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The past couple of days have seen two of my proposed presentations accepted by two difference conferences. One is for eResearch Australasia on andragogical methods in teaching high performance computing, which I'll be helped by an HPC educator from Goethe University Frankfurt, and the second being the IEEE eScience conference in New Zealand on cluster-cloud architectures which I'll receive assistance from the HPC group at the Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg. In addition, Friday was a particularly good workday as we held a workshop for about a dozen various HPC systadmins from around the university, as part of the massive upgrade to the Spartan system from being a relatively small and experimental system, to one of the most powerful in the world. I effectively have been given the coordinating role for this group and already several good ideas have come out the workshop for improvements and preparations as we integrate a six-rack GPU partition to our existing infrastructure. Apropos I am off to NCI in early September for their HPC course and will be taking the PRACE online supercomputing course to see how they do things.

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

It is good to able to return to a moderately normal set of topics in life. Previous posts of deaths, funerals, and loss of cognitive functions have been quietly uspetting, despite a calm personal exterior. About twenty years ago a person, who didn't know me that well, was engaged in conversation about motivation and emotions. He used the phrase 'Still waters run deep' to describe me. I appreciated the accurate encapsulation, and indeed have tried cultivate that part of my character (not always successfully). As an obvious variation, I am certainly not the silent type and express my considered views with some abandon. But it is the considered views that I express. I will either ask a question if I don't know something or I will make proposition if I am fairly certain of something. It is part of my recognition (and I do lay claim to coining this phrase) that deeply considered convictions are better than deeply ingrained prejudices, even if the emotional response is the same.
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Apart from dealing with multiple medical issues that I've raised in previous posts, I have had the opportunity to engage in my favourite hobby othe weekend - traditional roleplaying games. On Friday evening I participated in what I call Eclipse Phase Mars, on the basis of its standard location (although most recently this has involved extrasolar gatecrashing etc). This particular group meets primarily on Google Hangouts with players in Western Australia, Vietnam, Victoria, and New Zealand. I've missed a couple of sessions of this game, partially due to technology issues (my computer screen was completey destroyed on my last trip to NZ, so I've been trying to work with a dinky Asus Aspire One), and partially because of international trips. Both of these have affected my ability to complete Papers & Paychecks; although I did release an update on Saturday morning following completing the bestiary section, and integration a number of significant changes, even this late in the publication process.

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

Sunday was also a gaming day, this time with my own game of Eclipse Phase. This session involved the PCs engaging in a short-case to an autonomist morph resleever on one of Neptune Trojans, then taking a stealth craft to intercept an Ultimate scout ship en-route to Eris. There was an almighty gun-battle that followed which eventually saw the PCs successful, and partially courtesy due an inside agent providing assistance at the last moment. After that was the challenging process of psychosurgery and the literal merging of minds. More on that for the next session. Appropriately I've started reading the two books entitled Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy (one published by Open Court, 2012 and the other by Wiley Blackwell, 2014)
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Visited [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce for our regular Cheesequest. Amazing fromage of the day was a herbed Corsican. Afterwards played a challenging scenario in Mice and Mystics. This evening did a sence write-up for my long-running HeroQuest Glorantha game. It was the conclusion of a bit of bad luck in gaming sessions this week with the regular Laundry Files game cancelled on Wednesday night, and Eclipse Phase on Friday night. Nevertheless, this has given me more opportunity to work on Papers & Paychecks with the effects of alcohol and drugs and distribution curves added to the repository.

Have finally decided to join the 21st century and bought a chunk of cloud storage for some offsite backups; specifically the Google offering, which integrates well with the rest of its services. Have also discovered and used RClone, which a rather genius piece of work - effectively rsync for various cloud storage vendors. Apropos, a made a talk proposal for OpenStack Australia Day which has been accepted.

