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Friday, December 9th, 2016 11:48 pm
The Papers & Paychecks Kickstarter continues to go quite well, albeit at nail-biting crawl towards the final day. It certainly has been a learning experience of crowd-funding. Even if you're not a gamer it's well-worth putting $10 in for a couple of PDFs if you enjoy my writing and want an amusing exploration of contemporary workplaces. In other gaming news I was lucky enough to pick up at a fair price a second edition of Skyrealms of Jorune, a truly beautiful boxed set and exotic setting. Wednesday night was a session of Laundry Files in which the intrepid investigators explored the horrors of cultists on The Plateau of Leng. Finally the final touches are being put in RPG Review issue 32 and it certainly will by this weekend.

Whilst many workplaces wind down I find that there is ample at mine to keep myself more than busy. One major event was the end of the Moab license for the Edward HPC system. Although it is still running (and therefore not dead), it is retired. Thus ends five years of faithful service by friend computer, even with its aged storage, and crufty DNS issues. One last component which requires replacement is one of my least favourite pieces of software, Gaussian. Much of this week has been spent trying to get all the dependencies together for it. Today was the end of year work lunch at Le Bon Ton, which doesn't really live up to its name as such, but does provide quite an extensive carnivorous menu.

On a related subject the December meeting of Linux Users of Victoria was very eventful; after twenty-three years as an independent organisation the meeting unanimously voted to disincorporate and become a subcommittee of Linux Australia, a suggestion I made three years ago, when I was president. After the vote I gave a talk on HPC systems in Europe: A Selection. In part was an overview of why Linux is so dominant in supercomputing, in part a review of several different big European systems, but really the conclusion is that Australia lags terribly in this field - and with inevitable results in terms of manufacturing and science.

After the concert [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya went out to see The Triffids at The Corner Hotel. For once the sound in the venue was excellent, the temperature right, and the band (and guests) put on a thoroughly pleasing show for the evening. But of course, that's the thing about The Triffids, they were enormously popular for all the right reasons. They could pitch, in an Australia-indie style, typical emotional issues (e.g., 'Bury Me Deep in Love', 'Trick of the Light', 'Wide Open Road'), and they do in a manner that is well-constructed and with great acumen. I have enjoyed their concerts in the past but was indifferent to this one. They don't really provide anything challenging either musically or lyrically. They're just downright nice and pleasant - and usually I want something a little more raw and experimental.
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Monday, December 5th, 2016 10:36 pm
Two major events on Saturday and three on Sunday make for a pretty full weekend. It started with visting [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce for another cheesequest session (Pont-l'Évêque was a personal favourite) followed by a chapter of Mice and Mystics, which we finished quickly and successfully through some particularly hardline decision making and some lucky cards that provides a delightful emergent narrative. Post-cheesequest we went out to The Astor to see the double of Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy; and ran into [livejournal.com profile] justadecoy, whom I hadn't seen for a couple of years. The latter film is, of course, charming and I've managed to see it three times now in recent months. The former I think will be lasting because in additional to some good character development it made excellent use of special effects and colours in a manner that was both artistic and clever in its simplicity.

Sunday started relatively early with a trip to the Unitarian Church, where Dr. Hans Baer was speaking on the recent US elections; it was entertaining enough even if I found myself mostly in disagreement with his strategic considerations, not to mention the only fleeting reference to religious content. Afterwards was a meeting of The Philosophy Forum, where Graeme Lindenmayer speaking on What is Life? What is a Life?, a primarily descriptive presentation but which drew light to some interesting edge cases where the binary between living and not-living becomes a little murky. Afterwards it was a journey to our Sunday session of GURPS Middle Earth which included revived discussion of the geopolitical situation and settlements, before narrowing down to the immediate scenario. Afterwards was a committee meeting for the RPG Review Cooperative which concentrated on the Papers & Paychecks Kickstarter, which remains frustratingly close to succeeding (go support this, now, please).
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Friday, December 2nd, 2016 10:46 pm
The end of the year is approaching and I find myself dearly wishing there was about another month so I would have a chance of completing the somewhat optimistic set of tasks that I manage to set myself each year. Of course, in such circumstances where I think many are finding themselves winding down, my psychology directs me to redouble my efforts. This can lead to some interesting conflicts as all sorts of social events are called around this time. Most prominent this past week was an extended lunch (approximately six hours) at Rosetta hosted by some representatives of SanDisk and HGST for a few of us (which couldn't have been cheap), and the day prior the Puppet Camp, the highlight of which was spending the day with former co-worker, Dylan G. He wins the prize for worst pun of the day when I wryly mentioned it wasn't much of a camp. "Oh yes, it is. Everything is intense", he quipped. Somehow among all this I've managed to finish my part of a co-authored paper with the good folk at the University of Freiburg HPC centre, in preparation for the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt next year.

