Standard

A Week of Food, Languages, and Gaming

It has been quite a culinary week. Sunday night was a dinner at The Melba for Rodney B's, sixtieth birthday, an evening of fine food, excellent conversation (I introduced a young linguist to the joys of Esperanto), and the surprise of discovering that Nick Cave was on the table next to us. I resisted the urge to interrupt what appeared to be his family dinner. The following night had dinner and drinks with txxxpxx and Tony at Loi Loi as txxxpxx prepares for her big journey to North America. I found a particular highlight of the evening was swapping stories about various visits to Timor-Leste (which continues to have insanely bad governance issues). In addition we're hosting a Cheesequest tomorrow and the RPG Review AGM BBQ on Sunday; I've been preparing a mountain of food for both those events.

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

There has been a bit of gaming activities this week as well. Apart from running an good session of Eclipse Phase last Sunday (a modified version of Glory, that made the sexual elements more blunt), and completing a review of Eclipse Phase: Gatecrashing and working on the finishing touches of the next "Transhuman" issue of RPG Review, I have also submitted a backlog of reviews from said publication to RPG.net, which I should have done some weeks ago. Wednesday night was another session of Papers & Paychecks; the committee seems to be firming on a decision on who to go for printing this publication (ePlot have been very helpful), and the money for the Kickstarter has been mostly received (postage still pending). Taking the approach of "more haste, less speed" some good progress has been made in getting this and the companion volume out by the end of February, perhaps March at the latest.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/225038.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: calm
  • Current Music: Prayers on Fire, The Birthday Party
Tags: , ,
Standard

The New Year Begins

New Year's Eve was spent at two gatherings; one hosted by Anthony L., which has a solid gathering of aging radicals, aesthetes, academics, and even diplomats. The second was hosted by sebastienne, and included the goth, punk, metal, and geek set. Both were great nights, although I suspect the latter would have been more in tune with my review on Rocknerd of Mogwai's Central Belters which was completed that day. As the fireworks went off saithkar made comment about their expense and aesthetic nothingness, which led to me bring enlighten all with the use of dead children as a unit of currency (this will be my reading for tomorrow's Unitarian Poetry Service). A recent production of a pair of pistols valued at 4.5 million USD is another case in point; that's a lot of Dead Children.

The new year has already been busy enough in work, extra-curricular, and social activities. In the former, have started providing summaries of the European tour, and have put in a submission for a BoF with the University of Freiburg for cloud/HPC hybrids at the International Supercomputing Conference. Have recently fought some particular annoying R libraries (one lacking in complete dependency listing). Fortunately a discussion came up on the EasyBuild mailing list just at the right time, leading me to 'blog Installing R with EasyBuild: Which path to insanity?.

Apart from the aforementioned NYE gatherings, also took the opportunity to visit Brendan E., on new year's day, who treated us to viewings of Marauders and Tripping The Rift. The former was a good example of some serious violence and conspiracy, but alas ended up being a little too prosaic and simple on the latter. The latter is an adult-themed sf comedy cartoon, which does make modest use of genre-referential humour. In more film-related activity went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, with funontheupfield. It was feel-good film in the Potter-genre, and obviously well-designed for a 3-D version. I confess to being surprised at the massive all-ages turnout, having never delved deeply into Potterdom.

The new year has also seen a little bit of a flurry of activity on the political scene as well. Last night had dinner with members of the Labor Party and the Greens who are sensible enough to see that they have a common conservative enemy that is more important than any difference they may have between them. Because I am sufficiently non-partisan will be doing the same with a member of the Liberal Party early next week. The Isocracy Network 'blogs have had a few entries this year already, including one by myself on the impeachment proceedings of the South Korean President.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/224851.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: busy
  • Current Music: Central Belters, Mogwai
Tags: , ,
Standard

2016 In Memoriam, 2017 Praedictio

As I have done for several years now, at the end of year or beginning of the new year I've done a retrospective over the past year and sometimes even a half-baked plan of what the coming year might bring. Many people probably do the same with the arbitrary time-stamp that is the European new year, although most probably do it in their head rather than in a written form. There are good arguments against writing, but I find there are better (if different) argument for having the ability to refer to the past and organise one's thoughts in planning for the future.

