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It was over two years ago that [personal profile] caseopaya's mother was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. At the time she was given mere weeks to live. Well she made an additional two years, with [personal profile] caseopaya calling me in the early hours of this morning to say that she'd passed away, after being taken off her usual medications, then off food and water until she was just on pain killers. It was from all accounts, an easy death as much as such a thing could be said to occur. I have sung Maria's praises in the past and there is not much more that can be added. The immediate family in WA is making funeral arrangements and have had the synchronicity of a niece's birthday. Tomorrow I leave to join the clan; Andrew D., has kindly offered to look after our menagerie, which is somehwat more modest these days.

So that was the start of the day. The next activity was attending VCAT so I can have power of financial attorney for Rick B., whom has been initially diagnosed as having frontaltemporal dementia. The one-person tribunal was more than satisfied that I would be a sound person to manage his finances and the presence of another of Rick's close friends as well as two character letters (one from a psychiatric nurse and the other from a psychologist) certainly helped. Much of the meeting was going through the details and ensuring that I understood the powers and responsibilities that come with such a role, and the reporting requirements. A nice fat book has been provided to aid me in this new endeavour.

After that took a trip out to a couple of inner suburbs for a couple of hours to put up posters to encourage a 'yes' vote in Australia's ridiculous marriage equality postal survey. Had a few people ask for a couple to add to their home windows etc., including an older Dutch lesbian activist, who was a member of the Matrix Guild. It's tiring work for one person, juggling posters and tape, but the response was good.

After that returned to the city to the Victorian Secular Lobby meeting on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill which is being presented to the Victorian parliament. The meeting was addressed by Lesley Vick, president of Dying with Dignity Victoria who pointed out the national changes and an overall change towards greater patient-centered care. I would have liked to have had a few more people in attendance, but that's how it goes. Lesley was a great speaker and packed in a lot of information, even though she was more than a little under the weather.

And that was quite a day, even by my own standards.
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It's been several days since I last posted, with a week dominated by work-related activities. There was three days of training which I arranged and sat in on from the West Australian Pawsey supercomputing centre, one introductory course, then OpenMP, then MPI programming. In the meantime my courses I announced in the last post were filled in under twelve hours, so a new set have been advertised for next month. After the Pawsey course was the OpenStack Australia Day, which was really quite good. Large enough for three streams of speakers (business, technical, innovation), but small enough to be inimate and an opportunity to catch up with many co-workers in this space (good period of time spent with Francois from ChCh, Dylan from CSIRO, and Tim from Red Hat). My own talk The Why and How of HPC-Cloud Hybrids with OpenStack was very well received with standing room only in the hall. I will be repeating it on Monday at Telstra.

Other major events of the week included a battle-heavy session of Eclipse Phase last Sunday. The previous session was staging and preparation. This one included the interesting physics of fire and movement on a small asteroid. Finally, the most important out-of-work activity of the week would have to been the Victorian Secular Lobby Annual General Meeting, which had a few new members turn up, along with an excellent presentation on the state of secularism in the Liberal Party by John Bade - a rather sobering presentation on how traditional liberals in that group need to toughen up against the theocrats, especially given that Senator Bernardi has left the party and merged with Family First. It might be a painful split for the Liberal Party, but it they will be stronger for it in the longer run.
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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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It has been another secular heavy-week. On Tuesday attended the University of Melbourne Secular Society meeting with club president and physicist James Fodor giving a presentation on contempory theories on cosmology and how religious fundamentalists have reacted to this subject. Also present, unexpectedly, was Colin Macleod, whom I recall from more than fifteen years ago as author of Patrol in the Dreamtime. That evening the Victorian Secular Lobby met with Harriet Singh, MLC at Parliament House to discuss the future of the Safe Schools Programme, and especially attempts to overturn it by religious conservatives. Tonight the Isocracy Network met at Trades Hall with Anthony Wallace of Equal Love (they should fix that website), the national campaign organisation for marriage equality. The proposed plebiscite now looks dead in the water and soon it will be time to lobby politicians for a conscience vote.

