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The End is Nigh

The end of the year is approaching and I find myself dearly wishing there was about another month so I would have a chance of completing the somewhat optimistic set of tasks that I manage to set myself each year. Of course, in such circumstances where I think many are finding themselves winding down, my psychology directs me to redouble my efforts. This can lead to some interesting conflicts as all sorts of social events are called around this time. Most prominent this past week was an extended lunch (approximately six hours) at Rosetta hosted by some representatives of SanDisk and HGST for a few of us (which couldn't have been cheap), and the day prior the Puppet Camp, the highlight of which was spending the day with former co-worker, Dylan G. He wins the prize for worst pun of the day when I wryly mentioned it wasn't much of a camp. "Oh yes, it is. Everything is intense", he quipped. Somehow among all this I've managed to finish my part of a co-authored paper with the good folk at the University of Freiburg HPC centre, in preparation for the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt next year.

Another activity over the past day has been getting the final touches of RPG Review issue 32 together, now that Frank Menzter's interview has been received. I am hoping to have it released before the weekend is out. The issue is heavily biased towards the various games and material relevant to TSR, which really founded the RPG hobby in their own right. At the same time, we're now into the final three weeks of the Papers and Paychecks Kickstarter which I am still optimistic can make it over the line before the due date at Christmas evening. Currently playing Eclipse Phase with our usual international group which mostly plays via Google Hangouts; we've been making our way through a playtest of some new experimental rules for the game, which we I will also test out with our Sunday group as well. Speaking of which it's also been confirmed that the next issue of RPG Review will feature Rob Boyle, designer of Eclipse Phase as the main subject for our upcoming Transhumanist issue, which is due by the end of the year. Certainly Eclipse Phase has bee the most significant RPG I've been involved in for a couple of years now; the exploration of plausible and dangerous post-human future with genuinely alien contact is far superior to much of what passes as science fiction film.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/222122.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: determined
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Isocracy AGM, Training and Publications, RPG Review Cooperative.. and more!

It's been quite a productive week (yes, this is coming from me). On Saturday was the Linux Users of Victoria beginners meeting concentrating on website development for the organisation, followed by the Isocracy Annual General meeting with Hans Baer speaking on democratic eco-socialism. We had to shift the AGM to the restaurant across the road as the New International Bookshop had forgotten about our booking. They're a bit genuinely embarrassed about it (which they should be) and are making appropriate amends. Tonight will be visiting prolific and sardonic political blogger, Richard O'Brien, who has recently announced his anti-One Nation Senate campaign. Also on the political agenda is the next meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby, which will feature association secretary, saithkar, speaking on Section 116 of the Australian Constitution (along with a general policy discussion).

Work-wise Monday and Wednesday were almost entirely taken up conducting training courses; Edward to Spartan Transition and Advanced Linux and Scripting respectively, both of which went very well as reflected by the feedback. On Monday also submitted an abstract for THETA 2017 concentrating equally on the design orientation and teaching of HPC for Spartan. Part of Friday was taking up co-authoring a paper with the good folk from the University of Freiburg for the International Supercomputing Conference. The rest of the day was negotiating user requirements for some large bioinformatics programmes (including Steminformatics and physicists (specificaly, the Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics). Also discovered this week that a book which I contributed to has just been released: The Crossroads of Cloud and HPC.

There's been many activities on the gaming front as well; with a session of GURPS Middle Earth on Sunday, and Laundry Files Australia on Wednesday. A big promotional push has been been initiated for the Papers & Paychecks Kickstarter - we need roughly a $100 per day for the next month to make the target and have been pushing out the personal emails requests quite heavily. In addition, the MARS library has been moved to a members house leaving us with the problem of how to shift it to Melbourne. It's a lot bigger than I remember it. In a related matter to genre-fiction last night we went out with hathhalla and ser_pounce to see Hentai Kamen 2. The film suffers significantly in narrative development (something that the original did well) and with incomplete character development, making is sequence of scenes which are individually amusing; the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/221916.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Music: Departure Songs, We Lost The Sea
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Associations: RPG Review Cooperative, Isocracy

