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2017-10-18 03:17 pm

Viva BrisVegas, Games and Music

Have arrived in BrisVegas (as it is known by many) for eResearchAustralasia, and am staying at the pretty acceptable Spring Hill Mews. The first day's arrival was spoilt by illness, I suspect because some fucker sneezed on me on the plane on the way over. Still, by the end of the second day I was feeling better and arrived for the conference welcome reception and then joined a group for dinner at Mucho Mexicano. Whilst it is early days yet the conference itself has been so-so from the first few speakers. Leeanne Enoch gave a good introduction to the conference, especially for a politician, and David De Roure's presentation on Ada Lovelace and computer-generated music was quite enjoyable. I suspect for the rest of this afternoon I'll be staying in the Advancecd Computing stream.

Before leaving Melbourne, I did have the opportunity to run a session of Eclipse Phase finishing the Chain Reaction scenario, which will then be followed up with the subsequent related scenarios. In addition, Karl B., has assisted with the final editing of Papers & Paychecks although, alas, I still haven't managed to track down Tim Kask to do the foreword. On my return to Melbourne it looks like I'll finally get around to seeing Blade Runner 2049, given that I am "a bit" of a fan of the original.

Prior to departure I also managed to see Peter Hook and the Light, at their final Melbourne concert, performing Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures and Closer (after selling my previous tickets to [ profile] fustian_. It was a great concert and in next couple of days I hope to have a review written for [personal profile] reddragdiva for Rocknerd, which I'm sure he's looking forward to. Should also mention that I'm half-way through writing an article about that strange alliance that's grown between the Democratic Socialists of America and the Juggalos.
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2017-10-13 10:49 pm

Gaming Updates and HPC Conferences

Much of this week has been spent finishing the last several thousand words to Papers & Paychecks with a plan to send to printers next week, although I can't seem to contact Tim Kask, whom I would like to write the foreword (which I discovered many months ago, he wanted to do). It has also been a week of multiple gaming sessions with a new RuneQuest game with new GM on Sunday set in Questworld and incorporating the somewhat maligned Eldarad supplement, and then a committee meeting for the RPG Cooperative (we'll be off to see Blade Runner 2049 soon. It was followed up with an session of Elric! on Wednesday night, where we've started using and rebuilding The Tower of Yrkath Florn. Tonight was a session of Eclipse Phase which was based at an academic psychology conference.

This has rather curious parallels of course, as on Monday I attended the Victorian Directors of IT conference. Much of it was rather vague and high level, but there were a few good sessions, and the education-based keynote by Professor Liz Johnson was excellent. Liz has been kind enough to review the co-authored presentation I am giving at eResearchAustralasia in Brisbane next week. After that I'll be back home for a few days before going to the IEEE eScience conference in Auckland. I would actually like to spend several days at home in succession, and it all hasn't been helped by the fact that I have worked a little on the late side a few days at work, part of which included completing the PRACE HPC course.

There is a curious paradox at play; most occupational health research suggests that people (and especially men) should ease themselves into retirement - drop down to four days at 40, three days at 50, two at 60, and then one, then zero. However as you get older you also become more skilled especially in particular niche - and if you have any work ethic whatsoever, there is a motivation to work longer hours despite the negatie socio-economic effects this has, not to mention the toll on personal health. Indeed, it requires a significant degree of personal willpower these days to drag oneself away at the nominal close of business. I have significant doubts that this is part of my disposition.
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2017-10-07 01:29 am
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Funerals and Return

Wednesday was Maria Hoehn's funeral at Bowra and O'Dea, a rather well-established body in Perth from the 19th century starting as "undertakers and carriage makers" in Goderich Street East Perth where some one hundred years later I would roam in my troubled teenage years. They clearly had close connections with a part of the local community, as evidenced by a proudly displayed letter from the Provisional Irish government dated in March 1922. It was, according to Maria's wishes a rather Catholic affair. The family saw fit that I was the allocated reader, a rather great honour, and I relished the opportunity to read Corinthians 13. I didn't mind at all doing the responsorial psalm either (the famous Psalm 23), although I was less comfortable, as a non-believer, reading the supernatural prayers to the faithful. Erica and Arnold did a magnificent job at the euology, providing an outline of Maria's life from her childhood during the war, to her young marriage (to a rather dashing husband), her youthful migration to Australia with no English skills, life in the Kalgoorlie region, the birth of her sons, and then Erica, the loss of her husband, and then having to bring up three children by herself, and guiding them into adulthood. Sophie's recital of a childhood poem to her grandmother was, of course, cute as a button. Apart from family, she had a good number of her friends present as well many of whom I was meeting for the first time; judging by remarks apparently Maria had spread tales of my cooking to them.

