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Firstly, I want to thank everyone on LJ, DW, G+, and FB who expressed their condolences with the passing of Rover the rat last week. It touched me deeply that so many of you, nearly all who have spent no time in his company, saw fit to respond to my little eulogy. I make apologies for not responding to all the wishes in person, as I have been away in New Zealand with limited Internet access - and the screen to my laptop has been damaged - and have only just returned tonight, to discover that the old, blind, and cancer-ridden Tramper rat is surprisingly still with us and have managed to eat all the food that had been left out for him.

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So that was a six-day holiday; it was a pretty busy affair with a lot packed in. My previous three trips to NZ have been largely work based so it was good to get around a bit more and finally see a part of the country that I hitherto had not been to. One nice discovery during the trip was learning that my application to attend the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt has been approved. That will be the next trip.
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It's been a tough week at work; not so much on matters of complexity, but rather on sheer volume. With last week's cluster and cloud computing, there has been in an influx of over two hundred master's level students to the HPC system and the inexperience of quite a few is evident. Such is the effects of an entire generation of computer users who have started with the GUI rather than the command-line. Apropos the planned session with the good folk at the University of Freiburg didn't get up for the International Supercomputing Conference. A German co-author responded pithily, You have to see that we are considered heretics. Well, it wouldn't be the first time, that's for sure. So instead we're looking at a publication in Advanced Computing. Given that most of the paper is already written, a draft can be submitted perhaps the end of next week.

Shortly after that [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya, [livejournal.com profile] funontheupfield, and I are heading to New Zealand. Apparently I can't get enough of the place. The latter has never been before so recommendations were put in place for a short trip; Wellington and the Marlborough Sounds, primarily Havelock and Collingwood with opportunities to take short hikes, go spelunking, horse riding, and to see the strange natural landscape that is Farewell Spit. Given that my past two trips to NZ have been almost entirely work-related, I'm rather looking forward to the opportunity to venture 'cross The Ditch entirely for pleasure. Hopefully I will be able to organise dinner in Wellington for the handful of people that I know there.

The native animal population at our home has had a recent increase with a clutch of friendly young magpies deciding that our home is worth a visit, primarily for cat biscuits. A few days later a blue tongue lizard decided to move in. We think it's still in the house somewhere. Our other animal companions however have not been particularly perturbed by our new visitors; apparently our home is an open-plan zoological garden. I must however express some concern with the health of Tramper the rat. Already close to three years old (about ninety in rat-years), he's doing it a bit tough. He's had a bumblefoot infection for a long tiome (which curiously, seems to be healing up), he has a large mammary tumour which is quite inoperable without risk to his life, and now he's has advanced glaucoma in one eye. Tramper now spends much of his time snoozing (even on the rat-scale of things), but also has a good appetite and enjoys scritch time. Despite his illnesses, I think he's going to be around for a few more months.
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My last day in New Zealand was spent giving my farewells to the good folk at Nyriad and then travelling to Auckland to give a presentation at the Auckland University of Technology. Since then there has been little opportunity to engage in much else except for my usual work, although the visit to NZ did have immediate benefits with discussions at the University about exactly where to host a proposed new GPU expansion and the relative benefits of Infiniband versus 100GE with RDMA. Nevertheless today has been busy with a preparation for a presentation tomorrow to The Philosophy Forum on "The Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics", and attending a festival tonight where we will catch up with Polly Samuel. Next Tuesday I will also be presenting to Linux Users of Victoria on Multicore World 2017.