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

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

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

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

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

Europe plans are going very well. Meeting at CERN was confirmed this week, so now only waiting on confirmations from Frankfurt and Montpellier Universities. This morning [livejournal.com profile] caseopaya discovered that the greatest band of this century, 65daysofstatic, are playing in Barcelona on the first night of the OpenStack conference. Naturally enough I purchased tickets immediately. Now with but four weeks to go, the finer details of the intinery need to be sorted out. In many ways I've waited my entire life for a trip like this, and whilst a month is far too short to fully immerse oneself in what remains the centre of human history and intellectual - Geisteswissenschaften, as the Deutsche would say - it is coming to fruition.
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I have dived into several secular related projects in the past several days. The first was speaking at the Sunday Assembly, a friendly godless congregation of people who like "church activities" but without a diety. My presentation ws Everyone Should Be Secular which, of course, is a rhetorical statement because everyone is secular. The issue is whether they are a secularist or support secularism - which is carefully distinguished from atheism, which many assume.

A practical example of how state atheism, effectively a type of theocracy, differs from liberal secularism, is the issue of the recent (failed) ban of the burkini in France. A debate with a former union leader (whom I discovered is perhaps not so good at cognitive flexibility) led to my writing an article for the Isocracy Network, Burkinis, Bigotry, and Beyond, which has received a very good response on Facebook and has been crossposted on the LJ community talk_politics.

"Let's be blunt about it. If you support the burkini ban, you're not a feminist or a secularist, you're a misogynistic bigot."

Tuesday was also the AGM of the University of Melbourne Secular Society. As a staff member, I am extremely sensitive of my degree of involvement in the club and try not too heavily involved, whilst at the same time wanting to assist and encourage, because they really are doing a valuable job. On being asked by the president I took on the heady role of returning officer, and that really is as far as I'm prepared to go.



Following on from this, I've arranged a meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby has a meeting at Parliament on September 13th with Harriet Sing, MLC on The Future of the Safe Schools Programme (FB event). On September 17th, I've organised a meeting of the Isocracy Network on Paths to Marriage Equality (FB event) with speakers from Equal Love. This Sunday I'm speaking at the Melbourne Unitarian Church on Changing Definitions of 'Marriage' : Past, Present, and Future. Are we detecting a theme yet?
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Monday night was at The Astor Theatre to see the John Carpenter double, Escape from New York, and The Fog. The former I had not seen since it came out (1981) and the latter I had not seen at all. The films were pretty cheesy, but very good cheese at that. Quite glad that I decided to go - I also had the opportunity to introduce myself to the new theatre cat, Duke. I do like visiting the Astor with its beautiful deco features and propensity for classic and arthouse films, and its very inexpensive as well. Tempted to see their upcoming vampire double that's coming up.

On Tuesday went to the first meeting of the year of the University of Melbourne Secular Society and have followed up with a media release from the Victorian Secular Lobby on the rather silly idea that MPs should register their religious affiliation. The Lobby is planning on having its AGM at Parliament House in mid-April with Maree Edwards, the state member for Bendigo West to discuss the politics of the Bendigo Mosque.

Sunday was a game of the classic and original Cosmic Encounter from the 1970s; a very simple game to pick up but with some rather subtle strategies. Afterwards we did a playest of Nic Moll's (of Owlman Press new superhero game, Verge. It needs work, but has a good core feature of having the characters with a strong relationship with each other. In addition, my review of Libris Mortis has been republished on rpg.net.
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Skyrealms of Jorune game went well on Sunday. The setting is quite impressive as a science-fantasy environment where there is an amazing surplus of intelligent species and aggressive carnivores. Probably has at least something to do with the seven moons that the planet has (which would have some very interesting effects). The game rules were a little clunky, but fairly good all told, albeit with a lot of errata. Apropos, plans for the upcoming RPG Review Cooperative goes well, with plenty of ideas being thrown about. It looks like that it will have sufficient attendees, a committee, and there's certainly interest among budding game designers to get their material out into a written form.