For my own part there was not much else to do but return home and offer my sturdy consolations to [ profile] caseopaya. The cat is back from Andrew D's care and hasn't entirely snubbed us. The magpies were glad to see us again, with now more than twenty-five visiting daily for their supply of cat biscuits. I completed the PRACE supercomputing course with the exception of the final assessment, and have made more work on my paper for eResearch Australasia. On a related note on Monday will be attending a one-day conference for the Victorian University Directors of Information Technology (I'm not an IT director, but it's handy that I have a sense of the strategic direction). Spartan has undergone a rather signifcant upgrade this past week (virtual to physical machines for login and management, network upgrades and reallocation) as well, and today nearly all of it finally came together with some particularly heroic work from various staff members. Most of it is at infrastructure level immediately above my normal scope of activities but there was some necessary glue which I could contribute in a meaningful way. In other words, after the week in Perth I'm back into the swing of normality in under a day. Following last week's VCAT decision to grant me power of attorney my next activity will be sorting out Rick's finances.
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2017-10-03 12:29 am
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The Western Lands

William S. Burroughs once wrote a challenging book of this title, referring to the Egyptian book of the Dead, and it is something which has always felt close to my own opinion of Western Australia. In this particular visit it has come to be more visceral and literal than metaphorical. Unlike many other journeys I have made over here in recent years, I have not graced friends with dinners or drinks out, with the single exception of catching up with my old mentor Bruce T., in recognition of his birthday. Instead I have dealt entirely with the various family matters and tasks following the demise of [ profile] caseopaya's mother. There is of course, a lifetime's worth of personal chattels to deal with in the Medina house and as many will testify I'm pretty thorough and expeditious when it comes to cleaning and packing home belongings. Yet in these circumstances one is occassionally struck with a tinge of guilt as a ruthless assessment is made of whether an item is going to be disposed of, passed on to charity, or friends, or kept - that all of these embody the memories of the deceased.

Whilst most evenings have been spent with dinners with family and friends of the family, I have been no less harsh on my own timetable. Studiously attentive of work requirements as we're making a major upgrade to our management and login nodes, I've tracked my hours spent on these tasks and the PRACE supercomputer course with great attentiveness. The latter is generating some annoyance; it is far too high level, and the tests make too much use of unstructured Cloze tests - which is only as good as the unknown correct answers, and when they make mistakes between plurals and possessive clauses it is not exactly helpful. As a result of appropriate time pressures I have spent a lot less time on tasks like Papers & Paychecks and RPG Review, although both are at the final stages of completion. I put out an Isocracy newsletter today; the most important item, in my opinion, being the LabourStart campaign to free jailed union leaders in Egypt.
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2017-09-26 11:06 pm

Death, Madness and Love

It was over two years ago that [personal profile] caseopaya's mother was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. At the time she was given mere weeks to live. Well she made an additional two years, with [personal profile] caseopaya calling me in the early hours of this morning to say that she'd passed away, after being taken off her usual medications, then off food and water until she was just on pain killers. It was from all accounts, an easy death as much as such a thing could be said to occur. I have sung Maria's praises in the past and there is not much more that can be added. The immediate family in WA is making funeral arrangements and have had the synchronicity of a niece's birthday. Tomorrow I leave to join the clan; Andrew D., has kindly offered to look after our menagerie, which is somehwat more modest these days.

So that was the start of the day. The next activity was attending VCAT so I can have power of financial attorney for Rick B., whom has been initially diagnosed as having frontaltemporal dementia. The one-person tribunal was more than satisfied that I would be a sound person to manage his finances and the presence of another of Rick's close friends as well as two character letters (one from a psychiatric nurse and the other from a psychologist) certainly helped. Much of the meeting was going through the details and ensuring that I understood the powers and responsibilities that come with such a role, and the reporting requirements. A nice fat book has been provided to aid me in this new endeavour.

After that took a trip out to a couple of inner suburbs for a couple of hours to put up posters to encourage a 'yes' vote in Australia's ridiculous marriage equality postal survey. Had a few people ask for a couple to add to their home windows etc., including an older Dutch lesbian activist, who was a member of the Matrix Guild. It's tiring work for one person, juggling posters and tape, but the response was good.

