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Tuesday, June 20th, 2017 10:20 pm
Final day in Stuttgart included a long walk through Rotwildpark, a thoroughly beautiful location, and a visit to Schloss Solitude which by good fortune had its rooftop open to visitors commanding some superb views. The journey back to Frankfurt was quick and uneventful and once again checked into the Hotel Colombus where, alas, a top floor has been allocated. In the rather warm conditions that is being currently experienced in western Europe it is a little unpleasant.

The main purpose of this European visit is, of course, the International Supercomputing Conference. The event is just the right size, and with a good combination of medium to some very low level presentations ("low level", as in dealing with the technical details). Of some note was the announcement at the conference that the United States has been edged out the top three supercomputer systems, with the delicate suggestion that the current administration may wish to revisit their committment to advanced research. Among the vendors the can be little doubt that NVIDIA's Volta architecture attracted much deserved attention especially with its performance, energy efficiency, and capability for artificial intelligence - the latter being an interesting focus among a number of presentations.

There has been some more social activities as well; I was subject to a film interview by Dell on the sort of HPC work conducted at the University, and had dinner with a number of their staff at the well-reviewed Immer Satt. I have also had the opportunity to catch up with several individuals from my last visit to this part of the world, including colleagues from Stuttgart and Freiburg Universities as well as establish contacts with well people from Auckland University of Technology (quite a trip) and GENCI (Grand Equipment National de Calcul Intensif) who I will be visiting in Paris this Friday.
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Saturday, June 17th, 2017 09:39 pm
After the necessary recovery day from the flight (along with some weird sleeping hours as my body-clock adjusted), the next day was a visit to Frankfurt University. The technical and scientific research groups are located in an outer suburb which nevertheless is only 15 minutes by train from the city centre. The day was spent in conversation with their Center for Scientific Computing Team team then attending their introductory class in cluster computing conducted by Anja G., which is an especially comprehensive overview, albeit without a hands-on component. I have spent considerable time going through their lesson plan and slidedeck providing feedback, as well as updating my own standard content from their insights.

After this was the trip to Stuttgart to stay with relatives, about an hour's journey on the fast IC trains. The following day was a holiday, so we we took a tour of the city and especially around the Schollplatz. Visits to (and from) the Stuttgardians are always a pleasure; they're switched-on, savvy, and highly considerate of the needs of others. The children are polite, funny, and absolutely fascinated by Australian animals, which makes buying gifts a breeze. Additional time with them was quite accidental as the person I was supposed to visit at the local university had fallen ill, so we instead took a visit to the Trippsdrill Theme Park, which apart from the usual fare also integrates local history of Swabian life especially from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Following day started with a visit to downtown Stuttgart where I teased a person in a kangaroo suit (complete with joey) by chatting to them and putting on a very broad Australian accent with colloquialisms. It was a conclusion of some animal events from the past day which included a small finch that stunned itself after flying into a window and a visit by a red squirrel. Further down the road a woman was offering "Free Hugs" in the middle of the mall, so obliged this pan-handler. Afterwards we visited the Ritter Sports chocolate museum, which of course the kids loved. They had an absolutely appalling abstract expressionist art exhibition. When will people learn that such art (loosely defined), the enemy of realism and surrealism, was actually a CIA plot? The day has ended with dinner at for all at Das Pilum, an Italian-Swabian restaurant in former military barracks (the grounds date to Roman times).
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Saturday, February 18th, 2017 12:00 pm
An arrival to the South Island was met by fires in Christchurch. As if that poor city has not suffered enough from the terrible earthquakes of 2011 which still scar the city. The famed central Cathedral is now but a shell of what it once was, and like all great ruins is gradually being taken by nature. The official part of my visit was to the University HPC team who have shfted most of their facilities to their national infrastructure. Still, I managed to have enough spare time to vist the impressive Canterbury Museaum and take a walk around the botanical gardens before spending a night in a former prison cell, which is certainly an imaginative use of such facilities.