Other major events in the past few days has been organising for the AGM of the Victorian Secular Lobby, writing up the major events of 14th and 15th weeks of Lord Dampnut, US President, and attending a great wine tasting at University House for Klein Constantia with a selection of South African and French Savoy wines. The Vin de Constance was pretty amazing; it was sweet liquid gold and with a price to match (on special for a mere $137 for 500ml) .
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The week started with ANZAC day, a national holiday in remembrance of lives lost in war, which war-mongers try to turn into a celebration of invasive military endeavours. A Muslim woman had the temerity to suggest that we shouldn't forget people dying in current wars or the refugees from such conflicts; the conservative media hounded her as a result. For our ANZAC day we had one of our regular cheesequests with [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce with a heft European range (and Breton cider). In the spirit of things, I'd made an ANZAC cookie in the shape of ANZAC cove and surrounds - [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla commented that it was like one of her (primary school) student's science experiments until I started pointing out the topographical features.

Afterwards we had a game of D&D 4th edition, probably the edition that's closest to a board game, making use of the Charlemagne's Paladins supplement and Open Grave. It was the beginning of a gaming intensive week, with the following night spent playing Papers & Paychecks, and the night after that reading The Non-Designer's Design Book, an excellent summary publication on such matters ([personal profile] reddragdiva may also be interested in this). Today has included prepartion for a session of Eclipse Phase which I'll be running tomorrow, which also has a Kickstarter for a second edition (I did some playtesting for this).

But of course, that's not the only events of the week. Much of work has been battling a monster of a suite of programs, FENiCS, which has a monstrous toolchain of dependencies (probably close to a hundred, including those we've already done). Who knew that I'd ever need, for example binutils/2.25-GCC-4.9.2-binutils-2.25? It is enough to drive one to drink and fortunately University House came to my assistance with Dr. Geoff Scollary providing a class on the various types production and tasting of sparking wine (aka 'champagne', but we're not allowed to call it that anymore unless it's actually from Champagne). Based on blind testing apparently I'm fond of Domain Chandon Pinot Noir. Finally, on other matters that drives one to drink, earlier in the week completed a two-part special of The Shambling Mound, a fortnight's summary of the activities of the current US administration.
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Working on the transhumanist issue of RPG Review Issue 33 this week, having received (a little late) the interview with Rob Boyle. Reviews for that issue are also gradually making their way on rpg.net, with Eclipse Phase - Gatecrashing, receiving a strong recommendation. The week also witnessed a session of Papers & Paychecks which thematically took aspects of the classic The Keep on the Borderlands; it worked very well. Friday night managed to get some Eclipse Phase play in, a variation of Think Before Asking. Today was another Cheesequest day with [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce where - apart from making our way through several varieties of said food - we also made our way through another chapter of Mice and Mystics.

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

This coming week I leave for New Zealand for a fortnight, which will include visits to some computational centres in Canterbury University in Christchurch, Otago University in Dunedin, MC-ing and presenting at Multicore World (that's quite some speaker's list, then to Cambridge for Nyriad and finally the Auckland University of Technology. I must say I'm rather looking forward to the visit, as it has been far too long since I've had the opportunity to drop into this rather favoured corner of the world. "Home is where the heart is", and mine is very much in the deep south of Aotearoa.
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It's pretty clear that I'm going to have to get back into the habit of posting to this journal at least twice a week, for the sheer sake of having a somewhat succinct personal record of events and links to various thoughts and considerations. Today apparently is the point of my forty-ninth revolution around the sun, which I'm hardly going to celebrate hard; a small lunch gathering at Timiao courtesy of my manager at work. Received some great books from [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya, which will keep me busy for a while. The day however will live in some infamy however - not for the inauguration and speech of President Trump (which happens at 4am January 21st AEDST), but rather of rampage in the Melbourne CBD (caseopaya's office was in lockdown).