Work, Linux, Politics, Gaming, Philosophy, Languages, Academia, Music, Film, PersonalCollapse )

In summary, 2016 was a good year for me with many improvements in my life and very few things that went terribly wrong. A couple of major projects are incomplete, but far outweighed by a multitude of others, small and large, that have been completed. It was an extraordinarily productive year, probably the most productive I've ever had and almost the most interesting (2003 in Timor-Leste is always going to be a hard bar to beat in that regard). Could 2017 be even more productive? Well, yes, if I am more selective about where I direct my efforts.

Excelsior! Labor omnia vincit!

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/224026.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: content
  • Current Music: What Does Anything Mean? Basically, The Chameleons
Standard

Perth and Returns, Deliberations, Celebrity Deaths

Family dinner for Christmas was at Falcon which comes with some beautiful views of the Indian Ocean. In the gift-giving ritual I received Letters of Note, which I devoured within a day. Many of the letters are insightful and important; others are a little different. Following day had a long lunch with [personal profile] delicious_irony and Bruce T at The Dome and collected under a third of the MARS library for shipping back to Melbourne the following day. Thus ended the flying visit to Perth; caseopaya's mother continues to defy medical expectations, managed to catch up with over fifty people from friends and family, and sorted through the bones of an old SF club. On the return to Melbourne two significant events has been collecting the cat from kitty prison and saving some myna hatchlings that had been blown out of their nest. Yesterday, caught up with taavi at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Because I am on a genuine holiday this week, with absolutely nothing that I have to do, I have found myself a pottering about and chipping at a few items on moderately long to-do list. Following a couple of recent weird Internet discussions I've found myself considering deeply the notion of political deliberation. The result is a long essay: Deliberative Isocracy : The Antidote to 'Fake News', which looks at the scope of democratic systems versus liberal rights, the concept of deliberation, and how to really put 'fake news' and its distorting influence in representative democracy to an end. I pride myself on starting with facts then forming an opinion; I have a tragic fascination with those who cannot or will not shift an opinion even when the facts are clearly opposite.

As 2016 comes to a close there has been an apparent spate of celebrite deaths; I never particularly cared for the music of George Michael, although his philanthropy seems agreeable. SciFi fans are of course distressed by the death of Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher and doubly so with her mother, Debbie Reynolds, dying the following day. I noted the passing of Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, due to anthropomorphic affections. Somewhat overlooked however is Vera Rubin which leads to an interesting illustration between scientific endeavours and popular culture. The passing on of celebrities of the latter is more recognised; they touch a wider-range of people on an accessible level. The scientist does deeper work which arguably is more important, but is sufficiently esoteric that fewer people find that they have an immediate connection with it. As for the regulator and founder of moral laws? Well, apparently in a very few cases they become elevated to holiness.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/223776.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: thoughtful
  • Current Music: Forever Delayed, Manic Street Preachers
Standard

Funerals, Parties, and Resurrections

Arrived in Perth for a flying festive season visit with caseopaya with Perth's temperatures soaring as is increasingly often the case to 42 degrees C. On arrival found out that there was a funeral service to attend for one Alf Graf, a hydralics engineer. I never knew him, but was a friend of caseopaya's family. One could not help but be impressed by the genuine sense of loss among those assembled. He was clearly a person of importance to his family and friends with almost three hundred in attendance with the obituaries mentioning in particular his good humour and generosity.

Yesterday was two big social events just in time for the summer solstice. Lunch was at Ruocco's Pizzeria E Ristorante in Fremantle with several lovely friends, including the ever-animated Grant Stone, Andrei Nikulinsky and stephen_dedman. Dinner, with about twice as many visitors, was at Amore Mio (FB) in Maylands with darklion, [personal profile] ariaflame, strangedave, and thefon in attendance among others. Both events were indeed notable for the fine food and great conversation over a range of topics.

Following morning we were at thefon's place trawling through the records of the Murdoch Alternative Reality Society, a club I formed in 1988. From what I can tell it operated until 2009, just making it into its 21st year but alas could not be revived from there. As well as the records there was also a substantial library, much of it science fiction and fantasy books which are not really worth shipping back to Melbourne. The roleplaying games however are, and a good portion of them will be merged into a semi-successor organisation, the RPG Review Cooperative. On that note, the next issue of RPG Review is going along very well, and as many would have already noticed, we easily made our Kickstarter for Papers & Paychecks. A very good way to end the year.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/223659.html.
Standard

Kickstarter, Anniversary, and Perth

What an extraordinary past few days. The first big surprise was the pleasant discover that Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing had given our Kickstarter a plug. The next couple of days our pledges tripled, leading to Kickstarter to reach its target with five days to spare. I was getting worried that nobody among the bigger geekdom media was going to pick up on our little joke, but Cory came to the party. A wonderful result, and now we have the problem of deciding how big our print run really should be - I am probably going to recommend to the committee that we go for caution.

