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W.A. Part III and Return: From HPC Coursework to The Philosophy of Love and Another Degree

The three days training and systems administration on the Pople cluster at the University of Western Australia School of Chemistry and Biochemistry went very well with excellent feedback. It was especially good to catch up with old friend [personal profile] fred_mouse who worked in the same building over lunch. After the third day, caught up with a dozen or so Perth friends at Tak Chee House followed by cocktails at the finely appointed Bar Lafayette at the old Perth Technical College. Some of the staff seemed rather pleased to have a Lafayette visiting their bar, not the least being the waitress from Versailles. As a whole it was quite a wonderful night of good food, good drink, and excellent conversation. The following day managed to catch up for a long lunch with my old mentor, Bruce T., at The Dome in Maylands, site of the historic Peninsula Hotel, which does have a story or two in its own right.

Leaving that afternoon, the flight was relatively quick. Movie was The Hunger Games : Mockingjay Part I which was simply terrible. A stuff-up with luggage meant that we did not return home until after midnight. Whilst well and truly exhausted managed to make it along to Rohan's presentation at The Philosophy Forum on A Phenomenological Ontology of Love: Body, Heart, and Spirit which packed in a lot and generated a great deal of conversation (everyone has at least some idea about the topic). Hopefully will have it online at Lightbringers soon. Afterwards played GURPS Middle-Earth where on a tangential plot, we dealt with Earth Spirits in an old-fashioned D&D-style dungeon crawl (complete with silly monsters).

Whilst in WA received notification that my application to do a Master of Education from the University of Otago had been accepted. I am hoping with prior credit from my relevant Graduate Certificate I should be able to complete the degree with 'just' the dissertation. As part of the application, I have had to submit a propsed thesis abstract of course; I am taking a rather broad brush with The Future of the University in the Age of the Internet, where I will start with the effects of the print revolution on the university system, and look at current and future methods of online learning, and the effects this will have on the university as an physical institution and as a culture. I'm rather looking forward to it.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/190417.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: content
  • Current Music: Innerspeaker, Tame Impala
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Western Australia Part II: Wedding, Caves and Jetties, and UWA Training

Big event on Saturday was the wedding and subsequent reception of Sophie and Allister at Yallingup Brook. A very pleasant location and perfect weather, it was a traditional style, and actually quite charming. Speeches were appropriate and gently amusing, the food was excellent, and everyone behaved themselves whilst in good spirits. The following day celebrations continued with a late lunch at Clancy's in Dunsborough. I was particularly impressed with the deep fried feta sticks and fried mice (i.e., jalapeno). Following day visiting the truly wonderful Ngilgi Cave (I challenge D&D players to try it out - with sword and shield!), and then on to the 1.841km Busselton Jetty, a journey of memorial plaques, poetry and prose.

Have since arrived in Perth, staying at the creaky 19th century Royal Hotel in a quirky corner room. Conducting two days of training for staff and researchers at the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Western Australia, the first day on high level systems administration of their cluster (including several software installs), followed by user training on Linux, HPC job submission, and MPI programming. A third day will consist of further work on the cluster itself. Caught up with Jason F., and had dinner at the pleasant Olivers as we conversed on computing, music, and metallurgy.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/190076.html.
  • Current Location: UWA
  • Current Mood: busy
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Western Australia Part I: Whine and Wine

Took the silver bird to Western Australia on Friday for the niece's wedding, watching Love is Strange and Automata. The former did well to elucidate the destructive effects of discriminatory employment practices. The latter had a good premise and deriving from a number of near-future sf films, didn't quite deliver. Getting off at Perth, turned on Ingress to discover that my home portals had been smashed just as was taking the taxi to the airport. It was particularly disappointing as a number of them were at 85-plus days, including one at 89 days. Given that there is a guardian badge at 90 days, which would have given me the criteria to get level 15, it was a little annoying to say the least. The charitable side of me wants to believe that the surprise attack was not the result of a screenscraper, as that would constitute cheating.