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

My first day was spent with David Eyers and Jim Cheetham who cover HPC and security respectively, and their insights on such subjects will be taken home and again, as is my want, visited the Otago Museum. I've also been contacting many people I know in NZ about whether they would be interested in taking the recently retired Avoca system across The Ditch. I rather like the idea of NZ having a Top500 system on its shores. The following day was free time and the opportunity was taken to visit our South Pacific base are looking after it. The musicians who live there are doing a great job and apparently a new LP, "Lodge Music" will be released in the near future. I'm quite looking forward to it.
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Saturday, January 28th, 2017 10:43 pm
Many of Australia's public holidays are quite comic. Determined by state goverments, in Victoria we have holidays for a horse race and a football game. But apart from stupid holidays we also manage to have grossly offensive ones, and worst still, the national day, January 26, which celebrates the invasion of the country by British forces and sequence of genocidal policies against indigenous Australians. I have written an article on the Isocracy Network which outlines the history of Australia's establishment, the effects, and how a Treaty with the indigenous peoples could resolve many issues. As for the day itself, I cooked up a storm of some basic dishes (risotto, French onion soup, bread and butter pudding etc). On related political issues have arranged for an Isocracy meeting for February 10 (Labor-Green alliance strategy meeting (FB)).

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

In miscellaneous activities had a hackathon with the Papers & Paychecks rules on Wednesday night, that will be followed by a game of GURPS Middle Earth tomorrow. My review of D&D Basic Set has been published on rpg.net. A subchapter of the Building Clusters and Clouds book has been written up on Data Centre Preparation. Apart from that there's been a lot of language study; French, German, Spanish, Esperanto, Tetum, and Mandarin pretty much every day, with Russian somewhat less regularly.
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Saturday, January 7th, 2017 05:38 pm
New Year's Eve was spent at two gatherings; one hosted by Anthony L., which has a solid gathering of aging radicals, aesthetes, academics, and even diplomats. The second was hosted by [livejournal.com profile] sebastienne, and included the goth, punk, metal, and geek set. Both were great nights, although I suspect the latter would have been more in tune with my review on Rocknerd of Mogwai's Central Belters which was completed that day. As the fireworks went off [livejournal.com profile] saithkar made comment about their expense and aesthetic nothingness, which led to me bring enlighten all with the use of dead children as a unit of currency (this will be my reading for tomorrow's Unitarian Poetry Service). A recent production of a pair of pistols valued at 4.5 million USD is another case in point; that's a lot of Dead Children.

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

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

The new year has also seen a little bit of a flurry of activity on the political scene as well. Last night had dinner with members of the Labor Party and the Greens who are sensible enough to see that they have a common conservative enemy that is more important than any difference they may have between them. Because I am sufficiently non-partisan will be doing the same with a member of the Liberal Party early next week. The Isocracy Network 'blogs have had a few entries this year already, including one by myself on the impeachment proceedings of the South Korean President.
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Friday, December 2nd, 2016 10:46 pm
The end of the year is approaching and I find myself dearly wishing there was about another month so I would have a chance of completing the somewhat optimistic set of tasks that I manage to set myself each year. Of course, in such circumstances where I think many are finding themselves winding down, my psychology directs me to redouble my efforts. This can lead to some interesting conflicts as all sorts of social events are called around this time. Most prominent this past week was an extended lunch (approximately six hours) at Rosetta hosted by some representatives of SanDisk and HGST for a few of us (which couldn't have been cheap), and the day prior the Puppet Camp, the highlight of which was spending the day with former co-worker, Dylan G. He wins the prize for worst pun of the day when I wryly mentioned it wasn't much of a camp. "Oh yes, it is. Everything is intense", he quipped. Somehow among all this I've managed to finish my part of a co-authored paper with the good folk at the University of Freiburg HPC centre, in preparation for the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt next year.

Another activity over the past day has been getting the final touches of RPG Review issue 32 together, now that Frank Menzter's interview has been received. I am hoping to have it released before the weekend is out. The issue is heavily biased towards the various games and material relevant to TSR, which really founded the RPG hobby in their own right. At the same time, we're now into the final three weeks of the Papers and Paychecks Kickstarter which I am still optimistic can make it over the line before the due date at Christmas evening. Currently playing Eclipse Phase with our usual international group which mostly plays via Google Hangouts; we've been making our way through a playtest of some new experimental rules for the game, which we I will also test out with our Sunday group as well. Speaking of which it's also been confirmed that the next issue of RPG Review will feature Rob Boyle, designer of Eclipse Phase as the main subject for our upcoming Transhumanist issue, which is due by the end of the year. Certainly Eclipse Phase has bee the most significant RPG I've been involved in for a couple of years now; the exploration of plausible and dangerous post-human future with genuinely alien contact is far superior to much of what passes as science fiction film.
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Monday, October 24th, 2016 06:12 pm
Leaving Geneva we took the train to our next leg of the journey, Montpellier. I readily admit that it never has been a location that I had paid tremendous attention to, but now I've discovered the error of my ways. With over half a million inhabitants, approximately a third are students attending one of the three higher education institutions in the city. The main purpose of my visit was to visit CINES (Centre Informatique National de l’Enseignement Supérieur), one of the three major peak computational facilities for France, where several of their staff meet with me to discuss and compare various computational architectures and strategies. In evening we made our way to Ecusson, the historic old town of the city, a delightful maze of narrow streets, limestone buildings, and unexpected plazas, retail, and drinking establishments. I was particularly taken by the unexpected discovery of a busy plaza dedicated to Jean Jaurès, founder of the Section Française de l'Internationale Ouvrière, and overwhelmed by the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Montpellier.