Speaking of such things, the foundation professor of RMIT University, Professor David Beanland, has written the forward to my Supercomputing with Linux, which will be released in epub form by the end of this week. The second book Sequential and Parallel Programming (ISBN 978-0-9943373-1-3) should be ready by that stage as well. Apropos, work goes well in the second week with some interesting software installs; associated packages for fast arithmetic, a number theory library, and homomorphic encryption. Meanwhile work advances on the new HPC with cloud bursting capability; SLURM has been chosen as the scheduler and resource manager, which will require a new set of training for current TORQUE users, with Easybuild recipes for installations.

New member of the Isocracy committee, Daye Gang, has provided an excellent article on Normalisation and Conscious Bias Correction on the Bench. As a contribution, I have also made a short 'blog post on the new Isocracy committee, and we how ended up with a member of the Liberal Party of Australia on the committee of a libertarian socialist organisation. On a related subject, I am trying to find a representative of the Bendigo mosque for the next meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby; unlike some others who have the conceit to call themselves secular, we actually support from of and from religion.
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This week I wrote or submitted three contributions to various government agencies. The first was a draft for Linux Users Victoria, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with particular attention drawn to intellectual property issues. The second was for the Victorian Secular Lobby, which was submitted to the Victorian parliamentary committee on end-of-life choices, based on last week's draft. The Isocracy Network is also considering a submission. The third was a submission to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, to the Cultural Diversity Review, specifically on the classification of Unitarians as "Christian (Other)" in the Australian census. For the Victorian Secular Lobby, it's been a particularly good week with Special Religious Instruction taken out of the education curriculum.

I've had a busy end-of-week socially; on Thursday night [livejournal.com profile] strangedave and [livejournal.com profile] doctor_k_ were visiting Melbourne, so we organised dinner and a tour at the asylum for them and [livejournal.com profile] mortonhall and Trevor (LJ name?). Great conversation and a pleasant walk of the grounds. Did the same for visiting Westalian nephew Luke from Muzzle and his friend Nick on Saturday night. Also on Saturday went to see [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce and [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla for the grand final of the cheesequest; a contest between (substituted) white stilton, epoisses (fantastic soaked in champagne), and a small mountain of the garlic-and-herb boursin, made by yours truly, plus a few others just to complement. We also played Mice and Mystics, a cooperative storytelling boardgame, where we were seriously defeated twice. Also had an interesting political and plotting dinner on Friday with Anthony and Daye.

The final social activity of late this week was a session of 7th Sea where the PCs are increasingly coming to to terms with the scale of the political danger they've put them in; it's a fantasy version of a resource course. Apart form all this I've been playing house a fair bit, after purchasing a big antique sideboard, rearranging a variety of furnishings (especially bookcases) in the process. I don't really live in a house; it's more like a small library and museum. Or at least that's the plan.
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On behalf of the Victorian Secular Lobby, I have written a draft submission on "End of Life Choices" for the Victorian Parliament's committee. There will be further developments in the next two weeks before submissions close. Further I note that Federal Liberal MP Warren Entsch began parliamentary prayers a few days ago with a statement from 106 Christian religious leaders who support marriage equality. I can note that this approach is something I started five years ago as the first public activity of the Victorian Secular Lobby. Apropos last Tuesday went to a meeting of the University of Melbourne Secular Society which has Professor Mark Elgar from Zoology speaking on the myths of evolutionary psychology, especially surrounding issues of leadership. Finally, on another religious and indeed secular matter, on Sunday September 6th I will be addressing the Unitarian Church on The Modernisation of Buddhist Karma.

Saturday was the beginners workshop for Linux Users of Victoria with an excellent set of test cases for BTRFS and ZFS by Russell Coker. I would like to elaborate on these to turn them into a more complete tutorial on the subject. As an additional example of positive actions in the past having fruitful success years later, in 2009 Linux Conference Australia raised $40000 for research into the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease. This week the first immunised Devils were released into the wild. Next month will be the AGM for Linux Users of Victoria; I am hoping to have a draft of our submission on the Trans-Pacific Partnership complete by tomorrow.