Interesting week so far from the RPG Review Cooperative perspective. On Wednesday finally received the great news that the old MARS library will be making its way to the Cooperative, which is a big bonus. That evening we went to our advertised movie night at The Astor, Shin Godzilla, the newest of the classic series. Included a lot of clever digs with a straight face at Japanese culture, raised issues Japanese political issues, of US-Japanese relations, environmental concerns, and even a somewhat plausible monster. The following night held another hilarious playtest session of Papers and Paychecks as the media team has to engage in some thoroughly loathsome projects for a loathsome boss. Tonight we're playing Eclipse Phase through our usual multinational group with the new playtest rules.

Have just finished, as promised in the last post, of my quantitative and qualitative review of the US election. The data simply does not lie, and it is actually good to see that analysts are coming to realise that the problem wasn't the identity-based swing states which everyone was paying attention to, but rather the Rust Belt wall which should have protected the Democratic nominee. Some of this will provide content to tomorrow's Isocracy Annual General Meeting which has Dr. Hans Baer, from the Development Studies Program, School of Social and Political Sciences, at the University of Melbourne talking on the possibility of union of socialist and environmentalist politics. Ultimately if these two approaches (along with traditional liberalism) are not reconciled then it is probably that conservative populism will continue its current streak of victories, despite the damaging effects.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/221557.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: busy
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US Election, Isocracy, Work and Home

In the global village, the local council election of the United States of America is certainly the most important. Like many others I was rather surprised (and quite horrified) by the election of Donald Trump this week. The psephologists were universally wrong. But at least they're doing the right thing and working out why. There has been a lot of silly opinion pieces trying to justify why the result occured, but the pre-election claims of Michael Moore turned out to be most prescient, not only for guessing that Trump would win but where he would win; namely by a failure to inspire the working-class states of the Great Lakes - that is really the only reason that Clinton lost; Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Unsurprisingly, I am currently in the midst of an article for the Isocracy Network on the election results with a few prescriptive solutions, the most obvious being don't ignore the working class. It also serves as a good focus for the Isocracy AGM (FB link) next Saturday at Trades Hall with Dr. Hans Baer speaking on the relationship between enviromentalism and socialism. This is certainly an issue which has relevance for the occasionally strained relationship here between the Australian Labor Party and the Greens. Similar lessons can be learned in this context; the importance of the environment may be paramount, but the protection of the enviroment will only occur with the support of the working class.

Speaking of work, in my fairly-well paid technocratic role it has been a very demanding week having returned from overseas. I fielded what I could what on the other side of the world, but the bulk of the effort was carried by NinjaDan who is really feeling the weight of what has been an increasingly quantity of technical requests, and certainly far beyond the capacity of 1 EFT looking after two HPC systems. In other work-related news caseopaya has received a new job offer with a good pay rise and engaged in the delightful act of handing a resignation letter to a firm which won the Golden Turd for poor work conditions.

In home life we still have the delightful Jane keeping us company at least for a few more days. There's big hole in the ceiling of our dining-room due to the effects of the water pipe issues from before we left for overseas and one in the back of the wardrobe in our attic bedroom which probably leads to Naria or somesuch. The Owners Corporation is currently having a debate on whether to keep the Courtesy Bus or not, which led me to make a post on the appropriate closed group on Facebook where I illustrated some of the unspoken costs of getting rid of it; it seems that most people who engaged in that discussion are also supportive in retaining the service. Finally, last night went to visit Brendan who has been having his usual unluck with housemates. It was good to catch up as always, and we laughed ourselves through the quite moving NZ film Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which of course reminded me that I need to visit the home country again.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/221437.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: sleepy
  • Current Music: The Essential, Leonard Cohen
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Return to Australia

Have just arrived back in Australia after a lengthy plane journey from Barcelona which included a thirteen-hour stop over in Dohar. Absolutely exhausted as a result, which is hardly surprising at all. Air Qatar, it must be said, is a really good airline serving quality food and offering a wide range of in-flight entertainment (although the user interface of their system could be improved a little). Highlight of the journey however is the particularly low flights on the Barcelona to Dohar leg of the journey over Egypt and Saudi Arabia which included a spectacular viewing the pyramids by night.

