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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 [livejournal.com 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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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 [livejournal.com profile] horngirl and [livejournal.com 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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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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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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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, booking.com 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 [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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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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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Gaming sessions have returned back to normal with the return of Andrew D., from his Malaysia and UK holiday. Sunday was the regular session of Eclipse Phase. As is often the case, the first session sets the scene and this time it included the hatching of an Iktomi egg and contact by The Factors in Uranus. Wednesday was a session of Laundry Files which continued the explosive problem of a person in China being a nexus point between this world and fire vampires. Apropos have still be working on Papers & Paychecks with positive responses to the draft, perhaps the best being from NinjaDan, "this is looking like a real RPG sourcebook". Well, yes, that's the plan of course.

In other news items, there have been several mainstream news articles advocating land tax, following investigation by the Parliamentary Budget Office, as the Australian property market is in a bubble, with the proposed replacement of stamp duty with a broad land tax a fundamental and sensible policy. In related news there has several new 'blog posts on the Isocracy Network site, as well as a new article by Joe Toscano, The Four Horsemen of the 21st Century Apocalypse.

Finally, this afternoon gave a guest lecture at the University of Melbourne, for the course COMP90024 Cluster and Cloud Computing, on The Spartan HPC System at the University of Melbourne. Lectures like these are a tough gig; the four to six hour workshops and tutorials are at a slower pace with more direct involvement with the smaller number of participants. This is a much larger lecture, around two hundred postgraduate students, and with a lecture slot that lasts well over an hour there is a need to pack in as much information as possible. I am still not used to what I much presume is a millennial norm of applauding lecturers a the end of the class. This is normal now, right?
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Friday night caught up with Peter C., at Sister Bella a typically Melbourne small bar hidden at the end of laneway. Peter lives in the Netherlands and I believe the last time we met was well over fifteen years ago (at the very least, it's not in my LJ and I'm sure I would have recorded the meeting). We know each other from the SF community in Perth from the early nineties and I was always impressed by his combination of moderate politics with a radical and enthusiastic imagination; we had a good chat about the Dutch Reformed Political Party and the Party for Freedom. Afterwards visited Brendan E., in the form of a belated birthday visit. Went to a local Mexican, Beach Burrito which provided some fine sangria and for pit entertainment has skate ring. Afterwards returned to initiate our knowledge of season 2 of Ash vs Evil Dead. Brendan is always a good one for justifiable cynicism and is superb at filtering for our popular culture tastes.

Semi-political meeting of the week was a visit to the University of Melbourne Secular Society with James Fodor speaking on 'Where Does Morality Come From?'; currently seeing if we get another similar presentation to The Philosophy Forum. There is a new article on the Isocracy website, Argumentum Ad Temperantiam on the notion that the middle ground in news is preferred. Continuing the series, I have written a summary of Trump's seventh week, and as news just in, a detailed review of the rather dramatic result in the Western Australian state election, as two of four 'blog posts.

Have been beavering away at Papers & Paychecks with plans for a draft release on Monday evening. Dan 'Smif' Smith has provided some excellent art pieces that can also come with the draft. Also making preparations for RPG Review Issue 34 which will have game design (systems, scenarios etc) as a main focus along with an interview with Ron Edwards, along with preparations for our annual Bunnies & Burrows game - this time planning to be held at the Conquest convention. Today I break the drought from actual play with a session of GURPS Middle Earth planned. To be honest, I can't even remember where we're up to - and our GM isn't famous for doing session write-ups. Still, all will be resolved I am sure.
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Working on the transhumanist issue of RPG Review Issue 33 this week, having received (a little late) the interview with Rob Boyle. Reviews for that issue are also gradually making their way on rpg.net, with Eclipse Phase - Gatecrashing, receiving a strong recommendation. The week also witnessed a session of Papers & Paychecks which thematically took aspects of the classic The Keep on the Borderlands; it worked very well. Friday night managed to get some Eclipse Phase play in, a variation of Think Before Asking. Today was another Cheesequest day with [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce where - apart from making our way through several varieties of said food - we also made our way through another chapter of Mice and Mystics.