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

The week Zhou Youguang died, known as "the father of pinyin". His passing providing a psychological impetus (this often happens for me) to start learning Mandarin on Memrise which I must admit is bloody hard. Unlike European languages (even Russian, which I started again this week) there is nothing in terms of lexical similarity. Then there is the simplified logographic script and hanyu pinyin to learn with the vowel tones ("mā ma mà mǎ", "mother scolds the horse") which can lead some stunning writing (e.g., Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den). I've been led to believe that the grammatical structures are a lot less complex than English (let alone German etc) but I'm hardly at that level yet.
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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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Whilst others on Saturday were concerned on which side of the grand ritual of the boot would be premiers for the year, we nerdlingers held a Cheesequest day, between myself [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya, [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla, and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce. I made a small mountain of liptauer (including a surprisingly tasty vegan not-cheese variant), which was contrasted with a crumbly Warrnambool cheddar, and some Wensleydale with cranberries. All of which was accompanied with a tofu goulash, which another European dish of "find vegetables, add 'x' (spices, stock, cream etc), simmer". Afterwards we played the classic realist-comedy game of Junta where one plays a ruling family of a Latin American dictatorship. The idea, of course, it to get as much money as you can into your Swiss bank account from foreign aid before the international backers give up on you. An early run as El Presidente followed by a well-time assassination resulted in my victory.

Overall it was a good weekend for games; played Eclipse Phase Mars on Friday night via our usual multinational Google Hangouts group, and on Sunday ran the Eclipse Phase Extrasolar group, and gave them a little more than they bargained for with robotic spiders under the sea. It is something worth realising; GMs of Eclipse Phase can be a lot challenging to their player-characters because of the backup system - even more so than fantasy GMs with various Raise Dead or Resurrection magics. Indeed, there is something to be said about the hostile alien system where the GM goes out of their way to confront the PCs with deadly forces that are beyond their capacity to defeat in a stand-up conflict. Interestingly the game dove-tailed well with The Philosophy Forum group which met earlier that afternoon. Our planned speaker had fallen ill and thus could not attend, but nevertheless was kind enough to provide some papers on the pro-technology environmentalism and its relationship with transhumanism, which was just as well given the excellent turnout.

Baa baa black sheep how much wool can you carry? 'Well, it all depends on the load-bearing capacity of my legs, and now we have new ways of calculating this'. Yes, I'm the co-author of a published paper (I helped with the computational side of things) with the snappy title: Spatial Distribution of Material Properties in Load Bearing Femur as Characterized by Evolutionary Structural Optimization. I have also been preparing papers for my presentations at eResearch Australasia next Tuesday, and OpenStack Summit in Barcelona in three week's time. Janie G., from SA will be our housesitter whilst we're away. All legs of the transport are now booked with a combination of train and bus through Germany, Switzerland, France, and Spain. In the next couple of days I'll get what remains of the hotels bookings done.
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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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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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The fourth issue of the RPG Review Cooperative newsletter, Crux Australi, was released on Saturday. It includes a couple of very notable developments, the first being the establishment of a members library which has already received a significant additional donations. The other item of note was receiving an article from Lewis Pulsipher. On Sunday played a session of GURPS Middle Earth; a good mystery, a dash of magical realism, and a quick action-conflict scene to conclude.

This weekend I also penned a review of the latest studio album from Shriekback, 'Without Real Strings or Fish'. They've had several "good-average" albums over the past five years or so, but this one really hits the mark with a combination of their ethereal sounds alternating with powerful 'big band' post-punk chorus and lyrical content based around evolution and moral reasoning. It's not quite up there with their best earlier material such as Tench or Oil and Gold, but it certainly in the same ball park.

With a wry sense of aesthetics, [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya and I held a cheesquest event with [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce and [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla on this publc holiday. Whilst a usual fare was on the table (Slovakian sheep's milk easter cheese, tilsit, gorgonzola, and vegan substitute), it was also necessary to have ANZAC biscuits with Turkish bread and hummus. In recognition of the Canadian forces (and our Canadian visitor), the biscuits were made with maple syrup rather than the traditional golden syrup. Afterwards we played Cards Against Humanity and watched a few episodes of the final season of Moral Orel which was a little disturbing.
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Attended the LUV Beginners talk today at InfoExchange with Andrew Pam giving a good presentation on the history of version control with supplementary contributions by Mike Hewitt. Have volunteered myself to give a talk at the main meeting in a fortnight's time on UNUMS - how to do computation without error. Apropos, recently a small GPU cluster illustrated its power in cracking passwords. This has implications for some institutions, including a certain university I have taught at, which had a terrible password policy. I could not help but write a few words about it. Work this week included preparation for upcoming conferences (OpenStack Australia, QuestNet), the lecture I'm giving for Cluster and Cloud Computing, creating more space on the Edward cluster, and organising weekly research training sessions.

