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My surprise at Tramper rat still being alive at our return to NZ proved to be short-lived. The following morning his body was still so prior to work I buried him in the backyard and planted forget-me-nots. At 33 months (82.5 rat years) Tramper was the last of his trio, the largest and oldest of the group. In his younger days he was certainly the leader and most forward of the pack, gregarious and gentle. As he aged, he slowly accumulated various health problems; a foot infection, a mammary tumour, and glaucoma. He lived through these with a high degree of adaptability. Whilst wary of anthropmorphising, I cannot help but think that he kept himself alive for a few extra days to ensure his farewells.

Thus ends some fifteen years of having rats as animal companions. The entry point was a few years prior whilst living with Glenn K., in Richmond where his rat Spit befriended me. Following my return from Timor-Leste I've lived with Harlequin and Montebanc, then Vagabond and Rogue, Ragamaffin and Scoundrel, Calamity, Mischief, and Trouble, Rascal, Nomad, and Riff-Raff, Tricky and Naughty (the mothers of P, P, & P), Lucky, Picador, Pierrot, and Prankster, and finally, Scamper, Rover, and Tramper - this is along with looking after Bambi and Suki for a neighbour.

For the uninitiated the rat may seem a strange choice of companion. They have bad press, as bearers of diseases (true), dirty (false), cunning (true), and selfish (false). For those in the know, they are intelligent, they are social, they have memory and reasoning and - from a combination of these factors - are surprisingly moral creatures, exhibiting empathy, guilt, and altruism. I have learned a great deal from them, and perhaps a little about myself as I have done my best to care for them. I hope I have contributed in some small amount to their comfort. I have not lost interest in the creatures but my own life-plans do not allow at this stage for their limited lifespans. So, in parting, I raise a salute to these heroic creatures.

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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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Rover the Rat unexpectedly died last night, almost certainly of a heart attack. He had been his usual very active self the previous day, and had just enjoyed a plate of food. However I was worried as he seemed a little tired when I put him to sleep last night. This morning he was but a dead rat, and joins the cadavers of many others that are in our small garden. Having reached the age of 29 months (72.5 in rat years), I really expected to be spending several more months in his company on the basis of his alertness and activity. But it is not to be.

From his troika, Rover was the youngest and smallest of the set and was originally quite shy, albeit full of a energy and a sense of adventure. He soon came to appreciate the company of the human members of the colony, encouraged by an extraordinary appetite that correlated with his energy. Never much of a lap rat (he was too active!) he lived a life of playful happiness and would delight getting himself lost in the foliage of our garden. I guess his sudden demise spares him of the slowness of age which I imagine would have been frustrating to him. Now there is only old Tramper, the eldest of the group and the last of the rodent colony. He certainly doesn't have much longer himself, and that will be the end of the rats.
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In the past few days wrote-up an lengthy Isocracy Newsletter (members only), and have just posted The Shambling Mound's Tenth Week. This Thursday is the University of Melbourne Secular Society AGM. In other such gatherings, a week ago I went to see Barry Jones talk at the Unitarians about changes in employment and populism. He's very knowledgeable, but his style (and this is evident in his books) tends to be bric-a-brac and the first topic wasn't addressed at all! Last Sunday at The Philosophy Forum, Rohan Macleod led the discussion on the nature of political conservatism; the material needed work but there was excellent discussion afterwards on the class nature of conservatism and the separation of socio- and economic- attitudes.

Big event of the weekend was [personal profile] caseopaya's birthday. We had a quiet gathering in each other's company watching cheesy vampire films from the sixties and seventies. The gifting consisted of tickets to a cabaret show at Speakeasy HQ in the coming week which has since been extended - with a courtesy call no less - to include the following burlesque show due to a misprint on the tickets. The weather has turned a little cooler, so I was able to engage in my modest culinary expertise to produce two candle-lit dinners with a reasonable coq au vin supplemented on the first night with a rather tasty German sparking white (infused with lime) and an Italian chianti on the second; so in effect that will make three birthday dinners.