The second event was the sixth wedding anniversary for caseopaya. As this is traditionally an "iron" gifting anniversary you can guess what I bought her; the imagur photo story reveals all. Afterwards we went to visit our friend Lyle, who is recovering (very well) from having a stroke. On our return we watched A Very Long Engagement, which is very much in the French realist tradition - sensual, sad, violent, dramatic, amusing - all mixed together. Quite a brilliant film.

Today was my last day of work for the year, and what a great year its been. It was wrapped up with a ResPlat function at the Princess Park Bowls club. Tomorrow morning we head to Perth for familial duties - for friends we've organised a lunch and dinner both on the 23rd of December (solstice feast!) Ruoccos in Fremantle and Amore Mio in Maylands; looks like it will quite an Italian food day.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/223395.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: accomplished
Standard

Secularism Plus, Syria, and more.

Today was a policy meeting for the Victorian Secular Lobby with a presentation on Section 116 of the Australian Constitution by saithkar. Not a heavily attended meeting but with a remarkable and genuine set of apologies which were graciously accepted. Secularism is, of course, one of my great loves - to develop public policy without a deliberate and willful non-consideration of metaphysical claims or applying special cases to religious institutions. Historically of course it has focussed on the separation of religious policy from public policy, and indeed there is plenty of work to be done there. But increasingly I am of the opinion that secularism should also mean use evidence-based research.

Case in point is this continuing conflict in Syria, which illustrates that secularism is necessary but not sufficient for a free and democratic society. The Baathist regime is more-or-less secular and even sometimes slips into fundamentalist atheism. When it comes to being responsible for causing the war crimes associated with civilian deaths, it is the secular fascists rather than the religious fascists (ISIL, Army of Conquest etc) that carry the overwhelming majority of the blame. Still, it should be clear by now that Russia and Syria are utterly indfferent to such things; they and their supporters have also been very indifferent to having a degree of veracity with two of their major public proponents, Bashar Jaafari lying to the UN, along with Lady Haw-Haw Eva Bartlett on war victims being "recycled". So whilst the Assadists are cheering on the carnage, Amnesty International has opened up for donations.

Other events of the week; Linux Users of Victoria on today with a report from the Internet Governance Forum, playtest sessions of Papers and Paycheckes on Wednesday night and Eclipse Phase on Friday night, along with sending interview questions to Rob Boyle for the next issue of RPG Review. Was supposed to go to txxxpxx's gala event tonight (and even made one of my amazing tiramisu for said occasion, but caseopaya has fallen ill, so we'll be missing that. In the work space, big events of the week included finally getting Gaussian and Julia installed, albeit the latter in not in the manner I would prefer. The great success (perhaps too successful) of Spartan apparently is reaching the ears of upper management who are open to the prospect of expansion - which would make sense for one of the world's top ranking universities (as they constantly remind us). Let us see what 2017 brings.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/223203.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
Tags: ,
Standard

Of Roleplaying Games

It is true that I have several major interests in my life, external to hearth and mind. There is a professional dedication to provide researchers the skills to use free and open source computional tools. There is a political side dedicated to the practical implementation of personal liberty and social democracy, and the continuum that is between. There a long-standing interest in philosophy which, despite its innate propensity of some of its adherents to lead to unverifiable metaphysical presumptions and scholasticism, is at its heart the most important and most difficult field of inquiry. My other academic pursuits betray interests in organisational structure, strategy, and management, the effectis of normative systems on positive economics, and of course advanced adult and tertiary education. Aesthetically, I am known to have a some love of high art, yet also with deeply ingrained rocknerd sensibilities.

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

In any case this was a roleplaying weekend, starting no less with an interview with Dan Davenport from RPG.net on IRC over the upcoming Papers and Paychecks. Best line of endorsement that came from the interview: "I have to say, this game has some solid mechanics for a game based on a joke". After that I finished my interviews for the Alternity Player's Handbook and Gamemaster's Guide, and did a write-up of the last episode of our Eclipse Phase. The following day it was writing a review of the old TSR game Gangbusters (which took a lot less time), and putting it altogether to be released as RPG Review 32 which includes - no less - an interview with the author of BECMI D&D, Frank Mentzer. That afternoon was our session of Eclipe Phase using the new playtester rules which have some nice features (but that's all I can say at this stage, because I'm under a NDA). Of course, this wan't all I did over the weekend - but because things have been a bit RPG-heavy of late, I have felt the need to justify this idle pursuit within myslf.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/222746.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: With Us Until You're Dead, Archive
Standard

Papers & Paychecks etc, Work and LUV, Trifids etc.