The following day we took the train from Montpellier to Barcelona, making it the fourth country of visit in four days. To be honest by this stage I was getting quite tired of the ritual of waking early, journeying in the morning, visiting an HPC facility in the afternoon, and trying to get some sightseeing done in the evening. Most of the first day in Barcelona was coming to terms with the stunning ocean views from our apartment and - despite being a weekend - getting some more mundane work done. The following day however made our way to the Gothic Quarter, where we had lunch with Andrew S; I think the waiter was pleased by the fact that I ordered my meal at least in part with Catalan as well as Castilian. The desire for independence is strong in the city, and many buildings are adorned with the Estelada. We accidentally stumbled into a great local government exhibit of first president of the region, Josep Tarradellas, who spent most of his time in exile (Franco didn't particularly care for his politics), before making our wy to the the local section of the Barcelona City Museum, which of course, the underground Roman and Visigothic ruins were quite the highlight. Now getting ready to see 65dos at Razzmatazz - and debating whether to see The Chemical Brothers on Thursday night at the same venue.
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Thursday, October 20th, 2016 07:23 pm
Second day in Stuttgart involved a visit to the local university, where is the home of the High Performance Computing Centre, which includes a Department of Philosophy of Science and Technology of Computer Simulation. From the latter group I received a summary presentation of each of the research projects. From the main body, attended the large (sixty plus) advanced parallel programming class lead by Dr. Rolf Rabenseifner and a visit, of course, to the data centre. The HPCC is home of one of the most powerful (currently 9th) computer systems in the world; Hazel Hen, a Cray XC40-system - along with the remains of a Cray II. Afterwards took a two hour walk home which was mostly through dense urban forest, a surprisingly delightful detour courtesy of Google Maps recommended path. That evening took the family to Weinstube Froehlich an excellent traditional Swabian restaurant. The lovely Kinder had already received their special present - a copy of Australian Menagerie and all the supplements we could find.

From Stuttgart we caught the dawn bus service to Freiburg im Breisgau, a visit which, alas, all too brief for a single day. We stayed next to the Stadtgarten on the edge of the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität district and the old city. The (often reconstructed) medieval area does feature the extremely impressive Freiburg Minster, a massive high-gothic construction which was first built in the 1100s, then added to successively over the next four hundred years. The internals are quite a sight, almost enough to convert someone if only in recognition of the human effort and creativity involved. The main part of the day of course was a visit to the university HPC centre (consisting of a a tour of the facilities, a long discussion and comparison of differing architecture and management) was very valuable. It is interesting that they are also doing a cloud-HPC hybrid system, albeit with quite a different architecture - which can be summarised as the differences between a chimera and a cyborg. We have a multi-headed system, and they have cloud instances within their compute nodes. I am already seeing several papers coming out and much closer collaboration from these visits.
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Friday, October 14th, 2016 03:59 pm
There was something quite perfect about landing in Doha, capital of Qatar, listening to The Clash doing "Rock The Casbah". The end of the first leg of the gruelling journey with plentiful but poor in-flight entertainment there was one good LP from the selection, the Hits Back compilation by aforementioned band. To their credit, Qatar airlines is quite comfortable and the airline food (which they keep on providing) was of a very high quality. From the transfer from the massive Doha airport it was another several hours before landing in Frankfurt, a stunningly simple transfer through German customs and then to Five Elements Hotel, an extremely well-priced and comfortable hostel in the middle of the red light district.

The following day the first port of call was the Goethe University library where I had made a previous request for some hard to find material from Friedrich Pollock. I was astounded to find the library special collections staff had put aside several folders of original typed and handwritten material, which I am sure (based on the foxing) that I was the first person to open in seventy years. After taking numerous photos of that material it was a short walk to Institut für Sozialforschung to be an academic fanboy. It was mostly deserted as it was undergoing renovations, but nevertheless did engage in a bit of an explore. It is difficult to underestimate the importance of this small group of serious and careful radical intellectuals to my own spiritual development. A homecoming in so many ways.

