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Last day in Frankfurt caught up with Nia A., from the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre to discuss the developments of HPC training in Europe and possible collaboration between Australia and PRACE. Afterwards we had some time to spare so took the opportunity to visit the Museum für Kommunikation which had a exhibition on the Golden Ratio and an amusing installation art piece of sheep made from 1980s telephones. This was followed by a lengthy visit to the massive Städel Museum which holds a mighty collection of late gothic, renaissance, baroque, modern, and contemporary artworks, including greats such as Hieronymus Bosch, Rembrandt, Eugène Delacroix, Monet, Degas, Picasso, etc.

The following day was the journey from Frankfurt to Paris with what was meant to be an easy four-hour trip, turned into an eight-hour epic with various delays due to severe storms in Germany. To their great credit the rail staff did a remarkable job at re-routing everyone to arrive at their destinations with a minimum of delay. Eventually arriving at the quite charming Hôtel De La Paix, we had sufficient time before the late sunset to catch a meal and make a visit to Champ de Mars and a certain awful tower (as French artists and intellectuals called it at the time). Actually, it's not that awful at all (except for inspiring a rush of phallic envy, and does accord some fine views apparently. It reminds me a lot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge which, in the scheme of things, is of a similiar time and period.

Yesterday visited Versailles, home of the palace and gardens, the stuff that generates revolutions. The former had excessive queues, so spent the day meandering around the latter and city itself, including a visit to the Royal Stables (still with a fine collection of horses) and Musée Lambinet, which included a fine collection of revolutionary-era objects and paintings. As an oddity for the day at the old antiques market found an extremely good condition of United States Live by Laurie Anderson, something I've wanted to add to my collection for some time.
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Final day in Stuttgart included a long walk through Rotwildpark, a thoroughly beautiful location, and a visit to Schloss Solitude which by good fortune had its rooftop open to visitors commanding some superb views. The journey back to Frankfurt was quick and uneventful and once again checked into the Hotel Colombus where, alas, a top floor has been allocated. In the rather warm conditions that is being currently experienced in western Europe it is a little unpleasant.

The main purpose of this European visit is, of course, the International Supercomputing Conference. The event is just the right size, and with a good combination of medium to some very low level presentations ("low level", as in dealing with the technical details). Of some note was the announcement at the conference that the United States has been edged out the top three supercomputer systems, with the delicate suggestion that the current administration may wish to revisit their committment to advanced research. Among the vendors the can be little doubt that NVIDIA's Volta architecture attracted much deserved attention especially with its performance, energy efficiency, and capability for artificial intelligence - the latter being an interesting focus among a number of presentations.

There has been some more social activities as well; I was subject to a film interview by Dell on the sort of HPC work conducted at the University, and had dinner with a number of their staff at the well-reviewed Immer Satt. I have also had the opportunity to catch up with several individuals from my last visit to this part of the world, including colleagues from Stuttgart and Freiburg Universities as well as establish contacts with well people from Auckland University of Technology (quite a trip) and GENCI (Grand Equipment National de Calcul Intensif) who I will be visiting in Paris this Friday.
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After the necessary recovery day from the flight (along with some weird sleeping hours as my body-clock adjusted), the next day was a visit to Frankfurt University. The technical and scientific research groups are located in an outer suburb which nevertheless is only 15 minutes by train from the city centre. The day was spent in conversation with their Center for Scientific Computing Team team then attending their introductory class in cluster computing conducted by Anja G., which is an especially comprehensive overview, albeit without a hands-on component. I have spent considerable time going through their lesson plan and slidedeck providing feedback, as well as updating my own standard content from their insights.