On Monday we went to visit [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce for the regular cheesequest and played Journey : Wrath of Demons, which went very well, although I do note that many of this big, expensive cooperative boardgames are very much in style of traditional battle scenes from traditional tabletop roleplaying games. Also enjoyed the company of their new household ferrets, very silly creatures. Friday night was another session of the Eclipse Phase Mars storyline where we smuggled weapon-grade uranium to the social democrats (I'm sure they'll use it responsibly). On other science fictions interests now have a copy of The Booger Peril courtesy of an invitation only book launch, and have also received responses and published an interview with John Snead, on of the most prolific writers in the RPG world.

Over the past week I've been thinking intensely on race conditions, but not in computer science. Rather, I've been thinking about them in terms of the sociology of crises, for example, the ability of disparate world political systems and interests to engage in effective unified action on global warming before a critical point is reached - in other words following the metrics of the Doomsday Clock, and noting that we're now in the same 'time' as we were globally as 1984.
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For a long time I have disliked "Australia Day" and the 'celebration' of the the landing of British First Fleet in Port Jackson in 1788. At best it is nationalistic nonsense that is grossly insensitive to the past and continuing experience of the country's indigenous inhabitants. Stan Grant's short but brilliant speech is receiving some justified circulation that explains this from personal experience. There is a good petition by Avaaz to change the date (I think Mabo Day would be appropriate). For our own part, Ben Debney has an article on the Isocracy Network, On The Continuing Prevalence of Racism.

In the past several days I've had some enjoyable gaming experiences: last Thursday was a build-up session for our Laundry Files storygame, and on Sunday was the first session of a new Eclipse Phase story. Most importantly however was the first release of the RPG Review Cooperative's first newsletter. On Saturay we also had another awesome cheesequest day, a dual-birthday gathering for myself and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce where we played Anti-monopoly (amusingly subject to its own trademark law suit) and Set.

Work has been 'challenging' over the past few days, which is never an enjoyable thing to have to write in this profession. The old cluster, Edward, is really showing its age and limits. One of the storage arrays is currently out when the disk filled to a hundred percent over the weekend, causing NFS to fall over yet again. Five of the disks and a controller card are out over the two storage arrays which we've been screaming about, like foreever [insert Valley accent]. Fortunately I've managed to source replacement parts which we'll install tomorrow. Bringing up the downed array is a matter of some priority so user jobs don't die screaming in a heap.
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Again in an attempt to bring my outstanding leave down to a somewhat manageable level took two days off work this week leading into an additional day with the Grand Final public holiday. A buyer visited to pick up some items from the Quicksales RPG store, specifically a small moutain of Spacemaster material and added some Rolemaster to his haul. I was pleasantly surprised to discover they still have an active game of the former running. I had a blast with it in the 80s and early 90s, but doesn't seem to get much coverage these days. In more actual play, Thursday night was our regular Laundry Files game, which involved an investigation into a chicken farm fire. Hardly the stuff of agenst to prevent Elder horrors? Well, it turned out that one of the chickens fired electrolasers from its eyes. Yep, a cockatrice, albeit developed in the Laundry Files style. The agency is very concerned about the fire, it is threatening Service Level Agreements. Overall, a great session combining the best elements of off-beat science fiction with a lurking fear of an insane bureaucracy in the background.

Today hosted an Oktoberfest and CheeseQuest today with [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya, [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce, and [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla in attendance. There was a variety of Munich imported beers to drink, and the delights of German cuisine (rotkohl, kohlroulden, spargel, rollmops etc). I made a kartoffelpuffer and kirschenmichel, and we made our way through a selection of Germanic cheese (jarlsberg, Danish blue, smoked handkase (substitute for smoked Austrian) that were included in the famous sketch. Also took the opportunity to play some first edition Tailisman (which, incidentally, I also have as a German edition).

