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Lev Lafayette's journal

IT Adventures, Project Management, Cyborg Sex
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Went to a Novell and Attachmate breakfast presentation on Tuesday at Vue du Monde. The view was pleasant (at level 55 of the Rialto building), but the actual talks were too high level (haha, see what I did there?). It was orientated towards suits, and didn't really provide enough technical details. Absolutely floored when one representative started talking about the new products which allow secure connection to Linux/UNIX systems. Reminded later that in the MS-Windows world people actually sell SSH, SFTP, and NFS clients (all of which are free and open source). On related subjects, have written a brief how-to for installing Linux with OEM MS-Windows installs, and this morning a discussion on file creation time for Linux which I used an supplementary discussion for Wen Lin's presentation at Linux Users of Victoria beginners workshop on introducting the Linux command line.

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

As a strange aside, recently encountered two examples of cyborg sex, one deliberate and one not so much. Firstly, a man admits to having sex with over 700 cars (and even an attack helicopter). I think of The Normal's Warm Leatherette; Bryce D. reminds me of Grace Jones' Pull Up to the Bumper. All hat-tip to [personal profile] reddragdiva, who also does the right thing by referencing the late and great J.G. Ballard. Meanwhile Nigel S., has gone into surgury for hip replacement, which is pretty cyborg too. The 'Information Booklet on Your Total Hip Joint Replacement' booklet he received includes the lines "You can discuss returning to sexual activity with your surgeon at your follow up appointment". As he says, "One interpretation of this would not, I suspect, go down too well with the Australian Medical Association's ethics committee."

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/183303.html.

Vita Activa Prosequitur
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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.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/183068.html.

The Perils of Vita Activa
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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.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/182860.html.

Science, Software Freedom, and Gaming Updates
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Friday afternoon V3 hosted it's second researcher presentation, this time with Dr. Andrew Hung of the Health Innovations Research Institute of RMIT. His talk was on Novel Treatments for Neurological Disorders, specifically the use of conotoxin receptor interactions with Gromacs. Who would have thought the little blighters could actually be useful, eh? The next day Saturday was Software Freedom Day, held at the Electron Workshop. It was the first Melbourne SFD for several years that I did not have an primary organising role, although I was responsible for promotion from the LUV side of things. One speaker didn't show, so with half-an-hour's notice I cobbled together a talk on Opportunities and Issues in Free Software where I argued that free software will be increasingly dominant, but will increasingly suffer free rider problems. Another talk was on bitcoin; whilst an advocacy talk it contained what would be expected - I have more negative opinions on this collectible code, based around the realisation that it doesn't deal with liquidity problems and doesn't have the status of legal tender.

Last Thursday, ran a session of Pendragon specifically the Castle of Maidens scenario from Malory; it's almost ended in a TPK. I now have the troubling situation where one PC is very powerful compared to anything else that beginning characters can come up with, but it's also near the end of the epic story. As a weird spinoff, it looks like I might be giving an address at the local Unitarian church on the Arthurian legends; after three years of pretty thorough research on the subject, perhaps this is understandable. Apropos gaming, Sunday was the third chapter of Werewolf:The Yugoslav Wars, which introduced the classic Valkenburg Foundation set of scenarios, but located near Novi Grad in Republika Srpka. I think I'm going to quite like this scenario pack; it actually speaks seriously about introducing thematic concerns into the narrative with the gradual introduction of an over-arching general theme.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/182666.html.

Gaming Updates and RPG Review Issue 25
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Last Sunday week ran a session of Werewolf: The Yugoslav Wars. A series of misadventures led to the pack being captured by Serbian Krajina forces and taken to Slunj, except for one character who ended up frolicking with other wolves in the Plitvice Lakes National Park. They main group had a surprisingly difficult time extracting themselves from the situation - until of course they decided, finally true to the werewolf style - to adopt the path of extreme violence. Apropos last Thursday was a session of the Masks of Nyarlathotep, where the investigators managed to extract themselves from Cyprus and make their way to Keyna where the players where a little shocked at the extreme racial segregation of the time in Nairobi - and even more so from the significant cultural diversity witnessed in Mombasa (I am a little surprised that the Happy Valley Set aren't part of the official plot). This was followed on Sunday by Michael's game of GURPS Middle-Earth Lake Town where we successfully wrapped up another murder mystery and had a good debate on the legal rights of freemen for a quasi-dark ages setting. Tomorrow night will be Pendragon, where the player knights will probably return to the Grail Quest, having successfully defeated King Mark's attempted rebellion.