The last days in Barcelona were simply great. Spent a good period visiting the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre which is quite rightly described as hosting the most beautiful supercomputer in the world - the MareNostrum system is hosted in an former old church. Members of the center took us out for a great lunch where we covered various issues of systems architecture and planning.

For the remainder of the visit we spent a lot of time around the gardens of the Parc de Montjuïc, and the overwhelming Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. Whilst the former was peaceful, beautiful, and even romantic, the latter is an overwhelming collection of Romanesque, medieval, gothic, renaissance, and modern artworks - including the usual suspects of course, but also with a moving collection of material from the Spanish Civil War. It is an event that clearly still hangs heavy in the hearts of the Catalan people, and it was perhaps unsurprising that the final day in the city I spent visiting various anarcho-syndicalist bookstores and the CGT industrial union.

Thus ends my first ever tour of the European peninsula, and one which I think in hindsight I managed to do quite well if only for a one-month visit. Four countries, six HPC centre visits and presentations (including CERN and two other national facilities), one library research visit, one social science research institute visit, one week-long conference, a dizzying array of museums, art galleries, cathedrals, a couple of concerts, and I even managed to make myself understood - if poorly - in several different languages. I can certainly imagine making this a regular feature of my life.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/221051.html.
  • Current Location: WIllsmere
  • Current Mood: exhausted
  • Current Music: Black Star, David Bowie
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Europe Journey VII: Barcelona, the Second Part

Last day of the OpenStack Summit was mainly workshops for developers, so took the opportunity to join the Spousetivities group to their visit to the Roman circus at Tarragona, then to the medieval town of Montblanc with an extensive lunch at Fond dels Angels, and finally a visit to the serene Cistercian Poblet Monastery.

Leaving our ocean-facing high-rise views for the conference, we've moved downtown to a location just as high but more real, on the Gran Via des Corts Catalanes. Here we rub shoulders with the local population, buy produce from their stores, eat at their small restaurants, and drink at their (many) small bars. Fortunately the staff have much better English (in the most part) than I have Castilian (let alone Catalan). The general town planning seems very intelligent, combining medium-high density, but with plenty of greenery to provide a pleasant atmosphere, and small parks to encourage community interaction. It was quite charming to see the number of local children frocked up for Halloween.

Tourist-like activities however have been prominent with a weekend and a public-holiday intervening to the normal schedule. This includes a visit to the Science Musuem with a special exhibition on the Spinosaurus. In what could be a religious experience, visited no less than three different gothic cathedrals on Sunday, including the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, Catedral de Barcelona, and Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi, then had lunch at the Plaça de George Orwell before visiting the excellent Parc Zoològic de Barcelona, where their kids petting zoo had a range of critters on display including Siberian filigree hamsters. Today, took the tourist bus around the city after a lengthy visit to Gaudí's (et al) masterpiece work, Basílica de la Sagrada Familia, perhaps the most extraordinary building I have ever been in - yet, but a candle to the light that is Milford Sound.

