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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.
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Saturday, November 26th, 2016 05:56 pm
It's been quite a productive week (yes, this is coming from me). On Saturday was the Linux Users of Victoria beginners meeting concentrating on website development for the organisation, followed by the Isocracy Annual General meeting with Hans Baer speaking on democratic eco-socialism. We had to shift the AGM to the restaurant across the road as the New International Bookshop had forgotten about our booking. They're a bit genuinely embarrassed about it (which they should be) and are making appropriate amends. Tonight will be visiting prolific and sardonic political blogger, Richard O'Brien, who has recently announced his anti-One Nation Senate campaign. Also on the political agenda is the next meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby, which will feature association secretary, [livejournal.com profile] saithkar, speaking on Section 116 of the Australian Constitution (along with a general policy discussion).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Stuttgart we caught the dawn bus service to Freiburg im Breisgau, a visit which, alas, all too brief for a single day. We stayed next to the Stadtgarten on the edge of the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität district and the old city. The (often reconstructed) medieval area does feature the extremely impressive Freiburg Minster, a massive high-gothic construction which was first built in the 1100s, then added to successively over the next four hundred years. The internals are quite a sight, almost enough to convert someone if only in recognition of the human effort and creativity involved. The main part of the day of course was a visit to the university HPC centre (consisting of a a tour of the facilities, a long discussion and comparison of differing architecture and management) was very valuable. It is interesting that they are also doing a cloud-HPC hybrid system, albeit with quite a different architecture - which can be summarised as the differences between a chimera and a cyborg. We have a multi-headed system, and they have cloud instances within their compute nodes. I am already seeing several papers coming out and much closer collaboration from these visits.