I've been tinkering around with a few computer systems around the house as well. A recommended upgrade path for my aged Debian Mint laptop did not go well, so I've decided to give CentOS a go on that particular machine. In my continuing exploration of retrospective computer games in my closet have also been playing a little bit of American McGee's Alice - another classic from the past. All of this was interspersed with hanging out with the pets whilst given the house a bit of well-needed scrub.

These have been a very pleasant past few days. The weather has been fine and I've taken several ventures outdoors for pretty much any excuse possible. The social activities have come with fine and imaginative conversation. I have been able to delve into some technical activities both familiar and relatively new (at least in part). The house is somewhat cleaner and somewhat which the fastidious part of me derives some pleasure from. Life here is good but my thoughts turn to horrors in Syria and my thoughts darken; There but for the grace of God go I.
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This week I wrote or submitted three contributions to various government agencies. The first was a draft for Linux Users Victoria, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with particular attention drawn to intellectual property issues. The second was for the Victorian Secular Lobby, which was submitted to the Victorian parliamentary committee on end-of-life choices, based on last week's draft. The Isocracy Network is also considering a submission. The third was a submission to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, to the Cultural Diversity Review, specifically on the classification of Unitarians as "Christian (Other)" in the Australian census. For the Victorian Secular Lobby, it's been a particularly good week with Special Religious Instruction taken out of the education curriculum.

I've had a busy end-of-week socially; on Thursday night [livejournal.com profile] strangedave and [livejournal.com profile] doctor_k_ were visiting Melbourne, so we organised dinner and a tour at the asylum for them and [livejournal.com profile] mortonhall and Trevor (LJ name?). Great conversation and a pleasant walk of the grounds. Did the same for visiting Westalian nephew Luke from Muzzle and his friend Nick on Saturday night. Also on Saturday went to see [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce and [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla for the grand final of the cheesequest; a contest between (substituted) white stilton, epoisses (fantastic soaked in champagne), and a small mountain of the garlic-and-herb boursin, made by yours truly, plus a few others just to complement. We also played Mice and Mystics, a cooperative storytelling boardgame, where we were seriously defeated twice. Also had an interesting political and plotting dinner on Friday with Anthony and Daye.

The final social activity of late this week was a session of 7th Sea where the PCs are increasingly coming to to terms with the scale of the political danger they've put them in; it's a fantasy version of a resource course. Apart form all this I've been playing house a fair bit, after purchasing a big antique sideboard, rearranging a variety of furnishings (especially bookcases) in the process. I don't really live in a house; it's more like a small library and museum. Or at least that's the plan.
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Spent a couple of days this week systemically working my way through a course proposal at the school of vocational engineering at RMIT. The idea at this stage is to provide a year-long course as an option for computer engineering students that is specifically orientated towards HPC systems administration. Considering the dearth of material that is available for such a course, much of it is being built from the ground up, and quite literally in the sense that the course will cover planning, physical installation, configuration and testing, optimised software application installs, job submission, monitoring and troubleshooting, and disaster recovery. Apropos on this coming Tuesday I am speaking at Linux Users of Victoria on Educating People to become Linux Users: Some Key Insights from Adult Education.

This was a special Cthonian week; Thursday night held the dramatic ending to our three-year Nyarlathotep campaign at the former Kew asylum. Thus ends a combination of two of the most well-regarded RPG campaigns ever written. On Saturday we held another cheesequest and as part of that day's activities, play the original edition (1987) of Arkham Horror (there's an excellent review on rpg.net). It had been almost thirty years since I'd played this edition of the game. Almost needless to say, the monsters made short work of the puny investigators.

