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Saturday, February 18th, 2017 12:00 pm
An arrival to the South Island was met by fires in Christchurch. As if that poor city has not suffered enough from the terrible earthquakes of 2011 which still scar the city. The famed central Cathedral is now but a shell of what it once was, and like all great ruins is gradually being taken by nature. The official part of my visit was to the University HPC team who have shfted most of their facilities to their national infrastructure. Still, I managed to have enough spare time to vist the impressive Canterbury Museaum and take a walk around the botanical gardens before spending a night in a former prison cell, which is certainly an imaginative use of such facilities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As 2016 comes to a close there has been an apparent spate of celebrite deaths; I never particularly cared for the music of George Michael, although his philanthropy seems agreeable. SciFi fans are of course distressed by the death of Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher and doubly so with her mother, Debbie Reynolds, dying the following day. I noted the passing of Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, due to anthropomorphic affections. Somewhat overlooked however is Vera Rubin which leads to an interesting illustration between scientific endeavours and popular culture. The passing on of celebrities of the latter is more recognised; they touch a wider-range of people on an accessible level. The scientist does deeper work which arguably is more important, but is sufficiently esoteric that fewer people find that they have an immediate connection with it. As for the regulator and founder of moral laws? Well, apparently in a very few cases they become elevated to holiness.
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Saturday, December 24th, 2016 04:20 pm
Arrived in Perth for a flying festive season visit with [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya with Perth's temperatures soaring as is increasingly often the case to 42 degrees C. On arrival found out that there was a funeral service to attend for one Alf Graf, a hydralics engineer. I never knew him, but was a friend of [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya's family. One could not help but be impressed by the genuine sense of loss among those assembled. He was clearly a person of importance to his family and friends with almost three hundred in attendance with the obituaries mentioning in particular his good humour and generosity.

Yesterday was two big social events just in time for the summer solstice. Lunch was at Ruocco's Pizzeria E Ristorante in Fremantle with several lovely friends, including the ever-animated Grant Stone, Andrei Nikulinsky and [livejournal.com profile] stephen_dedman. Dinner, with about twice as many visitors, was at Amore Mio (FB) in Maylands with [livejournal.com profile] darklion, [personal profile] ariaflame, [livejournal.com profile] strangedave, and [livejournal.com profile] thefon in attendance among others. Both events were indeed notable for the fine food and great conversation over a range of topics.

Following morning we were at [livejournal.com profile] thefon's place trawling through the records of the Murdoch Alternative Reality Society, a club I formed in 1988. From what I can tell it operated until 2009, just making it into its 21st year but alas could not be revived from there. As well as the records there was also a substantial library, much of it science fiction and fantasy books which are not really worth shipping back to Melbourne. The roleplaying games however are, and a good portion of them will be merged into a semi-successor organisation, the RPG Review Cooperative. On that note, the next issue of RPG Review is going along very well, and as many would have already noticed, we easily made our Kickstarter for Papers & Paychecks. A very good way to end the year.
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Monday, December 19th, 2016 11:58 pm
What an extraordinary past few days. The first big surprise was the pleasant discover that Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing had given our Kickstarter a plug. The next couple of days our pledges tripled, leading to Kickstarter to reach its target with five days to spare. I was getting worried that nobody among the bigger geekdom media was going to pick up on our little joke, but Cory came to the party. A wonderful result, and now we have the problem of deciding how big our print run really should be - I am probably going to recommend to the committee that we go for caution.

The second event was the sixth wedding anniversary for [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya. As this is traditionally an "iron" gifting anniversary. You can guess what I bought her; the imagur photo story reveals all. Afterwards we went to visit our friend Lyle, who is recovering (very well) from having a stroke. On our return we watched A Very Long Engagement, which is very much in the French realist tradition - sensual, sad, violent, dramatic, amusing - all mixed together. Quite a brilliant film.

Today was my last day of work for the year, and what a great year its been. It was wrapped up with a ResPlat function at the Princess Park Bowls club. Tomorrow morning we head to Perth for familial duties - for friends we've organised a lunch and dinner both on the 23rd of December (solstice feast!) Ruoccos in Fremantle and Amore Mio in Maylands; looks like it will quite an Italian food day.
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Saturday, December 17th, 2016 11:55 pm
Today was a policy meeting for the Victorian Secular Lobby with a presentation on Section 116 of the Australian Constitution by [livejournal.com profile] saithkar. Not a heavily attended meeting but with a remarkable and genuine set of apologies which were graciously accepted. Secularism is, of course, one of my great loves - to develop public policy without a deliberate and willful non-consideration of metaphysical claims or applying special cases to religious institutions. Historically of course it has focussed on the separation of religious policy from public policy, and indeed there is plenty of work to be done there. But increasingly I am of the opinion that secularism should also mean use evidence-based research.

