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Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 01:21 pm
Last night was a vist to The Astor for the classic SF double, The Thing and Videodrome. Prior to the movie we ate at Kabul Flavour which is inexpensive, tasty, and with friendly staff. The films were absolutely superb of course - I have seen them multple times previously, and at $12 for the night, a steal. Unlike so much popular SF both films are founded on fairly hard science premises, the notions of an alien life form that mimics and assimilates other life on a molecullar level, or the ideal of extreme subliminal stimuli generating hallucinations and madness. What especially appeals to me (as a founder of a science fiction club at university) is that the stories are disturbing on a psychological level. They are, in my opinion, what science fiction should be about. SF (or fantasy) which is just contemporary culture with spaceships can, at best, provide humour (Red Dwarf, Quark) or even some camp charm (Dr Who, Star Trek). But when a person walks out thinking "that was disturbing", or even better still, "that was alien", science fiction has done its job. Which is part of the reason I play Eclipse Phase and look forward to the day that someone has the courage to make a film of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.

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

Today was an gruelling day in training, running a course on parallel programming, covering issues in computer architecture, data parallelism using job submissions, library and package extensions in existing applications and programming languages, usage of OpenMP shared-memory programming, finally MPI distributed memory programming. Most of the people were already fairly experienced in the subject, so I hope it wasn't too simple for them. That will be the last training course for several weeks, as Europe beckons. After that courses are being planned for economics (primarily maths and stats), and engineering (numerical solvers and continuum mechanics) It was meant to be an introductory course. Afterwards was the HPC Users Forum where I gave a short presentation on various transition actions from the Edward to Spartan systems and updates on the latter. Not a huge attendance, but a worthwhile one.
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Saturday, September 17th, 2016 11:43 pm
It has been another secular heavy-week. On Tuesday attended the University of Melbourne Secular Society meeting with club president and physicist James Fodor giving a presentation on contempory theories on cosmology and how religious fundamentalists have reacted to this subject. Also present, unexpectedly, was Colin Macleod, whom I recall from more than fifteen years ago as author of Patrol in the Dreamtime. That evening the Victorian Secular Lobby met with Harriet Singh, MLC at Parliament House to discuss the future of the Safe Schools Programme, and especially attempts to overturn it by religious conservatives. Tonight the Isocracy Network met at Trades Hall with Anthony Wallace of Equal Love (they should fix that website), the national campaign organisation for marriage equality. The proposed plebiscite now looks dead in the water and soon it will be time to lobby politicians for a conscience vote.

This week witnessed the final transfer of data and restarting of the queue of the Edward HPC system, which was a very big deal. It also saw another class, a well-attended Advanced Linux and Shell Scripting Course conducted by yours truly. Feedback was again extremely positive, and this coming week will see the first course in Parallel Programming, with courses for fluid dynamics and economics for HPC being planned (two courses, obviously) following requests by appropriate groups of researchers. I am reminded that I should also consider adding some of the material in these courses to Udemy or some other equivalent MOOC. This week also witnessed the submission of an abstract ("Hekatonkheires is Spartan", another Hellenic mythological pun) for the Australian Symposium on Parallel and Distributed Computing. Finally, today was Software Freedom Day with Melbourne people meeting at The Electron Workshop, which was followed by a committee meeting of Linux Users of Victoria. The AGM will be the next main meeting, with a subsequent meeting being planned for disincorporation and the establishment of the group as a subcommittee of Linux Australia.