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

This coming week I leave for New Zealand for a fortnight, which will include visits to some computational centres in Canterbury University in Christchurch, Otago University in Dunedin, MC-ing and presenting at Multicore World (that's quite some speaker's list, then to Cambridge for Nyriad and finally the Auckland University of Technology. I must say I'm rather looking forward to the visit, as it has been far too long since I've had the opportunity to drop into this rather favoured corner of the world. "Home is where the heart is", and mine is very much in the deep south of Aotearoa.
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Recently a meeting with an early career person earlier this week on their future career in IT - and it became a 'blog post on careers and purpose in its own right. For my own part going to IT was a career change some fifteen years ago from politics, and with a short transition period. As evident, it seems that one doesn't really leave a subject they are passionate about - life just gets more complex. Continuing the passion and profession synthesis, next Tuesday I'll be speaking at Linux Users of Victoria on OpenStack and the Barcelona Open Stack Summit. Following a similar theme have also made a good start on my talk for Multicore World on HPC/cloud hybrids. Slight hiccup of the week; whilst turning off the compute nodes for Edward a tech pulled the cable for the head node as well, just after a "please move your data" email went out - oops.

There's nothing like the election of a disruptive and destructive leader to get people motivated in politics. There's been multiple 'blog posts relating to Lord Dampnut in the past week on the Isocracy Network, including my own summary of his activities, The Shambling Mound's Second Week. Part of this weekend will be spent preparing material for the Isocracy Labor-Green Alliance strategy meeting (FB) next Friday. Whilst not usually a political organisation, the RPG Review Cooperative has agreed to respond to PETA's insane complaint over Warhammer 40K characters wearing fur.

Having completed the skill trees on Duolingo in the past year for Esperanto, French, German, and Spanish, I have found the daily challenge is keeping them all lessons at "gold" status. Most recently, whilst keeping such a level, I've decided to take more "offline" lessons on those languages via texbook learning to give a more conversational grasp of the languages, something with Duolingo is not good at. Nevertheless will also continue the extensive learning via that medium of Russian, and Mandarin on Memrise. The new month also reminds me that it is time re-establish my interests in the "Scandinavian languages", partially in preparation for ISC and subsequent journeys afterwards, but also to extend my grasp of Germanic linguistics.
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My local favourite art deco cinema, The Astor is hosting a set of films from Soviet director, Andrei Tarkovsky. His films are famous for being slow, immersive, and powerful. Last night was his epic version of Lem's story Solaris, which I attended with Rick B., [livejournal.com profile] funontheupfield and [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya, which really does a great job of exploring a truly alien intelligence. Very much looking forward to the next two sessions, with Stalker, and then the week after, The Mirror and Ivan's Childhood. It's all been under the nominal activity list of the RPG Review Cooperative which, on a tangent, PETA have targetted Warhammer 40K for having fur-clad characters. Sunday was a session of GURPS Middle-Earth finishing an adaption of the Spider Farm scenario.

Activities on the Isocracy Network are continuing a-pace which is not unexpected given the international events. I have started a new 'blog series The Shambling Mound, which will provide a week-by-week update on the U.S. President's activities. Obviously it looks like there is plenty of material for the next issue with the current immigration bans and constitutional crisis. Steve Sprigis has added a new article, They Are Not Invincible, and of course, being in the end of the month there's a new newsletter with a particular emphasis on the upcoming meeting on the Labor-Green Alliance: Policy and Strategy, and plenty of international union actions.

Preparations for the New Zealand tour are almost complete with accommodation and HPC centre visits all arranged. As usual, despite working for the lumbering monster that is the University of Melbourne, I choose mainly cheap backpacker accommodation, and my speaking slot at Multicore World has been confirmed. I've also been plodding away at overdue European Tour posts for the University, and reviewing. This week have been also reviewing optimal network topology and equipment for HPC/cloud hybrids with throughput as the main goal. Language lessons are going well, having completed the Tetum course on Memrise, and continuing with Mandarin, German, French, Esperanto, and Spanish on a near-daily basis, along with a bit of Russian.
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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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Apparently I enjoy a challenge as I look at the mountain of tasks that I've set myself for the year, which has little room for any additional activities. Certainly, I am going to be looking harder and increasingly so at individuals who may be interested in co-collaboration in sharing the workload. Of course, so much of this is of my own creation - [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya does remind me that nearly all of the non-work demands that I have are entirely the result of my own volition. It is true: If you live your dreams, you can remake the world was a telling line in rather charming surrealist novel The Dream Years that was influential in my honours year. The following year I had emblazoned on my diary in large letters - back when paper diaries were still functional - a quote from Paul Valéry, What are you going to do TODAY?.

So how was that weekend? Saturday was the Annual Penguin Picnic for Linux Users of Victoria, which has a smaller turnout than last year (many were at LCA in Hobart), but was nevertheless very enjoyable. In other Linux-related issues, have compiled The Provision of HPC Resources to Top Universities and added a few notes on Keeping The Build Directory in EasyBuild and Paraview Plugins. I've also been investigating various aspects of data centre management will be posted very soon.