Another activity over the past day has been getting the final touches of RPG Review issue 32 together, now that Frank Menzter's interview has been received. I am hoping to have it released before the weekend is out. The issue is heavily biased towards the various games and material relevant to TSR, which really founded the RPG hobby in their own right. At the same time, we're now into the final three weeks of the Papers and Paychecks Kickstarter which I am still optimistic can make it over the line before the due date at Christmas evening. Currently playing Eclipse Phase with our usual international group which mostly plays via Google Hangouts; we've been making our way through a playtest of some new experimental rules for the game, which we I will also test out with our Sunday group as well. Speaking of which it's also been confirmed that the next issue of RPG Review will feature Rob Boyle, designer of Eclipse Phase as the main subject for our upcoming Transhumanist issue, which is due by the end of the year. Certainly Eclipse Phase has bee the most significant RPG I've been involved in for a couple of years now; the exploration of plausible and dangerous post-human future with genuinely alien contact is far superior to much of what passes as science fiction film.
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Saturday, November 26th, 2016 05:56 pm
It's been quite a productive week (yes, this is coming from me). On Saturday was the Linux Users of Victoria beginners meeting concentrating on website development for the organisation, followed by the Isocracy Annual General meeting with Hans Baer speaking on democratic eco-socialism. We had to shift the AGM to the restaurant across the road as the New International Bookshop had forgotten about our booking. They're a bit genuinely embarrassed about it (which they should be) and are making appropriate amends. Tonight will be visiting prolific and sardonic political blogger, Richard O'Brien, who has recently announced his anti-One Nation Senate campaign. Also on the political agenda is the next meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby, which will feature association secretary, [livejournal.com profile] saithkar, speaking on Section 116 of the Australian Constitution (along with a general policy discussion).

Work-wise Monday and Wednesday were almost entirely taken up conducting training courses; Edward to Spartan Transition and Advanced Linux and Scripting respectively, both of which went very well as reflected by the feedback. On Monday also submitted an abstract for THETA 2017 concentrating equally on the design orientation and teaching of HPC for Spartan. Part of Friday was taking up co-authoring a paper with the good folk from the University of Freiburg for the International Supercomputing Conference. The rest of the day was negotiating user requirements for some large bioinformatics programmes (including Steminformatics and physicists (specificaly, the Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics). Also discovered this week that a book which I contributed to has just been released: The Crossroads of Cloud and HPC.

There's been many activities on the gaming front as well; with a session of GURPS Middle Earth on Sunday, and Laundry Files Australia on Wednesday. A big promotional push has been been initiated for the Papers & Paychecks Kickstarter - we need roughly a $100 per day for the next month to make the target and have been pushing out the personal emails requests quite heavily. In addition, the MARS library has been moved to a members house leaving us with the problem of how to shift it to Melbourne. It's a lot bigger than I remember it. In a related matter to genre-fiction last night we went out with [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce to see Hentai Kamen 2. The film suffers significantly in narrative development (something that the original did well) and with incomplete character development, making is sequence of scenes which are individually amusing; the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
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Friday, November 18th, 2016 11:58 pm
Interesting week so far from the RPG Review Cooperative perspective. On Wednesday finally received the great news that the old MARS library will be making its way to the Cooperative, which is a big bonus. That evening we went to our advertised movie night at The Astor, Shin Godzilla, the newest of the classic series. Included a lot of clever digs with a straight face at Japanese culture, raised issues Japanese political issues, of US-Japanese relations, environmental concerns, and even a somewhat plausible monster. The following night held another hilarious playtest session of Papers and Paychecks as the media team has to engage in some thoroughly loathsome projects for a loathsome boss. Tonight we're playing Eclipse Phase through our usual multinational group with the new playtest rules.