The Papers & Paychecks Kickstarter continues to go quite well, albeit at nail-biting crawl towards the final day. It certainly has been a learning experience of crowd-funding. Even if you're not a gamer it's well-worth putting $10 in for a couple of PDFs if you enjoy my writing and want an amusing exploration of contemporary workplaces. In other gaming news I was lucky enough to pick up at a fair price a second edition of Skyrealms of Jorune, a truly beautiful boxed set and exotic setting. Wednesday night was a session of Laundry Files in which the intrepid investigators explored the horrors of cultists on The Plateau of Leng. Finally the final touches are being put in RPG Review issue 32 and it certainly will by this weekend.

Whilst many workplaces wind down I find that there is ample at mine to keep myself more than busy. One major event was the end of the Moab license for the Edward HPC system. Although it is still running (and therefore not dead), it is retired. Thus ends five years of faithful service by friend computer, even with its aged storage, and crufty DNS issues. One last component which requires replacement is one of my least favourite pieces of software, Gaussian. Much of this week has been spent trying to get all the dependencies together for it. Today was the end of year work lunch at Le Bon Ton, which doesn't really live up to its name as such, but does provide quite an extensive carnivorous menu.

On a related subject the December meeting of Linux Users of Victoria was very eventful; after twenty-three years as an independent organisation the meeting unanimously voted to disincorporate and become a subcommittee of Linux Australia, a suggestion I made three years ago, when I was president. After the vote I gave a talk on HPC systems in Europe: A Selection. In part was an overview of why Linux is so dominant in supercomputing, in part a review of several different big European systems, but really the conclusion is that Australia lags terribly in this field - and with inevitable results in terms of manufacturing and science.

After the concert caseopaya went out to see The Triffids at The Corner Hotel. For once the sound in the venue was excellent, the temperature right, and the band (and guests) put on a thoroughly pleasing show for the evening. But of course, that's the thing about The Triffids, they were enormously popular for all the right reasons. They could pitch, in an Australia-indie style, typical emotional issues (e.g., 'Bury Me Deep in Love', 'Trick of the Light', 'Wide Open Road'), and they do in a manner that is well-constructed and with great acumen. I have enjoyed their concerts in the past but was indifferent to this one. They don't really provide anything challenging either musically or lyrically. They're just downright nice and pleasant - and usually I want something a little more raw and experimental.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/222522.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: Born Sandy Devotional, The Triffids
Standard

A Full Weekend

Two major events on Saturday and three on Sunday make for a pretty full weekend. It started with visting hathhalla and ser_pounce for another cheesequest session (Pont-l'Évêque was a personal favourite) followed by a chapter of Mice and Mystics, which we finished quickly and successfully through some particularly hardline decision making and some lucky cards that provides a delightful emergent narrative. Post-cheesequest we went out to The Astor to see the double of Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy; and ran into justadecoy, whom I hadn't seen for a couple of years. The latter film is, of course, charming and I've managed to see it three times now in recent months. The former I think will be lasting because in additional to some good character development it made excellent use of special effects and colours in a manner that was both artistic and clever in its simplicity.

Sunday started relatively early with a trip to the Unitarian Church, where Dr. Hans Baer was speaking on the recent US elections; it was entertaining enough even if I found myself mostly in disagreement with his strategic considerations, not to mention the only fleeting reference to religious content. Afterwards was a meeting of The Philosophy Forum, where Graeme Lindenmayer speaking on What is Life? What is a Life?, a primarily descriptive presentation but which drew light to some interesting edge cases where the binary between living and not-living becomes a little murky. Afterwards it was a journey to our Sunday session of GURPS Middle Earth which included revived discussion of the geopolitical situation and settlements, before narrowing down to the immediate scenario. Afterwards was a committee meeting for the RPG Review Cooperative which concentrated on the Papers & Paychecks Kickstarter, which remains frustratingly close to succeeding (go support this, now, please).

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/222364.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: busy