Being away for a couple of weeks and with another regular GM overseas in has meant some significant gaming withdrawals. Last night played Eclipse Phase with the regular distributed crew across multiple states and countries (will we get [livejournal.com profile] patchworkkid to join us once he moves to Canada?). Still, I have some recent nerd purchases - the facsimile of Thorin's map I picked up in Hobbiton for [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya will go well when framed, plus a recent purchase of a stromatolite dice set satisfies my long-standing desire for a "gem set" of gaming dice, and an interest in fossils and bacteria. In addition there has been a fair bit of work on Papers and Paychecks following last week's update, with a recent acquisition of illustrations from Dan 'Smif' Smith, which are looking very good.
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One of the most common errors in computer science is an off-by-one error, and I did just that on my journey from Wellington to Cambridge, having everything booked (flight, shuttle, departure) one day out-of-sync. All was resolved quite quickly, and I was absolutely astounded by the Nyrid staff who caught my email at 6am and managed to collect me at the Hamilton airport. Thus began the beginning of four days in the company of this extraordinay company led by Matthew Simmons and Alex St. John. In my considered option they are following very good start-up logic and are developing some rather impressive disruptive technologies, and I have found need to comment on length on both of these features. It is a constant and powerful working environment there, dedicated on their goal, and the mostly young staff are very sharp. It must be immediately noted that the company really looks after its staff, with two evenings in succession at The Good George, and a recruiting BBQ today which is all worthy of note.

I've been hosted at the remarkable Earthstead villa, which appropriately includes Ian McKellen's name (aka Gandalf) in the guestbook. Yesterday was a day off from my usual schedule and Nyriad took me and Andreas Wicenec to Hobbiton. It was, of course, a wonderful location and great to have the set kept in place and obviously enough I took a few photos. The Green Dragon Inn was a particularly nice touch. The tour, however, is guided and is all over within a couple of hours - we were fortunate to arrive early as the queues later on were quite substantial. I am somewhat conflicted between the obvious need to explain the filming and set and how the very same destroys the magic of the film, and downright mocking of the apparent need to slap a trademark on everything ("Hobbit Holes (TM)", really?). I couldn't help but be a little disappointed by the sheer indifference of the tour guide when I pointed out that Bilbo's door lacked Gandalf's rune.

Later in the afternoon wandered around the small town of Cambridge which continued its very English style (town name, nearby Hobbiton) by distracting me with a regional game of cricket. Seriously, I can imagine hobbits playing cricket. The local team was quite successful bowling out the opposition with a lead over one hundred runs. I must confess a conflicted relationship with sport. I love the pace and skill involved in Australian Rules Football, and enjoyed playing in my youth as a defensive half-back line player and occasional ruck-rover. With cricket I enjoy the narrative, the gradual unfolding over summer's day to five. It was another game of my youth, and played the role of an unorthodox opening bowler who would bowl spin as well as the typical pace (opening batsmen were often very confused as a result). In both cases however, as much as I could enjoy watching and playing such sports it was aggressive competitiveness and boorishness common in both players and especially fans that put me off. I suspect I am not alone in this assessment.
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What did you do on Valentine's Day? Well, I left my partner at the airport (after a hellishly long drive due to substantial roadworks on the freeway). Poor [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya is going to be by herself for a fortnight, whilst I spend two weeks in New Zealand, starting a Christchurch for a day, then Dunedin for three, then Wellingon for four, then Cambridge for four (yes, I will visit Hobbiton), then finally Auckland, and then back homewards bound. It's a rather hectic tour and almost entirely consisting of a conference and research-related visits. Yesterday finished the talk that I'm giving at Multicore World, so that's certainly one thng I don't have to worry about. There's even a possibility I might even be able to give away one of the world's most powerful computers. Also had a great lunch with several members of the University Sustainability team with a couple of members of Research Computing; there was no official collaboration going on, entirely social. We just happen to work in the same building and I have a couple of good friends in the former group.

