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Have had a fairly busy week in my favourite pastime. Every day this week I've been working on finishing Papers & Paychecks as well as RPG Review 35-36, now a double issue of Antipodean gaming material. To have both out by the end of the month would be ideal, and I think that is certainly going to happen at current rates of work. Much of RPG Review has been helped by [personal profile] reverancepavane whose epic writing for RPGaDay has been nothing less than extraordinary. In actual play on Wednesday finished the classic introductory Stormbringer scenario The Tower of Yrkath Florn which includes nothing less than a Melnibonéan wheel (my calculations put the value at around $3m AUD). As I've wryly remarked this may very well be our Stormbringer; a theme which I don't think the game does well is the idea of tragedy from power. It was also a heavy Eclipse Phase weekend, with a game on Friday night which curiously was chasing down a antagonist whom the players in my Sunday game are close to encountering for the first time. Whilst a good scenario, once again I could not help but chuckle at the author's rather light idea of what a seedy "sex and drugs and gangs" red-light district would consist of - especially in a transhumanist environment.

On Friday finally managed to write up my review of The Residents concert from March last year. On Saturday attended Software Freedom Day and the LUV AGM, where I have found myself on the committee for yet another year. Afterwards went to [ profile] usekh's memorial birthday at the Back Bar. Kudos are due to [personal profile] damien_wise for doing most of the organising of the event. Today visited St Michael's to hear Rev. Ric Holland's impressive service on forgiveness, also taking the opportunity to introduce Shupu, to the location. I hadn't been for several months and was never a regular attendee, so I was quite surprised to discover a few people remembered me. The Rev. offered to catch up for coffee some time and I certainly intend to take up that invitation. Afterwards made my way to university, and stumbled upon the a protest against racism and fascism which I attended; the media of course, concentrated on a very minor disruption, ignoring the important message that the Rohingyan refugee speaking was presenting at the same time.
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The past couple of days have seen two of my proposed presentations accepted by two difference conferences. One is for eResearch Australasia on andragogical methods in teaching high performance computing, which I'll be helped by an HPC educator from Goethe University Frankfurt, and the second being the IEEE eScience conference in New Zealand on cluster-cloud architectures which I'll receive assistance from the HPC group at the Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg. In addition, Friday was a particularly good workday as we held a workshop for about a dozen various HPC systadmins from around the university, as part of the massive upgrade to the Spartan system from being a relatively small and experimental system, to one of the most powerful in the world. I effectively have been given the coordinating role for this group and already several good ideas have come out the workshop for improvements and preparations as we integrate a six-rack GPU partition to our existing infrastructure. Apropos I am off to NCI in early September for their HPC course and will be taking the PRACE online supercomputing course to see how they do things.

Yesterday we visited [ profile] hathhalla and [ profile] ser_pounce for our irregular CheeseQuest and the next chapter of Mice and Mystics, which was not at all successful for the noble rodents. Afterwards played game of Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu, which we prevented the destruction of the world with one turn to spare - it's notably a very quick game. On returning home completed a review of Hunter Planet which will soon be going into RPG Review. I've just been in contact with the original author about my ideas for rules revisions (most of which I tested over 25 yeares ago) and a new scenario implementing Peter Jackson's Bad Taste. I'm also currently writing a version of GURPS Autoduel to fit with the Mad Max series, all of which are contributions to the now late issue of RPG Review.

