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Emile Zola, in his classic novel Le Ventre de Paris, references quite heavily the smell of Parisian fish markets in the summer. Whilst I have managed to avoid such odours, as he describes in glorious detail, the alternating heat, humidity, and thunderstorms has turned the visit this city into a rather unexpected experience. Nevertheless, we were blessed on Sunday with a meeting with Gianna V., a local whom I've known online for several years with a mutual interest in Glorantha. Gianna took us for a walk along Le Petite Ceinture a former railline reclaimed public nature walk. The walk ended with a visit to a book market where I found myself in possession of several hefty art history tomes.

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

The work-week began with a visit with Loic N, at the L'Institut du Calcul et de la Simulation on their HPC operating environment and the impressive cross-disciplinary work that they do. The university was next door to the medieval Musée de Cluny so managed to get a good dose of that end of the historic spectrum as well. The following two days have been at the Conference Teratec at Ecole Polytechnique Paliasseau, some distance from the inner city. A good-sized (1300 attendees) the conference show-cased the major projects undertaken in France's HPC environment in their quasi-syndicalist approach (business, academia, and government working on mutual projects). With dusk not occuring until around 10pm or later, much of the evening has been spent on semi-random public transport trips, eating at simple restaurants, and just walking; an especially pleasant discovery was a large park and gardens, Parc Montsouris. It's good to know that the Parisians have dedicated a park to mountain mice.
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Last day in Frankfurt caught up with Nia A., from the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre to discuss the developments of HPC training in Europe and possible collaboration between Australia and PRACE. Afterwards we had some time to spare so took the opportunity to visit the Museum für Kommunikation which had a exhibition on the Golden Ratio and an amusing installation art piece of sheep made from 1980s telephones. This was followed by a lengthy visit to the massive Städel Museum which holds a mighty collection of late gothic, renaissance, baroque, modern, and contemporary artworks, including greats such as Hieronymus Bosch, Rembrandt, Eugène Delacroix, Monet, Degas, Picasso, etc.

The following day was the journey from Frankfurt to Paris with what was meant to be an easy four-hour trip, turned into an eight-hour epic with various delays due to severe storms in Germany. To their great credit the rail staff did a remarkable job at re-routing everyone to arrive at their destinations with a minimum of delay. Eventually arriving at the quite charming Hôtel De La Paix, we had sufficient time before the late sunset to catch a meal and make a visit to Champ de Mars and a certain awful tower (as French artists and intellectuals called it at the time). Actually, it's not that awful at all (except for inspiring a rush of phallic envy, and does accord some fine views apparently. It reminds me a lot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge which, in the scheme of things, is of a similiar time and period.

Yesterday visited Versailles, home of the palace and gardens, the stuff that generates revolutions. The former had excessive queues, so spent the day meandering around the latter and city itself, including a visit to the Royal Stables (still with a fine collection of horses) and Musée Lambinet, which included a fine collection of revolutionary-era objects and paintings. As an oddity for the day at the old antiques market found an extremely good condition of United States Live by Laurie Anderson, something I've wanted to add to my collection for some time.
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On Sunday visited the Dunedin Art Gallery, which had a pretty average "Private Utopia" collection on display from the British Council, which did however include one amusing piece, a short film, "Human Report" (2008) by Marcus Coates, a pseudo-documentary of human beings by a sapient booby set in the Galapolas. Also of interest from the main 'Belonging' display was Charles Monet's, La Debacle (1880) which I connected with Emile Zola's novel of the Franco-Prussian War of the same name which included a scene reminiscent like the painting. Surely I am not the first to notice this? After the gallery made our way to the impressive Dunedin museum; their shipping, Maori and islander, and wildlife dispalys are particularly good.

The following day made our way to our secret South Pacific baseRavensbourne property and met one of the new tenants, who dutifully informed us that the main hall is now a regular practise haunt for various musicians on the Flying Nun label. As rocknerds we couldn't ask for better visitors; plus the tenants are keeping the place in very good condition, which is obviously pleasing. With some time to spare went down to Port Chalmers for viewing of their great little maritime museum before returning to the main city for lunch with our Ravensbourne neighbours, Heather and Mark (who keep an eagle eye on our property).