Have just finished, as promised in the last post, of my quantitative and qualitative review of the US election. The data simply does not lie, and it is actually good to see that analysts are coming to realise that the problem wasn't the identity-based swing states which everyone was paying attention to, but rather the Rust Belt wall which should have protected the Democratic nominee. Some of this will provide content to tomorrow's Isocracy Annual General Meeting which has Dr. Hans Baer, from the Development Studies Program, School of Social and Political Sciences, at the University of Melbourne talking on the possibility of union of socialist and environmentalist politics. Ultimately if these two approaches (along with traditional liberalism) are not reconciled then it is probably that conservative populism will continue its current streak of victories, despite the damaging effects.
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Saturday, November 12th, 2016 10:52 pm
In the global village, the local council election of the United States of America is certainly the most important. Like many others I was rather surprised (and quite horrified) by the election of Donald Trump this week. The psephologists were universally wrong. But at least they're doing the right thing and working out why. There has been a lot of silly opinion pieces trying to justify why the result occured, but the pre-election claims of Michael Moore turned out to be most prescient, not only for guessing that Trump would win but where he would win; namely by a failure to inspire the working-class states of the Great Lakes - that is really the only reason that Clinton lost; Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Unsurprisingly, I am currently in the midst of an article for the Isocracy Network on the election results with a few prescriptive solutions, the most obvious being don't ignore the working class. It also serves as a good focus for the Isocracy AGM (FB link) next Saturday at Trades Hall with Dr. Hans Baer speaking on the relationship between enviromentalism and socialism. This is certainly an issue which has relevance for the occasionally strained relationship here between the Australian Labor Party and the Greens. Similar lessons can be learned in this context; the importance of the environment may be paramount, but the protection of the enviroment will only occur with the support of the working class.

Speaking of work, in my fairly-well paid technocratic role it has been a very demanding week having returned from overseas. I fielded what I could what on the other side of the world, but the bulk of the effort was carried by NinjaDan who is really feeling the weight of what has been an increasingly quantity of technical requests, and certainly far beyond the capacity of 1 EFT looking after two HPC systems. In other work-related news [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya has received a new job offer with a good pay rise and engaged in the delightful act of handing a resignation letter to a firm which won the Golden Turd for poor work conditions.

In home life we still have the delightful Jane keeping us company at least for a few more days. There's big hole in the ceiling of our dining-room due to the effects of the water pipe issues from before we left for overseas and one in the back of the wardrobe in our attic bedroom which probably leads to Naria or somesuch. The Owners Corporation is currently having a debate on whether to keep the Courtesy Bus or not, which led me to make a post on the appropriate closed group on Facebook where I illustrated some of the unspoken costs of getting rid of it; it seems that most people who engaged in that discussion are also supportive in retaining the service. Finally, last night went to visit Brendan who has been having his usual unluck with housemates. It was good to catch up as always, and we laughed ourselves through the quite moving NZ film Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which of course reminded me that I need to visit the home country again.
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Sunday, November 6th, 2016 10:57 pm
Have just arrived back in Australia after a lengthy plane journey from Barcelona which included a thirteen-hour stop over in Dohar. Absolutely exhausted as a result, which is hardly surprising at all. Air Qatar, it must be said, is a really good airline serving quality food and offering a wide range of in-flight entertainment (although the user interface of their system could be improved a little). Highlight of the journey however is the particularly low flights on the Barcelona to Dohar leg of the journey over Egypt and Saudi Arabia which included a spectacular viewing the pyramids by night.

The last days in Barcelona were simply great. Spent a good period visiting the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre which is quite rightly described as hosting the most beautiful supercomputer in the world - the MareNostrum system is hosted in an former old church. Members of the center took us out for a great lunch where we covered various issues of systems architecture and planning.

For the remainder of the visit we spent a lot of time around the gardens of the Parc de Montjuïc, and the overwhelming Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. Whilst the former was peaceful, beautiful, and even romantic, the latter is an overwhelming collection of Romanesque, medieval, gothic, renaissance, and modern artworks - including the usual suspects of course, but also with a moving collection of material from the Spanish Civil War. It is an event that clearly still hangs heavy in the hearts of the Catalan people, and it was perhaps unsurprising that the final day in the city I spent visiting various anarcho-syndicalist bookstores and the CGT industrial union.

Thus ends my first ever tour of the European peninsula, and one which I think in hindsight I managed to do quite well if only for a one-month visit. Four countries, six HPC centre visits and presentations (including CERN and two other national facilities), one library research visit, one social science research institute visit, one week-long conference, a dizzying array of museums, art galleries, cathedrals, a couple of concerts, and I even managed to make myself understood - if poorly - in several different languages. I can certainly imagine making this a regular feature of my life.
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Tuesday, November 1st, 2016 09:22 pm
Last day of the OpenStack Summit was mainly workshops for developers, so took the opportunity to join the Spousetivities group to their visit to the Roman circus at Tarragona, then to the medieval town of Montblanc with an extensive lunch at Fond dels Angels, and finally a visit to the serene Cistercian Poblet Monastery.