Last journal entry expressed a tale of a wayward blue-tongued lizard which finally ventured out to catch some rays. We managed to coax it outside where it has found a home under the hot-water system and probably a food supply more appropriate than cat biscuits. Tramper the rat continues to soldier on, although he rather foolishly managed to catch a cold and had stopped eating. His teeth needed a good clip and over the past few days I've been force-feeding him critical care, along with a course of antibiotics. It seems to have had a positive effect with the aging rodent making effort to eat more normal food again as well. Still, it seems that my prior assessment that he will be around for a while longer was somewhat optimistic.
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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 [ profile] caseopaya, [ 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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Took the opportunity to see One More Time With Feeling, the latest Nick Cave movie based on the production of his latest album The Skeleton Tree. Overall it was an excellent piece of work, and I really enjoyed the screen time given to Warren Ellis and Suzy Cave. But as the movie wore on the grief that Nick and Suzy share with the death of their son, Arthur came out in a particularly raw fashion.

Afterwards attended [ profile] usekh's birthday party, a most remarkable, clever, and stylish individual who has shown the he's prepared to give Thanatos the finger and then poke the fucker in the eye socket. Spent a good portion of the evening chatting with the aforementioned host, [ profile] txxxpxx, [ profile] strang_er, [ profile] damien_wise, and [ profile] patchworkkid, among several others. It was from the conversation with the latter two I now am now making use of a Bulletjournal, because obviously I'm not doing enough nor at optimal efficiency. Quickly diverging from the norm however, I'm using a digital text-file version of the journal and have changed some of the core signifiers. It seems to work very well so far.

The other Thanatos-themed event was the sad departure of Scamper rat last night. The middle-sized and aged rodent of our trio (Tramper, Scamper, and Rover), Scamper was always extremely shy, and suffered from particularly having ongoing cases of mycoplasma infection. Late, far too late in his short life, he decided that these humans weren't so bad after all and became a lot more friendly. In the past few days his breathing had become particularly laboured and despite an aggressive course of antibiotics, his lungs gave out on him. I do appreciate the company of my haustiere, but I must confess the 18-36 month life span of rattus norvegicus seems a little dispropotionate to their personality.
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Visited the David Bowie exhibition with Liz B., Karl B., and [ profile] caseopaya on Sunday on a special event organised by the Australian Sex Party. Spent a fair bit of time chatting with Fiona Patten, the party's leader and member in the Victorian parliament. They've done very well over the past six years as a minor party and have managed to succeed well beyond their representation. The exhibition itself was quite a delight, with quite a collection of ephemera, clothing, music, and videos. As an example of the imperfections of memory, was reminded how abundantly political and very Australian the "Let's Dance" video clip was (for someone who has three copies of the album on vinyl, the lapse is quite impressive). Entry also included a free album, albeit tied to Google services.

Other heroes, which I have already mentioned in passing on FB, are the hero rats of APOPO who, in Mozambique, have finished their contribution of making that country land-mine free. For the civil union [ profile] caseopaya and I had that as our charity of choice, so it is very pleasing to see their remarkable success. There is of course plenty more work for these small but mighty noses to do in the detection of land mines in other countries and early detection of tuberculosis. Journeyman Pictures has a great short documentary on their mine-clearing activities.

Spent last night with a small group having dinner with futurist Jamais Cascio, and quizzed him on a few matters of the matters of dangerous climatic changes, the possibility of geoengineering to resolve these problems, and the political impediments to such action. Also as an item of discussion that night was the heroic research success of NASA's media announcement of having found liquid water on mars. Yes, 'heroic research' - courageous, audacious, doughty. We need to see some more of that in this world.
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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 [ 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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Sunday was the poetry and music service at the Unitarians; I presented Cows with Guns with a special dedication. Afterwards ran a session of 7th Sea Freiburg, which included a "haunted house" styled adventure along with casing a gang stronghouse. The former ended with the unexpected requirement of fishing for books, in a literal sense. After that (it was a very busy Sunday) attended a Jesus and Mary Chain tribute gig, which I reviewed for The Dwarf. Apropos have just completed a review of the Campaign Classic Pirates supplement, which will also be on soon. Very pleased to have an upcoming interview opportunity with Mark Pettigrew, author of Flashing Blades.