With the release of D&D 5th edition, the next issue of RPG Review will be focussed on various D&D articles, quelle surprise. Of particular note will be the interview with Lewis Pulsipher, rpg critic from the early days and designer of the Britannia boardgame. For my own part, I've reviewed an absolute stinker of an (allegedly Old School Renaissance) product, The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence which lead to a 300+ discussion thread on Facebook, mainly about sexism in RPGs (it is awfully sexist, but that's not the only problem with it). In additon to this I've also written up, as a batch job, answers to last month's RPGaDay meme that was making its way around various social media. My responses features RuneQuest, Wordplay, GURPS, D&D, Alma Mater, Mouse Guard, Eclipse Phase, Megatraveller, and others. I'm currently composing a larger article on The Story of Dungeons & Dragons which will provide, in essay length, a history and review of various editions of the game, the companies that published the various editions, and the personalities involved in the process.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/182369.html.

Grebo and Philosophy
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The Poppies meet caseopaya and [personal profile] tcpip :)


Sunday evening was the long-expected Pop Will Eat Itself gig. As VIP passholders, we were through the door some two and a half hours before the headline act and had the opportunity for a bit of a chat, photographs, and signing of memorabilia. The lads were in good humour and played an good range of material, old and new, which I've reviewed. With a bit of circulation, said review has apparently captured a attention and I've been signed up as a writer for The Dwarf, which apparently brings some good opportunities for an aging rocknerd (insert prefix to 'nerd' for all my other interests), although [personal profile] reddragdiva need not worry about my output to his site. Whilst their heavier and industrial sound is the path they've taken my own preference in the Poppies is their heavily-sampled, pop-culture alternative dance period from the late 80s and early 90s whilst seemed to slot in well with the cyberpunk ethos of the time.

Also on Sunday was a meeting of The Philosophy Forum, which discussed The Metaphysics of Idealism and Materialism, which had a good attendance and a solid discussion, especially on the distinction between physicalist and empiricist approaches and pragmatic validity claims. I've finally caught up with putting together the notes of the previous two Philosophy Forum meetings, being Ontology of Space and Time, and the Philosophy of Language Roundtable. These were also well attended and with good discussion, although the former could really be expanded to include more emphasis on phenomenological experiences and the latter with emancipatory aspects, both personal and social. Have put out a general request for subject matter of the next meeting; tempted to suggest The Philosophy of Music; Of Sound and Harmony.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/182110.html.

Linux Users AGM, Rocknerd, Gaming Toxicity
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Tuesday was the annual general meeting of Linux Users Victoria. I had previously announced that I would be stepping down as president after four years in the position, feeling uneasy about the idea of staying on the same leadership role for too many years. Looking back, it was a good four years. The organisation has grown in numbers, has new regional chapters, and is in a very good financial position. All the normal operations (monthly speakers, beginners workshops, annual picnic, software freedom day, website, equipment, library) were covered, along with special events and issues (mininconferences and install-fests, policy development). I've accepted a nomination to continue on the committee to help with continuity, but it does feel personally like the end of an era. I am pretty sure that xanni_au is going to do as a great job as the incoming president as he has both experience and ability. I've mentioned it on the website 'blog, but it really is quite an honour to be involved in Linux Users Victoria; Linux is transformative operating system and application suite that embodies technical excellence and the high ethical principles of transparency through free and open-source licensing. Linux has changed the world and being part of that is really quite a wonderful experience through LUV. There's still more to come, and locally Software Freedom Day on September 20 at Electron Workshop.