In other aesthetic activities the first week of the Papers and Paychecks Kickstarter has reached its end with approximately 19% funded. I was hoping for more by this stage, but it is good enough. However, in order for the project to succeed it must reach the minimum level to pay for printing costs etc. On other aesthetic tangents as promised I have just put up my review of 65daysofstatic in Barcelona on Rocknerd. Finally, if language can be described as a type of aesthetics (it's symbolic values, right?), last night after a Herculean effort, completed the Spanish tree on Duolingo - which is on top of Esperanto, French, and German for this year. As evidence that I may not be entirely sane and may be going native I have started Catalan for Spanish speakers.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/220874.html.
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Europe Journey VI: 65dos, Papers and Paychecks, OpenStack Summit

First week in Barcelona has reached its conclusion. On Monday night went to see 65daysofstatic at Razzmatazz. It was primarily material from their soundtrack to No Man's Sky, which I have previously reviewed on Rocknerd, but with some welcome elaborations, additions, and other material (including, for example, 'I Swallowed Hard Like I Understood' and 'Retreat! Retreat!' from The Fall of Math). The concert wasn't particularly huge, only around five hundred people or so, but 65dos put on a great show, and the live performance of the No Man's Sky soundtrack was given a new, raw, and abrasive sound from the album version. Plus the band was kind enough to chat to audience members afterwards. [dreamwidth.org profile] reddragdiva will be pleased to know that a review is pending.

I have started a Kickstarter for a new roleplaying game based on Will McLean's classic cartoon, Papers & Paychecks. The product is entirely for the RPG Review Cooperative, Inc., and nobody but the Cooperative will be receiving anything from this (well, apart from Australia Post and the printing company). It has been deliberatly launched one year after the author of the original cartoon passed away and personally I think it is a bit of a testimony to the many people who found it to a very witty contribution. The Kickstarter is going fairly well so far and I've set pretty modest targets, but I've had much less opportunity to engage in promotion that what I would like. As my first Kickstarter I would like to encourage people to take the opportunity to back this resistentialist and funny game which uses a lot of classic RPG concepts but with several new twists.

The official reason I am over here has been of course the OpenStack Summit. This is, of course, a huge deal with several thousand IT developers visiting and a huge stream of talks. OpenStack has, of course, taking a lot of the server world infrastructure by storm, although it has been less exciting in the world of traditional high performance computing. I managed to get to see several talks a day before ours which was was one of the last talks before the developer's workshops. To be honest, our talk Spartan Performance and Flexibility: An HPC-Cloud Chimera received a better response that any of the others I saw at the conference. The first question from the audience was Why isn't everyone doing this?, and it just got better from their with several major players expressing great interest in our combination of traditional HPC and cloud technologies. We all left that feeling pretty happy with the results, and certainly the University of Melbourne should as well. Next time I think we must bring NinjaDan along as well, because he certainly has been a key player in Spartan's development.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/220439.html.
  • Current Mood: tired
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European Journey V (Montpellier/Barcelona)

Leaving Geneva we took the train to our next leg of the journey, Montpellier. I readily admit that it never has been a location that I had paid tremendous attention to, but now I've discovered the error of my ways. With over half a million inhabitants, approximately a third are students attending one of the three higher education institutions in the city. The main purpose of my visit was to visit CINES (Centre Informatique National de l’Enseignement Supérieur), one of the three major peak computational facilities for France, where several of their staff meet with me to discuss and compare various computational architectures and strategies. In evening we made our way to Ecusson, the historic old town of the city, a delightful maze of narrow streets, limestone buildings, and unexpected plazas, retail, and drinking establishments. I was particularly taken by the unexpected discovery of a busy plaza dedicated to Jean Jaurès, founder of the Section Française de l'Internationale Ouvrière, and overwhelmed by the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Montpellier.