Last night was the final of three sessions of Tarkovsky films at the Astor, the semi-authbiographical "The Mirror" and the WWII story "Ivan's Childhood". The former was beautiful and strange with discontinuities and more magical realism than you could poke a wand at. The latter was about as bleak as you could imagine; a vengeful twelve-year old who acts as reconnaissance in the swamps of the eastern front. Whilst on the topic of things magical, realistic, and bleak, I've been working on the last pieces of a late issue of RPG Review, particularly a review of GURPS Transhumanism, GURPS Reign of Steel, and Mindjammer, all of which should be made public in the next few days. In an interesting gaming session on Sunday we finished another murder-mystery episode of GURPS Middle Earth (there's an awful lot of that in Michael's games). Swinging back to the aforementioned topic, I'm hoping to pick up the Stalker RPG, based on the Tarkovsky film. More than anything else, Tarkovsky's Solaris and Stalker seem both very useful sources for truly alien minds, and perhaps appropriate for Eclipse Phase
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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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I've written a few paragraphs on Multicore World, essentially giving an overview of what was a small, specialist, but high quality conference. The most disappointing aspect was, due to being quite new to my current job that I simply couldn't take the necessary leave to travel around the country and catch up with NZ-located friends as I am want to do. Whilst the conference location, right on Wellington harbour, was great, I simply had only sufficient time to travel to and from the hotel room to the venue (the conference also tended to run from 0800 to 2000 hours each day). One significant positive to the conference was catching up with John Gustafson who took the time to write a frankly overwhelming praise singer's foreward to my book on Sequential and Parallel Programming with C and Fortran (actually, there's some good history and humour there, but the conclusion just floored me).

On the return trip squeezed in two in-flight movies, The Martian and The Peanuts Movie. The former was a little too much on heroic side and included one major scientific error (the dust storm), but was otherwise an exciting feel-good film. The latter was full of nostalgic charm with all the favourite characters and situations. Apropos entertainments, on my return to Melbourne have enjoyed two games (one as player and one as GM) of Eclipse Phase. In the second game the story arc has moved from being introduced to firewall in the main belt, acquiring some alien technology, and making their way to the Jovian orbit. An issue concerning VR time dilation in the game has also been resolved. This, and a number of rule elaborations and clarifications will be included in the Eclipse Phase Companion which I'll put in the RPG Review github in the next day or so.

Today I managed to meet up with [livejournal.com profile] certifiedwaif whom I've know for some twenty years online but never had a face-to-face encounter (despite the fact we're relatively nearby on the global scale of things. We had lunch with members of the team, chatted about various programming and numerical calculation issues (his PhD and work interests) and generally had a pleasant time. With NinjaDan discussed how Internet culture can be very much like the belles-lettres of yesteryear, but without the latency (which allows for higher levels of literary intimacy). Internet culture does mean that it is not uncommon to have friends and associates that one doesn't meet face-to-face for several years, and yet still share close and continuing communication. With the possible exception of short-wave radio aficionados, who are in many way the culture's precursors, this is a significant change to the way we live.
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Following [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya's suggestion we took the southern scenic route rather than cross-country across central Otago. It's a little longer, but a lot more impressive. The journey starts in Clutha country (which we call, unsurprisingly, Cthulhu country) and then into the Catlins, hugging the south coast of the South Island, an area especially rich in greenery (podocarps, rimu, kahikatea, silver beech, numerous ferns), and howling powerful winds at lookout points from the Southern Ocean.

Lunch was at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in Invercargill, my birth town. There is not too much to say about Invercargill; it has a few fine old buildings, wide streets, a Scottish heritage and accent, and superb gardens, but it's mainly a service town for surrounding farms. The museum is very good, the art gallery just terrible, but the main attraction is grumpy old Henry, the tuatara.

From Invercargill it was more southern coastline journeys with more wild lookouts until reaching Manapouri, the edge of Fiordland, for an overnight stay at the Lakeside Motor Lodge, which comes with just stunning views. After this it was a short journey to Te Anau downs (about 30km north of the main town) as a launching spot for Milford Sound ventures. We took several trips along the roadside of this world famous national park with its dense foilage and extraordinary mountains, including Lake Mistletoe, Lake Gunn, Mirror Lakes, and the numerous lookouts. We also took a cruise on Milford Sound, a place of astounding beauty, certainly one of the best in the world. We spotted numerous fur seals and bottle-nosed dolphins and I managed to get absolutely drenched whilst assisting the ship collecting water from one of the more prominent waterfalls that come off the cliffs.