After that returned to the city to the Victorian Secular Lobby meeting on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill which is being presented to the Victorian parliament. The meeting was addressed by Lesley Vick, president of Dying with Dignity Victoria who pointed out the national changes and an overall change towards greater patient-centered care. I would have liked to have had a few more people in attendance, but that's how it goes. Lesley was a great speaker and packed in a lot of information, even though she was more than a little under the weather.

And that was quite a day, even by my own standards.
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2017-09-23 11:39 pm

The Spring Solstice

In my preferred measuring of time, today marks the the three-quarter mark of the year and it has recently been eventful, rather than the reflective opportunity I take on such quarter calendar markers. The day started with a visit from [ profile] hathhalla and [ profile] ser_pounce for our irregular cheesequest session, which was followed with me running the third session of our Charlemagne D&D game, involving adapting The Veiled Soceity with the the historical revolt against his rule in in Friuli. Alas, the day ended with a very sad note with a message that [personal profile] caseopaya's mother has taken a turn for the worse and is now in a critical condition in hospital; a plane has been immediately booked to Perth and it is almost certain I will be embarking on the journey shortly afterwards. However, before I depart I have to attend VCAT on Tuesday to have power of financial attorney transferred to me for Rick B. and, with the universe displaying no sense of irony, the meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby with Lesley Vick on the Dying with Dignity legislation.

On the scale of things there there is little else to report. I have been busy catching up on my PRACE supercomputing course when the opportunity presents itself, and even more so working on Papers & Paychecks at every available opportunity, especially working my way through the "sapient monsters" - cars, computers, photocopiers, fatbergs - that come to "life". There was a good game of Megatraveller on Wednesday evening with our regular group, and I have taken it upon myself to update and extend on existing javascript files for character generation to ship and world design. Finally, workwise things have been at their usual level of mad activity, with staff illnesses pushing our already tight deadlines for the GPGPU project into stormy territory. A lunch sponsored by SanDisk's Gary M., on Friday was thoroughly appreciated with a particularly high quality conversation. After that smashed my way through the somewhat tricky dependency chain for the SUMO traffic simulator. But, as mentioned, all seems to fall into insignificance at this point, even in my rational brain tells me that it is not.
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2017-09-17 10:01 pm
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Gaming and Other Activities

Have had a fairly busy week in my favourite pastime. Every day this week I've been working on finishing Papers & Paychecks as well as RPG Review 35-36, now a double issue of Antipodean gaming material. To have both out by the end of the month would be ideal, and I think that is certainly going to happen at current rates of work. Much of RPG Review has been helped by [personal profile] reverancepavane whose epic writing for RPGaDay has been nothing less than extraordinary. In actual play on Wednesday finished the classic introductory Stormbringer scenario The Tower of Yrkath Florn which includes nothing less than a Melnibonéan wheel (my calculations put the value at around $3m AUD). As I've wryly remarked this may very well be our Stormbringer; a theme which I don't think the game does well is the idea of tragedy from power. It was also a heavy Eclipse Phase weekend, with a game on Friday night which curiously was chasing down a antagonist whom the players in my Sunday game are close to encountering for the first time. Whilst a good scenario, once again I could not help but chuckle at the author's rather light idea of what a seedy "sex and drugs and gangs" red-light district would consist of - especially in a transhumanist environment.

On Friday finally managed to write up my review of The Residents concert from March last year. On Saturday attended Software Freedom Day and the LUV AGM, where I have found myself on the committee for yet another year. Afterwards went to [ profile] usekh's memorial birthday at the Back Bar. Kudos are due to [personal profile] damien_wise for doing most of the organising of the event. Today visited St Michael's to hear Rev. Ric Holland's impressive service on forgiveness, also taking the opportunity to introduce Shupu, to the location. I hadn't been for several months and was never a regular attendee, so I was quite surprised to discover a few people remembered me. The Rev. offered to catch up for coffee some time and I certainly intend to take up that invitation. Afterwards made my way to university, and stumbled upon the a protest against racism and fascism which I attended; the media of course, concentrated on a very minor disruption, ignoring the important message that the Rohingyan refugee speaking was presenting at the same time.
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2017-09-10 11:29 pm
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NCI, Political Matters, Social Activities

The five days of attending the NCI spring training course in Canberra over the past week was a pretty average to be honest. I really appreciate the effort put in by the trainers and their assistants, because I know how much work it is, but the course content and methodology could do with a critical and professional eye. The class sizes were too large and and the time was too long to successfully engage many present. The content was mostly good, but required more relevant hands-on activity and structured approach. Still, out of the five days I think I have enough material to put together a summary version of a single day course for researchers that need to transfer from our local HPC system to the peak national facility. Whilst my week largely consisted of "wake up, go to course, go to hotel, work, sleep; repeat", I did get the opportunity to catch up with [ profile] taavi on the final day. Best part of the conversation was on the possibility of using input-output analysis on some of the economic records of The Palace of Nestor.