A quieter week on the gaming front. Thursday skipped the planned session and dragged out Stratego, a game I haven't touched since my early teens. Today played GURPS Middle Earth where we completed the Battle of the Three Armies and Not-Quite Helm's Deep where my character, in an act of ridiculous heroism freed a cave bear from a goblin army (which then turned on them, obviously) and then convinced a oath-breaking bandit to give up his wicked ways. Still battling to get the requisite number of articles together for this issue of RPG Review, as the deadline for the next issue approaches.
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Last weekend experienced a particularly secular Saturday. By this, what is meant is that it was the "Darwin Day" Freethinkers gathering at the Fitzroy gardens, organised by the University of Melbourne Secular Society (who have invited me to speak at their club on March 10th). It was younger crowd, as expected, but with excellent conversation. This was followed by the annual general meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby at Trades Hall, which has a good turnout and an impressive guest speaker in the form of the recently elected member of parliament, Fiona Patten, who spoke on religious exemptions to the equal opportunity act, but also on public funding to faith-based schools who engage in discriminatory practices.

Finished three days of training at La Trobe University today for Linux, high performance computing, and MPI programming. A larger class than usual (about double), mostly researchers from the rather impressive Institute for Molecular Science and with different operating systems, which meant that it was a little harder than the usual downright exhausting. Feedback from this week's courses was from good to very good, a little down from the usual very good to excellent, but perhaps to be expected given the circumstances. Tomorrow will be on the big silver bird to head to the other side of the country, where will be attending the nuptials of [personal profile] caseopaya's niece at Yallingup. After that will be running a two-day course at the University of Western Australia, for a small cluster there; one day consisting of aimed at sysadmins and containing a lot of new material, and the second aimed at researchers. After that there is a few days before travelling to the University of Sydney to conduct a dozen days of training there over a month, with a trip to eResearchNZ in Queenstown somehow squeezed in among all that. I'm also supposed to submit the full paper for peer review and publication for THETA by Friday. I suspect I'll be writing that one on the plane!

For one future project I have recently received a review of training material by people who have absolutely no clue about the content. As a result, there is a lot of bikeshedding over trivial comments, remarks which display extraordinary ignorance about both high performance computing and advanced andragogical techniques and content simultaneously, remarks that are simply plain wrong (and obviously so if the reviewer had actually read the content), and inevitably, comments which are Not Even Wrong. I have become unusually angered by the response. Whilst normally I live by the mantra of not letting the aggravating factors of any workplace get to me (it's not worth it), this case is different. I think what is really troubling me is that the reviewer in question has the authority, but not the competence to make the judgements that they have, and they lack the intellectual humility and honesty to admit this (in other words, they are stuck at the unconscious incompetence stage of skill development). Ultimately I have to steel myself to only pay attention to the people who really matter in this processes - those who are the direct recipients of training in HPC systems (i.e., postgraduate and postdoctoral scientific researchers) - and place the comments of the glorified administrative assistants into the dustbin.
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There is a running myth that Australians have kangaroos hopping around their suburban streets. Largely, this isn't actually true. Except when it is. Our asylum home, a mere 6km from the city as the crow flies had this little bounder funneled down the Yarra river valley. It's not the first time in recent months the area has seen said bounding marsupials; one visited a primary school nearby at the end of last year. In other animal news there is the rather sad news that our rescue guinea pig, Zepar, shuttled off the mortal coil Tuesday night and was buried the following morning. I cannot say he was an overly friendly or clever pig, but at the very least he had several years of comfort interrupted by only the occasional terror of having his toenails trimmed.

Tuesday night was also the February main meeting of Linux Users Victoria which consisted on an excellent presentation by Andrew Robinson on the R programming language, and an amusingly clever video of Andrew Tridgell's LCA presentation on running Linux on drones. In what was a very techie Tuesday, the Raspberry Pi 2 was released and several of us made a bulk order. I now have two of said creature and am thinking of setting up a picture rotator or some home automation.

