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Of Walking, Ingress, and Other Gaming

It was Thoreau who wrote the wonderful essay on walking, and there is much in it that I do find most agreeable. I do not engage in the twenty miles or four hours per day that he recommends, and I usually do travel with a purpose and direction in mind unlike the transcendentalist. But I am incredibly fortunate to live with a remarkable level of nature and yet only several kilometres from the centre of the city. The foliage around the Yarra River is beautifully dense with a huge number of bats, many species of bird (local and introduced), numerous possums, the occasional kangaroo, and recently I spotted a pair of foxes. Yet it also saddens me with the realisation that as I look at satellite imagery that I live in a tiny sliver of green, as the grey scar of human suburban habitation is the dominant feature. Once upon a time, all of Melbourne was as rich in non-human life, if not more so, as where I live now.

My enjoyment of walking has led me to recently download an pedometer application for my 'phone with consideration of health benefits that comes from a daily ten thousand steps regimen. As expected it took little change from my normal activity to reach such a daily target, although ironically a few days afterwards I was knocked out of action by a cold. Not a terrible one, but enough to put me largely out of any substantional activity for a while (and enough to take a day off work). In addition to the limits on walking, it also has limited by Ingress journeys. On the first night that I picked up the application, I walked Victoria Street, from the far west of Carlton to the far east of Richmond, taking out every single enemy portal, all of which were L7 and L8. It was about 60 in total, and it cost about 500 L8 bursters and around 100 ultrastrikes. Eventually I ran out of power cubes and battery, but was saved at the end of the journey by another agent who provided me with a bit of both.

In other gaming events the long-awaited (i.e., very late) double issue of RPG Review 26-27 has been released, 128 pages of pirate and swashbuckler goodness. It's a huge publication and I'm hoping the next issue will have several more people contributing a few extra articles with its nominated subject of "The Undead". In other gaming goodness, engaged in a very enjoyable game of Laundry Files during the week, along with a satisfactory conclusion to a chapter in our GURPS Middle-Earth game. Today we visited ser_pounce and hathhalla for another day of cheesequest (semi-finals between port salut and boursin) and played Small World and Small World Underground, both fairly well-designed games with strategic and tactical elements.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/194849.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: sick
  • Current Music: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century, Gang of Four
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The Good Soldier

There is much I love about my workplace. High performance computing provides the computational infrastructure which allows scientists to make discoveries quicker and make life better for all of us. Just this week, I am thrilled to see my old work colleague Dr. Mike Kuiper once again finds himself making great discoveries that will save lives, ably assisted by HPC systems. It is very important to me that the workplace is a non-profit company (even if we have a separate commercial arm). I know that we don't have the same sort of resources as the commercial sector. That is why when travelling on the company's dime I fly the cheaper lines, stay at the cheaper accommodation, and typically eat in rather than dine out on a expense account. I like the fact that we're a registered research agency, and that the work being conducted here is (or should be) for the public good. That is part of the reason why I document much of the technical work of what I do (pretty pleased with my work on GAMESS in the past few days) - so other sysadmins around the world in similar institutions may get some understanding in the complex world of optimised compilations of scientific applications.

Which makes it all harder when the axe comes down and staff have to be "let go" to use the euphemism, which is what happened to several staff on Friday. It's almost Victorian in it's politeness isn't it? "We're giving you an opportunity for a new beginning". I imagine it doesn't feel that way to those on the chopping block. Certainly there were a couple whom I think weren't quite pulling their weight and there were others "let go" which quite surprised me. The reason for the axe falling was quite reminiscent of the last time; cash flow. In addition this time there was what I consider a serious structural issue which also contributed significantly to these matters. Senior management and the board carry responsibility for this - and they should know it; "the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility" - and that means responsibility in failure as well as success. I cannot help but think of Marx's comments on The Civil War in France when looking at the pay scales of the Commune - representatives should receive never more than the average worker. Management is a privilege as well as a responsibility.

The good soldier however continues their work from the trenches. Many of us have worked ourselves as if possessed by demons in the past year which has generated extraordinary uptime and usage for our clusters along and despite the devastating news we will continue to do so. However sometimes I wonder whether these efforts and the resulting research receives due consideration in a world where soporific entertainment is more worthy than great art and groundbreaking science, where political policy is determined by majoritarian opinions regadless of veracity, and where bureaucracy is more worthy than real work. Half a league, Half a league, Half a league onward ... Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why. To the good soldiers who have a fallen, I salute you: This is the saddest story I have ever heard.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/194721.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: sympathetic
  • Current Music: Escapando al silencio impuesto 1997-2001, Autonomía
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THETA 2015 at the Gold Coast

Have spent the last four days at The Higher Education Agenda conference at the Gold Coast. To be honest, it was a bit of a mixed bag. The first day was very good, the second not so much, and the third somewhere in between. I particularly enjoyed Bryan Alexander's keynote, along with Dr. Xiaolin Zhang's presentation on the third day, albeit somewhat hampered by not having English as a native language. Alison Makin's paper on copyright issues was refreshingly sensible. My own paper, on comparing user education with interface improvements in HPC, attracted some attention and seemed well received, although I was frankly horrified by one attendee who totally misunderstood it. Also worthy of note was the vendors exhibition which was sufficiently good enough to note. The conference dinner was held at Dreamworld which included some good entertainment although, with no sense of irony, "the fun police"; Happiness is mandatory.