After that made a journey to the Struwwelpeter Museum, Frankfurt's long-lasting fictional children's character, them to the very impressive Frankfurt Zoological Gardens, where had a bit of a chuckle at the collection of exotic Australian birds. The day ended with a visit to the Alte Opera for a bit of high culture to listen to Schumann concert, although with some amusement almost ended up at the wrong concert (who would have thought would have two different shows on at the same building, at the same time, at the same price, with the same seating numbers?).

Today was spent almost entirely at the Center for Scientific Computing at the Goethe University, discussing their various system configurations, and sitting through one of their training courses on high performance computing using Slurm. It was a very comprehensive course but I felt that it could have done with more hands-on activities. As it was the in-class conversation with the systems staff and researchers was excellent. Aferwards they took us out to some traditional Frankfurt dining at Lamer Esel (The Lame Donkey). Apropos this I have written a presentation for the four HPC centers I am visiting in Germany and Switzerland, A Cloud-HPC Hybrid Model for HPC Centres. Now it is time for the train and a weekend in Schwarzwald
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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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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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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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Thursday, March 24th, 2016 11:30 pm
Gave a lecture this afternoon at the University of Melbourne on the Edward and Spartan HPC systems as part of the postgraduate course on cluster and cloud computing; seemed to go well. The Spartan HPC/Cloud hybrid system is certainly novel, if not unique, in its architecture and it's great to have come online with students from the course to provide the initial beta-test group. UoM students will also be receiving several training instances from me in the coming weeks in the form of HPC and Cloud Computing courses.

Wednesday night went to see The Residents perform their Shadowland concert (Youtube link, of Vooruit Gent). Their lengthy avant-garde peformance art is like a punk version of Laurie Anderson - which is somewhat reminiscent of J.G. Thirlwell with a carnivalesque motifs. I like the style and I particularly liked the concert. But it does remind me that I have now four outstanding reviews for Rocknerd. Just as well there is a long weekend to see if I can through these.

Under the aegis and approval of the RPG Review Cooperative, I have started a petition to WoTC to release Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition under an Open Game License (like 3rd edition and 5th edition). This is not about whether one like 4th edition or not - but rather of equality and fairness (someone will probably make a SJW comment about it). Appropriately the third Crux Australi newsletter has been released, including mention of the weekend's gaming convention, Conquest.
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Saturday, February 6th, 2016 06:44 pm
Brought almost everything related to the cluster back online this week, hitting 90% utilisation by Friday, with reviving a downed node saved for other's use. Also this week have dropped into ResBaz. There was a couple of hundred people involved, so it's been quite a show, and ran into Yaokang W., who is interested in the fascinating field of using the Natural Language Tookit in case law. In a couple of weeks I'll be travelling to Wellington to present and MC at Multicore World. My paper has puns in the title; A Laconic HPC with an Orgone Accumulator.

The Isocracy Network has a new article by William Hathaway on a Long Term Strategy for the Left, but also a timely new national policy for asylum seekers developed by Damien Kingsbury, myself, and other troublemakers. 'Timely' is used in the disturbing context of the High Court deciding that the children of asylum seekers born in Australia could still be sent to offshore detention. Attended the large (and mainly unreported) snap protest at the State Library for those of us still opposed to the torture of babies (has it really come to this?).

Three other events attended this week; GURPS Middle Earth and Laundry Files games on last Sunday and Thursday respectively, the latter quite notable for using characters and setting from The Man Who Would Be King. Went to Robina C's et. als, exhibition on Friday at The Food Court; an interesting space and indicitive of an area that has been over-developed - nows the artists are moving in.
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Friday, November 13th, 2015 09:54 pm
First three days of this week were spent at La Trobe University conducting another round of HPC and Linux courses. They were a good class, engaged and interested - at least those that made the effort to turn up were. Next week I have another round except at Deakin University and using (primarily) Australian's most powerful computer Raijin. It uses a different scheduler and resource manager to what I typically work with and has some rather different licensing approaches, so it has also met that I've spent the other two days at work reconstructing the three-day teaching manuals and testing code for the course. Speaking of work, it has been rather grim days. There was a farewell lunch today for several more of our staff as the company begins to move towards a skeleton staff for HPC maintenance alone.