After this was the trip to Stuttgart to stay with relatives, about an hour's journey on the fast IC trains. The following day was a holiday, so we we took a tour of the city and especially around the Schollplatz. Visits to (and from) the Stuttgardians are always a pleasure; they're switched-on, savvy, and highly considerate of the needs of others. The children are polite, funny, and absolutely fascinated by Australian animals, which makes buying gifts a breeze. Additional time with them was quite accidental as the person I was supposed to visit at the local university had fallen ill, so we instead took a visit to the Trippsdrill Theme Park, which apart from the usual fare also integrates local history of Swabian life especially from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Following day started with a visit to downtown Stuttgart where I teased a person in a kangaroo suit (complete with joey) by chatting to them and putting on a very broad Australian accent with colloquialisms. It was a conclusion of some animal events from the past day which included a small finch that stunned itself after flying into a window and a visit by a red squirrel. Further down the road a woman was offering "Free Hugs" in the middle of the mall, so obliged this pan-handler. Afterwards we visited the Ritter Sports chocolate museum, which of course the kids loved. They had an absolutely appalling abstract expressionist art exhibition. When will people learn that such art (loosely defined), the enemy of realism and surrealism, was actually a CIA plot? The day has ended with dinner at for all at Das Pilum, an Italian-Swabian restaurant in former military barracks (the grounds date to Roman times).
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Have just completed the first part of the latest European venture with [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya. It began with a several hour flight on Royal Thai airlnes to Bangkok arriving there in the late evening, followed by a two hour stop-over, and then around eleven hours or so with the same airline to Frankfurt which meant arriving in said destination just before seven AM local time. I took the opportunity to catch up with several SF and action films that had hitherto escpaed my vieweing; Mad Max: Fury Road (a rather silly giant car chase), Assassin's Creed (assassins versus templars, past and present, rather well done), Dead Pool (super hero comedy) and John Wick 2 (thoroughly tolerable action film with some good locations). On a late-night whim watched the original Planet of the Apes for the first time in decades, and was thoroughly impressed with the range of themes it deftly discussed (humanity in the universe, vivisection, religious vs scientific conflicts, nuclear war, youthful rebelliousness, etc) within the main characters.

After a day on a plane, what does one do? Take a day-trip river cruise through the Rhine gorge of course. The modern Hotel Colombus was kind enough to let us check-in ridiculously early to freshen up before taking a bus tour of the main sights of Frankfurt that was part of the package, and then another bus to Assmannshausen. A chairlift provides some great views of this reisling varietal valley region which of course was sampled with lunch in a restaurant that rather overdoes the nautical theme. The cruise itself was, of course, a rather picturesque location with its vineyards, historic villages, looming cliffs (including the location of the Loreli legend), and a rather impressive collection of medieval castles many of which were used for what was effectively a protection racket. Of particular personal note was the Bacharach castle (which is now a youth hostel and recently held a gaming convention) and the Mouse Tower, site of where, according to legend Bishop Hatto faced a much deserved demise. Exhausted from what is effectively two days of relentless activity, rest has come easily.
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Last week's presentation to the OpenStack Australia Day on HPC and Cloud hybrids was reported on in ITNews the following day. The day after that I repeated the presentation to a Telstra technical group. The following two days was teaching my usual courses, Introduction to HPC with Linux and Shell Scripting and HPC. These courses fill up amazingly quickly and the waiting list is now over 40 (class sizes are around 15). A practical example from the courses came the following day as we're working with a weird Gaussian convergence problem. The software comes with a suite of some 1044 tests, all of which can be launching them with a short script with a heredoc.

Out-of-hours had a great experience on Tuesday night visiting the Astor with Pete T., for a screening of the classic Australian low-budget dystopia that started an epic series, Mad Max. The evening was also the launch of Luke Buckmaster's new book on the making of the film, Miller and Max. A good number of the original crew and and bit-piece actors were also present in conversation and they had some very colourful stories to say about the production. Pete and I spent a good period of time in conversation with the crew who had a few classic items from the set, including Toecutter's bike helmet.

Other major events of the week including James Fodor presenting at The Philosophy Forum on Where Does Morality Come From?, which provided a bit of a topology of the landscape. There were two major gaming sessions this week, one for GURPS Middle Earth on Sunday and the last session of Laundry Files Australia on Wednesday night. Finally, University House hosted a UK Election event this afternoon, with lots of traditional British fare. The results, much discussed, are well known with the Conservatives probably just able to form government after having their 20 point lead reduced to 2.5 in the course of the campaign. It is almost certain that Jeremy Corbyn will be the next Prime Minister of the UK.
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It's been several days since I last posted, with a week dominated by work-related activities. There was three days of training which I arranged and sat in on from the West Australian Pawsey supercomputing centre, one introductory course, then OpenMP, then MPI programming. In the meantime my courses I announced in the last post were filled in under twelve hours, so a new set have been advertised for next month. After the Pawsey course was the OpenStack Australia Day, which was really quite good. Large enough for three streams of speakers (business, technical, innovation), but small enough to be inimate and an opportunity to catch up with many co-workers in this space (good period of time spent with Francois from ChCh, Dylan from CSIRO, and Tim from Red Hat). My own talk The Why and How of HPC-Cloud Hybrids with OpenStack was very well received with standing room only in the hall. I will be repeating it on Monday at Telstra.