On a higher education related event, attended the Sir Robert Menzies Oration and Conferring Ceremony at the University on Wednesday evening, which also included awarding of some cited doctorates, of which one name whom recognised from classes I've given. The event was full of pomp and circumstance, and thus it was appropriate that they had a life peer, Baroness Amos, giving the oration. It was full of well-meaning broad platitudes, as such speeches are, on the topic of the limits of free speech within the university context. I have little doubt of the baronesses commitment to raising the standard of education for the socially disadvantaged, both in developed and developing countries, but also note a level of political correctness (i.e., remarks made for the purpose of political expedience and loyalty), such as her support for the invasion of Iraq. Which of course, ironically ties into the subject matter of her very own speech, albeit in an indirect manner. Of course, direct or indirect, the effect of such censorship is still the same - the closing of the mind, the silencing of voices.
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Tuesday, September 13th, 2016 10:26 pm
Took the opportunity to see One More Time With Feeling, the latest Nick Cave movie based on the production of his latest album The Skeleton Tree. Overall it was an excellent piece of work, and I really enjoyed the screen time given to Warren Ellis and Suzy Cave. But as the movie wore on the grief that Nick and Suzy share with the death of their son, Arthur came out in a particularly raw fashion.

Afterwards attended [livejournal.com profile] usekh's birthday party, a most remarkable, clever, and stylish individual who has shown the he's prepared to give Thanatos the finger and then poke the fucker in the eye socket. Spent a good portion of the evening chatting with the aforementioned host, [livejournal.com profile] txxxpxx, [livejournal.com profile] strang_er, [livejournal.com profile] damien_wise, and [livejournal.com profile] patchworkkid, among several others. It was from the conversation with the latter two I now am now making use of a Bulletjournal, because obviously I'm not doing enough nor at optimal efficiency. Quickly diverging from the norm however, I'm using a digital text-file version of the journal and have changed some of the core signifiers. It seems to work very well so far.

The other Thanatos-themed event was the sad departure of Scamper rat last night. The middle-sized and aged rodent of our trio (Tramper, Scamper, and Rover), Scamper was always extremely shy, and suffered from particularly having ongoing cases of mycoplasma infection. Late, far too late in his short life, he decided that these humans weren't so bad after all and became a lot more friendly. In the past few days his breathing had become particularly laboured and despite an aggressive course of antibiotics, his lungs gave out on him. I do appreciate the company of my haustiere, but I must confess the 18-36 month life span of rattus norvegicus seems a little dispropotionate to their personality.
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Friday, September 9th, 2016 11:01 pm
Last Sunday's presentation to the Melbourne Unitarian Church on Changing Definitions of Marriage: Past, Present, and Future, was very well received. It was followed by a meeting of The Philosophy Forum where Graeme Lindenmayer spoke on The Nature and Existence of Time. This coming week have organised a meeting with Harriet Singh and the Victorian Secular Lobby to discuss the future of the Safe Schools Programme. The following Saturday I've also organised a meeting with Equal Love Australia to speak to the Isocracy Network to discuss the issue of a plebiscite or a free parliamentary vote on marriage equality, and issue which I introduced in the address to the Unitarians.

Politically of course, secularism is a liberal and modern concern, which does not only argue for the separation of religious beliefs from evidence in public policy and religious appointments in public institutions, but tangentially the development of post-metaphysical reasoning. It is difficult, to say the least, to imagine how fundamentalist beliefs will succeed in a world transformed both by technology and the breakdown of cultural differences. Racial and religious inspired violence is the last and pathetic attempt to impossibly impose a worldview that is already completely out of date.

On Tuesday night I gave a presentation at Linux Users of Victoria on Spartan: An HPC-Cloud Hybrid. Following day presented for the Edward to Spartan Workshop; a good class, albeit with a wide variance in skill levels, but all of whom were quite engaged in the subject. A big change this week was a switchover in storage and DNS for the venerable Edward system, primarily by [livejournal.com profile] imajica_lj and NinjaDan respectively.

Interesting collection of gaming events over the past week as well. Sunday, a busy day, was a session of Eclipse Phase which concluded with the discovery of On Monday night played some Ingress with a Sydney visitor whose IT-related agent name (Zilog80) I recognised from one of last year's visit to that town. Thursday night was the second session of Mimesis Delta Green which involved putting together the pieces of a grisly murders and concluded with an encounter with a Byakhee.

