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The trip home from Bangkok was relatively painless as I immersed myself in the rather stylish The Man From U.N.C.L.E., followed by most of the first series of Westworld, which does a very good job of taking the basic setting of the original movie, but elaborating significantly on the key themes. I find it somewhat amusing that a lot of my popular culture film and TV catchup occurs whilst on a plane - either that or whilst visiting Brendan E., which we did the day after arrival and, in a somewhat retrospective mood, watched a few episodes of Drawn Together until jet-lag got the better of [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya.

The next few days were, unsurprisingly, very busy at work as I caught up with the various desk duties. I had a large Monoprix bag of swag from the two conferences to distribute to workmates which were graciously received. There was several tricky software installs to get through, which in at least four cases have succeeded in all their dependencies (and the dependencies of dependencies) but not the top-level application itself. An abstract for a presentation for the HPC Advisory Council conference in Perth in a few weeks, and a poster for the IEEE eScience conference in New Zealand. Just quietly, Spartan reached a million jobs during the week as well.

In a different milestone (kilometre stone?) I reached one hundred thousand points on Duolingo, albeit with some recent setbacks due to their Plus service. To their credit they fixed the break in my streak. Wednesday night was spent with Andrew D., and company with a session of the Elric! RPG (the local author just so happened to have turned 50 the following day as well). Appropriately I've been beavering away on the last words of Papers & Paychecks as well (the bestiary section, yes it has one). Some time has been spent on the most recent Isocracy Network newsletter, which includes articles and 'blogs from the last month. My own contribution is The Shambling Mound: Weeks 16-18.
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One can tell when I've been too busy; my personal DW/LJ 'blog becomes neglected. In the past eleven days since my last entry a lot of my time has been spent in public engagements in philosophy and politics. Last night there was a well-attended meeting of the Melbourne Atheist Society where I spoke on Atheism, Islam, and Secularism, which was well-received and generated some excellent discussion. It followed from convening a meeting of The Philosophy Forum on Sunday where Graeme Lindenmayer from Agnostic Perspectives presented on The Concept of Beauty, in his particular style - accessible and detailed.

Another publication of the past few days was a contribution to the ALP Platform Committee which contains some pretty serious suggestions on taxation, employment, education, drug reform, and transport issues, and followed on from an article several days prior on land tax and proportional representation. Monday morning (Australian time) of course was the results of the French election and University House hosted a special early brunch with speakers. I raised the question of the future of the Parti socialiste which was followed the following day by a radio interview in Sydney on John August's program, Radio Skidrow on the west European electoral landscape; a follow-up post is planned.

There has been, of course, Linux and work-related events as well. Last Tuesday Dr. Paul Bone gave a presentation to Linux Users of Victoria on the Plasma programming language which combines imperative and functional programming with automatic parallelisation. It's a work in development and I've set up a project on Spartan for further development. We sponsored an HPC support lunch on Monday and a major item that has come out of that is the need for a massive biotechnology database that is somewhat closer to home than the NCBI or the DDBJ. These datasets are seriously big and file transfers alone are a serious issue for Australian researchers.

In addition to this I have expanded my Duolingo work by starting courses "upside down" - having completed Esperanto, Spanish, French, and German, I am now undertaking English as an (alleged) speaker of French, German, and Spanish (alas, there is no Esperanto section). There has been of course, a few gaming sessions over the past couple of weeks with Papers & Paychecks planned for tonight, GURPS Middle Earth last Sunday, Eclipse Phase last Friday and the Sunday prior, and a new game of Elric! last Wednesday. One item also of note was dinner at a great Spanish restaurant last week with nephew Luke and his flatmate Nick (they live above the restaurant): a great night, I got to practise my appalling Spanish with the staff, and fantastic food: the Arcadia is thoroughly recommended.
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Last day of the OpenStack Summit was mainly workshops for developers, so took the opportunity to join the Spousetivities group to their visit to the Roman circus at Tarragona, then to the medieval town of Montblanc with an extensive lunch at Fond dels Angels, and finally a visit to the serene Cistercian Poblet Monastery.

