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Gaming Sessions, Technology Improvements, Misc.

Visited hathhalla and ser_pounce for our regular Cheesequest. Amazing fromage of the day was a herbed Corsican. Afterwards played a challenging scenario in Mice and Mystics. This evening did a sence write-up for my long-running HeroQuest Glorantha game. It was the conclusion of a bit of bad luck in gaming sessions this week with the regular Laundry Files game cancelled on Wednesday night, and Eclipse Phase on Friday night. Nevertheless, this has given me more opportunity to work on Papers & Paychecks with the effects of alcohol and drugs and distribution curves added to the repository.

Have finally decided to join the 21st century and bought a chunk of cloud storage for some offsite backups; specifically the Google offering, which integrates well with the rest of its services. Have also discovered and used RClone, which a rather genius piece of work - effectively rsync for various cloud storage vendors. Apropos, a made a talk proposal for OpenStack Australia Day which has been accepted.

Other major events in the past few days has been organising for the AGM of the Victorian Secular Lobby, writing up the major events of 14th and 15th weeks of Lord Dampnut, US President, and attending a great wine tasting at University House for Klein Constantia with a selection of South African and French Savoy wines. The Vin de Constance was pretty amazing; it was sweet liquid gold and with a price to match (on special for a mere $137 for 500ml) .

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/232261.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: relaxed
  • Current Music: Self-titled, Rob Jo Star Band
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These Gaming Days and Home Improvements

It was a pretty gaming intensive weekend; on Saturday I needed to get over three thousand words written for RPG Review 34, a special issue on game design, which has now been released - there was about 1,000 words on Friday and Sunday as well, as well as the layout. Later on session ran a game of Eclipse Phase which has arced up with as the Sentinels confront the neo-fascist Ultimates on an L5 Neptune trojan. It followed from an evening with funontheupfield at a local bar where we played Forbidden Island (cooperative game, easily adaptable for an environmental rather than fantasy theme) and Quizzle. Aproporiately, a new issue of the RPG Review Cooperative Newletter, Crux Australi has just been released.

We've just change our Internet Service Provider. After many years with Optus, there were a couple of events (technical primarily) that were making the relationship shaky, but the clincher was when they wouldn't support Firefox on Linux with the given reason being that only a few people use it this "old" operating system. Well, we've shifted to iiNET, and although there was a bit of a hiccup with the setup, they've done the right thing in terms of compensation etc. In other home life news finished our tax today for the last financial year, a weird timetabling that apparently is ATO approved. Their administrative procedures are a mystery to us mere mortals. Finally, just in case anyone thought I wasn't nerdy enough, I've been using this great Android app which effectively gives one a command-line interface for operating one's phone. Accessing applications with the autocomplete shortcuts and easy of file system navigation I find are its principal advantages.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/232040.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
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The Blue-Arsed Philosopher, Politico, and more

One can tell when I've been too busy; my personal DW/LJ 'blog becomes neglected. In the past eleven days since my last entry a lot of my time has been spent in public engagements in philosophy and politics. Last night there was a well-attended meeting of the Melbourne Atheist Society where I spoke on Atheism, Islam, and Secularism, which was well-received and generated some excellent discussion. It followed from convening a meeting of The Philosophy Forum on Sunday where Graeme Lindenmayer from Agnostic Perspectives presented on The Concept of Beauty, in his particular style - accessible and detailed.

Another publication of the past few days was a contribution to the ALP Platform Committee which contains some pretty serious suggestions on taxation, employment, education, drug reform, and transport issues, and followed on from an article several days prior on land tax and proportional representation. Monday morning (Australian time) of course was the results of the French election and University House hosted a special early brunch with speakers. I raised the question of the future of the Parti socialiste which was followed the following day by a radio interview in Sydney on John August's program, Radio Skidrow on the west European electoral landscape; a follow-up post is planned.