Which does set the scene for the Gold Coast as a whole, a name once used for derogatory remarks about the price of real estate and now the official name for the city. With the exception of a couple of universities (one public, one private) there is no industry except entertainment and tourism. The high rises are not for business, but for hotels along the coastline from the border of New South Wales to Brisbane. The weather was a perfect mid-twenties with blue skies every day, which was nice to wander along but would be frightfully dull after a couple of weeks. With [personal profile] caseopaya escaping work for a few days, we stayed at the remarkably inexpensive Grand Chancellor, whose breakfast helpfully informed us that bacon contains pork. The Gold Coast itself consists of an endless beach and theme parks (Dreamworld, Seaworld, Movieworld, Surfworld, Fartworld - ok, I made the last one up), which enjoyable enough in its own right, but if you're a nerd who like museums your best bet is the Ripley's Odditorium, which we visited, along with the light and mirrors of Infinity Attraction, and for big kids, Dracula's Haunted House - being 'digested' by Kevin Rudd was perhaps the most horrific.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/194387.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: relaxed
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Meetings, Gaming, and Visitors

Philosophy Forum last Sunday was Dr. Bill Hall discussing Knowledge and the Singularity, which has a somewhat uncertain conclusion. It is all very well to note the development of human knowledge but the question of whether this is sufficient to deal with the critical issues facing the species was unresolved. Tuesday night was two excellent and useful presentations at Linux Users Victoria on Performance Co-Pilot and Android Security. The former presentation was excellent to the server and cluster level whereas the latter (in Paul Fenwick's enjoyable style) was great for personal applications (plus it introduced me to Pinpoint, a great tool for command-line warriors to make presentations.

Sunday afternoon was also an opportunity to run 7th Sea Freiburg which required some substantial modification to the provided plot to make sense, but with the same intent - the characters fall into financial ruin (as the foundations of their house are attacked) but also acquire significant dangerous wealth almost at the same time (discovered due to the explosion). I did enjoy starting the session for half the party with the phrase "roll for initiative" as they sat down. Thursday night's session saw the beginning final chapter of Masks of Nyarlathotep. Currently in the midst of our regular GURPS Middle Earth rescuing children in Dwarven ruins; we get a lot of that.

Caught up with strangedave and doctor_k_ who were visiting Melbourne on Friday night at the Village Bar, which really is quite a beautiful old building. Discussions were wide and varied over the evening covering childhood vaccinations, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and Glorantha. Can't say I was exactly feeling 100% the following day however.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/194186.html.
  • Current Location: VPAC
  • Current Mood: sick
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Secularism, Student Societies, Vaccinations, & etc.

Attended UMSS AGM Tuesday week and spoke the following week on The Victorian Secular Lobby and Politics, which outlined the differences between us and similar groups and our priority of political lobbying. As a external-studying and increasingly mature-aged postgraduate who collects degrees, I have not really been involved in university student associations for some time, despite it being a very significant part of my life in my youth (MARS being the most notable), and it has been pleasant to associate with youthful and enthusiastic people who discerning intelligence. I must say I rather enjoyed it, and will endeavour to attend more in the future.

It certainly beats some of the recent discussions I've had, most prominently being "discussions" with anti-vaccinators (Facebook), and not for the first time. Whilst the issue of scientific literacy and illiteracy is very evident, politically there is an issue where personal freedoms conflict; the freedom of health choices vis-a-vis safe public movement. I am sorely tempted to argue that the unvaccinated should quarantined or similar which would satify both political principles. But then what about the children?, or, in a more general sense, at what point does lack of parental responsibility reach the point where public intervention is required? Just quietly in the world of real science, the Americas is now rubella-free.

In more social enjoyments, played through another session of GURPS Middle-Earth on Sunday, caught up with Keith's book launch (Facebook), played some Ingress with agent hdaze on Wednesday and helped build up the area, enjoyed dinner with Rodney B., at Burmese House on Thursday, and spent a few hours today in the company of kremmen and kbpenguin, who are staying at the classic Grand Hotel. This upcoming week however looks a lot busier, starting with the Philosophy Forum tomorrow.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/193807.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: busy
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Of Storms and Universities

Have spent the last two days conducting training for researchers at the Australian Institute for Health Innovation, which is part of Macquarie University. The classes have been a little more difficult than usual, partially because of the diverse levels of skills involved in the group (some have never used Linux at all, others are full-time medical software engineers), but also because of the state of their small cluster - not much of the usual range of scientific software has been installed and there is need for some configuration improvements especially with their databases. Plus, for those who have experience, the cluster has changed from a Torque/Moab system to PBSPro. As a result, it has not been used as much as it should, however I am hoping that this should change now that training has been completed. Tomorrow I will finish the final session of training for researchers at the University of Sydney for their new HPC cluster.