Europe plans are going very well. Meeting at CERN was confirmed this week, so now only waiting on confirmations from Frankfurt and Montpellier Universities. This morning [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya discovered that the greatest band of this century, 65daysofstatic, are playing in Barcelona on the first night of the OpenStack conference. Naturally enough I purchased tickets immediately. Now with but four weeks to go, the finer details of the intinery need to be sorted out. In many ways I've waited my entire life for a trip like this, and whilst a month is far too short to fully immerse oneself in what remains the centre of human history and intellectual - Geisteswissenschaften, as the Deutsche would say - it is coming to fruition.
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Sunday, September 4th, 2016 10:12 pm
It is time I told the rest of the world. I'm a father; or rather, I have fathered. Three years ago I became a donor at the Melbourne IVF clinic. The simple reality is there is a number of people, who through no fault of their own, are unable to have children and wish to do so, and demand far outstrips supply (so go lend a hand, fine strapping local lads). Whilst raising children has never been high on my personal agenda, I do recognise it is very important to others and it would be absolutely heartbreaking for people to find that they cannot do this. Being a donor may, of course, generate future visitors, but that is part of the process and a responsibility. It turns out my profile apparently was sufficiently popular and there's a few of my progeny that are now healthy kinder. So the clinic has asked back to help out even further. I was worried that I was getting a little long in the tooth for this sort of thing, but they've assured me that's all fine and at least that part of my health is in a good state.

There is a changing roles of families, and like many aspects of life we overlook the profound influence of technology. Part of this changing role implies changes to "the definition of marriage" which has opponents of marriage equality so worried. Today I gave an address at the Melbourne Unitarian church on the topic; Changing Definitions of Marriage : Past, Present, and Future, which pretty much covers what it says on the tin. It's some four thousand dense and referenced words, that cover the current plebiscite versus parliamentary vote options, the diversity in traditional and historic marriages, the changes in advanced societies in the last century, and some of the future changes that are likely to occur. I was worried that it is a little long for a single address, but it went over very well and with some excellent questions from the congregation.
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Thursday, September 1st, 2016 09:29 pm
I have dived into several secular related projects in the past several days. The first was speaking at the Sunday Assembly, a friendly godless congregation of people who like "church activities" but without a diety. My presentation ws Everyone Should Be Secular which, of course, is a rhetorical statement because everyone is secular. The issue is whether they are a secularist or support secularism - which is carefully distinguished from atheism, which many assume.

A practical example of how state atheism, effectively a type of theocracy, differs from liberal secularism, is the issue of the recent (failed) ban of the burkini in France. A debate with a former union leader (whom I discovered is perhaps not so good at cognitive flexibility) led to my writing an article for the Isocracy Network, Burkinis, Bigotry, and Beyond, which has received a very good response on Facebook and has been crossposted on the LJ community talk_politics.

"Let's be blunt about it. If you support the burkini ban, you're not a feminist or a secularist, you're a misogynistic bigot."

Tuesday was also the AGM of the University of Melbourne Secular Society. As a staff member, I am extremely sensitive of my degree of involvement in the club and try not too heavily involved, whilst at the same time wanting to assist and encourage, because they really are doing a valuable job. On being asked by the president I took on the heady role of returning officer, and that really is as far as I'm prepared to go.



Following on from this, I've arranged a meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby has a meeting at Parliament on September 13th with Harriet Sing, MLC on The Future of the Safe Schools Programme (FB event). On September 17th, I've organised a meeting of the Isocracy Network on Paths to Marriage Equality (FB event) with speakers from Equal Love. This Sunday I'm speaking at the Melbourne Unitarian Church on Changing Definitions of 'Marriage' : Past, Present, and Future. Are we detecting a theme yet?
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Sunday, August 28th, 2016 09:01 am
Another set of classes this week teaching Advanced Linux and Shell Scripting for High Performance Computing, to a class that was pretty well engaged. Have planned another set for the coming month with a new course in Parallel Computation and Programming. Europe plans almost encountered a conflict when I realised that I depart Melbourne at the same time that eResearch Australasia is being held. Fortunately, I can give my paper at that conference in the afternoon and still make it to the airport to leave in the evening. Nothing like be accidentally well-organised, haha. Oh, and in a great moment in science this week; malaria solved. As a disease that kill over four hundred thousand people per annum, this is big news.