Saturday week is the annual general meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby. We'll be giving out awards for those who helped out during the state election, and will have guest speaker, Fiona Patten, MLC who will speak on what will surely be a contentious issue for the year, "Religious Exemption to Equal Opportunity Laws". It an interesting perspective that many so-called libertarians have that is to allow institutions to have the to attack the individual's right to fair treatment in the public activities (e.g.. employment, purchasing etc). The fact that religious institutions protest a sacred right to engage in such bigotry may be irrational and distasteful, but also a matter of some power.
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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 rpg.net soon. Very pleased to have an upcoming interview opportunity with Mark Pettigrew, author of Flashing Blades.

On Monday evening [livejournal.com 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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Well, as everyone knows we've had a change in government in Victoria, with no less than a card-carrying member (we don't really have cards) of the Socialist Left leading the Labor Party to a modest victory that included some really impressive grassroots campaigning. I worked myself pretty hard on the final week of the campaign (arguably too hard and completely exhausted myself on one day - I'm not twenty anymore). I have ventured some opinions and personal experiences of the campaign in a 'blog post on Isocracy.

Nevertheless the fallout and counting from the Victorian state election continues. The Greens have successfully replaced a progressive woman in the seat Melbourne with a progressive woman whilst their vote overall has declined and they have fallen short of knocking off a Tory MP in a nearby seat - and yet still many consider this to a "victory". As convener, I have reviewed the Victorian Secular Lobby election 2014 campaign, and am looking forward to seeing on what issues the new government can take a positive direction (e.g., chaplains, religious instruction in public schools, equal opportunity, and voluntary euthanasia). A couple of days ago had dinner with old comrade Bill Bowe of The Pollbludger who was visiting for said event, which included a visit to the Abbotsford Convent and of course a quick view of our old Kew Asylum.

Preparing myself for this Sunday's meeting of The Philosophy Forum where I take on the question of The Philosophy of Music, looking at definitions, history, technology, and aesthetics. Next week it also seems that I'll be visiting Sydney for a couple of days, specifically to Macquarie University's Australan Institute of Health Innovation to provide training to researchers on Linux command line, PBSPro job submission, Postgresql, and OpenMPI programming.
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It was a very rocknerd week. On Monday night took up an offer from The Dwarf to see and review Australian punk legends, Radio Birdman who were downright awesome. Also purchased their excellent CD-DVD collection which was reviewed on Rocknerd. Later in the week took the opportunity to review the last album by 65daysofstatic, Wild Light (who, incidentially, are touring next year). Alas the Rolling Stones cancelled their gig at Hanging Rock, which would have been quite a show.

It's been a few months since the RPG Review store was updated, courtesy of some bulk purchases. But have done so now with a small mountain of Twilight 2000 material which, at the very least, is one of the more remarkable collection of information for of 1980s military technology. Last Sunday was a remarkable session of Werewolf Yugoslav Wars which resulted in the death of a PC, due to another's botched healing attempt, and the capture of a major enemy in dramatic fashion. The players still have to work out how they're smuggling out a "Paleo-Eurasian" wolf from Sarajevo under UNESCO auspices. Thursday night was a session of Call of Cthulhu Masks of Nyarlathotep, with the player investigators ending up making all the rights choices and succeeding in all their checks at critical moments. As a result of their success they completely missed out on one of the most epic scenes in any published roleplaying adventure, which had to be described.

The Victorian state election approaches with most opinion polls at this point suggesting a clear win for the Labor Party. Whilst I am certain that Daniel Andrews will make a great premier, I have concerns that the Tories may yet snatch an undeserved victory. For my own part in the blue-ribbon seat of Kew, I am carrying out the thankless tasks of distributing thousands of DL election advocacy cards. A few days ago I also started the fundraising campaign for the Victorian Secular Lobby; as a small group we're only making a modest contribution to the election, but carefully targetted to be effective. If you support the separation of religious beliefs from civic governance, please consider donating to the campaign.
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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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Went to Electron Workshop on the weekend to watch William Gibson's No Maps for These Territories, followed by Johnny Mnemonic. The former was good phenomenology of technology in radical smash cut style, the latter was disappointing hack of the Gibson short story but tolerable. The Workshop is an excellent venue of the more professional warehouse cooperative style, and I hope they do well. On a somewhat related tangent, convened the Linux Users of Victoria meeting on Tuesday where two very different talks were provided; Bianca Gibson on preventing volunteer burnout and Russell Coker on the current status of BTRFS.