Sydney has been suffering some particularly stormy weather, which has resulted in fatalities. It was pretty interesting taking the plane in on the evening of what was the strongest day for the inclement weather. Now with all due concern for the enormous financial cost and the loss of lives, I must admit that I really quite like wild weather like this - I took the opportunity to go out as much as I could (complete in at least the top-half of my Devo radiation suit). I find the howling winds and cold driving rain to be invigorating, and whilst I can also enjoy the quiet contemplation when communing with nature, it is in the midst of the maelstrom that I find she speaks most clearly (not to push the anthropomorphic metaphor too much).

But whilst on that topic of quiet contemplation and universities, I must also sing some praises of Macquarie University. It is the first time I had visited that campus and I must say it has many of the features that I have noticed from similar institutions of that period that I have spent time at (Murdoch University, La Trobe University, Deakin University at Waurn Ponds). These are campuses that are some distance from the CBD, with modern buildings and natural surrounds and even a modicum of wildlife. The combination really does provide a sense of being a sheltered workshop for the intellectually able, but maybe that's just what researchers need. The active participation of academia in society is certainly necessary, even if it is a thorn in the side of politicians and their allies, but passive contemplation also requires the right environment as well.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/193639.html.
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HPC Training in Sydney, Other Activities and LJ/DW Suggestions

In what has become almost routine, I spent a couple of days in Melbourne for the weekend and then left for Sydney to run another round of HPC training at the University of Sydney and the Westmead Millennium Institute. There were some researchers from the latter group who particularly switched on, along with some senior members of the institute in attenence. Overall the classes went very well with the opportunity to add in some new content, especially with a greater variety of options for PBS job arrays. Further HPC training in Sydney will happen next week, in part at Sydney University in part at Macquarie University's Institute for Health Innovation.

Whilst interstate wrote an review on the latest album from The Charlatans, which isn't great; it should be on The Dwarf soon. Today attended Daniel Jitnah's presentation on virtualisation at LUV, which provided a good (and critical) summary of some the major issues and a few biting remarks concerning the marketing of virtualisation, cloud, etc. Afterwards we went to dinner with Brendan E. and parents at the ever-reliable Punjabi Cafe; good food and conversation. It was the second weekend in succession that we've visited Brendan; last weekend he entertained with the delightfully violent John Wick and the Battle of the Five Armies/.

The Isocracy Network has a new article from peristaltor entitled Whatever Happened to Henry George?, and I've recently had an email exchange with reporter Tom Elliot on a rather incorrect piece of his journalism, complaining how young people are socialists, which ipso facto means Stalinism. Whilst on the topic of LJ/DW I recently submitted a suggestion to both sites for an improvement; a "Current Reading" option to go with "Mood/Location/Music". How damned sensible would that be?

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/193291.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: Live in Athens, Archive
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Another CheeseQuest, Sydney and HPC Training

Arriving in Melbourne last Saturday managed to experience two days at home before flying out again to deliver more HPC training at the Univeristy of Sydney. Fortunately one of those two days was an allocated CheeseQuest day with hathhalla, ser_pounce, and of course, caseopaya, and it was the day of substitutes. Specifically, ser_pounce brought over Carré de l'Est (substitued with Epoisses), Caithness (Blarliath), Ilchester (Charnwood Applewood Smoked Cheddar), Dorset Blue Vinney (Shropshire Blue), and Fynbo (White Castello). Because it was Easter, I made another cheese from the famous skit, specifically Czechoslovakian sheep's milk cheese, or to be precise, sweet easter egg cheese (hrudka), as a desert. Plus we played a little Chez Cthulhu and watched some Moral Orel. To say the least is was a delightful and delectable day in very fine company.

The following day however it was back in the big silver bird, arriving once again at the functional, very inexpensive, and less than salubrious Macleay Lodge. It is a place that those with secular semi-Calvinist dispositions will love, and as a result I find myself quite comfortable there, and the more than an hour walk to and from the campus is probably doing me good (it certainly helps Ingress play). They were another good class, and I was particularly impressed by the contributions of one John Dodson who has been using UNIX since 1973. Off-campus, visited a seller of another swag of RPGs which I picked up on a bargain (with an appropriate excess luggage fee). But the real highlight of the visit was another dinner in Manly with the good Rev. Dr. Ian Ellis-Jones, a person who is certainly too critical of his own intellect and achievements, but wonderful company just the same. As often the case our conversations found there way around various topics of a trinity of politics, religion, and philosophy.