Friday evening was a night on the town with in-laws Arnold and Cathy who are visiting from Perth. We took them to the little Breton crepiere, Breizoz, one of my favourite rustic restaurants which I don't visit enough. It did make me wonder about the status of the Breton language, and some concern that it hasn't (yet) have a course on Duolingo. Clearly we live in the age of the Celtic twilight. Afterwards made our way to Madame Brussels which is a fine roof-top bar with an interesting history (but oh, my eyes, that website!).

Yesterday was a visit to [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce for our regular cheesequest and boardgames (Theomachy, nice concept but dependent on initial hand). It was good afternoon visiting our human friends and their menagerie (cats and ferrets), however our trip was delayed by a police standoff in Fitzroy, which involved the Critical Incident Response Team - we walked past the place where it occurred a few minutes prior to the event, and thus our car was trapped behind the blue line. It must be said, the world is fortunate that petty criminals aren't that smart - the perp in question engaged in actions across the road from a police station.

The thirty-first issue of RPG Review has just been released with an "Old School Revolution" central topic. Our interview subject for this issue is Ken St. Andre. My own contributions include reviews of Castles and Crusades, OSRIC, Basic Fantasy, and designer's notes for Papers and Paychecks, which is reaching the end of the first draft and, following mid-week drinks with fellow committee members Liz and Karl, now has an ISBN assigned to it. The drinks are significant as they were the last to be held at The Corkman, which has just been sold.
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Friday, August 19th, 2016 09:52 pm
Wednesday was a training day for Edward to Spartan transition workshop, which went very smoothly and also had a visiting sysadmin of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (who, in his evening hours, was a lead Pirate Party Senate candidate in the state). Thursday was mostly spent at an Amazon scientific computing immersion day which regrettably contained too much marketing material, not enough compute time. It can be quite telling when a course is not designed by educators. Other major work-related events was the installation of a metric tonne of software - an interesting feature of EasyBuild - as more dependencies are installed, installation processes become easier.

Only one major gaming event this week, being GURPS Middle Earth last Sunday. In lieu of our regular game members of our mid-week group visited the Melbourne Swordplay Guild on invitation from [livejournal.com profile] kits_the_dm, to engage in some backsword immersion in preparation for playing some Backswords and Bucklers. Content for issue 31 of RPG Review has been positively powering along and it should be released this weekend.

As mentioned in passing, [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya and I are visiting Europe in two months. At least for one of us it's a working trip however. I currently have plans to visit the The Goethe Center for Scientific Computing, then the High Performance Computing Center of Stuttgart, then to the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, then on to CERN, before reaching Barcelona for the OpenStack Summit, and visiting the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre. It is just as well I have concentrated on German, French, and Spanish in Duolingo in recent weeks. Yes, it is fair to say that there is a degree of excitement for this planned trip.
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Friday, August 12th, 2016 02:06 pm
It has been a very busy week and a sense of general tiredness is pervasive. Last Sunday I gave a presentation at The Philosophy Forum on Race Conditions for the Human Species: A Global Perspective (there are a few and our actions are piecemeal and responsive). Two days later on Tuesday night, I presented Is Pantheism an Atheism? to the Melbourne Atheist Society (it depends on experience). On Wednesday ran the Introduction to HPC course which received extremely good feedback from attendees. Classes will of course continue on their regular, weekly basis. Next Philosophy Forum presentation I'm giving is in December, The Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics, following an encounter with a lunatic who believes that their consciousness creates reality. Seriously, there is a special circle of hell for people who misrepresent the Copenhagen Interpretation in such a populist, ignorant, and ill-considered manner.

It has not been all work and now play however. Sunday night was an enjoyable gathering for [livejournal.com profile] sebastianne's "thirtieth" birthday gathering at The Drunken Poet (related to such establishment, I have been interested in the series No BĂ©arla - a first-language Irish speaker attempts to tour Ireland without using English). Last night went to see a gothic superhero double at The Astor; Batman (1989) and The Crow, with [livejournal.com profile] thefon, who is visiting us from Perth. Gaming-wise we had a session of Eclipse Phase on Sunday which was something like a cross between Avatar and Aliens, a first session of Delta Green Countdown, which has started quiet enough.