As for the cheesequest itself, the gastronomy started with fried crumbed camembert, followed by coq au vin and then up to the semi-finals with a knockout between the mighty Epoisses and white Stilton. Afterwards we travelled to deepest suburbia to [livejournal.com profile] log_reloaded's combination birthday and engagement party with her beau, Jase. Discovered that the pair of them, plus a few others in the room were Ingress players of the correct factional alignment. Also caught up with a number of people whom I hadn't seen in some years, including Tim S., who made the sensible suggestion that I should put in a paper to OSDC 2015 in Hobart.

There's been a couple of deaths this week which has affected me. The first being Chris Squire of Yes which ended up dominating much of my music listening for the week. The other was Nicholas Winton, a person who saved the lives of some seven hundred Jewish children on the second world war. Quiet about this for years, his wife discovered the names resulting in one surely must be one of the best moments in television history. The man is a great example of bravery and humility.
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Arriving in Melbourne last Saturday managed to experience two days at home before flying out again to deliver more HPC training at the Univeristy of Sydney. Fortunately one of those two days was an allocated CheeseQuest day with [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla, [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce, and of course, [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya, and it was the day of substitutes. Specifically, ser_pounce brought over Carré de l'Est (substitued with Epoisses), Caithness (Blarliath), Ilchester (Charnwood Applewood Smoked Cheddar), Dorset Blue Vinney (Shropshire Blue), and Fynbo (White Castello). Because it was Easter, I made another cheese from the famous skit, specifically Czechoslovakian sheep's milk cheese, or to be precise, sweet easter egg cheese (hrudka), as a desert. Plus we played a little Chez Cthulhu and watched some Moral Orel. To say the least is was a delightful and delectable day in very fine company.

The following day however it was back in the big silver bird, arriving once again at the functional, very inexpensive, and less than salubrious Macleay Lodge. It is a place that those with secular semi-Calvinist dispositions will love, and as a result I find myself quite comfortable there, and the more than an hour walk to and from the campus is probably doing me good (it certainly helps Ingress play). They were another good class, and I was particularly impressed by the contributions of one John Dodson who has been using UNIX since 1973. Off-campus, visited a seller of another swag of RPGs which I picked up on a bargain (with an appropriate excess luggage fee). But the real highlight of the visit was another dinner in Manly with the good Rev. Dr. Ian Ellis-Jones, a person who is certainly too critical of his own intellect and achievements, but wonderful company just the same. As often the case our conversations found there way around various topics of a trinity of politics, religion, and philosophy.

I now have a weekend, a day and a half of work at the office, and then off again for another three days of training. After that is another five days of training at Macquarie University and Sydney University again. After that I'll be up to the Gold Coast to present at the THETA conference. By that stage, from my quick reckoning, I would have spend ten of the last twelve weeks either overseas or interstate. To be frank it has reached the point of being a little exhausting, holiday time intermixed with the presentations and courses notwithstanding. Despite making some excellent contacts and opportunities through what must be said are very successful ventures, the "operations" side of my life is being neglected. I am rather hoping at some stage, perhaps in a month, just to spend a few days at home.
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The Earthworker Cooperative, a community-led cooperative, has a debenture system being offered to members - it retains its democratic system of ownership and management, but also allows for members to effectively invest with returns. I've decided to put a few thousand dollars of my savings into this loan scheme and am very interested in exploring the possibility for other cooperative ventures. There is, of course, a good variety of non-capitalist organisational models which are often overlooked from the standard for-profit company; incorporated associations, co-operatives, research agencies, statutory authorities, etc - and as this example shows, they have a variety of ways of raising necessary funds to further their aims.

Speaking of non-profit research agencies, spent a good portion of the last week preparing training material for multiple courses that I'll be running for the University of Sydney later in the near future. Three course books, about 15,000 words a piece, with a fair bit of material derived from previous courses but tailored for the specific software that will be utilised. From what I understand I'll be taking two trips (end of January and March), and somewhere in between that a three-day session at La Trobe University in early February and a three-day session at the University of Western Australia. In less exciting news, we're in the final stage of the review of project management procedures and tools which, in a delicious act of recursion, was a project which I managed in its own right. The procedures a lot more watertight than what we've had previously, mainly following the PRINCE2 framework for governance. The tools section has been left somewhat more varied, which I'm less happy with.

