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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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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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Gave introductory Linux and HPC day-courses at University of Melbourne last Thursday and Friday, followed by a presentation at Linux Users of Victoria the following day on Compiling from Source in Linux. The former courses had a particularly high-ratio of staff, rather than the usual collection of postgraduate researchers. Regardless the feedback was equally positive. The presentation to LUV was quite challenging, as I quickly realised however the single talk could easily be several, and as a result I touched upon several items (compilation options, makefiles, autotools and other autobuild systems, environment modules, etc). Nevertheless the post-presentation discussion was excellent; Rodney B., asked whether I had used material from other courses. When I revealed I had not he described the presentation as "embarrassingly good" - which I suppose is positive. At times like these I can have the conceit that I might actually be reasonably good at this HPC Training racket.

After LUV attended the monthly RPG Review movie night at The Astor. It was a monster-themed double with Kong: Skull Island, followed by the 1970 Hammer film, When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth. The former was fairly good, a rather fun combination of King Kong and Apocalypse Now. The latter was absolutely terrible, with the one redeeming feature of the film being carried out in a constructed language. On related popular culture matters played GURPS Middle-Earth the following day and our party of do-gooders successfully defeated the evil sapient trees built by a mad druid. Apropos had some pretty regular sales from the RPG Review in the past couple of weeks, and am reminded that both the RPG Review journal is due, along with Papers & Paychecks.
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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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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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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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Tuesday night attended the Linux Users of Victoria meeting to hear Russell Coker present on M.2 expansion cards, and Rodney Brown on cyclic redundancy checks. The following day had the first of a new class at University of Melbourne on advanced (on a user level) Linux commands and shell scripting. Detailed slides in MD format are available on Github. That evening, with but a couple of days notice, journeyed to Moorabbin to the MelbPC Users Group to address a group of around 60 on Supercomputers: Current Status and Future Trends.

As there is no peace for the wicked, on Sunday I am also presenting at The Philosophy Forum, on "Race conditions for the Human Species : A Global Perspective", and then on Tuesday I'll be presenting at the Atheist Society on "Is Pantheism and Atheism?". The day after that I have another several hours of Linux HPC teaching - and so they cycle goes. Actually I am hoping for a little of a break from such things so I least have the chance to finish up some writing projects that I have had sitting on the backburner for a while.
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Gave a lecture this afternoon at the University of Melbourne on the Edward and Spartan HPC systems as part of the postgraduate course on cluster and cloud computing; seemed to go well. The Spartan HPC/Cloud hybrid system is certainly novel, if not unique, in its architecture and it's great to have come online with students from the course to provide the initial beta-test group. UoM students will also be receiving several training instances from me in the coming weeks in the form of HPC and Cloud Computing courses.

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

Under the aegis and approval of the RPG Review Cooperative, I have started a petition to WoTC to release Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition under an Open Game License (like 3rd edition and 5th edition). This is not about whether one like 4th edition or not - but rather of equality and fairness (someone will probably make a SJW comment about it). Appropriately the third Crux Australi newsletter has been released, including mention of the weekend's gaming convention, Conquest.
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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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It was the Linux Users of Victoria AGM on Tuesday night. Ryan Kelly's talk on Cross Compiling for the Web was excellent. Whilst I loathe Javascript on aesthetic grounds, I accept its functionality, and this was a most encouraging talk in that regard. We didn't get quorum (as that required almost 150 people), but the meeting will be adjourned to Software Freedom Day. For the first three days of next week I have another set of Linux and HPC courses to run for the RMIT SPACE centre. Apropos this I have also 'blogged about some R library quirks and Parallel and MPI Octave. For next month, an abstract for my talk at OSDC in Hobart is now available on their website.

On the political side, Friday night was a dinner with Damien and Rae Kingsbury a fairly astute pair of minds, and with Anthony L., and Daye G., with the main topic of conversation being rebuilding (ye gods, yet again) an acceptable policy for asylum seekers in Labor Party policy after Labor for Refugees was routed at the last National Conference. On the philosophical side, today presented at the Unitarians on A Modern Reconstruction of Buddhist Karma. Afterwards introduced Adam Ford presenting at The Philosophy Forum on the topic The Coming Technological Singularity - Rapture of the Nerds? Or the End of the Human Race?, which provided some very good justifications of concern on the malicious artificial intelligence.
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Yet another round of HPC and Linux courses conducted this week, three solid days of raising a small group of researchers from basic command line knowledge through to submitting PBS scripts of increasing complexity and finishing with MPI programming. In several days, another set of courses will be conducted, this time for the RMIT SPACE research centre. On a related topic, next Tuesday will be the Annual General Meeting for Linux Users Victoria with an interesting talk on cross-compiling for the web also featured.

