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It's been a strange and disruptive past few days, and one which I am at peace with a certain resilience to stich things together and still have the opportunity for other actions. Initially the most serious problem was the discovery early Tuesday morning that Spartan had crashed. I quickly diagnosed it as a networking issue; the home, project, and scratch directories had all been lost and along with it, every running job screamed and died. As others came on board and I fielded users, we eventually narrowed it down to what appears to be a bug in a Cisco switch that was sending duplicate packets. Congratulations are due to Nhat, NinjaDan, Linh, and Mark M., for their efforts here. Making good of the opportunity we restarted all the nodes with a kernel upgrade as well, which were intending to do anyway, and brought nearly all the partitions online. Overall the detection, investigation, and recovery took the better part of two days, and I cannot help but be impressed by how calm and smoothly the operations ran under such apparent disaster. Arguably the degree of panic in situations like this is an indication of experienced versus inexperienced sysadmins.



The following day went to the hospital to visit Rick and also to see the social worker and doctor to discuss his situation. I signed myself up to pay for his transitional care until VCAT approves my application to receive power of financial attorney in addition to medical attorney. Six months ago he was giving presentations on the admixture of modern humans with archiac hominids, and the peculiar differences between reptilian and mammalian brains. Now, due to rapid onset dementia, he doesn't know what suburb he'd lived in for the past thirty years, the fact he has a brother, or where he was born, and his vocabulary has been reduced to probably less than a dozen words. He'll be spending his days staring out the window or at the television in his room, and that's all there is to it. I'll visit his flat and see if there's any music for him, based on prior studies. It's terrible witnessing such a clever and diverse mind disappear so quickly.

There have been other activities in the past few days. I have preparing heavily for the Isocracy AGM on Wednesday evening which will be addressed by Kos Samaras, assistant state-secretary of the Victorian ALP, speaking on The Reawakening of the Working Class. My own latest written contribution to Isocracy in the past few days has been a piece of the advantages of proportional representation. On Wednesday night we caught up with old university science fiction friend and now Greens activist, Tom S. and friend to see the director's cut of Dark City, the noir SF film which still well holds over the years. Finally, to finish things off last night went to a meeting of Free Software Melbourne at Electron Workshop; whilst it was supposed to be a games night we were distracted by the presence of Margaret Gordon, a documentary maker who wanted to know more about this Linux thing.
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The past couple of days have seen two of my proposed presentations accepted by two difference conferences. One is for eResearch Australasia on andragogical methods in teaching high performance computing, which I'll be helped by an HPC educator from Goethe University Frankfurt, and the second being the IEEE eScience conference in New Zealand on cluster-cloud architectures which I'll receive assistance from the HPC group at the Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg. In addition, Friday was a particularly good workday as we held a workshop for about a dozen various HPC systadmins from around the university, as part of the massive upgrade to the Spartan system from being a relatively small and experimental system, to one of the most powerful in the world. I effectively have been given the coordinating role for this group and already several good ideas have come out the workshop for improvements and preparations as we integrate a six-rack GPU partition to our existing infrastructure. Apropos I am off to NCI in early September for their HPC course and will be taking the PRACE online supercomputing course to see how they do things.

Yesterday we visited [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce for our irregular CheeseQuest and the next chapter of Mice and Mystics, which was not at all successful for the noble rodents. Afterwards played game of Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu, which we prevented the destruction of the world with one turn to spare - it's notably a very quick game. On returning home completed a review of Hunter Planet which will soon be going into RPG Review. I've just been in contact with the original author about my ideas for rules revisions (most of which I tested over 25 yeares ago) and a new scenario implementing Peter Jackson's Bad Taste. I'm also currently writing a version of GURPS Autoduel to fit with the Mad Max series, all of which are contributions to the now late issue of RPG Review.