Whilst I am not at the point of public disclosure I must admit an choice issue has been gnawing at me for the past several days (just as well I have been busy), which is generating (quite unreasonably) a great deal of anxiety. Yes, it is potentially extremely disruptive to my life but honestly only relative to this particular stage of my life - I wouldn't be feeling anything like I do fifteen years ago. Worse still, it is somewhat embarrassing because the available choices are extremely beneficial. I apologise to my dear readers for being so cryptic, but I do keep a public journal (even on a now-obscure platform) and as a result I must keep a level of confidentiality. To an extent getting this down is catharitic.

Continuing work on Duolingo goes well. Contrary to some expectations I am not suffering much confusion in vocabulary from taking multiple languages. Attended German class at the CAE on Wednesday and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Duolingo training had a very positive effect. On the way home we encountered a fledgling Tawny Frogmouth. Not exactly the first wildlife rescue we had conducted in the area we whisked it off to the 24-hour vet, where it's doing very well.
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Monday, November 2nd, 2015 11:45 pm
Second half of the Tasmanian trip started with dinner with my old colleague Emeritus Professor Peter Boyce, a really wonderful night with a wide-ranging discussion with a bit of a concentration on the weirder parts of the former east European governments in less democratic days. It dove-tailed well with [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya and I continuing strongly with our duolingo lessons, even if it has meant missing some CAE classes. Whilst not a headline, my favourite talk of the the final day of OSDC was Paul Wayper's presentation (primarily) on logging. One the last day took the M.V. Emmalisa for a lunch-time trip which is excellent value.

Returned from Tasmania in time for Halloween, where local kids adopt the completely wrong astronomical ritual under the influence of American cultural imperialism. We sent them away with threats that we would feed them to our rats. I spoke the following day at the Progressive Atheists Conference on Secularism in the Modern World. The real keynotes however were presentations by Bangladeshi 'bloggers who are having a fairly rough time. The following day convened The Philosophy Forum where James Fodor spoke on peer disagreement.

On the topic of classes, first day of three of Linux and HPC courses for RMIT and UniMelb students was held today. Exhausting as usual, but also with good feedback and a couple of really switched on individuals who wanted to push Python down the parallel path. Will be running classes tomorrow as well, even it is supposed to be a public holiday for horse torture. Next week will be the same run of courses at La Trobe University. Appropriately, this Wednesday I will be speaking at Linux Users of Victoria on parallel programming (having just completely a security and module upgrade to the site, hopefully nothing is too broken).
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Saturday, August 29th, 2015 04:38 pm
Yet another round of HPC and Linux courses conducted this week, three solid days of raising a small group of researchers from basic command line knowledge through to submitting PBS scripts of increasing complexity and finishing with MPI programming. In several days, another set of courses will be conducted, this time for the RMIT SPACE research centre. On a related topic, next Tuesday will be the Annual General Meeting for Linux Users Victoria with an interesting talk on cross-compiling for the web also featured.

Provided another submission to the Victorian Parliamentary committee this week on end-of-life choices, this time on behalf of the Isocracy Network. Also received two confirmations to be a speaker in October, one from the Open Source Developers' Conference where I will be presenting on vocational Linux education, and a short presentation to the Victorian Secular Conference on The Political Imperative of Secularism. Sunday week I am giving the address at the Unitarian Church on The Modernisation of Buddhist Karma.

Social media in Melbourne has raised the ante quite significantly in the past twenty-four hours with the announcement then sudden cancellation of Operation Fortitude. After the Federal government reconstructed Australia's immigration service into a paramilitary Border Force, this Friday they were supposed to engage in a search for illegal immigrants on the streets of Melbourne. With Melbournians reacting that they didn't particularly want a "do you have your papers?" policing, it was cancelled, with an almighty cock-up of a media release.
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Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 09:04 pm
Have spent the last two days conducting training for researchers at the Australian Institute for Health Innovation, which is part of Macquarie University. The classes have been a little more difficult than usual, partially because of the diverse levels of skills involved in the group (some have never used Linux at all, others are full-time medical software engineers), but also because of the state of their small cluster - not much of the usual range of scientific software has been installed and there is need for some configuration improvements especially with their databases. Plus, for those who have experience, the cluster has changed from a Torque/Moab system to PBSPro. As a result, it has not been used as much as it should, however I am hoping that this should change now that training has been completed. Tomorrow I will finish the final session of training for researchers at the University of Sydney for their new HPC cluster.