Leaving our ocean-facing high-rise views for the conference, we've moved downtown to a location just as high but more real, on the Gran Via des Corts Catalanes. Here we rub shoulders with the local population, buy produce from their stores, eat at their small restaurants, and drink at their (many) small bars. Fortunately the staff have much better English (in the most part) than I have Castilian (let alone Catalan). The general town planning seems very intelligent, combining medium-high density, but with plenty of greenery to provide a pleasant atmosphere, and small parks to encourage community interaction. It was quite charming to see the number of local children frocked up for Halloween.

Tourist-like activities however have been prominent with a weekend and a public-holiday intervening to the normal schedule. This includes a visit to the Science Musuem with a special exhibition on the Spinosaurus. In what could be a religious experience, visited no less than three different gothic cathedrals on Sunday, including the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, Catedral de Barcelona, and Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi, then had lunch at the Plaça de George Orwell before visiting the excellent Parc Zoològic de Barcelona, where their kids petting zoo had a range of critters on display including Siberian filigree hamsters. Today, took the tourist bus around the city after a lengthy visit to Gaudí's (et al) masterpiece work, Basílica de la Sagrada Familia, perhaps the most extraordinary building I have ever been in - yet, but a candle to the light that is Milford Sound.

In other aesthetic activities the first week of the Papers and Paychecks Kickstarter has reached its end with approximately 19% funded. I was hoping for more by this stage, but it is good enough. However, in order for the project to succeed it must reach the minimum level to pay for printing costs etc. On other aesthetic tangents as promised I have just put up my review of 65daysofstatic in Barcelona on Rocknerd. Finally, if language can be described as a type of aesthetics (it's symbolic values, right?), last night after a Herculean effort, completed the Spanish tree on Duolingo - which is on top of Esperanto, French, and German for this year. As evidence that I may not be entirely sane and may be going native I have started Catalan for Spanish speakers.
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Friday, October 28th, 2016 11:31 pm
First week in Barcelona has reached its conclusion. On Monday night went to see 65daysofstatic at Razzmatazz. It was primarily material from their soundtrack to No Man's Sky, which I have previously reviewed on Rocknerd, but with some welcome elaborations, additions, and other material (including, for example, 'I Swallowed Hard Like I Understood' and 'Retreat! Retreat!' from The Fall of Math). The concert wasn't particularly huge, only around five hundred people or so, but 65dos put on a great show, and the live performance of the No Man's Sky soundtrack was given a new, raw, and abrasive sound from the album version. Plus the band was kind enough to chat to audience members afterwards. [personal profile] reddragdiva will be pleased to know that a review is pending.

I have started a Kickstarter for a new roleplaying game based on Will McLean's classic cartoon, Papers & Paychecks. The product is entirely for the RPG Review Cooperative, Inc., and nobody but the Cooperative will be receiving anything from this (well, apart from Australia Post and the printing company). It has been deliberatly launched one year after the author of the original cartoon passed away and personally I think it is a bit of a testimony to the many people who found it to a very witty contribution. The Kickstarter is going fairly well so far and I've set pretty modest targets, but I've had much less opportunity to engage in promotion that what I would like. As my first Kickstarter I would like to encourage people to take the opportunity to back this resistentialist and funny game which uses a lot of classic RPG concepts but with several new twists.

The official reason I am over here has been of course the OpenStack Summit. This is, of course, a huge deal with several thousand IT developers visiting and a huge stream of talks. OpenStack has, of course, taking a lot of the server world infrastructure by storm, although it has been less exciting in the world of traditional high performance computing. I managed to get to see several talks a day before ours which was was one of the last talks before the developer's workshops. To be honest, our talk Spartan Performance and Flexibility: An HPC-Cloud Chimera received a better response that any of the others I saw at the conference. The first question from the audience was Why isn't everyone doing this?, and it just got better from their with several major players expressing great interest in our combination of traditional HPC and cloud technologies. We all left that feeling pretty happy with the results, and certainly the University of Melbourne should as well. Next time I think we must bring NinjaDan along as well, because he certainly has been a key player in Spartan's development.
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Monday, October 24th, 2016 06:12 pm
Leaving Geneva we took the train to our next leg of the journey, Montpellier. I readily admit that it never has been a location that I had paid tremendous attention to, but now I've discovered the error of my ways. With over half a million inhabitants, approximately a third are students attending one of the three higher education institutions in the city. The main purpose of my visit was to visit CINES (Centre Informatique National de l’Enseignement Supérieur), one of the three major peak computational facilities for France, where several of their staff meet with me to discuss and compare various computational architectures and strategies. In evening we made our way to Ecusson, the historic old town of the city, a delightful maze of narrow streets, limestone buildings, and unexpected plazas, retail, and drinking establishments. I was particularly taken by the unexpected discovery of a busy plaza dedicated to Jean Jaurès, founder of the Section Française de l'Internationale Ouvrière, and overwhelmed by the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Montpellier.