Initially staying in [personal profile] caseopaya's mother's house in the southern suburb of Kwinana and went to the Rockingham foreshore for dinner. This has changed significantly since my childhood. Once very much a fringe suburb of beach shacks and campsites, it is now very much mainstream suburbia with modernist mansions overlooking the sea. Of course the facilities are much improved but it has certainly lost a great deal of its isolated charm. On the following day made our way to the Yallingup Forest Resort taking accommodation in a pleasant chalet surrounded by bushland, which includes some very friendly magpies.

Shortly after arrival joined a tour of some of the other guests a few local wineries and breweries (there's apparently around 125 in the Margaret River region). None were particularly astounding, although we picked up a reasonable limette at Happs and a good tampranillo at Hay Shed. Lunch was at a local brewery, Bootleg, which had good food and setting, although the beers were very uninteresting. I certainly could have done without the ignorant old white man at the lunch table trying to tell me how much better the aborigines had it before equal rights. It is interesting that I have never in all my years heard an indigenous person say such a thing.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/189843.html.
  • Current Location: Yallingup
  • Current Mood: relaxed
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Secular Saturday, Coast To Coast Courses, Unconscious Incompetence

Last weekend experienced a particularly secular Saturday. By this, what is meant is that it was the "Darwin Day" Freethinkers gathering at the Fitzroy gardens, organised by the University of Melbourne Secular Society (who have invited me to speak at their club on March 10th). It was younger crowd, as expected, but with excellent conversation. This was followed by the annual general meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby at Trades Hall, which has a good turnout and an impressive guest speaker in the form of the recently elected member of parliament, Fiona Patten, who spoke on religious exemptions to the equal opportunity act, but also on public funding to faith-based schools who engage in discriminatory practices.

Finished three days of training at La Trobe University today for Linux, high performance computing, and MPI programming. A larger class than usual (about double), mostly researchers from the rather impressive Institute for Molecular Science and with different operating systems, which meant that it was a little harder than the usual downright exhausting. Feedback from this week's courses was from good to very good, a little down from the usual very good to excellent, but perhaps to be expected given the circumstances. Tomorrow will be on the big silver bird to head to the other side of the country, where will be attending the nuptials of [personal profile] caseopaya's niece at Yallingup. After that will be running a two-day course at the University of Western Australia, for a small cluster there; one day consisting of aimed at sysadmins and containing a lot of new material, and the second aimed at researchers. After that there is a few days before travelling to the University of Sydney to conduct a dozen days of training there over a month, with a trip to eResearchNZ in Queenstown somehow squeezed in among all that. I'm also supposed to submit the full paper for peer review and publication for THETA by Friday. I suspect I'll be writing that one on the plane!

For one future project I have recently received a review of training material by people who have absolutely no clue about the content. As a result, there is a lot of bikeshedding over trivial comments, remarks which display extraordinary ignorance about both high performance computing and advanced andragogical techniques and content simultaneously, remarks that are simply plain wrong (and obviously so if the reviewer had actually read the content), and inevitably, comments which are Not Even Wrong. I have become unusually angered by the response. Whilst normally I live by the mantra of not letting the aggravating factors of any workplace get to me (it's not worth it), this case is different. I think what is really troubling me is that the reviewer in question has the authority, but not the competence to make the judgements that they have, and they lack the intellectual humility and honesty to admit this (in other words, they are stuck at the unconscious incompetence stage of skill development). Ultimately I have to steel myself to only pay attention to the people who really matter in this processes - those who are the direct recipients of training in HPC systems (i.e., postgraduate and postdoctoral scientific researchers) - and place the comments of the glorified administrative assistants into the dustbin.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/189622.html.
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  • Current Music: Split, KMFDM
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Ignorance Plus Arrogance Equals Stupidity

It is not the first time that I have made this observation, but some recent events have led me to give it reconsideration. Ignorance refers to a particularly state of knowledge, which can be expressed simply as a fact. We are all ignorant about various facets of reality, and we're all ignorant of what lies 'beyond', metaphysicians notwithstanding. Indeed one of the great things of education is not that it teaches knowledge, but rather provides a much greater degree of self-awareness of what one doesn't know.