Other major events of the week included a battle-heavy session of Eclipse Phase last Sunday. The previous session was staging and preparation. This one included the interesting physics of fire and movement on a small asteroid. Finally, the most important out-of-work activity of the week would have to been the Victorian Secular Lobby Annual General Meeting, which had a few new members turn up, along with an excellent presentation on the state of secularism in the Liberal Party by John Bade - a rather sobering presentation on how traditional liberals in that group need to toughen up against the theocrats, especially given that Senator Bernardi has left the party and merged with Family First. It might be a painful split for the Liberal Party, but it they will be stronger for it in the longer run.
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Major work change this week was moving offices; we've left the old warehouse on Lincoln Sq and moved to the Doug McDonnell building. Had a farewell lunch with some of the people at the Sustainability office before we left, and today was working from home whilst the removalists did their thing. Took the opportunity to write the paper I'm presenting at OpenStack Australia Day and which will be replicated a few days later at Telstra. In addition to all this, have also just announced new course for HPC and Linux along with Shell Scripting for HPC, and had a meeting with some Microsoft representatives for setting up an Azure cloud burst partition to Spartan.

Other preparations in the coming week include the Annual General Meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby with John Bade from the Liberal Party talking on that body's difficult relationship with secularism as the reactionary Christians are on the ascendancy in that body. I wonder at their lack of practical concern for the impoverished sectors of society, asylum seekers and so forth. It's curious how some people are prepared to manipulate the genuine desire for moral character among others and a sense of wonder with existence to acquire power and wealth. I can't imagine that Jesus would have been very impressed with such behaviour.

Wednesday evening was Papers & Paychecks, where the PCs made good progress to Save Our Borderlands, and the puns were flowing thick and fast. There also has been a good deal of work building resistentialist "monsters" for the game. Tonight is Justin A's Eclipse Phase and will be preparing for my version of the same on Sunday. Also have received a copy of the quickstart rules for the new edition of RuneQuest for FreeRPG day.
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Visited [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce for our regular Cheesequest. Amazing fromage of the day was a herbed Corsican. Afterwards played a challenging scenario in Mice and Mystics. This evening did a sence write-up for my long-running HeroQuest Glorantha game. It was the conclusion of a bit of bad luck in gaming sessions this week with the regular Laundry Files game cancelled on Wednesday night, and Eclipse Phase on Friday night. Nevertheless, this has given me more opportunity to work on Papers & Paychecks with the effects of alcohol and drugs and distribution curves added to the repository.

Have finally decided to join the 21st century and bought a chunk of cloud storage for some offsite backups; specifically the Google offering, which integrates well with the rest of its services. Have also discovered and used RClone, which a rather genius piece of work - effectively rsync for various cloud storage vendors. Apropos, a made a talk proposal for OpenStack Australia Day which has been accepted.

Other major events in the past few days has been organising for the AGM of the Victorian Secular Lobby, writing up the major events of 14th and 15th weeks of Lord Dampnut, US President, and attending a great wine tasting at University House for Klein Constantia with a selection of South African and French Savoy wines. The Vin de Constance was pretty amazing; it was sweet liquid gold and with a price to match (on special for a mere $137 for 500ml) .
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It was a pretty gaming intensive weekend; on Saturday I needed to get over three thousand words written for RPG Review 34, a special issue on game design, which has now been released - there was about 1,000 words on Friday and Sunday as well, as well as the layout. Later on session ran a game of Eclipse Phase which has arced up with as the Sentinels confront the neo-fascist Ultimates on an L5 Neptune trojan. It followed from an evening with [livejournal.com profile] funontheupfield at a local bar where we played Forbidden Island (cooperative game, easily adaptable for an environmental rather than fantasy theme) and Quizzle. Aproporiately, a new issue of the RPG Review Cooperative Newletter, Crux Australi has just been released.