Much has been made this week of the almighty collection of failures surrounding the Australian Census. Apart from legitimate concerns on privacy, with various legal discussions, there was the miserable failure on the night it was supposed to be taken. I described it as: "The Census is a self-advertised Distributed Denial of Service attack". It didn't take the long before official claims that it was an actual overseas DDoS attack - to be honest I didn't think they would be so stupid to make such a claim. Still, on the positive side the recommendations that I initially made to the ABS in 2012 and were part of the formal review in 2013 have been accepted. To express simply, Unitarians were previously listed as a sub-group of Christians. Now they are Unitarian-Universalists and are counted under "Secular Beliefs and Other Spiritual Beliefs and No Religious Affiliation".
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Thursday, August 4th, 2016 05:38 pm
Tuesday night attended the Linux Users of Victoria meeting to hear Russell Coker present on M.2 expansion cards, and Rodney Brown on cyclic redundancy checks. The following day had the first of a new class at University of Melbourne on advanced (on a user level) Linux commands and shell scripting. Detailed slides in MD format are available on Github. That evening, with but a couple of days notice, journeyed to Moorabbin to the MelbPC Users Group to address a group of around 60 on Supercomputers: Current Status and Future Trends.

As there is no peace for the wicked, on Sunday I am also presenting at The Philosophy Forum, on "Race conditions for the Human Species : A Global Perspective", and then on Tuesday I'll be presenting at the Atheist Society on "Is Pantheism and Atheism?". The day after that I have another several hours of Linux HPC teaching - and so they cycle goes. Actually I am hoping for a little of a break from such things so I least have the chance to finish up some writing projects that I have had sitting on the backburner for a while.
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Saturday, July 30th, 2016 08:36 pm
Work started off well this week with notification that the paper I'm presenting at eResearch Australasia as lead author had been accepted. There is one other paper being considered for the Barcelona OpenStack Summit, and then the Australasian Symposium on Parallel and Distributed Computing. Wednesday was a postgraduate training day which, although with significant absences, was extremely well-received. The end of the week came to an interesting close with a request to install a fluid dynamics package for a twenty-three year old operating system, which the most recent documentation is a ten-year old scientific paper written in French (thankfully, clearly written French which I have had little trouble translating).

Apropos linguistic matters, Duolingo efforts continue well. Completing the Spanish and Portuguese is on target for the end of next month. On a rather odd whim from a Facebook conversation on the degree of mutual intelligibility between the North Germanic languages, I have also taken up Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian, although with only with the intent of developing a basic familiarity of comparative purposes. It does raise the interesting question of the dialect continuum and what actually constitutes a language ("a language is a dialect with an army and navy").

It's also been a few days in a row of social gaming; Thursday night was the final session of our Godsend Agenda game with the Marco Polo story; an adequate game but not really one which captured the mythic spirit sufficiently. Last night was an session of Eclipse Phase Mars where all the players connected remotely via Google Hangouts; Portland (USA), Melbourne (AU), Wellington (NZ), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), and Perth (AU). Today was a regular cheesequest session with [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce and [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla. In addition to the regular cheese tastings I made sweet potato gnocchi (not difficult but time consuming) and a giant tiramisu (restaurants don't stand a chance against me). Afterwards we played Hit List, which despite its poor rating from tactical gamers has the highly redeeming feature of producing amusing narratives. Tomorrow continues the ludophile trajectory with a session of GURPS Middle Earth.
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Tuesday, July 26th, 2016 09:29 pm
Today was Anne Kays' Memorial Service at the Unitarian Church. The opening hymn was Paul Robeson's Hymn to Nations. I followed with a selection from a John Chadwick poem for the opening words, then four eulogies by family members and friends (providing superb recollections of Anne's life and contributions), a musical Interlude (Judy Small "A Heroine of Mine"), a historical and religious reference to Anne Askew, a reading from "The Inquirer" by Florence W., and finally closing words from Sean O'Casey's, Sunset and Evening Star, and for closing music Nana Mouskouri's "Amazing Grace". I must confess I felt more uncertain conducting this service than any other, with a sense of deeply wanting it to be just right, due to both the honour of being selected to give the service by Anne and a desire to give respect to her memory. Members of the family seemed to think it went well, so I can feel satisfied with that.

