Lev Lafayette's journal

Hospitalisations, New LUV Chapter, Gaming Updates
A number of friends have been in hospital recently. Most notably (from my perspective anyway) has been caseopaya, who had some minor surgery in the scheme of things, but with a longer recovery period. I've been out to see her every day except Saturday since admission, and as good as Cabrini can give, I think she's getting bored of the fairly pleasant view (wouldn't anyone?). I've also noticed that missmalice has also had some time under medical care recently, and finally two work-related friends had accidents whilst on a skiing trip in New Zealand. Let's hope that's the last of that little flurry of activity!

On Saturday most of the LUV committee took the journey down to the La Trobe Valley to host a Linux miniconference in Morwell, held at St. Mary's Anglican Church (thanks to the Rector, Archdeacon Heather Marten, for her support and assistance). My presentation was on Why Linux is the Future of Computing, looking at some of the major trends in software and hardware development, and expressing concerns of non-technical roadblocks. Many of the attendees were from the local U3A which has a Linux group, and they have formed the core of a new chapter for Linux Users of Victoria. Afterwards we had dinner at the local RSL which certainly provided good and plenty food, although I do find such places are little overwhelming culturally. Utterly exhausted in slept in until after midday the following day.

RPG Review Issue 22-23 is running a little late; last article coming in as interview with Tadashi Ehara, editor of the highly inspirational Different Worlds magazine. Looking for release early next week. In other gaming updates, on Thursday night the continuing Masks of Nyarlathotep game saw two investigators put out of action, one kidnapped by cultists to live out a life of servitude, and one driven indefinitely insane by being possessed by Nyarlathotep and deciding it would be far easier to obsessively care for homeless kittens in the back streets of Cairo. Finally, today played some GURPS Middle Earth which involved organising some negotiations between goblins and talking salmon whose conflict was affecting a local water supply (think The Hobbit or even Father Giles of Ham rather than Lord of the Rings).

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/179562.html.

Political Matters, Gaming etc., Work Matters
As the Ukrainian army moves on pro-Russian separatists, thought I would put finger to keyboard on the subject on an article for the Isocracy Network (reposted at talk_politics, where it received "highly recommended status". Apart from a concern for people who are on the receiving end of lead from both sides, I have an interest in how big powers claim the validity of territorial integrity and-or self-determination depending on their interests. Followed up shortly afterwards with the scandalous remarks by Israeli lawmaker recommending genocidal policy against Palestinians. Currently have been giving some thought about the relationship between a welfare system based on punishment, depression, anxiety, and inequality. Putting theory into some practice, attended a Kew ALP branch meeting on Tuesday night at our new location at the Kew library with most discussion concerning the upcoming state election.

More socially, on Thursday evening ran a side adventure of a tournament for Pendragon and threw yet another a moral challenge to the player characters; they are now faced with the realisation the the object of their all-hands rountable quest (the Holy Grail), will end the spread of the Wasteland, but will also end the Enchantment of Britain. Saturday night attended a housewarming party for _fustian and wildilocks in Elwood; a Victorian mansion that has been converted into apartments. Plenty of good conversation, especially around 1980s computer culture, of which a number of attendees could reminisce. On Sunday I had to step in as MC for Florence W., who was not feeling well at the Unitarian biannual concert, where we raised several hundred dollars for Save The Children. With a programme that went over two hours it was a little on the long side, but there was certainly a lot of talent present as well. Afterwards ran the second session of Werewolf:The Yugoslav Wars, centered around the discovery of relevant artifacts at Daorson, taken to the abstract brutalist Historical Museum (which, in the real world, has had some interesting financial problems).

Work has been keeping me extra busy at late. We're a ISO 9001:2008 quality assured certified company (which is good business practice, even if you don't seek certification) and last week we had a partial internal audit of our practices, an area which I am responsible for. Also, I am having to prepare for a presentation to OSIA this week on the history of the company plus presenting on why free software dominated scientific and high performance computing, promoting Liz B., seminar on Psychosis and Adolescent Brain Development, and a set of four HPC courses for early next month, plus running an internal course session for those less than familiar with the HPC side of things. In addition to all this, there has been some changes of roles in the advanced computing team and the addition of a new staff member to lead project management. I'm hoping that all this will further improve the organisation.