It is good to able to return to a moderately normal set of topics in life. Previous posts of deaths, funerals, and loss of cognitive functions have been quietly uspetting, despite a calm personal exterior. About twenty years ago a person, who didn't know me that well, was engaged in conversation about motivation and emotions. He used the phrase 'Still waters run deep' to describe me. I appreciated the accurate encapsulation, and indeed have tried cultivate that part of my character (not always successfully). As an obvious variation, I am certainly not the silent type and express my considered views with some abandon. But it is the considered views that I express. I will either ask a question if I don't know something or I will make proposition if I am fairly certain of something. It is part of my recognition (and I do lay claim to coining this phrase) that deeply considered convictions are better than deeply ingrained prejudices, even if the emotional response is the same.
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The Situationists famously sought life without dead time and whilst I cannot say my own life fits the wild and tangential excesses of such bohemians, at least not in these elder decades, the past several days have certainly had their share of activity. Nevertheless I do worry sometimes that so much of my work these days - indeed these years - now falls under the category of 'boring but important'. Yet, much of this fits my intellectual disposition. I despair when I see people try to force the complex problems of reality into simply solutions, because these are invariably simply wrong, missing the issues of scope-appropriate solutions, partiality etc. It is not helped when the country's Prime Minister, of all people, remarked "The laws of mathematics are very commendable but the only laws that apply in Australia is the law of Australia", in the context of a debate on encryption.

Workwise the week started with the regular two days of Introduction to Linux and High Performance Computing and Shell Scripting for High Performance Computing. Not a bad group at all, and there were some plenty of awake individuals, especially on the second day. Later in the week spent a better part of a day carefully working through a particularly troubling install of Gaussian to ensure there had been no precision errors in compilation (their hadn't been, of course). Confirmation was received for a presentation at the HPC Advisory Conference, so there will be another visit to Perth at the end of the month. In addition an abstract has been put in for the Open Stack Summit in Sydney for November. Next week will be a training course for the neurologists at Orygen; I hold this one in very high regard - their work is extremely important.

In more social events, Wednesday night was our regular gaming session, and the second session of Andrew D's Megatraveller campaign, with an unexpected test of the combat system and the acquisition of a starship from religious fanatics. Thursday was the Bastille night evening and we had nephew Luke visiting. True to the day (or at least an educated peasant's version thereof), I cooked a pretty tasty coq au vin with a jug of French red, a selection of cheeses and fruit, and all to the sounds of Quatre mains pour une révolution. We provided a potted story of our journey, along with an exposition of the salacious tales of Serge Gainsbourg. Appropriately I have composed tonight my thoughts about Bastille day, and its contemporary relevance.
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Last week's presentation to the OpenStack Australia Day on HPC and Cloud hybrids was reported on in ITNews the following day. The day after that I repeated the presentation to a Telstra technical group. The following two days was teaching my usual courses, Introduction to HPC with Linux and Shell Scripting and HPC. These courses fill up amazingly quickly and the waiting list is now over 40 (class sizes are around 15). A practical example from the courses came the following day as we're working with a weird Gaussian convergence problem. The software comes with a suite of some 1044 tests, all of which can be launching them with a short script with a heredoc.

Out-of-hours had a great experience on Tuesday night visiting the Astor with Pete T., for a screening of the classic Australian low-budget dystopia that started an epic series, Mad Max. The evening was also the launch of Luke Buckmaster's new book on the making of the film, Miller and Max. A good number of the original crew and and bit-piece actors were also present in conversation and they had some very colourful stories to say about the production. Pete and I spent a good period of time in conversation with the crew who had a few classic items from the set, including Toecutter's bike helmet.

Other major events of the week including James Fodor presenting at The Philosophy Forum on Where Does Morality Come From?, which provided a bit of a topology of the landscape. There were two major gaming sessions this week, one for GURPS Middle Earth on Sunday and the last session of Laundry Files Australia on Wednesday night. Finally, University House hosted a UK Election event this afternoon, with lots of traditional British fare. The results, much discussed, are well known with the Conservatives probably just able to form government after having their 20 point lead reduced to 2.5 in the course of the campaign. It is almost certain that Jeremy Corbyn will be the next Prime Minister of the UK.
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Major work change this week was moving offices; we've left the old warehouse on Lincoln Sq and moved to the Doug McDonnell building. Had a farewell lunch with some of the people at the Sustainability office before we left, and today was working from home whilst the removalists did their thing. Took the opportunity to write the paper I'm presenting at OpenStack Australia Day and which will be replicated a few days later at Telstra. In addition to all this, have also just announced new course for HPC and Linux along with Shell Scripting for HPC, and had a meeting with some Microsoft representatives for setting up an Azure cloud burst partition to Spartan.