The days preceding were a mixture of various social occasions. Last night was a night at the Astor Cinema to see a couple of classic B-grade Christopher Lee films; The Wicker Man and Dracula Prince of Darkness. Sunday's gaming session was Eclipse Phase where the PCs had the first real experience of an extrasolar planet and an experience not unlike the first half of the movie Aliens. Continuing to work backwards, Saturday night was a big dinner at Vicky's Restaurant with [livejournal.com profile] log_reloaded in celebration of her completing her Diploma of Accounting.
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Saturday, July 23rd, 2016 03:25 pm
Anne Kay, whom I had known for many years through the Unitarian Church, died last Tuesday having turned 93 that day. An independent thinker, a genuine Unitarian, and a person with a subtle sense of humour, she had been well for a number of months, so I can say it was a surprise. What was surprising was her express wish that I conduct the funeral service for her; which will be held this upcoming Tuesday 26th of July at 2pm at the Unitarian Church. I can presume that work is going to give me the afternoon off.

Ran another Introduction to High Performance Computing session on Wednesday which was well received. Actually, I must confess something, which has me a little confused if pleasantly so - is it normal these days for people to be applauded after giving workshops and lectures? I understand it as the norm in a speech and such like, but over the past two years almost every training class I've given has ended in applause. I'm certainly not objecting, but I do wonder if there's been a recent cultural shift that I am unaware of.

Two gaming sessions this week, on Thursday and Friday nights respectively. Thursday night was a session of Laundry with implications that supernatural activity is reaching a critical level and the agency is preparing to become the emergency government, "just in case". Friday night went to Gatekeeper Games for their "dice and drinks" evening, where Karl B., was running a playtest of the upcoming John Carter RPG, which seems to fit well with the genre so far. Next issue of RPG Review is going well, with just over half the page count filled.
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Monday, July 18th, 2016 10:02 pm
Have just completed the first draft of a new UniMelb training course on shell scripting for HPC, which frankly is quite a lot to take in for a single day, so I'll need extensive notes as well. During the weekend also gave a presentation for Linux Users of Victoria, on GnuCOBOL: A Gnu Life for an Old Workhorse, with a command summary also available. I am tempted to delve even further into this strange archiac language, if only because of my perverse enjoyment of accounting and organisational logic ([livejournal.com profile] horngirl may have an interest as well).

In the aesthetic realm, did a review of 65daysofstatic's, to-be-released album for the game No Man's Sky, which has a number of great pieces and is of lasting quality overall. Also on Saturday visited Brendan E., where he treated us to the comedy-zombie film Cooties which was much better than the rating suggest, and the faux documentary, The Great Martian War. Pusing the aesthetic realm into storytelling, played Eclipse Phase on Friday night albeit with some technical issues, and tried to push some plot resolution in GURPS Middle Earth on Sunday.

For the RPG Review Cooperative, have contacted the BBC over our Watership Down poll, WotC over our 4th edition Open Game License proposal, have started submitting issues of the journal to the National Library of Australia, and have set up the drivethrurpg.com store for impending publications (no items yet, of course). The next issue of RPG Review, in the "Old School Revolution", is well underway with a special interview with Ken St. Andre.
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Friday, July 15th, 2016 09:48 am
Utter smashed by a migraine for much of Sunday which turned out to be a cold, I spent fair portion of the last week in varying states of illness. Took Monday off and will be working from home today (well enough to work, sick enough to be a vector). Despite the illness gave my address the Unitarians on Sunday on The Abolition of Crime, which had a fair turnout (especially given the season) and good discussion, and apparently is getting a bit of circulation.