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Linux, Gaming and Birthdays, Unitarians
Last Tuesday night gave a presentation at Linux Users of Victoria on The Innovation Patent Review and Free Software. The recent recommendation that "no method, process or system shall be patentable" in innovation patents needs to be implemented by parliament and extended to cover standard patents as well. LUV's planned miniconference and installfest in the La Trobe Valley is going well too, with good expressions of interest by locals and support from Linux Australia. Tuesday was also the day of running the one-day course in Octave and R; the feedback is good, but I feel particularly exhausted after this one as their is so much material. I am considering redesigning it for a more efficient presentation.

Masks of Nyarlathotep was cancelled on Thursday night, so we played Chez Cthulhu and Trailer Park Gods, which were appropriate lightweight alternatives. Sunday was GURPS Middle Earth where we made it through the first dungeon crawl of the campaign (an old Dwarven barrow). In the online HeroQuest Glorantha game, I've pushed the narrative with (entirely safe-for-work) a trollkin orgy. The only other major social activity of the week was Julie A's fortieth birthday drinks which was a pleasurable gathering. I think I've known Julie for about twenty five years or thereabouts?

On Sunday gave the address at the Melbourne Unitarian Church on Small Gods on the Pale Blue Dot which combined both the perspectives of Terry Pratchett and Carl Sagan, especially the themes of religious sincerity, reverence, and literal perspective. It was a very well-attended meeting, that followed up with a great roundtable discussion at The Philosophy Forum on Language and Meaning (notes pending), which covered different types of communication, the continuum of language within and between species, and an interesting (and unexpected) interest in extreme rhetoric and deceptive uses of language.

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Community Spirit, Occassional Encounters
As I am often reminded by caseopaya, many of my after-hours commitments are of my own making. As president of Linux Users of Victoria, I have to convene two meetings a month, along with various administrivia. As president of the Isocracy Network, the Victorian Secular Lobby, and convenor of the Philosophy Forum I also have to arrange a meeting every month or so for those bodies, plus articles, research & etc. As treasurer of the local ALP branch, and the SECC I have to bear bad tidings on how much money we don't have. Then there is my tendency to volunteer to give presentations, and the fact that I'm currently running four different rpg campaigns, plus there's RPG Review (a 64 page quarterly is not a minor task), and a small mountain of rpg.net reviews I've promised to do. I have been warned about spreading myself too thin; and I rather suspect that I'm almost at that point. I'm pretty good at time management and the ability to combine disparate activities into a common theme, but perhaps not that good.

In the coming week I have the last touches of a double-issue of RPG Review to finish, whilst I have also done a lot of preparation for a new Werewolf:The Apocalypse campaign based on the Yugoslav Wars that starts today. On Tuesday there's a LUV meeting, where I'm presenting a talk on innovation patents and software. For Isocracy, I've arranged an interview with Suelette Dreyfus (although my encounter with an anti-vaccinator on FB has led to its own 'blog post). I also have newsletters to put together for the Victorian Secular Lobby and the Isocracy Network and arranging for the next meeting. This week I'll be also framing a budget for the Kew SECC, after some discussion on expenditure issues. At the end of the week there's a meeting of the Philosophy Forum. Prior to that I'm giving an address at the Unitarians entitled Small Gods on the Pale Blue Dot. At least I won't have time to be bored.

Last night attended Tim Richard's 50th birthday gathering at Golden Monkey. I've known Tim for over twenty years, having first made association through Perth's science fiction community where and partner Narrelle Harris edited the fanzine Inconsequential_Parallax, and then in Melbourne through their left-of-centre politics (Tim and Narrelle were also responsible for the world's only Twin Peaks fanzine, Wrapped in Plastic). Every few years I run into Tim and Narrelle, typically at one of their excellent parties and reconnected. They're good people, intelligent people whose gatherings always have interesting people and fine conversation. Last night was no exception.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/178780.html.