It is good to able to return to a moderately normal set of topics in life. Previous posts of deaths, funerals, and loss of cognitive functions have been quietly uspetting, despite a calm personal exterior. About twenty years ago a person, who didn't know me that well, was engaged in conversation about motivation and emotions. He used the phrase 'Still waters run deep' to describe me. I appreciated the accurate encapsulation, and indeed have tried cultivate that part of my character (not always successfully). As an obvious variation, I am certainly not the silent type and express my considered views with some abandon. But it is the considered views that I express. I will either ask a question if I don't know something or I will make proposition if I am fairly certain of something. It is part of my recognition (and I do lay claim to coining this phrase) that deeply considered convictions are better than deeply ingrained prejudices, even if the emotional response is the same.
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Last day in Perth was dedicated to spending at Erica W.'s funeral at the Fremantle Cemetery. It was, of course, an opportunity for the living to catch up and express their sorrow at the loss of this marvellous and talented woman. There was, of course, humorous anecdotes, sound advice from the departed, and genuine outpourings of grief. I particularly feel for Lucas, her husband of the past seventeen years, who was very close to her in both the personal and professional sense. A sensitive soul in his own right, these must be very difficult days for him. The celebrant also mentioned that in several locations around the world smaller services were being held in her honour, a tribute to her scope and talent, and finished with a recommendation from the departed: Get weird!.

The day after my arrival in Melbourne was Lachlan's funeral at the Renowden Chapel at the Springvale Cemetery and Botanical Gardens (whoever thought of that combination had their head screwed on right). The inclusion of Lachlan's top-hat on the coffin was a particularly beautiful and sad feature. Again, almost in mirror form, included some frankly hilarious stories and reflection on those deeply honourable features of his personality. As Lachlan was in the habit of calling for birthday drinks, due in around a month, [livejournal.com profile] damien_wise and myself have stepped up to the task of organising one more celebration for this great individual.

It is a curious twist of the tyranny of distance and time that Erica W., and Lachlan S., never met each other. If they did, I am certain that they would have gotten along famously. With similar sensibilities, and quite clearly similar tastes in fashion, I have a mental image of Erica taking great delight in designing an outfit for Lachlan who, true to his style, would have worn it everywhere. I know there is a handful of people who knew both of them (including [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya). But I was the only one who was present at both departures. I feel like a curious trans-Nullabor bridge, a gregarious nature that has been blessed with the opportunity to know the spirits of two kindred individuals who should have met in life but never did.
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With an extended stay of three more days I've mostly been working remotely in hours that are not terribly out-of-sync with the rest of the team. Nevertheless, the extra time in Western Australia has afforded me the opportunity to catch up with a number of other people. The stay in the newly renvoated home of [livejournal.com profile] doctor_k_ and [livejournal.com profile] strangedave has been great, and I've had the opportunity to explore a bit of the Mount Hawthorn region which I lived in a for a while way back in 1986. It also has been the opportunity to catch up with several other Murdoch people from that era. Yesterday, I had a late lunch with Fabian U., and former Senator Brian G.. Apart from reminiscing on past times, a portion of the conversation turned to real estate. Fabian was looking for a place to purchase for his son, whereas Brian had worked for many years in the Real Estate Industry of WA. My own contributions to that discussion were mostly on the virtues of land tax and the problems of negative gearing. Afterwards, on a whim, Fabian and I went down to Fremantle to end the day. Fremantle is the harbour side town to Perth the city, and is a much more beautiful and welcoming place with its Victorian-era limestone buildings. We had a great chat about the relationship with deep learning and language. Likewise, the previous day I had caught up with another former Murdoch University colleague, Murray W., and discussed matters such as the state of various RPG clubs in comparison between Victoria and WA, and especially the political landscape, both on an Australian scale and with international comparisons.

Although there is not much that draws me to Perth in terms of style or culture, there are many old friends and memories here. In that regard, this has been quite a great trip. Apart from the aforementioned I have had the great opportunity to catch up with many and have spent extended time in the company of Bruce T., and [livejournal.com profile] thefon, Andrei N., and Arnold H., in particular. The journey hasn't really caused any great loss in productivity either, as I've been able to beaver away on various projects in early mornings and evenings, in addition to the time spent at the HPC Advisory Council conference. I am rather looking forward however to getting home to normal life back in Melbourne with [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya and Mac the Cat. Nevertheless, there is one most important thing to do here - and that's attend Erica W.'s funeral - and with Lachlan S.,'s on Monday, one can tell in advance what my next journal entry will be.
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I've been in Perth for the better part of five days now and will be staying a few more days to attend Erica W's unexpected funeral. My original plans were to stay at the Old Swan Barracks for historical reasons, despite some pretty dire reviews. Astoundingly, I was refused entrance on account of not having a passport, driver's license, or proof of age card. Instead, I've been at The Nest on Newcastle, which has been trouble-free. To their credit, booking.com have assured me that the Old Swan will now be required to advertise their ID requirements on their website. I'll be checking out today and will be spending the next few days in the company of [livejournal.com profile] strangedave in nearby Mount Hawthorn. Most of the first day was spent in the company of my old friend Andrei N., before heading off to Fremantle for a family dinner at Don Tapa, and a visit to [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya's mother the following day, who was pretty surprised to see me. That evening I was hosting a dinner of old friends in Maylands at Amore Mio. They certainly do good food, and catered quite well for our large (c15) crowd, although I take the point it is very noisy. An excellent meeting was also held with Daniel R., convenor of the Final Frontiers RPG group.