If knowledge is the first axis representing a source of data from which to form opinions internally, then another is one's orientation towards others when expressing those opinions to others. If the continuum on one axis is from ignorance to knowledge, then the other is from arrogance to humility. People with humility are obviously better people to deal with, but so are knowledgeable people. This leads to an approach which I suggested some six years ago (another person's f-locked post on livejournal).


Knowledgeable & Humble: Be accepting. These are the people to associate with.

Knowledgeable & Arrogant: Be amused. They provide wisdom, but are yet to apply that knowledge to their own inner peace. Perhaps they can learn from themselves.

Ignorant & Humble: Be amused. They are at least honest about their own limitations. Perhaps they can learn from others.

Ignorant & Arrogant: Be appalled. There is no justification for such childishness. They cannot learn.


I still think that this categorisation is roughly right, both in terms of association and as inspiration. Where it is wrong, is that sometimes due to due to circumstances, one cannot simply avoid the 'ignorant and arrogant', especially in wage-labour where one's interlocuter has been assigned positional authority. One may thing providing such authority is dangerous and damaging to an organisation, and that might be true - but it is so common to see situations where there over a dozen bureaucrats, administrators and managers (that term used quite loosely), and a third of that people doing the real work. It is, of course, an unsustainable position, but corporate culture with its aggressive arrogance and wilful ignorance creates such situations all the time (as the Dilbert comic strip has been pointing out for years).

Which raises the issue of how do deal with such encounters. That is something which still requires further elaboration. Knowledge only works if the alter is trying to educate themselves, even if it is for their own benefit. Humility is internally difficult when one has the desire just to shortcut the entire conversation with a trump, especially when an alter's arrogance is an attack on one's inner pride. Assertive humility as an alternative? Now there's a challenging concept. Of course, I readily admit, I still sometimes find myself often in situations where the famous XKCD concern of someone is wrong on the Internet to lead me astray. But is so entertaining sometimes.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/189225.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: tired
  • Current Music: The Middle Of Nowhere, Orbital
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A Month of Saturdays, Gaming Activities

That was a busy Saturday. Early start on Saturday with a visit to three cafes in the morning with caseopaya, ser_pounce and hathhalla, starting off in Krimpers and Raw Trader. These are interesting because they're located in a tiny pocket of older buildings of La Trobe Street which date back from the area was a slum and the juxtaposition between these smaller and old red clinker bricked buildings in narrow laneways between the overbearing glass and steel modern towers that surround is a strong one. After those we ventured to Cat Cafe, which is as the name implies, a coffee shop (of sorts) full of rescue cats, along with cat-related products.

After these visits our troupe made its way to the Flagstaff Gardens for a picnic lunch, and then to the State Library where there is an exhibition on Bohemian Melbourne, which included an excellent collection of early films (1910s, 1920s), some ribald works from Norman Lindsay, plenty of Tucker material, and more contemporary material from the punk and goth era. Was amused to see some very familiar shots from the early 90s in the latter section. In the evening made our way to Pause Bar for redcountess's fiftieth birthday celebrations with good conversation all round.

I've also enjoyed two good social gaming sessions in the past few days. The first was on Thursday night with the opening session of The Laundry Files based on the Charles Stross novels. It's effectively Call of Cthulhu meets Pythagorean number mysticism with computer science. My character is country Australian with a broad accent, red hair (named 'Bluey' of course) and a propensity to blow things up at the first sign of trouble. On Sunday afternoon played throug the fifth session of 7th Sea Freiburg, which has been entitled The Vagabond Said To The Bishop. I had some ridiculously lucky die rolls, which caused usekh some concern. But all went well, and once again the party imposes their will on this lawless city. On a totally different matter, Sunday was also the day that I went to see an address at the Unitarians by Pastor Berlin Guerro, a left-wing priest who was adbucted and tortured by the government.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/189168.html.
  • Current Location: Willsmere
  • Current Mood: busy
  • Current Music: Oxygene, Jean Michel Jarre
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Animal Updates, LUV and Pi2, VSL AGM