We've just change our Internet Service Provider. After many years with Optus, there were a couple of events (technical primarily) that were making the relationship shaky, but the clincher was when they wouldn't support Firefox on Linux with the given reason being that only a few people use it this "old" operating system. Well, we've shifted to iiNET, and although there was a bit of a hiccup with the setup, they've done the right thing in terms of compensation etc. In other home life news finished our tax today for the last financial year, a weird timetabling that apparently is ATO approved. Their administrative procedures are a mystery to us mere mortals. Finally, just in case anyone thought I wasn't nerdy enough, I've been using this great Android app which effectively gives one a command-line interface for operating one's phone. Accessing applications with the autocomplete shortcuts and easy of file system navigation I find are its principal advantages.
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One can tell when I've been too busy; my personal DW/LJ 'blog becomes neglected. In the past eleven days since my last entry a lot of my time has been spent in public engagements in philosophy and politics. Last night there was a well-attended meeting of the Melbourne Atheist Society where I spoke on Atheism, Islam, and Secularism, which was well-received and generated some excellent discussion. It followed from convening a meeting of The Philosophy Forum on Sunday where Graeme Lindenmayer from Agnostic Perspectives presented on The Concept of Beauty, in his particular style - accessible and detailed.

Another publication of the past few days was a contribution to the ALP Platform Committee which contains some pretty serious suggestions on taxation, employment, education, drug reform, and transport issues, and followed on from an article several days prior on land tax and proportional representation. Monday morning (Australian time) of course was the results of the French election and University House hosted a special early brunch with speakers. I raised the question of the future of the Parti socialiste which was followed the following day by a radio interview in Sydney on John August's program, Radio Skidrow on the west European electoral landscape; a follow-up post is planned.

There has been, of course, Linux and work-related events as well. Last Tuesday Dr. Paul Bone gave a presentation to Linux Users of Victoria on the Plasma programming language which combines imperative and functional programming with automatic parallelisation. It's a work in development and I've set up a project on Spartan for further development. We sponsored an HPC support lunch on Monday and a major item that has come out of that is the need for a massive biotechnology database that is somewhat closer to home than the NCBI or the DDBJ. These datasets are seriously big and file transfers alone are a serious issue for Australian researchers.

In addition to this I have expanded my Duolingo work by starting courses "upside down" - having completed Esperanto, Spanish, French, and German, I am now undertaking English as an (alleged) speaker of French, German, and Spanish (alas, there is no Esperanto section). There has been of course, a few gaming sessions over the past couple of weeks with Papers & Paychecks planned for tonight, GURPS Middle Earth last Sunday, Eclipse Phase last Friday and the Sunday prior, and a new game of Elric! last Wednesday. One item also of note was dinner at a great Spanish restaurant last week with nephew Luke and his flatmate Nick (they live above the restaurant): a great night, I got to practise my appalling Spanish with the staff, and fantastic food: the Arcadia is thoroughly recommended.
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The week started with ANZAC day, a national holiday in remembrance of lives lost in war, which war-mongers try to turn into a celebration of invasive military endeavours. A Muslim woman had the temerity to suggest that we shouldn't forget people dying in current wars or the refugees from such conflicts; the conservative media hounded her as a result. For our ANZAC day we had one of our regular cheesequests with [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce with a heft European range (and Breton cider). In the spirit of things, I'd made an ANZAC cookie in the shape of ANZAC cove and surrounds - [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla commented that it was like one of her (primary school) student's science experiments until I started pointing out the topographical features.

Afterwards we had a game of D&D 4th edition, probably the edition that's closest to a board game, making use of the Charlemagne's Paladins supplement and Open Grave. It was the beginning of a gaming intensive week, with the following night spent playing Papers & Paychecks, and the night after that reading The Non-Designer's Design Book, an excellent summary publication on such matters ([personal profile] reddragdiva may also be interested in this). Today has included prepartion for a session of Eclipse Phase which I'll be running tomorrow, which also has a Kickstarter for a second edition (I did some playtesting for this).