Linux and Open Source Experiences
A few bits of good Linux and free software news over the past few days. The first is that a game that I helped design, Cargo, has officially been launched. My own contribution was mainly in character, story, and theme development. The next item was the release today of the final report of the ACIP (Australian government Advisory Panel on Intellectual Property) review of the Innovation Patent System. LUV made a submission to the panel, which has come with a beneficial result; it is recommended that "no method, process or system shall be patentable" (i.e., no software patents). A summary of the relevant sections of the report is provided. If adopted - and it should be - this will be a great result for software development in Australia, and I cannot help be pleased with with the thought that my own contribution to the debate seems to have helped.

In less endearing software news, purchased a new laptop in the weekend (a Toshiba Satellite C50 PSCJEA-01N011), with a requisite MS-Windows install for one of caseopaya's medical device. Which meant some direct experience with the horror that is MS-Windows 8 (I can see why most people are still using Windows XP), and the annoyances now involved in setting up a dual boot system due to the new OS, UEFI, and firmware issues (resizing disk, turn off secure boot, encountering graphics mode problems. Eventually settled with Ubuntu rather than the preferred Debian Mint due to these hardware issues. It is certainly a flawed plan on Microsoft (and Toshiba's) part to make their systems less friendly to other operating systems - sure it certainly worked in the past, but now it seems increasingly easy for users to interpret such 'censorship' as broken by design (a "damaged good" in economic terms) and route around it by choosing alternatives.

As a final relevant item of news, covened the LUV Beginners Meeting on Saturday, with Daniel Jitnah presenting on web browsers with Linux. Now whilst this may seem to be an almost trivial topic, Daniel did cover a surprisingly wide variety of issues, from the history of the web (including Line Mode browser), the degree that various browsers satisfy the "free software" criteria, and modifications and extensions with browsers such as Firefox. Afterwards a brief committee meeting outlined our plans for Linux miniconference in the La Trobe valley (Morwell to be exact) on July 19; five lectures, install fest, etc, with lunch provided in a well-located local Anglican church hall. I will be speaking on Why Linux Is The Future of Computing, covering several trends in devices, "the Internet of things", high performance computing etc.

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Modernity, Gaming, Flowers for Algernon
Have been struggling for a few days with an article that I'm planning to submit to the Journal of Evolution and Technology. My working hypothesis takes aim the classic sociological arguments of Marx and Weber who, respectively, argued that the transformation from feudalism to capitalism (or traditional to modern society, if you like) was due to either changes in the productive forces or changes to the mode of consciousness. This 'chicken-or-egg' scenario has been part of a debate within social theory for the better part of a hundred years. My preferred option, which combines both, is that it was specifically the introduction of movable type press with an alphabetic script that initiated the successful change. My argument is reformative heresies would not be able to spread without these conditions, and that other technologies (seafaring, gunpowder etc) were either not unique nor critical for the social transformation. I am very interested in alternative ideas that readers may have on this matter.

Thursday night was a session of Masks of Nyarlathotep where the PCs made use of one of the plot exploits in the game, using a medium character to summon back the spirit of the McGuffin character, Jackson Elias, in a seance scene which included some revelation of what was being planned (the opening of the gate), when it was going to happen (the solar eclipse), and where (Kenya, Australia, and China). Turning the volume up to eleven in the HeroQuest Glorantha pbem game, the Red Moon has disappeared (and Harajallenburg has been taken over by drunk trollkin). I am also in the process of putting up a great number of GURPS books up for sale on the RPG Review store for those interested in that game system and will be submitting reviews for two books I received and read this week Never Unprepared and Odyessey. My initial thoughts is they are useful, but surprisingly (given that they make a point of an author being experienced in the field) lack as much project management input as I thought would be present.