There has been, of course, Linux and work-related events as well. Last Tuesday Dr. Paul Bone gave a presentation to Linux Users of Victoria on the Plasma programming language which combines imperative and functional programming with automatic parallelisation. It's a work in development and I've set up a project on Spartan for further development. We sponsored an HPC support lunch on Monday and a major item that has come out of that is the need for a massive biotechnology database that is somewhat closer to home than the NCBI or the DDBJ. These datasets are seriously big and file transfers alone are a serious issue for Australian researchers.

In addition to this I have expanded my Duolingo work by starting courses "upside down" - having completed Esperanto, Spanish, French, and German, I am now undertaking English as an (alleged) speaker of French, German, and Spanish (alas, there is no Esperanto section). There has been of course, a few gaming sessions over the past couple of weeks with Papers & Paychecks planned for tonight, GURPS Middle Earth last Sunday, Eclipse Phase last Friday and the Sunday prior, and a new game of Elric! last Wednesday. One item also of note was dinner at a great Spanish restaurant last week with nephew Luke and his flatmate Nick (they live above the restaurant): a great night, I got to practise my appalling Spanish with the staff, and fantastic food: the Arcadia is thoroughly recommended.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/231864.html.
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A Gaming Week and Other Events

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 hathhalla and 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 - 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.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/231455.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Music: All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone, Explosions in the Sky
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Linux Presentations, Gaming Updates

Gave introductory Linux and HPC day-courses at University of Melbourne last Thursday and Friday, followed by a presentation at Linux Users of Victoria the following day on Compiling from Source in Linux. The former courses had a particularly high-ratio of staff, rather than the usual collection of postgraduate researchers. Regardless the feedback was equally positive. The presentation to LUV was quite challenging, as I quickly realised however the single talk could easily be several, and as a result I touched upon several items (compilation options, makefiles, autotools and other autobuild systems, environment modules, etc). Nevertheless the post-presentation discussion was excellent; Rodney B., asked whether I had used material from other courses. When I revealed I had not he described the presentation as "embarrassingly good" - which I suppose is positive. At times like these I can have the conceit that I might actually be reasonably good at this HPC Training racket.

After LUV attended the monthly RPG Review movie night at The Astor. It was a monster-themed double with Kong: Skull Island, followed by the 1970 Hammer film, When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth. The former was fairly good, a rather fun combination of King Kong and Apocalypse Now. The latter was absolutely terrible, with the one redeeming feature of the film being carried out in a constructed language. On related popular culture matters played GURPS Middle-Earth the following day and our party of do-gooders successfully defeated the evil sapient trees built by a mad druid. Apropos had some pretty regular sales from the RPG Review in the past couple of weeks, and am reminded that both the RPG Review journal is due, along with Papers & Paychecks.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/231408.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: I'm Your Man, Leonard Cohen
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Valediction Tramper, Valedictions Rodents

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

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

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



This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/231127.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: contemplative
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Rats and NZ Adventures

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

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So that was a six-day holiday; it was a pretty busy affair with a lot packed in. My previous three trips to NZ have been largely work based so it was good to get around a bit more and finally see a part of the country that I hitherto had not been to. One nice discovery during the trip was learning that my application to attend the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt has been approved. That will be the next trip.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/230817.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: Aive, Daft Punk
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Valedictions Rover Rat

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

From his troika, Rover was the youngest and smallest of the set and was originally quite shy, albeit full of a energy and a sense of adventure. He soon came to appreciate the company of the human members of the colony, encouraged by an extraordinary appetite that correlated with his energy. Never much of a lap rat (he was too active!) he lived a life of playful happiness and would delight getting himself lost in the foliage of our garden. I guess his sudden demise spares him of the slowness of age which I imagine would have been frustrating to him. Now there is only old Tramper, the eldest of the group and the last of the rodent colony. He certainly doesn't have much longer himself, and that will be the end of the rats.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/230467.html.
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Two Birthdays, a Wedding, and Visiting Relatives

The weekend was a very festive and some ways exhausting affair. Friday night was [personal profile] caseopaya's official birthday night. I took her to The Trust which does fine Italian food at a good price in the excellent surroundings of the former Port Authority Building. Afterwards took her to the SpeakEasy HQ for a double vaudeville and burlesque show - which was combined entertainment, amusement, and a very friendly interactive style. One of the perfomers was kind enough to give a signed CD of her work, gratis. Our table came inclusive with a bottle of wine and the couple next to us decided they didn't like there's - and gave it to us. Let us just say that the birthday girl had a little too much requiring a two hour trip home in the middle of the night.