Other preparations in the coming week include the Annual General Meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby with John Bade from the Liberal Party talking on that body's difficult relationship with secularism as the reactionary Christians are on the ascendancy in that body. I wonder at their lack of practical concern for the impoverished sectors of society, asylum seekers and so forth. It's curious how some people are prepared to manipulate the genuine desire for moral character among others and a sense of wonder with existence to acquire power and wealth. I can't imagine that Jesus would have been very impressed with such behaviour.

Wednesday evening was Papers & Paychecks, where the PCs made good progress to Save Our Borderlands, and the puns were flowing thick and fast. There also has been a good deal of work building resistentialist "monsters" for the game. Tonight is Justin A's Eclipse Phase and will be preparing for my version of the same on Sunday. Also have received a copy of the quickstart rules for the new edition of RuneQuest for FreeRPG day.
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The week started with ANZAC day, a national holiday in remembrance of lives lost in war, which war-mongers try to turn into a celebration of invasive military endeavours. A Muslim woman had the temerity to suggest that we shouldn't forget people dying in current wars or the refugees from such conflicts; the conservative media hounded her as a result. For our ANZAC day we had one of our regular cheesequests with [ profile] hathhalla and [ profile] ser_pounce with a heft European range (and Breton cider). In the spirit of things, I'd made an ANZAC cookie in the shape of ANZAC cove and surrounds - [ profile] hathhalla commented that it was like one of her (primary school) student's science experiments until I started pointing out the topographical features.

Afterwards we had a game of D&D 4th edition, probably the edition that's closest to a board game, making use of the Charlemagne's Paladins supplement and Open Grave. It was the beginning of a gaming intensive week, with the following night spent playing Papers & Paychecks, and the night after that reading The Non-Designer's Design Book, an excellent summary publication on such matters ([personal profile] reddragdiva may also be interested in this). Today has included prepartion for a session of Eclipse Phase which I'll be running tomorrow, which also has a Kickstarter for a second edition (I did some playtesting for this).

But of course, that's not the only events of the week. Much of work has been battling a monster of a suite of programs, FENiCS, which has a monstrous toolchain of dependencies (probably close to a hundred, including those we've already done). Who knew that I'd ever need, for example binutils/2.25-GCC-4.9.2-binutils-2.25? It is enough to drive one to drink and fortunately University House came to my assistance with Dr. Geoff Scollary providing a class on the various types production and tasting of sparking wine (aka 'champagne', but we're not allowed to call it that anymore unless it's actually from Champagne). Based on blind testing apparently I'm fond of Domain Chandon Pinot Noir. Finally, on other matters that drives one to drink, earlier in the week completed a two-part special of The Shambling Mound, a fortnight's summary of the activities of the current US administration.
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Friday night caught up with Peter C., at Sister Bella a typically Melbourne small bar hidden at the end of laneway. Peter lives in the Netherlands and I believe the last time we met was well over fifteen years ago (at the very least, it's not in my LJ and I'm sure I would have recorded the meeting). We know each other from the SF community in Perth from the early nineties and I was always impressed by his combination of moderate politics with a radical and enthusiastic imagination; we had a good chat about the Dutch Reformed Political Party and the Party for Freedom. Afterwards visited Brendan E., in the form of a belated birthday visit. Went to a local Mexican, Beach Burrito which provided some fine sangria and for pit entertainment has skate ring. Afterwards returned to initiate our knowledge of season 2 of Ash vs Evil Dead. Brendan is always a good one for justifiable cynicism and is superb at filtering for our popular culture tastes.