On Monday evening [ profile] caseopaya and I had dinner with Anthony L., and Robyn M at Quan 88. Absolutely superb food at a very low price, albeit with very simple decor. We spent the evening primarily discussing political strategy for the coming year, with a particular interest on the inherent requirements test in the Equal Opportunity Act. Our plans include illustrating some issues with the "right" of religious organisations to discriminate via some rather harsh short videos

Slight panic at work yesterday as one of the NFS storage devices fell over and for a period of time approximately half our users were unable to access their home directories, apparently all caused by a single-user's file transfers causing the controller to lose its head. As always, a gentle reminder that computational devices, being set-theory based creatures, have some limits. Today was unable to resist any further temptations from the local pet store and purchased three new rats, as yet unnamed. They're of varying ages, and I was feeling particularly for the oldest who was heading towards a life in a pet store charge. They're settling in, but will require some time. They haven't been handled a great deal and seem even unaware of chocoloate. However I suspect they're learn soon.
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As mentioned in the last post, last Saturday went to see the Underground Lovers. The review isn't up on The Dwarf yet, but for most of the gig they weren't that good, but had a complete turnaround with three songs to go. I was impressed with the support band, The Tremors. In other reviews, I written up a classic from the RPG world, Flashing Blades. It's a very good game, especially considering the author was but sixteen at the time when he wrote it. Continuing the theme, currently working on a review of Rolemaster/Fantasy Hero campaign classic Pirates and this Sunday will be running another session of 7th Sea Freiburg.

Last days of work before the break have been especially dull. I attended the LUV Beginners Workshop to hear Terry Kemp give an overview of the latest releases of SuSE Linux whilst at the same time compiled and tested the latest releases of GCC and OpenMPI for gcc, intel, and pgi compilers. New kit for the upgrade of our main HPC system has arrived which is exciting, although it will only be in the coming weeks where that is fully installed and tested. We had a small power outage (not affected the data centre of course) which led me to write up how to set the time on Slackware. The rest of the week has been mostly writing up project management templates for those who can't follow instructions in text files. It is a late (and surprising) realisation in life that many people simply can't visualise graphs and charts from pure data, or at least not with ease.

As we do every other year, went to Brendan E's for Christmas. Following an antipasto entree, I cooked up salmon steaks and placki ziemniaczane. We watched The Leggo Movie, which was cute, followed by World War Z which had a good premise but poor execution. Unfortunately by late afternoon a cold took the better of me and as I lay on the couch groaning (not unlike a zombie, actually), [ profile] caseopaya bundled me into the car and took me home. I guess the tiramisu I made will have to wait. At least I am better than Suki rat whom we heard passed away a few days ago. Valedictions li'll rodent, you brought joy and amusement to many.
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Some pretty good gaming experiences in the past week are worthy of jotting down. Firstly, last Sunday put the Werewolf Yugoslav Wars game on hold for a while to start a 7th Sea Freiburg as recommended by [ profile] usekh. We pretty much did character generation and an opening scene, for the standard (and extensive) scenarios offered in the Freiburg set, although I do find the libertarian governance of the city to be highly improbable at best. On Thursday ran another session of Masks of Nyarlathotep, where the Investigators managed to get quite a lot done, visiting a range of strange individuals, accumulating an enormous array of clues, and even catching up with a person who they have been chasing for several game-months. After such a success and elation, true to the Call of Cthulhu theme, it'll be appropriate to send them mad or to the maws of monsters in the next session. Also, as expected, my review of Pirates & Plunder has been published on The next issue of RPG Review ("Pirates & Swashbucklers") is due this week, however I have my suspicions that it will be delayed.