Daniel Keyes, author of Flowers for Algernon, has recently died. I found myself quite affected by this, and found myself engaging in some soul-searching for the reasons. Flowers is, of course, quite a brilliant short-story and book in that genre of "contemporary science fiction". It is extremely well-written in its relevant style, and with great secondary thematic content and claims for people with an interest in artificial intelligence, neurology, and education (artificially-induced intelligence deteriorates at a rate of time directly proportional to the quantity of the increase). There is an obvious appeal for rodent fanciers as well; as a youngster shortly before I first read the story, I had pet mice, as an adult I have graduated from mus minimus to mus maximus. What is especially moving however about the story is that despite the rise and fall of Charlie Gordon's intelligence is that he remains a well-meaning, kind, and good person. The story is a reminder of humility for those who are intelligent, and an appeal to use one's intellect for good. If Charlie Gordon can be a good person what the hell is stopping you? That is, to me, the real genuis in the tale. PS: please if you get a chanse put some flowrs on Algernons grave in the bak yard

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/178201.html.

Speculative Fiction and Other Journeys
Prior to flying to the Cairns caseopaya and I caught up with some Perth and local friends who were over for Continuum, specifically [personal profile] ariaflame, darklion, kremmen, and kbpenguin. Whilst much of our discussion was on adult education experiences, it did sit in the back of my mind how little I have to do with science fiction/fantasy conventions these days, whereas a couple of decades ago I was a very regular attendee. My interest in this field is more now orientated towards predictive social theory and historical fantasy, the latter which leads to my latest RPG design notes on Magic in the Mimesis RPG (some of which derives from discussions from almost ten years ago).

Whilst technically on holiday, the first two days of leave have had their own degrees of business. Organising an overseas money transfer, meeting and discussing finances with the ALP candidate for Kew, taking the elderly Prankster rat to the vet for her third tumor surgery (she's come out well), sending out notifications for a course on R and Octave (booked out by the end of the day), writing an abstract and biography for an presentation to the Open Source Industry Association, mailing out almost ten kilograms of orders from the RPG Review store, finally joining the local library & etc. It seems that I am as busy on 'holiday' as I am on work, just with (mostly) different issues.

This is not to say the past few days have not had their share of social activities. On Saturday went to visit hathhalla and ser_pounce for another cheesquest, where we finished off all the remaining cheeses of the sketch except for Austrian smoked and the notorious beaver cheese. We also played Runebound which is a reasonably good beer-and-pretzels (or wine-and-cheese in our case) game. On Sunday played Spaced 1889 where we continued our campaign against the wicked German Imperialists on Venus with aid of an airship and a Maxim Gun. Finally spent a few hours tonight playing Ingress with Ric dF., taking the opportunity to farm a local gardens whilst chatting about various game designs of the computerised and tabletop variety.

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More Cairns Conference, Thoughts On Week Off
The keynotes for the second day of the conference were by Vassil Alexandrov of the BSC and Mark Ragan. I have suggested that Vassil and John Gustafon share some information on their related interests of extreme scale mathematical methods and the ubox number format. Afterwards attended what was largely the education stream of the conference, including a presentation on collaborative learner-driven education Nia Alexandrova, also the Barcelona Supercomputing Center. My own presentation had quite an unexpected turnout and was apparently was well-received, at least from what I've heard from third parties. I am concerned that I tried to put too much in. That evening was the conference dinner at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park which included a great performance and facilities. For my own part, I ended up in an audience participation scene where I helped make fire by rubbing sticks together (or, helped summon a small fire elemental, depending on your point of view) and received a boomerang for my efforts. The final day of the conference included keynotes from Dan Fay from Microsoft on The Fourth Paradigm, an argument I've heard before, I've read the book, and I do not find convincing. The last keynote by Bob Pressey on conservation and computational science indicated a very practical implementation.

Having accumulated several weeks of leave it was appropriately suggested that perhaps I should at least take one week off which begins on Monday. Post-conference it seems a good time to do so, providing an opportunity for both some reflection on the material presented and preparation for upcoming conferences and other academic papers (e.g., eResearch Australasia 2014), along with some reflection on where I'm up to in this current career. After several years in the field of high performance computing and especially with a well-suited tangent of adult and tertiary education in that field, I am getting some subtle hints that I am just on verge of making a significant contribution to this field. I don't want to spend the entire week just doing "basic research" on this particular subject, but I do think that it is going to take up some of the time. I can forsee several long walks around Willsmere and the Yarra Bend parklands as I consolidate my thoughts on these matters and a number of emails to potential collaborators.