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

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

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

This coming week I leave for New Zealand for a fortnight, which will include visits to some computational centres in Canterbury University in Christchurch, Otago University in Dunedin, MC-ing and presenting at Multicore World (that's quite some speaker's list, then to Cambridge for Nyriad and finally the Auckland University of Technology. I must say I'm rather looking forward to the visit, as it has been far too long since I've had the opportunity to drop into this rather favoured corner of the world. "Home is where the heart is", and mine is very much in the deep south of Aotearoa.
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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 - [ 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 have now been published, including Alternity Player's Handbook, Alternity Game Master's Guide, Gangbusters, Basic Fantasy, and OSRIC.
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It has been quite a culinary week. Sunday night was a dinner at The Melba for Rodney B's, sixtieth birthday, an evening of fine food, excellent conversation (I introduced a young linguist to the joys of Esperanto), and the surprise of discovering that Nick Cave was on the table next to us. I resisted the urge to interrupt what appeared to be his family dinner. The following night had dinner and drinks with [ profile] txxxpxx and Tony at Loi Loi as txxxpxx prepares for her big journey to North America. I found a particular highlight of the evening was swapping stories about various visits to Timor-Leste (which continues to have insanely bad governance issues). In addition we're hosting a Cheesequest tomorrow and the RPG Review AGM BBQ on Sunday; I've been preparing a mountain of food for both those events.

Despite continuing issues in Timor-Leste, I have recently returned to studying Tetum, courtesy of a short course on Memrise. It only covers a couple of hundred words, far less than what is required for basic fluency (around 2000 for most), but it will provide a necessary foundation for an open-source basic translation engine which will start with Tetum, which is on my 2017 list. In other languages, I find myself keeping my Duolingo Esperanto, French, German, and Spanish all gold, with the occasional lesson in other areas; it takes about ninety minutes each day (that is, my public transport trips). I feel that it's about time that I went beyond Duolingo into deeper studies of grammar and etymology. Fortunately I have a pile of language text books next to me! On-topic, Google's new neural machine translation system is very interesting and impressive, but to head off any speculations, this is not "strong AI", and not even close to it.

There has been a bit of gaming activities this week as well. Apart from running an good session of Eclipse Phase last Sunday (a modified version of Glory, that made the sexual elements more blunt), and completing a review of Eclipse Phase: Gatecrashing and working on the finishing touches of the next "Transhuman" issue of RPG Review, I have also submitted a backlog of reviews from said publication to, which I should have done some weeks ago. Wednesday night was another session of Papers & Paychecks; the committee seems to be firming on a decision on who to go for printing this publication (ePlot have been very helpful), and the money for the Kickstarter has been mostly received (postage still pending). Taking the approach of "more haste, less speed" some good progress has been made in getting this and the companion volume out by the end of February, perhaps March at the latest.
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It is true that I have several major interests in my life, external to hearth and mind. There is a professional dedication to provide researchers the skills to use free and open source computional tools. There is a political side dedicated to the practical implementation of personal liberty and social democracy, and the continuum that is between. There a long-standing interest in philosophy which, despite its innate propensity of some of its adherents to lead to unverifiable metaphysical presumptions and scholasticism, is at its heart the most important and most difficult field of inquiry. My other academic pursuits betray interests in organisational structure, strategy, and management, the effectis of normative systems on positive economics, and of course advanced adult and tertiary education. Aesthetically, I am known to have a some love of high art, yet also with deeply ingrained rocknerd sensibilities.

Then there's roleplaying games. My public vice whether it is from orcs, and hobbits, of faerie tales and dragons, or little green men from Mars, spaceships and wormholes, or even - to a lesser extent - superpowered individuals who wear their underwear on the outside. I know about 'Of Dice and Men', I have 'The Elfish Gene' (to use two pun-inspired books on the subject). But despite these popular culture affectations, where else do I find improvised theatre that places the characters in the heroic age of mythology, or the troubles of transhuman speculations. Where else do I find the exploration of models of reality with genre influences and debates? It is in roleplaying games, the undergound home theatre of the era, that is the only refuge for cerebral geekdom. After all there's not one, but two serious books entitled 'Philosophy and Dungeons & Dragons'. I feel it more important to do one on RuneQuest.