At this juncture, [ profile] caseopaya and I went on our separate ways for a while. I had some enrolment issues to sort out at the University (when you have multiple birth certificates with different names etc this sort of thing happens), followed by a visit with Professor Kwok-Wing Lai the Director of the Centre for Distance Education and Learning Technologies to discuss my thesis, and then a catch up with David Eyres and Jim Cheetham where we discussed a variety of matters technological and the limits of human rationality. Meeting up with [ profile] caseopaya again, we had a quiet night in as we prepared for the next leg of our journey into Southland and Fiordland.
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With the two Auckland conferences finished, I found I had a day spare. In my travels visited the Auckland art gallery, which I was very impressed by the gothic-surrealism of Tony Fomison, the political-modernism of Robyn Kahukiwa. The same level had the haunting sounds of Mladen Bizumic's "Adagio Under My Thumb" (an altered version of the Rolling Stones song) adding to the experience. As for the newly added abstract and installation art, that can go in the bin. There are reasons for why my political liberalism is equally matched by cultural conservatism; Sturgeon's Law. After this made my way down to Onehunga, a light-industrial southern harbourside suburb of Auckland with some interesting history and impressive early 20th century buildings, including the former post office and Carnegie Free Library, both of which are now coffee shops. Also spent time in the dilapitdated environs of the Hard To Find bookstore (who also have a good Dunedin store).

During the return flight to Melbourne watched The Book Thief, a good if somewhat overrated film, and Gravity, which I suspect would be very good on the big screen. Returning to Melbourne at midnight I had scant time to rest before presenting to The Philosophy Forum the following day on Magical Thinking : An Anthropological Excursus, which included not only the pre-modern anthropological study of such beliefs, but also modern examples of the same. There was good discussion on the psychology (including the positive aspects), the social development of magical thinking, and the propensity of certain occupations towards such behaviour (those with a high degree of naturalistic randomness; sailors, farmers, fisherfolk, etc). I was asked at the end whether I considered myself more of a priest or a sorcerer - I didn't have an answer to that one!

On the afternoon of my first day back at work was informed that my paper, Critical Issues in the Teaching of High Performance Computing to Postgraduate Scientists, had been accepted for the The 2014 International Conference on Computational Science, so I guess I'll be going to Cairns later in the year. This evening will be convening the March meeting of Linux Users Victoria which will have Suelette Dreyfus speaking on Whistleblowers within the IT context and Colby Swandale speaking on Vagrant. Have also sent out an announce for the annual general meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby which will be held on March 15.
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Went to Liquid Architecture last week with [ profile] _nightflower_, an interesting combination of video, sound, performance and installation art. On Saturday went with Karl and Liz to the to the Satirical Eye exhibition at the National Gallery (International) on Saturday; was particularly impressed by Rowlandsen's 'The Chamber of Genius', the content of Goya's Los Caprichos and the irony of Honore Daumier's Les Femmes Socialistes (genuinely ironic because Honoré was trying to ridicule socialist women but the arguments and presentation were actually supportive by contemporary standards). On Wednesday evening will be attending the Salvador Dali Liquid Desire at the same location. Also hoping to see the Light Years (photography and space) exhibition. Tonight will be attending The Comics Lounge with [ profile] kremmen and [ profile] caseopaya.

On Tuesday attended the Melbourne Atheist Society to listen to Silvio Bonazinga question 'scientism' in atheism. Meeting in the same hall on Sunday, Peter Abrehart, chairperson of the Melbourne Unitarian Church spoke pretty much in favour of scientism on a presentation entitled 'The Greatest Dissenters'; I took the service from this address and the reading was from Marx's A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, specifically oft-cited (and usually erroneously) comment on religion as the opium of the people.

RPG Review issue four has been released. Dennis Sustare's article on his life in gaming is particularly fascinating reading. Also some twit supposedly representing Barry Windsor-Smith studios is complaining about the article entitled Young Gods supposedly infringing trademark. Fun times ahead if they try to go through with that one.


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Diary of a B+ Grade Polymath

September 2017

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