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

Social media in Melbourne has raised the ante quite significantly in the past twenty-four hours with the announcement then sudden cancellation of Operation Fortitude. After the Federal government reconstructed Australia's immigration service into a paramilitary Border Force, this Friday they were supposed to engage in a search for illegal immigrants on the streets of Melbourne. With Melbournians reacting that they didn't particularly want a "do you have your papers?" policing, it was cancelled, with an almighty cock-up of a media release.
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It's been a very busy week for Linux and HPC courses with pretty much all of Monday and Tuesday teaching classes almost entirely made up of RMIT researchers. Once again received excellent feedback; I always feel a little embarrassed and proud at the same time when the class applauds at the end of the training sessions. This coming Monday I fly out to the Australian Institute for Marine Science to spend two days teaching some of their researchers on such topics and training their sysadmins on cluster management and various scientific software installations. Spent the better part of Thursday and Friday writing up the documentation for this. In the meantime I have also submitted a paper for eResearch Australasia on Vocational Engineering with High Performance Computing : A Necessity for a Productive Knowledge Economy. The practical import of this paper is recognising that industrial processes have an optimal degree of complexity, and as traditional industrial employment transfers to developing countries, new processes (and employment) will come from HPC engineering applications - as distinct to new research discoveries which also are coming from HPC data processing. Tangentially related was a very pleasing request for republication from a Linux advocate in Indonesia who had taken the effort to translate a previous presentation of mine (An Introduction to Slackare) into Bahasa-Indonesian.

Two regular gaming sessions this week have gone very well; last Sunday's 7th Sea Freiburg went well, with an mission into the catacombs of the city's cathedral to recover a key that opens a chamber to great (yet destructively unbalancing) riches. Of course there was a particularly hostile ghost there which didn't agree with anything being taken away. Then there was the gargoyles which made escape rather difficult. Although being a somewhat more heroic game, the PCs did somewhat better than Thursday night's Masks of Nyarlathotep team, who are completing the final chapter of story in central Australia. Half the investigators are incapacitated following an encounter with armed cultists followed shortly afterwards with a flying polyp; their friendliest encounter has been with mimi, and they're not always so friendly. It is, in many ways, heading towards a typically conclusion of a Call of Cthulhu story as a tiny group half-dead and half-mad individuals struggle their way through an ancient alien underground maze far from civilisation seeking to prevent the the destruction of the planet.
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There is much I love about my workplace. High performance computing provides the computational infrastructure which allows scientists to make discoveries quicker and make life better for all of us. Just this week, I am thrilled to see my old work colleague Dr. Mike Kuiper once again finds himself making great discoveries that will save lives, ably assisted by HPC systems. It is very important to me that the workplace is a non-profit company (even if we have a separate commercial arm). I know that we don't have the same sort of resources as the commercial sector. That is why when travelling on the company's dime I fly the cheaper lines, stay at the cheaper accommodation, and typically eat in rather than dine out on a expense account. I like the fact that we're a registered research agency, and that the work being conducted here is (or should be) for the public good. That is part of the reason why I document much of the technical work of what I do (pretty pleased with my work on GAMESS in the past few days) - so other sysadmins around the world in similar institutions may get some understanding in the complex world of optimised compilations of scientific applications.

Which makes it all harder when the axe comes down and staff have to be "let go" to use the euphemism, which is what happened to several staff on Friday. It's almost Victorian in it's politeness isn't it? "We're giving you an opportunity for a new beginning". I imagine it doesn't feel that way to those on the chopping block. Certainly there were a couple whom I think weren't quite pulling their weight and there were others "let go" which quite surprised me. The reason for the axe falling was quite reminiscent of the last time; cash flow. In addition this time there was what I consider a serious structural issue which also contributed significantly to these matters. Senior management and the board carry responsibility for this - and they should know it; "the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility" - and that means responsibility in failure as well as success. I cannot help but think of Marx's comments on The Civil War in France when looking at the pay scales of the Commune - representatives should receive never more than the average worker. Management is a privilege as well as a responsibility.