As a small mountain of people main on various social media contacted me with birthday wishes (sometimes I get this ridiculous notion that there are people out there who respect and maybe even like me), a psychologist friend made some very good anonymous comments on the Melbourne car attack, which had to go on the Isocracy Network website as there are are important issues of crime, prevention, and punishment being addressed. Just added yesterday was a contribution from some Syrian refugees, Amina's Story, which is the first part of a wider compilation. There is even another post forthcoming from the ever insightful Steve S., but that's going to be delayed for a day or two for spacing purposes.

There have been several gaming events over the past few days as well. The weekend saw two games of Eclipse Phase, one being an introduction to a variant of Think Before Asking (I have actually played in this scenario once before and have run it another time - but I can keep mum as necessary). Sunday's session was a variant of Lurking In Every Flower, which is like Philip K. Dick meets Vurt - Anders Sandberg's work is getting some solid activity. Finally, several of the reviews that I've provided to RPG.net have now been published, including Alternity Player's Handbook, Alternity Game Master's Guide, Gangbusters, Basic Fantasy, and OSRIC.
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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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Family dinner for Christmas was at Falcon which comes with some beautiful views of the Indian Ocean. In the gift-giving ritual I received Letters of Note, which I devoured within a day. Many of the letters are insightful and important; others are a little different. Following day had a long lunch with [personal profile] delicious_irony and Bruce T at The Dome and collected under a third of the MARS library for shipping back to Melbourne the following day. Thus ended the flying visit to Perth; [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya's mother continues to defy medical expectations, managed to catch up with over fifty people from friends and family, and sorted through the bones of an old SF club. On the return to Melbourne two significant events has been collecting the cat from kitty prison and saving some myna hatchlings that had been blown out of their nest. Yesterday, caught up with [livejournal.com profile] taavi at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Because I am on a genuine holiday this week, with absolutely nothing that I have to do, I have found myself a pottering about and chipping at a few items on moderately long to-do list. Following a couple of recent weird Internet discussions I've found myself considering deeply the notion of political deliberation. The result is a long essay: Deliberative Isocracy : The Antidote to 'Fake News', which looks at the scope of democratic systems versus liberal rights, the concept of deliberation, and how to really put 'fake news' and its distorting influence in representative democracy to an end. I pride myself on starting with facts then forming an opinion; I have a tragic fascination with those who cannot or will not shift an opinion even when the facts are clearly opposite.

As 2016 comes to a close there has been an apparent spate of celebrite deaths; I never particularly cared for the music of George Michael, although his philanthropy seems agreeable. SciFi fans are of course distressed by the death of Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher and doubly so with her mother, Debbie Reynolds, dying the following day. I noted the passing of Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, due to anthropomorphic affections. Somewhat overlooked however is Vera Rubin which leads to an interesting illustration between scientific endeavours and popular culture. The passing on of celebrities of the latter is more recognised; they touch a wider-range of people on an accessible level. The scientist does deeper work which arguably is more important, but is sufficiently esoteric that fewer people find that they have an immediate connection with it. As for the regulator and founder of moral laws? Well, apparently in a very few cases they become elevated to holiness.
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It's been quite a productive week (yes, this is coming from me). On Saturday was the Linux Users of Victoria beginners meeting concentrating on website development for the organisation, followed by the Isocracy Annual General meeting with Hans Baer speaking on democratic eco-socialism. We had to shift the AGM to the restaurant across the road as the New International Bookshop had forgotten about our booking. They're a bit genuinely embarrassed about it (which they should be) and are making appropriate amends. Tonight will be visiting prolific and sardonic political blogger, Richard O'Brien, who has recently announced his anti-One Nation Senate campaign. Also on the political agenda is the next meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby, which will feature association secretary, [livejournal.com profile] saithkar, speaking on Section 116 of the Australian Constitution (along with a general policy discussion).

Work-wise Monday and Wednesday were almost entirely taken up conducting training courses; Edward to Spartan Transition and Advanced Linux and Scripting respectively, both of which went very well as reflected by the feedback. On Monday also submitted an abstract for THETA 2017 concentrating equally on the design orientation and teaching of HPC for Spartan. Part of Friday was taking up co-authoring a paper with the good folk from the University of Freiburg for the International Supercomputing Conference. The rest of the day was negotiating user requirements for some large bioinformatics programmes (including Steminformatics and physicists (specificaly, the Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics). Also discovered this week that a book which I contributed to has just been released: The Crossroads of Cloud and HPC.