As for the HPC Advisory Council conference itself, that was a two day affair at the Pan Pacific Hotel. It was another opportunity to catch up with John Gustafson who delivered the keynote on the first day. Whilst all the talks were of a particularly high standard, I was also particularly impressed by the presentations by Tim Pugh from the Bureau of Meterology and Ashrat Ambastha from Mellonox. As for my own presentation on Architecture Diversity, the timetable was a getting a little out-of-sync but the time it was my turn; I personally felt it was somewhat rushed, but others tell me that it was good. Well, they're the audience so I'll trust their judgment. The conference also had two well-catered sundowners, one at the Pawsey Supercomputer Centre and the other at Down Under Geosolutions; I was very impressed with their data centre with oil immersion server cooling. Post-conference a number of us ended up at Bar Lafayette, which is probably Perth city's best cocktail bar (not that I'm biased); the night ended with the visit from the absinthe faery.

When I return to Perth The Philosophy Forum will have presentation by Don H., on Capitalism and Socialism, which dovetails quite well with a recent publication on New Matilda on the distinction, although said article is a little light on some of the more difficult questions on economic calculation. Appropriately however the annual general meeting of the Isocracy Network is coming up on August 23 at Loi Loi resturant with Kos Samaras, assistant state secretary of the ALP speaking on the state of working class politics. On topic, the Network has taken up publishing a flurry of material from Wes Whitman whose "libertarian social democracy" approach is certainly worth a review. On another related piece, congratulations must certainly go to [personal profile] reddragdiva with his publication Attack of the Fifty Food Blockchain, a critique of bitcoin and other crypto-currencies (short version: they're not money, they're collectable hashes).
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My arrival at Perth for the HPC Advisory Council conference was met with the news that Lachlan S., had passed away. He had been a good friend for many years and was well-received by all. He'd been working - as so many of us do - in various forms of IT support and provisioning. In January 2011 however he was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and as he said at the time, the worst sort. I recall it being mentioned that the medical prognosis was giving him six months or so. More than six years later, here we are, giving our parting words to one of the great providers of style and wit.

Style and wit? Lachlan would carry himself in the fashion of Victorian England, and not just on a special night out. Looking like a character from a Sherlock Holmes novel, cape, top-hat, and cane was not uncommon features. True, we did see him occasionally in black-clad t-shirt and jeans, albeit covered with a Victorian-era jacket. As for wit he could bring colour, charm, and insight to many conversations. Only a few occasions did I ever see him use this weapon of the mind in anger however - and invariably this was related to political issues. In that field one could fairly describe as a sentimental liberal socialist; he cared deeply about the rights and welfare of people, and there would be a spark when he saw instances of injustice.

Over the past several years there have been a few times when Lachlan and I have been particularly close. On his askance, I ran an RPG game of 7th Sea: Freiburg for over a year (his character rose from being a mercenary sargent to the military leader of a city), and following that Eclipse Phase, where his transhuman computer hacker bouncer was so well-designed I struggled to find reasons why he couldn't simply press the 'I win" button. It was also during this time that the Victorian Parliament was seeking submissions for their inquiry in to End of Life Choices. I had written two myself, and encouraged Lachlan to make a submission - his was of such personal import that he was asked to give direct evidence to the committee itself.