The following day we took the train from Montpellier to Barcelona, making it the fourth country of visit in four days. To be honest by this stage I was getting quite tired of the ritual of waking early, journeying in the morning, visiting an HPC facility in the afternoon, and trying to get some sightseeing done in the evening. Most of the first day in Barcelona was coming to terms with the stunning ocean views from our apartment and - despite being a weekend - getting some more mundane work done. The following day however made our way to the Gothic Quarter, where we had lunch with Andrew S; I think the waiter was pleased by the fact that I ordered my meal at least in part with Catalan as well as Castilian. The desire for independence is strong in the city, and many buildings are adorned with the Estelada. We accidentally stumbled into a great local government exhibit of first president of the region, Josep Tarradellas, who spent most of his time in exile (Franco didn't particularly care for his politics), before making our wy to the the local section of the Barcelona City Museum, which of course, the underground Roman and Visigothic ruins were quite the highlight. Now getting ready to see 65dos at Razzmatazz - and debating whether to see The Chemical Brothers on Thursday night at the same venue.
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Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 07:57 am
Nearly every international trip has issues, and for us it was the journey from Freiburg to Geneva. The bus from Freiburg was about ninety minutes late (for a one hour trip). To make matters worse, at Basel discovered that our train tickets had been allocated for the day of purchase, rather than the booked day - a rather expensive problem which I am following up. The journey itself, via Basel and Neuchatel was pleasant enough, as we passed through semi-mountainous countryside with deciduous foliage and small towns. Despite these various problems and a few emails explaining our situation, we made it to Geneva unscathed and eventually made it through to CERN itself where were very well received by Gav and the compute team who gave us a tour of the facilities as well as presentations on the the subject - it even became an "official" CERN event. It was, of course, highly educational in the relatively simplified manner of how the particle physics experiments are conducted and unsurprisingly in the huge quantities of data used.

CERN itself is perhaps the single-most famous scientific institution in the world responsible for two massively important discoveries - W and Z (weak nuclear), antimatter and a Higgs boson. Crossing multiple countries (we walked across the Swiss-French border a few times), it has the feel of a cross between a postgraduate university campus and workshop. This may be obvious enough in terms of personnel (they circulate through international physicists at an notable rate) and the lack of business attire, but is was also particularly evident in resourcing. Expenditure is not on offices or furnishings, which mostly could have easily been cheap fashions from three decades old at least - but rather on the engineering and scientific equipment. Essentially it the world's most expensive "skunkworks" - and it works. Now let that be a message to those who disdain their scruffiness, irreverence, and informalities. Because at the same time, the same culture works with extreme precision, seriousness, and commitment.
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Thursday, October 20th, 2016 07:23 pm
Second day in Stuttgart involved a visit to the local university, where is the home of the High Performance Computing Centre, which includes a Department of Philosophy of Science and Technology of Computer Simulation. From the latter group I received a summary presentation of each of the research projects. From the main body, attended the large (sixty plus) advanced parallel programming class lead by Dr. Rolf Rabenseifner and a visit, of course, to the data centre. The HPCC is home of one of the most powerful (currently 9th) computer systems in the world; Hazel Hen, a Cray XC40-system - along with the remains of a Cray II. Afterwards took a two hour walk home which was mostly through dense urban forest, a surprisingly delightful detour courtesy of Google Maps recommended path. That evening took the family to Weinstube Froehlich an excellent traditional Swabian restaurant. The lovely Kinder had already received their special present - a couple of Australian Menagerie and all the supplements we could find.

From Stuttgart we caught the dawn bus service to Freiburg im Breisgau, a visit which, alas, all too brief for a single day. We stayed next to the Stadtgarten on the edge of the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität district and the old city. The (often reconstructed) medieval area does feature the extremely impressive Freiburg Minster, a massive high-gothic construction which was first built in the 1100s, then added to successively over the next four hundred years. The internals are quite a sight, almost enough to convert someone if only in recognition of the human effort and creativity involved. The main part of the day of course was a visit to the university HPC centre (consisting of a a tour of the facilities, a long discussion and comparison of differing architecture and management) was very valuable. It is interesting that they are also doing a cloud-HPC hybrid system, albeit with quite a different architecture - which can be summarised as the differences between a chimera and a cyborg. We have a multi-headed system, and they have cloud instances within their compute nodes. I am already seeing several papers coming out and much closer collaboration from these visits.
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Monday, October 17th, 2016 04:20 pm
Journeyed from Frankfurt to Schwarzwald via train, changing at Karlsruhe and then to Freudenstadt (whose name translates as "City of Pleasures"). From Freudenstadt we were collected by relatives to be taken to their "little cottage" (Herrenwald) in Schwarzwald, which is two refurbished barns whose foundations date from the early 16th century. The area is high ground and denseley forested with firs and ferns resulting (as the name indicates) a very dark and cool place. As one could expected we took several long walks with great views ("panoramaweg"), along with visits to Mummelsee, legendary home of a water spirit (Nix), hence the logo, which was also an opportunity to eat Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, and a morning on a tour of the Alpirsbach Abbey, an 11th century Benedictine monastery.