A German home improvement company has run a pro-goth advertisement that's thoroughly charming (Youtube). In the past they've also used Blixa Bargeld so obviously they're trying to corner the market in German gothic home improvement, which is not a small market. Apropos, we'll be attending Nick Cave's a special session at the Astor, which itself will be undergoing some significant changes. Looking forward to seeing Pop Will Eat Itself this Sunday with our special VIP passes. Appropriately, I have reviewed their latest album and have just finished Jeremy Beadle's relevant book which does very well at reviewing the history of popular music with a special emphasis on sampling and pop's reconstruction and self-referentiality, and ultimately the decline of the pop single (nicely expressed in a single image over time, hat-tip [personal profile] reddragdiva), also noted by Spin). Even as I write this I'm watching the Joy Division documentary, which rather brilliantly contextualises the desolate Manchester environment of the mid-late 70s and early 80s, skilfully representing the band as the ambient sound of the time and place in dystopian science fiction style.

Initialy due to a random Internet search I ended up in an discussion with Frank Trollman et. al., over certain aspects of RuneQuest etc. Whilst a google search suggests that said person has ended up being banned from most gaming forums on the planet, and there is interesting discussion of particular RPGs, a more pertinent issue is how many gamers go out of their way to belittle their own participants, active or potential. One wonders how the hobby is supposed to expand and become a successful and lasting culture in such circumstances; it is almost a an aggressive parody of the anti-social intellectual that gamers have been historically painted. On rpg.net, Marisa Kirisame raises the issue that such toxic behaviour is due to the intellectual and even emotional investment required in RPGs, leading to a situation where criticisms of games feel like personal attacks and quickly degenerate into such personal flame wars (arguably the same emotional investment also exists in affiliations to political ideologies, which may indeed be analogous). This aside to more practical gaming issues, run a delightful and action-packed episode of Pendragon last night covering the battles of King Mark's invasion of Logres. It involved an sea battle in the mouth of the River Ex, simultaneous on the other side of Logres with a destruction of Mark's 'Infernal Engine' (read: 'anachronistic cannon') by an shapeshifting witch in the style of The Loaded Dog. Toxic online gaming conversations are not a particularly effective challenge to the delights of enjoyable actual play among friends.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/181957.html.

ISO and Gravity Waves, CheeseQuest and Parties
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Late Friday afternoon received informal notice that the company would receive ISO 9001 recertification which is obviously good news both for the organisation and for myself as the coordinator of the QA system. Quality Assurance is one of those areas which is really quite essential for organisations to succeed even if they don't apply for formal certification, as it encourages consistency, transparency, multiscoped improvement, and customer focus - as numerous studies illustrate. The two-day audit really had plenty of good things to say about our practises and our use of controlled documents, revision control, and pretty clear objectives. Adopting other certification standards (e.g., information security) is also of interest.

Afterwards attended the Lawrence Krauss dinner at the University of Melbourne, hosted by the Skeptics Society. Krauss spoke mainly on the recent discovery of gravity waves very shortly after the beginning of the universe singularity in a phase-state-like transition from supersymmetry, and then had a little rant about religion in education systems. Well located for the discussion (right next to the lectern), I asked about the temporal effects of spatial contractions from such waves, and the role of religious atheists and a secular approach to religion as a counter to theological dogmatism. Also present at the dinner was Cindy L., whom I hadn't seen for at least a dozen years. We took the opportunity the dinner to have a couple of drinks and catch up; she's spent the better part of the past decade or so in a hedonistic global exploration. Nice work if you can get it ("and you can get it, if you try").

On the following day caseopaya made the journey to the 'burbs to visit hathhalla and ser_pounce for another round of our cheesequest. This was a particularly special event because (Venezuelan Beaver Cheese excepted) we have completed all the cheeses of the skit - the final cheese was smoked Austrian, which involved me finding some imported (frozen!) limburger and smoking the cheese with hickory. We also played Runebound, a moderately good boargame although the exclusive portrayal of semi-naked female characters could make a special issue of gomakemeasandwich.