But of course, that's not the only events of the week. Much of work has been battling a monster of a suite of programs, FENiCS, which has a monstrous toolchain of dependencies (probably close to a hundred, including those we've already done). Who knew that I'd ever need, for example binutils/2.25-GCC-4.9.2-binutils-2.25? It is enough to drive one to drink and fortunately University House came to my assistance with Dr. Geoff Scollary providing a class on the various types production and tasting of sparking wine (aka 'champagne', but we're not allowed to call it that anymore unless it's actually from Champagne). Based on blind testing apparently I'm fond of Domain Chandon Pinot Noir. Finally, on other matters that drives one to drink, earlier in the week completed a two-part special of The Shambling Mound, a fortnight's summary of the activities of the current US administration.
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Gave introductory Linux and HPC day-courses at University of Melbourne last Thursday and Friday, followed by a presentation at Linux Users of Victoria the following day on Compiling from Source in Linux. The former courses had a particularly high-ratio of staff, rather than the usual collection of postgraduate researchers. Regardless the feedback was equally positive. The presentation to LUV was quite challenging, as I quickly realised however the single talk could easily be several, and as a result I touched upon several items (compilation options, makefiles, autotools and other autobuild systems, environment modules, etc). Nevertheless the post-presentation discussion was excellent; Rodney B., asked whether I had used material from other courses. When I revealed I had not he described the presentation as "embarrassingly good" - which I suppose is positive. At times like these I can have the conceit that I might actually be reasonably good at this HPC Training racket.

After LUV attended the monthly RPG Review movie night at The Astor. It was a monster-themed double with Kong: Skull Island, followed by the 1970 Hammer film, When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth. The former was fairly good, a rather fun combination of King Kong and Apocalypse Now. The latter was absolutely terrible, with the one redeeming feature of the film being carried out in a constructed language. On related popular culture matters played GURPS Middle-Earth the following day and our party of do-gooders successfully defeated the evil sapient trees built by a mad druid. Apropos had some pretty regular sales from the RPG Review in the past couple of weeks, and am reminded that both the RPG Review journal is due, along with Papers & Paychecks.
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My surprise at Tramper rat still being alive at our return to NZ proved to be short-lived. The following morning his body was still so prior to work I buried him in the backyard and planted forget-me-nots. At 33 months (82.5 rat years) Tramper was the last of his trio, the largest and oldest of the group. In his younger days he was certainly the leader and most forward of the pack, gregarious and gentle. As he aged, he slowly accumulated various health problems; a foot infection, a mammary tumour, and glaucoma. He lived through these with a high degree of adaptability. Whilst wary of anthropmorphising, I cannot help but think that he kept himself alive for a few extra days to ensure his farewells.

Thus ends some fifteen years of having rats as animal companions. The entry point was a few years prior whilst living with Glenn K., in Richmond where his rat Spit befriended me. Following my return from Timor-Leste I've lived with Harlequin and Montebanc, then Vagabond and Rogue, Ragamaffin and Scoundrel, Calamity, Mischief, and Trouble, Rascal, Nomad, and Riff-Raff, Tricky and Naughty (the mothers of P, P, & P), Lucky, Picador, Pierrot, and Prankster, and finally, Scamper, Rover, and Tramper - this is along with looking after Bambi and Suki for a neighbour.

For the uninitiated the rat may seem a strange choice of companion. They have bad press, as bearers of diseases (true), dirty (false), cunning (true), and selfish (false). For those in the know, they are intelligent, they are social, they have memory and reasoning and - from a combination of these factors - are surprisingly moral creatures, exhibiting empathy, guilt, and altruism. I have learned a great deal from them, and perhaps a little about myself as I have done my best to care for them. I hope I have contributed in some small amount to their comfort. I have not lost interest in the creatures but my own life-plans do not allow at this stage for their limited lifespans. So, in parting, I raise a salute to these heroic creatures.

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Firstly, I want to thank everyone on LJ, DW, G+, and FB who expressed their condolences with the passing of Rover the rat last week. It touched me deeply that so many of you, nearly all who have spent no time in his company, saw fit to respond to my little eulogy. I make apologies for not responding to all the wishes in person, as I have been away in New Zealand with limited Internet access - and the screen to my laptop has been damaged - and have only just returned tonight, to discover that the old, blind, and cancer-ridden Tramper rat is surprisingly still with us and have managed to eat all the food that had been left out for him.

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So that was a six-day holiday; it was a pretty busy affair with a lot packed in. My previous three trips to NZ have been largely work based so it was good to get around a bit more and finally see a part of the country that I hitherto had not been to. One nice discovery during the trip was learning that my application to attend the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt has been approved. That will be the next trip.
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Rover the Rat unexpectedly died last night, almost certainly of a heart attack. He had been his usual very active self the previous day, and had just enjoyed a plate of food. However I was worried as he seemed a little tired when I put him to sleep last night. This morning he was but a dead rat, and joins the cadavers of many others that are in our small garden. Having reached the age of 29 months (72.5 in rat years), I really expected to be spending several more months in his company on the basis of his alertness and activity. But it is not to be.