Like many I have been honoured by the time and friendship that Lachlan has given to me and to others. His birthday parties at the Back Bar in Prahan were invariably a great opportunity for so many of us to catch up in a setting and environment was well-suited for the company that he kept. I'm tempted to suggest that every year that tradition is continued. Because at the moment, all those moments are now but happy memories of the time we spent together. The world is a lesser place with his parting.
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Apart from dealing with multiple medical issues that I've raised in previous posts, I have had the opportunity to engage in my favourite hobby othe weekend - traditional roleplaying games. On Friday evening I participated in what I call Eclipse Phase Mars, on the basis of its standard location (although most recently this has involved extrasolar gatecrashing etc). This particular group meets primarily on Google Hangouts with players in Western Australia, Vietnam, Victoria, and New Zealand. I've missed a couple of sessions of this game, partially due to technology issues (my computer screen was completey destroyed on my last trip to NZ, so I've been trying to work with a dinky Asus Aspire One), and partially because of international trips. Both of these have affected my ability to complete Papers & Paychecks; although I did release an update on Saturday morning following completing the bestiary section, and integration a number of significant changes, even this late in the publication process.

Saturday was also a regular CheeseQuest day with [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce. Given the cool weather, our lunch feast consisted of a pumpkin gnocchi and Nova Scotia brown bread. The cheese feast included fried saganaki and halloumi, havarti, maasdam, gorgonzola, Dutch smoked, and two not-cheeses, a faux cheddar and "tree nut" cheese, which are quite tolerable. I was rather taken by the Devil's Corner pinot noir that our guests brought over, light but tasty and with a brilliant ruby colour. After lunch was the second session of our historical-fantasy Dungeons & Dragons game, using the very different 4th edition rules in the setting of Charlemagne's rule. The game went very well, everyone plays up their character ethno-religious background and character class, as they cleared out a old Roman-Germanic temple in Freisland haunted by Wiedergänger.

Sunday was also a gaming day, this time with my own game of Eclipse Phase. This session involved the PCs engaging in a short-case to an autonomist morph resleever on one of Neptune Trojans, then taking a stealth craft to intercept an Ultimate scout ship en-route to Eris. There was an almighty gun-battle that followed which eventually saw the PCs successful, and partially courtesy due an inside agent providing assistance at the last moment. After that was the challenging process of psychosurgery and the literal merging of minds. More on that for the next session. Appropriately I've started reading the two books entitled Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy (one published by Open Court, 2012 and the other by Wiley Blackwell, 2014)
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"Fiery the angels fell; deep thunder rolled around their shores; burning with the fires of Orc"

Yesterday I was informed that an old friend and former housemate in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Erica W., had died of a stroke. For those that knew her, this has been a terrible shock. She was relatively young, and seemed so alive, and seemed to have so much to contribute to this world. It is a harsh reminder that friends can be lost at any time with the randomness of life.

When I first met her she and her partner at the time, James, were in their mid-teens. Intelligent, attractive, highly alternative, and very fashionable, they were already living together and regularly visiting local nightclubs, where they were very well-regarded for the characteristics mentioned. There was an especially amusing moment when a local newspaper printed her in a vox-pop what her preferred nightclub was - and mentioned her age in the credit.

"Morphology, longevity, incept dates"

Whilst in Perth we shared two households at different times - the first was the famous "accelerated house", a dilapidated duplex pair with questionable plumbing. Part of the duplex was the home of the Accelerated Men, a goth band of some repute. The place was wired up a local area network with a AlphaMicro AM-100, and came with its own stray cat (Velocity) which I adopted. Several years later, at the final place where I lived in Perth, we were in more normal accommodation. I could help but chuckle a little at my highly fashion-conscious housemates who could spend hours in preparation on going out. I also remember showing them the Internet at the time; a text-based interface to usenet groups. "This", I implored sagaciously, "is going to change everything". I don't think they quite believed me at the time, so it was with great fondness catching up with James just a couple of years ago, and recalling that moment, he said: "And you were right!".

At the time Erica was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, and despite being a witty conversationalist, was physically in the doldrums. A few years later however, and I suspect heavily because of the direction provided by our mutual friend Bruce T., there had been a complete change, as she had become quite a figure in the fashion industry and was running her own label and store, Alysian Empire. I still have some of their clothes to this day. Later she would go on to have another fashion label of even greater renown, ericaamerica.

In the post-Alysian Empire period we only caught up in person a couple of times, and more recently exchanged a few messages, courtesy of the 'borg of social media. Despite this we had the sort of friendship where years could literally go by and when we did get in contact our banter could continue as if no time had passed at all. It was a friendship built on mutual understanding and respect, of affirmation of each other, of strong and happy shared memories. The mention of her name in conversation would always brighten my day and bring me joy; but not this time.