I leave it to Douglas Adams to explain:


Fiordland, a vast tract of mountainous terrain that occupies the south-west corner of South Island, New Zealand, is one of the most astounding pieces of land anywhere on God's earth, and one's first impulse, standing on a cliff top surveying it all, is simply to burst into spontaneous applause.

- Douglas Adams, Last Chance to See

After a couple of days there, we left for Queenstown, having an afternoon at nearby Arrowtown and catching Peter Caulton playing at the local park. Our journey finished with a tour of the impressive Kiwi Birdlife Park, home of some of the rarest birds in the world (although I take issue with their claim that the tuatara is a dinosaur).
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Following a very brief time at home boarded the great silver bird again for another journey, this time across The Ditch to Queenstown, New Zealand. The direct flight from Melbourne goes over some spectacular landscape over the Southern Alps, and as for Queenstown itself, well the tourist promotion shots are indeed accurate. [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya has joined me on this journey, and we've helped ourselves to some fine drinks for the venture (my choice is Laphroaig whisky quarter cask, her's is Grey Goose cherry vodka).

We're housed in the rather comfortable Rydges Hotel with lakeside views from the eigth floor, the same place that the eResearchNZ conference is being held. Arriving the day before the conference started we talk the opportunity for a bit of a journey around town, and amuse ourselves by visiting their rather amusing haunted house experience (a sort of LARP, if you will).

As for day one of the conference itself, it's been an quite a good event with 170 registrations, an impressive increase over the years and certainly good on a per capita basis for NZ. Jane Yu from IBM's plenary covered what was probably three talks; after that attended the HPC applications workshop for the rest of the day - about a dozen short talks. Also very pleased to catch up with a large number of individuals whom I've encountered at previous conferences (eResearchNZ, Linux Conf AU, Multicore World).
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Returned this morning at stupid o'clock from a week in New Zealand. First leg of the journey was Wellington for three days where I acted as MC for Multicore World, at the Wellington Town Hall, with [personal profile] caseopaya managing registrations. The organiser, Nicolás Erdödy, founder of Open Parallel has this well-intentioned obsession with making NZ a centre for parallel programming. The basics are quite sound; multicore computing is inevitable, but the production of software that takes advantage of this is quite rare. Somewhere will become the leader of this activity - why not NZ? Particularly impressive were the visionary talks by Tim Mattson of Intel and Barbara Chapman of the University of Houston. Full programme (PDF) is also available.

Following Wellington we flew to Dunedin and stayed for the three days at the beautifully restored folly, Larnarch Castle, founded with a family history appropriate for a Scottish gothic-horror-romance, involving somewhat odd marriages, hints of corruption, semi-incestuous relations, and suicide. Whilst in Dunedin, visited our secret South Pacific base and researched some of its prior history as a Freemason's Lodge as well as noting how the new tenants are taking good care of the place (and have turned the main hall into a studio). More officially, gave a presentation to the Otago University Systems Research Group on Teaching High Performance Computing To Scientists, where I argue for a combination of early introduction, graduate level summmaries and detailed studies, and easier tools.

Returning to Wellington for a night, organised a cheap-and-cheerful dinner which included a number of people from the left-liberal, roleplaying, free software, and the local Unitarian-Universalist group. Attendees included [personal profile] mundens, [livejournal.com profile] luciusmalfoy, [livejournal.com profile] ferrouswheel (whom I must discuss more about artificial intelligence), [livejournal.com profile] tatjna (who I must discuss more about Isocracy), and earlier in the week [livejournal.com profile] ehintz. It was quite a joy bringing some people together who had common interests but had hitherto had been on the periphery of each other's social circles.