Leaving our ocean-facing high-rise views for the conference, we've moved downtown to a location just as high but more real, on the Gran Via des Corts Catalanes. Here we rub shoulders with the local population, buy produce from their stores, eat at their small restaurants, and drink at their (many) small bars. Fortunately the staff have much better English (in the most part) than I have Castilian (let alone Catalan). The general town planning seems very intelligent, combining medium-high density, but with plenty of greenery to provide a pleasant atmosphere, and small parks to encourage community interaction. It was quite charming to see the number of local children frocked up for Halloween.

Tourist-like activities however have been prominent with a weekend and a public-holiday intervening to the normal schedule. This includes a visit to the Science Musuem with a special exhibition on the Spinosaurus. In what could be a religious experience, visited no less than three different gothic cathedrals on Sunday, including the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, Catedral de Barcelona, and Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi, then had lunch at the Plaça de George Orwell before visiting the excellent Parc Zoològic de Barcelona, where their kids petting zoo had a range of critters on display including Siberian filigree hamsters. Today, took the tourist bus around the city after a lengthy visit to Gaudí's (et al) masterpiece work, Basílica de la Sagrada Familia, perhaps the most extraordinary building I have ever been in - yet, but a candle to the light that is Milford Sound.

In other aesthetic activities the first week of the Papers and Paychecks Kickstarter has reached its end with approximately 19% funded. I was hoping for more by this stage, but it is good enough. However, in order for the project to succeed it must reach the minimum level to pay for printing costs etc. On other aesthetic tangents as promised I have just put up my review of 65daysofstatic in Barcelona on Rocknerd. Finally, if language can be described as a type of aesthetics (it's symbolic values, right?), last night after a Herculean effort, completed the Spanish tree on Duolingo - which is on top of Esperanto, French, and German for this year. As evidence that I may not be entirely sane and may be going native I have started Catalan for Spanish speakers.
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Linux Users of Victoria had its AGM on Tuesday night with Scott Penrose talking about the use of Linux in Arctic and Antarctic conditions for satellite date; a great presentation and once again I find myself on the committee for another term. The following night attended a Socialist Left post-election union meeting at Trades Hall. It was what could be expected, burly left-wing unionists from the CFMEU, the ETU, the AMWU, the MUA, etc being prominent in the event and raising funds for the CUB 55, but also with a significant portion of young Labor left attendees. The meeting was well addressed by Senator Kim Carr, but the headline act was Labor leader and apparently Prime Minister apparent, Bill Shorten. Shorten is note exactly from the left by any stretch of the imagination but he does have a degree of political cunning and he certainly does understand union issues as illustrated by an impressive speech. I was very surprised when afterwards he broke from the group he was with to greet me - it has been some fifteen years since we were in any sort of regular political contact. Apparently one does not need political power to retain at least the status of being worthy of consideration.

Work has been ridiculously busy with the usual gaggle of tickets, infrastructure testing, and paper preparations. A major achievement has been shifting data - some of it over ten years old - from a long-retired HPC system. A good meeting today with a representative of Mathworks who provided an educated and interested summary of various types of parallelisation with Matlab. I must admit that I was a little stunned when an alleged adult educator claimed that 'andragogy' was a buzzword, and then contrary to their own claims that adult education is a peer-to-peer relationship rather than instructor-learner, cut off an important issue raised in a computing lecture that illustrated the potential of an off by one error. It was less than a personal affront or an example of workplace idiocy, which I usually take in my stride, but rather it offended the core principles of adult computer science education, something which I have a surprising attachment to, and confirmation of some rather unfortunate functional issues common in contemporary organisations. Afterwards continued my rants with the good hackers from 2600.

Europe preparations continue to go extremely well. My preparation of the core languages from Duolingo (German, French, Spanish, Esperanto) are at pace, and as a tangent I have just put in a request for Tetum (if they don't do it, I'll write my own). All transport and hotels booked, with the exception of our final week in Barcelona. Have also managed to come across some Frankfurt School researchers who are holding a conference just outside our visit, alas. Neverthless has already developed opportunities for further collaboration especially on the works of Friedrich Pollock, who was director of the Institute for many years and had a very interesting take on the transformation of market capitalism into authoritarian collective capitalism and the state-regulated class-compromise capitalism of the twentieth century, along with issues on automation. Whilst the Frankfurt School were very much into psychology, sociopathologies, and aesthetic criticism, their multidisciplinary approach did not preclude those with an economic and technological orientation of which Pollock is representative.
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Work started off well this week with notification that the paper I'm presenting at eResearch Australasia as lead author had been accepted. There is one other paper being considered for the Barcelona OpenStack Summit, and then the Australasian Symposium on Parallel and Distributed Computing. Wednesday was a postgraduate training day which, although with significant absences, was extremely well-received. The end of the week came to an interesting close with a request to install a fluid dynamics package for a twenty-three year old operating system, which the most recent documentation is a ten-year old scientific paper written in French (thankfully, clearly written French which I have had little trouble translating).