Thursday night was what will probably be the second last session of The Great Pendragon Campaign which dealt primarily with the increasingly strained relationship between Lancelot and Guinevere. Current plans for the next game will be The Laundry Files, which will be a very different style and subject matter. Probably worth mentioning that, following three years or so of recreating this story, on February 1st I'll be giving an address on the subject at the Melbourne Unitarian Church, entitled: The Once And Future King : Mythology and Motivation from the Arthurian Legends.

Had a non-cheesequest event today with [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce and [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla, so named as ser_pounce, our maître de fromage, is possibly allergic to lactose! I did however make a safe goat's cheesecake with a berry coulis. We played Hoax, another superb game from that old company, Eon Products, and then Six Billion, whom I once organised a demonstration session with the designer - an excellent if a little complex. We watched the second season of Morel Orel and in the evening [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya and I watched Uli Lommel's version of The Raven, a comically bad horror film (but which a reviewer generated a brilliantly appropriate poem)
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On Saturday [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya and I attended another part of round #2 of cheesequest with [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce; I made liptauer, but I suspect the wensleydale/stilton with cranberry will win the round. We also played Pandemic a great cooperative game - the disease defeated our collective efforts twice, along with Nuns on the Run, an impressively well-themed 'hide and seek'.

In the world of the Ingress augmented reality, have picked up a rather impressive Enlightened hoodie courtesy of agent ozmusic. It has a battery powered glow-trim, which is quite amusing. Hit level 11 in the game today, which has been quite a wait. However due to the achievment requirements, I'm expecting to hit level 12 next week, and 13 by the end of the year. After a year of play, I have will be considering how much more I continue with it. For a long time it has been more habitual than anything else.

Although the timetable is habitual, roleplaying is anything but in content. Last Thursday was another episode of Masks of Nyarlathotep where the foreign investigators did much better than the previous session in piecing together various leads in their journeys in 1925 Shanghai. Sunday was GURPS Middle-Earth, where we flushed out a demon. My character's overconfidence led to to try to challenge this creature in single-combat on top of a peaked tower; my strategic sense led me to duck away whilst it was peppered with missile fire. In other roleplaying matters, I somehow completely neglected to mention my review on rpg.net last month of The Shab-al-Hiri Roach. Tonight, have just finished a review of a Yaquinto classic from the early 80s, Pirates and Plunder.
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Wednesday evening was visiting the Palais Theatre to see Dream Theater. I attended with a somewhat critical expectations, but found the performance very impressive. These people really are among the best living rock musicians in the world, and it shows in their ability, performance, and the overwhelming stage show. They sounded better live than studio recordings, which is certainly something you cannot say about most bands. Even if it wasn't my normal sort of music, I can very enjoy it for what it was. My review has been EDIT submitted topublished on The Dwarf and on Monday I'll be going to see Radio Birdman. I am rather enjoying this opportunity to see various international and local acts, gratis, with the status of a reviewer, even if the site in question does prefer shorter reviews and I can tend towards more elaborate rants. I do wonder whether a person who is pushing fifty really is the right person to be engaging in contemporary music reviews and criticism. I blame [livejournal.com profile] mickmercer and [personal profile] reddragdiva as inspiration for this path.

This week has seen the opportunity for two feasts, somewhat combined. It was Oktoberfest and whilst [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya is only interested in the sweet side of German food (despite her Rhineland-Palatinate heritage) I was more prepared to dine upon Rollmopse, Gerkinsalat (which I made), various types of Sauerkraut and, of course German beer, in addition to the Heidesand, and an enormous Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte. The second gathering was the first round of part II of cheesequest with [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce and [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla. For the latter, I made Nova Scotia Brown Bread using Halloween molds, so we ended up with little bread-rats, skulls, ghosts and the like. Apart from engaging in this epic feast we also watched Moral Orel and played Poleconomy, a game which could really do with a second and more critical edition.

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Diary of a B+ Grade Polymath

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