The good soldier however continues their work from the trenches. Many of us have worked ourselves as if possessed by demons in the past year which has generated extraordinary uptime and usage for our clusters along and despite the devastating news we will continue to do so. However sometimes I wonder whether these efforts and the resulting research receives due consideration in a world where soporific entertainment is more worthy than great art and groundbreaking science, where political policy is determined by majoritarian opinions regadless of veracity, and where bureaucracy is more worthy than real work. Half a league, Half a league, Half a league onward ... Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why. To the good soldiers who have a fallen, I salute you: This is the saddest story I have ever heard.
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Today I reached the rather surprising forty-seventh annual revolution. Surprising in the sense that it mentally sneaked up on me; only last week I had to be reminded by [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya that today would be the day, although this is far from the first time I have engaged in such forgetfulness. I have received many messages of congratulations and well-wishes on Facebook, Google+, at work, via email, and even a few 'phone calls. All of these are much appreciated, especially for their affirmative value. Never one to pass up an opportunity to be child-like (as distinct to childish) I organised a Freddo ice-cream cake with some of the immediate staff at work, which was also saw Deb Nicholson of the Open Invention Network drop as an international guest speaker to give a presentation on patent trolls (she was actually pre-arranged, but just so happened to turn up at the right time). The OIN engaged in defensive patent acquisition for the public domain as a method to squash trolls or, in the academic parlance, "non-producing entities" (i.e., companies that don't actually produce anything, but sue others for real or imagined breaches of patents).

The past few days has witnessed a couple of visits to Anthony L., and Robyn M., as I've attempted to fix various networking and hosting issues for their personal and business IT systems which had a few quirks to say the least. In what has been a continuing merging of personal life and work life, Saturday was the annual Linux Users of Victoria Penguin Picnic which had some forty people attend. I had managed to do the necessary shopping the day before and cooked up a storm on the BBQ over a couple of hours. Unlike a number of other hard-nosed LUV meetings this was certainly a more social occasion. Also of high conviviality was last Thursday's game of Masks of Nyarlathotep which included a nuclear powered yacht, Deep Ones and an invasion on a secret base in a volcano, rather like the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. Last Sunday was another session of GURPS Middle Earth, which involved a dungeon-crawl and various undead. As a political-technical contribution, wrote a brief article on nanosocialism. Finally, apropos the last journal entry, the new rats have been named: Rover, Scamper, and Tramper (in order of age and alphabet, see?).
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Went to a Novell and Attachmate breakfast presentation on Tuesday at Vue du Monde. The view was pleasant (at level 55 of the Rialto building), but the actual talks were too high level (haha, see what I did there?). It was orientated towards suits, and didn't really provide enough technical details. Absolutely floored when one representative started talking about the new products which allow secure connection to Linux/UNIX systems. Reminded later that in the MS-Windows world people actually sell SSH, SFTP, and NFS clients (all of which are free and open source). On related subjects, have written a brief how-to for installing Linux with OEM MS-Windows installs, and this morning a discussion on file creation time for Linux which I used an supplementary discussion for Wen Lin's presentation at Linux Users of Victoria beginners workshop on introducting the Linux command line.

On a related subject work has been quite interesting this week with regards to project management, both in the actual delivery and the development of new policy and procedures. Increasingly it becomes apparent that projects fall into a mess when procedures are not followed. Trying to run complex tasks without a framework simply doesn't work. Now whilst PRINCE2 is sometimes criticised for not providing much in terms of reporting metrics (unlike PMBoK, which does provide very sophisticate metrics for analysis), it is more about governance rather than delivery as such, and notably PMBoK doesn't provide much for governance! Despite how useful analysis is, the governance is also necessary to ensure communication within a team. As a result, in addition to simple statement of governance developed a fortnight ago, a simple checklist and graphic representation of flowchart has been put together.