"Tyrell had told me Rachael was special: no termination date. I didn't know how long we had together. Who does?"
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It's been a curious past few days; I spent most of Saturday working on the course for the researchers at Orygen Youth Mental Health which I presented on Monday. It went extremely well; I provided an overview of high performance compute clusters, environment modules and job submission using their preferred applications (MRtrix, Matlab, Octave, R, and especially FSL and Freesurfer. They were a large and very switched on group, and it brought me great pleasure when I received some rather positive responses in person and in email.

On Sunday visited the Unitarians to hear a presentation by the president of Dying With Dignity to speak on the upcoming legistlation such matters. Last year to the state government committee I contributed two submissions from different organisations on the matter, and legislation is expected soon. In a less positive manner, an old friend of mine has just found his way into hospital and I suspect he's in the position that he might not be getting better. Three years ago he appointed me enduring power of medical attorney. To top it all off, [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya's mother has found herself in hospital as a complication arising from her continuing illness.

It surprises me that there are those who begrudge public revenue raising and expenditure on health, as if the wealthy have more of a right to live than the poor. Even using the criteria of the 'dismal science', economics, it is obvious that having people alive and well is not just a private benefit to the person in question, it is also a public benefit. The is equivalent matter here with education as well, and likewise the private-public benefit is a continuum which includes current and future productivity of the person in question. All of this, of course, on top of matter of being in a society that cares for its less fortunate.
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The Situationists famously sought life without dead time and whilst I cannot say my own life fits the wild and tangential excesses of such bohemians, at least not in these elder decades, the past several days have certainly had their share of activity. Nevertheless I do worry sometimes that so much of my work these days - indeed these years - now falls under the category of 'boring but important'. Yet, much of this fits my intellectual disposition. I despair when I see people try to force the complex problems of reality into simply solutions, because these are invariably simply wrong, missing the issues of scope-appropriate solutions, partiality etc. It is not helped when the country's Prime Minister, of all people, remarked "The laws of mathematics are very commendable but the only laws that apply in Australia is the law of Australia", in the context of a debate on encryption.

Workwise the week started with the regular two days of Introduction to Linux and High Performance Computing and Shell Scripting for High Performance Computing. Not a bad group at all, and there were some plenty of awake individuals, especially on the second day. Later in the week spent a better part of a day carefully working through a particularly troubling install of Gaussian to ensure there had been no precision errors in compilation (their hadn't been, of course). Confirmation was received for a presentation at the HPC Advisory Conference, so there will be another visit to Perth at the end of the month. In addition an abstract has been put in for the Open Stack Summit in Sydney for November. Next week will be a training course for the neurologists at Orygen; I hold this one in very high regard - their work is extremely important.

In more social events, Wednesday night was our regular gaming session, and the second session of Andrew D's Megatraveller campaign, with an unexpected test of the combat system and the acquisition of a starship from religious fanatics. Thursday was the Bastille night evening and we had nephew Luke visiting. True to the day (or at least an educated peasant's version thereof), I cooked a pretty tasty coq au vin with a jug of French red, a selection of cheeses and fruit, and all to the sounds of Quatre mains pour une révolution. We provided a potted story of our journey, along with an exposition of the salacious tales of Serge Gainsbourg. Appropriately I have composed tonight my thoughts about Bastille day, and its contemporary relevance.
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The trip home from Bangkok was relatively painless as I immersed myself in the rather stylish The Man From U.N.C.L.E., followed by most of the first series of Westworld, which does a very good job of taking the basic setting of the original movie, but elaborating significantly on the key themes. I find it somewhat amusing that a lot of my popular culture film and TV catchup occurs whilst on a plane - either that or whilst visiting Brendan E., which we did the day after arrival and, in a somewhat retrospective mood, watched a few episodes of Drawn Together until jet-lag got the better of [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya.

The next few days were, unsurprisingly, very busy at work as I caught up with the various desk duties. I had a large Monoprix bag of swag from the two conferences to distribute to workmates which were graciously received. There was several tricky software installs to get through, which in at least four cases have succeeded in all their dependencies (and the dependencies of dependencies) but not the top-level application itself. An abstract for a presentation for the HPC Advisory Council conference in Perth in a few weeks, and a poster for the IEEE eScience conference in New Zealand. Just quietly, Spartan reached a million jobs during the week as well.