After returning late on Friday night, Saturday was spent in the company of Kerrie H., and Brendan E. Although in good spirits, Kerry has found herself in a situation where she has to sell her house and downsize, so we went to deepest suburbia where I could make use of my skills at moving heavy objects quickly. Afterwards we went back to Brendan's to have dinner at the local Indian restaurant and followed up with a few episodes of the second season of Black Jesus. I think a number of self-described Christians could learn a lot from this series, especially Australia's own Lyle Shelton whom I have cause to respond to this week. On a related matter, wrote (or rather co-wrote) Pansy Division: Notes on a Certain Petition based on events from the previous week which covers matter of the current marriage equality debate and how 'free speech' isn't an absolute right (and nor should it be). Further, have just released a newsletter for the Victorian Secular Lobby with an upcoming meeting with Lesley Vick from Dying with Dignity Victoria on the impending voluntary euthanasia legislation.
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2017-09-04 10:14 pm

Of Politics, Friendship, and Aesthetics

Whilst I am not stranger to controversy, a certain petition I started on Friday has generated a bit of national media coverage. As often is the case, my cynical optimism over-estimates the degree of political nuance in this country and then is unsurprised by the partisan hyperbolics that follow. I have more to say on that matter, but that can wait for the time being. Besides, of far greater importance (which I neglected to mention last week) is Qassem Al-Salamat's interview of Radwan, a Syrian refugee whose brother was conscripted by the Assad regime and killed by Al-Nusra Front. Every time I read one of these tales continues to remind me of the reasons why these stories must be made public, again and again, until the world is awake to what is happening there. Putting in the effort to see these stories come to publication is also an act in recognising a kindred spirit. Amicus est tamquam alter idem, as Cicero put it.

Which brings me to the matter of friendship, of which I have been blessed in life by a good number of great qualities, some of whom I sadly do not see as often as should. I was fortunate enough lack week to catch up Shupu W., whose eruditeness won my heart many years ago, to whom I was introduced by Keith P., a great soul who brought so many of us together such as Monique and Dean E., Peter C., Adi H., Theodor B., and many other great people whom he brought together. I must confess I greatly miss those regular meetings in Keith's language group in East Melbourne. Still, one must meet at they can and over the weekend, we had [ profile] horngirl and [ profile] alchemon come an undertake our asylum tour and dinner that we irregularly host. Cats and their antics, of course, featured highly in our conversation. And then there is the other responsibilies of friendship; as I struggle to work may way through Rick B's, finances whilst the hospital wants to move him to permanent care, but I cannot complete the paperwork as I don't have Power of Financial Attorney. A limbo situation, which is less than pleasant.

So now I've found myself in Canberra, of all places, for a week. NCI are conducting a spring training course, for which I am furiously generating notes so I can pass heavy users up the HPC feeding tree. Prior to that however I did have most of a day spare, which I took the opportunity to visit the National Galley which whilst having several well-known pieces struck me as being a bit sparse. Clearly I have been greatly spoiled by the European galleries. After that made a visit to Parliament House and took a guided tour throughout that building. The guide was quite charming with his own non-partisan opinions and concerns with the failures of Australia's civic involvement. Which I guess brings me back to where I started - and also to leave this discussion for the following post.
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2017-08-30 10:12 pm

Linux, Medical Matters, and Gaming Updates

As per the previous post, on Saturday gave a presentation to Linux Users of Victoria on An Overview of SSH. Most SSH-users, like myself, are probably used to using SSH as a tool. Once you start digging deeper you discover a whole new world of various fascinating tricks, some of which I explored. I think it went pretty well although it was somewhat longer than a number of my other presentations. As part of continuing development of the curriculum that I run at UniMelb, next week I will be at the National Compute Infrastructure centre in Canberra, going over their spring training session. At the same time, and for the same reason, I have started the PRACE/University of Edinburgh online HPC MOOC.