As a strange aside, recently encountered two examples of cyborg sex, one deliberate and one not so much. Firstly, a man admits to having sex with over 700 cars (and even an attack helicopter). I think of The Normal's Warm Leatherette; Bryce D. reminds me of Grace Jones' Pull Up to the Bumper. All hat-tip to [personal profile] reddragdiva, who also does the right thing by referencing the late and great J.G. Ballard. Meanwhile Nigel S., has gone into surgury for hip replacement, which is pretty cyborg too. The 'Information Booklet on Your Total Hip Joint Replacement' booklet he received includes the lines "You can discuss returning to sexual activity with your surgeon at your follow up appointment". As he says, "One interpretation of this would not, I suspect, go down too well with the Australian Medical Association's ethics committee."
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Last Tuesday night gave a presentation at Linux Users of Victoria on The Innovation Patent Review and Free Software. The recent recommendation that "no method, process or system shall be patentable" in innovation patents needs to be implemented by parliament and extended to cover standard patents as well. LUV's planned miniconference and installfest in the La Trobe Valley is going well too, with good expressions of interest by locals and support from Linux Australia. Tuesday was also the day of running the one-day course in Octave and R; the feedback is good, but I feel particularly exhausted after this one as their is so much material. I am considering redesigning it for a more efficient presentation.

Masks of Nyarlathotep was cancelled on Thursday night, so we played Chez Cthulhu and Trailer Park Gods, which were appropriate lightweight alternatives. Sunday was GURPS Middle Earth where we made it through the first dungeon crawl of the campaign (an old Dwarven barrow). In the online HeroQuest Glorantha game, I've pushed the narrative with (entirely safe-for-work) a trollkin orgy. The only other major social activity of the week was Julie A's fortieth birthday drinks which was a pleasurable gathering. I think I've known Julie for about twenty five years or thereabouts?

On Sunday gave the address at the Melbourne Unitarian Church on Small Gods on the Pale Blue Dot which combined both the perspectives of Terry Pratchett and Carl Sagan, especially the themes of religious sincerity, reverence, and literal perspective. It was a very well-attended meeting, that followed up with a great roundtable discussion at The Philosophy Forum on Language and Meaning (notes pending), which covered different types of communication, the continuum of language within and between species, and an interesting (and unexpected) interest in extreme rhetoric and deceptive uses of language.
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Three days this week was pretty much taken up by conducting Linux, HPC, and MPI training courses for a number of postgrads, almost all from RMIT. Another good class who started with zero background in the subjects and who by the third day were working their way through MPI programming. Of some note was the attendance of the first economist in the three years or so that I've been running these courses. I've had a longstanding desire (and it really wouldn't be that hard) to compare local economic development with different council rating systems as a time series - not really requiring HPC but certainly does require a geospatial person, a valuer, an economist, and a programmer to be on the same project.

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

Recently a study has been released claiming that the dingo is a separate species. Whilst it looks serious enough the university press release on a certain date, made me think that this could be an "poisson d'avril" as the proposition is so counterintuitive. Certainly species is a complex subject with some interesting edge cases (e.g., hybrids, ring species), but the general principle of species representing a population of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring is true. The paper argues - through morphological analysis of museum examples, not genetics - that the dingo was a separate species some five thousand years ago and is now being threatened by extensive hybrid speciation. Personally, I find their claim highly dubious. Not only is there significant evidence that the dingo's arrival was somewhat earlier, mitochondrial DNA analysis indicates that the dingo has much less differences with the domestic dog than wolves. So whilst morphological analysis is useful for a quick rule of thumb, genetic analysis is a much better determinant.
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Had a good night out on Friday with [personal profile] caseopaya, Julie A., and Jasper S., the latter visiting from Perth en route to the Cayman Islands, of all places. We had dinner and drinks at the Abbotsford Convent where there Supper Market was being held, then followed up with more drinks at the decidedly death rocker Bendigo Hotel. In my other avenue of socialisation (and good conversation) ran another session of Masks of Nyarlathotep on Thursday with surprisingly no characters going insane; one (NPC) however was turned into paste by dynamite in a warehouse. Today will be another sesison of GURPS Middle-Earth, where investigations continue in Estgaroth for the causes of industrial sabotage - it beats fighting Orcs for a living.

Convened the Linux Users of Victoria Beginners Workshop yesterday and gave the presentation An Introduction to Slackware, which I don't mind as a distribution, even without dependency checking. In other related news, absolutely excited to hear that Plan 9 from Bell Labs is now available as a GPL distributed operating system, albeit with some discussion on the matter. Of ultimate importance however - and if it does work it will fundamentally change the world - fusion power experiment successful; rather oddly this has barely made a mention in the mainstream news.