At the end of the presentation I turned to the matters of the Chilcot Inquiry into Britain's decision to invade Iraq, which unsurprising to some, makes it very clear that the invasion was illegal, and therefore a crime against peace (not a "war crime" per se). I have taken the opportunity to raise a few comments on that matter as well, suggesting that Australia needs it own equivalent of the Chilcot Inquiry.

This evening, assuming I am up for it, I'll be attending a meeting and sharing a post-presentation panel with James Hughes, transhumanist sociologist. Tomorrow, will be presenting at Linux Users of Victoria on GnuCOBOL. Over the next six weeks I have weekly day-classes to run at the University of Melbourne on Introduction to High Performance Computing, Edward to Spartan Transition, and Shell Scripting for High Performance Computing. There is also an impending review of 65daysofstatic's latest album being composed courtesy of [personal profile] reddragdiva.
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Saturday, July 9th, 2016 06:39 pm
Spent the previous two days at Questnet 2016 at the aforementioned open air luxury prison known as Royal Pines. Managed to escape for a while to visit the Botanic Gardens, which was pleasant enough, but apart from that it was conference, conference, and nothing but the conference. It was just as well that the events were very well catered, and the vendors had plenty of interesting items to view and discuss, as the quality of the talks were certainly among the worst I have encountered.

To give a summary of the issues, some (especially the keynotes) were so high level the ground level of operations. Others were delivered as if the attendees were primary school children. Those that had worthwhile content, did so with insufficient attention to implementation. One informative presentation was by Cisco on their Digital Network Architecture, although it filled me with fear and loathing. The major exception to the rule was a dual Dell/Nvidia breakfast presentation which included a great deal of information on developments in machine learning and the hardware and software implementations. It included a little but of Dell spruiking, which they acknowledged, but that was tolerable under the circumstances.

In any case have returned to foggy Melbourne. Two upcoming events include an address tomorrow at the Unitarians on The Abolition of Crime: New Principles in Criminology and Justice, and next Saturday, presenting at Linux Users of Victoria on An Introduction to GNU Cobol. Tomorrow will also run a session of Eclipse Phase where the characters will be engaging in one of the more terrifying activities - Gatecrashing to an alien planet. Also, have made a solid start on a semi-secret project that will be officially announced at the end of the month.
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Wednesday, July 6th, 2016 07:51 am
The results of the Australian election is still ongoing, and despite a good swing to Labor, it seems the LNP Coalition will be returned with a minority government. As always, The Pollbludger gives the most up-to-date analysis and count. The conservatives in the LNP have taken no time to turn on the more liberal Malcolm Turnbull who, already held in check with for any policy initiatives, with calls for him to step down. The campaign is a significant credit for the Labor Party who faced a media that overwhelmingly endorsed the Coalition, and actually made policy initiatives the main point of contention. The possibility remains that if nobody can gain confidence of the House, that new elections will be called.

On a completely different tangent, I am currently at Questnet 2016. at the Royal Pines. To be honest, there isn't a great deal on the agenda that looks especially of interest of me (the data storage talks are perhaps useful), and there is far too many IT security talks (as if that isn't a racket). Bugging the vendors about hardware we need however will be worthwhile. The venue itself is of come interest; set several kilometers inland on a golf-course and surrounded by suburbia, the triangular-shaped building has the feel of something of an open-plan luxury prison from a 80s science-fiction film. I took a walk around the grounds yesterday afternoon, studiously ignoring the all the signs that said that it was meant to be limited playing golf, and spent some time in the company of the various waterbirds that inhabit the artificial lakes in the vicinity.