In a different milestone (kilometre stone?) I reached one hundred thousand points on Duolingo, albeit with some recent setbacks due to their Plus service. To their credit they fixed the break in my streak. Wednesday night was spent with Andrew D., and company with a session of the Elric! RPG (the local author just so happened to have turned 50 the following day as well). Appropriately I've been beavering away on the last words of Papers & Paychecks as well (the bestiary section, yes it has one). Some time has been spent on the most recent Isocracy Network newsletter, which includes articles and 'blogs from the last month. My own contribution is The Shambling Mound: Weeks 16-18.
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Last days on this European tour were spent in Frankfurt and the nearby town of Mainz. For the former I spent pretty much the entire day at the TotalView debugger debugger course at the Centre for Scientific Computing, Goethe University. It was particularly well run with core concepts explained well, then built upon, with plenty of hands-on examples. We stayed at the comfortable and inexpensive Adler Hotel. As an example of Frankfurt's contrasts it's one block parallel from the train station, and one block from the glass and steel that makes up the financial sector. It's location however is the middle of the red-light district, and we quickly dubbed the road Niddastraße into 'Needlestraße" on account of the dozen or so strung out heroin addicts who decided the middle of the pavement was a good place to self-medicate.

A short train trip from Frankfurt is Mainz, homeland of [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya's family. Quite a delightful town with architecture from ranging from the later medieval and early modern periods, it was also very interesting for me to go to the Gutenberg Museum. It is my considered opinion that with movable type and an alphabetic script it was from Mainz that the period of European modernity began. Also of interest for me was the location of the founding of the brief Republic of Mainz during the French revolutionary wars, the first democratic state in Germany. The chief organisers were the Jacobin-inspired Gesellschaft der Freunde der Freiheit und Gleichheit (Society of the Friends of Liberty and Equality), certainly a title I could get behind.

Leaving Europe we took the gruelling journ on Royal Siam air to Bangkok. Not much to say about the journey except that I had the opportunity to watch In the Heart of the Sea, a fairly good retelling of the wring of 'Moby Dick', and the frankly remarkable Hidden Figures, on the trials and successes of a group of African-American women mathematicians who worked at NASA in the early 1960s. As for Bangkok itself, it's incredibly humid. We've stayed at the thoroughly pleasant and inexpensive Salil Hotel 8, a short distance from the famous 'cowboy district'. It's been incredibly hot and humid and there's was little opportunity to explore, except for a couple of Singapore Slings including one at Cabbages and Condoms, a restaurant set up by a community development organisation promoting safe-sex and family planning. Alas, I did not get to play a game of chess to satisfy the famous song of the city.
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Emile Zola, in his classic novel Le Ventre de Paris, references quite heavily the smell of Parisian fish markets in the summer. Whilst I have managed to avoid such odours, as he describes in glorious detail, the alternating heat, humidity, and thunderstorms has turned the visit this city into a rather unexpected experience. Nevertheless, we were blessed on Sunday with a meeting with Gianna V., a local whom I've known online for several years with a mutual interest in Glorantha. Gianna took us for a walk along Le Petite Ceinture a former railline reclaimed public nature walk. The walk ended with a visit to a book market where I found myself in possession of several hefty art history tomes.

After that we visited Montparnasse Cemetery, final resting place of many famour people. We visited a good number of sites, but in particular I felt special respect for the sites of Simon de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, Alfred Dreyfus, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, and Jean Seaberg. Each of these are individuals who have had a major effect on my own intellectual and aesthetic development; I could write extensively on each. For now, just these words of recognition will have to do.

The work-week began with a visit with Loic N, at the L'Institut du Calcul et de la Simulation on their HPC operating environment and the impressive cross-disciplinary work that they do. The university was next door to the medieval Musée de Cluny so managed to get a good dose of that end of the historic spectrum as well. The following two days have been at the Conference Teratec at Ecole Polytechnique Paliasseau, some distance from the inner city. A good-sized (1300 attendees) the conference show-cased the major projects undertaken in France's HPC environment in their quasi-syndicalist approach (business, academia, and government working on mutual projects). With dusk not occuring until around 10pm or later, much of the evening has been spent on semi-random public transport trips, eating at simple restaurants, and just walking; an especially pleasant discovery was a large park and gardens, Parc Montsouris. It's good to know that the Parisians have dedicated a park to mountain mice.
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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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Diary of a B+ Grade Polymath

August 2017

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