My epicurean proclivities have never led me to take a great interest in nutritional issues, apart from the most obvious (avoid processed foods, especially refined sugars and transfats etc). However, I recently encountered an article on John Yudkin, which led me to recall a recommendation of Prof. Robert Lustig's lecture on sugar is a poison, and the more recent follow-up, fat chance, on the same topic. Whilst the science intrigues me, politically it would be very difficult to see the regulation he is recommending come into existence. Regulations have an uneasy relationship between power and reason, and it is usually the former that acquires supremacy when challenged.
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When I was a teenaged Marxist, my favourite badge was a quote from the Manifesto: The working men have no country. The appeal was very much towards international worker's solidarity and against racist prejudice. Unfortunately, working people are as much - if not more so - swayed by nationalistic loyalties than other classes. In the Australian context however we are led to believe that January 26 is to be celebrated. Celebrate what? It marks the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia. In other words, Invasion Day. Whilst some deny it the question is raised in what way wasn't it an invasion? Tell me what has happened to the diversity of indigenous cultures, now driven to extinction, and whose surviving members still suffer the entrenched structural effects of discrimination. Yet, there is outrage over the graffiti on a fake cottage. This is the effects of reified nationalism; being upset over graffiti over a building, whilst remaining silent and ignorant at the death and destruction of real people.

But of course, it was a long weekend and that does mean the opportunity to spend time with friends and loved ones. On said weekend itself we were visited by [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce and [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla where we engaged in an afternoon of food, drink, and merrymaking - including a visit to the local bat colony by the river and a most inspired session of Cards Against Humanity. For our continuing quest to complete the cheeses of the Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch, I made liptauer as a contribution. We're down to about the last half-dozen, which includes those which are not actually cheeses at all (e.g., Ilchester, Caithness, Perle de Champagne) plus those which are somewhat difficult to acquire in Australia (Fynbo, Abertam). I have, as recently posted, made a request to the Adelaide zoological gardens for that rarest of produce, the Venezuelan Beaver Cheese.

It's been confirmed that at the end of next month I'll be visiting New Zealand to be the MC at Multicore World, which will then follow up with the workshop for Computing for the Square Kilometre Array, the world's most impressive radio telescope project (in my considered opinion). On a related topic, next Tuesday is the monthly Linux Users of Victoria meeting where Les will be speaking on Linux on non-Intel architectures , and I'll be putting together a "best of" compilation from LCA2014. This is also dovetailing with another round of three days teaching high performance computing and Linux to postgraduate researchers.
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The past few days I've been in Perth at Linux Conf 2014. It's been several years since I've been in the city of my childhood and I have been much reminded of the key characteristics of this sprawling and hot city. The conference is being held in the old sandstone buildings of the University of Western Australia and I'm residing at St George's College, both of which have been quite suitable. As can imagined I've taken the opportunity to catch with a number of old Perth friends, both at the conference itself and a number at a dinner at the Himalayan Nepalese resturant, which was quite a great night to see some old faces and at a couple of new ones. A follow-up dinner, with mostly different people will be held on Friday night and a lunch on Saturday before I leave. The Conference dinner itself was held on the Hackett Driver river foreshore and prior to that I also attended a "flock of Kiwis" dinner for the trans-Tasman visitors. Yes, I am feeling quite well fed.

The conference itself has been a mostly good experience. The two mini-conferences I attended (Systems Administration and Open Programming) were notable for their excellent technical content. Each of the keynote speeches has had a decidely social orientation with Suelette Dreyfus and Matthew Garrett showing interest in current security and privacy concerns (NSA and Snowden revelations, Trans-Pacific Partnership, etc), with Kate Chapman illustrating the use of distributed community activism in disaster recovery. It is an interesting approach allowing for the more social and motivational talks to take up keynote positions, whilst the technical details have been handled in the streams; it's a good approach. In my own role as Community Liaison Officer, there's been a few minor issues to deal with, but no disasters. The emphasis of the conference organisers of the Code of Conduct a great deal of preventative maintenance has already been carried out. Overall, this conference seems to be running quite smoothly and I've been impressed with how organisers have dealt with the inevitably bumps that occur on the journey.

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Diary of a B+ Grade Polymath

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