From the Black Forest we have travelled to Stuttgart for a few days, where we took the afternoon to visit the rather impressive Mercedes Museum, both in form and content, which includes several stories of vehicle history and engineering well correlated with historical events. The city itself lives up to its traditional name ("mare's garden") with a heavy automative influence, being the world headquarters of Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, along with parts manufacturers Bosch and Mahle. "See if you can smell the money", as one Australian friend advised me on this trip. Afterwards made visit to the Bismarck Tower and today (having had one work meeting shifted to tomorrow) too the opportunity to spend some time in the Ludwigburg Palace, an enormous building and grounds with highly differentiated baroque and neoclassical styles. Built in the early modern period, one could sense the opulence and excess that came from medieval royal lines - and the impetus towards revolution that would come in the future.
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Friday, October 14th, 2016 03:59 pm
There was something quite perfect about landing in Doha, capital of Qatar, listening to The Clash doing "Rock The Casbah". The end of the first leg of the gruelling journey with plentiful but poor in-flight entertainment there was one good LP from the selection, the Hits Back compilation by aforementioned band. To their credit, Qatar airlines is quite comfortable and the airline food (which they keep on providing) was of a very high quality. From the transfer from the massive Doha airport it was another several hours before landing in Frankfurt, a stunningly simple transfer through German customs and then to Five Elements Hotel, an extremely well-priced and comfortable hostel in the middle of the red light district.

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

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

Today was spent almost entirely at the Center for Scientific Computing at the Goethe University, discussing their various system configurations, and sitting through one of their training courses on high performance computing using Slurm. It was a very comprehensive course but I felt that it could have done with more hands-on activities. As it was the in-class conversation with the systems staff and researchers was excellent. Aferwards they took us out to some traditional Frankfurt dining at Lamer Esel (The Lame Donkey). Apropos this I have written a presentation for the four HPC centers I am visiting in Germany and Switzerland, A Cloud-HPC Hybrid Model for HPC Centres. Now it is time for the train and a weekend in Schwarzwald
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Tuesday, October 11th, 2016 10:47 am
Tonight we leave for Europe for a month (it took me a few minutes to pack). Our wonderful housesitter, Janie G., has arrived and familiarised herself with the environment. She has already proven her weight in gold by a timely discover of a resisentialist event; a water pipe on the second floor has burst, dripping through the ceiling plaster. That's going to be annoying and probably expensive to repair.

Currently at eResearchAustralasia, former co-worker Andrew Underwood is giving a very high-level keynote on artificial intelligence work at Dell. In the afternoon I'll be presenting on Spartan with a a further lightning presentation later on. The conference itself reminds a lot of Questnet, insofar there's big vendor input and a little light on the technical level.

Edit: Presentation went extremely well for such a short talk. Engaged and interested audience with a good turnout with people from several institutions expressing great interest on what we have done and considering adopting our model for their future implementations.

Appropriate for the Europe journey, I have joined The Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy. The good folk at the Institut für Sozialforschung have done some searching for me for works by Frederich Pollock. The following morning will be visiting the Frankfurt Center for Scientific Computing, who have gotten back to me. I have managed to list several places that we should visit at each city in this whirlwind tour.
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Saturday, October 8th, 2016 12:21 am
Linux Users of Victoria had its AGM on Tuesday night with Scott Penrose talking about the use of Linux in Arctic and Antarctic conditions for satellite date; a great presentation and once again I find myself on the committee for another term. The following night attended a Socialist Left post-election union meeting at Trades Hall. It was what could be expected, burly left-wing unionists from the CFMEU, the ETU, the AMWU, the MUA, etc being prominent in the event and raising funds for the CUB 55, but also with a significant portion of young Labor left attendees. The meeting was well addressed by Senator Kim Carr, but the headline act was Labor leader and apparently Prime Minister apparent, Bill Shorten. Shorten is note exactly from the left by any stretch of the imagination but he does have a degree of political cunning and he certainly does understand union issues as illustrated by an impressive speech. I was very surprised when afterwards he broke from the group he was with to greet me - it has been some fifteen years since we were in any sort of regular political contact. Apparently one does not need political power to retain at least the status of being worthy of consideration.