The two related political organisations that I'm primarily responsible for have had actions this week; the Victorian Secular Lobby has a media release on maintaining the Australian Charities and Non-Profits Commission, which is being suspiciously dumped after some intense lobbying by both the Catholic Church and Financial Services Council; I smell a Sinodinos. The other for the Isocracy Network, organising a meeting on North Korea: Human Rights and International Relations (FB) with a scholarly and eye-witness account being presented. Somewhat related is The Philosophy Forum meeting that I'm convening this Sunday; Bill Hall speaking on the social and technical evolution of the species.

Most of RPG Review issue 23 is ready with the theme of "Different Worlds" (like the old magazine), which includes Victorian versions of Mars (Savage Worlds), Gulliver's Trading Company, a post-cyberpunk Titan (Eclipse Phase), GURPS Middle-Earth and much more. In actual gaming activities, recent sessions of Call of Cthulhu, Pendragon, and GURPS Middle Earth have all gone well. Unfortunately, after almost ten years of play, my HeroQuest Glorantha game has fallen into a small hiatus, even though the plot is at the point just preceeding "the big reveal". Hopefully it will get a shot in the arm soon - I suspect it is the longest running HQ game in existence.
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It was a small but thoroughly interesting meeting with Dr. Rodney Syme from Dying With Dignity Victoria. As jokingly mentioned, it's not often you get to meet with someone who has been investigated nine times for assisting in the death of others. He made a very good case for the introduction of palliative voluntary euthanasia, despite the inability of politicians and especially some religious leaders, to engage in the very basic human right of letting people themselves decide when the time is right. I took some notes from the meeting that are of interest. Of particular interest was the presence of a Anabaptist who argued emphatically for the separation of church and secular governance. On other matters relating to the Victorian Secular Lobby, have also managed to get the website up-to-date in terms of news items of import; most recently, despite Exodus International apologising for the harm they've caused, Australia groups still persist.

Sunday's game was Twilight 2000 with another episode of the battle for Warsaw, which saw the local militia push the mercenaries and marauders of the self-styled "Black Baron" away from their defensive perimeter. In other end-of-the-world scenarios, RPG.net have published my reviews of Aftermath!, and The Apocalypse Stone. Still working through a review of Horror on the Orient Express, as well as material for RPG Review 20's themed "Monsters and Aliens", including overviews of the GURPS Aliens and Humanx, AD&D 2nd edition Monstrous Manual, Call of Cthulhu's Malleus Monstrorum, White Wolf's Hunter: The Reckoning, and a variety of RuneQuest material. Part of the challenge will be taking into account the tension between the grotesque weirdness associated with the monster alien and the sense of sympathy with the other. Material has also been provided by [livejournal.com profile] tzunder, specifically some classic D&D creatures for OpenQuest (RuneQuest etc).

Today completed another session of Introductory HPC With Linux, which went exceptionally well especially considering the complete lack of familiarity members of the class had with Linux and HPC. Nevertheless they were nearly all doctoral candidates and some of them had done extensive Fortran programming (on MS-Windows for goodness sake; I didn't even know that such beast existed). Received extremely good feedback from course attendees, and will be initiating a longer-term mentoring program with this group. Tomorrow and Wednesday will be the intermediate and advanced courses, the former including scripting, regular expressions, job arrays, dependencies, and interactive jobs, and the latter including even more on scripting, but mostly on MPI programming. Have suggested new courses for 2013-2014 including Tools for Researchers (SQL, Version Control, Make for projects), Mathematical Programming (R and Octave), and Scientific Programming (Python, C and Fortran). On the related subject of my studies in Tertiary and Adult Eduction, still haven't received the final mark, but did receive excellent feedback on my suggestions of changes to the way the course is assessed, with significantly more emphasis on continuous summative assessment for formative purposes.
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Today finished the content for the course manual on Advanced High Performance Computing Using Linux, starting off with Emacs, then moving on to advanced bash scripting, a look at computer system architectures (especially Flynn's Taxonomy), before moving on to a range of MPI programming examples. Programming is hard; MPI programming is very hard. Course will be run next week. Last Saturday, Wen Lin provided an excellent talk at the LUV-Beginners talk on basic Backup Options With Linux (slides soon); plenty of new people there, indicating that the Meetup Group seems to work. Apropos, a very large list of free science books.