A couple of days this week has been spent with medical matters for Rick. A had a meeting with the social worker at St Georges. Even as a person now with memory impairment, I certainly got the impression that he's going a bit stir-crazy. The following day went to the Uniting Care Carnworth Centre for a tour, which is nearby and includes a special ward for the memory impaired. My application to become financial power of attorney has been submitted to VCAT, and I'll be visiting his flat tomorrow to see if I can discover any paperwork which may lend some knowledge to his financial state.

On lighter matters, on Sunday played a new scenario and playtested new rules for the rather silly 1980s RPG, Hunter Planet, using a scenario almost entirely based (but from the alien's perspective) of Bad Taste, which is one of my favourite splatterpunk films of all time. I have also spent a fair bit of time working on a release of RPG Review (increasingly late), as well as the Monsters section for Papers & Paychecks (also late). As continuing evidence that truth is stranger than fiction, a new source item has just been provided, courtesy of a Reddit thread on the most ridiculous workplace rules. In a civilised country, most of these would be illegal.
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2017-08-25 10:45 pm
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Linux Updates, Isocracy, etc

It's been a pretty rough week, with continuing problems with the that nasty bit of glue between Spartan and it's underlying network infrastructure. Some of the best minds I know in these matters are all doing their best to fix the problems, all whilst we're in the middle of upgrades (I won't be happy if the upgrades are the problem), but at the moment we haven't narrowed down the cause (if we knew that it wouldn't be a problem). At least we now have the recovery process fine-tuned. On a related topic, tomorrow I'm giving a talk to Linux Users of Victoria on An Overview of SSH. Readers of my 'blog of course get to see presentation slides first.

It's all taken it's toll and I've been fighting off a cold (I think successfully) the past couple of days, not helped by what was otherwise a very busy week. Monday night was Lorna Quinn's art opening at University House. It was also, incidentially, the day I posted some photos of myself from 1993 (1993mohawk1.jpg amd 1993mohawk2.jpgwhich attracted some attention among social media friends. Once again I grumpily have to acknowledge the fleeting superficial power of the arts. On a related sense, Tuesday night was a return to our regular Megatraveller session, where we sorted out our fleet's multifunctional space voyages (we're off to Torpol!)

The Isocracy annual general meeting was on Wednesday night, which was addressed by the state secretary of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party, on 'The Reawakening of the Working Class'. Kos is a very smart operator and uses strong empirical evidence which matches industry developments with electoral politics and ideological shifts. We also elected our committee (we have Labor, Liberal, and Greens members now). The conversation was extensive and congratulations must be given to Kos for holding up under the circumstances, as he found out just before the start of the meeting that Fiona Richardson had suddenly died. Last night, managed to struggle through a debate at the Secular Society between James Fodor and Leon Di Stefano. James has provided a copy of his presentation slides.
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2017-08-18 09:39 pm
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Shards of Time

It's been a strange and disruptive past few days, and one which I am at peace with a certain resilience to stich things together and still have the opportunity for other actions. Initially the most serious problem was the discovery early Tuesday morning that Spartan had crashed. I quickly diagnosed it as a networking issue; the home, project, and scratch directories had all been lost and along with it, every running job screamed and died. As others came on board and I fielded users, we eventually narrowed it down to what appears to be a bug in a Cisco switch that was sending duplicate packets. Congratulations are due to Nhat, NinjaDan, Linh, and Mark M., for their efforts here. Making good of the opportunity we restarted all the nodes with a kernel upgrade as well, which were intending to do anyway, and brought nearly all the partitions online. Overall the detection, investigation, and recovery took the better part of two days, and I cannot help but be impressed by how calm and smoothly the operations ran under such apparent disaster. Arguably the degree of panic in situations like this is an indication of experienced versus inexperienced sysadmins.

The following day went to the hospital to visit Rick and also to see the social worker and doctor to discuss his situation. I signed myself up to pay for his transitional care until VCAT approves my application to receive power of financial attorney in addition to medical attorney. Six months ago he was giving presentations on the admixture of modern humans with archiac hominids, and the peculiar differences between reptilian and mammalian brains. Now, due to rapid onset dementia, he doesn't know what suburb he'd lived in for the past thirty years, the fact he has a brother, or where he was born, and his vocabulary has been reduced to probably less than a dozen words. He'll be spending his days staring out the window or at the television in his room, and that's all there is to it. I'll visit his flat and see if there's any music for him, based on prior studies. It's terrible witnessing such a clever and diverse mind disappear so quickly.

