end. I pride myself on starting with facts then forming an opinion; I have a tragic fascination with those who cannot or will not shift an opinion even when the facts are clearly opposite.

As 2016 comes to a close there has been an apparent spate of celebrite deaths; I never particularly cared for the music of George Michael, although his philanthropy seems agreeable. SciFi fans are of course distressed by the death of Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher and doubly so with her mother, Debbie Reynolds, dying the following day. I noted the passing of Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, due to anthropomorphic affections. Somewhat overlooked however is Vera Rubin which leads to an interesting illustration between scientific endeavours and popular culture. The passing on of celebrities of the latter is more recognised; they touch a wider-range of people on an accessible level. The scientist does deeper work which arguably is more important, but is sufficiently esoteric that fewer people find that they have an immediate connection with it. As for the regulator and founder of moral laws? Well, apparently in a very few cases they become elevated to holiness.