Last night went to see 20000 Days on Earth, the Nick Cave biography documentary, at the Astor. Nick was present for a Q&A session afterwards. Erica managed to get her copy of The Birthday Party Definitive Collection signed along with And The Ass Saw The Angel, whereas I have reviewed the show on Rocknerd. This week I also wrote an article for an upcoming gay music 'zine, entitled Industrial: Music of A Cyborg Sexuality in the Fin de Si├Ęcle. Tonight I am off to see and review The Underground Lovers. I swear, I am a bloody demon when it comes to reviewing or critiquing music, I could easily do several a day if I had the opportunity to do so.

Suki rat's owners came over on Wednesday night; we had managed to keep her alive and well for that period with an aforementioned course of forced feeding of critical care, antibiotics, and of course a great deal of human empathy. Instructions for care were passed on to her owners, who were both pleased to see and also concerned with her state. However we have since been informed that she's recovered somewhat and is now eating of her own volition. The household is now however ratless, and I'm suffering from withdrawl symptoms. Whether as young nutters bouncing around the place or as elderly sleepers. Despite this immediate desire, [ profile] imajica_lj has made the sensible suggestion of finding rescue rodents post-xmas.
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Last Sunday gave a presentation at The Philosophy Forum on The Philosophy of Music, which gave a definitional, ontological, and epistemological overview of the subject. I admit to being particularly vexed with the issue of musical criticism, and over the week thrashed the ideas out in my mind, eventually writing Notes on the Accounting of Musical Taste for Rocknerd. It was the second item I provided for said site this week, the first being a review of the latest album by Skinny Puppy, albeit some months late. Another item of musical note was the arrival of The Definitive Missing Link Recordings of The Birthday Party, which I found after some time and expenditure for [ profile] caseopaya, who had said collection stolen from her many years ago.

Our neighbour's rat, Suki, whom we look after whilst she is overseas is not doing well. She's an old girl and has always been a little on the thin side. But now she's probably about three years old and is suffering from serious respiratory problems. Over the past few days she been eating very little, and her breathing has been quite laboured. After a couple of gasping and panic attacks, so we've done the right thing in terms of medications; she's spending time in steamy rooms, is now on an aggressive course of anti-biotics, and most recently we've been applying asthma medications. She also seems to enjoy spend the night sleeping on my chest. It is probably as much as we can do for the time being; her owner comes back next week and hopefully she'll be still be around for that.

A few posts ago, I suggested that I was off to Macquarie University to do high performance computer training for users. That has been delayed until January 2015. At the same time it is slated that I'll be running similar courses at the University of Sydney. In February I will be attending the wedding of [ profile] caseopaya's niece in WA, and will be running a course at the University of Western Australia. For March I have just submitted a paper for eResearchNZ, and for May I have a paper in for THETA. Nothing for April thus far. All of this, of course, is in addition to the training courses conducted in Melbourne.
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Last Saturday night was the Victorian Secular Lobby meeting; a smallish gathering with last-minute cancellations. I gave a presentation which outlines an effective strategy for the small group in the upcoming state election. The following day The Philosophy Forum discussed A World Without Evil at the Unitarian Church; this was preceded by David Bottomley's (son of a former Minister) charming recollection of his childhood at the old (since demolished) neo-gothic church building. This was the second week in a row I had been, the previous week to see the Federal member for Melbourne and old uni colleague, Adam Bandt, speak on avoiding austerity budgets. His reasoning was sound, but sometimes I think he could do with some more fire and brimstone in his presentation. There was also the AGM afterwards; another substantial financial loss and decline in membership. As an more disinterested observer these days, watching the slow-motion train-wreck is almost amusing.

The work-week itself started fairly difficult; Suki rat made a late night decision to chew the stitches out from her tumor removal. So she was rushed to the emergency vet in Collingwood. They're really good there; they flushed her wound and stapled her up. She was in a bad way, in some stress and having lost blood so she spent time in a heat and oxygen tent. Eventually we made it home, and exhausted, the following day I went through three solid days of conducting Linux, PBS, and OpenMPI classes. Feedback was excellent, which remains inspiring. After that I has another presentation to give, to the Young Professionals CPA, where I spoke on Free and Open Source Software For Business Applications (slides available). I thought I was completely scattered; they thought otherwise, and I heard a few horror stories about how proprietary business software is both damaging and expensive.