In any case this was a roleplaying weekend, starting no less with an interview with Dan Davenport from on IRC over the upcoming Papers and Paychecks. Best line of endorsement that came from the interview: "I have to say, this game has some solid mechanics for a game based on a joke". After that I finished my interviews for the Alternity Player's Handbook and Gamemaster's Guide, and did a write-up of the last episode of our Eclipse Phase. The following day it was writing a review of the old TSR game Gangbusters (which took a lot less time), and putting it altogether to be released as RPG Review 32 which includes - no less - an interview with the author of BECMI D&D, Frank Mentzer. That afternoon was our session of Eclipe Phase using the new playtester rules which have some nice features (but that's all I can say at this stage, because I'm under a NDA). Of course, this wan't all I did over the weekend - but because things have been a bit RPG-heavy of late, I have felt the need to justify this idle pursuit within myslf.
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Two major events on Saturday and three on Sunday make for a pretty full weekend. It started with visting [ profile] hathhalla and [ profile] ser_pounce for another cheesequest session (Pont-l'Évêque was a personal favourite) followed by a chapter of Mice and Mystics, which we finished quickly and successfully through some particularly hardline decision making and some lucky cards that provides a delightful emergent narrative. Post-cheesequest we went out to The Astor to see the double of Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy; and ran into [ profile] justadecoy, whom I hadn't seen for a couple of years. The latter film is, of course, charming and I've managed to see it three times now in recent months. The former I think will be lasting because in additional to some good character development it made excellent use of special effects and colours in a manner that was both artistic and clever in its simplicity.

Sunday started relatively early with a trip to the Unitarian Church, where Dr. Hans Baer was speaking on the recent US elections; it was entertaining enough even if I found myself mostly in disagreement with his strategic considerations, not to mention the only fleeting reference to religious content. Afterwards was a meeting of The Philosophy Forum, where Graeme Lindenmayer speaking on What is Life? What is a Life?, a primarily descriptive presentation but which drew light to some interesting edge cases where the binary between living and not-living becomes a little murky. Afterwards it was a journey to our Sunday session of GURPS Middle Earth which included revived discussion of the geopolitical situation and settlements, before narrowing down to the immediate scenario. Afterwards was a committee meeting for the RPG Review Cooperative which concentrated on the Papers & Paychecks Kickstarter, which remains frustratingly close to succeeding (go support this, now, please).
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Work started off well this week with notification that the paper I'm presenting at eResearch Australasia as lead author had been accepted. There is one other paper being considered for the Barcelona OpenStack Summit, and then the Australasian Symposium on Parallel and Distributed Computing. Wednesday was a postgraduate training day which, although with significant absences, was extremely well-received. The end of the week came to an interesting close with a request to install a fluid dynamics package for a twenty-three year old operating system, which the most recent documentation is a ten-year old scientific paper written in French (thankfully, clearly written French which I have had little trouble translating).

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

It's also been a few days in a row of social gaming; Thursday night was the final session of our Godsend Agenda game with the Marco Polo story; an adequate game but not really one which captured the mythic spirit sufficiently. Last night was an session of Eclipse Phase Mars where all the players connected remotely via Google Hangouts; Portland (USA), Melbourne (AU), Wellington (NZ), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), and Perth (AU). Today was a regular cheesequest session with [ profile] ser_pounce and [ profile] hathhalla. In addition to the regular cheese tastings I made sweet potato gnocchi (not difficult but time consuming) and a giant tiramisu (restaurants don't stand a chance against me). Afterwards we played Hit List, which despite its poor rating from tactical gamers has the highly redeeming feature of producing amusing narratives. Tomorrow continues the ludophile trajectory with a session of GURPS Middle Earth.
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Anne Kay, whom I had known for many years through the Unitarian Church, died last Tuesday having turned 93 that day. An independent thinker, a genuine Unitarian, and a person with a subtle sense of humour, she had been well for a number of months, so I can say it was a surprise. What was surprising was her express wish that I conduct the funeral service for her; which will be held this upcoming Tuesday 26th of July at 2pm at the Unitarian Church. I can presume that work is going to give me the afternoon off.