Finished last night with the completion of my third Duolingo skill tree; German. I cannot pretend that I am enamoured by the sound of the language, the inconsistency of the pronoun 'Sie', the sheer range of definite articles according to declension and contraction, and especially the V2 word order. I also found that despite much commonality with English, there were many words that could not be recognised intuitively from an Anglophone perspective (unlike French). Still, I shall nevertheless soldier on with this tongue primarily for familial reasons (and maybe even technical purposes), despite a personal preference for the Romance languages. Speaking of which, my next owl objectives are the West-Iberian languages; Spanish and Portuguese.
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Friday, July 1st, 2016 11:46 pm
It's been quite a week; started off with a giving an introductory HPC class at the University of Melbourne with a particularly engaged an interested group of researchers on Monday, whom I found out later one was enthusiastically tweeting as the class went on. Thursday was the official launch of Spartan, the new HPC-Cloud hybrid, with over a hundred people in attendance and several speakers (including the Acting Vice-Chancellor). I gave a presentation on the architecture and technical side and have noted the widespread media coverage it has picked up, including sites like HPC Wire, Gizmodo, and Delimiter. Also, damn awesome luch afterwards. Next week I'm off to the Gold Coast for QuestNet.

Tomorrow is the Australian Federal election. Most opinion polls are predicting a close result on raw TPP votes, but with the Coalition leading in the key marginal electorates. I have giving a pessimistic reading of such analysis which also outlines what one can expect in the next three years (which has received some circulation on social media), with thesauce providing a item-by-item manifest of the atrocity exhibition that has made up this government. It all raises the question of deliberative and informed democracy, an issue which Brad Murray has explored with regards to Brexit.

It's also been a busy week in terms of gaming and the RPG Review Cooperative. My review of Vampire:The Masquerade was finally published on rpg.net, but on a much bigger scale, issue 30 of RPG Review has just been released, which includes an interview with Steve Kenson, reviews of several superhero RPGs, a superhero short story, a campaign world setting, organisations and characters, CRPG reviews, and two movie reviews. Appropriately Wednesday was a session of Godsend Agenda which dived right into the fictionalised version of the disasters confronting Marco Polo's return trip. Plus, the Cooperative has purchased ISBNs for member publications, thus completing every single objective that we set out to achieve at the start of the year - and we're only seven months in!
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Sunday, June 26th, 2016 09:58 am
As everyone knows, the United Kingdom has voted to leave the EU, albeit by a margin of 1.9%. The key demographic groups voting for 'Leave' came from of lower income, lower education, old age, and anti-immigration, with the latter providing probabily the strongest determinant. The result has serious repercussions; already the Scots, who overwhelmingly supported Remain, have called for a second independence vote, and in Northern Ireland which also voted to Remain there are calls for a reunification referendum. Nationalists on the continent, such as the Front national in France and astoundingly misnamed Partij voor de Vrijheid in the Netherlands have argued for Leave referenda in their own country, further wishing to promote the closing of the European mind. The economy, of course, has taken a battering with two trillion wiped off the global markets, leaving the UK staring down a recession.

In the distant British colony of Australia, we have an Federal election next week. Opinion polls (for what they're worth) suggest a close election, although it is the marginals that matter and Labor is still struggling with the Herculean task of gaining twenty one seats. The loathed Tony Abbott is making a tilt on a comeback based on Turnbull's woeful and dithering performance as Prime Minister. Labor has raised the spectre of a possible privitisation of Medicare first raised in February this year. The critical issue, as I've mentioned in previous posts, is if Labor can hammer home its economic credentials and point out that the Coalition has introduced the worst fall in living standards since records began. I honestly don't understand why Labor isn't hammering this point home.

Three main gaming sessions in the past week, as normal. Last Sunday was GURPS Middle Earth with our GM promising to provide a summary of what lose ends there are in the narrative. Wednesday night was a session of Laundry Files which involved a haunted house scenario in an inner urban environment. Friday night was Eclipse Phase Mars wrapping up a few lose ends from the "Chain Reaction" series. On the latter point I've written some rules modifications which I've circulated in the appropriate forum. Apropos the next issue of RPG Review is almost ready, just in the final editing phase now. Also the Cooperative has purchased a block of ten ISBNs, so publications will commence in the very near future. We have items such as Verge from Nic Moll, Gulliver's Trading Company from Karl Brown, and I have a secret project to be announced in the next issue of RPG Review.