In the realm of entertainment, my review on The Dead Kennedys gig has been published on The Dwarf; next gig will be The Tea Party and SuperJesus. Gaming-wise RPG Review has been delayed as the author of a key article has dropped out leaving me several pages short. Will be work on an alternative for the weekend. Last Sunday ran another session of Werewolf:The Yugoslav Wars, which involved planning for the capture of a Sarajevo business leader of ill-repute. Thursday night was another session of Masks of Nyarlathotep in Kenya with the party making their way substantially towards the base of the appopriately named Cult of the Bloody Tongue; true to the theme of the game, an impending death and insanity toll approaches.
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My poor neglected LJ/DW has suffered the past several days as I have engaged in vita activa far more than this space which covers vita contemplativa. So near midnight on a Friday after a couple of wines (in vino veritas) an opportunity finally presents itself for summary and reflection, and indeed an ordering of thoughts on what is going to be a busy next several days as well. I am increasingly of the view that I am due for more holidays. But first, some rodent news. We are looking after a friend's rat, Suki. Her owner often spends time overseas so we get the care and entertainment of this cheeky creature's presence. At 2.5 years, like many female rats, she had developed a sizeable tumour, about 40g on a 340g body. Courtesy of Dr. Jack Zacks, this has been removed, with a short video of the surgery. Rodent is recovering just fine and she's just as perky as she has been in the past, despite her age.

Wednesday night went to see and review The Dead Kennedys, courtesy of The Dwarf. My review will hopefully be published on said site soon (although I notice my interview with Manchester Orchestra hasn't gone up yet either. Essentially I found the night highly positive with the Kennedys playing an excellent set, competently, and with good engagement with the audience. As a fan in my youth some thirty years ago, it was quite a buzz finally getting to see them. The Dwarf has arranged for my next review gig, The Tea Party with SuperJesus. Also on entertainment, Thursday night was Pendragon where a largely new set of player-characters engaged (and failed) in what is effectively the Lancelot-Grail cycle. The success of curing King Pellam-The Fisher King of his wound however lifts the ill-effects of the Waste Land and also ends the Enchantment of Britain. There is but one chapter to go in this epic story, the downfall of the realm. Meanwhile RPG Review 23 nears completion, and in the meantime, an Interview with Lewis Pulsipher.

Political issues are also taking some time. I have written an article on the necessity of Labor and the Greens to act, in a realpolitik sense, as if they were in a coalition rather than risk losing the upcoming state election. Apparently some people, putting aside political difference, can actually see the sense of it. Also related to the state election, tomorrow night is a meeting (FB event page) of the Victorian Secular Lobby at Trades Hall, discussing campaign strategies for this small group. Of some relevance this Sunday will be convening a meeting of The Philosophy Forum on the question of "A World Without Evil?".

Finally, I have been working through project management frameworks at work, with a simple generic template for PRINCE2 offered. Will be running another set of Linux-HPC-MPI courses next week and spent much of the past week revising content. Later in the week will be speaking at the Young Professionals CPA Discussion Group on open source software. Yes, I'm taking the open source message to accountants.
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Prankster rat just died at the age of 2 years and 221 days (or 78 in rat-years). She'd been through three (or was it four?) operations in her life mainly for tumor removals, but she'd recently sprouted a new set of several simultaneously. She'd spent the past several days sleeping and resting and actually seemed quite content. Of quiet and pleasant disposition, Prankster is the last of the P-rats (Pierrot, Picador, Prankster) from the NYE 2012 ratlings. We now have no rats; a very rare and unusual situation.

Work this week included three days of courses on Linux, High Performance Computing, and MPI programming. Much smaller classes than usual as the were announced during the break, but still with very good feedback. Over coming weeks these will be thoroughly revised but simultaneous to this we're also running a major revision of our project management methods (and, recursively, implementing this as a project), whilst at the same time engaging in major revisions and improvements to our quality management system in preparation for ISO 9001 re-certification (and expansion into other areas).