Ran another Introduction to High Performance Computing session on Wednesday which was well received. Actually, I must confess something, which has me a little confused if pleasantly so - is it normal these days for people to be applauded after giving workshops and lectures? I understand it as the norm in a speech and such like, but over the past two years almost every training class I've given has ended in applause. I'm certainly not objecting, but I do wonder if there's been a recent cultural shift that I am unaware of.

Two gaming sessions this week, on Thursday and Friday nights respectively. Thursday night was a session of Laundry with implications that supernatural activity is reaching a critical level and the agency is preparing to become the emergency government, "just in case". Friday night went to Gatekeeper Games for their "dice and drinks" evening, where Karl B., was running a playtest of the upcoming John Carter RPG, which seems to fit well with the genre so far. Next issue of RPG Review is going well, with just over half the page count filled.
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The official launch date of the Spartan HPC-Cloud hybrid rapidly approaches. A transition course and workshop was run on Monday which resulted in a few more active users online, helped by having MATLAB licensing sorted out (frustrating Intel compilers are next). Next step will be getting a major project from a climate and marine science researcher to provide an initial major case example. Will also be attending Questnet next month at the Gold Coast, and have submitted a paper for eResearch Australasia.

Thursday night was another session of Laundry Files Australia. We've played this more or less fortnightly for close to a year and a half, so we're looking for a change. I am tempted to run a variant of New Statesmen or even the RPG based on Jeremiah. Friday night was a Mars Eclipse Phase session, wrapping up the Dance with the Devil. Yesterday was a cheesequest day with [ profile] hathhalla and [ profile] ser_pounce, which involved a lengthy game of Theomachy where the righteous forces of Ares were victorious. Tomorrow will be a new chapter on the Eclipse Phase Rimward tale.

As metioned in the last post, have been working on a series of reviews for last week's New Order and Australian Chamber Orchestra concert. The intention is do reviews of the New Order conversation, the concert, and the album. This week, only managed to complete the review of the concert, which is now on Rocknerd. As it is a long weekend this week, there is some possibility to complete the others as well.
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I've organised a meeting of the Isocracy Network for May 28th, with the Victorian convener of the Animal Justice Party. It's an issue of which I confess that I don't have enormous knowledge on, but recognise a general distinction for welfare based on sentience and awareness and rights based on intellect and consciousness (with a continuum in between). Animal welfare issues are obviously not going to be a major issue in the election, but nevertheless it will be good to hear the speaker, the issues, and to provide a theoretical grounding to the issue as a whole. Apropos, the Isocracy secretary has also started a reading and discussion group of The Jacobin.

Played Laundry Files last night, dealing with a incarnation of the The Slender Man, tied up with Cthulhu-mythos worship and graphics card development (Laundry Files is like that). Our Australian-setting variant does have a great deal of charm and would make a fascinating supplement in its own right for the game and perhaps even for some fiction. Tonight (indeed currently) playing Eclipse Phase Dance with the Devil scenario. I am still taking it easy after three days of a head and throat cold, so have joined the game via Skype - along with one player in New Zealand and another in Vietnam, as well as the two at the GM's physical location. There is something delightfully appropriate playing in such a fashion given the setting.

Although I've had a few days off work, the rest of the team brough the "bare metal" nodes online for testing on the Spartan HPC/Cloud hybrid system. This was very successful, and perhaps a world's first (albeit something that's not hugely difficult). Initial testing generated some results that were as expected; internode communication on the cloud nodes had ten times the latency as the traditional HPC nodes - and there is still further optimisation to make on the compilers to improve the general performance. Have also brought Brian May and [ profile] imajica_lj on to the team to assist the authentication and cluster management respectively. All is very good in this part of the world.
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Last Tuesday was Alien Day, which we 'celebrated' by attending a packed double-feature at the Astor. Reebok managed to embarrass themselves by releasing Ripley's stomper boots in a manner that Ripley wouldn't have bought. They are, of course, a great pair of films for both horror in the first case, and a highly quotable action film in the second. I think the third film is good in its own right, but the wheels on the narrative had pretty much fallen off at that point. After the film discussed whether as a biological specimen, the facehugger stage seems to be an unnecessary complexity. Next year I think I'll run a session of the somewhat maligned Aliens RPG.