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ICCS Conference Cairns, Dead Cat Dreams
Arrived in Cairns on Monday for the International Conference on Computational Science (which, we've been informed is a "class A conference", according to international rankings). Feeling quite exhausted spent a good part of the afternoon resting, and then walked around the warf and foreshore area before attending the pre-conference drinks. The conference and my accomadation is at the Pullman International which is pretty swank (well above what I would settle for), and almost stylish. The view from the 11th floor isn't too bad either; Cairns is quite an interesting town geographically, existing between the Coral Sea Trinity Bay harbour and the Great Dividing Range and with a tropical climate and ecology. There seems to be a genuine effort on the part of the local government to provide some decent facilities as well, at least in the central district and foreshore region which I've explored.

As for the conference itself, I have some fairly mixed feelings so far. Luis Berrencourt provided a reasonably good presentation on the science of cities, although it was also - perhaps inadvertantly - an argument for land taxes. Warren Kaplan and Andrew Lonie both provided excellent overviews of developments in genomics, especially with the use of cloud computing. Whilst the science is grand, I have been increasingly wondering whether the economics of using cloud computing is a cost-effective way to conduct parallel processing. Two options to me seem available either (a) raise the skillset of research scientists to a usable level to use various job submission tools effectively or (b) provide a user interface that reduces the skillset needed to utilise the system. Increasingly, I am of the considered opinion that (a) is the better option. It is an issue which should be raised today after I present my paper (yes LJ/DW, you get a preview before the conference).

Had a very strange dream last night that Mac the cat had died due to accidental poisoning on the estate grounds. However, in my dream I recalled that caseopaya had shown me Mac through a Google hangout video call from last night. But then I was told, no that was just a dream and that the cat really was dead. This was a little disconcerting, and I woke up slightly unsure whether the cat was alive or not (shades of Schrodinger!). The only thing that acted as strong confirmation of the cat's state was that caseopaya would have been a lot more upset. Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/177623.html.

Linux and HPC Education, Gaming Updates
Spent the first three days of the week running the usual trilogy of courses in Linux and High Performance Computing for researchers, including a head of department. It was a difficult group in some ways with highly disparate background abilities and my tiredness didn't help. Following this spent some time putting the finishing touches on my up-coming presentation in Cairns next week at the International Conference on Computer Science as well as putting together a related paper for eResearch Australasia, as well as an initial investigation for the education workshop for the world supercomputing conference. In between all convened an excellent meeting of Linux Users Victoria on OpenStack and Docker.

Last Sunday played in Karl's Space 1889 Ubuquity game which involved some fine stealth by the good British imperialists against the dastardly Hun imperialists in the Victorian-fantasy concept of Venus. The game is going quite well, especially for an episodic story that lacks an overarching narrative. Despite the setting-centered orientation the Ubiquity component has added a lot for character focus as well. On Thursday night ran Masks of Nyarlathotep (excellent fan trailer linked) which featured a classic set-piece scene in the Egyptian scenario, involving a grand rescue of NPCs from the midst of massive cultist ritual (think of the Indianna Jones Kali Ma scene), followed by a chase scene underneath the pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. This rather epic set piece is derived from H.P. Lovecraft's Underneath the Pyramids, and despite a little bit of help from the Goddess Bast, it really was their own bravado, planning, and luck. Lovecraft's story describes well the "Children of the Sphinx" who gave chase:

I would not look at the marching things. That I desperately resolved as I heard their creaking joints and nitrous wheezing above the dead music and the dead tramping. It was merciful that they did not speak . . . but God! their crazy torches began to cast shadows on the surface of those stupendous columns. Heaven take it away! Hippopotami should not have human hands and carry torches . . . men should not have the heads of crocodiles. . . .

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