The following day was a visit to Dylan's birthday gathering through torturously slow traffic at a Korean restaurant which we stayed for a short period and had animated conversation with current and former workmates. Afterwards made our way to Louise and Benjamin's wedding at the Kensington Town Hall, which was a thoroughly enjoyable and simple affair, although I must confess the the poet's contribution, Love Comes Back seemed to include what is perhaps best described as "unusual" metaphors. Not knowing any of the the others there and still a little under the weather, spent nearly all of the ceremony in the company of Chiara, and Adrian.

Following day was a session of GURPS Middle Earth where the GM decided to throw every plant-based monstrosity at us from various AD&D supplements (appropriately, have just completed a review of The Shambling Mound's Eleventh Week), and quite sensibly skipped our usual Sunday dinner outing. On a similar note smashed out a 2500 word article on GURPS Krononauts campaign design for the next issue of RPG Review. Finally, tonight took four visiting in-law relatives out to Tam-Tam, followed by drinks at Trades Hall. Overall, it's been quite a festive past few days, and I don't mind a bit of that in my life. But now the nose is back at the grindstone - until Thursday's international trip.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/230178.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: No Man's Sky, 65dos
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Matters of Consciousness, Computational Research, Syria

Went to see Christof Koch speak last night at the Melbourne Neuroscience Seminar Series on Consciousness in Biological and Artificial Brains. It was good enough talk, concentrating in finding the physical location of the seat of consciousness (shades of Descartes), and not really moving into the second part. I cornered him after the presentation and suggested that perhaps it would be better to differentiate between consciousness, sapience, and sentience because his entire talk was about correlations with the first two, and the confusion between these was the equivalent of lay-person confusion between mass and weight, and with similar implications. His response was to hand-wave that this was a high-level concern (on the contrary) and besides, philosophers like Dennett and Chalmers also use it in an experential sense. But this sociological fact is part the research problem itself. The ambiguity over the term itself limits our capacity to investigate the problem clearly. It seems to me that only linguistic-pragmatic philosophers (such as Karl-Otto Apel) are addressing this matter with sufficient rigour.

On a related matter, have continued my work with the good folk at the University of Freiburg on cluster-cloud hybrid high-throughput systems. Initially we were looking at a short paper to be published in a relatively low-entry journal, and as part of those investigations the initial candidate turned out to be too low entry - I have discovered that approximately half of a recently published paper is completely plagairised. I have written to the journal editors about this unacceptable behaviour, however I suspect I will not receive a reply. Since then I've been in correspondence with László Babai about publication in Theory of Computing instead, which would be much better. Also attended a Linux Users of Victoria meeting on Tuesday night with two talks, one on SAGE-math and multithreading.

For the past several years I have been paid significant attention to the events in Syria, written the occasional article, and conducting two interviews. Recently I was inspired to give a substantial donation to Medecins San Frontiers following a hospital bombing. and of course in the past few days there has been a massive chemical gas attack, almost certainly carried out by the government. The Syrian government of course denies their responsibility, and the Russians will back their client state. I find myself in the troubling realisation that, when it comes to human rights and war crimes, that the fascist Baathist regime in Syria has reached the point where they are worse that the successors to Al-Qaeda. This obviously is not an assessment taken lightly. My longstanding order of preference in this multi-faceted conflict is being changed. Breaking News The US has just fired 60 tomahawk missiles at Shayrat Military Airport near Homs.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/230076.html.