One other item of note; on the various plane trips managed to watch again most of Peter Jackson's representation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As per previous considerations the film series becomes more increasingly ridiculous as the special effects is cranked up; the third film is just horrible in terms of a ruinous representation of a fair narrative. Nevertheless amused by the "Air Middle Earth" flight safety video. I always wanted to be a wizard. Finally and, alas, whilst we were away Mr. Chirpy 'fell off his perch', as they say.
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Fighting against misattributions is actually a rewarding task, despite their prevalence. Recently I had the opportunity to correct page an alleged quote from Linus Torvalds that "the future is open source everything" - a comment which appears, erroneously, in numerous books. This is, in a sense, a social bug fix. Inspired by this, I am composing a somewhat longer piece which was originally intended as part of a presentation to the Philosophy Forum, but has been brought forward having discovered that I too have been misquoted! The article will address misquotations, poor use of qualifiers, quantitative research, arguments from authority, all as components to qualitative citations.

Next week I'll be in New Zealand; initially to MC Multicore World, and then to give a presentation to computer science staff at the University of Otago in Dunedin, and to visit my secret South Pacific base. The meeting with the computer science staff will be in part inspired by a meeting this week with Greg Wilson and his software carpentry project, designed to provide scientists the minimum tools for the computation side of their research. It is similar in concept, but different in content, to the training courses I run for high performance computing. Whilst in Dunedin, we'll be staying at Larnach Castle which is surprisingly affordable, and the history of a Scottish gothic-horror-romance novel.

Thursday night was the second-last episode of Horror on the Orient Express, which includes the famous transformation of said locomotive into a living monster and the appearance of a cathedral car attached to the runaway steam monstrosity. Having literally crashed into Paris, one character decided enough was enough and booked themselves into the local asylum. Another catatonic character is in the care of another, and a third is secreted in a Romanian asylum in the Carpathians where they call for Ithaqua each evening.

Earlier in the week [livejournal.com profile] doomydoombear and partner visited and we provided a tour of Willsmere. Tomorrow is LUV-Beginners, with Daniel Jitnah giving a talk on an introduction to PHP. On Sunday there's a chance I'll be attending the All Tomorrow's Parties festival, although the circumstances of the ticket are not the best - [livejournal.com profile] imajica_lj, you are in our thoughts.
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After Wanganui headed back to Wellington. Alas, the fair town had been taken over by thousands of beer-swilling bogans going to the AC/DC concert and every hotel, motel etc had been booked (even the expensive ones). After a desparate tour around, even to Seatoun, Karaka, Maupuia etc, we gave up and headed north again to Porirua, the location where the classic Peter Jackson film Bad Taste was shot. Staying a dire motel (Jade Court) we made our way back in the early hours of the morning, lost three bottle of duty-free purchased booze at customs, and stumbled into Wellington international airport which, if possible, was more dire that the motel from the night before. To add poison to it all, the 'plane was extremely late and without announcement of this status.

Returning to Australia I received my results for my assignments for Information Systems and Marketing; credits for both. I was hoping for something higher (my default grade with minimum effort is a distinction), but given that I wrote both assignments whilst sitting in the OpenBSD hackathon with no prior preperation I shouldn't be too surprised. Exams are next week at which point I have completed a Grad Cert in Management (Technology Management).

In other news, received a delightful hand-written letter from [livejournal.com profile] bingo_mcdingo. I have a small mountain of reading material to get through, including that sent by [livejournal.com profile] mr_figgy and [livejournal.com profile] taavi, who will hopefully forgive me for my late response, especially given that I have just finished the grotesque historical fantasy The Sad Tales of the Brothers Grossbart; review pending.
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Lodging at the small town of Otorohanga we took the opportunity to visit their excellent Kiwi House, which also has a significant collection of other local birds (e.g., morepork, kea, kaka, pukeko, and NZ pigeon) and tuatara, the three-eyed dinosaur. A little further south is the limestone Waitomo caves where we spelunked into the large and detailed Aranui cave and the beautiful Glowworm cave. Also nearby was a angora rabbit shearing shed, which of course we had to visit. Finally we went to Woodlyn Park a one-man (but with a lot of audience participation) colonial history show featuring sawing, an exploding log, kiwi bears (aka possums), sheep herding, and a dancing pig.