From his troika, Rover was the youngest and smallest of the set and was originally quite shy, albeit full of a energy and a sense of adventure. He soon came to appreciate the company of the human members of the colony, encouraged by an extraordinary appetite that correlated with his energy. Never much of a lap rat (he was too active!) he lived a life of playful happiness and would delight getting himself lost in the foliage of our garden. I guess his sudden demise spares him of the slowness of age which I imagine would have been frustrating to him. Now there is only old Tramper, the eldest of the group and the last of the rodent colony. He certainly doesn't have much longer himself, and that will be the end of the rats.
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The weekend was a very festive and some ways exhausting affair. Friday night was [personal profile] caseopaya's official birthday night. I took her to The Trust which does fine Italian food at a good price in the excellent surroundings of the former Port Authority Building. Afterwards took her to the SpeakEasy HQ for a double vaudeville and burlesque show - which was combined entertainment, amusement, and a very friendly interactive style. One of the perfomers was kind enough to give a signed CD of her work, gratis. Our table came inclusive with a bottle of wine and the couple next to us decided they didn't like there's - and gave it to us. Let us just say that the birthday girl had a little too much requiring a two hour trip home in the middle of the night.

The following day was a visit to Dylan's birthday gathering through torturously slow traffic at a Korean restaurant which we stayed for a short period and had animated conversation with current and former workmates. Afterwards made our way to Louise and Benjamin's wedding at the Kensington Town Hall, which was a thoroughly enjoyable and simple affair, although I must confess the the poet's contribution, Love Comes Back seemed to include what is perhaps best described as "unusual" metaphors. Not knowing any of the the others there and still a little under the weather, spent nearly all of the ceremony in the company of Chiara, and Adrian.

Following day was a session of GURPS Middle Earth where the GM decided to throw every plant-based monstrosity at us from various AD&D supplements (appropriately, have just completed a review of The Shambling Mound's Eleventh Week), and quite sensibly skipped our usual Sunday dinner outing. On a similar note smashed out a 2500 word article on GURPS Krononauts campaign design for the next issue of RPG Review. Finally, tonight took four visiting in-law relatives out to Tam-Tam, followed by drinks at Trades Hall. Overall, it's been quite a festive past few days, and I don't mind a bit of that in my life. But now the nose is back at the grindstone - until Thursday's international trip.
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Went to see Christof Koch speak last night at the Melbourne Neuroscience Seminar Series on Consciousness in Biological and Artificial Brains. It was good enough talk, concentrating in finding the physical location of the seat of consciousness (shades of Descartes), and not really moving into the second part. I cornered him after the presentation and suggested that perhaps it would be better to differentiate between consciousness, sapience, and sentience because his entire talk was about correlations with the first two, and the confusion between these was the equivalent of lay-person confusion between mass and weight, and with similar implications. His response was to hand-wave that this was a high-level concern (on the contrary) and besides, philosophers like Dennett and Chalmers also use it in an experential sense. But this sociological fact is part the research problem itself. The ambiguity over the term itself limits our capacity to investigate the problem clearly. It seems to me that only linguistic-pragmatic philosophers (such as Karl-Otto Apel) are addressing this matter with sufficient rigour.

On a related matter, have continued my work with the good folk at the University of Freiburg on cluster-cloud hybrid high-throughput systems. Initially we were looking at a short paper to be published in a relatively low-entry journal, and as part of those investigations the initial candidate turned out to be too low entry - I have discovered that approximately half of a recently published paper is completely plagairised. I have written to the journal editors about this unacceptable behaviour, however I suspect I will not receive a reply. Since then I've been in correspondence with László Babai about publication in Theory of Computing instead, which would be much better. Also attended a Linux Users of Victoria meeting on Tuesday night with two talks, one on SAGE-math and multithreading.