I now have a weekend, a day and a half of work at the office, and then off again for another three days of training. After that is another five days of training at Macquarie University and Sydney University again. After that I'll be up to the Gold Coast to present at the THETA conference. By that stage, from my quick reckoning, I would have spend ten of the last twelve weeks either overseas or interstate. To be frank it has reached the point of being a little exhausting, holiday time intermixed with the presentations and courses notwithstanding. Despite making some excellent contacts and opportunities through what must be said are very successful ventures, the "operations" side of my life is being neglected. I am rather hoping at some stage, perhaps in a month, just to spend a few days at home.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/193209.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
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Southland and Fiordland

Following caseopaya's suggestion we took the southern scenic route rather than cross-country across central Otago. It's a little longer, but a lot more impressive. The journey starts in Clutha country (which we call, unsurprisingly, Cthulhu country) and then into the Catlins, hugging the south coast of the South Island, an area especially rich in greenery (podocarps, rimu, kahikatea, silver beech, numerous ferns), and howling powerful winds at lookout points from the Southern Ocean.

Lunch was at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in Invercargill, my birth town. There is not too much to say about Invercargill; it has a few fine old buildings, wide streets, a Scottish heritage and accent, and superb gardens, but it's mainly a service town for surrounding farms. The museum is very good, the art gallery just terrible, but the main attraction is grumpy old Henry, the tuatara.

From Invercargill it was more southern coastline journeys with more wild lookouts until reaching Manapouri, the edge of Fiordland, for an overnight stay at the Lakeside Motor Lodge, which comes with just stunning views. After this it was a short journey to Te Anau downs (about 30km north of the main town) as a launching spot for Milford Sound ventures. We took several trips along the roadside of this world famous national park with its dense foilage and extraordinary mountains, including Lake Mistletoe, Lake Gunn, Mirror Lakes, and the numerous lookouts. We also took a cruise on Milford Sound, a place of astounding beauty, certainly one of the best in the world. We spotted numerous fur seals and bottle-nosed dolphins and I managed to get absolutely drenched whilst assisting the ship collecting water from one of the more prominent waterfalls that come off the cliffs.

I leave it to Douglas Adams to explain:


Fiordland, a vast tract of mountainous terrain that occupies the south-west corner of South Island, New Zealand, is one of the most astounding pieces of land anywhere on God's earth, and one's first impulse, standing on a cliff top surveying it all, is simply to burst into spontaneous applause.

- Douglas Adams, Last Chance to See

After a couple of days there, we left for Queenstown, having an afternoon at nearby Arrowtown and catching Peter Caulton playing at the local park. Our journey finished with a tour of the impressive Kiwi Birdlife Park, home of some of the rarest birds in the world (although I take issue with their claim that the tuatara is a dinosaur).

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/192811.html.
  • Current Location: Queenstown, New Zealand
  • Current Mood: content
  • Current Music: Hard Road Tough Country, Peter Caulton
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More Dunedin and Otago University

On Sunday visited the Dunedin Art Gallery, which had a pretty average "Private Utopia" collection on display from the British Council, which did however include one amusing piece, a short film, "Human Report" (2008) by Marcus Coates, a pseudo-documentary of human beings by a sapient booby set in the Galapolas. Also of interest from the main 'Belonging' display was Charles Monet's, La Debacle (1880) which I connected with Emile Zola's novel of the Franco-Prussian War of the same name which included a scene reminiscent like the painting. Surely I am not the first to notice this? After the gallery made our way to the impressive Dunedin museum; their shipping, Maori and islander, and wildlife dispalys are particularly good.

The following day made our way to our secret South Pacific baseRavensbourne property and met one of the new tenants, who dutifully informed us that the main hall is now a regular practise haunt for various musicians on the Flying Nun label. As rocknerds we couldn't ask for better visitors; plus the tenants are keeping the place in very good condition, which is obviously pleasing. With some time to spare went down to Port Chalmers for viewing of their great little maritime museum before returning to the main city for lunch with our Ravensbourne neighbours, Heather and Mark (who keep an eagle eye on our property).

At this juncture, caseopaya and I went on our separate ways for a while. I had some enrolment issues to sort out at the University (when you have multiple birth certificates with different names etc this sort of thing happens), followed by a visit with Professor Kwok-Wing Lai the Director of the Centre for Distance Education and Learning Technologies to discuss my thesis, and then a catch up with David Eyres and Jim Cheetham where we discussed a variety of matters technological and the limits of human rationality. Meeting up with caseopaya again, we had a quiet night in as we prepared for the next leg of our journey into Southland and Fiordland.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/192516.html.