Played Laundry Files on Thursday and Eclipse Phase last night. The former involved investigating the retrospective myth of the Slender Man, although we were a little distracted by a member's donation of library items. The latter session, with some juxtaposition, included both negotiations with an interrogation expert and attendance at a young socialite's new sleeve party (kids these days, eh?). That session also had an interruption in the form of a high-speed utility vehicle taking down a light pole outside the house. Both sessions were characteristed by a high level of social table banter, which is fine, but to be honest we didn't progress either story particularly far.
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Many people think they are servants for a strange cat. Well, our cat truly is special. He keeps pet rats, or at least his thinks he does, differentiating between indoor rats (his friends) and outdoor rats (tasty invaders). Last week, for the second time, one of our rats (the appropriately named Scamper) managed to sneak out the front door and spend a couple of days in front garden. Mac Lir protected the area until the rat was located and rescued. I heard once that Manx were once kept as guard cats, a seemingly ridiculous notion. Nevertheless, if that is true, Mac is living up to his history.

Today is [ profile] caseopaya's birthday, not quite making her a poisson d'avril. As a little gift I found a shell and rhodium cameo with marcasites. Tonight we're planning on going to see a comedy troupe who were big in the 1980s and early 90s but have been largely forgotten now; the Doug Anthony All-Stars, which I guess will mean another review on the ever-growing pile for Rocknerd.

On Thursday evening wrote a short article on issues that I've been considering for quite a while; that is the relationship between the model of perfect competition (and resultant 'free market' political orientation that results), and it difference between the model and actual markets. The assumption that free markets generate perfect competition is probably the worst intellectual fallacy of our modern age, but I am not convinced by anti-market ideology that many opponents have. Rather I am leaning towards the notion of interventions from without that encourage the conditions that perfect competition is meant to have.

It's been a fairly quiet past couple of days at work; the two clusters humming away without much drama, which is really good for the new system with its first 100 beta users giving it a run. It's given me the opportunity to get an abstract in for Questnet 2016, complete some workplace training, work through the planned compute cloud training modules and so forth. Finally, pleasant surprise was the planned new edition of Barbarian Kings looks like its coming back again after a short hiatus, for which I'm writing some material.
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It's been quite a week, one of significant stress over for a number of reasons. The first issue was a particularly deadly script which took out our cluster for the better part of a day as it set a variable to null and then proceeded to attempt to copy the entire cluster into a user's home directory; a good argument for quotas. Later in the week, despite having ensured that some terabytes available, the projects directory (which does have a quota) also filled up, which has necessitated shuffling data around. Researchers have been using the system as a 'bit bucket' for a number of years, which really is inappropriate but you know what researchers are like - smart enough to take advantage of every opportunity that they can take; they have skill levels in scrounging. All said it has been good having [ profile] imajica_lj in the office; he's curmudgeonly but perspicacious when it comes to such matters.

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

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

In social events, ran a session of Fear Itself on Thursday night, which worked very well with the use of skills as a resource pool, a stripped-down version of the same game system used in Esoterroists on Trial Against Cthulhu. On Saturday visited Brendan E., and worked our way through the rest of the first season of Ash versus the Evil Dead, which continues to impress. We were also given possession of a large collection of excellent 80s and 90s vinyl (Brendan doesn't have a record player). Today participated in a session of GURPS Middle-Earth which involved clearing out a raiders in a Dwarven tomb and included one very annoyed Dwarven wight.


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Diary of a B+ Grade Polymath

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