There's been many activities on the gaming front as well; with a session of GURPS Middle Earth on Sunday, and Laundry Files Australia on Wednesday. A big promotional push has been been initiated for the Papers & Paychecks Kickstarter - we need roughly a $100 per day for the next month to make the target and have been pushing out the personal emails requests quite heavily. In addition, the MARS library has been moved to a members house leaving us with the problem of how to shift it to Melbourne. It's a lot bigger than I remember it. In a related matter to genre-fiction last night we went out with [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce to see Hentai Kamen 2. The film suffers significantly in narrative development (something that the original did well) and with incomplete character development, making is sequence of scenes which are individually amusing; the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
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Interesting week so far from the RPG Review Cooperative perspective. On Wednesday finally received the great news that the old MARS library will be making its way to the Cooperative, which is a big bonus. That evening we went to our advertised movie night at The Astor, Shin Godzilla, the newest of the classic series. Included a lot of clever digs with a straight face at Japanese culture, raised issues Japanese political issues, of US-Japanese relations, environmental concerns, and even a somewhat plausible monster. The following night held another hilarious playtest session of Papers and Paychecks as the media team has to engage in some thoroughly loathsome projects for a loathsome boss. Tonight we're playing Eclipse Phase through our usual multinational group with the new playtest rules.

Have just finished, as promised in the last post, of my quantitative and qualitative review of the US election. The data simply does not lie, and it is actually good to see that analysts are coming to realise that the problem wasn't the identity-based swing states which everyone was paying attention to, but rather the Rust Belt wall which should have protected the Democratic nominee. Some of this will provide content to tomorrow's Isocracy Annual General Meeting which has Dr. Hans Baer, from the Development Studies Program, School of Social and Political Sciences, at the University of Melbourne talking on the possibility of union of socialist and environmentalist politics. Ultimately if these two approaches (along with traditional liberalism) are not reconciled then it is probably that conservative populism will continue its current streak of victories, despite the damaging effects.
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In the global village, the local council election of the United States of America is certainly the most important. Like many others I was rather surprised (and quite horrified) by the election of Donald Trump this week. The psephologists were universally wrong. But at least they're doing the right thing and working out why. There has been a lot of silly opinion pieces trying to justify why the result occured, but the pre-election claims of Michael Moore turned out to be most prescient, not only for guessing that Trump would win but where he would win; namely by a failure to inspire the working-class states of the Great Lakes - that is really the only reason that Clinton lost; Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Unsurprisingly, I am currently in the midst of an article for the Isocracy Network on the election results with a few prescriptive solutions, the most obvious being don't ignore the working class. It also serves as a good focus for the Isocracy AGM (FB link) next Saturday at Trades Hall with Dr. Hans Baer speaking on the relationship between enviromentalism and socialism. This is certainly an issue which has relevance for the occasionally strained relationship here between the Australian Labor Party and the Greens. Similar lessons can be learned in this context; the importance of the environment may be paramount, but the protection of the enviroment will only occur with the support of the working class.

Speaking of work, in my fairly-well paid technocratic role it has been a very demanding week having returned from overseas. I fielded what I could what on the other side of the world, but the bulk of the effort was carried by NinjaDan who is really feeling the weight of what has been an increasingly quantity of technical requests, and certainly far beyond the capacity of 1 EFT looking after two HPC systems. In other work-related news [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya has received a new job offer with a good pay rise and engaged in the delightful act of handing a resignation letter to a firm which won the Golden Turd for poor work conditions.

In home life we still have the delightful Jane keeping us company at least for a few more days. There's big hole in the ceiling of our dining-room due to the effects of the water pipe issues from before we left for overseas and one in the back of the wardrobe in our attic bedroom which probably leads to Naria or somesuch. The Owners Corporation is currently having a debate on whether to keep the Courtesy Bus or not, which led me to make a post on the appropriate closed group on Facebook where I illustrated some of the unspoken costs of getting rid of it; it seems that most people who engaged in that discussion are also supportive in retaining the service. Finally, last night went to visit Brendan who has been having his usual unluck with housemates. It was good to catch up as always, and we laughed ourselves through the quite moving NZ film Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which of course reminded me that I need to visit the home country again.
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It has been another secular heavy-week. On Tuesday attended the University of Melbourne Secular Society meeting with club president and physicist James Fodor giving a presentation on contempory theories on cosmology and how religious fundamentalists have reacted to this subject. Also present, unexpectedly, was Colin Macleod, whom I recall from more than fifteen years ago as author of Patrol in the Dreamtime. That evening the Victorian Secular Lobby met with Harriet Singh, MLC at Parliament House to discuss the future of the Safe Schools Programme, and especially attempts to overturn it by religious conservatives. Tonight the Isocracy Network met at Trades Hall with Anthony Wallace of Equal Love (they should fix that website), the national campaign organisation for marriage equality. The proposed plebiscite now looks dead in the water and soon it will be time to lobby politicians for a conscience vote.