After cheesequest made our way to usekh's fourtieth birthday party at the very pleasant and tres gothique Back Bar in Windsor. Despite continuing issues with ".xxx" as it was once cryptically named (not it's not a MS-DOS program or a top-level-domain), the evening's namesake seemed to be in excellent spirits as one would being surrounded by so many good and close friends. It was rather like an local aging goths gathering in surroundings were one could actually engage in conversation; there were many people whom I hadn't seen for quite a while and alas, fewer still that I had the chance to have a long yarn with. Thanks are especially due to txxxpxx for organising group gifts which I'm sure will be thoroughly appreciated.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/181698.html.

Social Activities, ISO Auditing etc, Gaming Update
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Spent Saturday with uke with a long lunch and conversations over music, economics, politics, and especially food. It was a delightful afternoon. We first met virtually on livejournal many years ago on a epic troll post in 2003 where a person allegedly cooked up their dead pet rabbit creating a dish that looked remarkably like chicken (I wish I could still find it - I seem to recall I first made contact with ninjalicious on the same thread). When he and family moved to Melbourne the opportunity to catch up was available and we done so a couple of times. This Saturday will be the day spent with hathhalla and ser_pounce on another cheesequest, followed by usekh's birthday celebrations.

This week at work has been pretty hectic, not helped by a day off sick on Wednesday (damn food poisoning from a dodgy mussel at a favoured restaurant). It's our ISO 9001 re-certification audit and whilst we have a very mature system that has excellent document and revision control and basically ticks all the boxes for what is required, it is still less than a perfect implementation, and sometimes I don't think buy-in to the advantages of quality assurance is as high as it could be from section managers. At the same time have been working on a new project management framework for the company, preparing for my paper at eResearch Australasia, and apparently also to act as an organiser for a two-day OpenStack workshop immediately beforehand. This is, of course, in addition the usual operations work.

Two good rpg sessions this week; the first was on Sunday where I ran a session of Werewolf Yugoslav Wars which included an encounter with the bizarre mini-state of Western Bosnia run by its cult-like leader Fikret Abdić. Last night was the conclusion of the British Cyprus tangent story from our Call of Cthulhu Masks of Nyarlathotep game, which involved the dangers of incompetent faux cultists who acquire "the wrong books". In both cases reality offers a sufficiently strange place to add to a fiction. Last night was also the last session for our Eclipse Phase GM, Martin T., who is moving to Brisbane to make use of his qualifications in aeronautics. He'll be missed having provided many memorable sessions and characters to our group.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/181421.html.
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Reviews and Gatherings
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In recent days I've reviewed and been asked to endorse and review "Lila, the Revolutionary" by William Hathaway, an account of how from impoverishment and despair, revolutionary clarity can result. A more substantial review is Archive's Axiom, an absolutely astounding short La Nouvelle Vague film and short LP, by a band that's moved from trip-hop origins to progressive electronica and math rock. The whole thing is available on Youtube, and I heartily recommend it; "this is their best and most consistent work" is the byline I'm using. Finally, have spent some time reviewing a doctoral thesis outline by Ben D., a sociological and historical account of moral panics - and area which I only have a modicum of knowledge, but could offer some social theory for his class analysis of the subject.

Earlier this week caught up wih Andrew P., and his partner. I used to play Rolemaster with Andrew many years ago (his characters features in my Rolemaster book) and we hadn't seen each other for a couple of decades, so there was much discussion to be had. On-topic Thursday night was our regular Pendragon session which witnessed half the group making base at Cerne Abbas and half making a retreat to Camelot, as the invading forces of King Mark continue to press on, despite a weakening supply line. Tonight, due to a a terrible confusion on my part, ended up having drinks and conversation with the pre-conference gathering for the Philosophy of Science conference which just so happened to be at the same place and time as next week's lecture and dinner with Lawrence Krauss. The confusion is understandable, if not still a bit goosey; two similar gatherings at the same place, same day, same time, just one week after another.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/181094.html.

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