From Waitomo we made our way into the Taranaki region, so named after the massive peak which dominates. We briefly visited the seaside town of New Plymouth which seemed to be very vibrant and with good facilities, but somewhat lacking in charm; it is apparently a great place to live, but perhaps not so much to visit. Instead we stayed at the much smaller nearby town of Inglewood, specifically the rather delightful Fern Lodge.

After that we made our way to Wanganui, a attractive town with quite a collection of buildings from early in the last century. In the evening, visited the 1903 Ward Observatory where the local astronomical society were meeting and chatted extensively with their office-bearers. We caught a good viewings of the full moon, Mars, the sword of Orion, the southern Pleiades and caught the International Space Station on its journey overhead.
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New Zealand journey continues.. Went to KapCon on Saturday and Sunday, managed to get into a German indie game called Ratten (guess what that's about), and then into a contemporary Five Go Mad in Dorset scenario called 'Lashings of Ginger Beer' and a far amount of In A Wicked Age, the latter looking particular interesting. Very good to catch up with some of the NZ gaming crowd, such as [livejournal.com profile] mr_orgue and [livejournal.com profile] amphigori, along with seeing [livejournal.com profile] luciusmalfoy.

After this took the journey to Napier, New Zealand's Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (aka Art Deco) styled town, staying in the beautiful seaside Masonic Hotel. Napier was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake(s) and subsequent fire which destroyed much of the town (well presented at the local museum), leaving a artistic heritage at least equal to that of Miami or Bath. Given the recent earthquake in Haiti was of similar strength, and caused a much greater loss of life (c150,000), one can wonder why not a similar intent of reconstruction is not underway in Port Au Prince (yes, this is rhetorically posed), despite some high-sounding efforts

Following a couple of days in Napier took a journey inland through Taupo and visited the appalling misnamed Craters of the Moon, a thermal area run by the Dept. of Conservation (and ergo, less touristy than others), whilst on our way to Rotorua, a place famous for thermal springs, volcanic eruptions, and hydrogen sulphide. Staying there at the semi-grand Victorian Princes Gate Hotel we spent many hours at the local Museum, a mock-Tudor building which has had a previous existence as a bath-house and nightclub. The Edwardian medical enhancements for the 'healing waters' were most remarkable; electrified baths, added radium, and x-rays were all in use to cure various ailments. Note must be also given to the superb Cafe Ephesus where we had dinner of exceptional quality and portions (and very gentle on the purse). Also visited the Ohinemutu village and St. Faith's Anglican Church which rather beautifully combines colonial and indigenous religious symbols.

Currently at Otorohanga.. When I get back pictures will come!
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Day Three (part II). [staff profile] denise and [staff profile] mark from Dreamwidth spoke on how they encouraged development of their service through encouraging participation and taking their user requests seriously. Had a chat with them afterwards about the adoption of DW/LJ for the research community. Then went to the second half of Richard Jone's game programming using Python and Pyglet, specifically recreating the classic arcade game Asteriods (source). Theodore Tso gave an excellent presentation the ext4 filesystem and was followed by [livejournal.com profile] claudine_c speaking on the user of various open-source software in a convict history project she's involved in. The final sessions of the day that I attended were Andrew Tridgell speaking on teaching FOSS at universities, ANU's Masters programme in particular and the ever-entertaining Paul Fenwick on the world's worst inventions.

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Right, having done computing it's time to head off to KapCon and do some gaming. [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya is off to the Linux Conf open day (now that's a hardcore nerd) Tomorrow get to head off to Napier, perhaps the finest art deco town in the world.

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