Work has been ridiculously busy with the usual gaggle of tickets, infrastructure testing, and paper preparations. A major achievement has been shifting data - some of it over ten years old - from a long-retired HPC system. A good meeting today with a representative of Mathworks who provided an educated and interested summary of various types of parallelisation with Matlab. I must admit that I was a little stunned when an alleged adult educator claimed that 'andragogy' was a buzzword, and then contrary to their own claims that adult education is a peer-to-peer relationship rather than instructor-learner, cut off an important issue raised in a computing lecture that illustrated the potential of an off by one error. It was less than a personal affront or an example of workplace idiocy, which I usually take in my stride, but rather it offended the core principles of adult computer science education, something which I have a surprising attachment to, and confirmation of some rather unfortunate functional issues common in contemporary organisations. Afterwards continued my rants with the good hackers from 2600.

Europe preparations continue to go extremely well. My preparation of the core languages from Duolingo (German, French, Spanish, Esperanto) are at pace, and as a tangent I have just put in a request for Tetum (if they don't do it, I'll write my own). All transport and hotels booked, with the exception of our final week in Barcelona. Have also managed to come across some Frankfurt School researchers who are holding a conference just outside our visit, alas. Neverthless has already developed opportunities for further collaboration especially on the works of Friedrich Pollock, who was director of the Institute for many years and had a very interesting take on the transformation of market capitalism into authoritarian collective capitalism and the state-regulated class-compromise capitalism of the twentieth century, along with issues on automation. Whilst the Frankfurt School were very much into psychology, sociopathologies, and aesthetic criticism, their multidisciplinary approach did not preclude those with an economic and technological orientation of which Pollock is representative.
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Monday, October 3rd, 2016 10:36 pm
Whilst others on Saturday were concerned on which side of the grand ritual of the boot would be premiers for the year, we nerdlingers held a Cheesequest day, between myself [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya, [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla, and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce. I made a small mountain of liptauer (including a surprisingly tasty vegan not-cheese variant), which was contrasted with a crumbly Warrnambool cheddar, and some Wensleydale with cranberries. All of which was accompanied with a tofu goulash, which another European dish of "find vegetables, add 'x' (spices, stock, cream etc), simmer". Afterwards we played the classic realist-comedy game of Junta where one plays a ruling family of a Latin American dictatorship. The idea, of course, it to get as much money as you can into your Swiss bank account from foreign aid before the international backers give up on you. An early run as El Presidente followed by a well-time assassination resulted in my victory.

Overall it was a good weekend for games; played Eclipse Phase Mars on Friday night via our usual multinational Google Hangouts group, and on Sunday ran the Eclipse Phase Extrasolar group, and gave them a little more than they bargained for with robotic spiders under the sea. It is something worth realising; GMs of Eclipse Phase can be a lot challenging to their player-characters because of the backup system - even more so than fantasy GMs with various Raise Dead or Resurrection magics. Indeed, there is something to be said about the hostile alien system where the GM goes out of their way to confront the PCs with deadly forces that are beyond their capacity to defeat in a stand-up conflict. Interestingly the game dove-tailed well with The Philosophy Forum group which met earlier that afternoon. Our planned speaker had fallen ill and thus could not attend, but nevertheless was kind enough to provide some papers on the pro-technology environmentalism and its relationship with transhumanism, which was just as well given the excellent turnout.

Baa baa black sheep how much wool can you carry? 'Well, it all depends on the load-bearing capacity of my legs, and now we have new ways of calculating this'. Yes, I'm the co-author of a published paper (I helped with the computational side of things) with the snappy title: Spatial Distribution of Material Properties in Load Bearing Femur as Characterized by Evolutionary Structural Optimization. I have also been preparing papers for my presentations at eResearch Australasia next Tuesday, and OpenStack Summit in Barcelona in three week's time. Janie G., from SA will be our housesitter whilst we're away. All legs of the transport are now booked with a combination of train and bus through Germany, Switzerland, France, and Spain. In the next couple of days I'll get what remains of the hotels bookings done.
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Friday, September 30th, 2016 10:48 pm
Victoria can be a strange state to live in at times. Today is a public holiday dedicated to a football grand final, with a massive parade through the city. The state also has a holiday dedicated in about a month dedicated to a horse race. I find both events incomprehensible. Melbourne Cup day seems to be an opportunity for people to dress up, ignore any sense of the style for the rest of the year, and get stupidly drunk. I can vaguely understand the appeal to the "aspirational" lower middle class who want to LARP as upper class for a day and fail miserably. Why would you want to do that? For the AFL ritual of the boot, I even understand watching the game. It a highly dynamic game that requires a high level of both natural talent and skill. The phenomenology of the viewing contrasts significantly with cricket. Viewing Australian Rules Football has a high level of intensity; cricket is like background music - occasionally something interesting happens, and it has a narrative, but its mostly low-intensity viewing.