There is a running myth that Australians have kangaroos hopping around their suburban streets. Largely, this isn't actually true. Except when it is. Our asylum home, a mere 6km from the city as the crow flies had this little bounder funneled down the Yarra river valley. It's not the first time in recent months the area has seen said bounding marsupials; one visited a primary school nearby at the end of last year. In other animal news there is the rather sad news that our rescue guinea pig, Zepar, shuttled off the mortal coil Tuesday night and was buried the following morning. I cannot say he was an overly friendly or clever pig, but at the very least he had several years of comfort interrupted by only the occasional terror of having his toenails trimmed.

Tuesday night was also the February main meeting of Linux Users Victoria which consisted on an excellent presentation by Andrew Robinson on the R programming language, and an amusingly clever video of Andrew Tridgell's LCA presentation on running Linux on drones. In what was a very techie Tuesday, the Raspberry Pi 2 was released and several of us made a bulk order. I now have two of said creature and am thinking of setting up a picture rotator or some home automation.

Saturday week is the annual general meeting of the Victorian Secular Lobby. We'll be giving out awards for those who helped out during the state election, and will have guest speaker, Fiona Patten, MLC who will speak on what will surely be a contentious issue for the year, "Religious Exemption to Equal Opportunity Laws". It an interesting perspective that many so-called libertarians have that is to allow institutions to have the to attack the individual's right to fair treatment in the public activities (e.g.. employment, purchasing etc). The fact that religious institutions protest a sacred right to engage in such bigotry may be irrational and distasteful, but also a matter of some power.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/188726.html.
  • Current Location: VPAC
  • Current Mood: angry
  • Current Music: The Box and Snivelisation, Orbital
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Arthur, Philosophy, and Gaming, Queensland Election and Fallout, Miscellaneous

Sunday I gave a presentation at the Unitarian church on The Once And Future King : Mythology and Motivation from the Arthurian Legends. It was quite well-attended, especially given inclement weather, and managed to catch up with a number of people I hadn't seen for a while. The discussion after the presentation was excellent and I also managed to get two very smart people together who knew each other by their works but who had never met - they spent a good time in serious conversation, so that little hook-up worked very well. After the address, led the meeting of The Philosophy Forum, presenting on The Philosophy of Social Development, which also had an excellent discussion. Despite my express desire for some else to take up the organiser's role (I don't like holding positions for too long), it seems that I'm stuck with this one for a while, whether I want it or not! Finally, for the third event of the day, finished off playing in a session of GURPS Middle-Earth. That itself was the second major gaming event of the week, with Call of Cthulhu Masks of Nyarlathotep run on Thursday night, which concluded the 1920s Chinese version of You Only Live Twice.

Queensland had an election on Saturday. Starting from a mere nine seats out of eighty-nine the Labor Party is just shy of a outright majority, in one of the most extraordinary political changes in Australian history. Turfed out after a single term, the Newman government's rule was noted by giving discretionary powers to the Attorney-General for indefinite detention for sex offenders, the imprisonment of members and associates of what he called "outlaw motorcycle clubs", with presumed guilt of association rather than innocence, and the sacking of some 13,000 public servants in the first year. With a swing of over ten percent, some of his MPs were reduced to doing the chicken dance when questions were raised about impropriety. With an opinion poll released the same day showing support for the Federal LNP government has fallen to 57-43 in arrears, the sharks are finally circling the Prime Minister, who has come out insulting the electorate by saying they voted for change in a fit of absent-mindedness; you can't make this up.This is certainly a lesson in a democratic politics; treat the electorate like a contemptuous thug and they'll put you last. That's why our forebears fought so hard for it.