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

It's also been a few days in a row of social gaming; Thursday night was the final session of our Godsend Agenda game with the Marco Polo story; an adequate game but not really one which captured the mythic spirit sufficiently. Last night was an session of Eclipse Phase Mars where all the players connected remotely via Google Hangouts; Portland (USA), Melbourne (AU), Wellington (NZ), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), and Perth (AU). Today was a regular cheesequest session with [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce and [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla. In addition to the regular cheese tastings I made sweet potato gnocchi (not difficult but time consuming) and a giant tiramisu (restaurants don't stand a chance against me). Afterwards we played Hit List, which despite its poor rating from tactical gamers has the highly redeeming feature of producing amusing narratives. Tomorrow continues the ludophile trajectory with a session of GURPS Middle Earth.
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The results of the Australian election is still ongoing, and despite a good swing to Labor, it seems the LNP Coalition will be returned with a minority government. As always, The Pollbludger gives the most up-to-date analysis and count. The conservatives in the LNP have taken no time to turn on the more liberal Malcolm Turnbull who, already held in check with for any policy initiatives, with calls for him to step down. The campaign is a significant credit for the Labor Party who faced a media that overwhelmingly endorsed the Coalition, and actually made policy initiatives the main point of contention. The possibility remains that if nobody can gain confidence of the House, that new elections will be called.

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

Finished last night with the completion of my third Duolingo skill tree; German. I cannot pretend that I am enamoured by the sound of the language, the inconsistency of the pronoun 'Sie', the sheer range of definite articles according to declension and contraction, and especially the V2 word order. I also found that despite much commonality with English, there were many words that could not be recognised intuitively from an Anglophone perspective (unlike French). Still, I shall nevertheless soldier on with this tongue primarily for familial reasons (and maybe even technical purposes), despite a personal preference for the Romance languages. Speaking of which, my next owl objectives are the West-Iberian languages; Spanish and Portuguese.
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Completed my second Duolingo owl on Saturday in French. I had set myself a rather optimistic goal of finishing it by the end of April, and with a rather Herculean effort on Saturday (starting at 7.30am, finishing just after midnight), I completed some 23 skills and probably around 90 lessons on that day. It was quite exhausting and the following day I froze when chatting to a fellow Esperanto speaker - by brain was full of French! In the coming month I am intending to complete as much as I can with German - not my strongest language and I suspect that I'll not finish that until the end of June.

On Sunday was a meeting of The Philosophy Forum with Rohan presenting on Leonardo Di Vinci, Tertiary Education, and Genius. The presentation needed some work but there was some good discussion. I neglected to mention last month's meeting which had Tim Harding speak on Determinism, Free Will and Compatibilism, which had a massive follow-up discussion on Facebook. I had to pen a few words myself on the subject, much to my annoyance as I find the partisanship on the subject when our knowledge is limited to be far too rude.

Today's work consisted on giving another course on high performance computing at UniMelb, along with Martin P., contributing with the use of the NeCTAR cloud. Tonight I'm working on a presentation tomorrow night for Linux Users of Victoria on UNUMS - computation without error.
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It's been quite a week, one of significant stress over for a number of reasons. The first issue was a particularly deadly script which took out our cluster for the better part of a day as it set a variable to null and then proceeded to attempt to copy the entire cluster into a user's home directory; a good argument for quotas. Later in the week, despite having ensured that some terabytes available, the projects directory (which does have a quota) also filled up, which has necessitated shuffling data around. Researchers have been using the system as a 'bit bucket' for a number of years, which really is inappropriate but you know what researchers are like - smart enough to take advantage of every opportunity that they can take; they have skill levels in scrounging. All said it has been good having [livejournal.com profile] imajica_lj in the office; he's curmudgeonly but perspicacious when it comes to such matters.