This coming Saturday is the Isocracy Annual General Meeting (FB link) at Trades Hall, with Sol Salbe (Australian Jewish Democratic Society) and Michael Shaik (Australians for Palestine) as guest speakers on the topic "Peace with Justice in Palestine and Israel". Today will be visiting the Melbourne Anarchist Bookfair at the Abbostford Convent and hopefully catching up with our magic-coffee faerie and Adelaide organiser, Paula DA. Apropos, unsurprising to discover that yet again, the state (this time under Tory colours) is trying to introduce Internet surveillance; the wreck of an interview the Federal Attorney-General has gone viral.
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Prior to flying to the Cairns [ profile] caseopaya and I caught up with some Perth and local friends who were over for Continuum, specifically [personal profile] ariaflame, [ profile] darklion, [ profile] kremmen, and [ profile] kbpenguin. Whilst much of our discussion was on adult education experiences, it did sit in the back of my mind how little I have to do with science fiction/fantasy conventions these days, whereas a couple of decades ago I was a very regular attendee. My interest in this field is more now orientated towards predictive social theory and historical fantasy, the latter which leads to my latest RPG design notes on Magic in the Mimesis RPG (some of which derives from discussions from almost ten years ago).

Whilst technically on holiday, the first two days of leave have had their own degrees of business. Organising an overseas money transfer, meeting and discussing finances with the ALP candidate for Kew, taking the elderly Prankster rat to the vet for her third tumor surgery (she's come out well), sending out notifications for a course on R and Octave (booked out by the end of the day), writing an abstract and biography for an presentation to the Open Source Industry Association, mailing out almost ten kilograms of orders from the RPG Review store, finally joining the local library & etc. It seems that I am as busy on 'holiday' as I am on work, just with (mostly) different issues.

This is not to say the past few days have not had their share of social activities. On Saturday went to visit [ profile] hathhalla and [ profile] ser_pounce for another cheesquest, where we finished off all the remaining cheeses of the sketch except for Austrian smoked and the notorious beaver cheese. We also played Runebound which is a reasonably good beer-and-pretzels (or wine-and-cheese in our case) game. On Sunday played Spaced 1889 where we continued our campaign against the wicked German Imperialists on Venus with aid of an airship and a Maxim Gun. Finally spent a few hours tonight playing Ingress with Ric dF., taking the opportunity to farm a local gardens whilst chatting about various game designs of the computerised and tabletop variety.
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At some stage I'll make a post that doesn't involve yet another offering to Thanatos. Picador, one of the collection of ratlings of January 1st 2012, just died at twenty eight months, or 70 human years. She'd slowed down a great deal in the past month or so, undoubtably the result of a stroke, which is quite common in aging rats. Nevertheless she was still very fond of her foods, as she always had been. Of the three that we kept from 2012 (Picador, Pranker, Pierrot), Picador was most certainly the slackest and the most reclusive of the trio, preferring the delights of sleep and food - unsurprisingly she was also the most rotund. In her last month however she really quite came out and enthusiastically welcomed time snuggled up with her human servants.

This leaves our household with but one rat; the everyoung Prankster who - despite two tumor operations and evidence of yet another - is still bright-eyed, active, and wiry. When she runs about, her tail is still held high, evidence that he musculture and nervous system is still youthful. If it wasn't for her propensity to tumors, I wouldn't be surprised if she made it well into her fourth year. Realistically, I have to be prepared for yet another rodent demise.
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Lucky rat died today during surgery for a malignant tumor, aged 34.5 months (or around 85 in human years). Even if she had survived she had other tumors growing, so perhaps really it would be providing her but a scant few more months of quality living. It was a series of tragic events that led to her passing; her tumor went from the benign to malignant variety and grew quickly, but of course, she'd kept it hidden from us. Our usual vet was overseas, and the locum - unfamiliar with rodents - didn't feel confident enough to attempt surgery and [ profile] spaetlese, who provided us the rat in the first place, was interstate. When we made the booking for Lort Smith it was further delayed by another week during the Easter break.