The following day we took the train from Montpellier to Barcelona, making it the fourth country of visit in four days. To be honest by this stage I was getting quite tired of the ritual of waking early, journeying in the morning, visiting an HPC facility in the afternoon, and trying to get some sightseeing done in the evening. Most of the first day in Barcelona was coming to terms with the stunning ocean views from our apartment and - despite being a weekend - getting some more mundane work done. The following day however made our way to the Gothic Quarter, where we had lunch with Andrew S; I think the waiter was pleased by the fact that I ordered my meal at least in part with Catalan as well as Castilian. The desire for independence is strong in the city, and many buildings are adorned with the Estelada. We accidentally stumbled into a great local government exhibit of first president of the region, Josep Tarradellas, who spent most of his time in exile (Franco didn't particularly care for his politics), before making our wy to the the local section of the Barcelona City Museum, which of course, the underground Roman and Visigothic ruins were quite the highlight. Now getting ready to see 65dos at Razzmatazz - and debating whether to see The Chemical Brothers on Thursday night at the same venue.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/220214.html.
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European Journey IV (Switzerland/CERN)

Nearly every international trip has issues, and for us it was the journey from Freiburg to Geneva. The bus from Freiburg was about ninety minutes late (for a one hour trip). To make matters worse, at Basel discovered that our train tickets had been allocated for the day of purchase, rather than the booked day - a rather expensive problem which I am following up. The journey itself, via Basel and Neuchatel was pleasant enough, as we passed through semi-mountainous countryside with deciduous foliage and small towns. Despite these various problems and a few emails explaining our situation, we made it to Geneva unscathed and eventually made it through to CERN itself where were very well received by Gav and the compute team who gave us a tour of the facilities as well as presentations on the the subject - it even became an "official" CERN event. It was, of course, highly educational in the relatively simplified manner of how the particle physics experiments are conducted and unsurprisingly in the huge quantities of data used.

CERN itself is perhaps the single-most famous scientific institution in the world responsible for two massively important discoveries - W and Z (weak nuclear), antimatter and a Higgs boson. Crossing multiple countries (we walked across the Swiss-French border a few times), it has the feel of a cross between a postgraduate university campus and workshop. This may be obvious enough in terms of personnel (they circulate through international physicists at an notable rate) and the lack of business attire, but is was also particularly evident in resourcing. Expenditure is not on offices or furnishings, which mostly could have easily been cheap fashions from three decades old at least - but rather on the engineering and scientific equipment. Essentially it the world's most expensive "skunkworks" - and it works. Now let that be a message to those who disdain their scruffiness, irreverence, and informalities. Because at the same time, the same culture works with extreme precision, seriousness, and commitment.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/220121.html.
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European Journey III (Stuttgart and Freiburg)

Second day in Stuttgart involved a visit to the local university, where is the home of the High Performance Computing Centre, which includes a Department of Philosophy of Science and Technology of Computer Simulation. From the latter group I received a summary presentation of each of the research projects. From the main body, attended the large (sixty plus) advanced parallel programming class lead by Dr. Rolf Rabenseifner and a visit, of course, to the data centre. The HPCC is home of one of the most powerful (currently 9th) computer systems in the world; Hazel Hen, a Cray XC40-system - along with the remains of a Cray II. Afterwards took a two hour walk home which was mostly through dense urban forest, a surprisingly delightful detour courtesy of Google Maps recommended path. That evening took the family to Weinstube Froehlich an excellent traditional Swabian restaurant. The lovely Kinder had already received their special present - a couple of Australian Menagerie and all the supplements we could find.

From Stuttgart we caught the dawn bus service to Freiburg im Breisgau, a visit which, alas, all too brief for a single day. We stayed next to the Stadtgarten on the edge of the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität district and the old city. The (often reconstructed) medieval area does feature the extremely impressive Freiburg Minster, a massive high-gothic construction which was first built in the 1100s, then added to successively over the next four hundred years. The internals are quite a sight, almost enough to convert someone if only in recognition of the human effort and creativity involved. The main part of the day of course was a visit to the university HPC centre (consisting of a a tour of the facilities, a long discussion and comparison of differing architecture and management) was very valuable. It is interesting that they are also doing a cloud-HPC hybrid system, albeit with quite a different architecture - which can be summarised as the differences between a chimera and a cyborg. We have a multi-headed system, and they have cloud instances within their compute nodes. I am already seeing several papers coming out and much closer collaboration from these visits.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/219686.html.
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