There have been other activities in the past few days. I have preparing heavily for the Isocracy AGM on Wednesday evening which will be addressed by Kos Samaras, assistant state-secretary of the Victorian ALP, speaking on The Reawakening of the Working Class. My own latest written contribution to Isocracy in the past few days has been a piece of the advantages of proportional representation. On Wednesday night we caught up with old university science fiction friend and now Greens activist, Tom S. and friend to see the director's cut of Dark City, the noir SF film which still well holds over the years. Finally, to finish things off last night went to a meeting of Free Software Melbourne at Electron Workshop; whilst it was supposed to be a games night we were distracted by the presence of Margaret Gordon, a documentary maker who wanted to know more about this Linux thing.
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2017-08-13 12:27 pm
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Presentations, Gaming, Emotional States

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 [ profile] hathhalla and [ 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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2017-08-09 11:18 pm
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Funerals of a Feather

Last day in Perth was dedicated to spending at Erica W.'s funeral at the Fremantle Cemetery. It was, of course, an opportunity for the living to catch up and express their sorrow at the loss of this marvellous and talented woman. There was, of course, humorous anecdotes, sound advice from the departed, and genuine outpourings of grief. I particularly feel for Lucas, her husband of the past seventeen years, who was very close to her in both the personal and professional sense. A sensitive soul in his own right, these must be very difficult days for him. The celebrant also mentioned that in several locations around the world smaller services were being held in her honour, a tribute to her scope and talent, and finished with a recommendation from the departed: Get weird!.

The day after my arrival in Melbourne was Lachlan's funeral at the Renowden Chapel at the Springvale Cemetery and Botanical Gardens (whoever thought of that combination had their head screwed on right). The inclusion of Lachlan's top-hat on the coffin was a particularly beautiful and sad feature. Again, almost in mirror form, included some frankly hilarious stories and reflection on those deeply honourable features of his personality. As Lachlan was in the habit of calling for birthday drinks, due in around a month, [ profile] damien_wise and myself have stepped up to the task of organising one more celebration for this great individual.

It is a curious twist of the tyranny of distance and time that Erica W., and Lachlan S., never met each other. If they did, I am certain that they would have gotten along famously. With similar sensibilities, and quite clearly similar tastes in fashion, I have a mental image of Erica taking great delight in designing an outfit for Lachlan who, true to his style, would have worn it everywhere. I know there is a handful of people who knew both of them (including [ profile] caseopaya). But I was the only one who was present at both departures. I feel like a curious trans-Nullabor bridge, a gregarious nature that has been blessed with the opportunity to know the spirits of two kindred individuals who should have met in life but never did.
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2017-08-05 11:01 am
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Last Day in Perth

With an extended stay of three more days I've mostly been working remotely in hours that are not terribly out-of-sync with the rest of the team. Nevertheless, the extra time in Western Australia has afforded me the opportunity to catch up with a number of other people. The stay in the newly renvoated home of [ profile] doctor_k_ and [ profile] strangedave has been great, and I've had the opportunity to explore a bit of the Mount Hawthorn region which I lived in a for a while way back in 1986. It also has been the opportunity to catch up with several other Murdoch people from that era. Yesterday, I had a late lunch with Fabian U., and former Senator Brian G.. Apart from reminiscing on past times, a portion of the conversation turned to real estate. Fabian was looking for a place to purchase for his son, whereas Brian had worked for many years in the Real Estate Industry of WA. My own contributions to that discussion were mostly on the virtues of land tax and the problems of negative gearing. Afterwards, on a whim, Fabian and I went down to Fremantle to end the day. Fremantle is the harbour side town to Perth the city, and is a much more beautiful and welcoming place with its Victorian-era limestone buildings. We had a great chat about the relationship with deep learning and language. Likewise, the previous day I had caught up with another former Murdoch University colleague, Murray W., and discussed matters such as the state of various RPG clubs in comparison between Victoria and WA, and especially the political landscape, both on an Australian scale and with international comparisons.