Lucky was so named because she had been earmarked as snake food, was rescued from such an event by [ profile] spaetlese. Before she made it to us she had escaped her cage and had spent a couple of nights in a house with non-rat friendly cats. Having cheated death twice, she did lose a tip of her tail to a cage accident, but made it through that fine. She had also already gone through one tumor operation. Ever lithe of form, gregarious and curious of nature (yes, even on the rodent scale of things), I like to think that we provided her a happy life. But my parting moment as she looked up at me whilst holding my finger with her front paws is in burned into my memories forever. Farewell, Lucky.
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In an amusing case of life imitating art, rodents of unusual size have appeared recently in Cornwall, Iran, Sweden, and Liverpool (with either bigger ones predicted). All this reminds me of Bansky's display at the Natural History Museum, which came with the slogan Our Time Will Come. "You can laugh now ... but one day they may be in charge.". Assisting the process for our new rodent overloards, dropped off an aging (almost 90 in rat years now) Lucky at the vet this morning to have a tumour removed.

In the actual rat-race (which notably and ironically, rats don't participate in), work has been exceedingly good this week. Following the well-received MPI training course, we've received a petition (no less!) from researchers who were sufficiently interested to want an additional workshop to further develop their code. This also follows on some expressions of interest from a radiotherapy group, an international campus in Vietnam, and some bushfire and geospatial people. I've had a paw in each of these activities, and it must be said I'm feeling more positive about the workplace than I have for many months - and this is despite some of the usual hiccups, such one researcher filling a storage disk with their data and bringing down the logins for others users. As [ profile] imajica_lj put it, "science didn't happen today".

This Saturday, after the LUV meeting on GNOME3, the Isocracy network is holding a meeting at the New International Bookstore on Human Rights and International Relations with an eye-witness guest speaker who is doing his thesis on the effectiveness of various diplomatic maneuvers. In a substantially more democratic and civil version of politics that describes itself as socialist, went to a well-attended a meeting for Labor's Socialist Left on Sunday. There's a vacancy for their policy convenor (which I used to do for the Pledge group for several years) and I've offered my services. They should know that I'll do this job very well, but having some years of not being deeply involved may act against me.
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The aging but spritely Prankster rat has been in the wars. Last week she had to go undergo surgery to remove a very large tumour. A short clip of the surgery is available for those who have an interest in such things. Unfortunately she ended up with an infected abscess following the operation, and had to go under again. She has recovered but is spending a several days with her stomach thoroughly bandaged. This is of course not an inexpensive venture; having recently visited a tax agent to submit several years of returns a review of our financial statements made it fairly clear of the costs of keeping our extensive menagerie. On a contrary country-wide scale, it seems that the Agriculture Minister has decided that the suffering of animals is something that is worth sacrificing for profit, as live sheep and cattle exports will resume to countries previously noted for cruelty.

Apropos, have recently taken up readings in animal-based fiction, starting with the classics of course; The Call of the Wild, White Fang, The Jungle Book, and The Island of Doctor Moreau. Fishing for other suggestions that are particularly good at taking an animal's perspective on the world. Part of this interest is planning for running an upcoming Werewolf: The Apocalypse story, set during the Yugoslav Wars (too soon, perhaps?), where the player-characters will start as Bosnian werewolves; one can guess where I'm going with this.

Very pleased to hear that the latest version of OpenMPI is MPI3 compliant; I have written some installation instructions, which also touches upon the importance of this change. On the management side of IT, have written a sample quality assurance document for software development, which is sufficiently generic to be useful for others. A further document on project management is in the works, which I should know something about. Out-of-hours, I have taken a recent interest in Inform7, a natural language declarative programming language which produces code for Z-machines, rather like the old text-based adventure games (e.g., Zork). Finally, it helps if you check your code before publishing - and if you're giving a C++ example, perhaps some classes and methods too.


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Diary of a B+ Grade Polymath

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