This week witnessed the final transfer of data and restarting of the queue of the Edward HPC system, which was a very big deal. It also saw another class, a well-attended Advanced Linux and Shell Scripting Course conducted by yours truly. Feedback was again extremely positive, and this coming week will see the first course in Parallel Programming, with courses for fluid dynamics and economics for HPC being planned (two courses, obviously) following requests by appropriate groups of researchers. I am reminded that I should also consider adding some of the material in these courses to Udemy or some other equivalent MOOC. This week also witnessed the submission of an abstract ("Hekatonkheires is Spartan", another Hellenic mythological pun) for the Australian Symposium on Parallel and Distributed Computing. Finally, today was Software Freedom Day with Melbourne people meeting at The Electron Workshop, which was followed by a committee meeting of Linux Users of Victoria. The AGM will be the next main meeting, with a subsequent meeting being planned for disincorporation and the establishment of the group as a subcommittee of Linux Australia.

On a higher education related event, attended the Sir Robert Menzies Oration and Conferring Ceremony at the University on Wednesday evening, which also included awarding of some cited doctorates, of which one name whom recognised from classes I've given. The event was full of pomp and circumstance, and thus it was appropriate that they had a life peer, Baroness Amos, giving the oration. It was full of well-meaning broad platitudes, as such speeches are, on the topic of the limits of free speech within the university context. I have little doubt of the baronesses commitment to raising the standard of education for the socially disadvantaged, both in developed and developing countries, but also note a level of political correctness (i.e., remarks made for the purpose of political expedience and loyalty), such as her support for the invasion of Iraq. Which of course, ironically ties into the subject matter of her very own speech, albeit in an indirect manner. Of course, direct or indirect, the effect of such censorship is still the same - the closing of the mind, the silencing of voices.
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Last Sunday's presentation to the Melbourne Unitarian Church on Changing Definitions of Marriage: Past, Present, and Future, was very well received. It was followed by a meeting of The Philosophy Forum where Graeme Lindenmayer spoke on The Nature and Existence of Time. This coming week have organised a meeting with Harriet Singh and the Victorian Secular Lobby to discuss the future of the Safe Schools Programme. The following Saturday I've also organised a meeting with Equal Love Australia to speak to the Isocracy Network to discuss the issue of a plebiscite or a free parliamentary vote on marriage equality, and issue which I introduced in the address to the Unitarians.

Politically of course, secularism is a liberal and modern concern, which does not only argue for the separation of religious beliefs from evidence in public policy and religious appointments in public institutions, but tangentially the development of post-metaphysical reasoning. It is difficult, to say the least, to imagine how fundamentalist beliefs will succeed in a world transformed both by technology and the breakdown of cultural differences. Racial and religious inspired violence is the last and pathetic attempt to impossibly impose a worldview that is already completely out of date.

On Tuesday night I gave a presentation at Linux Users of Victoria on Spartan: An HPC-Cloud Hybrid. Following day presented for the Edward to Spartan Workshop; a good class, albeit with a wide variance in skill levels, but all of whom were quite engaged in the subject. A big change this week was a switchover in storage and DNS for the venerable Edward system, primarily by [livejournal.com profile] imajica_lj and NinjaDan respectively.

Interesting collection of gaming events over the past week as well. Sunday, a busy day, was a session of Eclipse Phase which concluded with the discovery of On Monday night played some Ingress with a Sydney visitor whose IT-related agent name (Zilog80) I recognised from one of last year's visit to that town. Thursday night was the second session of Mimesis Delta Green which involved putting together the pieces of a grisly murders and concluded with an encounter with a Byakhee.

Europe plans are going very well. Meeting at CERN was confirmed this week, so now only waiting on confirmations from Frankfurt and Montpellier Universities. This morning [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya discovered that the greatest band of this century, 65daysofstatic, are playing in Barcelona on the first night of the OpenStack conference. Naturally enough I purchased tickets immediately. Now with but four weeks to go, the finer details of the intinery need to be sorted out. In many ways I've waited my entire life for a trip like this, and whilst a month is far too short to fully immerse oneself in what remains the centre of human history and intellectual - Geisteswissenschaften, as the Deutsche would say - it is coming to fruition.

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Diary of a B+ Grade Polymath

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