Although there is not much that draws me to Perth in terms of style or culture, there are many old friends and memories here. In that regard, this has been quite a great trip. Apart from the aforementioned I have had the great opportunity to catch up with many and have spent extended time in the company of Bruce T., and [ profile] thefon, Andrei N., and Arnold H., in particular. The journey hasn't really caused any great loss in productivity either, as I've been able to beaver away on various projects in early mornings and evenings, in addition to the time spent at the HPC Advisory Council conference. I am rather looking forward however to getting home to normal life back in Melbourne with [ profile] caseopaya and Mac the Cat. Nevertheless, there is one most important thing to do here - and that's attend Erica W.'s funeral - and with Lachlan S.,'s on Monday, one can tell in advance what my next journal entry will be.
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2017-08-02 10:38 am
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Perth, HPC Conference, Socialism

I've been in Perth for the better part of five days now and will be staying a few more days to attend Erica W's unexpected funeral. My original plans were to stay at the Old Swan Barracks for historical reasons, despite some pretty dire reviews. Astoundingly, I was refused entrance on account of not having a passport, driver's license, or proof of age card. Instead, I've been at The Nest on Newcastle, which has been trouble-free. To their credit, have assured me that the Old Swan will now be required to advertise their ID requirements on their website. I'll be checking out today and will be spending the next few days in the company of [ profile] strangedave in nearby Mount Hawthorn. Most of the first day was spent in the company of my old friend Andrei N., before heading off to Fremantle for a family dinner at Don Tapa, and a visit to [ profile] caseopaya's mother the following day, who was pretty surprised to see me. That evening I was hosting a dinner of old friends in Maylands at Amore Mio. They certainly do good food, and catered quite well for our large (c15) crowd, although I take the point it is very noisy. An excellent meeting was also held with Daniel R., convenor of the Final Frontiers RPG group.

As for the HPC Advisory Council conference itself, that was a two day affair at the Pan Pacific Hotel. It was another opportunity to catch up with John Gustafson who delivered the keynote on the first day. Whilst all the talks were of a particularly high standard, I was also particularly impressed by the presentations by Tim Pugh from the Bureau of Meterology and Ashrat Ambastha from Mellonox. As for my own presentation on Architecture Diversity, the timetable was a getting a little out-of-sync but the time it was my turn; I personally felt it was somewhat rushed, but others tell me that it was good. Well, they're the audience so I'll trust their judgment. The conference also had two well-catered sundowners, one at the Pawsey Supercomputer Centre and the other at Down Under Geosolutions; I was very impressed with their data centre with oil immersion server cooling. Post-conference a number of us ended up at Bar Lafayette, which is probably Perth city's best cocktail bar (not that I'm biased); the night ended with the visit from the absinthe faery.

When I return to Perth The Philosophy Forum will have presentation by Don H., on Capitalism and Socialism, which dovetails quite well with a recent publication on New Matilda on the distinction, although said article is a little light on some of the more difficult questions on economic calculation. Appropriately however the annual general meeting of the Isocracy Network is coming up on August 23 at Loi Loi resturant with Kos Samaras, assistant state secretary of the ALP speaking on the state of working class politics. On topic, the Network has taken up publishing a flurry of material from Wes Whitman whose "libertarian social democracy" approach is certainly worth a review. On another related piece, congratulations must certainly go to [personal profile] reddragdiva with his publication Attack of the Fifty Food Blockchain, a critique of bitcoin and other crypto-currencies (short version: they're not money, they're collectable hashes).
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2017-07-29 10:00 am
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Valedictions Lachlan

My arrival at Perth for the HPC Advisory Council conference was met with the news that Lachlan S., had passed away. He had been a good friend for many years and was well-received by all. He'd been working - as so many of us do - in various forms of IT support and provisioning. In January 2011 however he was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and as he said at the time, the worst sort. I recall it being mentioned that the medical prognosis was giving him six months or so. More than six years later, here we are, giving our parting words to one of the great providers of style and wit.

Style and wit? Lachlan would carry himself in the fashion of Victorian England, and not just on a special night out. Looking like a character from a Sherlock Holmes novel, cape, top-hat, and cane was not uncommon features. True, we did see him occasionally in black-clad t-shirt and jeans, albeit covered with a Victorian-era jacket. As for wit he could bring colour, charm, and insight to many conversations. Only a few occasions did I ever see him use this weapon of the mind in anger however - and invariably this was related to political issues. In that field one could fairly describe as a sentimental liberal socialist; he cared deeply about the rights and welfare of people, and there would be a spark when he saw instances of injustice.

Over the past several years there have been a few times when Lachlan and I have been particularly close. On his askance, I ran an RPG game of 7th Sea: Freiburg for over a year (his character rose from being a mercenary sargent to the military leader of a city), and following that Eclipse Phase, where his transhuman computer hacker bouncer was so well-designed I struggled to find reasons why he couldn't simply press the 'I win" button. It was also during this time that the Victorian Parliament was seeking submissions for their inquiry in to End of Life Choices. I had written two myself, and encouraged Lachlan to make a submission - his was of such personal import that he was asked to give direct evidence to the committee itself.