Case in point is this continuing conflict in Syria, which illustrates that secularism is necessary but not sufficient for a free and democratic society. The Baathist regime is more-or-less secular and even sometimes slips into fundamentalist atheism. When it comes to being responsible for causing the war crimes associated with civilian deaths, it is the secular fascists rather than the religious fascists (ISIL, Army of Conquest etc) that carry the overwhelming majority of the blame. Still, it should be clear by now that Russia and Syria are utterly indfferent to such things; they and their supporters have also been very indifferent to having a degree of veracity with two of their major public proponents, Bashar Jaafari lying to the UN, along with Lady Haw-Haw Eva Bartlett on war victims being "recycled". So whilst the Assadists are cheering on the carnage, Amnesty International has opened up for donations.

Other events of the week; Linux Users of Victoria on today with a report from the Internet Governance Forum, playtest sessions of Papers and Paycheckes on Wednesday night and Eclipse Phase on Friday night, along with sending interview questions to Rob Boyle for the next issue of RPG Review. Was supposed to go to [livejournal.com profile] txxxpxx's gala event tonight (and even made one of my amazing tiramisu for said occasion, but [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya has fallen ill, so we'll be missing that. In the work space, big events of the week included finally getting Gaussian and Julia installed, albeit the latter in not in the manner I would prefer. The great success (perhaps too successful) of Spartan apparently is reaching the ears of upper management who are open to the prospect of expansion - which would make sense for one of the world's top ranking universities (as they constantly remind us). Let us see what 2017 brings.
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Monday, December 12th, 2016 10:44 pm
It is true that I have several major interests in my life, external to hearth and mind. There is a professional dedication to provide researchers the skills to use free and open source computional tools. There is a political side dedicated to the practical implementation of personal liberty and social democracy, and the continuum that is between. There a long-standing interest in philosophy which, despite its innate propensity of some of its adherents to lead to unverifiable metaphysical presumptions and scholasticism, is at its heart the most important and most difficult field of inquiry. My other academic pursuits betray interests in organisational structure, strategy, and management, the effectis of normative systems on positive economics, and of course advanced adult and tertiary education. Aesthetically, I am known to have a some love of high art, yet also with deeply ingrained rocknerd sensibilities.

Then there's roleplaying games. My public vice whether it is from orcs, and hobbits, of faerie tales and dragons, or little green men from Mars, spaceships and wormholes, or even - to a lesser extent - superpowered individuals who wear their underwear on the outside. I know about 'Of Dice and Men', I have 'The Elfish Gene' (to use two pun-inspired books on the subject). But despite these popular culture affectations, where else do I find improvised theatre that places the characters in the heroic age of mythology, or the troubles of transhuman speculations. Where else do I find the exploration of models of reality with genre influences and debates? It is in roleplaying games, the undergound home theatre of the era, that is the only refuge for cerebral geekdom. After all there's not one, but two serious books entitled 'Philosophy and Dungeons & Dragons'. I feel it more important to do one on RuneQuest.

In any case this was a roleplaying weekend, starting no less with an interview with Dan Davenport from RPG.net on IRC over the upcoming Papers and Paychecks. Best line of endorsement that came from the interview: "I have to say, this game has some solid mechanics for a game based on a joke". After that I finished my interviews for the Alternity Player's Handbook and Gamemaster's Guide, and did a write-up of the last episode of our Eclipse Phase. The following day it was writing a review of the old TSR game Gangbusters (which took a lot less time), and putting it altogether to be released as RPG Review 32 which includes - no less - an interview with the author of BECMI D&D, Frank Mentzer. That afternoon was our session of Eclipe Phase using the new playtester rules which have some nice features (but that's all I can say at this stage, because I'm under a NDA). Of course, this wan't all I did over the weekend - but because things have been a bit RPG-heavy of late, I have felt the need to justify this idle pursuit within myslf.
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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.