Sydney has been suffering some particularly stormy weather, which has resulted in fatalities. It was pretty interesting taking the plane in on the evening of what was the strongest day for the inclement weather. Now with all due concern for the enormous financial cost and the loss of lives, I must admit that I really quite like wild weather like this - I took the opportunity to go out as much as I could (complete in at least the top-half of my Devo radiation suit). I find the howling winds and cold driving rain to be invigorating, and whilst I can also enjoy the quiet contemplation when communing with nature, it is in the midst of the maelstrom that I find she speaks most clearly (not to push the anthropomorphic metaphor too much).

But whilst on that topic of quiet contemplation and universities, I must also sing some praises of Macquarie University. It is the first time I had visited that campus and I must say it has many of the features that I have noticed from similar institutions of that period that I have spent time at (Murdoch University, La Trobe University, Deakin University at Waurn Ponds). These are campuses that are some distance from the CBD, with modern buildings and natural surrounds and even a modicum of wildlife. The combination really does provide a sense of being a sheltered workshop for the intellectually able, but maybe that's just what researchers need. The active participation of academia in society is certainly necessary, even if it is a thorn in the side of politicians and their allies, but passive contemplation also requires the right environment as well.
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Saturday, April 12th, 2014 09:26 am
Three days this week was pretty much taken up by conducting Linux, HPC, and MPI training courses for a number of postgrads, almost all from RMIT. Another good class who started with zero background in the subjects and who by the third day were working their way through MPI programming. Of some note was the attendance of the first economist in the three years or so that I've been running these courses. I've had a longstanding desire (and it really wouldn't be that hard) to compare local economic development with different council rating systems as a time series - not really requiring HPC but certainly does require a geospatial person, a valuer, an economist, and a programmer to be on the same project.

On another significant IT-related issue is Heartbleed which, hopefully, most people have heard of by now. From a technical perspective a failure in the bounds-checking by some versions of OpenSSL to malformed heartbeat requests allows for an attack vector on server memory of affected systems. From a user's perspective it means that passwords on many major sites have been compromised over the past two years. Whilst Filippo Valsorda has produced a useful tool to check whether a site is currently affected, there is no easy way to check if a certificate have been re-keyed. What can be provided is a handy list of many sites that were compromised last Tuesday, a day after the bug was made public.

Recently a study has been released claiming that the dingo is a separate species. Whilst it looks serious enough the university press release on a certain date, made me think that this could be an "poisson d'avril" as the proposition is so counterintuitive. Certainly species is a complex subject with some interesting edge cases (e.g., hybrids, ring species), but the general principle of species representing a population of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring is true. The paper argues - through morphological analysis of museum examples, not genetics - that the dingo was a separate species some five thousand years ago and is now being threatened by extensive hybrid speciation. Personally, I find their claim highly dubious. Not only is there significant evidence that the dingo's arrival was somewhat earlier, mitochondrial DNA analysis indicates that the dingo has much less differences with the domestic dog than wolves. So whilst morphological analysis is useful for a quick rule of thumb, genetic analysis is a much better determinant.
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Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 10:43 am
The aging but spritely Prankster rat has been in the wars. Last week she had to go undergo surgery to remove a very large tumour. A short clip of the surgery is available for those who have an interest in such things. Unfortunately she ended up with an infected abscess following the operation, and had to go under again. She has recovered but is spending a several days with her stomach thoroughly bandaged. This is of course not an inexpensive venture; having recently visited a tax agent to submit several years of returns a review of our financial statements made it fairly clear of the costs of keeping our extensive menagerie. On a contrary country-wide scale, it seems that the Agriculture Minister has decided that the suffering of animals is something that is worth sacrificing for profit, as live sheep and cattle exports will resume to countries previously noted for cruelty.

Apropos, have recently taken up readings in animal-based fiction, starting with the classics of course; The Call of the Wild, White Fang, The Jungle Book, and The Island of Doctor Moreau. Fishing for other suggestions that are particularly good at taking an animal's perspective on the world. Part of this interest is planning for running an upcoming Werewolf: The Apocalypse story, set during the Yugoslav Wars (too soon, perhaps?), where the player-characters will start as Bosnian werewolves; one can guess where I'm going with this.

Very pleased to hear that the latest version of OpenMPI is MPI3 compliant; I have written some installation instructions, which also touches upon the importance of this change. On the management side of IT, have written a sample quality assurance document for software development, which is sufficiently generic to be useful for others. A further document on project management is in the works, which I should know something about. Out-of-hours, I have taken a recent interest in Inform7, a natural language declarative programming language which produces code for Z-machines, rather like the old text-based adventure games (e.g., Zork). Finally, it helps if you check your code before publishing - and if you're giving a C++ example, perhaps some classes and methods too.
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