Like many I have been honoured by the time and friendship that Lachlan has given to me and to others. His birthday parties at the Back Bar in Prahan were invariably a great opportunity for so many of us to catch up in a setting and environment was well-suited for the company that he kept. I'm tempted to suggest that every year that tradition is continued. Because at the moment, all those moments are now but happy memories of the time we spent together. The world is a lesser place with his parting.
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2017-07-24 10:09 pm
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That Dice-Rolling Hobby

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 [ profile] hathhalla and [ 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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2017-07-22 11:52 pm
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A Star Has Fallen

"Fiery the angels fell; deep thunder rolled around their shores; burning with the fires of Orc"

Yesterday I was informed that an old friend and former housemate in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Erica W., had died of a stroke. For those that knew her, this has been a terrible shock. She was relatively young, and seemed so alive, and seemed to have so much to contribute to this world. It is a harsh reminder that friends can be lost at any time with the randomness of life.

When I first met her she and her partner at the time, James, were in their mid-teens. Intelligent, attractive, highly alternative, and very fashionable, they were already living together and regularly visiting local nightclubs, where they were very well-regarded for the characteristics mentioned. There was an especially amusing moment when a local newspaper printed her in a vox-pop what her preferred nightclub was - and mentioned her age in the credit.

"Morphology, longevity, incept dates"

Whilst in Perth we shared two households at different times - the first was the famous "accelerated house", a dilapidated duplex pair with questionable plumbing. Part of the duplex was the home of the Accelerated Men, a goth band of some repute. The place was wired up a local area network with a AlphaMicro AM-100, and came with its own stray cat (Velocity) which I adopted. Several years later, at the final place where I lived in Perth, we were in more normal accommodation. I could help but chuckle a little at my highly fashion-conscious housemates who could spend hours in preparation on going out. I also remember showing them the Internet at the time; a text-based interface to usenet groups. "This", I implored sagaciously, "is going to change everything". I don't think they quite believed me at the time, so it was with great fondness catching up with James just a couple of years ago, and recalling that moment, he said: "And you were right!".

At the time Erica was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, and despite being a witty conversationalist, was physically in the doldrums. A few years later however, and I suspect heavily because of the direction provided by our mutual friend Bruce T., there had been a complete change, as she had become quite a figure in the fashion industry and was running her own label and store, Alysian Empire. I still have some of their clothes to this day. Later she would go on to have another fashion label of even greater renown, ericaamerica.

In the post-Alysian Empire period we only caught up in person a couple of times, and more recently exchanged a few messages, courtesy of the 'borg of social media. Despite this we had the sort of friendship where years could literally go by and when we did get in contact our banter could continue as if no time had passed at all. It was a friendship built on mutual understanding and respect, of affirmation of each other, of strong and happy shared memories. The mention of her name in conversation would always brighten my day and bring me joy; but not this time.

"Tyrell had told me Rachael was special: no termination date. I didn't know how long we had together. Who does?"
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2017-07-18 09:38 pm
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Medical Matters

It's been a curious past few days; I spent most of Saturday working on the course for the researchers at Orygen Youth Mental Health which I presented on Monday. It went extremely well; I provided an overview of high performance compute clusters, environment modules and job submission using their preferred applications (MRtrix, Matlab, Octave, R, and especially FSL and Freesurfer. They were a large and very switched on group, and it brought me great pleasure when I received some rather positive responses in person and in email.

On Sunday visited the Unitarians to hear a presentation by the president of Dying With Dignity to speak on the upcoming legistlation such matters. Last year to the state government committee I contributed two submissions from different organisations on the matter, and legislation is expected soon. In a less positive manner, an old friend of mine has just found his way into hospital and I suspect he's in the position that he might not be getting better. Three years ago he appointed me enduring power of medical attorney. To top it all off, [ profile] caseopaya's mother has found herself in hospital as a complication arising from her continuing illness.

It surprises me that there are those who begrudge public revenue raising and expenditure on health, as if the wealthy have more of a right to live than the poor. Even using the criteria of the 'dismal science', economics, it is obvious that having people alive and well is not just a private benefit to the person in question, it is also a public benefit. The is equivalent matter here with education as well, and likewise the private-public benefit is a continuum which includes current and future productivity of the person in question. All of this, of course, on top of matter of being in a society that cares for its less fortunate.