The Isocracy Network has completed a submission on the Trans Pacific Partneship, just in on time. The take away line is "we support a Trans-Pacific Partnership, just not this one". The submission, alas, is far from complete due to time constraints. Next Saturday is a planned meeting with the author of The Booger Peril. Unfortunately the author has "some history" with parts of the left, to put it mildly, as a half-assed google search would have revealed. The author's point of view on the matter at Fairweather Comrades. All of which puts us in a very difficult situation; I just wanted to see a discussion of a science fiction book by an author who has recently been published in Overland and Counterpunch.


In much better news, I completed the language tree for Esperanto on duolingo - my first golden owl! By current reckoning I should complete French in a month, German a month after that, and then I'll work on Spanish. I have given up, at least for the time being, my attempt to do seven languages simultaneously, but I'm glad to have had the initial exposure. I still consider myself (and I suspect anyone else would) a complete beginner in Esperanto, but I've certainly at least been exposed to an extensive part of the vocabulary and the rather brilliantly simple rules of grammar.

In social events, ran a session of Fear Itself on Thursday night, which worked very well with the use of skills as a resource pool, a stripped-down version of the same game system used in Esoterroists on Trial Against Cthulhu. On Saturday visited Brendan E., and worked our way through the rest of the first season of Ash versus the Evil Dead, which continues to impress. We were also given possession of a large collection of excellent 80s and 90s vinyl (Brendan doesn't have a record player). Today participated in a session of GURPS Middle-Earth which involved clearing out a raiders in a Dwarven tomb and included one very annoyed Dwarven wight.
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Much of this work week has been spent working on the planned publications which are pretty much on target, although not as much as I would like with a variety of operational tasks still coming in. The company CEO and acting CEO have both given the project a strong endorsement and I hope to have them all completed by the end of January. Six of the ten the publications are primarily technical in nature covering linux, parallel programming, clusters and clouds, technical infrastructure, eresearcher tools, whilst four refer are various aspects of project management, quality assurance, adult education, and organisational history. I am making quite extensive mileage from the various notes I've included over the years on my main website and am also finding some of the material very relevant to a upcoming HPC/cloud hybrid that I'm involved in building.

Last Wednesday was our final beginner's German class at the CAE, and something which I'm not particularly going to miss. The teaching quality and materials are not quite up to the same standard as one finds on Duolingo, although both could do well with a stronger combination of grammatical and conversational approaches. On the latter I am continuing my significant levels of activity. I have been making estimations based on level B2 of intermediate fluency and the fluency percentages. With the necessary caveats stated, I'm at 43% fluency in French (prior exposure), 29% in German (yes, even though I'm at the same 'level'), an estimated 55% in Esperanto, Portuguese 22%, Spanish 19%, Italian 16%, Dutch an estimated 15%, Russian (harder) at an estimated 10%. It may not sound like much at this stage, but given I have only been using the application for a month or so, I would be surprised if I don't have a working level of fluency in all eight languages by the end of next year.

As is often the case, gaming constitues one of my major social activities; I've only just posted the final session of 7th Sea Freiburg, which was followed up last Sunday with the Eclipse Phase Ego Hunter scenario, which is one the best introductions to the setting - one day someone will make a fortune turning that into a film. Regrettably I've had two other gaming sessions cancelled this week; Cats Against Cthulhu and Eclipse Phase. Nevertheless did manage to get a game in last Saturday with our irregular Cheesequest in Dandenong; played Munchkin Nightmare Before Christmas which I must say some notable "instant kill" features. Also watched the New Zealand vampire comedy, What We Do in the Shadows. Mention must also be made of visiting Brendan E., a couple of weeks back who introduced me to the superb comedy series Black Jesus - hallelujah!
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The past three days I've been at Deakin University giving the usual set of three HPC courses, except modified for the PBSPro scheduler and for Raijin, Australia's main academic supercomputer. It as a larger than usual class and with an audience who were very mixed in terms of experience (some PhD candidates, some professorial, some general staff), but nevertheless went very well despite some of the quirks of the slightly unfamiliar system. They finished with a resounding applause on the third day, which probably indicates it went pretty well from their perspective. It is probably worth mentioning that I have received the go ahead to make use of the company's ISBN numbers and reconstruct the existing course material into a more general publication - more on that soon.