It's not as if I don't grok sport, even competitive sport. In my grade school teen-aged years I was quite the player; in summer an opening bowler for a local u/18s cricket team, in winter an interschool football player (half-back flank with occasional ruck rover), ruby player (oddly, wing), and when I could, Gaelic football, lacrosse, and European handball. I was one of the school's best medium distance runners - anywhere from 400m to 3000km I excelled at. There was other outdoor pursuits as well; especially rowing, cross-country running, archery and the like. There were a few things that put me off such activities however shortly after starting university. Firstly, there was university where my interests rapidly moved to political activism, intellectual investigations, the trinity of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll. Secondly, the sporting institutions themselves struck me as being more than a bit yobbish and had commanded far too large a portion of income and expenditure for what they did. Thirdly, was sports fans as a group, with the partisanship and anti-intellectualism, and often loutish behaviour. But buggered if I can work out why people want to go to the AFL parade, let alone why the day has a public holiday, as if any of it has existential importance.
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Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 01:21 pm
Last night was a vist to The Astor for the classic SF double, The Thing and Videodrome. Prior to the movie we ate at Kabul Flavour which is inexpensive, tasty, and with friendly staff. The films were absolutely superb of course - I have seen them multple times previously, and at $12 for the night, a steal. Unlike so much popular SF both films are founded on fairly hard science premises, the notions of an alien life form that mimics and assimilates other life on a molecullar level, or the ideal of extreme subliminal stimuli generating hallucinations and madness. What especially appeals to me (as a founder of a science fiction club at university) is that the stories are disturbing on a psychological level. They are, in my opinion, what science fiction should be about. SF (or fantasy) which is just contemporary culture with spaceships can, at best, provide humour (Red Dwarf, Quark) or even some camp charm (Dr Who, Star Trek). But when a person walks out thinking "that was disturbing", or even better still, "that was alien", science fiction has done its job. Which is part of the reason I play Eclipse Phase and look forward to the day that someone has the courage to make a film of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.

Apart from that the past few days have been relatively normal; went to The Luwow on Saturday night to catch up with Stean V's visit to Melbourne. They've done a 'tropical gothic' aethsteic really well, if you can imagine such a thing, and a couple of quite good psychedlia and psychobilly, respectively, bands playing. Preparations for Europe continue as I power through revisions on Duolingo for the four languages of choose (German, French, Spanish, and Esperanto), and bookings of various train connections and hotels between cities. I've also made some progress on Papers and Paychecks, but with a lot to go before the Kickstarter launch date, and played a somewhat truncated session of GURPS Middle Earth on Sunday. My review of Castles and Crusades, originally from RPG Review, has been posted on rpg.net. Finally, the relative break in the training programme at work has meant that I can get back to preparing presentations for eResearchAustralasia and OpenStack in Barcelona, and a bunch outstanding software installs and job scripts.
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Thursday, September 22nd, 2016 07:19 pm
It's been a interesting past week for various gaming endeavours. The next issue of RPG Review is coming out soon, although it will be slightly delayed as our guest interview subject - Frank Mentzer - will be away for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile I've been working on Papers and Paychecks, along with several reviews, with a planned Kickstarter launch on October 24. In actual play the Eclipse Phase session last Sunday involved transporting alien eggs (what could go wrong?) to a transhuman habitation and a visit to the cold water world of Droplet. Tonight will be running Delta Green Mimesis, a home brew system that is a stripped down version of GURPS on a simulationist perspective and a built-up version of HeroQuest from a narrativist perspective.

Today was an gruelling day in training, running a course on parallel programming, covering issues in computer architecture, data parallelism using job submissions, library and package extensions in existing applications and programming languages, usage of OpenMP shared-memory programming, finally MPI distributed memory programming. Most of the people were already fairly experienced in the subject, so I hope it wasn't too simple for them. That will be the last training course for several weeks, as Europe beckons. After that courses are being planned for economics (primarily maths and stats), and engineering (numerical solvers and continuum mechanics) It was meant to be an introductory course. Afterwards was the HPC Users Forum where I gave a short presentation on various transition actions from the Edward to Spartan systems and updates on the latter. Not a huge attendance, but a worthwhile one.