For the past several years I have been paid significant attention to the events in Syria, written the occasional article, and conducting two interviews. Recently I was inspired to give a substantial donation to Medecins San Frontiers following a hospital bombing. and of course in the past few days there has been a massive chemical gas attack, almost certainly carried out by the government. The Syrian government of course denies their responsibility, and the Russians will back their client state. I find myself in the troubling realisation that, when it comes to human rights and war crimes, that the fascist Baathist regime in Syria has reached the point where they are worse that the successors to Al-Qaeda. This obviously is not an assessment taken lightly. My longstanding order of preference in this multi-faceted conflict is being changed. Breaking News The US has just fired 60 tomahawk missiles at Shayrat Military Airport near Homs.
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In the past few days wrote-up an lengthy Isocracy Newsletter (members only), and have just posted The Shambling Mound's Tenth Week. This Thursday is the University of Melbourne Secular Society AGM. In other such gatherings, a week ago I went to see Barry Jones talk at the Unitarians about changes in employment and populism. He's very knowledgeable, but his style (and this is evident in his books) tends to be bric-a-brac and the first topic wasn't addressed at all! Last Sunday at The Philosophy Forum, Rohan Macleod led the discussion on the nature of political conservatism; the material needed work but there was excellent discussion afterwards on the class nature of conservatism and the separation of socio- and economic- attitudes.

Big event of the weekend was [personal profile] caseopaya's birthday. We had a quiet gathering in each other's company watching cheesy vampire films from the sixties and seventies. The gifting consisted of tickets to a cabaret show at Speakeasy HQ in the coming week which has since been extended - with a courtesy call no less - to include the following burlesque show due to a misprint on the tickets. The weather has turned a little cooler, so I was able to engage in my modest culinary expertise to produce two candle-lit dinners with a reasonable coq au vin supplemented on the first night with a rather tasty German sparking white (infused with lime) and an Italian chianti on the second; so in effect that will make three birthday dinners.

Last journal entry expressed a tale of a wayward blue-tongued lizard which finally ventured out to catch some rays. We managed to coax it outside where it has found a home under the hot-water system and probably a food supply more appropriate than cat biscuits. Tramper the rat continues to soldier on, although he rather foolishly managed to catch a cold and had stopped eating. His teeth needed a good clip and over the past few days I've been force-feeding him critical care, along with a course of antibiotics. It seems to have had a positive effect with the aging rodent making effort to eat more normal food again as well. Still, it seems that my prior assessment that he will be around for a while longer was somewhat optimistic.
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It's been a tough week at work; not so much on matters of complexity, but rather on sheer volume. With last week's cluster and cloud computing, there has been in an influx of over two hundred master's level students to the HPC system and the inexperience of quite a few is evident. Such is the effects of an entire generation of computer users who have started with the GUI rather than the command-line. Apropos the planned session with the good folk at the University of Freiburg didn't get up for the International Supercomputing Conference. A German co-author responded pithily, You have to see that we are considered heretics. Well, it wouldn't be the first time, that's for sure. So instead we're looking at a publication in Advanced Computing. Given that most of the paper is already written, a draft can be submitted perhaps the end of next week.

Shortly after that [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya, [livejournal.com profile] funontheupfield, and I are heading to New Zealand. Apparently I can't get enough of the place. The latter has never been before so recommendations were put in place for a short trip; Wellington and the Marlborough Sounds, primarily Havelock and Collingwood with opportunities to take short hikes, go spelunking, horse riding, and to see the strange natural landscape that is Farewell Spit. Given that my past two trips to NZ have been almost entirely work-related, I'm rather looking forward to the opportunity to venture 'cross The Ditch entirely for pleasure. Hopefully I will be able to organise dinner in Wellington for the handful of people that I know there.

The native animal population at our home has had a recent increase with a clutch of friendly young magpies deciding that our home is worth a visit, primarily for cat biscuits. A few days later a blue tongue lizard decided to move in. We think it's still in the house somewhere. Our other animal companions however have not been particularly perturbed by our new visitors; apparently our home is an open-plan zoological garden. I must however express some concern with the health of Tramper the rat. Already close to three years old (about ninety in rat-years), he's doing it a bit tough. He's had a bumblefoot infection for a long tiome (which curiously, seems to be healing up), he has a large mammary tumour which is quite inoperable without risk to his life, and now he's has advanced glaucoma in one eye. Tramper now spends much of his time snoozing (even on the rat-scale of things), but also has a good appetite and enjoys scritch time. Despite his illnesses, I think he's going to be around for a few more months.
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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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Diary of a B+ Grade Polymath

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