The daily journeys to and from the university, about 90 minutes each way by mass transit, gave plenty of opportunity for playing with Duolingo (along with Wednesday's German class at the CAE. I have had a mainly theoretical interest in languages for some time, and have picked up a little bit of knowledge (French for fun, Tetum for work and pleasure) but never have I delved so deeply into so many simultaneously. I find that I am engaging in extensive revisions and note-taking, and have developed a genuine feeling for the frustrations and hopes that inspired people like Zamenhof to construct Esperanto as a pan-European constructed auxiliary language (even criticism is appreciated), along with the many variations on the theme (Ido, Interlingua, Lingua Franca Nova).

My anxiety-inducing options has been resolved, albeit not yet with a public explanation, and it really has lifted quite a weight from my shoulders (I must quickly acknowledge this was literary emotive anxiety, not the psychological disorder). It will result in a significant change to my life although not nearly as disruptive as the alternative and the chosen path has also encountered a further elaboration this week which cements the decision even further with greater benefits. I will also take the opportunity for a hat-tap to Richard Tubb who, at the recent OSDC conference made the comment that when facing a choose view the decision from the perspective of your future self. The orientation is interesting because it unconsciously places yourself in where you want to be in the future as well. Whilst both were acceptable, my future self will be pleased with the choice that I have made.
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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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The majority of this week was conducting Linux and HPC courses for researchers from RMIT and the University of Melbourne; next week will be La Trobe. After doing the twenty or so hours of teaching over three days (I'm amazed that people put up with me for that long) and with even better than usual feedback, I gave a presentation at Linux Users of Victoria on parallel programming. Alas at the same time my Nexus 7 tablet ended up in a loop on the login screen and that took some investigation to solve. The dinner after the LUV meeting at Maria's had some interesting conversation about the BBC bypassing the sockets API for video streaming (fascinating stuff for those who are into such things).

Managed to get something akin to a break on Thursday night for a game of Cats Against Cthulhu, our Australian-country town scenario that combines The Secrets of Cats with Lovecraftian horrors. Impressed to discover that (finally) an English-language edition of Aquelarre is coming out after some thirty years. Currently working on a review of All Flesh Must Be Eaten, hoping to complete in a day or so.

Ahh, that old joke. Having started Duolingo just a couple of weeks ago I have dived right in (see what I did there?) and am now taking seven languages, albeit having only just started a couple of them. I am finding Dutch to be the most horrid despite previous assurances of its supposed ease. If I ever had the chance to develop a language I would get rid of definite and indefinite articles, gendered nouns, conjugations of verbs, and forced attempts at euphony (I'm looking at you French) - oh wait, Tetun does all that already. It's still the best second language I have ever encountered, even moreso than Esperanto.
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I haven't posted for several days. But what a week it has been. Saturday was the meeting for Linux Users of Victoria with Russell Coker leading a hands-on demonstration for building a mail-server. The technical content was good, but his sessions would be better if he was more of a teacher and took the time to elaborate each point to provide grounding among the learners. Afterwards it was the annual general meeting of the Isocracy Network with Damien Kingsbury speaking on plans to reform asylum seeker policies. It has led to me to reflect on the 15 years of reluctant involvement I have had with this issue.

On Sunday's 7th Sea Freiburg gaming session followed on from The Great Fire of Freiburg to the financial rebuilding of the equivalent of the establishment of the Bank of England. In other gaming news, on Tuesday reached the highest level attainable in Ingress. I can imagine that much of the time that I used to spend on Ingress will now be spent on Duolingo, where I am progressing quite well in German, French, and Esperanto (I find French the easiest, quelle surprise). Needless to say, we are still attending our weekly German lessons at the College of Advanced Education.

There has been some work-related issues of the past few days that have led to some serious reverberations throughout the company, which I am not at great liberty to elaborate on. It has however left a number of good people quite shell-shocked even if it is not immediately obvious, and has certainly led to demotivation on the part of others. I raise the question on whether the Board has acted - and I mean this in the full legal sense - "in the best interests of the corporation". This aside, next week I will be presenting at the Open Source Developers Conference in Tasmania, and then return to conduct courses for RMIT, then La Trobe University, then Deakin University.

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Diary of a B+ Grade Polymath

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