Received a call from the Galaxy Opinion Poll this week, after another extraordinary week of sexism in Australian Federal politics, with one Coalition MP calling mining companies pussy whipped, and accusations that the Prime Minister is showing too much cleavage in parliament. Australians largely seem determined not to concentrate on policy, because facts are boring. For Labor this is quite a dilemma, because (with some notable exceptions) the Gillard-government has been very good, and Gillard herself is obviously a good negotiator and administrator. Unfortunately to the mass audience, she has the charisma of a dead fish, which contrasts strongly with Rudd's presidential and populist style. The reality is that Labor can't win with Gillard; apart from the charisma issue, a great number just don't like how she came to power. She would make a superb Deputy PM of course, but that's an improbable result.

This Saturday evening have organised a practical meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby (now incorporated), with Dr. Rodney Syme of Dying With Dignity Victoria, to discuss what legislative needs are required for assisted voluntary euthanasia and what impediments exist. DWDV explains their position in their FAQ (and their opponents likewise). The current legal situation in Victoria is explained by DWDV. Hoping for a good turnout to this event, in spite of some fairly grim weather!
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It is not often that I use a Royalist phrase, but it is appropriate. From Thursday onwards it was a roller-coaster of events, starting with the call for registrations for the Introductory and Intermediate HPC and Linux courses I conduct at work. As usual, places in those are filling up very fast. Following that was the second-last Call of Cthulhu session of Horror on the Orient Express. Also semi-work related Friday included a friendly soccer match at the Old Melbourne Gaol between systems and CAS, leaving me a little sore.

Saturday was the Linux Users of Victoria Annual Penguin Picnic; I did most of the shopping for this at the last minute at the Victoria Markets, and managed to get to the excellent, and somewhat unknown, Yarra Bank Reserve in time to get things started. A great day, we gave away some copies of OpenSuSE that were on hand to visitors, including a Dja Dja Wurrung person who showed us the scarred tree of local significance. He seemed pretty impressed with the idea of Linux as well!

After the LUV meeting, chaired the annual general meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby, which will be organising a national conference of like-minded groups, and will have a Federal focus this year. Afterwards a number of us had dinner at the Tran Tran; very good food, although when I was a little surprised when the pre-recorded "Happy Birthday" music came on and even more surprised when the subtle banana fritter arrived at the table (not safe for some workplaces); you'll keep Ant...

On Sunday gave the address on The Contribution of Unitarian-Universalists to Isocracy; very well received, with an excellent turnout - I was little worried because it was substantially longer than prior presentations, but managed to deliver a little faster than usual. In the afternoon, ran a game of Twilight 2000, where there was an organised attack on a marauder band, the theft of a helicopter by said band, the assassination of the local elected leader, the establishment of martial law, the signing of a pro-Soviet agreement, a labour and military strike, and eventually the re-establishment of the Free, Independent, and Strictly Neutral City of Krakow and Its Environs - and with one of the player-characters as nominal head of the military (no-one else was trustworthy...). After dinner at the ever delightful Iliana's went to visit [livejournal.com profile] hathhalla and [livejournal.com profile] ser_pounce to collect the rescued Noisy Miner; a welcome to Mr. Chirpy (blame ser_pounce for the name).

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Diary of a B+ Grade Polymath

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