Of particular delight over the weekend was catching up for dinner with log_reloaded and her partner Jase, the latter of whom cooked up quite a feast. It had been a little while since we'd caught up face-to-face, so it was a pretty good evening. In the last week I also reviewed the debut album from alternative rock band, Menace Beach which was less than earth-shattering. Finally, after a one year hiatus, I have made some significant moves this week towards enrolling in yet another degree, albeit one previously planned - a Master of Education at the University of Otago.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/188568.html.
  • Current Location: VPAC
  • Current Music: Lament, Ultravox
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RPG Updates, Social Visits, Invasion Day, Knighting A Prince, Social Events

Thursday night was the dramatic ending of The Great Pendragon Campaign. The group has played Pendragon for pretty much four years, with The Great Campaign taking over two. Next up Andrew will be running The Laundry Files. Sunday played the fourth session of 7th Sea Freiburg, which involved romance, violence, and demons. I've taken the opportunity to complete notes for the four sessions run so far.

Australia is a country sufficiently broken that we "celebrate" the beginning of the invasion by the British as "Australia Day". Local aboriginal people are unimpressed, and with the resultant health record from dispossession and endemic racism, it's no wonder that the protests will never end. Meanwhile, just to illustrate how much the current government still clings to Mother Britain's apron strings, the Prime Minister has awarded a knighthood to Prince Phillip, a rather vile individual. Even other coalition MPs can't fathom this decision. A positive upshot is the benefits it provides Australian republicanism.

Other social events for the week for caseopaya and I included having Clinton and his partner Deb over for dinner and a tour of the asylum on Saturday night. Deb was the main organiser of East Timor Women Australia and Clinton is a quietly brilliant political scientist and intelligence analyst and it had been several years (far too long!) since we had spent good time in each other's company. Somewhat related, caseopaya and I went to see The Imitation Game and the delightfully deco Balwyn Cinema today. It was a good film, a popular and somewhat fictionalised story of a one of the great contributions to ending Nazism and the invention of computing. Edit Neglected to mention that earlier this week went in to get my eyes checked, for the first time in eleven years (I'm lazy about some things). They've barely changed; if I were to get new glasses it would be pure vanity, and I wasn't vain enough to accept the $790 pair that were on offer.

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/188190.html.
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  • Current Mood: nauseated
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Another Revolution Around The Sun and Other Events

Today I reached the rather surprising forty-seventh annual revolution. Surprising in the sense that it mentally sneaked up on me; only last week I had to be reminded by caseopaya that today would be the day, although this is far from the first time I have engaged in such forgetfulness. I have received many messages of congratulations and well-wishes on Facebook, Google+, at work, via email, and even a few 'phone calls. All of these are much appreciated, especially for their affirmative value. Never one to pass up an opportunity to be child-like (as distinct to childish) I organised a Freddo ice-cream cake with some of the immediate staff at work, which was also saw Deb Nicholson of the Open Invention Network drop as an international guest speaker to give a presentation on patent trolls (she was actually pre-arranged, but just so happened to turn up at the right time). The OIN engaged in defensive patent acquisition for the public domain as a method to squash trolls or, in the academic parlance, "non-producing entities" (i.e., companies that don't actually produce anything, but sue others for real or imagined breaches of patents).

The past few days has witnessed a couple of visits to Anthony L., and Robyn M., as I've attempted to fix various networking and hosting issues for their personal and business IT systems which had a few quirks to say the least. In what has been a continuing merging of personal life and work life, Saturday was the annual Linux Users of Victoria Penguin Picnic which had some forty people attend. I had managed to do the necessary shopping the day before and cooked up a storm on the BBQ over a couple of hours. Unlike a number of other hard-nosed LUV meetings this was certainly a more social occasion. Also of high conviviality was last Thursday's game of Masks of Nyarlathotep which included a nuclear powered yacht, Deep Ones and an invasion on a secret base in a volcano, rather like the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. Last Sunday was another session of GURPS Middle Earth, which involved a dungeon-crawl and various undead. As a political-technical contribution, wrote a brief article on nanosocialism. Finally, apropos the last journal entry, the new rats have been named: Rover, Scamper, and Tramper (in order of age and alphabet, see?).

This entry was originally posted at http://tcpip.dreamwidth.org/187977.html.
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  • Current Music: Space Ritual, Hawkwind
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